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Evidence for God: Humanism vs. Moral Knowledge (Moral Knowledge Part 2)

Posted on Apr 8, 2014 by Tom Gilson

Part of the extended series Evidence for the Faith

This is a corrected re-write of a poorly constructed post I wrote a couple days ago. Some of the content is the same, but I’ve clarified the context and purpose.

I have seen it before, and I’m seeing it again: I don’t know why anyone speaks of atheistic “humanism:” atheism denies humanness. “‘Humanity is dead, and we are its murderers,’ says the Madman.”

That’s a bold and controversial statement, I know, and I know that it’s up to me to explain why I would make it. It’s a conclusion that I draw from many streams of information, one of which has to do with moral knowledge. It seems to me that true humannness implies knowing that some things are right and some things are wrong; and it also seems to me that atheism leaves no room for that knowledge to be true.

That’s actually another way of stating what I wrote several days ago in Part 1 of this series. There I developed an argument for parts AB1 and AB4 of this outlined argument:

AB1. We cannot know whether any action really is right or wrong unless right and wrong are real.
AB2. We know that some actions really are right and others are wrong.
AB3. Therefore right and wrong are real.
AB4. If there is no God, then right and wrong cannot be real.
AB5. Therefore (AB3 and AB4) there is a God.

Here I want to emphasize that humans do have moral knowledge (AB2), meanwhile exploring (AB4) atheism’s apparent denial of such knowledge.

Note that AB2 does not entail our having anything close to full, complete, or always-reliable moral knowledge. It only requires that we know that some actions are really more right than others, morally speaking. Godwin’s law notwithstanding, Hitler and the Nazis provide an almost-universally agreed example of something we know was wrong.

Not Knowing the Obvious

And yet some people deny even that, or they dilute it to the point of something other, and less, than moral knowledge. I’ll begin with a comment from that previous discussion, where Shane, like many atheists before him, makes himself the arbiter of right and wrong:

I can understand that the Nazis thought they were doing the right thing. I can also think that their actions were wrong because they are not things I would do. I do this from the comfort of the future, in a different country of course, and who knows what things would have been like if I was a German soldier during World War II.

Had he been a Nazi soldier during World War II, he would have perhaps thought he was doing nothing wrong. If so, then I can’t help but wonder who could have told him otherwise? I can only wonder what it means to be wrong, if the standard is one man’s opinion? By making himself his own standard, he undercuts the whole idea of a standard. Or maybe (it’s unclear to me) he’s making future human opinion the standard.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of thing expressed here. An earlier commenter named Paul agreed, when I pressed him on something he had previously written, that as an atheist, “I give up the right to say that in their times and places, slavery, suttee, and child sacrifice were wrong.” (I cannot link to it because when Paul wrote this I was on a pre-Wordpress version of this blog, using a third-party comment system called Haloscan, which has since gone the way of all e-flesh.)

Do We Have Moral Knowledge?

I’ve shared that quote with conference and seminar audiences in North and South Carolina, adding this to make sure it was clear: “What Paul was saying in this comment was that here in Charlotte [or Greenville ...] in 1840 slavery was not wrong.” The reaction is always intense. Heads snap. Mouths drop open. Jaws tighten, brows furrow, shoulders become noticeably tense, and I know I must move quickly to re-emphasize that Paul’s view is not my view. I disagree with him completely, except for this: if Paul’s atheistic metaphysics were true, then his amoral conclusions would be, too. (Recall our previous discussions on AB4.)

If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion; and each person’s opinion in that case is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action.” This is not morality, it’s aesthetics. If it is a culture-wide view rather than an individual’s view, then it is “we” rather than “I,” but the same still holds: it’s still aesthetics.

Or, possibly, right and wrong become shorthand for, “Do more of that,” vs. “Stop doing that.” That, too is not morality. It’s the exercise of power, or at least the attempt to do so.

Aesthetics is not morality. The practice of power is not morality. The language of morality may be there but the reality is stripped away. And if there is no morality, how could there can be moral knowledge?

So the “humanist” no longer has a basis for knowing that it’s wrong to speak of Lebensunwertes Leben; that it’s wrong to run gross scientific experiments on humans without consent; that it’s wrong to gas human beings and use their hair as raw material for soldiers’ apparel. The humanist cannot say, based on his own worldview, that he knows this is wrong. Let me re-emphasize: that’s not to say he doesn’t know it’s wrong; he does. Rather it is to say that his worldview provides no rational basis for knowing it is wrong.

Elevating Humanity by Making Humans Stupid
I suppose he could still call it inhuman, but in what sense? Inhuman in that humans don’t do it? I’m sorry, but we know that some humans have done it. Inhuman in the sense that humans shouldn’t do it? But should is a moral term—or rather, it’s a moral term, if moral terms mean anything; otherwise it’s another term of aesthetics or the application of power.

Atheism admits of no transcendent standard, so it makes humans the standard. It appears to elevate humans: we are the ultimate, the captains of our fate, the definers of our own being. It does so, however, by making us stupid. We no longer know that Hitler was wrong. We no longer know that child sacrifice was wrong. We can only say things like, “from the comfort of the future,” we can “think they are wrong because they are things I wouldn’t do.”

Yet every child knows there’s such a thing as right and wrong. You and I knew it as early as six months old. It takes “growing up” into atheism to discover that we can’t know right from wrong after all.

Here’s my bold and yet very convinced theory. I believe that every person, atheists and humanists included, still knows that some things are more right than others, and other things are more wrong. I believe every person still has moral knowledge. It’s part of the very essence of humanness. Some atheists deny it, but they do so not because they’ve forgotten what they know about it. They do it to save their theory, their metaphysics.

They think they’ve put God in the grave. The reality is, they’re shoveling earth in on their own humanness.

Evidence for the Faith

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253 Responses to “ Evidence for God: Humanism vs. Moral Knowledge (Moral Knowledge Part 2) ”

  1. Ray Ingles says:

    Yet every child knows there’s such a thing as right and wrong. You and I knew it as early as six months old.

    Babies also have instinctive understanding of (Earthly) physics, and instinctive talents for languages.

    Why would it be a surprise that babies would have instinctive talents and understanding of human relations? All three forms of talent need practice to fully develop, of course; but the fact that the potentials are inborn is not a huge surprise even on an evolutionary model.

  2. scbrownlhrm says:

    I just don’t see any way for natural selection to be cleared of the crime of valuing every horrible act man has ever done (being programmed by that selective value process).

    There’s no moral knowledge in that paradigm and thus no way to disagree with and devalue what it values. I mean, we can pretend A or B is better but there’s just no ontological justification to so assert given that the only paradigm is deterministic indifference.

    But we don’t ever deny what we know, that is to say, we keep disagreeing with that ontology.

    That is why Atheists first steal, and then employ, the epistemology of the Theist.

    Because they (we) have moral knowledge.

  3. SteveK says:

    Ray,
    Tom’s example is there to demonstrate that moral knowledge is not knowledge that comes from outside sources such as culture. Evolution cannot give us knowledge of something that doesn’t exist, so you’ve got a problem on your hands. Moral knowledge is inborn or it’s not knowledge at all because it would constitute “knowledge” of nothing.

  4. JAD says:

    Tom from the (deprecated post) @ #137:

    I disagree with JAD here in #127:

    Presuppositions are very important here. If theism is true then there is a real foundation for morality; if it isn’t, then there is not.

    Or at least I disagree with the way Bill L understood JAD, when he wrote in #132:

    JAD @ 126,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head… this whole thread is a presupposition. Not actual evidence for God.

    Actually, no; this whole thread is not a presupposition. JAD wrote something in #127 that’s coming from a completely different direction than what I have been trying to say. He seems to have been saying there,

    1. If theism is true, there is a real foundation for morality.
    2. Theism is true (presupposition).
    3. Therefore there is a real foundation for morality.

    Now, I happen to agree with that completely, but it isn’t what I’ve been saying here. (I’m not sure it’s what JAD intended, either, but it seems to come out that way.)

    From the current OP:

    AB4. If there is no God, then right and wrong cannot be real.

    Well, if right and wrong are not real then if follows there is no foundation for morality. If someone presupposes naturalism or materialism (and, unless they can prove it, they must pressupose it ) then they have no foundation for morality. The burden then is on Bill L, as well as other naturalists/materialists/atheists, to justify an objectively real morality on naturalistic grounds. Theists of course do not have this problem.

    That is what I was trying to say and I think it was what Nietzsche, who as an atheist honestly understood the consequences of atheism, was trying to say as well.

    All I was really trying to do was tease out some of the implications of that premise. I think,

    AB5. Therefore (AB3 and AB4) there is a God,

    still follows.

    A completely different direction? That’s not what I was intending.

  5. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK –

    Tom’s example is there to demonstrate that moral knowledge is not knowledge that comes from outside sources such as culture.

    I think we need to take this a step at a time. Do babies’ inborn knowledge of physics or grammar come “from outside sources such as culture”?

  6. Jenna Black says:

    Ray and SteveK,

    Please allow me to address the question you ask of SteveK in comment #5 regarding “babies’ inborn knowledge” through an analogy, which comes from linguist Noam Chomsky, who is BTW, an atheist, not that this impacts his argument and research. We in linguistic circles talk about Chomsky’s theory of the Language Acquisition Device or LAD, which is an innate “hard-wiring” of the brain of babies that enables them to learn language. Without this innate ability of the brain to think symbolically, to see patterns (such as grammar and syntax) and to attach meaning to representations (such as the language sound system or writing), babies could not learn language. We linguists don’t speak of this in terms of a baby “knowing” a language before they are exposed to and learn the language or languages used in their immediate environment (cultural sources) , but we recognize that other species don’t have this same “hard-wiring” for language learning that humans do.

    IMO, the “hard-wiring” concept also applies to moral learning and moral reasoning. We humans are “hard-wired” to make moral judgments, which requires an intelligence about future and deliberate, goal-oriented actions and abstract concepts such as consequences, priorities, etc. This ability, to the extent that we as humans have it and animals do not, is uniquely human. I argue that if just as if there were no such thing as language, we wouldn’t be hard-wired to learn language, that if there were no moral knowledge to be acquired, humans would not be hard-wired to learn moral reasoning. And just as with language (generic), children do learn the language(s) of their families and culture, we learn moral principles and behaviors from our culture (for better or for worse) but our ability to become moral reasoners is not dependent upon moral beliefs and practices from our culture(s).

  7. SteveK says:

    I think I agree. Jenna.

  8. BillT says:

    What I can’t understand is the atheistic opposition to this. Isn’t a world without overarching rules what the atheist wants. Isn’t the ultimate responsibility for all things the deep desire of atheism. The negation of objective morality should be a point of pride for the atheistic community. It was for Nietzsche and is affirmed even by New Atheists like Dawkins. Where are the truly liberated that will unashamedly embrace the end of this God nonsense and all that goes with it. Rejoice, God is dead and we and we alone are the final arbiters of all things good, bad and otherwise.

  9. SteveK says:

    So, Ray, if we take Jenna’s understanding of the situation it still leaves you with the knowledge problem that I mentioned before. Evolution gave us the inborn ability to reason toward something that doesn’t exist. Nice.

  10. Gavin says:

    I understand the role that God plays in the Christian understanding of morality. As an atheist my understanding is similar, but God is
    replaced by the people who will be affected by my actions. If I want to know if an action is right or wrong I consider how others will judge the affects of my actions on them.

    For example, if I am thinking about hitting my sister, I conclude that she would be unhappy about that. So I don’t hit her. If I am unsure, the best course of action is to ask her. I don’t need God to tell me not to hit my sister.

    Punishing criminals is obviously unpopular with criminals, but having an orderly society is beneficial to most of us. Punishing criminals is preferable when everyone is considered.

    Genocide is wrong by this measure as the people most affected are sure to object.

    There is a subjective element to this, but only in that some people like different things. I should consider than when I look at how my actions will affect people. Eating the last of the chocolate has different moral implications if my roommate does or does not like chocolate.

    I actually think this approach is superior to the view advocated by Tom because it respects individuals’ autonomy. If you want to be in a same-sex relationship, great! I am not trying to figure out what God wants for you, I support what you want for you. Tom’s approach very patronizing, which is why there is so much push-back when religious dictates are imposed on people who are not part of the dictating religion.

  11. JAD says:

    Gavin:

    I actually think this approach is superior to the view advocated by Tom because it respects individuals’ autonomy. If you want to be in a same-sex relationship, great! I am not trying to figure out what God wants for you, I support what you want for you. Tom’s approach very patronizing, which is why there is so much push-back when religious dictates are imposed on people who are not part of the dictating religion.

    Is someone forcing you to show up here, Gavin?

  12. Gavin says:

    No, JAD, but thanks for asking.

  13. Andrew W says:

    Tom,

    Here’s another take on a similar argument: http://bnonn.thinkingmatters.org.nz/3-reasons-atheists-should-treat-morality-as-superstitious-nonsense/

    The thrust of Bnonn’s argument is that atheism => morality is fiction, and that therefore atheists should give up relying on either atheism or morality.

    Take Gavin’s argument as an example. As a metric for evaluating the morality of behaviour, it has some strengths. But the critical flaw is in the first two sentences:

    I understand the role that God plays in the Christian understanding of morality. As an atheist my understanding is similar, but God is replaced by the people who will be affected by my actions.

    In Christian understanding, God is both absolute giver of morality and absolute judge of morality. He has both the authority and power to call every single person to account for their behaviour. In contrast, “others” may lack knowledge or power (or both) to cause moral reckoning. The two positions are fundamentally different.

    But let’s back up a step further. Why does it matter what other people think? Isn’t this just an evolutionary consequence, without real meaning? So if my particular biology and environment leads me to decide it would be fun to die in a massive explosion together with hundreds of other people, who is to gainsay that? Sure, it stops the heredity of my genes, but doesn’t affect me much when I’m gone, and that’s just co-incidence anyway.

    Of course, any right-thinking person responds with “that’s horrible”. Agreed. But the point is to get there from naturalism as a necessity, not a mere physiological / psychological effect. You don’t answer a charge of begging the question by restating your destination.

    (Note: A common misunderstanding is that the charge is that atheists have no morality. That’s backwards. The charge is that atheists plainly do have morality – and are unwilling to declare it to be a fiction – and are thus incoherent with their belief system.

    To put it another way: finish the sentence “Human life is valuable because …” with something that carries weight in the vast scale of naturalistic evolution. Remember that the only people who care what you do now will be dead and gone within a century, and forgotten soon after that.)

    (PS: this is all focused on proving AB4. Once you accept AB4, you are forced to either tentatively accept AB5 or fully give up AB2-3.)

  14. Sean says:

    People are located at a distance from the truth. So are movies.

    If you are located at a distance from the truth, what do you become dependent upon? You become dependent upon beliefs and disbeliefs. you are at a distance from the truth, thus you are located within the zone of less than truth.

    In turn, people are constantly looking for more. Unfortunately they are only looking for more less than truths.

    They are “believers”, believers who stick to their beliefs and thus in turn stick to being located at a distance from the truth.

    This leads to a never ending search since they never venture toward the truth since they are happy with mere beliefs instead in the first place.

    Thus if the truth is presented directly before them in the here and now, thus there is no distance between them and the truth, they will spit into the face of the truth, they will flog the truth, they will scourge the truth, and they will crucify it, for it is not the same as less then truth.

    Thus if proof of God’s existence is presented to religious believers in the here and now, they will crucify it at at best.

    For instance, Jesus Christ’s and God’s signatures are encoded within the KJV Bible, yet when shown this is to the religious folk, they butcher it to death.

    Go to http://goo.gl/38qhp and click on the flashing words “Watch / Listen”.

    You will walk away from it if you are a “Believer”.

    Truth seekers will not.

  15. scbrownlhrm says:

    Atheists:

    AB4:

    On Atheism / Naturalism the final source of all ought is cultural/individual whim and is thus “personal” in blind axiom’s circularity. But that kind of “personal” must embrace all sorts of ugly interpersonal outcomes on pain of circularity. If we refuse such blind circularity we see that if X regresses into Y as the first-cause, X is contingent where Y is not.

    A good example may be our bodies, which are contingent. They are real, they are really contingent, and they are really ever-changing. So in that sense the word “real” is what it is and no more. Child Sacrifice housing “ought-do-this” is wholly “real” in that sense of the word “real”. They “really believed” that that was/is “really” Good, and so it really was good. That is the problem with morality being contingent on anything less than Immutable Love.

    Yet: Atheist’s / Naturalists actually feel, posit, some form of or some brand of, say, “Humanism” (somehow) grants moral love as ontologically binding (ontologically necessary) across Mankind even though selective processes clearly have and still do disagree and even though both cultural and personal whims have/do disagree.

    I assume the Atheists / Naturalists have something with necessary ontological ties rather than blind axiom’s epistemology to justify that claim.

    I haven’t seen any atheist / materialist (ever) justify anything of that sort. I’ve only heard them offer subjectivity and, in blind axiom’s death of circularity, inexplicably tie it to some sort of inherent Ought which inexplicably transcends selection, whim, and ontological indifference.

    So, on what ontological end point does the atheist/naturalist justify the implied claim that “Humanism” (Etc.) grants inherent (inherent, i.e. ontologically necessary) Ought-Love across Mankind which, on necessity, ends every conceivable sentence yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

    Pending such an explanation, we must conclude this: Atheism / Naturalism houses no ontologically necessary love (morality).

  16. JAD says:

    Gavin,

    Are being judgmental and being prejudice wrong?
    Are they always wrong?

  17. BillT says:

    There is a subjective element to this, but only in that some people like different things.

    Yes, let’s look at the “subjective element” some of those different people and some of the different things they like. Stalin, Mao, Ted Bundy, Pol Pot, John Wayne Gacy, the ever popular Adolph Hitler, the current reigning champion Kim Jon-un. And some of the different things they liked? Well there’s …..

    And on atheism you can’t say anything about any of their behaviors except that people objected to them. So, Gavin, why should I, or any of the above, care about their objections. People object to a lot of things that aren’t necessarily wrong. That’s it? An entire moral standard based on people’s objections. Well, that ought to work just fine.

    And Gavin. We so appreciate your completely off topic little soapbox oratory on SSM and the gratuitous personal insult to Tom. So charming.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Sean, these codes have not, as you say, been rejected by avoidance of study and investigation. They’ve been rejected because they have no textual significance beyond statistical coincidence, and because the plain text of the Bible is sufficient without going into numerology with it.

  19. Ray Ingles says:

    Jenna Black –

    I argue that if just as if there were no such thing as language, we wouldn’t be hard-wired to learn language, that if there were no moral knowledge to be acquired, humans would not be hard-wired to learn moral reasoning.

    Yup. I agree completely. Language is strongly influenced by culture, but there’s a core talent for language acquisition that’s inborn. (Not only that, but particular types of languages, with tree-based grammars, are what we have talents for learning. Other arrangements are possible but not seen among humans.)

    Moral reasoning is similarly inborn. And, rather like language, animals have some aspects of it but humans take it to a whole other level. Also like language, culture strongly influences how it develops. (Given how human sexuality works, some notion of modesty is inevitable. But different cultures implement it dramatically differently. Cf. Polynesia, Seattle, Riyadh.)

    So, yeah, like the talents for physics and language, the ‘moral talent’ reflects an external reality that’s not just cultural.

    But…

    …the fact that animals display moral instincts (or at least precursors to them) is an indication that they don’t need a spiritual component to develop. Other humans are an inevitable part of every human’s environment. Instincts for how to successfully relate to other humans are, I repeat, no surprise. I mean, does a baby need a message from God (in C.S. Lewis’ terms) to prefer helpful characters in their environment? No one can even conceive of an evolutionary account for that?

  20. BillT says:

    You don’t answer a charge of begging the question by restating your destination.

    Andrew,

    Some credit needs be given to this gem. Kudos.

  21. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    What I can’t understand is the atheistic opposition to this. Isn’t a world without overarching rules what the atheist wants.

    No. I checked with “the atheist”, and she said that wasn’t what she was after.

  22. Andy says:

    @BillT:

    What I can’t understand is the atheistic opposition to this. Isn’t a world without overarching rules what the atheist wants. Isn’t the ultimate responsibility for all things the deep desire of atheism.

    This should be a pretty big “red flag” for you to realize that you do NOT understand the atheist position very well at all. Especially since I don’t know of any atheists (even the very vocal “new atheists”) who has ever said “we want a world without overarching rules.” Now you may be able to cherry-pick one or two that you know about – but even still it’s hardly a majority opinion.

    They don’t accept that those rules are given by a divine creator – but almost all atheists have morals and believe there exists some common form of morality.

  23. Ray Ingles says:

    Andrew –

    finish the sentence “Human life is valuable because …” with something that carries weight in the vast scale of naturalistic evolution.

    First, step back. Define “valuable” as you’re using it here. Can something be “valuable” without being valuable to someone?

  24. BillT says:

    Cute Ray, but without substance.

  25. BillT says:

    I mean, does a baby need a message from God (in C.S. Lewis’ terms) to prefer helpful characters in their environment? No one can even conceive of an evolutionary account for that?

    Sure, you can postulate an evolutionary account for these things, even “morality”. Two problems I see. First, evolution wouldn’t be the only way to account for it so you couldn’t be sure it was evolution and evolution alone. Second, and more importantly, evolutionary “morality” wouldn’t be the same as the Morality we are discussing. The Morality we are discussing creates not just moral knowledge, which evolution might account for, but moral duty which evolution could never account for.

  26. Andrew W says:

    First, step back. Define “valuable” as you’re using it here. Can something be “valuable” without being valuable to someone?

    I’m valuable to me. But should the universe care? Should you care, except as your biology produces a sympathetic response?

    Can you trace a chain of logic from “everything is an accident” to “Ray should treat Andrew as valuable” that doesn’t appeal to pragmatics or accidents of psychology?

  27. BillT says:

    And BTW Ray, re: yr. #21.

    It was a question. If you had an answer why not give it. Unless, of course….

  28. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    Cute Ray, but without substance.

    And thus, a suitable reply to your comment. :-)

    First, evolution wouldn’t be the only way to account for it so you couldn’t be sure it was evolution and evolution alone.

    Not really necessary. If an evolutionary account can be constructed for inbuilt talents for moral reasoning – and it’s already conceded that such talents reflect something real – then AB4 becomes problematic, to whatever extent that evolution doesn’t depend on God.

    Note: Tom proposed that the fact that babies have an inbuilt moral sense was evidence for the existence of “right and wrong”. I agree, but point out that’s not evidence for AB4. That requires a separate argument.

    The Morality we are discussing creates not just moral knowledge, which evolution might account for, but moral duty which evolution could never account for.

    Evolution can, of course, account for duty when people make promises and accept obligations. Indeed, want to see an example of ‘hardware accelerated moral reasoning’ in your own head? Check this out.

    Now, I presume you might ask why one would choose to accept the obligations of morality in the first place. But if moral behavior is ultimately in your own best interest – if it’s your best bet – why wouldn’t you behave morally?

  29. Ray Ingles says:

    Andrew W –

    Can you trace a chain of logic from “everything is an accident” to “Ray should treat Andrew as valuable” that doesn’t appeal to pragmatics or accidents of psychology?

    Why are you preemptively ruling out ‘pragmatics’? What do you have against practical and workable solutions?

  30. BillT says:

    Ray,

    Again, the problem I see is that if the moral perceptions are evolution based then they aren’t real because they lead only to knowledge not duty. And saying that they can become duty “…when people make promises and accept obligations.” doesn’t solve the problem or make them real. They are just human choices like laws and other human conventions. Easily shed when convenient to do so. Thus, AB4 remains in tact.

  31. scblhrm says:

    Bill T,

    Moral knowledge vs. Moral duty.

    That’s actually a great point / important distinction ~~ Thank you ~~

  32. PangurBanTheCat says:

    I am amused and entertained as usual by the theistic apologetic dance to explain and support belief in something that patently doesn’t exist. But you have to defend it, you have to try to turn your explanations of god and morality out of fear, because if you can’t, your whole ideology and delusion falls apart.

    I note also how many of you will stereotype atheists into characters that you are outraged by claiming they are inhumane and amoral. Yet avoid looking at how inhumane and amoral your belief system is. You folks are in denial on an epic scale. It’s not just a river in Egypt.

    I did enjoy Jenna Blacks contribution on LAD as well as those of some others.

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    PangurBanTheCat,

    Your own prejudice and lack of knowledge are showing.

    Please review the discussion policy if you’d like to stay in the conversation here.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray,

    Not really necessary. If an evolutionary account can be constructed for inbuilt talents for moral reasoning – and it’s already conceded that such talents reflect something real – then AB4 becomes problematic, to whatever extent that evolution doesn’t depend on God.

    Not so. If an evolutionary account can be constructed for moral reasoning, and if God is not part of the picture, but everything is chance plus necessity, then moral reasoning is reasoning toward a conclusion that doesn’t exist.

  35. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #19

    You say this: “…the fact that animals display moral instincts (or at least precursors to them) is an indication that they don’t need a spiritual component to develop. Other humans are an inevitable part of every human’s environment. Instincts for how to successfully relate to other humans are, I repeat, no surprise. I mean, does a baby need a message from God (in C.S. Lewis’ terms) to prefer helpful characters in their environment? No one can even conceive of an evolutionary account for that?”

    I am not sure that I agree that “animals display moral instincts.” I observe that animals display social behaviors that are caring and cooperative toward and with their own species, but are these “moral” or a form of “morality” where the animal acts as a moral agent in choosing these behaviors from a range of possible alternative behaviors that the animal is capable of imagining or processing cognitively? No. This is what distinguishes human beings from animals, just as with language.

    We linguists remember the famous “ape language” research, where chimpanzees were taught to use “language” based on symbols and tokens. These studies were based on Skinnerian (as in B.F. Skinner) behaviorism and were part of an ongoing “battle” between Noam Chomsky and Dr. Skinner over how language is learned. In fact, there was one famous chimp they named Nim Chimpsky to mock Noam Chomsky. I think he got the joke.

    The findings of the research affirmed one important concept about language learning: it depends entirely on the ability of the organism to engage in abstract thinking, which the chimps do not have. Morality and spirituality require this same ability, which again, is what distinguishes us humans from animals. When you claim that “moral instincts” don’t require a “spiritual component” to develop, you are using the term “moral” in a way that is not the commonly accepted meaning or you are reducing human moral reasoning based on our human capacity for this form of abstract reasoning down to the level of Skinnerian behaviorism. Which is it?

  36. djc says:

    Tom,

    I believe that every person, atheists and humanists included, still knows that some things are more right than others, and other things are more wrong.

    As an atheist and materialist, I would agree with this statement and also the claim that we have moral knowledge. However, the devil is in the details.

    Under naturalism, natural selection has created moral emotions, which are complicated low-level algorithms in the brain triggered by “morally relevant” social situations and conditioning that makes us feel the way we do in response to moral events both good and bad. But that’s as far as it goes. There are no moral rules or propositions encoded in the brain or anywhere else under naturalism, apart from rule books and law.

    It is reasonable to call emotions a form of hard-wired, intrinsic knowledge since they map perception and experiences into value-laden emotion in a unique way. It’s knowledge we’re born with and is structurally similar across all human brains. Moral responses to injustice and altruism are universal.

    But the problem with emotions is that they take a person’s perceptions,experience and conditioning as absolute fact and output the corresponding emotional response without caveats. Since we all have slightly difference perspective, experience and environmental conditioning, we react to moral situations differently (and the greater our difference in perspective, experience and environment, the greater our differences in moral propositions). Hence, shared moral equipment in the form of emotional response is still no easy route to shared moral propositions. For any real moral agreement, we would have to all have the same perspective and the same experience, and that’s not easy to get.

    So in regards to the original argument, I would disagree with AB4:

    “AB4. If there is no God, then right and wrong cannot be real.”

    There are moral emotions and those are real and they form the basis for morality under naturalism. Going from real moral emotions to real moral propositions is difficult given people’s different perspectives, experiences, cultures, but it is not impossible. Indeed, violence has steadily declined over the long and short run of human history, as Steven Pinker documents thoroughly in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, suggesting that shared moral emotions lead to shared moral propositions, in this case a steady rejection of all forms of violence over time.

  37. BillT says:

    There are moral emotions and those are real and they form the basis for morality under naturalism.

    Or put another way, there are moral emotions and those are real and they form the basis for explaining away morality under naturalism. For if that is all that morality is, some evolutionary hardwiring, why should I or anyone else care one whit about it.

  38. scblhrm says:

    Violence is fading.

    For now. Last century was odd.

    And selection valued it in the first place.

    The nadir of peace last century is named “never again” – just like all the nadirs before it were. Odd how we attribute a dip in violence to selection but not the spikes. Don’t know what the nuclear future will bring but up or down it’s credit goes to nature’s only rule: indifference. Well, unless you ask a naturalist.

    Porn addiction and sex trafficking are highly valued by selective processes, more than ever.

    Perhaps they’ll fade.Or keep rising. It depends on nature’s only rule: indifferent selective pressures.

    We’ll see if the naturalists will be honest and credit all of our interior constructs to evolution or “just the pleasant ones”.

    Peaks of valuing violence and sex slavery will surely be blamed (inexplicably) on “man” while nadirs in valuing violence and sex slavery will be credited to the highly moral selection process.

    Suicide is rising. Addictions are rising. Nadirs will come. Peaks. Ebbs and flow….gently rolling through time.

    And the credit for “valuing, favoring, and nurturing the evil” seems to never be given to blind indifference, at least, not by naturalists. No. Blind indifference only gets “credit” for the “good”.

    Odd.

    What would motivate a naturalist to employ such fuzzy math? The only explanation seems to be that they want to believe “it” is really, for real, in there somewhere, that “it” is really real.

  39. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: #36

    In this comment you make this claim: “Under naturalism, natural selection has created moral emotions….” How in the world can you claim that natural selection creates anything? It seems to me that you are playing very fast and loose with the science of evolution and its terminology. On whose theories or research among evolution scientists are you relying in making this rather bizarre claim? Does some scientist somewhere posit the theory that there is a “moral emotions” gene that mutated at some point in the natural history of humankind? If so, is this “moral emotions” gene different from a “regular emotions” or “generic emotions” gene on the genome somewhere? And what exactly is our “moral equipment”? And more importantly still, why do we have it, since animals clearly lack it so it is not necessary for survival?

    It also seems to me that such arguments are based on this false premise: Evolution, therefore no God. I called another poster on this a few days ago but here it rears its head again.

  40. scblhrm says:

    Jenna Black,

    From what I can tell, the “moral wire” is the “pleasant” stuff which “evolution does” with man and the “unknown wire” is the “sex slavery / ugly” stuff which “man does” with the “moral wire” which evolution gave him. The terminology doesn’t seem to be important to the Naturalist so long as “evolution” gets credit for valuing life and “man” gets blamed for valuing violence. It’s fuzzy math but – from what I’ve seen – that is the basic science of it.

  41. BillT says:

    scblhrm,

    That’s well put.

  42. Michael says:

    I am amused and entertained as usual by the theistic apologetic dance to explain and support belief in something that patently doesn’t exist. But you have to defend it, you have to try to turn your explanations of god and morality out of fear, because if you can’t, your whole ideology and delusion falls apart.

    I note also how many of you will stereotype atheists into characters that you are outraged by claiming they are inhumane and amoral. Yet avoid looking at how inhumane and amoral your belief system is. You folks are in denial on an epic scale. It’s not just a river in Egypt.

    I did enjoy Jenna Blacks contribution on LAD as well as those of some others

  43. Michael says:

    AB1: The point here is that we have decided over the millennia what is right and what is wrong. We don’t necessarily do much better than our forebears, however. Claiming that we cannot know right from wrong unless right from wrong are real. Actually, yes we can and have.

    AB2: And we do know. We know more than some actions that are right and others wrong. Making this small is part of this game of misdirection. The more we learn from science and rational observation the more we are aware of consequences, and our morality calculates what constitutes right and wrong in relation to those consequences.

    In time, and through reflection society has come to know that some actions are really right and wrong (and it is according to the time period as it varies as to what is really right and wrong. Because in many instances, we decided that we would do what we know is wrong in spite of our awareness that it was wrong if it was religiously and/or politically desirable and therefore “necessary” to us, whoever us is at the time).

    AB3: Therefore right and wrong are real. Well, yes. Here is where you create a gap that doesn’t exist and then draw your sword of the god-of-the-gaps from its bloodied scabbard to force this belief in the equation.

    We decided what is right and wrong. We still are deciding. We will continue doing it well into our future and some of our model will change and some of it will remain immutable.

    AB4: “If there is no god, then right and wrong cannot be real.” There is no support for this whatsoever.

    We make right and wrong real. When we discover by evolving that what we once thought was right, is wrong. We also have changed our minds about what was wrong and have decided it was actually right and changed our minds making THAT the new reality. Our reality.
    Humans have created right and wrong and really right and really wrong. There is no necessity for a god for this to happen. This is the weakest and most dysfunctional link in your chain.

    AB5: Therefore (AB3 and Ab4) there is a god.

    Aaaaaaaaannnhhhh! Wrong answer.

    You just jumped off a cliff with nothing to support you or break your fall. The only thing you have to paint this wall with is belief or faith, which is delusional.

    And this is where you always have to go to patch things with.

  44. JAD says:

    Jenna to djc:

    How in the world can you claim that natural selection creates anything?

    It’s very easy: Smuggle in teleology and give NS god-like wisdom and power. (Any more questions?)

  45. SteveK says:

    If an evolutionary account can be constructed for moral reasoning, and if God is not part of the picture, but everything is chance plus necessity, then moral reasoning is reasoning toward a conclusion that doesn’t exist.

    Exactly!

    Evolution gave us moral reasoning without the ability to arrive at an objective moral conclusion. Moral conclusions include obligations and there are no obligations because the process that made everything cannot oblige. So humans pick whatever obligation suites them individually and collectively and they enforce them through power. Moral relativism is the result, but only the most powerful will prevail.

  46. djc says:

    Jenna Black,

    No, definitely not something as simple as a moral gene. Very briefly, the brain structures that are shown to be most involved in emotions (amygdala) are older and quite deeper in the brain than the neocortex. Emotions, therefore, clearly precede language and the neocortex. It is thought that the primary emotions, i.e fear, anger, happiness, sadness were rewired and interconnected via the cortex over evolutionary time to produce emotions conducive to social cohesion and solidarity, such as the moral emotions shame and guilt, and this led to a much greater degree of socialization in early humans or human ancestors. Thus, emotions, and moral emotions in particular, employ quite a lot of brain structures and a lot of it happens unconsciously.

    And, yes, many animals clearly do have moral emotions, google “capuchin monkey fairness” experiment.

  47. scblhrm says:

    That there is an “it” which the naturalist wants to be “there” and wants to be “real” is telling. This is evidence of either wish-fulfillment akin to their charge against the theist (in which case “it” isn’t real), or, this desire that the “it” be “really there somewhere” is actual vision, only focusing upon the wrong object (in which case “it” is real and is really somewhere else).

    We say “somewhere else” because the “it” they seek has not, does not, and will not value, favor, select for, nurture, and robustly maintain for eons sex slavery, suicide, rape, child sacrifice….and…..and …..

    The naturalist transposes real moral knowledge into a paradigm unable to contain it and tells us, “See, who needs God?”

    This is evidence of real moral sight….as fragmented as it is.

    We can’t be harsh as “fragmented” just is our vision’s status as well. But that there are real eyes and a real Morality out there to see is what every stream of information is saying. That they steal an epistemology not their own is yet again more of the same.

  48. Jenna Black says:

    djc,

    So, what you are telling me is that changes in the physiology of the brain over time that enable humans to conduct moral reasoning based on emotions (and perhaps the ability to “language” about emotions) is an instance or example of evolution. Please forgive me if I’m not knowledgeable enough about the science of evolution or perhaps just the mechanics of evolution, but how is this process of change evolution in the scientific sense?

    As I understand it, evolution involves two processes, mutation (a genetic process) and natural selection (survival of the fittest). It almost seems to me that you are using the term “evolution” in a non-scientific sense, as in “to evolve” or to change gradually over time, as in the organism developing biological structures that result in greater adaptability to the environment. As I ask you earlier, how do emotions function in survival if you claim that emotions come from “natural selection.” To make a quip, I think that emotions are very important for the survival of a marriage, but I’m not so sure they are necessary for survival of a biological species.

    Again, do you have a particular evolutionary scientist whose work you can cite for me to read about the “evolution” of emotions?

  49. Michael says:

    So true Jenna, I also recommend looking up von Economo and/or spindle cells. They are present in primates/including the human version, elephants, and cetaceans (some whales and dolphins).

    You are correct regarding the amygdala as well, which is highly involved in rage, fear, and sexual arousal. All are located deep within the brain and away from the neocortex but well connected to the neo cortex via myelinated nerve fibers for ease of quick communication as well as to the thalamus the central sensory motor processing, and communication center. The amygdala is a very ancient part of the brain and did precede the neo cortex by a long period of the passage of time.
    VENs Spindle Cells Note and Links 3 15 14
    http://arlenetaylor.org/index.php/neurons-and-neurotransmitters/6314-spindle-neurons.html

    VENs are believed to impact higher-order thinking. Interestingly enough, these neurons have also been discovered in some other species: whales (e.g., killer, sperm, fin, humpback, beluga); dolphins (bottlenose, Risso’s); and African and Asian elephants; great apes. According to Wikipedia, scientists have implicated spindle neurons as having an important role in many cognitive abilities and disabilities generally unique to humans (e.g., savant perceptiveness, perfect pitch, dyslexia, autism). Source = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spindle_neuron
    (detailed arguments for these positions can be found in Tooby & Cosmides, 1992, 1990a, and 1990b, and in Cosmides & Tooby 1987, 1992, 1997).

    Tom it wouldn’t have taken much to do a little research on this. All one had to do was enter these key words (ie. one of your phrases) into a google search window.

    Key Words: academic research on the evolution of emotions

    Evolutionary Psychology and the Emotions
    Leda Cosmides & John Tooby

    http://www.cep.ucsb.edu/emotion.html

    Evolutionary Psychology of Em
    Otions. Irrational Emotions or Emotional Wisdom?
    The Evolutionary Psychology of Emotions and Behavior
    Martie G. Haselton & Timothy Ketelaar 2005

    http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/comm/haselton/papers/downloads/HaseltonKetelaar.pdf

    To date, the standard evolutionary psychological approach to the emotions is a combination of the theories of the founders of the field (discussed above) and subsequent theorists and experiments. In general evolutionary theory it is accepted that repeated encounters with similar situations were met with varying actions. Certain actions promoted life, and certain actions promoted death. Thus everything in the mind is “program” designed to solve a specific problem encountered numerous times throughout evolutionary history (6). These programs are triggered by events in the outside environment.

    Evolution of emotion

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

    History of Emotions Max Planck Institute for Human Develop

    https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/en/research/history-of-emotions

    https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/en/research/adaptive-rationality

    https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/en/research/adaptive-behavior-and-cognition

  50. djc says:

    Jenna Black,

    So, what you are telling me is that changes in the physiology of the brain over time that enable humans to conduct moral reasoning based on emotions (and perhaps the ability to “language” about emotions) is an instance or example of evolution. Please forgive me if I’m not knowledgeable enough about the science of evolution or perhaps just the mechanics of evolution, but how is this process of change evolution in the scientific sense?

    With the caveat that “moral reasoning” (which requires language most likely) would happen very much later on the evolutionary time-line than “moral emotions”, yes, this is correct. Evolution in terms of mutation and natural selection.

    As I ask you earlier, how do emotions function in survival if you claim that emotions come from “natural selection.” To make a quip, I think that emotions are very important for the survival of a marriage, but I’m not so sure they are necessary for survival of a biological species.

    I’m using “moral emotions” as synonymous with the neural structures that do the work. That is, once the proper brain structures evolve, the “feeling of emotion” comes along with it for free.

    As for survival benefits of emotion, a key feature of emotion is it makes you behave differently to the people around you and it does so in a way that is difficult to fake. Therefore, emotions must serve social functions. Some of the key papers on this are:

    ekman 1992 an argument for basic emotions
    lazarus 1991 emotion and adaptation

    Jonathan Haidt does a lot of interesting work on morality in this area.

  51. Jenna Black says:

    djc, RE: # 50

    I’m not the one using the term “moral emotions” least of all, as synonymous with “neural structures”; you are. Emotions are not “structures.” I must admit, the more you, my fellow bloggers, inform me about research in this area, the less I can see any relationship between this research and the issue of moral knowledge and moral reasoning.

    Michael, RE: #49

    AS far as I know, Tom did not ask questions about the concept of “moral emotions” or query about research in this area: I did. So why are you telling Tom about how easy it is to google the topic? What is the field of evolutionary psychology? Isn’t this a different concept of evolution altogether?

  52. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    On # 50,

    Moral Judgment:

    You seem to be both confused and too willing to rush to judgment on what is or is not “morally better” as you imply some unjustified nuances. Also, you are lacking in data in a few of your implied conclusions.

    To start, as a naturalist you are correct to ascribe every last nuance to selective pressures / mutation. Development of what we call delusions which foster longevity such as feeling the weight of an ought is, though not knowledge of an actual duty which actually exists extrinsic to the Self, potentially more successful in so far as it successfully survives selection. You are perfectly correct in implying that the “I ought to do X” when X is some form of sadistic activity is just as real and just as actual as it is when X is something less catastrophic. As you imply, each are undeniably real emotive constructs embedded in man’s irrationally conditioned reflexes. Obviously this is why our interior constructs which value, favor, select for, nurture, and robustly maintain over eons various neuronal reflex summations such as what we call random rape and sex slavery are as alive as they are, as they, simply by their proximity to the genomic pool, are highly likely to succeed. Of course the very same delusions which work to perpetuate the expressions of the Self within sexual slavery are just as real and just as actual as those other real, actual feelings which move us into random rape.

    Teleological import here is – unquestionably – blind to what the Christian / Theists means by “morality”, but that such compositions are real and actual manifestations of real and actual irrationally conditioned and entirely determined neuronal reflexes is a physical fact given that you presuppose naturalism.

    But you seem to rush to an implied moral judgment without any data.

    I believe that you are unjustified in one part of your thesis, though, in that you seem to be ascribing by implication a teleological hint of sight, of vision in those selective processes which, inexplicably, you seem to hint, “prefers”, say, sexual slavery over random rape simply because the former houses an intrinsic advantage in capacity to populate the genomic pool due to sheer volume of occurrence. Here you seem to imply that sexual slavery is “morally better” than random rape but you don’t give data on actual penetrance and expression across populations in order to decipher where the moral good is real and where it is just assumed. Some folks perhaps could get on board with your implied assumption that sexual slavery is “really” morally “more good” than random rape if you had such data. But I see no justification offered by you to defend any such “prefer” or “sight” as clearly both emotional constructs are morally successful. That is to say, without any data as to which is more successful we have to assume – given that both are robustly present inside of man’s constructs – that the sexual slavery “sets of irrationally conditioned emotings” are just as real and just as good (successful) as are the random rape “sets of irrationally conditioned emotings”.

    You have to be more disciplined in your argument as neither is “rationally conditioned” and I think that is where your teleological hint of sight is unjustified. There is no sight. No vision. No reason. What “succeeds” is “good” in the sense you are describing and so your implied fact that sexual slavery is “morally better” than random rape is completely unjustified as both have been robustly morally successful.

    In fact, while sexual slavery may be “morally better” in that it populates the genomic pool more successfully, we could equally posit that there are other selective pressures which make random rape “just as likely” in that most homosapiens lack the means to afford an array of sex slaves whereas any male of sufficient physical strength and inclination can be more teleologically successful in random sexual assault and so the sheer penetrance / expression of random rapes may actually surpass that of sexual slavery across population densities.

    Again, you need to give us such data before you rush to such an implied moral judgment. Perhaps more sociological study is needed to see if in fact your implied fact that sexual slavery is morally better than random rape is actually justified. It just may be the case, given financial means being limited to the few, that the reverse is actually true, that random rape is morally better than sexual slavery. Moral success shouldn’t be assumed too hastily here.

    Until you can offer such justification, to continue implying such is a mark of two faults, the first being bias, and the second being a rush to moral judgment without sufficient penetrance data across populations.

    Finally, your theft of the Theist’s moral paradigm and epistemology is troubling. By this we only mean that your employment of phrases such as “better” or “more good” are forever nuanced in such a way that it is embarrassingly and disturbingly obvious that these are based on your own cultural / theistically contaminated opinions rather than on sound teleological data. You are forever ascribing a language to your paradigm of indifference which logically cannot, and does not, ontologically exist, and thus is not, and never will be, ontologically real.

  53. scbrownlhrm says:

    Today:

    Every human trafficked ~
    Every violent assault ~
    Every sexual battery ~
    Every sexual “tool” enslaved ~
    Every knife plunged ~
    Every bullet fired ~
    Every war fought ~
    Every child sacrificed (yes, it is) ~
    Every bit of pornographic addiction ~
    Every chemical addiction ~
    Every death from every chemical addiction ~
    Every ideology held ~
    Every ideology employed by a mind for slaughter ~
    Every belief employed in violence ~
    Every suicide ~
    Every double suicide ~
    Every lie told ~
    Every dishonest move ~
    Every prideful fist ~
    Every bit of double talk ~
    Every woman raped ~
    Every man raped ~
    Every child raped ~
    Every animal sexually used by a human ~
    Every declaration of the morality of nature’s selective processes ~

    …..is fully funded by, created by, nurtured by, favored by, approved by, selected by, maintained by, and due to, not man’s volitionality within Immutable Love’s transcendent moral end of regress, but, rather, to the ontologically real “morality” of deterministic indifference, the only paradigm of Naturalism.

    ….And tomorrow…..

  54. Ray Ingles says:

    bigbird –

    Again, the problem I see is that if the moral perceptions are evolution based then they aren’t real because they lead only to knowledge not duty.

    Here’s the thing – even if they are “merely” pragmatic, just based on what’s in your (overall, long-term) best interest… they are still compelling. They’re not based on the reality of a Lawgiver, but they are based on objective reality nonetheless – the reality of what happens when human desires smack into objective, real-world conditions.

    Tom, in 34 you essentially just reassert AB4. You don’t actually argue for it.

    Jenna –

    I am not sure that I agree that “animals display moral instincts.”

    No animal puts together all of the elements of moral reasoning the way humans do, sure. This is the same with language – no one animal species has all the elements of human language processing.

    But different animals have various elements of language. Similarly, elements of moral reasoning have been shown in animals as well.

    When you claim that “moral instincts” don’t require a “spiritual component” to develop, you are using the term “moral” in a way that is not the commonly accepted meaning or you are reducing human moral reasoning based on our human capacity for this form of abstract reasoning down to the level of Skinnerian behaviorism. Which is it?

    In the words of Douglas Hofstadter, “Mu”. The elements, when put together, produce behavior impossible for a subset of them. Like how wetness is impossible for oxygen alone or hydrogen alone, but depends on a combination of both. Or a phase transition, where a continuous change in some parameter, like temperature or intelligence, produces discontinuous behavior like melting or moral reasoning. The parts don’t require a spiritual component to come into being, or to combine, so…

  55. JAD says:

    Tom wrote in the OP:

    If there is no transcendent moral standard, there is no moral knowledge, because there is nothing to be known. There is no right or wrong, except for each person’s opinion; and each person’s opinion in that case is indistinguishable from “I favor that kind of action” or “I don’t think highly of that other kind of action.” This is not morality, it’s aesthetics. If it is a culture-wide view rather than an individual’s view, then it is “we” rather than “I,” but the same still holds: it’s still aesthetics.

    Appealing to evolutionary psychology doesn’t answer the point that Tom raised. No one here, at least as far as I can see, has yet explained how a mindless naturalistic evolutionary process can give us objective moral standards. The question is not whether moral consciousness and behavior somehow evolved (that’s a separate issue), its to explain how objective moral values could exist. At best naturalistic evolution can explain subjective moral values or some kind of “herd” morality that evolved within a tribal culture, but objective moral values.

    This is not just a theistic view even a committed evolutionist like Michael Ruse agrees,

    “The position of the modern evolutionist,” Ruse writes, “is that humans have an awareness of morality … because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. … Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. … Nevertheless, … such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, … and any deeper meaning is illusory.”

  56. Ray Ingles says:

    scbrownlhrm –

    Porn addiction and sex trafficking are highly valued by selective processes, more than ever.

    You’ve asserted that. Now, make a detailed case for it.

    Before you do, though, let me tell you a little story about ‘selection’.

    In many species of frogs, the males make lots of croaks at night. The females listen for the deepest, loudest croaks. When they hear a Barry White of frogs, they croak out a response, announcing their location. Barry gets moving, headed toward the receptive lady.

    Now, physics is pretty hard to get around. The lower the pitch you want to make, the larger you need things to be – resonant cavity, etc. To make a deep croak, you gotta be bigger. Obviously, selection favors big frogs, right?

    Not so fast. Big frogs tend to be slower, too. A smaller but enterprising male can – and frequently does – get to the female first.

    The moral of the story: selection involves a lot more than one or two factors. A case for selection has to account for all the relevant factors.

    Now, that said – get to it. Support your thesis. But you’d best make it a good case. You might find it harder than you expect.

  57. Ray Ingles says:

    JAD –

    No one here, at least as far as I can see, has yet explained how a mindless naturalistic evolutionary process can give us objective moral standards.

    That’s ’cause no one’s claimed that ‘a mindless naturalistic evolutionary process can give us objective moral standards’, any more than a mindless naturalistic evolutionary process can give us sound or sunlight or water or gravity.

    But evolution can respond to such things.

    As you ought to recall, I don’t claim that evolution gives us morality. I claim that evolution has produced humans with specific traits and natures and desires. When such beings interact with the regularities and constraints of reality – the kinds of things we usually refer to as ‘the laws of physics’ – strategies arise. Objective ones, just like how a desire to win the game, when it smacks into the rules of chess, leads to objective strategies.

  58. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray,

    I know you think something / things / forces besides nature are at work in this universe, and, I know you think there are physical systems inside our skulls that are at bottom free of the blind forces of physics. Evolution and physics do the “good things” and man does the “bad things”.

    You’ve made that clear.

    Until you have some proof of such a “supra nature” and of such freedom from the blind forces of physics within our skulls I see no reason to believe you.

    Objective strategies to pull off human trafficking are, you are correct, objectively real. But no need to attribute that to the blind forces of physics. It was that “supra-nature” at work.

  59. Ray Ingles says:

    scbrownlhrm –

    You’ve made that clear.

    No, sorry, that’s what you’ve read, not what I’ve written. I’ve tried to point you to sources of information to help clear up your misconceptions and misunderstandings, but “I can only show you the door”, etc.

  60. SteveK says:

    That’s ’cause no one’s claimed that ‘a mindless naturalistic evolutionary process can give us objective moral standards’….But evolution can respond to such things.

    So you’re saying the evolutionary process is responding to objective moral standards. Sounds nothing like naturalism, Ray. Naturalism has no obligations and if evolution is responding to these obligations then you’re not talking about naturalism.

  61. SteveK says:

    Ray,
    I just realized that “such things” might have been a reference to the other things you mentioned (sound, sunlight, etc). If so, ignore my prior comment.

  62. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray,

    Objective strategies to pull off human trafficking are, you are correct, objectively real strategies. But no need to attribute that to the blind forces of physics. It was that “supra-nature” at work.

  63. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #57 Your response to JAD

    I actually think that this reply to JAD reflects progress. You say this: “But evolution can respond to such things…” You are referring here to our natural environment.

    It is important, IMO to recognize evolution as a response, not as a producer or creator, as I’m afraid you do somewhat in this statement, Ray: “I claim that evolution has produced humans with specific traits and natures and desires.”

    The point we are making against naturalism is this question or issue: Why would there be an evolutionary response to an external objective morality if there is no such thing as an external objective morality? Naturalism denies the existence of an external objective morality, including moral obligations and duties but claims that the apparatus for discerning it and responding to it is a product of evolution. As SteveK states clearly, naturalism does not address this question .

  64. SteveK says:

    Jenna,
    Ray can clarify, but see #61. I think his objective morality boils down to the objective (his term) strategies that humans develop as a response to the world they live in. It’s moral relativism – each person having their own strategy for flourishing. Dahmer worked his strategy out and Ray is working his out.

  65. Chris says:

    The issue lies with the definitions. On a theistic viewpoint, the only “Objective” morality is actually the Christian one. To a theist, all other theories of morality are “Subjective”. No matter how hard you argue for objective morals without God, there is always that one step more, and it is a step that a non-theist can never reach.

    That is why I simply say, in these conversations at least, that the only morality is subjective. Yes it shifts and improves over time, and yes it is a product of our development, and yes it is also seen in other animals, but NO, there is no objective morality in a cosmic sense that is unrelated to life on earth.

  66. Tom Gilson says:

    Chris,

    The issue does lie with the definitions, but the definitions don’t depend on whether one is a theist or an atheist. Objective morality is defined as morality that obtains regardless of human beliefs or opinions. One does not have to be a theist to understand what that definition means, and to apply it to various ethical theories.

    Your second paragraph draws a conclusion that does not follow, anyway. You attempt to define objective morality as something only a theist can believe in. That might be true; in fact, I think there’s a straight logical progression from objective moral knowledge to belief in God.

    From that, however, it does not follow that the only morality is subjective. It could be the case (and I think it is) that objective morality exists, the theistic view is right, and opposing worldviews are wrong.

  67. Tom Gilson says:

    Further on comment 34, Ray,

    If everything is chance and necessity, as I put it there, then it’s really impossible for me to see how moral knowledge could be knowledge of anything genuinely real. That’s because it’s impossible to see how chance and necessity could create duty, obligation, and values.

    Yet we do see humans living life as though duties, obligations, and values are real. You say, that’s because evolution produced humans in such a manner that we regard them as real, and that their reality lies in human desires, preferences, and felt needs. I say that this means you are talking about desires, preferences and felt needs, not duties, obligations, or objective values.

    I paused a moment before writing “objective values,” knowing that you and I agree that values exist among humans, and that you find that fact to be sufficient as a basis for moral knowledge. We have to be very careful what we mean when we say “values,” however. There are values and there are values.

    If our values are purely evolutionary, then I think that they amount to little more than a restatement of our desires and preferences. In other words, knowledge even of “values” falls short of moral knowledge, because in reality it is knowledge of desires and preferences, rather than knowledge of duties and obligations.

    I have more that I could say on this, but I will hold off until you’ve had an opportunity to respond to this so far.

  68. Jenna Black says:

    Tom, RE: #66

    You are right on! I have observed many atheists twisting themselves into pretzels to deny the existence of an Absolute Morality because to accept and acknowledge this is to let that proverbial Divine foot in the door.

    I appreciate this forum with its civility and integrity so much and more so every day. I have learned a lot and deepened my faith here. Thank you! JB

  69. Nelson says:

    I didn’t even read the rest of your post as your premise is flawed.

    “AB1. We cannot know whether any action really is right or wrong unless right and wrong are real.
    AB2. We know that some actions really are right and others are wrong.
    AB3. Therefore right and wrong are real.
    AB4. If there is no God, then right and wrong cannot be real.
    AB5. Therefore (AB3 and AB4) there is a God.”

    Wrong.

    There can and are objective rights and wrongs. For instance. Drinking battery acid is not condusive to your health. Hence it’s wrong to drink battery acid. It will kill you. One does not need a creator for human morality to exist.

    We can objectively look at those things that are “beneficial” to humans as a whole. For instance,

    To live together in a society we must forego certain things for the betterment of the society. As a selfish organism, I do not want people stealing from me. Trying to kill me or in anyway, make my life harder than it already is. Since I live in a community with other individuals, it’s logical to treat others how I would like them to treat me so that my life is filled with less negative and more positive.

    it’s not a hard concept.

  70. BillT says:

    Here’s the thing – even if they are “merely” pragmatic, just based on what’s in your (overall, long-term) best interest… they are still compelling. They’re not based on the reality of a Lawgiver, but they are based on objective reality nonetheless – the reality of what happens when human desires smack into objective, real-world conditions.

    Ok, Ray, but you still don’t get Morality. You get, as you suggest, something that “works”. Still no duty though and without that what you’re doing as I said in reply to djc in #37 is explaining away morality because …if that is all that morality is, some evolutionary hardwiring, why should I or anyone else care one whit about it.

  71. JAD says:

    I think the argument is as simple as this:

    Objective moral values (OMV’s) follow necessarily from theism.
    From the standpoint of naturalism it is, at very least, not obvious that they do. If they did, wouldn’t you be able to give an argument that they do? Even many naturalists agree with us here– E.O. Wilson, William Provine, Joel Marks, Alex Rosenberg, Michael Ruse, J. L. Mackie… to name a few.

    It’s the fact OMV’s follow necessarily from God’s existence that we can turn the argument around and use OMV’s as evidence for His existence.

    It is what we would expect if God really exists.

  72. scblhrm says:

    Nelson a presupposition of ought value life which is housed atop blind axiom is objective feelings and an objectively real blind axiom. That’s not helpful because our feelings are thus the justification for everything. There’s a lot of devaluing of life inside of “Everything”. But, I know…..I know…. evolution and blind forces of physics (nature) value life and “man” devalues life.

  73. Tom Gilson says:

    Nelson,

    I understand all that you have said; it’s not unfamiliar. What you’re talking about, however, is pragmatism, not morality. If naturalistic atheism is true, then there is nothing that tells us we have a duty to survive. We have an instinctive preference, to be sure, but not a duty. And we especially don’t have any duty to help non-kin survive, on atheism.

  74. djc says:

    BillT,

    …if that is all that morality is, some evolutionary hardwiring, why should I or anyone else care one whit about it.

    If you’re a Christian, yes, I can understand not caring one whit about it; you have the soul and spirit which trumps the physical,

    But as an atheist/materialist, the physical is all there is, evolutionary hardwiring is the essence of being and self. I care a great deal about evolutionary hardwiring because it is what I am. The moral emotions are implemented on organic substrate, in my view, but that in no way diminishes their “qualia”, their raw feeling, their power, influence and pure meaning in my life.

  75. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    You just explained the forces compelling human trafficking.

  76. SteveK says:

    - Giving aid to others is not conducive to your financial health. Hence it’s wrong to give aid to others.

    Very pragmatic, but not the least bit moral.

  77. Nelson says:

    Tom.

    The problem is

    1. It seems like you are defining atheism as world view and this is incorrect. Atheism is simply the rejection of the theistic good claim. Naturalism, as you call it, is mutually exclusive from atheism.

    2. The objective theistic view, especially Xianity, fails horribly. For instance old testiment allows for slavery, even has rules on how to maintain slaves, who can be slaves, etc. Yet we know that owning another human is immoral.

    You state that the US no reason no be altruistic towards non family. Yet my reasons, whether you agree or not are valid when dealing in social groups. A pragmatic view is needed. If not then we fall into the trap of subscribing to outdated dogma.

    Some your children. Some witches, some homosexuales. Stone for apostasy.

    Now to say that morality comes from a Devine cover of moral , well isn’t that just an idea based on 0 facts about a creator that has not been shown to exist and what ever supposed information that we have had this creator endorsing the worse of human behavior. If, by the general moral view of society (this is who dictates moral behavior), this beings stance is immoral, then we can judge it so.

    What many theist like your self fail to realize is you want to question the moral views of a physical being in a physical universe to your supposed divine creators moral views when we have no context of the Divine. Where are our examples of things that can ONLY be explained by a creator?

    This discussion is a bit of a strawman. With out looking at other soft and hard sciences, you’ve created this argument against atheism that does not exist. And even if your argument was valid and atheism was a world view which you could say was wrong, proving one thing wrong does not prove another thing correct.

    At the end of the day humans learn what’s right or wrong depending on the society they live in. The cultural and sub cultural norms.

  78. Tom Gilson says:

    I only have a moment, so I’m only able to respond to something early and obvious in your last comment: “Naturalism, as you call it, is mutually exclusive from atheism.”

    No, naturalism is necessarily atheistic, by definition. Atheism is not necessarily naturalistic, but in the West it usually is. Naturalism is always atheistic.

    Sorry I don’t have time for further conversation on this right now….

  79. Nelson says:

    scblhrm,

    “Nelson a presupposition of ought value life which is housed atop blind axiom is objective feelings and an objectively real blind axiom. That’s not helpful because our feelings are thus the justification for everything. There’s a lot of devaluing of life inside of “Everything”. But, I know…..I know…. evolution and blind forces of physics (nature) value life and “man” devalues life.”

    Please be a little clearer. I don’t think we start from any blind postulation. We start by viewing cause and effect. If you share your food with another, the chances are that they will share their food with you. You can see this type of interaction with many social animals. Why would this be any different for humans, which are social animals? It wouldn’t.

    We have learned that we fare better as social groups. This is the whole axis of our own survival.

    I suggest you start with something simple like Social Bond Theory put out by Travis Hirschi in 1969. I know you migh disagree, but as I’ve stated before, you are creating a strawman argument. You are not taking into consideration the mass amounts of testing and data that shows that morality can indeed be objective via evolutionary means depending on the society you live in. There are also things that are objective because they “benefit” humankind as a whole.

    You have yet to show why naturalistic moral existence cannot answer this question. All you have stated that a pragmatic view is meaningless. I’ll disagree with you simply because there many, many examples where religion/creation have nothing to do with a societies view on morality. Look up the Pariah. no creation. no god story. Almost no crime.

  80. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    Correction. After more thought, what you have given is the naturalistic justification for human trafficking’s location as being on ontological par with every other emoting construct. Meaning, feelings, import, and so on, all conditioned into us. Many people find many feelings meaningful in this respect….. all sorts of feelings…..and they are all objectively real, they are all morally successful. Because they’ve succeeded. If you believe such “ontological par” is not the truth of the matter, then either there is an ontological end of regress in something akin to God, or, you are delusional, a delusion cast into your hardwiring which may prove to be unfit given the inevitable imbalance between population density and food/energy substrate. It all depends. Environment and Pressure just selects. We just dance.

  81. scbrownlhrm says:

    Nelson,

    Got it. Relativism. Everything is on ontological par with everything else. And again with the blind axiom that life matters? If you wonder what I mean by “on ontological par” then see #52. You seem unwilling to embrace success, or, as you call it, morality. If you believe such “ontological par” is not the truth of the matter, then either there is an ontological end of regress in something akin to God, or, you are delusional, a delusion cast into your hardwiring which may prove to be unfit given the inevitable imbalance between population density and food/energy substrate. It all depends. Environmental Pressure just selects. We just dance.

  82. Nelson says:

    Tom,

    “No, naturalism is necessarily atheistic, by definition. Atheism is not necessarily naturalistic, but in the West it usually is. Naturalism is always atheistic.

    Sorry I don’t have time for further conversation on this right now….”

    I don’t really care what “in the WEST it usually is”. So now we appeal to the masses for incorrect definitions? How does that work. Atheism and Naturalism ARE mutually exclusive. There are many theist that have a naturalistic view ( to some extent) of many scientific processes. One wouldn’t say that gravity works because gods finger is pushing down on things would they? I know it sounds simplistic, but this is how your are putting out your arguments; rather simplistic.

    Depending on the context, then yes the two can be combined. But I’ve seen many a atheist that do not subscribe to naturalistic explinations.

    Being an atheist (there is no capital sir. Only at the beginning of a sentence), only means that we lack a belief in a god/s and reject the assertion that theist have made due to lack of convincing evidence. Nothing more. To add to it, to try and “hitch” things to it is wrong and fallacious.

    Now, we can draw on nuerology, biology, anthropology, sociology for prime examples why a Naturalistic view of morality not only works, but is really the only thing that can work. If not, we are back to killing for religious views. which each opposing sides god does nothing to curb in it’s name. It then becomes guilty by association and immoral anyway. ; )

  83. scbrownlhrm says:

    Nelson,

    “But I’ve seen many a atheist that do not subscribe to naturalistic explinations”

    Huh?

    I think it was Watson? and his panspermia…. I don’t recall. He felt evolution couldn’t account for life, and so on.

    So I guess he was a theist? Or an “Alien-ist”?

    The Multi-Verse could be another way out of this universe….. a “Multi-Verse-ist”?

    If you feel this is helpful to your argument, I’d probably disagree.

    Fingers pushing electrons and morality…. you’re making a category error.

  84. BillT says:

    djc,

    Ok, I get that. It’s what you have. But as scblhrm says what differentiates the “do good” impulses from the “do bad” impulses? Are they all the same thing. Are you just lucky that you got more “do good” impulses than someone else. When you do good is that what you feel. Just some hardwiring kicking in. Are you really saying you’re nothing more than that. I don’t even know you but I think more of you, and everyone else, than that. If your paradigm doesn’t reflect reality, you might consider changing your paradigm.

  85. Tom Gilson says:

    Nelson,

    “Simplistic” aside, we need to work on some definitions. First, the term “mutually exclusive” usually means that members of one class can never be members of another class. “Shorter than 6′ tall” and “Taller than 6′ tall” are mutually exclusive categories.

    Atheism and naturalism are certainly not mutually exclusive in that sense.

    A charitable alternate view would be to take “mutually exclusive” in the sense that the meanings of “naturalism” and “atheism” have nothing to do with each other. But here you need to recognize what kind of naturalism you’re speaking of. There is ontological (philosophical) naturalism, the view that nothing exists but matter and energy interacting by chance and natural necessity. This has considerable overlap with atheism, so the two are hardly mutually exclusive. Then there is “methodological naturalism,” to which you seemed to be referring just now, which is the view that, for practical purposes (especially science) we can regard the world as if there were nothing to it but matter and energy interacting according to chance and necessity. This has less overlap with atheism, but it still has some.

    So while I have to run off again, could you please clarify what you’re talking about as you’re continuing? Thank you.

  86. Jenna Black says:

    Nelson,

    You bring to this blog yet another example of atheists’ attempt to reduce atheism down to its lowest common denominator. You give us this definition of atheism: “Being an atheist (there is no capital sir. Only at the beginning of a sentence), only means that we lack a belief in a god/s and reject the assertion that theist have made due to lack of convincing evidence.” Its elements are:
    1) lack of a belief in a god/s (rejection of polytheism and monotheism)
    2) rejection of the “assertion that theist(s) have made” (what assertion?)
    3) due to lack of convincing evidence (of what?)

    Now, as I’m pointing out in parentheses, of discussion of your atheism is to proceed, we need clarification and perhaps stipulation on several points, because this definition of atheism has a number of problems. First, are we discussing monotheism or polytheism? This is important because as you well know, monotheists also reject polytheism, so we’re in agreement there already. Second, it is important because for the discussion to be fruitful, we need to agree on what monotheism and monotheists deify. IOW, what is this “assertion” that you say theists (monotheists?) make that you reject? If we can’t agree on what this is, then we are talking past each other. It is also important to clarify exactly what this claim is and who, what, which monotheists make this claim, since in argumentation, no one is expected to defend a claim that s/he did/does not make him/herself.

    Which leads us to the problem of evidence. Of course you realize that if your position as an atheist is that God does not exist, then your claim that there is simply “a lack of evidence” or “a lack of convincing evidence” is nonsense, since there can be absolutely no evidence of something (an X) that does not exist. Non-existence leaves not a trace. So you must define what you mean by “convincing evidence” since you have tacitly admitted that there is evidence of God, but you simply don’t find it to be convincing.

    Let’s work with this for starters, while you also formulate your clarification of the relationship (or non-relationship as you claim) between atheism and naturalism. Then perhaps we can proceed to a discussion of the philosophical and moral implications of atheists’ rejection of the “assertions” of monotheism.

  87. Jenna Black says:

    Nelson, RE: #79

    You say this: “All you have stated that a pragmatic view is meaningless. I’ll disagree with you simply because there many, many examples where religion/creation have nothing to do with a societies view on morality.”

    You realize, of course, that this declaration on your part excludes any discussion whatsoever of the morality of our society in the USA, which is founded on theistic reasoning, as stated in our Declaration of Independence, our first legal document written in and with our “voice” as a society. I refer you to this quotation:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Please not to the reference to the Creator as the source of our human and civil rights, the Creator which is referred to elsewhere in the document as “Nature’s God.”

  88. djc says:

    BillT,

    Ok, I get that. It’s what you have. But as scblhrm says what differentiates the “do good” impulses from the “do bad” impulses? Are they all the same thing. Are you just lucky that you got more “do good” impulses than someone else.

    Under naturalism, the morality of the impulse is defined first by the kind of moral emotions (anger, disgust, gratitude) it engenders in the society where the impulse takes place. Everyone has a moral conscience that is part intrinsic moral emotions and part social training and experience. In a religious world view, moral emotions and reactions are presumably found in the soul. In a naturalist world view, they’re found in genes.

    When you do good is that what you feel. Just some hardwiring kicking in. Are you really saying you’re nothing more than that

    Conceptually, the soul is just as hardwired as a genome so I don’t get the problem with having behavior built-in. The religious view belittles the physical and elevates the soul and spirit-world as responsible for the grandeur of life and consciousness. A naturalist view says, whoa, don’t give up on the physical world yet, we barely understand it.

  89. djc says:

    scbrownlhrm,

    what you have given is the naturalistic justification for human trafficking’s location as being on ontological par with every other emoting construct.

    No. As I said, the problem with emotions is that they take a person’s perceptions,experience and conditioning as absolute fact (to that person) and output the corresponding emotional response without caveats. The trend away from violence I noted didn’t happen because of moral emotions, it happened because of advances of society in many areas; Pinker notes literacy, government, trade, cosmopolitanism. These advances seem to be part of what is necessary for people to correspondingly advance in moral reasoning, which is expanding moral emotions to the sphere of moral propositions. Moral reasoning, I would argue, has directly led to the decrease in human trafficking. But it is still ultimately because our conscience (genes for the naturalist, soul for the theist) finds it abominable.

  90. Jenna Black says:

    djc, #89

    You say this: “But it is still ultimately because our conscience (genes for the naturalist, soul for the theist) finds it abominable.”

    Now you really have gone over the edge: Genes with a conscience who find some actions abominable.

  91. Nelson says:

    Jenna,

    I’ll try to answer both posts here and you are correct, nothing will move forward without futher clarification.

    Part1
    “Now, as I’m pointing out in parentheses, of discussion of your atheism is to proceed, we need clarification and perhaps stipulation on several points, because this definition of atheism has a number of problems. First, are we discussing monotheism or polytheism?

    <—if you actually read my posts, I posted god/s. Whether mono or poly, I would say that atheism is the rejection of god claims. Singular or plural.

    This is important because as you well know, monotheists also reject polytheism, so we’re in agreement there already. Second, it is important because for the discussion to be fruitful, we need to agree on what monotheism and monotheists deify.

    <—I agree. As a monotheist if your deity is a tree, then I'll agree your god exists. Of course if we are talking about a transcendent being, then I don't really find it relevant what thier version is, they would still need to prove their assertion.

    IOW, what is this “assertion” that you say theists (monotheists?) make that you reject?

    <—I am not understanding your question properly. If atheism is the rejection of the god/s claim, what would you think I would be rejecting to?

    If we can’t agree on what this is, then we are talking past each other. It is also important to clarify exactly what this claim is and who, what, which monotheists make this claim, since in argumentation, no one is expected to defend a claim that s/he did/does not make him/herself.

    Which leads us to the problem of evidence. Of course you realize that if your position as an atheist is that God does not exist, then your…"

    <–Let me stop and correct you here. Once again, notice the verbiage of my posts. The denial of the god claim/ lack of belief. There is a difference is saying, "I don't believe proposition A" vs. "proposition A is untrue" If the latter were my stance then the burden of proof would be mine to show that god DOES NOT exist. But, that is not what I posted.

    "…claim that there is simply “a lack of evidence” or “a lack of convincing evidence” is nonsense, since there can be absolutely no evidence of something (an X) that does not exist. Non-existence leaves not a trace. So you must define what you mean by “convincing evidence” since you have tacitly admitted that there is evidence of God, but you simply don’t find it to be convincing. "

    <—Please show me where I posted that there is evidence of god but I simply don't find it to be convincing. Perhaps you were reading the context wrong. Please point it out so I may clarify what I've said.

    Let’s work with this for starters, while you also formulate your clarification of the relationship (or non-relationship as you claim) between atheism and naturalism.

    <—-I find it quite clear. If you can't, let me know exactly what is unclear. Saying that I need to clarify something without showing is a bit nonsensical don't you think?

    Then perhaps we can proceed to a discussion of the philosophical and moral implications of atheists’ rejection of the “assertions” of monotheism."

    I don't see any moreal implication of the atheist rejection of a god claim. Which as you stated before, there are monotheist and polytheist. It's irrelevant. I also do not know why you have quotations over assertions. Do theist not make god claims? have I missed something?

    Post 2
    "You say this: “All you have stated that a pragmatic view is meaningless. I’ll disagree with you simply because there many, many examples where religion/creation have nothing to do with a societies view on morality.”

    You realize, of course, that this declaration on your part excludes any discussion whatsoever of the morality of our society in the USA, which is founded on theistic reasoning, as stated in our Declaration of Independence, our first legal document written in and with our “voice” as a society. I refer you to this quotation:

    <—-Whaaaat? Please clarify how my statement excludes any talks about the USA? Correct me if I am wrong, but I understood that the main topic of the OP was a contrast of religous morality vs "humanism"/morality. If that is the case, then drawing reference from societies ( as I mentioned like the Pariah), that are purely secular yet have no need nor any directions from a deity about moral objectivity. That is 1 example of a society without religion. How that ties into negating any conversations about US society is beyond me.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Please not to the reference to the Creator as the source of our human and civil rights, the Creator which is referred to elsewhere in the document as “Nature’s God.”

    <—great quote. And that means….? So because settlers from a country that was basically a theocracy, choose to continue their religious beliefs in a new land and create documents according to those beleifs, we are just supposed to say it's true? Yet where was the moral standard when thousands upon natives where being slaughtered? This is not an emotional question, it's a valid question that should be asked if you want to subscribe to a moral view of a creator who's power and "jurisdiction" is absolute.

    You want to drag our American documents into this as if this is some testiment and overwhelming proof that morality is derived from a "creator". Sorry, it does not.

    But, I like what you stated before. Especially when asking what do monotheist deify. Confucian philosophy developed the golden rule roughly about 500-600 years before Yeshua bin Yosef.

    As far as our society being theistic. Don't confuse common ideas that humans have shown to develop and work with mysticism or fantasy.

    PS. there isn't any convincing evidence or any for that matter, of a god. Here is the crux of it ( no pun intended). If your god is not an intravienist, I have no issues as we could never know and it's the same as non existence. If your deity can intravien in our physical world, this would leave traces that are measureable and testable. Hence the theist mono or otherwise needs to provide concrete proof that should be repeatable by everyone.

  92. djc says:

    Jenna Black,

    Now you really have gone over the edge: Genes with a conscience who find some actions abominable.

    Obviously I meant that genes are the blueprint for neural structures that have the capacity for emotions. If you wish to only make cheap shots, I’ll leave you in peace from now on.

  93. Jenna Black says:

    Nelson,

    Sad to say, but I think we are already at an ending point since you appear to wish to discuss both polytheism and monotheism. I gather from this that you are merely expressing (as many atheists do) your disapproval of deification. Okay, so you hold the opinion that deification is something that humans shouldn’t do and you don’t do it yourself. This says nothing about whether or not the God of monotheism exists.

    I’ll make an assertion, or rather, a statement about myself. I believe that God is whatever or whoever caused the Big Bang. Now, you can express your opinion about my assertion, such as perhaps that the Big Bang has no cause, but I don’t really see how this gets us very far since neither of us and no one else can prove it. I can explain my reasons for calling the Cause of the Big Bang “God” (deifying the cause of the existence of everything that exists) but you have already alerted me to the fact that you don’t find reasons for believing in God (deification) to be convincing.

    Oh, well. So it goes. Enjoy your time on the Thinking Christian blog.

  94. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    #89,

    All still on ontological par one with the other.

    Nothing you said about preference trumped that paradigm.

    You seem morally opposed to what has been, and still is, valued by nature’s selections. You seem unwilling to embrace the scientific fact of # 53.

    Bill is right. You need to change paradigms.

  95. Jenna Black says:

    djc,

    We’re still not quite there yet in getting this clear. I think this points to the difference between the viewpoint of naturalism and theism. The “neural structures” do not IMO “have emotions.” Human beings have emotions. I think this points to the difference between an argument that the brain causes thoughts (and I believe that emotions are thoughts) vs. the concept that the brain is a tool of the mind and soul/spirit that functions to process thoughts. Does anyone really argue that human lungs cause air, or the digestive system causes food, etc.?

  96. Been away a few days and haven’t read the first attempt at this topic or all it’s replies, so forgive me if I repeat something already covered.

    Hi Jenna,

    “As I ask you earlier, how do emotions function in survival if you claim that emotions come from “natural selection.” To make a quip, I think that emotions are very important for the survival of a marriage, but I’m not so sure they are necessary for survival of a biological species.”

    In short, more complex animals with larger brains use a lot of in utero resources on developing that brain instead of the animals brawn, so many mammals are born “helpless”. Emotions evolved so parents would care for young.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  97. djc says:

    Jenna Black,

    The “neural structures” do not IMO “have emotions.” Human beings have emotions.
    I think this points to the difference between an argument that the brain causes thoughts (and I believe that emotions are thoughts) vs. the concept that the brain is a tool of the mind and soul/spirit that functions to process thoughts. Does anyone really argue that human lungs cause air, or the digestive system causes food, etc.?

    For background context, Tom’s argument AB4 is of the form

    Assuming God does not exist, right and wrong can not be real.

    Therefore, my discussion throughout has been to explain how right and wrong can have a degree of objectivity assuming naturalism is true and God does not exist. If it is a simple fact that emotions are not identical with or supervene on neural structures, naturalism is easily defeated but that seems like a different topic. Also, my understanding of the Aristotle-Thomism theistic view is that it does not need emotions and neutral structures to be dual entities but regards the mind as a single substance having form and matter. So I don’t think emotions and neural structures necessarily need to be in separate domains even for theism.

  98. Hi Tom,

    “Had he been a Nazi soldier during World War II, he would have perhaps thought he was doing nothing wrong. If so, then I can’t help but wonder who could have told him otherwise? I can only wonder what it means to be wrong, if the standard is one man’s opinion? By making himself his own standard, he undercuts the whole idea of a standard. Or maybe (it’s unclear to me) he’s making future human opinion the standard.”

    I was expressing my opinion. A standard can only exist if there is a fact to be measured against (which is what you are stating) or if there is an average to be graded against (which is how society actually works).

    “AB2. We know that some actions really are right and others are wrong.”

    It seems to me that you didn’t explain how we “know” this, as opposed to just “think” it.

    “Here’s my bold and yet very convinced theory. I believe that every person, atheists and humanists included, still knows that some things are more right than others, and other things are more wrong. I believe every person still has moral knowledge. It’s part of the very essence of humanness. Some atheists deny it, but they do so not because they’ve forgotten what they know about it. They do it to save their theory, their metaphysics.”

    We deny it because you have not put forward evidence for it. You believing something is not evidence.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  99. bigbird says:

    For background context, Tom’s argument AB4 is of the form

    Assuming God does not exist, right and wrong can not be real.

    Therefore, my discussion throughout has been to explain how right and wrong can have a degree of objectivity assuming naturalism is true and God does not exist.

    I’ve never found the moral argument for God to be a particularly convincing one.

    It seems reasonable to me that an atheist can accept that right and wrong are not real, and base their system of moral values on a convenient and (more or less) objective standard that is widely accepted, such as human flourishing.

    Provided most people’s moral values are at least conducive to human flourishing, then they should be compatible with each other.

    Of course, if atheists want to insist that right or wrong is actually real, then there is a problem. But do they?

  100. Jenna Black says:

    djc,

    It’s good that you are drawing our attention back to Tom’s premise:

    AB4: Assuming God does not exist, right and wrong can not be real.

    I really don’t understand quite how the discussion of neural structures and emotions addresses this premise. We do agree that right and wrong, good and evil are real, do we not? I think that we do, and this is because of (as William Lane Craig states it) “… because of their [our] moral experience, in which they [we] apprehend certain values that impose themselves upon us and certain duties that lay claim upon us. That goes for atheists and agnostics as well as theists.” (p. 89)

    Then the issue here is the ontology of good and evil, not how (mechanically) or how (emotionally and subjectively) humans process/reason about the reality of good and evil. If there were no God but only nature, then there would be no reality of right and wrong since nature is completely and entirely neutral in its operations, with no natural process being either right or wrong, good or bad. These are concepts that only humans are able to think and reason about, and we do so based on a standard of absolutes. This is what we speak of when we speak God, the ultimate adjudicator of right and wrong.

    Have you viewed the YouTube video of the debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris held at Notre Dame University? WLC addresses your arguments in regard to this premise.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqaHXKLRKzg

    Also see Chapter 3 of William Lane Craig and Joseph E. Gorra’s book, “A reasonable response: Answer to tough questions on God, Christianity and the Bible. I referenced this book above.

  101. Hi Jenna,

    “These are concepts that only humans are able to think and reason about, and we do so based on a standard of absolutes.”

    What are these absolutes?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  102. Nelson says:

    Jenna you write,

    “Then the issue here is the ontology of good and evil, not how (mechanically) or how (emotionally and subjectively) humans process/reason about the reality of good and evil. If there were no God but only nature, then there would be no reality of right and wrong since nature is completely and entirely neutral in its operations, with no natural process being either right or wrong, good or bad. These are concepts that only humans are able to think and reason about, and we do so based on a standard of absolutes. This is what we speak of when we speak God, the ultimate adjudicator of right and wrong.”

    Firstly, I was beat to the punch but what absolutes are you speaking of?

    Secondly, No. You may not get rid of the mechanics of it. If emotions are thoughts and as WLC states, “because of their [our] moral experience, in which they [we] apprehend certain values that impose themselves upon us and certain duties that lay claim upon us.”

    Its the mechanism itself that drives the concept of right and wrong. You see it in almost every mammal (including us). Any gathering of social groups you will find a hierarchy with its own ideas of right or wrong. Good or evil. But this is not a uniform idea. Meaning not every society will have the same moral views. But within that society those moral rules they possess are objective. This is what one would expect from evolutionary process. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that particular species favors behavioral patterns that are conducive to well being. And even then we find aberrations within our own collective moral views. Once again, what one would expect con an evolutionary process.

    IMO this vacuum that you seem to agree to put “humanism” morality in would paint a very different picture than the world that exits and the process we do understand how they work. If God did not exist you would find organisms developing ways to prolong their lives. From there ways to prolong the th species. I mean how can you show other wise? How does one show that the natural mechanisms that drive these phenomena are more than their parts? What contextual reference have we ever had that would make a comparison possible?

  103. Hi Tom,
    Cont to my comments at #98

    I looked through the other thread and found this comment of yours at #146 when you were conversing with Bill L which is related to my previous comments.

    “I know that my whole case here depends on your acknowledging the reality of moral knowledge, and I know that my case goes nowhere with people who won’t own up to that.”

    These series of posts are under the banner “Evidence for the Faith”. By stating that this aspect of your Faith is based on accepting a supposition, does it not lose all credibility as evidence?

    “Except for this: to fail to recognize moral knowledge as knowledge is to chop off part of your own real humanness. That’s also something I want to say with this post. I don’t know why anyone would sacrifice humanness on the altar of atheistic humanism.

    a) Truth is better than lies.
    b) It is no real sacrifice if the thing you are discarding is imaginary.

    Where does this moral knowledge reside, btw? This is the other thing I’ve never been able to understand from an Objective POV. If there is this standard that is equally imprinted on all, then how does that happen? How does it be the one thing that’s constant amongst all of mankind, when my brutally repeatable experience (to borrow a phrase) shows me that people are individuals in pretty much every way?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  104. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    Unlike tastes, everyone experiences having a head, volition, and ought’s and love’s pains of imposition.

    Atheists do this a lot. Volition is an illusion, as neuroscientist Sam Harris states, (because naturalism must be true) but having a head is not an illusion (no threat to naturalism there). In other words, what is perceived reality by every mind is claimed to be delusion’s psychosis (in every mind pan-world) if that something happens to necessitate something akin to God solely because it must be a delusion because our commitment to the presupposition of naturalism just cannot be mistaken.

    Atheists then go on about ought’s and love’s pains of imposition also being delusion’s psychosis:

    A:

    We are all so different that the pan-mind experience of ought’s and love’s pains of imposition are, being so radically void of any shared Archetypes, not a shared commonality among humanity.

    Then when common Archetypes are found embedded pan-mind:

    B:

    Of course there is commonality, and that is because selective pressures have selected for mental constructs which yield cohesiveness and empathy as such have permitted greater unity and thus a more robust survival potential is actualized.

    Comical.

    Whatever every mind perceives which threatens the Atheist’s presupposition is in blind axiom (without evidence) declared to be delusion’s psychosis and, then, a layer of perpetual semantic equivocation is added in order to create the appearance of actually dealing with the facts. That’s all I’ve seen from Atheist’s “reasoning” so far.

  105. scbrownlhrm says:

    Nelson,

    “But within that society those moral rules they possess are objective….”

    No they’re not. They’re subjective.

    The paper full of law’s letters is objective. Written atop its surface is the subjective. The ink and paper are objective. The thoughts expressed are subjective preferences.

  106. scbrownlhrm says:

    Jenna,

    Shane asked you:

    “What are these absolutes”

    Anthropology and the commonality of Archetypes is a worthy discussion, but, the brief intro is in my post # 104 to draw out the equivocation in play before moving forward.

  107. scbrownlhrm says:

    Anthropology 101:

    God, that is to say, Love, that is to say, E Pluribus Unum just is fully singular, and, just is fully triune within His interior milieu of Self-Other-Us. The painful fragmentations of Love’s Whole/Image (Man’s Moral Whole/Image) are but the Self/I, but the Other/Non-Self, but the Us/We ripped out of the whole and in isolation swollen into madness in what we call the fall’s privations, or insufficiency of being. The common Archetypes found embedded pan-mind are no more and no less. In fact, but for the Whole that just is that singular/triune Self-Other-Us, the fragmentations themselves would be void of what we call definition. Anthropology and explorations of morality’s, love’s, ought’s Archetypes found embedded pan-mind find Man thusly.

  108. BillT says:

    How does it be the one thing that’s constant amongst all of mankind,…

    Shane,

    The one thing that’s consistent? You don’t experiance love, friendship, beauty, courage, empathy, compassion, sadness, etc. like everyone else. And by calling moral knowledge a supposition are you denying having it. Are you really saying you don’t know some things are worse than others.

  109. Chris says:

    Wow, these threads move fast.

    Tom said:

    “Your second paragraph draws a conclusion that does not follow, anyway. You attempt to define objective morality as something only a theist can believe in. That might be true; in fact, I think there’s a straight logical progression from objective moral knowledge to belief in God.

    From that, however, it does not follow that the only morality is subjective. It could be the case (and I think it is) that objective morality exists, the theistic view is right, and opposing worldviews are wrong.”

    Tom, what I was trying to say is that to theists, the only possible objective morality is God-given, and its impossible to convince them otherwise. No matter how many differing theories I could offer (such as the ones on this thread and others, not to mention what most moral philosophers think), you have already decided in advance that they come from God, because if you believe in God, that is the highest it goes.

    I’m sure you’ve seen it but there was a great debate a few years ago between Shelly Kagan and WLC, and it seems relevant here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiJnCQuPiuo

    I’m interested to know what your thoughts on that debate were, as I will freely admin Mr. Kagan is far more eloquent than I am!

    Objective does not need to mean “God”.

  110. Billy Squibs says:

    Chris, can you give a broad outline of these theories you mention? I’m aware of Harris and The Moral Landscape and I’ve encountered Kagan before (though it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten it all). Simply saying they theories exist is not helpful.

    Also, I am sure you are aware that it’s not just theists who are of the conviction that morality can exist without God. Atheists are of the same conviction. So when you say “I was trying to say is that to theists, the only possible objective morality is God-given, and its impossible to convince them otherwise” you were not telling the full story.

  111. Tom Gilson says:

    A lot happens when you’re away from here for a few hours…

    Shane, you wrote,

    These series of posts are under the banner “Evidence for the Faith”. By stating that this aspect of your Faith is based on accepting a supposition, does it not lose all credibility as evidence?

    I would say (and I already did) that it loses its force. I think it’s still credible, because I continue to believe you and I both have real moral knowledge.

    “Except for this: to fail to recognize moral knowledge as knowledge is to chop off part of your own real humanness. That’s also something I want to say with this post. I don’t know why anyone would sacrifice humanness on the altar of atheistic humanism.”

    a) Truth is better than lies.
    b) It is no real sacrifice if the thing you are discarding is imaginary.

    Both a and b are true. However, this is what I see happening among atheists. It’s the whole point of the cumulative “humanness” argument I’m trying to build (see here for the overview).

    I am absolutely certain that every sufficiently mature human being knows that he or she has free will, an enduring personal identity, consciousness, the ability to think real thoughts rationally, and the knowledge that some things are really, objectively right and others are wrong.

    I have seen all of this denied over and over again by atheists, particularly those who of a naturalistic bent. (By the way, Nelson, earlier I mentioned that most atheists in the West are naturalists. That was not, as you suppose, an argument from popularity. It was simply recognizing a general fact about the audience to whom I am writing.)

    Atheists deny these things because a consistently thought-through atheism entails these things’ denial.

    Thus we see atheists like Coyne and Harris denying free will, and Shane and my old friend Paul not having confidence that the Holocaust was objectively wrong, and Alex Rosenberg denying that humans have thoughts, and Thomas Nagel doubting that atheism can explain rationality. (Nagel at least took that denial in a fresh direction.)

    So here’s what I see going on among atheists: “Because of our metaphysical views we will deny the most obvious facts of our human experience.”

    That’s why I said, “I don’t know why anyone would sacrifice humanness on the altar of atheistic humanism.”

    And that’s why I say that the moral argument is part of a cumulative case for God on the basis of humanness.

  112. scbrownlhrm says:

    Common moral Archetypes pan-mind?

    It depends.

    There cannot be any common Archtypes pan-mind because moral knowledge cannot exist.

    And:

    There just are common Archetypes pan-mind because selection’s survival package must exist.

    From what I’ve seen, the answer given is contingent. It is contingent upon the naturalist’s need to defend survival packages (commonality) and on his need to refute moral knowledge (no commonality).

    Scripture tells us all such sight-lines and manifestations of love/morality will be fragmented. The reply to this business of Fragmentation vs. E Pluribus Unum from the naturalist is, again, “It depends“. They are fragmented because there is no moral knowledge, and, those pesky Archetypes are not fragmented and that is proof of selection’s survival packages.

    It’s a little comical.

  113. Tom Gilson says:

    Chris, I have not seen the Craig – Kagan debate, and I will not have time to do that today. I don’t know when I will have time to do it so I’m not going to be able to respond to whatever you were referring to their. I’m sorry.

    You wrote,

    Tom, what I was trying to say is that to theists, the only possible objective morality is God-given, and it’s impossible to convince them otherwise. No matter how many differing theories I could offer (such as the ones on this thread and others, not to mention what most moral philosophers think), you have already decided in advance that they come from God, because if you believe in God, that is the highest it goes.

    Part of the reason for this, Chris, lies in the way we understand the word objective. I am using the word in the sense of “true regardless of any human belief or opinion.” That is, if somehow the world were overrun by a racist dictator who ordered the genocide of every non-white person, and to further eliminated every person who disagreed with him, so that every person alive shared his racist viewpoints, those racist viewpoints would still be wrong. Everyone alive would agree with them, but they would still be wrong.

    You have probably heard William Lane Craig define objective morality in similar terms. I think it’s a useful definition because in this thought experiment, it seems easy to see that there are indeed some things that are wrong no matter what everybody might think of them.

    I am not aware of any moral theory that has been offered, other than theistic moral theory, that can explain that kind of objective moral reality.

  114. Tom Gilson says:

    Parenthetically, Chris, it’s interesting to me how you noted the fact that these threads move fast. I’ve been the subject of criticism and much discussion on three or four atheist blog threads recently, and no one would say there, “this thread is moving fast.” That’s because there’s very little substantive progressive discussion.

    I am very glad that this thread is moving. It seems to be moving in some direction. It may not be moving in the direction of coming to agreement, but it’s at least moving in fits and starts toward the elucidation of differing thoughts. And that’s a good thing.

  115. Jenna Black says:

    Re: In response to my statement about moral absolutes.

    I already proposed an example of moral reasoning based on the notion of God-given moral absolutes but obviously I need to elaborate. I refer again the theistic moral reasoning expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    This is an expression of moral absolutes that are God-given, our civil and human rights. The word “unalienable” means that these rights cannot be taken away by any humans or any government because these rights come from God, the Creator, Nature’s God. IOW, these rights are transcendent, not dependent on the whims or votes or opinions or actions of humans.

    As I have pointed out before, atheism neither does nor can make this argument. Without acceptance of God’s authority as the basis of our laws, there is no argument as to why any person’s rights should be upheld regardless of what the government or state does or says. Without this fundamental argument for that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is accepted by our society and culture, we have no foundation for our system of laws and justice.

    This is not a game. This is very serious business. We know what systems of government and regimes that do not respect God’s moral absolutes and moral sovereignty look like, Nazi Germany being the most notorious.

    If any atheist posting here accepts the challenge of making an argument for human rights based on atheism (a rejection of moral absolutes), have at it!

  116. Tom Gilson says:

    Note carefully that word, “absolutes.” No human, no contingent morality meets that standard.

  117. Hi BillT,
    #108

    “The one thing that’s consistent? You don’t experiance love, friendship, beauty, courage, empathy, compassion, sadness, etc. like everyone else.”

    I’m confident we all experience those things differently and more than a few people won’t experience them at all. Infants that die in child birth, for example, will experience none of those. But the argument is they will have a moral knowledge.

    “And by calling moral knowledge a supposition are you denying having it. Are you really saying you don’t know some things are worse than others.”

    I am saying I think some things are worse than others. That is not the same as knowing.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  118. Hi Jenna,

    So what if the DOI read

    ““We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are equal, that they should be afforded with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Also, pardon my lack of knowledge, but is it the document that describes the workings of your government? Or is that a separate thing?

    Respectfully
    Shane

  119. BillT says:

    Well Shane,

    So, love, friendship, beauty, courage, empathy, compassion, sadness, are not the same for everybody and you think some things are worse than others but that is not the same as knowing that they are. Well, if that all makes sense to you then it does.

  120. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    Infants die.

    Therefore math, blueberries, and language are not real.

  121. Jenna Black says:

    Shane,

    Remember the context of the DOI. It was/is an argument that established the rights of the 13 American colonies to declare independence from the rule of King George III of England. Keep in mind that the royalty of Europe were argued to rule by “divine right” or IOW, that their power over their subjects came from God and therefore, only God could challenge their rule (laws, rules, edicts, etc.). Consequently, if the King did not respect the rights of his subjects (the colonists), the colonists had no recourse since the King allegedly ruled with God’s authority (however the King interpreted it). The DOI argues that God, the Creator is the grantor of rights that are “unalienable” or that cannot be denied even if the King thinks that God allows it. IOW, God rules over kings and is the source of our human rights, not the King.

    You’re rewriting of the DOI does not address the core of the issue. To simply declare men as “equal” is rather incongruent with the reality of inequality in human societies. To declare that all men are “created equal” is to state that equality is intrinsic to our human nature rather than being merely our luck of the draw in society. This is because we are equal in God’s eyes, regardless of our social status in life. And to simply state that something “should” be so without backing it up with any indication of “who says?” is not convincing (just like atheism) and does not establish rights as “unalienable” given the King’s rulings to the contrary.

    The “workings of our government” are spelled out in the Constitution. Keep in mind that the original Constitution did not spell out what rights were inalienable and the colonists (states) refused to ratify the Constitution until this was done, which resulted in the amendments referred to as the Bill of Rights. There was no need in the Constitution to repeat the winning argument that these rights come from God. That theistic moral argument had already carried the day in winning our independence from the rule of the English monarchy.

    It’s fascinating to me how historically we as a nation have pragmatized and actualized our belief in God as the Giver of our human rights.

  122. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK, Jenna – We’re getting there. Slowly.

    Why would there be an evolutionary response to an external objective morality if there is no such thing as an external objective morality?

    That’s exactly it. Evolution is responding to something real. Something out ‘in the world’. Something objective. We even agree, roughly, on what that response looks like – an inbuilt talent for reasoning in a particular way. (This is the first half of the answer to BillT’s question in #37 and #70 – morality isn’t “evolutionary hardwiring”. Morality is something else, that the hardwiring is in response to.)

    What we disagree on is what it’s responding to. You think it’s a supernatural reality. I don’t think that reality is supernatural.

    I’m going to respond to Tom now. Hopefully things will become clearer in the process.

    I paused a moment before writing “objective values,” knowing that you and I agree that values exist among humans, and that you find that fact to be sufficient as a basis for moral knowledge. We have to be very careful what we mean when we say “values,” however. There are values and there are values.

    I’m not so sure that’s true. How can anything be ‘valued’ if there isn’t someone valuing it? Things are valued by someone, they don’t just ‘have value’, the value hanging there unsupported.

    If our values are purely evolutionary, then I think that they amount to little more than a restatement of our desires and preferences.

    Human values come from our nature, which is a function and result of evolutionary processes, yes. We want things, value things, by our very nature. And because we are humans and not, say, sentient insects or intelligent mollusks, there’s a broad commonality about the things we humans want and value.

    (This, BTW, is the other half of the answer to BillT’s question. We should care “one whit” about it because we’re human and there are things that all humans care about. Why should you not want what you ultimately want?)

    But morality isn’t just values. I’m proposing that morality is something else, something that involves the interaction of two things – values, and constraints. When values and goals smack into constraints, strategies arise – objectively, inevitably.

    Again, if you want to win a chess game, then you shouldn’t sacrifice your queen during the opening. This is an objective fact. It’s not a value – the value is ‘I want to win the chess game’. It’s not a constraint, a rule of chess – sticking your queen in front of a pawn is a perfectly legal move. It’s a result of the interaction between those two things – it’s a strategy.

    Imagine an evolutionary process that works to win at chess. It’s gonna figure out the Sicilian Defense because that’s an objective reality. If you’re playing black and white opens with e4, then c5 is a strong counter.

    Now, there’s no point in talking about ‘what if you don’t want to win at chess’ or ‘what if the rules of chess were different’. Those miss the point in two different ways.

    First off, was 2+2 not equal to 4 before people discovered mathematics? FIDE chess, and its strategies, are as real as any mathematical result – indeed, they are part of mathematics, game theory. And I think mathematical truths exist independent of whether anyone’s discovered them or not. So the Sicilian Defense would still be a real thing anyway. There’s lots of games that haven’t been invented, but their rules still imply strategies.

    Secondly, if you analogize morals to strategies, then proposing those things is equivalent to proposing, “what if humans weren’t human?” or “what if the laws of physics were different?” Those might be interesting questions, but they don’t apply to the real world.

    So, humans care about, value, want things – and to a very large extent, they are the same things. And we live in a universe with regularities and constraints we can’t avoid. (If you disagree, produce a flying carpet.) Given those two conditions, strategies – objective strategies – arise inevitably. “If you want x, then you should y.” That ‘should’ is just as binding as any obligation.

    And evolution can respond to such strategies, and has, and the result is the talent for moral reasoning.

    Okay, your turns.

  123. SteveK says:

    Ray,

    What we disagree on is what it’s responding to. You think it’s a supernatural reality. I don’t think that reality is supernatural.

    How do you propose getting to an obligation? Matter and energy don’t create obligations. Without it, you don’t have morality.

  124. Jenna Black says:

    Ray, RE: #122

    In this discussion, I am keeping uppermost in mind the differences between naturalism and/or materialism and monotheism, most especially in responding to this statement that you made in #122:

    Ray: “What we disagree on is what it’s [evolution, human physiology] responding to. You think it’s a supernatural reality. I don’t think that reality is supernatural.”

    Here I must ask what you mean by the term “supernatural”? Personally, I find this term to be a bit confusing and misleading, and most certainly, incomplete because its morphology doesn’t really convey an accurate meaning or description of God, IMHO. The prefix “super” means above, which combined with the root word “nature” means “above nature.” This implies to me something that is outside of nature, which God both is and isn’t. I prefer the terms “metaphysical” (overarching but including the physical) and spiritual, which conveys the meaning of what I understand to be the “connection” between God and humans.

    I know that many atheists (I don’t know if you are one) deny that there is a spiritual dimension to existence and to human nature. Do you accept a spiritual reality or the existence of a/the spiritual dimension to reality? Please advise us as to your stance on this question. I ask this because this is at the heart of the understanding of humans being made in “God’s image” and my argument that we are made as we are made through all existing creative processes because God wills that we able to know and relate to Him.

  125. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    SteveK, Jenna – We’re getting there. Slowly

    Yes, you’re very close to accepting that purposes are built into nature, and from there, hopefully, you’ll move on to considering what that means in relation to the rest of your worldview.

  126. SteveK says:

    *high five* to Melissa.

  127. djc says:

    Tom,

    I am absolutely certain that every sufficiently mature human being knows that he or she has free will, an enduring personal identity, consciousness, the ability to think real thoughts rationally, and the knowledge that some things are really, objectively right and others are wrong.

    Thus we see atheists like Coyne and Harris denying free will, and Shane and my old friend Paul not having confidence that the Holocaust was objectively wrong, and Alex Rosenberg denying that humans have thoughts, and Thomas Nagel doubting that atheism can explain rationality.

    I think these two paragraphs are much more in agreement than you might imagine.

    Free will: As an atheist I do indeed agree that I am freely able to make choices that get me closer to goals that ultimately originate within me, from my being, my self. All that Coyne and Harris are saying is that it makes no sense to argue that I can easily change everything about me, my being, my self to have arbitrarily different goals and thus be “truly” free. Both seem introspectively valid.

    The Holocaust: all atheists agrees the Holocaust is objectively wrong, if we use the usual meaning of objectively wrong to be synonymous with a personal sense of moral horror shared with all good human beings. Only if “objectively wrong” is forced to mean something mysteriously metaphysical are atheists going to object.

    Having thoughts: Actually Rosenberg argues that thoughts don’t have intentionality, not that humans don’t have thoughts. What thoughts are, according to Rosenberg, is the brain processing information that feels like it’s about the real world or beliefs and goals but isn’t. This seems like a reasonable view if we take seriously the disconnect between the brain’s “map” of the world and the real world itself. Our thoughts would feel like they are about things but would be actually literally about a sensory map physically located in the brain instead. That seems introspectively valid (despite Rosenberg’s dislike for introspection).

    Explaining rationality: now, here, I thought Nagel is against reductive materialism, not atheism. I understand Nagel as pushing for an atheistic naturalist philosophy that avoids the problems he sees in reductive materialism.

  128. Larry Tanner says:

    “How do you propose getting to an obligation?”

    Threat of punishment for non-compliance.

  129. SteveK says:

    Larry,
    I’ll skip over one error and go straight to the part you got right, which is, yes, obligations do require a living being. Maybe you can help Ray see this too.

  130. Jenna Black says:

    Larry, RE: #128

    What I think you are getting at here as part of our conversation is the concept of justice or, as I see it, Justice with a capital J.

    From my view, there are two questions involved here: First, is the threat of punishment and in the case of theism, Divine punishment, a moral deterrent? I believe that the concepts of consequences and punishment are both components of the larger concept of Justice. If there are no consequences, including natural consequences, for evil acts then there are no deterrents and whatever evil impulses a human being has can express themselves without restraint. We humans embed the notion of punishment into our system of laws and justice because of the need for consequences and our beliefs in just retribution for harm and injury.

    But beyond this, there is the question of Justice. What happens if evil acts go unpunished or the consequences of these acts is not negative or painful enough to prevent them or satisfy us that there has been sufficient retribution. IOW, what if the evil-doer gets away with it? I personally find it very unsatisfying to think that because Hitler suffered very little and avoided punishment by committing suicide rather painlessly in the comfort of his bunker and in the arms of his mistress/wife, that that’s the end of it that Hitler’s suicide robbed humanity of justice.

    From a human point of view, Hitler appears to have gotten away with his evil. This offends my own and IMO, humanity’s sense of justice. This is where my belief and my prayer is that there is Divine retribution for Hitler’s evil. But God is the Enforcer of ultimate Justice. My belief is that if Hitler had had fear of this Divine retribution, he might have acted differently and the world could have or would have been spared the enormous pain and suffering he caused, the suffering and deaths of millions of innocent people.

    Perhaps this addresses the meaning and intent of your comment.

  131. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Lot’s of people thought, and think, that the nazi-thing was right, even good.

    Once again, human trafficking is a sound, valued morality of nature, not of the theists. Everything is subjective preference on ontological par with everything else.

    You’ve presented nothing else. In fact, you’ve not even dealt with the real world. You assert that “everyone” feels its wrong (the nazi thing). Clearly that is escapism on your part, or dishonest, or you’re just unaware that you are wrong.

    It’s odd that you believe that you have physical systems inside your skull that are free of physics’ blind forces. I believe we have volitionality too, only, I don’t have to offend the laws of physics in an ontological blind axiom to know it is true.

  132. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Yes, the human traffickers are responding to their environment, to something real.

  133. scblhrm says:

    The attempt to find a concrete good, an objective moral whole immune to preference is a beautiful component of all the thoughts from the various non-theists here. It’s an encouraging mark that these are truly awake. It offsets those like Harris who have lost sight of the light of day and, fast asleep, chastises humanity for finding one of those immune faults with the rich westerner as he tours the East and casually purchases his trafficked little girls.

  134. Hi BillT,

    “Well Shane,

    So, love, friendship, beauty, courage, empathy, compassion, sadness, are not the same for everybody and you think some things are worse than others but that is not the same as knowing that they are. Well, if that all makes sense to you then it does.”

    Quite the argument you’ve made there.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  135. Hi Jenna,

    Thanks so much for that. Very informative. And it explains the use of the language. I always thought it was odd that there was mention of God (sorry, a creator) in that document when separation of church and state is such a big part of your constitution. The context explains the use of language nicely.

    So back to the standard of moral absolutes. You think they are summed up in “created equal” and “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? You believe this is man putting voice to God’s moral standard by which we know that some things are worse than others?

    Respectfully
    Shane

  136. djc says:

    scblhrm,

    Lot’s of people thought, and think, that the nazi-thing was right, even good.

    Those people are shrinking in number and likely to become extinct. I can not attribute that trend to religion since the world is becoming more secular over time. Rather, shared moral emotions combined with advances in civilization lead somehow to better moral reasoning it appears. Better moral reasoning leads to less Nazis and less human trafficking.

    Why is it better? Well, why is joy better than sorrow? Values are defined at the level of emotions clearly. The naturalist’s goal is a system of morality that meets people’s moral needs.

    Once again, human trafficking is a sound, valued morality of nature, not of the theists.

    I’ve not been talking about the morality of nature, I’ve been talking about the morality of human beings. Whatever your beliefs about God, we all first recognize the existence of moral perception in the form of moral emotions. We all look inside for the answer to moral questions first.

    It seems to be the case that evolution in moral reasoning is entirely due to rooting out inconsistencies in people’s perception and experience, not modifying at all the core moral emotions. Perhaps without exception, those who sympathize with the Nazis have some horrendously counter-factual beliefs about Jews. And beliefs that don’t match reality can and will be defeated, it’s as inevitable as the arrow of time.

    The attempt to find a concrete good, an objective moral whole immune to preference

    You can’t have morality being personal preference if the same moral emotions are shared similarly and widely across all human cultures, it just won’t work. Those who use personal preference as a moral guide become isolated, outcast or obliterated. Without any effort from anyone, morality as an institution emerges from the moral emotional needs of individuals interacting in social groups.

    As a naturalist, if you want to feed the world’s hungry, you accept first that their hunger is valid, then you seek to find the resources to feed them. Likewise, naturalists accept that humanity’s core moral emotions are valid–a sense of injustice is real, for example– and then seeks to find moral reasoning that meets those needs.

    (A valid concern is what happens if humanity evolves so as to abandon the moral emotions we have today. That would be identical with extinction, the loss of homo sapiens to genetic drift, imo)

    It’s odd that you believe that you have physical systems inside your skull that are free of physics’ blind forces.

    No, I do not, and nothing I’ve said here is inconsistent with that. Perhaps you’ve misunderstood something I said.

  137. Hi Jenna,

    “But beyond this, there is the question of Justice. What happens if evil acts go unpunished or the consequences of these acts is not negative or painful enough to prevent them or satisfy us that there has been sufficient retribution. IOW, what if the evil-doer gets away with it? I personally find it very unsatisfying to think that because Hitler suffered very little and avoided punishment by committing suicide rather painlessly in the comfort of his bunker and in the arms of his mistress/wife, that that’s the end of it that Hitler’s suicide robbed humanity of justice.

    From a human point of view, Hitler appears to have gotten away with his evil. This offends my own and IMO, humanity’s sense of justice. This is where my belief and my prayer is that there is Divine retribution for Hitler’s evil. But God is the Enforcer of ultimate Justice. My belief is that if Hitler had had fear of this Divine retribution, he might have acted differently and the world could have or would have been spared the enormous pain and suffering he caused, the suffering and deaths of millions of innocent people.”

    The problem with the Christian sense of worldy justice is that it is at odds with what God says in the bible regarding the afterlife. All men have sinned and are equal. Hitler and you are the same in God’s eyes. If Hitler accepted Christ as his saviour before his death the sins of this world are paid for by Christ’s sacrifice and he is saved. Your feelings of justice and dissatisfaction with Hitlers actions and his punishment on Earth are way out of step with your belief in an afterlife, God’s goodness and the gift bestowed upon humanity by the death of His Son. You have no right to ‘want’ Hitler to burn in hell. He is no more deserving of it than you.

    This gets us close to the problem with the idea of “knowing something is more wrong” if all sin is equal. Is rape of a woman and rape of a baby the same in the eyes of God?

    Respectfully
    Shane

  138. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Yes, I know. Human neurons are free of nature. Thus so too their morality.

    As all theists know.

    You’re getting closer to the truth.

  139. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    200/500000 is 0.04%

    We’ve evolved a lot in that part of our evolution.

    Nature sure turned it around on a dime.

  140. Jenna Black says:

    Shane,

    You appear to me to have a distorted understanding of the concept of Christ’s salvation. It is not wrong for me or for humankind as a moral community to desire justice. In fact, we are commanded to pursue justice. See Deuteronomy 16:20.

  141. bigbird says:

    There seems to be a bit of a disconnect going on in this thread.

    In my view, if you are willing to believe that evolution is capable of producing creatures that can prove Fermat’s theorem, then it isn’t hard to believe that evolution also produced moral beliefs that have served to preserve the species.

    So arguing about moral knowledge isn’t going to get Christians very far with people convinced of evolution’s capability to produce such incredible cognitive abilities.

    A better approach I think is to question how evolution is capable of producing such abilities in the first place, or along the lines of Plantinga’s EAAN.

  142. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    Dissatisfaction out of line with goodness?

    So evil isn’t evil and love isn’t love?

  143. Larry Tanner says:

    scblhrm (138),

    “Human neurons are free of nature. Thus so too their morality.”

    What does this statement mean, that human neurons are free of nature?

    And, assuming you can explain this clearly, what empirical evidence directly supports the conclusion? That is, if you are making an empirical claim, what empirical evidence points to thinking the claim is true?

  144. Jenna Black says:

    bigbird, RE: #141

    I think that you are pointing out the futility in arguing with people who dogmatically believe that this premise is true: Evolution, therefore no God.

  145. bigbird says:

    I think that you are pointing out the futility in arguing with people who dogmatically believe that this premise is true: Evolution, therefore no God.

    Almost. More the view that evolution renders God unnecessary. And if God is unnecessary, to many it seems more parsimonious to conclude there is no God.

  146. scblhrm says:

    Larry,

    It’s a stepwise walk for djc.

    He claims human morality is free of nature, and he claims human trafficking is nature’s morality while something more pleasant is human’s morality. And he claims “preference” will become extinct and then the world as it is will be as Heaven. No more sin.

    Your question of neurons being free of nature is something you’ll have to ask djc as it’s the only hope he has for his assertion that human morality is not nature’s morality, that human trafficking isn’t man’s morality, and so on.

    As a theist I know our morality is not sourced to nature, so we agree to that point. Serotonin, though, isn’t my God.

    Bad stuff: evolution does it.
    Good stuff: man does it.

    0.04% is a whole other problem for him…..

  147. scblhrm says:

    Bill,

    You can’t do any better as Shane asserts on blind axiom that every mind is delusional and pan-mind perceptions are thus not real. Then it’s “We’re all so different – thus no moral knowledge”. Which is followed by, “We’re all comprised of evolution’s unifying cohesive socialization schemas and so all that commonality is proof of evolution’s source of our morality”.

    Forces at work inside this universe other than physics’ blind, indifferent forces seem to be in play when it comes to “bad vs. good morality” and to “volitionality”. Yet it’s all still nature somehow.

    The part about man’s miraculous moral metamorphosis in just the last 0.02% – 0.04% of his slave / violence laden 99.97% existence isn’t his, but it’s good to know that we’re no longer capacitated for so much darkness, as only light lies ahead.

    Or maybe we’re capacitated for both….yesterday, today, tomorrow…. capacity is a funny thing.

  148. Jenna Black says:

    bigbird, RE: #145

    Where does the notion that evolution renders God unnecessary come from, I wonder?

  149. Jenna Black says:

    Shane, RE: #135

    In answer to your question, I think that it is important to keep in mind a distinction that William Lane Craig makes frequently in discussions of morality: the difference between moral ontology, the study or question of the origins of morality, and moral epistemology, how we know what is right and wrong. The DOI articulates an argument and belief about the ontology of morality regarding the rights of human beings in relationship to the state or government. We can gather quite a quite a bit of information about what the colonists believed about right and wrong in terms of this relationship between citizens and the state by reading the litany of complaints against King George III in the DOE that follow the statement of “unalienable rights.” Just as we further articulated and defined these rights (including freedom of religion) in the Bill of Rights.

    These manifestos outline the governments duties to its citizens (We, the people) and the limitations on its powers to infringe on citizens’ rights. But these documents are not a moral epistemology, a way of knowing what moral acts are “better” or “worse” on some sort of moral continuum. Again, refer to the concept of moral absolutes that come from God and that provide us with criteria for working toward (pursuing) and if possible, achieving justice.

  150. Hi Jenna,

    “Shane,

    You appear to me to have a distorted understanding of the concept of Christ’s salvation. It is not wrong for me or for humankind as a moral community to desire justice. In fact, we are commanded to pursue justice. See Deuteronomy 16:20.”

    So Hitler should pay for his crimes with his life. Well he did that. You are asking for more. You want justice to continue into the next realm. Why do they give prisoners on death row a chance to repent and be saved before execution? Wishing eternal suffering on anyone is not for you to ask for.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  151. Larry Tanner says:

    “As a theist I know our morality is not sourced to nature”

    You seem to mean that as a theist you believe — not know — morality is not “sourced to nature.” I suppose I understand why you believe this, yet I don’t see why a reasonable person should.

  152. bigbird says:

    Jenna, as Dawkins said, evolution enables one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist (if you are that way inclined).

    It seems a pretty obvious conclusion to me, although not a necessary one.

  153. Hi bigbird,

    “Almost. More the view that evolution renders God unnecessary. And if God is unnecessary, to many it seems more parsimonious to conclude there is no God.”

    This. Light travelled in waves. Waves have to travel through a medium. This there must be an ‘ether’ that permeates the vacuum of space for light to travel through. Once we discovered that light is also a particle we no longer have the necessity to believe there is such a thing. As the ‘ether’ was a purely hypothesised object, made up in our mind to answer a question, we can dismiss it as being unnecessary. Though it is, of course, impossible to prove that such a thing does not exist, even though it is purely hypothetical.

    Gods throughout history have been created to answer questions man had. These questions have been answered by our better understanding of the universe we live in. For myself, I have no questions that need God as an answer, and I’m assuming most atheists would be coming from the same space.

    Jenna asks why evolution precludes God? The same reason that light travelling as particles precludes the ‘ether’.

    All my discussions at this forum are looking for something that ‘needs’ God as an explanation. This is not just to do with evolution, but anything in the universe.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  154. Hi Jenna,

    “Again, refer to the concept of moral absolutes that come from God and that provide us with criteria for working toward (pursuing) and if possible, achieving justice.”

    Well I didn’t bring up the DOI, you did. I was asking for these moral absolutes that come from God and you quoted that passage. So I will ask again, what is this absolute moral standard?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  155. Jenna Black says:

    Shane, RE: 154

    Asked and answered.

  156. Melissa says:

    Shane,

    Gods throughout history have been created to answer questions man had. These questions have been answered by our better understanding of the universe we live in. For myself, I have no questions that need God as an answer, and I’m assuming most atheists would be coming from the same space.

    Since you clearly misunderstand the arguments for God of classical theism, your first two sentences are just plain wrong if you were thinking about God. If what you are looking for is something that needs God as some kind of alternative scientific hypothesis I wouldn’t hold your breath. As you have amply demonstrated the skeptic will just declare any experience of that sort to be “not real” and move on. Of course that will not stop them from referencing these “not real” things in subsequent explanations or passing judgements on others for which they have no rational foundations.

  157. scbrownlhrm says:

    Larry,

    In case you missed it, djc also agrees that human morality is not nature’s morality. Our neuronal constructs must thus be free of nature. As a naturalist he must mean that last sentence.

    He goes there because it’s undeniable. That his naturalism cannot defend it is his (and your) problem, not the theist’s problem.

  158. scbrownlhrm says:

    Jenna / Shane,

    Shane asserts, on blind axiom, and without evidence, and against all evidence, that the fact of the matter is that every mind is delusional. He knows that if that is not the case, materialism cannot be true.

    His commitment to a presupposition forces him to make that move to Pan-Psychosis against the evidence, in denial of the evidence.

    Medications may be helpful for mankind’s psychosis, or not, but reasonable dialogue is certainly a non-starter from the get go.

  159. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    What percentage of the human population was trafficked in the year 1810?

    What year do you want to use as the beginning of man’s neuronal constructs?

    Some say 500K of the furry creature we all love.

    Fish however, have neuronal “stuff” and are 500 million years old, and are part of our own line and thus part of our “preference” selection process.

    I think I’ll go with 500 million years then.

    You seem to have data on the “morality” of Self vs. Other that shows a steady, linear line.

    As I’d like to see it, we’ll start with 200 yrs / 500,000,000 yrs = 0.00004% of the history of our neuronal constructs and then move forward from there.

    Secondly, we’ll discuss capacity, or potential. You assert that we no longer house the neuronal constructs which are capacitated to repeat things such as slavery or human trafficking. I think you misunderstand human capacity / potential in light of history, but we’ll dissect that a bit too.

    And you seem to think the nadir of the last century was the only one of its kind, and you seem to think that a few hundred years of peace and well being is the first of its kind and thus proof that another nadir cannot come. We’ll have to look at all of this more closely.

  160. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    On #154

    See #112

    Semantic equivocation is as unhelpful as is diagnosing every mind with delusional states. Akin to the other non-theists here, you and they seem to have a strong distaste for embracing a morality which favors, nurtures, and values human trafficking. That endless push to distance oneself from naturalism is a sign of hope.

  161. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    Why is taking the extra step of adding in your additional layer of your diagnosis of pan-psychosis atop pan-mind a necessary step/layer in order to “explain” brutally repeatable pan-archetypes? O’s razor is undeniably on the Theist’s side.

  162. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    On #158,

    In case I worded it poorly, I mean to look at your data for the first 99.99996% of our neuronal reflex responses to environment in parts per population before we look at the last 0.00004%.

    Then we’ll look at Nadirs as proof against further Spikes, and we’ll look at Spikes as proof against further Nadirs in the context of verifiable history. The reality of housed potential (capacity) in the light of such repeating nadirs and spikes as we look at potential (capacity) as an actual steady-state over the last 0.00004% of irrationally conditioned neuronal reflexes can be broken down as well.

    Then, we can speculate about the future and what pressures are likely to select for in terms of durability as it relates to energy, food, population density, radiation, weather, and so on. As the external pressures (that which selects) ebb and flow through the eons that which is selected (durability/morality) will of course change definition. Changing definitions just is evolution, that is, except for durability where life is concerned. As there is reasonable data to play with we can probably come up with some pictures of what nature’s morality will favor in such future ebb and flows and thus get a reasonable picture as to what our own morality will look like. Should slavery permit the survival of billions, and equality the survival of millions, such harsh selective pressures will, over time, select our morality.

    Finally, as we morph into ridged durability constructs more suited for such ebbs and flows, we can peer to the end of the matter, when life no longer exists, when A returns to Z as lifelessness and indifference subsumes all definitions, and the brief cul-de-sac that is our deterministic, volitionless psychic phosphorescence in all its subjective preferences finds it just never mattered at all. Not really. As C.S. Lewis noted, such subjective preferences really were committed to a sinking ship all along as the Ontologically-Real that just is Indifference inevitably banishes what was never anything more than enslaved wish-fulfillment, banishes all that was never anything more than hard-wired delusion.

  163. Jenna Black says:

    Shane, #150

    Please read more carefully. The discussion is about justice, and Justice with a capital J. If Justice is served by Hitler’s eternal suffering, then the God of Justice will see to it since Hitler thwarted human justice. What I think or wish is of no relevance to God’ administration of His Justice.

  164. Jenna Black says:

    bigbird, RE: #152

    So, atheists owe a debt of gratitude to Charles Darwin for saving atheists from the intellectual vapidness of atheism. How exactly does evolution do this for you/them? It seems to me that the theological implications of the science of evolution are much more supportive of Intelligent Design than of atheism since clearly, the “product” of evolution is a self-aware, intelligent, reasoning being totally capable of an intellectual understanding of and relationship with their/our Creator.

  165. Billy Squibs says:

    Shane, why does evolution preclude God? You didn’t answer that satisfactorily by referring to light particles and the aether.

    You can not say that a precludes b by informing us that y precludes x.

  166. scblhrm says:

    Billy,

    We’ll see later that the skeptic’s diagnosis (on blind axiom) that every bit of what is undeniably perceived by every mind is a delusion never pertains to his own “volitional reasoning’s perception” (on blind axiom). Hawking will join in as his Imaginary Spheres likewise retreat into holograms and delusions as the really real cannot be those brutally repeatable Archetypes which every mind actually perceives, lest God.

  167. bigbird says:

    So, atheists owe a debt of gratitude to Charles Darwin for saving atheists from the intellectual vapidness of atheism. How exactly does evolution do this for you/them?

    As Dawkins explains, Darwin weakened the argument for God from biological design by providing an alternative (naturalistic) explanation for the appearance of design in nature.

    I’m not an atheist as you should know, but it seems obvious to me that an evolutionary explanation weakens the argument for biological design by providing a naturalistic alternative.

    It seems to me that the theological implications of the science of evolution are much more supportive of Intelligent Design than of atheism since clearly, the “product” of evolution is a self-aware, intelligent, reasoning being totally capable of an intellectual understanding of and relationship with their/our Creator.

    It seems to me that the theological implications of having no naturalistic explanation such as evolution are far more supportive of intelligent design than if such a naturalist explanation exists, i.e. evolutionary theory weakened the case for intelligent design.

    My point in this discussion is that if you are willing to believe that undirected evolution can produce self-aware, intelligent, reasoning beings (something I don’t accept), then the moral argument has little or no force against you.

  168. scblhrm says:

    Evolution fails to escape the moral argument:

    If we just grant evolution to the atheist, we find that pesky and unforgiving void of anything more than mutable, contingent preference, and thus we find no duty, no ought.

    That is to say, if one who embraces evolution takes evolution as an argument against the moral argument, then this is clear evidence that the person does not understand the moral argument.

    Even worse:

    We know volition is physically impossible. No physical system is free of nature, free of physics, free of indifference.

    But:

    Let us just grant the atheist his foisted “volition on blind, inexplicable axiom”.

    Result:

    Still no ought which transcends mutable, contingent preference:

    This still leaves us within the confines of preference inside of a universe void of that Ought.

    The atheist’s ignorance of the moral argument is not a sign of some sort of “weakness” in the moral argument. It is a sign of his ignorance of the problem he cannot traverse. The atheist’s unending attempt to steal the theist’s intellectual ownership of those whim-transcending, undeniable, and brutally repeatable moral Archetypes of ought’s impositions which every mind perceives is simultaneously a proof of God and a self-negation of the atheist’s own truth-claims by the atheist himself.

  169. scblhrm says:

    Brief Summation of Naturalism’s Blind, Inexplicable Axioms:

    The Universe: Hawking’s Imaginary Sphere is granted on blind inexplicable axiom, else God.

    Life: Life from non-life is granted on blind, inexplicable axiom, else God.

    Volition: Physical systems free of physics’ blind, indifferent forces is granted on blind, inexplicable axiom, else God.

    Gaps in naturalism’s mechanistic reach: granted immunity from intellectual concern on blind, inexplicable axiom, lest God.

    Ought: That ceiling which transcends mutable and contingent preferences is granted on blind, inexplicable axiom, else God.

    Skeptic’s Claim: The skeptic’s last desperate equivocation, “Our brutally repeatable Archetypes perceived by every mind are at bottom a delusion….” is granted on blind, inexplicable axiom, else God.

    Reasoning: Intentional thinking, reasoning itself, is granted on blind, inexplicable axiom, else God.

    Skeptic’s Reasoning: The skeptic’s own truth claims, the skeptic’s own reasoning are for some “reason” granted immunity from the status of “delusion” and the status of “mistaken perception” and this immunity from circularity’s death is granted on blind, inexplicable axiom, else God.

    Theft of, unjustified use of, Moral Epistemology: The atheist’s unending attempt to steal the intellectual ownership of the theist’s moral epistemology is granted immunity from absurdity and this on blind, inexplicable axiom, else God.

  170. Hi Jenna,

    “If Justice is served by Hitler’s eternal suffering, then the God of Justice will see to it since Hitler thwarted human justice. What I think or wish is of no relevance to God’ administration of His Justice.”

    This is exactly my point. So how do you justify making the comment

    “From a human point of view, Hitler appears to have gotten away with his evil. This offends my own and IMO, humanity’s sense of justice. ”

    How can your sense of justice be offended if you believe God will be dispensing true Justice.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  171. Hi Jenna,

    “It seems to me that the theological implications of the science of evolution are much more supportive of Intelligent Design than of atheism since clearly, the “product” of evolution is a self-aware, intelligent, reasoning being totally capable of an intellectual understanding of and relationship with their/our Creator.”

    I don’t understand how you make that conclusion. Can you elaborate please?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  172. Hi Billy Squibs,

    “Shane, why does evolution preclude God? You didn’t answer that satisfactorily by referring to light particles and the aether.

    You can not say that a precludes b by informing us that y precludes x.”

    Well no. It was just an analogy. Evolution shows how the diversity of life on the planet actually arrived through natural means without intervention from God therefore God is as unnecessary for evolution as the ether is in light reaching us from the sun.

    Are you asking for specific examples of how God is not needed? I think you actually want to ask/say something else but I’m not sure what that is.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  173. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    Jenna’s conclusion is justified because the results of ANY process that gives us “what we now have” has given us that which materialism cannot give us. Either way, plausibility comes with coherence with every mind’s brutally repeatable reality. Thus, the only way materialism can be true is – still – to foist on blind axiom that every mind’s brutally repeatable perception of morality’s Archetypes embedded pan world, pan mind, of free volition, of intentional thinking, and so on is at bottom delusional. As materialusm offers no evidence that such is the case, materialism has no plausibility. The only justified conclusion is – given the raw fact of what we have – an end of regress which only theism can coherently claim.

  174. Hi scblhrm,

    “O’s razor is undeniably on the Theist’s side.”

    The theist’s argument is that every difficult and complex question can be explained by something that is infinitely more complex, that has always existed and therefore needs no explanation itself. That is the opposite of the principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in problem-solving devised by William of Ockham.

    Respectfully
    Shane

  175. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    Need God?

    You do.

    See #168 if doubt this.

    If you can bypass blind axiom given materialism’s ontology, I’d like to see your work.

  176. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    You’re confused about O’s razor.

    Delusion / Psychosis (materialism’s only path to plausibility) is more convoluted than “I have a head”. So too with an endless need of “many” ontological blind axioms (to maintain that ontology) rather than one seamless ontology-epistemology.

  177. Hi scbrownlhrm,

    “As materialusm offers no evidence that such is the case, materialism has no plausibility.”

    That is not a consistent statement. To have no plausibility it must be demonstrated to be false. Can you demonstrate it?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  178. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    So you are asking for proof that “I have a head” is true, that it is not a delusion.

    Thank you for helping my apologetic.

  179. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    Regarding # 175

    The reference to #168 should have been to # 169

  180. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    On #172 and your question to Billy Squibs:

    See # 173 and # 169.

  181. Hi scbrownlhrm,

    “Shane,

    So you are asking for proof that “I have a head” is true, that it is not a delusion.”

    Don’t take this personally, but the time I have available to post at this forum is finite. I’m going to spend it asking and answering questions. I do not have the time to read through everything you post because, I’m sure you’ll admit, some of them go on and on.

    But even the small responses, like this one, don’t actually offer anything to the discussion. You want to think you are correct, well that’s fine. But posting the above doesn’t make me think you want to take the discussion seriously. And as I said, I only have time for serious discussion.

    But for the last time, no. I want evidence that free will is impossible under materialism AND evidence that we have free will. These two things, being mutually exclusive, will prove that materialism is false. It will pretty much prove that there must be a God. So give me some specifics that we can talk about. Not the vague rants you usually supply which are not conducive to a dialogue.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  182. scbrownlhrm says:

    Shane,

    I find it odd that you question every mind’s perception of, say, having a head, or of, say, free volition, or of, say, thinking intentionally, or of, say, those brutally repeatable Archetypes of morality embedded pan mind, pan word. All of these many and varied vectors just are immune to taste, just are perceived pan-mind, pan-world, and are real unless the materialist can prove otherwise. And since we have, not one, but many and varied vectors undeniably confirming what materialism cannot give to us, materialism is not at all plausible. And so too with free will, which is just one of those many and varied vectors. As no physical system is “magically free” of nature’s forces and thus no physical system can be – at bottom – free of deterministic indifference, there are no, none, physical systems inside our skulls that are free of nature, free of physics, free of deterministic indifference. It’s called physics.

    If you want to argue with the entire anthology of reproducible data that is the science of physics simply because of your commitment to your presupposition, you are welcome to do so.

    The materialist objects: “The argument that having a head is undeniable is not an argument that we have heads. You need to show how we would distinguish between a real head and just the “perception of a head””.

    If you want to assert anything, or, say, that we do or don’t have heads, you are welcome to do so. All of your various materialistic appeals that we, say, have heads, will land – eventually – in the lap of mind’s perception. If perception goes, the head goes. That is the materialist’s undoing. That is the pesky stubbornness with something that every mind perceives. I know you don’t like that, but you’re stuck with it. You want us to differentiate between a head and the perception of a head. But every head we point to, or put in your hands, or drop, or weigh, or measure, or whatever, will regress to the perception thereof. Mind dependence clearly becomes inescapable and clearly isn’t materialism’s friend. It is God’s friend, quite naturally, given Mind.

    You are the one claiming, foisting on blind axiom, without any evidence, that every mind, pan-mind, pan-world is delusional, psychotic, and not just in one undeniable vector, but in many and varied undeniable vectors.

    The way science works is that any baseless assertion can be considered but will demand evidence. As materialism offers us no evidence that the baseless assertion of pan-psychosis, pan-mind, pan-world is the case, materialism has no plausibility. At all. The only justified conclusion, given the many and varied undeniable vectors that we have, that is, given reality, is an end of regress which only theism can coherently contain.

  183. Jenna Black says:

    scbrownlhrm, RE: #

    You say this: “Jenna’s conclusion is justified because the results of ANY process that gives us “what we now have” has given us that which materialism cannot give us. ”

    Thanks so much for this affirmation, summarizing the argument so succinctly and clearly.

  184. scbrownlhrm says:

    The naturalist may think we should deny the undeniable just because he asks us to or just because a presupposition of naturalism needs us to in order for it to remain plausible. But that would require a commitment to a presupposition above and beyond a commitment to reason, logic, and unrelenting sight.

  185. Jenna Black says:

    Shane, RE: #170

    You ask this question: “How can your sense of justice [about Hitler's fate] be offended if you believe God will be dispensing true Justice?”

    You are, perhaps inadvertently, getting at the very core of why naturalism fails. I, and all human beings, have a sense of justice because I am/we are created in God’s image and God is a God of Justice. Nature does not give me the sense of outrage at the fact that Hitler, by taking his own life, escaped the punishment that humanity would have meted out for his horrendous crimes. I have this sense because of my moral knowledge, which is a reflection of the knowledge that there is Justice with/in/through God, even when justice fails at the human level.

    To suggest that faith in God’s Justice eliminates some “right” to pursue justice on the human level is a ludicrous concept. In fact, moral knowledge creates in humankind an obligation to desire and to seek justice. Remember the verse from Deuteronomy 16:20: It says, “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” It does not say, Justice, justice you shall achieve.

  186. Larry Tanner says:

    Jenna,

    ” I, and all human beings, have a sense of justice because I am/we are created in God’s image and God is a God of Justice. ”

    Two meaningless statements. Why do you just get to assert things and not worry about evidence or support?

  187. Jenna Black says:

    Larry, RE: #186

    What do you mean by “get to”? And what do you mean by “evidence”? And why do you accuse me of “not worry(ing) about” it? My sense of what is just or unjust is evidence of my sense of justice. I really don’t know what other evidence you seek or require.

  188. Billy Squibs says:

    I think I understand what Jenna meant, Larry. You are free to disagree with these truth claims but that does not make them meaningless.

  189. Jenna Black says:

    bigbird, RE: #167

    It appears that we are in considerable agreement about most of what you say. I do not believe that Richard Dawkins makes the case persuasively that the science of evolution weakens arguments for God as Creator. To say that naturalism is an “alternative” explanation, one must state clearly what one is proposing it as an alternative to, specifically.

    You may be already familiar with one or all of these books on the Christian view of evolution:

    Francis S. Collins (2006). The language of God: A scientist presents evidence for belief.

    Owen Gingerich (2006). God’s Universe.

    Karl W. Giberson (2008) Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and believe in evolution.

    Francis Collins in The Language of God (2006), p. 107: “Evolution, as a mechanism, can be and must be true. But that says nothing about the nature of its author. For those who believe in God, there are reasons now to be more in awe, not less.”

    Dr. Collins uses the term BioLogos. See the website of the BioLogos Foundation at this URL.

    http://biologos.org

    I especially recommend a perusal of the Foundation’s “What We Believe” statements here:

    http://biologos.org/about

  190. bigbird says:

    Francis Collins in The Language of God (2006), p. 107: “Evolution, as a mechanism, can be and must be true. But that says nothing about the nature of its author. For those who believe in God, there are reasons now to be more in awe, not less.”

    I’ve read The Language of God. It’s an interesting book, but after reading it I still didn’t really have much idea of what BioLogos actually means. Do you? It was frustratingly vague.

    It would also be helpful if you could detail why you agree with Collins that evolution gives reasons now to be more in awe, not less.

    As an aside, it seems absurd to me to claim that evolution must be true.

  191. Jenna Black says:

    bigbird,

    Did you read the list of beliefs posted on the BioLogos website? This is a clear summary of what BioLogos is and perhaps more specific and detailed than you found Dr. Collins’ book to be. There is lots of valuable content on this website to help in understanding the concept of BioLogos.

    http://biologos.org/about

    As a girl, I studied everything about genetics that I could get my hands on that was not too technical for me to understand. This was before the discovery of the double helix. I was shocked and surprised when I learned in my late teens that there were people who did/do not “believe in” (accept the truth of) the science of evolution, which happened when we studied the book “Inherit the Wind” in a high school English class. I never had any notion or belief that there is anything in the science of evolution that was/is challenging to my growing Christian faith. I was fascinated by genetics and biodiversity as a beautiful and awesome expression of God’s creativity and intelligence as our Creator. The more I learn about God’s creative processes, the more my faith, love and awe for God deepens.

  192. djc says:

    scbrownlhrm,

    I’m not going to able to understand how most of what you wrote applies to our conservation without a good many more exchanges and expanding the scope of topics and differences a hundred-fold, so I will confine my comments to a few specific things you said that I can address in limited space and time.

    djc also agrees that human morality is not nature’s morality.

    The concept of morality has meaning only for social organisms able to feel moral emotions towards each other and desire to communicate moral knowledge. It makes no sense, then, to talk of nature’s morality. Nature is not an entity with a desire to be moral or immoral towards other entities.

    Our neuronal constructs must thus be free of nature

    No, they need not.

    You assert that we no longer house the neuronal constructs which are capacitated to repeat things such as slavery or human trafficking.

    I definitely did not assert that. We do have all the same blue prints for neuronal structural that we’ve had for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years that relate to moral behavior. What has changed is our environment and that’s largely of our own making. Throw a bunch of newborns back in time into a Stone Age family and I predict we would see little if any modern moral development in their later child and adult behavior. What has changed significantly for modern humanity is the result of the endless optimizing of every imaginable human endeavor within civilization. Morality has been one more thing to optimize.

    If humanity suddenly lost all its knowledge, in one generation we would be virtually indistinguishable from early hominids hundreds of thousands of years ago in regards to social behavior I suspect.

    we find no duty, no ought.

    There is no fundamental need to justify “ought” under naturalism, since everyone is willing to follow moral “oughts” in the form of social rules right from birth, it’s built in. It’s part of human behavior to want to be moral and to recognize the authority of “ought” when it comes from your group, even if that means hurting your direct interests.

    But in looking for a justification for “ought” under naturalism, it’s not hard to phrase it in terms of the fairly tangible goals of being moral: thriving socially; being seen as a reliable and upstanding friend, partner, leader, etc. Not to mention the tangible penalties. You ought to be moral because these are the benefits, and those are the penalties.

    Also, justifying “ought” in terms of the goals of society is helpful for coming up with fair laws under naturalism.

  193. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    So what forces are in play in this universe besides blind, deterministic, indifferent physical forces?

  194. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    The reason for the simplistic question is that we can’t proceed until I find out of you’re going to take ownership and be intellectually honest about #53 (and thus 52 on necessity) as such is the fact of the matter within the paradigm of materialism. There is no “mysterious” wall of separation between in/out as it’s all one system. From cosmos to cloud to tree to genome to neuronal lipid bilayer to serotonin to Na+ pump to Na+ to atom to electron to quark nothing is outside of the blind, deterministic, indifferent system of cascading, reverberating, fluxing dominoes.

  195. bigbird says:

    Did you read the list of beliefs posted on the BioLogos website? This is a clear summary of what BioLogos is and perhaps more specific and detailed than you found Dr. Collins’ book to be.

    Sure, I’ve read the list of beliefs, but Collins0/BioLogos doesn’t seem to provide any information on what their concept of theistic evolution involves.

    I was shocked and surprised when I learned in my late teens that there were people who did/do not “believe in” (accept the truth of) the science of evolution, which happened when we studied the book “Inherit the Wind” in my high school English class.

    That sounds to me like you learned in school to unquestioningly accept what “scientific authority” told you. The history of science shows scientific consensus being overturned many times, but as Kuhn lamented, science education usually (and incorrectly) presents science as a strictly accumulative process.

    I never had any notion or belief that there is anything in the science of evolution that was/is challenging to my growing Christian faith.

    Fine, but obviously many people see it differently.

    I was fascinated by genetics and biodiversity as a beautiful and awesome expression of God’s creativity and intelligence as our Creator.

    Me too, but genetics and biodiversity do not necessarily mean the origin of the species via evolution. Another valid interpretation is common design. I don’t think I have the faith to believe that evolutionary processes can create anything.

  196. Hi scbrownlhrm,

    “And since we have, not one, but many and varied vectors undeniably confirming what materialism cannot give to us, materialism is not at all plausible.”

    Give me an example of just one of those things and explain why materialism cannot give it to us. A specific will prove your point. A generalisation is meaningless.

    “And so too with free will, …”

    Don’t keep repeating the same thing. Give me a specific that demonstrates you have free will and/or demonstrates that materialism can’t give it to us.

    “The materialist objects: “The argument that having a head is undeniable is not an argument that we have heads. You need to show how we would distinguish between a real head and just the “perception of a head””.”

    There’s a term for creating a ludicrous argument for what you think I believe and then shooting it down.

    “That is the pesky stubbornness with something that every mind perceives. I know you don’t like that, but you’re stuck with it.”

    Every mind perceives the world as flat. Every mind perceives that the sun circles the earth. Because of the perspective of the mind. Every mind is wrong about both of these things and is found to be wanting when it looks deeper to gather evidence to show that what it perceives is accurate. So do you have any evidence to bolster the argument based on what you perceive?

    “You are the one claiming, foisting on blind axiom, without any evidence, that every mind, pan-mind, pan-world is delusional, psychotic, and not just in one undeniable vector, but in many and varied undeniable vectors.”

    I don’t know what this means.

    “The way science works is that any baseless assertion can be considered but will demand evidence.”

    Agreed. Where’s the evidence to show I’m wrong? It should be easy enough to gather if what I say is obviously preposterous.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  197. Hi Jenna,

    “You are, perhaps inadvertently, getting at the very core of why naturalism fails. I, and all human beings, have a sense of justice because I am/we are created in God’s image and God is a God of Justice.”

    But your justice and God’s Justice are very different. If Hitler accepted Christ as his saviour before his death he would be saved for all eternity. Wouldn’t you find that an injustice? And do you not find endless punishment and torture for the Jews that Hitler had killed, because they weren’t saved, an injustice? God values different things than man does, so it’s incorrect to suggest we get our sense of justice from him. If you did, you would rejoice in the idea that Hitler had been saved and the unbelievers were cast aside.

    “Nature does not give me the sense of outrage at the fact that Hitler, by taking his own life, escaped the punishment that humanity would have meted out for his horrendous crimes.”

    Firstly, Hitler died. He got his punishment. You making this comment makes me as if you think he deserved a punishment beyond execution? Do you think torture or something should have been inflicted? If so, where does that absolute moral standard come from?

    “I have this sense because of my moral knowledge, which is a reflection of the knowledge that there is Justice with/in/through God, even when justice fails at the human level.”

    So you think, that if there was no objective moral standard, we wouldn’t think that what Hitler did was bad? We couldn’t have evolved the ability to care for our young, which became caring for others, which became having empathy for others misfortunes, which became thinking it is wrong for people to deliberately inflict misfortunes on others? I think that is a failure of imagination on your part.

    “To suggest that faith in God’s Justice eliminates some “right” to pursue justice on the human level is a ludicrous concept. In fact, moral knowledge creates in humankind an obligation to desire and to seek justice. Remember the verse from Deuteronomy 16:20: It says, “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” It does not say, Justice, justice you shall achieve.”

    Again, Hitler died for his crimes. What else do you think should have been done to him? What other human justice are you looking for and how do you justify it with your absolute moral standard? My argument is that you want there to be Justice in the afterlife for crimes done on earth. This is the antithesis of Christianity which is built on a message of free pardon for all mankind (that asks for it), though we don’t deserve it.

    Respectfully
    Shane

  198. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    I take it then that you don’t experience making choices?

    I don’t believe you.

    If you do, though, then your burden is to show us those physical systems in your skull that are free of indifferent forces.

    Its simple.

  199. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    You need to present information, proof, that proves we are delusional. Its called evidence. If you can’t, you’ve no claim. Be careful you don’t throw away “I have a head” merely on skepticism’s baseless blind axiom.

  200. Jenna Black says:

    Shane, RE: #196

    First of all, I do not agree with your assessment that “Hitler died for his crimes.” How can you say this? Hitler died because he committed suicide. IMO, he committed suicide to avoid any kind of pain or suffering or punishment in retribution for his crimes. He brought about his own death at his own hand to avoid/prevent a more painful death at the hands of his own people or his enemy captors. And there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he reconciled with God/Christ before he killed himself. In fact, the act of suicide is a demonstration of non-acceptance of God’s grace and Jesus Christ’s salvation. So please don’t speculate about this yourself as a basis of an argument.

    You state this as your argument: Shane: “My argument is that you want there to be Justice in the afterlife for crimes done on earth. This is the antithesis of Christianity which is built on a message of free pardon for all mankind (that asks for it), though we don’t deserve it.”

    This is not my understanding of the meaning of Christ’s salvation, as some sort of cheap “get out of jail” card for humanity. I repeat, belief in Christ’s salvation does not obliterate belief in God’s Justice, which does not end when any one human life ends or when all human life ends. Our willingness to accept accountability and responsibility for our sins is part and parcel of accepting the grace of salvation.

  201. Hi bigbird
    #190

    “As an aside, it seems absurd to me to claim that evolution must be true.”

    Dr Collins comment that evolution must be true is obviously based in his experience with mapping the genome and comparing DNA with all other life on the planet. Personally, the fact that the genetic blue print of every living thing is founded on a language of only a couple of dozen 3 letter words made up of an alphabet with only 4 letters is compelling in and of itself. If you wanted evidence to show that God created life then different and specific genetic code for plants and animals would have been reasonable.

    But Dr Collins has traced the genetic family tree backwards, and shown the common ancestor that was shared by all people. then all primates, then all mammals, then all vertebrates, etc. And the map of the journey is written in the DNA found in all living things today. A prediction was made on what DNA should look like if evolution were true, and the prediction bore out. That’s the essence of it.

    So you are then left with the choice, that either God guided it or not. Or perhaps, just that God started it knowing what the outcome would be. I have no idea how believing God made evolution happen is any better than believing he created life outright. As I stated above, it diminishes his power by making him unnecessary during the process. And if he had to interfere multiple times along the way to creating man, than it makes him appear bumbling. Either way, it is a less powerful God than one who made us outright in a week by the sheer force of his will. I am open to hear from anyone who can explain why it is otherwise.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  202. Hi scblhrm,

    “I take it then that you don’t experience making choices?”

    I perceive that I do make choices. But again, I perceive a flat earth that is orbited by the sun. My perceptions don’t make it the truth.

    You assert that by materialism I don’t have free will to make choices? Now possibly that is true. Possibly everything I do is a reaction to everything that happens to me and how the chemical and electromagnetic processes in my brain and body function. It only gives me the perception of having free will when I don’t really. How could I tell the difference between having free will and having the illusion of free will?

    So again, how can I not have free will under materialism? How could you demonstrate that I actually have free will and not just the illusion of it?

    “You need to present information, proof, that proves we are delusional. Its called evidence. If you can’t, you’ve no claim. ”

    Likewise. It seems to me we are in the same boat. You’ve been going on for quite some time about how obvious it is. How undeniable. So why is it undeniable? Give me a specific that we can talk about.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  203. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    Yes I know you want to be told how to distinguish between your perception of “having a head” and the delusion of such.

    I take it then that you’re not sure that you have a head?

    Or will you point me to a list of OTHER mind dependent perceptions to measure and weigh such?

    If the latter, you throw away your baseless brand of skepticism, and you have a head.

    If the former, you throw away “I have a head” to retain your baseless skepticism.

    Seeing isn’t hard, Shane.

  204. Hi Jenna,

    “First of all, I do not agree with your assessment that “Hitler died for his crimes.” How can you say this? Hitler died because he committed suicide. IMO, he committed suicide to avoid any kind of pain or suffering or punishment in retribution for his crimes. He brought about his own death at his own hand to avoid/prevent a more painful death at the hands of his own people or his enemy captors. ”

    Absolutely. He inflicted the punishment upon himself that you think he should have got, and did so before any trial would have been convened to find him guilty, thus taking from his life more days that he could have lived, thus making his punishment occur sooner.

    Or do you think he should have had pain inflicted upon him? Do you think he should have been tortured? Do you think the sentence for his crimes should have been something other than execution? If not, then how can you say he escaped punishment? He did not flee to some other country to live out the rest of his life in hiding.

    “And there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he reconciled with God/Christ before he killed himself. In fact, the act of suicide is a demonstration of non-acceptance of God’s grace and Jesus Christ’s salvation. So please don’t speculate about this yourself as a basis of an argument.”

    I can’t use a hypothetical to make a point about God’s Justice? I’m afraid that’s all there are, because no-one knows the true state of someone’s soul apart from that person and God. Would you disagree that there are some murderers that have been executed that will have found God and been saved? God’s Justice in the afterlife is not related to our actions in this one in the same way that earth justice is.

    “This is not my understanding of the meaning of Christ’s salvation, as some sort of cheap “get out of jail” card for humanity.”

    The message of Christianity is that you are not saved by works but by the grace of God and the acceptance that Jesus died for your sins. If you want to argue something different, then please quote a bible passage to back up “your understanding”.

    “I repeat, belief in Christ’s salvation does not obliterate belief in God’s Justice, which does not end when any one human life ends or when all human life ends. Our willingness to accept accountability and responsibility for our sins is part and parcel of accepting the grace of salvation.”

    As above, with requesting a bible passage to back up this comment.

    Do you think there was no way for Hitler to be saved and get to heaven? I mean, if things went differently and he was captured, and trialled and then executed, do you think it was impossible for him to truly accept Christ as his saviour and spend eternity in heaven? Do you think there are some actions on earth that God cannot forgive?

    Respectfully
    Shane

  205. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    As all you have are appeals to various pan-mind perceptions to affirm that you actually have a head, I see why, on your skepticism, you’re not sure if you actually have a head.

    This though is the burden of your own illogical methodology, not of reason.

  206. Jenna Black says:

    Shane,

    You really have stretched and distorted the case of Hitler’s suicide as “punishment” for his evil beyond the point of the ridiculous. It is not worth further discussion.

    I also recommend that you study the concept of salvation, which entails repentance and a relationship with Jesus Christ and with God. One glaring error in your thinking about salvation that I see is that you are talking about it only in relationship to eternal life and not in terms of righteousness and the Kingdom of God in this world.

  207. scbrownlhrm says:

    The materialist objects: “The argument that having a head is undeniable is not an argument that we have heads. You need to show how we would distinguish between a real head and just the “perception of a head””. All of the materialist’s various appeals to any and all claims land – eventually – in the lap of mind’s perception. He claims that because we perceive the globe is round, the globe really is round, and thus he incoherently argues against his own skepticism. If he throws away perception, he throws away “having a head”. If he concedes that he has a head, he throws away his inane escapism. That is the materialist’s undoing. That is the pesky stubbornness with something that every mind, pan-mind, pan-world perceives. The materialist is stuck with this unforgiving truth. Eventually the materialist employs his last hope of escape from repeatable reality: his semantic dance of equivocation attempting to retain both his own “I have a head” and his own escapism from reality there inside of opaque skepticism’s blind axiom . He wants us to differentiate between a head and the perception of a head. But every head we point to, or put in his hands, or drop, or weigh, or measure, or whatever, will regress to the perception thereof. Pan-mind, pan-world finds Man experiencing a reality laced through and through with free volition and this in spite of and against nature’s indifference, a reality embedded with morality’s Oughts in an array of brutally repeatable Archetypes, a reality in which the joy of E Pluribus Unum is simultaneously sighted and yet found just out of reach in painful fragmentation, a reality in which, though all of nature’s physics is enslaved, Thinking Intentionally carries on in spite of nature, a reality in which we employ an array of pan-mind perceptions by which we measure, weigh and sight the contours of actuality. Man awakes to find himself within an undeniable actuality which materialism is hopelessly underpowered to explain. Mind dependence clearly becomes inescapable and clearly is not materialism’s friend as the materialist must (inexplicably) call all of it delusional, and he must do this on blind axiom for he has no evidence that falls outside of mind dependent perceptions, he has no evidence that we don’t actually have a head, no evidence that every mind is delusional. Mind dependence just is God’s friend though, quite naturally, given what every mind spies, given what is sighted pan-mind, pan-world, and given the end of regress in Person, in Mind, in God.

  208. Billy Squibs says:

    @172

    Well no. It was just an analogy. Evolution shows how the diversity of life on the planet actually arrived through natural means without intervention from God therefore God is as unnecessary for evolution as the ether is in light reaching us from the sun.

    Are you asking for specific examples of how God is not needed? I think you actually want to ask/say something else but I’m not sure what that is.

    I think your analogy was deeply flawed, Shane. If you are going to argue for a particular point about God and evolution then please argue for it. Don’t beg the question by drawing parallels with a position that no one here (and possibly no one for several hundred years) has argued in favor of.

    You seem to be conveniently ignoring those Christians who accept evolution to make your point. If my memory is accurate you did something very similar when you first arrived on this blog.

    Jenna has mentioned Biologos already and I would similarly recommend The Faraday Institute. None of these people argue that God is directly necessary for evolution, the existence of nuclear forces, thunderstorms or any other natural event you care to mention. Why don’t you argue against the strongest positions of your opponents instead of feeding us just so stories?

  209. Hi Jenna,

    “You really have stretched and distorted the case of Hitler’s suicide as “punishment” for his evil beyond the point of the ridiculous. It is not worth further discussion.”

    With respect, a person says something like that instead of answering the questions because they are not comfortable with their answers. Come on Jenna, don’t stop now. You’re either about to teach something or learn something and that should be embraced.

    Either you think Hitler should have been punished more than just the fact of losing his life and you are uncomfortable that you feel that way, or you think losing his life is a just punishment and that is what actually happened. If it’s the latter, then maybe you are realising that it wasn’t a good example regarding justice and you made a mistake in using it, but for some reason you don’t want to admit that you made a mistake. I’ve got to tell you, a few more people here admitting they were wrong about something would do wonders for their credibility.

    So Jenna, what would have been justice regarding Hitler’s crimes?

    “I also recommend that you study the concept of salvation, which entails repentance and a relationship with Jesus Christ and with God. One glaring error in your thinking about salvation that I see is that you are talking about it only in relationship to eternal life and not in terms of righteousness and the Kingdom of God in this world.”

    Sure. But the journey starts with a single step, yes? Death row inmates have the chance to repent and be saved, right up till just before they executed, correct? Are they any less saved then someone who is raised in the church and spends their whole life spreading the good word?

    Respectfully
    Shane

  210. Hi Billy Squibs
    #207

    I think you may have misunderstood my original post as making an argument of my own instead of trying to help bigbird explain his point to Jenna. I was more explaining my own personal journey from young earth creationist to atheist when I discovered that evolution is fact. I thought it was preposterous that God and evolution could be part of the same story when I was a Christian and I still think so as an atheist. I very possibly did relate a similar story when I first arrived, because it is my story. I’m not choosing a position because it is weak, but because it is one I used to hold, and argue for when I was a believer. Not to mention young earth creationism is alive and well in the U.S. and I am having dialogues with many people who believe that to be the truth.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  211. Ray Ingles says:

    Melissa – Oh, I’m very far from accepting that purposes are built into nature. Only an agent, a conscious being, can have purposes. I cheerfully grant that humans have purposes, though, and thus have purpose for other things. As a (crude) analogy, only some elements are naturally radioactive, but they can induce radioactivity in other elements. Better analogy: some things in nature put out light, others reflect it.

    Jenna –

    Here I must ask what you mean by the term “supernatural”? … Do you accept a spiritual reality or the existence of a/the spiritual dimension to reality?

    I’ve talked about it here before, though there’s also this. For our purposes here, though, I fail to see a distinction between ‘spiritual’ and ‘supernatural’. And, no, a la Laplace, I’ve had no need of that hypothesis.

    SteveK –

    How do you propose getting to an obligation?

    Recall the form of the strategies I’ve been talking about. “If you want x, then given conditions y, you should do z.” An obligation is a requirement, right? If you want to win a chess game, and you’re playing FIDE chess, you’re pretty much obligated not to sacrifice your queen in the opening.

    Also recall the analogy I’ve mentioned before: temperature exists in an objective sense, but ‘warmth’ and ‘cold’ are how humans experience and relate to temperature. Our moral senses, our intuitions about felt obligations, reflect the realities of being a conscious agent interacting with other conscious agents in a universe like ours.

    scblhrm –

    Yes, the human traffickers are responding to their environment, to something real.

    Ah, but in games one can usually rank strategies. Some better realize goals than others. Humans can be wrong about what actually makes them happy. And life is not a zero-sum game. Interestingly enough, there’s a general class of strategies that does well in non-zero-sum games… ones that are Nice, Provocable, Forgiving, and Clear.

    In other words, the human traffickers are making a serious mistake and choosing a bad strategy. It might have some short-term payoffs but has terrible long-term consequences.

  212. Jenna Black says:

    Shane, RE: #208

    Please go back to what I said initially about the case of Hitler being an example of human justice (justice with a lower case j) versus God’s Justice (with a capital letter J.) I stated in that comment and I state again. Human justice failed in the case of Hitler. Hitler was not brought to justice. However, I have faith in God’s Justice, which extends beyond human life and does not depend on the ability of human systems of justice to succeed. It’s really not as complicated an idea as you are trying to make it. Keep in mind that on atheism, there is no such thing as Justice and Hitler’s death is the end of it because death is the end of it, period. End of story.

  213. SteveK says:

    Ray @210
    Let’s review. In 122 you said:

    Evolution is responding to something real. Something out ‘in the world’. Something objective. We even agree, roughly, on what that response looks like – an inbuilt talent for reasoning in a particular way. (This is the first half of the answer to BillT’s question in #37 and #70 – morality isn’t “evolutionary hardwiring”. Morality is something else, that the hardwiring is in response to.)

    You’re saying that morality comes to exist in response to something objective that is “in the world”. You’re saying that an “ought” comes to exist in response to an already existing “is”. You’re saying morality is contingent. That view has problems.

    The biggest problem is that the resulting “ought” is 100% subjective. We know this is true because the same already existing “is” produces a variety of different “ought” responses. That means the individual person determines all outcomes. You admit to that when you said:

    “If you want x, then given conditions y, you should do z.”

    There are often several different X’s, given conditions Y, which results a range of Z’s (often they conflict). This is not objective morality. I think this is about the 100th time this has been pointed out to you, Ray.

  214. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Human traffickers do what they want. You assert without justification that their happy-quest “just can’t be real”.

    But it is real. They turn down less lucrative options to do so. Neuronal constructs are real. Theirs and yours.

    Denying the real world is no way to argue, Ray. In fact, it’s escapism.

  215. SteveK says:

    Let’s look at your chess analogy, Ray, in light of what you said here: “If you want x, then given conditions y, you should do z.”

    If you want to win a chess game, and you’re playing FIDE chess, you’re pretty much obligated not to sacrifice your queen in the opening.

    Given that you’re playing FIDE chess (Y), if someone wants to receive payoff money from the advancing winner (X), they aren’t necessarily obligated to refrain from sacrificing their queen (Z).

  216. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Blind, deterministic, indifference glued together the stuff of human trafficking. If you disagree with the morality or the “wisdom” or the “effectiveness” of that set of events you may want to take up those issues with the only forces there are: those very same blind, deterministic, indifferent fluxing dominoes.

  217. Ray Ingles says:

    I’ll reply in more detail later, but, scblhrm –

    You assert without justification that their happy-quest “just can’t be real”.

    I asked you once already not to put double-quotes around words that aren’t mine. If you have to misrepresent me to argue against me, maybe your arguments aren’t that great.

  218. Melissa says:

    Ray,

    Oh, I’m very far from accepting that purposes are built into nature. Only an agent, a conscious being, can have purposes. I cheerfully grant that humans have purposes, though, and thus have purpose for other things.

    I’m sure eventually you’ll realise that the morality you are so desperately trying to find a foundation for requires purposes other than the ones you invent for yourself and that the things we care about and desire and need as humans to flourish are in general a response to those purposes we are created with. I pray that then you will accept this reality and not deny morality to avoid it as many others do.

  219. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    I phrased it that way as that is what I saw implied within the necessities of your argument, not because they were your words.

    “I want my goal, my X”.

    You want your goal, your Y.

    You impose your Y on me and all men as some sort of inexplicable Ought, though the X and the Y are each a Real Feeling.

    But only Real Feelings can exist. There are no nonexistent X’s or Y’s.

    X is thus one of two things: illusion or delusion.

    But there is no Ought to which all men are beholden, so X cannot be an illusion.

    So, my X must be a delusion, and your Y must be the real morality, on sheer blind axiom.

    I don’t see any other way to read your take on this.

    Human Traffickers have different blind axioms, which apparently are just delusions (not real).

  220. djc says:

    scblhrm,

    From 52

    You are perfectly correct in implying that the “I ought to do X” when X is some form of sadistic activity is just as real and just as actual as it is when X is something less catastrophic.

    Of course I didn’t say that. In fact, there are no oughts for sadistic activity. That statement may seem easily disproven since sadistic activities happen all the time, obviously. What I mean by that is that sadistic activities for the purpose and sole intent of being sadistic never fall under the category of moral imperatives. Moral imperatives of punishment are from the family of moral emotions called “other condemning”. Punishment, in hindsight or from an outsider point of view can only than be considered sadistic.

    For example, it’s important to understand the Hitler’s final solution was not purely sadism or an inexplicable desire to kill innocent people, it was driven by the moral emotions contempt, anger, disgust. He was largely successful in inflaming all of Germany with the same moral emotions against the Jews.

    As I’ve said before, the problem with emotions is that they take a person’s perceptions, experience and conditioning as absolute fact and output the corresponding emotional response without caveats. Hitler had some horrendously counter-factual beliefs about the Jews and those fed his moral emotions. Throughout history, moral emotions have been used to perform all manner of atrocities.

    So with that background in place, you are correct that “I ought to do X” has been used by humanity throughout time with the same authoritative moral force, whether X is “feed the hungry” or X is “wipe those people from the face of the earth”.

    That is why “ought” alone as an appeal to moral emotions is meaningless, even dangerous, as a moral guide under naturalism. It must be backed up by accurate premises, rational goals, and shared values.

    I believe that you are unjustified in one part of your thesis, though, in that you seem to be ascribing by implication a teleological hint of sight, of vision in those selective processes which, inexplicably, you seem to hint, “prefers”, say, sexual slavery over random rape

    As I said in my recent note, our moral emotions have not changed appreciably over hundreds of thousands of years; your discussion of sex -vs rape is moot. What has changed is the result of human intelligence endlessly optimizing every imaginable human endeavor within civilization. Morality has been one more thing to optimize. Pinker notes literacy, government, trade, cosmopolitanism as some of things that have unexpectedly resulted in more shared perspective and shared experience around the things that tended in the past to inflame the moral emotions against people. The result has been a marked decrease in violence. This I believe is a naturalist/materialist trend, although I’m open to evidence that it is in some way due to God.

  221. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    “…must be backed up by shared goals…”

    Replacing “me” with “we” changed nothing.

    What forces are at work in this universr ?

  222. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Me/We are both reverberating neuronal fluxes.

    Both exist.

    Both are real.

    What forces are at work within the universe from cosmos to quark?

  223. scblhrm says:

    It’s fun to watch the naturalist try to credit gamate morphs with the intellect’s learning. If we put us back in the stone age nothing changes.

    Thus no evolution.

    So what does he credit change to?

    Evolution.

    Huh?

    What we teach Mind is what djc is describing.

    Which is bad news for evolution. As he noted, stone age or now, it’s sight, perspective, and light that is the real player interacting with man.

    Not evolution.

  224. scbrownlhrm says:

    We have available to us verifiable history. We find Man just is in a steady-state where Moral Capacity is concerned. Nadirs are no proof against Spikes, and Spikes are no proof against Nadirs. Centuries of peace and growth fall in a day, just as, centuries of darkness change in one moment of light, of sight. It is only the presupposition of naturalism which foists evolution into this picture.

    Evolution is not needed to explain any of this.

    From 50K years ago till now Man is in his moral steady-state as we can, as djc notes, put today’s Man back there and all our knowledge, light, and sight is lost, and the Darkness ensues. We can take a Man from 50K years ago and put his infant here with us and, just the same, with the light of day he rises.

    No evolution is needed to explain any of that.

    In fact, gamate morphs cannot account for that.

    Not in a million years.

    Man in darkness, Man in light. Pan-World, Pan-Mind we find Man upon the stage as he spies the joys of E Pluribus Unum on the horizon, just out of reach, there inside of the pains of his fragmentation as every-mind perceives, houses moral love’s Archetypes embedded pan-world, pan-mind.

    Evolution is found to be wholly unnecessary for any of that. Verifiable history affirms the truth of scripture’s descriptive just as verifiable history affirms we’ve no need of evolution to explain Man’s brutally repeatable Archetypes as his capacity’s steady-state is, also, affirmed.

  225. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK – Let’s see if we can agree on anything. Anything at all. It’s like you don’t dare grant even a single point to me for fear of… I don’t know what.

    Given that you’re playing FIDE chess (Y), if someone wants to receive payoff money from the advancing winner (X), they aren’t necessarily obligated to refrain from sacrificing their queen (Z).

    Thing is, you’re avoiding the point. At the very minimum, you should acknowledge that you’re changing the conditions.

    See, here’s the thing. Are you willing to grant that, given particular goals, and particular conditions, then particular strategies flow from that?

    That’s all I’m asking. Can you acknowledge that?

    After you concede that, then you can say things like, ‘but what if the goals change?’ or ‘what if the conditions change?’ I can, in fact, answer those points (indeed, I’ve already laid out most of such answers in the past months). But I honestly don’t see a point in doing so if agreement on even a straightforward, commonsense, uncontroversial fact is impossible.

    Do you agree that the particular conditional I laid out holds? The one you quoted? “If you want to win a chess game, and you’re playing FIDE chess, you’re pretty much obligated not to sacrifice your queen in the opening.” You don’t have to agree it has the implications you think I think it does. You don’t have to grant anything beyond that one simple fact. But if we can’t even reach consensus on that, I truly have no reason to discuss anything with you.

    scblhrm –

    I phrased it that way as that is what I saw implied within the necessities of your argument, not because they were your words.

    You could try asking. Or even saying, ‘this is what I see implied in the necessities of your argument’. You could try pretty much anything… except putting words in my mouth. I note that djc is pointing out you doing the same thing to him. You might want to take a step back and examine your own behavior and see if, just maybe, we’re pointing out something real.

  226. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    Your theistically contaminated opinions are crowding out sound teleological data. Random rape is morally better than sex slavery assuming such perpetuates more offspring. You’re not taking ownership, as I suspected. “Moral feelings” are no different than lightening…. psychic phosphorescence. You seem resistant to your naturalism.

    And, your mysterious “wall’ of separation between man and environment foists something “besides” blind, deterministic, indifferent reverberations of fluxing dominoes into your descriptive and is thus more evidence of your theistically contaminated opinions crowding out your naturalism. Another failure to take ownership.

  227. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Human traffickers have their own goals and definitions of happiness.

    If you can explain my X vs. your Y in terms void of blind axiom then, yes, I would like to ask you what it was you actually meant.

  228. scblhrm says:

    djc,

    “In fact there are no oughts for sadistic activity..”

    What, exactly, are the forces in play inside this universe?

    Psychic phosphorescence inside our skulls is different than lightening or wind or galaxies how?

    It’s hard to move forward if you are foisting something besides naturalism as if you are then all our definitions and burdens change.

  229. SteveK says:

    Ray,

    At the very minimum, you should acknowledge that you’re changing the conditions.

    I was starting with the same given conditions that you did in your chess example: playing FIDE chess.

    Do you agree that the particular conditional I laid out holds? The one you quoted? “If you want to win a chess game, and you’re playing FIDE chess, you’re pretty much obligated not to sacrifice your queen in the opening.”

    I agree, but so what? I fail to see how this relates to your #122 where you said “Morality is something else, that the hardwiring is in response to.” Care to explain?

  230. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc and Ray are each employing their theistically contaminated opinions in order to force actual, real moral statements which they find unpleasant to be, inexplicably, not part of nature’s resume’.

    Let us be clear about the ceiling and floor of materialism / naturalism: Some particular chunk of blind, deterministic, indifferent fluxing dominoes that is [(Moral Feelings) + (Environment)] is all they have to work with, regardless of what it sums to, and there is no such thing as Sums which are not one of those chunks.

    The moral code which embraces raping one’s enemy as part of The-Good is an actual (on naturalism) neuronal construct housed within those aimless reverberations of blind, deterministic, indifferent fluxing dominoes within neuronal lipid bilayers inside our skulls. It’s ontologically real. The environment outside those skulls is one and the same system of blind, deterministic, indifferent fluxing dominoes. That “Sum” just is an indifferent chunk of fluxing dominoes that is [(Moral Feelings) + (Environment)].

    That particular chunk of blind, deterministic, indifferent fluxing dominoes that is [(Moral Feelings) + (Environment)] just may foster more offspring than, say, the chunk of blind, deterministic, indifferent fluxing dominoes that is [(Moral Feelings) + (Environment)] housed in what sums to “sexual slavery”, the latter being confined to the few as means are limited to the few. A just is more moral, more valued, more retained, than B.

    It is at this point where both djc and Ray begin to allow their Christianized / theistically contaminated opinions to object to what just are materialism’s / naturalism’s necessary limits. And so on blind axiom they insert their own moral definitions on top of nature and by implication suggest to us that the “unpleasant parts of nature’s resume” are not part of nature’s resume’ and nature just cannot be favoring, valuing the [(Moral Feelings) + (Environment)] that sums to anything less than the pleasant, heavenly sums. Also, there is a suggestion, by implication, that there is a mysterious wall of separation between nature outside our skulls and nature inside our skulls, as if there are two sets of forces at work inside the universe…….. Again those pesky theistic contaminants leak into their descriptive.

    Finally, on djc’s end alone:

    First djc stated of the ugly stuff, “Those people are shrinking in number and likely to become extinct” (evolution has changed mankind’s moral capacity in net sum). But then he wisely negates this baseless assertion with the obvious truth (as far as he can without invoking theism), “We do have all the same blue prints for neuronal structural that we’ve had for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years that relate to moral behavior. What has changed is our environment and that’s largely of our own making.” [In case we missed it, on blind axiom he there smuggled in that mysterious wall between nature inside our skulls and nature outside our skulls as his theistically contaminated opinions leak into his materialism.] “Throw a bunch of newborns back in time into a Stone Age family and I predict we would see little if any modern moral development in their later child and adult behavior” and also with, “As I said in my recent note, our moral emotions have not changed appreciably over hundreds of thousands of years..”

    This is trouble for evolution as briefly touched on in # 223 and #224, for we find that we have no need for evolution as we seek to explain the reality which we actually find on the world’s moral stage. What is in flux is not genomic change/drift, but rather this: Sight’s Light and Dark, the landscape of the fully singular, fully triune summed milieu of Self-Other-Us in all its painfully isolated fragmentations of privation as E Pluribus Unum is ever before us, ever just out of reach. It is not gamate morphs and drifts which are in flux, but, it is Sight and Light which are verifiably in flux as Mankind’s moral capacity remains unchanging in its steady state. There is no need for genomic change/drift to explain any of that. All that is needed is Sight’s Light and Dark and thus as the truth of the matter is disavowing and disenfranchising naturalism’s only go-to mechanism it is also affirming Scripture’s singular descriptive-prescriptive.

  231. Billy Squibs says:

    I was more explaining my own personal journey from young earth creationist to atheist when I discovered that evolution is fact. I thought it was preposterous that God and evolution could be part of the same story when I was a Christian and I still think so as an atheist. I very possibly did relate a similar story when I first arrived, because it is my story. I’m not choosing a position because it is weak, but because it is one I used to hold, and argue for when I was a believer. Not to mention young earth creationism is alive and well in the U.S. and I am having dialogues with many people who believe that to be the truth.

    I must have missed that comment, Shane, because I didn’t see a reference to your story. Indeed, I would think that comments like #201 are speaking directly to the metaphysical implications of evolution. However, the thread is long and I may have missed something.

    On a related note, is it not interesting that acceptance of evolution was apparently the death knell to your belief in God, while to others it seemingly causes no terminal challenges to their faith? Why is this I wonder? Is it too easy an answer to say that you believed in a very different God? For my part, I can’t imagine why the acceptance of evolution would have destroyed your faith.

  232. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK –

    I was starting with the same given conditions that you did in your chess example: playing FIDE chess.

    But you changed the other condition: the goal, from “winning the game” to “getting paid off to throw the game”.

    Anyway, there is progress, however small. We agree that “given particular goals, and particular conditions, then particular strategies flow from that”. Right? (BTW, you might want to see this regarding ‘ought and is’.)

    Now, the next baby step. Is it possible that a particular strategy (or class of strategies) might apply to a range of conditions? I’m not jumping ahead here. All I’m asking is if this is logically possible, or if there some general principle that precludes that option.

  233. Ray Ingles says:

    scbrownlhrm – Note that I wasn’t attacking your argument in comment #225. Just your method for advancing it. You start out pretty well in #230, but then you start psychologizing, addressing motives rather than actual arguments.

    When you go after arguments, you don’t impress. I’m sorry, I don’t accept that you understand evolution and what it entails if you can’t even correctly spell “gametes”.

    Fundamentally, I’m not interested – yet – in rehashing the arguments about consciousness and naturalism. I’m willing to take for granted that consciousness exists – however that might come about – and looking at how that plays out.

    And I’m sorry, but you are flat wrong about humanity being “in a steady-state where Moral Capacity is concerned”. As you admitted back in comment #38, “Violence is fading.” (And note, BTW, that very few people claim that people today are more religious than in the past.) Human satisfaction with life is probably only marginally improved, but our lifestyle is vastly improved from past centuries, not just materially but socially. We have a murder rate that’s at least an order of magnitude lower than any point in our past. Animal cruelty is publicly reviled, not public celebrations.

    You can claim that trend isn’t due to any naturalistic phenomenon. But you can’t claim that trend doesn’t exist. “Spikes” and “nadirs” exist in any noisy signal, but that doesn’t mean trends can’t be detected.

  234. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Yes, you have to believe that Nadirs are proof against Spikes. History says otherwise, over and over, but you have your presuppositions.

    Yes, you have to believe that the physical systems inside the skull are free of physics’ forces, free of nature. Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, and Physics both say otherwise, but you have your presuppositions.

    Yes, you have to believe in a mysterious wall of separation:

    Bad wants = Nature did it
    Good wants = Man does it

    Physics proves otherwise, but you have your presuppositions.

  235. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    We can, it seems, add:

    Yes, you have to believe Man no longer houses the moral capacity to repeat past offences from prior civilizations. History’s cycles prove otherwise, but you have your presuppositions.

  236. Larry Tanner says:

    “but you have your presuppositions”

    An old saying about pots and kettles seems to apply to you, scblhrm.

    I applaud Ray and others for having the patience to try and decipher your prose and correct your argumentation. You are well advised to spend time examining your own presuppositions, adducing evidence, and re-acquainting yourself with principles of logic.

  237. SteveK says:

    Ray,

    Is it possible that a particular strategy (or class of strategies) might apply to a range of conditions?

    Yes. How about my question at the end of #229?

  238. scblhrm says:

    Larry,

    So you agree with Ray (and disagree with Harris and physics) on free will in physical systems being free of deterministic sequella?

    And you agree with Ray that we’ve evolved past our prior civilization’s nadirs?

  239. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK –

    How about my question at the end of #229?

    Dude, baby steps! Christians don’t just jump straight from ‘an uncaused cause’ to ‘Jesus was fully divine and fully human’! There’s a lot of development that needs to happen to get from one to the other. Can’t you grant me a similar chance to develop my case?

    Now, can it be that different people with different overall goals can nevertheless take on the same sub-goals, and strategies? E.g. the Soviet Union vs. the U.K. & U.S. and other allies in WWII? Or something simpler, like childless singles and parents and retirees all wanting the same neighborhood to be safe and clean, though for different reasons?

  240. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    Yes, you have to believe that Nadirs are proof against Spikes. History says otherwise, over and over, but you have your presuppositions.

    See, there you go again, explaining to me what I must think rather than reading what I wrote, or even asking me what I do in fact think.

    I actually don’t have to believe any such thing. Let me ask you a question: Is humanity in a steady-state where engineering capacity is concerned?

  241. SteveK says:

    @239

    Yes.

  242. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray,

    You seem to be using capacity and knowledge interchangeably. You note that capacity is not steady because behavior changes for a few decades or centuries, and then imply that we do in fact retain the capacity to return to prior nadirs. Now, given this, it seems to me you do not mean potential when you speak of capacity, but simply “content”. When I say capacity is on a steady state I mean, and I think djc means this too, the business of potential. Several centuries of peace (or war) has proven to offer no “permanence” in Man’s moral status, as Nadirs and Spikes ebb and flow through history. His “content” changes, while his potential for both the Nadir and the Spike has remained. Knowledge is the same affair. In all of recorded history we find man immersed in writing and building, even stone items we can’t build today without some odd help. But “knowledge” changes while potential (capacity) has been steady. An infant from now moved to then, or from then moved to now, will have all the necessary potential to subsume whatever content he encounters. Moral Potential has all the evidence testifying of moving along in its steady-state, while Moral Content ebbs and flows as Sight’s Dark and Light are embraced / found or are rejected / destroyed. Such a state of affairs displaces genome’s seat from the table of Necessity as it affirms Scripture’s singular descriptive-prescriptive.

  243. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    That last sentence should have read “genomic evolution’s….” rather than ‘genome’s….’

  244. djc says:

    scbrownlhrm,

    If you made as much of an effort to understand my points as you do to create miniature sermons at my expense, it’s remotely conceivable that we might reach some kind of mutual understanding.

    First djc stated of the ugly stuff, “Those people are shrinking in number and likely to become extinct” (evolution has changed mankind’s moral capacity in net sum).

    That’s not the ugly stuff, that’s the good stuff. Under naturalism, intelligence, as one design solution found by evolution’s random walk, seems to be also optimizing morality as a system of laws, rules and propositions serving moral emotions. The result is less Nazis, less human tracking, less violence.

    But then he wisely negates this baseless assertion with the obvious truth (as far as he can without invoking theism), “We do have all the same blue prints for neuronal structural that we’ve had for perhaps hundreds of thousands of years that relate to moral behavior.

    That’s not a negation at all, it’s stating the same thing. I’m saying that something as complex as the genetic blueprint for an emotion is unlikely to have evolved much in a hundred thousand years, and certainly not in the last century over which we’ve seen the most dramatic drop in violence (refer again to Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Human Nature for copious references).

    they insert their own moral definitions on top of nature and by implication suggest to us that the “unpleasant parts of nature’s resume” are not part of nature’s resume’ and nature just cannot be favoring, valuing the [(Moral Feelings) + (Environment)] that sums to anything less than the pleasant, heavenly sums.

    Not at all. The good stuff and the ugly stuff is all nature. But, nevertheless, it’s clear there is a moral trend in humankind that needs to be accounted for. Why does endless optimizing of human endeavors also seem to result in less violence? We didn’t become genetically more peace loving, there isn’t enough time for that to happen. So what is happening? Answer: problem solving evolved. Morality in large human societies must be somewhat solvable without shared religion or any religion at all, that’s my bet.

  245. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m all for mutual understanding. I regret that I have not been able to keep up with things, once again. I cannot believe the schedule I’ve been operating under the past few weeks.

    I do wonder, though, djc, when do we see the result of which you spoke: “less Nazis, less human tracking, less violence.” Is that an empirical finding on your part? Or a faith expression? (I’m aware of Pinker’s book, though I haven’t read it. Maybe you could summarize it.)

    If “the good stuff and the ugly stuff is all nature,” then why is some of it good while some of it is bad? That’s the question we started with here, and I still haven’t seen an explanation for how natural behavior A is actually better than natural behavior B.

    Now, this morning I’m reading a paper that does a better job of addressing that question than anything I’ve read in some time. Maybe it’s worth interacting with it. I’ll post a link to it on a main blog post.

  246. scbrownlhrm says:

    djc,

    “it’s clear there is a moral trend in humankind that needs to be accounted for”

    There you go again. A few hundred years is given as proof of change.

    Nadirs, Spikes, and history just don’t agree.

    Moral Capacity, Moral Potential, and Moral Content. You are making category errors (swaps) and for no justifiable reason.

    And, of course, you are still avoiding the debate between random rape and sex slavery as to which is more moral. The bedrock of your thesis is that whatever makes more offspring (flourishing of life) is moral, is good, and, that several centuries of calm, well, half a century given last century’s violence, and of peace (Nadir) is a proof of evolution / drift (real change) out of violence (Spikes) even as history testifies otherwise.

    It doesn’t sound like heady analysis. It seems to ignore the real history of the real world, it seems to make category errors, and it seems to be unable to call anything “better” for reasons that can free themselves, at bottom, from more offspring. And, of course, there is that pesky problem of free will in physical systems.

  247. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK – Let’s reflect on where we are at this point. We’ve agreed on three things:

    (1) “[G]iven particular goals, and particular conditions, then particular strategies flow from that.”
    (2) “[A] particular strategy (or class of strategies) might apply to a range of conditions.”
    (3) “[D]ifferent people with different overall goals can nevertheless take on the same sub-goals, and strategies.”

    Now, what I’m proposing is that humans, while they do differ substantially in goals, don’t differ infinitely. There are things that all humans want and prioritize. (As a first approximation, c.f. Maslow’s hierarchy.) Now, by (3), it’s possible that even a range of goals might converge to similar strategies.

    And humans do face a wide range of conditions, but again, not infinitely wide. By (2), it’s possible that general strategies might apply to that range of conditions.

    And, by (1), these strategies needn’t be ‘subjective’. Strategies arise when goals bump into constraints and conditions.

    Now, in these last few comments I have by no means established that such general strategies actually exist! But, what I hope I’ve established at this point is that there’s no inherent logical contradiction in supposing that they might obtain – in other words, that they can’t be ruled out a priori.

    There’s no point in making a further case unless we can agree on that much. What do you think?

  248. SteveK says:

    Ray,

    What do you think?

    I think I can agree with what you said but I can’t resist repeating myself, “so what? Maybe you can move a little quicker. I won’t be around in a few days.

  249. Ray Ingles says:

    scbrownlhrm –

    You seem to be using capacity and knowledge interchangeably.

    (BTW, sometimes you’re “scbrownlhrm”, and sometimes you’re “scblhrm”. Just to avoid any possible confusion, can you confirm that’s both those handles are for the same person?)

    Actually, I’m pointing out that you are equivocating on the usage of the words ‘capacity’ and ‘knowledge’.

    Human mental capacity – in terms of memory or reasoning or language capacity and so forth – very probably hasn’t changed much if at all in the last hundred thousand years. The human genome hasn’t changed in such a manner. But the knowledge that we apply those capacities to has expanded literally exponentially.

    So you can say that human engineering capacity hasn’t changed and be technically correct – if you’re referring to the mental capacity of the human brain. But on the other hand, human engineering has gone from the flint axe to the Large Hadron Collider. We’ve learned a lot of tricks about how to successfully apply that mental capacity over the last hundred millennia.

    Humans haven’t gotten inherently better at moral reasoning since caveman days. (Of course, no one here has claimed that – go ahead, go back and check.) But we’ve learned a lot about how to relate to each other over those last hundred millennia too. It’s no accident that I’ve compared morality to engineering before.

  250. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray,

    (scbrownlhrm or scblhrm are both fine)

    “Human mental capacity – in terms of memory or reasoning or language capacity and so forth – very probably hasn’t changed much if at all in the last hundred thousand years. The human genome hasn’t changed in such a manner…..Humans haven’t gotten inherently better at moral reasoning since caveman days..”

    In other words, evolutionary mechanisms cannot account for any of it.

    It’s always been there.

    All that is in play is Light and Dark, bodies of Truth and Falsehoods. And, of course, let us not forget Man interacting with those Falsehoods, Man interacting with those Truths.

  251. scbrownlhrm says:

    Ray, djc,

    I’ll give you the last word for this thread…..

    Thank you for your time / interactions ~~~

  252. Ray Ingles says:

    scbrownlhrm –

    In other words, evolutionary mechanisms cannot account for any of it.

    You’re missing the point, again, in at least two different ways. First off, saying that evolution can’t account for all moral phenomena is not the same thing as saying it “cannot account for any of it”. That should be obvious.

    The second problem is that I’m not arguing that evolution is responsible for morality. Go look at #122. Evolution can account for the ‘moral sense’, our moral intuitions, in the same way it can account for our physical and language intuitions – it’s responding to morality.

    Evolution also has some input into the content of morality in the sense of having a large input on our desires and nature. Which responds to the environment, which response in turn shapes our nature. (Feedback loops are not circular argumentation, BTW.) But biological evolution doesn’t create the universe, physical laws, or the results of game theory.

    Essentially, you’re arguing against a position that no one’s advancing.

  253. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK – Just let me bask a moment. So many people here claim that I’m making a fundamental error – that what I claim is just logically impossible – that a concession that it isn’t is a trifle refreshing. And it’s important – because such a logical possibility means that AB4 can no longer be simply assumed, but must be argued for.

    Anyway. How might we determine that such strategies do exist? Let’s turn it around for a second – what would a successful case look like from your perspective? What would I have to cover to demonstrate them to your satisfaction, where do you set the bar?

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