On Assessing Triablogue's Review of "The Christian Delusion"

I've had enough contact with Triablogue authors to know that I will never get in the last word. And I do not consider them honest in dealing with me. They will quote things out of context and misrepresent me because as Calvinists they do not think I deserve any respect at all. After all, if their God has foreordained me to hell then they have the right to heap additional abuse on me, and they have done so (this is such a nice version of Christianity developed by angry men for angry men, isn't it?). In any case they have written an online book of 257 pages against The Christian Delusion (TCD) so I think some response is needed, especially since I'm seeing links pop up all over the net linking to what they wrote.

I contacted the contributors of TCD to see if any of them would like to respond to this hatchet job of an online book. Here are some of their comments:

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Count me out. It's an endless treadmill.
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I have looked over their objections, and they are pretty superficial.
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I tend to agree that it is a fruitless venture, but if I have time I may inspect their work and see if there is a worthwhile response from my perspective. If so, I might attempt something.
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It’s a treadmill because they don’t honestly care about what is real (which in their minds is a foregone conclusion)—just about winning arguments. I’d rather spend my energy writing for people who are engaged in some kind of growth process.
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The “criticisms” are rather inept – they quote “scholars” who still assume Moses wrote the Pentateuch! I find it impossible that anyone who is aware even a little of modern biblical studies would take such criticism seriously. If they do, well, then one needs a book to educate them.
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Still, two or three of us will respond within a few weeks to their ignorant criticisms of our chapters.

Most of us have better things to do than respond to such drivel. If their arguments are considered good ones then it goes to show you that when it comes to faith any argument will do.

I find it amazing that some people think this is a good rebuttal to our book. It isn't, not by a long shot. No wonder Christians have the edge. They respond to every skeptical book with three or four or ten book-length responses. Since they always have the last word and because people cannot think through the issues, the last word is what seems the most reasonable.

In the first place they do not know how to write a book review, but I'll leave that aside.

What strikes me as a common criticism of TCD is that there are fifteen chapters in the space of 419 pages, and as such, it isn't as in-depth as whole books written on each of the topics we cover. Well I'm here to tell you that this is simply not an informed way to judge anthologies especially since each chapter in TCD has plenty of footnotes for further reading (did they not notice them?). For people who wish to truly evaluate the case we make in each chapter they must read the works listed in the footnotes. It's that simple. We DO know what we're talking about. Each chapter serves as an introduction to each topic. Get it? And we reference whole books on the topics we write about. I consider the chapters in TCD to be superior introductions to each topic. But you should also read the works we footnote for further information and argumentation. To criticize any chapter because of the limited space available to the author without exploring the works in the footnotes is, well, not reading it thoroughly or engaging it very deeply.

Okay so far?

Let me make just a few comments for now on overall impressions of The Infidel Delusion with a focus on pages 1-10.

Over and over we read where atheists have no right to make moral judgments if there are no absolute objective morals. This is simply false. They are ignorant to say otherwise. But this is true of most Christians.

Then too, the authors are Calvinists which I think is a reprehensible theology, as I posted here.

Over and over the authors contrast their brand of Christianity with atheism which is left undefined but understood by them to be equivalent to metaphysical naturalism. I don't think they truly know what atheism is, as I explained right here, and again here.

Besides, the options before us are not between their brand of conservative Calvinism and non-belief. The options are myriad with everything in-between. There is Arminianism, moderate and liberal Christianities, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, and many eastern religions to choose from. So it really does not make a whit of difference who is making a particular argument against their brand of Christianity. The argument either stands on its own or not. They cannot assert, for instance, that an atheist cannot make this or that kind of argument because he has no standard for morality, since Process Theologians can make that same argument as can Arminians like Christian philosopher Victor Reppert (which they have repeatedly attacked) or liberals like James McGrath. Then too, the Triabloguers forget that the reason why there are moderates and liberals and process theologians is precisely because many of them grew up as conservative Christians and found the arguments we have expressed in TCD to be telling against their faith. It's precisely because of these arguments that led us away from conservative Christianity in the first place.

Now to pages 1-10.

Steve Hays asks me on page 4 to justify my assumptions. Well, if he read Why I Became an Atheist then he would see that I did just that.

I wrote in the Introduction to TCD that this anthology is
“an extension of my previous one, Why I Became an Atheist (WIBA), which I think of as important background reading for the chapters in this one, although you don’t need to read it in order to understand and benefit from this present book. All the themes in this present book expand on issues raised there.”
That's what I wrote. But Steve ignores it. So while it's true that most people would not need to read WIBA to benefit from TCD, the authors of this online book should have done so if they wished to criticize it.

Jason Engwer on page 7 writes:
The book frequently criticizes the Bible for being unclear, and it‘s often suggested that we can‘t reliably discern what scripture means (17-19, 52, 378). Everything from pro-homosexual to Nazi interpretations of the Bible are cited, and it‘s often suggested that we can‘t reach a reliable conclusion about which interpretation is correct and which isn‘t. Yet, the authors of The Christian Delusion often tell us what scripture means and why it‘s supposedly wrong. They sometimes refer to scripture (and other sources) as clear even on disputed points, if what‘s supposedly clear is something they want to criticize.
But let’s understand this better, okay? In areas where it’s obvious we should expect a perfectly good God to communicate his will better, he didn’t do so, which caused a great deal of harm done in his name by the church (think Inquisition, crusades, witch hunts, Christian attempts at genocide during the Thirty Years War directed at other Christian groups, Slavery, the treatment of women, and denial of the democratic ideals of the freedom of religion and of expression). But in other areas through good sound Biblical scholarship we can discern what the Biblical authors probably meant to say. Take for instance their claim that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. We know this is simply ignorant.

On page 9 Paul Manata faults the book because our claim is that there is no such thing as Christianity (singular), only Christianities (plural), and yet we also claim Christianity (singular) is a delusion. But the fact is that precisely because Christianity is a cultural phenomenon we think all Christianities are a delusion. No version of Christianity can pass the Outsider Test for Faith and we give ample reasons that if extended to other forms of Christianity would debunk them as well.

On that same page Manata claims “the last two chapters have no bearing on whether Christianity is a delusion.” Really? Surely whether Christianity is beneficial to society bears some relationship to whether it’s true. I mean, you really wouldn’t want to hold to something as true from a perfectly good God if it wasn’t beneficial to society, or would you? The point of the last part of TCD addresses this concern, which is a hotly debated one and therefore needed to be addressed. Christianity is not necessary to society. We don’t need it for morality. We don’t need it in politics, as Dr. Avalos shows with regard to Hitler who embraced a particular form of Christianity called “Positive Christianity,” which was responsible for the mass murder of six million Jews. Why would someone want to embrace faith in Christianity if that's what it produced?

Furthermore, the two last chapters in TCD are examples of the delusional thinking Christians have used to defend their faith, so they are indeed relevant to the book as a whole. Christians have repeatedly come along after social/political/scientific changes and claimed it was Christianity that produced these changes. The arguments of the last two chapters show this is not the case, nor is it the case when it comes to the rise of democracy, feminism, environmentalism, and animal rights.

I'll have more to say at a later time. This should be enough for now. If the other contributors want to chime in then that will be their decision. I'll mainly focus on answering their objections to the four chapters I wrote.

To read my next post on their online book click here.

139 comments:

Vinny said...

I find it amazing that some people think this is a good rebuttal to our book.

The Holy Spirit tells them that the arguments in your book are wrong so they know that any rebuttal to it must be good.

Ken Pulliam said...

John,

These guys at Tribalogue are not worthy of a response. First, they are not scholars as were the authors of TCD. Second, because they are not scholars they don't understand the issues involved. They just merely presuppose that their holy book is perfect and that anyone who disagrees is of the devil. Third, any response only gives them credibility.

John W. Loftus said...

Ken in many ways I agree with you. They are basically ignorant of their own ignorance. And yet within the space of ten hours their ebook has generated over twelve links.

Christians will think that our silence means defeat. You know that.

But I understand your perspective and the others who wrote chapters for TCD. This is just me. I aim to take their credibility away from them before I'm done.

Cheers.

Victor Reppert said...

Actually, I'm told Engwer is not a Calvinist.

Jason Engwer said...

Victor is correct. I'm not a Calvinist.

And since John has claimed that we don't show "any respect at all" and "heap abuse", I'll remind the readers of some of Richard Carrier's comments in a blog thread about The Christian Delusion. He referred to Christians as "delusional", referred to "mowing them down", and told us that he's going to "be mean", among other things. In the same thread, John Loftus referred to another commenter as "deluded" and "brainwashed". That's one thread. They've made similar comments in other places.

That doesn't mean we at Triablogue can't be criticized if we're wrong (in how we treat other people or in some other way). But John's objections to our behavior should be read in light of his own behavior.

And I would suggest that people read The Infidel Delusion and contrast it to the approach Ken Pulliam claims we take. Ken should explain why he considers men like John Loftus and Ed Babinski scholars in a way that's relevant to the current context, and he should explain why the authors are encouraging non-scholars to read their book if only scholars can understand the issues.

NW Ohio Skeptic said...

John,

I was a Calvinist for many years. I know Calvinism inside and out. One thing I have noticed when Calvinism is critiqued or condemned, Calvinists love to say that "it is evident that the writer doesn't know anything about Calvinism."

Evidently, only the elect can really understand Calvinism. :) Must be point #6.

Don't spend too much time with Tribalogue. To quote the Bible.......don't cast your pearls before swine.

Bruce

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

It is rather weird that the only person over on Triablogue I have some respect for is Engwer. I suppose correlation isn't causation though, in terms of Calvinism. Interesting though.

Rob R said...

First, they are not scholars as were the authors of TCD. Second, because they are not scholars they don't understand the issues involved.

That's all good and well for scholars who want to focus on the discussion in the journals, through texts written to other scholars and upon their students. It's another story for those who write specifically for the layman and even intend to be directly accessible to the laymen through a medium such as a blog.

Neal said...

"this is such a nice version of Christianity developed by angry men for angry men, isn't it?"

What is evident from this posting is that the only one who appears to be angry is you.

"Over and over we read where atheists have no right to make moral judgments if there are no absolute objective morals. This is simply false. They are ignorant to say otherwise. But this is true of most Christians."

I see you are a graduate of the Dan Aykroyd school of argumentation.

“Then too, the authors are Calvinists which I think is a reprehensible theology, as I posted here.”

You'd think that someone who touts the importance of scholarly creds wouldn't make such an amateurish mistake as engaging in ad hominem fallacies. Or maybe you are just giving us autobiographical information here on your psychological makeup? What is not clear is what if anything it has to do with the truth or falsity of Christianity. You seem to think any argument from a Calvinist can be dismissed at the outset by the mere fact that it came from a Calvinist. In fact, this whole posting is nothing more than one ad hominem attack after another. Epic FAIL.

"Over and over the authors contrast their brand of Christianity with atheism which is left undefined but understood by them to be equivalent to metaphysical naturalism. I don't think they truly know what atheism is, as I explained right here, and again here."

Most people understand atheism as the belief that there is no God. Metaphysical naturalism is a consequence of atheism as it is usually defined. Your links failed to make any distinctions between atheism and metaphysical naturalism. As Hays said, metaphysical naturalism is a euphemism for atheism. If you disagree, how does atheism not entail metaphysical naturalism? And does not metaphysical naturalism entail methodological naturalism? It seems that you are merely attempting to escape some criticisms here.

"Besides, the options before us are not between their brand of conservative Calvinism and non-belief. The options are myriad with everything in-between. There is Arminianism, moderate and liberal Christianities, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, and many eastern religions to choose from."

But you titled your book "The CHRISTIAN Delusion". Why should they be concerned about all these other religions in a refutation of a book that purports to be a critique of Christianity? And why should they respond to it in terms of what they consider to be weaker and heretical forms of Christianity?

continued

Neal said...

"So it really does not make a whit of difference who is making a particular argument against their brand of Christianity. The argument either stands on its own or not."

Hypocrisy. This coming from someone who thinks he can dismiss Calvinists because he doesn't like "their brand" of Christianity.

"They cannot assert, for instance, that an atheist cannot make this or that kind of argument because he has no standard for morality, since Process Theologians can make that same argument as can Arminians like Christian philosopher Victor Reppert (which they have repeatedly attacked) or liberals like James McGrath."

I thought you just said the argument stands or falls on its own, regardless of who makes it? Why do you bring up irrelevancies? Do atheists have an objective standard of morality or not? What process theologians and liberals have to say about Calvinism has no bearing on that question.

"In areas where it’s obvious we should expect a perfectly good God to communicate his will better, he didn’t do so, which caused a great deal of harm done in his name by the church (think Inquisition, crusades, witch hunts, Christian attempts at genocide during the Thirty Years War directed at other Christian groups, Slavery, the treatment of women, and denial of the democratic ideals of the freedom of religion and of expression)."

This argument is incoherent until you can demonstrate that you have an objective standard of morality by which you can judge all those things as evil. Until you can demonstrate that, your objection to those things amounts to little more than your personal preferences.

"On that same page Manata claims “the last two chapters have no bearing on whether Christianity is a delusion.” Really? Surely whether Christianity is beneficial to society bears some relationship to whether it’s true. I mean, you really wouldn’t want to hold to something as true from a perfectly good God if it wasn’t beneficial to society, or would you?"

Pragmatism is not a standard of truth. Something can be useful but be totally false. In order to determine whether something is "beneficial" or not, you have to have some objective criteria by which you can judge what is and is not beneficial. And atheism provides no objective criteria whatsoever. So even here Christianity is superior in that it provides objective foundations for society. The gulag was "useful" in Stalin's Russia as were the gas chambers in Hitler's Germany. Do you think these men did not have what they considered to be valid moral justifications? They each had a view of what would benefit their respective societies that I assume conflicts with yours. Why should yours prevail?

Jim said...

Neal,

And atheism provides no objective criteria whatsoever. So even here Christianity is superior in that it provides objective foundations for society.

Sorry, Christianity doesn't provide any objective foundations for society, either, except perhaps purely "within" Christian society.

There seems to be no evidence of any actual absolute objective morality. The universe doesn't care what Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or the Inquisition did.

Within human society, we have determined certain "objective measures." Take the length of the meter, for example. The length of the meter is only as good as HUMANS desire to accept OTHER HUMANS declaration of the standard.

If a group of humans decides to have a different standard for length (the "foot" or "yard") they are free to come up with their own objective standard for their group. Or they can redefine the length of the "meter" for their own group. What they CAN'T do is redefine the "meter" for a different group.

What Christians have done, allegorically is subjectively decided on the nature of a GOD who decides what the length of the meter is and then claim that they have the ultimate OBJECTIVE foundation for the definition of a meter.

You see what Christians are doing? They are simply using the creative power of their mind to invent something (SUBJECTIVELY) and using that creation as a foundation for OBJECTIVITY.

It's quicksand . . .

mindyourmind said...

A self-published collection of musings and polemics, set against a professional, scholarly work published by a respected publishing house.

You have to love the internet and some of its apologetic "e-books". What it lacks in content, philosophical integrity and intellectual value it certainly makes up for in sheer entertainment.

And is there a reason why Christian authors (well, in the wide sense of the word) always rip off the original title of the atheist work?

Michael said...

In a previous post, John Loftus challenges ‘wannabe apologists’ to write a critique of his book. Well it appears that a ‘wannabe apologist’ has risen to the challenge. So what does John do? Contradict himself and agree with Ken Pulliam that these non-scholars are just wasting their time responding to the challenge he himself set! If the issues in your book are too complicated for non-scholars to understand then why are you marketing it towards a non-scholarly audience?

I wasn’t going to read the Infidel Delusion but having seen how bad John’s response to it is I thought I’d give it a whirl. Having read the first couple of chapters it looks like you’ve done an excellent job in destroying The Christian Delusion. I can see why John is trying to put his readers off reading it!

Neal said...

You have to love the internet and some of its denizens who think that ad hominem attacks on those answering attacks on Christianity substitutes for actual arguments.

And is there a reason why Atheist authors (well, in the wide sense of the word) always rip off the original title of other atheist works? And then instruct its readers to "forget" the author whom from whom they ripped it off via a blurb on the back of the book!

Neal said...

"Sorry, Christianity doesn't provide any objective foundations for society, either, except perhaps purely "within" Christian society."

Well, that's a no-brainer. Obviously if a society doesn't adopt Christian principles it is not going to have any objective foundations, which is kind of the point.

"There seems to be no evidence of any actual absolute objective morality. The universe doesn't care what Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or the Inquisition did."

Exactly! So why do atheists bring these things up as an objection to Christianity. The universe doesn't care, so there is no objective standard by which to judge these things as bad.

"Within human society, we have determined certain "objective measures." Take the length of the meter, for example. The length of the meter is only as good as HUMANS desire to accept OTHER HUMANS declaration of the standard."

You are not talking about objective standards here. These are subjective standards. But you need objective standards in order for subjective standards to be meaningful.

"What Christians have done, allegorically is subjectively decided on the nature of a GOD who decides what the length of the meter is and then claim that they have the ultimate OBJECTIVE foundation for the definition of a meter."

I see what you are saying here, and I understand why someone who is not a Christian would think that. But its a hasty assessment. The point is unless one has a revelational epistemology, there can never be ANY objective standards.

"You see what Christians are doing? They are simply using the creative power of their mind to invent something (SUBJECTIVELY) and using that creation as a foundation for OBJECTIVITY. It's quicksand . . ."

It's not quicksand if in fact your assumptions about Christians inventing God are false and they really do have a revelation from a God that exists. From an atheist's perspective, it's quicksand because everything on an atheist's perspective is quicksand. It does no good for someone who is sitting in quicksand to insist that the person standing on solid ground tossing a lifeline out to him is also in quicksand. To his perspective it might appear that way but if he doesn't grab hold of the lifeline he is certainly going to sink and die. Quicksand is an apt analogy, which is the point of the parable of of the wise man who built his house on the rock and the fool who built his house on sand.

mindyourmind said...

Michael -

How does John's invitation for a critique of the book now all of a sudden equate to an excuse, an acceptance of the sloppy, schoolboy-level apologetics that we see in ID?

Neal -

I take it you read ID. Have you noticed any ad homs? Even other Christian writers have commented on it, so please spare us the feigned injury.

TCD is a refinement, a specialized next step in the efforts at establishing rational thought. As such the possible reference to TGD makes perfect sense. Christian authors however simply blatantly ride on the coat-tails of popular atheist books by ripping off the titles.

But let's see what ID manages to do to the importance of TCD. In TCD I sense a reasoned response to old Christian canards, a thoughtful response to age old arguments used by apologists. In the ID I just sense a level of panic.

Let's see where this goes.

Neal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Neal,

Well, that's a no-brainer. Obviously if a society doesn't adopt Christian principles it is not going to have any objective foundations, which is kind of the point.

You're confusing "limited objectivity" with "absolute objectivity."

I will only speak for myself: This atheist believes that there ARE objective foundations--it's just that they are limited in nature and not universal and absolute.

The universe doesn't care whether we drive on the right side of the road, or the left side of the road. But in the U.S., we have used our human subjectivity to decide (rather arbitrarily) that ALL DRIVERS MUST DRIVE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD. Now we have a (limited) objective standard against which to measure the behavior of drivers. Those who don't match the (limited) objective standard are issued tickets or have their licenses taken away.

But we didn't need to have a "revelational epistemology" to know what to make the (limited) objective standard.

(Or perhaps you can enlighten me on the revelational epistemology that the U.S. uses versus the revelational epistemology that Britain uses causing us to adopt different "foundational objective standards" regarding which side of the road to drive on?)

The same concept is in play with regards to theft, murder, banking regulations, or anything you claim has to do with morality.

Muslims in the recent past have used their "revelational epistemology" to decide that Jews should have their heads cut off and filmed for everyone to watch.

This is what you don't get: REVELATIONAL EPISTEMOLOGY IS SUBJECTIVE!

You are using subjective epistemology to claim ABSOLUTE objective standards. You can only use them to claim LIMITED objective standards for those who choose to belong to your community, as well as powerless individuals (like children) who do not have the ability to choose.

But the rest of us do NOT need revelational epistemology to institute limited objective standards of behavior.

Even if there were a God, His will would still be limited in scope. We could be subject to his wrath, but it wouldn't make his standard absolute because it only exists in HIS WILL and not part of MY WILL. (Or do I not have free will?)

Jim said...

Neal,

(part 1 of 2)

Well, that's a no-brainer. Obviously if a society doesn't adopt Christian principles it is not going to have any objective foundations, which is kind of the point.

You're confusing "limited objectivity" with "absolute objectivity."

I will only speak for myself: This atheist believes that there ARE objective foundations--it's just that they are limited in nature and not universal and absolute.

The universe doesn't care whether we drive on the right side of the road, or the left side of the road. But in the U.S., we have used our human subjectivity to decide (rather arbitrarily) that ALL DRIVERS MUST DRIVE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD. Now we have a (limited) objective standard against which to measure the behavior of drivers. Those who don't match the (limited) objective standard are issued tickets or have their licenses taken away.

But we didn't need to have a "revelational epistemology" to know what to make the (limited) objective standard.

(Or perhaps you can enlighten me on the revelational epistemology that the U.S. uses versus the revelational epistemology that Britain uses causing us to adopt different "foundational objective standards" regarding which side of the road to drive on?)

The same concept is in play with regards to theft, murder, banking regulations, or anything you claim has to do with morality.

Jim said...

(part 2 of 2)

Muslims in the recent past have used their "revelational epistemology" to decide that Jews should have their heads cut off and filmed for everyone to watch.

This is what you don't get: REVELATIONAL EPISTEMOLOGY IS SUBJECTIVE!

You are using subjective epistemology to claim ABSOLUTE objective standards. You can only use them to claim LIMITED objective standards for those who choose to belong to your community, as well as powerless individuals (like children) who do not have the ability to choose.

But the rest of us do NOT need revelational epistemology to institute limited objective standards of behavior.

Even if there were a God, His will would still be limited in scope. We could be subject to his wrath, but it wouldn't make his standard absolute because it only exists in HIS WILL and not part of MY WILL. (Or do I not have free will?)

Jim said...

Neal,

Exactly! So why do atheists bring these things up as an objection to Christianity. The universe doesn't care, so there is no objective standard by which to judge these things as bad.

This was your response to one of my paragraphs with "absolute objective standards" in it.

See how you switched to generic "objective standard" in your response? So you didn't attack my position, but a different position (the strawman fallacy).

WE HUMANS develop the "objective standard" using reason and to some extent subjective desires. These objective standards are limited in scope to those whom the society has influence over. But they are still objective.

You are not talking about objective standards here. These are subjective standards. But you need objective standards in order for subjective standards to be meaningful.

Your confusing ideas here. The "standard" is objective. It's black and white. The decision about whether a particular action meets the requirement of the standard may be subjective. The decision about whether something matches the "meter standard" may be subjective. But the "standard meter" or "standard foot" is still objective.

Where is the glossary section of the Bible where the objective standard for murder is defined?

1. Is it murder if I kill someone who is lunging at me with a knife?
2. How about if he just tripped and fell toward me?
3. Is it murder to kill innocent civilians in war?
4. How about if the nation never actually attacked you, but you thought it might attack you in several years?

What objective standard does "revelational epistemology" lead to in this case?

Are you sure it's not your subjective interpretation of the revelation itself?

Michael said...

Mindyourmind – thanks for providing a perfect example of why I find new atheist responses to Christian literature somewhat lacking. You assert that The Infidel Delusion is sloppy schoolboy apologetics, you assert that The Christian Delusion is the next step in rational thought (rather than a step back) and you assert that The Infidel Delusion is just a panic. What you don’t do is provide any arguments or evidence to back your assertions up. Yeah, the John Loftus fan club will applaud you however winning the vote of those who already agree with you is hardly an achievement. Pretending that people who disagree with you aren’t well read and scholarly enough etc might convince a lot of people...but then so did the emperor’s new clothes.

Neal said...

"You're confusing "limited objectivity" with "absolute objectivity."

So-called "limited objectivity" is a contradiction in terms, and "absolute objectivity" is a redundancy in my view. I take limited objectivity as a synonym for cultural relativism, which is anything but objective.


"(Or perhaps you can enlighten me on the revelational epistemology that the U.S. uses versus the revelational epistemology that Britain uses causing us to adopt different "foundational objective standards" regarding which side of the road to drive on?)"

I never claimed those were objective standards.

"The same concept is in play with regards to theft, murder, banking regulations, or anything you claim has to do with morality."

Is it? Are you willing to go to the mat with that one? Do you recall what was the Nuremberg defense? Are you willing to stipulate that our cultural preference that we don't kill people for having the wrong religion may not be applicable outside of our culture's jurisdiction?

Neal said...

"Muslims in the recent past have used their "revelational epistemology" to decide that Jews should have their heads cut off and filmed for everyone to watch."

On your position, what's your point? What's your basis for assuming that Jews ought not to have their heads cut off and filmed for everyone to watch? Aren't you assuming something more here than a "limited" objective standard?

"This is what you don't get: REVELATIONAL EPISTEMOLOGY IS SUBJECTIVE!"

Trust me, I understand exactly what you are saying. I just disagree. I will agree that revelational epistemologies are subjectively adopted, but that fact alone has no bearing on whether or not any given revelation is true or false. It is part of my worldview that God is able to effectually communicate his revelation to man. Of course, you will reject that claim, but what then are you left with? Appeals to "limited objectivity" which you have admitted are arbitrary standards, which leaves no basis for condemning crusades, inquisitions, holocausts, or Muslims cutting off people's heads.

"Even if there were a God, His will would still be limited in scope. We could be subject to his wrath, but it wouldn't make his standard absolute because it only exists in HIS WILL and not part of MY WILL. (Or do I not have free will?)"

You're getting into another subject, but now I should stipulate that I'm a Calvinist. So no, you do not have free will if what you mean by that is libertarian free will.

Neal said...

"See how you switched to generic "objective standard" in your response? So you didn't attack my position, but a different position (the strawman fallacy)."

Okay, so substitute "absolute objective standards" if you prefer. It doesn't change the point.

"WE HUMANS develop the "objective standard" using reason and to some extent subjective desires. These objective standards are limited in scope to those whom the society has influence over. But they are still objective."

I think we've dealt with this already, but I'll go ahead and use your terminology. How exactly do limited objective standards provide any basis for condemning crusades, inquisitions, holocausts, etc.?

"Where is the glossary section of the Bible where the objective standard for murder is defined?"

Have you not read the decalogue, and the case law in the OT? There is plenty of information available on these questions.

"Are you sure it's not your subjective interpretation of the revelation itself?"

I'm not sure what you are suggesting here. That humans are not capable of rationally understanding objective standards? Where does that leave your "limited" objective standards?

Jim said...

Neal,

On your position, what's your point? What's your basis for assuming that Jews ought not to have their heads cut off and filmed for everyone to watch? Aren't you assuming something more here than a "limited" objective standard?

A mixture of empathy and selfishness, I suppose. I don't need to assume anything. Science has shown that we have what are called "mirror neurons" in our brain. They make us, in a sense, "feel" what others are experiencing. I don't want to get my head sawed off slowly--my mirror neurons fire just thinking about it.

It's all biology and most likely a product of our evolutionary past--no God required.

And it's not an absolute objective standard, but with enough people to agree with me, we can make sawing people's heads off based on their religious beliefs "objectively wrong." People under our influence are subject to our defined standard. Again, no God required.

The Bible condoned slavery because the people that created it dehumanized their fellow humans. If you weren't in the right tribe, you weren't the "same." Blacks were dehumanized in the same way during the slavery era. The mirror neurons and empathy failed until we started thinking about blacks and ALL fellow humans as equal to us. All of which is not a biblical concept. We had to get beyond the bible . . .

Jim said...

Neal,

So-called "limited objectivity" is a contradiction in terms, and "absolute objectivity" is a redundancy in my view. I take limited objectivity as a synonym for cultural relativism, which is anything but objective.

Well, you already know that I think that God's will (including his objectivity) is not absolute, so using your logic above, God is a contradiction in terms.

Using your above logic again, God is, in a sense, a cultural relativism--which is what we have been claiming all along.

GearHedEd said...

Neal said,

"...Something can be useful but be totally false..."

Like Christianity? That's as good an example as one could ever hope for.

Jim said...

Neal,

Have you not read the decalogue, and the case law in the OT? There is plenty of information available on these questions.

You're kind of skirting the question here . . .

The decalogue (Ten Commandments?) simply says "Though shalt not kill" or "Though shalt not murder" depending on the translation.

What's the definition of murder?

Using your "case law" assertion, can you outline reasons why the U.S. military invasion of Iraq (just as an example) would or would not be judged as murder? How about the deaths of civilians?

Do you think that this "case law" can provide a definitive answer in all cases today without relying on human subjectivity?

Can you prove that the "case law" was not the product of human subjectivity and then written down in a collection of books that another human subjectively chose to label "The Word of God?"

I know at some point we're just going to go around and around. It's probably fruitless, but at least it's mildly entertaining . . .

Jim said...

Neal,

I think we've dealt with this already, but I'll go ahead and use your terminology. How exactly do limited objective standards provide any basis for condemning crusades, inquisitions, holocausts, etc.?

Your confusing categories.

The basis for condemning crusades comes from our desire and will. I've already discussed mirror neurons and empathy, so I won't repeat that.

The objective standard is simply something we create using our creative power to communicate to other humans within the sphere of influence how they must behave in the society. That way, other humans know what is acceptable and what is not. It's objective because we can measure their behavior against the standard.

Yes, we are imperfect humans. Perhaps we don't always communicate the "objective standards" in the perfect manner. Someone may interpret the standard differently than the intent. Sometimes the judges allow subjectivity to creep in when deciding whether the behavior has met the objective standard, but we do our best.

Neal said...

"A mixture of empathy and selfishness, I suppose. I don't need to assume anything. Science has shown that we have what are called "mirror neurons" in our brain. They make us, in a sense, "feel" what others are experiencing. I don't want to get my head sawed off slowly--my mirror neurons fire just thinking about it."

So you are an advocate of physicalism then? You hold to atheism not because it is rational or true, but rather that you couldn't help but do that. Your beliefs are a product of the neurons firing in your brain, right? Appeals to logic and rationality contra Christianity is just tilting at windmills.

"It's all biology and most likely a product of our evolutionary past--no God required."

If that's true, why argue that atheism is rational at all? Why argue anything at all, and why should anyone take your arguments seriously?

"And it's not an absolute objective standard, but with enough people to agree with me, we can make sawing people's heads off based on their religious beliefs "objectively wrong."

But why would we want to do that? The neurons firing in your brain are telling you its wrong? So what?

"People under our influence are subject to our defined standard. Again, no God required."

Except that those who advocate such things are growing in numbers, and those who don't prefer such things are losing ground. Just look at the state of Europe. At the present rate it will be completely Islamic within half a century.

"The mirror neurons and empathy failed until we started thinking about blacks and ALL fellow humans as equal to us."

What do you mean "failed"? According to what criteria? What thinking? On your view its all about neurons firing in the brain. Thinking is an illusion.

Neal said...

"Well, you already know that I think that God's will (including his objectivity) is not absolute, so using your logic above, God is a contradiction in terms."

The contradiction is in your own definitions, not mine.

"Using your above logic again, God is, in a sense, a cultural relativism--which is what we have been claiming all along."

Only if you are a cultural relativist--which I am not.

Jim said...

What do you mean "failed"? According to what criteria? What thinking? On your view its all about neurons firing in the brain. Thinking is an illusion.

According to my criteria. It failed to the person experiencing the suffering (the slave) and it failed to me (who experiences the suffering through mirror neurons and empathy). We both feel pain--mental anguish. Calling mental anguish an illusion is ridiculous.

It didn't fail in an absolute sense because I keep telling you there is no absolute morality.

Look, just like an amoeba moving away from a negative physical stimulus, we as humans can attempt to influence the environment to prevent negative mental stimuli, too. That's one of the reasons we as humans in a society create objective standards of behavior applicable to people within that society. It helps us avoid future negative physical and mental stimuli.

Whether the "thinking" required to create the standard is from a purely reductionist physicalist unfolding of the physical laws is something I don't know--maybe we'll never know. But then, neither will you. Scientists have their sleeves rolled up right now trying to figure out the theory of mind. It's religious people that make the bold claim that they've got it all figured out.

Allowing other humans to claim that the mind is independent of the brain without compelling evidence is another negative mental stimulus.

Allowing other humans to attribute undesirable moral standards to unprovable beings is not useful to me--and that's all that matters to me right now.

If I die and your version of this "God" exists, then I'll deal with that then. But if I may be smarmy for a bit, I have a feeling he'll congratulate us agnostic atheists as the only ones who used the brain he gave us. I know you don't see it that way.

zenmite said...

"The neurons firing in your brain are telling you its wrong? So what?"

This is probably a complete waste of time, but I'm gonna try;

Neurons do not 'tell' you what to do or what is right or wrong. This would be true only if you are a dualist that believes there's an immaterial soul that is being pushed or pulled around by physical matter...neurons, brains, hormones, etc. When we say "I decided to walk over there" our neurons did not 'cause' us to make this decision or think this thought. The firing of neurons in the brain IS us...IS the very decision to walk or judge right and wrong. It doesn't cause. Saying xyz neurons firing is just another way of saying "decided to walk over there" Just as writing H2O is another way of saying water. The formula H20 does not cause water or any of the properties of water, it describes water. I don't 'have' a brain. I am a brain. There is no 'my' neurons causing me to think or do x. My thinking or doing x IS the firing of neurons and the resultant motor actions. Describing conscious action by referring to brains, neurons or atoms does not alter our freewill or decisions any more than choosing to describe water as H20 takes away it's wetness or ability to quench thirst.

Neal said...

"What's the definition of murder?"

It's the unjust taking of life. Not that I am claiming the bible tells us in those exact words, but it can be inferred from the decalogue and the accompanying case law. You seem to want some kind of wikipedia like answer. But the bible doesn't give wikipedia answers. It gives broad princples, example case law on its application, and yes, it requires effort to apply it in modern contexts. But then so does the Constitution, so that is not a defect.

"Using your "case law" assertion, can you outline reasons why the U.S. military invasion of Iraq (just as an example) would or would not be judged as murder? How about the deaths of civilians?"

The deaths of civilians are an unfortunate consequence of war, and while regrettable, is not the main issue. Now, application of Biblical principles on whether a particular war is just has been addressed througout Christian history going back to Augustine.

"Do you think that this "case law" can provide a definitive answer in all cases today without relying on human subjectivity?"

Application of law by nessesity has a subjective dimension to it. But that's a different question than whether or not there is an absolute objective law on which to base those subjective applications.

"Can you prove that the "case law" was not the product of human subjectivity and then written down in a collection of books that another human subjectively chose to label "The Word of God?"

Depends on what you mean by proof. If "The Word of God" turns out to be the only epistemic position that doesn't undermine rationality, it's in a pretty good position, don't you think? Since by your own arguments you have reduced what you first thought to be thinking and rationality to biological / mechanical processes in the brain, it's pretty clear that your own position does indeed undermine rationality. You now have a choice. Revealational epistemology or irrationality. Now you may still have questions about which revelation is the true one, but clearly the so-called "default" position of atheism is untenable on your own terms.

Neal said...

"The basis for condemning crusades comes from our desire and will. I've already discussed mirror neurons and empathy, so I won't repeat that."

Lets bring this back to a more contemporary example. Jihadists also have a desire and will, which is to spread Islam through terror attacks and lopping off heads. By your logic, their desires are on an equal ethical footing with your desires. If they can succeed with such methods, why shouldn't they?

"The objective standard is simply something we create using our creative power to communicate to other humans within the sphere of influence how they must behave in the society. That way, other humans know what is acceptable and what is not. It's objective because we can measure their behavior against the standard."

Until your society comes up against a stronger more aggressive society that doesn't share your standard.

mindyourmind said...

Michael -

What arguments do you want us to use here, in a limited blog format? The arguments have been made, in TCD and now in TID. We are commenting on those efforts.

If you want us to try and discuss arguments here, what for example is your suggested solution to the problem of animal suffering as described by John?

I really find your whining about the treatment you are getting a bit rich, after the insulting (if content-free) tone of large swathes of TID. Commenting on the scholarly credentials and academic rigour and skills, or lack thereof, of a project under review is a perfectly valid point of discussion. Read TID again and you will find many an example.

If you want a specific debate why don't you respond to, for example, my view that TID is an amateurish, low-rent self-published "internet expert" effort? Show us why that view is an incorrect one.

Neal said...

"According to my criteria. It failed to the person experiencing the suffering (the slave) and it failed to me (who experiences the suffering through mirror neurons and empathy). We both feel pain--mental anguish. Calling mental anguish an illusion is ridiculous."

Why is it ridiculous? The universe doesn't care about your pain and mental anguish. On your view pain and mental anguish are not things to be avoided, they just are. Why shouldn't people who like to inflict pain on the weak do so? Can they even refrain from doing so on your physicalist reduction?

"Look, just like an amoeba moving away from a negative physical stimulus, we as humans can attempt to influence the environment to prevent negative mental stimuli, too."

This is incoherent. What do you mean by an attempt to influence? Something like a will that acts independently of the physical stimulus?

"That's one of the reasons we as humans in a society create objective standards of behavior applicable to people within that society. It helps us avoid future negative physical and mental stimuli."

That's an interesting reconstruction of events from an atheist's perspective, but most people are not atheists so your explanation is somewhat dubious. On your own terms religion is a perfectly reasonable way for humans to deal with physical stimuli. Criticizing it is again, tilting at windmills. Who are you to criticize the neurons firing in the brains of 99% of the human population? The fact that yours don't happen to fire in that way suggests that it might just be your neurons that are malfunctioning.

"Whether the "thinking" required to create the standard is from a purely reductionist physicalist unfolding of the physical laws is something I don't know--maybe we'll never know. But then, neither will you. Scientists have their sleeves rolled up right now trying to figure out the theory of mind. It's religious people that make the bold claim that they've got it all figured out."

Your blind faith in science is spectacular. But then again, you couldn't help but have blind faith in irrational processes, could you?

"Allowing other humans to claim that the mind is independent of the brain without compelling evidence is another negative mental stimulus."

What "compelling evidence" could possibly have any effect on non-rational physical processes? Why do you continue to argue at all? Your continuing to argue the case is like a green rock arguing against a blue rock that rocks ought not be blue.

Neal said...

"This is probably a complete waste of time,"

I agree. Why you think your neurons are right and mine are wrong is a complete waste of time.

"but I'm gonna try;"

Interesting that...

"Neurons do not 'tell' you what to do or what is right or wrong. This would be true only if you are a dualist that believes there's an immaterial soul that is being pushed or pulled around by physical matter...neurons, brains, hormones, etc."

Work with me on this. It's not as though I don't understand what you are saying. The point is that to argue at all is to assume that there is rationality, i.e. immaterial entities that can't be reduced to physical properties. When I say "the neurons firing in your brain are telling you its wrong", it's a tongue in cheek way of exploiting this tension in the atheist's worldview. If everything is reducible to physical processes, there is no rationality, or rather everything is rational and irrational at the same time. Physical processes are what they are, and you can't pretend that one person is thinking rationally while another is not. It's all physical processes.

"There is no 'my' neurons causing me to think or do x."

There's also no "me", so you should stop talking like there is.

"Describing conscious action by referring to brains, neurons or atoms does not alter our freewill or decisions any more than choosing to describe water as H20 takes away it's wetness or ability to quench thirst."

Only if you define "freewill" in a way in which it is not free. You are confusing categories. If everything is reducible to physical properties, "freewill" is a non-sequiter.

Gandolf said...

John Loftus said-"In areas where it’s obvious we should expect a perfectly good God to communicate his will better, he didn’t do so, which caused a great deal of harm done in his name by the church (think Inquisition, crusades, witch hunts, Christian attempts at genocide during the Thirty Years War directed at other Christian groups, Slavery, the treatment of women, and denial of the democratic ideals of the freedom of religion and of expression)."

Neal said-"This argument is incoherent until you can demonstrate that you have an objective standard of morality by which you can judge all those things as evil. Until you can demonstrate that, your objection to those things amounts to little more than your personal preferences."

What seems incoherent to me is that Neal feels some objective standard of morality is needed.What rubbish and great stupidity it is even suggesting that its only little more than Johns personal preference.Didnt anyone remind Neal, humans are actually social beings and tend to live in groups.And while we have different personalities,just the same we all have a brain to make good use of and many decisions about matters that effect us all,are not! decided by "personal preference" at all.It becomes by decision of the group.

And there is actually a fair few people in this world who do pretty much agree with John and all think maybe, "we should expect a perfectly good God to communicate his will better" .So Neals very wrong,its not just about Johns personal preferences at all.

Human life often has very little to do with mere personal preference.

Thinking that maybe we should expect a perfectly good God to communicate his will better ,comes down more to using logic and common sense.Thats all.Why does Neal rattle on about needing a standard of objective morality to dicide that?.Does matters of morality change whether humans find Gods directions hard or easy?.

No it dont.

Moralitys got nothing to do with it.The fact remains Neal,unless God wished to make matters very difficult and help cause all the problems that ended up happening ...Johns correct ...God would have been best to supply much better directions and communicate his will far better for humans than he did.

As a calvinist you can claim it was Gods right to do as he pleased,in your Calvinist twisted way.And maybe still try and claim some how God was still kind and good and loving,and a good father etc.

But that matter dont change the logic and common sense of the fact, God would have definitely been best to supply humans far better directions! and communicate his will better! ...To help humans not get involved in witch hunts and genocide and slavery etc.

The fact we see that it didnt happen.Tends to suggest Gods were very likely not involved in the directions.The directions are far better fitting to humans.

Gandolf said...

Neal said-"The gulag was "useful" in Stalin's Russia as were the gas chambers in Hitler's Germany. Do you think these men did not have what they considered to be valid moral justifications? They each had a view of what would benefit their respective societies that I assume conflicts with yours. Why should yours prevail?"

No i cant see that either Stalins gulags or Hitlers gas chambers were really so "useful" to them at all.For starters it didnt do much for public relations with other countries.Neither did it leave either country with a very good legacy to remember.Infact both countrys still have Calvinists like you poking fun at them, why is that useful?.

Gandolf said...

Neal said...
"Sorry, Christianity doesn't provide any objective foundations for society, either, except perhaps purely "within" Christian society."

Well, that's a no-brainer. Obviously if a society doesn't adopt Christian principles it is not going to have any objective foundations, which is kind of the point."

No i think maybe you miss the point Neal,there seems little to suggest Christian objective foundations are actually anymore objective foundations, than anyone elses are.

The fact that many people might tend to agree with many of them ,is far more relative, to all humans,all being humans, with brains that more often than not think much alike, and feelings that more often than not feel alike also.Which is why we often tend to agree on many matters, we then call these objective foundations.

Christians make these silly claims that atheists have no objective standard by which to judge matters.Yet when ever atheist ask Christians what objective standard they might use,Christians simply point to the "Christian" bible ...Which is written by Christian

In effect what Christians are trying to say, is Atheist have no right to judge,but Christians can?.

And thats no more objective standard than anyone elses is.And its a mighty bigoted! view to take, in my opinion.

Its not at all any given fact, that the holy bible is actually honestly word of any God ,remember Neal!.

Infact it even looks mighty like its only very human.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal, there is nothing in principle that forbids evolution from evolving a creature that makes internal representations of reality with its neurons and is able to behave based on whether the internal representation matches external reality, and once that happens, voila, we have empirical validation that 2+2=4 because I put two apples in a bag, and then two more, and now I have four apples, as well as a neuronal encoding of what happened (2 apples + 2 apples gives me four apples) which generalizes (2+2=4). And the same organ that encodes the generalization of the external reality also controls the behavior of the organism.

No immaterial entities required. Better living through chemicals.

If you reply, you might consider whether some animals have immaterial souls, as they can demonstrate the ability to use abstract representations or generalizations.

Or shall we give animals souls too? Some animals use abstract thought.

Jim said...

It's the unjust taking of life.

First of all, thanks for answering the questions I posed, but I feel like your answers made my point.

So now we continue down the slippery slope . . . Where's the biblical definition of unjust? Let me guess, it's like porn and Calvinists just know it when they see it?

You seem to want some kind of wikipedia like answer.

Yes! That's what makes it objective! If there is no definitive black and white answer for all issues, then there is no "perfectly absolute objective standard." That's what makes the Bible such a human endeavor with no supernatural input--it requires too much subjectivity. Yes, I know, the Calvinists have it all figured out--just let them run things.

"Thou shalt not murder" doesn't help in the slightest as an "objective standard."

To be purely objective, you need a perfectly communicated set of standards, a perfect sentient being who can understand the standards and a perfectly functioning justice system with no subjectivity (i.e. no human involvement).

Jim said...

You now have a choice. Revelational epistemology or irrationality.

Hmmmm, a false dichotomy, how can I possibly win an argument against that?

Jim said...

Why is it ridiculous? The universe doesn't care about your pain and mental anguish. On your view pain and mental anguish are not things to be avoided, they just are. Why shouldn't people who like to inflict pain on the weak do so? Can they even refrain from doing so on your physicalist reduction?

2 Reasons:

1. Their own sense of empathy, or
2. Punishment under the law.

If their own empathy fails to prevent them from harming someone, then they at least must consider the personal harm and punishment that they will have to endure.

That's it. You're right that the universe doesn't care--but the person himself will care unless they are sociopathic or psychopathic like John Calvin arguably was.

To your last question, I don't know whether we can stop doing what we do. It's an interesting question for science and philosophy. If it's all reductionist, then this futile discussion is simply what we were destined to do from the time of the Big Bang . . . so be it. But right now, it appears that I have free will, so I'm going with it. I'll wait for more scientific research to come in.

Jim said...

Lets bring this back to a more contemporary example. Jihadists also have a desire and will, which is to spread Islam through terror attacks and lopping off heads. By your logic, their desires are on an equal ethical footing with your desires. If they can succeed with such methods, why shouldn't they?

Once again, to the universe, they are in a sense under equal ethical footing because there are no ethical footings.

But I'm not the category: Universe.

I'm in the category: Person
(a part of the universe)

I get to decide what is ethical and what is not. If enough people agree with me, then our system of ethics is enforced. If I'm in the minority--I'm subject to the majority will and I get to say the the majority is unethical. I may even be unfairly (using my own definition) punished for acts I find ethical that they do not. Such is human behavior. And the Bible has not helped this situation over the years.

Humans will have different sets of ethics because we have different interests. The humans who concocted the documents of the Bible had a different set of ethics than I.

See my above response regarding your last question about why they shouldn't lop off heads if they simply desire to do so.

Neal said...

"Neal, there is nothing in principle that forbids evolution from evolving a creature that makes internal representations of reality with its neurons and is able to behave based on whether the internal representation matches external reality"

The problem is that the brain could never know that the internal representations actually do represent reality. And on your own position, they actually don't. 99% of the world's population are not atheists, remember? So which is it, do neurons encode reality or don't they? Or are the neurons only working properly in the 1%?

Michael said...

What arguments do you want us to use here, in a limited blog format?
Ah, so that’s what the comment section on this blog is meant for! In which case I've been using it wrongly and better start to simply air my unsubstantiated opinions just like you do. Here we go: gosh, is that the best John Loftus can do? Atheism is even more intellectually bankrupt than I’d previously realised. I would ofcoure back my criticisms up with arguments but the word limit won’t let me.

what for example is your suggested solution to the problem of animal suffering as described by John?
John Loftus isn’t a vegetarian; therefore he participates in the type of animal suffering that he himself condemns. If the worst he can throw at the Bible is asking why is doesn’t prohibit something he himself does all the time then I rest my case.

If you want a specific debate why don't you respond to, for example, my view that TID is an amateurish, low-rent self-published "internet expert" effort?
The posts on Debunking Christianity are also self published, amateurish (John doesn’t get paid for writing them) and written by an ‘Internet expert’ (i.e John is no more qualified to write on most of the subjects he does than the authors of the Infidel Delsuion are) Therefore it is the height of hypocrisy for John and readers of his blog to dismiss a book these reasons.

Neal said...

"Where's the biblical definition of unjust?"

Might I suggest you do a little of your own research? It's not as if its hard to find. In essence Biblical justice relates to God's moral character. That which conforms to God's moral character can be considered to be "just" or "right". Therefore that which is "unjust" are actions that conflict with that moral character. There's much more to be said of course, but there's your starting point.

Neal: You seem to want some kind of wikipedia like answer.

Jim: Yes! That's what makes it objective!

LOL! You're a funny guy!

"If there is no definitive black and white answer for all issues, then there is no "perfectly absolute objective standard."

I never said there were no definitive answers. I said there were broad principles (the norms) that must be applied subjectively to each situation. But there is indeed a definitive, black and white answer that can be arrived at in each situation. It requires one to study and properly apply the broad principles, and it is not always as easy as looking up a wikipedia page, but then neither is application of the Constitution.

""Thou shalt not murder" doesn't help in the slightest as an "objective standard."

Not in the slightest? Then how pray tell could any "limited" objective standard either?

"To be purely objective, you need a perfectly communicated set of standards, a perfect sentient being who can understand the standards and a perfectly functioning justice system with no subjectivity (i.e. no human involvement)."

Christians can account for why people do not perfectly understand and apply the standards. The world is in a fallen state, and the noetic effect of sin has darkened the mind. How do atheists acount for that (granting "limited" objectivity)?

Neal said...

"That's it. You're right that the universe doesn't care--but the person himself will care unless they are sociopathic or psychopathic like John Calvin arguably was."

Exactly who argues this?

"To your last question, I don't know whether we can stop doing what we do. It's an interesting question for science and philosophy."

Actually on your view philosophy reduces to physical processes. Physicalism destroys philosophy. It destroys science too, but we haven't gotten there yet in this discussion.

"If it's all reductionist, then this futile discussion is simply what we were destined to do from the time of the Big Bang . . . so be it."

Which is all I'm saying. Unbelief is futile.

"But right now, it appears that I have free will, so I'm going with it. I'll wait for more scientific research to come in."

You're going to be waiting a long time...

Neal said...

"I get to decide what is ethical and what is not. If enough people agree with me, then our system of ethics is enforced."

The appeal to raw power has worked out well in the last century, hasn't it?

zenmite said...

"Work with me on this. It's not as though I don't understand what you are saying. The point is that to argue at all is to assume that there is rationality, i.e. immaterial entities that can't be reduced to physical properties."

To assume rationality is equal to assuming immaterial entities that can't be reduced to physical properties? You've come to your conclusion before you start. I don't share your premise. I think it is possible for physical human brains to be rational without being inhabited by souls. You go on to say that reducing things to physical processes means we can't determine rational from irrational or right from wrong. This is just like saying reducing our 'description' of water to H20 means you can't satisfy your thirst with it.

By your definition rationality isn't possible without soulism. By your definition freewill is not possible unless some immaterial, ghost or spirit is the one choosing. I'm saying your definitions are faulty. Freewill and determinism is a false dichotomy. If I first define 'moral standard' as something that must come from a particular god, then disbelief in that god 'logically' means there is no moral standard. If I assert that all rationality comes from the FSM, I can pretend that you have no rational basis for your arguments...even those against the FSM, since you don't believe in Him. Circular reasoning.

We're supposed to accept that due to 'the atheist worldview'...whatever that is....we are unable to think rationally or have freewill. There are higher-order complexities that come into play. Physics gives rise to biology which can give rise to mental phenomena. Complexity and order arise from the physical universe itself. I do not see an absolute dichotomy between life and nonlife or between consciousness and unconsciousness. Due to your ideology, you do.

You seem to suggest unless some magical spirits exist (soul and god) there can be no rationality, ethics, meaning or freedom. I suggest that matter itself, when properly organized as a human brain is capable of all of those things...writing this response and judging rational from irrational. Rationality is an abstraction and product of thought. Thought is a higher-level activity of brains like biology is a higher-level activity of physical matter which is a higher level activity of subatomic particles, etc. No magic or spirits required. BTW, if you doubt that rational thought has a very firm physical basis take a large dose of LSD and report back what happens to your immaterial rational thought.

Ryan Anderson said...

Neal said "The appeal to raw power has worked out well in the last century, hasn't it?"

No, but it is what it is.

Neal said...

"I think it is possible for physical human brains to be rational without being inhabited by souls."

Okay so You think it. Prove it.

"You go on to say that reducing things to physical processes means we can't determine rational from irrational or right from wrong. This is just like saying reducing our 'description' of water to H20 means you can't satisfy your thirst with it."

Tell me again how you think your neurons are firing right and mine are wrong? Explain to me how you think someone is being irrational. What's your criteria? Oops, that's right, there are no universal invariant mind-independent criteria that you can appeal to. You've already cut yourself off from that possibility. The only thing you have is your own subjective state of mind. As such you yourself have no idea whether or not you are being rational or irrational.

"By your definition rationality isn't possible without soulism."

No, I've demonstrated it in the arguments that you have ignored.

"If I first define 'moral standard' as something that must come from a particular god, then disbelief in that god 'logically' means there is no moral standard."

Wrong. Disbelief in something doesn't logically entail that it doesn't exist.

"If I assert that all rationality comes from the FSM, I can pretend that you have no rational basis for your arguments...even those against the FSM, since you don't believe in Him."

Except that when atheists are pressed about the particular attributes of the FSM that allow them to account for morality, rationality, science, etc., they always start attributing attributes to it that look suspiciously like the attribuites of the Christian God. Why do you think that is?

"There are higher-order complexities that come into play. Physics gives rise to biology which can give rise to mental phenomena. Complexity and order arise from the physical universe itself."

Assertions are cheap. But you are claiming here something that modern science has disproven except in the mind of an atheist. Complexity and order do not just spontaneously arise, despite assertions to the contrary.

"I suggest that matter itself, when properly organized as a human brain"

What do you mean "properly organized"? Apparently the teleological argument is alive and well.

Gandolf said...

Jim-""To be purely objective, you need a perfectly communicated set of standards, a perfect sentient being who can understand the standards and a perfectly functioning justice system with no subjectivity (i.e. no human involvement)."

Neal- "Christians can account for why people do not perfectly understand and apply the standards. The world is in a fallen state, and the noetic effect of sin has darkened the mind. How do atheists acount for that (granting "limited" objectivity)?"

Atheists can easily understand, obviously humans are not perfect.Why wouldnt they?,they do have a brain ! plus a set of eyes and ears and can experience and learn things just like anyone else.

Its the theists that make some of us wonder how much of their brain is still actually being used,when they ask us these type of silly questions.

Why wouldnt atheists be able to account for these imperfections,please explain why you thought atheism was actually expecting any type of total perfection to actually exist amongst humanity?.

The atheist brain can even accounts for the many imperfections in holy books, like when decisions about stoning people or not stoning people to death,are blatantly seen to have obviously changed over time.We can see it seems obviously "there was no" supernatural objective standards being passed from Gods to men. Explaining to men stoning people to death was kinda immoral, because it was a really slow painful nasty type of long suffering death.

We easily understand it simply took time and experience, for morals to properly evolve from feelings and empathy etc.We know stoning people to death was actually no more moral in the days of old! than it is moral today,but we understand humans needed the time to learn and fully understand this.

How do theist try to account for that imperfection?.They make up more and more mythical stories! and excuses, and try suggesting maybe Gods said it was ok in days of old,but then changed their minds later on or something.

In other words, theists try explaining why people do not perfectly understand and apply the standards, with use of more and more excuses and utter bullshite .

And we atheists notice! the Gods of the objective standard, are never seen to "pop back in" and say, hello humans!,just here to let you all know i did actually get that objective standard wrong! about stoning people! and so did need to change me mind about it .

No they dont.

So we are left with crazy Calvinists,expecting we should still be trusting their twisted and demented angles, for some reason.

zenmite said...

("I think it is possible for physical human brains to be rational without being inhabited by souls.")

Okay so You think it. Prove it.

I can't prove ghosts don't inhabit locomotives either, there's just no reason or evidence to suggest that they do. Same with the brain and souls. There's no evidence for soulism.

The only thing you have is your own subjective state of mind. As such you yourself have no idea whether or not you are being rational or irrational.

Back to solipsism? That's all you have as well, even if you tell yourself otherwise.

("If I first define 'moral standard' as something that must come from a particular god, then disbelief in that god 'logically' means there is no moral standard.")

Wrong. Disbelief in something doesn't logically entail that it doesn't exist.

Sorry. I thought it was clear that I was speaking from the standpoint of a believer. I agree, just as belief in something does not logically entail that it exists. Christians many times assert that there is no objective moral standard without (their) god. So yes, your nonbelief in such a standard outside of your god doesn't entail that it doesn't exist.

Except that when atheists are pressed about the particular attributes of the FSM that allow them to account for morality, rationality, science, etc., they always start attributing attributes to it that look suspiciously like the attribuites of the Christian God. Why do you think that is?

Maybe because the FSM was constructed in order to show the contradictions and circular reasoning inherent in belief in and assertions about the christian god?

(Physics gives rise to biology which can give rise to mental phenomena. Complexity and order arise from the physical universe itself.")

Assertions are cheap. But you are claiming here something that modern science has disproven except in the mind of an atheist.

Modern science has disproven this? I must have missed the memo.

Complexity and order do not just spontaneously arise, despite assertions to the contrary.

You assert that they do not arise spontaneously...errr..so they come from Zeus, Thor, Shiva, Moloch, The Easter Bunny?
I guess I missed this scientific discovery too.

What do you mean "properly organized"?

I mean into cells, neurons, brains and bodies. It's still just matter arranged in a particular way just like DNA is chemicals arranged in a particular order. I mean there's no reason to suggest that magic, spirit, ghosts or supernatural goo are involved.

Gandolf said...

Zenmite said -"You go on to say that reducing things to physical processes means we can't determine rational from irrational or right from wrong. This is just like saying reducing our 'description' of water to H20 means you can't satisfy your thirst with it."


Neal said-"Tell me again how you think your neurons are firing right and mine are wrong? Explain to me how you think someone is being irrational. What's your criteria? Oops, that's right, there are no universal invariant mind-independent criteria that you can appeal to. You've already cut yourself off from that possibility. The only thing you have is your own subjective state of mind. As such you yourself have no idea whether or not you are being rational or irrational."

No Neal, you said.."The only thing you have is your own subjective state of mind. As such you yourself have no idea whether or not you are being rational or irrational"

How devotionally blind are you man.Zenmites opinion is not only a subject opinion at all,why do you need to try and twist it into being that what its not?.Does theism stand or fall,depending on whether honesty or deceit is used?.

Zenmites opinion is objective in the sense there is third parties that happen to have much the same opinion.Infact there is more and more people these days coming to much the same opinion as Zenmite has.

You keep trying to suggest something sort of to the effect, that maybe humans are brainless ...We cant make any objective right decisions, without having input from Gods?.

This ancient theistic idea is very outdated !!, very very stupid and utter bullshite!.And i dont think you fool many here,you just make a fool of yourself.

Get a little real man.You yourself actually do accept! many objective decisions being made by men of this earth, plenty of times.Almost every single day.Our whole world would become one big flop and come to a very abrupt complete stop,if we "honestly" thought man could not ever make any objective decisions about what might be right or wrong.

Gods are not needed to make objective decisions.

And theists trying to dream of some God helping in objective decisions, is simply wishful thinking.If Christian theist minds act as the go-between to pass on these supposed Godly-objective decisions ....How is that anymore objective?.Its still all coming through brains of mere men!.

Explain to me how you honestly think some theists go-between godly decisions, is proved as actually being anymore rational ?.

Oops, that's right ,your "devotion" on all the "Charisma" had shut down parts of the brain

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal wrote:

"The problem is that the brain could never know that the internal representations actually do represent reality. And on your own position, they actually don't. 99% of the world's population are not atheists, remember? So which is it, do neurons encode reality or don't they? Or are the neurons only working properly in the 1%?"

The brain doesn't have to know it at the level you imply, it just has to direct behavior accordingly, the best it can. Furthermore, I'm not even sure what it means to say that the brain "knows" something.

Sometimes neurons encode reality correctly, and sometimes they don't. Evolution sometimes produces creatures that succeed, and sometimes they fail in terms of meeting the survival requirements of their environment.

Neal said...

"Atheists can easily understand, obviously humans are not perfect.Why wouldnt they?,they do have a brain ! plus a set of eyes and ears and can experience and learn things just like anyone else."

What do you mean "not perfect"? You deny any objective standard that would define "perfect". You can't say humans are not perfect, all you can say is they are what they are.

"Its the theists that make some of us wonder how much of their brain is still actually being used,when they ask us these type of silly questions."

An insult in lieu of an argument.

"Why wouldnt atheists be able to account for these imperfections,please explain why you thought atheism was actually expecting any type of total perfection to actually exist amongst humanity?."

You are missing the point. On an atheist position, there is no such thing as perfection. Only what is. For an atheist to say "humans are not perfect" is irrational. There is nothing by which you could determine "perfect" vs. "imperfect".

"Explaining to men stoning people to death was kinda immoral, because it was a really slow painful nasty type of long suffering death."

You are doing what atheists always do, sliding back and forth between affirming and denying objective morality. When it suits you, you get all moralistic as though there are universal standards of morality. Why is that?

"We easily understand it simply took time and experience, for morals to properly evolve from feelings and empathy etc.We know stoning people to death was actually no more moral in the days of old! than it is moral today,but we understand humans needed the time to learn and fully understand this."

See? You're doing it again.

Neal said...

"Back to solipsism? That's all you have as well, even if you tell yourself otherwise."

You have a gift for missing the point. On your position, solipsism is unavoidable. No universal standards remember? That means no laws of logic, which are universal and invariant standards of rationality. Again, you've cut yourself off from being able to invoke universal laws of any kind, including reasoning.

"Modern science has disproven this? I must have missed the memo."

You must have missed a few sessions of your Physics 101 class too.

"You assert that they do not arise spontaneously...errr..so they come from Zeus, Thor, Shiva, Moloch, The Easter Bunny?
I guess I missed this scientific discovery too."

Nope, but all of those theories are eminently better than what you propose, that it just "happens" against the laws of physics.

"I mean into cells, neurons, brains and bodies. It's still just matter arranged in a particular way just like DNA is chemicals arranged in a particular order. I mean there's no reason to suggest that magic, spirit, ghosts or supernatural goo are involved."

Arranged exactly how? Have you ever taken a box of tinker toys and dumped them out on the floor and they arranged themselves into anything but an unintelligible mess? But you can build things with them, if you please, and yet they are still "just matter arranged in a particular way". But what you are talking about is something far more complex than tinker toys arranging themselves into the crude structures which children are fond of constructing.

Brap Gronk said...

"You are doing what atheists always do, sliding back and forth between affirming and denying objective morality. When it suits you, you get all moralistic as though there are universal standards of morality."

At great risk of a cyber-stoning, I'm an atheist who is going to agree with some of what Neal is saying regarding objective morality. My position is there is no objective morality, but morality is instead a matter of opinion, much like good vs. evil, beauty vs. ugliness, entertaining vs. not, etc. Whether an action is morally right or wrong is a quality of that action only because humans think it so. The consequences of an action can often be predicted and observed, but its morality cannot be measured objectively, unlike the mass, volume, or temperature of an object.

Morals are subjective, cultural, relative, learned, and evolving. The morality found in the Bible obviously reflects the morality of its human authors at the time it was written.

In nature there are no rewards or punishments. There are only consequences. So it is with our actions. They just are, and they have consequences. We learn these consequences either directly or indirectly. We learn which consequences we like and which ones we don't like. We learn which actions are considered good by others and which ones are considered bad. Some people care about the opinion of others, some people don't. Some people develop empathy for others, some people don't. But everyone gets to face the consequences of their actions, some of which depends on the opinions of others.

Paul Rinzler said...

Brap Gronk wrote:

"Morals are subjective, cultural, relative, learned, and evolving."

I would add "evolved," too. We can see the beginning of moral behavior in primates, see "Good Natured : the origins of right and wrong in humans and other animals," by Frans de Waal.

Theists often portray the argument as being between absolute and arbitrary morality, which sets up a false dichotomy. Another option is that evolution has endowed us with moral leanings, as social animals. This explains how some aspects of morality are common among nearly all cultures, as well as how differences in morality may arise.

Neal said...

Some problems with the idea that morals evolve:

1) There is no sense in which they can be said to be evolving for the better, for that would assume an objective standard by which they could be judged better or worse.

2) What we consider to be reprehensible moral behavior today could just as easily become acceptable in the future. Much like divorce or homosexuality. But it could just as easily be some activity like pederasty, which I assume most of us abhor, but was a common practice in the Roman empire. In other words, the "evolution" of morals could go either way.

3) There are some actions that we consider so heinous that it brings into question whether a subjective morality is really adequate. The idea that anyone would consider for example, child rape and murder to be wrong simply because that's their own preference really doesn't do justice to the moral indignation that most people feel toward it, including most atheists.

4) Empathy doesn't help. When one feels "empathy" for someone, it implies that they are lamenting their plight, as though it is something that should not be. But where does this "should not" come from?

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal, you misunderstand evolutionary biology:

"1) There is no sense in which they can be said to be evolving for the better, for that would assume an objective standard by which they could be judged better or worse."

Correct, but it's not a problem, it's just how evolution is. There's no ultimate, single goal toward which evolution works. It's all about fitness to an environment, which may change.

"2) What we consider to be reprehensible moral behavior today could just as easily become acceptable in the future. Much like divorce or homosexuality. But it could just as easily be some activity like pederasty, which I assume most of us abhor, but was a common practice in the Roman empire. In other words, the "evolution" of morals could go either way."

Even though morality can change, it usually doesn't change arbitrarily or in any direction. Most societies, for instance, condemn murder, and this is understandable when you look at humans as social animals and as products of evolution.


"3) There are some actions that we consider so heinous that it brings into question whether a subjective morality is really adequate. The idea that anyone would consider for example, child rape and murder to be wrong simply because that's their own preference really doesn't do justice to the moral indignation that most people feel toward it, including most atheists.


Evolutionary morality is not subjective morality. And, see above.


"4) Empathy doesn't help. When one feels "empathy" for someone, it implies that they are lamenting their plight, as though it is something that should not be. But where does this "should not" come from?
Empathy comes from the evolutionary benefits of being a social animal. Empathy doesn't have to have any "should" attached to it, it's a feeling.

Ryan Anderson said...

Neal; do you think that the ancient Greeks and Romans were anymore capable of seeing pedrasty as "bad" then we are of seeing it as "good"?

Why do you think, from our position right here and right now, that we would be in any position to approve of how ethics evolve in the future?

Gandolf said...

Neal said.."What do you mean "not perfect"? You deny any objective standard that would define "perfect". You can't say humans are not perfect, all you can say is they are what they are."

What are you talking about Neal,we dont need any supernatural objective standard to define when things are imperfect.As humans we deal with many imperfections daily.

Here is something someone wrote,pretty much about what im talking about. http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/subjective_
objective.html

Either way theists know what they know about imperfections, much the very same way that atheist use.You dont think use of some old book changes matters so very much do you?.Whats so different about whats written in some old religious book,and what some group of non religious people decide?.

The difference is some bloke/prophet told you it is word of God? ....Pftttt! ...A atheist could simply suggest his ideas were word of some supposed God too i suppose, very little difference.The only real difference is additional use of some ancient myth.

Neal said.."An insult in lieu of an argument."

No its more of a argument see here http://www.newscientist.com/article/
mg20627574.200-brain-shuts-off-in-response-to-healers-prayer.html

Im just being honest,i think your devotion might be a problem for you.You have yet to even prove how theist made standards, are made any differently! to atheist standard.Just pointing to some ancient book,dont! prove anything so different.Its just pointing to stuff thats written down thats all.

If its anyone been insulting anyone around here,its you doing it first! Neal.You as a theist come here, trying to elevate! your theist decision making, above atheists!.Why isnt that considdered, insulting by you?.

I have every right! to point forward a argument! that now carrys some pretty modern scientific evidence! with nuroscience!,that suggests "devotion" messes badly with some theists ability of even thinking right.

Why is that a straight insult?.Seems like science suggests it actually happens!

Neal said.."You are missing the point. On an atheist position, there is no such thing as perfection. Only what is. For an atheist to say "humans are not perfect" is irrational. There is nothing by which you could determine "perfect" vs. "imperfect"."

Oh no! it is you missing the point here Neal.There is no difference to a group of atheists suggesting this seems imperfect,and a theist pointing to a holy book and saying, no look whats written in here in this holy book,this is actually whats imperfect.

Little difference.Other than one standard has a cultural religious slant to it.

Other than that.No difference.

Theist admit imperfection exist too,they call it a fallen state.Its the same thing,theists calculated imperfections exist ,man is not perfect.Its a pretty obvious thing to observe, when we see bad shit happens.

You have no more objective way to make these decisions than any atheists do Neal.Pointing to some holy book, is simply pointing to theist standards.Atheists saying this is what we think in our opinions,is totally the same thing,minus some religious cultural slants/bias

It is not! yet any proven fact, that holy books are honestly actually any word of God!,Neal.You need to realize that,or this discussion here is fruitless and just going around and around.

Gandolf said...

Neal said.."You are doing what atheists always do, sliding back and forth between affirming and denying objective morality. When it suits you, you get all moralistic as though there are universal standards of morality. Why is that?"

There is no "supernatural" objective type morality.IE: even morals written about and discussed in the holy bible,are absolutely no more! than decisions made by certain "groups" of theists.

Groups of atheists can do decisions exactly the same way.They just dont go about claiming it as being any word of God.

What i had said re: stoning, was about explaining how the theist group, came to change their group decision,with regards to the morality of stoning people.I explained their thoughts of morality obviously also evolved! over time.

Proving it seems no "supernatural" objective standard actually exists.

Which is what ive been trying to tell you.Any theist thought objective type standard, is little/no different to atheist thought of objective type standard.

They are both much the same.

Neal said.."See? You're doing it again."

No i dont see that im doing anything different than what any theists do.

Gods dont talk to humans and pass us ideas about morals, Neal ...Human empathy, emotions, thoughts and observations etc, are what help human morals evolve.

You use the same method Neal...You simply add a few fibs! ,throw in some deceit! ,record it in some religious book and call it holy word of God.

Now do you even see what you keep! doing Neal?.

Maybe? you need to try to drop! all the "devotion" on "charisma" for a moment or two, to be able to allow yourself to see it.

Gandolf said...

Neal said..."2) What we consider to be reprehensible moral behavior today could just as easily become acceptable in the future. Much like divorce or homosexuality. But it could just as easily be some activity like pederasty, which I assume most of us abhor, but was a common practice in the Roman empire. In other words, the "evolution" of morals could go either way"

Yeah now maybe you are getting the picture, a bit Neal.

Morals might/could actually change/evolve, either way.Thats possible.

Just like! once upon a time, Christians thought stoning people to a slow death was maybe quite ok .Then later on in time! their morals "evolved" and changed!, and soon they finally decided no! maybe stoning people to death, wasnt really seeming to be quite such a moral thing for humans to be doing to each other anymore.

So their moral thought, evolved Neal.They finally outlawed stoning people to death.

Now why do you panic so much, about evolution of moral thought?.

Your argument cant be that morals dont evolve,after all even your faith book proves they do!.

Your problem is more about you believing,only groups of faith people who "write" faith books should be given the right to be making these decisions?.

And thats wrong!.Your bible even proves its wrong!.

When we look at the "immorality" of "stoning people" to death,its obvious! even faith book writers! can make mistakes also.

Epic fail Neal.

You cannot elevate theist moral thought above atheist moral thought, simply because one group happens to write some fairy tale holy books

Gandolf said...

Brap Gonk said .."Morals are subjective, cultural, relative, learned, and evolving. The morality found in the Bible obviously reflects the morality of its human authors at the time it was written."

I think i pretty much agree with you Brap.The only objective side i see to morals is not in any supernatural sense,its only objective in the sense that many morals are decided by "groups" of humans who`s thoughts agree.

Giving it the objective slant,in the sense that its not about all humans making personal choices about whats thought as being moral.

I mean even atheist moral thought wouldnt end up as being totally subjective to everyones personal thought.IE: everyone simply picks and chooses themselves personally, whats thought ok or not ok.

That would be like anarchy.

No atheist morals have some objectivity, in the sense that the group decides.Not just the indevidual!.

And thats little different to what theists did.Except they added a ancient God story.

Theist will say,but what happens if i think differnt to what you think?....But its no different with the theists morals,there would have been some of those theists who didnt always completely agree with each other

Neal said...

Paul Rinzler: Neal, you misunderstand evolutionary biology:

"1) There is no sense in which they can be said to be evolving for the better, for that would assume an objective standard by which they could be judged better or worse."

Paul Rinzler: Correct, but it's not a problem, it's just how evolution is. There's no ultimate, single goal toward which evolution works. It's all about fitness to an environment, which may change.

I don't misunderstand it, I just pointed out that this feature is a defect if one is relying on it to construct a system of morality. To do so commits the naturalistic fallacy.

Paul Rinzler: "Even though morality can change, it usually doesn't change arbitrarily or in any direction. Most societies, for instance, condemn murder, and this is understandable when you look at humans as social animals and as products of evolution."

But you have no way of confirming that it doesn't change arbitrarily. Most societies condemn murder, yet there are some that don't. The concept of "honor killings" even commends it.

Paul Rinzler: "Evolutionary morality is not subjective morality"

Of course it is. You just said evolution has no ultimate single goal, so it can certainly meander different ways among different populations.

Paul Rinzler: "Empathy doesn't have to have any "should" attached to it, it's a feeling."

A feeling about what?

Neal said...

Ryan Anderson said: "do you think that the ancient Greeks and Romans were anymore capable of seeing pedrasty as "bad" then we are of seeing it as "good"?

My personal opinion is that they were capable of seeing it as bad the same as we are, but due to sin their hearts were hardened. Our society's seeing it as "bad" is the reflection of a christian hangover. Once a post-Christian society has completely lost it's Christian influences, there's nothing to stop pederasty from becoming accepted and then approved behavior.

"Why do you think, from our position right here and right now, that we would be in any position to approve of how ethics evolve in the future?"

Given atheist presuppositions, I don't. That's the point. Most people, even atheists pride themselves that they are not pederasts, for example, but if what they say is true their pride in that fact is certainly misplaced. And they have no business thinking ancient societies were any less enlightened than their own.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal, evolutionary biology only has a defect if you define morality as necessarily absolute. I agree that evolution will do a poor job of creating an absolute morality. If you call that no morality, then we're just arguing definitions.

But you have no way of confirming that it doesn't change arbitrarily."

I never said that it can't change arbitrarily. Please re-read exactly what I wrote.

Subjective morality implies that a person's moral tendencies can change drastically and at a whim, whereas evolutionary morality shows that people tend not to change their moral intuitions so easily.

Regarding empathy, your question is easily answered by reference to a good dictionary. If you have a point, why not just state it rather than meandering our way there with rhetorical questions easily answered by looking at a dictionary?

Neal said...

"Neal, evolutionary biology only has a defect if you define morality as necessarily absolute. I agree that evolution will do a poor job of creating an absolute morality. If you call that no morality, then we're just arguing definitions."

Evolution will do a poor job of creating any morality. You can't get from is to ought without first presupposing the ought. An evolutionary explanation of morality is purely descriptive. You can't say that any one culture is more "evolved" in its morality than any other without first assuming that to be the case.

"I never said that it can't change arbitrarily. Please re-read exactly what I wrote."

You said it usually doesn't, but the criticism still applies. It appears it would have to change arbitrarily for any evolution to occur at all. It is either directed change or undirected (e.g. "arbitrary"). There is no in between position or third option.

"Subjective morality implies that a person's moral tendencies can change drastically and at a whim, whereas evolutionary morality shows that people tend not to change their moral intuitions so easily."

Evidence seems to show that entire cultures can change their moral intuitions quite rapidly even in a single generation. How does evolutionary morality account for that?

"Regarding empathy, your question is easily answered by reference to a good dictionary."

Let me restate it then. You stated that there doesn't have to be a "should" attached to empathy. But then whence morality? If there is no "should" attached to your empathy, of what use is it for anything but having an emotive experience? At most you could say, "I don't prefer your current emotional state, buy hey, at least its not me!" Or maybe misery loves company. But the moment you bring in "should" or "ought" you are committing the naturalistic fallacy, moving from a descriptive state of what is to a prescriptive state of what ought to be.

Gandolf said...

Neal said..."1) There is no sense in which they can be said to be evolving for the better, for that would assume an objective standard by which they could be judged better or worse"

Religions cannot be honest and make claim to having any special "objective standard" in which it could be said they evolved for the better then, either.

In effect by using Neals line of argument, theists also! have absolutely no way to judge better or worse either.

Having simply added some fancy convoluted God story to our lives, like most "all" religions have done,isnt enough to go making any factual claims to having honest possesion of any "special" objective standard.

So in that sense Neals number 1, point is a totally moot point.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal wrote:

"Evolution will do a poor job of creating any morality. You can't get from is to ought without first presupposing the ought. An evolutionary explanation of morality is purely descriptive. You can't say that any one culture is more "evolved" in its morality than any other without first assuming that to be the case."


I'm not trying to get to the ought you imagine, which is still, by implication, an absolute ought.

I agree that it is descriptive. That's all I intend. Any problem with that would seem to, again, come from a need for an absolute morality.

I would never say that one morality is more "evolved," in the sense you mean "evolved" (as if one morality is better than another)).

Regarding arbitrariness, I've lost your point, and I even went back to the previous posts. Can you restate it?

"Evidence seems to show that entire cultures can change their moral intuitions quite rapidly even in a single generation. How does evolutionary morality account for that?"

First of all, I presume you're not talking about wholesale changes in a culture's entire moral base. Morality covers a lot of ground, and I'm not sure any culture has ever changed the majority of their moral commonalities very quickly.

In any event, evolution produced humans with brains built for language, that's all you need for quick change.

Regarding empathy: I only meant that a person doesn't have to conceive of empathy as an (absolute) should. I can have an empathetic feeling, and then base my behavior on that feeling (by treating an other the way I would want to be treated, a moral code that is founded on empathy). If you want to say that in terms of (a non-absolute) "should," as in "one should treat another the way one would want to tbe treated," I have no problem, but that formulation, with the word "should," is not inherent to the essentials.

Here's another way to look at naturalism and what is moving to the "ought." If a bee could talk, he'd say "Any good bee should go out and gather nectar for the good of the hive." They might even make it a Commandment. That's all that an ought needs to be under naturalism and evolution. I freely admit it has no ultimate, absolute basis. But it is still functional, it works (to a greater or lesser extent).

Paul Rinzler said...

Finishing up:

Regarding arbitrariness, I've lost your point, and I even went back to the previous posts. Can you restate it?


"Evidence seems to show that entire cultures can change their moral intuitions quite rapidly even in a single generation. How does evolutionary morality account for that?"


First of all, I presume you're not talking about wholesale changes in a culture's entire moral base. Morality covers a lot of ground, and I'm not sure any culture has ever changed the majority of their moral commonalities very quickly.

In any event, evolution produced humans with brains built for language, that's all you need for quick change.

Regarding empathy: I only meant that a person doesn't have to conceive of empathy as an (absolute) should. I can have an empathetic feeling, and then base my behavior on that feeling (by treating an other the way I would want to be treated, a moral code that is founded on empathy). If you want to say that in terms of (a non-absolute) "should," as in "one should treat another the way one would want to tbe treated," I have no problem, but that formulation, with the word "should," is not inherent to the essentials.

Here's another way to look at naturalism and what is moving to the "ought." If a bee could talk, he'd say "Any good bee should go out and gather nectar for the good of the hive." They might even make it a Commandment. That's all that an ought needs to be under naturalism and evolution. I freely admit it has no ultimate, absolute basis. But it is still functional, it works (to a greater or lesser extent).

Neal said...

"I agree that it is descriptive. That's all I intend. Any problem with that would seem to, again, come from a need for an absolute morality."

But morality, whether absolute or limited is prescriptive, is it not? Or are we talking about something other than morality now?

"I would never say that one morality is more "evolved," in the sense you mean "evolved" (as if one morality is better than another))."

This would be more in line with "amorality" as it is typically defined. It seems like you are trying to have it both ways.

"Regarding arbitrariness, I've lost your point, and I even went back to the previous posts. Can you restate it?"

It's pretty simple really. Evolution is either directed, or undirected. You've already denied that it is directed, so that leaves you with "undirected" which is just another way of saying arbitrary.

"First of all, I presume you're not talking about wholesale changes in a culture's entire moral base."

All at once? Of course not.

"Morality covers a lot of ground, and I'm not sure any culture has ever changed the majority of their moral commonalities very quickly."

Sure they have. Russia in the early 20th century is a prime example. Or the French revolution. Or Nazi Germany.

"In any event, evolution produced humans with brains built for language, that's all you need for quick change."

See how easy it is to slide back into teleological language? Atheists always do this.

"Here's another way to look at naturalism and what is moving to the "ought." If a bee could talk, he'd say "Any good bee should go out and gather nectar for the good of the hive." They might even make it a Commandment. That's all that an ought needs to be under naturalism and evolution. I freely admit it has no ultimate, absolute basis. But it is still functional, it works (to a greater or lesser extent)."

The degree to which it works is questionable. So far every society that has assumed atheistic philosophies as its foundation has been what most people would call an abject failure. But perhaps evolution has selected for belief in God or gods over belief in atheism and evolution, which apparently means that as beliefs they are bound for extinction. Even to criticize religious belief is to put oneself at odds with evolution. If atheists are right about their description of reality, it makes no sense for them to engage in debates with theists. They should be satisified with their description of the evolution of religious belief. Trying to change people's minds about it is an act of futility. It would be like trying to change your own mind about that which you are thoroughly convinced, or trying to convince a stone to be something other than it is.

Neal said...

No its more of a argument see here http://www.newscientist.com/article/
mg20627574.200-brain-shuts-off-in-response-to-healers-prayer.html

Posting a link is not an argument. But in light of posted link, let's examine this critically (something which you failed to do, raising the question of how much of your brain you are still using, but I digress...)

1) Did it occur to you that it is uncontroversial that people are not skeptical about that which they are already convinced?

2) Not all "devout" Christians are pentacostals who believe that there are people that have divine healing powers. How does this "study" factor that in? In fact the historic Protestant Reformed and Lutherans explicitly reject it.

3) Did you ask yourself what the results would be of a similar study where the subjects are various atheists and agnostics listening to readings of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.?

4) Just because people are unskeptical about some matters doesn't mean they are unskeptical about other matters, and the converse is also true. Just because atheists ar skeptical about religion doesn't mean they are skeptical about other matters (like atheism for instance).

5) The idea that atheists are using all of their brain all the time is uninformed.

6) Citing this study as an example of how Christians "don't use their brains" is confirmation bias, and laughable.

Neal said...

"When we look at the "immorality" of "stoning people" to death,its obvious! even faith book writers! can make mistakes also."

You confuse morality with punishment. The method of execution called "stoning" was no more immoral than any other method of execution. You've also misread or assumed something that is not in the text.

Paul Rinzler said...

I said:

An evolutionary explanation of morality is purely descriptive.

Neal said:

But morality, whether absolute or limited is prescriptive, is it not? Or are we talking about something other than morality now?

We were talking about the description of morality, not the morality itself. Morality prescribes, but a description of morality will not prescribe, it will describe, that's why it's a description.

This would be more in line with "amorality" as it is typically defined. It seems like you are trying to have it both ways.

Huh? I don't get this at all. Please explain.

It's pretty simple really. Evolution is either directed, or undirected. You've already denied that it is directed, so that leaves you with "undirected" which is just another way of saying arbitrary.

Fallacy of composition. Evolution as a whole is undirected, but that doesn't mean that everything within evolution has no direction or is arbitrary. That would be like saying that, because a roll of the dice is random, it is arbitrary and undirected, so the dice can't roll down the table in the direction I throw them.

Paul Rinzler said...

To continue:

See how easy it is to slide back into teleological language? Atheists always do this.

I'm not sure what your ultimate point is. Please explain.

The degree to which it works is questionable.

How is it that you can say exactly what I said and yet make it sound like we're disagreeing?

So far every society that has assumed atheistic philosophies as its foundation has been what most people would call an abject failure.

We're not taking about atheistic societies, we're discussing an evolutionary approach to explaining morality in all societies.

Trying to change people's minds about it is an act of futility. It would be like trying to change your own mind about that which you are thoroughly convinced, or trying to convince a stone to be something other than it is.

Not at all. In purely naturalistic terms, the sound vibrations produced when I speak make changes within your brain, changes in your neuronal connections, and that can lead to changes in behavior. Your analogy is flawed from the beginning, as stones have no changeable, whereas people with brains do.

By the way, any comment about animal morality, as I mentioned several posts ago? How does animal morality fit into your conception of morality?

GearHedEd said...

Neal said,

"...So far every society that has assumed atheistic philosophies as its foundation has been what most people would call an abject failure."

So far every society that has assumed religious philosophies as its foundation has done so at the point of a sword.

Where's the "ought" there?

I'd be interested in seeing a list of these "alleged objective moorals" you Christians are always going on about. I guarantee that you couldn't find a reasonable cross-section of fellow Christians to agree with your list in its entirety.

GearHedEd said...

Neal said,

"...So far every society that has assumed atheistic philosophies as its foundation has been what most people would call an abject failure."

Furthermore, any time an "atheistic" society emerges, the Christian world (including certain other religious allies) has gone out of its way to stamp it out as quickly as possible. Is it any wonder they don't survive? And which "atheist societies" did you have in mind? There are only a very few candidates.

Neal said...

"We were talking about the description of morality, not the morality itself. Morality prescribes, but a description of morality will not prescribe, it will describe, that's why it's a description."

Well yes, but we were also talking about whether there is any basis for humans to adopt morality as a set of prescriptions. An evolutionary description does not help in that regard. It is just a description, after all. Moreover, we are all moral actors, so its not as if it is something that anyone can sit dispassionately on the sidelines to evaulate. We all have moral beliefs about what our behavior and the behavior of others should be. You claim that morality is essentially selfish in nature, arising from evolutionary pressures. But is this really the case? Is every act that anyone makes an act of selfishness? Are there no people that do good because they love the good, though it may cost them their wealth or their lives?

I said: "This would be more in line with "amorality" as it is typically defined. It seems like you are trying to have it both ways."

You said: "Huh? I don't get this at all. Please explain."

You are on the one hand trying to avoid invocation of objective morality, while on the other hand affirm that societies can have a type of morality that is not arbitrary, though you attribute it to evolutionary explanations.

I said: "It's pretty simple really. Evolution is either directed, or undirected. You've already denied that it is directed, so that leaves you with "undirected" which is just another way of saying arbitrary."

You said: "Fallacy of composition. Evolution as a whole is undirected, but that doesn't mean that everything within evolution has no direction or is arbitrary."

How could it be anything but arbitrary? Suggesting that it isn't begs the question. If I may invoke your dice analogy, its like saying that because you've rolled 7's and 11's for the past 20 rolls that the lucky streak you're having is not the result of arbitrary rolls of the dice.

You said: "That would be like saying that, because a roll of the dice is random, it is arbitrary and undirected, so the dice can't roll down the table in the direction I throw them."

So who's rolling the dice with regard to evolution? Anyway the direction one throws the dice has no bearing on the randomness of the results of the throw.

Neal said...

I said: "See how easy it is to slide back into teleological language? Atheists always do this."

You said: "I'm not sure what your ultimate point is. Please explain."

What I'm talking about is the impossibility of atheists explaining evolution without resorting to teleological language, yet at the same time insist that the universe bears no marks of telos. You know, how they "can't let a divine foot in the door" and all that.

"We're not taking about atheistic societies, we're discussing an evolutionary approach to explaining morality in all societies."

We're also examining whether an evolutionary approach is a rational explanation.

"Not at all. In purely naturalistic terms, the sound vibrations produced when I speak make changes within your brain, changes in your neuronal connections, and that can lead to changes in behavior. Your analogy is flawed from the beginning, as stones have no changeable, whereas people with brains do."

In purely naturalistic terms, the mind is a bit more sophisticated than stones, but they are still purely physical phenomena. There is no rational thought going on, it is purely electro-chemical changes occuring in the brain. Appeals to universals like logic and good reasoning are non-sequitur.

Neal said...

"So far every society that has assumed religious philosophies as its foundation has done so at the point of a sword."

Exactly why would you be objecting to that? Does it offend your sense of morality? So what?

"I'd be interested in seeing a list of these "alleged objective moorals" you Christians are always going on about."

You mean like the decalogue?

"Furthermore, any time an "atheistic" society emerges, the Christian world (including certain other religious allies) has gone out of its way to stamp it out as quickly as possible."

Well then, I guess atheistic societies are not fit to survive are they? Are you suggesting this is some kind of moral outrage?

"And which "atheist societies" did you have in mind? There are only a very few candidates."

The Soviet Union for one, which actually did try to stamp out Christianity, not the other way around as you claim. Or perhaps their failure is due to the evil "Christian" West?

Paul Rinzler said...

Well yes, but we were also talking about whether there is any basis for humans to adopt morality as a set of prescriptions. An evolutionary description does not help in that regard. It is just a description, after all.

Uh, it's a description of how humans have adopted moral codes. Evolution is a description of how humans came to be the way they are, including the fact that humans societies and people have and follow moral codes. Of course it helps.

You claim that morality is essentially selfish in nature, arising from evolutionary pressures.

I never, ever said that. That is a common misconception. Evolution would include in the foundation of morality the fact that humans are social animals who behave for the benefit of the group as well as themselves as individuals.

Remember, too (hoping to forestall another common objection) that evolution doesn't need to be limited to the survival of an individual; the survival of a group can be selected for, too. And, remember that evolutionary pressures are not perfectly realized; it's a messy business full of false starts, dead end, etc.

More below.

Paul Rinzler said...

You are on the one hand trying to avoid invocation of objective morality, while on the other hand affirm that societies can have a type of morality that is not arbitrary, though you attribute it to evolutionary explanations.

Evolutionary morality is not objective in the sense that the tenets of a morality are objective true, such as "It is objective true that it is wrong to do X." Also, I never said that evolutionary morality couldn't include arbitrary elements. But the whole arbitrary concept just fails and cuts wrongly with evolutionary morality. No one is deciding on their moral codes (although an individual may decide whether to follow those a moral code or not). The moral codes has come about through whatever will work good enough to help the individual and group survive enough to pass on DNA. That's not arbitrary, nor is it objective, absolute, etc.

I don't see where what I said necessitated telos.

Logic surely has a survival value. There's no reason in principle why evolution can't have evolved beings that can use logic via their brains to enhance their survival.

And with that, we have come full circle to my first comment here, June 23. Take a look at it. Do you want to send me in the same circle again with the same questions? Or have I shown you that it makes sense?

Gandolf said...

1,

Neal said.."1) Did it occur to you that it is uncontroversial that people are not skeptical about that which they are already convinced?"

Yes.Its just good having the science to help back it up.


Neal-"2) Not all "devout" Christians are pentacostals who believe that there are people that have divine healing powers. How does this "study" factor that in? In fact the historic Protestant Reformed and Lutherans explicitly reject it."

You dont need to be pentacostal to be Christion believing in miracles,devoted to a chrasmatic figure.Did you think the study meant you needed to be pentacostal?

Neal-"3) Did you ask yourself what the results would be of a similar study where the subjects are various atheists and agnostics listening to readings of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.?"

Yes.And they are saying its very possible the same sort of problem exists with most human "devoted" to other charasmatic leaders, politics etc.

Neal--"4) Just because people are unskeptical about some matters doesn't mean they are unskeptical about other matters, and the converse is also true. Just because atheists ar skeptical about religion doesn't mean they are skeptical about other matters (like atheism for instance).

Im sure a few people may be devoted to other matters,and following charasmatic figures.However that does little to change the possibility blindness through devotion on charasmatic figures,is very likely a extremely huge problem amoungst religions.

These tests would help better explain why a "group" humans would all become stupid enough,to follow somebody like the Jim Jones or David Koresh, like they did,right?.And how so many folks would be utter fools in believing they should pay Benny Hinn big money, because they think he`s a miraculous charasmatic leader,yes? ...And help explain why folks freely still follow the ideals of the Taliban,even if its very dangerous,right?.

This study helps us understand why religion has had such control on many people.

Neal-"5) The idea that atheists are using all of their brain all the time is uninformed."

I never stated such a thing.

Gandolf said...

Neal-"6) Citing this study as an example of how Christians "don't use their brains" is confirmation bias, and laughable.

Well please yourself Neal.Maybe you`d rather to hear it said, that some groups of theists are simply just bloody thick!.The Benny Hinn followers.The Jim Jones followers.The West Bro Baptists.

I would have thought these scientific findings atleast point to some "medical excuses",in the sense the brains shut down and inhibit sceptical thought, just like in a accident where these parts of the brain are messed with.

What would you prefer to hear Neal,that folks that blindly follow some of these charasmatic figures,are just utterly stupid! and are obviously completely thick ?.

Or that they have obviously been effected by some sort of brain problems, that effect human ability to use of proper scepticism and decision making as a result ,as is being observed in these modern nurological scientific findings.

I wasnt the type to think theists were simply stupid and thick.

Personally i welcome these modern findings of nuroscience.Because it helps better explain my own! religious christian cult familys strange actions of continued addiction! and ignorance and utter stupidity, for still following along after a dagerous abusive Christian faith, with such unwavouring devotion!, like they still do.

I dont see it as simply being "confirmation bias", and really being so "laughable", Neal.

I think whats a little laughable here, is that you simply see it that way.In my opinion it seems maybe your devotion on charisma is such,it seems you dont even open your eyes as to how this modern nuroscience could help us humans better understand the actions of many groups of people specially religious groups.

Like those who followed Jim Jones to their death.Or those in Russia a year or two back in a dooms day cult,that all went to live with their children in caves in the snow,even in very grave danger of death.Or why the West Bro Baptist, might still all need feel, Gods really do want to hate everyone.

Help better explain many continuing situations and troubles in places like Israel and Palestine.

Oh you feel free! to laugh all you like Neal.

But just because Neal laughs,doesnt do any much to factually prove, something should really only be laughed at.

Gandolf said...

Gandolf said.."When we look at the "immorality" of "stoning people" to death,its obvious! even faith book writers! can make mistakes also."

Neal said-"You confuse morality with punishment. The method of execution called "stoning" was no more immoral than any other method of execution. You've also misread or assumed something that is not in the text."

Oh well if you wish to get picky,i will restate what i said.When we look and see how the morality of the idea of punishment by stoning people to death, as a form of punishment changed.

It was obviously no more moral in days of old! to stone people to some barbarric long suffering death of stoning,than it is thought moral today.

This helps prove Christians objective morals, in all honesty are "no more objective" than anyone else are.Christians got it wrong! also.

Just adding some God story onto your culture ,doesnt! add any more possibility of having a more objective decision making system.

Its the very much same decision making system,with a "God story" tacked on!, to try and make it sound sweeter.

Neal i once again suggest, the only difference between theists having a objective decision making system,and the system Atheist use.

Is one group tacks on some strange convoluted "God story", while the other group of atheists, dont bother.

That is the biggest difference between the two decision making systems,right?.

Neal said...

"You dont need to be pentacostal to be Christion believing in miracles,devoted to a chrasmatic figure.Did you think the study meant you needed to be pentacostal?"

Did you even read it?

"It was obviously no more moral in days of old! to stone people to some barbarric long suffering death of stoning,than it is thought moral today."

You're mighty dense aren't you? There you go getting all moralistic when you claim you don't even believe in any objective morality. Why should anyone care what you think is barbaric?

GearHedEd said...

Me: "So far every society that has assumed religious philosophies as its foundation has done so at the point of a sword."

Neal: "Exactly why would you be objecting to that? Does it offend your sense of morality? So what?"

Me again: Zero content reply. You've got nothing, chum.

-------------------------------

Me: "I'd be interested in seeing a list of these "alleged objective moorals" you Christians are always going on about."

Neal" You mean like the decalogue?"

Me again: Myths and fairy tales. There's absolutely NO EVIDENCE the Exodus ever happened. No Egyptian record of some two million people leaving Egypt, no record of a huge horde of people wandering around in the Sinai for forty years, no evidence of a huge population increase and conquest in Canaan. And that doesn't even address the silly notion that it's OBJECTIVELY MORAL to follow the firsst commandment.

-------------------------------

Me: "Furthermore, any time an "atheistic" society emerges, the Christian world (including certain other religious allies) has gone out of its way to stamp it out as quickly as possible."

Neal: "Well then, I guess atheistic societies are not fit to survive are they? Are you suggesting this is some kind of moral outrage?"

Me again: Based on your subjective belief that Christian societies are "right"? I guess you forgot about Sweden and Japan, two countries that have large percentages of atheist (and non-Christian in the case of Japan) populations. Why don't we stamp them out too? Because they don't threaten us with destruction (except Japan did threaten us, but we smacked them down, and GOOD!). You see, it's relative. And the Soviet Union failed economically, due to engaging us in an arms race that they ultimately could not sustain. That's why I put "atheistic" in quotes in the original question: because I knew you'd respond the way you did.

----------------------------

Me: "And which "atheist societies" did you have in mind? There are only a very few candidates."

Neal: "The Soviet Union for one, which actually did try to stamp out Christianity, not the other way around as you claim. Or perhaps their failure is due to the evil "Christian" West?"

Me again: See the answer above.

-----------------------------

Bottom line: The Christians in this world are certainly NOT wearing white hats here. Pick up a history book; something in which the Bible is sorely lacking.

Neal said...

GearHedEd: "So far every society that has assumed religious philosophies as its foundation has done so at the point of a sword."

Neal: "Exactly why would you be objecting to that? Does it offend your sense of morality? So what?"

"Zero content reply. You've got nothing, chum."

That's brilliant. I'll assume that by your "zero content" reply that you are conceding that you have no basis for for raising moral objections against religious philosophies. Thanks.

"Me again: Myths and fairy tales. There's absolutely NO EVIDENCE the Exodus ever happened."

Really? Isn't that a bit prejudiced? You asked to see the list. I cited it. Your rejection of it is noted, but not really relevant.

"No Egyptian record of some two million people leaving Egypt, no record of a huge horde of people wandering around in the Sinai for forty years, no evidence of a huge population increase and conquest in Canaan."

Arguing from a lack of evidence is fallacious. But your claim that there is no evidence is refuted by the Pentateuch.

"And that doesn't even address the silly notion that it's OBJECTIVELY MORAL to follow the firsst commandment."

Exactly how would you (someone who denies objective morality) know what is objectively moral?

Neal: "Well then, I guess atheistic societies are not fit to survive are they? Are you suggesting this is some kind of moral outrage?"

GearHedEd: "Based on your subjective belief that Christian societies are "right"?

Notice how you didn't answer the question. I never stated anything about whether Christian societies were "right". I asked you a question. Do you consider it a moral outrage that atheistic societies fail to survive?

"I guess you forgot about Sweden and Japan, two countries that have large percentages of atheist (and non-Christian in the case of Japan) populations."

I guess you forgot to check your facts. Sweden's population is over 70% Christian, and Japan is largely Buddhist and Shinto. They can hardly be called "atheist" countries.

"Why don't we stamp them out too?"

You're the one who claimed Christian societies stamp out atheist societies. At least try to follow your own arguments.

"And the Soviet Union failed economically, due to engaging us in an arms race that they ultimately could not sustain."

So you refute your own claim. "Christian" societies did not "stamp out" the Soviet Union. They destroyed themselves. Thanks for playing.

"Bottom line: The Christians in this world are certainly NOT wearing white hats here. Pick up a history book; something in which the Bible is sorely lacking."

Bottom line: According to you, there is no difference between "white hats" and "black hats". It's all relative, remember? Every moral objection you raise against Christians refutes your own position.

Neal said...

Paul Rinzler: "Uh, it's a description of how humans have adopted moral codes. Evolution is a description of how humans came to be the way they are, including the fact that humans societies and people have and follow moral codes. Of course it helps."

It's a description, not a justification. If you accept that, great. But if that's all it is, it legitimates the naturalistic fallacy, which is all I'm saying here.

Neal: "You claim that morality is essentially selfish in nature, arising from evolutionary pressures."

Paul: "I never, ever said that. That is a common misconception. Evolution would include in the foundation of morality the fact that humans are social animals who behave for the benefit of the group as well as themselves as individuals."

Well, not in those words. But even the assumption that people behave for the benefit of the group is essentially selfish in nature. They don't want the society that they are a part of to collapse. In essence the argument is that we should be unselfish in order to be more thoroughly selfish. But this notion that humans operate this way is questionable. Every great civilization eventually fails, usually due to the population NOT making decisions for the benefit of the group, but for themselves, which in democratic societies typically takes the form of bankrupting the treasury. So why is it that people persist in doing what they know to be detrimental to the group? It's usually because the consequences of their actions doesn't really affect them. Oh sure, someday in some future generation society may collapse, by should he care about that? As long as an individual benefits in the short term, there is no reason he should be concerned about the propagation of society in the future if it doesn't affect him. This is the question of why ought anyone care about the propagation of the group in the long run?

"Also, I never said that evolutionary morality couldn't include arbitrary elements. But the whole arbitrary concept just fails and cuts wrongly with evolutionary morality. No one is deciding on their moral codes (although an individual may decide whether to follow those a moral code or not). The moral codes has come about through whatever will work good enough to help the individual and group survive enough to pass on DNA. That's not arbitrary, nor is it objective, absolute, etc."

But is it really an accurate description? If you asked most people why they hold to certain moral principles, very few would answer that they are doing so in order to pass on their DNA. They may or may not desire that, but there is not a necessary connection between that desire and their moral beliefs.

Moreover, this doesn't explain a phenomenon that we see as societies become more secularized; which is that they tend to propagate less progeny. Why is that?

"I don't see where what I said necessitated telos."

Perhaps you'd like to restate then avoiding the teleological language?

"Logic surely has a survival value. There's no reason in principle why evolution can't have evolved beings that can use logic via their brains to enhance their survival."

This of course assumes that logic exists. How do you know that universal, invariant rules of logic exist?

"And with that, we have come full circle to my first comment here, June 23."

My involvement on this blog began on July 22nd in this thread, so I'm not sure what you are referring to.

Paul Rinzler said...

"It's a description, not a justification. If you accept that, great. But if that's all it is, it legitimates the naturalistic fallacy, which is all I'm saying here."

Let's be careful with language here, OK. Evolution is a description/explanation for how things are. It can account for why there is morality in human culture. It can also account for why some moral codes are common across cultures. It does not attempt to say that any moral code is objectively true and must hold in any society.

Where's the fallacy?

Next: you're going to be writing a very large book if you attempt to really establish that societies fail because people act for their own self-interest as distinct from the interest of the society. That's a huge claim, it may be correct, I don't know, but I know you haven't established it empirically at all.

I'm not even sure that it's the crucial point here.

More below.

Paul Rinzler said...

If you asked most people why they hold to certain moral principles, very few would answer that they are doing so in order to pass on their DNA.

You keep on assuming that people decide all aspects of their morality. I'm sure most people have no idea why they believe what they do, but that doesn't argue against evolutionary morality.

This of course assumes that logic exists. How do you know that universal, invariant rules of logic exist?

I never claimed that absolute, universal, invariant rules of logic exist (or will continue to exist). As far as we can see (in the same way that science only makes tentative conclusions), though, logic works. It's as dependable as anything we have.

And what does it even mean to say that logic exists? All I know is that there are certain things people do on a certain basis, and we call that basis logic, and it seems to work. Questioning whether logic exists or not is a non-starter in this light.

More below.

Paul Rinzler said...

Me:
"And with that, we have come full circle to my first comment here, June 23."

Neal:

My involvement on this blog began on July 22nd in this thread, so I'm not sure what you are referring to.


On June 27 you had written

"In purely naturalistic terms, the mind is a bit more sophisticated than stones, but they are still purely physical phenomena. There is no rational thought going on, it is purely electro-chemical changes occuring in the brain. Appeals to universals like logic and good reasoning are non-sequitur."


But this same critique of naturalism had been made by you back on June 23, and it started the dialog between us.

If everything is reducible to physical processes, there is no rationality

That dialog then winds up on June 27 with you trying to make the same critique of naturalism that I had defended, and you wind up making the same critique that I have already defended. You're taking us in circles.

Gandolf said...

Gandolf said...
"You dont need to be pentacostal to be Christion believing in miracles,devoted to a chrasmatic figure.Did you think the study meant you needed to be pentacostal?"

Neal said.."Did you even read it?"

Yes Neal.

Didnt! see that it suggested anything about the study showing only pentacostals would ever be effected this way though,Neal.

Gandolf said.."It was obviously no more moral in days of old! to stone people to some barbarric long suffering death of stoning,than it is thought moral today."

Neal said.."You're mighty dense aren't you? There you go getting all moralistic when you claim you don't even believe in any objective morality. Why should anyone care what you think is barbaric?"

You silly religious GIT!.What the hell are you talking about? fool.

I have just spent time pointing out! that the only "big" difference between a group of atheist group standards,and that of a group of theists.

Is the theists group "tack" some weird and whacky God story/myth ,on the end of all their decisions.

Some great difference that is,hmmm?

Thats the only main! difference that actually exists!.

And you have done nothing here, to even prove there is anything more different, to the differences between the two systems of decision making?.

Your whole faithful "objective standard" sits entirely on some weird n whacky! devoted faith believers preferred flavour of God myth.

You keep rattling on about atheists supposedly having no way of deciding what is right/wrong, barbarric etc.

A yet a theist has absolutely no more! use of empathy, than any atheist does!.

Infact when "devotion" on "charisma" effects the brain like it obviously does,i suggest its quite possibly questionable if theists sense of empathy, is quite possibly nullified ! to some extent also.

How can we really trust!?, the decisions of some theists, who might have become overly "devoted" to the "charisma" of some fancy God myth ?.

I really doubt you have any better chances of judging these things any better than atheists can, Neal!.Infact i suggest its highly like your judgement is "impaired" ,by believing one of the "God myths" .

Why would we have reason to expect your judgement and decision making is truely "objective",and be sure its not tainted by words written about some old God myth?.

What you try to do is make us accept there is a pure "objective method" some people use.

Neals objective method= input of Gods

You try asserting this makes it more objective.

But you silly old goat,unless the Gods arrive on planet earth and start speaking for themselves.

Your preferred method is no more! objective, because we still receive the ideas through the theists human brains and mouths.

So in turn what you wish to simply (impose) on us is, "objective group decisions" made by the faith "biased" theists.

Neal you utter Wally, why do you suggest this type objective decision making method ,should be seen by us as honestly being anymore objective?.

It will most likely always be riddled by "faith bias".Always was !.

Your idea of what = pure "objective standard" ,is a bloody joke man.

No where have i even stated i dont believe in the existence of any type of objective standards.

I just dont agree! in existence of any "Supernatural" objective standards,with extra input from godly beings.

Neal, you have yet to even prove! how simply "tacking" some man made god myth onto the end of objective standards,makes the standard any more objective? .

Gandolf said...

Neal said.."You're mighty dense aren't you?"

Neal i think maybe its you thats being kinda "faithfully dense" here.

Seems to me you think having some fancy "God myth" = objective standard?

Its kinda funny.You freaky theists cant even decide what God faith is totally honest, and the one God that needs believing.

Thats how good your Godly "objective standard" is :).

L.o.L...its a joke.A complete utter mess.Its a "objective standard" set down by loads of stumbling! bumbling! mixed bag! of "devoted" faith jockys!.All claiming they have the one "objective standard" through Gods talking to them .

We might get just as good a "objective standard" at some local asylum, where those folks also tend to claim magical people are talking to them also.

Neal until your God arrives to speak for himself!.Or the monsters that some asylum people suggest exist,actually arrive to speak for themselves! too.

Both you theists! and the asylum folks! ,have absolutely no more right! to go claiming having anymore "objective standard" ,than any atheists also do.

Simply "tacking on" some unproven myth/story ,does absolutely nothing! to prove you actually have any special standard thats anymore objective than anyone elses is.

And its you thats a little dense! ,if you still cant actually grasp that Neal.

Neal said...

Paul: "Let's be careful with language here, OK. Evolution is a description/explanation for how things are. It can account for why there is morality in human culture. It can also account for why some moral codes are common across cultures. It does not attempt to say that any moral code is objectively true and must hold in any society."

Paul: "Where's the fallacy?"

I didn't say that you were directly engaging in a fallacy. I said that if what you say is true, the implication is that it legitimates the naturalistic fallacy.

"You keep on assuming that people decide all aspects of their morality. I'm sure most people have no idea why they believe what they do, but that doesn't argue against evolutionary morality."

That wasn't my argument. My argument was that when pressed, most people are not going to cite passing on their DNA as reasons for holding to their moral principles. It may very well be that most people don't know why they believe what they believe. In fact, I agree with you that this is probably the case.

"I never claimed that absolute, universal, invariant rules of logic exist (or will continue to exist). As far as we can see (in the same way that science only makes tentative conclusions), though, logic works. It's as dependable as anything we have."

We're very quickly going to get into the problem of induction here. You are right, on your position we don't know that it will continue to exist or that it will continue to work. It must be assumed without justification.

"On June 27 you had written"

Okay, I guess you meant July 27.

"That dialog then winds up on June 27 with you trying to make the same critique of naturalism that I had defended"

I don't believe that you successfully defended it. Your response included an admission that you weren't even sure what it means to say that the brain "knows" something. I am happy to leave the argument there if you are. If this is what evolutionary theories of the mind leave us with, so much the worse for evolutionary theory.

Neal said...

"No where have i even stated i dont believe in the existence of any type of objective standards."

Well then it ought to be easy for you to identify and justify those standards then, shouldn't it?

"Both you theists! and the asylum folks! ,have absolutely no more right! to go claiming having anymore "objective standard" ,than any atheists also do."

Dude. Chill.

GearHedEd said...

GearHedEd: "So far every society that has assumed religious philosophies as its foundation has done so at the point of a sword."

Neal: "Exactly why would you be objecting to that? Does it offend your sense of morality? So what?"

"Zero content reply. You've got nothing, chum."

That's brilliant. I'll assume that by your "zero content" reply that you are conceding that you have no basis for for raising moral objections against religious philosophies. Thanks.

Reply: Absolutely not. I was saying that YOUR answer had zero content, not that I could think of no way to respond. I object to the notion (and history bears this out!) that religion was forced on people until relatively very recently. If it was TRUE, then why the need to FORCE people into it?

----------------------------

Really? Isn't that a bit prejudiced? You asked to see the list. I cited it. Your rejection of it is noted, but not really relevant.

Reply: It most certainly IS relevant. You've got nothing but denials up to here.

------------------------------

"No Egyptian record of some two million people leaving Egypt, no record of a huge horde of people wandering around in the Sinai for forty years, no evidence of a huge population increase and conquest in Canaan."

Arguing from a lack of evidence is fallacious. But your claim that there is no evidence is refuted by the Pentateuch.

Reply: Not when the lack of evidence corresponds DIRECTLY to the positive claim YOU'RE making: No Exodus, No decalogue.

Prove Moses DIDN'T have a hammer and chisel hidden under his burka when he went up on Mt. Sinai for forty days! Prove Moses even existed!

The Bible is NOT evidence of itself. Find another source. Oh yeah, that's right. There ARE NONE.

-------------------------------

"And that doesn't even address the silly notion that it's OBJECTIVELY MORAL to follow the first commandment."

Exactly how would you (someone who denies objective morality) know what is objectively moral?

Reply: If I deny objective morality and you support it (again without evidence) we're at a standoff. And if it's a wash, you don't get to cram your non-existent "objective morals" down anyone else's throat.

-------------------------------

At the end of 2008, 72.9% of Swedes belonged to the Church of Sweden (Lutheran); this number has been decreasing by about 1% a year for the last two decades. Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended (hovering in the single digit percentages of the population).[135] The reason for the large number of inactive members is partly that until 1996, children became members automatically at birth if at least one of the parents was a member. Since 1996, only children that are christened become members. Some 275,000 Swedes are today members of various free churches (where congregation attendance is much higher), and, in addition, immigration has meant that there are now some 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Sweden.[136]

Sweden Facts

In a population of slightly more than 9.2 million, that works out to roughly 5% practicing Christians of ALL varieties.

Try again.

continued...

GearHedEd said...

GearHedEd: "So far every society that has assumed religious philosophies as its foundation has done so at the point of a sword."

Neal: "Exactly why would you be objecting to that? Does it offend your sense of morality? So what?"

"Zero content reply. You've got nothing, chum."

That's brilliant. I'll assume that by your "zero content" reply that you are conceding that you have no basis for for raising moral objections against religious philosophies. Thanks.

Reply: Absolutely not. I was saying that YOUR answer had zero content, not that I could think of no way to respond. I object to the notion (and history bears this out!) that religion was forced on people until relatively very recently. If it was TRUE, then why the need to FORCE people into it?

----------------------------

Really? Isn't that a bit prejudiced? You asked to see the list. I cited it. Your rejection of it is noted, but not really relevant.

Reply: It most certainly IS relevant. You've got nothing but denials up to here.

------------------------------

"No Egyptian record of some two million people leaving Egypt, no record of a huge horde of people wandering around in the Sinai for forty years, no evidence of a huge population increase and conquest in Canaan."

Arguing from a lack of evidence is fallacious. But your claim that there is no evidence is refuted by the Pentateuch.

Reply: Not when the lack of evidence corresponds DIRECTLY to the positive claim YOU'RE making: No Exodus, No decalogue.

Prove Moses DIDN'T have a hammer and chisel hidden under his burka when he went up on Mt. Sinai for forty days! Prove Moses even existed!

The Bible is NOT evidence of itself. Find another source. Oh yeah, that's right. There ARE NONE.

-------------------------------

"And that doesn't even address the silly notion that it's OBJECTIVELY MORAL to follow the first commandment."

Exactly how would you (someone who denies objective morality) know what is objectively moral?

Reply: If I deny objective morality and you support it (again without evidence) we're at a standoff. And if it's a wash, you don't get to cram your non-existent "objective morals" down anyone else's throat.

-------------------------------

At the end of 2008, 72.9% of Swedes belonged to the Church of Sweden (Lutheran); this number has been decreasing by about 1% a year for the last two decades. Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended (hovering in the single digit percentages of the population).[135] The reason for the large number of inactive members is partly that until 1996, children became members automatically at birth if at least one of the parents was a member. Since 1996, only children that are christened become members. Some 275,000 Swedes are today members of various free churches (where congregation attendance is much higher), and, in addition, immigration has meant that there are now some 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Sweden.[136]

Sweden Facts

In a population of slightly more than 9.2 million, that works out to roughly 5% practicing Christians of ALL varieties.

Try again.

continued...

GearHedEd said...

"...and Japan is largely Buddhist and Shinto. They can hardly be called "atheist" countries."

Reply: "The highest estimates for the number of Buddhists and Shintoists in Japan is 84–96%, representing a large number of believers in a syncretism of both religions.[11][132] However, these estimates are based on people with an association with a temple, rather than the number of people truly following the religion.[133] Professor Robert Kisala (Nanzan University) suggests that only 30 percent of the population identify themselves as belonging to a religion.[133]"

Japan Facts

30% self identify as belonging to a religion.

You need to check YOUR facts.

-----------------------------

You're the one who claimed Christian societies stamp out atheist societies. At least try to follow your own arguments.

Reply: You're the one that said that "...So far every society that has assumed atheistic philosophies as its foundation has been what most people would call an abject failure."

Reply: Nope. Just the Christians that can't abide success without their system of coercion.

"And the Soviet Union failed economically, due to engaging us in an arms race that they ultimately could not sustain."

So you refute your own claim. "Christian" societies did not "stamp out" the Soviet Union. They destroyed themselves. Thanks for playing.

You're implying that the Christian west had nothing to do with the Soviets having to play catch-up wioth us? Look up the XB-70 Valkyrie program for just a snippet of the stuff we did to them. Or better yet, read Richard M. Nixon's post-White House book "The Real War", in which he outlined in the early 80s how wo would outspend the Russians into bankruptcy. And if you think Ronald Reagan WASN'T a Nixon disciple, remember that BOTH of them were from Califonia, and obviously knew one another. Remember Reagan's Star Wars" program? That was exactly the type of strategy Nixon advocated using: Come up with a threat to the Russians based on advanced science, watch them scramble to develop countermeasures, then drop the program after they'd already invested hugely in their programs. You need to learn your history.

cont'd...

GearHedEd said...

Did my posts vanish?

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal:
I didn't say that you were directly engaging in a fallacy. I said that if what you say is true, the implication is that it legitimates the naturalistic fallacy.

OK, if there's no fallacy in what I'm saying, then let's move on.

Your response included an admission that you weren't even sure what it means to say that the brain "knows" something.

That's not the context nor the implication at all. I was saying that it seemed that *your* sentence about the brain knowing something was incoherent. You could have offered a fuller explanation of what you meant.

I am happy to leave the argument there if you are.

I have defended evolutionary morality against every one of your critiques. You could at least acknowledge that.


If this is what evolutionary theories of the mind leave us with, so much the worse for evolutionary theory.
Why? What's the problem that you have created for yourself? If you insist arbitrarily that morality can't be morality unless it's absolute, then you're right, we have a problem. But, on the other hand, you could give up your preconceptions.

GREV said...

This comment raises the following for me:

John,

These guys at Tribalogue are not worthy of a response. First, they are not scholars as were the authors of TCD. Second, because they are not scholars they don't understand the issues involved. They just merely presuppose that their holy book is perfect and that anyone who disagrees is of the devil. Third, any response only gives them credibility.

July 21, 2010 1:27

My response follows:

Part of what I find amusing and sad in the overall tone of this debate is the repeated insistence that without a PhD you are unqualified to speak to a matter.

First -- that is intellectual arrogance which I have little respect for. The overall erosion in standards at universities since 1997 especially, calls into question claims of expertise just because you have a PhD.

Second -- a PhD qualifies you to make the statement that you have studied a subject. The statements you then go on to make regarding that subject or other ones reveals if you have gained any wisdom from your studies.

Right now I am enjoying immensely (perhaps too much), David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion. He convincingly demonstrates over and over again that scholarly qualifications (having obtained a degree) is no license to claim you are wise, as he deftly skewers those in the scientific community who think they can make short work of religion by linking their atheism and their arguments with science.

So to be a scholar, is no claim to be able to speak to a matter.

To not believe is what some will do. Please, spare me the intellectual arrogance of just because I don't have a degree, I don't or cannot understand the issues at hand.

7/29/2010 7:25 AM

Neal said...

Sweden Facts

"In the Eurostat survey, 23% of Swedish citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 53% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 23% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force"."

Try again. Only 23% claim to be atheist.

Japan Facts

GearHedEd said: "30% self identify as belonging to a religion."

But the actual quote is:

"Professor Robert Kisala (Nanzan University) suggests that only 30 percent of the population identify themselves as belonging to a religion."

1) So you mis-cite a wiki page that cites a professor who only "suggests" 30 percent identify themselves as belonging to a religion.

2) That only 30% self-identify as belonging to a religion doesn't logically entail that the other 70% are atheists.

"You're implying that the Christian west had nothing to do with the Soviets having to play catch-up wioth us?"

Who ever claimed they had to play catch-up with us? Us taking measures to protect ourselves from them does not constitute "stamping them out". That a dictatorship felt threatened by free societies was their problem, not ours.

"Remember Reagan's Star Wars" program? That was exactly the type of strategy Nixon advocated using: Come up with a threat to the Russians based on advanced science, watch them scramble to develop countermeasures, then drop the program after they'd already invested hugely in their programs."

It was a good strategy against an enemy who posed an existential threat to us. If they fell for it, too bad for them. But it certainly wasn't "stamping them out". The brilliance of it was that we defeated them without "stamping them out".

GearHedEd said...

Grev said,

"...a PhD qualifies you to make the statement that you have studied a subject. The statements you then go on to make regarding that subject or other ones reveals if you have gained any wisdom from your studies."

That goes double for William Lane Craig, then, since he has (by your reasoning) two worthless PhDs.

GearHedEd said...

OK, fine.

If you want to play word games around the phrase "stamping them out", we can dance.

You said, "But it certainly wasn't "stamping them out". The brilliance of it was that we defeated them without "stamping them out".

But if given the chance, most (possibly uninformed, but real) Christians would gleefully "stamp out atheism". Indeed, until just a few centuries ago, that was Official Church Policy regarding statements of unbelief.

What changed? Is the definition of "objective morality" different now than it was then? And if it DIDN'T change (because objective morality CANNOT by definition change), then it should STILL be church policy to murder atheists for their unbelief!

Belly up to the bar, hero!

I'd call that "checkmate".

Neal said...

GearHedEd said: "No Egyptian record of some two million people leaving Egypt, no record of a huge horde of people wandering around in the Sinai for forty years, no evidence of a huge population increase and conquest in Canaan."

Neal said: Arguing from a lack of evidence is fallacious. But your claim that there is no evidence is refuted by the Pentateuch.

GearHedEd said: "Not when the lack of evidence corresponds DIRECTLY to the positive claim YOU'RE making: No Exodus, No decalogue."

Your accepting of a lack of evidence from "Egyptian records" over the positive Biblical evidence just confirms your own bias.

"Prove Moses DIDN'T have a hammer and chisel hidden under his burka when he went up on Mt. Sinai for forty days! Prove Moses even existed!"

You have absurd standards. If applied to Socrates, you can't prove he existed either. "Skeptics" once claimed that Pontius Pilate didn't exist either until they were proved wrong by archeaological evidence.

"The Bible is NOT evidence of itself. Find another source. Oh yeah, that's right. There ARE NONE."

The Bible isn't just one monolithic source. It is a complilation of writings over centuries. By your logic, the combined writings of Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius, Livy, Plutarch, Julius Caesar and all the other Roman historians are not sufficient evidence that the Roman Empire existed. It's also very uniformed. There's plenty of extra-Biblical evidence that corroborate the Bible.

Neal said...

GearHedEd: "If you want to play word games around the phrase "stamping them out", we can dance."

Most people would take "stamping them out" as a campaign to exterminate them. But I understand. You want to move the goal posts now.

GearHedEd: "What changed? Is the definition of "objective morality" different now than it was then? And if it DIDN'T change (because objective morality CANNOT by definition change), then it should STILL be church policy to murder atheists for their unbelief!"

Christian morality is not based on "church policy" either real or imagined by you. You want to attack some vague notion of "church policy"? Fine. I don't make appeals to "church policy".

You still haven't given any justification for why you think "stamping out [atheists|jews|christians|buddhists|...]" is morally wrong. It's all relative, remember?

GearHedEd said...

"The Bible isn't just one monolithic source. It is a complilation of writings over centuries. By your logic, the combined writings of Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius, Livy, Plutarch, Julius Caesar and all the other Roman historians are not sufficient evidence that the Roman Empire existed. It's also very uniformed. There's plenty of extra-Biblical evidence that corroborate the Bible."

Blanket assertion. Not convincing, even to most "informed Christians".

Read through this website.

I can engage in ridiculous confirmation bias, too.

Except that history confirms this one.

GearHedEd said...

"The Bible isn't just one monolithic source. It is a complilation of writings over centuries. By your logic, the combined writings of Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius, Livy, Plutarch, Julius Caesar and all the other Roman historians are not sufficient evidence that the Roman Empire existed. It's also very uniformed. There's plenty of extra-Biblical evidence that corroborate the Bible."

By the way, that's a false dichotomy. There are extant coins minted during Julius Caesar's reign, not to mention extant letters Caesar wrote with his own hand. Where are Jesus' writings? Why do contemporaries who were ON THE SCENE not mention Jesus (see the sections on Philo and Seneca).

Why were there so many different interpretations (from the writings of early church fathers themselves!) before Constantine hammered out Roman Catholicism?

Other people have thoroughly destroyed your arguments more efficiently than I. I've read the Bible. I was not impressed. I have read the OTHER side of the argument, and it has historical evidence and the writings of early churchmen BACKING UP the argument.

Cherry-pick the Bible for verses that stroke your confirmation bias all you want; to see the TRUTH, you have to look at a bigger picture.

GearHedEd said...

"Most people would take "stamping them out" as a campaign to exterminate them. But I understand. You want to move the goal posts now."

You ought to understand. That's one of the oldest apologetics tricks.

GearHedEd said...

Neal: "Your accepting of a lack of evidence from "Egyptian records" over the positive Biblical evidence just confirms your own bias."

Me: "Prove Moses DIDN'T have a hammer and chisel hidden under his burka when he went up on Mt. Sinai for forty days! Prove Moses even existed!"

Neal: "You have absurd standards. If applied to Socrates, you can't prove he existed either. "Skeptics" once claimed that Pontius Pilate didn't exist either until they were proved wrong by archeaological evidence."

We weren't talking about Pilate. We were talking about "the positive Biblical evidence" that DOESN'T exist.

You're aware, I presume that most biblical scholars place the actual writing of the pentateuch to roughly the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, ~650 BC, or nearly 1,000 years after the events? No one in their right mind calls this chain of oral "tradition" evidence.

GearHedEd said...

Neal:

Read Paul Tobin's original post here.

Scroll down to item 12 if you don't want to read the whole thing, and read through to items 16 & 17, specifically this passage:

"i. The Patriarchal Narratives, the story of Abraham up to the settlement in Egypt by Joseph, is mythological, and Abraham probably never existed. [Cline (2007) pp. 56-58, Dever (2001) p. 98, Finkelstein & Silberman (2001) pp. 27-47, Laughlin (2000) pp. 55-76 esp. p.75, Lemche (1998a) pp. 26-40,Van Seters (1975), Thomas L. Thompson (2002)]

ii. There is no evidence to support the historicity of the Exodus and the details given in the second book of the Pentateuch are largely mythical. [Cline (2007) pp. 61-92, Dever (2003) pp. 7-21, Finkelstein & Silberman (2001) pp. 48-71, Laughlin (2000) pp. 90-92, Lemche (1998a) pp. 44-61 esp. p.57]

iii. The narratives of the Conquest of Canaan, told mainly in the book of Joshua, is fictional. [Cline (2007) pp.93-120, Dever (2003) pp. 37-74 esp. pp.71-72, Finkelstein & Silberman (2001) pp.72-96, Laughlin (2000) pp. 113-118, Thompson (1999) p. 37]It is also important to note that one cannot simply ignore this consensus by labeling all these scholars “minimalists.” William Dever, for instance, is at loggerheads on many points with Thomas L. Thompson, Israel Finkelstein and Niels P. Lemche – calling them “revisionists.” Yet, as we can see – Dever is in agreement with them on the three points above."

I'm not the only one saying this. There's a raft of Biblical Scholars who agree with my point of view.

Neal said...

Neal: "I didn't say that you were directly engaging in a fallacy. I said that if what you say is true, the implication is that it legitimates the naturalistic fallacy."

Paul: "OK, if there's no fallacy in what I'm saying, then let's move on."

First I would like to ask the question: Does attributing moral beliefs to evolutionary explanations legitimate the naturalistic fallacy? If you say no, why not? Is there an obligation that is binding on everyone to not engage in fallacious reasoning? Why or why not?

Neal: "Your response included an admission that you weren't even sure what it means to say that the brain "knows" something."

Paul: "That's not the context nor the implication at all. I was saying that it seemed that *your* sentence about the brain knowing something was incoherent. You could have offered a fuller explanation of what you meant."

The point is this: On the evolutionary view, there is no "soul" or "spirit", "heart" etc. The mind is just brain, grey matter. The internal brain states are entirely determined by (1) the antecedent brain states, and (2) environmental factors, both of which are subject to the laws of physics. People do not come to believe things because they are true or rational, but because they couldn't help but come to believe those things given what they already believed and the enviornmental factors that manipulate the neurons in their brain. "Good reasoning" is reduced to physical phenomena. Though one may come to certain beliefs (including evolution) there is no good "reason" to think it to be true, for any reason that one could give was also determined by those same environmental factors.

Neal: "I am happy to leave the argument there if you are."

Paul: "I have defended evolutionary morality against every one of your critiques. You could at least acknowledge that."

Yes, I agree that you have attempted to do that. Whether or not you were successful at it is another question.

Neal: If this is what evolutionary theories of the mind leave us with, so much the worse for evolutionary theory."

Paul: "Why? What's the problem that you have created for yourself? If you insist arbitrarily that morality can't be morality unless it's absolute, then you're right, we have a problem. But, on the other hand, you could give up your preconceptions."

This particular comment was not about moral absolutes, it was regarding whether knowledge and rationality are even possible given purely evolutionary explanations. If not, evolutionary naturalism forfeits the right to be taken seriously.

As for your statement that it is arbitrary to insist that morality is absolute, it doesn't appear to be coherent. My claim is that morality is not arbitrary. In essence you are saying that it is arbitrary to not be arbitrary. Now you might argue that it is arbitrary to choose any given set of moral absolutes, and we can argue that, but the statement that there are moral abolutes is not arbitrary, it is the opposite of arbitrary.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal, first could you please explain what *you* think the naturalistic fallacy is? I don't want to respond to something that you're not talking about.

Neal:
People do not come to believe things because they are true or rational, but because they couldn't help but come to believe those things given what they already believed and the enviornmental factors that manipulate the neurons in their brain.

First of all, people believe some things that are true, and some that are not true. If you want to talk about just the cases in which people believe things that are true, that's fine, but let's be clear that the other thing happens, too.

You're describing determinism, if I read you correctly.

Neal:

"Good reasoning" is reduced to physical phenomena. Though one may come to certain beliefs (including evolution) there is no good "reason" to think it to be true, for any reason that one could give was also determined by those same environmental factors.


I think you're assuming a context or definition of a belief that something is true that is does far more than it has too, and which determinism and materialism don't need.

Under determinism and materialism, a belief that X is true doesn't have to mean anything more, in order to function just fine within determinism and materialism, than a configuration of neurons that occur when an organism is about to behave in a way that matches the reality of X.

You're reifying truth beyond what materialism needs.

More in a few days.

Neal said...

Paul: "Neal, first could you please explain what *you* think the naturalistic fallacy is? I don't want to respond to something that you're not talking about."

I'm talking about pretty standard stuff here. There are dozens of websites that outline what the naturalistic fallacy is along with all the other formal and informal fallacies. I'm talking about the standard definition of the is/ought problem.

Neal: "People do not come to believe things because they are true or rational, but because they couldn't help but come to believe those things given what they already believed and the enviornmental factors that manipulate the neurons in their brain."

Paul: "First of all, people believe some things that are true, and some that are not true. If you want to talk about just the cases in which people believe things that are true, that's fine, but let's be clear that the other thing happens, too."

Yes. Why would you think I disagree with that?

Paul: "You're describing determinism, if I read you correctly."

Yes, exactly. If the universe is explained purely by the operation of physical laws, determinism is unavoidable.

Neal: "Good reasoning" is reduced to physical phenomena. Though one may come to certain beliefs (including evolution) there is no good "reason" to think it to be true, for any reason that one could give was also determined by those same environmental factors."

Paul: "I think you're assuming a context or definition of a belief that something is true that is does far more than it has too, and which determinism and materialism don't need."

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here.

Paul: "Under determinism and materialism, a belief that X is true doesn't have to mean anything more, in order to function just fine within determinism and materialism, than a configuration of neurons that occur when an organism is about to behave in a way that matches the reality of X."

So is truth nothing more than a belief? Or are you saying that a belief is only true when it accidentally happens to correspond to reality? Yet there is no way to "know" that belief is true, even if it does happen to correspond to reality. This pushes the mind inescapably to solipsism.

Paul: "You're reifying truth beyond what materialism needs."

How am I doing that? Are you saying that materialism only needs a belief that x is true, and not actual truth?

Paul Rinzler said...

I'm back.

Neal:

So is truth nothing more than a belief? Or are you saying that a belief is only true when it accidentally happens to correspond to reality?


I don't know about accidentally or not, I think that accidentally or not has nothing to do with it. Beliefs are true when they correspond to reality, I hope that is non-controversial.

Neal:

Yet there is no way to "know" that belief is true, even if it does happen to correspond to reality. This pushes the mind inescapably to solipsism.


We just went through the issue with "knowing" not too many posts ago, why do you keep bringing it up? I answer it, and then you ask it again.

I'll try one more time:

We know a belief is true when it corresponds to reality. If you ask how do we know that it corresponds to reality, and I answer "Because of X," then--and here's the crucial point--no matter what X is, you can then ask me "But how do we know X?" and we will never be done, but that surely cannot be the basis of a critique. When as child asks "Why," and keeps on asking after each answer, that doesn't invalidate each answer.

Neal said...

Neal: "So is truth nothing more than a belief? Or are you saying that a belief is only true when it accidentally happens to correspond to reality?"

Paul: "I don't know about accidentally or not, I think that accidentally or not has nothing to do with it. Beliefs are true when they correspond to reality, I hope that is non-controversial."

It is non-controversial. But the reason I bring up beliefs being accidentally true, whether or not a given belief corresponds to reality is this: If there is no way to determine whether any given belief is true, what are we left with? Doesn't this bring into question whether the naturalism that one is assuming to be true really is true?

Neal: "Yet there is no way to "know" that belief is true, even if it does happen to correspond to reality. This pushes the mind inescapably to solipsism."

Paul: "We just went through the issue with "knowing" not too many posts ago, why do you keep bringing it up? I answer it, and then you ask it again."

I keep bringing it up because I don't think it was adequately answered.

In a previous post you stated: "Under determinism and materialism, a belief that X is true doesn't have to mean anything more, in order to function just fine within determinism and materialism, than a configuration of neurons that occur when an organism is about to behave in a way that matches the reality of X."

So if I understand what you are saying here, under deterministic materialism, a belief doesn't actually have to be true, it just needs to be approximately true to reality in order for an organism to benefit from that belief. And yet this raises the question, is naturalism/materialism actually true, or approximately true? If it is approximately true, what does that mean? To what degree is it "approximately" true, and how would one determine this?

Paul: I'll try one more time:

"We know a belief is true when it corresponds to reality. If you ask how do we know that it corresponds to reality, and I answer "Because of X," then--and here's the crucial point--no matter what X is, you can then ask me "But how do we know X?" and we will never be done, but that surely cannot be the basis of a critique. When as child asks "Why," and keeps on asking after each answer, that doesn't invalidate each answer."

If we are arguing about basic presuppositions, how can you just draw a line and say "no further questions"? If we both shared those basic presuppositions, perhaps it would be inappropriate to inquire further. But the basic presuppostions are what are under scrutiny, are they not? Atheists want to press Christians ad nauseum to justify their beliefs, so why should atheists not also be pressed to justify their own beliefs?

Naturalism is a particular belief system that is undergirded by the presupposition that empirical reasoning is the only way to acquire knowledge. If I point out as Hume did that empirical reasoning itself is being assumed without sufficient proof, why cannot that be the basis of a critique?

Paul Rinzler said...

A critique toward what purpose? Toward finding an ultimate basis for Truth? Certainly. But if the purpose is to merely use what works, then the critique fails.

We're exactly at the point of Karl Popper's great analogy of knowledge being like pilings driven down into a swamp. They don't have to be secured into bedrock, they just have to be deep enough to support whatever structure we put on top.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal:
So if I understand what you are saying here, under deterministic materialism, a belief doesn't actually have to be true, it just needs to be approximately true to reality in order for an organism to benefit from that belief.

I'm not sure about this, mainly because I'm not sure what it means for something to be approximately true. I never said that, and it sounds like how someone is "a little bit pregnant." Something is either true or not.

Where did I say anything about things being approximately true?


I keep bringing it up because I don't think it was adequately answered.
But your response as to what you think it isn't adequate is, in the end, merely to restate your critique again. That doesn't push the ball down the road at all.

Lastly, re-read by last paragraph in my last post. I didn't say you couldn't ask the question, merely that doing so doesn't invalidate the previous answers.

Neal said...

"A critique toward what purpose? Toward finding an ultimate basis for Truth? Certainly. But if the purpose is to merely use what works, then the critique fails."

What works, for what end? Certainly one would have to know to what end before one could rightly judge whether or not it "works". And this discussion has always been about what is true, has it not? Or perhaps this blog needs to be renamed to something along the lines of "Disagreeing with Christianity". Somehow it doesn't have the same punch though, does it?

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

"We're exactly at the point of Karl Popper's great analogy of knowledge being like pilings driven down into a swamp. They don't have to be secured into bedrock, they just have to be deep enough to support whatever structure we put on top."

That is indeed a great analogy, and an interesting admission that science is not based on any objective foundation. So why then do atheists and evolutionists keep proclaiming that evolution is "a fact" that is unassailable when its entire foundations are in quicksand? We are told over and over that the scientific method is the only reliable method for gaining knowledge.

The entire Popper quotation is great:

"Science does not rest upon solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or 'given' base; and when we cease our attempts to drive our piles into a deeper layer, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that they are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being."

This is a great picture of why science is a poor foundation on which to build one's philosophy of life. If you'll indulge my Christianity for a moment, this is also reminiscent of something that Jesus said:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and {yet} it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall." - Matthew 7:24-27

Paul Rinzler said...

Ooops, some typos:

But your response as to what you think it isn't adequate is, in the end, merely to restate your critique again.

Delete the word "it" in the sentence above.

Lastly, re-read by last paragraph in my last post. I didn't say you couldn't ask the question, merely that doing so doesn't invalidate the previous answers.

"Last post" above should be "Second-to-last" post above.

Neal said...

Neal said: "So if I understand what you are saying here, under deterministic materialism, a belief doesn't actually have to be true, it just needs to be approximately true to reality in order for an organism to benefit from that belief."

Paul said: "I'm not sure about this, mainly because I'm not sure what it means for something to be approximately true. I never said that, and it sounds like how someone is "a little bit pregnant." Something is either true or not."

Indeed. I used that word in trying to elicit an understanding what you were trying to say. If you don't like that word, feel free to explain what you really meant. Again, this is the statement you made that I'm trying to understand:

"Under determinism and materialism, a belief that X is true doesn't have to mean anything more, in order to function just fine within determinism and materialism, than a configuration of neurons that occur when an organism is about to behave in a way that matches the reality of X."

I'll restate my previous response. You seem to be implying here that under deterministic materialism, a belief doesn't actually have to be true, it can be false in relation to reality but function well enough to benefit the organism. And yet this raises the question, is naturalism/materialism actually true, or is it false?

Neal said: "I keep bringing it up because I don't think it was adequately answered."

Paul said: "But your response as to what you think it isn't adequate is, in the end, merely to restate your critique again. That doesn't push the ball down the road at all."

If it wasn't adequately answered, how could the ball be pushed down the road?

Paul said: "Lastly, re-read by last paragraph in my last post. I didn't say you couldn't ask the question, merely that doing so doesn't invalidate the previous answers."

It does if those previous answers themselves don't actually answer the question. Your answer to the critique that under naturalism all activity of the mind is reducible to physicalist deterministic descriptions is to reply with a physicalist deterministic description! It's like when David Hume despaired that there was no rational justification for causation, that the mind just expects it out of habit of thought, and is the true source of causality. Then along comes Kant who says, "yes! the mind is the source of causality!" It really didn't answer Hume, but took Hume's despairing conclusion and made it the basis of his philosophy of mind.

Paul Rinzler said...

I understand your question, now, Neal. I didn't mean to say that truth would be partial or accidental. I just wanted to prevent what I see as a reification of the truth by theists (or non-materialists, more strictly), making truth into something more than what would be needed by a material organism to control its behavior with neuronal configurations that fire when the conditions they encode for are matched by reality (whew, that's a horrible sentence, but I was just trying to sum up my argument here). I see theists trying to refute this idea on the basis that Truth somehow requires something more than what materialism can provide its definition, and I'm trying to scale down the definition (but the accuracy) of truth to fit materialism, and it then seems that this definition is perfectly fine.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal:

If it wasn't adequately answered, how could the ball be pushed down the road?


But you haven't gotten to the end of saying why you think it isn't adequate. Your critique gets short-circuited by you merely restating your thesis. In essence, it's been

Me: My idea A
You: A is wrong
Me: why?
You: reason #1
Me: sub-argument B (=defense of A)
You: B is wrong
Me: my proof that B is right
You: A is wrong

I'm not willing to quote chapter and verse here to prove this to you, it's just too tedious for me to do so. If we can't agree on this now, let's just drop it.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal:
Your answer to the critique that under naturalism all activity of the mind is reducible to physicalist deterministic descriptions is to reply with a physicalist deterministic description!

That's kinda it, actually. That is, I'm trying to show that the supposed critique of naturalism and materialism and determinism is not a critique because the three of them describe a theory that fits the empirical state of affairs on the ground and is not contradictory, so there's no need to posit anything beyond what the theory shows.

But that requires giving up what theists think Truth (tm) is, and accepting a "lesser" version (but not less accurate) in some sense (I admit I have not exactly defined what I mean by lesser, I'll keep working on it).

I think I may have it. Theists accuse materialists of not having any grounding for morality because you can't get an ought from an is. This is an unfounded critique, because materialists are not supposing an ought, that is, an absolute Ought; they only say that whatever oughts we find are evolutionary, relative, changeable, etc. But they still function as oughts: they limit behavior to a greater or lesser degree, discourse about those oughts is still intelligible, etc.

That redefines "Ought" down to the level that is consistent with materialism, but it is not illogical, it works, etc.

Paul Rinzler said...

One other thought, maybe this gets closer to my reification issue:

The ought that comes from materialism is not an ought ontologically, it's just a label for behavior that organisms with sufficient brains to label things want to encourage.

So there's no ultimate sense in which a materialistic ought is an Ought. It's just a label for behavior that certain organisms try to get others (and themselves) to do. That's all an ought has to be.

Neal said...

"So there's no ultimate sense in which a materialistic ought is an Ought. It's just a label for behavior that certain organisms try to get others (and themselves) to do. That's all an ought has to be."

Or rather its all an ought can be. I understand what you are saying, but it still seems to me that this undermines rational ethical discourse. It leaves us only with descriptions, not prescriptions. It also I think doesn't take seriously the problem of evil. Most people intuitively have a sense that certain crimes are intrinsically evil, apart from any cost-benefit analysis for the human race or a simple "I don't want that to happen to me." The prime example being child rape and murder. In most people this sort of thing elicits a visceral anger that wants the perpetrator to pay for his crimes, not just because it would be good for the human race, but because they want due justice to be served.

Anyway, it's been an enjoyable conversation. I appreciate your even-handedness in this discussion. It's been interesting. You may have the last word in this thread if you like.

GearHedEd said...

Neal asked,

"...So why then do atheists and evolutionists keep proclaiming that evolution is "a fact" that is unassailable when its entire foundations are in quicksand? We are told over and over that the scientific method is the only reliable method for gaining knowledge."

First, don't forget that the Vatican accepts the theory of evolution as being compatible with Christian faith.

Second, while there's still some debate about the mechanisms and rates pertaining to evolution, biologists are almost all in agreement that evolution is the correct explanation. Just like Newton's theories were not thrown out by relativity (which builds on what Newton and others discovered), filling in the details about evolution will not render it "false".

Last, Popper's commentary on science being like pilings driven into a swamp is accurate, but we need to remember that just like a piling, it moves less and less with each successive blow, until it reaches a point where more blows won't move it further. It's a matter of statistics: something that moves not at all given new discoveries of descriptive detail can still be called "factual" with some measure of confidence. This means that no one, including those doing all the cutting-edge research expect that the "theory" of evolution will ever be falsified to the extent that we'll need to start from scratch.

There's just too much evidence supporting evolution, and none supporting creationism, which is the only "theory" in contention with evolution as an explanation.

Neal said...

"First, don't forget that the Vatican accepts the theory of evolution as being compatible with Christian faith."

Irrelevant appeal to authority.

"Second, while there's still some debate about the mechanisms and rates pertaining to evolution, biologists are almost all in agreement that evolution is the correct explanation."

Agreement with does not establish the truth of a proposition.

"There's just too much evidence supporting evolution, and none supporting creationism, which is the only "theory" in contention with evolution as an explanation."

Thank you for confirming what I just said about atheists and evolutionists proclaiming evolution a fact without having to argue for it.

Paul Rinzler said...

Neal, I've enjoyed our conversation, too. I think it's best if I make *that* the last word.

Take care.

Paul Rinzler said...

GearHedEd, that brings up a good point. I often see theists assuming that knowledge or morality has to be absolute, and if it isn't then everything is a 50/50 potshot. But, as you say, that isn't true either. Just because everything isn't completely and absolutely black and white doesn't mean that something can't be pretty dark or pretty bright.

GearHedEd said...

Me: "First, don't forget that the Vatican accepts the theory of evolution as being compatible with Christian faith."

Neal: "Irrelevant appeal to authority."

I can stick my fingers in my ears and holler "LAA LAA LAA!", too. That you even said that shows that you got nothing except one book that doesn't say anything coherent about the subject.

------------------------------

Me: "Second, while there's still some debate about the mechanisms and rates pertaining to evolution, biologists are almost all in agreement that evolution is the correct explanation."

Neal: "Agreement with does not establish the truth of a proposition."

Those experts in biology aren't just standing around agreeing with each other. They're doing cutting edge research, and finding out how things really work. They're manipulating genetic instructions to turn genes on and off at different times and PROVING that birds are descended from dinosaurs. Keep on sticking your head in the sand. Makes no difference to the truth.

-------------------------------

Me: "There's just too much evidence supporting evolution, and none supporting creationism, which is the only "theory" in contention with evolution as an explanation."

Neal: "Thank you for confirming what I just said about atheists and evolutionists proclaiming evolution a fact without having to argue for it."

The evidence is all around you. I'm not going to attempt posting it here because

a) there's literally mountains of evidence supporting evolution, and

b) you would deny it was true out of hand, if you even bothered to read it. Not MY fault your mind is welded shut. I'm with Paul. You're too dense to reason with.