• Dawkins, Abortion and Catholic Fervour

    Someone with whom I once did teacher training is now a fervent Catholic and blogger at his site. We have had many a strong argument on facebook, and recently he alerted me to this blog post to see what I thought. I am now going to critique his piece on abortion and Dawkins.

    As you may have read, in recent days there has been a stonking debate about abortion here, which has really got to the nub of the abortion debate, philosophically speaking. Unfortunately, in Laurence’s piece, abortion is just simply taken as a sin on account of Catholic doctrine. Of course, I disagree for many reasons.

    Apparently (I was unaware) Dawkins has recently urged someone have an abortion to get rid of a Down’s Syndrome child. What a difficult decision for sure (And for the record, after much careful thought, I would wager I would opt for the same).

    Laurence starts off with the usual hat tip to the Moral Argument, followed by this rather blanket and naïve claim:

    It has been said before by others that Richard Dawkins is in some ways a great gift to the Church because he keeps on revealing what atheism really is and the moral abyss of nihilism into which it leads. Others will say, in the face of such callous statements that this is not ‘my kind of atheism’ – because its not really humanism – and yet, ultimately, atheism denies to the one who disagrees with this opinion a logical right of reply because atheism denies an objective reality or objective set of moral truths grounded in divine revelation or even natural law. In atheism, there is no moral truth, only moral opinion.

    This is interesting because most philosophers are non-theists and are broadly split three ways:

    Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?

    Other 301 / 931 (32.3%)
    Accept or lean toward: deontology 241 / 931 (25.9%)
    Accept or lean toward: consequentialism 220 / 931 (23.6%)
    Accept or lean toward: virtue ethics 169 / 931 (18.2%)

    And:

    Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?

    Accept or lean toward: moral realism 525 / 931 (56.4%)
    Accept or lean toward: moral anti-realism 258 / 931 (27.7%)
    Other 148 / 931 (15.9%)

    Since only some 14.6% of the philosophers surveyed reported as theist (this is the biggest ever philosophy survey), this means that what Laurence is saying, as according to these philosophers, is apparently false. Despite what i personally think of moral truth here, it is abundantly clear that perhaps the most important discussion in philosophy is still far from being settled. And none of these choices require a God to make sense. This is something that I have written about in my chapter in John Loftus’ forthcoming book from Prometheus; that atheists are in a good position to morally judge Christians, since none of the major philosophical positions on morality require God, and none of the most adhered to positions are subjective, or “opinion”. In fact, only 27.7% rated themselves as non-realists.

    Furthermore, in his comment about natural law indicates perhaps a lack of knowledge about the position.

    Therefore, before the horror of Richard Dawkins’s opinion on the unborn child with Downs Syndrome, the concerned atheist has two places to go – to natural law – or to the God, for what else is there…

    This is just naïve and demonstrably false. I suggest some reading around the subject of morality!

    Can the confirmed atheist really say, ‘I am an atheist and I disagree with Richard Dawkins’? He can, of course, say it, since it is a matter of opinion, but ultimately, he cannot confront Mr Dawkins with a convincing logical argument that defeats the repellent point of view he has posited.

    Er, that’s just ridiculous. This equates anti-abortionists as necessarily being theists who ground their morality in the same way Laurence does.

    Laurence reports Dawkins as tweeting, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

    It cold, its brutal, its rational, its logical, its scientific. It was also the kind of reply that was not called for. Literally.

    It turns out that Mr Dawkins is something of a patriarch! If it had been directed at me and I had replied, ‘Keep it for Heaven’s sake! It would be immoral to kill a child just because s/he had Downs Syndrome!’ how would she react?

    “Abort it and try again”, is his reply. This is something of a command, is it not? Somewhat the inversion of ‘Go forth and multiply’. Next Mr Dawkins moralises to the woman.

    This is an incredible set of statements. Whilst Dawkins has been lambasted for his dubious statements in the context of feminism, this is just ridiculous. Laurence, a man, tells one man off for a dogmatic claim on behalf of a woman, and then makes an even more dogmatic one on behalf of women! Simply beggars belief!

    That’s right. Atheists can moralise, even though there is no objective moral authority but for ‘my considered opinion’ upon which the atheist draws.

    Yawn. See above.

    In an astonishing assertion, Dawkins insists, “It would be immoral to bring it into the world”. Note too, that the unborn child is an ‘it’. ‘It’ should not be allowed to exist. But who says so? By what authority does Dawkins claim that ‘it’ should not be allowed to exist? ‘Into the world’ he adds? Whose world is this? Our world? Or Dawkins-world? The Brave New World?

    Who’s talking about assertions?!

    What annoys me about the abortion debate in this un-nuanced form is the terribly dubious use of loaded language. A blastocyst is not a child! An embryo is not a child! Child destruction refers to an unborn “capable of being born alive”, and embryos at the stage of Down’s identification are far from that. These words are used to evoke emotional, non-rational, purchase.

    The headings that Laurence uses are hilarious in their irony:

    Judgemental atheists

    In his and many other’s version of the (Catholic Christian) faith there is an incredible amount of judgement, Indeed, it is built into the faith! Laurence’s whole piece reeks of judgement. Unjustified judgement at that.

    90% of unborn children with Downs are already aborted in this country, so Mr Dawkins touches on something of an open wound in British society. Are the 10% of parents who do not abort their child with Downs choosing a course of action that is ‘immoral’? Are they guilty? If so, guilty of what? Bringing ‘inferior’ human beings into the world?  Making the world genetically less pure? Who is inferior to whom? Can it be empirically proven that this is the case? Is that all we are? Walking genes?

    As I have said many times before, God loves abortion. Most implanted eggs spontaneously and naturally abort. God could design it otherwise and God could stop it. But doesn’t. Since he is apparently all-loving, it must serve a purpose. So God is instrumentally using the death of unborns for a greater good. That is EXACTLY what pro-choicers argue for. It is deliciously ironic. And really, I have never seen an argument that comes close to refuting this.

    And then there is this nonsense. I would like to be nicer, as Laurence asked me for my opinion kindly, but this is just rampant nonsense:

    And yet can the ‘nice atheist’ confront Mr Dawkins with anything here to say, ‘You are totally wrong’? Not really. An entire army of atheists can stand up and say, “What a deeply unpleasant thing to say!” But logic does not have to be pleasant. Logic, as Richard has said in his ‘apology’ does not need to take account of feelings. In the ‘law of the jungle’, feelings, remember, are for wimps. We are talking here about the ‘survival of the fittest’. We’re talking about the quality of the ‘human species’. For this we can thank Darwinism.

    I just don’t quite know where to start. So I won’t, much. Suffice to say that feelings and emotions are part of life and get factored into many a logical argument. In fact, consequentialism is often defined in terms of, you know, happiness, or lack of pain.

    Most atheists argue from a point of empiricism. Yet empiricism doesn’t offer to Dawkins any evidence that it would be immoral to bring a child with Downs Syndrome into the world. That is a value judgment. It is not even scientific, unless science imposes a set of human values on the human race and then calls those values science, beyond reproach.

    Do you have any evidence for this? How about inductive observations about pain, consciousness and sentience? How about the rather startlingly obvious facts that most pro-lifers are keen to attack people considering abortion, but rather lacking in offering help (financial or otherwise), fostering or concern for those who they convince to have their babies, or by offering to take those would-be abortions, Down’s or otherwise, off their hands. Pro-life indeed. Only in argument, not in action.

    Much of the rest is about Down’s and moral difference between such foetuses and neurotypicals. Of course, to most in the argument, this doesn’t matter. Both are foetuses without sentience, feelings, emotions, pain etc. They are not human beings with personhood.

    As Andy Schueler brilliantly pointed out, if a fertility clinic was burning down and you had the choice to save a nurse or a box of blastocysts, who would you save?

    The answer is obvious, and should tell you a lot about the intuitive understanding of moral value of each life.

    What much of this relies on is the Catholic tradition of potentiality, taken from Aristotelian philosophy. A zygote is a potential human, and therefore is accorded human rights. As Jeffrey Reiman states:

    The seeming plausibility of the idea that he same continuous essence arises from conflating two different definitions of same continuous entity . On one definition, a thing is the same continuous entity if it has the same continuous essence; on the other definition, a thing is the same continuous entity if it is a physically continuous entity. If we stick to the first definition, the same physically continuous entity can undergo essential change and become a different entity as a result. If we stick to the second, the same physically continuous entity can undergo essential change.

    …On the first alternative, though a fetus is physically continuous with an adult person, the fetus is not ipso facto the same entity as the adult person and thus not ipso facto a person. Onn the second alternative, though the fetus is the same entity as an adult person, it does not thereby have the same continuous essence and thus, again, is not ipso facto a person. Notice, too, that either of these alternatives removes the mysterious claim that fetuses can be (substantive) persons though they lack the traits of (substantive) personhood.

    Now, if an entity’s moral status depends on its essential nature, then since physical identity does not entail essential identity, physical identity does not entail moral identity either. If, on the other hand, an entity’s moral status depends on its nonessential properties, then since physical identity is compatible with changes in nonesorsential properties, it follows as well that physical identity does not entail moral identity. Since an entity’s moral status must depend on either its essential nature or its nonessential properties (or both) , it follows generally that physical identity does not imply moral identity.

    Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that human beings’ moral status can change profoundly with changes in their nonessential properties.” Abortion and the Way we Value Human Life p. 81-2.

    The real nub of the potentiality debate comes here:

    This talk of the fetus’s genetic blueprint will suggest to some a different tack, namely, that what is valuable in the zygote is a potential human child or adult. The fetus, even at this early stage, is a potential person, a potential bearer of moral rights. Thus, for example, Burleigh Wilkins holds that the fetus has a right to life “from the very early moment of conception because it is a potential person.” 23 Such claims appear to commit what Joel Feinberg has called the “logical error” of thinking that one can “deduce actual rights from merely potential (but not yet actual) qualification for those rights. What follows form potential qualification …are potential, not actual, rights; what entails actual rights is actual, not potential, qualification. As the Australian philosopher Stanley Benn puts it, ‘A potential President of the United States is not on that account Commander-in-Chief (of the US Army and Navy).'”24 (p.60)

    This idea that there is some continuity of essence throughout the developmental stages is problematic.

    This undermines the claim that the newly conceived zygote is even a potential human being.” p. 66

    He then goes on to take Aristotle’s ides to task, concluding,

    …talk of newly conceived zygotes as potential persons reflects a subtle anthropomorphism read into what are simply mechanical processes. If this is correct, the potentiality argument should finally be laid to rest as a relic of ancient biology.

    Back to the rather simplistic approach of Laurence, where abortion is just evil, end of…

    H goes on to make a meal of for comparing atheists with eugenic Hitlers: well, what an insult. But it isn’t really worthy of comment, just empty invective lacking of any rational substance.

    So that’s what I think. But he doesn’t really value atheist opinions anyway.

    Category: AtheismChurchFeaturedGenderPhilosophyReligion and Society

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Laurence England

      ‘How about inductive observations about pain, consciousness and sentience?’

      Hi, there is much I would say about this post, much indeed, and I thank you for your reply. The above sentence, however, is startlingly problematic, because, like Dawkins, it is to justify bringing scientific methodology into human morality and these are, intrinsically two entirely different schools.

      The joining of scientific method and moral decisions is, most people I think would assert, dangerous because it is brutal, just as Dawkins’s philosophy is brutal. Such methodology can easily be used as justification for euthanasia (voluntary or involuntary).

      You once more reinforce the suspicion among those of Faith, who believe in a set of values which do not permit human beings to be arbitrary decision makers in destructive ‘intervention’ in the lives of others (such as the unborn).

      In this methodology, the concept of inalienable human rights, to life, to existence, are very easily abandoned along a road that leads to the destruction of human life on scientific ‘merit’.

      Scientific atheists, or atheists who place their trust in science, are utopian, in as much as they are looking for the creation of a world without pain and suffering because it is, ‘bad’. What they really want, of course, is Heaven where ‘God will wipe away every tear from every eye, where there is no more pain, no more suffering, for the former things have passed away’.

      Neither do you offer a convincing, coherent answer to the atheist who, instinctively, is against Dawkins’s position, but cannot draw upon religion or arguments steeped in natural law.

      ‘An embryo is not a child!’

      Science does not say that the embryo is a child. Science does say that human life starts at conception. Whether you admit or believe that the embryo is a ‘child’, you cannot deny that the embryo is human, because it is a ‘human embryo’. You can, if you so choose, deny that the embryo is a child, but you cannot deny his or her humanity since all human embryos are by their very nature, human, just as you cannot deny that an Elephant embryo is a developing elephant in the womb. It can be nothing other than that which it is. To say the embryo is not a child is linguistically true, but can you say therefore, what the embryo IS, for it is not nothing.

      • Hi Laurence,

        “it is to justify bringing scientific methodology into human morality and these are, intrinsically two entirely different schools.”

        This depends on your views of morality.

        Is, say, killing one billion people worse in any way than killing 1? Is punching someone 30 times in the face worse than punching someone once? Is stealing one billion pounds worse than stealing one? What if the consequences of doing the first leads to 50,000 people starving to death rather than none?

        These are observable, empirically so, things. So science (depending on your moral value system) is intrinsically linked to morality, perhaps.

        If you merely believe in the categorical imperative (all lying is bad) then you get yourself into trouble, since what if a murderer came to your door and asked where Jack and Jill were because he wanted to murder them, and they were in your loft? Is is wrong to lie then, if it saves two children’s lives?

        So absolute laws and rules are problematic and it seems (and actually, most people intuitively are) that we are mostly consequentialist in our nature. 90% of us would pull the lever that kill one to save 5 in a trolley experiment, though less if it involved pushing a fat man off the bridge, so there is much psychology involved.

        Point being that science can tell us a lot about morality, and can help give information that is involved in rational moral decision making.

        That is how, say, NICE HAS to work in deciding what drugs the NHS should take on. etc etc

        • Laurence England

          A good reply, but I do not consider that it addresses my point adequately because the examples you cite, such as lying to defend someone from a murderer, better to kill one person rather than one billion people, are not a matter of science, but morality. The examples you cite do not involve science until you, thankfully, get to NICE.

          Now, it so happens that NICE are either considering or do already in practice use not a scientific, but a ‘rationalist methodology’ in which to distinguish between those patients who merit treatment above others, based on age, for example, in terms of cancer treatment.

          This is entirely arbitrary and involves no scientific enquiry whatsoever. It conflates not science and morality, but involves an arbitrary value judgment on the value of one human life, in comparison to another. It is a private value judgment, or assumption on the part of the medical team, rather than the upholding of a moral law that treats all its patients as equal, regardless of age, etc. On the other hand, the Church would say that all human life is sacred, one life not worth more than another.

          Now we can argue, if you wish, that NICE are doing their best in ‘austere times’, but I cannot advocate that a young person with a career is more worthy of treatment than an elderly person. An elderly person can sacrifice himself and his health for another, out of love, but it is not love for a medical team to sacrifice an elderly person for a young person.

          This is why Dawkins’s argument is not steeped in science, but the application of eugenic values to who should be born, and who we can ‘do without’. If he said ‘It would be immoral for a Jew to be born into the world’, we would ALL be very horrified, but would it be that different?

          • The examples DO involve science. Anything involving observation, is science. So if we morally observe different actions, and we can define the amount of death/pain/anything, then we are doing science. Science is the collection and analysis of data.

            What you do with that data is another thing, but the point is that one has use of the other.

            • Laurence England

              The word science means knowledge, from the Latin ‘scientia’.

              We act either morally, or immorally, in such circumstances on the basis of what we know.

              But in the case of abortion, or NICE’s treatment decisions, what do we know?

              We know that an unborn human being dwells in safety in the mother’s womb. That is all that science can tell us. That is our knowledge.

              It is not science to say that unborn human being is not a human being. That is an assumption not grounded in science but opinion. And more, if that opinion has been formed and held by modern man, it is not an opinion arrived to by help of scientific inquiry which has done more to show us the development of the unborn child in the womb than we could have dreamed.

              How we act upon that knowledge is something else entirely. That is morality and it is distinct from the knowledge we have been given. It is another realm.

            • “The word science means knowledge, from the Latin ‘scientia’.”

              Yes, well done.

              “We act either morally, or immorally, in such circumstances on the basis of what we know.”

              Brilliant. You have just told me that science means knowledge, and now you have admitted that moral action is based on knowledge.

              SO you have proved my point.

            • Laurence England

              I haven’t proved your point. I have said that knowledge takes you to a point at which you can make a moral decision. It does not take you to the point at which a moral decision can be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

              THAT is an entirely diffrerent arena in which science is redundant and has done its job.

              It is at this point that conscience comes into play.

              So science can take you to the point at which you decide that a 77 year old has cancer. It can take you to the point at which you decide that a 17 year old has cancer.

              Science does not tell you which to treat over another.

              That is a matter of conscience and it is not up to science to tell you which one to treat, but your conscience. It is conscience that asserts that these two are either equal, or one more worthy of treatment than another. NOT SCIENCE.

            • “I have said that knowledge takes you to a point at which you can make a moral decision. It does not take you to the point at which a moral decision can be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.”

              Which was my point.

            • Laurence England

              I inferred that you believed that NICE should make a moral decision based on science, when, in fact, science has only taken them up to the decision. The decision is based on morality, not the science, hence these are two separate fields. The former can inform the latter, but the latter need not act on the information provided by the former. They are distinct. For example, I find my wife in bed with another man. Observations have led me to this irrefutable conclusion. The information received does not mean that I need take a gun and shoot both of them. I could just shoot one of them, or I could walk out and go down the pub to complain to my friends.

            • No, they are inextricably linked, as you seemed to correctly imply. You couldn’t make that moral decision in a vacuum since it would effectively be random. It is some sort of consequentialism: lives saved/extended; money diverted from other life saving duties and associate data; cost (and thus return on investment); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-adjusted_life_year#Calculation

              etc

              But if you had none of this knowledge, how could you even go about making a moral judgement about the drugs?

              Morality is linked to knowledge of the world, and this is what people like Richard Carrier and Sam Harris have sought to show (though Harris could have couched it better):

              Harris identifies three projects for science as it relates to morality: (1) explaining why humans do what they do in the name of “morality” (e.g. traditional evolutionary psychology), (2) determining which patterns of thought and behaviour humans actually should follow (i.e. the science of morality), and (3) generally persuading humans to change their ways.[11] Harris says that the first project is focused only on describing what is, whereas projects (2) and (3) are focused on what should and could be, respectively. Harris’s point is that this second, prescriptive project should be the focus of a science of morality.[12] He mentions, however, that we should not fear an “Orwellian future” with scientists at every door – vital progress in the science of morality could be shared in much the same way as advances in medicine.[13]

              Harris says it is important to delineate project (1) from project (2), or else we risk committing a moralistic fallacy.[14] He also highlights the importance of distinguishing between project (2) (asking what is right) from project (3) (trying to change behaviour). He says we must realize that the nuances of human motivation is a challenge in itself; humans often fail to do what they “ought” to do even to be successfully selfish – there is every reason to believe that discovering what is best for society would not change every member’s habits overnight.[15]

              Harris does not imagine that people, even scientists, have always made the right moral decisions—indeed it is precisely his argument that many of them are wrong about moral facts.[16] This is due to the many real challenges of good science in general, including human cognitive limitations and biases (e.g. loss aversion can sway human decisions on important issues like medicine). He mentions the research of Paul Slovic and others to describe just a few of these established mental heuristics that might keep us from reasoning properly.[17] Although he mentions that training might temper the influence of these biases, Harris worries about research showing that incompetence and ignorance in a domain leads to confidence (the Dunning–Kruger effect).[18]

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape_(book)

              But yes, the core ideals of moral philosophy are rational.

              But in another sense this defers to the a priori/a posteriori argument. Can you have knowledge which isn’tin some way connected to empricial knowledge about the world.

              For example, we might say that ex nihilo nihil fit, or happiness is good as a priori rational pieces of brute fact knowledge. But perhaps both of these are both derived from empirical evidence: nothing we have see comes from nothing, therefore something cannot come from nothing; happiness is good because it makes us feel good which is evidenced from the the observations of hormones and resultant feelings and evaluations.

              Philosophy ain’t easy! It is dangerous to be dogmatic (which is hard for a Catholic!;))

            • Laurence England

              Philosophy cannot be dogmatic if it rejects dogma. St Thomas Aquinas was very dogmatic, it did not stop him being a very clever philosopher. Atheist philosophers reject dogma as dangerous, that is true, but they never offer an explanation as to WHY dogma is dangerous. It is more likely that they are dogmaphobic. THE truth is treated as a threat to personal freedom of mind and thought when the very opposite is the case. THE truth, said Jesus Christ, will set you free. Free to what? Do and say and think as I please? No, rather, to submit my will, mind, heart and soul to Him and, insodoing, find freedom in God, Who is Infinitely Good. That does not require the annihilation of my intellect, but the submitting of my intellect to someone who is Greater Than That Which Can be Conceived.

      • Andrew Brown writes a thoughtful piece, Do Human Rights Exist?

        http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2010/oct/20/human-rights-exist

        Of course, human rights are concepts in our heads built up out of conceptual constructions and systems. All of which will eventually come down to an axiom, which you cannot ground in anything but itself as a brute fact. This is the same for theistic arguments as it is fr secular ones, so we are on the same footing.

        The grounds for, say, the UN charter for human rights – is that philosophy as sound as it can be (given the axioms)? One would think so, irrespective of wehther God exists. But does creating these systems in our heads suddenly mean that we magic these rights into actual / ontic reality? No.

        They remain concepts.

        If no humans existed or other sentient, rational creatures, human rights would not exist, nor morality. They are not mind independent (see the nominalism / realism debate).

        • Laurence England

          Do human rights exist? Not if we do not want them to. The problem is reality. As you know I am arguing in defence of a reality that is the same for everyone, regardless of whether they believe in it. That reality is God and His Law. Removing morality from God and His Law is precisely where the problem arises because men can then advance the idea that ‘reality’ is personal and therefore, for society, can change. We can then build a ‘new reality’. That can be good, or bad, but then, what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’? What the society says? What if the society is completely wrong? As it was in Nazi Germany, for instance. What looks like ‘rationalism’ becomes pure ideology, which can become used for evil very easily, but then, who can speak out against evil, once ‘good and evil’ have disappeared from the lexicon, or been exchanged for each other?

          • They exist inasmuch as we grant them into existence, and we sign legal international contracts that we take them as given. So they might have legal and socially contracted existence. But that does not mean they have ontic reality.

            The problem is, atheism is not a worldview. You keep thinking it is, and cobble together all sorts of ideas with it. It is the position that God does not exist. That is it. Full stop. It has no moral dimension (other than necessarily denying the Moral Argument from God).

            Atheism is not secular humanism and vice versa.

            If Stalin was a secular humanist, would he have done those things? No way.

            Secular humanism is a worldview, atheism is merely a position on god’s existence.

            • Laurence England

              My point is that atheism is not merely a position on God’s existence but therefore a position that denies everything that flows from the implications of God’s existence. The denial of God’s existence necessarily means the denial of an objective reality rooted OUTSIDE of subjective human opinion. It entails a denial of objective truth, objective reality, objective, universal set of beliefs to which all can give assent. It cannot justifiably issue ‘commandments’ since there is no authority but man. Atheism cannot issue an absolute morality on anything because there are no Absolutes if God’s existence is not upheld.

            • yeah but all those things you think come from God, atheists build up without od. However, t is not their atheism which dictates how this is done. Which is why atheists disagree on moral philosophy as well as anything else. In fact, it is all the more noble and robust (when done properly). We do things not because God tells us through unknown books 2000 years ago, but because we argue it from bottom up.

              And that’s philosophy. Done in conjunction with knowledge gained from science.

            • Laurence England

              Yes, that is philosophy but it does not lead to truth, because all truth becomes personal. One man could like Nietzche, another Heidegger. These may be philosophers but they are only men, like you and I. Their conclusions may be right, or may be wrong.

              You might think that is good but it is not necessarily the case. The question I have for you is: Do you mind not being in possession of THE truth and do you mind that you can never assert to anybody else that such as thing as THE truth exists?

              Because it really helps in order to establish any moral principle that we can hold as TRUE, if we can say that this is THE TRUTH.

            • Laurence England

              ‘Yeah but all those things you think come from God, atheists build up without God.’

              Out of North and South Korea, which one, if you were free to visit both, would you rather visit?

            • Void Walker

              How about the Netherlands? Secular, no predominant religious affiliation, and yet….

              http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06/26/netherlands-prisons-close–lack-of-criminals-_n_3503721.html

              Fascinating, considering that, according to you, Christian morality is mandatory for human prosperity.

            • Laurence England

              Secular but not avowedly atheist.

            • Void Walker

              That is not what I claimed. You seem to be making the claim that Christian moral systems/guidelines are necessary for human well being. The Netherlands, being predominantly secular, do not follow your reasoning, considering the low crime rates, high rates of happiness/well being absent implementation of Christian doctrine. Following your logic the apposite should be true, since Christian “morality” is not implemented into the government or social systems therein.

            • South Korea, because it fits better with my secular humanist worldview. And I’ve been there.

            • Void Walker

              I think he’s trying to say that, since S Korea is mostly christian, that establishes the key demarcation between quality of living between it and N Korea…..yeah.

            • I am simply showing that those universal values fall better into secular humanism rather than those of NK which are supposedly atheist. He is trying to overstretch what atheism entails.

            • Void Walker

              From what I’ve read thus far, he doesn’t even seem to understand atheism in the least. He’s operating under a lot of really bad presumptions that theists often do.

            • Daydreamer1

              Jesus Christ Jonathan. I don’t know how you keep sane dealing with all this.

              Time and time again all I see is ‘Hello. I am X. I define atheism like this and given my definition compared to how I define my religion, which is like this, my religion, which I like more than atheism, wins.’

              It doesn’t matter what it is, or what religion, it always boils down to that. That, and I would guess, about a 90% chance that it will ultimately boil down to ‘ah, but my absolutism means I also win that way because I have that and you don’t have one so nah nah nah nah nah, I’ve got one, you don’t, so I win again’.

              To make the point I’ve just converted to my own religion and written down a few absolutes. People will like them because they say don’t eat all the babies, so people will agree. Atheism is complete crap compared to my absolutes because I’ve got them and so I’ve got morality and you don’t so you haven’t got morality. You’re just acting like you’re moral, whereas I actually am. See, I’m real, your just winging it and being lucky.

              Nah nah nah nah nah

              Therefore… Jesus.

              —–

              Ben’s new rule: If it can only be expressed in terms that no-one understands it is probably bullshit.

            • Ann

              LOL!
              You just summarized every Fundie on the Internet!

            • Void Walker

              “My point is that atheism is not merely a position on God’s existence but therefore a position that denies everything that flows from the implications of God’s existence.”

              And what, exactly, are the “implications” of Gods existence? Have you not closely studied the OT? The flood, God-sanctioned genocides, damning those who are not heterosexual to death, etc. The aforementioned hardly seem morally right, so unless you deny the historicity of those particular sections of the OT, how can you justify that your particular God is a moral being, and that our morality flows from him?

            • Laurence England

              The implication of God’s existence which is most important is that the Ten Commandments are real and that you must obey them.

            • Void Walker

              How do you know the ten commandments are real, in any reasonable sense (were divinely authored by god, etc)? Moreover, even if you grant them a basis in reality, countless problems follow: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments

      • OK, you need to be more nuanced.

        Science tells us what properties embryos and children have, through inductive observations. Philosophy, semantics and language tell us what these properties mean, and we ascribe labels to them, but you MUST not confuse the map with the terrain.

        Which is to say a description of reality is not reality itself. Just because we label properties with abstract ideas and names does not mean these things pop into reality, magically.

        Look, I can say a ihhsdofkndwfwes is something with properties X and Y.

        That does not mean a ihhsdofkndwfwes now exists because I or even a consensus just said so by ascribing it to a bunch of properties. It is more complex than that.

        This is why most philosophers disagree on what defines personhood; a human being. We all scrabble around saying it is this or that property or group of properties. It does not mean all philosophers are right or even any.

        • Laurence England

          ‘Which is to say a description of reality is not reality itself. Just because we label properties with abstract ideas and names does not mean these things pop into reality, magically.’

          Fine, but who decides what reality is? Science? All that science would say is that in pregnancy, a new life has BEGUN, at the moment of conception. Science offers a fact of what is there, what exists, it does not lead to a recommendation for a moral action.

          It is not SCIENCE to abort the child out of respect for a mother’s decision to do so. It is an action that intrinsically involves a moral decision grounded in an arbitrary view of whether the unborn person has value or not.

          • Answer: Philosophers

            You must remember that science is a discipline within philosophy. Don’t treat it as entirely separate.

            In fact, it used to be called natural philosophy.

            • Laurence England

              Er, that is your opinion. If I recall, philosophy is an ‘arts’ subject at University, not a ‘science’ in what we currently understand as science.

            • I think you may need to research that! You are wrong. And you can even see that from Catholic Answers!

              Even wiki will tell you:

              “By the 17th century, natural philosophy (which is today called “natural science”) was considered a separate branch of philosophy.[9]”

              Yeah, you might want to retract that!

            • Laurence England

              Okay, but in this case it might be helpful, especially for an atheist, to separate ‘science’ as we understand it today – which requires empirical observation and provable conclusions, over ‘science’ that does is not impaired by the personal views of, say, the philosopher, because the philosopher does not have to, by definition, ground his view in anything objective, testable or provable. When you say, ‘I am a philosopher’ I do not think most people think, ‘He’s a scientist, you know’.

            • Sure. So I see science as a method, provably reliable and very good, which allows us to gather knowledge about the world around us, empirically so.. Used effectively with other branches of philosophy (epistemology), we gain a complete picture of the world.

            • Laurence England

              No, you don’t. You gain your complete picture of the world. And your picture of the world need not be mine or Fred’s, or John’s. You cannot assert that your picture of the world is true for everyone.

    • Ann

      If anyone gives me — as a matter of principle — freedom of choice to have an abortion on demand, how can you then say — “But only for certain reasons”?

      If I can get an abortion because having a baby does not mesh with my current life plans, then why can I not get the same abortion for a far better (or even a far worse) reason?

      Why is one case morally neutral, and the other case morally bad?

      • The crux is whether aborting groups of cells is morally neutral or not. If it is, then you can do it for whatever reason. Sort of like picking up my rug. That is morally neutral, so it doesn’t really matter why I do it, unless is itself is for moral bad (eg to suffocate someone).

        If the destruction of those cells (through to larger embryo) is not morally neutral, then a moral calculation has to be done on something like consequentialism.

        OF course, it depends on your moral value system.

        • Ann

          Well, to use Dawkins’ remark as an excuse to re-open the debate about abortion itself seems to me to rather miss the point.

          The debate over abortion may be worth rehashing, but that’s not what the Dawkins controversy is about.

          It is really more similar to the outrage feminists feel when female embryos are selectively aborted. I am confused by their attitude. What difference does the gender of the conceptus make?

          • Are you accusing me of reopening the debate? This post is in response to a Catholic friend’s blog post as he asked me to look at it which was indeed using Dawkins’ tweet to reopen the abortion debate. I am just taking his points to task.

            • Ann

              No, no!

              Not accusing anyone of anything!

              I just came late to this conversation and was surprised to find harping on the abortion debate again.

              I was just trying to share my perception that this is an irrelevancy in terms of Dawkins’ remark.

            • Cool schmool.

          • Aquaria

            I think the problem with the girls being aborted with feminists is how girls and women are valued LESS than males, across the board. It’s yet another manifestation of women being considered something not to be or want to be, or want to come to be.

            • Ann

              Yes, you are exactly correct — and very well expressed.

              But it still makes the OPINION reprehensible, not the abortion.

              And in societies suffering from overpopulation, the position of women could become substantially enhanced if they become more scarce.

              In overpopulated cultures, dowries are demanded from women, and the status of women is severely downgraded. In contrast, in societies suffering from underpopulation, men must pay a bride price before they can marry a woman, and female status is higher.

              So — if instead of being a useless burden that your father has to pay to get rid of — when the number of women drops to 91 per 100 men (or whatever), suddenly women and wives become highly desirable.

              However, it also leads to the trafficking of women, and women who are commodified are always in danger.
              http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/140515/because-female-infanticide-chinese-men-now-buy-wives

    • Michael

      I’m sorry but you really don’t seem to have engaged with the main point of the original article at all, which is that atheists, by denying the existence of God, deny themselves any objective grounding for moral judgement whatsoever. As has been pointed out to you in the comments here, any moral judgement that does not have an objective foundation is instead simply moral opinion, and has no force. Thus, when Richard Dawkins says that it is immoral not to abort a baby with Down’s Syndrome, an atheist objecting to this can only proffer their opinion in reply – they cannot say that what he has said is wrong in any meaningful sense.

      Conversely, as soon as we appeal to any concept of objective right and wrong (which is, whether we like it or not, what we are doing when we claim something to be plainly unjust or immoral) we are appealing to a higher court of morality, one which does not depend on our preference or how it fits into existing views of the world, but is always true. Thus, when an atheist makes this sort of appeal, they are doing violence to their own view of reality.

      As for the fact that, according to the poll quoted at the start of your article, most non-theist (not a-theist) philosophers are divided about the kind of ethics they endorse, all this proves is that different sorts of opinion about morality exist amongst these philosophers. It says nothing about whether any of these views are right or not, and simply serves to underline the fact that we cannot base our moral judgements on whatever school of thought happens to enjoy the most popularity in the academy at any given time.

      • Ann

        Michael, whether you imagine that a God exists or not, the fact of the matter is that THERE IS NO OBJECTIVE GROUNDING FOR MORAL JUDGMENTS.

        Moral judgments are just like judgments of beauty or deliciousness.
        They are all personal opinion.

        Sometimes it is possible to suffer from the illusion that moral sentiments are objective. That is because they are widely shared in one’s social group.
        So since it is so difficult to find someone who thinks (for example) killing a newly born baby for economic reasons is moral, then it seems objective in some way.

        But there have been cultures that deemed this not only moral, but mandatory — immoral in the extreme to refuse.
        They thought that their moral sentiments were objectively true too — just like the delusion you have that YOURS are objective.

        Moral values are not objective.
        They are values.
        They are judgments by various humans according to the cultural and personal influences that have shaped them.

        • Michael

          If you really believe that this is the case Ann, then this is fine, but my point is that if moral judgements really are just personal opinion, we can have no grounds for thinking one judgement any more ‘right’ than another, and thus we are left with no position from which to construct a coherent system of ethics, or to make judgements (at least in any meaningful sense) at all.

          I agree that different cultures have constructed different ethical systems throughout history – this is a plain fact – and I would also add that some of these (e.g.; the Aztecs’ use of human sacrifice) involved highly immoral acts (although, I can of course only say they are immoral if such a thing as objective morality exists). But the vast majority of these ethical systems were based on the premise that there is such a thing as the Good, that when we talk about right and wrong we are, in some sense, talking about things that have abiding force and are not dependent on our preferences. To put it another way, whilst ethical systems may differ, and can be compared to one another, the idea that such a thing as Right and Wrong exist at all, is non-negotiable if we are to make any moral decisions.

          • Well, on the Munchausen Trilemma, everything you ever claim is best grounded with axiom. Just brute fact, which s not rationally provable. Even the claim that other people exist, to get over radical solipsism, is impossible to prove.

            So it can be problematic saying things are indubitably objectively factual.

            My moral thesis is such that we have universal moral subjectivity, since on conceptual nominalism, the term objective is nonsense. Dan Fincke looks at the term here, and says it should be redefined:

            “Further, as not just a moral philosopher but as an atheist, I am deeply troubled by the false and arbitrary equation of objective morality with theism in the popular (and sometimes even the academic) mind. I think that since many people do (rightly) think that at least a few of the four meanings of “there is objective morality” are true that it is not only false and unnecessary but outright disastrous to encourage them to think that the only way such things could be true was if theism in general or (even worse) Abrahamic monotheism as interpreted by Jews, Christians, and Muslims was true. If they know morality must be objective in some ways and think that atheism is inherently inconsistent with that viewpoint whereas theism fits right in with it, then they have a false reason to think that theism better accounts for the world. And, worse, if they see the same pragmatic value that I do in having the possibility of discussing morality objectively as an assumption, then they would have strong reason to think theism (or, again, a specific theistic religion) was the best thing to promulgate ethically and pragmatically, even apart from truth considerations.

            Worse yet! The more theism is seen as the only game in town when it comes to objective morality and belief in objective morality is the more that the absolutist definitions of objective morality I reject get assumed to be true, ethically necessary, and integral to the very meaning of the phrase. And like I said, such absolutisms are antithetical to truly defensible objective morality. And, pragmatically, I think they wind up outright counter-productive to genuinely maximizing genuine goodness, and so morally they should be countered.

            The worst irony in all this is that the divine command theory assumed by many Abrahamic monotheists leads to moral arbitrariness, provincialism, and debates which are rationally incapable of being settled. “God says so” is a subjective basis (the will of God) for an ethics, not an objective one. And even worse there are no objectively compelling reasons to believe the God of the Bible and/or the Koran is real or that anyone knows what He thinks. So there are not objective reasons that the religious believer can give for her own acceptance of her moral views or for persuading those who do not already share her idiosyncratic theology to adopt them. That is hardly a solution to the problem of moral disagreement! Faith beliefs are the most subjective, the most relative and limited to cultures and subcultures of all. When two peoples both feel that their own competing, equally arbitrary and faith-based beliefs about morality are absolutely binding, then they can hardly come to agree with each other. Only reason provides mechanisms for agreement across differences, not faith (except where two or more people already share the same faith).”

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2013/04/paths-to-moral-objectivity-pragmatics/

            SO if we accept the axiom that happiness is good/pleasurable, then maximising world happiness is self-evidently good, and that that proposition has truth value. Given that, and given sound minds with good logical knowledge, and as much knowledge of the world as possible, then we would all universally agree on what actions were morally good.

            This then succeeds in Kantian ideas of universality to a moral value system

            Things are complex. Just saying God grounds morality without really explaining how that happens, and looking at the actual actions of God in the OT, in creating at all, in not creating those who would freely come to love him straight away in heaven, in omissions of not stopping natural evils, in all sorts of disgusting things countenanced and ordered by God in the OT – in looking at these AND THEN claiming God grounds objective morality. Well, you just look insane.

            • Michael

              Well we can certainly agree that these things are axiomatic, and properly basic to our experience. The point is, once we apprehend that this is so, what grounds their objectivity? You don’t have to believe in the God of the Bible, just the ‘God of the philosophers’ – i.e.; you can be a theist without any denominational commitments and not have to worry about the actions of God in the OT, etc. But to say that we accept that we live in a moral universe and then not provide ANY objective grounds for our moral values, seems to be to be the more insane position.

            • Ann

              The sense of “morally right and wrong” in social species is an evolved trait.

              It is a genetic attribute that allows the animals to live in cooperative groups.

              All animals seek things they need for themselves. That;s how they stay alive.

              But social animals must also cross this primordial instinct with one that rewards them for falling in with the intent of another.
              So the instinct to safeguard all the assets for oneself (as solitary animals do) is contradicted (in a dynamic tension) with the instinct to share the assets with the group.
              This may mean refraining from killing off infants that are not yours, for example.

              When we are conscious of surrendering some self-interest in order to go along with the intent of another, we experience the biological surge of chemicals that we interpret as “virtue.”

              We are genetically programmed to feel “virtuous” when we oblige the pro-social demands of the group — particularly when doing so means relinquishing a self-serving objective,

            • I actually disagree that any abstract idea CAN be objective. That is my position of conceptual nominalist, which is a position coherently built up from the bottom up.

            • Michael

              Fair enough.

            • In other words, if no human or sentient creatures existed, nor would morality. Thought and abstracts need minds to think and abstract them.

            • Ann

              Jonathan, you are so right.

              Obviously a human opinion like “morality” could not exist without humans.

              Nor could tons of other feelings: patriotism, embarrassment, nostalgia, etc.

            • Void Walker

              The idea that morality is something separate from us is as much a human construct as religion. No wonder people like Michael parade such nonsense as the notion that we cannot be truly moral beings without his variant of God (and not, instead, one of the over 1,000 others that humans have invented).

            • Ann

              That’s 100% correct.

            • Michael

              Nope, this does not follow at all. The fact
              that we apprehend certain truths does not mean that they therefore depend on us
              for their existence. If, as I would contend, these are things that are grounded
              in God, then they require nothing else for their continuing existence. You are
              simply assuming that the only existence they could possibly have is in our minds – it is not
              obviously the case. All you are really saying here is that because you already believe that moral truth only exists in the minds of those who apprehend them, therefore they can only exist in the minds of those who apprehend them.

            • Ann

              Yet it is perfectly obvious that they do not exist anywhere else except in the minds of humans.
              Except for your hypothesis — that they exist in the mind of God.

              The problem with your hypothesis is that it is without a foundation.
              In fact, there is not the slightest speck of evidence to think that your hypothesis is true.

            • Ann

              The idea that they exist only in our minds is the only one that has any evidence, anyway.

              A claim that moral ideas exist somewhere else is unfounded and imaginary,
              Unless you perhaps have some evidence that you can share?

            • Michael

              Furthermore, I would suggest that Dan Fincke has subtly redefined the concept of the Good as simply happiness/minimisation of suffering, and that this is problematic. We can of course say that it is good to be happy, and good to reduce suffering in general terms, but this it not the same thing as saying that these things ARE the Good. It is certainly not that which we appeal to as a basic axiom of our moral life.

          • Ann

            What you are referring to as an abiding “right” or “wrong” is in fact one’s IMPRESSION that one’s personal opinion is objective in some sense.

            And your initial point is quite correct.
            There ARE no grounds for thinking that one judgment is any more right than another.
            For example, where do you get off calling the Aztecs “immoral”? They would beg to differ with you, and to claim the highest standards of morality — which you are too immoral to understand.

            We like our preferences because that is what a “preference” is.
            So your sense that your moral preferences are objectively true keeps on getting in the way of seeing the actual picture: Your opinions about morality are based on nothing. They are opinions and nothing else.

            But because we do love our preferences, and prefer them over other options, we want to build them up into a system of law or preaching or whatever.
            We are greatly assisted in this urge by the fact that our moral opinions are widely shared by our social group.
            So we all agree that XYZ is wrong and bad — at least until the social group experiences enough change.

            That is the only “abiding force” moral beliefs have — their persistence in a cultural group.
            Their wide-spread nature and persistence in duration give some people the illusion that they are objective.

            This is quite the same as other beliefs you share with most members of your culture — democracy is better than other forms of government, or children are not to be exploited for financial gain, or whatever. You don’t have to go far to find these concepts dismissed as absurd either.

            • Michael

              ‘For example, where do you get off calling the Aztecs “immoral”? They would beg to differ with you, and to claim the highest standards of morality — which you are too immoral to understand.’

              Precisely my point Ann – on your view I would have no grounds at all for calling them immoral. And if I can’t say that human sacrifice is immoral, but only that my moral outrage at it is simply a ‘preference’, then I don’t see what meaningful moral discussion can be had.

              I can only presume that any time in life you have felt something to be utterly injust or a gross violation of everything you hold dear (not necessarily something you have experienced personally, but even something you have heard about – e.g.; the Holocaust, ISIS’s slaughtering of minorities in Iraq) that you ignored the deep feeling of moral outrage and reinterpreted this as simply your cultural preference versus that of another?

            • Ann

              It seems that you think that cultural preferences are not worth responding to?

              Of course I feel deep moral outrage or disgust or approval — while realizing at the same time that I am experiencing my culturally-formed preferences and biases.

              What on earth does that realization do to weaken my feelings?

              I don’t like cilantro, and I think it spoils any dish it’s been stuck in to. But I certainly know that this is a personal preference.
              Is that knowledge supposed to make me like cilantro or something?

              My opinion about the beauty of the Mona Lisa is strictly an opinion. Is that supposed to make me enjoy it less?

              My preference for my own mother over other people’s mothers is clearly a private taste. Does that make me love her less?

              Your impression that your morals are straight from God is an illusion.

              Of course, it is a cherished illusion, since God has apparently seen fit to endow you with all the good morals, and others with bad ones. This must be more than just lucky. You must deserve this Divine favor in some special way — you’re more holy perhaps.

            • Michael

              Of course I don’t think that cultural preferences are not worth responding to – quite the opposite, as my comment on the immorality of human sacrifice would seem to suggest. My point, again, is that if our moral judgements can simply be reduced to cultural preferences, this leaves us no grounds from which to criticise other cultural preferences, or to engage with them constructively at all.

              Further, my point regarding your feelings of moral outrage is not that you are not entitled to them or that they are not valid. It is that, if they are just the result of culturally formed bias, etc, they provide you with no basis for making any moral judgement, and yet our experience of moral outrage is that this is not the case – we feel that a very real injustice has been done, and in doing this intuitively appeal to an ultimate objective grounding for the very concept of justice.

              There are many things that are borne solely out of cultural prejudice, and these can be discussed on their own terms. But we cannot distinguish between them if ALL our morality is so based. We would be walking on shifting sands.

              Finally, I have certainly not claimed at any point here that God has endowed ME with better moral capability than anyone else, or that I am in any way holy. Criticisms of the grounds (or lack of) for moral decision making upon an atheist worldview is certainly not a criticism of individual atheist’s personal goodness. The point here is not whether one group of people are better behaved than another, it is about what grounds we have for saying that there is such a thing as the Good at all.

            • Ann

              You say:
              “My point, again, is that if our moral judgements can simply be reduced to cultural preferences, this leaves us no grounds from which to criticise other cultural preferences, or to engage with them
              constructively at all.”

              > Not so.
              Personal preference has always been a major foundation for serious conflict over whose cultural preference should prevail,

              You cannot imagine the moral disgust ISIS holds you in, and uses that feeling as the cause to seek to destroy you.

              You feel disgust right back, and would like to see ISIS at the bottom of the sea.

              The bone of contention is “Which cultural preference shall prevail?”
              ~~~~~~~
              You say:
              “if they are just the result of culturally formed bias, etc, they provide you with no basis for making any moral judgement, and yet our experience of moral outrage is that this is not the case – we feel that a very real injustice has been done, and in doing this intuitively appeal to an ultimate objective grounding for the very concept of justice.”

              Not so. The fact that I DO have this culturally-formed bias IS the reason for my moral judgments.

              Do you imagine that knowing where my biases come from makes me value them less?

              Of course we feel that a moral outrage has been done. That is the meaning of “culturally-formed bias.”

              But you are mistaken to think that everyone shares your illusion that this feeling is evidence of objectivity.
              ~~~~~~~~~
              You say:
              “… if ALL our morality is so based. We would be walking on shifting sands.”

              We ARE walking on shifting sands,

              This is surely self-evident even to you, is it not?

              ~~~~~~~~~~~
              You say:
              “I have certainly not claimed at any point here that God has endowed ME… ”
              I guess it’s just a giant coincidence then — you happen to know with God’s objectivity that those cruddy Aztecs were immoral beasts.
              Too bad they weren’t God’s little buddy too.
              I daresay they are all cooking in Hell right now.
              But some magic power has given you the ability to keep a list of your own morals — which just so happen to be all correct.

            • Michael

              Thanks for engaging Ann (minus the mild abuse based on attribution to me of opinions I have not expressed), but I get the feeling that we are talking past one another rather a lot here, and that this is not a conversation that is likely to produce any constructive results. I therefore, with the full knowledge that it is very possible you will see this as my ‘giving in’ or suchlike, respectively bow out.

            • Ann

              Sorry for the inadvertent attribution to you of opinions you did not express. I hope I didn’t err in that direction any more than you did.

              I don’t think we are “talking past each other” at all.
              I think I have responded directly and distinctly to your position.
              I just think you’re kind of stuck for a reply.

              Sorry to see you go — but that’s what often happens when people are unable to respond. Pressing business elsewhere, or no point in continuing, and so on.

            • Michael

              Thanks again Ann :-)

            • Ann

              Hope we can converse again.

            • Although Michael, the above that Ann espouses is a form of moral relativism. So, you see, atheist scan differ widely on what moral system should be adopted, as in fact do theists (ie Natural Law vs Divine Command Theory etc).

              I would suggest reading the excellent book by Philip Wogaman, “Christian Ethics: A Historical Introduction”, eg http://www.amazon.co.uk/Christian-Ethics-Introduction-Philip-Wogaman/dp/0664234097/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409052793&sr=1-1&keywords=wogaman+ethicshttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Christian-Ethics-Introduction-Philip-Wogaman/dp/0664234097/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409052793&sr=1-1&keywords=wogaman+ethics

            • Ann

              Hi, Jonathan ~

              Here is what Wiki says about Moral Relativism
              “… Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral;
              > meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong;
              > normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.”

              I am completely unable to see how there could exist any disagreement at all with the first two categories.
              These seem to me to be the merest statements of fact –indisputable and self-evident..

              I utterly disagree with the idea of the last category.

            • This is just the usual differences, generically, between descriptive, prescriptive (normative) morality and meta-ethics.
              Descriptive is just what people believe around the world, prescriptive is what you or anyone THINKS they SHOULD believe, and met-ethics is what we even mean by right, wrong and ought.
              So in that context, that seems about right.
              The issue for me is whether relativism constitutes a moral truth or not – is it moral realism?

            • Ann

              If I were not interested in being friends with you, I would be tempted to point out that your question (“The issue for me is whether relativism constitutes a moral truth or not – is it moral realism?”) does not seem to have a meaning.

              LOL! Forgive me!

        • Ann, I think there is a lot to be said for showing that morality is in principle the same as a value system as beauty, and the arguments against objective (mind independent) beauty are strong. These are values ascribed to properties. The properties exist, but the objective relation of label and abstract to those properties is problematic.

          • Ann

            I can’t find a snicker-doodle’s worth of difference between “This woman should win the Miss America pageant because she is beautiful, but this other woman is just plain ugly” -and- “This act is highly moral, but this other one is wrong wrong wrong,”

            In Paul Theroux’s book Jungle Lovers, there is exactly that kind of beauty contest, where a natural woman, beefy and strong, is disparaged in competition with women whose faces are green from skin whiteners.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungle_Lovers

      • Actually, I did that precisely by claiming that Laurence seems to have no idea of moral philosophy. It was a naive use of the Moral Argument, as stated, and I posted stats and links to secular positions on morality.

        Laurence’s claims are simply erroneous, as I have told him before on this topic.

        You reply, ,”all this proves is that different sorts of opinion about morality exist amongst these philosophers. It says nothing about whether any of these views are right or no”

        as if these people, the most informed in the world on this topic, are pulling opinions out of their arses whilst you and Laurence, on a naive blog post, make unsupported assertions and define the paradigm. Nuts.

        “Conversely, as soon as we appeal to any concept of objective right and wrong (which is, whether we like it or not, what we are doing when we claim something to be plainly unjust or immoral) we are appealing to a higher court of morality,… It says nothing about whether any of these views are right or not, and simply serves to underline the fact that we cannot base our moral judgements on whatever school of thought happens to enjoy the most popularity in the academy at any given time.”

        And you accuse me of just making assertions about opinions?

        Look, you seem to have not even established what an abstract idea is or made of, which you must do before you establish a moral realist position. So that means getting over nominalist accounts of reality and establishing a bottom up structure of reality.

        And when you have done that, THEN you have to show that realist positions necessarily require God, which neither of you have even remotely done.

        Take Natural Law, the prevailing theistic position before DCT came along. This had no need of God, since it essentially equated to some kind of moral intuition.

        Then we have moral truths valued from within a consequentalist positions, which take axiomatic claims about pleasure/pain and derives good from the consequences of actions within that context. But pluralistic accounts can also be given, such that further value systems using a consequentialiistic framework can be given.

        Then there is virtue ethics, which doe snot need God.

        Then secular deontology.

        And you have done nothing to argue your position.

        I have a forthcoming chapter on exactly this in Loftus’ forthcoming book “Christianity is Not Great”.

        As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states of ALL the Moral Arguments for God:

        “It seems clear that no version of the moral argument constitutes a “proof” of God’s existence. Each version contains premises that many reasonable thinkers reject.”

        On DCT, one of the gazillion critiques which I am fond of is:

        http://www.freethoughtdebater.org/2011/12/30/does-morality-depend-on-god/

        • Michael

          As I said, simply stating that different
          secular opinions on morality exist only affirms that different secular
          positions on morality exist – it does nothing to show that any of them are
          actually coherent positions, or to show that they can be justified. I am not
          claiming that these people are ‘pulling opinions out of their a***s’; I am
          claiming that simply stating that secular philosophers hold to a variety of
          positions on morality does nothing to undermine Laurence’s central point, and neither does stating that his claims are ‘simply erroneous’.

          As for the claim that morality must have an objective foundation to be meaningful is an attempt to define the paradigm, well, this is the point at issue – namely, whether moral judgements have any force outside of that paradigm. It is up to the person contending that we can make meaningful moral judgements outside of that paradigm to make a good case for it, and it is my contention that you have not. Your response to this is to say that my stating that when we make moral judgements we appeal to something other than subjectivity as an ultimate basis for these judgements, I am simply asserting an opinion. I am not – this is a basic fact of human experience; we do not exist in a moral vacuum, and constantly appeal to something we call the Good, which is objective and therefore not dependent upon preferences or utility. We could, for example, have no real claims to talk about Justice, if it were based simply on what we happened to find congenial or useful at a certain time in history – we, whether we explicitly recognise this or not, appeal to the fact that some things are just wrong.

          Abstract ideas have nothing to do with this, as I am asserting that concepts such as Goodness and Truth are not abstract concepts at all, but are grounded in God, who provides their objective foundation. They are not separate concepts floating about up there, but flow from His nature. As for ‘getting over nominalist accounts of reality’, last time I checked nominalism implied that there were no such things as universals, and universals are precisely what I am appealing to, so I am not sure what you are getting at there. As to why things like objective moral values require God, it is because for them to be objective they require a foundation which transcends our subjectivity, something which we presuppose for doing any moral decision making whatsoever. Call it the Great Moral Code if you like, but ultimately it has to be something beyond subjectivity and contingency, and the only thing that fits the bill is God.

          It is therefore not true that Natural Law ‘had no need of God’ – rather, it recognised that certain universal principles exist, and that for these principles to have an objective mooring they must be grounded in God. Here I think you are conflating epistemology with ontology – it is clear that we apprehend certain moral values naturally, and use them as presuppositions for our moral life, and this what leads us to consider what they are grounded in. Natural Law theorists almost unanimously concluded that they must be grounded in God, for the reasons just given. Consequentialism, which is what Dawkins seemed to be advocating, is not a satisfactory ethical
          system, as in some circumstances people may thereby justify doing evil that a supposed good may come of it – like aborting a child with Down’s Syndrome. Moreover, this still presupposes that such a thing as right and wrong (‘the Good’) exists, otherwise consequentialists would never be able to get off the ground. The fact that what they might consider good in some circumstances is contingent and dependent on what follows is what makes it a deeply unsatisfactory system (for instance, a consequentialist who denied objective morality could not argue coherently against Hitler’s T4 programme, as he saw this as bringing about a ‘greater good’).

          Virtue ethics presupposes that there is such a thing as virtue, which, on a view that denies such a thing as objective morality, is meaningless. Secular deontological ethics similarly is appealing to obligations where none exist – if morality is ultimately subjective, we can have no abiding obligations to any rules constructed by a particular culture; they have no force. Again, simply stating that these positions exist does not in and of itself make them coherent or persuasive positions. I hope that this makes my position a bit clearer.

          • Gotta shoot, but just on your first paragraph – how is your or Laurence’s claims anything more or less than the opinion you claim of the philosophers? The fact is they have spent their lives arguing and setting their positions out in books, journals and teaching it at unis. To just claim it is opinion, is about the laziest philosophy one can do!

            Now, if you can disprove moral realism, or non-realism, cognitivism or non-cognitivism, in a blog comment, you are doing better than any philosopher in 3000 years. Because moral philosophy remains utterly undecided, No one has proved jack. Which is why people still always argue over it. You are in no better position whatsoever. In fact, the moral argument for God has been roundly critiqued for a long time, not least by myself.

            eg

            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2014/02/26/the-problem-with-divine-command-theory-1/

            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/essays-and-papers/god-is-a-consequentialist/

            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/01/04/ordinary-morality-presupposes-atheism-not-god/

            • Michael

              Fair dinkum, and I have to be off too. Before I do though, I must reiterate that I am not claiming that the view of these philosophers is ‘just’ opinion, or that there positions have not been arrived at after careful study. I am claiming that without grounds for their positions, they thereby have no more force than any other position or opinion. The position of Laurence and myself is that to be able to provide any coherent moral philosophy one must be able to ground morals per se in something objectively, and that this is what separates it from the positions of the philosophers you have mentioned. We do not operate in a moral vaccum, and something needs to ground the foundations for the decisions we make, or it does, in the end, come down to preference (either on the individual or cultural level).

              Again, not saying that their positions are just unconsidered opinion, or anything like that – I am saying that a.) that a variety of positions within secular moral philosophy does not do anything to prove the validity or coherence of any of those positions, and that b.) without an objective grounding, such coherence is not possible, and so any such position does not have the force of true moral obligation.

              The fact that noone has been able to prove any particular moral position is that, as you said yourself in an earlier comment, we assume the existence of the Good as axiomatic and properly basic. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to any moral decision making at all (grey areas can only really exist if there is such a thing as black and white, if you will). As for the moral argument for God being ’roundly critiqued’ for a long time, I am well aware of the many attempts to do so, but again, the existence of arguments does not make them convincing purely because they have been made – others would say that the critiques of the Moral Argument are not good critiques, and indeed the critiques have been critiqued themselves; none of which gets us anywhere. I personally have not been convinced by any of the arguments against the Moral Argument, but that should be fairly obvious :-)

            • to be able to provide any coherent moral philosophy one must be able to ground morals per se in something objectively

              eh????

              So, objective morality is the only coherent morality because it is objective?

              we assume the existence of the Good as axiomatic and properly basic.

              Do we? Properly basic is a debatable term. Reformed Epistemologists love, yes, but is it sound?

            • Michael

              No, objective morality
              is the only coherent morality because it is the only framework within which we
              can actually be said to have obligations or duties towards something, which is
              what the morality is all about. As for the existence of the Good as properly
              basic, if you don’t think that this is a sound concept, then ignore it and say
              it is axiomatic instead, which I thought you had agreed that it was in an earlier
              comment (sorry if I’ve misinterpreted what you’d said there).

            • Ann

              Michael, this is not true.

              Any obligations or duties we have are those we assign ourselves. They exist because we think or agree that they do.

          • I am simply asserting an opinion. I am not – this is a basic fact of human experience; we do not exist in a moral vacuum, and constantly appeal to something we call the Good, which is objective and therefore not dependent upon preferences or utility. We could, for example, have no real claims to talk about Justice, if it were based simply on what we happened to find congenial or useful at a certain time in history – we, whether we explicitly recognise this or not, appeal to the fact that some things are just wrong.

            So moral intuition is akin to moral truth? That is really very contentious (we have debated this in Tippling Philosophers, even, and no t a single person agreed this to be universally the case, even the Christians, primarily because we have different reactions, and most are resultant from in-group / out-group psychology which Jesus distinctly advised against – Good Samaritan, love thy neighbour etc).

            Just to say some things are wrong is meaningless. Why are they wrong? And then, even with morality grounded in God, there is a correct assumption that different evils carry different moral values. Telling a lie against mass murdering a million people. There is clearly a value difference. The only way around this is actually to ground that in value currency, which is precisely what consequentialism does, and why it is intuitively preferred. If you ARE evoking moral intuition, it seems that 90% of people are intuitively morally consequentialist (according to trolley experiments). This is why philosophers look for non-deriviative moral currency like pleasure/happiness. It is a self-evident truth that grounds repeated why questions.

            Abstract ideas have nothing to do with this, as I am asserting that concepts such as Goodness and Truth are not abstract concepts at all, but are grounded in God, who provides their objective foundation.

            Er, WTF? They clearly are abstract ideas. They are ideas, you are communicating them abstractly across the internet. Morality is about the most famous of abstract ideas! The questions then are, what is an abstract idea, and what do you mean by grounding it?

            By using nominalism, I am pulling the rug out from under your claims. You will need to establish some kind of Platonic realism in order to establish your case for morality. It couldn’t be more relevant!

            As for natural law, I will defer to the SEP which states:

            It is essential to the natural law position that there be some things that are universally and naturally good. But how is universal, natural goodness possible? Given the variability of human tastes and desires, how could there be such universal goods?

            Natural law theorists have at least three answers available to them. The first answer is Hobbesian, and proceeds on the basis of a subjectivist theory of the good. On subjectivist theories of the good, what makes it true that something is good is that it is desired, or liked, or in some way is the object of one’s pro-attitudes, or would be the object of one’s pro-attitudes in some suitable conditions. One might think that to affirm a subjectivist theory of the good is to reject natural law theory, given the immense variation in human desire. But this is not so. For one might hold that human beings’ common nature, their similarity in physiological constitution, makes them such as to have some desires in common, and these desires may be so central to human aims and purposes that we can build important and correct precepts of rationality around them. This is in fact what Hobbes claims. For while on the Hobbesian view what is good is what is desired, Hobbes thinks that humans are similarly constructed so that for each human (when he or she is properly biologically functioning) his or her central aim is the avoidance of violent death. Thus Hobbes is able to build his entire natural law theory around a single good, the good of self-preservation, which is so important to human life that exceptionlessly binding precepts can be formulated with reference to its achievement.

            The second answer is Aristotelian. The idea here is to reject a subjectivism about the good, holding that what makes it true that something is good is not that it stands in some relation to desire but rather that it is somehow perfective or completing of a being, where what is perfective or completing of a being depends on that being’s nature. So what is good for an oak is what is completing or perfective of the oak, and this depends on the kind of thing that an oak is by nature; and what is good for a dog is what is completing or perfective of the dog, and this depends on the kind of thing that a dog is by nature; and what is good for a human depends on what is completing or perfective of a human, and this depends on the kind of thing a human is by nature. So the fact of variability of desire is not on its own enough to cast doubt on the natural law universal goods thesis: as the good is not defined fundamentally by reference to desire, the fact of variation in desire is not enough to raise questions about universal goods. This is the view affirmed by Aquinas, and the majority of adherents to the natural law tradition.

            The third answer is Platonic. Like the Aristotelian view, it rejects a subjectivism about the good. But it does not hold that the good is to be understood in terms of human nature. The role of human nature is not to define or set the good, but merely to define what the possibilities of human achievement are. So one might think that some things — knowledge, beauty, etc. — are just good in themselves, apart from any reference to human desire or perfection, but hold that the pursuit of these are only part of the natural law insofar as they fall within the ambit of human practical possibility. This view of the good is not much defended — in part because of the scathing criticism offered of Plato’s view by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics (NE I, 6) — but it was affirmed by Iris Murdoch (1970), and forms part of the natural law view defended by Michael Moore (1982).

            None of these answers is without difficulties. While there are contemporary defenders of Hobbesian moral theories (see Gauthier 1986), there is no one who is on record defending Hobbes’s interesting combination of a thoroughgoing subjectivism about the good along with an account of a dominant substantive good around which the moral rules are formulated. The basic reason for this just seems to be that Hobbes’s arguments that the human desire for self-preservation is such an entirely dominant desire are implausible, and there do not seem to be any better arguments available. The Platonic version of the view has struck many as both too metaphysically ornate to be defensible, on one hand, and as not fitting very well with a conception of ethics grounded in nature, on the other. While the Aristotelian version of the view has also been charged with some of the metaphysical excesses that the Platonist view allegedly countenances, most contemporary natural law theory is Aristotelian in its orientation, holding that there is still good reason to hold to an understanding of flourishing in nature and that none of the advances of modern science has called this part of the Aristotelian view into question. (For defenses of such Aristotelian accounts of the good, see Foot 2001, Thompson 1995, and Thompson 2004.)

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natural-law-ethics/#NatGoo

            God is not mentioned in this key area.

            Again, simply stating that these positions exist does not in and of itself make them coherent or persuasive positions. I hope that this makes my position a bit clearer.

            Simply hinting that they are not coherent or persuasive is neither persuasive itself nor qualifies as coherent: a mere assertion.

            JP

            • Void Walker

              Jonathan, have you read the recent research on the moral life of babies? It’s quite interesting.

              I find it puzzling when theists assert that morality is a real property of existence (Luke is fond of doing this); that it somehow is either encoded into reality or flows from God, thus rendering it some obscure form of tangibility. How difficult is it to grasp that morality is in fact an abstraction, and one that was selected for to facilitate closer cooperation among highly social animals (African elephants have been shown to grieve after their dead, as have chimps, just as one example)? What are your thoughts on the reasoning that theists apply when they assert morality to be grounded in God? Is it some apologetic move, in your mind, or what?

            • Luke Breuer

              How difficult is it to grasp that morality is in fact an abstraction, […]

              This doesn’t make abstractions false or non-real; indeed, such an assertion would undermine your very claim, here.

            • Void Walker

              You are correct, Luke. I was highly intoxicated when I posted this. Thanks for correcting, I mean it. Actually, reading through my comment….I don’t even remember posting it. Hmm.

              However, my other points stand (morality being a social bonding agent; found in many other deeply social species).

            • Luke Breuer

              I don’t at all object to the idea that morality is “a social bonding agent”. That being said, if we stop there, we allow people to be sacrificed in the name of social order and stability. We also do great damage to our ability to transcend grossly immoral things, like Aristotle’s natural slavery.

              Orthodox Jew Yoram Hazony claims in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture that there is a dichotomy between those who care more for social order, and those who care more for life, via the farmer vs. shepherd imagery in the Hebrew Bible. If you note that in ancient times, farmers lived close to cities, you can see how they would buy into “social order”. I haven’t finished his book yet, but he points out that the dichotomy shows up in Genesis 4: Cain the farmer vs. Abel the shepherd. The pro-social-order person murders the one who threatens the order. At least, that’s Hazony’s gloss; he justifies this extrapolation based on other instances of the dichotomy.

              What happens when “social order” becomes antithetical to new flowering of life? Rousseau talks a lot about this. We also have the trope of society corrupting people, in contrast to people being inherently evil. I recall reading The Giver in middle school; at the cost of shallow emotions and sameness, pain and strive have been eliminated. But is this a good tradeoff? We see this also in the movie Equilibrium. I think this is a very bad tradeoff. So what do we do when the current social order becomes stifling? What resources exist to draw upon, to challenge it?

              I’ve gained a newfound appreciation of just what is involved in challenging the social order by reading sociology. Sociologist Peter Berger wrote a book on the matter: The Precarious Vision: A Sociologist Looks at Social Fictions and Christian Faith.

              As was probably the case in different periods of history, this consciousness of the precariousness of social reality is to be found especially among underprivileged and ostracized groups of the population. (12)

              Curiously enough, the Bible has an extra focus on taking care of “underprivileged and ostracized groups of the population”: orphans, widows, strangers, and the poor. These days, we certainly help them out, but do we really see them in the light Berger has given, a light I claim is entirely resonant with passages such as Isaiah 58? These are the people who are least likely to be taken care of by “social order”.

              It seems like morality can be more than just what you were saying it is. Can you see this?

            • Void Walker

              I’m going to hate myself for this….

              Why do you assert that morality is encoded in reality? I’ve never seen you offer any evidence for such a claim.

              (don’t worry, I promise to be a bit more respectful of your views this time around)

            • Luke Breuer

              Why do you assert that morality is encoded in reality? I’ve never seen you offer any evidence for such a claim.

              What would constitute evidence? Actually, you just made me think that the realness of morality may be connected to the realness of intentionality: they are both purpose-oriented. This is bleeding-edge research for me, but so far I have concluded that the only valid way to define science is in a purpose-oriented fashion, such that the attempt to call purpose “not real” undermines all knowledge (except perhaps mathematics), and not just moral knowledge.

              Note that our moral intuitions would be only approximations of objective morality, and arbitrarily bad ones at that: these intuitions would need to be tuned, just like scientific intuitions need to be tuned. Plato famously argued the former; Michael Polanyi argues the latter in Personal Knowledge. I know I’ve linked you to In Search of Beauty, which shows that even the allegedly-100%-subjective “evaluative faculty” of beauty can actually be used in objective (or at least intersubjective) fashions.

              Finally, there is zero need for everyone to agree on morality; if there were, then pseudoscientists would present a terrible problem for the legitimacy/objectivity of science.

            • Void Walker

              Interesting….

              So…why should anyone care about morality? This is a thought experiment. Outside of our human perceptions and intuitions on the matter, what are some good reasons to uphold this “universal” morality (i.e, giving two fucks about people you don’t even know)? It’s easy for us, trapped in our own model(s) or reality that our brains afford us, to make sweeping claims about what is right and what is wrong. Try to imagine that you are some sort of alien being, looking at humanity through a lens that evolution crafted through a dramatically different process (one that precludes morality, for the sake of argument). What reason, beyond the survival of humanity, could there be for morality, much less your agape love? Pressed for time so this isn’t as orderly as it could be!

            • Ann

              Void, “emotions” are called that because they push us into action.
              E-MOTIONS MOTIV-ate us

              Blind rage sent generations of soldiers into battle armed only with a stick against the other guys’ swords.
              Love is famous for being a biggie in the motivator class.

              That’s why we react to moral outrage.
              It’s a motive, an emotion.

            • Void Walker

              Oh I agree, Ann. See, Luke and I have….history. We’ve been engaging each other for roughly 9 months (longer than I’ve ever been able to tolerate a Christian!), and we often use analogies, thought experiments, etc. to better understand one another.

              I was not denying the power or importance of emotional faculties. In fact, I believe that emotion is absolutely *essential* for our survival as a species, and our well being.

              What I’m doing with Luke is testing the waters wrt his belief system. I wanna see if he’s critically thought about these issues.

              Sorry if I came off as a heartless ass in that comment :-/ Often times people will jump in the middle of an exchange between Luke and I, and I wonder if they’re thinking “WTF is wrong with these guys?” half the time…

            • Ann

              Nah — not a heartless ass at all.

              I love your posts.

              Go get ‘im.

            • Void Walker

              Why thank you. Good to know that someone does!

            • Luke Breuer

              So…why should anyone care about morality?

              One should care about morality as something more than just something pragmatic—like a social contract—if one believes that the common good is not antithetical to private goods. Alasdair MacIntyre recognizes how foreign this belief is to us, today:

              This notion of the political community as a common project is alien to the modern liberal individualist world. This is how we sometimes at least think of schools, hospitals or philanthropic organizations; but we have no conception of such a form of community concerned, as Aristotle says the polis is concerned, with the whole of life, not with this or that good, but with man’s good as such. It is no wonder that friendship has been relegated to private life and thereby weakened in comparison to what it once was. (After Virtue, 156)

              The ancient Hebrews had this idea of shalom, which means much more than just ‘peace’: it connotes wholeness and prosperity and harmony. The parts in the system aren’t fighting to take advantage of each other, even if the fighting is subtle and mediated by a labyrinth of laws and judges.

              It is hard for me to conceive of such harmony being possible in a naturalistic context, because it requires either a tabula rasa doctrine—which is pretty clearly false—or some law that results in the possibility of such lack of conflict and damaging competition; this seems pretty antithetical to the received view of evolution. And so, intuitively, it seems like one would need a creator of the universe who created in such a way that shalom could be attained by all who want it [more than they want other things].

              The idea that shalom would be better than even the most enlightened of enlightened self-interest is, to me, what separates “morality as social order” from “morality as a path for striving towards the common good”. Liberalism is primarily individualism with some collectivism to ensure individualism doesn’t go haywire. John Rawls’ concepts of overlapping consensus and public reason make it clear how little true union there is of persons under political liberalism.

              I claim that the following two orientations are fundamentally different:

                   (1) first my good, then yours
                   (2) first your good, then mine

              The transition from (1) → (2) could quite literally be seen as dying to self. I don’t see there being an objective morality under (1); I am convinced that (1) is merely the Nietzschean imposition of power of the strong upon the weak, no matter how obscured it is by façades of words. A belief in absolute morality, as I currently see it, is the belief that (2) >>> (1). It is, quite simply, a believe that agape is the way, the truth, and the life. After all, agape is the pouring out of one’s life for others.

            • Void Walker

              That’s fine, but you failed to answer my question….perhaps I should re-word.

              Outside of our preconceived notions/human perceptions, why should morality hold any merit? Think about my alien analogy. The answer to the general “why should anyone care” question was decent, I suppose, but I’m broadening it here. Actually, I could go even further and ask: “why care about life, in general?” Now, you know I do not espouse such a view. Merely probing.

            • Luke Breuer

              Outside of our preconceived notions/human perceptions, why should morality hold any merit?

              That’s like asking, “Outside of minds, why would this thing, which only minds can access, matter?”

              Actually, I could go even further and ask: “why care about life, in general?”

              Nobody is required to “care about life, in general”; see the Joker and especially Heath Ledger’s fantastic performance. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” That is ‘life’, to such men. Fortunately, such ‘life’ tends to self-destruct. But you aren’t forced to focus on the kind of life which can continue forever. Indeed, there are surely debates to be had about what life—if any—could continue forever.

            • Ann

              I think we care about morality because we can’t help it.
              I think it’s a genetic program that motivates (gives an emotional color) us to behave “virtuously” some of the time, and in a self-serving way some of the time.

              What do you think?
              I’d like to hear your ideas drawn out a little.

              We might look at ants, who are alien beings without morality. (They are too simple for such a genetic program.) They behave according to strict genetic laws governing instinct,

              But there’s no “Why?” about this.
              Evolution is not purposeful in that sense.
              They happened to have evolved the genes that allow them to cooperate in groups. They play (as they must) the genetic hand they were dealt.
              They enjoy benefits from hive living, and negatives too.

            • Void Walker

              I agree with you. See Luke’s response for a fine example of over thinking a reasonably simple question…

              I believe that, as I’ve mentioned earlier, morality was selected for primarily in social species. Evidence of this can clearly be seen in the prevalence of many forms of morality throughout social creatures (elephants, chimps, dolphins, to name a few), and it’s efficacy at ensuring cooperation can clearly be seen. Naturally, the best manner in which social organisms can survive changing environments, predatory threats, food shortage, etc. is by working together to rise above adversity. When one member of a group gives two shits about another member, likewise with other members, the likelihood of the group efficiently cohering into a functional social unit is exponentially higher than in the absence of such behavior.

              Now….why should we care? A simple answer would be that we’re sort of preordained (at least the cognitively healthy among us) to do so; as much has been written into our minds through millions of years of social evolution. One could draw this way the fuck out, but at bottom it’s quite clear to me that we care because we’re programmed to. There are problems aplenty with this programming, but it seems, to me, that the simplest answer is the most cogent in this instance.

            • Void Walker

              Wow I have a shit memory!

            • Michael

              ‘So moral intuition is akin to moral
              truth?’

              No. What I meant (and I thought this was fairly clear from what I had written, but apologies if this is not the case) is that the fact that we apprehend that there is such a thing as Justice, as the Good, etc, something that binds our conscience towards an obligation or duty
              itself points to there being such a thing as objective moral truth. Our moral intuitions do not constitute moral truth, but they do confirm as being something axiomatic, something that we simply have to assume as a given before we can make any moral decisions.

              So, with respect to the fact that, according to the trolley experiment, 90% of people are consequentialists, this only goes to show that, in a situation wherein the subject must choose between two outcomes which involve people dying (i.e.; the thought experiment does not
              allow for the person to take any other plan of action) then obviously people will, on the whole, choose to minimise the number of people that die, even if this involves purposefully taking one life. It does not show that the subject would not consider murder an objectively immoral thing to do – if this were the case, there would be no dilemma! What I mean is that, as I alluded to in another comment that for grey areas to exist there must first be such a thing as black and white, complicated moral situations are only complicated because
              there are moral absolutes. If the foundations for our moral life really were ultimately subjective (whether one places this in a consequentialist setting or not) then there would be no real tension between different paths of moral action. Claiming a subjective foundation for morality does ultimately lead to moral relativism – this is it’s natural conclusion, whether one likes it or not, and this of course leaves one without any real grounds for saying anything
              is immoral at all, which was precisely what Laurence was trying to say in his original article.

              Apologies for my comment on abstract ideas – it was badly communicated, and yes, looking back on what I wrote it does make
              little sense. What I was getting at was that I do not consider things like moral truth to be, in the final analysis, just abstract ideas, because I don’t believe abstract ideas to have any real existence. I don’t mean that these things are not reliable guides to reality or anything like that, but only that they do not have existence in and of themselves – they are not floating about there somewhere – but are grounded in the being and nature of God. This is plainly something you would disagree with, but that is what I meant.

              As for pulling the rug out from beneath me by bringing up nominalism, I don’t really see how this is the case, as I hadn’t invoked it at all – I wasn’t saying that it wasn’t relevant, only that I hadn’t
              brought it up, and was responding to when you wrote that I had to establish what an abstract idea was made of before I could ‘establish a moral realist position. So that means getting over nominalist accounts of reality and establishing a bottom up structure of reality.’ I’ve just given my position on the non-reality of abstract ideas, and also, I thought that a nominalist account of reality precisely was a bottom up structure of reality, as it starts from particulars. Nevertheless, neither nominalism nor Platonic realism are
              what I am arguing for, and so I whilst this might be relevant to the way you would want to frame a moral universe, it is not the way I am. It seems to me that such claims, that I ‘must’ establish what abstract ideas are made of or establish a bottom up structure of reality are things that are assumed for a particular view of moral debate, not things that are foundational to moral debate in general.

              Regarding Natural Law, that God is not mentioned in an article which lists only Plato, Aristotle, and Hobbes, and overlooks huge swathes of Christian tradition that sees NL as being grounded in God, is
              hardly surprising – in fact, at the end of the section on Aristotle, we read ‘this is the view affirmed by Aquinas, and the majority of adherents to the natural law tradition’, which adherents have mostly belonged to Christian tradition.

              ‘Simply hinting that they are not coherent or persuasive is neither persuasive itself nor qualifies as coherent: a mere assertion.’

              Good grief! I have read over my original statement again and am amazed at how you could get that from what I wrote – I was by no means claiming that what I had pointed out was in any meant to prove that the positions in question were in and of themselves not coherent or persuasive. All I was saying is that your stating that these positions exist is not an argument for their coherence or persuasive power; nothing more. Obviously I personally don’t find them persuasive but that was not my point.

            • Ann

              You say:
              “the fact that we apprehend that there is such a thing as Justice, as
              the Good, etc, something that binds our conscience towards an obligation or duty itself points to there being such a thing as objective moral truth.”

              Not so.

              The fact that we apprehend that there is such a thing as beauty does not imply that there is an objective “beauty.”
              ~ ~ ~ ~~
              You say:
              “… for grey areas to exist there must first be such a thing as black and white, complicated moral situations are only complicated because there are moral absolutes.”

              Not so.

              Complicated situations arise in cases of opinion all the time… an ambivalence about “fairness” or “the best coconut cake in the County Fair.”

              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

              You say:
              “If the foundations for our moral life really were ultimately subjective … then there would be no real tension between different paths of moral action.”

              Not so.
              There is often “tension” (indecision, I guess) between cases of opinion all the time — sometimes agonizing or paralyzing. Should she forgive her father for leaving her mother? Which man should she marry?

            • Regarding Natural Law, that God is not mentioned in an article which lists only Plato, Aristotle, and Hobbes, and overlooks huge swathes of Christian tradition that sees NL as being grounded in God, ishardly surprising – in fact, at the end of the section on Aristotle, we read ‘this is the view affirmed by Aquinas, and the majority of adherents to the natural law tradition’, which adherents have mostly belonged to Christian tradition.

              You read only the section on natural good, which was defining actually what is that good. The rest of the article is in the divine context. The point is that what is actually NEEDED in terms of grounding that good is, well, not God. There are other things divine about the general thoughts of NL, but essentially it is naturalistic.

            • Claiming a subjective foundation for morality does ultimately lead to moral relativism – this is it’s natural conclusion,

              Not necessarily. It is more nuanced than that. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/moral-subjectivism-versus-relativism.html

      • D Rizdek

        Why do you think we, by our atheism, have denied ourselves any objective grounding for moral judgment any more than theists? What difference does god’s existence and his/its opinion on what is moral make to whether a person is going to develop a sense of what is a good goal for morality and how to work towards it? Both atheist and theist have to do the same thing. The theist (Christians anyways) apparently have to revisit interpretations of the Bible to keep it’s mandates relevant to today’s morality and have to carefully weigh inspiration to make sure the “guidance” they think they are getting is of god (aka really the right thing to do based on the individuals opinion of what is right or wrong). Why is that? Why are scriptures supposedly inspired by god subject to misinterpretation? Why is inspiration from god so difficult to find among other thoughts a person has?

        What makes your god’s grounding of morality objective?

        I as an atheist do appeal to a higher (than myself) “court” of morality…namely others, or the society in which I live. That is what makes a difference in what I think is right and wrong…where my decisions play out among other people who can respond unequivocally as to whether the system of morality I have adopted is generally right or wrong. A god does not help. Because little is known for certain about this god so its actual morality is equivocal at best and unknown at worst. In any case, each person has to judge whether they think any “mandate” gotten from this god, whether by inspiration, sermon or text (modern or ancient) is right. Society can help me know what is right and wrong whether I like it or not. Societies standards are known better than any theists claim of guidance they think a god gives them. And societies’ standards and are what matters in most cases of interactions with others.

        Even WITH a god, the sensible theist has to conform his overall sense of morality with society. Most do it seamlessly and effortlessly. EG, nowadays in advanced countries, it is generally not permitted to punish children by stoning even if their god seems to have ordained it. So good folks don’t stone their children and decide a god really didn’t ordain that. It is not permitted to sacrifice humans to gods even if their god seems to have ordained it in the past so no human sacrifices are made by good people. In fact societies and gov’ts can force a religion to adopt monogamous marriages while their god supposedly ordained polygamy. Was the religion mistaken about what their god told them to do or are they conforming to society. The problem, of course, is the equivocal means by which theists seem to develop their morals if they don’t do it based on personal reasoning and the response of society. There is no means by which Inspiration by an unseen and unheard (by others) god, and interpretation of ancient text and these seem to continually have to be revisited to conform to advancements in society. Christian’s for example have largely placed many of the OT laws in the useless bin because THAT society is different than society NOW. Why? Because they have to conform to civilized society’s standards. Slavery is now considered immoral while society at the time the Bible god was inspiring folks seemed to accept it quite readily. And for some reason, Bible god and Jesus never saw fit to hint that slavery was wrong in any way. Todays theists in civilized nations HAVE to conform their opinions of slavery to the laws of the land. They cannot rely on their god to confirm except in their imaginations, i.e. what they think their god is telling them.

        As to ME defending my morality, I can do so just as well as you can, apparently, because in a world predominately theist, there are many systems and standards of morality. Many are not the same and some are categorically different and even incompatible. Why can you not compel others of your morality if it is “of god?” What is the difference between a world where everyone can build their own system of morality imagining a god ordains it vs a world where everyone builds their own system of morality without any god, but rather depending on society to verify it? In both cases there are going to be people who won’t “listen” to your opinion of what is right and wrong and will actually have good (in their opinions) and not so good reasons for their decisions.

        Just as we develop a sense of what is healthy, good money management, good domestic interactions or safe entertainment, we can develop a good sense of what is moral and how best to get along in a world of other people. For example, I can’t define precisely, what it means to be healthy. But I can imagine what better health is and reason out the ways to achieve that. And while there is no ultimate and objective “state” of good health, once one determines a personal or societal goal of better health, one can decide, objectively, what is the best way to reach that goal. And those “ways” are not respective of personal wants or desires; they are in a real sense objective. The goal is subjective, but the means to get there are either objectively in the right direction or in the wrong direction. There need not be a “health god” that makes my decision for me nor some sort of supernatural source of “good healthiness” for me to figure out good vs bad things for health.

        The same goes for morality. It is true some may be unconcerned with good health and may not adopt ANY “better health” activities/eating habits/etc. likewise folks can be unconcerned with morality and may not develop any activities to achieve better morality. If folks can agree on what is generally a better moral society, they can derive objectively and at least generally, if not specifically, which actions tend to move us toward that goal, vs. away from it. And those actions might not all be the things individuals want to do but instead are adapted because of a desire to live peacefully in society overrides personal desires or convenience. And yes, just as with theistically derived morals, folks can disagree or even ignore them. Since they can disregard them, what is the difference between humanly derived measures to develop a society with better moral standards vs measures developed based on people’s opinions of what a god deems moral?

        IOW, how does it help that god has standards and what makes them objective?

        • Ann

          This is an unusually good post.

          Do you think you could take the time to work it up as a formal essay, and elaborate on its points — and then see if it could get published somewhere?
          (Not that I know where!)

          • D Rizdek

            Thanks. I did write it somewhat hurriedly. I might work on it just for my own interest. I should have referenced Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape. I didn’t quote him, but some of his ideas found their way into the “fabric of my soul,” so to speak. His book clarified to me what I already had a vague inclination of…that indeed there are objective and scientific ways to address how to improve our morality and what are moral vs immoral actions, once we agree on goals for morality/ethics. If you haven’t read his book, I recommend it.

            • I thought there was some Harris in there! You can pad it out as a guest post and send it to me at the contact above.

            • D Rizdek

              I’ll work on it, because I was quite impressed with Harris’ book.
              I did go back and edit to reference his work because it should be in there.

            • Ann

              It’s on my list — not that it will come to the top any time soon! LOL!

        • Luke Breuer

          Hello again!

          What makes your god’s grounding of morality objective…or useful?

          When one speaks of ‘grounding’, one generally means grounding in the truth. So, for example, if ‘physical laws’ ⇒ ‘moral laws’, then if a creator of our universe determined our physical laws, he/she/it could communicate to us the moral laws. There would still be an independent means to test them, but at the very least, it would be nice to have a source of wisdom so I don’t have to make as many mistakes, hurt myself as much, or hurt others as much.

          I as an atheist do appeal to a higher (than myself) “court” of morality…namely others, or the society in which I live. That is what makes a difference in what I think is right and wrong…where my decisions play out among other people who can respond unequivocally as to whether the system of morality I have adopted is generally right or wrong in the eyes of society.

          Given Aristotle’s natural slavery, if you were a wealthy Greek in his time, you would appear powerless to fight against slavery. That powerlessness would seem cemented by: (a) the focus on idealism—rational contemplation of the divine; and (b) the belief in eternal recurrence. On your basis, how does the individual go about challenging the status quo? How do we get Gregory of Nyssa’s 379 Lenten sermon arguing against slavery (details)?

          There is no means by which Inspiration by an unseen and unheard (by others) god, and interpretation of ancient text can be corroborated and these seem to continually have to be revisited to conform to advancements in society.

          Corroboration happens by living out the alteration of morality; that seems pretty obvious. After a few successful iterations of this, one could start to trust the source of the alterations. There is an element of science here, although I think we can just call it ‘reliability’. Curiously enough, the Greek word pistis, often translated ‘faith’ in the NT, is probably better translated as ‘trust’ in our day and age.

          Why can you not compel others of your morality if it is “of god?”

          If Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20 are true.

          Most advanced civilizations no longer track down and kill witches even though it might seem like Bible god ordained it.

          According to David Bentley Hart, it was Christians in Europe who curtailed the execution of witches. I didn’t write down that particular quote from Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, but here are two I did:

          St. Patrick’s Synod in the fifth century, for instance, anathematizes those who believe in the existence of witches with real magical powers. The Capitulary for Saxony, promulgated by Charlemagne (c. 742–814) as part of his campaign to Christianize the pagan north, made it a crime for anyone, acting on some heathen belief in magic, to burn or (grimly enough) to devour the flesh of accused sorcerers. (76)

          The great Dominican encyclopedist Vincent of Beauvais (c. 1190–1264), in order to disabuse a woman visitor of the delusion that she was a witch who could pass through keyholes, resorted to the exquisitely simple expedient of locking his door and chasing her about with a stick while exhorting her to escape if she could. (77)

          I suggest a bit more fact checking on such matters. There’s a lot of propaganda out there; a wonderful example of this is the now-rejected conflict thesis.

          • D Rizdek

            “Corroboration happens by living out the alteration of morality; that seems pretty obvious. After a few successful iterations of this, one could start to trust the source of the alterations.”
            Hi Luke. I see it differently. As one modifies, for whatever reasons, ancient and historical views on morality and ethics, I see it as developing new and better (hopefully) ones. It doesn’t corroborate those old ones that had to be reinterpreted and modified, it does away with them. Not all, of course, but the ones that seem to us now to be morally deficient. IOW, living out the alteration does not, IMHO corroborate those old ones but rather disproves and displaces them.
            I am glad, and could well believe it was Christians who led the curtailment of witch execution as I am glad and could well believe good minded Christians were at the forefront of doing away with slavery. It’s just that they had to go against so much culture that was based on another and older interpretation of the Bible. It’s just a guess, but if the Bible had handled slavery, witches and treatment of women differently, society may have advanced faster in improving in those areas.
            As to hopefully grounding one’s morality in truth, that should be the goal, but what if there isn’t any absolute truth for, say, morality? It might be comforting and satisfy some inner need for “absolute-ness,” but is that a reason to believe it? What if it’s not “out there” to be found, but “in here” (in the minds and lives of humans) to be built through a careful, reasoning and an iterative process? That would mean it would be a mistake to continually seek “the truth” as an inspiration from a god or ancient texts. Too many times, it seems, folks become entrenched if they believe “God is on their side,” and “the Bible is the word,” and become unwilling to revisit what they consider to be moral absolutes. So, while any given Christian…or any follower of any religion might, through open-mindedness and serious reflection and introspection, discover new and better truths, it seems just as likely they’ll resist that new thought that might be the catalyst to significant improvements. I think the problems in the middle east become much more difficult when both sides see themselves as “doing it all for the one true God.” If the US, for example, could stop linking all our responses to how we differ religiously, I think we might find new ways to negotiate and relate to followers of Islam.

            • Luke Breuer

              As one modifies, for whatever reasons, ancient and historical views on morality and ethics, I see it as developing new and better (hopefully) ones.

              After studying the history of philosophy and morality (e.g. Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue), I am forced to conclude that you don’t get very much “new” per unit time: indeed, mostly what you get is a small tweak upon what existed before, and that small tweak may or may not be a recapitulation of something the Greeks have already thought.

              How do you measure “better”, by the way?

              It’s just a guess, but if the Bible had handled slavery, witches and treatment of women (among many other things) differently, society may have advanced faster in improving in those areas.

              Are you aware of how the early Christians were mocked for accepting so many women into their ranks? Furthermore, I would point out that the rape of Bathsheba would have been expected as normal in most Ancient Near East (ANE) cultures; that David was called out on it was quite an event. Bathsheba got put in the bloodline of Jesus and the rape is clearly alluded to in Jesus’ genealogy. I’m not sure that you can really hold your point, here. That being said, I have not done a comprehensive study of how the OT and NT views women, compared with contemporary sources, nor read any. Have you? If not, I don’t understand your basis for your claim, here.

              As to slavery, I have done more extensive research on that, and find it hard to hold your viewpoint. The Israelites were repeatedly instructed to remember their time in Egypt as a warning for how they treated others. Contrary to peace treaties among ANE nations to return slaves, we have: “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.” Folks love to point out Ex 21:20–21 as an example for how vicious slave owners were allowed to be, but there is another way to read it: it puts a limit on what would otherwise be more vicious behavior. Furthermore, when one reads it in context, one sees very similar wording applying to freemen. I could go on, but suffice it to say that the case is not nearly as clear-cut as you seem to think (based on admittedly a guess).

              As to hopefully grounding one’s morality in truth, that should be the goal, but what if there isn’t any absolute truth for, say, morality?

              Then Nietzsche was right, and everything is the will to power, whether hidden behind a façade or expressed blatantly.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Are you aware of how the early Christians were mocked for accepting so many women into their ranks?

              Your source doesn´t support this claim in any way, shape or form.

            • I have not done a comprehensive study of how the OT and NT views women, compared with contemporary sources, nor read any.

              “A woman [or wife] should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” – 1 Timothy 2:11-12

              Compared to today the OT and NT both contain morals which subjugate women. Hardly something we’d want to use as a basis today for a moral society.

            • D Rizdek

              “I am forced to conclude that you don’t get very much “new” per unit time: indeed, mostly what you get is a small tweak upon what existed before”

               

              With few exceptions that’s probably right. But over time, you end up with something categorically different.

               

              “How do you measure “better”, by the way?”

               

              The same way you do. You mentioned that the Israelites at least had some laws about how to treat slaves. Do you think those ways are better than perhaps how it was before or in other areas where it might have been permissible to kill slaves without any reprecussions? If so, haven’t you defined better? You mentioned that Christianity accepted women in their ranks. Presumably you were pointing out that Christianity, in that sense, was better than the folks that mocked them. Regardless of which aspects we’re talking about, if you can point out how things have improved morally then you’ve defined better.

               

              Whether the advice in the Bible is better than what others were doing then seems irrelevant if it is the word of god. OTOH, If one simply looks at the Bible as a story of how one group of humans struggled to improve morality, then it’s a fine work. But the fact that it was better than other cultures doesn’t make its standards right. I could, for example, applaud the Israelites for their “more humane” treatment of slaves, but not if it reflected the mandates of a god who is touted as morally perfect and changeless. What did they think their god really thought about slavery? Do you think he actually told them he was against it and they got the message garbled? Or did he allow them to believe he just thought they needed to do it better than their despicable neighbors?
              Regardless, do you think slavery would have taken just as long to abolish if the Bible had taken a firm stand against it and said it was an abomination and that a person would suffer eternal torment if they did it? I think so. These sites suggests it might have been a factor:

              http://www.ushistory.org/us/27f.asp and

              http://abolition.e2bn.org/slavery_112.html and

              http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/12/how-the-bible-was-used-to-justify-slavery-abolitionism/

              At least those who were anti-slavery would not have had to contend with specific verses supporting slavery such as: Paul returning the slave to his owner and telling slaves to be submissive.

              Why would a world without absolute true morality be equivalent to “everything is the will to power, whether hidden behind a façade or expressed blatantly”? I don’t quite understand the phrase. All it would mean to me is that morality would be something we aspire toward using our reason, empathy, and our best understanding of history, human nature, psychology and physiology. That could be the case even if there was a god…a god who decided he wouldn’t set any standards but allow humans to figure it out and admire those who did better at it. Why is that so unappealing to folks? If there is some ultimate objective standard of morality, humanity has never seemed to “find” it and gives all the appearance of aspiring toward it using their reason, empathy and their best understanding of history, human nature, psychology and physiology.

              Why should what a god thinks about morality, or anything for that matter, be important to people?

            • Luke Breuer

              With few exceptions that’s probably right. But over time, you end up with something categorically different.

              I’m just not convinced that this is true. Were the ancient Greeks to see what we’ve done with democracy, how surprised would they really be? Were the Christian apostles to see what we’ve done with charity, which was a concept new to the Christians (see B., here, and here). That is, what was called ‘charity’ beforehand was categorically different.

              How do you measure “better”, by the way?

              The same way you do.

              I’m not convinced that this is true, so please indicate how you measure “better”. If you cannot escape your “better” being 100% determined by culture and genes, then it cannot be an absolute measure.

              Whether the advice in the Bible is better than what others were doing then seems irrelevant if it is the word of god.

              Suppose the Bible were a science textbook; would this criticism mean that it should not teach F = ma because hey, technically that’s wrong? Shouldn’t it only teach the final version of all scientific laws?

              Regardless, do you think slavery would have taken just as long to abolish if the Bible had taken a firm stand against it and said it was an abomination and that a person would suffer eternal torment if they did it? I think so.

              Given that (a) the majority of slaveholders in the South were not Jews; (b) some slaves became Christians; (c) same-ethnicity people were to be released after six years; (d) Paul makes it clear that faith supersedes ethnicity in Romans 9–11: why were the slaves in the South not actually released? Or let’s take another example: how does Deut 23:15 reconcile with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850? I think it’s pretty clear that there was nothing close to an honest obedience to the OT, although I have not scoured the literature. Or we could just look at the Cornerstone Speech, given on 1861 by Vice President of the Confederate States, Alexander H. Stephens:

              Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

              Compare this to Eph 2:20, which has Jesus being the “chief cornerstone”.

              […] Paul returning the slave to his owner […]

              Ummm, the book of Philemon was used by many abolitionists; it was kind of the go-to text.

              Why would a world without absolute true morality be equivalent to “everything is the will to power, whether hidden behind a façade or expressed blatantly”? I don’t quite understand the phrase.

              See will to power: it’s from Nietzsche.

              All it would mean to me is that morality would be something we aspire toward using our reason, empathy, and our best understanding of history, human nature, psychology and physiology.

              It’s the difference between wanting something because it is right, and wanting something because I like it. The two can coincide, but they can also deviate. How do we know to what extent they line up?

              Why should what a god thinks about morality, or anything for that matter, be important to people?

              It should matter as much as truth matters to people.

            • D Rizdek

              Me previously: “But over time, you end up with something cateorically different.”

              You “I’m just not convinced that this is true. Were the ancient Greeks to see what we’ve done with democracy, how surprised would they really be? Were the Christian apostles to see what we’ve done with charity, which was a concept new to the Christians (see B., here, and here). That is, what was called ‘charity’ beforehand was categorically different.”

              I’m not sure what you aren’t convinced of. The examples you raised are perfect examples of what I was talking about. If the Greek view on democracy was significantly different than how others thought gov’ts should be run, then it might’ve been categorically different… which is what I said. If the apostle’s view on charity was categorically different than how others were viewing it then or before, then it was categorically different. I didn’t mean to compare what we have now with everything they did and said then, I was thinking of other specific examples like whether we should
              -have slaves we can beat almost to death,
              -stone children for disobedience,
              -kill witches,
              -attribute illness and mental infirmity to demons,
              -treat women as second class citizens, or
              -exclude men from our society if they’ve had their testicles crushed

              “I’m not convinced that [I measure better the same as you] so please indicate how you measure “better”. If you cannot escape your “better” being 100% determined by culture and genes, then it cannot be an absolute measure.”

              If there is a god and if, somehow, he’s established some sort of absolute measure…as in embedded in the universal constants such that it cannot change…EVER, and is not dependent on his opinions which, if he wanted to, he could change, then whether I believe in this god or not, I’m linked to and can benefit from those “absolute” measures, just like you. My athiesm is irrelevant.
              And if there isn’t a god who has established some sort of absolute measure of morality then you are just spinning your wheels trying find GOD’S morality. You’re seeking morlaity based on your personal ways of thinking just like me.

               

              Maybe there isn’t an absolute measure of morality. Does that bother you? That doesn’t bother me, in fact given the way morality seems to have shifted through time, it would be scary if all those religious folks then were getting their moral intuitions from a god. It’s scary that the God of the Bible and Jesus waited until just 2000 years ago bring the good news. Was he unable to develop a plan sending Jesus to help folks earlier in history? I’d rather believe the folks that wrote the BIble were just doing the best they could with their own reasoning and that over time, we’ve improved…even if that is improvement is measured subjectively based on what we think helps us get along better.
               

              Why is morality being subjective such a big deal? Obviously god-believers aren’t getting the straight message from god about this “absolute” measure of morality because there is such widespread differences. And it’s not a problem of evil, it’s a problem with well-intended folks thinking THEIR interpretations and inspirations are correct and not someone else’s.
               

              Concerning slavery, the point remains that the Bible was at best unclear and at worst an accomplice to slavery. It doesn’t matter if they were Christian, if they mistinterpreted this or that comments, the Bible did not come out solidly against slavery and that is a problem for anyone thinking it represents in any way the word of a moral god.

              You: “it’s from Nietzsche.”

               

              From your wiki reference: “However, the will to power was never systematically defined, and its interpretation has been open to debate.” Since it isn’t defined, please tell me what you think it means in this context.
               

              More from Wiki: “[Nietzsche believed the main driving force in humans: achievement, ambition, the striving to reach the highest possible position in life;”
               

              So what? He could be wrong. AND, more importantly, that seems irrelevant as to whether there is a god or not. His conjecture could apply perfectly in a theistic world. Why wouldn’t that driving force be “of god” and be something god expects us to work to overcome to be moral, empathetic and charitable?
               

              “It’s the difference between wanting something because it is right, and wanting something because I like it. The two can coincide, but they can also deviate. How do we know to what extent they line up?”

              And how is that different with or without a god?
               

              Me: “Why should what a god thinks about morality, or anything for that matter, be important to people?”
               

              You: “It should matter as much as truth matters to people.”

              You’re going in circles. Why should the truth matter?

            • Luke Breuer

              I’m not sure what you aren’t convinced of.

              Your use of categorically in “categorically different” is what bothers me. It indicates a complete break with the past, as if a significantly different standard is now being used. Too much of this, and you can’t even identify a progression in morality—it’s just different, with enough power (whether spread among many people or few) to establish it as the way things will be.

              If there is a god and if, somehow, he’s established some sort of absolute measure…as in embedded in the universal constants such that it cannot change…EVER, and is not dependent on his opinions which, if he wanted to, he could change, then whether I believe in this god or not, I’m linked to and can benefit from those “absolute” measures, just like you. My athiesm is irrelevant.

              Your atheism is relevant if said god also communicated about the absolute morality, even if that communication was a method for successively approximating said morality (like we successively approximate reality with science) instead of ultimate standards. Your atheism is also relevant if said god is offering help in better adhering to that morality. You are treating ‘god’ here is as an object instead of as a subject, as a set of abstract concepts instead of as a person.

              Maybe there isn’t an absolute measure of morality. Does that bother you?

              Yes, because if there isn’t, we oughtn’t act like there is. If there isn’t, then it really does seem to be a Nietzschean power-play, with the smart choice for everyone to increase one’s own power over and against everyone else’s power. Agape means “self-giving” and righteousness means “self-effacing”; both of these are incredibly stupid if they end up altering the power differential out of your favor.

              It’s scary that the God of the Bible and Jesus waited until just 2000 years ago bring the good news. Was he unable to develop a plan sending Jesus to help folks earlier in history?

              Take this argument to its logical conclusion: was there any point of time that was not “too late”, other than immediately after Adam and Eve ate of the tree?

              Concerning slavery, the point remains that the Bible was at best unclear and at worst an accomplice to slavery.

              1 Cor 7:21, Philemon, Col 3:11, and Gal 3:28 are really that unclear? Suppose the Bible came out against slavery in the way you desire. Who is to say that it wouldn’t inspire another Servile War? I claim that what was really needed to undermine slavery was to undermine the reasoning for it, and that the NT does precisely this: it makes slavery obsolete not on the level of law, but on the level of heart.

              “However, the will to power was never systematically defined, and its interpretation has been open to debate.” Since it isn’t defined, please tell me what you think it means in this context.

              I think you read too much into that. It’s pretty well defined “in book 5 of Gay Science (1887) where Nietzsche describes will to power as the instinct for “expansion of power,” fundamental to all life.”

              AND, more importantly, that seems irrelevant as to whether there is a god or not.

              It is if that god is saying to act (and acts) in a way antithetical to the will to power. See master–slave morality, which “is a central theme of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works”. Nietzsche was horrified at stuff like Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20.

              And how is that different with or without a god?

              It’s not clear that it is possible to ground morality without a god.

              You’re going in circles. Why should the truth matter?

              There is no good answer to that question; either you believe that the truth matters because it is true, or you believe it matters because of what it gets you. The only possible answer I can give you is the latter kind, but that is not my reason. If you do not value truth qua truth, then what can I do to change your mind?

            • Andy_Schueler

              Yes, because if there isn’t, we oughtn’t act like there is. If there isn’t, then it reallydoes seem to be a Nietzschean power-play, with the smart choice for everyone to increase one’s own power over and against everyone else’s power. Agape means “self-giving” and righteousness means “self-effacing”; both of these are incredibly stupid if they end up altering the power differential out of your favor.

              Boy do I hope that you´ll never lose your faith (not that I´d consider it likely or even possible that you would actually do that, just saying that it would apparently lead to rather terrible consequences for everyone around you).

              I think you read too much into that. It’s pretty well defined….

              I was about to ask you if you´ve actually read anything by Nietzsche, but this claim here suffices as an answer to that – your understanding of Nietzsche apparently does not come from reading Nietzsche but rather from reading christian apologetics literature.

              It’s not clear that it is possible to ground morality without a god.

              Actually, that is perfectly clear – it is possible to ground morality without Gods. Conceptually it is even much easier to do that then the goddy alternatives because no matter how ill-defined terms like “wellbeing” are, they are still not nearly as nebulous and malleable as terms like “God´s will”.

            • Luke Breuer

              Boy do I hope that you´ll never lose your faith (not that I´d consider it likely or even possible that you would actually do that, just saying that it would apparently lead to rather terrible consequences for everyone around you).

              Are you implying that very few people do what I described?

              I was about to ask you if you´ve actually read anything by Nietzsche, but this claim here suffices as an answer to that – your understanding of Nietzsche apparently does not come from reading Nietzsche but rather from reading christian apologetics literature.

              Do actually offer a correction, to show that you aren’t just BSing.

              Actually, that is perfectly clear – it is possible to ground morality without Gods.

              Do actually show this, instead of offering a bare assertion.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Are you implying that very few people do what I described?

              I am not implying, I was very explicit that I hope that you will never lose your faith.

              Do actually offer a correction, to show that you aren’t just BSing.

              Nope. I´ve pointed out that you frequently don´t actually read the sources you link to often enough. Suffice it to say that anyone who knows anything about Nietzsches philosophy can only laugh at the claim that Nietzsche was clear on anything or well defined his terms. All you did is cherry pick a sentence that can be read as meaning that the “will to power” has an unambiguous meaning and ignored what D Rizdek correctly pointed out – that the people who actually did bother to read Nietzsche, don´t agree with that at all.

              Do actually show this, instead of offering a bare assertion.

              I did. “Wellbeing is good”, there, that´s all the grounding that is required to develop a logically consistent atheistic moral system / the only “first principle” that an atheistic moral system needs. And as I pointed out, as ill-defined as “wellbeing” might be, it is not nearly as ill-defined as the entities that ground “goodness” in theistic moral systems.

            • Luke Breuer

              I am not implying, I was very explicit that I hope that you will never lose your faith.

              Forget “implying”; do you think very few people do what you think I would do (I actually have no idea what this is), were I to lose my faith?

              I´ve pointed out that you frequently don´t actually read the sources you link to often enough.

              If this is true, you should be able to rattle off 5–10 examples off the top of your head. Can you do this?

              Suffice it to say that anyone who knows anything about Nietzsches philosophy can only laugh at the claim that Nietzsche was clear on anything or well defined his terms.

              Really, so no generalizations can be drawn whatsoever? He is so easy to interpret in various ways that really nothing particularly poignant can be drawn from what he has said? I find both of these hard to believe, despite my recent reading of The Closing of the American Mind, in which Allan Bloom talks about how various folks in America have appropriated Nietzsche in ways he very likely would have balked at.

              I did. “Wellbeing is good”, there, that´s all the grounding that is required to develop a logically consistent atheistic moral system / the only “first principle” that an atheistic moral system needs. And as I pointed out, as ill-defined as “wellbeing” might be, it is not nearly as ill-defined as the entities that ground “goodness” in theistic moral systems.

              “Wellbeing is good” is like babby’s first philosophy, with a tremendous number of problems. If A is not well-grounded, and B > A, that does not mean that B is well-grounded. The fact that you think you’ve pretty easily solved the problem indicates that you haven’t really looked for contradictory evidence/reasoning, for example from Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (which I’ve only just started and it militates against your points) and Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. In the latter, Smith extensively discusses the “harm principle”, showing how unintuitive it actually becomes when one attempts to do law with it (Smith is a USCD law professor).

            • Andy_Schueler

              Forget “implying”; do you think very few people do what you think I would do (I actually have no idea what this is), were I to lose my faith?

              Reading comprehension doesn´t seem to be your strong suit. You said:
              “Yes, because if there isn’t, we oughtn’t act like there is. If there isn’t, then it reallydoes seem to be a Nietzschean power-play, with the smart choice for everyone to increase one’s own power over and against everyone else’s power. Agape means “self-giving” and righteousness means “self-effacing”; both of these are incredibly stupid if they end up altering the power differential out of your favor.”
              and I said:
              “Boy do I hope that you´ll never lose your faith (not that I´d consider it likely or even possible that you would actually do that, just saying that it would apparently lead to rather terrible consequences for everyone around you).”
              – If you cannot parse this, then you need english classes.

              If this is true, you should be able to rattle off 5–10 examples off the top of your head. Can you do this?

              Yup.

              “Wellbeing is good” is like babby’s first philosophy, with a tremendous number of problems.

              You don´t say! Problems that your “goodness is equal to my imaginary skydaddy” approach obviously does not have.

              The fact that you think you’ve pretty easily solved the problem indicates that you haven’t really looked for contradictory evidence/reasoning, for example from Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality?

              The fact that you confuse moral ontology and moral epistemology again illustrates (also, again) that you do not read any of those books you claim to read with any comprehension whatsoever.

            • Luke Breuer

              Please prove your “Yes.” As to the rest, the antagonism level (to which I have contributed) is going to preclude any useful conversation.

            • Andy_Schueler

              You know exactly what I´m talking about, stuff like you linking to a post of Sean Carroll over and over and over again despite the fact that even a casual reading of that post would reveal that Carroll, if anything, argued the exact opposite of what you claimed he argued. Or stuff like you mocking Pinker´s “Better Angels” for failing to prove something that Pinker wasn´t even interested in for this book in the first place.

              Regarding a “grounding” of “morality”, you might want to think about what it actually means to “ground morality” and how divine command theory and aristotelico-thomistic morality accomplish such a “grounding”. Hint: it boils down to a much more basic question than “what is the right / good thing to do”, it is about the question of what “goodness” is (ontologically) in the first place and the “problems” you are talking about deal with the former, not the latter. You have been making this category mistake many times, and you might want to start catching up on the difference between moral ontology and moral epistemology.

            • Luke Breuer

              Ahh yes, the Downward Causation discussion, where you utterly misunderstood how I was using his argument. As I recall, The Thinker had zero problem seeing that my description of Carroll’s point matched his own understanding of Carroll’s point. If this is how you generally evaluate my comprehension of others’ writings, I am not at all surprised at what you’ve said, and am not interested in any further examples.

              As to “grounding of morality”, I have no idea where you get the idea that I cannot differentiate ontology and epistemology. When talking about the matter, I routinely link to Roger Olson’s Can Atheism Support Ethical Absolutes? Is Ethics without Absolutes Enough?, in which Olson repeatedly talks about the distinction between “being and knowing”. My Phil.SE question How could ‘objective morality’ be known/investigated? makes it clear that I can distinguish between ontology and epistemology. The follow-up question, Are there laws which govern minds?, is clearly about ontology.

              It seems that in both cases, going into your analysis of what I said you assumed I was wrong, found something that plausibly looked like wrongness, and thus ran with it. I recall you saying something along the lines of most ideas being false; if that recollection is true, I’ve been stupid to not realize how this colors your engagement with other people. It would explain quite a bit.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Ahh yes, the Downward Causation discussion, where you utterly misunderstood how I was using his argument.

              This is what you said in that comment thread:
              “Unless you reject Sean Carroll’s reductionist Downward Causation, I think you do need to deny that thoughts have causal powers. That is, it wouldn’t be because you thought or believed something that you did X, but because your neurons were in some state.”
              And this is what I replied:
              “1. Have you actually read Carroll´s article you are linking to? It honestly doesn´t seem as if you did, not least because you call it “Carroll’s reductionist Downward Causation” although it is neither his idea nor something that he agrees with…But also because you say “reject Sean Carroll’s reductionist Downward Causation”, and setting aside that this is not Carroll´s idea (and that Carroll refutes(!) the concept in the article you link to), you would have to say that we need to “affirm” downward causation, not “reject”, if we want to argue that thoughts have causal powers / are real – and Carroll´s article is actually all about why that might intuitively seem to be the case, but is actually not true. Seriously, I find it hard to believe that you have read more than the headline of the article you linked to.
              ….”

              I didn´t misunderstand how “you were using his argument” – you were not using his argument at all, not even anything that would remotely resemble what his argument was.

              As to “grounding of morality”, I have no idea where you get the idea that I cannot differentiate ontology and epistemology.

              Alright, so you understand the difference between moral ontology and moral epistemology and still think that this:
              “Wellbeing is good” is like babby’s first philosophy, with a tremendous number of problems. If A is not well-grounded, and B > A, that does not mean that B is well-grounded. The fact that you think you’ve pretty easily solved the problem indicates that you haven’t really looked for contradictory evidence/reasoning, for example from Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (which I’ve only just started and it militates against your points) and Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. In the latter, Smith extensively discusses the “harm principle”, showing how unintuitive it actually becomes when one attempts to do law with it (Smith is a USCD law professor).
              – was not an incredibly ignorant thing to say? Well, it can only be one of the two or neither, but not both.

            • Luke Breuer

              I didn´t misunderstand how “you were using his argument” – you were not using his argument at all, not even anything that would remotely resemble what his argument was.

              Let me make this absolutely clear for you:

                   1. thoughts = high-level entities
                   2. Downward Causation = high-level entities can cause low-level phenomena
                   3. ¬2. (Carroll’s position) = thoughts don’t have causal powers

              The Thinker, of course, denies that thoughts have causal powers. This is entirely in-line with what Sean Carroll claimed. And so, when I said that The Thinker would have to either (i) deny Sean Carroll’s argument in Downward Causation, or (ii) deny that thoughts have causal powers, The Thinker chose (ii). The only misunderstanding which occurred was your imposition on the discussion between TT and me, and your failure to understand what was going on because I was speaking to TT and not you, and thus didn’t need to clarify “reject Sean Carroll’s reductionist Downward Causation” → “reject Sean Carroll’s reductionist [stance which he articulated in] Downward Causation“.

              Really, I find it extremely hard to understand how you wouldn’t see a blatant contradiction between ‘reductionist’ and ‘[approval of] Downward Causation’, and therefore suppose that perhaps I meant something else, unless your goal is not proper understanding of what I said, but a vested interest in showing my ideas to be inherently contradictory/meaningless/whatever.

              Alright, so you understand the difference between moral ontology and moral epistemology and still think that this: […] – was not an incredibly ignorant thing to say?

              Honestly, I have no idea what you are arguing. Feel free to believe that I am wrong, but don’t labor under the delusion that you’ve done anything close to what is required to show me how I’m wrong. I get that you probably don’t want to do the work required; that’s fine.

            • Andy_Schueler

              And so, when I said that The Thinker would have to either (i) deny Sean Carroll’s argument in Downward Causation, or (ii) deny that thoughts have causal powers

              thus didn’t need to clarify “reject Sean Carroll’s reductionist Downward Causation” → “reject Sean Carroll’s reductionist [stance which he articulated in] Downward Causation”.

              You still have absolutely no idea what Carroll was even talking about. It makes no sense whatsoever that TT would have to reject either Carroll´s argument or deny that thoughts have causal powers, what would come closer to making sense is an “and” instead of an “or” here, that TT would have to reject thoughts having causal powers if he agreed with Carroll instead of denying what he said. But that would still be a complete misrepresentation of what Carroll said because Carroll rejects the entire premise of placing “thoughts” on a different level of an asserted hierarchy of mental phenomena with the “top level” allegedly having causal effects on lower levels – what he says comes closer to downward causation not even being wrong. It´s exactly as I said, your sentence “Unless you reject Sean Carroll’s reductionist Downward Causation, I think you do need to deny that thoughts have causal powers” – would only come close to making sense if the meaning would be reversed(!), if you substitute “reject” by “affirm”, and then it would still be a complete misrepresentation of what Carroll argued for as even the most casual reading of his post would have revealed.

              Honestly, I have no idea what you are arguing.

              It´s not that difficult. You asked about a grounding of morality (i.e. what morality is – it´s nature / ontology) and proceeded to mock a grounding of morality in the wellbeing of sentient life for the epistemological problems that this position has. It is exactly as me saying that morality cannot possibly be grounded in the will of an omniscient and omnibenevolent being (ontology), which happens to be the christian God, because people cannot agree on how to interpret the Bible (epistemology).

            • Luke Breuer

              You still have absolutely no idea what Carroll was even talking about.

              Given that I was adapting what he said to TT’s agreement that thoughts do not have causal powers, I think you’re the one in error. For me to “properly understand” Carroll per your definition of “properly understand”, I must say that TT is wrong to even have the thought that thoughts are not causally efficacious. What you’re really doing is inserting yourself into a discussion that did not originally include you, adopt presuppositions in contradiction with that discussion, and then claiming that I don’t understand what’s going on. Not helpful.

              You asked about a grounding of morality (i.e. what morality is – it´s nature / ontology) and proceeded to mock a grounding of morality in the wellbeing of sentient life for the epistemological problems that this position has.

              That you got a solely epistemological objection out of the following boggles my mind:

              LB: The fact that you think you’ve pretty easily solved the problem indicates that you haven’t really looked for contradictory evidence/reasoning, for example from Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (which I’ve only just started and it militates against your points) and Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. In the latter, Smith extensively discusses the “harm principle”, showing how unintuitive it actually becomes when one attempts to do law with it (Smith is a USCD law professor).

              How you didn’t connect the “harm principle” with “wellbeing” is beyond me. It’s as if you think merely uttering the word “wellbeing of sentient life” is obvious and doesn’t need explication in order to be anything close to a coherent grounding.

            • Andy_Schueler

              That you got a solely epistemological objection out of the following boggles my mind:

              LB: The fact that you think you’ve pretty easily solved the problem indicates that you haven’t really looked for contradictory evidence/reasoning, for example from Alasdair MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (which I’ve only just started and it militates against your points) and Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. In the latter, Smith extensively discusses the “harm principle”, showing how unintuitive it actually becomes when one attempts to do law with it (Smith is a USCD law professor).

              How you didn’t connect the “harm principle” with “wellbeing” is beyond me. It’s as if you think merely uttering the word “wellbeing of sentient life” is obvious and doesn’t need explication in order to be anything close to a coherent grounding.

              Dude….. For the sake of the argument, lets assume that Smith is completely right, lets go even much further than that and say that not once in the entire history of mankind was there ever any moral progress, no matter how small, that boiled down to consequentialist ethics based on grounding goodness in the wellbeing of sentient life. Now, pray tell, what problems would that cause for the ontological claim “”goodness” is identical to the thriving of sentient life”? After you have answered that, please answer this as well:
              Do you, or do you not, agree that if explicitly religious (christian, jewish, hindu, what have you) moral reasoning would have never led to any moral progress at all, then that would also mean that the ontological claims that “goodness” is an attribute of God and good actions are those that lead to God (as in classical theism) or that “goodness” is identical to divine will and good actions are those that align with this will (as in divine command theory) cannot possibly be true?

            • Luke Breuer

              Now, pray tell, what problems would that cause for the ontological claim “”goodness” is identical to the thriving of sentient life”?

              Inability to connect that ontological claim to reality in any way puts the ontological claim into question. It could be true and yet it would be impossible to know its truth-value. In this situation, I would call its groundedness into question.

              Do you, or do you not, agree that if explicitly religious (christian, jewish, hindu, what have you) moral reasoning would have never led to any moral progress at all, then that would also mean that the ontological claims that “goodness” is an attribute of God and good actions are those that lead to God (as in classical theism) or that “goodness” is identical to divine will and good actions are those that align with this will (as in divine command theory) cannot possibly be true?

              No, I would say that their truth-values are unknown. Suppose you have instructions for how to construct a perpetual motion machine, but a crucial step is missing. Do you know that this is impossible? No. But you have reason to discard it if nothing can be made of the instructions you do have. Without either an analytic proof that something is impossible/contradictory or a working example of what that something is supposed to demonstrate/accomplish which is contradictory with the something (e.g. cargo cult), you just don’t know.

            • Andy_Schueler

              No, I would say that their truth-values are unknown.

              Funny, so when it is about an atheistic grounding of morality, you´d call said grounding into question if it so far has always failed in practice, for a theistic grounding however – the exact same failures do not cast doubt on said grounding but merely renders its truth value unknown? I hope you realize that this is a double standard.
              It is the exact same logic in both cases and both approaches failing in practice can thus only lead to the same conclusion – both would not be refuted or even rendered implausible by such failures. Both groundings are too vague to be empirically refuted, divine command theory, in its most general / vaguest form, is infinitely malleable (the only limit is human creativity), almost like “wellbeing”, which is not infinitely malleable but close to. The original point however was that you said that it is not clear that morality can be grounded without Gods – and that is simply wrong, transparently wrong, it is trivially easy to ground morality without Gods. That doesn´t mean that this leads to a moral system that is true and does actually work in practice (work at all or work better than alternatives) – but the exact same is true for all theistic ways of grounding morality or any conceivable way of grounding morality in anything.

            • Luke Breuer

              Funny, so when it is about an atheistic grounding of morality, you´d call said grounding into question if it so far has always failed in practice, for a theistic grounding however – the exact same failures do not cast doubt on said grounding but merely renders its truth value unknown?

              You misunderstand; I meant my answer to both situations to be the same.

              The original point however was that you said that it is not clear that morality can be grounded without Gods – and that is simply wrong, transparently wrong, it is trivially easy to ground morality without Gods.

              If it is so trivially easy to do, you would have done it. Merely expressing a possible ontology with zero provided epistemology is not a way to do it. If you express a possible ontology and out of it erupt multiple, contradictory epistemologies, one suspects that they are not actually accessing a single ontology, which begs whether there is a single ontology which obtains.

            • Andy_Schueler

              If it is so trivially easy to do, you would have done it. Merely expressing a possible ontology with zero provided epistemology is not a way to do it.

              Ah, so that´s what you mean by “grounding morality”? Seriously? Well then you were rather dishonest when you said “it is not clear that morality can be grounded without God”, because that sentence implies that morality obviously can be grounded with God while it is unclear whether that is possible without God. However, given what your conception of “grounding” seems to be, this is not true at all – it is then exactly as unclear whether morality can be “grounded” with God as this is unclear without God.

            • Luke Breuer

              I honestly have no idea how you inferred what I mean by “grounding morality” by my listing a merely necessary condition. That condition, contrary to your hypotheticals, actually is seen in history.

            • Andy_Schueler

              What “condition” and how is it seen in history?

            • Luke Breuer

              The condition is that of progress, which must be measured against some standard of ‘life’ or ‘thriving’. I would advance the Christian concept of charity as a possibly unique innovation (see B., here, and here): giving to people in spite of “deserve”, like God has the rain fall on the unrighteous as well as the righteous. This promotes a kind of respect for the individual qua human being, instead of merely according to some conception of “the cosmic order”, which MacIntyre, Wolterstorff, Dupré, and Berger lead me believe was the status quo before the rise of individualism in the West.

              Unfortunately, the emphasis on individuality seems to have gone way too far, to the detriment of community and relations between human beings. Rights and entitlements seem to be claimed more than obligations noted and fulfilled; much focus is put on buying things and watching sports, which seems to me a pretty piss-poor version of ‘life’ or ‘thriving’. One could ask whether the initial push for individuality was actually good on this basis (“look where it has ended up!”), but I’m of the opinion that true thriving requires living in tension instead of comfortably lying at some extreme or really, any arbitrary point where you aren’t cognizant of the water, as David Foster Wallace put nicely in his 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech.

              I use a similar measure of ‘life’ for scientific papers, especially given stories my wife has told me about how actual science is done (she’s a biophysicist and got her PhD at an MIT-level institute): to what extent has a given paper been built on? Reproducibility seems night irrelevant compared to the question of where a given piece of research led. First, it has become clear in recent years that a not-insignificant portion of research isn’t reproduced. That being said, reality seems structured so that if you build on something false, the structure comes crashing down before too long. If this happens, you can conclude that the original thing either wasn’t grounded in reality, or at least had some fatal flaws. I think the same kind of test can be applied to morality.

            • Andy_Schueler

              The condition is that of progress, which must be measured against some standard of ‘life’ or ‘thriving’.

              That is presupposing consequentialism. Also, it has nothing to do with “grounding morality” – you haven´t even tried to show that “promoting life and thriving” is a good thing! And if you use “thriving is good” as a premise instead of deriving it from whatever you use to ground morality, than the way you “ground morality” is indistinguishable from the way in which virtually every atheist does it.

              This promotes a kind of respect for the individual qua human being…

              Does it? So the USA, with a christian church on every street and higher religiosity than any other western nation, is characterized by a widespread “respect for the individual qua human being”? It rather seems to be the exact opposite.

              That being said, reality seems structured so that if you build on something false, the structure comes crashing down before too long. If this happens, you can conclude that the original thing either wasn’t grounded in reality, or at least had some fatal flaws. I think the same kind of test can be applied to morality.

              Yup, consequentialism for the win.

            • Luke Breuer

              That is presupposing consequentialism.

              Is it really true that any attempt to measure a moral system against reality whatsoever is consequentialism? You seem to have argued this way multiple times in the past, and I am very suspicious of it. For example, the idea that a virtuous person ought never lie seems to be judged in part by the consequences. IEP: Consequentialism starts off with saying that the thing unique to consequentialism is that it is “the view that morality is all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences”. How do you construe what I have said to make it all the way to that extreme?

              Also, it has nothing to do with “grounding morality” – you haven´t even tried to show that “promoting life and thriving” is a good thing!

              Feel free to take what I said as an example for epistemologically accessing a grounding. As I said before, an ontology is utterly useless if it is epistemologically inaccessible.

              And if you use “thriving is good” as a premise instead of deriving it from whatever you use to ground morality, than the way you “ground morality” is indistinguishable from the way in which virtually every atheist does it.

              Is there really anyone who doesn’t have some version of “thriving is good”? The Westminster Shorter Catechism has: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That has a conception of thriving. Islam has “voluntary submission to God” as a way to “wholeness, safeness, and peace”. Aristotle’s ethics has a conception of thriving in the polis by cultivating the right character. Can you give me some alternatives that people live out, which cannot be reasonably put under the banner of “thriving is good”?

              Does it? So the USA, with a christian church on every street and higher religiosity than any other western nation, is characterized by a widespread “respect for the individual qua human being”? It rather seems to be the exact opposite.

              I find your conception of ‘religiosity’ to be nigh worthless. Did you see the latest about Victoria Osteen saying that doing good for yourself is doing good for God? So much for Jesus’ “If you want to be my disciple you must deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” No, instead it’s Acres of Diamonds. Yup, that’s what God wants. The rich shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, that’s it! No, if you want to seriously investigate this issue, you’ve gotta look at history and the impact that can truly be traced to Christianity. That’s a very hard task; I showed you what I did with charity, and that’s about the most I’ve done with anything approaching rigor.

              I’ve read David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, Rodney Stark’s controversial For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery, have criminal Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great about Christianity on John Loftus’ suggestion (of the best book about the good Christianity has done), and just got Alvin Schmidt’s How Christianity Changed the World. Even with all this, it’s remarkably difficult to trace the causal chains and really say how much impact Christianity had. I’m tempted to trust what I’ve read from Berger and Ellul more than the above. There seem to be a lot of vested interests to maximize and minimize the alleged impact. For you to merely pick the US at its current state as an easy falsification of what I said speaks of either incredible indoctrination or incredible naïveté.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Is it really true that any attempt to measure a moral system against reality whatsoever is consequentialism?

              It´s not that you do that at all, its that you deem it to be necessary – it cannot be “necessary” if you are not a consequentialist. Further, evaluating the consequences of a moral system is literally(!) the only thing you so far proposed to evaluate how good the system is.

              Feel free to take what I said as an example for epistemologically accessing a grounding. As I said before, an ontology is utterly useless if it is epistemologically inaccessible.

              So how do you ground morality? On what grounds can you claim that “promoting life and thriving” is a “good” thing?

              Is there really anyone who doesn’t have some version of “thriving is good”? The Westminster Shorter Catechism has: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That has a conception of thriving. Islam has “voluntary submission to God” as a way to “wholeness, safeness, and peace”. Aristotle’s ethics has a conception of thriving in the polis by cultivating the right character. Can you give me some alternatives that people live out, which cannot be reasonably put under the banner of “thriving is good”?

              You previously mocked the idea of using something like thriving being good to ground morality, so I expect that you don´t use it as a premise but rather derive it from whatever you use to ground morality, and I further expect that what you use to ground morality is not as stupid as “thriving is good” – if it is, the natural follow-up question would be “why the fuck did you mock it before when you literally do the exact same thing?”

              No, if you want to seriously investigate this issue, you’ve gotta look at history and the impact that can truly be traced to Christianity.

              Yawn… If I would be a hardcore Marxist and if I wanted to portray marxism in the best possible light and whitewash all the horrible things that it did influence in some way, I wouldn´t have a very hard time doing so. All I have to do is look for Marx quotes like this one:
              “History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.”
              – there, now I can “prove” that marxism could only have influenced the best and most noble of people while some authoritarian and violent asshole could not have possibly been influenced by marxism or even be a marxist in any way.
              That´s what apologists like Hart and Stark do with christianity and I´m not interested in it – I find it nauseating and dishonest.

              There seem to be a lot of vested interests to maximize and minimize the alleged impact. For you to merely pick the US at its current state as an easy falsification of what I said speaks of either incredible indoctrination or incredible naïveté.

              Then there is a very simple solution, we drop the words “christianity” and “christian” from the dictionary and never use them again because they do not actually describe anything (or rather: it is completely unknown what they are supposed to describe, which is in practice the exact same thing).

            • Luke Breuer

              It´s not that you do that at all, its that you deem it to be necessary – it cannot be “necessary” if you are not a consequentialist.

              I see no reason to believe you, given IEP’s definition of consequentialism. You’re using the word in a nonstandard way as far as I can tell. Consequences could easily be a necessary but not sufficient condition, and if that is the case, then the system being thereby described would manifestly not be “all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences.”

              Further, evaluating the consequences of a moral system is literally(!) the only thing you so far proposed to evaluate how good the system is.

              Yep, and given your probable response if I were to bring in emulation of Jesus, it’s not surprising that with you, I would so-restrict the discussion. After all, a good chunk of useful discussion could be had by merely talking about necessary conditions.

              So how do you ground morality? On what grounds can you claim that “promoting life and thriving” is a “good” thing?

              Jesus is the ground of my reality and my morality: “I am the way, the truth, the life.” That is, the truth which most matters is not some abstract, universally accessible set of facts; the best life is not merely contemplating divine thoughts (or scientific truths), contra Plato and Aristotle. What Jesus did was give himself to others, to make them better, to make them more. Mt 20:20–28: “whoever would be first must be your slave”. Jn 6: only be partaking of Jesus’ actual substance and integrating it into yourself are you truly in relationship with him. One way I explain this is that if you are truly friends with someone, you’ll have a little emulator of him/her in your head which you continually improve as you deepen your relationship. More and more of that person literally becomes part of you. This is how you can finish his/her sentences better the more you know him/her.

              I even hesitate to call this ‘morality’, as if morality is this static, finite set of rules. No, when you have a true relationship with another person where neither is merely using the other, the only ‘rules’ are: do that which builds the other person up. In a way these rules are situational (giving motivation to situational ethics), but they’re not completely divorced from reality.

              You previously mocked the idea of using something like thriving being good to ground morality, so I expect that you don´t use it as a premise but rather derive it from whatever you use to ground morality, and I further expect that what you use to ground morality is not as stupid as “thriving is good” – if it is, the natural follow-up question would be “why the fuck did you mock it before when you literally do the exact same thing?”

              I criticize the idea that one can merely say “human thriving”, not that you say it at all. The term “human thriving”, alone, is simply vastly underspecified. And so, I’d like you to actually answer the question, of what moral systems cannot go under the banner of “human thriving”, given that both words in that phrase are defined differently by different people. You yourself have a stance on which humans get highest priority to thrive. Many people have thought that slaves are less-than-persons (‘human’ = ‘person’, probably, with “human thriving”).

              That´s what apologists like Hart and Stark do with christianity and I´m not interested in it – I find it nauseating and dishonest.

              Hence my admission that Stark is “controversial”. But after reading Dawkins’ The God Delusion, I can’t really say that he’s any better! David Berlinski’s The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions is a wonderful response to the pablum spewed by the New Atheists, openly mocking it. An excellent example of how much falsity exists in the realm of “how much did Christianity impact reality and especially science” is how many people uncritically accepted the conflict thesis—because it validated their metanarrative of reality—and there appear to be many people who still hold to it.

              It’s like you didn’t read “Even with all this, it’s remarkably difficult to trace the causal chains and really say how much impact Christianity had.” So… we’re back at your statement—which I think you intended to meaningful and representative:

              LB: This promotes a kind of respect for the individual qua human being…

              AS: Does it? So the USA, with a christian church on every street and higher religiosity than any other western nation, is characterized by a widespread “respect for the individual qua human being”? It rather seems to be the exact opposite.

              I think I’m going to stick by more sound research, like Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Justice: Rights and Wrongs and Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, which are in an utterly different echelon than Hart, Stark, and Marx. It really does seem like Christianity had some very good impacts which still matter to us today, and also that there are plenty of people who wish to utterly deny this. I mean, Christianity cannot possibly be said to have introduced a new, profound form of charity, can it? …

              Then there is a very simple solution, we drop the words “christianity” and “christian” from the dictionary and never use them again because they do not actually describe anything (or rather: it is completely unknown what they are supposed to describe, which is in practice the exact same thing).

              If your ability to discern sucks that hard, then yes, do this. I’m going to stick by folks like Jacques Ellul with his The Subversion of Christianity, where he does seem to be able to discern between those who merely call themselves Christians, and those who seem to actually believe anything like what the Bible teaches. And nobody cares if there are multiple interpretations, as long as one can probabilistically isolate which one a given person/group holds to, tracing its consequences (because those are what can be empirically observed) and, shock of all shocks, compare to the predictions in the Bible of what believing and doing the stuff therein produces. One can also use one’s moral intuition, which I hold to often be a noisy indicator of truth, just like one’s other intuitions.

              Seriously though – where I completely agree with you is that it is in practice extremely difficult to reconstruct the relevant causal chains, and depending on how much detail you require for those causal chains, it becomes not merely difficult but rather impossible.

              I don’t think it is impossible; you can make educated guesses, tell other people about them, and then go through reality categorizing according to the matrix you’ve set out. Maybe you’ll be right and maybe you’ll be wrong; you’re likely to be the worst at evaluating this, but fortunately you can get outside opinions. Alasdair MacIntyre himself used to be a hardcore Marxist, but then realized that it really isn’t a tenable philosophy. I respect him deeply for intensely pursuing what he believed and being open to correction; I try to do the same. It really isn’t possible to stay tentative until there is some giant mountain of evidence when it comes to history. That doesn’t make progress impossible, it just makes it messy.

              But why is that supposed to matter for calling someone or something “christian” (or “marxist”)? If someone self-identifies as “christian” and you have no good reasons to assume that he is lying or completely unaware of what christianity entails, then you either count him as a “christian” or you might as well abandon the word completely because you cannot possibly know if anyone is or was actually a “christian” or not.

              Because the concept that stands behind “Christian” has to mean something. There are many flavors of Christianity, and it’s actually possible to discern between them, albeit noisily. There is a reason that the term “cultural Catholic” exists: the person is a Catholic in some ways, but not other ways. And so, someone who claims to be “Christian” likely is referring to some concept, but it’s not like there’s only one concept ever attached to that word.

              It kinda smells like you are of the “one word, one meaning” crowd. I find that view simply untenable. As far as I can tell, the fuzziness of natural language is required if one wishes to penetrate to ever-deeper understandings of things. And so, when a person says “Christian”, often you’ve gotta turn on your little internal Socrates and see what the person likely does and does not mean, in that instance. Surely you know this? I feel almost condescending in these two paragraphs, as if I’m preaching to the choir. So, I apologize in advance, but I can’t think of a better way to advance this particular tangent.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Yep, and given your probable response if I were to bring in emulation of Jesus, it’s not surprising that with you, I would so-restrict the discussion. After all, a good chunk of useful discussion could be had by merely talking about necessary conditions.

              Oh Really? I wonder what UCSD law prof. Steven D. Smith would have to say about that.

              I criticize the idea that one can merely say “human thriving”, not that you say it at all. The term “human thriving”, alone, is simply vastly underspecified.

              Right, totally underspecified, completely unlikely theistic alternatives like “divine will” which are completely unambiguous. I actually anticipated this objection from the get go and pointed out that theistic alternatives are even more nebulous than the secular premises that are used to ground morality. Your arrogant mockery was completely baseless.

              David Berlinski’s The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions is a wonderful response to the pablum spewed by the New Atheists, openly mocking it.

              Oh, you can´t believe how much respect you´ve just lost… I´ve read that book, and Berlinski is almost unimaginably pretentious, a perfect storm of arrogance + ignorance. If you liked that dreck, you might as well go straight to the gutter and continue with Vox Day´s “The Irrational Atheist” and Paul Vitz´s “Faith of the Fatherless”, you might like them.

              If your ability to discern sucks that hard, then yes, do this. I’m going to stick by folks like Jacques Ellul with his The Subversion of Christianity, where he does seem to be able to discern between those who merely call themselves Christians, and those who seem to actually believe anything like what the Bible teaches. And nobody cares if there are multiple interpretations, as long as one can probabilistically isolate which one a given person/group holds to, tracing its consequences (because those are what can be empirically observed) and, shock of all shocks, compare to the predictions in the Bible of what believing and doing the stuff therein produces

              Are you a christian? If you say “yes” – how do you intend to establish that claim?

              Alasdair MacIntyre himself used to be a hardcore Marxist…

              Prove it. And I don´t mean – “show me a quote where he claims to be one” – I mean “establish that Alasdair MacIntyre was most likely a Marxist and did not merely claim to be one”.

            • Luke Breuer

              Right, totally underspecified, completely unlikely theistic alternatives like “divine will” which are completely unambiguous.

              Where did I refer to something vague like “divine will”, pray tell? Or if I did not do this, where did I do something similarly vague? If not, I have no idea why you brought it up. I’m fully aware that many theists like to appeal to vagueness, to mysteriousness, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not like them. My knowledge does bottom out at times—like everyone’s—and it’s very clear that I’m willing to dig deeper whenever I can figure out how.

              Oh, you can´t believe how much respect you´ve just lost… I´ve read that book, and Berlinski is almost unimaginably pretentious, a perfect storm of arrogance + ignorance.

              Yes, he is. And it was a wonderful response to the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens. That was my point. Your bit about losing your respect confuses me; I had no idea you respected me at all, at this point. My best model is that you are merely using me, really. Nothing else fits. And so, I make the best use out of our exchanges as I can. I’d rather something more, but if this is all I can get, I’ll take it at times, reject it at others.

              Are you a christian? If you say “yes” – how do you intend to establish that claim?

              My stating what I believe and how my behavior lines up with that (if it does), of course. When I say what I believe you have no empirical evidence; it is merely a lossy transfer of information from one mind to another. My behavior, on the other hand, is empirically observable.

              Prove it. And I don´t mean – “show me a quote where he claims to be one” – I mean “establish that Alasdair MacIntyre was most likely a Marxist and did not merely claim to be one”.

              Here’s Encyclopedia Britannica’s little snippet on Marxism: An Interpretation:

              MacIntyre’s early political allegiances and early scholarly work were oriented toward Marxism. (He published Marxism: An Interpretation [1953] when he was 24 years old.) But he became unsettled by what he took to be the inability of Marxists to respond cogently in moral terms to outrages perpetrated in nominally Marxist regimes. Given the Marxist critique of morality as…

              I could go further, look up biographies of MacIntyre, find sources of him participating in Marxist activities, etc. What’s your point?

            • Andy_Schueler

              Where did I refer to something vague like “divine will”, pray tell? Or if I did not do this, where did I do something similarly vague?

              “Emulating Jesus”.

              Yes, he is. And it was a wonderful response to the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens. That was my point.

              So…. you say a “wonderful response” to pretentiousness, ignorance and arrogance is… also pretentiousness, ignorance and arrogance? Like -1 * -1 = 1 or two wrongs making a right or what?

              Your bit about losing your respect confuses me; I had no idea you respected me at all, at this point. My best model is that you are merely using me, really. Nothing else fits. And so, I make the best use out of our exchanges as I can. I’d rather something more…

              Dude, you´re married.

              My stating what I believe and how my behavior lines up with that (if it does), of course. When I say what I believe you have no empirical evidence; it is merely a lossy transfer of information from one mind to another. My behavior, on the other hand, is empirically observable.

              Sure, but how is your behaviour supposed to tell me anything about you being a christian?

              MacIntyre’s early political allegiances and early scholarly work were oriented toward Marxism. (He published Marxism: An Interpretation [1953] when he was 24 years old.) But he became unsettled by what he took to be the inability of Marxists to respond cogently in moral terms to outrages perpetrated in nominally Marxist regimes. Given the Marxist critique of morality as…

              I could go further, look up biographies of MacIntyre, find sources of him participating in Marxist activities, etc.

              So what? Hitler was baptized in a catholic church, raised in a catholic home and claimed up until his last year that he always was a catholic and will always be one – that alone presumably doesn´t establish that Hitler was a “christian” (or does it?). So meeting with a marxist group and claiming that one is a marxist cannot establish that MacIntyre indeed was a “Marxist” for the exact same reason. Do you have anything beyond MacIntyre claiming that he was one and that he met with marxists? And if not, do you concede that you cannot establish that MacIntyre used to be a “Marxist”?

            • Luke Breuer

              “Emulating Jesus”.

              Yeah, because there are no examples of how Jesus acted available to anyone…

              So…. you say a “wonderful response” to pretentiousness, ignorance and arrogance is… also pretentiousness, ignorance and arrogance? Like -1 * -1 = 1 or two wrongs making a right or what?

              For those who believe that Hitchens, Dawkins, et al aren’t pretentious, a good response is to show them a view opposing what they believe, where they’ll more easily ascribe such a negative quality, and show how the behavior of Berlinski actually matches that of Hitchens and Dawkins quite well. I’m not sure what “right” is being made here; it’s a demonstration. Do you think it was evil to write A Modest Proposal? I have really no idea what your reasoning is, here.

              Dude, you´re married.

              I can make no sense out of this. I have friends and we don’t use each other. My wife and I don’t use each other. You’re clearly smart, with a sharp mind, and interacting with such people can be loads of fun, for everyone involved. It doesn’t have to be a contest of who’s higher on the social/rational/whatever ladder, implicitly or explicitly.

              Sure, but how is your behaviour supposed to tell me anything about you being a christian?

              Because [relevant] beliefs manifest in behavior. Hence why e.g. lusting is bad.

              So what?

              Unless you tell me where you’re going with this, I see no reason to continue this tangent. This seems to be some sort of bizarro reductio; I’m done being led around on a leash.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Yeah, because there are no examples of how Jesus acted available to anyone…

              Yeah, and how to interpret those examples is of course completely unambiguous – people never completely disagreed on that, completely unlikely those secular groundings for morality.

              For those who believe that Hitchens, Dawkins, et al aren’t pretentious, a good response is to show them a view opposing what they believe, where they’ll more easily ascribe such a negative quality, and show how the behavior of Berlinski actually matches that of Hitchens and Dawkins quite well. I’m not sure what “right” is being made here; it’s a demonstration.

              So you recommended Berlinski as a wonderful response to Hitchens, Dawkins et al. because Berlinski is just as terrible as they are?

              I can make no sense out of this…

              That´s cool – it was a joke because you “feeling like being used and wanting more” sounded like you were coming on to me, hence the “Dude, you´re married”, but I guess your mind needs to be (much) more dirty and juvenile in order to appreciate my humor ;-).

              Because [relevant] beliefs manifest in behavior. Hence why e.g. lusting is bad.

              Alright, so did you ever lust after a woman that´s not your wife and if so, can I take that as evidence for you not being a “christian”?

              Unless you tell me where you’re going with this, I see no reason to continue this tangent. This seems to be some sort of bizarro reductio; I’m done being led around on a leash.

              Well, my ability to discern sucks, hard… Yours doesn´t, therefore I was curious how you discern between “christian” and “non-christian” or “marxist” and “non-marxist” and so far I´m not impressed.

            • Luke Breuer

              Yeah, and how to interpret those examples is of course completely unambiguous – people never completely disagreed on that, completely unlikely those secular groundings for morality.

              So lack of any ambiguity whatsoever is the standard, here? We couldn’t, say, come up with a few categories, a few major sets of interpretations from which almost everything else is a minor deviation at most? The idea here is to separate out into natural kinds, or at least do the best job you can.

              So you recommended Berlinski as a wonderful response to Hitchens, Dawkins et al. because Berlinski is just as terrible as they are?

              Because he shows what they are like, to people who if they like a person’s points, cannot bring themselves to admit the person is e.g. pretentious. Basically, he’s good for people who are wont to judge people as 100% good or 100% evil. And yeah, I find Berlinski hilarious. Sometimes Hitchens and Dawkins are, too. Hitchens more than Dawkins, I think.

              That´s cool – it was a joke

              Sorry, current events are not the most conducive to me appreciating that particular joke. It’s like you psychically knew precisely the wrong thing to say.

              Alright, so did you ever lust after a woman that´s not your wife and if so, can I take that as evidence for you not being a “christian”?

              I have no idea where you’re going with this. It’s like you don’t see there being a possibility that you want to become different from how you are. Virtually all Christians admit they are currently, actively, sinful. The question then becomes one of derivative, not absolute value. Is there any discernible power at work changing the person (making him/her more like Jesus)? That’s kind of the message of 2 Tim 3:1–5: there is a transformative power, but merely saying you have it doesn’t mean you do. Without this, I don’t know how you could possibly make sense of a statement that seems eminently sensible, from C.S. Lewis: “I’d rather be one step from hell, heading towards heaven, than one step from heaven, heading towards hell.”

              Well, my ability to discern sucks, hard… Yours doesn´t, therefore I was curious how you discern between “christian” and “non-christian” or “marxist” and “non-marxist” and so far I´m not impressed.

              Given that I know extremely little about Marxism and Alasdair MacIntyre’s personal history, that was a terrible choice. For not being a scholar, I’m much better versed in the diversity within Christianity, of actual practiced versions of Christianity, etc.

              Surely you know that there isn’t really one Marxism, but that there are some major strains of it that developed from Marx’s thought? I’m really confused at your reasoning, here; you seem to think that either a word must refer to one concept, or it’s meaningless and ought to be thrown away. I don’t believe that you actually believe this, so I hold it up as a caricature for you to show me what I’ve got wrong.

            • Andy_Schueler

              So lack of any ambiguity whatsoever is the standard, here? We couldn’t, say, come up with a few categories, a few major sets of interpretations from which almost everything else is a minor deviation at most? The idea here is to separate out into natural kinds, or at least do the best job you can.

              Do you or do you not, claim that theists in general or the particularly kind of theists that you identify with have the upper hand here because the way they ground morality is less ambiguous than the ways that other theists and non-theists ground morality? If this is not what you claim, then your previous mockery was completely baseless and your implication that it is not clear that morality can be grounded without god while it is clear that it can be grounded with God was equally baseless.

              Because he shows what they are like, to people who if they like a person’s points, cannot bring themselves to admit the person is e.g. pretentious. Basically, he’s good for people who are wont to judge people as 100% good or 100% evil. And yeah, I find Berlinski hilarious.

              I have a hunch that you wanted to use a “not wont” instead of “wont” here but you completely lost me either way. But if you find Berlinski hilarious (I guess that means you laugh with him and not at him but whatever) I´d repeat my earlier recommendations of Vox Day and Paul Vitz which you´ll then probably find equally hilarious. I also can´t help but wonder again what reason(s) you could possibly have for not identifying as an ID proponent that outweigh all the reasons for why you totally should be one (have you tried Jonathan Wells? If you like Berlinski´s style, you gotta love Wells…).

              Sorry, current events are not the most conducive to me appreciating that particular joke. It’s like you psychically knew precisely the wrong thing to say.

              Well, in that case I offer a sincere apology.

              I have no idea where you’re going with this. It’s like you don’t see there being a possibility that you want to become different from how you are. Virtually all Christians admit they are currently, actively, sinful. The question then becomes one of derivative, not absolute value. Is there any discernible power at work changing the person (making him/her more like Jesus)? That’s kind of the message of 2 Tim 3:1–5: there is a transformative power, but merely saying you have it doesn’t mean you do. Without this, I don’t know how you could possibly make sense of a statement that seems eminently sensible, from C.S. Lewis: “I’d rather be one step from hell, heading towards heaven, than one step from heaven, heading towards hell.”

              And I have no idea how any of this is supposed to help me in evaluating whether you are a “christian” or not. Wanting to “become different” / better yourself, having regrets, repenting (christians do not own this word) is not something unique to christianity but rather to be found among people of all colors and creeds.

              Given that I know extremely little about Marxism and Alasdair MacIntyre’s personal history, that was a terrible choice. For not being a scholar, I’m much better versed in the diversity within Christianity, of actual practiced versions of Christianity, etc.

              But you cannot help me with that classification problem either, see above.

              Surely you know that there isn’t really one Marxism, but that there are some major strains of it that developed from Marx’s thought?

              And the same is true for “christianity”, it is not a contradiction to say “John” is a “christian” and a “catholic” because the latter is merely a more specific form of the former.

              I’m really confused at your reasoning, here; you seem to think that either a word must refer to one concept, or it’s meaningless and ought to be thrown away.

              Nope, but I think the way you are using adjectives like “christian” is largely meaningless and connotes essentially personal preference.

            • Luke Breuer

              Do you or do you not, claim that theists in general or the particularly kind of theists that you identify with have the upper hand here because the way they ground morality is less ambiguous than the ways that other theists and non-theists ground morality? If this is not what you claim, then your previous mockery was completely baseless and your implication that it is not clear that morality can be grounded without god while it is clear that it can be grounded with God was equally baseless.

              As it stands, I see Jesus as the grounding of morality (and the idea of self-giving) to be less ambiguous than anything you’ve presented. That’s all I can say. I cannot say that it is not possible to ground morality in other way; I simply have not seen it done in any other way that is better or as-good as what I have [briefly] described.

              I have a hunch that you wanted to use a “not wont” instead of “wont” here but you completely lost me either way.

              No, I meant precisely what I did type. Berlinski is good for exposing hypocrisy, and you find hypocrisy with those who judge people to be 100% good or 100% evil, unless the person judged is Jesus or Satan (IMO).

              But if you find Berlinski hilarious (I guess that means you laugh with him and not at him but whatever) I´d repeat my earlier recommendations of Vox Day and Paul Vitz which you´ll then probably find equally hilarious.

              Perhaps. I have too much other reading on my plate at this point. :-|

              Well, in that case I offer a sincere apology.

              Thanks & no worries. Current circumstances notwithstanding, I’m bad at humor in situations I see as antagonistic. Childhood, no friends, lots of mockery, you fill in the rest.

              And I have no idea how any of this is supposed to help me in evaluating whether you are a “christian” or not. Wanting to “become different” / better yourself, having regrets, repenting (christians do not own this word) is not something unique to christianity but rather to be found among people of all colors and creeds.

              It wasn’t, it was a direct response to your question about lust. Let me try responding to that again. Jesus argues that lust is bad—it puts you at risk for actual adultery. At least that’s how I take him: that we can approximate spiritual as ‘mental’ and note that beliefs have a statistical tendency to turn into actions. So yeah, if someone unrepentantly goes around lusting, that is a piece of evidence against that person being a Christian. But this is very different from your stated question:

              AS: Alright, so did you ever lust after a woman that´s not your wife and if so, can I take that as evidence for you not being a “christian”?

              This was an odd question, for it treats the human being as 100% unchanging, Parmenides-style. There is no room for sin and repentance; if a person ever sinned, that is evidence that he/she is not now a Christian. Do you see how weird that is—or at least that my sensible interpretation of it was? Unless perhaps you like Dr. House’s frequent exclamation that people don’t change?

              Nope, but I think the way you are using adjectives like “christian” is largely meaningless and connotes essentially personal preference.

              Where have I done this? Can you pick a pretty motivating example? I’m actually pretty well-versed in people using words without necessarily meaning a whole lot (if anything); religion is a wonderful place for it, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find actually meaningful, contentful concepts to back words like ‘grace’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘justification’, etc. I do think I’ve made progress in this arena. For example, one can show the mockery that is many conceptions of forgiveness by taking a sledgehammer to a pastor’s car after service has ended and folks are heading to their cars. “Oh, please forgive me, pastor! [*attempts to walk away*]” A friend of mine prefers to say: “if you broke my arm and asked for forgiveness, my arm is still broken”, but sadly I think the direct damage of mammon is better.

            • Andy_Schueler

              As it stands, I see Jesus as the grounding of morality (and the idea of self-giving) to be less ambiguous than anything you’ve presented. That’s all I can say. I cannot say that it is not possible to ground morality in other way; I simply have not seen it done in any other way that is better or as-good as what I have [briefly] described.

              Well, all I can say is that I have seen no other way to ground morality that is not less ambiguous than what you suggest,

              No, I meant precisely what I did type. Berlinski is good for exposing hypocrisy, and you find hypocrisy with those who judge people to be 100% good or 100% evil, unless the person judged is Jesus or Satan (IMO).

              Again, you lost me, even more so than before – the string of words I look at here looks almost completely random to me and the only thing I can glean from it is that you possibly consider Berlinski to be good for…. whatever, and hilarious – in which I can only repeat my recommendations from before (and maybe Jonathan Wells (come on – give ID a chance!)).

              There is no room for sin and repentance; if a person ever sinned, that is evidence that he/she is not now a Christian. Do you see how weird that is—or at least that my sensible interpretation of it was? Unless perhaps you like Dr. House’s frequent exclamation that people don’t change?

              And how does any of this help me in determining who is a “christian”?

              Where have I done this? Can you pick a pretty motivating example? I’m actually pretty well-versed in people using words without necessarily meaning a whole lot (if anything); religion is a wonderful place for it, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find actually meaningful, contentful concepts to back words like ‘grace’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘justification’, etc.

              I keep asking you how to determine whether someone can be labelled “christian” or not and despite a pretty impressive word count by now, I still know essentially nothing about that and couldn´t make such a classification – for the label “marxism” on the other hand, you seem to be fine with making the classification based on how a person self-identified and on whether he engaged in some characteristical activities for “marxists” or not. And you are leaving me with no choice but to conclude that you are singling out the label “christian” for special treatment – you give yourself wiggle room in order to play no true scotsman – while you don´t do the same for a different example like “marxist”.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Also, Dawkins is not funny – I laughed about him exactly one time and even there, what he said was only funny because he channeled the xkcd author (who unlike Dawkins indeed is hilarious (only as an author though, not in person)):
              http://youtu.be/0OtFSDKrq88?t=38s

            • Luke Breuer

              Yeah, I hesitated on saying he’s funny. But then I thought, :effort: (which generates a wonderful little image on the Something Awful forums).

            • Andy_Schueler

              The funniest atheist, from my totally unbiased and objective perspective, was definitely George Carlin.
              Jamie Kilstein´s also not bad though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJXtCUBwBCI

            • Guest

              I’d never heard of Carlin prior to this. Funny bastard.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Carlin was just great, my two all-time favorite clips of him:
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsL6mKxtOlQ
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r-e2NDSTuE

            • Luke Breuer

              That´s what apologists like Hart and Stark do with christianity and I´m not interested in it – I find it nauseating and dishonest.

              What have you read, of Hart’s? I made it through most of Atheist Delusions and it is very different from, say, Stark’s For the Glory of God. Hart’s mantra is frequently something like, “Christianity wasn’t all puppies and roses, but you’ve still got to get your facts straight, and Christians actually did do these morally praiseworthy things.” For example, he cites Christians actively stemming the burning of witches by secular authorities, in Europe. Are you questioning truth-claims like this, some over-arching claim he has made, or what?

            • Andy_Schueler

              I tried to make it through Hart´s “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss” but didn´t manage to finish it – he can write entire pages without saying anything of substance at all and I thus quickly lost interest in what he had to say. I didn´t see any blatant dishonesty or gross exaggerations / bullshitting in what I´ve read of Hart so far, so lumping him together with Stark was probably uncalled for and I retract that.

            • Luke Breuer

              I did come across a few people recommending that as the religious book to read, including someone at the Guardian. I haven’t read it, however. I am fully open to the possibility that:

              The Experience of God : Atheist Delusions :: The God Delusion : The Selfish Gene

              On the one hand you have the vast field of religion, while on the other you have something much narrower, like history and sociology or biology. You’ve acknowledged that the facts are meager enough that vastly different histories can be adapted to them without too much standing out as factually inaccurate, without there being too many data points which have to be declared ‘noise’. For Hart to go through the data points around which folks like Dawkins and Hitchens have spun to support something awfully close to the conflict thesis—if not precisely the conflict thesis—and offer a different interpretation (again, of the form “Christians weren’t saints, but they weren’t the sinners they are vilified as; indeed they did these things: …”), seems pretty reasonable to me.

              So anyhow, it seems like we largely agree, perhaps most strongly on the frustration of how easy it is to come up with massively different historiographies. I encounter the same… ‘flavor’ of frustration in a lot of discussion about theism and atheism. What I really want to do is build a dialogue system, which tracks (first my manual input) different ways that conversations go, with the ability to attach [optionally conflicting] commentary/interpretation on top of the conversations. You’d be able to see how choosing or rejecting some principle would send the conversation one way or the other, stuff like that. Then, with a given random conversation on some blog somewhere, you could “pull out” some section of the dialogue database and claim it matches said conversation, according to some interpretation. Right now, this only happens in the minds of experts (the ten thousand hours kind (with appropriate modifications from said link); degrees not required); why not extract some of the data out with the relationships, fuzziness, and multiple interpretations in-tact?

              I am curious: in The Experience of God, did you find Hart doing what you and I criticize Thomists of doing—making God out to be someone/something very different from what one would get from the Bible, whether OT or NT? That’s the whiff I got from a few searches about Hart.

            • Andy_Schueler

              I did come across a few people recommending that as the religious book to read….

              Same here. That´s why I got it. But its full of prose that superficially sounds meaningful but is actually not saying anything substantial at all (reminded me strongly of Teilhard de Chardin (not in terms of what he writes about but rather wrt to his writing style)).

              I am curious: in The Experience of God, did you find Hart doing what you and I criticize Thomists of doing—making God out to be someone/something very different from what one would get from the Bible, whether OT or NT? That’s the whiff I got from a few searches about Hart.

              Well, he does his best to reconcile a biblical notion of what God is like with classical theism, to give you one example – he spends pages discussing how divine apatheia totally does mean that Jesus was literally incapable of suffering or being moved by anything humans did or could have done, but is also totally consistent with perfect, transcendent and infinite love, no contradiction at all, because… something. Pages full of big words but completely devoid of substance IMHO. He has a way with words (I wish I could write like that….) but there is no substance under the pretty surface.

            • Luke Breuer

              (reminded me strongly of Teilhard de Chardin (not in terms of what he writes about but rather wrt to his writing style))

              I’ve seen de Chardin’s name pop up a few times lately. Dunno if and where he should go on my reading list. I could certainly use examples of better writing than mine!

              he spends pages discussing how divine apatheia totally does mean that Jesus was literally incapable of suffering or being moved by anything humans did or could have done

              Yeah, that’s about all I need to know. While I am vaguely curious about how he deals with stuff like these bits of Hebrews, I’m perhaps more well-aware of how much rationalization goes on in Christianity than most atheists, ex-Christian or no. If the ideal for Christians is to become like Hart’s model of Jesus… shudder? Or perhaps thanks be to God that few human constitutions are able to make much headway in this direction?

              It couldn’t possibly be that Jesus had emotions but didn’t act stupidly as a result, could it? I mean, that would just, that would acknowledge that maybe the emotions are no less, but also no more fallen than reason. This might… upset someone.

            • Andy_Schueler

              If the ideal for Christians is to become like Hart’s model of Jesus… shudder?

              I wouldn´t worry about that – if you want to become more like Hart´s Jesus, you´d need to do things like “love all creation to its uttermost depths” with your “infinite fullness of perfected love, which gives all and receives all in a single movement, and which does not require the supplement of any external force in order to know and to love creation”. You as the “finite, composite, and changing being that [you] are cannot not know, love, or act save through a relation to that which affects [you] and which [you] affect, God’s impassibility is the infinitely active and eternally prior love in which [your] experience of love—in both its active and its passive dimensions—lives, moves, and has its being”. All clear what you have to do? ;-)
              That´s not adapted from the book but rather from the first article of his I could find via Google – but those are very representative examples for the prose you can expect from him.

            • Luke Breuer

              You as the “finite, composite, and changing being that [you] are cannot not know, love, or act save through a relation to that which affects [you] and which [you] affect

              Ummm… contradiction? How can I affect an impassible being? As to the flowery language, I actually don’t think that’s a sufficient shield; if anything, it shields one from the bare horribleness of the ideal human being, being someone who is never affected by another. Emotional response because sin, regardless of whether this is explicitly stated or explicitly denied. While humans are contradictory beings, they’re still fairly consistent, and will “snap to” the most consistent version of some ideology, automatically rejecting the smallest subset that introduces contradiction.

              I actually do worry that a lot of emotion in Western Christianity is composed of crocodile tears, and I wonder whether this is indeed a result of (a) common conceptions of God’s impassibility; (b) common conceptions of God’s sovereignty—especially the Calvinist ones. When Jesus uttered Luke 7:31–34, he may well have been referencing precisely the emotionless phenomenon, the “I relate to all people on a purely rational level”. Contrast this to Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11, where he responds to Martha intellectually because she needs that, and Mary with tears because she needed that (and Jesus was sad that a friend of his died). If you want some fun, try reading about how Jesus wasn’t actually sad, but was only pretending. It’s truly sickening.

              Have you perchance read the beginning of Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments? I really just mean the first chapter, A Project of Thought, where Kierkegaard compares Socrates’ maieutics, where truths produced are from the self and abstract and eternal, to a way of thinking about truth that makes it personal and historical, even relational. If you’re Plato or Aristotle and you think the best life is contemplating divine thoughts, personal relationships are really incidental; it doesn’t matter who taught you a new thing once you know it. On the other hand, if you become more of a person as your relationships with others deepen, that seems to hint at a radically different kind of relationship. I worry that a lot of Western Christianity takes after Plato and Aristotle, with the result that people qua people become isolated if not irrelevant.

              P.S. I noticed the possible grammatical error: “to that which affects” instead of “to whom affects”; it’s only an error if one is referring to a person, but perhaps Hart was actually grammatically correct? A bit before I came across Buber’s I and Thou and Brunner’s Truth as Encounter, I’ve been noticing when people are grammatically referred to as objects instead of subjects. I’m not trying to be too much of a grammar Nazi, but I do worry there’s a little Nineteen Eighty-Four action going on here, with the distinction between people and things being eaten away.

            • D Rizdek

              Your use of categorically in “categorically different” is what bothers me. It indicates a complete break with the past, as if a significantly different standard is now being used. Too much of this, and you can’t even identify a progression in morality—it’s just different, with enough power (whether spread among many people or few) to establish it as the way things will be.

               
              Well, I rather thought that some of the changes we can track throughout history were essentially a reverse of what came before. Slavery seemed like a good example where, at one time or in some places, humans could/can be legal property, able to be bought and sold, but things changed such that they were no longer considered “property.” That seems a categorical difference. Are you saying there never has been a time or place where you think things moral have taken a completely different course due even to god’s intervention? IOW, you think even WITH a god’s involvement every advancement in morality has been gradual and has never resulted in something completely different? Do you think god is unable to affect that kind of change or that he just chooses not to for some hidden reason?

              I asked about why my atheism should be relevant as to whether there is an absolute morality or not and whether I can realize it, apply it and benefit from it.
               

              Your atheism is relevant if said god also communicated about the absolute morality, even if that communication was a method for successively approximating said morality (like we successively approximate reality with science) instead of ultimate standards. Your atheism is also relevant if said god is offering help in better adhering to that morality. You are treating ‘god’ here is as an object instead of as a subject, as a set of abstract concepts instead of as a person.

               

              I don’t think I treated god as an object instead of a subject on this point. I thought my view was applicable even assuming god is a person. For argument sake, I agreed that this person, god, established an absolute morality and somehow made it know to humans. And, if God, the person, created this absolute morality, it exists. period. Even if I have to depend on others…theists like yourself…to explain what this absolute morality entails, if a god exists, I live in a world in which it exists and can benefit from this special insight you, perhaps, have. It’s a little like the wife who lives comfortably in a house her “husband” built even if she doesn’t know or believe she ever had a husband.

              As to a god “offering help” that is irrelevant as to whether the absolute morality exists or not. Apparently even with god’s help, many who believe there is a god are very confused about it. But that’s beside the point.
               

              Your comment about “successively approximating said morality” is interesting. Does that mean the absolute morality established by God is not obvious, directly available or unquivocally known in detail to humans? Do you think humans have had to “figure out” what god deems moral? Does that mean humans…even the most moral…are still figuring it out? So is “where we are right now” still just folks opinions or have humans “figured it all out” and can now judge confidently all actions moral?

               

              Again, as to the slavery issue, I just see an omnipotent and moral god as unable to lie or even misconstrue or hedge what is critical to moral living. He would inspire folks to write the absolute truth if he could “get the point across” to them. And an omniscient god could figure out how to get the point across. And as to whether god telling the truth about his views on slavery to the authors he inspired would have caused wars…so what? It seems those wars were fought anyways and others as well (the US civil war was at least partially due to the slavery issue.) It does not make sense that a god who had earlier readily sent his chosen people into battle over key moral issues or even just for some land, would hesitate to be clear on this issue “to avoid wars” that seem to have been fought anyways. Of course it is mere conjecture to assert that the suffering caused by god’s failure to make his absolute stand on the morality of slavery clear IN THE OT was greater than giving some subtle hints in the NT and allowing humans to sort it out in their own time. I think of the horrible conditions of the slave ships leaving Africa and distributing humans to various slave ports…the indignity, the suffering, the cruelty that continuted because there were equivocal Bible verses on slavery or even verses that outright condoned it. I would have thought if god had called it an abomination in the OT, there would not have been servile wars because of his decree. Was he just comfortable with the Israelite soldiers taking virgins for themselves? You and I will just have to disagree on whether a god could/would make his views on slavery clear to the folks writing the Bible.

              I asked if it would bother you if there wasn’t an absolute morality.

              Yes, because if there isn’t, we oughtn’t act like there is. If there isn’t, then it really does seem to be a Nietzschean power-play, with the smart choice for everyone to increase one’s own power over and against everyone else’s power. Agape means “self-giving” and righteousness means “self-effacing”; both of these are incredibly stupid if they end up altering the power differential out of your favor.

              Interesting that you are saying that if there is no absolute morality we “oughtn’t” to do something. I would like to hear your explanation on why there’s an ought when there isn’t an absolute morality.

               

              As to Nietzschean stuff, why must all us atheists assume that he’s right? So what if he was horrified at some Biblical passage? I fear you may be over-emphasizing HIS views as something all atheists must adhere to or even know about. I neither know (very much about) nor care what Nietzsche said about atheism and human nature. I am too confident in my own ability to think to continually seek approbation from philosophers who, as I have said before seemed to hardly “know enough” to actually get up in the morning, take a piss and make their coffee{:

               

              As to the specific passages you referenced, those are (IMHO) a bit of an over emphasis on how important it is to help others in your community/tribe. In other words, the people writing that (whether they put words in a Jesus’ mouth or a Jesus actually believed and said those things took an intuitive sense of helping others and extrapolated it beyond it’s original basis. Even today, in Christian churches, how often is this much subservience shown? It is not practical to go that far…washing someone’s feet for them.

              And helping the tribe, counter to what Nietzsche thought, IS logical…more than that it is essential to our very survival. Humans evolved as social creatures, depending on the group/extended family/tribe/community for survival. We did not evolve to be independently powerful and survive “alone in the wilderness.” As smart as folks must think he is, I believe Nietzsche simply didn’t understand that.

              We have intuitions on what is fair because faurness and honety are essential when making deals with others who also value fairness and honesty. Those others would be the members of the community in which we live. And since we depend on the community for our very survival, we must have intuitions to generally lead us to adhere to those standards or be ousted from society. And now (even more so in days long past,) being outcast meant significantly reduced chances of survival and passing on one’s genes. Humans are generally not strong or able enough to survive on our own. So, IMHO that is an adequate basis for morality without a god. It isn’t just someone’s opinion, that lying, for example, to those we make promises to is wrong, it is wrong, objectively, because it wrecks the very fabric and essential matrix of society. We can feel it is absolutely wrong to kill another unnecessarily because such killing breaks down society…and society is essential to survival. Members of a tribe would have to have a built in sense of this to make sure folks didn’t go around doing it. IOW, I define “better” as that which builds society which is essential to survival…and suvival is absolutely necessary if humans are to continue. That is the incentive to build adequate morals within one’s culture.

              Might it lead to errors in morality or excesses? Certainly. Just like in the past theists succumbed to errors and excesses IN the name of their respective gods. As you said, we have to “successively approximat[e] … morality. Which means, to me, we learn from our mistakes and continually seek to improve.

               

              And as an aside, the “survival of society” is not all that has happened for humans to develop their sensitivity, empathy and feeling of abhorrence at certain acts of immorality. The “need for community” and the need to “nurture children” led to intuitions that extend beyond the immediate and obvious subjects (people). What I mean is that humans had to have evolved a strong desire to care for, feed and protect their young (children) and maybe the other children in the tribe. They probably also developed an intuition to care for injured members of the tribe because losses of individuals led to lower tribe population, diversity and even intelligence (if the injure person might be thought to have abilities and knowledge others lacked). So each person, to some degree or another has some sense of needing to protect the helpless and needy. This “feeling” or “intution” then extends to others beyond the children or immediate relatives. In today’s society, it even extends to others we don’t even know. We have to have evolved the ability to have a sense of indignation when our tribe was threatened from within or without and that “feeling” extends, to varying degrees and depending on our feeling of security in our community, outward. That’s how I see it, anyways.

              I asked why God/Jesus didn’t make their plan available to humans earlier..

              Take this argument to its logical conclusion: was there any point of time that was not “too late”, other than immediately after Adam and Eve ate of the tree?

              I have (taken it to its logical conclusion), many times, and always come up with the same answer, why do you think it might not have been better to bring Jesus “on the scene” before Adam and Eve disobeyed? Do you think Jesus offers a better way of life, is he not the “good news” of salvation and might this not curb disobedience? Does knowledge of Jesus help you to be more obedient to God’s will?

              I asked why should the truth matter?

              There is no good answer to that question; either you believe that the truth matters because it is true, or you believe it matters because of what it gets you. The only possible answer I can give you is the latter kind, but that is not my reason. If you do not value truth qua truth, then what can I do to change your mind?

               

              Please understand I do value the truth…you needn’t change my mind at all. I was just trying to get you to explain the basis of why you seek the truth.

              I feel the need to know the truth, NOT just for its own sake and NOT because of what it gets me (as far as will to power), but because I feel the need to want to know the world the way it really is and I think that is what truth is. I think the need to want to know the truth about the real world would have been, and is, essential to survival. One generally cannot navigate the world without knowing at least a pretty good sense of what the real world is. And the better we understand the real world, the better we can navigate it.

              IMHO all our instincts…for truth, morality, nurturing/caring, helpfulness, hazard avoidance and indignation all get down to, and at one time or another were essential for, survival.

            • Luke Breuer

              This conversation is getting a bit unwieldy; is there some particular issue you’d especially like to focus on? Too often, I have found that getting spread too thinly results in little if any forward progress.

              An issue I have yet to really explore is the claim:

                   (1) the Bible explicitly outlawing slavery

              would be better than

                   (2) the Bible [merely] undermining the reasons for slavery

              What is at stake is how to change people’s minds such that they obey the spirit of the law instead of merely the letter. For example, the Jim Crow laws were a rebellion against emancipation in spirit, without violation of the letter of the law.

              One way to study this would be to understand the phenomenon whereby people react adversely to ideas which challenge their beliefs; I found reactance (psychology) from reverse psychology, which may be related to the phenomenon discovered by studies whereby people holding strong political positions hold their positions more strongly after being confronted with evidence contradicting their positions.

              When the issue of slavery is raised by atheists and skeptics online, I find them frequently asserting that (1) >>> (2), a claim of which I am incredibly skeptical. Changing hearts and minds seems incredibly more difficult than mere legislation, and furthermore, mere legislation doesn’t always seem to accomplish what is desired. If someone has a basic desire to establish himself/herself as better/more powerful than others, merely legislating against slavery will not prevent this desire from manifesting. An increase in number of laws, as I understand it, is not the solution.

              Anyhow, the above is merely my suggestion, and it is a rather weak one—I find many of the issues you raise to be interesting. I would simply like to narrow the conversation down so that there is a good possibility of forward progress.

              P.S. Thanks for the blockquotes—they make it much easier to read your comments. One trick, if you don’t have a text editor which makes inserting tags easy, is to simply copy&paste a bunch of <blockquote></blockquote>s, to fill in later. Then you don’t spend lots of time typing tedious HTML.

            • D Rizdek

              Yes, we can concentrate on two things.

              I was curious that you said in response to my question if it would bother you if there wasn’t an absolute morality. You responded:

              Yes, because if there isn’t, we oughtn’t act like there is.

               
              You came up with an “ought” despite the fact that the scenario was that there was no absolute morality AND you said “we” which means you would expect others should have reason to agree with your “ought.” I happen to agree with both of those things, but I wonder why you do if you think that without an absolute morality we atheists cannot come up with “oughts” we should expect others to heed. Wouldn’t it be just as valid, since there is no absolute morality to say it’s fine to assume there is an absolute morality even if there isn’t? Explain what would be the harm.

              The other thing is your statement…

              even if that communication was a method for successively approximating said morality

              Does this mean that in your opinion, humans have only been able to figure out some of this absolute morality, such that at any point in time they may actually have it wrong and might be espousing “oughts” and “ought nots” that are not, in fact, “oughts” and “ought nots?” If so, right now, you and other theists might be making judgments on actions about which you don’t know for certain. Or do you carefully avoid making ought statements in those cases where you aren’t certain? But of course how would you know when you should be uncertain if you don’t know the absolute morality?

              Good luck{:

            • Luke Breuer

              I happen to agree with both of those things, but I wonder why you do if you think that without an absolute morality we atheists cannot come up with “oughts” we should expect others to heed.

              I merely figure that people would prefer not to end up as squashed bugs on some powerful person’s windshield. If there is no actual objective morality, then what is truly going on is something else, and it seems to be the case that allowing one’s beliefs to deviate from reality ends in badness. People surely do like delusions, but reality does eventually crush them.

              Does this mean that in your opinion, humans have only been able to figure out some of this absolute morality, such that at any point in time they may actually have it wrong and might be espousing “oughts” and “ought nots” that are not, in fact, “oughts” and “ought nots?” If so, right now, you and other theists might be making judgments on actions about which you don’t know for certain. Or do you carefully avoid making ought statements in those cases where you aren’t certain? But of course how would you know when you should be uncertain if you don’t know the absolute morality?

              My best analogy is to science, and how we trust that the scientific method will lead to further truth, even if it also takes us down some blind alleys. We’d probably want to mix in some Hippocratic Oath, given that we would be dealing with humans and not objects. A lot of the ways you can hurt a person can be healed; it’s actually pretty hard to kill other people by non-gross-negligence accident. That allows for a lot of mistakes without horrific consequences.

              I’m not sure what it would be to “figure out some of this absolute morality”. Let’s take something seemingly obvious: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We can use beautiful and insightful passages like 1 Cor 13 to help us understand what the word ‘love’ means. Jesus told us what ‘neighbor’ means. Have we thus “figure[d] out some of this absolute morality”? I’m not sure; C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces offers a profound illustration of a plausible misunderstanding of what ‘love’ really is.

              I would say that we can be more certain that we’re headed in the right direction than we can be that we’ve arrived. The very mental faculties we have seem to measure derivative more than absolute value. Are things getting better? Am I treating better than I have been, before? Is this particular way of doing things worse? Are more and more people getting equal opportunity to thrive? Is our very conception of ‘thriving’ growing or shrinking?

              Now, your worry about getting moral judgments totally reversed is quite valid. The Bible references this concept not infrequently; Isaiah 5:20 is straightforward example. God’s general tactic in such situations was to have prophets tell the people that doom was coming if they continued their ways; doom would hit, lots of pain and suffering would occur, and a remnant would survive who had a chance of seeing that they had up for down and down for up. However, there is also hope of correction before one gets quite to total reversal. You kind of just have to hope that such reversal is a matter of the will, such that it can be corrected by the will (probably with help). Otherwise, it would seem that some people just need to be exterminated, or permanently separated from the majority of the population. That seems ugly.

            • D Rizdek

              Well, just as long as we agree, that’s the important thing. Thanks

            • D Rizdek

              I thought I had posted a response…a long, well written and ultimately convincing response, but it seems Disqus swallowed it}: The thread is old, so probably won’t try to recreate it. We’ll talk again.

            • Andy_Schueler

              I thought I had posted a response…a long, well written and ultimately convincing response, but it seems Disqus swallowed it

              Yup, Disqus seems to have swallowed it, here is your comment as it appeared in my email inbox:

              Me previously: “But over time, you end up with something cateorically different.”

              You “I’m just not convinced that this is true. Were the ancient Greeks to see what we’ve done with democracy, how surprised would they really be? Were the Christian apostles to see what we’ve done with charity, which was a concept new to the Christians (see B., here, and here). That is, what was called ‘charity’ beforehand was categorically different.”

              I’m not sure what you aren’t convinced of. The examples you raised are perfect examples of what I was talking about. If the Greek view on democracy was significantly different than how others thought gov’ts should be run, then it might’ve been categorically different… which is what I said. If the apostle’s view on charity was categorically different than how others were viewing it then or before, then it was categorically different. I didn’t mean to compare what we have now with everything they did and said then, I was thinking of other specific examples like whether we should
              -have slaves we can beat almost to death,
              -stone children for disobedience,
              -kill witches,
              -attribute illness and mental infirmity to demons,
              -treat women as second class citizens, or
              -exclude men from our society if they’ve had their testicles crushed

              “I’m not convinced that [I measure better the same as you] so please indicate how you measure “better”. If you cannot escape your “better” being 100% determined by culture and genes, then it cannot be an absolute measure.”

              If there is a god and if, somehow, he’s established some sort of absolute measure…as in embedded in the universal constants such that it cannot change…EVER, and is not dependent on his opinions which, if he wanted to, he could change, then whether I believe in this god or not, I’m linked to and can benefit from those “absolute” measures, just like you. My athiesm is irrelevant.
              And if there isn’t a god who has established some sort of absolute measure of morality then you are just spinning your wheels trying find GOD’S morality. You’re seeking morlaity based on your personal ways of thinking just like me.

               

              Maybe there isn’t an absolute measure of morality. Does that bother you? That doesn’t bother me, in fact given the way morality seems to have shifted through time, it would be scary if all those religious folks then were getting their moral intuitions from a god. It’s scary that the God of the Bible and Jesus waited unti l just 2000 years ago bring the good news. Was he unable to develop a plan sending Jesus to help folks earlier in history? I’d rather believe the folks that wrote the BIble were just doing the best they could with their own reasoning and that over time, we’ve improved…even if that is improvement is measured subjectively based on what we think helps us get along better.
               

              Why is morality being subjective such a big deal? Obviously god-believers aren’t getting the straight message from god about this “absolute” measure of morality because there is such widespread differences. And it’s not a problem of evil, it’s a problem with well-intended folks thinking THEIR interpretations and inspirations are correct and not someone else’s.
               

              Concerning slavery, the point remains that the Bible was at best unclear and at worst an accomplice to slavery. It doesn’t matter if they were Christian, if they mistinterpreted this or that comments, the Bible did not come out solidly against slavery and that is a problem for anyone thinking it represents in any way the word of a moral god.

              You: “it’s from Nietzsche.”

               

              From your wiki reference: “However, the will to power was never systematically defined, and its interpretation has been open to debate.” Since it isn’t defined, please tell me what you think it means in this context.
               

              More from Wiki: “[Nietzsche believed the main driving force in humans: achievement, ambition, the striving to reach the highest possible position in life;”
               

              So what? He could be wrong. AND, more importantly, that seems irrelevant as to whether there is a god or not. His conjecture could apply perfectly in a theistic world. Why wouldn’t that driving force be “of god” and be something god expects us to work to overcome to be moral, empathetic and charitable?
               ”It’s the difference between wanting something because it is right, and wanting something because I like it. The two can coincide, but they can also deviate. How do we know to what extent they line up?”

              And how is that different with or without a god?
               

              Me: “Why should what a god thinks about morality, or anything for that matter, be important to people?”
               

              You: “It should matter as much as truth matters to people.”

              Why should the truth or a gods opinion on morality matter?

            • D Rizdek

              Yes that’s it. Thanks! But after rereading it, I find it might not be as convincing as I thought{:

            • Luke Breuer

              It wasn’t lost—did you load all the comments in the thread?

      • Aquaria

        Oh shut up. Seriously. You’re a genocidal bigot to say that we don’t have morals, or that we need your genocidal monster in the sky to be moral. I’m more moral than the evil space buddy you worship. You’re more moral. You’re just too stinking brainwashed to see it.

        Morality comes from our EVOLUTION, and from our upbringings. It is in the best interests of every social species to cooperate, share, look out for one another and not kill each other. Even impalas on a savannah can do this. We have anomalies, sure, but overall, most people are good and moral and decent–because we’ve evolved as social beings, and we’re raised to be decent, not because some invisible space buddy made us that way.

        We’ve never needed a bunch of rules from genocidal filth in the sky, never mind following them. if you think you get your morals from a scumbag deity, then YOU ARE NOT A MORAL AGENT. You’re only a servant to that scumbag’s orders. If your morals really came from that deity, and that deity told you tomorrow to kill people, it would have to be the moral thing to do, because that dirtbag said so. That’s what “getting your morality” from that filth entails, cupcake.

        Hint: Following orders doesn’t make you moral, cupcake.

        Do keep up.

    • bosco49

      What Richard Dawkins has delivered is effectively a debating proposition:

      (Be it resolved that) “It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” The cyber-teams are left to argue the affirmative or the negative of the proposition.

      Now when I studied logic, philosophy, and participated in various formal debates, the precise terminology of the proposition had to be specifically defined for the debating teams before the matter could be argued pro or con intelligently. Crucial words and phrases were made clear from the start.

      I suggest that in order for Mr. Dawkins to elicit any rational response for his presumed proposition (assuming arguendo he would want one), he must first specifically define how he defines the words “immoral” and “it” in his proposition. Absent such distinctions, Dawkins’ proposal is just a dog whistle, designed to set off witless cyber-puppies chasing after their tails.

      This is a matter of life or death for “it” ultimately. That Dawkins does not scruple to disgorge such ill-defined verbal vomitus on a matter so momentous is appalling.

      • 140 characters isn’t exactly the greatest medium for intellectual philosophical debate!

        • bosco49

          Then why avail of 140 characters to offer up any matter of importance? If it is of no importance however or if one does not wish to engage with contrary opinion in depth then Twitter is the scoundrel’s fail-safe.

          • Ann

            Surely he addressed only those who were already pro-choice, and who were already considering abortion as one of the options.

            So he put his vote in.

            No need to hash out the entire abortion debate.

            • bosco49

              If Dawkins were addressing only those who were already pro-choice then his statement, i.e. “It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice”, would have been utterly unnecessary. Merely preaching to the choir’, as the saying goes.

              No. My belief is he wanted to bootstrap his proposition by insinuating that some undefined universally agreed morality underpinned his 140 words and that that chirruping tweet was meant for a larger, perhaps, as yet fence-sitting audience.

            • Ann

              That’s an illogical conclusion.

              Not every person who is pro-choice thinks that every abortion is moral.

              Dawkins asserts that an abortion for this reason is a morally sound choice.

            • bosco49

              You have demonstrated my initial observations, Ann. (see above)

              I noted:

              “I suggest that in order for Mr. Dawkins to elicit any rational response for his presumed proposition (assuming arguendo he would want one), he must first specifically define how he defines the words “immoral” and “it” in his proposition. Absent such distinctions, Dawkins’ proposal is just a dog whistle, designed to set off witless cyber-puppies chasing after their tails.”

              Dawson never defined “immoral”, etc. Absent that, it’s just a 140 character Rohrschach Test for the reader. I wont bite at the illusory bait.

            • Ann

              That’s silly, and real people (on Twitter or not) don’t talk that way.
              If I were the one you were challenging with that omission, I would point out the obvious — You need to just go ahead and define “moral” any way you choose.

              I think it’s strange that you ascribe such weird motives to Dawkins.
              It seems obvious to me that the reason he posted that remark is because that’s how he feels about the situation.

              After all, that’s the real reason you have been writing the things you write, and I trust that you think it is the real reason I am writing the things I write.

              Bizarre fantasies projecting his ringmaster motives … I think your odd thoughts may refer more to what you felt like doing than to what he intended to make you do.

            • bosco49

              As I said, a Rohrschach test.

            • Ann

              But not, as you said, a suggestion of “Let’s you and him fight.”

              All hearing of other people’s sayings are Rorschach tests.

            • Yes, there is ia difference between morally good, and morally better than the alternatives.

            • Ann

              Yes, that’s right.

              I even took Dawkins to mean “within the limits of ‘morally acceptable,’ (even if, like any abortion, not exactly desirable.)”

        • Luke Breuer

          So… what would you say the correct response is? Ought we dismiss people who attempt to say important things with only 140 characters? Do 140 characters give you immunity from criticism? It’s really not clear what you’re saying, here.

          • I would be disinclined from giving a digital conclusion, no matter how correct it might be, to a thoroughly nuanced and complex debate in 140 characters. It’s dangerous.

            • Luke Breuer

              What it really sounds like is that 140 characters reduces intellectual capacity and causes unneeded confusion. It lowers our ability to critical understand and evaluate. Dawkins is playing right into this.

            • I don’t necessarily disagree.

      • D Rizdek

        ” Dawkins has delivered is effectively a debating proposition”

        Why do you think he intended this to set the stage for serious debate? Just because he is a rather well-known person? I don’t interpret what he said that way. IMHO, he’s just one more “swingin’ dick” expressing his opinion in an open forum.

        Be that as it may, I don’t think I have any trouble understanding the words in his succinct statement. Don’t you think the first “It” means the act of having the baby and the second “it” means the zygote? I think “immoral” means “wrong” because he thinks it causes more harm than good or something like that. IOW, I think I have a pretty good idea what he meant.

        “That Dawkins does not scruple to disgorge such ill-defined verbal vomitus on a matter so momentous is appalling.” Is that a debating proposition?

        • Ann

          Bravo on all counts.

          • bosco49

            Why, Ann! I did not know you were of a religious bent. It seems you are an acolyte.

            • Ann

              Why, Bosco!
              I didn’t know you had such a limited world view.
              There are other relationships besides “acolyte” for those not poisoned by religion,

            • bosco49

              I apologize, Ann, if I have given offence to you in any way in respect of my ‘acolyte’ remark which was intended entirely as a bit of impish humour on my part.
              Alas, humour is a difficult thing to convey in a com box and I refuse to use emoticons or telegraph an upcoming attempt at humour (wry or no) with lead-ins like ‘a duck walks into a pub and orders a pint…’
              Anyway, I wax too long with this ‘acolyte’ apology. Peace.

            • Ann

              Well, you are lucky to be able to dispense with telegraphing an upcoming humor attempt.

              I was born with the gift of being profoundly unfunny.
              If I intend to tell a joke, I have to telegraph like crazy.
              What is extra-discouraging is that this problem applies even when I am telling other people’s jokes. I just made a Woody Allen joke and one of my friends looked at me with concern (“Is this where we call an ambulance?”)

              So I have lost all shame about emoticons and telegraphs.
              Now my friends — when they have been alerted that a joke is coming — start grinning anxiously and laughing at the wrong places.
              Then in the ghastly silence that ensues, one will say, “Well, that was very funny. Very very funny. Right, everyone? Ha ha.”
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              And as long as I am complaining, I will add that dogs ignore me even if I wag a toy at them.

            • bosco49

              I understand. As Inspector Clouseau famously said:

              “There is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh, and this is not one of them.”

            • Ann

              LOL! Yes, exactly!

              In the dark night of my humor’s soul, it is always not one of them.

              You, on the other hand, sound pretty witty to me.(sigh of admiration)

              Well, at least I will say that I am the Perfect Audience, so if you ever want to unload a less-than-perfect pun, or a poorly-expressed quip, an ill-conceived bon mot — tell it to me and I will laugh like a lunatic.

            • Ann

              Why, Bosco!

              I didn’t know that minds poisoned by religion can think of only one kind of relationship.

        • bosco49

          I beg to refer to the actual wording of my original post. When last I had a read of it, the Oxford dictionary defined ‘moral’ as:

          “Concerned with or derived from the code of behaviour that is considered right or acceptable in a particular society:” “Immoral”, the term used by Mr. Dawkins, implies the opposite.

          The various interpretations proffered herein for the ‘meaning’ of that very public pontification on morality by Mr. Dawkins (who might well with a bit of effort made his reply privately) would raise objections in any court of law that such interpretations have no foundation in the record and therefore ‘assume facts not in evidence’, i.e. as I said more colourfully, Rohrschach responses.

          I realize the man has books to sell and that there is no such thing as bad publicity arising from controversy, but I yet wonder what Dawkins defines as ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ and what generally accepted code of moral conduct underpins his idiosyncratic moral scales.

          • Ann

            Bosco, relax,

            Dawkins is not controlling you, nor does he want to — not could he, even if he did.

            Please try to ascribe all your compulsions to debate to yourself rather than to an external force.

          • D Rizdek

            another definition of morality is: a particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society. https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=morality

            But the definition of morality wasn’t important to my post…I only asked why you thought it was a statement to start a serious debate and explained that I didn’t think I had any trouble understanding his succinct statement.

            I understand many are going to chaff at his statement, but it is JUST his statement. Why does it matter what one more person thinks is immoral?

            I’m quite sure many Christians would term some of my behavior as immoral…I don’t love god with all my heart, I occasionally take Jesus’ name in vain, I certainly don’t honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Many stand up in the pulpit on Sundays and claim those are immoral acts. Some make those claims on televised shows aired to millions of people. Should I be offended by it?

            • bosco49

              When one shouts out loud across a crowded room, rather than sidling-up to the specific person intended, it is presumably to draw the maximum amount of attention to oneself and one’s remark and set the crowd atwitter. Similarly, I suggest, indiscriminately tweeting ‘moral’ advice to the world at large is a propositional platform for all unless, of course, the shouter is an absolutist and brooks no feedback.

              Just as an aside, have you ever read or given a thought to what is referred to as (Blaise) Pascal’s Wager?

            • bosco49

              Allow me to be a tad more specific. Let us suppose someone shouts across a crowded party in Edinburgh that it is immoral to vote ‘Yes’ for Scottish independence. Is it possible to believe that such ‘private’ advice will not and was not intended to set-off heated discussion? Pontifex Maximus.

    • Luke Breuer

      As I have said many times before, God loves abortion. Most implanted eggs spontaneously and naturally abort. God could design it otherwise and God could stop it. But doesn’t. Since he is apparently all-loving, it must serve a purpose. So God is instrumentally using the death of unborns for a greater good. That is EXACTLY what pro-choicers argue for. It is deliciously ironic. And really, I have never seen an argument that comes close to refuting this.

      According to this reasoning, God loves Ebola. Do you agree? Does God love Loa loa filariasis? I claim it’s ludicrous to think that God loves something which he merely permits in order to get to a greater good. How would God not then love rape and murder and torture, on your reasoning?

      I’d love to see a rigorous argument to support what you’ve claimed here,@johnnyp76:disqus, and preferably not one in a video (although I might transcribe it and then respond).

      The answer is obvious, and should tell you a lot about the intuitive understanding of moral value of each life.

      The intuitive understanding of certain races in Aristotle’s time, per Aristotle, was that they were ‘naturally’ slaves. Given that intuition can fail, I suggesting being a bit cautious with flippant appeals to moral intuition. In particular, I suggest noting the conditions under which moral intuition is iffy, to see whether the current situation gets near those conditions.

      The real nub of the potentiality debate comes here:

      On this basis, suppose we have a human who has only ever lived with monkeys, with no access to other humans or human culture. How would we know whether this human deserves the rights of monkeys vs. the rights of humans? Note that you are not allowed to appeal to the human’s potential of being much more than a monkey.

      […] a subtle anthropomorphism read into what are simply mechanical processes.

      At what point do the processes cease being “simply mechanical”?

      • Andy_Schueler

        According to this reasoning, God loves Ebola. Do you agree? Does God love Loa loa filariasis? I claim it’s ludicrous to think that God loves something which he merely permits in order to get to a greater good.

        Since you neither have even the vaguest of ideas of what that “greater good” might be, nor anything even remotely resembling an argument for why Ebola (for example) is either absolutely necessary to reach that greater good or the least evil way to reach this greater good – the claim that it indeed is premitted by a benevolent God is as vague as it is baseless.

        • Luke Breuer

          Since you neither have even the vaguest of ideas of what that “greater good” might be, [1] nor anything even remotely resembling an argument for why Ebola (for example) is either absolutely necessary to reach that greater good or the least evil way to reach this greater good [2] – the claim that it indeed is premitted by a benevolent God is as vague as it is baseless. [3]

          [1] What would qualify as “even the vaguest of ideas”? I don’t know whether you are talking about ‘the good’, somewhat along the lines of Plato’s Form of the Good, or something else. Generally, I see “greater good” as connecting to “more, less-perverted life”, seeing evil as (a) the perversion of life, (b) the hindering of life, and/or (c) the destruction of life (Man in Revolt, 115). Perhaps of note is that I agree with Allan Bloom when he says in The Closing of the American Mind, “man is a being who must take his orientation by his possible perfection.” (67). Make “possible perfection” be infinitely complex and awesome, and additional force is given to (b).

          [2] I don’t need to, just like you don’t need science to have explained everything, to claim that it is reasonable to hope it will ultimately explain everything.

          [3] We’ve already talked about dark matter and the Standard Model, especially when dark matter was first introduced. Would you remind me of the conditions on which it is acceptable to posit dark matter, and what would constitute analogous conditions in this situation? Surely you admit that your [2] argument depends on some heretofore unstated premises? I am attempting to tease them out.

          • Andy_Schueler

            1. “Generally, I see “greater good” as connecting to “more, less-perverted life” – so infecting people with all kinds of little critters that kill them in the nastiest ways imaginable is causing a transition from “more perverted life” to “less perverted life”? No? Then you indeed don´t even have the vaguest of ideas of what a “greater good” is supposed to mean here.
            2. Disanalogous. You are not talking about a problem in need of a solution / a phenomenon in need of an explanation – you are creating a problem out of thin air.
            3. See 2. You are not postulating an ad hoc solution for a problem, you are postulating an ad hoc problem.

            • Luke Breuer

              1. In a sense you are correct; I reason from scenarios where I can see a relatively unambiguous “greater good”, and suppose that this could hold true of other scenarios. This method of ‘supposing’ has served me well in the past. It has stretched the horizon of where “greater goods” really could be achieved. Now, whether or not those horizons can continue stretching indefinitely is a good question; maybe I’ll run into my version of the ultraviolet catastrophe with no solution.

              2. I’ve spent some time thinking about our previous conversation, and realized a missing component: failure to believe that there is an achievable “greater good” will make one less likely to seek for that “greater good”. A not-insignificant part of literature deals with trying to make sense of suffering. I claim that the best way to make sense of suffering is to turn it to a greater good. Do you disagree? It is from this “make sense of suffering” from which I got the term “moral rationality”.

              3. I can see how this is the case, given I had the missing component I elucidated at 2. Then again, it seems a bit disingenuous to say that the starting point of the “ad hoc problem” is here, instead of one of the presuppositions of the argument—like that God exists, that something can be done about evil, etc. Perhaps I do not recall all of the argument details, though.

            • Andy_Schueler

              1. And this position, IMO, can only lead to a radical moral skepticism. You postulate that Ebola is part of the best possible plan for human wellbeing, that a plan for humanity that involves Ebola is either not evil at all or the least evil way to lead to an unknown “greater good”. If I grant you that, I am granting you that something that appears to be 100% bad wrt human wellbeing can actually be a good thing (or the least evil means to reach a greater good). Now, why should I grant you that but not also assume that rape, torture, murder and theft are morally good actions? They unambiguously seem to be morally bad actions, but that didn´t matter for Ebola, so why should it matter for rape? If you cannot provide an answer to that, then your position ends in radical moral skepticism – no moral proposition could be asserted with any confidence at all.
              2. Wrong. You are confusing two different questions:
              a) how can I do the most good based on the situation I find myself in (which may or may not involve an unusual amount of suffering)?
              b) how can I reconcile reality with the existence of an omnibenevolent and omnipotent God?
              You are talking about question b, not question a.
              3. If you are drawing an analogy to dark matter, it is not disingenuous to point out that you are not inventing an ad hoc solution to a problem, but rather create the problem in the first place for which you don´t have a solution – not even an ad hoc one.

            • Luke Breuer

              1. Under my scheme, Ebola could only be “the best possible plan for human wellbeing” given the moral choices of moral agents. Pain, in its most basic form, is designed to correct the behavior of an organism. It works quite well and in many conditions, it does not need to get very intense in order to perform its function. However, the insistence of pressing on anyway will result in more and more pain, in more convoluted fashions as denial increases. This is aided by my evil actions causing much more pain in others than myself.

              Additionally, the fact that greater good comes out of actions does not mean that the agent responsible for those actions will benefit. There is no true freedom if all are guaranteed to end up embracing God. It is not required that any end up in hell (for more than a time), but that is a possibility if we are to take freedom seriously. Likewise, a victim of an evil sometimes has a choice of whether to try to turn it to a greater good or not. For example, someone who was victim of rape could choose to understand why rape happens and then use that knowledge to decrease the incidence. You would have hoped that the human race could have learned this in a way that required less pain, but I say it is better to learn that lesson than never to learn it.

              I know that the above is nothing like a full argument; I spotted a few unvoiced presuppositions as I wrote it. However, perhaps this will convince you that the “radical moral skepticism” accusation itself relies on presuppositions you did not elucidate, presuppositions I find to be in error.

              2. The more one can do a), the more I claim one can do b).

              3. I’m pretty sure when I brought up the idea of non-God, non-human moral agents, it was in response to a problem someone thought existed. Maybe it wasn’t you, in which case perhaps it was imprudent for you to step in and think I was addressing you? I forget, but if you really insist on chasing this “ad hoc problem” business, I’m going to insist that we trace that problem back to its origin and see whether it’s really my problem.

            • Andy_Schueler

              1. You don´t understand the problem. You say “someone who was victim of rape could choose to understand why rape happens and then use that knowledge to decrease the incidence” – why would decreasing the incidence of rape be a good thing? Why should anyone try to do that? If Ebola might be good in itself or necessary for a greater good, then why not rape? Why shouldn´t we try to increase the incidence of rape?

              2. No. You cannot. Because a cancer survivor using his experience as a motivation to help others, to name one example, doesn´t help you at all – the only thing that would help you with b) is a demonstration that stuff like cancer is either a good thing or the least evil thing to accomplish a greater good.

              3. Also, no. You brought up the idea of “non-God, non-human moral agents” in the context of your “gratuitous natural evil is only seemingly evil and epistemologically a comparable problem to irreducible complexity in science”. And it is not an ad hoc “solution”, because you didn´t explain in any way how “non-God, non-human moral agents” would turn gratuitous natural evil into non-gratuitous natural evil.
              Also, I think you still haven´t fully realized that this “non-God, non-human moral agents being responsible for [earthquakes, cancer, infectious diseases, developmental disorders, tornados etc.pp.] relies on the claim that pretty much all of science is complete and utter Bullshit. Example: the scientific description of how an earthquake arises is not merely incomplete, your idea relies on earthquakes being completely impossible if they would harm human beings unless there is a “non-God, non-human moral agent” who causes it to happen. This means that the natural description involving plate tectonics cannot possibly be true, it cannot even have a kernel of truth – continental plates cannot anticipate when their actions would harm human life and magically stop moving then (and even if they could, that is a testable and demonstrably false claim).

            • Ann

              The feeling that XYZ is a moral act is based on sociobiology.

              We are genetically programmed to balance the seeking of enhancements for the self -with- falling in with the aim or goal of another.

              That’s how social species can survive.

              I fall in with the desire on the part of a woman to avoid wantonly-inflicted pain, so I oppose her rape.
              Suppose that this is at cross purposes with a desire to please myself or spread my genes (if I were a man.)
              Sacrificing our own good in order to cooperate with the intent of another is perceived by us as being “virtuous,” a reward chemical.

              It’s not about the “greater good,” which in any case cannot be computed.

            • Luke Breuer

              The feeling that XYZ is a moral act is based on sociobiology.

              We are genetically programmed to balance the seeking of enhancements for the self -with- falling in with the aim or goal of another.

              Are you “genetically programmed” to discover true things? If so, then how is “the feeling that XYZ is true” not also “based on sociobiology”? It would seem that you either undermine the grounding of both your assertion about moral intuitions and about your assertion about truth intuitions, or you undermine neither. Anything else would be special pleading.

              It’s not about the “greater good,” which in any case cannot be computed.

              That’s quite the strong claim, given the vast number of meta-ethical systems which claim you can determine the “greater good”, at least without too much noise for the determination to be useful in guiding actions. Care to defend it?

            • Ann

              Re: “Are you “genetically programmed” to discover true things? If so, then
              how is “the feeling that XYZ is true” not also “based on sociobiology”?
              It would seem that you either undermine the grounding of both your assertion about moral intuitions and about your assertion about truth intuitions, or you undermine neither. Anything else would be special pleading.”

              1) We have genetic causes for some behavior and no genetic push for other behavior.

              We are genetically compelled to make walking motions with the legs, but not to make wing-flap motions with the arms. Now for robins, this is a different story.

              2) What is “true” is objective and factual, not based on feelings.
              Naturally genetics can have no influence on the facts of the matter.
              (However, I will point out that humans are amazingly skillful at determining if a person’s report or testimony is true or not, since the ability to sense the mind of another is a required skill for social animals.)

              But obviously, what is “virtuous” or “moral” is strictly a personal opinion, and making pro-social decisions is rewarded in social animals with the chemical reward we experience as “being virtuous.”
              (And in a like manner, I will point out that humans are amazingly skillful at determining the intent of another — another required skill for social animals.)
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              “That’s quite the strong claim,.. Care to defend it?”

              Why a vast number of meta-ethical systems for this task?
              “One” system would do if it were correct.

              We can’t even figure out if the greater good is to use a simple paper cup in the office, or wash a durable china mug.

              Please show me the “meta-ethical system” that can parse the relative goods and bads of a juror’s decision, or opting to work in Seattle -vs- going for more school in Philly .. or any of the gazillion decisions that are made every day, some of which have profound moral implications.

              The ramifications of any decision split off into infinity, with good and bad attending each fork in the road. Furthermore, the final outcome is partly governed by random events and by circumstances which are not even in existence yet at the time of the decision, and so on.

              Tell me how to know if I should sentence this guy to the death penalty. Whatever decision you make, it is entirely possible that it would end up tragically wrong.

              If you know a few “systems” that can answer this dilemma, I’d love to see it, if you please?

            • Luke Breuer

              But obviously, what is “virtuous” or “moral” is strictly a personal opinion,

              This is not at all “obvious”. It is extremely presumptuous of you to flaunt millennia of respectable debate. For example, Alasdair MacIntyre masterfully revived virtue ethics in his 1981 After Virtue.

              and making pro-social decisions is rewarded in social animals with the chemical reward we experience as “being virtuous.

              In and of itself, this contradicts nothing. There is absolutely no reason to be surprised that a creator of particle-and-field reality would not employ particle-and-field means to accomplish his/her/its ends.

              Why a vast number of meta-ethical systems for this task?
              “One” system would do if it were correct.

              Shockingly, humans don’t know everything, and are actually pretty ignorant in some areas, still!

              We can’t even figure out if the greater good is to use a simple paper cup in the office, or wash a durable china mug.

              We can’t? It strikes me that one could come up with quite a few ways to do cost comparisons with different weightings of value. We can compute the cost of renewable sources like paper and all that is required to create paper cups, vs. the typical amount of water and detergent used to clean a durable china mug, not to mention make the mug in the first place.

            • Ann

              “This is not at all “obvious”. It is extremely presumptuous of you to flaunt millennia of respectable debate.”
              LOL! All that debate and not a speck of evidence.
              This habit is why philosophy (like the other two fake professions) is always wrong.
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              “In and of itself, this contradicts nothing. There is absolutely no
              reason to be surprised that a creator of particle-and-field reality
              would not employ particle-and-field means to accomplish his/her/its
              ends.”

              Like all the clashes between science and religion, it deletes religion from consideration, removing it to the junk pile of the unnecessary and the imaginary.

              I will retract this slur if you can show me one piece of demonstrable evidence that what you suggest might be the case.
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              “Shockingly, humans don’t know everything, and are actually pretty ignorant in some areas, still!”
              Then on what grounds do you value these “systems”?
              What are they for?
              If they’re not even right, then I think their adherents should pretty much shut up. They look like fools advocating “systems” that are not correct.
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              “We can’t”
              No, we can’t.
              It was the professional conclusion of the environmental organization that I volunteered for that the answer could not be determined.
              This was partly because all the ramifications can never be known, and partly because of the shifting nature of the items to be considered.
              And for all I remember, other problems too.

            • Void Walker

              I call this a damn good night. Watching you and Luke go back and forth, while he and Andy clash swords. I’m sipping on some Vodka, kicking back, and soaking all of this in.

            • Ann

              LOL!

              We’re a better take-in than WWE

            • Void Walker

              Hell yeah! Christian vs. Atheist wins out over two sweaty dudes grappling any day!

            • Luke Breuer

              LOL! All that debate and not a speck of evidence.

              Then you are a hypocrite, for you presented no evidence for the claim, “But obviously, what is “virtuous” or “moral” is strictly a personal opinion,”.

              I will retract this slur if you can show me one piece of demonstrable evidence that what you suggest might be the case.

              No, slurs indicate inability to respect the other person, and I simply have no interest in trying to correct that. You’ve already made stuff up about me; if that is your wont, I can do little to prevent it.

              Then on what grounds do you value these “systems”?

              This is too vague for me to give a decent answer.

              It was the professional conclusion of the environmental organization that I volunteered for that the answer could not be determined.
              This was partly because all the ramifications can never be known, and partly because of the shifting nature of the items to be considered.

              Was the result published in a peer-reviewed journal? Let’s see the evidence, shall we?

            • Ann

              You say:
              “Then you are a hypocrite, for you presented no evidence for the claim,
              “But obviously, what is “virtuous” or “moral” is strictly a personal
              opinion,”.”

              > But I did publish my argument about this in several previous posts.
              Try to keep up.
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              You say:
              “No, slurs indicate inability to respect the other person, and I simply
              have no interest in trying to correct that. You’ve already made stuff up about me; if that is your wont, I can do little to prevent it.”

              LOL! ANOTHER successful prophesy!

              I am quite the Tremont Tearoom gypsy!

              Now how did I know that you would not be able to publish any evidence?
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              You say: “Was the result published in a peer-reviewed journal? Let’s see the evidence, shall we?”
              Nah, This group was MassPIRG, busy passing green legislation, not doing research.
              They researched this question only because so many contributors called us and asked.
              So it amounts to the professional opinion of experts in the field. Take it or leave it. If you have some better research, let me see it and I will forward it to the group.

            • Ann

              Oh no!
              Where’s my reply?
              Bah. Here’s the second (inferior) reply, since I have apparently lost the first one.
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              1) Genetic programming does some things, but of course it does not do everything, or perform every possible task.
              Merely because we are not genetically programmed to make wing flaps with our arms does not imply that we are therefore not programmed to make walking motions with our legs.

              2) The “truth” is factually the case — and not governed by emotions, (which is what genetics can do for you.)
              On the other hand, “virtue” and “morality” are obviously personal emotions caused by the release of the right chemicals — exactly what genetics does.

              3) However, I will point out that humans are rather skillful at detecting the truth content of assertions and testimony by “reading” the person.

              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              That’s quite the strong claim, … Care to defend it?

              How could there even be “a vast number of meta-ethical
              systems” if any one of them were actually correct, or at least useful enough to let us compute the outcomes of various decisions? Surely one good one would be enough — and in wide-spread use?

              We can’t even compute the relative ecological benefit of using disposable paper coffee cups at work -vs- using detergent and hot water to wash a durable china mug.

              The consequences of every decision branch out endlessly into the future, forking into “good call” and “oops” at every junction. The distant outcomes are dependent partly on random events, and partly on conditions and circumstances that are not now even in existence — as well as their more foreseeable consequences.

              In addition, any decision or choice is not confined to a single outcome. In most cases, there will be multiple outcomes.

              Furthermore, these outcomes may be ambiguously good or bad, like a factory which brings good jobs and tax revenue (and professionals as neighbors) to a small town — but also creates a polluting trash heap.

              What “meta-ethical system” allows you to determine if you as a juror should condemn this murderer to death?

              Any decision you make could potentially have a tragic outcome for a large number of people.

              If you know of such a system, I’d love to have you tell it to me, and to mention how it’s been working for you, if you had the time.

            • Void Walker

              You’re a rock star, Ann.

            • Ann

              LOL!

              Void, I think we could work up a tag-team and take that act on the road!

            • Void Walker

              I’m down. Lets just leave drugs out of the picture….having an OD doesn’t sound very fun…

            • Ann

              Right.

              We can leave that mess to the real rock stars.

              But us — as a team we could wipe out the Christianity message board on Craigslist, and wipe out Quora …

              LOL!

            • Void Walker

              Craigslist has a fucking Xianity message board? My head is suddenly throbbing….

            • Ann

              AND an atheism chatroom to go along with it.

              I used to play in those playgrounds, but I kind of lost interest.

              The quality of the discussions see-saw back and forth with the demographics of the participants.
              https://forums.craigslist.org/?forumID=59&areaID=4

            • Void Walker

              Uh-oh. I’m drunk and have been provided a religious link….. (muahahahaha)

            • Ann

              LOL!

              Well, I think most of the other contributors have chemically altered their minds too!

            • Luke Breuer

              1. You assume that we cannot gain a good enough understanding of ‘the good’. I think it’s pretty obvious that ‘the good’ involves excellent relationships between the self and (a) others; (b) nature; (c) oneself. The theist would add (d) God. Rape demonstrates a breakdown in relationship, one with precursors I’m pretty sure we know how to largely detect before it manifests. There are two ways to do said learning about excellent relationship: figure out problems before they turn into terrible actions, or after. The only reason for the terrible action to take place is if we had our heads up our butts before it. Sometimes people don’t learn until reality hits them hard enough in the face. Importantly, I speak in a communitarian fashion here: the person who gets [directly] hurt isn’t necessarily the one who screwed up.

              2. Who gets to decide whether cancer was ‘worth it’ or not: the cancer survivor, or some random person, like you or me?

              3. Apologies; the issue most commonly does come up with reference to natural evil, and natural evil is frequently used as a paradigmatic example of gratuitous suffering, but of course ‘the probabilities’ don’t always predict accurately.

              Positing non-God, non-human moral agents can make natural evils non-gratuitous because there is the opportunity for improvement in (a)–(d) with them, by seeing the consequences of their actions; this is harder to imagine if God himself is controlling nature, or merely let it go off of some random number generator. Note that there are sins of commission as well as sins of omission. Oh, and in reference to the different levels of moral agents—levels which might be rather isolated from each other at times—one might wonder about whether the consequences of evil actions at a higher level would just screw over those agents at lower levels. According to MacIntyre, Aristotle thought that external misfortune could prevent eudaimonia, while [Christian?] medievals did not (After Virtue, 176). If one realizes one is in a community—or even a great chain of being—then one realizes that it’s not all about oneself.

              I still don’t buy your argument about science being radically wrong if I’m right. There is the question of how non-God, non-human moral agents would impact reality. I likely said something about them using subtle means to influence it, such that current scientific models are still accurate. Remind me why you rejected this, or why you would reject this? The same discussion happens about whether evolution is based on randomness or pseudorandomness: the idea that evolution is “unguided” is a statement of ignorance, not knowledge. Who says God could not futz in extremely ‘weak’ ways, such that the little tweaks must be amplified greatly? Chaos theory makes it believable that the smallest of tweaks can really matter. Hell, God futzing with things in this way might even make sense of stuff like 1 Cor 1:18–31, which has God working through ‘weakness’.

            • Andy_Schueler

              1. You say “Rape demonstrates a breakdown in relationship”, so what if you are wrong about that? What if rape actually promotes better relationships and we just don´t understand how yet? If you think this is a silly question – how is it any less silly than saying that Ebola might be intrinsically good or the morally best / least evil way of reaching a “greater good” and we just don´t understand how yet?

              2. “Worth it” != “intrinisically good or the least evil way to reach a greater good”.

              3. “Positing non-God, non-human moral agents can make natural evils non-gratuitous because there is the opportunity for improvement in (a)–(d) with them, by seeing the consequences of their actions” – that is self-refuting because it relies on us actually seeing them and what they do. But we don´t, and even if we realize in a gazillion years that all of science is BS and start seeing the hobgoblins, demons and fairies who actually run the show, that would still mean that natural evils in the gazillion years before that were in fact absolutely gratuitous.

              Re “I likely said something about them using subtle means to influence it, such that current scientific models are still accurate” – yeah yeah, the good old quantum voodoo, but your problem is not how they do it (I´ll grant you for the sake of the argument that there are omni-hidden demon quantum wizards OHDQWs who can do shit like that) your problem is rather what happens if they don´t do it. If your idea is true, an earthquake cannot possibly happen if it would harm human beings and said humans had no means to avoid this harm (that would be equivalent gratuitous evil) unless said OHDQWs cause it to happen. And that means that our scientific understanding of earthquakes must be complete bullshit, because scientists are pretty certain that tectonic plates cannot telepathically detect whether their movement would cause harm to humans, nor could they telekinetically stop their movement if they´d harm humans otherwise, hell, scientists are actually even rather sure that tectonic plates are not sentient.

              Re “The same discussion happens about whether evolution is based on randomness or pseudorandomness: the idea that evolution is “unguided” is a statement of ignorance, not knowledge.” – No, evolution being unguided is actually a testable and tested claim [1] [2] [3]. Is it possible that some omni-hidden quantum wizard did magically interact with evolution at unknown points in time in an unknown way for unknown reasons? Sure is. Until you can give us a testable model for the actions of said omni-hidden quantum wizard however, we´ll keep saying that evolution is demonstrably unguided because that is what the evidence shows.

            • Luke Breuer

              1. I have already explained this: we reason from better-understood scenarios to worse-understood scenarios. Some are so ill-understood that we have to table them for the time being. Or so I claim—instead of declaring them irrational.

              2. I cannot show you the optimality you request; that requires omniscience. People could, however research more and more powerful responses to given magnitudes of evil, such that evil is eradicated with increasing efficiency.

              3.

              If your idea is true, an earthquake cannot possibly happen if it would harm human beings and said humans had no means to avoid this harm (that would be equivalent to granting the existence of gratuitous evil) unless said OHDQWs cause it to happen.

              Because sins of omission are just off the table, for some reason?

              No, evolution being unguided is actually a testable and tested claim [1] [2] [3].

              Care to be a bit more specific than “go read these books”?

            • Andy_Schueler

              1. No you didn´t explain that. It appears to me that, from a scientific perspective, Ebola is much better understood than rape – and you tell me that I am wrong about calling Ebola a “gratuitous evil” and that Ebola is rather either intriniscally good or the least evil way to reach a greater good – we just don´t understand why yet. Since we understand rape less than Ebola, the same should apply – rape is either intrinsically good or the least evil way to reach a greater good. You seem to be unable to explain how this conclusion does not follow from your position, and that is what I mean by your position leading to radical moral skepticism.

              2. Completely different ballpark, working to reduce the incidence of rape is good, but even if you reduce it to 0, that doesn´t in some magic time-travelling way turn all previous instances of rape into something good.

              3a. “Because sins of omission are just off the table, for some reason?” – wait, so your model isn´t that there are some omni-hidden demon quantum wizards who cause stuff like earthquakes, your model is that said demons should protect us from stuff like earthquakes, but didn´t do so because they are lazy, evil or just got shitfaced when they were needed? That´s new. Well, if that is a sin of omission, then it is also a sin of omission if the big guy on top of the hierarchy doesn´t step in to stop the earthquake if his minions get shitfaced and pass out. In other words, your omnipotent and omnibenevolent God wouldn´t actually be omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

              3b. “Care to be a bit more specific than “go read these books”?” – unguidedness leads to testable hypotheses in countless different situations (and is an explicit assumption of many mathematical models in evolutionary genetics), and if we have hundreds of cases of “unguided evolution” leading to testable and tested hypotheses but 0 of “guided evolution” leading to testable and tested hypotheses, then we will say that the evidence clearly and unambiguously favors the former over the latter. If you want specific examples, especially the first book I linked to is full of them.

            • Luke Breuer

              1. I’m pretty sure I’ve said something very close to what I just said, multiple times before. You will, however, have to make it worth my time if I’m to demonstrate this by combing through my comment history. I am a little tired of you being so confident about what I have and have not said, when I’m pretty sure you are wrong. Merely demonstrating you to be wrong this time… I’m not sure it would change your general attitude one iota.

              As to understanding Ebola more than rape, I simply disagree.

              2. I never claimed that it would turn all previous instances of rape into good. Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb; I doubt he will ever see it as a joyful moment. Sin doesn’t get magicked out of existence—that would denigrate the victims—it merely gets redeemed.

              3a. I am allowing for both possibilities. You say “That’s new.”; you’re kinda-sorta right. But I’ll bet you are well aware of sins of omission—like not ensuring one’s night club is safe—and so it really isn’t a stretch of the imagination to see non-God, non-human moral agents committing sins of omission as well as sins of commission. To think that their sins would always be sins of omission would be to violate natural kind boundaries.

              You say that an omnimax deity would be guilty if we allow all moral agents to commit sins of omission; please actually justify this claim instead of just asserting it. In particular, please show how God isn’t guilty for The Station nightclub fire, but is guilty for earthquakes—unless you think he is guilty for both?

              3b. All you’re saying is that F = ma and F = GmM/r^2 is preferable over GR if we couldn’t observe any of the phenomena predicted by GR but not F = ma and F = GmM/r^2. It is preferable not ontologically, but merely phenomenologically. To prefer something over the current “unguidedness” model, you’d need to differentiate between certain seemingly random patterns and certain other seemingly random patterns. So far, we haven’t seen any, and therefore, so far, what we have is better than something more complex. There is nothing surprising in this, and it doesn’t contradict what I said one iota. The randomness which actually powers evolution could be purely random or pseudorandom (in certain ways) and we would observe precisely what we observe. I could make an analogous argument for F = ma in certain domains.

            • Andy_Schueler

              1. That´s not what I meant, I´m not only saying that you didn´t provide such an explanation before, I also say that you don´t provide one now – you just say that you “reason from better-understood scenarios to worse-understood scenarios” but don´t demonstrate that this is what you do and sure as hell doesn´t seem to be what you are doing.
              Re “understanding Ebola more than rape, I simply disagree” – you are entitled to your opinion but not to your own facts. Rape, like anything else that humans can do, would require an understanding of how the human mind works if we want to fully describe it. Ebola on the other hand doesn´t – to understand Ebola, you need to understand parts of the human body that, unlike the brain, are already extremely well understood. Say that ebola is less understood than rape is thus completely ridiculous and the only reason why you say it is because that being true would be more convenient for your position.

              2. As I told you many times, the word “redeemed” is a dead giveaway that you are not trying to deal with the problem of gratuitous evil.

              3a. First of all, let me summarize your “explanation” for how earthquakes do not cause gratuitous evil:
              – God allmighty has created some imps, angels or whatever you like to call those critters that are just as perfectly hidden from prying eyes as God himself. Some of those critters are supposed to protect humans from earthquakes, presumably by quantum magic or something comparable that is conveniently scientifically completely undetectable. However, those critters that are responsible to protect us from earthquakes do a shitty job and constantly are too lazy to do what they are payed for or they just get shitfaced and pass out. God allmighty obviously knows this, but he can´t step in to stop the earthquake because FREE WILL(Y) – giving his minions the free choice to get shitfaced and kill thousands of people through their incompetence is of paramount importance, infinitely more important than helping humans would be.
              Ergo, earthquakes do not represent an instance of gratuitous evil.
              Is that an adequate summary of what you propose? If not, what did I miss?

              3b. Obviously. Just like the earth having a spherical shape might be phenomologically correct, but that doesn´t mean that the world is ontologically not a flat disc. Saying that the world is spherical is arguing from ignorance. Just like F=ma is appropriate in some domains, a spherical earth can also be appropriate in some domains, while a more complex model like flat earth + trickster God would be required for other domains. Ergo, teaching children that the world is not flat is unscientific!

              You agree, don´t you? If not, explain why.

            • Luke Breuer

              1. You are confusing ‘moral understanding’ with ‘physical understanding’. If you want I can quote from F.A. Hayek’s Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason; he just went over the difference between understanding how people perceive vs. how they do science, and how economics must deal with the former—a property of minds—and not the latter—a property of energy and matter. With Ebola, we don’t appear to have access to any possible minds which made it what it is today, through action or inaction. With rape, we have a lot of access to minds.

              2. There are two sides to gratuitous evil: (i) that there was a better way to get whatever good came out of it; (ii) that the good which comes out of redeeming the evil is not worth the cost of the evil. It is awfully hard to explain natural evils without there existing moral agents between us and God; this is (i). Learning how to actually bring good from evil involves (ii). I don’t claim to be an expert in redeeming evil—bringing good out of it. Instead, I merely note that I have made progress, and expect to continue making progress, and if the trend continues, I see no evil which cannot be redeemed. Only through trying this can one show (ii) to be true or false.

              As to (i), we humans aren’t guaranteed to be the only moral agents acting. So just like rape generally indicates problems other than resident in the rapist himself/herself, evils can indicate problems other than among the human species. The rampant individualist will hate this, but I simply tell such a person that his/her ideology does not appear to match up with reality. And so, the mere fact that a given evil didn’t seem to originate in human moral action/inaction is not by that fact a gratuitous evil.

              So, I’m really not sure of why you think 2. Perhaps you can elaborate, or remind me of what you’ve said before on the matter.

              3a. That is only an adequate summary if (not iff) you think God is not on the hook for failing to prevent rape. Part of free will is seeing the consequences of your actions, after you have ignored all warnings about them. Exercise of it like you describe is the insistence on the part of the contingent being that what God says will happen will not happen. And so, after a time, God lets reality itself smack the contingent beings in their faces, since they would not listen on the level of language.

              3b. Disanalogous. Finite segments (sequences of bits) of true randomness and pseudorandomness can be entirely indistinguishable without further information. I fail to see how anything like this holds with your sphere & disc. I also have no idea where you got the following, from what I said:

              Ergo, teaching children that the world is not flat is unscientific!

              I can only conclude that this is a straw man.

            • Andy_Schueler

              1. You can talk to an alleged rapist but what does that mean? How do you intend to find out whether his mind had anything to do with it? Maybe a unicorn made him do it and then changed his memories? Maybe there was no rape and there is just a demon illusionist making you believe that there was? Or maybe there was rape, and rape is obviously(!) a good thing, you just don´t understand why because a Leprechaun screws with your reasoning faculties? I´m afraid that unless you can rule out all of these possibilities, you don´t appear to know anything about rape at all.

              2. “There is this friend of mine who got bullied and I helped him and understand bullying better through it, which might allow me to reduce the incidence of bullying in the future” – this, or anything similar to it, is not an objection to the evidential problem of evil, but stuff like this is all you have.

              3a. Good, so it is an adequate summary. Can I quote you on that? In the sense of “this is what Luke means, no really, this is what he means”? (the reason for that would be that you never once explicitly said that this is what you mean and usually just used incredibly vague one-liners)

              3b. Totally analogous, A planet that truly has a spherical shape would be indistinguishable from one that only appears to have a spherical shape because trickster God, while the planet is actually flat.

            • Luke Breuer

              I have no idea how to continue this discussion in a rational manner.

            • Ann

              I claim that Dawkins’ statement was
              1) perfectly sound
              2) an expression of his opinion
              3) which he posted with the intent of reassuring a woman contemplating abortion
              4) that this abortion is no different from any other legal abortion motivated by any other strong motive
              5) and that the real difference between this case and (for example) the case of a woman in the last year of her medical training is that it looks like a disparagement of all adults with Down’s

            • Andy_Schueler

              Yeah, a “rational discussion” on the implications of omni-hidden demon quantum wizards seems to be an oxymoron indeed.
              Anyways, so I can quote you on that – my summary above was indeed what you meant with your non-god-non-human-moral-agents-sins-of-omissions thingy?

            • Luke Breuer

              No. It turns out it was entirely insufficient, as the follow-up post of yours indicated. I thought we were on the right track; we were not.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Again, what did I miss or mispresent then? And why do you yourself, despite your knack for verbosity, are so short on words to describe what it even is that you mean with this non-god-non-human-moral-agents-sin-of-omission thingy?

            • Luke Breuer

              I’ve tried and tried and I don’t see what I would say that I haven’t said before. You have a habit of coming up with what I see as ridiculous things, and making them out to be just a little different from what I presented. At least, I think you mean them to be “just a little different”; is this true? If so, I have no idea how to engage you in a way that would lead somewhere new/interesting.

            • Andy_Schueler

              What did I miss or misrepresent when I summarized what you mean with this non-god-non-human-moral-agents-sin-of-omission thingy? And why do you avoid that question? Look, either I have at least some what accurately summarized what you mean or I did not – if I didn´t, how so?

            • Luke Breuer

              I don’t know. I thought we were on the same page, until this. From that, I have to conclude that our mutual misunderstanding began to get serious several comments up, before your little example. And so, I really cannot give you good answers to your questions; should you desire answers, try coming up with a less-ridiculous response than this comment.

            • Andy_Schueler

              The only thing I asked you is whether I have adequately summarized what you mean with this non-god-non-human-moral-agents thingy and if not, what I have missed or misrepresented. It is very puzzling that you cannot simply answer with a “No, you missed [insert missing aspect here] and misrepresented [insert misrepresented aspect here]”. Just as it is very puzzling why you yourself, despite being usually quite verbose, only use extremely nebulous one-liners when describing what this concepte is supposed to mean. The impression I start to get is that I didn´t miss or misrepresent anything here, but that you rather do not want to see an explicit description of what it is that you are proposing – it rather seems that you want to hide it behind misleading and nebolous phrases like “moral rationality”, without ever explicitly saying what the hell that is supposed to mean.

            • Void Walker

              “Yeah, a “rational discussion” on the implications of omni-hidden demon quantum wizards seems to be an oxymoron indeed.”

              Ha! You two slay me.

            • Void Walker

              Dude, my phone went all “fuck you!” on me, and I lost your number. Do me a solid and text me at some point.

            • Void Walker

              “If I grant you that, I am granting you that something that appears to be 100% bad wrt human wellbeing can actually be a good thing (or the least evil means to reach a greater good).”

              That’s a very good point, Andy.

    • Luke Breuer

      99% of Adults With Down Syndrome Report Being Happy in Life:

      Among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79 percent reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome….

      Skotko also found that among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome. A third study evaluating how adults with Down syndrome felt about themselves reports 99 percent responded they were happy with their lives, 97 percent liked who they are, and 96 percent liked how they looked.

      • Ann

        Studies like these cannot supply the missing information: How would they have felt if they didn’t have a sibling with Down’s?

        It’s a relief to see that people with Down’s syndrome or their relatives are not unhappy. But I wonder what the study really found?
        > That people almost always like themselves?
        > That people like their siblings?
        > That people are generally pretty happy with their lives?
        > That the way people respond to survey questions is influenced by a large number of factors?

        I was a little taken aback that one of the questions was “How they felt about the way they looked.” That makes it seem that at least someone thinks they look odd.

        My Down’s syndrome neighbor (when we were teens) used to put his head in his hands and say, “I don’t know why I can’t have a girlfriend like everyone else.” He also had the habit of saying — about every female he saw on TV regardless of age — “I’d like to f*** her.”
        His parents were alarmed by this, and tried to get him to see that it was an inappropriate response to underage girls, but I don’t think they had much luck.

        I never got the idea that he was as happy as the rest of us, or that he had a fortunate life.

        I think “his not having been born” was a rational alternative for his parents.

        • Luke Breuer

          It sounds like you approached this issue with your mind made up, and based on what evidence? Hopefully more than just one anecdotal experience? The euphemism with which you ended your comment is disturbing to me. But perhaps it is simply a personality quirk of mine that I don’t go around saying that people would be better off having been aborted. Jesus actually does do this in one instance: the one who betrayed him. I think I’ll allow him that one, and figure that there aren’t any other tokens of that type.

          • Ann

            My position is that women must be allowed to be the sole decision-maker regarding the use of their bodies.

            I am pro-choice not because the unborn organism is/is not a person, but because no one — not even a person — can compel me to attach him to my circulatory system without my permission.

            I never tried to suggest that the person would be better off having been aborted. My comments were confined to doubting the survey. That’s why I said that “his not having been born” was a rational choice for HIS PARENTS.

            Of course, at that point, the aborted fetus has no preferences and is incapable of caring one way or the other.

            Not that this is the deciding factor, since even a US district judge, for example, a father of three, and a really great man — not even he can force me to sustain his life by attaching himself to my metabolism — even if I were responsible for his condition.

            In fact, the opposite of suggesting that the person would be better off never having been born, I think it is one of the greatest anti-abortion arguments possible: “What would the fetus want?”
            It is considerations like that, and the tenderness and love I would feel for any unborn baby of mine, that would be a major impediment to my having an abortion. (I don’t have any children yet, and I have not been pregnant yet.)

            Since it is strictly the woman’s choice to determine who can crawl inside her body to stay alive, and who cannot do so and gets kicked out — the question revolves around “Would it be better for the PARENTS if he were never born?”

            I think “his not having been born” was a rational alternative for his parents.

            • Luke Breuer

              My comments were confined to doubting the survey.

              What is your evidence/reasoning for doubting the survey?

              I never tried to suggest that the person would be better off having been aborted. My comments were confined to doubting the survey. That’s why I said that “his not having been born” was a rational choice for HIS PARENTS.

              My apologies for misunderstanding. And yet, I am still disturbed. As I said, this may be a quirk of mine.

            • Ann

              It has been my observation that being a Down’s syndrome person, or having a Down’s close relative, is not quite as joyful as that survey makes it seem.

              It’s a poor study too, because there’s no control.
              Who knows how giddy with joy everyone would have been if the kid had been a winning athlete, a talented musician, and a PhD candidate in physics .

              I want to repeat my point from an earlier post:
              If abortion is allowed for any old reason — or even no reason at all — then it is just as morally neutral when there is an actual reason (and a better one than, “Oh, I don’t want to bother with a baby right now.”)

              The difficulty is that in this case, advising an abortion makes it look like a disparagement of all people with Down’s syndrome. That would be a crummy attitude,and one not confirmed by actual experience.

              And it is not what Dawkins’ original remark said or meant.

              But that’s why the discussion is veering off-topic like this:
              > Not just the resurrection of the abortion debate
              > But also “The value of Down’s syndrome lives”

              Neither of those side-bars addresses the point of Dawkins’ initial remark.

            • Luke Breuer

              Can you be more specific about what evidence has led to your position on Downs?

              As to your “morally neutral” comment, does this mean Dawkins was incorrect to call it immoral to not abort a Downs fetus?

            • Ann

              One of my best friends is the director of a service provider for Massachusetts, where Down’s syndrome adults are housed in the community.

              Her professional experience is that addressing their frustration, rage, and grief is the most important part of planning services for the residents.

              They are frustrated and unfulfilled all the time. They can see what they cannot have. They face tortures, deprivations, and sorrows that most people do not have.

              I think it’s silly of you to pretend otherwise.
              It’s the equivalent of suggesting that life is just as good for a person with sciatica as it is for a person who is pain-free.
              Only unlike sciatica, their condition will never go away.

            • Luke Breuer

              One of my best friends is the director of a service provider for Massachusetts, where Down’s syndrome adults are housed in the community.

              What are the selection criteria for who enters that community? For example, is it specifically those Downs people who have it particularly hard who are part of it, or is it a random sampling from the Downs population? And regardless of that, how good a sampling is this community? How does it compare to other communities? Are you going off of any data other than this specific community?

              I think it’s silly of you to pretend otherwise.

              Nowhere did I do this “pretending”; I suggest you judge me by the evidence provided (you laugh when I provide no evidence), instead of by… pretending. All I did was re-present some evidence which was presented to me; I have not systematically investigated Downs and made no pretensions about having done so. I asked you for your evidence, like a good skeptic.

              It’s the equivalent of suggesting that life is just as good for a person with sciatica as it is for a person who is pain-free.

              Would you claim that subjective interpretation of life cannot make the difference irrelevant? I have a friend who has fibromyalgia and he manages it terrifically well—you’d not know he had it unless you specifically asked. Many people struggle with mental disorders. Indeed, I’ve found that people who have something to struggle with often have deeper personalities and more passion than those whom life has treated just dandy. So I really don’t see your Epicureanism, your apparent focus on aponia (correct me if I’m wrong), to be as terrible as you claim. I’ve had my own struggles, but with the right support, they’ve actually made me stronger.

            • Ann

              I started to answer this post when I lost the first half of my answer by clicking on one of your links.

              Then I realized that my answer would really be debating “How nice is it to have Down’s syndrome? Does it make you stronger, and if so, is it worth it?”

              That cannot possibly be a relevant topic.
              Instead the topic is:
              “Is it natural for a parent to prefer a child who is not profoundly handicapped? Or is it all the same thing?”

              You know the cliche “What do you want — a boy or a girl?” and the answer is, “We don’t care as long as its healthy.”

              Well, the answer to “Which do you want? A child with Down’s or a healthy one?” can never be “We don’t care as long as it’s a boy.”

              I cannot extend my imagination to the nature of the controversy about Dawkins’ remark once we grant that he is talking to people who see abortion as moral.

              The closest I can come to guessing what the problem is with his remark is that it seems to disparage the lives of adults with Down’s (as I posted once before.)

              If you have some objection to what he said that is not just “No one should get an abortion.” then I’d like to hear it.
              Otherwise, I think I won’t take a lot of time quantifying how bad the life of a Down’s sufferer is.

              Dawkins’ position (and mine) is that the parents’ aborting of this embryo is completely within the area of “moral” acts, and Dawkins reminds them of that in a reassuring and supportive way.

        • I would have to agree that the study looks pretty meaningless in its flaws. I might have to look at the methodology, but I can’t imagine it being very useful in its construction.

          • Luke Breuer

            The point is more that Dawkins apparently based his assertion on zero evidence (anecdotal doesn’t count, neither does dogmatic reasoning), and that is really the damning thing. He relied on social facts, which is precisely the thing that The Problem of Contingency for Religious Belief is supposed to criticize (although the paper I link says the criticism fails).

            • Ann

              He based his assertion on his personal opinion.
              That is all any moral idea can ever be — and that is enough.

              He spoke his opinion that the parents would be entirely within the bounds of “moral” if they chose to abort the fetus.
              > We all define “moral” just as we choose.
              > We all realize that he is speaking an opinion
              > His motive was supportiveness for a plan that he FEELS would have a happier outcome.

            • Luke Breuer

              > We all define “moral” just as we choose.

              When you talk about rights of women to their bodies, it seems more accurate to view you as thinking you’re stating an objective fact, rather than merely stating a subjective opinion. If I’m merely talking about what models your behavior better, it’s the objective civil right idea and not the subjective personal opinion idea which better models you. So I honestly don’t believe that you hold to this moral relativism you so love to espouse. I think you hold to it when it is convenient, and appeal to rights when that is convenient. Can you show me that I’m wrong?

              Suppose that the majority opinion turns against you on abortion; do you think people are fully justified in making laws that screw over your opinions because hey, they’ve lost out in the public arena? Suppose you can yell and cajole and utter slurs all you want, and nobody is moved by this. Would you fault people on any grounds other than they don’t like the same things you do?

              Can you make no argument against slavery except that you don’t like it? For example, there’s the website How many slaves work for you?; are you aware of that factual content? Do you care, or do you just go about your day as you always have? Out of sight, out of mind?

            • Ann

              You say:
              “When you talk about rights of women to their bodies, it seems more
              accurate to view you as thinking you’re stating an objective fact,
              rather than merely stating a subjective opinion.”

              Yes, it does seem that way, and that manner of expressing our subjective opinions confuses shallow thinkers.

              For one thing, it tends to lead people into concluding that because they are so convinced of their own belief. then it must be not only “objective” in some way, but have been issued from God Himself.

              But just as saying
              > “I own a big dog” is really saying “my dog is bigger than some standard I have not described.”
              > and just as saying “Chocolate is the best flavor” really means “I like that flavor best”

              … so is saying “A woman ( does/does not ) have the right to control her own body” a personal opinion.

              It is a delusion to think that your opinion came to you from an infallible outside source, It reminds me of a woman I know who has so little self-insight that she said that even if she had been raised in confined quarters in Islam, she would become a Christian.

              Neither of you knows where your opinions came from or how they originated.
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              You misunderstand the nature of my claims when you say “I think you hold to it when it is convenient, and appeal to rights when that is convenient. Can you show me that I’m wrong?”

              The fact is that “women’s rights” IS my idea, and all “shoulds” and “oughts” –including this one — are my personal opinions.

              Unlike you, God did not squirt me with a giant syringe full of the opinions he wants me to hold, so I have to conclude that they are my personal opinions and not God’s (like your thoughts are.)
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              Naturally in a democracy the majority will make the laws that seem best to them. In the past, the constellation of things currently considered “moral” was different (same-sex marriage, birth control, abortion, bikini bathing suits, living with another without marriage, an unmarried woman keeping a baby, organ transplant, selling blood, etc. — and in the future it will be different again.

              I wouldn’t “fault” people for disagreeing with me, but I might try to give them reasons that my opinions are preferable to theirs.

              That’s what would happen in the event of opposing slavery. I would adduce all the reasons that I am against it.

              This action does not mean that I am not espousing a personal opinion. Au contraire, I WOULD BE speaking of my personal opinion.

              But it is not the case that personal opinions are merely floating around unattached to any kind of reasons or justifications. I might provide as much documentation as possible about the sticky throat feel of chocolate ice cream, its extra cost, its additional calories — all in support of my personal opinion.

              Surely you can understand that it is logical to say:
              “In my personal opinion, Jane is prettier than Rosemary. Yes, Rosemary has those big flashing eyes, but Jane’s nose is small and straight, and her smile is symmetrical.”
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              I am not a moral relativist.

              I have published that fact already in this thread.

              For the second time, Luke, try to keep up,
              It’s making you look like a dope

            • I’m not sure, but that may well be the case.

            • Ann

              One’s personal opinion is not (and does not have to be) based on evidence.

              Dawkins gets to express his opinion just like everyone else, and does not have to justify it.

              In his view, aborting the embryo is within the limits of what may be considered “moral,” and that is the beginning and the end of the story.

              He gives his views, as is his perfect right.

              If he chose to, he could forward some arguments that support his opinion, but he certainly does not have to. His right to have and express his opinion is not contingent on evidence or anything else.

              He no more has to justify this view than another person must justify disliking the movie Annie Hall, or not wanting to order clam chowder tonight.

            • Luke Breuer

              Ahh, so the Nazis were just advancing and acting on their perfectly justified opinions. Good to know.

            • Void Walker

              Um….

              Expression of an opinion and *acting* on an opinion are two wildly different things, Luke.

            • Luke Breuer

              Maybe for you, but I’m not sure the same is true for Ann. Let’s see what she has to say?

            • Void Walker

              20$ says she agrees with me, BREUER. (slow, ominous music begins to play)

            • Ann

              LOL! You should have made it $200.
              Naturally I agree with you.

              I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you.

            • Ann

              I think that saying “I like banana peach ice cream” is a different kind of act from ORDERING banana peach ice cream.

              How could making a statement be the same kind of event as committing an action?

              “Expressing” an opinion and “acting on” that opinion have this in common anyway — they are both fine, both okay to do (as long as the act is legal, obviously.)

              Luke, I’m just dead baffled about where you’re getting your responses.
              Do you want to get some rest and we’ll talk later?

            • Luke Breuer

              I am no longer interested in conversing with you.

            • Ann

              Oh, that is disappointing.

              Just when there was no place for your argument to go, you have to leave.

              It’s a strange coincidence, but that’s what always happens.

            • Void Walker

              This happens a lot with him….

              When an “argument” no longer holds water, he retreats. In this case, an outlandish assertion involving Nazi’s. Sheesh!

            • Ann

              Yes, that was weird.

              Religion-based assertions often have the same characteristics. They sound good on the surface. They are more like music than like words. But they dissolve into factual error or undefinable phrases as soon as they’re examined closely.

              They aren’t really intended to be “thought packages.”
              They are intended to be “reassuring humming.”

              Example:
              “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
              ~ Julian of Norwich
              https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/julian/

              What does that even mean?

            • Void Walker

              Ann I have to ask: were you religious, growing up? I certainly was….for about 12 years.

            • Ann

              No, not at all.

              My family was slack and indifferent to religion. I think they would have called themselves “atheists” but they didn’t want to bear that label.
              But really, they were mostly indifferent. The one exception was that my mother would sometimes show amusement or disdain for the more florid religious antics.

              When I went to kindergarten, I found out from the kids in the first grade that Santa was not real. I thought that over for a while, then challenged my mother with “Reindeer cannot fly'” (I don’t know why I picked that out of all the difficulties with the Santa story.) My mother was disappointed (She wanted to prolong my babyhood, I imagine), and said weakly, “Maybe it’s magic?” (I admire her for not insisting.)

              I was like “YES! I am smarter than grownups! Ha ha! I saw through their silly story!”

              It taught me that when adults tell you unbelievable magic tales of magic people who see you when you’re sleeping and who know if you’ve been bad or good — when they tell you this, they are just messing with you.

              By the time I was about 12, I knew the word for my theological position (atheism), and I used to try to challenge my little chums.

              “I don’t believe in God, you know! And if you do, you’re a dope!”

              The most common responses were:
              1) ” ——- ”
              2) “If you don’t believe in God, does that mean that you don’t believe that Jesus is the son of God?”
              (Apparently my little chums were not the smartest people on the planet.)

              In high school, I tried to self-challenge my atheism, checking out all the counter-assertions (and their evidence) I could find — on the grounds that if my position could not withstand a challenge, it was a bad position.
              But I had to wait until I was in college before I found people who could debate with me.

              I;m still kind of pathetic, haunting on-line spaces, saying, “Psst! Hey! Hey, buddy! Wanna argue about religion?”

              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

              I’m interested in your remark that you used to be religious.

              That is a hard position to recover from.
              My upbringing is calculated to produce atheists in a nice, easy, routine assembly-line fashion, but breaking out of a religious background is difficult.

              I’ve always admired the people who could do so.

            • Void Walker

              Wait….

              Hold on here….

              Santa isn’t real?! Noooo!!!

              Ehem.

              You were lucky, Ann. I honestly wish I could have been raised in such a fashion. I was brought up a YEC biblical literalist. I was taught, from a very young age, that the creation account in Genesis was *literally* true, that all the genetic diversity we currently see in our species was the end result of 8 post-flood people fucking like rabbits and somehow bringing about the incredibly variety that we see in our genus; taught that Jesus was literally born of a virgin, and could somehow transform the molecules in water to wine, generate an infinite amount of bread and fish for a few thousand starving people, etc. etc. I could go on and on. Oh, yeah. I was homeschooled. Yep.

              Recovering from this horrid, intellectually bankrupt rearing has taken a lot of time,and I’m still not all the way healed, but I’m making some damn fine progress.

              It really is a mind trip that my “science” education consisted of “God made that. Oh, and HE also made THAT. And you know what? STOP thinking. Stop fucking thinking….HE also made this, this, and that.”, the end. Good grief.

            • Ann

              Ouch!
              I feel bad about stories like that. I know the kids must have suffered.

              What happened that got you free of all that stuff?

            • Void Walker

              That’s a long story….but I will happily summarize.

              When I was 10, and still quite the devout lil’ Christian, I can recall coming home from church one evening (my family and I used to attend a megachurch called faith chapel), reflecting on the sermon. The sermon, as it happened, was on the topic of design. Basically a bunch of special pleading, wishful thinking, “ooo nature complex. Me say it designed! (grunt)” B.S. I was looking out the window of our van, gazing at a lovely sandstone formation. I looked up and saw a flock of birds soaring in the sky, and I (even at the age of 10) thought “Could the god I believe in really be responsible for all of this?” Thus began a critical examination of my faith, from the historicity of the Torah, to the life (or rather a scant, fragmented, mostly B.S “bio” instead of in depth history; we hardly know anything about the earthly life of god….ain’t that funny?) of Christ, to the problem of evil.

              It took me a little over 6 years of studying, mixed with begging God to show me that my inquiries were invalid (sometimes crying myself to sleep) and “of the devil” for me to finally wake up. It was a grueling, incredibly painful process, and I’m still, so to say, “scarred” by it. But in the long haul, I’d rather see the world for what it is than cover my eyes and hum really fucking loud. It’s a painful process, indeed, but one that *any* person invested in ascertaining the true nature of reality should take.

              So yeah. I could go into much greater detail, but that would require a small novel!

            • Ann

              Remarkable intelligence and strength of mind.

              Never regret the things you have struggled to own,
              It’s a better form of ownership than just being handed stuff. If nothing else, you value it more.

              But it is really the struggle itself that gives you the added benefit.
              It strengthens you and gives you better insight into self and others.

              I’m glad you’re here — safe on the other side!

            • Void Walker

              Thanks! It’s good to be free.

            • If you want to write it up, I can post it as one of my deconversion accounts here. Check the category list >>>>>>>>> for more dconversion accounts.

            • Void Walker

              Sure, I’d be happy to write it up Jonathan. Should I do so in email form then send it to you?

            • sure thing.

            • Luke Breuer

              This happens a lot with him….

              Do you have the evidence to back up this assertion? You’ll notice that @disqus_YaI8BCXDs2:disqus did not; she conveniently ignored responding to:

              Ann: Just when there was no place for your argument to go, you have to leave.

              It’s a strange coincidence, but that’s what always happens.

              LB: And your evidence base is, what exactly?

              This, despite the fact that she also said:

              Ann: LOL! All that debate and not a speck of evidence.

              I really have no interest in talking to people who, upon having their claims challenged, do one of the following:

                   (1) go silent on that claim/pretend it was never challenged
                   (2) refuse to retract the claim

              Clearly, if we try and defend every single claim with a mountain of evidence, we’ll not get anywhere. But if other people get to throw out unevidenced claims and yet I do not, I just don’t want to operate under such hypocritical conditions. So pick, Void.

            • Void Walker

              I’ll tell you what, little fella: get a nap, take your vitamins, and eat your vegetables. Then we can discuss the many times you’ve failed to reply to comments I’ve made, even when reminded to do so.

            • Luke Breuer

              What that comment sounds like is that you have no intention of treating me as an equal in discussion. Please tell me why I would want to continue talking to you, under said conditions.

            • Ann

              It would be impossible to tell you why you want to continue talking.
              You’ve already made it clear that you do NOT want to continue talking.

            • Void Walker

              Lets face it, you never follow through with your word.

              Time and time again you’ve claimed that you’re done coming to tippling, done engaging Andy, etc. and yet here you are. So please, don’t tell me that you’re “done”. You seem to be unable to follow through with such claims.

            • Luke Breuer

              When have I said I would never talk to Andy again, and when did I say I would never post at Tippling again? Evidence, or you stand accused of lying. I would be willing to cut off all contact with you, if the alternative is for you to hold I am a liar (without evidence).

            • Void Walker

              You’re kidding, right? You honestly don’t remember unsubscribing to Jonathans feed, proclaiming that you’re most likely never commenting again, or saying that you’re “done” talking to Andy? Really?

              Wow.

              Moreover, I find it rather humorous that “evidence” is important to you when you want to be right in an argument, but it certainly isn’t of great import when the life (hell, existence) of Christ is under the lens. Interesting.

            • Luke Breuer

              Evidence, recant, or you and I are done.

            • Void Walker

              Your denial is remarkable. It seems that Andy’s accusations of you lying or denying when you were clearly wrong are all valid, even though I didn’t want to believe it was true.

              Yeah, you’re actually making my head hurt. I think it’s safe to say that we’re done. I shall weep as a new born (sarcasm).

            • Reynoldsp

              I find it incredible that you continually ask for/demand evidence from atheists when you continually refuse to provide it yourself. We both know that if atheists provide evidence for a position you disagree with you will find some way to simply ignore it (“Correlation does not imply causation!!”). In our discussion of whether God should help those in trouble I asked you several times for evidence to support your view that He should not help and you continually refused to provide any. Evidence in support of views you don’t hold is meaningless to you. You have someone provide evidence just to ignore it when they do yet you seem to get upset when they don’t provide evidence. Can’t have it both ways, peaches.

            • Luke Breuer

              Reynoldsp: This conversation is over. I am never going to respond to any post you make on any blog. Don’t respond to any post I make on any blog.

            • Reynoldsp

              Or what? Even if you don’t respond I can still respond if I choose.

            • Luke Breuer

              You certainly can break your word. I just have no interest in talking to people who unrepentantly break their word.

            • Reynoldsp

              I am never going to respond to any post you make on any blog.

              from one post but then from a second one…

              I just have no interest in talking to people who unrepentantly break their word.

              I see….

            • Luke provides almost no evidence to support any of his faith based claims. When asked, he flat out refuses.

            • Reynoldsp

              Luke does not believe in evidence. On Randal Rauser’s blog he wrote:

              I reject your naive evidentialism or whatever it is which forces a metaphysic on me and only then requests evidence—after the deck has already been stacked. Evidence cannot even show that other minds exist!

            • Void Walker

              Why are you even bothering with Luke? He’s a profound waste of time…

            • Reynoldsp

              Good practice. When debating Christians there are all types out there, many of which are not bound by the rules of reason. One has to learn how to deal with them.

            • Void Walker

              You make a valid point.

            • Void Walker

              Also, I could give two fucks if we ever conversed again. You were a play thing for me; a means of entertainment.

            • Luke Breuer

              Thank you for finally admitting this. I was wondering.

            • Guys, calm down. You are all valued commenters here. Let’s keep it that way.

            • Void Walker

              Luke’s just a pain in the arse sometimes.

            • Thanks for the review, btw. Big time.

            • Void Walker

              No prob. Thanks for the chance to read the book. I ate it up. Fuck the trolls.

            • Void Walker

              Also, since you’re bringing up Ann (curious this reply is aimed at me), perhaps you could raise this contention with her? Kind of strange that you aren’t. She’s no stranger to engaging people, so all you need to do is just that: engage *her*, not me. Are you hungry for man love or something? The whole “I refuse to engage you”, “I’m done talking to you”, emo b.s you pull is rather at odds with your claim that you’re invested in “truth seeking”. Grow thicker skin, Luke. If you care so much for ascertaining the truth of things, get over your emotions and climb the mountain.

            • Ann

              I wonder if you’re supposed to be some kind of human shield or something — like I won’t shoot if I can also see you in the cross hairs.

              LOL! I can shoot this one around corners.

            • Void Walker

              By all means, aim right at Luke’s (metaphorical) head and fire away (metaphorically)! He makes for fine target practice.

            • Ann

              LOL!

            • Luke Breuer

              I did, first, and she has ignored me. How you didn’t get that from my comment is a little weird, but it may be due to your not really believing I am going to say something valid. It’s back to the sense I’m getting that you don’t really see me as your equal in discussing. You asked me not too long ago what you could do to make conversations between us better; I gave you ONE thing and you’ve been unable or unwilling to do it. And so, I feel like an interlocutor who merely exists for you to mock, demean, and then feel better about yourself as a result. I wonder what I’m getting out of this, and why I should continue attempting to converse with you.

            • Void Walker

              The entire reason you engage anyone, on any blog, is to glean the “truth”. It follows, then, that allowing your emotions to hinder such a pursuit is hardly logical. Sometimes getting to the root of things is a painful process, Luke. Sometimes people treat you like shit and demean you at every turn, but if your claim that you’re “truth seeking” holds one iota of merit, one would think that you’d be a bit more tenacious and a tad less emotional about it.

            • Luke Breuer

              Emotional? What is illogical about concluding that when I am not being treated as an equal, the chance of successful and enjoyable truth-seeking goes down? Remember that I can read excellent books instead of commenting here.

            • Void Walker

              Need you be given fair treatment in order to inch closer to the truth? No, you do not. Also, why should you care if said truth seeking is “enjoyable” or not, when at the end of the day, finding the truth is the most important goal? As I said, sometimes the path to the truth is suffering-laden. Giving up because you aren’t being treated as an “equal” to your interlocutor seems like a cop out, if finding the truth is even half as important as you claim.

            • Luke Breuer

              You seem to forget that commenting here is not the only way to truth-seek. It’s an optimization problem: the more you and others are irrational and only selectively care about supporting your claims with evidence, the more appeal good books have over live, but anonymous people.

            • Ann

              I agree that it is more interesting to discuss the topic with you than it is to snipe at you for withdrawing.

            • Ann

              Yes, yes, I see.

              For various and sundry excellent reasons, you can no longer continue to converse.

              It must have been those bad Nazis making you do this!

            • Luke Breuer

              I don’t like discussing with hypocrites. If I make assertions without evidence, I’m the bad person. You, on the other hand, can apparently do it all day long. I’m simply not interested in such an exchange.

            • Ann

              What?

              What I got out of this is that you have still ANOTHER excuse why you can’t continue the debate.

            • FallanFrank

              Now Schuller and the other hypocrites will call you a coward why bother Luke

            • Luke Breuer

              If someone with no demonstrated character, or bad demonstrated character, calls me a coward, why should I care?

            • FallanFrank

              because and its one thing Ive learned watching your debates a coward just doesnt enter an atheistic blog like Skeptic…your refusal to engage with Ann will I guess be looked on by some here as cowardice but I know that wasnt the reason you disengaged debating with her and is the reason why I said why bother..your a lot cooler customer than I am.

            • Luke Breuer

              I like to give people chances. If a person is going to look at our exchange and think I’m a coward, that’s actually a nice self-selection: that person can either not talk to me on that basis, in which case I don’t need to deal with a person who judges that way, or he/she can call me a coward on that basis, in which case I’ll have some evidence as to what kind a person he/she is—after of course I challenge the person to see whether (in this case) Ann is truly someone interested in evidence and reason.

              There’s really nothing I can see to worry about; I’m not gunning for office and so popularity is irrelevant. I do risk wasting time, but so did Jesus (Jn 6), as did Qoheleth (Eccl 11:1–3).

            • Reynoldsp

              Just because they have no demonstrated character or even bad demonstrated character doesn’t mean that they aren’t right.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Now Schuller and the other hypocrites will call you a coward….

              Yeah, “now” – Luke wrote that 18 days ago, eighteen days, but your psychic powers apparently informed you that “Schuller” will wait three weeks before insulting Luke for no reason.
              Fucking idiot.

            • FallanFrank

              You really show your atheistic/ left wing colours Schu. real class mate…

            • Andy_Schueler

              If your intention was to demonstrate that being a “follower of Jesus” means to spread malicious lies about your neighbor and then whine like a little bitch when you get called out for it – congratulations, you succeeded. Also, realizing that you are a fucking idiot makes one neither an atheist nor a left winger, it just means that one is not as dumb as you are.

            • FallanFrank

              You really should take control of yourself and try to stop repeating yourself…i also found the use of “bitch” aimed at a male a bit disconcerting and any females on this blog should see such an attack as demeaning to their gender…remember Ive seen and heard much worse from people I grew up with even abusing the religious..but I managed to put away childish things Schu something you havent done it seems

            • Andy_Schueler

              I don´t give a flying fuck about who you grew up with, stop spreading lies about others or fuck off.

            • FallanFrank

              anyway last post from me Bye

            • Ann

              LOL!

            • Void Walker

              Ann: to watch me slowly bleed the stupid out of a gay hater, see here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/09/06/catholic-leagues-bill-donohue-worried-that-gays-at-st-patricks-day-parade-cant-keep-their-pants-on/#comment-1597364037 Make certain that you have plenty of savory, buttered pop corn on hand.

            • Ann

              Ha!

              What an appalling/comical thread.

              The best part, of course, is your self-controlled explanation of the Latin and Greek origins of the word “homo.”
              LOL!

              Wrestling with that much stupid is a daunting task.

              You were hilarious!!

            • Void Walker

              Andy, you’re so mean. But so correct. And so entertaining.

            • Ann

              LOL!
              Andy’s kinda like my role model in the “Mean but correct and entertaining” Department.

              And you’re my Posting Hero.

            • I take it that was a compliment, right?

            • FallanFrank

              who knows you could have been away on holiday in Cuba or having an audience with Putin

            • Ann

              I think my post may have been misleading.

              I wrote:
              “Just when there was no place for your argument to go, you have to leave.
              It’s a strange coincidence, but that’s what always happens.”

              When I re-read it, I can see why it would make you think I was referring to YOU specifically.
              But I don’t really know you well enough to have made that claim.

              Instead, I was making an observation about discussion board behavior in general. I should have said:
              “It is my observation that this is a common resort in all kinds of internet chat rooms — as soon as an argument is defeated, the poster disappears, often with a feeble excuse. Your present behavior is in tune with what I think is a widely-observed phenomenon.”

              I apologize for writing so unclearly.

            • Luke Breuer

              I’ll engage you a bit more if you also clear up how you logically arrived at this:

              Ann: For various and sundry excellent reasons, you can no longer continue to converse.

              It must have been those bad Nazis making you do this!

              If it’s the case that you were actually making shit up and that I said nothing about Nazis making me do things, I’ll require an explanation for why you make shit up like this, if you want to keep talking to me. Otherwise, the story can go like this:

              Luke: Ann makes shit up, worships other commenters, and <other things Luke would have to research from Ann’s past behavior>.

              Ann: That’s what always happens, I ‘debate’ with Christians and then they go away, leaving me alone and correct!

              From what I can tell, you’re really good at ensuring that you’re correct. You do ‘debate’, for some value of ‘debate’, and Christians find it not to their interest. I’ll give another example:

              Ann: I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you[, Void Walker].

              Void: Why are you even bothering with Luke? He’s a profound waste of time…

              Void: I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you.

              Was it your “thought experiment”-imagination which sucked, or do you agree with Void? I’m not sure how beneficial a conversation with you will be, for either of us, if you go around saying stuff like what you said to Void. I get that it might have been exaggeration, but if that’s how you generally speak, I’m not sure I have the time and patience to “see through” it to the actual assertions you’re making. And thus, maybe you’re half-right:

              Ann: Oh, that is disappointing.

              Just when there was no place for your argument to go, you have to leave.

              It’s a strange coincidence, but that’s what always happens.

              Or maybe the strikethrough isn’t needed, if “argument” means the kind of thing I see you frequently doing—like with the Nazi quotation. I just cannot see the logic there, so it would appear to be some sort of emotional and/or make-shit-up argumentation. I’m not good at that kind of argumentation, so I will withdraw.

            • Ann

              Yes, Luke, you’re correct.

              I wasn’t writing a logic statement.
              I was making fun of you for bringing up Nazis.

              People often misunderstand me when I try to be funny.
              I know it’s my own fault.
              I know I’m not funny. :(

            • Luke Breuer

              It helps, when you’re trying to be funny, to laugh with the other person instead of at the other person. In order to do this, you have to actually have some sort of relationship or commonality with that person. You did not. Oh, and see the following:

              Ann: Luke, I’m just dead baffled about where you’re getting your responses.
              Do you want to get some rest and we’ll talk later?

              Who in his/her right mind would see that as anything but utterly condescending? Maybe you don’t; if so I’d find that surprising, but not impossible. Suffice it to say that if you knew anything about me, you would know that I personally find it condescending. The next step, of course, is to find out whether you would give a shit about that fact.

              Furthermore, this is only a partial response to my comment. I won’t be engaging you much, if at all, if this is all you respond to in that comment.

            • Ann

              You wrote:
              “It helps, when you’re trying to be funny, to laugh with the other person instead of at the other person.”

              My response:
              I also like laughing AT the other person.
              — — — — — — —
              You wrote:
              “Who in his/her right mind would see that as anything but utterly condescending?”

              My response:
              That is exactly what I intended this snarky comment to be.

              Also funny, but I assume I didn’t hit that target.
              — — — — — — — —
              You wrote:
              “Furthermore, this is only a partial response to my comment.”

              My response:
              I responded to the only part of your comment that was reasonably coherent. I will respond to the rest of your points if you can rephrase them to make them more accessible.

              — — — — — —
              You wrote:
              “I won’t be engaging you much, if at all, if this is all you respond to in that comment.”

              My response:
              How disappointing.
              It has been my internet experience that people who are losing the debate find (for various reasons) that they are unable to continue talking to the other person.
              Sorta like what you’re doing now.

            • Luke Breuer

              LB:

              Ann: I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you[, Void Walker].

              Void: Why are you even bothering with Luke? He’s a profound waste of time…

              Void: I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you.

              Do you agree with Void’s subsequent statements? Yes, or no?

            • Ann

              I don’t even remember the context.
              Is Void just repeating me?
              I don’t know what is being said.

              By “Void’s subsequent statement,” do you mean “I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you”?

              What did Void mean by his statement?
              I don’t recall reading it at the time he wrote it.

            • Luke Breuer

              It’s not like I hyperlinked you to the original context of each quotation or anything. Really, you think your level of laziness is conducive to productive debate? No wonder people stop debating you! But you can change your behavior, right now. You can leave the old person behind, and demonstrate to the rational person that you actually care about what is true, and care about achieving it without emotional manipulation. And yeah, condescension—which you admit to doing—is emotional manipulation. All in the name of rationality, amirite?

            • Ann

              The link doesn’t take me to anything I can recognize as “Luke’s subsequent statement.”

              Would you mind quoting any statements you want me to respond to?

            • Luke Breuer

              Ann: By “Void’s subsequent statement,” do you mean “I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you”?

              Ann: The link doesn’t take me to anything I can recognize as “Luke’s subsequent statement.”

              Get your names straight, please. “Void” ≠ “Luke”

              If the links don’t work, load all the threads in this page and use your browser’s “search” function. If you aren’t up for that, I’m not up for debating.

            • Ann

              Yes, Luke, you’re right. I typo’d the wrong name.
              I apologize.

              And I’ll be spending a whole bunch of my time searching for a statement of Void’s. But how will I know if the one I find is the one that you have hidden in your mind?

              If you actually wanted to talk, you would specify the topic — not refer to it with riddles and clues.
              This game-playing convinces me that you don’t really want to engage me in debate.

              LOL!
              I would be leery too if I were in your shoes.

            • Luke Breuer

              But how will I know if the one I find is the one that you have hidden in your mind?

              You will know because I already told you:

              LB:

              LB:

              Ann: I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you[, Void Walker].

              Void: Why are you even bothering with Luke? He’s a profound waste of time…

              Void: I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you.

              Do you agree with Void’s subsequent statements? Yes, or no?

            • Ann

              It’s hard to talk to a person who is so coy about the topic, but I shall assume that all this was meant to ask me this:
              “Hey, Ann — Do you agree with Void that Luke is a profound waste of time?”

              Answer:
              Luke, I am interested in talking to you on topics of mutual interest and disagreement.
              But so far, this part of the thread has been a waste of time.

              If we can discuss something of substance (rather than chasing around looking for the topic or whatever it is that you’re doing), then let’s do it.

              I’d be interested in your thoughts.

              But if it’s all going to be this fan dance and “Take a guess” and “Go find the topic I’m thinking about,” then maybe you’d have more respect from some other poster.

            • Luke Breuer

              “Hey, Ann — Do you agree with Void that Luke is a profound waste of time?”

              That’s part of it. I just now saw that the second comment I quoted of Void’s was erroneous; I had it as:

              Void: I can’t even make up a thought experiment where I wouldn’t agree with you.

              But it should have said:

              Void: Also, I could give two fucks if we ever conversed again. You were a play thing for me; a means of entertainment.

              The hyperlink was always correct, but not the content. When Disqus has too many comments, copy & paste with Chrome sometimes fails. Fricken Disqus. My apologies for not proofreading better! So, just to be clear, this is my final, central (non-clarifying) question for you, on this topic:

              Am I a play thing for you, Ann?

              Or is it that you were a terrible judge of character, and that you wouldn’t actually say such a thing? I need this cleared up, because I’m not going to talk to you if your answer is “Yes”. And yet, Should you answer “No”, I’m going to ask you how you could have so terribly misjudged Void. After all, we’re talking about what you can imagine with thought experiments, and if your imagination is that bad, it might be very hard for you and me to communicate. After all, to communicate one has to imagine the other person’s position.

            • Ann

              Naturally the reason I post here or anywhere is for my own amusement. If it doesn’t entertain me, I don’t persist. There really can be no other reason for participating in boards like this.

              I don’t know if that makes you a “plaything” or not, since the term is undefined, and not one that I use.

              I would like to make you my “playmate,” but it’s kind of hard to pin you down and start the game.

              As for the rest of your post, the topic is so hopelessly confused for me that I no longer even know what you are talking about.

              I suppose that a few hours of research on my part could untangle this morass of vague references, but the problem is that there is no way that any possible result would be worth that amount of time.

              Is there a topic you’d like to discuss with an absolute atheist?

              How about one of these:
              > I will undertake to demonstrate that the existence of God is impossible and not true.

              > Morality does not originate in God, or depend on God, etc.

              > Morals are personal opinions, not based on anything objective.

              > A topic of your choosing

            • Luke Breuer

              Naturally the reason I post here or anywhere is for my own amusement. If it doesn’t entertain me, I don’t persist. There really can be no other reason for participating in boards like this.

              There actually can be such an “other reason”, and it is demonstrated by Jonathan Pearce, himself, among others. Thank you for answering; based on this answer, I have no further interest in discussing with you. For, if the discussion gets hard, you’ll simple disappear. I find that the only way to truth-seek requires pushing through hard parts, through boring parts. Andy Schueler is willing to do that, The Thinker is willing to do that, and Jonathan Pearce is willing to do that, although he has the least time. You have just implied that you aren’t willing to do that. And therefore, you have guaranteed that I will not accomplish my goals in talking with you.

              Have a good day, and I hope you find someone with whom you can have play time.

            • Ann

              Oh, Luke, Luke ~

              Who do you imagine is shallow enough to be unable to see through this clumsy and juvenile effort to pretend that you are not running away again?

              How disappointing.
              What a “not surprise” that you had a wonderful reason for declining all my suggestions for conversation — including the open-ended suggestion that you choose your own topic.

              It seems so odd for you to apparently want to post, but evidently not want to converse.

              It’s a kind of trolling, I guess.

              But before you go — let me ask you one more time to select a topic or propose one of your own.
              Go ahead.
              C’mon,
              Pick one or suggest your own.

            • Luke Breuer

              Your abilities to manipulate? They suck, just like your attempts at humor. But hey, let’s talk about whether truth can be arrived at by emotional manipulation. How’s that for a topic?

            • Ann

              Oh, Luke ~

              (sad) You really are a waste of time.
              And a troll too.

              I should have listened to the people who knew this.

            • Luke Breuer

              So you say I can pick a topic of conversation and then refuse to discuss the one I propose? How dishonest of you.

            • Ann

              LOL!

              Would you mind telling me how old you are?

            • Void Walker

              I just realized something: in “recanting”, what would I be achieving (that is, a public display)? This thread is dead for the most part, and I would imagine that few, if any, actually visit it anymore.

              Think on how many times Andy has called you a liar, or made accusations that you certainly disagreed with. Did you demand that he “clear your name”? Nope. In fact, you still engage him *in spite* of the fact that he seldom ever apologizes to you.

              So, in a nutshell, it seems that you’re more concerned with your “image” on Tippling. Who cares? Dude, in case you haven’t noticed: most people here think you’re nuts. I honestly mean no offense by that, but demanding respect from people who kinda don’t respect you to begin with? That’s nonsensical. If you won’t accept the content of my recent email as sufficient, then I believe it’s safe to say that you and I won’t be engaging in public debates anymore.

              Hell, I’ve apologized to you more on Tippling than anyone ever has. Perhaps you should realize that? I miss debating for fucks sake!

            • Ann

              Void, he’s a troll.

              He doesn’t want to debate.
              All he wants is to post anything at all as long as it’s on the topic of “See how mean you are to me?”

              He is not interested in the actual content or purpose of the thread.
              He’s only interested in “See how mean you are to me.”

              It’s a disorder of some kind.

            • Void Walker

              Actually, Luke’s a different case. He can seem like a troll, and I’ll grant that he can be very FUCKING frustrating, but I honestly think he means well. He’s just kinda touchy….

            • Ann

              Well, you should know — you’ve been dealing with him for longer than I have.

              But it seems strange to me that he doesn’t write posts on anything like a topic, but instead confines himself to “See how mean you are to me” posts.

              What a bunch of tiresome drivel.

            • Void Walker

              Yeah, I suppose he’s a little thin-skinned sometimes. I’m sure that he’ll read my previous comments and say something like: “If you are going to disrespect me/my views, I have no desire to further discuss anything with you.” Maybe I’m just a bad ass (I am), but sometimes people are going to be “mean”. Sometimes they’re going to deride you. Get over it! It’s the bloody internet for fucks sake!

            • Ann

              LOL!
              Yes, you are a badass.

              What bothers me is that he has hissy fits INSTEAD of discussing the subject.
              That’s all he ever posts.

              When I offered him some suggestions for interesting topics, he complained again about how cruelly I treat him.
              Much to my surprise, he considered THAT to be a potential topic.

              He isn’t sincere — he just wants to say over and over that everyone is mean to him.

              What a crashing bore.

              I think he might be a teenage girl. This feeling of “being abused by everyone” (while still being important) is characteristic of that demographic — like the teenagers in The Hunger Games.

            • Void Walker

              Luke’s worth it for me, I guess. I tire of “debating” YEC’s. Walking cognitive dissonance machines, I tell you.

              I mainly debate because I derive much enjoyment from it. Luke claims to debate because he’s making strident efforts to “truth seek”. But really, what’s so wrong about recreational debating? It’s fun!

              So, what are your favorite Christian types to debate?

            • Ann

              Fundies and literalists.

              Yum yum.

              What’s “YEC’s”?

            • Void Walker

              I should have clarified. It’s short for (drum roll, please…) young earth creationists. I used to be one!

            • Ann

              That’s right!
              You told me you had a difficult childhood.

              You poor thing.
              It must be a burden to be a YEC — all that denial and stuff.

              But you know, you are all the stronger for having struggled free.
              — — — — — —
              Would you say that an extremist position like that is so unrealistic that it’s actually easier to get rid of it than it is to get rid of a more moderate set of beliefs?

            • Void Walker

              “Would you say that an extremist position like that is so unrealistic that it’s actually easier to get rid of it than it is to get rid of a more moderate set of beliefs?”

              I tend to agree with the above. For the literalist, their *entire faith* is based upon a VERY literal reading of the bible. If you cast doubt on that (evolution, anyone?), you’re essentially rendering their entire belief system false. It’s a very, very sad view of the world. I ought to know; YEC for 12 years. So basically, it’s easy to refute their claims. But getting them to hear you and process what you’ve said? That’s a fucking challenge. People often believe some really weird things!

            • Ann

              Yes, I’ve seen that.

              How hard is it for the very last vestiges of those beliefs to disappear?
              Does it happen quickly — all as one big event?
              Or is it more like eroding the beliefs one by one?

              Are there any lingering sequelae?

            • Void Walker

              Excellent questions. I cannot speak for all former-YEC’s, but I will speak for myself.

              “How hard is it for the very last vestiges of those beliefs to disappear?”

              It depends. For me, it was an uphill battle. Even after accepting evolution, I still wanted to believe that
              god loved me and had reasons for “using” (how the fuck do you “use” evolution, by the way?) evolution to eventuate life, in particular, us. I struggled with it daily. I prayed, consulted a number of apologist books, and thought hard about the implications. It was a slow, lingering, painful process. The thing is, a belief in A: an after life, B: intrinsic meaning and purpose, and C: a loving, cosmic architect who has you principally in mind, are VERY cathartic beliefs to hold on to. It feels like being violated when you realize that they’re false.

              In sum, it’s a journey (at least it was for me). One that bleeds you dry.

              “Does it happen quickly — all as one big event?
              Or is it more like eroding the beliefs one by one?”

              That depends, as my above answer delves into. For me, it happened over the course of about 4 years. My beliefs, as you said, eroded one by one. Quite an apt way of putting it! It was a very fucking hard time in my life.

              “Are there any lingering sequelae?”

              Certainly. I still feel the burn….it’s like a part of me is missing. I shouldn’t feel that way, but such was my upbringing.

            • Ann

              Aw, baby. I’m sad to think of you suffering.

              But still, here you are, safe on the right side.

              Hey! Just think.
              You could right this minute be singing “Kumbaya” while strumming a guitar and playing both of the chords you know.

              Then John Belushi could come down the stairs and smash your guitar.

            • Are you, perhaps, a Morrissey fan?

            • Void Walker

              Unless they go too far (racist or sexist remarks are not tolerable).

              But religion is fair game. ;-)

            • Ann

              I love debating theists.
              All races and genders welcome.

              My motto:
              “I will eat your lunch.”.

            • Void Walker

              …but you are a “man of your word”. Thing is, you never specified *how* or *where* I should recant….interesting. We seem to have a loop hole!

            • Ann

              Oh, don’t let his trolling influence you.

              You are trying to be honest and fair, but he is trying only to find a way to post remarks that all signify “See how mean you are to me.”

            • Luke Breuer

              Here, I’ll make it easy for you:

              VW: Lets face it, you never follow through with your word.

              Time and time again you’ve claimed that you’re done coming to tippling, done engaging Andy, etc. and yet here you are. So please, don’t tell me that you’re “done”. You seem to be unable to follow through with such claims.

              [two other posts]

              LB: Evidence, recant, or you and I are done.

              All you have to do is either support your claims with evidence, or recant them. Otherwise, should I continue to debate with you, you can always quote that bit above, and say “you never follow through with your word”. Or someone else can—there are people who watch my Disqus history like a hawk. Is it so hard to recant or provide evidence? Publicly? I mean, if you’ve done it so many times before, what’s one more?

            • Void Walker

              *sigh*

              Since this is the only way I’m going to enjoy further debates….

              HEY, everyone reading this! I, Void Walker, made a claim about Luke Breuer that was false.

              He has, on a number of occasions, claimed that he *may* not visit Tippling Philosopher anymore. I claimed that he said he would never again return.

              I.

              Was.

              Wrong.

              There. Happy?

            • Luke Breuer

              VW: Lets face it, you never follow through with your word.

              Time and time again you’ve claimed that you’re done coming to tippling, done engaging Andy, etc. and yet here you are. So please, don’t tell me that you’re “done”. You seem to be unable to follow through with such claims.

              VW: HEY, everyone reading this! I, Void Walker, made a claim about Luke Breuer that was false.

              He has, on a number of occasions, claimed that he *may* not visit Tippling Philosopher anymore. I claimed that he said he would never again return.

              I.

              Was.

              Wrong.

              Thanks! I’m actually not sure about the “number of occasions” (maybe 2? 3 at most?), but whatever. Now when some annoying Disqus user tries to say that I said I wouldn’t talk to you again, I can quote the above and be done with the character assassination attempts. Seriously, people love doing this, especially unregistered folks on Randal’s blog. You just saved me a bunch of grief from them! Blargh…

              So, what’s up, next? This comment on “goodness ↝ believed truth” is my choice. It seems to me a major contradiction in The Thinker’s thought, but also a possible contradiction in a significant portion of atheist thought. I don’t recall what you have said enough to say it applies to you, but hey, it might be interesting. TT responded, but it seemed pretty vague and hand-wavy to me. Given that he routinely demands (or at least demanded; he says I improved) I be utterly non-vague, I get to do the same of him. >:-]

            • Void Walker

              Well then, old chap. I shall be there shortly.

            • Ann

              LOL!

              I, for one, am LMAO!

            • Void Walker

              I am, too. Plus I’m so fucking drunk right now I can’t remember my middle name…

            • Ann

              LOL!

              Your middle name is “Excellent.”
              Void Excellent Walker

            • Void Walker

              I blush! I should think “drunkard” would be a tad more fitting, actually…

            • Ann

              Your other middle name is “Funny.”

              Your posts are a treat.

              There are a lot of intelligent and witty people posting here.
              Good board.

            • Void Walker

              Yep, I love Tippling. Fantastic site.

            • *Virtual hug*

              Sorry, I have no internet at the moment as have moved house. Will get on it!

            • Void Walker

              Dude, you have a comment link fetish. Does doing that so often make you “happy” downstairs? :-p

            • Luke Breuer

              Cite your sources, biatch!

            • Void Walker

              Ouch! Your words have stung me as the anus of a common wasp!

            • Luke Breuer

              Doesn’t that make the sting fatal? Then the recent shenanigans would be all for nought!

            • Void Walker

              I still have a (fairly) healthy pulse…I shall keep my fingers crossed that it endures through the night.

            • Luke Breuer

              But, but, the wasp! (don’t they die after stinging?)

            • Void Walker

              Wasps? Dude, you disappoint me! Bees die after stinging. Wasps can relentlessly sting. It’s a very nice little adaptation. I’ve been cluster fucked by wasps before. It hurts. Bastards don’t know when to quit!

            • Luke Breuer

              Whelp, I’m clearly not a sting master!

            • Void Walker

              Fear not! I only know as much as I do for fear of the little bastards. I’m a multi-phobic person…

            • Ann

              Nah, Not wasps.

              The stinger of a honeybee is barbed, so it pulls out of the bee’s body when it tries to withdraw.

              But that’s not the case for hornets and wasps, I believe.

            • No, that be bees. B.

            • Ann

              LOL!

            • Ann

              Void! Void!

              I think it’s a girl!

            • Void Walker

              Well, in fairness, I’ve not actually “peeked”. :-p

            • Ann

              LOL!

              Luke, I apologize.
              You deserve someone witty to talk to.

              But at least I am one great audience!

            • Void Walker

              In fairness, I think you’re quite witty. Luke is just a hard nut to crack. I’m still trying to figure him out.

              I must admit that I like the son of a bitch!

            • Ann

              Yes, I have seen you treat him with indulgence and even affection.

              The closest I have come is “feeling sorry for him.”

            • Void Walker

              I have a somewhat torrid relationship with Lukey-poo. I’m a complicated man. That isn’t always a good thing, by the way! Actually, it kinda sucks.

              In any case, I give you props for at least engaging the man.

            • Ann

              Well, I tried to anyway.
              I could never get past the whining about how mean I was to him.

              Are you implying that more experienced posters here don’t bother to engage Little Luku?

            • Void Walker

              Actually, Andy is about as experienced as they come, and he’s addicted to Luke. They’d probably make an adorable couple, btw.

              What I’m saying is that it really depends upon the kind of person you are. I was a Christian for many years, so I feel a sort of “kinship” with Luke. Yeah….that’s kinda odd. :-p

            • Ann

              Still, you rough him up every now and then.

            • Void Walker

              Yep, blame that on growing up with two VERY vicious older brothers. I love the dudes, but MAN I wanted to knock em out so many times….

              I guess I have the same (basic) feelings towards our resident theist.

            • Void Walker

              RAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!

            • Ann

              Exactly!

              LOL!

            • Ann

              That Nazi stuff was weird.

            • Luke Breuer

              but that’s what always happens.

              And your evidence base is, what exactly?

            • Ann

              Right.

              > Having and expressing opinions is a non-Nazi right
              > Acting on your opinions is a non-Nazi right
              (but not so as to break a law, which is not a right)

              So I don’t know how poor Luke got Nazis in it.
              He’s having trouble keeping up.

            • Ann

              What Nazis, dear?

              The people who want to have and express their opinions — which is the right I claimed for Dawkins?
              Or some other Nazis?
              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
              Luke, if you read the post a little more carefully, you will see that I deny that personal preferences have to be “justified,” so Dawkins is not advancing a “perfectly justified opinion.”

              He is just advancing his opinion.

              Try to keep up, Luke,

            • Void Walker

              “Try to keep up, Luke,”

              That’s rather like asking George W. to publish a peer-reviewed paper about QM….

    • Aquaria

      Just call this cretin what he is: A woman-hating sexist scumbag who values clumps of cells more than living, breathing women. We don’t matter. We can be maimed and killed from squirting out brats but so what? REAL women are less important than POTENTIAL brats to the child-raping genocidal death cult. Between needing more butts to put in their pews to more targets to rape, they need those kids, even if it kills ten or more times more women than legal abortion ever has. We deserve to die according to woman-hating filth like this, simply for having sex. They don’t give a crap about the babies. It’s the women having sex that gets them frothing at the mouth like the rabid filth that they are.

      If they don’t like being called what they are, tough. I’m not mincing words when it comes to woman-hating slimeballs like this.

      NOT EVER.

      • Ann

        Aquaria ~

        Don’t hold back! Tell us how you really feel about these guys.

        LOL!

        I wonder what their motive is.
        Surely it cannot be to increase population (“more butts to put in their pews to more targets to rape…”) because it is better from a population point of view to preserve a proved reproducer (an adult women) at the expense of a problematic offspring (who has a 50-50 chance of being a male, and a certain chance of having some other kinds of problems).
        In any population, the way to increase numbers is with adult females, who become valuable for that reason.

        I think you hit it when you suggested that their motives are the burning need to control female sexual behavior and female reproduction.

        They want to control this vastly important and even transcendent power for themselves. It apparently gives them fits of rage that women control the reproduction of the species.

        So rather than being content with women in control of this power, some men may be seeking to make women the mere passive vessels of mens’ contribution to this stunning ability.