A question of ethical source and application

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A question of ethical source and application

 I have three questions:

 

1. Can atheism really produce an ethical model that can both explain ethics, and provide ethical norms?

I analized deludedgod's essay on ethics for this question. It effectively explains ethical activity, but it has a serious lack in applicability. As that it is caused by "neuroplasticity," it can either be applied to how individuals are raised or to whole society. The application of the one leads to all actions of any individual being by nature correct (and undermines clinical insanity, I might add.) The other leads to an absolute majority.

If someone will explain how these applications of ethical conduct can be rectified so as to avoid either extreme, I will concede the point. Until then, I will view deludedgod's ethical model as lacking applicability.

 

2. What is "wrong" with social darwinism?

 I know that the whole application of social darwinism from the late 1800's to the 1950's are unpopular here. Why? Is there something inherently wrong with social darwinism that can be logically explained, or is this unpopularity just the result of a gut reaction, a conscious knowledge of being associated with social darwinism makes you unpopular, or some combination of the two?

 Related note: Why should we protect endangered species? (Social darwinism applied to preservation)

 

3. Capitalism functions by having cooperative greed work toward satisfying more demands. Given that evolution works by populations having internal conflicts and man can use capitalism, can it be said that man has evolved beyond evolvability, or that evolution can no longer influence humanity by eliminating the weak, and therefore differential reproduction is the only means that humanity can evolve further?

Does this mean that birth control should be either outlawed, or enforced by law to some individuals?

Related note: If "Man has control of his own evolution" as some scientists have said, does this mean that either we should apply eugenics laws, genetic manipulations, or both? If not, why so?

"Truth is the cry of all, but the game of the few." George Berkeley
"Truth is always strange — stranger than fiction." Lord Byron

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1. You can get a foundation

1. You can get a foundation in how evolutionary psychology explains human morality from a book like Wright's "The Moral Animal."  I'm not familiar with a more recent book on the subject unfortunately (maybe Dennett wrote something?) but since 1994 there have been huge advances in the verification of the fact that humans are hardwired with inhibitions and desires that basically determine the fundamentals of human morality.  The hardwiring can be trained away, but it's a universal starting condition for all humanity.

I'm not sure how much of this Deludedgod covers in his essay.  I haven't had the patience to read it, although skimming it suggests he views Social Darwinism as an idea that is still alive and well?

2. Social Darwinism has a long history and extensive body of work dating back to its 19th century inception under theorists like Herbert Spencer.  The problem is that (1) it was based on a 19th century understanding Darwinism that didn't incorporate more recent discoveries like game theory and the research proceeding out of reciprocal altruism that are more complete in explaining the observed phenomena and (2) it was often used politically to justify imperialist expansion and exploitation of non-European people. In short, the populist mechanism of "survival of the fittest" is too simplistic to explain the behavior of social animals.

Social Darwinism has become something of a historical footnote for humanities scholars and social scientists, though. Nobody except for a few out-of-touch theist ever bothers to base any kind of argument on it anymore.

3. In my opinion, any system of "shoulds" for the future of humanity that denies the reality of evolutionary psychology is doomed to fail.  One of our most powerful biological drives is the drive to reproduce.  Brain scans show that all primates, including humans, are hardwired to react with almost insane irrationality when they feel they are being treated unfairly.  Humans are also hardwired to sympathize--under particular circumstances--with other humans who they observe being treated unfairly. 

So any power structure that tries to deny reproductive rights to a person or group based on abstract critera is going to meet with insurmountable levels of popular resistance, both from those being denied the rights and from sympathizers with rights.  So it wouldn't work.  Also it's clearly unethical.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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1. My question was on

1. My question was on etical source AND application. Your argument that humans have pre-programmed moral norms (which I do agree with and think that Godel's Theorem of Incompleteness proves) falls apart when applied.

 All individuals may have "moral codes," but as that we have "criminals" and "psycopaths," it's pretty clear that even if the standard itself is not changed between individuals, its intensity does vary.

 Thus resulting with the same bind deludedgod's ethical source has: either applying the will of the majority to the entirety by force, or having total individual freedom and chaos. 

Again, if a means to hold a steady compromise between these two opposites can be derrived from atheism and is demonstrated to me, I will concede the point.

 

2. So the whole problem with Social Darwinism was that it was based on an incomplete understanding of evolution?

Does this mean that we should never derrive ethics from science because it is always possible that the science is either wrong or incomplete?

 If so, how can atheism organize a stable society without the use of science or by borrowing from a theistic model (resorting to conceptual plaigarism)?

 

3. 

Quote:
Also it's clearly unethical.

Unethical from what norm?

 

If the reproductive urge is really that strong, why do  humans  use condoms, birth controls, or have abortions? Apparently humans have an urge to have sex, not children.

"Truth is the cry of all, but the game of the few." George Berkeley
"Truth is always strange — stranger than fiction." Lord Byron

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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:
1. Can atheism really produce an ethical model that can both explain ethics, and provide ethical norms?

Here's my current take on morality and why it is rational for a selfish person to adopt moral values.
Selfishness is doing what makes you happy.
But we'd be happier in a moral society which only works if we all play our part. So that's the basic motivation.

The common objection to this is:
Ah, so I should only be moral in so far that it makes me happy?
It's not quite that simple.
If you are in a selfish mindset then doing moral acts won't be enjoyable.
So the idea is to change your outlook on the world, transform your psychology so that being moral is your natural habit - aquire a taste for moral activity so you enjoy it for as it is.
The selfish person has motive to make this transformation as they know that they will be a happier person for it.

However, once they have made this transformation they will no longer be selfish and will have different aims. They might find another person's life and problems worth sacrificing for, even their own life.

Quote:
2. What is "wrong" with social darwinism?

Firstly it's unjustified.
Just because that's how nature works that doesn't mean that's how we want to work. There's a damn good reason why we invented toilets rather than doing our business as nature intended!
The second reason is that it contradicts the morality I gave above.

Quote:
3. Capitalism functions by having cooperative greed work toward satisfying more demands. Given that evolution works by populations having internal conflicts and man can use capitalism, can it be said that man has evolved beyond evolvability, or that evolution can no longer influence humanity by eliminating the weak, and therefore differential reproduction is the only means that humanity can evolve further?

I think we've come to the end as far as biological evolution is concerned. Like you say, it's no longer survival of the fittest.
I think that the evolution we go through now is social and cultural.
It's the ideas that we pass down onto the next generation.
Current forms of Christianity have evolved to be more convincing to people who will pass it on compared to countless theologies that have slowly become extinct. Likewise, current strands of atheism have evolved through natural selection - the most convincing ones get passed on and the rest slowly forgotten about.


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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:
Your argument that humans have pre-programmed moral norms (which I do agree with and think that Godel's Theorem of Incompleteness proves)

Interesting...
My understanding of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem was that atleast some true statements follow from the axioms of arithmetic that cannot be proved by an algorithmic method.

How would you apply this to morality?


Archeopteryx
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Quote:

Quote:

1. My question was on etical source AND application. Your argument that humans have pre-programmed moral norms (which I do agree with and think that Godel's Theorem of Incompleteness proves) falls apart when applied.

1. Can atheism really produce an ethical model that can both explain ethics, and provide ethical norms?

Yes, but most likely not to any theist's satisfaction. The primary reason for that is that theists who believe that we are imbued with morality by god contend that morality is therefore objective or "fixed". An atheist model would hold that view that morality is fixed only to a certain extent, but is also very subjective.

It's a very complicated question to ask an atheist and most don't want to take the time to try and explain it because 1) It's very complicated, and 2) People have to be in the mood to type out longwinded responses. I'm sure there are some who could give a better answer than me, they're probably just sick of explaining it. (It's a common question and the answer is never simple).

When observing any moral situtation, the moral in question might be one that an atheist thinks is subjective or fixed. It can go either way. The morals that tend to be fixed are the ones that atheists will associate with biology/psychology. If you look at some of the more pervasive morals, such as "don't murder", or "don't steal", or "don't lie" and the like, it's not unreasonable at all to think that these couldn't be the product of biology/psychology. The Bible (and by citing it, I in no way lend it credibility) calls it the golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." The idea exists in many cultures, and a decent set of morals can be derived from it. But people don't necessarily have to be taught the golden rule (though they sometimes have to be reminded); it comes from the simple ability of being able to recognize that other people, like you, are conscious beings with similar needs and emotions.

It's a high level of thinking of thinking that is present in more intelligent animals but not in less intelligent ones. They've done various experiments to see what animals have the ability to socially recognize (for lack of a better term) others like them. Remember the story abou the little girl that fell into the gorilla exhibit and was protected until help arrived? What if it would have been the goat exhibit? The zebra exhibit? The kangaroos? Not all animals are capable of that type of recognition. This is simply because not all brains are the same.

Not all morals are biological or psychological in nature, though. Some are byproducts of the group's cultural history. For example, in India cows are considered (primarily by Hindus, but I don't think exclusively) sacred animals. The reason for this is that in the country's history, cows were once recognized as a sign of wealth and had many different uses. Because of their ability to provide milk, they were viewed as life-givers. And let's not forget that, if you believe in reincarnation, you might end up being one someday! Cows were (though not so much anymore) more valuable than money itself and were---apparently still are by some---considered members of the family who had many of the same rights as people! So of course to kill cows is a very terrible thing. Compare that to America, though, or the Christian countries. We love a good steak! We don't share their cultural background.

Another small example that comes to mind is eye contact. In western countries, it's respectful to look at someone when they speak to you, but in some Eastern traditions, it is rude to make eye contact, especially with superiors (which I believe includes even parents in some cases).

We in our modern western beliefs also place a lot of value on marriage and family relationships. But there were many native american groups with much looser family/marriage systems. If two people wanted to marry, they said so in public, there was a small ceremony and a meal to celebrate, and that was it. In our system, though, to get divorced is something frowned upon and requires a complicated legal procedure. In that society though, if the woman tossed the man's belongings out the door, that was good enough. And it was also fine.

As far as children go, many Native American communities raised children as communities. That is, the whole community raised them---not just the parents. In fact, there was one particular matriarchal system where women stayed with their original families (e.g. all sisters stayed living together under their mother) and males would then leave their own families to marry IN to the group of females. Whenever a child was born, all of the males in that group would technically have been the child's "father". If someone tried to pull off such a system in America today, they most likely wouldn't get very far before pissing someone off. (Actually, parents in 17th century England [Christian England, I might add] often wouldn't raise their own children either. They gave them to a "nurse mother" of some kind to raise the child until it could take care of itself. Then they would take it back. Could we do that today? Probably not.)

Anyway, enough of that. There are also social rules that are simply for the good of the society, such as posted directives for traffic (England and the U.S. disagree on a significant one), laws to protect businesses, ages of consent (did you know that the age of consent in Japan is 14?), and laws to protect property of various kind. These are more democratic laws that are agreed on by the society that function to serve the society in some way. A lot of rules are just agreed on! And even then, the standard can be simply arbitrary (i.e. which side of the road to drive on).

There are some rules that are completely religious, though, and that is where atheists and, say, Christians will diverge. For example, the "moral" that one should not masturbate is completely religious. It has absolutely no impact on anyone else or on society. In other words, it's a "victimless crime".There is also the issue of sex before marriage. This is also a primarily religion-derived moral. Some people commit to not have sex before marriage simply because they WANT to save themselves, and that's great. But if two people agree to have sex before being married, where is the victim? Where is the harm to society? How does this make the world fall apart? It doesn't! Religious people just don't like it. These sorts of rules an atheist will disagree with (and no doubt be labeled immoral for).

So an atheist does have a system of morals and rules of conduct, they just don't consider them to be from any divine source. They understand morals to have originated in the natural world and that soceities only use morals they deems relevant ("masturbation is a sin" is not relevant to an atheist, and apparently the "sacred cow" is becoming less relevant in India these days [and is not relevant at all in the non-Hindu U.S.]).

We do have a basis for morality. It's just not easy to explain. Asking us to explain morals is like asking us to explain sociology. We might be able to do it, but there are better things we could be doing.

This is by no means thorough, but I hope it is enlightening to some extent.

Quote:

All individuals may have "moral codes," but as that we have "criminals" and "psycopaths," it's pretty clear that even if the standard itself is not changed between individuals, its intensity does vary.

Since I've established above that moral codes are not solely derived from the individual, then this comment becomes irrelevant. Criminals and psychopaths are simply social deviants.

Quote:

Thus resulting with the same bind deludedgod's ethical source has: either applying the will of the majority to the entirety by force, or having total individual freedom and chaos.

Applying the will of the majority to the entire group would be the best answer. It's not a perfect answer, but it's how societies function. Even widely held and deeply believed morals such as "don't murder" are sometimes not shared by rare individuals. In the minds of these individuals, they are doing nothing wrong (e.g. "I'm not crazy! All of YOU are crazy!&quotEye-wink, but since murder is not condoned by the majority, those rare individuals become social deviants.

A homeless man might see fit to steal food from a vendor of some kind. After all, the vendor has plenty to spare and has significantly more money than the homeless man does. The homeless man also might be so far removed from society that he no longer feels chained to it. So from his perspective, stealing a hot dog from a hot dog vendor might not be stealing---it might just be surviving. But that goes against the majority, and so he is a social deviant.

It's easy to scoff at, but that's how societies have always worked.

Quote:

Again, if a means to hold a steady compromise between these two opposites can be derrived from atheism and is demonstrated to me, I will concede the point.

I've explained it rather simply from a non-sociologist/non-anthropologist/non-philosopher/regular schmo on the street point of view.

But like I said, theists tend to not be satisfied.

Quote:

2. So the whole problem with Social Darwinism was that it was based on an incomplete understanding of evolution?

Not only an incomplete understanding of evolution, but also a misapplication of its ideas. Societies certainly change over time, but they don't exactly "evolve".

Quote:

Does this mean that we should never derrive ethics from science because it is always possible that the science is either wrong or incomplete?

I don't think that anyone ever has "derived ethics from science" and they probably never will. Science can be used to UNDERSTAND ethics (insert theist disagreement), but not to derive or create them.

Quote:

If so, how can atheism organize a stable society without the use of science or by borrowing from a theistic model (resorting to conceptual plaigarism)?

Well, if I really wanted to be a jerk I would say that it's difficult to plagiarize your ideas from someone who is plagiarizing your ideas, but that's a whole other ball game.

Society remains stable because of an agreed upon system that is based on common needs/morals. It's not a perfect system, because deviants will always arise, but it works.

You don't need science to do this, although science is a great contributor to any society.

Quote:

If the reproductive urge is really that strong, why do humans use condoms, birth controls, or have abortions? Apparently humans have an urge to have sex, not children.

You say that as if evolutionary biologists have never heard of birth control. Richard Dawkins uses it as an example of our evolutionary progress extremely often. It's a benefit of our intelligence. We are able to regulate, ignore, or deceive our primal urges (with the help of science, I might add), which is beyond what any other animals can do, that we know of.

Our actions are not driven completely by the urge to reproduce, and I doubt that any studied scientist would say so. It is largely the case with various creatures of lesser complexity, but we have the most complex minds on the planet.

As for the final comment that "apparently humans have an urge to have sex and not children". Well, first, I reiterate the above. But second, why is sex such a pleasurable experience? Answer: Because it encourages us to do it more often. But what would that accomplish? Oh yeah. Evolution wins.

Quote:

3. Capitalism functions by having cooperative greed work toward satisfying more demands. Given that evolution works by populations having internal conflicts and man can use capitalism, can it be said that man has evolved beyond evolvability, or that evolution can no longer influence humanity by eliminating the weak, and therefore differential reproduction is the only means that humanity can evolve further?

Man has not moved beyond evolvability, that it's possible that humans are currently in "stasis", if you're familiar with the concept of punctuated equilibrium. But even if we were in a phenotypic sort of stasis, it's possible that some kind of genotypic evolution could still be occurring with no significant phenotypic changes.

*edit* Also, evolutionary science is slow and is better at studying the past than it is at predicting the future. That is to say, we couldn't recognize what phenotypic changes were taking place until somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 years after the fact (rough estimate).

*/edit* 

Trivia: Did you know that an economic theory from one Thomas Malthus was one of Darwin's inspirations? =)

Hope some part of this has been helpful.

 

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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Ditto Archeopteryx   I

Ditto Archeopteryx

 

I would like to add to the OP that the idea that there is some overarching ethical code that "originates" somewhere is absurd. I would argue that ethics is primarily an agreement among humans and doesn't derive from an external source any more than the idea of nations. We humans create all sorts of arbitrary agreements among ourselves and often disagree and fight over them. Ethics are really more of a political study than scientific and vary by culture.

For example, most people in America and Europe believe it is morally wrong to eat another human being, however there are cultures where cannibalism is accepted and encouraged. Pick your moral code and you can find someone or group of people who don't follow it.

The only "source" of ethics is the agreement between people to not do certain actions who then turn around and tell their kids not to do it because it is "wrong". Which also happens to be the same source of government, society, etc. Asking what the source of ethics is like asking what the source of democracy is. Just us humans doing what we like to do best, arguing amongst each other and forcing others to live like we think they should.

 

As for the OP's points 2 & 3, You seem to be assuming that humans MUST continue to evolve. While we will certainly change it is not a necessity that we evolve into the uberman. Evolution helps ensure the survival of a race by increasing traits that allow a species to survive. Today people do not need to be as physical, smart or strong to survive and continue to breed. I said it in another post and set off a firestorm but 10,000 years from now I would expect humans in general to be weaker, dumber and fatter because our modern governments keep those people alive to continue breeding. Take a modern person and throw them in the jungle with absolutely nothing and most of them will die. Fortunately most of us will never find ourselves naked in the middle of a jungle.

I don't think it is something we should really worry about because we won't be around and people will continue to survive (albeit a dumber fatter version). I think it would be nice if we stopped handing people money to have more kids when they can't even take care of themselves. But Social Darwinism of the 1800's causes too much misery for an end that is far in the future and ultimately pointless. 

It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and sacerdotalism.-H.L. Mencken


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Hello Sir,     1. Yes.

Hello Sir,

    1. Yes. Morality can be explained as having a biological basis from our evolution as social animals, combined with a lot of cultural influences. In an atheist worldview moral norms are develop through social agreement, and they are not absolute. 

 

    2. Social Darwinism is wrong because it doesn't comply with our current moral norms. And this happens, because moral norms derived from empathy are in contradiction with unilateral actions against those that don't harm us.

         Endangered species should be saved because it's a value loss if they go extinct. The value varies from individual to individual.

 

    3. Evolution still works. Whatever qualities lead to more offspring will increase frequency in the generations to come. Humans are capable to tamper with the process by killing themselves off (war and such) and social norms that control reproduction.

    I think there is a trend to add some form of eugenics to health services, like genetic screening at conception which can be seen as a medical treatment that ensures healthy children so it doesn't run against any moral norms.

     Using the law to control reproduction is against the current moral norms, because it's Social Darwinism (see 2).

 

            Do we need some form of eugenics to improve society? Maybe. I think the topic is very complex and a lot of rational thinking has to go into coming up with the right answer.

 

Cheers,

Richard 

A mystic is someone who wants to understand the universe, but is too lazy to study physics.


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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

Thus resulting with the same bind deludedgod's ethical source has: either applying the will of the majority to the entirety by force, or having total individual freedom and chaos.

Again, not sure what Deludedgod says, but this dichotomy is a false dilemma. Clearly we have abundant evidence that there's a vast middle ground between the totalitarian police state and complete anarchy.

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

Again, if a means to hold a steady compromise between these two opposites can be derrived from atheism and is demonstrated to me, I will concede the point.

Look around you. We're living in a stable, mostly secular nation-state. There are societies in Europe that are even more secular, and more stable.

It's an open question whether religion can be completely eliminated from a society, or whether it serves an indispensible social function. Dennett, I think, would say that it has a function, but not sure if he says it's indispensible. Maybe we'll get a chance to find out.

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

2. So the whole problem with Social Darwinism was that it was based on an incomplete understanding of evolution?

Yes. Or more precisely, it's both (1) a misapplication and (2) an incomplete version of the theory.

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

Does this mean that we should never derrive ethics from science because it is always possible that the science is either wrong or incomplete?

It sounds like you're saying here that either science is perfect and complete, or it is useless as a guide to human behavior. Another false dilemma.

Evolutionary psychology is the current method of attempting to apply evolutionary theory to human behavior. It is a very incomplete theory. But it has already yielded valuable, new insights into the reasons why people make the decisions that they do. These findings suggest solutions to human problems that go way beyond Social Darwinism in their application.

I recommend Melvin Konner's "The Tangled Wing" as a good overview of evolutionary psychology.

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

If so, how can atheism organize a stable society without the use of science or by borrowing from a theistic model (resorting to conceptual plaigarism)?

What's wrong with borrowing from a theistic model? Since religious ideas are themselves derived from the same psychological hardwiring, they can be useful evidence in the study of human moral psychology.

Yet another false dilemma: either secular society borrows nothing from religion, or it is invalid.

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

3.

Quote:
Also it's clearly unethical.

Unethical from what norm?

I know it's bad because when I think about it, the scenario sets off a response in my brain described in detail, if you're interested, in this article. As a result, a "negative emotional state" occurs, which I have learned to identify as a feeling of "unfairness." This isn't a human phenomenon--all primates go through the same response in analagous scenarios. So it also isn't learned--monkeys don't know what "unfairness" is, they just know they feel bad and want to fix the situation--it is evolved.

The neurological/physiological response is the basis of the norm. The social symbol defined by consensus, "ethic," is the application of the evolved biological norm.

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

If the reproductive urge is really that strong, why do humans use condoms, birth controls, or have abortions? Apparently humans have an urge to have sex, not children.

Now you're thinking in simplistic social Darwinist terms. Having a bunch of kids doesn't do you any good if they're not going to survive to reproductive age themselves. In fact having a bunch of kids who don't survive is a waste of valuable resources, so that reproductive strategy--as an exclusive strategy--would quickly go extinct.

The ability to assess the social/economic situation and make reproductive decisions that maximize your chances of producing offspring who, themselves, survive to reproductive maturity is the most evolutionarily advantageous strategy.

 

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Double check your facts,

Double check your facts, Beyond Saving.  The research now is showing that every human who doesn't have some kind of clinical brain defect reacts the same way to certain situations.  Brain scans show both that the reactions are (1) originated in the wiring of the brain and (2) analagous in other, non-human primates.  So human morality is not 100% relativistic; it grows out of universal, hardwired evolved social mechanisms. 

 Cannibalism is a good example.  All humans have an innate inhibition against eating other humans.  You don't have to teach a child to be disgusted by the idea of cannibalism--they are automatically disgusted as soon as they become aware of it. Various theories explain perhaps why cannibalism is a bad evolutionary strategy.

In all known instances of societies that have cannibalism, the eating of human flesh is heavily ritualized, done in controlled circumstances, and for purposes other than sustenance.  A warrior eats a piece of an enemy to absorb his strength, or an african family eats part of a dead relative's brain to retain his knowledge in the family.  But in all these cases, the culture is working to overcome the built-in inhibition.  The fact that societies have cannibalism is not evidence of moral relativism--the fact that culture has to overcome the inhibition is evidence that the inhibition is real and universal.

Of course, there are crazy people who's brains aren't working like most other people's.  And if there's a food shortage or you're trapped in the snow in North Dakota, people will do what they have to do.   But again, the fact that fellow humans are the food of last resort is further evidence of the innateness of the inhibition.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Strafio wrote: Here's my

Strafio wrote:

Here's my current take on morality and why it is rational for a selfish person to adopt moral values.
Selfishness is doing what makes you happy.
But we'd be happier in a moral society which only works if we all play our part. So that's the basic motivation.

 

This ethical model suffers from extreme vagueness. Society needs better than "generic morality" to work because it needs to be carefully defined or else conflicts over difficult "gray area" questions will lead to tensions, even if it is only internal tension within the self.

 

Quote:
My understanding of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem was that atleast some true statements follow from the axioms of arithmetic that cannot be proved by an algorithmic method.

As that no true statement cannot be defined without having an axiomatic system to define it within which themselves require yet higher axiomatic systems, it makes no sense to assert that a child is a tabula rosa because to be able to process information implies not only the ability to percieve the world, but an axiomatic system to process the information with, and all axiomatic systems if run to their logical conclusions have ethical reprocussions.

 

Archeopterx's essay solves the bind I present by going to the social extreme with a totalitarian majority and admitting it isn't perfect. I'll agree that it isn't perfect, but I must also add that as long as Theism of any sort can avoid going to this extreme and retain checks on both the individual and the majority and Atheism cannot without borrowing intellectual capital, Theism will always be the home of freedom.

Beyond Saving wrote:

I would like to add to the OP that the idea that there is some overarching ethical code that "originates" somewhere is absurd. I would argue that ethics is primarily an agreement among humans and doesn't derive from an external source any more than the idea of nations. We humans create all sorts of arbitrary agreements among ourselves and often disagree and fight over them. Ethics are really more of a political study than scientific and vary by culture.

Overarching ethics does not originate fom the absurd. If you take any one belief that an individual believes about science, society, metaphysics, etc. and extrapolate it far enough, you can extract morals from it that that individual believes all people should hold. Deep down, we all feel that what we think is absolutely right.

Every man takes the limit of his own vision for the ends of the world. 

Anonymous

 

Textom wrote:

Again, not sure what Deludedgod says, but this dichotomy is a false dilemma. Clearly we have abundant evidence that there's a vast middle ground between the totalitarian police state and complete anarchy.

 

Agreed. There is a "vast middle ground" between the two, but the problem is that there isn't a diffinitive stopping point either.

 

Quote:

What's wrong with borrowing from a theistic model? Since religious ideas are themselves derived from the same psychological hardwiring, they can be useful evidence in the study of human moral psychology.

Yet another false dilemma: either secular society borrows nothing from religion, or it is invalid.

Wrong. Anything built from borrowed intellectual capital is like a branch from a pear tree grafted into an apple tree: It's really the pear tree that deserves the credit.

Borrowing intellectual capital from Theism ammounts to nothing short of metaphysical plaigarism.

"Truth is the cry of all, but the game of the few." George Berkeley
"Truth is always strange — stranger than fiction." Lord Byron

Fixing the world, one dumb idea at a time.


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Beyond Saving wrote:   As

Beyond Saving wrote:

 

As for the OP's points 2 & 3, You seem to be assuming that humans MUST continue to evolve. While we will certainly change it is not a necessity that we evolve into the uberman. Evolution helps ensure the survival of a race by increasing traits that allow a species to survive. Today people do not need to be as physical, smart or strong to survive and continue to breed. I said it in another post and set off a firestorm but 10,000 years from now I would expect humans in general to be weaker, dumber and fatter because our modern governments keep those people alive to continue breeding. Take a modern person and throw them in the jungle with absolutely nothing and most of them will die. Fortunately most of us will never find ourselves naked in the middle of a jungle.

I don't think it is something we should really worry about because we won't be around and people will continue to survive (albeit a dumber fatter version). I think it would be nice if we stopped handing people money to have more kids when they can't even take care of themselves. But Social Darwinism of the 1800's causes too much misery for an end that is far in the future and ultimately pointless.

 

Well, I think it's more likely (that is, I think an evolutionary biologist would probably say, though I'm not claiming this with certainty) that all creatures---humans included---are evolving all the time. Every new child that is born is a genetic variation in some kind, and since evolution thrives on genetic variations, it's safe to say that evolution is "working".

The question is whether or not a certain variation is accumulating within the group and becoming a norm. Evolution is always doing something, it's just a matter of whether that something becomes common.

I'm not going to suppose that you weren't thinking of it that way, but it wasn't evident in your post, so I wanted to chip in.

 

Also, it's probably dangerous to predict where human evolution is going (although I do seem to recall hearing that people are becoming fatter and it does seem to be for genetic reasons) because, on a geological time scale, anything could happen.

What if an asteroid hit the earth sometime in the next few years? What if (gasp) we were attacked by a war-like race of aliens who planned to harvest all of our resources (assuming they could use them)? What a super evolved virus broke out and infected millions, killing rapidly while scientists rushed to come up with a vaccine before it was too late?!

Okay, so those are really cheezy examples (although the first one is apparently more likely than most people realize), but the point is that evolution doesn't work toward anything. The point of evolution isn't to make an organism "better". It's to make the organism stable. That means stable within its ecological niche, stable within its own population (this factor is apparently what limits how many offspring an organism produces), stable in itself (this is why many organisms are symetrical), etc.

Putting humans naked in the jungle would be interesting since that is almost undoubtedly where we started. It would be so oldschool! Anyway... 

If conditions suddenly arise that make modern humans unstable in some way, evolution will work to even it out. But if we're already stable, then... "don't fix what ain't broke" evolution seems to say. 

 And again, I'm not going to suppose you weren't thinking that way, I was just clarifying. I'd encourage anyone to do the same for me. I don't like to mislead.

 Thanks for seconding my morality rant!

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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I'm having trouble with

I'm having trouble with your reasoning, Valiant.  It sounds like you are asking for a perfect moral system?

If evolutionary biology teaches us anything, it is that social animals will always break the rules and indeed must be able to break the rules in order to function socially.  Morality is always a system of norms and variations on those norms.  So it will have equilibrium rather than perfection.

My perspective at least on secular morality is that it's the job of culture to try and position that equilibrium such that it generates as little injustice as possible (injustice being defined in terms of people's neurological responses). 

Also I'm confused on the "metaphysical plagiarism" thing.  Are you saying, for example, that secular morality can't use a rule like "Don't kill people" because religion already has a metaphysical copyright on that rule? 

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Quote: This ethical model

Quote:

This ethical model suffers from extreme vagueness. Society needs better than "generic morality" to work because it needs to be carefully defined or else conflicts over difficult "gray area" questions will lead to tensions, even if it is only internal tension within the self.

That's why we have laws.

But to be fair, I got the impression that Strafio was talking more about altruism, which often involves folkways (e.g. holding a door for someone) as much as it involves mores (e.g. not killing your neighbor).

I don't want to speak for him though. 

 

Quote:

As that no true statement cannot be defined without having an axiomatic system to define it within which themselves require yet higher axiomatic systems, it makes no sense to assert that a child is a tabula rosa because to be able to process information implies not only the ability to percieve the world, but an axiomatic system to process the information with, and all axiomatic systems if run to their logical conclusions have ethical reprocussions.

I dont' claim to be familiar with the theory or theories you're discussing here, but I feel like I don't agree.

A thermostat is able to perceive reality and make a decision in a very limited sense. Our brains are much more complicated and operate at many different levels, most of them involving different methods of perception or processing, but a thermostat, in a very basic and simple way, is using an axiom to make a decision about a perceived world.

"Is the temperature below/above this boundary? If no, then wait. If yes, then switch on."

The decision is not an ethical one.

An alarm clock also uses a decision-making mechanism at a basic level. Is it [this time]? If no, then wait. If yes, then make noise.

Humans have all kinds of simple processes like that, as well as some more complex ones that are built off of those simple ones, as well as some extremely complex ones that are based on the complex ones that are based on the simple ones, etc. You have no idea most of it is going on though, because your brain provides it all to you in a very user-friendly format called your consciousness. It's sort of like your computer desktop. Do you have to know binary to know how a mouse moves? Not necessarily. You just move it when you want to. Do you have to think about your heart beating? Do you have to will cells in your brain to form connections? They just do. Your brain does it, but that's not your "desktop" or consciousness. Whenever you make a decision, you place the decision on your "desktop", but it is interpreted by all of your unconscious systems as well. This in no way means that you can't go against what your body is telling you to do (i.e. contraceptives and the like), but decisions come from your brain, which is just as much a physical thing as a thermostat, it's just billions upon billions upon billions of times more complex. 

 

Quote:

Archeopterx's essay solves the bind I present by going to the social extreme with a totalitarian majority and admitting it isn't perfect.

Quit using rhetoric to slander my point. It doesn't make the society "totalitarian". That's how ALL SOCIETIES WORK. Are all societies totalitarian? You're taking sociological facts and essentially putting them on the same level as Nazi-ism. You're completely missing the point. First, because you're making an unfair comparison, and second, you're putting all social guidelines on the same level, which I specifically said is not true.

Every day that you live in society, you are forced to agree to rules that the majority---which you may or may not be a part of---has agreed on. The rules may be intrinsic (don't murder) or they may be practical (no right turn on red), but they are still agreed upon so that everyone knows that the rules are acknowledged and will be enforced. If it wasn't a law that we shouldn't murder, even if most people believe it, what's to stop someone from murdering? Even if they know it's wrong, they could always say, "Well, no one told ME that I would be punished for it!" Any given law exists for a reason, but they don't all exist for the same specific reasons. The only reason that they all share for existing is that the law promotes the will of the majority.

By your reasoning, a murdere could accuse the US Legal system of being totalitarian because it's forcing its system on him. Help! He's being oppressed!

Or how about a different rule instead. Let's say he parks in a no-parking zone, or shoots a deer out of season, or decides he wants to have a camp-out with his family in someone else's front yard, or casually tosses a rock at a national monument. Then he gets taken to court. Help! He's being oppressed by a totalitarian society!

Quit being silly. 

 

Quote:

I'll agree that it isn't perfect,

Nope, but it's what all societies do, and it's the best they CAN do.

Quote:
 

but I must also add that as long as Theism of any sort can avoid going to this extreme

An "extreme" you've puffed up in a completely silly way.

Quote:
 

and retain checks on both the individual and the majority

I'm an atheist. Other atheists exist and will continue to exist. They've always existed in the history of theism, no matter what the particular doctrine. You, when it comes to some other god that you don't believe in, are an atheist.

How are you keeping the atheists in check? How are the theistic beliefs that you don't hold keeping you in check?

Basically what you're doing is an advertising trick.

"They're toothpaste sucks (not really, it's just advertising). Try mine instead!"

 

Quote:

and Atheism cannot without borrowing intellectual capital, Theism will always be the home of freedom.

Okay, now I will explicitly say what I only facetiously danced around before:

Theism borrows from secular ideas, not vice versa. Theism can't accuse the secular world of stealing morals because the secular world already had them. Theism is the plagiarizer. There are other religions that say not to steal as well. Is one religion plagiarizing another, or did they just decide on that independently?

Answer: They decided on it independently for reasons I've already given and then they built it into their religions in the same way that the secular world builds them into their laws. 

 

Quote:

Overarching ethics does not originate fom the absurd.

He didn't say the originate from the absurd.

He said that they ARE absurd, which is something completely different.

 And true.

Quote:
 

If you take any one belief that an individual believes about science, society, metaphysics, etc. and extrapolate it far enough, you can extract morals from it that that individual believes all people should hold.

Deep down, we all feel that what we think is absolutely right.

Most of us agree, but not all of us do, for various complicated reasons that involve culture, social context, time context, etc.

The ones who don't agree with the majority are deviants. You call it totalitarianism, but it's true, and it's why societies work. Theism has it too. (That's why christianity sends people to hell).

 

Quote:

Agreed. There is a "vast middle ground" between the two, but the problem is that there isn't a diffinitive stopping point either.

Only a theist believes social rules must be so firmly fixed. 

Quote:

Wrong. Anything built from borrowed intellectual capital is like a branch from a pear tree grafted into an apple tree: It's really the pear tree that deserves the credit.

You've just disproved theism. It borrows from the natural world in any claim that it makes. It's only escape is to say what god, the soul, etc is not, which is not a positive claim of anything. It's all hogwash. 

 

Quote:

Borrowing intellectual capital from Theism ammounts to nothing short of metaphysical plaigarism.

Theism = plagiarism galore. 

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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Textom wrote: I'm having

Textom wrote:

I'm having trouble with your reasoning, Valiant. It sounds like you are asking for a perfect moral system?

If evolutionary biology teaches us anything, it is that social animals will always break the rules and indeed must be able to break the rules in order to function socially. Morality is always a system of norms and variations on those norms. So it will have equilibrium rather than perfection.

My perspective at least on secular morality is that it's the job of culture to try and position that equilibrium such that it generates as little injustice as possible (injustice being defined in terms of people's neurological responses).

Also I'm confused on the "metaphysical plagiarism" thing. Are you saying, for example, that secular morality can't use a rule like "Don't kill people" because religion already has a metaphysical copyright on that rule?

 

Yes, and yes. You've said a few points I was making in a much better way.

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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Strafio wrote: Here's my

Strafio wrote:

Here's my current take on morality and why it is rational for a selfish person to adopt moral values.
Selfishness is doing what makes you happy.
But we'd be happier in a moral society which only works if we all play our part. So that's the basic motivation.


Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

This ethical model suffers from extreme vagueness. Society needs better than "generic morality" to work because it needs to be carefully defined or else conflicts over difficult "gray area" questions will lead to tensions, even if it is only internal tension within the self.


I think that the 'vagueness' could be said to be 'realistic'.
This is how morality actually is and if you try to nail it to the last detail you will find that no such details exist.
I think the internal tension within the self is more down to 'perfectionism' - i.e. expecting morality to be precise so expecting oneself to have precise morals so punishing oneself over small details.

Better still, read Textom's last post.
I think he explains it better than me too.

Strafio wrote:
My understanding of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem was that atleast some true statements follow from the axioms of arithmetic that cannot be proved by an algorithmic method.

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

As that no true statement cannot be defined without having an axiomatic system to define it within which themselves require yet higher axiomatic systems, it makes no sense to assert that a child is a tabula rosa because to be able to process information implies not only the ability to percieve the world, but an axiomatic system to process the information with, and all axiomatic systems if run to their logical conclusions have ethical reprocussions.


I should first note that this has nothing to do with Godel's incompleteness theorem. This is more of a claim about language and questions things that would need to be in place before Godel could get started.

It sounds like you're making an argument against Locké's extreme empiricism, similar along the lines to Kant. That we need more than just perceptions to have knowledge, we need methods to organise that knowledge, to see objects as objects rather than just a collection of colours.
What's more, I can only see axiomatic systems having relevence to morality if we treat morality in an axiomatic way. I don't think that morality can be treated in an axiomatic way...


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Textom wrote: Double check

Textom wrote:

Double check your facts, Beyond Saving.  The research now is showing that every human who doesn't have some kind of clinical brain defect reacts the same way to certain situations.  Brain scans show both that the reactions are (1) originated in the wiring of the brain and (2) analagous in other, non-human primates.  So human morality is not 100% relativistic; it grows out of universal, hardwired evolved social mechanisms. 

 Cannibalism is a good example.  All humans have an innate inhibition against eating other humans.  You don't have to teach a child to be disgusted by the idea of cannibalism--they are automatically disgusted as soon as they become aware of it. Various theories explain perhaps why cannibalism is a bad evolutionary strategy.

In all known instances of societies that have cannibalism, the eating of human flesh is heavily ritualized, done in controlled circumstances, and for purposes other than sustenance.  A warrior eats a piece of an enemy to absorb his strength, or an african family eats part of a dead relative's brain to retain his knowledge in the family.  But in all these cases, the culture is working to overcome the built-in inhibition.  The fact that societies have cannibalism is not evidence of moral relativism--the fact that culture has to overcome the inhibition is evidence that the inhibition is real and universal.

Of course, there are crazy people who's brains aren't working like most other people's.  And if there's a food shortage or you're trapped in the snow in North Dakota, people will do what they have to do.   But again, the fact that fellow humans are the food of last resort is further evidence of the innateness of the inhibition.

 

I would be most interested in the study that shows ALL humans have the same response in certain situations. Seems like a pretty bold assertion. To an extent inhibitions against certain actions, such as cannibalism, might be evolutionary. However, that just further proves my point that there is no universal morality. The human evolutionary chain is pretty muddled together in modern society but there are still several areas in the world where people rarely breed outside of their immediate geographical area. I think there is a pretty clear case that some of those cultures may have fewer inhibitions.

Let us discuss Cannibalism because it is perhaps the most extreme act. In certain cultures today it is still practiced as you point out it is generally heavily ritualized. Then you claim that

"But in all these cases, the culture is working to overcome the built-in inhibition."

I would argue that there is not neccesarily a built in inhibition. Rather it is non-cannibalistic culture that creates this inhibition. Give a modern kid a cooked steak and they will eat it. Make the modern kid slice the cows neck and far fewer will do it. Most American kids reaction would be "ewww... thats gross". Do we have a built in inhibition against violence towards animals? Of course not, it is merely because of the culture they are raised in they find the sight of blood and guts upsetting. Take a child that has been taught to hunt and clean animals and they will get hungry. 

I would highly recommend reading "Collapse" by Dr. Jared Diamond which is a rather comprehensive study of cultures that failed and why they failed. He devouts several chapters to the study of cannibalism and there is evidence that some cultures practiced it quite extensively, usually eating their enemies even when other food was apparently available. None of these cultures survived, perhaps partly because of the cannibalism.

Perhaps the reason cannibalism is so rare today and heavily ritualized is because all the cultures that used it more extensively failed.

Whether some genetic disposition is to blame for some societies being more cannibalistic than others I can't say. But even if it is there have been cannibalistic cultures in the past the did not view cannibalism as immoral and therefore morality is not universal in the sense that ALL people have it and ALL cultures have the same morality throughout time. Although some moralities lend to longer lasting societies than others and to whatever extent morality is "hard wired" in by evolution cannibalism would seem to be on the losing end. Although if it is evolutionary, it is perfectly possible for cannibalism to re-emerge perhaps as a solution to overpopulation. And therefore, there is no universal morality even though there may be a prevalent morality at a given time.

It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and sacerdotalism.-H.L. Mencken


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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

 This ethical model suffers from extreme vagueness. Society needs better than "generic morality" to work because it needs to be carefully defined or else conflicts over difficult "gray area" questions will lead to tensions, even if it is only internal tension within the self.

However, this "grey area" will never be solved. It is impossible to create a set amount of morals in which everyone will adhere to. We will always have the murderer, the revolutionist, the rapist, and the pedophile.  

 Now, think of it this way. Some people are born with ideals that conform to modern society; that is, they believe that killing is wrong, rape is wrong, theft is wrong. However, some are not. If God existed, then that would mean that God has created a gene which activates randomly, where 1 in 1000 will have an ideal that differs from the society. And, that is governed purely by chance. What kind of god would leave it to chance, to completely screw your life over?


Quote:
Archeopterx's essay solves the bind I present by going to the social extreme with a totalitarian majority and admitting it isn't perfect. I'll agree that it isn't perfect, but I must also add that as long as Theism of any sort can avoid going to this extreme and retain checks on both the individual and the majority and Atheism cannot without borrowing intellectual capital, Theism will always be the home of freedom.

I suppose, that theism does have a freedom. And by that, i mean that in the USA, we can create a religion if we wanted to. If we are allowed to create our own religion, we can even make rape and murder legal. And that, by far, is freedom.

However, think of modern theism for a change. Every theistic ideal has the people tied to their god, and punished if they do not follow their god. The true word of "freedom" means that we can do what we want, even choose to disobey our god. Yet, if we do that, we are punished. Therefore, both atheism and theism lack true freedom.  


Quote:
Overarching ethics does not originate fom the absurd. If you take any one belief that an individual believes about science, society, metaphysics, etc. and extrapolate it far enough, you can extract morals from it that that individual believes all people should hold. Deep down, we all feel that what we think is absolutely right.

Again, deep down, some of us feel that murder is right under some circumstances, some of us dont. Its a matter of perspective and personal interpretation of life.

Quote:
Every man takes the limit of his own vision for the ends of the world.

Anonymous

Before God, visions from man are completely pointless.

Anonymous 

Quote:
Agreed. There is a "vast middle ground" between the two, but the problem is that there isn't a diffinitive stopping point either.

I dont see a middle ground. 


Quote:
Wrong. Anything built from borrowed intellectual capital is like a branch from a pear tree grafted into an apple tree: It's really the pear tree that deserves the credit.

This is akin to saying "Einstein shouldnt be credited for the foundation of General relativity, Newton should. Therefore, let us cut Einstein out of our scientific textbooks, and refer to Newton every time a student asks who came up with the theory of Relativity". Absurd, isnt it?

Although the basis might have been the same, the conclusion differs. This is why your so called "stealing" isnt really applicable in modern society. Although it is true that Newton came up with Gravity, we shouldnt credit him for every discover ever made that uses his theory as a base.

Quote:
 

Borrowing intellectual capital from Theism ammounts to nothing short of metaphysical plaigarism.

So, every scientist ever alive is a plagiariser?

 Every scientific discovery ever made, has been built upon a previous discovery. This is how the world works. You know something from the previos generation, and you build upon it. Without it, we would be denied of our previous technological and philosophical advancements, and therefore unable to progress. If your theology were put into practice, we would still be in the dark ages. 

I'm infallible. I don't know why you can't remember that.


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Beyond Saving wrote: I

Beyond Saving wrote:

I would be most interested in the study that shows ALL humans have the same response in certain situations.

Joshua Greene of Harvard is at the forefront right now in scanning the neurological reactions of humans exposed to moral scenarios. The main article on his work is in the Lancet--can't give you a link because it's subsctiption only, but here's the citation:

    Quite reasonably emotional.
    The Lancet, Volume 369, Issue 9556, Pages 90-91
    G. Watts

And here's a link to the popular science version summarizing his work in Discover magazine.

There are also some researchers working in the area of what they call "neuroeconomics" that combines game theory with brain scans of non-human primates to figure out how primates make social decisions. So far the evidence consistently shows that primates across the spectrum react to similar scenarios in the same ways.

Beyond Saving wrote:

To an extent inhibitions against certain actions, such as cannibalism, might be evolutionary. However, that just further proves my point that there is no universal morality.

I hope I didn't argue that there's a universal morality. Maybe I did. If so I really should have argued that there's a universal baseline of inhibitions and rewards that shapes primate behavior (including humans). Humans construct morality out of that set of hardwired behavioral responses.

Beyond Saving wrote:
The human evolutionary chain is pretty muddled together in modern society but there are still several areas in the world where people rarely breed outside of their immediate geographical area. I think there is a pretty clear case that some of those cultures may have fewer inhibitions.

I'm not aware of a study that looks into this question--most of the current stuff is still pretty new. The primate studies, though, suggest that many of these behaviors have been built into primates for millions of years. I don't know whether a few thousand years of relative genetic isolation would be enough to extinguish them.

Beyond Saving wrote:
Let us discuss Cannibalism because it is perhaps the most extreme act. In certain cultures today it is still practiced as you point out it is generally heavily ritualized. Then you claim that

"But in all these cases, the culture is working to overcome the built-in inhibition."

I would argue that there is not neccesarily a built in inhibition. Rather it is non-cannibalistic culture that creates this inhibition. Give a modern kid a cooked steak and they will eat it.

I'm not aware of a study that investigates the question of when exactly children develop an inhibition against cannibalism. Obviously very young kids don't understand enough about what's going on to have the inhibition. Research does say (Bettleheim working off of Piaget) that there's an age when kids become really fascinated by the question of cannibalism, around the start of concrete operational phase when they are learning the "rules" of being human, and that accounts for the popularity of symbolic cannibalism and predation in children's stories. But to really find out if the inhibition is innate, you'd have to do something like offer hungry kids at various ages a choice between a plate of macaroni and a cooked dead human body and see which one they choose. Seems unlikely.

But the idea that humans have a built-in inhibition against cannibalism is continuous with the observation that most other mammals on earth--who definitely aren't learning inhibitions from culture--have the same inhibition.

Beyond Saving wrote:
Make the modern kid slice the cows neck and far fewer will do it. Most American kids reaction would be "ewww... thats gross". Do we have a built in inhibition against violence towards animals? Of course not, it is merely because of the culture they are raised in they find the sight of blood and guts upsetting. Take a child that has been taught to hunt and clean animals and they will get hungry.

Dave Grossman's book "On Killing" is an excellent survey of the research explaining how and why humans are inhibited from killing other humans. Again, the inhibitions work (and fail to work) exactly the same ways across time and cultures.

Then Levi-Strauss has some persuasive ideas about how the culture of inside-outside groups explains human ambivalence toward killing particular animals, and how those inhibitions intersect with cannibalism, predation and hunting behaviors.

Beyond Saving wrote:
I would highly recommend reading "Collapse" by Dr. Jared Diamond which is a rather comprehensive study of cultures that failed and why they failed. He devouts several chapters to the study of cannibalism and there is evidence that some cultures practiced it quite extensively, usually eating their enemies even when other food was apparently available. None of these cultures survived, perhaps partly because of the cannibalism.

I haven't read this particular book of Diamond's, but I believe that such cultures have existed. Again I think we don't have enough data to conclude that people could have evolved away from inhibitions against cannibalism, or if this is an example of a runaway "toxic meme" as Dennitt would call it. And I'd be surprised to hear if Diamond's book has any examples of humans routinely preying on other humans either (1) without ritual or (2) within the kinship group. There's an extensive body of research on the apparently universal human phenomenon of different attitudes toward humans within vs. outside the home group.

Beyond Saving wrote:
Perhaps the reason cannibalism is so rare today and heavily ritualized is because all the cultures that used it more extensively failed.

The mathematics of game theory certainly suggests that cannibalism, for mammals, is not a sustainable evolutionary strategy. For one thing, preying on your own kind makes it extremely difficult to find a mate. Mammals don't generally reproduce quickly enough to survive when they do that (as opposed to say, for example, insects).

Beyond Saving wrote:
Whether some genetic disposition is to blame for some societies being more cannibalistic than others I can't say. But even if it is there have been cannibalistic cultures in the past the did not view cannibalism as immoral and therefore morality is not universal in the sense that ALL people have it and ALL cultures have the same morality throughout time. Although some moralities lend to longer lasting societies than others and to whatever extent morality is "hard wired" in by evolution cannibalism would seem to be on the losing end. Although if it is evolutionary, it is perfectly possible for cannibalism to re-emerge perhaps as a solution to overpopulation. And therefore, there is no universal morality even though there may be a prevalent morality at a given time.

Right, I agree. Genetics is not destiny. Culture and behavior can always overcome a genetic or inborn predisposition.

But that is not the same as saying that the predisposition wasn't there to be overcome in the first place. If we decided that left-handedness is immoral and took all left handed people and put a nun with a ruler over each one to make him/her use the right hand all the time, there would be no left-handed people anymore. But that doesn't mean that left-handedness is not innate in humans.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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I wanted to make a separate

I wanted to make a separate post on what I think is the key to the interaction between biology and morality. 

Textom wrote:
Genetics is not destiny.  Culture and behavior can always overcome a genetic or inborn predisposition.

But that is not the same as saying that the predisposition wasn't there to be overcome in the first place.  If we decided that left-handedness is immoral and took all left handed people and put a nun with a ruler over each one to make him/her use the right hand all the time, there would be no left-handed people anymore.  But that doesn't mean that left-handedness is not innate in humans.

So to say, as I think the OP is implying, that a morality based on science has to blindly follow human behavioral evolution is a strawman argument.  I think most people thinking about morality and biology in light of the recent research believe not that morality should *follow* biological tendencies in lockstep, but rather that morality should take biology into account.  For example:

Consider the moral principle "Thou shalt not steal."

Religion says people steal because a talking snake tricked our ancestors into eating from a forbidden tree.  Stealing is bad because God says so, and the solution to the problem is to tell people not to steal.  If they steal they are rebelling against God, so appropriate penalties are things like repaying five times over, having a foot or ear cut off, or being sold into slavery (the actual Biblical penalties).  And then, of course, you go to hell after you die.

Evolutionary psychology says people steal because opportunism is an evolutionarily advantageous behavior.  We know stealing is bad because creates a negative emotional state in the victims and those who sympathize with them.  So we try to stop stealing both by inculcating a culture that works against the human tendency toward opportunism, and imposing laws with penalties that satisfy the negative emotional state created by the crime in the first place.

So as an evolutionary psychologist, you don't accept the strawman argument "humans are innately opportunistic, therefore we should tolerate stealing."  The actual argument is "humans are innately opportunistic, therefore culture must work against stealing."

And at this point you may be going, "okay, what's the difference--it's the same result."  But that's only the first example.  Try out this one: 

"Thou shalt not commit adultery"

Religion: people commit adultery because of the talking snake/tree thing.  It's bad because it's a sin and God hates sin.  The way to stop people commiting adultery is to tell them to stop.  If they don't stop, stone them to death and send them to hell forever.  

Biology: people commit adultery because cheating sometimes is an evolutionarily advantageous reproductive strategy.   Adultery is only bad when the people involved experience a negative emotional state.  Because it doesn't directly involve society, adultery is not a criminal act.  Some laws protect the rights of the victim(s) (especially children), but it's up to the people involved to sort out penalties.

This is where the shortcomings of religious morality really show up.  Adultery is wrong because God says so, and the penalty is death.  There's no rational foundation for the principle, and it goes against an inborn tendency (the reproductive advantages of cheating) that has been evolving for millions of years as though you could just command it away. 

How much more functional is it to base a morality on your evidence of what is actually happening in front of you instead of a bunch of 1400 year old fairy tales and inflexible absolutes?  A morality based on biology is not anarchically relativistic because it has a fixed starting point: universal human nature. 

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Textom wrote: I'm having

Textom wrote:

I'm having trouble with your reasoning, Valiant.  It sounds like you are asking for a perfect moral system?

If evolutionary biology teaches us anything, it is that social animals will always break the rules and indeed must be able to break the rules in order to function socially.  Morality is always a system of norms and variations on those norms.  So it will have equilibrium rather than perfection.

My perspective at least on secular morality is that it's the job of culture to try and position that equilibrium such that it generates as little injustice as possible (injustice being defined in terms of people's neurological responses). 

Also I'm confused on the "metaphysical plagiarism" thing.  Are you saying, for example, that secular morality can't use a rule like "Don't kill people" because religion already has a metaphysical copyright on that rule?

If history has demonstrated anything, it's that people act according to how they think ethical norms are determined. I could write a ten page paper just off of the top of my head, but I think 9/11 proves my point clearly enough.

"Metaphysical Plagairism" is just my way of saying that people will, over time, act increasingly consistent with their views on ethics and how their ethical views connect to the rest of their values/origin views, etc. For this reason, Metaphysical Plagiarism cannot be used to construct a functional society in the long run.   

 

Quote:
Religion says people steal because a talking snake tricked our ancestors into eating from a forbidden tree.  Stealing is bad because God says so, and the solution to the problem is to tell people not to steal.  If they steal they are rebelling against God, so appropriate penalties are things like repaying five times over, having a foot or ear cut off, or being sold into slavery (the actual Biblical penalties).  And then, of course, you go to hell after you die.

No. Stealing is bad because God says so, but the solution isn't telling man not to steal because that will make them steal more. Christians have a little doctrine called "Total Depravity" that I sugggest you get farmiliar with.

Quote:
How much more functional is it to base a morality on your evidence of what is actually happening in front of you instead of a bunch of 1400 year old fairy tales and inflexible absolutes?  A morality based on biology is not anarchically relativistic because it has a fixed starting point: universal human nature.

If it takes a bunch of "1400 year old fairy tales" to get inflexible absolutes to build society upon, so be it.

Have you read Brave New World? If not, do so and tell me if you can find any fault with society as Huxley portrays it (and I do believe that Huxley was an Atheist, too.)

Likewise, what's wrong with Orwell's 1984? If you can find no fault with them, you have proven my point for me, and if you can see what is wrong with them, on what basis do you give a value judgement?

 

 

"Truth is the cry of all, but the game of the few." George Berkeley
"Truth is always strange — stranger than fiction." Lord Byron

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Valiant wrote:

Valiant wrote:
If history has demonstrated anything, it's that people act according to how they think ethical norms are determined.

I'm not even sure what this sentence means. Maybe you could explain this with an example?

Valiant wrote:
I could write a ten page paper just off of the top of my head, but I think 9/11 proves my point clearly enough.

Those guys were acting under the influence of a toxic cultural meme, contrary to what we know about human nature.

Here's a link to an awesome video by Dan Dennett about toxic cultural memes.

Even the most simplistic version of natural selection makes it clear that flying a plane into a building instead of getting married and having children is clearly not an adaptive behavior.

Valiant wrote:
the solution isn't telling man not to steal because that will make them steal more.

So you're arguing here that the commandment "thou shalt not steal" actually makes people steal more? That suggests it would be better to get rid of the commandments then, right?

Valiant wrote:
Christians have a little doctrine called "Total Depravity" that I sugggest you get farmiliar with.

Ahh, our buddy Augustine of Hippo again. He's the author of more toxic memes than anybody in the history of Christendom.

The doctrine of total depravity is not consistent with the scientific evidence. In fact, the evidence clearly contradicts it. Thousands of psychology studies, neurological research and primate studies--not to mention our own experience--demonstrate that humans are born with inhibitions and reward systems that guide behavior in directions that are often altruistic and self-sacrificing, as well as directions that are opportunistic and selfish.

In contrast, the evidence for the doctrine of total depravity is the personal opinion of a 5th century reformed frat boy.

Hmmm, which one is more convincing?

Valiant wrote:
If it takes a bunch of "1400 year old fairy tales" to get inflexible absolutes to build society upon, so be it.

I don't get this statement at all. What is so important about inflexible absolutes that makes them worth putting up with a broken moral system?

First, let me make it clear that I'm not arguing against absolutes.  That's a common Christian strawman: moral relativism.  Every moral system has to have absolutes in order to function.

I'm arguing that it is better to base your moral absolutes on (1) what we can actually find out about how people are and what makes them happy and unhappy instead of (2) some 1400 year old fairy tales.

And you yourself started out talking about Godel's incompleteness theorem, Valiant.  Do not the ideas derived from this theorem suggest that any inflexible system is inherently incomplete? 

Valiant wrote:
Have you read Brave New World? If not, do so and tell me if you can find any fault with society as Huxley portrays it (and I do believe that Huxley was an Atheist, too.)

Likewise, what's wrong with Orwell's 1984? If you can find no fault with them, you have proven my point for me, and if you can see what is wrong with them, on what basis do you give a value judgement?

I'm an English professor. I have read and taught (in college) both these books numerous times. If you believe that these authors endorse the societies they portray, you are missing the point of these books completely. They are cautionary tales, meant to discourage people from going in these cultural/political directions.

Have you read them? These books are scary because they offend our innate human sense of justice (and that's the basis of the value judgement--the negative emotional state that all normal humans get when exposed to the scenario). These novels depict people with normal inhibitions caught in systems of toxic memes being forced to act in ways that go against their genetic natures.

The argument that anybody would endorse the political/cultural systems of these two novels on the basis of any scientific principle is a bald faced strawman.

(For the record, Huxley was a Hindu Vedantist convert, and later a sort of generic mystic. Orwell was an Anglican his whole life, even to the point of insisting on the Anglican burial rite in his will.)

 

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

 I have three questions:

1. Can atheism really produce an ethical model that can both explain ethics, and provide ethical norms?

I analized deludedgod's essay on ethics for this question. It effectively explains ethical activity, but it has a serious lack in applicability. As that it is caused by "neuroplasticity," it can either be applied to how individuals are raised or to whole society. The application of the one leads to all actions of any individual being by nature correct (and undermines clinical insanity, I might add.) The other leads to an absolute majority.

If someone will explain how these applications of ethical conduct can be rectified so as to avoid either extreme, I will concede the point. Until then, I will view deludedgod's ethical model as lacking applicability.

I generally find that ethics based on interests and consequences much more rational than sets of rules cooked up thousands of years ago by religious men.

Of course there is a problem with godless morality, that it is harder to justify once you take away the overseeing power and threat of eternal punishment. But there are ways round this. First, humans have a natural capacity for morality given that we are communal animals there was a necessity in evolution that provided us with this capacity. Second, it is rational to be moral, to serve our own long term interests.

I'd recommend you read Hobbes' Leviathan (with a big pinch of salt and looking out for irony) and Mill's On Liberty.

Sir Valiant wrote:
 

 

2. What is "wrong" with social darwinism?

 I know that the whole application of social darwinism from the late 1800's to the 1950's are unpopular here. Why? Is there something inherently wrong with social darwinism that can be logically explained, or is this unpopularity just the result of a gut reaction, a conscious knowledge of being associated with social darwinism makes you unpopular, or some combination of the two?

 Related note: Why should we protect endangered species? (Social darwinism applied to preservation)

Ok, Darwinism does not justify Social Darwinism. This is because darwinism is the selection of genes not the selection of individuals or groups. We have evolved to a stage where we have our own minds that act independently of our genes instructions. Bare in mind that our genes don't always work in our best interests but only in the interests of their own replication. So, since we have the capacity for acting on our own thoughts and capacities for morality, there is no justification for social darwinism.

Sir Valiant wrote:

3. Capitalism functions by having cooperative greed work toward satisfying more demands. Given that evolution works by populations having internal conflicts and man can use capitalism, can it be said that man has evolved beyond evolvability, or that evolution can no longer influence humanity by eliminating the weak, and therefore differential reproduction is the only means that humanity can evolve further?

Does this mean that birth control should be either outlawed, or enforced by law to some individuals?

Related note: If "Man has control of his own evolution" as some scientists have said, does this mean that either we should apply eugenics laws, genetic manipulations, or both? If not, why so?

The fact that we have evolved beyond the imminent needs of survival does not justify say killing off the weak i.e. social darwinism. You also have a misunderstanding of evolution: it is at the gene level, if one gene has a better chance of survival than another allele, then it will be more likely to be passed on. That is all.

We can perhaps justify the artificial selection against harmful genes (hereditary diseases) on the bases that they cause suffering. This can be done through the process of pre-implantation selection whereby several eggs are fertilized and tested for the dodgy genes, a zygote is then selected that doesn't contauin the dodgy gene.


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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

If it takes a bunch of "1400 year old fairy tales" to get inflexible absolutes to build society upon, so be it.

Why on earth would we want those?  I can think of nothing worse for societies built on contingencies.  

 


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Wyzaard wrote: Why on earth

Wyzaard wrote:
Why on earth would we want those?  I can think of nothing worse for societies built on contingencies. 

Because, if you had actually read my post, I was drawing a contrast between religious "farytale inflexible absolute" and atheistic "1984 or Brave New World totalitarian socialism.

I believe, however, that someone skimming my post for talking points would be hard-put to understand authors of such greatness.

 

Jacob Cordingley wrote:
I'd recommend you read Hobbes' Leviathan (with a big pinch of salt and looking out for irony) and Mill's On Liberty.

I have not read On Liberty. Project Gutenburg link (if classic, otherwise Library of Congress #) please?

I have read an abreviated/translated version of Hobbes. I pity my friend who wrote a report on the original version for English, but I fail to see how English Divine Right of Kings justification interests you (THAT wasn't irony to be sure.)

Textom wrote:
(on "If history has demonstrated anything, it's that people act according to how they think ethical norms are determined.&quotEye-wink

I'm not even sure what this sentence means. Maybe you could explain this with an example?

Sure. What you call a "cultural meme" and what I call an "ethical norm" are two ways of understanding the same thing. "Ethical norm" is just the metaphysical terminology, "cultural meme" is the sociological terminology.

As far as I can tell, however, your terminology in reference to 9/11 adds a n ability to cast judgements on other memes than your own "Toxic cultural meme," I believe.

The whole point of this thread was that both of us make ethical value-judgements because we are human. The question is why? As far as I can tell, I am the only one that can actually use a value-judgement (even though I didn't when you did in reference to 9/11) and that ability is only because of my belief in what you (plural) have dubbed "1400 year old farytales" which is itself, another value-judgement by insinuation.

Here is the rub: an ethical value-judgement requires an absolute to judge others with in a way that determining one's own actions does not. Until someone explains to me how things could work otherwise short of adding an implied "from my point of view" to all statements -and I know that you as an English Professor will appreciate how much that would inherently weaken language- every time I hear an atheist make a value-statement, I will ask "according to what absolute?"

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"Truth is always strange — stranger than fiction." Lord Byron

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Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:
As far as I can tell, however, your terminology in reference to 9/11 adds a n ability to cast judgements on other memes than your own "Toxic cultural meme," I believe.

The reason why he calls these other memes toxic is because they are harmful.

Quote:
Here is the rub: an ethical value-judgement requires an absolute to judge others with in a way that determining one's own actions does not.

Here's a way of looking at it.
We can look at the world from a third person perspective or a first person perspective. The third person perspective is the one when we see thing happen to other people and first person is when we're living our own lives.
When looking through the third person we see the bigger picture.
Rather than look for individual gain we tend to want what's best for society as a whole.
This can contrast with the desires and compulsions we feel when living life in the third person.

This is how our 'value judgement' can go against our own actions.
That doesn't mean we require an absolute.
Even if we did, that absolute would be naturally defined, i.e. determined by our needs and nature.
Trying to pin it on some Christian style God is just asking for the Euthyphro dilemna.


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Okay, thanks. It makes

Okay, thanks. It makes more sense now.

Valiant wrote:
an ethical value-judgement requires an absolute to judge others with in a way that determining one's own actions does not.

Agreed.

Valiant wrote:
Until someone explains to me how things could work otherwise short of adding an implied "from my point of view" to all statements -and I know that you as an English Professor will appreciate how much that would inherently weaken language- every time I hear an atheist make a value-statement, I will ask "according to what absolute?"

The absolute that I am arguing for as a basis for moral questions is the universal responses of evolved human behavior.

How this would work is explained in posts above, but maybe I can make it more concise.

1. Humans evolved to get along, because we survive better that way. So we all have a set of hardwired behaviors that help us get along.

2. For the first time in history, science has the tools to discover and describe these human behavioral universals. We can use our empirical understanding of these behaviors as the absolute basis for a consistent moral system.

2.5 Religious/traditional moral systems fail because (1) they are based on an innacurate or incomplete model of human behavior (e.g. Total Depravity doctrine) and/or (2) they are inflexible in the face of a changing environment.

3. A moral system based on studies of evolved human behavior is more robust and functional than those based on a human tradition--such as a religion--because these baseline behaviors are universal to all humans on earth regardless of the influence of culture, and they accomodate new environmental pressures.

 

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Textom wrote: The absolute

Textom wrote:
The absolute that I am arguing for as a basis for moral questions is the universal responses of evolved human behavior.

And now I get an "ah-ha" moment. Unfortunately, things aren't that simple from a psychological standpoint.

Any psychologist worth their salt will tell you that individual minds have radically different ways of thinking, but until they constitute "unstable or disturbing" tendencies they are not crazy. Different "ways of thinking" however, does constitute to "different ethical norms." (I use the metaphysical terminology here because, as I will explain, the cultural influence is exactly what is at issue.) 

The only way that these "ways of thinking" can have identical evolutionary biological ethical disposition would be if it is culturally and environmentally determined and that the child is a tabula rosa. If the child is a "blank slate," there are no inborn "evolved responses," if the child is not a blank slate, then the cultural memes have something else to be accountable to and are not importaint.

Either way, ethics based on psychology is inherently weak. Studies (Milgram, Zimbardo) show that all people have the capacity for unethical activity, but no corresponding study that I am aware of shows an equal affinity for the reverse.

That fits just dandy with my own doctrine of total depravity, but it kinda puts a hitch in any ethics system you can produce, especially as that the study tested several cultural memes and wound up with almost identical results.  This also addresses Strafio's objection.

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Valiant wrote: no

Valiant wrote:
no corresponding study that I am aware of shows an equal affinity for the reverse

I think the problem I'm having explaining this, Valiant, is that you're not aware of much in psychology.  There is a huge number of studies that show how altruistic behavior is evolved in the animal kingdom, both as part of reciprocal schemes, and for no apparent reason that we can yet determine.

Go to google and type in "evolved altruistic behavior" and start reading.  Since you obviously haven't followed a single link I've posted so far on the evolution of universal moral behavior (or you wouldn't still be making this argument) I'm not going to bother this time.

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Sorry if someone's

Sorry if someone's mentioned it already, but I'm going to dust off one of my old chestnuts in debate: 

THE EUTHYPHRO DILEMMA!

Which basically asks, "Is what is moral mandated by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is mandated by God?"  If the former is true, then morality is universal anyway, and exists without God, so is therefore simply being handed down by God from a higher source, which implies that God is not omnipotent, and that morality by no means come from him.  If the latter is true, then morality is arbitrary.  It's simply something God settles on whimsically, and it could change tomorrow if he wished it.  If God had decided that rape and child-murder were moral and that charity were immoral, then that is what those who base their morality on God would have to follow.

So, whether you're a theist or an atheist, morality is a confusing subject.  It's hardly cut and dried simply because one believes in a sky daddy. 


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Textom wrote:

Textom wrote:
I think the problem I'm having explaining this, Valiant, is that you're not aware of much in psychology. There is a huge number of studies that show how altruistic behavior is evolved in the animal kingdom, both as part of reciprocal schemes, and for no apparent reason that we can yet determine.

Reading that made me very happy. I wrote a post with two cited research experiments to prove my point, and the best you can come up with for refuting it is poisoning the well with my own ignorance...while producing no citations of your own and knowing nothing about my education.

DrTerwilliker wrote:

THE EUTHYPHRO DILEMMA!

Which basically asks, "Is what is moral mandated by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is mandated by God?" If the former is true, then morality is universal anyway, and exists without God, so is therefore simply being handed down by God from a higher source, which implies that God is not omnipotent, and that morality by no means come from him. If the latter is true, then morality is arbitrary.

The simple answer is yes.

What is right is moral, and what is right is mandated by God. The paradox forgets that "moral" isn't defined on it's own, but as a reflection of God's character. The whole paradox is averted because in the starting premise, it is both at the same time, not one or the other.

 

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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:
Reading that made me very happy. I wrote a post with two cited research experiments to prove my point, and the best you can come up with for refuting it is poisoning the well with my own ignorance...while producing no citations of your own and knowing nothing about my education.

He pointed out that he earlier gave you two links that disproved this claim of yours:
Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:
no corresponding study that I am aware of shows an equal affinity for [altruism].

Like he said, if you'd read it then you still wouldn't be trying to press through your 'total depravity' premise.

Quote:
This also addresses Strafio's objection.

How does it?
Even if you were right in that we have no moral instincts, that had no relevence whatsoever to the point I was making.
I pointed out that we recognise that some societies are nice to live in than others, so a selfish person could judge right and wrong from a third person perspective by what made the society a nicer place for them to live and a not so nice.
This would be the standard for morality - what they need for a society.
They might not always pull their weight because when they act, they are acting from their first person desires and impulses rather than their third person ideals. It would be a matter of rational recognition that they need to do their bit to uphold their society too otherwise it would fall to pieces for everyone.

Quote:

The simple answer is yes.

What is right is moral, and what is right is mandated by God. The paradox forgets that "moral" isn't defined on it's own, but as a reflection of God's character. The whole paradox is averted because in the starting premise, it is both at the same time, not one or the other.


The two are mutually exclusive.
You went with the answer "Morality is defined by what is in God's character" which means that morality is arbitrary.
God will do whatever is in his character, whatever that might be, and you will call that 'good'.
If God was to start raping and murdering then by that definition of morality then you must declare rape and murder to be morally good.


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Valiant wrote:

Valiant wrote:
Reading that made me very happy. I wrote a post with two cited research experiments to prove my point, and the best you can come up with for refuting it is poisoning the well with my own ignorance...while producing no citations of your own and knowing nothing about my education.

Actually, I took the references to Milgram and the Standford Prisoner experiments as signs of your lack of background knowledge in psychology.

The Milgram and Zimbardo experiments did show that people have consistent reactions to those situations, but these 40+ year old studies can't address the question of whether those responses were instinctive or socially conditioned. They took place long before MRI scans--which can be used in comparisons across cultures and even species--were ever used to study moral decisions. So they're irrelevant to the point at issue here.

If you want my citations, click back to the first page of this thread and follow the links embedded in my posts from last Thursday and Friday where I first addressed this issue.  My sources are current.

 

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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

DrTerwilliker wrote:

THE EUTHYPHRO DILEMMA!

Which basically asks, "Is what is moral mandated by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is mandated by God?" If the former is true, then morality is universal anyway, and exists without God, so is therefore simply being handed down by God from a higher source, which implies that God is not omnipotent, and that morality by no means come from him. If the latter is true, then morality is arbitrary.

The simple answer is yes.

What is right is moral, and what is right is mandated by God. The paradox forgets that "moral" isn't defined on it's own, but as a reflection of God's character. The whole paradox is averted because in the starting premise, it is both at the same time, not one or the other.

 

 

Um, yeah, sorry, but that really doesn't "avert the paradox." By your answer, if God happened to have a different character, he would define morality as something else, and could, should he change his mind at some point.  And how are you to know that God is moral, and what he decides is good is good, when he is permitted to decide it?  What makes God moral, when there is no ultimate morality to judge him by?  How can you have any confidence that your actions are virtuous and correct when they are subject to the whim of one being?  

You can't accuse atheists of having precarious morality when a theist's is no less so.   


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Sir Valiant for Truth

Sir Valiant for Truth wrote:

I have three questions:

 

1. Can atheism really produce an ethical model that can both explain ethics, and provide ethical norms?

 

2. What is "wrong" with social darwinism?

 

Related note: Why should we protect endangered species? (Social darwinism applied to preservation)

 

3. Capitalism functions by having cooperative greed work toward satisfying more demands. Given that evolution works by populations having internal conflicts and man can use capitalism, can it be said that man has evolved beyond evolvability, or that evolution can no longer influence humanity by eliminating the weak, and therefore differential reproduction is the only means that humanity can evolve further?

4. Does this mean that birth control should be either outlawed, or enforced by law to some individuals?

Related note: If "Man has control of his own evolution" as some scientists have said, does this mean that either we should apply eugenics laws, genetic manipulations, or both? If not, why so?

1. Yes, evolutionary altruism based on societies evolving to live in harmony with one another and also kin selection, which is based on organisms evolving to preserve their genes in relatives and members of the same species both explain why we have a tendency towards "moral" behavior. Selfish preservation of ones own genes at the expenses of others is a competing evolutionary pressure which we describe as "immoral".  There is no such thing as absolute morality; and it would be ridiculous to the point of begging the question to assume that there wa.

 2. Social Darwinism is based on popular misunderstanding of evolution and applying it to idiotic, racist ideas of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Evolution itself merely explains biological changes, it does not provide a mandate for imperialism or racism that people during that era fostered.

On endangered species: Endangered species should be protected because they exist in an ecosystem web to which we are connected. We depend on a stable ecosystem to survive. Animals should also be preserved for scientific study, and to preserve our planets ecological diversity.

 3. Nonsense. All organisms are affected by evolutionary pressures at all times. Humans just have technology to shield us from the environment, making our environmental evolutionary pressures smaller than in times past. But humanity is still evolving to suit its environment, and any trait which allows humans to produce more copies of their own genes will always be selected, regardless of who lives and who dies. This is the way it works for all species on the planet, for evolution doesn't require death, only a reproductive advantage.

4. No, and I don't see why birth control should be outlawed. Birth control allows us to not waste precious resources on unwanted babies, and at the same time allows us to have the pleasure , empowerment and theraputic benifit of sex.

5. Eugenics are another outdated idea using biological evolution to justify racist ideas. Like social darwinism, it is based on a misunderstanding of evolution, and should be discarded. Genetic modification, though a sticky path for us to travel, will be travelled, and I believe it will result in better conditions for most of humanity. We owe it to ourselves to transcend natural evolution and make the most out of our bodies and brains.