what’s the problem with objective morality?
If you’re going to continue insisting, “No, there IS no objective morality”, then you’re really only faced with one alternative. Whatever the majority believes at any given time, that is “morally right”. Period. If the majority changes it’s “analysis” to conclude the opposite is “right”, then boom, the opposite is suddenly “moral”. No one was “morally wrong”, the day before, when everyone was doing the inverse of today, they were every bit as much “morally right”!
Do you honestly not see the problem there….?
This Christian blogger has a bit of brick wall in their way when it comes to thinking about morality. Unfortunately, because humans have conceptualised the notion of feeling something is the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ thing to do, and have given these feelings a label called ‘morality’, this Christian thinks the notion of ‘morality’ actually physically exists.
I’m not clear if she/he thinks that there is a written book of rights and wrongs that some invisible creature can refer to, or if all the rights and wrongs are chiseled in a sacred tablet or a golden plate, but she/he definitely appears to be under the impression that humans refer to some magic and as yet unseen reference point for our so-called ‘moral’ instincts.
Let’s consider a few example areas:
1. A few hundred years ago it was morally good to have slaves. Slave owners were giving stupid people a place to live and food to drink. Slave owners were probably even giving people access to religious instruction and maybe even education. Slave owners were morally good people just following the rules in the Bible. Today, most people agree that slave owning is morally bad.
2. In Saudi Arabia, it’s morally wrong for women to drive cars because they should be secluded and protected. It is also morally wrong for them to leave their home without a male guardian. In the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia’s attitude towards women is considered morally wrong.
3. Some people think it is morally wrong to deny terminally ill people in serious pain the right to end their lives. Other people think it is morally wrong to give terminally ill people in serious pain the assistance they require to end their lives.
I am going to keep on insisting there is no objective morality. That’s why humans all over the world and throughout history have had different views about what is the best course of action in any given situation. And I don’t see a problem with this. Why do so many Christians?
I’ve never fully understood where the Christian is coming from they talk about morality. Their own book is a horrid blight on most things civilised people consider moral, so upon what, exactly, are they basing their pleas?
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The true and perfect nature of the moral god God that is radiated out at them personally. Clearly.
Ah, I see. Foolish me.
Sorry, that’s not what either Christians, nor a good many other people for that matter, are necessarily basing their belief in objective morality on. Hate to break it to you.
In fact, one needs not believe in religion whatsoever in order to see the basic logical necessity of morality being indeed objective, regardless of whatever source you believe that objectivity to ultimately be. Your entire article does nothing but the same routine of mock-and-emphatically-declare. You make no arguments, offer no proof, simply say “Here they believe this is moral, yet there this believe that is moral”… Well, no DUH!
In the end, your not answering any of the real questions, only theoretically resigning yourself to a world where the question is simply debated ad infinitum, a perpetual process of “figuring out the best course of action in any given situation”. I know you think this is all perfectly fine and good and acceptable, because it is in a sense what we actually observe happening throughout history, but you’re STILL ignoring the plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face fact that the REASON humanity has always contested and debated over what is “better”, is because there exists within each an every one of us the innate concept of “better” or “worse” in the first place..
Thus, even the “sliding scale of subjective morality”, is itself a testament to objective morality, because even the fact that there is a “scale” at all, a felt need to compare and contrast, to “measure” as tildeb says, to make even make moral judgments of any kind in the first place, requires an explanation as to why this is so… “Survival of the Fittest” does not require sliding scale of “better/worse” for anything beyond the primary goal of survival. That’s your ethic in the end, for an evolutionary universe. I know I’ve already raised these points elsewhere in comments on this same blog, yet I haven’t heard you even try to respond to any of them beyond the familiar chiding of “religion” and repetitious atheistic axioms….
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I’m sorry, but in your analysis do you ever consider the nature of neurological processing power in the equation? Have you, perhaps, ever looked at cognitive behavioural studies of primates, and in particular, studies of empathy and a sense of fair play? Does primates having a very strong, very well developed sense of fair play (and empathetic thought) lend itself to concluding neurological processing power, or an invisible culturally-specific deity, as the primary source towards a sense of what is right and what is wrong to an individual and a group?
Those primates with the “strong sense of fair play” could still rip your arm off if it thought you were taking something from it unjustifiably, without shedding a tear. But either way, you’re still leaning upon unacknowledged assumptions of an objective morality, even if it’s cloudy, because in your argument itself you’re assuming that “fairness” should be universally recognized as qualitatively “good” and “right”…
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You didn’t answer the question. Am I to assume from this evasion that you have never once factored into your analysis neurological processing power and how it correlates to an organism’s capacity to feel empathy and assess the consequences of its actions in relation to itself and others?
You see, this is why Christian babble of “morality” is generally dismissed as nonsense by rational observers. You’re incapable of even absorbing into your thinking those evidences which challenge your juvenile perspective on reality. You “think” there is an objective base to all things. Surely 1 + 1 = 2, forever and always, right? Actually no, I can show you that 1 + 1 = 1.085, and here’s the proof:
1 foot + 1 inch = 1.085 feet
Word of advice: dive into the multitude of behavioural studies on primates. Google is your friend. Devour these studies. Consume everything you can and then analyse the evidence from an impartial position. If you are honest with yourself, which is unlikely given your performance so far, you will come to see the truth of the matter. “Morality” (a vaporous word in and by itself) is merely an extension of empathy, and empathy is nothing but the capacity of an organism in possession of enough neurons to order events over even a short period of time to predict and appreciate the consequences of any given action. Good behaviour is pragmatic. Not only that, its selfish. Doing good is promoting that behaviour which you wish done to you, or to others in the group. It’s the Golden Rule, first articulated (in a form that has lasted) in the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, long before your god was ever even invented by Canaanite hill villagers, but whose origins are lost in antiquity.
Neurological processing power + selfishness = a formative sense of good (positive) and bad (negative) behaviour.
It’s not complicated.
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“Surely 1 + 1 = 2, forever and always, right? Actually no, I can show you that 1 + 1 = 1.085, and here’s the proof:
1 foot + 1 inch = 1.085 feet”
The fact that you would even contemplate offering this as an argument to be taken seriously speaks volumes of the broader semantic games and logical pretzels you rely on for all of your “solid evidence”… Indeed, Evolution is predicated on “1 + 1 does not equal 2”. Thank you for at least admitting that…
…and still ignoring the evidences presented in primate behavioural studies.
Let me know when you want to discuss reality, OK?
You REALLY want me to take the time to dismantle and lay waste to your claim that: “Neurological processing power + selfishness = a formative sense of good (positive) and bad (negative) behaviour. “…?
Because I could spend all day just showing you how such an explanation only comes back to bite you in the end…
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That’s funny. I for one would like to see you try, especially after that bizarrely silly comment you made about apes earlier.
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Which one was that? You seem to think every word I say is “bizarrely silly”, since as a person of spiritual belief I am by default “deluded” in your eyes…
I don’t perceive any of you this way, even though I might argue vigorously against the ideologies of Evolution and “New Atheism”, I recognize that none of you actually came up with these arguments yourselves, so I have tried to refrain from any personal judgments upon your own intellects or character…
Honestly I’m not even sure where to begin with the whole “neurological processing power of primates” thing, because my goodness, we could start by simply looking at the fact of all that “processing power” in and of itself!
Think about brain… Any brain, of any creature.. Think about those neurons and synapses, dendrites and axons… Electrically-excitable cells which connect every part of the creature’s body to the brain. The proposition alone that such a fantastic type of cell, with so many intricate parts, simply mutated into existence over millions of years is simply absurd if left to nothing but blind chance! Indeed, “neurological processing power” does not testify to the process of random biological evolution, regardless of whatever grand epic stories of “rendezvous” Dawkins might have woven….
However, if we’re talking “empathy”, I suppose someone could probably make a pretty decent case that in a lot of ways primates can be viewed to display more consistent attitudes of empathy with each other than even humans do, so I don’t know where that would leave us trying to defend our status as the “most highly evolved” in regards to “morality”…. 😉
I sincerely don’t think you’re thinking it through, when you try and boil “morality” down to basic pragmatism. being “empathetic” to one’s neighbor and practicing the Golden Rule is NOT always the most “pragmatic” option in our thinking, or our experience.
Just look back and reflect on how you have all been characterizing people who believe in the “invisible Fairy God”. Would you honestly say you’ve been terribly “empathetic”….? Are you spending time writing articles about the laughable ignorance of such people and beliefs because you find this to be a exercise of the “Golden Rule”, a pragmatic approach to helping further the positive life experience of us all…?
“Would you honestly say you’ve been terribly “empathetic”….? Are you spending time writing articles about the laughable ignorance of such people and beliefs because you find this to be a exercise of the “Golden Rule”, a pragmatic approach to helping further the positive life experience of us all…?”
Yes, you’re right. I only got into blogging against Christianity because of the awful things Christians were saying about gay people and the position of women. Empathy and the Golden Rule are in fact my primary motivators in this arena. You can read more here:
Yes, I did manage to take a look at that earlier, and have honestly been hoping to talk about some of those issues, since I would hope to be able to demonstrate that in the very least, not all Christians believe in that the Bible actually advocates things like misogyny or the persecution of homosexuals…
Why, certainly. Please proceed….
Could you also let me know which primate behavioural studies you’ll be citing and drawing your evidence from so I can read them first so as to appropriately assess your “laying waste“ to the premise that neurological processing power correlates to an organism’s capacity to feel empathy and assess the consequences of its actions in relation to itself and others. There are dozens of studies from just the last decade, so please be specific. Thanks.
(and which one of these studies goes far as to attribute the capacity to feel empathy and assess the consequences of their actions as actual examples of “morality”….? You find me one John and I’ll read it…)
Oh, by your bravado I figured you were well versed in primate behavioural studies, at least for the last ten years.
How are you going to “Lay Waste” without having even a functioning understanding of the science which you claim you can debunk?
You don’t seem to get it John… I’m not rejecting the various behaviors observed in said studies, my “bravado” is in the rejection of the underlying premise that these observed behaviors form a basis of proof for the claim that morality is subjective. You’re arguing PAST the question, once again….
You want to get into the weeds of primate behavioral studies, but don’t want to even venture an explanation of your own as to how something as basic to the theory of evolution as the development of a single neuron cell (or any other cell for that matter) could actually occur. You’re shrinking away from the obvious, again and again. My goodness. Look at an eyeball! You’re telling me that billions of accidental genetic mutations had the staggering luck of falling perfectly into place so that all these cells would grow into an organ that actually refracts light and turns it into a picture that your brain can interpret! Oh, just reflecting upon this alone pushes my “bravado” that much further…
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Ah, so now you don’t want to discuss the facts revealed through the science. You don’t want to “lay waste” to these awkward studies.
Back to LaLa Land then for you.
“La La land” is in fact where brains and eyeballs and neurological processing capacity all magically mutate themselves into existence.. Open your eyes. You’re the one who won’t talk “science” at it’s most basic and fundamental level.
Oh dear, you’re a Creationist, huh?
OK, I see this is going nowhere.
(I love how often I get the “oh dear” treatment in these conversations… Do you REALLY think it’s so very effective, to use such opaque little “shaming” tactics? As if I’m gonna sit here and feel foolish because someone is going to shake their metaphorical head and talk down to me?)
YES! Proudly so. Unashamedly so. Unapologetically so. It is the only acceptable conclusion I have found to be left after years, and years, of examining the claims and explanations offered by both sides……
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Would you prefer it if I just laughed at you and your ridiculous Creationist beliefs?
I can do that, if you like…
I know I’m several comments back, but your last comment said, “(and which one of these studies goes far as to attribute the capacity to feel empathy and assess the consequences of their actions as actual examples of “morality”….? You find me one John and I’ll read it…)”
Now you’re dismissing all the studies John suggested. This is a serious case of moving goalposts when defeated.
I’m not dismissing the notion that there is plenty of scientific evidence to support the claim that even animals can show behaviors that resemble things like “empathy” or “sharing” and the like, (in fact I’d say that all kinds of animals actually show an AMAZING degree of intuition towards moral realities… Dogs for instance, are incredibly astute in perceiving all kinds of human emotional and moral considerations that would probably assume to be far beyond their scope…)
What I believe I said to John was that these observations do nothing to prove that this is all that “morality” actually IS, because it is simply inserting that very assumption into the beginning, which is not all that surprising. since this is basically what “evolutionary science” does over, and over, and over again…
Yes, like I said, changing the goalposts.
It’s not “changing the goalposts” to simply point out the fallacious tactic of saying “Please, prove to me how an evolutionary explanation of morality is false using only material written by people who assume Evolution to be from the start”….
It’s called “circular reasoning”, and not all what I would consider to be an “even playing field” of intellectual honestly…
Um, no. If there was any basis of truth to your claims (which I’m still not even entirely sure what they actually are) then you should be able to demonstrate a distinct difference from empathetic thought and this thing you are calling “morality.” You should be able to demonstrate that one is not in any way a progenitor of the other. Failure to do so simply leaves the facts as they are: the more neurological processing power an organism has the better it is at predicting the future consequences of its actions, and weighing actions as being fair or not fair. The more processing power an organism has the better defined this notion is.
It’s not complicated.
Now, researchers have shown repeatedly, time after time, in experiment after experiment the clear evolutionary path of human notions of right and wrong behaviour. Your task is to present contradictory evidence, which is to say, participate in the scientific method and falsify the claim. No one is stopping you from doing so. You can start at any moment you choose. You even boasted that you could, remember?
So, can you?
Of course you can’t.
“Now, researchers have shown repeatedly, time after time, in experiment after experiment the clear evolutionary path of human notions of right and wrong behavior.”
Really… Really!? Pointing out that primates display behaviors like “sharing for mutual benefit” is really an explanation of how we as humans got all the way to the point of declaring things like murder, theft, to be wrong and punishable by the group? I didn’t see that anywhere in the studies you referred to. You’re making huge leaps, and lots of them. Yes, animals can “share”! Guess what else? Most animals take care of their own young, fight off predators, etc.! Do you really think you’re presenting some sort of data here that even a small child doesn’t learn in preschool…?? The idea that such similar behaviors/traits have been actually passed along from lower organisms to higher ones along the path of evolutionary progress IS THE VERY THING BEING ASSUMED BY THE THEORY ITSELF, but it has NOT been OBSERVED, in a lab, and “proven”, as you repeatedly claim, as if modern geneticists are able to peel back our DNA and point to this segment of the chain and say, “Here is the gene for sharing!”, and “Here is the code that tells us not to kill one another”, or “this combination of amino acids is why we feel bad for someone other than ourselves…”
You keep jumping ahead, ASSUMING the proof you’re offering is just that, when I’m saying it isn’t! Not by a long shot. You’ve got observed behaviors. Clap clap. You DON’T have evidence of the “evolutionary path”, understand? That’s the part you assume to be true, and then flip it around and demand to be countered. That’s why it IS circular reasoning, from top to bottom…
You’re an idiot.
and there it is…… 🙂
Funny how every single one of these exchanges seems to end with a frustrated little outburst of name-calling. Time out for you Johnny until you can play nicely with the other boys and girls….
So there’s a repeating pattern here which you experience whenever you attempt to engage with other human beings, huh? That pattern should teach you something about yourself…
I gave you a clue as to the answer you’re looking for…
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Yes, plenty of those “repeating patterns”, for sure! Unfortunately, I’d say they don’t at all undergird your claims, but quite the contrary.
You can’t even explain to me, (and I’ve asked plenty of the others this same thing, to which they have no answer) as to why, if Evolution is indeed the “obvious truth”, why in fact it is so important that everyone even believed in it? If belief in God is nothing but a “delusion”, as Dawkins loves to say, then this “delusion” is every bit as much a product of evolutionary genetic progression as is “altruistic behaviors” and everything else! EVERYTHING is “evolved behavior”, even “false beliefs”. Even the “religion” you’re so illogically threatened by. It’s ALL just the evolved behaviors of evolved organisms, so why would you feel the need to correct them, (or correct ANY behavior, of ANY organism) if they’re all equally just as valid from an Evolutionary perspective? There’s nothing in the Evolutionary universe to suggest that believing in make-believe things can’t have it’s own evolutionary advantages.
The bottom line, you hold to a litany of values and beliefs and assumptions about humanity and society, which according to Evolution itself, have no basis in even being inquired about to begin with. Every term you use to even begin an argument about “altruism” or whatever else, is itself importing an prior assumed worth to the term. All you’re really doing is pushing the assumed objective morality further and further back, further and further underground, but it’s still there, underpinning everything else you’re arguing…
But if you need a hand, as it appears you do, perhaps you can start with the 2012 study by Proctor,Williamson, de Waal and Brosnan, “Chimpanzees play the ultimatum game”
Then you might to go back a bit to the excellent 2003 study conducted by Sarah Brosnan (her seminal paper), “Monkeys reject unequal pay”
Like I said, though, there are literally dozens of studies from just the last ten years, so if you’d like to choose some other peer-reviewed published work, just let me know, OK.
I would also guide you to de Waal’s 2007 paper, “Putting the Altruism Back into Altruism: The Evolution of Empathy”
It’s very good.
Please address this, and by all means, lay waste to it.
I look forward to reading your work…
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1. An evolutionarily parsimonious account
(cf. de Waal 1999) of directed altruism
assumes similar motivational processes
in humans and other animals.
2. Empathy, broadly defined, is a phylogenetically
3. Without the emotional engagement
brought about by empathy, it is unclear
what could motivate the extremely
costly helping behavior occasionally observed
in social animals.
4. Consistent with kin selection and reciprocal
altruism theory, empathy favors
familiar individuals and previous cooperators,
and is biased against previous
5. Combined with perspective-taking abilities,
empathy’s motivational autonomy
opens the door to intentionally altruistic
altruism in a few large-brained species.
(I’m sorry… where in there does it actually go so far as to connect this to the original issue? i.e. MORALITY? You’ve shifted the entire discussion, cleverly slipping in the assumption that “empathy” = “morality”, when in fact that is one of the very things in question. I do get so fatigued by this tactic of talking in circles, quoting person after person, only to act as a smokescreen for quietly inserting your own hypothesis in as the presumed established fact while no one is looking…)
Try reading what was actually written: “Morality” (a vaporous word in and by itself) is merely an extension of empathy, and empathy is nothing but the capacity of an organism in possession of enough neurons to order events over even a short period of time to predict and appreciate the consequences of any given action.”
Now, why are you simply copying points without explanation? That is rather bizarre behaviour. Did you even read this particular study?
Seems I have to lead you by the hand here. Your task is to categorically prove empathy is not the formative cognitive skill leading to this vaporous term we call “morality.” Here, you must also establish a clear and definitive definition of what you are calling “morality,” and then establish clear grounds how it is not in any way connected to the ability to empathise.
So, there you go, lay waste…. I look forward to reading something actually tangible.
You are not “leading me by the hand”, you are in fact taking what is the proposed theory, and blatantly inserting it into the end as established fact! These studies you’re referring to ALL do this same thing. ASSUMING from the get-go that ““Morality” (a vaporous word in and by itself) is merely an extension of empathy, and empathy is nothing but the capacity of an organism in possession of enough neurons to order events over even a short period of time to predict and appreciate the consequences of any given action”, and then getting to the end and going, “See, look what I’ve just proven!”
You really need me to stop and articulate “a clear and definitive definition of what you are calling “morality” at this point? (I suppose I must acknowledge that you haven’t been a participant in the previously ongoing discussions on objective morality vs. subjective morality, so ok…)
Simply put, I am arguing that morality is indeed an objective thing. That is, that what is wrong is wrong and what is right is right, regardless of whether we as humans (or primates or any other animals for that matter) feel any sense of empathy or guilt or altruism or pleasure or pain or pragmatism or not….
This is why despite our massive differences of opinion on these matters, I suspect that we still would somehow agree that if a person were to take someone out into the middle of the woods at night, and rape and murder them, feeling no remorse, feeling no empathy, feeling nothing but the need to do what they did, and no one else in the entire world knew what happened, no one reported the victim missing, and no one else’s life or society was impacted by this action in the slightest way, it would still be, emphatically, objectively, wrong….
Primates don’t put each other on trial when one ape kills another, nor do we as their more highly-evolved elder brethren put them in monkey courts for the violation of any moral law, perceived or fixed, nor for any violation of some “code of altruistic” behavior etc. Primates can share, and primates can kill, and all is equally “just and fair” in the animal kingdom, regardless of what similarities we might note between their behavior and our own…
In the end, everyone, in their actual day-to-day experience of life as a human living in a society of other humans, appeals to an underlying framework of objective morality, even if only subconsciously, even if this runs completely counter to the explanation of origins they might vehemently defend in online discussions…. 😉
Excuse me, but do please come back to reality. The task before you is to prove empathy is not the formative cognitive skill in this vaporous thing we call “morality.” You have to prove it is not simply a more developed capacity to define positive and negative behaviour, which correlates directly to neurological processing power.
Again, I look forward to reading something actually tangible…
Show me, with evidence to support your claim, that brown capuchin monkey’s severe aversion to unfair treatment (and favouritism to fair play and justice) is not evidence for the evolution of human notions of “moral” behaviour.
The “evidence to support my claim” is found by simply looking no further than the plain fact that “aversion to unfair treatment” is still nowhere close to summarizing all that is encompassed by the way we apply the term “morality” in the context of human civilization. Once again, your argument as a whole merely lends credence to the notion that “fairness” is itself a virtue that we all instinctively lean towards, but without explaining WHY “fairness” is something that should be enforced and instituted by some type of over-arching political or social mechanism. Sure, capchin monkeys can display “aversion to unfair treatment” individually, but do they punish one of their own for being “unfair” to another, or in the end are they simply fighting over food/territory/mates, etc…?
Evolutionists can of course point to evidences of this behavior or that, in humans or animals, but Evolution itself offers no underlying explanation to the WHY of any of it. The cold, evolving universe ultimately shows no reason for even existence itself being preferable to non-existence, meaning over non-meaning, survival over extinction, fairness over unfairness. All that is, simply is.
I have explained “Why,” you just don’t want to acknowledge it. It’s pragmatic selfishness, remember? The Golden Rule? Ring a bell?
Now, a while ago you said:
I’m wondering, have you forgotten this, or are you just warming up to this impressive, awe-inspiring, future feat… Because you know, you’re boring me to tears here
Oh, and do please begin citing peer-reviewed research to support whatever claims you’re trying to establish. We are dealing with recognised facts here, remember…
(translation: “Please begin citing “research” from the we-assume-evolution-to-be-fact-from-the-outset club”… )
“Recognizing” something as fact, unfortunately for the “peers”, does not make it fact!
Yes, evil scientists, they have an agenda, you know? It’s a devious, global plan to thwart U.S. evangelical Creationists.
That there is an “agenda”, there is indeed little doubt… 😉
But “evil”? What is this word you speak of? If we are all nothing but elaborate extensions of the cause and effect of a staunchly materialistic universe, then of course, “evil” is itself a most non-existent thing…
Wouldn’t it be so nice if we could all actually look at the world in which we live and find nothing that struck us as “evil”…
Yes, I remember the glorious time back in Eden when fire never burnt living flesh, and water never drowned babies.
(….?) That’s a new one! Never heard fire or water used as examples of “evil” before. Of course, it begs the question, why is flesh being burned objectively “bad”, or why does it ultimately matter in an accidental, evolving universe if a baby drowns? After all, there is nothing to say that a baby has any more intrinsic value than an asteroid colliding with the sun, or an ant being crushed by a rock…
That should be ‘raises the question’.
Fine. “raises the question”. Do you have any reason why babies shouldn’t be drowned, or flesh being burned is “bad”, or just grammatical corrections?
You’ve demonstrated many times on this thread that you simply don’t care about reasons , reject what’s true, disallow evidence from reality to play any arbitrating role in causal claims, and are not willing to comprehend a series of mutually supporting reasons. You have your lunacy and your beliefs that support it with a patina of cherry picked data points, and you’re quite happy to expound upon them and scorn all else. All the reasonable person is left with is to respond with either derision, offer some corrective writing hints for future use, or simply ignore your commentary.
“All the reasonable person is left with is to respond with either derision, offer some corrective writing hints for future use, or simply ignore your commentary”
Well sure, if you limit was is considered “reasonable” to only that which agrees with your premise in the first place. I am not “cherry picking data points” tildeb because I am able to point out the obvious contradiction of insisting that I only refer to “facts” which already presuppose a belief in Evolution in order to counter the claims of Evolution!
That’s like if I were to seriously propose that you could only refer to the Bible as evidence as to why Evolution is true. You’d laugh in my face (as if you don’t do that already in every other comment) yet this is precisely what you are doing yourselves. Presupposing scientific materialism, not “proving it”. Presupposing evolution, not “proving it”. I’m just calling you out, again and again, and either the response is “That’s philosophy, we’re talking science here…”, or just “Shut up, you’re an idiot”…
Yes, you’re very special… and brilliant. Evolution lies in dust now. Well done.
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No to the first two, yet to the third. 🙂
See? Lunacy and dishonesty. You already have the answer first – godidit… reality needs to play no further part in any consideration. In fact, you’re certain your answer is already correct. (I don’t need no stinkin’ studies…)
What’s the question?
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Morality might not come simply from survival of the fittest, but it does come from being a social species. As we live together in larger and larger groups we need to know how to live together, how to reward co-operation and effort, how to punish actions harming the group. Conscience is both nature and nurture, and moral belief may be swayed by persuasive argument. We can develop our morality, or moral philosophy, and even theology, would be pointless.
I suspect that nebulous ideas like ‘morality’ and ‘free will’ and ‘spirit’ are the last bastions behiond which gods must hide against knowledge incursions.
Next up to replace religious belief in magical agencies will be the rot that is Depakity woo.
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Fantastic, I look forward to hearing how the god God interacts with Depakity woo and projects it’s mystical properties down to his puny human creation.
Hi, violetwisp. Here are some arguments to consider.
“Unfortunately, because humans have conceptualised the notion of feeling something is the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ thing to do, and have given these feelings a label called ‘morality’, this Christian thinks the notion of ‘morality’ actually physically exists.”
If morality—or, more specifically, this Christian’s morality—is merely the feeling of what is right or wrong (and if you are a materialist), then “morality” does exist physically in some sense. This does not, however, make it objective. Although it should be noted that there’s no reason to believe morality must be a physical, or that its foundation must be physical in order for it to be objective.
“I’m not clear if she/he thinks that there is a written book of rights and wrongs that some invisible creature can refer to, or if all the rights and wrongs are chiseled in a sacred tablet or a golden plate, but she/he definitely appears to be under the impression that humans refer to some magic and as yet unseen reference point for our so-called ‘moral’ instincts.”
Unless you’re referring to other things this user has said, then you’re not fairly representing thetruthisstrangerthanfiction. The user’s argument is that if you reject objective morality, then you are stuck with moral relativism. Granted, this is a false dilemma, but you did not call this out. Instead, you ended up endorsing moral relativism. If this user is a Christian, then perhaps he or she subscribes to divine command theory. If that’s the case, then why not attack this metaethical position rather than devolving into an attack on all of objective morality? I assure you, addressing moral realism that is not predicated on God will cause you difficulties (to be fair, it already has).
“1. A few hundred years ago it was morally good to have slaves. Slave owners were giving stupid people a place to live and food to drink. Slave owners were probably even giving people access to religious instruction and maybe even education. Slave owners were morally good people just following the rules in the Bible. Today, most people agree that slave owning is morally bad.”
Why was slavery morally good a few hundred years ago? On one hand, you argue slave owners were morally good because they were giving food and education to “stupid people.” So someone who provides food, shelter, and education makes that person moral? (We’ll ignore the fact that slaves in America were often prohibited from most education.) What if the food, shelter, and education are of extremely poor quality, and the slave owners can afford to offer better treatment? Are their acts still moral? Also, slave owners were still grossly violating the autonomy of humans, so how can they be considered “morally good people”?
Later you argue that for something to be considered “moral,” it simply requires a consensus. If that’s sufficient to label something as “moral,” then why bring up the fact that they provided things to people whose autonomy they were violating?
As a side note, I take umbrage at the fact that you’re calling slaves “stupid people.” You can save some face by saying you meant “uneducated” instead of “stupid.”
“3. Some people think it is morally wrong to deny terminally ill people in serious pain the right to end their lives. Other people think it is morally wrong to give terminally ill people in serious pain the assistance they require to end their lives.”
If people have opposing views on something, does it follow that the question or the answer is relative and not objective? No. That argument is a complete non-sequitur.
“I am going to keep on insisting there is no objective morality. That’s why humans all over the world and throughout history have had different views about what is the best course of action in any given situation. And I don’t see a problem with this. Why do so many Christians?”
You’re using the same non-sequitur argument. Also, you’re again conflating prescriptive and descriptive statements. Before you fully reject objective morality, you’ll need stronger arguments for your moral anti-realism. It’s also worth mentioning that you don’t need to be a Christian or theist to be a moral realist.
Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment. You obviously subscribe to trundling down well worn paths of human argument. While I appreciate your efforts to critique the post, I’m left unsure what your personal opinion on morality is. You seem to have an issue with me attacking objective morality – what can be objective about random opinions based on an ever-changing knowledge set and completely variable cultural backgrounds?
As a side note, if you think I was suggesting slaves are or were stupid, it’s clear you misunderstood the whole post.
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Thanks for the reply—even though it was weak, dismissive, and insulting. Rather than addressing any of my arguments, you instead attacked my form, claimed I misunderstood you (without any explanation), questioned my view of morality (which is irrelevant to all of the flaws in your arguments), and reasserted the same unsound argument I challenged (i.e., morality boils down to opinions based on cultural perspectives). You failed to address any of my points. Question begging and ad homenims should be avoided if you’re interested in defending your position.
As for calling slaves “stupid,” you said, “Slave owners were giving stupid people a place to live and food to drink.” At no point did you say it was the opinion of the slave owners that these people were stupid. You simply said they were stupid. Additionally, even with a relative view of morality, the claim that they were “stupid” is factually incorrect. It’s not merely a matter of opinion. However, if you believe empirical matters are relative to cultures as well, then you may disagree. Granted, this is just a minor problem with your post, as the brunt of my criticism was focused on pointing out the flaws in your metaethical views.
Sigh, you’re right. I shouldn’t let my plain English prejudices get the better of me. I just worry when someone uses ‘non-sequitur’ instead of ‘illogical’ or ‘doesn’t make sense’ that they like to dance the dance of yawnsome thrust and parry, which I genuinely have little time for. I’m not interested in textbook morality arguments, and I suspect you want to send me to sleep by going there. But as you feel insulted, I’ll tell you what I think, point by point.
1. “If morality—or, more specifically, this Christian’s morality—is merely the feeling of what is right or wrong (and if you are a materialist), then “morality” does exist physically in some sense.”
It doesn’t physically exist in any sense. It’s not even a solid concept – it’s airy fairy generalised labelling for an infinite number of potential actions and their impossible-to-fully-gauge consequences. If you think it physically exists in some sense, please display some evidence.
2. “This does not, however, make it objective. Although it should be noted that there’s no reason to believe morality must be a physical, or that its foundation must be physical in order for it to be objective.”
I disagree. Morality to have anything approaching absolutes would have to have a physical foundation or an absolute arbitrator of ‘correct’. Because morality or moral judgements are nothing more than instincts tempered by guesswork (based on variable levels of probable accuracy depending on the specific scenario).
3. “Unless you’re referring to other things this user has said, then you’re not fairly representing thetruthisstrangerthanfiction. ”
I think the tongue-in-cheek, general poke at religion aspect of the post went over your head? Or it was only funny to me. To spell it out, religious types often believe their deity or spirit head provides rules, either written down by the invisible being itself or magically transmitted to its followers. My point was doubly amusing (to me at least) because obviously that’s nonsense, and in any case it would be impossible to write down rules covering a concept as vague as morality.
4. “If this user is a Christian, then perhaps he or she subscribes to divine command theory. If that’s the case, then why not attack this metaethical position rather than devolving into an attack on all of objective morality?”
I’m only interested in the absurdity of objective morality.
5. “So someone who provides food, shelter, and education makes that person moral?”
I’m talking about global history across all cultures. Slavery has been a feature in almost all societies, and people didn’t feel bad about doing it. All societies, and most individuals within the societies, would have had their own justifications for assuming it was naturally moral and good. I simplified this for the post to make it snappy, quick and so no-one gets confused. Sorry you got confused. The use of the word ‘stupid’ was in reference to the slave-owners feeling morally superior that could provide food and shelter for people they mistakenly assumed could do no better in life. I’m confused you could possibly have thought otherwise on reading the post.
6 “Are their acts still moral?”
From our point of view, with the information we have available to us, most of us would judge their acts to be immoral. This is still not objective morality. This is our opinion based on the information we have to hand.
7. “Later you argue that for something to be considered “moral,” it simply requires a consensus. If that’s sufficient to label something as “moral,” then why bring up the fact that they provided things to people whose autonomy they were violating?”
I’m not sure what you mean, perhaps you’re confused by the contradictions I was highlighting? I don’t believe something is moral from my point of view simply because the majority thinks it is. But of course you can generalise that something was thought moral by a certain group of people in a certain time.
8. “Before you fully reject objective morality, you’ll need stronger arguments for your moral anti-realism.”
I don’t agree. This isn’t a basic philosophy essay.
So, are you one of these religious types that believes a god is beaming down ‘morality’ on its depraved, chaotic creation, but you’re too embarrassed to say so in public, so you pretend you’re a concerned impartial philosophy student? It’s not a personal attack, just a friendly question. 🙂
It’s unfortunate that you misconstrued the pointing out of a fallacy as a ploy to engage in sophistry. When I use “non-sequitur,” I use it for its actual meaning: the conclusion of an argument does not follow from its premises. I’ll soon reiterate why one of your arguments is a non-sequitur. However, by being a non-sequitur it is, in a boring sense, illogical too. As for “textbook morality arguments,” you’re arguing against someone’s metaethics and espousing your own. Each time you’ve replied, you’ve complained about me raising objections. Sorry, but I’m interested in having a discussion on the topic and the arguments presented. If you are not, then simply say so rather than demonstrating it. I’ll happily refrain from commenting further. Even though I was giving the benefit of the doubt, I was actually looking forward to having a decent discussion on this page, but now you’ll have to forgive me for my snarky tone. The insults and presumptions in your first and second reply preclude any goodwill on my part. I’m not really expecting much of a response. Also, I laughed hard at the comment lauding Dawkin’s advice to laugh in the face of irrationality.
1. Here’s what you originally said: “Unfortunately, because humans have conceptualised the notion of feeling something is the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ thing to do, and have given these feelings a label called ‘morality’, this Christian thinks the notion of ‘morality’ actually physically exists.” You’re equating morality with feelings of right and wrong. Are you claiming these feelings are not the result of chemical reactions within the human brain and body? Or are you going to claim this is not a physical process? Perhaps you believe in a soul, or something. But if you’re not claiming this is not a physical process, then you’re committed to the fact that morality (which you have defined as feelings of right and wrong) does have some physical basis. Which would mean you contradicted yourself, and that means you’re wrong. I apologize if that was a little too nuanced.
2. Moral realism does not necessarily entail absolutes. Moral realism has many different variations, and your lack of knowledge about metaethics is becoming more apparent. If you believe moral realism requires a physical foundation to be objective (which is a comical position taken by those who subscribe to scientism), then are you going to argue that logic requires a physical foundation to be objective as well? If not, why not? Or, if you agree that it does, can you give me your physical meta-justification for logic? Perhaps you could try to offer a physical meta-justification for science while you’re at it.
3. It didn’t go over my head. I’ve heard the “religion is dumb” schtick before. I’m also well aware that many religious people believe deities provide rules for their morality. Did you not read the part where I mentioned divine command theory? Or did that go over your head? Also, you’re claiming morality is a vague concept, yet you keep defining it.
4. Here’s where I’m talking about the very concept you were just lambasting me for not knowing—all because you didn’t understand the term “divine command theory.” As you’ve demonstrated with your initial post and responses, you don’t have the knowledge or rigor to attack moral realism as a whole. That’s why I suggested you start off with baby steps and go for divine command theory first. It’s been dead for over two millennia, and you might be able to handle it if you decide to read any of the literature on metaethics and ethics. It’s also a popular metaethical position among theists, and you seem to enjoy attacking them. So perhaps you should spend time learning about the arguments against their position?
5. You can deny it if you want, but you’re using the same non-sequitur argument as before. It’s a common argument used by moral relativists who haven’t read anything on the topic. You’re arguing that societies and individuals have different justifications for whether slavery is moral or immoral, so there is no moral fact of the matter. That conclusion does not follow from its premises. People having dissenting opinions about something is not enough to make the answer relative.
6. Your answer is merely descriptive relativism. It fails to address the question or topic.
7. I didn’t say it was moral from your point of view. You’re saying it’s simply moral for the person who believes it to be, but you can still condemn it (weakly) since your metaethics boils morality down to one’s opinion.
8. Well, it was basic.
“So, are you one of these religious types that believes a god is beaming down ‘morality’ on its depraved, chaotic creation, but you’re too embarrassed to say so in public, so you pretend you’re a concerned impartial philosophy student? It’s not a personal attack, just a friendly question. :)”
Nice. Ending with childish insults and speculations. Because I disagree with you (and your fellow “open-minded” atheists), then I am suspected of being a theist. I am, in fact, an atheist. I just enjoy taking people to task on both their unsound arguments and their dearth of knowledge on topics they think their knowledgeable about. I guess your question warrants a question of my own: Are you one of those internet atheists who doesn’t understand or research subjects but believes to the contrary because they watch Cult of Dusty and Jaclyn Glenn (your metaethical position and its depth mirrors theirs perfectly), or are you just pretending to be a dullard? It’s not a personal attack, just a friendly question.
“It’s unfortunate that you misconstrued the pointing out of a fallacy as a ploy to engage in sophistry.” Groan, really? Do you really talk like that?
“Sorry, but I’m interested in having a discussion on the topic and the arguments presented.”
Surely not with me. You clearly have yourself several pedestals up from my level. Aren’t you frustrated with my plain English and clear points yet?
1. “You’re equating morality with feelings of right and wrong. Are you claiming these feelings are not the result of chemical reactions within the human brain and body? Or are you going to claim this is not a physical process?”
I see what you mean, I agree that thinking is physical, and morality is a label we give to certain type of thinking we have in common. Does that mean the god God exists?
2. “If you believe moral realism requires a physical foundation to be objective” I think you know I didn’t say that.
3. “Did you not read the part where I mentioned divine command theory?” Yes, did you not read the part where I said I wasn’t interested in that and that’s why I didn’t bring it up? If you want to discuss it with one of the Christians, please feel free.
4. “you don’t have the knowledge or rigor to attack moral realism as a whole.” Thanks for your advice in this paragraph. Anyone ever suggest you’re a tad patronising?
5. “People having dissenting opinions about something is not enough to make the answer relative.” I’m talking about a wholesale shift in the ‘moral’ stance on slavery by the whole of Christianity. If you don’t think that’s relevant, please consider that your textbook swallowing on this topic might have blinded you to the obvious.
6. “It fails to address the question or topic.” Do you think their acts are still moral?
7. You’re still reading too much into the term itself. Do you think you might have over-thought a quite simple process?
“I just enjoy taking people to task on both their unsound arguments and their dearth of knowledge on topics they think their knowledgeable about. ”
Really? You enjoy this? I don’t feel taken to task but I’m not particularly enjoying the trudge.
“Are you one of those internet atheists who doesn’t understand or research subjects but believes to the contrary because they watch Cult of Dusty and Jaclyn Glenn (your metaethical position and its depth mirrors theirs perfectly), or are you just pretending to be a dullard?”
I have no idea what you’re referring to, but I’m sure it’s funny. And I’m happy for you that you want to spend so much time in my, the dullard’s, blogging company.
Do you have a blog I can pop by? And if you’d like to leave your personal opinion on this topic I’d be delighted to read it! 🙂
“Rather than addressing any of my arguments, you instead attacked my form, claimed I misunderstood you (without any explanation), questioned my view of morality (which is irrelevant to all of the flaws in your arguments), and reasserted the same unsound argument I challenged (i.e., morality boils down to opinions based on cultural perspectives). You failed to address any of my points. Question begging and ad homenims should be avoided if you’re interested in defending your position. ”
I feel you Andrew… Unfortunately it seems like solid arguments in response are not considered necessary round these parts. Simply mocking you is all that Dawkins has prescribed for the “deluded and insane”…
You’ll see I did reply to Andrew. And both Tildeb and myself have responded with solid arguments to all your points on the previous post.
Dawkins used the example of transubstantiation. He asked people at the Reason Rally to dare to ask people if they truly believe that bread and wine when subjected to Latin words actually become flesh and blood. If told Yes, then he suggested that such beliefs that are impervious to reality’s contrary say in the matter should be met only by mockery and ridicule. In other words, strip away and stop pretending such ludicrous ideas deserve respect because they are religious and simply laugh at people for holding such absurd beliefs. Obviously, trying to be reasonable in the face of irrationality is not as effective a rebuttal as having a good laugh.
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“…ask people if they truly believe that bread and wine when subjected to Latin words actually become flesh and blood.”
Are you asking me then? Because the answer is NO. That is an invention of the Roman Catholic Church, an institution which has no shortage of unbiblical inventions…
The Bible claims that the dead body of Christ rose back to life. What most Catholics don’t even realize is that the Mass is in fact a recreation of a pagan ritual, which completely takes Jesus out from the position of being the one true mediator between God and mankind, and puts itself, it’s priesthood, in Jesus’ place. And as such, I find such practices more offensive to the true Faith than anything any of you guys or Dawkins etc. could possibly say.
In the end I have far more respect, believe it or not, for hardcore atheism than I do for the types of hypocrisy in Christ’s name which only makes atheism appear that much more appealing by comparison…
Slaves were not people, rules of conduct didn’t apply to their treatment.
The Saudis have now suggested their women can have women drivers from other countries
It is immoral to stop a person from killing themselves.
Most believers have no problem with capital punishment but also subscribe to do not kill. Maybe capital punishment isn’t killing, it is taking them to sleep
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This same Christian overlooks that it was morally justified by Christians to murder unarmed women and children of the native people. These same Christians found it morally right to vote in Eugenics and murder the children and force sterilize native peoples. But their good books says they can’t murder and here they claim it moral and right.
Christians have a blind spot when it comes to recognising what was done with the justification of their holy book in the past. They put it down to the work of ‘sinners’ rather than accepting that their religion changes with the times.
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