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Author Topic: As atheists know, you can be good without God  (Read 4874 times) Average Rating: 0
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Jetavan
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« on: August 02, 2011, 06:52:13 PM »

From atheist Jerry Coyne, in USAToday:

"So where does morality come from, if not from God? Two places: evolution and secular reasoning. Despite the notion that beasts behave bestially, scientists studying our primate relatives, such as chimpanzees, see evolutionary rudiments of morality: behaviors that look for all the world like altruism, sympathy, moral disapproval, sharing — even notions of fairness. This is exactly what we'd expect if human morality, like many other behaviors, is built partly on the genes of our ancestors.

And the conditions under which humans evolved are precisely those that would favor the evolution of moral codes: small social groups of big-brained animals. When individuals in a group can get to know, recognize and remember each other, this gives an advantage to genes that make you behave nicely towards others in the group, reward those who cooperate and punish those who cheat. That's how natural selection can build morality. Secular reason adds another layer atop these evolved behaviors, helping us extend our moral sentiments far beyond our small group of friends and relatives — even to animals.

....
Nor should we worry that a society based on secular morality will degenerate into lawlessness. That experiment has already been done — in countries such as Sweden and Denmark that are largely filled with non-believers and atheists. I can vouch from experience that secular European nations are full of well-behaved and well-meaning citizens, not criminals and sociopaths running amok. In fact, you can make a good case that those countries, with their liberal social views and extensive aid for the sick, old and disadvantaged, are even more moral than America."



If morality comes from evolution and reason, then where did evolution and reason come from? Hmmm.... Roll Eyes
« Last Edit: August 02, 2011, 06:52:46 PM by Jetavan » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2011, 07:06:24 PM »

Looking at things from his perspective, I don't see anything wrong with what he said.
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2011, 07:19:16 PM »

Looking at things from his perspective, I don't see anything wrong with what he said.
Apart from his assumption that "God" is incompatible with "evolution" and "(secular) reason" he makes some very good points. Grin
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2011, 09:11:12 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I would only say this one thing about "atheistic" morality

They have ONE good argument about the flaw in religious morality.

It is quite true that if a person is only acting moral in order to appease the fear of retribution by a punishing God, that is not exactly morality so much as coercion.  Sincere morality stems from the depth of the altruistic heart, and that is the only source Atheists could argue for a sincere morality aside from a deep, healing, Sacramental connection with God. 

That is precisely what separated the Orthodox theological ontology from that Protestant Christianity which has a bit more "tit-for-tat" philosophy in regards to morality, essentially suggesting folks aim for love based moral behavior, but at the least idealize legalistically enforced internal morality.  This is not genuine.

Orthodox rather, seeks folks to be healed in their heart in the Grace of God, to learn to really see their morality as stemming not from coercion, from fear of retribution or for seeking some kind of reward, rather simply flowing of LOVE.

So if Christians of any variety practice a morality out of "fear of God" they should reevaluate exactly what their morality is, and then get readjusted towards a center on Christian love and it will naturally flow from there.

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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2011, 10:46:09 PM »

If morality is a product of evolution by natural selection (and nothing else), it loses all sense of meaning to talk about it as "morality".

I truly do not see why those on the "other side" of the issue cannot grasp this simple truth.
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2011, 10:57:25 PM »

If morality is a product of evolution by natural selection (and nothing else), it loses all sense of meaning to talk about it as "morality".

I truly do not see why those on the "other side" of the issue cannot grasp this simple truth.
"Morality" is simply an ideal way of behaving, of acting. The way we humans act, the way that we humans behave is certainly a product of natural selection -- our hands, our legs, our eyes, mouth, ears, nerves, brains, all these are a result of natural selection.

It's when the argument becomes "natural selection disproves God", a giant leap in "faith" is made, without warrant. Jerry Falwell and Jerry Coyne are identical when it comes to arguing that "evolution disproves God".
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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2011, 01:06:54 AM »

Hmm, I'm not sure I am adequately phrasing my point.

What I mean is this: the very word "morality" is charged with existential connotations and connotations of meaning and ultimate purpose. If the whole thing can be reduced to an arguably meaningless product of evolution by natural selection, the word loses its commonly understood meaning.

Sure, you can say morality is the result of biological processes, which are in turn the result of chemical processes, which are in turn the result of physical processes, but once you do so, you are no longer talking the same language as Socrates or Kant.
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2011, 01:39:19 AM »

 ". . . No one is good but God" -- Jesus
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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2011, 01:41:22 AM »

". . . No one is good but God" -- Jesus

Not so.
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« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2011, 02:53:06 AM »

". . . No one is good but God" -- Jesus

Not so.

depends how "good" is defined don't it?? and who defines it
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« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2011, 07:47:45 AM »

When you have no God, you have no system of morality.  You are left with merely a series of personal preferences, no more or less binding than your favorite ice cream.
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« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2011, 08:12:34 AM »

It does seem to me that the question of whether or not there is an objective ethics is a philosophical problem that is independent of the biological question of how our intuitions about ethics may have evolved. You can't disprove morality, let alone God, by demonstrating that our sense of morality is the outcome of natural selection. If you could, surely you could also disprove the existence of objective truth by showing how our inductive and deductive abilities are also the outcome of evolution.

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that ultimately secular ethics of the kind Coyne is advocating boils down to a kind of self-interest. Thus, in addition to acting on our innate intuitions about correct behavior, which contributed to our survival as a species, we act on the ethical principles we learned as children (which may have contributed to the survival of our ethnicity or society), and then we can further use our reasoning abilities to work out the kinds of behavior that will contribute to the future survival of ourselves and our descendants (assuming that our most high-minded goal is to make sure our genes get passed on). It's not a worldview that has much in the way of transcendental purpose, but I'm guessing Coyne is arguing that transcendental purpose is of no use as a concept ultimately.
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2011, 08:22:50 AM »

When you have no God, you have no system of morality.  You are left with merely a series of personal preferences, no more or less binding than your favorite ice cream.
you reaf Joseph Prager also?
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2011, 08:47:16 AM »

Who?
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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2011, 08:48:49 AM »

Sure, you can say morality is the result of biological processes, which are in turn the result of chemical processes, which are in turn the result of physical processes, but once you do so, you are no longer talking the same language as Socrates or Kant.
I agree that stating that morality ("human behavior") is a result of biological and chemical processes, gives a large context in which to understand Socrates and Kant wrote. I don't see how it would contradict Socrates or Kant, though.
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2011, 08:58:59 AM »

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that ultimately secular ethics of the kind Coyne is advocating boils down to a kind of self-interest. Thus, in addition to acting on our innate intuitions about correct behavior, which contributed to our survival as a species, we act on the ethical principles we learned as children (which may have contributed to the survival of our ethnicity or society), and then we can further use our reasoning abilities to work out the kinds of behavior that will contribute to the future survival of ourselves and our descendants (assuming that our most high-minded goal is to make sure our genes get passed on). It's not a worldview that has much in the way of transcendental purpose, but I'm guessing Coyne is arguing that transcendental purpose is of no use as a concept ultimately.
By "transcendental" do you mean "having effects in an after-life"? That is, Coyne's worldview lacks an afterlife in which the effects of one's moral behavior are given enough time to produce their results?

I think this is a major  limitation of Coyne's ethics: one can enact a certain type of behavior (say, murder), and then escape human justice; whereas an ethics that includes the transcendent (say, an afterlife in which one experiences the effects of one's earthly behavior) provides a much larger, more comprehensive and inclusive context in which to understand the effects of one's behavior.
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« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2011, 09:01:27 AM »

After reading Coyne's article, it struck me that he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and child abuse are immoral. He simply treats it as self-evident. He does have a point about when God appears to command or do things that contradict moral principles that He elsewhere commands us to follow. But I don't agree with him that the reason Christians or Jews pass over such passages in silence is because they have moral intuitions that conflict with those passages; I think it's because those passages are hard to interpret in the Christian or Jewish moral framework. The usual answer is "God's justice is not our justice", but the apparent inconsistency is still there.
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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2011, 09:04:29 AM »

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that ultimately secular ethics of the kind Coyne is advocating boils down to a kind of self-interest. Thus, in addition to acting on our innate intuitions about correct behavior, which contributed to our survival as a species, we act on the ethical principles we learned as children (which may have contributed to the survival of our ethnicity or society), and then we can further use our reasoning abilities to work out the kinds of behavior that will contribute to the future survival of ourselves and our descendants (assuming that our most high-minded goal is to make sure our genes get passed on). It's not a worldview that has much in the way of transcendental purpose, but I'm guessing Coyne is arguing that transcendental purpose is of no use as a concept ultimately.
By "transcendental" do you mean "having effects in an after-life"? That is, Coyne's worldview lacks an afterlife in which the effects of one's moral behavior are given enough time to produce their results?

I think this is a major  limitation of Coyne's ethics: one can enact a certain type of behavior (say, murder), and then escape human justice; whereas an ethics that includes the transcendent (say, an afterlife in which one experiences the effects of one's earthly behavior) provides a much larger, more comprehensive and inclusive context in which to understand the effects of one's behavior.

That could be part of what I mean, I suppose. By transcendental I really mean the idea that moral behavior is about something more than the survival of the individual or of the community. I agree that belief in an afterlife provides a larger context. In one sense, it can make morality more exclusively self-centered: rather than doing good for the sake of society's survival, for instance, you might do it only to save yourself from eternal punishment. On the other hand, doing good to please God is a far more sublime goal than doing good so that your children will grow up in a stable society. Coyne might say that doing good to please God is simply indulging an illusion, however.
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« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2011, 09:13:13 AM »

After reading Coyne's article, it struck me that he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and child abuse are immoral. He simply treats it as self-evident.
I think he's right about that. If you rephrase your statement as "he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and chld abuse are behaviors we as a society do not want to encourage", then I would think it is self-evident why we would not want to encourage such behaviors: because we would not want such behaviors done to us or our loved-ones.
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« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2011, 09:26:55 AM »

This article makes quite a few errors. First and foremost, much of the scientific evidence is based upon us anthropomorphizing the actions of the animals and reading into these actions. It's approaching the animals with the belief that our morals evolved and going from there. Once you approach a study with a presupposition (not a hypothesis) you're bound to see that study verify that presupposition, especially when it requires you to interpret the action.

Secondly, he's making a mistake in assuming that a purely secular society is a moral society or one that is even livable. How quickly he forgets that modern European secularists have inherited a Christian heritage, meaning that such morals tend to hold Christian presuppositions. In secular societies that lack such a Christian heritage, such as China or Turkey (if we buy into the propaganda of them being secular), we see rampant oppression and a populace that simply capitulates with that oppression. Or we can look to ancient, pre-Christian Rome to see where secular (read: Stoic) ethics gets a society.

At the end of the day, one might be able to be good without God in that one doesn't harm one's neighbors, but one cannot be holy without God. The completion of virtue is found through theosis in the person of Jesus Christ. Evolution simply cannot account for this, so while evolution could possibly explain our baser moral instincts that deal with survival, it cannot explain our higher mores. At some point, it becomes mutually exclusive to Christianity. I'd encourage people to check out the book Incarnate Love: Essays in Orthodox Ethics (2nd Edition) by Vigen Guroian.
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« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2011, 09:29:21 AM »

After reading Coyne's article, it struck me that he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and child abuse are immoral. He simply treats it as self-evident.
I think he's right about that. If you rephrase your statement as "he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and chld abuse are behaviors we as a society do not want to encourage", then I would think it is self-evident why we would not want to encourage such behaviors: because we would not want such behaviors done to us or our loved-ones.

But many other societies have looked at child rape and abuse as positive things, so it is up to him to explain why it's self-evidently wrong with other societies have accepted such things and embraced them.

Never forget that today we have a Christian background and premise at the bottom of our ethics. When people make a claim that a moral action is self-evidently wrong, all it takes is one counter example. In the case of child rape or abuse against children, we have several counter examples that prove it's not self-evident. Thus, he's left attempting to explain how it is universally wrong (which he can't do).
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« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2011, 09:30:01 AM »

At the end of the day, one might be able to be good without God in that one doesn't harm one's neighbors, but one cannot be holy without God. The completion of virtue is found through theosis in the person of Jesus Christ. Evolution simply cannot account for this, so while evolution could possibly explain our baser moral instincts that deal with survival, it cannot explain our higher mores. At some point, it becomes mutually exclusive to Christianity. I'd encourage people to check out the book Incarnate Love: Essays in Orthodox Ethics (2nd Edition) by Vigen Guroian.
"Higher mores" like what?
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« Reply #22 on: August 03, 2011, 09:32:28 AM »

At the end of the day, one might be able to be good without God in that one doesn't harm one's neighbors, but one cannot be holy without God. The completion of virtue is found through theosis in the person of Jesus Christ. Evolution simply cannot account for this, so while evolution could possibly explain our baser moral instincts that deal with survival, it cannot explain our higher mores. At some point, it becomes mutually exclusive to Christianity. I'd encourage people to check out the book Incarnate Love: Essays in Orthodox Ethics (2nd Edition) by Vigen Guroian.
"Higher mores" like what?

Such as truly altruistic sacrifice, forbidding certain sexual actions, the call to be holy as God is holy. Simply put, unless God's goodness is a product of evolution, then our own goodness cannot be a product of evolution. Either we are in His image or we are not.
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« Reply #23 on: August 03, 2011, 09:35:54 AM »

After reading Coyne's article, it struck me that he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and child abuse are immoral. He simply treats it as self-evident.
I think he's right about that. If you rephrase your statement as "he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and chld abuse are behaviors we as a society do not want to encourage", then I would think it is self-evident why we would not want to encourage such behaviors: because we would not want such behaviors done to us or our loved-ones.

But many other societies have looked at child rape and abuse as positive things, so it is up to him to explain why it's self-evidently wrong [when] other societies have accepted such things and embraced them.
I think "self-evident" is used in two different ways. One way is when "self-evident" means that something is obviously true and right for all people everywhere. Another way is when "self-evident" means that something's truth and rightness can be made clear even without a theistic or transcendental reference point. I think Coyne is using the latter definition of "self-evident".
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« Reply #24 on: August 03, 2011, 09:38:45 AM »

At the end of the day, one might be able to be good without God in that one doesn't harm one's neighbors, but one cannot be holy without God. The completion of virtue is found through theosis in the person of Jesus Christ. Evolution simply cannot account for this, so while evolution could possibly explain our baser moral instincts that deal with survival, it cannot explain our higher mores. At some point, it becomes mutually exclusive to Christianity. I'd encourage people to check out the book Incarnate Love: Essays in Orthodox Ethics (2nd Edition) by Vigen Guroian.
"Higher mores" like what?

Such as truly altruistic sacrifice, forbidding certain sexual actions, the call to be holy as God is holy. Simply put, unless God's goodness is a product of evolution, then our own goodness cannot be a product of evolution. Either we are in His image or we are not.
To say that our own goodness cannot be a product of evolution is similar to saying that our own bodies (and how they act and behave) cannot be a product of evolution: both are making an unnecessary divorce between (1) God; and (2) a particular mechanism by which God creates in this world (via evolution).
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« Reply #25 on: August 03, 2011, 09:45:12 AM »

After reading Coyne's article, it struck me that he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and child abuse are immoral. He simply treats it as self-evident.
I think he's right about that. If you rephrase your statement as "he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and chld abuse are behaviors we as a society do not want to encourage", then I would think it is self-evident why we would not want to encourage such behaviors: because we would not want such behaviors done to us or our loved-ones.

But many other societies have looked at child rape and abuse as positive things, so it is up to him to explain why it's self-evidently wrong [when] other societies have accepted such things and embraced them.
I think "self-evident" is used in two different ways. One way is when "self-evident" means that something is obviously true and right for all people everywhere. Another way is when "self-evident" means that something's truth and rightness can be made clear even without a theistic or transcendental reference point. I think Coyne is using the latter definition of "self-evident".

Either way you define it he's wrong. Again, my counter-examples would disprove either claim.

The problem with the first definition of self-evident is that we have societies that saw nothing obviously wrong with harming children. The second definition relies on everyone to have the same cultural backgrounds and philosophical presuppositions. Even if this is possible, there are still disagreements where both sides can rationally defend their respective positions. That is, Coyne may explain why abusing children is wrong, while the Spartan quickly explains why abusing children is not only acceptable, but moral and necessary. From a secular-rationalist perspective, both are right and there's no possible way to explain how either is wrong.

To state this more bluntly; modern secular ethics is only good so far because it's riding on the coattails of Christian ethics. The further our societies move away from Christ, the more depraved they will become.

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To say that our own goodness cannot be a product of evolution is similar to saying that our own bodies (and how they act and behave) cannot be a product of evolution: both are making an unnecessary divorce between (1) God; and (2) a particular mechanism by which God creates in this world (via evolution).

Not at all. Our bodies aren't in His image, so there's no problem in saying that our bodies evolved. But to say that what makes us good evolved? That causes too many theological problems and there is a necessary reason to divorce the two. If we are made in God's image, but that image evolved, then that image is made of nature and not of God. We are therefore no different from the animals in any aspect. God is not a product of evolution, so if we are in His image then His image is not a product of evolution. That is, what makes us good and our wills are not products of evolution (this is proven by the fact that we see neither anywhere else in creation).

Secondly, as I stated, there is no verifiable scientific evidence to show that our morals evolved. Such studies seek to prove such a thing and it's not difficult to accomplish this. I could easily set up a study to prove that lions enjoy watching "Jersey Shore" and I assure you I could prove my premise with relative ease. It's far too easy to anthropomorphize an animal's actions, meaning that such studies shouldn't be trusted.
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« Reply #26 on: August 03, 2011, 11:17:46 AM »

After reading Coyne's article, it struck me that he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and child abuse are immoral. He simply treats it as self-evident.
I think he's right about that. If you rephrase your statement as "he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and chld abuse are behaviors we as a society do not want to encourage", then I would think it is self-evident why we would not want to encourage such behaviors: because we would not want such behaviors done to us or our loved-ones.

Perhaps, but he doesn't say that himself. And theo does have a point that such behaviors were allowed in some cultures, however strange and unnatural that may seem to us. Unless we assert that the standards of our society are intrinsically superior to the standards of those societies, which would be at odds with his naturalistic assumptions, it's hard to see how he can argue that rape and child abuse are immoral in any universal sense.
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« Reply #27 on: August 03, 2011, 11:54:12 AM »

At the same time, I remember reading in Chesterton's "Everlasting Man" his speculation that e.g. cannibalism among New Guinean tribesmen may not necessarily indicate that they "approved" of it. They may have engaged in such behavior precisely because it was "wrong" in some sense. Take the example of e.g. magic or witchcraft in the early modern period, where there was a general understanding that it was diabolical, but, contra the claims of modern-day Wiccans, there is no evidence that real witches considered their practices to be part of a rival theological system to Christianity. They practiced their witchcraft knowing full well that it was diabolical. It could be the same with cannibals or child molesters or murderers: they know in some sense they're actions are evil, but they do it anyway, since at the same time they believe there are certain supernatural powers that will be satisfied by these actions and give them help in their endeavors. The only difference is that this consciousness of the evil in the actions is paradoxically also supported by the culture: they do these things on the basis of certain cultural dictates, even though they may contradict other cultural dictates, or possibly contradict innate moral predispositions.

I don't know if Chesterton is right, but it's worth considering as a possibility. I wouldn't be sure, in other words, that people in cultures in which child rape is sanctioned have no sense that there is something "wrong" with it. After all, you would have thought the parents, or at least the mothers would struggle with it at a very primal psychological level.
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« Reply #28 on: August 03, 2011, 12:18:43 PM »

The second definition relies on everyone to have the same cultural backgrounds and philosophical presuppositions. Even if this is possible, there are still disagreements where both sides can rationally defend their respective positions. That is, Coyne may explain why abusing children is wrong, while the Spartan quickly explains why abusing children is not only acceptable, but moral and necessary. From a secular-rationalist perspective, both are right and there's no possible way to explain how either is wrong.
I think Coyne's point is not that every non-theistic or non-transcendentalist ethic will conclude that behavior A is wrong, but that it is possible to claim that behavior A is wrong, without invoking theism or the transcendent.


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But to say that what makes us good evolved?
By "goodness" I mean all the behaviors we do (using our hands, feet, speech, etc.) that create a more just and enjoyable world. Those behaviors we can see also present in other animals, to a lesser degree perhaps, but they are present. Our hominid ancestors also possessed these behaviors, and we modern humans (ideally) continue those behaviors, but with a greater efficacy and efficiency.
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« Reply #29 on: August 03, 2011, 12:38:33 PM »

When you have no God, you have no system of morality.  You are left with merely a series of personal preferences, no more or less binding than your favorite ice cream.
That is completely not true. Morality isn't only a God thing it can come from an alturism and exists in a tonne of people who dont even believe in God. Even the countries that dont have a strong religiousness in their country they have a good working society and some would say maybe even better at tackling moral issues than the parts of the world who are strongly religious!!!

morality isnt just a God thing
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« Reply #30 on: August 03, 2011, 12:55:47 PM »

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I think Coyne's point is not that every non-theistic or non-transcendentalist ethic will conclude that behavior A is wrong, but that it is possible to claim that behavior A is wrong, without invoking theism or the transcendent.

There's a difference between claiming something is wrong and having justification to prove that it's universally wrong. I can claim it's wrong to eat ice cream, but unless I can provide some moral standard for why it's wrong then my claim is empty. Likewise, a naturalist can claim any number of things are wrong, but he is generally left without recourse as to offering a legitimate justification for why such things are wrong.

Quote
By "goodness" I mean all the behaviors we do (using our hands, feet, speech, etc.) that create a more just and enjoyable world. Those behaviors we can see also present in other animals, to a lesser degree perhaps, but they are present. Our hominid ancestors also possessed these behaviors, and we modern humans (ideally) continue those behaviors, but with a greater efficacy and efficiency.

I mean "goodness" in a moral sense, not in a mechanical sense. And like it or not, our goodness cannot be a product of evolution. If it were, then we are left explaining the Fall, the problem of evil, why Christ came to die, the (non) existence of free will, and the list goes on. While I know some Christians are apprehensive to disavow some scientific findings, the fact is some "scientific" discoveries simply are at odds with essential Christian doctrine. Of course, most of the time these discoveries are more philosophical than scientific (such as in the case of the evolution of morality), but the fact is sometimes the two are mutually exclusive. This is an instance where there is some level of mutual exclusivity.

Quote
That is completely not true. Morality isn't only a God thing it can come from an alturism and exists in a tonne of people who dont even believe in God. Even the countries that dont have a strong religiousness in their country they have a good working society and some would say maybe even better at tackling moral issues than the parts of the world who are strongly religious!!!

But naturalism lacks a proper explanation for these things, that's what it means that there is no good without God.

Think of it this way - meta-ethically speaking it is necessary to have God in order to justify morality. Without God as the origin of morals then meta-ethically we have no morals. On the more normative side, however, an atheist can certainly act in a moral manner. But such an action is only explainable via theism, stating that the atheist is in the image of God and therefore will seek to act morally due to that image. Under a naturalistic aspect, we are left without a proper explanation as to why people are moral (or immoral).
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« Reply #31 on: August 03, 2011, 01:36:35 PM »

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But naturalism lacks a proper explanation for these things, that's what it means that there is no good without God.

Think of it this way - meta-ethically speaking it is necessary to have God in order to justify morality. Without God as the origin of morals then meta-ethically we have no morals. On the more normative side, however, an atheist can certainly act in a moral manner. But such an action is only explainable via theism, stating that the atheist is in the image of God and therefore will seek to act morally due to that image. Under a naturalistic aspect, we are left without a proper explanation as to why people are moral (or immoral).

My morals are moral to me, because i believe they are.
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« Reply #32 on: August 03, 2011, 01:36:46 PM »

Arguing Coyne's side for a moment, one response to the claim that cultures have different norms is to say "So what?" If we think about moral norms as essentially about making society convenient or comfortable as a whole, then each society, including our own, gets to define what's convenient or comfortable. Child molestation happens to make us uncomfortable, so we forbid it. If other cultures allow it, good for them, but in general we don't want it here. If norms change and our society ends up approving it, you might disagree individually, but who cares what the individual or the minority thinks anyway?

That's at least what he should argue if he were being consistent. It would be interesting to see how he'd try to argue that child molestation violates universal norms. Maybe you could argue we are predisposed by nature or nurture to want to protect children everywhere, causing us to attempt to change other cultures that abuse children. Again, tough luck for the cultures that we "reform". In any case, he might say we are always only acting on our feelings about it ultimately; there is no rational explanation ultimately for why something should be right or wrong in an absolute sense.

In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if there were good evidence that we are innately biased against child molestation, and that cultures which sanction it are the exception rather than the rule.
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« Reply #33 on: August 03, 2011, 01:59:46 PM »

Yes and no. St. Paul addresses this clearly.

An atheist can be righteous even more so than a Jew or a Christian.

But to the degree they are, it is still in relation to the degree they are working with law written upon their heart by God.
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« Reply #34 on: August 03, 2011, 01:59:59 PM »

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But naturalism lacks a proper explanation for these things, that's what it means that there is no good without God.

Think of it this way - meta-ethically speaking it is necessary to have God in order to justify morality. Without God as the origin of morals then meta-ethically we have no morals. On the more normative side, however, an atheist can certainly act in a moral manner. But such an action is only explainable via theism, stating that the atheist is in the image of God and therefore will seek to act morally due to that image. Under a naturalistic aspect, we are left without a proper explanation as to why people are moral (or immoral).

My morals are moral to me, because i believe they are.
But why should I pay heed to your morals? That is to say, when our morals contradict each other and are at an impasse, who's morals do we follow? The strongest's?
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« Reply #35 on: August 03, 2011, 02:19:35 PM »

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causing us to attempt to change other cultures that abuse children

yeah "our culture" might condemn it but within our main culture there are other cultures and institutions riddled with charges of child abuse to answer to going back years and years.
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« Reply #36 on: August 03, 2011, 02:19:36 PM »

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But naturalism lacks a proper explanation for these things, that's what it means that there is no good without God.

Think of it this way - meta-ethically speaking it is necessary to have God in order to justify morality. Without God as the origin of morals then meta-ethically we have no morals. On the more normative side, however, an atheist can certainly act in a moral manner. But such an action is only explainable via theism, stating that the atheist is in the image of God and therefore will seek to act morally due to that image. Under a naturalistic aspect, we are left without a proper explanation as to why people are moral (or immoral).

My morals are moral to me, because i believe they are.
But why should I pay heed to your morals? That is to say, when our morals contradict each other and are at an impasse, who's morals do we follow? The strongest's?

well my morals allow me to hurt you physically so, i guess i would win haha...

ok ok im only kidding





If it was a thing that affected a wider society that we lived in both of us then it would have to be who ever agreed that the majority thought it was the best thing for wider society BUT if it was just you and me and it affected us both then we would have to reason it out. Or we're back to hurting each other lolOl
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« Reply #37 on: August 03, 2011, 02:42:20 PM »

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I think Coyne's point is not that every non-theistic or non-transcendentalist ethic will conclude that behavior A is wrong, but that it is possible to claim that behavior A is wrong, without invoking theism or the transcendent.

There's a difference between claiming something is wrong and having justification to prove that it's universally wrong.
How could you "prove" (to everyone's satisfaction) that a certain behavior is wrong?

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« Reply #38 on: August 03, 2011, 02:47:49 PM »

greetings in that divine and most precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

After reading Coyne's article, it struck me that he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and child abuse are immoral. He simply treats it as self-evident.
I think he's right about that. If you rephrase your statement as "he doesn't explain anywhere why e.g. rape and chld abuse are behaviors we as a society do not want to encourage", then I would think it is self-evident why we would not want to encourage such behaviors: because we would not want such behaviors done to us or our loved-ones.

But many other societies have looked at child rape and abuse as positive things, so it is up to him to explain why it's self-evidently wrong with other societies have accepted such things and embraced them.


Nonsense, you're reading way to much Foucault! Many societies have OVERLOOKED the inherent wrongness of these viscious, painful actions out of ideological or political or self-seeking cost-analysis.  Folks KNOW that these actions are wrong, but if committing immoral behavior produces their own seemingly moral benefits for one's own social group, then folks patterns of morality shift.  So folks do not exonerate these immoral actions so much as they learn to accept them as "necessary evils" and this is EXACTLY how things like war and slavery have become so thoroughly part of our common human experience.
Hmm, I'm not sure I am adequately phrasing my point.

What I mean is this: the very word "morality" is charged with existential connotations and connotations of meaning and ultimate purpose. If the whole thing can be reduced to an arguably meaningless product of evolution by natural selection, the word loses its commonly understood meaning.

Sure, you can say morality is the result of biological processes, which are in turn the result of chemical processes, which are in turn the result of physical processes, but once you do so, you are no longer talking the same language as Socrates or Kant.

not true at all, if anything, morality takes on an even deeper meaning when based upon a theory of "natural selection" because morality is human beings counter towards the "smaller fish getting eaten by the bigger fish" aspect of natural selection process.  Human beings use their sense of internal morality to counter effects of nature like resource scarcity or conflict resolution.  There is no reason aside from the greater good, and yet it is human nature to be considered with the individual good.  Morality is then a very human trait in that humans have the agency to foresee aspects of the future, and humans can then predict the beneficial potential of their moral actions and convert their individual selfish instincts towards altruism.  This really is the anthpomorphic evidence of God within our own being, that God's own altruistic Nature has literally bled (through the Passion) into our own human minds that we can be like God and be moral not because of the fear of punishment, but the sincere and inexplicable aspects of human altruism.

Again, those atheists who criticize the pseudo-morality of many religious people have a point, many Christians are not internally moral, they are coerced by the "fear of God" and this really isn't morality at all, this is the effects of the literal bully pulpit.

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« Reply #39 on: August 03, 2011, 03:53:13 PM »

Quote
But naturalism lacks a proper explanation for these things, that's what it means that there is no good without God.

Think of it this way - meta-ethically speaking it is necessary to have God in order to justify morality. Without God as the origin of morals then meta-ethically we have no morals. On the more normative side, however, an atheist can certainly act in a moral manner. But such an action is only explainable via theism, stating that the atheist is in the image of God and therefore will seek to act morally due to that image. Under a naturalistic aspect, we are left without a proper explanation as to why people are moral (or immoral).

My morals are moral to me, because i believe they are.
But why should I pay heed to your morals? That is to say, when our morals contradict each other and are at an impasse, who's morals do we follow? The strongest's?

well my morals allow me to hurt you physically so, i guess i would win haha...

ok ok im only kidding





If it was a thing that affected a wider society that we lived in both of us then it would have to be who ever agreed that the majority thought it was the best thing for wider society BUT if it was just you and me and it affected us both then we would have to reason it out. Or we're back to hurting each other lolOl

So as long as the majority believe an action is moral, then that action is okay? How does this mentality work when applied to Aztec sacrifices, Canaanite sacrifices to Molec, or even the Holocaust? Once again we see that a naturalistic morality is always subjective and ultimately tyrannical. The only reason we haven't seen it as such in our society is because it's evolved out of a Christian morality. Give it time though.

Quote
Nonsense, you're reading way to much Foucault! Many societies have OVERLOOKED the inherent wrongness of these viscious, painful actions out of ideological or political or self-seeking cost-analysis.  Folks KNOW that these actions are wrong, but if committing immoral behavior produces their own seemingly moral benefits for one's own social group, then folks patterns of morality shift.  So folks do not exonerate these immoral actions so much as they learn to accept them as "necessary evils" and this is EXACTLY how things like war and slavery have become so thoroughly part of our common human experience.

That reads far too much into history, specifically when we have cultures enjoying human sacrifices and taking pleasure in such actions. I would agree that it's taken years for them to condition themselves to such a society, but this actually works against the idea of natural selection leading to morality, for it would require the people to fall from an apex of morality, which natural selection cannot provide.
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« Reply #40 on: August 03, 2011, 06:25:25 PM »

Sure, you can say morality is the result of biological processes, which are in turn the result of chemical processes, which are in turn the result of physical processes, but once you do so, you are no longer talking the same language as Socrates or Kant.
I agree that stating that morality ("human behavior") is a result of biological and chemical processes, gives a large context in which to understand Socrates and Kant wrote. I don't see how it would contradict Socrates or Kant, though.

Are we using the word descriptively or prescriptively?
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« Reply #41 on: August 03, 2011, 06:37:19 PM »

@theo:
 
Firstly, the idea that Aztecs enjoyed human sacrifice begs all sorts of questions that I raised above, and that Habte Selassie also raised. You don't have to enjoy doing what you feel you have to do. Has it occurred to you that the Aztecs didn't enjoy carrying out these practices, but nevertheless felt compelled by superstition to engage in them? As an analogy, think of all those women in China who for centuries had their daughters' feet bound. Yes, it was the women who did this to each other, just as Somali women mutilate the genitals of their daughters. Do you think a single one of them enjoyed it? And yet as Pindar said "Custom is the ruler of all".

Even if they did enjoy it, it was their enemies they were sacrificing, so there's no question that their customs would detract from their overall fitness as a society. On the contrary, it enhanced it.

And if humanity evolved to be repelled by such behavior, that does not mean certain cultures couldn't develop in contrary directions. After all, our innate ability to feel empathy for others' pain is balanced by our innate ability to feel bloodthirsty rage against our enemies. Or do you think only born sociopaths are capable of killing? In different cultures in different contexts the two tendencies will be developed or suppressed in favor of the competing tendency. There is no "apex" of morality in the Darwinian framework, just as there is no "progress". It just so happens that our current cultural environment, which minimizes competition for resources, encourages the innate empathetic side of our collective psyche to be dominant. In less economically developed societies, people are used to harder struggle and tolerate a higher level of pain and cruelty. Even Orthodox nations tolerated judicial and non-judicial torture, mutilation and execution at times when everyone's pain threshold was considerably higher.
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« Reply #42 on: August 03, 2011, 07:41:51 PM »

It looks like people are searching for nice, clean answers. Well, biology and evolution is a messy business, there are competing factors to our survival that might never be perfectly balanced (at least, not until the advent of 2-directional mind machine interface and the ability to reprogram the brain Wink). On one hand, there's a strong desire to reproduced hard-wired in our genetic code by a billion years of evolution, it's absolutely necessary, the species would not have survived without it. On the other hand, we became social animals much more recently and we have evolved to optimize our social situation, but evolution can't just throw out the desire to reproduce, the species would cease to exist. So, on one hand we have a fundamental desire to reproduce at all costs and on the other hand we have the desire to live as a successful social people. It's not unreasonable to suggest that certain individuals in the society will be outliers on one extreme or the other, but on the average evolution has struck a pretty good balance.

Then, through at least the last 100,000 years of evolution we can add to natural selection artificial selection. If you go back far enough, you will see that rape was largely condemned as a violation of the man's (be it the father's or mate's/husband's) property rights and it threatened his genetic line, so he and others of power and influence in the tribe, acted to protect their survival and procreation by killing the guilty party. Over the years, those born with the strongest sexual inclinations, ones that caused them to go outside the bounds of what came to be regarded as socially acceptable, were killed...of course, those with no desire to reproduce may not have been killed, but they were also much less likely to reproduce. The result was that those who were most inclined to justify rape because of a strong and primitive reproductive desire were artificially removed from the gene pool and now we're at the point that, on average (of course there are outliers), we consider it inherently morally reprehensible without having to resort to property rights or a desire to ensure the integrity of our genetic line; and, of course, this has all run in parallel with the evolution of our brains and our capacity to reason and the cultural evolution that this element of biological evolution has allowed. We weren't always like this, this mindset and our modern reasoning capabilities are a result of thousands of generations of evolutionary selection, both natural and, more recently, artificial. But there's nothing wrong with seeing that we are a superior beings compared to our ancestors, that is the direction evolution should take, nor is this 'moral code' (I use the term morality with caution because of the superstitious baggage it carries, but it is the term that most accurately describes this instinct) any less important because of how we gained it, if anything it makes it more important because it has been tested and verified by evolution. We evolved this way for a good, objective reason, it has greatly aided the survival and advancement of our species. To me that seems like a far better reason to conduct our lives according to this 'moral code' than simply because the invisible man in the sky said we should.
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« Reply #43 on: August 03, 2011, 07:47:28 PM »

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But naturalism lacks a proper explanation for these things, that's what it means that there is no good without God.

Think of it this way - meta-ethically speaking it is necessary to have God in order to justify morality. Without God as the origin of morals then meta-ethically we have no morals. On the more normative side, however, an atheist can certainly act in a moral manner. But such an action is only explainable via theism, stating that the atheist is in the image of God and therefore will seek to act morally due to that image. Under a naturalistic aspect, we are left without a proper explanation as to why people are moral (or immoral).

My morals are moral to me, because i believe they are.

You have just proven my point.  Without God, all a person has is a series of personal preferences.  There is no intrinsic right and wrong, but merely your personal preference of whether or not to engage in murder, much like a personal has a preference of whether or not to mix orange soda and Sprite.  You may find such a concoction to be repulsive, but it is not inherently wrong.

Without God, there is no intrinsic right and wrong - there is no moral and immoral.  There is nothing but preference.
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« Reply #44 on: August 03, 2011, 07:54:44 PM »

Sure, you can say morality is the result of biological processes, which are in turn the result of chemical processes, which are in turn the result of physical processes, but once you do so, you are no longer talking the same language as Socrates or Kant.
I agree that stating that morality ("human behavior") is a result of biological and chemical processes, gives a large context in which to understand Socrates and Kant wrote. I don't see how it would contradict Socrates or Kant, though.

Are we using the word descriptively or prescriptively?
Both, but I'm also placing biological and chemical processes within the larger context of divine wisdom.
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