Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Moral Argument Paralleling the External World

Those who have trouble accepting the objective reality of moral values and duties point to the fact that we can't be sure that these values are actually objective. They might just as easily be subjective from person to person. But for every argument that can be given to dispute the existence of objective moral values, a parallel argument against the external world can be given. Moral values seem to force themselves upon us. Our moral sense apprehends these moral realities, such as it is always wrong to torture a little baby and always right to protect that baby, whether we want it to or not. Likewise, we apprehend an external world through our senses of touch, smell, sight, etc whether we want to or not. It imposes itself on us. The person who wants to ask for justification for believing in objective morals should consider this parallel with the external world. Just as there is no test or experiment to get outside our physical senses and prove 100% that we aren't actually a brain in a vat or in the Matrix, likewise there is no test that we can perform to get outside our moral sense and see if the moral values and duties it apprehends are real. Moral values are self-evident, just as the external world is. We apprehend them through our senses and there is no reason to question the reliability of these senses. The belief in objective moral values is properly basic, just as the belief in the external world is properly basic.

I argue the presuppositions that one has to hold to deny the objective reality of the external world or of objective moral values and duties require more justification than do those of the one that accepts these realities. In order to question the reality of the external world, one has to assume that our senses are not reliable and the input we are receiving is potentially false. Likewise with objective morals, one has to assume that their moral sense isn't reliable. In the absence of defeaters for the acceptance of their reliability, there is no reason to think our physical or moral senses are faulty.

65 comments:

zilch said...

bossmanham- you say:

Our moral sense apprehends these moral realities, such as it is always wrong to torture a little baby and always right to protect that baby, whether we want it to or not.

You mean like Saul protecting the Amalekite babies? Just askin'.

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

I first off want to point out that you're proving my point in showing your own apprehension of the moral realm. You're consternation about the Amalekite offing shows that you have a moral sense.

In answer to your question, it is a divine command, my friend. Take into account the foreknowledge of God in knowing whether or not any of those babies would grow up to honor Him or if they would have been as evil as their parents. Furthermore, consider that the Amalekites were terrible people, as were all of the other pagan societies that lived in Canaan at the time. This was also in judgement for their sins. In being their creator, God has the prerogative to take their lives whenever and however He sees fit. "Aslan is not a tame lion."

The babies that died were spared a terrible existence among a terrible people. They went to live with God immediately, and were spared a wicked life followed by punishment.

Now, this obviously doesn't give anyone the right to do this now. This was a one time command directly from God to take out a certain people who were in rebellion against Him. God's judgement against the wicked at this stage in history is done differently, but is still severe. Just as those people had the opportunity and refused it, God says He does not desire the death of the wicked and promises if we repent we will be spared (Ezekiel 33:11).

A couple of good resources to consider on this:

William Lane Craig addresses the slaughter of the Canaanites

another article on it

a Gotquestions.org article on it

zilch said...

Thanks for the nicely considered reply, bossmanham. If I were a Christian, I would probably have replied in a very similar manner. However, I'm not, and so I see things a bit differently.

First off- of course I have a moral sense. But as I said over at Pevensie's, it comes from genes, culture, and reason, not from God. And while there are broad areas of agreement about morals across human cultures, there are no "objective" morals, in the sense of "absolute" morals. If you want me to go into more detail, I will, time allowing; but I've been through this before at length, for instance here, here, and here at Triablogue. Be forewarned: they're Calvinists over there, and they eat Arminians for breakfast.

And yes, I know that killing the Amalekite babies was a divine command. Supposing it happened like Scripture says, that takes Saul off the hook, but doesn't excuse God. To me, saying "God told me to kill all these babies" or "these people are irredeemably evil" sound just like the excuses given for genocide all through history: "I was just following orders".

And while it's certainly a comforting thought that the Amalekite babies went straight to Heaven, there's no Biblical evidence for it that I know of. Yes, I read the links, and I've read many other apologetic explanations, but the scriptural citations require a great deal of wishful thinking to be interpreted this way.

Let's put it this way: if God commanded you to kill a baby, would you do it? Please don't tell me that He wouldn't do such a thing: He's done it before, and you cannot know that He wouldn't do it again.

In any case, all the best to you and yours from snowy Vienna. If you're ever out this way, drop me a line, and lunch is on me.

bossmanham said...

it comes from genes, culture, and reason, not from God

How do you know that?

there are no "objective" morals

Then there's no justification for you to protest when someone does something you don't like. It's just the random actions of an animal. There isn't anything wrong with it. In fact, "right and wrong" are meaningless.

at Triablogue

I don't make it a habit of visiting for that very reason.

that takes Saul off the hook, but doesn't excuse God

Actually, Saul disobeyed the command to completely wipe them out. The being from whom morals flow doesn't need an excuse. The Amalekites were being judged for their sins. But, on your view, there wasn't anything objectively wrong with what they did. It was just one portion of a species killing another. When a lion kills another lion, there's nothing morally objectionable about it.

To me, saying "God told me to kill all these babies" or "these people are irredeemably evil" sound just like the excuses given for genocide all through history: "I was just following orders".

This sounds an awful lot like an "is-ought" scenario.

And while it's certainly a comforting thought that the Amalekite babies went straight to Heaven, there's no Biblical evidence for it that I know of.

In pondering the death of his baby, King David assumed "But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (2 Samuel 12:23)." Job assumed a death in the womb would be better than the suffering he was enduring in Job 3:16-17. Plus we have Jesus commending the children to come to Him in Luke 18, saying of them "for of such is the kingdom of God (v 16).

Let's put it this way: if God commanded you to kill a baby, would you do it?

If I had an indisputable divine command, yeah. However, God speaks to us through His Son and His word now. We have all that He wants us to know. I have no reason to think He would ever command that now. But, on your view, there's nothing "wrong" with it. With individuals effectively deciding for themselves what they think is right and wrong, you have no right to tell anyone it's "wrong" to kill a baby. If you think you do, what are you basing it on and why does it extend to anyone else?

Now that I've answered all of these questions, I would ask that you answer the point brought up in the blog: why should I think that my moral sense that apprehends an objective realm of morals that extends to all people (because murder and rape is wrong for all people) is illusory? I don't think my physical senses are illusory. I take it a priori (as I assume you do) that my physical senses that apprehend an external world are reliable. Why shouldn't I, or you, with our moral sense?

bossmanham said...

In any case, all the best to you and yours from snowy Vienna. If you're ever out this way, drop me a line, and lunch is on me.

Thank you. I don't expect to be that way any time soon, haha, but I'll keep that in mind. Being a poverty stricken college student doesn't allow for tons of travel.

zilch said...

I don't know how much of this I'll be able to respond to- I've got a bad cold and I belong in bed- but I'll make a stab at it.

I said:

it [my moral sense] comes from genes, culture, and reason, not from God

You asked:

How do you know that?

The usual way: observation and reasoning. Humans are social animals, and as such have a certain amount of moral (or "premoral" if you prefer) behavior built in. Here's just one example of evidence for such inborn tendencies- there are thousands more where that came from.

I trust I needn't demonstrate to you the influence culture and reason have on morals.

This, combined with the fact that I see no evidence for the existence of God, leads me to say that the source of my morals is genetic, cultural, and rational.

I said:

there are no "objective" morals

You replied:

Then there's no justification for you to protest when someone does something you don't like. It's just the random actions of an animal. There isn't anything wrong with it. In fact, "right and wrong" are meaningless.

Things don't need to be "objective" in order to be acted upon. What if I were to say to you something I also believe:

there is no "objective" temperature "hot".

Would you agree? If not, you might say:

Then there's no justification for you to protest when someone holds your hand in boiling water. Your pain is just the random feelings of an animal. There isn't anything hot about it. In fact, "hot and cold" are meaningless.

Would you agree with that?

And since when are the actions of an animal "random"? What exactly do you mean by that?

If you want more detail about the problems I see with "objective" and "subjective" morals, please do read the links- even if my correspondents there are Calvinists, they argue pretty much exactly as you do on this point, and I do get tired of typing all this stuff out over and over. At some point I guess I will have to organize my thoughts and put them out in essay form in cyberspace, but I don't have the time just now. I'll let you know when I do if you're interested.

That's it for this evening. Have a good one.

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

The usual way: observation and reasoning

By observation and reason I have come to the conclusion that there are objective morals. We have to probe further than that.

Humans are social animals, and as such have a certain amount of moral (or "premoral" if you prefer) behavior built in

This is what we call a philosophical presupposition. Do you have empirical data to back this up? By my reasoning, in the absence of a defeater, I have no reason to think the morals realm I apprehend is any less real than the external world. My presupposition is I can trust my senses.

I believe the moral sense is built in as well. To an extent, it is innate within the human nature as we are made in the image of God.

I trust I needn't demonstrate to you the influence culture and reason have on morals.

If you did it would be completely irrelevant.

This, combined with the fact that I see no evidence for the existence of God, leads me to say that the source of my morals is genetic, cultural, and rational.

Some people see no reason to accept the existence of the external world. Are they justified in denying what forces itself upon them?

Things don't need to be "objective" in order to be acted upon.

In the case of morals they do. If there is no objective standard, then the people who deny the liberty of the one who's standard is different have no justification for doing so.

What if I were to say to you something I also believe:

there is no "objective" temperature "hot".


That's debatable. There are objective temperatures that will burn human beings. You'd need to define "hot" and not equivocate.

Then there's no justification for you to protest when someone holds your hand in boiling water. Your pain is just the random feelings of an animal. There isn't anything hot about it. In fact, "hot and cold" are meaningless.

This is comparing apples to oranges. Whether or not it's right for someone to hold your hand in hot water says nothing about whether there is an objective hot or cold. You've blended two arguments ( 1]whether it's right to protest if you are being burned and 2] whether there is an objective hot). It's an inappropriate analogy, and it equivocates.

It's obvious that boiling water, objectively, is too hot for any life to survive. That's why I'm glad earth is precisely where it needs to be in the universe to sustain life. Not too hot (objectively) and not too cold (objectively). Oh look, the teleological argument arises.

Anyway, I digress. Let's avoid this red herring and focus on the point. I never said just because something is subjective that we shouldn't act on it. That is beside the point. I subjectively think chocolate is better than vanilla, therefore I eat chocolate over vanilla. The point is, if morals are subjective, you acting on your sense of morality is no more justified than Osama Bin Laden acting on his. Neither side has any grounds to condemn the other side, because these 'morals' are entirely subject to the individual. Your morals hold no sway over mine. Bin Laden isn't wrong for what he did. On naturalism, he's just a product of evolution acting on the purely chemical reactions in response to stimuli. Right and wrong don't exist. They are illusory products of evolution.

And since when are the actions of an animal "random"? What exactly do you mean by that?

That was said to emphasize a point. I wouldn't read too much into it. But you're right, if naturalism is true, then the human animal's 'choices' are determined by external stimuli and the firing of neurons in the brain. Not only does the rapist do what he does, he can't do otherwise.

That's it for this evening. Have a good one.

You too. I'll be waiting for an answer to the point my post makes.

God bless you :)

Mr. Guthrie said...

Brennon, I would like to address Zilch on one issue:

Zilch, you stated that as humans are social creatures we have some moral sense built into us. Human history, however, provides evidence to the contrary. The history of man is one sorry chronicle of man dehumanizing his fellow man. Such was the case in the ancient world until the God of Israel revealed his Law to the Israelites. The Old Testament Law is saturated with commands to take care of society's most vulnerable, the widows, the orphans, and the poor. This was one of the primary ways God demonstrated that He was different from all other Gods. This same God who commanded the death of the Amalekite children inflicted death upon Israel when Israel rebelled against Him. And the reasons cited time and time again was the refusal to treat the weak with justice. The history of the world's civilizations show that when a people begin to respect their fellow man, to treat him with dignity, that new era began with the introduction of the Gospel into that civilization. Just ask any Christian from one of these lands who will tell you how men treated their fellow men before the introduction of the Gospel. In many societies, even until fairly recent times, child sacrifice was a common practice until the introduction of the Christian Gospel. Even athiests are not blind to this fact. Here is a link to an article by atheist Matthew Parris on how the Gospel transforms: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece . Even Parris relizes we cannot rely on any goodness in man's nature to heal broken civilizations. I hope your cold is getting better.

Mr. Guthrie said...

For some reason the entire citation did not get posted. The entire link is http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece

Mr. Guthrie said...

For some reason the whole link to the Parris article is not being posted. If you google Matthew Parris Africa Needs God you will find the article I am refering to.

zilch said...

Hey bossmanham. Again, there's too much here for me to respond to at the moment. I'll just hit a few points. As usual, quotes from myself are bolded, quotes from you are italicized. I said:

Humans are social animals, and as such have a certain amount of moral (or "premoral" if you prefer) behavior built in

You replied:

This is what we call a philosophical presupposition. Do you have empirical data to back this up?

Uh, no. This is what we call "science". Did you read my link? As I said, there's lots more data where that came from.

By my reasoning, in the absence of a defeater, I have no reason to think the morals realm I apprehend is any less real than the external world. My presupposition is I can trust my senses.

I agree with you there. Morals are real, and if we can't trust our senses (with a grain of salt) then we can't get anywhere.

I believe the moral sense is built in as well. To an extent, it is innate within the human nature as we are made in the image of God.

We agree here too, except about the source of our moral sense. As I said, since I see no evidence for God, I'll go with science: our moral sense is a mixture of genetic, cultural, and rational heritages.

Things don't need to be "objective" in order to be acted upon.

In the case of morals they do. If there is no objective standard, then the people who deny the liberty of the one who's standard is different have no justification for doing so.

This is exactly like saying that if I have no objective standard for "hot", then I have no justification for complaining if someone holds my hand in boiling water.

What if I were to say to you something I also believe:

there is no "objective" temperature "hot".


You replied:

That's debatable. There are objective temperatures that will burn human beings. You'd need to define "hot" and not equivocate.

Okay, tell me the precise ("objective") temperature at which a human being is burned. You are the one claiming objectivity here- it's up to you to define "hot". My point is that there is no exact point where "hot" starts.

zilch said...

Part two.

Then there's no justification for you to protest when someone holds your hand in boiling water. Your pain is just the random feelings of an animal. There isn't anything hot about it. In fact, "hot and cold" are meaningless.

This is comparing apples to oranges. Whether or not it's right for someone to hold your hand in hot water says nothing about whether there is an objective hot or cold. You've blended two arguments ( 1]whether it's right to protest if you are being burned and 2] whether there is an objective hot). It's an inappropriate analogy, and it equivocates.

How is my analogy inappropriate? You claim that if I don't believe in "objective" right and wrong, I must have no concept of right and wrong at all. My analogy shows that it's possible to not have "objective" standards about something, in this case temperature, but still to have standards that I can reasonably act upon. Again, if you haven't done so yet, please read through my Triablogue links.

One more point, and then I'm off. You say:

It's obvious that boiling water, objectively, is too hot for any life to survive. That's why I'm glad earth is precisely where it needs to be in the universe to sustain life. Not too hot (objectively) and not too cold (objectively). Oh look, the teleological argument arises.

It might seem obvious to you that life cannot survive temperatures hotter than 100 C, but you are wrong. Methanopyrus is just one example of a so-called extremophile, an organism that thrives in hot environments, in this case up to 122 C.

And the teleological argument only arises if one is anthropocentric. Saying that it's an incredible coincidence that the Earth is perfect for life is like saying that it's an incredible coincidence that someone somewhere won the lottery.

One brief answer for Mr. Guthrie, who says:

Zilch, you stated that as humans are social creatures we have some moral sense built into us. Human history, however, provides evidence to the contrary. The history of man is one sorry chronicle of man dehumanizing his fellow man.

Don't I know it. I never claimed that our inborn moral sense was perfect. We evolved as social animals in small tribes, and part of our moral sense involves distrusting strangers and fighting over territory. This kept us alive for hundreds of thousands of years, but with the advent of big well-armed societies, we need more control if we're to survive. That's where culture, in the form of religion, law, social contracts, and the like, comes in.

More later. cheers, zilch

Mr. Guthrie said...

Zilch, I agree that as civilizations grow, mechanisms are invented to maintain order, such as the law and religions. Yet the basic motivation is self interest in maintaining order, not respecting the dignity of our fellow man.In the past, societies have put up with a lot from governing classes if stability could be maintained without much thought as to the rights of others. Even the religions of these societies developed to uphold the political order. It is the introduction of the Gospel into cultures that have changed the exclusive focus of keeping order to seeking to protect all citizens from having their rights being violated; it was the Gospel that introduced a moral sense into the culture. The roots of western democracy is the dignity of each individual because such individuals are made in the image of God.

zilch said...

Mr. Guthrie: thanks for your thoughtful reply. I actually agree with most of what you say, and I also think that as religions go, Christianity is pretty good- there's lots of timeless good advice in the Bible. But I think it would be hard to demonstrate that Christianity is the best or only way of living well. For instance, to point out just one uncomfortable fact, the United States has the highest proportion of observant Christians of any First World nation, yet also has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, the highest population of prisoners, and the highest rate of violent crime, of any First World nation. If Christianity is so good, why is this so?

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

Mr. Guthrie said...

Zilch, the U.S. indeed has the high crime rate and other social ills you mention. I am not an expert on other Eurpopean countries so I cannot weigh all the factors as to why the U.S. figures for these conditions are higher than in other western countries. However, while the U.S. does have a greater Christian presence than other western countries, one can argue that western Christianity falls far short of the mark of the Biblical standard. Not only in terms of personal conduct does the Church in America fall short, but it has abandoned its mission to care for the vulnerable to the government. Until the 20th century, it was the Church that not only took on the responsibility for meeting the needs of the poor but tied that aid to responsible behavior aimed at breaking many of the bad behavior patterns that kept people bound in poverty. People did not just give money, but personally involved themselves in others lives to help them rise above their circumstances, obeying the command in the Bible to practice charity (from the word caritas which has as one of its meanings to suffer alongside others.) During this era, families black and white remained intact and stable. It was the Wesleyan branch of the Church that led the way in this. According to Wesley, any holiness that does not lead to what he called social holiness is no holiness at all. After Hurricane Katrina, it was the Church and not the government that was successful in feeding those made homeless. While this is not a complete explanation for your question, I believe it goes a long way in explaining the situation in the U.S.

zilch said...

Speaking of charity: what do you guys think of Pat Robertson's claim that the recent earthquake in Haiti is God's punishment for the Haitians, who were supposedly only able to defeat the French and throw off the yoke of slavery because they made a pact with the Devil? I'm not saying that this is a typical Christian viewpoint- I know many Christians whom I admire for their selfless dedication to improving the lot of the poor and needy- but I sincerely hope that Robertson is being criticized for this within the Christian community.

I'm going to make a donation to Caritas for Haiti in any case.

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

I haven't been on in a few days, guys, and I can't make any responses right this minute. Pretty busy lately. I'll try to get back soon.

Mr. Guthrie said...

Zilch, there is no easy glib answer to your question. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is full of references to God being directly involved in the processes of the natural world, blessing obedience with beneficial living conditions and creating harsh conditions for those who disobey. (Deut. 12: 13-21) However, as Dr. Ben Witherington pointed out on his blog today, God is not the only source of causation in the natural world. A good example illustrating this is when Jesus rebuked the storm when He and His disciples were in a boat. As Witherington points out, in Luke 13: 1-4, Jesus states that calamities befall all people, not just sinners, as we can see has happened in Haiti as Christian Churches and Relief organizations were hit just as hard as everybody else. God certainly allowed the quake to occur, but whether it is up to us to claim it was God's specific purpose to punish Haiti may not be for man to say. However, I will not deny that God may act with such purposes in mind. This may offend our views of compassion, yet as the Craig article Brennon cited earlier points out, our western views do not line up with the views of other cultures or the Creator who is the source of morality. In fact, the world views of cultures like Haiti would probably have no problem with a god or gods bringing natural disaster on a nation that is disobedient to the god(s). When the Hatains overthrew the French all they did was make themselves free to enslave one another.

zilch said...

Mr. Guthrie- if God sometimes uses natural catastrophes to punish, but sometimes doesn't, then there's not much I can say about that, because it's not verifiable and not falsifiable.

bossmanham- no rush. I have a real life, too, so I understand. In case you're interested, though, here's an article on the evolution of morality that is a good overview of the current state of the science.

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

Uh, no. This is what we call "science"

Assuming the "moral" behavior is due to genetics and culture and not something we apprehend with our moral sense is not science, it's a presupposition.

I agree with you there. Morals are real

No you don't agree with me. Morals are as real as the external world. Just as the tree in my front yard is objectively there whether you believe it or not, so it is with morals. They are real and objective whether you agree or not.

I'll go with science: our moral sense is a mixture of genetic, cultural, and rational heritages.

Science can't determine this. Science doesn't make philosophical judgements. You can't test to see if morals are passed along by genetics. Observations of different morals is completely irrelevant as to whether there are objective morals.

You claim that if I don't believe in "objective" right and wrong, I must have no concept of right and wrong at all

I didn't claim that. I take you at your word when you say you have a moral code you adhere to. What I contend is on your view, that this code is entirely subjective, you have no justification to expect or require anyone else to accept your moral code. If someone were beating you in the street, it may be right for them whether it's wrong for you or not.

My analogy shows that it's possible to not have "objective" standards about something, in this case temperature, but still to have standards that I can reasonably act upon.

No it doesn't.

Again, if you haven't done so yet, please read through my Triablogue links.

I did. I don't think you fared very well over there.

Methanopyrus is just one example of a so-called extremophile, an organism that thrives in hot environments, in this case up to 122 C.

Okay...next time one of these formulates a rational argument you let me know. Pretty irrelevant.

Saying that it's an incredible coincidence that the Earth is perfect for life is like saying that it's an incredible coincidence that someone somewhere won the lottery.

Bad comparison. In looking at each case required for life individually (from the initial conditions to the universal constants to the position of the earth etc.), it would be more like saying the same person hit the jackpot over and over and over again ad infinitum.

Speaking of charity: what do you guys think of Pat Robertson's claim that the recent earthquake in Haiti is God's punishment for the Haitians

Well first of all, everyone knows Pat is a bit of a goofball. He shouldn't have said that, and he has no exclusive info from God that would justify that claim (that God specifically did this because of a 200 yr old pact with the devil). I think he would profit from reading James 1:26.

Death in general is the judgement from God because of our sin. Whenever someone dies anywhere we know why it is, we sinned and God cursed the creation in judgement for that sin; therefore, we die. Did God actively cause this quake for some reason? I don't know, and neither does Pat.

God bless.

zilch said...

Hey bossmanham! You said:

Assuming the "moral" behavior is due to genetics and culture and not something we apprehend with our moral sense is not science, it's a presupposition.

No, it's an observation. Did you read the article I linked to about the evolution of morality? There's lots of evidence that morality is an evolved sense, both in the biosphere (genetics) and the ideosphere (culture). My only "presupposition" here is that there is no God involved- and that's only a "presupposition" insofar as I don't postulate the existence of, or influence from, entities for which I see no evidence. I could just as well say to you that your belief that your moral sense does not come from your body thetans is a "presupposition".

I said:

I'll go with science: our moral sense is a mixture of genetic, cultural, and rational heritages.

Science can't determine this. Science doesn't make philosophical judgements. You can't test to see if morals are passed along by genetics. Observations of different morals is completely irrelevant as to whether there are objective morals.

More of the same. Of course science can't "determine" that there are not undetectable supernatural influences on morals, from body thetans for instance, but in the lack of evidence for such, science goes with the simpler explanation: the world is more or less the way it seems. And it certainly seems as though morals are passed along (to some extent) by genetics: how else do you explain moral (or "protomoral" if you prefer) behavior in non-human animals? Again- read the article and tell me exactly what you disagree with, and what evidence you have for your disagreement.

My analogy shows that it's possible to not have "objective" standards about something, in this case temperature, but still to have standards that I can reasonably act upon.

No it doesn't.

Oh yes it does. That was fun, wasn't it?

Er, could you be a bit more specific? What exactly did you find lacking?

Again, if you haven't done so yet, please read through my Triablogue links.

I did. I don't think you fared very well over there.

Again, not much information here. How exactly did I fare badly?

Methanopyrus is just one example of a so-called extremophile, an organism that thrives in hot environments, in this case up to 122 C.

Okay...next time one of these formulates a rational argument you let me know. Pretty irrelevant.

You're the one who claimed that no organism could survive in boiling water. I merely corrected you, and now I'm being "irrelevant". How does that follow?

Saying that it's an incredible coincidence that the Earth is perfect for life is like saying that it's an incredible coincidence that someone somewhere won the lottery.

Bad comparison. In looking at each case required for life individually (from the initial conditions to the universal constants to the position of the earth etc.), it would be more like saying the same person hit the jackpot over and over and over again ad infinitum.

Not really. It's more like saying that one person won a very big and very unlikely jackpot. But as the Universe is an unimaginably big place, and as life has had an unimaginably long time to evolve, and as we don't really know under what other conditions life could conceivably arise, we are in no position to say that the unlikelihood of life on Earth must point to an intelligent source. The more so, because this intelligent source remains unexplained.

While the prize of life is indeed unlikely, the lottery of the Universe is unimaginably large. Thus, until such time as there is evidence pointing to God, I'll stick with the simpler explanation: the world is, more or less, as it seems.

cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

There's lots of evidence that morality is an evolved sense, both in the biosphere (genetics) and the ideosphere (culture)

Evidence interpreted through a lens of naturalism. You're assuming against your own sense, which you've admitted you have, that the morals you apprehend aren't really there; that they're illusory and subject to an individual's own genetics. This is like the person denying the external world. You apprehend it and have no reason not to, yet against your sense you conclude otherwise because you assume that all there are naturalistic functions. It comes back to your having to explain this moral realm naturalistically because of your prior commitment to naturalism. Deny it if you must.

My only "presupposition" here is that there is no God involved

Exactly.

entities for which I see no evidence

Suppressing evidence is not a lack thereof. You're standing on a large amount of evidence. The natural evidence of God (called often "natural theology") is fairly self-evident. Just like science has postulated quarks, which no one has ever seen, based on other factors that are met, it is not strange to postulate an unmoved mover or a first cause for a contingent universe. You simply want to say "motha nature will explain this!!!" but I'm convinced no one can explain the coming into being of time and matter naturalistically. But I know for a fact you will wave your hand at any cosmological argument because of your commitment to naturalism. It's a failed worldview.

I could just as well say to you that your belief that your moral sense does not come from your body thetans is a "presupposition"

On this subject, the moral realm, I have laid bare my presupposition: I can trust my moral sense and what it apprehends. I don't need to presuppose theism to go there. However, the implications of the objectivity of moral values would seem to lead to theism, which is why you must avoid it.

but in the lack of evidence for such, science goes with the simpler explanation

That was the point of this post. Subjective morals is not the way the word seems to be. It seems that there are objective morals and duties that are incumbent on all people.

how else do you explain moral (or "protomoral" if you prefer) behavior in non-human animals

God stuck into animals instincts to aid in their survival, as well as implementing a system of natural selection that would also aid in their survival because "Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young" (Psalm 84:3). We only interpret such behavior as "moral" because of the moral sense that I've been talking about. Animals lack the cognative and rational abilities that would allow them to think "okay, it's wrong to kill this other cat because I would be murdering a fellow kitty being." There is a clear and distinct moral dimension that the animal kingdom lacks.

bossmanham said...

Zilch (part 2),

temp analogy

After having given some thought to this, I have further reasons why this analogy doesn't line up to what we're talking about. It is true, the way certain individuals deal with different temperatures may be subject to that individual. When it's 72 F in my house, my wife could be freezing and I'd be just fine or even too hot. That doesn't change the fact that the actual temperature is 72 F. That is an objective statement about the temperature of the air in the house. So while we may react differently to this objective temperature, it doesn't mean the temperature is actually relative to each person.

There doesn't seem to be a correlation with this example and what we're talking about. Yes, you would still implement your own moral code if morals were subjective. That point isn't what I'm attacking. I'm saying you have no justification in that case of expecting anyone to adhere to your moral code. They have their own moral code and may be following it just fine if they mugged you on the street or killed 6 million people, and others limiting their liberty is without justification.

Again, not much information here. How exactly did I fare badly?

You used really bad arguments that were easily picked apart by Hays and Pike.

I merely corrected you, and now I'm being "irrelevant"

Okay that's fine. I meant the example wasn't relevant for this discussion, but I don't mind correction and am glad to have new info about really hot organisms.

Not really. It's more like saying that one person won a very big and very unlikely jackpot.

This is called stacking the deck. There isn't just one contingent that has made it possible in a universe run by the laws ours is for life to exist, there are a myriad of them, and all of them panned out so that this little blue speck can have life on it.

we don't really know under what other conditions life could conceivably arise

We do know the conditions in a universe governed by the laws ours is governed by in which life can arise. Tweak any of the universal constants at all and you have atoms not coalescing or the universe collapsing in on itself during Planck time.

we are in no position to say that the unlikelihood of life on Earth must point to an intelligent source

Why not? We seem to think we're in the position to determine if clay pots we dig up bear the marks of design. We don't settle with "the Universe is an unimaginably big place, and as clay pots has had an unimaginably long time to form, and as we don't really know under what other conditions clay pots could conceivably arise, we are in no position to say that the unlikelihood of clay pots right here in this excavation site must point to an intelligent source." That sounds a little absurd, and it seems to be special pleading.

the world is, more or less, as it seems.

You're right, it seems the world is in need of a creator, and that morals are objective, and therefore in need of a grounds to base them in. It therefore seems like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, incarnate as Jesus Christ, is the explanation.

zilch said...

bossmanham,

You're assuming against your own sense, which you've admitted you have, that the morals you apprehend aren't really there; that they're illusory and subject to an individual's own genetics. This is like the person denying the external world.

When did I ever say that morals are illusory? How is my stance like "denying the external world"?

My only "presupposition" here is that there is no God involved

Exactly.

You're quoting me out of context, bossmanham. Notice that I went on to say:

[...]and that's only a "presupposition" insofar as I don't postulate the existence of, or influence from, entities for which I see no evidence.

In other words, I am simply pointing out to you that your use of "presupposition" here is tendentious. I'm open to any evidence for the existence of God that you can show me; no presuppositions.

Suppressing evidence is not a lack thereof.

Agreed. But where is this evidence I'm suppressing?

You're standing on a large amount of evidence. The natural evidence of God (called often "natural theology") is fairly self-evident.

Not to me. Show me some.

Just like science has postulated quarks, which no one has ever seen, based on other factors that are met, it is not strange to postulate an unmoved mover or a first cause for a contingent universe.

There's a difference here. Quarks, which cannot be "seen" because they are too small to make an image, were postulated because they help explain otherwise inexplicable physically and measurably detectable features of the real world, and they enable us to design experiments whose outcome can be predicted based on this postulate. God does no such thing.

You simply want to say "motha nature will explain this!!!" but I'm convinced no one can explain the coming into being of time and matter naturalistically.

I don't know how much motha nature will explain to us about the coming into being (if those words even make sense in this context), but I'm willing to say "I don't know how it all happened", until such time as I learn (if ever). And the theistic "explanation" is simply "goddidit", which has precisely null information content: it doesn't explain why things are the way they are, it does not enable us to make predictions, and it has no evidence going for it.

And I agree with you- it is "not strange" to postulate an "unmoved mover" or a "causeless cause". People do it all the time. But that's no reason to believe in such a thing.

zilch said...

However, the implications of the objectivity of moral values would seem to lead to theism, which is why you must avoid it.

Are you a mind reader? I could just as well claim that the implications of the subjectivity of moral values would seem to lead to atheism, and thus no pie in the sky when you die, which is why you must avoid them.

After having given some thought to this, I have further reasons why this analogy doesn't line up to what we're talking about. It is true, the way certain individuals deal with different temperatures may be subject to that individual. When it's 72 F in my house, my wife could be freezing and I'd be just fine or even too hot. That doesn't change the fact that the actual temperature is 72 F. That is an objective statement about the temperature of the air in the house. So while we may react differently to this objective temperature, it doesn't mean the temperature is actually relative to each person.

It is true, the way certain individuals deal with different practices may be subject to that individual. When a household slave is beaten but doesn't die after three days, my wife might find this morally wrong and I'd be just fine with it, both of us quoting Scripture for support. That doesn't change the fact that what actually happened is that a slave was beaten. That is an objective statement about what happened in the house. So while we may react differently to this objective event, it doesn't mean the event is actually relative to each person.

You used really bad arguments that were easily picked apart by Hays and Pike.

No more information here (aside from the names) than in your previous claim that I "didn't fare too well". Which arguments were bad, and how were they bad?

You're right, it seems the world is in need of a creator, and that morals are objective, and therefore in need of a grounds to base them in. It therefore seems like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, incarnate as Jesus Christ, is the explanation.

Doesn't seem that way to me, as I've said.

cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

When did I ever say that morals are illusory?

You never did. It's the logical conclusion of your worldview. The apprehension of the objectivity of morals becomes illusory. Even though they seem to be objective and binding to all by our moral sense, they actually aren't.

How is my stance like "denying the external world"?

You're denying what seems to be objectively true. The external world is objective and independent of individuals. It is there and it is the same for everyone, whether or not their physical senses are fully functioning or not. The external world was no different for Hellen Keller than for me or you. The same is true with moral duties and values. They, according to our moral sense, seem to be objective, and they force themselves upon us. It seems is wrong to torture someone for fun whether or not anyone agrees. That moral value that I apprehend seems as objective and real to me as the external world does. So the burden of proof rests on the person who wants to deny that my moral sense is accurate. The same is true with someone that says my physical senses are not accurate. Just because there are people who are color blind doesn't mean that the tree in my front yard isn't actually green.

There's a difference here

Not really. We have a condition that is met in the coming into being of the universe, all space and time, out of nothing. That is attested to not only philosophically, but also scientifically. Just as the conditions quarks create that allow us to postulate their existence, so too with the existence of the universe I can postulate an uncaused cause of that universe. If it'd good for the goose it's good for the gander.

Quarks, which cannot be "seen" because they are too small to make an image, were postulated because they help explain otherwise inexplicable physically and measurably detectable features of the real world

Somehow, this sounds like the cosmological argument slightly tweaked, yet theists are criticized with the "god of the gaps" fallacy when we use this reasoning in the cosmological argument. It just shows a prior commitment to naturalism. "Quarks of the gaps"...haha.

it doesn't explain why things are the way they are

What do you mean by this? Postulating God as the first cause is not meant to explain why things are as they are, just to explain why they are period. As Vox Veritas pointed out on Rho's blog, "From the Christian perspective, there are two levels of causation, and thus there are two levels of explanation. God is the alone primary cause of all that exists. Thus, "X exists because God caused it ultimately" is the ultimate and final explanation for everything." It is simply to show why something is here rather than nothing. We can use science to explain certain natural functions and why things work the way they do, but unless you're comfortable with an infinite regress, which is philosophically untenable, then postulating an ultimate cause is not foolish or outside of rational thought.

it does not enable us to make predictions

So what? That's not the purpose of postulating God's existence.

and it has no evidence going for it.

Yeah, it does. It's called inference to the best explanation. If at one time there is no matter and time, and then time and matter came into existence, the most plausible explanation is a timeless and immaterial cause.

bossmanham said...

Zilch 2: the sequel,

I could just as well claim that the implications of the subjectivity of moral values would seem to lead to atheism

You're correct. My entire point, however, has been that the burden of proof rests on the person who claims that the moral realm that we apprehend is illusory. Any argument you'd give is far less warranted than actually accepting my moral sense as reliable.

It is true, the way certain individuals deal with different practices may be subject to that individual

But that doesn't change whether there is an objective standard. Just because some people suppress their moral sense or their moral sense is damaged in no way means that morals are all of a sudden subject to the individual. Just like if someone's physical senses are damaged, like if someone is blind, doesn't mean the physical world becomes subject to that individual.

When a household slave is beaten but doesn't die after three days, my wife might find this morally wrong and I'd be just fine with it, both of us quoting Scripture for support

You'd need to make sure you're dealing with the passage correctly, and not grossly misrepresenting it. You'd need to make sure that the passage is actually condoning the beating of a slave (which it's not), and not simply setting up a law in the case a slave is actually beaten (which it is). Our laws also explain what should happen if children work before a certain age, but prescribing a punishment for a crime is not condoning the crime.

So while we may react differently to this objective event, it doesn't mean the event is actually relative to each person.

That's right, but that's completely irrelevant to whether it's actually right or wrong to beat that slave. How one reacts to a situation doesn't impact whether or not there is an objectively right or wrong thing to do in that situation. You and I would agree (I hope) that it is wrong to beat slaves, let alone own any. The difference is I say it is truly and objectively wrong independent of what anyone thinks, you only think it is wrong in your opinion to own a slave. On naturalism, that doesn't extend beyond you. Your wife is just as justified in beating that slave according to her own subjective moral code as you are in saying it is wrong.

No more information here (aside from the names) than in your previous claim that I "didn't fare too well". Which arguments were bad, and how were they bad?

Not sure why you're so insistent on this, as it's pretty obvious what we'd disagree on. One instance was continually insisting Pike was assuming theism when he was clearly following the conclusion of naturalism, as if he couldn't step outside that belief to examine the rational conclusions of another. You were doing something similar with me on AJ's blog not too long ago.

Doesn't seem that way to me, as I've said.

I've found this common among the internet atheist crowd. Crank up the skeptic meter only when it comes to God. Otherwise, it's okay to believe pretty much any implausible thing, like the coming into being of the universe uncaused out of nothing, just as long as God is never ever ever mentioned. But you've still not addressed the point I made in this post.

God bless.

zilch said...

bossmanham: I asked-

When did I ever say that morals are illusory?

You replied:

You never did. It's the logical conclusion of your worldview.

No, it's your conclusion as to what my worldview entails. As I said, it's perfectly possible to see morals as being subjective, but to still recognize that they are not illusory, just as it's possible to recognize that there is no objective temperature "hot", but still not want to hold one's hand in boiling water.

It seems is wrong to torture someone for fun whether or not anyone agrees.

Your qualification "for fun" is straight from Sye Tenbruggencate, is it not? In any case, it is telling: torturing someone for eternity for disobeying God, say by refusing to kill babies, is apparently okay in your worldview.

it doesn't explain why things are the way they are

What do you mean by this? Postulating God as the first cause is not meant to explain why things are as they are, just to explain why they are period. As Vox Veritas pointed out on Rho's blog, "From the Christian perspective, there are two levels of causation, and thus there are two levels of explanation. God is the alone primary cause of all that exists.

And as I pointed out in my reply to Vox, an explanation that has no empirical evidence going for it (which he admitted is the case) is only wishful thinking. My criteria for truth are a bit more stringent: I want explanations that do some work, and the God hypothesis, as you admit, does no work. So, as I've said many times already, until such time as I see any evidence, I'll stick with my incomplete, but infinitely simpler explanation.

it does not enable us to make predictions

So what? That's not the purpose of postulating God's existence.

More of the same. If postulating God's existence does not enable us to make predictions, then what's the point, other than wishful thinking?

and it has no evidence going for it.

Yeah, it does. It's called inference to the best explanation. If at one time there is no matter and time, and then time and matter came into existence, the most plausible explanation is a timeless and immaterial cause.

We know nothing about what went on before Planck time, so any speculation is a shot in the dark. And postulating an infinitely powerful being, who by an amazing coincidence, just happens to be the God described by our particular religion, is not what I would call the "inference to the best explanation".

zilch said...

Part two:

My entire point, however, has been that the burden of proof rests on the person who claims that the moral realm that we apprehend is illusory. Any argument you'd give is far less warranted than actually accepting my moral sense as reliable.

As I said, I never claimed that the moral realm is illusory. And as my explanation is infinitely simpler than yours, having no infinitely powerful being involved, I would say that the burden of proof is rather upon you.

When a household slave is beaten but doesn't die after three days, my wife might find this morally wrong and I'd be just fine with it, both of us quoting Scripture for support

You'd need to make sure you're dealing with the passage correctly, and not grossly misrepresenting it.

Are you saying that all Christians will agree with you about how to deal with this passage, and others, in Scripture? If so, I can point you to lots of Christians who would beg to differ. In fact, Christians have killed one another because of different interpretations of Scripture, n'est-ce pas? If you're not saying this, are you saying that your interpretation is the only correct one? How can you claim that the morals in the Bible are "objective" if no one can agree upon exactly what they mean?

One instance was continually insisting Pike was assuming theism when he was clearly following the conclusion of naturalism, as if he couldn't step outside that belief to examine the rational conclusions of another. You were doing something similar with me on AJ's blog not too long ago.

Pike claimed that a naturalistic viewpoint must inevitably lead to despair and suicide, if it were to be applied consistently. I pointed out to him that it would only do so if life in the real world were viewed as being valueless, which I did not and do not. He made it clear that our brief life in the real world was valueless to him in comparison to eternity in Heaven or Hell. I said that since I don't believe in an afterlife, that I made no such comparison, but he seemed to think that I must somehow be forced to be dissatisfied to the point of despair by having only this one life. Do you see the problem here? Pike was assuming the truth of his beliefs in considering how I "must" think, and he was simply wrong.

cheers from foggy Vienna, zilch

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link said

First, then, biologists address morality concretely as a form of behavior. As such, it fits in a context of other behaviors: foraging, mating and nesting, securing territory, play, grooming and other social interactions.

Morality is not a form of behavior. I can see already this is gonna go off track quickly. Morality is an idea or ideal or if you want to talk in biological terms a sense. i use the word sense very very loosely

T. James Archibald said...

Zilch's link said

For guidance, then, a biologist turns to moral philosophers. Yet even after centuries of reflection and debate, philosophers themselves do not agree on core ethical principles for defining "good." They generally recognize, however, three basic approaches.

these 3 are listed:
-consequentialism
-deontology, virtue ethics
-social contract

These are so completely subjective. How can one claim good scientific outcomes with a preconceived basis such as this.

This is not morality.

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link said

In the same way, reproduction and survival do not reflect a value of evolution. As exemplified in extinction, species do not "need" to be perpetuated. As exemplified in sterile insect castes and non-fertile individuals, single organisms do not "need" to reproduce themselves.

I agree

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link said,

Biological analysis may enrich our understanding of morality, but it is also limited. Science is not able to discover ethical principles in nature. Nor to justify them. Nor to evaluate them, say, based on evolutionary history. Nor even to develop them based on some presumed universal or "objective" principle of "human nature." Many have tried. All have failed (Farber 1994, Bradie 1994).

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link,


Rather, the achievable aim is to explain how organisms such as humans evolved moral capacities, to form moral concepts and to act on them in particular environments.

Not if humans evolved moral capacities but how.

How can u even consider this science when it is based solely on preconceptions

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link

The first category of biological explanations for moral behavior



remember, explanations are not refutations.

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

Some behaviors or dispositions — not all — are partly hereditary (innate or instinct).


Again, morals are not behaviors. Man as a general rule does not act out his morals.

Disposition is not morality either. Just because a son may or may not inherit his father's angry or timid disposition does not mean the father's passing down his morals genetically

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

Some behaviors or dispositions — not all — are partly hereditary (innate or instinct).

SOME BUT NOT ALL are PARTLY hereditary?
WOW

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

To the degree that they are, they are subject to natural selection. Such behaviors will thus tend to promote an individual's relative fitness.

I think that everyone would agree that this premise is false?
Just because u pass on a behavior, doesn't mean that aided u in the selection of nature

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

Moral behavior seems an exception. Cooperation or helping may enhance the fitness of another organism. Any behavior that involves a cost (or decreased fitness) to the individual seems ruled out by evolutionary principles.

to this i say 'duh' and also, 'so what?'

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

Behavior that benefits other organisms may sometimes also benefit the individual. In such cases, no conflict arises. For example, mutualisms are common in nature: insect pollination of flowers; animal dispersal of seeds; the ant-acacia symbiosis; and various endosymbionts (bacteria/termites, algae/nudibranchs; mitochondria; chloroplasts). Such interactions between species illustrate how organisms may adapt through mutually beneficial behavior, even where the exchange is not conscious.

I think everyone would agree these have nothing to do with morality. Simply survival

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

In Belding's ground squirrels (Spermophilus beldingi), which inhabit mountain meadows in the western U.S., costly helping appears in the alarm calls of sentinels watching for predators. Unlike meerkats, Belding's ground squirrels that raise an alarm are more frequently preyed upon.


I think this would reduce the chances of passing this trait on to a very, very, very slim margin. Come on!

*(quietly)* since they all do it though it makes me think that they've alway done it and it was, as zilch put it, "built in". *(quieter)* by a builder

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:


In this case, the ground squirrels in one area tend to be closely related. They alert — and benefit — mostly their kin.


This does not indicate morality. Morality would be quite the opposite. A moral human would take care of all he is able. to take care of only family is IMmoral.

*(tongue in cheek)*When the aliens come in the movies should the main character alert just his family or as many as possible. Ooh ooh. the character should be a black president like 24. Awesome

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

[vampire bats] cannot survive without food more than a few days. But on any given night, 7-30% of the bats fail to find a meal. A bat may then turn to a roostmate and nuzzle its throat. On roughly 5 of 8 occasions, the second bat regurgitates a small amount of blood for the first bat. Such sacrifices are not isolated acts, however. Eventually the donor bat fails to find food. Because bats frequently return to the same roost, the same behavior can occur again, with the roles reversed. The "debt" is repaid. Reciprocity, or the potential for such, is critical.

I never heard of this. That is really cool!

1st--They assume that the bat regurgitating is making some kind of moral decision whether or not to feed his little buddy. Let's see that study.

2nd--It seems more likely that since, 'on any given night, 7-30% of the bats fail to find a meal', u might be nuzzling a neck w/no food. Duh!!

3rd--they call this a sacrifice. it may not be much of a sacrifice

4th--they frequently return to the same roost or the same neck nuzzlin' neighboreeno? If not then it's not reciprocation.

5th--If they do return to the same NNN then who's to say that bat has any recollection of the previous blood donation?

And,
6th--again they assume the bat makes a conscious moral decision to reciprocate.

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

An alternative approach to morality focuses on feelings or reasoning at the level of mental phenomena, rather than on genetics (Sober and Wilson 1998). In ordinary terms, morality may be less what you do so much as why you do it: are your motives or intentions "good," regardless of the actual outcome? Adopting this perspective introduces a whole new set of biological questions and explanatory aims — and corresponding methods.


Morality is not about your intentions or what you do but, what you ought to do.

I'm going to pretty much skip this section since, feelings based morality is completely subjective and, therefore, impossible to argue for or against. And i just realized how long the presnt. in this link is.

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

Mental phenomena pose a challenge for science. They are not directly observable. Philosophers have relied conventionally on introspection. In our daily lives we also make judgments about what other persons think, believe, or intend, or why they act. Both methods can be informative, yet they are also limited and possibly misleading, especially with animals.

No duh. Again. Then you should throw this entire study out the window! Yes with the baby in it!

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

One common error is to anthropomorphize animals, or to interpret them idealistically in human terms.


well he's already done that a few times.

My guess: He'll do it again.

But, this is just the natural outworking of philosophical naturalism. An almost universal preconception in modern popular science

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

Why do we feel moral duty?" Darwin wondered. First, Darwin observed that animals could evolve societies, structured (he assumed) by a social instinct. Second, with multiple instincts, behavior might not always accord with social benefit. But memory, Darwin thought, would help resolve such conflicts as the organism learned to regulate its instincts, making the social instinct primary. Third, the use of language would allow organisms to communicate their needs clearly to one another. Fourth, repetition would lead to habit, and a spontaneous sense of what one "ought" to do. While incomplete and flawed in some respects...


SOME respects??? Come on.

YOU CANNOT PASS DOWN MEMORIES IN DNA. that is ridiculous pseudo-science and science fiction. You might as well be reading X-Men comics

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:


For example, he describes Mozu, a snow monkey born without hands or feet in a free-ranging troop in Japan. Mozu could not climb. Still, the other members of Mozu's troop did not move in the trees above her at a pace that would leave her behind, despite their ability to do so. They seemed tolerant of Mozu's handicap.

Note the word seemed.
Seemed tolerant. Tolerant seems to suggest that they might be intolerant of the monkey. Becoming upset and impatient.

WOW THE ANTHROPOMORPHISM RETURNS

T. James Archibald said...

"In an effort to understand the nature of such APPARENT sympathy,"

" was slightly stronger for cagemates (although not statistically significant)."

"APPARENT unsolicited consolation"

"One can easily overstate the correspondence, as was done at the time by one enthusiast for phrenology, a theory now abandoned in disrepute."

"Avoiding such speculative and unsubstantiated extreme claims, one can still HOPE..."

"Indeed, all regions active in moral thinking have been implicated in other, NON-MORAL mental processes. None seems devoted EXCLUSIVELY to moral thinking"

"A focus on neural processes, especially in CONTRAST to genetics, emphasizes the importance of open behavioral programs. NOT ALL behavior is innate, or closed, with narrow predetermined stimulus-response patterns."

T. James Archibald said...

zilch's link:

Understanding how morality can be explained on multiple levels is valuable for correcting a widespread, but mistaken popular belief: that all biology — including behavior — can be reduced to genes (Gould 1981; Lewontin 1993; Rose 1997). Such a flawed view, known as biological determinism, disregards the relevance of learned behaviors at the psychological level and the regulation of behavior by interactions at the social level. It fails to acknowledge the role of emergence, the appearance of new interactions at higher levels of organization (Holland 1998; Camazine et al 2001). The new dynamics may define a system that functions on its own principles and can even modify how component parts act. For example, social punishments limit individual "selfishness." Learning can disarm efforts by others to defect. Kin selection may well inform our understanding of the evolution of morality among Belding ground squirrels or honeybees, but it does not fully explain human behavior. Psychology and sociology, as distinct fields, thus complement standard biology in understanding moral behavior.

The errors of biological determinism are significant because of their political overtones, not justified by science. Characterizing society as "merely" biological implies that any social organization — disparity in wealth or power, for example — is inherent in nature and cannot be changed. The appeal to nature obscures how human politics — at the social level — contributes to the outcome. Biological determinist claims tend to support the status quo and eclipse moral discourse. Further, the appeal to science and its authority implies that the view is proven and cannot be challenged, further concealing the role of politics (Lewontin, Rose and Kamin 1984)



NOTEWORTHY

T. James Archibald said...

"The man of science is a poor philosopher"- Albert Einstein

And a poor philosopher makes a poor scientist

T. James Archibald said...

If morals are passed down, which they are, then they must have a source.

If morals are learned then, they cannot be genetically inherited anymore than algebra.

Morals cannot come about via evolution.

Evolution in itself is impossible seeing that to 'evolve' you must add information to DNA. This is impossible since there is no informant to add information, in the evolution model.

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

You didn't consider all of what I said in my reply to your question, "When did I ever say that morals are illusory? I said, "It's the logical conclusion of your worldview. The apprehension of the objectivity of morals becomes illusory." This isn't debatable. In your view, anyone who thinks there are objective morals is under an illusion. I don't see how your most recent reply is even necessary. That's just a fact.

As I said, it's perfectly possible to see morals as being subjective, but to still recognize that they are not illusory

That isn't even what I'm dealing with. I'm dealing with the fact that there seems to be an objective moral realm. Your view would make this, at best, illusory.

Your qualification "for fun" is straight from Sye Tenbruggencate, is it not? In any case, it is telling: torturing someone for eternity for disobeying God, say by refusing to kill babies, is apparently okay in your worldview.

Irrelevant. Deal with the issue, please.

n explanation that has no empirical evidence going for it (which he admitted is the case) is only wishful thinking

And we're back to the contingency of the universe as empirical evidence for the existence of God.

My criteria for truth are a bit more stringent: I want explanations that do some work

Not everyone requires that kind of strict justification for what they believe is true. Some would say you're too narrow minded ;).

and the God hypothesis, as you admit, does no work

I would say it shows why there is something rather than nothing. I require a hypothesis to explain why itself is logically consistent. Pure naturalism doesn't provide justification for itself. In fact, on pure naturalism, you run into the problem of induction and the incoherence of reason. The God hypothesis provides justification for all of those.

bossmanham said...

Zilch 2,

If postulating God's existence does not enable us to make predictions, then what's the point, other than wishful thinking?

There has to be a stopping point somewhere, or else we have an infinite regression. Naturalistic explanations end with the same issue.

We know nothing about what went on before Planck time

I'll let the cosmologists decide that.

so any speculation is a shot in the dark

Not really. From our experience, we know that anything that begins to exist has a cause. Inferring a cause of a universe that began is far from a shot in the dark. It's using what we know from our experience and applying it to a situation. We know we have a factor that is met, namely the coming into existence of the universe. That is the evidence. From experience we know things don't come into being uncaused out of nothing. The inferred conclusion isn't far behind.

Waving your hand at this and other evidences of natural theology makes you look stubborn, not thoughtful. Deal with it, don't just claim it isn't evidence.

As I said, I never claimed that the moral realm is illusory.

The objective moral realm. Not trying to be rude, but that is what we've been talking about, so filling in the blanks isn't that difficult.

Are you saying that all Christians will agree with you about how to deal with this passage, and others, in Scripture?

No, but they'd be incorrect if they interpreted it as condoning the owning of slaves. It's a law regulating a preexistent institution (which was more akin to indentured servitude than the African slave trade).

If so, I can point you to lots of Christians who would beg to differ

So what? A lot of people twist scripture to justify sinful behavior.

In fact, Christians have killed one another because of different interpretations of Scripture

So? A lot of people have killed other people for stupid reasons.

If you're not saying this, are you saying that your interpretation is the only correct one?

Because the author only had one intention, and through exegesis I hope to come away with his intended thought.

How can you claim that the morals in the Bible are "objective" if no one can agree upon exactly what they mean?

It doesn't matter that there are disagreements. That doesn't undo the fact that the author had one intended purpose for what he wrote. Misunderstandings don't change that.

Pike...

I am not at liberty to argue for Pike. I only told you my opinion of the debate, and I thought they made much better sense, no offense intended.

God bless :)

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

An addendum. On the God hypothesis and predictions, I think Rho has some pretty good predictions that the hypothesis of God allows us to make, as does Meyer in his recent book.

From http://rhoblogy.blogspot.com/2009/02/bad-evolutionary-arguments-refuted-1.html:

"-The universe would carry an appearance of design (since it was in fact designed).
-Rival worldviews would be irrational.
-The God-man would resurrect from the dead in a unique fashion, when He said He would.
-God would change lives like He said He would.
-Formerly twisted and immoral people (like myself) would end up living sanctified lives.
-Most people would not have saving faith in God.
-Quite a few even would mock God.
-People would have innate ideas of right/wrong and fair play.
-Evidence would be a good way to discover truth.
-The world would operate virtually all the time according to regular laws.
-Yet occasionally God would perform a miracle, for a specific purpose or set of purposes.

...just to name a few."

zilch said...

bossmanham, you say:

I require a hypothesis to explain why itself is logically consistent. Pure naturalism doesn't provide justification for itself. In fact, on pure naturalism, you run into the problem of induction and the incoherence of reason. The God hypothesis provides justification for all of those.

You may "require" a hypothesis to explain why it itself is logically consistent, but that does not prove that such an explanation must exist: that is merely your desire. I, too, desire as much explanation as possible, but I am not willing to postulate an explanation with no evidence going for it, especially not an explanation which is itself not explained, just because I would like to have such an explanation. As I've said, I'd rather just accept that some things remain unexplained, until such time as I see evidence.

From our experience, we know that anything that begins to exist has a cause. Inferring a cause of a universe that began is far from a shot in the dark. It's using what we know from our experience and applying it to a situation. We know we have a factor that is met, namely the coming into existence of the universe. That is the evidence. From experience we know things don't come into being uncaused out of nothing. The inferred conclusion isn't far behind.

Waving your hand at this and other evidences of natural theology makes you look stubborn, not thoughtful. Deal with it, don't just claim it isn't evidence.


Our experience is limited to things coming into existence from other pre-existing things. This experience is obviously not of any use in trying to explain the coming into existence of everything: the Universe and God, if there is one. Any argument you have against the Universe coming into existence is applicable in spades to the coming into existence of God, and any special pleading you propose to show why God is exempt from your argument is applicable to the Universe- if not, then you are merely invoking magic, and have left the realm of logic.

You might call it "stubbornness"; I call it being "reality-informed". I don't see any evidence to deal with so far.

I said:

How can you claim that the morals in the Bible are "objective" if no one can agree upon exactly what they mean?

You replied:

It doesn't matter that there are disagreements. That doesn't undo the fact that the author had one intended purpose for what he wrote. Misunderstandings don't change that.

Ah, but here in the real world, it does matter that there are disagreements. What you are saying is that God has objective morals, but they are not available to us on Earth- in other words, our morals are subjective. Or are you saying that you, or someone else, does have a hotline to God's objective morals, and everyone else is wrong? In any case, unless you can show how some set of morals is objective, then your morals are just as subjective as those of any other theist or atheist.

zilch said...

Part two:

You quoted Rho's list of predictions that the hypothesis of God allows us to make. In the first place, most of these "predictions" are pretty much like the "predictions" of astrology: that is, they are so general and vague that they can be found to be true if you want them to be. But in any case, here they are with a few comments:

-The universe would carry an appearance of design (since it was in fact designed).

Very vague. Lots of things appear designed, but lots of things don't. For instance, is it "design" that the recurrent laryngeal nerve of the giraffe is a good twenty feet longer than any half-witted engineer would design it?

-Rival worldviews would be irrational.

Mere assertion. In my view, all worldviews must be, at least to some extent, "irrational" since they must start from accepting the evidence of the senses as being real. Theists are not exempted from the problem of induction, though they claim to be: you cannot prove that what you experience as God is not the Devil, or body thetans, for instance.

-The God-man would resurrect from the dead in a unique fashion, when He said He would.

Circular. "The Bible is the Word of God, because it says it is the Word of God."

-God would change lives like He said He would.

Scientology changes lives, too. Is that proof of body thetans?

-Formerly twisted and immoral people (like myself) would end up living sanctified lives.

Same thing.

-Most people would not have saving faith in God.

Now that's just silly. For any given religion, a majority of people in the world don't believe it.

-Quite a few even would mock God.

That's what all religions say. In fact, this is often trotted out as a discussion killer: "you don't believe in my God because you hate Him". Do you hate Santa?

-People would have innate ideas of right/wrong and fair play.

As I said, evolutionary theory explains (not completely- these are of course very complex issues) innate ideas, as far as they go.

-Evidence would be a good way to discover truth.

This is a good idea that has been independently discovered by just about everyone, and probably predates humankind. But I would rather say that this is a good reason to not believe in gods.

-The world would operate virtually all the time according to regular laws.

Another good idea that is necessary to survival. Squirrels hide nuts because they assume (in some way- presumably unconsciously) that the world operates according to regular laws: winter comes every year after fall.

-Yet occasionally God would perform a miracle, for a specific purpose or set of purposes.

In other words, the world is regular, except when it isn't- and as no one can say when it is or is not operating according to regular laws (or can you?), then this statement has null information content. What's a miracle, and what isn't?

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

T. James Archibald said...

LARYNGEAL NERVE

you're welcome, for the posts bossmanham

there aren't any human body engineers yet, not even half-witted ones, just cloners, copy cats, thinking God's thoughts after him.
So that is obviously an opinion with no basis.

remember, rhetoric and alternate explanations are NOT REFUTATIONS.

"In past decades, evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins, have maintained the retina of our eyes was actually "wired backward." If a Creator existed, He certainly would not have done it that way with photoreceptor cells oriented so their sensory ends are directed away from incident light. Today we hear virtually nothing about this allegedly imperfect manner of wiring. Why? Because scientists have shown our retinas are designed exactly the way they should be in order to receive photons (light) and direct the impulses via the optic nerves to the back of the brain where they are made into images. Indeed, if the eye was designed to Darwinist specifications, we would be blind. (See also: http://www.trueorigin.org/retina.asp)

Why did the Creator design the loop of the RLN? To the secular biologist, it is both strange and unnecessary, basing these judgments on the corrupt philosophy of Darwinism (macroevolution). But creation scientists and medical doctors are investigating and have several ideas. There are branches of the RLN going above and below the larynx (both branch off the vagus) that would allow some preservation of function if either one is severed. The RLN passes tightly under the aorta (the large, main artery coming from the left ventricle of the heart). Perhaps variation in the diameter of the aorta could alter the function of the RLN.

Of course, the amazing and complex field of neuroanatomy and physiology itself is an affront to Darwinism. The origin (not the present operation) of life's amazing complexity is seemingly not within the reach of merely natural processes. Let the evolutionist explain the origin and gradual evolution of our 3-pound brain from "simple" life forms while the creationist continues to investigate the puzzling RLN route. I believe we will have our answer first."-- Frank Sherman, M.A.

zilch said...

Hey TJA- you quote someone saying:

"In past decades, evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins, have maintained the retina of our eyes was actually "wired backward." If a Creator existed, He certainly would not have done it that way with photoreceptor cells oriented so their sensory ends are directed away from incident light. Today we hear virtually nothing about this allegedly imperfect manner of wiring. Why? Because scientists have shown our retinas are designed exactly the way they should be in order to receive photons (light) and direct the impulses via the optic nerves to the back of the brain where they are made into images. Indeed, if the eye was designed to Darwinist specifications, we would be blind. (See also: http://www.trueorigin.org/retina.asp)

Er, this is simply wrong. The octopus eye,for instance, is wired with the nerves behind the photoreceptors, not in front of them as in our eyes, and it works just fine. In fact, it works better: octopuses have no blind spot. The blind spot of the mammalian eye is indeed another good example of what would be poor design from an engineer.

Let the evolutionist explain the origin and gradual evolution of our 3-pound brain from "simple" life forms while the creationist continues to investigate the puzzling RLN route. I believe we will have our answer first.

This is a ridiculous comparison. Which question is more complex: the origin and evolution of our trillion-cell brain, the most complex object in the known universe, or the routing of the RLN? But I am waiting with bated breath for the creationist explanation of why the RLN is so long. While they're at it, they can explain some other "funny" designs, such as endogenous non-retroviruses. I won't hold my breath on that one...

cheers from frosty Vienna, zilch

T. James Archibald said...

Zilch,

I think you missed the point. The "blind spot", which is a misnomer as Richard Dawkins points out,

"The wire has to travel over the surface of the retina to a point where it dives through a hole in the retina (the SO-CALLED ‘blind spot’) to join the optic nerve. This means that the light, instead of being granted an unrestricted passage to the photocells, has to pass through a forest of connecting wires, PRESUMABLY suffering AT LEAST SOME attenuation and distortion (ACTUALLY PROBABLY NOT MUCH BUT, STILL, it is the principle of the thing that would offend any tidy-minded engineer). I don’t know the exact explanation for this strange state of affairs."

, and saying tidy-minded is kind of a straw man.

Saying God is a bad engineer because YOU wouldn't design and manufacture an organic, walking, talking, breathing, disease fighting, self maintained machine that way is the height of arrogance. Again nobody in the world has the slightest idea how to start to make a human and therefore have no basis for saying, "I wouldn't do it that way." It is for a Ferrari to say to the designer "Why hast though put my wire harness thus?" (romans 9:20)


These arguments are essentially,
"I can't figure out why it's like that, so it must be a mistake" how incredibly arrogant. "I don't understand it, so it's wrong" "I don't understand the theory of relativity, therefore, Einstein was a hoax."

For example, the critic of the Bible trots out, on occasion, the pi problem. The Bible gives the dimensions for a round container, circ=30; dia=10, I believe, of course dividing these gives you 3 not pi. If anyone cared and was not predetermined to conclude that the Bible was false, they could easily come to realize w/some simple thinking skills that the dia. is I.D. & not O.D. The missing space being in the difference of the two.

Back to "tidy-minded". Who would critique Van Gogh for being to loose. Who would criticize Michaelangelo for being so detailed and colorful. (usually here an atheist would attack me saying i have no concept of art haha) The point being, God never claimed to be a cold calculated engineer forging a V-8 from a solid piece of aluminum.

Why does God make things so extra-ordinary? Why did the great artists do things so strangely(at the time)? Why do the Lamborghini doors go up?
Not always for better design. But, for the glory of the Designer. So, when we see something in the body that seems 'backward', we should not say, "That points to bad design."(like we would know) but, "That is amazingly intricate."

Let's be honest, who's got better eyesight, the forward facing retina-ed octopus or the backward facing retina-ed eagle. Who says, "I've got the eyes of an octopus?"
*(tongue in cheek)*

PS- I'll get to the purpose of the design of the "backward" retina next but, let's remember just because a creationist can't explain the use of a body part gives you no grounds to say it's unnecessary. This is so extremely arrogant. Or are your thoughts the basis of good human design. Have some humility, please.

T. James Archibald said...

creationist answers for ERV's

http://www.answersingenesis.org/search/?q=erv&search=Go#q=erv&site=default_collection

didn't read these but u could've held your breath and did a search for these.... unless you gots asthma

bossmanham said...

Zilch,

You may "require" a hypothesis to explain why it itself is logically consistent, but that does not prove that such an explanation must exist

So? It shows that the explanitory power of one is greater than the other. I also noted that reason becomes incoherent on naturalism, as there is nothing on which to ground the reality of reason. in fact, it becomes self defeating.

but I am not willing to postulate an explanation with no evidence going for it

First, you assume reason exists without explaining it.

Second, You aren't accepting evidence that is presented. The evidence exists, your interpretation may differ, but the evidence is there. Again, you just look stubborn by resisting this. You're a dogmatist.

especially not an explanation which is itself not explained

Then you're accepting the idea of an infinite regress of explanations?

Our experience is limited to things coming into existence from other pre-existing things

How would this damage the God hypothesis, as God did pre-exist the material and temporal universe? In any case, in light of this, it would follow that our experience shows that nothing that comes into being comes into being uncaused out of nothing. You're just restating my position, thank you.

This experience is obviously not of any use in trying to explain the coming into existence of everything

If our experience shows that nothing comes from nothing, then it would still follow that spacetime had to come from something.

Any argument you have against the Universe coming into existence is applicable in spades to the coming into existence of God

Contingencies of existence don't apply to a necessary being.

and any special pleading you propose to show why God is exempt from your argument is applicable to the Universe

It's not special pleading. The universe is contingent. The necessary being is necessary for the contingent to be. To argue that something had to bring into existence something that never began to exist is just childish. It can be shown that the universe came into existence, therefore it is contingent on something that necessarily had to be, ie the necessary being. The logic follows.

if not, then you are merely invoking magic, and have left the realm of logic.

This isn't an argument, it's a silly statement that shows an inibility to deal with the argument. Don't poke fun, deal with it. As of yet you have been unsuccesful.

bossmanham said...

Ah, but here in the real world, it does matter that there are disagreements

It doesn't matter to the objective reality of anything.

What you are saying is that God has objective morals, but they are not available to us on Earth

Where did I say that? I said people misinterpreting a passage doesn't change what the passage actually says.

in other words, our morals are subjective

Wow. If that's your idea of logic, I would go refresh myself on the basics, but that's just me. That conclusion doesn't follow in the least.

Or are you saying that you, or someone else, does have a hotline to God's objective morals

Um, yes we do. They're in the Bible, written down for all to see.

and everyone else is wrong?

If you don't interpret the passage correctly, then you are wrong. We'd never have this argument about the instuctions on a bottle of Tylenol. If someone told me that the Tylenol instructions didn't really mean what they said in their historical context, I wouldn't listen, and I'd make darn sure I was reading it correctly in the first place.

In any case, unless you can show how some set of morals is objective, then your morals are just as subjective as those of any other theist or atheist

Unless you can show me that the tree I perceive in my front yard is actually there and not an illusion created by electrical impulsese produced by a mad scientist, then your external world is as subjective as the external world for any other solipsist.

You're not dealing with the argument at all. You're throwing out a bunch of irrelevant red herrings. I'll take that as a concession to the argument, you don't have an answer.

bossmanham said...

Very vague

Not really. If it's that vague, then archaeologists should never postulate that clay pots are designed, as the definition of design is too vague. We might as well not assume that our electric canopeners are designed.

Lots of things appear designed

And if they appear designed, they probably are.

good twenty feet longer than any half-witted engineer would design it?

There you go, acting like you know what is and isn't good design.

Mere assertion

No, it can be shown that some worldviews are irrational. If they aren't logically consistent, lack empirical adequacy, and aren't existentially relevant, then they are irrational. Natualism, for instance, is logically incoherent.

Circular. "The Bible is the Word of God, because it says it is the Word of God."

That statement didn't even bring up the Bible. If a man claims to be sent by God and said that God would raise him from the dead to verify his sayings and it happens, that would display his claim is true. Doesn't matter which book records it.

But, as the point in posting these was to show that the God hypothesis allows us to make predictions, your claim that it doesn't is flatly refuted.

bossmanham said...

Er, this is simply wrong. The octopus eye,for instance, is wired with the nerves behind the photoreceptors, not in front of them as in our eyes, and it works just fine. In fact, it works better: octopuses have no blind spot.

Oi, I've dealt with this as well. Is there a reason to design the mammilian eye in this way? Yup. Michael Denton points out that the optic nerve is placed differently in the human eye in comparison with cephalopod eyes because of the need for the greater supply of oxygen for high-acuity vision in warm-blooded animals. There are also other reasons why human eyes are like this. One is because the wiring of the human retina protects the retina from UV radiation in air that would blind an octopus if it were in air. In the water an octopus’ retina is not exposed to the amount of UV light our eyes are. Also Humans have binocular vision, so the left eye sees the tiny bit the right eye misses (0.25% of the visual field), and vice versa. Thus, the blind spot is a non-issue.

In fact, no one has shown that this actually makes the cephelapod see better than we do. Cephelapod eyes only "approach some of the lower vertebrate eyes in efficiency" (Mollusks, Encyclopædia Britannica 24:296-322, 15th ed., 1992; quote on p. 321.) and they are probably color blind (Hanlon, R.T., and Messenger, J.B., Cephalopod Behaviour, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, p. 19, 1996.)