Cafe Inquiry: Can we be good without God?

The next University of Toronto Secular Alliance event is this coming Wednesday. The event is a part of the ongoing program entitled Cafe Inquiry. Cafe Inquiry is modeled after Cafe Scientifique, a grassroots endeavor to provide an opportunity for citizens both within and especially outside of the university community to learn about and discuss important issues with other interested people spanning the spectrum from newbie to expert. Cafe Scientifique was born in the UK, but there are now Cafes on every continent. Cafe Inquiry is a new program which is currently being run at at least two Center For Inquiry locations: CFI Ontario and CFI West. Here is the bill for the upcoming Toronto event followed by some commentary on the event topic:

Cafe Inquiry

Good Without God?

Discussion + Inquiry
Professors + Students
Relaxed + Thoughtful
Tea + Coffee

Join us for relaxed, thoughtful discussion between professors + students alike over tea + coffee.

Featuring:

Prof. Thomas Hurka – Dept. of Philosophy
Special interests: moral philosophy, political philosophy, ethics, value theory

Prof. Peter King – Dept. of Philosophy
Special interests: medieval philosophy, ancient philosophy, political philosophy

Wednesday, February 13th
5pm – 7pm at the Centre for Inquiry Ontario
216 Beverley St. (St. George)
A short walk south of College St.


A few comments on the event and topic from me:

The content of discussion need not stay limited to philosophy. I personally will ensure relevant perspectives and findings from the cognitive sciences [e.g., research showing empathy in nonhuman species ranging from mice to primates; mirror neurons (i.e., neurons which fire both when one performs an action or attempts to carry out an intention as well as one when observes someone else perform the action or attempts to carry out the intention; mirror neurons are believed to play an integral role in our ability to be aware of the minds and intentions of others, to put oneself in the shoes of another, and have moral cognition)] and evolutionary biology (e.g., kin selection) are brought up.

Secondly, I think that this discussion could very easily move away from being about whether or not we can be good without God, and become focused on the cognitive science and evolution of moral cognition, and discussion on what constitutes morality. The reason for this being that it’s pretty obvious that we can be good without God. There are a number of nations where both religiosity and crime are low, and other countries such as the US where both are high. Secondly, within the US the more religious states tend to have more violent crime than less religious states. Thirdly, within American prisons self-identifying atheists are severely underrepresented given the proportion of the general population that they make up. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that religion actually makes one more likely to engage in crime—and crimes tend to be those things which societies view to be immoral or socially destructive. But it’s pretty clear that being an atheist does not preclude or decrease the likelihood of morality, and being religious does not preclude or decrease the likelihood of immorality. Lastly, if theism was a prerequisite for morality, one would expect organizations like the National Academy of Sciences (where only 7% of members of theists) and the Center For Inquiry (an international secularist and nontheist advocacy organization) to be rife with immorality, which is not the case at all.

Now, one might argue that many of our morals derived from early Christianity, and thus we did needed Christianity to teach us what is moral. A few things. Firstly, to say that morals came from Christianity is to assert that prior to 2000 years ago humans had absolutely no clue what morality is and what is moral. People had no reservations against murder, rape, theft, lying, infidelity, betrayal, greed, or other acts that fail to value the feelings and trust of others. Now, certainly there were societies prior to Christ that engaged in many of these behaviours. And there are places today where this happens—including places high in religiosity. But this is what happens during times of political instability, tribal collision, and desparation (e.g., famine). Secondly, that we retain many of the morals espoused by Christ does not necessitate that Christ was divine. Plenty of mere mortals have introduced ideas which came to be embraced by many people for a very long time. To say that Christ needed to be divine to propose what he proposed is to say that such morals were beyond human cognitive and emotional abilities. There is no reason to believe this to be the case and every reason to believe that it is not the case (e.g., evidence for the evolution of moral cognition—demonstrations of morality in nonhuman species; the fact that mirror neurons (which help us simulate the experience of others) jive perfectly with the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have done unto you, and loving others like you love yourself; there is no reason to believe that these moral tenets were beyond humanity).

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Comments
52 Responses to “Cafe Inquiry: Can we be good without God?”
  1. God-jeerer says:

    Religion (belief in God) is but one of many types of organizations that influence people. Organizations such as, governments, associations, unions, corporations and charities also provide societal influences. Many good values, morals beliefs, etc. have come from religion and other organizations. All types of organizations have also have done significant harm at times.

  2. This Busy Monster says:

    Good – God = o

    Doesn’t look promising.

  3. ronbrown says:

    TBM: That’s awesome!

  4. Stoobs says:

    In fact, not only can we be good without god, but when the numbers are in, religion may even be substantially harmful to social cohesiveness. Of course, correlations do not prove anything – it may be that societies which produce high levels of social ills are also good breeding grounds for religious sentiment – but the correlations are certainly there, and are very strong. The more religious a society, the higher the levels of infant mortality, murder, STD proliferation, teen suicide, and a number of other factors.

    So no one thinks I’m pulling this out of my ass, here’s a link – http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

  5. Colin says:

    Being good without God is obviously possible.

    *Knowing* that an act is really good or really evil (not just a social convention) requires an objective standard that transcends humanity…God.

    If morals really are the product of evolution and nothing more then nothing is ever really wrong. Hence Dostoyevsky…”If there is no God, anything is permissible.”

  6. ronbrown says:

    Colin: Even if there were no objective morality (and there is no evidence for such a thing), that is not reason to do things that unjustifiably hurt or violate the trust of others. You’re telling me that if you eventually came to no longer believe in God that you would all of a sudden think that murder is permissible and would have no grounds to tell people to knock it off? It wouldn’t occur to you to continue to apply the Golden Rule?

    Knowing that an act is really good or evil would require an objective standard that transcends humanity, or God. But that God could be an infinite range of Gods. Thus any particular potential God’s chance of being *the* God is effectively zero in the absence of God-specific evidence. And furthermore, there is no reason to be confident that an objective morality exists.

  7. This Busy Monster says:

    Colin:

    Here is a good example of the absurdity of your statement. The objective moral standard is no such thing. Religion just comes up with whatever crap it wants to, depending on the time and place.

    The minute you say, oh, but that part of the Bible doesn’t apply to here and now, you’ve put it right back into the hands of living breathing human beings to decide what’s right and wrong. To go around claiming otherwise makes you at best a hypocrite.

    The problem with some “objective” moral standard is that you and I still have to agree on what it means and whether it’s a valid standard. There is some dissent about that in the world these days, if you hadn’t heard.

  8. Colin says:

    Ron:

    What I am saying is that if there were no objective morality, we would have no way of knowing that hurting someone would really be unjustified because the very concept of justice requires an objective standard. As does the concept of tolerance, and fairness, and trust.

    If I ever came to believe that God does not exist, I would quite likely remain convinced that murder is wrong, just as I am quite convinced that you believe that murder is wrong and that you live a pretty decent life, just like most people who frequent this blog.

    I quite likely would apply the Golden Rule (So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets…Matt 7:12)…but I would not be obligated to do so. Morality implies an obligation. An atheist is truly obliged to no one.

    It is a well-demonstrated fact that most atheists do in fact feel obliged to live according to what could be called common standards of morality, but such a standard must be borrowed from theism.

    “Knowing that an act is really good or evil would require an objective standard that transcends humanity, or God.” We all know that it is objectively wrong to torture innocent babies just for giggles…but an intellectually honest atheist can only say that we only *think* that it is wrong, and that it could have been different.

    “But that God could be an infinite range of Gods.”…one is enough, there is no need to multiply causes beyond what is necessary.

    TBM:

    You have only shown that some dude with a concordance or a computer can look up some verses and remove them from their original context. You might as well quote both Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, both of which say explicitly “There is no God.”

    Why is it that atheists whine about Christians taking the bible literally, then when we give examples of where we don’t take the bible literally word for word, you whine about that and call us hypocrites? And then you criticize Christianity by taking the Bible literally word for word like this guy and his letter to Dr. Laura. Pick a view, any view…just pick one and stick with it.

    You are criticizing something, but it is not Classical Christianity.

    The thing about an objective standard is that we don’t get to decide.

  9. This Busy Monster says:

    Colin:

    The thing about being a human being is that you have to decide. you have to decide on which version of the objective moral standard is the correct one. You have to decide on which chapters and verses of the Bible (which has been translated, selectively edited and used an abused throughout history) you are going to use this week. It’s up to you because you are human. That’s all there is too it. You can cling to any pile of crap and call it an objective moral standard, but it’s your decision, my decision and everyone elses. If you believe anything else, you are seriously deluded.

  10. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    “What I am saying is that if there were no objective morality, we would have no way of knowing that hurting someone would really be unjustified because the very concept of justice requires an objective standard. As does the concept of tolerance, and fairness, and trust.” How do trust and tolerance require objective standards? Maybe there is no such thing as absolute justice. Maybe justice is entirely a human concept which resulted from our application of human reason to human moral cognition and the problem of having a society that is stable and secure. For a society to be secure and stable, we need to be able to trust each other to not lie to, steal from, or hurt each other. As for our moral cognition, there is every reason to believe that it is an evolved psychological phenomenon. Recall from the original post my referencing of altruism in species ranging from mouse to man, and mirror neurons.

    “I quite likely would apply the Golden Rule (So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets…Matt 7:12)…but I would not be obligated to do so. Morality implies an obligation. An atheist is truly obliged to no one.” But to whom are we obligated? Maybe each other and no one else? And this obligation need not be objective. It could be a subjectively experienced and prescribed type of obligation.

    “It is a well-demonstrated fact that most atheists do in fact feel obliged to live according to what could be called common standards of morality, but such a standard must be borrowed from theism.” And this borrowing from theism couldn’t be a mere coincidence? Is the implication that the entirety of human history was devoid of morality prior to 2000 years ago, and would have continued to be so had it not been for Christianity or other religions? Again, I restate that nonhuman animal species show rudiments of human morality (e.g., sharing food with animals who they see without food, whether or not they know the animal; sacrificing pleasurable stimuli in order to save another animal from experiencing pain).

    ““Knowing that an act is really good or evil would require an objective standard that transcends humanity, or God.” We all know that it is objectively wrong to torture innocent babies just for giggles…but an intellectually honest atheist can only say that we only *think* that it is wrong, and that it could have been different.” I don’t know if I would say that to engage in such an act is objectively wrong. In fact, since I don’t believe in any objective standard, I really can’t say it is objectively wrong. However, I can say that it is a heinous act which causes unnecessary and most likely deliberate brutal suffering and terror to the victim and terror and horror to those who learn of the event. Moreover, to not punish this would set a dangerous social precedent with respect to societal response to such horrific acts. So I would be against the act while not claiming it to be objectively immoral.

    ““But that God could be an infinite range of Gods.”…one is enough, there is no need to multiply causes beyond what is necessary.” That’s not what I meant. I meant to say that even if there were a God, it need not be the Christian God. There are an infinite range of other potential Gods that could be *the* God. The Christian God is one ticket in a raffle of infinity.

  11. Colin says:

    No such thing as justice? Then why do you claim injustice when an atheist group is denied club status at a public university?

    We need to trust each other to not steal, lie and hurt each other…but these things aren’t *really* wrong in an atheistic view. In fact they are perfectly justified if they help propagate the species or even the individual.

    Moral cognition makes no sense if it is merely an evolved phenomenon. Morality only makes sense if we have an objective standard by which we judge behaviour. Just as you complain about GPAs…you seemed to suggest that GPAs be abolished in favour of a system that is far more objective where grades are reported on a scale of 0-100.

    The Christian view is not that morality began with Christ. Theism predates everything.

    Non-human animals show rudimentary moral behaviour? Or humans are remarkably adept at anthropomorphizing (even ‘objective’ scientists)?

    Mirror neurons? Perfectly compatible with my view that humans are designed with an innate capacity to understand morality.

    That you cannot say that torturing babies is really wrong is a powerful indictment against your view. The worst you can say is that you don’t like it. That fact shows the absolute bankruptcy of atheism when it comes to explaining the plain facts that we see in the world. We all know that torturing babies is objectively morally wrong. Classical Christianity provides an objective standard (God’s character) that grounds what we know. Atheism says, well, maybe it ain’t so bad after all.

    An infinite range of Gods? How do you know that there are an infinite range of other potential Gods?

  12. This Busy Monster says:

    An infinite range of Gods? How do you know that there are an infinite range of other potential Gods?

    Human history is full of one wacky religious belief after another being subsumed by the next thing to come along. Christianity currently appears to be on the same list, having been superseded by the even wackier Islamic religion. Oh, the numbers aren’t quite there yet, but the shift is well on it’s way. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/444572.cms)

    The dirty little secret here is that each one of those religious people chooses their god and their objective truth. You decide, this one is better than that one, even if it’s just the lame reason that your mom says so. The responsibility is yours for your own belief, just as it is for the atheist. God isn’t the big lie here, God is the curtain behind which the lie of objectivity is hiding. Pull back the curtain and there is nothing there.

    There is an infinite range of gods because humans are very clever in what they can imagine up to amuse themselves.

  13. Colin says:

    TBM:

    You would agree, then, that torturing babies isn’t really wrong, just distasteful for the squeamish who are still tied to the apron-string. Charming little theory.

  14. This Busy Monster says:

    Nice dodge. Why won’t you address the issue that you personally are responsible for your choice of objective moral standards? Of course, the implication is that your responsibility for choosing makes it less than objective and you have to admit the whole things is a farce.

    Can you present historical evidence that societies that didn’t believe in you “objective” standard were incorrigible baby torturers? I didn’t think so.

    There is evidence that unwanted children of younger mothers are more likely to be abused. Which organization in our society is most against birth control? Oh wait, it’s the church. Look at that; the church could prevent baby torture with a little sex-ed, but they seem to favour sacrificing babies to the great objective moral standard in the sky.

    Believe whatever you want, just stop being a coward and take responsibility for yourself.

  15. Colin says:

    It is not my view that I choose my standard. It is my view that the standard is objective and I recognize that it exists and I behave accordingly. You are the one who is dodging reality by denying that torturing babies is really wrong.

    You assume that there is this great variety of opposing moral systems from which to choose. That is simply not the case. What is startling about moral ideas in different cultures is not the differences, but the remarkable similarities.

    What would a truly different moral system look like? Can you give me an example of a moral system where injustice is desirable; where cowardice is praised? That would be a significantly different moral system and it simply doesn’t exist.

    If you are going to criticize my view, make sure you understand it first. I have never claimed that a society devoid of an objective standard would torture babies, my claim was that nobody in that society would be able to criticize baby torture…just like you.

    Lets take a look at your view of ‘unwanted’ children. If a woman has a child that she does not want, and she tortures it, the church is to blame!? Our justice system disagrees with you. The woman is to blame. End of story. Your logic is stunningly pathetic.

    If there is no God, then anything is permissible. That is a consequence of your view and you can’t live with it.

  16. ronbrown says:

    Colin: Let me begin by simply stating that you are absolutely a dense-as-a-brick moron who appears to be completely incapable of even entertaining thoughts outside of his cocoon in which the Christian God and a host of related assumptions are just, well, assumed to be true as unquestionable axioms.

    Now I will respond to your message within it [IN SQUARE BRACKETS WITH CAPS, FOR THE SAKE OF EASY-FINDING]:

    “No such thing as justice? Then why do you claim injustice when an atheist group is denied club status at a public university?” [UM, BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY IN WHICH FREE SPEECH IS KEY TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF WISDOM OF INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETIES, AND WHEREIN TO SUPPRESS SUCH FREE SPEECH AND THE APPLICATION OF REASON CAN EASILY LEAD TO VIOLENCE. WE LIVE IN A SECULAR DEMOCRACY THAT CLAIMS TO ENDORSE FREE SPEECH AND FREE ASSOCIATION. THUS, IT WOULD BE AN INJUSTICE IN OUR SOCIETY TO THWART THESE ABILITIES TO SOME GROUPS WITHOUT GOOD REASON]

    We need to trust each other to not steal, lie and hurt each other…but these things aren’t *really* wrong in an atheistic view. In fact they are perfectly justified if they help propagate the species or even the individual. [YOU ARE A DOPE. I THOUGHT WE ALREADY ESTABLISHED THAT ATHEISTS HAVE MORALS. DO WE REALLY NEED OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE OF AN OBJECTIVE MORALITY IN ORDER TO TAKE THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS AND THE WELL-BEING OF SOCIETY INTO ACCOUNT? I PERSONALLY DO NOT NEED A GOD IN ORDER FOR ME TO BELIEVE IT WOULD BE DISTASTEFUL TO JUST RANDOMLY SMASH PEOPLE IN THE FACE. HAS IT EVER OCCURRED TO YOU THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO VALUE THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS WITHOUT NEEDING ANY REASON OTHER THAN CARING FOR THEIR FEELINGS? NEXT, YOU HAVE RIDICULOUSLY DERIVED OUGHT FROM IS IN YOUR SUPERFICIAL INTERPRETATION OF EVOLUTION. JUST BECAUSE EVOLUTION WORKS BY SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST DOES NOT MEAN THAT THERE IS A MORAL IMPERATIVE TO SPREAD ONE’S OWN GENES]

    Moral cognition makes no sense if it is merely an evolved phenomenon. Morality only makes sense if we have an objective standard by which we judge behaviour…. [MORAL COGNITION MAKES PLENTY OF SENSE WITHOUT AN OBJECTIVE STANDARD. DEFINITIONS OF MORALITY CAME ABOUT IN TIMES WHEN BELIEF IN GOD WAS PERVASIVE AND KNOWLEDGE OF EVOLUTION OF COGNITION WAS MINIMAL IF NOT COMPLETELY ABSENT. THERE IS EVERY REASON TO BELIEVE THAT MORAL COGNITION IS AN EVOLVED PHENOMENON IN A MORALLY INDIFFERENT UNIVERSE. THERE IS CROSS-SPECIES EVIDENCE FOR IT, THERE IS CONTEMPORARY EVIDENCE FOR IT (E.G., IT MAKES SENSE THAT WE CARE MORE ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE GENETICALLY AND PHYSICALLY CLOSER TO US THAN PEOPLE WHO ARE GENETICALLY OR PHYSICALLY DISTANT WHEN ONE CONSIDERS KIN SELECTION AND MIRROR NEURONS (MIRROR NEURONS AREN’T GOING TO CREATE MUCH OF A SIMULATION OF PAIN WHEN THEY ARE NOT FIRING BECAUSE THE PERSON IS OUT OF SIGHT THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY)). AND AGAIN, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE AT ALL FOR AN OBJECTIVE MORALITY. IF PEOPLE LIKE YOU WOULD JUST ADMIT THAT, THEN MAYBE SOCIETIES COULD IMPROVE THE WAY THEY DEFINE CONCEPTS LIKE MORALITY IN ORDER TO BRING IT MORE IN LINE WITH THE EVIDENCE. I’LL ALSO ADD THAT WE COULD REASONABLY USE CONCEPTS SUCH AS HUMAN AND SOCIETAL WELL-BEING, INTENTIONALITY, AND THE GOLDEN RULE AS STANDARDS TO CONSIDER MORALITY IN TERMS OF. AND YES, I AM AWARE OF THE ORIGIN OF THE GOLDEN RULE. THE GOLDEN RULE IS A GOOD IDEA, REGARDLESS OF THE BOOK IT CAME FROM]

    The Christian view is not that morality began with Christ. Theism predates everything. [THEISM PREDATES EVERYTHING? WHERE IS YOUR EVIDENCE FOR THIS? IN FACT, THE EVIDENCE IS AGAINST YOU. SINCE EVIDENCE SUGGESTS STRONGLY THAT HUMANS WERE NOT AROUND AT THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE (ASSUMING A BEGINNING, OF COURSE) AND WERE NOT AROUND AT THE BEGINNING OF LIFE. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT ROCKS, AMOEBA OR DINOSAURS BELIEVED IN ANY GOD. AND THERE IS ALSO NO EVIDENCE THAT EARLY HUMANS BELIEVED IN GODS, AS OPPOSED TO SPIRITS]

    Non-human animals show rudimentary moral behaviour? Or humans are remarkably adept at anthropomorphizing (even ‘objective’ scientists)? [WELL, WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU CALL IT WHEN AN ANIMAL GIVES UP PLEASURE IN ORDER TO SAVE ANOTHER ANIMAL FROM EXPERIENCING PAIN? OR WHEN AN ANIMAL GIVES FOOD TO AN ANIMAL THAT DOESN’T HAVE FOOD? GIVEN THE EXTENSIVE EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION, THE ASSUMPTION OF MORAL COGNITION IS BY FAR THE MOST REASONABLE]

    Mirror neurons? Perfectly compatible with my view that humans are designed with an innate capacity to understand morality. [YEAH, CONSISTENT BUT INSUFFICIENT. HUMANS DO HAVE AN INNATE CAPACITY FOR MORALITY. AND THERE IS EVIDENCE OF DESIGN. BUT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE OF AN INTELLIGENT DESIGNER. THE EVIDENCE POINTS TO A NATURALISTIC DESIGNER: NATURAL SELECTION. AND AGAIN, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR AN OBJECTIVE MORALITY TO BE UNDERSTOOD.]

    That you cannot say that torturing babies is really wrong is a powerful indictment against your view. The worst you can say is that you don’t like it. That fact shows the absolute bankruptcy of atheism when it comes to explaining the plain facts that we see in the world. We all know that torturing babies is objectively morally wrong. Classical Christianity provides an objective standard (God’s character) that grounds what we know. Atheism says, well, maybe it ain’t so bad after all.[YOU ARE A MORON. I CAN’T SAY IT’S OBJECTIVELY WRONG BECAUSE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR THERE BEING AN OBJECTIVE MORALITY. BUT I CAN GIVE REASONS FOR WHY WE TREAT IT AS BEING OBJECTIVELY WRONG. HUMANS ARE ADAPTED TO BE DRAWN TO INFANTS, TO FEEL DISGUSTED BY THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS, AND TO PROTECTING KIN. WHAT IS THE INDICTMENT AGAINST MY VIEW? HONESTY? JUST BECAUSE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR AN OBJECTIVE MORAL STANDARD DOES NOT MEAN THAT HUMANS CANNOT FEEL SO DISGUSTED BY SOMETHING THAT WE WOULD GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO PREVENT IT. ATHEISM DOESN’T SAY THAT IT’S NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL. ATHEISM DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE MATTER. IT IS SIMPLY THE LACK OF BELIEF IN A GOD. AND WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF ABSOLUTE BANKRUPTCY, LETS REMEMBER THAT YOU STILL HAVEN’T MANAGED TO PUT FORTH A SINGLE COGENT ARGUMENT FOR YOUR INANE CHRISTIAN BELIEFS. YOU HAVE AN IGNORANT SENSE OF SATISFACTION FROM YOUR COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT, BUT ARE TOO DENSE TO SEE HOW BRUTALLY THAT ARGUMENT HAS BEEN SLAPPED AROUND AND SHOWN TO BE COMPLETELY ARGUMENTATIVELY EMPTY. YOU HAVE MADE NO ARGUMENT FOR AN OBJECTIVE MORALITY AND YOU HAVE MADE NO ARGUMENT FOR CHRISTIANITY AS BEING THE ROOT OF ANY PROPOSED OBJECTIVE MORALITY]

    An infinite range of Gods? How do you know that there are an infinite range of other potential Gods? [LET ME DEMONSTRATE: JIM, CLIFF, MARK, REX, UPCO, STEVE, MELONFACE, RIBHEAD, ERT, FER, XIT, RIT, QUANG, MAR, RUT, TYR, VIRF, EVR, GHUT, LIO, YAHWEG, ALLAF, …………RET, ZEUSY, THORY, XAVIET, ………WERT,……AD INFINITUM. I HAVE JUST PROPOSED A WHOLE STRING OF POTENTIAL GODS THAT I COULD WRITE STORIES FOR IF I WANTED TO. THAT LIST COULD BE CONTINUED ON ENDLESSLY, AND NONE OF THEM COULD BE PROVEN WRONG WHICH MAKES THEM POTENTIAL GODS. AND SINCE I KNOW HOW YOU THINK ABOUT THIS TYPE OF ARGUMENT, I FIGURE YOU WILL SAY (AS YOU HAVE BEFORE) BUT THOSE ARE JUST NAMES THAT YOU MADE UP. EXACTLY. AND I’M SAYING THAT YOUR CHRISTIAN GOD SHOWS NO SIGNS OF N OT HAVING BEEN MADE UP, AS WELL, AND YOU HAVEN’T PRESENTED A SINGLE ARGUMENT TO THE CONTRARY.]

  17. ronbrown says:

    “What is startling about moral ideas in different cultures is not the differences, but the remarkable similarities.” Yeah, Colin, and all of these societies are made up of people that evolved just like us. So it would make sense that there is similarity, woudn’t it? Mirror neurons have been found in people of all different races and in species ranging from songbird to human. Mirror neurons fire when one observes another experiencing something, as if we ourselves were experiencing it. This is a great candidate for a cognitive neurological underpinning of morality: the ability to feel others’ suffering.

    And you are still saying that anything is permissible without God. Yes, there is no evidence for an objective morality so no one could claim it to be objectively wrong. Indeed, no one could claim objectivity or objective wrongness even exists. But that does not mean that there is no reason to simply allow it. As I’ve repeated now ad nauseum, just because there is no evidence for an objective morality doesn’t mean that there is no reason to act in ways we describe as being moral. Morality does indeed seem to be an evolved phenomenon in an indifferent universe. We seem to have evolved to find certain acts disgusting. Certain acts bring unnecessary suffering to others and threaten the stability of society. So it makes sense that we try to stop these acts.]

    TBM: Honestly, Colin is a moron, as you’ve probably already discovered. I have had numerous discussions with him and it is perfectly obvious that he is dogmatically committed to his views, so much so that he is incapable of seeing their stupidity. We’re talking about a guy who once said that a godless universe is logically impossible because it would necessitate an infinite regress! It didn’t even occur to him that God is the ultimate infinite regress. He also criticized me for making up fairy tale Gods and bringing up the possibility that this universe may have emerged from another. He said I was just making shit up and that we are talking about science, not science fiction. He was too dense to even realize that the whole point of the argument was to show that there are an infinite range of other potential explanations aside from his Christian God.

  18. This Busy Monster says:

    Hey hey… Show some appreciation for poor Colin. He’s clearly working with limited mental resources and his nonsense is a valuable public demonstration of the kind of crap that most believers engage in, but deny.

    If anything, feel bad for Colin, he doesn’t seem to know when to leave well enough alone. His willingness to humiliate himself is almost painful.

  19. Colin says:

    Time and time again, when atheists run out of arguments, they start with the name-calling.

    Neither of you have said anything about the validity of my arguments. Proposing an alternative does not show my argument to be false.

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, sneers and name-calling are all that Hitchens and Dawkins can manage too.

    You say: “As I’ve repeated now ad nauseum, just because there is no evidence for an objective morality doesn’t mean that there is no reason to act in ways we describe as being moral.” Just because there is no evidence for [God] doesn’t mean that there is no reason to act in ways [consistent with belief in God]. But isn’t that the very thing you criticize all the time? Is it not irrational to behave a certain way based on ideas that we know to be false?

    You say that there is evidence of a designer, but that it is simply the appearance of design (due to there not being a designer). I say the earth is geoid, would you say that it just appears to be geoid, it is really flat? Not likely, because the obvious explanation is that it really is geoid.

  20. This Busy Monster says:

    Neither of you have said anything about the validity of my arguments.

    Your argument amount to “I think so”, or even worse “because my mommy said so.” My response “So what?”

    There you go, your argument is defeated.

  21. Colin says:

    You are clearly unable or unwilling to understand what my argument actually is. Hence your frustration at not being able to address it. Don’t feel bad, you are in the same boat as Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris and Dennett…on a rant without an argument.

  22. This Busy Monster says:

    OK, In big boy language, the only argument you offer is an appeal to authority which is a known logical fallacy. You don’t have an argument, except in your imagination. Imaginary argument, imaginary god.

    You assert that something is true. There is no evidence offered except that you believe it is true. The same authority you cite also believed that the earth was the centre of the universe and angels opened doors to let the stars in and out of the spheres on which they were suspended. You are in a shrinking minority in most parts of the world.

    Where is the argument?

  23. Colin says:

    My argument…

    1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. (you state this yourself)

    2. Objective moral values do exist. (this is plainly obvious)

    3. Therefore it is reasonable to believe that God exists. (established by 1 and 2)

    Your argument, that morals evolved, is a classic example of the genetic fallacy; the origin of an idea does not speak to its truth or falsehood.

    You say…”The same authority you cite also believed that the earth was the centre of the universe and angels opened doors to let the stars in and out of the spheres on which they were suspended.” Where do you get this crap? It certainly doesn’t represent my view. What authority did I cite?

  24. This Busy Monster says:

    Logical fallacy number two. Affirming the consequent. I hope you don’t intend on going through the entire list. It’s long. You should really look this up before you post. That error in reasoning was identified before people imagined up Jesus.

    On a related note, i was digging around on my hard drive and found something you’ve been looking for. Turns out it was buried in a folder under an old first year philosophy paper I wrote. No need to call in Indiana Jones.

  25. This Busy Monster says:

    Oops, Ron, look like I’m not allowed to link to pics, I’ll email it to you.

  26. ronbrown says:

    Colin: Did your parents drop you on your head repeatedly as a child? Or did they just fill your head with religious nonsense to the point where you were no longer able to think critically when it came to religion and related topics? Either way, you are clearly impaired.

    I’ll address your statements below:

    Time and time again, when atheists run out of arguments, they start with the name-calling. [When did I run out of arguments? Just because you’re too dense to notice that I pointed out that there is no good reason to believe in an objective morality and that there is plenty of good reason to believe that we would have moral sensibilities as a consequence of evolution doesn’t mean that I didn’t make the argument]

    Neither of you have said anything about the validity of my arguments. Proposing an alternative does not show my argument to be false. [Ummm, we also said that there’s no good reason to believe in the existence of an objective morality. And given that you have heard the multi-pronged case I have against God, you are in no position to say that I have not said anything about the “validity” of your argument]

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, sneers and name-calling are all that Hitchens and Dawkins can manage too. [Yeah, that’s all they do. Oh yeah, that and describing ad nauseum the ridiculousness of your position, much as I have done. When the listener is so dense as to not be able to comprehend straight-forward refutations of their inane position, that’s when the sarcasm comes in]

    You say: “As I’ve repeated now ad nauseum, just because there is no evidence for an objective morality doesn’t mean that there is no reason to act in ways we describe as being moral.” Just because there is no evidence for [God] doesn’t mean that there is no reason to act in ways [consistent with belief in God]. But isn’t that the very thing you criticize all the time? Is it not irrational to behave a certain way based on ideas that we know to be false?
    [First off, thanks for admitting that there is no evidence for God. Finally some honesty from you. Secondly, this is not at all a parallel situation. You even had to bend the words around to make it appear parallel. I didn’t say that just because there is no evidence for the existence of an objective morality doesn’t meant that we shouldn’t act as if there is an objective morality. I said that we just because there is no evidence for the existence of an objective morality doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t act in ways that WE DESCRIBE AS BEING MORAL. Nowhere in this second part of the sentence to I speak of an objective morality. I referred specifically to the human moral sense, which can be described pretty effectively in terms of the Golden Rule. There is no reason to believe in an objective morality that transcends humanity, but that does not mean that there is no good reason to not take human feelings and wellbeing into account in our actions. Simply caring about the wellbeing of others is a pretty respectable reason.]

    You say that there is evidence of a designer, but that it is simply the appearance of design (due to there not being a designer). I say the earth is geoid, would you say that it just appears to be geoid, it is really flat? Not likely, because the obvious explanation is that it really is geoid.
    [What is geoid?]

    My argument…

    1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. (you state this yourself) [Yes, but I do not agree that *your* God is the God we are talking about. The God could be any of an infinite range of Gods.]

    2. Objective moral values do exist. (this is plainly obvious) [DENIED. Objective moral values are those that transcend humanity and time. What evidence do you have for this? You’ve presented absolutely none thus far. All you’ve done is point to something that the grand majority of humans would find morally repugnant, but this does nothing for your case. It says nothing as to whether certain moral tenets are transcendent. And it fits perfectly with cognitive evolutionary theory, which is based on actual evidence. There is no evidence for a God, on the other hand. So no, it’s not plainly obvious.]

    3. Therefore it is reasonable to believe that God exists. (established by 1 and 2) [DENIED. One is established in so far as we allow for a God that is only defined insofar as it has specified a moral fabric to the universe; no further specification given; 2 is flat out denied.]

    Your argument, that morals evolved, is a classic example of the genetic fallacy; the origin of an idea does not speak to its truth or falsehood. [Um, I also specified converging evidence from research on species ranging from mice and songbirds up to humans. Did that not count for anything?]

  27. Colin says:

    Sorry TBM, my syllogism denies the consequent which is perfectly valid.

    Affirming the consequent looks like this…

    If P, then Q.
    Q
    Therefore P

    Affirming the consequent in clearly fallacious.

    Denying the consequent looks like this…

    If P, then Q
    Not Q
    Therefore, Not P

    This forms a valid syllogism. Mine is clearly a denial of the consequent and therefore valid.

  28. This Busy Monster says:

    Oh, ok, then you are back to “I think so.” or “My mommy told me.”

    Objective moral values do exist. (this is plainly obvious)

    While there are themes in morality throughout history, there have certainly been lots of different interpretations. Western philosophy alone has tons of debate. Given the debate, you can not claim consensus. You are back to the argument from authority, or just plain delusion. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    If you want to read up on the debate, start with Kant, Neitzsche, Spinoza, DesCartes, Aristotle, Plato and a few more. You will note similarities, but no agreement. If the best minds in the history of philosophy can’t agree, you can’t claim that it’s obvious.

    Your a good little boy though, you apparently don’t contradict your mommy.

  29. Colin says:

    Ron,

    I give you credit for following your view to its logical conclusion. At least you try to stay consistent in your view. Unfortunately for you, it forces you to affirm that there are no moral absolutes. That *nothing* is ever truly wrong or evil, we only imagine it to be so. As Richard Taylor says:

    “The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things are war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion.”

    He concludes,

    “Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.” (Richard Taylor, ‘Ethics, Faith, and Reason’ (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), pp. 2-3, 7)

    Your view forces you to accept that rape, torture, injustice, unfairness, murder, tax evasion, gay-bashing, intolerance, lying…and the like… are not evil at all.

    Again, I do not affirm that an atheist cannot behave morally, or that an atheist cannot understand morality, or that an atheist cannot conceive of a moral system. I am only saying that if morality is not grounded in God or something transcendent, then morals are only illusory and that this is problematic for the atheist, particularly if the atheist complains of unfairness or injustice.

    Your converging evidence about mice and songbirds and humans is fine and dandy and quite likely true. BUT it does not prove that objective morality does not exist. You are using the origin of an idea to criticize the idea (the genetic fallacy). It is kinda like saying that a particular bridge will collapse because the engineer was a jerk. Saying that the engineer is a jerk says nothing about the quality of the bridge.

  30. This Busy Monster says:

    Evil

    Evil is another one of those made up ideas that religious nuts like to use to scare people. It’s like Al Qaeda. Every time there is an election, the Republicans try to scare the US citizens with the idea that there is some big bad organization out to get them. BinLaden has likely been dead for 6 years and the organization never existed to begin with.

    Evil is pretty much whatever is convenient for the church to be against. Tons of raping and torturing has occurred in the name of religion. Tons of murder, exploitation, slavery, and genocide happens with the blessing of those who adhere to the “moral standard.” We should just forget about that though when it comes to, because an objective moral standard clearly exists.

    If you want evidence that lots of people around the world believe suffering babies are perfectly moral, look at all the people who have babies and make them suffer. If you want evidence that lots of people believe rape and torture is ok, look at all the raping and torturing around the world (including the moral US troops in Iraq). If you want evidence that people in the world think injustice is OK, look at all the unjust dictators and corporate exploitation around the globe. I couldn’t be clearer that lots of people are perfectly OK with all the things that you seem to think are universally agreed to be evil.

    There couldn’t be more evidence that there is no obvious objective moral standard. Sure, a bunch of halfway educated middle class North Americans have similar ideas. No surprise there, but hardly proof of any objective standard.

    History and the world just doesn’t prove your point.

  31. ronbrown says:

    I appreciate the credit you have accorded.

    “Unfortunately for you, it forces you to affirm that there are no moral absolutes. That *nothing* is ever truly wrong or evil, we only imagine it to be so.” It’s true that I cannot claim that something is objectively wrong. I just don’t have the evidence for a moral standard. However, I like you and most others do not want to be deceived, betrayed, stolen from, hurt or killed without just-cause (e.g., a just cause for deception would be if I asked you to tell me where your wife was so that I could murder her; for physical harm or murder: if I posed a threat to others, etc.). To experience these sorts of things would be very unpleasant. The threat of them could create a state of persistent fear. Given this, these acts which we call immoral result in individual and societal angst and instability. It, thus, makes sense that society collaborate in opposing such behaviours. But this is more than simple contract. It’s not just that we agree to cooperate to maximize our own personal gains. We also do not want other people to go through this sort of thing—and our distaste for such behaviour to others increases with the closeness of those others to us. So not only are we looking out for others in order to benefit ourselves, we genuinely do care (though to a lesser degree) about others not having to go through these sorts of things, irrespective of our own safety.

    Perhaps I cannot make claims to objective good and evil, but I can make claims with regard to services toward and attacks on individuals and humanity as a whole. When it comes to morality, the well-being of others and society as a whole may be my God. Reverence for individual and societal well-being and freedom from undue suffering may be my transcendent moral North Star. And false idols include status, wealth, and the self, as over-indulgence in these idols can lead to personal and social discord.

    “Your converging evidence about mice and songbirds and humans is fine and dandy and quite likely true. BUT it does not prove that objective morality does not exist. You are using the origin of an idea to criticize the idea (the genetic fallacy). It is kinda like saying that a particular bridge will collapse because the engineer was a jerk. Saying that the engineer is a jerk says nothing about the quality of the bridge.” I agree, the cognitive evolutionary arguments absolutely do not disprove the existence of an objective morality. However, we still a positive and evidentially-rooted case for objective morality in order to move away from agnosticism on the matter. I’m not following the engineer-jerk analogy.

  32. This Busy Monster says:

    Colin:

    You fascination with baby torture brings up an interesting point. Part of the religous doctrine of lots of your fellow believers is, in fact, the torture of male babies by cutting off the tip of the penis. Popular methods involve a little S&M bondage equipment to hold the baby still and anesthetics are rarely used.

    The rate of accidents (seriously mutilated penises) is as high as 15% in some studies, yet the practice continues unabated. Of course, this is clearly acceptable as part of the objective moral standard you speak of so highly.

  33. Colin says:

    TBM,

    Sure, you can cite examples of all kinds of people who disobey moral laws against torture etc, but that does not show that those people do not know the laws or that they think that what they are doing is some sort of moral good.

    Ron,

    What would qualify as evidence for objective morality? Moral laws, if they exist, would certainly be invisible to scientific scrutiny, they would be immaterial propositions. Or maybe we need to allow for a different line of evidence…

    I really think we run into trouble when we talk about morality with words like ‘distaste’ and ‘unpleasant’…words that we use when choosing ice cream or avoiding vegetables. We do not punish people for choosing the wrong kind of ice cream.

    If you were to kill someone, you would have done wrong regardless of what anyone thought about your actions. Even if you were a sociopath and you enjoyed the experience of killing a person, and the person who you killed wanted to die, you would have done wrong.

    I applaud your efforts at building community, promoting wisdom, reducing suffering and avoiding false idols. Those things are good and noble. But ideas like ‘goodness’ and ‘nobility’ are also reduced to illusions without an objective ground.

  34. This Busy Monster says:

    No, I am citing all kinds of examples of people who don’t think it’s wrong to do those things. I read a news story about the genocide in one of the African countries where tribal custom held that it was ok to kill the men, rape the women and cut off there clitoris’ and eat them. They didn’t believe it was wrong, it was perfectly justified in times of war. (Can’t find the original story, here is another.)

    If you counter every example with “Oh, but they really know it’s wrong and do it anyways.”, you are completely full of it. Time to offer some proof. People all over the world do things according to the moral standards they learn in their time and place and the believe themselves to be justified. Just because you look at it and go “ick” doesn’t mean they feel the same way.

  35. Colin says:

    So, your response to genocide amounts to ‘ick’. That is quite the moral system you have.

    For you to remain consistent in your view, you cannot condemn a man for killing another man, raping and murdering his wife and then cannibalizing her corpse. That is not a ‘rational’ idea. It is barbaric.

    The burden of proof is entirely on you to prove that something that is plainly self-evident like an objective standard does not exist. Good luck with that. Keep in mind that offering exceptions to the rule does not disprove the existence of the rule.

    The best you can do is offer that we just think that there is a standard because it confers some sort of evolutionary advantage. [How do we know it confers an advantage? Because it was ‘selected’. Why was it selected? Because it confers an evolutionary advantage. Tautology 101.] Any evolutionary tale that you can spin only shows at best that our understanding of moral values has changed and at worst commits the genetic fallacy.

  36. This Busy Monster says:

    Nope, claims to existence have to be proven by the claimant. That’s the philosophical and historical tradition. You just lost it for good with that one, you’ve basically admitted, “I think so.” is your only argument. I see you’ve given up the baby torture example now that I’ve pointed out your God has demanded it since the beginning of history.

    Your god, by the way, doesn’t seem to reject Genocide at all, along with baby torture. He actually directs his “chosen” people to go out and do it a few times. I haven’t been to Sunday school in a few years, but I’m willing to bet that every icky thing example you can come up with was God’s idea at least once in the Bible.

    I don’t think there is a standard at all, and I don’t care at all about evolutionary advantage. I don’t condemn anything. I don’t like suffering, but I see it everywhere. I encourage other people to act in a way that minimizes it, but I’m not so narrow minded to leave animals and the environment out of my picture of right and wrong. Like Herodotus says “Custom is king of all men.”

    Human beings decide, each one of us and as a group, what the moral code will be in our particular time and place in history. It has always been so. Once in a while, some fool writes it down and through the words God and evil in for good measure. The less imaginative among us get hung up and take it seriously. Everyone else gets on with their lives.

  37. Colin says:

    But claims for the non-existence of something obvious fall to the one who denies their existence…I have no need to prove the existence of my thoughts because I have direct access to them. Same with morality.

    I have not given up the baby torture example and it is your lack of understanding that leads you to say that God demands it.

    We are not going to come to agreement here. We have both laid it out on the line.

    When it comes to baby torture and genocide, you say ‘ick’ and I call it evil along with the other rational folks. You think that suffering is bad, but you can’t give any real reason for it…I recognize that suffering is bad because humans have inherent worth as having been created by a loving God.

    You say “I don’t condemn anything.” That is not moral reasoning. That is moral cowardice and an intellectual cop-out and it shows the bankruptcy of your view.

  38. Colin says:

    Keep in mind Mr. Monster that if evil does not exist, then you cannot complain about God being evil or unjust, nor can you complain about the philosophical problem of evil as evidence against God.

    You say….”I don’t condemn anything”, yet you condemn God…you can’t even stay consistent within one post. Your view commits intellectual suicide.

    It is interesting that in another thread, Ron called the postmodern idea that all ideas are equally valid ‘stupid’. I agree. But the problem for the atheist is that without an objective standard, there is no way of determining which idea is really better than another and all ideas become equally valid.

    Ron has sawn off the branch that he was standing on.

  39. Stoobs says:

    God outright demands that the chosen people take the babies of unbelievers and smash their skulls against rocks. That sounds like genocide to me.

    Indeed, the new and old testaments are so different in their approach to morality that I’m not sure how you can claim that Christianity is in any way connected to objective morality. Did god only realize what was good 2000 years ago, and until then he was just winging it? Or did objective morality suddenly change around 2000 years ago?

  40. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    “What would qualify as evidence for objective morality? Moral laws, if they exist, would certainly be invisible to scientific scrutiny, they would be immaterial propositions. Or maybe we need to allow for a different line of evidence…”
    [Good question. One form of evidence would be God coming out and telling the world that he/she/it was real and these are your morals. Aside from that, I really do not know. But without the evidence, such belief just isn’t warranted.]

    “I really think we run into trouble when we talk about morality with words like ‘distaste’ and ‘unpleasant’…words that we use when choosing ice cream or avoiding vegetables. We do not punish people for choosing the wrong kind of ice cream.”
    [Interesting that you mention this. I’m not absolutely certain on this, but I think that I have read that when people encounter something that they find morally disgusting, their neurological response has a fair bit of overlap for the moral disgust as it does for other types of disgust. But yes, there definitely is a qualitative difference. In the case of yucky food, at most the experience is grossness. When it’s a moral issue, the experience can be a deeply emotional atribution of abhorrence. But in he case of the moral transgression, the experience can trigger strong emotions such as fear, mortal disgust (e.g., seeing blood), empathy for things that one would personally find very threatening, painful, personally disrespectful, damaging to one’s social standing, or unjust (note: the experience of injustice, as in when one is stolen from, can be experienced as such without it necessarily being injust; e.g., if I steal TBM’s jacket and give it to you, but you don’t know I stole it, and he takes it back from you, you may perceive this as an injustice because you don’t know that it was his), and the like. Humans are known to have very strong responses to threats of social, health, or possessional nature, so such a response that is greater than simple disgust of brussel sprouts is pretty understandable.

    “If you were to kill someone, you would have done wrong regardless of what anyone thought about your actions. Even if you were a sociopath and you enjoyed the experience of killing a person, and the person who you killed wanted to die, you would have done wrong.”
    [I’m not sure about this. What about at war? I know that you’re not really intending this type of special scenario, but the thing is that given how our brains work I just don’t see how we could consider a scenario in which others didn’t find the killing to be abhorrent unless we make the scenario one in which people are more lenient. As for the sociopath and the person wanting to be killed, this is a tough one. If one person wants to kill and another wants to be killed, it sounds like a win-win situation. The place where the the moral issues come back is when considering the effects on others—e.g., the victims family and friends. Once they’re considered, it becomes an issue like any other: we have to consider the feelings of those who are against such a murder for the standard reasons.]

    “I applaud your efforts at building community, promoting wisdom, reducing suffering and avoiding false idols. Those things are good and noble. But ideas like ‘goodness’ and ‘nobility’ are also reduced to illusions without an objective ground.” [I’m not sure of this. If we consider the objective ground to be a genuine respect for human and societal well-being, we could have a fairly firm leg to stand on. Sure there is still plenty of room for interpretation with respect to morality, but we have that now anyway.]

    TBM: I would imagine that in plenty of cases in which people make what we would call moral transgressions (e.g., wartime rape), there’s a good chance that they realize what they’re doing is wrong, they just don’t care enough to not do it and realize that they can do it without being punished.

    Colin says: “The burden of proof is entirely on you to prove that something that is plainly self-evident like an objective standard does not exist. Good luck with that. Keep in mind that offering exceptions to the rule does not disprove the existence of the rule.”
    [I disagree. I don’t see why you continue to say that the moral standard is plainly self-evident as if this has been established. Neither TBM or I have accepted this premise and you’ve yet to give us reason to. The idea of an objective moral standard is that it transcends humanity. Looking at human consensus then will not give you evidence for it. Especially when such consensus isn’t necessarily even there, as TBM is pointing out, and when there is good reason to believe that moral cognition is an output of cognitive evolution. Evolution does not work to provide ideal and logically perfect solutions; just one’s that work better than what other organisms have at their disposal.]

    “The best you can do is offer that we just think that there is a standard because it confers some sort of evolutionary advantage. [How do we know it confers an advantage? Because it was ’selected’. Why was it selected? Because it confers an evolutionary advantage. Tautology 101.] Any evolutionary tale that you can spin only shows at best that our understanding of moral values has changed and at worst commits the genetic fallacy.”
    [Colin, as it stands there is no evidence for an objective morality. There is, however, plenty of evidence for the evolution of moral cognition. We see it in cross-species comparisons as well as in the discovery of mirror neurons. This isn’t a simple genetic fallacy, there is evidence in favour of the idea that we have evolved to put ourselves in the shoes of others and to empathize with them to varying degrees. There is also evidence for kin selection, as in species in which one organism will sacrifice itself for the others, and in numerous species in which one will do more for close relatives than more distant relatives. A rebuttal to this, though, is that many of us would be willing to take on great sacrifice for close friends. This would be evolutionarily maladaptive. I could say something like “well, evolution doesn’t provide perfect solutions, just workable ones” and the like to make excuses for this apparent exception to the rule, but I don’t want to come off as just making excuses for evolutionary theory. So I won’t. I’ll just state this apparent imperfection, but also say that given the incredible converging evidence for evolution coming from fields spanning the cognitive and biological sciences as well as archaelogy, and given the lack of other viable theories, I doubt that this constitutes a threat to naturalistic interpretation of cognitive evolution.

    Despite all of the above cognitive evolution talk, you could certainly rebut that we have evolved to better appreciate an objective moral standard, but the evidence for the supposed standard hasn’t been presented.]

    Colin says: “But claims for the non-existence of something obvious fall to the one who denies their existence…I have no need to prove the existence of my thoughts because I have direct access to them. Same with morality.”
    [It’s true that claims to non-existence to call on the claimant for evidence, but the opposite is also true: he who claims existence must provide evidence for such. This is why I, as usual, will take the stance of agnostic a-(universal morality): as long as there is no sufficient evidence for universal morality, I will not fullout deny its existence but I will not claim that it exists or that there is reason to believe that it does. Regarding not needing to prove the existence of morality because you have direct access to them, this is only true of your experience of morality, it says nothing about the existence of an objective morality.]

  41. This Busy Monster says:

    Problem of evil.

    Actually, when you invent a Christian God, omniscient, omni-benevolent, and omni-powerful, you invent the problem of evil along with it. Your silly conception of god is nicely packaged with it’s own refutation.

    It’s true that I don’t have a problem of evil, because I don’t have the problem of proving god exists. I also don’t have to prove Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or any other imaginary characters.

    I don’t condemn god, it’s a clever fairy tale and rates right up there with the Brother’s Grimm and Aesop. Nice little morality tales we tell kids to illustrate points. Most intelligent people see the point and grow up and cease to find them entertaining.

  42. Colin says:

    Ron says “One form of evidence would be God coming out and telling the world that he/she/it was real and these are your morals.”

    The Christian view is that God did just that. He revealed himself through the Bible and through the universe. I know that you find that explanation deeply unsatisfying and I am content with letting that sleeping dog lie.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Regards,
    Colin

  43. Stoobs says:

    Hardly a sleeping dog. More of a crazy, barking, possibly rabid mongrel that craps all over the place. Your position boils down to “God created the universe, and I know this, because the universe exists.” As for the bible, even the church doesn’t claim god wrote it personally.

    I think there’s a very simply way to test the existence of god. We should start killing every christian on the planet, burning bibles and churches, and for good measure, nuke the vatican. I should think that if he exists, the threat of his religion being completely wiped out should bring him out of hiding.

    And hey, Christians believe they’re immortal anyway, so what’s the harm in killing them? If it helps prove that god exists, they’ll be converting many millions of heathens, which I have to assume they’re in favor of (since they seem happy with killing said heathens in the hope of converting them, so clearly converts are more valuable than lives,) and if it doesn’t, hey, they get to go to heaven, so no harm, no foul.

    Do you have enough faith to take the die-for-god’s-glory challenge?

    I thought not.

  44. This Busy Monster says:

    Colin says:

    But claims for the non-existence of something obvious fall to the one who denies their existence…

    Fine, then the burden is on you to prove that every single silly god (including the Flying Spaghetti Monster) is not the real god. What a completely asinine assertion.

    I think we’ve both come to an agreement. Your argument comes back, time and time again to “I think so.” Very profound. If that works for you, go with it, but you have to be prepared to accept it from any genocide happy, baby torturer who comes along with the same reasoning. I guess that makes you the coward, because you have no ground to argue from.

    If God doesn’t demand it, does that mean every baby torturer is going to hell? That takes a bite out of the congregation.

  45. Colin says:

    Stoobs…try posting when you are sober.

  46. ronbrown says:

    Stoobs: Yeah, that was pretty bad. Both the joking suggestion of killing all Christians and the statement that killing heathens is a Christian practice, as opposed to a practice of some earlier Christians.

  47. This Busy Monster says:

    Stoobs was a little harsh, but his proposition is no more absurd than the nonsense Colin spews.

    There may not be a stated practice of killing Christians, but Christian countries have a habit of standing by and watching genocides in black non-Christian countries (Rwanda, etc.) but stepping in when similar things start to happen in white Christian countries (Bosnia). That double standard is a bit morally questionable for sure. Christian may not do the killing of heathens, but they don’t seem to mind it.

  48. Stoobs says:

    You think Iraq and Affganistan aren’t holy wars in the minds of Christians? I mean sure, there’s some elements of racism in there too, but mostly it’s about killing people who believe in a different god.

    But fair enough, I don’t actually think killing people is a good idea, generally speaking. I’m just saying, we’ve got a world full of sodomy, and he hasn’t turned up to blast cities and turn people into pillars of salt, so we obviously need something a bit more extreme to get gods attention. Unless he doesn’t exist.

    And if christians really believe in heaven and spiritual immortality, then killing them isn’t realy hurting them at all, from their own perspective. It makes no sense to fear death if you honestly believe that after you die you’re going to an eternity of perfect bliss. Being alive is kind of like standing in line outside the best nightclub ever. Why are they so reluctant to jump to the front of the cue, if they’re really sincere in their belief? You can say it hurts those left behind, but again, those left behind ‘know’ that they’ll see their lost friend/relative in heaven, for all eternity, so what’s the real harm? It’s no different than if the dead person moved to another country.

    Real christians used to embrace martyrdom. Nowadays, they’re all wishy washy, claiming to believe in spiritual immortality, but afraid to put it to the test. Doesn’t sound like faith to me.

  49. ronbrown says:

    If all of the world’s Christians genuinely did believe what they claim to believer—certainly some of them do, but not all are fully confident—then technically they should believe that you’d actually be doing them the biggest favour they’ll ever receive by pushing all of them to the front of the line at once in a relatively painless manner. According to their beliefs, you’d be sinning and you’d be going to hell, but they’d be sailin’. And of course they might have to stand in opposition to the claim, so as to not appear to be complicit in the whole thing—which could jeopardize their heavenly status as it becomes more like suicide if you favour it.

    Now lets see how long it takes for someone to quote mine my statement in order to paint me as a psychopathic hater and try to undermine the credibility of this blog.

  50. This Busy Monster says:

    Now lets see how long it takes for someone to quote mine my statement in order to paint me as a psychopathic hater and try to undermine the credibility of this blog.

    I’ll get on that right now.

    It has been interesting to see Colin slowly drop one silly argument after another, while never withdrawing from the assertion that “objective morality if evident” and those who don’t follow it really know what they are doing is wrong.

    I picture him as the typical Ted Haggard character. Full of self hatred because he can’t stop whatever sinful behaviour (like Ted’s meth and blowjob habit) makes him feel bad about himself.

  51. Stoobs says:

    They don’t have to suicide. They could head out to the middle east to hand out free bibles. I’m sure they’d be dead pretty quickly, and that’s pure martyrdom. There’s all kinds of ways a person who attaches no value to his worldly existence could spend his life to make the world a better place for those who remain, and god apparently applauds such actions.

    There’s all kinds of perfectly legitimate ways to jump the line, even without help. But if other people, who don’t believe and therefore aren’t getting into heaven anyway, were to kill them, that takes it all out of their hands, and gives them a free pass. It’s true that they’re obligated to protest, but it would be for their own good.

  52. Stoobs says:

    At the very least, the life of an atheist should be worth those of ten christians. After all, kill a christian, and you’re sending him to heaven. Kill an atheist and you rob him of the chance to convert in the future, condemning him to an eternity of endless suffering. Obviously, the latter is a far bigger crime.

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