Saturday, March 04, 2006

How Can an Atheist Be Moral?

Edit: I posted this excerpt to encourage some free-thinking dialogue about the question "How Can an Atheist Be Moral?" since it comes up so often in debates with christians.



Excerpt from:
For Goodness Sake

by Dan Barker


"How does an atheist account for the existence of objective moral values?" I often hear. "If you don't believe in God, then what is your basis for morality?"

We atheists find our basis for morality, of course, in nature. Where else would we look?

Most atheists think moral values are real, but that does not mean they are "objective." They can't be. A value is not a "thing"--it is a function of a mind (which is itself a function). To be objective is to exist independently of a mind. So, an "objective value" is an oxymoron: the existence in the mind of something that is independent of the mind.

However, most atheists think that values, though not objective things in themselves, can be objectively justified by reference to the real world. Our actions have consequences, and those consequences are objective.

Although most atheists accept the importance of morality, this is not conceding that "Morality" exists in the universe, a cosmic object waiting to be discovered. The word "morality" is just a label for a concept, and concepts exist only in minds. If no minds existed, no morality would exist.

Morality is simply the intention to act in ways that minimize harm. Since harm is natural, its avoidance is a material exercise. Organisms suffer as they bump into their environment, and as rational animals, we humans have some choice about how this happens. If we minimize harm and enhance the quality of life, we are moral. If we don't, we are immoral or amoral, depending on our intentions.

To be moral, atheists have access to the simple tools of reason and kindness. There is no Cosmic Code Book directing our actions.

Of course, relative to humanity, certain general actions can be deemed almost uniformly right or wrong. Without the Ten Commandments, would it never have dawned on the human race that there is a problem with killing? The prohibitions against homicide and theft existed millennia before the Israelites claimed the copyright.

The way to be moral is to learn what causes harm and how to avoid it. This means investigating nature--especially human nature: who we are, what we need, where we live, how we function, and why we behave the way we do.

Why should I treat my neighbor nicely? Because we are all connected. We are part of the same species, genetically linked. Since I value myself and my species, and the other species to whom we are related, I recognize that when someone is hurting, my natural family is suffering. By nature, those of us who are mentally healthy recoil from pain and wish to see it ended.

This is not the Golden Rule. Confucius, 500 years before Christianity, phrased the principle best when he said, "Don't do to others what you would not have them do to you." Although this is still not a fully adequate principle for ethics, it is much better than "Do unto others" because it identifies the avoidance of harm as the key to morality.

Of course, we often act in positive ways to stop the pain of others. This is compassion. Atheists can perhaps express compassion more easily than believers because we are not confused by fatalism ("Whatever happens is God's will"), pessimism ("We deserve to suffer"), salvation ("Death is not the end"), retribution ("Justice will prevail in the afterlife"), magic ("Pray for help"), holy war ("Kill for God"), forgiveness ("I won't be held responsible for my mistakes"), or glory ("Suffering with Christ is an honor"). Since this is the only life we atheists have, each decision is crucial and we are accountable for our actions right now.

Yet notice how leading theists deal with the real world: "Ye have the poor with you always," said the "loving" Jesus, who never lifted a finger to eradicate poverty, wasting precious ointment on his own luxury rather than selling it to feed the hungry (Matthew 26:6-11). "I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ," Mother Teresa added. "I think the world is much helped by the suffering of the poor people." So much for theistic compassion!

Jefferson may have been wrong to call compassion an "instinct" because many appear not to have it--it seems optional. But it is fortunate that there are enough of us who love life enough to protect ourselves from those who don't. We have systems of law, enforcement, justice, and defense. We encourage kind, ethical actions through moral education and critical thinking.

But most believers, including Christians who are ordered to "bring into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ," have an underlying distrust of human reasoning. Yearning for absolutes, they perceive relativism--the recognition that actions must be judged in context--as something dangerous, when it is the only way we can be truly moral.

Theists are afraid people will think for themselves; atheists are afraid they won't.

READ FULL TEXT

58 comments:

Jason H. Bowden said...

Several points:

Barker bashes others for believing in absolutes without asking if his own theory is absolute. If it isn't, there's no reason to buy what he is selling.

Atheism does not entail act-utilitarianism, though it isn't an accident that many utilitarians and emotivists had an affinity for the skeptic David Hume (1711-1776). Moreover, deontological (rights-based) systems of ethics are not the same thing as consequentialist theories of ethics.

If moral principles hold for any rational being, like Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) maintained, then moral principles are objective, since they'd be true whether rational beings exist on the planet or not. Whether Kant be right or wrong, Barker seems ignorant of this possibility.

The Nazis had more in common with New Age pagans than they had with atheism or Christianity.

JustinOther said...

Once indoctrinated into the church, it must be hard to let go of the "you can't be moral without god" thing. It really is a form of brainwashing. Imagine if I raised a child to believe in santa claus well into his or her teens, explaining that you just need faith, not evidence. I'd get a knock on my door from child services.

Anyway, thanks mom for introducing me to religion then ASKING me if I want to go to church. Yes, at six years old, I was able to make that choice. How many parents do that, huh?

Chase Vaughn said...

Actually, I believe a person can be moral without God. It is just that naturalism as a system will never be able to ground morality.

But, since all people are created in the image of God, despite a persons lacking of a ground for ethics, that person is still metaphysically created in God's image, thereby also having God's law on their conscience.

The problem is that no one can pull off obedience to that law, and we will all be judged against the standard of perfection.

JustinOther said...

Chase, are you saying that no one can live up to the standard of perfection, so therefore no one gets into heaven? I don't get your point.

Stardust said...

Some evolutionary psychologists have argued that human morality originated from evolutionary processes. An innate tendency to develop a sense of right and wrong helps an individual to survive and reproduce in a species with complex social interactions.

Does anyone have any comments or opinions about this?

Link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology

Stardust said...

Jason,
As an atheist, as you profess to be, how do you define morality for the atheist from your point of view? "If you don't believe in God, then what is your basis for morality?"

(I posted Barker's essay to stir up some discussion on this topic since it comes up in debate quite often.)

JustinOther said...

If animals can develop the ability to hunt together (wolves), form monogomous relationships and/or procreate with as many others as possible in order to survive and reproduce, then why can't a moral compass be a similar evolutionary development.

Humans, afterall, are the only species with an advanced system of language and writing. I also cannot think of any other species that shows compassion (I may be wrong on this one). So why not morality?

JDHURF said...

Morality, not completely unlike free will, is a current apex of evolutionary upsurge. Homo sapiens is a species of fierce social inclination, one of the most social creatures on earth, morality has been developed through evolution for it helped elucidate and solidify a more progressive and effective social construct, in short it had adaptive survival value. If you know anything about evolution you know that if there is a trait or manifestation within a species physically or psychologically it has had an adaptive survival value to it and morality is no different.
The history and knowledge about morality seen through legitimate sources i.e. evolutionary psychology, biology and anthropology is large and vast. To be brief morality is simply a manifestation of evolution in a highly social species, we have a form of morality (that is continually evolving through time and becoming more effective with knowledge through science) and other species have social constructs with ‘moral codes’. If one is interested I could provide some interesting sources to peruse.

I once wrote a personal secular humanist manifesto and I summed up morality thusly: “It is the realization that we are all members of the immense human race; that we all share a common humanity, this being enough reason to support and protect one another.” That is, of coarse, vague and general for morality is also how one goes about doing this. True morality is not defining what is “good” and “bad” by what the bible says but by knowing the repercussions of certain actions.
As Chase has illustrated there is debate in how ethical truth can be grounded with out the belief in a mythological being or force but this debate is senseless, it is not needed for there is every reason to be ethical and moral without such beliefs and it is possible to ground morality and ethics in naturalism.
As Sam Harris says in The End of Faith: “A rational approach to ethics becomes possible once we realize that questions of right and wrong are really questions about the happiness and suffering of sentient creatures.”
That all pretty much sums up my view on the matter though I could certainly go on all night, though I will spare you!

JustinOther said...

Yeah, what he said... :)

That's basically the point I was trying to make, put much more eloquently. Thanks for the backup.

John W. Loftus said...

Sorry I placed you in the ring of fire by recommending your Blog, now you'll get attacked by these guys. Although they can be fun to interact with.

Lya Kahlo said...

Ugh That page is a massive cataloge of all that is tragic about group-think.

Excellent post! I interested in reading this book.

Chase Vaughn said...

"Chase, are you saying that no one can live up to the standard of perfection, so therefore no one gets into heaven? I don't get your point."

This is what Christians have always believed. The Bible says that if you break one of God's laws, then you have broken them all. God doesn't grade on a curve. Anything short of perfect adherence, in thought, word, and deed, to the law will bring eternal condemnation. Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps will not save you. Reading your Bible everyday and praying everyday and helping everyone your see will not help you.

That is why God became a man and lived under the law perfectly on man's behalf. God has fulfilled our obligations to himself, so that he can be just and the justifier of those who believe in Christ. He accomplished salvation for his people.

Stardust said...

Thanks Justinother, Lya and JD for your comments.

Lya, Barker can be a bit over-evangelistic in his writing and speeches. It seems that he has transfered his fundamentalistic traits to atheism and can be a bit overzealous. However, he makes many good points in his book. (It irritates me how he takes christian hymns and puts atheist words to them.)

JD - You have made some very good points. Like "True morality is not defining what is “good” and “bad” by what the bible says but by knowing the repercussions of certain actions."

Religious and non-religious people alike break laws, commit crimes and commit immoral acts. Our prisons are filled with people who are christians.

Knowledge of the repercussions apparently do not work for everyone. Even having the death penalty in many states does not deter a christian or a non-christian to commit crimes or murder.

Repercussions are not always of punishment by law enforcement, but also knowing that our actions cause reactions and MOST of us, religious and non-religious alike want to live in safety and peace, therefore I think it is a cultural thing and how we are raised.

Stardust said...

John~

I am feeling like a celebrity. *blush* I still appreciate the recommendation on your blog, though compared to what you all write there, and how educated you are, I don't feel worthy.

Those people at Triablogue seem to be the Jim Jordan type who get much of their ideas from trolling atheist blogs, then write dissertation rebuttals that take hours to read. Let them have their fun.

One of the titles of a post there that cracks me up is "Self-serving Atheistic Evangelism". What could be more self-serving than to worship a genie who you believe will give you "goodies" when you get to the "magic kingdom" and make you live forever. Would any of these christians still continue believing in a supernatural sky daddy if there wasn't something in it for the SELF? I usually get the response "but their IS a Santa (god) THERE REALLY IS...THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.

I am actually starting to feel amused by these people...and little ol' me must be touching a nerve to get christians to go back and write extremely long posts to dispute what I have to say.
;-) Why is freethought so frightening? Because it will take their Jesus away.

Steve said...

Morality isn't a product of religion. It comes from empathy and having a conscience, as well as learning how to interact with other people. Actually, it could be said that religion corrupts morality, to a certain extent.

JustinOther said...

I must admit I was tempted...

I stopped at Triablogue (sp?) to see what this was about. Now, honestly, I could not read the entire post. I only have a few hours and it seemed it would take longer than that. One line did strike me, though, and I trolled.

This is the line:

The notion of the non-existence of God necessitates his existence, for if he does not exist, morality, logic, and the uniformity of nature do not exist.

I had to read it several times to understand the point, but I just got dizzy. I realized the dizzinesss was caused by the circular argument that it is. I won't go into detail, but I cannot fathom how this explains anything.


I could replace the word "god" with any other being/deity/object and it would make as much sense. Try it yourself with, say, Zeus.

Stardust said...

Hi Justinother...is that what you want to be called? I know your real name but don't know if you want to use it here.

I know what you mean about that blog. There is so much there...they are another group who likes to write dissertations that go round and round and round! LOL!

They just don't get the point that some of us do not accept their beliefs, and we don't believe their ancient text is anything more than mythology.

I am so glad I live in chicagoland because when my computer goes off, I don't have to worry about being surrounded by it when I go around town! I would move to another country before I would move to the babble belt.

Stardust said...

Try it yourself with, say, Zeus.

justinother

That is funny...LOL You can stick any word in for god that you want. LOL
Some people, in an attempt to sound super intelligent end up sounding dumb.

JustinOther said...

Feel free to call me John.

Stardust said...

Ok John...I don't know if I should put my real name or not the way it gets plastered all over the internet! LOL!

JustinOther said...

Stardust, not sure if you caught the post about you at Triablogue, however it is a must read. as my response will likely be deleted there, I thought I'd share it here:


This is the way they do things in an atheist world. Of course, I effectively displayed in my original article that the notion that an atheist has a basis for morality is a precious myth, so we shouldn’t expect them to be honest in their interactions with us.

And you accuse her of acting like a teenager? Here in this short passage you not only generalize all atheists, but you also accuse us of being dishonest and immoral.

How dare you. I am an atheist and, although not the one to which you are responding, I take great offense to this. You do not know me at all, nor I you. You, however, have the audacity to accuse ME of immorality and dishonesty. I would allow you to make that opinion of me if we knew one another, should that still be your opinion. I have a great many friends who are theist (of several religions) and for whom I have great respect, as they do not judge me by my titles, but by my actions.

Should you at some point decide to follow the bible and treat others as you would like to be treated, perhaps a rational and even worthwhile conversation could come of it. Until then, it would appear that would be a useless venture.

Good luck on judgement day.

Stardust said...

John-(justinother)

These people have to be imposters. Or maybe not? Maybe this is what the christian faith is? I want zero part of it.

Yes, you will probably get deleted and they will write a dissertation against you. Apparently they rile people up to supply themselves with material to write about. I see John W Loftus and others from Debunking Christianity have been some of their favorite bashing topics as well.

JustinOther said...

In their defense, I am having a great discussion with Evanmay on that site. It's the "Free Thinkers never think for themselves" post.

Stardust said...

John
Have fun over there...I have seen what they have done to the guys on Debunking Christianity and I think I will "steer clear"

I found this comment by someone on Debunking that is very fitting...and I hope that person doesn't mind me borrowing it...

"He [god} seems way too cowardly to tell me to my face that he is real and what's more, he has to send people in my path, many of whom are just the most arrogant, argumentive, self-righeous, judgemental sons-of-bitches imaginable, to "witness" to me."

JustinOther said...

That is an awesome quote!!

They, of course, will argue that that is a test of your "faith", and that you have failed.

;)

Stardust said...

John,
You handle yourself well over there, I must say. I lose my temper fast with those types anymore.

And it matters not one iota what those ignoramouses think or say...
I think those people set others up to get into debate to be able to create new subject matter to write about. You could veryn well find yourself as the "star" of their next post! LOL!

JustinOther said...

As far as I can tell, I have done nothing but rationally debate the issues at hand. Should they choose to create a post about me, it will do nothing but draw more attention to the debate and, perhaps, cause some to think about my argument. At the very least, maybe some will come check out my blog...haha!!!

Stardust said...

I have gotten more free advertising from xians than I could have ever expected! Jim Jordan over at Moral Science Club will give you some too. LOL!

Just stay away from Gunsgodglory...they post your email on their blog for Spambots to find.

JustinOther said...

Well, that was fun. I think the debate was a bit one sided. I feel my adversary could not or would not look at both sides of the issue. I feel that he could not take the leap of assuming for argument the non-existance of god. Everything assumed that existance, where I was mostly able to look at the issue as though there was a god. I was not convinced.

Stardust said...

Morality isn't a product of religion. It comes from empathy and having a conscience, as well as learning how to interact with other people. Actually, it could be said that religion corrupts morality, to a certain extent.

Steve,
I agree with your statement. A lot of how people feel towards others has to be with how one is raised, and family relationships and also the experiences one has in life. A child patterns much of his or her behavior off of parents, caretakers, teachers, etc. In order to have a civlized and orderly world, we must maintain certain moral standards that ensure happiness and safety for everyone.

Stardust said...

I feel my adversary could not or would not look at both sides of the issue.

John (Justinother)

That was a great debate you had going there and I loved your "reversals" though it didn't really win you the argument since they already feel they have won with or without debate. If we don't "convert" we are close-minded.

JustinOther said...

Steve,

Excellent point. The problem, often, is that theists are taught that their religion is moral, and any contradiction to this cannot be fathomed by the faithful.


Stardust,

I have ended the debate citing a stalemate of sorts. I think we both realize we will not change each others minds. I think I can make better use of my time (as can evanmay) on other ventures. I didn't get the impression that evenmay was trying to convert me, but I just think there is no way to convince him that that 3 point argument is flawed. I stated that in my last post at the site (triablogue).

evanmay said...

JustinOther:

(apologies ahead of time for using your combox, Stardust, but I ask that you not delete this comment).

I would recommend you going back and reading my last response to you. You say that the argument is "flawed." Do you mean "internally flawed"? So far, you haven't argued that the argument is in and of itself illogical. It even follows the basic outline of a transcendental argument:

( ) P-->Q
( ) P
:.Q

Is there anything internally flawed with that very basic logic structure?

No, what I think you mean is that you don't accept the premise. That's fine, but that is something totally different than stating that the argument is flawed.

But that is the very purpose of the debate, is it not? We can't simply declare a "stale-mate" because we have differing views concerning the premise. After all, that is why we were debating in the first place. In essence, if this is a real debate, the debate has only begun. All we have done is to define the argument.

I understand that you might not have the time or schedule that permits you to respond to me. But, in all fairness, I wrote quite a lengthy post, followed by several paragraphs, in defense of my premise, and all of these you simply chose to no respond to. I mean, that is fine, but at the same time you are claiming that I have no "proof" for my premise. I do not find that to be fair. I mean, I can certainly understand how time or schedule would not permit you to respond to these statements or to interact with me concerning the topic in the future. But that does not mean that my statements do not exist. I'm fine with you not responding to what I have to say. I am not fine, however, with your passing over paragraphs I have written in silence and then at the same time claiming I have offered no proof. What do you think of these statements that you chose to ignore?

Concerning Logic, let's say that it was something that we all came to learn through evolution. How did we learn it? How is it possible to learn that A cannot equal non-A? You may say that, after a series of experiences, we found, for instance, that apples cannot be the same thing as not-apples. But how did we find this out, apart from first assuming the laws of logic? You see, we might have come to "learn" that the statement "apples cannot equal non-apples" is "true," but the very word "true" presupposes the laws of logic (there is no “true” or “false” apart from logic). You see, these laws cannot be learned without first being assumed. The notion that "I learned that the laws of logic are true" begs the question, because it assumed the laws of logic in its use of the word "true."

and

But how do you know that it is uniform? That is the question at hand. Science requires a uniformity of nature. Without uniformity, science is meaningless. Without uniformity, there is no guarantee that what had these certain properties in one experiment will be the same in the next. Therefore, without uniformity, there is not science. But how can uniformity be known or proven? It cannot be proven scientifically, because that would assume a uniformity to begin with.

and

Then, if the laws of logic are not universal, they are no longer objective. There is no guarantee that A cannot equal non-A here, and we have no way of knowing that we are speaking the same language. I might as well declare myself the winner of this debate. In fact, we both won at the same time. How's about that? Is there anything that restricts me from making that statement?

Thanks,
Evan.

JustinOther said...

Evan,

To be quite honest, I am tired of this discussion. Perhaps we have just begun, but tell me this; Is there any chance at all that you think I can or will prove you wrong? Honestly?

My guess is no. I'm sure you are convinced of your argument. I'm certainly not claiming that I am wrong, just that I feel the discussion is futile. I prefer to use my time for other ventures.

I hope you understand my reasons for ending the debate, but I must. Again, I appreciate the time we've been discussing this.

evanmay said...

JustinOther:

To be quite honest, I am tired of this discussion.

That's fine. But, just as a word for you, if you are tired of this brief and civil conversation, you have probably given up on apologetics altogether.

Perhaps we have just begun, but tell me this; Is there any chance at all that you think I can or will prove you wrong? Honestly?

Well, only our discussion would be able to tell that.

I prefer to use my time for other ventures.

Like I said, it's understandable. But will you retract your statement that I offer "no proof" since you are unwilling to deal with my statements? I'm fine with your choice to not continue. But, in your doing so, I don't want you to ignore what I have taken the time to say.

Thanks,
Evan.

JustinOther said...

Perhaps I Should not have started this debate in the first place. Had I known it would grow this large, I would not have.

Anonymous said...

True morality is not defining what is “good” and “bad” by what the bible says but by knowing the repercussions of certain actions.

Problem: We can't know all of the immediate repercussions of our actions.

Besides what if some don't care about the reprecussions?

Steve said...
Morality isn't a product of religion. It comes from empathy and having a conscience, as well as learning how to interact with other people.


ok... who is this empathy person and when did you he/she give you a conscience?

What if my "learning to interact with others" meant I beat them to a bloody pulp?

JustinOther said...
Well, that was fun. I think the debate was a bit one sided. I feel my adversary could not or would not look at both sides of the issue. I feel that he could not take the leap of assuming for argument the non-existance of god. Everything assumed that existance, where I was mostly able to look at the issue as though there was a god. I was not convinced.


No the problem was that one side admitted they were coming to the discussion with presuppositions - the other side (you) did't...

evanmay said...

They are as the Blues Brothers say "on a mission from gawd."

This is true :-)

Stardust said...

I wonder who anonymous is???
Hmmmm ;)

Besides what if some don't care about the reprecussions?

I have written about this before. You must have missed it. I wrote "Religious and non-religious people alike break laws, commit crimes and commit immoral acts. Our prisons are filled with people who are christians." Some people have psychological problems or are not raised in an environment to know any better.

ok... who is this empathy person and when did you he/she give you a conscience?

What if my "learning to interact with others" meant I beat them to a bloody pulp?


Again...same answer "Religious and non-religious people alike break laws, commit crimes and commit immoral acts. Our prisons are filled with people who are christians." Some people have psychological problems or are not raised in an environment to know any better. It's what kind of environment and attitudes one is raised with.

Where does one aquire these attitudes? They are passed on. For a society to thrive and be civilized, there must be guidelines. Gorillas, Chimpanzees and other more intelligent animals figure out what they need to do to get along with their species. Same with humans. When humans exhibit anti-social behavior they need to be treated for it, and if they keep committing crimes against that society, they need to go to be removed from that society for a determined amount of time according to the crime committed.

Stardust said...

"My thesis is that morality exists outside the human mind in the sense of being not just a trait of individual humans, but a human trait; that is, a human universal." -Michael Shermer, The Science of Good and Evil

evanmay said...

I wonder who anonymous is???
Hmmmm ;)


Um..I hope you aren't going there.

Stardust said...

Christians and non-christians alike are not much different concerning moral behavior. How many "christian" figures in the public eye have we seen exhibit immoral behavior? Bill Clinton, Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker. A Lutheran pastor of a church we were going to years ago was excommunicated for having an affair with the church-run school's second grade teacher. There are non-believers who cheat on their wives/husbands, and there are christians who cheat on their wives/husbands. There are both christians and non-christians who steal, embezzle, lie, cheat, murder, injure...and all sorts of things. These are all people breaking societal rules. The difference is that christians believe that they will be forgiven by some imaginary sky daddy, and atheists are only accountable for themselves. However, BOTH have to pay a societal price for bigger crimes, and for the smaller ones like lying to a friend, and other little things not considered serious matters which will harm society, but can ruin a person's reputation within that society. Studying human phychology and social antropology is really helpful in understanding how a society can have morals without religion.

JDHURF said...

“True morality is not defining what is “good” and “bad” by what the bible says but by knowing the repercussions of certain actions.” - JDHURF

”Problem: We can't know all of the immediate repercussions of our actions.
Besides what if some don't care about the reprecussions?(sic)” – Anonymous

My response (JDHURF),

I agree we cannot predetermine or know the direct results of our actions before such actions are taken “all the time”. We must make the wisest decisions based on the knowledge at hand that we have been provided with.
The reality of the situation is that the correct moral stance to take exists whether we are aware of it or not and whether we agree with it or not. The correct moral stance to take regarding certain situations requires ones critical investigation; one cannot merely glance at the situation and make rash moral judgments, which would be ignorant.
Morality is, in and of itself, an innate ideal, an innate moral standing to be found and understood.
Take for instance the biblical act of stoning adulterous women, this is an immoral and abhorrent act, one that should be denounced for the volatile, amoral sexist ideology that it is. The fact that at one time individuals following the bible claimed that it was perfectly moral and ethical to stone to death women for adultery obviously does not negate the immorality of such an act, it merely ignores, misses, or rejects the real sense of morality regarding this specific situation. The idea that stoning adulterous women to death is immoral is a reality of morality that is innate, we do not need to agree and accept it, we do not need to understand it or follow it; it simply is. Morality is what is ethical and sound regardless of human acceptance and understanding of it, we are constantly in pursuit of a “higher” understanding of morality; simply put we are seeking these innate moral stances through observation, investigation, etc. What I am saying is this: morality is an innate and intangible ideal, one that exists whether we are aware of it or not, it is a stance and a position to be taken and understood regarding specific situations and circumstances that may or may not be realized, but ultimately whether this correct moral knowledge is found and/or understood it certainly is there to be known and understood, it simply waits our arrival so to speak.
Furthermore what does it matter to the idea of morality whether we can immediately know the direct repercussions of our actions or not? Does this in some way negate morality? What is your real detraction?
Regarding your second question, “what if some people do not care about the repercussions?” There are, of coarse, always going to be those that simply do not care, be they anti-social persons, an individual with a psychological disorder or merely apathetic amoral criminals. This again does not negate the idea of morality, simply because some individuals will either refuse to learn, be unable to learn or simply reject the innate ideals or morality does not mean that they do not in fact exist. What is your real detraction? How in the world is this a negation of morality?

JDHURF said...

“Concerning Logic, let's say that it was something that we all came to learn through evolution. How did we learn it? How is it possible to learn that A cannot equal non-A? You may say that, after a series of experiences, we found, for instance, that apples cannot be the same thing as not-apples. But how did we find this out, apart from first assuming the laws of logic? You see, we might have come to "learn" that the statement "apples cannot equal non-apples" is "true," but the very word "true" presupposes the laws of logic (there is no “true” or “false” apart from logic). You see, these laws cannot be learned without first being assumed. The notion that "I learned that the laws of logic are true" begs the question, because it assumed the laws of logic in its use of the word "true."” – evanmay

This entire paragraph is largely unintelligible and hard to read, no offense. Let me embark in any case.

You have made the attempt to understand the acquirement of logic via evolution, at least for the sake of argument, which is good. I commend you for your effort. For I am a neo-Darwinian and this means that if a species has a certain characteristic, quality or mechanism (whether this is physical, psychological or social) I know it must have been acquired through the ceaseless work of evolution.
Your first misstep was when you claim that in order to acquire a logical mind frame we must first “assume” logic. As you would say “this begs the question”: If we do not know of logic how may we assume it? Obviously for one to assume or to acquire logic one must be aware of its existence. The question is how have we formed or become aware of logic?
Which brings me to this point, logic is secondary…follow me.
Your example of finding out the difference between apples and non-apples is a rather shoddy example but I shall play along. We would both agree that knowing apples are different from non-apples is logical and that one is, indeed, using logic to differentiate between the two. However, one does not need to accept and understand the intangible idea and definition of the word logic to know the difference.
An individual does not need language to understand the difference between, say, apples and oranges. All one needs to do is bite into an apple and taste the apple and then bite into an orange and taste the orange, after having done this the individual now has data at their disposal, the tastes between both the apple and the orange. The individual upon seeing an apple resting besides an orange will remember the sensations of eating both fruits and recall that the apple had a different taste then that of the orange (not to mention the plethora of other differences). The individual has now understood the difference between an apple and an orange without using the “laws of logic” but rather an investigative, observational inquiry and remembrance of such things. The “law” of logic is secondary, it comes after such data is collected and sorted out in the mind. The mind takes the data and analyzes it so to say. The mind constructs logic based on real world observations and interactions. Logic is secondary to experiences, sensations, and senses but to be truly objective about these things one must use the methodology of science so as to not confuse and misconstrue these things.
So as you see we have not come to know the statement apples are not the same as non-apples through assuming logic but rather by investigating and experiencing sensation and life. After having done this we then constructed logic, we did not “assume” it.

JDHURF said...

“Science requires a uniformity of nature. Without uniformity, science is meaningless. Without uniformity, there is no guarantee that what had these certain properties in one experiment will be the same in the next. Therefore, without uniformity, there is not science. But how can uniformity be known or proven?” – evanmay

I am rather astounded by this statement. Are you claiming that there is no uniformity in nature and material existence? Are you claiming that there is chaos? Are you claiming that there is uniformity but that science cannot describe it?

Science, actually, does not require a uniformity of nature. There is much of scientific endeavor that is ceaselessly preoccupied by following the constant change and flow of nature, the inconstant aspects of it so to say. Nature is not always uniform or constant, as the theory of evolutions suggests, it is constantly changing and “evolving” hence the theory. There are, however, certain aspects of nature which simply are uniform and are not subject to change such as the chemical elements that make up the periodic table. The chemical elements that make up the periodic table present a “uniformed” trend, example: ALL of the elements of group eighteen (the noble gases) have full valence shells. They attain a full shell with out the necessity of reacting with other elements, which means that they are unreactive monoatomic gases. This is “uniformed” it has been observed, observed again and yet observed again that this is the case. Are you suggesting that it is both possible and plausible that tomorrow, unbeknownst to chemists and scientists around the world that, helium may require a reaction with another element to retain its full valence shell rendering it no longer a fellow unreactive monoatomic gas? I hope not. Uniformity can be known and shown to exist by observing and testing certain elements of nature such as the chemical elements that I mentioned. We can interact with, test, observe, instigate and analyze the functioning of certain natural mechanisms and do so repeatedly, when we find that a certain situation always produces certain results we can safely say that this situation is always going to be the cause; scientists actually have to attempt to disprove and discredit their hypothesis and then other peers will then attempt to out right disprove findings and conclusions. If chemists consistently say that transition metals form good homogeneous or heterogenous catalysts it is safe to believe that this is, in fact, the case and is not subject to change dramatically the next day.
Without uniformity there is still science, chaos theory anyone? Viruses evolve and change on a daily basis and science follows these changes and creates new vaccines and medicines to combat these viruses, there is little uniformity in viruses yet there is virology the scientific study of viruses.

JDHURF said...

“There is no “true” or “false” apart from logic” – evanmay

I want to clear something up. There actually is true and false apart from logic. Logic is merely a structure of propositions, a mode of reasoning. This structure of propositions and mode of reasoning may lead someone that is unknowledgeable regarding modern science that the moon at night is actually emitting its own light. This is logical to the individual without modern science and astronomy, for it certainly seems logical to conclude that a celestial body that is bright and lights up the dark night sky is actually emitting its own light rather than reflecting light emitted from the sun that is merely hidden beyond the horizon of the earths surface. The individuals “logic” (structure of propositions and mode of reasoning) has now led the individual into believing a falsehood. Truth is something that exists and is real whether humans are able to understand and accept it or not. False is merely something that we know, or think we know is not “true”; so false is not apart from logic. One needs logic to be able to interpret something as being true or not so as to be able to lay claim to falsehood. Truth, however, is different. Truth resides outside of human logic, whether our logic tells us the earth revolves around the sun or not this is true, the earth revolves around the sun and this truth is, in fact, apart from logic. To sum up falsehoods do not exist (obviously) but in order to conclude this we must use logic, we must also use logic to conclude if something is true or not; however something is true regardless of whether or not our logic tells us so. Truth and logic are certainly two different items and truth certainly can be apart from logic. To claim otherwise is, well, illogical.

JDHURF said...

However if you mean that something either true or false cannot be apart from logic based on the distinct principles of bivalency, involution, idempotency, contraction, DeMorgan and others I feel that you should be clear and make such a distinction regarding what sort of logic you are specifically referring to.

I think that maybe you were trying to present your “logic” in one of these various forms though I am not sure what the following represents:

( ) P-->Q
( ) P
:.Q

What in the world is that?
I am, somewhat, familiar with prepositional logic and Boolean algebra but I have not seen this before.

“Is there anything internally flawed with that very basic logic structure?” – evenmay

I do not know you would have to tell me what basic structure of logic you are using and the actually body of the logic would help. What did your premise actually state? How did you constitute that formula?

JustinOther said...

JD and Stardust,

Sorry if I got you involved in this. It was my intention to keep this at the other blog.

Evan,

Perhaps I should not have started this debate. I am certainly not well versed in the concepts you are mentioning. I rely on my experience and what I can see and feel. I may not know all of the terminolofy, but I am well educated enough to understand the concepts. Can we please put this to rest.

Stardust said...

JD - As Justinother has said, the other party has predetermined that he is right on all subject matter, therefore only wants people to "argue" the opposition's point so he can show how awesome he is at arguing and squashing his opponent (in his own mind.) I would say don't go there unless you have lots and lots of free time.

You have done alot of thinking about morality JD and have made A LOT of good points. IN ancient times it was considered moral to confine a menstruating woman in her hut and shun her during her "unclean" time.
Even in today's world, some cultures think it is just fine to bury a woman up to her neck in the ground and throw rocks at her head till she is dead...this was in the news not long ago in Africa where an uwed pregnant woman was sentenced to be buried in the ground up to her neck and stoned. Human rights activists were set out to try to save her. I never heard how that story turned out. Does anyone else know about this story and the outcome? It was in the news a couple of years ago.

Stardust said...

Evan,
Please do as justinother asks and keep the logic debate over on your blog. Thank you very much.

Justinother- no need to apologize. You were very clear the first time when you said that debate was over and you surely didn't invite him to continue the matter over here.

JDHURF said...

Sorry, couldn't help myself. I read his astounding posts and could not keep myself from responding. Maybe I'll copy and paste them to his blog site.

Jason H. Bowden said...

jdhurf, evan--

The must be some uniformity in nature, otherwise we would not be in a position to tell other human beings, who are uniform in some respect, that there is no uniformity in nature.

We do not have logical insight because we assume we have it.

Truth is a property of beliefs. If I believe reality is a certain way, and reality is that certain way, then my belief is true. Otherwise I'm in error. Logic concerns itself with valid and invalid infererences; it is obvious that there can be true beliefs without making an inference, since not all beliefs are the result inferential processes.

The genesis of our beliefs has nothing to do with the justification of our beliefs. Scientistic, eliminative materialism is a faulty position -- they don't have an account of assertion.

That P implies Q, P is true implies Q is modus ponens, a valid argument form.

Jason H. Bowden said...

stardust --

First off, recall the Euthyphro dilemma. Socrates is talking with Euthyphro, a religious expert. Socrates assumes Euthyphro has an understanding of what is holy. However, Euthyphro gets caught in a dilemma -- at one time Euthyphro states that things are good because gods love them, and at another that that gods love things because they are good. When Socrates asks him to explain this confusion, Euthyphro is like, "um, I have business to attend elsewhere, um, see you later!"

From this, we learn that ethical problems are not unique to the atheist. If God loves things because they are good, the theist is in the same position of explaining morality. If things are good because God commands them, the atheist has the moral high ground, since we can appeal to a standard that shows God to be wrong if he asks us to suicide ourselves on innocent people, kill our children, stone adulterers and so forth.

My approach to ethical problems is not deontological or teleological, but aretaic.

Stardust said...

Jason, You make a good point when you write From this, we learn that ethical problems are not unique to the atheist. If God loves things because they are good, the theist is in the same position of explaining morality. If things are good because God commands them, the atheist has the moral high ground, since we can appeal to a standard that shows God to be wrong if he asks us to suicide ourselves on innocent people, kill our children, stone adulterers and so forth.

My approach to ethical problems is not deontological or teleological, but aretaic.

could you explain this in simpler terms? Thanks

Jason H. Bowden said...

stardust --

(1) Deontological ethics
Deontological Ethics
Rights

(2) Teleological Ethics
Consequentialist Ethics
Consequentialism

(3) Aretaic Ethics
Virtue Ethics
Virtue Ethics

Stardust said...

Thanks for the links Jason.

JDHURF said...

"jdhurf, evan--

The must be some uniformity in nature, otherwise we would not be in a position to tell other human beings, who are uniform in some respect, that there is no uniformity in nature.

We do not have logical insight because we assume we have it.

Truth is a property of beliefs." - jason

That is my position and pretty much exactly what I said, no need to address me.

MichaelBains said...

I read more of the comments than I did of the guy's quote!
lol

I guess it's the evangelical thing. Jim posted on Harris' End of Faith the other day. It the hit the mark that Atheism is neither a philosophy nor a religion nor, in its essence, a belief.

I don't believe in gods. Period. That's it. I lack that belief.

If'n I ever do again, it will be due to a materially reproducible demonstration of the existence of a very particular first cause. And maybe not even then because WHY in the universe should anyone think the first cause was conscious? or Sentient for that matter?

Science works and through its use humans will eventually discover the entirety of the workings of whole of Space and Time; Matter and Energy; Life, the Universe and, yeppers!, Everything.

And I don't believe that will be 42, unless 42 is the number of generations of homo sapes which yet to reproduce until we learn this so far inexplicable information.

Happy Monday Morning Debbie et al!