Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Circular morality

G.E. said:

Pain, suffering, survival. Are these concepts so hard to grasp? Those are the keys to our "morality." They are as universal as can be. A species that did not take those into account would go extinct. It goes to reason that our morals were key in our survival, in our ability to cooperate and strive. Those species who could not have the minimum "morals" perished. It is all too obvious.

-Is a tough marriage wrong then?...because it hurts? Are you saying they should split up because it would suit them better to survive?...
Or should they pull through and keep their vows to one another...for better or for worse, because it is right to do what is right?

-So Hitler was right to fight for his fittest empire?

Morality according to your view is whatever suits us best, it seems. Isn't this relativism?
Morality is relative...that is, relative to God, I don't deny that. But without God then morals are relative to the individual here on earth, with no penalty whatsoever (except governments elected by man and changeable).
What if everyone eventually decided that killing off the weak in the human race was the right moral standard for everyone? Would that make it "right"?

I would say no, because morality is a standard put in place by God for every period of time.

DB

P.S. PLZ don't take offense at my examples; Open, blunt, honesty is generally what I like (with tactfulness :)). If what you are saying were true then these are the questions I raise.

23 comments:

  1. These are tough questions. My basic take is this.


    Right and wrong are evolved entities. Before there was life, there was no right or wrong, because there were no organisms to be right or wrong about anything. As life developed, it gradually evolved to behave in ways that helped ensure its success, and those strategies that worked got passed on in the genes, and those that didn't, didn't: the simple beginnings of "right and wrong".

    When life became intelligent, it was able to learn from the environment and act on that knowledge to further its chances at survival. Some animals became social, and extended their sense of what they wanted to prosper out to the other members of their group. Humans have now developed many ideas about right and wrong, still based on our genetic heritage, but increasingly influenced by culture: superstitions, religions, laws, social contracts, fads...

    You ask: where can atheists base their morals? I answer: our genetic heritage ensures that we humans have a great deal in common as far as our feelings about right and wrong go. For instance, almost everyone thinks unnecessarily causing pain is bad, and that people should not cheat. And there are some ideas that simply work well to build cultures: for instance, the Golden Rule has evolved over and over in different times and religions.

    Building culture, that which has given us our unparalleled success as a species (and now, of course, threatens to drown us), is what it's all about: if there were only one person, what would be "moral"? In any case, coming up with laws that work to build culture and make people happy is not easy, it is not absolute, but it must be done, and tempered with mercy, if we want to get the house up.

    You say: only belief in God can give us unchanging morals. I say: even if the words of a religion, say the Bible, are unchanging, the senses behind the words are ill-defined, and people's perception of what they mean is continually changing and full of disagreements. For instance: what exactly does "thou shalt not kill" mean? What does a claim for "absolute morality" mean if no one agrees on what that absolute morality dictates?

    Christians, and of course Muslims and Shintoists too, are all in the same boat with atheists when it comes to morals: there is lots of agreement, lots of disagreement, lots of evolution, and lots of hard decisions to make. The only difference is that most atheists will admit this, and most believers will not.

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  2. You said...
    -Is a tough marriage wrong then?

    Nope, it's not right or wrong, just tough...

    ...because it hurts? Are you saying they should split up because it would suit them better to survive?

    You'd rather both parties suffered rather than part and be happy? Sounds 'wrong' to me...

    Or should they pull through and keep their vows to one another...for better or for worse, because it is right to do what is right?

    What if there is no 'better' only worse? What if it ends with one party killing the other? Is that still good that the vows weren't broken? Is it somehow better that couples should risk getting to the point of killing rather than part? What is 'right' in this instance?

    -So Hitler was right to fight for his fittest empire

    Would he have been 'right' if God had commanded it?

    and as for:

    morality is a standard put in place by God for every period of time.

    so you still think slavery is OK then? how about ripping open the stomachs of the pregnant women of a defeated enemy?

    Any system of morality based on God is essentially meaningless.

    Killing is bad ... except when God does it/decrees it, then it's good and right and just

    Lying is bad ... except when God does it/decrees it, then it's good and right and just

    etc... etc... ad nauseum

    In Christianity 'might makes right' is the only standard.

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  3. In Christianity 'might makes right' is the only standard.

    Sorry, FreddiesDead, I must take exception to this. While "might makes right" has all too often been hoisted as a standard by Christians, for instance in the Crusades and Iraq, some Christians at least have other standards: at least, those who read what Jesus at least sometimes said.

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  4. Da Bomb,

    I truly am in the mood of insulting you for your lack of thinking here, but I will concentrate ...

    What part of defining good and evil on the basis of harm did you not get?

    When did I say it was "simple"?

    Is a tough marriage wrong then?...because it hurts? Are you saying they should split up because it would suit them better to survive?...

    The answer is not simple. If the relationship is harmful it is better to split. Waiting for the other to be better is, not always but too often, idiotic. Abusive husbands/wives should not be withstood. The hell with them. So, it is dependent on the situation. But forcing one part to remain with the other just because they "made vows" is among the most idiotic things one could imagine.

    Or should they pull through and keep their vows to one another...for better or for worse, because it is right to do what is right?

    Again, dependent on the situation. Sometimes it is good a try, often it is not. The "for better or for worse" is idiotic if it means staying in a harmful position for the sake of a "vow" that the other part is not committed to. Sometimes what you are lead to think is right, is not right.

    -So Hitler was right to fight for his fittest empire?

    What kind of ... OK, tell me, did Hitler harm anybody or not?

    Morality according to your view is whatever suits us best, it seems.

    Again, what parts of pain, suffering, and survival did you not get? When did I say "whatever suits me best"? When did I say "individual"?

    Isn't this relativism?

    Maybe, but it is not "subjective relativism."

    Morality is relative...that is, relative to God, I don't deny that. But without God then morals are relative to the individual here on earth,

    Why the individual? Do you think individuals would survive without submitting to the greater good? Don't you realize how dependent we are on our cooperation?

    with no penalty whatsoever (except governments elected by man and changeable).

    Which is, anyway, all that we have.

    What if everyone eventually decided that killing off the weak in the human race was the right moral standard for everyone? Would that make it "right"?

    What part of pain, suffering, and survival--what part about harm--did you not understand?

    I would say no, because morality is a standard put in place by God for every period of time.

    God does not exist, so no, the moral "standards" have evolved with our civilization from those needs for cooperation and survival of our species. This is evident even in your sacred book.

    Please Daniel, think a little bit! It is not that hard. I did not use any weird words. Read again then tell me that your post was a good answer with a straight face.

    Shit!

    G.E.

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  5. Da Bomb,

    Do act differently around you family, compared to around your friends? How about around your workmates and your church-friends?

    We all wear slightly different hats depending on what situation we're in. Yes, it's subtle, but the point is that our behaviour is flexible and context-sensitive.

    Conscience is just the part of our mind that weighs up the outcomes of a possible course of action and decides if it is a good or bad idea, based on our understanding of good and bad (which, again, is context-sensitive).

    Morality is just our categorization of those decisions.

    The human conscience is predicated towards avoiding pain and suffering for our ourselves and those in our immediate group (generally family or members of the same 'tribe'). Everything else is built from there.

    You can see this same behaviour played out in numerous other species; it is not a purely human trait.


    Still looking forward to your old earth post...

    Regards,

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  6. Then I ask again:

    The onyl way you could possibly justify putting Hitle as one of your "examples" is if you think Hitler did not hurt anybody.

    So: Do you think Hitler did not hurt anybody? If so, then why would we condemn him whether there is a God or not?

    I do not "take offense" at your examples. I take offense at your lack of reading comprehension. If you truly believe Hitler was "implied" or "justified" in what I explained, then for sure you think he did not hurt anybody. Read it again.

    G.E.

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  7. I feel like I'm having this very argument elsewhere at this very moment with a person with the very same name...

    Déjà vu?

    I'll answer your argument -- never mind that you butchered G.E.'s position -- by way of a question:

    Is infanticide always wrong?

    Your answer to that question should be informative indeed.

    --
    Stan

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  8. Hey guys,

    Thanks for your replies,

    To try and answer all of you. I'll lay out your preimises for morality.

    1.morality is the result of evolution and culture.
    2.morality changes over time.
    3.morality is what is best for the individual and the group.

    If I have got any wrong let me know.
    My questions about these premises:

    If morality changes, then there are no absolutes. It changes because whatever the moral society the individual decides upon is decided upon by them; on a bigger scale the group decides, which is made up of individuals.

    Therefore, there is no base to base morality on becuase it is simply based upon the survival of the fittest as you guys remind me. Whereas I see that it is best to what is right even when it is a disadvantage.

    Follow?

    God is the basis for morality for christians, after all...He is the first cause of all of us.

    EPM
    Do act differently around you family, compared to around your friends? How about around your workmates and your church-friends?

    What do you mean?

    Still looking forward to your old earth post...

    It's coming bro.

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  9. G.E.

    If you truly believe Hitler was "implied" or "justified" in what I explained, then for sure you think he did not hurt anybody.

    Through evolution, creatures get hurt...the fittest survive. If this is what Hitler was doing then in your opinion (from what I understand)...why is he wrong to try to be the fittest?

    We may be talking about fine lines, or you are admiting that there is morality outside of the survival of the fittest.

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  10. 1.morality is the result of evolution and culture.

    yes.

    2.morality changes over time.

    But for reasons other than time alone. It does not change randomly.

    3.morality is what is best for the individual and the group.

    Not really, the developed morality tends to be what is best for an overall survival of a human group.

    If morality changes, then there are no absolutes. It changes because whatever the moral society the individual decides upon is decided upon by them; on a bigger scale the group decides, which is made up of individuals.

    There not being "absolutes" does not mean there are no ways for objectivity. It does not mean the changes are random. This is where most of your confusion mainly arises. The objectivity can come from getting to know "the others". From the discontent of members of the society who feel like they are being treated unfairly (fairness does not need any gods for being perceived), or being harmed (harmed people get angry you know?), and so on. Thus, it is not subjective. It is very very objective.

    Therefore, there is no base to base morality on becuase it is simply based upon the survival of the fittest as you guys remind me. Whereas I see that it is best to what is right even when it is a disadvantage.

    What did I say? Again, what part of harm is so hard to understand?

    It is not the survival of the fittest. This is ridiculous. It is obvious that our sense of morality comes from the need for survival, and thus we can easily see that our advances in morality follow some objective reality: pain, suffering, harm. As societies have progressed we have been better able to see each other as members of the same humanity. We have learned to see how intolerance harms other people, other societies, which previously would just have been "the others", and how we would also be perceived as "the others" by them. So, we learn to understand and reach for better rules, for better goals, for higher moralities.

    So, nothing about "the fittest". Mostly about our deeper understanding of what is "good" from what is "wrong." And wrongness is definable from harm without any need for any gods.

    You still have to explain why you think Hitler did not harm anybody.

    G.E.

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  11. zilch said...

    In Christianity 'might makes right' is the only standard.

    Sorry, FreddiesDead, I must take exception to this. While "might makes right" has all too often been hoisted as a standard by Christians, for instance in the Crusades and Iraq, some Christians at least have other standards: at least, those who read what Jesus at least sometimes said.

    Which is just individual Christians realising that the moral foundation they have boils down to the one with the biggest stick makes the rules. They understand this is fundamentally wrong and their evolved conscience tells them they should do some things differently to that which their Bible tells them in order to do less harm to society as a whole.

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  12. G.E.

    You still have to explain why you think Hitler did not harm anybody.

    Sorry I miss read your point, I think you were saying that morality is causing less harm to people? We were looking at it from two different angles, but the point I raised was still valid.
    I thought "harm"...as in fittest to survive would fit into your category "Pain, suffering, survival." (which is how I related it to Hitler).
    It is the animals that are the strongest that survive and kill off the less strong, is it not?
    Really, it is through evolution that the fittest survive...which is what Hitler was trying to bring about.

    That is where I raised my question from...sorry if I miss represented you. I hate it when people do it to me :)

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  13. Daniel,

    Thanks.

    I guess you have too much baggage about these issues and about what "atheists" think.

    So, my suggestion. Try to read what we say slowly, and, before jumping to these conclusions, ask, for instance, if I meant "survival of the fittest."

    I suspect you could use this forum to find out what atheists really think rather than keep whatever they teach you in "apologetics."

    G.E.

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  14. G.E.

    You're right. It would be nice if everyone had a open mind to the actual truth instead of their bias'.

    No Doubt

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  15. G.E.

    1.morality is the result of evolution and culture.

    yes.


    No. Subjective Morality is a result of evolution. Morality has and always will be absolute. Just because you decide that you don't want to abide by it doesn't mean they change. Time and time again morality returns to the absolutes laid down by G-d. That includes the ramifications from not abiding in them.

    2.morality changes over time.

    But for reasons other than time alone. It does not change randomly.


    Again, you are talking about subjective morality, which, in the end, will be nothing but a bad memory. Honestly, all we have to do is look back in history for the validation of my comment.

    3.morality is what is best for the individual and the group.

    Not really, the developed morality tends to be what is best for an overall survival of a human group.


    Spoken like a true evolutionist. However, I do agree with what you say partially. True and absolute morality is what is best for the overall survival of a human group.

    Shalom My Friend,
    No Doubt

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  16. Shalom Mr. Stan,

    Is infanticide always wrong?

    Are you going to go with the standard definition that all killing of children as infanticide? or is infanticide the murder of children?

    Keith

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  17. G.E.

    I suspect you could use this forum to find out what atheists really think rather than keep whatever they teach you in "apologetics."

    Maybe you can learn some apologetics because you must have been listening to them with your ears blocked.

    I'll carry on our discussion.
    Now that I know exactly what you are trying to say...listen to what I am trying to say as you seem to have missed my reasoning.
    I'll take what you have said from another post to keep the topics together.

    Hitler might have decided on his own, and with no basis in reality, that Jews were harmful, and decided too that the best course of action was to eliminate them from the face of the Earth. Now, tell me guys, How did it go for him in the end? Did everybody just sat down there not caring what he was doing? Did every attacked nation stay put and so be it? Or did the attacked perceive the pain, suffering, lack of survival, unfairness and defended themselves?

    Did other nations perceive the injustices?


    So are you saying that because the "majority" or the strongest opinion won...therefore it is right?

    Do you really think that without any gods the injustice would not have been perceived? If so, you are worse than Hitler himself.

    No, without God, Hitler + his followers will not be punished.
    Without God people can have morals but the morals a based on whatever is the popular say and not on what is "right" because it is absolutely "right".

    ??

    DB

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  18. ND asked:

    Are you going to go with the standard definition that all killing of children as infanticide? or is infanticide the murder of children?

    Is there some specific definition of infanticide you'd prefer? Is there a difference between killing a child and murdering a child?

    Shall I put it differently?

    Is it ever wrong to not commit infanticide?

    If morality according to Christians is so absolute, why the hedging with respect to infanticide?

    DB stated:

    Without God people can have morals but the morals a based on whatever is the popular say and not on what is "right" because it is absolutely "right".

    Missing the point much? With or without god, people can have subjective morality. With or without god, there can be objective morality. The difference is that I claim objective morality is not necessarily something we can correctly identify. Considering the bible's liberal use of subjective morality as its dictum, I don't understand why you and many other Christians so strive to claim that there is an identifiable objective morality -- after all, Christians generally claim that god is the basis for morality, which necessarily renders it as subjective.

    --
    Stan

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  19. For the Christian, morality is based on One Person...that is God...our Maker.

    For atheism, morality is based on the whole of what society decides upon which in turn is usually democratic in which individuals decide. So atheism is subjective.

    Atheism varies, Christianity is absolute.

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  20. Er, Daniel, in what real sense is morality absolute in Christianity? I suppose one might claim that God has some sort of absolute morality- perhaps whatever He thinks is right and wrong on any given day- but that doesn't mean that Christians have access to this "absolute" morality. The Bible cannot claimed to be a source of "absolute" morality, both because there are conflicts, especially between the Old Testament and the New, but more importantly, because there is no absolute way to implement the commands, for instance "thou shalt not kill". Do Christians agree on exactly what this means? They don't. Is there any way of telling who has the "right" interpretation? Nope. So in what sense is this "absolute"?

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  21. For atheism, morality is based on the whole of what society decides upon which in turn is usually democratic in which individuals decide. So atheism is subjective.

    Straw man much?

    For any individual, individual morality is determined by the individual, and is necessarily subjective. For any group, group morality is determined by group dynamics (which may be democratic, but in most cases are not), and is necessarily subjective. Objective morality is necessarily objective, but is not necessarily correctly identified by either group or individual.

    Morality, for atheists as well as theists and everything in between or outside, is not necessarily "based on the whole of what society decides upon" (redundancy yours), even though it can incorporate societal (group) morality. Your claim is preposterous in virtually every respect.

    Of course, atheism is not the morality espoused by any individual atheist, nor by the collective or net morality espoused by atheists in general -- so it does not follow that "atheism is subjective" even if your invalid conclusion regarding the morality of atheists were true.

    Atheism varies, Christianity is absolute.

    Zilch came close to beating me to the punch on this one, but I think my response is more pithy:

    Which version of Christianity is absolute?

    --
    Stan

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  22. Stan,

    Objective morality is necessarily objective, but is not necessarily correctly identified by either group or individual.

    So what is the objective morality that people correctly follow or do not follow? Who decides?

    The Bible cannot claimed to be a source of "absolute" morality, both because there are conflicts, especially between the Old Testament and the New

    Morality in the Bible depends on the time period...that is, what covenant we are under. For example, in the First Testament Jesus had not died yet and so animal sacrifice was required to cover sins.
    In the Second, Jesus died and paid that sacrifice. So it is not that morality has changed but circumstances regarding that morality has changed.

    but more importantly, because there is no absolute way to implement the commands, for instance "thou shalt not kill". Do Christians agree on exactly what this means? They don't. Is there any way of telling who has the "right" interpretation? Nope. So in what sense is this "absolute"?

    Once again context explains. Obviously this does not mean "do not kill at all" because the death penalty was given to those who broke some of the laws!
    It also does not mean God forbade them to go to war, because God commanded them to go to war (for the right reasons).
    Some translations translate it "do not murder", which I think is the most accurate one.

    You are right, Christians do not agree. But because Christians do not agree, does not make God's Word no longer absolute. Some Christians are wrong and others may have it right...God will decide.

    cheers,

    Dan

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  23. Hey Daniel,

    Good to hear you had some good feedback on your essay.

    (I do listen quite well at apologetics. I am not convinced because ... I tell you later.)

    As of our topic:

    So are you saying that because the "majority" or the strongest opinion won...therefore it is right?

    No, I am saying that the unjustified harm was perfectly perceived. That it is not "leaving the decisions to some dictator."

    No, without God, Hitler + his followers will not be punished.

    That some can escape the only justice that exists, does not make God real. But this is not what you said.

    Without God people can have morals but the morals a based on whatever is the popular say and not on what is "right" because it is absolutely "right".

    No, morals are bound to change as we progress because we all can relate to pain and suffering, to harm. It is not "whatever is the popular say" as in "baseless shit." But rather "whatever the feelings of injustice leads us to change." For instance, if left to the "absolute-morality" derived from Judeo-Christian beliefs alone, slavery would still be here. What changed it was the slow increase in the perception of what slavery means to the victim, the slow realization that the slaves also are humans, the slow realization by the slaves themselves, that they are also humans ... Pressure accumulates until the pain and suffering, the harm, the injustice, can no longer be sustained.

    That Christians helped does not mean that Christian beliefs changed the situation. It was the pressure of the perception and realization of the harm and injustice.

    Same with Women being given the right to vote ... and in the near future the right for homosexual couples to marry if so they want.

    G.E.

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