Coyne on Morality

Your required reading for today is Jerry Coyne’s essay in the USA Today. His topic? Where morality comes from if not from God. Here’s an excerpt:

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

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

Should we be afraid that a morality based on our genes and our brains is somehow inferior to one handed down from above? Not at all. In fact, it’s far better, because secular morality has a flexibility and responsiveness to social change that no God-given morality could ever have.

Good stuff! Now go read the rest.

Comments

  1. #1 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    More sophisticated theists are claiming that the teleology and direction of evolution (from prokaryotes to humans) imply that God is behind the process. Hence, humans have a higher sense of morality than other animals.

    In other words, morality still comes from God, even considering evolution.

    Here is a typical argument (I don’t support the argument, just trying to point out that Coyne isn’t really addressing the issue from a sophisticated theist point of view):

    http://xianphil.org/Intent_evol.htm

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    August 1, 2011

    A sample from the generally deplorable first set of comments:

    World wide genetic studies showing that spirituality (as opposed to organized religion) is hard wired in our genes seems not to have penetrated the minds of society as to it’s implications.

    Anyway, militant fundamentalists and militant atheists are essentially psychologically the same.

    Sigh…

  3. #3 Greg Esres
    August 1, 2011

    < >

    Is it my imagination or is it becoming more common for blog posts to command the reader to click on a link, rather than just hinting by providing it?

  4. #4 Rieux
    August 1, 2011

    healthphysicist:

    just trying to point out that Coyne isn’t really addressing the issue from a sophisticated theist point of view[.]

    And the Courtier’s Reply is dragged out for yet another round of flogging….

    Bigger and sillier towers of illogic and circumlocution don’t actually constitute “sophistication.”

  5. #5 Greg Esres
    August 1, 2011

    healthphysicist wrote:

    Coyne isn’t really addressing the issue from a sophisticated theist point of view

    The idea that supernatural forces guided evolution isn’t particularly sophisticated, just another ad hoc defense that is unprovable. Such defenses are never-ending. You really can’t expect to address more than a few points in a popular article.

  6. #6 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    @5 Greg:

    The sophistication results from the author’s (in my link) understanding and acceptance of evolution, as compared to those unsophisticated theists who don’t.

    Coyne ignored this theistic point of view completely.

  7. #7 Rieux
    August 1, 2011

    Coyne ignored this theistic point of view completely.

    Very likely because it’s just as nonsensical, with regard to the matter in question, as any other “theistic point of view.”

    Evolution + Goddidit is not actually more “sophisticated” than Goddidit -> NOT(Evolution).

  8. #8 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    @7 Rieux

    So, someone who understands the science of evolution is just as sophisticated as someone who doesn’t?

    Does that opinion extend to calculus, quantum physics, and the rest of the sciences?

    If so, why study science?

  9. #9 Wowbagger
    August 1, 2011

    ‘Sophisticated’ vs. ‘unsophisticated’ theology = well choreographed vs. poorly-choreographed tapdancing.

  10. #10 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    I never posted anything in regards to sophisticated vs unsophisticated theology.

    Atheism can cause delusions too.

  11. #11 JimV
    August 1, 2011

    If more sophisticated apologists think evolution has a direction, and it points toward homo sapiens, they are wrong. If they would abandon totally subjective, anthropomorphic feelings they could assess the data and see that the weighted sum of evolutionary vectors points overwhelmingly to bacteria – which outweigh the total weight of all other living creatures on this planet by a factor of ten to one.

  12. #12 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    I’m not a theist, but I don’t know of any theist argument based on mass.

    Perhaps many atheists are arguing against their own invisible entities.

  13. #13 Lenoxus
    August 1, 2011

    These conversations always get muddled because there are so many different things people mean by “morality”, and I’m not talking about different models of meta-ethics. Here’s a few examples of definitions that people don’t distinguish often enough.

    A. The inherent “rightness” and “wrongness” of certain actions or things, and/or the unarticulated principles whereby certain things are ethical. This is perhaps the most complicated and controversial one. Moral subjectivists and noncognitivists deny that these principles “exist” and often believe that their existence isn’t even coherent. Others disagree, of course.

    B. A set of statements that proscribe and prescribe various actions, or that codify morality(A). This would include governmental laws, religious commandments, and various philosophical ideas. Even a solipsist can’t dispute that these exist. This is close to what Coyne is talking about when he refers to secular reason, albeit perhaps he isn’t interested in “statements” so much as the process of philosophy.

    C. The instinct to behave in ways that match up with morality(A). This is mostly what Coyne is talking about when he refers to evolution.

    D. The existence of moral behavior, whether driven by morality(C) or by something else, and “moral” either in the sense of A or B.

    These four don’t begin to cover all the ground. And as you can see, they can be “multiplied”, so we’re talking about a lot of different definitions altogether. Whew. The main way this frustrates me is that it causes atheists and theists to be on different wavelengths with this topic.

    An analogy: Alice the atheist says that religion doesn’t provide a basis for science, and Theresa the theist responds that religion is obviously compatible with science because gravity still affects you if you’re religious. Or, more realistically, Theresa might say that religion is another search for truth, “just like science is”.

    In either case, they’re using different definitions of “science”. Alice is talking about science as a specific method of knowledge-gathering, or perhaps the set of knowledge thus gathered. Theresa in the first example is talking about the actual universe that science describes as “science”. Theresa in the second example is talking about systems in general that add ideas to our set of beliefs.

    Alice is probably going to see both of Theresa’s answers as evading the question (or worse, as evidence that she’s right); what she was interested in was how religion can foster the specific methdology we call science, a methodology which has show itself useful and amazing countless times, and which Alice thinks is valuable in itself.

    Theists who ask “How can atheists be moral?” may be asking any number of things. Some of them are wondering how in the world humans could ever behave altruistically if God didn’t make them with a moral instinct, or if God didn’t provide them moral principles to live by, or if God didn’t reward and punish people for their actions. (Notice the way those three actions of God’s somewhat contradict!) To this question, the evolutionary account is a satisfactory answer, although lots of people are unable or unwilling to ponder the counterintuitive notions necessary to grasp that altruism can evolve.

    Many other theists, though, are wondering “how do atheists construct a morality in the absence of divine grounding?” This is what Coyne gives his “secular reasoning” answer to. But theists will often be unsatisfied because “secular reasoning” sounds to them what theology sounds like to us — just making things up to suit your own purposes. At the extremes, theists assume these purposes will be either hedonistic or nihilistic; they subconsciously assume that these things are either what humans are “by default”, in the absence of God, or that they are what really would be moral in the absence of God. To me, the assumption that no God —> nihilism is itself nihilistic, whether you’re talking about the universe or just human instincts.

    Atheists like to point out that cultures everywhere developed moral systems long before the Ten Commandments came about, but to theists this sounds like a redefinition of “morality” from “the system of rules that corresponds to correct objective ethical principles” to “any old set of rules or practices of any culture”. It’s like how Alice saw Theresa as redefining “science” to mean “any old system that attempts to describe nature”.

    Fortunately, Coyne brings up Euthyphro, which eviscerates most theistic claims to superiority on this issue. Maybe there is an objective morality and maybe there isn’t, but either way it makes zero sense for an objective morality to come from God.

    (My own position is that asking about objective morality may be asking the wrong question, the way vitalism asks the wrong questions in biology. I don’t know what the right questions are, yet in this case I think we already have a very good grasp of the answers anyway. People often differ more in their meta-ethics than in their ethics, so the question may be moot.)

    These days, I wish more atheists would advance the argument beyond the feeble “Atheists can be good without God” into the much stronger “Theists can’t be good with God”. I don’t mean that theists are one iota less ethical than others, just that neither God nor theism provides a basis for ethics, and in many cases they provide the opposite, as Coyne shows with his Bible references. Christians are almost all morally superior to Christianity.

    Re healthphysicist @ 1: Coyne’s point is to (very casually) demonstrate how human moral behavior is possible if a God-free evolution is responsible for our existence, not to say that altruism proves non-designed evolution, and furthermore disproves God / theistic evolution. So the theistic response you gave isn’t actually a response so much as a tangential sharing of information.

  14. #14 healthphysicists
    August 1, 2011

    @13 Lenoxus

    Good job at articulating matters from both viewpoints.

    But to a sophisticated theist, evolution is not God-free. Coyne hasn’t proved that it is not. So to a theist, Coyne really hasn’t proved anything.

  15. #15 Rieux
    August 1, 2011

    So, someone who understands the science of evolution is just as sophisticated as someone who doesn’t?

    You’ve moved the goalposts.

    You referenced “sophisticated” views, not people. Taking established science and tacking “Goddidit” is not in fact sophisticated, no matter how sophisticated the person pulling that fast one happens to be.

    Regardless, your reference to the sophistication of the person holding the views is an overt resort to the ad hominem fallacy. Fail.

  16. #16 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    Sorry, see my first post…”sophisticated thiests”.

    A quick lesson…a theist is a person, not a view. Theism is a view.

    Fail.

    It’s not an ad hominem fallacy, to suggest that the theist understands evolution. I’m not resorting to his/her expertise, just to the fact that they have a basic understanding and accept evolution.

    You’ve failed twice.

    You suffer from atheist delusionalism.

  17. #17 Ophelia Benson
    August 1, 2011

    I read that piece in draft form. Had to struggle to come up with any suggestions.

  18. #18 Wowbagger
    August 1, 2011

    healthphysicist wrote:

    You suffer from atheist delusionalism.

    You sound like you suffer from splenetic abstractionism.

    It’s fun to invent baseless terminology!

  19. #19 gammon
    August 1, 2011

    healthphysicist:

    So, is the theist you postulate sophisticated because they accept evolution, or sophisticated because they accept evolution and then manage to also tack on some additional, theistic reasoning to come up with an alternate explanation? Or are they sophisticated because their position has multiple arguments to support it? Reading your posts, it really isn’t clear what you mean by sophisticated, and that you may in fact be changing or conflating what you mean by sophisticated (like the theoretical Theresa in Lenoxus’ excellent post does when referring to science).

    If your sophisticated theist accepts evolution, but argues that God has inspired or directed, and our morality comes from him, well…a) how can he prove this and b) what has he actually *added* to the discussion? It just seems like an arbitrary template anyone can use for giving credit towards the deity of your personal hypothesis.

    As for your comment

    “But to a sophisticated theist, evolution is not God-free. Coyne hasn’t proved that it is not. So to a theist, Coyne really hasn’t proved anything.”

    I wasn’t aware Coyne set out to prove anything in the article, rather to argue that plain old evolution can explain how we have arrived at our current system of morals and how it developed along the way. Besides, as has been noted many times, you can’t disprove theistic evolution.

    If God rode down from on high, on a fiery steed, and declared that he had created man in his image 6000 or 600000 years ago (pick a number, it’s irrelevant) but, subsequent to this miraculous act of creation, we’d just gone ahead and *changed* on him of our own accord and that nobody was more surprised than him because he didn’t have a hand in it, well, you’d just get theistic evolutionists twisting and turning until they’d declared that this was just yet another way of testing our faith and it really was all down to God.

    Sorry, that was a hell of a long sentence.

    My point is a) You can’t expect any given article to argue against every possible alternative position and b) it was an explanation of Coyne’s position, and how this particular explanation works. If you did a), you’d never get around to b), and while you’re doing that, all your opponents are crowing about that you haven’t said anything to support your position. As soon as you do b) they then argue you haven’t sufficiently disproved the latest revision of their own position.

    For posterity’s sake, please identify the winning strategy where, in a single article of reasonable length, you can both tear down all possible variations of your opponents arguments whilst simultaneously providing compelling evidence for your own.

    For the record, I’m more of a moral subjectivist I guess – my position is that morals derive from whatever society at large decides is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and that as these change over time, so too do our supposedly immutable morals. I have absolutely no trouble conceiving of a society where practices we find repugnant and celebrated and vice versa. Any group of people living in exceptionally harsh conditions would almost certainly have to have different morals in order to simply surive.

  20. #20 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    @19 gammon

    1. Sophisticated means the theist understands and accepts evolution. See my comment #6.

    2. “Proof” – my remarks on “proof” were in response to @13 Lenoxus’ use of the word “proof”. Nothing was proved, and I don’t know why Lenoxus would use the word. I only used it in response to his usage.

  21. #21 gammon
    August 1, 2011

    healthphysicist

    1. If the theist accepts evolution, does he only accept the purely biological/genetic part, and discards the parts that he prefers to fill in with religion? I.e. does he pick and choose which parts are compatible with his faith, or does he accept all of it, and any conclusions/derivations that arise from it?

    If it’s the first, well, I’d argue he’s really not that ‘sophisticated’, rather that he’s more selective. If it’s the second, well, paraphrasing what Laplace said, at what point is God required? As Coyne’s article points out, and multiple scientific studies have demonstrated, many animals have been observed to exhibit behaviour we would consider ‘moral’ (and obviously, so do the animals, elsethey would be doing otherwise).

    What is the theistic evolutionist’s explanation of this behaviour? That morals are not exclusive to humans, but that our morals are specially derived from God? Or do animals have some kind of partial soul that confers morals upon them? Or is it really not ‘moral’ behaviour at all, and just something that animals, with their ineffable instincts, do for reasons unknown?

    Until a sophisticated theistic evolutionist can come up with an explanation for all these behaviours, well, why should we listening to them arguing for a subset (humans) when everyone else is arguing about the whole spectrum? It really is apples and oranges, and until that’s recognised you’re going to have people from both sides arguing entirely different points and wondering why the other side just doesn’t get it.

    2. Didn’t really see Lenoxus arguing the article was about ‘proof’, but ok, if that’s where it came from, then I have nothing more to add at this point.

  22. #22 healthphysicist
    August 1, 2011

    @21 gammon

    1. Read my link in the first comment. I think it answers your questions.

    2. From Lenoxus’ post:

    “Re healthphysicist @ 1: Coyne’s point is to (very casually) demonstrate how human moral behavior is possible if a God-free evolution is responsible for our existence, not to say that altruism PROVES non-designed evolution, and furthermore DISPROVES God / theistic evolution. So the theistic response you gave isn’t actually a response so much as a tangential sharing of information.”

    (All caps added by me)

    I didn’t imagine it.

  23. #23 gammon
    August 1, 2011

    I started to read that article you linked. I didn’t get much beyond the first couple of sentences, where the author stated that

    “Philosophical naturalists claim macroevolution shows order emerging by pure chance. This claim is incompatible with accepted physical and biological principles.”

    Admittedly, I’m no expert on evolution, but this seems to be either a) a gross oversimplification or b) a gross distortion. Evolution, as far as I’m aware, is the process of selection of propagated mutations that originally happened through ‘chance’. I.e. gene A has slight mutation, which then propagates down through their descendants, being slightly modified in various ways along the way, some successful, some not, and this process continues for million, and possibly billions, of years.

    Someone who either misstates or misunderstands the basic principles of evolution is not a sophisticated theist. They have some combination of laziness, ignorance or deceit about them. Unacceptable for someone who labels themselves a philosopher-physicist and claims to have a PhD (in what, I couldn’t find out, but I’d be amazed if it was an actual scientific discipline from a credible institution).

    In his fourth sentence, he then states

    “Logical principles essential to science require these laws to be maintained by a self-conserving reality identifiable as God.”

    I’m guessing this guy supports Intelligent Falling as opposed to gravity then?

  24. #24 Greg Esres
    August 1, 2011

    healthphysicist wrote:

    The sophistication results from the author’s (in my link) understanding and acceptance of evolution, as compared to those unsophisticated theists who don’t.

    I understood what you wrote, I just don’t agree that this is a sophisticated point of view. It’s merely a fallback position for an erstwhile creationist.

    To me, witnessing a theist trying to defend his beliefs in light of evolution is as painful as watching a man explaining to his wife that his being in bed with another woman isn’t what it seems.

  25. #25 Greg Esres
    August 1, 2011

    gammon wrote:

    I started to read that article you linked. I didn’t get much beyond the first couple of sentences, where the author stated that

    Yes, that first paragraph mostly incomprehensible. The parts that aren’t are wrong.

  26. #26 gammon
    August 1, 2011

    Yeah, I tried reading the rest of the article. Loaded with assumptions, references to his own published material, taking remarks out of context and talk about the Mind. It’s endlessly convoluted and really doesn’t make much sense at all.

    I must not have reached the part on morality, because I didn’t see any references to it in the parts I read. The abstract didn’t seem to indicate he’d be talking about it, but then again, he seemed intent on arguing that science needs God to keep existing so who knows what else he wrote about?

    I’m beginning to think – and I’ll be happy to admit I’m wrong if someone can show me otherwise – that Denis Polis has a PhD from some sort of diploma mill, or theistic institution, in a field completely unrelated to both philosophy and physics. It really does seem like he made his field of ‘expertise’ up.

  27. #27 Owlmirror
    August 2, 2011

    These days, I wish more atheists would advance the argument beyond the feeble “Atheists can be good without God” into the much stronger “Theists can’t be good with God”. I don’t mean that theists are one iota less ethical than others, just that neither God nor theism provides a basis for ethics, and in many cases they provide the opposite, as Coyne shows with his Bible references. Christians are almost all morally superior to Christianity.

    Ah. Good point.

    Or to rephrase/expand:

    A Christian (or other theist) can claim to be obedient to a putative God, but any claim to be moral as well necessarily involves a framework of morality based on a definition that is external to God’s commands. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” does not have or require “because God commands” in order for it to to be a moral principle. “Do what God commands” is not a moral principle at all, in and of itself.

  28. #28 sailor1031
    August 2, 2011

    “Should we be afraid that a morality based on our genes and our brains is somehow inferior to one handed down from above?”

    There has been no morality “handed down from above”. Codes of conduct, such as found in the Torah, were compiled by men – presumably a codification of the priests’ and leaders’ likes and dislikes based in their genes. It gives it more credibility if you say “doG seddit” especially if doG gets to set out horrific punishments – which will in practice be meted out by the priests and leaders

  29. #29 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 2, 2011

    Coyne did a pathetic job.
    He confuses transcendant morality and ethical behavior, creating the worst of non sequiturs.
    He misrepresented Christian ethics by relying only on Euthyphro. Straw man.
    And he opened the door for some serious criticism of the evolutary model itself. Does allopatric evolution allow for group/class subjugation? It would have to if morality is merely a social contrivance.
    http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com/2011/08/re-as-atheists-know-you-can-be-good.html

  30. #30 tomh
    August 2, 2011

    healthphysicist wrote:
    Atheism can cause delusions too.

    Can you give some examples of delusions that are caused by atheism?

  31. #31 Greg Esres
    August 2, 2011

    He confuses transcendant morality and ethical behavior, creating the worst of non sequiturs.

    Coyne neither denies nor supports the idea of a transcendent morality; he just points out that religion isn’t where we should derive it and most of us don’t.

    Nothing he says provides any support for a criticism of evolutionary theory.

    Regardless of whether or not you agree with Coyne, he didn’t do a “pathetic” job, he merely gave an overview of a subject that can get very complex.

  32. #32 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 2, 2011

    Coyne neither denies nor supports the idea of a transcendent morality; he just points out that religion isn’t where we should derive it and most of us don’t.

    No. He used the term “divinely inspired” to make a specific point. Perhaps that term has no meaning to you. But it has meaning.

    Nothing he says provides any support for a criticism of evolutionary theory.

    Then is slavery a moral question? How do you account for morality in an allopatric (or any other) evolutionary model? He has missed his model’s failings.

    Regardless of whether or not you agree with Coyne, he didn’t do a “pathetic” job, he merely gave an overview of a subject that can get very complex.

    It was a good lesson in the non sequitur. At that he succeeded masterfully.

  33. #33 Dan L.
    August 2, 2011

    Collin, why does evolution need to say anything about slavery? What does bloody type have to do with particle physics?

  34. #34 tomh
    August 2, 2011

    Collin Brendemuehl wrote:
    He used the term “divinely inspired” to make a specific point. Perhaps that term has no meaning to you. But it has meaning.

    He used the phrase “divinely inspired” to make the point that “the idea that morality is divinely inspired doesn’t jibe with the fact that religiously based ethics have changed profoundly over time.”

    What part of that don’t you understand? If the idea of morality were divinely inspired, why would it change over time?

  35. #35 Owlmirror
    August 2, 2011

    He used the term “divinely inspired” to make a specific point. Perhaps that term has no meaning to you. But it has meaning.

    I suspect that we’re in for yet another round of explanations that muddle things further…

    As I understand the term, “divine inspiration” posits that there is some external agent — a person, which is invisible, and has magical superpowers (as a minimum definition; no doubt that can be argued over in itself) — which uses part of its magical superpowers to put an idea into the mind of a mere human being, and this idea therefore had no natural origin whatsoever. The mere human being then writes down this idea, or tells other mere humans verbally about this idea, and the other humans do the writing, and the writing then becomes known as holy scripture, which is how we know about the idea in the first place, since if no recording process took place, we could not possibly know the idea, since it has no natural origin, as above.

    Does this match the meaning of “divinely inspired” that you have, and if not, what needs to be changed?

  36. #36 Greg Esres
    August 2, 2011

    Collin Brendemuehl wrote:

    Then is slavery a moral question? How do you account for morality in an allopatric (or any other) evolutionary model? He has missed his model’s failings.

    Can you please state a clear, logical argument about why you think this aspect of evolutionary theory has the implications you claim for morality?

  37. #37 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 2, 2011

    greg, tomh, hootie,

    The question you ask is the one I am asking: If the matter of slavery is an absolute moral wrong then that absolute could not have evolved. It has to be sourced somewhere other than in human experience and thought (evolutionary or not).

    Thus to claim that morality comes from evolutionary development and at the same time to claim that there is some absolute external object to reference is to make the most serious contradiction. If morality is entirely source in evolution then there is no absolute. To then reference a wrong such as slavery as an absolute wrong is to deny one’s premise — that it is wrong only within the context of evolution.

    *For the sake of argument* let’s begin by looking at evolution from the context of allopatric development. To further human development by increasing the population of an advanced group over other groups we would observe mechanisms at work. Population expansion is not simply a matter of numbers and growth into empty spaces. It is also of methods. Species conquer species. Groups conquer groups. Subjugation by conquest is the human method and slavery is one of its mechanisms, as is genocide. It fits in an allopatric model that human development may have required a certain amount of this behavior.

    In these environments the “morality” of slavery and genocide is not questioned, except perhaps by its subjects, though they might presumably return the favor if granted the opportunity. To the contrary, this morality is accepted. It evolved with the population group. And given the PoMo (or equivalent) approach allowed by today’s evolutionary naturalism, this is to be allowed and even encouraged to advance all of the human species to a higher level. It is natural. It is may not be questioned because there is no absolute morality with has grounds to question it.

    Evolutionary models seem so consumed with their own systematics that they ignore the implications of their work. One may not properly claim an absolute morality and at the same time proclaim relativism. It is like oil and water.

  38. #38 Greg Esres
    August 2, 2011

    If the matter of slavery is an absolute moral wrong then that absolute could not have evolved. It has to be sourced somewhere other than in human experience and thought (evolutionary or not).

    First, Coyne didn’t say that slavery was an absolute moral wrong; he said that most people now accept that slavery is wrong, but that acceptance didn’t arise via religion.

    Second, even if there were such a thing as an absolute moral wrong, it’s your assumption that it could not be discovered via human processes. You claim without evidence or argument that this can’t happen.

    Third, you imply, but didn’t say, that having a moral system requires a system of absolute morality. This is not true. All that is required for society is a consensus and that consensus doesn’t have to be 100%. There is no need to prove that this is a “correct” morality.

    Fourth, the bulk of your description of allopatric speciation is really about social evolution, not biological evolution. It’s unlikely there is a gene for keeping slaves, so it would not be subject to evolutionary pressures.

  39. #39 gammon
    August 2, 2011

    Speaking just for myself, I do not see morality as any kind of absolute. It’s entirely subjective as far as I’m concerned. We might find slavery repugnant these days, but it’s not too hard to imagine a society/situation in which it becomes moral.

    By assuming morality is absolute, you’ve undermined your whole argument. The only way I can see morality is absolute is if there is some unchangeable, eternal source of it (if someone can tell me how it could be otherwise in a convincing way, I’ll change my tune). Given our moral systems have changed throughout history, and Christians have certainly adjusted their morals, well, moral absolutes give every appearance of being a fairy tale.

    So really, Collin, you don’t have a leg to stand on from what I can tell. Your criticisms have no basis in reality and depend entirely on assumptions and, as Greg pointed out, bad interpretations and applications of evolution and evolutionary concepts.

  40. #40 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 2, 2011

    Greg,

    First, Coyne didn’t say that slavery was an absolute moral wrong …

    Do you want to contend that Coyne accepts slavery as a relativistic position? Not at all. He calls them “genuine” and that goes way past relativism. Of course he could be playing an inconsistency game. Given the character of this piece it would come as no surprise.

    Second, even if there were such a thing as an absolute moral wrong, it’s your assumption that it could not be discovered via human processes.

    It’s been covered before. That’s what we call “revelation” and what Coyne calls “divine inspiration.”

    Third, you imply …

    Of course there are matters of practical and group concern. But I do not confuse the “genuine” with these. Of course there can be such systems. But the world has known few, and even fewer that were peaceful. Europe has been cited. But then again, slavery (notably sex) is on the rise. So much for the capacity of secularism (the Rationalist/Enlightenment movement) to accomplish this.

    Fourth, the bulk of your description of allopatric speciation is really about social evolution, not biological evolution.

    Seems you missed Coyne’s complete point. Morals are social evolutionary constructs. At least that is the contention. And it is my contention that this is highly inconsistent.

  41. #41 Greg Esres
    August 2, 2011

    Seems you missed Coyne’s complete point. Morals are social evolutionary constructs. At least that is the contention. And it is my contention that this is highly inconsistent

    No, you are missing the point. The basics of morality come via evolutionary processes. Compassion, empathy, fairness. Our present distaste for slavery is a social construction that is founded on those lower level moral capacities.

    It’s been covered before. That’s what we call “revelation” and what Coyne calls “divine inspiration.”

    Heavens, no. Even ignoring the problem of identifying the legitimacy of any purposed supernatural agency for providing such revelations, most moral thinkers do not agree that such agencies are capable in principle of providing a moral absolute. Rather, these supernatural agencies themselves are judged with respect to a morality that exists outside of themselves.

    He calls them “genuine”

    No, he doesn’t. He uses the word “genuine” only once:

    Secular morality is what prevents ethically irrelevant matters — what we eat, read or wear, when we work, or whom we have sex with — from being grouped with matters of genuine moral concern, like rape and child abuse.

    Is he a relativist? I don’t know. I’m not sure the label applies. I’m skeptical that he would say that slavery is always wrong in principle, but would say that slavery as actually practiced was immoral.

  42. #42 Greg Esres
    August 2, 2011

    gammon wrote:

    Speaking just for myself, I do not see morality as any kind of absolute. It’s entirely subjective as far as I’m concerned. We might find slavery repugnant these days, but it’s not too hard to imagine a society/situation in which it becomes moral.

    I agree. I don’t think it’s possible to defend a statement such as “X is wrong.” All I can say is that “X horrifies me”. That’s really all I need to oppose X; I see no need to prove that it’s immoral in any absolute sense. I don’t think that “moral” has any objective meaning.

    I don’t find slavery intrinsically horrifying, but the practice of slavery has produced many results that I DO find horrifying. Given the human penchant for treating those over whom they have power very poorly, I have trouble envisioning a satisfactory slavery system, but maybe if only nice people were allowed to have slaves……

  43. #43 gammon
    August 2, 2011

    I kind of do find slavery intrinsically horrifying, but mainly because of our historical penchant for treating other people horribly once we gain power over them. On the other hand, if we lived in a world which had extremely limited resources, and every day was a struggle to survive, then exchanging work for the basic necessities to live (and withholding them otherwise) would essentially be both slavery, and a way of saving lives of the less fortunate.

    I’d say that would be something we’d consider morally good under the circumstances.

  44. #44 Owlmirror
    August 2, 2011

    If the matter of slavery is an absolute moral wrong then that absolute could not have evolved.

    I was afraid your attempt at clarification wouldn’t make sense, and it looks like my prediction was absolutely correct.

    Well, let’s see if you can make things worse.

    Thus to claim that morality comes from evolutionary development and at the same time to claim that there is some absolute external object to reference is to make the most serious contradiction.

    Arguing against a claim that someone did not make is called the strawman fallacy.

    To then reference a wrong such as slavery as an absolute wrong is to deny one’s premise — that it is wrong only within the context of evolution.

    Someone might use “absolute” as rhetorical hyperbole, and it would be absolutely wrong to misconstrue the rhetoric. Not that Coyne did this, of course. You’re misconstruing him on the basis of nothing more than your own imagination, as far as I can tell.

    It fits in an allopatric model that human development may have required a certain amount of this behavior.

    It fits that human evolution may have contained a certain amount of the behavior; it does not in any way require it.

    In these environments the “morality” of slavery and genocide is not questioned, except perhaps by its subjects

    Not necessarily. This denies that anyone has any outgroup empathy at all. While such empathy is often suppressed, especially among groups with a strong sense of entitlement, it can still exist.

    Consider the infamous case of Numbers 31. The soldiers refrained from killing the women and children, implying some sense of empathy for the young and vulnerable. It was not until Moses specifically commanded them to butcher the children and non-virgin women that they did so.

    And given the PoMo (or equivalent) approach allowed by today’s evolutionary naturalism, this is to be allowed and even encouraged to advance all of the human species to a higher level. It is natural.

    You are the one committing the naturalistic fallacy, and committing the strawman fallacy.

    It is may not be questioned because there is no absolute morality with has grounds to question it.

    You don’t need an “absolute” morality to question it; you just need enough to ask if this is doing to others what you would have them do unto you.

    Evolutionary models seem so consumed with their own systematics that they ignore the implications of their work.

    Evolutionary models are descriptive, not prescriptive.

    One may not properly claim an absolute morality and at the same time proclaim relativism.

    Good thing no one is doing so.

    I’m sure you enjoy bashing strawmen, but maybe you can take the time to address what I wrote @#35?

  45. #45 Owlmirror
    August 2, 2011
    One may not properly claim an absolute morality and at the same time proclaim relativism.

    Good thing no one is doing so.

    Or rather, good thing that Coyne and the atheists commenting here are not doing so.

    Theists, though, often claim absolute morality, and imply relativism — when it comes to divine command morality.

    Have you seen William Lane Craig’s argument that butchering children is good and proper when God does it, or commands it to be done?

  46. #46 tomh
    August 2, 2011

    Collin Brendemuehl wrote:
    The question you ask is the one I am asking: If the matter of slavery is an absolute moral wrong then that absolute could not have evolved.

    That doesn’t sound like a question, but if it were a question, it wouldn’t bear the slightest resemblance to the question I asked, which was, “If the idea of morality were divinely inspired, why would it change over time?” Only a True Believer could turn that into a statement about absolute moral wrongs and what could and couldn’t evolve. It’s a simple question, why would a divinely inspired morality change over time?

  47. #47 Owlmirror
    August 2, 2011

    It was not until Moses specifically commanded them to butcher the children and non-virgin women that they did so.

    Correction; they butchered all the boy children, and the non-virgin females.

  48. #48 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 2, 2011

    tomh,
    Time you get a course in rhetoric. Not all questions are interrogatives.
    The *character of God*, the basis for morality, does not change over time.

    Hootie,
    You, Tom, and Coyne all confuse the particulars of behavior with the context in which they occur. For instance, if God is holy then He has the right to judge sin. The enforcement of morality is alone His.
    The matter of morality and ethics being found in God’s revealed character differs from the shallow Euthyphro dilemma that all seem to be following form Coyne. Like True Belivers all. :-)

    Evolutionary models are descriptive, not prescriptive.

    I said no such thing. Perhaps a return to reality is necessary.

    Arguing against a claim that someone did not make is called the strawman fallacy.

    Except that he did argue that morality has its basis in evolution. Did your read his post? Sheesh. Read the paragraph following “Where, then?” Ok? Or are you just being a troll?

    You don’t need an “absolute” morality to question it; you just need enough to ask if this is doing to others what you would have them do unto you.

    I will grant that a hierarchical approach would also work. But the hierarchy ends somewhere, and that in the point of final concern. The eschatology of ethics, so to speak. One must account for what is somehow “genuine”.

    And now to Greg,

    No, he doesn’t. He uses the word “genuine” only once:

    Nice of you to acknowledge your, umm, error. As I said to Hootie, he is of course, at best hierarchical. Still he uses the term to raise certain matters to a universal level.

    Even ignoring the problem of identifying the legitimacy of any purposed supernatural agency for providing such revelations, most moral thinkers do not agree that such agencies are capable in principle of providing a moral absolute. Rather, these supernatural agencies themselves are judged with respect to a morality that exists outside of themselves.

    Now you are arguing your point. I am arguing against his position. Staying on topic might be helpful.

    I’m skeptical that he would say that slavery is always wrong in principle …

    Now we have a starting point.

  49. #49 Greg Esres
    August 2, 2011

    Nice of you to acknowledge your, umm, error. As I said to Hootie, he is of course, at best hierarchical. Still he uses the term to raise certain matters to a universal level.

    No, your statement was incorrect. He said “genuine moral concern”, rather than referring to a moral standard as genuine. This is different from how you represented it.

    Now you are arguing your point. I am arguing against his position. Staying on topic might be helpful.

    Why be a smart-ass? Politeness might be helpful; I’m sure God would appreciate it.

    The overall point that you probably want to assert, not “argue”, is that whatever God decrees is moral by definition. Ok, you’re operating under a different definition of “moral” from that used by all non-Christians and most, but not all, Christians. Since you are defining the word “moral” to fit your beliefs, then you are, by definition, correct. But then you’re wasting your time here; you need to spend time arguing with others about how to interpret the Bible, since that is your only source of morality.

  50. #50 Owlmirror
    August 2, 2011

    The *character of God*, the basis for morality, does not change over time.

    This is pathetic presuppositionalism, and an example of the logical fallacy of assuming your conclusion. It is also an irrelevant dodge.

    If the alleged character of an alleged God does not change, why does morality change over time?

    For instance, if God is holy then He has the right to judge sin. The enforcement of morality is alone His.

    Or in other words, you’re committing the logical fallacy of special pleading in order to have your “absolute” morality and your divine relativism simultaneously.

    Thank you for demonstrating the incoherent inconsistency of theistic morality, yet again.

    The matter of morality and ethics being found in God’s revealed character differs from the shallow Euthyphro dilemma

    Says you. But you cannot demonstrate this without committing multiple logical fallacies.

    that all seem to be following form Coyne.

    The Euthyphro dilemma was first expressed by Plato, and is anyway a logical result of discussing the intersection of religion and morality.

    Evolutionary models are descriptive, not prescriptive.

    I said no such thing.

    You implied it in suggesting that there are moral “implications” to evolutionary models.

    Perhaps a return to reality is necessary.

    Whenever you’re ready, O person with an imaginary friend.

    Except that he did argue that morality has its basis in evolution.

    And then you put additional words in his mouth, constructing a lovely strawman to bash.

    Did your read his post?

    Did you read it, without your presuppositional glasses on?

    I will grant that a hierarchical approach would also work.

    I have no idea how this applies to what I wrote. Reciprocity and empathy are not hierarchical, in any way that makes any sense of the term.

  51. #51 Richard Wein
    August 3, 2011

    Lenoxus,

    Very good post. I usually focus on just two senses of “morality”: (a) the human moral faculties (particularly the faculty for making moral judgements), and (b) moral truth (the set of facts about what things–if any–are morally right, wrong, etc). And you’re quite right that these senses often get conflated.

    Corresponding to these two senses, there are two main theistic arguments concerning morality and atheism. The first is just another anti-evolutionary argument: the human moral faculty couldn’t have evolved naturally. The second (and I think more common) is that there can’t be any moral truth without God. But as you say, those who make this argument are unable to say how there can be moral truth _with_ God.

    Many apologists are aware of the challenge posed by Euthyphro’s dilemma. The usual way around it seems to be to claim that moral truth comes from “God’s nature”. But this is just meaningless verbiage. If theists attempt to explain it, they just replace it with other meaningless verbiage, like “God is goodness”. Moral goodness–if the concept is even coherent–is a property of things: actions, people, etc. An entity may _have_ a property, but it can’t _be_ a property. This is a fundamental semantic category error.

    I think Coyne does conflate different senses of “morality”. But he doesn’t commit a fallacy of equivocation, because he doesn’t switch senses during the course of a single argument. He makes two different points: that God cannot be the source of moral truth, and that the human moral faculty can have evolved. However, by using the word “morality” in both cases, without acknowledging (and probably not noticing) that he’s using it in multiple senses, he gives the impression he’s arguing about the same thing in both cases. This makes him look a little naive, but doesn’t really undermine the points he’s making. (Compare with Sam Harris, who also conflates meanings, and _does_ commit fallacies of equivocation in my view.)

  52. #52 386sx
    August 3, 2011

    But then you’re wasting your time here; you need to spend time arguing with others about how to interpret the Bible, since that is your only source of morality.

    Yeah really. Someone figure it out and then make a list. Today we have the benefit of the internet, which makes it a lot easier to look through the Bible. Oh wait, it all boils down to a matter of opinion. Someone get a hold of the authors. They need some tips on clarity and succinctness. Oh wait, they would rather have tips for how to be obtuse. Lol.

  53. #53 PhysicistDave
    August 3, 2011

    Two books everyone in this debate might find enlightening are J. L. Mackie’s Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong and Alan Donagan’s The Theory of Morality. Of all the books I have read by philosophers, these are two of the very few from which I actually learned something.

    Specifically, I think both authors deal in an intelligent way with this invented vs. absolute issue: both authors see morality as invented, but invented because of certain objective facts about human nature. In the same way, bridge engineering was invented by humans, but of course it is not at all arbitrary, since it is based on the objective facts of physics, on the need of humans to cross over certain objective obstacles such as rivers, etc.

    Mackie was a well-known atheist. Donagan was an agnostic turned Christian.

    Donagan, by the way, argues that the core of Western morality can be summed up in the maxim: “Act always so that you respect every human being, yourself or another, as being a rational creature.” Given our (potential) rationality, it is easy enough to see way such a maxim might produce better human lives and be adopted, more or less consistently, by human societies. The wisdom of such an approach can be buttressed by considerations from game theory, etc.

    Is such a morality “absolute” or “relative”?

    Well… are the normal rules for building stable bridges “absolute” or “relative”?

    You don’t have to build bridges according to the usual rules. But, if you don’t, your bridge may collapse.

    And societies do not have to embrace a morality that respects humans as rational beings. But not doing so has consequences.

    Is there anything more that is intelligible that can really be said on the absolute vs. relative issue?

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  54. #54 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    August 3, 2011

    Donagan, by the way, argues that the core of Western morality can be summed up in the maxim: “Act always so that you respect every human being, yourself or another, as being a rational creature.

    That might fail
    A) In cases where humans are not rational, such as in humane treatment of the unconscious or insane.
    B) In dealing with non-humans, such as the humane treatment of animals.

    I think one of the biggest problems with the various philosophical ethical systems is that they attempt to impose a theoretical framework on an empirical phenomenon.

  55. #55 Greg Esres
    August 3, 2011

    I think one of the biggest problems with the various philosophical ethical systems is that they attempt to impose a theoretical framework on an empirical phenomenon.

    Very succinctly put. If you follow an ethical system only until it disagrees with your intuitions, then you’re not really following an ethical system.

  56. #56 Wow
    August 3, 2011

    A quote I’ve found useful (one I synthesized from another homily): Rules are there to make you think before you break them.

    They’re not hard-and-fast rules forever to be followed.

  57. #57 Dan L.
    August 3, 2011

    The question you ask is the one I am asking: If the matter of slavery is an absolute moral wrong then that absolute could not have evolved. It has to be sourced somewhere other than in human experience and thought (evolutionary or not).

    The only reason why this would ever be true is if you’re a Platonist so that the concept of “slavery” has some abstract existence independent of the actual practice of slavery. And if you’re a Platonist then we need to head back down to presuppositions because I do not think Platonism is even vaguely plausible and I bet most gnus would agree.

    If “slavery” is not a thing and the word actually denotes a bunch of different behaviors clustered in property space then there is no reason to think that slavery is an absolute moral wrong. And this is even intuitive: if it’s an absolute moral wrong then a slave owner who looks for pretexts to beat his slaves is on the same moral footing as a slave owner who is very averse to beating his slaves despite the intuition that the latter is actually behaving in a manner that is morally superior to the former. This intuition holds true for me anyway, if you think a slave owner who beats his slaves is no worse than a slave owner who treats his slaves kindly please say so.

    Of course, the fact that it all depends on how you define “slavery” should be some hint that there is no moral absolute hiding anywhere. In fact, if one was a Hobbesian, one might think that slavery of some variety is actually a moral good since such a person would not believe most human beings are capable of regulating their own behaviors in appropriate ways. (Note: I am not a Hobbesian)

  58. #58 Dan L.
    August 3, 2011

    A quote I’ve found useful (one I synthesized from another homily): Rules are there to make you think before you break them.

    They’re not hard-and-fast rules forever to be followed.

    “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

    http://old.disinfo.com/archive/pages/article/id1562/pg1/

  59. #59 PhysicistDave
    August 4, 2011

    Bayesian Bouffant wrote to me:

    >That might fail
    >A) In cases where humans are not rational, such as in humane treatment of the unconscious or insane.
    > B) In dealing with non-humans, such as the humane treatment of animals.

    I think Donagan might have argued that the point with people who are unconscious is that they could eventually become conscious and (potentially) rational again. And, I think his definition of “rational” was probably broad enough to include the insane. After all, religious folks are considered at least potentially rational; yet, it is a bit difficult to explain why people who hear God’s voice are fundamentally different from those who are “insane” and hear, say, space aliens. By “rational” he definitely does not mean only those who rise to, say, a mathematician’s level of rationality.

    I suspect he would say that it is only by courtesy, so to speak, that we occasionally include animals within the sphere of morality: after all, most of us do eat animals, while we hardly think it is moral to eat humans! Indeed, the real point might be Macauley’s point concerning the Puritans’ attitude towards bear-baiting: the Puritans were less concerned about the effects on the bears than the coarsening effect on the spectators.

    BB also wrote:
    >I think one of the biggest problems with the various philosophical ethical systems is that they attempt to impose a theoretical framework on an empirical phenomenon.

    Yeah, I agree, as did Donagan. But, I think part of the point is not simply to catalog the variations of human morality but also to understand the underlying problems that morality solves. Surely, the fact that morality allows us to live together with each other and pursue our own lives and projects in relative peace is one of the main reasons that pretty much all human societies have, and have to have, some code of morality.

    On the other hand, humane treatment of animals is certainly not something that is anywhere near universal among human societies or that represents a compelling problem that humans in most societies think needs solving.

    In a pretty obvious sense, dealing with other humans seems to be more central to morality than humane treatment of animals.

    I wonder: is there any society outside of some segments of the modern West that even thought humans treatment of animals was generally a moral issue?

    Dave

  60. #60 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    Most of the comments on this site seem to defend materialistic definitions or interpretations of just about everything. Consciousness, however, does exist outside of the body (c.f. out of body experiences, ESP, clairvoyance and so forth). The materialist perspective is persuasive. The world would seem a tidy place if there were only inanimate matter and (effectively) meaningless biological perception entities (that would be us) magically “desiring” to survive in a spiritless world. Ouspensky characterized it as an “accidentally created mechanical toy floating in space”.

    This is more or less the way I saw the world up until about seven or eight years ago.

    Consciousness does not require a body as the origin of consciousness is in the non-material (spirit or soul awareness if you will). The body extends this awareness (in a rather sophisticated way via the brain and nervous system), but is nevertheless not the origin of this awareness. Our understanding of right and wrong is also tied to freedom, as we exercise our freedom when we choose the right (or wrong) path to go down.

    These issues enter into the realm of the sacred, and so it is unlikely that other comments along these lines will be made on this blog (c.f. Matthew 7:6).

    There may be useful corollaries to certain behaviors, and these behaviors may have a genetic origin (or otherwise environmentally conditioned), but this does not constitute an “alternative” morality. You may claim that it does, but this refers us back to the nature of awareness which as mentioned earlier, is spiritual. There is a right and wrong, and our awareness of this is not rooted in the physical world as is commonly understood. Put it another way, we were aware before we were born, and we will be aware after we die.

    By the way, I have been programming for many years and have met a fair number of mathematicians and physicists (myself being a mathematician/programmer). Not all of them think they are specialists on everything. Some of them are in fact modest and readily acknowledge their limited understanding of the world.

  61. #61 Kel
    August 4, 2011

    “Consciousness does not require a body as the origin of consciousness is in the non-material (spirit or soul awareness if you will).”
    Despite often hearing this sentiment, I haven’t met anyone yet who was willing to demonstrate it.

    Just how could you possibly know this?

  62. #62 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    “Just how could you possibly know this?”

    Some of what we know can be experimentally verified. But not all that there is to know can be verified in this way. The radical materialist is forced to deny all perceptions that are not explicable in some materialist terms, for as soon as you acknowledge the reality of spirit, of ESP, clairvoyance, out of body experiences, and so forth, the obvious question is “what is the relation of the spirit world to this world that I took for the real world”?

    Testability/repeatability is not required. Do you think only testable facts are true?

  63. #63 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “for as soon as you acknowledge the reality of spirit, of ESP, clairvoyance, out of body experiences, and so forth”

    And the existence of invisible pink unicorns is reasonable as soon as you’re willing to believe in invisible pink unicorns.

    You see, you have to PROVE the reality of spirit, ESP, clairvoyance, OOB experiences and so forth FIRST, BEFORE you can state them as “reality”.

  64. #64 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    empirical verifiable knowledge usually assumes that the objects/phenomena are dead or otherwise inanimate (i.e., that they are not conscious as conscious phenomena may behave differently the next time you observe/interact with them).

    If I assume that the world is dead, I can’t then use that assumption to prove that non-verifiable knowledge is false or irrelevant, only that either the world is perhaps not dead or that the claimed non-verifiable knowledge is false or otherwise unreal.

  65. #65 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “Testability/repeatability is not required.”

    Why? If you can’t test ESP, in what sense does it EXIST? Testing ESP would be, for example, reading someone else’s mind and saying what they’re thinking.

    If you can’t actually say what someone else is thinking, in what way have you managed ESP? Or is mind-reading proven by not being able to read someone’s mind?

  66. #66 Kel
    August 4, 2011

    “The radical materialist is forced to deny all perceptions that are not explicable in some materialist terms, for as soon as you acknowledge the reality of spirit, of ESP, clairvoyance, out of body experiences, and so forth, the obvious question is “what is the relation of the spirit world to this world that I took for the real world”?”
    Yet none of those beliefs has any empirical verification, despite claims to the contrary and various testing. It’s not a matter of denying any of them out of a strict devotion to materialism, but because the evidence simply isn’t there.

    “Testability/repeatability is not required. Do you think only testable facts are true?”
    No I do not think only testable facts are true. What I would argue, however, is that certain realms of knowledge are able to be verified or falsified through being tested, and in those certain areas testability / falsifiability has been the most reliable means we know of determining validity. One could claim to do a census of all the people in America by means of clairvoyance or consulting tea leaves, but I’m willing to bet that you recognise that counting people would be a much more reliable (albeit imperfect) way of going about it. We don’t see espionage done by psychic powers (though not from a lack of trying), it’s done with people and technology.

    Yes, not all truths are testable. But we’re not talking about a realm of knowledge that’s beyond empirical measure. The question I put to you is how could you possibly know that consciousness doesn’t require a body? I don’t see how you could claim to have any knowledge on that fact. It sounds like a bare assertion on your part. Meanwhile OBEs have been induced by stimulating a certain area of the brain…

  67. #67 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “”Nothing is true, everything is permitted.””

    Rules, not everything, Dan.

    Everything != Rules

    Rules != Everything

    Therefore “Rules aren’t hard-and-fast” != “Nothing is true”.

    As to “Everything is permitted”, we have rules about killing other humans. Yet it happens. That the rules aren’t hard-and-fast doesn’t mean that the reason for them is nonexistent, even when some people after NOT thinking decide to break those rules against murder.

  68. #68 Kel
    August 4, 2011

    “Why? If you can’t test ESP, in what sense does it EXIST?”
    Exactly. To paraphrase Antony Flew, what is the difference between an untestable unverifiable ESP from there being no such thing as ESP?

  69. #69 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “empirical verifiable knowledge usually assumes that the objects/phenomena are dead or otherwise inanimate”

    Only in your mind, maybe. We have verifiable knowledge about the gestation period and development in uterus of the common fieldmouse. Dead fieldmice don’t reproduce and are definitely not inanimate.

    “If I assume that the world is dead”

    You first have to explain what you mean by “the world is dead”. This is why it’s YOU who is confused, not the world, and your confusion is apparent in your postings.

  70. #70 Kel
    August 4, 2011

    “for as soon as you acknowledge the reality of spirit”
    Yet what I was asking for was how we could know that such a thing as spirit existed to begin with. I can’t really acknowledge it if I don’t know how we can get to knowing that such a thing as “spirit” exists.

  71. #71 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    There is some evidence.
    Take out-of-body experiences:
    These are reported all over the world by people of all ages and all walks of life, from people who have a very simple outlook on life to people who are very sophisticated and may even try to initiate the experiences themselves.

    People who have been in near-death accidents often say “it was the strangest thing, I saw my body from across the room”, etc..

    Another case:
    ESP (predicting the top card in a deck of shuffled cards where each card is one of 4 symbols for example).

    For subjects under hypnosis, the frequency of correct predictions is higher.

    There are many other examples, but technically these don’t satisfy the (typcally) rigorous definition of verifiability that modern science requires.

    You can simply say that therefore they are not real, but I say that your assumption that all phenomena, in order to be “real” must be verifiable (repeatable) is not a realistic, and that much phenomena is not repeatable or verifiable, though nevertheless real.

    Note that these phenomena are perceivable. Take the phenomena of orbs in digital photographs. It is likely that they are somehow conscious, I do not believe they will obey your critera of repeatability/verifiability. You will be forced to claim that they are somehow all “camera artifacts” or some such.

  72. #72 Kel
    August 4, 2011

    “It is likely that they are somehow conscious”
    Again, I need to ask. How can you possibly know this? You’re going of a phenomena in photography, an image that may or may not be an artefact of the photographic process. But let’s take them as the camera taking a photo of something external and otherwise undetectable, what possible reason do you have to think they are conscious? You don’t even know what they are!

  73. #73 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “People who have been in near-death accidents often say “it was the strangest thing, I saw my body from across the room”, etc..”

    And I’ve had dreams where I saw a thousand copies of my parents standing in a doorway of a thousand houses and I knew then I didn’t know how to get home.

    This doesn’t mean there were for a short time a thousand copies of my parents in toto.

    “There are many other examples, but technically these don’t satisfy the (typcally) rigorous definition of verifiability that modern science requires.”

    But if your blanket statement that:

    “For subjects under hypnosis, the frequency of correct predictions is higher.”

    Were as true as you left it at in your proclamation, then that is EXACTLY a verification that modern science requires.

    The hidden reason why it doesn’t fit is that the studies were either biased to self-selection of the desired result or were not actually finding a rate of correct prediction higher than that you’d get by guessing.

    And you do the same again:

    “Take the phenomena of orbs in digital photographs.”

    But if they show up so reliably, they CAN be tested. But even you know that this is not the case.

  74. #74 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    @wow: “You first have to explain what you mean by “the world is dead”. This is why it’s YOU who is confused, not the world, and your confusion is apparent in your postings.”

    In other words, if I assume that only that which obeys strict repeatibility is real (phenomena or parts of living phenomena viewed as a machine), then non-verifiable phenomena may in fact be real (my assumption may be false).

    I am making a distinction between a living organism without spirit (a dead machine, no matter how lifelike) and a living organism that has some kind of spirit.

    @kel:
    “The question I put to you is how could you possibly know that consciousness doesn’t require a body?”

    I have had experiences that confirm this fact, as have many others.

    There is a fair body of evidence corroborating clairvoyance as a real phenomenon, that people can see things with their eyes closed, and other such perceptions (cf. Tao Te Ching).

    If someone has perceived something in such a way, then for that person, they “know” it. Knowledge as a relation between consciousness and the thing we are conscious of (maybe an observable thing or maybe an internal state).
    Repeatability is an additional property. Knowledge can (and does) exist without repeatability.

    @wow:
    “And the existence of invisible pink unicorns is reasonable as soon as you’re willing to believe in invisible pink unicorns.”

    nonsensical

    I am only referring to phenomena experienced by a large number of people from many different age groups and walks of life that agree on many many levels, and are not repeatable as they are in some way related to a level of reality that is spiritual or psychic in nature, and is generally perceived not only as very real but furthermore containing more meaning for our life than the materialistic relativism (radical denialism?) so prevalent nowadays.

    @wow:
    If you can’t test ESP, in what sense does it EXIST?

    In a way that is different from testable phenomena (it is to some degree testable, however).

  75. #75 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    @wow: “But if they show up so reliably, they CAN be tested. But even you know that this is not the case.”

    because they’re conscious, as stated previously.

    @wow: “And I’ve had dreams where I saw a thousand copies of my parents standing in a doorway of a thousand houses and I knew then I didn’t know how to get home. This doesn’t mean there were for a short time a thousand copies of my parents in toto.”

    So you’re claiming that out of body experiences are just “weird dreams”, or “hallucinations”? The people who have had these experiences explain that they are quite different from normal “dreams”, profound and memorable way, and unlike anything they have ever experienced before.

  76. #76 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “because they’re conscious, as stated previously.”

    What leads you to believe them conscious? And what does consciousness do to change your assertion that they show up reliably and my assertion that this means they can be tested?

    I’m conscious. My existence CAN be tested, the fact of my violition can be tested.

    So why do you insist that they can’t be tested because they are conscious?

    “So you’re claiming that out of body experiences are just “weird dreams”, or “hallucinations”?”

    I’m claiming that you can’t rule it out.

    Though this has not stopped you from jumping to conclusions you prefer yet.

    “The people who have had these experiences explain that they are quite different from normal “dreams”, profound and memorable way”

    And my nightmare was quite different from a normal dream and I remember it more than 30 years later. Seems to cover both profound as well as obviously memorable.

    “and unlike anything they have ever experienced before.”

    ANYTHING you experience the first time is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.

  77. #77 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “@wow:
    If you can’t test ESP, in what sense does it EXIST?

    In a way that is different from testable phenomena”

    In a way that things that don’t exist are different from testable phenomena, you mean.

    If you can’t test ESP, then you can’t read minds since that is all you need to do to test ESP. And if you can’t read minds, then there is no ESP.

  78. #78 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “I am making a distinction between a living organism without spirit (a dead machine, no matter how lifelike) and a living organism that has some kind of spirit.”

    And if there is no such thing as a spirit, there’s no difference between an organism you believe is without spirit and one that you believe has some kind of spirit.

    So therefore you can test to see whether there’s any difference between an instance of either case.

    Do you HAVE any examples of a living organism without spirit and one with some sort of spirit?

    We can then test to see if there are any differences.

    Oh, look, we have testability. Which is what you said wasn’t possible.

    You’re VERY confused.

  79. #79 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “If someone has perceived something in such a way, then for that person, they “know” it.”

    And someone hallucinating pink elephants KNOWS of the hallucination of pink elephants.

    However, since they were hallucinations, that they “know it” doesn’t make it real.

  80. #80 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    @kel:
    “But let’s take them as the camera taking a photo of something external and otherwise undetectable, what possible reason do you have to think they are conscious? You don’t even know what they are!”

    we know that they are not artifacts of the camera, so they must be “real phenomena”.

    note: intuition is allowed, extra points for using it.

    by the way, as would be obvious to any advanced race or species, interaction with a less advanced race or species, even when the intention is benevolent, typically results in destruction of the less advanced race or species. So it is to be expected that many such races / species might not work very hard to “prove” their existence to us, unless they got some kind of kick out of destroying us.

  81. #81 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “”And the existence of invisible pink unicorns is reasonable as soon as you’re willing to believe in invisible pink unicorns.”

    nonsensical ”

    Yes, we KNOW your arguments are nonsensical. You’re the only one who doesn’t.

    “I am only referring to phenomena experienced by a large number of people from many different age groups”

    Which means that you have a large group of people believing in invisible pink unicorns because they believe in invisible pink unicorns.

    Or believing that the thunder is the sound of the gods fighting.

    Or believe that closing the curtains “keeps the cold out”.

    Or believing that the earth is flat.

    After all, if you know the earth is flat, then the flat-earth theories are reasonable, they’re only unreasonable to those who don’t believe the earth is flat!

    That, essentially, is your argument.

    And like you say, it’s nonsensical.

  82. #82 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “we know that they are not artifacts of the camera, so they must be “real phenomena”.”

    Please tell us all how you can photograph consciousness?

    Kel is questioning your assertion that the photographs of orbs are conscious, not that they’re not photographed.

    PS got any examples of such “orbs”?

  83. #83 Kel
    August 4, 2011

    “we know that they are not artifacts of the camera, so they must be “real phenomena”.”
    How do we know they’re not? I did a quick google search on orbs, and there was a perfetly reasonable explanation for them – they were artefacts of the way flash interacts with particles. Now you might deny that in all cases it’s flash bouncing off nearby particles, but then the totality of information is unknown artefact in the picture that seemingly has no naturalistic explanation. That’s it! That’s the totality of information you’re working with! How you can get consciousness from that is a mystery…

    “note: intuition is allowed, extra points for using it.”
    Wait, what game is this? But let’s take your intuition that they have a mind – if someone claimed a rock is conscious and said “intuituion is allowed, extra points for using it.” would that be grounds to consider the rock conscious? If you think yes, then there’s no point in having any further conversation. This is just projecting a theory of mind – it’s no more valid than looking at the stars and concluding the patterns are messages from the gods.

    And you still haven’t answered my question of how you could possibly know any of what you’re stating. You’re asserting without evidence or reason…

  84. #84 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    Mostly without reason, Kel.

    It’s a religious double-down: say more with less purpose.

  85. #85 Kel
    August 4, 2011

    “I have had experiences that confirm this fact, as have many others.”
    Experience != explanation. People have alien abduction experiences, yet this doesn’t mean actual aliens were involved. I’m not denying any experience, and neither are any materialists. But experiences don’t explain the cause of the experience. Again to go back to OBEs, there are neuroscientists who are able to induce OBEs in people by stimulating a certain region of the brain with magnets – from the first-person perspective they’re leaving their body, yet the experiment suggests that it’s all in the brain.

    Experience has the problem that you can’t look what causes such an experience. If you want to show that you’re outside your body, you have to show that it’s something outside your brain. Your perception doesn’t show that it’s not the brain involved, you’re just interpreting your experience as if it did.

  86. #86 Vicki
    August 4, 2011

    Confusedworld: an apt name, certainly, for your proofs by blatant assertion. I once had a very convincing dream that my best friend was dead. Fortunately, I didn’t assume the dream was correct, nor did I go on to deny my friend’s continued existence in the real world. (Instead, I used normal real-world means of checking on the idea, such as the telephone.)

  87. #87 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    @wow: “And if there is no such thing as a spirit, there’s no difference between an organism you believe is without spirit and one that you believe has some kind of spirit.”

    I suppose your statement is correct. I’m saying that there is a spirit and therefore there is a difference.

    and yes I have some photos of orbs. I was very surprised to see them in my photos, though I had already seen them on the web (and spent a bit of googling).

    @wow: “Do you HAVE any examples of a living organism without spirit and one with some sort of spirit?
    We can then test to see if there are any differences.”

    Firstly I already suggested that there are phenomena, though real, may not be testable in any way that we currently understand. Maybe at some point in time in the future, when (and if) humans have evolved, will it be possible. Your statement makes no sense. If you “had” two living organisms, one with and the other “without” spirit, you wouldn’t need to test, would you?

    @kel: “it’s no more valid than looking at the stars and concluding the patterns are messages from the gods.”

    sorry but the Orbs phenomenon is not really solved. I don’t think anyone nowadays ascribes messages to the star patterns.

    @kel: “from the first-person perspective they’re leaving their body, yet the experiment suggests that it’s all in the brain.”

    Even if it is “triggered” by the brain, it does not follow that it’s “all in the brain”.

    I would however like to point out that staunch defenders of evolution (as strictly understood that the development of life on Earth occurred without any intervention by angels, extraterrestrial or supernatural forces of any kind whatsoever) continuously deny (as they must) the existence of a reality beyond the (5) senses, as they at know that it would call into question all of evolution. People would ask, “how much intervention by other beings was there?” “what was the degree of intervention?” “is it ongoing?” etc., etc.

    Then the day will come when people will say “at one time, people claiming to be the top scientists proposed that the most complex organic processes, with dozens of delicate interacting parts, none of which in isolation conferred any advantage, all developed via random mutation and other chance events in the span of 10 million years!”

    They will think “well, before that they even though the world was flat”.

  88. #88 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    @vicki: “for your proofs by blatant assertion. I once had a very convincing dream that my best friend was dead. ”

    I have never claimed proof. Quite the contrary, I continuously assert that there are phenomena, absolutely real, and beyond proof as we currently understand it.

  89. #89 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    @vicky: funny also: you claim I “blatantly assert”: I assert what seems by far the most reasonable explanation of the current situation on Earth, that life has been assisted by various beings of various types (some supernatural) and that without this intervention it is astronomically improbable that there could be any life forms at all.

    What the current evolutionary “theorists” assert is so laughable, it’s like the emperor’s new clothes raised to the power of Aleph-naught.

    But most people don’t want to imagine that there could be intervention as I’ve (and many others) have described. They find it extremely disconcerting.

    But the evidence makes it far and away the most probable explanation of human origins on Earth.

  90. #90 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “I suppose your statement is correct. I’m saying that there is a spirit and therefore there is a difference.”

    This would be “proof by continued assertion”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Lie

    “”Do you HAVE any examples of a living organism without spirit and one with some sort of spirit?
    Firstly I already suggested that there are phenomena, though real…”

    That would be “no” then.

    “Your statement makes no sense.”

    Not to the senseless, maybe.

    Do you HAVE an example of a living organism that doesn’t have a spirit and an example of a living organism that has something like a spirit.

    This is a statement of “do you know what you mean”.

    If that statement makes no sense, then you do not know what you mean.

    Which takes us to “you’re just woomancering”.

    “If you “had” two living organisms, one with and the other “without” spirit, you wouldn’t need to test, would you?”

    Wouldn’t need to test what?

    All you’ve managed to prove is that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Do you have an example of a living organism without a spirit?

    Do you have an example of a living organism with something like a spirit?

    If the answer is “no”, then you have two invisible pink unicorns.

    like you say, nonsense.

  91. #91 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “I would however like to point out that staunch defenders of evolution continuously deny the existence of a reality beyond the (5) senses, as they at know that it would call into question all of evolution.”

    Removed useless verbiage (well, more useless than what’s left behind).

    Where is your evidence that there is a reality beyond the five senses?

    And why would that call evolution into question?

    If you could read minds, DNA still copies itself with the opportunity for error in transcription. Genetic variability would still occur. And speciation would still happen.

  92. #92 Wow
    August 4, 2011

    “I have never claimed proof.”

    You claimed fact. Facts ARE proof.

    “@vicky: funny also: you claim I “blatantly assert”:”

    Yes you do that a lot. I.e. “the existence of a reality beyond the (5) senses”

    Blatant assertion that there IS a reality beyond the five senses.

    “I assert what seems by far the most reasonable explanation of the current situation on Earth, that life has been assisted by various beings of various types”

    Why is that most reasonable?

    Who made those various beings who assisted life on earth? Why is a plethora of other beings a more reasonable assertion than life can evolve with the mechanisms of a limited planet and genetic replication?

    Your reasonable proposition requires an infinite regression long before which you get to unreasonable.

    “But the evidence makes it far and away the most probable explanation of human origins on Earth.”

    What evidence?

  93. #93 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    @wow: “If you could read minds [...] speciation would still happen.”

    The probability of a sequence of events is equal to the product of the individual probabilities. Since each mutation is almost always fatal, only a tiny percent of mutations could contribute to speciation. Considering the strong selective pressure on non-coding DNA (pointed out by others) non-fatal mutation may only realistically occur for a small percentage of the DNA. And yet, if we are to believe evolutionists, it happens all the time. Indeed, many many astronomically improbable mutations occur in just the right order, over and over again.

    “Blatant assertion that there IS a reality beyond the five senses.”

    Current polls place the percentage of people having had some kind of perception that would imply a reality beyond the 5 senses at 20-50% (if not higher).

    “Your reasonable proposition requires an infinite regression long before which you get to unreasonable.”

    No, since I’m restricting my argument to the origins of life on Earth. It is possible that evolution occurred as is commonly thought elsewhere, just not on Earth, as there is not nearly enough time.

    “Why is that most reasonable?”

    The preponderance of UFO and Alien visitation reports, particularly the bovine excisions (over 3000 alone in South America from 1999 – 2002), point to an ongoing monitoring of and involvement in life on earth by extraterrestrials.

  94. #94 Dan L.
    August 4, 2011

    @Wow:

    “”Nothing is true, everything is permitted.””

    Rules, not everything, Dan.

    Everything != Rules

    Rules != Everything

    Therefore “Rules aren’t hard-and-fast” != “Nothing is true”.

    As to “Everything is permitted”, we have rules about killing other humans. Yet it happens. That the rules aren’t hard-and-fast doesn’t mean that the reason for them is nonexistent, even when some people after NOT thinking decide to break those rules against murder.

    “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is usually interpreted as meaning exactly what you were saying. Yes, it admits much looser interpretations, but in context it is usually an injunction to not just blindly follow rules but to understand why the rule is there and then accept or reject it on that basis and with respect to your personal values.

    For example, if you’re just blindly following rules and suddenly you have an opportunity to murder without any consequences, what’s stopping you? It’s much preferable to recognize that there are, in fact, reasons not to kill people besides the fact that it’s illegal. Someone who is not focused on the legality but on the underlying reasons is less likely to commit a crime in the event that they could get away with it without consequences.

    In other words, I was simply agreeing with you using an interesting historical quote.

  95. #95 Dan L.
    August 4, 2011

    The probability of a sequence of events is equal to the product of the individual probabilities. Since each mutation is almost always fatal, only a tiny percent of mutations could contribute to speciation. Considering the strong selective pressure on non-coding DNA (pointed out by others) non-fatal mutation may only realistically occur for a small percentage of the DNA. And yet, if we are to believe evolutionists, it happens all the time. Indeed, many many astronomically improbable mutations occur in just the right order, over and over again.

    This is quite simply incorrect.

    As far as empiricism goes, it’s not perfect, but it’s the only way to be sure you’re not fooling yourself. When I was a little kid I believed in magic. I believed in it because I wanted to. Then I got a little older and realized that was a stupid reason to believe things.

    You have to be remorseless — you have to try to believe the opposite of what you want to believe if your knowledge is going to be reliable. It’s all too easy to fool yourself.

  96. #96 Dan L.
    August 4, 2011

    The preponderance of UFO and Alien visitation reports, particularly the bovine excisions (over 3000 alone in South America from 1999 – 2002), point to an ongoing monitoring of and involvement in life on earth by extraterrestrials.

    But no ET bodies, no ET tech, no ET poop, no anomalous organisms — if they brought ET versions of bacteria to our planet we might expect them to run riot given the lack of natural predators. No clear photos. No clear videos. No audio recordings of an alien language in alien voices.

    No attempt to contact us. Apparently the aliens crossed millions of light years of empty space to cut up cows. Makes sense to me.

    Not to mention that if you’re going to make probability arguments against evolution you need to make the same arguments about aliens. The probability that an advanced, space-faring civilization is anywhere in our past light cone, given the size of the universe and the time required for life and civilization to arise, is miniscule.

    Direct negative evidence of the existence of anything is impossible, but we have great indirect negative evidence of the existence of ETs. On the positive side you have what, cut up cows? Have you considered any alternate hypotheses? Like that humans sometimes cut up cows?

  97. #97 theconfusedworld
    August 4, 2011

    “This is quite simply incorrect.”

    If my rough estimates are incorrect, it is because they are far too generous to the evolutionists. The probability of a sequence of mutations occurring that could explain the degree of speciation observed on Earth, with no fossils of failed mutations is so absurdly improbable that I can’t believe they’re still writing books on it.

    “But no ET bodies, ”

    many bodies, Cape Giradeau MO 1941, Roswell NM 1947, Keksburg PA 65…

    “no ET tech”

    anecdotal evidence indicates a huge and ongoing back-engineering effort in recovered UFO tech.

    “No clear photos. No clear videos. ”

    innumerable excellent photos and videos

    “No attempt to contact us.”

    Innumerable contact events. Cf. John Mack’s research. Even better: Dr. David Jacobs research.

    “The probability that an advanced, space-faring civilization [...] is miniscule.”

    An assumption that is contradicted by thousands and thousands of highly credible eye-witness accounts.

    “Have you considered any alternate hypotheses? Like that humans sometimes cut up cows?”

    Yes this has been exhaustively researched. Humans do not have the technology to do what is being done to these animals. The bovine excision phenomenon is the most incontrovertible. Oh and the cat mutilations are also beyond human technology as well (Salt Lake City 2003, Aurora CO 2003, Lawrence KS 2008, Florida 2009) almost all bloodless and with surgical precision, no human traces found. This has been going on for decades.

  98. #98 Dan L.
    August 4, 2011

    @theconfusedworld:

    If my rough estimates are incorrect, it is because they are far too generous to the evolutionists. The probability of a sequence of mutations occurring that could explain the degree of speciation observed on Earth, with no fossils of failed mutations is so absurdly improbable that I can’t believe they’re still writing books on it.

    No, your rough estimates are not even wrong because you clearly don’t understand evolution. And if you’re a mathematician and programmer, that is almost certainly because you WANT to believe evolution is not true. There is no other excuse for anyone who understands combinatorics to so brazenly misunderstand how evolution by natural selection works.

    Your “evidence” on ETs shows the same pattern. If the evidence was half as compelling as how you describe it why do so few people acknowledge it? And why so few specific citations? You say there ARE photos and videos but you can’t tell me where to find them. I’ve seen all the History channel crap on aliens and none of those pictures or videos are of the quality you claim, so no one is making a very loud public case with them. Where are they? Where are the bodies now? Where is the evidence for reverse-engineering alien technology?

    The pattern I’m detecting here is that like any garden variety conspiracy theorist you believe what you want to believe and willfully fail to understand the arguments and evidence against those beliefs. So keep believing EXACTLY what you want to believe just like the 9/11 truthers. I guarantee that attitude will maximize useless falsehoods to the detriment of useful truths.

  99. #99 Greg Esres
    August 4, 2011

    theconfusedworld is surely a Poe.

  100. #100 gammon
    August 4, 2011

    He’s certainly sticking to his guns in such a way that suggests he’s either a True Believer™ or a troll. He’s not going to be convinced or persuaded by anything, because lack of proof to support his views is just ‘proof’ that we aren’t opening our minds up enough to the ludicrous possibilities that he subscribes to, or that we haven’t ruled out every permutation of every potential explanation that one can dream up.

  101. #101 The MadPanda, FCD
    August 4, 2011

    I’m not sure ‘confused’ is a strong enough word for this, our honestly befuddled friend, given that (to measure by the evidence they have so amply provided) they are off the proverbial table and into somebody’s pint of lager.

    “The world wants to be deceived,” would be a bit more like it.

    Next I suppose we shall hear a few rousing choruses of “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” as though this were the magic mantra to dispel all rational skepticism! Never mind that we know where to look, have some idea of what we would see, and have been paying attention with no clear sign of anything.

    (eyeroll)

    Just once I want to hear one of these dualist dupes give me some idea of where the soul might be found on the electromagnetic spectrum. Then maybe we can build a spirit detector and get some useful information out of all their wild speculations for a change.

    The MadPanda, FCD

  102. #102 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    “it why do so few people acknowledge it?”

    Good question. One reason is that the idea that humans are not somehow the center of everything, and that other beings could be primarily and instrumentally responsible for the development of (biological) life on Earth is too much of a shock to their egos. I would estimate that about 5% of people have already figured it out. A further 20% would willingly acknowledge it if they could bring themselves to look at the evidence.

    “because you clearly don’t understand evolution”

    you clearly haven’t looked at the evidence. you have a lot of company.

    “you WANT to believe evolution is not true.”

    I used to think just like you. I thought, like most people, that evolution was ‘established fact’, etc..
    After many years of research into the UFO and alien contact phenomenon, and an honest look at the probabilities involved (primarily concerning the probability of viable mutation), the lack of fossil evidence for intermediate forms (including failed mutations), and the serious problems with the mutation theory considering the timescales involved, it has become clear that evolution, as currently taught, is the questionable theory (putting it quite mildly).

    “you believe what you want to believe”

    My conclusions are only arrived at reluctantly, and after years of examination of the evidence.

    “ludicrous possibilities that he subscribes to”

    the possibility that life evolved through random mutations (producing advanced humans in 2 million years or less, with weak fossil evidence) is far, far more ludicrous than my suggestions of extraterrestrial involvement.

    “soul might be found on the electromagnetic spectrum.”

    so… you “know” that the soul is electromagnetic in nature?

    To acknowledge any of the following would force us to reevaluate the possibility that things just happen through random mutation and the struggle to survive.

    1. there is psychic or supernatural reality beyond the 5 senses (ESP, telepathy, and so forth).

    2. there are UFOs navigated by intelligent beings, and that some of these beings may be influencing the development of (biological) life on Earth.

    3. there is a soul.

    4. there is a God.

    5. Consciousness requires a body.

    Points 3 and 4, if acknowledged, would prompt the questions “to what degree does the soul, possibly through prayer, affect the development of life on Earth?”

    If an evolutionist is to be consistent, he is eventually forced into a radical materialist viewpoint, where life is “understood” as nothing more than a complex machine.

    Evolutionists just “want to believe”.

  103. #103 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    Radical materialist theories (such as evolution, as currently taught) are seductive illusions.

    If we humans are to wake up from our materialist slumber and rediscover our True Spiritual Nature, there may still be hope.

  104. #104 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    also “that consciousness requires a body” should read “that consciousness is spiritual in nature and that the body (brain and nervous system) is a extension of consciousness, though not required for consciousness”

  105. #105 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “that consciousness is spiritual in nature”

    Is a statement of what you believe. Not a statement of fact. Nor is it any proof of the validity of that statement or belief.

    It is called “begging the question”.

  106. #106 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “The probability of a sequence of events is equal to the product of the individual probabilities.”

    False.

    Once an event called “Making a ladder” happens, the chance of an event called “Getting over that wall” becomes 100% likely rather than 0% likely.

  107. #107 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “Current polls place the percentage of people having had some kind of perception that would imply a reality beyond the 5 senses at 20-50% (if not higher)”

    Based on the sample of your existence, there is evidence for a reality less than the five senses at 100% or higher.

    You’re blind, deaf, dumb and insensate. You exist merely within your own woo-filled world.

    You “know” that living organisms without spirits exist but you don’t know what one of them would be. You “know” that living organisms with spirits exist, but you don’t know what one of them would be.

    Yet, for some reason, you don’t believe in invisible pink unicorns.

    Why?

  108. #108 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    “Is a statement of what you believe.”

    and of what I perceive (and believe to perceive).

    Most self-avowed evolutionists don’t even realize the most basic implications of their positions.

    With just the tiniest hole in the materialist assumptions underlying the theory, and the whole house of cards comes down.

  109. #109 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    As an example of the confused one’s blindness:

    “”soul might be found on the electromagnetic spectrum.”

    so… you “know” that the soul is electromagnetic in nature? ”

    Note: he sees “know” when “might” is written.

    “My conclusions are only arrived at reluctantly, and after years of examination of the evidence.”

    Evidence that is unavailable, oddly enough.

    “the possibility that life evolved through random mutations is far, far more ludicrous than my suggestions of extraterrestrial involvement.”

    But then you have the evolution of an extraterrestrial agent in a far shorter time to a stage where interstellar faster-than-light travel is possible.

    And that’s even MORE ludicrous.

    “1. there is psychic or supernatural reality beyond the 5 senses (ESP, telepathy, and so forth).”

    There isn’t.

    “2. there are UFOs navigated by intelligent beings”

    There aren’t.

    “3. there is a soul.”

    There isn’t.

    “4. there is a God.”

    There is no God.

    “5. Consciousness requires a body.”

    Finally. A correct statement. By error, though.

    If you can read thoughts, then thoughts read can be tested. Despite your necessary insistence that things like this can’t be tested.

    Despite your insistence that these things can’t be tested, you insist that you merely follow the evidence. Which would require testing or at the very least allow it.

    You are extremely confused and your conduct the primary reason why intelligent beings can confidently call you and your kind kooks.

  110. #110 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “and of what I perceive (and believe to perceive).”

    And as other people have pointed out, we perceive things we know are false.

    Your problem is you want to believe so won’t question your perceptions.

    “Most self-avowed evolutionists don’t even realize the most basic implications of their positions.”

    Which would be what, exactly? Or is this going to be yet another fact-free snide thrown out there to bolster your fragile confidence?

  111. #111 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    “You “know” that living organisms without spirits exist ”

    no, if you have read my comments, I don’t believe this to be possible.

    “You’re blind, deaf, dumb and insensate. ”

    rather than resorting to name calling, can you try to back up your claims that “building a ladder” actually happens, and anywhere near the frequency that would be required to account for the speciation we observe on Earth?

  112. #112 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    “Which would be what, exactly?”

    the radical materialist implications pointed out earlier. Please read the comments. Think about them, and try to respond intelligently.

  113. #113 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “the radical materialist implications pointed out earlier. ”

    What radical materialist implications? These are the quotes you have regarding materialist:

    “Most of the comments on this site seem to defend materialistic definitions or interpretations of just about everything”

    “The radical materialist is forced to deny all perceptions that are not explicable in some materialist terms,”

    “containing more meaning for our life than the materialistic relativism”

    “a radical materialist viewpoint, where life is “understood” as nothing more than a complex machine.”

    So, what “radical materialist implication” do they propound?

    NONE.

    Just ones you’re afraid to face facts over because you’ve convinced yourself that they must be true.

  114. #114 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “”You “know” that living organisms without spirits exist ”

    no, if you have read my comments, I don’t believe this to be possible.”

    “I am making a distinction between a living organism without spirit (a dead machine, no matter how lifelike) and a living organism that has some kind of spirit.”

    That was you at post 74:

    Posted by: theconfusedworld | August 4, 2011 7:54 AM

    It seems like you have no anima. Just reacting to stimuli like an artificial intelligence machine.

  115. #115 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “can you try to back up your claims that “building a ladder” actually happens”

    How then did one of these come into existence?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladder

    God did that too? Or was it ET.

  116. #116 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    technically, the word “living” has different meanings in common parlance.

    for some, a human body kept alive using artificial techniques is still “alive” because it satisfies some people’s definitions of “life” (beating heart, brain activity and so forth).

    It is in this sense that an organism could be “alive” without a spirit.

    For example, the spirit could leave the body, and come back later. For the period of time when the spirit is not in the body, the body is not alive in my understanding, however it is still alive according to many (with whom I disagree).

    The word “living” can be used in both senses.

    Words are inherently ambiguous, as the extent of their applicability is nowhere defined (cf. Russel on vagueness).

    In general, one’s interpretation of words can not therefore be guaranteed to correspond precisely to the speaker’s intentions. Discourse can be used to resolve ambiguities.

    “How then did one of these come into existence?”

    please try to be constructive. I thought we were talking about evolution and probability.

  117. #117 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “technically, the word “living” has different meanings in common parlance.”

    Technically, you used those words in the same thread. Apparently, despite all your exhortations to “Please read the comments. Think about them, and try to respond intelligently.”, you don’t even read your own.

    “It is in this sense that an organism could be “alive” without a spirit.”

    And example of which is what?

    “I thought we were talking about evolution and probability.”

    No, you were talking about the chance of a second event being the product of itself and a previous event.

    A ladder opens up opportunities that were not available before and therefore your assertion falls down.

    Try thinking about it for a bit and relax that flailing knee.

  118. #118 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    “And example of which is what?”

    We currently have no devices to detect (in materialist terms) the presence of a soul (to the same level of satisfaction that, say, a conjecture about the physical world can be tested). This does not mean that “there is no soul”, but only that the soul can not be verified to exist with current techniques.

    Current ‘scientific method’ techniques presumably impose a materialist definition on everything, and (therefore) could never possibly provide a testable verification (or ‘proof’ to abuse the term) of the existence of the soul (and many other phenomena).

    This is really about metaphysics, not physics.

    An analogy from logic is useful. There is no sentence in first order mathematical logic that is true in a universe of discourse having cardinality equal to Aleph naught, but false in a universe of discourse having a cardinality equal to the continuum. This does not mean that there is no continuum, but that the language of first order mathematical logic is not capable of characterizing it (it requires second order mathematical logic).

    What the (consistent and therefore radical materialist) evolutionist is doing is trying to embed all the observable world into a framework (or conceptual ‘language’) that is simply too small. Psychic phenomena, the soul or spirit, ESP and so forth do not seem to have a materialist explanation. Evolutionists claim that therefore all such phenomena are not ‘real’ or are ‘invented’ or ‘imagined’.

    Evolutionists effectively claim that anything outside of their theory can only become real if, somehow, it can be understood within the framework of a materialist theory. For example “show me where the soul is on the electromagnetic spectrum” is a prime example of the kind of evolutionist circular reasoning.

    Childlike, and absurd.

  119. #119 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    “No, you were talking about the chance of a second event being the product of itself and a previous event.”

    I used the term in the mathematical sense of “multiply”. E.g, “the product of 2 and 2 is 4″. Not in the sense of “resulting from”.

    The probability of a sequence of independent events is equal to the product of the probabilities of the individual events.

    However, even if we relax the independence restriction, we would still require each organism to produce thousands (upon thousands) of viable (non-fatal) mutations per second (!) to even have a (glimmer of a) chance at producing the (alien assisted) diversity we currently have.

  120. #120 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “I used the term in the mathematical sense of “multiply”. E.g, “the product of 2 and 2 is 4″. Not in the sense of “resulting from”.”

    Yes. And my response was to that meaning of the term.

    “The probability of a sequence of independent events”

    Who says they’re independent?

    “is equal to the product of the probabilities of the individual events.”

    False.

    The chance of climbing that wall is 0% until you make a ladder tall enough. The chance is discontinuous and you cannot get the chance of the second event from the product of both. Until that ladder is built, the chance to climb that wall is 0%.

    “we would still require each organism to produce thousands (upon thousands) of viable (non-fatal) mutations per second”

    No we wouldn’t.

    The organism doesn’t “evolve” a hand. It has a flipper, but one with slightly more flexibility than the rest of the populace.

    One mutation.

    Once.

    Your problem is you’re making up evidence to support your desires.

    “the (alien assisted) diversity we currently have.”

    So how many mutations per second does each alien have to support to create itself with interstellar FTL travel capabilities?

  121. #121 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “We currently have no devices to detect (in materialist terms) the presence of a soul”

    That isn’t an answer to my question.

    My question AGAIN is: what example of a living organism without a spirit do you have. What example of a living organism with something like a spirit do you have.

    I’m not asking you to explain how to detect one. I’m asking for an example of one living organism that doesn’t have a spirit and one example of a living organism that does have a spirit.

  122. #122 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “We currently have no devices to detect (in materialist terms) the presence of a soul”

    We also don’t have a device to detect Leprechaun Pots of Gold.

    I guess you then believe they exist.

    “Current ‘scientific method’ techniques presumably impose a materialist definition on everything, and (therefore) could never possibly provide a testable verification (or ‘proof’ to abuse the term) of the existence of the soul (and many other phenomena).”

    If a soul has no effect on the material world where, for example, our bodies and minds do all their existing, how can the soul affect our bodies and minds?

    PS proof for verification is not an abuse of the word. It’s the right use of the word. You just don’t like it because you can’t prove your assertions and therefore need to create confusion to hide your lack of evidence whilst still claiming to “follow the evidence”.

  123. #123 theconfusedworld
    August 5, 2011

    “I’m asking for an example [...]”

    this ‘example’ would require verification to determine that it is, in fact, an example.

    My comment: [“The probability of a sequence of independent events [...]is equal to the product of the probabilities of the individual events.”]

    Your reply: “False.”

    er, uh, that’s basic probability.

    I suggest we close this discussion. In the meantime, go and research basic probability. I suggest you start with dice or coin-flipping.

  124. #124 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “this ‘example’ would require verification to determine that it is, in fact, an example.”

    Nope, I’m asking YOU what example YOU have of a lifeform that doesn’t have a spirit and a lifeform that has one.

    YOU assert they exist.

    So where are they?

    I’m not asking you to PROVE they are, I’ll do that.

    But I’m asking what examples YOU have of them.

    If you have no examples, then there is no spirit or soul.

  125. #125 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    “In the meantime, go and research basic probability.”

    I suggest you study biology.

    I already know a hell of a lot more than YOU about probability. For example, your assertion of events is false in mathematical probability theory.

  126. #126 Wow
    August 5, 2011

    No examples of what evidences your dimorphism of living organisms into those with a spirit and those without, theconfusedone?

    You believe in their existence but have never seen one.

    You also haven’t seen an invisible pink unicorn. So why do you think their existence “nonsense”?

  127. #127 Kel
    August 5, 2011

    “sorry but the Orbs phenomenon is not really solved. I don’t think anyone nowadays ascribes messages to the star patterns.”
    Two things.

    First, even if they aren’t solved, how in any way does that give you grounds to ascribe consciousness to it? You just have an unexplained phenomena – if it’s not solved as you say then you have no grounds for talking about what it is. Quite simply, you don’t know. And in what way is the problem not really solved? I’m going to bet it’s not solved in the same way that some people think crop circles aren’t really solved. There’s a very good explanation for the phenomena, one that has been demonstrated.

    Second, whether anyone believes in something is different to whether or not the belief has merit. While there are many people who do believe in astrology and use it to make life decisions, it doesn’t matter if that’s one person or 99% of the global population. The recent end-of-the-world prediction – that had many people selling all their possessions for, and some even killing themselves over – was based on someone doing numerology and interpreting from the bible. They were able to raise over 100 million dollars in advertising all based on some crackpot’s belief in the power of finding hidden patterns in what he believed was God’s word. Whether a belief is popular or esoteric is irrelevant to using the belief as an example. Would the case for Santa Claus change if more adults believed in Santa? Of course not, the case for Santa is irrespective of belief in Santa. And it’s the belief that we’re interested in…

    “Even if it is “triggered” by the brain, it does not follow that it’s “all in the brain”.”
    Agreed, but it is good evidence to suggest that it is brain activity as it shows a causal link between a phenomenon and brain activity. And there are countless examples of experiments like this – yet there’s not a single experiment showing it’s anything other than brain activity. The problem I’m highlighting is that experience != interpretation of experience. That someone had the sensation of floating around the room doesn’t mean it’s anything other than brain activity – no matter how many accounts you give of someone talking about an experience of leaving their body you’re not giving evidence that it’s anything other than brain activity. As experiments like the one I highlighted above show is precisely what we should expect if it was all brain activity. What you’re trying to demonstrate (that it’s not brain activity) cannot be done without showing there’s something other than brain activity going on.

    I just don’t care how many first-person accounts you give, they aren’t compelling without the accompanying science that shows there’s something else going on outside the brain. I’m not denying OBEs happen, I’m arguing that they do happen and there’s very good reason to believe that it’s all brain activity.

    Of course, you could prove me wrong by getting your brain removed…

  128. #128 Dan L.
    August 5, 2011

    @confusedworld:

    I’m starting to come to the conclusion that you may be a troll. You claim to be familiar with the evidence of evolution but somehow you think it’s less compelling than the evidence for ET visitation? Seems highly unlikely to me given that the evidence for evolution is more copious, more direct, more consistent with other facts about the world that are well-established, vetted over a longer period of time by more people who have spent more years studying biology than any UFOlogist has studying little green men.

    But even though you’re almost certainly a troll, I am going to point out one simple error in your understanding of evolution and the evidence for it. If you can see why your reasoning on this is wrong, maybe you will see that you do not currently know everything — the first step towards learning new things and coming to a greater understanding of the world around you.

    The probability of a sequence of mutations occurring that could explain the degree of speciation observed on Earth, with no fossils of failed mutations is so absurdly improbable that I can’t believe they’re still writing books on it.

    What would a fossil of a “failed mutation” look like? “Failed mutations” if I’m interpreting the term correctly almost always lead to still births — puddles of goop don’t leave fossils. Even if there was a “failed mutation” that allowed the creature to become mature enough to leave fossilized remains the fact that it is a “failed mutation” would imply that it would leave very few ancestors with the same mutation (otherwise it would be a “successful mutation,” amirite?). Given the incredibly low probability that any particular creature becomes fossilized there is almost no chance that a creature with a pronounced reproductive disadvantage (again, “failed mutation” by definition if I’m understanding you right) would leave any fossil traces — the most successful creatures are the ones plentiful enough to leave fossil remains.

    The reasoning by which only the most abundant creatures leave fossils is quite closely analogous to the reasoning why evolution by natural selection is essentially inevitable given the nature of biological reproduction.

    You seem to be rebelling against some notion that materialism sucks all the wonder and magic out of the natural world. On the contrary. Materialists like myself agree with Shakespeare that “there are more things on Heaven and Earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” The world is already more magical and wonderful than the silly stories made up by UFOlogists, ghost hunters, and mystics. You are the one sucking wonder out of the world by trying to force it to fit your preconceptions.

    And you have much more confidence in your understanding of evolution than you should have given the poor quality of your arguments against it. Please read this.

  129. #129 Owlmirror
    August 5, 2011

    ESP makes an extraordinary claim that one person can know the thoughts of another person, with no standard physical communication taking place — no speech, no gestures, no hidden pre-agreed codes of taps or coughs or physical movements or whatever. Also, presumably, no stealth embedded radio transceivers, no technology being used to actually carry and transmit the information.

    Just plain brute mind-to-mind thought transference.

    While scientists would argue over the mechanism, if the effect actually existed, it could be tested, after being vetted by very paranoid magicians and engineers, to ensure that no physically-explainable transmission is taking place.

    No such test has been passed by those claiming to have ESP. Clearly, no mechanism need be considered until the actual effect is demonstrated to be real. It has not been so demonstrated, so those who believe it to be real must be fooling themselves in some way.

    I note that the Randi prize of a million dollars awaits anyone who can successfully demonstrate ESP or other psychic phenomena.

    we would still require each organism to produce thousands (upon thousands) of viable (non-fatal) mutations per second (!) to even have a (glimmer of a) chance at producing the (alien assisted) diversity we currently have.

    Every person alive differs from their parents by about ~100-300 mutations, which are, obviously, almost entirely non-fatal. There are about 6×109 people alive. So there must be a pool of ~6×1011 mutations around, just for humans. This pool is the accumulated result of those hundred mutations occurring each generation, so we’d need to sum up those as well, increasing the size of the pool of mutations even higher. Similar numbers apply to all other populations of animals.

    Is that enough for you? Do you agree now that there are enough non-fatal mutations to not require God or aliens?

    Or do you have more Bad Math™ to vomit forth?

  130. #130 Greg Esres
    August 5, 2011

    if the effect actually existed, it could be tested

    One would think that if such a thing existed, it would have been an extraordinary benefit to survival. We would not have needed to evolve vocal chords, ears, language processing centers in the brain, etc.

    In fact, much of the equipment that living creatures use to locate prey or predators would have been redundant.

  131. #131 eric
    August 5, 2011

    @118:

    We currently have no devices to detect (in materialist terms) the presence of a soul (to the same level of satisfaction that, say, a conjecture about the physical world can be tested). This does not mean that “there is no soul”, but only that the soul can not be verified to exist with current techniques.

    It means that the soul has no practical impact on devices such as detectors. Or bodies. Or anything else. Because every material object in this universe is in some ways a ‘detector,’ and you’re telling me it doesn’t affect any of them.

    Current ‘scientific method’ techniques presumably impose a materialist definition on everything,

    No, no, no. The scientific method gives you a process for investigating the material universe. Now, if someone looks at its remarkable success in explaining a huge number of observed phenomena and draws the conclusion that all phenomena of practical relevance are material, that may be a defensible conclusion. But that conclusion is not required by the method.

    This is really about metaphysics, not physics.

    It’s really about neither – it’s about pragmatism. Science is good at answering material questions but not spiritual ones. It just so happens that people would rather have answers to the material questions, so our society puts lots of money into “how do I make a room temperature superconductor” and no money into “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

    IOW, it seems your real problem is with people’s priorities, which are materialistic, and therefore well-served by science. You appear to wish they weren’t so materialistic. Which I guess is a fine attitude to have, but it isn’t the fault of scientists or the scientific method. You are mistaking the sword for the desire to kill; mistaking the plow for the desire for a greater harvest. Science is the tool, not the desire.

  132. #132 JimV
    August 6, 2011

    I have an old friend in the city where I used to live who became bi-polar in his late 20’s or early 30’s. He was a programming leader for Honeywell but lost that, as well as his wife, after his malady occurred. He does not believe there is anything wrong with his brain, and accepts the delusions and hallucinations as fact. He has “seen” God and the Devil and debated with them. He has had several minimum-wage jobs but cannot keep one for long. He gets a small Social Security disability pension. He spends his time reading books by Stoll and Hunter and listening to the religious right. I believe this is a fairly common syndrome among the mentally ill, perhaps the reason they used to be called “god-touched”.

    “confusedworld” sounds exactly like him. The arguments about mutations for example, would be things he has read in creationist literature, not his own thoughts or knowledge. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s my guess.

  133. #133 cambalkon
    August 10, 2011

    Ordinarily I don’t like to insert myself into private disputes between other people, but this one touches on so many issues I care about that I just can’t resist.

  134. #134 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 10, 2011

    While both Greg and Hootie continue to deny their own statements …

    Coyne did attempt to find something “genuine” — something that transcends human existence and is universally applicable. And that’s a problem within evolutionary ethics. If the value transcends humanity then it evolved and there is nothing genuinely good or bad to be discerned.

    Of course some will claim this is muddying the waters. But it is not my waters which are muddy. I’m just stirring the pot and showing the naturalistic evolutionist what is really floating.

  135. #135 eric
    August 10, 2011

    Collin: If the value transcends humanity then it evolved and there is nothing genuinely good or bad to be discerned.

    You’re committing the is-ought (naturalistic) fallacy. The fact that you think a god-given morality would be superior to evolutionarily-derived morality is not proof (or even an argument) that the former exists. You want the universe to be just; that doesn’t mean it is.

  136. #136 Dan L.
    August 10, 2011

    Of course some will claim this is muddying the waters. But it is not my waters which are muddy. I’m just stirring the pot and showing the naturalistic evolutionist what is really floating.

    No, you’re committing category errors and acting as if that’s some sort of accomplishment.

    And that’s a problem within evolutionary ethics.

    I have never heard the phrase “evolutionary ethics” before. Are you sure you didn’t just make it up?

    If the value transcends humanity then it evolved and there is nothing genuinely good or bad to be discerned.

    Who said anything about any particular value? We’re talking about the capacity for value-based ethical reasoning in the first place, not any particular value or system of ethics.

    As far as I can tell, your argument that ethical reasoning can’t be the result of biological evolution is pretty closely analogous to an argument that houses cannot be built because bricks, cement, and wood are not themselves houses, and that however you combine them you still just have a pile of bricks, cement, and wood instead of a house.

  137. #137 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 10, 2011

    Dan / eric,

    Are you sure you didn’t just make it up?

    That accusation keeps rearing its ugly head. So …
    start at plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-biology/
    And please — learn your own field. Sheesh.

    We’re talking about the capacity

    No. We’re talking about Coyne’s assertion. He made a declaration when he used the term “genuine” and I am challenging its legitimacy. So perhaps the categorical error is not mine.

    You’re committing the is-ought (naturalistic) fallacy. The fact that you think a god-given morality would be superior to evolutionarily-derived morality is not proof (or even an argument) that the former exists. You want the universe to be just; that doesn’t mean it is.

    Except … Coyne made the assertion that what is of “genuine” concern is superior. So go argue with him.

  138. #138 Owlmirror
    August 11, 2011

    Coyne did attempt to find something “genuine” — something that transcends human existence and is universally applicable.

    Obviously false, and in fact, completely insane. How would rape or child abuse be immoral if agents didn’t exist? The entire point of his use of “genuine moral concern” is to ground morality in consequentialism with respect to other agents, not in in-group taboo.

    And that’s a problem within evolutionary ethics. If the value transcends humanity then it evolved and there is nothing genuinely good or bad to be discerned.

    I have to disagree with eric. This is not the naturalistic fallacy. This is incoherent bafflegab.

    I’m just stirring the pot and showing the naturalistic evolutionist what is really floating.

    You’re dropping floaters in the pot you’re stirring, for sure.

    ===========

    We’re talking about Coyne’s assertion. He made a declaration when he used the term “genuine” and I am challenging its legitimacy.

    Because you think that cultural taboos are exactly as moral or immoral as rape and child abuse? Or because you’re so obtuse that you utterly fail to understand his simple point?

  139. #139 Kel
    August 11, 2011

    I’d much prefer a finite and contingent morality that focuses on the agents in question, than one that is universal and arbitrary. Who would prefer it any other way?

  140. #140 Wow
    August 11, 2011

    Collin: “If the value transcends humanity then it evolved and there is nothing genuinely good or bad to be discerned.”

    So why don’t wolves eat each others’ cubs?

    Or did God give them morality too?

  141. #141 eric
    August 11, 2011

    Collin: Except … Coyne made the assertion that what is of “genuine” concern is superior.

    And you, Collin, stated that there is a problem with Coyne’s assertion. Now you have to tell us why a problem with Coyne’s hypothesized basis for morality implies there must be some other basis for it. That ‘must’ is the naturalistic fallacy. If the universe ‘must’ contain some stronger, more rational basis for morality, tell us why.

  142. #142 Science Avenger
    August 11, 2011

    It seems obvious that what Coyne meant by “genuine” was concerns that conflict severely with our shared values, instincts, and desires (especially with regard to the damage and pain they cause others) rather than some arbitrary rule from some blithering holy man after consuming too many magic mushrooms. I see no evidence that he meant anything remotely like “something that transcends human existence and is universally applicable”. Universal applicability seems precisely one of the things he is arguing against, since he promotes as a strength of secular morals their ability to change. It really shouldn’t be all that hard to grasp once the idea of an absolute morality with absolute backing is jettisoned for the nonsense it is.

  143. #143 Dan L.
    August 11, 2011

    And please — learn your own field. Sheesh.

    I’m neither an ethicist nor a biologist. And I still seem to be keeping up better than you: see below.

    No. We’re talking about Coyne’s assertion. He made a declaration when he used the term “genuine” and I am challenging its legitimacy. So perhaps the categorical error is not mine.

    The number one debating tactic for you “sophisticated theist” types is to focus the debate on some semantic quibble and to harp on it relentlessly, interpreting it in the least charitable manner and pretending that it’s actually instrumental to the argument when, in fact, it’s not.

    And that’s exactly what’s happening here. You keep flogging this word “genuine” like it’s at all important to the case the the capacity for ethical reasoning has evolved. And you keep behaving as if Coyne making an alleged semantic or rhetorical error in a popular treatment for USA Today (I know, usually they only publish the MOST rigorous philosophical arguments) somehow hamstrings the entire argument to the point where we must justify every one of Coyne’s 2400 words (or whatever).

    If you got a problem with Coyne’s argument, YOU go argue with him. If you actually want to argue about whether or not the capacity for ethical reasoning is evolved then do so in good faith instead of derailing with a nitpick about Coyne’s phrasing in a light-and-fluffy US national daily rag.

  144. #144 cambalkon
    August 12, 2011

    I came to see theology as a moat protecting the castle of religion. But it was not a moat filled with water. No. It was filled with sewage. And the reason religion’s defenders wanted us to spend so much time splashing around in the moat had nothing to do with actually learning anything valuable or being edified by the experience. It was so that when we emerged on the other side we would be so rank and fetid and generally disgusted with ourselves that we would be in no condition to argue with anyone.

  145. #145 Collin Brendemuehl
    August 12, 2011

    Dan,
    If you didn’t notice, I was arguing with Coyne’s point about the nature of ethics. Jason’s post is that Coyne’s material has some meaning. I think not, and I have stayed on that topic. Jason is wrong. Coyne is spouting contradictory nonsense. He may be good in science, but, like Jason, is pathetic in theology and ethics. He is out of his field. Get control of your temper.

    Science Avenger,
    He was appealing to, or at least to a search for, something of immutable value. Like the problem of rape or child abuse. What makes these any more “genuine” than other moral matters? He set up the hierarchy, not me. I question its credibility. And I question if the evolutionist can say that anything is necessarily of genuine to all of humanity. If it is, then it transcends, and that raises other issues.

    he promotes as a strength of secular morals their ability to change

    The contradiction is that nothing can be genuine if all is subject to change. (That is commonly known as “relativism”.)

    Wow,
    Because the Cubs just keep trying to win ball games.
    Some day the goat will be dead.

    Eric,
    I’ve repeated the reason on multiple instances.
    But let’s get to the supposed naturalistic fallacy, the “must” requirement. It is there because Coyne has argued for things that are Genuine. His framework demands it else it would degenerate into relativism (which it is in reality anyway). He is demanding that something ontologically exist. It is he who commits the naturalistic fallacy. I am merely playing with it.

    Let’s face it: Coyne rarely presents a sound argument, either in ethics or in evolution.

  146. #146 Wow
    August 12, 2011

    Nope, Collin. Why do wolves not eat each others cubs? After all, that’s morality, so how did the wolves get it?

    That you had to sidestep the issue indicates that you know you’re full of shit, but would rather not face facts. This is why you concentrate on what you perceive to be a problem with Coyne’s phraseology: to avoid looking into your own fallacies.

  147. #147 Science Avenger
    August 12, 2011

    What makes [rape or child abuse] any more “genuine” than other moral matters?

    Because they conflict more severely with our shared values, instincts, and desires, than do other moral matters. Anything that does so for all of humanity could be said to be genuine to all of humanity. There is no need for all the semantic mindwanking you seem determined to engage in.

  148. #148 Owlmirror
    August 12, 2011

    Coyne is spouting contradictory nonsense

    Where?

    He may be good in science, but, like Jason, is pathetic in theology and ethics.

    …Says the one whose bible supports and commands genocide and slavery.

    Like the problem of rape or child abuse. What makes these any more “genuine” than other moral matters?

    Because children and rape victims are thinking, feeling agents. You dare to imply that you have an understanding of ethics when you think that actions that harm agents are just as immoral as things that have no affect on agents?

    What the hell is wrong with you? Are you literally a sociopath?

    He set up the hierarchy, not me.

    People who are actually capable of discussing ethics set up the hierarchy! Why are you being so obtuse?

    And I question if the evolutionist can say that anything is necessarily of genuine to all of humanity.

    …Says the one who believes in a God who commits eternal torture.

    If it is, then it transcends, and that raises other issues.

    ….Says the one who commits the logical fallacy of special pleading to excuse his God from acting ethically.

    It is there because Coyne has argued for things that are Genuine. His framework demands it else it would degenerate into relativism (which it is in reality anyway). He is demanding that something ontologically exist.

    It has been pointed out, multiple times, that you have misunderstood what he wrote, and you continue to misconstrue and distort it.

    This is your problem, not Coyne’s.

    It is he who commits the naturalistic fallacy.

    Once again: Where?

    I am merely playing with it.

    You are playing the uncharitable uncomprehending hair-splitting poltroon.

  149. #149 Kel
    August 13, 2011

    [Coyne] is pathetic in theology

    Ouch, that’s got to cut deep. Next he’s going to be pathetic when it comes to unicornology…

  150. #150 Kel
    August 13, 2011

    I finally got around to reading Coyne’s article, and I’m surprised that his use of the word “genuine” is coming under attack. It’s quite obvious what he means by it, and it really ought to be an uncontroversial point.

  151. #151 alüminyum
    August 14, 2011

    If you were from a place that did not have any ducks, and you came to a place where there were ducks, and someone took you on a duck hunt, you would have to be agreeable to the concept of Ducks as existing before you would be able to be shown the feathers in the water.. and other evidence of the duck.. (before actually seeing the duck.

  152. #152 PhysicistDave
    August 15, 2011

    alüminyum wrote:

    >If you were from a place that did not have any ducks, and you came to a place where there were ducks, and someone took you on a duck hunt, you would have to be agreeable to the concept of Ducks as existing before you would be able to be shown the feathers in the water.. and other evidence of the duck.. (before actually seeing the duck.

    I come from a place that did not have pavement ants. I was most assuredly not agreeable to the concept of pavement ants.

    Unfortunately, when the damn things started coming up through a crack in our foundations and swarming in our house, I had to deal with the evidence, as much as I disliked it.

    No, you do not “have to be agreeable to the concept of [pavement ants] as existing before you would be able to be shown” the ants swarming in our house.

    Your claim is flat-out silliness.

    And, I am quite sure you know it.

    Dave

  153. #153 eric
    August 15, 2011

    Collin: It is there because Coyne has argued for things that are Genuine. His framework demands it else it would degenerate into relativism (which it is in reality anyway). He is demanding that something ontologically exist.

    Coyne doesn’t capitalize the word, you and only you did that.

    I see no reason to impute to his sentence “…genuine moral concern (like rape…)” some platonic meaning to the word. Neither has owlmirror, or Kel, or anyone else. He just means that rape and child abuse are big, important moral concerns. Note that the big, the important, and the concern in my sentence aren’t capitalized either. Nobody’s demanding something ontologically exist except you.

    I am merely playing with it.

    What you are trying to do is set up a straw man and a weird false dichotomy argument, so that you can then knock down the straw man and proclaim ‘therefore, Jesus!’ But no one’s buying either fallacy. Your straw man version of Coyne’s argument has been recgonized and pointed out to you. And flaws in other types of moral reasoning are not any sort of “evidence” for any divinely revealed objective morality. As I said, it is the naturalistic fallacy to believe that any objective morality needs to exist merely because we think it ought to exist. The only way you can make divine revelation-based morality a more defensible idea would be to show evidence for divine-revelation based morality. Give me tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers via divine revelation, and I might start to believe we’ve received moral guidance from that same source.

  154. #154 Owlmirror
    August 15, 2011

    I doubt that “alüminyum” knows anything — it is a copy-and-paste spammer. The copying and pasting is from Robert Bradley, here.

  155. #155 Roger
    September 1, 2011

    were did hydrogen and helium come from? The main ingredients to stars. How can something come from nothing? How can a gas cloud be pulled in by gravity to create stars when the push of the atoms is stronger then the pull? How can their be Blue Stars that burn so hot that they can’t even last 2 millions years, Be scattered all over this galaxy without any being formed or even observed? Did life piggy back on the back of crystals and that’s how life began? Do you believe you can explain this by randomness, That matter just popped up and that this isn’t silly?

  156. #156 Wow
    September 2, 2011

    “were did hydrogen and helium come from?”

    A few minutes after the big bang.

    “How can something come from nothing?”

    Quantum fluctuations.

    “How can a gas cloud be pulled in by gravity to create stars when the push of the atoms is stronger then the pull?”

    Because the push of an atom is not stronger than the pull of gravity.

    “How can their be Blue Stars that burn so hot that they can’t even last 2 millions years, Be scattered all over this galaxy without any being formed or even observed?”

    Because we’ve only had telescopes for a few hundred years. We’re also seeing them being born in the Orion Nebula.

    “Did life piggy back on the back of crystals and that’s how life began?”

    Maybe.

    “Do you believe you can explain this by randomness”

    No. Just as well that Darwin figured on the evolution of species happens by the process of Natural Selection, not randomness.

    “That matter just popped up and that this isn’t silly?”

    No, but your post is silly.

    Did it just pop up, or were you drive to write such drivel?

  157. #157 Lenny
    November 2, 2011

    Fantastic post I very much enjoyed it, keep up the good work.

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