Pharyngula

We “amoral” atheists

You would think Yale would attract a smarter class of stude…oh, wait. I forgot what famous Yalies have risen to power in this country. OK, maybe it’s not surprising that a Yale freshman would raise the tired canard of the “amoral atheist”.

Recent years have seen an influx of anti-religious publications in the Western world, as well as a growing audience for such publications. From Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” to Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great,” anti-theistic works have poured into bookstores as atheists in the United States and elsewhere have taken on a more strident tone in public discourse. Unfortunately, their approach has been one characterized more by noisy rhetoric than reasoned arguments, and they have particularly failed in their attempt to present a coherent system of morality that in no way rests on a belief in the supernatural.

Of course, Christians and other theists have raised the objection that naturalistic materialism — the notion that only the physical world exists — can provide no foundation for morality. That’s not to say that naturalists cannot behave morally, but merely that they can have no real and consistent reason for behaving morally. As this has been a long-standing and widespread objection to naturalism, it would seem only reasonable to expect atheists to devote careful attention to the question of morality.

This notion that morality is a reason to believe is a common thread to many religious apologetics, as is its complement, that atheism doesn’t provide a moral rationale. In part, I agree: the simple statement that the world exists does not state how we should act within it, and the fact that the universe is godless does not dictate standards of human behavior. But then, neither would the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient god.

My atheism is complete. When I am afraid, I do not cry out to the Lord for protection; I don’t even feel the beginnings of a stirring to consider doing so. When I am in despair, I don’t find solace in the rituals of the church or in the belief that there is a Great Being who is concerned for me. When life goes well for me (and there’s no denying that my life has been good so far), I do not feel grateful to Zeus, and I don’t see any point to burning a hecatomb to him, and I don’t even dedicate a drop of wine to the lares and penates. I feel that transcendant sense of awe ascribed to religious feeling regularly, but no god inspires it — it’s more likely to be triggered by a molecule, some music, a book, or an organism of one phylum or another.

Yet, somehow, without even a hint of god-belief, not the slightest dread of hell, nor the least bow of respect to any god, I somehow ended up a moral person in the most conventional sense — I don’t steal or cheat, I do not desire to murder, I honor my parents, I’m not particularly covetous, I have been happily faithful to my one and only wife for 27 years, I don’t smoke or do drugs at all, I only drink in moderation, and aside from a few weird obsessions, have been pretty much a boring Ward Cleaver all of my life. Except for the silly handful at the beginning, I am following most of the Ten Commandments…and seem to be doing so more faithfully than some of the more sanctimonious Christians I’ve met.

I don’t say this with any intent to brag — I don’t see myself as a better person than a divorced pot-smoking gay man with a lust for Porsches (which also does not imply a lack of morality), for instance, and suspect that my casual acceptance of simple bourgeois values makes me a little less interesting as an individual — but only to point out that I’m pretty much a perfect match to the image of the Christian paragon of family values … except for the god-worshipping, sabbath-keeping, tithing-to-the-church part. There is no god in my life, yet here I stand, a testimonial to the falsehood of any claim that godlessness leads to amorality.

I also have three children of whom I am proud, who were brought up in the complete absence of church or even private expressions of faith … and they are smart, decent, industrious people with moral goals and a strong commitment to progressive ideals of equality and fairness.

Explain that, pious Christians.

I do have a real and consistent reason for behaving morally, it’s just one that doesn’t require a supernatural foundation. I was raised in a happy family, one that reinforced that conventionally ‘good’ behavior, and that rewarded appropriate social behavior. I lived with good role models who offered love without conditions, who taught by example rather than with fear or threats. I live now in a family and with a community of friends who do not demand obeisance to superstition in order to give respect. I am rewarded materially and emotionally for moral behavior.

That’s the recipe for building an environment that fosters moral behavior. It doesn’t involve gods or even belief in gods. It is completely independent of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, or atheism. It works — religion is irrelevant to morality. The surest way to create moral individuals is to build a stable society where desirable behaviors are rewarded, and the hoop-jumping frivolities of religion are not a requirement to accomplish that. Atheism is not a requirement, either; the only virtue of atheism is that it can free people of dogma and tradition and allow them to work towards a better society without the pointless spectacle and distraction of one kind of irrational belief.

Comments

  1. #1 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    That’s not to say that naturalists cannot behave morally, but merely that they can have no real and consistent reason for behaving morally.

    Unlike theists who all have a consistent morality. I mean, it’s not like there are over 30,000 differect sects of Christianity alone, or anything.

    Okay, I’ve decided that it is incumbent upon the next assmunch who tries to trot out this dead horse to demonstrate that there are any consistent moral standards among theists (besides bigotry, of course. They’re mostly all good at that.)

  2. #2 Blake Stacey
    September 24, 2007

    From Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” to Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great,”

    To steal a Dorothy Parker quip, that’s like saying, “The full gamut from A to B.” It’s not even chronologically correct: what about Harris and Dennett?

    Sigh. In their arrogance, in their self-satisfied ignorance, these pundits ignore so much worthy writing. Poor Victor Stenger is perennially forgotten, perhaps because he bothered to write about physics; Carl Sagan’s book from beyond the grave, which many people might find “friendlier” than Hitchens, has been completely overlooked. I can only shudder to imagine the reception which John Allen Paulos’ Irreligion will receive, come wintertime.

  3. #3 AndrÚs
    September 24, 2007

    If I may say again what I said in the other post:

    If founding your actions on fear of a punishment or hope of a reward is morality, then trained dogs are moral beings.

  4. #4 Dylan Llyr
    September 24, 2007

    Brilliant post. The morality “argument” is so vacuous, and I despair at its prominence in these “debates”.

    I’d go even further, PZ. You are more moral than the religious people who lead similar bourgeois lifestyles. So am I. I can think of three main reasons which I like to think apply to me, and probably to you:

    1) The obvious one, it’s good to be moral because a society where people are generally moral is a nicer one to live in. Basically “do unto others…”. Everybody benefits if people try to be nice (note that none of these reasons are even necessarily altruistic).
    2) It’s good to be known as a nice moral person. That brings its own benefits (though were everybody equally moral and nice this would become irrelevant).
    3) It kind of feels good to be a nice person. Well it does, doesn’t it?

    I’m sure there are a few more. Though I would feel that the first one alone goes a long way to explain how morality develops in any functioning and halfway civilised society.

    However, for a Christian or anyone who believes in a heavenly tyrant, the sole reason to be moral is to appease him upstairs. Without their god, they’d become murderous raping thieving psychopaths. That’s hardly a kind of morality worthy of the word.

    Of course what they don’t realise is that (hopefully!) their reasons for being moral are precisely the same as ours. Only they don’t realise it, and for some reason they wish to degrade their own sense of morality.

  5. #5 MartinC
    September 24, 2007

    Since morality in a religious sense is taken to be how ‘God’ tells us to behave then so long as we are sure we know the actual desires of God then there is no problem, it is all very straightforward.
    Unfortunately, since there are as many claims of what ‘God’ said or didn’t say as there are religious groups, if we want to behave moral according to God we are left with the sole option of arbitrarily choosing one set of supposed Godly orders, written by one tribe of bronze age zealots, over the rest written or modified by others.
    Is this really supposed to be more moral than using accumulated human knowledge to tell us the best way to behave amongst our fellow people?

    Having said all that I guess this morality question could be described as ‘scientific’ since it makes a prediction that can be falsified. In a non-religious setting one could expect the levels of murder, decadence and debauchery to be so much higher than a religious one.
    How about a comparison of Sweden (85% non-believers) with the US bible belt ?

  6. #6 ZacharySmith
    September 24, 2007

    I think that the motivation to be moral can be briefly summed up as, “What goes around, comes around.”

    If you piss people off by stealing their property, physically or mentally abusing them, stabbing them in the back (in the metaphorical sense), trying to sleep with their wives or husbands, etc., then yeah, someone will give you your come-uppance sooner or later, not to mention being branded with the stigma a social pariah.

    All this god crap is just superfluous window dressing.

    In fact, religion does more harm than good in that gives people an excuse, a cloak of supposed justifiability, to act on their petty prejudices and xenophobias.

  7. #7 The Disgruntled Chemist
    September 24, 2007

    Christian morality IS obedience.

    You might say it’s the morality of a trained monkey. The creationists aren’t going to like that.

  8. #8 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    Anybody know where in the bible it says to hug and console your child after they skin their knee?

    Without such a commandment, I cannot possibly imagine why an Xian parent would do that.

  9. #9 Rey Fox
    September 24, 2007

    “As this has been a long-standing and widespread objection to naturalism, it would seem only reasonable to expect atheists to devote careful attention to the question of morality.”

    *sigh* “Be excellent to each other. Party on, dudes.” There, can we move on now?

    I’m a pretty boring individual, but nothing makes me want to have a Wild Teen Party like some stuffy Yale freshman telling me I don’t have a consistant moral base. What was it that Emerson said about a foolish consistancy?

    “Any moral system that includes burning goat flesh for the olfactory pleasure of the magic sky-man is in no position to criticize the lack of foundation or arbitrariness of any other moral systems.”

    No no, Humbert. See, the sky-man doesn’t need us to sacrifice animals anymore, because he sent his son* to be sacrificed in their stead. So your denigrating of their position to criticize is totally unfounded.

    * Or himself

  10. #10 Sastra
    September 24, 2007

    Theists who argue that morality isn’t “possible” in a Godless universe seem to use different arguments, and shift between them as if they were the same argument:

    1.) “Being good” means obeying a parent. No parent, the kids are equal and anything goes. If the universe has no “parent,” then there is no absolute, universal authority for what right and wrong is.
    2.) Right and wrong have to do with punishment and reward. If good is not rewarded and bad is not punished, then nothing is ever right or wrong.
    3.) Like comes from like. If we came from an evolutionary process which wasn’t moral, and has no inbuilt sense of good and evil, then a sense of good and evil couldn’t come out of it.
    4.) Morality, love, and goodness are not physical things you can pick up and measure: that means they’re spiritual. If you don’t believe in “spiritual” things, then your world view will not make any sense of abstractions, emotions, or principles, and you have no right to use them as if they did.

    As others have pointed out, those first two are a child’s-eye view of morality. But those last two are probably influential in more hidden ways, in that the assumptions are harder to articulate. I suspect they influence a lot of the more “sophisticated” moral critiques coming from moderates who don’t see right and wrong as a matter of obedience in an authority hierarchy, but do see them as a matter of the universe following an imbedded hierarchy of meaning, with God the moral meaning at the center.

  11. #11 Sastra
    September 24, 2007

    heddle wrote:

    But the idea is simple enough: that God has given all men, believers and atheists, a moral compass. The basis for the morality of the atheist, just like for the Christian, is God.

    Ok, fair enough. Now here’s a question:

    If it happens to be the case that God does not exist — and never has existed — and the source of the basic, common, human “moral compass” is a combination of genes, environment, neurology, and psychology — then do atheists and Christians STILL have the same basis for morality? Do they have different bases? Or does neither one now have any basis for their morality?

  12. #12 AL
    September 24, 2007

    Vox Day,

    If Euthyphro is a joke, then refute it. No apologist has ever refuted Euthyphro without conceding one of the two lemmata. Moreover, the classic is-ought problem in philosophy of ethics applies full well to every and all religions, so no religion can claim “absolute” or “objective” morality without first solving the problem. (Solving it will make you a famous philosopher, as well).

  13. #13 Chris
    September 24, 2007

    Sastra,

    I think it’s important to add to your list the following “argument”:

    5) It’s not actually morality unless it’s exactly the same for everyone. There has to be an absolutely, totally infallible and universal moral code, otherwise there is NO MORAL CODE AT ALL.

    The fallaciousness of this is obvious. It’s a main strand of what Vox Day is attempting to argue upthread.

  14. #14 AL
    September 24, 2007

    Nathaniel,

    You are absolutely right. However, when some of us deny that religion provides a moral foundation, it’s precisely because declarative appeals to authority are not seen as “moral foundations.” Other tricks theists use such as defining goodness to be their religion or god himself are also arbitrarily declarative (not to mention a reification fallacy), and so are still not “foundations.”

  15. #15 Josh
    September 24, 2007

    Did anyone else get a snicker out of the fact he is a member of Silliman (Silly man) college?

    OK, I’m all in favor of pissing on the Bulldogs whenever possible, but we should really leave Benjamin Silliman alone. He did a great deal to advance the development of geology, and mineralogy in particular as a rigorous pursuit in the New World. He was one of the good guys. In fact, it annoys me a bit that this toolbox of a student is in Silliman.

  16. #16 Moopheus
    September 24, 2007

    “naturalistic materialism — the notion that only the physical world exists”

    The physical world exists? Shit.

  17. #17 Moopheus
    September 24, 2007

    A not-very thorough search of mythological literature would demonstrate that frequently supernatural beings do not behave morally. Morality is just to keep the peons (us humans) in line.

  18. #18 heddle
    September 24, 2007

    Sastra,

    If it happens to be the case that God does not exist — and never has existed — and the source of the basic, common, human “moral compass” is a combination of genes, environment, neurology, and psychology — then do atheists and Christians STILL have the same basis for morality?

    Yes. The question is only whether it is the theists or the atheists who are misguided concerning their common source of morality. If God doesn’t exist, that pretty much settles the question.

  19. #19 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    I’m tired of these godtards. They’re seriously wearing me out with their seemingly inexhaustible supply of stupidity.

    It seems to me that all of these arguments (both for and against) are mere hand-waving unless one can provide evidence that atheists are significantly less (or more) moral than theists.

    If the evidence for a difference isn’t there, then all of this is nothing but intellectual masturbation. And if I remember my Catholic upbringing correctly, masturbation is a sin (at least, that’s what my Grade 7 science teacher said. FYI, it’s not a good idea to pit God against a twelve-year-old’s prurient urges. God’ll lose out nine times out of ten.)

  20. #20 raven
    September 24, 2007

    The problem with claiming religion promotes morality is that empirically it seems to be the opposite. The data doesn’t support the assertion.

    Obvious case in point. The present theocratic administration is the most corrupt and amoral we have had in living memory. The war in Iraq based on lies that has killed 3,700 US soldiers and tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Gonzales and his no right on habeas corpus in the constitution when it is there in black and white. Torture has been institutionalized. It goes on and on.

    In fact, the data would say that if anything, Xians and Xianity are less moral than atheists. The fundies in particular are notorious for lying and occasionally murdering people. Just look at their constant lying to attempt to shove their square peg of bronze age mythology into the round hole of objective reality. They are also very good at hating.

    Got to frame the argument correctly. Is it possible to be a Xian without being a lying, murdering, hating, greed obsessed, antiscience, ignorant, wingnut? Hmmm, probably it is, but it is rarer than it should be.

  21. #21 Soldierwhy
    September 24, 2007

    Of course religion gives you a moral standard.

    Just not a very good one…

  22. #22 Louis
    September 24, 2007

    Ecpyrosis,

    You’ve hit one nail very firmly on the head. I have had many “exciting” debates and discussions with moral absolutists almost all of whom are totally ignorant that moral philosophy even exists (even those who are aware of its existance deny its validity utterly). One fool of recent discussion has even provided me with the wondeful claim that not only do morals exist in the ether as objects (as does love etc) but that these…shall we call them Platonic…entities are in principle undetectable and yet influence the physical universe. Better than that he claims that because some people think they exist, they exist and that I mean for asking for evidence.

    It’s so frustrating it makes you want to scream!

    Oh well.

    Louis

  23. #23 Ichthyic
    September 24, 2007

    meh, SOS.

    what I’m wondering is why the rantings of a Yale FRESHMAN merit discussion of any type?

    just a babe in the woods.

    so many exponentially more well know personages have uttered the same drivel over hundreds of years.

    of course, that question is best directed at the Yale media that decided to publish this claptrap.

    so, to Yale Daily News:

    Why?

  24. #24 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    Killing isn’t intrinsicly immoral in the Christian ethical system, by the way, so your example is irrelevant.

    Who is this Vox Day person, and why does she think she knows what is or isn’t part of Christian morality?

  25. #25 Blake Stacey
    September 24, 2007

    Brownian:

    “Vox Day” is the pseudonym of someone who has argued that slaughtering toddlers is defensible if Jesus says so.

  26. #26 Kseniya
    September 24, 2007

    Brownian: Vox is a walking, talking tub of hubris. The pseudonym alone says it all. But there’s good in everyone. I’d never call him boring.

    The hair-splitting is annoying, though. It’s numbingly obvious that when Christian morality is the topic, any reference to a prohibition against killing is understood to be a prohibition against unjustifiable killing and murder. Both Scott (#48) and Stwriley (#92) point out the near-universiality of that prohibition AND the context-dependent exemptions to that prohibition that Christian morality (among others) clearly utilizes, but Vox dodges the issue entirely by tacitly invoking the translation gap between the commonly-known version ot the Commandment and what is widely considered to be its intent. Why?

  27. #27 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    I reiterate: Why does this Vox Day think she knows what is and isn’t part of Christian morality?

  28. #28 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    September 24, 2007

    they have particularly failed in their attempt to present a coherent system of morality

    Methinks someone has confused observed morals with proposed ethical systems.

    There is plenty of both not associated with religious dogma.

    heddle

    The basis for the morality of the atheist, just like for the Christian, is God.

    Let me guess: because your religious text says so.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, we see that a basis for morality can be found in animal behavior.

  29. #29 Ichthyic
    September 24, 2007

    I always thought the reason that a supposed god would not want his supposed creations to eat from a supposed tree of knowledge would be simply because such god would no longer be necessary.

    if one has obtained an independent knowledge of good and evil, there is no longer a need for even postulating that any god is necessary in order to inform us as to what is good and bad.

    so, by the judeo/xian tradition, the eating of the fruit from the tree of knowledge defacto removed the very need for god being postulated by yon Yale frosh (or the hack known as heddle in this thread).

    oops.

  30. #30 KevinBBG
    September 24, 2007

    It’s mostly Christians that I find who have no moral center, this is why we do not have universal health care in this country while every other industrialized nation does. We are cursed with a Christian population who does not believe in helping those less fortunate but helping those with lots of money. If people die along the way, well, they were just weak and foolish anyway or they would have survived.

  31. #31 Eamon Knight
    September 24, 2007

    Twits like this, and the previous “naive atheists” one, prompt me to ask: are they completely unaware that there is a voluminous literature with a long history on the subjects of freewill vs. determinism, and moral philosophy? And that the debates in those fields frequently do not divide along religious/atheist lines?

  32. #32 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    But there’s no more point in discussing theology with an atheist than logic with a dog since he doesn’t have the capacity to believe it exists in the first place.

    They are, however, statistically overrepresented in prisons compared to the general population

    Ah, so Vox Day is one of those that believe rhetorical assertions trump evidence-based reasoning, huh? And a Christian apologist, too?

    [sarcasm]It’s not like we’ve never seen those two traits paired before.[/sarcasm]

    Boring. Come back when you’ve got some steak behind your sizzle.

  33. #33 Rey Fox
    September 24, 2007

    “But there’s no more point in discussing theology with an atheist than logic with a dog since he doesn’t have the capacity to believe it exists in the first place.”

    I don’t doubt that theology exists. Or are you talking about gods and angels and hobgoblins and such? We have the capacity for delusion, we just see it as a virtue not to use it.

    “while self-identifying High Church atheists are very law-abiding, Low Church atheists who subscribe to no religion are highly criminal. ”

    I wasn’t aware I belonged to any church. Anyone here go to High Church? Or Low Church? Anyone even heard of those terms until today?

  34. #34 Ben
    September 24, 2007

    I’m a Lar; I want my wine, and I’m fucking pissed off.

  35. #35 Bad
    September 24, 2007

    “Gibberish.”

    Well, that is the downside of basically being daily entertainment for a bunch of cranks instead of being a famous philosopher. On the upside, most famous philosophers don’t drive incredible sportscars from which they fervently believe they are helping invisible angels wage war with invisible demons.

    “You’re talking in riddles, of course, because you have no clear, logical argument to make, and are hoping you can pass off obscurantism as wisdom.”

    That’s it in a nutshell. Well read enough to ramble on about Socrates for a plethora of paragraphs, but muddled enough to forget to actually make a coherent argument.

  36. #36 David Marjanovi?
    September 24, 2007

    Quoth Vox Day:

    Cultural inertia.

    Interesting idea. Is it testable?

    The relevant point is not that an individual atheist can’t be moral – he certainly can – but that atheism precludes any moral standard with universal claims. Dennett admits as much, even Harris only argues that such standards “could” be invented, not that they have.

    If so, Dennett and Harris should read comment 19. To me, it’s pretty obvious that comment 19 is right. Comment 102 repeats part of it in a perhaps even more easily accessible way, and so does comment 112 with another part that it greatly expands.

    Christian morality IS obedience.

    That means that you consider very few Christian denominations “Christian”, doesn’t it?

    ——————-

    I doubt that Divine Command theorists exist. I think they are people who haven’t thought much about why it is that they do good.

    ——————-

    However, the moment of realizing that you, all by yourself, really are a decent and moral person, that you don’t need some supernatural threat to do what’s right, is extremely pleasurable, empowering, heady–and a bit scary. It’s the intellectual equivalent of your first orgasm.

    As you can guess from the above, I’ve never had such an experience.

    ——————–

    (including Christianity, or have you forgotten that stoning someone to death would qualify as “killing?”)

    Don’t forget that “thou shalt not kill” is a mistranslation. “Thou shalt not murder” is much, much more accurate.

    ——————-

    And here’s the self-proclaimed Voice of God again:

    Why haven’t atheists managed to crumble society?

    There’s not enough of them. More importantly, not enough in positions of power. They are, however, statistically overrepresented in prisons compared to the general population;

    Ah? Numbers, please.

    (It would of course be helpful to get worldwide as opposed to just US numbers, but the former will be much more difficult to get.)

  37. #37 David Marjanovi?
    September 24, 2007

    Quoth Vox Day:

    Cultural inertia.

    Interesting idea. Is it testable?

    The relevant point is not that an individual atheist can’t be moral – he certainly can – but that atheism precludes any moral standard with universal claims. Dennett admits as much, even Harris only argues that such standards “could” be invented, not that they have.

    If so, Dennett and Harris should read comment 19. To me, it’s pretty obvious that comment 19 is right. Comment 102 repeats part of it in a perhaps even more easily accessible way, and so does comment 112 with another part that it greatly expands.

    Christian morality IS obedience.

    That means that you consider very few Christian denominations “Christian”, doesn’t it?

    ——————-

    I doubt that Divine Command theorists exist. I think they are people who haven’t thought much about why it is that they do good.

    ——————-

    However, the moment of realizing that you, all by yourself, really are a decent and moral person, that you don’t need some supernatural threat to do what’s right, is extremely pleasurable, empowering, heady–and a bit scary. It’s the intellectual equivalent of your first orgasm.

    As you can guess from the above, I’ve never had such an experience.

    ——————–

    (including Christianity, or have you forgotten that stoning someone to death would qualify as “killing?”)

    Don’t forget that “thou shalt not kill” is a mistranslation. “Thou shalt not murder” is much, much more accurate.

    ——————-

    And here’s the self-proclaimed Voice of God again:

    Why haven’t atheists managed to crumble society?

    There’s not enough of them. More importantly, not enough in positions of power. They are, however, statistically overrepresented in prisons compared to the general population;

    Ah? Numbers, please.

    (It would of course be helpful to get worldwide as opposed to just US numbers, but the former will be much more difficult to get.)

  38. #38 Ichthyic
    September 24, 2007

    I wasn’t aware I belonged to any church. Anyone here go to High Church? Or Low Church? Anyone even heard of those terms until today?

    it’s a senseless adaptation of a senseless catholic tradition (High Mass vs. Low Mass).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_(liturgy)

    key word there being senseless.

    just like vox, n’est-ce pas?

  39. #39 Ken Cope
    September 24, 2007

    Brownian to VD:
    Boring. Come back when you’ve got some steak behind your sizzle.

    That’s not sizzle. That’s the stench of slaughtered infants offered up to please the object of VD’s worship. VD wants to be considered moral, and so he is: in the “not” mode. He worships what would be a monster, which, fortunately enough, doesn’t exist. If it did, it would be a moral act to oppose it.

  40. #40 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    20 that he’s never been in a closed and locked room with a girl.

    I wouldn’t make that bet if I were you, Chi. Don’t forget, women are chattel and the property of their husbands or fathers under most Christian theologies. Locking the door is exactly what one does when one is afraid one’s property may escape or be stolen.

  41. #41 David Marjanovi?
    September 24, 2007

    It’s mostly Christians that I find who have no moral center, this is why we do not have universal health care in this country while every other industrialized nation does.

    To be fair, I can’t blame Christianity for this. At most, I could blame that peculiar kind of American Christianity, you know, the one without “love thy neighbor” and without John 3:16.

  42. #42 David Marjanovi?
    September 24, 2007

    It’s mostly Christians that I find who have no moral center, this is why we do not have universal health care in this country while every other industrialized nation does.

    To be fair, I can’t blame Christianity for this. At most, I could blame that peculiar kind of American Christianity, you know, the one without “love thy neighbor” and without John 3:16.

  43. #43 David Marjanovi?
    September 24, 2007

    VD wants to be considered moral, and so he is: in the “not” mode.

    He has simply redefined the word “moral” as a synonym of “obedient”. Under this definition he suddenly is moral.

    It reminds me of how Hennig eliminated, as opposed to solved, the “problem” of “speciation”*: he simply took cladogenesis and called it speciation, and every internode he called a species. What causes speciation? Whatever causes a lineage to split. How does it work? In any way that is sufficient to cause a lineage to split. Easy!

    * Yes, two pairs of scare quotes.

  44. #44 David Marjanovi?
    September 24, 2007

    VD wants to be considered moral, and so he is: in the “not” mode.

    He has simply redefined the word “moral” as a synonym of “obedient”. Under this definition he suddenly is moral.

    It reminds me of how Hennig eliminated, as opposed to solved, the “problem” of “speciation”*: he simply took cladogenesis and called it speciation, and every internode he called a species. What causes speciation? Whatever causes a lineage to split. How does it work? In any way that is sufficient to cause a lineage to split. Easy!

    * Yes, two pairs of scare quotes.

  45. #45 Ichthyic
    September 24, 2007

    No, but you can do that after you’ve refuted it. If you have a criticism of my critique linked above, feel free to email me.

    how can one refute nonsense? uh, hey, idiot: the ball was in YOUR court to begin with, and instead of refuting the logic, you simply called it a “joke” and moved on.

    just like the other idiotic apologists, rather than debate points you don’t understand, you prefer to handwaive them away.

    so, waive bye-bye, little boy, and go suck on your blanky.

  46. #46 Ichthyic
    September 24, 2007

    The fact that it’s beyond you doesn’t make it gibberish.

    no, the fact that it’s gibberish makes it gibberish.

    gibberish is beyond everyone but the purveyor of the gibberish.

    (hint: that’s YOU)

  47. #47 Ichthyic
    September 24, 2007

    hey vox…

    if a sense of good and evil is provided for us by your religion, and wouldn’t exist without it, what was the function of the tree of knowledge in your judeo/xian mythology?

  48. #48 Jason
    September 24, 2007

    vox day,

    Of course, if you reject all of it as nonsense, there’s no need to worry about evil in the first place. It’s all just rearranging atoms anyhow. There’s no logical reason to asssign emotive value to any particular state of material assemblages that are inherently unstable.

    You seem to have a very poor understanding of a naturalistic account of morality. Morals are preferences, or beliefs derived from those preferences. I think torturing children is wrong because it offends my sense of compassion and decency, because I find it cruel and inhumane, not because I “assign emotive value” to anything (I’m not sure what “assign emotive value” is even supposed to mean).

    But if morality, on your account, is about “assigning emotive value,” why do you assign emotive value to what God commands (or, rather, what you believe he commands)? You may choose to do that, but why make that choice rather than a different choice? Why is your choice the moral choice, and not some other choice?

  49. #49 Bad
    September 24, 2007

    Sorry heddle, but that’s a no go: you’ve just conflated the two horns of the dilemma into one vague mess! Specifically, this makes no sense: “God is truthful, therefore lying is immoral.” Uh… how does that follow? How does any of that establish why any of this is moral?

    And how do you know that God is truthful in any case? How can you possibly know the character of a being beyond your understanding? It could ALWAYS be tricking you, because you are nothing to it.

    And Christians, in fact, do sort of believe that God changes around morality. It can’t be moral to stone your unruly children one day and immoral overkill the next, after all. But that seems like exactly what happened.

  50. #50 Steve_C
    September 24, 2007

    More evidence from Heddle that religion is nonsense.

  51. #51 Bad
    September 24, 2007

    heddle:

    “No, I’m telling you that what is defined as right and moral for Christians is that which reflects God’s character.”

    Then you aren’t even getting the point of the dilemma in the first place. I can “define” that what is right is whatever answer a coin flip gives me when I ask it a question. That, and your definition do not answer the question posed, which is WHY is that moral.

    “That is: being truthful is moral (because God is truthful)”

    You’ve just skipped over the key step. Why is God being truthful a reason for being truthful to be moral? (and course, you just assuming that God is truthful makes the whole exercise even more empty, but as you said, let’s let that go for now)

    “A simple explanation from within the presuppositions of Christianity for this so-called dilemma–but no we can’t have that!”

    You evidently define “explanation” in a way different that I do, which is roughly synonymous with “no explanation at all, I just assert I’m right, say one thing follows another when it is a complete Non sequitur, and you aren’t supposed to notice.”

    “As for what seems to be biblically moral one day and not the next: not true, but I don’t feel like arguing it here. You are making a mistake Christians often make, which is to assume, incorrectly, that situational ethics are antithetical to absolute morality.”

    Tell that to the poor kid who got stoned one hour before the magical deadline in which it became wrong to stone him.

  52. #52 Sastra
    September 24, 2007

    Sastra (#47):

    If it happens to be the case that God does not exist — and never has existed — and the source of the basic, common, human “moral compass” is a combination of genes, environment, neurology, and psychology — then do atheists and Christians STILL have the same basis for morality? Do they have different bases? Or does neither one now have any basis for their morality?

    Heddle (#65):

    Yes (the first). The question is only whether it is the theists or the atheists who are misguided concerning their common source of morality. If God doesn’t exist, that pretty much settles the question.

    Thanks for the reply (and sorry this is so far back). I take it then that

    1.)You don’t really agree with the Yale freshman’s arguments on atheism and morality.
    2.)You believe that the basis for moral behavior can be discerned through understanding of nature, human relationships, and the nature of human relationships (which may, or may not, be grounded in God — though you believe it is).
    3.)You would not argue from the existence of morality, towards the existence of God (you believe there are better arguments).

    I notice that your response to the Euthyphro Dilemma seems to bear this out. By saying that morality is a “reflection of God’s character,” the existence of God becomes less important than the character of God. In other words, one could add in another “o” and make “God” into “Good,” and the argument works the same.

    Or do I misunderstand you?

  53. #53 noema
    September 24, 2007

    I thought I’d point out that Vox Day apparently disagrees with the Yalie about the capacity of religion to provide a “foundation” for morality. Quoth the original author:

    “The problem with all of these nonreligious explanations of morality is that while they may tell us where our sense of morality came from (e.g., our genes, psychological principles, innate human solidarity), they do not tell us why we truly ought to be moral — why we should give any heed to our sense of morality at all.

    The idea that the author of the original article is apparently after is that religion can somehow afford a reason why we ought to behave morally. This is, moreover, something that naturalistic explanations of morality are not supposed to afford: they just tell us where our moral compass comes from, not why we follow it. Instead, according to the moral naturalist (as the Yalie understands him), the ethical principles we adhere to are arbitrary: they’re just the principles we (by our nature) can’t help but favor. Fundamentally, according to the critique of moral naturalism, we don’t have a *good reason* to behave morally. Our morals are arbitrary.

    Several commenters have pointed out that religion doesn’t seem to be in any better position to say, authoritatively, why ‘good’ actions are good and ‘bad’ ones bad. Here, the Euthyphro fallacy seems relevant. If a belief in theism is the critical turn, then it must be God who determines which actions are good and which bad, and who concurrently gives us the reason for acting good as opposed to acting badly. But [Enter Socrates] how does God do that? Is an action good because God says so? Or does God say so because it is good?

    Notice something about the above analogue to the Euthyphro dilemma. Both the original dilemma and the analogue assume that the goal of our inquiry is one way another to come up with a reason, a justification for saying that something is pious. What piety is, in the original dialogue, cannot be arbitrary: in particular, it cannot be arbitrary because Euthyphro (the character) claims to know something about it. The dialogue demonstrates that Euthyphro doesn’t know the first thing about piety, because he can’t come up with a good reason for saying why one thing is pious and another isn’t. And merely alluding to the Gods’ (or a God’s) will doesn’t do the trick– because it doesn’t provide a justification for the distinction between piety and impiety, but merely shifts the burden of justification from Euthyphro to the Gods. Euthyphro is a fraud.

    Now consider Vox Day’s critique of the Euthyphro dilemma. Vox claims the dilemma does not apply to Christian morality because Christian morality is concerned only with obedience to God’s will. “Obedience,” unlike “piety,” is not subject to the ambiguity that gets Euthyphro in trouble, so the dilemma is resolved. But the difference between the morally good action (doing what God commands) and the morally bad action (acting against God’s command) is– admittedly–arbitrary. The good action is whatever God tells you to do. But this just means that the Vox Day-ian Christian has given up the game that Euthyphro (and our Yalie) was trying to play: he has given up the game of trying to give a reasoned justification for moral behavior. We are told that we ought to do certain things because God tells us to, but we are not supposed to be concerned with why God tells us to do them (i.e. what reasons there are that support the action’s being good/moral).

    But this just puts the theist in exactly the same boat that the naturalist is supposed to be in. According to the naturalist, certain actions are moral because its in our genes to be disposed toward them. The moral action is the action our genes command. And this is arbitrary: there is ultimately no reason why we ought to do one thing rather than another– we just act on the imperatives our genes saddle us with. Like wise, according to Vox Day, the moral action is the action that God commands. But this– as Vox himself admits– likewise makes morality arbitrary. If I have understood the intentions of the original article correctly, this puts Vox at odds with the Yalie’s thesis, because Vox apparently does not believe that morality can be given a rational foundation.

    (It should be noted that in the above I discuss “naturalism” as the Yalie seems to understand it– so to the extent that I make reference to “naturalism” above I’m referencing a straw position, but this actually aids my point)

  54. #54 Sastra
    September 24, 2007

    Here’s the question that exposes the dilemma, in clear English: Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?

    heddle(#152)

    The former is the correct answer, because what is moral is a reflection of God’s character.

    Vox (#162)

    It is moral because it is commanded by God. God’s game, God’s rules.

    Commenters who are lumping heddle and Vox together on this should note that they appear to have given opposite responses to the question.

  55. #55 Ichthyic
    September 24, 2007

    I do so wish I could effectively communicate just how much amuses me to be called an “idiot” by the likes of you.

    but you should have finished your thought there:

    “However, since I am unable to communicate even the simplest of ideas myself, except in the form of gibberish, I am unable to do so.”

    maybe you could find a link that expresses your amusement?

    Idiot.

  56. #56 Brownian
    September 24, 2007

    From the desk of Vox Day:

    I do so wish I could effectively communicate just how much amuses me to be called an “idiot” by the likes of you.

    Your inability hasn’t stopped you before. Whatsa matter? Run out of apologetics to misrepresent?

    Try praying. We’re waiting with bated breath.

  57. #57 Michael
    September 25, 2007

    I want to point anyone who’s made it this far in the comments, to go back and click the link in the very first post. This goes for heddle and our lovely other apologist who in his hubris failed to recogonize that his chosen handle also reads as V.D.

    If you want an perfectly natural, scientific, testable, explanation for our moral evolution: Read Moral Minds.

    Otherwise this game of “I dictate what god thinks about morals” is terribly silly. Either present evidence for your founding assumptions or stay silent. Everything else will be ridiculed.

  58. #58 windy
    September 25, 2007

    Kseniya:

    I haven’t seen too many infants or young toddlers display altruism, empathy, or much of anything beyond a drive have their immediate selfish needs met.

    Babies do display spontaneous helping behaviour. I don’t think 18-mo.-olds have yet been conditioned to help around the house much, so at least some of it may be innate.

  59. #59 heddle
    September 25, 2007

    Michael:

    Either present evidence for your founding assumptions or stay silent. Everything else will be ridiculed.

    Well, I responded because Jason posed a “dilemma,” and I thought he honestly wanted to know how Christians resolve the dilemma. As for the threat of ridicule–oh gosh, that’s so scary! I mean, just look at Ken Cope’s ridicule. Commenting on the fact that Sastra pointed out that I and V.D. had given opposite resolutions to the dilemma (V.D. is wrong, my response is mainstream hish school level theology 101 across all denominations) Ken’s response was basically:

    1) Oh, so they give different answers to a question with only two possible answers?

    2) [Insert nearly impenetrable pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook,] and conclude with

    3) The difference is a distinction without a difference.

    You have to appreciate a post-modern analysis that concludes that one reply of A and another reply of not-A are a distinction without a difference. I mean, you can’t pay for that kind of ridicule. But you can get it here, for free, on a site where I was learned on another thread had the “most consistently intelligent commentary of any blog.” Indeed.

  60. #60 Bronze Dog
    September 25, 2007

    There are a lot of people who need to be told the long-obvious and have it explained in detail.

    That the Earth is round and mobile is one of them. That the typical deities worshipped by fundies are tyrannical, sadistic monsters is another.

  61. #61 hedd
    September 25, 2007

    Pablo, that just can’t be right..

    Let’s see…1 Samuel…hmm…that’s in the Old Testament, right?…Oh never mind I’ll just use the table of contents since I don’t have those little tab thingys…page 492..chapter 15…

    OMG you’re right! I never knew that was in the bible! I don’t know what to say! Knock me over with a feather!

    Once again, where can you get such stunning intellectual revelation except on the site with the “most consistently intelligent commentary of any blog?”

  62. #62 Brownian
    September 25, 2007

    OMG you’re right! I never knew that was in the bible! I don’t know what to say! Knock me over with a feather!

    Simple. Say you were wrong for ridiculing us for calling your god a monster, since you admit the evidence is there (right in the True Word of God?, no less) and thus the description is apt.

    C’mon, it’s not hard. You’re already well-versed in apologetics, now try an apology.

    I guarantee your conscience will feel that much lighter for it.

  63. #63 Shadowdancer
    September 25, 2007

    I remember a newly converted Muslim pointing out that at one point, Jewish women wore headscarves.

    Before I replied, I did a little research on how the Jews got rid of that – through a long process of determining that a woman covering one’s hair was like getting dressed, as men of the ancient times found long hair erotic, apparently, was not a law handed down by heaven, but a law brought about by custom and culture. It progressed to Jewish women wearing wigs (and having very very short hair because it was hot), where for a while there was a debate that a wig was not (the woman’s) real hair, thus satisfied the tradition that a woman’s hair be covered and seen only by family, and when the fashion changed again and Jewish women (and the men, finally) discarded headcovering because society had changed to the point that the uncovered hair of a woman was no longer considered erotic or something best privately enjoyed only by her husband.

    I’m still waiting for the “Coz the Bible says so” people to bring back stoning to death. Oh wait, they can’t… they don’t agree with the death penalty, despite the fact that God has struck down many a person to death…

  64. #64 Brownian
    September 25, 2007

    Damn Gelf, but that shit be tight!

  65. #65 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    Vox Day, comment 142, emphasis mine:

    Since you’re here, care to give us your solution to the problem of evil? If God created the world, and God is good, and God is omnipotent, why is there evil?

    My solution is that God is not omnipotent in this world. Certainly Paul and Jesus both referred to an evil ruler of the world; Jesus did not dispute Satan’s right to offer him all the kingdoms of the world when tempted. That’s why evangelicals refer to the world as “occupied territory” and explains why Jesus told his followers that they were “in the world but not of it” and CS Lewis wrote about a “Silent Planet”.

    Can I believe my eyes?

    You’re a Manichaean: you obviously maintain there are two gods, one good, one evil. I don’t think it matters much whether the good one happens to be triune.

    Not some “free will” argument; not some argument from ineffability; no, God’s own voice tells us “God is not omnipotent in this world”.

    I’m not accusing you of being a heretic or apostate or something; that’s not an accusation in my book. I accuse you of being a hypocrite. I accuse you of following the old atheist joke about theodicy: “omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent — pick two”.

    Oh, that part:

    Jesus did not dispute Satan’s right to offer him all the kingdoms of the world when tempted.

    I guess the predictable apologia would be that “go away” was a fully sufficient answer.

    There is also a sound Biblical case for rejecting the concept of an omniscient God.

    Fine — but why do you then call yourself a Christian? Or have you defined “Christian” as “the correct interpretation of the Bible”, like you did with “morality” and Hennig did with “species” and “speciation”?

    —————–

    No, I’m telling you that what is defined as right and moral for Christians is that which reflects God’s character. It is a basic assumption for Christians that God is truthful. Whether or not that is factual is a secondary question. Christians presuppose it to be true and therefore on that basis I address the dilemma.

    So you are telling us the whole thing is built on air?

    That is: being truthful is moral (because God is truthful),

    This is the second horn.

    and therefore God commands it because it is moral.

    This is the first horn. See? There’s the conflation: you say the first horn follows from the second one, even though it doesn’t.

    I don’t have to know the origin of evil to recognize that it exists. Being a Christian does not require that I solve the origin of evil problem, or the QCD confinement problem, or abiogenesis, or why people seem to like Neil Diamond’s music.

    I can’t help myself. This sounds an IDiot refusing to make any claims about the Designer, even though several such claims follow directly and inevitably from ID “theory”.

    —————————-

    Obscurantism? In the extreme. The omnivanous Vox has served up a word he coined himself: omniderigent. Google it, and explore all seven (7) hits.

    Of course, we must take into account that it’s a misspelling. The correct spelling is “omnidirigent”. And that gets… drum roll… one ghit. That one, too, is on Vox Day’s Blog. That’s what we should expect from someone who misspells vox populi, too…

    ————————

    If altruism and empathy are innate, or are somehow beamed in from god, why are these traits and behaviors so conspicuously absent in the very young and in the socially isolated?

    Are they? Or are they only absent in those who fail to recognize anything as similar to themselves, which is obviously a prerequisite for empathy?

    I do think it’s innate to react when a baby cries, to take the most obvious example.

  66. #66 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    Vox Day, comment 142, emphasis mine:

    Since you’re here, care to give us your solution to the problem of evil? If God created the world, and God is good, and God is omnipotent, why is there evil?

    My solution is that God is not omnipotent in this world. Certainly Paul and Jesus both referred to an evil ruler of the world; Jesus did not dispute Satan’s right to offer him all the kingdoms of the world when tempted. That’s why evangelicals refer to the world as “occupied territory” and explains why Jesus told his followers that they were “in the world but not of it” and CS Lewis wrote about a “Silent Planet”.

    Can I believe my eyes?

    You’re a Manichaean: you obviously maintain there are two gods, one good, one evil. I don’t think it matters much whether the good one happens to be triune.

    Not some “free will” argument; not some argument from ineffability; no, God’s own voice tells us “God is not omnipotent in this world”.

    I’m not accusing you of being a heretic or apostate or something; that’s not an accusation in my book. I accuse you of being a hypocrite. I accuse you of following the old atheist joke about theodicy: “omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent — pick two”.

    Oh, that part:

    Jesus did not dispute Satan’s right to offer him all the kingdoms of the world when tempted.

    I guess the predictable apologia would be that “go away” was a fully sufficient answer.

    There is also a sound Biblical case for rejecting the concept of an omniscient God.

    Fine — but why do you then call yourself a Christian? Or have you defined “Christian” as “the correct interpretation of the Bible”, like you did with “morality” and Hennig did with “species” and “speciation”?

    —————–

    No, I’m telling you that what is defined as right and moral for Christians is that which reflects God’s character. It is a basic assumption for Christians that God is truthful. Whether or not that is factual is a secondary question. Christians presuppose it to be true and therefore on that basis I address the dilemma.

    So you are telling us the whole thing is built on air?

    That is: being truthful is moral (because God is truthful),

    This is the second horn.

    and therefore God commands it because it is moral.

    This is the first horn. See? There’s the conflation: you say the first horn follows from the second one, even though it doesn’t.

    I don’t have to know the origin of evil to recognize that it exists. Being a Christian does not require that I solve the origin of evil problem, or the QCD confinement problem, or abiogenesis, or why people seem to like Neil Diamond’s music.

    I can’t help myself. This sounds an IDiot refusing to make any claims about the Designer, even though several such claims follow directly and inevitably from ID “theory”.

    —————————-

    Obscurantism? In the extreme. The omnivanous Vox has served up a word he coined himself: omniderigent. Google it, and explore all seven (7) hits.

    Of course, we must take into account that it’s a misspelling. The correct spelling is “omnidirigent”. And that gets… drum roll… one ghit. That one, too, is on Vox Day’s Blog. That’s what we should expect from someone who misspells vox populi, too…

    ————————

    If altruism and empathy are innate, or are somehow beamed in from god, why are these traits and behaviors so conspicuously absent in the very young and in the socially isolated?

    Are they? Or are they only absent in those who fail to recognize anything as similar to themselves, which is obviously a prerequisite for empathy?

    I do think it’s innate to react when a baby cries, to take the most obvious example.

  67. #67 Gelf
    September 25, 2007

    Pablo:

    Is there something to be said about the fact that Heddle (at least claims that he) was unaware of the story in the first place?

    Heddle was being sarcastic.

  68. #68 heddle
    September 25, 2007

    David Marjanovi?

    P1: God is truthful
    P2: God’s attributes define what is moral
    P3: God commands what is moral
    C: God commands us to be truthful

    C’mon guys, it’s not that difficult. There is no conflation, strawman, true scotsman fallacy, etc. It is just the elementary answer to the alleged dilemma from a Christian perspective. You can argue that the presuppositions are false, but you cannot (or should not) argue that the conclusion does not follow.

    I can’t help myself. This sounds an IDiot refusing to make any claims about the Designer, even though several such claims follow directly and inevitably from ID “theory”.

    Does it sound like that? I wouldn’t know. What I know is this: no theologian that I have read has come up with a satisfactory explanation of the origin of evil. It’s that simple. I can recap many attempts to solve this problem, but none of them seems satisfactory to me, so I (and mostly everyone else) consider it an unsolved problem. Not the most important one–the fact that God chooses to save some people and not everyone is a much more unpleasant theological mystery.

    Gelf

    Heddle, am I to understand that your response to citations of unconscionably vile divine behavior in the Bible is to roll your eyes and sarcastically say, “never heard that one before,” totally ignore the genuinely disturbing contents of the cited passage and suggest that people shouldn’t mention things like that because they’re trite?

    No, the eye-rolling and mocking is because of the abject stupidity of any argument from ignorance. In this case the expectation that the mere reciting of such passages constitutes a proof to anyone but your fellow choir members. As if no Christian is aware of those passages, and as if no Christian theologian has ever addressed them. It is the intellectual equivalent of a YEC asking PZ: What good is half an eye? and then backslapping his fellow YECs and bragging about how easy it is to defeat the atheist evilutionists.

    I could not worship or even respect such a being if he did exist.

    Now that is a 100% true statement, and contained therein is the solution to the free-will/predestination antinomy.

    Michael,

    No I won’t because the best answer to the “problem” lies in a deep understanding of the doctrines of 1) the holiness of God and 2) Justification and 3) the total depravity of man (original sin.) So there is no point–it would just shift the argument to the alleged stupidity/immorality of those doctrines. As for one of us being wrong, V.D. who concluded that “God commands it, therefore it is moral” is wrong. And as for being made fun of–who cares?

  69. #69 Brownian
    September 25, 2007

    No, the eye-rolling and mocking is because of the abject stupidity of any argument from ignorance. In this case the expectation that the mere reciting of such passages constitutes a proof to anyone but your fellow choir members. As if no Christian is aware of those passages, and as if no Christian theologian has ever addressed them. It is the intellectual equivalent of a YEC asking PZ: What good is half an eye? and then backslapping his fellow YECs and bragging about how easy it is to defeat the atheist evilutionists.

    Sorry Heddle, but there’s a big difference. What good is half an eye? has been addressed by a multiplicity of scientists who examine and evaluate evidence to slowly reach a consensus over time.

    Theological apologetics do not even come close to reaching such a consensus, most likely because there is no evidence (other than arcane and ancient texts, of which the interpretation of is rarely agreed on by more than two historians), and thus any handwaving bullshit based on some half-assed reasoning is as good as any other.

    In short, you theogians wish, in your wildest of dreams, that your conclusions would even scratch the surface of rigour that forms the basis of science.

    It is the intellectual equivalent….

    You’ve got to be fucking joking.

  70. #70 Kseniya
    September 25, 2007

    the fact that God chooses to save some people and not everyone is a much more unpleasant theological mystery.

    I’m sure it is, for a given value of “fact”.

  71. #71 Brownian
    September 25, 2007

    As for one of us being wrong, V.D. who concluded that “God commands it, therefore it is moral” is wrong.

    What? Two apologists, using nothing but their own blinding intellect (and, of course, cutesy nods to previous apologetics written by previous theologians using nothing but their own blinding intellect–and what else could they use, since no evidence exists?) fundamentally disagree?

    Say it ain’t fucking so. My world is so turned upside down.

  72. #72 Brownian
    September 25, 2007

    Maybe Heddle and Vox Day could recruit a third guy, who’s also just making stuff up based on wishful thinking*, to settle this most stimulating debate.

    *i.e., I wish what I’m about to say were true, but since there’s no evidence to suggest one way or another no-one will ever know, so it doesn’t really matter now does it?

  73. #73 Kseniya
    September 25, 2007

    Oh, Brownian, but it’s so cool that Vox is making up his own flavor of Christian theology! And why not? He’s the guy who questions whether the state of evolutionary science can “trump raw intellect” (his own), so why not apply the same skepticism to two millenia of Christian theology? I admire a fellow who reaches for the sky while doing his best Danny LaRusso crane kick from the seat of a unicycle, blindfolded no less. I mean that sincerely!

  74. #74 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    P1: God is truthful

    First horn (morals exist independently) — except if you have defined “truthful” as “whatever God is”.

    P2: God’s attributes define what is moral

    Second horn (Divine Command “theory”): you are saying that “moral” is “whatever God is”.

    P3: God commands what is moral

    First horn, or circular.

    I agree you haven’t used a strawman or a True Scotsman, but you do seem to try arguing that both horns are true, even though they contradict each other.

    Now, if you declared this an ineffable mystery, I couldn’t prove you wrong, but you haven’t done that — you have said it’s “simple”.

    Does it sound like that? I wouldn’t know.

    Sorry, I had forgotten the option of declaring it a mystery. This does make it possible to be a Christian without having solved theodicy. I must have been more tired in the afternoon than now in the evening… ~:-|

    the fact that God chooses to save some people and not everyone is a much more unpleasant theological mystery.

    Kseniya has answered that one (I’m still laughing). More seriously — what about the hope, regularly expressed by (post-Vaticanum-II) Catholics, that Hell is empty?

    You know, I thought so, too, but I read Vox’s pocket etymology, checked the etymology of the word “direct” and concluded that he may have been justified in spelling it the way he did.

    No way. I’ve had 6 years of Latin in school. Dirigo, dirigis, dirigere, direxi, directus 3. Or for that matter director.

    Only in English are e and i pronounced the same under halfway normal circumstances.

    That is, I think the tendency not to kill your neighbor (or his offspring) is largely innate, but the tendency not to steal his banana is learned. Likewise, the tendency to want to get it on with his wife is innate, but the tendency not to is learned.

    You probably have a point here.

  75. #75 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    P1: God is truthful

    First horn (morals exist independently) — except if you have defined “truthful” as “whatever God is”.

    P2: God’s attributes define what is moral

    Second horn (Divine Command “theory”): you are saying that “moral” is “whatever God is”.

    P3: God commands what is moral

    First horn, or circular.

    I agree you haven’t used a strawman or a True Scotsman, but you do seem to try arguing that both horns are true, even though they contradict each other.

    Now, if you declared this an ineffable mystery, I couldn’t prove you wrong, but you haven’t done that — you have said it’s “simple”.

    Does it sound like that? I wouldn’t know.

    Sorry, I had forgotten the option of declaring it a mystery. This does make it possible to be a Christian without having solved theodicy. I must have been more tired in the afternoon than now in the evening… ~:-|

    the fact that God chooses to save some people and not everyone is a much more unpleasant theological mystery.

    Kseniya has answered that one (I’m still laughing). More seriously — what about the hope, regularly expressed by (post-Vaticanum-II) Catholics, that Hell is empty?

    You know, I thought so, too, but I read Vox’s pocket etymology, checked the etymology of the word “direct” and concluded that he may have been justified in spelling it the way he did.

    No way. I’ve had 6 years of Latin in school. Dirigo, dirigis, dirigere, direxi, directus 3. Or for that matter director.

    Only in English are e and i pronounced the same under halfway normal circumstances.

    That is, I think the tendency not to kill your neighbor (or his offspring) is largely innate, but the tendency not to steal his banana is learned. Likewise, the tendency to want to get it on with his wife is innate, but the tendency not to is learned.

    You probably have a point here.

  76. #76 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    He’s the guy who questions whether the state of evolutionary science can “trump raw intellect” (his own),

    So he’s not a member of the reality-based community (big surprise). Reality is that in which argumenta ad lapidem work.

  77. #77 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    He’s the guy who questions whether the state of evolutionary science can “trump raw intellect” (his own),

    So he’s not a member of the reality-based community (big surprise). Reality is that in which argumenta ad lapidem work.

  78. #78 oxytocin
    September 25, 2007

    Brownian, I suspect bringing in a third person to settle the debate would yield a third and orthogonal response to the problem in question. As we all know, this is the folly of claiming to know things that we cannot possibly know.

    Why are people bothering to cite biblical text? It’s based on an inherently improbable premise that pulls the plug on any need to proceed. In the mean time, psychologists and neuroscientists are uncovering the innate mechanisms for morality. These discoveries make the “debate” about whether our morality comes from the bible more and more nonsensical as the minutes tick away.

  79. #79 Brownian
    September 25, 2007

    Why are people bothering to cite biblical text?

    Because that’s the only source of information about God, Oxy, except of course for when the infomation in the bible conflicts with what one wishes were true, in which case, the only source of information about God is whatever the hell one decides to make up on the spot (or after a good dose of laudanum, twenty years of fasting, self-flagellation, or whatever helps one ‘totally get’ god).

    Now where did Heddle and Vox Day get to? I’m really dying to learn what other meaningful and useful contributions to humanity’s knowledge base all of those thoughtful and insightful theologists have cooked up.

    Or am I not displaying adequate deference and reverance for Such A Noble Sciense As Is Theologie And Its Importance Toue Man?

  80. #80 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    I don’t think Vox would disagree with you.

    from that link:

    …son of Robert Beale, a technology executive and federal fugitive wanted on tax charges.

    so Vox is the whitecollar version of “son of Hovind”?

    too damn funny.

  81. #81 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    Because that’s the only source of information about God,

    like Homer’s poetry being the best source of info. on the Greek pantheon.

    (that would be the Iliad and the Odyssey, for those not familiar with who Homer was – er, might have been)

  82. #82 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    *psst*

    if ya’ll wanna have some fun with Heddle, ask him about his ideas on cosmological ID.

    or, if you’re just so bored that watching repeats of Oprah sounds exciting.

    One thing I will say, though, is that Heddle is a staunch critic of the efforts of the Disco Institute, just so you don’t waste time going there.

  83. #83 Kseniya
    September 25, 2007

    So our desires lead us down an unpredetermined path to our predetermined destination?

  84. #84 Brownian
    September 25, 2007

    That is because fallen man has no desire whatsoever for God–this is the supreme consequence of the fall.

    Please provide some evidence for your assertion, Heddle.
    At this point, I’d even take a bible quote over nothing, which is what you’ve so far provided. Otherwise we’ll have no choice but to rename you ‘Twaddle’.

  85. #85 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    Free will means that at any instant you will choose exactly according to your strongest inclinations.

    But what if your strongest inclinations are predetermined (which is what you suggest, at least to an extent)? Does it make sense to call the result “free will”?

  86. #86 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    Free will means that at any instant you will choose exactly according to your strongest inclinations.

    But what if your strongest inclinations are predetermined (which is what you suggest, at least to an extent)? Does it make sense to call the result “free will”?

  87. #87 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    Please provide some evidence for your assertion, Heddle.

    At that opportunity, I’d be grateful if he addressed my question in comment 224 if he’s really telling us the whole edifice is built on air.

  88. #88 David Marjanovi?
    September 25, 2007

    Please provide some evidence for your assertion, Heddle.

    At that opportunity, I’d be grateful if he addressed my question in comment 224 if he’s really telling us the whole edifice is built on air.

  89. #89 heddle
    September 25, 2007

    Brownian,

    Please provide some evidence for your assertion, Heddle.
    At this point, I’d even take a bible quote over nothing, which is what you’ve so far provided. Otherwise we’ll have no choice but to rename you ‘Twaddle’.

    I understand that threatening to call me “twaddle” (no one ever thought of that one before—not) befits Pharygnula, which has the “most consistently intelligent commentary of any blog,” but why do you think I’d care?

    No matter. It is very hard to choose just one passage since there are many that speak to this issue, but if you just want one I gues I’d take Romans 3:

    10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

    David Marjanovi?

    I don’t know–this view of free will is precisely that “you choose whatever you want”–I’d call that free will, but if you want to call it something else, I wouldn’t argue.

  90. #90 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    but why do you think I’d care

    because you’re pretty lonely over on your own blog?

  91. #91 oxytocin
    September 25, 2007

    Heddle, Since you seem obsessed with referring to the comments about the intelligent nature of this website, perhaps you could tell us which websites blow your hair back? I, for one, would be interested to compare the quality of your suggestions to the present site.

  92. #92 Michael
    September 25, 2007

    I’m hardly surprised at the continuing lack of evidence given. Brownian, you asked for a verse and you got one. Yet, oddly none of us are convinced by it. Hmm, must be that glaring lack of an actual evidence.

    As for the really rather silly and repeated attempted knocks on the intellectual quality of this web site, all I have to offer is that projection is a bitch.

    Evidence Heddle. Evidence.

  93. #93 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    Otherwise, I call it blind hedonism, a process no more deliberative than the feeding habits of a shark.

    I understand your point, but really, the idea that sharks in general are non-selective feeders is a myth. It probably comes from old books that list the stomach contents of sharks that have eaten things like license plates, without noting that such things are not all that common.

    In fact, most species are quite selective, even within a population of prey species. For example, when hunting elephant seals, white sharks will typically take the younger seals, with a higher percentage of fat/overall weight ration (like high energy shark treats).

    it’s along the same lines of that oft repeated misnomer:

    “she eats like a bird”

    considering that birds, for their weight, eat far more than your average pig does.

    just doing my duty as someone who has spent many years studying sharks.

    Now back to your reguarly schedule programming.
    :)

  94. #94 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    Now there’s a surprise.

    not really, considering you got the exact same response to your pseudo-theology at ATBC. I figure the only reason you listed ATBC was it was one of the few places where we rightly pointed out your decent fisking of Dembski and the Disco Institute (which, BTW, is why i made a point of noting that earlier).

    However, you might regret pointing people there, when they search on the older threads only to find your ideas of cosmological ID getting shredded (or, hell, maybe you’ve matured psychologically and no longer mind?).

    *shrug*

    overall, I don’t find the commentary here or there to be less or more “intelligent” on any given issue, though because it is smaller, we could often flesh out issues more thoroughly there. Moreover, people get to edit their own posts for mistakes, or to add more information, and start their own threads.

    myself, I got tired of the constant milking of crazy folk for little more than a laugh there (there was even serious discussion of inviting John Davison back there *shudder*), which would often derail attempts at serious discussion.

    oh, wait, was this a serious discussion?

  95. #95 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    “she eats like a bird” would be properly understood to mean eating half of whatever she’s served (selected at random), throwing a third into the floor, playing “how far across the room can I throw this” with the rest, then wiping her face on every solid object in the room.

    LOL

    point taken.
    :P

  96. #96 heddle
    September 25, 2007

    Ichthyic

    It is nice (and easy) to declare that someone’s arguments were shredded. FWIW my view on cosmological ID is exactly the same as those of (atheist, anti-IDer, Stanford theoretical physicist and author of The Cosmic Landscape) Leonard Susskind who when asked:

    If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?

    answered

    I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent – maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation – I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.

    Precisely what I have been saying since the first time I trundled into PT: if multiverses are correct, the cosmological ID argument is dead. If not, it will be hard to argue against it.

    So if you have shredded my arguments, you have shredded Susskind’s.

  97. #97 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    It is nice (and easy) to declare that someone’s arguments were shredded.

    no need for me to be obtuse about it, anyone who so chooses can see for themselves. not hard to search the archives there for your name.

    and if you think that the “arguments” you presented there were EXACTLY the same as Susskind’s, you really ARE nuts.

    but then, you’ve really just been making that more than clear in this thread anyway.

    I rather thought you might take the opportunity to point out some of the far better arguments you made against the operations of the DI, since those were the only coherent rants you ever make public.

    but, if you want to continue to show your “wild” side, far be it from me to stop your from shooting yourself in the head.

    c’est la mode.

  98. #98 Ichthyic
    September 25, 2007

    oh, and besides the issue of your arguments not really resembling Susskind’s when pressed…

    what you just presented was no more and no less than an argument from authority, and again, like everything else in your “arguments” is not evidence.

    example:

    francis collins headed the human genome project, and does an excellent job showing how the final results only supported the exact predictions made by the ToE.

    but then, he goes on IN THE SAME BOOK, to tell us all that we are all ruled by a shared, innate “moral law” that couldn’t possibly have evolved, but rather God must have put there instead.

    I trust even you might get the point of that without me having to go into any more detail.

    bottom line:

    why do you insist on trying to find support for your crackpottery on science blogs, when you could have just as easily called attention to your well-reasoned presentations on the misfunction of the ID movement as presented by Dembski and co.?

    just boggles the mind.

  99. #99 heddle
    September 26, 2007

    Ichthyic

    what you just presented was no more and no less than an argument from authority,

    It is not an argument by authority. Quoting an authority is not a logical fallacy. I didn’t say or imply “and Susskind is always right!” Nor is it a quote mine, for I accurately reflected Susskind’s position–that he is anti cosmological ID and laments the fact that there is little alternative to it if the multiverse doesn’t pan out. Anyone who read his material should agree that such is his view.

    No matter how you slice and dice it, my position is the same as Susskind’s. The main differences appear in the fact that he will be horrified if the multiverse fails whereas I’ll be delighted.

    why do you insist on trying to find support for your crackpottery on science blogs,

    Actually you brought it up in an attempt to embarrass me, I didn’t insist on bringing it up to look for support. You also conveniently forgot to mention that even in the case of cosmological ID I go out of my way to emphasize it is not science–it is a metaphysical interpretation of the fine tuning–one that could be demolished if another universe is observed or if the fine tuning is shown to be an illusion.

  100. #100 MarkW
    September 26, 2007

    How come the “gumby” blockquote style is now in Comic Sans? Come on, PZ! Are you trying to make them look stup…

    Oh.

  101. #101 David Marjanovi?
    September 26, 2007

    I don’t know–this view of free will is precisely that “you choose whatever you want”–I’d call that free will, but if you want to call it something else, I wouldn’t argue.

    If you have no influence on what you might want, I’m not sure if “free will” is a good description… if you’re addicted and crave the next shot, is that free will?

    In any case, you still haven’t answered my question from comment 224. I repeat, this time with emphasis added:

    No, I’m telling you that what is defined as right and moral for Christians is that which reflects God’s character. It is a basic assumption for Christians that God is truthful. Whether or not that is factual is a secondary question. Christians presuppose it to be true and therefore on that basis I address the dilemma.

    So you are telling us the whole thing is built on air?

    I’m asking why you presuppose it to be true. If you don’t have a reason for this, or only one that isn’t better than “I’d like it if it were true”, everything that follows from that premise is hanging in the air.

    To change the topic once more, what do you think of cosmological natural selection?

  102. #102 David Marjanovi?
    September 26, 2007

    I don’t know–this view of free will is precisely that “you choose whatever you want”–I’d call that free will, but if you want to call it something else, I wouldn’t argue.

    If you have no influence on what you might want, I’m not sure if “free will” is a good description… if you’re addicted and crave the next shot, is that free will?

    In any case, you still haven’t answered my question from comment 224. I repeat, this time with emphasis added:

    No, I’m telling you that what is defined as right and moral for Christians is that which reflects God’s character. It is a basic assumption for Christians that God is truthful. Whether or not that is factual is a secondary question. Christians presuppose it to be true and therefore on that basis I address the dilemma.

    So you are telling us the whole thing is built on air?

    I’m asking why you presuppose it to be true. If you don’t have a reason for this, or only one that isn’t better than “I’d like it if it were true”, everything that follows from that premise is hanging in the air.

    To change the topic once more, what do you think of cosmological natural selection?

  103. #103 heddle
    September 26, 2007

    David Marjanovi?

    I don’t know why I suppose it (that God is truthful, or any other of God’s supposed attributes) to be true. When I was growing up I didn’t, and now I do. Becoming a believer is not a rational exercise; it is a supernatural experience. “Built on air” as you put it is a reasonable metaphor. Apologetics, however, is a rational exercise within the closed system where you accept certain presuppositions. That was my point–that the answer to the dilemma is easy from within the Christian worldview–and attacking that worldview is a different matter. You can do that, obviously, but it doesn’t negate the fact that Christians have a self-consistent answer to the dilemma, even if V.D. managed to get it wrong.

    p.s. when PZ shows up, goes apoplectic, and tells me to get lost–will you guys at least own up to the fact that you keep asking me questions?

  104. #104 Carlie
    September 26, 2007

    Reasonkiller – but if God tells you to kill an innocent Amalekite, for no other reason than generations-old revenge, with no reward other than a pat on the head from God, that’s ok, moral, and a stellar enough example of how to act that it was included in the Big Book?

    Nice morals you’ve got there. God’s rules look pretty shitty if you ask me.

    “I can assure you that if I had no belief in a God whom I’ll have to answer to for my actions, well, I’d have a lot of dead bodies in my wake.”

    I can assure you that I have no belief in a God to whom I’ll have to answer for my actions, and I have no dead bodies in my wake at all, thank you. What on earth is wrong with you?

  105. #105 Brownian
    September 26, 2007

    No matter. It is very hard to choose just one passage since there are many that speak to this issue, but if you just want one I gues I’d take Romans 3:

    10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

    Twaddle, is that the best you can do? I asked you to support the assertion that “fallen man has no desire whatsoever for God–this is the supreme consequence of the fall.”

    If this is true, then why do you Xians lie and say you seek God? More importantly, why do you bother the rest of us with talk of him? By definition, your own book says that you are not what you say you are.

    What a bunch of bullshit.

  106. #106 Brownian
    September 26, 2007

    But the idea is simple enough: that Triglav has given all men, believers and atheists, a moral compass. The basis for the morality of the atheist, just like for the Christian, is Triglav.

    Twaddle et al., demonstrate that the above is not true. Show your work.

  107. #107 oxytocin
    September 26, 2007

    I agree with Brownian. Evidence suggests that humans, using the scientific method, constantly fight the urge to give in to our inaccurate perceptions of the world. Indeed, many have postulated myriad evolutionary advantages for people who acquire faith based belief systems [e.g., such as solidifying tribalism, improving health, etc.]. Rather than running away from any deity, I think people are inexplicably drawn towards the idea. The next great victory of our species may be ridding ourselves of the need for faith. How that happens, I have no idea.

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bloom07/bloom07_index.html

  108. #108 heddle
    September 26, 2007

    Brownian,

    Twaddle, is that the best you can do? I asked you to support the assertion that “fallen man has no desire whatsoever for God–this is the supreme consequence of the fall.”

    Twaddle! So clever–you must have gone to the John Davison school of picking snappy nicknames! I love it so!

    Yes, silly me. I thought “no one seeks God” was more or less the equivalent of “no one desires God.” You must be speaking of a nuanced difference that I cannot detect. Uh oh–you caught us in the big lie because Christians say they seek God (true)? What am I going to do to get out of this conundrum?

  109. #109 Brownian
    September 26, 2007

    Twaddle, the quote you provided says nothing about ‘fallen’ man versus any other ‘kind’ of man, nor does it make any reference to the fall, so no, it really doesn’t support your assertion.

    It does say that “no one seeks God”, and sure if you want, we can loosen that up to be “no one desires God” (though I don’t know why you apologists have such an affinity for equivocation, though I can make a pretty educated guess.)

    Certainly, without any fancy word tricks (sorry!) ‘no one’ would include all Christians, non-Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Triglavians, fat people, people who spend too much money on Keno, kids with outdated clothes that their parents picked up at an outlet store in Tacoma, people with tattoos, people with holes in their socks, people with no socks at all, and people who may or may not fit into any of the above.

    No one seeks God.

    No one.

    Not even you.

    Unless you’re lying or delusional.

    Unless the quotation you provided is not true.

    The way out of the conundrum? Stop hauling out meaningless phrases from you book and shoehorning them to fit whatever the hell you want them to fit.

    In short, show some intellectual integrity, or be satisfied that you have none.

  110. #110 David Marjanovi?
    September 26, 2007

    So, heddle, you are a fideist? Unfalsifiable and proud of it… :-S

    Cosmological natural selection, on the other hand, is falsifiable. Find one neutron star that’s twice as heavy as the Sun — just one –, and the whole glorious hypothesis comes crashing down.

  111. #111 David Marjanovi?
    September 26, 2007

    So, heddle, you are a fideist? Unfalsifiable and proud of it… :-S

    Cosmological natural selection, on the other hand, is falsifiable. Find one neutron star that’s twice as heavy as the Sun — just one –, and the whole glorious hypothesis comes crashing down.

  112. #112 heddle
    September 26, 2007

    David Marjanovi?

    I think the cosmological natural selection is the coolest of the multiverse models. It has problems though. One is that there are only hand-waving arguments as to why the physics of the child universe should be close to but not exactly the same as the parent. And what you mentioned is not much of a falsification threat, since current physics tends to place a theoretical limit on the mass of neutron stars below two solar masses. So demanding that we find something that prevailing theories argue doesn’t exist is not very sporting. The real falsification of cosmic evolution is more of a nebulous challenge: Demonstrate how, to some unspecified level of satisfaction, our universe is less than optimal at producing black holes. Not something you can go to NSF for with a grant proposal.

    OK, now I am really outta here. The sports thread is way more fun.

  113. #113 Brownian
    September 26, 2007

    OK, now I am really outta here. The sports thread is way more fun.

    Yeah, but the rest of us are enjoying watching you and David slug it out over cosmology (at least, those of us that know next-to-nothing about the field but still find it fascinating).

    Aw. Just when I was learning.

  114. #114 Sastra
    September 26, 2007

    heddle wrote:

    If the multiverse approach is unfalsifiable, how do you scientifically distinguish it from an appeal to the supernatural?

    Here are two multiverse theories which we will assume to be untestable and unfalsifiable, Multiverse A and Multiverse B. I think only one of them is an appeal to the supernatural. Can you guess which one — and why?

    1.) Multiverse A is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes (including our universe) that together comprise all of physical reality. Multiverse refers to a set of disconnected space-times, and multi-domain universe refers to a model of the whole of a single connected space-time in the sense of chaotic inflation models. Although it is suggested by mathematical models of the universe derived from observations, it is unfalsifiable.

    2.) Multiverse B is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes (including our universe) that together comprise all of Physical Reality, Mind, Will, Hope, Love, and Goodness. Multiverse refers to the nested heirarchy of realms of higher and lower realities ranging from unenlightened to enlightened, and multi-domain universe refers to a model of a single connective energy which knits consciousness with its physical manifestations into a holistic unit of Perfection. Although it is suggested by direct mystical experience, it is unfalsifiable.

    When dealing with areas “beyond the familiar universe,” what sorts of things do you need to invoke — beyond being untestable or unfalsifiable — in order to be classed as ‘supernatural?’

    And another question: the Fine Tuning Argument says that God tweaked the physical parameters of the universe in a certain way in order to permit life. Why was He working within difficult limitations, and where did these limitations come from?

  115. #115 Sastra
    September 26, 2007

    heddle wrote:

    p.s. when PZ shows up, goes apoplectic, and tells me to get lost–will you guys at least own up to the fact that you keep asking me questions?

    PZ’s not back yet, but yes. It’s a little hard to have maybe 7 or 8 people piling on one person and demanding answers to questions on 4 or 5 subjects and then complaining that that one guy is running up the thread.

  116. #116 Ichthyic
    September 26, 2007

    I go out of my way to emphasize it is not science–it is a metaphysical interpretation of the fine tuning–one that could be demolished if another universe is observed or if the fine tuning is shown to be an illusion.

    exactly. Just like I said, oh great dense one, you seem to prefer to go on SCIENCE blogs to argue about CLAPTRAP.

    thanks for agreeing with me, and yet again shooting yourself in the head.

    sucks to be you, eh?

    oh, and since you mentioned it, shall we show the good viewers of Pharyngula how often you DO quotemine, especially on your own blog?

    hell, you even quotemined something I said (something from this very blog, IIRC) a ways back, though even when it was pointed out to me, I rather just thought it not worthy of comment.

    intellectual dishonesty is becoming your trademark, and I simply don’t see why you want to do that to yourself, but, as I said, if that’s what you consider fashionable…

  117. #117 Sastra
    September 26, 2007

    I go out of my way to emphasize it is not science–it is a metaphysical interpretation of the fine tuning–one that could be demolished if another universe is observed or if the fine tuning is shown to be an illusion.(heddle)

    Not to quibble, but if a “metaphysical interpretation” can be “demolished” given new observations, doesn’t that make it a science hypothesis?

  118. #118 Ichthyic
    September 27, 2007

    Not to quibble, but if a “metaphysical interpretation” can be “demolished” given new observations, doesn’t that make it a science hypothesis?

    not at all. in the same sense that it would be quibbling to argue it would/not be a “scientific hypothesis” to suppose what would happen if we found a rabbit in the precambrian.

  119. #119 Brownian
    September 27, 2007

    So if you can forgive my playfulness for a moment, might I say that you should still consider thanking Jesus (or other’s belief in him) for saving you, not from damnation, but from people like me.
    I can assure you that if I had no belief in a God whom I’ll have to answer to for my actions, well, I’d have a lot of dead bodies in my wake.

    ReasonKiller, is that your vague attempt at being threatening? Cute.

    Since you’re such a piffling little coward, let me instruct you on the finer arts of clarity:

    Go fuck yourself, you stinking pillar of shit.

  120. #120 Ichthyic
    September 27, 2007

    or incomplete.

    yup.

    just like the rest of the IDiots, heddle falls into the same “life/universe is improbable, because I think so” trap.

    amazing how he’s oblivious to this as he lays into the IDers, but then based on how UD treated him, his motivations for doing so in the first place are suspect anyway.

    there really IS a reason PZ is tired of him, it’s just not readily apparent to anyone who hasn’t seen his arguments a thousand times before.

  121. #121 heddle
    September 27, 2007

    Sastra

    Not to quibble, but if a “metaphysical interpretation” can be “demolished” given new observations, doesn’t that make it a science hypothesis?

    I don’t know what the right word is. I used to use “falsified” but have been convinced that is the wrong word. You tell me what is the right word: if another universe with different constants is detected, or if the fine tunings are shown to be an illusion, then I would never argue CID again, because one of the counter explanations for fine tuning would have be demonstrated. Yet CID is not science, it makes no predictions, so how is that described. I said it would have, at least for me, been demolished. But I am open to a better word.

    Ichthycic,

    Your comments are absolutely frigging stupid for a number of reasons.

    1) You brought up the cosmological ID in this thread, and then claim it is reasonable for PZ to be tired of me because it is the same argument I have made 1000 times. You brought up cosmological ID on this thread and then criticize me for bringing non scientific CLAPTRAP onto a science blog. (Of course you neglected to mention that the only threads I ever participate on this science blog are the non-science threads–such as this one and its cousin, and the sports thread. I was here, reasonably on topic, discussing Christian aspects of the morality question, when you brought up cosmological ID.

    2) You (without evidence) imply my attacks against Dembski et. al. are because they mistreated me. That makes so much sense–I was happily following the DI party line when for no reason Dembski banned me first from the secret ID list serv and then from his blog. Only then I turned against them! This in spite of the fact that I have produced a paper trail documentation of the reasons I was banned, and the short version is that I was banned for saying the same things I continue to say. I know that you know this, so bottom line is that you are a run of the mill vulgar liar. People who insult me–I don’t care. Liars I despise.

    3) By all means demonstrate my quote-mining.

    4) You are also a liar because I know that you know that my argument on cosmological ID is absolutely the opposite of the “improbability” argument you accuse me of. I have said, in most of those 1000′s of times I have repeated the argument, including on this thread, that the best case scenario for cosmological ID is the “high-probability” case, that of a single universe and fundamental theory explaining the constants (in which case they have the maximal probability of unity, the very opposite of lucky.)

    5) At any rate, you also conveniently ignore the fact (which is your modus operandi) that virtually all physicists claim “surprise” at the values of the constants–actually at the sensitivity of habitability to those values– without knowing the a priori probability distributions–to the point that virtually all would agree that (a) absent a multiverse or some variant and (b) absent a successful Stenger-like proof that fine tuning is an illusion, that we are unimaginably lucky. They say things like the fact that the 120 order of magnitude reduction in the CC would be, absent an explanation, “embarrassingly lucky.” They say such things without knowing the a priori probability distributions, if such a thing is even sensible to talk about. You presumably don’t go about pretending you know enough math to correct them, but you feel free to use you math illiteracy to pretend to trivially dismiss me when I make the same exact (and among physicists, non-controversial point), to wit: the fine tunings demand a better explanation than the default: we are lucky.

    Michael,

    Your comments are also brain dead. If you know a Christian who claims he can give you evidence of God or whatever you keep asking evidence for, then go ask him. Go ask Lee Strobel. In case you didn’t notice I have stated that I became a Christian not through a rational exercise but through a supernatural act. I don’t have evidence, never claimed to have evidence, and have no interest in pretending to have evidence.

  122. #122 Ken Cope
    September 27, 2007

    Twaddle,

    I became a Christian not through a rational exercise but through a supernatural act.

    You misspelled unnatural.

  123. #123 David Marjanovi?
    September 27, 2007

    Demonstrate how, to some unspecified level of satisfaction, our universe is less than optimal at producing black holes. Not something you can go to NSF for with a grant proposal.

    Why not? It’s got to be cheap. The maximum mass of neutron stars is just the one example I happen to know.

    Finding out whether the fine-tuning better fits the Anthropic Principle or the Lithic Principle is probably more difficult… no, actually, I don’t know.

    Here are two multiverse theories which we will assume to be untestable and unfalsifiable, Multiverse A and Multiverse B. I think only one of them is an appeal to the supernatural. Can you guess which one — and why?

    Strictly speaking, that’s not the relevant question. The relevant question is which one is more parsimonious. That is A.

    And cosmological natural selection is even more parsimonious, because it explains fine-tuning without needing to postulate either an intelligence or a tornado in a junkyard.

    Not to quibble, but if a “metaphysical interpretation” can be “demolished” given new observations, doesn’t that make it a science hypothesis?

    Actually, yes.

    Astrologers are not scientists because they cling to astrology even though it has been disproven again and again and again.

    Yet CID is not science, it makes no predictions, so how is that described.

    If you keep the principle of parsimony in mind, you’ll find that it does make a prediction: that fine-tuning is not an illusion and therefore needs an explanation. If fine-tuning is shown to be an illusion, CID will be unnecessarily munificent — like phlogiston was after oxygen was discovered and before it was possible to directly observe atoms.

  124. #124 David Marjanovi?
    September 27, 2007

    Demonstrate how, to some unspecified level of satisfaction, our universe is less than optimal at producing black holes. Not something you can go to NSF for with a grant proposal.

    Why not? It’s got to be cheap. The maximum mass of neutron stars is just the one example I happen to know.

    Finding out whether the fine-tuning better fits the Anthropic Principle or the Lithic Principle is probably more difficult… no, actually, I don’t know.

    Here are two multiverse theories which we will assume to be untestable and unfalsifiable, Multiverse A and Multiverse B. I think only one of them is an appeal to the supernatural. Can you guess which one — and why?

    Strictly speaking, that’s not the relevant question. The relevant question is which one is more parsimonious. That is A.

    And cosmological natural selection is even more parsimonious, because it explains fine-tuning without needing to postulate either an intelligence or a tornado in a junkyard.

    Not to quibble, but if a “metaphysical interpretation” can be “demolished” given new observations, doesn’t that make it a science hypothesis?

    Actually, yes.

    Astrologers are not scientists because they cling to astrology even though it has been disproven again and again and again.

    Yet CID is not science, it makes no predictions, so how is that described.

    If you keep the principle of parsimony in mind, you’ll find that it does make a prediction: that fine-tuning is not an illusion and therefore needs an explanation. If fine-tuning is shown to be an illusion, CID will be unnecessarily munificent — like phlogiston was after oxygen was discovered and before it was possible to directly observe atoms.

  125. #125 Brownian
    September 27, 2007

    God has changed his mind even about those! He’s a fairly morally elastic fellow – I wouldn’t want him over for a dinner party, or even as a neighbor.

    Well, knowing his penchant for burnt offerings, I sure as hell wouldn’t waste a good cut of meat on him. Why cooking prime rib any more than medium rare isn’t one of the ten commandments, I’ll never know.

    Besides, he’d tell boring stories and be all bossy: “And then I created the stars, and then I crea–hey! Thou Shalt Not Serve Liebfraumilch with a Curry Dish!”

    Although, maybe it’d be worth it just to let him know after the fact that there were bacon bits in the potato salad and crab meat in the lasagna!

  126. #126 Brownian
    September 27, 2007

    I’m guessing that Maasai blood milk would be right out then.

    Well, there’s no accounting for taste.

  127. #127 Ichthyic
    September 27, 2007

    You brought up the cosmological ID in this thread, and then claim it is reasonable for PZ to be tired of me because it is the same argument I have made 1000 times. You brought up cosmological ID on this thread and then criticize me for bringing non scientific CLAPTRAP onto a science blog.

    uh, right, so your favorite pet claptrap that you spout EVERYWHERE YOU FUCKING GO, and is slathered all over your own blog…

    You claim it’s my fault everybody who knows you HAS heard it a thousand times before, and can see through your arguments like tissue paper? That it’s my fault you decided to come here and start spouting off your idiotic notions of theology, your stance on Cosmo ID being just one?

    damn, what a moron.

    and a sensitive one tooooo.

    remind me of this conversation the next time the ATBCers decide to praise your for your stance on ID.

    LOL

  128. #128 Ichthyic
    September 27, 2007

    You (without evidence) imply my attacks against Dembski et. al. are because they mistreated me.

    all one has to do is look at the dates when you started posting your diatribes against UD, and mark those against when they started giving you the shiv.

    the evidence is there.

    I can’t help it if you are either:

    lying to everyone on this board

    or

    lying to yourself.

    or

    both.

  129. #129 Ichthyic
    September 27, 2007

    You are also a liar because I know that you know that my argument on cosmological ID is absolutely the opposite of the “improbability” argument you accuse me of.

    again, all one has to do is see how you responded when pressed in the old threads on ATBC.

    EOS

    go freak out on someone who gives a damn. I’m done trying to get you to figure out that you keep shooting yourself in the head over and over again.

    there’s a reason your blog has tumbleweeds blowing through it.

  130. #130 Keith Douglas
    September 28, 2007

    Sastra: As I’ve said repeatedly, sufficiently general hypotheses deserve the name “metaphysical”, whether scientifically refutable, confirmable, or neither. Some are in line with science, some aren’t. We ought to develop metaphysics that is for the sake of a consistent world view, if nothing else. Also, like any basic research, it has unpredicted spin offs. E.g. Bunge’s metaphysics has led to the “web ontologies” movement.

  131. #131 Brownian
    October 1, 2007

    Now, the problem that I’ve posed here is for somebody to give me one objective reason not to kill people and take their stuff. It’s not a threat of any kind; I’m a religious pacifist; it’s a legitimate philosophical question.

    ReasonKiller, I don’t have time to post a more cogent response to this (I’ll try a little later), but the basis of the answer to this is that material gain is not first and foremost in the hominid brain. Social capital is much more important anthropologically, and the concern for material wealth is a fairly recent social acquisition (recent here meaning within the last 8,000 years.)

    Sociopaths tend not to care about social capital, and – I’m pretty sure they truly don’t care about the hereafter either.

  132. #132 Ichthyic
    October 1, 2007

    Do you seriously believe we live in a world where people always or even often answer for their crimes? People get away with murder all the time and benefit from it.

    people get caught all the time too.

    do you think there is value in capital punishment as a deterrent, or life imprisonment, for that matter?

    I highly suggest you visit a working state prison (anywhere), and find out what a fun place it is to spend time behind bars.

    truly a vacation camp.

    why, since it’s just like Disneyland, surely going to prison isn’t a deterrent to crime in the slightest bit, and we should just have an open door policy, right?

    Moreover, all that aside, most people (even sociopaths, but not psychopaths) tend to at least posess some form of empathy (indeed, the lack of empathy often is diagnostic of certain types of psychopathy). So, it most certainly is not a fear of some supernatural hogwash that keeps most people from murdering their neighbors for laundry money, but an innate (which learning hones) sense of empathy. all you have to do is compare the many societies that have nothing to do with the judeo/xian tradition to see that they also have a sense of empathy for their fellows.

    Reasonkiller indeed. If you aren’t merely trolling for kicks, I rather think you managed to kill your reasoning abilities long before you came here.

    be proud that there is no hope for you, and also know that you are really wasting your time talking to intelligent people, even though, as a sociopath, I realize you simply can’t help it.

  133. #133 Ichthyic
    October 1, 2007

    …oh, and to answer your question:

    the only objective reason to avoid murdering your neighbor for laundry money is simply to maintain a semblance of an ordered society.

    results in a higher quality of life for all, etc.

    other than that, there is no objective reason for not having total anarchy. It is a rather large reason, though.

    Ever see the HBO series “Deadwood”? order forms in the chaos by necessity. God had nothing to do with it, and even empathy plays a lesser role to simple pragmatism.

  134. #134 J Myers
    October 2, 2007

    Anton, nice post.

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