Atheism and morality
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25-05-2015, 07:05 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
Atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods. Period, full stop.

Nothing more, nothing less. No code of conduct, no standard of behavior...why is that concept so difficult for some people?

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF
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25-05-2015, 07:50 AM (This post was last modified: 25-05-2015 09:29 AM by Matt Finney.)
RE: Atheism and morality
(25-05-2015 06:31 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  Sam Harris, Matt Dillahunty, or Richard Carrier; and they all advocate for a subjective secular morality that is capable of objectivity (i.e. once you've agreed upon a criteria or scale, things can be graded as better or worse against it).

See, I even disagree with this claim. For one, you'd never agree on the criteria or scale, so it's kind of silly and pointless to talk about. In fact, it's differing criteria and scale that causes us all to have different morals. Saying "if we can agree upon a criteria or scale, then we could agree on our morals," is basically the same as saying, "if we can agree on our morals, then we can agree on our morals."

Think about it. Do you really believe that it could ever be objectively known whether abortion is moral? Or the number days from conception that abortion should be allowed? Could it be objectively known whether partial-birth abortion is ok? It would have to be the criteria that would decide this. It's the criteria that no one can seem to agree on!

It's misleading to even bring up the word objectivity when talking about morality. "Subjective secular morality that is capable of objectivity" It's objectively subjective! Or is it subjectively objective? You see, this is really kind of silly, and it's what some atheists do when the religious tell them that "without god, then you have no basis for objective morality." Instead making up some bullshit story like, "Subjective secular morality that is capable of objectivity," we should just agree with the religious that there is no basis for objective morality and that morality, just like god, is a made-up human invention.
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25-05-2015, 08:11 AM
Re: RE: Atheism and morality
[/quote]
..but what is their justification in eating plants?
[/quote]

I'm sorry, I have to. Angel

"Look at that heartless bastard on his tractor! Won't someone think of the poor, screaming plants? With their advanced central nervous system, I know they suffer and hurt just like I do.

Since the plants are sentient and feel pain, we should murder MORE than we would need to eat so we can feed them to livestock. Then we'll eat the livestock." Rolleyes

I've honestly had with the "plants, though!" argument. It's silly.

Eating meat or plants, torturing babies or not- neither is a moral absolute. They are choices we make based on what we think is best for our personal well-being and for society.

Torturing babies for fun wasn't conducive to the survival of our species, so we (as social creatures) developed taboos around that kind of thing. There's also empathy. Caring for others is encouraged; it promotes the survival of individuals within the species.

"Don't kill viable offspring." (Non-viable offspring were a drain on the limited resources of struggling societies, and so were often removed.) Now those taboos have changed with the times and are manifested as laws. "Don't kill any offspring, viable or not." (No, I'm not talking about Amazonian tribes- I'm referring to the modern world as we know it.)

In a hypothetical future where humans severely overpopulate the earth, dispatching excess babies might be the "moral" thing to do. I would think that even in such a future, torturing babies for fun would still be taboo. Why? The same reason that it is currently frowned upon. It causes unnecessary pain and suffering. (Most) people avoid unnecessary pain, and (most) people do not wish to cause undue torment to another life.
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25-05-2015, 09:41 AM (This post was last modified: 25-05-2015 09:50 AM by Matt Finney.)
RE: Atheism and morality
(25-05-2015 08:11 AM)mecanna Wrote:  In a hypothetical future where humans severely overpopulate the earth, dispatching excess babies might be the "moral" thing to do.

See, I would argue that whether it is moral or not to dispatch babies cannot be known. People will have disagreement and there is no way to know who is right. Suppose that the world becomes so overpopulated that the majority of society begins to advocate euthanizing of infants. Some people still might not prefer it (or find it morally unacceptable if we want to keep the word "moral" in the picture). To suggest that it "might be the "moral" thing to do," would be to suggest that it might be the case that people should prefer it, and that's as silly as suggesting that it might be the case that people should prefer chocolate vs. vanilla.
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25-05-2015, 10:59 AM
RE: Atheism and morality
(23-05-2015 04:05 PM)Matt Finney Wrote:  I've noticed that many atheists believe in an absolute morality. That is, that some things are "really right" and others are "really wrong" regardless of any particular human's opinion. I'm curious to hear from members here about this. Obviously, morality is a very simple problem for theists.....God decides what is moral for them, but I want to hear from atheists who feel that there is a rightness and wrongness (good and evil) property of our actions. I believe that we all just make up our own set of morals, and that nothing in the universe except humans, really cares if you save the world, or destroy an entire nation of people. It's not that I don't want to be moral, quite the contrary, I try to use the golden rule and I try to be completely honest all the time. I just don't want to delude myself into believing that some things are "really right" or "really wrong" when the logical part of my mind tells me this is impossible.

Thoughts?

I've stated in a post before that I believe that it is possible to base morality solidly in science. Morality, however, is prescriptive, while science is descriptive. Science tells us what exists and can only imply that we "should" behave in a particular manner.

If we acknowledge reality, we must admit that humanity desires happiness and freedom from suffering (as a general rule). In fact, if we meet a complete stranger, on thing we can be fairly certain of is that that person desires happiness and freedom from suffering.

It is also a safe assumption to say that human beings are able to experience happiness and also able to experience suffering. Since we are all humans, our right to experience happiness and freedom from suffering is equal to any other human. This is not to say that, in practice, our circumstances produce equal results. Nor does it suggest that such a right exists, at all. It simply states that our right is equal to everyone else's. Of course, this right can be forfeited by someone. A person that commits a crime has given up his right to a measure of happiness.

The above is descriptive and can be validated or invalidated by the scientific process.

Prescriptive behavior based on the description can be implied. The golden rule can be validated as the "best" behavior.

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.--Voltaire.

"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." --Thomas Paine.
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25-05-2015, 12:51 PM
RE: Atheism and morality
(25-05-2015 09:41 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  See, I would argue that whether it is moral or not to dispatch babies cannot be known.
Agreed.
You can personally decide for yourself whether you believe dispatching babies is moral or not but that doesn't make it moral or not for others. They decide for themselves what moral beliefs to hold.
Once you have made your choice you could then seek to force that onto others (who may not share your own opinion). In enforcing your opinion you'd have to take on the aggressor role, others may then be forced to defend themselves from you.

Some people recognise that morality is a subjective opinion but then some of them try to force their own subjective opinion onto others. I don't understand this behavior. I find it aggressive. This is the reason I don't like moral beliefs. People think they have the obligation to aggressively interfere in the affairs of others.
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25-05-2015, 12:58 PM
RE: Atheism and morality
(25-05-2015 10:59 AM)666wannabe Wrote:  Of course, this right can be forfeited by someone. A person that commits a crime has given up his right to a measure of happiness.

The above is descriptive and can be validated or invalidated by the scientific process.
Science cannot discover a person's rights.

You have asserted a person loses their rights in this hypothetical, how can we use science to discover that this person has indeed lost their rights?
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25-05-2015, 01:00 PM
RE: Atheism and morality
(25-05-2015 07:50 AM)Matt Finney Wrote:  
(25-05-2015 06:31 AM)EvolutionKills Wrote:  Sam Harris, Matt Dillahunty, or Richard Carrier; and they all advocate for a subjective secular morality that is capable of objectivity (i.e. once you've agreed upon a criteria or scale, things can be graded as better or worse against it).

See, I even disagree with this claim. For one, you'd never agree on the criteria or scale, so it's kind of silly and pointless to talk about. In fact, it's differing criteria and scale that causes us all to have different morals. Saying "if we can agree upon a criteria or scale, then we could agree on our morals," is basically the same as saying, "if we can agree on our morals, then we can agree on our morals."

Think about it. Do you really believe that it could ever be objectively known whether abortion is moral? Or the number days from conception that abortion should be allowed? Could it be objectively known whether partial-birth abortion is ok? It would have to be the criteria that would decide this. It's the criteria that no one can seem to agree on!

It's misleading to even bring up the word objectivity when talking about morality. "Subjective secular morality that is capable of objectivity" It's objectively subjective! Or is it subjectively objective? You see, this is really kind of silly, and it's what some atheists do when the religious tell them that "without god, then you have no basis for objective morality." Instead making up some bullshit story like, "Subjective secular morality that is capable of objectivity," we should just agree with the religious that there is no basis for objective morality and that morality, just like god, is a made-up human invention.


Oh for fuck's sake... Facepalm

Morality and ethics are human constructs built upon evolutionary foundations like empathy. It's much like a system of government, in that it works if enough people agree to believe that it does. Systems of government are no more objective than morality.

Also, you completely fucking missed the point. You can subjectively pick a criteria (for example, suffering), and from there you can amass facts (objective bits of information) to make a judgement call and determine if in a certain circumstance an action is more moral (alleviates net suffering) or less moral (causes net suffering) than another. That is how you apply objectivity to subjective morality.

Sorry if you're too stupid to parse what words like 'subjective' and 'objective' mean when used in context... Dodgy

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25-05-2015, 01:02 PM
RE: Atheism and morality
(23-05-2015 04:05 PM)Matt Finney Wrote:  I've noticed that many atheists believe in an absolute morality. That is, that some things are "really right" and others are "really wrong" regardless of any particular human's opinion. I'm curious to hear from members here about this. Obviously, morality is a very simple problem for theists.....God decides what is moral for them, but I want to hear from atheists who feel that there is a rightness and wrongness (good and evil) property of our actions. I believe that we all just make up our own set of morals, and that nothing in the universe except humans, really cares if you save the world, or destroy an entire nation of people. It's not that I don't want to be moral, quite the contrary, I try to use the golden rule and I try to be completely honest all the time. I just don't want to delude myself into believing that some things are "really right" or "really wrong" when the logical part of my mind tells me this is impossible.

Thoughts?

Okay, here's my thoughts on the whole objective morals vs subjective morals question.

I don't give a shit and neither should you.

No, really. Let's game out these two scenarios.

Scenario one. Morality is subjective. It's a wholly human concept (plus maybe some social animals and potential aliens, you get what I mean) and construction. There's no absolute underlying truth. It's just the way people have of expressing what behavior they will accept and what behavior they won't. An immoral person -- one prone to baby torture, since Tomasia is focused on that -- is subject to the disapproval, censure, and punishment of their fellows and of society at large. Moral reformers arise from time to time, leading movements that alter the subjective morality of society... usually by leveraging an existing conflict within society's morality. For example, the abolitionists leveraged the dissonance in American society between the value of property and the value of liberty. Desegregationists similarly leveraged the dissonance between valuing racial purity on the one hand and valuing human dignity on the other. Yet at each stage, these are subjective values. We can look back at, say, the massacres the Aztecs made for their gods (or the massacres made for Yahweh, whatever) and condemn them under our own moral code, yet our code which condemns them is just as subjective as the genocidal moral codes that commanded them. There is no expansive, objective, universal thing like the law of gravity acting on the subject of morality.

Under this scenario, morality becomes a shelter we've constructed. It is a house we live in. We need to maintain this house, for our own benefit and for the benefit of everyone else under its roof. We can change it for our benefit and the benefit of others, and we benefit from doing so.

Scenario two. Morality is absolute. There is an underlying, objective truth about how we should and shouldn't act. (This isn't my position... I have no idea what this is even saying. But I'll roll with the hypothetical anyway.) However -- and this should be blindingly obvious -- most societies throughout history have not been in agreement with one another about what that underlying morality is. Most, for example, have lauded slavery as moral and absolute rulers as favorable over democracy. An absolute morality immediately raises the question of whose moral understanding, if anyone's, is correct. Someone PERCEIVED as immoral will be subject to the disapproval, censure, and punishment of their neighbors and society, and yet it is obvious that this is linked to the subjective understanding of morality that those people possess, and not the actual underlying objective morality. Moral reformers come along from time to time, attempting to improve their society's understanding and acceptance of objective morality. Most of these obviously get it wrong as well, to judge by how little they disagree. Luther and Marx were both moral reformers, and if they agreed on a single thing I don't know what it is. Nevertheless, the search for objective right and wrong continues, by a host of questionable methodologies (none of which strike me as particularly likely to stumble across the truth), and we hope that we have made progress. We look back upon at least the massacres of the Aztecs and condemn them as immoral monsters, secure in our superior understanding of this objective morality.

Under this scenario, our interest in morality is to adhere to the parts we understand and improve our understanding of it.

And... SURPRISE!... there isn't a DAMN FUNCTIONAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THAT AND SCENARIO ONE!

What we do regarding morality -- trying to grapple with how best to live with each other and judge others -- is exactly the same REGARDLESS of whether it is subjective or objective!

So no. This is the most pointless, stupid debate ever to grace philosophy, and it becomes more inane with every breath it takes beyond what should have been an exceedingly brief lifespan. I award it zero shits. Good day.
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25-05-2015, 01:20 PM
RE: Atheism and morality
(25-05-2015 01:02 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  What we do regarding morality -- trying to grapple with how best to live with each other and judge others -- is exactly the same REGARDLESS of whether it is subjective or objective!
Or,
If we accept that morality does not exist we then stop judging others against our own opinion of what is moral and immoral. We stop passing judgement. We leave gays alone, we leave polygamists alone, we let scientists make discoveries with stem cell research, we make prostitution legal.
We let people do what they want as long as it doesn't impact us i.e. we don't let them eat us or our babies but we do let them have abortions or pay for sex or get married to a same gender partner, because it is none of our business to pass judgement or to interfere.
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