Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
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22-12-2011, 09:45 AM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
Hey, GirlyMan.

Speaking of dead horses... Altruism is selfish. All good is done for selfish reasons. That doesn't make it bad, it makes it what it is. So everyone anticipates personal benefit for being good. We can't not.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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22-12-2011, 01:58 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
(21-12-2011 09:52 AM)kingschosen Wrote:  I thought this horse was dead?

. . .

It's just in the less than a month that I've been here, I've seen at least 3 multipost threads on the subject.

This particular equine is still alive and kicking, I'm afraid.

Theists have long seen this as a potent argument against non-belief: If you don't accept God as the authoritative source for moral rules, than "anything is possible"--which accounts in part for the widespread horror of atheism. Forget the obvious fact that theists can be, and have been, just as morally corrupt as anyone else, and that atheists can be paragons of morality. So we need to counter that idea over and over.

That said, if the consensus were that this belongs in an already-existing thread, I have no problem with moving it. Lucradis?

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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22-12-2011, 02:18 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
(22-12-2011 01:58 PM)cufflink Wrote:  
(21-12-2011 09:52 AM)kingschosen Wrote:  I thought this horse was dead?

. . .

It's just in the less than a month that I've been here, I've seen at least 3 multipost threads on the subject.

This particular equine is still alive and kicking, I'm afraid.

Theists have long seen this as a potent argument against non-belief: If you don't accept God as the authoritative source for moral rules, than "anything is possible"--which accounts in part for the widespread horror of atheism. Forget the obvious fact that theists can be, and have been, just as morally corrupt as anyone else, and that atheists can be paragons of morality. So we need to counter that idea over and over.

That said, if the consensus were that this belongs in an already-existing thread, I have no problem with moving it. Lucradis?

Well... any Christian that believes that is deluded and needs to get their head out of the sand.

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22-12-2011, 02:23 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
(21-12-2011 09:30 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Cufflink.

His argument is faulty (full disclosure, I just read the quote).

I can ask, if humans had no lungs, then not breathing would be OK? It's irrelevant because humans do have lungs. IF God exists, he gave humans lungs and morality and IF God doesn't exist, he never gave humans either; THEREFORE, no, if God doesn't exist, then slavery wouldn't be OK.

It's a very Hobbesean notion. The idea that without the rule of law man's life is nasty, brutish and short. The difference here, again, is that the way this person set up their argument, morality is either inextricable from humanity by God's decree, or it's not at all caused by God. Either way, slavery is never OK.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

Hey Matt,

Funny you should mention Hobbes. Antony brings him up in the last paragraph of her essay:

Quote:This is a Hobbesian view: in the state of nature “[t]he notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice.” But no atheist has to agree with this account of morality, and lots of us do not. We “moralistic atheists” do not see right and wrong as artifacts of a divine protection racket. Rather, we find moral value to be immanent in the natural world, arising from the vulnerabilities of sentient beings and from the capacities of rational beings to recognize and to respond to those vulnerabilities and capacities in others.

I think the basic premise here is that if you reject the idea of a divine giver of moral law, it doesn't mean that moral rules or guidelines don't exist. They do--they're just discoverable from other sources. Antony talks about "values immanent in the natural world." Elizabeth Anderson, in "If God Is Dead, Is Everything Permitted?" (anthologized in Hitchens's The Portable Atheist, and highly recommended), sees moral authority stemming from "a system of reciprocal claim making":

Quote:I am arguing that morality, understood as a system of reciprocal claim making, in which everyone is accountable to everyone else, does not need its authority underwritten by some higher, external authority. It is underwritten by the authority we all have to make claims on one another. . . .

And in The Moral Landscape (which I haven't read), Sam Harris apparently seeks answers to moral questions in science.

All of these approaches seem to have this in common as an underlying assumption: Moral rules exist, and we can discover them without having to rely on a supernatural being to reveal them to us.

Now I'm not sure how you feel about that. But I was intrigued to see your last statement here, with which I would heartily agree: "Either way, slavery is never OK."

Does that mean you're coming around to the idea that there are at least some moral absolutes we can rely on? Smile

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22-12-2011, 07:47 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
(22-12-2011 09:45 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, GirlyMan.

Speaking of dead horses... Altruism is selfish. All good is done for selfish reasons. That doesn't make it bad, it makes it what it is. So everyone anticipates personal benefit for being good. We can't not.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

Sure, Matt, I recall this discussion just not sure I buy into it. Think it conflates prophylaxis with ambition. I don't anticipate personal benefit from being good, I anticipate serious self damage if I'm not. I don't see these as being equivalent.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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23-12-2011, 12:51 AM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
<HEAD EXPLODES>

Hey, Cufflink.

Gee, thanks, man. You just had to go and mention Sam Harris. Now I gotta pick all the little pieces of brain and skull shrapnel out of my Christmas tree. It's very time consuming. That was very insensitive of you.

I agree with:
1 - "...moral rules or guidelines...[are]...discoverable from other sources." [although I have issue with the idea of “discovery”. It implies that morality is a Truth to be found, rather than a cultural agreement]
2 - "a system of reciprocal claim making" [which is just another way to say reciprocal altruism]

All of that being said, I still think the original quote sucks Tongue

Quote:Does that mean you're coming around to the idea that there are at least some moral absolutes we can rely on?

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, ya thought ya caught me, didn't you Cool

There are no moral absolutes. There are no universals. There are only overlapping fields of agreement. If 9 out of 10 cultures have the same moral standard, that doesn't mean it's absolute, just that it's popular. Memetically speaking, it has a very high representation in the ethnosphere (not just in the meme pools of the individual cultures, but world-wide). And just because that tenth culture doesn't have that standard, it doesn't mean that they're wrong or backwards. Tetrapodism is very well represented in the biosphere, but having four legs isn't absolute and having other than four legs isn't wrong. Same with morality. That being said, of course I have my personal beliefs. I could not function without them. But I recognise that they are MY beliefs and not THE Truth. While I expect that some people will agree with me, I do not expect everyone to agree.

As for what exactly I meant when I said, either way, slavery is never OK, it was in context of my critique of this author. Whether God tells us that slavery is wrong, or some terrestrial drive, both of those things are saying slavery is wrong. The author asks, if God doesn't exist then is slavery OK? I say no, because if God doesn't exist, God isn't telling us that slavery is wrong, some terrestrial drive is (memetics, what what!). Either way, or rather, both ways, both of THOSE ways, slavery is wrong. The author’s contention is poopie. But I'm not saying that slavery is wrong as an absolute. I don't like it, but there are no absolutes.

Hey, Girly.

Nooch.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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23-12-2011, 06:53 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
(23-12-2011 12:51 AM)Ghost Wrote:  <HEAD EXPLODES>

Hey, Cufflink.

Gee, thanks, man. You just had to go and mention Sam Harris.

<Note to self: Do not mention S.H. in discussions with Matt unless wearing raincoat to protect from effects of burst cranium.>


Quote:There are no moral absolutes. There are no universals. There are only overlapping fields of agreement. If 9 out of 10 cultures have the same moral standard, that doesn't mean it's absolute, just that it's popular. Memetically speaking, it has a very high representation in the ethnosphere (not just in the meme pools of the individual cultures, but world-wide). And just because that tenth culture doesn't have that standard, it doesn't mean that they're wrong or backwards. Tetrapodism is very well represented in the biosphere, but having four legs isn't absolute and having other than four legs isn't wrong. Same with morality. That being said, of course I have my personal beliefs. I could not function without them. But I recognise that they are MY beliefs and not THE Truth. While I expect that some people will agree with me, I do not expect everyone to agree.

As for what exactly I meant when I said, either way, slavery is never OK, it was in context of my critique of this author. Whether God tells us that slavery is wrong, or some terrestrial drive, both of those things are saying slavery is wrong. The author asks, if God doesn't exist then is slavery OK? I say no, because if God doesn't exist, God isn't telling us that slavery is wrong, some terrestrial drive is (memetics, what what!). Either way, or rather, both ways, both of THOSE ways, slavery is wrong. The author’s contention is poopie. But I'm not saying that slavery is wrong as an absolute. I don't like it, but there are no absolutes.

We've been over this territory before, but just to make sure I understand your position:

If you look at the cultures, both ancient and modern, that have been stable for centuries while incorporating the institution of slavery, you would say to them, "I personally dislike slavery, but since it works for you (in that it results in a viable social structure), it's not immoral relative to your culture." Is that the essence of what you're saying?

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23-12-2011, 08:30 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
(23-12-2011 12:51 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Girly.

Nooch.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

Natch, brother.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Bob

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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27-12-2011, 12:30 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
Hey, Cufflink.

Thank you for the courtoisy. And yes, wear Gwar concert wear if you ever mention he that shall not be named in my presence Cool

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

Quote:If you look at the cultures, both ancient and modern, that have been stable for centuries while incorporating the institution of slavery, you would say to them, "I personally dislike slavery, but since it works for you (in that it results in a viable social structure), it's not immoral relative to your culture." Is that the essence of what you're saying?

Well the first question would be, "does it actually work?" Just because a social practice exists, doesn't mean it works. It could be fraught with problems and unrest. What we can say is that it has been SELECTED. Whether or not that cultural trait is ultimately adaptive or maladaptive is another question. Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship worked great until this summer. Now, not so much. But did it every actually work? The answer, after all of this is, yes. It worked. Not for people. It sucked for them. But it worked.

The second question would be, "is it moral or immoral relative to that culture?" Look at abortion in the US. The morality of abortion is hotly contested. It doesn't have to be a clean answer. The more precise answer, or question, would be, "How well is that belief represented in that culture's meme pool?" Abortion is probably 50/50 in the US, but the other meme, the constitutional one, makes it impossible for the legislation to reflect the pro-life position. So what's moral in the US is the Constitution. All else is secondary.

So absolutely, I am not a fan of slavery. But then we get into another question. All slavery is, when all is said and done, is ownership of the individual through legal deed. But there is an argument that working for MacDonald’s is wage slavery. It's impossible for a hierarchical organisation to exist without exploitation. So slavery and wage slavery are only different in the permutations. In slavery, the slave has no freedom of movement, but the slave owner has an obligation to keep them fed. In wage slavery, the employee has greater freedom of movement, provided they have sick days or vacation days to use, but the employer has no obligation to ensure their well-being. So is slavery a moral question or a structural one?

Finally, if I look at another culture and they very proudly say, "We love our slavery and think it's the height of morality," then I have no option but to recognise that that culture considers slavery moral. Where people get hung up is that they assume that means I'm endorsing slavery. But that's ridiculous. I'm stating fact. That's it. I don't like slavery. But they do. Fact. The other place that people get hung up is that they assume that there must be a single moral position on every issue. So if I'm not condemning them for being immoral, then I'm tacitly endorsing slavery. Again, silly. My position as a cultural relativist is that there is no absolute moral position for slavery. I don't like it. The Canadian government calls it a crime. But all that means is that we consider it immoral. If the other culture considers that it is not, then they do not. There is no wish or argument that can make it otherwise.

Now here's the most important part about memetics. Fictional Culture A, the one that thinks slavery is moral, has a meme that tells them just that. But that meme does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a system. The difference between a heap and a system is that you can remove a piece from a heap and when you divide it in two, you get two heaps. If you remove a piece from the system or divide it in two, you get a broken system. We can't just approach FCA and snatch the slavery meme from them because that's not how systems work. Memes like that come and go, and more to the point, increase and decrease in frequency within the meme pool, via selection. At the end of the day, slavery "disappeared" from the US, not because someone pulled up off the coast of Norfolk with a boat and shouted," Hey! Stop it!", but because of a process of selection. The conditions changed and owning slaves became maladaptive. That might seem like a simplistic explanation at first blush, but the process of environmental change and selection is vastly complex.

So the essence of what I'm saying is this: morality is culturally relative. Cultures believe what they believe, when they believe it. Morality, like all cultural practices, is subject to change.

So to restate: "I personally dislike slavery, but since it works for you (in that it results in a viable social structure), it's not immoral relative to in your culture." "I personally dislike slavery, but it's moral in your culture."

I’m not bound by should. Should has no place in biology. Sloths should be faster, male lions shouldn’t be so lazy, beavers should be careful about what areas they flood, are all meaningless notions in biology. Things are what they ARE in biology, not what they should be. Should has no place in ethnology. Muslim women shouldn’t wear hijabs, homosexuals should be able to marry, women shouldn’t run the show in Iroquois tribes, are all meaningless notions in ethnology. Things are what they ARE in ethnology, not what they should be. Darwin outlined in detail how these things came to be and how they either stay the same or change. Preference has nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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27-12-2011, 01:09 PM
RE: Good Minus God: Does morality depend on religion?
No, don't buy it.
Lions and tigers and bears, and beavers don't get to choose what they do.

Humans have self-consciousness and reason - this makes all the difference. We can conceive of good and evil. You may not think slavery is immoral, but most people do.

While we can argue whether there are true absolutes or not, if something is deemed immoral by the vast majority, then it makes little difference in the short term.
In the long term, the zeitgeist changes - but it has moved in the direction of more respect for human dignity and worth.
Our abilities to reason and to introspect overcome biology.

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Science is not a subject, but a method.
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