Sunday, 26 April 2009

Absolute Morality


Does absolute morality exist?

I don't know. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. What I do know is that many religious claim that it does and claim that it comes from god. But, is that the case?

Most Xians claim that god gives us our morality and that he has set up absolute morals for us to follow. god is further the absolute arbiter and perfectly moral. An easy rebuttal to this is Euthyphro's Dilemma, which points out that if morality is absolute, then why do we need god? And, if morality comes from god, then god could order that rape and torture are moral and we would have to abide. To bring this back to the idea of absolute morality, the first version would hold to it, while the second would not. Holding to absolute morality would mean that we can discern what it is independently of god, since it is an absolute that is outside of god.

For the Xian, however, this simply will not do. How can our morals not come from god? One potential answer has been given to Euthyphro's Dilemma in that morality is not from outside of god, but simply a part of his nature. This really only moves the question back one level and doesn't really answer the question, but let's explore one way in which it ultimately fails. Let's actually look at god's nature.

Is it really the case that god's nature conforms to an absolute morality? The answer is plainly no. Apologists try endlessly to come up with ways to apologize for god's evil deeds (genocide, ordering genocide, ordering rape, etc.) as us not having all the information, but we don't need all the information if morality is absolute. Further, after god wipes out almost all life on the planet in the Noachian flood, he basically says, "My bad." If he has not done anything morally wrong, then why does he feel repentant?

This is a serious blow to the apologists assertions to having an answer to Euthyphro and the existence of absolute morality given by god. If god can not even follow his own moral rules, then god can not be absolutely moral, and the only choice we have left is that absolute morality may exist, but it exists independently of god.

46 comments:

Tigerboy said...

Absolute morality cannot exist, because morality is a judgment call.

There is no universal morality, no one-size-fits-all.

Neither can you do whatever you choose.

Society has standards, and they change. What is, or is not, considered moral behavior is decided upon by society. Not following the law, generally, is not considered moral behavior, unless a large portion of that society considers a particular law wrong.

Most young adults, in the late sixties, did not consider breaking the laws regarding smoking marijuana to be a big moral dilemma. That's probably still true, today. Many people consider the use of illegal drugs to be a "victimless crime." No moral problem.

Some might still place a moral judgment on it. Illegal drug use is, obviously, against the law. We might label the "drug-user" to be, also, a "law-breaker" and might decide we don't want to hire that person as a "baby-sitter." But some wouldn't put any moral judgment on that person, at all. A victimless crime has little actual effect on anyone other than the offender, so who cares? Different people see it differently.

(I'm trying to make a point, please refrain from lecturing me that heroin sales send money to the opium growers in Afghanistan, which fund the war on terror. I'm not trying to start an argument about illegal drugs.)

Beating your wife is not a victimless crime. It offends more people. It offends our basic sense of fair play, and it offends the part of our human nature which feels empathy for those in pain.

Raping, or murdering, a person is definitely not a victimless crime. It offends even more people. Society has an even stronger negative reaction to such acts. Society wants such acts punished.

Not God, society.

Who decides just how morally bankrupt those acts are? Society. And it absolutely depends on the circumstances.

Killing a person because you are war, is different than killing someone because he is trying to kill you, is different than killing someone because you enjoy watching blood gush out, is different than killing one siamese twin in order to save the other, is different than killing someone because he raped your sister, is different than killing your husband because he is cheating on you, is different from killing your mother because she is in excruciating torment as she is dying from bone cancer.

You may not do anything you wish.

Society has very definite ideas about what constitutes moral behavior. But it varies. Religion is not without influence. Some members of a society may read the Bible, and make all their judgments through that filter, some may read the Bible, and feel little or no influence from what's written there.

Some may read the Koran, some might read various newspapers, some might read Miss Manners, some might watch television, some might look to their elected officials, some might ask their neighbors how they feel, some might even think for themselves.

We all have opinions. Standards change. Morality changes, but, like etiquette, there becomes, over time, a consensus about what the average person considers proper, and improper.

Saying "thank you" to someone who holds the door for you. Proper.

Picking you nose in public. Improper.

Giving a quarter to a homeless woman. Proper.

Raping her. Improper.

Social progress. Priceless.

We all know right from wrong, and we don't have to read about it in an old book, first.

Some things are more controversial, they have less consensus.

Some people look at the topic of gay marriage and say: "Well, of course! I can empathize with the fact that gay people want to be treated fairly, to have the same rights as their neighbors."

Others will say: "Hell no! Fags make Jesus cry."

These issues get sorted out by the eventual coming together of a consensus, a generally accepted public opinion. Am I saying everyone has the same opinion? No, I am not.

I'm saying, just like etiquette, certain rules emerge. It takes time, and it changes over time, but rules of morality emerge.

What is considered moral behavior becomes clear to everyone. Does everyone agree with what everyone else does? No. Do whole societies develop common practices that the larger community of man might consider immoral? Sure.

But there exists a basic human yearning to live in a human community that treats its members with fairness, with understanding, with equal protection from violence, hunger, disease, etc.

We all want, basically, the same sorts of things. Health, comfort, food, sex, security. That means that we develop a type of consensus about what are acceptable ways to procure those things, and what are not. We are all the same type of animal. We have the same basic needs.

WE decide what pleases us. WE decide what offends us. WE decide what behavior crosses the line. WE decide what is okay behavior. That is what determines morality.

No, you cannot do whatever you want.

And, no we don't learn morality from the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Karla said...

Anon, thanks for the invite to your blog. I have demonstrated that God is the anchor for the good, being the standard of good himself. You would need to give another perfect standard of good by which to judge the acts of God as wrong. Something greater than God, something more perfect than Him. Human intuition doesn't provide the framework for morality. I've yet to see a good substitute suggested and reasonably supported.

Anonymous said...

Karla,

God is "perfect" and the "standard of good"? Please explain.

Maynard

GCT said...

Karla,
"I have demonstrated that God is the anchor for the good, being the standard of good himself."

You have done no such thing. Assertions are not the same as demonstrations, and begging the question gets you nowhere here.

"You would need to give another perfect standard of good by which to judge the acts of God as wrong."

No, this is not correct. If god sets standards, then he can be judged by those self-same standards. Also, if we set objective standards, we can use those to judge god. This is not a difficult concept.

"I've yet to see a good substitute suggested and reasonably supported."

This is just plain false. I've presented you with non-theological, objective moral systems, like Utilitarianism, as well as pointed out the evolutionary aspect of morality (the fact that we see it in other animals). Pretending that these things have not happened is tantamount to dishonesty.

Karla said...

"No, this is not correct. If god sets standards, then he can be judged by those self-same standards. Also, if we set objective standards, we can use those to judge god. This is not a difficult concept."

God is the absolute standard. His nature is the measuring rod.

If we set the standard, it wouldn't be objective, it would be our subjective standard of what we think it should be.

Would you not need a perfect being to be a standard and not imperfect beings who seldom agree amongst themselves and do not even keep their own standards of life?

God is always Himself. He is always good all the time. As I have tried to explain that God is the greatest possible being imaginable that even is greater than we can imagine, so His goodness would necessarily be infinitely good. And His wisdom be infinitely good. And such a good perfect being would be in a place to perfectly judge a people when He sees it wise and good to do so for our good. So the actions you judge Him for, are His actions of justice from His goodness and not from any error or evil on His part.

Also any judgment met out in time, does not mean it continues into eternity. Those that incurred judgment in this life, does not mean they are forever kept from eternity with Him. Jesus preached to the captives who died before He came and so those from Sodom and those who were killed in any battle would have had and may have taken the life in Christ available to them the same as it is available to us now.

Karla said...

Anon, just a question for you.

Do you believe there is any absolute morality at all?

GCT said...

Karla,
"God is the absolute standard. His nature is the measuring rod."

Already dealt with in the OP.

"If we set the standard, it wouldn't be objective, it would be our subjective standard of what we think it should be."

Do you think humans can't set objective standards? I've already mentioned a few for you, so you are factually incorrect here. And, you show that you don't understand that there's a difference between absolute and objective.

"Would you not need a perfect being to be a standard and not imperfect beings who seldom agree amongst themselves and do not even keep their own standards of life?"

No. And, just so you know, your continual assertion that this is the case does not demonstrate or evidence that you are correct.

"God is always Himself. He is always good all the time."

Except when he is committing genocide, ordering it, commanding rape, etc, right? This has already been dealt with in the OP.

"As I have tried to explain that God is the greatest possible being imaginable that even is greater than we can imagine, so His goodness would necessarily be infinitely good."

This is begging the question. That a deity may exist does not necessarily entail that that deity must be perfectly good. If the Bible is correct, in fact, then it's plain to see that this deity is not perfectly good.

"Also any judgment met out in time, does not mean it continues into eternity. Those that incurred judgment in this life, does not mean they are forever kept from eternity with Him."

This is a new wrinkle, and one not shared by the majority of Xians. Once one dies, one is judged for heaven or hell and eternity at either sight, unless you are Catholic and believe in purgatory, which is a temporary holding place before you go to heaven for eternity.

"Do you believe there is any absolute morality at all?"

You obviously did not actually read the OP where I claimed that I don't know if it exists or not. I urge you to actually read that which you are commenting on/arguing against.

ethinethin said...

Hey GCT,

You said...
This is a new wrinkle, and one not shared by the majority of Xians. Once one dies, one is judged for heaven or hell and eternity at either sight, unless you are Catholic and believe in purgatory, which is a temporary holding place before you go to heaven for eternity.Also mormons, though obviously not mainstream christians (but they still consider themselves christians for whatever that's worth), believe that hell is temporary, unless you continuously reject god.

I suspect this is a new tactic for "progressive" apologists and proselytizers, or whatever Karla is, similar to the "hell isn't a place, it's a separation from god" thing.

Sort of funny how, for an infallible source, believers are always disagreeing on core parts of their bible.

Anonymous said...

Karla said...

Anon, just a question for you.

Do you believe there is any absolute morality at all?

If you are talking to me, no. I think we live in a time where we can sit back and ask these questions about morality but ten thousand years ago it was a probably a non-issue. And if our comfortable world does fall apart as the environmentalists are warning us, then morality will see another huge paradigm shift.

Absolute morality? Absolutely not.

Maynard

Pine said...

Alright, let's test the party lines here.

GCT said: "Apologists try endlessly to come up with ways to apologize for god's evil deeds (genocide, ordering genocide, ordering rape, etc.) as us not having all the information, but we don't need all the information if morality is absolute."

Tigerboy said: "Society has standards, and they change. What is, or is not, considered moral behavior is decided upon by society."

Maynard said: "I think we live in a time where we can sit back and ask these questions about morality but ten thousand years ago it was a probably a non-issue."

Maynard, your statement does not necessarily mean that you believe (as Tigerboy does) that morality is decided upon by society. I realize GCT rejects the notion that morality is based upon society's agreed upon perception of what is 'right' or 'wrong'... but this seems to be in direct conflict with Tigerboy and perhaps Maynard's view. So two questions:

1) To Tigerboy (and perhaps Maynard if you share his view): What if the rape, genocide and other suppossed 'evil deeds' committed by God in the OT were socially acceptable in the time they occurred? Will you argue that because you believe morality is based upon society's agreed upon definition of 'good' or 'evil' that God's actions as recorded in the Bible could have been 'good' at the time? Doesn't this view reject God and at the same time justify His actions?

2) GCT: You seem to reject the notion that morality is based upon society's subjective determinations of 'right' and 'wrong'. Will you explain to Tigerboy why you feel his view is wrong? Or is it "ok" to nurse incorrect patterns of thought so long as they're not religious in nature?

Tigerboy said...

Pine :

Rape and genocide have not, nor will they ever be, accepted by a majority of mankind.

People want food, sex, warm house, dry clothes, security for their children, good health . . . not "let's rape and murder all our friends."

Tigerboy said...

I have never said that societies of people have not ever had to deal with despots, or atrocities. I have never said that there is no such thing as wicked people coming to power. I have never said that even whole societies don't sometimes believe wicked things.

Whole societies can be made to believe that which is false. One of the most powerful ways to accomplish this is with religion. With religion, you can convince people to act contrary to their own best interests.

I'm saying that average human beings want good things for their families. They want food on the table. They want security. They want to live in a world where people are treated fairly. They want their children to be proud, to believe that their parents did the best they could.

Evil ideas have a limited shelf-life. Social progress moves toward greater fairness.

Less fairness, eventually, assuming people are not starving, or in shackles, and sometimes even if they are starving, or in shackles, less fairness leads to revolution. If they have food in their bellies, and some understanding of their circumstances, people will seek a better deal.

Societal ideals may take huge amounts of time to work themselves out, but a society that values the ideals of rape and genocide does not last. Very limited shelf-life.

Morality comes from how average people wish to be treated. Not God; The Golden Rule. Morality comes from human empathy. People ask themselves: "Will my children, and grandchildren, be proud of me?" That is what makes people do the right thing, not fear of divine retribution.

GCT said...

Pine,
It seems to me that Tigerboy has answered you and pre-empted your question to me.

Pine said...

GCT:

You said: "It seems to me that Tigerboy has answered you and pre-empted your question to me."

Umm... no.

First he said: "Society has standards, and they change. What is, or is not, considered moral behavior is decided upon by society."

Now he says: "Whole societies can be made to believe that which is false. One of the most powerful ways to accomplish this is with religion. With religion, you can convince people to act contrary to their own best interests."

Can both of these statements really be true? By what standard would we know that an entire society had been convinced to 'believe that which is false' if as he states in statement one 'what is... moral... is decided upon by society'?

I realize I'm in the minority here, but I really don't feel we can have a legitimate conversation if you're going to turn a blind eye to every poor argument offered by your peers while maintaining the highest level of scrutiny for anything the opposition has to say.

If you want a 'bash religion' site then I guess that's fine, but I doubt anyone (even those intelligent folk who agree with your premises) will take you seriously.

GCT said...

Pine,
"Can both of these statements really be true?"

Yes.

"By what standard would we know that an entire society had been convinced to 'believe that which is false' if as he states in statement one 'what is... moral... is decided upon by society'?"

You're only taking part of his argument. You're missing the part where we folds in the evolution aspect.

Take a religious group where they resolve to commit ritual murder of others. This goes against our ingrained evolutionary sense of morality, yet the culture has deemed it is moral to do these things. In all cases that I'm aware of, it is religion in these sorts of cases (ritual human sacrifice - including Jesus) that enables such practices to occur.

"I realize I'm in the minority here, but I really don't feel we can have a legitimate conversation if you're going to turn a blind eye to every poor argument offered by your peers while maintaining the highest level of scrutiny for anything the opposition has to say."

My differences with Tigerboy are much smaller than my differences with you, and I think you aren't seeing the whole argument put forth...by either of us.

"If you want a 'bash religion' site then I guess that's fine, but I doubt anyone (even those intelligent folk who agree with your premises) will take you seriously."

When I have a reason to disagree with other atheists, I do so, and I have. The truth is that I'm not sure where morality comes from in total. I know there is an evolutionary component, as we can see moral structures in other animals. I know that to some extent societies try to define their own moral strictures. I know that we don't gain our morals from the god of the Bible (or any other god). I know that we can formulate (and some have done so) objective standards for morality. I know that our morality now is preferrable (to me) over morality just a hundred years ago, and that it seems to be moving (in stops, starts, and fits) towards allowing greater freedom for individuals and more equitability.

Tigerboy said...

Let me try to make one part a bit more clear.

Pine, I believe that I have not been clear in expressing the difference between two concepts:

"Society", such as the people living under Hitler

and

"Society", meaning the global community of mankind, in which I would include the social progress that the global community of mankind makes into the future.

Whole societies may very well make some determination that a certain behavior is moral, such as the enslavement of Africans, in America, that the global community of mankind, either at the time, or at some point in their children's future, will find repugnant.

Whole societies may very well do things that others find very wrong, and that does not make those behaviors moral.

I'm saying morality is a judgment call.

People do the best they can. They do not wish to be seen as wicked by their children and grandchildren. Evil ideas have a limited shelf-life.

The Bible's references to slavery, which absolutely were used by southern American society to justify their actions, to make them feel that they were in the right, acting morally, is a perfect example of how religion can be used to pervert the way in which people examine their own immoral role in even obvious moral dilemmas.

People do not wish to be seen as wicked. The global community of mankind makes steady progress toward doing what is fair, what is moral. Not because of anything written in a book, but, frequently despite what is written in holy books, because people want to leave a better world for their children than the one in which they grew up. People want their children to understand that they did the best they could.

It may take a society, or even the larger community of mankind, a long time to figure out that they are doing something that they actually find to be immoral, but when they do figure it out, they fix it.

Social progress moves toward greater fairness.

Less fairness leads to revolution.

Many things lead to greater social progress, education, better medicine, social reforms of the past-the inclusion of diverse groups into the global conversation, the inclusion of women, democracy.

The Bible was an attempt, by Bronze Age peoples, to codify, to write down, those innate feelings of what is right and what is wrong. There is nothing "divinely inspired" about it. Morality comes from society, from mankind, not religion. We are WAY past the musings of our Bronze Age brothers and sisters, at this point.

We have a far better understanding of hygiene, medicine, what it means to have a fair and inclusive society, what it means to have a fair criminal trial.

Morality comes from the judgment calls of mankind, what is the correct course of action that will make me, and my grandchildren, think that I have done the right thing.

Not a burning bush.

Tigerboy said...

The Christian society that allowed Hitler to rise to power is another good example. Religion allows good people to harbor really bad ideas.

I think it is absurd the way people always try to use Hitler as an example of atheism run-amuck.

Adolph Hitler was a Roman Catholic, he was certainly raised with those ideas, his speeches are littered with references to Jesus Christ.

He also said some things that suggest that he rejected his religion, but there is NO QUESTION that the society to whom he made those speeches was overwhelmingly Christian, had a religion-inspired feeling of superiority over the Jews, a religion-inspired hatred of Jews, which Hitler used to his advantage. This situation is completely driven by false notions inspired by religion.

Despots like Hitler and Stalin, were using the willingness of their societies to fall down on their knees, to transfer that worship to themselves.

These are hardly examples of societies suffering from too much objective, skeptical inquiry about the nature of the universe.

These were extremely religious societies. Hitler and Stalin used the religious indoctrination, of their societies, to elevate themselves to God-like status.

Same with North Korea. Kim Jung Ill is NOT the leader of North Korea. His long-dead father is actually considered the leader. As Christopher Hitchens points out, "it's just one short of a Trinity."

These are hardly examples of atheistic societies.

Again, religion can make people act in ways that work contrary to their own interests. Religion is an excellent way to control people.

Again, evil ideas have a limited shelf-life. Before you point out that North Korea still exists, like I said, sometimes it takes a lot time.

Much of the Muslim world seems to be stubbornly in the thrall of its religion. I believe that they will, eventually, demand a more open society.

Pine said...

GCT:

You said: "I know that we can formulate (and some have done so) objective standards for morality."

Tigerboy said: "I'm saying morality is a judgment call."

What I argued in another thread was that without God I would say morality is a judgment call. Both you and Tigerboy attempted to explain to me why this was wrong, and yet when Tigerboy asserts the same thing I have he gets a pass.

If you really think you're being objective and fair in this discussion, then I see no point to continue.

Tigerboy said...

My point remains.

The community of mankind wishes to do the right thing. When they figure out that they are doing the wrong thing, they fix it.

Tigerboy said...

The objective nature of moral judgments come from the fact that we humans, basically, want the same things.

We all recognize fair, and unfair, treatment. It is not truly objective, for we are individuals, but there is a baseline of treatment that we all, generally, recognize as offensive, or pleasing.

Tigerboy said...

I really don't wish to chase you away, good friend Pine, I am merely trying to answer your question about how there can be morality without religion.

It's innate. Or, at least, the desire to figure it out is innate.

Chris said...

As Kant said, our good will is the only thing which is intrinsically good; by following our good will, we do our duty; by doing our duty, we follow the categorical imperative - the subconscious inner sense of morality which can only have come from God. I await a barrage of reprisals.

Tigerboy said...

Okay, here's one:

It comes from the fact that our ancestors, the primates, lived in social groups.

You pick a flea off me, I pick a flea off you.

Cooperation leads to success. We may have disagreements, we may have war, but we all, generally, recognize fair treatment within the group. We strive to help those with whom we have empathy, because it will, in various ways, come back to help ourselves.

Morality is how we demonstrate to the group that we, ourselves, are deserving of help and consideration by the group.

Empathy becomes self-preservation.

Chris said...

Also, I am Mr.X :D

GCT said...

Pine,
"What I argued in another thread was that without God I would say morality is a judgment call."

I don't think this is an accurate representation of what you were arguing. You were arguing, in essence, that without god everything is completely subjective, so we would have no justification to condemn someone like Hitler or Pol Pot. I don't see Tigerboy saying that. I see him saying that religion has an objective foundation in the evolution of our species, and the furtherance of that is something that we inherently strive for. I'm not sure that I necessarily agree with that, but I don't disagree with the evolutionary component.

I also see Tigerboy saying that much of how we put into place the objective, evolutionary part of morality is done by culture's dictates. I don't think that anyone can disagree with that.

So, where are the disconnects? The only potential disconnect I see is that I've pointed out that humans can and have developed objective moral codes that we can follow and use. Tigerboy sees how we do that as a "judgement call" I believe, while I wouldn't use that verbiage. But, once again, our views are not that different. You seem to want to cast our views as diametrically opposed when they simply are not.

(Tigerboy - if I misunderstood anything you said, please correct.)

"Both you and Tigerboy attempted to explain to me why this was wrong, and yet when Tigerboy asserts the same thing I have he gets a pass."

A) I haven't been logged on for a bit, so it's hard to fault me for "giving a pass" when I haven't been here. And more importantly:
B) I disagree that he "asserts the same thing [you] have."

"If you really think you're being objective and fair in this discussion, then I see no point to continue."

That is entirely up to you, but I think that you are missing part of what's being said, and are making bad connections because of it.

Tigerboy said...

GCT:
---"The only potential disconnect I see is that I've pointed out that humans can and have developed objective moral codes that we can follow and use. Tigerboy sees how we do that as a "judgement call"

I'm not saying that individual humans spend a lot of time processing each action they observe, and considering the moral ramifications. Those ideas are already firmly ingrained in our culture.

Like etiquette, rules of morality emerge, perhaps without people even fully understanding the reasons why.

Such rules can, at a very slow pace, change into something new. New political and social realities (think about the commonplace use of the honorific Ms., instead of Miss or Mrs.), new technologies (it is polite to remove your headphones, when speaking with someone), bring about new rules of etiquette, but the essential ideas behind those rules have come down to us from antiquity.

The same is true of morality. It is not truly objective, there is no one-size-fits-all, but we all interact with our environment, with our fellow man, in similar ways. It can seem objective. No one likes to be tortured, no one enjoys starving to death. extremely few of us see being raped as a fun experience.

It is not totally objective, because some unusual folk do enjoy being raped, but even they understand the basic rules of morality. Even those who do enjoy being beaten understand that most folks do not.

We all have similar hopes and dreams for our children. We all enjoy art and music. The paths diverge at the questions: Which art? Which music? Which political party? Which religion?

Trying to pin down an absolute morality will always lead to failure, because, in fact, once you get down to real specifics, we are individuals. There is a big spectrum of ways in which we see the world, what offends, what we enjoy, how we demonstrate our willingness to offend, or to please, others in the group.

We believe different things. We value different things. There are as many different strategies to get through life as there are people employing strategy.

Calling one person "fat" might totally offend that person, another might not care at all. But we all understand that calling a stranger "fat" has a very high likelihood of offending them, so it is considered unacceptable to try it.

We are in the same boat. It is in our best interest to get along. Morality and etiquette are two tools that have come down, from antiquity, to assist us.

I'm not saying that every human spends a lot of time making a "judgment call" about whether, or not, to rape somebody. It doesn't even feel like a choice. Most humans would never even consider the notion of raping someone.

But, at some point, in our past, decide is what we did. We, as a group, as an individual in a group, made a judgment call. Based on our natural talent for empathy, we decided what felt right, and what felt wrong. Humans decided, not deities. Humans decided, based on what they felt was the best way to get along well with other humans, or not get along. Some people are antisocial. It's not a good idea.

And we will continue to decide, on every moral question that comes our way. Not every human being will grapple with these questions, but a consensus will be reached, nonetheless.

Regarding most daily choices, what is right, or wrong, was decided long ago, and we all understand the rules. To that extent, it feels objective.

Morality is how we interact with the group, and we each do it differently, according to his or her personality, his or her beliefs about the world.

Some moral choices are evolving. Back when we were huddled in caves, scratching out whatever living we could, was there a lot of discussion about the morality of killing animals? Of course not.

Now that we all have a nice grocery, right down the street, full of healthy fresh vegetables and fruits, and we have better understanding about nutrition, some see the issue differently. We might be making a new moral judgment call.

The closer we come to a full and complete understanding of the human psyche, perhaps there will come a time when we will have an absolute morality. It's a good goal.

I don't believe that you can truly have an absolute morality, without a perfect, all-knowing judge. And there ain't no such thing. But, again, pursuit of absolute morality is a very good goal.

It's interesting. It would seem that greater moral behavior, that is, better interactions with the group, should be the primary goal of the world's religions.

However, making claims of knowledge, about things which we DO NOT KNOW, does not further the cause of getting along with other people. It has the opposite effect.

It makes people feel resentful, judged, and hated. That is why I see religion as having so much in common with racism. We judge people, based on bad information, based on things we do not know to be true.

It doesn't help our goal of social harmony. It creates greater discord.

Anonymous said...

Pine,

I think my answer to your question has already been answered very well by Tigerboy. But to express my own opinion, morality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It seems lately that many men in Afghanistan currently think that rape of their wife is moral based on a new law. I don't agree. Rape may have been considered moral in old testament times by all. I can't condone that. Not here, not now.

My morality has been shaped by my life experiences. If god is the basis of morality, then why is it different to people who read from the same bible?

Maynard

GCT said...

Tigerboy,
First a nit:
"It is not totally objective, because some unusual folk do enjoy being raped, but even they understand the basic rules of morality."

If rape is defined as unwelcome forceful sexual contact, then one can not enjoy being raped by definition. True, some like to role play as if they are being raped, but the contact in those cases is not unwelcome, hence it is not technically rape.

"But, at some point, in our past, decide is what we did. We, as a group, as an individual in a group, made a judgment call."

This, I would disagree with. Many of the strictures that we have (like not murdering) are evolutionarily passed down to us. We see the same behavior in other animals, and I doubt that you would claim that they made a judgement call. For behavior to be binding across generations and species, it is certainly more than a judgement call or a decision.

"I don't believe that you can truly have an absolute morality, without a perfect, all-knowing judge."

If you are claiming that absolute rules can not exist without a judge, I would disagree with that. If you are claiming that one can not actually follow an absolute moral code without knowing all, then I'm not sure if that is true or not.

Lastly, don't fall into the trap that Pine did in equating absolute and objective. They are not the same thing.

GCT said...

Pharyngula recently touched on this topic.

Karla said...

Anonymous I was asking GCT who I've known as Anon on my blog. But thanks for answering just the same.

Anonymous said...

Karla,
No problemo. ;o)

Maynard

Tigerboy said...

GCT:
I will totally grant you that my rape example was a poor one.

---"Many of the strictures that we have (like not murdering) are evolutionarily passed down to us. We see the same behavior in other animals, and I doubt that you would claim that they made a judgement call."

That is EXACTLY what I am claiming. (Always conscious? Maybe yes, maybe no.) As a species, as individuals, we certainly do make judgments (maybe "choices" is a better word), as do other animals.

(We are animals.)

A big part of the term "random selection" has to do with the term "sexual selection." People seem to believe that we animals don't think. Of course we do. We animals select, we animals make judgments, we animals make good choices, we animals make bad choices.

Is this a good place to build a nest, or a bad place to build a nest?
Is this a good time to raise these young, or a time to abandon the nest?
Is this a good time to hunt, or a good time to forage?
Is this a good food to eat, or a dangerous food to eat?
Is this a good time to fight, or a good time to flee?
Is this a good male/female to mate with, or a bad male/female to mate with?

We animals make judgments all the time, including the judgments we make, about which behaviors work, and which behaviors fail, when building relationships that lead to harmonious social groups. Morality.

You don't think there are rules of behavior in a wolf pack? In a troop of monkeys? And are those behaviors not the result of some monkey, at some point, figuring out that a certain behavior is more likely to lead to food, or sex, or safety, as opposed to being ostracized?

One choice at a time, through the entire course of the evolution of our social species, we chose morality, or suffered the results. Like pair-bonding (marriage) as a strategy that works well to raise offspring, social-groups are a strategy that increases the chances that we all survive.

Certain rules emerge. Empathy is rewarded. Group cooperation is rewarded, not just by nature, not just by the environment, by the group!

Those who choose to follow the group's rules are deserving of help, those who ignore them are not deserving of help. Morality. We created those rules. We innately understand those rules, or we're out of the group!

We judge our fellow animals. Traits--which the females (usually the females) of a species choose, value, look for, judge to be preferable, in a mate--become more desirable, in general, and individuals, who feature those traits, win being selected and pass down their genes.

Some females like tall, some like short, some like skinny, some like fat. Some like distinct stripes, some like indistinct stripes. Some like bright feathers, some like less-bright feathers. Some like patterned shells, some like plain shells. Some like big antlers, some like small antlers. Choices are made.

Are they conscious choices? Maybe yes, maybe no, but certain judgments prevail. Certain choices get made more often than others. Males show off their traits, and some females are more easily impressed than others. More individuals pick more of one trait, than another, and the results drive evolution.

(Evolution is not driven by sexual selection, alone. New traits are successful, or not, in the specific environment in which they express themselves. The environment favors, or "selects," which traits will provide an advantage, and which will fail.)

But a female (usually a female) decides with whom she wishes to breed. In other words, what women want, in a mate, becomes "objectively" more desirable. There emerges a type of consensus. The description "tall, dark, and handsome" comes from somewhere. It's a type of consensus. It's what a lot of women look for, in a partner. Women like taller. It's a judgment. Women select taller. Is it a coincidence that humans are getting taller?

The choices we make, are what we become.

A consensus emerges about what is attractive. Is it absolute? No. Is it objective? No, not really, yet we do learn to differentiate between what is attractive, and what is not. It can begin to feel objective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we all know it, when we see it.

Let's shift gears and think about fiddler crabs. Female fiddler crabs value males with one enormous claw. The male with the biggest claw gets to breed. It sounds pretty objective, doesn't it? Is it a case of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder?" Or, is it a case of "big claw always gets the girl?" To us, it looks objective. "Big claw always gets the girl."

From her point of view, it is a subjective case of true love at first sight.

"Girl, I saw Mr. Boy-Crab, over there, and he's fiiine! His independently moving eyestalks made me go weak in all the knees of my multi-jointed legs! He's dreamy! Ooo, and the claw!!! Girl! You gotta see the claw! Like this! MmmKaaayyy?"

Those frisky lady fiddlers subjectively love those hunky boy-crabs with the big studly claws, but it seems objective to us. Biggest claw always gets the girl.

Can human beauty seem objective, in the same way? "Six foot two, eyes of blue," gets to breed. (I'm not being racist, here. I'm paraphrasing an old song lyric.)

Throw in some other objective traits, like broader shoulders than his brothers, a square, dimpled chin, a profusion of hair in the correct places, firm buttocks, teeth of a certain color and uniformity of alignment, a back pocket area that has been stretched-out by more high-denomination dollar bills than his brothers, and this man's opportunities to breed are guaranteed.

Is it totally objective? Of course, not. But it can really start to seem that way! "Six foot two, eyes of blue" always has the head cheerleader on his arm!

She decides, she makes a choice. She may not like men who are "six foot two, eyes of blue," or she may favor other traits, like intelligence, or kindness, or a crazy sense of humor, or gnarly tattoos, or a specific color Porsche, but if she doesn't choose "six foot two, eyes of blue," some other she will.

Given certain objectively desirable characteristics, certain specific sexual traits, his success with the ladies is assured. He has a green light to pass along his genes, if he chooses. Just like the fiddler crab with the objectively large claw. George Clooney really does have more fun than the rest of us. It can almost start to feel like Gorgeous George is "objectively handsome." I never met a woman who thought of him as ugly. But, of course, there's no such thing as objective beauty, right?

Morality, on certain subjects, can seem objective. So many of us agree, again, on certain subjects, but I believe there is a touch of the subjective in almost everything (not math). People are complex, fickle creatures. Who truly understands all the reasons why we do things? We sometimes don't even understand ourselves. Our mental lives are very complicated things. Who can possibly know all the details about circumstances, mental states, motivations, religious beliefs, ways in which someone has been burned in the past, ways in which they might have felt frightened, defensive, temporarily nuts, regretful, etc., in order to objectively assess the morality of someone's actions?

It's a judgment.

Different people see things differently. Juries of our peers come in real handy. Some sort of consensus must be established, in order to get the clearest picture, but do we know every last detail that can sum up a person as objectively immoral? We tell ourselves that we do, but people are more complicated than that. Can we sum up the morality of a single act? Does everyone agree on every aspect? Do we totally understand what drove him to commit the act?

We attempt objectivity.

It would seem that we would be able to get even closer to objectivity on the question "Did he break the law?" We know what the law says, witnesses saw him take an action that looks like it violated the law. Objectively, he broke the law, right? Even that is sometimes open to interpretation. That's why lawyers and judges get the big money.


Objective:

not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased.

intent upon, or dealing with, things external to the mind, rather than with thoughts or feelings.

of, or pertaining to, something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought, or an observer, as part of reality.

---You cannot fit several billions of Earthlings thoughts on morality into any of these definitions. On controversial topics, why is my opinion better than someone else's? We only figure it out, over long periods of time, when it becomes less controversial. General consensus.


Subjective:

existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject, rather than to the object of thought.

pertaining to, or characteristic of, an individual; personal; individual.

relating to, or of, the nature of an object, as it is known in the mind, as distinct from a thing in itself.

----Morality exists in order to assist the group dynamic. It is subject to there being a me, as well as there being other people with whom I wish to relate. If I existed in the void of space, with no fellow humans, with no fellow intelligence of any kind, is anything I do immoral? (Trust me, I know what "absolute" means. LOL.)


After spending all evening with my thoughts about these concepts, I guess I'm questioning whether anything, aside from something like mathematics, physics, some aspects of science, can anything, upon which people disagree, TRULY be separated from the filter of our interpretation and experience of it?

When we are chosen to sit on a jury, we say we will be objective, but that cannot be. What we mean is, we will do our best, we will come as close as we possibly can. Are we ever truly objective? No. We all have baggage. We all have preconceived ideas. We experience the world somewhat differently.

(As I was writing this, I called my friend, who is a very experienced lawyer, who has argued before the US Supreme Court, and I asked him: "Is there anything in life that is truly objective?" and the first words out of his mouth were: "Only math.")

With moral dilemmas like "Is it right to torture," we come pretty darn close. It feels objective. We think of it as objective, most people would call it objective, but I maintain, in order for there to be a truly objective morality, it must come from an external source, OR there must be true consensus. There must be a singular interpretation. I'm not saying absolute right and wrong. I'm saying singular lens, singular point of view.

In general, we all know what feels right, and I don't think we really disagree on this point. After all, I was the one who described morality as "innate." I think it is. We all know the rules. We all understand pain. We all understand hunger. We all understand feelings of vulnerability. We all understand which behaviors will make us seem more deserving of sympathy from the group, and which behaviors will make us seem less deserving. Most of us feel empathy. Morality comes from that empathy. But we interpret those feeling of empathy, those understandings of pain, through our unique experience.

I am not comfortable calling it truly objective. There exists no external, no intelligence who's totally unbiased assessment of our morality supersedes our own.

Everything is judged by us, by us as individuals, by us as a group, by us as the sum total of mankind, with all our different baggage, all our different priorities, all our different unprovable beliefs, and that has been true through the entire course of our evolution.

People see almost everything in slightly different ways (not math, physics, etc.), understand slightly different aspects of the circumstances, interpret through the lens of their own belief-system, past experiences, etc.

Very little is TRULY objective, certainly not a disputed subject like morality.

Many moral concepts feel really darn close, close enough that we call them objective. Again, I don't think we really disagree. Maybe I'm wrong. As I have said, we all know the rules, on the basic topics, which is what I think you mean by objective morality. We all understand that torture would feel bad.

I may be splitting hairs. But, actually, there is an aspect of TRUE objectivity that does approach the absolute. We are not without emotion. We are not robots. Some questions of morality seem indistinguishable from true objectivity, but there is no true unbiased interpretation. Almost everything has some tiny degree of subjectivity. It is subject to us. Billions of us.

My assessment of disputed moral behavior is not objectively any more valid than another's. It is my opinion.

I believe that simple moral guidelines, like the Golden Rule, do more to help us than complicated moral guidelines, like the Bible. Whether my opinion, on disputed moral questions, comes closer to that which becomes the general consensus, remains to be seen.

Eventually, general consensus will decide a winner. I believe that people are driven, strongly, to figure out what is right. They want a better world for themselves, they are even more driven towards a better world for their children, they want their children to believe that they did their best. Like I said, on most of the basic issues, the consensus is in. Those issues seem really unlikely to change. No one is going to decide that he likes to be tortured, so most of us, because of empathy, not Jesus, understand torture to be wrong.

Where it gets complicated, it gets complicated. Almost every action we take is subject to something.

If humans operate by free will, which I believe we do, how can you say that anything is but the result of a decision, a choice, a judgment call, which was made by one of us, or by some of us, or by a consensus of us, many times over, until it became a part of us?

If morality comes down to us through evolution, how can it be anything but a part of the extremely long series of decisions and choices that molded our species, and is still molding our species, to this day? We are a part of this ongoing evolutionary process.

The choices we make, are who we become.

We choose sociability. We choose group cooperation. We choose morality. Or, we are ostracized.

Morality does not choose us. It is not external. It does not exist outside the group, except where it exists within some different group. Morality is from us, of us, by us. It is a strategy we use in order to move through this world of others more easily, with less friction.

Morality is not without bias. It is not objective. It is human. The Golden Rule is as close to objective morality as we can get. It's a judgment.

Tigerboy

Pine said...

Tigerboy:

"And are those behaviors not the result of some monkey, at some point, figuring out that a certain behavior is more likely to lead to food, or sex, or safety, as opposed to being ostracized?"

I bet some monkey figured it out and was able to successfully argue his point with his other primate friends. We certainly have PLEANTY of evidence to suggest they interact with each other in this way...

“Group cooperation is rewarded, not just by nature, not just by the environment, by the group!”

Which is it, did one monkey figure it out one day, or did the group enforce it always?

“Those who choose to follow the group's rules are deserving of help, those who ignore them are not deserving of help.”

No subjective analysis here at all…

“We innately understand those rules, or we're out of the group!”

Except for all the corrupt people we allow to control our government. But hey, every rule has to have exceptions I guess… still it’s funny that some have figured out a ‘better’ survival tactic for themselves which involved violation of the rules of the group…

“Some females like tall, some like short, some like skinny, some like fat. Some like distinct stripes, some like indistinct stripes. Some like bright feathers, some like less-bright feathers. Some like patterned shells, some like plain shells. Some like big antlers, some like small antlers. Choices are made.”

I hope human females decide to like feathers and wings. I’d love to think that one day my great, great, great, great, great, great grandson will be able to fly…

“Are they conscious choices? Maybe yes, maybe no”

Didn’t you just spend the last 500 paragraphs stating that you feel the answer to this question is a definite “yes”? Now I’m confused. You think you might be wrong?

“Males show off their traits, and some females are more easily impressed than others.”

Exclusion of homosexuals… ironic… perhaps a Freudian slip?

“More individuals pick more of one trait, than another, and the results drive evolution.”

(Argument #5987 in support of “yes” as the answer to the question “Are they conscious choices?”)

“The environment favors, or "selects," which traits will provide an advantage, and which will fail.”

Ah… how many would-be atheists have floundered as they considered the paradox of man’s free will in evolution as it relates to environment’s sovereign will…

“But a female (usually a female) decides with whom she wishes to breed.”

It ain’t easy being a pimp. This is probably why.

“The description "tall, dark, and handsome" comes from somewhere. It's a type of consensus. It's what a lot of women look for, in a partner. Women like taller. It's a judgment. Women select taller. Is it a coincidence that humans are getting taller?”

I really thought that my feathers and wings statement might be unrealistic until just now…

“The choices we make, are what we become.”

How does that relate to the old saying: “You are what you eat?”

“Given certain objectively desirable characteristics, certain specific sexual traits, his success with the ladies is assured.”

See guys… most women really are fickle and shallow. Take it from Tigerboy.

“George Clooney really does have more fun than the rest of us.”

Shoot! I knew it! Darn that George Clooney!

“I never met a woman who thought of him as ugly.”

Yeah, they’re probably too fickle and shallow to talk to you. Maybe if you had blue eyes and some man chest hair…

“But, of course, there's no such thing as objective beauty, right?”

I’d say you’ve proven your case. You had me at “George Clooney”.

“People are complex, fickle creatures.”

Here I thought it was only women.

“Who can possibly know all the details about circumstances, mental states, motivations, religious beliefs, ways in which someone has been burned in the past, ways in which they might have felt frightened, defensive, temporarily nuts, regretful, etc., in order to objectively assess the morality of someone's actions?”

We’re so screwed up as a species that psychology is really a waste of time.

“It's a judgment.”

Darn it! I knew it was a trick question…

“That's why lawyers and judges get the big money.”

Well that… and because females of our species decided they deserved more money.

“(Trust me, I know what "absolute" means. LOL.)”

Trust me… I believe you…

“(As I was writing this, I called my friend, who is a very experienced lawyer, who has argued before the US Supreme Court, and I asked him: "Is there anything in life that is truly objective?" and the first words out of his mouth were: "Only math.")”

(Argument #5789… appeal to authority)

“With moral dilemmas like "Is it right to torture," we come pretty darn close. It feels objective.”

Now I get it… our subjective feelings can transform into objective observations… but only once we really FEEL that they have become objective. In death his name is Robert Palson.

“but I maintain, in order for there to be a truly objective morality, it must come from an external source, OR there must be true consensus.”

Stop standing in the way of objectivity and just agree already. Friends don’t let friends prevent subjective thoughts from being viewed as objective.

“In general, we all know what feels right,”

Is that your subjective feeling? Or is this one that transformed into an objective observation?

“We all know the rules. We all understand pain. We all understand hunger. We all understand feelings of vulnerability. We all understand which behaviors will make us seem more deserving of sympathy from the group, and which behaviors will make us seem less deserving.”

You know it… don’t try to deny it. Deep down you feel that I am right…

“I am not comfortable calling it truly objective.”

On the other hand I feel perfectly comfortable making statements which imply I’m being objective.

“There exists no external, no intelligence who's totally unbiased assessment of our morality supersedes our own.”

Feels objective… guess it must be.

“People see almost everything in slightly different ways (not math, physics, etc.),”

No one has every challenged conventional understanding of math or physics… Stupid Nash and Einstein were upstarts who tried to ruin our only two objective subjects!

“Very little is TRULY objective, certainly not a disputed subject like morality.”

Very little = nothing = whatever we agree on (It all makes sense after you stare at it for about 5 hours)

“I may be splitting hairs.”

I may be bat shit crazy… who knows?

“Almost everything has some tiny degree of subjectivity.”

Only a little bit though. Just little enough that we can transform it into objectivity if we really believe. Would this be belief in the one true objectivity?

“My assessment of disputed moral behavior is not objectively any more valid than another's.”

I just read this dissertation for nothing!

“Where it gets complicated, it gets complicated.”

For many years I used to think that complication actually implied simplicity. Thanks for clearing this one up for me.

“The choices we make, are who we become.”

I choose Batman!

“We choose sociability.”

Darn it!

“Morality is not without bias.”

That’s why it doesn’t let me be Batman.

Tigerboy said...

Pine:

I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to contribute to this conversation. I used to have a much greater admiration for your point of view. If you will recall, I have encouraged you to state your position, and I have encourage you to remain as a presence, a voice, in these pages.

I have never mocked you.

I acknowledge that my previous entry is quite long. Perhaps I would benefit from a good editor. Perhaps I should work on being more concise.

But I worked on that piece for three days. I was trying to discuss a topic that you, yourself, initially postulated, that morality could not be explained without religion.

You are free to disagree with anything I have said, but I do not see mockery as contributing anything positive to this discussion.

GCT said...

OK, first of all, Pine said:
"Maybe if you had blue eyes and some man chest hair…"

I happen to have blue eyes (when I'm wearing blue - they change color) and I also have man chest hair, and I have never been all that successful with the ladies. (Tall is a better attribute to have.)

Tigerboy,
The evolution of morality is much older than monkeys, and though it is an interesting thought to connect it to sexual selection, I don't know of any studies that have done so. It's entirely possible that they co-evolved or evolved quite independently of each other.

So, looking at our evolutionary history, it's not a choice for me to be upset at the thought of murder. This isn't something that I choose to be reviled by. It's innate in my evolutionary make-up. It's not so simple as claiming that organism A choose not to murder and that set the trait into the evolutionary line.

Also, math is not the only thing that is or can be objective. Our application of objective moral rules may be up for discussion, but the rules themselves can be objective independently of our application. I can set objective boundaries in wavelength for light "color" and then measure the incoming light of whatever source to determine the color of the light. Someone else might not agree with the boundaries/rules I set, but that doesn't mean that the rules set forth are not objective.

Finally, I know Pine was a bit flippant, but I think he was just trying to be funny and light-hearted. Let's not assume that he meant it in a mean-spirited way.

Tigerboy said...

GCT:

---"The evolution of morality is much older than monkeys"

Is it even conceivable that you seriously think that I was suggesting morality started with monkeys? It's called an example. Bigger picture, my friend. Extrapolate.

---"It's innate in my evolutionary make-up. It's not so simple as claiming that organism A choose not to murder and that set the trait into the evolutionary line.

I have been extremely clear that I believe it to be innate, that it derives from evolutionary sources.

I NEVER meant to claim that one single organism set morality into our evolutionary line. Again, it's an example.

I said certain behaviors work, and certain behaviors fail. Choices are part of what succeeds, and what fails. The choices of ALL of our ancestors succeeded in building our social species.

---"I can set objective boundaries in wavelength for light "color" and then measure the incoming light of whatever source to determine the color of the light."

I was also quite clear that "aspects of science" were being included in what I see as examples of that which is truly objective.

You are claiming objectivity for morality. This is hardly an example that justifies calling morality truly objective.

Neither was I claiming that sexual selection was the cause of the rise of morality. I was merely trying to show that animals make judgments, something that many people do not believe, or even consider as a possibility.

I was saying that ALL judgments, throughout our evolutionary history, have been a contributing factor to who we have become.

This is totally confounding to me. I put in a great deal of effort, made something that was way too long, even got mocked because of its great length, in an attempt to be really clear, in an attempt to express these ideas, and the response was so completely off the mark from what I intended.

I guess I need major work, in the way in which I express myself.

As far as Pine goes, I am hardly one to see a problem with a light-hearted response. My own inclusion of all that stuff, about George Clooney and the lady crabs, was my own small attempt at light-heartedness and a little bit of levity.

But I found his/her response to be filled with a highly-disrespectful, highly-mocking tone. I have been nothing but totally respectful to him/her.

I have responded to him/her in the way I saw appropriate. If you see things differently, so be it.

GCT said...

Tigerboy,
"This is totally confounding to me. I put in a great deal of effort, made something that was way too long, even got mocked because of its great length, in an attempt to be really clear, in an attempt to express these ideas, and the response was so completely off the mark from what I intended.

I guess I need major work, in the way in which I express myself."

I'm not intentionally misunderstanding you, it's just that there was a lot to digest. I think I got lost in the translation.

"Is it even conceivable that you seriously think that I was suggesting morality started with monkeys?"

I wasn't sure. The point, though, is that evolution of morality has been around for a long time judging by how many of our cousins exhibit it (placing it well back within our common ancestor).

"I have been extremely clear that I believe it to be innate, that it derives from evolutionary sources."

I'm confused, because you also stress the choice aspect of it. If it is innate to not murder, then it's not really a choice, unless you are referring to the idea that free will is freely choosing according to your desires. Hence, it is a choice to not murder in accordance with your innate desire not to?

"I said certain behaviors work, and certain behaviors fail. Choices are part of what succeeds, and what fails. The choices of ALL of our ancestors succeeded in building our social species."

In this sense, perhaps choice/morality is a selection factor? Is that what you are trying to claim?

"You are claiming objectivity for morality. This is hardly an example that justifies calling morality truly objective."

No, I am claiming that we can and have set up objective moral rules. Just as I can set up objective rules for other things, I can set up objective rules for morality. It's been done. Look at Utilitarianism for just one example.

"Neither was I claiming that sexual selection was the cause of the rise of morality."

It seemed like you were trying to link them (note: linked is not the same as one caused the other). I suppose you weren't, but I wonder why so much talk about sexual selection?

"As far as Pine goes, I am hardly one to see a problem with a light-hearted response."

I think that's what Pine was trying to do, although somewhat at your expense I admit.

"I have responded to him/her in the way I saw appropriate. If you see things differently, so be it."

And I responded as well that I don't think Pine was trying to be mean-spirited. Maybe (s)he was, I don't know. I don't mind your view (I was trying to make peace on my blog is all) and I don't mind your comments. In fact, I'd like for you to continue to comment, so please don't be turned off because there is confusion and misunderstanding.

GCT said...

People still reading may like this video.

Pine said...

Watched the video...

Yet another example of atheists getting a free lunch.

First the video creator criticizes the apologist for his logic which is as follows:

1. You say the world is evil.

2. If there is evil there is good.

3. Outside of God any definition of good or evil is really a judgement call... there really is no actual "good" or "evil".

4. To hold to 1, you must either assume there is a Being with the ability to define "good" and "evil" or you must admit that you are asking me to assign the title you have deemed fitting to the 'thing' in question considered evil.

Then the amazing laughing-at-the-creationists video creator responds:

1. You say that God did not jack it.

2. You believe in dark.

3. If there is dark then there is light.

4. If there is day then there is sunrise.

5... well... i'm tired of typing it out... after a few more unrelated jumps the video creator finally assumes the position that the videos 'god' jacked the sun into the air.

Ok, first... you don't really see the difference in the logic? If you don't, then its all hopeless here.

Second, the apologists position in this argument absolutely depends on point 3 which the video creator goes on to deal with in great length. That is outside of God, there is no way to define "good" or "evil" in a way which really means anything beyond opinion.

I still haven't read or heard a good argument for this problem. Each time (probably including this one) that the discussion comes up, the atheist response is to list off an endless argument regarding how morality could have come about.

This misses the point entirely!

The point the apologist is making is that the terms "good" and "evil" mean nothing outside of an absolute definition for them. You cannot declare the world to be FACTUALLY "evil" without invoking God or His standards.

As a side note, you have continuously mentioned Utilitarianism. Do you understand this to be, "the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to overall utility: that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all people."? If so, then it is NOT objective. It is, as I have stated MULTIPLE times, merely the agreed upon subjective viewpoint of society as a whole.

Simply because MORE people agree... makes a statement no less subjective than a statement only you hold to. If there is no absolute standard to compare your findings with, all you have is subjectivity. Thus Bahsen's argument that without God we cannot prove anything.

Yes, I realize you could refer to countless examples in the world where we consider our subjective viewpoints objective. The reality, however, is that without binding factual absolutes, we have no standard by which to measure whether or not we are being objective (other than collective subjectivity which is subjective...)

Ok, enough of my rant... back to my dark cave...

GCT said...

Pine,
"Ok, first... you don't really see the difference in the logic? If you don't, then its all hopeless here. "

There isn't much difference.

"I still haven't read or heard a good argument for this problem."

Yes, you have, you simply don't want to acknowledge them. I've already pointed out that we can and have made objective moral codes that do not depend upon god.

"Each time (probably including this one) that the discussion comes up, the atheist response is to list off an endless argument regarding how morality could have come about."

Which answers the question as well. Group dynamics is an essential part of being a social animal. I'm sorry that you can't or won't accept that as true, but it's really undeniable.

"The point the apologist is making is that the terms "good" and "evil" mean nothing outside of an absolute definition for them."

A simple dictionary will do.

"You cannot declare the world to be FACTUALLY "evil" without invoking God or His standards."

Unless I use the agreed upon dictionary definition.

"As a side note, you have continuously mentioned Utilitarianism...If so, then it is NOT objective."

Um, yeah it is. The rules are objectively laid out. I don't understand what is so difficult about that.

"Simply because MORE people agree... makes a statement no less subjective than a statement only you hold to."

You're confusing terms here.

"If there is no absolute standard to compare your findings with, all you have is subjectivity. Thus Bahsen's argument that without God we cannot prove anything."

Without god we can't prove that 2 and 2 are 4? Ridiculous. Once again, you're drawing a false dichotomy between absolute and (absolute) subjectivity.

"Yes, I realize you could refer to countless examples in the world where we consider our subjective viewpoints objective."

Do you really think that 2 and 2 are 4 is subjective?

David Edward Oliver, BS. said...

I admit morality is a very touchy subject but if society determines what is right or wrong then was Nazi Germany right in killing off the Jews? The German Society decided to destroy their Jewish Population was that moral? Most people would say NO! The vast majority of people would cringe at the idea of any nation instituting genocide against anyone. So as you can see society is not always right. Even in American about sixty years ago Black were denied their right to vote, work and even use public restrooms and that was perfectly legal. And even today Gays & Lesbians are still denied their right to marry, adopt children and in some places can be punished even for being Gay or Lesbian. So if society is the objective standard then would society be justified in persecuting and even committing genocide against its minority population? I admit most people would immediately deny that, but that ultimately implies a standard of morality that even a society would have to follow and it would be absolute to all socities at all times. The question is where would this standard come from? It could come from God? However with the hundreds of various religious systems each with conflicting morality it would be very difficult to say what God really wants. Even if we only consider the Christian Morality we still have conflicts, the Holy Bible condemns homosexuality, but it also condemns eating seafood and wearing clothes mixed with different fibers and you can even make a case against eating cheeseburgers. (The Bible says, "Do not seeth a kid in its mother's milk") With hundreds of Chritian Churches competing with each other for converts and resources who is to say what is right and not right about how to interpert the Holy Bible. Even sincere Christian sharply disagree over many doctrines and dogmas which only adds fuel to the ragging fire of intolerance and hate. So how do we ultimately determine the difference between right and wrong? I suppose the best way would be to exercise some empathy and make a real effort to see things from anothers point of view. Treat others as you would have them treat you and do remember that even if you are suprerior there is always someone better than you and what goes around will almost always come around. So do just live as if you were to die today and treat others as if you were going to live forever. I do invite your comments. Most Sincerely; David Edward Oliver, BS. - 35 years old/Single/White/Male - Bluffton, South Carolina, USA - E-Mai: david-edward-oliver@david-edward-oliver.com -

GCT said...

David, welcome.

I'm not sure if I said anywhere that society is always right, because it's not what I believe.

Adhering to the golden rule is usually a good bet and makes rational sense, showing that we can get our morals from rationality. Your post seems to be agreeing with me more than not.

Ortavia said...

Are you absolutely certain? The statement there are no absolutes is an absolute statement, so if it is true then it is false; therefore it is false.

GCT said...

If you actually read the OP, then you would know the answer to your question.

Ortavia said...

Oh, I read the OP and the whole argument was based on Euthyphro's Dilemma which commits the fallacy of equivocation. First, absolute morality is used in the sense that deep in our hearts we know the difference between right and wrong(conscience). Once again Christians have a reason to believe this because we use God's word as a foundation of truth.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) Romans 2:14-15

Then it switches to morality is absolute, as if we are programmed to only perform certain actions. This of course is not true because we have free will, so that couldn't possibly be the interpretation.

Therefore, it must be that we are created to inherently know right from wrong and can choose either. Apart from God morality is only relative. In a secular world, why would there be such a thing as right and wrong? If we are only evolved from animals, why ought we act a certain way?

As Dr. Lisle says, "if you accuse God of atrocities, you better have a moral standard and it can't be God, because how can you accuse Him of committing atrocities?"

In fact, your headline says that you do have a moral standard
"Because of the horrible things that he said and all the horrible things his followers have done and continue to do", thereby agreeing to absolute morality (conscience); thus, standing on the Christian worldview to prove it false; thereby proving it true.

GCT said...

If you had actually read the OP, then you would have seen the part where I said, "Does absolute morality exist? I don't know."

"...the whole argument was based on Euthyphro's Dilemma which commits the fallacy of equivocation."

No, it does not.

"First, absolute morality is used in the sense that deep in our hearts we know the difference between right and wrong(conscience)."

Sorry, but you don't get to redefine words.

"Then it switches to morality is absolute, as if we are programmed to only perform certain actions. This of course is not true because we have free will, so that couldn't possibly be the interpretation."

Free will can not be possible with an omni-max god, but that's moot because absolute morality has nothing to do with whether your actions are determined or not.

"Therefore, it must be that we are created to inherently know right from wrong and can choose either."

It must be? Based on what?

"Apart from God morality is only relative."

Not only is this a false dichotomy, but putting god into the equation does not automatically solve any issues with relative morality that a Xian may have.

"In a secular world, why would there be such a thing as right and wrong? If we are only evolved from animals, why ought we act a certain way?"

It's a complicated subject, but I'm not going to waste much time talking about it. Also, I'll have you note that other animals also display morality.

"As Dr. Lisle says, "if you accuse God of atrocities, you better have a moral standard and it can't be God, because how can you accuse Him of committing atrocities?""

Not only can I do just that, but I can use most moral standards that Xians claim to believe in as well as any secular standard derived from reason and empiricism. But, it's a baseless accusation that one can not levy judgements against the god that some people think exists. It boils down to a might makes right argument that destroys the concept of absolute morality and lays other problems at the feet of Xians, like special pleading when they decide that one can not judge god as doing something bad but can judge his works as good.

"In fact, your headline says that you do have a moral standard..."

Where did I ever say that I don't?

"...thereby agreeing to absolute morality (conscience)..."

Wrong. Just because I have a moral standard does not mean that I agree to absolute morality.

"...thus, standing on the Christian worldview to prove it false; thereby proving it true."

Not only is this wrong, but it's non-sensical. If I use the Xian worldview to show that it's not self-consistent I'm only proving that it is? I think you may want to think about that one a bit.