Tag Archives: morality

I’m At a Loss


I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.

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Reply to sirratiocination, a romp through philosophy.


morality-quotes-3

This is a reply to the post made by sirratiocination on his blog who in turn made a response post upon my request to move thing into post format.

http://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/

http://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/response-to-httpshessianwithteeth-wordpress-com20141210its-time-to-change-something-other-than-the-design-about-ethical-models/

Now for the purposes of keeping things manageable I will not be responding to every point, but focusing on problematic and interesting sections, as well as asking clarifications as needed. All comments and quires will be directed at sirratiocination after this introduction, though the comments are open as always.

I’ll be using his numbering system to reference to his responses (not my own, so if I say in paragraph [10] I’m referring to those paragraphs which focus on [10]) as well as leaving bracketed letter and number [A#] at the beginning of my section to make responses, and following along easier. I invite sirratiocination to join along in this behavior.

Let’s begin.

[A1] So in your first reference to [1] and you later reference in [7] your discussing nihilism for the sake of clarity I’ll define how I use nihilism. In General and without clarification I think of Metaphysical Nihilism, or the belief that no objects need to actually exist. The strong form of that would be no objects exist and the weak form would be that objects do not necessarily have to exist, and it is the case that objects may not exist. I fall in the weak camp. I think objects exist, but I also don’t fully reject the possibility that objects might not exist at all. Though I do think the belief that they don’t exist is a dead and should be rejected unless conclusive evidence can be ascertained that in fact objects, or things like objects are an illusion (I’d classify field theory as fitting in objects class or the object like class). Though I’d also call my belief more a mild metaphysical skepticism, then nihilism, though that is likely do to with the extreme conclusions nihilist have drawn. what you call nihilism I think of as the strong form of nihilism.

I am also use to seeing nihilism used in the terms of epistemological nihilism which is comparable to extreme philosophical skepticism where in all knowledge claims are denied.

In your arguments you seem to be discussing both moral nihilism, and the general idea of nihilism that is the rejection of non-rationalized or unproven assertions. This may change how you view the nature of our discussion to some degree.

[A2] for your paragraphs addressing [2], [3] and [5] I suppose another locus of our differences of opinion is that I remain largely unconcerned with ultimate causes for morality. That I’m not convinced, in the case of morality that there needs to be any ultimate or root cause, at least not a particularly meaningful or useful one, nor am I convinced this problem leads to an infinite chain.

Though that requires explanation so I’ll try to do that right away. Though to do that I will also need to better explain why I don’t think it’s is necessarily the case that a teleological explanation is needed to explain another teleological explanation even in the case of morality.

First and most importantly, teleological explanations only seem particularly useful in explaining and defining the activities of sentient actors, and for this argument sentient just means that creature has that ability to directly influence future of non-immediate events in some sort of intentional manner. This will include a lot of critter we wouldn’t normally consider sentient, but I don’t think we’ll be worse off for that since we don’t need to use that definition outside this argument.

First lets examine the teleological explication for a sword, we are clearly inclined to think about the process of making a sword in a teleological manner. The process of refining ore to ingots, and turning those ingots into a blade before, tempering said blade and attaching it to a hilt. There are many key components which need to come together to form that sword which wouldn’t make much sense outside of a teleological frame work. Whole systems need to be in place to make that sword, from the iron mine, to the smeltery, to the blacksmith and their forge and hammer. For any particular sword the teleological explanation fits the best. Though then what if we talk about sword in general and the form of the sword the teleological explanation begins to lose its luster.

As the form of the particular sword make teleological explanation compelling it makes the teleological explanation for the form itself less compelling and harder to reconcile.

This is the nature of memetic information, that is learned information as opposed to genetic information. We don’t tend to include all the step along the way, but only that which is most relevant. That and there is far more intentionality, far more reiteration of memetic information in a short period of time then genetic information could ever hope to achieve. This isn’t to say memetic information passes on in a purely evolutionary manner, memetic information is passed on by teaching from one sentient critter to another. Unlike genetics there is the ability to completely change key structure and reshuffle orders of thing at will. So it’s much easy to have the history of complex learned information to be hidden, and some time for a variety of reasons people intentionally try to hide such history, but back to swords.

The full history of how sword may have come about is not fully know to me, but the form of the sword, as a relatively strait, large, long, and generally ridged blade likely arose from a handful of different sources but the biggest precursor to the sword is undoubtedly metal knives and daggers, which in turn where inspired from flint daggers, which in turn would have came from simple stone tools.

Where a particular sword had a very clear teleological explanation, the form of the sword, and *the progression* towards the sword has a far more satisfying methodological explanation. One that can probably be drawn all the way back to the most basic tool use, before tool creation. Though I’m no anthropologist so don’t ask me to make that full series of connections competently.

What we have here, and what is important is a whole series of tools made in a teleological manner, who’s change follows and rises from a methodological process, all the way back to a point where there is no longer a teleological explanation (simple tool use), but only methodological ones.

This is the long view argument for why I’d say that morally argument while they might all follow a telos to telos pattern now, that pattern may not go back infinitely. I’d go further to say there is at least so evidence for this because there are clear evolutionary reasons for tool use, and morality to evolve (and seems to have evolved multiple times, looking at the many social animals which exist, and for tool use found in many bird and mammal species, but many other types of animals as well http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool_use_by_animals)

While modern morality might be more complex than a sword it doesn’t start out that way, it takes small children years to learn and understand the basics of morality, it would have took our assertors much longer, but we have millions of years to work with so there’s plenty of time for the basic moral system that would allow for larger human communities to form. This is speculation sure, but I find it a compelling line of thought. Further our morality, and logical system are massively more nuanced and complex then those even just a few thousand years ago when the first codes of law where inscribed. It follows that same general pattern I described with the swords from knifes though since writing is rather recent in human history, and we won’t have stone fragments of morality dating back hundreds of thousands even millions of years.

Though I’ll leave it there for now, I most definitely under sold the point I was trying to make before.

[A3] Also to use the previous line of thinking to address some of your final comments in the paragraph prefaced “In[5]” (the 6th paragraph). When you say you resist the idea that concepts such as logical and morality can develop I am on the other side of the coin saying morality has in several occasions developed, and there’s good reasons for it to develop. More over even logic develops, perhaps there is some logic under laying everything, but this going into an argument like that between math realists and anti-realists. Only with logic.

While I’m not well versed in the math realism argument, when you apply the same logic here it come down to these two sides. The moral realist who would say that there is some sort of moral underpinning to the universe, and the moral anti-realist which would say that morality is a concept created (to some extent) by us humans (and quite possibly other organisms) for a variety of reasons, mostly to achieve certain goals or solve problems.

Though you might have a different sort conception of the problem which I would be interesting in hearing.

[A4] Now I will mention briefly that my moral position is primarily leaning toward consequentialism, not pure consequentialism, and my final verdict is not in yet, but I do think consequences are of the most importance, though not the only facts which should be considered (intentions matter, and actions must themselves be judges by the ripples they send out not just the primary/direct consequences). Though this is a whole can of worms to itself and we can address it later on if we like.

[A5] Now on (or back to?) to the question does our system of morality needs to be objective? Which you bring up in the 7th paragraph of your reply (you reference [14] in the second sentence).

How your using the definitions of necessarily so, and contingently so, for objective and subjective respectively. While I don’t think this is a satisfactory definition for how I think of objective and subjective, I will address your argument directly as I think there are counter arguments which can be made using these definitions.

First I’m not comfortable saying logic and even math are necessarily so. Why? Because there are many types and forms of both which while they map out well in reality, together they are not always compatible. I would say that logic and math (I group them together because math is a sub set of logical systems) are contingent on reality. Why this might make them “necessarily so” I’d argue it doesn’t since there is no single “Logic” Which subsets, but rather a number of logics which are use in relation with one another to solve problem, but are not always compatible with one another, that is they do not condense down into a primary “logic.”

Why this leads me to thinking that logic is is contingent is because how I look at logics as formal concepts, created over the last several thousand years which has slowly progressed in complexity and explanatory power over that time. That is I see logic as a series of models progressing toward eliminating biases in human thought so that we might best understand what is around us and what we want/ought to do.

So unfortunately logic isn’t just contingent on reality and the sort of causal relationships which exist with in our macroscopic environment, but it is also contingent on our limited perceptions and our in built biases. It seems to me at least that logic is a conceptual toolbelt we’ve created to help overcome our natural limitations. The source as I see it comes from our need to understand and determine the truth or correctness of our and other people’s statements and beliefs. Not from some fundamental source of logic, even though logic in part is informed by other fundamental forces.

So in this way I’m logical anti-realist, I think logic only exists as a tool we create, not as some greater existence as a fundamental part of reality, or as I direct representation of any fundamental part of reality.

[A6] also quick note on what is “relative” I do not see relative as not real, but to be relative is to be either independent from some objective, and/or independent source, i.e. having no external basis or justification. As well relative can refer to cases where reality is actually depended on the subjective. Also where (strict) nihilism in a strict sense would say that something does not have value, (strict) relativism would say that no system of values would necessarily be better than another.

Though the proper definition of relative like nihilism is hugely depended on the context you using it in. Is it morals we are talking about, truth, or something else? Each has its own implications and is worthy of its own discussion, and there are sub groups within each kind of relativism, and different degrees which to which we can take the relativistic arguments should we want to go there.

Though this is a side tangent, and not terribly important to the whole of what we are talking about.

[A7] But do my anti-realist views necessarily abandon any hope of moral authority or moral “knowledge?” Well I don’t think so.

Though I do lose access any ultimate/objective authority, but as I don’t have any belief or convincing evidence that such a source exists. Though such a weakness continues to be something that does not bother me in the slightest.

You said in your post. “Morality cannot exist in any way contingently because it is prescriptive. Morality has some sort of authority if you can actually be condemned for doing something wrong.  If morality were contingent, then how could someone be condemned for something if the universe could have existed with a different morality in which that condemned person were lauded for his same action. Morality would hold the same weight as mere preference.  Preferences are based upon human caprices, which are in turn based upon prudential means for certain contingent goals.”

Okay well I think this quote wraps up nicely many of your thoughts, so after a lot of trying to figure out exactly what you mean, I think I have a good idea of what your actually saying.

First for clarity when you say Contingent do you mean “by chance?” The rest of your reply seems to support this, and I have to ask because while this is a definition for contingent I’ve rarely heard it used in this way.

If something is based on chance, does this mean is can have no authority in regard to morality? Well on the face of it that seem correct. If something is purely based on chance then no it doesn’t seem that we can judge it moral or call upon authority to punish said action. It seems to me it should not be moral or immoral to roll a 4 on a die, and rolling a 5 instead of a 3 does not seem to be a punishable action, but does this carry through to all our universe?

Well is our universe all up to chance? I couldn’t say if there are other possible universes which would have different physical forces then ours, but let’s say that there can be, and that those changes could lead to different moralities. Does that then somehow invalidate morality based in our universe? Even those based here on our little planet? Does this lead to moral relativism? Well I think it’s safe to say that you definitely think so, but I’m not so ready to jump on board.

Now on the scale on the multiverse it seems that in this case we are stuck with moral relativism. That is, no moral system or standpoint is uniquely privileged over another. Though I’d argue that we don’t need to address the multiverse, we can’t currently prove the existence of the multiverse, or that the universe could be substantially different, let alone access other such possibilities. So I think it is fair that we limit the discussion down to moralities which are conceivable in our universe.

Though that doesn’t limit things much, but even if we then limit things down to those moralities which are conceivable to us humans, and then down to those which are relevant we are still left with a plethora of moral systems of deal with. It seems as you’ve framed it I can’t deal with this problem of moral relativism.

This leads be with two possible paths to choose, accept your proposition that we need an objective source, or reject this frame work. I am force to choose the latter because here I think we have been lead down into the realm of a false dichotomy. We’ve basically been left with the options either you need some objective source of morality or your stuck with moral relativism, but you made it clear that our human preference those consequences which affect us, how we choose them cannot act as the foundation of morality. This is what I must reject.

[A8] “In [8] you may not think a telos is necessary for an ethical model, but once you follow through on this, you lose all justification for categorizing certain actions as moral actions and not just actions deemed best at achieving survival or flourishing.  You think an objective teleology is not possible therefore, you don’t worry about it.  But, you lose all grounds for calling your system a moral system and not just prudence aimed at fitness.  Yes, we’re born with innate desires, but what forces us to execute these desires apart from that we want to?  If you don’t want to follow these desires, what allows someone else to condemn you for doing so?”

This was the problem I had in understanding your argument, as well as where I’ll need you to step in to propose justification. Why is it that you think the sort of non-teleological explanations I proposed cannot be the foundation for morality (though it is good to know you probably guessed where I was going but I still think it was a good idea to flesh it out in [A2])

Now I’m not saying this kind of explanation is a moral system in and of its self, but it does give an explanation for how moral system can be arrive at from an evolutionary system. Now you seem to be claiming that any moral system arrived at from this sort of evolution can actually be a moral system, but this is what has been confusing me. Why not? Sure such a system is dependent on us humans, but any moral system applicable to us would need to be contingent on our needs, and desires, on our surrounding and or interaction with other things. Such a system is likely to be flawed, but I don’t see how this context determined nature would make is useless or revoke is moral status.

I truly don’t see how human flourishing, or flourishing of the planet, or flourishing of life and knowledge, cannot be the basis of morality.

[A9] Though you have tried to offer a solution with the Christian God acting as an objective source. In the last 8 paragraphs as you dived into theological issues, this is where the greater weaknesses of your positions can be found, as this seems to be what is underpinning the conclusions you where drawing and arguing for in the first half of the post.

In your responses to [9] and [10] you begin the arduous process of defending your claims and this is the place where I have some of the more serious objections.

First you make the following statements that “Without persons involved, I don’t know what it would even mean to say something has moral content.  All moral actions come from moral agents. ”

Well first I largely agree with this, but perhaps it would be best to discuss thing in terms of all moral determinations come from moral agents. Because moral content, say you’ve said requires persons, i.e. moral agents. An action in and of itself it seems to me is not moral in and of itself, but because something determine that action to be moral.

Next you move on to claim that. “…objective morality necessitates God’s character.” This is undeniably a leap, but pointing that out let us see if you substantiate that claim. I say this is a leap because so far in this paragraph you have indicated that because moral action necessitate a moral agent, and that because abstract concepts such as the plutonic forms do not have necessary weight to, and statement you largely glossed over, but I will grant for the time being. Then from that you say that we are left with only god’s character as a suitable option for this objective source. Though this does not for a moment follow and as of this point it appears as though you’ve done little more than shoe horn your conception of God at the end of your otherwise thoughtful argument.

Though as I said we shall see if you better draw out your path to your conclusion and fill in those necessary premises.

[A10] In your response to [10] I found you use a very problematic definition and wish to point it out to you.

You said: “…the Bible would be revelatory source of information.  This means that the information most likely could not have been arrived at through rational discourse.”

Why yes. The bible could not have been arrived at through rational discourse. Indeed it would appear to me is a set of mythical tales thought up over a couple thousand years by a desert dwelling tribe we know as the Israelites. Who where in turn inspired by many other cultures and their mythos’s two major sources being the Babylonians, and the Persian (I think) Zoroastrians. The lovely thing about us humans is we are not rational by nature, or at least not completely so. We are fully capable of irrational discourse. Hence why most of us need significant training and education to carry on discussions like the one we are having.

So when you said: “… someone could not ratiocinate the concept of the trinity without revelatory knowledge.”

I heard. One could not rationally arrive at the concept of the trinity without irrational discourse.

Now I think what you meant was to say that you could not come to the idea of the Trinity without revelation from a deity, but from how you’ve laid it out that simply is not the case. As of now you’ve left a gaping hole in your argument by choosing the definition that you did, so you might wish to take a different tact.

[A11] In your response to [13] You go on to tell me how you understand fear of god to be different, but then go on to describe what amount to fear of a tyrant, or the fear a person might have to a violent offender whom otherwise holds power over them. you move of to describe him then in a sense of fear out of awe and respect, this makes more sense, but this being who you later describe whom primary trait is love is to be feared? Even in awe this seems to be a contradiction in terms, but worse it is clear from what you’ve said and in the bible that the God your referring to threatens, comments and commands mass genocide, condones slavery. If this is love then you’re in quite the abusive relationship. This sure he is punishing the Israelites for wrong doings, but he does so through blood and horrendous curses more often than not.

[A12] Well now is as good a time as any to God’s Character as this remains of high important to your argument and is something I don’t think you can define adequately, or with certainty.

First I will respond to [6] where you asked me to give you some examples. Here is one. http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Biblical_contradictions#God.27s_Character

As well God is constantly described as loving, good, a font of morality, yet the bible particularly the old testament describes him, as jealous, violent, capricious and often making mistakes. And it cannot be over stated the bible condones slavery, at no point throughout it’s entirety does it explicitly condemn slavery, but at many point does it explain how best to do it and even claims that God itself command the taking of slaves.

This is where I think the vast majority of your problems lie. You keep claiming to have this ultimate source for authority, in the form of the Christian god, this is has a threefold problem right at its core before anything else. If you wish to justify your moral claims on the Abrahamic God then. First you must prove there is at least one deity of some sort. Second you must prove that deity is the Yahweh described in the bible. Third you need to show that Yahweh to be an objective source of morals.

You can continue to describe God however you like, and define his character as you like, but then you still must show me why that is the case. So far I have only really read how you need your god to follow these so far poorly define characteristics, so that your arguments for morality work. Which if it is the case they just might, but your working from a place where you’ve mostly assumed the three questions above to be true. I have not, and do not share your convictions.

[A13] Now allow me to address the two links you included to your other posts as they are relevant.

https://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/argument-from-meticulous-causation/

Well that’s a nifty little paradox you have going there, reminds me of Zeno’s Paradox of Tortoise and Achilles, but like Zeno’s paradox, I don’t think this is really going to be much of an argument either. While this sort of thing is not my expertise, I do have one, I think strong, rebuttal.

Certainly it is true that one cannot navigate an infinite series with finite amount of time, but we have already divided each step up infinitely, and as such each step must be infinitely short. Excellent so now that we’ve traversed infinity we don’t need to worry about mixing god into the equation muddying things up.

[A14]

And then I skimmed the excerpt of your book

https://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/an-exerpt-from-my-book/

Annnnd that’s a whole can of worms. I skimmed some of it and well, I noted ~5 problems in under 500 words, so if you’d like me to address it I’ll need to do it some other time. I would need to read the whole thing first and I don’t have the time right now.

Moving on.

[A15] Skipping ahead to the second last paragraph this is where thing really start to fall apart for me, as you basically went into a sermon. As though you expect the bible to convince me, Allow be to point you can to [A10] where in you shot yourself in the foot logically speaking. But if you’re going to use the bible as evidence and then claim things like: “According to God’s account of history, people all did believe in him at one time.”

You’re going to have to convince me the bible is God’s account of history, something you will find that the consensus of historians will not agree with, and then you’re going to have to convince me it’s accurate, which is flatly impossible without over turning huge amounts of history, archeological research and scientific research.

[A16] “Just because there is debate about something doesn’t mean there isn’t an absolutely true answer.  Any belief people hold, they hold for a reason.  The argument for this reason might have faulty deduction or false premises, but there is always some argument.”

Just because there might be an absolutely true answer out there do not mean we will ever have access to it, and certainly people generally have reasons for the thing they believe, but I don’t think they always do at least not consciously.

It was a pleasure reading the first half or your article, and you have some genuinely interesting ideas, but once you began trying to justify god you got sloppy, and you fail to really address your own biases and they some of them are obvious. You believe in the Christian God, and thing the bible is the history according to God, and these colour you argument, but they make them weaker, because you haven’t (and I don’t think you can).

You cannot talk about the Christian God is the only valid option in the list of deities which are claimed to exist, throughout this article you don’t ever even pay lip service to the problem that there are other god which are claimed to exist and many could be just a likely to fill the role of Yahweh, the one that comes to mind that you ought to look into more is the Hindi god/concept Brahman.

It was fun responding and I hope you can better explain some of these problems I found. Though if there is one thing I’d like you to address it is [A10].

Withteeth.

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What is Morality?


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What is morality? This is a question I have been pondering lately. Not in the sense that I am confused as to what morality is, but in the sense that it seems the word is used differently depending on ones circle. As a philosophy major, I use a philosophical definition of morality. This definition tends to be quite open. But non-philosophers use a far stricter definition. Or rather, far stricter definitions, since there are more than one. The definition used by Conservative Christians, a definition that I have come across many times here, is by far the strictest. It is also the most troubling to me, because it puts a belief in a deity above actions.
So what is morality? The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry defines morality as “Morality is the distinction between right and wrong. It is the determination of what should be done and what should not be done. Morals deal with behaviours as well as motives. There is a great deal of discussion on what is the source of morals and whether or not they are objective. Biblically, morals are derived from God’s character and revealed to us through the Scriptures” http://carm.org/dictionary-morality. This is to say that morality is defined by actions. Certain actions are right and certain actions are wrong. But this definition puts God before those actions. Many Christians will say that God must come before everything. But here is where my issue comes in: if you put belief ahead of actions, then you can create a system of morality where actions don’t matter so long as you believe. I think this has been done in many cases. I think this has been done when atheists are trusted as much as rapists. The atheist needs not do anything but be an atheist to be considered immoral. This means that a person can build orphanages, donate blood, volunteer at their local soup kitchen, and donate half their income to charity, but they will continue to be seen as immoral simply by virtue of being an atheist. This is also seen when Christians tell people that it doesn’t matter what they’ve done, all they need to do is come to Christ and they will be forgiven. Think about that: it doesn’t matter what they’ve done, all they need to do is come to Christ. All they need to do is come to Christ. That Serial Killer who raped and murdered 6 women? He doesn’t need to be punished by the legal system, he doesn’t need to ask forgiveness of the families he tore apart, he doesn’t need to do anything for humanity, he just needs to come to Jesus. But his crimes weren’t against Jesus. His crimes were against those 6 women. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that that Serial Killer deserves to be tortured for eternity for his crimes. I believe that the punishment should fit the crime. I believe he should spend the rest of his life in jail. I believe that it is up to him to reach out to the families of his victims if he wishes to be forgiven, and I believe that it is up to the families to forgive him. I don’t think Jesus gets to forgive him for something he did to someone else. My problem with this definition is that the born-again Serial Killer is viewed as more moral than the atheist who has worked so hard to help others simply based on the fact that the Serial Killer believes in God and the atheist doesn’t.

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But, like I said, this isn’t the only definition of morality. A philosophical definition would be “Morality speaks of a system of behaviour in regards to standards of right or wrong behaviour. The word carries the concepts of: (1) moral standards, with regard to behaviour; (2) moral responsibility, referring to our conscience; and (3) a moral identity, or one who is capable of right or wrong action” http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/morality.htm. This definition is not so strict, because it says nothing of needing a deity to be moral. In fact, it says nothing more than morality refers to behaviours that are considered right or wrong. But what are these behaviours? Neither the Christian nor the philosophical definition actually speak to what actions are right or wrong. The Christian can turn to the Bible and say “this is what the Bible says,” however, different Christians get different moral codes from the Bible. But the philosopher cannot simply turn to the Bible and say “this is right and this is wrong.” The philosopher must first discuss whether or not morality is objective. If the philosopher says yes, then they must determine where morals come from. If they say no, then they must determine how we can know what is right and what is wrong. The Objectivist must go on to determine how they know that their moral authority is in fact the moral authority. They must determine what the moral authority has determined to be moral and immoral, and they must justify how they know as much. And then they speak on how we should act. The Subjectivist must show how they know morality is subjective. Then they must justify how we can create laws and social based on morality. Finally, they must justify why it is not acceptable to just do as one pleases. It isn’t until all that is done that the Subjectivist can speak on how we should behave.
Many people don’t like the philosophical definition because it is not black and white. It does not tell people “this list of behaviours is okay, and this list of behaviours is not.” Many people like being told what is right and what is wrong. But I prefer the philosophical definition precisely because it doesn’t try to tell anyone what is right and what is wrong. It makes people think. Morality is not a black and white issue, so why should our moral codes be black and white? Morality is very much shades of grey. If it wasn’t then things like abortion, the death penalty, and the legalization of drugs wouldn’t be so controversial. And we’d never find ourselves confused as to whether or not we are doing the right thing. Morality is something that needs to be thought about critically. And it’s something that needs to be discussed. The philosophical definition makes that critical thought and those discussions necessary. It means that you don’t just get to believe that something is right or wrong based on authority. And it means that it is your actions that matter more than your beliefs (though that isn’t to say that your beliefs don’t matter at all).


Of Sociopathy and Christianity


A few days ago, I came across a blog post with this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DakEcY7Z5GU#t=752. This video is actually quite disturbing, so, if you watch it, be forewarned. In the video, a preacher named David Wood talks about how he became a Christian. I’ve decided to respond to the video.
He begins the video with this passage: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” Proverbs 16:25. Which way is this? Is it any way a man chooses? Because then men really shouldn’t be allowed to make choices. Unless…we do all die in the end. So…is this passage just pointing out that we die? What is the intended meaning of this passage, because the vague language makes it possible to interpret this any way we want.
The first thing he does in the video is use his transit card to let himself through the train gates, then he uses the same card to let the camera man through. This is illegal in every city that I’m aware of. He just committed theft. Isn’t he, as a Christian, supposed to avoid sinning? Or is it okay because he’ll just be forgiven later anyway.
Then he compares atheists to people living underground and never visiting the surface. So…we’re mole-people now? Isn’t it presumptuous to assume that, because you have an unprovable belief, I must be delusional for disagreeing with you? This is actually the first of many red flags that went off for me. Throughout this video, he makes it clear that he has psychological issues. I believe he’s a sociopath, and I will explain why throughout this post. The reason that the claim that atheists are delusional for disagreeing with him is a red flag is because sociopaths believe themselves to be the standard. They believe that they are right and assume that anyone who disagrees with them must be wrong. Sociopaths cannot imagine themselves as anything but perfect. He then reveals that when he was 5 he felt no emotions upon learning that his dog died. This is the second sign that he is a sociopath. Sociopaths cannot feel empathy. They don’t feel sadness when others die. He thought that his understanding that crying over someone’s death wouldn’t bring them back was an amazing insight that others didn’t understand. This further demonstrates the second sign that he is a sociopath. He very clearly is incapable of empathy.
He says that he thought he controlled the weather in 10th grade. I’m pretty sure most people have grown out of such silly beliefs well before they get into 10th grade. I don’t know how much I’d trust the thought capacity of someone who held such beliefs at such an age. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t intelligent. Most sociopaths are actually highly intelligent. However, many sociopaths also suffer from delusions. That makes this the third sign that he is a sociopath. He claimed to feel no emotional reaction after hearing that his friend in high school died. Again, he clearly has no capacity to feel empathy. He thought his lack of emotion was because he “had evolved to a higher stage of humanity.” Sign 4 that he is a sociopath. Sociopaths generally have huge egos. He believed that he was different because he was superior. Most people believe that they are flawed for being different. Sociopaths think this makes them superior.
He says he began committing crimes. This is another sign of his being a sociopath. Sociopaths live for adrenaline and pleasure. They see no reason to follow the rules unless the rules benefit them. He thinks that thinking “I don’t care about the people in that house, so why am I going out of my way to avoid stepping on their vegetables” is philosophising. This is just silly. Philosophising means thinking deeply. It means coming up with a well reasoned and logical argument. Philosophising is not thinking “why should I care?” while running from the police. He believed that his unwillingness to go through someone’s garden was because society was manipulating him. To a certain degree, this is true. Society tells us that going through someone’s garden is bad. Why? Because we live in a society that values private property. But the fact that society convinces us that these things are intrinsically wrong is not a bad thing. The fact that something is manipulative is not necessarily a bad thing. But sociopaths look for any reason to do the opposite of what they are told to do. He believed that doing the opposite of what he’d been told made him free. This is a misunderstanding of what freedom is. A person who follows the law is far freer than someone in jail.
At 18 he decided to start building bombs. He decided to go into chemistry in university with the intent of building better bombs. This is another sign that he is a sociopath. Sociopaths are extremely impulsive and can stay calm in dangerous situations. Bomb building would be a fun challenge to a sociopath. But he thought that blowing up strangers was too easy. He thought anybody could kill strangers. He wanted to prove to himself that he was stronger than most, so he decided to kill his father. Yet another sign he is a sociopath. He believed that anybody would and could kill. This is simply not true. Nobody with a normally functioning brain could kill someone with any degree of ease. For most of us, killing for fun isn’t an option. And killing for need is difficult to comprehend. But a sociopath wouldn’t find either difficult. And they wouldn’t assume that anyone else would find it difficult either.
He also believed that everyone was reading his mind. He began thinking that ants were manipulating us, then that animals read our mind, then he thought that he had magic powers, and now people are reading his mind. He’s clearly delusional, which was one of the signs of his being a sociopath. He has some very obvious mental problems. I don’t think he should be listening to his own thoughts, let alone that anyone else should. He eventually beat his father with a hammer. He said he didn’t feel anything any more. Another sign he is a sociopath. Again, lack of empathy. Thrill seeking. Going against societal norms. He said that he was an atheist while doing this. This is where my next issue lies. He said he knows most atheists live normal lives, but he doesn’t understand why. Of course you don’t: most of us aren’t sociopaths. Very few people could do what you did, and we don’t need to be religious to see why it’s wrong. We understand the advantages to following societal norms and being good people. He says that humans are feeble, selfish, self-destructive lumps of cells with the delusion that what we do is important. This mirrors many of the Chrstian views I’ve heard before. That humans are broken and flawed, or that atheists should think that humans are just meaningless lumps of cells. It’s sad that so many Christians have such a low view of humans. It’s sad that so many Christians view themselves as so pathetic. And it’s sad that they feel the need to imprint this view on everyone else. But this is not how most atheists think. For one, we are human. How could we think we are nothing? How would it be in any way advantageous for us to think so little of ourselves? It wouldn’t influence us to keep living and reproducing. It wouldn’t influence us to help each other. Evolutionarily speaking, thinking of ourselves as meaningless lumps of cells isn’t a useful trait, so we wouldn’t find many people developing that belief. However, evolutionarily speaking, sociopathy is a flaw. Sociopaths don’t see any intrinsic values in humanity. They wouldn’t help others for any altruistic reasons. To them, we are just meaningless lumps of cells. So it makes sense that a sociopath would assume that an atheist should feel this way.
He says we might as well do whatever we want because the universe doesn’t care. I don’t do what I do for the universe. That isn’t sensible. I do what I do because I care. I do what I do because others care, and those others have an influence on my life (as I have an influence on theirs). The universe may not care, but that is irrelevant. The fact that he dismisses the relevance of other people and assumes that there must be something greater to care is another sign that he’s a sociopath. Sociopaths can’t see the value in accepting other people’s opinions. They find it difficult to to see how they affect society and how society affects them. And they are only concerned with how they might be impacted. He asks who says murder and violence are wrong. Again, we don’t need God to know that these are wrong. A sociopath can’t really understand that because sociopaths can’t empathize. However, we live in a society with other people. We have a social contract: don’t do bad things to me and I won’t do bad things for you. For the most part, this contract works out. But there are some people who cannot comprehend the value of this contract. He assumes that the only way anything could be wrong would be if humans have intrinsic value, which he doesn’t think is possible without God. There are atheists who believe that humans have intrinsic value. I think we have the value that we give ourselves, but, as humans, it’s in our best interest to take that value as intrinsic.
He says our society is decreasing the urge people have to kill and slaughter. For one, very few people have this urge. For another, Murder rates are decreasing. Why is that happening if we live in a society that makes people more likely to want to kill? This claim goes against the evidence. Religion is not the only reason to be a good person. He said that he spent his time in jail considering how to avoid getting caught in the future. This is fairly common. Jail is not good at rehabilitating people, nor is it good at punishing them. It is only good at removing them from society for a time and creating worse criminals. He becomes determined to murder everyone who he felt had slighted him in the past. Even back in kindergarten. Another sign he is a sociopath. Sociopaths hold grudges. They also manipulate and lie, as well as their inability to empathize. It’s not uncommon for sociopaths to intend harm towards those they haven’t seen in years.
He shows a clear misunderstanding of science. He uses the usual “atheists believe that the universe came from nowhere” line. Many people believe that because they aren’t convinced by the science, or because they don’t understand it, that atheists haven’t thought things through. This is not the case. Your not understanding some element of science, or your not accepting it, does not affect my thought processes. We disagree on many things. Does my not liking your favorite flavour of ice cream mean that I haven’t thought that through too? No, it simply means that I disagree. But this man when to university to learn chemistry. He’s not an idiot. But he is a sociopath. Sociopaths lie. I believe he’s lying about what he thinks atheists think. I think he understands the Big Bang, and understands why atheists accept it. But I think that, since it doesn’t fit his world view, he finds it necessary to lie. I found this bit funny: this sociopath who is clearly unable to feel empathy believes its a lie to say that morality comes from societal indoctrination. He has no morals himself. He has made that very clear. Who is he to say where morals come from? Morals require empathy, or the understanding that our actions have consequences. Most of has have both. Some people only have the second. He clearly has neither.
He thinks atheists just want to make fun of others, he believes we don’t want to put in the work of carefully examining the evidence. This isn’t true. Yes, some atheists mock theists because they believe their beliefs are dumb. Some theists mock atheists for the same reason. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t put thought into our beliefs. It is clear that this guy didn’t: he thought he couldn’t be wrong, and he couldn’t defend his position in an argument. Two signs of not putting thought into your beliefs. But that says nothing of the rest of us. He thought he was the smartest person ever, but was shocked that a Christian could put forward a convincing argument for their beliefs. This is another sign of his being a sociopath. He had a huge ego, and he thought he was always right while those he disagreed with were wrong. Keep in mind that being defeated in an argument doesn’t mean being wrong, it just means you weren’t as good at arguing. He tried to defeat his cell mate anyway he could because the cell mate made a fool of him. Another sign he’s a sociopath. Sociopaths turn everything into a competition, and hate being defeated. They will look for ways to beat people at anything. This is seen further when he studied the Bible while on suicide watch to try and out smart the Christian.
This is the point when he says he became a Christian. He bought into the argument for design first. I have to say, this is a silly argument to buy into first. Personally, I would have to be convinced that the Bible is true before I could be convinced of the design argument. Then he was convinced that the apostles must have seen Jesus rise from the dead, because otherwise they wouldn’t be willing to die for that claim. This is also silly. For one, we don’t know who wrote the New Testament, but there is evidence to suggest that it wasn’t the disciples. The New Testament was written well after Jesus’ death, and the disciples were largely illiterate. Paul never even met Jesus. So, for all we know, the stories in the New Testament were written as fables, or they were written by those who believed them, but were not witnesses to the events. Therefore, we don’t have to believe that anybody ever witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. However, we do have historical cases where people were thought to have been dead, but they weren’t. These people appeared to come back to life, but they had just been in a coma. Some even died mere days after appearing to come back to life. This could have happened to Jesus too. That could have been what the witnesses saw. There isn’t just one answer.
He then said he went from thinking he was the best person in the world to thinking he was the worst person in the world. This man is a sociopath. He has done terrible things. But to say he’s the worst person in the world is silly. Others have done far worse things. He said he had no magic switch to make it possible to care about other people. Again, he’s a sociopath. It’s a mental disorder. He needs drugs, not Jesus. He said he was either violent, selfish and uncaring, or there was someone who could help him. Either or? He’s clearly selfish and uncaring, and he was violent. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be helped. He said that only Jesus could help him. Or, you know, a psychiatrist. He said he prayed to God and then no longer wanted to hurt anyone. I doubt this is quite true. He probably simply gained a reason to believe that his consequences have actions.
As I said, this person is a sociopath. However, this man committed violent crimes. There are many sociopaths out there who have never and would never harm anyone. Many sociopaths come to the understanding that if they follow societies rules, their lives will be better. This man never learned that, and I don’t think he was ever officially diagnosed as a sociopath. He believes he can only be good so log as he’s a Christian. As such, I hope he stays a Christian. However, he makes the assumption that atheists should think like him. He’s not the only Christian to think this way. Atheism is not sociopathic. Atheists are not sociopaths. Assuming that we are or should be is flawed. This man is also a well-known preacher, and he’s been accused of deceiving people for money. Sociopaths are charming and deceitful. If you follow this person, please be careful.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/11-signs-dating-a-sociopath_n_3780417.html
http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/questions-that-diagnose-whether-youre-a-sociopath-2013-7?op=1
http://illnessquiz.com/sociopath-test/
http://www.sociopathworld.com/
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/confessions-sociopath
http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Someone-Is-a-Sociopath
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wood_%28Christian_apologist%29
http://www.acts17.net/


What is Secular Humanism?


In my last post, I discussed atheism. In this post, I’d like to discuss what Secular Humanism is. To put it simply, Secular Humanism is a personal philosophy. It is the view that morality can exist separately from a deity. Secular Humanists believe that humans are responsible for ensuring that all humans thrive.

Official_AHA_logo

This is the American Humanist Associations logo. As you can see, their slogan is “good without God.” Secular Humanists don’t necessarily believe that every human is good, but they do believe that you can be good without religion.

secular humanism

While Humanism can be theistic, Secular Humanists tend to be atheists or agnostics. Most believe that gods are imaginary. This is one of the main reasons why they do not believe that gods are required to be good: if humans created gods, then the moral codes dictated by gods were actually created by humans. If humans created all moral codes, then they can do so without the guise of a deity.

secular humanism 2

Secular Humanists, like skeptics, freethinkers, etc, tend to be very interested in seeking out and discovering what is true. Secular Humanists generally believe that we should always be seeking more information and trying to learn as much about our world as possible.

Those are all qualities that many Secular Humanists hold. But you may have noticed that there is no clear definition offered. That’s because there is no clear definition. Secular Humanists are those who label themselves as Secular Humanists. Many atheists and agnostics don’t like Secular Humanism. Many feel it is a weak position held by those who are too afraid to just call themselves atheists. Others like Secular Humanism because it is about morality and ethics. It really depends on the person.

Both Withteeth and I are happy to call ourselves Secular Humanists, because we both care deeply about ethics and Social Justice.


Mere Christianity: Part 2


Book one of Mere Christianity is titled “Right and Wrong As a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” This time around, I will be discussing the first chapter in that book.

The first chapter deals with the so-called laws of human nature. Lewis argues that disagreements show that all people have the same view of what is right and what is wrong. I’d disagree with this. He claims that people in the wrong simply justify why an exception should be made for them. Clearly Lewis never heard an argument that went more like this: “You can’t hit your child: that’s child abuse.” “No it’s not. I was spanked by my parents, and I turned out fine. Children need to be disciplined when they do something wrong.” “Spanking isn’t an effective form of punishment. It just teaches the kid not to get caught.” Here we have to people arguing about right and wrong. These people clearly have two different standards of morality.

Lewis continues his defense of “everybody knows what is right and what is wrong, and it’s the same for everyone” by stating that WWII wouldn’t have happened if the Nazis didn’t know that they were wrong. Really? Because I’m pretty sure WWII happened precisely because both sides thought that they were in the right. Not just in the Second World War, but in the first one as well. Going back to WWI, France thought themselves entitled to German territory, and decided that they were in the right to take it. During WWII, the Germans thought that it was their right to take the land back. Antisemitism was socially acceptable at the time, so the British thought that they were in the right to give the Germans whatever they demanded and ignore the suffering of the Jewish people. And later, the United States thought that they were in the right to drop nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities. Here in Canada, we thought it was okay to round up Japanese citizens and place them in ghettos similar to those that the Jewish people were placed in. Of course, we won the war, so all of these terrible acts are ignored by history. Yes, the Nazis did try to eradicate all the Jewish people. Yes, this is commonly considered wrong. But it seems odd to argue that the Nazis knew it was wrong. If they did, why did they do it? All sides did things that we judge to be wrong today, and all sides defended their actions as right at the time.

Lewis goes on to say “If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teachings of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own.” This isn’t strictly true. When we study other cultures, we don’t study their similarities (usually), we study their differences. Yes, we are very similar to one another: we’re all the same species after all. But, as far as moral codes are concerned, there are striking differences. For example, throughout history, when one emperor lost his throne in China, the subsequent emperor would attempt to eradicate their predecessor from the history books. Many other cultures would have considered this horrendous behavior: the dead should be honored and remembered, not be removed from history. Especially those who had power. The ancient Egyptians mummified bodies. The Europeans of the Middle Ages would have seen the removal of the organs as immoral. The Romans entertained themselves by watching slaves kill each other. That is considered very much immoral today. So, if we are all subject to the same moral laws, and we all know right from wrong, who is right in all of these cases? Or are these simply cases of differing moral codes?

Lewis argues that “this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people.” This is very true. We aren’t perfect, and we do tend to break our own moral coeds from time to time. This can’t be helped: we have emotions, and, sometimes, they take away our ability to react rationally. But this fact does not prove that the law of nature exists. It merely proves that we aren’t infallible.

As you can see, I have a lot of problems with C.S. Lewis’s belief in the laws of nature. I do believe that some level of our moral code comes from our biology, but I also believe that it comes from our society. We don’t all believe that the same things are right and wrong.


What Do You Believe?


I wasn’t expecting to do this post so soon, because I want as many answers as I can get. But I think, with 500 followers, now is the perfect time for this discussion. I want to ask you all what you believe. Not every belief you hold, obviously, but the ones that you hold closest to your heart…or brain.

Here are my beliefs:
I believe that there are no gods, or anything else supernatural.
I believe that feminism is the best way to achieve gender equality.
I believe that socialism is the best form of government so far, but I think that all forms are flawed and need improvement.
I believe that the education system needs to be reformed.
I believe that all people have the right to believe what we want, but nobody has the right to force their beliefs on another.
I believe that religion should be discussed openly and publicly, but no public figure should favor their own religion over others.
I believe that everybody deserves equal rights, and everybody should be treated with respect, regardless of gender, sex, sexuality, ethnicity, language, religion, etc.
I believe in fighting for equality, and I believe that it is every bodies stand up against injustice when they see it happening.
I believe the criminal justice system needs to be reformed.
I believe that morality is subjective, and freewill non-existent, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t develop moral and legal codes both personally and societally.

I have a number of other beliefs that I could list off, but I think that this is more than enough to get us started. So, what do you believe?


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