A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Israelites Gain More Slaves (Joshua Ch. 9) - After the slaughter of the people of Ai, and the lynching of their king, masses of people start showing up to ally themselves with the Israelites.  Of course, this is all according to the Bible, there is no archaeological evidence to support this. 

Among these people are the Hivites (the stone carving above depicts a Hivite), who - like the others - asked if they can be included among the tribes of Israel.  The leaders of the tribe were against this, and suggested to Joshua that they take these people as slaves.  In their words, "hewers of wood and carriers of water", meaning "Let's keep these guys to do all the dirty work."  And that's what Joshua decided to do.

Imagine.  A lot of these people traveled a long, long, looooooooooongg time.  One of the travelers said they left with clean clothes and now there clothes are falling apart, they had wine and now the wine is rank, they had bread and now it was moldy; he offered this as evidence for their long trek.  So, these people traveled long and far under the hopes they could be in the good graces of the Israelites, and then they become their slaves.

Whether or not this is true, the mere fact that someone would write this down is proof of how alien a world these people lived in.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrew,

I thought I'd drop by and see how your project is coming.

In your previous post, you made the following statement:
"I remember seeing a Facebook page, now long deleted by FB, of a Hispanic group of teens and young adults that mutilated dogs and cats just for the heck of it. They'd pose with the dismembered carcasses of dogs and cats in the background."

I wonder why you mentioned this sociopahtic behavior? I am unaware of any evidence that the ancient Israelites tortured people. Can you please give me some texts which would support your premise?

When you think of the environment in which they lived, it is quite remarkable that the Israelites didn't indulge in torture. For instance, there are records that the Assyrians used to skin their prisoners alive. I am unaware that the Israelites did that.

I'm still puzzled what intellectual yard stick you are using to evaluate the ancient Israelites? When we talked previously, I got the impression that you believe morality is based exclusively on feelings or instincts. Did I misunderstand?

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

"Why'd you mention this sociopathic behavior?"

I'm just drawing a correlation on senseless violence. When I read about the Israelites and their senseless killings, it reminded me of the senseless killing done by those kids.

I'm not sure what exactly I said in the past, but I don't think morality is based on feelings or instincts. Morality is calculating what one ought to do in a given situation.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"I'm just drawing a correlation on senseless violence."

I agree that the Books of Moses over-emphasize the violence to make the founding of Israel seem more heroic. As you pointed out in a previous post, cities like Jericho and Ai may not have been destroyed by Joshua. Since the Israelites were largely native Canaanites, they may have telescoped centuries of cultural memory into a short time frame.

On the other hand, I don't think that there is any correlation between violence and the psychopathic behavior you were describing. Good people are almost always violent. Violence has always been a major part of the human condition,, even in the most gentile civilizations. People are often unaware of their own violence since they hire other people, like policemen, or doctors, to do our violence for them. Believe me, modern people are just as violent as any of the ancients.

Our modern leftists, who claim that they abhor violence, are probably the most violent of all people. For instance, anyone who "spreads the wealth around" through government, is relying on violence to take property from one group of people and to give it to another group. This no different that the ancients who used to raid other villages and take their property. Any time the left makes a law to control other people's behavior through laws, even if no one is killed, that control, itself, is an act of violence, since it is based on force.

While we are discussing violence, I assume that you are a strong proponent of a woman's right to choose abortion? You do understand that abortion is violence against the most innocent of all human life. Babies are butchered by the abortionists without any concern for the discomfort they might experience. The number of innocent humans killed by the abortionists are probably equivalent to those killed by the Nazis, and undoubtedly, far outnumber the number of people killed by the ancient Israelites.

Do you object to those modern forms of violence as strenuously as you object to the violence of the ancients? Do you think all abortionists are sociopaths like you judge ancient Israel? If not, are you really judging ancient Israel fairly? Is it possible that you have slipped into cultural chauvinism without realizing it? If you were an anthropologist, would you approach your project differently?

Andrew said:
"Morality is calculating what one ought to do in a given situation."

If you don't rely on feelings, and you don't rely on instinct, and you don't rely on God, what do you base your morality on? Logic only works if you have some axioms to begin with. What are your moral axioms? In the past, I believe that you have mentioned compassion, but, I classify compassion as a feeling.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"I'm just drawing a correlation on senseless violence."

I agree that the Books of Moses over-emphasize the violence to make the founding of Israel seem more heroic. As you pointed out in a previous post, cities like Jericho and Ai may not have been destroyed by Joshua. Since the Israelites were largely native Canaanites, they may have telescoped centuries of cultural memory into a short time frame.

On the other hand, I don't think that there is any correlation between violence and the psychopathic behavior you were describing. Good people are almost always violent. Violence has always been a major part of the human condition,, even in the most gentile civilizations. People are often unaware of their own violence since they hire other people, like policemen, or doctors, to do our violence for them. Believe me, modern people are just as violent as any of the ancients.

Our modern leftists, who claim that they abhor violence, are probably the most violent of all people. For instance, anyone who "spreads the wealth around" through government, is relying on violence to take property from one group of people and to give it to another group. This no different that the ancients who used to raid other villages and take their property. Any time the left makes a law to control other people's behavior through laws, even if no one is killed, that control, itself, is an act of violence, since it is based on force.

While we are discussing violence, I assume that you are a strong proponent of a woman's right to choose abortion? You do understand that abortion is violence against the most innocent of all human life. Babies are butchered by the abortionists without any concern for the discomfort they might experience. The number of innocent humans killed by the abortionists are probably equivalent to those killed by the Nazis, and undoubtedly, far outnumber the number of people killed by the ancient Israelites.

Do you object to those modern forms of violence as strenuously as you object to the violence of the ancients? Do you think all abortionists are sociopaths like you judge ancient Israel? If not, are you really judging ancient Israel fairly? Is it possible that you have slipped into cultural chauvinism without realizing it? If you were an anthropologist, would you approach your project differently?

Andrew said:
"Morality is calculating what one ought to do in a given situation."

If you don't rely on feelings, and you don't rely on instinct, and you don't rely on God, what do you base your morality on? Logic only works if you have some axioms to begin with. What are your moral axioms? In the past, I believe that you have mentioned compassion, but, I classify compassion as a feeling.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"I'm just drawing a correlation on senseless violence."

I agree that the Books of Moses over-emphasize the violence to make the founding of Israel seem more heroic. As you pointed out in a previous post, cities like Jericho and Ai may not have been destroyed by Joshua. Since the Israelites were largely native Canaanites, they may have telescoped centuries of cultural memory into a short time frame.

On the other hand, I don't think that there is any correlation between violence and the psychopathic behavior you were describing. Good people are almost always violent. Violence has always been a major part of the human condition,, even in the most gentile civilizations. People are often unaware of their own violence since they hire other people, like policemen, or doctors, to do our violence for them. Believe me, modern people are just as violent as any of the ancients.

Our modern leftists, who claim that they abhor violence, are probably the most violent of all people. For instance, anyone who "spreads the wealth around" through government, is relying on violence to take property from one group of people and to give it to another group. This no different that the ancients who used to raid other villages and take their property. Any time the left makes a law to control other people's behavior through laws, even if no one is killed, that control, itself, is an act of violence, since it is based on force.

While we are discussing violence, I assume that you are a strong proponent of a woman's right to choose abortion? You do understand that abortion is violence against the most innocent of all human life. Babies are butchered by the abortionists without any concern for the discomfort they might experience. The number of innocent humans killed by the abortionists are probably equivalent to those killed by the Nazis, and undoubtedly, far outnumber the number of people killed by the ancient Israelites.

Do you object to those modern forms of violence as strenuously as you object to the violence of the ancients? Do you think all abortionists are sociopaths like you judge ancient Israel? If not, are you really judging ancient Israel fairly? Is it possible that you have slipped into cultural chauvinism without realizing it? If you were an anthropologist, would you approach your project differently?

Andrew said:
"Morality is calculating what one ought to do in a given situation."

If you don't rely on feelings, and you don't rely on instinct, and you don't rely on God, what do you base your morality on? Logic only works if you have some axioms to begin with. What are your moral axioms? In the past, I believe that you have mentioned compassion, but, I classify compassion as a feeling.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"I'm just drawing a correlation on senseless violence."

I agree that the Books of Moses over-emphasize the violence to make the founding of Israel seem more heroic. As you pointed out in a previous post, cities like Jericho and Ai may not have been destroyed by Joshua. Since the Israelites were largely native Canaanites, they may have telescoped centuries of cultural memory into a short time frame.

On the other hand, I don't think that there is any correlation between violence and the psychopathic behavior you were describing. Good people are almost always violent. Violence has always been a major part of the human condition,, even in the most gentile civilizations. People are often unaware of their own violence since they hire other people, like policemen, or doctors, to do our violence for them. Believe me, modern people are just as violent as any of the ancients.

Our modern leftists, who claim that they abhor violence, are probably the most violent of all people. For instance, anyone who "spreads the wealth around" through government, is relying on violence to take property from one group of people and to give it to another group. This no different that the ancients who used to raid other villages and take their property. Any time the left makes a law to control other people's behavior through laws, even if no one is killed, that control, itself, is an act of violence, since it is based on force.

While we are discussing violence, I assume that you are a strong proponent of a woman's right to choose abortion? You do understand that abortion is violence against the most innocent of all human life. Babies are butchered by the abortionists without any concern for the discomfort they might experience. The number of innocent humans killed by the abortionists are probably equivalent to those killed by the Nazis, and undoubtedly, far outnumber the number of people killed by the ancient Israelites.

Do you object to those modern forms of violence as strenuously as you object to the violence of the ancients? Do you think all abortionists are sociopaths like you judge ancient Israel? If not, are you really judging ancient Israel fairly? Is it possible that you have slipped into cultural chauvinism without realizing it? If you were an anthropologist, would you approach your project differently?

Andrew said:
"Morality is calculating what one ought to do in a given situation."

If you don't rely on feelings, and you don't rely on instinct, and you don't rely on God, what do you base your morality on? Logic only works if you have some axioms to begin with. What are your moral axioms? In the past, I believe that you have mentioned compassion, but, I classify compassion as a feeling.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"I'm just drawing a correlation on senseless violence."

I agree that the Books of Moses over-emphasize the violence to make the founding of Israel seem more heroic. As you pointed out in a previous post, cities like Jericho and Ai may not have been destroyed by Joshua. Since the Israelites were largely native Canaanites, they may have telescoped centuries of cultural memory into a short time frame.

On the other hand, I don't think that there is any correlation between violence and the psychopathic behavior you were describing. Good people are almost always violent. Violence has always been a major part of the human condition,, even in the most gentile civilizations. People are often unaware of their own violence since they hire other people, like policemen, or doctors, to do our violence for them. Believe me, modern people are just as violent as any of the ancients.

Our modern leftists, who claim that they abhor violence, are probably the most violent of all people. For instance, anyone who "spreads the wealth around" through government, is relying on violence to take property from one group of people and to give it to another group. This no different that the ancients who used to raid other villages and take their property. Any time the left makes a law to control other people's behavior through laws, even if no one is killed, that control, itself, is an act of violence, since it is based on force.

While we are discussing violence, I assume that you are a strong proponent of a woman's right to choose abortion? You do understand that abortion is violence against the most innocent of all human life. Babies are butchered by the abortionists without any concern for the discomfort they might experience. The number of innocent humans killed by the abortionists are probably equivalent to those killed by the Nazis, and undoubtedly, far outnumber the number of people killed by the ancient Israelites.

Do you object to those modern forms of violence as strenuously as you object to the violence of the ancients? Do you think all abortionists are sociopaths like you judge ancient Israel? If not, are you really judging ancient Israel fairly? Is it possible that you have slipped into cultural chauvinism without realizing it? If you were an anthropologist, would you approach your project differently?

Andrew said:
"Morality is calculating what one ought to do in a given situation."

If you don't rely on feelings, and you don't rely on instinct, and you don't rely on God, what do you base your morality on? Logic only works if you have some axioms to begin with. What are your moral axioms? In the past, I believe that you have mentioned compassion, but, I classify compassion as a feeling.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

Hi Dennis, for some reason the spam filter counted your comment as spam. That was weird.

Anyways, regarding your disagreement over my comparison of the young boys killing dogs to the Israelites nonchalantly killing entire populations of infidels, I would only agree with you on the difference in that the Israelite's tale is actually more wrong.

Your 'modern leftist' correlation of 'redistributing wealth' and its similarity to 'ancient raiders of villages' is a stretch.

The only liberal group you mentioned were 'abortionists'. By this, I assume you mean the physician who actually performs the operation. There's no doubt that abortion is an undesirable outcome, but it is still more undesirable to decimate entire populations of people.

And that illustrates where your overarching principles are applied. Religion mistakenly attributes justice and fairness to voices in a whirlwind.

In all moralities, even fake ones like religious morality, the idea behind morality is to react in certain situations, or be proactive in general, on a vague sense of justice and fairness. We use logic and reason, often based on our experience, to figure out the optimum moral judgment for a given situation.

It's like chess. Chess is an objective game, and perhaps a rule like "Don't lose your queen" is a good "moral rule". This is akin to religion. But, there are times when losing one's queen is a genius move, and then there are times when it's the only move. This is what I'm talking about. And we don't need Bronze Age stories to dictate it.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Anyways, regarding your disagreement over my comparison of the young boys killing dogs to the Israelites nonchalantly killing entire populations of infidels, I would only agree with you on the difference in that the Israelite's tale is actually more wrong."

I didn't say that I agree with killing other villages. War is always ugly, but it is an integral natural part of human existence. When desperately poor people are living in at a subsistence, they often have to fight for their survival. Andrew, have you ever lived in a culture where people are one harvest from starvation? If not, how do you know how you would react? It is impossible too develop a moral system without taking into account actual human nature.

Sociopathic behavior is also a natural part of some people's nature. If your moral system can not differentiate between abnormal behavior which is limited to a few individuals, vs normal natural behavior which is shared by all of us, then your moral system will be hopelessly deficient. The boys who torture dogs do so for the pleasure of killing, not because their own survival is at stake. I am unaware that the Israelites ever killed just for the pleasure of killing. Sociopaths often torture their victims, since that adds to their pleasure. I am unaware of any evidence that the ancient Israelites resorted to torture. I don’t see any evidence that they were a nation of sociopaths.

The Bible begins to develop the best, most just, and most equitable moral system ever to exist in an ancient culture of people who were acting completely human. Any moral system which does not rightly account for human nature, is more than worthless. The Bible first presents an extremely realistic picture of human nature, which you obviously find distressing, and over the centuries develops a moral system based on that understanding of human nature. People who go to the books of Moses to find the end result of the process, will be disappointed.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"And that illustrates where your overarching principles are applied. Religion mistakenly attributes justice and fairness to voices in a whirlwind."

It is easy to fight straw men. I embrace the truth that the Bible contains Divine revelation, but Christian morality is much more than just "voices in the wind" as you say. The Christian religion has an extremely rational moral system, based on ethical monotheism, which has evolved over thousands of years. After the time of Moses, the Jews did a great deal of thinking about the meaning of morality. The Christians built on their insights. Beginning in the first century, the Christian church embraced the philosophy of Plato and later Aristotle as tools to analyze and shape their faith. Christianity is an extremely rational religion. The crisis of Western Civilization, which you are experiencing, is caused by the collapse of traditional philosophy. In the modern world, science has largely replaced Philosophy as the gateway to truth. The Christian religion with its philosophy and reason, has been displaced. The problem is, science by itself can to provide objective data to support a rational moral system. Perhaps the problem is with me, perhaps I have not asked you the question clearly enough, but I am still waiting for you to provide an objective scientifically provable foundation for morality.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Your 'modern leftist' correlation of 'redistributing wealth' and its similarity to 'ancient raiders of villages' is a stretch."

Why do you say that? Modern leftists, and ancient tribes, both use violence to take what one group has worked to produce and to give it to another group. Please provide a rational explanation why the leftists are morally superior? In my opinion, the villagers who raid other villages do so because they are hungry are better. The leftists generally are well fed, and often very wealthy people, who rob one group and give to another in order to set themselves up in power. Of course, the leftists always take a portion of the booty for themselves.

Andrew said:
"The only liberal group you mentioned were 'abortionists'. By this, I assume you mean the physician who actually performs the operation. There's no doubt that abortion is an undesirable outcome, but it is still more undesirable to decimate entire populations of people."

I don’t mean just the doctors. Everyone who supports abortion is equally culpable. You have offered a conclusion, that abortion is not so bad, but you have offered no basis for that conclusion. Why is it preferable to kill innocent babies that to kill your enemies? Murder is murder. What moral principles enable you to justify abortion but to condemn the Nazis?

Andrew said:
"In all moralities, even fake ones like religious morality, the idea behind morality is to react in certain situations, or be proactive in general, on a vague sense of justice and fairness. We use logic and reason, often based on our experience, to figure out the optimum moral judgment for a given situation."

Are we to assume that your own morality is genuine, not "fake", just because you say so? Who can we know that your own moral system is “genuine”? You talk about reason, but so far, you have not provided any logical basis for your moral pronouncements. I don't understand what you mean when you use the word "reason", as if “reason” is somehow integral to morality. Please define what you mean by the word "reason", and explain logically why you believe "reason" in inherently moral. Please don't assume that I’m ignorant, and tell me that everyone knows what
“reason” means. I want to know what it means to you, the philosopher, and why you think there is any correlation between reason and moral behaivor. The French philosophes used to talk about "reason" as if "reason" alone leads to morality, but history records their experiment ended in tyranny and massacres; the same type of massacres which you abhor in the ancient Isrealites. Why is a massacre done in the name of “reason”, good, but a massacre done in the name of God, bad?

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

I really don’t understand your logic, Dennis. You pretend to advocate an objective morality, but it just winds up sounding like cultural relativism.

Listen to what you are writing: “When desperately poor people are living in at a subsistence, they often have to fight for their survival. Andrew, have you ever lived in a culture where people are one harvest from starvation? If not, how do you know how you would react? It is impossible too develop a moral system without taking into account actual human nature.”

Now, listen to what I’m saying: It doesn’t matter if you are hungry, well-fed, poor or rich; destroying entire villages is bad because it decreases human flourishing.

Of the two, who is claiming objective morality, and who is claiming cultural relativism?

Dennis said: “The Bible begins to develop the best, most just, and most equitable moral system ever to exist in an ancient culture of people who were acting completely human.”

No, it’s not. And when you say that, it sounds like the people who lived back in the Bronze Age were so barbaric that it was actually an improvement to come up with a list of 10 reasons to kill your neighbor. But, the truth is many people who were contemporaries of the Israelites (if not geographical neighbors) have correctly stated what morality is. Hindu mystics, Buddhist mystics, Chinese and Greek philosophers, all said things that were vastly more moral then what the Israelites were proposing.

Dennis said: “Christianity is an extremely rational religion. The crisis of Western Civilization, which you are experiencing, is caused by the collapse of traditional philosophy.”

This coming from a man who thinks God’s Son/Himself came down to Earth, was born of a virgin, and died as a sacrifice to Himself for mankind’s sins - not to mention the obvious examples of cultural relativism. My friend, if this is how people represent Christianity, then it comes off as both irrational and unphilosophical. The religious apologetics that you are using is the very crisis that you speak of. And if you really cared about what is true, then don’t be afraid to call a spade a “spade”.

Apologetics, as it’s currently being deployed, is basically an attempt to lie to one’s self.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"I really don’t understand your logic, Dennis. You pretend to advocate an objective morality, but it just winds up sounding like cultural relativism."

I don't "pretend" anything. I am trying to demonstrate the logical flaws in your position. You, still, have not provided a scientifically validated standard of morality by which you can measure anyone's morality, especially the morality of an alien culture from thousands of years ago in an environment which is totally different from anything you have ever experienced. Until you have an objective universal standard, the only ruler you have to measure their culture is your own culture. If you use your own culture as your standard, you must assume that it is perfect. If you don't think that your culture is perfect, then, it is not an appropriate measuring stick to measure morality. I have already pointed out that many of the flaws you see in the ancient Israelite culture are also present in your own culture, so your culture is not a perfect gold standard. In other words, your gold standard is not so golden. Until, you provide a scientifically validated, universal standard of morality, your opinions are not logical. Your moral judgments are nothing but your own preferences, like some people like chocolate, and other people like vanilla.

You will undoubtedly claim that my monotheism is not a scientifically verifiable measure of morality. I agree, but I'm not the one who has rejected "voices in the wind". I accept the inspiration of the Bible. I believe in one good God who cares for his creatures. That is my standard by which I measure morality.

As a philosopher, I'm sure you are aware of the writings of Kant. There are few modern secular scholars still believe that Plato or Aristotle are reliable standards. As I understand them, Kant and Hume both rejected a priori reasoning out of hand. If you reject revelation from God, that leaves science as the only reliable source for objective knowledge. Thus, since you reject God's revelation, it is completely fair for me to ask you to provide the scientific study upon which you rely when you make moral judgments. Until you provide that study, you have no objective basis to make moral judgments. Whether you realize it or not, your moral standard is your own culture. Since your standard is your culture, logically, other people from other cultures have the same right to judge you and your culture by their own culture. Hence, anyone who accepts your premises, and follows them logically, inevitably ends up with cultural relativity.

I'll answer your other points later.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

Dennis said: “If you use your own culture as your standard, you must assume that it is perfect. If you don't think that your culture is perfect, then, it is not an appropriate measuring stick to measure morality. I have already pointed out that many of the flaws you see in the ancient Israelite culture are also present in your own culture, so your culture is not a perfect gold standard. In other words, your gold standard is not so golden.”

You’re not even addressing my point. You keep falling back on cultural relativism, and suggesting that I'm using my culture. What I'm saying is that given any culture, any time period, no matter how smart or ignorant, it is always wrong to decimate entire villages because an action like that reduces human flourishing.

Let’s do a thought experiment. The Israelites arrive on the scene, find a piece of land in which they settle, and they notice that nearby are other tribes who are fairly well off, but don’t practice the same religion as they do.

Morally speaking, would it be better to:

a) Attack the other tribes, decimate their villages and cities, and take their women and children as slaves. Or
b) Trade with them, try to establish friendly relations with the other tribes despite their cultural differences, and learn about these other cultures and vice versa

Let’s fast forward a few thousand years

The United States arrives on the scene, while moving West they notice there are indigenous tribes inhabiting various areas. These people are culturally very different.

Morally speaking, would it be better to:

a) Attack the tribes, decimate their villages and cities, and move them to reservations. Or
b) Trade with them, try to establish friendly relations with them despite their cultural differences, and learn about these other cultures and vice versa

And yes, I know there’s a history of more bloodshed prior to their arrivals, but even with that caveat, is it still morally right in either case to do Option A? And why is Option B the right way? Because it increases human flourishing, no matter what culture or time period one lives in, human flourishing is the moral standard. The problem is that some people – like the Israelites and like the U.S., were not being guided by principles like human flourishing. They were guided by xenophobia, greed, religion, and ignorance.

Leaving aside religion for now, is greed and ignorance a good moral precept to use in order to make moral decisions? Probably not.

As for religion, even you can admit that there are so many religions out there that they can’t all be right, and I would go a step further to say that none of them are. Religions are unreliable as moral guides because they have scientifically, and historically, been shown to give people bad reasons to do bad things, and bad reasons to do good things when other reasons existed.

And if you want to find out scientifically the results of this morality vs. a morality based on religion, we only have to look at the results of specific actions. And this is being done in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, using tools like MRI's, surveys, statistics, etc. In fact, neuroscientist Sam Harris is putting out a book in October on this very subject, called The Moral Landscape.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"You’re not even addressing my point. You keep falling back on cultural relativism, and suggesting that I'm using my culture. What I'm saying is that given any culture, any time period, no matter how smart or ignorant, it is always wrong to decimate entire villages because an action like that reduces human flourishing."

Up until now, I don't believe you have stated your "point" in these terms. Now, that you offered an apparently objective criterion for measuring morality, "human flourishing," we have something to discuss. Your rule, "human flourishing" appears to be completely arbitrary, since other people are free to choose some other rule, but at least you have an objective criterion. I like it because, "human flourishing" is the same criterion which I find in the Bible. Indeed, I suspect that it is derived from Western culture which has been shaped by the Bible.

Perhaps you can help me out. Since you have rejected divine revelation, you are left with science and materialistic philosophy to guide you. Do you base your morality on a priori evidence or do you rely on experimental evidence? Your criterion, that anything which promotes "human flourishing" is morally superior, appears to be based on a priori reasoning. I am unaware of any scientific experiments which prove that only actions which promote "human flourishing" are moral. In fact, I don't know how one would even go about setting up that type of experiment.

As you are undoubtedly aware, a priori reasoning has been the basis for rational Christian theology for millennia. It is only within the last few centuries that science has replaced a priori reasoning as the only reliable standard of "truth". The present anti-Christian attitude among the intelligentsia parallels their rejection of a priori truth.

Perhaps you could explain your criterion more. What part of "human flourishing" do you support? Are societies which promote rapid reproduction superior to populations which practice birth control? In other words, you imply that it was wrong for the European settlers to overwhelm the American Indians. According to your criterion, why is that so? If the Europeans had a higher birth rate than the Indians, and needed the empty land so that they could "flourish", wasn't taking what they needed the morally superior thing to do? In many instances, the Europeans didn't try to exterminate the Indians, they simply took over the Indian lands, which were not being used to maximum capacity for "human flourishing." According to your criterion, weren't the European settlers morally superior to the Indians who tried to keep them from "flourishing"?

Andrew said:
"Morally speaking, would it be better to:
a) Attack the other tribes, decimate their villages and cities, and take their women and children as slaves. Or
b) Trade with them, try to establish friendly relations with the other tribes despite their cultural differences, and learn about these other cultures and vice versa"

Logically, I can not answer your question based on your criterion, "human flourishing". Either (a.) or (b.) is correct, depending upon the circumstances.

I do find it interesting that you mention trade as a morally good thing. Do you believe that? Your statement implies that capitalism is morally superior to seizing other people's property. In other words, capitalism is morally superior to communism or socialism. Am I understanding you correctly?

Continued on next post

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"... neuroscientist Sam Harris is putting out a book in October on this very subject, called The Moral Landscape."

I will await further information before I render judgment on Sam Harris's book. Since people have been murdering each other since the dawn of history, Sam Harris could probably find brain structures which promote murder. On the other hand, he can probably also find brain centers which support altruism.

It is my understanding that we are incapable of performing any mental tasks which are not compatible with our preexisting neuroanatomy. In other words, Einstein couldn't have been Einstein unless his brain was already hardwired to permit him to think the thoughts he thought. By the same token, Hitler couldn't have been Hitler if the human brain were incapable of producing Hitlers. If Sam Harris, or anyone else, assumes that anything which neuroanatomy supports is moral, then both Einstein and Hitler would be equally moral. Indeed, Hitler would be more moral, since there are more people who are capable of hate than there are who can be scientific geniuses.

Andrew said:
"As for religion, even you can admit that there are so many religions out there that they can’t all be right, and I would go a step further to say that none of them are."

Why do you say that? I don't follow your argument. Just because there are many different religions does not mean they are all wrong. Perhaps they are all right. Or perhaps some of them are right, and some of them are completely wrong. Incidentally, if my memory is correct, that is an argument that Kant used to reject a priori logic. By the same token, when scientists have varying explanations for their own observations, is it proper to reject all science?

Andrew, I'm sure by now you think I'm playing with you. Perhaps, I am, but I also have a point. I love to talk to people who disagree with me since it helps me sharpen my own thinking. Perhaps, these mental exercises can be beneficial for both of us.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Continued:

Andrew said:
"Morally speaking, would it be better to:
a) Attack the other tribes, decimate their villages and cities, and take their women and children as slaves. Or
b) Trade with them, try to establish friendly relations with the other tribes despite their cultural differences, and learn about these other cultures and vice versa"

Logically, I can not answer your question based on your criterion, "human flourishing". Either (a.) or (b.) is correct, depending upon the circumstances. If the only criterion is human flourishing, then anything which promotes maximum “human flourishing” is moral, even if it damages a portion of the population in thee process.

I do find it interesting that you mention trade as a morally good thing. The prohibition against stealing comes from the Bible. Do you really believe that? Do you believe that capitalism is morally superior to communism or socialism?

You claim that "greed" is bad. Weren’t the Indians greedy when they fought to keep the extra land they were hoarding from the Europeans who needed room to live? Wouldn't the un-greedy response have been to willingly share their land with the Europeans? Weren't the Indians xenophobic when they noticed that they were physically different from the Europeans and didn't welcome them into their lands as if they were long lost members of their own tribes? On a personal basis, who is to say that you are morally superior to the people you are judging?
Do you eat while other people are hungry? Do you live on land which was formerly claimed by someone else?

Andrew said:
"The problem is that some people – like the Israelites and like the U.S., were not being guided by principles like human flourishing. They were guided by xenophobia, greed, religion, and ignorance."

Do you have scientific evidence that xenophobia, greed, and religion are immoral? Your term "xenophobia" sounds like a manufactured word to make a natural human trait appear as a mental illness. Greed is a natural human trait, and can be very beneficial for "human flourishing" when properly channeled. Religion is often very useful for “human flourishing”.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

Dennis said:

“If Sam Harris, or anyone else, assumes that anything which neuroanatomy supports is moral, then both Einstein and Hitler would be equally moral.”

Interesting spin, but you’re trying to divert the subject. The point was about human flourishing and the study of morality by neuroscience and psychology. It’s not about introducing a red herring on the field of neuroscience itself.

Dennis said:
"Just because there are many different religions does not mean they are all wrong. ... Kant used to reject a priori logic. By the same token, when scientists have varying explanations for their own observations, is it proper to reject all science?”

We can reject, or not accept, a scientific theory or religion if evidence is against it. In the moral sense, which is our topic right now, we can reject it because the Bible isn’t a guide to morality. When we cherry pick the Bible for moral passages, we the readers are the ones choosing which passages are moral and ignoring the ones that are not.

Dennis said:
“I do find it interesting that you mention trade as a morally good thing ... Do you believe that capitalism is morally superior to communism or socialism?”

What does this have to do with anything? Labeling one's self as a "libertarian" is just as bad a strategy as calling one's self a "communist". Communism, capitalism, libertarianism, socialism – they’re just philosophies. And like all philosophies, there are good and bad ideas within each one. No one should be dogmatic about any of them.

Dennis said:
“You claim that "greed" is bad. Weren’t the Indians greedy ...? Wouldn't the un-greedy response have been to willingly share their land with the Europeans? Weren't the Indians xenophobic? On a personal basis, who is to say that you are morally superior to the people you are judging? Do you eat while other people are hungry? Do you live on land which was formerly claimed by someone else?”

You seem to be in a constant state of missing the point. Those things happened in the past. We can’t change the past. The only thing we can do is accept it. Once we accept it, we can make moral choices on what we can do now and in the future. And these choices, in order for them to be moral, have to be based on human flourishing and inclusive all people. The mistakes of the past were, as you pointed out, caused because of xenophobia, greed, etc. In other words, immoral things happened because certain people were not included in the in-group. That’s what xenophobia does.

Dennis said:
Do you have scientific evidence that xenophobia, greed, and religion are immoral? ... Religion is often very useful for “human flourishing”.

The last sentence is the “religion is useful” argument, and has nothing to do on whether it’s true. Scientific evidence that xenophobia is immoral can be seen by its results, and it’s fairly easy to demonstrate. We can even choose do these things now and see the results.

But, for argument's sake - to see someone as an outsider based on them being foreign is less likely to create human flourishing then greeting someone and getting to know them. To be greedy and take everything for one’s self is demonstrably less moral (meaning it gets bad results in social relationships) then sharing. And when compared to actually caring about what is true based on the evidence, as well as being skeptical of what is essentially fairy tales, is much better than accepting fairy tales at face value despite the evidence.

Anonymous said...

Part One

Andrew said:
"Interesting spin, but you’re trying to divert the subject. The point was about human flourishing and the study of morality by neuroscience and psychology. It’s not about introducing a red herring on the field of neuroscience itself."

I don't understand your response.

In the first instance you asked some rhetorical questions. I answered them, differently than you expected, using your own moral metric, "human flourishing." In what way is that a "diversion"? If I can demonstrate that you disagree with your own metric, is that not significant? You have not done is to demonstrate a logical flaw in my post, so may I assume that you acknowledge that my use of your metric was correct? How is demonstrating logical flaws in your argument a “red herring”? When the Europeans took land from the Indians, it is undeniable that their seizure has contribute to human flourishing. The same land now supports many more people than the Indians could imagine. Because of their actions, humanity is flourishing. Therefore, according to your own standard, the Europeans were moral, when they took Indian land.

In the second instance, I'm not sure how to say this politely. I am amazed that anyone would publish a book which purports to provide a foundation for morality from neuroanatomy. I have studied thousands of human brains, and I have never seen anything which could serve as a basis for a universal moral code. I can almost guarantee that Sam Harris is superimposing his own beliefs, derived from his own culture, onto the neural circuits. If he were a Nazi, he would undoubtedly "discover" circuits which prove that Nazis are morally superior. Again, if my logic is flawed, please demonstrate my error. If not, then my point stands, neuroanatomy can not provide a universal standard of morality.

You mentioned psychology as a possible source of morality. Psychologists have tried to make their field more "scientific" recently, but still, they have not provided any basis for a universal moral code. If psychologists are really scientists, they will confine themselves to what is, not what should be. Science can not tell us what should be.

When psychologists try to define what should be, they end up superimposing their own cultural biases onto their subjects. For example, an one time, homosexuality was classified as a mental malfunction. Now, since the homosexual community has managed to change their culture, psychologists have decided that homosexuals are normal people. The scientific facts haven't changed, but the psychologists have changed, and therefore, what they once called "abnormal" has become "normal". It is my understanding that in the Soviet Union, dissidents were often incarcerated in mental institutions. From our perspective, that seems absurd, but from their perspective, anyone who opposed the prevailing culture, was mentally ill.

Anonymous said...

Part II

Andrew said:
“Communism, capitalism, libertarianism, socialism – they’re just philosophies. And like all philosophies, there are good and bad ideas within each one. No one should be dogmatic about any of them.”

You have apparently confirmed what I suspected, you don’t believe that any of these beliefs are morally superior. I was banking on that assumption when I made my post. I was right, After communists have killed 100,000,000 people, in the name of their beliefs, now you tell me that it is “just a philosophy”? I am amazed that you don’t see any moral issues in these varying systems.

Communism, capitalism, socialism, each of these world views have their own moral codes which conflict with the others. They can’t all be right. In your rhetorical question, you held up “trade” as morally superior to seizure. That is a moral code from capitalism. Trade rather than seizure is one of the founding principles upon which capitalism is built. Communists and socialists have no moral objection to seizure. If you really believe that Communism and Capitalism are morally equivalent, then you have no logical basis to claim that it is morally superior to trade with neighbors than to take what you need from them by force. From your own argument, it seems that raiders and traders are morally equivalent, they are simply different philosophies put into practice. In that case, why are you so judgmental of the ancient Israelites, who were hungry, and took what they needed?

Andrew said:
"We can reject, or not accept, a scientific theory or religion if evidence is against it. In the moral sense, which is our topic right now, we can reject it because the Bible isn’t a guide to morality. When we cherry pick the Bible for moral passages, we the readers are the ones choosing which passages are moral and ignoring the ones that are not."

It appears that you have done exactly what you accuse me of doing. You have not addressed my point. If all religions are wrong, because they disagree, then according to that same logic, all philosophers are wrong, because they disagree. Yet, you apparently think that philosophy is valuable, and contains truth, despite the disagreements. If my analysis is correct, it appears you are not logically consistent. That is my point.

In response to your new assertion, I really don't know what to say. You are the first person I have talked to who claims that "the Bible isn’t a guide to morality". You might not agree with Biblical morality, but to claim that the Bible has no moral content is a stunning assertion. I'm sure you are acquainted with Nietzsche and his writings. He was an anti-Christian secularist, yet he never made the claim you just made. He acknowledged that Christianity was the basis of morality in Western Civilization. That is why he spent so much time railing against Christianity, and trying to find a substitute. I don’t believe it. You can’t really believe that Christianity has no moral content. Perhaps you mean that the Bible is not a rule book with an answer for every possible moral situation?

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Interesting spin, but you’re trying to divert the subject. The point was about human flourishing and the study of morality by neuroscience and psychology. It’s not about introducing a red herring on the field of neuroscience itself."

I don't understand your response.

In the first instance you asked some rhetorical questions. I answered them, differently than you expected, using your own moral metric, "human flourishing." In what way is that a "diversion"? If I can demonstrate that you disagree with your own metric, is that not significant? You have not done is to demonstrate a logical flaw in my post, so may I assume that you acknowledge that my use of your metric was correct? How is demonstrating logical flaws in your argument a “red herring”? When the Europeans took land from the Indians, it is undeniable that their seizure has contribute to human flourishing. The same land now supports many more people than the Indians could imagine. Because of their actions, humanity is flourishing. Therefore, according to your own standard, the Europeans were moral, when they took Indian land.

In the second instance, I'm not sure how to say this politely. I am amazed that anyone would publish a book which purports to provide a foundation for morality from neuroanatomy. I have studied thousands of human brains, and I have never seen anything which could serve as a basis for a universal moral code. I can almost guarantee that Sam Harris is superimposing his own beliefs, derived from his own culture, onto the neural circuits. If he were a Nazi, he would undoubtedly "discover" circuits which prove that Nazis are morally superior. Again, if my logic is flawed, please demonstrate my error. If not, then my point stands, neuroanatomy can not provide a universal standard of morality.

You mentioned psychology as a possible source of morality. Psychologists have tried to make their field more "scientific" recently, but still, they have not provided any basis for a universal moral code. If psychologists are really scientists, they will confine themselves to what is, not what should be. Science can not tell us what should be.

When psychologists try to define what should be, they end up superimposing their own cultural biases onto their subjects. For example, an one time, homosexuality was classified as a mental malfunction. Now, since the homosexual community has managed to change their culture, psychologists have decided that homosexuals are normal people. The scientific facts haven't changed, but the psychologists have changed, and therefore, what they once called "abnormal" has become "normal". It is my understanding that in the Soviet Union, dissidents were often incarcerated in mental institutions. From our perspective, that seems absurd, but from their perspective, anyone who opposed the prevailing culture, was mentally ill.

continued below

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Interesting spin, but you’re trying to divert the subject. The point was about human flourishing and the study of morality by neuroscience and psychology. It’s not about introducing a red herring on the field of neuroscience itself."

I don't understand your response.

In the first instance you asked some rhetorical questions. I answered them, differently than you expected, using your own moral metric, "human flourishing." In what way is that a "diversion"? If I can demonstrate that you disagree with your own metric, is that not significant? You have not done is to demonstrate a logical flaw in my post, so may I assume that you acknowledge that my use of your metric was correct? How is demonstrating logical flaws in your argument a “red herring”? When the Europeans took land from the Indians, it is undeniable that their seizure has contribute to human flourishing. The same land now supports many more people than the Indians could imagine. Because of their actions, humanity is flourishing. Therefore, according to your own standard, the Europeans were moral, when they took Indian land.

In the second instance, I'm not sure how to say this politely. I am amazed that anyone would publish a book which purports to provide a foundation for morality from neuroanatomy. I have studied thousands of human brains, and I have never seen anything which could serve as a basis for a universal moral code. I can almost guarantee that Sam Harris is superimposing his own beliefs, derived from his own culture, onto the neural circuits. If he were a Nazi, he would undoubtedly "discover" circuits which prove that Nazis are morally superior. Again, if my logic is flawed, please demonstrate my error. If not, then my point stands, neuroanatomy can not provide a universal standard of morality.

You mentioned psychology as a possible source of morality. Psychologists have tried to make their field more "scientific" recently, but still, they have not provided any basis for a universal moral code. If psychologists are really scientists, they will confine themselves to what is, not what should be. Science can not tell us what should be.

When psychologists try to define what should be, they end up superimposing their own cultural biases onto their subjects. For example, an one time, homosexuality was classified as a mental malfunction. Now, since the homosexual community has managed to change their culture, psychologists have decided that homosexuals are normal people. The scientific facts haven't changed, but the psychologists have changed, and therefore, what they once called "abnormal" has become "normal". It is my understanding that in the Soviet Union, dissidents were often incarcerated in mental institutions. From our perspective, that seems absurd, but from their perspective, anyone who opposed the prevailing culture, was mentally ill.

continued below

paul said...

Is it wrong that I have no sympathy for the jews who died in the Hollocaust, who believed this shit? The ones who thought it was OK to slaughter entire races when Gott Ist Mitt Mich? Who accepted god almost slaughtered them all like 6 times and turned away at the last minute? They think killing whole races because they're the master race is ok, why shouldn't they be oven food in Auschwitz? Of course not all jews ACTUALLY read the bible just claim to like christians but...if they do believe it, damn them all to Poland.