A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Israelites cut off the thumbs and big toes of Adoni Bezek.  
Image from boomerinthepew.com

Book of Judges Opens Up With Some Intense Bloodshed, Torture (Judges Chapter 1) - With the Book of Joshua behind me, I thought I'd have a fresh new outlook.  But who am I kidding?  This is the Old Testament.

As soon as Joshua dies, the people of Israel ask "How are we going to get the Canaanites we DIDN'T already kill!?! (not verbatim)."  And so Yahweh, aka God Almighty, nominates the young warlord Judah. So right off the bat, Chapter 1 mentions the transition of power from Joshua to Judah. And Judah is one crazy mofo.  

In Bezek, they slaughter 10,000 Perizzites and Canaanites - they find Adoni Bezek (above image) and cut off his big toes and thumbs.  Adoni says something odd.  He says, "After having their toes and thumbs cut off, I fed 70 kings from under my table."
I'm not sure what that means, and the picture in my head is ridiculous, but that's what it says (Judges 1:7).

The Israelites then attacked Jerusalem (remember, this is before Jerusalem was their's) and killed everyone in the city and set the city ablaze.  And the list grows.  The Israelites slay people "in the mountain", "in the valley", "in the south", a town called Kirjaphsepher (which was taken on a dare), another town called Zephath, the Gaza coast, the Askelon coast, the Ekron coast, the city of Bethel, and on an on.  You get the idea.  There's lots of carnage.

But remember, this carnage is because Yahweh (aka God) promised to drive everyone out for the Israelites.  But wait, even God is having a bit of problem with the people "in the valley".  Not even Yahweh could drive them out because they have "iron chariots".  In fact, the rest of the chapter from 1:26 on, is just a list of towns that couldn't be taken. 

I like a good war story every once and a while, but this is ridiculous.  And, that was just Chapter 1!

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's see where we are at in our discussion.

1. You claim you want a "scientific" morality. So far, it hasn't worked out that way. I have given you multiple opportunities to discuss your beliefs in light of evolutionary science, but you have not taken the opportunity. Is that because you know that science deals with what actually exists, not what should exist?

2. You seem to be operating from a materialistic paradigm, but you have not taken the implications of materialism into account. Without freedom, what is morality?

3. Since you have not established your moral principles from science, I wonder where they really come from? I have my own idea. They come from the Bible, itself. If I am correct, when you attempt to discredit the Bible, you also discredit your own moral beliefs. That is why so many secularists have fallen into moral relativism.

You will undoubtedly argue that it is silly for me to even think such thoughts. You are certain that your moral ideas don’t come from the Bible. At least, you think you know that. However, from your own materialistic paradigm, every thought you think is caused by a combination of your heredity and your environment. Because you have believed the Bible in the past, the Bible is still part of your environment, and still has a direct causative effect on your beliefs. You might no recognize exactly how the Bible contributes to your beliefs, but it does.

5. Since you have not been able to offer scientific evidence as a basis for your own morality, I wonder about the reason for your blog. Perhaps you are attempting to avoid the inevitable nihilism which comes from Godless materialism? Perhaps you think that if you can discredit the Bible, that proves that you know something after all? Right? Right? Well, maybe not. No matter how much you criticize the Bible, your end is certain, your nihilism still awaits you.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

This part is in response to what you wrote in a previous post:

Dennis said: “O.K. At least we agree that there are people who want to change society, who are not concerned about "human flourishing."

This statement might be too broad. There are obviously ways in which society can be changed for the better.

Dennis said: “That point of agreement is a good start. I think the case of Mao is quite well documented. Can we agree that there are individuals like Mao, who had no concern for the well being of other people, who are interested in setting up alternative moral systems which support their own proclivities? If we agree, that people like Mao exist, can we also agree that these people, are rational and sane? “

Their systems weren’t ‘moral systems’. They’re political regimes with a doctrine (i.e. Communism) instead of a godhead. But I wouldn’t agree that they are rational or necessarily sane. In fact, their loyalty to their dogma is irrational and insane, and we can’t say that they were a bastion of skeptical inquiry.

Dennis said: “If you are not basing your premise on human nature, how do you establish that your principle is universal truth?

Because we are conscious, and conscious creatures care about their well-being and the well-being of others. It is not sane nor rational to think morality is otherwise. Some people try to participate in “moral talk”, but they should be excluded from the conversation in much the same way a creationist can be excluded from modern scientific discussions on biology or physics. For example, a religious person might think it’s morally correct to cut off his gay son’s head if it prevents him from having homosexual sex, given certain passages in the Bible. The moral thing to do is to prevent the person from doing that and restrain him from doing so.

Dennis said: Although I believe that Dawkins is a anti-Christian bigot, he is intelligent.

Thinking Christianity is false and being vocal about it isn’t being a bigot.

Dennis said: If you can not find morality in the physical universe, then, without God, it seems that morality is nothing but a personal preference, much like chocolate ice-cream.

This was laid to rest some time ago. We find morality only conscious creatures, because morality only matters to them. That’s why we don’t have any moral concern about rocks, but as we go up the scale of complexity from insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, primates to humans, our concern increases.

Andrew P. said...

Dennis said: 1. You claim you want a "scientific" morality. I have given you multiple opportunities to discuss your beliefs in light of evolutionary science, but you have not taken the opportunity. Is that because you know that science deals with what actually exists, not what should exist?

Where science will come in is in the measurements of actions and how well the results increase human flourishing. In effect, it’s a social science. I’m not trying to bring up biology, because morality is in the realm of psychology and neuroscience.

Dennis said: 2. You seem to be operating from a materialistic paradigm ... Without freedom, what is morality?

This question was already answered. Do I have to continually repeat it? Morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures. If freedom is good for their flourishing, which it seems to be, then let it be. And by freedom, I mean political freedom.

Dennis said: 3. Since you have not established your moral principles from science, I wonder where they really come from? I have my own idea. They come from the Bible, itself. If I am correct, when you attempt to discredit the Bible, you also discredit your own moral beliefs. That is why so many secularists have fallen into moral relativism.

This is an example of confirmation bias in action. You believe that it comes from the Bible. I showed to you exactly why it doesn’t. But, since you already believe that can’t be true, you maintain the belief anyway, despite being showed exactly why the notion is false. This is just dogmatism. You ought to end the conversation now, because you’re just drumming up the same questions, and I’m going to have to keep repeating the same answers. Maybe if I repeat it enough times, cognitive dissonance will have the better of you.

Dennis said: 5 (actually 4). Since you have not been able to offer scientific evidence as a basis for your own morality, I wonder about the reason for your blog. Perhaps you are attempting to avoid the inevitable nihilism which comes from Godless materialism? Perhaps you think that if you can discredit the Bible, that proves that you know something after all? Right? Right? Well, maybe not. No matter how much you criticize the Bible, your end is certain, your nihilism still awaits you.

The Bible has already been discredited. If you take it seriously, then you must believe that the Creator of the Universe created man imperfectly, and in order to make up for that imperfection, He had to send His Son, who is Himself, down to be executed by these imperfect people, to make up for how imperfect they are, and how imperfect they inevitably will be. If you believe that, then yes I think you’re ridiculous.

You also have to believe that God isn’t a musician or a painter. He’s an author. And He provided us with a book that is so great that it should have all the wisdom in the world condensed within it. But look at what I’ve been writing in these blogs the last few months. There’s no wisdom. There’s arbitrary destruction sprinkled with an obsession to maintain the purity of the bloodline.

I don't subscribe to godless materialism, either. Just Judeo-Christian-less materialism. If there’s a god, then there’s a god. But one thing is for certain, that god is not expressed through Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. At best, Spinoza, Einstein, or even Thomas Paine came close - it can only be either pantheism or deism. Other than that, then perhaps there’s none at all.

Anonymous said...

Concerning Mao & etc., Andrew said:
"Their systems weren’t ‘moral systems’. They’re political regimes with a doctrine (i.e. Communism) instead of a godhead. But I wouldn’t agree that they are rational or necessarily sane. In fact, their loyalty to their dogma is irrational and insane, and we can’t say that they were a bastion of skeptical inquiry."

O.K. This is interesting. How do we define "sane" and "rational"? People like Mao and Stalin were wildly successful men who have shaped world history through their ability to influence other people. Moa's thoughts are still highly influential on millions of people, including some Americans who consider themselves the intellectual cream of the cream. At least one of these people has served as advisors to the current president of the USA, Obama. If Mao was insane or irrational, what does that say about his modern admirers? In my opinion, an insane or irrational man could not command that degree of respect from highly intelligent people.

I will admit however, that you appear to have different criterion for sanity. Are you arguing that by definition, "sane", "rational" people work to advance human flourishing? Very interesting approach, but I wonder how you keep from falling into a circular argument here?

Referring to the same individuals, Andrew said:
"Their systems weren’t ‘moral systems’. They’re political regimes with a doctrine (i.e. Communism) instead of a godhead."

I'm inclined to agree with you here, but for reasons you will probably reject. I don't believe there can be a viable moral system without a moral God to set the standards. For the Chinese under him, Mao was in the place of God, with the power of life and death. The moral system Mao set up was counterfeit, but it was almost identical to genuine morality in its effect on his subjects. In my experience, I have never encountered morality which does not begin as external coercion which is subsequently internalized. Gifted manipulators know how to shape human psychology by forcing them to internalize their orders. This is why God’s commands are so important, since they provide a standard by which to compare those internalized rules, and to reject the counterfeit.

Andrew said:
"Because we are conscious, and conscious creatures care about their well-being and the well-being of others. It is not sane nor rational to think morality is otherwise. Some people try to participate in “moral talk”, but they should be excluded from the conversation in much the same way a creationist can be excluded from modern scientific discussions on biology or physics."

It seems that you are moving closer to Descartes' position, that we should begin our philosophy by acknowledging our own consciousness. Am I correct? If so, your position is different from the materialists I'm acquainted with. If you are beginning your research with your own consciousness, I applaud you. I am personally a great fan of Mr. Descartes.

I don't believe that it is possible to generalize, as you have done, from your own feelings for other people's well-being, to other people. Some undoubtedly share your outlook, others do not. People who don't share your experience will obviously reject your morality.

I'm curious about how you reach the conclusion that creationists should be excluded from scientific discussions about biology or physics. You do understand that one of the founders of the Big Bang cosmology was a Catholic Priest? I'm sure that at some level, he is a creationist. Of course, it is well known that Sir Isaac Newton was deeply committed to a divine creator.

Continued below

Anonymous said...

Andrew posted:
"Dennis said: Although I believe that Dawkins is a anti-Christian bigot, he is intelligent. Since you are inclined to defend him, are you will take his writings into consideration?

Thinking Christianity is false and being vocal about it isn’t being a bigot."

He's a bigot. That does not in any way detract from his scientific ideas. That is why I have invited you to include Dawkins’ insights in your philosophy.

Andrew said:
"Dennis said: If you can not find morality in the physical universe, then, without God, it seems that morality is nothing but a personal preference, much like chocolate ice-cream.

This was laid to rest some time ago. We find morality only conscious creatures, because morality only matters to them. That’s why we don’t have any moral concern about rocks, but as we go up the scale of complexity from insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, primates to humans, our concern increases."

I don't think you have answered my argument yet. All conscious people do not share your feelings, so they will naturally chose to live their life differently than you do. Since you haven't provided any scientific evidence to prove that your approach is the correct one, my argument that your morality is your personal preference, like chocolate ice-cream, remains unrefuted.

Continued below

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Where science will come in is in the measurements of actions and how well the results increase human flourishing. In effect, it’s a social science. I’m not trying to bring up biology, because morality is in the realm of psychology and neuroscience."

So much for the "scientific" moral system. I don't understand how you intend to separate psychology and neuroscience from biology. If you believe in evolution, as you claim, you certainly understand that everything you do is directly controlled by your evolutionary history. That is the inheritance portion of the materialistic paradigm, HUMAN THOUGHTS = HEREDITY * ENVIRONMENT. You might throw RANDOM CHANCE in the equation, to account for minor quantum effects on human thought. However, in the end, evolution is the final arbitrator, since any behavior, which doesn't promote the selfish genes will be eliminated from the gene pool.

I find it amusing, that so many people, who excoriate fundamentalist Christians for their opposition to Evolution, ignore Evolution themselves. It appears that you are in denial about the implication of the theory of Evolution. The lessons of Evolution are harsh and few people are brave enough to face them. Let me quote a poet who understood exactly what Evolution means:

"Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law–
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed-"
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Have you ever read Darwin's book, "The Descent of Man"? If not, you should refrain from covering yourself with the mantle of Evolutionary science, until you are acquainted with the implications of Evolution. I believe that Darwin was in a unique position to understand Evolution. He was unswerving in his belief that Evolution affects humans as well as animal species. From the theory of Evolution, Darwin deduced that some human races are less fit than others, and will be eliminated.

If you are going to claim that you are scientific, and use Evolution as a weapon against fundamentalist Christians, you have no choice, but to accept the less palatable parts of the theory, including Darwin’s claim that genocide of some type, is a natural result of evolution. If you are not willing to embrace every aspect of Evolution, then how can you claim to be more "scientific" than fundamentalist Christians?

Andrew said:
“This is an example of confirmation bias in action. You believe that it comes from the Bible. I showed to you exactly why it doesn’t. But, since you already believe that can’t be true, you maintain the belief anyway, despite being showed exactly why the notion is false. This is just dogmatism. You ought to end the conversation now, because you’re just drumming up ”

OK. You want, to end the conversation, then we will. We are probably wasting our time, anyway.

My point was that if you are truly a materialist, you don’t have any way of knowing how your environment has influenced your thinking. Therefore, your protestations are meaningless. If your thinking is caused by your heredity plus your environment, you have no privileged position from which you can determine which of those factors are the cause for your thoughts.

Andrew said:
“The Bible has already been discredited. If you take it seriously, then you must believe that the Creator of the Universe created man imperfectly, and in order to make up for that imperfection, He had to send His Son, who is Himself, down to be executed by these imperfect people, to make up for how imperfect they are, and how imperfect they inevitably will be. If you believe that, then yes I think you’re ridiculous.”

Continued Below

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Where science will come in is in the measurements of actions and how well the results increase human flourishing. In effect, it’s a social science. I’m not trying to bring up biology, because morality is in the realm of psychology and neuroscience."

So much for the "scientific" moral system. I don't understand how you intend to separate psychology and neuroscience from biology. If you believe in evolution, as you claim, you certainly understand that everything you do is directly controlled by your evolutionary history. That is the inheritance portion of the materialistic paradigm, HUMAN THOUGHTS = HEREDITY * ENVIRONMENT. You might throw RANDOM CHANCE in the equation, to account for minor quantum effects on human thought. However, in the end, evolution is the final arbitrator, since any behavior, which doesn't promote the selfish genes will be eliminated from the gene pool.

I find it amusing, that so many people, who excoriate fundamentalist Christians for their opposition to Evolution, ignore Evolution themselves. It appears that you are in denial about the implication of the theory of Evolution. The lessons of Evolution are harsh and few people are brave enough to face them. Let me quote a poet who understood exactly what Evolution means:

"Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law–
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed-"
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Have you ever read Darwin's book, "The Descent of Man"? If not, you should refrain from covering yourself with the mantle of Evolutionary science, until you are acquainted with the implications of Evolution. I believe that Darwin was in a unique position to understand Evolution. He was unswerving in his belief that Evolution affects humans as well as animal species. From the theory of Evolution, Darwin deduced that some human races are less fit than others, and will be eliminated.

If you are going to claim that you are scientific, and use Evolution as a weapon against fundamentalist Christians, you have no choice, but to accept the less palatable parts of the theory, including Darwin’s claim that genocide of some type, is a natural result of evolution. If you are not willing to embrace every aspect of Evolution, then how can you claim to be more "scientific" than fundamentalist Christians?

Andrew said:
“This is an example of confirmation bias in action. You believe that it comes from the Bible. I showed to you exactly why it doesn’t. But, since you already believe that can’t be true, you maintain the belief anyway, despite being showed exactly why the notion is false. This is just dogmatism. You ought to end the conversation now, because you’re just drumming up ”

OK. You want, to end the conversation, then we will. We are probably wasting our time, anyway.

My point was that if you are truly a materialist, you don’t have any way of knowing how your environment has influenced your thinking. Therefore, your protestations are meaningless. If your thinking is caused by your heredity plus your environment, you have no privileged position from which you can determine which of those factors are the cause for your thoughts.

Andrew said:
“The Bible has already been discredited. If you take it seriously, then you must believe that the Creator of the Universe created man imperfectly, and in order to make up for that imperfection, He had to send His Son, who is Himself, down to be executed by these imperfect people, to make up for how imperfect they are, and how imperfect they inevitably will be. If you believe that, then yes I think you’re ridiculous.”

My response below

Anonymous said...

You may attack the Bible at will, but that is beside the point. Whether you believe in Jehova God or not is irrelevant. If there is a good God, he makes the rules. Whether you believe in him or accept his rules is irrelevant. You can call me names and insult me all you want, but your ad hominem attacks don't disprove my argument.

If you were to respond that my argument is logical, but that you don’t accept God, and don’t believe that there is any universal standard of morality, then I would agree that you were also responding logically. You haven't done that. You seem to want to hold onto the concept of a universal moral truth, even though you reject the good God, who is the source of that universal truth. I suspect that you don’t understand what I’m saying here, so let me repeat it. If I understand materialist reductionist philosophy correctly, there is no such thing as universal moral truth. I believe it is irrational to argue otherwise. Since you have rejected any external source for morality, and since science does not offer any universal moral truth, why do you persist in claiming that you somehow have moral truth? To me it appears to when you keep insisting that there is such a beast, you are trying to smuggle theistic morality into a materialistic paradigm. It doesn’t fit.

Andrew said:
"You also have to believe that God isn’t a musician or a painter. He’s an author....There’s arbitrary destruction sprinkled with an obsession to maintain the purity of the bloodline."

I'm sure that from your perspective, that is all there is to the Bible.

Andrew said:
"I don't subscribe to godless materialism, either. Just Judeo-Christian-less materialism. If there’s a god, then there’s a god. But one thing is for certain, that god is not expressed through Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. At best, Spinoza, Einstein, or even Thomas Paine came close - it can only be either pantheism or deism. Other than that, then perhaps there’s none at all."

You don't seem to object to the part of my statement that you are a Materialist, so I assume that my take on your philosophy is correct. The part you dispute is the Godless part. In response, you begin with the claim that you don't accept Godless materialism, and then you end up saying that perhaps "there's none at all". In other words, God is not a factor in your moral philosophy. It appears that I am correct in my take on your position. Although you leave open the option that a God of some type might exist, or not, your philosophy obviously does not take God into account in any significant way. It is Godless Materialism.

When I stated that your philosophy is Godless Materialism, I was not insulting you, just stating a fact, as I read your statements. The fact that Godless Materialism leads to nihilism is also not an insult. It is simply a statement of my understanding of the final conclusion of Godless Materialism.

One final point"
Andrew said,
"This question was already answered. Do I have to continually repeat it? Morality is about the well-being of conscious creatures. If freedom is good for their flourishing, which it seems to be, then let it be. And by freedom, I mean political freedom."

By freedom, I mean moral freedom. Since Materialism teaches that our thoughts are determined by our heredity and our environment, that means that our thoughts are completely determined by the laws of physics. My question remains, what is the meaning of morality in a completely deterministic paradigm?

Andrew, I don't intend to fight with you or to trade insults. Since you have asked for our conversation to end, let's call it quits. Thank-you for the conversation.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Part of my post did not come through.

Andrew said:
"Dennis said: If you can not find morality in the physical universe, then, without God, it seems that morality is nothing but a personal preference, much like chocolate ice-cream.

This was laid to rest some time ago. We find morality only conscious creatures, because morality only matters to them. That’s why we don’t have any moral concern about rocks, but as we go up the scale of complexity from insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, primates to humans, our concern increases."

I don't think you have answered my argument yet. All conscious people do not share your feelings, so they will naturally chose to live their life differently than you do. Since you haven't provided any scientific evidence to prove that your approach is the correct one, my argument that your morality is your personal preference, like chocolate ice-cream, remains unrefuted.

Andrew said:
"Where science will come in is in the measurements of actions and how well the results increase human flourishing. In effect, it’s a social science. I’m not trying to bring up biology, because morality is in the realm of psychology and neuroscience."

So much for the "scientific" moral system. I don't understand how you intend to separate psychology and neuroscience from biology. If you believe in evolution, as you claim, you certainly understand that everything you do is directly controlled by your evolutionary history. That is the inheritance portion of the materialistic paradigm, HUMAN THOUGHTS = HEREDITY * ENVIRONMENT. You might throw RANDOM CHANCE in the equation, to account for minor quantum effects on human thought. However, in the end, evolution is the final arbitrator, since any behavior, which doesn't promote the selfish genes will be eliminated from the gene pool.

I find it amusing, that so many people, who excoriate fundamentalist Christians for their opposition to Evolution, ignore Evolution themselves. It appears that you are in denial about the implication of the theory of Evolution. The lessons of Evolution are harsh and few people are brave enough to face them. Let me quote a poet who understood exactly what Evolution means:

"Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law–
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed-"
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Have you ever read Darwin's book, "The Descent of Man"? If not, you should refrain from covering yourself with the mantle of Evolutionary science, until you are acquainted with the implications of Evolution. I believe that Darwin was in a unique position to understand Evolution. He was unswerving in his belief that Evolution affects humans as well as animal species. From the theory of Evolution, Darwin deduced that some human races are less fit than others, and will be eliminated.

If you are going to claim that you are scientific, and use Evolution as a weapon against fundamentalist Christians, you have no choice, but to accept the less palatable parts of the theory, including Darwin’s claim that genocide of some type, is a natural result of evolution. If you are not willing to embrace every aspect of Evolution, then how can you claim to be more "scientific" than fundamentalist Christians?

Andrew said:
“This is an example of confirmation bias in action. You believe that it comes from the Bible. I showed to you exactly why it doesn’t. But, since you already believe that can’t be true, you maintain the belief anyway, despite being showed exactly why the notion is false. This is just dogmatism. You ought to end the conversation now, because you’re just drumming up ”

OK. You want, to end the conversation, then we will. We are probably wasting our time, anyway.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

I could continue this conversation for a long time, if you'd like. I just ask that we not dredge up bad arguments that have been put to rest.

For my response, I think I'll focus on the most important issues, which are 1) the definition of sane and rational; 2) the difference between the immoral person and his/her admirers; 3) why any god isn't necessary for judging moral values; 4) why evolution isn't a factor in morality; 5) why certain people's opinions should be excluded.

1. "Sanity" refers to a range of acceptable behaviors that show a person is free of mental derangement, and otherwise displays a healthy mind that is reasonable and capable of sound judgment. "Rational" means attempting to square belief with evidence, thereby producing knowledge. A rational person, for example, wouldn't claim that he knows God is the reason for morality.

2. You said something that seemed to imply that since Stalin and Mao are insane, his admirers/followers are, too. That depends largely on what it is they are admiring. Do they admire the fact that Stalin ordered millions of people to die? Or do they admire that Stalin allowed women equal rights? If someone thinks that the slaughter of millions was wonderful, then yes they're insane. But if you thought that the latter fact about Stalin is admirable, then we both agree that the standard by which we judge morality is human flourishing, and it has nothing to do with Yahweh.

3. As demonstrated time and time again, Yahweh or Jesus can not be the objective standard by which we judge morality. When we pick up the Bible and choose some passages as good, and others as bad; WE'RE the ones making that judgment - it's NOT the Bible imposing morality on us. And if Yahweh was the inspiration behind the Bible, He is obviously wrong and immoral on many points. Had Stalin been a Bible-thumping Christian, and he instead killed millions of nonbelievers but also gave women equal rights; the wholesale slaughter of nonbelievers would be more in keeping with the Bible then extending equal rights to women.

And if instead you want to point to a deistic god and like Thomas Jefferson only want to keep certain parts of Jesus's moral philosophy - that would be wonderful evolution and I would encourage you to do so.

4. Speaking of evolution, the reason I'm not too worried about squaring evolution with morality is because evolution is the foundation of modern biology; while morality is a subject of psychology and neuroscience. If you want to get into a discussion about evolution, that's fine, I'm happy to do it. I'm just saying that we're talking about two different realms of science.

Maybe you're asking “How did morality evolve?” Many archaeologists and anthropologists seem to think it had something to do with the evolution of a brain that is able to represent possible states of the world and then communicate it to other people via language.

5. If at an astrophysics conference someone said that their version of astrophysics is just to match the Book of Genesis and certain portions of Isaiah, scientists would just ignore this person. Likewise, if Joe Shmoe off the street doesn't think morality has anything to do with maximizing human flourishing then I don't know what he's talking about, and he probably doesn't know either. Just because there's disagreement doesn't take away from the reality of the subject. Are you going to reserve judgment on 1+1=2 if someone disagrees with you? No! You're going to tell them they're wrong and perhaps explain why.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"I could continue this conversation for a long time, if you'd like. I just ask that we not dredge up bad arguments that have been put to rest."

Andrew, the only reason for our discussion is to try to learn from the discussion. This is your blog, so you are free to do whatever you wish. We are both free to move on. You wish to set aside certain lines of reasoning as outside of the discussion, but I really don't see how that can be profitable for either of us. Also, I personally don't find ad hominem attacks are useful.

If I were convinced that you had won your case against my arguments then I would have no interest in bringing them up again. In the same light, you have made some arguments which I think are bad, but I have apparently not convinced you yet, so you keep bringing them up. Let me give you an example. You keep talking about how neuroanatomy supplies the scientific basis for your morality. So far you have not offered any evidence to support that claim, yet you keep referring to it. I believe that is a bad argument, but I haven’t tried to keep you from using it.

Although I'm inclined to quit now, you have raised some interesting points, which I wish to contemplate. So I will respond to them. I'm not posting my response in order to convince you or to win an argument, but rather because the questions themselves are interesting.

Andrew said:
"1. "Sanity" refers to a range of acceptable behaviors that show a person is free of mental derangement, and otherwise displays a healthy mind that is reasonable and capable of sound judgment. "Rational" means attempting to square belief with evidence, thereby producing knowledge. A rational person, for example, wouldn't claim that he knows God is the reason for morality."

Your definition of sanity is necessary to defend your argument that all sane rational people agree with you, when you claim that we should "maximize human flourishing". I have offered numerous examples of highly successful people who do not define morality that way. Obviously, to defend your original assertion, you have to define "sanity" in such a way that anyone who disagrees with you is insane.

Besides the fact that the argument has become circular, there are other problems with your definition. It is dangerous. Who determines what are "acceptable behaviors", you or the person who you label "insane"? In communist Russia, people who disagreed with their totalitarian system were declared insane, and placed in mental institutions, because their dissent was not considered an "acceptable behavior".

To rectify the situation, let me provide the standard definition of sanity from the Webster's dictionary:
": mentally sound; especially : able to anticipate and appraise the effect of one's actions." The entire reason for the legal definition of "sanity" is so that people who indulge in behaviors which are not acceptable can be judged sane and held guilty under the law. If anyone who does other than “acceptable behaviors” is by definition, insane, then all criminals are by definition insane. The defense, not guilty by reason of insanity, would apply to everyone who commits a crime.

From the standpoint of an atheist, your statement, "A rational person, for example, wouldn't claim that he knows God is the reason for morality", probably makes sense. Since I believe in creator God, it is just as rational for me to say that "God is the reason for morality" as for me to say that "God is the reason for the universe." The first statement follows naturally from the second statement.

Continued below:

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"2. You said something that seemed to imply that since Stalin and Mao are insane, his admirers/followers are, too. That depends largely on what it is they are admiring. Do they admire the fact that Stalin ordered millions of people to die? Or do they admire that Stalin allowed women equal rights?"

I do not agree with your premise, that Stalin and Mao were insane. Both men were highly intelligent and were apparently very much in touch with reality. No, they were completely sane, but they didn't hold to your definition of morality. The people, who admire Mao, are also sane, but they don't care much for "human flourishing" either, or they would not admire a mass murderer.

Andrew said:
"3. As demonstrated time and time again, Yahweh or Jesus can not be the objective standard by which we judge morality. When we pick up the Bible and choose some passages as good, and others as bad; WE'RE the ones making that judgment - it's NOT the Bible imposing morality on us. And if Yahweh was the inspiration behind the Bible,"

There are two layers to this argument which we need to separate out.
A. Ethical monotheism is a philosophical position which was originally developed from the Jewish culture and is recorded in the Bible. Ethical monotheism by itself, apart from any further contribution by the Bible,supports a well developed system of morality which we find at the foundation of Western Culture.
B. The Bible, itself, offers substantial additional information which is also helpful in making moral decisions. The Bible offers examples and stories about how the Jewish people responded to their various environmental and cultural challenges. It also offers universal principles which we can use for our own particular situations. That is helpful. To say that it is us making the choice from some other source than from the Bible itself is not correct. You have chosen another paradigm than ethical monotheism, but, you still try to hold onto moral precepts which are not native to your new paradigm.

Stalin and Mao were both atheists. They were both godless Materialists. The "wholesale slaughters of nonbelievers" flows directly from the Atheist Marxist ideology. The biggest mass murders in history did it in the name of atheism, not in the name of God. That is a fact of history. As I have already pointed out, the end result of godless Materialism is Nihilism.

Andrew said:
"4. Speaking of evolution, the reason I'm not too worried about squaring evolution with morality is because evolution is the foundation of modern biology; while morality is a subject of psychology and neuroscience."

If evolution is really a scientific law, then it is still in force. Trying to formulate a scientific moral theory while ignoring evolution is like trying to do rocket science while ignoring gravity.

I'm still waiting for an explanation about how psychology and neuroscience can supply a universal truth called morality. As I have pointed out, it is dangerous when psychologists label anyone who disagrees with them, insane. Scientific psychology can study how the brain works, but it can't dictate what we must believe beyond itself. Neuroscience can study what parts of the brain are functional when we do certain functions and can study how the brain cells communicate. That also has nothing to do with what we must believe beyond the physical facts of neuroanatomy and biochemistry. If you disagree, then please offer your evidence.

Continued below

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"5. If at an astrophysics conference someone said that their version of astrophysics is just to match the Book of Genesis and certain portions of Isaiah, scientists would just ignore this person. Likewise, if Joe Shmoe off the street doesn't think morality has anything to do with maximizing human flourishing then I don't know what he's talking about, and he probably doesn't know either."

Let me see, you think you are doing hard science, just like the astrophysicists. Therefore, it is just as irrational to disagree with you as to disagree with the astrophysicists? In your opinion, I'm Joe Shmoe off the street who is completely ignorant. Is that correct? If truth is on your side, why do you feel the need to resort to Ad hominem attacks? If you have scientific proof to support your universal truth, why don't you just offer it?

As I have said before, I didn't come to this discussion to get into a fight with you. Since you felt the need to end your post with an ad hominem attack, I assume we are getting close to that point, at least from your side. Perhaps, it is time for us to quit. Thank-you for the discussion.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

For some reason this site has put my posts out of order.


Andrew said:
"2. You said something that seemed to imply that since Stalin and Mao are insane, his admirers/followers are, too. That depends largely on what it is they are admiring. Do they admire the fact that Stalin ordered millions of people to die? Or do they admire that Stalin allowed women equal rights?"

I do not agree with your premise, that Stalin and Mao were insane. Both men were highly intelligent and were apparently very much in touch with reality. No, they were completely sane, but they didn't hold to your definition of morality. The people, who admire Mao, are also sane, but they don't care much for "human flourishing" either, or they would not admire a mass murderer.

Andrew said:
"3. As demonstrated time and time again, Yahweh or Jesus can not be the objective standard by which we judge morality. When we pick up the Bible and choose some passages as good, and others as bad; WE'RE the ones making that judgment - it's NOT the Bible imposing morality on us. And if Yahweh was the inspiration behind the Bible,"

There are two layers to this argument which we need to separate out.
A. Ethical monotheism is a philosophical position which was originally developed from the Jewish culture and is recorded in the Bible. Ethical monotheism by itself, apart from any further contribution by the Bible,supports a well developed system of morality which we find at the foundation of Western Culture.
B. The Bible, itself, offers substantial additional information which is also helpful in making moral decisions. The Bible offers examples and stories about how the Jewish people responded to their various environmental and cultural challenges. It also offers universal principles which we can use for our own particular situations. That is helpful. To say that it is us making the choice from some other source than from the Bible itself is not correct. You have chosen another paradigm than ethical monotheism, but, you still try to hold onto moral precepts which are not native to your new paradigm.

Stalin and Mao were both atheists. They were both godless Materialists. The "wholesale slaughters of nonbelievers" flows directly from the Atheist Marxist ideology. The biggest mass murders in history did it in the name of atheism, not in the name of God. That is a fact of history. As I have already pointed out, the end result of godless Materialism is Nihilism.

Andrew said:
"4. Speaking of evolution, the reason I'm not too worried about squaring evolution with morality is because evolution is the foundation of modern biology; while morality is a subject of psychology and neuroscience."

If evolution is really a scientific law, then it is still in force. Trying to formulate a scientific moral theory while ignoring evolution is like trying to do rocket science while ignoring gravity.

I'm still waiting for an explanation about how psychology and neuroscience can supply a universal truth called morality. As I have pointed out, it is dangerous when psychologists label anyone who disagrees with them, insane. Scientific psychology can study how the brain works, but it can't dictate what we must believe beyond itself. Neuroscience can study what parts of the brain are functional when we do certain functions and can study how the brain cells communicate. That also has nothing to do with what we must believe beyond the physical facts of neuroanatomy and biochemistry. If you disagree, then please offer your evidence.

Andrew P. said...

Part 1

Dennis said: "Stalin and Mao were not insane, [they] were highly intelligent and ... in touch with reality."

Not caring about human flourishing is a type of insanity, they're sociopath. Wishing the death of millions of people and carrying it out is insanity. And if you disagree with me and instead defend it, you're being immoral.

Dennis said: "A. Ethical monotheism is ... the foundation of Western Culture."

There is nothing "moral" about believing in Yahweh. That is a separate subject from morality. Believing in something on bad evidence is amoral at best, and immoral when acted upon.

Dennis said (with my own comments): B. The Bible offers substantial additional information which is also helpful in making moral decisions (like how to keep slaves). The Bible offers examples and stories about how the Jewish people responded to their various environmental and cultural challenges (like genocide). It also offers universal principles which we can use for our own particular situations (like what to do when we find our bride isn't a virgin). That is helpful. To say that it is us making the choice from some other source than from the Bible itself is not correct (it's not correct to say that when we ignore the above parentheses, we're acting upon our own volition???). You have chosen another paradigm than ethical monotheism, but, you still try to hold onto moral precepts which are not native to your new paradigm. (Bogus, much of the moral precepts stated above in parentheses have been jettisoned by western societies, and the ones that remain have been used by societies predating Judaism)

Dennis said (with my comments): Stalin and Mao were both atheists ... godless Materialists. The "wholesale slaughters of nonbelievers" flows directly from the Atheist Marxist ideology (you mean Stalinist and Maoist ideology, right?). The biggest mass murders in history did it in the name of atheism (they didn't do it in the name of communism???), not in the name of God. That is a fact of history (no, you just spoke mistruths).

I read something recently that said that these communists of the 20th century actually killed less per capita then religious dictators have in previous centuries. The commies just had larger populations to wreak havoc on and better technology.

When atheism becomes a political dogma, and not a minor component, then the "atheists of the 20th century" argument will make sense.

... to be continued ...

Andrew P. said...

Part 2

Dennis said: "If evolution is really a scientific law, then it is still in force. Trying to formulate a scientific moral theory while ignoring evolution is like trying to do rocket science while ignoring gravity."

I'm not sure why you have this zealous necessity to bring evolution into a discussion about brain states, or how best to behave in certain instances. This is about beliefs and action; not how species form.

Dennis said: I'm still waiting for an explanation about how psychology and neuroscience can supply a universal truth called morality.

Imagine the worst possible situation where everyone suffers as much as they can, for as long as they can. Do you think that is bad? Yes or no.

Dennis said: Scientific psychology can study how the brain works, but it can't dictate what we must believe beyond itself."

Tell me, what values do we have prior to engaging in science that leads us to appreciate what science can teach us? If you don't know, we value evidence, truth, intellectual honesty, parsimony, logic, etc. What sort of evidence can we give to someone who doesn't value evidence?

Dennis said: "Let me see, you think you are doing hard science, just like the astrophysicists."

Again, you fail to differentiate the point from the example.

Dennis said: In your opinion, I'm Joe Shmoe off the street who is completely ignorant. Is that correct? If truth is on your side, why do you feel the need to resort to Ad hominem attacks? If you have scientific proof to support your universal truth, why don't you just offer it?

Wow, and to top it off you fail to see the point and get offended by the example provided, thinking it's you. Are you that arrogant?!? I wasn't talking about you; I was making a point. The reason I haven't got to the science part of it yet, is because we've been wasting time arguing about what morality is. You keep dredging up relativism (i.e. "well, the communists don't think morality is about human flourishing, what about them?"). I'm saying who cares about them, they don't know what they're talking about. "Joe Shmoe" is the relativist you keep bringing up; not you.

- Andrew