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Really Offensive Article on the Morality of Atheists Calling Out CFI
Posted: 10 March 2011 02:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The linked article really ticked me off. Perhaps foolishly, I commented on it. The site may decline to post my comment (it is a moderated site), but I thought some here might find my comment at least entertaining.

http://americanvision.org/4131/evolutionist-warns-natural-selection-will-destroy-us/

To keep my response simple and compact, I discussed only what I believe science tells us about morality and did not mention that I may be alone in that belief.

Here is what I posted:

“The level of ignorance revealed by Gary DeMar in the above embarrassingly foolish diatribe is astonishing.

I am proudly a life-long atheist and I’ll cheerfully match my morality against any religious morality.

My morality can be defined by: “Unselfish acts that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are moral.”

That’s it, it is all I need.

In fact, the normal methods of science show this is the basis of not only all cultural moralities, including religious moralities, but also the basis (the reason they biologically evolved) of our moral emotions such as empathy, guilt, and righteous indignation.

You have any moral questions you want cleared up? Ask me.

How about the Mathew 7:12 version of the Golden Rule? How do you apply that when dealing with criminals and in time of war?

Science tells us that, assuming we want to maintain the emotional and material benefits of cooperation in groups, that we ought not (it is immoral) to follow Mathew 7:12 when doing so is likely to decrease the benefits of cooperation in groups as it sometimes would be when dealing with criminals and in times of war.

You think the Mathew 7:12 version of the Golden Rule which Jesus said summed up the law and prophets came from a supernatural God? Game theory shows it is merely a statement advocating two well known winning strategies from game theory: direct and indirect reciprocity. As part of mathematics, these were winning strategies when the fusion fires of the first star lit and will be winning strategies till the end of the universe.

I enthusiastically accept the burdens of my morality because I think doing so is most likely to meet my needs and preferences over my lifetime by enjoying the emotional and material benefits of cooperation. 

Science shows that religious moralities, for example the “Ten Commandments” and the many versions of the Golden Rule, and are just semi random assortments of necessarily flawed heuristics (simple rules of thumb that usually work) for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups. Morality is no more complicated or mysterious than that.”

[ Edited: 12 March 2011 07:13 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 10 March 2011 07:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree, Mark.  I had trouble even finishing the article.  It was filled with strawman fallacies where they attributed a belief or argument to atheists then gave their “crushing” rsponse to something that isn’t what we claim.  While I doubt that many of us like to twist our minds to think like those who have completely different beliefs than we do in any field, politics, society, religion, etc., I believe most of the atheists with whom I’ve conversed are able to do that.  However, it seems to be a much rarer capability among the theists.  They don’t seem to be able to put god completely aside temporarily and think through the position an atheist would reach using his/her premises, logic, and reasoning.

Occam

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Posted: 10 March 2011 08:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Occam. - 10 March 2011 07:21 PM

I agree, Mark.  I had trouble even finishing the article.  It was filled with strawman fallacies where they attributed a belief or argument to atheists then gave their “crushing” rsponse to something that isn’t what we claim.  While I doubt that many of us like to twist our minds to think like those who have completely different beliefs than we do in any field, politics, society, religion, etc., I believe most of the atheists with whom I’ve conversed are able to do that.  However, it seems to be a much rarer capability among the theists.  They don’t seem to be able to put god completely aside temporarily and think through the position an atheist would reach using his/her premises, logic, and reasoning.

Occam


Occam, I doubt they post my comment (they say it is still “pending moderation”) so in that sense I have wasted my time presenting a different perspective on morality.

For most of my life, I probably would have just ignored their brand of offensive nonsense.

However, my study of what science can tell us about morality has given me a different perspective. Specifically, I have concluded that we have a moral responsibility to speak out against immorality whenever we think that might have a good effect (and not just reward the trolls and lunatics by our engagement).

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Posted: 10 March 2011 10:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I wonder about this morality issue in context of evolutionists. The ability to do intentional harm to another is already displayed in the earliest of hominids. Chimpanzees have a decidedly mean streak an are carnivorous. They will plan , organize, assign places and hunt monkeys in groups or gangs of males. They even make war on the neighboring tribes, making raiding parties for females, and other such very “human” behaviors of modern man.
Morality can only be judged by its historical result of lasting benefits for all, including responsibility for the environment. Moral behavior should certainly be considered when dealing with the “breath of life” .

Who can say “I am completely moral”? If so let him cast the first stone so that we can examine the moral judgement employed by the claimant and if he may be in error.

[ Edited: 10 March 2011 10:10 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 10 March 2011 11:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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“Since there is no God,” the strong Amoeba said to the weak Amoeba, “there is no reason why I can’t use you for food or enslave you to make my life more fulfilling. Who is there to object except a stronger Amoeba.”


Religious people didn’t have slaves? What a ridiculous idea.

C

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Posted: 11 March 2011 01:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Isn’t this a question of mathematics. A symbiotic environment and relationship, beneficial to both species is much more stable than a competitive environment, where life for something depends on the death of something else, while in the former both species live and support each other. i.e. Bees/flowering plants and trees.  Milk cow/Dairy farm. Fruit Orchard/humans
The Moral is , DON"T TAKE TOO MUCH else you upset the beneficial balance and create opportunity for predatory practices to replace symbiotic ways.

[ Edited: 11 March 2011 01:09 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 11 March 2011 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Write4U - 10 March 2011 10:03 PM

I wonder about this morality issue in context of evolutionists. The ability to do intentional harm to another is already displayed in the earliest of hominids. Chimpanzees have a decidedly mean streak an are carnivorous. They will plan , organize, assign places and hunt monkeys in groups or gangs of males. They even make war on the neighboring tribes, making raiding parties for females, and other such very “human” behaviors of modern man.
Morality can only be judged by its historical result of lasting benefits for all, including responsibility for the environment. Moral behavior should certainly be considered when dealing with the “breath of life” .

Who can say “I am completely moral”? If so let him cast the first stone so that we can examine the moral judgement employed by the claimant and if he may be in error.


Write4U

The following is doubtless more of a reply than you are looking for. My primary reason for replying is that I am working out a more understandable way to present my position. Comments are welcome, particularly about anything you find confusing.

Regarding your comment about using our understanding of evolution as a means to understand morality, remember that science can only tell us what is, not what we ought to do. Science can’t tell us what goals we should pursue in terms of morality or anything else.

For example, science (mostly in the form of game theory and biological evolution) might tell us:

1. What is the primary function (what is the primary reason they exist) of our biologically based moral emotions such as empathy, guilt, and righteous indignation?
2.  Is there any underlying necessary principle of all past and present cultural moral standards that advocate unselfish behaviors and do they all have any primary reason they exist?

I think science can answer both these questions as follows:

1. The primary function of our biologically based moral emotions such as empathy, guilt, and righteous indignation is to increase the benefits of cooperation in groups.  Our moral emotions exist because they increased the reproductive fitness of our ancestors by increasing their benefits of cooperation.
2.  The common underlying necessary principle of all past and present cultural moral standards that advocate unselfish behaviors is that they advocate behaviors that, on average, increase the benefits of cooperation in groups.  Cultural moral standards that advocate unselfish behaviors exist because they have been selected for based on their ability to increase the emotional, material, and reproductive fitness benefits of cooperation in groups.

So our biologically based moral emotions, our cultural moral standards, and their product, our moral intuitions, exist because they increased the benefits of cooperation in the past.

If these facts become generally accepted as part of science as true in the normal sense of science, then science can provide one irrefutable moral principle:

“Unselfish behaviors that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are moral behaviors.”

Of course, it is still up to people to decide if they want to use this definition of moral behavior or some other, perhaps some form of Utilitarianism, virtue ethics, Kantianism, or egoism.

I find the above science derived moral principle interesting because, of available secular alternatives, it appears likely to be the definition of morality that most people find will better meet their needs and preferences over a lifetime.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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We are in general agreement on that.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Write4U - 11 March 2011 04:44 AM

We are in general agreement on that.

Cool.  There are few who have said that.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I had another take on it.  The author made the claim that morality must be founded in christian ethics, therefore any moral behavior by humanists was based on their hijacking christian ethics.  I posted a quick question, asking him if he was morally superior to Gandhi, Sadat, and a few other notable other religionists, by virtue of having been born a christian.

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Posted: 11 March 2011 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I think I agree with this gentleman..

What is true? What is right? What is beautiful? Science considers what is true, starting out with almost unimaginable ideas (The earth is moving! The future is unpredictable!). The job is to understand these ideas and fit them into a broad and logical picture of the universe. Politics considers what is right. This requires broad understanding and eventual consensus of points of view that often appear incompatible. Art is the development of what is beautiful—whether through words, a musical note, or architecture.
-Edward Teller


Science determines what is true, politics determines what is right.
Christianity is a politically authoritative beast. “God” determines what is right for them.
Two people or a group of people can come together and determine among themselves right behavior. Proper social interaction.
In Christianity you have a individual claiming to speak for God telling everyone else proper behavior. Maybe a little lacking in diversity of interests don’t you think.

That Christianity has some greater moral foundation doesn’t come across as a lot of baloney only if you consider their God actually exists.

Really isn’t our constitution, our legal system our moral code? Theistic religion want you to believe there is more going on then that. That a group of rational people of their on accord could not possibly reach an agreement on how to behave among one another.

We have common interests, common needs, common goals. Do we really need some prophetic spokeshole from God telling us how to act?

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Posted: 12 March 2011 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Gnostikosis - 11 March 2011 06:05 PM

I think I agree with this gentleman..

What is true? What is right? What is beautiful? Science considers what is true, starting out with almost unimaginable ideas (The earth is moving! The future is unpredictable!). The job is to understand these ideas and fit them into a broad and logical picture of the universe. Politics considers what is right. This requires broad understanding and eventual consensus of points of view that often appear incompatible. Art is the development of what is beautiful—whether through words, a musical note, or architecture.
-Edward Teller


Science determines what is true, politics determines what is right.

Politics, or group dynamics, do determine what is culturally right but only because, by definition, cultural morality is what a community thinks is right.

There can also be individual morality that is only what an individual thinks is right and may have nothing to do with politics.

But for either individual or cultural morality there must be candidate moralities to pick from.  The politics that Teller is talking about is just the process of picking a candidate and not necessarily the process of defining a moral principle.

The only rational means I am aware of for choosing a morality is to first define an over-riding goal of the morality or perhaps a set of goals to be balanced.  For instance, many people wish to use the goal of the “well-being” or “flourishing” of people.

The science I am talking about defines a candidate moral principle based only on what science tells us about why cultural moralities and our moral emotions exist, what their primary function is.  Science cannot tell us what the function (or goal) of morality ought to be.  Only people can decide what the goal of their morality ought to be.

For a community to adopt and practice the moral principle I am proposing as part of their morality because they think it will help them meet their chosen goals is a political process, but the definition of what this particular moral principle “is” has nothing to do with politics, but only with science.

[ Edited: 12 March 2011 02:57 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 12 March 2011 06:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I noticed this charming statement in a sidebar which pretty much explains it all:

American Vision’s (AV’s) mission has been to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation since 1978. We realize that this task requires a strategy to “Make disciples (not just converts) of all nations and teach them to obey and apply the Bible to all of life” (Matt. 28:18-20).

In other words, they have a clear cut agenda, one which is demonsterably inaccurate historically, but which they won’t let get in the way.

In one forum which I audit on a daily basis, we call these people “Liars For Christ.” (So much for that vaunted commandment to not bear false witness!)

Does anybody seriously expect a fair shake, much less an honest one, from these people?

That is sooooo not going to happen!

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Posted: 12 March 2011 07:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I just re-read the article to see if it really was a bad as I remembered.

Unfortunately, I see that I misread the quote

“You are talking about joy, and pleasure, and goodness and so on. If you’re employing words like that and you have no objective basis for the reality of those words … in other words, if you don’t believe in a moral law giver who actually gives meaning to the words good and evil, you can … put up billboards all day long and they mean nothing. . . . What does it mean to do good in a world that’s really just a gigantic accident of matter and energy?”

as being a quote from Christian de Duve, and, further, mistakenly thought that he agreed with GARY DEMAR .

That was false and I owe Christian de Duve an apology. That led me to accuse Christian de Duve of the same non-sense as GARY DEMAR.  More carefully reading the quotes, de Duve seems quite sensible as should be expected by a Nobel Prise winner.

My outrage should have been aimed only at GARY DEMAR.

The only excuse I can provide is that the piece is too disgusting to read carefully.

I have edited my original post to be consistent with the very reasonable things de Duve actually is quoted as saying.

[ Edited: 12 March 2011 07:12 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 12 March 2011 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 12 March 2011 06:10 PM

I noticed this charming statement in a sidebar which pretty much explains it all:

American Vision’s (AV’s) mission has been to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation since 1978. We realize that this task requires a strategy to “Make disciples (not just converts) of all nations and teach them to obey and apply the Bible to all of life” (Matt. 28:18-20).

In other words, they have a clear cut agenda, one which is demonsterably inaccurate historically, but which they won’t let get in the way.

In one forum which I audit on a daily basis, we call these people “Liars For Christ.” (So much for that vaunted commandment to not bear false witness!)

Does anybody seriously expect a fair shake, much less an honest one, from these people?

That is sooooo not going to happen!


Equal Opportunity,

No, I do not expect a fair shake on such sites. In addition to being a waste of time, responding to such non-sense can also be counter-productive if it just results in troll feeding or stoking the fires of the delusional by engaging with them.

For most of my life I expect I would have just ignored such outrageous drivel. However, in the past year or two I have concluded that there is a moral responsibility that I had not previously recognized. That just ignoring immoral behavior is not sufficient, we have a moral responsibility to speak out against it publicly. 

I had not heard of the group “Liars For Christ.”  At least in the past though, I know there were a lot of “Kill a commie for Christ” Christians

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Posted: 13 March 2011 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The term “Liars for Christ” is something we use on About.com’s Atheism/Agnosticism forum, and it’s specifically aimed at these nice upright people who automatically assume that every freethinker is either atheist or agnostic (Not even remotely true.) and that as a consequence, we have no morals.

These are the same people who knowingly misrepresent science and what it stands for, who will produce “pro-lifers” who shoot /stab/slash/strangle/beat doctors who provide reproductive health care services of ANY kind for women, who will raise a hue and cry about fidelity in marraige whilst having sex with anything in the animal kingdom including children and never once see the disconnect betwen what they say and what they actually do.

As Yeshua Bar Yosef (aka Jesus Christ) supposedly said; They do not practice what they preach.

You’ve probably met a few of these hypocrits.

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