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Really Offensive Article on the Morality of Atheists Calling Out CFI
Posted: 14 March 2011 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Mark Sloan - 12 March 2011 02:51 PM

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.

You have a vested interest.  smile

I’m certainly no expert so I may be talking out the wrong end.

However, I suspect my personal views of right and wrong were instilled by my early childhood. While very young, people get exposed to moral values. That coupled with personal experiences may develop someone’s personal sense of morals. I think morals are mainly cultural. The influence so subtle a person may not even be aware of it’s influence. I don’t think a person is born with an awareness of morality.

If in that being the case I doubt my personal ideas of morality is scientific. And, regardless of what science says it’s not going to change what I think is right. Whatever science does determine is right it’s still going to end up a political battle over moral behavior to be accepted by the group anyway. I don’t think we are going to find a universal right and wrong. I know everyone would like to know what is right and correct so we can determine definite error in human/our own behavior. However I think humans are an ever evolving complex process for which we are not going to find a universal answer for.

I think the best we can hope for is an understanding of right and wrong through agreement.

No reason in my mind to try and keep up with some religious concept of universal good and evil.

Also I notice the article assumes our DNA makes us selfish. It’s genetically encoded? Is there any definite scientific evidence that backs up that statement?

[ Edited: 14 March 2011 02:19 PM by Gnostikosis ]
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Posted: 14 March 2011 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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[quote author=“Gnostikosis” date=“1300151440]
..., I suspect my personal views of right and wrong were instilled by my early childhood. While very young, people get exposed to moral values. That coupled with personal experiences may develop someone’s personal sense of morals. I think morals are mainly cultural. The influence so subtle a person may not even be aware of it’s influence. I don’t think a person is born with an awareness of morality.

If in that being the case I doubt my personal ideas of morality is scientific. And, regardless of what science says it’s not going to change what I think is right. Whatever science does determine is right it’s still going to end up a political battle over moral behavior to be accepted by the group anyway. I don’t think we are going to find a universal right and wrong. I know everyone would like to know what is right and correct so we can determine definite error in human/our own behavior. However I think humans are an ever evolving complex process for which we are not going to find a universal answer for.

I think the best we can hope for is an understanding of right and wrong through agreement.

No reason in my mind to try and keep up with some religious concept of universal good and evil.

I notice the article assumes our DNA makes us selfish. It’s genetically encoded? Is there any definite scientific evidence that backs up that statement?


What science might be able to answer, and I think can answer, is “WHY do we have the views of right and wrong that we do?”  Understanding WHY could be very useful in cases of competing moral values, for instance the Golden Rule when dealing with criminals and in times of war.

Yes, “No reason in my mind to try and keep up with some religious concept of universal good and evil” and I am not suggesting we do.

It is dead wrong to think that our DNA necessarily just makes us selfish.  Our DNA is the basis of our biological moral emotions of empathy, guilt, concern for our reputation, and righteous indignation which can motive very unselfish actions both for close relatives as well as for strangers.

Dawkins book title “The Selfish Gene” was inadvisable because that title alone has probably caused more confusion than the book cleared up.
 
DNA is selected for based on the behaviors it produces that increase the DNA’s reproductive fitness.  Reproductive fitness can be tremndously increased by the benefits of cooperation in groups that is maintained by unseflish actions (moral actions).

[ Edited: 14 March 2011 02:45 PM by Mark Sloan ]
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Posted: 14 March 2011 11:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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“I am proudly a life-long atheist and I’ll cheerfully match my morality against any religious morality.”

I have difficulty with the concept of pride. Why should we be proud to be atheist or Christian or humanist or anything? Shouldn’t pride be reserved for accomplishments or efforts - something we do - not something we are? When something we are is achieved by something we’ve done, pride makes sense. Once I was proud to be thin because I’d lost 150 pounds, but like old friends, they returned:( My late stepfather was thin, but he took no pride in it because it was simply a feature of his biology. He was proud of his part in the development of the Babcock School of Business which he helped turn into a first rate graduate school at Wake Forest; pride made sense for his achievements - not his genetics.

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Posted: 15 March 2011 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Mark Sloan - 14 March 2011 02:39 PM

What science might be able to answer, and I think can answer, is “WHY do we have the views of right and wrong that we do?”  Understanding WHY could be very useful in cases of competing moral values, for instance the Golden Rule when dealing with criminals and in times of war.

The “Golden Rule” came from an individual. Who through whatever personal experiences came to conclude this was correct behavior.

Since Christianity became wide spreed it became a cultural influence. It’s an idea the may have originated from individual intellectual pursuit cause by earlier influences but not formulated into a moral concept prior. Individuals do come up with ideals and propagate it through culture.

We get so influence by cultural idealism it becomes integrated into our persona. It infects our thinking to where it becomes our thinking without conscious awareness that the idealism originated externally.

I think you would have to perform scientific experiments on child rearing to either validate or falsify the propagation of morals as a cultural meme. I doubt that could be “morally” undertaken.  wink

The golden rules seems like a good idea to me however maybe because culturally I’ve been inundated with it. I don’t really know if it always is good and there maybe situations that it’s not the best guidelines.

Anyway I think I should try to get a hold of Harris’ book. Maybe he has something in there to convince me.

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Posted: 16 March 2011 12:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Mark Sloan - 11 March 2011 12:37 PM
Write4U - 11 March 2011 04:44 AM

We are in general agreement on that.

Cool.  There are few who have said that.

However,

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.

We set the goals, science helps us realize them. But if the goals are flawed, the science will amplify that.

IMO This is the allegory of “eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge”, i.e. advanced intelligence with ability to weigh facts as to best behavior.  In a rough world it is not wise to be alone, or make enemies. Thus we group and defend the group (a moral). It is never wise to pick on a bully, so a low profile (tolerance, a moral) is usually preferable over pissing off a bully and get your ass kicked. Diplomacy is good moral behavior and promotes cooperation (symbiosis, a moral).

This reasoning can be applied to man’s relationship with the earth itself. We are the only species with the power to destroy the entire planet (science has given us incredibly destructive powers). Our very survival is at stake, but we are our own enemy (a moral dilemma). But here Science can help resolve this these long term projections and tell us how to go about reaching the desired goal (moral command) and weigh benefits vs risk (if/then), allowing for a moral resolution and functionality.

[ Edited: 16 March 2011 12:35 AM by Write4U ]
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