His new book is The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life.
First Chapter of the book is on-line at richarddawkins.net:
There is a featured article by Dacey on the Secular Conscience in the June/July issue of Free Inquiry (that particular article is not yet available online)
I read that particular article and heard his interview on POI, and I find I am a kindred secular spirit with his views. This forum is a good example of the challenges facing secular beliefs and outlooks in terms of ethics and morality.
Put simply, if you cannot claim to hold ANY moral standards that apply Cross Culturally, then you Forfeit the concept of human rights, such a concept is meaningless, as the only basis or standard is culturally based. That many of you may not be this far gone in your thinking does not mean that this strain of thought is FAR too common among the secular crowd. And that strain of thought is MORE destructive to human rights than the Christian religious alternative.
And do you know why? because at least that world view has the capacity to pass judgement, and that is a GOOD THING, yes it can be taken too far, but the ability to judge something as objectively good or bad is a needed.
Do I think that morality is absolute? of course not. I fully agree that morality is a relative thing, change our wiring and our ethical constraints will change as well, this seems reasonable enough. The problem is the conclusion many secular people draw from this, that because morality is NOT absolute, that there exist no objective standards.
Absolute is NOT the same as objective, please PLEASE be clear on the distinction. To illustrate the distinction I will use taste.
Smell. To human beings, it is an objective fact that dung smells like.. well sh*t. But for the sake of argument, it may very well be the case that to a dungbeetle dung smells fantastic. Here the concept of an ABSOLUTE standard of taste/smell is nonsensical. There is no absolute standard of taste constant throughout the universe, constant between all creatures. Wrong on its face, bad just terrible logic (religious). However, we CAN say that it is an objective fact that dung smells bad within the Human subset to human beings. To the extent that our wiring is common as well as our goals, certain judgments of what is BETTER or WORSE can be made in terms of taste, and also, ethics (not everything, but perhaps some things).
After all, we are not comparing humans and velociraptors!
And here some of the sacred liberal cows MUST be severed from secular thought, the chains broken to free secular peoples from gutter level rationales. Egalitarianism. Not ALL ideas are equally valid, not all beliefs equally sensible, not all practices equally beneficial, not all economic systems equally prosperous etc. etc.
Slavery is NOT a successful strategy for improving human happiness and prosperity to more people, honor killings is NOT a reasonable action, letting young kids be raised by other young adolescent males is NOT as stabilizing as being raised in a regular home with 2 parents (lord of the flies anyone?).
I am not trying to construct some air tight moral framework here, just making the point that without SOME objective standards that apply cross culturally, secular people will be impotent in their moral critiques. If they cannot EVER brings themselves to judge another cultures actions or members therein as right/wrong then they will forfeit ANY ethical standards.
anthropologist type objection:
Hey wait a minute! this tribe in ditchwater helluvia thinks child torture, just for the fun of it is a GOOD thing!
Irenicus: SO WHAT !!!!!!!!! the anthropologists type of view is one of the least useful and most deranged because they are UNIQUELY acquainted with the cases of man bites dog, and from those anomaly’s of nature attempt to reject ANY sort of standard.
the exceptions need not disprove the rule, that is a key kernel of wisdom. Do NOT fall into such a fallacy people!
even IF some tribe thinks its ok, it is an OBJECTIVE FACT within the human subset that torturing kids for the fun of it is NOT a successful strategy for increasing human happiness for MOST people. There will ALWAYS be exceptions, psychopaths, people GENUINELY wired differently, exotic cultural warpings, none of this should lure us away from trying to find and defend SOME standards!