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Paul Kurtz - Forbidden Fruit
Posted: 19 December 2008 06:03 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Paul Kurtz is the leading figure in the humanist and skeptical movements over the last four decades. He is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As chair of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, and Prometheus Books, and as editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry Magazine, he has advanced a critical, humanistic inquiry into many of the most cherished beliefs of society for decades. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been featured widely in the media on topics as diverse as reincarnation, UFO abduction, secular versus religious ethics, communication with the dead, and the historicity of Jesus.

During this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Paul Kurtz discusses the importance of creativity in terms of outreach for the skeptical and secular humanist movements. He talks about the his book Forbidden Fruit, which focuses on the application of science and reason to the Good Life and to normative ethics. He argues that ethics need not have religious foundations, and that ethics should instead have purely secular and humanist sources. He explores the secular meanings of stories about the mythical Garden of Eden, and actually celebrates the eating of the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and of the fruit of the Tree of Life. He argues that the universalistic ethics within the world’s religions in fact stem from secular humanism. He details what it is to live a life of excellence and defends against the charge that his ethics is self-centered and self-absorbed, arguing for good will in a secular context, and that the common good is not alien to enlightened self-interest. He touches on the secular position on controversial social issues, such as abortion and sexual ethics, including gay rights and gay marriage. He expounds on what he calls the “common moral decencies,” which he argues are a product of evolution. He finishes by discussing the myth of Sisyphus and what it portends for the scientific secularist today, arguing against nihilistic atheism.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

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Posted: 20 December 2008 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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He explores the secular meanings of stories about the mythical Garden of Eden, and actually celebrates the eating of the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and of the fruit of the Tree of Life

Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

I’m reminded of the murals in Walker Memorial at MIT, which celebrate Knowledge on one wall and yet echo (in Latin) the dangers of knowledge on the other wall.

The good wall with Alma Mater
[Central Panel - “Alma Mater” surrounded by the sciences]
[Art of Boston—Three colored panels at bottom are from this “alma mater” wall]

The spooky wall with someone resembling Thomas Edison:
[ blog from RealPhysics]
[“SE” wall with science-technology]


[“et eritis sicut dii scientes bonum et malum”]

[ Edited: 26 December 2008 09:56 AM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 21 December 2008 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yeah, I thought I was doing something wrong, like using the wrong browser or something. red face

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Fiction is fun, but facts are fundamental.

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Posted: 21 December 2008 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Jackson - 20 December 2008 02:42 PM
Thomas Donnelly - 19 December 2008 06:03 PM

..., arguing against nihilistic atheism.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

mp3 download doesn’t work—points back to pointofinquiry.org— will edit comment after it’s fixed.


Jackson

Way out in left field here,but I love the new avatar.What a change from that solemn,portrait of who?Who was that?Jefferson?Anyways,nice abstraction.

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Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

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Posted: 21 December 2008 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thomas Donnelly - 19 December 2008 06:03 PM

Paul Kurtz is the leading figure in the humanist and skeptical movements over the last four decades. He is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As chair of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, and Prometheus Books, and as editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry Magazine, he has advanced a critical, humanistic inquiry into many of the most cherished beliefs of society for decades. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been featured widely in the media on topics as diverse as reincarnation, UFO abduction, secular versus religious ethics, communication with the dead, and the historicity of Jesus.

During this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Paul Kurtz discusses the importance of creativity in terms of outreach for the skeptical and secular humanist movements. He talks about the his book Forbidden Fruit, which focuses on the application of science and reason to the Good Life and to normative ethics. He argues that ethics need not have religious foundations, and that ethics should instead have purely secular and humanist sources. He explores the secular meanings of stories about the mythical Garden of Eden, and actually celebrates the eating of the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and of the fruit of the Tree of Life. He argues that the universalistic ethics within the world’s religions in fact stem from secular humanism. He details what it is to live a life of excellence and defends against the charge that his ethics is self-centered and self-absorbed, arguing for good will in a secular context, and that the common good is not alien to enlightened self-interest. He touches on the secular position on controversial social issues, such as abortion and sexual ethics, including gay rights and gay marriage. He expounds on what he calls the “common moral decencies,” which he argues are a product of evolution. He finishes by discussing the myth of Sisyphus and what it portends for the scientific secularist today, arguing against nihilistic atheism.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

We can all take heart at the fact that all of our basic “ethics"or moral values stem from science and not religion.Ohh to have the hindsight,and see back when the foundations of various religions were being laid.They all borrowed from innate,natural codes.
They learned along the way to steal these values as their own.And then to use them as some sort of omnipotent “sourceflow"of knowledge.Thus enshrining themselves in righteousness,and subsequent moral domination.

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Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

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Posted: 21 December 2008 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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VYAZMA - 21 December 2008 12:42 PM
Jackson - 20 December 2008 02:42 PM
Thomas Donnelly - 19 December 2008 06:03 PM

..., arguing against nihilistic atheism.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

mp3 download doesn’t work—points back to pointofinquiry.org— will edit comment after it’s fixed.


Jackson

Way out in left field here,but I love the new avatar.What a change from that solemn,portrait of who?Who was that?Jefferson?Anyways,nice abstraction.

Thanks. [ R.A. Fisher Memorial Window at Oxford], showing a 7x7 Latin Square.

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Posted: 22 December 2008 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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He finishes by discussing the myth of Sisyphus and what it portends for the scientific secularist today, arguing against nihilistic atheism.

A small quibble. The above is the last sentence in the description of the conversation between D.J. and Paul Kurtz. But nowhere in the broadcast did I hear any reference to “nihilistic atheism.” So what is the source for the claim? There’s nothing about atheism that requires nihilism. Certainly, there are atheists who are nihilists, but there are many more, like Mr. Kurtz himself, who are not.

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George Ricker
http://www.godlessinamerica.com

“Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them.” Godless in America: conversations with an atheist

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Posted: 22 December 2008 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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That sentence refers to the end of the interview when D.J. and Kurtz discuss meaningless in a godless universe.

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Posted: 22 December 2008 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thomas Donnelly - 22 December 2008 08:29 AM

That sentence refers to the end of the interview when D.J. and Kurtz discuss meaningless in a godless universe.

Fair enough. But what I heard Kurtz saying was that we humans can find meaning in a godless universe. Ergo, godlessness does not necessarily lead to meaninglessness. Besides, “nihilism,” as I understand it, is the rejection of all religious and moral principles. Since atheists are as capable of morality as theists and morality is not, as Kurtz so eloquently demonstrates, inherently religious, atheism does not necessarily infer nihilism. To me, and I may be entirely alone in this, the phrase “nihilistic atheism” sounded like a shot at atheism that was uncalled for and unsupported by anything in the program.

As I said, it’s a small quibble. I did enjoy the broadcast.

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George Ricker
http://www.godlessinamerica.com

“Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them.” Godless in America: conversations with an atheist

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Posted: 24 December 2008 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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VYAZMA - 21 December 2008 12:48 PM
Thomas Donnelly - 19 December 2008 06:03 PM

Paul Kurtz is the leading figure in the humanist and skeptical movements over the last four decades. He is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As chair of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, and Prometheus Books, and as editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry Magazine, he has advanced a critical, humanistic inquiry into many of the most cherished beliefs of society for decades. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been featured widely in the media on topics as diverse as reincarnation, UFO abduction, secular versus religious ethics, communication with the dead, and the historicity of Jesus.

During this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Paul Kurtz discusses the importance of creativity in terms of outreach for the skeptical and secular humanist movements. He talks about the his book Forbidden Fruit, which focuses on the application of science and reason to the Good Life and to normative ethics. He argues that ethics need not have religious foundations, and that ethics should instead have purely secular and humanist sources. He explores the secular meanings of stories about the mythical Garden of Eden, and actually celebrates the eating of the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and of the fruit of the Tree of Life. He argues that the universalistic ethics within the world’s religions in fact stem from secular humanism. He details what it is to live a life of excellence and defends against the charge that his ethics is self-centered and self-absorbed, arguing for good will in a secular context, and that the common good is not alien to enlightened self-interest. He touches on the secular position on controversial social issues, such as abortion and sexual ethics, including gay rights and gay marriage. He expounds on what he calls the “common moral decencies,” which he argues are a product of evolution. He finishes by discussing the myth of Sisyphus and what it portends for the scientific secularist today, arguing against nihilistic atheism.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

We can all take heart at the fact that all of our basic “ethics"or moral values stem from science and not religion.

VYAZMA, just playing devil’s advocate here, and because this is a subject that I’m devoting a lot of thought to at the moment. How exactly do we base our ethics and moral values on science? Science by
definition is “value-free,” and indeed most sensible scientists would tell you that science does not in any way provide any prescriptive ethic/moral axioms, it simply provides bare, naked facts about the
world. We keep repeating this idea that we derive our ethics from science (and even sometimes “from nature”) but all I have ever seen, quite frankly, is an endless assertion of this without anything to
back it up.

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Posted: 24 December 2008 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Paul Kurtz is one of my heros.  That said, I have a problem every time I hear him interviewed.  His use of the word exuberant.  He always mentions living an exuberant life.

ex⋅u⋅ber⋅ant    [ig-zoo-ber-uhnt] Show IPA Pronunciation  
–adjective
1.  effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic; lavishly abundant: an exuberant welcome for the hero.
2.  abounding in vitality; extremely joyful and vigorous.
3.  extremely good; overflowing; plentiful: exuberant health.
4.  profuse in growth or production; luxuriant; superabundant: exuberant vegetation.

While I am secular and a humanist, and am most interested in Paul’s ideals, I am woefully unprepared to be exuberant.  I mean, if he said live life to the fullest, I can handle that. Don’t worry, be happy, that is a possibility.  But exuberant, not a chance.  Uninhibitedly enthusiastic?  Neither word applies to me.

I won’t even get into living a life of excellence. 

(this is all with tongue firmly in cheek)

The interview is interesting and inspirational.  I do think I will get his book.

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Posted: 26 December 2008 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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garicker - 22 December 2008 08:23 AM

He finishes by discussing the myth of Sisyphus and what it portends for the scientific secularist today, arguing against nihilistic atheism.

A small quibble. The above is the last sentence in the description of the conversation between D.J. and Paul Kurtz. But nowhere in the broadcast did I hear any reference to “nihilistic atheism.” So what is the source for the claim? There’s nothing about atheism that requires nihilism. Certainly, there are atheists who are nihilists, but there are many more, like Mr. Kurtz himself, who are not.

Always an interesting interview.

I have to agree that a discussion of [ Sisyphus ] is not the same as “nihilistic atheism”.

In regard to abortion—Paul Kurtz is emphatic about a woman’s right to choose but he doesn’t seem to acknowledge any ambiguity in the exact threshold where abortion should be discouraged. What gives a 91-day fetus rights which an 89-day fetus doesn’t have —how does his perspective agree with and differ from that of Peter Singer— lots of room for more discussion.

[ Edited: 26 December 2008 10:58 AM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 26 December 2008 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Edit to add:
A nod to Steve, who seized on this point before I posted.  Let VYAZMA reply to Steve on this one.

VYAZMA - 21 December 2008 12:48 PM

We can all take heart at the fact that all of our basic “ethics"or moral values stem from science and not religion.

That seems like a cold comfort given the fact that science is value neutral.  Any values utilized in science come from outside of science.

Ohh to have the hindsight,and see back when the foundations of various religions were being laid.They all borrowed from innate,natural codes.

What happened where the religious morals do not agree?  Did unnaturalness somehow intervene in the natural world?  Or are all religious morals actually innate, natural codes?

If you believe the latter, on what science is the belief based?

They learned along the way to steal these values as their own.And then to use them as some sort of omnipotent “sourceflow"of knowledge.Thus enshrining themselves in righteousness,and subsequent moral domination.

Are innate natural codes righteous?  If yes, wouldn’t a religion be righteous to whatever extent it was based on stolen (is that stealing an innate, natural act or were they being naughty to take like that?) innate, natural codes?  If the innate, natural codes are not righteous then why would they add any righteousness to religious moral codes?

[ Edited: 26 December 2008 10:49 AM by Bryan ]
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Posted: 26 December 2008 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Bryan - 26 December 2008 10:47 AM

What happened where the religious morals do not agree? 

Thanks to Bryan for reminding me of this point that came up in the interview.  It is often said {N.B. add links}  that without religion there would be no morality, but as Paul Kurtz notes this view is contradictory because there are hundreds of religions with contradictory moral codes.  And the moral codes of some of our current religions seem to be evolving.

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Posted: 26 December 2008 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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In response to Steve(sorry for the belated reply).Without a doubt all of our values stem from science.Yes science in and of itself is value free.(or is it?we apply all kinds of values to scientific procedure and observation:ie measurement,worth,and impact).However we humans are not value free,and yet we are pure science.At least I am.I wasn’t made from somebodies rib or formed out of clay by some super-being.
These values stem from zoological,and biological,and pyschological factors.These three factors are the same in all humans,barring some anomolies like mutation,mental disorders,or any other defects.(yes some of these can sometimes be the front-running tendrils of evolution.)The other major factor which enables us to break these codes,is the disruption of the social order.Such as over population in a given environment.Just because we can spread like a virulent mold,faster than we can evolve to adapt to it,doesn’t mean we lose those original,more slowly evolving value codes.It just means we break the codes,as a pressure valve.Like murder and war.
I have already stated in other threads that the basic moral or value codes come from species/biological programming,that is innate in all evolving beings.For example most species,most of the time,do not harm or kill their own,or most other species.This is why flight takes place far more often than fight.So,here is one example of a moral code prime order,which we have built into us.Yes we have intelligently transmogrified it and writ it down so to speak,but there it is,in it’s purest form.Now most of our other values stem from this one alone.
Then of course,do I have to state all of the values which we have developed, concerning mating ritual?Another innate,scientifically based value code that is built into all of us.
Next take the fact that we are social creatures.I think that happened scientifically,I don’t think somewhere along the way we decided to start hanging around together in families and cities.This was geneticaly/evolutionary built into us.Is that scientific?HMMMN?Yes,I think it is!!Do I have to expound on the moral/value codes which are resultant from us being socially ordered?
I don’t want to type out 5000 words on this,gather from inference,the points about social order,and the built in codes that are part of its mechanism for continuance.

[ Edited: 26 December 2008 11:36 AM by VYAZMA ]
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Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

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Posted: 26 December 2008 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Jackson - 26 December 2008 11:08 AM
Bryan - 26 December 2008 10:47 AM

What happened where the religious morals do not agree? 

Thanks to Bryan for reminding me of this point that came up in the interview.  It is often said {N.B. add links}  that without religion there would be no morality, but as Paul Kurtz notes this view is contradictory because there are hundreds of religions with contradictory moral codes.

I think it is silly to argue that there would be no morality apart from religion, apart from noting that a belief in an “ought” is by definition not derived from science as well as requiring faith.  Up to you how you want to define “religion” in this case.

The real argument is against the coherence of non-religious systems of morality, that is those that claim to feature objective morality rather than some form of subjective morality.  Certainly you can be an atheist and feel that someone “ought” to do a particular act in a particular set of circumstances, but it is a different thing to justify the belief in philosophical terms in a manner that agrees with an atheistic world view.

Edit to add:
I’m perplexed by the suggestion that contradictions between religious systems of morality would somehow contradict the argument that without religion there would be no morality.  Perhaps that point is moot given that I think the latter argument is silly.

And the moral codes of some of our current religions seem to be evolving.

Strictly speaking, that isn’t a problem for objective morality—not even absolute morality.  It does present a potential epistemic problem if objective morality changes over time, however.

[ Edited: 26 December 2008 11:54 AM by Bryan ]
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