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Paul Kurtz - Forbidden Fruit
Posted: 30 December 2008 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Jackson - 30 December 2008 12:21 PM

Bryan, would you listen to the podcast before commenting in this section—your comments come across as non sequiturs and need some bridging comment from you to establish the context.

I listened to the podcast before the post to which you replied.  If you think it is a non sequitur the kindly provide an explanation.  Do you think that Kurtz does not ultimately offer us subjective morality?

For example, in the Jennifer Michael Hecht interview on Doubt,  the book covers a whole lot of stuff that is not covered in the podcast, and the podcast sort of delved into her perspectives on ‘truth’, ‘science’,poetry, etc.—which are covered more in other books of hers. So it wasn’t really a targeted discussion of the book. Similarly, this week’s podcast with Tom Flynn on science fiction and atheism has an opening 5-6 minutes on Xmas which is part of Tom Flynn but slightly off the narrow focus of the interview topic.

That’s nice, but in the interview Kurtz appears to provide plenty of commentary that seems to make his morals and ethics ultimately subjective.  He just expressed it more conveniently (and linkably) in the excerpt I provided.

You tend to get the discussion off on a very philosophical abstract discussion which aggravates the context relative to the podcast.

The book about which he was interviewed is about morality and ethics, isn’t it?
Sure, there was a certain about of fluff about living an exuberant life and stuff, but it boils down to morality and ethics, and beyond that it boils down to another type of boil:  Subjective morality.

[If you have listened to the podcast, maybe you could put in a couple of anchor-points every so often to solidfy how your comment connects.]

Morality is “objective” since we’re objectively human.  Otherwise it boils down to our democratic process (majoritarian rule?).

Anyway thanks for your patience and long-standing comments and willingingness to provide different viewpoints.  People are extremely kind about saying thank you on this forum and it’s not really my style—but again thanks.

You’re right about that—there are quite a few who have expressed that type of appreciation, and I’m not particularly good about thanking the individuals for saying it (torn by acknowledging praise and going off-topic).  To those who have said that type of thing, I do appreciate it.  And thanks in return for the matching (or exceeding) patience it takes to tolerate the dissenting views.  smile

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Posted: 30 December 2008 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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We are social creatures and if we want to survive, as well as get along with others in society, we have to have certain rules and laws.  Even groups of chimps have their own social rules of conduct and order.  Check into Jane Goodall’s research and you might get a clear understanding of what Paul Kurtz is trying to say.

Try this:  http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/schick_18_4.html

and this:  http://www.americanhumanist.org/humanism/morality.html

Not sure if any of that will make it clear to you, but it has nothing to do subjective or objective.  Some things are and others are not.  However, it is much more than that.  I think part of the problem is that some theists can’t put aside their religion to ask themselves very important questions, such as, IF there were no god and there were no religious guidelines, would you still be appauled about the idea of murder or harming others in any way?  If the answer is no, then by all means keep your beliefs, but if the yes, then ask yourself why you would not want to harm anyone or even commit murder?  This is not subjective at all.

Schick covered the idea of believing something is right, does not make it right, using the example of Hitler and Stalin, who believed they were right, yet they were very wrong.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 30 December 2008 11:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Mriana - 30 December 2008 05:30 PM

We are social creatures and if we want to survive, as well as get along with others in society, we have to have certain rules and laws.  Even groups of chimps have their own social rules of conduct and order.  Check into Jane Goodall’s research and you might get a clear understanding of what Paul Kurtz is trying to say.

Try this:  http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/schick_18_4.html

and this:  http://www.americanhumanist.org/humanism/morality.html

Admire the fine stitching around the sleeves and the marvelous lace on the collar, eh?

It’s hardly that mysterious.  Kurtz would not suggest that the chimps follow any sort of metaphysical objective morality.  They simply follow evolutionary programming that we may describe as “moral”—but we’d describe it as “moral” in the same sense if the chimps were constantly at war and routinely subjected each other to waterboarding.  It’s objective in that it exists and we can observe it, not as to whether it’s right or wrong in anything other than a subjective sense.

Not sure if any of that will make it clear to you, but it has nothing to do subjective or objective.

Why, if that’s the case, was I easily able to find a quotation from the book (from Kurtz) that effectively frames his ethical views in terms of subjectivity?  Does he not understand his own views???

Some things are and others are not.  However, it is much more than that.  I think part of the problem is that some theists can’t put aside their religion to ask themselves very important questions, such as, IF there were no god and there were no religious guidelines, would you still be appa(l)led about the idea of murder or harming others in any way?  If the answer is no, then by all means keep your beliefs, but if the yes, then ask yourself why you would not want to harm anyone or even commit murder?  This is not subjective at all.

The issue of whether Kurtz’s views effectively reduce to subjective relativism does not depend on any mental theistic handicap on my part.  But it’s good to know that you can wield an ad hominem circumstantial when and if the need arises.

Schick covered the idea of believing something is right, does not make it right, using the example of Hitler and Stalin, who believed they were right, yet they were very wrong.

Schick also pointed out that cultural relativism, to which Kurtz apparently subscribes, leads to the conclusion that there are no universal moral standards. 
http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/schick_18_4.html

In turn, that realization presents us with the question of why we should bother accepting cultural norms as our standard.  Take California, for example.  California voted on Prop 8.  Rather than simply acceding to the wishes of the cultural majority, the minority has risen up in protest.  So are they right or wrong in terms of cultural relativism?

Indeed, Schick returns to the example of Hitler in discussing the flaws in cultural relativism.  The German culture was OK with persecuting the Jews, in majoritarian terms.  Hitler has his justification, unless we have to consider cultures outside of Germany to the extent that the Nazi views get watered down to minority status.  But we can do that endlessly to the point of absurdity, can’t we?

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Posted: 31 December 2008 02:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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I know Schick does, that’s why I pointed out that article to you.

However, I don’t think you quite get it still.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 31 December 2008 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Bryan - 26 December 2008 01:40 PM
VYAZMA - 26 December 2008 12:28 PM
Bryan - 26 December 2008 12:10 PM
VYAZMA - 26 December 2008 12:01 PM

Bryan,I think I answered your queries as well.One point though concerning one of your questions.I believe you asked:“if innate natural codes are not righteous,why would religion make them righteous?”(paraphrase).Was that a question of yours?
Answer(if that was your question):for moral dominance,and subsequent mass effect mind manipulation.Righteousness is just another word for pride!!

That is not the way I was using the term “righteous.”  I was trying to get at whether natural moral codes are right (the ordinary meaning of the term “righteous”).

Thanks for addressing my questions.  I’ll leave this issue to Steve unless you’d like to engage the conversation with me (PM me if that’s your wish).  But if Steve never gets around to it I’ll probably step in eventually.

Well.Bry.Sure I guess they’re “right”.They couldn’t really be wrong,seeing as how they come from a scientific,evolving code,which so far has led us up to this point.
No though you guys run with it.I’m not up for a long discussion on the metaphysics of ethics and moral codes.Peace out..

I suspect there’s nowhere to go from here.  If the religious codes are “right” then what’s the problem with “stealing” from the source code?  There is a real question as to whether your view about scientifically derived codes is coherent, which I’m sure was Steve’s observation as well.  Science can describe existing moral codes, and can even propose naturalistic origins for existing moral codes.  It can’t tell you whether they ought to be followed or not, which is probably why you have no objection to calling the religious codes “right” in some meaningless (or subjective) fashion.

I’d agree, Bryan. Science is incapable of providing a human being with an “ought” in any given situation. From an evolutionary perspective, spreading my DNA
far and wide is evolutionary wise. In the everyday world where we all live, we’d call that “promiscuity.” To the question “Ought I to impregnate as many woman
as I can?”, science is silent, because it is structurally incapable of answering such moral questions. From an evolutionary perspective, grabbing the maximum
resources possible and defending them from all comers (thereby depriving them of those resources) is evolutionarily wise. In the everyday world where we all
live, the practical consequences of that is the infamous “greed is good” mentality epitomized by Ayn Rand and her ilk. To the question “Ought I to take away
all the resources I can defend from my fellow creatures?”, science is again silent.

So, like you, I remain unconvinced that science has anything useful to tell us, morally/ethically speaking. It can simply describe the world that exists, not the better,
saner, more humane world that “ought” to exist.

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Posted: 31 December 2008 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Mriana - 31 December 2008 02:43 AM

I know Schick does, that’s why I pointed out that article to you.

However, I don’t think you quite get it still.

Don’t get what?

I did what you said would enable me to understand.  I listened to Kurtz.  I followed your reference to Schick.  Are you sending me to bad references?  Can you highlight the portions that I need to emphasize in order to achieve understanding?  Or are we playing a shell game?

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Posted: 31 December 2008 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Steve, if we know how AIDS is spread, via science, do we continue to practice unsafe sex?  I think in some respects, if we use our brains, science can contribute to ones ethics or morals.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 31 December 2008 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Mriana - 31 December 2008 01:07 PM

Steve, if we know how AIDS is spread, via science, do we continue to practice unsafe sex?

I think I can speak for Steve in saying that science per se doesn’t care what you do with the information.  It all depends on the values you bring to the table, because science isn’t going to provide them.  You can use the information about how AIDS is spread to avoid AIDS.  You can use the information in order to design government programs to reduce suffering from AIDS.  Or you can turn around and use the information to spread AIDS to a sexual partner.  Or design government programs to promote the spread of AIDS.

The contribution of science is the same in either case.

I think in some respects, if we use our brains, science can contribute to ones ethics or morals.

Science merely helps flesh out the stage on which you play out your values.  If you want a source for your values then it will come from somewhere other than science.

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Posted: 31 December 2008 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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These kind of conversations remind me of what my science teacher told me in 8th grade.If,from where he was standing,he moved half way to the wall,he could keep repeating that and never reach the wall.
How far do we need to dice the comprehension of right and wrong(subjectively)and the connection it has with innate moral coding.(or evolutionary value codes).
In fact if I may,I would propose that these topics may be more germain to certain individuals,more than others.And not just on an interest level.But on a more behavioral level.
I keep learning new words on this site.Correct me if I’m wrong,but isn’t it tautolgical to use the very same intelligence engine(our minds)to try and figure out certain,Catch 22,ideas,located inside those same engines.Kind of like trying to train a dog to track it’s own scent.
Perhaps only the comprehension of value codes both innate and invented(which all stem,however complicatedly,from the innate ones),is subjective.
In closing I must ask myself,what is the ultimate reason for some individuals to chop and dissect morals,mores,rules and values and ethics.Why do some people wrestle with the ultimate reason for values,or morals?Is it nothing more than a manifestation of uncertainty?Uncertainty about our origins,about why we think,and possibly did some higher power give me the mind and conscience to think?
If these questions are that troubling,then get yourself a god,worship it,and have peace of mind.
But,there is no god.Only the inner reaches of your mind,harkening back subconsciously(sp)to your tadpole ancestors!!

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Posted: 31 December 2008 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Bryan - 26 December 2008 11:45 AM
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.

Bryan, I never did understand your response here.  I was agreeing with Kurtz that it is contradictory to claim that certain moral values are “correct” because they are based on a religion’s point of view, because there are hundreds of religions and their moral views differ.      It seems like you didn’t respond to this point but tried to bring up a something which appears to me unrelated except for your unsupported assertion that it is “the real argument”.

I also think this morality discussion is somehow sidelining the “real argument” which is that there isn’t a God—and it’s somewhat moot whether morality is objective or subjective or natural or nurtured - depending on how one defines these terms it’s some of each, and if one defines everything a different way then everything is (by defintion) subjective - where this word tautological comes up again.

To recap—the claim that religion has something to do with morality is flawed partly becausethere are hundreds of religions and they are inconsistent in moral views as well as theology.  To me This is a sub-argument of the “real argument” that God doesn’t exist because there are obviously hundreds of religions (including modern ones we agree are bogus like Scientology and Mormonism with respected, intelligent and devoted followers) with contradictory views.

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Posted: 01 January 2009 01:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Jackson - 31 December 2008 04:00 PM

Bryan, I never did understand your response here.  I was agreeing with Kurtz that it is contradictory to claim that certain moral values are “correct” because they are based on a religion’s point of view, because there are hundreds of religions and their moral views differ.

That isn’t a contradiction unless it is supposed that two conflicting sets of (religious) morals are both correct.  I was disappointed that no attempt was made during the course of the interview to clarify that point, for it leaves Kurtz looking like a poor thinker and interviewer a bit soft.  Not that Grothe portrays himself as objective in a way that makes that an acute problem.

It seems like you didn’t respond to this point but tried to bring up a something which appears to me unrelated except for your unsupported assertion that it is “the real argument”.

I thought I was making clear that I think the one argument (no religion=no morality) is silly while emphasizing that a good and interesting argument stems from whether non-theistic systems can construct a self-consistent model of morality—that is, one that does not suffer from an imposing epistemic difficulty. 

I simply don’t see how Kurtz’s views offer any help with the traditional problems faced by non-theistic moral systems.

I also think this morality discussion is somehow sidelining the “real argument” which is that there isn’t a God—and it’s somewhat moot whether morality is objective or subjective or natural or nurtured - depending on how one defines these terms it’s some of each, and if one defines everything a different way then everything is (by defintion) subjective - where this word tautological comes up again.

I think the issue of morality bears directly on the argument regarding the existence of God.  If there is no morality, then it is absurd that a (haphazard) causally determined universe has us talking about the issue of morality, and that is just one of many aspects of reality that seem unexpected in mindlessly planned universe.

To recap—the claim that religion has something to do with morality is flawed partly becausethere are hundreds of religions and they are inconsistent in moral views as well as theology.

Your reasoning here is flawed.  Even if all religions about which we know have inconsistent moral systems (leaving aside the chasm between assertion and proof), it does not follow that there is no consistent religious morality that remains undescribed by humans.  It seems clear that it is possible in principle for such a system to exist coherently (I’d recommend a framework akin to that of W. D. Ross but with decreased emphasis on intuition).

To me This is a sub-argument of the “real argument” that God doesn’t exist because there are obviously hundreds of religions (including modern ones we agree are bogus like Scientology and Mormonism with respected, intelligent and devoted followers) with contradictory views.

We’ve been over this argument of yours before.  At best it is a weak probabilistic argument.  At worst it is frankly fallacious.  You’d do better not to rely on it.

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Posted: 01 January 2009 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Bryan thanks for your comments—let me chew this over.

Happy New Year.

Jackson

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Posted: 02 January 2009 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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The universe has no morals to give us.  Our morals come
from us, coming though our culture that we made together.
The morals are about living the good life with each other;
and living for the future of the species.  What species can
we live well with out?  If the gods are not here with us,
not joining together with us, sharing and living for us, the
morals that help them are worthless to us, we can live well
without the gods and their morals.

Kurtz asks for living with exuberant joy and eupraxophy, Paul
does a good job speaking about it… A+.  But when applying
the ideas, which ways work well?  What habits have you found
that spread the joys of life to others?

Enjoy the new year, it’ll be a better one as science and
engineering gives us more information and opportunities.

[ Edited: 03 January 2009 10:52 PM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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Posted: 03 January 2009 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 02 January 2009 05:31 PM

The universe has no morals to give us.  Our morals come
for us, coming though our culture that we made together.
The morals are about living the good life with each other;
and living for the future of the species.  What species can
we live well with out?  If the gods are not here with us,
not joining together with us, sharing and living for us, the
morals that help them are worthless to us, we can live well
without the gods and their morals.

Indeed, since no matter how bad things are you can always subjectively call them good.  smile
Or conversely call the good bad, depending on your mood or the mood of the masses.

Kurtz asks for living with exuberant joy and eupraxophy, Paul
does a good job speaking about it… A+.  But when applying
the ideas, which ways work well?  What habits have you found
that spread the joys of life to others?

Enjoy the new year, it’ll be a better one as science and
engineering gives us more information and opportunities.

Your glass is half full.  wink

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Posted: 03 January 2009 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Bryan - 01 January 2009 01:12 PM

I think the issue of morality bears directly on the argument regarding the existence of God.  If there is no morality, then it is absurd that a (haphazard) causally determined universe has us talking about the issue of morality, and that is just one of many aspects of reality that seem unexpected in mindlessly planned universe.

I’m not ignoring your other points but rather just trying to keep my response short & organized.

I may be misunderstanding you; it seems as if the paragraph is asserting in an indirect way that morality is necessary for God {whatever that means} and not the other way around.

Or are you asserting, in a way that that I’m missing, that the existence of a Christian morality indicates the existence of a Christian God?

Or is the word “morality” being used in multiples ways - Can your statement be accurately paraphrased as “If the universe itself has no ultimate morality, then it is absurd for us to be talking about morality”

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