Darwinism Evolution

James Shapiro’s book is scaring at least one Darwinist

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Evolution: A View from the 21st Century In “Yet another “post-Darwinism,” Evolving Thoughts complains about Shapiro’s Evolution:/a> A view from the 21st century thusly:

Over the years there have been many books that purport to “radically revise” or “supplant” Darwinian evolutionary biology; they come with predictable regularity. Usually they are of three kinds: something is wrong with natural selection, something is wrong with inheritance, or something is wrong with phylogeny. This book, by geneticist James A. Shapiro, exemplifies all three.

Shocka!

I shall presume that the science is correct, and the choice of apparent counterexamples to the ruling paradigm (which seems to be far more fluid than many of these books expect. Lateral transfer, endosymbiosis and jumping genes are many “post-Darwinian” ideas that have been easily inserted into the consensus) is illuminating. What is the illumination thus gained?

Not Darwinism. After many historical ruminations, Evolving cannot recommend the book. In consequence, Shapiro has gone into grief therapy. 😉

116 Replies to “James Shapiro’s book is scaring at least one Darwinist

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    It’s looking more and more like organisms, rather than surviving by the luck of the draw, engineer their own survival and evolution.

    Of course, the Darwinists will proclaim this is what their theory predicted all along, and it does not in any way change Darwinian theory.

  2. 2
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Well, if true, it’s very interesting,because it supports what at least some of us have considered possible (including Darwin) but was controversial for a while, which is that Darwinian processes can operate at the level of the population as well as at the level of the phenotype.

    At the level of the Extended Phenotype if you like, which you probably don’t 🙂

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    The reviewer doesn’t sound very “scared” to me, though.

    Nor am I,though I am much more in sympathy with Shapiro’s approach than the reviewer.

    And if you think it supports ID, then I subscribe to ID.

  4. 4
    Neil Rickert says:

    I agree with Elizabeth. That is to say, I have some sympathy with Shapiro’s view. As I understand it, Shapiro is saying that evolution itself (biology and population dynamics) is, in some sense, intelligent.

    John Wilkins (the reviewer) did not seem at all scared. Evidently, he does not share my view of Shapiro’s work.

  5. 5
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    My view, for what it’s worth, is that evolutionary processes, together, form a highly intelligent system.

    Indeed, in many respects they resemble the systems that underlie intelligence in things-with-brains.

    And that’s why I think that living things look like the product intelligence design. Because they are.

    But unlike most ID proponents, I am extremely interested in the nature of the designer – or rather of the design process, because it seems to me obvious “who” the designer is.

    Except that it’s not a who, it’s a what.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    OT:

    The machinery for recombination is part of the chromosome structure
    Excerpt: “The more we learn about meiosis, the more mysterious it becomes”, says Franz Klein from the Department for Chromosome Biology of the University of Vienna. “It is surprising that maternal and paternal chromosomes find each other at all. Because at the time of interaction all chromosomes have generated a sister and are tightly connected with her like a Siamese twin.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....osome.html

  7. 7
    smordecai says:

    Pg.145-146. “A shift from thinking about gradual selection of localized random changes to sudden genome restructuring by sensory network-influenced cell systems is a major conceptional change. It replaces the ‘invisible hands’ of geological time and natural selection with cognitive networks and cellular functions for self-modification.” To bad Stephen Jay Gould didn’t live to see this book! Shapiro is very much in the saltationist camp. However, he has empirical evidence from the lab to support Gould’s field observations.

  8. 8
    PaV says:

    Wilkins wrote:

    “Engineers do not accomplish defined functional goals. Instead they employ the results of prior experience on the presumption that what worked in the past will work now (and that includes the choice of goals themselves).”

    First, someone help me with the logic.

    This sentence doesn’t make sense to me from beginning to end.

    Second. I’m supposing he’s saying something like this: science is constructed from trial and error experience.

    Let’s apply this to electricity/magnetism.

    Of course, EM is the result of many upon many trial and error experiments on the part of Michael Faraday. But then came along James Clerk Maxwell and “systematized” the data collected from Faraday’s work into his famous four equations.

    This ‘systematization’ was based upon mathematical laws, preeminently Gauss’ Law (and, IIRC, Green’s Law). Will Mr. Wilkins now tell us that, e.g., Euclidean Geometry is the result of “trial and error”.

    Or, look at what Faraday did. He used various shapes, sizes and arrangements of metallic and non-metallic, all of which gave different measurements. Now simply ask yourself: what guided Faraday in what shapes, sizes and arrangements he used for any particular experiment? Was it “trial and error”? But, then, what exactly constitutes an “error”. Only the discriminating mind of Faraday could determine this. Only the discriminating and abstracting mind of Faraday could guide his choices as he painstakingly pursued the laws he would eventually discover.

    Take away the minds of Maxwell and Faraday, and what do you have? Nothing.

    But, of course, every good Darwinist knows that “nothing” can produce “something”. It’s magic, you see.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    I agree with Elizabeth.

    Why? I’d wager she hasn’t even read the book.

  10. 10
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Clipped this from Amazon reviewer:

    The implications of this new paradigm are going to upset many people. Shapiro draws a parallel between how human engineers operate and `natural genetic engineering:’ “Although they may go through many trial-and-error steps, human engineers do not work blindly. They are trying to accomplish defined functional goals. Can such function-oriented capacities be attributed to cells? Is this not the kind of teleological thinking that scientists have been taught to avoid at all costs? The answer to both questions is yes.” (Page 136).

  11. 11
    avocationist says:

    Elizabeth,

    “But unlike most ID proponents, I am extremely interested in the nature of the designer – or rather of the design process, because it seems to me obvious “who” the designer is.”

    What would that be?

  12. 12
    nullasalus says:

    What would that be?

    Unguided, mindless, purposeless nature.

    Pay Liz no mind when she starts talking like this, which is pretty much always. There’s no substance to the words other than quaint redefinitions, vagueness and cutesy language.

    As for Shapiro, the reason he has Wilkins spooked – and yeah, I’d say spooked given his tone – is that if evolution is conceived as a process with either Aristotilean final causes, or an end-directed process in general (there are goals and intentional results of evolution, rather than strings of unintended outcomes), then evolution is vastly more friendly to an ID analysis. Evolution as a teleological or purposeful process, evolution as a tool used towards particular ends by a mind, etc.

    That’s why you have Wilkins shuffling in the inane direction of saying that engineers don’t ‘accomplished defined functional goals’ and implying that they’d need to have perfect knowledge of the future to do so. To hear him talk, you’d think that if someone uses their knowledge to build a device for a task and said device manages it’s a huge surprise. How in the world could they have known the device would do what they thought? Some kind of crazy magic!

    The one thing Wilkins has correct is that Shapiro’s talk of teleology in evolution is ultimately philosophical. Here’s the problem: So is Wilkins’, and other’s, denial of teleology in evolution. But recognizing that guts what is, for Dawkins and many others, the most precious part of evolution.

  13. 13
    nullasalus says:

    Mung,

    Of course, the Darwinists will proclaim this is what their theory predicted all along, and it does not in any way change Darwinian theory.

    Naturally. And really, what couldn’t be stuffed into the ‘Darwinian theory’ skin? What’s important there is to dig in one’s heels and insist “This is all compatible with Darwinism!” no matter what the data, so long as the data looks true at the time. Throw in a full-blown hopeful monster situation and hey, if it looks true, we’ll just say that this is just a novel form of variation – entirely compatible with Darwinian theory.

  14. 14
    Neil Rickert says:

    PaV (#8)

    I’m supposing he’s saying something like this: science is constructed from trial and error experience.

    I still not sure quite what Wilkins intended in the statement you quote, nor whether I agree with it. However, that statement was about engineering, so I think you are making a mistake by taking it to be about science.

  15. 15
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus,

    “The one thing Wilkins has correct is that Shapiro’s talk of teleology in evolution is ultimately philosophical. Here’s the problem: So is Wilkins’, and other’s, denial of teleology in evolution. But recognizing that guts what is, for Dawkins and many others, the most precious part of evolution.”

    That’s the nail on the head. And I have tried asking, and will try again, why some atheists prefer this type of universe. There is something very beautiful and fascinating, something they adore, in the contemplation of a mindless and accidental universe that nonetheless spews out galaxies and worlds and life forms. There is an emotional attachment to this view and an aversion to the possibility of a God, a disappointment even. Sure, I can understand how the JudeoChristian God could drive people away, but it’s not like it’s the only choice.

    How is it possible to love the empty and accidental universe so much that one even sacrifices one’s own consciousness?

  16. 16
    Ilion says:

    Avocationist:There is an emotional attachment to this view and an aversion to the possibility of a God, a disappointment even. Sure, I can understand how the JudeoChristian God could drive people away, but it’s not like it’s the only choice.

    Any logically coherent understanding of ‘The Creator’ is going to be at least broadly similar to, and fully consistent with, the Judeo-Christian conception of ‘The Living/Existing God’. There really aren’t that many ‘Gods’ on offer, nor can be.

  17. 17
    avocationist says:

    Ilion,

    I’m not even sure what you mean by this. There is Hinduism. There is Michael Denton’s take on things. In my opinion, most of Judeo Christian dogma is man made and anthropomorphizes God. I can find the real God in the Christian scriptures, but you have to dig.

    If by the living/existing God you mean a self-existent entity that is the cause of all things, I can agree, but that is leaving off all sorts of story lines about this entity. Jews and Christians don’t even agree as to the number of deities!

  18. 18
    nullasalus says:

    avocationist,

    Sure, I can understand how the JudeoChristian God could drive people away, but it’s not like it’s the only choice.

    Because if design of that kind is treated as a live option, then – on those terms alone – the Judeo-Christian God becomes a live option. The muslim God becomes a live option. Many other God(s) and gods become live options. This can be emotionally inconvenient (Thomas Nagel’s “I don’t want to live in a universe like that”), politically/socially inconvenient (These people with these religious beliefs I detest may possibly be right), or otherwise.

    I’m not saying every design skeptic thinks like this, but you asked why would anyone embrace some kind of utterly materialist/atheistic worldview given the range of possibilities. My response is, because possibilities can scare the hell out of people, theist and atheist. With the Cult of Gnu, I think it’s pretty clear why they do the dance they do.

  19. 19
    avocationist says:

    Even Behe thinks everything could have been frontloaded at the big bang. And Denton thinks of a very unified cosmos that is organically guaranteed (by a mind to be sure) to produce life. So this leaves a very open conception of God, and why would this scare any one?

  20. 20
    junkdnaforlife says:

    “So this leaves a very open conception of God, and why would this scare any one?”

    It generally doesn’t. If I had a nickle for every time an atheist said something along the lines of, “ok that may be considered evidence for a god, but not the god of the bible etc…”

    The problem is, (and atheists know this), is that once the first premise changes from

    1. No God.

    to

    2. A God.

    The Judeo-Christian argument then becomes more persuasive.

    And this cannot happen.

    Better to cling to premise 1 at all costs.

  21. 21
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    Why? I’d wager she hasn’t even read the book.

    You lost your last wager, remember, Mung? When you said I hadn’t read Sanford’s book?

    And do you remember when you thought I was being snarky about Todd Wood, and it turned out I wasn’t?

    But FWIW, I have not read Shapiro’s book. I have, however, read several of his papers.

    It was on the basis of those that I made my comment.

    Your insistence that I lack integrity remains unfounded and unsupported.

  22. 22
    Mung says:

    You’re belief that HGT occurs by breaching the cell membrane was a big clue that you hadn’t read the book.

    IOW, I had a reason to believe that what I was saying was in fact the case, unlike some folks around here who will just say anything.

    Your insistence that I lack integrity remains unfounded and unsupported.

    I don’t insist as a matter of course that you are being dishonest, but apparently it happens often enough that as I call it out when I see it it probably seems that way.

    Not sure I can be blamed for that.

  23. 23
    PaV says:

    Neil @ 14:

    However, that statement was about engineering, so I think you are making a mistake by taking it to be about science.

    Wouldn’t you consider engineering as a kind of ‘applied’ science? I favor this definition. Engineers use scientific principles to build things—such as a suspension bridge.

    Again, it’s hard to understand exactly what Wilkins was trying to say, but I think a fair inference would be that he is saying that engineers use science in a trial-and-error way, and that the very science they employ is gained through a trial-and-error fashion: thus, his comment, “No engineer has some cognitive “noetic ray” that allows them to see into the future; they are using the tested results of the past.”

    It’s sort of a Humean argument he employs; that is, causes and effects are no more than connections that we’ve assembled in our minds through past associations. My suspicion is that Wilkins, in this way, wants to empty science of the necessity of the mind (for, of course, NS is ‘mindless’). And this explains the thrust of my prior post. That is, you cannot have science without the operation of the mind. If true—and I see no reason for this not to be true—then the ‘natural genetic engineering’ operations of the cell betray a kind of prior knowledge. Or, put another way, “final causes”. Hope no one faints!

  24. 24
    Neil Rickert says:

    PaV (#23)

    Wouldn’t you consider engineering as a kind of ‘applied’ science? I favor this definition. Engineers use scientific principles to build things—such as a suspension bridge.

    Yes, sure. I agree with that. However, your earlier comment particularly mentioned Faraday and Maxwell. But what Faraday and Maxwell did is not close to engineering.

    As best I can tell, Shapiro is pointing out that his use of teleological language is more limited than that used in engineering. Wilkins is not agreeing that there is a difference.

    Yes, the review is all about teleology talk. Wilkins does not like the use of teleological language, as he has made clear in earlier posts. However, that kind of language is deeply entrenched in biology. Even “The Selfish Gene”, although intended as a metaphor, is nevertheless a teleological metaphor. And, for that matter, describing a mutation as a copying error presupposes a purpose of copying.

  25. 25
    avocationist says:

    junkdna:

    “The problem is, (and atheists know this), is that once the first premise changes from1. No God.

    to

    2. A God.
    The Judeo-Christian argument then becomes more persuasive.
    And this cannot happen.
    Better to cling to premise 1 at all costs.”

    Perhaps you are right. The problem then is that they shut down too fast and throw out the baby with the bathwater instead of investigating their spiritual options until they are comfortable.

    I see it as a problem in which both sides are wrong.

  26. 26
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    You’re belief that HGT occurs by breaching the cell membrane was a big clue that you hadn’t read the book.

    whut?

    Mung, as a general guiding principle: if you think you know what I’ve said, it’s something else.

    OK?

  27. 27
    Mung says:

    Liddle:

    …as a general guiding principle: if you think you know what I’ve said, it’s something else.

    We all know what you say.

    It’s what you mean by what you say that has many of us puzzled.

  28. 28
    Ilion says:

    junkdnaforlife @ 20:The problem is, (and atheists know this), is that once the first premise changes from
    1. No God.
    to
    2. A God.
    The Judeo-Christian argument then becomes more persuasive.
    And this cannot happen.
    Better to cling to premise 1 at all costs.

    That’s true, of course, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Yet, what also shouldn’t be overlooked is that we “theists” don’t have to rely on the proposition “God is” as a premise; we can, in fact, derive it as a conclusion of purely ‘natural’ reasoning.

    Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that both atheism (the explicit denial that God is) and agnosticism (the mealy-mouthed denial that anything at all can be known, as being the “best” way to deny that God is) are false and untenable positions. Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that, at a minimum:
    1) there is a God, who is the Creator;
    1a) he is uncaused and is the cause of all that is not-God;
    2) he is personal (he is not an impersonal “force” or “principle”);
    2a) he is an agent: he knows, and wills, and he acts freely;
    3) he is good;
    3a) the goodness we grasp comes from, and has its meaning in, his character and being;
    4) he intentionally caused/causes “the universe” to be;
    4a) he is “outside” time-and-space;

    Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that even if the specifically Christian doctrines about God were false, atheism always was and always will be false.

  29. 29
    Ilion says:

    EL @ 26:Mung, as a general guiding principle: if you think you know what I’ve said, it’s something else.

    Oh, indeed!

  30. 30
    Mung says:

    Yes, I could ask Dr. Liddle what she means by what she says, but then she would say something else, and then I’d have to ask her what she means by what she says…

    Best to avoid all that and assume she means what she says.

    Then after we point out the meaning of what she has just said, she can deny that she meant it, and assert that we misunderstood.

    I should try that. We all should try that. Think of the meaningless conversations we could have, void of all misunderstanding!

  31. 31
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    rofl

    Someone just told me what Mung was reading when he thought that I held the

    …belief that HGT occurs by breaching the cell membrane was a big clue that you hadn’t read the book.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-394621

    Mung, “walls” in that context, was a metaphor

    it was a response to junkdnaforlife in the post directly above it, using his metaphor.

    So that’s interesting, and confirms an impression I’ve had already, Mung, which is that the reason we find it hard to communicate (or at least you seem to invariably miss my meaning) is that you don’t look at context, and when in doubt you tend to use the most literal interpretation.

    Except when you don’t.

    tbh, it seems to me you use whatever interpretation that presents me in the worst light.

    So if I simply say literally what I mean (Todd is a YEC baraminologist) you think I am deliberately concealing information in order to insult him.

    But if I use a metaphor, you think I am being literal.

    Try reading my post with a more generous spirit.

    It will be good for both our souls.

  32. 32
    avocationist says:

    Ilion,

    I liked your logic sequence, but I have a couple of questions. On 1a, I do not accept that there is anything that is not-God, and in fact it is due to the very same line of reasoning that I know this is so! Just as there cannot fail to be a God and this God cannot fail to be the source/creator, there also cannot exist anything separate from this God, outside of this God, not-from this God.

    2. How do you know he is personal? Because of the will and purpose in the design of things?

    4a – He is inside time and space, too.

    and 3 – He is good.
    Yes, that is so, but this is why I object so strenuously to Christian dogma, and this is why good people often find it abhorrent. The God of Christian dogma can hardly be distinquished from the devil. Which means that the universe is a hell and there’s no way out! No wonder people become atheists…oh, dear, perhaps I have gone too far.

    Perhaps I have, but to me this is the heart of the matter. For nowhere is atheism so common as in the Christian lands and while the people here argue certain points, the one about their emotional choice about God is not often openly addressed as to its true causes.

  33. 33
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilion wrote:

    Yet, what also shouldn’t be overlooked is that we “theists” don’t have to rely on the proposition “God is” as a premise; we can, in fact, derive it as a conclusion of purely ‘natural’ reasoning.

    Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that both atheism (the explicit denial that God is) and agnosticism (the mealy-mouthed denial that anything at all can be known, as being the “best” way to deny that God is) are false and untenable positions. Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that, at a minimum:
    1) there is a God, who is the Creator;
    1a) he is uncaused and is the cause of all that is not-God;
    2) he is personal (he is not an impersonal “force” or “principle”);
    2a) he is an agent: he knows, and wills, and he acts freely;
    3) he is good;
    3a) the goodness we grasp comes from, and has its meaning in, his character and being;
    4) he intentionally caused/causes “the universe” to be;
    4a) he is “outside” time-and-space;

    Reason itself shows any intellectually honest person that even if the specifically Christian doctrines about God were false, atheism always was and always will be false.

    Can you explain how you derive these propositions from reason?

    I am happy to stipulate that at the beginning of all causal chains there must be an uncaused cause, and I am happy to call this uncaused cause “God”.

    But how do I get from 1 an 1a to 2 onwards?

    2) he is personal (he is not an impersonal “force” or “principle”)

    Why?

    2a) he is an agent: he knows, and wills, and he acts freely

    Clearly, by definition he (or she, or whatever) is an agent, if an agent is something that causes something, so that one I can derive, hence my strikeout, but how do we know the agent isn’t as blind as gravity?

    3) he is good

    Unless you define “good” as what God wills, which would make this simply a restatement of (1), how do we derive this?

    3a) the goodness we grasp comes from, and has its meaning in, his character and being

    Why not the other way round? That the goodness we grasp is what we assign to God’s character?

    4) he intentionally caused/causes “the universe” to be

    Why could s/he not have caused the universe unintentionally?

    4a) he is “outside” time-and-space

    Granted.

    See, the thing is, Ilion, contrary to your generalised assumption about atheists, I for one, am perfectly happy to posit an “uncaused cause” as the cause of existence itself, and I’m happy to give it a name, let’s call it theta for now.

    And I’m also prepared to recognise goodness in the world, which is abundant – the spectacle of people willingly laying down their lives, in various ways, for their friends, obeying the Golden Rule etc, and I’ll calll this Good (or even elide the o’s and call it God).

    What I don’t get is the reasoning by which Theta is equated with Good. Sure, Good could not exist without Theta, but then, nor could Evil, and both exist.

    I believe in Theta and I also believe in Good. But I can’t call myself a theist because I don’t see any reason to think they are the same thing.

  34. 34
    nullasalus says:

    And I’m also prepared to recognise goodness in the world,

    And for you, ‘goodness’ is just ‘what you and those who agree with you like and approve of’. You generally huff and talk about how ‘good emerges’ and so on and so forth, but really – for a change let’s skip that and get down to the brass tacks.

    Even a full-blown nihilist can personally like sacrifice or the golden rule. Why, they can even get warm fuzzies now and then. It doesn’t make the nihilism go away, and it doesn’t change what ‘Good’ is, and can only be, given the presumption of materialism.

    I believe in Theta and I also believe in Good. But I can’t call myself a theist because I don’t see any reason to think they are the same thing.

    That doesn’t stop you from calling yourself a theist whenever you feel it’s convenient.

    There are reasons aplenty to be convinced of theism, or at least have enough warrant to reason to theism or design as a conclusion. But really, you’ve said before that you prefer the beliefs you currently have to theism, and that you don’t don’t even consider it possible for you to be wrong about your cutesy pseudo-deity – so asking these questions is disingenuous.

    tbh, it seems to me you use whatever interpretation that presents me in the worst light.

    Consistency is not your strong point, and you do have a habit of obfuscating and playing games with definitions like crazy. I think pretty much everyone in this thread has seen this enough to be both familiar with and tired of it.

  35. 35
    nullasalus says:

    avocationist,

    For nowhere is atheism so common as in the Christian lands and while the people here argue certain points, the one about their emotional choice about God is not often openly addressed as to its true causes.

    What about China? What about North Korea? What about buddhist nations where, though they may believe in lesser Gods, they generally lack a penultimate ‘God’ akin to Christianity? I think you’re wrong on the first claim. And atheism isn’t very common in muslim lands – do you really think that God as muslims perceive Him is ‘less bothersome’ (to put it mildly) than the Christian God?

    I agree about the ’emotional choice’ and the emotional causes completely. I disagree with your estimation of the Christian God, certainly.

    But again, I think you answered your own question. As I and others have said, accept the possibility or even likelihood of God or gods, and you open the door to – you make live options out of – plenty of gods or a God that people hate. And some of that hate isn’t motivated by ‘goodness’.

  36. 36
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Nullasalus:

    And I’m also prepared to recognise goodness in the world,

    And for you, ‘goodness’ is just ‘what you and those who agree with you like and approve of’. You generally huff and talk about how ‘good emerges’ and so on and so forth, but really – for a change let’s skip that and get down to the brass tacks.

    No, for me, “goodness” is exactly what I said it was, essentially the exercise of the golden rule.

    Even a full-blown nihilist can personally like sacrifice or the golden rule. Why, they can even get warm fuzzies now and then. It doesn’t make the nihilism go away, and it doesn’t change what ‘Good’ is, and can only be, given the presumption of materialism.

    I don’t understand your point. What can “good” only be, “given the presumption of materialism”? And, as followup, how does changing that assumption enable us to discern what “good” is?

    This is a serious question, nullasalus, not a rhetorical one: how does a theist discern what good is?

    I believe in Theta and I also believe in Good. But I can’t call myself a theist because I don’t see any reason to think they are the same thing.

    That doesn’t stop you from calling yourself a theist whenever you feel it’s convenient.

    Like when?

    There are reasons aplenty to be convinced of theism, or at least have enough warrant to reason to theism or design as a conclusion. But really, you’ve said before that you prefer the beliefs you currently have to theism, and that you don’t don’t even consider it possible for you to be wrong about your cutesy pseudo-deity – so asking these questions is disingenuous.

    No, it is NOT “disingenuous”, and the repeated implication that my questions, and those of others who disagree with you must be “disingenuous” is, tbh, a cheap response. As for the habit of attributing views to me I do not hold (“you don’t even consider it possible to be wrong”), please just stop it.


    tbh, it seems to me you use whatever interpretation that presents me in the worst light.

    Consistency is not your strong point, and you do have a habit of obfuscating and playing games with definitions like crazy. I think pretty much everyone in this thread has seen this enough to be both familiar with and tired of it.

    And your response makes my point nicely.

  37. 37
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    F/N: as for “playing games with definitions”, from where I’m standing these “games” are simply repeated requests for clarification.

    If you are not clear to me, then I will ask you (or Ilion, or Mung, or kf, or UPD or whoever) to clarify.

    When these requests are met with scoffing, aspersions on my integrity and/or intelligence, instead of the clarification requested, it is intensely irritating, as I’m sure you can imagine.

    I post in good faith; I ask questions in good faith; I assume that others are posting in good faith.

    The least I expect in return is the working assumption that I myself am posting in good faith.

    And from many, here, I get it. From others, not so much.

  38. 38
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    Best to avoid all that and assume she means what she says.

    That would certainly be a good start. Like not reading into my words things that are not there (“membrane” for instance, or some “disingenuous” motive).

    An alert eye for metaphor would probably help as well.

  39. 39
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    OK, a general question for theists:

    How do you know your God is good?
    And, as a followup: How do you know that your god is the True God?

    Nothing disingenuous there, I’d like to know.

  40. 40
    nullasalus says:

    No, for me, “goodness” is exactly what I said it was, essentially the exercise of the golden rule.

    And what makes ‘the golden rule’ good for you?

    Exactly what I said: What you and others who agree with you like and approve of.

    I don’t understand your point. What can “good” only be, “given the presumption of materialism”?

    Again, exactly what I said: Given materialism, “good” is, at best, what individuals personally like and approve of. You “believe in goodness”, but what ‘goodness’ cashes out to – what grounds it, what it ultimately is and can at best be given materialism – is pretty banal.

    Put another way: Jeffrey Dahmer arguably believed in ‘goodness’ too. Why, he just had different standards than you.

    This is a serious question, nullasalus, not a rhetorical one: how does a theist discern what good is?

    Who said anything about theists? An atheist is not necessarily a materialist. As for how a theist discerns what is and is not good, that depends on the type of theist in question – a platonist or neoplatonist will come with different arguments than a thomist, or a divine command theorist, or otherwise.

    But there is a wide variety of possibilities if someone rejects materialism and atheism. If someone accepts materialism and atheism, their options are narrow – and amount to what I said.

    Which you know. That’s why you’d like to change the subject rather than cop to the pretty straightforward consequences for morality given materialism and atheism.

    Like when?

    If you’re going to make me run through the archives, make it worth my while:

    Are you denying you have alternately called yourself a strong atheist, a theist, and a pantheist at various times in this past on this very site? If not, why this bluff?

    No, it is NOT “disingenuous”, and the repeated implication that my questions, and those of others who disagree with you must be “disingenuous” is, tbh, a cheap response.

    And I say it’s a dull game to ask for explanations you have already in advance ruled out accepting. Again, you’ve said flatly before that you prefer your pseudo-deity to theism, and further that you have no ‘faith’ in said pseudo-deity. It cannot be proven wrong.

    Why waste people’s time?

    Nor do I throw out ‘disingenuous’ lightly. I’ve been more than happy to explain arguments and reasoning to people who disagree with me on this site (good God, most people disagree with me here, even the ID proponents), atheists included. Your suggestion that I call others ‘disingenuous’ just for disagreeing with me doesn’t fly.

    No, I’m applying this to you, for reasons you’ve provided for me.

    As for the habit of attributing views to me I do not hold (“you don’t even consider it possible to be wrong”), please just stop it.

    Please stop obfuscating about what you’ve said in the past. You’ve gone on and on giddily about how your pseudo-deity requires no faith, how you prefer it vastly (it ‘gives you everything God did’ and so on) to theism, etc. If you don’t like being called out for your shenanigans, consider not engaging in them to begin with.

    And your response makes my point nicely.

    Of course, Elizabeth. When person after person notices you have a nasty habit of obfuscating, of curiously redefining words like mad, of inconsistency, it’s just a big conspiracy against you. Everyone is just being so darn *mean*. It’s not that you actually have some reasoning problems and some awfully fluffy logic.

    No, it’s all mean people interpreting you uncharitably. Let me guess – you can tell if they were being fair and charitable, because they’d agree with you and wouldn’t be accusing you of anything bad. 😉

  41. 41
    nullasalus says:

    as for “playing games with definitions”, from where I’m standing these “games” are simply repeated requests for clarification.

    And from where I’m standing, they’re alternately sloppy reason, backtracking, or attempts to kick up dust.

    No, we’re not talking here about ‘requests for clarification’. You can insist they are. You can also insist that you are a fried egg. Your insistence doesn’t make either to be the case.

    The least I expect in return is the working assumption that I myself am posting in good faith.

    And I certainly started out with that assumption. After one too many twists of reasoning, bluffs, and sly insults too many, I modified my working assumption. Maybe the problem lies with your track record by now.

  42. 42
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Nullasalus, before I address your latest post, it would be helpful if you could address my question at 39, and I will take your response into account when trying to disabuse you of what I think are mistaken notions in 40.

    Thanks.

  43. 43
    nullasalus says:

    Nullasalus, before I address your latest post, it would be helpful if you could address my question at 39, and I will take your response into account when trying to disabuse you of what I think are mistaken notions in 40.

    Not interested – when you’re faced with a pretty frank and accurate estimation of what morality is and can be given atheism and materialism, you try to shift the discussion so you’re placed in the position of critic, rather than criticized.

    I’ve made my claim about what ‘good’ can be at best given materialism and atheism, and I’ve been very explicit on that front. If you can’t defend ‘goodness’ on materialism and atheism given that, it says a lot about your position.

  44. 44
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Well, I could equally say the same about yours nullasalus 🙂

    But OK, if you don’t want to address my questions I will address your post 40 anyway, and perhaps at the end we will understand each other better.

    However, on a personal note, I will give you my “faith history” as it were. As I have said, a theist for about 50 years – from early childhood onwards. I was raised an Anglican (sang in the church choir at Sunday matins from aged 7 to 11), went to Quaker boarding school, where I attended confirmation classes at a local Anglican church, on the principle that while I found much to admire in Quakerism, it seemed to me somewhat parasitical on the liturgical year maintained by other churches. I was not confirmed, however, because of specific theological concerns (substitutionary atonement to be precise) and became a Quaker instead. On going to college, I started again attending an Anglican church (High Anglican, in fact) and was confirmed, my theological concerns having been at least partly resolved. I later met my husband, a catholic, and a year after our marriage was received into the catholic church, which, give or take a pope, wasn’t any different to the High Anglicanism I’d already bought into.

    There I remained for about thirty years. And would have gladly stayed, had I not come, reluctantly, but cognitively, to a conclusion that made staying untenable.

    So I just wanted to make that clear: I have no vested interest in atheism and would embrace my old God in a heartbeat if I was re-convinced that s/he actually existed.

    So, to your post:

    No, for me, “goodness” is exactly what I said it was, essentially the exercise of the golden rule.

    And what makes ‘the golden rule’ good for you?

    Exactly what I said: What you and others who agree with you like and approve of.

    I consider it “good” because if the rule is kept, everyone benefits. “Everyone benefits” seems to me to be as good a definition of “good” as anything. The word “benefit”, indeed, is derived from the Latin for “makes good” and if everyone benefits then that is more good than only some people benefitting, no? So a rule that, if kept, ensures that everyone benefits must surely be the rule that maximises good?

    Anyway, that’s my reasoning, FWIW.


    I don’t understand your point. What can “good” only be, “given the presumption of materialism”?

    Again, exactly what I said: Given materialism, “good” is, at best, what individuals personally like and approve of. You “believe in goodness”, but what ‘goodness’ cashes out to – what grounds it, what it ultimately is and can at best be given materialism – is pretty banal.

    Well, I disagree, and I’m not clear what role “materialism” is supposed to play here anyway. That’s why I asked you my question about theism. If theists derive their definition of Good from what they think is God Will, then how do they know that they have interpreted God’s Will correctly? It seems to me that they do so by using exactly the same reasoning that I have used above. Even Jesus appealed to our common sense of goodness – obviously it’s good to heal a man on the Sabbath, whatever the scriptures say; ditto pulling your donkey out of a well. “By their fruits ye shall know them”. “Who was neighbour to the man who fell among thieves?”

    If someone does evil in the name of Jesus, then he isn’t doing it in the name of Jesus. Jesus seems to me to appeal to this principle all the time: you know what is good and what is evil, you do not need scribes and pharisees to tell you. Same with atheists. We know too 🙂

    Put another way: Jeffrey Dahmer arguably believed in ‘goodness’ too. Why, he just had different standards than you.

    And that’s why I asked you to give me the derivation of your standard. I just don’t see that theists are any more objective about the standard than we are, and arguably, sometimes, less. Sure you can find lots of biblical justification for your own morality, but equally plenty of biblical justification for what is fairly universally regarded as immoral (slavery, for instance, and genocide). Christians rightly reject these apparent justifications (on the whole) but by what standard to they do so? I’d argue they do so by the perfectly reasonable standard that they do not “benefit everyone”. Quite the reverse: they benefit some at the expense of others.

    This is a serious question, nullasalus, not a rhetorical one: how does a theist discern what good is?

    Who said anything about theists? An atheist is not necessarily a materialist. As for how a theist discerns what is and is not good, that depends on the type of theist in question – a platonist or neoplatonist will come with different arguments than a thomist, or a divine command theorist, or otherwise.

    Exactly. So where is the objective standard that replaces the supposedly subjective materialist one?

    But there is a wide variety of possibilities if someone rejects materialism and atheism. If someone accepts materialism and atheism, their options are narrow – and amount to what I said.

    The narrowing of options seems to me to be an argument in favour of the objectivity of materialism not against. If a rejector of “materialism and atheism” has wider choices about what constitutes “good” than an atheist, doesn’t this make the decision even more subjective?

    Which you know. That’s why you’d like to change the subject rather than cop to the pretty straightforward consequences for morality given materialism and atheism.

    Well I simply disagree with your apparent view of the “consequences”. I’d rather reason my way to goodness than have a choice of scriptural precepts to choose from.

    OK, gotta run, BRB with the rest….

  45. 45
    nullasalus says:

    Well, I could equally say the same about yours nullasalus

    Of course you could. I mean, I haven’t once in this thread said what my view on morality is, I referred to a range of possible views of morality if one rejects materialism and atheism, and none of my criticisms of morality given atheism and materialism hinged on the truth of those particular alternatives or even on the falsity of materialism (my claims could have equally been lodged by a moral nihilist) but sure. You could ‘equally say the same about’ my views. So long as you were just parroting words and had zero concern with accuracy.

    So I just wanted to make that clear: I have no vested interest in atheism and would embrace my old God in a heartbeat if I was re-convinced that s/he actually existed.

    You’ve more than once talked about how your pseudo-God gives you all the warm fuzzies and satisfaction that God gave you, how you’re pleased as punch with this pseudo-God and see nothing (save for that mocking term of ‘pie in the sky when I die’) that theism could give you, and have stated numerous problems you have – some of them personal rather than reason-based – with the God of Christianity.

    But more than that – you just told me that if you were convinced God existed, you’d believe God exists. No duh, Elizabeth.

    I consider it “good” because if the rule is kept, everyone benefits. “Everyone benefits” seems to me to be as good a definition of “good” as anything.

    First, not everyone “benefits” under the Golden Rule. There are tradeoffs involved – some people who follow it stand to gain less than if they ignored it. Others gain more than if they ignored it.

    Second, simply saying ‘well, golly gee, I think the golden rule is just peachy, so I’ll call it good’ simply backs up what I said: What is ‘good’ on atheism and materialism ultimately comes down to what a person likes. If you liked social darwinism – the success of the capable at the expense of the less capable – then social darwinism could just as easily become ‘good’. If you thought, in a Peter Singerian style, that suffocating genetically inferior infants was good (or at least ‘not evil’, that would be good (or ‘not evil’) as well.

    And that’s why I asked you to give me the derivation of your standard. I just don’t see that theists are any more objective about the standard than we are, and arguably, sometimes, less.

    As others have told you before: Morality given atheism and materialism does not become somehow ‘better’ just because you think other systems are flawed. And as I said earlier, my criticisms of what ‘goodness’ can at best be given atheism and materialism do not require my being a theist, or even a non-materialist. A moral nihilist could point out what I’m pointing out, because it’s a question of what the consequences of atheism and materialism are.

    Further, “Arguably, sometimes less”? There is no ‘more objective good’ for your view, because what is ‘good’ is entirely defined by an individual’s preferences. Hence, sure, we can say that Dahmer believed in goodness too – why, he just had different standards.

    So there’s the atheist and materialist morality in a nutshell.

    Jesus seems to me to appeal to this principle all the time: you know what is good and what is evil, you do not need scribes and pharisees to tell you. Same with atheists. We know too

    No, you don’t. For you, good and evil are entirely labels based on personal preference. Again: Dahmer ‘knew what was good and knew what was evil’ as well – he merely had different standards.

    Exactly. So where is the objective standard that replaces the supposedly subjective materialist one?

    Once again, the fact that your sole real argument here is “Well, I bet everyone else’s morality is totally subjective too” simply proves my claim about ‘goodness’ given atheism and materialism, and why I don’t need to bother with any defense of any version of theistic or non-materialist morality – it’s a distraction. Morality and goodness on atheism and materialism is what it is – shorthand for “what I personally like”.

    The narrowing of options seems to me to be an argument in favour of the objectivity of materialism not against. If a rejector of “materialism and atheism” has wider choices about what constitutes “good” than an atheist, doesn’t this make the decision even more subjective?

    No, Elizabeth: there is only one truth. Further, the atheist and materialist has limitless choices in principle about what to call ‘good’ and ‘evil’. He can even change his mind on any given day. For the platonist, for the thomist, for the divine command theorist, for other non-materialists and/or theists, good is far more restricted if their view is correct.

    Well I simply disagree with your apparent view of the “consequences”. I’d rather reason my way to goodness than have a choice of scriptural precepts to choose from.

    Of course you would. And that is, after all, key here – what you’d rather. And by ‘reason your way to goodness’, you don’t mean discover some platonic goodness, or intrinsic teleology, or divine command, or otherwise. You mean “decide on your own what’s good and what’s evil”. I’m sure there’s some appeal to that. A good Singerian could deal with an annoying baby with ease.

  46. 46
    Mung says:

    Can you explain how you derive these propositions from reason?

    Surely, Ilion, you are the first ever to think these thoughts and are the first to ever put these propositions into writing.

  47. 47
    Mung says:

    I love the appeals to Jesus.

    I like some of what he says because I can use it to support what I believe but I reject who he is and the grounds that he had for saying what he said.

    How do you know your God is good?

    He cannot NOT be good.

    What is good and where does it originate?

    How do you know that your god is the True God?

    There can be only ONE true god.

    It’s pretty strange that Elizabeth can grasp the uncaused cause (perhaps because she thinks of it in terms of physics) but doesn’t grasp the implications.

  48. 48
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Nullasalus, continued:

    If you’re going to make me run through the archives, make it worth my while:

    Are you denying you have alternately called yourself a strong atheist, a theist, and a pantheist at various times in this past on this very site? If not, why this bluff?

    I don’t recall calling myself a theist, but if I did, I am pretty sure I would have qualified it very carefully.

    I am a “strong atheist” in the sense that I think there is good evidence that mind requires matter to exist, and that therefore the idea that the “causeless cause” of all existence is a mind is an oxymoron. I therefore think there is actual counter-evidence for the idea of a mind as the cause of existence.

    I am a pantheist in the sense that many of the properties of some traditional god-concepts can be said (IMO) to be true of the universe, including its inhabitants.

    I am only a “theist” in this sense.

    No, it is NOT “disingenuous”, and the repeated implication that my questions, and those of others who disagree with you must be “disingenuous” is, tbh, a cheap response.

    And I say it’s a dull game to ask for explanations you have already in advance ruled out accepting. Again, you’ve said flatly before that you prefer your pseudo-deity to theism, and further that you have no ‘faith’ in said pseudo-deity. It cannot be proven wrong.

    Why waste people’s time?

    Yes, it can be “proven wrong”. That’s its strength, And no, I have ruled out explanations in advance; I have not said so, nor do I. There is a difference between thinking there is no evidence for something (weak atheism) and thinking there is evidence against it (strong atheism). My position is the latter.

    There is also a difference between thinking there is evidence against something (strong atheism) and ruling out counter-argument or evidence.

    I do not rule out counter-argument or evidence. Never have, never will.

    Nor do I throw out ‘disingenuous’ lightly. I’ve been more than happy to explain arguments and reasoning to people who disagree with me on this site (good God, most people disagree with me here, even the ID proponents), atheists included. Your suggestion that I call others ‘disingenuous’ just for disagreeing with me doesn’t fly.

    Perhaps not, but it appears to apply to your labelling of me.

    No, I’m applying this to you, for reasons you’ve provided for me.

    And which, apparently, you have misunderstood, and I hope I have now explained. I trust you will now revise your view.

    As for the habit of attributing views to me I do not hold (“you don’t even consider it possible to be wrong”), please just stop it.

    Please stop obfuscating about what you’ve said in the past. You’ve gone on and on giddily about how your pseudo-deity requires no faith, how you prefer it vastly (it ‘gives you everything God did’ and so on) to theism, etc. If you don’t like being called out for your shenanigans, consider not engaging in them to begin with.

    Please stop dismissing my attempts at clarifying my position as “obfuscating”. I have not “engag[ed] in shenanigans”. You have made a mistake.

    And your response makes my point nicely.

    Of course, Elizabeth. When person after person notices you have a nasty habit of obfuscating, of curiously redefining words like mad, of inconsistency, it’s just a big conspiracy against you. Everyone is just being so darn *mean*. It’s not that you actually have some reasoning problems and some awfully fluffy logic.

    Argument ad populum, eh?

    No, I don’t think people are “just being so darn *mean*”. I do think that some people, including you, are being darn arrogant though.

    It’s perfectly possible that the fluffy logic is mine. It’s also perfectly possible that the fluffy logic is yours. That you refuse to consider that possibility reflects more badly on you than it does on me.

    No, it’s all mean people interpreting you uncharitably. Let me guess – you can tell if they were being fair and charitable, because they’d agree with you and wouldn’t be accusing you of anything bad.

    No. I frequently meet people who profoundly disagree with me yet assume I am arguing in good faith, just as I assume they are.

    Yet again, you attribute views to me I do not hold.

    Now you may not be interested in the views I do actually hold, and that is just fine.

    But please do not ascribe to me different ones, and if I correct your characterisations, please do not assume that it reflects lack of integrity on my part.

    Thank you.

  49. 49
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    I love the appeals to Jesus.

    I like some of what he says because I can use it to support what I believe but I reject who he is and the grounds that he had for saying what he said.

    How do you know your God is good?

    He cannot NOT be good.

    Please explain why not.

    What is good and where does it originate?

    That is what I am asking. I am looking forward to your response.

    How do you know that your god is the True God?

    There can be only ONE true god.

    So how do you know that your god is the ONE?

    It’s pretty strange that Elizabeth can grasp the uncaused cause (perhaps because she thinks of it in terms of physics) but doesn’t grasp the implications.

    Then please spell out what they are.

    geez you guys need to learn some apologetics.

  50. 50
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Nullasalus:

    Well, I could equally say the same about yours nullasalus

    Of course you could. I mean, I haven’t once in this thread said what my view on morality is, I referred to a range of possible views of morality if one rejects materialism and atheism, and none of my criticisms of morality given atheism and materialism hinged on the truth of those particular alternatives or even on the falsity of materialism (my claims could have equally been lodged by a moral nihilist) but sure. You could ‘equally say the same about’ my views. So long as you were just parroting words and had zero concern with accuracy.

    Well, my point, Nullasalus, and the reason I posed the question is that I am unclear as to the point you are making. You seem to be saying that under materialism and atheism, morality is whatever anyone thinks it is. The implication seems to be that under theism, it isn’t. So that’s why I am asking how you derive morality from theism – what makes the morality you derive under theism more objective/reliable or whatever than the morality I derive?

    So I just wanted to make that clear: I have no vested interest in atheism and would embrace my old God in a heartbeat if I was re-convinced that s/he actually existed.

    You’ve more than once talked about how your pseudo-God gives you all the warm fuzzies and satisfaction that God gave you, how you’re pleased as punch with this pseudo-God and see nothing (save for that mocking term of ‘pie in the sky when I die’) that theism could give you, and have stated numerous problems you have – some of them personal rather than reason-based – with the God of Christianity.

    But more than that – you just told me that if you were convinced God existed, you’d believe God exists. No duh, Elizabeth.

    I don’t understand.

    I consider it “good” because if the rule is kept, everyone benefits. “Everyone benefits” seems to me to be as good a definition of “good” as anything.

    First, not everyone “benefits” under the Golden Rule. There are tradeoffs involved – some people who follow it stand to gain less than if they ignored it. Others gain more than if they ignored it.

    I disagree. I would argue that everyone stands to get more in the long term. Selfishness partly deprives others of benefit, but ultimately it also deprives the selfish person. It’s short-termism as well as short-sightedism.

    Second, simply saying ‘well, golly gee, I think the golden rule is just peachy, so I’ll call it good’ simply backs up what I said: What is ‘good’ on atheism and materialism ultimately comes down to what a person likes. If you liked social darwinism – the success of the capable at the expense of the less capable – then social darwinism could just as easily become ‘good’. If you thought, in a Peter Singerian style, that suffocating genetically inferior infants was good (or at least ‘not evil’, that would be good (or ‘not evil’) as well.

    Well, not really, as I think I argued. But let’s say you are right: so how do you derive an objective morality from theism? And don’t say that we aren’t talking about theism! If you are criticising a-theism for not providing an objective moral standard, then you need to show how theism does.

    And that’s why I asked you to give me the derivation of your standard. I just don’t see that theists are any more objective about the standard than we are, and arguably, sometimes, less.

    As others have told you before: Morality given atheism and materialism does not become somehow ‘better’ just because you think other systems are flawed. And as I said earlier, my criticisms of what ‘goodness’ can at best be given atheism and materialism do not require my being a theist, or even a non-materialist. A moral nihilist could point out what I’m pointing out, because it’s a question of what the consequences of atheism and materialism are.
    Further, “Arguably, sometimes less”? There is no ‘more objective good’ for your view, because what is ‘good’ is entirely defined by an individual’s preferences. Hence, sure, we can say that Dahmer believed in goodness too – why, he just had different standards.
    So there’s the atheist and materialist morality in a nutshell.

    I’m not talking about what I think is flawed. You have criticised materialism and atheism because you claim that any morality based on its assumptions must be subjective. To show this is an actual criticism of materialism and atheism and not just a general criticism of the problem of devising an objective moral standard, then you have show how you derive morality from theism.

    Jesus seems to me to appeal to this principle all the time: you know what is good and what is evil, you do not need scribes and pharisees to tell you. Same with atheists. We know too

    No, you don’t. For you, good and evil are entirely labels based on personal preference. Again: Dahmer ‘knew what was good and knew what was evil’ as well – he merely had different standards.

    So, what are yours based on? (Not that I agree that for me “good and evil are entirely labels based on personal preference” – I’d strenuously argue they are not.)

    Exactly. So where is the objective standard that replaces the supposedly subjective materialist one?

    Once again, the fact that your sole real argument here is “Well, I bet everyone else’s morality is totally subjective too” simply proves my claim about ‘goodness’ given atheism and materialism, and why I don’t need to bother with any defense of any version of theistic or non-materialist morality – it’s a distraction. Morality and goodness on atheism and materialism is what it is – shorthand for “what I personally like”.

    No, it is neither a distraction nor a wager, nor even a “proof”. It is merely a question that you seem oddly reluctant to answer! You have asserted that under materialism or atheism, morality is just a matter of personal preference (which seems a bit oxymoronic to me seeing as the Golden Rule is precisely the rule that says that your own personal preference must be deprioritised, but leave that aside for now). So if that isn’t to be just a general comment about the problems of deriving morality, then you need to show, as I’ve said, how theism is different.

    Otherwise it’s a pot calling a kettle incapable of flying.

    The narrowing of options seems to me to be an argument in favour of the objectivity of materialism not against. If a rejector of “materialism and atheism” has wider choices about what constitutes “good” than an atheist, doesn’t this make the decision even more subjective?

    No, Elizabeth: there is only one truth. Further, the atheist and materialist has limitless choices in principle about what to call ‘good’ and ‘evil’. He can even change his mind on any given day. For the platonist, for the thomist, for the divine command theorist, for other non-materialists and/or theists, good is far more restricted if their view is correct.

    So why did you say:

    But there is a wide variety of possibilities if someone rejects materialism and atheism. If someone accepts materialism and atheism, their options are narrow – and amount to what I said.

    These statements seem to me to be directly contradictory. Is there a typo?

    Well I simply disagree with your apparent view of the “consequences”. I’d rather reason my way to goodness than have a choice of scriptural precepts to choose from.

    Of course you would. And that is, after all, key here – what you’d rather. And by ‘reason your way to goodness’, you don’t mean discover some platonic goodness, or intrinsic teleology, or divine command, or otherwise. You mean “decide on your own what’s good and what’s evil”. I’m sure there’s some appeal to that. A good Singerian could deal with an annoying baby with ease.

    So are you claiming, Nullasalus, that your faith is not a matter of choice? Why did you adopt it, rather than, for example, Islam?

    What is it, in other words, about the faith that you hold that makes it self-evidently true?

  51. 51
    Mung says:

    Mung: “What is good and where does it originate?”

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    That is what I am asking.

    No, that isn’t what you’re asking.

    If you were asking that question, you would have answered nullusalus.

    There is no good. Since there is no good, there is no origin for good. The very question, what is the origin of good, is meaningless.

    Good is whatever I want it to be. Therefore good originates with me.

    Your refusal to address yourself to these propositions demonstrates to everyone here that you are not really asking the question, what is good, and where does it originate.

  52. 52
    Ilion says:

    Mung:Surely, Ilion, you are the first ever to think these thoughts and are the first to ever put these propositions into writing.

    No doubt.

    I don’t have time right now to further expand, but most of the propositions I said are conclusions of human reasoning (in contrast to being assertions of Divine Revelation) fall out of the argument I present in this post.

  53. 53
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung, I take it you are a theist, right?

    Can you explain to me, from the vantage point of a theist, what good is?

  54. 54
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    Mung: “What is good and where does it originate?”

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    That is what I am asking.

    No, that isn’t what you’re asking.

    If you were asking that question, you would have answered nullusalus.

    There is no good. Since there is no good, there is no origin for good. The very question, what is the origin of good, is meaningless.

    Good is whatever I want it to be. Therefore good originates with me.

    Your refusal to address yourself to these propositions demonstrates to everyone here that you are not really asking the question, what is good, and where does it originate.

    Actually it was exactly what I was asking, which was why I said so. What happened to assuming I mean what I say?

    Unless I am misunderstanding you, and you are actually claiming that

    There is no good. Since there is no good, there is no origin for good. The very question, what is the origin of good, is meaningless.

    rather than ascribing those positions to me. It’s kinda hard to tell.

    In fact I am a little astonished by the reluctance of any theist on this thread to address the question, other than to say that God is Good (or cannot be other than good) which tells me nothing at all.

    Euryphro said it first, of course.

    But I’m intrigued to how the theists respond. Not at all, so far 🙂

  55. 55
    Ilion says:

    I presume that by ‘good’ EL means morality, or moral goodness.

    The answer is ‘love’ … love is the criterion by which moral goodness is measured.

  56. 56
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    You seem to be saying that under materialism and atheism, morality is whatever anyone thinks it is.

    No, he is saying it is whatever you want it to be.

    And of course, you disagree with him, right?

    Because you know what good is and where it originates, and it’s not just whatever you want it to be, right?

  57. 57
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilion, that is an interesting argument. I think it has a major flaw but it is interesting.

    Thank you for the link.

  58. 58
    PaV says:

    Neil @ {24}:

    Yes, sure. I agree with that. However, your earlier comment particularly mentioned Faraday and Maxwell. But what Faraday and Maxwell did is not close to engineering.

    The point I was making by bringing up Faraday and Maxwell was not that their work was engineering work. Rather, I was countering Wilkin’s point of view, which, as best I can understand it, is that all of science, not just the work of engineers, is the result of trial and error. I illustrated that minus the cognitive dimensions, no science would exist, and, hence, be extension, no ‘applied science’ (engineering) could ever take place. It is the mind that ‘discovers’ science (let’s all remember that science is Latin for ‘knowledge’—who else knows but intelligent beings?) and then ‘applies’ it. It’s application involves, egad, ‘final causes’, that is, teleology; or, as Shapiro put it “functional goals”.

    As best I can tell, Shapiro is pointing out that his use of teleological language is more limited than that used in engineering. Wilkins is not agreeing that there is a difference.

    Is there a quote by Shapiro that you’ve drawn upon in attributing to Shapiro the distinction you see? If there is, I don’t have access to it.

  59. 59
    Neil Rickert says:

    Pav (#58)

    Rather, I was countering Wilkin’s point of view, which, as best I can understand it, is that all of science, not just the work of engineers, is the result of trial and error.

    I’m not sure Wilkins was going that far. However, it’s not an important point. I think we both disagree with Wilkins.

    Is there a quote by Shapiro that you’ve drawn upon …

    I have not read Shapiro’s book, though I have seen some of his papers and watched that video which was linked from UD a few weeks ago. I was just trying to do my best to understand what Wilkins was saying about Shapiro’s book. I’ll readily grant that I might have that wrong.

  60. 60
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    You seem to be saying that under materialism and atheism, morality is whatever anyone thinks it is.

    No, he is saying it is whatever you want it to be.

    And of course, you disagree with him, right?

    Because you know what good is and where it originates, and it’s not just whatever you want it to be, right?

    Well, that’s a little bizarre.

    OK, well, to clarify, no I don’t think that good is whatever I want it to be. I think there’s a case to be made that the Golden Rule is as near to an absolute standard of what most people would regard as goodness as we are likely to get, which is probably why so many cultures have come up with it.

    What I want to know is how you derive an absolute standard of morality from theism. Or any standard, actually.

    I’m not saying you can’t, I would just like to know how you (or any theist) does it.

  61. 61
    junkdnaforlife says:

    “how you derive an absolute standard of morality from theism.”

    Jesus Christ

  62. 62
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    OK, go on, I’m listening.

  63. 63
    junkdnaforlife says:

    You were a Quaker for 50 years and you really need to ask? You know the answers. You just reject them. But that’s fine. What enables you to reject is the very thing that enables others to accept.

  64. 64
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Yes, I need to ask. And no, I wasn’t a Quaker for 50 years.

  65. 65
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Also, I should point out that my question is:

    “How you derive an absolute standard of morality from theism?”

    If your answer depends on a specific conception of God, then obviously, it’s important for you to show how you make an objective judgment about which conception of God, of the many that humankind has proposed, is correct.

  66. 66
    junkdnaforlife says:

    it’s important for you to show how you make an objective judgment about which conception of God, of the many that humankind has proposed”

    The resurrection of Jesus Christ. Based on the historical method as applied to Gospels via adverse witness, criterion of embarrassment, oral tradition, primary and secondary sources, non-biblical sources, eyewitness testimony, historical impact etc, archeological discoveries, including the scientific method as applied to the Shroud of Turin, the explosion of the Church, and most importantly, reasonable and rational faith.

  67. 67
    Mung says:

    Mung: What is good and where does it originate?”

    Elizabeth Liddle: That is what I am asking.

    Mung: No, that isn’t what you’re asking.

    Elizabeth Liddle: Actually it was exactly what I was asking, which was why I said so. What happened to assuming I mean what I say?

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    I should point out that my question is:

    How you derive an absolute standard of morality from theism?

    See. Told you.

    Elizabeth Liddle: OK, well, to clarify, no I don’t think that good is whatever I want it to be.

    Isn’t that what I said?

    Mung: No, he [nullasalus] is saying it [good] is whatever you [Elizabeth Liddle] want it to be.

    And of course, you [Elizabeth Liddle] disagree with him, right?

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    …no I don’t think that good is whatever I want it to be.

    So someone else decides for you what is good, and that just happens to coincide with what you want?

    You say:

    I think there’s a case to be made that the Golden Rule is as near to an absolute standard of what most people would regard as goodness as we are likely to get, which is probably why so many cultures have come up with it.

    So the more people that agree about a thing the closer it becomes to an absolute standard?

    The democratization of the good.

    Or are you measuring the Golden Rule against an absolute standard and saying it comes close?

  68. 68
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    junkdnaforlife:

    The resurrection of Jesus Christ. Based on the historical method as applied to Gospels via adverse witness, criterion of embarrassment, oral tradition, primary and secondary sources, non-biblical sources, eyewitness testimony, historical impact etc, archeological discoveries, including the scientific method as applied to the Shroud of Turin, the explosion of the Church,

    Fair enough, and thanks. I don’t myself find those persuasive, but I agree that if I did find it persuasive, I would probably listen to what Jesus had to say. Actually, I do anyway, because I think it most of it makes a lot of sense. And I did find the Shroud of Turin persuasive for quite a while!

    and most importantly, reasonable and rational faith.

    Not sure about this part as and “and” but I guess given the foregoing, yes, reasonable and rational.

    Thanks again.

  69. 69
    StephenB says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    “Why?” (cannot God or the first cause be an immaterial force).

    Something eternal must be responsible for the beginning of the temporal universe. If that eternal something is a personal agent, which possesses the power of choice, then the explanation makes sense. A self existent, eternal, personal creator chose to create the universe, complete with matter, space, and time, all of which depend on the personal, self-existent being that created them.

    If that eternal something is a non-personal force, which by definition is deterministic and mechanistic, it can do only what it does and nothing else. A force, principle, or law, whether temporal or eternal, cannot morph into something other than what it is. That means that an eternal, impersonal force or law cannot change its nature by choosing to introduce time, create other laws, or fashion a law-governed universe.

  70. 70
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    StephenB:

    Thank you for youre response.

    Something eternal must be responsible for the beginning of the temporal universe.

    Unless existence is spontaneous, yes. And depending what you mean by “eternal” – non-time-bound, I guess. OK.

    If that eternal something is a personal agent, which possesses the power of choice, then the explanation makes sense. A self existent, eternal, personal creator chose to create the universe, complete with matter, space, and time, all of which depend on the personal, self-existent being that created them.

    If that eternal something is a non-personal force, which by definition is deterministic and mechanistic, it can do only what it does and nothing else. A force, principle, or law, whether temporal or eternal, cannot morph into something other than what it is. That means that an eternal, impersonal force or law cannot change its nature by choosing to introduce time, create other laws, or fashion a law-governed universe.

    hmmm.

    I don’t think that really works. You are saying that unless the eternal thing is personal, it cannot do anything except be eternal, so it cannot make something temporal?

    Why not? What if the “eternal thing” were simply the instabilty of zero dimensional existence?

    I guess the reason I don’t find the argument persuasive is that I think that “choosing” is a property of material objects – brains, for instance, but also other systems that act as filters, taking in input and producing sorted output.

    So it seems more likely to me (and, interestingly, in accord with the old idea that God is “simple”) that the [] (place holder for the reason there is something rather than nothing) is a intrinsic property of existence rather than a choosing mind.

    Still, interesting thought. To me, it always comes back to the nature of mind (which is why I found Ilion’s article interesting – to some extent I agree he raises the key question).

    That’s leaving aside the evidence for the divine nature of Jesus, of course. Which, if I found persuasive, would probably trump the other stuff. But I don’t.

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    —Liz: “I don’t think that really works. You are saying that unless the eternal thing is personal, it cannot do anything except be eternal, so it cannot make something temporal?

    No, I wasn’t saying that at all. A non-personal force or law, which by definition is deterministic and mechanistic, can do only what it does and nothing else; it cannot change its nature by first being a non-creator and then choosing to become a creator. An eternal, unchanging law either always creates universes or it never creates universes.

    If the non-personal force is, and always was, creating universes, then the universes (or universe) it creates must also be eternal and cannot, therefore, begin to exist. If it is never creating, well, then, obviously it can’t create the universe. This follows as surely as the night follows the day. From these considerations it is clear that only a personal agent who can choose to create or not create can create a universe that begins in time.

  72. 72
    nullasalus says:

    I don’t recall calling myself a theist, but if I did, I am pretty sure I would have qualified it very carefully.

    If by that you mean you casually play fast and loose with definitions and say ‘Well in a certain way I’m a theist!’, sure. Your view of careful qualification is a sight to behold.

    Yes, it can be “proven wrong”. That’s its strength, And no, I have ruled out explanations in advance; I have not said so, nor do I.

    And in the past you’ve alternately said that your pseudo-god requires no faith because you know it exists, and that it’s not a belief but rather an orientation. Now it’s that your pseudo-god can be proven wrong.

    Take your pick.

    Perhaps not, but it appears to apply to your labelling of me.

    Sadly, no.

    And which, apparently, you have misunderstood, and I hope I have now explained. I trust you will now revise your view.

    No, I see no reason to revise my view as I’ve explained above. But feel free to start correcting your patterns and habits on this front.

    Please stop dismissing my attempts at clarifying my position as “obfuscating”. I have not “engag[ed] in shenanigans”. You have made a mistake.

    Please stop insisting that whenever you’re caught blowing smoke, playing fast and loose with definitions, and otherwise that it’s just ‘clarifying your position’. It’s tiring.

    It’s perfectly possible that the fluffy logic is mine. It’s also perfectly possible that the fluffy logic is yours. That you refuse to consider that possibility reflects more badly on you than it does on me.

    And we’re back to this old routine. We have a disagreement, and darnit, I’m the bad guy because I think I’m right and that the evidence supports my view. Nowhere did I say I’m incapable of being mistaken. The mere possibility doesn’t do much here.

    You really should learn this lesson.

    But please do not ascribe to me different ones, and if I correct your characterisations, please do not assume that it reflects lack of integrity on my part.

    I don’t ‘assume’ anything but give the benefit of the doubt at the start of an interaction. Over time, after track records get established and evidence accumulates, this can change in various directions. You play the game where if I don’t perpetually assume the absolute best of you, regardless of your past behavior or reasoning, that I’m being mean or unfair.

    No, I’m not going to watch you bluff, blow smoke, casually redefine things, or generally engage in poor reasoning repeatedly and then act as if it never happened.

    You seem to be saying that under materialism and atheism, morality is whatever anyone thinks it is. The implication seems to be that under theism, it isn’t.

    Considering I’ve said more than once that nothing in my criticism relies on theism, this doesn’t hold. A materialist and an atheist could point out what I’m pointing out. Some do.

    I don’t understand.

    I thought I made it pretty clear, so what you don’t understand is something I don’t understand.

    I would argue that everyone stands to get more in the long term. Selfishness partly deprives others of benefit, but ultimately it also deprives the selfish person. It’s short-termism as well as short-sightedism.

    That’s a nice bumper-sticker idea, but it’s trivial to imagine situations where a person will personally benefit more long-term if they’re selfish either in the short-term or long-term. Better yet, under atheism and materialism ‘benefit’ itself is just another word for ‘get what I and/or others want and like’.

    You’re saying that being selfish is wrong in large part because it doesn’t maximize a person’s own benefits. But the easy reply here is “But that’s a strategic criticism. If the strategic criticism is flawed – if an individual would benefit more by acting selfish, or exploiting others, then that alone provides all the reason necessary to engage in those acts.”

    Well, not really, as I think I argued. But let’s say you are right: so how do you derive an objective morality from theism? And don’t say that we aren’t talking about theism! If you are criticising a-theism for not providing an objective moral standard, then you need to show how theism does.

    I think it’s funny, and so damn telling, that you keep stamping your feet and insisting I defend theism – even though I A) Based none of my criticisms on theism, B) Expressly drew a difference between atheism and materialism, C) Have pointed out that what I’m pointing out could be pointed out by an atheist materialist, and in fact has been in the past.

    Thank you, but I’ll continue to stick to the topic. The fact that you really, really don’t want to spend your time on defense for morality given atheism and materialism says quite a lot.

    You have asserted that under materialism or atheism, morality is just a matter of personal preference (which seems a bit oxymoronic to me seeing as the Golden Rule is precisely the rule that says that your own personal preference must be deprioritised, but leave that aside for now). So if that isn’t to be just a general comment about the problems of deriving morality, then you need to show, as I’ve said, how theism is different.

    First, you yourself have reframed the Golden Rule as that which prioritizes your own best interests in the long term anyway – so double up on the irony.

    Second, once again, I don’t need to show how theistic morality is different – because at no point have I relied on theism or even immaterialism to make the arguments I’m making. I’ve been content with examining what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ can be, at best, given atheism and materialism. I’ve expressly said that a moral nihilist, or an atheist materialist, could lodge the criticisms I’m making.

    Given that you’re left with ‘I want to criticize other metaphysics and moralities!’ as the only card in your hand, it’s becoming pretty clear that you’re copping to my criticisms of morality on atheism and materialism. In the end, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are statements about our personal likes and dislikes, and those of others, at any given moment.

    Huff, puff, insist no one else can do any better. But hey, admit that much.

    These statements seem to me to be directly contradictory. Is there a typo?

    No, it’s you having trouble reasoning again. I mentioned the spread of possible answers to the morality question if one abandons atheism and/or theism. That does not at all commit me to saying ‘All of those are true at the same time!’ or other such nonsense.

    C’mon, this is just weak.

    So are you claiming, Nullasalus, that your faith is not a matter of choice? Why did you adopt it, rather than, for example, Islam?

    What is it, in other words, about the faith that you hold that makes it self-evidently true?

    And once again, you bring up a red herring. My faith, whatever it is, has nothing to do with this subject. I have at no point relied on it to point out what I’ve pointed out. That you repeatedly are diving for this is just so damn instructive.

    Make my faith, whatever it is, false. Make every faith in the world false. My points about atheism and materialism on the topic of goodness and morality still stand.

  73. 73
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Unless existence is spontaneous, yes.

    Let’s not forget that this person [EL] is confused about nothingness.

    She thinks that nothingness may be unstable. In other words, that nothingness has attributes and properties.

    What a silly person.

  74. 74
    Mung says:

    nullasalus:

    Given that you’re left with ‘I want to criticize other metaphysics and moralities!’ as the only card in your hand, it’s becoming pretty clear that you’re copping to my criticisms of morality on atheism and materialism. In the end, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are statements about our personal likes and dislikes, and those of others, at any given moment.

    Why look closely at what you’re adopting when you can criticize what you think you left behind in order to provide the needed rationalization?

  75. 75
    Ilion says:

    EL @ 57:Ilion, that is an interesting argument. I think it has a major flaw but it is interesting.

    Oh, don’t be silly! I wouldn’t going around linking to an argument which says that each human being is the proof that God is if there were a flaw in it.

  76. 76
    Mung says:

    But Ilion, there are no human beings.

    Humans beings are a myth, invented by apes who wished to become godlike.

  77. 77
    Mung says:

    And of course there is a flaw in it.

    Somewhere.

    It will be exposed.

    In time.

    Just not by me.

  78. 78
    Ilion says:

    The “flaw” is always that the conclusion is unwelcome.

  79. 79
    Ilion says:

    Mung @ 73:She thinks that nothingness may be unstable. In other words, that nothingness has attributes and properties.

    Which is another way of asserting that ‘nothing’ is ‘something’; that is, her “explanations” require a self-contradiction.

  80. 80
    Ilion says:

    EL:I don’t understand.
    Nullasalus @ 72:I thought I made it pretty clear, so what you don’t understand is something I don’t understand.

    Ah! You’re catching on to this passive-aggressive variation of “Deny-and-Demand” — in “vanilla” “Deny-and-Demand”, the person who wishes to muddy the waters simply denies the argument he has been given, and demands another. This works because most people (unlike me) are too “nice” or “polite” to demand that the obfuscator stop his intellectual dishonesty, or because most people don’t even recognize what is going on.

    In the passive-aggressive variation of “Deny-and-Demand”, the person who wishes to muddy the waters simply continuously pleads that “I don’t understand” … without ever saying *what* is unclear to him, and without ever making any attempt on his own to work through the (alleged) non-understanding. This tactic works because the “nice” person *wants* to be helpful, and *wants* the other to understand whatever it is, and so he keeps flailing around, trying to overcome a “misunderstanding” that is never identified. Then, after he tires of the game, the obfuscator may say something like, “Well, since it can’t be explained, it must not be worth my time.”

  81. 81
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus,

    It’s true that Buddhism does not teach about a personal God. Buddhism is very, very different as religions go. It is all about direct experience of reality and cutting dogmas. Contrary to what people think, it does not deny God but considers the question better pursued after enlightenment than before.
    So the matter for them would be comparable to not believing in reincarnation, because of soullessness, as western atheists believe.

    As to atheist muslims, they better keep their mouths shut! So far as I know, the Koranic Allah is similar to Jehovah in odiousness, but I am not sure.

    “But again, I think you answered your own question. As I and others have said, accept the possibility or even likelihood of God or gods, and you open the door to – you make live options out of – plenty of gods or a God that people hate. And some of that hate isn’t motivated by ‘goodness’.”

    The problem as I see it is that when these issues are brought up one meets with a wall of smug denial, and an almost glee, that many perfectly decent members of humanity find their God abhorrent. There is no real attempt at honest dialog. One can just write them all off as being bad. And yet they are not.
    Thomas Paine said it well when he said that to accept the God (mostly of the OT) as true, he would have to lose everything within himself that was compassionate and sympathetic, and that alone was valid grounds to reject it. And yet he believed in a benevolent deity.

    Many times I have seen here the assertion that atheists abhor the Christian God, but I don’t see anything other than denial and bluster as to why. Why not examine it? Why are you so certain that yours is the morally superior position? How is your belief system not circular if not amenable to examination?

    When I say “you” I do not mean to single you out personally; these are questions I have.

  82. 82
    avocationist says:

    Lizzie:

    “How do you know your God is good?
    And, as a followup: How do you know that your god is the True God?”

    I think #1 is a good question because I have never thought of it as a logic question. I know God is good only through personal revelation. Sorry!

    But perhaps if we look at the cosmos and realize that nongoodness is always alied with death and failure…or perhaps God is automatically good because God is everything and therefore loves everything just as you love yourself.

    My God is the true God because there can only be one – it is in my conception of God that I may fall short of the truth, indeed we are all merely strivers after truth, a situation that may continually improve, one hopes!

  83. 83
    nullasalus says:

    avocationist,

    It’s true that Buddhism does not teach about a personal God. Buddhism is very, very different as religions go. It is all about direct experience of reality and cutting dogmas.

    You know, I hear that a lot, but whenever I’ve read into buddhism it’s never been borne out. Not that it’s bad to have dogma, or beliefs, or a metaphysical system, but I think the ‘direct experience and cutting dogmas’ line is a claim that just doesn’t stand up.

    Either way, I only brought up buddhism since it’s still a good example to ‘christian’ countries having a lock on atheists.

    As to atheist muslims, they better keep their mouths shut!

    Feel free to throw a question mark over the muslim nations then, but it’s a lose/lose for the claim in question I think.

    The problem as I see it is that when these issues are brought up one meets with a wall of smug denial, and an almost glee, that many perfectly decent members of humanity find their God abhorrent.

    I don’t think it’s glee. It’s simply evidence of a motive that is alternately glossed over or flat-out denied.

    Why not examine it?

    I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that it goes unexamined. Maybe not often enough, but that debate does take place. What doesn’t take place nearly as much is the concession that many atheists are motivated by a dislike of God, or of particular religions. That’s one reason why Thomas Nagel’s quote gets so much airtime – because that sort of frankness is pretty rare. Even when someone admits they hate this God, the idea of it being a motivating factor gets dodged or denied often in my experience.

  84. 84
    avocationist says:

    On Goodness.

    “I consider it “good” because if the rule is kept, everyone benefits. “Everyone benefits” seems to me to be as good a definition of “good” as anything. The word “benefit”, indeed, is derived from the Latin for “makes good” and if everyone benefits then that is more good than only some people benefiting, no?”

    This is a fine definition, and what I like about it is that it emphasizes one’s fellow man, which I often think is neglected by the religious, despite it’s very strong scriptural support, in favor or pleasing God.

    Now the religious may be right that materialism offers no real right and wrong, but that does not mean that humanity isn’t very confused on this issue as Isaiah points out, calling darkness light and light darkness.

  85. 85
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus,

    “For the platonist, for the thomist, for the divine command theorist, for other non-materialists and/or theists, good is far more restricted if their view is correct.”

    Here’s the problem. People follow different authors, philosophers, interpreters of their chosen belief system, and in fact they often switch within their lifetimes.

    These people have all made choices for personal or intellectual reasons. And the person who has to follow a command to be good is not a good person. And you can have the law of God written in your heart regardless of any belief system.

    I do realize that my last two posts here are slightly off topic in that they discuss problems with discernment of the good, and not the lack of any true basis for morality in a materialist world, although even there I think I could make one.

  86. 86
    nullasalus says:

    avocationist,

    These people have all made choices for personal or intellectual reasons. And the person who has to follow a command to be good is not a good person. And you can have the law of God written in your heart regardless of any belief system.

    No doubt you can. But for the purposes of the discussion, I’m taking materialism and atheism as true and pointing out what remains given them.

    As for being able to base ‘morality’ on something given atheism and materialism (the conjunction is key), sure you can. I’m pointing out what’s available to manage that, and what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is in the end. I suppose you can argue that if morality is based on one’s personal likes and dislikes, that it’s still ‘based on something’. But hey, at that point I’m simply pointing out what it’s based on.

  87. 87
    avocationist says:

    Elizabeth,

    “I am a “strong atheist” in the sense that I think there is good evidence that mind requires matter to exist, and that therefore the idea that the “causeless cause” of all existence is a mind is an oxymoron. I therefore think there is actual counter-evidence for the idea of a mind as the cause of existence.”

    This touches closely upon something that I think about a lot and might lead toward a solution for you. And that is “What is existence?” When we speak of spiritual things and mind, we say it is nonmaterial. And yet, what can that mean? To me, there is only existence versus nothingness. And something, like God, which can influence matter, and even a human mind with an emotional thought, greatly influences the body, must therefore have something material about it or it could not “touch” material things. So I think that everything in existence, including mind, souls, and God, have some sort of actual existence, however fine and small. Most likely some form of energy.
    So it is possible that – not matter as we know it but matter in potentia – has always existed with God.

  88. 88
    avocationist says:

    Ilion,

    I checked your link but I did not see anything related to my questions @32 about your logic sequence.

    Now, you say love is that standard for morality. Very good. But this is precisely the problem I have with Christian dogma, that it falls so woefully short of that standard. Jesus, it seems to me, attempted an overhaul of the bronze age god and its morality by introducing the true God and a system of moral perfection by which we could come close to God.

    Instead, the die hards took all available scriptures and put them together and voted to call them divinely inspired, leaving people in a state of utter confusion, because the personage who goes by the name of Jehovah is immoral by any standard of human morality and justice. Never mind love. And even though we know that the gift of our intellect and reason is the greatest gift we have as human beings, and our conscience is supposed to be very fine, it is repelled by the actions and words of this being Jehovah and is frightened into compliance when it so rebels, rendering the human moral faculty inert, spinning like a boat with one, torn sail.

    We have for example the exposition on the nature of love in Corinthians, and we have a fearsome God who lives up to none of it. And we are told that if God does it, it is OK, even though we are the weak ones who need guidance, and the behavior of God is exactly like a tyrant if he were human.

    So it is a lack of real guidance and mental and emotional abuse of mankind.

    It keeps people in a state of moral immaturity, because they have no clear stream of teaching and are afraid to rely on their own soul’s guidance.

  89. 89
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus,

    Supposedly, a monk asked Buddha, “what about God”? and he was told, get enlightened before worrying about it.

    “I don’t think it’s glee. It’s simply evidence of a motive that is alternately glossed over or flat-out denied.”

    This is just what I’m complaining abut. If you are locked into a circular belief system, you have no choice but to ascribe evil motives to those who reject the Christian God.

    “What doesn’t take place nearly as much is the concession that many atheists are motivated by a dislike of God, or of particular religions. ”

    No, on the contrary, they admit publicly all the time. What I don’t see is a Christian saying gee, why would an amiable and kind man like Charles Darwinn say no decent person would want Christianity to be true?

    How can it be that millions of people reject my God on grounds of morality if my God is True, All Good, and is Love?
    I’d like to see Thomas Nagel’s quote.

    Perhaps I had better ask you what you mean by a nonmaterialist atheist.

  90. 90
    nullasalus says:

    avocationist,

    No, on the contrary, they admit publicly all the time. What I don’t see is a Christian saying gee, why would an amiable and kind man like Charles Darwinn say no decent person would want Christianity to be true?

    I think they publicly admit they hate the idea of the Christian God, but copping to admitting that that’s a motivation for their atheism is flatly denied. I’ve also seen numerous atheists insist that they don’t ‘hate God’ because ‘you can’t hate something you don’t think exists’, and going on to suggest that their thoughts about the Christian God in that sense could therefore not play a role in their atheism.

    But, hey. My experience.

    I’d like to see Thomas Nagel’s quote.

    “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)””

    Perhaps I had better ask you what you mean by a nonmaterialist atheist.

    Many/most buddhists would arguably qualify at least in an agnostic sense, potentially more. Or an atheist platonist.

  91. 91
    junkdnaforlife says:

    “but copping to admitting that that’s a motivation for their atheism is flatly denied”

    The greatest evidence that an atheist hates God, and further that this is the driving force behind their atheism is the bitter epic combat they spend the rest of their lives engaged in with the theism they abandoned that militarizes at the very moment of abandonment.

    It appears “free” is not so free after all.

  92. 92
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilion:

    EL @ 57: “Ilion, that is an interesting argument. I think it has a major flaw but it is interesting.”

    Oh, don’t be silly! I wouldn’t going around linking to an argument which says that each human being is the proof that God is if there were a flaw in it.

    That actually made me laugh 🙂

  93. 93
    Ilion says:

    EL:That actually made me laugh 🙂

    Well, good. Now, if I may tongue-in-cheek echo something you say quite a bit: “Identify, or retract.”

  94. 94
    Ilion says:

    avocationist @ 88:I checked your link but I did not see anything related to my questions @32 about your logic sequence.

    Really? How interesting.

    I haven’t yet decided whether to comment upon your post # 32 — partly because I really shouldn’t be spending even as much time as I have been commenting on UD, and partly because I really don’t enjoy being critical … and any evaluation I made of post # 32 would be highly critical.

  95. 95
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    StephenB

    No, I wasn’t saying that at all. A non-personal force or law, which by definition is deterministic and mechanistic, can do only what it does and nothing else; it cannot change its nature by first being a non-creator and then choosing to become a creator. An eternal, unchanging law either always creates universes or it never creates universes.

    OK,thanks.

    But it still doesn’t really work for me as an argument, for two reasons. One is that some forces, it seems, are intrinsically stochastic – you can say, with a high degree of confidence, how likely they are to do something, but not whether they will. Which was the surprising result of quantum mechanics, which could, of course, still be wrong (and at least one theoretical physicist seems to say possibly). But I won’t go there any further because I am certainly no physicist! It just seems to me that determinism is not a given, and quantum mechanics says no.

    But even were I to stipulate determinism as a given, my second objection would still hold,and it is the reason why I consider the dismissal of materialism as “reductionism” as fallacious: things can, and usually do, have properties that are not the properties of their parts. This is because the way a whole behaves depends on the interactions of its parts, in other words, on contingencies between them. And so we can build entirely mechanical computers that will take complex input and produce precise verifiable predictions (weather forecasting computers, for instance) and will even feed back the results of those predictions as input into the system so that the system becomes better and better at predicting. In a perfectly real sense, I would argue, then, that mechanical computers, though assembled from non-creative parts, are themselves creators – deciders, in fact, their decisions informed not only by multiple sources of information, but also from past experience.

    That is why I think that describing materialism as “reductionism” is very misleading, and leads to the fallacious inference that because an entity (a mind, for instance) can be accounted for in terms of simple mechanics, therefore it has no properties that transcend those of simple mechanics. In other words, to assume that because a whole consists of a system of parts that the system can be “reduced” to the parts. It can’t be – if you “reduce” it to a part inventory you leave out the bit – the system itself – on which the properties possessed by the whole depend! Unless you want to call systems “immaterial”, which in a sense they are, in which case materialists shouldn’t call themselves materialists unless they deny the existence of systems, which not a single one, to my knowledge, does.

    If the non-personal force is, and always was, creating universes, then the universes (or universe) it creates must also be eternal and cannot, therefore, begin to exist. If it is never creating, well, then, obviously it can’t create the universe. This follows as surely as the night follows the day. From these considerations it is clear that only a personal agent who can choose to create or not create can create a universe that begins in time.

    I’m not sure what we can say, with certainty, what the properties of an “eternal” force is. How would one begin to find out? I certainly don’t think one could deduce the answer “as night follows the day”. After all, your very terms “always” and “never” are temporal terms. What would it mean for an “eternal” force to be “always” doing something or “never” doing it?

    And why not (this is a serious question) just remove the superfluous [] term?

    http://www.raige.net/pictures/images/sig_occam.gif

    It doesn’t seem to be doing anything 🙂 It certainly doesn’t seem to be telling me what Good is.

    So far, in this thread, the only person that seems to have made that connection is junkdnaforlife 🙂

  96. 96
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilion:

    Well, good. Now, if I may tongue-in-cheek echo something you say quite a bit: “Identify, or retract.”

    Fair enough. But I’ll do it on my blog.

  97. 97
    Ilion says:

    Fair enough. But I’ll do it on my blog.

    Would you be so kind as to post a link to it as a comment to the original item om my blog? After all, if you really have found a flaw in it and you never tell me about it, I’ll never know what it is.

  98. 98
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Of course 🙂

  99. 99
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    nullasalus: I think you need to distinguish between “belief in” and “worship”.

    It comes back to Euryphro’s dilemma in a way.

    I certainly don’t want the God of the Old Testament to exist, but that’s not in itself a motivation for not believing in him (seems to be a him).

    I don’t believe in him because there is no good evidence.

    If there was good evidence, I’d be appalled, but I guess I’d believe in him.

    But I still wouldn’t worship him.

    Even if you told me that he had the power to dictate what is good and what is evil, and make me burn in hell forever if I disagreed.

    So I’m with avocationist on this.

    That’s why I still think that junkdnaforlife has the only persuasive argument – that the miraculous events of Jesus’s life tell us that he had a hotline of some sort to the creator of the universe, and can be therefore be relied on to tell us what God thinks.

    And, on the whole, that seems pretty good, If True. But had he told us very different stuff (like some of the stuff Jehovah allegedly told Moses) then it wouldn’t matter how good the evidence was for his authenticity, I still wouldn’t worship him.

    In other words, the reason I like Jesus is because he says good things; I don’t think Jesus says good things because he is God, and if he said bad things, and still seemed to be God, then I wouldn’t be a Christian, merely a “believer”.

    Just as I believe in Hitler but don’t worship him.

  100. 100
    suckerspawn says:

    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

    Was this a good saying?

    Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I am.”

    Was this a good saying?

  101. 101
    Ilion says:

    EL:Of course 🙂

    Nevertheless, you’re mistaken about having found a flaw. I guarantee it.

  102. 102
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus,

    “But, hey. My experience.”

    Yes, and I’m not doubting it, but my experience is that they are up front about it quite frequently. As to not wanting any kind of God, that puzzles me but I suspect that many people simply do not pursue the question much past their conception of God, which is negative and Judeo Christian.

    In other words, it does not occur to their problem is with man and not God.

    Who was that famous atheist who became a deist upon hearing ID arguments? He admitted he was turned off to God by Thomas Aquinas’ statement that we would see and enjoy the sufferings of those in hell. And he keeps the Christian God at arms length!

    Alright then, suppose you are a nonmaterialist atheist. What basis for morality could you have? Because if this means a reincarnating consciousness, then I think we might have something.

    junkdna–

    “The greatest evidence that an atheist hates God, ”

    Hatred of God, if possible at all, would be rare but people could far more commonly hate a false caricature of God.
    I do not think Dawkins actually hates God. He hates the negative aspect of religion. Nor did the professor mentioned above hate God. He hated what a revered doctor of the church said about God. He hated cruelty and uncompassion.

  103. 103
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus:

    “As for being able to base ‘morality’ on something given atheism and materialism (the conjunction is key), sure you can. I’m pointing out what’s available to manage that, and what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is in the end. I suppose you can argue that if morality is based on one’s personal likes and dislikes, that it’s still ‘based on something’. But hey, at that point I’m simply pointing out what it’s based on.”

    The crux of morality, as Elizabeth stated, is a matter of selfishness or not. When one takes pleasure in hurting others or uses force or intimidation or trickery to take advantage for oneself at their expense, this is selfishness. Another way to state it is that one regards only the self as “real” and deserving. It’s opposite is compassion, in which one “sees” the other and feels their discomfort, and takes joy in their happiness, such that one prefers to share rather than watch them undergo deprivation.

    So morality is a matter of how expanded or contracted one’s sensitivity to “self” is.

    In a Darwinist system, development and biological life are the only game in town. So life and all that keeps death at bay would be the good. It is possible to extrapolate that pure selfishness causes pain and and general malaise, and that sharing brings happiness to all. But that’s as far as I can go because I can’t see this being expanded beyond one’s tribe. Because in a Darwinist system it makes sense to wipe them out.

  104. 104
    StephenB says:

    —Liz: —-“But it still doesn’t really work for me as an argument, for two reasons.” [The argument that a non-personal force cannot cause a universe to begin to exist]

    —“One is that some forces, it seems, are intrinsically stochastic – you can say, with a high degree of confidence, how likely they are to do something, but not whether they will. Which was the surprising result of quantum mechanics, which could, of course, still be wrong (and at least one theoretical physicist seems to say possibly). But I won’t go there any further because I am certainly no physicist! It just seems to me that determinism is not a given, and quantum mechanics says no.”

    Liz, some of my most bizarre discussions with Darwinists relate to the first principles of right reason, especially the law of causality. When I explain to them that the law of causality is a non-negotiable prerequisite for any rational discussion, and that this principle also applies to science—especially to quantum mechanics—they object on the grounds that “micro” events are “different” from “macro” events, and because of that difference, only the latter category is subject to reason’s rules. The discussions are always entertaining because [a] it becomes apparent that they have never even heard of reason’s rules and [b] it only takes them a sentence or two to make the claim that the beginning of the universe could have been something similar to a quantum event, which completely invalidates their earlier claim the micro events are subject to different rational standards than macro events.

    Quantum mechanics is vitally important as a way of studying how matter behaves, but it has nothing at all to say about the law of causality: It simply follows that law. Quantum events may be unpredictable, but they are not uncaused. There is no such thing as an uncaused event. Indeed, it was through his understanding and acceptance of the law of causality that Heisenberg was able to develop his uncertainty principle. Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence. The principles of quantum mechanics could not have been conceived except through a rational interpretation of evidence, which is possible only if one accepts the law of causality and the law of non-contradiction as the rational starting point.

    Most people accept as a scientific fact that the universe began to exist. Building on that fact, reason confirms other truths for which no scientific verification is needed. As en example, we can know that a non-programmed, unchanging, non-creating physical law cannot morph into a creative force. It is, by definition, deterministic. It if isn’t deterministic, then it isn’t an un-programmed, unchanging, non-creating force; it is something else—perhaps a programmed process that goes through a maturation process. If it is a programmed process, then someone programmed it. “Forces” or laws cannot program anything; they just do what they do without variation. A thing cannot be what it is and also be something else.

    Reason’s rules allow us to know many things without scientific verification. Rational people do not need a physicist’s reassurance to be confident that a cement wall cannot just pop up in front of a moving car without a cause. We know that such a thing cannot happen– just as we know that the streets will not get wet unless it rains or else something else causes it to happen—just as we know that Jupiter cannot both exist and not exist at the same time.

    —“But even were I to stipulate determinism as a given, my second objection would still hold,and it is the reason why I consider the dismissal of materialism as “reductionism” as fallacious: things can, and usually do, have properties that are not the properties of their parts. This is because the way a whole behaves depends on the interactions of its parts, in other words, on contingencies between them. And so we can build entirely mechanical computers that will take complex input and produce precise verifiable predictions (weather forecasting computers, for instance) and will even feed back the results of those predictions as input into the system so that the system becomes better and better at predicting. In a perfectly real sense, I would argue, then, that mechanical computers, though assembled from non-creative parts, are themselves creators – deciders, in fact, their decisions informed not only by multiple sources of information, but also from past experience.”

    Real creativity lies in the original design. By following that design, the computer is not really being creative as an originator; it is simply following instructions and adapting as programmed. A truly creative computer would rise up and challenge its own program.

    —“That is why I think that describing materialism as “reductionism” is very misleading, and leads to the fallacious inference that because an entity (a mind, for instance) can be accounted for in terms of simple mechanics, therefore it has no properties that transcend those of simple mechanics. In other words, to assume that because a whole consists of a system of parts that the system can be “reduced” to the parts. It can’t be – if you “reduce” it to a part inventory you leave out the bit – the system itself – on which the properties possessed by the whole depend! Unless you want to call systems “immaterial”, which in a sense they are, in which case materialists shouldn’t call themselves materialists unless they deny the existence of systems, which not a single one, to my knowledge, does.”

    None of this applies to what we are discussing, because your examples do not apply to an unchanging “first cause” of the universe. Indeed, you appear to be using the computer references as an example of how a mechanical device can fundamentally change itself. Even if that were possible, which it isn’t, it has nothing in common with the first cause of the universe, which is unchanging.

    On your related point, a mind grounded in matter is not really a mind at all and those who liken the mind to an epiphenomenon of the brain are perverting the language. In effect, they are trying to have it both ways, claiming spiritual like qualities of the soul while clinging to matter.

    As philosopher Peter Kreeft puts it, “Material beings are moved from without, like billiard balls; but spiritual beings are moved from within. The first cause of a specifically human act is always internal, not external. By a ‘specifically human act’ I mean one like asking a question, creating a work of art, making a moral choice, affirming another person, or appreciating the beauty of nature—or praying. Mind moves itself from within, actively; matter is moved from without, passively.”

    Indeed, the brain is an organ, albeit the most noble of organs; but the mind, like the will, is an immaterial faculty of the soul. The brain puts us in contact with the sensual world; the mind puts us in contact with the conceptual world. The brain is a part of the body, and, by extension, the material world; the mind is part of nothing. Immaterial entities such as minds do not have parts nor can they be parts of something else. That is why they live forever. There are no parts to disintegrate. This is the point that materialists and epiphenominalists always miss.

    –“I’m not sure what we can say, with certainty, what the properties of an “eternal” force is. How would one begin to find out? I certainly don’t think one could deduce the answer “as night follows the day”. After all, your very terms “always” and “never” are temporal terms. What would it mean for an “eternal” force to be “always” doing something or “never” doing it?”

    I thought that we agreed that the so-called “force” that created the universe, be it personal or impersonal, was a first cause. A first cause must, by logical necessity, be uncaused, eternal, and unchanging. It is for these reasons that it must also be personal, as I have been pointing out. If, at this late date, you want to challenge the fact that first cause must be unchanging, please let me know before any more time passes so I can explain why that must be the case.

    —“What would it mean for an “eternal” force to be “always” doing something or “never” doing it?”

    It would mean that [a] an unchanging, eternal force that can create must, by definition, have always been creating universes and that there was never a time when it was not creating universes, or it would mean that [b] an unchanging, eternal force that does not create universes at all, and, by virtue of its unchanging nature, will never create a universe.

    Your claim, as I understand it, is that an unchanging, non-personal force, which once did not create universes, could conceivably change its non-creating nature and create a universe. This is not logically possible. The Creator of a universe that begins to exist must, by necessity, be a person.

    Consider reflecting on the fact that, for some reason, perhaps unconsciously, you may not want God to exist. Ask yourself if their could possibly be a lifestyle change, hurtful experience, luring temptation, consuming habit, dubious opportunity, or personal set back that could have prompted you to move in that direction. Atheism is an act of the will, not the intellect.

    —“It doesn’t seem to be doing anything It certainly doesn’t seem to be telling me what Good is.

    Something is “good” if it operates the way it was designed and intended to operate. Thus, a good can opener is one that opens cans well. A good pencil is one that writes well. A pencil cannot be a good can opener because it was not designed to do that. If it tries, not only will it fail in its mission, but it will destroy itself in the process. (Of course a good thing can be used for a bad moral purpose, such as a knife [used for torture] or gas [used for genocide as in a gas chamber])

    What is a good person? A good person is one who behaves the way he was designed and intended to behave, meaning that he habitually chooses to love God and neighbor, not necessarily as he pleases, but in the context of the objective moral law.

    What is a good act? A good act is one which moves us in the direction of the purpose or destiny for which we were designed. If we are not designed or created for a purpose, then there could be no such thing as a moral act or an immoral act. There are no spiritual planes. We are all either getting closer to our destiny or else we are moving away from it. No one remains at the same moral level.

  105. 105
    avocationist says:

    Ilion-

    “Really? How interesting.

    I haven’t yet decided whether to comment upon your post # 32 — partly because I really shouldn’t be spending even as much time as I have been commenting on UD, and partly because I really don’t enjoy being critical … and any evaluation I made of post # 32 would be highly critical.”

    Now I’m intrigued. Anyway, how bad could it be? I agreed with several of your points.

  106. 106
    nullasalus says:

    avocationist,

    The crux of morality, as Elizabeth stated, is a matter of selfishness or not. When one takes pleasure in hurting others or uses force or intimidation or trickery to take advantage for oneself at their expense, this is selfishness. Another way to state it is that one regards only the self as “real” and deserving. It’s opposite is compassion, in which one “sees” the other and feels their discomfort, and takes joy in their happiness, such that one prefers to share rather than watch them undergo deprivation.

    What EL is casting as morality ultimately comes down to personal individual preference, feeling, and benefit – and really, she has to do that on materialism and atheism. Of course, she’s free to say ‘Well, I’ve decided that being generous is good and selfish is bad’ – but that doesn’t change what I’ve said. In fact, it’s only been highlighted further since a defense of the Golden Rule was given that added up to ‘it maximizes personal benefit in the long-term’.

    And honestly, isn’t that a damn amusing breakdown of it? That should be right in the New Testament translation. Matthew 7:12: “Maximize personal long-term benefit. This is the Golden Rule.”

    Alright then, suppose you are a nonmaterialist atheist. What basis for morality could you have?

    Good question, but not my place to answer it. You’d probably want someone more sympathetic to do that job, given my theism. I merely recognize the existence of non-materialist atheists. (And, I suppose, materialist theists – though outside of the mormons, they’re less known nowadays.)

    EL,

    It comes back to Euryphro’s dilemma in a way.

    The funny thing is, you pretty much impale yourself on a horn of the ED anyway. Horn one, in fact – you just replace God or gods with Sam Harris or yourself. Not exactly a step up.

    If there was good evidence, I’d be appalled, but I guess I’d believe in him.

    But I still wouldn’t worship him.

    Really? That’s even funnier, because you repeatedly go on about how you worshiped this God for on the order of fifty years. So, in line with your comparison of God to Hitler – you were throwing up the Sieg Heils until very recently.

    Of course, back then perhaps you thought those acts could be good. But now you know better, and embrace a metaphysical system where what is good comes down to personal choice, feeling, and desire.

    Hey, wait a minute. 😉

  107. 107
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus,

    “What EL is casting as morality ultimately comes down to personal individual preference, feeling, and benefit – and really, she has to do that on materialism and atheism. Of course, she’s free to say ‘Well, I’ve decided that being generous is good and selfish is bad’ – but that doesn’t change what I’ve said.

    You’re saying that it just so happens that she prefers real morality, but that there is no real basis for it. I think that is true, because if we have souls and the conscience is an aspect of the soul, then it matters not whether you are a materialist. You will operate internally just the same, and respond morally (or not) just the same.

    “In fact, it’s only been highlighted further since a defense of the Golden Rule was given that added up to ‘it maximizes personal benefit in the long-term’.And honestly, isn’t that a damn amusing breakdown of it? That should be right in the New Testament translation. Matthew 7:12: “Maximize personal long-term benefit. This is the Golden Rule.”

    Well, to tell you the truth, I think she’s actually right about that. I don’t think there is such a thing as sacrifice without self benefit. Now, I mean that in the best possible way, for example, I ran into an ex soldier the other day and we got to talking, and I asked him why he signed up, and he told me a couple of minor reasons, and then he sort of looked off into the distance and said that he thought there would be a draft and it would be better for him to go than for his little brother to go.

    I’m against the invasion of Iraq, but I was very touched by this. So here we have a young man who would die in place of his brother. The thing is, though, he still did it because he wanted to and because his love gave him more pain at the thought of losing (or his mother losing?) his brother than of himself being lost.

    And if you think of it, you cannot find an instance of any action, in which we don’t make the choice to do the thing which we most want. I hate my job but I go to work. Why is that? Because I hate having no money even more. Or I hate the shame of being a welfare slob even more.

    The spiritual change we want is not to be able to do what we don’t want, but to want different things. It’s a subtle difference. It’s not that the selfish person gets more pleasure because they think only of themselves and the good person gets less pleasure because they give of themselves, don’t take more than their share or take less than their share – it’s that the good or saintly person enjoys giving and it gives them pleasure.

    I mean, think about it. If becoming a godly person meant *less* pleasure – wouldn’t that be odd? So the closer we get to God the more unhappy we would be? Isn’t spiritual growth toward God supposed to be glorious and joyful? Isn’t loving one another joyful? I mean, it’s not miserable, is it?

    If doing the right thing, if loving and sharing, did not bring us pleasure it would mean we would eternally be engaging in pleasure-reducing sacrifice. There is nothing wrong with admitting that being in alignment with the good = being in alignment with the will of God = being internally at one with oneself = joy.

    For a person oriented toward goodness.

    It’s a matter of having the right preferences.

  108. 108
    nullasalus says:

    avocationist,

    You’re saying that it just so happens that she prefers real morality, but that there is no real basis for it.

    Not really. I’m pointing out what follows, and what has to follow, given certain intellectual commitments, ones she happens to have. Not to mention the whole ‘we’ll all operate just the same’ line falls down in the fact of observation, among other places.

    As for her preferring ‘real morality’ even without understanding why, that frankly requires vastly more psychoanalyzing than I care about. I’ve run into more than one atheist playing the ‘love is my God’ card, and what that added up to was pretty vile. I comment on what I can see.

    Well, to tell you the truth, I think she’s actually right about that. I don’t think there is such a thing as sacrifice without self benefit.

    You subscribe, as near as I can tell, to a wildly different metaphysical view. You talk about ‘being in alignment with the will of God’. This is a non-option on atheism and materialism. And ‘alignment with the good’ is ‘alignment with whatever I and/or others like and approve of at the moment’.

    Now, you tell me that story of the veteran and his little brother. What if he felt that way – but dealt with it, instead of going into the army, by getting over feelings like that? What if you got over your hate of being a welfare slob and actually managed to enjoy it?

    There’s multiple ways to benefit.

    Isn’t spiritual growth toward God supposed to be glorious and joyful? Isn’t loving one another joyful? I mean, it’s not miserable, is it?

    I think there’s a reason Christ mentioned that the path of the righteous is straight and narrow. I mean, I know you reject Christianity (at least you seem to), but it’s a faith of martyrs, suffering, and a lot of misery in a lot of ways. The idea that pain and misery is not supposed to be involved is just alien. Much less this idea that ‘doing the right thing’ should always make us happy.

    I think you’re trying to find common ground that doesn’t exist, or exists only minimally, here. At your leisure, but the problems I’ve pointed out stand.

  109. 109
    Ilion says:

    avocationist:Now I’m intrigued. Anyway, how bad could it be? I agreed with several of your points.

    Agreement, or disagreement, isn’t so important to me as the reasoning behind it.

  110. 110
    Ilion says:

    EL:If there was good evidence, I’d be appalled, but I guess I’d believe in him.
    But I still wouldn’t worship him.

    Nullasalus:Really? That’s even funnier, because you repeatedly go on about how you worshiped this God for on the order of fifty years. So, in line with your comparison of God to Hitler – you were throwing up the Sieg Heils until very recently.

    EL seems not to understand the terms/verbs ‘to believe in‘ or ‘to worship‘ — as witness her statement that she “believes in Hitler”. Nazis “believe in Hitler”, the rest of us do not; one may, and hopefully does, “believe in” one’s spouse, but one ought not “believe in Hitler”.

    To “believe in” something or someone is to place one’s utmost trust in that thing or that other, and by implication, to place one’s very life and being in the care, or service, if it or him; there is, of course, some element of love involved.

    To “worship” something or someone is to express either:
    1) one’s awe of the thing or person, which includes an element of love;
    2) one’s fear of the thing or person, which includes an element of hatred.
    We Jews and Christians believe that option 1) is the proper response to God; the Moslems believe that option 2) is the proper response to Allah. Throughout history, most systems of human worship (whether og ‘gods’ or of other human beings) have been of type 2).

    There is a reason that the old Anglican marriage ceremony included the spousal promise, “with my body, I thee worship.

  111. 111
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilion:

    To “believe in” something or someone is to place one’s utmost trust in that thing or that other, and by implication, to place one’s very life and being in the care, or service, if it or him; there is, of course, some element of love involved.

    OK, in that sense I do not “believe in” Hitler. I merely believe he existed.

    This should be obvious from context.

    Ditto, if I was convinced that God existed, I would not “believe in” that God, in your sense, if he turned out to be the Old Testament Jehovah.

    Wouldn’t trust him an inch.

  112. 112
    Ilion says:

    OK, in that sense I do not “believe in” Hitler. I merely believe he existed.

    You believe that Hitler.

    This should be obvious from context.

    When the context is *anything* you have said? I think not.

    Ditto, if I was convinced that God existed, I would not “believe in” that God, in your sense, if he turned out to be the Old Testament Jehovah.

    Wouldn’t trust him an inch.

    Jehovah is the Living God, the ony one … and yes, we all have understood, all along, that you hate him.

  113. 113
    Ilion says:

    … to expand —

    My “you are the proof that God is” argument shows via reason alone (no appeal to divine revelation) that God is — note: it does not even seek to show that Jehovah is God, but only that atheism is false — and not one atheist who encounters it will admit that he has been wrong in his God-denial.

  114. 114
    avocationist says:

    Ilion, you say that my reasoning is so bad, and yet you misunderstood Lizzie’s meaning, which was obvious.

    As to Jehovah, he is not the true God, he is an imposter. That should be something that people can figure out with their hearts and their reason, and many great people have. Jesus never uses his name. Jesus speaks of an entirely different God with entirely different attributes, as do the New Testament writers generally. Jehovah is indistinguishable from a human tyrant, and the Old Testament is mostly a historical book with very little spiritual discourse in it.

    Furthermore, I am pretty sure that everyone hates him, without admitting it to themselves perhaps, because the human psychology cannot be altered to accommodate love toward someone who exerts a mind boggling threat toward humanity, which if even you escape, someone you love will not. Nor, as a Christian, should it matter if someone is close to you, for Jesus calls us to learn complete compassion and love toward all. Of course, I don’t know why we should bother, since most never learn it and when you go to heaven you must become hardhearted beyond current human ability.

    I found yet another of those Christian religious tracts today. As usual, the entire effort at conversion amounts to a threat! Believe or else.

    All the rest is irrelevant. You either believe, or go to hell.

    Really? Humans are to admire that God? I say that just as it is impossible not to have a divine first cause, it is impossible for a good God to lack all magnanimity, and to come up short in human estimation. How can God’s plan for the cosmos include such dismality that I or any decent person can say that we wish it were different? And I have had many firmly believing church-going Christians tell me wistfully that they wish it were different!

    No, the real God can only come up with a plan for existence which no human could match or outdo. The real God could not fail to amaze at the perfection of his thought and if he wrote a book, which he would not, it could not be outdone by common human authors for beauty, coherence, and consistency of data.

    The real God could never leave mere human beings saying, Is that it? I wish it could be different…..

    If people would examine the scriptures with the same light of scrutiny and logic that they examine the works of the Darwinists, why then they might get somewhere.

    But – that is what we have here, is two competing religious systems, and people like me are less interesting because I am not the real enemy, since I don’t belong to either camp.

  115. 115
    avocationist says:

    Nullasalus,

    “You subscribe, as near as I can tell, to a wildly different metaphysical view. You talk about ‘being in alignment with the will of God’. This is a non-option on atheism and materialism. And ‘alignment with the good’ is ‘alignment with whatever I and/or others like and approve of at the moment’.

    It’s not really a non-option. They have a soul and a conscience just like you do, and some people listen to it better, and some religious people commit horrendous acts. I am not arguing that a materialist philosophy isn’t morally more dangerous, I’m just pointing out that when it comes to individuals, there isn’t always that much difference, and many atheists are good, kind people, which last I checked my New Testament were God’s will for us.

    When I spoke of alignment with the good, I meant the real thing.

    “Now, you tell me that story of the veteran and his little brother. What if he felt that way – but dealt with it, instead of going into the army, by getting over feelings like that? What if you got over your hate of being a welfare slob and actually managed to enjoy it?”

    Yes, most people would probably. It’s beside the point. My point isn’t that some people are better than others and take on more selfless actions. My point is that this young man was able to love his brother enough and had the inner character to be able to consider getting in the line of fire before him. But that was his pleasure. When people choose between two very awful choices, they still choose the one they prefer.

    Ilion, I am suspecting, disliked my reasoning that the entire cosmos and everything in existence is of a unity with God. But this moral question falls right into it. The more a person is selfish, the less he cares about others. But caring about others, what is it? Compassion? Compassion means to “feel together.” So one has expanded one’s sense of self to include others.

    God loves the world, and why not? Everything in it arose from Himself. We are to become like God and have unconditional love toward all. That would be a fully expanded sense of self. As Ilion said, all morality is about love. That is what love is – love toward all. There is nothing strange about sacrificing for others when you “feel together” with them, for their joy is your joy and their suffering is your suffering. It doesn’t mean that you always enjoy your choices, but your greater pleasure is sacrifice to relieve suffering in others. All love is self love. It’s a matter of expanding the self to include all.

    Most of us function that way. Ever stop to help a stranded motorist? Jump in a body of water to pull out a stranger? Didn’t it make you feel good?

    The reason people are selfish is that others are not included. Just me. This bit about materialism not having a basis for morality? It’s because each person is an island of me-ness, with nothing outside of that and no future for ‘me’.

    By the way, soul expansion is bliss, and soul contracture (locked into the island of me) is discomfort.

    “I think there’s a reason Christ mentioned that the path of the righteous is straight and narrow. I mean, I know you reject Christianity (at least you seem to), but it’s a faith of martyrs, suffering, and a lot of misery in a lot of ways. The idea that pain and misery is not supposed to be involved is just alien. Much less this idea that ‘doing the right thing’ should always make us happy.”

    I reject commonly held Christian dogma, I reject that the scriptures are the word of God although some are inspired to be sure, and I want people to know God for themselves. It’s the only way out of confusion and being deceived.

    No, as I hope I have made clear, God’s followers can be put into situations of misery. It’s a matter of love. That which you love you will suffer for.

    As to the straight and narrow path, it is necessary to balance that quote with My yoke is easy and my burden is light, or, It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

    All are true.

    You are right. I do try to find common ground.
    My spiritual path is unconditional love.
    But I do defend God from slander on his character, which is all-lovely, all magnanimous, all-generous, and all-forgiving.

  116. 116
    Ilion says:

    Avocationist:Ilion, you say that my reasoning is so bad, and yet you misunderstood Lizzie’s meaning, which was obvious.

    Really? What an interesting thing to say! I mean, considering that I *clearly* said that EL’s meaning in using he phrase was a misuse of the phrase from its widely understood meaning.

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