Intelligent Design

eigenstate Gives Us a Lesson in Evolutionary Ethics

Spread the love

eigenstate says that under “evolutionary eithcs,” we are ethically obligated to do whatever is “adaptationally advantageous.”  Which led to this exchange:

Barry:  “If our environment somehow changed so that torturing infants for pleasure became adaptationally advantageous, would we then have an ethical obligation to torture infants for pleasure?”

eigenstate: ” yes

Madness.

In that same  thread eigenstate  writes:

The priorities – the values that we are wired with, are not “good” or “bad” or “ethical” or “unethical” by some external-to-humans rule . . . These priorities are not “set by God” or a function of some superstitious notion of deities and their moral dicta. Humans as a social group in real environments do not survive when cheaters proliferate. Some marginal number of cheaters can be supported in the tribe, but too many cheaters and not enough producers and the group’s survival is threatened. So groups that enact social contracts and rules that punish cheater are ones that survive and reproduce. There’s nothing magical about “cheating is bad”; it’s just a practical problem for the group if it’s unregulated, so successful human lineages (those whose progeny are living today) are conditioned by the environment to regulate cheating.

So there you have it.  There is no good or bad.  There is only what helps us survive or not, as a group.  And some number of cheaters can be supported by the tribe.  And it can support some number of liars.  And it can support some number of murderers, rapists, robbers, child pornographers . . .

Cheating, lying, murder, rape, robbery and child pornography are not bad as such.  Indeed, the concept “bad as such” is meaningless.  The tribe can support some level of all of that.  Cheating is not the problem.  Only “too many cheaters” is a problem.  Rape is not the problem.  Only “too many rapists” is a problem.  Even torturing an infant for pleasure is not bad as such.  Only “too many” infant torturers is a problem.  Madness.  God help us; there are people running around spouting this insanity.

I do have to hand it to eigenstate though.  He has captured and articulated the essence of the concept I was elucidating in Psychopath as Ubermensch or Nietzche at Columbine and Follow Up on Psychopath as Ubermensch.  How so?  Well, he has taken materialist ethics to their logical end.  There is no good.  There is no bad.  Only “too many” is harmful.  Any given individual can count on the rest of us to follow the rules against murder, rape, etc. and he can do whatever he damn well pleases.

42 Replies to “eigenstate Gives Us a Lesson in Evolutionary Ethics

  1. 1

    Yeah, you have to at least appreciate his willingness to take his philosophy to the logical conclusion and admit it. Whenever one of these lunatics does so, it lays bare the nature of the beast they are riding for reasonable people to see – and, hopefully, recoil in recognition that no, this cannot be right.

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    “but too many cheaters and not enough producers and the group’s survival is threatened”

    What’s a cheater? How can you be sure of recognizing a cheater as a cheater? 😉

    Andrew

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    Yeah, you have to at least appreciate his willingness to take his philosophy to the logical conclusion and admit it. Whenever one of these lunatics does so, it lays bare the nature of the beast they are riding for reasonable people to see – and, hopefully, recoil in recognition that no, this cannot be right.

    Similar thoughts cross my mind when reading the apologetics over in the Ben Goren thread. Minus the word “lunatic”, and the insulting tone, of course.

  4. 4

    daveS said:

    Similar thoughts cross my mind when reading the apologetics over in the Ben Goren thread. Minus the word “lunatic”, and the insulting tone, of course.

    I agree – IMO, command authority theism should be revealed for what it is; at its logical conclusion lies radical Islam with a god and morality unfettered by logic or conscience.

    Fortunately, there are alternatives.

  5. 5
    News says:

    asauber at 2: Cheater? That was comparatively easy to discover if one was following up on the books for a co-operative housing development 30 years ago. What has changed?

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    Thanks WJM, I’m glad to see there is some common ground here.

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM, God tells us that all of his commands are subsumed within “love God and love your neighbor.” You are simply wrong to assert that at the logical conclusion of that command lies radical Islam.

  8. 8

    BA,

    I didn’t say that the logical conclusion of that command lies radical Islam; I said the logical conclusion of command authority theism is radical Islam, in the same sense that if your moral source is “what god commands”, then if god commands you to torture children, torturing children is then good by definition.

    It isn’t the command that makes a thing good; it is the unchanging, absolute nature of god as the root of existence that makes what is good, good.

  9. 9
    Box says:

    Surely Eigenstate’s hero is the guy that cheats, lies, rapes and mass-murders the members of the other tribe and gets away with it. More Lebensraum for Eigenstate’s tribe and he is getting the other tribe’s stuff for free.

    Eigenstate: There’s nothing magical about “cheating is bad” (…)

    Oh yes, but there is. In a purposeless universe that consists of nothing but purposeless physical processes, the *emergence* of *cheating* (for a purpose) is nothing short of magic.

  10. 10
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM,

    I didn’t say that the logical conclusion of that command lies radical Islam

    But that is just my point. There is no other command. Jesus says all of the law and all of the prophets hang on the following two commands: Love God; love your neighbor. There literally is no other command.

    Yes, yes there are lots of other commandments. But the point is that all of those other commandments are mere commentary to (and subsumed within) the two great commandments. In other words, if we follow the two great commandments, we will necessarily follow all of the lesser commandments. Do I love my neighbor? Then I will not steal from him. Do I love my neighbor? Then I will not murder him. etc.

    So I understand your point. Divine command theory unhinged from the actual God who exists and who has told us that we can follow all of his commandments merely by loving him and loving our neighbor, suffers from the criticisms you level against it.

    But divine command theory anchored in the bedrock of the actual God who exists and who has told us that we can follow all of his commandments merely by loving him and loving our neighbor, is immune to your criticisms.

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM,

    It isn’t the command that makes a thing good; it is the unchanging, absolute nature of god as the root of existence that makes what is good, good.

    That is correct. And from the unchanging, absolute nature of the actual God who exists as the root of all other existence flows the two great commandments.

    From that premise we can be sure that any purported commandment that operationally violates either of the two great commandments is not a true command from God.

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    Following up on my comment at 11:

    Because what I said there is true, I was able to answer a question from eigenstate as follows:

    E:

    if God obligates you to torture infants for fun, would you be so obligated?

    Barry:

    Your question is akin to asking, “if circles where square how many sides would they have? It is incoherent. The good subsists in the nature of God, and God does not act against his own nature. It is therefore literally impossible for him to command anyone to torture an infant for pleasure.

  13. 13

    BA said:

    But divine command theory anchored in the bedrock of the actual God who exists and who has told us that we can follow all of his commandments merely by loving him and loving our neighbor, is immune to your criticisms.

    IMO, this is not, at its root, “divine command theory” theism. It is a form of natural law theism”; IOW, natural law is what the nature of god imposes on all that god creates by necessity – god cannot create other than that which is a reflection of god’s nature.

    If god commands anything, those commands are necessarily informed and constrained by the nature of god. Thus, it is not the command of god which is at the root of morality, but the nature of god (natural law) which would generate, inform and constrain any command coming from god.

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM,

    OK. Perhaps our disagreement is merely a matter of semantics.

    “disagreement is not an easy thing to reach. Rather, we move into confusion.”

    John Courtney Murray, We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition (New York, Sheed & Ward, 1960), 15.

  15. 15
    velikovskys says:

    Wjm;

    If god commands anything, those commands are necessarily informed and constrained by the nature of god. Thus, it is not the command of god which is at the root of morality, but the nature of god (natural law) which would generate, inform and constrain any command coming from god.

    Why is the gratuitous torture of infants against the nature of God? In other words, why does natural law proscribe gratuitous torture of infants beyond the appeal to the authority of the nature of God? Just because we find it abhorrent,therefore it must be against the nature of God?

  16. 16
    Bob O'H says:

    eigenstate says that under “evolutionary eithcs,” we are ethically obligated to do whatever is “adaptationally advantageous.”

    Does anyone nowadays think that evolution should be prescriptive for ethics?

    I think it can be descriptive, and I think (although I haven’t followed the full discussion, so if I’m wrong I hope Eigenstate will correct me) that Eigenstate was describing a hypothetical situation.

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    velikovskys,

    What do you think of eigenstate’s assertion that under certain circumstances torturing an infant for pleasure would be morally obligatory?

  18. 18

    OK. Perhaps our disagreement is merely a matter of semantics.

    That’s what I was thinking.

    Why is the gratuitous torture of infants against the nature of God?

    There is no answer why something is or is not the nature of god (and thus, existence). It is the assumed premise from which logical inferences flow, implications which either correspond to and make sense of our life in the world, or do not.

    In other words, why does natural law proscribe gratuitous torture of infants beyond the appeal to the authority of the nature of God?

    Natural Law = nature of god infused in whatever god creates. Not sure what you are asking me here.

    Just because we find it abhorrent,therefore it must be against the nature of God?

    Whether or not we find the idea abhorrent is irrelevant. Just because a sociopath doesn’t find his actions abhorrent, but rather enjoys those actions, doesn’t make what he does right or moral by definition. In order to justify our judgement of the actions of others wrong or evil and properly justify interventions in a manner that doesn’t eventually lead back to “Might Makes Right”, “good” must be an existential commodity, not an arbitrary commodity.

    Thus, IMO, goodness must be an innate quality of the nature of the root of existence or else morality is not worth considering.

    IOW, what is moral must trace back to an existential commodity, unalterable & fundamental, or else it is nothing more than a convenient justification for might makes right.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    I swear someone over at TSZ was asking what this has to do with nihilism.

  20. 20
    eigenstate says:

    @Bob O’H

    Does anyone nowadays think that evolution should be prescriptive for ethics?

    I don’t even think “prescriptive” is an applicable term at the level of evolution, any more than natural porcesses prescribe that Na + Cl should produce a compound we describe as “salty”.

    I think it can be descriptive, and I think (although I haven’t followed the full discussion, so if I’m wrong I hope Eigenstate will correct me) that Eigenstate was describing a hypothetical situation.

    Human ethics get filtered through human cultural, are mediated by language, community and individual knowledge. Those are proximal factors in making the judgements we make: there’s no biological basis known for the widespread conviction on the part of some cultures that eating pork is morally wrong. Eating pork for the rest of the population bring with it the usual risks of high fat content, etc., but pork consumption doesn’t have any ties that we are of that make such prohibitions advantageous in its own right.

    It’s a cultural product, and largely a religious phenomenon. That’s just an example of a common, everyday conviction that comes out of all the layers of interaction that sit on top of evolution proper.

    My point on the evolutionary history for humans was that the basis for these cultural dynamics in the first place obtains from behaviors that are shaped by evolutionary forces. Cooperation, for example, is not a product of culture. Culture is a product of cooperative behaviors.

    So it’s quite right to say that evolution qua evolution does not and cannot prescribe moral “good” or “evil” in and of itself. But the behaviors and impulses we are wired by evolution for are the foundations for the social and interactions that do give rise to those judgments. We cooperate because it succeeds vs. non-cooperation for surviving and thriving. Cooperation demands communication, trust and rewards and sanctions.

    As for Barry’s hypothetical situation, yes that was a hypothetical, regarding torturing infants for pleasure. That’s a bit of a hobby horse for Barry, that meme, that’s fine, his own private “Godwin’s Law”. That hypothetical is not the world we live in, but it’s enough for Barry, rhetorically it seems that a hypothetical as a hypothetical is scary enough that maybe it’s somehow advantageous, polemically. Like I said, if pigs had wings that enable them to fly, pigs could fly, too!

    I do note that in playing this back regarding Barry, he’s prepared to follow his own razor to its own logical ends regarding his God. When a world where his God makes the same practice of torturing infants a moral good, and obligatory on humans, well, that just can’t happen, because 1) it’s a problem for Barry, and so that can’t be, and 2) Barry knows better than any putative ominscient God what is good. No sovereign creator and ruler of any universe is going to tell him differently.

    His intuition is the highest of all gods, in this world and every conceivable other. This is the major theme, the leitmotif of Barry Arrington at UD.

  21. 21
    eigenstate says:

    @velikovskys.

    Why is the gratuitous torture of infants against the nature of God? In other words, why does natural law proscribe gratuitous torture of infants beyond the appeal to the authority of the nature of God? Just because we find it abhorrent,therefore it must be against the nature of God?

    Yes, that is why. It’s instructive — man (Barry, here, but this is a pervasive position) is the measure of God. All one has to do is pose such a hypothetical, and man’s supremacy on the subject is made evident.

    Almost like God is a creation of Barry (and fellow thinkers).

    The missing piece, just in case it’s not clear is that in that hypothetical scenario this torture-demanding God would endow Barry with a different imago dei one that was consonant with the image of *that* version of God and so Barry, like all of this God’s creatures would not only tolerate such dicta, but would worship it.

    it follows, necessarily, and Barry’s resistance only holds if one supposes that Barry would have the same intuitions and convictions in the world in which a infant-torture-God reified the good by its nature. Barry hasn’t apparently considered that in such a scenario, he’d be just as much the sycophant for that God as he is for the one he worships now — this is how God made him, after all. Barry would just be created to worship and celebrate the practice.

    Ask Barry if God was good and just in ordering the slaughter of the Amalekite babies. That provides a very good reference point, as Barry is already fairly close to situation he wants to avoid.

    Just some cognitive dissonance working itself out in his reply…

  22. 22
    eigenstate says:

    Your question is akin to asking, “if circles where square how many sides would they have? It is incoherent. The good subsists in the nature of God, and God does not act against his own nature. It is therefore literally impossible for him to command anyone to torture an infant for pleasure.

    But if the nature of God were different — and this is no different than the alternate universe you contemplated in posing physical process that would prompt the practice — then the good would be different, necessarily. It’s not a circle-square problem because its the characteristics of both circles and squares that is being put in play. That is, it can’t work to say “that’s not good, and good can’t do evil”. That is parochial to (your understanding) of this universe. In this hypothetical universe, your notion of good (let’s start with you as fundamental authority here, just you do) celebrates infant torture. And it’s because your God (in that universe) is of the nature that makes this a moral good, a part of his divine plan for man.

    Saying “but it’s wrong, I just know it!” won’t help. That’s the this-world Barry talking. In the “that-world” Barry case, you’d be running a blog clamoring for more torture. That God is good all the time, too, and it’s impossible for his commandments to be unjust or unloving. Ergo, infant-torture is holy liturgy in service to the sovereign God who is by nature perfectly good.

    The only question is whether you understand that this follows from the premises, necessarily, or not. Saying “That’s not how the world is” just avoids the question — we’re talking about a hypothetical universe, just as you were regarding evolution.

    The beautiful irony of all this is that you’re now in a position to have to find an error in a tautology. Given the Nihilism thread, that’s pretty funny to observe.

    A: In a universe where God requires infant-torture to follow his divine plan, infant torture is required to follow God’s plan.

    Would you agree with this Barry? Not saying that universe is this one, any more than you were saying this universe is one where evolution requires infant torture. It’s a tautology. Is there an error in this tautology. Do you doubt this tautology?

  23. 23
    eigenstate says:

    Surely Eigenstate’s hero is the guy that cheats, lies, rapes and mass-murders the members of the other tribe and gets away with it. More Lebensraum for Eigenstate’s tribe and he is getting the other tribe’s stuff for free.

    Why would that be? That seems far less satisfying than doing honest work for honest results and enabling solid bonds of trust and friendship with those around me, or event those far from me. That would seem to be a more conducive disposition for the flourishing of the group as well. So why would that make the cheater the hero?

    Eigenstate: There’s nothing magical about “cheating is bad” (…)

    Oh yes, but there is. In a purposeless universe that consists of nothing but purposeless physical processes, the *emergence* of *cheating* (for a purpose) is nothing short of magic.

    Who’s issuing the incantation in this impersonal world of mindless physical processes. I can never understand this kind of projection. Criticize and reject the there-is-no-magic model all you like, but it is a there-is-no-magic model. If it’s not, what would you point to that is non-magical? All we have in view in this model is machinery. There are no supernatural powers, there are no gods or sorcerers to invoke a spell or work miracles. It’s just physical processes. If that isn’t perfectly anti-magical, what would be? “Let there be light!!!” ???

    In the universe as the materialist understands it, purpose and meaning abound, at least where there are humans (and other animals). It’s not “ultimate purpose”, but rather local purpose that obtains for individuals and groups with cognitive and communication skills that allow them to model the future and formulate goals and intentions. As I’ve said before, this like saying “if money has no ultimate value, then it has no value at all”. The bills in your wallet have no ultimate value, but they have practical, local value. You can go buy a bottle of Glenlivet 12 year with them — valuable indeed.

    So to with purpose. “Ultimate Purpose” is as confused and incoherent concept as “Ultimate Value” for money. The substance obtains in the local context where it’s useful. Purpose abounds, just as the value of money is demonstrated all around us, every day, even while neither has an “ultimate” scope. If you go spend your money in your wallet today, you’ve done all you need to understand how the universe is full of purpose, and none of it ultimate.

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    eigenstate @ 22,

    I did not propose an alternate universe to you. I proposed an alternate environment in this universe. And under those circumstances you said, yes, in that alternate environment in this universe infant torture could be morally obligatory.

    It is literally insane to posit that it it could be morally obligatory to torture an infant for pleasure in any conceivable universe.

    It is even more insane to posit that under certain environmental conditions it could be morally obligatory in the actual universe in which we live. And yet you have done just that.

    Indeed, you have gone even further and said that it is not immoral to torture an infant for pleasure now, so long as there is not too much of it.

    The logic that allows you to say this:

    “Some marginal number of cheaters can be supported in the tribe, but too many cheaters . . .”

    compels the conclusion that it would be arbitrary not to say this as well:

    Some marginal number of infant torturers can be supported in the tribe, but too many infant torturers.

    eigenstate, your ethical system is a guidebook for a psychopath. And you have the temerity to sit in judgment over me and scoff because I won’t go along with your “God might be a poopyhead in an alternate universe” lunacy. I think you have sunk to a new low e. You might have even hit rock bottom.

  25. 25
    StephenB says:

    Let me stretch out a little bit on WJM’s observation about Divine Command Theory. First, sound theology holds that God commands that which is good because it is good or consistent with His nature–not because He commands it. Unfortunately, The whole point of Divine Command Theory is to release God from this objective unchangeable standard of morality such that His demands become good simply because they come from Him, and not because they are consistent with Divine Law or natural law.

    If God is not reasonable, then God is not good. That doesn’t mean, of course, that God will never reveal truths that are above reason. That is what religion is supposed to do. What it does mean is that God will never teach truths that contradict reason or ask His Creatures to embrace an unreasonable or inconsistent moral code.

    What WJM is getting at is this: If an act is good (or becomes good) simply because God commanded it, then the door is open for God to change His mind about what is good and to even demand something that would be bad by any objective standard.

    In keeping with that point, the religion of Islam promotes what is known as the doctrine of “abrogation,” which means that God can change His mind about what is good. Thus, God’s will is elevated over His intelligence. Of the many passages in the Koran that supports this theme, we can cite this one: “God annuls or confirms whatever He wills [of His earlier messages.]”

    Clearly, such a doctrine renders the practice of consistent virtue impossible. Why, for example, would one want to struggle with the vice of anger and grow in the virtue of meekness, if God is liable to “annul” that standard at any time. Why make sacrifices and practice heroic virtue if the very definition of virtue is up for grabs and may become obsolete.

  26. 26
    Barry Arrington says:

    Dear readers,

    This has not been an academic exercise. eigenstate has given us a rare opportunity to do an exercise in basic logic. Here is the syllogism I have been setting up:

    Major premise: Any ethical system that affirms morally insane propositions is false.
    Minor premise: eigenstate’s “evolutionary ethics” ethical system affirms morally insane propositions.
    Conclusion: eigensetate’s “evolutionary ethics” ethical system is false.

    Certainly the syllogism is valid — i.e., the conclusion follows inexorably from the premises. The only issue is whether the syllogism is also sound — i.e., are both of its premises true? I don’t think anyone could reasonably dispute the major premise. The only real issue is whether the minor premise is true. Is anyone willing to defend “under certain environmental conditions, infant torture would be morally obligatory” as anything other than morally insane?

  27. 27
    Aservantofjehovah says:

    @ eigenstate23 You seem like a decent enough person I myself don’t think you would find a criminal or sociopath a worthy exemplar.But if there is no objective morality what rational basis do you have for claiming moral superiority over those who would admire and perhaps imitate such deviants?

  28. 28
    Barry Arrington says:

    BTW eigenstate, I don’t blame you for trying to change the subject away from your morally insane ethical program. Far better for you if we were to talk about whether it is possible for God to be a poopyhead in an imaginary universe instead of talking about the guidebook for psychopaths that you have written for this real universe in which we actually live.

  29. 29

    StephenB: Exactly my my view, and exactly why I used radical Islam as the logical ramification of DCT.

  30. 30
    Box says:

    Eigenstate,

    Eigenstate:

    BOX: Surely Eigenstate’s hero is the guy that cheats, lies, rapes and mass-murders the members of the other tribe and gets away with it. More Lebensraum for Eigenstate’s tribe and he is getting the other tribe’s stuff for free.

    Why would that be?

    For evolutionary benefits already mentioned: Lebensraum and stuff for free.

    ES: That seems far less satisfying than doing honest work for honest results (..)

    Why would “honest work” and “honest results” be selected for by evolution over “smart and ruthless” and “getting stuff for free”?

    ES: (..) and enabling solid bonds of trust and friendship with those around me, or event those far from me.

    Why would killing them off in order to get their resources not be a better idea from an evolutionary standpoint?

    ES: That would seem to be a more conducive disposition for the flourishing of the group as well.

    Not if resources and territory are scarce and they always are, aren’t they?

    ES: So why would that make the cheater the hero?

    Because he provides more opportunities for his tribe of course.

    ES: Eigenstate: There’s nothing magical about “cheating is bad” (…)

    BOX: Oh yes, but there is. In a purposeless universe that consists of nothing but purposeless physical processes, the *emergence* of *cheating* (for a purpose) is nothing short of magic.

    ES: Who’s issuing the incantation in this impersonal world of mindless physical processes. I can never understand this kind of projection. Criticize and reject the there-is-no-magic model all you like, but it is a there-is-no-magic model.

    Materialism is exactly the opposite of what you claim; it utterly depends on magic. A (fine-tuned) universe from nothing, exquisite design by blind forces, blind physical processes that have the illusion that they are persons, rationality produced by blind physical forces, freedom and responsibility from determinism, morality from indifferent physical processes and so forth.

    ES: If it’s not, what would you point to that is non-magical? All we have in view in this model is machinery.

    Machinery of staggering complexity produced by wavicles without a goal in mind. You have a strong stomach for magic, I give you that.

    ES: It’s just physical processes.

    “Just”? What do you mean by that? You have extraordinary faith in magic.

    ES: If that isn’t perfectly anti-magical, what would be?

    Anything with a little common sense would do a better job.

  31. 31
    mike1962 says:

    While I believe in an absolute transcendent good, I find myself curious about the fact that Barry and William, who are on essentially the same side against eigenstate for his moral incoherence (and I don’t blame them), surely would both disagree with Yahweh’s command for Israel to practice wholesale slaughter of children in Canaan. I’m quite sure William would condemn it, given what he’s said in the past- he’s not a Yahwist. I’ve never seen a clear answer from Barry, whom I think is a Yahwist. Enquiry minds want to know.

    I would like to know how Barry and William determine what the absolute good is. And what do they do if they disagree on a particular, such as Yahweh’s alleged command to wipe out Canaanite children?

    Is it OK to disregard Yahweh’s genocidal command to Israel as pure mythology, given that it violates my core sensibilities and natural law reasoning? Is that enough to demonstrate the command was bunk or fictional?

  32. 32
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry

    I did not propose an alternate universe to you. I proposed an alternate environment in this universe. And under those circumstances you said, yes, in that alternate environment in this universe infant torture could be morally obligatory.

    An alternate environment than the one we have *is* an alternate universe. It’s a hypothetical.

    It is literally insane to posit that it it could be morally obligatory to torture an infant for pleasure in any conceivable universe.

    You are having trouble with counterfactuals, apparently. You are judging “that-universe” (the infant-torture-God universe) by the stands of you in “this-universe: (the slay-every-last-Amelekite-God universe). A Barry Arrington in “that-universe” would celebrate the practice, as it would be good and holy in that universe, by the nature of the God of “that-universe”. You seem to forget that your notion of good or bad will/may change as the nature of that universe’s god changes. This is nothing more than changing axioms. If the axioms change, what proceeds from them changes. Same with the question you posed to me — if the fundamental physics were such that infant-torture were somehow an essential good, then, by definition, that would be a universe where infant-torture was a good thing. If you change the fundamentals to guarantee some outcome or circumstance, then that outcome is guaranteed. Doesn’t matter if that is an “alternate fundamental physics” or a “one small notch more viciously natured God” universe. A guarantee is a guarantee.

    It is even more insane to posit that under certain environmental conditions it could be morally obligatory in the actual universe in which we live. And yet you have done just that.

    I’m not aware of any countenance YHWH or any other god gives for the torture of infants for pleasure. Even the sacrifices made under the worship of Molech were ceremonial as far as I can tell — religious practice rather than personal amusement. But the YHWH you worship is no better than a deity that did ordain infant torture — read your Bible, man. That is *more* insane. As horrific as infant-torture is, or Amalekite babes being put to the sword, that’s at least temporary evil, an atrocity that times out eventually. YHWH has an infinite sort of torture-lust.

    YHWH has not proclaimed such, but for anyone who has actually read the Bible, that would not be a surprising addition, sadly. The babies would just have to babies of an evil, threatening tribe, and the pleasure of the faithful in performing the torture would serve God’s good purposes of making an example of those evil people who opposed the Most High God. I could write the extra chapter in an hour, and it would fit right in. So no, that’s not a part of this universe, so far as I now. But its not a long way to get there from here (if one believes YHWH is real, and the Bible is roughly historical, etc.)

    Indeed, you have gone even further and said that it is not immoral to torture an infant for pleasure now, so long as there is not too much of it.

    No, I have not said that nor do I think that. A single instance of stealing food by a cheater is detrimental — the person deprived of the food is diminished in resources. As a matter of biology the harm has to be potent enough that selective pressures work. A single cheater out of a community of 1,000 is not going to trigger that, even though each instance, rare is it may be, is a demonstrable harm.

    When there is a potent enough threat in terms of the aggregated damage from something like cheating, there is selective pressure put on strategies that combat this — cooperation in this case to combat cheating, and social sanctions for offenders. When that happens, the cooperative strategy is not “we can tolerate the first 37 of the 1,000 of us as cheaters”. It’s a general principle applied to discourage the practice general. It is “wrongified” in so doing. Which means that infant abuse for pleasure would be wrong in each instance, just like cheating — it may only reach the level of a general social prohibition, though as part of a evolutionary strategy to combat it and related problems. Culture mediates any development like this and the biological pressures are low level and diffuse. So there is no “anti-infant-torture-for-pleasure” strategy that’s going to emerge as such, but a more general principle about the value of protecting oneself and one family, and one’s kin, and one’s tribe (roughly in that order of importance).

    The logic that allows you to say this:

    “Some marginal number of cheaters can be supported in the tribe, but too many cheaters . . .”

    compels the conclusion that it would be arbitrary not to say this as well:

    Some marginal number of infant torturers can be supported in the tribe, but too many infant torturers.

    Yes, and all sorts of other harmful and destructive behaviors that go along with that, too. See above, though, about the harm obtaining in each and every instance — it’s only when the practice because threatening at group level that selective dynamics can promote strategies that combat it. That does not deny or diminish the harm that occurs in each instance, however.

    If you look around, human social groups are manifestly able to survive and thrive with some persistent level of a all manner of atrocities and horrors: rape and murder and torture and all kinds of other forms of suffering inflicted on people of all kinds. And yet, we manage to survive as a species. That doesn’t make those practices any less harmful on an incident by incident basis, but it does establish that he frequency and scale of these problems is not sufficient bring humans to extinction just yet.

    So “supported” does not convey any moral support for any such practices, but rather the robustness of the group to survive and flourish despite those harmful and destructive actions.

    eigenstate, your ethical system is a guidebook for a psychopath. And you have the temerity to sit in judgment over me and scoff because I won’t go along with your “God might be a poopyhead in an alternate universe” lunacy. I think you have sunk to a new low e. You might have even hit rock bottom.

    I just have to think about things and look around a lot, Barry. I don’t have your Invincible Intuition™, and can’t use “that’s insane” or “it’s self-evidently true!” as reflexes in lieu of thinking about things. That isn’t really a Christian or religious problem, that’s really more a “Barry” problem. Other here are just as wrong (in my view), but try to think things through a bit, at least.

    If you look at models of how things work in this world, Barry, the ones that work, that perform under load, subject to real world interactions and tests, are not the ones you embrace. That’s your prerogative, and I do understand that armed with an Invincible Intuition™ no amount of evidence or thinking can even begin to make headway against those intuitions, but were you to set aside that Invincible Intuition just briefly for the purposes of discovery, you’d see that what your intuition presents you as axiomatic doesn’t match up to the world we see around us.

    As for going along with the tautology thing, that’s par for the course. You don’t follow your principles — or logical principles — to their logical conclusion. You just invoke caprice when it suits you — God could never be that way in any possible universe. A more perfect example of hubris, a de facto claim to omniscience I could not craft if I tried. It’s transparent, Barry. And that’s useful. Readers can see the caprice, and its demonstrative just on that basis. You’re a warrior, a warrior for God, and you know there’s no rules in war. This ain’t science, or ID for you, it’s all jihad, and responses like that make this abundantly clear.

  33. 33
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    BTW eigenstate, I don’t blame you for trying to change the subject away from your morally insane ethical program. Far better for you if we were to talk about whether it is possible for God to be a poopyhead in an imaginary universe instead of talking about the guidebook for psychopaths that you have written for this real universe in which we actually live.

    I think you need to scan the thread again. You’ve apparently missed a good number of my posts!

  34. 34
    Phinehas says:

    eigenstate:

    You seem to forget that your notion of good or bad will/may change as the nature of that universe’s god changes.

    The notion of a universe’s God is nonsensical. Will the universe create a Necessary Being for itself? Right after it creates itself? That’s some spectacular faith.

    God doesn’t change. He is. Other things may be or may not be.

  35. 35
    eigenstate says:

    @Box,

    ES: That seems far less satisfying than doing honest work for honest results (..)

    Why would “honest work” and “honest results” be selected for by evolution over “smart and ruthless” and “getting stuff for free”?

    Because it leads to extinction for the group. If this group that had 37 of 1,000 habitual cheaters instead had only 37 of 1,000 individuals actual producing crops and making tools and otherwise promoting surviving and thriving for the group, the group could not survive on its own, let alone compete against a neighboring tribe that had developed strong prohibitions against cheaters and had just a few out of the 1,000 as cheaters.

    It doesn’t matter how smart or ruthless the cheater is if the effects are detrimental and scale to extinction. Evolution will either hasten that very extinction, or promote strategies (by selection) that combat it. If lying is personally profitable for one individual, lying as a habit for the group erodes the social contract and cooperative abilities of the group. It can’t work as a practice at scale, so it either obtains and works toward the elimination of the group from the food chain, or it gets resisted through social sanctions in the group — lying discouraged and prohibited as a wrong.

    ES: (..) and enabling solid bonds of trust and friendship with those around me, or event those far from me.

    Why would killing them off in order to get their resources not be a better idea from an evolutionary standpoint?

    Is this really new territory for. This is basic evolution for social animals. A group that cooperates — and this needs trust and communicates will generally outperform groups that don’t. That is, the genes in a population that cooperates and allocates labor and resources more efficiently through specialization will out-reproduce and outcompete more anti-social groups. If the mother can watch the offspring while the father goes and gets food — cooperation — the two may produce more successful offspring than if the split after fertilization. If that’s the case, then selection will favor that strategy.

    Killing off kin and tribe may provide immediate advantages, but long term existential threats. Over the long term, and this is how evolution operates, strategies that promote long term advantages get promoted. Killing your neighbor and eating the neighbor’s young if you are a prairie dog may satisfy an immediate need in terms of hunger, but may put the survival of the group at risk by leaving so many less to defend/alert/hunt, etc.

    ES: That would seem to be a more conducive disposition for the flourishing of the group as well.

    Not if resources and territory are scarce and they always are, aren’t they?

    There are never enough resources for all possible participants. In some cases, war is advantageous. If the tribe is far removed from your own genes (cf. kin selection), there’s not the barrier to killing and violence that exists against killing your brother (who has a 0.5 share with your genes). But if I go steal and plunder, I’m inviting retaliation. If I go to war, I can expect the other tribe to respond in kind. Maybe that’s advantageous, maybe not, but your reaction here does not appear to consider the ramifications of the strategies you suppose are clearly advantageous.

    ES: So why would that make the cheater the hero?

    Because he provides more opportunities for his tribe of course.

    Not if he triggers a retaliating raid, or gets killed in the process!

    ES: Eigenstate: There’s nothing magical about “cheating is bad” (…)

    BOX: Oh yes, but there is. In a purposeless universe that consists of nothing but purposeless physical processes, the *emergence* of *cheating* (for a purpose) is nothing short of magic.

    ES: Who’s issuing the incantation in this impersonal world of mindless physical processes. I can never understand this kind of projection. Criticize and reject the there-is-no-magic model all you like, but it is a there-is-no-magic model.

    Materialism is exactly the opposite of what you claim; it utterly depends on magic. A (fine-tuned) universe from nothing, exquisite design by blind forces, blind physical processes that have the illusion that they are persons, rationality produced by blind physical forces, freedom and responsibility from determinism, morality from indifferent physical processes and so forth.

    Who is doing the magic, Box, and what are the incantations, and interventions, in the materialist model?

    ES: If it’s not, what would you point to that is non-magical? All we have in view in this model is machinery.

    Machinery of staggering complexity produced by wavicles without a goal in mind. You have a strong stomach for magic, I give you that.

    You didn’t answer the question: what would a non-magical model look like in your view, then?

    ES: It’s just physical processes.

    “Just”? What do you mean by that? You have extraordinary faith in magic.

    Apparently we think of “magic” in nearly opposite terms. Here is what I pulled from Webster’s, and that suits me fine as a definition:

    : a power that allows people (such as witches and wizards) to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions

    : tricks that seem to be impossible and that are done by a performer to entertain people

    : special power, influence, or skill

    Reading that, none of those apply to material models of physics or evolution. And all of them apply to the Christian model, with the except of the entertainment motivation — YHWH does magic for more shock-and-awe, self-glorification reasons. Maybe that is what goes for entertainment if you are cosmic deity…

    ES: If that isn’t perfectly anti-magical, what would be?

    Anything with a little common sense would do a better job.

    But the “common sense” models are explicitly magical! In Genesis you have the warlock working magic by the incantation: “Let there be light!”. And voilá! there was light. That is the apotheosis of magic, is it not.

    So you must be thinking of something else. What is a “common sense” model of the universe that you would say is less magical that the naturalist model?

  36. 36
    Barry Arrington says:

    Now eigenstate’s lies begin.

    Barry:

    I did not propose an alternate universe to you. I proposed an alternate environment in this universe. And under those circumstances you said, yes, in that alternate environment in this universe infant torture could be morally obligatory.

    Eigenstate:

    An alternate environment than the one we have *is* an alternate universe.

    That is a demonstrable, flat out lie. In the prior thread where this discussion began eigenstate said:

    Well, if the world was far different than it is, it would be far different than it is. If was a force that repelled matter with the strength it attracts matter, that’d be a pretty different universe, wouldn’t it? That would be a shocking difference from the universe we live in!

    I replied by saying I was not interested in some hypothetical alternate universe. I wanted to know about “our environment.” I replied:

    But we are not talking about the “universe.” We are talking about whether something is — your words — adaptationally advantageous.
    Your example is not germane. What is adaptationally advantageous can change, and in fact it frequently does. And it does not require anything as drastic as a change in the laws of physics for that to happen. Indeed, evolutionary theory posits that what is adaptationally advantageous can change merely on the basis of a change in an organism’s environment. For example, woolly mammoths’ thick fur may be adaptationally advantageous in an ice age. It may cause them to get heat stroke and die in a warming period.
    So, I will ask the question again,
    If our environment somehow changed so that torturing infants for pleasure became adaptationally advantageous, would we then have an ethical obligation to torture infants for pleasure?
    A simple yes or no will do.

    Eigenstate responded:

    Yes, by tautology: If the environment were such that killing infants for pleasure was obligatory by nature, then necessarily, the killing of infants for pleasure would be obligatory.

    The bottom line is that I asked the question in the context of potential changes to “our environment,” and eigenstate answered the question in that context. Now eigenstate is trying to pretend that his “yes” was applicable only in some strange alternate universe where perhaps the laws of physics were reversed.

    He is a liar. But why are surprised. Look at what he wrote above:

    The values that we are wired with, are not “good” or “bad” . . .Some marginal number of cheaters can be supported in the tribe, but too many cheaters and not enough producers and the group’s survival is threatened.

    So there is no good or bad. Therefore cheating is not bad in itself. In fact the tribe can support some level of cheating. It only becomes a problem if there is so much cheating that the group’s survival is threatened.

    The logic applies for lying just as well. There is no good or bad. Therefore, eigenstate does not believe that lying is bad as such. In fact, the tribe can even support a certain level of lying. There is only a problem if there is too much lying.

    And eigenstate has evidently decided we have not reached that level yet.

    The discussion with eigenstate is over. I have learned that his invariable reaction once he is beaten in a debate is to open up the throttle and go full bore lie and deny. Such is not productive and I have no intention of engaging in a discussion with an opponent who will say literally anything, no matter how false or outrageous.

  37. 37
    eigenstate says:

    @Phineas,

    God doesn’t change. He is. Other things may be or may not be.

    What is asserted without evidence or argument is just as easily dismissed without evidence or argument.

    I might as well say, then:

    Nature doesn’t change. It is what is, and only what it is in any and every possible world.

    And so Barry’s hypothetical doesn’t even need a thought in response.

    That’s not how I roll, but this sort of position just invites naked, unqualified assertion by way of setting an example. That works with credulous kids in a Sunday School class (it did with me as a youth in Sunday School!). It doesn’t carry any weight when there are competing models to evaluate it against, and some interest in looking at the epistemic grounds for such a claim.

  38. 38
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry

    If our environment somehow changed so that torturing infants for pleasure became adaptationally advantageous, would we then have an ethical obligation to torture infants for pleasure?

    (my emphasis)

    That cancels your claim right there, Barry. “Somehow changed” departs from the universe we live in. That is manifestly NOT part of the universe we inhabit. It’s a hypothetical.

    I might as well say, if YHWH changed in this universe such that starting tomorrow, infant torture was a required part of the Sabbath, a means for the faithful to rest and recreate, then would you be obligated by God’s command?

    It doesn’t work to say, “that will never happen”. I could say the same thing, if I were looking to avoid the implications. The operating word is “if”, in both cases. Here’s a hint: that if makes it a hypothetical, and then a tautology in both cases. Claiming it would not happen (like I said I could avail myself of the same evasive moves if I chose) does not address the question as posed, as a hypothetical.

    So I’m fine posing the hypothetical in “this universe” if that’s how you want to frame it, both ways. What’s important is that it is a hypothetical; that is an “alternate universe” by my lights, but I’m not interested in quibbling over the terms as long as the concepts are congruent.

  39. 39
    dgosse says:

    Ask Barry if God was good and just in ordering the slaughter of the Amalekite babies. That provides a very good reference point, as Barry is already fairly close to situation he wants to avoid.

    We are dealing with a couple of different questions that are often conflated and at least one of which ID cannot answer.

    1)Is there a God? ID might be capable of answering this – the ‘designer’ – based upon evidence of design in nature. I think there is enough evidence of design to support the assumption of a designer.

    2)The character of the designer – is he/she/it good, bad, or indifferent? We might make some guesses based upon what we see in nature but, as is so often observed, the evidence is ambiguous (to say the least). We must have ‘revelation’ from the designer if we hope to have any real understanding of the character of the designer.

    AFIK the only religions that claim ‘revelation’ for their source are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (with some offshoots), all others are ‘philosophical’ (based on human ideas) religions. Of the three only Christianity (officially) abhors the killing of children and non-combatants. Although ‘Christian’ rulers, clergy, and people have all, at one time or another, engaged in the abhorrent practice, officially it is condemned by both revelation and orthodox doctrine.

    Judaism, to my knowledge, has no such proscription (the Stern Gang, Irgun, Haganah), although they have, for the most part, avoided their use. Islam subscribes to the divine command theory and will engage any tactic which will achieve the end of the universal Umma.

    Christianity, with the final revelation through Christ, has devised a (sometimes theoretical) philosophy of “just war” which severely limits when and how and for what purpose war may be engaged. Certainly, any individual who claimed a special revelation that “God had commanded the killing of Amalekite babies” would be (or should be) anathematized because the NT makes it quite clear that killing babies is not authorized for Christians.

  40. 40
    Box says:

    Eigenstate,

    ES: That seems far less satisfying than doing honest work for honest results (..)

    BOX: Why would “honest work” and “honest results” be selected for by evolution over “smart and ruthless” and “getting stuff for free”?

    Because it leads to extinction for the group. If this group that had 37 of 1,000 habitual cheaters instead had only 37 of 1,000 individuals actual producing crops and making tools and otherwise promoting surviving and thriving for the group, the group could not survive on its own, let alone compete against a neighboring tribe that had developed strong prohibitions against cheaters and had just a few out of the 1,000 as cheaters.

    Irrelevant and you know it. Anyone can see that I was talking about “smart and ruthless” and “getting stuff for free” wrt another tribe. Let me recap:

    Box: Surely Eigenstate’s hero is the guy that cheats, lies, rapes and mass-murders the members of the other tribe and gets away with it. More Lebensraum for Eigenstate’s tribe and he is getting the other tribe’s stuff for free.

    Now where did you read that I was talking about cheating on your own tribe?

    ES: It doesn’t matter how smart or ruthless the cheater is if the effects are detrimental and scale to extinction. Evolution will either hasten that very extinction, or promote strategies (by selection) that combat it. If lying is personally profitable for one individual, lying as a habit for the group erodes the social contract and cooperative abilities of the group.

    Blahblah Blah. This discussion of ours is getting annoying rather quickly. Again, I’m not talking about cheating on your own people.

    ES: It can’t work as a practice at scale, so it either obtains and works toward the elimination of the group from the food chain, or it gets resisted through social sanctions in the group — lying discouraged and prohibited as a wrong.

    Irrelevant ….

    ES: (..) and enabling solid bonds of trust and friendship with those around me, or event those far from me.

    Box: Why would killing them off in order to get their resources not be a better idea from an evolutionary standpoint?

    Is this really new territory for. This is basic evolution for social animals. A group that cooperates — and this needs trust and communicates will generally outperform groups that don’t.

    Sure, but I’m talking about a group that cooperates in order to enslave, kill off and so forth the other tribe. Sheesh! Plenty of successful examples of that throughout history and even today.

    ES: Killing off kin and tribe may provide immediate advantages, but long term existential threats.

    Aha, now we are getting somewhere! And this is a clear score for psychopaths because evolution has no long term goals in mind. We all know that.

    E.S.: Over the long term, and this is how evolution operates, strategies that promote long term advantages get promoted.

    What? Evolution operates on long term goals? Let’s ask a real expert, let’s ask Dawkins:

    Life isn’t like that. Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution. In real life, the criterion for selection is always short-term, either simple survival or, more generally, reproductive success. If, after the aeons, what looks like progress towards some distant goal seems, with hindsight, to have been achieved, this is always an incidental consequence of many generations of short-term selection. The ‘watchmaker’ that is cumulative natural selection is blind to the future and has no long-term goal.

    [Blind Watchmaker, p.50]

    ES:

    Box: Materialism is exactly the opposite of what you claim; it utterly depends on magic. A (fine-tuned) universe from nothing, exquisite design by blind forces, blind physical processes that have the illusion that they are persons, rationality produced by blind physical forces, freedom and responsibility from determinism, morality from indifferent physical processes and so forth.

    Who is doing the magic, Box, and what are the incantations, and interventions, in the materialist model?

    “Nothing” and “chance” are the key players in the materialist’s magical show. In effect the materialist concept is riddled with unexplained *magical* moments, starting with the Big Bang.

    ES: You didn’t answer the question: what would a non-magical model look like in your view, then?

    Accept the mystery of the existence of God and everything that follows will become a lot less magical — in the sense of totally unexplainable — than things are under materialism.

  41. 41
    EvilSnack says:

    History indicates that our survival chances are maximized by eliminating people who do not believe in good or evil.

  42. 42
    Phinehas says:

    e:

    Phin: God doesn’t change. He is. Other things may be or may not be.

    e: What is asserted without evidence or argument is just as easily dismissed without evidence or argument.

    Indeed. You do realize, don’t you, that what I wrote was in response to the following, asserted without evidence or argument.

    e: You seem to forget that your notion of good or bad will/may change as the nature of that universe’s god changes.

    Here, you are assuming a certain framework for reality. I’ve asserted a different framework. Even more, I’ve corrected your faulty framework by stating what is true.

    Oh, and God is not easily dismissed no matter what you may think.

Leave a Reply