Intelligent Design

The relevance of Darwin mythmaking to ID

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In a comment to one of my posts of yesterday, on the popular myths (and ridiculous hagiography) around Darwin, someone responded, “I am not seeing the ID relevance of this article.”

Really not? Okay then, let me unpack it. When I started covering the ID controversy in depth (about 2002 onward, while writing By Design or by Chance? ), I quickly became aware that the Darwin myths were the single most important reason why – irrespective of any evidence whatever – average educated people could not imagine that Darwin and his heirs might be mistaken in their interpretation of the history of life.

Indeed, Darwinian evolutionist Douglas Futuyma picked up that current when he wrote in the 1998 edition of his textbook,

Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism…

Yes, you see, Darwin is right up there with Einstein – where Freud and Marx also used to be – as one of the guys who explained it all for you.

Now, obviously, one consequence of materialist apotheosis (becoming a materialist divinity) is that you can’t be wrong even when you obviously are. Miracles are ascribed to you or allegedly done in your name. The people who oppose you are evil, and are hatching wicked plots against the righteous elect who believe in you.

Now, religious sects in North America often behave in this fashion. But they do not often demand what the Darwinists have demanded and so far got – that all children be legally compelled to learn their dogmas (and only their dogmas) at taxpayer expense in publicly funded schools. Had the American elite not already been sold on the religion of materialism, materialism’s creation story (Darwinism) would certainly not have attained this status in biology classes. And there is now no longer any question that the materialists do mean to found a church.

Slowly, materialists are succeeding in their effort to establish their church as the national religion. And, just as a sociologist of religion might predict, the vigorous Christian sects of North America, Catholicism and evangelicalism, are blowing the materialists off but the dying liberal ones are accommodating them.

Now, how does this affect ID? Well, in the present environment, any scientist who says, “My data better fit a hypothesis of the workings of nature that includes design than one that does not” is essentially either an infidel or a heretic. Thus, the question is not whether his data provide useful information but whether we should (1) burn or (2) drown the faithless wretch.

In my own view, most educated people will not evaluate the question of whether design is an intrinsic part of nature in a reasonable way until the dubious Darwiniania is shown up for what it is – dubious mythmaking and inappropriate hagiography. The Darwin bicentennial is a good place to begin.

(Note: A couple of years ago, I was discussing an obscure question with a fellow science journalist who confided that his personal reverence for Darwin stemmed from the fact that Darwin was a “moral” atheist – thus demonstrating that an atheist could be moral.

I was a bit surprised because I apprehended for the first time the yawning gulf between his life experience among the elite and mine among the unwashed.

I’d never doubted that a Christian could be moral. That’s just expected. But the typical serious Catholic aspires to be a saint, which ratchets the bar up considerably higher. Even so, John Paul II was declaring people saints and blesseds all the time. (The typical serious Protestant aspires to a similar status, though expressed somewhat differently.) In other words, the problem was never whether morally praiseworthy behaviour is possible in principle but whether one really intends to follow the many virtuous examples oneself.)

39 Replies to “The relevance of Darwin mythmaking to ID

  1. 1
    russ says:

    The question is not whether an atheist can be moral. The question is whether there is any logical reason why he must be. Isn’t his decision to be “moral” and even to define what moral is, just a matter of personal preference?

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    A real question is “What does being moral mean?”

    We have had this disussion many times before on ethics, morality etc. It essentially means adhering to some sort of standard in practice as well as theory. The ironic thing is that Denyse’s colleague probably meant that Darwin was adhering to some form of Christian standard of morality.

    In the spirit of the post. ID has always been more about the debunking of Darwinism than the promotion of ID. Even within the promotion of ID there is rigorous ID and its definition of CSI and there is populist ID or the obvious design of things in the universe and biological world. This site has a particular allegiance to rigorous ID because of all of Dr. Dembski’s efforts to codify ID but I suspect most here are really populist IDers.

  3. 3
    tribune7 says:

    I was discussing an obscure question with a fellow science journalist who confided that his personal reverence for Darwin stemmed from the fact that Darwin was a “moral” atheist

    Marx and Stalin like Darwin too. Anyway, what makes Darwin “moral”? He didn’t shoplift?

  4. 4
    chance says:

    Perhaps the reason that evolution is taught in schools is not because of some ‘Darwinist’ agenda, but simply the fact that evolution is science, it is widely accepted as the best explanation of the evidence, and the school curriculum considers this an important point to teach.

  5. 5
    Fross says:

    religious reasoning for being moral aside, can you not think of very logical reasons to be moral?

    I have to admit that most of my morals these days are based on my logic. All actions have consequences regardless of the existence of any deities. I’ve never understood why people can’t understand how an atheist can be moral.dd

  6. 6
    nullasalus says:

    No one denies that atheists can be moral. The particular problem for atheism is that what is defined as ‘moral’ can have some broad limits. Peter Singer illustrates this beautifully in his ‘I don’t think it’s always wrong to kill an innocent human’ philosophy.

    As for the article, for me the most important aspect of it was showing how the entire issue of evolution, and Darwin’s persona in particular, has been (ab)used as a political and social chesspiece.

  7. 7
    RickToews says:

    “All actions have consequences regardless of the existence of any deities.”

    What consequences might those be–apart from such as society might impose because you “broke the rules”? But what if you’re smart enough or powerful enough to avoid paying the consequences–or even being incriminated? Why, then, should you choose to be subject to other people’s morals?

    “The question is not whether an atheist can be moral. The question is whether there is any logical reason why he must be.”

    Quite so. If I were an atheist, I would probably be “moral” because of my upbringing. However, I would be hard pressed to present a reason why I ought, in principle, to adhere to some standard of morality.

  8. 8
    Phevans says:

    I’ve never understood the lack of understanding of atheist morality. “Christian” morality is personal choices justified by the Bible; all the atheist lacks is a convenient book to justify her choice. If you’re going to choose your own morals, why tie them to a book which demands other morals you *won’t* follow?

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    Phevans

    Have a read, starting say here, to give some background and context on issues.

    All the best.

    GEM of TKI

  10. 10
    shaner74 says:

    “I’ve never understood the lack of understanding of atheist morality. “Christian” morality is personal choices justified by the Bible; all the atheist lacks is a convenient book to justify her choice.”

    How silly.

  11. 11
    jerry says:

    “I’ve never understood why people can’t understand how an atheist can be moral.”

    Morals is a choice of a standard to which one bases one’s actions on. As such Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin etc could say they were moral or ethical. So it depends on what standard one chooses to adhere to.

    An atheist has no basis for making a choice other than what ever molecules drive their decision processes. That is all they ascribe to. How does logic enter into it since molecules only follow the physical forces that drive them?

    “all the atheist lacks is a convenient book to justify her choice”

    Atheist don’t make choices, because that implies free will and molecules do not have free will.

  12. 12
    Rude says:

    Fross: “I’ve never understood why people can’t understand how an atheist can be moral.” People do understand, as just before you Russ understands: “The question is not whether an atheist can be moral. The question is whether there is any logical reason why he must be.” Or as we might say, “… why he should be.” Atheist morality piggy-backs on Judeo-Christian morality, that is, atheists merely go with the flow (as long as there is any Judeo-Christian flow left)—otherwise the only ethic they can justify is utilitarian—that is, if shop-lifting might land me in jail then I’d best not shoplift. But if I reason that genocide will let me scatter my جنجويد genes further afield than loving tolerance, then who’s Darwin to object?

    Jerry suspects that “most here are really populist IDers.” Which is probably true, and which is also true of your average militant Darwiener. Why is Darwinism so polarizing? Because it’s a populist myth with profound moral implications.

  13. 13
    Phevans says:

    kairosfocus: thanks for the link. Hard going but interesting (I’ve got it del.icio.us’d for after work)

    Shaner74: how silly? Christians pick which bits of the Bible to derive a moral code from and ignore others. How is this qualitatively different to simply making a decision as to what your morals are?

    Jerry: “Atheists don’t make choices, because that implies free will and molecules do not have free will”. First, atheism != non-spiritual != deterministic, as you should well know. Even from a materialistic point of view there’s still plenty of scope for affirming free will. An omniscient God is a far stronger argument for determinism and against free will.

    Rude: “if shop-lifting might land me in jail then I’d best not shoplift”. This is a far better summing up of the Christian position than the atheist one: “if shop-lifting might land me in hell, I’d better not shop-lift”. What’s the difference?

  14. 14
    russ says:

    “Shaner74: how silly? Christians pick which bits of the Bible to derive a moral code from and ignore others. How is this qualitatively different to simply making a decision as to what your morals are?” – Phevans

    I think Christians accept the 10 commandments pretty much universally, with the sometime exception of Sabbath observance. They also universally accept the Beatitudes, the “Love” Chapter in I Corinthians, and lots of other lists of ethical standards. That there is disagreement on certain passages and compromise on the part of some Christians, is hardly the same as making ups stuff from scratch based on the personal opinions of individuals.

  15. 15
    Fross says:

    This reminds me of a joke:

    “when I was a kid, I wanted a new bike, so I prayed to God for one. Eventually I learned that God doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and asked for forgiveness.” hehe

    Here’s why an atheist can be moral just like a Christian. All actions done by a Christian and an atheist will have the same positive or negative outcomes regardless of the faith or non-faith of the individual. Lies have negative consequences regardless of who tells them. Madmen who want to wipe out a portion of humanity (for materialistic reasons or religious ones) will be the enemy of that half of humanity and will more than likely be killed, attacked, overthrown or jailed. I really do think one of the lowest blows in the theist vs. atheist debate is to paint the atheist as a person who has no reason to be moral.

  16. 16
    Phevans says:

    Me: “atheism != non-spiritual != deterministic”. On reflection, I’m peddling semantics here. Of course materialism is a subset of atheism, but as it’s being used here Jerry’s clearly referring to materialists, so I’d better revoke the “!= non-spiritual” part. Argument still stands though.

    Russ: being an atheist does not mean rejecting moral standards. That I don’t believe in Gods doesn’t mean I don’t think there are some good moral lessons in the Bible, but many, if not most of them have come up independently in other philosophies and religions (cf. the Golden Rule). Christian morality is informed by society and always has been, and so I take my moral cues from the society I live in combined with some that I’ve decided on myself (informed by guidelines like the golden rule). Christians who reject Leviticus et al have no real business quoting the commandments or condemning homosexuality, and those who follow Jesus’s teachings tend not to sell all their worldly possessions, a fairly clear precept.

    I guess what I’m saying is: if one is going to use personal discretion to pick morals from a religion, why not cut out the middleman and use your judgement directly?

  17. 17
    mike1962 says:

    Fross, “I’ve never understood why people can’t understand how an atheist can be moral”

    It’s easy to understand why an atheist can be moral: they derive the basis for their morality from the surrounding culture, which programs the emotions, which are the foundation for all the rest your logic may come up with.

    There’s nothing logical or rational about lions killing gazelles or not. How are humans any different, except that your emotions are simply revulsed? You can credit or blame the Judeo-Christian derived culture for that. If you were born in Assyria 2500 years you’d have an entirely different view of all of this, atheist or not.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Hi folks

    Came by while doing a spot of site maintenance.

    To stir the pot:

    Q1] is the sense of “ought” real and is it a real obligation, or just another chance +/or necessity driven illusion?

    –> If your answer is yes, why?

    –> If no, then how can you ground, say, rights? [Other than the rather pointless “might makes right.”]

    Q2] And, why is it you get angry when your “rights” are violated?

    Q4] Why do we quarrel, in the sense of trying to show one another in the WRONG? [And, why is it that the “wronger” seldom bats aside the wronged’s complaint as mere noise, as a lion bats aside a gazelle’s bleat?]

    GEM of TKI

  19. 19
    shaner74 says:

    “Shaner74: how silly? Christians pick which bits of the Bible to derive a moral code from and ignore others. How is this qualitatively different to simply making a decision as to what your morals are?”

    Phevans, you, like many atheists, have failed to use the very “logic and reason” you claim to hold so dear. Christians or (insert non-materialist religion here) believe there is a higher power they derive their morals from and to whom they are ultimately responsible. Atheists do not believe in a higher power, and do not believe there is any He/She/It that will ultimately hold them responsible for their actions. For the atheist, existence is nothing more than atoms interacting with atoms – determined from the beginning of time. An atheist probably won’t kill the man he found his wife cheating on him with, but ultimately, he has no good reason not to – by letting the other man live he’s only damaging the chances for his selfish genes to survive. You’ve also chosen to attack Christianity only, which is another way of saying, “I’m new at this atheist stuff”. That’s why it’s silly.

  20. 20
    Ekstasis says:

    kairosfocus,

    “ought” is the result of every person having a internally programmed sense of 1. right vs wrong combined with 2. accountability. Just as you are saying, even if we believed in right vs wrong, we would not have such a desperate and intense desire to justify ourselves if we had no feeling of impending accountability — that we will be held to account for our actions.

    This is exactly why we argue endlessly with others, why we must always be in the right, why admitting we are wrong is so incredibly difficult. It is a powerful compulsion that we all deal with. Near Death Experiences (the other NDE) consistently include such a judgement element — death only brings accountability to final fruition, it does not provide escape. That is why everyone deep down inside, whether they admit it or not, inherently know that a day of judgement will happen for all of us.

    So, how do we deal with it? Some of us pretend the problem does not exist except in our own minds — the Materialist in the ultimate state of denial. Others of us imagine that we are perfect — whatever we believe and do are, by definition, universally right. These two types of people are only stuffing the monster into the closet, only to have it pop out again bigger and badder the ever.

    And then, there is the spiritual man or woman who understands his or her precarious position, seeks absolution (forgiveness and cleansing), receives it, and is free. Sweet liberty!!!!!!

  21. 21

    Phevans wrote @5

    [A]ll the atheist lacks is a convenient book to justify her choice.

    How about The Marquis de Sade’s La Philosophie dans le boudoir (WARNING: VERY EXPLICIT CONTENT)?

    If you find Sade’s philosophy personally disgusting, what logic or reason could you use to tell others not to follow it? That would be forcing your prudish, outdated morals on someone else, wouldn’t it?

  22. 22
    shaner74 says:

    “Near Death Experiences (the other NDE) consistently include such a judgement element”

    NDE’s? You mean the genetic mutation which allows the brain to produce vivid imagery of an afterlife when it’s deprived of oxygen at the time of death? That’s really a cool evolutionary trick, since the brain normally needs oxygen to function like, all the time. Oops sorry, I’ve strayed off-topic.

  23. 23
    Phevans says:

    Shaner: I don’t really see that you’re putting forward an argument here, apart from again asserting that Christian (or insert non-materialist religion here) morals are somehow “better” because you’ll be held responsible. I’d rather make a choice based on what I feel the right thing to do is, rather than because I think I’ll be punished if I do the wrong thing. You may be different. As for “attacking” Christianity, I’m honestly not, I think that for the main part the morals laid out in the New Testament are a pretty reasonable moral framework (apart from disagreeing about the God bit ;). If you’d prefer to talk about Muslim morality I’m more than happy to (summary: I disagree more) but I was talking Christianity because it’s what I, and I assume most people here, are most familiar with. Please also do a bit of reading and learn the difference between atheism, materialism, and determinism.

    I guess the point I’m making is that religious people, despite their belief in a higher power who has sent down morals, make clear and informed decisions to ignore some or all parts of that moral code as it suits them. Surely this is equivalent to choosing to follow a set of morals based on ones own beliefs? In fact it’s probably “sillier” as you’re risking eternal damnation!

    Angryoldfatman: I wouldn’t tell people not to get follow it. If they’re adults and have made a consenting choice to dress up in leather and whatnot, then they should go for it. I don’t really care how other people have sex, as long as they’re not hurting anyone else (well, you know what I mean 😉 At the end of the day, something along the lines of “do no harm, do unto others” sums up my morals pretty well.

    The reason I’ve participated in this thread for so long is that it consistently annoys me when religious types assert that atheists are amoral, when the opposite is clearly true (insert standard prison population statistic here). It detracts from any real interesting debate, is easily knocked down, and is a clear insult to intelligent people who’ve actually *thought* about this.

  24. 24
    TerryL says:

    It detracts from any real interesting debate, is easily knocked down, and is a clear insult to intelligent people who’ve actually *thought* about this.

    Phevans,
    Tell that to Anthony O’Hear, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bradford, and Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy–and author of Beyond Evolution: Human Nature and the Limits of Evolutionary Explanation.

    Dr. O’Hear argues that the theory of evolution is of limited value when applied to the human world. In particular, it is insufficient in explaining the origin of a normative activity such as morality.

    The point that you miss is: the argument is not that atheists are amoral, but that there is no basis for morality without an authorative voice saying what is moral and what is immoral. Otherwise, morality is subjective.

    As Dr. Patrick Glynn states in God: The Evidence : “The best that modern philosophy has been able to produce after hundreds of years of attempting to replace the idea of God with a comprehensive alternative based on ‘reason’ turns out to be a diluted and less than completely coherent version of the New Testament moral vision. The modern philosopher has become a strange sort of middleman: He borrows the New Testament vision, benefits from its potent appeal, and then presents it to us claiming, incongruously, to have arrived at these moral insights on the basis of the modern discovery that there are ‘no values.’ The postmodern moral vision is not only incoherent; it is the purest hypocrisy.”

    Seems to me, Drs. O’Hear and Glynn have actually *thought* about this, too.

  25. 25
    tribune7 says:

    I guess the point I’m making is that religious people, despite their belief in a higher power who has sent down morals, make clear and informed decisions to ignore some or all parts of that moral code as it suits them.

    Oh, but when they don’t is when the really amazing things happen.

  26. 26
    shaner74 says:

    “Shaner: I don’t really see that you’re putting forward an argument here, apart from again asserting that Christian (or insert non-materialist religion here) morals are somehow “better” because you’ll be held responsible.”

    Phevans, the argument is that atheism has *no* basis for claiming any non-relative morality. It just borrows it from somewhere else. Note what I said: not “better” morals, as you have tried to redefine it, but “none”. You say it does. Prove it.

    “I’d rather make a choice based on what I feel the right thing to do is, rather than because I think I’ll be punished if I do the wrong thing.”

    Me too. I feel the “right” thing to do is kill anyone who entertains an opposing viewpoint. That way I can spread my genetic material. Why am I wrong to do that?

    “Please also do a bit of reading and learn the difference between atheism, materialism, and determinism”

    Nice friendly dig. They are peas in a pod.

    “I guess the point I’m making is that religious people, despite their belief in a higher power who has sent down morals, make clear and informed decisions to ignore some or all parts of that moral code as it suits them.”

    So what? They believe they have free will to do so, and most of them know it’s wrong; especially when their actions negatively impact another human being whom they believe God has created with the same right to life as them. The atheist only has a set of relative moral values to adhere to which can be defined anyway they like – no ultimate right and wrong to interfere with constructing that favorite set of morals. Today I let you live because it helps me to survive. Tomorrow I kill you because it helps me to survive. All of which is beyond my control because I’m nothing more than my genetic material.

  27. 27
    tb says:

    I think the biggest question is: Is there an universal moral law at work that all people do know subconsciously? If it is so, there is no doubt that atheist do have an idea of what is moral and what is immoral.
    I believe that there exists such an universal law, therefore atheist as well as christians and everybody else in this whole world do know that taking someones life is wrong, or that betrayal, and or stealing things do not abide the human honor code.
    Now you can bring some examples of remote tribes where it is honorable to betray your best friend, you may also bring other examples, but these are just exceptions (or to say aberrations) to the universal moral laws which has been ever present in all so different and independent societies.

    If you compare all moral laws of independent ancient societies you will notice there are lots and lots of similarities. Sure there are some differences, but there are not so big as to say that in essence the moral laws differ.
    Now if moral laws were to be generated by sociological development, then someone could point out to me how these moral laws developed. Where did it first occur and why? And secondly were there any advances in this development to bring forth the moral laws throughout history, and the one existing today?
    Now if there were any moral advances (like equal rights for women or african americans) on what bases did those reformers (e.g.Martin Luther, or M L King) argue? When you argue that one moral law is better than another, you will have to have something to compare it to! Maybe an universal ever present moral law?

  28. 28
    Ekstasis says:

    Oh sure, who needs God to define our morals, to guide and direct us? Let us free ourselves from such external shackles!!

    Sounds magnificent and refreshing, doesn’t it? The Atheist / Materialist always starts out with such high and lofty promises, probably because they are free to make it up as they go along. They know better than any ‘ole sacred texts, you know!

    But somehow it always ends up as in Crime and Punishment, a la Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Yep, those great intellectuals know better than our old and flawed tradition, they do. Rules are made for others, they are above all that. They justify everything, just as Raskolnikov did when he murdered the miserable old woman so that he could use her $$ for greater and more noble purposes. But, just as in the novel, some innocents get hurt in the process, some unintended consequences pop up to ruin the fun. The judgement of the ages comes down on him and crushes him, although through humility and confession he is released and redeemed. It is never too late for those who humble themselves!!

    Somehow God’s timeless principles always triumph supreme, much as the immutable laws of nature (with the exception of the infinite universes scenario, each with their own unique set of happy laws!). And the next crop of intellectual atheists turn to dust. And the Saints of old look on as witnesses, sorrowfully, if sorrow is allowed on the other side.

    Will we ever learn??

  29. 29
    jerry says:

    Phevans,

    You said:

    “First, atheism != non-spiritual != deterministic, as you should well know. Even from a materialistic point of view there’s still plenty of scope for affirming free will.”

    I am confused. How does something spiritual arise in a Godless existence? How does free will arise in this same universe? How can anything arise in a Godless existence or how can existence arise? How should I well know these things? Because I haven’t a clue how this could happen other than someone asserting that it can happen which means the onus is on him or her to say how it happens. I have never seen it done but maybe you could explain it.

    By the way I believe you have free will and can choose anything you want to believe including that you do not have free will. But the reason I believe you have free will is that I believe someone made you and I or our species that way. It is one of the reasons I believe in God, because I cannot imagine any other materialistic or natural way leading to creatures with free will. Maybe you could enlighten us.

  30. 30
    JasonTheGreek says:

    Just so we’re accurate here. I’ve never heard a Christian say he chooses his morality and then looks to the Bible to justify it.

    Furthermore- just to be completely accurate:

    “Christians who reject Leviticus et al have no real business quoting the commandments or condemning homosexuality”

    First- Jesus makes it clear that ANY sex outside of marriage is wrong. The NT makes this abundantly clear. That alone is reason enough to condemn homosexuality, because the NT makes it clear that marriage is a union of 1 man and 1 woman. Which means 2 people of the same sex cannot possibly be married, and people who are not married are living in sin by having sex to begin with. No need to look to Leviticus for that one.

    Secondly- of course Christians don’t live by the Code of the Jewish people of that particular age. Leviticus is a legal document that sets forth legal stipulations for the people of Israel in a certain time and certain place. It doesn’t apply to Christians under the new law via Christ.

    Finally- atheists merely do what they think society says is right. What causes less harm for the most part. But, why? If you live by the rule that men are merely vessels for DNA- then there’s no REAL reason for ANYTHING, let alone following any “moral code” you make for yourself. If you think there’s room for free will but no God, you’re in the difficult position of trying to explain how on earth an accidental universe allows free will to begin with. If you follow a moral code because it causes less harm, what happens one day when killing people means less harm to the world? What if the world was overpopulated and killing off 100 million innocents is a good thing for the planet? Good or bad? Why? Who says? What if popular opinion said that throwing 100 million into a pit is better for the overall good? Is it wrong, even if it’s “better” (what is better if you’re merely an accidental vessel for DNA anyhow? Does “better” even have a meaning outside of ‘what causes less harm to others’?)

    It’s a maze of confusion I’m glad I’m not stuck in!

  31. 31
    JasonTheGreek says:

    One more thing:

    ““I guess the point I’m making is that religious people, despite their belief in a higher power who has sent down morals, make clear and informed decisions to ignore some or all parts of that moral code as it suits them.””

    I don’t think most religious people do this. I think this is based on ignorance of the Bible (mainly). Some laws aren’t meant to be followed by Christians (as I mentioned in my last comment). Some laws are universal Biblically. Some laws pertain to certain people only at certain times in certain nations. The religious people I know follow the letter of the law and don’t pick and choose. Those that do- I see them as wasting their time. Living your life on what suits you is the opposite of what Christianity is about. It’s about being humble and accepting that the one who gave you life gives it at His leisure and can just as easily and rightfully take it away. That alone is reason enough for me to respect and obey all the law given.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    A few notes . . .

    First,this thread is overlapping considerably with the Mar 17th, “Showdown” one, on the roots of morality issues; I suggest a bit of cross-thread reading. On points plucked almost at random:

    1] Ekstasis, 20: even if we believed in right vs wrong, we would not have such a desperate and intense desire to justify ourselves if we had no feeling of impending accountability — that we will be held to account for our actions . . .

    A telling hint on the real nature of human reality isn’t it. (Almost as if our minds had “Made by God” written into core software . . .?)

    Also, if a deeply cognitive process such as this is on evolutionary materialist grounds equally deeply an illusion, why then should evo mat thinkers trust ANY of the deliverances of the cognitive faculty, including their own system of thought? [Cf the other thread]

    2] Ph, 23: I’d rather make a choice based on what I feel the right thing to do is, rather than because I think I’ll be punished if I do the wrong thing.

    But, is that feeling anything more than a delusion driven by biological and socio-cultural evolutionary chance and natural regularity driven forces? If not, then why not live by the “lion” forces not the “gazelle” bleats — for we definitely feel BOTH impulses?

    [That is, following up on De Sade: nature made men stronger, and there is a well-known synergy between adrenalin forces and sexual pleasures, so why not get higher thrills from what we now call sadism? More directly, why do we feel certain things are “right” and why do we think that we should follow those impulse rather than the ones of “nature, red in tooth and claw”?]

    3] TL, 24: The point that you miss is: the argument is not that atheists are amoral, but that there is no basis for morality without an authoritative voice saying what is moral and what is immoral. Otherwise, morality is subjective.

    And, there are some competing subjective influences. De Sade’s principle that what nature gives is right and since men are stronger they therefore have a “right” to do with women as they please has serious consequences.

    4] Citing Glyn: “The best that modern philosophy has been able to produce after hundreds of years of attempting to replace the idea of God with a comprehensive alternative based on ‘reason’ turns out to be a diluted and less than completely coherent version of the New Testament moral vision.

    And factual inadequacy and incoherence are of course major worldviews tests.

    5] Shaner, 26: the argument is that atheism has *no* basis for claiming any non-relative morality. It just borrows it from somewhere else. Note what I said: not “better” morals, as you have tried to redefine it, but “none”. You say it does. Prove it.

    Of course one can try to collapse morality into culturally or personally relative rules. But that is not at all the same thing, as is in the other thread just now.

    6] TB, 27: I think the biggest question is: Is there an universal moral law at work that all people do know subconsciously?

    Indeed, and here is the biblical take on that observed UNIVERSALITY (thus, too, the issue that there are some time and culture specific elements that no longer apply but also principles and precepts that are “all-times, all-places”]. I here draw from Paul’s letter to Rome [Chs two and thirteen — hope that misses the filter]:

    because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself . . . To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, [God] will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger . . . . (. . . when Gentiles, who do not have the [written Mosaic] law, do by nature things required by the law, . . . they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . . [long snip] he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    BTW, this is the precise core argument that Equiano and other antislavery activists used against the trade, then the institution itself. Why did the British lion feel obligated to listen to this bleat of the tasty African gazelle?

    What worldview best makes sense of that?

    GEM of TKI

    PS on redefinitions of marriage, kindly read the first six verses of Matt nineteen before thinking that Jesus did not speak to the creation order male-female roots of marriage and family. Namely, observe that what God has joined men should not put asunder. If easy divorce is against God’s intent, how much more so what does not respect creation rooted maleness and femaleness?

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    A few notes . . .

    First,this thread is overlapping considerably with the Mar 17th, “Showdown” one, on the roots of morality issues; I suggest a bit of cross-thread reading. On points plucked almost at random:

    1] Ekstasis, 20: even if we believed in right vs wrong, we would not have such a desperate and intense desire to justify ourselves if we had no feeling of impending accountability — that we will be held to account for our actions . . .

    A telling hint on the real nature of human reality isn’t it. (Almost as if our minds had “Made by God” written into core software . . .?)

    Also, if a deeply cognitive process such as this is on evolutionary materialist grounds equally deeply an illusion, why then should evo mat thinkers trust ANY of the deliverances of the cognitive faculty, including their own system of thought? [Cf the other thread]

    2] Ph, 23: I’d rather make a choice based on what I feel the right thing to do is, rather than because I think I’ll be punished if I do the wrong thing.

    But, is that feeling anything more than a delusion driven by biological and socio-cultural evolutionary chance and natural regularity driven forces? If not, then why not live by the “lion” forces not the “gazelle” bleats — for we definitely feel BOTH impulses?

    [That is, following up on De Sade: nature made men stronger, and there is a well-known synergy between adrenalin forces and sexual pleasures, so why not get higher thrills from what we now call sadism? More directly, why do we feel certain things are “right” and why do we think that we should follow those impulse rather than the ones of “nature, red in tooth and claw”?]

    3] TL, 24: The point that you miss is: the argument is not that atheists are amoral, but that there is no basis for morality without an authoritative voice saying what is moral and what is immoral. Otherwise, morality is subjective.

    And, there are some competing subjective influences. De Sade’s principle that what nature gives is right and since men are stronger they therefore have a “right” to do with women as they please has serious consequences.

    4] Citing Glyn: “The best that modern philosophy has been able to produce after hundreds of years of attempting to replace the idea of God with a comprehensive alternative based on ‘reason’ turns out to be a diluted and less than completely coherent version of the New Testament moral vision.

    And factual inadequacy and incoherence are of course major worldviews tests.

    Pause . . .

  34. 34
    Rude says:

    Well—looks like my perfectly reasonable reason was challenged by Phevans 10: “This is a far better summing up of the Christian position than the atheist one: ‘if shop-lifting might land me in hell, I’d better not shop-lift’. What’s the difference?”

    Good question. Is Judeo-Christian morality really no different than the atheist’s utilitarianism? Well, there are carrots and sticks in both, but there’s this difference: The stick is the same on both sides (at least for those who believe eternal torment is a post-biblical teaching)—we die and that’s it. It’s the carrot that makes all the difference: Isaiah 22:13 (“let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die [אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ ×›Ö¼Ö´×™ מָחָר נָמוּת]”) for the materialist versus the possibility of eternal life (Daniel 12:2). It’s not the negative but the positive—the gift of life and rewards for righteousness—that constitute the main difference between crass utilitarianism and Judeo-Christian morality.

    And then ΚαιρόςFocus 15 brings up what sounds to me like Natural Law. Materialists, at least those in biology and in the humanities (if not physics), abhor mathematical realism, whereas theists tend to be sympathetic (see John Byl, Theism and Mathematical Realism, 2001). Judeo-Christians believe in absolutes, be they mathematical or moral (as in natural law), whereas the utilitarianism of the materialists is as fickle as the ebb and flow of public opinion or the selfish whims of a dictator.

    Also atheists tend to be statists—because the state is all there is!—and thus it is the state that confers upon us our rights. But Jefferson in 1776 would write that men “…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and such was also the case in the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man—“Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen …” But I find no reference to the deity in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.

    And this brings to mind Psalms 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom [רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה יִרְאַת ה׳]” (and Prov 9:10—“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom [תְּחִלַּת חָכְמָה יִרְאַת ה׳]”; Prov 1:7—“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [יִרְאַת ה׳ רֵאשִׁית דָּעַת]”; etc.). Belief in the Deity inspires fear that is a starting point, and here I am reminded of the Star Trek character called “Q”. Q was completely omnipotent and thus to be feared, yet the captain and crew of the Enterprise saw no reason to deify him—why? Maybe because there was no hint that on any particular level Q was their creator—as in Isaiah 64:8: “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

    But Foss 12 is offended: “I really do think one of the lowest blows in the theist vs. atheist debate is to paint the atheist as a person who has no reason to be moral.”

    Nobody says that atheists have no utilitarian reasons to be moral, but neither can anyone deny that atheists lack any higher, transcendant reasons to be moral. All morality should be respected, but we need not be impressed by the materialist’s reason to be moral.

    Now, as Richard Dawkins likes to point out, what really matters it the truth. He concedes, if I recall correctly, that certain belief systems might condition morality, but why base morality on a lie? I agree, but if Dawkins’ assessment of the facts is correct then—let’s face it—nothing matters! Why all the sound and fury if we’re here today and gone tomorrow—extinguished in the blackness of an eternal night.

  35. 35
    jmcd says:

    Rude says: “if Dawkins’ assessment of the facts is correct then—let’s face it—nothing matters! Why all the sound and fury if we’re here today and gone tomorrow—extinguished in the blackness of an eternal night.”

    The thing is Rude I do not know anyone that is not a theist that sees it that way. You are describing a nihilist. I know plenty of atheists and agnostics but no nihilists. I’m sure they are out there but the thinking well educated people I know that do not have a specific deity at the root of their worldview all manage to find splendor and grandeur in the universe and man none the less. The lack of received knowledge does not equal a lack of knowledge. This is just as true with spiritual knowledge as any other kind of knowledge.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    My original did come through in the end. And, Rude has spotted the Greek nicely in my handle. [But, will it come out in most browsers?]

    Further on points:

    1] Rude, 34: the utilitarianism of the materialists is as fickle as the ebb and flow of public opinion or the selfish whims of a dictator. Also atheists tend to be statists—because the state is all there is!—and thus it is the state that confers upon us our rights.

    In short, evo mat accounts characteristically end up in socio-cultural moral relativism, or individual relativism. [Thus, nihilism is simply an idiosyncratic expression of same.] BTW, thanks on the note on the French revolutionists – i.e. their acknowledgment of God.

    But of course, the problem is that there is such a thing as core, generally accepted morality, as say is summed up in the above excerpts from Paulo, Apostolo, Mart. That is how reformers such as William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano are able to appeal to those who are “right” based on the formally enacted rules of their community, in this case Britain circa 1789:

    I remember in the vessel in which I was brought over, in the men’s apartment, there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion to see and hear their cries at parting. O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice? . . .

    2] Reform as a sign that morality is objective:

    From the above, we see the fact of reform based on universal core morality.

    That is strong testimony indeed that morality is at least as objective and appeals thereto are potentiallyat least as compelling as reasoning relative to claimed empirical facts. Further, the Christian claim is that this core morality is a Law above the state, which is accountable before the Author of morality for justice. So, by appealing to that Law beyond the law, we call to reform.

    Nor, can the evo mat advocates in the thread effectively deny the fact that they too face this precise sense of moral oughtness. But on evo mat premises are these anything more than just feelings driven by accidents of the evolution of man, not real obligations? If so, and if I have power to do as I please, why not make rules to suit myself?

    So, again: if our minds are this deeply delusional, why should we trust them in reasoning in general, on evo mat grounds?

    Or, since the fundamental law of biological nature on evo mat premises is “survival of the fittest,” thus in material part “nature red in tooth and claw,” why – relative to such premises — should the hungry British lion [Parliament] heed the feeble bleat of the tasty African gazelle [Equiano]?

    3] JMCD, 35: the thinking well educated people I know that do not have a specific deity at the root of their worldview all manage to find splendor and grandeur in the universe and man none the less. The lack of received knowledge does not equal a lack of knowledge. This is just as true with spiritual knowledge as any other kind of knowledge.

    Translating: our intuitions, our spirits, our hearts testify to the grandeur in nature and in man, but we refuse to acknowledge their Author! (Read Ac 17 and Rom 1 to see the classic Christian rebuke to this. C S Lewis’ retort that in effect a calculator has no sense of awe on being inputted with the numerical scale of the universe is acidly apt, too. BTW, it is fair comment o observe that such circles as you report on are not at all fully representative of the range of opinions on morality of informed evolutionary materialists across time and even currently.)

    A part of that “grandeur” [and the shame, too] is of course morality. And here JMCD evidently accepts the brute fact that such a thing as moral knowledge, i.e. of right and wrong, nobility and shame exists. Even radical relativeists, who loudly insist on respecting “tolerance,” imply this. But the FACT of morality is not the issue. The proper issue is: on an inference to best explanation basis, what grounds such objective moral knowledge and underlying obligation to do the right?

    [The Judaeo-Christian theistic answer is that The Law is Written on our hearts by the One who made us. What is yours? Why is it better: more factually adequate, coherent and explanatorily powerful?]

    GEM of TKI

  37. 37
    Rude says:

    Jmcd—what I meant was that the logic of the materialist is utterly nihilistic—not that the materialist has thought this through and understood it. I guess what it boils down to is that our tenured, government funded elites who buy into materialism don’t think much about the big things because they are so occupied with little things. The streets may be littered with human detritus spawned from their nihilistic philosophy, but they have the solution: compel the same working stiffs who bankroll them to clean up the mess.

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    BTW Rude:

    On follow up; Wiki, sadly, lives up to its growing, deserved reputation for secularist bias.

    For, Paulo, Apostolo, Mart and his expositions in Ac 17, Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Eph 4 esp are conspicuous by absence in the linked article’s discussion of Natural Law. (We cannot properly understand Augustine, Aquinas etc without that backdrop! Not ro mention in its own right, as my excerpt, in 6, comment 32 above shows.)

    But then we all “know” that modern liberty and the founding of the US republic had “nothing” to do with this Christian tradition on justice, government and liberty under God, don’t we . . . ?

    GEM of TKI

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    Two interesting excerpts:

    First Anglican Theologian Richard Hooker, in Ecclesiastical Polity, as cited by Locke in his 2nd Essay on Govt:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant. {Ch 2 Secn 5; nb the centrality of the Golden Rule. Note too the emphasis on universality of understadning.]

    Where Locke went with it:

    The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions . . . . so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another . . . . In transgressing the law of Nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men for their mutual security [i.e. we see here the right to self-defense for the community, and also the individual, as is discussed at length in the work], and so he becomes dangerous to mankind . . . . [Ch III, S 17] he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power [i.e. to tyrannise upon another, by force, fraud, usurpation or invasion] does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life. For I have reason to conclude that he who would get me into his power without my consent would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it.

    Notice how Locke uses the pauline, love does no harm form of the GR in his reasoning on the Law of Nature.

    GEM of TKI

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