Intelligent Design

Thread Title At TSZ Headlines Moral Confusion of Materialists

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Irish Voters Do the Right Thing. Church Was On the Wrong Side, As Usual

Referring to this article.

There is no “the” right thing under materialism and moral subjectivism.  There is no “the” wrong side.  Had Irish voters elected to round up and execute all gays and lesbians, under materialism and moral subjectivism that too would have been a right thing.  Had they elected to lobotomize them, that too would have been a right thing, made right by that which legitimizes as right any subjective moral or ethical good under materialism: the individual, or the group, or the community, or the society, or the culture consider a thing to be good or right.

That headline corrected for logical consistency under materialism and moral subjectivism would be: “Irish Voters Do the Right Thing What I Personally Preferred. Church Was On the Wrong Side, In Disagreement With My Personal Preferences As Usual.”

Only a moral outlook where morality is guided by an absolute, objective commodity can be logically consistent with that thread headline. Theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality.  As I have said before, materialists cannot even act or argue as if materialism is true.

79 Replies to “Thread Title At TSZ Headlines Moral Confusion of Materialists

  1. 1
    Jim Smith says:

    Theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality.

    According to Theism should same-sex marriage be legal?

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    The existence of God or gods does not tell us anything about same-sex marriage.

  3. 3
    harry says:

    Jim Smith @1

    Theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality.

    According to Theism should same-sex marriage be legal?

    According to theism there is no such thing as same-sex marriage. There can be same-sex fornication, but not same-sex marriage. Marriage existed prior to the state and was then what it is now and will always be: A commitment of a man and a woman to each other and to the raising of any children that may result from their union. Talking about same-sex marriage being “legal” is like discussing whether it should be legal for 2 + 2 to equal 3.

    The state can declare that 2 + 2 is equal to 3. It can declare that the Earth is flat. The state once declared that Blacks could be bought and sold like animals. It can and did declare that the child in the womb doesn’t count and can be killed right up to birth based on nothing more than the whim of its mother.

    Many contemporary Christians need to get it through their heads that the state’s authority does not extend so far that it can make legal what is irrational and/or blatantly immoral. As Augustine put it, “An unjust law is no law at all.” Nor is there any such thing as a profoundly irrational law.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Further on the moral confusion at TSZ.

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    That’s not what “undermines the case for design” William. What undermines the “case for design” chiefly, is that there isn’t a case for a designer.

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    “An unjust law is no law at all.”

    One of the reasons we have jury nullification in this country.

  6. 6

    Harry said:

    According to theism there is no such thing as same-sex marriage.

    You’re conflating theism with certain specific religious views. While theism is logically necessary for an absolute, objective morality, that logical fact by itself doesn’t say anything about the morality of same-sex marriage.

    Christianity is just one form of theism.

    Jim Smith said:

    According to Theism should same-sex marriage be legal?

    I’m not sure what you think morality has to do with legality.

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    It’s not The Skeptical Zone;
    it’s not even The Twilight Zone, though that’s close;
    it’s The Penumbral Zone.
    TPZ.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Their Patron Saint is Doubting Thomas. That made me laugh.

  9. 9
    StephenB says:

    WJM is right. One cannot rationally speak of right or wrong from a materialist or physicalist perspective. There is simply no logical pathway from matter to morality. Without God, there can be no moral code proper to human nature.

  10. 10
    harry says:

    Hello, William J Murray,

    While theism is logically necessary for an absolute, objective morality, that logical fact by itself doesn’t say anything about the morality of same-sex marriage.

    If there is such a thing as an “absolute, objective morality,” then that “absolute, objective morality” either allows for same-sex marriage or it doesn’t. While there are indeed several forms of theism, Christianity is the correct form of theism. Of course, adherents of the other forms of theism will tell you that theirs is the correct form. ;o)

    Even so, simple Boolean logic indicates that either same-sex marriage is allowable under the genuine “absolute, objective morality,” or it isn’t. Zero or one. Off or on. It is or it isn’t.

    It isn’t.

  11. 11

    harry said:

    If there is such a thing as an “absolute, objective morality,” then that “absolute, objective morality” either allows for same-sex marriage or it doesn’t.

    I agree. But the question of if same-sex marriage is moral, and the question of if same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal, are two different questions.

    While there are indeed several forms of theism, Christianity is the correct form of theism. Of course, adherents of the other forms of theism will tell you that theirs is the correct form. ;o)

    Whether or not Christianity is the correct form of theism or not is irrelevant to the question of what metaphysical framework allows for an objective, absolute form of morality that in turn allows for such statements as the headline at TSZ. Whether or not Christianity is the correct form of theism, only theism can categorically provide the moral grounds for such a statement.

    Even so, simple Boolean logic indicates that either same-sex marriage is allowable under the genuine “absolute, objective morality,” or it isn’t. Zero or one. Off or on. It is or it isn’t.

    “Allowable” is not the same as “moral”. We have free will; we are allowed to do all sorts of things that are immoral, even if there is a price to pay, which brings up the distinction between “legal” and “moral”.

    IMO, all sorts of things that may be immoral should still be legal, because we should respect the free will of the individual to make their own choices – even bad ones – as much as possible, as long as they are not directly hurting other people.

  12. 12
    ppolish says:

    Many Theists do not have issue with same sex marriage. Many Theists are part of a sane sex marriage.

    But same sex marriage is a no no with Darwinism. Unnatural.

  13. 13
    harry says:

    harry @10,

    Even so, simple Boolean logic indicates that either same-sex marriage is allowable under the genuine “absolute, objective morality,” or it isn’t.

    I should have said there

    Even so, simple Boolean logic indicates that either there is such a thing as same-sex marriage under the genuine “absolute, objective morality,” or there isn’t.

    There is simply no such thing. Nature, through the “plumbing” of males and females, even if there were no other indications of the non-existence of same-sex marriage (which there most certainly are), couldn’t have made that fact more clear.

  14. 14
    phoodoo says:

    I checked out the thread at TSZ. Gee, what a bunch of nonsense.

    Scores of people trying to educate William about the differences between subjectivism and relativism, while they oh so conveniently fail to explain how any morality they can conceive of is better than another.

    Lizzie takes the cake with this gem:

    “Whereas the non-theistic version has the benefit of being the result of a consensus view on the goal of a moral system (minimise harm, for instance), supported by actual evidence of what actions are best suited to achieving it.”

    Which is EXACTLY what William has been saying all along. If it is simply about achieving a consensus view (actually she means a majority view-because there is no such thing as a consensus for all) , then of course ANY decision was the right one.

    How can she be so stupidly blind to the obvious. She can’t, that is how.

    But deception, and dodging is such a better option than admission, it appears.

  15. 15

    harry said:

    There is simply no such thing. Nature, through the “plumbing” of males and females, even if there were no other indications of the non-existence of same-sex marriage (which there most certainly are), couldn’t have made that fact more clear.

    Because infanticide exists in the wild doesn’t mean that it is moral for humans to engage in it; similarly, because self-reflective, logical thought and analysis doesn’t seem to appear elsewhere in nature doesn’t mean humans shouldn’t engage in it.

  16. 16
    ppolish says:

    Although Darwinism & The Church are on the same page when it comes to same sex marriage, they differ on the concept of celibacy. Darwinisn would encourage Priests & Nuns to mate/reproduce.

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    semi related:

    Discussing Mere Christianity Small Group Bible Study – Session One (narrated by Eric Metaxas?)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcQ70cPYcB8

  18. 18
    Seversky says:

    There is no “the” right thing under materialism and moral subjectivism. There is no “the” wrong side. Had Irish voters elected to round up and execute all gays and lesbians, under materialism and moral subjectivism that too would have been a right thing.

    That’s right. There is no absolute right or wrong under subjectivism.

    If a majority of the Irish voters had decided that rounding up all the gays and lesbians and executing them (they’re moving in that direction in parts of Africa, inspired in part by American evangelical Christians) that would have been the “right” thing to do.

    For them.

    You and I and most others here would have said it was most definitely “wrong”. I’m pretty sure the LGBT community would have said it was most definitely “wrong”.

    So who is “right”? How do we decide who is “right” Or do we hand over the whole problem to somebody’s god to decide? Except how do we decide which is the “right” god? In fact, how does it help in the slightest?

    From Merriam-Webster

    Full Definition of THEISM

    : belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world

    So tell me how you get from an undefined Creator – not necessarily the Christian God – to morality being an objective “commodity”? How are a god’s views on morality any more objective than yours or mine?

  19. 19

    Seversky asks some good questions:

    So who is “right”? How do we decide who is “right” Or do we hand over the whole problem to somebody’s god to decide? Except how do we decide which is the “right” god? In fact, how does it help in the slightest?

    So tell me how you get from an undefined Creator – not necessarily the Christian God – to morality being an objective “commodity”? How are a god’s views on morality any more objective than yours or mine?

    Once one has realized that atheist/materialist morality is both morally unacceptable and rationally incoherent, and one realizes that the theisms they may be familiar with may be no better, the defining, necessary question is, which category of morality is required practically, to describe our expectation that some things are just universally wrong or right (gratuitous child torture on one hand, protecting the innocent on the other), and logically, to provide a morality that can be sorted out rationally?

    The only form of morality categorically up to the task is some form of objective morality, whether we like it or not. And, whether we like it or not, that implies and requires certain other necessary conclusions and assumptions which narrows the field of candidate worldviews down to certain specific formulations that can (1) provide an objective morality that doesn’t have the fatalfailings of other systems (subjectivity, command authority, etc), (2) provide for our capacity to both apprehend/discern it and for our capacity to ignore/defy/deny it, and (3) provides for a reason why moral behavior is important.

  20. 20
    Mapou says:

    As a Christian, I see the morality and legality of same sex marriage as being no different than say, divorce. Divorce, too, is immoral and illegal in the sight of God but Moses gave married couples the legal right to divorce one another. Why? It’s because Moses understood something important about humans: we are not perfect. I am not opposed to same sex marriage for the same reason that I am not opposed to divorce.

    Having said that, one must understand that marriage in the time of Moses was a transaction between a man and a woman. Only males could inherit real property from their fathers and real property could be neither bought nor sold; it could only be leased or inherited. Women received their inheritance only through marriage. By law, a woman was part owner of the property of her husband.

    None of this is true anymore. Marriage means something different today.

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    WJM

    But the question of if same-sex marriage is moral, and the question of if same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal, are two different questions.

    Shouldn’t the civil law reflect the principles inherent in the natural moral law? Without the latter, we would have no way of knowing which manifestations of the former are just or unjust. If same sex marriage violates the natural moral law, isn’t it unjust to make it a part of the civil law?

    It is a strange thing about legal “rights. They are always distributed in the form of a zero-sum gain. To grant a right to one person or group is to automatically take away a right from another person or group. If you have the immediate right of way at a four way stop, I lose that same right by definition. If you gain the right to a free college education, I lose my right to keep some of my money.

    Accordingly, gay rights automatically trump the Christian’s right to religious freedom. If a Christin must, by law, cater to same-sex “weddings,” then he loses the right to act according to his conscience. So it is with so-called gay marriage. If gays have a right to marry, then Christians lose their right to influence the culture.

    Suddenly, the state, not God, is the arbiter of right and wrong. Suddenly, the civil law, backed by sanctions, penalties, and persecutions, rules that gay values will trump Christian values. Indeed, the whole point of gay marriage is to eradicate Christianity in particular–not generic Theism–not Islam–not Deism, not Eastern mysticism. but Cbristianity There is no question about it.

    So, whose rights should prevail when there is a fundamental conflict of values? Isn’t that question answered by “The Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God?”

  22. 22
    Jim Smith says:

    Theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality.

    According to Theism is same-sex marriage moral?

  23. 23
    Eugen says:

    “consensus view”

    Sadly morality is for some a fashion statement,personal opinion or jumping on latest bandwagon.

  24. 24
    Mung says:

    According to Theism is same-sex marriage moral?

    Already been answered.

  25. 25
    JimFit says:

    Seversky

    So tell me how you get from an undefined Creator – not necessarily the Christian God – to morality being an objective “commodity”? How are a god’s views on morality any more objective than yours or mine?

    Objective moral duties are grounded in the Nature of God. God is transcendent and capable only for Good because He is Eternal, He created us out of unconditional love, unconditional love doesn’t aim somewhere and it is the only action an Eternal God can have due to His Infinite nature, that’s why God can be only Good, evil actions target somewhere and for that reason for an eternal God to do evil is purposeless, evil is purposeless on infinity. Moral teachings must be transcendent, the universal teaching “Don’t do unto others, what you wouldn’t want done unto you.” will apply even if we go to the moon or back in time because it is a transcendent teaching, spaceless and timeless, we recognize moral truths from their transcendence. Our transcendent conscience precedes the material world and it is the moral guide for our actions, even if you are an atheist you think with transcendence and that debunks Materialism.

  26. 26
    JimFit says:

    Jim Smith

    According to Theism is same-sex marriage moral?

    Since creation implies reproduction homosexual acts are immoral since you have the option to reproduce and you don’t do it, you don’t create new humans.

    New World Order Neo-Marxism wants to make everyone homogeneous and not equal, homogeneity is NOT equality, homosexuals are humans as you and me and that makes them equal but they are different. If the state accepts their choices it will lead inevitably to the acceptance of every choice even pederasty.

  27. 27

    StephenB said:

    Shouldn’t the civil law reflect the principles inherent in the natural moral law?

    Not necessarily. Natural moral law renders its own rewards and punishments unfailingly, regardless of what humans do. Civil law is not required to adjudicate moral rewards and punishments, and problematically, civil law provides humans a powerful tool by which their failings and errors can be imposed on others in the name of natural law morality.

    It’s my view that in order to account for the fallibility and failings of human nature, civil law should provide humans with the maximum amount of freedom possible, even to do immoral things, as long as it falls within the consent of adults and their free will choices and is reasonably non-harmful to others.

    Without the latter, we would have no way of knowing which manifestations of the former are just or unjust. If same sex marriage violates the natural moral law, isn’t it unjust to make it a part of the civil law?

    I don’t think it is the rightful purpose of civil law to attempt to codify natural law and attempt to serve as a delivery system for moral justice, beyond serving as the protector of human life and liberty – and yes, the liberty to do immoral things inasmuch as they reasonably do not harm other people.

    It is a strange thing about legal “rights. They are always distributed in the form of a zero-sum gain. To grant a right to one person or group is to automatically take away a right from another person or group. If you have the immediate right of way at a four way stop, I lose that same right by definition. If you gain the right to a free college education, I lose my right to keep some of my money.

    Accordingly, gay rights automatically trump the Christian’s right to religious freedom. If a Christin must, by law, cater to same-sex “weddings,” then he loses the right to act according to his conscience. So it is with so-called gay marriage. If gays have a right to marry, then Christians lose their right to influence the culture.

    Under my view of law as protector of life and liberty, no law should be able to coerce a person to cater to a same sex wedding – or cater to a black wedding, or cater to a liberal wedding if the owner does not wish to.

    If the marriage of a gay couple is not actually marriage under natural law, then they will have to pay the moral price, and the state recognizing the union under the term “marriage” will not change that one bit. All the state did, in that scenario, was attach the same label on a moral and an immoral act. As we both know with “free will”, attaching the same label to two different things doesn’t change the nature of those things, or their ramifications, one bit, whether the label is sanctioned by the state or not.

    Suddenly, the state, not God, is the arbiter of right and wrong.

    If the state says same-sex morality is wrong and makes it illegal, the same thing is going on, even if in this case god and the state are in agreement. But, this is exactly why I don’t consider civil law a proper vehicle for codifying natural law; it makes the state the arbiter of morality whether or not it lines up correctly with natural law. Civil law should not be seen or used as something which attempts to codify every aspect of natural law because that leaves it wide open to error and terrible abuse.

    Suddenly, the civil law, backed by sanctions, penalties, and persecutions, rules that gay values will trump Christian values. Indeed, the whole point of gay marriage is to eradicate Christianity in particular–not generic Theism–not Islam–not Deism, not Eastern mysticism. but Cbristianity There is no question about it.

    Which is why the scope of civil law must be limited to what is necessary to protect life and liberty, not to adjudicate all aspects of our moral lives. The more power you give a righteous government, the more power you have given the wicked government that soon follows.

    So, whose rights should prevail when there is a fundamental conflict of values? Isn’t that question answered by “The Laws of Nature” and “Nature’s God?”

    Well, IMO, what should prevail is the core concepts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. People should be as free as possible to live the lives they choose, and such freedom should be sanctioned by and protected by the state and held as a fundamental right to destroy ourselves if we wish. IMO, that is the most profound truth of free will: god gave us – officially, divinely sanctioned – our freedom to destroy ourselves by giving us free will and life and a moral compass to abide or ignore at our discretion.

    At its core, human government should try to mirror that fundamental premise as much as possible. If that gives certain groups the power to destroy civilization here on Earth because we’ve become incapable of rounding up the wherewithal to think correctly and act in a principled way, what of it? It’s the principle that matters here – the outcomes for everyone as the result of their choices are ultimately inescapable.

    It’s true that at its root, any civil law should be a codification of some natural law or right, but IMO liberty demands that we only codify as much as the natural law as necessary to protect life and liberty.

  28. 28
    ronvanwegen says:

    If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a cow have?

    All those I have asked this question of answer 5.

    The right answer?

    4.

    It doesn’t matter what you call a tail – a cow still has 4 legs.

  29. 29
    Robert Byers says:

    Those Ireland citizens who voted for gay marriage did the wrong thin morally and intellectually and so on.
    Marriage was created and only is about the man and the woman, aduld, unrelated getting into a intimate relationship for life. Not for love or kids.
    God created this union and indeed woman was only created for this purpose. otherwise she would be just another guy.
    Therefore to allow same sex marraiage is literally to destroy marriage. Literally.
    Marriage was not only JUST created for opposite sex adults, unrelated, but marriage came second as a concept to that relationship.
    The relationship came first and someone called it marriage.
    There can not be gay marriage but only marriage is destroyed and a new concept of adults , unrelated, getting into intimate union.
    At least in Ireland the people decide.
    In north america its a judge dictatorship.
    Just persuade enough people in Ireland to restore MARRIAGE and restore the only moral and beautiful union between such intimate adults of opposite sex.
    Homosexuality is evil and repulsive and must be rejected.
    Homosexuals are not evll and must be loved and our friends but must be directed to be accurate or inactive in these things.

  30. 30
    daveS says:

    Robert Byers,

    Homosexuality is evil and repulsive and must be rejected.

    Heterosexuality can also be pretty repulsive. Don’t believe me? Just stop by your local Walmart.

  31. 31
    harry says:

    William J Murray @11

    But the question of if same-sex marriage is moral, and the question of if same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal, are two different questions. … IMO, all sorts of things that may be immoral should still be legal …

    You, me and Thomas Aquinas agree that not all things that are immoral should be illegal. But the question of whether same-sex marriage should be legal is like the question of whether it should be legal to keep unicorns within the city limits. There are simply no such things as unicorns or same-sex marriages.

    Yet there definitely are some things that are immoral that should be illegal, and in fact, no human authority can make legal. They are intrinsically illegal. To a man, the defendants at the Nuremberg Trials claimed that all they had done was “legal” and fully sanctioned by the state. They were hung or imprisoned for life. There are some things no state can make legal. The state can’t make legal that which is intrinsically and gravely evil. Humanity knew that those in power killing innocent humans by the millions was intrinsically illegal and gravely evil, and that no state could make that legal.

    And why was that? Because humanity precedes the state and brings it into existence. The state exists for humanity, not humanity for the state. Humanity brings the state into existence to protect its inalienable rights, the first of which is the right to life itself. The state does not bestow that right upon humanity, nor can it withdraw it from innocent human beings. It is humanity that bestows and withdraws the state’s right to exist, not the reverse. This is why taking the life of the child in the womb has never been and will never be legal.

    As for “legalizing” same-sex marriage, the state can’t decree away reality by decreeing that unicorns can be kept within city limits or by pretending there is such a thing as same-sex marriage.

    Nature, through the “plumbing” of males and females, even if there were no other indications of the non-existence of same-sex marriage (which there most certainly are), couldn’t have made that fact more clear.
    — harry

    Because infanticide exists in the wild doesn’t mean that it is moral for humans to engage in it; similarly, because self-reflective, logical thought and analysis doesn’t seem to appear elsewhere in nature doesn’t mean humans shouldn’t engage in it.
    — William J Murray

    No one is saying that humanity must imitate the rest of nature in all respects, doing only what it sees done in the rest of nature, and not doing what it doesn’t see done in the rest of nature. What human “plumbing” makes clear is what is natural according to human nature.

    Rationality is an aspect of human nature, and unlike other creatures humans can apply reason to even the most cursory examination their own anatomy and their environment, and see that marriage, i.e., a commitment of a man and a woman to each other and to the raising of any children resulting from their union, is natural, and is essential to the survival of the human race. Outside of marriage there are other ways companionship can be found, other ways a committed relationship can be formed, and other ways sexual gratification can be found. Those other ways are not marriage. The state can pretend they are marriage. The state can coerce people into pretending they are marriage. But that won’t change the fact that marriage is what it is, and that those other things are not marriage, certainly not those that are unnatural and clearly contrary to that which is easily ascertained about human nature.

    A final thought. Homosexual orientation is a disorder. It is no more sinful in itself than being born blind is sinful. Even if one’s homosexual orientation was not genetically inevitable, but was brought about by one’s own choices, once one has that orientation, it is not the orientation itself that is sinful; it is homosexual fornication (like heterosexual fornication) that is sinful. I only point this out because it seems to me that many Christians fail to make this distinction.

  32. 32

    Harry said:

    You, me and Thomas Aquinas agree that not all things that are immoral should be illegal. But the question of whether same-sex marriage should be legal is like the question of whether it should be legal to keep unicorns within the city limits. There are simply no such things as unicorns or same-sex marriages.

    Then the state legalizing it doesn’t matter. As we both said, if there is no such thing as same-sex marriage, then it’s nothing but a label on something that doesn’t really exist and everyone will still have to pay the piper at the end regardless of any label that was legally applied.

  33. 33
    harry says:

    William J Murray @32,

    First, thanks for engaging in this interesting and enjoyable discussion.

    Then the state legalizing it [same-sex marriage] doesn’t matter.

    I don’t think “legalizing” same-sex “marriage” doesn’t matter, but I think there may be some merit to the suggestion some are making now that the Church get out of the civil marriage business altogether. Christians would either be married in the eyes of God and the Church or they wouldn’t, regardless of whatever strange and unnatural arrangements Caesar decides to refer to as “marriage.”

    It still matters because what is clearly natural and what isn’t matters. Suppose that a movement began that advocated the legalization of incestuous relationships between fathers and their minor daughters. You can easily imagine what their argument would be. They would use their thoroughly indoctrinated daughters to make it:

    Don’t impose your anachronistic views of sexual morality on us. We have a right to choose to do what we want in the privacy of our own homes. Keep the government out of my bedroom. I fully consent to sexual activity with my father; it is my choice. Don’t bother telling me about the likely negative results of inbreeding — I use contraception and if that fails it is perfectly legal for me to terminate the pregnancy. It is not like we want this to be legal for mere children, after all, I am sixteen years old and fully capable of deciding for myself whether this is what I want or not.

    A similar argument could be made for the “legalization” of homosexual relations between a father and his son, or heterosexual relations between a mother and her son, and so on. Before you dismiss such scenarios as simply so far fetched as to be ridiculous, peruse the NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) web site, where the legalization of homosexual relationships between adult men and minor boys is advocated. I will understand if readers simply don’t want to navigate to such a web site. But trust me, that is what they want.

    On what basis would we argue against such things if we have accepted the just-as-unnatural “legalization” of same-sex marriage? If what is natural just doesn’t matter, then we have no argument against any of those things, except that they all involve the unnatural exploitation and abuse of children. We have obligations to the brainwashed children in each of those unnatural situations, as we do to the children who will grow up without a father, or without a mother, because they were adopted by a “legally” married same-sex couple.

    One more example of how extreme the assault on the traditional view of human sexuality has become. This is from the Journal of Medical Ethics and demonstrates the intensity of the war on the natural:

    Abstract

    Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call “after-birth abortion” (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

    They want human sexuality to be so far removed from its primary, natural purpose — procreation — that they are attempting to mainstream blatant infanticide. The entire piece can be read here:

    http://jme.bmj.com/content/ear.....00411.full

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    WJM

    IMO, what should prevail is the core concepts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. People should be as free as possible to live the lives they choose, and such freedom should be sanctioned by and protected by the state and held as a fundamental right to destroy ourselves if we wish. IMO, that is the most profound truth of free will: god gave us – officially, divinely sanctioned – our freedom to destroy ourselves by giving us free will and life and a moral compass to abide or ignore at our discretion.

    William, I am grateful that you have taken the time to discuss this matter with me. Clearly, the main theme of your post is unassailable. I support it enthusiastically.

    It is a noble thing, indeed, to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But without the influence of the natural moral law, many will interpret those words in a self- serving way. Those who destroy unborn children in the womb do so in the name of freedom and quality of life, i.e. their freedom and their quality of life.

    Indeed, the very definition of the word “freedom” and “harm” is at stake here. Is freedom the right to do what one ought to do, which includes the freedom from bad things, such as oppression, and the freedom for good things, such as the internal capacity to achieve a noble purpose. Or, is it simply the right to do anything one pleases, which ignores the internal component altogether. Am I “free” to play the piano if I am too lazy to practice? Under those circumstances, it hardly matters if someone passes a law that forbids musical expression.

    Is the meaning of “harm” limited to physical, financial, or psychological issues, or should it also include cultural moral factors that affect one’s capacity to practice virtue or the proclivity to fall into vice. Definition: A good culture is one in which it is easy to be good and hard to be bad; a bad culture is one in which it is easy to be bad and hard to be good. What kind of freedom ignores these kinds of issues? What is the point of freedom and the absence of harm if not to facilitate the good life and promote the common good? Surely, freedom cannot be synonymous with license. Surely, freedom for the sake of freedom cannot be the guiding principle.

    At its core, human government should try to mirror that fundamental premise as much as possible. If that gives certain groups the power to destroy civilization here on Earth because we’ve become incapable of rounding up the wherewithal to think correctly and act in a principled way, what of it? It’s the principle that matters here – the outcomes for everyone as the result of their choices are ultimately inescapable.

    Agreed. However, the eternal outcome of one’s behavior is really nothing more than the sum total of his temporal decisions. Sew a thought; reap an act; so an act, reap a habit; sew a habit, reap a character; sew a character, reap a destiny. It is, in my judgment, unrealistic to say that civil laws are solely about temporal matters.

    We know, for example, that early sexual identity can be influenced by the social environment. Should a gay couple be “free” to adopt children? If so, should they be free to raise it as a homosexual? Under those circumstances, how free was that child to pursue his destiny? It seems evident to me that illegitimate expressions of freedom on one end of the scale can stifle or even eradicate legitimate expressions of freedom on the other end. If I gain the freedom not to be offended, then you lose your freedom to speak. I submit that we need the natural moral law to inform our notions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (both temporal and eternal).

  35. 35
    StephenB says:

    WJM

    Because infanticide exists in the wild doesn’t mean that it is moral for humans to engage in it; similarly, because self-reflective, logical thought and analysis doesn’t seem to appear elsewhere in nature doesn’t mean humans shouldn’t engage in it.

    Precisely. According to the natural moral law, the morality proper to humans, who have rational souls, is different from the behavioral standards for animals, who do not.

  36. 36

    I don’t think “legalizing” same-sex “marriage” doesn’t matter, but I think there may be some merit to the suggestion some are making now that the Church get out of the civil marriage business altogether. Christians would either be married in the eyes of God and the Church or they wouldn’t, regardless of whatever strange and unnatural arrangements Caesar decides to refer to as “marriage.”

    I agree. That doesn’t mean Christian’s should refrain from attempting to influence Caesar, only that “what is moral” is not dictated to Christians (or anyone else) by Caesar.

    As far as incest, I think that protecting life and liberty entails protecting the liberty of those deemed not fully capable of making informed decisions on their own, which would include anyone below a certain standard of age and and IQ. Beyond that, yes, the reasoning is sound – the state would have just as much standing to legalize incestuous and polygamous “marriage” as same-sex marriage.

    As wrong or as distasteful as such consenting adult relationships might be, I still feel we must protect the rights of adults to make such decisions, as long as no one else is forced to act as if they condone those decisions.

    However, the case against legalized abortion is fundamentally much stronger under my perspective. Life precedes liberty, and life must be protected or else liberty means nothing, so the rights of the unborn fundamentally exceed the rights of the living and their liberty.

    No one has the liberty to unilaterally end the life of another except under extreme circumstances (which some abortions might fall under), like self-defense. “Inconvenience” certainly doesn’t rise to the level of necessary criteria for ending someone else’s life.

  37. 37
    Eugen says:

    New Mad Max movie is showing. In Mad Max movies craziness is so prevalent that it becomes new normal. Average, simple, normal people look out of place and are supposed to be exterminated. It sometimes feels like that when we look at some events today. Thanks for great post and discussion to all, it is very informative for me and many others, I’m sure.

  38. 38

    StephenB said:

    But without the influence of the natural moral law, many will interpret those words in a self- serving way. Those who destroy unborn children in the womb do so in the name of freedom and quality of life, i.e. their freedom and their quality of life.

    Clearly, abortion is a case of entirely erroneous thinking and we agree that this relates to a necessary first responsibility of a good civil law.

    Indeed, the very definition of the word “freedom” and “harm” is at stake here. Is freedom the right to do what one ought to do, which includes the freedom from bad things, such as oppression, and the freedom for good things, such as the internal capacity to achieve a noble purpose. Or, is it simply the right to do anything one pleases, which ignores the internal component altogether. Am I “free” to play the piano if I am too lazy to practice? Under those circumstances, it hardly matters if someone passes a law that forbids musical expression.

    Well, one is free to do whatever they can do regardless of what any law says. Law doesn’t prevent behavior, it attempts to direct, promote or prevent behavior. At the end of the day, regardless of what laws exist moral or immoral, we’re still ultimately responsible for our actions and living up to our moral destiny.

    Is the meaning of “harm” limited to physical, financial, or psychological issues, or should it also include cultural moral factors that affect one’s capacity to practice virtue or the proclivity to fall into vice. Definition: A good culture is one in which it is easy to be good and hard to be bad; a bad culture is one in which it is easy to be bad and hard to be good. What kind of freedom ignores these kinds of issues? What is the point of freedom and the absence of harm if not to facilitate the good life and promote the common good? Surely, freedom cannot be synonymous with license. Surely, freedom for the sake of freedom cannot be the guiding principle.

    There’s another way of looking at this argument; what is the value of an easy moral choice, compared to the value of a difficult moral choice that imperils one’s life and liberty? IMO, this is why harm and evil are allowed to exist: they are necessary to reveal the very nobility you describe, as well as other great attributes of moral character.

    It’s easy to make moral choices when government and society greases the path; and then, once used to abiding civil law as proxy for natural law, it’s easy to forget that civil law is not the arbiter of what is right and then go along with immoral civil laws.

    I don’t think it is the government’s job to make it easy for us to be moral; I think it is the government’s job to give us the opportunity to be moral and to protect our right to make those choices as much as possible, even while it protects the rights of those in society that would make it difficult for us to make moral choices – protect their right to not serve us, to vilify us, to ostracize us, to present us with temptation or offensive lifestyles or habits, etc.

    We know, for example, that early sexual identity can be influenced by the social environment. Should a gay couple be “free” to adopt children? If so, should they be free to raise it as a homosexual?

    I don’t really think this is a valid part of your argument. Children are born into entirely legal, very bad environments that “teach” those children that all sorts of immoral things are okay. Being raised by gay parents cannot be said, IMO (but I’m open to argument otherwise), to be any worse than any of those other situations. To the point of appropriate mental faculty, the child is not responsible for the situation they are in and how that situation influences their behavior. When they reach adulthood, however, they’re would be in the same situation as any other adult with bad childhood influences.

    I certainly don’t think my reasoning on this is perfect and I greatly appreciate the fantastic arguments and thoughts you provide so that I can examine my views and amend them. I think we completely agree on the basics, and the only thing we disagree on is where to draw the line.

    For me, that “line” is more like a big fat gray zone. I’m not really sure where to draw that line in many cases and tend to err on the side of libertarianism.

  39. 39
    Eugen says:

    Our intuition and common sense may tell us if certain human behavior is beneficial or not. Some behaviors are rare so their effect is diluted in general population. That’s why I would like to do a thought experiment to amplify the effect.

    For example we can imagine that the whole human race behaves in certain way and then evaluate if that is harmful or beneficial for humanity as a whole. If every human would behave aggressively would that be harmful or beneficial for the human race? It takes a second to answer -harmful. Therefore we can conclude that there are some harmful and some beneficial behaviors.

    After few thought experiments we can see that harmful behaviors would be: aggressiveness, alcoholism, homosexuality, gambling etc. List of beneficial behaviors would be: politeness, moderation, heterosexuality, compassion and so on.

    Therefore I conclude that homosexuality among others is harmful behavior. It is wrong for government/corporations to promote any harmful behavior. In case of Irish people’s vote the outcome was inevitable. Millions of dollars were spent to put Ireland under strong pressure and conditioning program for 10 years.

  40. 40
    Starbuck says:

    Objective moral duties are grounded in the Nature of God.

    That still makes even theistic morality subjective. God has no control over his nature, it is entirely possible that god could have had a different nature, a bizarro universe where rape and genocide are actually commanded by god. Oh wait thats the bible isnt it.

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    WJM, thanks for the discussion. Yes, we do agree on the basics and it is, indeed, hard to know exactly where to draw the line. I appreciate the opportunity to compare our individual points of emphasis.

  42. 42
    Mung says:

    Starbuck: God has no control over his nature…

    That statement makes no sense.

  43. 43
    Box says:

    When one seriously comes to understand the classical philosophical tradition represented by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas – and not merely the potted caricatures of it that even many professional philosophers, to their shame, tend to rely on – one learns just how contingent and open to question are the various modern, and typically “naturalistic,” philosophical assumptions that most contemporary thinkers (and certainly most secularists) simply take for granted without rational argument. And since the classical tradition is theistic and supernaturalist through and through, one also comes to see how powerful are the rational foundations of the Western religious tradition. Indeed, one comes to realize that the very possibility of reason and morality is deeply problematic at best on a modern naturalistic conception of the world, but perfectly intelligible on the classical philosophical worldview and the religious vision it sustains. More than that: One comes to see that it is very likely only on the classical Western philosophical-cum-religious worldview that we can make sense of reason and morality. The truth is precisely the opposite of what secularism claims: Only a (certain kind of) religious view of the world is rational, morally responsible, and sane; and an irreligious worldview is accordingly deeply irrational, immoral, and indeed insane. Secularism can never truly rest on reason, but only on “faith,” as secularists themselves understand that term (or rather misunderstand it, as we shall see): an unshakable commitment grounded not in reason but rather in sheer willfulness, a deeply ingrained desire to want things to be a certain way regardless of whether the evidence shows they are that way.

    [E.Feser, ‘The Last Superstion’, Ch.1]
    [my emphasis]

  44. 44
    Heartlander says:

    Phoodoo @ 14

    As quoted from E. Little:

    Whereas I would say: there are as many ways of trying to discern a theistically ordained “objective” morality as there are at least of religions, and probably of people. In other words, the discernment process is entirely subjective, and, moreover, uses irrelevant data (scriptures for instance).

    Whereas the non-theistic version has the benefit of being the result of a consensus view on the goal of a moral system (minimise harm, for instance), supported by actual evidence of what actions are best suited to achieving it.

    Whereas 41 million Americans who voted against gay marriage across 20 states were overruled by 23 unelected (ordained) judges who interpreted the 14th Amendment (scriptures) with a morally secular liberal bias? What is the difference in a theocracy run by leaders who believe they are ruling based on a perceived ‘god’ or a perceived ‘good’?

  45. 45
    hrun0815 says:

    Eugen @39:

    Therefore I conclude that homosexuality among others is harmful behavior.

    Oh yeah. And don’t forget birth control! Or abstinence! Or how about not growing food?

    That’s one awesome thought experiment you thought up.

  46. 46
    Eugen says:

    If every human would behave like hrun0815 would that be harmful or beneficial for the human race? It takes a second to answer – harmful!
    😀

  47. 47
    sean samis says:

    The only fair response to William J Murray’s flatulent crap is to note that he dislikes anything he thinks resembles “materialism and moral subjectivism” and does what he can to present them in a bad light. Apparently Mr. Murray believes the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” does not apply to him. Talk about your “moral subjectivism”!

    I know of no person who claims to be a materialist who’d sign on to any of the nonsense that Mr. Murray spews. It’s not hard for materialists to justify a solid moral system, but Mr. Murray will never acknowledge that because it’s not in his interest to do so. And it won’t exactly replicate his prejudices. So be it.

    And congratulations to the people of Ireland who voted with their consciences to repudiate bigotry. The world is a better place for that.

    sean s.

  48. 48
    Eugen says:

    sean…

    I wouldn’t be surprised if someone here would desire to call you name that rhymes with element Boron (B). You need to honestly inform yourself and evaluate terrible situation leading to Ireland’s vote. Instead you are insulting us in standardized politically correct jargon. You are not at the Oscars, you are at the discussion forum. We don’t buy it.

    For homework inform yourself about how many millions Atlantic Philanthropies paid for mass brainwashing of Irish people

    http://mauricepinay.blogspot.c.....dling.html

  49. 49
    StephenB says:

    sean,

    “It’s not hard for materialists to justify a solid moral system,”

    Show me how that works. Begin with matter alone and provide the logical pathway to morality.

  50. 50

    Logic is a commodity sorely lacking from most self-described materialists and atheists. They tend to take every argument and point personally, as if you’re attacking them and not their purported worldview.

  51. 51
    sean samis says:

    Eugen @48 — if someone here want’s to call me a moron, they need not be coy. I consider the source, shrug, and move on.

    The Irish people voted correctly and with ample moral justification.

    StephenB @ 49 — I have before but I’ll happily do so again. But we’re coming up on FY end, so It’ll have to wait for later, or tomorrow. Patience.

    William J. Murry @50 — your “arguments” aren’t personal, just extraordinarily stupid and dishonest.

    sean s.

  52. 52
    Eugen says:

    sean

    If (and only if) someone wants to describe you with the word that rhymes with Boron consider seriously that source may be correct before you move on.

    I was warned about atheist tactics but it takes time to fully understand it. I congratulate to philosophically inclined commenters who have patience with rude, insulting social activists like you. I recognize your current social justice doublespeak. I experienced similar in communism when I was young. I despise Bolshevik bullies like you.

    You and your type bullied, coerced and conditioned Irish people. Unbelievable money was spent over 13 years to reeducate them. There is nothing there to congratulate for instead I send condolences.

    I specially feel for Ireland, a small nation like mine. This is because similar brainwashing campaign was attempted in my original country of Croatia before referendum on marriage definition. Your Bolshevik strategy totally failed there!

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    sean

    StephenB @ 49 — I have before but I’ll happily do so again. But we’re coming up on FY end, so It’ll have to wait for later, or tomorrow. Patience.

    If you analyze your situation carefully, you will realize that you have never provided a logical pathway from matter alone (defined as physicalism) to morality (defined as a universally binding standard for right and wrong). It isn’t possible. There is nothing in the cause that could produce the effect.

    William J. Murry @50 — your “arguments” aren’t personal, just extraordinarily stupid and dishonest.

    That’s easy to say. Not so easy to back up.

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    sean

    The Irish people voted correctly and with ample moral justification.

    What moral justification did you have in mind?

  55. 55

    sean

    William J. Murry @50 — your “arguments” aren’t personal, just extraordinarily stupid and dishonest.

    You are free to point out how my logic is flawed. You do realize, do you not, that subjective morality means that if a society thinks a thing is immoral, then it is immoral for that group; if they think a thing is moral, then it is moral for that group? How, then, can you say that if the Irish voted the other way, it would be the “wrong” way to vote?

  56. 56
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM @ 55 asks Sean:

    How, then, can you say that if the Irish voted the other way, it would be the “wrong” way to vote?

    Because Sean does not really believe what he says. As WJM has pointed out many times, no one actually lives their life as if moral subjectivism were true. Sean spews his subjectivism and lives his objectivism. Indeed, when it comes to enforcement of a rigid orthodoxy concerning moral views (especially moral views about homosexuality), no one is more intolerant of opposing views than “liberals.”

  57. 57
    Mung says:

    I am morally outraged, therefore I am right. And you OUGHT to be as morally outraged as I am, and if you aren’t there is something morally wrong with you.

  58. 58
    sean samis says:

    A Rational Moral System

    First of all, I prefer the term rational moral system, not “materialistic …” and I will refer to it that way here.

    The “materialistic” beginnings of a moral system are very basic: we are material, living creatures who are vulnerable to injuries, age, ignorance, and other weaknesses. Nature has made us social creatures that generally do best living in stable communities. We are capable of acquiring some knowledge and some foresight. All simple facts.

    Theists frequently assert that if there were no deity, there could be no morality. But it is useful to flip that over: given the moral systems we have, if there are no deities, where did these moral systems come from? Absent any deity, they are most likely the product of tens of thousands of years of experience humans have dealing with the problems of living together in families, clans, tribes, and communities.

    Differences in moral systems can be understood simply as the different solutions different cultures came up with to solve the moral issues that all human communities experience. Rational persons have come to expect natural processes to be characterized by a certain degree of variation. Absent any deity the process of creating moral systems is entirely natural.

    Many people focus on the differences between these various moral systems and determine that there’s little useful to learn from their comparisons. Others focus on the things these moral systems do have in common and find the basis of a rational, debiased “natural law” system. I favor that last approach myself.

    I believe there are three basic rules to any valid, rational moral system:

    1. Do No Evil. (Evil is defined below).
    2. Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you. (that should sound familiar, an adopted idea.)
    3. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. (another familiar saying. I suppose at some point I’ll need to give a definition of love, but for the time-being, the normal, English meaning suffices.)

    Evil is any act which
    1. causes Harm,
    2. is Intentional and
    3. is Unnecessary.

    Harm: any physical injury, financial loss, or impairment of liberty; or a substantial risk of any of these against the express consent of the one harmed or placed at risk.

    Intentional: includes premeditation, recklessness, and unreasonable negligence.

    Unnecessary: not justified by mitigation or prevention of other, greater harms or injustice nor justified by the consent of the one harmed.

    This probably covers more than 80% of genuine evil, and is a good starting point. I do not claim it is complete. Suggestions will be considered.

    Having defined Evil, what is Good? Good is a category of not-evil behaviors and results which are not generally definable beyond saying that good is a non-overlapping set with evil. What is evil is never good, what is “good” for X might not be “good” for Y. Obviously there can exist a large category of behaviors and results which are not clearly good, but not evil.

    Objective definitions of “good” are a mirage because even things that seem obviously good (necessities like food, water, air, shelter, security) can become not-good by being excessive or restricting or otherwise harmful. Which leaves us with: what makes something “good” simply has no generally applicable, objective answer; every person has a right (a liberty) to decide that for themselves. As long as they Do No Evil, they have a right to decide for themselves what is the good.

    Definitions of “good” are usually reducible to “something not bad”. No greater definition is needed or wanted. There is a reason that the most commonly shared moral concepts are best characterized as “Thou shalt not”s. It is often clearer to simply determine what to avoid or prohibit than to try to list all the things we must or should do.

    Worse yet, seeking an “objective” definition of good is often a pretext to evil: “objective good” can be used as a weapon with which to deprive others of their liberties (a harm). Compelling others to do things because these things are “objectively good” is a key to tyranny. Forbidding evil behaviors is clearer and less prone to abuse.

    This is as far as I am going to go for now. If I had more time, I’d write something briefer. Most of the above is just cut and paste with a bit of editing to clean it up or fit it to the context of this thread. Basically, this is nothing new.

    Please notice that none of that nonsensical crap from Mr. Murray about morality relying on personal preferences is included, that shite is rarely found outside straw man arguments like Murray’s.

    sean s.

    p.s.: re Barry Arrington @56. I really do believe what I say, but I’ve never said I believe in a strictly subjective morality. I don’t.

    ss

  59. 59
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sean @ 58:

    Differences in moral systems can be understood simply as the different solutions different cultures came up with to solve the moral issues that all human communities experience.

    So if a different culture, Saudi Arabian culture for instance, were to come up with a “solution” in which homosexuals are executed for being homosexual, that would, by your definition, be moral for them. Far from rebutting WJM’s point, you have affirmed it.

  60. 60
    Barry Arrington says:

    Materialism says we are animals, no different in principle from lions and gazelles. It is not immoral for a lion to run down, kill and eat a gazelle. Why is it immoral for a human to run down, kill and eat another human?

    sean samis’ solution? Freeload on Christianity. He is playing exactly the game Nancy Pearcey discusses here:

    A few intrepid atheists admit outright that they have to borrow the ideal of human rights from Christianity. Philosopher Richard Rorty was a committed Darwinist, and in the Darwinian struggle for existence, the strong prevail while the weak are left behind. So evolution cannot be the source of universal human rights. Instead, Rorty says, the concept came from “religious claims that human beings are made in the image of God.” He cheerfully admits that he reaches over and borrows the concept of universal rights from Christianity. He even called himself a “freeloading” atheist: “This Jewish and Christian element in our tradition is gratefully invoked by freeloading atheists like myself.”

    John Gray regularly castigates his fellow atheists and materialists for their habit of freeloading. Logically, he points out, materialism leads to reductionism — the conclusion that humans are nothing but animals. But most materialists do not want to accept that bleak conclusion. They want to grant humanity a higher status and dignity; they want to believe that humans have “consciousness, selfhood, and free will,” Gray writes. That high view of humanity he labels humanism — and he denounces it as a prime example of freeloading.
    “Humanists never tire of preaching” the gospel of human freedom, Gray complains. But “Darwin has shown us that we are animals,” and therefore “the idea of free will does not come from science.” Instead “its origins are in religion — not just any religion, but the Christian faith against which humanists rail so obsessively.” Thus humanism “is only a secular version” of Christian principles.

  61. 61
    Barry Arrington says:

    The most astounding thing about all of this is that Rorty’s and Gray’s observations are simple applications of basic logic to the premises of materialism. This is not rocket science. Yet Sean @ 58 seems to be literally unable to see that he is borrowing his ethics from religious (not scientific) claims just as Rorty and Gray say. Incredible.

  62. 62

    sean said:

    Theists frequently assert that if there were no deity, there could be no morality.

    Theists often say that without a god, there can be no such thing as an objective morality – IOW, a morality where what is good or evil is not determined by human preferences be they individual or cultural.

    Differences in moral systems can be understood simply as the different solutions different cultures came up with to solve the moral issues that all human communities experience.

    So, the difference in moral systems can be understood as the natural variations from one set of biological and societal evolutionary patterns from another. Check.

    Others focus on the things these moral systems do have in common and find the basis of a rational, debiased “natural law” system. I favor that last approach myself.

    What do you mean by “debiased”? Debiased from what – natural, evolutionary, variant social moralities? Isn’t your methodology biased towards finding commonalities and advocating them as a standard? Isn’t that which produces your view (biological and social evolution & variant forms of rationality) the same thing that, in principle, would produce those who disagree with your particular means of developing a “rational, debiased” morality?

    Do you think your reasoning can “debias” you from what nature and culture produces in your brain? How can that be, if nature and society is determining what you consider to be “rational” as well?

    Was it not evolutionary nature and society that all generated all so-called god-based moral systems? Was it not evolutionary nature and society that produced the morality that had Spartans tossing imperfect children off of cliffs, and had Chinese mothers drowning their baby girls, and has Islamic fundies beheading or burning alive all infidels?

    I believe …

    This is where your reasoning breaks down, sean. Try and follow the logic.

    Aren’t your beliefs just what evolutionary natural and social processes have produced in you as an individual? Aren’t the beliefs of others who disagree with your concept of morality generated by the same kind of variant, natural processes as those which produce yours? If so, what principle other than self-reference do you have to claim that your moral views are any better than anyone else’s?

    Are they better because you say so? If not, then according to what standard, and then, why should anyone else use that standard if they prefer their own?

    IOW, how is your long exposition about what is good, and what is evil, anything other than your personal, subjective view, generated by whatever idiosyncratic biological and societal forces happened to generate it in you?

    And if those natural evolutionary and societal factors had resulted in the Irish voting the other way, wouldn’t that just be one of the natural variations which be the particular moral “good” at that point in time for the Irish?

    If you define “what is moral” as the behavioral norms of a society (as a result of natural biological and social influences), then whatever norms that society happens to have are their valid morality, as valid as any morality generated by the same processes as any other.

  63. 63

    Mr. Arrington,

    The most obvious point is where Sean says “I believe…” and then goes on to outline his morality, which he seems quite proud of. And yet, his beliefs, as he says, are just those produced by evolutionary natural and social processes – including reason, which all have “variations”.

    If the Irish believed it is good to lobotomize gays and lesbians, they’d believe it as the result of the same kind of natural, evolutionary, social, potentially variant processes as sean, and so their decision – for them – would be as right for them as sean’s beliefs are right for him.

    It’s a pity he can’t see this very simple logical fact. If morality is the cultural norm, then whatever culture says is moral, is moral, whether it is giving gays the right to marry or lobotomizing them.

  64. 64

    sean said:

    Please notice that none of that nonsensical crap from Mr. Murray about morality relying on personal preferences is included, that shite is rarely found outside straw man arguments like Murray’s.

    If not personal preference, what is the categorical or principled difference between your moral view and that of others? After all, nature and society can breed into you a preference for vanilla ice cream or a preference for romantic comedies; what else would a moral view be, if not a preference for certain kinds of behaviors that others, especially those in other cultures, may not share?

  65. 65
    Mung says:

    Morality by symbiosis. Why not?

  66. 66
    StephenB says:

    sean

    Having defined Evil, what is Good? Good is a category of not-evil behaviors and results which are not generally definable beyond saying that good is a non-overlapping set with evil. What is evil is never good, what is “good” for X might not be “good” for Y. Obviously there can exist a large category of behaviors and results which are not clearly good, but not evil.

    You provided a subjective definition of evil, but you did not explain why it is evil. Why is it evil (not good) to “harm someone unnecessarily? You are nowhere even close to making the journey from matter to morality.

    Objective definitions of “good” are a mirage because even things that seem obviously good (necessities like food, water, air, shelter, security) can become not-good by being excessive or restricting or otherwise harmful.

    Bad logic: Either food, water, air, shelter, and security are good things or they are not. If they are misused or used to excess, then it is the misuse or excess which is bad, not the things in themselves.

    Food, air, and water do not simply “seem” to be good things, they are good things. There is no such thing as an eating, breathing, drinking human being who really thinks that food, water, and air are subjectively good things.

    Which leaves us with: what makes something “good” simply has no generally applicable, objective answer; every person has a right (a liberty) to decide that for themselves. As long as they Do No Evil, they have a right to decide for themselves what is the good.

    You have not yet provided any arguments. You are simply taking all your claims for granted. Why does every person have a right to liberty? Why is it a bad thing to deprive someone of it? Tyrants think that liberty for their slaves is a bad thing (for the tyrant). Why are you right? Why are they wrong?

    Definitions of “good” are usually reducible to “something not bad”.

    No they are not. Where did you get that idea? Good is usually defined in terms of purpose and function.

    No greater definition is needed or wanted. There is a reason that the most commonly shared moral concepts are best characterized as “Thou shalt not”s. It is often clearer to simply determine what to avoid or prohibit than to try to list all the things we must or should do.

    Incorrect. The Thou Shalt Not’s are negative formulations calculated to protect objective goods or values, such as life, marriage, personal property, and the social order. Further, all the negative formulations, such as “don’t steal” or “don’t commit adultery,” contain a corresponding positive component and point to an objective standard of good behavior, such as the call to generosity or loyalty. It is always the good that defines evil, not the other way around.

    Please notice that none of that nonsensical crap from Mr. Murray about morality relying on personal preferences is included, that shite is rarely found outside straw man arguments like Murray’s.

    All your statements about morality are grounded in individual or collective personal preferences.

    p.s.: re Barry Arrington @56. I really do believe what I say, but I’ve never said I believe in a strictly subjective morality. I don’t.

    Are you suggesting that there is a middle ground between objective and subjective morality and that you hold to such a position, or are we supposed to guess?

  67. 67
    Axel says:

    Your #50, WJM

    Also, their wildest, zaniest flights of fancy, which they consider to be perfectly logical consequences.

    I mean, for instance, Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker is quite oxymoronic in its implications, yet he had the audacity to make the title of a book, which apparently captivated his loony-toon followers.

    But the two paragraphs below, from a link posted, I believe, by BA77 is so fatuously logically-challenged, I wondered if they were the funniest two paragraphs in the history of science or philosophy – though the latest ROFL tends to elicit that kind of exaggerated response from me:

    Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness – Talbott – Fall 2011
    Excerpt: In the case of evolution, I picture Dennett and Dawkins filling the blackboard with their vivid descriptions of living, highly regulated, coordinated, integrated, and intensely meaningful biological processes, and then inserting a small, mysterious gap in the middle, along with the words, “Here something random occurs.”
    This “something random” looks every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle. It is the central miracle in a gospel of meaninglessness, a “Randomness of the gaps,” demanding an extraordinarily blind faith. At the very least, we have a right to ask, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....randomness

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    Pauli’s famously bemused remark is also quoted a little further down. Here is the link, in case you are interested and did not see it earlier:

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/.....plantinga/

  68. 68
    Axel says:

    From the Judaeo-Christian angle, I believe perception of the moral ugliness of sexual deviancies of all kinds is at the core of the issue, and objectively, homosexuality, itself, irrespective of further associated issues, such as ‘marriages’ and all the other specious artifices designed to relabel elementary truths, as primitive, old-fashioned bigotry, and falsehoods as manifest truths; their support and promotion, just elementary decency.

    Evidently, further to Yahweh’s instructions, Moses commanded the Hebrews that they should not seethe a kid in its mother’ milk – surely for no other reason than that a mother and her milk are both highly emblematic of a mother’s love, the ‘milk of human kindness’, and so on: the ultimate image of God’s compassion for us, as also indicated in Jesus’ Lament over Jerusalem. A rather more subtle but still powerful proscription against a coarsening of a our sensitivities toward moral beauty and moral ugliness.

  69. 69
    sean samis says:

    StephenB wrote @53: “morality (defined as a universally binding standard for right and wrong). It isn’t possible. There is nothing in the cause that could produce the effect.

    Such a pathway is not needed. Moral considerations (harm, intent, necessity, responsibility, benefit, etc) do not manifest themselves until there is an actor capable of moral action. When considering things like mental states and moral actions, one need not base them on quantum physics.

    @ 54 StephenB asked “What moral justification did you have in mind?” This was regarding the recent vote in Ireland.

    These justifications: protection of equality before the law, protection of religious liberty, protection of personal dignity, obedience to the Golden Rule, obedience to the Second Great Commandment, etc. These provide ample moral justification.

    @ 58, Barry Arrington wrote, “if a different culture, Saudi Arabian culture for instance, were to come up with a “solution” in which homosexuals are executed for being homosexual, that would, by your definition, be moral for them. Far from rebutting WJM’s point, you have affirmed it.

    LOL! Literally! Actually Literally! Your reading skills are very poor.

    The rational moral system I describe mines different systems for COMMONALITY. My description was quite clear about that, so you should to re-read it.

    To be explicit (since you appear to need that) if a culture declared a class of humans “immoral” that declaration carries no weight in the rational moral system I described unless it conforms to the three rules I mentioned. Clearly the Saudi example you fret about violates ALL THREE, so it is not moral.

    But thanks for the laugh. Really.

    Then, @60, Barry asked “It is not immoral for a lion to run down, kill and eat a gazelle. Why is it immoral for a human to run down, kill and eat another human?

    Necessity. How else will the lion eat? Humans don’t need to eat each other. (You’ll find Necessity listed among the elements of Evil; this is something else hidden from Barry by his poor reading skills; it’s right there.)

    Then Barry wrote, “sean samis’ solution? Freeload on Christianity.

    Freeload? No. Nothing I do burdens or steals from Christianity. I borrow, yes. But why reinvent the wheel? I borrow from wherever I find something of value to the effort. It’s part of being a rational person to learn from others.

    I don’t give much thought to what Rorty, Gray or others say (or complain about) unless it’s useful. As I said quite clearly more than once, I unabashedly borrow from whatever seems to fit into a rational moral system.

    But I guess I should thank Barry for the comment, it can be wielded against a later complaint by Mr. Murray who essentially criticizes my position as too original. Barry’s complaint is that it’s not original enough. He should take that up with Mr. Murray.

    Barry wrote, “Logically, [John Gray] points out, materialism leads to reductionism — the conclusion that humans are nothing but animals.

    Unsurprisingly, Gray’s opinion on this matter is his, there’s no logical or rational reason to buy-into it. He’s no Pope, so no one needs give his opinions much thought at all.

    We are animals, but not “nothing but”. We have unique capabilities that factor into our behavior. We are capable of foresight and learning from the past.

    Then Barry writes @ 61, “Yet Sean @ 58 seems to be literally unable to see that he is borrowing his ethics from religious (not scientific) claims just as Rorty and Gray say. Incredible.

    Again, your incredibly crappy reading skills. I expressly acknowledge I am borrowing from religion. I wrote “Others focus on the things these moral systems do have in common and find the basis of a rational, debiased “natural law” system. I favor that last approach myself.

    Barry, do I need to use smaller words for you?

    I borrow from religion. I borrow from religion. I borrow from religion. I borrow from religion. Shamelessly. What’s to feel shame for?

    I borrow heavily. Frequently. Why not? Why reinvent the wheel? I try to learn from others? When did that become bad?

    But at least I can cite your comments when Mr. Murray complains that my ideas are too original.

    sean s.

  70. 70
    sean samis says:

    William J Murray wrote @ 62 “objective morality [is] a morality where what is good or evil is not determined by human preferences be they individual or cultural.

    I can work with that.

    Then he wrote “difference in moral systems can be understood as the natural variations from one set of biological and societal evolutionary patterns from another.

    Mr. Murray, you’ve introduced the term “evolutionary” here. Please clarify what you mean in this context. Biological evolution would not be applicable here, in my opinion.

    Then Mr. Murray asked a number of interesting questions about my term ‘debiased’: “What do you mean by ‘debiased’? Debiased from what – natural, evolutionary, variant social moralities?

    Let me be clear: thank you for these questions. Questions like these are the only reason to bother posting these comments. I feel they force me to examine my position anew. Thank you.

    By “debiased” I mean moral principles extracted from idiosyncratic cultural aspects.

    He asked, “Isn’t your methodology biased towards finding commonalities and advocating them as a standard?

    Yes.

    He asked, “Isn’t that which produces your view (biological and social evolution & variant forms of rationality) the same thing that, in principle, would produce those who disagree with your particular means of developing a ‘rational, debiased’ morality?

    Certainly, and in isolation there’s only one thing that could cause different persons or cultures to pursue the same process or arrive at the same results. That one thing is our common material natures. We are all humans with essentially the same needs and vulnerabilities. In isolation, humans and human communities will tend to find various responses to the same problems. Those who find successful responses will tend to flourish, those that don’t, won’t.

    When isolation breaks down, when these various communities, cultures, etc. come into contact with each other, it is possible to discover share moral and cultural norms, and choose to treat them as standards. Human cultures have been doing that for millennia.

    Then Murray asked, “Do you think your reasoning can “debias” you from what nature and culture produces in your brain?

    No person can do this alone; neither can a culture in isolation.

    But in contact with others, I think that’s doable, even natural. One can see what the other does, and ask “why?” (or more importantly, “why not?”)

    As the ancients said, one must know their self first. We all have biases; the first step getting past them is to acknowledge them and to compare one’s own expectations with those of others. There is no perfect achievement of cultural neutrality; one certainly can move in that direction, but only in the company of others.

    Then Murray asked, “Was it not evolutionary nature and society that all generated all so-called god-based moral systems?

    Yes.

    Was it not evolutionary nature and society that produced the morality that had Spartans tossing imperfect children off of cliffs, and had Chinese mothers drowning their baby girls, and has Islamic fundies beheading or burning alive all infidels?

    Yes indeed. And they all worshiped deities too. Slave masters and Klansmen and Nazi’s went to their churches too.

    It’s important to remember our dark past, but also to remember that we are not prisoners of it unless we choose to be. We can do better; we are doing better.

    Then Murray asked, “what principle other than self-reference do you have to claim that your moral views are any better than anyone else’s?

    A couple of things: I don’t claim my views are better than anyone else’s. The challenge has been to justify a moral system without recourse to deities or the supernatural. That I think I have done. My views are not necessarily better, they are merely discovered and justified differently.

    My views are not necessarily better than others for the simple reason that I borrow heavily from others. I know my views are not “just mine” because I and many others have arrived at similar views. Do No Evil is not original to me. The Golden Rule, in one form or another appears in many cultures and times. The Second Great Commandment likewise.

    I know that my views are not justified by mere self-reference because my views are too unoriginal. And that is intentional. My goal is not to find a new morality, but to find a common morality in the views of others.

    Murray asks, “Are they better because you say so?

    No, they are workable because they are already widely recognized. Pause a moment and consider how UNORIGINAL my moral rules are. There is much griping on this thread about my borrowing from Christianity (“freeloading”) but then you fret that my ideas are all my own! Can’t be both.

    I am the least original thinker on this thread; that’s why I have confidence that the moral system I propose is rational and acceptable; it’s not even mine.

    Murray asks, “If not, then according to what standard, and then, why should anyone else use that standard if they prefer their own?”

    I think you’ve forgotten the question that prompted this conversation; how a coherent, non-theist moral system was not possible. I have presented the outlines of one. Your response seems to be, “OK, you have one, but why adopt it?”

    Your adoption of my moral system is irrelevant. If you prefer your own, so be it, that is your right. But the predicate claim, that “Theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality.” has been disproved. The moral system I propose is as absolute and objective as any. And even for theists, I think my system provides a useful set of rules to guide moral decision making.

    Murray asked, “how is your long exposition about what is good, and what is evil, anything other than your personal, subjective view, generated by whatever idiosyncratic biological and societal forces happened to generate it in you?

    Please share with us the part of my description of Evil or good that you find objectionable, or even original? I know it is not an idiosyncratic view because it is not even original to me. But if you find some part defective, please share.

    if those natural evolutionary and societal factors had resulted in the Irish voting the other way, wouldn’t that just be one of the natural variations which be the particular moral “good” at that point in time for the Irish?

    Maybe, but it would still be wrong because the Irish and the rest of us already have the Golden Rule and the Second Great Commandment. The irony here is that the religious community who gave us both of those Great Rules is leading the fight to BREAK those Great Rules.

    Finally, Murray asked, “If you define ‘what is moral’ as the behavioral norms of a society …, then whatever norms that society happens to have are their valid morality, as valid as any morality generated by the same processes as any other.

    If I defined it that way, I’d be a fool, but I’m not defining it that way. I know you struggle with this. It’s my experience most people don’t have that much trouble with it; you’re not the first to see it or ask me questions about it. Perhaps this is not the right forum to help you see what I’m about.

    sean s.

  71. 71
  72. 72
    sean samis says:

    StevenB asked @66, “ Why is it evil (not good) to harm someone unnecessarily? You are nowhere even close to making the journey from matter to morality.

    Let someone harm you without need or cause, and you will promptly realize why it is evil. The last leg of this journey is filled in by the realities of life. You can lead a horse to water …

    Either food, water, air, shelter, and security are good things or they are not. If they are misused or used to excess, then it is the misuse or excess which is bad, not the things in themselves.

    I don’t think we disagree.

    Why does every person have a right to liberty? Why is it a bad thing to deprive someone of it?

    Again, if we take away yours, you’d suddenly realize why. If we take away anyone’s we can take away yours, so we must not take away anyones’. Even the ancients realized this.

    Why are you right? Why are they [tyrants] wrong?

    Because tyrants will only disagree as long as they are not the slaves. Make them the slave and suddenly they agree. It is not rocket science.

    There will always be people who disagree (tyrants or not). Their agreement is not relevant, their harm to others is.

    Good is usually defined in terms of purpose and function.

    … and usually those purposes and functions are the alleviation or prevention of harms. And when those purposes and functions become harmful, the good becomes the bad.

    all the negative formulations, such as “don’t steal” or “don’t commit adultery,” contain a corresponding positive component

    And all the positive formulation contain a corresponding negative component. It is not the good that defines evil, but evil delimits the good. Evil is evil, the good is good until it goes too far or too short, then it ceases to be good.

    All your statements about morality are grounded in individual or collective personal preferences.

    None of my statements are grounded in individual or collective preferences, that’s why I reject your hunt for detailed accounts of the good. My statements are grounded in the objective need to avoid harms and injustice.

    Are you suggesting that there is a middle ground between objective and subjective morality and that you hold to such a position, or are we supposed to guess?

    For the most part, harms are objective. Even surgical intervention to save a life creates a harm (but is not evil due to necessity). What is ‘good’ and ‘in what amount it is good’ are quite often subjective. That is simply a fact, a truth. Truths are not subjective. Opinions are, but not truth.

    sean s.

  73. 73

    sean said:

    The “materialistic” beginnings of a moral system are very basic: we are material, living creatures who are vulnerable to injuries, age, ignorance, and other weaknesses. Nature has made us social creatures that generally do best living in stable communities. We are capable of acquiring some knowledge and some foresight. All simple facts.

    I assume that if you are arguing for the materialist perspective, biological evolution and the material, physical interactions of humans at the social level result in the variations of human thought and behavior at the individual and social levels, and that there is nothing acting on humans in a top-down manner not ultimately generated by the natural law & stochastic process available under materialism.

    And, that morality and what we call “rationality” are themselves physically generated patterns of thinking that vary from person to person and from group to group according to these physical interactions and processes.

    By “debiased” I mean moral principles extracted from idiosyncratic cultural aspects.

    This is problematic from the materialist perspective. Please remember I am not arguing that you actually cannot do this, but rather that, logically speaking, materialism provides no basis for the expectation that you can do this.

    Under logically-consistent materialism, the idiosyncratic cultural biases are physically baked into the individual’s physical system which produces their thoughts, including how they reason. One has no perspective from “outside” of that biased system, because, under logically-consistent materialism, that is all one is – a necessarily biased physical process that generates thought according to its particular biases.

    Under materialism, there is no space to sit outside of that system and evaluate it objectively, or to make unbiased assessments of what is cultural bias and what is not.

    When challenged how one can debias their views, you respond:

    No person can do this alone; neither can a culture in isolation.

    But, there is no neutral space under materialism available where such “debiasing” can take place. Other people and other cultures will have their baked-in biases. Upon physically interacting with them your biases may change due to the physical interaction, but there’s no logical room available under materialism for “objectivity” or an “unbiased” space/perspective where you can “debias” your views. As a materialist, you are necessarily embedded in an ocean of variant biases you cannot escape from; you can change your biases, but you cannot be anything other than physically biased – one way or another – in your views.

    Yes indeed. And they all worshiped deities too. Slave masters and Klansmen and Nazi’s went to their churches too.

    I haven’t made an argument here that theism necessarily produces better moralities, so I don’t see how this is relevant.

    It’s important to remember our dark past, but also to remember that we are not prisoners of it unless we choose to be. We can do better; we are doing better.

    What does “choice” mean under materialism? Are our choices not reducible to the physical processes that generate them, ultimately nothing more than the outcome of matter interacting according to natural laws and chance? Can I make a choice that conflict with what natural processes determine, whether predictable or not? What doo does it do to say that “I” can make a choice, when both what “I” am, and what that choice is, is determined by natural law and chance physical forces?

    I don’t claim my views are better than anyone else’s. The challenge has been to justify a moral system without recourse to deities or the supernatural.

    Please re-read the OP. I said nothing about deities or the supernatural, other than to say that theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality, which is logically required to make statements like “Irish Voters Do the Right Thing. Church Was On the Wrong Side, As Usual”.

    Unless you’re making the case for an absolute, objective morality under materialism, you’re mistaken about the challenge presented by the OP.

    The challenge posed in the OP is: given moral subjectivism and materialism, how can any particular outcome of the Irish vote be called the morally “wrong” choice in a logically justifiable way, except in that the vote differs from one’s particular, individual, idiosyncratic moral preferences?

    I don’t claim my views are better than anyone else’s.

    Then there would be no way to justify the Irish vote, had it gone the other way, as “the wrong thing”; you could only say that it is not the vote you would have preferred, morally speaking.

    There is much griping on this thread about my borrowing from Christianity (“freeloading”) but then you fret that my ideas are all my own!

    You misunderstand me. It doesn’t have anything to do with where you get your morals from; it has to do with whether or not you can logically support both those views, and how you behave, morally speaking (such as, if you say that the Irish vote is “the right thing”).

    The issue about borrowing from Christianity is not the fact you have borrowed, but rather that Christianity has the logical foundation for supporting the view that a thing “is” right or “is” wrong because, in Christianity, morality is presumed to be absolute and objective and applies to everyone and every culture. They (and any morality presumed to be absolute/objective in nature) have the logical justification for pronouncing what a society does to be “the wrong thing”; moral subjectivism under materialism offers no such foundational principle.

    BTW, don’t mistake this for an argument for Christianity. My point is that Theisms, whether producing a good or bad morality, have the logical justification for judging what the Irish did as “the right thing” or “the wrong thing”.

    IOW, it’s not that you make up a moral view or borrow it, but rather if that view is logically consistent with the worldview of materialism and what, under moral subjectivism, moral statements mean in a categorical sense (is it ultimately reducible to personal preferences, or does it appeal to some absolute, objective nature?).

    “Irish Voters Do The Right Thing” is not a statement derivable under materialism/moral subjectivism. There is no “the right thing”, and if they had voted the opposite, then under logically consistent moral subjectivism, that too would have been “a right thing” for them, in their society, at this time.

    IOW, one moral view cannot be better than another unless there is something objective to refer to to make a comparison; otherwise, it’s nothing more, categorically, than personal preference, even if very strongly felt.

    I think you’ve forgotten the question that prompted this conversation;

    You need to re-read the OP. That may be the question you are responding to, but it is not the challenge I issued in the OP.

    … that’s why I have confidence that the moral system I propose is rational and acceptable; it’s not even mine.

    What do you mean by “rational”? Do you mean that it provides a sound, logical foundation, framework, and set of inferences that are all logically consistent and match your actual behavior and moral expectations? Or do you mean “It makes sense to me.”? This is what I mean when I talk about the lack of logic on the part of materialists and moral subjectivists; they don’t think through the necessary, logical consequences of their beliefs.

    If your morality is no better than anyone else’s, and if morality is subjective according to culture, you have no basis other than your personal, moral preferences to declare what is “the right choice” for the Irish; only they can decide what is right or wrong for them. And, if they had made the opposite vote, then for logically consistent materialists and moral subjectivists, that, too, would have been “the right choice”.

    If you prefer your own, so be it, that is your right. But the predicate claim, that “Theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality.” has been disproved.

    You’ve made no case for an objective, absolute morality. Do you not understand that “moral subjectivism” is the opposite of, and cannot provide for, an absolute, objective morality? Do you not understand that materialism can only generate personal, subjective moral perspectives that happen to be shared by others which generate various cultural, moral norms – which themselves are not objective and absolute?

    Please share with us the part of my description of Evil or good that you find objectionable, or even original? I know it is not an idiosyncratic view because it is not even original to me. But if you find some part defective, please share.

    You’re taking my question the wrong way. It’s not that I find it objectionable, or original – it’s that you’ve provided no basis for it other than that you prefer it. You don’t claim it is rooted in anything absolute; you don’t claim objectively binding to all people and cultures; you don’t make a case that it is anything other than that which you and many others have been predisposed by nature and society to prefer, which is exactly the point I made in the OP.

    Maybe, but it would still be wrong because the Irish and the rest of us already have the Golden Rule and the Second Great Commandment

    This is the statement that is not logically derivable under the premise of materialism and subjective morality because, under those premises and their logically necessary implications, only the Irish can decide what is, and is not, morally good for them. You get no vote on the matter; as a logically consistent materialist/moral subjectivist, you must agree that they made the morally right decision for them regardless of how they voted, even if, under your own moral view, you would have preferred them to make the choice they made.

    If I defined it that way, I’d be a fool, but I’m not defining it that way.

    But you have defined it that way:

    Differences in moral systems can be understood simply as the different solutions different cultures came up with to solve the moral issues that all human communities experience. Rational persons have come to expect natural processes to be characterized by a certain degree of variation. Absent any deity the process of creating moral systems is entirely natural.

    That describes morality as a social norm – generated by a combination of local nature and nurture resulting in a generally common cultural view of morality. One culture has its norms; another has a different set of norms.

    If that is not how you have defined it, then you have defined it as you choosing from various norms which ones to use as your personal morality, which you call “debiasing” (but which, logically, cannot be anything other than alternatively biasing, since there is no “unbiased” space or resource). However, such a morality cannot be said to be objective or absolute, since you do not claim that all people should behave according to your particular morality, or that it is binding on them in any meaningful way.

  74. 74

    sean:

    I said in the OP that morality under materialism/moral subjectivism is made right by that which legitimizes as right any subjective moral or ethical good: the individual, or the group, or the community, or the society, or the culture consider a thing to be good or right.

    In your following statements, you have provided two descriptions of the development of a morality; nature and nurture producing social norms; and you, as an individual, picking what moral maxims you consider best.

    Neither of those are moralities rooted in anything objective and absolute, but instead depend on exactly what I said they would – the culture, or personal moral preferences.

    You haven’t refuted what I said, sean. You’ve confirmed it.

  75. 75
    StephenB says:

    SB: Why is it evil (not good) to harm someone unnecessarily? You are nowhere even close to making the journey from matter to morality.

    sean

    Let someone harm you without need or cause, and you will promptly realize why it is evil. The last leg of this journey is filled in by the realities of life. You can lead a horse to water …

    I didn’t ask the question because I didn’t know the answer. I asked the question because I knew that you could not answer it from a materialist perspective.

    Just so that you will know, harming someone is bad because it takes away something from the person that is good. A thing is good for a person or object if it facilitates the purpose for which each was made. Thus, it is good for a computer to update its processes bad for a computer to immerse it in water. Everything turns on the reason it was made.

    In keeping with that point, humans were made to know the truth, make good moral choices, and use those faculties to pursue their ultimate destiny. In that sense, they have inherent dignity because it was conferred on them by their Creator, who has those same qualities in far greater magnitude. A good moral choice is one that puts them on the path to achieving their destiny; a bad moral choice is one that pulls them away from it. If they have no purpose or destiny, then there can be no such thing as good or evil for them.

    Accordingly, it is good for them to be helped along that path and bad for them to be deterred from it. Thus, it is bad to enslave someone because it violates their inherent dignity as thinking choosing beings and deters them from pursuing their destiny. If they were not designed for a purpose, then there can be no such thing as good or bad for them. Good or bad is always defined in the context of purpose. Evil is simply a privation of the good. Unlike good, it has no substance. Murder is bad because it takes away something good, namely life. It isn’t bad simply because the person being murdered may not like it, just as it isn’t good because the murderer may like it.

    SB: “Why does every person have a right to liberty? Why is it a bad thing to deprive someone of it?”

    Again, if we take away yours, you’d suddenly realize why. If we take away anyone’s we can take away yours, so we must not take away anyones’. Even the ancients realized this.

    Again, you are avoiding the question. I know why taking away someone’s freedom is a bad thing. You do not. You are proving my point with your evasion.

    .
    SB: “Why are you right? Why are they [tyrants] wrong?”

    Because tyrants will only disagree as long as they are not the slaves. Make them the slave and suddenly they agree. It is not rocket science.</blockquote?

    You are repeating yourself even as you continue to avoid the question. Provide a clear explanation why it is bad for a tyrant to enslave someone.

    SB: “Good is usually defined in terms of purpose and function.”

    … and usually those purposes and functions are the alleviation or prevention of harms. And when those purposes and functions become harmful, the good becomes the bad.

    Purpose and function define what it means to be good—and what it means to be bad. The purpose of a roof is to prevent water from destroying your house, which would be a harm. Good and bad are defined in that context: A good roof is one that protects your house from harm. Or, again, a good roof is one that operates the way it was designed and intended to operate. A bad roof is one that does not operate according to its purpose. Materialism has no answer for why a thing is good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust. Under materialism (defined as physicalism), there are no metaphysical truths, no moral truths, or no evils of any kind. Under that world view, things are just the way they are–nothing more.

  76. 76
    StephenB says:

    sean

    Such a pathway is not needed. Moral considerations (harm, intent, necessity, responsibility, benefit, etc) do not manifest themselves until there is an actor capable of moral action. When considering things like mental states and moral actions, one need not base them on quantum physics.

    We are discussing your claim that metaphysical materialism can be the basis for what is morally right and morally wrong. I am saying (and proving, I believe) that the gap from materialism to morality simply cannot be bridged, that is, there is no logical pathway from the former to the latter. Plenty of materialists are honest enough to understand the point. Will Provine, a materialist/Darwinist, is a good example.

    SB: “What moral justification did you have in mind?” (This was regarding the recent vote in Ireland).

    These justifications: protection of equality before the law, protection of religious liberty, protection of personal dignity, obedience to the Golden Rule, obedience to the Second Great Commandment, etc. These provide ample moral justification.

    Meaning no disrespect, but you appear not to even understand your own argument. Where are you getting your “personal dignity” and your “Golden Rule” and your “Second Great Commandment?’ It certainly cannot be derived from a materialistic world view, which is the point at issue.

    In the same way, objectively morality cannot come from humans that have allegedly been produced by materialistic processes. Whatever arbitrary moral code humans might come up with would be subjective by definition. Objective morality must precede humanity, both logically and chronologically.

  77. 77
    Axel says:

    ‘Let me be clear: ….’

    Steady, Sean. You’re sounding like our UK politicians…

  78. 78
    sean samis says:

    Mr. Murray wrote @ 73, “And, that morality and what we call ‘rationality’ are themselves physically generated patterns of thinking that vary from person to person and from group to group according to these physical interactions and processes.

    No. Rationality is invariant because it is determined by the operation of natural laws. Nothing is rational for some and irrational for others. What varies is the ability of individuals to recognize and respond to rationality.

    materialism provides no basis for the expectation that you can [debias]”.

    No. Experience in the world provides that expectation, and the world is a material place.

    Under logically-consistent materialism, the idiosyncratic cultural biases are physically baked into the individual’s physical system which produces their thoughts, including how they reason.

    No. Materialism makes no such assumptions or assertions; and those assertions are not logically consistent with what we observe in the world.

    there is no neutral space under materialism available where such ‘debiasing’ can take place.

    No special space is needed. Two individuals with different biases can observe and interact wherever they meet.

    As a materialist, you are necessarily embedded in an ocean of variant biases you cannot escape from;

    No. All anyone needs is the basic and pretty common ability to be rational. What it means to be rational is not idiosyncratic.

    What does “choice” mean under materialism?

    Don’t get distracted with the sterile debate about free will and determinism. Choice “under materialism” means pretty much what it means in ordinary usage. A rational mind can choose any response that it is aware of, awareness coming from education, experience, or imagination.

    Please re-read the OP. I said nothing about deities or the supernatural, other than to say that theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality, which is logically required to make statements like “Irish Voters Do the Right Thing. Church Was On the Wrong Side, As Usual”.

    Reread it yourself. Is there such a thing as a godless, fully naturalistic theism?

    If theism is required as you say, then you are talking about deities or the supernatural even if you do so implicitly; that’s pretty much built into what theism means.

    And of course, your point that “ theism is the only source of an absolute, objective morality,” is wrong on at least two levels. All theism is subjective, and theisms altogether do not achieve absolutes.

    The challenge posed in the OP is: given moral subjectivism and materialism,

    These two, moral subjectivism and materialism are not the same things, one does not imply the other.

    Your challenge really is against “subjective” morality which has the flaw you indicate, but my response has been to demonstrate that materialism does not lead to moral subjectivism ANY MORE THAN THEISTIC MORALITIES DO. My response to your “challenge” is to demonstrate the basics of a non-theistic morality that is not “subjective” morality.

    You misunderstand me. It doesn’t have anything to do with where you get your morals from; it has to do with whether or not you can logically support both those views, and how you behave, morally speaking (such as, if you say that the Irish vote is “the right thing”).

    If you are claiming that my views are merely personal preferences (which is your claim) then where I get my morals matters a lot. My views cannot be merely personal preferences when they arise from rational, widely held human beliefs.

    Christianity has the logical foundation for supporting the view that a thing ‘is’ right or ‘is’ wrong because, in Christianity, morality is presumed to be absolute and objective and applies to everyone and every culture.

    Well, first, your presumption is not necessary, so the logical foundation is therefore SUBJECTIVE.

    Oddly enough, the system I described asserts an absolute, objective morality that applies to all. So I guess my view has a logical foundation at least as much as yours. The difference between your Christianity and my view is nothing more than the source of information. You use your personal preference in religious traditions (of which there are many) and I rely on reason, which has a singular set of principles.

    BTW, don’t mistake this for an argument for Christianity. My point is that Theisms, whether producing a good or bad morality, have the logical justification for judging what the Irish did as “the right thing” or “the wrong thing”.

    I accept that as true, although it does not help you at all to say this. It reinforces the fact that your “logical” foundation is based on a personal religious preference. Your logical structure is built on a foundation of sand. Theisms generally do not advocate the same moral principles, you could mine them for a general set of such principles, but then you’d be doing what I’m doing!

    ‘Irish Voters Do The Right Thing’ is not a statement derivable under materialism/moral subjectivism.

    … but it is under materialism alone, as I have shown already. ‘Materialism’ and ‘moral subjectivism’ are not these same things, nor are they bound together.

    one moral view cannot be better than another unless there is something objective to refer to to make a comparison; otherwise, it’s nothing more, categorically, than personal preference, even if very strongly felt.

    My system is as rational as need be. That is the “something objective” you are looking for.

    by ‘rational’ … Do you mean that it provides a sound, logical foundation, framework, and set of inferences that are all logically consistent and match your actual behavior and moral expectations?

    That works for me, tho’ I rush to say that no person ever behaves in perfect accord with their own beliefs. We are all sinners; even materialists know that.

    Sin: human attributes (weakness, fear, hunger, ignorance, etc.) which interfere with the achievement of human goals or expectations.

    only they can decide what is right or wrong for them.

    Not my words, not something I agree with. Evil is clear, nothing that is evil is good, not ever. All I have said is that everyone gets to decide whether non-evil things are good for themselves.

    You’ve made no case for an objective, absolute morality. Do you not understand that ‘moral subjectivism’ is the opposite of, and cannot provide for, an absolute, objective morality?

    I have made my case. The fact that you think I endorse ‘moral subjectivism’ proves you have not read or comprehended my case.

    Do you not understand that materialism can only generate personal, subjective moral perspectives that happen to be shared by others which generate various cultural, moral norms – which themselves are not objective and absolute?

    I understand that your preference is to define ‘materialism’ this way, but I remind you that you have no standing to define ‘materialism’ to any materialist; just as that no materialist can define your beliefs for you.

    Materialism can (as I’ve shown) generate objective rational moral findings.

    sean s.

  79. 79
    sean samis says:

    StephenB wrote @75 “I asked the question because I knew that you could not answer it from a materialist perspective.

    Ah, but I did. Or are you going to join Mr. Murray in acting as materialist Pope and tell materialists what they are supposed to think?

    Again, you are avoiding the question. I know why taking away someone’s freedom is a bad thing. You do not. You are proving my point with your evasion.

    My answer is precisely on point. Observation of human behavior is a rational basis for a materialist response.

    Under materialism (defined as physicalism), there are no metaphysical truths, no moral truths, or no evils of any kind. Under that world view, things are just the way they are–nothing more.

    Sorry, your Holiness, but your papal reign over materialism has been invalidated.

    @76, StephenB asked “Where are you getting your ‘personal dignity’ and your ‘Golden Rule’ and your ‘Second Great Commandment?’ It certainly cannot be derived from a materialistic world view, which is the point at issue.

    Sure they can. Materialists can observe the world in which they live and recognize the existence and relationship of things in the world and the implications of those things and their relationships. Materialism does not require that morality be based on quantum physics or chemistry. Materialism does not require a world view that disregards the world we live in.

    StephenB finished with “Objective morality must precede humanity, both logically and chronologically.

    Nonsense. There is no logical reason for this requirement, in fact the requirement is destructive of your point.

    Suppose (for the sake of argument) that some “preceding” morality exists. Like any natural phenomena, perception of this morality would occur through the human mind. To the extent that these observation are subjective, this morality will be subjective too. How do we remove this subjective distortion of an objective morality?

    Claiming that we are able to perceive this morality objectively “because God said so” does not help.

    Which God said it?
    They said to whom?

    Further, if no deity says it to me, then “God says so” becomes “some guy says that God said so” and objectivity is obliterated. Short of personal communications with the deity, objective morality becomes nothing more than the “prophet’s” personal preference.

    Since no deity has ever spoken to me (and many others report the same) your ‘because God said” morality becomes a “because some humans said God said”. If all the humans who claimed to have heard from God reported the same moral commands, we’d be well off, but they don’t. Their disagreements are sometimes extreme. So for the many people like me, we have no option but to reason it out sans deity.

    Unless you claim to have had some direct communion with the All Mighty, you choose to believe what you’ve been told about God’s commands because they are your preference. You choose to believe they are universal and absolute, because that is your preference.

    If you do claim to have had some direct communion with the All Mighty, then you have yet to provide convincing evidence of that. Why should we believe you are speaking for your God instead of just for yourself?

    Go back to the hypo. If (for the sake of argument) there exists some “preceding” morality, perception of this morality would occur through the human mind. To the extent that these observation are subjective, this morality will be subjective too. How do we remove this subjective distortion of an objective morality?

    We can reason it out. We can examine our different subjective determinations and hope to find the objective nugget that we have all missed before. That’s how reason works.

    And at least reason is accessible to all, and explicable. Reason is not based on mere preference. The rules of logic and reason are not subjective, they are observable, and have been observed since at least the time of the Greeks (if not much sooner). They have been observed and remarked on across cultures and time. With reason, we can reach an agreement on the moral basics; this is something humans have been doing with some success for millennia.

    sean s.

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