The Delusion

Validation in a closed system equals underachievement. Consensus should also reach outside the group.

Understanding the limits of what you know is a key characteristic of continued growth and openness.

Several years ago we had a business partner from Ohio that learned how to ski. He was trash talking us in our conference calls about how he was shredding the slopes, and wanted to schedule our next winter meeting at a ski area to show us a thing or two about skiing. We booked a stay at Snowbird, Utah.

I had actually seen his ski area in Ohio. It was more or less a hill that would equate slightly less than intermediate skiing here in the west. But he was as confident in his ability as I was skeptical. I had 35 years experiencing some of the toughest double black diamonds in the world. Skiing since I was five—I wasn’t worried.

We got off the tram and headed over to Great Scott. From the Cirque Traverse he looked down, looked at us and said, “You win”—Never judge how good you are until you see the competition…

Religion has a well known trick to circumvent this obviousicity. Train them young, teach them they have the entire truth, then warn them about non-believers that are evil and don’t even listen to them. They’re all wrong, and trash talk becomes a one-liner way of life—I just believe.

Then, by and by the competing ideas emerge only to be shunned without an ounce of consideration. The competition has some great ideas, talent, ability, and reason. If they take a look with an open mind and end-around the supernatural excuse, will one have the integrity to say—you win?

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

135 thoughts on “The Delusion”

    1. The Chinese have never had the patience we have here in the west. I’m sure the government is pretty tired of watching people stunt their lives with a fantasy scripture. Why did you choose this link and nor one of christians burning books? That’s happened a fair amount in history too. I’m sure we have some common ground Loy. You have a family? Golf? Hike or go camping? Maybe we should start with the things we love and understand at a human level. Atheism is just a side job. I enjoy seeing the irony of life and also see the humor in it. Writing this is just one of my hobbies. I also have nonfiction I’m writing. You?

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      1. Sadly for myself I’ve almost always held the notion of ‘free speech’ … let anyone say anything, and anyone else can discuss it in an open arena. The old “He who alleges must prove”.

        (And while I’m dreaming, can I ask for a Lotto win?)

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  1. A few years ago I watched a video by three teenagers, maybe 12 to 14 years old. These teens were home schooled fundamentalist Christians, one was very headstrong and did most of the talking, one helped him find pages to quote and the youngest looked mostly bored. The thrust of their argument was they could show how wrong Stephen Hawkins was in his conclusions on cosmology and physics. The reason they were sure of this was their Pastor had told them how wrong these atheist scientists were and they had a few books from well known apologist. What made the video stick in my mind was how cock sure arrogant these young boys were. They gave no thought to the study and work in the fields that Hawkins and people like him put in. They were convinced they had the truth and these old guys who spent a life time working on this stuff were simply wrong because their home schooling taught them so. They were clueless. IF I remember correctly they simply regurgitated the Kalām cosmological argument and were so proud of them self for proving without a doubt the christian god. I was simply stunned. Then I got angry at the smugness of them. Then I felt sorry for them. They will get out in the world as adults with so much wrong misinformation taken as sworn truth and be unable to achieve in main stream advanced schooling or careers. Reminds me of the people clueless on climate or weather who feel they know better than the many people working with the data their entire adult life on climate change because it is their field of study.
    Hugs

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    1. I can think of so many people like this. Having studied science at uni I got annoyed at people who dismissed geology or climate science, when some of the scientists in that field have spent SEVERAL DECADES learning what they know now, while their critics knew nothing yet believed what some conspiracy buffs told them. Perhaps I’m annoyed because some of these people were my friends.

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      1. You have friends? Hehe. Hey so true! Pastor studies theology, theology is muchly about fear. Fear leads to paranoia, to conspiracy theory, and EVERYONE is after my bible and religious freedom. Not sure why they fight climate change so hard. It’s in the Bible too.

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        1. Lol hey! Well I’d like to think so haha, I don’t know how many of my friends left are conspiracy buffs though. They’re fine when you avoid discussing certain topics, but it’s harder to avoid than you think.
          Yeah in the last decade or so the anti-climate change wagon has really been going in full force for some reason. It’s just as big (if not bigger) than creationism. I’m not sure where it all started.

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          1. If my memory serves me right it was Al Gore that pressed this issue, and the right, not going to be hoodwinked by a liberal conservationist accused Gore of trying to oppress them by regulating carbon emissions. It’s been “game on” and a left versus right issue ever since. How could pollution be a conservative vs liberal issue? ….Aah yes, religion.

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            1. It seems no one wants to have to personally be responsible for looking after our planet. Someone else? yeah good on them, but no one should dare tell me what I should do!
              Why is it that the religious love supporting conservatives? I’m guessing they hate progressive changes since they slip further away from their archaic teachings. But, there are a few Christian friends who seem to think having Trump in was really good thing. Like how? He seems immoral as heck.

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            2. I’m not sure if he’s any more or less moral than any of them. The entire system is pretty bad, and people that aspire politically are like preachers. Disingenuous liars skipping the truth when it would serve them better. I quit tv and politics ten years ago. I get four news feeds by email and two are science, one medical and one called big think that has a variety of interesting topics. I look at google scholar quite a bit and follow my instincts. My first reaction anymore is to believe nothing at all until I can follow up on it. Sad it has to be that way, but it is that way.

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            3. Yeah that’s a fair point, politicians are by and large dirty. I still vote in the hope that my candidate does at least some of what they promised (which I agree with), even if they might have some questionable morals. I think that was part of the appeal for Trump too, he hadn’t had ANY political experience, which many saw as a plus.
              Those news sources sound a lot better than whatever the mainstream news sites are here, click bait and reactions are king. It is sad but true.

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            4. Pope Francis issued the longest papal encyclical in 2,000 years calling for action to address climate change and its impact on the poor, but heh, I realize you have a narrative to stick to.

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            5. Not sure how that confirms or conflicts what I said. Good for him. We need more leaders like that. The Catholics have been better addressing some things since they are atheists at heart anyway. Evangies are horrible wrong with most of their stances. I have no “narrative Loy, I just easily see contradictions in religion. You do too, but have decided to pretend you believe the unbelievable. That is the crux of faith isn’t it? Faith = pretending to believe something that has no bases in reality

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            6. Trying to reply below to Loy. Yes the pope appears to be concerned about climate change and has also said he has no problem with evolution and that there is no place such as Hell. So relatively speaking, he is sane.

              It’s more these Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists and the born agains, TV evangelists, faith healers, snake worshippers, dominion theologians, end timers, white Christian white supremacists etc. that are really looney.

              Faith could be man having faith that sanity will eventually rise and religion will fade out and we will live consciously with integrity, kindness, inclusion and appreciation for this vast universe and our own planet and all the beauty nature offers, as Jim says.

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            7. Can you imagine if religion was just a history class elective and the preachers worked regular jobs while the collective society studied actual things?

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            8. MARY:

              if the Pope said that, he is demonstrating that he is actually NOT sane—even suicidal …

              And: sanity will not “eventually rise”. That’s like hoping beautiful roses will come out of nowhere in your personal patch of weeds. If we want sanity we have to work at it: sow the seeds by teaching the young how to think for themselves—’how to spot contradictions’ is a great place to start.

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          2. For me it started when the Climate Change people used the word “unprecedented”.

            Blatantly it isn’t unprecedented—at various times in the past (if science is to be believed) the world was a lot hotter than now, and a lot colder.

            Nothing ‘unnatural’ about it. Humans are part of Nature too.

            The obvious solution, of course, would be to engineer a Winter of our own that would both knock the temperatures down a lot and thin out the cause of the problem (the human race). As frightening and unacceptable to any decent person this idea may seem, could it not be possible that someone behind the scenes and with the capabilities has already thought of it and is making active strides towards such a consummation?

            Of course the idea is ‘insane’. I’m just floating it, with no suggestion of invoking Godwin’s Law by way of illustration.

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            1. Well if they take the human race out of the equation, then they won’t have to worry about the environmental harms and the human induced component of climate change, genius! A limb isn’t going to cause problems if it isn’t there anymore right?

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      2. If time spent studying is the key, then Priests who spend an entire adult life endlessly studying the Good Book have all those scientists and things licked hollow …

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    2. Try not to worry they have lives ahead and the world is a testing place but by far the most difficult thing they will come up against is human nature , their own and other people’s.

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      1. Well the problem is they are in a bubble until they hit adulthood, then suddenly the bubble is gone and life can be hell on earth for those not equip to deal with it.

        You raised children you told me. Would you want any of your children to be so unaware of the real world? I am sure you did all you could to make sure they could handle what life would throw at them.

        But I really got upset over the arrogance, the idea the adults in their life were telling them that they at their age knew more and could refute the top of the scientific community. Hugs

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        1. Yes it is silliness in the extreme ; and I had four who seem to have come through but not entirely due to my efforts and sometimes the very best of parenthood fails in this unpredictable world. I think William Golding shocked the world when he wrote ‘ Lord of the Flies ‘ it unmasked the notion of the innocence of childhood.

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  2. One would think we could get through most situations without dragging out the BS flags. I have found that I can do that with this little mantra I use from time to time: ‘don’t take the bait…keep repeating.’ c’est la vie.

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    1. With religion when you call out the conflict or blatant contradictions of a point, they still act like an expert. I guess the name cirque traverse is very fitting for the way they take it home.

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  3. I have noticed that it is often the case that many theists make the same argument about atheists. Why don’t we see the value of religious ideas? And sure some atheists aren’t any more intellectually sound or even less so than some theists, but I think what the theist often forgets is that most of us are atheists because of some careful consideration of the value of religion. It is impossible not to be influenced by religion living in this world, and in that marketplace of ideas we have given religious ideas a lot of thought, and many of us have even tried them for awhile expected the promises religion makes about their better way of life. I can see the good parts in religion. I can also see that you don’t need religion to have those good parts. No belief in supernatural is required.

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    1. A difference is most of us have lived the religious side and found it fruitless. Those that grow up in it are wain to see there’s another side. Thanks Swarn.

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      1. When I was young, I asked my mom, who was (and is) a devout Christian whether or not all the people in other countries who didn’t practice Christianity would go to hell. She said yes if they had heard the story of Jesus and not chosen to believe in it. It was such an odd answer to me, because I was thinking “so it’s better to not hear the story”. When I reflected later in life on this answer, it frustrated me even more than the expectation of Christians is that there story is somehow far more believable and compelling than any other.

        When I was in my early 20s I asked my cousin, who is of Indian origin and a Sikh (although by no means really religious) whether he believed in God and whether or not he was concerned about one story being right over any other. He said no. He saw all religions as different paths to the same end, which was God. At that time I was still toying around with the idea of their being God, but oddly this statement made me less convinced about it all. It made me think that even if there was a God, all the details of each story were likely not literally true. More importantly the rules and expected behavior for each religion were also much more meaningless. You could distill each religion down to essential parts. It didn’t matter what rituals you practiced, just that rituals might be important to our lives. It didn’t matter exactly what you had faith in, but that faith was important. It didn’t matter which God you were humble before, but that it was important to have humility. I still believe that religion has distilled important values, but the fact that people keep pushing the narrative after all this time is what gets me.

        My point in all this is that we can gain a lot through the reading of stories, even as we acknowledge they are only just that. I’ve known people equally inspired by Lord of the Rings as they have been by the Bible. The difference being is that those people who read Lord of the Rings read the whole book. 🙂 It’s hard for me to fathom that through truly learning the stories that each religion tells you wouldn’t arrive at the obvious conclusion that they are all stories, and that even if there is a God, nobody’s story is more valid than the next.

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        1. There may be elements of truth in every story. What’s true is true, regardless of the idiom in which it is expressed. There is something to be learned from many stories. That being said, it’s not exactly the same thing as saying that every story, taken as a whole, is equally valid.

          And of course they’re “stories”. Stories are the most universal way for people to tell truths about themselves and things beyond themselves. Very few people sit around the fire engaging in philosophical discourse. Truths are no less true because they are expressed as stories.

          In the case of Christians, at least (and perhaps others), the “story” is not something that happened once upon a time, or in a book. It happens in this world every day, within each moment, and wherever two gather.

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          1. But the elements of many other stories happen every day in similar ways. I can appreciate the value of friendship from fellowship in Lord of the Rings but this is no way implies hobbits are real. This is the point. We can learn lessons from Noah and the flood, or Sodom and Gamorrah, but it in now way implies that any of the characters in the story actually existed. That includes the people and the supernatural characters.

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            1. I think my earlier comment acknowledged that there is something to be learned from many stories—it just doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to give all stories equal weight.

              I hope I did not leave the impression that by “truths” I am referring primarily to historical facts or legends. Not at all. I mean truths about who we are, about what matters, and how we make lives that matter. In my experience that inevitably leads to stories about God.

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            2. Well certainly there are better stories than others in terms of the content and depth to which they make you think and contemplate. I completely agree. That is how I would weight stories. I see nothing inherently more true about stories Christians tell each other, than Hindus. And I hope I made it clear that I don’t use the variations among religions to be proof that there is no God, only that the details of the story are not necessarily factually true, even if the lessons they convey are true. There need not be an actual diving being called Jesus Christ for us to understand the value of sacrifice, redemption, freedom from oppression and all the good things that Jesus fought for in the new testament. Whether even Jesus existed or not is immaterial. Given the similarity of Jesus’ story to pre-existing stories it is far more likely that he is not as portrayed in the bible, but is meant to be inspirational character to help people live better lives. And maybe that is part of God’s work, to lift people up through inspirational stories. But for many Christians it would be a real problem if Jesus wasn’t the son of God. But there is incredible value to the story even if he wasn’t. So why can’t we have that.

              And I did understand what you meant by truths. And I don’t think it’s problematic if what you’ve experienced leads you to the conclusion that there is a God, but you have to remember that many people have been led in the same direction and have varied in their interpretations of what God wants, how to worship, and God’s true nature. One would expect this given a complex and dynamic world being used as evidence to support the existence of a being that nobody has actually seen or heard in any measurable way. Every religion is at best a guess at the nature of God, but you can find much more commonalities and meanings when you look at what the stories say about humans and what important values we can derive from those stories. That being said, I can know nothing about religion at all, and derive a very similar set of values by studying evolution, primate behavior, neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychology. This might be far less interesting to most than stories…hell even I prefer stories…I’m simply saying there are intellectual paths to discovering morals and values also.

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            3. @Swarn: The proverbial tale of the blind men describing an elephant is apt: each of us has a partial and imperfect apprehension of the truth, above all the truth about God.

              I would be very skeptical, however, about a claim that science alone, unaided, can suffice when it comes to values and meaning. The knowledge we derive from observation and experiment can inform and illumine our stories, but it’s not the whole story, or the whole truth. Observation and experiment produce data, not wisdom; indeed, by design and intent, they are oblivious to meaning. Moreover, by design and intent, the rigorous process of detecting, describing, explaining and predicting patterns in nature is oblivious to uniqueness: above all, the utter uniqueness of God and of each human person.

              I would just add that stories engage the intellect at least as much as more formal modes of inquiry.

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            4. And it continued with religion. The same thing was happening in Europe with monotheist religion. I believe the word you were looking for was education. That is the common denominator for peace. It quells fears stops prejudice,and promotes understanding. Same as today

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            5. I don’t disagree that stories can illuminate the intellect as much as formal modes of inquiry.

              It seems to me though that when you say data not wisdom, you are removing the human element from the analysis process. It is a human that analyzes data as much as analyzes a story for meaning. I can’t speak for all scientists but I do know for many that I know and myself I don’t see solving problems through formal modes of inquiry that different from storytelling. In fact my Ph.D. advisor told me to write my dissertation in the same way that I might tell a story. Start with background, develop the plot by describing your methodology, and relay what the reader is supposed to learn through an analysis of the data. As one individual researcher, just like in one individual story it may not be the whole story, but that’s where other scientists come in. And this is an advantage of formal modes of inquiry is that we can much more easily meta-analyze a cross-section of studies for a more complete picture.

              Let me ask you this question. Do you not think that by looking at the impacts of theft in society and on individuals we could not outline a moral code about the rightness or wrongness about theft?

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            6. I don’t see how you get from “is” to “ought” just by looking at data. I observe that clever or powerful people appropriate resources from gullible and vulnerable people. It is what it is — learned or evolved behavior. What in the raw data, or in my analysis thereof, gives rise to an opinion about how things “ought to be” — without any extrinsic influence?

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            7. Survival is what goes from is to ought. Life survives. Now if you want to ask the question of why life has a survival imperative this simply seems to be its nature, just as it is a rock’s nature to be hard. If you want to say that God gave life a survival imperative then fine God created the physical laws of the universe but no more needs to be done from there.

              We are primates, we are social. We survive best when working together. Any behavior that leads to greater mistrust and selfishness will diminish our social structure thus reducing our chances for survival. Now stealing a loaf of bread when you are hungry might actually help you survive, but if resources are that low in a society then survival is already in jeopardy. We can study behaviors to see how they impact survival for a particular species. We’ve studied primates a lot, and not surprisingly we don’t behave that differently from other primates. Now if we evolved from spiders into intelligent spiders we might find a very different set of behaviors are moral or immoral depending on what leads to the greatest chance of survival of the species.

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            8. Survival is a biological imperative, but why is it “good”? Why shouldn’t I steal from the sick or feeble, or an ostracized subgroup, who contribute nothing to my survival? Why shouldn’t my group steal from your group, since your resources will enhance our prospects for survival? It may be interesting to observe that “we don’t behave that differently from other primates” in some completely trivial ways, but you don’t mean to suggest that I can develop a mature conscience capable of negotiating the sometimes excruciating moral dilemmas of modern life merely by observing the thoughtless behaviors of apes?

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            9. What I’m suggesting is that we are also primates who can be observed, for which we can derive reasons and motivations for behavior. But we are far less different from other primates than you seem to imagine.

              As to your other question, the reason it is “good” is because continually practicing theft is actually counter to the survival imperative. You can expect that while you may make short term gains through theft you will likely find in the long term that this leads to violence of me against you, or my group against your group. In terms of long term survival you are better off learning how to work with me or my group. Sorry, I guess it seems pretty obvious why theft is counter to survival of a social species. Hopefully it’s obvious why it wouldn’t beneficial to cohesion of a tribe to steal within a group, but you’re right that you might get away with it for a longer term between tribes if you use your stolen resources to enhance military might. This has been practiced, and such victors have claimed moral victory. Certainly the old testament is full of such righteous victories while other groups are slaughtered. The sort of moral subjectivity you say is not possible with there being a God is in fact quite subjective in holy books and history books depending on the author. It seems clear as day that two warring sides would have had much less death and bloodshed and improved their chances for survival as a whole had they cooperated. I am not saying that violence isn’t sometimes necessary, I’m only saying that there was a better solution to the problem that maximized survival. Now I’m certain that there were also situations that were caused by drought or other calamities that severely limited resources, and in such desperate times morality goes out the window over survival. And what is “good” is simply to survive at any cost. The environment wins in the end, because if drought continues, civilizations just collapse and people are forced to migrate elsewhere for what few people remain.

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            10. ‘And what is “good” is simply to survive at any cost.’

              That actually was my question: Survival is a biological imperative, but why is it “good”? That is, by what reasoning, or on what basis, do you conclude that the mere fact of survival (whose?) is the highest principle of justice, the standard by which we may always in every circumstance judge right from wrong?

              What you’re describing is unenlightened self-interest. I can understand that an individual would value his own survival. I can understand why that concern would extend to at least some of his kin, as well as to a somewhat larger group of allies who cooperate with his interests, willingly or otherwise. Everybody else is either a resource to be used or an enemy to be suppressed. To say that survival is the highest principle of justice is simply to say that might makes right.

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            11. You are taking my words out of context now. Note that when I said it is good to survive at any cost, was only in reference to a situation where you are so desperate for resources that death is relatively imminent. This is not our normal survival imperative as a social species.

              I am not arguing that survival is good, except that we judge it as good. Acts of good and evil are only what we judge them to be. This much is clear looking at human history. It may not be good to survive at all. The ought is the meaning we apply. The only thing that “is” for live is survival, and as I said before different species have different strategies to achieve that aim. Again, primates are social species and cooperation is their primary means for survival and cooperation is enhanced by reciprocal altruism. I call it good because cooperation alleviates suffering and as a primate, something I share with a lot of mammals, is that I am wired to experience empathy. Pain in other creatures actually has a negative physical cost to me, as it does to most other humans with the exception of psychopaths and sociopaths. This is why dehumanization is a popular tactic used to commit atrocities against other people. Militaries have become especially good at this, which is why records show that during the civil war only about 50% of people fired their weapon, whereas during Iraq and Afghanistan that number is now at about 90%. People would rather run than cause harm to other people. In fight or flight, flight is our default reaction.

              Might make right for certain species, but not in social species like primates. The fact that you think that is actually quite concerning. It seems fairly obvious that an attitude of “since I am more powerful and thus you must submit to my will” (interestingly a tactic used by religion) not surprisingly leads to a mindset where violence doesn’t end, even within group. If the only way I can get you to do something because you fear my might, the time will come when all those who fear me will band together to overthrow me. Or even those technically on my side, might do the same thing so that they can be more powerful. We see this happen also in other primate species like baboons. When fear and intimidation are used too often as a tactic people usually gang up to kill that individual. Thus this is not a better tactic for survival. It has short term gains, but is ultimately a mindset that doesn’t lead to long term survival of a species. You might win in your life time with such a strategy but a society that adopts that strategy will always collapse in on itself eventually. So it’s a strategy that can sometimes be successful, but is ultimately self defeating. There are better survival strategies out there. I judge it to be good to minimize harm and suffering because it maximizes thriving to the collective. The fact that morality has progressed since biblical times makes it clear that morality is subjective to our understanding of the world and that as we’ve become more aware of how our actions bring suffering to others we course correct, because for most of the population we are simply uncomfortable making other people suffer, because empathy is an emotion hardwired into us by evolution to increase cooperative strategies for survival.

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            12. “I am not arguing that survival is good, except that we judge it as good. Acts of good and evil are only what we judge them to be….The ought is the meaning we apply.”

              Well yes, agreed. That’s my point. It’s a different proposition than saying we can determine right and wrong empirically. One has to go well beyond statistical analysis, well beyond the scientific method, to arrive at oughts and meanings.

              Violent conflict began at the dawn of time and has never ceased. Violent conflicts are ongoing as we speak in 68 countries involving some 800 non-state groups. Five, including Mexico, claimed in excess of 10,000 lives last year (2017). Apparently there are still a lot of people who didn’t get the memo about the pacifist apes.

              Certainly no one needs to be reminded that the last century saw unspeakable horrors, including the slaughter or starvation of at least 100 million human beings by sadistic atheistic regimes in the USSR, China and Cambodia. To the extent that there has been any sort of “course correction”, it is due to the expansion of global trade fueled by capitalism, the adoptoin of democratic self-rule, and the creation of multinational institutions, primarily at the behest of the liberal Western (i.e., Christian) democracies.

              I would have to respectfully suggest that we can gain a much deeper and more useful understanding of human nature, our foibles and motivations, by studying our violent history than by anthropomorphizing the poor apes and imputing to them the values we wish we had.

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            13. So we should study primate history to learn about what primates should do? That doesn’t negate my points, that makes it actually, so thank you.

              I never said there was no violence, but as a percentage of global population there are less people dying from wars and murders today than anytime in civilized history. You can read Steven Pinker’s book, Better Angels of our Nature if you want more robust empirical date on the history of violence and the moral progress we’ve made. Again you seem to not get that we are also primates and so when I say studying primates is a great way to learn about what primates should do, I am including us in that. But I would recommend reading books like Robert Sopolsky’s Behave, or the Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond to get insights to how much of our behavior is similar to other primates. Again having read numerous articles and books on the brain, evolutionary psychology, and primate behavior I can easily draw up a set of moral behaviors that increase our chances of survival. No history book, or holy book necessary. If you don’t feel confident that you can do that, I would suggest you haven’t read enough of such books.

              I see you’ve tried to claim that liberal Western democracies are synomous with some sort of Christian values. Well Christian values caused a lot of problems for a good 1700 years in Europe, so to suggest that Christian democracies have made the world a better place is a claim that simply can’t be backed up. Separation of church and state is the principle that has made a big difference and this is not a Christian value. Christianity may want to claim it, but it certainly wasn’t its value for many years. The rise of secularism is clearly correlated to less violence, but Christianity has simply acquiesced to that, not led the way.

              And sorry I don’t see how I’ve made your point by saying that it is human judgment that determines moral behavior. Because you seemed to be arguing that moral behavior had to be decided by the supernatural. I assert that the supernatural not only need not been involved, but simply hasn’t been involved in the process. Our course correction has been through learning, not rejecting some sort of natural moral law set forth by a creator.

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            14. I don’t deny at all that science can identify “behaviors that increase our chances of survival”. Rather, I do deny that science alone can tell us what is “good”, what is the highest principle of justice, what is the standard by which we may judge right from wrong always and in every circumstance. I thought we had agreed on that point when you said: “I am not arguing that survival is good….The ought is the meaning we apply.”

              Where did I say anything about decisions being handed down from the “supernatural”? God and/or nature has endowed us (men, not apes) with the gifts of conscience and the capacity for moral reasoning, and it is by virtue of these natural human powers that we are able to speak at all about what is “good”.

              It’s not a coincidence that three-fourths of the member states that organized the United Nations were predominately Christian countries. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, despite the supposed siren call of secularism, and quite contrary to Pinker’s assertions, there has been no course correction with respect to violent conflict:

              https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/03/the-big-kill/

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            15. Can you prove that apes don’t have a conscience. That they don’t reason about what good behaviors are? I don’t think you can, and I think there is lots of evidence that other primates are quickly adaptive and creative in how the modify behaviors to lead to better outcomes.

              What is good is a human judgement, always has been and always will. And sometimes we get it wrong, because knowledge is imperfect even when intentions are good. The point is you claim some perfect truth in God, but have no way of proving that God exists, so that perfect truth may not even exist. And if it does, then it is only up to humans or some other evolved intelligence to discover it. The fact that you cannot see how an analysis of human interactions through scientific investigation and the physical and psychological suffering that is caused by our behaviors cannot lead us to better moral behaviors that lessen suffering, and increase the chance of surival, and bring more meaning to lives seems to be your own failing then in being able to understand the lessons that such science teaches. As an empathetic primate I see less suffering as good because it benefits the survival of myself and all those I care about it. Of course I don’t understand everything in the universe, and there are likely better behaviors that minimize suffering and maximize survival. There may be other species that don’t react the same way to suffering as I and my fellow primates do, and perhaps with that ability they would choose a different moral path to follow. There is no moral perfection, just what makes sense to our primate brains, and survival imperative shared by all life that we know of. And, again, I can easily make a good and comprehensive list of these things through scientific studies and analyses. In the end any holy book is just a self-help guide based on the observations of men who came to conclusions based on the understanding of the world they lived in. They didn’t commune with god or receive divine revelations whatever hallucinations they might have felt they had. There are tons of self-help books out there based on science which is the most effective tool for discovering truth that we have, There is no more reliable mode of investigation.

              As for the link you provided an easy search would have revealed the rebuttal to this article by Steven Pinker himself. In the same publication. https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/12/07/hey-foreign-policy-the-world-really-is-getting-safer/

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            16. As I was reading what a good case you make, Swarn, I was thinking about those who simply refuse to look beyond their ingrained religious teachings (need I name names?).

              Good job!

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            17. If you succeed in reducing moral reasoning to thoughtless animal behavior, then you’re left with nothing but thoughtless behavior.

              Science is the most effective tool we have for discovering truths that science can discover. Whether that’s the whole truth is a philosophical question to which science itself is serenely oblivious. Science has nothing to say about whether truth and good exist. Science cannot give a full account of the human person. And that seems to be our real difficulty here: we’re working from radically divergent conceptions of what it means to be human, let alone what it means to be moral.

              If you like, you have complete freedom to talk about yourself exclusively in biological terms as a “primate”. But that is a philosophical commitment you choose to make. Nothing about science dictates such a commitment. Others use their God-given intellects to realize that the human person is infinitely more.

              I hope you will consider the incoherence of your argument. You started out by saying, “Survival is what goes from is to ought.” The “survival imperative” is a brute fact, therefore survival is the supreme good. Since “[w]e survive best when working together,” working together is good behavior. Theft is bad behavior because sooner or later the victims will retaliate, negatively impacting the perpetrator’s survival odds. It might be different if we were spiders. Spiders have their own moral paths, because they have a different set of survival-enhancing behaviors.

              Of course, emperors, tyrants, warlords, pirates, mafiosi, gangbangers, petty crooks and robber barons all have their own survival-enhancing moral paths too. Their survival depends upon injustice, not empathy or reciprocal altruism. Ah, but you say, “that strategy will always collapse in on itself eventually.” Okay, but someone is always waiting to take their place. Meanwhile, the “species” always survives and always grows, irrespective of the rampant immorality that supposedly threatens its survival.

              All the while, the question remains: why is survival the supreme good anyway? Because “we judge it as good”. Except, “It may not be good to survive at all.” It depends on the species and the thoughtless behaviors peculiar to that species. And WHOSE survival are we talking about? Is it “the species”, “the collective”, or “myself and all those I care about?”

              It all feels like a massive exercise in reverse engineering. You write: “I judge it to be good to minimize harm and suffering because it maximizes thriving to the collective.” Rubbish. You believe it’s good to minimize harm and suffering because you learned from childhood that justice demands it.

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            18. When it’s all said and done Loy, we will see that we have been doing this alone, by ourselves as a species all along. Just as your construct of God has left us to our own devices to fix this world of problems we are in, so it is with morality. This formative sense of positive and negative input and our ability to process it is where we are right now. No one, including you knows what this god of yours wants out of you. That is obvious with each individuals ability to process (more positive and begatívé input and out ability to process it) what every Christian thinks is the right church, right doctrine, picking and choosing what is best for them. Just like me. I can’t speak for Swarn, but I would guess just like him, Ben, and all of you are processing natural input and finding homeostasis in your life without god directing an ounce of anything.

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            19. I like to anthropomorphize cute animals as much as the next person, but that video shows a monkey who wants a preferred treat, not one making a conscious choice to ameliorate the harm and suffering of others.

              If you do come across a monkey who engages in moral deliberation and demonstrates conscious acts of virtue, I would love to see him or her start their own blog giving the simian take on ethical questions of the day.

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            20. The monkeys inability to express himself is part of the processing power. More neurons = more processing power and the organisms ability to comprehend it. What the video shows is your supposed special moral power is not as complicated as you’re making it. This is where the child as you said, learns right and wrong social behavior without a god directing its every thought. It’s not complicated Loy, and is found in all species. Even Christians when they’re unarmed will behave fairly when put among heathens.

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            21. This conversation no longer has value simply because you are not familiar with the vast amount of research on primate behavior but you also seem to highly undervalue what animals are capable of on your anthropocentric view. Something common to theists. You have to feel that humans are special and that god favors them for some reason. This is purely a belief and simply doesn’t stand up to evidence which you conveniently refuse to become familiar with.

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            22. Yeah, as I said we’re at a philosophical impasse that really has nothing to do with scientific research. It’s moot anyway since we’re all going to be made obsolete by artificial intelligence.

              You may find it comforting to blame me for being dense or a “theist”, but if so, for what it’s worth, if you care, you’re kidding yourself.

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            23. I think you misunderstand what philosophy actually is. Statements that rest on unverifiable premises, can’t be verified by any empirical evidence or actually oppose evidence aren’t really what philosophy attempts to do. Philosophy is just a term you are using because you have no evidence for such claims and you want to legitimatize by using the word philosophical. Your assertions about morality are simply not supportable by evidence and your view of animals is full of conceit and also not supported by observation.

              I don’t find it comforting at all that you think as you do. In fact I find it disturbing that you are convinced that beliefs and truth are equivalent and that you choose to remain ignorant of evidence that would contradict what you believe about reality.

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            24. You’re conflating scientism with philosophy, conflating nature with reality, and using a different definition of morality than I am.

              I’m as open-minded as they come, but I need a good reason to change my mind. Even if I were to suspend my skepticism about your interpretation of certain animal behavior, it seems we’d still be on different wavelengths. And the case for science as a primary source of moral thinking would still be dubious.

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            25. That’s an incredible self admitted presupposition Loy. If you learned about it it is easy to apply to real life and morality, think it through and it’s pretty obvious. Positive and negative input and the organisms ability to process it. Numerous studies and multiple species have born this out. It’s anything but hard to grasp. It doesn’t lessen you as a person Loy, (although that’s the talking point out of fear), it actually adds importance and firm perspective to this life we lead.

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            26. Once again you misunderstand my argument. Yeah, sure anything can be a philosophical statement and you can call it philosophy. But as a discipline, philosophy isn’t only interested in making statements. I mean we could say, “Some gases compress when heated”. A philosopher who makes such a statement would then have to find some line of reasoning where that could be true. They would then have to explain why no known gases compress when heated. I can say “God loves all people”. A philosopher who makes such a statement would have to recognize that God has yet to be proven to exist, and even if it did exist, it would still need to be investigated as to whether all people were loved by God. The statement has no value in of itself and relies on a premise that has not been verified. Philosophy isn’t the field of just making statements. It actually attempts to try and determine what exists in the world and how we know it. There might be many statements for which there is no contradictory evidence for, but for which there is no evidence for. Such statements sit there until we can find a way to know them. But if we have no way of knowing them, then they don’t speak to what is, only what might be. Science has answered many philosophical questions in the past in just this sort of way. Yet the question of whether or not there is a God still sits there, as does the existence of unicorns, vampires, ghosts, etc.
              Now you have accused me of scientism which is a false claim. I at no point said the only way we can know everything is through science, only that this is the most reliable way to which we can know things. I have asserted that through our vast study of primate (humans included) behavior, the brain, psychology, and cognitive science we can derive a pretty good system for what is moral and immoral behavior based on the survival imperative that maximizes well-being and minimizes suffering. I also claimed that what is moral and immoral, or what is good or bad morals is just a label that we use to categorize things when we observe behavior. This is all morality is. We observe how we feel, how others feel, and its impacts perhaps to the society at large and we categorize the behavior. Your claim about the origins of morality and what is moral and immoral behavior as having divine origins is one that has no basis in evidence. So does it qualify as a philosophy? Well it might if it could not be proven wrong by evidence, but it is not only supported by any evidence, it is actually falsified by evidence. Evidence which you choose to not familiarize yourself with because of an emotional attachment to you beliefs in how the universe works. Because I call you out on that, you accuse me of scientism.

              I never once claimed that science was the only way to know what exists in the world, only that it was the most reliable way that we know of. Perhaps something else will come along, but as for now the person who hides behind the scientism accusation has yet to propose an alternative explanation that fits the facts better. There is evidence that animals have conscience (I mean even dogs feel guilt), there is evidence that they exhibit behavior that demonstrated a morality, that they think about and creatively adapt behavior to benefit their survival. Different species will do it differently, but social species have many commonalities. We might be more creative in our solutions, but the end is the same. Claiming you are right on philosophical grounds while ignoring and not familiarizing yourself with the evidence is simply dishonest and a deflection. I know you don’t see it that way, but it really is. So we are not at a philosophical impasse. I have evidence on my side, and you have a belief that you maintain is philosophy even though evidence is doesn’t support it. Philosophy is also about logic. Philosophers are careful to make sure that their statements are logically sound and for those statements to also have meaning they know the premises for which they build their logical foundation on must also be known to be true. So before making any statement about God being the highest standard of morality, you must first demonstrate that God exists. Since no one has been able to do such a thing I’m not holding my breath. But even if you were then you’d still have to demonstrate that god represents the highest standard of morality. And I’ll tell you, when I bring out the old testament, you’ll lose that argument too. Oh that’s providing you can demonstrate that any of the events in the old testament happened exactly as the old testament says.

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            27. Wow Swarn! Nicely done. If that statement doesn’t cause anyone to pause and reflect, nothing will. Thank you for taking the time to craft that.

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            28. As per my last comment, it’s become clearer that our disagreement comes down to what we mean by morality. For you it’s “just a label that we use to categorize things when we observe behavior,” whereas I hold that morality is a set of norms that all rational people affirm (because good as such is real and can be known by reason). You and I are not going to agree because we’re talking about different things. It is indeed an impasse, and it is indeed owing to a difference in philosophy.

              For argument’s sake I’ll stipulate all your claims about animal behavior. It turns out it doesn’t matter. We would remain at an impasse because our disagreement is more fundamental than that.

              https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/#NormDefiMora

              It’s fascinating that you keep bringing up God (the divine, the supernatural, the Old Testament, etc.) — usually to put words in my mouth. My argument does not rely on any of those things.

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            29. morality is a set of norms that all rational people affirm (because good as such is real and can be known by reason).

              When did I say that reason does not factor into how we decide what is moral or immoral behavior? And other animals do rationalize, not just humans. We can reason what is good and what is bad, but the criteria that we use to define good and bad are a reflection of who we are as a species (social primate). But when you say something like good is real, to me this sounds like you think good is some fundamental property of the universe. Whether you use the word God in your discussion, doesn’t change the fact that this is a common view held by theists that good and evil are somehow fundamental properties in the universe. And you’ve said as much:

              God and/or nature has endowed us (men, not apes) with the gifts of conscience and the capacity for moral reasoning, and it is by virtue of these natural human powers that we are able to speak at all about what is “good”.”

              This implies that either God has handed down (to humans only according to you) some standard of good, or that a standard of good somehow exists in nature, which we are somehow bound to biologically…I don’t know). Whatever your explanation of how “good is real” this is a belief, and not something that you can prove. What I’m saying is that we reason what is good based on what gives us the best chance of survival, and in social primates that involves reciprocal altruism. That is when we maximize kindness and minimize suffering in others we increase the chances of cooperative structures forming which increases our chances of survival.

              I do believe that we can progress morally towards some more perfect state, through continued learning and understanding of how our behaviors impact others, but this is a scientific endeavor, not one that occurs because there is some law of good in the universe like there is a first law of thermodynamics. And even as we march towards that state of ultimate goodness, it may still be that this is only from the perspective of social primates. Should we meet other intelligent life, we should in no way expect such creatures to have the same set of moral values based on the particular ways they evolved to survive in their environment. Your link about normative morality or normative ethics doesn’t preclude the idea that we are talking about norms as they apply to beings that can rationalize. This does not only include humans, we just have a higher capacity for it. To have norms one must set the criteria for what is a moral norm and what isn’t. Humans are the ones setting the criteria. And those criteria are what we deem good for us. Heck, only now are we starting to bring back other parts of the ecosystem into our norms for the purpose of leading more sustainable lives. But again, you can have norms that are entirely socially constructed. Things like table manners are norms we create based on criteria that some group of people decided. It doesn’t mean that table manners are baked into the fabric of the universe. Not surprisingly these kinds of norms are there so as to set some standards for how to be respectful to each other at the dinner table for the purposes of cohesion of a group in a social species.

              Whether you say God or not, your words demonstrate a strong similarity in view to Aquinas’ view of morality that God implanted the ability to reason about morality in all persons. I have already quoted you saying that in this response, so no I am not putting words in your mouth. You believe God did this. Moreover you believe that it is the Christian God that did this. If that is true, then God remains an unverifiable premise in that hypothesis. But even if you didn’t believe this but simply believed in a natural law theory of morality without God, it still suffers from the same problem in that it would require empirical evidence to support it. Otherwise it is just a postulation. Just as “there is a God” is a postulation with no evidence.

              My reasoning is inductive and deductive and yours is deductive only. And deductive reasoning is only sound when the premises are true. Philosophers follow deductive lines of reasoning to see where it will lead, but also recognize that premises that they lean on to get there need to be verified for the reasoning to be meaningful. So as long as your honest and admit that your philosophy is belief based, that’s fine.

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            30. Thanks for quoting me accurately, but it’s equally important to hear the quote accurately. I very deliberately said “God and/or nature,” which should cover all the relevant possibilities. So for the sake of discussion, leave aside God’s role, leave aside which biological species we’re talking about, and believe whatever you like. The fact remains that we have a conscience, and we have the ability to reason about what is “good” — on that much I believe we agree. We disagree about what that means, and what morality means.

              You previously stated that morality is “just a label that we use to categorize things when we observe behavior.” In other words, in your view morality is completely determined by existing behavior, such that (as you said at the outset) we can “outline a moral code” simply by describing existing behavior. You’ve now modified that slightly by suggesting that reason does “factor into how we decide what is moral.” Be that as it may, in essence your definition of morality is merely descriptive.

              The alternative position is that we get a deeper, more robust understanding of morality by deduction from first principles, similar to the way we gain mathematical knowledge. This does not preclude “factoring in” relevant empirical data, just as you say your empirical approach “factors in” reasoning.

              It is important to realize that your philosophy is no less “belief-based” than mine. You can no more prove that nature and reality are synonymous than I can prove the alternative. Simply asserting that “good” is what affords the best chance of survival is as speculative and unverifiable as any other naked assertion. It may well be the best we can do given a commitment to naturalism, and given a passive/descriptive approach to morality. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best we can do.

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            31. we can “outline a moral code” simply by describing existing behavior. You’ve now modified that slightly by suggesting that reason does “factor into how we decide what is moral.” Be that as it may, in essence your definition of morality is merely descriptive.

              I don’t think I said that we can define a moral code by just describing. One must analyze the behavior and see what it’s impacts are to the society as a whole. This is essential for social species. Any sort of placement of something in a category requires at least some reasoning, and the creation of categories themselves require reasoning. This seemed obvious so I didn’t use reason perhaps, and thought it was implied. I however, never doubted that we use reason to decide what is moral or immoral. My argument is that reason this based on observations and data, even if this has been done traditionally through anecdotal or less rigorous observation, this is what we’ve been doing. And what I argued is that now that we rigorously study all primates (humans included) that we can come up with an excellent moral code based on that data, based on the biological imperative of survival, which for social species depends on cooperation. This is not belief based at all. And yes we have a conscience, but so do some animals. This much is observable. Evolution is a continuum…humans are not as far from removed from the animal kingdom as you imagine. Again, read The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond.

              Nor is it belief based to say that a moral code that improves chances of survival. We’ve seen the consequences in societies that have increased violence, or vast differences in power structures, greed, or other anti-social behavior. So it’s not a naked eye assertion, it’s what we see in other primate societies, and what we see when we analyze human behavior and human history. Again, familiarize yourself with the vast multitude of data on this subject and then tell me it’s unverifiable. Again, I can write a list of behaviors that benefit a social species and hurt a social species chances of survival from this data. It would be easy. Moral and immoral are categories we made up through our language and these categories are highly subjective to our understanding of the world around us, and so not surprisingly have shifted over the years depending on environmental and social stress. I’ve given you the name of some books to start with. Personally I think Behave by Robert Sopolsky is one of the more comprehensive ones. In there you will find many references to other studies that about primate and human behavior. There is of course much more on the subject, but simply because you are unfamiliar with it, doesn’t mean my view of morality is unverifiable or based on “naked eye” decisions.

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            32. Two young men face military service in 1942. One is a German, the other is his cousin, a first-generation German-American. Both want to maximize the chance of survival for themselves and those they care about. However, the German-American realizes that he must also act to minimize the chance of survival of his German kin (and moreover must do so by committing horrific acts against them). On the other hand, the German is convinced he will be acting to maximize the chance of survival of the species by systematically weeding out inferior and less able individuals. Both men have an opportunity to desert, and face a moral dilemma. Are they better served by a morality that says survival is the highest value? Or by one that proclaims as a paramount transcendent truth that every human person has intrinsic worth and a right to life?

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            33. I don’t exactly understand the choice here, because the mindset that inferior people and less able individuals need to be weeded out is a self defeating one because the criteria used for what is inferior and less able are flawed. Furthermore it paves the way, for further weeding out based on arbitrary criteria. In a cooperative structure in which people nurture each other, people are able to reach their maximum potential. When this is done it does not matter if there is a variation in capabilities, since we are quite able to provide for those who are less able through not fault of their own. The mindset of the Nazi is clearly the less moral attitude. Now the German-American who is forced to kill…well if violence is truly the only option to stop the Nazi mindset from spreading than it is the better choice, because suffering is increased and survival less assured with the mindset of the Nazi.

              The situation in Nazi German was also predicated on past behaviors which were not based on compassion and empathy. Sometimes impossible present situations are wrought through mistakes in the past and so solutions to getting out don’t have a lot advantages in the present, but have longer term gains to survival.

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            34. Or by one that proclaims as a paramount transcendent truth that every human person has intrinsic worth and a right to life?

              Technically every microbe has as much right to life as we do. We are no more important than any other life on the planet, we are just another evolved species. There is nothing transcendent about things having a right to life. We clearly don’t feel that way when we eat a carrot. Life consumes life, it is what life does for its survival. Needlessly killing other people, or eating all the carrots (if that’s all we consumed) would be bad ideas for survival. The fact that we justify killing constantly clearly shows that we don’t altogether it’s a bad idea…and sometimes it isn’t a bad idea, but it can be a dangerous game and should only be done when there is no other choice. Sometimes choices aren’t obvious, or sometimes we don’t know enough about the world to make other choices. Less killing is generally a better idea.

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            35. This may be another point of disagreement, but I take it as given that the point of morality is to inform our consciences and equip each of us as individuals to engage in moral decision-making throughout life. The point of the thought exercise is to put ourselves in the shoes of these young men and ask which moral system would better prepare them, as specific individuals, to make a specific moral decision in a specific situation. That might be an indication of which system is better fit for its intended purpose.

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            36. Sure. But there are animals who do this too. Now what humans are superior at is their powers of prediction. To see patterns and how they have long term impacts. There is no species better at it. Our ability to pass knowledge cross-generationally beyond just genetic information is one of the reasons why our species has been successful. Very few species spend time wondering what their grandchildren will do with the world that is left to them. But for as far as other primates can see their future they do make deliberations about best actions that benefit themselves and their society at large. But in truth I could live a life where I didn’t worry about what my grandchildren have to deal with and assume it’s just their problem. Quite a lot of people do in fact. Living such a life could be seen as moral, and certainly making decisions about how my actions will impact the suffering or well-being of beings not born is certainly a truly human ability, but it by no means indicates some transcendent property of the universe, it simply means humans are more intelligent than our closest genetic relatives. The fact that I can enlarge the circle of what I consider my tribe or my society to include the world and the future doesn’t change the fundamentals of the criteria I use to define what is moral and immoral. It is survival, it is for an increased chance of cooperation, it is so that kindness flourishes to help increase social cohesion which benefits the flourishing of all.

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            37. Okay, but to get down to cases, to get down to the practice of moral decision-making in the real world: Put yourself in the shoes of those two young men, knowing what they know. Which approach to morality is going to better prepare you for the decision they face? And on what basis do you say that?

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            38. It depends on what they know prior to being given orders. They might come to the same decision I come to, if they knew what I know. They may fall back on some religious or political dogma, they may simply not look beyond the scope of them doing what they think is best for their family and community. I would say that when instructed by someone to kill other human beings knowing as much as possible should be a priority. Along with complete transparency by those giving the orders. But of course that doesn’t happen. They must use whatever approach to morality they have at their disposal certainly. Then we look back at the history of primate behavior and we try to make moral progress. What did we do to get ourselves into the situation? How do we avoid that in the future? What did we do once in the situation? What actions could have ended the conflict sooner and minimized lives lost? I don’t see what any of this has to do with there being some divine law or natural law to morality. It’s just humans with imperfect knowledge making decisions about what they think is the best thing to do that maximizes the safety of the people they care about, and promotes what they think are superior values. For some that might purely be patriotism, for some it might be a way to express violent tendencies they already have towards other for the purposes of gaining status. For some, I’m sure they did simply see the problem with fascism to the rights of an individual and society’s self-determination.

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            39. Again, the purpose of a moral system is to equip a rational individual to make moral decisions. Again, the question posed is: Which approach better fulfills that purpose? Given an individual facing a specific moral decision in a specific situation, which approach provides that decision-maker with clearer and more useful guidance?

              – Is it the approach that says: Every human person has intrinsic worth and a right to life. Therefore you have the right to defend yourself and those who depend upon you; in addition and as importantly, you have an affirmative moral duty to do all you can to protect other innocent persons.

              – Or is it the approach that says: What matters is survival. There are no other principles.

              There are only three possibilities: Either the first approach provides clearer and more useful guidance than does the second approach; or vice versa; or neither approach is better than the other.

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            40. But now you are asking a different question. You are asking what is more useful, not what is true. Money is useful, but it is a fiction we invented. It has value because we agree that it is has value, Beliefs can be useful even if they aren’t true. This wraps back to what started the discussion which is stories. Stories are useful, even if they are not true. I do not disagree. Religions are built on stories, stories which can help us live our lives, but as to whether those stories are literally true or not is a different matter.

              You are also misconstruing though what I have said. I haven’t pushed survival at any cost, rather one must look at how a species survives. My claim that I could construct a moral code based the survival imperative comes from the fact that we not only know life survives, but that we also understand survival strategies for different species. Social species have a certain set of strategies, social primates are similar but have differences than other social species who are not primates. And these strategies can be viewed at various timescales. You might see certain strategies that simply help one survive a day or you can look at strategies that help one live until old age. Stealing might help you in the short term, but if someone decides to punish you for stealing after too many attempts, your chances of survival now go down by that strategy. Similarly we can look at the scale of the individual to the scale of society. A strategy that might be good for you individually, is not good for the society and over time could lead to collapse. Thus our general survival strategy is to make sure we live beyond the day, and balance our decisions about what is good for us and what is good for society. If we survive better in groups, by weakening the group I thus impact my own chances for survival. To help us with building bonds for cooperation and being more selfless we are wired with the emotion of empathy. Not all species have it as strongly as we do.

              What makes humans special is that we can recognize the common humanity in people we do not know and act in their best interest as well. It takes work to go beyond our tribe, but we have been doing that bettter and better throughout human history. Even through nationalism threatens our survival now given the problems we face, it’s also hopeful, because when we do things for the betterment of our country we are in essence caring about people we don’t know, because we believe that they share some fundamental commonalities with us.

              Whether it’s stories are the idea that “every human person has instrinsic worth and right to life” one must wonder how such notions develop. Not surprisingly these are all things out of the human mind and even if we are consciously basing it on our understanding of social primate survival strategies, it’s not surprising how well it aligns with such things. Fictions can be very useful if they bring us together, and some fictions are better than others. I think it’s still worth recognizing that these are things we constructed, it doesn’t diminish their value, but rather it allows us to ask better questions and allows us to tweak and improve as we understand the universe better.

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            41. Rereading those four paragraphs a few times has not revealed an answer to the question. And no, the question has not changed, as anyone can confirm by referring to earlier comments:

              https://jimoeba.wordpress.com/2018/09/10/the-delusion/#comment-8766

              The point of morality is to help people make hard decisions in real life. Agree or disagree? (If disagree, why?)

              We’re discussing two different possible moral systems, A and B. We can evaluate each of them by looking at a real-life situation and asking which, A or B, does a better job of helping the people involved make a hard decision. Agree or disagree? (If disagree, why?)

              There are three possible results: A, B, and no difference. Agree or disagree? (If disagree, why?)

              If I have misstated the guidance that you would give the men, then please by all means feel free to provide the language you would prefer.

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            42. The question is not what we were discussing. We were discussing where morality comes from? Not which solution works better? I’ve already stipulated that having a belief might be more useful, but it doesn’t mean that morality is some natural law, or divine law of the universe. This is what we were discussing and then not you are asking a question about utility. I have no doubt that in the short term one’s beliefs might be more useful than any careful deliberation or study. But if the same situation were to happen today, and I would be one of those men, then having the knowledge I have about the universe I could easily make the decision on both foundations since I have the knowledge needed a priori and I understand where such beliefs in human value stem from. To me there is no difference between the two. Choice A is a conclusion one would arrive at if one understood how social primates survive. Choice B is based on the why which leads you to choice A.

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            43. In discussing where morality comes from, it became obvious that we were talking about different things. My purpose in proposing that we bring the discussion down to earth was to try to get a better handle on what each of us meant. I’m glad in this instance your theorizing apparently confirms principles that we know from reason. But in order to be “morality”, your theorizing somehow needs to be translated into tools that ordinary people can use in real life (is that not the case?). And I’m still unclear what that looks like and how that works — for example, what specific guidance you would give the men in this situation that differs substantively from the alternative?

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            44. I am not sure that morality requires that we translate into tools, considering that many moral rules are simply handed down without information on how to make them practical. Separate from whether or not you are a Christian, the ten commandments could be seen as moral rules. But how is something like “Thou shalt not kill” made practical? This is just a moral we are supposed to follow, but killing happens quite a lot in the bible and so we must at least assume this is not an absolute and there are times when it is okay to kill. The conditions for which we justify it being okay to kill have changed over the years, and so it’s clear that at least some societies have realized that less killing is preferable over more, even if there seems to be good reasons to do so. But in guiding someone about why fascism is a dangerous philosophy I would use reasons rather than just saying “All humans have a right to life and fascism doesn’t accept that philosophy”. In giving my reasons I would simply used observations of how people are impacted psychologically, socially, and that long term survival is damaged by the spread of fascism…by all people…even those who might have been part of the “master race” initially. Over time other differences begin to become significant as people naturally differentiate.

              Regardless there is no need to invoke appeals to authority, or make any claims about morality being some natural law in the universe. There are good reasons to be made to fight fascism based on properties of how humans work as a species.

              Now, I have to move on an see other conversations. 🙂 I thank you Loy for this discussion and I appreciate your patience and willingness to read my responses. Even though it doesn’t seem we have had much impact on each other’s viewpoint I still enjoyed the conversation. If in no way consider you to be a dumb person and I’m sorry if I’ve given you that impression. Wherever you think morals come from, I have no problem as long as you’re kind to others.

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          2. Yeah, as I said we’re at a philosophical impasse that really has nothing to do with scientific research. It’s moot anyway since we’re all going to be made obsolete by artificial intelligence.

            You may find it comforting to blame me for being dense or a “theist”, but if so, for what it’s worth, if you care, you’re kidding yourself.

            The real problem here – and the others are a lot more tolerant than I am, and maybe a tad too polite to say so – is that you approach this entire exercise – in fact every comment you make on his topic – from the position of belief in your Abrahamic god, YHWH/Jesus of Nazareth (where?) and a Christian worldview.

            Well, sunshine, let me be blunt. Simply put, this makes you a willfully ignorant nob.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. And around and around we go …

              For some believers, it’s so much easier to say things that don’t really amount to a hill of beans than to stand for what you truly believe in. Especially when you’ve chosen to comment on an atheist’s blog.

              Liked by 4 people

            2. @Arkenaten: I get goosebumps when you whisper sweet nothings, cupcake. Stay fabulous, won’t you?

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            3. It has crossed my mind. Also, Been trying to connect the literary dots here and think we may have a regular that is imposterizing to get air time.

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Perhaps. That was my first thought. Also, I know JB and I had a falling out but he can’t help himself. He left after I put him in the urban dictionary, but he lurks and talks to himself rather than comment using his own discredited name

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            5. Yes I got that. I’ve fortunately not had a lot of dealings with her. She doesn’t like me bringing up Grace Church in Seattle and “ask the bigot”. Her and Pink are very close. lol

              Liked by 1 person

            6. Fair enough. I wonder how difficult it would,be to find out who likes to use the term ”Cupcake” or, as you have just pointed out, ”Silly Goose.”

              Someone of the older generation I would guess?

              Liked by 1 person

            7. There is an intended level of deception with no site, no contact, gender, or no baseline but argumentative on every point. I noticed the other day when I asked some questions of interest, chit chat as you would getting to know someone, it was silence. Then she/he reappeared to comment on another post, avoiding any human level of communication. Maybe his daughter or Mel’s daughter?

              Liked by 2 people

    2. To jump off your comments, I also think it’s worth pointing out that the ideas aren’t always in competition. It depends on the particular religion or religious tradition. I once told Branyan (I think over at Ark’s place) that despite being a theist (a deist?) I don’t see my ideas or values or worldview as being significantly different from my wife who is an atheist. We want the same things out of life. We value many of the same things. We also enjoy many of the same things.

      Similarly, I’ve read many comments from atheists claiming they don’t respect the views or beliefs of religion or the Abrahamic religions, but I’m fairly confident if I provided a list of my beliefs/views/values (which I consider to be my cultural/religious values) almosy every single atheist would say they agree with most, if not all, of those values or beliefs.

      I think it’s always important for people to keep in mind whether they’re really talking about different things or valuing the same thing in different ways.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I agree with you, that on the basis of values there will be a lot of crossover. The fact that you believe in a higher power, but don’t seem to subscribe to any particular religion I think makes you more flexible than a lot of people who do subscribe to a particular religion, making you a little more of the exception than the rule. I tend to not complain if someone has the right values, regardless of what drove them to that point.

        My main worry is that for many religious people and this includes even moderately religious people, they don’t believe that morals and values can be derived on your own, but are set in place by God. And that practicing good values and morals is to please that God. An automatic default to authority here can be dangerous, and is often why those who are religious have trouble connect with those who aren’t believers in a higher power. And while the end point is what matters, I do think that having a more honest conversation is also important, because there is a subjectivity to moral and ethical problems that require more than trying to quote scripture to justify a solution. I am not sure that any holy book can have all the answers given how long ago they were written. They can be inspiring, but ultimately I think an important value for us is to be able to have fact based discussions about how we best operate as humans, what it means to be a social animal, and why we sometimes don’t have good morals and values. I think there is also a very important difference in acknowledging that bad behavior might be a product of your environment as opposed to having “the devil inside you” or some other nonsense. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

    3. Any ‘good’ idea enforced by unbelievably terrible threats isn’t a good idea … If religions have good parts, are those good parts simply the (often borrowed) bait?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think so Argus. I think the reason why stories are borrowed and slightly modified is because they feel familiar to people. I also think that when you look at the times when many of these religions came to be there was an unbelievable amount of death. The lack of hygeine alone let to so many deaths. As populations grew communicable diseases became even more deadly fear was just a way of life for a world they didn’t understand. Without an easy way to distribute information… Stories that enforced behavior through fear was almost sensible. I’m not excusing it because clearly there was a tool for a lot of political control of people… Just saying that perhaps it isn’t surprising. Politicians are still exploiting fear today.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Politicians are still exploiting fear today. Yeah, baby! Except tRumpsky, of course. His whole discourse is how WONDERFUL he and all his policies and decisions are and how they’re going to IMPROVE and ENRICH the life of every person (that supports him).

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Very insightful. I’d never really crossed that idea before. My mother in law in Panama would forcefully say “Don’t walk barefoot in the mud! You’ll get worms”. Now I’m thinking, what century was this wives tale spun in? Might’ve made sense before modern sanitation. But they have these types of superstitious carry-overs for everything. It’s amusing, but they are gullible when it comes to how things happen. Spells and concoctions to guard and protect…And religion is woven deeply inside it.

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          1. Imagine… Since farming 10,000 or so years ago until we invented the microscope we had no idea what a microbe was and what was actually causing sickness. Whatever ideas we came up with were just wrong… That’s a solid 12 millennia of having no clue how to really prevent communicable diseases. Leviticus is basically a hygiene guide and not a very good one… Mix that all in with natural disasters, nutrition issues and genetic diseases and death was a big tragedy that happened all the time. Every mother could nearly be assured that at least one of hey babies would die at child birth… If she didn’t die herself. It’s mind boggling to me

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            1. Rawgod was commenting that we can’t know truth, so why bother looking? This is a good example of that being a bit off. 10,000 years of impossible was solved with a microscope. Discovering the source of intelligence, consciousness, and creation will be no different imo. It’s right under our noses, we just have to figure out how to look.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I mean I don’t want to say that there is nothing we can’t eventually understand… It could be that some things are out of our grasp… But so far we are still making progress… So there is no reason to doubt there isn’t a lot more out there that we will eventually grasp.

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            3. I mentioned this the other day, and if there were one part of the Bible that I’d like to believe is the story of the Tower of Babel. In the story god intervienes because he saw the people were one, and there was nothing that they couldn’t do. They were actually a threat to god (those in power) They were achieving their goal so “god confounded the language and divided the people. This is our struggle, and if we could all come together, nothing is impossible. This divisive crap really gets to me. Left, right, religious factions competing for power, when regular people are all pretty awesome. Very, very little about what we hear from the various sides is true, and one day we will be one. That is my dream.

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Religion certainly can divide but I think this story is also a reflection of what people observed. In those days people with completely different languages didn’t live very far away. Yet people must have observed something very similar in appearance so it might not be surprising that they believed they were all one people. The inability to communicate had to lead to so much conflict. Given how often people warring and dying of various diseases people just have believed the gods were punishing them most of the time. Either as a group or individually. Yahweh is extremely wrathful though. It’s hard for me to reconcile the notion that this God is one of love. Forget about that bad things happen in the world… Just look at the Christian God’s behavior… Even if I believed he was real… He’s just not a good guy.

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            5. I guess I would say in support of rawgod is that maybe there are more pressing problems to work on than “why are we all here”…. But maybe as specks in an uncertain and dynamic universe this question is bound to be one of the more intriguing.

              Liked by 1 person

            6. Agreed. I didn’t comment on his comment. I understood what he was implying and he said it well enough. Those types of truth are fleeting. Many things can be narrowed down a little better. Thanks. Always appreciate your insights.

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        3. SWARN:

          Education used to be illustration, rote, and metaphor. Today I’d like to see it be grounded in the testing of facts, the ability to separate myth from fable from fact from fiction. Hence I keep pounding the need to educate the young and teach ’em how (r) HOW to think. For themselves.

          Religion/superstitions of any kind aren’t going to go away.
          A charismatic speaker can beat an old dog with a keyboard any day—but if the fertile ground he is seeding happens to be rational enough to spot BS when presented, he isn’t going to get far. Especially if his erstwhile victims can challenge his ‘facts’ in full confidence of having reliable filters to strain them though.

          Fear? What of? Bring it on … unless it’s carrying a gun, pile of faggots and a lighted torch … and it may well come to that if Islam gets in.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Having lived an ego driven life of false security on my infallibility I had fallacious prospective about my correctness. I have been willing to pontificate about everything and I’ve been willing to expose my lack of knowledge because of conflating opinions and shallow knowledge with facts. Do to this proclivity for being told your “wrong” so often I’m calling myself Rong spelled with a silent G at the end. A few years ago I watched a TED TALK by a self described “Wrongologist” and while edifying it was deflating to discover how you really can’t rely on our own senses to lead you to the truth. Here’s a link to the talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Having lived an ego driven life of false security on my infallibility I had fallacious prospective about my correctness. I have been willing to pontificate about everything and I’ve been willing to expose my lack of knowledge because of conflating opinions and shallow knowledge with facts. Do to this proclivity for being told your “wrong” so often I’m calling myself Rong spelled with a silent G at the end. A few years ago I watched a TED TALK by a self described “Wrongologist” and while edifying it was deflating to discover how you really can’t rely on our own senses to lead you to the truth. Here’s a link to the talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong

      Liked by 2 people

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