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Is There Any Hope For Morals In A Non-Religious World?
Posted: 08 November 2006 04:35 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Fucking Cause there is!!!!
Religion didn't invent them! I've been an Atheist all my life, I've helped old and disabled across roads upstairs, I've payed and worked within 'humanist charities', I've been a shop-steward in the workplace defending other workers rights and actions.
I think they all have 'morals' somewhere in their actions, so that debunks the notion that if there was no 'faith' the world would be a chaotic dog eat dog place to be, somehow i think at present we live in a place just like that, and guess what its a religious moral world…
I know in logically thinking that humans would be at least 50-80% more moralistic without 'faiths dogma'. I'm sure on that, if we look at human suffering in past history it all could be blamed directly or indirectly through GOD or religious dogma, confrontations are still at work eg; Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur just a few states to mention. So we the human species would use the logical, rational moral path. Not the non-negotiable, non-questionable dogmatic moral code. Which in history as showed us, is as moral as stealing sweets of a disabled child and then charging that child to have them back…..

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Posted: 08 November 2006 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“morning star*”]
I know in logically thinking that humans would be at least 50-80% more moralistic without ‘faiths dogma’. I’m sure on that, if we look at human suffering in past history it all could be blamed directly or indirectly through GOD or religious dogma, confrontations are still at work eg; Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur just a few states to mention. So we the human species would use the logical, rational moral path. Not the non-negotiable, non-questionable dogmatic moral code. Which in history as showed us, is as moral as stealing sweets of a disabled child and then charging that child to have them back…..

My my.  This is more gibberish than I’d expect from rapture ready Christians.  Where’d that 50-80% number come from?  Moreover, not all human suffering has a moral dimension.  A man born with a painful degenerative disease suffers daily, but his suffering has no moral dimension to it.  How exactly are you blaming God—a being you clearly don’t think exists—for the depraved actions of men.  And God had nothing to do with Stalin or Pol Pot (though I’m willing to take Hitler at his word that he was a Christian).  Oh sure, you can call these “religions” except that that renders the term religion completely meaningless.  Ideologies that deny God are not religions.

Towards the “End of Faith” we find the beginnings of a discussion of ethics.  And there is some interesting discussion of “ethical truths” and “ethical facts.”  But this very discourse just shows how deeply religious ideology has seeped into even Mr. Harris’ conception of morality.  There will never be, nor can there be a “scientific” basis for ethics.  Ethical claims are not “discovered” and then verified the way that claims about particle physics are.  Ethical claims are constructed and then justified. 

My claim is not that one can only find ethics through God.  Indeed, though I am not an atheist, the criterion of rightness and wrongness cannot be that which God commands.  (See the Euthyphro:  Is a thing good because God commands it; or does God command it because it’s good?  If the first, then things are evil because God failed to adequately command them; if the second, then we know goodness independent and apart from God.).  The problem is that Harris, like many a Bible thumper, labors under a profound misconception concerning the logic of morals:  moral statements are neither true nor false.  They are normative statements.  The statement “Murder is wrong” has no truth value.  One who makes this statement clearly makes a meaningful cognitive utterance which others can understand and respond to, but the speaker says nothing that is true or false.  “Hamlet is a good play” is also a normative statement though clearly not a moral one.  But it has not truth value either.  “Good” or “right”, when used as moral terms, don’t describe any feature of reality.  No one can point to “goodness” in Hamlet.  Moral prescriptions and moral judgments do not describe reality.  The prescribe attitudes and actions by agents within the world. 

This point raises a deeper one about the nature of belief.  Beliefs are normatively inert.  Beliefs may help explain actions, but beliefs do not lead to action.  At least not without a normative premise.  The fact that I believe that my grandmother is sick implies nothing about what action I ought to take.  One must also endorse the normative statement of “I should go see my grandmother when she’s sick” or “All grandsons have a duty to visit their grandmothers when they’re sick.”

And the point?  There are two.  First, if morality is merely about describing reality rather than how one ought to act within it, then people like yourself will never learn how to do good moral reasoning.  Second, if we believe that moral propositions are like propositions of science, we will completely fail in our endevor to ground morality, because we will never discover an ethical fact in a labratory.

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Posted: 08 November 2006 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“Publius”]if we believe that moral propositions are like propositions of science, we will completely fail in our endevor to ground morality, because we will never discover an ethical fact in a labratory.

Well, do you want to ground morality, or don’t you? What do you want?

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Posted: 08 November 2006 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]
Well, do you want to ground morality, or don’t you? What do you want?

Yes of course I’d like it if we can offer a knock-down argument that grounds morality.  I just don’t buy into Harris’ dogmas of ethical facts and truths any more than I buy into religious dogmas that say that morality comes from God.  God is no more the source of morality than an ethics professor or parent who first teaches you about morality is the source of morality.  (Though as I noted, I am a theist).

If you try to ground morality (i.e. justify a set of moral principles), in a “scientific” manner you’re guaranteed to fail.  Science is not the only kind of knowledge, nor is it the ideal model of knowledge.  Scientific claims purport to tell you how the world is.  But how the world is, says nothing about why one ought to act in this way as opposed to that.  Moreover, “what is science” or “why should we pursue scientific research” do not have “scientific” answers.  These are questions for philosophy.  Scientists cannot explain their endeavor by pointing from within science.  They must step outside science and into the realm of values and norms.  And this is where normative statements like “Do no murder”, “Theft is wrong”, or “Whistling dixie is permissible” need to be talked about, explained, understood, and justified. 

Scientists play with dirt.  To suppose that scientists have anything meaningful to say about ethics is like supposing that the Pope has something meaningful to say about quantum mechanics.

To put this in historical context, as famously put forth by Hume, you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is.”  “In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.”  (See Treatise on Human Nature, Book III, Part I, Section I).

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Posted: 08 November 2006 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“Publius”]If you try to ground morality (i.e. justify a set of moral principles), in a “scientific” manner you’re guaranteed to fail.

Science has never been good at philosophical questions but we can use it’s older brother logic. Start with a proposition that defines your purpose of life, then derive the morals that support this proposition.

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Posted: 08 November 2006 09:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“camanintx”][quote author=“Publius”]If you try to ground morality (i.e. justify a set of moral principles), in a “scientific” manner you’re guaranteed to fail.

Science has never been good at philosophical questions but we can use it’s older brother logic. Start with a proposition that defines your purpose of life, then derive the morals that support this proposition.

Perhaps you could provide an example or two of how you see this process working.

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Posted: 09 November 2006 12:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Morals and Ethics are principles, which have evolved through different stages of human existence. For example todays moral understanding is we don’t commit a murderer to be hung, drawn and quartered, its morally wrong. This moral principle had evolved, similar morals have either been eradicated or modified.
I also disagree that a scientist is immoral or unethical that statement couldn’t be further from the truth, only in exceptional circumstances, under orders from a regime, then i would agree that scientist are unethical. But if ‘faith’ is to be replaced with a humanist moral & ethical code and conduct then i cant see any barrier or inferior disposition to it.
I also can’t understand how people openly agree and defend any ‘moral or ethical code drawn from the ‘bible’. This is a case of people ‘cherry picking’, knowing that most won’t have read such repulsive,sexist,racist,dogma. Human nature is by its nature is social and moral in conscience. I believe that most of todays troubles and ills are caused/based on religious ‘morals & ethics’ or have being interpreted from…

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Posted: 09 November 2006 12:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“Publius”]If you try to ground morality (i.e. justify a set of moral principles), in a “scientific” manner you’re guaranteed to fail.


Failure in science is the failure to do science properly (such as if you go into an inquiry with a given goal for the outcome—as in setting things up to get specific results). If your inquiry produces a result you’re not particularly happy with, that doesn’t equate to a failure in science—it means reality (more than likely) simply doesn’t comply with your personal sentiments. The goal is not to cater to ones’ personal sentiments though, but rather the discover the nature of reality, so even if unpleasant, that would not constitute failure.

If you start with a well defined premise/question, say, “The more people who are happy (content, more or less) the better, so how do we maximize human happiness?” you can then work on the answer(s) in a scientific manner. I don’t see why so many people seem to believe this is somehow impossible/“guaranteed to fail.” There’s no reason I can see that science can’t be applied to such “soft” issues (seems we have people widely recognized as scientists working on such issues—whole groups/categories of people even). The margins of error may be a lot larger than in hard sciences, but that doesn’t make the whole modus operandi useless. It just requires that we deal with the uncertainty as adults by accepting the implications rather than pretending the margins of error are smaller (or in the case of the more religiously minded, pretending they don’t exist).

Byron

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Posted: 09 November 2006 02:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Physical science is not the only science. Many people fail to realize the potency and ability of the social sciences to explain worldly phenomenon. Yes, a scientist in a lab is not going to be able to discover by experimenting and seeking to prove a hypothesis.

However, if you take the combination of anthropology, sociology, social pyschology, history and archaeology (and a few other branches), it is demonstrated time and time again across many many cultures and civilizations that morality is a social construct driven by a societal desire for happiness and survival. 

When you consider a society on its own, something is considered immoral if it conflicts with rational views of happiness and survival. Each person within the society has its own moral order. Religion is just a form of moral order, codified as such.  The problem with religion as a moral order is that its morality embodies the thoughts of a culture two thousand years ago. To say that slavery is repulsive is true, but in that time, it was not, it was life.

The reason that doesn’t hold water nowadays, to say that homosexualityy is wrong because many believe it, is because we know that morality does not come from god, as the ancients often thought. Morality is socially constructed.

I agree that we would be a more prosperous and civil global society without religious interpretatinos of morality.

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Posted: 09 November 2006 03:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Publius”][quote author=“morning star*”]
I know in logically thinking that humans would be at least 50-80% more moralistic without ‘faiths dogma’. I’m sure on that, if we look at human suffering in past history it all could be blamed directly or indirectly through GOD or religious dogma, confrontations are still at work eg; Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur just a few states to mention. So we the human species would use the logical, rational moral path. Not the non-negotiable, non-questionable dogmatic moral code. Which in history as showed us, is as moral as stealing sweets of a disabled child and then charging that child to have them back…..

My my.  This is more gibberish than I’d expect from rapture ready Christians.  Where’d that 50-80% number come from?  Moreover, not all human suffering has a moral dimension.  A man born with a painful degenerative disease suffers daily, but his suffering has no moral dimension to it.  How exactly are you blaming God—a being you clearly don’t think exists—for the depraved actions of men.  And God had nothing to do with Stalin or Pol Pot (though I’m willing to take Hitler at his word that he was a Christian).  Oh sure, you can call these “religions” except that that renders the term religion completely meaningless.  Ideologies that deny God are not religions.

Towards the “End of Faith” we find the beginnings of a discussion of ethics.  And there is some interesting discussion of “ethical truths” and “ethical facts.”  But this very discourse just shows how deeply religious ideology has seeped into even Mr. Harris’ conception of morality.  There will never be, nor can there be a “scientific” basis for ethics.  Ethical claims are not “discovered” and then verified the way that claims about particle physics are.  Ethical claims are constructed and then justified. 

My claim is not that one can only find ethics through God.  Indeed, though I am not an atheist, the criterion of rightness and wrongness cannot be that which God commands.  (See the Euthyphro:  Is a thing good because God commands it; or does God command it because it’s good?  If the first, then things are evil because God failed to adequately command them; if the second, then we know goodness independent and apart from God.).  The problem is that Harris, like many a Bible thumper, labors under a profound misconception concerning the logic of morals:  moral statements are neither true nor false.  They are normative statements.  The statement “Murder is wrong” has no truth value.  One who makes this statement clearly makes a meaningful cognitive utterance which others can understand and respond to, but the speaker says nothing that is true or false.  “Hamlet is a good play” is also a normative statement though clearly not a moral one.  But it has not truth value either.  “Good” or “right”, when used as moral terms, don’t describe any feature of reality.  No one can point to “goodness” in Hamlet.  Moral prescriptions and moral judgments do not describe reality.  The prescribe attitudes and actions by agents within the world. 

This point raises a deeper one about the nature of belief.  Beliefs are normatively inert.  Beliefs may help explain actions, but beliefs do not lead to action.  At least not without a normative premise.  The fact that I believe that my grandmother is sick implies nothing about what action I ought to take.  One must also endorse the normative statement of “I should go see my grandmother when she’s sick” or “All grandsons have a duty to visit their grandmothers when they’re sick.”

And the point?  There are two.  First, if morality is merely about describing reality rather than how one ought to act within it, then people like yourself will never learn how to do good moral reasoning.  Second, if we believe that moral propositions are like propositions of science, we will completely fail in our endevor to ground morality, because we will never discover an ethical fact in a labratory.

I’m very sorry if your ‘intelligence as made you ignorant to my opinion of ‘morals and ethics’.
As for philosophy is just that ‘sophism. Also what the fuck as ‘Hamlet’ got to do with it please can you keep yor comments ‘real’ and not as i interpret as ‘gibberish’. wink

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Posted: 09 November 2006 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“auryn0151”]Physical science is not the only science. Many people fail to realize the potency and ability of the social sciences to explain worldly phenomenon. Yes, a scientist in a lab is not going to be able to discover by experimenting and seeking to prove a hypothesis.

However, if you take the combination of anthropology, sociology, social pyschology, history and archaeology (and a few other branches), it is demonstrated time and time again across many many cultures and civilizations that morality is a social construct driven by a societal desire for happiness and survival. 

When you consider a society on its own, something is considered immoral if it conflicts with rational views of happiness and survival. Each person within the society has its own moral order. Religion is just a form of moral order, codified as such.  The problem with religion as a moral order is that its morality embodies the thoughts of a culture two thousand years ago. To say that slavery is repulsive is true, but in that time, it was not, it was life.

The reason that doesn’t hold water nowadays, to say that homosexualityy is wrong because many believe it, is because we know that morality does not come from god, as the ancients often thought. Morality is socially constructed.

I agree that we would be a more prosperous and civil global society without religious interpretatinos of morality.

Absolutely in agreement with this statement.I think i was misinterpreted, my fault not explaining the scientist as being the ones set above in Auryn0151 post. As for the theists argument that ‘morals’ should some how be dealt out divinely is utter nonsense, this just goes to show how naive and retard the argument of ‘religious values’ is. Why should i or any person who thinks rational and logically except ‘morals’ dealt out by society in the name of a ‘malevolent nothingness’ as how we should act in everyday life.
Today’s human as well surpassed the intellect and logic of yesteryear minds, so why are people still grabbing hold of sophism and theism as a tool for human awareness and progress. These conservative people only go to undermine the majority of views on ‘ethics’ by conversing the arguments and issues back to ignorant and oppressive times.

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Posted: 09 November 2006 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“Publius”]If you try to ground morality (i.e. justify a set of moral principles), in a “scientific” manner you’re guaranteed to fail.  Science is not the only kind of knowledge, nor is it the ideal model of knowledge.  Scientific claims purport to tell you how the world is.  But how the world is, says nothing about why one ought to act in this way as opposed to that.  Moreover, “what is science” or “why should we pursue scientific research” do not have “scientific” answers.  These are questions for philosophy.  Scientists cannot explain their endeavor by pointing from within science.  They must step outside science and into the realm of values and norms.  And this is where normative statements like “Do no murder”, “Theft is wrong”, or “Whistling dixie is permissible” need to be talked about, explained, understood, and justified. 

Scientists play with dirt.  To suppose that scientists have anything meaningful to say about ethics is like supposing that the Pope has something meaningful to say about quantum mechanics.

Well, if you cannot found an ethics on the way the world is, perhaps you can found an ethics on the notion that we do not know everything there is to know, which is one thing that science is based on, among others. Perhaps it behooves one to keep this in mind when making moral pronouncements. You are clearly used to thinking that “X is permissible” is not an entirely labile statement. Next year it may not be, because we will have discovered something about X that suggests it ought not be permissible. But we will be arguing that on the basis that we know something about it. Smoking, for example, may not, in fact, be permissible (freely permitted), because of what we know about it. It ain’t just whistling ‘Dixie’, after all. Supposing, on your other hand, that scientists have nothing to say about ethics is like saying that trephining is a good way of ridding the body of evil spirits. Saying the effort is guaranteed to fail is sort of saying the same thing. I am in agreement with you that Harris’ assertions about a rational basis for a general ethics are overconfident.

I do not hear much talk about an ethics of freedom and responsibility, because of objections to the notion that it does not handle the general case. The assumption that it need handle the general case indicates only that freedom and responsibility are undervalued with respect to authority. A particular sort of implicit discontent with open systems is what ethics is all about in the first place, is it not, even though science tells us that we are dealing with open systems in a quite unambiguous way. To ask ethics to solve ALL our moral dilemmas is not different from theism in at least one respect. You have already declared your standing with respect to theism, Publius.

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Posted: 09 November 2006 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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There are a variety of “soft” sciences that are made to deal in some regard with moral issues and morality in general, some are mentioned above.

How about the study of the phenomenon of language?  Perhaps not linguistics as it has been traditionally spelled out, but a more existential approach that examines the congitive conditions that must, of necessity, precede the attainment of linguistic competence?  Just one simple example in order to be able to use language in the way that we humans use it, the speaker must know that the listener will interpret the sounds expressed in the same way that they were meant when uttered.  If we didn’t, beforehand, know this, there would be no reason to speak at all.  If effect, the one (speaker) already shares with the other (listener) an intersubjective agreement (if success in communicating is to be had) about certain meaningful verbal expressions.  In other words, I must anticipate that you will “know” what I am saying even before I speak (or at least I can hape that’s the case), otherwise there would be no point in using language.  In effect I must put myself in the place of the other in order to competently use a language.  If there’s a science in this kind of experimentation, then surely, there’s a science about ethical behaviour as well (which isn’t all that different from linguistic behaviour).

There’s a lot written about “rule-following” in language and there’s a “rightness” about language use that is essential to it’s proper establishment.  Perhaps our linguistic behaviour (when studied scientifically) will reveal that it is a blueprint for our ethical behaviour as well (or that both derive from the same cognitive matrix).

That’s just an idea, but I would warn some writers here not to “write off” science as having any impact on our morality.  There are places that we haven’t looked, there is data and evidence that has yet to be uncovered, but to think that the god-author is the only answer to our moral value seems extremely short-sighted.

Bob

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Posted: 11 November 2006 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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The fact that ethics and values involve the opinions of agents does not in any way remove them from objective scientific study. You still have the quantifiable reality of generations of people who assign and affirm these values, and the judgements concerning the consequences of these values. There may very well be a formula, involving variables such as those who affirm the value of something as a proportion of the population, the period over which that assent is given, the expertise in judgement of those who assign this value, and the power of that value to jump cultural boundaries. There may actually be a mathematical equation that does indeed demonstrate that Hamlet is a very good play. We just haven’t found it yet, and even if we do, an accurate survey of the data required might take centuries.

I suspect that believers are getting frightened by all this because cognitive, behavioural, and neuroscience are all beginning to study emotional and ethical decisions now, which may very well squeeze religion out of its last bastion. We now have the technology to witness brain states as they occur, and are developing a fairly accurate map of which images correspond to which states. We can verify feelings. We have also learned to design experiments which uncover the preconscious processes which lead to ethical judgements.

A recent theory just proposed suggests that ethical reasoning may be similar to language, using innate neurological structures common to all humans which are then given different weights according to cultural upbringing (can’t find the link right now.) The theory is similar to Noam Chomsky’s theory of language, and promises a solid empirical approach to the subject. It also suggests that there are some innate ethical principles common to all humans, which have evolved because they promote social cohesion and coexistence. The primary drawback to our evolved ethical systems are that they are tribal; we still have great difficulty in extending them to others outside our tribe, unless we greatly expand the definition of who is part of that tribe.

Finally, the idea that ethics are entirely normative—and are therefore simply arbitrary standards with no basis in fact—completely ignores the facility for human empathy. It is a purely theoretical idea that no one but a pure sociopath would accept as a model of how humans make ethical decisions in their daily life. Religion does not help in this regard, because it encourages this idea to shore up its claim that belief in God is necessary for ethical conduct. Many religious advocates assume that humans are entirely selfish creatures who will not act for the benefit of others unless forced to do so by threat. By doing so they encourage an extremely immature level of morality, roughly equivalent to that of a seven year old child.

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Posted: 12 November 2006 02:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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I’ve already spoken about this, so I won’t go into detail, but one of the kids I take care of, when he came to me at the age of 9, was so hyperactive and prone to violent reaction (“rude” wouldn’t even accurately describe his typical classroom behavior) that he had never in his life to that point been able to sit still enough to learn lessons his teachers had for him, such as reading, writing, etc. When he came to my home, he also started attending a very different sort of school. An entire classroom there is devoted to lessons of empathy. He’s almost 11 now, is finally learning his classroom lessons, and he plays more or less freely with the neighborhood kids. (Certain restrictions remain in place.)

I realize how anecdotal and non-normative my example is, yet I have a strong feeling that a half-hour per week of competently administered (and that’s probably the tricky part) empathy therapy would do amazing things for every child enrolled through, say, K-8.

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Posted: 12 November 2006 03:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Afternoon, guys.
Great discussion.

Religion does not help in this regard, because it encourages this idea to shore up its claim that belief in God is necessary for ethical conduct. Many religious advocates assume that humans are entirely selfish creatures who will not act for the benefit of others unless forced to do so by threat.

I would warn some writers here not to “write off” science as having any impact on our morality.

I agree….It must be remembered that by explaining how drought and disease is not divine punishment, science has already profoundly affected our morality by changing our view of God and his power to compel us. The more we understand how irrelevant God is, the more we understand how we are acting of our own volition and are solely responsible for our choices.

Rod

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