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Posted: 14 May 2005 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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Ray,

Your post is so long, I can’t possibly address everything you say.  I think your understanding of what it means to have belief isn’t on target.  There was a thread about this months ago.  The short version of my argument is this:  Secularists want to classify religious belief in a special little category that doesn’t have congruence with the ‘daily’ exercises of belief we all exhibit.  I believe this is unwarranted.  A jury exercises belief in making their decision.  You and I exercise belief when we go through an intersection when we have a green light (believing that people in the opposite direction will stop on red).

My exercise of belief in God is similar to these.  Yes, the evidence is of a different nature, but there are far more similarities than difference.

I think you pigeon-hole belief so narrowly that it doesn’t really correspond to what actually exists.  Sure, there may be some fundy group who might fit in your definitions, I know I don’t.

you say

I will say again. I can think of nothing that is universal (in application) and undeniable. These are two criteria that simply can not be applied to the same natural phenomena at the same time.

I wouldn’t go so far as you, I would say that there is a lot in life that is deniable.  But your explanation says nothing concerning my point: if you can not logically secure an idea, it is held as belief.

Moral absolutes are a pipe dream?  If you can live with that, then so be it.  I am comfortable with saying “rape is always wrong”  “child abuse is always wrong”.  Deep down, I believe we intuitively know there are moral absolutes.  That no matter what has been said by whoever, somethings are just plain wrong.  Now, you clearly don’t have a worldview that can anchor moral absolutes.  Most, I think, would abandon a worldview that led to such a conclusion; unfortunately, you hold onto a worldview at the expense of… I’m not sure.

you say

I am an atheist because I come down on the side that says if there is no evidence I conclude there is no god.

  Secularist Kai Nielson says this exact thing, but says it should lead someone to agnosticism.  How can an “I see no evidence” position lead to the affirmation that God doesn’t exist?  There are plenty of things I don’t see evidence for that I don’t want to go out on a limb and say, “X doesn’t exist”.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 03:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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Moral absolutes are a pipe dream? If you can live with that, then so be it. I am comfortable with saying “rape is always wrong” “child abuse is always wrong”. Deep down, I believe we intuitively know there are moral absolutes. That no matter what has been said by whoever, somethings are just plain wrong. Now, you clearly don’t have a worldview that can anchor moral absolutes.

Ordinary, I wouldn’t call moral absolutes a pipe dream, exactly. But my view is far from what the Plato-derived Christian “form” view would argue. This doesn’t mean that my morals are far from what is mainstream in Western societies, but I do recognize that, over long spans of time, morality tends to shift. Bob and Ray (aren’t you two a comedy team from the ‘60s?) already mentioned that past accepted morality included many things that are considered today to be oppressive and obscene sins. Do you have an argument against their point?

Based on the way history works, I can also conjecture a future that will have a gradually sliding scale, as well. The Bible positions slavery and child abuse as being proper. If you consider views of Peter Singer, the way humans consider animals (especially mammals) may very well change drastically as the centuries pass. I am not saying that some day we will stop ordering our dogs around, or quit slaughtering cows. But it seems fairly likely that our basic morality on animal treatment will gradually change as we progress into the future.

Ordinary, is it possible that moral absolutes were undetected in Biblical times and therefore not written about? Is it possible that no moral absolutes exist?

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Posted: 14 May 2005 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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Homunculus,

you said

Ordinary, I wouldn’t call moral absolutes a pipe dream, exactly.

  I wouldn’t either; I was quoting Ray.

you say

The Bible positions slavery and child abuse as being proper.

I know my Bible pretty well and I don’t recall such teachings.  What passages call slavery and child abuse proper?  I know it speaks of slavery and even records episodes of it.  I don’t recall Jesus endorsing slavery.

You are right, morality has shifted throughout time.  That doesn’t say anything though about whether they are absolute or not.  Just because oppressing women was practiced in one period of time and not another doesn’t speak to whether moral absolutes exist or not.  It could quite easily be the case that people were living in opposition to that moral absolute.

I think it is very hard to get away from moral absolutes.  Take Ray, for example.  He doesn’t believe in them.  He said

There is no evidence that there are moral absolutes in the universe.

  But then amazingly he says this a few sentences later

I think that the best course to a progressive human interaction is to realize that all humans have a right to pursuit of resources and self defined happiness and for workabble progress this right must be exercised without materially harming that pursuit for others

  All humans have a right to [the] pursuit of resources and self-defined happiness?  It must be exercised without harming the pursuit of others?  Ray says we must realize humans have a right?  Where do we get that?  Is that an absolute?  It sounds like a moral absolute to me.  I guess I would want to ask, “Is this always the case?  Should people always have the right to pursue their happiness as long as it doesn’t hinder another’s pursuit?”  If so, its an absolute.  So it seems Ray wants to say ‘there are no moral absolutes’ then says, ‘all humans have the right to pursue happiness that must not be hindered another’s pursuit’.  You can not have it both ways.  If there are no moral absolutes, humans have no such rights.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 04:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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Ordinary, I realize you might be feeling picked on here, but I was not suggesting that you had claimed moral absolutes to be pipe dreams.

As for Bible passages that position slavery and child abuse as being proper, I’ve seem many that refer to it in passing, as you said above, without any critiquing comment. To me, that is very much positioning it as being proper. Specifically: Exodus 21:7—“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as manservants do. . . .”

When read in the full context of its surrounding text, the above passage positions not only child abuse and slavery as being proper, but also sexism.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 04:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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Ordinary,

____________________________________________________________

Ray,

Your post is so long, I can’t possibly address everything you say.
___________________________________________________________


I apologize for this.  I get rolling and I generally want to leave no stone unturned while detailing my argument.

 

____________________________________________________________
I think your understanding of what it means to have belief isn’t on target. There was a thread about this months ago. The short version of my argument is this Secularists want to classify religious belief in a special little category that doesn’t have congruence with the ‘daily’ exercises of belief we all exhibit. I believe this is unwarranted. A jury exercises belief in making their decision. You and I exercise belief when we go through an intersection when we have a green light (believing that people in the opposite direction will stop on red).
_____________________________________________________________

I contend that what most people call their belief’s are really not beliefs at all.  They are simply drawing logical (for them) conclusions based on evidence they have available to them.  I go through green lights while driving because I know and abide by the traffic laws and have cofidence gained through experience that others will do the same.  This is why I gave both my definition of belief and the dictionary definition in the last post.  It is not I who “isn’t on target” it is you and everyone else who misuse this word to describe their conclusions and this is causing a communication problem which is getting in the way of viable solutions to the problems we face in society (Sam’s message).  Strictly speaking, beliefs are “unsupported” conclusions.  They are held with little or no evidence and many times in direct defiance of the evidence (see my blurb about intelligent design etc.).  The problem is that when people mistake their conclusions for beliefs they close themselves off from dialog and conflict rather than solutions is the result.

 


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My exercise of belief in God is similar to these. Yes, the evidence is of a different nature, but there are far more similarities than difference.
_____________________________________________________________


Again that’s my point!  There is absolutely no evidence for any god even remotely of the kind espoused by the religions of today or yesterday.  These gods and the religions that espouse them are total belief without supporting evidence and in many cases totally contradicted by the evidence that is available.  I want to classify all belief (not just religious) in a special little category to prevent it from being confused with the daily exercises of drawing logical conclusions from the evidence.  I think believers like you are reticent of this because you sense that this will amplify the absurdity of religious beliefs by setting them in stark contrast to everyday experience and activities.  It would not be long before people (especially young people) would be saying “Why is this religion thing so different?  Why is it necessary to accept it on faith and without evidence when nothing else in our world is that way?”  By holding onto and promoting the fraudulent position that belief is necessary in everyday experience you maintain the legitimacy of an illegitimate idea.  My idea is to expose this fraud because many who have given up religious belief are still poisoned by the idea that belief is necessary and so while they no longer hold religious beliefs they hold what I call secular beliefs and these are cutting off communication and getting in the way of solving problems.  Please, please, please get and read “The Blank Slate” by Steven Pinker.  If you do, all of what I say will start to become clear.

 

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if you can not logically secure an idea, it is held as belief.
_____________________________________________________________


What do you mean by secure?  Where did you get this rule?  I think an idea is just an idea.  What need is there to secure it.  Any idea that could be supported from evidence and experience in the real universe is to me a secure idea.

 

 

____________________________________________________________
Moral absolutes are a pipe dream? If you can live with that, then so be it. I am comfortable with saying “rape is always wrong” “child abuse is always wrong”. Deep down, I believe we intuitively know there are moral absolutes. That no matter what has been said by whoever, somethings are just plain wrong. Now, you clearly don’t have a worldview that can anchor moral absolutes. Most, I think, would abandon a worldview that led to such a conclusion; unfortunately, you hold onto a worldview at the expense of… I’m not sure.
_____________________________________________________________

 

No, there is no evidence in the universe for any absolute set of rights and wrongs.  Humans, all on their own, have to decide right or wrong.  If there were no human society there would be no need for right or wrong.  Humans like every other animal on the planet would just do whatever their brain caused them to do.  Nature would sort survival behavior from non survival behavior in its usual mindless way.  Science calls it evolution.
Please, please, please get and read “The Blank Slate” by Steven Pinker.  If you do, all of what I say will start to become clear.
_

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you say
Quote
I am an atheist because I come down on the side that says if there is no evidence I conclude there is no god.
Secularist Kai Nielson says this exact thing, but says it should lead someone to agnosticism. How can an “I see no evidence” position lead to the affirmation that God doesn’t exist? There are plenty of things I don’t see evidence for that I don’t want to go out on a limb and say, “X doesn’t exist”.
_____________________________________________________________


Well I just have to say that I disagree with Mr. Nielson.  There is nothing that I am compelled to say exists without some credible evidence.  That’s the scientific method and I am sticking to it until something better comes along.

Ray

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Posted: 14 May 2005 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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Ordinary,


____________________________________________________________
But then amazingly he says this a few sentences later
Quote
I think that the best course to a progressive human interaction is to realize that all humans have a right to pursuit of resources and self defined happiness and for workabble progress this right must be exercised without materially harming that pursuit for others
____________________________________________________________

You see as careful and wordy as I am, I still make mistakes.  Please change the above to read; “I think that the best course to a progressive human interaction is to “recognize” (legally or otherwise) that all humans will have a right to pursuit of resources and self defined happiness and for workable progress these rights must be exercised without materially harming that pursuit for others.”  Realizing the benefits to a society by the recognition of rights to individuals has historically proven to be very benificial to the individual and the society.

Sorry for the confusion. 

Ray

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Posted: 14 May 2005 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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Alright Ray, you have made yourself quite clear on the definition of ‘belief’ and I’ve realized that when Ordinary claimed that you “still have to believe that your ethical method will work” perhaps he should have said that you Hope/trust that your ethical utliliarianism will lead to just and equitable results.  You don’t have to “believe” that your moral system works, but that in interaction with others, we can formulate plans of action that we ‘hope’ will work best given all that we can know of the situation and taking every diverse opinion into consideration.  I do agree with your definition of the word ‘belief’ and I confused the need for other words (hope/trust) for intersubjective interests as “to believe in other people’s rationality and sense of fairness.”  It’s a very tricky landscape that we must tread here.

On the influence of J.S.Mill’s Utilitarianism on Jefferson, well actually Mill wrote in the mid 1800’s when Jefferson had long returned to dust.  Even Bentham and others with secular moral ideas came after Jefferson, but it is very likely that Jefferson influenced those who had visions of a secular moral theory in the late 18th Century and perhaps influenced Mill to a great degree. 

Bob

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Posted: 14 May 2005 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]  
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I have been trying to follow the discussion on this topic with some difficulty.  It would help if all posters would use the “quote” features available on this forum to distinguish the statements of the various participants………separating sections with horizontal lines makes it very difficult to figure out who said or is saying what.

Nevertheless, it appears to me that a key part of the argument is between Odinary who advocates an “Absolute” or universal standard of morality and ethics and Ray who argues for a utilitarian or “maximum good for the most people” paradigm.

I think that neither of these worldviews is logically and rationally defensible.

First, the primary problem with absolutism is that the adherents of any such system claim to be the final arbiters of truth,  morality and ethics thereby immediately establishing an “us vs. them” dichotomy.  People are either true believers or they are heretics.  They are either “good” or “evil”.  They are either right or wrong.  Things are either black or they are white……there is, by definition, no middle ground.

This is the logical fallacy of the “excluded middle” where all choices are reduced to a binary decision with no options between the extremes allowed to be considered.

For example, according to Moses’ Ten Commandments,  “Thou shalt not kill”.  However, there are clearly situations where killing is not only appropriate but morally justified (e.g. self defense)  In a less absolute worldview, perhaps we should be referring to Moses’ Ten “Recommendations”?

The second problem with absolutism is trying to figure out whose absolute rules to follow.  According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are approximately 10,000 distinct religions in the world each of which can be further subdivided into distinct subcategories with unique and distinguishable beliefs.  For example there are nearly 34,000 different Christian denominations most of which are independent from one another with each following different biblical interpretations of truth, morality and ethics.

Clearly, they cannot all be right!

Similarly, there are at least two problems with utilitarianism. 

First, the pragmatic problem of doing the calculus for each moral decision is daunting if not impossible.  How does one compute the greatest value for society at large of any moral decisions from the smallest to the largest? 

What equation(s) is(are) to be used for the value function representing the greatest societal good?  What are the specific factors to be used in the value function calculation?  How are the specific values for each factor to be determined.  For example, what is the value of the utility function for the impact upon society at large of removing Saddam Hussien from power?

The second problem with utilitarianism is that humans are both rational and intuitive.  We practice emotional and intuitive decision making as well as the logical and rational. Our decisions are an unpredictable blend of these processes.  Our decisions in any given instance are highly influenced by our current emotional state, our subjective feelings, current social trends, etc.  Therefore, even if we could do the calculus, it is highly unlikely that we would arrive at the same answer at different times and under different circumstances.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]  
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Ray (and Bob),

If you want a more detailed account of the concepts of faith/belief from my point of view, check out the “Observations from a recovering Christian” post in the Christianity forum.  We discussed this issue at length.  There is a lot there; you may not want to go through it all, but being I written extensively on it, I don’t want to rework all those same thoughts.

I don’t believe the edited version of your proposed goal really changes anything.  Is it always good to work for the benefits of society?  Is that something we should always try to do?  If that isn’t a universal claim, when should I work against the benefits of society?  And who’s society should I work for?  Is my society better and thus, work against other societies for the sake of mine?  Possibly even more basic than that: why is good to work for societies benefit?  Why is it good to work for mine or other’s happiness?  Ultimately, I believe a relativist point of view renders everything to matters of taste/opinion.

As for evidence for God’s existence: I do think there is evidence for God’s existence.  I think just philosophical arguments alone posit good reasons to believe in the existence of God.  Trying to find an illustration; the evidence might not be so much like eye-witness testimony, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence for God’s existence.  Can it be reasoned away?  Sure, like everything else in life.

A pursuasive philosophical argument (in my opinion) is found in the article listed here using mathematics as a powerful example.  Check it out if you want to go beyond the fundy’s arguments  

[ Edited: 14 May 2005 09:04 AM by ]
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Posted: 14 May 2005 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]  
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Thank you CA, you have summed up what my intuition was telling me all along about this argument.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]  
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CA,

Honestly, I don’t think you discredited the moral absolutist view or a utilitarian view.  You presented some difficulties (from a straw man’s position in my opinion), but not convincing argumentation against these views.

For example, just because a moral absolutist view posits a ‘us vs. them’ or ‘good vs. evil’ dichotomy between people doesn’t mean it is wrong.  Also, a moral absolutist view doesn’t presume we know what those absolutes are, it just means they exist and we work diligently at trying to figure them out.

Most definitely, we need to make distinctions when we communicate.  “thou shalt not kill” may not be true in all circumstances.  So we narrow the meaning of the phrase down explaining the circumstances where it is always wrong to kill.  We do this everyday with the words that we use.  I say to my 4 year old, “this is really cool” and he says, “No daddy, its not cold”.  He learns the semantic range of that word.  That doesn’t render the concept of absolutism illogical.  It just renders the process more difficult.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]  
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[quote author=“Ordinary”]CA,

Honestly, I don’t think you discredited the moral absolutist view or a utilitarian view.  You presented some difficulties (from a straw man’s position in my opinion), but not convincing argumentation against these views.

For example, just because a moral absolutist view posits an ‘us vs. them’ or ‘good vs. evil’ dichotomy between people doesn’t mean it is wrong.  Also, a moral absolutist view doesn’t presume we know what those absolutes are, it just means they exist and we work diligently at trying to figure them out.

Positing an us vs. them dichotomy may not be “wrong” (in the absolutist sense) but it is also not very useful in minimizing human conflict which should be one of the goals of any moral and ethical code.

I clearly cannot “prove” the negative that absolutes do not exist and, if you want to “diligently try to figure them out”........go for it , just don’t try to impose them on me or the rest of society.

Nevertheless, it seems to be somewhat paradoxical (to say the least) to claim to be an “absolutist” but not “presume to know what those absolutes are”.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]  
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[quote author=“Ordinary”]For example, just because a moral absolutist view posits a ‘us vs. them’ or ‘good vs. evil’ dichotomy between people doesn’t mean it is wrong.  Also, a moral absolutist view doesn’t presume we know what those absolutes are, it just means they exist and we work diligently at trying to figure them out.

But why should you presume that such absolutes exist at all?  After reading through the absolute silliness of your mathematical article, I did agree with the bottom line of the writer:  “No Matter: What’s the Matter with the Idea that Nothing Matters?”

How you could determine that article as a pursausive argument for the existence of god is totally beyond my comprehension.  If that type of argument is the source of your knowledge, then I now understand why all your posts take on the appearance of semantic gymnastics.

Really, Ordinary, there’s a real world out there.  Check it out sometime, it just might be a learning experience.  It’s all too obvious that you are a young man with little life experience, or you would realize that there are no moral absolutes, just human patterns of experience subject to interpretation and valid subjective/objective response.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]  
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To my endearing ‘guest’,

I posted my article at 11:22am with the link to the article.  You posted your response saying the article was silly and not persuasive at 12:29pm… What I know is this: you didn’t read it.  There is not a chance in the world you had the time to read through an 18 page article that interweaves theology, philosophy and theoretical mathematics, analyze the argument, and then respond with the kindness you did.  I wouldn’t have a problem with someone saying it wasn’t persuasive if they read the stupid thing.  Yes, it is in narrative format; not my favorite genre either… It isn’t hard to determine why you hide behind the term ‘guest’.

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Posted: 14 May 2005 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]  
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Really?  I would wager that anyone on this forum could read 18 short pages of text in less than one hour, as I did.  Your true implication here is that anyone who read it would naturally have to agree with it (you).  You must be the author, or you wouldn’t be so indignant.

I will admit that I didn’t produce a pencil and paper and do all the theoretical math computations.  What would have been the point?  I was seeking any small amount of persuasive argument as to the existance of god, not infinite and hypothetical number crunching.  As far as theology and philosophy, I am a thoughtful reader and found nothing to further analyze and ponder.  You are right, it is a stupid thing.  Your words, not mine, I only called it silly.

I have nothing to hide, it just didn’t occur to me to sign the post.  So what’s in a name anyway?  I could sign with any name I chose, what difference would it make?

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