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My problem with Sam and his books
Posted: 23 November 2007 08:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]  
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I hope technicalities on vocabulary do not stiffle the progression of conversation inspired by Sam’s boldness.

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Posted: 24 November 2007 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]  
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Hokies - 24 November 2007 01:05 AM

I hope technicalities on vocabulary do not stiffle the progression of conversation inspired by Sam’s boldness.

Welcome, Hokies!
A large part of what I’m getting from these conversations (and I’ve been here for almost a year now) is a reshaping of vocabulary. I know it can sound like ‘quibble, quibble’ sometimes, but consider this: what we call common sense rests quite a lot on assumptions about what words mean. Advancing common sense then, means advancing our assumptions about what words mean, and shifting those meanings to accomodate our advances in knowledge and understanding.
Does that strike you as hokey?

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Posted: 26 November 2007 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]  
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  “Joined 2007-11-22 I have a problem with absoluteness, either belief or disbelief. I suppose absoluteness is required to create a sense of purpose. Whether it be evolution or knowledge or science or religion it is all a creation of human mind. Who knows what truth is or what truth means in an absolute sense? For is not truth a construct or a figment of mans imagination just like math and science and most certainly religion is? Although I do like science and math a little better since they are more organized and appealing to the rational mind.  Profile PM”

  This is the old “idealist” philosophical argument regarding the existence or otherwise of the ‘external’ world and this finishes in solipsism - “I think, therefore I am”.  One thing that does exist outside ourselves, and this is self evident, is the external infinite void in which this external world would exist.  As I remember if one accepted that this external does exist then you are in the “materialist” philosophical camp (not to be confused with the materialism of the present consumer society}. It would appear that Newbie is an idealist philosopher - everything is a construct of the mind and not knowledge in the universal sense and there is no point in going any further if he cannot accept the materialists philosophy.  If however one does accept that the external world exists independent of the mind and that the senses we are born with tell us the truth of what exists and it is not figment of our imagination then the only way to test the truth of what we see or our intuition tells us what is possible is to test it using the scientific method and I reckon we know what that means .
  The above means to me absoluteness exist as do universal truths independent of intelligent thought. One plus One = Two; the Sun is not anywhere near the centre of galaxy never mind the universe; the earth is not flat; we need oxygen to survive; the circumference of a circle 3.712…. times it’s diameter and so on and on.
With regard to absoluteness:  Only religions believe in the absolute perceived truth of what they consider exists but there is absoluteness in what does actually exist at any one time whether we are aware or not of this:  what is - is. 
One member recently stated that science is not a philosophy. Philosophy is search for the truth and science is the only philosophy which will find the truth.
A belief is not knowledge.

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Posted: 29 November 2007 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]  
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I am curious to see an example of this Judeo-Christian-Islamic moral system that you speak of…the one that needs a secular replacement.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]  
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I too am coming late into the conversation and but have an observation… funny how that tends to happen.  smile

I think that asking for a secular morals system to replace one that is considered to be theistically based is like asking for a fugi to replace your apple.

All morals are ‘human’ based… religion only uses god as their authority.

If I want someone to do something, if I simply tell them to do it, I will be asked “why should I?” My ability to get them to do what I want is going to be directly proportional to the amount of authority I wield.

If I do not have any authority, I can make it up, which is where religion comes in.

Religion is, very simply, the politics of god belief.  One group of people want another group of people to act a certain way, so they claim some vague authority that offers vague promises of reward if the people just do what they are told and vague promises of ‘the worst thing you can imagine’ if they do not.

Of course, humans being humans,  some people are going to question “Why?” which necessitates a whole fictitious structure to be developed… how does this entity communicate its wants?  What are those wants?  But what about in the case of… ?  As time goes by, it gets unwieldy and takes on a life of its own.  People get off on the power trip of making people jump to every petty little thing and the original reason for convincing people that there is an authority that they can not question, can not reason with, can not overthrow becomes lost in the non-sense.

The morals of the society are still going to be the morals that are a bi-product of human interaction.  If two or more organisms are going to exist in a cooperative state, there have to be rules and guidelines to direct the compromise.

So we are now in a situation where our ‘morals’ are a dynamic structure that ebb and flow, both defining and reacting to the evolution of cultures, which are (loosely) based on the authority of this ‘creator’ which can only be defined by people in relation to their own world view of how things SHOULD be for their comfort.

I have a colleague who believes in god because ‘we can not just have come into existence’… all of the contradictions THAT has aside, I asked him the following:

“What if I conceded that a god had to have created us… could you accept that a god might have created us as part of this enormous universe, but then did not have any interaction with us?  That he basically created the perfect environment and then set evolution into motion as the mechanism of our creation.  Is that possible?”

His answer was “Yes” which then propelled us into a conversation on “If that is the case, then where did the morals we have now come from”

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Posted: 07 December 2007 10:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]  
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I think Sam addresses this question in his books, but does not claim to have the answer. The idea that the morality taught by religions needs to be summarily disposed of is not a good starting point. I believe that a lot of the values inherent in religion are useful. As Sam points out, the Golden Rule is a perfect example of this. Clearly the “Do unto others” edict did not originate with Jesus or the Bible, and is seen at least as far back as the teachings of Confucius and Buddha. Even still, most religions at least began with this principle in mind.  Dogma, though, gets in the way of rational discussion. 

The ideas that the Bible was inspired by the Creator, and that its words make statements about how the world ACTUALLY is - not to mention all the other dogma that has been created along the way - prevent a reality-based attempt to determine a truly ethical way of life. “Religious” concepts like family values - or at least the value of families - may very well be desirable in moral terms.  We would need to examine many factors, such as how the existence of a family structure affects society as a whole, and other people specificially. Religion ends that examination before it begins by claiming that it has the answers in a 2,000 year old book which happens to include no verifiable evidence of its divine inspiration. 

Human beings are fully capable of learning how to behave and treat one another. Ethics are not even unique to humanity, as it has been shown that other species exhibit what could be called “ethical” behavior as well. You do not need to “replace” your religion as your system of morality, because that is not what religion truly is. What we think of as religion is simply the language that various generations and civilizations have used to 1) explain the unexplained and 2) work out a system of ethics.  You have built your own system of ethics during your life. Almost no one follows every word of the Bible, Koran, etc. We choose what is worth remembering and applying to our lives, whether we read it in a book, experienced it ourselves or just thought about it.  Too many of us disregard experience and thought, instead relying fully on an ancient text.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 06:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]  
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MorseCode80 - 08 December 2007 03:42 AM

The idea that the morality taught by religions needs to be summarily disposed of is not a good starting point. I believe that a lot of the values inherent in religion are useful. As Sam points out, the Golden Rule is a perfect example of this. Clearly the “Do unto others” edict did not originate with Jesus or the Bible, and is seen at least as far back as the teachings of Confucius and Buddha. Even still, most religions at least began with this principle in mind.  Dogma, though, gets in the way of rational discussion.

Good point. I doubt that any of us here would reject the moral teachings offered by religions simply because they come from religions. I say one should evaluate those teachings according to the principles of human happiness and suffering. The point we have been making is that some (not all) of those teachings have nothing to do with those principles.

MorseCode80 - 08 December 2007 03:42 AM

What we think of as religion is simply the language that various generations and civilizations have used to 1) explain the unexplained and 2) work out a system of ethics.

Religion should have no place in explaining the unexplained. In fact, dogma in general should have no place in that endeavor. That’s part of the problem with religion - some of its morality is based on such explanations. I’ve said that whether the life evolved over millions of years or was created 6,000 years ago should have no importance in resolving moral questions.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]  
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Carstonio - 08 December 2007 11:15 AM

Religion should have no place in explaining the unexplained. In fact, dogma in general should have no place in that endeavor. That’s part of the problem with religion - some of its morality is based on such explanations. I’ve said that whether the life evolved over millions of years or was created 6,000 years ago should have no importance in resolving moral questions.

I agree. My point was that most of the dogma (Book of Genesis, etc.) is a crude and ancient way of explaining the way the world works. Obviously we have evolved to the point where we can start exploring the real origins of the universe in a more rational way, but religion puts a stop to that discussion.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]  
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MorseCode80 - 08 December 2007 03:37 PM
Carstonio - 08 December 2007 11:15 AM

Religion should have no place in explaining the unexplained. In fact, dogma in general should have no place in that endeavor. That’s part of the problem with religion - some of its morality is based on such explanations. I’ve said that whether the life evolved over millions of years or was created 6,000 years ago should have no importance in resolving moral questions.

I agree. My point was that most of the dogma (Book of Genesis, etc.) is a crude and ancient way of explaining the way the world works. Obviously we have evolved to the point where we can start exploring the real origins of the universe in a more rational way, but religion puts a stop to that discussion.

It has nothing to do with “evolved”.
Blacksmiths of that age, say, had a very good practical knowledge of how metals worked 8and hence PART of the world), and how to use them for great effect.

Science is a generalized way of faithfully understanding the world, but there have always been people who have used the very same principles to actually understand the world they lived in.
It is called observation and experimentation.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]  
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“My point was that most of the dogma (Book of Genesis, etc.) is a crude and ancient way of explaining the way the world works. Obviously we have evolved to the point where we can start exploring the real origins of the universe in a more rational way, but religion puts a stop to that discussion.”

This seems to be the modern viewpoint. I don’t think it was that way originally.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]  
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I tend to agree that, at the time, the people who wrote the Bible and were involved in the early church (using Christianity as an example) genuinely believed that they were working in the realm of truth.  So I don’t doubt their honesty, since I have no reason to do so.  They were probably using the tools they had at the time to the best of their ability.

To ignore all of the knowledge that we have gained over the past 2,000 years, though, is not honest.  The example of a blacksmith actually serves to prove my point.  While it’s true that ancient societies knew how metals worked and how to use them, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that stainless steel was invented. A person today who came up with an ethical, moral or spiritual discovery as revolutionary as stainless steel was to metallurgy would NOT be welcomed into the Christian, Muslim or Jewish discussion.

As a sidenote, I apologize if I am repeating points that have already been made or am rambling.  I just read both of Sam’s books and am clearly pretty fired up about a lot of topics that I had never given enough thought to. I really am more articulate than I probably sound right now, but I’m still working out a lot of issues in my own head.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]  
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MorseCode80 - 08 December 2007 04:51 PM

I tend to agree that, at the time, the people who wrote the Bible and were involved in the early church (using Christianity as an example) genuinely believed that they were working in the realm of truth.  So I don’t doubt their honesty, since I have no reason to do so.  They were probably using the tools they had at the time to the best of their ability.

To ignore all of the knowledge that we have gained over the past 2,000 years, though, is not honest.  The example of a blacksmith actually serves to prove my point.  While it’s true that ancient societies knew how metals worked and how to use them, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that stainless steel was invented. A person today who came up with an ethical, moral or spiritual discovery as revolutionary as stainless steel was to metallurgy would NOT be welcomed into the Christian, Muslim or Jewish discussion.

As a sidenote, I apologize if I am repeating points that have already been made or am rambling.  I just read both of Sam’s books and am clearly pretty fired up about a lot of topics that I had never given enough thought to. I really am more articulate than I probably sound right now, but I’m still working out a lot of issues in my own head.

Well, I’m not sure what you mean by “evolved”.
Suppose you were able, through a time machine, to snatch an infant from the times of Abraham, say, and raise that child in our times.

In what manners would it develop otherwise than one of “our own” children?

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Posted: 08 December 2007 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]  
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I meant that our thinking has evolved. I don’t know enough biology to answer the time machine question, so I don’t want to debate evolution in the scientific sense.  I don’t think that time machines are something we’re going to see anytime soon, so I’d rather focus on what we can affect - our thinking.  A child born today learns what he or she is taught. If the people doing the teaching have moved beyond the Bible as a source of morality, then the child has a better chance of developing a legitimate worldview unburdened by claims that cannot be supported with evidence.

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Posted: 08 December 2007 02:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]  
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MorseCode80 - 08 December 2007 07:05 PM

I meant that our thinking has evolved. I don’t know enough biology to answer the time machine question, so I don’t want to debate evolution in the scientific sense.  I don’t think that time machines are something we’re going to see anytime soon, so I’d rather focus on what we can affect - our thinking.

We do, however, have “space machines” (a boat, say, or a plane):
It is very well attested that adopted infants, from completely different backgrounds and cultures are easily raised within the culture of their adopted parents.

As for the time machine issue, the times involved are orders of magnitude less than what is required for significant evolution in a biological sense.

Hence, we have no reason to believe that the time machine example would provide us with a human infant distinctly different from our own.


From what I can see, your use of the word “evolve” can only be given meaningful content as “culturally evolved”.

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Posted: 09 December 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]  
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Happy Heathen, yes, they would use the solid elements of morality: they would use those parts based on reason and facts as opposssed to the tastes of whims of those ignoramuses of yore. We inherit a moral sense that we have to refine, on up to a planetary ethic as Paul Kurtz, Mr.Secular Humanist, admonishes to have.
It is our covenant morality for humanity that theists practice,using reason and facts, discerned through the effects of actions on humans, other animals and the enviormnemt.Trial and error play their role: morality like science is provsional and debatable. It is contextual.
Thus the silver and golden rule for normal people come forth.[ As John Hospers maintains in “Human Conduct,” pathological people would misuse the rules.]
Thus, it it theists who use our morality rather than we using theirs as they allege!
Morality has evolved. We are more moral than ever[ se’Sense and Goodness.”]

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