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should’s should
Posted: 20 November 2007 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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gulp - 20 November 2007 07:19 PM
Publius - 20 November 2007 06:54 PM
gulp - 20 November 2007 01:13 AM

Thanks Publias,

I agree with the basic distinction you are making and appreciate your examples very much.

I’m talking about the “should” that you might hear if you are watching an ant colony with an ant specialist.  As you watch a particular group of ants engaged in a particular behavior, the specialist might say something like,

“Now, soon, The X ant should begin doing such and such to the Y ant.”

Or he might scratch his head and say,

“Interesting, the ants shouldn’t be doing X until this other process has taken place…perhaps it is because…..”

This is what I mean by the scientific “should”.  It is a should that remains completely removed from moral presumptions because it assumes that natural law runs the show.

The sense of should that you’re using here is not about what one ought to believe.  The observer in your example already has a belief.  The “should” in your example is a bit of a sleight of hand, as is evidenced by the term that follows “begin.”  You could re-write the proposition your expressing better as “I predict that X”.  A prediction about what should happen isn’t using the word should in a normative way, but a predictive way, which is in fact a descriptive way.  A normative statement (should, ought, must) is prescrptive.  It seeks to guide, recommend or obligate thought or action, not to describe it.

But you can use this predictive sense of should in non-scientific contexts.  I predict that no one in my office tomorrow will show up to work naked tomorrow.  (What’s interesting is that I can only predict this, not merely based on peoples past behavior, but because of what I know about the norms that structure that behavior, including norms of modesty, etc.)

exactly!  I’m asking if there is any reason to apply non predictive language to human beliefs.  I understand that in everyday speach we will tend to say “should” when we often are talking in a more predictive manner.  But I’m interested if there is any justification or evidence that the fact of human beliefs (regardless of the content) warrent stepping outside of the predictive “should”.  We do not make such a cognitive gesture for any other segment of nature, but even scientists/atheists seem to have a strong conviction that humans warrent a different status…I’m wondering if there has ever been evidence put forth for such a conviction. gulp

What you appear to be pushing towards is what’s sometimes known as normative skepticism—and of all the kinds of skepticism its the one that is least sustainable.  You’ve got the issue precisely backwards, what warrants stepping into the predictive should?  Why ought I to predict this or that?  Why ought I to believe that prediction is even possible?  Why ought I to care?  You don’t get to scientific questions except through philosophical ones.  What is science? is not a scientific question, it is a philosophical one.  Science cannot explain why science is valuable, only philosophy can.

But why bother to write anything here?  Why eat one thing over another?  Why have this friend or that one?  Why work at this job or that one?  The most profound question is “What ought I to do?”  And the answer will be based on what sort of reasons can be marshalled in favor of this or that decision.  If you don’t accept this kind of normativity, you have to commit suicide.  Actually, you don’t because there’s nothing that you either have to or can do.  Why sit and even contemplate the question.

Normativity is fact of life.  You are always confronted with choices, and choices always raise the normative question:  what ought I to do?  (Belief is a special form of action, what ought I to believe is really a question about what I ought to do).  Only humans are capable of asking this because the very essence of normativity resides in the reflective structure of consciousness, and as far as we know, we are the only beings capable of taking up this reflective point of view.

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Posted: 20 November 2007 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Publius - 20 November 2007 07:33 PM
gulp - 20 November 2007 07:19 PM
Publius - 20 November 2007 06:54 PM
gulp - 20 November 2007 01:13 AM

Thanks Publias,

I agree with the basic distinction you are making and appreciate your examples very much.

I’m talking about the “should” that you might hear if you are watching an ant colony with an ant specialist.  As you watch a particular group of ants engaged in a particular behavior, the specialist might say something like,

“Now, soon, The X ant should begin doing such and such to the Y ant.”

Or he might scratch his head and say,

“Interesting, the ants shouldn’t be doing X until this other process has taken place…perhaps it is because…..”

This is what I mean by the scientific “should”.  It is a should that remains completely removed from moral presumptions because it assumes that natural law runs the show.

The sense of should that you’re using here is not about what one ought to believe.  The observer in your example already has a belief.  The “should” in your example is a bit of a sleight of hand, as is evidenced by the term that follows “begin.”  You could re-write the proposition your expressing better as “I predict that X”.  A prediction about what should happen isn’t using the word should in a normative way, but a predictive way, which is in fact a descriptive way.  A normative statement (should, ought, must) is prescrptive.  It seeks to guide, recommend or obligate thought or action, not to describe it.

But you can use this predictive sense of should in non-scientific contexts.  I predict that no one in my office tomorrow will show up to work naked tomorrow.  (What’s interesting is that I can only predict this, not merely based on peoples past behavior, but because of what I know about the norms that structure that behavior, including norms of modesty, etc.)

exactly!  I’m asking if there is any reason to apply non predictive language to human beliefs.  I understand that in everyday speach we will tend to say “should” when we often are talking in a more predictive manner.  But I’m interested if there is any justification or evidence that the fact of human beliefs (regardless of the content) warrent stepping outside of the predictive “should”.  We do not make such a cognitive gesture for any other segment of nature, but even scientists/atheists seem to have a strong conviction that humans warrent a different status…I’m wondering if there has ever been evidence put forth for such a conviction. gulp

What you appear to be pushing towards is what’s sometimes known as normative skepticism—and of all the kinds of skepticism its the one that is least sustainable.  You’ve got the issue precisely backwards, what warrants stepping into the predictive should?  Why ought I to predict this or that?  Why ought I to believe that prediction is even possible?  Why ought I to care?  You don’t get to scientific questions except through philosophical ones.  What is science? is not a scientific question, it is a philosophical one.  Science cannot explain why science is valuable, only philosophy can.

But why bother to write anything here?  Why eat one thing over another?  Why have this friend or that one?  Why work at this job or that one?  The most profound question is “What ought I to do?”  And the answer will be based on what sort of reasons can be marshalled in favor of this or that decision.  If you don’t accept this kind of normativity, you have to commit suicide.  Actually, you don’t because there’s nothing that you either have to or can do.  Why sit and even contemplate the question.

Normativity is fact of life.  You are always confronted with choices, and choices always raise the normative question:  what ought I to do?  (Belief is a special form of action, what ought I to believe is really a question about what I ought to do).  Only humans are capable of asking this because the very essence of normativity resides in the reflective structure of consciousness, and as far as we know, we are the only beings capable of taking up this reflective point of view.

No I’m not asking for evidence that justifies the practice of making predictions. Not at all!  I am only addressing those people (like myself) who buy into the basic activity of our modern science; that is, we don’t claim to have everything figured out, but we have a method that allows us to discover the natural laws behind phenomena.  To those of us who do not resort to magical/delusional claims, I’m asking why we abandon our practice when it comes to human beliefs.  We have no problem accepting the fact that the lion will attack viciously, but we leave this very reasoning behind in the face of human actions.  Sorry I haven’t made my point clear. I’m not trying to prove anything at this point, just locating the space of my question. 

gulp

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Posted: 20 November 2007 04:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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I think this is it:  (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

“If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.”

Please know that I am well aware of how kind hearted Christian ignore these types of commands from God. I am not suggesting that most Christians secretely agree with this type of thing.


(Exodus 31:12-15 NLT): God says that anybody who works on Sunday must be put to death.

(Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NAB)Kill women who are not virgins on their wedding night

(Leviticus 20:13 NAB): Kill homosexuals

(Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT): You must kill people who don’t listen to priests…

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Posted: 21 November 2007 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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gulp - 20 November 2007 09:07 PM

I think this is it:  (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

“If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him.”

I happen to love this passage.  But it does not say what you asserted was problematic before.  It does not say kill those who don’t accept your religion, it says to kill those who entice you away from your religion to serve false gods.  Nevertheless, we don’t kill Jews-for-Jesus even though that is their raison d’etre.

Please know that I am well aware of how kind hearted Christian ignore these types of commands from God. I am not suggesting that most Christians secretely agree with this type of thing.

I’m not a Christian.

(Exodus 31:12-15 NLT): God says that anybody who works on Sunday must be put to death.

Still doesn’t support the point you made.  First, it applies to communities of believers and the rules imposed on those believers.  It doesn’t say kill non-Jews or non-Christians because they worked on Saturday or Sunday respectively.  In any event, I don’t think you’ll be able to find me an example of someone put to death for a violation of this.

(Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NAB)Kill women who are not virgins on their wedding night

(Leviticus 20:13 NAB): Kill homosexuals

(Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT): You must kill people who don’t listen to priests…

The remainder can be grouped and dealt with in the following way.  That the Bible (in this case Torah) says one thing does not translate into meaning that this is what either Judaism or Christianity commands.  It is akin to thinking that the Constitution is the same things as Constitutional Law.  You cannot simply pick up the Constitution and know what the law is concerning free speech.  You need to be up on the 200 some odd years of precedent and interpretation.  Ditto for reading the Bible.

Historically, all the punishments are death and exile for the very obvious reason that having a jail while you’re travelling in the desert is highly impractical.  In addition, this also ignores all of the rules concerning courts and the administration of justice that apply to these sentences.  The rabbis made it very hard to impose the death penalty for all but capital crimes.

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Posted: 21 November 2007 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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gulp - 20 November 2007 08:58 PM

No I’m not asking for evidence that justifies the practice of making predictions. Not at all!  I am only addressing those people (like myself) who buy into the basic activity of our modern science; that is, we don’t claim to have everything figured out, but we have a method that allows us to discover the natural laws behind phenomena.  To those of us who do not resort to magical/delusional claims, I’m asking why we abandon our practice when it comes to human beliefs.  We have no problem accepting the fact that the lion will attack viciously, but we leave this very reasoning behind in the face of human actions.  Sorry I haven’t made my point clear. I’m not trying to prove anything at this point, just locating the space of my question. 

gulp

I’m a theist.  I never resort to magical/delusional claims, other than thinking that I have free will.  And that’s really the crux of your after, which is deeply related to the normative problem. 

You are supposing that human actions can or could be explained by natural laws that are on par with say the law of gravity.  But this fails to engage your own lived experience.  We use scientific methods for scientific issues.  Science is purely descriptive.  It can provide an explanation for say biological phenomena, but human action is not reducible to biological phenomena.  And there are plenty of rational ways to explore human action.  The reason why you have to give up a scientific method for dealing with various spheres of human conduct is simply that it’s irrational not to.  Scientific methods won’t explain the rules of football or baseball.  Won’t explain why some people vote democrat as opposed to republican.  Can’t explain why this peice of art is better than that reality tv show, etc.  Can’t provide reasons for moral action.

You - like many atheists - operate under a delusion that science is the model of all knowledge.  But this is false.  Knowledge is not reducible to the set of true propositions that can be discovered about the world.  And it was what my previous post tried to point out.  Science cannot account for itself.  The rise of science is connected with profoundly humanistic ideas, ideas concerning the betterment of humanity, what Kant called practical reason.  This is to be contrasted with instrumental reason.  Instrumental reason merely gives the means to achieve an end.  If I want to build a bomb, then do X.  But there’s a question I can ask before that, why do I want to build a bomb, what is it’s purpose?  (This really the problem with Islam.  While they took the Wests instrumental reason, they did not take it’s practical reason.)

Science is a humanistic ideal.  It provides knowledge to aid humanity—or at least it does when it is put into its proper place.  Science divorced from practical reason and morality leads to bad things.  Science serves humanity, but to understand why that’s so, the inquiry can’t be a scientific one.  As I said before, what is science is a philosophical question.  As is what is economics.  But what is philosophy is a philosophical question.

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Posted: 21 November 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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Again, i’m not making myself clear: I’m not saying that somebody who loves the bible is supposed to celebrate every passage.  I’m sure you make the same type statements on behalf of those who rever the Koran.  So many people take the harsh sounding edicts of the Koran and then fail to apply the type of thinking you are willing to make towards the Bible. 

I’m delighted to see that you love Deuteronomy 13:7-12.  My hunch, however (based on your disposition for rational conversation), is that you would be understanding towards anybody who might interpret a statement like D13:7-12 as being rather sever.  I only see potential problems with such sacred statements when groups become so attached to their interpretation that nobody is willing to stand in the other’s shoes. 

If somebody showed me a passage from the Koran in which it said that you must kill anybody who wishes to entice you towards their religion, I would easily be able to share their enthusiasm for it as long as they were not using that passage to justify actual acts of violence.  Good and smart Christians are able to take any quote from the bible and contexualize it in ways that square with any given socio-political ideology.  The same goes for the Koran. I don’t see this as a problem.

There are those who believe one sacred texts is better than another; as personal asthetic responses and ways of organizing communally, I agree.  Thus far I don’t agree with Sam’s point that the source of religious violence is in the content of the text; however, I see and appreciate his point to the extent that some religious texts make it very easy to justify certain acts of violence.  gulp

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Posted: 21 November 2007 11:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Could you show me how you replied to a specific post that is further back in our conversation. I only know how to reply to the bottom post…

Oh, I should make clear: I only include myself as atheist in the most broad sense of the term. I don’t believe in a God that has a personality and lives far beyond the clouds.  I am not an atheist in the sense of a materialist scientisim.  I agree with you critique of attempt to explain the Whole via one kind of scientific methodology.

My questions in this thread were directed towards those who actually hold true to the notion that modern science’s basic faith in some kind of naturalism is a valid way to approach psychological and social questions.  I see a massive contradiction between that belief system and the way they are going about discussions related to theism and social violence. 

You were so nice to dialog with me, but as a theist my question would be utterly irrelavent to you. I’m hoping to hear some atheists address this question consistently. gulp

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Posted: 21 November 2007 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Publius - 21 November 2007 03:22 PM
gulp - 20 November 2007 08:58 PM

I’m a theist.  I never resort to magical/delusional claims, other than thinking that I have free will.  And that’s really the crux of your after, which is deeply related to the normative problem.

I’ve differ than Wittgenstein on many points, but in terms of questions related to free will, I take his general stance; nonesense on both sides of the debate.  It only sounds like a valid question because of the “illusion of grammar”, but the fact is that everybody lives as if they are free.  Even the most hard core determinists spend 99.99999% of their day fully committed to the notion they are free. They only deny it in their head, but they even deny free will as if they freely did so. 

But the same goes, for me at least, for all the energy spent trying to prove or argue for free will.  I know people who can remember the most beauiful and intricate “proofs” of free will and, yet, they live their daily lives as conditioned as rats in a labratory.  Our lived experience is always much more than what we have to say about it. That said, I’m not suggesting there is not value in exploring and talking about the nature of our experiences. gulp

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Posted: 21 November 2007 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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I’m intrigued by the potential of this thread, but you seem to be unnecessarily vague, perhaps to prevent tainting your experiment. What are you trying to start a discussion on?

Is science ethical?
Are humans just animals?
Is society just different herds at the same watering hole?
Why do I care if you get hurt?
Is religion a natural result of evolution?
Is religion an artifact of evolution?
Is gay normal?
Who should I vote for?
Are Jews taking over the world?
What is consciousness?

That’s how vague I see it, anyway, and admittedly I’m no genius. I usually avoid the philosophical stuff, but here I’m just trying to understand the question.

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Posted: 21 November 2007 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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mcalpine - 21 November 2007 04:38 PM

That’s how vague I see it, anyway, and admittedly I’m no genius. I usually avoid the philosophical stuff, but here I’m just trying to understand the question.

Me too ...

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Posted: 21 November 2007 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Hi mcalpine,

I have loved the time I spent getting into the different terminologies of various philosophical schools, but I hope to avoid that in this thread so I think you’ll at least enjoy that aspect of things. However, you are right, mcalpine, I am being too vague. But my original question was not all that vague.

What I need to be clear about is this: my question is really only appropriate to a person who does not subscribe at all to supernatural explanations because it only makes sense within a “natural law” type of context. I’m addressing people who are comfortable with the notion that human behavior falls under natural law to the same extent that any other organism does. If somebody raises their hand affirmatively to that, I’m hoping to be educated a bit by that person and my question points to my confusion. My question might sound like a traditional attempt to prove them wrong or point to a weakness in their argument; if so, that is only a secondary and unintended consequence.

I want to ask those people if they see any evidence that would justify treating human beliefs as if they stood outside the natural realm.  If so, I am very interested in knowing how this is articulated. My questions springs from my observations of how many debates are taking shape between the so called atheists and religious folks.  Does that make things a bit more clear, mcalpine? gulp

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Posted: 21 November 2007 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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gulp - 21 November 2007 04:56 PM

I want to ask those people if they see any evidence that would justify treating human beliefs as if they stood outside the natural realm.  If so, I am very interested in knowing how this is articulated. My questions springs from my observations of how many debates are taking shape between the so called atheists and religious folks.  Does that make things a bit more clear, mcalpine? gulp

But human beings are natural organisms, aren’t they (we)?  So our beliefs must also be natural.  Our motives may be more complex than viciously attacking lions or X and Y ants, but that doesn’t preclude our behavior or beliefs from being natural.

An advanced alien society would look at us the same way we look at ants or lions.  The idea that any human belief stands outside the natural realm seems somewhat egotistical to me.

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Do-gooding is like treating hemophilia—the real cure is to let hemophiliacs bleed to death, before they breed more hemophiliacs. -Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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Posted: 21 November 2007 10:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 21 November 2007 08:44 PM
gulp - 21 November 2007 04:56 PM

I want to ask those people if they see any evidence that would justify treating human beliefs as if they stood outside the natural realm.  If so, I am very interested in knowing how this is articulated. My questions springs from my observations of how many debates are taking shape between the so called atheists and religious folks.  Does that make things a bit more clear, mcalpine? gulp

But human beings are natural organisms, aren’t they (we)?  So our beliefs must also be natural.  Our motives may be more complex than viciously attacking lions or X and Y ants, but that doesn’t preclude our behavior or beliefs from being natural.

An advanced alien society would look at us the same way we look at ants or lions.  The idea that any human belief stands outside the natural realm seems somewhat egotistical to me.

Hi there ASD,

Yea I think it sounds egotistical as well. But I think it often goes unnoticed.  You can find endless examples of atheists treating humans as if they are outside of nature in some critical manner.  Getting upset at people for their behavior and belief is a good example.  I don’t mean if he is getting upset the same way he would get upset if a dog bit him or large rock fell on his head.  That kind of frustration can fit with his world view; it’s momentary and it doesn’t imply a moral should.  I’m talking about when somebody who argues that there is no evidence for the existence of personalized natural phenomena gets upset at another person for holding a certain view or engaging in a specific set of behaviors.  Rather than shout at ant colonies the atheist studies them. He might even modify, utilize or manipulate them; he never blames them or considers ants guilty of anything. He often blames and considers humans guilty. 

When the atheist treats another person (or group) as if they somehow stand apart from nature, he needs to at least provide evidence for this treatment (if he wishes to be minimally consistent with his own core principals.) I don’t think it is enough for the atheist to say it is an unavoidable aspect of human nature; there is plenty of evidence that human beings do not have to treat each other as if they are exceptions to nature. 

It is this exceptional treatment of human beings by the atheist that not only confuses me but also points to what I think is the biggest roadblock to the type of goal that somebody like Sam Harris has in mind. 

So my original question is this thread was if there is any evidence (that would satisfy a scientifically oriented modern atheist) that supports the practice of treating human beliefs as if they have anything to do with metaphysical notions like “choice” and “morality”?  It would be from people committed to empiricism and rational discourse that I would expect an evidence based conversation on this topic. What I have found so far (and I’ve only done a small about of research) is that when asked to justify treating human beings differently the conversation leaves the land of observation and becomes very abstract and, well, evasively magical….when asked for the evidence the atheist often begins to move far far away from observations and reason and deeper and deeper into esoteric (although highly intelligent sounding) monologues.  It’s like reading Spinoza, or any of those geniuses who could “prove” God in a thousand intricate ways. I’m not saying they aren’t smart.  I’m not even saying they aren’t rational to a large degree.

I think that there is a deeply hidden magical belief in most atheists that has to do with “choice” and perhaps even the notion that rationality offers an antidote to the problem of human violence.  That is merely a hypothesis that I am exploring.  I consider the emergence of reason to be a developmental advance. But I believe that reason has obscured the true source of violence by trying to pin it to content of magical and mythical belief systems.  But because I am hoping to learn from and dialog with reasonable people who identify themselves with an atheistic standpoint, I want to frame my question in terms of an evidence based and rational set of criterion.  If there is evidence that human beliefs step out even an inch from the blind mechanisms of natural law, I figure I am open to learning about it.  gulp

[ Edited: 21 November 2007 11:08 PM by gulp]
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Posted: 21 November 2007 11:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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Man is a higher ape. There no primates as numerous as humans, and spread all over the world, able to travel and communicate as humans do. We are the only species that can judge homo sapiens, and all of us have a bias. I am not arguing that we are not “natural”, but to even ponder the matter makes us different, regardless of the conclusion.

I don’t know enough about ape behavior studies to know about group justice. I know many species of mammals ostracize individuals. I know individuals of both sexes battle each other, sometimes to the death; but I am not aware of any species in which a group “punishes” an individual, other than by rejection.

Humans have evolved a complex legal system, fairly consistent from one culture to another, and that is apparently quite ancient. It consists of the accuser, the accused, a judge, a hearing, and police. This is distinct from every other species, as far as I know. It’s hard to call this “natural”, but that is my human bias. Other animals would probably deem all of this as absurd ritual.

Much of the behavior that we do not find acceptable in each other is probably our basic animal nature—looking out for Number One. The behavior that we see in each other as noble is probably the next higher level—looking out for the good of the group. Here we probably should be compared to apes like baboons and chimps; and among non-apes, our behavior in the wild would probably be closer to carnivores than herbivores.

As for technology, the earliest crafts were food related—baskets for gathering; pottery for storing; hand tools for hunting and processing. None of these are really necessary for other animals; it is hard to say how these things influenced our development as a species. Tool use seems to predate homo sapiens by several interim species. Baskets and pottery, as far as I know, no earlier than Neanderthal.

This as dry and objective as I can be, and it’s really more of a list than a discussion. But I think any behavior that makes humans different from other mammals is just a matter of degrees. Our beginnings seem to be in the struggle to survive the elements; now the struggle is to survive each other. Sadly, this may be the one characteristic that makes us unique.

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Posted: 21 November 2007 11:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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mcalpine - 22 November 2007 04:03 AM

Man is a higher ape.

If by higher you only imply something like “more complicated”, I follow you.  But I don’t imagine (or, I don’t wish to imagine) that by “higher” you imply we are any less bound to the impersonal nudge of nature than the ape is. 


If we were to watch an ape punish, severely, another ape, we might turn our heads or feel sad.  Most of us would not consider the ape doing the punishing to be making a choice. We would say that he is responding in an amazing ape manner, he is being apish in ways we don’t even understand. But we would assume that the behavior is no more driven by a “personal” will than the scorpion stinging the leg of an ox.

If we apply this type of consideration to humans, we can look at a community punishing a woman for not being a virgin on her wedding night. They are beating her and getting ready to kill her.  Again, we may turn way, feel sad or we may even run up to her and try to save her.  But no matter how we respond, I’m assuming that we don’t believe the community is “making a mistake” or acting in a way that isn’t perfectly natural.  I’m not being cold or removed here. In fact, I’m making this point to get closer to what I consider the core reason that the whole atheist/theist debate provides no real help.

You often get the impression that a good scientist can go and study primate behavior all week long, being fascinated by the complexity and variation of it and then go home and trash talk the president or make fun of religious fascists over dinner.  When it comes to human beings, all of a sudden his intense curiosity about behavior and his cellular assumption that all behavior is equally natural goes out the window.  Before going back to his research into lion attack patterns, he spits out his disgust at the decision some political leader recently made.  I wonder if he ever spits out disgust for the decisions of the lions?  It we chalk this discrepancy up to just “human nature”, I think we step past what might be a critical opportunity to discover the true source of human violence and disregard for each other and the wider world. 

I don’t have the answer.  But I know that folks who are committed to rational discourse that moves from evidence to evidence would, at worst, simply point out why this apparent discrepancy doesn’t matter or why it is not even apparent.  gulp.

[ Edited: 21 November 2007 11:26 PM by gulp]
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