Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Go with your evolved sense of right and wrong"

JOHN W. LOFTUS SAID:

"Why not just trust your own instincts on this...Go with your evolved sense of right and wrong on this.”

Here’s some of what Michael Ruse has to say about our “evolved sense of right and wrong”:

***QUOTE***

I think I would still say—part of my position on morality is very much that we regard morality in some sense as being objective, even if it isn’t. So the claim that we intuit morality as objective reality—I would still say that. Of course, what I would want to add is that from the fact that we do this, it doesn’t follow that morality really is objective.

I’m saying that if in fact you’re Christian then you believe you were made in the image of God. And that means—and this is traditional Christian theology—that means that you have intelligence and self-awareness and moral ability… it’s a very important part of Christianity that our intelligence is not just a contingent thing, but is in fact that which makes us in the image of God.

What I would argue is that the connection between Darwinism and ethics is not what the traditional social Darwinian argues. He or she argues that evolution is progressive, humans came out on top and therefore are a good thing, hence we should promote evolution to keep humans up there and to prevent decline. I think that is a straight violation of the is/ought dichotomy…I take Hume’s Law to be the claim that you cannot go from statements of fact—“Duke University is the school attended by Eddy Nahmias”—to statements of value—“Duke University is an excellent school.”

Ed [Edward O. Wilson] does violate Hume’s Law, and no matter what I say he cannot see that there is anything wrong in doing this. It comes from his commitment to the progressive nature of evolution. No doubt he would normally say that one should not go from “is” to “ought”—for example from “I like that student” to “It is OK to have sex with her, even though I am married.” But in this case of *evolution* he allows it. If you say to him, “But ‘ought’ statements are not like ‘is’ statements,” he replies that in science, when we have reduction, we do this all the time, going from one kind of statement to another kind of statement. We start talking about little balls buzzing in a container and end talking about temperature and pressure. No less a jump than going from “is” to “ought.”

My position is that the ethical sense can be explained by Darwinian evolution—the ethical sense is an adaptation to keep us social. More than this, I argue that sometimes (and this is one of those times), when you give an account of the way something occurs and is as it is, this is also to give an explanation of its status. I think that once you see that ethics is simply an adaptation, you see that it has no justification. It just is. So in metaethics[4] I am a nonrealist. I think ethics is an illusion put into place by our genes to keep us social.

I distinguish normative ethics from metaethics. In normative ethics I think evolution can go a long way to explain our feelings of obligation: be just, be fair, treat others like yourself. We humans are social animals and we need these sentiments to get on. I like John Rawls’s[5] thinking on this. On about page 500 of his Theory of Justice book, Rawls says he thinks the social contract was put in place by evolution rather than by a group of old men many years ago. Then in metaethics, I think we see that morality is an adaptation merely and hence has no justification. Having said this, I agree with the philosopher J.L Mackie[6] (who influenced me a lot) that we feel the need to “objectify” ethics. If we did not think ethics was objective, it would collapse under cheating.

If we knew that it was all just subjective, and we felt that, then of course we’d start to cheat. If I thought there was no real reason not to sleep with someone else’s wife and that it was just a belief system put in place to keep me from doing it, then I think the system would start to break down. And if I didn’t share these beliefs, I’d say to hell with it, I’m going to do it. So I think at some level, morality has to have some sort of, what should I say, some sort of force. Put it this way, I shouldn’t cheat, not because I can’t get away with it, or maybe I *can* get away with it, but because it is fundamentally wrong.

We’re like dogs, social animals, and so we have morality and this part of the phenomenology of morality, how it appears to us, that it is not subjective, that we think it *is* objective…So I think ethics is essentially subjective but it appears to us as objective and this appearance, too, is an adaptation.

Within the system, of course, rape is objectively wrong—just like three strikes and you are out in baseball. But I’m a nonrealist, so ultimately there is no objective right and wrong for me. Having said that, I *am* part of the system and cannot escape. The truth does not necessarily make you free.

There is no ultimate truth about morality. It is an invention—an invention of the genes rather than of humans, and we cannot change games at will, as one might baseball if one went to England and played cricket. Within the system, the human moral system, it is objectively true that rape is wrong. That follows from the principles of morality and from human nature. If our females came into heat, it would not necessarily be objectively wrong to rape—in fact, I doubt we would have the concept of rape at all. So, within the system, I can justify. But I deny that human morality at the highest level—love your neighbor as yourself, etc.—is justifiable. That is why I am not deriving “is” from “ought,” in the illicit sense of justification. I am deriving it in the sense of explaining *why we have* moral sentiments, but that is a different matter.

I think ultimately there is nothing—moral nihilism, if you wish.

http://www.believermag.com/issues/200307/?read=interview_ruse

***END-QUOTE***

10 comments:

  1. Here's the whole of my one comment (but I'm not sticking around anymore to see what is said since no one is actually trying to understand):

    If I'm "amazingly dull" I'm not the only one. The basis for my calling something "horribly evil" is based upon my acceptance of holistic happiness, which I argue we all share. That's all any of us can do, and so it's not a "private" ethic at all.

    I do find it amazing that you have a theology that commits you to love worship and obey a God you simply cannot trust to be loving, kind, or generous. As far as you know God will condemn people who believe and reward people like me who don't. Based upon what YOU believe about such a God you cannot say this will not be the case. But you continue to call me dull when it is you who might find yourself in hell.

    That IS amazing to me. Why not just trust your own instincts on this and rebel against such a despicable thug? After all, he may enjoy this. He would have decreed it if you did anyway.

    You live in a house of cards not built on solid ground. Your theology is consistent with itself but it flies in the face of everything else you experience. you are deluded like the paranoid schizophrenic who believes the CIA is after him. Given his assumptions he can fit everything into place, except that his assumptions just don't make sense.

    YOUR [theology] just do[es] not make any sense. They are built upon a historically conditioned document written in a pre-scientific era AND a historically conditioned interpretation of that document.

    Go with your evolved sense of right and wrong on this. Go with the logical conclusion of what your theology commits you to. You cannot trust such a God based upon what you believe about him. Again, you cannot trust your God to do what you consider right by saving you, for you cannot trust what he revealed in the Bible. Then make the needed adjustments. If nothing else, reject Calvinism. It's a theology for angry people. It's a theology for justifying all suffering. It's a theology that makes atheists.

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  2. You are amazingly dull, John. How many questions can you beg in one comment?

    I already commented on your inanity two posts ago.

    We got what you were saying. The problem is that you are WRONG!

    Maybe you did evolve from the apes.

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  3. Saint said…You are amazingly dull, John. How many questions can you beg in one comment?

    I already commented on your inanity two posts ago.

    We got what you were saying. The problem is that you are WRONG!

    Maybe you did evolve from the apes.


    I thought I'd check back and I wasn't surprized. It's such a joy visiting here. What a beautiful faith you have. It makes me want to believe what you do and treat people who disagree as you do....NOT!

    What an ugly, ugly faith you have. You're drinking from a fountain of filth. Enjoy it if you want to, but I'll have no part of it. I'd rather be, well, humane.

    You have a standard of ethics, eh? What about the Golden Rule? Oh, but that doesn't apply to people who disagree, eh? Go drink from that fountain again.

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  4. You have a standard of ethics, eh? What about the Golden Rule? Oh, but that doesn't apply to people who disagree, eh? Go drink from that fountain again.

    You mean "Do unto others..."

    Frankly, John, I think we're applying that rule. I guess we have to remind you that you're an apostate, and apostates, according to Scripture are spoken of in harsh terms, and we're told how to treat them - harshly.

    If I was to apostatize, I would expect harsh treatment if I was to try to pull others down with me as you admittedly do. There is, therefore, nothing here not congruent with the Golden Rule. If I was to walk out on my wife by having an adulterous affair, I would expect the rest of my family to come down hard on me for it. I may not like it, but I know that's the right thing for them to do.

    You remind me of a 14 year old boy who complains about how badly Mommy and Daddy treat him because they won't let him do whatever he wants to do. I would hope, however, that when that boy grew up, he would look back and thank his parents for doing that. Maybe one day, you'll grow up.

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  5. Gene, you cannot justify doing that to apostates because you're not Jesus nor an apostle, and this is a different age we live in. Oh, I forgot, you can justify most anything you want to, can't you?

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  6. Oh Johnny boy, his pipes, his pipes are squawking
    From glen to glen, shoot down philosophy
    The truth is gone, and all his thoughts are dying
    ‘Tis true, ‘tis you must go and I must see.

    But come ye back when you become a fellow
    Or when your vitriol can no longer show
    ‘Tis I’ll be here in thought that is not shallow
    Oh Johnny boy, oh Johnny boy, I wuv you so.

    And if you come when all the hopes are dying
    And I don’t care, as that I well may not
    You’ll whine and moan and never cease your lying
    About your own self-proclaimed battle’s fought.

    And I shall hear, tho’ dull your thoughts astound me
    And all my dreams make more sense than your plans
    If you’ll not fail to tell me that you wuv me
    I’ll simply sleep in peace ‘til you become a man.

    I’ll simply sleep in peace ‘til you become a man.

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  7. Gene,

    I find your comparisons of atheists to husbands who cheat on their spouses and little boys who have temper tantrums highly insensitive and ignorant. Many of us did not choose to become atheists. I, for one, did not ever have the desire to reject God. I was an avid believer who believed that Christianity could be defended and proven by rational argumentation. However, my experience with Christian apologetics and the criticisms of Christian belief lead me inexorably to atheism. My rejection of the Christian God came only after a long period of anguish and pain.

    Moreover, the fact that you feel compelled to treat us "harshly" only points to the intellectual bankruptcy of your positions. The fact that you are so insecure in your faith that you feel it necessary to lash out against skeptics only highlights your inability to perform calm and amicable debate.

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  8. LYOSHA07 SAID:

    “Moreover, the fact that you feel compelled to treat us ‘harshly’ only points to the intellectual bankruptcy of your positions. The fact that you are so insecure in your faith that you feel it necessary to lash out against skeptics only highlights your inability to perform calm and amicable debate.”

    i) If that’s your yardstick, then you automatically disqualify Loftus as well. Just consider some of the harsh things he said about David Wood.

    ii) More to the point, I, and other commenters (including Gene) have responded to the substance of Loftus’ position. And what is his reaction? There’s not even a semblance of logical consistency in his replies. The only thing Loftus tries to do is to deflect rational criticism of his position by throwing anything and everything at his opponents regardless of the fact that he’s contradicting himself left and right.

    And as long as you chose to broach the subject, it’s not as if you’ve been leading by example. Your typical response is to post one-liners in the combox. So you yourself must be overdrawn at the bank.

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  9. Gene, you cannot justify doing that to apostates because you're not Jesus nor an apostle, and this is a different age we live in. Oh, I forgot, you can justify most anything you want to, can't you?

    1. You're in no position to moralize, John. C'mon, John, you can't even keep your own word on the same day, not even within 12 hours. You wrote earlier, (but I'm not sticking around anymore to see what is said since no one is actually trying to understand).

    2. Your "article" is riddled with difficulties. I'm not arguing based on a "literal" hermeneutic. Try again. Rather, I'm analogizing from Scripture to current practices. The OT Law and the NT itself both tell us how to treat false teachers. The fact, that never once did you engage those texts themselves or interact with the standard commentaries says a lot about your ineptitude here.

    To allege that the same hermeneutics used to justify slavery and the treatment of false teachers is an assertion, not an argument,but then we've come to expect no less from you. You mention the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but how is that applicable? You don't tell us. You just assert that it is. Jesus isn't dealing with how to teach apostates who leave the covenant community and attack it when they leave. You're not just any old unbeliever, you're an apostate,and you're not one who seeks to live in peace with other Christians. Your stated mission is to tear down Christianity. You're in a special class all on your own.

    And you're now repeating yourself again. I guess you shot your wad on that one a long time ago. Just to remind you, Steve replied to this:

    According to Loftus:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/02/on-dealing-with-apostates-like-us.html

    "The same hermeneutics these Christians use to interpret and apply the Bible in dealing with false teachers, was also used to justify southern slavery."

    This is a sloppy comparison, but assuming, for the sake of argument, that the parallel holds, remember that Loftus, as an unbeliever, doesn't regard southern slavery as intrinsically evil.

    "But I maintain that the side that a Christian takes with regard to how to treat false teachers is more likely to be based upon his or her own personality. Hateful, self-righteous, know-it-all, competitive, arrogant and angry people will simply have the strong tendency to interpret the Bible the they do."

    Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this characterization is correct, Loftus doesn't believe that it's intrinsically wrong to be hateful, self-righteous, know-it-all, competitive, arrogant and angry.

    "For this reason, I think these Christians ought to question their own views on the matter, since other Christians disagree, and they seem to have a propensity by their personality to want to adopt this position, anyway. "

    Christians should always be self-reflective and open to criticism. There is, however, a big difference between opinion and argument. The mere fact that someone disagrees with me is not a *reason* to question my views.

    Moreover, Loftus' contention is reversible: if two people disagree, then at least one is wrong, but the mere fact of their disagreement doesn't point in any particular direction as to which side needs to make the adjustment.

    Furthermore, why does Loftus care what one Christian thinks of another? Since when does he value Christian opinion?

    Loftus is unable to live out his secular creed.

    I find your comparisons of atheists to husbands who cheat on their spouses and little boys who have temper tantrums highly insensitive and ignorant.

    I wrote specifically to John, not you. By the way, he happens to be an admitted adulterer. So the comparison moves on several levels.

    And according to you, I have no real control over my behavior, it's just the product of naturalistic determinism.

    I, for one, did not ever have the desire to reject God. Yes, you did, or you wouldn't have apostatized. You followed your desires. How irrational are you?

    On the one hand you tell us about the anguish involved in your choice to apostatize, yet on the other you wrote:

    I, like you, do not believe in free will, although I believe our actions are determined by wholly material causes.

    So, Lyosha, which explanation is it?

    Moreover, the fact that you feel compelled to treat us "harshly" only points to the intellectual bankruptcy of your positions. The fact that you are so insecure in your faith that you feel it necessary to lash out against skeptics only highlights your inability to perform calm and amicable debate.

    Thank you for the psychobabble. I feel so much better now that you've told me this. But then, I don't have any free will, and I'm just the product of material processes. So, why bother with the psychoanalysis?

    Actually, I've been over this before:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/11/i-peter-and-civility.html

    And we here have been interacting with Loftus for a long time. He's the one that comes by and gets cranky and takes his ball home when he loses the argument and leaves with little more than an emotional jeremiad. He makes Dave Armstrong look like the bastion of rationality and civility.

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  10. "I find your comparisons of atheists to husbands who cheat on their spouses and little boys who have temper tantrums highly insensitive and ignorant."

    This is a mischaracterization of Gene's position. There are atheists and there are militant atheists. There are apostates who leave the fold and there are apostates who leave the fold and come back as lions.

    My personal position is that I don't bother people if they don't bother me. I also apply the Golden Rule, but then again, there are other considerations at play. If a terrorist asks me to give him a lift to the nearest airport I don't do it just because I like to be given rides whenever I need one. The object of the Golden Rule then shifts from being the terrorist to being the innocent people he'd kill. By launching an attack against the Christian faith I no longer apply the Golden Rule to the antagonist, but to those who might be affected by his poison.

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