Sunday, July 22, 2012

Funeral for atheism

What should you do when you come to the end of the argument, but your opponent keeps on arguing? What should you do when you win the argument, but your opponent doesn’t know he lost?

This is a problem with atheists. For instance, some atheists get very irate when Christians point out that atheism leads to moral relativism or nihilism. They think that’s a malicious Christian caricature.

Yet other atheists candidly admit that atheism leads to moral relativism or even moral nihilism. But having made that admission, they think the debate should proceed as if that didn’t mark a turning point in the debate.

They find it irritating that Christians keep harping on this issue. They already conceded that point, so it’s high time to move on to other things. They think it was sporting of them to concede that point, and it’s rather unsportsmanlike for Christians to keep dragging that back into every debate. If anything, they should get some credit for their honesty. They think it’s just a diversionary tactic for Christians to constantly bring this up.

The point never sinks in that this is something which changes everything. Once you admit that, then there’s no going back to where you were before.

If there is no objective morality, then why are they arguing for anything? It’s not as if you’re supposed to be an atheist. Absent objective moral norms, there’s nothing you're supposed believe or disbelieve.

Likewise, atheists not only admit, but insist on the fact that evolution is blind. It has no prevision or purpose. Brains weren’t made to think. Yet they still act as if their brains were made to think.

Likewise, they admit that what we value has no intrinsic value. Evolution has programmed us to project value on certain things. But that’s an illusion.

We value love. We value our parents, kids, spouse, and friends. Yet there’s nothing objectively right or good about loving friends and family. That’s just brain chemistry. The indifferent effect of a thoughtless process conditioning us to feel that way.

Pull its string and the doll cries. It doesn’t cry because there’s something worth crying about.

Atheists cry when a loved one dies. Yet they can retrace the process. They can see the pull-string. They can see evolution tugging their string. They don’t cry because the death of their loved one actually means anything. They cry because blind evolution pulled their string. A doll’s prerecorded cry at the demise of another doll.

They can see evolution take the doll apart. They can see evolution operating on themselves. They dissect themselves. Peel back the layers. Cloth. Metal. Plastic. A pile of parts. The more you look the less you find.

Atheists act as though these are throwaway concessions that don’t cost them anything in the long run. That having admitted that atheism has these consequences, it’s time to resume the argument. Get back to the issue at hand. Having another beer.

But there’s nothing more to say. At that point the atheist is sitting on a pile of spent rounds.

It’s like a doctor telling a man he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He has 2 weeks to live. Having got that out of the way, let’s get back to what he plans to do with the rest of his life.

But there is no “rest of his life” to plan for. At most, he can make funeral arrangements. Pick a coffin. Pick a tombstone. Prepay the florist. Buy a cemetery plot. Choose an epitaph.

Atheism ran out of road miles ago. There’s nowhere left to go. That’s the end of the line.

34 comments:

  1. Steve,

    You wrote:

    "If there is no objective morality, then why are they arguing for anything? It’s not as if you’re supposed to be an atheist. Absent objective moral norms, there’s nothing you're supposed believe or disbelieve."

    Perhaps you could explain what you mean by "objective" morality. If you just mean something like God-imposed morality, then it does not follow that we have no moral duty to defend the truth. It's just not a divine moral duty.

    Anyway, even without moral duties of any kind, we are still free to defend the truth if that is what we want to do. Presumably you will be interested in the truth whether or not you have a moral duty to defend it.

    As for myself, though, I don't see any need to deny moral duties. But neither do I see any need to posit the existence of a creator-deity which shares our sense of moral duty.

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    1. Ben Wallis

      "Perhaps you could explain what you mean by 'objective' morality."

      Moral facts or duties independent of what human individuals or society at large deem to be right or wrong.

      "Anyway, even without moral duties of any kind, we are still free to defend the truth if that is what we want to do. Presumably you will be interested in the truth whether or not you have a moral duty to defend it."

      Why? Unless there's an epistemic duty to believe what's true and disbelieve what's false, why try to dissuade people from believing falsehood or persuade them to accept the facts?

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    2. Ben Wallis

      "If you just mean something like God-imposed morality, then it does not follow that we have no moral duty to defend the truth. It's just not a divine moral duty."

      That's a strawman that atheists are fond of burning. You need to get a fire permit.

      A divine moral duty is not reducible to a crude, voluntaristic version of divine command theory.

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    3. Steve,

      Thanks for the reply.

      You ask why I should try to dissuade people from believing falsehoods if epistemic duties do not exist. Well, first I should point out that I do not deny that epistemic duties exist, nor do I see why those who deny the existence of moral duties (I'm not one of them either) must also deny epistemic duties. But even supposing someone did deny epistemic duties, that person can still be interested in truth, and motivated to defend it. In particular, a person might try to dissuade others from believing falsehoods simply because he loves the truth for its own sake.

      And again, presumably you will still be interested in the truth even if you come to deny the existence of moral and/or epistemic duties. So I don't see how you think this is supposed to handicap or stall conversations with people who themselves deny their existence.

      Also, I'm glad to hear that you reject "a crude, voluntaristic version of divine command theory." Please note that at no time did I attribute such a view to you. However, I am still curious how you think the existence of God is relevant to the existence of moral duty. Are you some form of divine command theorist? If so, what form? If not, then how do you hope to get moral duty from the existence of God?

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    4. Ben Wallis

      "Well, first I should point out that I do not deny that epistemic duties exist, nor do I see why those who deny the existence of moral duties (I'm not one of them either) must also deny epistemic duties."

      Really? How can you have an epistemic *duty* unless you have a moral obligation to believe truth and disbelieve falsehood? Absent moral obligations, how are you shirking your epistemic *duties* if you're indifferent to truth and falsehood?

      "But even supposing someone did deny epistemic duties, that person can still be interested in truth, and motivated to defend it. In particular, a person might try to dissuade others from believing falsehoods simply because he loves the truth for its own sake."

      i) It's not just a question of *his* valuing truth. He's trying to make others share his values. Make others value truth. What's the rational motivation to proselytize for truth unless he thinks everyone *ought* to value truth.

      ii) Why value truth for its own sake absent the intrinsic moral value of truth? If I could choose between a beautiful illusion and an ugly truth, why, as an atheist, would I rationally prefer the latter over the former?

      "And again, presumably you will still be interested in the truth even if you come to deny the existence of moral and/or epistemic duties."

      Why? Take the reason NBC series Awake. The lead character oscillates between two alternate "worlds." In one his son died, in the other his wife died. And there may be a real world in which both died. On top of that, in the final episode he finds himself in a world where both are alive.

      If he had had to choose between the real world, where both are dead, and an illusory world in which both are alive, and if these alternatives are each indetectably real, then on what rational basis would he opt for reality over illusion?

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    5. Ben Wallis

      "However, I am still curious how you think the existence of God is relevant to the existence of moral duty. Are you some form of divine command theorist? If so, what form? If not, then how do you hope to get moral duty from the existence of God?"

      Divine command theory can be grounded in the created nature of things. Social obligations keyed to the specific nature God gave us.

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    6. Steve,

      Thanks for the response.

      You wrote:

      "How can you have an epistemic *duty* unless you have a moral obligation to believe truth and disbelieve falsehood? Absent moral obligations, how are you shirking your epistemic *duties* if you're indifferent to truth and falsehood?"

      Well the answers are going to depend on what you have in mind by "epistemic duties." I usually interpret such language as referring to that which is necessary to satisfy certain social expectations regarding justification for belief. So for example, if social agents tend to expect that I justify a belief in common descent prior to holding a belief in common descent, then that might be one of my epistemic duties. But it's hard to see how that would constitute a moral duty.

      But then, maybe philosophers mean something different by the term "epistemic duty." Indeed, maybe you mean something different still!

      You continue:

      "He's trying to make others share his values. Make others value truth. What's the rational motivation to proselytize for truth unless he thinks everyone *ought* to value truth."

      First of all, that is not necessarily the case. For instance, in this conversation I am not trying to "make" you value truth. Rather, I assume that you already value truth, and I am taking advantage of our common interest in that regard. We don't need moral duty to compel us to enjoy our shared interests.

      More importantly, though, we don't need to value truth instrumentally, which is what you seem to have in mind here. Instead, I think most of us value truth for its own sake, i.e. noninstrumentally. Since "rational" motivations only apply to instrumental values, we don't need them. Nonrational motivations are quite sufficient, since we value truth noninstrumentally.

      On the other hand, I think there is plenty of reason to value truth instrumentally, namely that access to truth is essential for predicting and controlling our experiences. Only, one should not underestimate its noninstrumental value.

      You continue:

      "Why value truth for its own sake absent the intrinsic moral value of truth?"

      The notion of "intrinsic value" seems to me incoherent, since value is a kind of relation, that is, a property regarding both subject and object. If you intend the qualifier "intrinsic" to deny that a subject is involved (as seems to be the case), then you no longer have a relation. But value is a relation, hence the incoherence.

      Also, remember that what it means to value an object for its own sake is to value it noninstrumentally, i.e. independent of other values. In other words, we aren't valuing it because we have a reason to value it, or to bring about some other end. Rather, we just do value it, period---no justification required.

      (cont. below)

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    7. (cont. from above)

      You asked:

      "If I could choose between a beautiful illusion and an ugly truth, why, as an atheist, would I rationally prefer the latter over the former?"

      That really depends on the person. For me, I simply value truth more than beauty. But maybe you don't share my values. So for instance, you might be motivated to continue to believe in God if you find it more beautiful or pleasant to think about than the alternative.

      However, I hope you would share my preference for truth over beauty or other wishful thinking.

      You also ask:

      "If he had had to choose between the real world, where both are dead, and an illusory world in which both are alive, and if these alternatives are each indetectably real, then on what rational basis would he opt for reality over illusion?"

      If he cannot determine which world is real, then he has no power to deliberately choose the real world over the illusion. But assuming he knows which world is real and which is not, then his decision no doubt will depend on his values. What does he value more---truth or solace? I think I would opt for truth. Wouldn't you?

      You continue:

      "Divine command theory can be grounded in the created nature of things. Social obligations keyed to the specific nature God gave us."

      So I think this constitutes a "yes" answer to my first question about whether you are a divine command theorist. But I still don't know what sort of DCT you prefer. Are you saying that moral duties are precisely "social obligations keyed to the specific nature God gave us"? I confess, I don't really understand what you mean by that.

      Regards,
      Ben

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    8. Ben Wallis:

      “Well the answers are going to depend on what you have in mind by ‘epistemic duties.’ I usually interpret such language as referring to that which is necessary to satisfy certain social expectations regarding justification for belief.”

      i) To me, epistemic duties are roughly synonymous with intellectual obligations. But that, once again, is a normative category, viz., our moral obligation to believe what’s true and disbelieve what’s false.

      ii) I don’t see what social expectations how to do with it. If, however, you make social expectations the benchmark, then there’s no inherent moral obligation to believe what’s true and disbelieve what’s false. And that’s consistent with atheism, inasmuch as atheism can’t successfully ground objective moral norms. And that, in turn, bolsters my original contention regarding the futility of atheism.

      “First of all, that is not necessarily the case. For instance, in this conversation I am not trying to ‘make’ you value truth. Rather, I assume that you already value truth, and I am taking advantage of our common interest in that regard.”

      i) I think that’s artificial and disingenuous. That’s not what motivates atheists to talk Christians out of their faith.

      ii) Sure, persuasion may take for granted a common interest in the truth. That’s what gives the argument traction.

      If, however, truth lacks intrinsic value, if there are no epistemic duties, then that’s a mistaken presupposition. Even if one or both parties share that in common, their operating assumption is erroneous.

      For instance, two explorers might join forces to discover the fountain of youth in Florida, but the object of their quest does not exist.

      iii) Moreover, you seem to be treating the value of truth like the value of a hobby, viz. two teenagers restoring a muscle car. But that’s not why we try to convince someone to agree with us.

      “More importantly, though, we don't need to value truth instrumentally, which is what you seem to have in mind here.”

      How is that what I have in mind? How does saying we have intellectual obligations ascribe merely instrumental value to truth?

      “Instead, I think most of us value truth for its own sake, i.e. noninstrumentally.”

      Among other things, that reflects a residual idealism which only makes sense if you believe in epistemic duties (i.e. intellectual obligations). If, to the contrary, you reject objective moral norms, then there’s no reason to value truth for its own sake.

      “Since ‘rational’ motivations only apply to instrumental values, we don't need them.”

      That claim is hardly self-evident.

      “On the other hand, I think there is plenty of reason to value truth instrumentally, namely that access to truth is essential for predicting and controlling our experiences.”

      That’s often the case. If, on the other hand, you’re a courtier who’s fallen out of favor with the king, if he’s condemned you to pine away in a dungeon until you die, then you might well prefer to get high on psychedelic drugs that make you imagine you’re on a tropical island rather than a dark, rat-infested dungeon with no hope of getting out alive.

      “The notion of ‘intrinsic value’ seems to me incoherent, since value is a kind of relation, that is, a property regarding both subject and object.”

      Actually, it’s your own position that’s incoherent.

      i) To begin with, you just said we should value truth “for its own sake.” But to value something for “its own sake” is a classic definition of intrinsic value–in contrast to instrumental value (i.e. valuing it for the sake of something else).

      ii) Moreover, truth is arguably a relation. Take truthmaker theory or the correspondence theory of truth or the coherence theory of truth. What makes a true belief true? Well, it’s a belief about something. That’s a relation.

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    9. Cont. “In other words, we aren’t valuing it because we have a reason to value it, or to bring about some other end.”

      Those are not interchangeable. To say we value something because of the payoff is hardly equivalent to having a reason to value it. If my reason for valuing the truth is because I have an intellectual obligation to value the truth, that’s not treating truth as a means to an end.

      “Rather, we just do value it, period---no justification required.”

      i) That only follows if you ascribe intrinsic value to truth. Yet you just said intrinsic value is incoherent.

      ii) Part of the problem is that you’re equivocating over the notion of value, viz. “what it means to value an object for its own sake is to value it noninstrumentally, i.e. independent of other values.”

      But normative values like epistemic duties are not analogous to instrumental values.

      “That really depends on the person. For me, I simply value truth more than beauty.”

      That’s easy to say when it doesn’t cost you anything. When you’re young, healthy, and happy. That’s how H. G. Wells started out, but that’s not how he ended (to take one example).

      “But maybe you don’t share my values. So for instance, you might be motivated to continue to believe in God if you find it more beautiful or pleasant to think about than the alternative.”

      i) To begin with, I don’t think we have direct control over what we believe. It’s not likely simply choosing to believe in God.

      ii) In addition, you’re trivializing the issue. I’m merely giving counterexamples where someone might reasonably prefer a beautiful illusion over an ugly truth.

      iii) But when the alternatives involve atheism and Christianity, that cuts far deeper. These are not symmetrical positions in which you can add or subtract God while leaving everything else pretty much intact. The consequences of atheism are thoroughly nihilistic if you take them to their logical extreme. And that’s not just my Christian interpretation. There are atheists who are fairly candid about that (e.g. Alex Rosenberg).

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    10. Cont. “However, I hope you would share my preference for truth over beauty or other wishful thinking.”

      No I don’t. Once again, your stated preference is a reflection of your sweet, naïve idealism. That doesn’t come to grips with what atheism entails. Atheism is not a real alternative to Christianity.

      “I think I would opt for truth.”

      I seriously doubt you’d opt for truth in that situation. You say you’d opt for truth because that sounds like the right thing to say. That sounds so noble and pure.

      But once more, that reflects your residual idealism, as well as your emotionally padded existence. If, however, you were to suffer a profound and irreparable loss, you wouldn’t be spouting these glib, ouchless painless sentiments.

      Cynical atheism is at least fairly consistent with its (ultimately inconsistent) creed. But idealistic atheism is ridiculous and puerile.

      “So I think this constitutes a ‘yes’ answer to my first question about whether you are a divine command theorist.”

      Wrong. You’re erecting a false dichotomy.

      “Are you saying that moral duties are precisely ‘social obligations keyed to the specific nature God gave us’? I confess, I don’t really understand what you mean by that.”

      For instance, it wouldn’t be morally permissible for a human to do some of the things a lion does, because a human has a different nature. And that, in turn, conditions our social obligations.

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  2. The problem with your claims is that what they predict and imply is not borne out practice. There are many countries that have a population where less than 50 percent of the population do not believe in the existence of a god. These nations are not full of nihilists who have no reason or purpose in life. They suffer when their loved ones die. (So do elephants and they do NOT believe in gods.) They are more socially healthy than highly religious countries. They have less people in prison (the U.S. leads the world in the number of people it imprisons.) They have less major crime (like homicide). There are fewer abortions (and better contraception knowledge and availability). Education is of a higher standard and level and academic achievement per capita (the U.S. has one of the lowest level educational system and the lowest measured academic achievement per capita in the industrialized world). People are generally happier.

    This is quite inconsistent with the claims you are making.

    Non-European countries that fit into this category are Japan (almost all atheists), China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and a number of others.

    Here are the figures for Europe.

    COUNTRY God Spiritual No god
    NAME Belief Belief Belief

    Lithuania 49% 36% 12%
    Switzerland 48% 39% 9%
    Germany 47% 25% 25%
    Luxembourg 44% 28% 22%
    Hungary 44% 31% 19%
    Belgium 43% 29% 27%
    Finland 41% 41% 16%
    Bulgaria 40% 40% 13%
    Iceland 38% 48% 11%
    United Kingdom 38% 40% 20%
    Latvia 37% 49% 10%
    Slovenia 37% 46% 16%
    France 34% 27% 33%
    Netherlands 34% 37% 27%
    Norway 32% 47% 17%
    Denmark 31% 49% 19%
    Sweden 23% 53% 23%
    Czech Republic 19% 50% 30%
    Estonia 16% 54% 26%

    In other words, your claims are groundless and contrary to what is evident to anyone with the educated ability to do an appropriate Google search for relevant statistics.

    You appear to have been duped by people who are telling you things that they want to believe, not things that are true. You need to be a little more skeptical about what you accept without valid and reliable evidence. Just because someone is "nice" and "personable" is not a good reason for believing that what they tell you matches what is actually true. Lots of very nice people believe that aliens have abducted them. Do you believe them, too?

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    1. Like so many "free-thinkers," you can't think for yourself. Try to master the elementary distinction between the epistemology of ethics and the ontology of ethics. The question at issue is not whether unbelievers can behave morally, but whether they ought to.

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    2. "These nations are not full of nihilists who have no reason or purpose in life."

      Why is that when if on atheism there is no God and there is only naturalism? Naturalism is the view that the world is valueless except for the value you give it. If the world is valueless, and you create your own value, then that is the product of your own wishful thinking, and you are living in a delusion.

      Atheist biologist Richard Dawkins writes "The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." ("God's Utility Function," published in Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85.

      The atheists of old had it right when they admitted that their view called for nihilism. The new atheists delude their followers into thinking that there is real purpose and meaning in life; they just forgot to tell them that they can make it up and live a deluded life. I think this is what accounts for the rise in atheism. If they kept the view of nihilism, hardly anyone would want to embrace such a negative worldview. Research what atheism really stands for, and what you will get is pitiless indifference.

      No one is questioning whether atheists can live moral lives, but the question is what is the basis for doing so. Again, under atheism, there is no right or wrong because the world has no value on atheism. They have to come up with some ad hoc reasoning to fit how they really live their lives.

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    3. @Steve - Let me ask you a question that I think I already know the answer to.

      Do you believe that it is possible that what we humans refer to as morality (even this "objective morality" you keep referring to) is byproduct of biological evolutionary processes?

      And if so, wouldn't that render your question (e.g. "not whether unbelievers can behave morally, but whether they ought to") moot?

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    4. No, that doesn't moot the distinction. At best, an evolutionary explanation would only account for why we have moral instincts. But once we're aware of the fact that that's been programmed into us by a blind amoral process, we'd realize that we've been duped by evolution into believing in right and wrong. Our moral instincts would be delusive.

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    5. When you suppress the knowledge of God, rational faculties seem to corrupt at a rapid rate. Atheists simply do not think hard enough about the things they consider "evidence" for their position.

      I don't deny that under 50% of Europeans claim to believe in the living God, but your claim was that these are nations "where less than 50 percent of the population do not believe in the existence of a god."

      Since your stats are obviously from the 2005 Eurobarometer survey, the categories are important. The first percentage listed are those that believe in God (the survey capitalized the name for clarity that we are talking about a specific god). The second category are those who believe in a transcended "life force" or "spirit." The final category are those who deny that they believe in God, a transcendent life force or spirit. These are largely (but not completely) atheists.

      Now, the highest percentage country for this final category was, unsurprisingly, France. Although France has shifted back to the theistic side of things in the last decade, it is still highly secular. The Eurobarometer survey found that 33% of the French fall into the third category. I think it is fair to say that nearly a third of French are atheists. France and the Czech Republic were the only two countries in Europe to report over a third of their respondents falling into the primarily atheist camp. Even highly secular countries that are constantly put forward by atheists as an example for others, like Sweden, had 76% of their respondents claim to believe in God, a life force or spirit. Maybe atheists now consider those who believe in transcendent spiritual forces, world spirits and Gaia to be among their number?

      Now, most of the people in these countries reject the living God and worship idols, as does Rosemary and other atheists, but the point stands that atheists do not think through the "evidence" for their position. "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."

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    6. Lightninlives,
      If that were true, then it would only emphasize Steve's point. If it's a byproduct, then that only explains why we "think" there are objective morals, and possibly why we "behave" as though they exist. On atheism though, it's still a byproduct, and humans are under no obligation to live in accordance with a bybroduct, especially when they think their actions might increase their personal pleasure.

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    7. You guys sound like philosophers that have little or no formal training in evolutionary biology.

      Let me see if I can paraphrase what both of your trying to say:
      The human brain, which itself is a product of a completely natural biological process (evolution/natural selection) led to the development of hunter-gatherer societies, which in turn, helped developed cognitive functions that English-speaking humans in 2012 refer to as morality. And that brain, which gives rise to consciousness, is duping us into believing that there are morals?

      Is that the same sort of duping that allows us to believe that we don't live in a quantum universe where there's no such thing as cause and effect?

      Oh, wait. That's right. You guys are philosophers, not scientists.

      Never mind.

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    8. Oh, wait. That's right. You guys are philosophers, not scientists.

      Never mind.


      What does that even mean? I can tell by your tone you're trying to play up the snark, but it's really not clear what you're suggesting otherwise.

      It's the philosophers who do the real thinking on these subjects anyway. The scientists are good at following the paradigm. Rarely are they good at questioning it or even fully understanding its implications.

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    9. lightninlives said:

      "Let me see if I can paraphrase what both of your [sic] trying to say: The human brain, which itself is a product of a completely natural biological process (evolution/natural selection) led to the development of hunter-gatherer societies, which in turn, helped developed [sic] cognitive functions that English-speaking humans in 2012 refer to as morality. And that brain, which gives rise to consciousness, is duping us into believing that there are morals?"

      That's a pretty poor paraphrase of Hays' and Essary's comments. They didn't say anything about the "human brain" leading to "the development of hunter-gatherer societies." They didn't say anything about "the development of hunter-gatherer societies" helping to develop "cognitive functions." And so on.

      But be that as it may. If naturalism and neo-Darwinism as generally formulated are true, then why can't a group of humans one day evolve to believe something we currently believe to be atrocious like rape is perfectly moral?

      "Is that the same sort of duping that allows us to believe that we don't live in a quantum universe where there's no such thing as cause and effect?"

      For one thing, how does QM deny causality? Isn't it rather that the same causal factors can produce different effects? There's also retrocausality, but likewise how does this eliminate the relationship between cause and effect such that "there's no such thing as cause and effect"?

      More to the point, if naturalism and neo-Darwinism are true, and if what happens between subatomic particles and forces at the most fundamental level is relevantly influential at the level of our cognitive experience as human beings, then so much the worse for establishing objectively moral intentions, behavior, and the like. We're at the mercy of these particles and forces beyond our direct control. So much the worse for your argument, too. It's another nail in your coffin.

      "You guys sound like philosophers that have little or no formal training in evolutionary biology. . . . Oh, wait. That's right. You guys are philosophers, not scientists."

      Why do you assume Hays and Essary don't have any formal scientific background just based on your belief that they "sound" like philosophers?

      I could just as easily say it doesn't "sound" like you have a scientific background. Let alone a philosophical background. Do you have any formal training in evolutionary biology? Are you a scientist?

      I have a medical scientific background. And I've taken courses on evolutionary biology (e.g. population genetics). But I wouldn't say I'm an evolutionary biologist.

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    10. @ rockingwithhawking

      There have been many societies that have believed rape to be perfectly acceptable in certain circumstances.

      Arguable rape has historically only been considered wrong not because it hurts the individual but because it damages the parents or husbands property.

      Any extreme religious society that believes the parents have the ultimate right to marry off their children for the benefit of the wider family is basically legalising rape. Yeah I know you don't want to accept that fact but that's because you're intellectually lazy and morally corrupt.

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    11. lightninlives

      "You guys sound like philosophers that have little or no formal training in evolutionary biology."

      It would behoove you to keep up with your own side of the argument. For instance, Michael Ruse has argued that evolutionary ethics logically leads to moral nihilism. That evolution has duped us into believing in right and wrong:

      http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/ruse.htm

      Next time do your homework before you presume to act intellectually superior to your opponent. It will spare you public embarrassment.

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    12. Asno Mudo

      "Any extreme religious society that believes the parents have the ultimate right to marry off their children for the benefit of the wider family is basically legalising rape. Yeah I know you don't want to accept that fact but that's because you're intellectually lazy and morally corrupt."

      There are Darwinians who think rape is an evolutionary adaptation. For instance: Thornhill, Randy & Palmer, Craig T. A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (MIT Press, 2000).

      By your yardstick, evolutionary ethics is morally corrupt.

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    13. Asno Mudo said:

      "Any extreme religious society that believes the parents have the ultimate right to marry off their children for the benefit of the wider family is basically legalising rape. Yeah I know you don't want to accept that fact but that's because you're intellectually lazy and morally corrupt."

      Any extreme irreligious society that believes any one has the ultimate right to copulate with whomever and whatever they want whenever they want for their own benefit is basically legalizing rape, pedophilia, bestiality, etc. Yeah I know you don't want to accept that fact but that's because you're intellectually barren and morally bankrupt.

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    14. @ lightninlives: " You guys sound like philosophers that have little or no formal training in evolutionary biology. Let me see if I can paraphrase what both of your trying to say: The human brain, which itself is a product of a completely natural biological process (evolution/natural selection) led to the development of hunter-gatherer societies, which in turn, helped developed cognitive functions that English-speaking humans in 2012 refer to as morality. And that brain, which gives rise to consciousness, is duping us into believing that there are morals?”

      Maybe you will take your own atheist biologist’s words then. Both Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne think that the origin of true altruism is a problem for naturalists. We know that it is morally good to be selfless, to care for others, to be nice to others, to share with others, but both Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne reject that natural selection could produce true altruism.

      Richard Dawkins states “Human super niceness is a perversion of Darwinism because, in a wild population, it would be removed by natural selection. It is also… an apparent perversion of the sort of rational choice theory by which economists explain human behaviour as calculated to maximize self-interest. Let's put it even more bluntly. From a rational choice point of view, or from a Darwinian point of view, human super niceness is just plain dumb” (http://richarddawkins.net/articles/20-atheists-for-jesus).

      Jerry Coyne states: “In short, we know nothing about the evolution of true human altruism except that it probably didn’t evolve” (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/david-brooks-and-the-evolution-of-human-altruism/).

      True altruism, which is seen as “good”, would go against the selfish gene theory. Some biologists may want to posit group selection, but then they run into the free rider problem, which both Coyne and Dawkins see as a problem for group selection. Dawkin’s explanation then, which is insufficient, is that true altruism is a mistake or a misfiring. It is interesting that we do not see true altruism as a mistake, but as something that should be applauded. If our Good Samaritan urges are a misfiring and therefore illusory, then what is the problem, on atheism/naturalism with reprogramming ourselves to think of murder as good or true altruism as bad? Naturalism cannot explain all the good actions/urges.

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    15. @Steve - my own side of the argument? You do realize that a few prominent biologist's opinions on the nature of altruism does not make for a scientific consensus much less a unifying theory, right?

      I think that this response has helped expose some of the fundamental flaws in your understanding of the scientific method. I don't care about opinions on the nature of altruism. I care about empirical data and about models - theories if you will - that help explain that factual data that we have gathered from neuroscience, biology, anthropology, etc.

      In order to do adopt that approach to understanding reality, you'll need to loosen the grip on the philosophical security blanket you cling to and expand your reading list beyond just prominent atheist opinion makers and instead keep abreast of the seemingly daily onslaught of new discoveries and data from various scientific fields that are gradually helping shed light on the evolutionary origins of what is commonly referred to as altruism, morality, etc. (as well as a host of other emotions, behaviors, and mental states that are considered to be uniquely human).

      Or, you can continue to bank on philosophical opinion and conjecture if that floats your boat.

      The correct approach, in my opinion, is to simply admit that we don't know the evolutionary origins of specific emotions yet because as of 2012 our scientific understanding and technological advancement is still in a state of relative infancy mainly due to the fact that the Ionian enlightenment was slowed to a grinding halt due to the prevalence of philosophical minds that insisted on unfalsifiable superstition instead of rigorous skepticism and empiricism so many centuries ago.

      But I digress.

      There's nothing wrong with "I/we don't know." It's a much wiser stance than feigned certainty based on philosophical conjecture.

      That, my dear friend, will help spare you and yours the inevitable public embarrassment that's in store for people that insist on:
      a) clinging to ancient myths and believing them to be true stories
      b) rejecting the thousands of other ancient myths and yet somehow rationalizing that your specific one is the "true" one
      c) failing to realize the history of philosophy is littered with assertions of truth that withered away into absurdity as the light of science brought the true nature of reality into view

      Thanks for conversation. At the end of the day, I respect you and this site for at least having an open comments section with clearly defined rules but a general openness to discussion and disagreement. That counts for a lot in my book.

      I actually discovered triablogue because it was mentioned by one of your admirers and fellow apologists with a penchant for unabashed dishonesty and censorship on his own blog: http://theunconverted.com/the-sadder-side-of-theism/

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    16. lightninlives,

      Are you even a scientist? You don't "sound" like one to me.

      There's a lot of bluster indicative of scientism in your long-winded rant. But little actual science. There are several assertions. But where's the scientific reasoning and argumentation and empirical evidence and so forth for your claims? Why don't you check out, for example, how medical science works? In fact, Triablogue just did a post on that here.

      By the way, one problem with your digs at philosophy is that you yourself are espousing a certain philosophy in what you say above.

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    17. lightninlives7/26/2012 6:07 PM

      “@Steve - my own side of the argument? You do realize that a few prominent biologist's opinions on the nature of altruism does not make for a scientific consensus much less a unifying theory, right?”

      i) I didn’t say anything about altruism. You’re confusing me with another commenter. Not that there’s anything wrong with what the other commenter said. He made a good point.

      ii) I didn’t merely cite Ruse’s opinion. Rather, Ruse presented an argument for his opinion. He demonstrated how evolutionary ethics leads to moral nihilism. You’ve said nothing to refute his argument.

      iii) Scientific consensus is irrelevant to grounding morality. For that matter, scientific consensus doesn’t make even a scientific theory true.

      “I think that this response has helped expose some of the fundamental flaws in your understanding of the scientific method.”

      The scientific method is irrelevant to establishing the existence of objective moral norms. You’re committing a category mistake.

      “I don't care about opinions on the nature of altruism. I care about empirical data and about models - theories if you will - that help explain that factual data that we have gathered from neuroscience, biology, anthropology, etc. In order to do adopt that approach to understanding reality, you'll need to loosen the grip on the philosophical security blanket you cling to and expand your reading list beyond just prominent atheist opinion makers and instead keep abreast of the seemingly daily onslaught of new discoveries and data from various scientific fields that are gradually helping shed light on the evolutionary origins of what is commonly referred to as altruism, morality, etc. (as well as a host of other emotions, behaviors, and mental states that are considered to be uniquely human).”

      i) Those who imagine they can sidestep philosophy and cut straight to the “factual data” delude themselves. When you try to avoid philosophy, you continue to philosophize–your disclaimers notwithstanding. You simply philosophize badly. You’re going to philosophize in spite of your protestations to the contrary. That’s unavoidable. But by trying to cut philosophy out of the process, you end up committing fallacies.

      ii) Case in point: you’re committing the naturalistic fallacy. Factual data can’t ground morality. You can’t extract moral norms from factual data.

      Moral assessments are something we bring to the facts, not something we derive from the facts.

      Factual data are about what is, not what ought to be. Factual data are descriptive, whereas morality is prescriptive or proscriptive.

      Empirical observation can tell you what has happened and, by extrapolation, what will likely happen, but it can’t tell you what ought to happen.

      Indeed, morality is often counterfactual. It says something that happened should not have happened. It stands in judgment of what actually happens. So you’re quite confused.

      Explaining the origins of moral perception or behavior fails to explain what makes that moral. At best, an evolutionary explanation is merely descriptive.

      “…due to the prevalence of philosophical minds that insisted on unfalsifiable superstition instead of rigorous skepticism and empiricism so many centuries ago.”

      i) Both empiricism and scepticism involve philosophical assumptions–as does the scientific method.

      ii) There’s nothing “rigorous” about empiricism. It extrapolates from a sample of experience. Deals with probabilities and interpolations. Educated guesswork.

      iii) There’s nothing “rigorous” about scepticism. Scepticism must take many things for granted. Otherwise, it could never get started.

      “But I digress.”

      Indeed you do.

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    18. Lightninlives

      “There’s nothing wrong with ‘I/we don’t know.’ It’s a much wiser stance than feigned certainty based on philosophical conjecture.”

      It would profit you to heed your own advice.

      “That, my dear friend, will help spare you and yours the inevitable public embarrassment that’s in store for people that insist on…”

      Now you’re resorting to emotional pressure by trying to shame Christians out of their beliefs. But that’s not an appeal to reason or evidence. That’s not “scientific.” Whether or not my Christian beliefs are “embarrassing” is irrelevant to their veracity. This isn’t like dressing for high school, to fit in, be hip, be popular.

      “a) clinging to ancient myths and believing them to be true stories”

      For which you offer no argument.

      “b) rejecting the thousands of other ancient myths and yet somehow rationalizing that your specific one is the ‘true’ one”

      Unless you already know how I “rationalize” my choice, your dismissal is ignorant and prejudicial.

      “c) failing to realize the history of philosophy is littered with assertions of truth that withered away into absurdity as the light of science brought the true nature of reality into view”

      You keep erecting a false dichotomy between philosophy and science. If you think science is philosophically neutral, you should brush up on the debates between Newton and Leibniz on the nature of time and space, or the debates between Einstein and Bohr (or Hawking and Penrose) on quantum mechanics.

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  3. R.C. Sproul's teaching series "The Psychology of Atheism" freely available for listening.
    http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/psychology_of_atheism/a-vested-interest/?utm_source=ET&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eblast&fb_source=message

    Based on his book by the same title. A book that even "The Bible Geek", Robert M. Price (well known agnostic and Bible critic) recommended and praised in a debate he had with Christian apologist Phil Fernandes on the Infidel Guy podcast.

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  4. Atheists used to try to defend the positive thesis "There is no God." They were finally persuaded that they lost that debate.

    No funeral. Just try to shift the burden of proof: "You can't prove that there is a God." Entirely different debate. Of course, even this move presupposes God exists.

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  5. Welcome to presuppositionalism. Just look at the words of geneticist Richard Lewontin (a self-proclaimed Marxist too): "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

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  6. Atheists have no rational basis for a theory of knowledge without a viciously circular appeal to their own reasoning to tell them that their reasoning is valid. Ultimately, they have to admit that they could be wrong about everything they know, which means they truly know NOTHING. But they act as if they rely on the same God as believers do to uphold the universe by the word of his power and maintain things such that they can use inductive reasoning, rely on their sense perception and their memory. That is the atheist stealing intellectual capital of the Christian to criticize Christianity. It's like breathing in air to argue that air does not exist. What an intellectually bankrupt system.

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