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Emu Emu is offline
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Old Dec 10th, 2007, 12:42 PM        Reconciling morality with atheism
One of the questions I get asked (well, they don't ask me, but I hear it pretty often) is "If you're an atheist, where does your morality come from?"

It seems like I've heard dozens of answers to this question, but subtracting the possibility of faulty memory on my part, none of them have seemed to be terribly satisfying.

I've been thinking about this question for the past few days and the best answers I can come up with are framed in terms of a cost-benefit analysis, which seems awfully cheap to me. For example, I don't attack people on the street because I don't want to get beat up myself. I don't rob banks because I don't want to go to jail. These are the most low-level, childish reasons for why I don't commit crimes.

Secondary (and more powerful) reasons being that I have no desire to hurt people. I don't attack people on the street because the man I just killed may have a family of his own, people who rely on him. I find this to be a much more powerful (de)motivator than not wanting to get beat up or go to jail, but this still feels to me like a cost-benefit situation. I could steal perhaps 200 dollars from this man, but the monetary benefit would be greatly outweighed by the painful guilt I would receive. It doesn't seem all that much more noble to say "I don't do this because I would feel guilty if I did" than it is to say "I don't do this because I would get my ass kicked if I did."

But in thinking about it more, it sounds even less noble and more childish to say "I don't do this because God told me not to." And yet, as a purely emotional response, I tend to have a begrudging respect for religious morality as a demotivator for immoral behavior.

Another answer from evolutionary psychology is that our morality is programmed into us by our genes -- our ancestors cooperated together and flourished out of a respect for human dignity that has evolved naturally out of us and has been passed down genetically. While I tend to lean toward this (I major in evolutionary psych), it subtracts the philosophical bit of the question and reduces it a little much for my liking. And following this line of thought, we're again brought back to the cost-benefit analysis -- it was more beneficial for our ancestors to act and to be genuinely moral than to fake it, and hence the genuinely moral people had genuinely moral children. And soforth.

I have yet to find an answer that doesn't feel cheap, somehow. I suppose maybe it's just the way the world is and that everything comes down to a cost-benefit analysis whether I like it or not. To remove this factor from the discussion is basically to say that something is wrong because it's wrong.

Now, I'm not going to pull a Kulturkampf and go out and live life on the edge because my morality feels cheap. I still believe strongly in the moral imperative to do good, regardless of where it came from, but that still doesn't answer the question.
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Old Dec 10th, 2007, 02:02 PM       
All right, Here's my thoughts. I hope this makes some kind of sense. I'll admit that I don't really answer your question, though:

Non-theistic evolutionary morality, the kind often cited by atheists, relies on the precept that survival and cooperation are inherently "good." As long people have a drive for individual and special survival, our inborn genetic morality works pretty well to keep us from robbing, assaulting, et cetera. Theistic morality relies on the precept that pleasing a deity or deities is inherently "good," and as long as people have the desire to please the deity it seems to work fine as well.*

The problem with both cases, of course, is that there will almost always be people in any given society that will reject whichever given precept the society's rules are based on, or who break the rules for other reasons entirely. So neither system of morality is ever perfect. The best one can hope for is that the vast majority of people do ascribe to a precept and the morality that follows it.

But after you've established this, the question still remains of which system is more efficient. Short answer: I have no fucking idea. As an atheist, I assume that Darwinistic morality spawned theistic morality in all its forms. Was that out of necessity, or was it ignorance? Both? Something else entirely? I dunno.


*Speaking solely in terms of getting people to follow the respective rules. I'm not getting into the whole "but relijunz cauzd da warz!!!!!1" thing. That's another argument for another day.
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MetalMilitia MetalMilitia is offline
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Old Dec 10th, 2007, 03:32 PM       
This may be somewhat off-topic from the main point of the thread but as far as your initial question is concerned I think that a consensus of what is moral will generally be accepted, even over religious ideals. For example, though we may read in the bible that various people should be stoned to death for all kinds of minor transgressions, as the consensus that this is unacceptable has been accepted in the West we have decided to ignore the Bible in this matter. I'm sure in time the homosexuality issue will follow suit.

To me this suggests that the Bible isn't what gives us our morality. Instead it is simply selectively read to conform to the consensus we've cultivated in our society without any kind of divine intervention.

To the main question in this thread, I have no answer, but the wisdom of crowds has been commented upon by many authors. Why is it so hard to accept that a large group of people are smart enough to come up with a few simple rules and regulations which we can all agree on and which offer a benefit to society?
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Old Dec 10th, 2007, 08:51 PM       
To say that morality is genetic really strikes me as an intellectual cop out. While I'm sure fight or flight and self-preservation are foundationally instictive, to say these things "evolved" is to say they are evolve-able attributes... and I wonder in what ways our survival instincts have evolved since the Darwinian Process culled out those humans born with no survival instincts at all.

Additionally, survival instincts aren't exactly morality itself, but I'm trying to extrapolate your thought process from a point of athiesm... No higher power or order to things. I'm guessing extended morality would begin, for you, about there, right?

That's not exactly what you were on about though was it?

There's a book out there containing a collection of letters and speeches written by Einstein that I halfway read once, and in it he addressed his concept of spirituality. I don't remember exactly what he said, but I combined it with a little historical theology and have probably already mentioned it more than once in here... but anyways... The vast majority experience their religious beliefs from the basis of the "angry, vengeful God," which is the most primitive form of human religious belief. These folks are those that try not do bad things for fear of punishment, as you alluded to above.

The second group, which when combined with the first comprises about 99% of people, seeks to earn rewards by doing good things. This adds a layer of complexity to the first thought process by acknowledging the power of the higher order or being to reward as well as punish.

The third group, a very thin slice of the human pie by Einstein's reckoning, is mostly comprised, in his opinion, of those that rise to positions of leadership in their fields of study, be they scientists, theologists, politicians or policemen. These leaders in their field have developed a more evolved method of understanding spirituality and life. They see that decisions made and actions taken in the highest moral light possible not only work out for the best of the individual but also for the best of everyone involved.

This wonderful minority of men sort of "go with the flow" of life, rather than seeking reward for positive actions or avoiding punishment for sins. I think this gets us back to your question, but you might not like the answer. Many atheists like to point to Einstein as a fellow, but it seems to me that his belief system at least hints at an underlying order to life. If one's decisions are made in such a way as to benefit not only oneself but also everyone affected by those decisions, the decisions are considered to be correct and the actions taken through such consideration are generally at least more positive than others made more willy-nillily.

If such an underlying order actually does exist, wouldn't it have had to have been designed to be that way? If our decisions actually connect us so precisely within society, much like electrical bonds connecting atoms, isn't that just a little too perfect for happenstance? It's easy for an evolutionary psychologist like you, I'm sure, to disagree on the grounds that moral decisions have a positive influence on life and society and thus moral decision makers have a stronger chance at the Darwinian Russian Roulette Table.... BUT....

Whether you look at the times in which we find ourselves discussing this, or at Einstein's time, that of Jesus or even if we squint so far back as to the days of cavemen, that third way of living and deciding has always produced positive results, and it has never really caught on. There have always been more dick heads than moral people that concern themselves with the well-being of others, and there likely always will be.

Metal is right that popular acceptance of pure morality is an evolving thing, but that doesn't mean morality is evolving, rather only our acceptance of what I see as a constant.

I got home and went to look, unsuccessfully, for the book... which I believe was called Ideas and Opinions... in order to quote some Einstein for you and thus add a little credibility to my statements. I mean after all, if Einstein said it, it must be smart right?

Unfortunately, the above is probably at best not even close to his words. I tend to blend things I read into other stuff I already know or believe. I do remember specifically that he, as a leader in his field, actually did ascribe the highest form of moral/spiritual existence to people like him, so I left that part in, though I think I probably disagree at least in part...

One thing I did add in that I know he never addressed is that among that third group must exist those that sense that positive path through life, but for whatever reason, choose to work against it rather than "going with the flow." It's just a triviality I guess, and not one that I've thought about much, but I think that's where we'd find actual evil.

I think the great religious works of man... the New Testament, the Torah, the Koran, even the various and essentially silly Eastern works... serve as a history of our search for truth through various means. I think that God is generally only representative, at least in our thoughts concerning God, of what we could be in the light of perfect truth and morality. Since I think that, I can see value in theology and religion as well as I can see that none of it has actually worked so far. It's a good starting point, and really nothing more.

That doesn't mean I'm an atheist, as you claim to be. I believe in a higher
order, and I think that necessitates a higher power. It seems to me that if mankind has devoted much of it's generated thought from day one to divining a clearer picture of God than what is immediately obvious, it would be pretty silly... and really even more arrogant than I am... to waste my time on it, given the abject failure of theology to tell us more than what we can already understand with a little clear thought and some soul-searching. I think it's far more productive to plunge the depths of the obvious and see where that leads rather than imagining fantasy realms of Angels and Devils and Kingdoms built in the Clouds and others in the Bowels of the Earth and Messiahs and Divine Sacrifices and Prophecies and Damnation.

The closest I've come to the traditional sort of spiritual fantasy, which is kinda fun... don't get me wrong... is to imagine God physically represented in the tiniest electrical bonds holding all matter together. Matter is what it is, but the bonds that hold the particles together into whatever fashion you sense them as matter why it is. This, I think, satisfies the traditional Western criteria for God: Omnipresent, Omnipowerful and Omniscient. Maybe in death the "why" for our own existence joins the whole, which would explain why nobody ever comes back, as that would likely rock.

Meh... that's fantasy... and it's tangential... so I'll leave it at that.

Now, please, somebody, call me stupid.
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MetalMilitia MetalMilitia is offline
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 04:04 AM       
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The closest I've come to the traditional sort of spiritual fantasy, which is kinda fun... don't get me wrong... is to imagine God physically represented in the tiniest electrical bonds holding all matter together. Matter is what it is, but the bonds that hold the particles together into whatever fashion you sense them as matter why it is. This, I think, satisfies the traditional Western criteria for God: Omnipresent, Omnipowerful and Omniscient. Maybe in death the "why" for our own existence joins the whole, which would explain why nobody ever comes back, as that would likely rock.
It also satisfies the age old religious argument that "god is in the gaps".
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 11:54 AM       
As stated earlier in this thread, the popular misconception is that morality is derived from religion. This is a pure and total sham. I have very strong morals, and a well formed sense of right and wrong. I would go so far as to say, comparing myself to the religious people I know, I probably have stronger morals than a majority of them. And I haven't stepped foot inside a church for many many years.

I think having strong morals goes hand in hand with having a conscience as well as believing that the actions you perform always come with consequences, both/either good and/or bad. Having common sense plays a part too, I think.

I see far too many people who don't ever consider that what they do effects others. As a matter of fact, I frequently get annoyed by the things I see people do just for this reason. One could say this is derived from being intelligent, but I think it's more than that (see my 2nd paragraph, above).

Simply realizing as often as possible that the world doesn't revolve around you and that you are merely a cog in the great machine of humanity helps to keep one grounded and aware that what you see through your eyes is not just a figment of your imagination.
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Old Dec 11th, 2007, 11:00 PM       
Well, morality doesn't come from religion but from "God." Morality coming from God doesn't necessarily mean doing what God "tells" you, though. God created the universe in a "Certain way," and that would mean the universe contains within it what is good or bad which is dependent on the way God created it. I guess you could always ask if God could make bad good, though, and then you might think that the universe has an inherent order which makes the good things good.

I think the reason why people say you can't find morality outside of religion is because religion stipulates that God creates what is inherently right or wrong. It seems like atheism wouldn't have this, but can't atheists look at the universe and see whatever inherent order there is which makes good things good -- outside of God? If morality is derived from some pattern of the universe, there's no reason to assume they can't see that pattern outside of religion.
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Old Dec 12th, 2007, 02:26 AM       
But I think some people would say that to believe in such a pattern for the universe requires one to believe that it has been in some sense laid out by God, or that belief in such a pattern is the essential characteristic of belief in God in any case. I mean, if you believe the universe has some kind of inherently ordered pattern, that's kind of the same thing as believing that there is a God laying out a pattern.
Now of course, you don't really have to believe in a 'religion' to believe in 'God', but by the sort of logic I'm describing there you couldn't really be an 'atheist' and still believe in morality since 'morality' essentially stems from the inherent pattern of the universe that can only exist if there is a God.
As for Emu's first points about the cheapness of 'cost-benefit' morality, just think about what the possible reasons for doing something could be though: basically it seems that you either do it because it's the right thing to do, or because it's the most benefical thing for you to do. The common atheist accusation that the religious are just 'doing what God tells them to do' doesn't really seem to get what 'God telling you to do something' really means. If God 'tells' you something, then assuming there is a God, then the thing he is 'telling' you to do is absolutely 'right', not just beneficial because disobeying God can get you in trouble with Him/obeying him can get you on his good side, because God, as the creator of the Universe laid down the basic rules of 'right' and 'wrong' in a very fundamental way. 'Obeying' what God 'tells' you is the essence of doing what is 'right' simply because it is 'right'. 'Religious' people that just obey the doctrines of their religion are basically just obeying rules, but this isn't so different from atheists obeying secular laws or for that matter the doctrines of various secular ideologies. Of course, secular ideologies can have doctrinal or scientific views of nature (or sometimes history or some such) that claim to have a similarly foundational understanding of 'right' and 'wrong' that religion does, which is to say that environmentalists, liberals, socialists, Nazis and Christians can all honestly say that their actions are not motivated by anything like 'cost-benefit' analysis but rather on an understanding of what is fundamentally right and wrong. It'd be nice not to ascribe to some cheap, Jewy 'cost-benefit' kind of morality and have some more 'noble' understanding of morality, but it seems that when you try to listen to God you can just as easily hear the Devil and not know the difference.
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AChimp AChimp is offline
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Old Dec 12th, 2007, 10:37 AM       
Morality is just a set of behaviours that have been deemed acceptable and desirable by social norms that have evolved over time. What is moral for one group of people may not be moral for another; the only reason for this is differences in how various cultures have developed.

Part of the influence on this is religion, but "what's good for society to keep running" is also a major player in defining morality (even then, religion is just a tool for enforcing a prescribed set of social rules). It's not beneficial for a society to let people run around killing each other, hence why everyone thinks that killing people is wrong and the people who don't agree are labelled psychopaths. Wrap killing another person in the blanket of "self-defence" and suddenly it becomes acceptable, if not necessarily desirable.

Step back a few thousand years to gladiatorial fights, and suddenly killing people under a much wider set of circumstances is completely acceptable. I'm sure that there were a lot of Romans who thought that gladiators fighting each other to the death was "wrong," but they were the small minority and obviously didn't have much influence for a long time.

One hundred years ago it was considered immoral for women to wear pants, but I see a lot of women wearing pants nowadays. Are our morals sliding backwards into debauchery or are they just evolving with time as popular opinion changes?

Where does a universal concept of right and wrong fit in with stuff like that? It doesn't because if you're an atheist you think the universe is just a giant machine running on a defined set of physical rules. You cannot rationally define the concept of "good" and "evil" because everyone would have a different opinion on what constitutes each based on any number of social factors.

The way I see it, the morals we have now won't be the same as the morals we'll have in 1000 years. You'll see similarities, but there will probably be some pretty big differences.
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Old Dec 12th, 2007, 09:10 PM       
All cultures have considered murder bad behavior, though many cultures have disagreed on what constitutes murder. Aboriginal tribes, much like your Romans or Old Dixie slave-owners, had a narrow view of what they considered real people, and most of these early societal types considered the murder of whatever they viewed as a real person less than moral. Roman Senators did not approve of the killing of another Senator with no just cause no more than did a slave-owner approve of the murder of another slave-owner. Slaves were considered to be property as were gladiators, not real people, like members of another tribe were considered to be more physical threats than fellow humans.

The examples you are giving highlight, as I said above, the evolution of our understanding of morality, not of morality itself. In 1,000 years, lying, cheating, stealing, rape and murder will still be immoral.
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Old Dec 12th, 2007, 11:18 PM       
Count me in with the 'religion does not equal morality' group. My morality comes from empathy. I do not wish to be hurt and neither should someone else. That's something I think is right. I think that morality, as seen through this lens, means that I control my own sense of morality. Society might include a baseline to keep it running, but nowhere in that system does religion come into play. If anything, religion is a force that defies personal morality due to the idea of an afterlife and the hidden bureaucracy within that thought, i.e. if I can kill a blasphemer, then I can supersede my own morality and still live with myself due to a reward--heaven.

Long story short, religion is not morality but a definite force against it.
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Old Dec 12th, 2007, 11:26 PM       
I'm not getting the impression anybody is actually hitching their wagon to my moral star here...

Here's an example in the form of theft: We consider stealing morally incorrect, right? Not that I've stolen stuff, but I have gotten things for free before... In my opinion, unearned property has less value to me than that which I have worked hard for and thus earned. Property that I don't really value that much is more expendable than that for which I have sweated and/or bled.

Hyperbolic or not, I have been stolen from. On these occasions, I have noticed the property for which I had worked was quickly ruined upon it's theft. I think this indicates the lack of value placed on stolen goods by a thief as relative to the value placed on earned property by the person that actually earned it... ie: me.

Now, I could fill this example out a bit more, but that might get in the way of my larger goal here: Being called names. Gibbery Glibbity Goo, please SOMEBODY call me naive and/or retarded then add nothing at all to the discussion and run off to post recipes in Blabber.
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Old Dec 13th, 2007, 12:27 AM       
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Morality is just a set of behaviours that have been deemed acceptable and desirable by social norms that have evolved over time. What is moral for one group of people may not be moral for another; the only reason for this is differences in how various cultures have developed.

Part of the influence on this is religion, but "what's good for society to keep running" is also a major player in defining morality (even then, religion is just a tool for enforcing a prescribed set of social rules). It's not beneficial for a society to let people run around killing each other, hence why everyone thinks that killing people is wrong and the people who don't agree are labelled psychopaths. Wrap killing another person in the blanket of "self-defence" and suddenly it becomes acceptable, if not necessarily desirable.
I think I'm with achimp on this one. We all live in a society where we interact with people who interact with people who interact with people. What their morals are to a degree affect what your morals are, Religion is just another leaf in that tree. Religion is a set of moral guidelines which were the foundation of society at one point, and has been shaved down until now it's just a band in the rainbow.

For all the people saying religion has not affect their morality, it doesn't directly. But you guys haven't lived in an atheist society that has isolated itself from cultures with religion in them.

But at the same time it didn't start with religion, it was just solidified by it. I'm sure it was frowned upon to covet thy neighbors wife before the ten commandments, I know that there are things in religion that were responses to what was already happening in society.

I do believe though that some of the morals that have with stood time such as rape, murder, theft; have a little bit more lasting power than a 1000 years
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Old Dec 13th, 2007, 06:09 AM       
I just read the thing about Einsteins 3 kinds of moral people, and I just thought; isn't it significant that all people basically have all of these kinds of morality depending on the time and the situation? I mean, we've all abstained from doing something out of fear of punishment before, we've all done something for a reward, and I'm sure we've all done something out of the sincere belief that it was best for all involved, even if it involved a bit of self-sacrifice. All three of these motivations are elements of human morality, and all human beings experience all of them to greater or lesser extents. But like I was saying before, I think it's a bit of a mistake to really identify any one of these sentiments as the 'highest moral light', since the desire to do good for 'everyone' has its own problems largely related to the difficulties in knowing what is good for 'everyone'. I suppose the point would be that what we generally consider 'morality' basically has to do with largely sentimental feelings of empathy; we are concerned with the plight or benefit of human beings around us, so we basically take pleasure in the well-being of the people around us, and we don't like seeing people suffer.
Empathy doesn't work for 'everyone' as well as it does for people we know well though, as Adam Smith said, a thoughtful guy who hears about the horrible deaths of a million Chinese people might think that that's a great tragedy, but he'd lose more sleep over the loss of his own little finger, or for that matter, over say, the painless death of his aged grandmother.
Now, Preechr says that Einstein and his 3rd group aren't exactly atheists, since their morality derives from the adherance to an underlying order to the universe that gives their actions their 'absolute' correctness, rather than merely consequentialist, cost-benefit correctness that Emu didn't like in the first place. But I don't know, like I said, people who believe they know the underlying order of the morality of the universe are being a little bit presumptious, and the assertion that these kinds of moral actors have always had 'positive' impacts seems pretty far from historically true, considering the long list of ideological atrocities from the French Revolution to the twentieth century, to say nothing of Christian and Islamic religious violence or for that matter the ubiquotous and perennial harmful effects of moralistic types that try to put their noses in to other peoples business. Think about the jerks that stole from you Preechr, what do you think motivated them? Assuming you're not talking about burglars or something there.
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Old Dec 13th, 2007, 10:07 PM       
Ok.. Let's try this: Physics. Are we arrogant enough to imagine that the other laws of Nature have evolved around us, or can we safely and humbly assume that Physics has always existed as it is and that our understanding of it's nature has grown with time?

Ethics and morality are a constant, not relative to the ability of mankind to understand them and use them to it's benefit.

Physics describes the nature of matter when it interacts with other forms of matter. Morality is the Physics of man's interaction with itself. Some physical interactions of matter are more beneficial to mankind than others in certain situations, just as some sorts of moral interactions between men have more value than others.

Is this really so hard to understand?
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How can someone who obviously thinks so much of their ideas have so little respect for expressing them? How can someone who so yearns to be taken seriously make so little effort?!
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Old Dec 13th, 2007, 11:32 PM       
You're kind of just grasping at straws now. I declare myself the winner of this thread.
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Old Dec 14th, 2007, 06:28 AM       
"or can we safely and humbly assume that Physics has always existed as it is and that our understanding of it's nature has grown with time?"
"Morality is the Physics of man's interaction with itself."
hmm, so then morality hasn't always existed then right? Not that I'm saying you're wrong about morality being in some sense constant, I mean, no one has ever really wanted to say that morality is a historical/social construction.

All I'm really saying is that everyday morality is basically just sentimental, based on natural tendencies we've always had. Evolutionary psych seems to be exploring this kind of reasoning, but Adam Smith basically had it figured out a while ago based on common sense observations like the one about the guy hearing about a million dead Chinese people. I think this is basically as good a way to look at morality as any, even if it isn't very 'philosophical'. Now, you could say that the sentimentalist view of morality, particularly insofar as it is based on evolutionary psych is reductive and cheap for the reasons Emu laid out, but at the end of the day, what do you really want a theory about morality to be? I mean, this theory is descriptively fairly accurate right?

To get back to Preechr, you really do seem to be reaching at straws with the physics analogy, unless I really don't understand it. You say that our understanding of physics has grown over time, but physics itself hasn't changed because of that. True enough in that respect, Heidleberg uncertainty principle notwithstanding, but think about morality like that. Morality is how humans interact with one another, but the way people interact with eachother is tremendously influenced by the understandings of morality that the different people have. Obviously in the physics analogy you forgot that physics is how things do behave, but morality is how humans should behave. I mean, this is the first thing you have to remember to avoid the obvious problem that 'morality' in a descriptive sense (=the sense in which physics understands the world) is definitely depenendent on the (prescriptive) understanding of morality, insofar as the 'way humans interact' definitely does change depending on the way those humans feel they should behave. But if you want to be prescriptive, then you have to abandon to an extent the exactitude of physics, because the exactitude of physics comes from the fact that the human science of physics is the description of the non-human nature of physics.
Think about this; if you substitute your definition of physics for your use of the term physics in the sentence about morality you get something like this after you get rid of all the verbal junk: 'morality is the nature of man's interaction with itself'. Then, if we perform the same kind of operation on another sentence we get: 'some sorts of the natural interactions between men are more benefical than others' (after we remove the verbal junk about 'value', replacing that term with one that means something). At this point we're back to cost-benefit analysis though that Emu didn't like in the first place. The only difference seems to be that your cost-benefit analyses are going to be a lot more complicated because they want to deal with benefiting the entire human race.
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kahljorn kahljorn is offline
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 07:53 PM       
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But I think some people would say that to believe in such a pattern for the universe requires one to believe that it has been in some sense laid out by God, or that belief in such a pattern is the essential characteristic of belief in God in any case. I mean, if you believe the universe has some kind of inherently ordered pattern, that's kind of the same thing as believing that there is a God laying out a pattern.
that's probably because you think the universe can have no order without a god personally constructing it but obviously there is some type of order, even if it is just one of causality. But who knows; although, you can say with certainty that if there isn't a god, and there is morality, then there must be morality without god.
All I'm really saying is that an atheist person could do an action, recognize the results and attach a value to that action and result. And then have a value system designed to achieve certain results which they value.

I like to think of God more as a variable to explain things than necessarily as a guy in the sky who dictates things out of his consciousness.
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 10:18 PM       
if you were wandering through the forest and came across the ruins of an ancient city, would it be all that easy to consider that the rocks had somehow stacked themselves that way naturally? Without some sort of help?

All of the "variables" just happen to be set to the exact values that allow life as we know it, with all it's order we can sense, to exist... and if any of those knobs were turned just a hair... even the value of the weakest force in nature: gravity... everything would either implode or explode or by some other means cease to be... how could existence and nature possibly be through an evolutionary process? Without a design?

Think about it: all of the forces of nature have to be dialed in with exacting precision and forced to work together by strict laws in order for everything in the universe to exist without instant destruction of some sort happening. How could nature evolve into that? The process of trial and error, from Big Bang to Big Flush would involve immeasurable instants of time, and I have have to ask... who would you propose is learning from this process if not some sort of intelligent designer?
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kahljorn kahljorn is offline
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 10:29 PM       
So somebody makes an argument that atheists can be moral and you attempt to argue that God exists?

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All of the "variables" just happen to be set to the exact values that allow life as we know it, with all it's order we can sense, to exist... and if any of those knobs were turned just a hair... even the value of the weakest force in nature: gravity... everything would either implode or explode or by some other means cease to be...
SO? What does that matter? IF EVERYTHING SUDDENLY CHANGED EVERYTHING WOULD SUDDENLY CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Quote:
how could existence and nature possibly be through an evolutionary process? Without a design?
Isn't the idea of the Platonic forms kind of that there is an intrinsic form to existence which can't be deviated from? and that this form is underlying all existence, just by the fact that it exists?

To use your physics example: Can you change any of the natural laws? Can you make "force" be not forceful? For example, if an extremely large and heavy boulder landed on your head, could it possibly have less force than the force of a feather which is extremely small and light dropping on your head? Or would it always have to be like that?
maybe there are just certain types of constants. But who says those constants are "God," or mean the same thing that God means to us?

i know im opening myself up for something about WHEN THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED IF THINGS WERE CREATED SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY....

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all of the forces of nature have to be dialed in with exacting precision and forced to work together by strict laws in order for everything in the universe to exist without instant destruction of some sort happening.
That's not necessarily true. And an interesting question is if it's even possible for things to not work in some sort of precision.

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who would you propose is learning from this process if not some sort of intelligent designer?
Why does someone have to be learning? What makes you think existing has any sort of point...?
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 10:35 PM       
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Obviously in the physics analogy you forgot that physics is how things do behave, but morality is how humans should behave.
No I didn't. You are just rewording what I said in order to make it make less sense. I'll assume I said what I did in such a way as to render it incomprehensible. Let's try it this way: I believe Morality is the "Physics" of human interaction, in that the results of our interactions, to positive or negative effect, are the products of what in physics we refer to as laws. If the net value of my action is immoral, the result of my action will be negative, regardless of whether or not I understand the rules... just as were I to dump a spoonful of phosphorous into a glass of water I would likely get burned were I a caveman or a chemist.

I think that it's rare that we do what we should. I think it's the nature of man to behave in a self-destructive way, in general, but that the net products of our moral decisions is positive.

Now, you can try again to twist up what I said into something I didn't in order to finish me off in one post, or you can honestly process what I actually have said and ask me any question you like, as I have intentionally left plenty of room for discussion... if that's what you're after.

Either way, you win.
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kahljorn kahljorn is offline
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 10:44 PM       
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If the net value of my action is immoral, the result of my action will be negative, regardless of whether or not I understand the rules... just as were I to dump a spoonful of phosphorous into a glass of water I would likely get burned were I a caveman or a chemist.
that's not necessarily true, at all. It might be immoral to kill, and then you kill a bunch of child rapists and it has a good result. Does that make it right to kill child rapists?
There's lots of things which can have good results, or even harmless results, but would be considered immoral.

uhh, and if you were a caveman and you killed someone what would the negative consequence be, exactly? Getting locked up in caveman jail? the demise of Mayor Cavemammon which collapses all of caveman society!? What if you stole another caveman's banana?
what does negative consequence mean, anyway, and in reference to what is it negative to? If I slaughtered the entire human race it might have a positive result in reference to the planet earth and the animals which live on it.
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Preechr Preechr is offline
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 10:52 PM       
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Originally Posted by kahljorn View Post
So somebody makes an argument that atheists can be moral and you attempt to argue that God exists?
No... the original question was from where could an atheist build a foundation of morality if not from God? I attempted to answer that, but the discussion was diverted into this. I think it's pretty interesting. Do you object?

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SO? What does that matter? IF EVERYTHING SUDDENLY CHANGED EVERYTHING WOULD SUDDENLY CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Here you go again. What I said was that if anything changed even slightly everything we know would not be able to exist at all.

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Originally Posted by kahljorn View Post
Isn't the idea of the Platonic forms kind of that there is an intrinsic form to existence which can't be deviated from? and that this form is underlying all existence, just by the fact that it exists?
I don't know.

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Originally Posted by kahljorn View Post
To use your physics example: Can you change any of the natural laws? Can you make "force" be not forceful? For example, if an extremely large and heavy boulder landed on your head, could it possibly have less force than the force of a feather which is extremely small and light dropping on your head? Or would it always have to be like that?
maybe there are just certain types of constants. But who says those constants are "God," or mean the same thing that God means to us?

i know im opening myself up for something about WHEN THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED IF THINGS WERE CREATED SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY....
I already opened that up... you just missed it.

If so, nothing would exist.

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Originally Posted by kahljorn View Post
That's not necessarily true. And an interesting question is if it's even possible for things to not work in some sort of precision.
Are you just arguing with yourself?

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Originally Posted by kahljorn View Post
Why does someone have to be learning? What makes you think existing has any sort of point...?
For Physics to have evolved, that means it was subject to a process of trial and error, where an imperfect form of Physics was Darwinially outpaced by a more superior form until eventually our current model reigned supreme over all other lesser forms of Physics. Unfortunately, for Physics to be imperfect, the universe itself ceases to exist. If the force of gravity is .01 n/m off, the Big Bang can't happen, buddy.

There is no other Physics available. From the get go this is what existed. What are the chances of that happening randomly on the first go around?

Existence was intended, and intention always has a point.
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mburbank~ Yes, okay, fine, I do know what you meant, but why is it not possible for you to get through a paragraph without making all the words cry?

How can someone who obviously thinks so much of their ideas have so little respect for expressing them? How can someone who so yearns to be taken seriously make so little effort?!
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 11:00 PM       
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Originally Posted by kahljorn View Post
that's not necessarily true, at all. It might be immoral to kill, and then you kill a bunch of child rapists and it has a good result. Does that make it right to kill child rapists?
There's lots of things which can have good results, or even harmless results, but would be considered immoral.
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Originally Posted by preechr
NET value... NET
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Originally Posted by kahljorn View Post
uhh, and if you were a caveman and you killed someone what would the negative consequence be, exactly? Getting locked up in caveman jail? the demise of Mayor Cavemammon which collapses all of caveman society!? What if you stole another caveman's banana?
what does negative consequence mean, anyway, and in reference to what is it negative to? If I slaughtered the entire human race it might have a positive result in reference to the planet earth and the animals which live on it.
You are answering your own questions.

Here's how I'm gonna answer you: If the net effect of human existence was a negative in terms of the world, as you seem to be proposing, then does committing immoral acts always or even generally result in a positive effect on the actor? Do you get where I am taking you?
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mburbank~ Yes, okay, fine, I do know what you meant, but why is it not possible for you to get through a paragraph without making all the words cry?

How can someone who obviously thinks so much of their ideas have so little respect for expressing them? How can someone who so yearns to be taken seriously make so little effort?!
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Preechr Preechr is offline
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Old Dec 18th, 2007, 11:00 PM       
G'night Kahl... Nice to have you back.
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How can someone who obviously thinks so much of their ideas have so little respect for expressing them? How can someone who so yearns to be taken seriously make so little effort?!
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