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Old 07-25-2013, 02:13 PM
 
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Permit me to play devil's advocate here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AREQUIPA View Post
But when ladies discovered that planting seeds was easier than foraging and farming communities developed, rival interests had to be balanced and a way of making fair judgements arrived at. Where both sides though that what they wanted was good, the decision of what was good and bad was not hard. reverse the situation and suddenly the views of what was 'good' was reversed. Thus both agreed that something was bad if they were on the end of it, even if they rather liked doing it to someone else. We had a consensus.
So we derived morality from consensus? You cannot be serious here!
According to this logic it would be okay for majority group A to persecute minority group B for convenience. And this act is moral because there is consensus?

And this still does not address the crux of the matter - how do you define an action to be "good" or "bad".

Things like Evolution and Consensus, as you not stagnant ---> which in turn implies that morality derived from evolution (or consensus ?!?) cannot be stagnant.


Quote:
That it evolved IS the answer, not an evasion. It is Wilson who is missing the point by demanding that some authority outside of humanity be produced to validate these codes we have evolved. There isn't one, there doesn't need to be one and it is actually better if there isn't one.
Wilson already addressed this issue. You should re-read it.


Quote:
I'm sorry if you find my comments underhand, but both you and Wilson have accused me and Hitchens of missing the point, avoiding an answer and somehow being evasive. All I am doing is to point out that you and Wilson can't see that Hitchen's answer IS the answer because you both seem to demand an extra -human arbiter and authority and any response other that than just seems to be rejected out of hand.
You answered the question about morality: good and evil - by saying that WE figured all that out by consensus.

I continue to find this a very weak argument. I am not saying that this is proof of god (and Wilson did not say that either). But things like consensus keep changing -- which means that morality - good and bad should also keep changing .....
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:18 PM
 
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You make very good points. Frankly, I don't know how Wison would respond to your statements.
But I am glad that Wilson's comments generated some heat and stayed true to the OP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NoCapo View Post
You know on this point, I think Wilson is correct. 200 years ago it was moral to own a man and beat him to death, to deny women equal treatment, and a great many other things. Before that, the inequity between aristocracy and the common man was considered moral, the divine right of kings was moral. Selling indulgences was moral, killing Jews was moral. In another 200 years, maybe owning pets will be considered immoral, or eating real meat will be immoral, or polyamorous relationships will be considered moral. Who knows?

Clearly societal consensus on morality has changed over time. Religion views on morality have changed. Why can we not make moral judgements based on morality as it is currently embodied in our social fabric and culture, while acknowledging that it has changed and will change in the future? I think that for Wilson this is the same as saying there is not morality, and thus moral judgements cannot be rendered at all, ever. I disagree with this absolutist stance. If we can make judgements based on limited knowledge and changing standards in every other aspect of our lives, why is morality any different?

The other problem I have with the whole question is it presumes something vitally important. Wilson and other proponents of a divine morality assume they know what it is. If subjectivity in morality is bad, how does that not apply to religious concepts of morality, which are based on subjective, human judgment of subjective human opinions written by humans, claiming to represent a divine being (or beings) that cannot be objectively shown to exist? Religious morality is every bit as subjective as secular morality, only secular morality is more honest. It is based in the collective opinion of a given culture or society, but is falsely attributed a divine being as the ultimate appeal to authority.


-NoCapo
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:22 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post

I continue to find this a very weak argument. I am not saying that this is proof of god (and Wilson did not say that either). But things like consensus keep changing -- which means that morality - good and bad should also keep changing .....
But if we examine human history, this is exactly what we see! If we stop history at any given point, and evaluate the understanding of morality at that point, it differs from the morality before it, and that which follows it. It varies across time and cultures. To examine morality, one needs two reference points, the thing being examined and the morality against which it is being measured.

The theistic tack of establishing a divine absolute moral reference frame is a canard, as invariably what it does is establish the theists current moral framework as the universal absolute reference. This is why the Inquisition was deemed morally correct at the time, and is deemed morally wrong by theists of the same religious conviction, claiming the same divine authority.

-NoCapo
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:25 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
How did you derive that from what Wilson said?

Wilson essentially questions the act itself. He says: "what rational warrant do you have for calling one act moral and another act immoral" ?

Hitchens keeps referring to human solidarity and common good as rational warrants - to which Wilson asks if there was a meeting to discuss such issues? After all, who decided these issues?
How did you NOT get it from what Wilson said? He's saying you can't call an act moral unless someone with what he considers adequate authority explicitly decreed it to be moral. I don't begin to understand this obsession with a credentialed and presumably all powerful and objective 3rd party where morality must -- absolutely must -- originate.

In theory, such an imposed, given, external morality would be more quantifiable but even that would only be true to the extent that people could agree that the morality is in fact THE morality and that it is valid AND correctly interpreted.

The truth is that there is no such beast. That is why we have people saying that god finds skirts shorter than ankle length to be immodest and other saying he doesn't care. That is why we have people saying that god hates homosexuality or abortion and others saying he doesn't. Even with a supposedly set-in-stone, divinely-sourced morality, there is no end to moral conundrums. We have groups that say modern technology is a snare and a temptation, that denying your husband sex on demand is defrauding him, that women should keep silent in church, that one must worship on Saturday rather than Sunday.

I could see some point to all this hoo-raw if you could demonstrate that the application of god's law removes confusion rather than creates it. But it seems simpler to just admit that societies and individuals make it up as they go, that there is a rough consensus codified in civil law based on what objectively causes or prevents human suffering, and that it's an imperfect but workable system. In addition, it seems better to allow mores to change as new info becomes available, as society's needs change, and perhaps most importantly, as technology raises entirely new and unanticipated practical questions of what is right and wrong and how to conduct oneself.
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
Hitchens keeps referring to human solidarity and common good as rational warrants - to which Wilson asks if there was a meeting to discuss such issues? Afterall, who decided these issues?
This is one other thing I wanted to address, where I think Wilson is going for cheap points.

Right now, we as a global community have made a decision about personal computers. We have determined that the correct processor for personal computing is based on the Intel x86 architecture. As evidence, few if any major manufacturers sell any desktop or laptop pcs with anything other than x86 style chips. I cannot go to a store and buy a pc with a DEC Alpha, a MIPs processor, a Motorola 68k, a power pc (maybe a few of these are still around...). We, the world have spoken.

This is reality, yet we never as a global community voted on it. There was no referendum, no decision, and yet we collectively have standardized on something with so much inertia that, except in new use cases (netbooks, smart phone, tablets, etc...) there is no change on the horizon.

In the same way this happened, we have settled on some collective moral "truths". It is a messy informal, chaotic, and maybe even somewhat random combination of market forces, coercion, persuasion, propaganda, but if we can see it happen in business, in government ( we have a pretty standardized idea of what a representative democracy should look like), in language and manners, why should it not happen with morality?

-NoCapo
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:37 PM
 
1,701 posts, read 1,997,011 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoCapo View Post
But if we examine human history, this is exactly what we see! If we stop history at any given point, and evaluate the understanding of morality at that point, it differs from the morality before it, and that which follows it. It varies across time and cultures. To examine morality, one needs two reference points, the thing being examined and the morality against which it is being measured.
You are right, but only to a certain extent. I do not think there was any point in human history where it was considered okay to kill another human being. If that was the case, I think we would have failed as a species. I understand that complex social idea like gay marriage, women rights, abolishing slavery came via some sort of consensus (? not really ?) or activism. But that is not true for many of the innate human behaviours (protecting family, taking care of kids, etc).


Quote:
The theistic tack of establishing a divine absolute moral reference frame is a canard, as invariably what it does is establish the theists current moral framework as the universal absolute reference. This is why the Inquisition was deemed morally correct at the time, and is deemed morally wrong by theists of the same religious conviction, claiming the same divine authority.
My playing devil's advocate and using Wilson's arguments can only go so far. I do not have answers to the questions you raise above ....
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:45 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
You are right, but only to a certain extent. I do not think there was any point in human history where it was considered okay to kill another human being. If that was the case, I think we would have failed as a species. I understand that complex social idea like gay marriage, women rights, abolishing slavery came via some sort of consensus (? not really ?) or activism. But that is not true for many of the innate human behaviours (protecting family, taking care of kids, etc).
This part I will contest. It has almost always been moral to kill fellow man, it is just a matter of context. Maybe the rule is you can kill anyone not of your family, or not of your tribe, or not of your nations. Maybe you can kill people of the wrong religion or skin color or political persuasion. Maybe you have to wait for a voice from god before it is moral to kill your child, or commit genocide, or assasinate a king. Maybe you can only kill if you have a badge, or if you have retreated as far as possible and are in fear for your life.

Underneath it all, we have always deemed it moral to kill, we just quibble about the details of why, who, when where and how.

Edit: This is a bit of an overstatement. There are and have been in the past entirely pacifist societies, just not many of them. They didn't win many wars...

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
My playing devil's advocate and using Wilson's arguments can only go so far. I do not have answers to the questions you raise above ....
Well, devil's advocate is always the more challenging position... It is an interesting discussion.
-NoCapo
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
How did you NOT get it from what Wilson said? He's saying you can't call an act moral unless someone with what he considers adequate authority explicitly decreed it to be moral. I don't begin to understand this obsession with a credentialed and presumably all powerful and objective 3rd party where morality must -- absolutely must -- originate.
Sure, I can concede that if you really want me to. I think what Wilson is really saying is that you cannot define an ACT to be RIGHT or WRONG without the basis of Christianity. He is essentially asking Hitchens (and atheists) what book he (or they) refer to when deciding whether something is right or wrong.

Many here on this thread have said that we derive our morality from consensus. But I am not sure if everyone sees that this is a statement that opens us up to a whole set of troubling questions:
- if there are societies where due to consensus, it is considered okay (morally right) to stone a woman to death for adultery ....what authority do atheists have to question that and call it immoral? Surely it is moral according to their standard? Clearly people have conceded to the fact that morality changes with time and across societies.

Quote:
I could see some point to all this hoo-raw if you could demonstrate that the application of god's law removes confusion rather than creates it.
Majority of the people are religious and they do say that there lives are better because of it (religious laws)....
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Old 07-25-2013, 03:10 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoCapo View Post
This part I will contest. It has almost always been moral to kill fellow man, it is just a matter of context. Maybe the rule is you can kill anyone not of your family, or not of your tribe, or not of your nations. Maybe you can kill people of the wrong religion or skin color or political persuasion. Maybe you have to wait for a voice from god before it is moral to kill your child, or commit genocide, or assasinate a king. Maybe you can only kill if you have a badge, or if you have retreated as far as possible and are in fear for your life.
Okay. I will concede that as well. But I think I now understand why Wilson was pinning Hitchens to the wall about morality ....

You and some others have already conceded that OUR morality is ever changing. It differs between eras and across societies. Correct?

Then in the atheist worldview, one cannot really criticize or condemn acts like torture, stoning of adulterers when they occur in other societies (or eras) ...

Atheists should never say that slavery in the 1800s was bad. Or giving women less money in the 1900s was bad. They were "good" or morally acceptable during their respective eras.
Also ....
If there are societies where there is a consensus and a general agreement for something like stoning a couple to death for having sex before marriage. Then, people removed from that society should have absolutely no problem with such an act since this act is moral according to world-view of that society.

Isn't there a gaping hole in such a logic?
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Old 07-25-2013, 03:26 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
Sure, I can concede that if you really want me to. I think what Wilson is really saying is that you cannot define an ACT to be RIGHT or WRONG without the basis of Christianity. He is essentially asking Hitchens (and atheists) what book he (or they) refer to when deciding whether something is right or wrong.
A moral system is what it is, whether or not it's written down on paper (or papyrus). There is no basis to say that a moral system is legitimized because its adherents can point to a book -- even a holy book -- as its source.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
If there are societies where due to consensus, it is considered okay (morally right) to stone a woman to death for adultery ....what authority do atheists have to question that and call it immoral?
They have no right to declare it (im)moral other than for themselves. They have a right, I think, to argue the case and attempt to convince the other society to change their view, and/or, to convince people who disagree with the morality of stoning to take some action such as protest or leave that society.

This is a principle which the US has a particular problem with. As horrific as the mayhem in Syria is, for instance, we really have no business involving ourselves based on OUR morality and the sooner we get clear on that and leave other societies to work out their own issues, the better. Of course there is always the argument that if things get out of hand it will begin to impact our interests, and I suppose there sometimes is some truth to that, but it seems heavily overblown.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandman249 View Post
[The] majority of the people are religious and they do say that there lives are better because of it (religious laws)....
My point about Christian morality not providing moral clarity has nothing to do with the claims of its adherents and everything to do with the fact that the adherents disagree, sometimes vehemently, with one another as to what this supposed universal moral code that's written in their hearts, actually means. It has been used to justify everything from fundamentalist mind-control to bleeding heart liberalism and permissiveness.

Christianity's deep attachment to this idea is really a way to justify certain positions by asserting divine approval, IMO.
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