Saturday, July 12, 2008

Website Updates

I have been updating my two websites, AiG BUSTED and GodRiddance, a good bit lately. On my GodRiddance site, I have authored three pages on atheism and morality (though one of them is not new) I would appreciate feedback:

"The Universal Moral Law" as an Argument for God

What About the Crimes of Atheists?

How do we come up with a system of ethics?

I have also saved my last post about E.coli evolution to the Answers in Genesis Busted site. I did updat however. In the paragraph in which I stated:

"The fact is that it is totally unreasonable to expect mutations to prove useful in every single environment possible. The role of mutation and natural selection is to make the organism better adapted to the environment the species is in at the time."

Later on I put in:

"If you are trying to teach religious beliefs in the public schools of a nation which upholds the separation of church and state, it might seem like a good strategy (in that environment) to abandon your specific claims of a great big flood and a six day creation in favor of vague statements about an intelligent designer doing something somewhere at some point in time."


bernard n. shull said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Skeptical Sorcerer said...

Very insightful post about morality. It always bothered me when theists would say atheists had no morals without god/the bible.

Izgad said...

"Studies have shown that when you see someone else in pain, your brain responds as if it were in pain. When you see someone in pain, and it reminds you of your pain, and your brain reacts accordingly. In a situation where you are near them, you will react to try and relieve their pain (in order to relieve your own discomfort). This probably evolved by a selective advantage for groups with at least one altruistic individual; As having at least one who rescues others from pain or death would still be a great advantage over other groups."

This maybe true, but it does nothing to explain why I should help others when they are in pain.

"Will what I am about to do hurt someone else? If it will, it is wrong. ...
Does what I am about to do have known destructive or negative consequences? If so, it is wrong."

We often have to do things that hurt other people. An operation might hurt, but the doctor is likely doing it for the best. In business people often get hurt when they come up on short and lose money. Does that mean that anyone has wronged them.

"Is what I am about to do illegal? If so, it is wrong."

The underground railroad was illegal; was it wrong? Furthermore, why should I care about rules manufactured by other people?

As with many things in life, you can make good arguments for the existence of God and you can make bad arguments. Their are foolish theists as foolish atheists. Granted, since theisism is still the culturally more popular position, the number of foolish theists and foolish theistic arguments outway foolish atheists.

On the issue of God and morality I would suggest you read C.S Lewis' Mere Christianity. His basic argument is that the moment one uses words like "just," "right," or "fair," one is appealing to some sort of universal law. This notion of universal law only makes sense if I recognize a universal law giver.
Lewis recognized that one could be moral without a Judeo-Christian God. I loved the Classics too much not to.

AIGBusted said...

"We often have to do things that hurt other people. An operation might hurt, but the doctor is likely doing it for the best."

This is why my page on ethics states the old humanist creed, "Act in a way which will minimize harm."

The Five Rules I posted on that page are generally true, but not absolutely true.

Now, I agree that human beings do have a lot in common in the way of their general ethical principals, but this does not require that these principles were given to us by God. They may have evolved, as I suggested, or they may be rules that societies have come up with for various reasons and then were passed down to us.

Izgad said...

We need to distinguish between two issues in ethics. There is the issue of why someone does thing and then there is the issue of how one justifes what one does. So for example when I take a stand against bigotry and refuse to laugh at a racist joke we can talk about why I did it. Maybe it was because my mother raised me properly or maybe it was because I was once a victim of bigotry myself. It might have been simply because of my brain chemistry. Obviously I do not need any sort of God to explain this.
The question then becomes why I was right in protesting and those who made the racist joke wrong. This requires that I point to some sort of universal law outside of myself; like all men are brothers or do to others as you would have them do to you.
Now since most people are not thinkers, and do simply as they do, they are likely to live their lives without seriously confronting this second issue. As people who do actually think, though, it is critical for us that we do confront this second issue.
Evolution can deal with the first issue, but I do not see how it deals with the second. This leaves us with universal laws.
Once we accept that though, how do we talk about universal moral laws in a meaningful way without talking about some sort of universal law giver? Now this universal law giver does not have to be the God of the Bible or of the Koran. We would have no reason to assume that it wants you to pray or believe in it nor should we assume that it actually cares about what we do or will reward or punish us.

AIGBusted said...

Hi again Izgad,

I understand perfectly what your saying. But what about Euthrypo's Dilemma? Are things good because God wills them so or are they good for some other reason?

If God has reasons for making things good or evil, we may as well cut out the middle man any and appeal straight to reason. If he simply declares things to be good or evil, we then end up in the situation of having to prove our particular god, such as Allah or Yahweh, as one which has more evidence in its favor than any other. So far no one has done that (to my knowledge).

So the question is, how do we justify our actions? Perhaps we can all imagine that life would be better for us if all humanity acted as a single entity. We would all "feel" each other's pain and make small sacrafices for others. Something like this could easily be justified by the fact that it is beneficial for everyone, including you, or by the fact that it satisfies a psychological need to help others.

Izgad said...

Euthrypo's Dilemma would not apply in this case. I am not actually appealing to God as my moral authority to prove what I believe is right or wrong. All I am trying to do is make a coherint statement. The statement: "racist jokes are wrong because they violate universal laws, that everyone knows, such as do onto others as you would have them do to you" is coherint in ways that the statement "racist jokes are wrong because I feel they are."
People are still free to ignore moral laws and they do on a regular basis.
I cannot prove that this universal moral law is better than anyone's personal morality, but the moment I want to use words such as right and wrong I have to be able to appeal to something beyond my personal beliefs.
Think of this as a Logical Positivist take on ethics.

AIGBusted said...

Perhaps I can agree that there are some universal rights and wrongs. However, I think they exist because every normal person acknowledges them. They exist in our minds and have application in the real world.