Religion (quotes from Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg)

by Ben Hoffman

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Many people do simply awful things out of sincere religious belief, not using religion as a cover the way that Saddam Hussein may have done, but really because they believe that this is what God wants them to do, going all the way back to Abraham being willing to sacrifice Issac because God told him to do that. Putting God ahead of humanity is a terrible thing.

Maybe at the very bottom of it… I really don’t like God. You know, it’s silly to say I don’t like God because I don’t believe in God, but in the same sense that I don’t like Iago, or the Reverend Slope or any of the other villains of literature, the god of traditional Judaism and Christianity and Islam seems to me a terrible character. He’s a god who will… who obsessed the degree to which people worship him and anxious to punish with the most awful torments those who don’t worship him in the right way. Now I realise that many people don’t believe in that any more who call themselves Muslims or Jews or Christians, but that is the traditional God and he’s a terrible character. I don’t like him.

I think the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief; and anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.

I’m offended by the kind of smarmy religiosity that’s all around us, perhaps more in America than in Europe, and not really that harmful because it’s not really that intense or even that serious, but just… you know after a while you get tired of hearing clergymen giving the invocation at various public celebrations and you feel, haven’t we outgrown all this? Do we have to listen to this?

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73 Comments to “Religion (quotes from Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg)”

  1. His assumption is wrong. There are no good people.

  2. I do believe in the basic good nature of people, but people are all flawed. Religion is one of those things that people can twist to serve their purposes. Corrupt leaders have used religion to legitimize their tyranny. People constantly condemn others in the name of God. Killing in the name of God has gone on for thousands of years, and will never stop. It does seem that religion, and especially Christianity here in America, breeds hatred, fear, and distrust. But even if there weren’t any religions, people would still find justification for their evil.

  3. Religion, from the beginning, has been a way for the few to wield power over the masses.

  4. Good post Ben. Taking on Mythology is tough, but worthwhile endeavour. 🙂

  5. Without religion, define “evil.”

    • [Without religion, define “evil.”]

      How about “immoral?” We all have an inherent sense of morality (except for maybe psychopaths). Many other animals also have a sense of morality, which helped in the survival of the species. When people do things they know is wrong, that could be defined as “evil.”

      • Ben, major fail. You have no basis to try to define what is right and wrong.

        [We all have an inherent sense of morality] How do you KNOW that?

        [When people do things they know is wrong, that could be defined as “evil.”]

        What if they don’t think a thing is wrong? What does that make it?

      • [How do you KNOW that?]

        The way you learn things is by researching what scientists have discovered through experiments. Of course, if you don’t value science, you wind up believing in fairy tales like the bible.

      • We all have an inherent sense of morality (except for maybe psychopaths).

        Well, the very fact that we have “psychopaths” and “sociopaths” means that we don’t all have an inherent sense of morality. In fact, I would argue that many people don’t have an inherent sense of morality.

        Really, do you have any scientific way of proving “we all have an inherent sense of morality”?

        In fact, do you have any scientific way of proving morality even exists?

        In fact, couldn’t it be argued that “morality” is completely subjective to the individual, relative to the community in which the individual lives, and therefore realistically a figment of our imaginations?

      • [Well, the very fact that we have “psychopaths” and “sociopaths” means that we don’t all have an inherent sense of morality. In fact, I would argue that many people don’t have an inherent sense of morality.]

        People who don’t have an inherent sense of morality are called psychopaths. People who have a sense of morality but do bad things anyway are sociopaths.

      • So, we humans who believe we have some sort of superior innate ability to determine that something is “wrong” or not (stupid, really, with no way to prove that anything can really be “wrong” since there is no way to prove that evil even exists) have now given a fancy label to people who don’t think the way we do.

        Nice.

        Still doesn’t prove crap.

      • [Still doesn’t prove crap.]

        It proves you have no intellectual curiosity and I have no interest in debating someone who bases her entire argument on her emotions. Good night. 🙂

    • Without religion, define “evil.”

      From Dictionary.com.

      Wow. No magic involved there.

      e·vil
         /ˈivəl/ Show Spelled[ee-vuhl]
      –adjective

      1.
      morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.
      2.
      harmful; injurious: evil laws.
      3.
      characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.
      4.
      due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.
      5.
      marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.

      No sky daddy needed.

      • Arbour, you have defined evil per Webster, Next you must prove whence these definitions come from. Everything you quoted is relative. For instance how do you define “bad?” “Immoral.”

        All you’ve done is kick the can down the road. No answer.

      • Next you must prove whence these definitions come from.

        I certainly do not. You can accept or reject the definitions of evil as provided by Dictionary.com. Where they come from is not particularly relevant to defining what “evil” is.

        You can look up “bad” and “immoral” as well. Both are defined by the societies that coin the term.

      • Let’s dig deeper.

        What is “morally wrong”? What is “bad”?

        Let’s say someone is a psychopath as Mr. Hoffmant described–someone without the ability to empathize and without an “inherent morality.” Obviously he evolved that way, right?

        So, just because you (not a “psychopath”) believe that torturing people for pleasure is “morally wrong” or “bad” or “immoral” or “wicked” or “evil,” it doesn’t mean that Mr. Psychopath believes that.

        So, who is right? What is the ultimate truth here?

      • Nat:So, just because you (not a “psychopath”) believe that torturing people for pleasure is “morally wrong” or “bad” or “immoral” or “wicked” or “evil,” it doesn’t mean that Mr. Psychopath believes that.

        Yes, and depending on the context of his situation, he could be derided or lauded on his behaviours.

        So, who is right? What is the ultimate truth here?

        I doubt that the conception of ‘ultimate truth’ applies to this situation. There are only few such ultimate truths out there. One would be that we are all mortal and therefore should worry about what happens in the short time we have.

    • Causing or condoning unnecessary suffering.

  6. “The way you learn things is by researching what scientists have discovered through experiments.””

    Ok, just trot out that evidence why don’t you? Of course we both know you can’t.

  7. “If you’re interested, research it yourself”

    It doesn’t exist.

      • Oh good grief. What a crock. Here, I pulled this from one of the links:

        Man is a primate. All primates have innate morality. A moral sense is vitally important to the efficient running of any society or group. There are no amoral primate groups anywhere. The Mafia have morals, baboons have codes. There are differences between the various groups and their codes of morality but all primate groups have some morals and standards of behaviour. Religion is also very common but it is not universal and it did not cause the codes or the instinct to observe them. These are facts that need to be clearly stated. Morality does not require religion.

        Baboons have mammalian instinct with rather advanced brains in comparison to many other mammals. But you can’t prove they have morals because you can’t even prove “morality” exists except in your own mind…which means you have faith that morality exists.

        Morality is purely subjective and relative if there is no higher authority than ourselves. And moral relativity is just a pretty way of saying “evil is what the collective defines it as.”

      • [Morality is purely subjective and relative if there is no higher authority than ourselves.]

        So how do you know how the higher authority defines morality? Don’t tell me you rely on some books written some 3200 years ago? Or was it the books written almost 2,000 years ago? Either way, you’re basing it on fantasy. I’ll base my opinion of science.

      • So how do you know how the higher authority defines morality?

        It’s the only logical way for morality to exist.

        Don’t tell me you rely on some books written some 3200 years ago?

        As opposed to my emotions?

        Or was it the books written almost 2,000 years ago?

        Either one will do.

        Either way, you’re basing it on fantasy. I’ll base my opinion of science.

        Except science can’t prove matters of good and evil. I find your idea of having an “inherent morality” completely fanciful and based on faith… Faith in what, I’m not sure.

        Admit it, your idea of morality is relative and therefore worthless.

      • Now, how is this survival of the fittest when we now have an abundance of genetic diseases, unwanted genetic predispositions, etc. because we have not been following that “survival of the fittest” rule.

        Please, please, please read up on what evolution actually is (preferably from a science textbook), as you are demonstrating a markedly poor grasp of what evolution is about.

        Evolution is change over time. It takes millions of years for changes of the calibre you are describing to take hold. Human culture and societal organization have blunted the effects of natural selection as in some society do care for those who are not the most “fit”.

        The fact that the organization of human society have altered some of the more dramatic processes of natural selection in no way disprove the theory of evolution.

        And of course evolution is a random, purposeless process.

        As shown earlier this assertion is just plain wrong. Although it a nice strawman to attack with the rest of your erroneous statements.

        How can something that supposedly arose from a random premordial puddle of goop that randomly formed from a random explosion all of a sudden become purposeful and not random?

        Your incredulity does not negate the argument for evolution. Essentially because you do not believe in evolution does not make evolution incorrect. Furthermore, what you are actually attacking is abiogenesis as evolution makes no predictions about how life began.

        What explanation would you propose instead of evolution and the massive amount of evidence that supports it?

        It’s like saying that the law of gravity just happened for no reason at all, it was just there, but it serves the purpose of keeping us from floating into space.

        Are you actually proposing that humans are the source of gravity and other physical laws? Because what you are saying here is that without a human purpose it would not exist.

        Back in reality (*waves*), physical processes exist without human input or observation. The force we call gravity would exist in the context of the universe with or without us.

        Those with antisocial behavior seem to be mating just fine, fathering lots of illegitmate children and then ending up in prison.

        If you wind up mating then really you are serving your biological purpose, that is spreading your genetic material unto the next generation.

        I wonder where homosexuality would fall on the evolutionary scale since it inhibits ones ability to reproduce…

        I wonder where this word salad came from really because trying to find a point is very difficult, although the bigotry appears to be coming to the surface.

        Homosexuality is just as normal as heterosexuality in nature. There is nothing particularly perverse or wrong with it. Of course, if you are following the ‘wisdom’ of mostly illiterate bronze-age shepherds then you might have a problem with it. But, if you want to argue about the fitness of homosexual behaviour in regards to evolution please state your case.

    • Correct, Ben. There is no scientific way to prove that good or evil exists because good and evil are not defined by the natural world. They are defined by the soul…which we can’t scientifically prove even exists.

      Really, if Mr. Hoffman were being honest with himself, nihilism is the only logical answer here which means good and evil don’t really exist and we simply define it however we want to define it…which means that nothing really matters or has a purpose at all except to promote the continuation of the species. (And then at this point nihilism is turned on its head.)

      • [nothing really matters or has a purpose at all except to promote the continuation of the species.]

        Nope, you don’t understand evolution. Evolution doesn’t give animals a purpose. It just explains how things came to be.

      • I don’t think you get the point I am trying to make here, Mr. Hoffman.

        Evolution doesn’t explain WHY we are here. It also doesn’t explain the SHOULDS and SHOULD NOTS.

        In fact, if evolution really is a random process because there is no God, then logically there are no real shoulds and should nots. There is no purpose. And so there is no morality except what the majority thinks it is.

      • In fact, if evolution really is a random process…]

        It’s not random; it’s survival of the fittest. Morals are part of the field of evolutionary psychology. Those with antisocial behavior were less likely to find a mate and reproduce than those who were better adapted to a group environment.

      • It’s not random; it’s survival of the fittest. Morals are part of the field of evolutionary psychology. Those with antisocial behavior were less likely to find a mate and reproduce than those who were better adapted to a group environment.

        Except humans are not surviving by “survival of the fittest.” In fact, many times it’s survival-of-the-average, and the more fit tend to protect and nurture the less fit so that even the less fit have a chance to reproduce. Now, how is this survival of the fittest when we now have an abundance of genetic diseases, unwanted genetic predispositions, etc. because we have not been following that “survival of the fittest” rule. We are a living contradiction to your theory of evolution. 🙂

        And of course evolution is a random, purposeless process. How can something that supposedly arose from a random premordial puddle of goop that randomly formed from a random explosion all of a sudden become purposeful and not random? It’s like saying that the law of gravity just happened for no reason at all, it was just there, but it serves the purpose of keeping us from floating into space.

        Those with antisocial behavior seem to be mating just fine, fathering lots of illegitmate children and then ending up in prison. I wonder where homosexuality would fall on the evolutionary scale since it inhibits ones ability to reproduce…

    • Infant Empathy is a strong indicator that we come hardwired for a certain degree of emotional response.

      Empathy is a response that infants have naturally, they do not need some sort of absolute set of rules that they are aware of to govern their behaviour. Empathy is considered a good trait with regards to pro-social behaviour.

      I base this on these three sources.

      That was a google scholar search taking roughly one minute.

      [the research] It doesn’t exist.

      So actually yes, it does exist but you were not being charitable in your assertions and dismissing Ben Hoffman’s points. Ignoring the large corpus of psychological and sociological evidence against your position does not strengthen it.

      Infants have no need of a sky daddy lording over them as they already possess a basic sense of altruism or an empathic connection of sorts, with those around them.

      No magic, no mythology, no handwaving.

      • Arbourist,

        I can’t recall which logical fallacy your argument falls under, but it seems like you are trying to claim that proof that morality exists is that infants seem to have an instinctual empathy based on their limited responses to certain stimuli (ie facial expressions). This doesn’t prove in the existance of a morality, nor does it prove that humans are inherently moral. It simply proves that instincts have a basic instinctual response to certain stimuli.

        In fact, it seems to me that by using the “Infant Empathy” argument, you’re trying to claim that what morality really is is instinct.

        Empathy does not equal morality. Empathy merely indicates an individual’s ability to recognize and share another person’s feelings (ie pain, joy, fear), and lack of empathy doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of morality.

        In fact, you have completely made morality worthless with this argument, because a psychopath doesn’t have that instinct, therefore he can’t be immoral because he can’t help what he lacks.

      • Needed to edit some typos:

        This doesn’t prove the existance of morality, nor does it prove that humans are inherently moral. It simply proves that infants have a basic instinctual response to certain stimuli.

      • trying to claim that proof that morality exists is that infants seem to have an instinctual empathy based on their limited responses to certain stimuli (ie facial expressions)

        Errr… no. I never made that claim. The claim was that we are hardwired for a certain level of empathic response. As empathy is a precursor to altruistic behaviour I was try to make the point that no meddling from above was necessary as the precursors to what we consider to be moral behaviour already exist.

  8. Ben, you call that science? Major fail. Still no evidence.

  9. “I’ll base my opinion of science.”

    Just show the science. All you’ve done is make assertions based on assertions.

  10. Resorts to labels. The only fact is you have no facts to back up your assertions. Nothing new really. I enjoyed it.

  11. Natassia: Evolution doesn’t explain WHY we are here.

    Actually, it does. Our species through natural selection made it through the process of evolution till you see the product (still in flux) that you see today.

    We are here at the end of a very long casual chain of evolutionary processes. Why we happen to be here is that we evolved a very good set of traits and characteristics that allowed us to thrive in our environment.

    In fact, if evolution really is a random process because there is no God, then logically there are no real shoulds and should nots.

    Looking at statements, or arguments if one part of them is false usually conclusions based on that argument are also false.

    As Mr.Hoffman pointed out, Evolution is not a random process, making the first part of your assertion provably false.

    then logically there are no real shoulds and should nots.

    Ignoring the falsity of the first part lets look at this.

    1. Evolution is true.
    2. God does not exist.
    3. Therefore, there are no morals. (?)

    This (fallacious) argument begs the question, namely that the only source of moral authority is your particular version of god. Arguing impetuously that your particular sky-fairy has themarket on morality and ethics, aside from fallaciously arguing from authority, betrays what could be construed as arrogance toward other viable systems of morality and ethical action.

    There is no purpose.

    Do the stories of bronze age goat herders make you feel better? The purpose of your life is what you decide, no more no less.

    And so there is no morality except what the majority thinks it is.

    This is one of the more rational statements you have made in this thread so far. Bravo.

    • Actually, it does. Our species through natural selection made it through the process of evolution till you see the product (still in flux) that you see today.

      We are here at the end of a very long casual chain of evolutionary processes. Why we happen to be here is that we evolved a very good set of traits and characteristics that allowed us to thrive in our environment.

      This is illogical. As Mr. Hoffman clearly explained, evolution provides an explanation of HOW we got here. It doesn’t say WHY. That would be like saying an airplane in the sky flies BECAUSE of the laws of physics. It flies because humans, working within the constraints of our natural world (physical laws of gravity and friction and whatnot), designed and built the mechanical contraption. So, it flies because humans want it to transport people and goods over great distances within relatively short amounts of time.

      Looking at statements, or arguments if one part of them is false usually conclusions based
      on that argument are also false.

      As Mr.Hoffman pointed out, Evolution is not a random process, making the first part of your assertion provably false.

      It is random. To assume that something purposeful came out of something random is illogical. That’s why I think Darwin’s theory on the origin of species, for example, is insane.

      then logically there are no real shoulds and should nots.

      Ignoring the falsity of the first part lets look at this.

      1. Evolution is true.
      2. God does not exist.
      3. Therefore, there are no morals. (?)

      This (fallacious) argument begs the question, namely that the only source of moral authority is your particular version of god. Arguing impetuously that your particular sky-fairy has themarket on morality and ethics, aside from fallaciously arguing from authority, betrays what could be construed as arrogance toward other viable systems of morality and ethical action.

      But in reality, you are only asserting that mob mentality has the market on morality and ethics. In fact, there is no absolute morality or ethics because it all depends on what the majority happens to agree upon. And as we have seen over the thousands of years of history, societies can have very differing views on what is moral and what is not. And just when you think society has “evolved” its morality (which is a silly concept if you really think about it), you have groups of people continuing to exhibit (on a large scale) very immoral behavior, regardless of what the rest of society thinks.

      But then, you’ll just blame it on society for thinking something is immoral when really it isn’t, and so when the majority of society catches up with the more highly evolved, then the definition of morality will change yet again…which means “morality” is really meaningless in the long run.

      There is no purpose.

      Do the stories of bronze age goat herders make you feel better? The purpose of your life is what you decide, no more no less.

      See, now you are resorting to condescension. Are you assuming that a Bronze Age goat herder could not have wisdom? That he was somehow not evolved enough to know some kind of higher moral truth that you are now privileged in knowing? What, an increased knowledge of science and how the natural world works has given you special insight into what really is good and evil, right and wrong?

      And really, so what if I choose to agree with a goatherder’s version of morality over yours? Does that make me wrong? Or somehow foolish?

      And so there is no morality except what the majority thinks it is.

      This is one of the more rational statements you have made in this thread so far. Bravo.

      And so this makes morality a figment of the collective imagination. What is considered morality today could very easily be considered immorality tomorrow, or vice versa.

      In fact, if Mr. Goat Herder had inherent morality even as an infant, then his morality is just as right as yours is.

      And so what the hell are we even arguing about here?

      • Here’s a dog with better morals than a lot of people…

      • But in reality, you are only asserting that mob mentality has the market on morality and ethics. In fact, there is no absolute morality or ethics because it all depends on what the majority happens to agree upon.

        Correct. Otherwise why would the bible have such clear instructions on how to sell your daughter into slavery and how to beat your slaves properly?

        Civilization has evolved despite fierce religious opposition to modernity and rationality.

        “morality” is really meaningless in the long run.

        I’m not sure why you equate a slow progression of ethical behaviour over time with being meaningless. Progress is a good thing.

        Are you assuming that a Bronze Age goat herder could not have wisdom?

        Nope, I’m asserting they were ignorant, which is entirely different.

        What, an increased knowledge of science and how the natural world works has given you special insight into what really is good and evil, right and wrong?

        Not special, just more informed on the complex issues of today. Utilitarianism, Deontological analysis, virtue ethics did not exist back then and all provide a great deal of insight and clarity into the moral and ethical issues we face today.

        And really, so what if I choose to agree with a goatherder’s version of morality over yours? Does that make me wrong? Or somehow foolish?

        Probably. The biases present in the bible make translating that particular version of ‘morality’ into modern times problematic at best. Or do you agree we should kill people for working on the sabbath?

        And so this makes morality a figment of the collective imagination. What is considered morality today could very easily be considered immorality tomorrow, or vice versa.

        Ethical progress has usually been toward greater rights and a more egalitarian society. The likelihood of that changing is small. Consider that slavery and segregation was considered “moral (and of course biblically justified) not that long ago in the US.

        Morality exists and is ever changing, necessarily so.

        And so what the hell are we even arguing about here?

        We are arguing round aboutly how relevant magic book morality is to the real world. Our opinions on how relevant religious mythology is to reality is where the controversy lies.

  12. Ben, what if you are wrong?

  13. @ Arbourist

    Errr… no. I never made that claim. The claim was that we are hardwired for a certain level of empathic response. As empathy is a precursor to altruistic behaviour I was try to make the point that no meddling from above was necessary as the precursors to what we consider to be moral behaviour already exist.

    I said that it seems like you were trying to make such an assertion…

    Either way, it still doesn’t help define what morality is except some kind of instinctual reaction to various stimuli as has been hardwired in our brains. Which means morality is meaningless. Why the heck do we punish people for doing things we think are immoral when they just may not have the natural ability to empathize? What right do we have to do that?

    If evolution = “change over time” then it seems rather deceptive that you try to explain how we got here as “survival of the fittest” if you don’t also mean that we have originated as a species through evolution via natural selection.

    Do me a favor next time, and define your words because when people use the word “evolution” many times they mean something in particular rather than something vague like “change over time.” For example, in one science book, the biologist defines evolution as the change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms through successive generations (and that is mostly through mutation)…and the two main processes claimed to cause that change are natural selection (Darwin’s theory) and genetic drift.

    So, I don’t think it very wrong of me to associate natural selection with evolution. Okay? And I certainly didn’t say that I don’t believe evolution occurs. I said I don’t believe Darwin’s theory on the origin of species holds any water, especially since the discovery of DNA.

    Evolution without a God requires abiogenesis as a starting point (or something like panspermia, which still requires an incredible amount of faith.) Either way, there is a huge amount of faith necessary to believe that such an ordered universe came about without an intelligent force behind it but rather through random occurrences.

    I believe living things were created specifically with a purpose, and so they evolve purposefully and organisms have a purpose-driven force to survive and adapt. I believe that over time some organisms will be replaced by others, but I don’t believe the former is necessarily the ancestor of the latter. I certainly don’t believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution through random mutation, and I don’t believe natural selection explains the appearance of new species. It only explains modification within existing species.

    I am willing to say “I don’t know how it happens, but I do believe to know why.” Just as I don’t know how humans can make airplanes, but I do know why they do.

    Are you actually proposing that humans are the source of gravity and other physical laws? Because what you are saying here is that without a human purpose it would not exist.

    No, I’m not saying that, because I don’t think humans are the source of life and morality, and they certainly aren’t responsible for the ordered state of our universe. In fact, without a higher intelligence and power than our own and than what is found within our universe, I would say it is being disingenous to claim that anything has a real purpose except what is purposefully created by the hands of humans (who do have intelligence and creativity–if those things even really exist rather than just as figments of our collective imagination, like “morality”.)

    Back in reality (*waves*), physical processes exist without human input or observation. The force we call gravity would exist in the context of the universe with or without us.

    You completely missed the point I was making, Arbourist. So, I’ll explain it for you.

    I said this:

    And of course evolution is a random, purposeless process. How can something that supposedly arose from a random premordial puddle of goop that randomly formed from a random explosion all of a sudden become purposeful and not random? It’s like saying that the law of gravity just happened for no reason at all, it was just there, but it serves the purpose of keeping us from floating into space.

    The point I was making was that evolution is no more “purposeful” than gravity is. And yet, you claim:

    As shown earlier this assertion [evolution is a random, purposeless process] is just plain wrong.

    Evolution is not purposeful because there is nothing to give it purpose (except perhaps what our collective imagination may want to give it, but we certainly have no authority over it.) A species may change over time because of evolution, but evolution does not serve the purpose of changing a species since there is nothing to give it purpose in the first place.

    Likewise, gravity is not purposeful because there is nothing to give it purpose. We don’t float into space because we are constrained by the “law of gravity” but gravity does not serve the specific purpose to keep us from floating out into space.

    Understand now?

    If you wind up mating then really you are serving your biological purpose, that is spreading your genetic material unto the next generation.

    Here you go being disingenuous again. There is no “biological purpose” except what the collective human imagination may suppose it to be. Let’s be honest when we use words, okay? And since you like to pull out the dictionary, I will do the same:

    purpose = something set up as an object or end to be attained: intention; resolution, determination; a subjection under discussion or an action in course of execution.

    Evolution without a God can certainly not be a “course of execution” since an execution is an act or process of will, not randomness.

    I wonder where this word salad came from really because trying to find a point is very difficult, although the bigotry appears to be coming to the surface.

    Why does being a bigot matter? Just because you think something is “bigotry” doesn’t mean it really is, and it certainly doesn’t make me wrong or bad. 🙂 Just as you believe homosexuality is “normal,” perhaps bigotry is just as normal, and there is nothing particularly perverse or wrong with it. Perhaps it is an instinctual reaction to something that serves the purpose of helping to promote the continuation of the species. (Notice how nonsensical that is?)

    I was simply observing that homosexuality does not seem to promote the idea of “survival of the fittest” or evolution at all since homosexuals cannot reproduce unless they do something “unnatural” by having sexual intercourse with someone they are not sexually attracted to (of course now science has given them the ability to treat reproduction like a buffet bar, but that’s another story.)

    Civilization has evolved despite fierce religious opposition to modernity and rationality.

    You act like religion itself is not a result of evolution.

    Not special, just more informed on the complex issues of today. Utilitarianism, Deontological analysis, virtue ethics did not exist back then and all provide a great deal of insight and clarity into the moral and ethical issues we face today.

    What do you mean “it did not exist back then”? Funny how it now comes into existence because someone theorized it, verbalized it, and then some people agreed with it. It certainly doesn’t make it true or any more real than any other theory of morality and ethics.

    The biases present in the bible make translating that particular version of ‘morality’ into modern times problematic at best. Or do you agree we should kill people for working on the sabbath?

    What are biases except beliefs some people hold over others? What, are biases now “wrong” or “bad”? And should we kill people for working on the sabbath? No, but my reasons for not doing so are likely different from your own. And if a society decides to incorporate that into their laws, who are we to judge them?

    Ethical progress has usually been toward greater rights and a more egalitarian society. The likelihood of that changing is small. Consider that slavery and segregation was considered “moral (and of course biblically justified) not that long ago in the US.

    If a community does decide to enslave some and segregate others, who are we to judge if they are not within our community? What, aren’t they just “not as highly evolved”?

    Morality exists and is ever changing, necessarily so.

    Without humans, morality would not “exist.” Think about that for a second. Since humans determine what morality is based on the collective opinion, without humans morality, unlike gravity, would not exist. So, is it real? Does it exist really or do we just pretend it does? To exist means to have real being whether material or spiritual. We have no scientific proof that there is even such a thing as a spirit or a spiritual realm. So, by the same standards that we decide God does not exist, I think it only fair that we also decide that spirits do not exist (and grainy episodes of Ghost Hunters don’t count). But to exist can also mean to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions (such as someone’s mind.) But that doesn’t mean it has real being. It just means it existed in someone’s mind…like faith, belief in God, delusions, and any other odd thing that is ruled “fantasy” and untrue.

    We are arguing round aboutly how relevant magic book morality is to the real world. Our opinions on how relevant religious mythology is to reality is where the controversy lies.

    Since that magic book morality was from the collective imaginations of humans, just as your idea of morality is today, I would say that it can hold just as much relevance, especially if someone today doesn’t agree with modern-day collective beliefs. And why judge them for it? They just evolved that way.

    • And just to clarify, unless I specifically say “I believe such-and-such,” when talking about evolution and purposelessness and so forth, I am playing devil’s advocate and trying to prove that without God it is illogical to claim that any natural process has a purpose.

      • trying to prove that without God it is illogical to claim that any natural process has a purpose.

        Your claim is far from logic, and coherence.
        There is actually a category where your particularly mendacious thread of “logic” is refuted. Please see Calilasseia’s thread on RichardDawkins.net.

        [21] “The universe is meaningless without my magic man”

        To which the short answer is “so [frakking] what?”

        Leaving aside for the moment the total failure of supernaturalists to support the assertion that their particular pet species of magic man actually exists, which also impinges upon [20] above, the idea that the universe needs this entity to impose meaning upon it is a piece of intellectual constipation that I, for one, find mind-numbingly boring, tedious and unimaginative. Douglas Adams said it best – “Isn’t it enough to realise that the garden is beautiful as it is, without having to imagine fairies at the bottom of it?”

        Likewise, why should the universe be required to genuflect before supernaturalist anthropocentric conceit, and be required to be meaningful only because an invisible magic man that we have invented decrees thus?

        We are beings that are capable of eliciting meaning for our own lives, and the world around us, without outside interference. Erecting an imaginary source of outside interference is nothing more than a gargantuan Little Orphan Annie complex, a wish to remain a child with a nice Daddy figure to run the world around us so that we don’t have to get off our arses and expend the effort. This is such an utterly lame stance to adopt. It’s indolent, naive, simplistic and dumb. Surely there is far more majesty in knowing that the universe, quixotic and capricious though it may seem to be at first sight, is comprehensible by diligent intellectual human effort, and that exercising that effort not only leads to a breathtaking vista of understanding that adds to the majesty, but gives us the power to work toward a better destiny for us all in a manner that produces real, substantive results?

        Once again, the evidence we have is that fabricated magic men are superfluous to requirements and irrelevant in this vein, and indeed, are increasingly a hindrance. “Magic man did it”, once again, is little more than a synonym for “don’t bother asking questions, don’t bother being curious, don’t bother trying to learn”. What gives meaning to the world around us is the effort we exert to understand the world and put that knowledge to constructive use.

    • I intend to respond with individual posts, as the magnitude of error and amount of text is becoming confusing to follow.

      Natassia said: Either way, it still doesn’t help define what morality is except some kind of instinctual reaction to various stimuli as has been hardwired in our brains. Which means morality is meaningless

      Looks like a definition to me. A partial instinctual/learned reaction to stimuli within a particular society. Chock full of meaning really.

      A couple of sentences in and you are already begging the question. Let me finish it for you. “Which means morality is meaningless without god

      Just because you cannot fathom morality without a sky daddy does not make other definitions of morality necessarily false.

      Why the heck do we punish people for doing things we think are immoral when they just may not have the natural ability to empathize? What right do we have to do that?

      Conflating personal and societal ethics serves only to cloud the issue.

      Societies or groups of people make decisions about what is right and what is wrong. Outliers from this established code, whatever it may be, are ostracized. This is not a hard concept to grasp, nor does it make morality “worthless” as you claim.

      • Is it moral for men to have sex with little girls or little boys if a society approves of it?

        Is it moral for men to own women if a society approves?

        Is it moral for whites to own blacks if society approves of it?

        Is it moral for Nazis to gas Jews if society approves?

        Just wondering. How many in a society does it take to make a thing moral or immoral?

    • Now we jump into evolution.

      Natassia said: If evolution = “change over time” then it seems rather deceptive that you try to explain how we got here as “survival of the fittest” if you don’t also mean that we have originated as a species through evolution via natural selection

      Err..evolution is change over time, survival of the fittest, genetic drift, mutations etc. All necessary parts of the same theory.

      I said I don’t believe Darwin’s theory on the origin of species holds any water, especially since the discovery of DNA.

      Well, you certainly do not have to believe in Evolution; you can be wrong as you’d like. The problem is that you try to make arguments based on what you believe rather than what is. This process, otherwise known as making stuff up, is okay for stories, mythology and fairy tales but not so good when dealing with established facts.

      But if you would like to explain how DNA invalidates evolutionary theory, do tell, the biological sciences are way past due for a shake up.

      Either way, there is a huge amount of faith necessary to believe that such an ordered universe came about without an intelligent force behind it but rather through random occurrences.

      Err…no. Let us not go down that particular road. Supporting Evolution and Non Mystical Abiogenesis does not require *any* faith, it is the best guess we have proven by the data we have access too. Faith is not involved in the equation, and attempting to conflate science with religion is an example of being disingenuous.

      I believe living things were created specifically with a purpose, and so they evolve purposefully and organisms have a purpose-driven force to survive and adapt. I believe that over time some organisms will be replaced by others, but I don’t believe the former is necessarily the ancestor of the latter. I certainly don’t believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution through random mutation, and I don’t believe natural selection explains the appearance of new species. It only explains modification within existing species.

      Again, you don’t have to believe in fact, you clearly have the right to be wrong. For the record, random mutation, natural selection, genetic drift are all integral parts of the theory of evolution which currently possesses amazing explicative and predictive power, which is commentary unto itself on how wrong your assertions are.

      Allow me to illustrate the magnitude of your lack of understanding when it comes to Evolution:

      and I don’t believe natural selection explains the appearance of new species.

      That would be because the term used for the origin of new species is called Speciation. So rather than constructing bogus strawman arguments and beating them to death, would it not be more productive to address what evolution is actually about?

      Evolution is not purposeful because there is nothing to give it purpose (except perhaps what our collective imagination may want to give it, but we certainly have no authority over it.)

      Wow, this is amazingly wrong. The purpose of evolution and life itself is to replicate and propagate the species in question.

      Here you go being disingenuous again. There is no “biological purpose” except what the collective human imagination may suppose it to be.

      See the above reply. We do not collectively imagine our purpose, it is our purpose to pass our genes on to the next generation, it holds for the rest of living world we exist in as well.

    • Now on to bigotry.

      You are right, I am a big fan of definitions. It helps keep arguments coherent and logical.

      big·ot·ry –

      1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

      Natassia said: Why does being a bigot matter?

      The short answer is that it makes you ignorant of important facts and points of view that differ from your own.

      Just because you think something is “bigotry” doesn’t mean it really is, and it certainly doesn’t make me wrong or bad.

      Ignoring the facts of a situation because of internal prejudices is rather easily quantifiable and not particularly culturally relative.

      Just as you believe homosexuality is “normal,” perhaps bigotry is just as normal, and there is nothing particularly perverse or wrong with it.

      Perhaps you really like making poor analogies because in analogies you need to compare two quantities that are the same in different situations. As bigotry and homosexuality do not share the same class, or quality your analogy fails.

      Perhaps it is an instinctual reaction to something that serves the purpose of helping to promote the continuation of the species. (Notice how nonsensical that is?)

      I would agree that proposing that ignorance as a way to continue the species is indeed nonsensical.

      I was simply observing that homosexuality does not seem to promote the idea of “survival of the fittest” or evolution at all since homosexuals cannot reproduce unless they do something “unnatural” by having sexual intercourse with someone they are not sexually attracted to

      The implicit assumption here is that heteronormativity is the standard that things should be judged against. Consider that homo and heterosexual behaviour are both “normal” and neither deserve privileged status.

    • Religion and Morality.

      Arb:Civilization has evolved despite fierce religious opposition to modernity and rationality.

      Nat:You act like religion itself is not a result of evolution.

      When we could not explain natural phenomena we made stuff up (religion) to make it fit into our world views. Given that we now have the tools and system of rational inquiry to learn about our world, we should leave the fictive, abusive mythology behind.

      Arb: Not special, just more informed on the complex issues of today. Utilitarianism, Deontological analysis, virtue ethics did not exist back then and all provide a great deal of insight and clarity into the moral and ethical issues we face today.

      Nat: What do you mean “it did not exist back then”? Funny how it now comes into existence because someone theorized it, verbalized it, and then some people agreed with it. It certainly doesn’t make it true or any more real than any other theory of morality and ethics.

      Utilitarianism was proposed by Jeremy Bentham in the late 1700’s and deontological ethics were put forward in roughly the same timeframe. Both are methods for arriving at moral and ethical conclusions. Neither claim to be the ultimate guide or answer or are more “real” that competing theories. Your statement is assuming that since I do not think there is ultimate arbitor of ethical value then I must replace your sky-daddy with a “utilitarian godhead” or “kantian sky daddy”. Please, ethical inquiry is a much more nuanced and rigorous process that what you seem to think it is.

      If a community does decide to enslave some and segregate others, who are we to judge if they are not within our community? What, aren’t they just “not as highly evolved”?

      Look into what Moral Relativism is. I understand that a purely relativistic stand would not be ideal. As stated earlier, MR combined with a utilitarian and deontological analysis would give a good shot at understanding ethical issues and problems. Again, all without resorting to mysticism and looking for guidance from beings we made up because we were ignorant.

    • Conclusions.

      Since that magic book morality was from the collective imaginations of humans,

      The collective imagination of scared ignorant humans.

      just as your idea of morality is today, I would say that it can hold just as much relevance

      Did you just compare biblical morality to the ethical notions we hold today and call them both okay?

      I did not realize that slavery was okay, or that genocide was okay as long as god said so. Like your previous attempt at analogy, this one also fails.

      Certainly, today’s ethos and biblical ethos are both products of human beings (oh hey, glad you admitted we made it up, as opposed to any divine being) but saying that we cannot judge one to be better or worse is just silly. Which system promotes more unnecessary harm? The ethos promoted in the bible wins that particular contest hands down.

      if someone today doesn’t agree with modern-day collective beliefs. And why judge them for it?

      As long as they stick to themselves and don’t try and promote their particular brand of bullcookery, I would say leave them be. But you see, religion does not simply leave people be because religion claims absolute authority over certain issues, and if you don’t believe them then *you* are the one that is wrong regardless of the truth value of the particular claim.

      They just evolved that way.

      Ending on a low note of ignorance of evolutionary theory and process. At least you are consistent.

      • [Hmmm, maybe we should ask the Pope…ohh..wait maybe not.

        Is it moral for men to own women if a society approves?

        Well the bible is a-okay with it, so what is wrong with society these days?

        Is it moral for whites to own blacks if society approves of it?

        Well until enough people think that slavery is a fine tradition, then it would be would it not?

        Is it moral for Nazis to gas Jews if society approves?

        Is mass murder ever an appropriate solution to a problem. Ethically speaking, no. Realistically speaking, it has been going on, and continues to do so today.]

        These non-answers was what I was referring to. Want to try again?

  14. ben said: Is it moral for men to have sex with little girls or little boys if a society approves of it?

    Hmmm, maybe we should ask the Pope…ohh..wait maybe not.

    Is it moral for men to own women if a society approves?

    Well the bible is a-okay with it, so what is wrong with society these days?

    Is it moral for whites to own blacks if society approves of it?

    Well until enough people think that slavery is a fine tradition, then it would be would it not?

    Is it moral for Nazis to gas Jews if society approves?

    Is mass murder ever an appropriate solution to a problem. Ethically speaking, no. Realistically speaking, it has been going on, and continues to do so today.

    Just wondering. How many in a society does it take to make a thing moral or immoral?

    When enough people think the act in question is wrong and can influence the state enough to change the rules governing society, or even fight a civil war about the issue in question.

  15. Arbourist, you provide no real answers to my last questions. Figures.

    • I’m curious as to what would qualify as a “real answer”.

      Morality is a complex and nuanced area, there are few, if any, easy answers.

    • Morality could be defined as “don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.” (A variation of the Golden Rule)

    • Is it moral for men to have sex with little girls or little boys if a society approves of it?

      Is it moral for men to own women if a society approves?

      Is it moral for whites to own blacks if society approves of it?

      Is it moral for Nazis to gas Jews if society approves?

      If, you are going to address any of these questions using only one moral system then the answers you may get might not be particularly pleasing to the moral sensibilities we possess today.

      Taking a strictly theoretical cultural relativist position one would have to answer yes to your questions. Following any one ethical methodology can be a recipe for unsatisfactory outcomes in society.

  16. Arbourist, so what is YOUR answer, not a theoretical answer.

    I’m going to assume you will ultimately answer “no.”

    [Is it moral for men to own women if a society approves?]

    So here’s a couple of follow-up questions. If, for instance, the Taliban controlled Afg. uninhibited and did in fact make women chattle, do YOU have a problem with that? Should we as the US society care? Should we try to change that through diplomatic or other means?

    Or, are you prepared to accept that as their cultural norm as you said earlier, “Societies or groups of people make decisions about what is right and what is wrong?”

    • If, for instance, the Taliban controlled Afg. uninhibited and did in fact make women chattle, do YOU have a problem with that?

      Absolutely I have a problem with that. Unfortunately, the way we are going about trying to solve those particular problems in Afghanistan are not working particularly well.

      Should we try to change that through diplomatic or other means?

      We should encourage people to embrace enlightenment values. The problem is that cultural traditions and values take time to change. Forcing change at too great a rate promotes blowback on the scale that we are now seeing in Afghanistan.

      “Societies or groups of people make decisions about what is right and what is wrong?”

      Yep, the Afghan culture has embraced some rather dubious values. One would hope that, by setting a good example and encouraging more humane cultural practices, the will join us in the 21st century.

  17. Arbourist, you said earlier,

    [Societies or groups of people make decisions about what is right and what is wrong.]

    So how can you now say “One would hope that, by setting a good example and encouraging more humane cultural practices, the will join us in the 21st century.”

    Per your definition of how a society decides what is right and wrong, the Afghans are not wrong if they enslave women and you therefore have no moral basis to seek to change their “values.”

    It also follows that, according to you, ” the way we are going about trying to solve those particular problems in Afghanistan” is really not a problem to be solved.

    And who are you to say that their values and norms are less enlightened. That’s only according to your definition.

    Another swing and miss on your part I’m afraid.

    • Ben said: Per your definition of how a society decides what is right and wrong, the Afghans are not wrong if they enslave women and you therefore have no moral basis to seek to change their “values.”

      I also said previously:

      If, you are going to address any of these questions using only one moral system then the answers you may get might not be particularly pleasing to the moral sensibilities we possess today.

      Taking a strictly theoretical cultural relativist position one would have to answer yes to your questions. Following any one ethical methodology can be a recipe for unsatisfactory outcomes in society

      Ben:That’s only according to your definition.

      Another swing and miss on your part I’m afraid.

      Taking a strictly culturally relativist position is hard to defend precisely for the reasons you mentioned. However, as my previous posts have stated, it is not my position. A mix of utilitarian, deontological and relativist analysis provide a more realistic base from which to attempt to answer moral questions.

      Please in the future differentiate between arguments I make, and strawmen you construct for hasty demolition. Paying attention to my actual arguments as opposed to your constructions of them would greatly benefit the clarity of the debate.

  18. Arbourist, whatever you call your position, or mix therof, you end up in the same place. You cannot find a universal standard. And that is/was my point.

    • There is a universal standard: things that are detrimental to the survival of society are considered immoral. Republicans, for example, are immoral.

    • You cannot find a universal standard.

      Universal standards are fairly irrelevant as there is almost always an exception to the rule. It would fall on your to argue why universal standards are necessary and important. To date, you have not.

      So why is having a “universal standard” important?

      Or is this where you would tie in the necessity of some divine being wagging his finger and judging people on their actions? Is fear of the sky-daddy a good reason for acting morally? Is coerced morality (living in fear of burning in hell, another lovingly christian concept) somehow superior to moral action based on reason and rationality?

      I’m curious, because it seems that you have many stones to fling at moral system that does not involve mythology, yet have offered little to cement or even assert your position.

  19. It is interesting that as western society becomes more humane and moral as it becomes less religious. We no longer think slavery is gentlemen’s pass time and business venture, nor do we send millions to their deaths in the trenches, beat our women, put children to work etc. and yet church attendances are falling.

    The other interesting thing about religious morality is that it is a false sense of morality. For example the 9/11 bombers, who were highly religious, thought their actions were the moral thing to do – they thought that they would be rewarded in heaven for doing gods holy bidding. Indeed I bet their peers prayed for them, and wished them well with their fateful mission. Therefore morals are very subjective.

    Morals, are also a luxury; place two normal rational people (friends even) on an island, with only enough food and water for one of them to survive, and I think we all know what the outcome would be.
    From an ethical stand point – the church doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, because it promotes bigotry and hatred of homosexuals, and devalues women (at the same time the Church’s own clergy is buggering children and covering up the scandal), and over the years they have lied about creation and the solar system, putting those that challenge their authority on such matters to death. So I don’t think religious people are more moral at all – in fact it would appear to be quite the opposite in these respects.

  20. Hi i am from the future. After reading your arguments i wish i could create a time machine to take me to the past to stop myself from ever reading them.

  21. or stop you from writing them… let me see if it works…

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