Home » Culture, Darwinism » Breivik: “According to strict, atheist Darwinism, the purpose of life is to reproduce.”

Breivik: “According to strict, atheist Darwinism, the purpose of life is to reproduce.”

In “Norway Killer Cultural Christian, Practical Darwinian” (July 24, 2011), we learn from Creation-Evolution Headlines a bit of the background to World News Daily’s bringing the Darwinian leanings of the Norway killer to light:

WND first started challenging the depictions of Breivik as a Christian on the 23rd. Then on the 24th, WND posted the entire Breivik manifesto and described him as a Darwinian, not a ‘Christian’ in the usual sense of someone who believes in Jesus Christ the Son of God and submits to Him as Lord and Savior.

For example,

Support for Darwinian ideas can be seen in several places in his manifesto:

While arguing against the feminist destruction of marriage, he said, approvingly, “Marriage is not a ‘conspiracy to oppress women’, it’s the reason why we’re here. And it’s not a religious thing, either. According to strict, atheist Darwinism, the purpose of life is to reproduce.”

Here’s Uncommon Descent’s story on Breivik and other Darwin-motivated gunmen.

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90 Responses to Breivik: “According to strict, atheist Darwinism, the purpose of life is to reproduce.”

  1. 1

    this is all about the unjust and foolish attempts of the establishment to discredit ideas if they can say evil deeds had these ideas behind them.
    The line must always be that evil deeds originate from evil intentions from evil people.
    The evil persons resentments are unrelated to their evilness.
    Ideas or identities are not implicated in evil even if they are invoked by the evil doer.
    its a evil accusation against those who hold ideas or are identities to make them even a shadow of complicity in the evil deeds.
    The left wing does this a lot I note.

    The origin of evil is not from ideas or identities.
    Evil comes from character and motives unrelated to the claimed complaints.
    Anything or anyone could be implicated since evil has been done in the name of everything.

    Segregate evil from common causes or one can be accused of making evil associations from evil intentions as far as words go.

  2. RB, I agree completely but I don’t see the left as any more guilty than the right.

    According to strict, atheist Darwinism, the purpose of life is to reproduce.

    So he claims, but the theory of evolution is not prescriptive.

    I’ve seen plenty of ID advocates on this site make claims that start along the lines of “According to strict, atheist Darwinism … ” Should I conclude that they are also offering “Support for Darwinian ideas” – even though these claimed ideas have nothing to do with science and the theory of evolution?

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Breivik is wrong, on that and on everything else.

    Darwinian evolution says nothing about the purpose to life at all – it simply states that adaptation will occur because what reproduces best will be reproduced more often.

    “Purpose” is the function of a mind. We have minds, and our purposes vary.

  4. Breivik in his own words:

    “Social-darwinism was the norm before the [sic] 1950. Back then, it was allowed to say what we feel. Now, however, we have to disguise our preferences to avoid the horrible consequences of being labeled as a genetical preferentialist.”

    For background on this read here. Note especially Darwin in Descent of Man, chs 5 – 7.

    GEM of TKI

    GEM of TKI

  5. KF,

    It is a shame Breivik didn’t heed the warnings Darwin issued about how taking these kind of actions would me morally reprehensible. Perhaps he should have read Darwins words properly rather than just trawling though literature like Origin, the Bible, Shakespeare etc, looking for out of context snippets to bolster his ideology.

  6. DrBot @ 5,
    Really? On what grounds does Darwin have the authority is decree what is and is not reprehensible?

    Recall, he wasn’t yet “God” when he expressed mild squeamishness about the inevitable replacement of the inferior breeds by the superior, and expresses the mild wish that the replacement might be done gently.

  7. DrBot:

    “It is a shame Breivik didn’t heed the warnings Darwin issued about how taking these kind of actions would me morally reprehensible.”
    ===

    I’m actually suprized that yet another Breivik was a Darwinist thread[or maybe I should be since yesterday didn't seem to go all that well for the gang here yesterday like they hoped it would] was opened up again after yesterday’s flame post had the desired effect. But I have found that the UD forum is not only about science but also of politicing and ideological agendas as are of course most any Darwinian forums and sites.

    Over in Sweden most of the Nazi Groups are of a so-called Christian pursuation in one form or another, so the original characterization wasn’t really far off, though I can understand how the LifeWing side of Scandinavian Press[which isn't any more superior to RightWing reporting] could/would/&did exploit the situation for it’s own agenda.

    Over in Sweden the Christian Democrats wholeheartedly support the annual Gay community’s EuroPride festival in Stockholm. Most of the Christian Neo-Nazi literature does come from Sweden, in particular Karlskrona. And as being correctly reported in the Media now, Nazi sympathies are represented in almost every Scandinavian government and attitudes against immigrants. I was suprized by this when I first came here 6 years ago, because my only experience of Nazism in the States was the usual press excitement of some obscure place back east where a handful of clods were going to dress in Nazi Halloween costumes and march in some town square. But here it is common everyday dealings with it that is always in the news, though it’s taken this outrageous act to expose it. Mostly I’ve learned to ignore it around here for the sake of my sanity. I use to complain and be publically apalled that the posterchild of everything wonderful and socialist had this common cancer in the thinking of a large half of it’s culture.

    My wife and I lived in an area of Sweden at one time called Torslanda, but I had us move because I was tired of all the Nazi grafiti everywhere and night time 20′ Swastika Cross burnings on hillsides around there. One of the most popular websites graffitied and advertised in Scandinavia is a site named ‘Info14′ = http://www.info14.com/
    I actually looked up the online registered owner of the website and it linked to some american living in El Cajon, California. While visiting my mum i went by the address[curious] and it’s directly across the street from the El Cajon “German American Society”, how spooky was that ???

    There are literally 100s of some type of extremist political groups here in Scandinavia and they don’t necessarily lable themselves Nazis. When it comes to Nazi groups here, there are Christian Nazis, Atheist Nazis and Nordic Pagan Nazis. They fight amongst themselves, but are often found agreeing on forums like this forum for Nordic Identity, Culture and tradition.
    http://www.nordisk.nu/forum.php

    Admittedly, that forum does use info and pics from scientific sources regarding the evolution of humans to prove such races such as aboriginals, Africans, Pakistanis, etc are truly a vestigial drag on humanity. And it’s all the ideological sides that promote this in these forums. Bottomline here is there is extremism on all political sides here and an unwritten agreement against inferior races and cultures, outside of homogenous Scandic Lands.

    I don’t think there is any winners or losers here at these threads or any moral high ground that can be claimed by either side in this debate. Both sides have their dirty histories and more threads like this are a waste of time unless of course you feel you are on the winning side..

  8. O’Leary has done this before – reposted essentially the same assertion as a previous post, at which the comments either fizzled out or didn’t go in the direction she wanted. Well, two can play at that game. I posed a series of questions in the previous thread (here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....terrorist/ ), none of which were directly addressed by the commentators. I therefore pose them again (with slight modifications to avoid pointless repetition), and respectfully request that they be addressed:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392030

    In comment #47 ellijacket wrote:

    “All beliefs affect our worldview. Evolutionary Biologist’s view of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ [is] a direct and honest result of his belief in materialistic Darwinism. What other view could he possibly come to?”

    The logic of this comment (and the title of the OP) seems clear to me:

    1) atheists who accept the scientific validity of evolutionary theory are immoral and potential psychopathological mass murderers;

    2) Evolutionary Biologist is an atheist who accepts the scientific validity of evolutionary theory; therefore

    3) Evolutionary Biologist is immoral and a potential psychopathological murderer

    It is perhaps somewhat inconvenient to ellijacket’s logic that I happen to know Evolutionary Biologist. I do not know a more generous, kind, loving, mild-mannered, and scrupulously moral person. What is one to conclude from this? There are two alternatives:

    4) Evolutionary Biologist is an exception to the rule that atheists are immoral and potential psychopathological murderers (i.e. the major premise is true)

    5) the major premise that atheists are immoral and potential psychopathological murderers is false.

    It seems to me that the rules of logic entail (5). Do you disagree, and if so why?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392033

    To continue the logic developed above, let’s change the major premise:

    1) people who accept the historical accuracy and moral prescriptions expressed in the Bible are immoral and potential psychopathological mass murderers;

    2) fundamentalist Christians accept the historical accuracy and moral tenets expressed in the Bible; therefore

    3) fundamentalist Christians are immoral and a potential psychopathological murderers.

    If you assert that (3) is false, why is this not also the case for (5)?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392035

    In comment #57 kairosfocus wrote:

    “…playing to their own biases and failing to do due diligence before headlining slander-laced talking points…”

    In which of the following statements is this happening:

    1) Anders Behring Breivik is a Darwinist

    2) Anders Behring Breivik is a Christian fundamentalist

    3) Anders Behring Breivik is a psychopathological mass murderer

    Which of these assertions (1-3) is most supported by the evidence, and which are pure political propaganda?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392039

    In my experience it appears to be extraordinarily easy for most people to infer a causal link between what people express agreement with (and preferences for) and their behavior. In many cases it appears to me that when people do this they are very selective in what they choose as their causal links. This “selective attention” effect is essentially a form of political propaganda.

    For example, which of the following preferences (expressed repeatedly by a well-known historical figure) can be causally linked to this person’s behavior:

    This person…

    1) was a strict vegetarian

    2) had a preference for Alsatian dogs

    3) expressed a deep love for children

    4) loved the operas of Richard Wagner

    5) was especially fond of Franz Lehar’s opera, “The Merry Widow”

    6) enjoyed watercolor painting

    7) was nostalgic about the time he spent in the city of Vienna

    In addition, this person…

    8 ) expressed virulently anti-Semitic views in his public speeches and published writing

    9) exhibited the behaviors of a narcissistic sociopath

    10) eventually became notorious as perhaps the greatest mass murderer in recorded history.

    Which of the preference listed in points 1 through 7 is necessarily causally linked to the behaviors listed in points 8 through 10?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392045

    In comment #65 kairosfocus quoted the following list of factors cited by Anders Behring Breivik as justifications for his behavior :

    “…logic, rationality, reason, science…”

    Does this mean that “logic, rationality, reason, [and] science…” are necessarily causative factors in the behavior of Anders Behring Breivik?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392048

    In comment #67 ellijacket wrote:

    “I merely listed a quote of his and stated it is an honest worldview derived from his belief in materialistic Darwinism.

    Where in my comment did I call [Evolutionary Biologist] immoral or any other name? If you can’t show me that I would appreciate a retraction on your part.

    To what end did you quote my friend Evolutionary Biologist? Was it to indicate that his beliefs have nothing to do with the topic under discussion? To be clear:

    Did you quote Evolutionary Biologist to indicate that there is NO necessary causal relationship between his beliefs (i.e. “Darwinian materialism”) and the behavior demonstrated by Anders Behring Breivik? If so, why did you post it? And if not, please so state and I will be happy to post a retraction to that effect.

    To be as specific as possible:

    If ellijacket is willing to state for the record that there is NO necessary causal relationship between “Darwinian materialism” and the behavior demonstrated by Anders Behring Breivik, I will be happy to agree with that assertion.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392053

    In comment #70 kairosfocus wrote:

    “…there is a problem of amorality in evolutionary materialism [as in the notorious is-ought gap]…”

    What if we change this to:

    “…there is a problem of amorality in organic chemistry [as in the notorious is-ought gap]…”

    To me it seems that these two versions are semantically equivalent. That is, there does not appear to be a necessary connection between any scientific theory and morals/ethics. This was the essence of G. E. Moore’s analysis of the “naturalistic fallacy”, which is still the underlying assumption of mainstream ethical theory.

    By describing the connection between “is” and “ought” statements as “notorious”, does kairosfocus intend to assert that ethical prescriptions can be valid justifications for ethical prescriptions, and therefore that the “naturalistic fallacy” is not a fallacy but rather a legitimate ethical principle?

    If so, then isn’t it the case that the use of evolutionary theory (i.e. a science based on “is” statements) as a foundation for eugenics (i.e. an ethical theory based on “ought” statements) would be fully justified?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392056

    To be clear: I agree with Hume, Moore, Lewontin, and Provine (among many others) who have asserted that there is NO necessary connection between any science and any system of morals/ethics.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392061

    In comment #76 ellijacket wrote:

    “If someone believes in Darwinism then of course it will affect how they live.”

    In what way? Please be specific, especially in relation to the stated premise in the title of the OP. For example, there are at least two alternatives:

    1) If someone believes in Darwinism then it will necessarily have a causal relationship to their moral/ethical beliefs and behavior.

    2) If someone believes in Darwinism then it will NOT necessarily have a causal relationship to their moral/ethical beliefs and behavior.

    Alternatively,

    3) If someone believes in the historical accuracy and moral tenets expressed in the Bible then this will necessarily have a causal relationship to their moral/ethical beliefs and behavior.

    4) If someone believes in the historical accuracy and moral tenets expressed in the Bible then this will NOT necessarily have a causal relationship to their moral/ethical beliefs and behavior.

    [BTW, I personally don't believe in evolutionary theory at all, any more than I believe in Newtonian mechanics or elecrophilic attack in organic chemistry. I find evolutionary theory a useful guide for empirical research and interpretation of empirical results. "Belief" per se (in the sense of "belief" in the existence of God or the Democratic Party) has nothing whatsoever to do with such usefullness, and indeed would violate one of the central concepts of empirical science.]

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392065

    Re comment #79:

    Evolutionary Biologist has asserted that there is “no ultimate foundation for ethics”. The word that seems to bother people in this quotation is “ultimate”. Will is very clear that there are many proximate foundations for ethics. This is simply mainstream ethical theory, which encompasses deontological, teleological, theological, and many other foundations/justifications for human behavior. Personally, I find the use of the phrase “ultimate foundations for ethics” to be essentially meaningless, as it does not define what “ultimate” means. Does it mean “logically necessary”? If so, then I respectfully disagree with my old friend. Does it mean that there is some foundation/justification that supersedes all others? If so, then I would respectfully point out that this would mean that the fact that a deity (or deities) asserted it to be valid is unnecessary and therefore irrelevant (c.f. the Euthyphro dilemma).

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392068

    To be clear, if an action is right then it seems to me that it is right regardless of whether a deity says so (or not). Killing almost a hundred innocent people (the overwhelming majority of them children) is not right, regardless of whether a deity says so or not (even if they were Canaanites). There can be no moral/ethical justification for such an act, including one fallaciously linked to a scientific theory.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-392081

    For the record (and to make my position as clear as possible), I strongly believe that the only justifiable headline for a thread like this is

    “Norway shooter a narcissistic sociopath”

    and that asserting either that

    “Norway shooter a Christian fundamentalist”

    or

    “Norway shooter a Darwinist terrorist”

    are both symptoms of a much deeper social pathology, one that necessarily results in unnecessary (but apparently deeply satisfying) demonization of people with whom one disagrees on non-moral grounds.

    Committing a moral wrong to counter another moral wrong does not make it right.

  9. On what grounds does Darwin have the authority is decree what is and is not reprehensible?

    Recall, he wasn’t yet “God” …

    What an odd thing to say. Do you regard him as a god then?

    On what grounds would you, KF or anyone else here declare something to be morally reprehensible?

    Without direct and globally irrefutable decrees on matters like this from God how can any of us decide what is and is not reprehensible? Perhaps we should all stop condemning things we dislike until we get specific deistic instructions that everyone on earth agrees is actually the word of God!

  10. Interesting: Now I’m apparently under moderation. Was it something I wrote in the other thread, or is this simply a means of removing me from the conversation until it is effectively over?

  11. Now CNN is reporting that both Anders Behring Breivik’s attorney and his father are asserting that he was and is insane:

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/.....?hpt=hp_c1

    Ergo, the only morally responsible heading for this post is:

    “Norway shooter a narcissistic psychopath”

    and the other two alternatives:

    “Norway shooter a Christian fundamentalist”

    and

    “Norway shooter a Darwinian terrorist”

    are pure political propaganda of the most morally reprehensible kind.

  12. Allan MacNeil #166
    “The alternatives . . .are pure political propaganda of the most morally reprehensible kind.”

    Is not your accusation based on YOUR miss-characterization of the headline from a question to a statement in itself a morally reprehensible act?

    Furthermore, are you not asserting a question with extracts has the same moral reprehensibility as Hitler’s propoganda on which he murdered 11 million, or Stalin’s on which he murdered 20 million, or Mao’s on which he murdered 60 million, or
    the 20th century communists who collectively murdered 100 million by acting on Darwin’s evolution in the 20th century?

    What happened to YOUR moral compass?

    Can you tell the difference between
    “love your neighbor”
    and
    “might makes right”?

  13. Allan MacNeill
    “Anders Behring Breivik’s attorney and his father are asserting that he was and is insane:”

    Is a 1500 page carefully researched document detailing the history of Islam and Marxism and their impact on Europe the product of a madman?

    How do you distinguish “insane” from “evil”?

    Do ideas have consequences?
    Is action based on the teachings of Marx or Darwin any different from that based on Jesus?

    Look at the statistical correlations!

    What if he is both sane/intelligent and evil?

  14. Eocene:

    Kindly read here.

    GEM of TKI

  15. 15
    Elizabeth Liddle

    DLH:

    Can you tell the difference between
    “love your neighbor”
    and
    “might makes right”?

    I think every single one of us here, Christian, atheist, IDist, or Darwinist can tell the difference, DLH.

    And most of us can tell the difference between a scientific theory and an ideology.

    Scientific theories do not tell us that we should love our neighbour, nor do they tell us that might is is right.

    They, can, however, help us to love our neighbours more effectively. Unfortunately they can also help us to kill them more effectively.

    The problem isn’t the science, the problem is people who make evil choices, and use scientific knowledge for ill not good.

    Worse are those who use science to justify evil. It doesn’t. Ever.

  16. 16
    Elizabeth Liddle

    DHL:

    Allan MacNeill
    “Anders Behring Breivik’s attorney and his father are asserting that he was and is insane:”

    Is a 1500 page carefully researched document detailing the history of Islam and Marxism and their impact on Europe the product of a madman?

    How do you distinguish “insane” from “evil”?

    You don’t. It’s a category error. Insane describes a mental state; evil describes acts.

    Both sane and insane people can do good acts; both sane and insane people can do evil acts.

    Do ideas have consequences?
    Is action based on the teachings of Marx or Darwin any different from that based on Jesus?

    Another category error. Marx proposed a political ideology; Jesus taught a moral philosophy; Darwin presented a scientific theory.

    What if he is both sane/intelligent and evil?

    What he did was evil, whether he was sane or not.

  17. Keynes, at the end of his General Theory:

    Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

    It is possible to be mad and bad, once there is enough there to know right from wrong.

    I think this man likely meets this test.

    It is also possible for a madman to distil from the general culture and influences in it, trends and ideas that we all need to take a very serious look at.

    GEM of TKI

  18. 18

    Hi Lizzie,

    This might be a good place to refer you to my unanswered post about the unavoidable consequences of atheism on morality. Frankly, I don’t really care whether or not Breivik was a fundamentalist Christian or a fanatical Evolutionist. I don’t want to know why he did it or what went wrong in his life. He has forfeited any right to our curiosity. This man should merely be condemned for such horrific acts of evil: man-made justice will never be enough, but that’s alright, he will face true Divine Justice in the next life however we deal with him for the rest of his life on this planet.

    The more interesting point is this: how can any atheist condemn Breivik in terms that can be reconciled with their worldview? If life is meaningless and we face oblivion then nothing really matters – there is no wrong or right, because there is no Good or Evil: even the purpose we forge for ourselves is an act of self-deception if the atheistic worldview is true. That is one of the points I make in the aforementioned post. I hope you will respond to it here on this thread.

    And, just in case you missed them, I responded to your question about Common Descent on GilDodgen’s recent thread. I also continued our discussion about self-replication on the “Latest Origin of Life theory” thread because I couldn’t post it on the original CSI thread.

    Sorry to bombard you: as always, take as much time as you need if you wish to respond.

  19. Well said Chris Doyle.

    Imagine the scenario that Hitler wins WW II and exterminated all Roma, Gypsies, Russians, Serbs, Jews and Poles. These lands are settled by homogenous Aryan Germans who build up their Western Teutonic culture after rejecting the last vestiges of Christianity. What follows is no doubt a thousand years of ‘West Germany’. Europe becomes a leader in the sciences, wealth and food generation for the entire world. Add that Japan also wins the war and does pretty much the same in Asia. We now have two great giants of science and technology with homogenous populations. These people are no longer divided by religion nationality, culture or ethnicity or even economics. Imagine if this new peace lasts for hundreds of years with countless lives saved from misery and war.

    Please note that I am only playing Devil’s Advocate here. I too would have been exterminated above. I too lost a great grandfather and grandfather in concentration camps during WW II.

    Surely in utilitarian fashion it would not be wrong to do the above for we’d have achieved peace, scientific advancement and welfare for countless of people from then until perpetuity.

  20. F/N: Dr BOT, 13 above is relevant to grounding morality objectively, also cf here. My more detailed thoughts are here — a course lecture briefing note, here — policy and technical development notes, and here — a public lecture; BTW, apparently Gro Harlem Bruntland may have been an intended target of this mad man, or mad- bad- man.

    Note the use of a version of the categorical imperative in assessing moral soundness; but at the bottom of all such is a recognition of Imago Dei, in a cosmos that is understood to have as its foundation an Architect and Builder who is as to inherent character good; only such a basis can ground moral governance and principles of rights.

    I have drawn much on the thought that Locke used when he in his 2nd essay on civil govt set out to ground rights, i.e the cite from the judicious Richard Hooker in Ecclesiastical Polity, a thought that has an obvious root in the classic GR:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

    I have long held the view that only such views as can ground OUGHT in a foundational IS are morally viable; all inherently amoral worldviews are morally absurd and can therefore be seen as untenable.

    On patently true first principles and facts of right moral reasoning. Such as that we really do have rights that ought to be respected, i.e. a right is a morally reasonable and binding expectation that we should mutually respect one another, on the inherent, intuitively and genrally accepted equality and dignity we have as persons.

  21. CD & JP:

    I shudder to think of that alternative history.

    I suspect though that hate-filled violent men with so much blood on their benumbed consciences would then turn on one another. (Think of how republican Rome disintegrated.)

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I do not think we can afford the luxury of throwing up our hands and declaring evil inexplicable. We need to identify the evil trends and do something about them; the highly machiavellian (and this man is plainly that) are very rational — I did not say, reasonable — and understand that they need to go dormant if they are likely to be detected and face severe sanctions, which will dry up the organisers who then spread out their poison like cancers. I have no more liking for Neo-Nazi fever swamps than for the others that are cropping up all over.

    PPS: I am astonished to see such neo Nazi nationalist/ethnicist statism described as “right” wing. The -ZI part of Nazi means socialist. In the aftermath of the demise of monarchy as a serious movement, the right is now libertarian ranging over to anarchist at the extreme. And 100 years ago anarchists were bomb throwers and assassins.

  22. Kairosfocus:

    “Eocene:

    Kindly read here.

    GEM of TKI”
    ===

    Well that was certainly an intellectual bit on foundational footings of the church, but why not just quote the only true foundational basis for belieing in the biblical God from the bible itself. One of the main things i appreciate about the bible is it’s simplicity. This makes sense since even William Tyndale recognized that even the Plough boy had a God given right to read the bible in the common language of the people. In that he followed Jesus lead in simple language and illustrations. In fact even the bible points this out and it was a distinguishing mark that separated Jesus from those wicked Jewish religious leaders who looked down on the people.

    But now back to the subject. Here’s what the bible says and it’s not what history reveals to us that the Churches did when it came to Darwinian Dogma and Principles.

    Acts 10:34-35

    Amplified Bible (AMP)

    34 “And Peter opened his mouth and said: Most certainly and thoroughly I now perceive and understand that God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons,

    35 “But in every nation he who venerates and has a reverential fear for God, treating Him with worshipful obedience and living uprightly, is acceptable to Him and [a]sure of being received and welcomed [by Him].”

    Now obviously there are more scriptural references than this, but clearly this verse was around when the Churches took the direct lead in promoting Social Darwinism. South African Apartheid encouraged by the religious Eugen Fisher who is quoted here in the “German Eugenic Legislation” document.

    “In a fervently patriotic peroration Professor Eugen Fishcer thanks God that the rich springs of German Folkness are still welling up to save the people from racial decay, applied as they are to the programme of the National Socialist Government.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....2-0013.pdf

    There are countless other examples that I’ve also mentioned and have no need of repeating, but i’ve personally spoken to individuals here in Europe who grew up in Nazi Germany and Austria and the Evangelical Church rather than teaching the bible, taught Mein Kampf from the church pulpits in those early pre-war years. Now the question is, in light of the tonage of info from the scriptures on how to treat your fellow man, how could they have done such a hideous crime as putting such a clearly evil man in power over them and encourage all believers to do the same ???

    Again, when such threads appear to bash the other side, a side I don’t in any way agree with, then the truth should also point the other direction where warranted. Clearly Darwin’s ideas if true would have made perfect sense in a materialistic animalistic world of mankind who ultimately would be no different than animals which apparently many today believe anyway. But that’s not the case with Christians and clearly some sort of accounting should happen with regards the Clergy’s bloodguilt. But then that of course would be God’s choice on the matter.

  23. 23
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Thanks, Chris!

    I very much agree with this:

    Frankly, I don’t really care whether or not Breivik was a fundamentalist Christian or a fanatical Evolutionist. I don’t want to know why he did it or what went wrong in his life. He has forfeited any right to our curiosity.

    There was a horrible murder near my home town a few years ago, and after the killer was finally convicted, I heard a very moving interview with the girl’s parents. They were remembering Susan, fondly, and expressing their grief at her loss. Then the interviewer asked what they though about he killer. They said something like: “we don’t think about him. He’s a nothing.”

    I will try to respond here to both the rest of your post and to your previous one (if the mods are OK with that!)

    From your post above:

    The more interesting point is this: how can any atheist condemn Breivik in terms that can be reconciled with their worldview? If life is meaningless and we face oblivion then nothing really matters – there is no wrong or right, because there is no Good or Evil: even the purpose we forge for ourselves is an act of self-deception if the atheistic worldview is true. That is one of the points I make in the aforementioned post. I hope you will respond to it here on this thread.

    To take your first question: “how can any atheist condemn Breivik in terms that can be reconciled with their worldview?” Well, this doesn’t seem very difficult to me! Acts have consequences, and those consequences include making people feel better and harming people. But as words are awkward, and come with baggage, let me invent two new ones: I’m going to call acts that make you feel better at the cost of harming other people “gak”. Now, if everyone goes around making themselves feel better, and no-one else is harmed, there is no gak, and everyone has a good time. But if people go around doing stuff that makes them feel better, but harms other people, not everyone has a good time.

    So although it might be tempting to give yourself a good time by doing gak stuff, nobody else is going to agree with you, because they are going to get the rough end of the gak. So we make some social rules: we say: if nobody does gak stuff, everyone will have a pretty good time. But if people do gak stuff, some people will have a horrible time, even if the gak-doers get a heck out of a kick out of it. So, for the good of us all we will declare gak taboo.

    And to make sure that as little gak is done as possible, if people are found doing gak stuff, we try a number of things; we lock them up so they can’t do it (containment); we make them do something they don’t like doing, so that they (and others) learn that even if gak stuff makes them feel better at the time, they end up having a rotten time in the end anyway (deterrence); we try to make them see that if everyone forgoes the gak stuff, everyone else, including them is better off, and anyway, it’s much more fun making other people feel better than making them feel worse (rehabilitation); and we try to get them to undo the harm they did (reparation).

    And this works pretty well, because as human beings we have this remarkable capacity called “Theory of Mind”, which enables us not simply to see things from our own point of view, but from other peoples, and even to feel things on other people’s behalf – what we call “empathy”, or, better, “love”, although some people seem unable to do that last part. For those, sometimes, some kinds of rehabilitation can help, but unfortunately, sometimes, permanent incarceration is the only answer, if the rest of us are to be safe from the gak.

    So that’s it really. Instead of “evil” we have “gak”. But we call it “evil”, because it looks exactly the same as what you call evil. It’s just, like the old gag about Shakespeare goes (“Did you know that Shakespeare’s plays weren’t actually written by Shakespeare, but by another man living at the same time, with the same name?”), another thing with the same properties and the same name.

    And on that thread you wrote:

    Now then, your response to my post (51). You expressed many thoughts, but alas, I don’t believe you actually answered my questions. They were:

    1. Why should such a miserable atheist bother with life at all?

    Because it’s fun, and beautiful, and filled with good things! Including joy, and curiosity, and love. Why does an otter bother with life? Think of atheists as otters.

    2. How do you dissuade an atheist from free-riding?

    Well, firstly, because atheists are as human as you are (:)) they share the same capacity for empathy, and the same capacity for joy in another’s joy, and grief in another’s grief. So it’s not a major problem, and, in any case, not all free-riders are atheists! But there are indeed free-riders, and we deal with them as above, which includes persuasion (“look, if you don’t do gak stuff, you still have a good time, and so does everyone else – in fact you have a better time, because actually it’s a lot more fun to enjoy things that other people enjoy too, than to do stuff that only you enjoy and other people hate. Also they are more likely to like you, which is nice, and less likely to incarcerate you, or make you do stuff you don’t like in return. Also gak is ungood, and ungak is good. You don’t know what good is? Here, let me show you….” *demonstrates kindness and empathy*). But if that doesn’t work, deterrence and incarceration are backups.

    Looking at the first question, it seems that you think a miserable atheist simply needs to recall that “one of our drives is to be, simply, happy.” But I don’t think a miserable atheist needs reminding of this fact, do you? He is all too aware that happiness is what he wants but he is struggling and suffering on a regular basis.

    Why is he? I don’t mean that you have the answer, but if someone is unhappy, it’s good to know why. Then either they can fix it themselves (as long as that doesn’t involve gak) or someone else can help. Usually a bit of both. We all need a little help from our friends :)

    Even if a miserable atheist does experience glimpses of happiness, they are all too brief and soon disappear to be replaced by the norm: drudgery and hopelessness. You then point out that “We are… therefore able to transcend ourselves.” Again, I don’t see how this provides a reason for the miserable atheist to bother with life at all.

    But life is good! I mean, not for everyone, but it’s not only atheists who suffer, and the answer could be anything from relief of poverty to treatment for a mental disorder. Or, even, getting out a bit, and helping other people. That cheers most people up.

    I’m not meaning to be flippant here, Chris, I just think you are describing a non-problem. Or, rather, a problem that is not at all unique to atheists. I do know of a few nihilist atheists, but most are not, and I’ve known pretty nihilist Christians as well. And anyone who hates being alive needs help. Think of those otters.

    If he can feel another’s pain, then that is only adding to the pain he is already experiencing on a daily basis!

    hmmm. Empathy is an odd thing. Yes, another’s pain hurts, but shared hurt is not something on the whole one shuns. And sharing hurt can help. It’s like that old saying (golly I sound like the Readers Digest today) about love being the only thing where the more you give the more you have.

    But you know this, Chris. What I’m saying is that atheists know it too, they just don’t give it the same name. I still do (habit, I guess, I call it grace) but atheists are just as capable of, and receptive to, grace. It’s just they don’t call it that. Not sure what they call it, but not everything needs a name.

    S

    o again, I’d be grateful if you could tell me what you, an actual atheist, would say to a fellow miserable atheist who no longer knows why to bother with life at all.

    Well, first I’d want to know why. Then I’d try to suggest things worth living for, and help them understand how much they are valued, and loved, and how much they’d be missed. And then I might suggest some fun activities – join a samba band, go hiking, do an evening class. And if all that failed, I’d probably suggest seeing their GP and maybe getting a referral to a psychiatrist.

    I know that’s not the answer you want, but I guess I want to know why that isn’t the answer :)

    In other words, if someone isn’t enjoying life, the answer is to help them enjoy life. As an atheist obviously what I wouldn’t say is: don’t worry, the next one will be better – the snag is that you aren’t allowed to deliberately leave this one early. And I certainly wouldn’t say: look, life may be miserable, but the next one will be a heck of a lot worse unless you suck up this one, do your duty, whether you like it or not, and keep your nose out of trouble. Not that I ever did that, and I’m sure you don’t. In which case, how do we differ?

    Stick to atheists, don’t worry about believers. If you want to know why a miserable believer should bother with life at all, then let actual believers answer that question.

    Sure :)

    Looking at the second question, you first of all appeal to the “collective” over the individual. If we had all been assimilated by the Borg, then resistance to that argument would indeed be futile! But, we’re not. And an intelligent, rational, logical but selfish atheist knows just how to exploit that. He knows that the moral society we live in isn’t about to break down just because he is free-riding on it. He “can look at that situation logically and decide that as long as he maintains a public appearance of moral steadfastness, he can commit immoral acts whenever he desires as long as he avoids detection.” And, your very interesting response to this was:

    “Well, sure, but so can a theist.”

    Woah! Blink and you miss it! Let’s rewind and slow that down before getting ahead of ourselves. A rational atheist can logically free-ride: maintaining a public appearance of moral steadfastness while committing immoral acts whenever he desires (as long as he avoids detection) and your response is “Well, sure…”

    I think we should pause there for a moment, Lizzie, to let that important fact sink in rather than trying to gloss over it by changing the subject to theism.

    If you agree that a rational atheist can logically choose immorality then atheistic morality fails.

    Well, it’s only logical as long as there is no system, agreed by “the collective” to deal with the free-riders.

    It comes back to this gak-thing again. In atheist terms, free-riding is gak. And we don’t want to live in a society where gak is easy to do. So a) we persuade people of the benefits of not doing gak stuff (for them, not just for everybody else) and b) if that doesn’t work, we invoke our gak-minimising system.

    Which is, of course what in your mirror-world is called a justice-system. So we call it that too, even though it’s “really” a gak-minimising system. It just happens to be an identical system with the same name. We also call the process of devising anti-gak rules “ethics”, like yours, and the incentive to keep to them “morality”, like yours. Except of course it’s really just our anti-gak drive.

    ;)

    The whole point of morality is that it should take precedence over all other considerations. Morality is easy when the right thing to do is the thing we want to do. But, as soon as the wrong thing to do is the thing we want to do then, providing we can get away with it (or can live with the consequences) then atheistic morality is over-ruled by logic and reason.

    Ah, but you are moving the labels. No, the anti-gak drive behaves exactly like morality. The only difference is that your justice system is has an infinity-drive powered CCTV camera and an automated incarceration system, complete with highly deterrent torture rigs, that infallibly awaits any freeloader who escapes the human-derived one.

    Except that, weirdly, it has a “faint hope” clause, which means that the infinity-drive judge will waive the incarceration under certain (not terribly well specified) conditions. For no terribly obvious reason, except that the uncertainty probably keeps people on their toes.

    Or perhaps that’s not your vision (although it certainly is in some versions of Christianity). Perhaps in your vision, nobody gets the incarceration – in which case, it’s no more effective than our gak-minimising system.

    What I’m saying, Chris is that all the aspects of morality that you see in terms of a judging God have their exact counterparts in atheism, with the sole exception of this bit that happens after we die.

    So we have:

    gak=evil.
    anti-gak rules =ethics
    anti-gak drive =morality
    gak-minimising system=justice system

    So to say, oh, but atheist morality is over-ruled by reason if they can’t be found out, is,as I said, shifting the labels out of their categories. Atheist morality is a drive – the anti-gak drive, just as theistic morality is – the drive to be good, the love of God, if you like. In fact, I’d go so far as to cite Jesus in claiming they are identical: The two greatest commandments, in Matthew, are 1) to love God, and 2) “which is like it” is to love your neighbour as your self. And lest there be doubt as to whether loving your neighbour as your self was really “like” loving God, Jesus said “whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me”.

    Well, as I think I’ve said before – atheists just cut out the middle man. Or may be the end man. You love God by loving your neighbour; we just love our neighbours. Both are what we call “morality” (although for us it’s just our anti-gak drive of course….)

    Taking that further, we can now argue that it would be irrational and illogical for an atheist to choose morality when there are literally no drawbacks to the immoral choice.

    Well, practically, there are always drawbacks. Even hiding the body is a drawback. The loneliness. The regret. The nightmares. That’s what I meant by “moving the labels”. Atheists are as capable as anyone else of foreseeing the consequences of their actions, including those consequences for their own peace of mind. We are an empathetic species. We are stuck with it. We can over-ride it, and do, but always at a cost.

    I’m probably not being as clear as I could be (but I’m trying!) – but I think your mistake (and I’m convinced it’s a mistake!) is in thinking too narrowly of what “benefits me”, and envisaging atheist “morality” as merely “what would suit me now that I can get away with”. Because you think that’s what logic dictates. But what you are missing is the anti-gak drive. We are not, in general, comfortable with doing gak-stuff. At its most shallow, people don’t like to be disliked, or considered selfish. More deeply, people don’t like to see the pain they caused, even if it was fun at the time. That’s why reparative justice works so much better than you might think it would. Doing gak stuff actually makes people unhappy, and one of the things we do when we raise children to be good (“teach them right from wrong”) is to make them realise that if they are mean to another child, that other child will be unhappy, and unhappiness is infectious. Which it is. Again, for us it might “really” be showing children that gak usually rebounds in the end, and that gak now means misery later, rather than showing them the difference between right and wrong, but we call it that, because, yet again, it looks exactly the same:)

    Free-riding is undoubtedly the best course of action available to intelligent, rational and logical atheists (especially ones who are more selfish than selfless). And, if the more selfless atheists ever truly realise that they are needlessly denying themselves on many occasions, then what is to stop them saying “well, if you can’t beat them, join them!” Based on your responses so far, Lizzie, absolutely nothing.

    No, free-riding is not “the best course of action available to intelligent, rational and logical atheists”. You let slip the reason in your parenthesis “(especially ones who are more selfish than selfless)”. The best course of action availabe to intelligent, rational and logical people is to do things that will bring about their own long-term happiness. Sadly few of us are that intelligent, rational and logical, but we try. And for most of us, our long-term happiness depends on being decent people, and avoiding doing gak stuff. In other words, by being moral. And for those who are “more selfish than selfless”) then those who have anything to do with those people (husbands, wives, siblings, parents, offspring), the first response strategy is to try to demonstrate the long-term benefits that they seem unable to see.

    Actually there’s another point here, which I think is important: most people are not so much “selfish” as “short-termist”. We do what makes us feel good now, no matter how bad we will feel later. My own take on “free will” is that it’s best thought of as “freedom from immediacy”. And most people as they grow, learn that gak-stuff usually brings only short-term fun. So with good, caring, wise (if only) mentors, we should grow up with a well-rooted anti-gak drive, i.e. become moral adults. And I’d say that athetists are just as capable of developing thus into moral adults, and indeed of being good, caring and wise mentors, as anyone else, because it doesn’t actually require belief in God, just the conviction that the more people with a strong anti-gak drive in the world, the happier we all shall be.

    Sorry for the delayed response, and can I beg indulgence from the mods for the hijack, for both Chris and myself?

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  24. Elizabeth,

    I’m not an atheist in the sense of not believing, I’m a vague agnostic who would rather like an afterlife but I want to offer you a standing ovation for what you said in post 22. Superbly explained.

    The problem I’ve always had with the idea of absolute morality (as in prescribed by God) is that although plenty of people seem to think that they have a hotline to God and can tell us what God wants, they all seem to tell us different things. I doubt God is schizophrenic so in the absence of incontrovertible dictacts from God about morality then our best bet as a society is to determine morality for ourselves.

  25. Elizabeth Liddle:

    Well, firstly, because atheists are as human as you are…

    While denying what it means to be human. Imagine that.

    All that exists is just matter in motion.

  26. 26
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Why do you keep saying this stuff, Mung?

    Why do you presume to know what atheists deny?

    Are you an atheist?

    What do you think that atheists deny? Last time I looked they didn’t believe in god or gods.

    Nothing there about “denying what it means to be human”.

  27. EL: …atheists are as human as you are…

    Mung: While denying what it means to be human.

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    What do you think that atheists deny? Last time I looked they didn’t believe in god or gods.

    Nothing there about “denying what it means to be human”.

    Thank you for making my point.

    Do you ever actually stop to think about the things you write and ask yourself whether they make sense, or even more importantly, whether they are in fact true?

  28. 28
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Mung:

    Do you ever actually stop to think about the things you write and ask yourself whether they make sense, or even more importantly, whether they are in fact true?

    Mung, I’m afraid I frequently ask myself the same about you.

    So there we go.

    See you around :)

  29. One of the things I often see from atheists is what I call the “Intentional Fallacy”. The intentional fallacy suggests that you’d never find a healthfood nut eating ho-hos, because eating ho-hos is against his stated principles.

    Scientists who are Christians is often a suspect hodgepodge (“you cannot serve God and Science”), but Moralist Atheists is taken for granted because there are people who identify themselves in both subsets. So despite the scientist’s best efforts to be a scientist, he only achieves–in the worldview of many–to the extent that he moderates one with the other.

    On the other hand, atheist is the easiest capacity to achieve there is. If somebody drops you on your head tomorrow, and you find you don’t understand the concept of God, you too can be an atheist. Atheist simply lacks belief, I have been told.

    However, another definition of atheism comes up: The Intentional Fallacy shows up in another way: “I am more rational that you because I eschew irrationality.” Well, the ability to discern rationality is a distributed talent, from what I have seen. No amount of committing yourself makes your arguments any better than what they are.

    However, the tendency of people who argue in this way is to make moralism just as cheap an entry. “He says he believes in morality. You don’t have to believe in God to believe in morality.”

    Now, if everyone goes around making themselves feel better, and no-one else is harmed, there is no gak

    And apparently no competition for mate choice or scarce resources in your world.

    And I’d say that atheists are just as capable of developing thus into moral adults, and indeed of being good, caring and wise mentors, as anyone else, because it doesn’t actually require belief in God, just the conviction that the more people with a strong anti-gak drive in the world, the happier we all shall be.

    I would agree that atheists under a-non-rigorous worldview are.

    But does atheism require this belief? I understand “no”. So because atheism, by being a situation, requires nothing. It gives you a choice whether you accept atheist Edens or “gak-drives”. Let’s imagine that gak-drives are like sex-drives. Some have revved-up drives, some have muted ones.

    So you can answer such questions, if you invest in a model of morality. If you don’t, because it doesn’t seem rational or evidenced , who knows? You can’t propose a model that is “solves the same questions” and ignore that this is entirely optional, if in anyway compelling. I would have believed in as an agnostic, but my journey to faith was to be shown all the preposterous things I just believed as a “skeptic”.

    So you can say: if you invest in a model of morality, you can be moral. However, I’m skeptical about the dramatic differences between model-commitment and belief . In answer, the modern rationalist would say, “I can always discard it if it becomes unwieldy”. Well, did it solve problems or didn’t it. Provided an unwieldiness, will you just go on to another model of morality or reject workable models of morality?

    Will you, 1) trust in morality itself, knowing that there must be a workable model, 2) keep jumping from model to model until the problems with the model become evident (and in some ways belying the claim that the model “worked”), 3) stick with a model despite problems with it? Let’s say you develop fidelity to it.

    Who then can deny a variation of atheist who looks at the problem that other moral atheists are having with their models, and to the extent that they don’t agree on terms–and just goes Carnap: “It’s all meaningless.”

    Locke’s “State of Nature” is ridiculous without references to some sort of Eden beginning and Lion-and-lamb eternal resolution. And if Locke was a Deist, as some claim, he answers no Deist questions of today. (17th century deism was indeed a miracle-light theism, so JL’s “deism” is of no matter).

    I find just as ridiculous atheists who find Eden stories ridiculous when the are religious, but their main hope in either that–or perfectible man–when nature is not about “perfecting” us, on the other. What I charge is not that there cannot be some well-meaning atheists, but where they “solve” moral questions their reasoning is so paltry (or motivating) as to create a rational push away from their own sentimentality (or at least disinterest in their thought experiments).

    Darwin’s immediate followers basically took him to task on this “so-called” “higher nature”, so that his own sentimental view of human nature was subjected to peer review, to the point that ~70 years that bastion of American liberty, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes could forcibly sterilize a C-student on the ruling that the state of Illinois had an “interest” in controlling the stock of its people. If you think that Darwin’s “higher nature” is apiece with his “natural selection”, you just might be guilty of my Intentional Fallacy.

  30. Elizabeth: Why do you presume to know what atheists deny?

    Are you an atheist?

    Still, how would that allow him to know anything about your position? You share the same lack? Quick, we both do not have elephants under our chairs–what does my chair look like?!

    Principle: there is a lot of equivocation on “atheism”.

    Are we supposed to understand things atheists tell us or not–specially as an ex-non-believer. Reality has a basic shape with atheists, nature is simple or not knowing would kill us (okay, simplistic, but I’m summing). Reality is more complex with theists (which I’m quite sure you won’t believe), nature and the law of man and our well-being require a complex–and often hard-to-understand “maintenance”, teaching and interaction. The best we get is as a blind person in darkness suddenly aware of the glow of the light.

    One worldview, they teach you in school, and requires simple, provable principles. Another, the main points are given in stories, and you can get some sermons, but the teacher is active in your life as a “still, small voice”.

    Which is harder to see from the other side? I’m not talking about the other side where “They’re just a bunch of un-evolved spazzes”. But from the side of “what if they were right about God” as opposed to “what if they were right about no God”.

    A lot of stuff that I learned as an qualifying atheist, and a lot of things that atheists have told me about their worldview have held up. I was just telling some “you secretly believe in God” Christians just the other day that “no, you’re really not that concerned”, because that’s the way I would have described myself at the time. When I got my car stuck in sugar sand way out in the wilderness, it was “Pleasegodpleasegodplease!” but my ability to call upon a concept that bored me was put away neatly in my categorical drawers, and I was accordingly uninterested in pursuing it further.

    Funny enough, I have been told that perhaps I wasn’t a good enough, or “serious enough” atheist for it to stick. His lack is bigger than my lack, I guess. (But the elephant that I don’t have in my house, is about twice the size of his!)

    Also witness that somebody on this thread points out that we have access to the same input as to morality.

  31. 31
    Elizabeth Liddle

    jjcassidy: thank you for your respond. Right now, I’m not making a lot of sense of it, but it’s getting later here, and perhaps I’ll be brighter in the morning.

    But for the record: I was a theist – a devout theist – for half a century.

    Then, as you suggest, I found a simpler model that seems to me to work just as well, in all the ways that theism worked, and even better in others.

    It does not deny humans their humanity.

  32. I was a theist – a devout theist – for half a century.

    Keep in mind, this comes hot on the heels of her alternately saying that she is (now) an atheist, a pantheist, and a theist. She’s also a reductive materialist, a non-reductive materialist, or not a materialist depending on the way the wind is blowing or how the conversation is going. And the sort of theism she subscribed to in the past was, apparently, a sort where nothing that occurs in nature could ever be attributable to a God, because that would have conflicted with her theology.

    The EL pattern of reasoning involves a lot of bluffing and obfuscating on ideas. And what a surprise – we see it in this thread too:

    Instead of “evil” we have “gak”. But we call it “evil”, because it looks exactly the same as what you call evil.

    Except if you go through the reasoning, theists and non-materialists have objective moral standards rooted in essential natures, in some platonic goodness, in God, etc. Evil is that which violates those standards.

    But for “gak”, there are none of these things. Even identifying “gak” as “that which does harm” doesn’t work, because what is “harmful” itself has no real referent other than “that which we dislike” or an arbitrary rule, nor would identifying “that which causes harm” in that sense give us an “ought” of “we ought not cause harm”.

    It looks exactly the same, so long as you ignore all the differences.

    Likewise, EL’s reply to the issue of free-riding is “well, pass laws against free-riding!” Fantastic, but the question remains: And if you can evade those laws? “Well, maybe it would serve your personal desires to follow those laws!” Indeed. And if it doesn’t?

    The short of it is, no one denies that atheists can make and enforce laws – as if what’s being doubted is whether or not atheists can develop or play a game of Monopoly.

  33. 33

    Hiya Lizzie, your response covered a lot of ground and I hope that, in time (eventually!), we will cover it all thoroughly. But right now, let me make a general observation that might help to explain the huge difference in opinion we have on the subject of meaning (and morality). To put it bluntly, I don’t see any darkness in your responses!

    Now let me explain: I’m reaching for something like yin and yang here. You’re giving us plenty of yang (lightness) when you talk about life being “fun, and beautiful, and filled with good things! Including joy, and curiosity, and love. Why does an otter bother with life? Think of atheists as otters.” But where is the yin (darkness) in any of that? Nowhere. And the thing about life is, it has plenty of yin: darkness, suffering and despair.

    For some, there is a balance between yin and yang. A minority, thanks to the insulation and comfort that significant material wealth can bring for instance, probably have more yang in their lives and so can live the carefree, meaningless existence of the otter. But for many more, there is mostly just yin. They can only ever dream of living like an otter: and the trouble with dreams is that the unattainable ones just add to the torment. The history of humanity on this planet is filled with people who have had more than their fair share of suffering and deprivation. You simply cannot contemplate all of human yin and say, “Don’t worry, Liz’ll Fix It!”. Such tragic people won’t (and don’t) get by with a little help from their friends. Do you need me to illustrate the imbalance of yin that actually plagues so many human lives by talking about poverty, disease, war, famine, death, corruption, depression, despair, addiction, deprivation, hopelessness, intimidation, insecurity, grief, breakdown and all of the other different forms and combinations that human suffering takes in order to help you understand the depth of the question “Why should a miserable atheist bother with life at all?” Because the absence of darkness from your response certainly strikes me as being flippant! I’m not talking about somebody who can be “cheered up” by “getting out a bit” for goodness sake!

    This is certainly not a “non-problem” but excessive yin certainly affects believers as well as atheists. Again, don’t worry about working out why a miserable believer should bother with life at all: let believers worry about that. You just stick to tragic, despairing, desolate, hopeless atheists, Lizzie: atheists who can only dream of living like an otter, a dream which only adds to their daily torment.

    I hope you will see that my appeal to yin and yang also applies to morality. Your atheistic morality is utterly dependent on an over-abundance of yang. Where is the darkness? How do you deal with the fact that the history of humanity on this planet is filled with people who have led extremely selfish lives and committed many evil acts? The fact is gak happens all the time and, in the real world, no-one stops to think “but what if everyone did gak?” and, in the real world, containment, deterrence, rehabilitation and reparation are either ineffective, non-existent or counter-productive: thus producing more gak than ever! Do you need me to illustrate just how evil and selfish many people can be, how genuinely unaffected they are by the pain or concerns for others (and whether or not they’re liked by others) and how easy, comfortable and pleasurable it is for them to do gak whenever they want in order to help you understand the depth of the question “How do you dissuade an atheist from free-riding?” Because it’s no good saying “we don’t want to live in a society where gak is easy to do” when in fact we DO live in a society where gak is easy to do. Nor can you appeal to “our gak-minimising system” because, nowadays, it is utterly useless.

    Okay, sorry to bring so much darkness to our discussion, but if you want to subject atheistic meaning and morality to proper scrutiny, then you have to go to the darkest places. I put it to you that atheistic meaning and morality perishes in such places. But one light shines brighter than ever in such places: the light of our Creator.

    One last thing, I very much admire all of your yang, Lizzie – such lightness and optimism are things to be proud of. When I’m not talking about atheistic meaning and morality, you’ll find my company much more pleasant and enjoyable!

  34. Chris Doyle,

    One thing I’d add about your ‘free riding’ question is this: Replying to “How do you dissuade an atheist from free-riding?” with, in essence, “Pass and enforce laws against free-riding!” strikes me as missing the point – because free-riding presents itself even with those laws present. It’s like asking the question “Why should an atheist follow the laws if it would benefit him not to and he can get away with it?” and getting the answer of “Pass laws against getting away with it!”

    Likewise there’s a problem with saying how, since ‘we all want to live in a gak-free society’ that we therefore have reason to individually ‘avoid gak’. If I can avoid gak happening to myself, but still engage in gak to my own benefit, then the answer seems clear on atheism: Go for it if you like. And that’s the problem that keeps coming up when morality is ultimately all about getting what you subjectively desire – talk of ‘minimizing harm for your own benefit’ presumes that minimizing harm will benefit you. But if what benefits you (in a universe with no objective morality, no judgment, and a finite life) is harming people, and benefiting yourself is the prime goal, well then…. again, it seems the answer of what to do is clear.

    (Likewise, talk about ‘empathy’ doesn’t mean much on materialist atheism. You can get over empathy, I assure you. And hey, maybe ditching the empathy will result in more self-benefit. I recall reading about a study suggesting that psychopaths are better stock traders, because they don’t get sentimental about their stocks or the companies – they just think in terms of raw benefit.)

  35. Elizabeth: It does not deny humans their humanity.

    Nor salt it’s saltiness, nor something that is truly toovey, its tooveyness. All things do indeed retain the properties that are attributed to them.

    I would sincerely doubt that you would ever say humans do not have a quality generally attributable to humans–that 2% of difference from chimps which accounts for the shape and function of almost everything as far as my eye can see–and further into the city that I imagine/remember behind it–is just what it is. Their 98%-chimpanity.

    How can we be definite about it and yet properly provisional?

    But that aside, I don’t know what your knowledge of humans are, but we are not machines that can have pointers to the contents in some expert’s mind or some text book we haven’t touched in 20 years.

    There’s a social argument that is at the core of all that goes around here. And it’s not just the ID-ers (if somebody wanted to kick the can). Quite recently, there was an article about how people who did not assent to evolutionary statements weren’t “evolutionary literate” and couldn’t “participate in a 21st-century economy”. Is there a lot about economics in evolutionary biology?

    I’m guessing not. And I’m guessing not a whole lot in Darwin either. And what if it did have some mention, how is it that you couldn’t participate without it providing the case for some strategies of participating–some goals even.

    Actually, Darwinian advocates say some stuff like that all the time, and then they blame bystanders who try to follow it for nonsense that comes out of it. So it’s important in a societal context to stop ID from confusing people who could become confused and causing a whole bunch of things not explicit in ID theory–how many torches and pitchforks in “specified complexity” anyway?

    So we push for “scientific literacy” in the form of assent to some really simple rephrasing of evolutionary theory, on the precarious tipping point of layman “confusion”, despite that assent to trivial restatements does not entail a lack of confusion that we can find when somebody who assents, participates in a 21st century economy and to defend the “cradle of Science” (not entailed by any Scientific theory, mind you) buys a gun and shoots the people he sees letting a culture of torches and pitchforks slip in the backdoor.

    That’s right, trust not in your own understanding of Evolution, but in all ways try hard to develop a pointer to the contents of Jerry Coyne’s brain.

    How robust is the idea that “improvement” comes from the death of those not as improved to misunderstanding? No, the fault is in the capacity of the species to misunderstand. And can is some way be blamed on the ignorance of people who misunderstand a completely different thing.

  36. Elizabeth Liddle:

    But for the record: I was a theist – a devout theist – for half a century.

    Until she found out that Nazis espoused Christianity.

  37. Instead of “evil” we have “gak”. But we call it “evil”, because it looks exactly the same as what you call evil.

    nullasalus, you actually read through that post?

    One has to wonder if EL looked up gak and gakking before using the term, lol.

  38. haha. hahahahaha.

    good night

  39. Chris,

    yin = bs

    yang = bs detection

    what a bummer

  40. So let me now support my statement that atheists deny what it means to be human.

    To be human is to not be an animal.

    Yet atheists do in fact deny this. According to atheists, humans are animals.

    If you are an atheist, don’t bother responding. You are an animal, and I don’t bother attempting to argue with animals.

  41. So let me now continue to support my statement that atheists deny what it means to be human.

    To be human is to be an earthly being. The obvious contrast here is to heavenly beings.

    Not only is there a contrast between earthly and heavenly, but there is also a hint of Genesis 2:7

    the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

    Atheists, in denying both that God exists and that humans are a creation of God, deny what it means to be human.

    Let the attempts to re-define what it means to be human by denying what it means to be human begin!

  42. Elizabeth Liddle:

    I found a simpler model that seems to me to work just as well, in all the ways that theism worked, and even better in others.

    It does not deny humans their humanity.

    Nonsense. Models, by your own admission, are necessarily wrong.

    Silly person.

  43. 43
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Chris Doyle:

    Hiya Lizzie, your response covered a lot of ground and I hope that, in time (eventually!), we will cover it all thoroughly. But right now, let me make a general observation that might help to explain the huge difference in opinion we have on the subject of meaning (and morality). To put it bluntly, I don’t see any darkness in your responses!

    Well, it’s there, lurking Chris, I think you’ll find :) But perhaps this was not a week (nor a thread) I wanted to make much darker.

    Now let me explain: I’m reaching for something like yin and yang here. You’re giving us plenty of yang (lightness) when you talk about life being “fun, and beautiful, and filled with good things! Including joy, and curiosity, and love. Why does an otter bother with life? Think of atheists as otters.” But where is the yin (darkness) in any of that? Nowhere. And the thing about life is, it has plenty of yin: darkness, suffering and despair.

    Yes, and if you re-read your post, you will note that I mention plenty of yin – people who cannot empathise; people who cannot learn why they should not do gak-stuff; people who do learn, but refuse to care. And then there is human misery – sometimes caused by gross injustice, sometimes by natural disaster, sometimes by mental illness, sometimes by cruelty (gak stuff).

    And I think there are answers, which I gave, but none of them infallible. Sometimes we have to incarcerate people for the duration of their lives (Ian Brady, for instance). Sometimes we have to kill, as the lesser harm. Sometime major depressive disorder simply does not respond to treatment. Sometimes we have to settle for the minimum benefit, meagre though it is. When I lived in Canada, there was a news story about a doctor who had finally given up working in a northern Inuit community because the cycle of despair had become, as she found it, unbreakable – children were born with FAS, became adult alcoholics, had children with FAS, and so on. FAS seems incurable – the children can be delightful but seem incapable of ever behaving responsibly, or of real empathy. The best adults can do is to try and keep them, and others safe. In a sense they are permanent children. But you can’t keep irresponsible children safe in a community where there are no adults – where child grows into a parent-child, passing on their own condition. It’s a Lamarckian dystopia.

    So yes, there is plenty of darkness, suffering and despair. I don’t have a solution. And I don’t think an afterlife provides one, either.

    For some, there is a balance between yin and yang. A minority, thanks to the insulation and comfort that significant material wealth can bring for instance, probably have more yang in their lives and so can live the carefree, meaningless existence of the otter.

    Well all analogies are limited, Chris. Otters do not have a “meaningless” existence – they simply have no concept of meaning. We do. It does not mean we cannot enjoy life, and we do not require material wealth to do so. We do require a degree freedom from material want, which is not the same thing.

    But for many more, there is mostly just yin. They can only ever dream of living like an otter: and the trouble with dreams is that the unattainable ones just add to the torment. The history of humanity on this planet is filled with people who have had more than their fair share of suffering and deprivation. You simply cannot contemplate all of human yin and say, “Don’t worry, Liz’ll Fix It!”.

    No. And nor did I. And nor can God. Or, if s/he can, doesn’t.

    Such tragic people won’t (and don’t) get by with a little help from their friends. Do you need me to illustrate the imbalance of yin that actually plagues so many human lives by talking about poverty, disease, war, famine, death, corruption, depression, despair, addiction, deprivation, hopelessness, intimidation, insecurity, grief, breakdown and all of the other different forms and combinations that human suffering takes in order to help you understand the depth of the question “Why should a miserable atheist bother with life at all?” Because the absence of darkness from your response certainly strikes me as being flippant! I’m not talking about somebody who can be “cheered up” by “getting out a bit” for goodness sake!

    OK Chris, then I’m not getting your point at all, because, as you will see from the above, I am certainly not suggesting that these problems can be easily solved!

    Are you simply asking why a miserable atheist should not commit suicide? Have I grossly over-interpreted your question?

    This is certainly not a “non-problem” but excessive yin certainly affects believers as well as atheists. Again, don’t worry about working out why a miserable believer should bother with life at all: let believers worry about that. You just stick to tragic, despairing, desolate, hopeless atheists, Lizzie: atheists who can only dream of living like an otter, a dream which only adds to their daily torment.

    I hope you will see that my appeal to yin and yang also applies to morality. Your atheistic morality is utterly dependent on an over-abundance of yang. Where is the darkness? How do you deal with the fact that the history of humanity on this planet is filled with people who have led extremely selfish lives and committed many evil acts? The fact is gak happens all the time and, in the real world, no-one stops to think “but what if everyone did gak?”

    Of course they do Chris! It’s why we have a justice system! It’s why we form governments, and parliaments, and democracies! Why do you think we despise cheaters, and hold them up to public shame? Precisely because most of us, possibly all of us, “stops to think ‘but what if everyone did gak’”!

    The history of human civilisation is the history of how people organised themselves so as to ensure that gak-stuff is minimised. Some systems are pretty gak-ridden themselves, and only count as gak, stuff that hurts members of one community, and not stuff that hurst members of another. But we are an intelligent species, capabable of abstract though, and we devise principles, over the millenia, which we pass down, and so we learn. We don’t do human sacrifice any more; we don’t do public hangings and disembowelings (or at least people condemn them when they occur); we make our prisons more humane; we devise concepts like human rights and international law that transcend narrower concepts of justice. And we do so because there is indeed darkness, Chris, and yet most people, Christian and atheist, have an anti-gak drive to eradicate it.

    and, in the real world, containment, deterrence, rehabilitation and reparation are either ineffective, non-existent or counter-productive: thus producing more gak than ever!

    I disagree. There will always be darkness in the world, but as I see it, the forces of darkness (metaphor alert) aren’t winning. Hitler was defeated; Breivik is defeated; the Iron Curtain lifted; hunger is less common; mutilation, slavery and exploitation are more widely condemned. This is because we all start life with an anti-gak drive, and with, as I said, wise etc mentorship, it gets stronger. And that wise mentorship is what an increasingly civilised world provides. Or can.

    Do you need me to illustrate just how evil and selfish many people can be, how genuinely unaffected they are by the pain or concerns for others (and whether or not they’re liked by others) and how easy, comfortable and pleasurable it is for them to do gak whenever they want in order to help you understand the depth of the question “How do you dissuade an atheist from free-riding?” Because it’s no good saying “we don’t want to live in a society where gak is easy to do” when in fact we DO live in a society where gak is easy to do. Nor can you appeal to “our gak-minimising system” because, nowadays, it is utterly useless.

    Well, I simply disagree, Chris. I guess that’s all I can say. We are seeing different evidence here.

    Okay, sorry to bring so much darkness to our discussion, but if you want to subject atheistic meaning and morality to proper scrutiny, then you have to go to the darkest places. I put it to you that atheistic meaning and morality perishes in such places. But one light shines brighter than ever in such places: the light of our Creator.

    I know it is difficult to talk without metaphors Chris, but I do think we need to be careful not to mistake metaphor for argument! I could as easily write:

    “Okay, sorry to bring so much darkness to our discussion, but if you want to subject theistic meaning and morality to proper scrutiny, then you have to go to the darkest places. I put it to you that theistic meaning and morality perishes in such places. But one light shines brighter than ever in such places: the light of our native human capacity for altruism.”

    You will not be persuaded, but perhaps you will see why I am not persuaded by your original :)

    One last thing, I very much admire all of your yang, Lizzie – such lightness and optimism are things to be proud of. When I’m not talking about atheistic meaning and morality, you’ll find my company much more pleasant and enjoyable!

    Well, if you are ever in Nottingham, let me know and we should have a drink :)

  44. Mung at 40 “So let me now support my statement that atheists deny what it means to be human.

    To be human is to not be an animal.

    Yet atheists do in fact deny this. According to atheists, humans are animals.

    If you are an atheist, don’t bother responding. You are an animal, and I don’t bother attempting to argue with animals.”

    No problem. I don’t respond to vegetables or minerals.

  45. EL at 43: “Yes, and if you re-read your post, you will note that I mention plenty of yin – people who cannot empathise; people who cannot learn why they should not do gak-stuff; people who do learn, but refuse to care. And then there is human misery – sometimes caused by gross injustice, sometimes by natural disaster, sometimes by mental illness, sometimes by cruelty (gak stuff).”

    Don’t forget malaria. According to Michael Behe, God made the malaria parasite.

    Malaria kills about a million people a year with a heavy proportion of them being children.

    Hitler killed about 20 million total with a good percentage of them being children.

    So if there is a God and Behe is right about His designing activities, God kills about a Hitler’s worth of innocent humans every 20 years.

    And that’s just from malaria.

    Influenza killed about one Hitler’s worth just in the year or two after WW I.

  46. I think we can all agree that whether Darwinist, atheist or christian the guy was definetely nuts, right?

  47. Chris: “…how can any atheist condemn Breivik in terms that can be reconciled with their worldview? If life is meaningless and we face oblivion then nothing really matters – there is no wrong or right, because there is no Good or Evil:”

    “Life is meaningless” in the context of religion just means that there is no Big Daddy in the Sky who has some special job he wants us to do and a wonderful reward if we do it. It doesn’t mean that nothing matters or there is no right or wrong. We may face oblivian eventually, but we’re alive now.

    Personally, I enjoy life and wish to continue living as long as possible. I also wish to continue living in society because of all the advantages that entails. That means I have to conform to at least elementary morality.

    Since I’m a social animal (sorry Mung) I’m helped in this job by having a basic morality in my genes although this can backfire. (Excessive interest in virginity in a time where contraception is widely available, for instance. Pity the poor Muslim girl who loses her virginity and gets caught.)

    As far as “free-riding” is concerned, do you really think that atheists can’t figure out good and evil? That seems like an odd charge in a world where atheists are NOT strapping on explosive vests and blowing themselves up in crowds.

    If there is no God, then religions get their morality from humans just like atheists do – their human leaders and the human authors of their holy books.

    Find a map showing how religious influence is distributed around the world and another map that shows how violence is distributed around the world. Tell us what kind of overlap you find.

  48. lpadron @ 46:I think we can all agree that whether Darwinist, atheist or christian the guy was definetely nuts, right?

    Not at all! The wide-spread societal acceptance of the mindset that “explains” such things as being due to a person being “nuts” is a major reasom why our western societies are falling apart.

    We (well, not me personally) are “nuts”.

    He is wicked.

  49. 49

    Afteroon Lizzie,

    Do you know what? I actually think we’ve made a lot of progress here. Darkness can be so illuminating!

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me you are now acknowledging that the problem I posed by the question “Why should a miserable atheist bother with life at all?” is one that you, as an atheist, “don’t have a solution” for. Is that right?

    I know that you’re quick to add “And I don’t think an afterlife provides one, either”… but this is bears an uncanny resemblance to your earlier admission about the failure of atheistic morality and my response to that is the same:

    “A rational atheist can logically free-ride: maintaining a public appearance of moral steadfastness while committing immoral acts whenever he desires (as long as he avoids detection) and your response is “Well, sure…”

    I think we should pause there for a moment, Lizzie, to let that important fact sink in rather than trying to gloss over it by changing the subject to theism.”

    Because, if you are saying what you think I’m saying, then you are agreeing with me that the atheistic worldview – complete with its indifferent universe and inevitable oblivion – cannot provide any sort of motivation, hope, purpose or meaning to tragic, miserable people (of which, there are, and has been, plenty). If we now agree on that point, then that is not only progress but also the end of our discussion about atheistic meaning.

    However, if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick and actually you think that the atheistic worldview can still give a miserable atheist (non-otter-related!) reasons for bothering with life at all then let’s hear it. And, yes, when it comes to extremely miserable atheists, I do also want to know what it is about the atheistic worldview that prevents them from committing suicide.

    Now, returning to atheistic morality, look again at the block quote above. You may have just missed this point originally, but if you don’t wish to dispute the fact that a rational atheist can logically free-ride then it seems to me that you also “don’t have a solution” for that problem either. Is that right? If so, then that is also progress and also the end of our discussion about atheistic morality.

    Again, if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick and actually you think that the atheistic worldview can still give a selfish but rational atheist (non-what-if-we-all-did-gak-related!) reasons for NOT free-riding then let’s hear it.

    Remember: most crimes go unsolved (assuming they’ve even been reported in the first place). Many war criminals have been able to start a new, comfortable life. Breivik is facing 21 years in prison at most and during that time, he will not have to worry about food and shelter. He will have access to leisure and entertainment facilities and will receive sacks of fan mail. The Iron Curtain may have been lifted, but countless millions are in the grips of an Iron Fist be it from unjust leaders, poverty or natural disasters. IOW, you cannot deny, that people all over the world are getting away with murder (often literally) and that is because they are either escaping detection completely or because they are prepared to handle the increasingly weak punishment that we hand out to those who are detected.

    I agree, it was cheeky of me to throw in the comment about “the light of our Creator”. I couldn’t resist, the metaphor was too good! But, if you are agreeing with me on the two major points discussed above, then actually, you are at least agreeing that atheistic meaning and morality perishes in the darkest places.

    By all means, please correct me if I’m wrong: if my arguments are not water-tight, then I sincerely want to know why.

    Ah, Nottingham. I have fond memories of the Park Plaza hotel when my partner and I stayed there 5 years ago! We went up to get a 4D scan of our first daughter (who, by the way, quite enjoyed it when I read “Pip and the Edge of Heaven” to her for the first time). I will be sure to look you up if I return (though we’ll be having a 4D scan closer to home for our 18 week baby no. 3!) In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in London with a couple of hours to burn, let me know and I’ll get the first round in!

    Cheers Lizzie :-)

    Chris

  50. 50

    dmullenix, reflect on this:

    If every single theistic person lived a life of selfishness and evil and every single atheistic person live a life of selflessness and good, that in no way detracts from my argument.

    Why? Because when atheist lead good, selfless lives they have no reason to do so – especially when they can get away with free-riding: which they can.

    When theists lead evil, selfish lives, they have compelling reasons to change their ways. They know that they will be justly rewarded for ALL of their actions – whether detected by man or not.

    So, making out that you – an atheist – are an angel while religious belivers are demons does not have any impact on the point I’m making. If the atheistic worldview is true, then you would merely be a fool for turning down the opportunity to have an enjoyable free-ride. And if the theistic worldview is true, then sinning believers are even bigger fools.

  51. I propose the Darwinian trophy for the specimens exhibiting the greatest reproductive success multiplied by efforts ensure their own survival (“might makes right”).

    This is awarded based on a darwinian index of the number of offspring multiplied by number of deaths.

    For the 20th century, I nominate Idi Amin as having a darwinian index of 12 million (with 40 children from 10 wives and having murdered some 300,000 people.)

  52. Chris Doyle,

    Why? Because when atheist lead good, selfless lives they have no reason to do so – especially when they can get away with free-riding: which they can.

    I must confess, I’ve never understood this thinking. I guess because to me, leading a good, selfless life just makes me happier than leading a not-so-good, selfish life.

    And really, for me that’s all it boils down to: how to my actions make me feel and make those around me feel. I can perceive both, so why shouldn’t that be enough for evaluating how I want to behave? I don’t get why some folks think that there needs to be a reason beyond that evaluation?

    When theists lead evil, selfish lives, they have compelling reasons to change their ways. They know that they will be justly rewarded for ALL of their actions – whether detected by man or not.

    Not necessarily. Many theists believe that they will be rewarded solely for their beliefs; that their behavior matters not one wit. So a theist can be the most foul, selfish, killing, maiming, raping, bastard around and completely at peace with his or her life given the belief that his or her God forgives all believers sins. I certainly don’t see any particular incentive in this model for a theist to behave in accordance with any concept of “goodness”.

    So, making out that you – an atheist – are an angel while religious belivers are demons does not have any impact on the point I’m making. If the atheistic worldview is true, then you would merely be a fool for turning down the opportunity to have an enjoyable free-ride. And if the theistic worldview is true, then sinning believers are even bigger fools.

    This just begs the question – there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.

  53. Doveton, ‘This just begs the question – there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.’

    LOL,,,

    Then why the commercial ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’

    i.e. No temptations???

  54. Bornagain77,

    Doveton, ‘This just begs the question – there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.’

    LOL,,,

    Then why the commercial ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’

    i.e. No temptations???

    That would be called a fallacy of the general rule – assuming something true in general is true in every possible case. Basically what you are saying here is that since one place advertises that being bad (in one context – having a one night stand (eek! Feigned shock))is fun, everyone (well…every non-theist I guess) must agree and that all forms of being bad must be equally agreed to be equally fun. That is clearly false face value – merely consider the number of non-theists in Vegas not committing murder. Or consider the vast majority of non-theists who don’t go to Vegas.

    Of course, there’s another problem with the example – Vegas offers more than just being bad and actually plenty of people go there to engage in other activities. You like golf, conventions, dining, hiking, tennis, weddings, spas, touring, etc. Yep…really evil stuff that, particularly that ‘getting married’ behavior…EEP!

    I really don’t think your example is much of a rebuttal.

  55. 55

    Hi Doveton,

    I’m sure you’ll be the first to admit that building your sense of morality around a statement like:

    “I guess because to me, leading a good, selfless life just makes me happier than leading a not-so-good, selfish life.”

    is entirely subjective. Consequently, you have absolutely no grounds whatsoever to argue with somebody who makes the statement that:

    “I guess because to me, leading a good, selfless life just makes me unhappier than leading a not-so-good, selfish life.”

    Regarding any theists who “believe that they will be rewarded solely for their beliefs; that their behavior matters not one wit”: they are just wrong, simple as that. But don’t let theological matters get in the way of atheistic morality: after all, if the atheistic worldview is true then ALL theology is worthless anyway. Bringing it up is frankly an admission that atheistic morality is weak and ineffective… (but you draw comfort from the fact that you believe theistic morality to be equally weak and ineffective so somehow that makes it okay for you).

    And if you don’t think that being bad is enjoyable, if you don’t understand anything about “temptation” (as BA77 rightly points out) then you are also bringing too much yang to this conversation and not enough yin.

    IOW, time to get out more and see how much people enjoy doing the things that they ought not to be doing!

  56. Doveton, despite your shallow ‘dream-world’ rationalizations to the contrary; The brute reality of the fact is that there are millions and millions of people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.. etc.. and whose lives have been devastated by such addictions, indeed many millions have directly died from such addictions, people who were deceived into being addicted solely because they thought, contrary to warnings they received as they were growing up,,, they thought that ‘being bad’ would be enjoyable;,, But on the flip side of that ‘the truth’ has set millions upon millions free from the deceptiveness and temptations of sin;

    ‘Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’

    Heather Williams – Hallelujah – Lyrics – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX2uM0L3Y1A

  57. Morning Chris,

    I’m sure you’ll be the first to admit that building your sense of morality around a statement like:

    “I guess because to me, leading a good, selfless life just makes me happier than leading a not-so-good, selfish life.”

    is entirely subjective. Consequently, you have absolutely no grounds whatsoever to argue with somebody who makes the statement that:

    “I guess because to me, leading a good, selfless life just makes me unhappier than leading a not-so-good, selfish life.”

    I have plenty of grounds to argue against the latter – societal grounds, personal safety grounds, community safety grounds, economic grounds, personal property grounds…the list goes on.

    You seem to think that because a viewpoint is subjective in one area it is subjective in all areas or at least the one area subjectivity negates any reasonable approach to any other area of evaluation. That’s a rather fallacious generalization. Clearly there are objective criteria for deeming some behaviors problematic (cheers River!) and finding that regardless of the perfectly acceptable personal view that behaving good makes one feel bad (and thus being bad is preferential for such a person), acting on the desire can still objectively be found inappropriate.

    Regarding any theists who “believe that they will be rewarded solely for their beliefs; that their behavior matters not one wit”: they are just wrong, simple as that.

    I’m sure you believe that, but it doesn’t change the validity of the point. You are certainly in no position of theistic authority to declare what beliefs are true or not, so your opinion on such is rather moot. The claim is really nothing more than a No True Scotsman fallacy. I’ll take your claim for what it’s worth.

    But don’t let theological matters get in the way of atheistic morality: after all, if the atheistic worldview is true then ALL theology is worthless anyway. Bringing it up is frankly an admission that atheistic morality is weak and ineffective… (but you draw comfort from the fact that you believe theistic morality to be equally weak and ineffective so somehow that makes it okay for you).

    It seems you’ve missed my point. I didn’t note the theistic view of “belief not works” to prop up an atheistic view; on the contrary – I noted it to point out that those who feel good being bad can rationalize that good feeling no matter whether they are theistic or atheistic. Of course, it doesn’t make the atheistic view weak at all since such a view stands by itself no matter what theists rationalize.

    And if you don’t think that being bad is enjoyable, if you don’t understand anything about “temptation” (as BA77 rightly points out) then you are also bringing too much yang to this conversation and not enough yin.

    The problem with the argument, from my perspective, is that so far folks have been discussing the concept in far too general a set of terms. What is this “bad” you speak of specifically? Should an atheist feel equally good about having a one-night stand and murdering someone? Lying about liking his or her in-laws to spare a rift and setting up a Ponzi scheme?

    I personally don’t enjoy being bad in any area, but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority. But I do find it odd that I don’t know a lot of bad people (as determined by most standards) unless you include the rejection of religion as “bad”. So I really don’t know why anyone thinks yin and yang is a valid model and why I need to include more yin in my argument when the evidence I’ve seen doesn’t seem to support such a viewpoint.

    IOW, time to get out more and see how much people enjoy doing the things that they ought not to be doing!

    Like what, for instance? How many of those enjoy committing Ponzi schemes? How many enjoy cheating on their spouses? The latter is actually an example of how this “good” vs “bad” discussion is far too black and white – studies show that the vast majority of folks who cheat on spouse don’t enjoy it and aren’t happy about it, but are so unhappy with some aspect of their marriage that they don’t know what to do to be happy. So how does your perspective deal with that evidence?

    I was a counselor for three years and I can’t recall that many instances where people said they felt good being bad. Nearly all the folks who I talked with freely admitted feeling lousy being bad, but that the act itself gave some measure of relief to some other problem. I just don’t see that type of evidence as much supporting the notion that non-theists should be gravitating towards badness since they have no reason not to.

  58. Bornagain77,

    Doveton, despite your shallow ‘dream-world’ rationalizations to the contrary; The brute reality of the fact is that there are millions and millions of people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.. etc.. and whose lives have been devastated by such addictions, indeed many millions have directly died from such addictions, people who were deceived into being addicted solely because they thought, contrary to warnings they received as they were growing up,,, they thought that ‘being bad’ would be enjoyable;,, But on the flip side of that ‘the truth’ has set millions upon millions free from the deceptiveness and temptations of sin;

    All you are doing here is moving the goal posts. The point of mine you addressed was:

    there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.’

    The vast majority of addicts will tell you that they do not enjoy the substance of their addiction. Having counseled addicts, I found this to be a nearly a universal claim. In fact, one of the reasons that folks become addicted to a substance (be it sex, drugs, shopping, games, money, alcohol, cigarettes, etc) is because they have a personality/physiology that builds up a strong resistance to the dopamine response very quickly, requiring stronger and more frequent exposure to get any sort of enjoyment. In most cases, the addiction leads to a repetitive act of feeding the physiological/psychological dependence without any enjoyment at all. It’s a very nasty state to get to.

    ‘Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’

    Indeed – thank you for supporting my point for me. Note that Jesus doesn’t say that everyone who sins becomes a slave to the enjoyment. Nope – just the act itself.

    So I stand by my statement – there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.

  59. Doveton, The ‘goalpost’ is your statement;

    ‘there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.’

    Hence once again, why does temptation even exist if there is indeed nothing to suggest that sin was enjoyable???,,, Sure after addiction has rendered its ugly head it is no longer enjoyable, which is where you try to draw the line in your conclusion, but your statement is in fact this:

    ‘there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.’

    You can stand by your statement all you want but that does not make your statement any less false than when you first stated it no matter how you rationalize it away with appeal to devastated lives ‘after the fact’.

    Moreover, as a atheist, you are really treading thin ice to even say there is a distinction between good and evil in the first place for you cannot even justify morality in your incoherent worldview:

    Cruel Logic
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qd1LPRJLnI

  60. Bornagain77,

    Doveton, The ‘goalpost’ is your statement;

    ‘there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.’

    Hence once again, why does temptation even exist if there is indeed nothing to suggest that sin was enjoyable???,,,

    Again, you’re writing in generalities. How many people (if any) are tempted to commit murder? Do you really think that anyone finds murder enjoyable?

    Are some folks tempted to cheat on their spouses? No question. But does it then follow that cheating is enjoyable? No, it doesn’t follow. There are a number of reasons spouses cheat, and few of them are based solely on enjoyment.

    Sure after addiction has rendered its ugly head it is no longer enjoyable, which is where you try to draw the line in your conclusion, but your statement is in fact this:

    ‘there’s nothing that suggests that being bad is enjoyable.’

    You can stand by your statement all you want but that does not make your statement any less false than when you first stated it no matter how you rationalize it away with appeal to devastated lives ‘after the fact’.

    I’ll tell you what – I will happily retract/correct the statement if you can point to some evidence that being bad is actually enjoyable.

    Moreover, as a atheist, you are really treading thin ice to even say there is a distinction between good and evil in the first place for you cannot even justify morality in your incoherent worldview:

    Just an aside, I’m not an atheist – more of an agnostic myself. But that I suppose is neither here nor there.

    However, it is quite easy for an atheist (or an agnostic like me) to make a distinction between good an evil:

    Good is anything promotes the well-being of individuals and society

    Evil is anything that promotes the distress and/or destruction of individuals and society.

    Such is easily justified too – it is practical to adopt such a perspective for one’s own well-being.

  61. Doveton, though there are many, just to focus on your main weak point;

    ‘Evil is anything that promotes the distress and/or destruction of individuals and society.’

    The Knock-Down Argument Against Atheist Sam Harris “Flourishing’ moral argument– William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvDyLs_cReE

    ============

    Stephen Meyer – Morality Presupposes Theism (1 of 4) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSpdh1b0X_M

  62. Daveton, it gets far worse for you!!! You cannot even justify doing science itself within your atheistic worldview!!!

    Should You Trust the Monkey Mind? – Joe Carter
    Excerpt: Evolutionary naturalism assumes that our noetic equipment developed as it did because it had some survival value or reproductive advantage. Unguided evolution does not select for belief except insofar as the belief improves the chances of survival. The truth of a belief is irrelevant, as long as it produces an evolutionary advantage. This equipment could have developed at least four different kinds of belief that are compatible with evolutionary naturalism, none of which necessarily produce true and trustworthy cognitive faculties.
    http://www.firstthings.com/ont.....onkey-mind

    What is the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism? (‘inconsistent identity’ of cause leads to failure of absolute truth claims for materialists) (Alvin Plantinga) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yNg4MJgTFw

    Can atheists trust their own minds? – William Lane Craig On Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byN38dyZb-k

    “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” – Charles Darwin – Letter To William Graham – July 3, 1881

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.faqs.org/periodical.....27241.html

    This following site is a easy to use, and understand, interactive website that takes the user through what is termed ‘Presuppositional apologetics’. The website clearly shows that our use of the laws of logic, mathematics, science and morality cannot be accounted for unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning are trustworthy in the first place.

    Proof That God Exists – easy to use interactive website
    http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php

    Nuclear Strength Apologetics – Presuppositional Apologetics – video
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....pologetics

    John Lennox – Science Is Impossible Without God – Quotes – video remix
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6287271/

    Materialism simply dissolves into absurdity when pushed to extremes and certainly offers no guarantee to us for believing our perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

  63. Doveton, though there are many, just to focus on your main weak point;

    ‘Evil is anything that promotes the distress and/or destruction of individuals and society.’

    The Knock-Down Argument Against Atheist Sam Harris “Flourishing’ moral argument– William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvDyLs_cReE

    ============

    Stephen Meyer – Morality Presupposes Theism (1 of 4) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSpdh1b0X_M

    These arguments are so weak and thoughtless… The tired old ought – is claim.

    Harris’ slight of hand is not very deft. Here’s an example where he tries to slip morality into his functional definition:

    Values are a certain kind of fact. They are facts about the well-being of conscious creatures… If we’re more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we are, it’s because we think they are exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering. The crucial thing to notice here is that this is a factual claim.

    Umm…no Mr. Harris. Insects, trees, and stones may well experience some lesser range of potential happiness and suffering, but so what? Our acknowledgement of organisms experiencing greater or lesser ranges of happiness or suffering doesn’t imply anything about what we should feel or how we should behave; there’s nothing about morality tied in there.

    As for Meyer’s argument, it’s just slant on TAG, which is easily rearranged into morality presupposes the Flying Spaghetti Monster: http://www.noble-minded.org/search_for_god.html

    Sorry Bornagain, but those arguments just don’t hold any water.

  64. Bornagain,

    Daveton, it gets far worse for you!!! You cannot even justify doing science itself within your atheistic worldview!!!

    Oh…joy…the presuppostional apologetics of Plantinga, Bahnsen, Craig.

    So, right off the bat we start with a stolen concept fallacy by way of a strawman.

    http://www.don-lindsay-archive.....tml#stolen

    In other words, relying on some supposed truth of evolution (even though Carter, Plantinga, Craig, et al all mischaracterize evolutionary theory) to falsify the theory invalidates the argument on circularity.

    But let’s deal directly with the argument these folks all voice (paraphrasing the summation provided by Dr Gordon) – that materialism (e.g., science) offers no guarantee that the perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place. Guess what? That’s quite true and all real scientists acknowledge this. Heck, we downright embrace that fact. Why? Because science isn’t about relying upon, nevermind proving, the trustworthiness of perceptions or reason. Science is pretty much only concerned with utility. If I have an explanation that fits the evidence better than any other explanation, it matters not one wit whether the perception or reasoning are trustworthy. The only thing I trust is whether an explanation fits consistently, repeatably, and predictably with other folk’s perceptions and reasoning. If we are all wrong, that’s fine since none of us with no it and our predictions about the world around us will still allow us to accomplish activities.

    You can have the apologetics’ circular argument if you want but I certainly don’t need it or accept it.

  65. Doveton,,, what a bunch of wishy washy hogwash!!!

  66. for instance;

    ‘it matters not one wit whether the perception or reasoning are trustworthy.’

    then why in blue blazes are you wasting all your time trying to reason with us???

  67. Bornagain77,

    Doveton,,, what a bunch of wishy washy hogwash!!!

    You are welcome to believe such, but your claiming such isn’t much of a rebuttal.

    for instance;

    ‘it matters not one wit whether the perception or reasoning are trustworthy.’

    then why in blue blazes are you wasting all your time trying to reason with us???

    A) I’m not.

    B) This site does not constitute “within science”, a condition your reference, Dr. Gordon, notes.

    C) The discussions I engage in hereon do not constitute “explanations that fit the evidence” within science, the context I noted surrounding the words of mine you are questioning.

    D) Perceptions and reasoning, do not have to be trustworthy for scientific explanations to be useful.

  68. Doveton, you state on the one hand that it matters not one wit whether reasoning is trustworthy, then when asked why you are wasting your time trying to reason with us, you claim that you are not ‘scientifically’ reasoning and then give us ‘reasons’ for why you are not reasoning!!! :) I could not write a better stand up routine if I tried!!! :)

  69. It is almost as good as this Doveton;

    This following video humorously reveals the bankruptcy that atheists have in trying to ground beliefs within a materialistic worldview;

    John Cleese – The Scientists – humorous video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M-vnmejwXo

  70. EL:

    “we try to make them see that if everyone forgoes the gak stuff, everyone else, including them is better off,”

    So this system is mostly about minimising discomfort to oneself via being nice to others (who may do the minimising if we’re not nice to them). I think this is a basic level of social morality everyone possesses, both theists and atheists.

    However, this system does not work very effectively. I’m sure we all know examples of ‘bad bosses’ or bad colleagues or bad civil servants who treat others badly but are very congenial to their superiors or people who matter to them. If there is no feedback or feedback is unlikely (which is the usual case outside of the Brother’s Grimm) the pragmatic, person will say that it costs me more to be nice to this ‘idiot’ colleague or subordinate than it’s worth. In fact it may not even be possible to enlighten them. Others won’t even say it. They won’t even realise how they’re hurting their subordinates. Meanwhile it more than pays off to be good to my boss and laugh at his stupid jokes and pretend to be eager when he talks about new projects for me to get started on (even though I have enough on my plate already). It pays off to keep my boss happy but it does not always pay off to keep my underlings or people of neutral status to me, happy. In fact as said, it may harm me by using my limited resources which could be used to be a sycophant to my superior or the guy who will give me a grant for my next project.

    I’m sure we’ve all come across such people. At times I’ve acted like this myself.

    I think as a Catholic theistic person and an educated person who seeks all forms of knowledge I want more. I want a system of morality which is as at least as good as my education. I want to do everything well. This system is a non-psychopath type of morality, but it’s not good enough. Just as going to high school is not good enough to be a molecular biologist or an aerospace engineer. There is no finite number of papers or good books one can stop at reading before one says that ones’ education is complete. The same goes for morality and Catholic morality is pretty intellectual stuff. Comparing Christian or Catholic morality to this just makes this look very amateurish, and makes me feel bad because I often operate at this level too. I don’t want these things because I want to show off, but because I want to better myself and ultimately transfer some of these qualities to my children and grandchildren and possibly others.

    Let’s look at this system employed in a Godless society, such as the post-Revolutionary USSR.
    Communist atheists such as Feliks Dzierzynski had to be good to their bosses, Stalin and Lenin to keep them happy but they could order the extermination or Siberian exile of their subordinates and countless other powerless plebs. They did this, knowing that these people were no danger to them. Communist atheist leaders such as Boleslaw Bierut sometimes fell out of favour with their bosses despite having their pictures all over schools and May 1 parades, when they stood up to them and ended up dead. Their well being was guaranteed by their bosses but not their subordinates and definitely not by the population out there.

    My mother, who was born in 1946, told me how as a child in the Eastern Bloc, a communist atheist functionary in the 50′s once confiscated their family coal kitchen stove. She was one of 3 children, her father was an architecture student finishing off his studies and her mother a manager of a retail store. In full wintertime a local Communist decided that he would be nice and kind to this family of 3 young children (at a time when large families were promoted too by the atheist Communist government) to be without a source of heat and means of providing warm meals. Yes he did not find it necessary to be warm to this family but he must have been a loyal Communist hence made his superiors happy in his congeniality.

    Of course some people just can’t help being nice. There are some people who have a pleasant temperament, who are always polite and good to everyone.

  71. Bornagain77,

    Doveton, you state on the one hand that it matters not one wit whether reasoning is trustworthy, then when asked why you are wasting your time trying to reason with us, you claim that you are not ‘scientifically’ reasoning and then give us ‘reasons’ for why you are not reasoning!!! :) I could not write a better stand up routine if I tried!!! :)

    Ok…clearly you didn’t understand what I wrote. Let’s try this again…

    First, I did not state, “that it matters not one wit whether reasoning is trustworthy.” Here’s what I actually wrote:

    If I have an explanation that fits the evidence better than any other explanation, it matters not one wit whether the perception or reasoning are trustworthy.

    Note the preceding condition – an explanation that fits the evidence better than any other explanation – that gives that sentence context. That’s the condition your references all note and it is because of this condition that their arguments are Stolen Concept fallacies (a form of circular argument). Thus taking the one part out of that full sentence removes the context – so your question then is out of context.

    So you then ask why I’m wasting my time reasoning with you all. First off, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time reasoning with you all, hence my “I’m not” response. As I noted, reasoning does not have to be trustworthy to be useful, nevermind just plain old fun.

    Second, since this site does not constitute “within science” as Dr. Gordon and I both established as conditions, whether I find reasoning in this setting trustworthy or not is not impinged by the view of reasoning’s trustworthiness in a scientific setting.

    Third, the discussions I engage in here are not “explanations that fit evidence” within science, so again scientific views on reasoning in such situations do not apply here.

    Of course, the very fact that you don’t trust my reasoning and I don’t trust your reasoning pretty much proves my point. There is no way to prove the trustworthiness of reasoning or perception; the best you can do is provide arguments and hope that others find utility in them. Thus far I’ve not found any utility in your arguments.

  72. If I have an explanation that fits the evidence better than any other explanation, it matters not one wit whether the perception or reasoning are trustworthy.

    Including the reasoning that says “this is evidence” and that this other bit over here “this is not evidence.”

    Including the reasoning involved in developing the belief that the explanation fits the evidence better than any other explanation.

    As I noted, reasoning does not have to be trustworthy to be useful, nevermind just plain old fun.

    I suppose one could say the same thing about playing the fool.

  73. Chris Doyle at 50: So atheists live moral lives even though they don’t have to while if a theist leads a moral life it’s because he’s either out for God’s reward or afraid of God’s punishment? I don’t think that’s what you meant to say, but …

    Can I ask you to define “free ride”? I thought you meant borrowing religiously derived morality but now I’m not sure.

    Also, everybody – I’m seeing people talk about objective morality again. I’m looking for somebody to tell me what it is – in enough detail so I can live my life by it. I’m not looking for a bunch of Bible verses or platitudes because those are subject to too much interpretation. (Example: Thou shalt not kill. Even for food? Or plants? Or in self-defense?)

  74. DLH in 51: First, Idi Amin was a theist. Second, he was grossly anti-social and evolution has built us to be social characters. That organization is the biggest single factor, except for our intelligence, in the success of the human race. So what is your point?

  75. 75
    Elizabeth Liddle

    I second dmullenix’s request, as I think it would clarify the issues.

    The question addressed to atheists seems to be: what incentive do you have to be good, and how do you know what being good consists of?

    I’d like to know what incentive Christians have to be good, and how they know what being good consists of.

    It’s not a trick question – from the shape of the answer I hope to figure out what kind of answer you think atheists can’t provide :)

    Thanks :)

  76. 76

    I’ll answer that from my non-Christian point of view after you respond to post 49 on this thread, Lizzie.

    Dmullenix: check out the link below if you want to learn more about the atheistic problem of free-riding:

    http://hitchensblog.mailonsund.....7f1ca5970b

  77. Doveton at 71 (the standup routine goes on) I see that you once again tried to reason with me to show me why “that it matters not one wit whether reasoning is trustworthy.”

    Ironically how ‘unreasonable’ this all is is completely lost on you, which at least lets me know, through reasoning, that your reasoning is not trustworthy in this matter;

    you try to add a caveat to you statement here;

    “Here’s what I actually wrote:

    ‘If I have an explanation that fits the evidence better than any other explanation, it matters not one wit whether the perception or reasoning are trustworthy.’”

    But alas Doveton you are banking on the fact that reasoning and perception are trustworthy to such a point that any new evidence will appeal to my reasoning as to make any particular position you may hold ‘more reasonable’! :)

    With such ‘unreasonable’ thinking as you display in the necessity for ‘trustworthy reasoning’, it is no wonder that there are no atheists are on the honor role of those who founded modern science;

    Little known by most people is the fact that almost every, if not every, major branch of modern science has been founded by a scientist who believed in Christ:

    Christianity and The Birth of Science – Michael Bumbulis, Ph.D
    Excerpt: Furthermore, many of these founders of science lived at a time when others publicly expressed views quite contrary to Christianity – Hume, Hobbes, Darwin, etc. When Boyle argues against Hobbe’s materialism or Kelvin argues against Darwin’s assumptions, you don’t have a case of “closet atheists.”
    http://ldolphin.org/bumbulis/

    Christianity Gave Birth To Each Scientific Discipline – Dr. Henry Fritz Schaefer – video
    http://vimeo.com/16523153

    In this short video, Dr. Stephen Meyer notes that the early scientists were Christians whose faith motivated them to learn more about their Creator…

    Dr. Meyer on the Christian History of Science – video
    http://www.thetruthproject.org.....000287.cfm

    A Short List Of The Christian Founders Of Modern Science
    http://www.creationsafaris.com/wgcs_toc.htm

    Founders of Modern Science Who Believe in GOD – Tihomir Dimitrov
    http://www.scigod.com/index.ph.....File/18/18

    The Origin of Science
    Excerpt: Modern science is not only compatible with Christianity, it in fact finds its origins in Christianity.
    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/aug.....rigin.html

    Jerry Coyne on the Scientific Method and Religion – Michael Egnor – June 2011
    Excerpt: The scientific method — the empirical systematic theory-based study of nature — has nothing to so with some religious inspirations — Animism, Paganism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Islam, and, well, atheism. The scientific method has everything to do with Christian (and Jewish) inspiration. Judeo-Christian culture is the only culture that has given rise to organized theoretical science. Many cultures (e.g. China) have produced excellent technology and engineering, but only Christian culture has given rise to a conceptual understanding of nature.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....47431.html

    Christianity Is a Science-Starter, Not a Science-Stopper By Nancy Pearcey
    http://www.pearceyreport.com/a.....post_4.php

    The ‘Person Of Christ’ was, and is, necessary for science to start and persist!
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-385265

  78. 78

    DMull: “Example: Thou shalt not kill. Even for food? Or plants? Or in self-defense?”

    The original Hebrew word is “ratsach” from the sixth Commandment, many Hebrews translate this as “murder,” or to murder, or to kill in passion, revenge etc. But it is translated, I believe in most cases incorrectly, to mean simply “kill,” which as you say is subject to interpretation.

  79. Bornagain77,

    Doveton at 71 (the standup routine goes on) I see that you once again tried to reason with me to show me why “that it matters not one wit whether reasoning is trustworthy.”

    Actually I merely pointed out that you were not responding to what I actually said. And you still aren’t. Oh well…

    Ironically how ‘unreasonable’ this all is is completely lost on you, which at least lets me know, through reasoning, that your reasoning is not trustworthy in this matter;

    I hear an Alanis Morissette song coming on. Do you know what is really ironic about that song? Not one thing she mentions is actually an example of irony.

    Anywhoo…you might consider actually addressing what I wrote and then determining whether there’s any irony.

    you try to add a caveat to you statement here;

    “Here’s what I actually wrote:

    ‘If I have an explanation that fits the evidence better than any other explanation, it matters not one wit whether the perception or reasoning are trustworthy.’”

    But alas Doveton you are banking on the fact that reasoning and perception are trustworthy to such a point that any new evidence will appeal to my reasoning as to make any particular position you may hold ‘more reasonable’!

    Incorrect. I’m banking on no such thing and I noted that myself. Once again, I recommend you actually address what I wrote as opposed to what you wish I’d written.

    With such ‘unreasonable’ thinking as you display in the necessity for ‘trustworthy reasoning’, it is no wonder that there are no atheists are on the honor role of those who founded modern science;

    Now this, on the other hand, is a fine example of irony, Bornagain. If you address what I actually wrote, you might actually realize why. :)

  80. 80
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Fair enough, Chris :)

    But it’s a long one, so will have to wait for a longer response slot :)

    Probably this evening.

  81. 81
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Hi Chris, sorry for the delayed response:

    Afteroon Lizzie,
    Do you know what? I actually think we’ve made a lot of progress here. Darkness can be so illuminating!
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me you are now acknowledging that the problem I posed by the question “Why should a miserable atheist bother with life at all?” is one that you, as an atheist, “don’t have a solution” for. Is that right?
    I know that you’re quick to add “And I don’t think an afterlife provides one, either”… but this is bears an uncanny resemblance to your earlier admission about the failure of atheistic morality and my response to that is the same:
    “A rational atheist can logically free-ride: maintaining a public appearance of moral steadfastness while committing immoral acts whenever he desires (as long as he avoids detection) and your response is “Well, sure…”
    I think we should pause there for a moment, Lizzie, to let that important fact sink in rather than trying to gloss over it by changing the subject to theism.”

    OK.

    Because, if you are saying what you think I’m saying, then you are agreeing with me that the atheistic worldview – complete with its indifferent universe and inevitable oblivion – cannot provide any sort of motivation, hope, purpose or meaning to tragic, miserable people (of which, there are, and has been, plenty). If we now agree on that point, then that is not only progress but also the end of our discussion about atheistic meaning.

    I’m sorry, Chris, but I’m not making the connection here. In the first place, I can’t even find where you are quoting me from, so I’m not sure what I said in the ellipses – can you link? And I’ve given you lots of examples of what someone with an atheistic worldview can do to help provide a miserable atheist with motiviation, hope, purpose or meaning.
    I mean you are not stupid, Chris, and nor am I, so clearly we are misunderstanding each other here – that’s why I asked you to answer the question from a theist perspective so I could try to understand the shape of the answer you are after (whether I can fill the shape or not). If a person is tragic and miserable, what might be able to do to give them hope and joy will, in part, depend on why they are tragic and miserable. And I’ve known tragic and miserable atheists – tragic because of a personal bereavement, and miserable because of fallout from that bereavement – who have indeed been helped – by other atheists – to recover motivation, hope and purpose. So I’m absolutely stuck! You’ve asked me a question, I’ve given you answers, but you seem to think that my answers are somehow not – I dunno – satisfactory? That they wouldn’t give you hope and purpose? Well, probably not, but then you asked me to help a miserable atheist, not a miserable Christian!

    Please help!

    However, if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick and actually you think that the atheistic worldview can still give a miserable atheist (non-otter-related!) reasons for bothering with life at all then let’s hear it. And, yes, when it comes to extremely miserable atheists, I do also want to know what it is about the atheistic worldview that prevents them from committing suicide.

    Well, I already provided quite a lot. But let me think up a new list of reasons why, from an atheist perspective, an atheist should bother with life at all:
    “Well, it’s the only one you’ve got, and you aren’t exactly getting your money’s worth right now, so why not go out and enjoy it! Join a samba band, get a rewarding job, love your wife, love your children, help out your neighbour, sign up for a dating service, figure out what in the world needs fixing the most, and go out and see what you can do to fix it, have a massage/single malt whisky/sausage and chips, train for a half marathon, take up darts, cycle to work, save the whales….

    I’m serious, Chris – all those things are “reasons for bothering with life”. But my answer to your second question is more serious still – your question about suicide. I think you are right in a sense that atheists are more likely than theists to consider suicide, not because they are more miserable, but because they don’t see any good reason to suffer through a “natural” death when they can organise a peaceful one, give their relatives an opportunity to say goodbye, and leave when they are ready. Atheists have a huge advantage over many theists, in that they aren’t afraid of death, although they may be, like all of us, afraid of the process of dying. And not being afraid of death can be hugely liberating. I’ve heard lots of atheists say: we know that this life is the only life we have, and that our only immortality lies in the difference we make to the world, so what greater incentive could there be for trying to leave the world a better place, not a worse one” or words to that effect.

    Now, returning to atheistic morality, look again at the block quote above. You may have just missed this point originally, but if you don’t wish to dispute the fact that a rational atheist can logically free-ride then it seems to me that you also “don’t have a solution” for that problem either. Is that right? If so, then that is also progress and also the end of our discussion about atheistic morality.

    But I do dispute this, Chris, and did, at length, with my “gak” post. I think you may have missed my point! But let me try to put it more succinctly: I think the error here lies in the term “free-ride”. I presume you mean – can have all the pleasure while others bear the pain as the old song goes. But that presupposes that pleasure, for humans, can be had at the expense of others. For some, maybe, actually certainly. But for most of us, pleasure at the expense of others’ pain is seriously alloyed pleasure. So why seek it – “gak” – rather than the really good stuff? Why drink keg lager when you can have draft beer? Now, you may well ask (and did, but I answered, though you might have missed it :)): but what gives people the desire for draft beer? Well, partly for many it comes “naturally”. For most people it’s the result of nurture. That nurture is what we call (as I said) “bringing children up to know right from wrong”. Which is not, as I’m sure you would agree, simply a matter of giving them a couple of lists to memorise, rewarding them when they do stuff on one list and punishing them when they do stuff on the other. It’s encouraging them to use their native ability (and I say that advisedly) to see things from another’s point of view, and to anticipate the consequences of their own actions, not only from their own PoV, but from the other’s. To nurture the capacity for empathy that is our birthright.

    Again, if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick and actually you think that the atheistic worldview can still give a selfish but rational atheist (non-what-if-we-all-did-gak-related!) reasons for NOT free-riding then let’s hear it.

    Yes, and I hope I’ve made it clear above.

    Remember: most crimes go unsolved (assuming they’ve even been reported in the first place). Many war criminals have been able to start a new, comfortable life. Breivik is facing 21 years in prison at most and during that time, he will not have to worry about food and shelter. He will have access to leisure and entertainment facilities and will receive sacks of fan mail. The Iron Curtain may have been lifted, but countless millions are in the grips of an Iron Fist be it from unjust leaders, poverty or natural disasters. IOW, you cannot deny, that people all over the world are getting away with murder (often literally) and that is because they are either escaping detection completely or because they are prepared to handle the increasingly weak punishment that we hand out to those who are detected.

    But I haven’t argued, Chris, for “weak punishment”. In fact I argued quite strongly for a rigorous justice system (“gak-minimising system”) if you recall! And I’m not sure what “natural disasters” is doing in that list anyway. Who do you punish for a natural disaster? But just as important as a justice system, IMO, is a culture that nurtures and rewards anti-gak stuff, whether it’s in our child-rearing practices, schools, colleges, institutions etc, and a social justice system that seeks to minimise, and eradicate, where possible, poverty, and to respond to natural disasters as effectively and humanely as possible.

    I agree, it was cheeky of me to throw in the comment about “the light of our Creator”. I couldn’t resist, the metaphor was too good! But, if you are agreeing with me on the two major points discussed above, then actually, you are at least agreeing that atheistic meaning and morality perishes in the darkest places.

    No, I’m not, because I don’t. Sorry!

    By all means, please correct me if I’m wrong: if my arguments are not water-tight, then I sincerely want to know why.

    Well, not so much not water-tight, but that we are still passing like ships in the night. Hope this post has helped.

    Ah, Nottingham. I have fond memories of the Park Plaza hotel when my partner and I stayed there 5 years ago! We went up to get a 4D scan of our first daughter (who, by the way, quite enjoyed it when I read “Pip and the Edge of Heaven” to her for the first time). I will be sure to look you up if I return (though we’ll be having a 4D scan closer to home for our 18 week baby no. 3!) In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in London with a couple of hours to burn, let me know and I’ll get the first round in!
    Cheers Lizzie
    Chris

    Ah, how nice that you read Pip! It’s my son of course. Most of the conversations are near verbatim, although obviously cast in fictional format. I still stand by most of that tbh. In my idiosyncratic way.

    And 4D scans are awesome! Congratulations on your daughter!

  82. Thanks for this response too, Lizzie. I will also respond in full to this, later this weekend, hopefully. ;-)

  83. 83
    Elizabeth Liddle

    BTW, Chris, I’ve started a thread at my new blog here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=17

    related to your questions. I’m happy to address them here, but if you want to come over, at least we can keep things to a single manageable thread!

  84. Doveton, I note once again you, as a atheist, are completely missing the point that you have no basis in science from which to work; To get this whole ‘transcendent thing’ down, you know transcendent things like perception, reasoning, truth, information, consciousness, etc.. etc…,,, things that are essential for ‘science’ to even be possible, Let’s break it down to its foundational brass tax. I hold that material processes cannot generate transcendent things. whereas, You, as a atheist, if you are consistent, hold that material processes can generate such transcendent things, or at least the illusion of such transcendent things. Thus, to resolve this conflict, I have a null hypothesis for you to falsify to prove to me that material processes can do such as you hold:

    The Law of Physicodynamic Insufficiency – Dr David L. Abel – November 2010
    Excerpt: “If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise.”,,, After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided. The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction: “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_L.....iency.html

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8 ) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    Falsify that Doveton and I will gladly pay attention to your conjectures!! Deal???

  85. Hi Elizabeth,

    Here are a couple of articles that might interest you on religion and suicide.

    Religious Affiliation, Atheism and Suicide .
    This is an article showing not only that membership in a highly religious culture is linked to lower levels of suicide, but also that higher levels of participation within a specific religious group are linked to lower levels of suicide.

    A Global Perspective in the Epidemiology of Suicide by Jose Manoel Bertolote and Alexandra Fleischmann.
    According to this article, suicide rates are lowest in Islamic countries and highest in atheistic China. Bertolote and Fleischmann point out that in Muslim countries (e.g. Kuwait) where suicide is most strictly forbidden, the suicide rate is close to zero (0.1 per 100,000). The suicide rate is highest in atheist countries such as China, where it is 25.6 per 100,000. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. If they were living under the atheistic regime of China, 450,000 of them would be killing themselves every year, or 45,000,000 per century. I would humbly suggest that anything that saves that many lives has got to be socially beneficial.

  86. Here you go Doveton, the mandatory song:

    Creed – Bullets (Video 2009)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPzhUp8mWgs

  87. 87
    Elizabeth Liddle

    vjtorley: I certainly don’t doubt that an atheist would have far fewer scruples about arranging the time, place and manner of their own death than theists.

    Nor would I be very surprised if those who haven’t thought much about whether they are atheists or otherwise have a gloomier view of life than those who have, and the latter probably get labelled as atheists in the respective surveys.

    Christianity, and other religions can be hugely life-affirming. So can atheism, when positively asserted.

    As for your statistics, I am as suspicious of them as I am of statistics showing that religion is associated with lower IQ. That kind of nation-as-unit-of-analysis inference is riddled with the Ecological Fallacy.

    It’s one of the fallacies I battled with when trying to refute the case that alleged exit poll fraud was higher in Republican precincts.

  88. Bornagain,

    Doveton, I note once again you, as a atheist, are completely missing the point that you have no basis in science from which to work; To get this whole ‘transcendent thing’ down, you know transcendent things like perception, reasoning, truth, information, consciousness, etc.. etc…,,, things that are essential for ‘science’ to even be possible,

    Well, my research into such things indicates they are not transcendent; they are material process phenomena just like rain, lava flow, and sunburn. But that’s neither here nor there I suppose since that’s an post hoc acceptance.

    The real point to understand is that the validity of science doesn’t come from some “world view” based on science, at least not for me. My world view can be summed up in “I’m hungry”. Everything – perception, reasoning, truth, information, consciousness, love, etc…all of those items and the awareness of them follows from “I’m hungry”. Once one comes to terms with “I’m hungry” and “I’m not hungry”, science merely becomes away to make the transition between the two efficient and effective.

    Let’s break it down to its foundational brass tax. I hold that material processes cannot generate transcendent things. whereas, You, as a atheist, if you are consistent, hold that material processes can generate such transcendent things, or at least the illusion of such transcendent things.

    Since I’m not aware of any transcendent things, I don’t find the idea of anything generating such things very useful.

    Thus, to resolve this conflict, I have a null hypothesis for you to falsify to prove to me that material processes can do such as you hold:

    The Law of Physicodynamic Insufficiency – Dr David L. Abel – November 2010
    Excerpt: “If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise.”,,, After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided. The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction: “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_L…..iency.html

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8 ) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    Falsify that Doveton and I will gladly pay attention to your conjectures!! Deal???

    Simply put, it strikes me that Dr. Abel is just begging the question. For example, all Dr. Abel is saying here:

    physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.

    Is ‘non-organizing dynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems…’

    That’s not a very compelling null hypothesis as it offers nothing of any validity against any current research.

    If Dr. Abel truly wishes to “focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous
    metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,””, he would be better served by actually testing current research and pointing out specific issues in the outcome of specific methodology. But that’s up to him.

  89. Doveton, Dr. Abel, has a million dollar prize backing up his falsification claim,,, whereas you have,,,, well you have your hunches,,,

    http://lifeorigin.info/

    How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things?
    — Albert Einstein

  90. Bornagain,

    Doveton, Dr. Abel, has a million dollar prize backing up his falsification claim,,, whereas you have,,,, well you have your hunches,,,

    Just a note, but a million dollar prize claim doesn’t back up anything. It is a claim of a prize, nothing more and adds no credibility to Dr. Abel’s claims.

    I’ll also note that I can’t think of one prominent scientific advance that was ever put forth via a prize claim. The vast majority of scientists demonstrate the validity of their claims through research instead.

    “How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things?”
    — Albert Einstein

    Yep…he also noted:

    “as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

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