Home » Darwinism, Evolution » Why no pet penitentiaries?

Why no pet penitentiaries?

[From a paper by one of my students:] According to Darwin’s theory, humans are separated from the animals only by a matter of degrees, not by categories. This is the working presupposition behind the evolutionary ethics of James Rachels. Thus, there can be no fundamental difference between “evil” committed by rhesus monkeys and that committed by the Great Apes –- Homo sapiens. This is where the reductio meets the ad absurdum. To argue that crimes committed by animals and those committed by humans are equivalent does not comport with reality and it does not jive with our experience. While we do have pet cemeteries, we do not have pet penitentiaries. No one incarcerates a Mantis religiosa for the copulatory consumption of her mate’s head, but Scott Peterson is justly sentenced for murdering his pregnant wife.

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99 Responses to Why no pet penitentiaries?

  1. My guess would be because penitentiaries are ostensibly for rehabilitation hence the definition “correctional institution”. What’s the chances of rehabilitating a mantis? If humans differ from other animals only in degree, which all scientific evidence indicates is true, then ability to learn from a mistake and not repeat it is just one of those things that differ by degrees and not by category. That said, comparing humans to insects reveals not only how ridiculous the author’s point was but that he knows very well it’s ridiculous. If he had a real point he could’ve used a respected animal like a horse instead of bugs and monkeys.

  2. I think this passage is slightly misleading. The implication is that naturalists are wrong to punish Peterson and not the mantis, though this is (I would say) logically fallacious. Just because naturalists say that there is a difference in degree and not kind does not mean that they aren’t just in punishing one and not the other. Would you agree that there is a difference in degree and not kind between lightly tapping someone with my fist and punching someone as hard as I could? Of course. But does it follow that you should punish both actions?

  3. Bill’s student does not explicitly mention animal rights, but I gather that he or she is arguing the following:

    According to Darwin, animals and humans are related, differing only by degree. James Rachels says that this entitles them to ethical consideration, including the bestowal of rights. But if an ethical system grants rights to animals, then the flip side also applies: they should be held responsible for evil and punished accordingly, even to the extent of being sent to prison. But this is absurd. We don’t hold animals responsible for evil (as in the praying mantis example), we don’t build pet penitentiaries, and it would be ridiculous to do either of these things.

    To the student, if you are lurking out there in blogland: Is this a fair synopsis of the argument you were making?

    The excerpt also does not indicate what conclusions the student draws from the argument. Obviously, a reductio ad absurdum argument is intended to show that one or more of the premises is incorrect. In this case there are two main premises in James Rachels’ argument. Let’s look at each and examine the implications if it is incorrect.

    Rachels’ first premise:
    1) Humans differ from animals only by degrees, as evolutionary theory tells us.

    If this premise is incorrect, then humans must be in a fundamentally separate category from animals. This could either mean that evolutionary theory is wrong to assert their relatedness, or that evolutionary theory is right, but that other distinguishing attribute(s) place humans in a separate moral category.

    If the former, then the student would be arguing that evolutionary theory is wrong not because of any scientific evidence, but because it contradicts a particular moral intuition. The problem with such an argument, obviously, would be that it assumes the truth of the moral intuition rather than demonstrating it, and that it renders scientific evidence irrelevant in deciding a scientific issue (the truth of evolution), which is an absurdity.

    If the student is making the “distinguishing attributes” argument, then he/she should specify the attributes, show why they justify putting humans in a separate moral category, and demonstrate that other animals do not possess these attributes.

    Rachels’ second premise:
    1) The relatedness and similarity of animals to humans entitles animals to ethical consideration, including the bestowal of rights.

    This is probably the premise that the student intended to invalidate via the reductio ad absurdum.

    Let’s look closely at one of the premises of the student’s (not Rachels’) argument. In my paraphrase, the premise was “If an ethical system grants rights to animals, then the flip side also applies: they should be held responsible for evil and punished accordingly, even to the extent of being sent to prison.”

    The problem is easily seen if we substitute “young children” or “mentally disabled persons” for “animals” in the wording of the premise: “If an ethical system grants rights to young children, then the flip side also applies: they should be held responsible for evil and punished accordingly, even to the extent of being sent to prison.”

    Most of us would disagree with the reworded premise. We believe that young children are not fully responsible for their actions, both because they do not completely understand the consequences and because their sense of right and wrong is not fully developed. (Remember that six year old boy who shot his classmate at school? See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wor.....661564.stm . I remember reading at the time that the boy didn’t understand that if he killed his classmate, she wasn’t coming back.)

    The same reasoning applies to animals (remember the mantis example), and so the premise is invalidated. Note that if it is ever shown that some animals (presumably smarter ones like chimps) both understand the consequences of their actions and understand what’s good and evil, at least with respect to the actions in question, then it might actually make sense, by analogy with humans, to hold them responsible and punish them for such actions.

    Because the student’s argument hinged on the connection between being granted rights and being held fully responsible for one’s actions, the argument itself is invalidated.

    Dembski’s student presumably attends the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Dembski teaches. If so, there’s a special irony in the argument, since the Bible itself states that animals should in fact be punished for violating the law, despite the student’s intuition:

    1. Exodus 19:12-13 demands that humans and animals who touch Mt. Sinai be stoned to death or shot with arrows.

    2. Exodus 21:28-32 demands the stoning of oxen who gore people.

    3. Leviticus 20:15-16 decrees that if a man or woman has sex with an animal, both the person and the animal must be killed.

    Finally, I should mention that Richard Dawkins addresses the moral implications of evolutionary similarities in an essay in his book, “A Devil’s Chaplain.”

  4. By the way, thanks for the James Rachels pointer. I’ve been a vegetarian for ethical reasons for the last 20 years, so I’m very interested in what Rachels has to say.

  5. Some evolutionists (like William Provine specifically) would say that humans should not be incarcerated either. That is because they argue that humans, like monkeys, earthworms, and apples, do not have free will. They are just made up of matter put together without any planning. Therefore, they cannot be held accountable for their actions.

    So, the idea is that we correctly find it absurd that we would arrest a monkey or llama. But, we haven’t made the same connection of finding it equally absurd to arrest a human. Since of course, we are no different than those other ‘cousins’.

    And, when you make choices about breakfast and other things, you really aren’t making a choice, but rather, your genes are playing a trick on you, making you think you are actually making a free choice.

    BTW, I’m not being sarcastic or maligning Provine. I think this is actually one of Provine’s main areas of thought. I don’t agree with it, but thought that this is another angle that should be bantered about, given the article that was posted. Also, some people on this blog advocating the naturalist position say that it is ok to convict Peterson. So, I was actually interested in how they synthesize Provine’s view.

    Finally, I hope I am accurately expressing Provine’s argument (even though I only did it in about 2 sentances). If someone would like to add some additional nuances he has, that would be fine. But, I think it is a perspective that would make for interesting discussion on this thread.

  6. DaveScot writes:
    “If he had a real point he could’ve used a respected animal like a horse instead of bugs and monkeys.”

    You horsist! I’m going to report you to the RMADL (Rhesus Monkey Anti-Defamation League).

    Aquinas writes:
    “Just because naturalists say that there is a difference in degree and not kind does not mean that they aren’t just in punishing one and not the other.”

    That’s true. You’d have to
    1) decide which human attributes justify punishment;
    2) ask whether any of the animals share these attributes sufficiently to warrant the same treatment; and
    3) if so, identify the animals who qualify.

    Note that the argument does not depend on evolution. “Designed” similarity would also suffice.

    ajl summarizes his take on Provine’s view:
    “Some evolutionists (like William Provine specifically) would say that humans should not be incarcerated either. That is because they argue that humans…do not have free will…Therefore, they cannot be held accountable for their actions…And, when you make choices about breakfast and other things, you really aren’t making a choice, but rather, your genes are playing a trick on you, making you think you are actually making a free choice.”

    It’s also possible to argue that even though humans are not accountable for their actions, incarceration is nevertheless justified when it protects society from harm and promotes rehabilitation in order to reduce recidivism, and the benefits to society outweigh the harm done to the incarcerated individual. Under this view the purpose of incarceration is not punitive, and you might even want to make prison as pleasant as possible to mitigate the harm done to the imprisoned individual, who after all simply had the bad luck to be born a person who was destined to become a criminal.

    ajl continues:
    “Also, some people on this blog advocating the naturalist position say that it is ok to convict Peterson. So, I was actually interested in how they synthesize Provine’s view.”

    They might think that Peterson is likely to offend again, and that incarceration is necessary for society’s protection and to reform Peterson.

    Another naturalistic view is compatibilism, which is eloquently defended by Daniel Dennett in his book “Freedom Evolves.” This view holds that free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive. Free will rests in the ability of an organism to receive input from the outside world, process it internally, and act on it. We choose what we want. The choosing and the wanting are completely inside us and not part of the outside world. So even if the choosing and the wanting are in fact deterministic, we nevertheless are free, because the choices and wants are ours.

    Dennett’s twist on this (and the genesis of the book’s title) is the idea that as the complexity of the internal deliberative process increases and the output of the process becomes less and less stereotyped, the freedom of our will can be said to be increasing. As evolution produces bigger and more complicated brains over time, freedom itself evolves, which provides the basis for a defensible concept of moral responsibility.

    A compatibilist might therefore approve of Peterson’s imprisonment.

  7. Dave, not just rehabilitation, but also punishment. Retribution plays a role, as the afflicted families of victims find justice. There is a whole dimension of emotional aspects in regards to recompense in the crime / punishement scenario.

    I find the speculations of the material reductionist to be a “looks good on paper” sort of paradigm, but lacking in effectively explaining (reducing) the real-world situation.

  8. punishement = punishment.

    I be an spel goode.

  9. keiths, how would Dennett and friends explain the countless people who struggle for decades with addictions, destructive behaviors, etc… etc… and then, after a spiritual conversion experience, are liberated completely from said behaviors (despite numerous past failures to liberate themselves via sheer “will-power”)?

    I realize that the question is somewhat off-topic and has arguably subjective elements, but I’m curious.

  10. “Evolutionary ethics” is contradictory to begin with. In the same way that physical biological structures discovered to be irreducibly complex reveal the probability of Intelligent Design, so ethics reveals the probability of an Intelligent “Maker of Objective Rules”. There is NO evidence in nature of any physical, material process that can account for the existence of notions of right and wrong, much less such notions that “should” apply equally to everyone.

    Evolution may reasonably propose one and only one absolute ethic: survival. Survival is ethical. Not-surviving has no point whatever. Evolutionary ethics cannot employ objective standards; even Scott Peterson murdering his pregnant wife might be ethical IF his own survival was at stake. (All Scott really lacked was a smart lawyer who could show that Scott’s own survival was at stake. In fact, his “pursuit of happiness” may have been compromised by the courts!)

    The grisly ethic of Abortion-On-Demand is the ugly and visible example of “evolutionary ethics” in action. The unborn baby’s life is of NO VALUE whatever if the mother’s real, unreal or imagined survival is threatened; the mother alone makes the decision having to justify the decision to no human being.

    The concept of ethical standards that “should” apply equally to everyone is evidence of a Designer in exactly the same way that the unique existence and operation of physical laws–gravity, thermodynamics, the properties of light, etc..–exhibit a uniquely ordered Design for the Universe that supports life. Valid ethical constructs support life for “all men equally” or we recognize them immediately as well…unethical. Without objective standards “designed” into the universe, ethical debate is nothing more that “what helps me survive”…at your expense, of course, if I consider it necessary.

    Sadly, our nation is paying a heavy cultural price for the exclusive permissibility of teaching “evolutionary ethics” in public schools.

    G. Jennings

  11. I think this makes perfect sense. NDE tells us that all life is from one common ancestor, and that there are merely different evolved states of life. Humans, according to NDE theory, are merely highly evolved apes who evolved illusionary morals and concepts of right and wrong (that don’t really exist according to most who subscribe to the theory.)

    Imprisonment, traditionally, is mainly for punishment. Only more recently has it been used for rehabilitation…and part of that is probably the onset of mental health issues and such. It’s easier to demand someone be rehabilitated if you say that they might have mental problems out of their control that made them do what they do.

    When it comes to humans understanding what they’re doing and knowing what they’re doing is right and wrong- that’s the rub. If you follow thru with NDE theory- there IS no such thing as right and wrong…there merely illusionary concepts that humans invented and concepts that will eventually evolve themselves. So, why punish humans OR animals (I draw a distinction between the two.)?? If a human is a glorified ape, then it’s obvious that when we commit acts of violence, we’re just simply acting out the things our brain chemicals are telling us to do, and we can hardly be blamed for that. On top of that- if NDE theory is correct, then free will is a bogus concept as well, and if a person truly has no free will, then how can you fairly punish someone for just doing what they’re brains and their will (which is out of their control) tell them to do? I mentioned before that a number of Darwinists out there are arguing that males raping females is just a normal act of survivial of the fittest, and that it should be looked upon as normal behavior. Does anyone here agree with that? If not, why not? My guess is that you refuse to take NDE theory to its logical conclusion, because the thought is terrifying. But, to stay true to NDE theory, you have to use it to explain ALL of life, including social behavior.

    You can’t say ‘NDE theory is fine in explaining how life got here and how all species got here, but it’s not to be used in society and morals and such.’ By doing that, you’re saying that you’re NOT fine with the theory in its entirety and that some aspects of it are, to you, just too terrifying to consider putting into action.

    The issue isn’t really ‘should we punish a bug for its actions’- the real question is ‘if humans are merely advanced animals, same as any other animal, just more highly evolved, but still acting on the same chemicals and instincts, then why punish humans’? Humans, if merely animals that are different solely by degree and not unique in any truly novel manner, then why not allow them to act out the same instints apes act out? Or any other animal for that matter?

    Fact is- many people are fine with all aspects of NDE theory, but only a tiny minority of them will allow that theory to cover all aspects of human life. That’s sort of a cop out tho, and that’s the problem.

  12. On red’s point- I think that we eventually get to the fact of moral absolutes. Few would deny that morals are absolute. There are cultural difference, sure, but in the end- there are some things that have always been wrong for humans and some things that have always been right- so some absolutes in this regard must exist. If absolutes do exist in moral laws, our experience tells us that there must be a lawgiver. If you’re in a particular state in the US, you’re under all the same laws as others in the state- no ‘if’s and’s or but’s’ about it- the laws are absolute. A judge has discretion based on record and such, but you still have to go thru the process and face the laws that apply to all others.

    Reminds me of CS Lewis’ argument for a moral law giver, which I think are very persuasive. Tho, I never had any doubt about a moral lawgiver, for it’s the only thing that makes sense when we realize that humans are distinctly unique among all animals, and it’s not just a matter of degrees.

    You can also stretch this to cover mental illness. Is someone truly mentally ill if their brains are somehow different? Who judges? Maybe those suffering from impulse control issues are actually more highly evolved- who is to say one way or another?

    Maybe those with so-called impulse control problems can use that reasoning to say that’s why they rape. So, maybe rape really WILL be a positive step for human evolution…maybe male rape against women will help somehow? Maybe if what we consider the ‘fittest’ males rape the fittest females (if they refuse to submit to the plan), it will give rise to more fit offspring, and we can repeat the process over and over, and soon enough we will start to evolve to a higher degree and kill off all the weak among us. Surely, by NDE standards, that would be a great idea and a wonderful move for the species. So, maybe people who claim to have mental problems causing them to commit rape are also more highly evolved, for their actions might bring about a better chance of survival and the chance to better and more readily procreate?

    Maybe murdering off the weak is good? How do you judge “good” to begin with if good and bad are mere illusions of human evolution? Too many problems exist with relative morality and the thought that no lawgiver exists- if no ultimate lawgiver exists in the world, how can one fairly say that North Korea has an evil government? What if we discover that North Korea’s actions are really a positive step in evolution- could we judge their actions evil then if good and evil are truly illusions, and the real right and wrong are simply what is right and wrong for evolution?

    We could go on and on thru many aspects of human society with NDE- it’s full of massive problems that few among us would support putting into action.

  13. keiths:

    I will assume you don’t study the bible, from what you said here and quoted in other posts here. The verses here aren’t about animal punishment, it’s more about rituals. It’s nothing to do with punishment for animals.

    The problem you mention about children not being punished because they don’t know the difference between right and wrong is problematic. If humans and apes, dogs, or whatever else only differ by degrees, then there IS no such thing as right and wrong. A child cannot truly be ignorant of the difference if there really is no difference. You seem to accept that right and wrong DO exist, but why? NDE theory wouldn’t agree with that- the theory says that right and wrong are human inventions.

    Right and wrong hinge on absolutes. If morality is simply relative, then right and wrong are only opinions of what is considered to us to be ‘ok’ and ‘not as ok’ TODAY, and that could all change tomorrow. Just as, without a lawgiver in the form of a constitutional committee, a supreme court, etc. There can be no true absolute law. If the US had no laws, then we couldn’t reasonbly punish anyone…for what are punishing them for? Laws are made to inform people what they can and cannot do. Laws (which are inherently absolute) demand a lawgiver of some sort. If NDE theory is right, then morality is relative, thus no lawgiver. But, you yourself assume that right and wrong DO really exist, and I assume you think they’re not mere opinions that evolve themselves, but actual absolutes…thus, a lawgiver.

    But what of that lawgiver? If we find it absurd to punish the mantis or any other animal- then humans must obviously be unique. If we are unique, then the theories that we’re simply higher by degrees is wrong in some aspect.

  14. An interesting observance I have made of this thread is the apparent treatment of good and evil as objective values – that our endeavors to regulate the actions of others are, in fact, attempts to coerce (Pardon the negative connotation, but I’m at a loss to find a better word to describe how the laws of a society apply to its citizens.) people to conform to an objective moral standard. But regardless of what moral standard an individual member of society may adhere to, is the jurisprudential methodology of any secular government not to coerce its citizens to adhere to an artificially constructed order absent of any absolute moral authority, ergo, training them as humans do animals all the time? Thus, reward and punishment are distributed to one’s accordance and discordance, respectively, to this order. So, in essence, we *do* have animal penitentiaries; they’re just not made of cement and steel bars. A metric order is established by one or more individuals, and it’s subjects are trained to adhere to it, whether they be man or beast.

    This is the essence of a utilitarian society, and although I reluctantly support a utilitarian democracy such as that of the United States, I am extremely wary of what would happen if the moralistic element of our society disappeared. Who would set the ground rules, and what right would they have to do so? Without an objective moral standard outside of oneself, one’s morality inevitably centers upon himself. Absent the guidance of an order which transcends humanity, might makes right becomes the order of the day, and with it’s intelligence and ability to rationalize, humanity, itself, becomes the worst threat immaginable to its own wellfare and existance.

    David

  15. Imprisonment is correctional in nature. Presumably the threat of it is enough to keep most people in line. For some of the rest, the actual experience of it is enough to keep them in line after release. For the incorrigible whom we lock up and throw away the key it isn’t correction it’s to protect the public. In no case is it a matter of revenge for if it were then the victim (or his heirs) should be able to grant a reduction in sentence. They are not granted this power because it would negate the correctional aspect.

  16. Josh

    Atheists position themselves as the lawgivers. This is anti-American. The founding principle is that man is endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, what God gives, no man has a right to take away. Governments then are not formed to grant these rights but to protect them. We hold these to be self-evident truths.

    As far as I’m concerned anyone that doesn’t agree with that can get the heck out of my country and don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

  17. Yes. Some of these basic laws were seen to be from God (the pursuit of happiness, freedom of expression/religion (tho we see that right being wasted away by the courts!), and the govt was to merely protect the laws, for they had no right to rise above God and take these laws away (again, something many jurists in this country have forgotten.)

    If one writes his own laws, then the laws are clearly relative to his own personal opinion, thus they’re not truly morals in the sense that morals are absolute, relative “morals” are simply opinions that differ among each person’s own taste.

    NDE theory would posit that right and wrong, tho illusions, if we want to label things with those two terms- right would be might (survival, the fittest, etc) and wrong would be behaviors that inhibit the grand scheme of evolution (since NDE theory posits a blind, purposeless scheme, then we’re back to “wrong” being only things that make us less fit and holding back change (evolution) and reproductive success, along with bad gene lines, etc- so, we could argue that taking care of the sick, elderly, and mentally ill actually hinders “progress” seen in this manner, and success in a reproductive sense…so, these should be behaviors we shouldn’t take time to put into action.

    If right and wrong have no true basis outside of what’s right for Bob and what’s right for Jim, and both sets of right and wrong are different…then, right and wrong become opinions that can change at anytime for any person, no person having to commit to a certain set of “morals”. This is why the US has worked so well- the founders put in place many rights they saw as totally absolute, from God himself, unable to take them away, only able to protect these God-given rights. Nations that have put into action a relative moral structure have failed miserably. Communist nations throughout history can attest to this for sure! God-given absolutes were nonexistant in the Soviet Union, it was all about what’s good for the state is good for all, end of story- and that state was always a Godless state- which meant they didn’t truly affirm absolutes.

    Now, if the people can reassert their God-given rights that are in decline thanks mainly to jurists in the US (supported by groups like the ACLU, A.U., and others), we, in this country, we would better off as a whole, no doubt.

  18. Why No Pet Penitentiaries?

    I see you guys haven’t been to the pound lately.

    Jail is bad. Death row worse.

    I liked it better in the old days when urban critters roamed. They’d get busted sometimes. They know’d they done wrong. You’d have to bail ‘em out & such.

    Now they’re caged all the time. Even cats are on-leash, which is why mice & coons are moving downtown and raptors circle over the crosstown commons.

    Ever see these new-fangled Critter Control rigs? Your property taxes at work. And the personnel all in black with crossbelts and 2-ways and what not. I guess they’re practicin’ up for real crowd control.

  19. pmob

    Good point on the pound. Dogs & cats arrested for loitering, mostly. Punishable by lethal injection after a short wait for clemency through any kind hearted stranger.

  20. Bombadill asks:
    “keiths, how would Dennett and friends explain the countless people who struggle for decades with addictions, destructive behaviors, etc… etc… and then, after a spiritual conversion experience, are liberated completely from said behaviors (despite numerous past failures to liberate themselves via sheer “will-power”)?”

    Bombadill,
    If determinism is true, it is equally true for people who make radical changes in their lives and for people who get stuck in a rut. Every person is an amalgam of matter and energy in a particular arrangement at a particular moment. The arrangement changes over time as a function of the person’s internal state and the “inputs” provided by the environment.

    Chuck Colson, the convicted Watergate felon, becomes a devout Christian and establishes a ministry. Dan Barker, a fundamentalist preacher, “deconverts” to atheism. A heroin addict gets clean but relapses after a month. A woman in Peoria brews a pot of coffee and sits down to read the Sunday paper, just as she does every Sunday morning. Each of these people is a system changing over time in response to inputs, all according to the laws of physics.

    In fact, if determinism is true, then it is not just individuals but the entire universe which is unfolding deterministically. Laplace famously introduced the idea of a clockwork universe: a sufficiently intelligent being, armed with the knowledge of every particle’s position and motion, could apply the laws of physics and derive the state of the universe at any future time. Its history would unfold like clockwork.

    The built-in indeterminacy of quantum mechanics casts doubt on this idea, and many have seized on quantum mechanics as a way to sneak free will back into the picture. But there are good reasons to think that this move does not achieve the desired result. But that’s for another post.

  21. DaveScot writes:
    “Good point on the pound. Dogs & cats arrested for loitering, mostly. Punishable by lethal injection after a short wait for clemency through any kind hearted stranger.”

    Dave,
    You and I are agreeing entirely too much these days. This must cease. I’m beginning to think that one of us must have had a stroke or something.

    Luckily, you gave me something to disagree with in an earlier post when you wrote “Atheists position themselves as the lawgivers.”

    This is simply not true (I’m feeling better already :-) ). It is religious folks (some, but certainly not all) who take on that role by assuming they know God’s laws and attempting to impose them on the rest of us.

  22. “It is religious folks (some, but certainly not all) who take on that role by assuming they know God’s laws and attempting to impose them on the rest of us.”

    You’re very close to the mark, Keith, but you miss it by a hair – at least as I see it. Some theists try to impose their religion on others, but not all atheists are innocent in this regard. Consider the French Revolution and the Soviet Union. I consider the treatment of ID as a pernicious idea that must be kept out of public schools at all costs to be the implementation of a secular religion, although I think you would disagree.

  23. I don’t know many theists who demand that others join them. That sort of goes against the fact that worshipping God needs to be a choice of free will, not a coercive demand by another.

    Of course atheists, generally, consider themselves to be their own lawgivers. If you don’t believe in God (the lawgiver), what other source of law could you possibly come up with? The answer is, to most, whatever feels good and doesn’t hurt others too much- which is the same as saying that you, yourself, established your own law for you. You can’t even HAVE law to begin with without a lawgiver…law without a lawgiver is, as I said before, merely opinion that will eventually change and will differ from person to person. Law is inherently absolute, and laws only come from lawgivers. No law giver= relative law that is fashioned from ones own opinion.

  24. “people who make radical changes in their lives and for people who get stuck in a rut.”

    My point was that said transformation has all appearances of coming from an external source. Something beyond the individual’s power to produce. (For the record, I inquire because I’m an example of one radically changed beyond my ability to produce self-change to such a powerful and lasting degree). I suppose my point has less to do with determinism and more to do with the existance of an intervening immaterial intelligence, though… so, disregard because I guess it’s off-topic. ;)

    You mentioned Dan Barker. A truly disingenuous individual. He would have done his fellow skeptic-evangelists much good, had he stayed out of the debating arena. He had better hope he never engages with William Lane Craig, or he’s going to get his worst spanking yet. :)

  25. 25

    on the topic of the implications of materialism… An exerpt from one of my older writings…

    What I intend to do here is to elucidate the effect of an assumption, specifically, the materialist assumption.

    Materialism is basically a philosophy that is based upon the assumption that matter is all there is; it assumes that matter is self-sufficient. It, by the necessity of its central assumption therefore denies God, the soul and anything that contradicts it. It is as such a synonymous term with atheist, and it is as old as mankind.

    Now, as should be obvious, with the acceptance of the materialist assumption, the following points easily and necessarily follow:-

    1. The denial of divine action, and hence the affirmation of the power of material causes, and only material causes, to create or ‘evolve’ everything, including us.

    2. The denial of any accountability to God, and therefore the affirmation of freedom from conscience and any artificial obstacles to the hedonistic fulfillment of all our wants, be they sex, power, wealth, etc…
    · Point 2 can be restated as the denial of any objective basis for morality, and therefore the affirmation of amorality.

    3. This is implied by the previous statements, but is worth a mention anyway. The affirmation that we are nothing but animals.

    The above implications are noticeably similar to those of Darwinism. And this is no accident, as Darwinism is the fruit of the tree of materialism. Darwinism cannot exist without the assumption of materialism, and nowadays, materialism cannot survive without the assumption that Darwinism is true.

    In what is to follow, I hope to briefly show the implications of the Darwinist philosophy to mankind by reference to some specific topics.

    THEORETICAL ASPECTS OF MATERIALISM

    With materialism in mind the following conclusions follow nicely:-

    CONCLUSION 1

    · We are here now, we have not always been here.
    · This means that we must have evolved or descended from some other animal. Otherwise something immaterial happened (like creation), this is not allowed.

    Please realize, that upon the acceptance of the materialistic philosophy nowadays, the conclusion that we evolved from some other creature is an absolute necessity.

    The conclusion that we are only animals is unavoidable. It then follows that what is right for the monkey is right for the man. Which basically means that if it is ok for an animal to do something, then there is no reason we cannot. We are the products of the same processes of nature after all.

    Although, ancient philosophers may not have known that we were not always around, it seems that in making up an evolutionary myth some assumed it.

    So conclusion 1 in brief states:-

    · We are no different than animals.
    · Not created by God.

    CONCLUSION 2

    The mind is not separate from the material brain; they are in fact one and the same. The reason is obvious, as a materialist, one cannot accept that the mind and all its manifestations is made up of anything other than matter. To the materialist, dualism is illogical, and given their assumption, it definitely is.

    · This implies that who we are (i.e., our needs, wants, loves, hates etc…) are all reducible to the matter of our brain.
    · And as the matter of our brain is molded by genes and the environment (according to current thinking), it means that who we are is reducible to genes, environment and matter, and no more.

    Before moving on to the next point I feel I should clarify why the preceding statements are in fact logical conclusions of the materialist assumption.

    If who we were was not reducible to the brain (and hence genes and environment which mold it), then that would imply some immaterial element in the makeup of who we are, which is impossible in the materialist framework.

    Another point is that as it must be that who we are is reducible to matter (Brain matter, genes and environment), and that the genes that make us up are the result of some materialistic evolutionary process, then either directly or indirectly, who we are is related to the process that selected the genes that form us.

    This is, by the way, nowadays called evolutionary psychology, a growing field that is already making its presence known in sociology and psychiatry. In fact, social Darwinism has been around for over 100 years.

    It is very important that you all realize that the above conclusions result easily from the materialistic assumption. It does not take a genius to figure them out.

    So conclusion 2 in brief states:-

    · Who we are is completely reducible to matter, more specifically, to our genes.
    · As genes are the product of evolution, who we are is also the product of evolution.

    CONCLUSION 3

    From the previous two points we know that within the materialist framework, who and what we are is the result of totally materialistic processes. And as other animals are, and must be, made from the same matter, exposed to the same processes as we are. We can logically conclude that we are no different than animals. Put more explicitly, we are animals.

    Now, as in the materialistic universe, there is no such thing as God, there is also no such thing as objective right and wrong. This is an important point.

    It is absolutely imperative that you realize that to the materialist, nature is absolutely amoral. As it is not the product of a divine intelligence, but of blind chance.

    The only right and wrong can come from Us, we make up the rules…

    · What I want and like is right.
    · What I do not want and like is wrong.
    · These two statements are essentially the doctrine of hedonism.

    So essentially, pleasure is good and right, pain is bad and wrong. Or more simply again, the only right, is pleasure.

    The implications of this logic is that what is right is as changeable as the weather. It is a function of societal consensus witch is itself molded by an elite.

    So conclusion 3 in brief states:-

    · There is no objective basis for morality.

    CONCLUSION 4

    The basis of Darwin’s theory was basically the concept of natural selection, or put another way, survival of the fittest. Which basically says that animals with random advantages will out compete and take over populations. By this, Darwin assumed, animals improved, they evolved.

    Now it is important to realize that Darwin linked the evolutionary process with struggle and ruthlessness, we need only look at the subtitle of the book The Origin of Species which summed up his point of view. “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”.

    And so, while the strong survive, the weak perish. Tautologically speaking.

    Now let us recall the fact that we are animals, and we live in a universe that is amoral, so, what’s good for the monkey is good for the man. If ruthless struggle for survival improves and evolves animals into an animal like us, why cannot we do the same to ourselves and take evolution into our own hands? The answer is that within an evolutionary and materialistic context, there is no reason whatsoever.

    In fact, if we are to learn from evolution, we should actually promote and continue our evolution, and, we should eliminate backward morals that stop us from achieving this goal.

    Essentially, all ethics, morals and beliefs that you may have, must crumble unless they submit to the materialistic and evolutionistic philosophy. If not, surely you are backward and unscientific. Because as we all know, what science says is always the truth, and if you do not blindly accept what science says, then you must have some non materialistic, I mean…, non scientific faith or belief.

    Please note that the aforementioned conclusions, are not necessarily the only possible ones given the materialist assumption. It is just that I am deriving them with the present world in mind.

    So conclusion 4 in brief states:-

    · Who we are and how we got here is a result of the fight for survival, and therefor the survival of the fittest.
    · Ruthless competition is therefor good, as it is an evolutionary force.

    As an aside: It is important to realize that the evolutionary myth was one known and deduced to varying levels by many materialists before Darwin.

    · Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).
    · Erasmus Darwin (Charles Darwin’s grand father) (Who wrote two books on evolution ‘Zoonomia’ and ‘Temple of nature’) and (1731-1802).
    · Jean Lamarck (1744-1829).
    · Alfred Wallace (1823-1913)

    And there are others.

    The materialistic philosophy was gaining a following for a few centuries before Darwin and much of what he said is acknowledged to have been said before, if Darwin did not write his book, someone else would have (e.g., Wallace)… Given the philosophic milieu he was in, it was almost inevitable.

    In fact, the basic outline of evolutionary theory was described 2100 years ago by an Epicurean poet called Lucretius, in his poem called ‘On the nature of things’, he presents a materialist view of humanity and the universe. In a few passages he says:-

    “In the beginning the earth gave forth the different kinds of herbage and bright verdure about the hills and over the plains, and the flowering meadows shone with the color of green; then to the various kinds of trees came a mighty struggle, as they raced at full speed to grow up into the air……
    So then the new-born earth put forth herbage and saplings first, and in the next place created the generations of mortal creatures, arising in many kinds and in many ways by different processes. For animals cannot have fallen from the sky, nor can creatures of the land have come out from salt pools.
    It remains therefore, that the earth deserves the name mother which she possesses, since from the earth all things have been produced……[And so] the earth, you see, first gave forth the generations of mortal creatures at that time, for there was great abundance of heat and moisture in the fields. Therefore, wherever a suitable place was found, wombs would grow.”
    Lucretius 5.783-808

    There is even another longer passage from which the idea of natural selection can be adduced.

    It is to be noted that both Lucretius and his mentor Epicurus were both fully-fledged materialists. And it was with his materialist belief that Lucretius imagined such stories as above.

    Also note, that as was the case with both Epicurus and Lucretius, it was because of the implications of materialism (hedonism, more so lucretious probably, though supposedly Epicurus was not not a raving hedonist in the modern sense…) that materialism was adopted, not because they thought it was true. Believing it was true happened only after it was accepted as a useful assumption. So too, I believe, was the case with others throughout history and in the present.

    In fact, Stephen Jay Gould points out for us nicely that the true philosophy of Darwin was materialistic philosophy: -
    “These so-called M and N notebooks were written in 1838 and 1839, while Darwin was compiling the transmutation notebooks that formed the basis for his sketches of 1842 and 1844. They … include many statements showing that he espoused but feared to expose something he perceived as far more heretical than evolution itself: philosophical materialism-the postulate that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. … The notebooks prove that … the primary feature distinguishing his theory from all other evolutionary doctrines was its uncompromising philosophical materialism. …. In the notebooks Darwin resolutely applied his materialistic theory of evolution to all phenomena of life, including what he termed “the citadel itself” – the human mind. And if mind has no real existence beyond the brain, can God be anything more than an illusion invented by an illusion? In one of his transmutation notebooks, he wrote: `Love of the deity effect of organization, oh you materialist!…’”
    (Gould, Stephen Jay [Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard University, USA], “Darwin’s Delay,” in “Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History,” [1978], Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, pp.23-25)

    Now as a brief recapitulation I shall mention some of the logical deductions of the materialistic and hence evolutionistic philosophy:-

    1. There is no God, only mindless matter.
    2. We are only animals produced by a materialistic process.
    3. Who we are, that is, our childish and ignorant belief that we are special and better than other animals is also the product of a materialistic process.
    4. Nature and therefore we as humans is amoral. There is no such thing as right and wrong, only want and don’t want.

    Materialism as an assumption = evolution as a requirement. Evolution is not science, its the absolutely required conclusion of the philosophy of Materialism/Atheism.

  26. “arising in many kinds and in many ways by different processes”

    Fascinating that such naturalistic speculations were being tossed around 2100 years ago. And I thought we were supposed to believe that only mythical “superstitions” were being posited back then.

  27. The general issue of morality–what it is and where it comes from–is really a huge problem for NDE, in my opinion. On the one hand, we’re told that we’re just like every other animal. So, if I’m a lion and the presence of a rival decreases the chances that I can procreate, I drive him off or kill him. Furthermore, if he’s weaker, he _should_ be driven off because that will help the pride. And this is completely consistent with NDE’s presuppositions. I don’t wring my hands in remorse or go and have sessions with Billy Crystal. This is moral behavior, “correct” behavior for me, as a lion.

    But now, as a person, even though I’m made up of the same stuff and made by the same mechanism, if I act like the lion, I am roundly condemned by my peers–certainly incarcerated; perhaps executed–regardless of the culture I live in or their world view. Now, I’m not just like every other animal. Now, there’s a huge gap between me and the lion.

    What NDE predicts is a series of very small incremental steps that separate one species from another. And yet, with these sorts of “traits” (for lack of a better word—i.e., morality, abstract thought, language…) there is an IMMENSE gap between humans the next “lower” species in Darwin’s Tree of Life. What explains this difference from a NDE point of view?

  28. SteveB- along the lines of what you said, I totally agree that a lion would be seen as merely doing what it’s instincts tell it to do. Watch any nature program, and you’ll see animals kill others among their own all the time…for numerous reasons- weakness being one of them. Weakness, according to NDE theory cannot be good, for it leads to lower success in reproduction and possibly bad genes (weak lions= weak genes= less of a chance to procreate and create higher lions who are better suited to survive.)

    If we take this one step further- if humans are merely higher animals, just like any other animal, but more highly evolved, then we should live the same way. We should be expected to kill off the weak (the elderly, sick, handicapped) for the good of the group, for better future success in reproduction, along with better genes that make for a better chance of survival.

    Yet, few humans look at the world this way- they are terrified at the mere thought of living like ANY other animal- which is why we punish those who do bad things, which is why we inherently have a sense of right and wrong, why we frown upon certain behaviors while praising others. This doesn’t fit with NDE theory, because we should classifiy “better” or “good” behavior the same exact way any other animal does- unless we’re not just another animal as the theory posits.

    You just can’t get around this, even tho most Darwinists try- even Dawkins doesn’t want to use NDE theory for society, morals, etc.

    Also, as I said, the mere fact that we all have morals and that morals are the same for all people at all times in history- with slight cultural differences…then those facts work to falsify the image of NDE theory that we’re just simply animals, like any other animals- solely on a higher level. But our experience tells us that 1. morality isn’t an illusion (an illusion wouldn’t be the same all across the globe for all people at all times through human history), and 2. Moral absolutes are real…that you cannot compromise on morality and say that some things considered bad are sometimes good. We make exceptions for killing when it’s done in self defense, but that’s common sense. But, no one advocates that killing an innocent person on the street is EVER okay. NDE theory tells us that killing like that SHOULD be okay- just as long as that person is getting in the way of evolutionary progress, is weak, hinders your reproductive ability, etc.

    Then we have the issue of how on earth could morality arise at all, let alone only arise in one particular species of animal (humans), yet it’s found nowhere else in nature. Even monkeys will murder other monkeys, and hardly will a scientist attempt to lock said monkey up- why not?? Because along with morality comes knowledge and the concepts of right and wrong…

    In the end you’re always left with- if humans are simply more highly evolved animals, made of the exact same material, in no way special from other animals except for being on a higher level…then how can we punish humans at all? How can we, via NDE theory, posit morality and right and wrong when the theory distinctly tells us that all 3 of these concepts are mere human inventions that truly mean nothing? The fact is- you can’t explain these ideas with NDE theory, and humans are, indeed, special and in a different category than other animals (not simply another level). The fact that even hardened atheist and darwinist Dawkins realizes that we cannot use the theory to rule society should say a lot about all of this.

  29. Josh

    “NDE theory would posit that right and wrong, tho illusions, if we want to label things with those two terms- right would be might (survival, the fittest, etc) and wrong would be behaviors that inhibit the grand scheme of evolution”

    Not at all. Social orders (right and wrong behaviors) are evident amongst many species. Some quite complex. Altruism is also evident amongst many species. Not only that, social order and altruistic behaviors exist between species. Accusing NDE proponents of having a pathological dog-eat-dog world view where only the individual’s survival counts is just wrong. You don’t like them using straw man tactics against you, like saying religious people want to establish theocracies and burn witches at the stake so don’t do it to them. They have plenty of legitimate faults to point out.

  30. “they are terrified at the mere thought of living like ANY other animal”

    Huh? Dolphins seem to have an okay time of it. Otters have a lot of fun. It might be cool to be a raptor and soar through the air all day.

  31. It seems to me there’s a lot of people on this thread talking about animals that really don’t know jack diddly squat about animals. You know who you are.

  32. “So, if I’m a lion and the presence of a rival decreases the chances that I can procreate, I drive him off or kill him.”

    Try to force you way into Hugh Hefner’s estate to play with his girls and see if you don’t get driven off or killed.

    Ever heard the old saying “be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear?”. It applies to hitting the “submit comment” button too.

  33. Let’s say there are absolute morals.

    Among the following groups, most of which hold that their absolutes are the truth, which are the real absolutes and which are not?

    The problem with absolute moral values in religions is they all seem to be inventions of men. None of them have their commandments engraved on the face of the moon. They’re all recorded on media accessable to men in languages created by men.

    I figure any real God doesn’t need third parties and human-made recording devices to deliver their messages. But hey, that’s just me. :-)

  34. Oops – forgot a link to a list of popular religions

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/var_rel.htm

  35. dave- you continue to say that other animals know right and wrong and show altruism, but it just isnt so. its clear that other animals dont punish their own for bad behavior- they dont have brains capable of even knowing what right is, let alone differing between right and wrong. altruism is hardly altruism unless its a thought out action backed up by compassion and the likes. one member of a species acting in a certain manner to save the species as a whole is 1. rare, and 2. purely instinctual. protecting members of other species is even less seen and its merely more of the same- these animals are working on instinct, not actively searching out the difference between right and wrong, deciding to put forth compassion. no one is going to claim that even a monkey shows compassion, let alone has any idea what compassion means, could feel it itself, etc.

    living like any other animals- the point was, no one out there wants to live in a world where attacking the guy walking down the street is fine because- hell, its instincts, its survival, get over it! if a dolphin gets eaten by another animal, people dont hold candlelight vigiles. when a person does- they do that and much more. people dont live like animals, they dont share the lack of values, morality, etc. as animals- and no one in their right mind would want to live like a wild animal or in a society thatbased its decisions on the same things animals do.

    of course nde posits might makes right. thats not a strawman- its fact. as i said, true morals are absolute- and all moral absolutes require a lawgiver. nde posits that morality is illusionary, it was invented by man. how on earth do you think evolutionary psychology came about? its filled with the idea that morality is an illusion and that right and wrong are not real themselves. like i said, few want to admit this aspect of the theory, because its a terrifying concept to nearly all people. either way, admit it or not, its definitely what NDE theory posits for life. survival is whats right…that doesnt jive with human morality. im not even sure what youre getting at when you say that NDE theory doesnt demand survival of the fittest- thats precisely what it requires. you cant pick and choose which parts of life you want that phrase to cover, nde is all about survival of the fittest covering all aspects of life, not just the “lower” animals.

    no one denies that animals live by the rule of survival of the fittest (one quick viewing of any nature program makes one aware of that)…and NDE theory posits that man is merely an animal that is merely at a higher level than other animals, so you cant suddenly argue that if man isnt in a different category that different rules apply to him as an animal as apply to any other animal on earth. again, most people refuse to admit this aspect because its simply too terrifying to even entertain the notion. not to say that many darwinists don’t oppose the idea for humans as well, because as i also mentioned- many of them do just that. male rape on women, murdering your children before a certain age if you dont want them or feel you dont have time to care for them, those who support giving parents the choice of killing babies that are born weak, sick, handicapped, etc. these people are the consistent ones who demand that we not pick and choose where we use the theory and what aspects of life the theory covers, but they go the long haul and let the theory cover all of life, as it should if its right. for, if man is simply another animal, only higher by degree, then survival of the fittest SHOULD be the rule. just as with the law of the nation, you cant pick and choose which ones you want to obey and the ones you dont, you cant do this with NDE theory either.

  36. “So, if I’m a lion and the presence of a rival decreases the chances that I can procreate, I drive him off or kill him.”

    Try to force you way into Hugh Hefner’s estate to play with his girls and see if you don’t get driven off or killed.”
    —————–

    How these two items became equated, I’ve no earthly idea. There’s absolutely no comparison between these two items. Surely you aren’t arguing that lions have morality. The reason one would be “driven off” off Hef’s estate would be for moral reasons…if someone walked up to the door and rang the bell, if you were to be killed, humans would label that an immoral act. If a lion merely walks into another’s territory, there’s no thought, no decisions, no plan, no questions of right and wrong- it’s purely instinct put into action that allows for what humans would consider murder, tho we’ve no problem with it because it’s an animal, not a person.

    The key here (and when discussing the actions of any animal) is instinct- Hef’s boys dont just work on instincts and shoot the first person they see getting too close to the driveway, they put reason and thought into action, using moral guidelines to decide what the right and wrong things to do are.

    As for religion, moral law, and God’s actions- most theistic religions teach that evidence itself doesn’t convert a person…the spirit of God is what converts a person. Evidence is just a bonus. Even IF the moral law was written on the moon, you’d still be free to ignore it…and who says you would believe it to begin with? Someone who refuses to accept the law will deny it no matter what, making up any story he/she can think of to wave it off as bogus.

    On top of that, it’s not even about moral laws and religion, it’s about absolute moral laws and humans in general. Clearly, there have been a set of things throughout all of history for man that have been wrong and things that have been right…for all men, in all times, in all places. Given this fact, it’s obvious that the very basic moral laws are, in fact, absolute, and those who violate these basic laws are labelled evildoers. Moral laws, in general, are built into the conscience itself. Religious laws are different to each religion, but they’re all based on universal moral laws for ALL people, period.

  37. My cat hasn’t been out of the house in two years and my dog lives outdoors in a cage. All the farm animals I know of are in pens or cages too. What’s this about we don’t send animals to prison? What would be the point?

    Remember that woman who had the face transplant? They killed the dog that chewed her face off. Death penalty for animals? You bet!

  38. It’s a good thing that dogs don’t know right from wrong. Or else I would have…well, it would involve sharp kitchen knives flying across the room!

    My mom’s dog bit me on the nose once…why? Because I got too close to her. Just sitting there and BOOM, he suddenly turned into psycho doggy and latched onto my nose. Sad thing is, it’s a tiny chiauaha. (I’m too lazy to even look up that spelling.) :)

  39. The main problem with this student’s position (and the people defending it) is that s/he assumes that Darwin posits that humans have no spiritual qualities. Physically we are different than animals only in degrees. Our morality comes not from our animal-like material nature, but from our spiritual nature; that spark of divinity that doesn’t come from evolution.

    And even if it didn’t and the materialists are compeltely correct, why compare us with lions whose instinct is a selfish one? Why isn’t instinctual to walk down the street and not kill the guy walking next to you? Ants show altruism and sacrifice for members of the colony closely related to them but none for distant relatives. Human society is one gigantic extended family. Now, I don’t believe for a second that animals show any true compassion (because I believe in God) but the arguments that morality cannot happen without Him, at least here, don’t hold much water.

  40. keiths,

    Vegetarian ethics: plants are people too you know. In fact, some of the folks at my local coops are now more revved up about native prairie grass seeds than they are about burger.

    Would it be ethical to cull overpopulated deer herds and put the carcasses to use by eating them?

    Another one: my friend’s kid hit a doe last night (common occurrence) and kept it. We’ll help him butcher it and then we’ll eat it. Does that pass muster?

  41. Josh,

    You said: Atheists position themselves as the lawgivers. This is anti-American.

    Not at all. What’s anti-American is that they want judges to make law, which is extremely anti-American. The only constitutional authority judges have is to ensure that we follow our own laws, the one’s we enacted through our representitives. All rule-making is legislative only.

    That’s even more true of the Constitution which is super-legislative: all changes require super-majority ratifications, i.e. great popularity, the broadest possible process.

    The atheists (and liberals generally) say that’s over. We’re going to a system with the narrowest possible process. We won’t handle it anymore. A few judges will do it all.

    “Shopping judges” is now the highest form of law for these people. That’s bad. But there’s nothing anti-American about non-believers running, getting elected and casting votes.

  42. keiths

    you said: It is religious folks (some, but certainly not all) who take on that role by assuming they know God’s laws and attempting to impose them on the rest of us.

    Judeo-Christianity running through English and then American law, produced maximum liberty. Secularism (USSR, Red China) and Euro-paganism (Nazi Germany) produced maximum tyranny. Case not quite closed. Consider the following:

    The evil ID fundamentalist bible-chewing monsters want maximum freedom. Local folks create and maintain their own moral codes, teach their kids as they see fit. ID in Granstburg, WI, straight Darwinism in Madison, WI. Whatever.

    The wonderful Sensitive, Caring, Smart seed-eating secularists want maximum monitoring and policing from a single, centralized Borg-like bureaucracy. If one single school board in one single township deviates one single angstrom from Big Sister’s mandatory biology rulebook, about 50,000 lawyers descend on the place surrounded by about 100,000 “journalist” dweebs.

    Let me put it to you plain so you get it. The folks in Grantsburg don’t go hassling the folks in Madison. The folks in Madison go out into the countryside to monitor, enforce, threaten and sue.

  43. DaveScot

    You said: The problem with absolute moral values in religions is they all seem to be inventions of men. None of them have their commandments engraved on the face of the moon. They’re all recorded on media accessable to men in languages created by men.

    Think “discoveries” of men, not inventions. You are taking the position of radical relativists who would say that science (for instance) is composed of nothing more than “inventions.” There is no “real” harmonic law of mean motion, no “real” gravitational constant. After all, none of these are engraved on the face of the moon. They are just symbols in common language by which we adjust our thinking in a series of (shifting) contexts. Right?

    Balderdash. Moral truths, like science truths, are discoveries. They are difficult to discover. The moral discovery process seems to be even slower than the scientific, which is plenty slow. But just because men write it down and pass it around, mull over it, mistake it, amend it, reform it, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing true there to discover.

  44. DaveScott:

    Once again, your gift for the non-sequitur is extensive and remarkable.

    The issue of morality is an important one and applies to people across the board, regardless of their world view or whether they’re “religious” or not. Moral relativism–despite its popularity in the culture at large–is internally contradictory and I reject it primarily for this reason, not the “religious” motivation that you assume I have.

    Consider the popular relativist bromides: “Everything is relative” or, “There are no absolutes.” It doesn’t take long to realize (even from those of us who are unable to “be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear”) that the only way absolutes can be ruled out is by invoking one.

    Additionally, in practical terms, the relativist, because nothing is ever absolutely right or wrong, is forced to articulate at least one situation in which a terribly reprehensible act (the enslavement, rape, torture and brutal murder of a child, for example) is morally acceptable–because nothing is absolute. Now, I with my Neanderthal, “religious” motivations and perspectives have no compunctions about identifying this as wrong for any person, any context, any era, and any culture. You, on the other hand, will enlighten us as to the context in which this behavior is morally acceptable.

    Looking forward,

    -sb

  45. that the only way absolutes can be ruled out is by invoking one.

    that truth is the nail in the coffin of moral relativism. It’s inescapable.

  46. While I was in a class on science and religion talking about evolution/creation, our elder professor once pointed out the high percentage of correlation between human DNA and the other primates… and then posed the rhetorical question, “Why shouldn’t we consider them humans?”

    Not one second after the question was out of his mouth the answer came thundering back, “Because if they were considered human, then we would have to allow them to vote, own property, and drive cars!”

    It was the only time I saw that respected professor blush.

  47. Curious as to which of Rachels’s books the student is referring to. I read The Elements of Moral Philosophy where James argues very persuasively against all kinds of relativism.

  48. aldo30127 said:

    “The main problem with this student’s position (and the people defending it) is that s/he assumes that Darwin posits that humans have no spiritual qualities.”

    No—at least that’s not my view. I think it’s universally accepted (although perhaps not admitted) that people have spiritual qualities (ie, the capacity to make moral choices). What NDE doesn’t have is a plausible explanation as to why these qualities exist or where they came from.

    And so the challenge is for NDE to be consistent with its presuppositions. Standard issue darwinism says that “physical” is all we are, because “physical” is all there is. For a consistent darwinist, “that spark of divinity” you refer to is pure fiction, and yet, I have yet to meet the person who believes that he, or his wife, or his child doesn’t posess this (although they might not choose to call it that).

    Now, I hold that a spark of divinity exists in people because God really exists and he put it there. I have a view that is consistent with my presuppositions. The darwinist, however, has… what?

    He has, as I said before, an IMMENSE gap between himself and the next higher animal in the tree (pick whatever one you want. None of them have the capacity for moral behavior, or abstract thought, or language—the uniquely human attributes that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom.) What his theory claims is that we have all been created by the same mechanistic process which moves in an incremental, step by step fashion. What his theory predicts is that we should be one–just one–of these incremental steps “above” the one just below us. But what we find is a chasm.

    Interestingly, what we find is strangely consistent with the judeo-xian idea that we have been created in the image of God.

  49. DaveScot,

    You wrote: If humans differ from other animals only in degree, which all scientific evidence indicates is true, —– also (#29): Social orders (right and wrong behaviors) are evident amongst many species.

    Come on. Most animals do the same thing in the same situation over and over. It’s all instinct. There’s about zero evidence for choice. They might manifest social order but there is no evidence that the order is anything but locked-down instinct. I’ll grant you that some animals have a slightly bigger toolbox than others, but they continue to do the same things with those tools, over and over.

    Move up the mammalian chain and it doesn’t get much more impressive. Look at it in terms of range. Put a higher mammal in the same niche for a few thousand years. I’m not saying they’re stuck on stupid but they’re definitely stuck. They have the same routine today that they did 10,000 years ago. Even the chimps are still scratchin’ their pits just like in the bad old days. No change. Nothing happening. Nada. “Moral” stasis.

    Put humans in a stable environment for even 250 years. Boom, you’ve got a new type of governance, a novel basis for sovereignty, unprecedented rights and protections, new power plays and post patterns, guys flying to the moon, all that sort of thing. Meanwhile, the rest of the animal kingdom is skitching over the same old scratch in the same old record.

    We don’t have Any instincts to speak of and the few “drives” we do have are played out in many different ways by different societies or even particular individuals. We are, however, equipped with “the difference.” Otherwise we probably couldn’t survive. I love them critters but that difference is hardly one of degree.

  50. you continue to say that other animals know right and wrong and show altruism, but it just isnt so. its clear that other animals dont punish their own for bad behavior

    Ever seen a pack of wolves interacting? (On TV, not in the wild, obviously.)
    If one of the submissive members oversteps his bounds, he or she is punished by the alpha male or female. Same for hyenas. Same for gorillas. Same for Lions. Same for any animal with a social structure.

    Seriously, all you have to do is watch the Discovery channel to see these things.

    And about altruism: There are LOTS of different animals that show their fellows where they found food or shelter. A bee will come back to the hive to tell the other bees where the nectar is through dance. I know you’ll say that the bee is just doing this through instinct. Of course, did you think altruism came from anywhere else?

  51. Beer- of course I’d say it’s instinct. If altruism IS nothing but instinct, then why call it altruism? We’re talking pure instinct, and nothing else. Punishment isn’t truly punishment if there’s no thought behind it…it’s just instincts kicking in and demanding an animal do A or B. On top of this, humans are an entirely different breed, in that we will work to lessen the impacts this has on society, we will work to change society’s mindset in regards to these actions that merit punishment, we’ll progress over time to a system of better and tougher laws, changed in our systems of justice, and on and on. Lions, wolves, apes, all other animals are, as someone else mentioned, stuck in a rut in a sense. A million yrs from now, they’ll be doing the same thing, acting in the same way, making the same mistakes, having no change in any of their social orders or systems of life in any sifnificant way.

    Along with instincts, you need to have a conscious choice, decision making, etc. to have true altruism as we know it as humans. If you don’t, then we should just call it instinct and the word altruism loses the meaning behind it, as it rightfully should if humans and animals acted in the same manner. There’s no comparison between what humans do and what wolves do, or any other animal. Social orders in animals are built on necessity based on pure instinct. Clearly not so for humans. And what we do as people we do out of moral choices, decision making, planning out our lives, right and wrong…you can hardly argue ANY animal is sitting down thinking up moral absolutes, envisioning 10 yrs from now and how to make the world a better place, choosing what path their lives should go down (you don’t have alcholic apes who turn their lives around and spend the rest of their time acting as a force for good over evil.)

    If you do something because your instincts say you have to, that’s one thing…when you make a moral choice to do something that goes against your instincts and has no benefit to you or anyone you know, or anyone you’ve even met- that’s a totally different ball game. If we’re going to call both events altruism, we might as well toss the word out, because it holds no real meaning if we use it like this. Few even bat an eyelash when an animal helps its baby…but when a human risks his life to run into a burning building to save a kitten- people see something special, and rightfully so.

  52. pmob

    “We don’t have Any instincts to speak of”

    Nonsense. People survive without being taught how. Instincts can be overcome through training, which is what happens to us. We get trained by our parents. Dogs, horses, all kinds of wild and domestic animals can be trained to act against instinct as well. Our claim to fame is mostly writing. Writing acts like instinct only it is instinct that can be acquired instantly, be passed along to the next generation, and can accumulate without end. That’s why we wallowed in the dirt with the other animals for millions of years until we perfected writing then in the span of a few thousand years went from living in caves to building space stations.

  53. “Put humans in a stable environment for even 250 years. Boom, you’ve got a new type of governance, a novel basis for sovereignty, unprecedented rights and protections, new power plays and post patterns, guys flying to the moon, all that sort of thing.”

    Plus you’ve got people that will kill you for a pair of sneakers or for looking at them the wrong way. We’re still animals and it shows through all too often. Writing is the only thing that separates us. Take that away and we’re back to living in caves again with no advantage over the bats and bears that live in caves too.

  54. SteveB

    Explain to me why, if there are absolute moral values, there is so much disagreement on what they are. You insult me with a gratuitous remark about a gift for non sequitur then fail to address the point I made. What a grand gift for lame evasion you have.

    “You, on the other hand, will enlighten us as to the context in which this behavior [torturing children] is morally acceptable.”

    Protecting children is instinctual in the animal kingdom as it is with humans. Interestingly, humans are rather unique among higher animals in the wanton ability to maim, torture, and kill their own kind. No other species can destroy each other with the proficiency we’ve developed. And you argue we aren’t animals? What, are you stupid?

  55. SteveB

    “I think it’s universally accepted (although perhaps not admitted) that people have spiritual qualities (ie, the capacity to make moral choices).”

    Well, isn’t that just precious. I think it’s universally accepted (although perhaps not admitted) that the revealed word of God in hundreds of disparate religious tomes are all pure fabrications made by men. Everyone knows (although some won’t admit it) that Gods don’t need men to record their proclamations for them.

    What a fabulous debate tool you have there Steve. Just lay out your beliefs and then claim everyone else must believe them too whether they admit it or not.

  56. Actually, now that I think about it, humans are worse than a great many animals. I’m hard pressed trying to think of any herbivores that maim, torture, and kill their own kind or any other kind for that matter. We’re animals. We kill our own kind and others that get in the way for territory, property, sex, fun, greed, profit, status, and for no reason at all. And we do it with greater efficiency than any other animal. Nature’s greatest killers – that’s us. That’s our accomplishment.

  57. “You, on the other hand, will enlighten us as to the context in which this behavior [torturing children] is morally acceptable.”

    Protecting children is instinctual in the animal kingdom as it is with humans. Interestingly, humans are rather unique among higher animals in the wanton ability to maim, torture, and kill their own kind. No other species can destroy each other with the proficiency we’ve developed. And you argue we aren’t animals? What, are you stupid?
    —————

    Dave, the fact that humans DO actively CHOOSE to do such things that would clearly violate instincts to protect children, and do so in so many different ways, actually strengthens the case that humans are, in fact, quite different from animals. And, because humans DO abuse their own children and the children of others (often times for no real reason at all), and we DO label that an act that is immoral, it further proves the point the original poster was referring to. If child protection is simply instinctual, we shouldn’t see that only humans work outside of these supposed “instincts” to abuse children. Many mothers have children and have no desire to take care of them at all, or immediately actively abuse them- we rule them unfit mothers committing immoral acts, we don’t say that they were somehow born deficit the instincts.

    In no culture is such behavior (tortruing children) acceptable…but, if we’re just mere animals, and it’s instinct to do what we do- then when humans DO abuse children, we should turn our heads and just accept that it’s instinct. It’s a lesser instinct that usually shows itself in the form of love and protection (then again, if it’s only instinct then there’s no such thing as “love”- love is born out of choosing to act in a certain manner). You can’t judge instinct, since one would be incapable to control their instincts. But, we understand that people can, indeed, control their behaviors and act in certain ways based on decision making, various choices, etc. (something that isn’t in play in animals- animals have instincts that say ‘take care of your young (no reason given, no reason would be understood)’ end of story) so we don’t label these “instincts”- whetheer it be abuse or love of children…we see both in terms of morality- love is right and abuse is wrong. That alone is absolute in all cultures in all times in all place…even tho you fail to see that many human actions are COMPLETELY absolute in their level of morality. Steve B gave you a clear example right there. And the fact, as I mentioned, that one can actually CHOOSE to act in either love or abuse means that mothers and fathers don’t just act purely on instinct alone, or maybe not even instinct in general in these situations. You acknowledge that, unlike animals, humans can choose one way or another- that’s exactly what morality is! It’s a choice to either live by the RULES or to refuse to accept them and live by your own. Along with morality, you have to have decision making, choices from a list, etc. Instincts, alone, are neutral.

  58. “Dave, the fact that humans DO actively CHOOSE to do such things that would clearly violate instincts to protect children, and do so in so many different ways, actually strengthens the case that humans are, in fact, quite different from animals.”

    Different only from some animals. Some mammals, under certain circumstances, eat their young. I never heard of a ruminant that kills its young or its own kind or any other kind unless threatened.

    “You acknowledge that, unlike animals, humans can choose one way or another- that’s exactly what morality is! It’s a choice to either live by the RULES or to refuse to accept them and live by your own.”

    I never acknowledged that’s unlike animals. I’ve had many pets where some chose to obey certain rules and others didn’t. Some were polite and gentle and some were rude and forceful. What can I say? You’re wrong, I know it, and I know why. You lack the long experience working with and observing animals that I have.

  59. Animals are capable of active decision making- thinking through the morality of various situations. Interesting. I wonder what dogs aspire for…what goals rats have. What fears of the future do rabbits ponder. Wolves standing around wondering how to better the lives of their neighbors- maybe head start classes would be a good idea for the group!

    Sigh. If only they could tell us.

  60. Dave,

    My two basic points that we started with remain unanswered. They are:

    1. Moral relativism fails primarily for two reasons:
    - It is internally contradictory.
    - It is practically unworkable. Since the relativist is unwilling to make an absolute statement (ie, X is always wrong), he is therefore logically obligated to define at least one situation in which every reprehensible act, X (like the one mentioned earlier—but there are many, many more) is acceptable or even “right.”

    2. NDE, and materialism more generally, doesn’t have a plausible explanation for the existence of people’s moral capacity.

    It was interesting that you said, “humans are rather unique among higher animals in the wanton ability to maim, torture, and kill their own kind. No other species can destroy each other with the proficiency we’ve developed. And you argue we aren’t animals? What, are you stupid?”

    Maybe I am. But this comment actually shows that in an ironic sort of way you agree with my thesis that “humans are rather unique among higher animals,” as indeed they are. When I say that people are moral beings, this doesn’t mean that we always _act_ morally, it means this means that we have the capacity to act in the moral realm. And this includes acts of altruism, sacrifice and love, along with acts of self-centeredness and evil and yes, even unspeakable evil.

    And the fact that you have an ability to recognize evil when you see it and consequently object to it illustrates (again) the huge chasm that exists between people and any other member of the animal kingdom. I don’t have conversations like this with my dog. The squirrels in my back yard don’t debate the problem of evil. And materialism has no plausible explanation for why this is.

    But additionally, as I said before, the relativist is in the very difficult positon of being able to recognize evil but then not be able to say that such acts of evil ARE evil and are ALWAYS so, as I can. Pretty tall order.

    Thanks,

  61. keiths
    “It is religious folks (some, but certainly not all) who take on that role by assuming they know God’s laws and attempting to impose them on the rest of us.”
    Have you ever heard of political correctness?

    “I figure any real God doesn’t need third parties and human-made recording devices to deliver their messages.”
    Since He is God, he can do things the way He wants. If He does things the way YOU think are appropriate, then that makes YOU God. Have you considered the possibility that there IS a God and you are not Him?

    (Is anyone still reading after 61 comments? I hope so; I hate to waste my brilliant insight.)

  62. DaveScot,

    You said: “Nonsense. People survive without being taught how.” Yeah?
    Name one.

    You said: “Instincts can be overcome through training, which is what happens to us.” Right, but never to animals in the wild. Difference of kind, not degree.

    You said: “Dogs, horses, all kinds of wild and domestic animals can be trained to act against instinct as well.”
    Right: underline “can be trained.” Animals only get there courtesy of long, patient training by an entirely different kind of intelligent agent, us. Cows don’t teach flies to overcome instincts. Dogs don’t teach squirrels to overcome instincts. Similarly, we can’t “teach ourselves” about morality. We need outside instruction first.

    You said: “Our claim to fame is mostly writing. Writing acts like instinct only it is instinct that can be acquired instantly, be passed along to the next generation, and can accumulate without end.”
    “Instant instinct” is an oxymoron in animal biology. Again, difference in kind.

    You said: “That’s why we wallowed in the dirt with the other animals for millions of years until we perfected writing then in the span of a few thousand years went from living in caves to building space stations.”
    That and 6-row barley.

  63. You said: “Plus you’ve got people that will kill you for a pair of sneakers or for looking at them the wrong way. We’re still animals and it shows through all too often.”

    Yes, you prove my point. Given varying conditions or static conditions (doesn’t matter), humans exhibit rapid, unpredictable variation. Animals don’t. People will kill you for the sneakers, not kill you for the sneakers, invent sneakers, market sneakers, crave sneakers, eschew sneakers, prefer sneakers, collect and distribute sneakers for charity, return lost sneakers, compliment sneakers, demand that sneakers finally be thrown out, wash sneakers, give sneakers at Christmas-time, and so on.

    Any wild animal, faced with sneakers, will be limited to the same range of instinctive action as it was 100,000 years ago.

  64. DaveScot,

    I’d say my last dog had a vocabulary of around 200 words and could definitely feel guilt and show remorse, like if the kitchen garbage bag was scattered and all the chicken bones were gone. I don’t think it was fear: he knew he wouldn’t actually get hurt. Plus he had a large non-verbal vocabularly.

    On the other hand, he never did figure out sneakers…

    Next time I’m going to try some abstraction, like if you’re faced with a stair landing or a Y-path where one route goes up and the other down. Now obviously, my dogs knew to respond to “up” and “down” and in different specific ways depending on the situation, but I don’t think they ever got the abstraction of up and down where it could be applied to different situations.

  65. Red Reader quotes me, concerning atheists as lawgivers:
    “It is religious folks (some, but certainly not all) who take on that role by assuming they know God’s laws and attempting to impose them on the rest of us.”

    Red responds:
    “Have you ever heard of political correctness?”

    You’re right, Red. I didn’t think of political correctness until after I made my post. That is definitely a secular instance of folks trying to impose unreasonable rules on the rest of us. Even so, the original dispute was about atheists as self-appointed lawgivers, and I think it’s safe to say that most of the PC promoters are not atheistic.

    See my reply to crandaddy (forthcoming) for more on this.

    Red Reader then quotes me (incorrectly — it was actually DaveScot):
    “I figure any real God doesn’t need third parties and human-made recording devices to deliver their messages.”

    Red Reader replies:
    “Since He is God, he can do things the way He wants. If He does things the way YOU think are appropriate, then that makes YOU God. Have you considered the possibility that there IS a God and you are not Him?”

    I agree with Dave on this one (dang — it happened again :-)). It’s true, Red, that an omnipotent God could “do things the way He wants.” But most Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe the following things about God:

    1. He provided his inspired word to us.
    2. We can trust his word (at least to some extent; believers differ on how much, and on what subjects).
    3. He wants his word to be understandable.
    4. He wants us to believe his word.
    5. He is omnipotent.

    If all of those premises are true, you would expect something quite different from the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran. For example:

    1. There would be no dispute over translations. God would guide the translation process and make sure there were no errors, intentional or otherwise.
    2. There would be no dispute over interpretations. God would make his word unambiguous enough that anyone approaching it honestly would reach an identical interpretation.
    3. Failing that (which shouldn’t happen, since he’s omnipotent) he could “beam” the correct interpretation directly into a person’s mind.
    4. There would be no internal contradictions.
    5. There would be no external contradictions (for example, statements that science has proved wrong).
    6. Descriptions of God would not reveal human frailties, like forgetting (God puts the rainbow in the clouds partly as a reminder to himself not to send another flood; see Genesis 9:16), braggadocio and gratuitous cruelty (the book of Job, where God gets into a, shall we say, “urinary” contest with Satan and allows Satan to torment Job just so that God can score points), or deliberate injustice (as when God “hardens” Pharaoh’s heart repeatedly, and then punishes all of the Egyptians for it; see Exodus 9, 10, 11).

    The Bible fails all of these tests, which is one of the main reasons my faith did not survive adolescence.

    And why shouldn’t God give his word an unmistakably divine provenance, like arranging the stars to spell it out, or (as DaveScot suggested) engraving it on the surface of the moon?

    Red concludes:
    “Is anyone still reading after 61 comments? I hope so; I hate to waste my brilliant insight.”

    The die-hards (DaveScot, Josh, pmob1, SteveB, me) are all still here, since we all posted to this thread today. I do wonder if everyone else has given up, though.

  66. pmob1 probes my vegetarian ethics:
    “Plants are people too you know.”

    Believe me, pmob, in 20 years of vegetarianism I’ve heard it all: melodramatic depictions of agonized corn plants screaming as the combine mows them down, accusations of genocide toward all of the innocent soybean plants who must die, their corpses brutally processed into tofu for my plate, etc.

    pmob1 asks:
    “Would it be ethical to cull overpopulated deer herds and put the carcasses to use by eating them?”

    The culling question is tricky. It depends on a lot of things including the likelihood that the culled deer could have survived, the relative pain of the culling method versus death by starvation, etc. This determination would have to be made by a fully independent, licensed and bonded animal ethicist.

    If the culling itself were deemed ethical, I’d have no trouble with anyone (including myself) butchering and eating the carcasses. I’m not squeamish about eating animals per se; I just don’t want them to be killed unnecessarily for food or any other reason.

    The interrogation continues:
    “Another one: my friend’s kid hit a doe last night (common occurrence) and kept it. We’ll help him butcher it and then we’ll eat it. Does that pass muster?”

    Yes, roadkill is fine by me as long as a) you don’t deliberately hit animals in order to eat them, and b) you can stomach it. I have not personally indulged in roadkill, though the neighborhood vultures seem to like it.

    A couple more questions you didn’t ask that I hear often:

    “If you were lost in the woods and had no other way of surviving, would you kill and eat animals?”

    Without hesitation. If it’s down to me or a squirrel, the squirrel is toast (assuming I could catch and kill it).

    “Do you kill bugs in your house?”

    Ants I will kill, because I don’t want them in my house and I haven’t found any other way of getting rid of them reliably. Everything else I catch and put outside. I don’t worry about the bugs that die on my windshield; life is too short (for them and for me).

  67. Without hesitation. If it’s down to me or a squirrel, the squirrel is toast (assuming I could catch and kill it).
    —————

    lol. good luck! those suckers are tricky! and in cartoons, they stand on limbs and throw acorns down on your head. tricky and mean those squirrels. and if it happens in a cartoon, well duh it happens in real life too, right? :)

  68. Keiths,

    If I may jump in here:

    “And why shouldn’t God give his word an unmistakably divine provenance, like arranging the stars to spell it out, or (as DaveScot suggested) engraving it on the surface of the moon? ”

    Here is an answer:

    1) It wouldn’t prove what you think it would prove. Imagine this scenario: A missionary in New Guinea tries to convince natives to convert to Christianity. They demand unmistakable evidence that God exists: They demand that God write “God exists” across the sky. So the missionary hires a sky-writer and the plane writes “Christ died for your sins” across the sky in smoke. The New Guinea tribesmen, never having seen an airplane in their stone age culture, fall down and worship God. What the missionary has done is deceive the tribesmen, something God would never do.

    Another example (this time a true story): A friend of mine once consulted a famous psychic to contact a dead relative of hers. She was convinced that the psychic actually contacted this relative because of some of the information revealed. Anyone who has visited the skeptic websites knows how this trick can be done. My point to her was: How can she be sure it was her relative the psychic contacted? Maybe it was an evil spirit having sport with her and pretending to be her relative. It’s like the internet – you can’t be sure who is on the other end. We do not get a certified provenance in communication with the spirit world.

    All we know about moon-engraving is that we can’t do it ourselves. There may be aliens that can do it, or there may be spirits other than God that can do it. If “God exists” is engraved on the moon, all we know is that we didn’t do it and some intelligence did (there is ID for you!) Beyond that, it proves nothing.

    God would not write on the moon because he knows that it wouldn’t actually prove his existence, even if we were deceived into thinking it did. Believing something true for the wrong reasons is still deception, and God does not deceive. So He doesn’t try to impress us with cosmic stunts.

    The distinctive act of God is creation ex nihilo, and therefore the only act unmistakably of divine provenance is the creation of the universe itself.

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  69. Oops… the missionaries demand should be “Christ died for your sins” in my New Guinea example.

    Dave T.

  70. biblically speaking, there are issues of love involved with why god doesnt beam directly into your brain ‘im here, im real, worship me’. its just like with people- part of love is trust, you trust that your spouse loves you, tho youve no idea whats going on inside the other persons head completely. you trust that god loves and has a plan for you, beaming directly into your head the “truth” would be a demand to be loved. god doesnt demand to be loved in a sense…because demands for love arent actually love.

    love is bourne out of a choice to show love to someone. same for god. free will allows man to freely accept and love god, to trust him, to put faith in his promises. (biblically speaking, evidence isnt really supposed to bring anyone to christ- the holy spirit is what first comes into you and convinces your heart…the evidence comes after this.) this also has to do with love and trust as the basis of true love.

    evidence on the level mentioned here would be tricky no matter what- people would still deny he exists even if he did write it in the stars- just as the iranian president, despite footage of the death camps of wwii, the hundreds and thousands of personal letters, videotaped testimonies, and reams of evidence denies that the holocaust ever happened. who knows- he could have been there himself and still chose to deny it took place.

    that reminds me of the weirdos who believe that the 9/11 hijackers, tho we have them on camera boarding their airliners…are alive and that the US govt flew planes into bldgs on sept 11! man will always choose to ignore the obvious. dont get me started on the moon landing never happened conspiracy people. :)

  71. I have struggled with the same questions and objections that you have, which consequently caused you to abandon your faith. I found that there are cogent answers though, to even the toughest difficulties. Hope those articles help. :)

  72. taciturnus

    “It wouldn’t prove what you think it would prove.”

    Presumably an omnipotent God could figure out a way to do it.

    Instead we are given a God which suspiciously uses men and whatever recording instruments they have at the time of revelation to record and distribute His message. Morever, the message is received differently by different folks inspiring scores of different religious beliefs and even in the current most popular religion there are scores of sects which each interpret the hugely ambiguous and self-contradictory old and new testaments of the Holy Bible differently.

    Excuse me for thinking that no God in His right mind would choose to reveal Himself in that manner and thereby concluding it exceedingly likely that none of the organized revealed religions are true.

  73. “[animals] thinking through the morality of various situations”

    You’ll first have to convince me that humans as a species have acted morally superior to any species of animal I can point to. How are humans morally superior to, say, elephants? Do elephants engage in the wholesale slaughter of each other? Do they make slaves of other elephants? Do elephants kill for sport as human hunters do?

    Good luck.

  74. DaveScot,

    I’ve written nothing and said nothing about the Bible, nor argued that any God exists. I’ve merely given an argument why an engraving on the moon would not prove anything about God. Do you still think a moon-engraving would be unmistakable evidence of God’s presence? Why couldn’t some lesser creature write on the moon and claim to be God?

    “Presumably an omnipotent God could figure out a way to do it.”

    To do what? Convince you he exists? To do that, he would have to do something that no other possible being could do, so we could not possibly mistake something else for him. What act would that be? I, for one, would not be convinced by moon-writing.

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  75. Dave, one could argue that God has revealed himself in a very blatant and tangible (written on the moon) way, via the theophanies and miraculous events recorded in the scriptures. However, he chose in accordance with his purpose and plan, to end manifestations of this type with the closing of the Apostolic era. In a very true sense, the canon of scripture that is our Bible is your stars spelling out his word. He chose to enter time and space during a specific time in history and to reveal himself to a specific culture.

    It may be true that various groups and sects interpret his revelation differently, but this is what one would expect from a fallen race of people. However, the core essentials of the faith are universal throughout legitimate mainstream denominations. The Bible specifically states that there is liberty on the peripheral issues.

    And it’s important to understand the meaning of “inspiration” as it pertains to scripture. God used the styles, personalities and unique perspectives of the individual writers, He didn’t possess them and guide every stroke of their pens.

    When you take a close look at the 20,000 + manuscripts that make up the NT, you see an uncanny constancy with textual variants only appearing on insignificant grammatical issues (like one having the definite article “the” while another does not – and never affecting any doctrine). It has all the marks of God’s miraculous preservation. You should take a look at some of the links I posted above.

  76. “You’ll first have to convince me that humans as a species have acted morally superior to any species of animal I can point to. How are humans morally superior to, say, elephants? Do elephants engage in the wholesale slaughter of each other? Do they make slaves of other elephants? Do elephants kill for sport as human hunters do?”

    I have to agree with DaveScot here, but he doesn’t go far enough. When I look at my front lawn I think: When has grass ever slaughtered or enslaved anybody? Grass never kills for sport. Grass just finds unused soil and grows in it, not bothering anybody.

    Elephants, however, trample innocent grass all the time. I understand they need to eat grass to live, but many times they trample right over grass they don’t need when they could easily walk around on bare earth. It’s almost like they trample grass for sport, the beasts. Grass is obviously morally superior to elephants, and way morally superior to human beings.

    Dave T.

  77. Here is why I do no accept moral subjectivity…

    1) Start with something that is clearly objective: power. Whether you are taking Plato’s dialog “Gorgias” or anything written by Nietzsche, the people arguing that morality does not exist, always argue that it is obvious that power does exist. The guy in the room who has a gun has more power than the one who doesn’t (all else being equal). The guy who has more money has more power than the guy who has less. Even if I only have $1 more than you do, I objectively have the power to obtain one more can of Pepsi.

    2) The line of reasoning then follows that if morality does not exist, and power does, our goal is obviously to maximize our power position. Make as much money as possible. Lift weights. Own lots of guns and dogs. Pay off dirty cops and politicians. Do whatever you can to secure as much power and security based on fear, intimidation, and bribes. All other people are a means to this end. There is no reason to help another person unless you can at least make money off it… or secure some other kind of favor. If the person who needs help is a bottom-dweller, urchin, cripple, orphan, or widow, it’s hard to imagine that they could repay you in any way. When they are in need, just leave those people alone.

    This (as Callicles argues in Plato’s “Gorgias”) is the “morality of nature”. The biggest lion rules by his strength and nothing else. Might makes right. Human civilization should be the same, he argues… the most fit man (the ubermensch, in Nietzsche’s writings) deserves the most power. And the most fit of all should be so totally autonomous as to indulge every appetite and vice he wishes. The “justice” invented by governments is the way that the weak masses band together to muzzle and leash the ubermensch. And as such, it is a perversion of the “morality of nature”… ie, the state of no morality.

    So we start with this… the logical unfolding of the case for no true morality. These are the ultimate conclusions of recognizing that power is objective and morality is subjective.

    Next we examine the particulars. First, is there really a man who is more fit or deserving of power? Conan the barbarian might be strong, but surely a group of 100 men would always be stronger. Why should Conan rule and not any arbitrary group of 100? Or perhaps “fit” = “smart”. But “smart” is relative to different careers. Homer was a great poet, but Archimedes was smarter in a scientific sense. A doctor is smart on medical topics, a sailor smart on the craftsmanship of boats. Who then is the most fit? This is the approach Socrates takes to dismantle the argument.

    But we can also look at it from another perspective. Denying morality means denying love. As I mentioned earlier, if power is objective and morality is not, each person should be treated as a means. Every face is therefore only a step on the ladder we climb to improving our own power. The problem is that if this is actually carried out, no society can function. If everyone promised to pay for their goods, but defaulted on their promises (which gives them more money – hence more power) the economy would collapse. If everyone stole to acquire more property, murdered anyone who opposed them, and sexually abused whenever they felt horny, no one could stand society.

    It could be said that Nazis operated in a way similar to this code of no morality – they certainly showed no respect to Jewish people – but on the other hand, they treated fellow Nazis with standard moral behavior. You can isolate a person (or segment) of the population for abuse and still function as a society, but everyone can’t treat everyone else that way. That is impossible. The truth is that the Nazis were hypocritical in living by their code of no morality… they couldn’t stick to it in a full and total sense.

    One step further, though, is that if we are going to treat all people as a means to gaining power, and we’re going to lie, manipulate, torture, extort, and blackmail to the maximum extent… then wouldn’t we also do so with ourselves? It is again hypocrisy to treat others in a way we don’t treat ourselves. The reasoning is black and corrupt all the way to the core. The self-contradiction can never be plucked out. If we take the one principle of power maximization at any cost, and apply it everywhere… we have to also apply it to ourselves. Thus, we advocate one standard for how we treat ourselves and another one for how we treat others.

    On the other hand if we admit that we ought to love others, we have a principle that allows us to love ourselves. Or conversely, if we admit to loving ourselves, we are logically obligated to love others.

  78. keiths,
    I was just pulling your leg. When the biggest alt-store around here finally added a meat counter, the old guard called it the “Carnage Department” which was pretty funny. I used to go veg’ in the summer sometimes. Terrific clean out. Been too lazy in recent years. I must admit, I don’t have too many scruples in front of the BBQ but aspects of industrialization and bio-tech bother me. One issue that hasn’t come up in this thread yet is possible relation between the way we are machining animals and the way we are machining humans. About the time you start mass-producing farm fish and cooped-for-life chickens is about the time you start euthanizing millions of human fetuses at a crack, or creating genetic combos, designer babies, etc. Life becomes just another “resource.”

    Oddly, the most avid euthanizers are usually avid followers of the burgeoning Nature Religions. Point being, as pets (and Nature Show wild animals) are “humanized” and cuddlied up, human fetuses are exiled from the Garden. These are really weird people, for my money.

    No longer own a bike. Ride with friends occasionally. The way cars are, thinking about it scares me to death. (Fear stops the second I pop to first. Proves I’m still dumb enough to ride.)

  79. DaveScot,
    “that humans as a species have acted morally superior”

    You might have a point there. I think ants would do worse if they could.

  80. taciturnus writes:
    “When has grass ever slaughtered or enslaved anybody? Grass never kills for sport. Grass just finds unused soil and grows in it, not bothering anybody…Grass is obviously morally superior to elephants, and way morally superior to human beings.”

    Morality is at least partly a question of intent as well as action. Who knows how many maniacally homicidal grass blades there are, waving impotently in the wind, who would kill and kill again if granted the ability?

  81. Oops, just saw that pmob1 made the same point using ants instead of grass. Sorry for the repetition.

    taciturnus,
    May I infer, from the sheer bulk of your output on this and other threads, that your nom de blog was selected with tongue firmly in cheek?

  82. taciturnus writes:
    “All we know about moon-engraving is that we can’t do it ourselves. There may be aliens that can do it, or there may be spirits other than God that can do it… God would not write on the moon because he knows that it wouldn’t actually prove his existence, even if we were deceived into thinking it did.”

    A few points:

    1. If, as you say, God would refrain from moon-writing because it doesn’t prove anything, then God would certainly refrain from scripture-writing which is even less persuasive. Perhaps this is what you believe, but it is far from what most Jews, Christians and Muslims believe.

    2. An omnipotent God who wanted to shield us from deception would prevent any lesser being(s) from fooling us. If we see scriptural moon engraving, we may safely infer one of the following:

    a) God exists and he did it.
    b) God does not exist and a lesser being did it.

    As the “cosmic stunt” increases in difficulty, the likelihood of (b) decreases. Suppose that a powerful being arranged distant galaxy clusters to spell out his words from our perspective on Earth. You might be justified in assuming that God was behind it. Or you might decide, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, that any sufficiently powerful being is indistinguishable from God. Such a being might be worthy of worship, even if not quite transcendent. In any case, you’d probably want to stay on his good side.

    Side note: point #2 means that God would not allow someone to write false scriptures that were persuasive enough to fool people. Since we know that there are multiple mutually contradictory holy books in the world, each of which has its believers, we can conclude that the specified God does not exist.

  83. keiths
    “I think it’s safe to say that most of the PC promoters are not atheistic.”
    I suggest that those who reject one faith MUST embrace another. And those who reject one morality must embrace another. PC is definitely not the “law of grace written on men’s hearts” (new testament teaching).

    keiths, you have some shallow conceptions of God’s word.
    I agree the scriptures are “God-breathed”. But I differ with you after that. “Trusting God’s word” doesn’t mean picking it apart for contradictions. Do you do that with the people you know? If you do, how many of them want to be around you very long?
    This is my opinion: I don’t think he “wants” us to understand his word; I think he _commands_ us to understand his word. In law, the principle is “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. Same here. God’s word is there for you. If you don’t understand it, I hate to say this, it’s not God’s fault. You are accountable to him, not visa versa. When you are God, you can create a Universe and do things your way. Until then, you really are responsible for doing things God’s way. If there are things you don’t understand, there are plenty of people and places you can go to get help understanding. Formost among the help available to you is God himself. Ask God to help you understand. There resources are there. If you ignore them, that’s no one’s fault but your own.

    Next, you list six things that God ought or ought not to have done to meet your standards of acceptability for his word. Do you have any idea how thin the ice is under that sort of reasoning? Have you ever had a boss who didn’t quite communicate with you according to your sensibilities? How long before he booted your rear into the street? If it is true God made you in His image, then you had better start using some ingenuity and TRY to understand what he is saying to you. He gave you a brain. Don’t use your brain to question his credibility. Use it to understand what he is saying to you.

    keiths, it is not the Bible that is failing a test, it is you. You are not the judge of God’s word. God’s word is your judge. I hope you can get your arms around that, I really do.

  84. Keiths,

    Yes, you may infer that about “taciturnus.” The name is not original with me, however.

    1. Your point about scripture assumes that it’s purpose for being written was to provide proof to skeptics. I frankly doubt that it was. My own belief is that Scripture was written to instruct the already converted, not persuade skeptics. It rarely works for the latter task anyway.

    2. I’m not sure God would attempt to shield us from every possible deception. The Biblical God, certainly, did not shield Adam and Eve from deception in Eden, with unfortunate consequences for humanity. Anyway, I agree with you that a God who shields us from any possible deception does not exist… and certainly shielding us from self-deception would be a very tricky and subtle business. I also wonder whether the possibility of self-deception is not an intrinsic part of freedom, and an intrinsic part of being a limited creature.

    Dave T.

  85. Red Reader writes:
    “‘Trusting God’s word’ doesn’t mean picking it apart for contradictions.”

    No, but before I can trust the Bible, I need to know that it IS God’s word. How can I reliably determine that without testing it? I can’t just assume that it’s God’s word if I care about the truth and don’t want to make a potentially serious mistake.

    And don’t forget that you yourself have rejected many faiths and many sacred scriptures. Atheist Stephen Roberts said to a believer, “I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other gods you will understand why I dismiss yours.” While not entirely true (I don’t know why you rejected Islam, for instance, and your reasons might be completely different from my reasons for rejecting Christianity), his primary point is well taken.

    “Do you do that with the people you know?”

    Of course not. But then again, the people I know don’t claim to be channeling God’s word (except for one, but he’s been mentally ill for 20 years). If they did, I would be very skeptical. An extraordinary claim like that cannot be accepted unquestioningly, whether it comes from a person or a book.

    “When you are God, you can create a Universe and do things your way. Until then, you really are responsible for doing things God’s way.”

    Perhaps, but what is God’s way? How can I know without finding a trustworthy source of information?

    “Ask God to help you understand.”

    I did that many times and quite sincerely when I began losing my faith as an adolescent. I tried to ignore my doubts and let the Holy Spirit do its work. I read Christian books. I talked to ministers, one of whom introduced me to C.S. Lewis. I read Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters. For a while, I managed to prop up my trust in the Bible (see my December 7, 3:22 pm post at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/553 ). But the problems with Christianity remained, and I was forced to jettison my faith.

    “He gave you a brain. Don’t use your brain to question his credibility. Use it to understand what he is saying to you.”

    It’s not God’s credibility I’m questioning, but the Bible’s. And I AM using my brain to try to understand what he is saying, if he is there at all, by rejecting sources like the Bible that are clearly not from him.

    I have been accused by Christians of arrogance for believing that my human intellect is equal to the task of deciding whether the Bible is true. But what choice do I have? None of us is born already believing in the truth of the Bible. We have to decide to trust it. That decision is our responsibility, especially by the time we become adults. We can’t push the responsibility onto someone else by saying “so-and-so believes the Bible and I trust him,” because the obvious response is, “How did you know that so-and-so was correct?” We can’t say “the Bible says it’s the Word of God” because then we are assuming the truth of the claim we are testing. We can’t say, “I know the Bible is true because the Holy Spirit makes me feel its truth”, because we know that other religions have followers who feel just as sincerely and fervently that their beliefs are true. We have to use our intelligence. The responsibility is inescapable.

    Suppose we have souls, and that after our deaths God questions us about our beliefs. I will be able to say honestly that I used my intelligence, to the best of my ability, to seek the truth, and that I rejected the Bible because it did not appear to be God’s word.

    What will you say if God asks why you accepted the Bible with its contradictions, its inaccuracies, and its unflattering portrait of him? Will you be able to honestly say that you tried your best to evaluate it before deciding to believe in it?

  86. This is an ID blog. I’m hesitant to venture into matters of faith, but I suppose I’ll do it just this once…

    I don’t think God is into the business of great “cosmic stunts” to try to coerce us into believing in Him. Nor do I think it will ever be possible to prove His existence because if it were ever proven that God exists, we would be forced to serve Him out of rational obligation. We humans have large egos. We tend to think that we can rationalize our way around everything. Thus, it is a humbling experience for us to suspend our rationality and, to take a leap of faith into the unknown. God wants us to love Him first, innocently and humbly, and the insight into His nature follows from our communion with Him. I think this is what Jesus meant when He told the desciples not to prevent the little children from comming to Him and said, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” Mark 10:15. God has provided His Word for all of the world to see, and His Holy Spirit is the still, small voice that speaks to the hearts of men and tells them it is the truth.

    David

  87. taciturnus writes:
    “Your point about scripture assumes that it’s purpose for being written was to provide proof to skeptics.”

    Not necessarily, Dave; the apparent authenticity of scripture also serves to strengthen the faith of existing believers.

    “I’m not sure God would attempt to shield us from every possible deception. The Biblical God, certainly, did not shield Adam and Eve from deception in Eden, with unfortunate consequences for humanity.”

    True, but for God to allow a sincere seeker to be deceived is problematic for most Christians. They would probably only be comfortable with deception if it were limited to cases where nothing was at stake.

  88. One more thing…

    Keith,

    I see you have read four of C. S. Lewis’ books, and if you can stand to read another, I highly recommend his autobiography, “Surprised by Joy”. Of all his books, that one is my personal favorite.

  89. Keiths,

    The original point under discussion was whether moon-engraving or other cosmic events should convince a resolute skeptic that God exists. It may be that Christians think that God won’t allow them to be deceived, but the point is whether a resolute skeptic is rationally compelled to believe it. I don’t think he is, which means that for the skeptic the possibility is open that moon-engraving might have its cause in a being other than God. In fact, modern philosophy was launched when Descartes began to wonder whether everything he thought he knew was merely a deception foisted on him by a powerful but malevolent demon.

    The demand for a divine display of cosmic fireworks results because people get tired of philosophy. Why do we have to grapple with Aquinas’ Five Ways when God could end the need for philosophy with a spectacular demonstration? Unfortunately, philosophy is inevitable because no immanent, individual material phenomenon carries self-evident and unmistakable transcendent meaning. The real danger of deception here is in thinking that there can be material phenomenon about which it is impossible to be deceived.

    Cheers,
    Dave t.

  90. keiths
    Your best resource for faith and/or understanding–whichever you think is needed–is God himself. Talk to God in private. Ask Him for help. Look and listen for the answer. Give God a chance to respond.

  91. The “God shouldn’t allow ‘x’ to happen…” is an common, but problematic, line of argument. It seems that it is only employed when the person making it doesn’t like the outcome of ‘x’, whatever that is. On the other hand, when the outcome of a person’s freewill is what he wants, or is something good or beneficial, people generally don’t object to the fact that our decisions (or someone else’s that might affect us) have this level of magnitude, that our wills matter, and that the stakes are high. I’ve never heard anyone say, “If god was loving and omnipotent, he wouldn’t have allowed me to win the election,” or “He really should have intervened before I inherited all that money.”

    But all of us (myself included) complain when things go south. My question is, can we really have it both ways? Can we have meaning and significance, self-will and independence without at the least the risk of failure or pain? I don’t think so. What would it be like if god allowed freewill and its consequences ONLY when the outcome is what we want? Or perhaps god should take away (or at least restrict) our freedom such that only certain limited (positive) consequences are allowed?

    And this is what we’re asking for when we say god shouldn’t allow things: We’re asking him to put out his hand and prevent certain courses of action before the first step is even taken. But of course, people typically don’t frame the issue quite that way (“I wish god would restrict my freedom…”), because that’s not really what we want. What we all really want is complete independence and freedom WITH a guarantee that things will always turn out OK. And the fact that we ask for two things that are in conflict with each other is not god’s shortcoming; it is ours.

    $.02,

    -sb

  92. crandaddy writes:
    “Nor do I think it will ever be possible to prove His existence because if it were ever proven that God exists, we would be forced to serve Him out of rational obligation.”

    Hi David,
    I don’t think we’d be compelled to serve God simply by a proof of his existence. We always have the option of defying God, even if we believe in him. Abraham could have decided that God was evil for commanding him to sacrifice Isaac and refused the order. The Israelites were certainly convinced of God’s existence after witnessing the Mt. Sinai extravaganza (see Exodus 20:18-19), yet they ended up worshipping the golden calf and Baal (at different times) in defiance of God’s will.

    “Thus, it is a humbling experience for us to suspend our rationality and, to take a leap of faith into the unknown. God wants us to love Him first, innocently and humbly, and the insight into His nature follows from our communion with Him.”

    The problem is in which direction to take the “leap of faith” when so many choices are open to us. Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Mormons all take the leap. I know firsthand that many of them are quite sincere in their beliefs and feel that God (or the gods) have granted them special understanding because of their faith. Their tenets are mutually contradictory, so at least some of them must be wrong, yet they all feel a certainty born out of their communion with God (or the gods). I can only conclude that a leap of faith is not the best idea if truth is the goal.

  93. Josh Bozeman disputes my claim that the Bible requires animals to be punished (animal punishment being the ‘absurdum’ in Dembski’s student’s essay):

    “I will assume you don’t study the bible, from what you said here and quoted in other posts here. The verses here aren’t about animal punishment, it’s more about rituals. It’s nothing to do with punishment for animals.”

    He fails to offer any evidence in support of his ‘rituals’ interpretation.

    Let’s look at the verses in question.

    1. Exodus 19:12-13 demands that humans and animals who touch Mt. Sinai be stoned to death or shot with arrows:

    12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
    13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.”

    This verse, as it says, applies to “beast or man.” Josh, are you really saying that the Bible commands the stoning of a human being, not as punishment, but as a mere ritual?

    2. Exodus 21:28-32 demands the stoning of oxen who gore people:

    28 If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.
    29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.
    30 If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.
    31 Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.
    32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

    These verses come in the middle of a long chapter which is all about punishments and fines. Examples: “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.” And the famous “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot…”

    Josh, how can you argue that the verses are referring to rituals, not punishments?

    3. Leviticus 20:15-16 decrees that if a man or woman has sex with an animal, both the person and the animal must be killed:

    15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
    16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    Like the oxen verses, this appears in the midst of a long list of punishments. Yet Josh insists that these are not punishments, but rather rituals.

    Incidentally, for those who think that the God of the Bible is a paragon of morality, check out this doozy from Exodus 21:

    20 And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.
    21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.
    (New King James Version)

  94. Taciturnus,

    Re: When has grass ever slaughtered or enslaved anybody?

    Please to meet my associate, Mr. Crabgrass. He has caused many infidels to die of rage, heart attack and self-poisoning with infidel yard chemicals.

  95. You seemed to be saying that the Bible was supporting punishment against animals…you cannot punish someone if they’re incapable of knowing that what is happeningis punishment, or have no knowledge of right and wrong. Punishment is meant to stop others from doing the same thing or stopping the punished person from doing the action again in the future. The Bible doesn’t support the idea that animals are being punished, because there’s no support for the idea that animals know right from wrong or have any idea that what’s happening to them IS punishment or anything like punishment.

    The punishment is for the people not for animals- nowhere in the Bible will you find support for the idea that animals know much of anything, let alone ANYTHING in human terms. Man is the highest being- man has dominion over ALL the animals and the land itself. This is why animals aren’t being punished- what good would it do? Animals, according to the bible don’t have souls like men, they don’t have a spiritual side, so any punishment would be pointless. Rituals are involved in why animals are killed in regards to various acts of men. Animal sacrifices were brought to the temple all the time, and they were killed for these purposes, not for punishment. SCOTUS ruled that you cannot put the mentally retarded to death for crimes they commit- why? Because they don’t have the capacity as others to realize what the acts done to them are for (punishment), same with animals, tho I’m not in any way saying any animal is even close to the most retarded among us. The retarded are usually treated, not punished. Makes sense.

    You can call it punishment, but it’s not punishment in human terms, for the necessary factors aren’t tagging along with it (knowledge of right and wrong, realizing what you have done, realizing that the actions taken against you are in fact for punishment, etc.) Animals haven’t got any of that knowledge. The fact remains that humans are in a category by themselves, because if we were higher up and nothing more- we should fairly punish ALL, or refuse to punish humans as we refuse to do so for animals. We make distinctions however, because we see that animals and humans aren’t the same.

    You mention slavery- but exodus also says the punishment for taking someone and selling them into slavery is death…you can’t pick a verse here and there and try to paint God as immoral. Even with the verse you quote, there’s no context- biblical “slavery” was usually actually biblical “servitude” and most of it was purely voluntary. There are laws that command servants to be treated as a family member of the servant’s own family. That an “owner” is to live by a strict code in regards to how he treats his servants. The verse you quote also makes it clear that murdering a servant, tho you do own him in a sense is not permitted. It warrants the same punishment as murdering anyone else.

    As for the oxen mentioned- this isn’t punishment for the oxen. It’s meant to punish those who refuse to control their animals and allow this lack of control to injure others. The punishment is for the man, but the oxen is also killed (not as a punishment, an oxen has no idea why it’s being killed or that it’s GOING to be killed, so punishment in thise sense is meaningless) because it’s out of control, and logically you can’t have out of control animals around population centers.

  96. Josh Bozeman,

    I didn’t say altruistic acts are mere instinct in humans, but the drive to commit them is instinctive. Just like instinct drives you to be attracted to the opposite sex, but all the complex social interacting it takes to deal with that instinct cannot be accurately described as “mere” instinct.

    Also, I don’t think there is any fine dividing line between an action that is considered instinctual and one that isn’t, at least in humans.

  97. theres no evidence to support that the range of human behavior is instinctive. much of human behavior would definitely be anti-instinctive in many manners. running into a bldg on fire to save a kitten has no instinctive purpose whatsoever.

  98. Josh Bozeman,

    I read the rest of your post so let me address a few points:

    {{“Punishment isn’t truly punishment if there’s no thought behind it…it’s just instincts kicking in and demanding an animal do A or B.”}}

    This are merely assertions based on assumptions on your part.
    Why does punishment need to be defined in terms of planned thought?
    You’re assuming that no animal has “thought” besides humans.
    First, “thought” must be defined properly in order to find this out.

    A wolf’s instinct may be to punish its underlings, but experience may have taught him (or conditioned if you prefer) to go easy on a certain member of the pack because she is tougher than others and bites back.

    The instinct is not the act. The act is instinct filtered through experience.

    {{“A million yrs from now, they’ll be doing the same thing, acting in the same way, making the same mistakes, having no change in any of their social orders or systems of life in any sifnificant way.”}}

    So you can predict the future? Amazing. So millions of years from now there will be no more war? There will be no more theft? All human instincts will be quelled and pure Vulcan logic will only remain?

    War, theft, murder: these things are the result of human instinct.
    They have not changed in “millions of years.”

    {{“There’s no comparison between what humans do and what wolves do, or any other animal. Social orders in animals are built on necessity based on pure instinct. Clearly not so for humans. And what we do as people we do out of moral choices, decision making, planning out our lives, right and wrong…you can hardly argue ANY animal is sitting down thinking up moral absolutes, envisioning 10 yrs from now and how to make the world a better place, choosing what path their lives should go down (you don’t have alcholic apes who turn their lives around and spend the rest of their time acting as a force for good over evil.)”}}

    Of course, comparisons can be made for what wolves and what humans do. Preying on the weak, submitting to a leader, caring for young, feeling lonely, etc. are all things that both humans and wolves do. Then you start on about human social interaction not being based on necessity. Just go out into the wilderness for a week and try to get along without help. Good luck. Maybe if you lived 20,000 years ago you’d be able to do what your clan taught you to survive. But now, society has made thigns much easier. It’s much easier for humans to live and procreate ( 6 billion with no end in sight!) The necessity as always is survival and procreation. Civilization makes this very very easy, relatively speaking.

    Morals: what’s moral to Gorillas is to not anger the troop leader by having sex with the wrong troopmate. What’s moral to Lions is that the males eat first. This is Right, not Wrong. Morals are also based on necessity. For humans not sharing is wrong. This is also wrong for Chimps. (http://www.equip.org/free/DC753.htm)

    Now the major difference between humans and other animals is the foresight thing. That’s the main difference between humans and other animals.

    {{“If you do something because your instincts say you have to, that’s one thing…when you make a moral choice to do something that goes against your instincts and has no benefit to you or anyone you know, or anyone you’ve even met- that’s a totally different ball game.”}}

    It’s a slightly different ballgame and it has to do with foresight, too. Also, most human morals are morals because they have some apparent “benefit” to someone. The benefit may only be eternity in heaven versus hell, but I can’t think of a moral that has no benefit or apparent benefit to someone. That’s what makes them right or wrong. Right things are beneficial in some real or imagined way. Wrong things are detrimental in some real or imagined way.

    {{“Few even bat an eyelash when an animal helps its baby…but when a human risks his life to run into a burning building to save a kitten- people see something special, and rightfully so.”}}

    Are you saying that running into a building to save a baby isn’t instinctual? It has to be one of the most instictual things I can think of. Caring for the young of the species is an instinct that all mammals and most birds share, even some reptiles and fish. I don’t see anything special about it. If a crocodile rushes to save its young when they squawk, what’s so special about a human saving a baby?

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