Home » Intelligent Design » Do Materialists Believe Rape is Wrong?

Do Materialists Believe Rape is Wrong?

I have a question for our materialist friends. Let’s imagine a group of chimpanzees. Say one of the male chimps approaches one of the female chimps and makes chimp signals that he wants to have sexual relations with her, but for whatever reason she’s not interested and refuses. Is it morally wrong for the male chimp to force the female chimp to have sex with him against her will?

If you answer “no it is not morally wrong,” imagine further a group of humans. On the materialist view, a human is just a jumped up hairless ape. Is it morally wrong for a human male to force a human female to have sex with him against her will? If you answer “yes, it is morally wrong,” I certainly agree with you. But please explain why on the materialist view it is not wrong for a hairy ape to force a female to have sex with him, but it is wrong for a hairless ape to force a female to have sex with him.

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96 Responses to Do Materialists Believe Rape is Wrong?

  1. Though I adhere to methodological naturalism, I’m still annoyed when someone tries to make a point in a debate using rape as an example.

  2. An interesting perspective!

  3. Ha! Let’s see them wiggle out of this conundrum.

  4. Today I want to argue that if God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured, but that in the absence of God, that is, if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding. We might act in precisely the same ways that we do in fact act, but in the absence of God, such actions would no longer count as good (or evil), since if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good without God. On the other hand, if we do believe that moral values and duties are objective, that provides moral grounds for believing in God. ~ William Lane Craig

    If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then — then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing ~ Jeffrey Dahmer

  5. First you have to ask if materialists believe that rape, or any crime, exists.

  6. Or perhaps they want to say both that humans are similar to chimps, and that humans are not similar to chimps? And, now, they are not allowed to say that (the LNC all over again)!

  7. A darwinian might say that similar is not identical, and that the advance in culture is an emergent properties wherin rught and wrong are not the same for apes.

  8. Is it morally wrong for the male chimp to force the female chimp to have sex with him against her will?

    I suggest you ask the female chimp.

  9. 9

    carlg, why would a materialist pin anything on the concept of “advance in culture,” much less make it the foundation for his views on morality? In other words, why should anyone care about an “advance in culture.”

  10. Barry -

    Your post was way too hypothetical. A simpler question would be for hens – their normal mode of breeding is essentially rape. Is that wrong? If it is *not* wrong for hens, what, specifically, makes it wrong for humans, if there is not an objective moral order?

  11. Especially if the rapist has no choice BUT to rape since he has no more free will than a bowl of sugar (according to materialists)

    http://www.pnas.org/content/10.....l.pdf+html

  12. Blue_Savannah: please give that link again. (Though I can guess the content.)

  13. johnnyb -

    Hens or roosters? Are you blaming the victim?

  14. Barry,

    In other words, why should anyone care about an “advance in culture.”

    Not to mention, what’s an ‘advance in culture’ again? How do we tell these things from a step backwards in culture? It seems to me that the ‘advance’ question is just as problematic as the ‘morally wrong’ question.

  15. 15

    johnnyb, actually, I think I will stick with my chimp example. Over and over again we hear from Darwinists that chimps and humans share 98% of their genes. I think there are good reasons to doubt that factoid, but I am willing to assume it arguendo for purposes of this post. In fact, it actually serves my purpose. If a Darwinist agrees that the chimp is not morally culpable to force sex on an unwilling female but the human is, I want them to tell me what, exactly, in that 2% accounts for the different result.

    To the Darwinists: This post has been up several hours. Are you unwilling — or just unable — to engage with us? Nick, I know you’ve been here while the post has been up. Why are you refusing to engage?

  16. 16

    This is the problem for materialists. There is no good or evil, right or wrong in anything. This is why my jaw dropped when hitchens his goal was for the freedom of humanity as the all good. How did be come to the conclusion that this freedom was good or evil in his materialistic worldview? No wonder why he lost those debates to Craig. When this worldview is put under the microscope it’s chaotic, meaningless end becomes apparent.

  17. Barry,

    If you ask questions like this you would be accused by some socio-biologists of committing naturalistic fallacy.

    “There is no connection here between what is biological or naturally selected and what is morally right or wrong. To assume a connection is to commit what is called the naturalistic fallacy.” – Thornhill and Palmer

    “Modern thinkers emphasize that nature is as nature is period, and that right and wrong in the moral sense derive from humans’ pursuing their interests, not from the facts of nature.” – Thornhill and Palmer

    Very convenient way out, don’t you think?

    Furthermore their answer as to explain why people have evolved to abhor rape:

    “Rape reduced female reproductive success throughout human evolutionary history because it interfered with their ability to choose their offspring’s father. Because women’s interests are thwarted by rape, so too are the interests of their significant others—that is, of people in general.” – Thornhill and Palmer

    And finally one of the conclusions Thornhill and Palmer make:

    “We feel that the woman’s perspective on rape can be best understood by considering the negative influences of rape on female reproductive success…. It is also highly possible that selection favored the outward manifestations of psychological pain because it communicated the female’s strong negative attitude about the rapist to her husband and/or her relatives.”

    You do not get much more convoluted that this. But in all fairness it should be mentioned that not all evolutionary psychologists share this view.

  18. For ian4851…here you go: (Atheist Anthony Cashmore)

    A belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs […]

    The reality is, not only do we have no more free will than a fly or a bacterium, in actuality we have no more free will than a bowl of sugar. The laws of nature are uniform throughout, and these laws do not accommodate the concept of free will.

    as living systems we are nothing more than a bag of chemicals.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/10.....l.pdf+html

  19. No, it would not be immoral for a chimp to “rape” another. Just as it is not wrong for a person to rape another person. In fact it is Paul, the greatest “soulwinner” of all that said “everything” is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” The whole concept of morals is a purely social construct, not something a creator has instilled into us. We created morals because we are social animals, and having an agreed upon code of conduct is the only way for us to survive as a group. There are no absolutes. But there are some things that should not be done for simple practical reasons.

  20. 20

    Good for you ThoughtSpark. As ghastly as your moral view of the world is, at least you are no coward and you’re willing to own the logical consequences of your worldview. I assume you believe the holocaust was an affirmatively good thing because the Germans agreed that it was and no laws were broken.

  21. TS: FYI, Paul was citing a slogan of his opponents and replying, by pointing out that first not everything is expedient, then highlighting the addictive-destructive nature of relevant wrongful activities that said opponents wanted “freedom” to indulge. On the main topic, the issue is, will as basis for ability to say yes or no. The core crime in rape is violation of person, thus of will, by force or fraud, and it is why statutory rape exists for those deemed too young to consent. So, do we have genuinely free minds? Why or why not, with what implications? KF

  22. ThoughtSpark-

    The social constructs that surrounded Bibi Aisha or a child in a Bangkok brothel are simply different social constructs than with which we find ourselves entangled? If the social constuct permits it, nothing objective can condemn it?

  23. ThoughtSpark’s honesty is indeed refreshing and something you don’t often see. He’s not engaging in the moral weaseling of the New Atheists. He takes on the hard honesty of the old atheists like Nietzsche and Sartre. With them you can actually pin down their argument and have a discussion. Trying to argue with a follower of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc. is like trying to chase down a greased pig. Entertaining for an audience, but pointless.

  24. 24

    kuartus and c hand,

    Jack is an internet troll. I will not allow him to hijack this thread. Thank you anyway for your cogent replies.

    It looks like the Darwinists other than ThoughtSpark have been struck dumb. The fact is, most of them prefer to say nothing (or, like Jack, try to change the subject) when pressed to defend the moral logic of their worldview. Very few of them are like ThoughtSpark, willing candidly to admit the monstrous moral nihilism that worldview entails.

    Nick Matzke, for example, has been posting here for the last two days. Anyone else notice he won’t touch this thread with a ten foot pole?

  25. It looks like the Darwinists other than ThoughtSpark have been struck dumb.

    I don’t think so – I assume that most of us believe that the question is just a provocation, and utterly malformed. But nevertheless, I will answer the question:

    Materialists generally believe that rape is wrong.

    Certainly there are various lines of reasoning to argue why materialists believe that rape is wrong, but there is no doubt that they believe it: there is no movement to promote rape in secular countries, rapists are despised and condemned in agnostic societies, etc.

  26. This is just another round of always the same tiresome nonsense argument: you can’t be moral unless you believe in God.

    To answer the question: materialists in general, as do most people fortunately, consider human rape to be wrong. These days. There were times when it was ok to rape your prisoners of war and your slaves, and the excuses for that can easily be found in the Bible.

    The reason human rape is considered wrong these days is that the right of a person to rule over their own body has been extended to all humans including women. Getting to that point has taken quite a while in the teeth of organised opposition from, largely, theists of many colours.

    Next question: do Bible believers think human rape is wrong? Why?

    fG

  27. FG:

    Pardon, but, your just above sounds uncommonly like subject switching to move tangentially from red herring to strawman laced with ad hominem to poisoned atmosphere.

    So, let me restate what has been argued — that materialists have no worldview foundational IS that can objectively ground OUGHT. Also, kindly note the repeated correction to the strawman distortion above, that Judaeo-Christian theists [the relevant kind] hold that there is an implanted conscience (the candle of the Lord and all that — remember the often cited snippet from Locke?) that tells us and calls us to the principles of core morality, subject only to willful benumbing.

    Do you see therefore how we can point out that there is a worldview foundation challenge AND call to duty, confident that regardless of worldview, we have a conscience calling us to the better path?

    It seems to me that his thread raises a very significant issue, what happens when a crime is defined on violation of a person’s consent as well as person, in a world where a dominant worldview undermines the very premise that we have a mind of our own that should be respected?

    Let’s refresh our memory from Provine, Darwin Day, U Tenn 1998:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . .

    And, here is Kyle Butt’s reply, and yes the example he chose was just what BA has focussed on:

    Provine’s . . . [[address] centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (Provine, 1998).

    It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally as clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Mr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended . . . . [[However, i]f it is true that naturalistic evolution cannot provide an ultimate foundation for determining the difference between actions that are right and ones that are wrong, then the door is wide open for subjective speculation about all human behavior.

    Working under this assumption (of naturalistic evolution), and knowing the ethical implications of such, Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer co-authored a book titled A Natural History of Rape, published by the MIT Press in 2000. In their preface they state that they “would like to see rape eradicated from human life” (p. xi). A noble thought—to eradicate such a detestable practice. Their self-professed purpose is to educate their readers as to the causes of rape. They feel this education will help their readers understand rape better, and be better equipped to initiate programs that will prevent it more efficiently than the current programs.

    Yet, as noble as their suggested aim may be, Thornhill and Palmer embark on an impossible task. Since they apply naturalistic, evolutionary thinking to rape, they are forced to say, in essence, that there is really nothing ultimately wrong with the practice (although they do not like it and want to see it eradicated). In the third chapter titled, “Why Do Men Rape?,” the authors note:

    The males of most species—including humans—are usually more eager to mate than the females, and this enables females to choose among males who are competing with one another for access to them. But getting chosen is not the only way to gain sexual access to females. In rape, the male circumvents the female’s choice (Thornhill and Palmer, p. 53).

    Comparing humans with animal species, the authors view rape as a natural way for males to circumvent the selection process. In fact, they claim: “Human rape arises from men’s evolved machinery for obtaining a high number of mates in an environment where females choose mates” (p. 190, emp. added). They further state that “[e]volutionary theory applies to rape, as it does to other areas of human affairs, on both logical and evidentiary grounds. There is no legitimate scientific reason not to apply evolutionary or ultimate hypotheses to rape” (p. 55). In their proposed “scientific” evolutionary reasons why men rape women, they suggest that in some cases heavy metals such as lead “disrupt psychological adaptations of impulse control,” which may lead to a “higher rate of criminality” (p. 58). They state, “[l]ead may account for certain cases of rape, just as mutations may” (p. 58). Thus, rape may simply be caused when a male of a species is exposed to an excess of some type of heavy metal like lead.

    The problem with this line of thinking is that it flies in the face of everything humans know about moral and immoral decisions. Furthermore, it transforms a vicious, morally reprehensible activity into something that may occasionally be caused by too much lead in the environment. Such “scientific” explanations for an immoral action like rape are absolutely unsatisfactory. When boiled down to its essence, as Thornhill and Palmer have so well illustrated, naturalistic evolution can never claim that any activity is wrong in an ultimate sense. This being the case, any action that a person chooses to do would be considered just as morally right as any other action, since all human behavior would be the by-product of evolution.

    Such a quagmire of moral misconception would ultimately lead any society to utter ruin . . .

    [[Rape and Evolution, Apologetics Press, 2005.]

    There is a serious problem, and BA, a lawyer, has put his finger on a particularly revealing case that brings the problem into clear view despite the confusing, choking smoke of burning, laced strawmen.

    GEM of TKI

  28. Barry,
    Nick may simply not have seen this article yet. Not as if everyone who comes here enters the site on the home page and peruses every article.

    As far as your question regarding hairy and hairless apes: For the record I am a hairless (well I have a full head of hair AND a beard… more accurately I am a less hairy ape.) As a gene carrying member of my species I believe that it is morally wrong for one member of my species to rape another member of my species or any other species.

    For ALL other species than my own I only have a moral objection if they try to rape a member of my species.

  29. 29

    Faded Glory: “To answer the question: materialists in general, as do most people fortunately, consider human rape to be wrong.”

    But you obviously have not answered the question. You didn’t even address it, much less answer it. In other words, the question makes you uncomfortable, so you dodged it.

    I will quote the question from the OP: “Please explain why on the materialist view it is not wrong for a hairy ape to force a female to have sex with him, but it is wrong for a hairless ape to force a female to have sex with him.”

    Do you have an answer to that question other than whining about how it is “tiresome”?

  30. 30

    Dieb writes: “Certainly there are various lines of reasoning to argue why materialists believe that rape is wrong, but there is no doubt that they believe it.”

    Yes, I do not disagree that materialists believe rape is wrong, but you dodged the question too. Why do we put human rapists in jail when we pretty much ignore chimp rapists? That is the question. Can you answer it?

  31. 31

    utidjian writes: “As a gene carrying member of my species I believe that it is morally wrong for one member of my species to rape another member of my species or any other species.”

    Another dodge. I do not doubt that you believe rape is wrong. Again, the question is, why do you believe human rape is morally wrong and not chimp rape?

  32. 32

    For those keeping score, we have had five materialist responses so far. carlg, NormO, faded_Glory, and utidjian simply dodged the question or tried to change the subject.

    ThoughtSpark candidly admitted the logic of his worldview leads to the conclusion that rape is not morally wrong.

    Surely there is some materialist somewhere who will actually try to argue with me, no?

  33. Yes, I do not disagree that materialists believe rape is wrong, but you dodged the question too. Why do we put human rapists in jail when we pretty much ignore chimp rapists? That is the question. Can you answer it?

    We put murderers in jail, but respect our local butcher. The first threatens the society (Kant’s Kategorischer Imperativ springs to my mind), the second is a part of the society (vegans may hold a different view).

  34. bevets: Today I want to argue that if God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured, but that in the absence of God, that is, if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding. We might act in precisely the same ways that we do in fact act, but in the absence of God, such actions would no longer count as good (or evil), since if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good without God. On the other hand, if we do believe that moral values and duties are objective, that provides moral grounds for believing in God. ~ William Lane Craig

    utidjian: “As a gene carrying member of my species I believe that it is morally wrong for one member of my species to rape another member of my species or any other species.”

    Barry Arrington: Another dodge. I do not doubt that you believe rape is wrong. Again, the question is, why do you believe human rape is morally wrong and not chimp rape?

    Theist: Atheist have no basis for prescriptive morality.
    Atheist: Let me talk about my description of morality.

  35. 35

    Dieb writes: “We put murderers in jail, but respect our local butcher. The first threatens the society (Kant’s Kategorischer Imperativ springs to my mind), the second is a part of the society (vegans may hold a different view).”

    That’s the spirit Dieb! Good for you.

    Sadly, you are arguing at cross purposes with yourself. You assert Kant’s categorical imperative (in the original German no less; that certainly makes it sound more impressive). Then you advance a utilitarian consequentialist argument. The problem with this approach is that Kant developed the categorical imperative precisely in opposition to consquentialist arguments.

    Here is Wikipedia: “Kant expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the popular moral philosophy of his day, believing that it could never surpass the level of hypothetical imperatives: a utilitarian says that murder is wrong because it does not maximize good for the greatest number of people, but this is irrelevant to people who are concerned only with maximizing the positive outcome for themselves. Consequently, Kant argued, hypothetical moral systems cannot persuade moral action or be regarded as bases for moral judgments against others, because the imperatives on which they are based rely too heavily on subjective considerations.”

    So your utilitarian argument (i.e., it threatens society) fails to establish any sort of grounding for morality. Certainly it does not explain why we treat humans differently from apes. Finally, it assumes its conclusion. When you say rape “threatens” society that is just another way of saying rape is wrong, which is the very question to be determined in the first place.

    What about your other argument? Kant’s categorical imperative states: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

    This is not quite the same as the Golden Rule, but it is pretty much the same concept. Certainly I agree that it is an excellent rule for moral behavior. Yet you have given me absolutely no reason, on materialist grounds, to follow it.

    And grounding us once again in the OP, you have not yet addressed the question of why a human should consider himself bound by the Golden Rule when we expect no such thing of a chimp. Please, please tell me Died; why does the 2% difference in genes make any moral difference at all, much less all the difference in the world?

    Again, the question is this: Why should humans follow the Golden Rule when chimps get to follows a rule that says “take whatever you want when you want it”?

  36. 36

    @ bevets at 34. You are of course correct, and it never ceases to amaze me that the vast majority of them seem unable to grasp this rather simple point.

  37. faded_Glory,

    “bite and switch” does not fare well here.

    This post is not about methods of Biblical Hermenautics.

    Furthermore Barry did not form an argument, nonsensical or otherwise, he is asking a relatively simple question.

    Try again…or not.

  38. That’s the spirit Died! Good for you.

    Thanks, Darry!

    Sadly, you are arguing at cross purposes with yourself. You assert Kant’s categorical imperative (in the original German no less; that certainly makes it sound more impressive). Then you advance a utilitarian consequentialist argument. The problem with this approach is that Kant developed the categorical imperative precisely in opposition to consquentialist arguments.

    Kant’s chided the utilitarians for being subjective, he had no problem with a consequentialist argument – as you may find out when you read the whole wiki-article.

    So your utilitarian argument (i.e., it threatens society) fails to establish any sort of grounding for morality. Certainly it does not explain why we treat humans differently from apes. Finally, it assumes its conclusion. When you say rape “threatens” society that is just another way of saying rape is wrong, which is the very question to be determined in the first place.

    Following the Categorical Imperative allows us to build a complex society, based on devision of labor. Acting against it is wrong.

    This ,[i.e. the Categorical Imperative] is not quite the same as the Golden Rule, but it is pretty much the same concept. Certainly I agree that it is an excellent rule for moral behavior. Yet you have given me absolutely no reason, on materialist grounds, to follow it. Why should I follow the Golden Rule instead of the rule that says take whatever you want when you want it?

    Indeed, the Golden Rule is only a part of the Categorical Imperative. Imagine the world in which everyone follows the rule take whatever you want when you want it. Would you like to live in it? I don’t think that you’ll find central heating in such a world, let alone message boards and blogs. So such a rule should not become a universal law.

    And grounding us once again in the OP, you have not yet addressed the question of why a human should consider himself bound by the Golden Rule when we expect no such thing of a chimp. Please, please tell me Died; why does the 2% difference in genes make any moral difference at all, much less all the difference in the world?

    That seems to be obvious: a chimp doesn’t understand the concepts mentioned above – like a small child (which has no difference in genes!). But a child may (and should be) educated to learn the consequences of its behavior. Would you argue that a six year old child which kills a man while playing with a shotgun should be treated like an adult?

  39. I did answer the question and to make it easier for you to spot it I will remove the bits that seem to distract you:

    Materialists in general, as do most people fortunately, consider human rape to be wrong.

    The reason human rape is considered wrong … is that the right of a person to rule over their own body has been extended to all humans including women.

    If that isn’t clear enough, I can point out that personhood is conferred on members of our species but doesn’t extend to other species.

    UD Editors: another attempt to change the subject deleted.

    I answered your question, Barry, so how about you answer mine?

    fG

  40. “Is it morally wrong for the male chimp to force the female chimp to have sex with him against her will?”

    I’ll say “yes” because if I believed one animal was harming another and it was in my power to stop it or to prevent it beforehand, I would do so.

    Thus it is “morally wrong” from my perspective. Whether it is morally wrong from the perspective of the chimp, and whether another chimp has a “will” to be violated–or even a sense to think it has a will–is something I don’t know.

    I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that materialism is not a basis for morality. The surprising thing is that people seem to think materialism’s amorality is surprising.

    You might want a follow-up question: Since you do not base your moral values on materialism, on what do you base them?

  41. Barry,

    Claim was made (by some materialists) that there is no connection between what is biological or naturally selected and what is morally right or wrong.

    Couple that with another one, that right and wrong in the moral sense derive from humans’ pursuing their interests and one can (I guess) have intellectual foundation for moral life without affirming the Absolute.

    Relativism in its purest form.

  42. 42

    At the most basic level, it is wrong to compare humans with other animals. People are not apes. They have the unique capacity to interact with each other and consciously change their environment. Humans are not constrained by their genes in the same way as monkeys.

  43. The question posed in Barry’s OP is an example of the old canard that materialists have no valid justification for their moral beliefs, but that theists do because they base their moral beliefs on an objective morality grounded in God.

    I say that materialists and theists have exactly the same basis for their morality. The difference is that theists believe that an objective morality validates their moral beliefs. However, that belief in an objective morality is itself a subjective belief: just believing that there is an objective morality does not make it so. There is no objective evidence that this objective morality exists.

    The belief in an objective morality may serve as guide for helping people follow the moral codes that our nature and our societies have developed, but a materialist can reach exactly the same beliefs without needing a belief in an external source of that morality.

    Believing in God does not give one a special weight of authority to one’s moral positions, or special insight into what is moral and what is not. Many religions throughout history have claimed that many different things drew their authority from a connection to divine beings. I don’t see any evidence that any of those divine beings have ever existed, and therefore I don’t accept the argument that theists have any different, or better, claim to make moral judgments than I do.

  44. 44

    Faded Glory writes: “personhood is conferred on members of our species but doesn’t extend to other species.”

    That is exactly right Faded. And it looks like you are getting close to the general vicinity of an answer to the OP’s question, but you have not yet answered it.

    Yes, we recognize the “personhood” of human females and for that reason we consider it immoral to rape them.

    The question for the hundredth time is: Why does a materialist recognize the personhood of a human female and not a chimp female? What in that 2% difference in genes accounts for the difference in treatment??????

  45. 45

    Aleta has weighed in. Alas and alack, however, she too wants to dodge the question and change the subject. At least we have her attention now.

    So, Aleta, I will assume that you hold two views: (1) you do not favor putting chimp rapists in jail or heaping moral scorn on them; and (2) you do favor punishment and the heaping of moral scorn on human rapists.

    Please explain for us what there is about the 2% difference in genes between chimps and humans that accounts for the difference between view (1) and view (2).

  46. UD Editors: Aleta now says she refuses to answer the question and wants to change the subject, but, of course, we already knew that.

  47. 47

    Now the other side is showing up. It just took a little prodding. Thanks for all of your responses people.

    DiEb says she has the answer and that it is obvious no less! The chimp just doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. I dispute that. It seems to me that the chimp understands very well the consequences of his actions – he gets sexual gratification at the expense of an unwilling female. But that is just a quibble. I will address the true core of her answer.

    She says it isn’t the 2% difference in genes that makes a difference; it is the difference in cognitive ability and for that reason humans understand the consequences of their actions and for that reason they are morally culpable when they do something they know will have adverse consequences. The first question is what consequence are we talking about? It seems obvious that the “consequence” in question is hurting the female. In other words the male should know that his actions will degrade, dishonor and humiliate the female and for that reason he should not do it. Thus, at its core, this is an argument from the human capacity for empathy.

    The obvious answer to this argument is another question: “Why should the male care about whether it will hurt the female?” He wants what he wants. If Will Provine is right and there is no objective basis for morality, is he not perfectly rational when he reasons that when people tell him to suppress his desires they are merely expressing their subjective opinion which are in no way superior to his subjective opinion that gratifying his desire is a good thing even if it hurts another person? That is a rhetorical question by the way, lest anyone believe I am in doubt about the answer.

  48. 48

    LarTanner writes: “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that materialism is not a basis for morality. The surprising thing is that people seem to think materialism’s amorality is surprising.”

    No argument here Lar.

  49. 49

    Aleta,

    All beliefs are subjectively held. In the case of any particular belief, one either assumes they reference an objectively existent commodity, or they do not. Even the idea of an external world is an assumption that cannot be proven, because all experience is, ultimately, subjective.

    In order to make rational sense of the world and function, we assume many fundamental things, such as “I exist” and “others exist” and “I am not the same thing as the others”.

    When we face the question of “how ought I behave?”, we can assume that the question references a subjective commodity, or an objective one. There are ramifications to each premise.

    If the “good” that the question “How ought i behave?” is subjective, then any “good” can be used as the basis for answering that question. I might consider it good to make everyone else subject to my wishes, or I think it is good to kill off everyone who disagrees with me. Thus, the axiomatic premise that “good” is subjective can justify any behavior. So, why bother worrying about it at all?

    If, however, the “good” refers to an objective commodity, then “How ought I behave?” cannot be answered by just any old subjective good. If one makes this axiomatic assumption, then they find themselves obligated to find out how they ought to behave and change their behavior accordingly, because not all behavior can be justified; only that which services the objective good can be justified.

    Also: if “the good” is accepted as a subjective commodity, then we can expect no necessary consequences to immoral behavior, because “the good” is not taken as an objective commodity that will cause necessary effects in relation to behavior.

    If “the good” is accepted as an objective commodity that actually exists, then we also have a basis for the expectation that there are necessary consequences to moral and immoral behavior – much like there are consequences to our behavior concerning gravity.

    What does it mean for a moral subjectivist to behave “morally”? Why even bother calling one’s behavior “moral”? Why worry about it in the first place? One might as well worry about what flavor of ice cream they like, or that other people like.

    Further, without the assumption of an objective good as basis for morality, what form can an argument about “what is moral” take? For the subjectivist, it might as well be an argument about what flavor of ice cream is “better”; there’s no argeed objective foundation for a logical argument, so all one can have is a rhetorical argument, much like trying to influence someone to like your ice cream more than soemone else’s.

    How does one then make the case that, say, burning suspected witches is wrong? Or that rounding up the Jews and gassing them is wrong? Wrong by what standard? The moral relativist cannot offer a standard of good that doesn’t pass the “who says?” test because it doesn’t even claim to have a premise of an objective good.

    What will the moral subjectivist appeal to in order to change a moral view of society around them? They cannot appeal to “the community”, or consensus; if they argue for humanism of some sort, who decides what is best for humanity, and why should anyone else agree to humanism in the first place?

    Only by the assumption that morality refers to an objective good can one offer any logical argument that gets beyond the “ice cream flavor” mark. Only then can moral arguments become rational and not rhetorical.

    The point about objective-vs-subjective based morality isn’t that “the good” can be proven to be objective or subjective; it isn’t even that we hold all experience and beliefs subjectively; the point is that regardless of if morality actually refers to a subjective or an objective good, we must argue, act, exist and live as if it refers to an objective good, and as if there are necessary consequences, or we’d all be practicing sociopaths, unconcerned that some other culture or group is burning witches, mutilating the genitals of children, sterilizing those with low IQs, gassing Jews or subjugating women.

    We’d only be concerned with our own standing in the eyes of our particular community and whatever benefits or penalties they might arbitrarily dish out for various aspects of our behavior – which is exactly what sociopaths are concerned with: not that something is intrinsically wrong, but rather what the ramifications are if they get caught.

  50. Since you have deleted my post, and thus won’t allow any discussion that veers from the path that you dictate, I will withdraw my participation.

    UD Editor: Since you refused to participate in good faith, your absence will be unlamented.

  51. 51

    Mike LaFontaine writes: “At the most basic level, it is wrong to compare humans with other animals. People are not apes. They have the unique capacity to interact with each other and consciously change their environment. Humans are not constrained by their genes in the same way as monkeys.”

    I am not sure what moral precept is violated when I compare humans to animals. If I were to say that Mike LaFontaine is a courageous as a lion and as wise as an owl, I assume you would be pleased.

    If you are a materialist you should read up a little. Materialists are constantly howling with delight when studies come out saying that chimps and humans share 98% of their genes. “People are not apes” you say, but it seems to me that the whole point of the materialist howling is to suggest that people are indeed nothing more than jumped up hairless apes.

    What then accounts for the existence of moral agency in humans but not chimps? You say it is our ability to “interact with each other.” How odd. Chimps interact with each other every day, so that is no difference at all.

    You then say the distinction is based on humans’ ability to “consciously change their environment.” Come again? Before I can respond to that you’ll need to tell me why a human’s ability to change his environment imbues him with moral agency. In other words, what is it about the ability to manipulate the environment suddenly makes some things right and other things wrong. The answer eludes me; it certainly is not obvious.

    Finally, you say that humans are not constrained by their genes in the same way as monkeys. Well, no, not on materialist grounds. Materialists argue that humans are constrained by their genes in precisely the same way monkeys are. So you lost me there.

  52. The obvious answer to this argument is another question: “Why should the male care about whether it will hurt the female?” He wants what he wants. If Will Provine is right and there is no objective basis for morality, is he not perfectly rational when he reasons that when people tell him to suppress his desires they are merely expressing their subjective opinion which are in no way superior to his subjective opinion that gratifying his desire is a good thing even if it hurts another person? That is a rhetorical question by the way, lest anyone believe I am in doubt about the answer.

    may I refer to my earlier answer:

    Indeed, the Golden Rule is only a part of the Categorical Imperative. Imagine the world in which everyone follows the rule take whatever you want when you want it. Would you like to live in it? I don’t think that you’ll find central heating in such a world, let alone message boards and blogs. So such a rule should not become a universal law.

  53. 53

    At last when I was a materialist atheist, I accepted and embraced the necessary sociopathic conclusion. I don’t know why these guys are even trying to argue that you can get meaningful morality out of evo-mat premises. Who cares? There aren’t any necessary ramifications to such subjective moralities anyway. Why bother?

  54. 54

    In #52 I meant: “At LEAST when I was …”

    Thank God I came to my senses before I did anything irrevocable!

  55. Aleta,

    You failed to make proper distinctions; objective vs subjective is not the same as absolute vs relative.

    Theist claims not that he/she can make better moral judgments but that there is something called Absolute Moral Law and that all people, at all times, in all places have moral obligations to it. You are also missing the point theists make that yes, materialist can deny existence of Law Giver and still have and in practice exhibit obligation to this moral standard. So your post is a straw-man because theist does not claim that materialist is morally inferior or lacking moral judgement. Exactly opposite is true.

    Now in case you do deny existence of Absolute Moral Law, I have a question for you.

    Do you consider any action in our human predicament to be absolutely wrong and holds absolutely wrong for all people, at all times and in all places?

  56. What an absurd discussion. Next.

    UD Editor: I take it from this response that you are utterly stymied by the question posed by the OP and the best you can do is a kind of second grade level “neener neener neener” response. OK; a non-response like that is a very telling response indeed.

  57. inunison, at 54. I am not allowed to present my views here, so please don’t bother addressing my post.

    UD Editor: Not true. Anytime you want to address the question posed by the OP in good faith, your participation will be welcomed. On the other hand, your trollish attempts to hijack the thread, avoid the question, and change the subject will be resisted.

  58. 58

    I am not sure what moral precept is violated when I compare humans to animals. If I were to say that Mike LaFontaine is a courageous as a lion and as wise as an owl, I assume you would be pleased.

    But, those are metaphors, not genetic similarities.

    If you are a materialist you should read up a little.

    I am not, but thanks for asking.

    Finally, you say that humans are not constrained by their genes in the same way as monkeys. Well, no, not on materialist grounds. Materialists argue that humans are constrained by their genes in precisely the same way monkeys are. So you lost me there.

    Chill, dude. I am agreeing with you.

  59. “I made comments that meant to broaden the perspective of the issue being discussed.”

    UD Editor: No, you have no good answer to the question posed by the OP. So instead you made a trollish attempt to hijack the thread and change the subject. If you want to participate, you are more than welcome. However, you must participate in good faith.

  60. 60

    Dieb says she would not want to live in a world in which everyone takes what they want when they want it. She writes: “Imagine the world in which everyone follows the rule take whatever you want when you want it. Would you like to live in it?”

    No indeed, Dieb, I would not. In other words, I am glad materialists rarely act as if what they say they believe is true. Instead, the vast majority of them coast along on the ethical system bestowed upon them by the Christian tradition while at the same time furiously chopping away at the root of that system. Ironic, huh?

    Still, you have yet to answer the question. The fact that you personally would find it distasteful to live in a world in which everyone acted as if objective moral norms do not exist is not an answer, because we do not, in fact, live in such a world.

    Again, the question is: Why do materialist have different moral expectations for chimps than they do for humans when, on their premises, chimps and humans are pretty much the same thing? Care to take a shot at that?

  61. No indeed, Dieb, I would not. In other words, I am glad materialists rarely act as if what they say they believe is true

    No, materialists do act as if what they say they believe is true. They just don’t follow you misinterpretations of their philosophy.

  62. 62

    Dieb insists that, “materialists do act as if what they say they believe is true.”

    Assertions are not arguments Dieb, and your assertion flies in the face of everything we know. Materialists say they believe there can be no ultimate foundation for ethics. Morality is not objective but merely an arbitrary choice agreed upon and nothing more. Given his materialist premises, Richard Dawkins is absolutely correct when he says: “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

    Yet in his everyday life Richard Dawkins is, I am certain, a rather nice guy who almost certainly lives by the Golden Rule. In other words, he, like most materialists, lives his everyday life as if his philosophical commitments were false.

    Oh, and by the way, you still have not answered the question in the OP.

  63. Again, the question is: Why do materialist have different moral expectations for chimps than they do for humans when, on their premises, chimps and humans are pretty much the same thing? Care to take a shot at that?

    Again, I refer you to an earlier answer:

    That seems to be obvious: a chimp doesn’t understand the concepts mentioned above – like a small child (which has no difference in genes!). But a child may (and should be) educated to learn the consequences of its behavior. Would you argue that a six year old child which kills a man while playing with a shotgun should be treated like an adult?

  64. Morality is not objective but merely an arbitrary choice agreed upon and nothing more.

    And if? As it is agreed upon, most will follow the moral guidelines, and those who don’t will face consequences.

  65. Inunison at 17, and others

    “Rape reduced female reproductive success throughout human evolutionary history because it interfered with their ability to choose their offspring’s father. Because women’s interests are thwarted by rape, so too are the interests of their significant others—that is, of people in general.” – Thornhill and Palmer

    In other words, for the materialist there is “morally wrong (on materialistic evolutionary grounds),” but not wicked, an abomination or blasphemy. All these notions require a person who is offended by wickedness, abomination or blasphemy. If all that person is is human, or even a collectivity of humans, than it’s all relative.

    And thus, we get ThoughtSpark’s moral philosophy at 19:

    “The whole concept of morals is a purely social construct, not something a creator has instilled into us. We created morals because we are social animals, and having an agreed upon code of conduct is the only way for us to survive as a group. There are no absolutes. But there are some things that should not be done for simple practical reasons.”

    So when someone steals ThoughtSpark’s car or rapes his/her friend, it isn’t wicked behavior, it’s social behavior that for group survival, our society has deemed inconvenient. How convenient.

    I hope feminists aren’t largely buying into this. Those who are have no reason to be morally outraged at anything.

    But other societies view these and other moral issues differently. And it isn’t just societies of the past, like the Nazis. And it isn’t just “societies” outside the US. They are right here in our own back yard.

    In a recent case in Pennsylvania, a man in a peaceful atheist demonstration on Halloween last year – dressed as a zombie Mohammed, was physically attacked by an offended immigrant Muslim man. The judge in the case was sympathetic to Muslims, having lived for years in Muslim countries. Since he was offended by the atheist’s behavior, he dismissed the charges of physical violence the police brought against the Muslim man.

    http://jonathanturley.org/2012.....-a-doofus/

    Of course the ruling is a violation of the 1st amendment to the constitution, and atheists and theists alike should be outraged; but the larger issue here in light of what we’re discussing is what I mentioned as collective morality. We here in the US have determined for reasons having to do with human rights and free speech, that we don’t have the right not to be offended. While on moral grounds, the Muslim man had every right to be outraged by the demonstration, to demonstrate such outrage peacefully, and I would probably be outraged too, if I was a Muslim; but he did not have the right (according to US law) to demonstrate his outrage with a violent act. His culture’s different laws in that regard should not have been a consideration. Our law is not based in competing moral collectives, but in 3 basic notions of human rights; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, rights endowed on us by our Creator. If that should change, then individual complaints of offense would be legally legitimate, and I could press charges against a neighbor who offends me for any reason.

    Atheists and materialists should be “thankful” that their right to peacefully protest and offend is guaranteed not by a materialist notion of law, not by consensus, not by might, not by the state, but law by these 3 basic notions of human rights; which are decidedly anti-materialistic.

    You will notice of course that there’s a difference between law and morality (although law has at its base, morality). Morality requires a person offended; while law does not care about offense unless such offense deters life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; as such, civil law is limited. So the materialists who think that theists in any way want a theocracy are mistaken. Theists want a society that honors and upholds civil law for all those deemed human (including the unborn, BTW).

    Right now we have a conflict between competing cultures in the US regarding morality. If we’re to accept that morality is relative to culture, then the Sharia law (which isn’t exactly law, but an enforced moral code) enthusiasts should have every right to exercise and enforce it in their chosen communities, like Dearborn Michigan (for example). However; if we accept the principles in our Declaration of Independence regarding basic human rights, and in our Constitution regarding free speech, relative morality should not enter into the equation; only civil law should. I don’t know too many materialists who would object to this when they really think about it.

    There’s a lot of issues there, but they are all interrelated.

  66. “Again, the question is: Why do materialist have different moral expectations for chimps than they do for humans when, on their premises, chimps and humans are pretty much the same thing? Care to take a shot at that?”

    Materialists have different moral expectations for chimps than for humans because materialists base their moral expectations on something other than materialism.

    Chimps and humans are “pretty much the same,” as you say. But they are not exactly the same. Their brains work differently. Their societies work differently. Their tools and technologies are different in number, power, and scope. Their sense of self and species-identity lead to different behaviors and natural attitudes.

    Since materialism is amoral, as I think we all agree, and cannot be the basis of sustained communal living, then materialists must base their moral expectations on something else. I can’t speak for all materialists or for anyone but myself, but I think it is broadly true that materialists base their moral expectations on learned and reasoned ideas of human-specific “good” in human-dominated societies.

  67. LarTanner said:

    I think it is broadly true that materialists base their moral expectations on learned and reasoned ideas of human-specific “good” in human-dominated societies.

    Learned? OK. But reasoned? Instead of asserting the ideas are reasoned, why not just share the reasons? Isn’t that what we are trying to get to?

  68. But there are some things that should not be done for simple practical reasons.

    So, rape is wrong because it is impractical?

    Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

  69. Can an ape be immoral? I’m not sure. I suppose that the degree to which we can judge the morality of any creature is commensurate with the ability of the creature to make moral judgments. Perhaps an ape can be morally culpable to some degree, but not as much as a normal human.
    I say a “normal” human, because some humans are likewise limited in the ability to make moral judgements. If a human has a high degree of mental impairment – perhaps from birth or a brain injury – and is severely limited in the ability to empathize and reason, and that person rapes someone – how morally culpable is the person?
    And that brings up the basis for morality – I would say it’s empathy and reason. I suppose from what some are saying here, that some would argue that the basis of morality would be the ability to… theologize?

    I feel a moral repugnance at the thought of rape – and I certainly would not want to live in any society that tolerates such a thing. How does God’s existence or non-existence affect the morality of rape?

  70. Generally, materialists seem to be satisfied in explaining away morality through sociobiological evolution. But such a definition is highly problematic for two main reasons:

    1. Whether you attribute morality to social constructs, cognitive development, cultural norms, memes, or whatever else you like, none of these cases can secure an objective moral ground. So morality remains a subjective trend that humanity came up with, an illusion and nothing more than that. Those who commit rape are simply acting out of fashion. From a materialist perspective, if serial rapists had more reproductive success at the beginning of humanity’s evolution due to their ability to acquire more mates than the non rapist, wouldn’t rape end up evolving into a norm?

    2. While social explanations for morality might work in some cases, they ultimately face a major dilemma when the social consensus decides to endorse evil. Consider the ancient Canaanites where it was customary to sacrifice children, or the medieval societies and their witch hunts, or the Nazis persecution of minorities.

    What if Hitler won the war and the Nazis continued their policy of eugenics up until today. What would the likes of Dawkins and his materialist friends say to condemn it? Afterall, not only is it agreed upon by social consensus, but also the sterilization or elimination of the sick, crippled, and those deemed genetically inferior would contribute to our sociobiological evolutionary well being on the long run. So what excuse do the materialists have to feel pity for the genetically inferior who are deemed unfit to continue? And how would they justify it objectively, and I stress OBJECTIVELY.

  71. Shogun,

    “Generally, materialists seem to be satisfied in explaining away morality through sociobiological evolution.”

    Maybe, but the point is that materialism is amoral. It is not a basis for morality, yet it does not preclude morality either.

    In any event, the questions of the OP have been answered:

    Do materialists believe rape is wrong? yes.

    Is it morally wrong for the male chimp to force the female chimp to have sex with him against her will? I answered “yes” in comment 40 and explained why. However, I explained there and in comment 66 that our view of moral chimp behavior is entirely separate from our view of moral human behavior.

    If the point of the OP is that materialists are inconsistent to give chimps a free pass on rape but not humans, then that point has been demonstrated false because of (1) materialism’s neutrality w/r/t morality and (2) the difference–already mentioned a few times–between human assessment of its own species versus other species.

    Other questions, such as objective morality, are peripheral to the topic introduced in the OP, and so should be dealt with separately. In post 40, I suggested this question as a potential OP: “To materialists: Since you do not base your moral values on materialism, on what do you base them?”

  72. Barry said:

    “The question for the hundredth time is: Why does a materialist recognize the personhood of a human female and not a chimp female? What in that 2% difference in genes accounts for the difference in treatment??????”

    That wasn’t the question, not even for the first time let alone for the hundredth. You didn’t even use the word personhood until I introduced it.

    The question you asked is: “please explain why on the materialist view it is not wrong for a hairy ape to force a female to have sex with him, but it is wrong for a hairless ape to force a female to have sex with him.”

    To which my answer is: “The reason human rape is considered wrong these days is that the right of a person to rule over their own body has been extended to all humans including women. If that isn’t clear enough, I can point out that personhood is conferred on members of our species but doesn’t extend to other species.”

    fG

  73. Goodusername writes,

    “Can an ape be immoral? I’m not sure. I suppose that the degree to which we can judge the morality of any creature is commensurate with the ability of the creature to make moral judgments. Perhaps an ape can be morally culpable to some degree, but not as much as a normal human.”

    I agree in principle with what you’re saying here, but bear in mind that materialists hold that humans are nothing more than evolved apes (or, if you prefer, ape-like creatures/primates).

    If we claim that animals have no claims to morality and act on instinct, then that is fine but we then cannot move the goalposts and claim that humans are simply higher animals and somehow evolved morality.

    Either morality exists because it was hardwired into humans who are separate and distinct from animals as (created/designed) organisms or it did not.

    “I say a “normal” human, because some humans are likewise limited in the ability to make moral judgements.”

    Is this because their consciences excuse their behavior?

    “ If a human has a high degree of mental impairment – perhaps from birth or a brain injury – and is severely limited in the ability to empathize and reason, and that person rapes someone – how morally culpable is the person?”

    That is not the point of the OP. The point is to verify whether rape is morally wrong. We are not discussing mental impairment here. We are talking about normal human beings and apes.

    And even if a mentally impaired individual did commit a crime, he or she would certainly be sent to a psychiatric facility for a period of time. There is no reason to suspect that mentally impaired people cannot understand the basics of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Presumably someone taught them which behavior is which and did not leave them to their own devices.

    “And that brings up the basis for morality – I would say it’s empathy and reason. I suppose from what some are saying here, that some would argue that the basis of morality would be the ability to… theologize?”

    The basis for morality would be the word of God, if the person defending morality is a Christian. Empathy is a good basis for morality, but how does evolution with its ‘survival of the fittest’ selective processes allow for empathy? If the weak perish, then so be it. Nothing good or bad about that, it’s just nature. Right?

    Reason is also a good basis for morality. However, human beings have a strong tendency to throw reason and logic out the window when dealing with highly emotional situations, such as the aftermath of rape or any other crime.

    “I feel a moral repugnance at the thought of rape – and I certainly would not want to live in any society that tolerates such a thing. How does God’s existence or non-existence affect the morality of rape?”

    There is a book that I’ve brought up several times here: ‘The Natural History of Rape” which argues that rape is a natural part of the world and is supported by evolutionary biology. I have yet to see any person on this site defend this book and claim that rape is perfectly normal.

    And if there is a God, then there is an objective basis for morality, which would supercede human empathy and reason.

  74. 74

    FG: “The reason human rape is considered wrong these days is that the right of a person to rule over their own body has been extended to all humans including women.”

    That is a conclusion FG, not an argument. Do you have an argument to support your conclusion. Why on materialist grounds are human women privileged to rule their own bodies and not chimp females? After all, materialists insist they are 98% the same; what in that 2% makes the difference?

  75. Barry,

    I have enough of you snipping my posts.

    fG

    UD Editor: Then stop dodging the question and trying to hijack the thread by changing the subject. Listen, if you can’t answer the question just admit it. Or you can go away. I’m OK with either.

  76. A suggestion: since it takes maybe five to ten minutes to set up a new blog or forum, perhaps those who wish to discuss significantly tangential issues could do so and in responding to the main issue, footnote that they wish to address an incidental issue, elsewhere, as linked. Of course, cultivating civility will be a significant challenge, given what has been going on. (For instance after over a hundred harassing and in some cases rude or obscene remarks by a commenter who has threatened my family, for now I have closed off comments at my personal blog.) KF

  77. In a materialistic world one could argue that there isn’t any rape- it would be selfish gene reproduction.

    But I do have a question- my daughter’s rabbit makes it with her stuffed animals, yup without their consent. Is that rape?

    He tries to do her dog too, but she won’t have any of that.

  78. Why on materialist grounds are human women privileged to rule their own bodies and not chimp females? After all, materialists insist they are 98% the same; what in that 2% makes the difference?

    Barry, perhaps you could answer my question:

    UD Editor: Nope, not until you answer mine.

  79. Hi Barb,

    If we claim that animals have no claims to morality and act on instinct, then that is fine but we then cannot move the goalposts and claim that humans are simply higher animals and somehow evolved morality.

    But I wouldn’t say that apes act purely on instinct. I believe apes have SOME ability to empathize and reason, so that’s why I don’t think it’s such an easy question as to whether an ape can be ‘immoral’ or not.
    But, then, we have this same issue even with humans at times. Such as when trying to decide if someone is mentally fit for trial. How impaired does someone’s ability to reason and empathize have to be before we shouldn’t try them for a crime? Not an easy answer IMO.

    That is not the point of the OP. The point is to verify whether rape is morally wrong. We are not discussing mental impairment here. We are talking about normal human beings and apes.

    The OP asked if it is morally wrong for an ape to rape. If we assume the answer is ‘no’, I would say the answer is because of an ape’s limited ability (relative to humans) to reason and empathize. I don’t believe the answer has anything to do with whether an ape is 98% similar genetically to a human or not. And as a point of reference I showed that there are people – 100% human genetically – that we don’t hold morally responsible for their actions. If apes were 0% genetically similar to humans – but had the same ability to reason and empathize – we may very well hold them as morally responsible as any human. The genetic relatedness has nothing to do with it.

    The question of whether an act is immoral or not, IMO, is linked to whether we can hold whoever committed the act morally responsible.
    How would you answer the question “Is is morally wrong for someone who is highly mentally impaired (someone who would not be judged to be fit for trial) to rape?”

    There is no reason to suspect that mentally impaired people cannot understand the basics of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Presumably someone taught them which behavior is which and did not leave them to their own devices.

    It depends how mentally impaired. If someone is mentally impaired – but is deemed capable of understanding the basics of good and bad – then they are typically judged fit to stand trial.

    The basis for morality would be the word of God, if the person defending morality is a Christian. Empathy is a good basis for morality, but how does evolution with its ‘survival of the fittest’ selective processes allow for empathy? If the weak perish, then so be it. Nothing good or bad about that, it’s just nature. Right?

    How does evolution NOT allow for empathy? I don’t see what they have to do with each other. Evolution doesn’t say we should kill the ‘weak’, or let the weak perish, any more than gravity says I should knock my monitor to the floor. Evolution doesn’t ‘tell’ us to do anything.

    There is a book that I’ve brought up several times here: ‘The Natural History of Rape” which argues that rape is a natural part of the world and is supported by evolutionary biology. I have yet to see any person on this site defend this book and claim that rape is perfectly normal.

    Rape may be a product of evolution but I personally have strong doubts (I don’t think there’s been any society where any sizable proportion of the population was a product of rape, and so I don’t think rapists have ever left sufficient offspring) – but even it is, so what? I don’t think that’s an argument for tolerating rape. Murder may also be ‘natural’ – it’s certainly common enough, in every society, and throughout history – but even if it is, I don’t think that’s any kind of argument in its favor morally.

    And if there is a God, then there is an objective basis for morality, which would supercede human empathy and reason.

    I’m not sure how God’s existence would make morality objective. Assuming there is a God, and has rules for us, what about those rules would be morally objective? Of course, that’s not to say that there’s aren’t good reasons to follow the rules – but I would argue that those reasons are also based on empathy and reason. One may argue that by following those rules that it would be best for humanity (i.e such rules will be the most reasonable) and limit human suffering (empathy) and keep us from, perhaps, going to Hell (and so there are also practical reasons for following the rules).

  80. Why on materialist grounds are human women privileged to rule their own bodies and not chimp females? After all, materialists insist they are 98% the same; what in that 2% makes the difference?

    Because “we are living in a material world and they are just material girls”? Hey look, Madonna was good for something after all…

  81. LarTanner:
    “Maybe, but the point is that materialism is amoral. It is not a basis for morality, yet it does not preclude morality either”

    Yes materialism is amoral, and this is the root of the problem. Even if it permits morality it just fails to objectively verify it. What good is morality if we take it to be a self-imposed illusion as opposed to intrinsic & objective values to abide by? Thank God that materialists only pay lip service to their beliefs otherwise living in such a world is unimaginable.

    “In any event, the questions of the OP have been answered:

    Do materialists believe rape is wrong? yes.”

    Yes I’m aware that it’s been answered, but inadequately justified. I agree that the wording of the question may not be the best since we are not interested in your opinions, but rather in your objective justification for saying that rape is wrong.

    In my previous post I asked a question: what if serial rapists had more reproductive success than non rapists in some early stage of hominid evolution? From a materialist perspective, wouldn’t rape end up evolving as a norm?

    And what if a futuristic hardcore eugenic society finds a woman to have favourable qualities that must be passed on, so they decide to force her to have sex with a man whether she likes it or not. In this case not only is there a social consensus about this decision, but they are also positively contributing to the biological evolution of humanity. So they can argue that the materialist greater good outweighs any delusional feelings of empathy or other social constructs dubbed as morality.

    I don’t think these are peripheral questions since they still deal with the moral framework with regards to rape.

    From a theistic perspective, rape is objectively wrong in all cases. But I don’t think we can say the same about materialism. With regards to morality and its objectivity, theism is inherently good but must be distorted to justify the evil acts of some extremists. On the other hand, materialism seems to be inherently bad or morally inadequate and so it must be distorted to look good by its followers. This is a critical difference between theism and materialism.

  82. goodusername:
    “I’m not sure how God’s existence would make morality objective. Assuming there is a God, and has rules for us, what about those rules would be morally objective? Of course, that’s not to say that there’s aren’t good reasons to follow the rules – but I would argue that those reasons are also based on empathy and reason. One may argue that by following those rules that it would be best for humanity (i.e such rules will be the most reasonable) and limit human suffering (empathy) and keep us from, perhaps, going to Hell (and so there are also practical reasons for following the rules).”

    I fail to understand your reasoning here, why aren’t God’s rules objective? A key premise of the moral argument for the existence of God is that God is the only source of objective morality, I thought this should be crystal clear by now!

    I believe the main reason why God’s moral rules are objective is because we are talking about a source that transcends humans and all their subjectivity. If two persons get into a dispute wouldn’t a third party be the best solution to objectively settle their dispute? So think of God as the ultimate “third party” for all of humanity. What could be more objective than that?

    Now if there were multiple gods, then you could question the objectivity of their rules because different gods would entail different personalities and opinions which adds a layer of subjectivity to their commands. So I think polytheism fails to establish absolute objective morality. But monotheism is as absolute as it can get since there is only one transcendent source.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be implying that divine moral rules can also be explained by materialism in terms of practicality. But I beg to differ, there are cases where taking a moral decision may go against materialist practicality that limit morality to pretty much social consensus and the impact on our well being. For example, if I was a ruler who decrees a law to put an end to slavery in a society where slavery is a very common practice, wouldn’t I be going against materialist practicality by putting a stop to low-paid (or rather unpaid) workers that make up a significant chunk of the workforce? Wouldn’t it be damaging to the economy especially if the society heavily relied on slaves to get things done?

    And isn’t it more practical for an advanced nation to conquer an undeveloped nation and use their people and resources to advance their own technology? Wouldn’t that help introduce technological benefits to the undeveloped nation? But how do we deem the act of a greedy invasion immoral from a materialist standpoint?

    Isn’t it also more practical from a materialist socio biological perspective to implement eugenics and establish a society of genetic discrimination that would ultimately lead to an improvement in the evolution of a superior human genome for the future? But why is the act of sterilizing or eliminating the genetically inferior immoral?

    Even in the case of rape which is the main topic here, there can still be cases where materialism makes rape seem normal, or even more practical if the rapists get more reproductive success than the non rapists. Given enough time it might even become a norm in a society driven my materialism.

    The point should be clear now, your reasoning fails in cases where empathy and compassion morally supersede materialist practicality. And this can only be accomplished by securing a solid and unifying understanding that all human beings have inalienable God-given rights. And this is what materialism cannot deliver because there are cases were practicality outweighs the empathy for the rights of others. And even if God’s rules provide some practical advantage, so what? that does nothing to downplay their objectivity.

    I know that this post was mostly a side topic, but my point is that regardless of how think about it, God is the ONLY source of objective morality.

  83. Shogun,

    “Yes materialism is amoral, and this is the root of the problem. Even if it permits morality it just fails to objectively verify it.”

    Why should materialism be obligated to objectively verify morality? I understand your larger concerns, but I fail to see why you think it’s a problem that materialism specifically is amoral. If we have a viewpoint that alleges or strives to be descriptive, then it would be a failing for it to be prescriptive.

    I think I’ve said everything that interests me on this topic, but I do want to question you on one statement of fact. You say: “From a theistic perspective, rape is objectively wrong in all cases.”

    This statement is false, as far as I can tell. Several theistic perspectives have either explicitly or implicitly tolerated rape in certain situations. I have no knowledge of rape in any theistic culture being a virtue specifically, but to say it is objectively wrong in all cases ignores that in some historical times and circumstances rape (say of a slave or a person in a conquered culture) has been accepted.

  84. Why on materialist grounds are human women privileged to rule their own bodies and not chimp females? After all, materialists insist they are 98% the same; what in that 2% makes the difference?

    Did you read the part which you overwrote with your Tannoy message? It was an answer to your question (phrased as a question itself).

    We don’t judge a toddler the same way we judge his parents, though the DNA is very similar – even more similar than the DNA of a chimp compared with some human being.

    We judge behaviour and capabilities.

  85. “But I wouldn’t say that apes act purely on instinct. I believe apes have SOME ability to empathize and reason, so that’s why I don’t think it’s such an easy question as to whether an ape can be ‘immoral’ or not.”

    That is a good point, considering the famous incident where a small boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at a zoo and a female gorilla held him without hurting him. It’s possible that apes understand what we call empathy. But does that mean that they understand love, honor, and revenge as well?

    “But, then, we have this same issue even with humans at times. Such as when trying to decide if someone is mentally fit for trial. How impaired does someone’s ability to reason and empathize have to be before we shouldn’t try them for a crime? Not an easy answer IMO.”

    With humans, a basic psychiatric evaluation would determine fitness for trial. The underlying issue is the profound difference between human morality and animal morality. We humans make rules and laws that specifically target behavior; apes and other animals do not.

    “The OP asked if it is morally wrong for an ape to rape. If we assume the answer is ‘no’, I would say the answer is because of an ape’s limited ability (relative to humans) to reason and empathize. I don’t believe the answer has anything to do with whether an ape is 98% similar genetically to a human or not. And as a point of reference I showed that there are people – 100% human genetically – that we don’t hold morally responsible for their actions. If apes were 0% genetically similar to humans – but had the same ability to reason and empathize – we may very well hold them as morally responsible as any human. The genetic relatedness has nothing to do with it.”

    However, you still miss the point: animals do not have rules, ordinances, and laws that govern their behavior. They do not place other animals in jail and test them for mental fitness before putting them on trial. If we are genetically related, then how is it that we are more moral as a species than they are?

    “The question of whether an act is immoral or not, IMO, is linked to whether we can hold whoever committed the act morally responsible. How would you answer the question “Is is morally wrong for someone who is highly mentally impaired (someone who would not be judged to be fit for trial) to rape?”

    Yes, it is morally wrong. Rape is always morally wrong, whether it is committed by a 10-year-old or a 50-year-old.
    Are there circumstances under which rape would not be considered morally wrong? If so, what are they?
    .

    “How does evolution NOT allow for empathy?”

    Survival of the fittest. We exist to procreate and spread our selfish genes. That is the underlying principle behind Darwinian evolution.

    “I don’t see what they have to do with each other. Evolution doesn’t say we should kill the ‘weak’, or let the weak perish, any more than gravity says I should knock my monitor to the floor. Evolution doesn’t ‘tell’ us to do anything.”

    Then why does a theory that tells us nothing the underlying principle behind all of biology? Shouldn’t it describe the way life works, operates, and changes?

    “Rape may be a product of evolution but I personally have strong doubts (I don’t think there’s been any society where any sizable proportion of the population was a product of rape, and so I don’t think rapists have ever left sufficient offspring) – but even it is, so what?”

    If rape is a product of evolution, and evolution is how we got here then why do we have rules against it? It’s a part of the natural world. Nobody should be punished for rape. That is the only logical conclusion to your comment.

    “I don’t think that’s an argument for tolerating rape. Murder may also be ‘natural’ – it’s certainly common enough, in every society, and throughout history – but even if it is, I don’t think that’s any kind of argument in its favor morally.”

    Murder might be common, but putting self-defense aside, why do we have rules that make it illegal. If it’s natural, it should be tolerated. Shouldn’t it? Or should human society continue to punish murderers by putting them in jail?

    “I’m not sure how God’s existence would make morality objective. Assuming there is a God, and has rules for us, what about those rules would be morally objective?”

    Those rules would emanate from a source that is considered to be omniscient, righteous, and powerful. That would allow for a basis to determine what is good and what is bad. If God is considered to be the ultimate standard of good—which is how most religions paint him—then that is where moral objectivity would come in.

    “Of course, that’s not to say that there’s aren’t good reasons to follow the rules – but I would argue that those reasons are also based on empathy and reason. One may argue that by following those rules that it would be best for humanity (i.e such rules will be the most reasonable) and limit human suffering (empathy) and keep us from, perhaps, going to Hell (and so there are also practical reasons for following the rules).”

    The point is, though: if murder and rape are part of the natural world as described by evolutionary processes including natural selection, then why make laws against them? What makes these behaviors immoral?

  86. Hi Shogun,

    I fail to understand your reasoning here, why aren’t God’s rules objective?

    I’m not necessarily saying that God’s rules aren’t objective. Actually, it’s never been clear to me what that even means in the case of morality. I understand what it means to say that it’s an objective fact that the moon is larger than a breadbox, or that 2 + 2 = 4, but when it comes to morality – as strongly as I feel that some things are immoral (e.g. rape) – I don’t know what it even really means to say that it’s “objectively” wrong.
    Everything else that’s objective doesn’t depend on God’s existence. If it’s somehow discovered that God doesn’t exist, that doesn’t change the fact that the moon is larger than a breadbox. I sometimes wonder if people say that morality is objective cause they feel it gives it more “oomph”.

    I believe the main reason why God’s moral rules are objective is because we are talking about a source that transcends humans and all their subjectivity. If two persons get into a dispute wouldn’t a third party be the best solution to objectively settle their dispute? So think of God as the ultimate “third party” for all of humanity. What could be more objective than that?

    I think you may be conflating two separate meanings of ‘objective’, or at least using “objective morality” different than how most people mean it.

    At least from just about every other discussion on this topic I’ve been in and have seen, they have meant ‘objective’ as in ‘real’ or at least independent of the mind, e.g. the existence of a rock is “objective”, while whether the rock is ‘pretty’ or not is ‘subjective’.

    You seem to be using a closely related but separate definition of ‘objective’, that of ‘impartial’ or ‘unbiased’. For example, let’s say a soup competition is going on between two cooks and there’s a dispute as to who won the competition – maybe the cooks don’t trust the judges. So they decide to ask a random passer-by to taste the two soups and decide which is better. And they decide that whichever soup this ‘objective’ 3rd party taster picks will be the winner. In this case, he’s objective in the sense of being impartial or unbiased.  Indeed, he’s unbiased in the sense of having no clue of what’s going on.  He doesn’t know the contestants, doesn’t know what’s at stake, and may not even know that there’s a competition.

    Let’s say he picks soup ‘A’ – It can hardly be claimed that soup ‘A’ is now ‘objectively’ better. If a second person walks by and says instead that soup ‘B’ is better,we should hardly look at him as if he just claimed that a rock on the ground doesn’t exist, or that 2 + 2 = 7.  He’s not ‘objectively’ wrong.

    In fact, in both case, we’d say (assuming that they don’t know one of the cooks, or are being paid to pick a particular soup) that they each have ‘objective opinions’. But if we use the word ‘objective’ as it’s usually meant in the discussion of morality, an “objective opinion” would be an oxymoron.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be implying that divine moral rules can also be explained by materialism in terms of practicality.

    No, I personally don’t use the argument of practicality. I just threw that in at the end since it is sometimes used (and I think I saw it used somewhere in this thread). I believe empathy and reason are the primary basis of morality.

    My point was just that, IMO, the basis of morality is the same for BOTH materialists and Christians and other non-materialists alike. Why follow God’s rules? I presume it’s because you believe that it’s the best thing for you (i.e. it’s reasonable) and not just for you, but for others as well (empathy). And, yes, for those that believe morality is based on practicality, they can probably find practical reasons to follow God’s rules (e.g. staying out of Hell).

  87. Hi Barb,

    We humans make rules and laws that specifically target behavior; apes and other animals do not.

    I’m not so sure about that. It might be interesting to ask someone who’s studied chimps as to what happens if one chimp rapes another – but I have heard before from primatologists that in such cases the rapist will at least get a good pummeling from the other chimps and likely be excluded from the group (resulting in likely death). If we were talking about frogs I’d probably chalk it up to instinct, but in the case of chimps I think empathy and reason are at play.

    If we are genetically related, then how is it that we are more moral as a species than they are?

    Because we have more developed brains – we’re smarter, more reasonable, and have developed a higher degree of empathy.

    Survival of the fittest. We exist to procreate and spread our selfish genes. That is the underlying principle behind Darwinian evolution.

    We DO procreate and spread our genes, but I wouldn’t say that “we exist” to do so (although we exist BECAUSE we do so).

    Then why does a theory that tells us nothing the underlying principle behind all of biology? Shouldn’t it describe the way life works, operates, and changes?

    I didn’t say it “tells us nothing”, I said it doesn’t tell us to DO anything. As I said, gravity tells us what will happen if I knock my monitor over – but that isn’t a command to do so. If we only allow those with the hairiest knuckles to breed, humans will have hairier knuckles in a few generations – but that isn’t a command for us to do so. And it isn’t much more helpful in answering questions about morality than a falling monitor.

    If rape is a product of evolution, and evolution is how we got here then why do we have rules against it? It’s a part of the natural world. Nobody should be punished for rape. That is the only logical conclusion to your comment.

    Murder might be common, but putting self-defense aside, why do we have rules that make it illegal. If it’s natural, it should be tolerated. Shouldn’t it? Or should human society continue to punish murderers by putting them in jail?

    I don’t equate ‘natural’ with ‘good’ or ‘legal’. It’s kinda hard for me to see how murder isn’t ‘natural’ – killing exists throughout the natural world, and has been in every human society, and for as long as history has records. Compare that to riding a bike… that’s about as unnatural as it gets. It’s an artificial contraption that exists no where in nature, is in relatively few human societies, and only recently. Which is more natural? But, to me, that’s completely irrelevant to the question of what should be legal.

    Those rules would emanate from a source that is considered to be omniscient, righteous, and powerful. That would allow for a basis to determine what is good and what is bad. If God is considered to be the ultimate standard of good—which is how most religions paint him—then that is where moral objectivity would come in.

    Saying “ultimate standard of good” just seems like another way of saying “objective”. I do agree that if God exists, there may certainly be good reasons to follow his rules.

  88. F/N: Inadvertently revealing dept — both on the problem and failing to do homework since Plato in The Laws Bk X and a lot of more recent history:

    LT: Why should materialism be obligated to objectively verify morality? I understand your larger concerns, but I fail to see why you think it’s a problem that materialism specifically is amoral. If we have a viewpoint that alleges or strives to be descriptive, then it would be a failing for it to be prescriptive . . .

    As in, we have no worldview foundational IS that can objectively ground OUGHT (even while we rage against real and imagined faults of others . . .), so we try to turn the issue around. Ought must be the problem.

    And, what you see looming out of the mists is nihilism.

    Plato, in The Laws, Bk X:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny. )] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them . . .

    As in, from Alcibiades to today, nihilism — which should put us on serious notice! — has always been the skeleton in materialism’s closet.

    KF

  89. PS: Cf newer post here, on the problem of good.

  90. “As in, we have no worldview foundational IS that can objectively ground OUGHT (even while we rage against real and imagined faults of others . . .), so we try to turn the issue around. Ought must be the problem.”

    Not quite. What I actually said was that materialism is not a worldview foundation. That does not mean no other worldviews are available that provide a workable ground for OUGHT.

    But this is, in fact, a separate matter from the one raised in the OP. That matter has been resolved.

    I love Plato and the cave analogy. I see it in play quite often when I read these forums.

  91. Re: post 89

    From the materials linked to, and then linked to from there, I cannot grasp what the “problem of good” refers to–whether for atheists or anyone else.

  92. F/N: Defining the problem of good:

    In his Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius states the following paradox: “If God exists, whence evil? But whence good, if God does not exist?” Boethius contrasts the problem that evil poses for theism with the problem that good poses for atheism. The problem of good does not receive nearly as much attention as the problem evil, but it is the more basic problem. That’s because evil always presupposes a good that has been subverted. [In fact that is a good definition of evil, in a nutshell: privation or perversion of the good.] All our words for evil make this plain: the New Testament word for sin (Greek hamartia) presupposes a target that’s been missed; deviation presupposes a way (Latin via) from which we’ve departed; injustice presupposes justice; etc. So let’s ask, who’s got the worse problem, the theist or the atheist? Start with the theist. God is the source of all being and purpose. Given God’s existence, what sense does it make to deny God’s goodness? None . . . . The problem of evil still confronts theists, though not as a logical or philosophical problem, but instead as a psychological and existential one [as was addressed here at 101 level] . . . .

    The problem of good as it faces the atheist is this: nature, which is nuts-and-bolts reality for the atheist, has no values and thus can offer no grounding for good and evil. As nineteenth century freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll used to say, “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments. There are consequences.” More recently, Richard Dawkins made the same point: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” ["Prepared Remarks for the Dembski-Hitchens Debate," Uncommon Descent Blog, Nov 22, 2010]

    As for the attempt to suggest that materialism — especially evolutionary materialism duly dressed up in the holy lab coat — is not a worldview (one that in the name of “science” seeks to present itself as THE rational, intelligent and informed account of reality from hydrogen to humans by chance and blind necessity), the attempt simply manages to reveal just how deep the problem is.

    G’day,

    KF

  93. “As for the attempt to suggest that materialism…is not a worldview .”

    No, I am fully aware that it IS a worldview. It most certainly is a particular understanding of what the universe is and how it works.

    What I said is that it is not a “worldview foundation,” which I think is your term. And what I mean is that materialism does not make for a philosophy by which one might live a “good” life, however one defines good. I have made this precise point in different ways. In comment #48 of this thread, Barry seems to agree with me when he says “No argument here.”

    As for the “problem of good”: I understand the larger point in raising it as a challenge to atheists and/or materialists. Yet this is a well-worn topic, and I have nothing new to add. All I can say is that it is not a problem for the actual atheist but for the would-be atheist.

  94. Goodusername writes,

    I’m not so sure about that. It might be interesting to ask someone who’s studied chimps as to what happens if one chimp rapes another – but I have heard before from primatologists that in such cases the rapist will at least get a good pummeling from the other chimps and likely be excluded from the group (resulting in likely death). If we were talking about frogs I’d probably chalk it up to instinct, but in the case of chimps I think empathy and reason are at play.

    It could be a form of empathy, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it reason. Chimps and other animals simply don’t have the capacity to reason and understand abstract concepts such as hate or revenge.

    Because we have more developed brains – we’re smarter, more reasonable, and have developed a higher degree of empathy.

    This is true, but I would state that it’s because we are created that way. Man is capable of reason; animals are not. Man can appreciate concepts such as art and music whereas animals cannot.

    We DO procreate and spread our genes, but I wouldn’t say that “we exist” to do so (although we exist BECAUSE we do so).

    And yet this is the message that many scientists spread, notably Richard Dawkins with his ‘selfish gene’ theory.

    I didn’t say it “tells us nothing”, I said it doesn’t tell us to DO anything.

    Well, according to what I’ve read, we exist in order to procreate; this is evolution working subliminally or subconsciously on humans.

    As I said, gravity tells us what will happen if I knock my monitor over – but that isn’t a command to do so. If we only allow those with the hairiest knuckles to breed, humans will have hairier knuckles in a few generations – but that isn’t a command for us to do so. And it isn’t much more helpful in answering questions about morality than a falling monitor.

    But if evolution doesn’t tell us to do anything—including how to behave in a moral manner—then where and why did humans develop these moral concepts? If evolution doesn’t tell us that rape is wrong, then why have humans decided that it is?

    I don’t equate ‘natural’ with ‘good’ or ‘legal’. It’s kinda hard for me to see how murder isn’t ‘natural’ – killing exists throughout the natural world, and has been in every human society, and for as long as history has records.

    But does that make it right? That is the issue. Murder and rape have been around for millenia, but are they normal or aberrant behaviors?

    Compare that to riding a bike… that’s about as unnatural as it gets. It’s an artificial contraption that exists no where in nature, is in relatively few human societies, and only recently. Which is more natural? But, to me, that’s completely irrelevant to the question of what should be legal.

    Riding a bike isn’t illegal, either. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

    Saying “ultimate standard of good” just seems like another way of saying “objective”. I do agree that if God exists, there may certainly be good reasons to follow his rules.

    I think the two can be equated. You have to have an ultimate, or objective, standard by which behaviors (good or bad) can be measured.

  95. LarTanner:

    Why should materialism be obligated to objectively verify morality?

    That would depend on how “materialistic” you are. If you are a watered-down materialist who only subscribes to materialistic explanations inside a lab, but when out in society subscribe to the moral framework bestowed upon you by a long history of Judaeo-Christian values and traditions, then materialism does not sound too bad for you because you already have some form of a moral world view that is effectively objective (which is not a product of purely materialistic explanations despite the inadequate attempts to explain it that way).

    And if you are one of those militant atheist materialists who keep spouting slanders against religion being “evil” and thus implying the objectivity of evil, while at the same spouting contradictory claims about morality being totally subjective. Then you need to provide an objective moral basis on which you can pass judgement against religion being evil. Only then would such attacks on religion be substantiated.

    And if you are against those strict materialists who approve of materialist practicality & benefits at the expense of empathy through such acts as slavery, eugenics, population reduction…etc. Then you definitely need an objective moral basis to justify the values of empathy and compassion that would implore you to oppose such cruel ideas which are, scary enough, justifiable by the strict materialism that views humans as “chunks of matter” living in a world of “pitiless indifference” as Dawkins put it.

    You say: “From a theistic perspective, rape is objectively wrong in all cases.”

    This statement is false, as far as I can tell. Several theistic perspectives have either explicitly or implicitly tolerated rape in certain situations. I have no knowledge of rape in any theistic culture being a virtue specifically, but to say it is objectively wrong in all cases ignores that in some historical times and circumstances rape (say of a slave or a person in a conquered culture) has been accepted.

    How does the fact of some theists misusing their own beliefs supposed to bring down the larger moral basis of theism? You said it yourself, there is no theistic society where rape is tolerated or considered a virtue, so what does this say about theism? It says that under theism rape is wrong. Can you prove that theism justifies rape under some circumstances? And please don’t misquote the Bible. I’m not even a chrisitian anyways. But as far as I know, I never heard of a case where any holy book says something that explicitly permits rape. Keep in mind I’m talking about what theism says, not what people claim to do in its name.

    By the way, even if theism explicitly justifies rape and thus allowing it to be a common practice, for the sake of argument, how would you even judge this act to be objectively wrong? Afterall, if morality is subjective, then those theists are simply acting by their agreed upon subjective social constructs, right? They can even argue from materialism that those who practice rape have a reproductive advantage. So why should you even judge the actions of such people if materialism was “amoral” as you put it?

  96. @Barry:
    In #84, I answered your question. So, would you like to answer mine now – as you have announced in #78? Here it is again:

    Would you argue that a six year old child which kills a man while playing with a shotgun should be treated like an adult? After all, their DNA are nearly identical! Or do you concede that we generally (whether we are materialists or not) judge (human) beings not by their DNA, but by their behaviour and capabilities?

    UD Editor: No, you have not answered the question. You don’t even seem to understand the question.

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