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#121 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 06:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
I am an atheist, and it is simply incorrect to say that we are incapable of metaphysical thought. I
Look, I said no such thing. I've re-read the posts to be quite sure, and I said it in my first post and clarified it in the second. I said there are some types of atheists who do not allow for the possibility of metaphysics.

Of those, I'd put them into two catagories. THe ones that know their views exclude metaphysics, and those who don't.

But either way, those are the people I was talking about, and I did not ever say that atheism necessarily excludes metaphysics. If one took a very narrow view of atheism a person might say that, but I am simply going by the actual variety of people I know of who have chosen that label for themselves.

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#122 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 06:38 PM
 
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See, I think a materialist can create a system of ethics based on more than one's feelings. As I mentioned before, even from a purely evolutionary perspective that allows no metaphysics, morality transcends any one individual because it is inherent in the whole species. A single individual can redefine morality for themselves, sure, but if their new definition varies drastically from the human norm it will die with them and human morality will go on unchanged. It is bigger than any one individual.

This may not be an emotionally satisfying worldview for you, but is there anything illogical about it?
It wouldn't be ethics in the sense that it would tell us anything beyond "this is what the majority of people consider acceptable" or possibly "this is a very successful way of looking at the world" (might makes right, for example.) So you could not have any real basis to criticize moral vies that were held in the past or in other cultures which seem repugnant now - those ideas would be no less ethical than current ones.

Some people do believe this and actually live it. Most though are hesitant to say there is nothing inherently wrong with genocide, or genital mutilation, or some other thing that really bothers them.

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#123 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 06:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
Right, but there is nothing antithetical about metaphysics and atheism. That's like saying that atheists can't do pure math or ponder the difference between Platonic ethics and Aristotlean ethics.
Although one really couldn't BE an Aristotalian or a Platonist and remain an atheist. And in both cases, their ethics derives from their metaphysical views. One could still choose to live by them, but then we would have to ask, on what basis was that choice made? If it is because the ethical ideas agreed with the persons own metaphysical views, then they really are no longer Platonic ethics. If the person thinks metaphysics is meaningless, than I am not sure why he would bother other than for meaningless fun.

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#124 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 06:57 PM
 
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I'm not sure I agree with you because my concept of the Divine is so different than the Christian/monotheist concept. I can see a way that humanity naturally developed or evolved ethics in the way you describe above and have it be Divinely based.
This would actually be the traditional Christian position as well. Augustine talked about it a lot, it is the first topic in the Confessions and I believe is a major topic in De Trinitate too. He doesn't talk about "evolution" of course, but nature and the the Divine nature are intimately connected - necessarily connected.

A good modern example would be the Catholic Theology of the Body.

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#125 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 07:13 PM
 
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I hear ya, but the more I think about it, the more I think the idea that Christians are more given to metaphysics (in the philosophical sense of the word, if metaphysical is used her to mean- having to do with the divine, which is incorrect in philosophy) than atheists is just wrong. I think one could make the argument that the theory of evolution is metaphysical even though it is treated emperically in the field of biology.

Bluegoat, I agree that one needs metaphysics to talk about ethics. In fact, the act of talking about ethics is metaphysical. Even materialists think metaphysically. A materialist can tell you, for example, that they believe that bigotry should not exist in the world and so they treat all people with respect, even if they do not receive the same treatment. They buy local meat and produce because they think that the world would be a better place if everyone did this, and they do this with full knowledge that the food system is our country is unlikely to change. It is a metaphysical principle that guides their actions event though they do not believe in the divine. Materialists can be deeply moral people.
But why is this atheist putting value on these things? Now, I agree that when such people (and Richard Dawkins comes to mind immediately) think about ethics, they are thinking metaphysically. But I also think they are being inconsistent. Dawkins is a good example in a way, because if you consider his arguments about theology being a "real" subject of thought, they would also apply to metaphysics, the study of being (though I have never herd him address this difficulty.) Divine is a term that can properly be applied to to some metaphysical systems, probably the majority if we don't insist on the understanding of the word that most modern Westerners have. But others don't use it, but still have a metaphysical realm which can be investigated. But if one denies the existence of the metaphysical as being simply "supernatural" or maintains that it is impossible for us to have knowledge of it if it does exist, then I don't see how there can be any foundation for ethics either.

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#126 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 07:13 PM
 
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Cannibalism: Science has shown many diseases, esp diseases of the brain that happen when people eat other people.

Consensual incest: Inbreeding shows a higher incidence of birth defects and physiological abnormalities. It also strains social situations.

Desecrating the dead: Not sure how that would work with nobody else finding out....... but not only is there a natural, instinctive aversion to it, decomposition gives us all sorts of nasty disease and odors...

Hating or wishing harm on others: Not sure if religion does any better than materialism on this one, except the Golden Rule stuff. Just as many religious people as non-religious tend to ignore that one, and many religions have hatred built-in.
Every single one of these is covered by Kant's Categorical Imperative. And I would argue that the Golden Rule is as understandible and embraceable to an atheist as to a Christian. The proof of this is that most atheists revile bigotry. Many, many religionaries embrace it. (How many "God hates f--'s signs have I seen in Texas?

Furthermore, I believet that the idea of evil breeds immorality rather than quashes it. Japanese-ness was associated with evil during WW2 and so our freedom-loving country put its own citizens IN PRISON because of this belief in evil. (I do not mean to say that this is a religious impulse, but that the belief in evil itself can often justify immoral acts. I believe that people can be basically ruined by their situation or they can go criminally insane and for that reason commit unspeakable acts-that I would even call evil in common parlance- but the idea of evil as a divine force is morally destructive rather than constructive.
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#127 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 07:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by orangewallflower View Post
Every single one of these is covered by Kant's Categorical Imperative. And I would argue that the Golden Rule is as understandible and embraceable to an atheist as to a Christian. The proof of this is that most atheists revile bigotry. Many, many religionaries embrace it. (How many "God hates f--'s signs have I seen in Texas?

Furthermore, I believet that the idea of evil breeds immorality rather than quashes it. Japanese-ness was associated with evil during WW2 and so our freedom-loving country put its own citizens IN PRISON because of this belief in evil. (I do not mean to say that this is a religious impulse, but that the belief in evil itself can often justify immoral acts. I believe that people can be basically ruined by their situation or they can go criminally insane and for that reason commit unspeakable acts-that I would even call evil in common parlance- but the idea of evil as a divine force is morally destructive rather than constructive.
I agree with you. If you read my post, I'm arguing that morality is an inherent human trait, not exclusive to religion.

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#128 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 08:01 PM
 
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This would actually be the traditional Christian position as well. Augustine talked about it a lot, it is the first topic in the Confessions and I believe is a major topic in De Trinitate too. He doesn't talk about "evolution" of course, but nature and the the Divine nature are intimately connected - necessarily connected.

A good modern example would be the Catholic Theology of the Body.
I'll have to look into this more. Augustine was considered a Christian neoplatonist, right? The religion I practice is Hellenic polytheism, so it wouldn't surprise me to find some common ground with Christians who were influenced by ancient Greek philosophers.
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#129 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 08:46 PM
 
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I meant my post as an add-on, not a rebuttal! I'm sorry for the confusion!
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#130 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 08:48 PM
 
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One important question is of a chicken and egg nature. Does religion mold morality, or does morality as conceived by a certain culture shape religion? When I look at Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and others, and how they have changed as they have been adopted by new cultures, I am convinced of the latter.
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#131 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 09:26 PM
 
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Darwinian evolution is gradual change with time. Darwin himself stated that "living fossils" (or animals who did NOT change over time) would discredit his theory. Not only have many species living fossils been discovered, but gradual change over time doesn't seem to be the rhythm of real world evolution at all. At least, not if you are talking about macroevolution (who cares about micro?) Actually, the punctuated equilibrium theory is an example of post-Darwin evolutionary theory that contradicts Darwin's original theory (the idea that phenotypes will have long periods of stasis, then a sudden explosion of changes in a short time, often due to sudden change in environmental pressures. The PE theory was developed, in most part, to explain the gaps in our fossil record. I could go into more details if anyone really cares... although it'd just be a tangent that probably isn't that relevant to the topic at hand.) It isn't really a point of controversy to anyone that has studied evolution... but pure Darwinian evolution is just not a reality. That isn't to say evolution has been discredited - just the evolution that Darwin wrote about. I don't think this discredits evolution, but I used it as an example of how poorly people in the general public tend to understand evolution. As you know, that's the way science works. New information comes available theories change.

I'm sure there are some 'cultural' differences between botany and anthropology. People don't get so hung up on issues of religion in any area of evolutionary study as much as the evolution of homo sapiens. LOL! Also, with botany you don't have that tricky behavioral variable to contend with. Now, this culture may have changed... but when I was a PhD student it really was a popular thing to come up with clever theories and try to get published. I remember a colleague gave a half tounge-in-check presentation on "aquatic apes" at a conference. This is where evolutionary science differs from other sciences. We are presented with a certain phenotype - for example walking upright (and all it implies for hips/knees/etc). Why did we evolve to walk upright? The cornerstone of all evolutionary theory is natural selection. Any expressed genotype (meaning the phenotype) has to have a reproductive advantage in order to flourish and become dominant. How does these variances come about? Mutation, homeobox genes, etc. There are a number of ways and theories. But when a certain feature is expressed, it must give the individual organism an advantage reproductively - in other words they must be able to create live and variable offspring at a higher rate than their contemporaries that do not have that particular feature expressed. This is where the storytelling comes into play. In my day, it was popular to say that upright walk evolved because our earliest ancestors lived in a prairie environment and upright walking allowed them to see predators over the tall grass. Recently, an even earlier australopithecus was discovered and was found to be a forest dweller. OPPs! So, time to write a new story... now, it is popular to say that upright walking was advantageous because it allowed our early ancestors to have their hands free for gathering. Evidence for this? None, really. It's just a good story that could very well be true. You come up with an interesting story that is equally valid and captures the imagination of the general public, you got a cover story for pop-science magazines like Discover!

In my opinion and experience, both the origins of life and macro-evolution have problems. (Origins of life is more problematic to me than macro-evolution... but the laundry list of macro-evolution issues isn't a secret. Many issues, such as gigantic holes in our records, could later come to light... or they may not.) I honestly don't know a lot about botany to know what sort of issues you may have encountered in your own studies. I am sure it was a different beast in many ways, though.

I should also point out that I am not an expert. This was over ten years ago that I was in school - and my specialty wasn't evolution. (It was paleopathology and osteology if any nerds are reading this ) But evolution was at the core of the program, and central to the studies of the department.
see, and i thought that darwinian evolution was really just the idea that the mechanism by which evolution occurred was natural selection versus something like inheritance of acquired characteristics or the idea that all animals of earth today existed in the exact same form since the dawn of time.

hmmm.... i guess maybe i don't find the idea that change is gradual versus punctuated equilibrium is really that central of a tenet to his theory. i understand that it was one of his main points but i don't think that the fact that change/speciation can occur rapidly really discredits the entire concept.

i think you do have a point regarding the difference between studying plants and humans though. that was one of the main reasons i went into botany versus animals plants may have funky reproduction (polyploidy for example) but they usually stay in one place and don't try to bite you! i don't think people are nearly as interested in stories of how plants of the same genus managed to exist in africa and south america as they are with human origins. i can definitely see what you mean about telling stories to explain the facts.

i think this actually may be one of the reasons that it always rubs me the wrong way when people say they don't believe in evolution. i am thinking of all the evidence that says evolution happens and the study of the mechanisms by which it happens. i mean, it's real, i don't think it's really possible to say that it doesn't.

now, if someone wants to apply the theory of evolution to the primordial ooze well, i'm not as familiar with that because it's not my area of study, and i could see how that could be questioned but to say that evolution doesn't happen at all, really is impossible.

eh. who needs a signature?
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#132 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 09:47 PM
 
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I'll have to look into this more. Augustine was considered a Christian neoplatonist, right? The religion I practice is Hellenic polytheism, so it wouldn't surprise me to find some common ground with Christians who were influenced by ancient Greek philosophers.
Yes, he came to Christianity from neoplatonism - he essentially considered that it answered the problems the neoplatonists were attempting to solve.

It isn't an idea limited to just the Augustinian strain of Christianity though - it's very much present in other theological understandings, of Thomas say or in Eastern Christianity. There is just no way to understand nature as not being reflective of God. Nature is what it is because the Logos runs through it - that determines the nature of its being.

This is why I think ID is pretty much unnecessary. Nature is what it is because it derives that from God's nature.

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#133 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 10:06 PM
 
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Yes, he came to Christianity from neoplatonism - he essentially considered that it answered the problems the neoplatonists were attempting to solve.

It isn't an idea limited to just the Augustinian strain of Christianity though - it's very much present in other theological understandings, of Thomas say or in Eastern Christianity. There is just no way to understand nature as not being reflective of God. Nature is what it is because the Logos runs through it - that determines the nature of its being.

This is why I think ID is pretty much unnecessary. Nature is what it is because it derives that from God's nature.
I agree.
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#134 of 227 Old 11-29-2009, 11:02 PM
 
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I do not believe creationism should be taught in public schools funded by public money. God is not fact, science is. Evolution is a fact not a theory.
How anyone can possilby believe that some other-wordly being created this majestic incredible earth and all its myriad of components bewilders me.
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#135 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 12:33 AM
 
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Cannibalism: Science has shown many diseases, esp diseases of the brain that happen when people eat other people.

Consensual incest: Inbreeding shows a higher incidence of birth defects and physiological abnormalities. It also strains social situations.

Desecrating the dead: Not sure how that would work with nobody else finding out....... but not only is there a natural, instinctive aversion to it, decomposition gives us all sorts of nasty disease and odors...

Hating or wishing harm on others: Not sure if religion does any better than materialism on this one, except the Golden Rule stuff. Just as many religious people as non-religious tend to ignore that one, and many religions have hatred built-in.
We seem to be talking at cross purposes here. You are giving practical reasons why avoiding these acts would be sensible: disease, birth defects, etc. This has nothing to do with morality, which applies even when there is no material risk or disadvantage.

Bluegoat comments on the difference:
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It wouldn't be ethics in the sense that it would tell us anything beyond "this is what the majority of people consider acceptable" or possibly "this is a very successful way of looking at the world" (might makes right, for example.) So you could not have any real basis to criticize moral vies that were held in the past or in other cultures which seem repugnant now - those ideas would be no less ethical than current ones.

Some people do believe this and actually live it. Most though are hesitant to say there is nothing inherently wrong with genocide, or genital mutilation, or some other thing that really bothers them.
*

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Every single one of these is covered by Kant's Categorical Imperative. And I would argue that the Golden Rule is as understandible and embraceable to an atheist as to a Christian. The proof of this is that most atheists revile bigotry. Many, many religionaries embrace it. (How many "God hates f--'s signs have I seen in Texas?

Furthermore, I believet that the idea of evil breeds immorality rather than quashes it. Japanese-ness was associated with evil during WW2 and so our freedom-loving country put its own citizens IN PRISON because of this belief in evil. (I do not mean to say that this is a religious impulse, but that the belief in evil itself can often justify immoral acts. I believe that people can be basically ruined by their situation or they can go criminally insane and for that reason commit unspeakable acts-that I would even call evil in common parlance- but the idea of evil as a divine force is morally destructive rather than constructive.
I think it is only fair to make some distinctions here. Please do not take the following as a defense of bigotry or violence; I am speaking theoretically.

First. Being Japanese was associated with evil, and that led to wrongful imprisonment. You blame the concept of evil. But today, we regard this imprisonment as wrong because we have the concept of wrong - of evil. Why would any of us object to rape, torture, or genocide unless we saw those things as evil? Just because they waste resources, or are not in the best interests of social progress? How can you have the concept of "unspeakable acts" unless you subscribe to the idea of evil?

Second. When actions like imprisonment of the Japanese, witch burning, or the like are used as examples, it is assumed that the entire philosophy behind the acts must be wrong. That is not necessarily the case. Take the Japanese internment for example. There are three assumptions at work:
  1. Japanese people in America are fiendishly plotting against us.
  2. It is right to try and prevent this.
  3. Putting all Japanese-Americans in prison is the best way to prevent it.
If Item #1 were actually true, #2 might be true as well. Maybe #3 would even be true, although that could be disputed. The problem is that the entire policy was based on completely faulty information. (The misinformation might have been more easily accepted due to racial bigotry, but not due to the idea that evil exists.)

One of my university professors made the same point about witch burnings. If there actually were individuals who plotted with demons to magically harm their neighbours, destroy their property, and enslave their will, execution could be justified, although possibly not by burning. Again, the problem was bad information. The tragedy of the whole episode was that people were burned alive based on paranoid hysteria, not facts. If people actually did the things they were accused of at Salem, those things would be evil.

In much the same way, atrocities of the past which were defended by the benefit to science do not prove that the knowledge gained, or the scientific theories behind them, were the cause of the atrocities, or were untrue.
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#136 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 01:33 AM
 
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Mamabadger asked:

Being Japanese was associated with evil, and that led to wrongful imprisonment. You blame the concept of evil. But today, we regard this imprisonment as wrong because we have the concept of wrong - of evil. Why would any of us object to rape, torture, or genocide unless we saw those things as evil? Just because they waste resources, or are not in the best interests of social progress? How can you have the concept of "unspeakable acts" unless you subscribe to the idea of evil?

First of all, I want to say that I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and erudition of this thread. You are *all* impressing me so much with the depth of your thought. I am also impressed that no one has flamed anybody. I have never seen a conversation on this subject go this far intact.

MB, this is a really good question, and it strikes me as coming from a point of view where your have always credited your morality to your religion. I am sure your are deeply commited to your religion and will embrace it your entire life, BUT if something did happen to shake your faith, I assure you you would keep your morality. Why? Becaue human beings are inherantly moral. The only people who don't see rape, torture and genocide as wrong are crazy. Something went wrong along the way in their moral development and this can happen within and without religious communities. Kohlberg came up with his moral scale (it was criticized from a feminist perspective later on, but I really buy into it.)

Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation
(How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation
(What's in it for me?)
Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity
(Social norms)
(The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
(Law and order morality)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience)

Levels 1-4 are associated with normal human development. Great people can go on to 5 and 6. If people don't develop along these lines they tend to be ostracized.

I defined *evil* in my previous post as a negative supernatural force: satan, demons, hell, "the devil made me do it" etc... Not only is such a belief not necessary for morality, it often hinders morality. You should not rape, steal, kill or lie because society breaks down if people do. Because you don't want to live in a world where this happens. Because we are all better off if this behavior is taught as wrong. We teach our children to treat other people with kindness and respect because it is both a natural and enlightened impulse to do so. Again, please look up Kant's moral imperative. His definition of morality is what guides most of us even though we are unconcious of it and it need be tied to no religion. It is more complex and more complete that the Golden Rule. (And the Golden Rule in turn was a vast improvement on Hamurabi's Code.)
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#137 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 12:34 PM
 
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We seem to be talking at cross purposes here. You are giving practical reasons why avoiding these acts would be sensible: disease, birth defects, etc. This has nothing to do with morality, which applies even when there is no material risk or disadvantage.
Again, look at Kant. I just commented on non-religious reasons to avoid the things you mentioned, because the situations you listed also have non-moral reasons to follow the "moral way," so I agree - it's not "morality" because morality doesn't really have to apply in those situations. Practicality can be a shallower substitute, rendering the same results.

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mo·ral·i·ty (m-rl-t, mô-)
n. pl. mo·ral·i·ties
1. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.
2. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct: religious morality; Christian morality.
3. Virtuous conduct.
4. A rule or lesson in moral conduct.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Only definition 2 seems to touch on religion. Definition 1 is what most of us are talking about here - "standards of right or good conduct." It's just as valid a definition.

The idea that morality is objective also bugs me. Many branches of Christianity (which I'm only referencing because I know you're a Christian and it's what you're most familiar with, mamabadger) believe that gays and lesbians are acting immorally if they pursue a relationship with someone of the same sex (and many branches believe that it's just existing as a gay person that is immoral). I think this belief is immoral (amoral?). So who is right? The idea that morality is objective still bugs me.

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#138 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 01:51 PM
 
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It wouldn't be ethics in the sense that it would tell us anything beyond "this is what the majority of people consider acceptable" or possibly "this is a very successful way of looking at the world" (might makes right, for example.) So you could not have any real basis to criticize moral vies that were held in the past or in other cultures which seem repugnant now - those ideas would be no less ethical than current ones.
I think it goes beyond "this is what a majority of people consider acceptable" to "this is what we are, this is an integral part of being human". Does that make sense?

I'm talking about broad moral principles here, like compassion, integrity, humility etc. Now, how these principles are applied in practice varies widely across cultures and time. However I'd say that the broad principles don't change.

Thus, we do have a basis for criticizing moral values of the past. As our knowledge increases, we use reason to re-evaluate old practices to see if they still fit with basic human morality and our new information. Like mamabadger's example of the witch-burning above - the morality doesn't change, but the information which we use to apply the morality does. Take slavery, for example. Humans have always valued compassion, but used to primarily apply it only to their own tribe. People of other tribes weren't fully "human" to them, so the rules of compassion did not apply and it was perfectly moral to enslave them. Nowadays through reason (and science) we understand that all humans are related, so the rule of compassion applies to everyone, even those who do not look like us or speak our language. With that information, we can clearly see that slavery is not compatible with compassion.

Understand that I am just trying these thoughts out . I'm not really a materialist. But this viewpoint does make sense to me, and I'd like to know if I am missing something.
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#139 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 07:52 PM
 
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I disagreee that witch hunts and slavery were ever moral. Even in their time they had fervent moral critics. Witch hunts were a result of the belief in Satanic magic which lead to the scapegoating of women. It was a mix of fear, mob rule mentality and supersititious fear. In Salem, people knew that what was going on was wrong, but they feared that they would be the next victim if they spoke out. Slavery from its inception was called a sin by its critics. Those that condoned it did so through the belief in the "mark of Cain" and through economic justifications much as with global warming today. In the South fear ran wild about what would happen if the slaves were all freed, including the idea that white people themselves would be enslaved by the black people. This doesn't sound like much of a moral highroad to me. In fact, as with withcraft, it came about because of a breakdown of the moral code. Both of these trends had tangles with religious justification,they are evidence to me that people are often moral in spite of religion, not because of it.

I am realizing through this conversation that I agree that a true moral code is metaphysical, and therefore must be universally applied. Slavery and witch hunts were as immoral then as they would be now, and the people at the time had all the information necessary to behave morally. I don't see any relativist justification in either case. At the same time, I do recognize the tremendous advance in morality that the Enlightenment brought about.
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#140 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 08:58 PM
 
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Well, I certainly agree with you that slavery has never been moral, but I do believe it has been considered moral in the past. In the US as well as in European colonies all over the world, slavery was justified as "civilizing" the natives, a morally upright goal. Going further back, slavery was just a fact of life. Think of the Greeks and the Romans. Most if not all prominent citizens had slaves, and no one condemned them for it, they were considered moral, upstanding members of society.

While slavery persists today, very few people would consider it a normal, moral state of affairs as it was back then. My post was addressing the idea that without God we would have no standing on which to criticize that state of affairs.

ETA: I just re-read my post and realized why you thought I was saying it was moral to enslave people. What I meant to say was "People of other tribes weren't fully "human" to them, so the rules of compassion did not apply and it was considered perfectly moral to enslave them." Sorry!
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#141 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 09:26 PM
 
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I hear you, Thao, but knowing human beings, I doubt that it ever felt like morality to own slaves or to be around slavery. I bet it was always justified as a necessary evil, or fair because of a belief in a past wrong. I am speaking out my butt, but I bet I could find Greeks who saw slavery as immoral in their time. I think there is a difference between a moral code which inspires peoepl to be good and a justification which makes people feel less bad about doing something immoral.

I don't at all think that you and I disagree, by the way! It seems like a lot of us are thinking through things for the first time or for the first time in a long time, and I really appreciate the conversation. I don't mean my tone to be combative, and I'm sorry if it's coming off that way.
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#142 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 09:55 PM
 
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I hear you, Thao, but knowing human beings, I doubt that it ever felt like morality to own slaves or to be around slavery. I bet it was always justified as a necessary evil, or fair because of a belief in a past wrong. I am speaking out my butt, but I bet I could find Greeks who saw slavery as immoral in their time. I think there is a difference between a moral code which inspires peoepl to be good and a justification which makes people feel less bad about doing something immoral.
Actually there are pretty extensive histories of the concept of the ownership of another human being not being found particularly objectionable. Which has nothing to do with this thread, really; just that it bugs me a little when the European/African slave trade and its eventual abolition is taken as a stand-in model for the varied slave trades in all times and places. It's a far broader, messier (if that can even be believed) subject than that.
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#143 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 10:52 PM
 
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Oh, of course, but I'm saying that I think that it is always based on a justification, not a morality because it is inherantly immoral to own a human being. I don't argue with the idea that it was the norm or that it was acceptable. What I'm saying is that I think that you would be able to find morally enlightened individuals even if they were very few in any society that used slavery that found it deplorable. I am giving myself this homework.
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#144 of 227 Old 11-30-2009, 11:34 PM
 
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Well, no, it has at times been based on the concept that it's useful AND there is nothing inherently morally objectionable, not only that it's useful and therefore the moral objections should be suppressed. And, in that context, when entire cultures do not find something morally or ethically objectionable, that a scant few individuals therein might disagree does not better illustrate the universality of the objection than if they didn't exist at all. The fact would remain that the by far dominant moral impulse of the community did not object.

At any rate, I'm not really into this conversation. Just throwing in there that the history of slavery and the conversations surrounding the morality of slavery are vast, vast subject areas ... so much so that it's really hard to use the generalized concept as a simple example.
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#145 of 227 Old 12-01-2009, 12:02 AM
 
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I disagreee that witchcraft and slavery were ever moral. Even in their time they had fervent moral critics. Witchcraft was a result of the belief in Satanic magic which lead to the scapegoating of women. It was a mix of fear, mob rule mentality and supersititious fear. In Salem, people knew that what was going on was wrong, but they feared that they would be the next victim if they spoke out. Slavery from its inception was called a sin by its critics. Those that condoned it did so through the belief in the "mark of Cain" and through economic justifications much as with global warming today. In the South fear ran wild about what would happen if the slaves were all freed, including the idea that white people themselves would be enslaved by the black people. This doesn't sound like much of a moral highroad to me. In fact, as with withcraft, it came about because of a breakdown of the moral code. Both of these trends had tangles with religious justification,they are evidence to me that people are often moral in spite of religion, not because of it.

I am realizing through this conversation that I agree that a true moral code is metaphysical, and therefore must be universally applied. Slavery and witch hunts were as immoral then as they would be now, and the people at the time had all the information necessary to behave morally. I don't see any relativist justification in either case. At the same time, I do recognize the tremendous advance in morality that the Enlightenment brought about.
Slavery = immoral I can get behind. But you do realize there *are* pagans on this board right? We don't at all consider ourselves to be immoral lol. I am pagan, and I am a very moral person.. most of us live by a code of harming none to the absolute best of our ability. And satan, well that's not my mythological figure. And most of what is historically known about Salem had nothing to do with real 'witchcraft'.. it had to do with money & power *shrug*

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#146 of 227 Old 12-01-2009, 01:28 AM
 
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Slavery = immoral I can get behind. But you do realize there *are* pagans on this board right? We don't at all consider ourselves to be immoral lol. I am pagan, and I am a very moral person.. most of us live by a code of harming none to the absolute best of our ability. And satan, well that's not my mythological figure. And most of what is historically known about Salem had nothing to do with real 'witchcraft'.. it had to do with money & power *shrug*
Oh, I didn't mean to make any statement at all about real pagans! I was just talking about the belief/fear that witchcraft was an evil (Satanic) force which lead to a mob mentality. I don't think that the Salem witch trials had anything to do with real paganism either. I think they had to do with scapegoating, misongyny and a breakdown of the moral code among the people who carried out or tacitly approved of the witch hunts. I don't at all think that the people persecuted in this time were immoral, I think that they were *victims* of crimes against humanity. I don't know much about paganism, but my associations with it are positive.
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#147 of 227 Old 12-01-2009, 01:30 AM
 
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Oh, I'm so sorry. I see that I wrote that "witchcraft" was immoral. I mean to write "witch hunt." I am going to edit, and I apologize for that wreckless error!
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#148 of 227 Old 12-01-2009, 03:49 AM
 
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There is just no way to understand nature as not being reflective of God. Nature is what it is because the Logos runs through it - that determines the nature of its being.

.
But what if there is no god? No logos?
If the evidence indicates that we are probably on our own, and we are the closest things to gods, where should we go from here?

is there anything wrong with saying: "Human suffering is bad and to be avoided. Let's agree on this." as a foundation for an ethical framework?

No, it's not necessarily "divine", but it's solid, supported by evolutionary/biological altruism, and can "work".

Need we cling to superstitious notions about altruism for us to approach true morality? I suspect not.
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#149 of 227 Old 12-01-2009, 10:21 AM
 
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But what if there is no god? No logos?
If the evidence indicates that we are probably on our own, and we are the closest things to gods, where should we go from here?

is there anything wrong with saying: "Human suffering is bad and to be avoided. Let's agree on this." as a foundation for an ethical framework?

No, it's not necessarily "divine", but it's solid, supported by evolutionary/biological altruism, and can "work".

Need we cling to superstitious notions about altruism for us to approach true morality? I suspect not.
I agree. For me, it makes little difference if what I believe in is real or not. It reminds me of my favorite quote:

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --A. Einstein

As far as ethics go, though, it wouldn't change the way I behave if everything is part of the divine or if there is no divine at all. I just prefer to believe, not because I have to or else, but because I find it more fulfilling.
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#150 of 227 Old 12-01-2009, 12:43 PM
 
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As far as ethics go, though, it wouldn't change the way I behave if everything is part of the divine or if there is no divine at all. I just prefer to believe, not because I have to or else, but because I find it more fulfilling.
Agreed. I may be coming at this from a different place than other religious women here, being a minority in an overwhelmingly Christian area. I've often thought (because of some UAV who felt the need to try to convert me) "what if I'm wrong?" DH and I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about what would happen if everything that the Christian (generalizing here) population around here said would happen, happened. Where would we be? And what would happen if it turned out that G-d (as we worship) didn't exist?

*I know this might sound like blasphemy, but questions like this are an integral part of faith to me.*

We came to the conclusion that we wouldn't change a thing. If, tomorrow, we had proof that G-d didn't exist or that somehow everything we were doing was pointless, we would change nothing. We would still observe the mitzvot, we would still light candles and celebrate our freedom on the Jewish calendar. Those things give light and meaning to our days here on earth (which we know too well are limited), and we would never cease being a deeply religious, deeply Jewish family.

That being said, I think however you get to a place of morality is sacred for you - whether you do it through altruism or through religion doesn't matter. The point is that you get there.

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