David Wood’s Conversion To Christianity

I encourage you to watch this personal testimony from David Wood:

The story resonates with my own experience (although my own experience was nowhere near as extreme). What’s significant to me is the common theme among Christian conversions and their asymmetry with deconversion stories from atheists.

When someone becomes a Christian, what sets the stage is the following intuitive insight: There is something very wrong with me; I need to change.

When someone becomes an atheist, what sets the stage if the following intuitive insight: There is something very wrong with them; they need to be stopped.

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81 Responses to David Wood’s Conversion To Christianity

  1. I like the insights here and, although I’ve never thought about it that way before, you are right about atheists.

  2. Jim says:

    Have you seen the new Pew research poll on religion? I think your next post should say “At most 1 in 33 Americans are gnus” though that would still be an overestimation, given how many atheists have publicly distanced themselves from the gnu craziness.

  3. Ilíon says:

    The story resonates with my own experience (although my own experience was nowhere near as extreme).

    I was raised in a Christian home, and have always been a Christian. Nevertheless, his story resonates with my own self-knowledge.

  4. TFBW says:

    Worthwhile viewing, thank you. I have to agree with you on the “asymmetry with deconversion stories from atheists” remark.

  5. Billy Squibs says:

    I watched this video earlier in the week and I actually thought that it was a very slickly acted work of fiction. and I chuckled to myself as I imagined the reaction from the people on the subway as he recounted his story.

    Powerful, disturbing and hopeful stuff.

    In other news (coz I have nowhere better to place it) here is an article from Massimo Pigliucci that I think most of the regulars here will enjoy reading.

    https://scientiasalon.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/reflections-on-the-skeptic-and-atheist-movements/

  6. Billy Squibs says:

    “When someone becomes an atheist, what sets the stage if the following intuitive insight: There is something very wrong with them; they need to be stopped.”

    That’s probably a generalisation too far.

  7. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    @ Billy Squibs thanks for sharing the column. I can only imagine the reaction Pigliucci may receive for it.

  8. im-skeptical says:

    What a load of crap. He is describing the experiences, but of of a genuine sociopath, or he is just lying, the latter being much more likely. I challenge you to show me the testimony of any real atheist who thinks the way this guy claims he did. The fact is that this story is a straw man. There isn’t a word of truth in it. It presents a false picture of atheism that people like you want everyone to believe – and that only goes to show your own dishonesty.

  9. im-skeptical says:

    Meant to say: He is describing the experiences of a genuine sociopath, or he is just lying, the latter being much more likely.

  10. TFBW says:

    @im-skeptical: do you have any evidence at all to back up your accusations of this presentation being an outright lie, or are you just projecting your desires about what you want to be true? Because the latter seems much more likely to me.

  11. Kevin says:

    Invalid question. We already know that atheists consider their personal opinion of likelihood to be synonymous with fact.

  12. im-skeptical says:

    TFBW,

    In fact I do have evidence. Part of it is the experience of an actual atheist. The description of David wood is based on the idea that atheists have no morality and no empathy. But that simply isn’t true. It is merely a lie perpetrated by theists to denigrate atheists. The truth is that atheists have morality, just like theists. We also have emotions and loving relationships. We appreciate beauty and art. We are no less human than you, despite what you have been lead to believe. So the story told by Wood, that his sociopathy was a result of godlessness, is pure fiction. Sociopathy is a mental disorder, and requires clinical treatment.

    > “When someone becomes a Christian, what sets the stage is the following intuitive insight: There is something very wrong with me; I need to change.”
    This may resemble the truth to some degree, but what I see as the common thread in conversion stories that I have read is an emotional sense that something (religion) is missing from their life. Typically, the desire to believe is already there before they finally admit it. This was the case with CS lewis, for example.

    > “When someone becomes an atheist, what sets the stage if the following intuitive insight: There is something very wrong with them; they need to be stopped.”
    This is unlike any de-conversion story I have ever read. What we usually see is a recognition that the beliefs or the biblical stories don’t make intellectual sense. It’s never about needing to stop “them”. Read a few of these for yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

  13. TFBW says:

    @im-skeptical:

    The description of David wood is based on the idea that atheists have no morality and no empathy.

    No, it’s a personal testimony based on his actual life experience. If you’re going to accuse him of telling lies, you have to provide evidence that his account is fabricated: e.g. that he never went to jail for attempting to murder his father, or that he was not an atheist when he did so.

    The fact that he, as an atheist, lacked any sort of moral compass or empathy in no way implies that all atheists are like this, nor does it rely on such a relationship, nor does he believe that such a relationship exists. Here — let me show you what empirical evidence looks like: this is a transcript of the video starting at 7:59 (just after he describes how he attempted to murder his father). I’ve emphasised some key points which are relevant to his attitude towards other atheists.

    Did I mention that I was an atheist? I understand that most of you atheists out there lead perfectly normal lives, but I could never understand why you would want to. Think about it — we’ve got this massive universe, and over here is a tiny little crumb of a galaxy. Out on one of the spiral arms of this galaxy is a thoroughly unremarkable ball of hot gas. Circling this ball of hot gas is a pathetic speck of cosmic dust we call Earth, and crawling all over the Earth are these feeble, selfish, self-destructive lumps of cells, constantly deluding themselves into thinking that what they do is so important. But the universe couldn’t conceivably care less whether you love your neighbour as yourself, or torture them to death for fun, so you might as well do whatever you feel like doing with the little bit of time you’ve got. And what are my atheist friends going to do with your eighty years or so? Let me guess: you’re going to go to school for a while, then get a job, work for a few decades, maybe pick up a family along the way, then retire and die of old age or some illness. How original. Freethinkers, huh? Believe it or not, some people don’t want to live like cattle. Some people don’t want to follow this pattern that we’re all expected to mindlessly follow. Some would rather bash a man’s head in, or shoot up a theatre, or walk down their school hallway stabbing people, and why shouldn’t they? Because it’s wrong? Says who — your grandma?

    As you can see, David, speaking from his old atheistic perspective, does not think that “atheists have no morality and no empathy.” Rather, his attitude was that those of you who do espouse such qualities are just basically mindless cattle with delusions of being “freethinkers”. He was one of those dreadfully clear atheists who realised that atheism was truly compatible only with nihilism, and who was insane enough for nihilism to lead to murder. Most atheists aren’t like that: most atheists (especially New Atheists, it seems) behave as though “good” and “evil” are real concepts, and as though we ought not to do “evil” even though (on atheism alone) there is no basis for that behaviour which doesn’t beg the question, “why not be evil?”.

    The rest of what you’ve quoted and objected to was not spoken by David Wood, and is therefore irrelevant to your accusation. Was it supposed to be relevant? If so, then I think you let your feelings of indignation blur your focus.

  14. im-skeptical says:

    TFBW,

    You completely missed the point of what I said.

    First of all, my original comment addressed the post made by of Shadow to Light, which happens to include Wood’s video, but also include his own words, which are not true, especially with regard to de-conversion stories.

    With regard to Wood, he is clearly making the case that atheism is what caused his behavior (despite the fact that he was a nihilist at age 5). I didn’t say that he claims it causes all atheists to behave the way he did. But it is undeniable that many Christians perpetuate the myth that atheism denies morality. Even in the words you quoted from Wood, But the universe couldn’t conceivably care less whether you love your neighbour as yourself, or torture them to death for fun, so you might as well do whatever you feel like doing with the little bit of time you’ve got, we can see that Wood is saying that atheism logically denies morality. And that it is the real “freethinkers” who are not bound to live as cattle, but who would rather bash a man’s head in, or shoot up a theatre, or walk down their school hallway stabbing people.

    And you also perpetuate this trope: (on atheism alone) there is no basis for that behaviour which doesn’t beg the question, “why not be evil?”

  15. TFBW says:

    @im-sceptical:

    You completely missed the point of what I said.

    I read what you said, and now I have re-read it, and it doesn’t say what you meant if that’s what you meant.

    Even in the words you quoted from Wood … we can see that Wood is saying that atheism logically denies morality.

    I agree. If your atheism goes hand-in-hand with philosophical materialism, as it usually does, then it leaves no obvious basis for moral realism, and if that’s what you mean by “denies morality”, then you’re right on the money. Most atheists just behave illogically in this regard: they act as though morality is real in some sense, take it for granted that “good” is what ought to be done and “evil” is what ought not to be done, and want to claim the moral high ground. Their sincere attempts at good behaviour simply lack any rational grounds, given their professed metaphysical outlook, and you have provided nothing to suggest that this problem can be resolved logically.

    Sorry, but you don’t get to dismiss your own logical inconsistencies by accusing other people of lying and throwing around words like “trope”. You want to be a good person and be seen to be a good person while clinging to a worldview that has no place for a concept such as “moral goodness”. Petulance isn’t going to solve that problem.

    To be clear, there are some very nice, morally outstanding atheists out there. I wouldn’t even go so far as to suggest that the average theist is nicer and better-behaved than the average atheist — I reserve judgement on that matter. The problem is that atheists are acting irrationally relative to their own professed beliefs when they claim that they are behaving morally in any sense.

    This argument could be refuted, but not with the kind of whiny accusations you’re throwing around. Use reason and logic.

  16. Kevin says:

    There are two things an atheist can do to rationally speak of morality as though it were truth. One, he must define good morality as those things which are considered virtuous by the current societal standards, and bad morality as those things which are not. In that regard, one can indeed have a compass with which to gauge morality and join the herd in praising or condemning behaviors as “moral” or “immoral”.

    Then, in order to have a basis on which to rationally advocate morality, the atheist must attempt to convince others that it is within each person’s rational self to adhere to the redefined “good” morality, not only for the praise and adulation one might receive for doing so, but also to avoid the reduced quality of life that might arise from societal scorn or even prison.

    Of course, politicians prove that quality of life can improve by adhering to “bad” morality, so rational self interest might actually be diametrically opposed to “good” morality.

    But to claim that hood and evil are objective values under an atheistic system? Like, say, to claim it is always wrong, everywhere, to believe anything without sufficient evidence? Can’t be done. Nihilism is the only objective truth under any rational atheistic philosophy.

  17. Kevin says:

    Sigh. Good and evil, not hood. Should really stop posting on my phone. Also missed “self interest” in the second paragraph.

  18. TFBW says:

    @Kevin:

    Nihilism is the only objective truth under any rational atheistic philosophy.

    Only for the sorts of atheism which derive from philosophical materialism, and only then if morality isn’t a fundamental property of physics. That pretty much puts objective moral truths off-limits for all of New Atheism, however, no matter how much they posture to the contrary.

  19. im-skeptical says:

    > Nihilism is the only objective truth under any rational atheistic philosophy.

    This is a trope that theists love to spread, as if they knew what they were talking about. Have you ever read any literature on the matter that wasn’t written by theists? Doubtful.

    In my view, human morality is a combination of evolved behavior, societal norms, and learning. Anyone who thinks there is some kind of objective “good” or objective moral standards must ignore the fact that standards of morality change. Just read your bible to see examples of morality that are quite different from our modern society. But the people in those societies believed that their moral standards were solid and objective, just as you believe your own moral standards are. In truth, what we think is “good” is a matter of opinion. That’s true, no matter how many of us agree on it. But by and large, society (or some segment of it) is the arbiter of our standards.

    > Most atheists just behave illogically in this regard: they act as though morality is real in some sense, take it for granted that “good” is what ought to be done and “evil” is what ought not to be done, and want to claim the moral high ground. Their sincere attempts at good behaviour simply lack any rational grounds, given their professed metaphysical outlook, and you have provided nothing to suggest that this problem can be resolved logically.

    That’s your opinion, but it is uninformed. This is most probably due to the lies that you keep hearing, such as those told by Wood. Try getting outside your Christian bubble and read up on it. You will discover that there are naturalist philosophies that are varied, that are coherent, and that don’t depend irrational assumptions of supernatural beings.

    I find it ironic that Wood thought of himself as free when he wasn’t under anyone’s control, but couldn’t manage to control his own behavior. And then he claims to have gained real freedom by submitting to the moral authority of an imaginary being. Clearly, he has no idea what freedom means. If he had bothered to examine his own beliefs, he might have come up with a better way to live. Instead, he simply traded one set of unexamined beliefs for another.

  20. Kevin says:

    In my view, human morality is a combination of evolved behavior, societal norms, and learning.

    Replace “learning” with “personal opinion”, and you are in full agreement with how I view morality under atheism. And since none of those things are even remotely binding upon an individual, beyond the power of the majority to impose popular opinion onto the minority with the power of the government gun, I still find it curious that atheists express moral outrage. To break that down:

    “That man went against the genetic behavior hardwiring found in most of us! He’s a monster!”
    “That man doesn’t adhere to societal norms! He’s a monster!”
    “That man doesn’t share my opinion on morality! He’s a monster!”

    Those things are ludicrous, as are atheists who judge others on the basis of evolved traits, societal norms, and learning/opinion, and here’s why.

    Evolved behavior? The entirety of “bad” moral actions are also evolved. “Bad” actions are not supernatural, are they?

    Slavery was once legal in the United States. It was the societal norm. You thus have no basis to condemn that society which has legal slavery. You have no basis to condemn Muslim countries that stone homosexuals.

    Learning? What is that? Brainwashing? Being told what is right and wrong by someone else who was told that by someone else, and all opinions? Or perhaps it is using experience to find what works best, what results in the most positive feelings and the smoothest ride for you? That’s great, except obviously not everyone adheres to that philosophy. Some only care about themselves, which is a perfectly valid atheistic philosophy.

    So yeah, nothing more sad than an atheist trying to condemn someone else on a moral basis.

  21. TFBW says:

    @im-skeptical:

    Anyone who thinks there is some kind of objective “good” or objective moral standards must ignore the fact that standards of morality change.

    So much for your understanding of moral philosophy. If there is such a thing as an objective moral truth, then it merely means that moral statements are objectively true or false. Changing moral standards are no more a problem to this than changing scientific theories are to the concept of objective reality. You may as well say, “anyone who thinks there is some kind of objective ‘reality’ or objective facts about the world must ignore the fact that scientific theories change.” Makes about as much sense.

    In truth, what we think is “good” is a matter of opinion.

    Then you’re in no position to say that someone is lying if they claim that someone is good or not: they’re expressing an opinion. So what is your issue, exactly? Is “lying” and “trope” your way of saying, “I hate your opinion?”

    I’ve had enough of this twaddle.

  22. im-skeptical says:

    > since none of those things are even remotely binding upon an individual, beyond the power of the majority to impose popular opinion onto the minority with the power of the government gun, I still find it curious that atheists express moral outrage.

    No more or less binding than Christian morality. We do have mechanisms that govern our behavior. We have the sense of empathy and conscience for example, that have evolved to facilitate our survival. We have social and psychological pressures. You only imagine that these things come from the invisible man, but yours are no different from mine, except insofar as you learn additional taboos from your religious handlers.

    > The entirety of “bad” moral actions are also evolved. “Bad” actions are not supernatural, are they?
    I’m not sure what you’re talking about, unless it’s the following:

    > You thus have no basis to condemn that society which has legal slavery.
    Not any more or less than you do. It is an objective fact that morality changes. It is not an objective fact that any given moral belief is an objective fact. Had you been born in a different time and place, you would be absolutely certain about whatever moral norms were in vogue at the time, just as you are now absolutely certain about the ones you have now. But you should be aware that the Muslims are absolutely certain about theirs, as well, and they no doubt would condemn you for for what you believe, just as much as you condemn them.

    > Learning? What is that?
    It’s a lot of things, including personal experience. Brainwashing? Sometimes. There are religious institutions that do that. Some teach that dancing is sinful.

    > Some only care about themselves, which is a perfectly valid atheistic philosophy.
    It is not an atheistic philosophy that I have heard from anyone other than liars like David Wood. Yes, there are sociopaths. Many of them are Christians, too.

    > So yeah, nothing more sad than an atheist trying to condemn someone else on a moral basis.
    As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing more sad than a sanctimonious theist. At least I believe that morality is how we live together in this world. You believe that morality is how you avoid being punished by the invisible man in an imaginary world. How sad is that?

  23. Kevin says:

    No more or less binding than Christian morality.

    Right or wrong, a hypothetical Christian believes that there is in fact objective moral truth, and judges behavior accordingly. An atheist, right or wrong, has zero justification for judging the behavior of another. An inconsistent Christian believes there is absolute moral truth and behaves as if there isn’t. An inconsistent atheist believes there is no absolute moral truth and behaves as if there is.

    We do have mechanisms that govern our behavior. We have the sense of empathy and conscience for example, that have evolved to facilitate our survival. We have social and psychological pressures.

    I have the urge to eat when I go too long without food, but that is not a morally binding impulse, any more than a feeling of empathy.

    You only imagine that these things come from the invisible man, but yours are no different from mine, except insofar as you learn additional taboos from your religious handlers.

    Invisible Man was a movie, right? Doesn’t sound anything like God, so I see no evidence that you know what you’re talking about. And it’s funny that you, having zero knowledge about my religious life and being completely incapable of identifying these mysterious “religious handlers” or even demonstrating their existence, speak as if you aren’t completely ignorant of what you’re talking about. Highly amusing.

    It is an objective fact that morality changes. It is not an objective fact that any given moral belief is an objective fact.

    I take it you aren’t a so-called Freethinker then, since you depend on society to tell you what is right and wrong. Depending on your age, I guess you opposed gay marriage not so many years ago, didn’t you? How did you go from arguing against those in favor to arguing against those opposed? Did you wait for the polls to shift to 51 percent in favor before making the switch? Seems like a real burden. I’d also hate having to say that killing homosexuals is the moral thing to do in Iran. Bet you just avoid that topic, don’t you?

    It is not an atheistic philosophy that I have heard from anyone other than liars like David Wood. Yes, there are sociopaths. Many of them are Christians, too.

    It is a philosophy that is just as valid for an atheist as anything else you can come up with. Labeling them is just being a bully because you belong to the majority. Why are you bigoted against those whose genetics don’t include empathy for others?

    At least I believe that morality is how we live together in this world.

    Love God and love your neighbor. I guess loving your neighbor is not how one lives together in the world. Silly Christian morality.

    You believe that morality is how you avoid being punished by the invisible man in an imaginary world. How sad is that?

    It would indeed be sad if that’s what I believed. Feel free to demonstrate that this is what I believe, or you can admit you yet again don’t know what you’re talking about.

  24. im-skeptical says:

    Kevin.

    It’s clear that you are more interested in denigrating those who don’t share your beliefs than trying to understand what they believe. There’s no point in carrying on with this.

  25. Kevin says:

    I’m interested in shining a light on what you are saying. You don’t seem to like it, particularly since my tone was no worse than yours yet you call me out for being a big meanie. As such, agreed that there is no point in carrying on.

    However, if you can refrain from saying that I don’t know what I’m talking about, that I have never read any atheist authors on atheist morality (and rejected it as crap), that my beliefs hinge on imaginary things, that I have “handlers”, and that I only view morality as a method of avoiding punishment in the next life, then I will refrain from saying you don’t know what you’re talking about. I doubt this agreement can be reached, but not because of me.

  26. im-skeptical says:

    Kevin,

    Your first comment in this thread was snark, accusing atheists of equating their personal opinion with fact, in response to my being asked to provide evidence, and this was before I had responded to the question.

    Your next comment was to offer up your own personal opinion as if it were fact: There are two things an atheist can do to rationally speak of morality as though it were truth … You then proceeded to rattle off some incoherent nonsense about “good morality” and “bad morality”, and ended with the declaration that Nihilism is the only objective truth under any rational atheistic philosophy.

    Now, if you were familiar at all with any naturalist philosophy, you would know that this is demonstrably false. And that’s why I said you don’t know what you’re talking about. I went on to explain my own view of morality from a naturalist perspective. I urged you to become informed on naturalist philosophies instead of stating your uninformed opinions as fact. But of course, that rolled off you like water off a duck. You continued to offer your uninformed opinions, and even attempted to put words in my mouth that do not represent my own beliefs. Nevertheless, I made a serious attempt to respond to them. And you will note that my remarks were reasonable and measured, by any fair comparison to yours.

    I understand that your philosophy is different from mine, and that you don’t agree with what I say. But I’m not here to trade snarky quips with you. If you would like to learn something about materialist thinking, I’ll be happy to discuss it with you. But if you merely want to continue to spout your uninformed pablum, you can do that without me.

  27. Kevin says:

    I am aware of attempts at setting up an atheistic system of morality. And that’s fine. You can set them up all you want, and you can even be consistent with them. I’m not one of those who says atheists can’t be moral without believing in God – of course they can be.

    What I am saying is that under no consistent atheistic system of morality that I have ever heard of, can an atheist justifiably – within the terms of his/her own moral code – express moral outrage at another. As you alluded to earlier, Muslims do not agree with my morals. Muslims in the Middle East often kill homosexuals. So, if we base morality on the current standards of a given society, evolution, learning/experience, etc, what right do you truly have to condemn those murders? For them, for their society, that is what they do. They have just as much right to condemn the fact that our women don’t cover themselves in public as we do to condemn their murdering anyone who doesn’t toe their line. And evolved traits are hardly binding. We can choose to ignore many of them at will, and it is not clear that doing so is actually “wrong”. Against the law or against popular opinion is hardly the same thing as immoral.

    Take the following: “We should maximize the well-being of as many people as possible.” Most people agree with the statement. It’s a baseline I’ve heard from several atheists. Now then, how do you springboard from using that statement as a personal moral code, and feel justified in condemning someone who does not share your opinion?

  28. im-skeptical says:

    > So, if we base morality on the current standards of a given society, evolution, learning/experience, etc, what right do you truly have to condemn those murders?
    You keep talking about all the people I “condemn”. Who have I condemned? But aside from that, I do have a right to express my opinion, that same as you. If someone does something wrong by my moral standards, I am within my right to say that I think they’re wrong. If somebody does something wrong by society’s moral standards, I am within my right to advocate their conviction and legal punishment. You will note that this is exactly what you do. You have your own moral standards, much of which was taught by your religion, and that’s your opinion. The difference is that you have the temerity to proclaim that yours are the true, objective standards by which everyone should be obliged to live.

  29. Doug says:

    @im-skeptical wrote:

    In truth, what we think is “good” is a matter of opinion.

    I wonder if he would apply the same thinking to achieve the conclusion:

    In truth, what we think is “true” is a matter of opinion.

    Of course the second conclusion would entirely undermine the first. So I’m not expecting that kind of consistency.

  30. TFBW says:

    The difference is that you have the temerity to proclaim that yours are the true, objective standards by which everyone should be obliged to live.

    Who claimed that where?

  31. im-skeptical says:

    > Of course the second conclusion would entirely undermine the first. So I’m not expecting that kind of consistency.
    So you think there’s no difference between fact and opinion? If an assertion is consistent with objective fact, then that assertion is objectively true. There is no objective fact that underlies moral beliefs. I challenge you to show me where God has written down the definitive set of moral rules. If you can’t do that, then what is your basis for claiming that there are objective moral facts?

  32. im-skeptical says:

    > Who claimed that where?
    This is what most theists claim. They insist that their moral beliefs are objective facts, and many of them seek to impose those moral beliefs on the rest of society. If you don’t do that, then you are more like me than like many other theists.

  33. Doug says:

    @im-skeptical
    As you say, the distinction between ontology and epistemology is an important one. It is your moral belief that there are no moral facts. But you also say that there is no objective fact underlying any moral beliefs. Therefore, there can be no objective fact that there are no moral facts. Curious, no?

  34. im-skeptical says:

    > Curious, no?
    What’s curious is the way you worded your assertion: “It is your moral belief that there are no moral facts.” That is not a statement of my moral belief. It is a statement about my moral belief. It’s as if I claimed that there are no unicorns (a statement based on all available evidence), and you then say that that is my moral belief. No, it’s an evidence-based statement of fact (which could still possibly be wrong, but not very likely). I am justified in making such an assertion.

  35. Doug says:

    That is not a statement of my moral belief. It is a statement about my moral belief.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  36. Doug says:

    I am justified in making such an assertion

    So you say. Care to demonstrate said justification? Or is the comparison between moral facts and unicorns as egregiously question-begging as it appears?

  37. Doug says:

    @im-skeptical,
    Instead of unicorns, let’s consider a much more apt analogy. Neuroscientists all agree there are brain-states. They differ on whether a “thought” is anything beyond a brain-state. Let’s consider the existence of this hypothetical RCBSIT (relative complement of brain state in thought). If you were all scientistic about it, you would claim that there is no “evidence” (meaning, unambiguous, empirical, third-party-confirmable data) for RCBSITs. On the other hand, if you were of a more philosophical bent, you’d be aware of the many volumes written showing good arguments for RCBSITs. Moral facts are considerably more like RCBSITs than they are like unicorns.

  38. Ilíon says:

    Doug:As you say, the distinction between ontology and epistemology is an important one. It is your moral belief that there are no moral facts. But you also say that there is no objective fact underlying any moral beliefs. Therefore, there can be no objective fact that there are no moral facts. Curious, no?

    Here’s another curiosity — these people (and I-pretend-to-be-rational is one of them) who assert that there no (objective) moral facts are almost always *simultaneously* asserting something along these lines, “Therefore, it is objectively wrong (i.e. immoral) for you to continue saying that there are (objective) moral facts.

    I-pretend-to-be-rational’s whole project is self-refuting … and he just doesn’t care.

  39. FZM says:

    You keep talking about all the people I “condemn”. Who have I condemned? But aside from that, I do have a right to express my opinion, that same as you. If someone does something wrong by my moral standards, I am within my right to say that I think they’re wrong. If somebody does something wrong by society’s moral standards, I am within my right to advocate their conviction and legal punishment. You will note that this is exactly what you do. You have your own moral standards, much of which was taught by your religion, and that’s your opinion. The difference is that you have the temerity to proclaim that yours are the true, objective standards by which everyone should be obliged to live.

    The idea that an individual has a right to express their opinion and that other individuals have a right to express theirs seems to be based on a moral or value judgement (unless it is an empirical/’scientific’ fact?). Likewise:

    If someone does something wrong by my moral standards, I am within my right to say that I think they’re wrong.

    also seems to be a moral or value judgement, not a matter of objective fact. Then:

    If somebody does something wrong by society’s moral standards, I am within my right to advocate their conviction and legal punishment

    is something else that seems to be a moral, rather than factual, claim. (Interestingly this claim does involve ‘society’ being given the power to oblige everyone to live by whatever standards society deems appropriate at a given moment; presumably provided society doesn’t imagine that any of the standards it punishes people for infringing have any truth behind them.)

    The difference is that you have the temerity to proclaim that yours are the true, objective standards by which everyone should be obliged to live

    Finally claiming there is anything bad or immoral about making claims that certain standards are true, objective etc. and obliging people to live by them seems obviously another moral claim or value judgement.

    It seems like you’ve been making the argument that we have to reject the idea that there is any objective mind independent reality or truth behind any moral claim. So ideas about what is moral or not, about what is good or bad, therefore become pretty much just subjective expressions of personal preference, much the same the judgements individuals might make about which flavours of food they prefer or which colour is their favourite.

    Taking this into account it looks like there is nothing to oblige others to accept any of the claims and assertions you make above if they don’t happen to feel like it and/or you can’t impose it on them by force of some kind.

  40. im-skeptical says:

    Doug,

    > Thanks for the clarification.
    So you see the distinction? Somehow, I don’t think you do.

    > Care to demonstrate said justification? Or is the comparison between moral facts and unicorns as egregiously question-begging as it appears?
    The statement that there are no moral facts is based on available evidence in exactly the same way as the statement that there are no unicorns. If you think there are moral facts, the burden of proof is yours. This is basic epistemology.

    > Neuroscientists all agree there are brain-states.
    I beg to differ with you. The term “brain state” is used largely by philosophers. Many neuroscientists prefer to avoid the term because it’s not clear what is meant by it. Furthermore, they tend to believe that mental functions (including thoughts) are processes, not static snapshots of the brain’s electro/chemical state at a particular instant.

    > Let’s consider the existence of this hypothetical RCBSIT
    I really don’t know what this is, and I could find no reference to it. Relative complement is a term used in set theory, and I understand what it means, but not in the context of brain states. I’m not making any claims about the existence if this hypothetical thing, because I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  41. Doug says:

    @im-skeptical
    If you are looking for evidence for moral states in the same place that you look for evidence for unicorns, then it is no wonder you’re confused.

  42. Doug says:

    *facts

    Here are a couple of items to get you started:
    Moral Knowledge
    In Search of Moral Knowledge
    Now, I don’t pretend that the arguments found in these two books constitute “proof”, but they certainly render the head-in-the-sand don’t-bother-me-with-the-facts “there are no moral facts” position to be quite amusing indeed.

  43. Kevin says:

    Apologies for my wording. I said “you condemn” as in a generic atheist. I was not saying you were going around condemning.

    So you do not agree with (to make a ridiculously extreme example) the statement “Raping a child is wrong” on any other basis except that the standards of society and your personal opinion are against it?

    If those are your reasons for opposing it, then would you agree that raping a child is good in a society that allows it?

  44. im-skeptical says:

    FZM,

    > The idea that an individual has a right to express their opinion and that other individuals have a right to express theirs seems to be based on a moral or value judgement (unless it is an empirical/’scientific’ fact?).
    It is not a statement of objective fact. It is a statement about the rights of individuals that most people agree with. Are you trying to argue that I don’t have the right to express my opinions?

    > Interestingly this claim does involve ‘society’ being given the power to oblige everyone to live by whatever standards society deems appropriate at a given moment; presumably provided society doesn’t imagine that any of the standards it punishes people for infringing have any truth behind them.
    Regardless of who agrees or disagrees, societies do claim the right to enforce their standards of behavior. But my statement was only about my own right to express my opinion.

    > Finally claiming there is anything bad or immoral about making claims that certain standards are true, objective etc. and obliging people to live by them seems obviously another moral claim or value judgement.
    That’s not what I did or said. Read my previous remark.

    > It seems like you’ve been making the argument that we have to reject the idea that there is any objective mind independent reality or truth behind any moral claim.
    Correct.

    > So ideas about what is moral or not, about what is good or bad, therefore become pretty much just subjective expressions of personal preference
    No, there’s much more to it than that. Read what I said about the nature of morality.

    > Taking this into account it looks like there is nothing to oblige others to accept any of the claims and assertions you make above if they don’t happen to feel like it and/or you can’t impose it on them by force of some kind.
    Nice try, but that doesn’t follow from or agree with my position. That is simply the same old trope that theists purvey. it is the same lie that David Wood is selling.

  45. im-skeptical says:

    Kevin,

    > Now, I don’t pretend that the arguments found in these two books constitute “proof”, but they certainly render the head-in-the-sand don’t-bother-me-with-the-facts “there are no moral facts” position to be quite amusing indeed.
    I haven’t read either of those books, and i wonder if you have. The second one is clearly theistic reasoning. The first, however is by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. This is from a review of one of his books: Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus “everything is permitted.” Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without religion, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn’t know what is wrong and what is right.

  46. Kevin says:

    What books?

  47. Kevin says:

    Oh you meant Doug.

  48. im-skeptical says:

    Kevin,

    > So you do not agree with (to make a ridiculously extreme example) the statement “Raping a child is wrong” on any other basis except that the standards of society and your personal opinion are against it?

    If those are your reasons for opposing it, then would you agree that raping a child is good in a society that allows it?
    Those are not my reasons. I have the same intuitive feelings that most humans do about harming innocent people. This is part of our evolved sense of morality, not the standards of society. But that still doesn’t make it an objective fact. To see why, you need to look at a different example – one where there is not near-universal agreement. Your choice of this example is fallacious because it uses an extreme case where most people are in agreement and attempts to conclude that any moral issue should be similarly “objective”. But the fact that you can come up with a few extreme moral issues like that where there is near universal agreement does not imply that moral beliefs in general are objective fact.

  49. Doug says:

    @im-skeptical,
    These “rights” you mention… are they derived from science or from morality? Likely not science. So morality, I suppose. But there are no moral facts. So these “rights” are what? A convenience? A convention? A power-play?

    Re: books — did you notice that Sinnott-Armstrong is the editor of that book? Oh, and w-a-y too facile a dismissal of inconvenient arguments as “theistic reasoning”. No “intellectual integrity” points for that move.

  50. TFBW says:

    This is what most theists claim.

    Ah, so this is all about tribal warfare, rather than analysing and engaging the points which are actually being made in this thread. No wonder I can’t follow the bouncing ball.

    They insist that their moral beliefs are objective facts, and many of them seek to impose those moral beliefs on the rest of society.

    As opposed to those who insist that moral beliefs are mere opinions and seek to impose those beliefs on the rest of society anyhow? Yay tribalism.

  51. im-skeptical says:

    Doug,

    Sorry I misdirected my comment about your books. Tell me, did you read that book? According to the synopsis, it presents different positions. Or do you only pay attention to the ones that agree with your theological views? I’ve read plenty of material on theistic moral theory. None of it is based on evidence. It always assumes God as the source of morality. And that was evident in what I saw in your second book. OK. I get it. You think God is necessary for morality, but the point that I’ve been trying to make is that that theory doesn’t hold water for anyone who bases his beliefs on evidence.

    > These “rights” you mention… are they derived from science or from morality?
    Those rights are something we intuitively feel, and most people agree. There are societal standards and laws that codify them. The intuitive source is probably the same as our evolved moral intuitions. In general, we feel that is is wrong to hurt others or to unnecessarily restrict their freedom.

  52. im-skeptical says:

    > As opposed to those who insist that moral beliefs are mere opinions and seek to impose those beliefs on the rest of society anyhow? Yay tribalism.
    You haven’t been paying attention. No wonder you can’t follow the bouncing ball.

  53. TFBW says:

    Saying stuff like “you haven’t been paying attention”, and, “that’s your opinion, but it is uninformed” makes it easy to win, doesn’t it? So much easier than actually engaging someone’s points and refuting them.

  54. im-skeptical says:

    TFBW, I already explained that the position you attributed to atheists is nothing but a trope. If you were paying attention, you might have addressed the points that I was making and refuted them, but you didn’t.

  55. TFBW says:

    Right, yes, “trope” was another one of those masterful easy wins. Can’t argue with “trope”.

  56. Doug says:

    @im-skeptical,
    Consider it telling that Sinnott-Armstrong is willing to be editor of a book engaging with all possible positions, while you can so easily dismiss any and all positions apart from your own. That doesn’t say anything at all about the strength of your position. It says a lot about you. And those “feelings” you ground your rights on? Your explanations of those are hand-waving and just-so-stories. Hardly evidential, there, either.

  57. im-skeptical says:

    TFBW,

    You can’t argue with someone who doesn’t address your arguments.
    Theist: You believe A.
    Me: No, I believe B.
    Theist: You believe A.
    Whatever, dude.

  58. im-skeptical says:

    Doug,

    > Consider it telling that Sinnott-Armstrong is willing to be editor of a book engaging with all possible positions, while you can so easily dismiss any and all positions apart from your own. That doesn’t say anything at all about the strength of your position. It says a lot about you. And those “feelings” you ground your rights on? Your explanations of those are hand-waving and just-so-stories. Hardly evidential, there, either.
    You have no clue what positions I have examined, and whether I have “easily dismissed” them, or given them due consideration. On what basis do you make these claims? Furthermore, you have failed to answer the questions I raised to you. And please don’t tell me about hand-waving explanations. The ultimate hand-waving explanation is “God did it.”

  59. TFBW says:

    You can’t argue with someone who doesn’t address your arguments.

    Says the guy who chooses to address “what most theists claim” rather than what people here are actually saying, particularly when the whole “trope” accusation was based on something that I never claimed. Walter Mitty atheism strikes again.

  60. Billy Squibs says:

    Guys, if this is the same “im-skeptical” that used to post on Victor Rupert’s blog before being asked to leave (names weren’t mentioned so this is an assumption on my part) then any attempt at a reasoned debate is figuratively equivalent of pissing into the wind. Maybe Skep has some salient points, maybe not. But inevitably you will end up in nothing more than a shouting match.

    I don’t say any of this to be mean. Rather, I’m suggesting that you are wasting your time if you are hoping for anything beyond a fight.

  61. FZM says:

    It is not a statement of objective fact. It is a statement about the rights of individuals that most people agree with. Are you trying to argue that I don’t have the right to express my opinions?

    From what you have been saying it looks like anyone could argue that in fact you have no right to express your opinion and that you don’t really have any way of arguing against it, other than claiming that ‘most people (at this given place and time) agree that I have such a right’ therefore I do; kind of Vox populi Vox dei.

    Also there are plenty of societies in the world today where in fact people do not agree that you have a right to express your opinions about a range of subjects; so if I was writing from one of these countries presumbaly I’d be morally right to deny that you have a right to express your opinions.

    Regardless of who agrees or disagrees, societies do claim the right to enforce their standards of behavior. But my statement was only about my own right to express my opinion.

    Oh. This statement seemed to be about society and your rights in a social context:

    If somebody does something wrong by society’s moral standards, I am within my right to advocate their conviction and legal punishment.

    No, there’s much more to it than that. Read what I said about the nature of morality.

    I suppose that my point is that your ideas about the nature of morality don’t add up to anything more than what I described. An argument based on appealing to the fact that ‘societies’ or groups of people share a particular feeling to give it normative moral authority (looks like endorsing a ‘might is right’ approach) or, wierdly, to human evolution, as if it was obviously possible to deduce moral norms of behaviour from the behaviours which humans have evolved to engage in, would have a lot of issues and doesn’t seem all that convincing.

    Nice try, but that doesn’t follow from or agree with my position. That is simply the same old trope that theists purvey. it is the same lie that David Wood is selling.

    The problems with your position aren’t especially related to arguments about the existence of God. It just looks like you are advocating a kind of moral sophistry and significant problems with this kind of position have been recognised since Socrates and Plato.

  62. G. Rodrigues says:

    Ah, so the blinkered ignoramus known as im-skeptical, having been banned from DI and probably tired of arguing with his own self at his blog decided to make his appearance here for another showdown of imbecility. Have fun, boys.

  63. Doug says:

    @im-skeptical,
    Talking about morality is tricky. Would you permit some clarification? How about:
    * “Morality-1″/”M1” — good and evil, an objective standard
    * “Morality-2″/”M2” — rules, laws, conventions beneficial to society
    * “Morality-3″/”M3” — success at living by M2 (or M1)
    You claim that there is no M1. We get that. But you seem confident that “feeling” or “intuition” can sufficiently ground M2. We’re skeptical about that.

    You claim that there is no evidence for M1. But you have given no evidence at all that you’d recognize such evidence if you saw it. In fact, you’ve provided some yourself:

    In general, we feel that is is wrong to hurt others or to unnecessarily restrict their freedom.

    That “universal moral sense” is good evidence for M1. Evo-psyche is entirely unable to compete here. But don’t take it from me. Take it from an atheist (Noam Chomsky), who writes:

    You find that people cooperate, you say, ‘Yeah, that contributes to their genes’ perpetuating.’ You find that they fight, you say, ‘Sure, that’s obvious, because it means that their genes perpetuate and not somebody else’s. In fact, just about anything you find, you can make up some story for it.

    But if you want some more evidence, consider the following (you are willing to allow hypotheticals for argument’s sake, right?):
    (hypothetically) God exists
    (hypothetically) God reveals M1
    (hypothetically) God’s purpose in revealing M1 is for the benefit of humanity
    Given these hypotheticals, we should be able to correlate A:{alignment with God’s revelation} with B:{happiness and wellbeing}. But (surprise, surprise!), that is indeed precisely what we do find. Once again: don’t take my word for it. Research it for yourself!!
    http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/world-happiness-map
    http://mentalfloss.com/article/63409/happiest-countries-according-2015-world-happiness-report
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisfaction_with_Life_Index
    https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2015#.Vh5jy_lVhBc

    What do all these maps have in common? A curious correlation with this one:

    But that’s not all! Recently, an award-winning scientific publication has found that the most significant leading indicator of societal health in nacsent societies is… the activity of independent conversionary protestant missionaries!
    http://www.academia.edu/2128659/The_Missionary_Roots_of_Liberal_Democracy

    Now, given that I’ve provided (a truckload) of evidence, I’m going to ask that you actually engage that evidence, rather than going all red-herring and strawman on me? Please?

  64. im-skeptical says:

    TFBW,

    > Says the guy who chooses to address “what most theists claim” rather than what people here are actually saying, particularly when the whole “trope” accusation was based on something that I never claimed. Walter Mitty atheism strikes again.

    All I hear you saying is that I’m guilty of tribalism. Not that ant Christians would ever be guilty of such a thing. If you would like to summarize what issues you would like for me to address, I will do that.

  65. im-skeptical says:

    FZM,

    > From what you have been saying it looks like anyone could argue that in fact you have no right to express your opinion and that you don’t really have any way of arguing against it, other than claiming that ‘most people (at this given place and time) agree that I have such a right’ therefore I do; kind of Vox populi Vox dei.

    In fact, anyone could argue that I don’t have the right to speak. It would be a matter of my opinion against theirs. But who prevails is that case? In many cases, society or government will enforce their will in favor of one party or the other.

    > I suppose that my point is that your ideas about the nature of morality don’t add up to anything more than what I described. An argument based on appealing to the fact that ‘societies’ or groups of people share a particular feeling to give it normative moral authority (looks like endorsing a ‘might is right’ approach) or, wierdly, to human evolution, as if it was obviously possible to deduce moral norms of behaviour from the behaviours which humans have evolved to engage in, would have a lot of issues and doesn’t seem all that convincing.

    It just looks like you are advocating a kind of moral sophistry and significant problems with this kind of position have been recognised since Socrates and Plato.

    I never said that it is the perfect situation we would hope to see if we were God and we had the opportunity to design a perfect code of morality and want people to be compliant with this ideal. But what I describe is reality, whether you find it convincing or not. What I don’t understand is why you should think that God created the mess that we have. Wouldn’t God at least give people a way to know what his objective moral rules are, even if they choose not to obey them? But the reality is that nobody can say what those rules are. There is no agreement, even among believers, on this so-called objective morality. Science gives us a much better way to understand human behavior, and why we believe the things we do.

  66. TFBW says:

    @im-skeptical:

    If you would like to summarize what issues you would like for me to address, I will do that.

    Nice of you to offer, but, given your track record in this thread so far, I don’t think that you’ll deliver the goods. That is to say, you have been asked, repeatedly, to address various issues, and instead you address some imagined “what most theists claim” or similar. Thus, if you are capable of engaging the points actually raised, then you have chosen not to, and are simply acting out tribal aggression, which casts doubt on your sincerity. Conversely, if you’re not wilfully engaging in tribal aggression, then there’s little reason to think that you’re capable of engaging the points actually raised, making any further effort on my part a waste. So thanks, but no thanks. Maybe just make more of an effort next time, ok?

  67. im-skeptical says:

    TFBW,

    > you have been asked, repeatedly, to address various issues, and instead you address some imagined “what most theists claim” or similar. Thus, if you are capable of engaging the points actually raised, then you have chosen not to, and are simply acting out tribal aggression, which casts doubt on your sincerity. Conversely, if you’re not wilfully engaging in tribal aggression, then there’s little reason to think that you’re capable of engaging the points actually raised, making any further effort on my part a waste. So thanks, but no thanks.

    Allow me to summarize the conversation that has occurred between us so far, and if I have left out anything significant, please feel free to correct me.

    TFBW: do you have any evidence at all to back up your accusations of this presentation being an outright lie, or are you just projecting your desires about what you want to be true? Because the latter seems much more likely to me.

    I addressed the evidence I have.

    TFBW: … The rest of what you’ve quoted and objected to was not spoken by David Wood, and is therefore irrelevant to your accusation. Was it supposed to be relevant? If so, then I think you let your feelings of indignation blur your focus.

    I explained that I was speaking about Shadow To Light’s post in the first place, and yes, it is relevant.

    TFBW: … The problem is that atheists are acting irrationally relative to their own professed beliefs when they claim that they are behaving morally in any sense. This argument could be refuted, but not with the kind of whiny accusations you’re throwing around. Use reason and logic.

    I gave my reason for believing that objective moral truth doesn’t exist.

    TFBW: So much for your understanding of moral philosophy. … I’ve had enough of this twaddle.

    From that point on, you did nothing but accuse me of tribal warfare. In fact, I think I did address the issues you raised, but it is you who are taking on the role of tribal warrior. I am willing to discuss issues, and I think I have been doing that.

  68. FZM says:

    I never said that it is the perfect situation we would hope to see if we were God and we had the opportunity to design a perfect code of morality and want people to be compliant with this ideal. But what I describe is reality, whether you find it convincing or not. What I don’t understand is why you should think that God created the mess that we have. Wouldn’t God at least give people a way to know what his objective moral rules are, even if they choose not to obey them? But the reality is that nobody can say what those rules are. There is no agreement, even among believers, on this so-called objective morality. Science gives us a much better way to understand human behavior, and why we believe the things we do.

    I don’t understand here is that after apparently advocating a position in which moral judgement is a basically a matter of personal/group opinion and one person/group’s opinion is as valid as anyone else’s, you can’t understand how people or groups (or other minds, including God in this) could end up holding opinions different to your own about moral questions and moral judgements. That we aren’t in a perfect situation, that according to you we don’t possess a perfect code of morality, that we have a mess; these all seem to be your personal opinions or feelings. Other may well share them. Other people, however, and maybe God, might just not share your view and adopt a different one, thinking that the current situation is great and morally very good. And their opinion would have as much validity as yours, though God is a bit like ‘society’ or the government in that he has greater power to enforce his own views on others.

    I also don’t fully understand how you can claim that we can recognise that our moral intuitions derive at least in part from human evolutionary history and yet claim that there is no basis for agreement about the content of any ‘objective morality’. If everyone shared similar moral intuitions as a result of a shared evolutionary history, you could expect to find a certain level of basic agreement about various salient moral questions, which would tend in turn to put the argument that there is no agreement on these things, just a total mess and that therefore morality mustn’t have any objective content into doubt. On the other hand if moral intuitions deriving from evolutionary human history vary significantly between individuals I’m not sure how you could identify them as such in the first place or why more importance would have to be attached to them than a simple personal opinion or feeling.

  69. TFBW says:

    @im-skeptical:

    I addressed the evidence I have.

    You asserted something about lies. Your “evidence” failed to include a single quoted statement which you were able to pick out as counter-factual, let alone actually back up the accusation with evidence. To the extent that you addressed the issue at all, it was a conflict between your experience and your (offended, reactionary) interpretation of the article. That’s not enough to substantiate an accusation of lying — it’s not enough to establish that anything was even false, let alone a lie.

    I explained that I was speaking about Shadow To Light’s post in the first place, and yes, it is relevant.

    Your first post said, “he is describing the experiences, but of of a genuine sociopath, or he is just lying, the latter being much more likely.” The “he” in this sentence obviously refers to David Wood, not Michael, the author of the OP. If this is not what you meant, then it was a very poor piece of communication. If it is what you meant, then you changed your story on the subsequent post.

    I gave my reason for believing that objective moral truth doesn’t exist.

    And I responded, but you ignored the response — your attention had turned to Kevin by then.

    From that point on, you did nothing but accuse me of tribal warfare.

    Yes: tribalism or incompetence — take your pick. Maybe a bit of both.

  70. im-skeptical says:

    FZN.

    > … you can’t understand how people or groups (or other minds, including God in this) could end up holding opinions different to your own about moral questions and moral judgements
    I never said that. It is to be expected that we have different moral opinions if there is no objective morality.

    > … That we aren’t in a perfect situation, that according to you we don’t possess a perfect code of morality, that we have a mess; these all seem to be your personal opinions or feelings
    Even if you assume that morality derives from God, the fact that there are a variety of moral theories, along with the fact that there is no agreement about what moral rules exist is proof that God has failed to communicate his morality to us. This is what I have called a “mess”. It seems inconceivable to me that God should expect people to comply with his morality but fail to make it absolutely clear to us.

    > I also don’t fully understand how you can claim that we can recognise that our moral intuitions derive at least in part from human evolutionary history and yet claim that there is no basis for agreement about the content of any ‘objective morality’.
    I didn’t say that there’s no basis for agreement. We can agree about many things, and to the extent that we do agree, we tend to call those things “objective”. But those agreements are not comprehensive by any means, and dependent on societal norms, which do change. So you can declare that slavery is wrong, and that is an objective fact, but someone else would disagree. From their perspective, your objective facts are just plain wrong. And just as much as you say “but I know I’m right”, they say “but I know I’m right.” Your judgment of what is right is based on societal norms, unless you can convince me that you have a direct line to God, and you know what he thinks, which I sincerely doubt.

    > On the other hand if moral intuitions deriving from evolutionary human history vary significantly between individuals I’m not sure how you could identify them as such in the first place or why more importance would have to be attached to them than a simple personal opinion or feeling.
    First, understand that evolution only gives us a broad-brush intuition, on the level of the golden rule. This doesn’t vary much between individuals, but it also doesn’t provide much guidance in many specific situations. However, societal norms and other factors fill in some of these gaps, and sometimes even override our evolutionary intuitions. So, for example, the slaughter of the Amalekites was regarded as good by the Hebrews at the time, and you can be sure that they were absolutely convinced that God was on their side. As to how we know that there is evolution-based morality, it’s called evidence. We see it in other animal species. We understand how it works to enhance survival. What we don’t see is any evidence of the existence of some universal objective morality.

  71. im-skeptical says:

    TFBW,

    > You asserted something about lies. Your “evidence” failed to include a single quoted statement which you were able to pick out as counter-factual, let alone actually back up the accusation with evidence.
    I explained what he was saying that wasn’t true and I gave my basis for saying that. Of course, you didn’t understand any of it.

    > Your first post said …
    In my first comment, I used the word “you”, specifically referring to the poster. If you didn’t see what I plainly said, that’s your fault.

    > And I responded, but you ignored the response
    Your “response” was to dismiss my knowledge of atheistic morality (as if you would know) and to declare “I’ve had enough of this twaddle”. I assumed you were done with the discussion.

    > Yes: tribalism or incompetence — take your pick. Maybe a bit of both.
    That’s a good description of what I see in your words.

  72. TFBW says:

    @im-skeptical: I rest my case.

  73. Michael says:

    I explained what he was saying that wasn’t true and I gave my basis for saying that. Of course, you didn’t understand any of it.

    You show up and immediately accuse Woods of being a liar and accuse me of dishonesty. Your lame ass psychoanalysis does not count as evidence, so we are left with your personal attacks not supported by any evidence. Either a) provide the evidence, b) retract your accusations; or c) say good-bye.

  74. im-skeptical says:

    Wood’s portrayal of atheistic morality is demonstrably false. What he is describing is not atheistic morality, but sociopathy. As for you, Michael, I explained that your depiction of de-conversion stories is also demonstrably false. Please show me one that remotely resembles what you described.

  75. Michael says:

    Wood’s portrayal of atheistic morality is demonstrably false. What he is describing is not atheistic morality, but sociopathy.

    It has been 6 months or so since I watched the video, but I don’t recall any of this. I recall Wood’s giving a personal testimony, explaining how he personally, as an atheist, viewed reality. For him to be lying, you need evidence that he did not ever personally hold those views. And you have supplied none. Apparently, your entire justification for personally attacking the man is that you don’t agree with what you think he is saying.

    As for you, Michael, I explained that your depiction of de-conversion stories is also demonstrably false. Please show me one that remotely resembles what you described.

    You seem to confuse your assertions with explanations. My “depiction” derives from my impressions and perceptions. At most, they could be mistaken. To label them “dishonest” is to accuse me of claiming to have impressions that I don’t. Again, you have no evidence for this.

    In summary, you pop up on this blog and immediately begin to smear others and myself. When asked for evidence to back up your finger-pointing accusations of dishonesty, you have none. Rather than do the intellectually honest thing and retract your personal attacks, you dig in your heels. I can see why you have been banned from other blogs. You can now add this blog to the list where your opinions are no longer welcome. I don’t have time for bullshit these days.

  76. Kevin says:

    “The Sith are evil!” says Obi-wan.
    “From my point of view the Jedi are evil!” says Anakin.
    “Then you are lost!” says Obi-wan.

    On Earth this would be: “ISIS is evil!” says Kevin.
    “From their point of view your Bible study is evil!” says im-skeptical.”
    “Then you are lost!” says Kevin.

    Indeed, moral relativists are lost.

  77. Doug says:

    @TFBW,
    Thanks for the link to the brilliant Ed Feser. He pretty much nails it.

  78. TFBW says:

    You’re welcome, but credit actually goes to Dhay for that one (in a different thread).

  79. FZM says:

    I never said that. It is to be expected that we have different moral opinions if there is no objective morality.
    You did actually write:
    What I don’t understand is why you should think that God created the mess that we have
    So obviously you meant something other than what you wrote.
    Even if you assume that morality derives from God, the fact that there are a variety of moral theories, along with the fact that there is no agreement about what moral rules exist is proof that God has failed to communicate his morality to us. This is what I have called a “mess”. It seems inconceivable to me that God should expect people to comply with his morality but fail to make it absolutely clear to us.

    I’m not totally sure of the sense in which you’re using inconceivable here. In the more techincal sense of an intrinsically incoherent or illogical concept I can’t see that the idea of a creator God of some kind who decided not to create or communicate a morality of some specific kind is inherently illogical or self refuting and therefore inconceivable. Especially in the case that there is no objective content in morality.

    The issue with your general position that my comment aimed at was that given that no arguments exist to show that one morality and moral point of view is more true/objective/real than any other, and one person’s or one group’s is pretty much as valid as any other’s. Therefore you seem to have no basis, beyond an emotional or emotivist one, for criticising God or claiming that God is bad for not sharing your idea of what morality aught to be like, or for the fact that God does not agree with you about the kind of morality you think God has some kind of moral obligation to bring into existence and abide by.

    In fact it looks like you don’t really seem to have much basis, beyond the emotivist one, for criticising people whose moral opinions and intuitions happen to lead them to want to believe in God, gods, objective moralities of any particular kind without running into the kind of paradox a previous poster raised:

    Here’s another curiosity — these people who assert that there no (objective) moral facts are almost always *simultaneously* asserting something along these lines, “Therefore, it is objectively wrong (i.e. immoral) for you to continue saying that there are (objective) moral facts.”

    First, understand that evolution only gives us a broad-brush intuition, on the level of the golden rule. This doesn’t vary much between individuals, but it also doesn’t provide much guidance in many specific situations. However, societal norms and other factors fill in some of these gaps, and sometimes even override our evolutionary intuitions. So, for example, the slaughter of the Amalekites was regarded as good by the Hebrews at the time, and you can be sure that they were absolutely convinced that God was on their side. As to how we know that there is evolution-based morality, it’s called evidence. We see it in other animal species. We understand how it works to enhance survival. What we don’t see is any evidence of the existence of some universal objective morality.

    So we can identify as falsifiable/testable scientific facts:

    That evolution only gives ‘broad brush’ moral intuitions and doesn’t provide much guidance in many specific situations.

    And we can also identify and seperate out ‘evolutionary moral intuitions’ from the influence of ‘societal norms and other factors’, in a falsifiable way

    …so we can know that the slaughter of the Amalekites can’t be put down to the result of an ‘evolutionary intuition’ but was due to societal/other factors?

    From your own moral point of view I’m not sure what you could make of the massacre of the Amalekites; according to the standards of Israelite society the action was morally right, a range of individuals probably believed as much, it’s possible that there was an evolutionary intuition behind it. Though you may share different values, and the society you belong to at the moment might, one individual, and one society’s views are as valid as any other’s. Otherwise if you start condemning actions like this it could look like implying that there is some general moral obligation on people not to massacre each other if it looks expedient or advantageous to do so.

    As to how we know that there is evolution-based morality, it’s called evidence. We see it in other animal species. We understand how it works to enhance survival. What we don’t see is any evidence of the existence of some universal objective morality

    These things would actually be useful as evidence of the existence of some kind of universal objective morality. I would have though that was reasonably clear. I think you would need some strong evidence to make it clear that in fact none of these traits/behaviours of certain animals had anything to do with their evolving some kind of rationality, and consequent ability to recognise the existence of objective moral truths (whether Aristotelian, Platonic, Kantian etc.) and the benefits of abiding by them, and that instead they resulted solely from natural selection blindly favouring the perpetuation of certain genes or traits.

  80. Doug says:

    Re:

    the mess that we have

    Characterizing the state of human moral understanding/agreement/execution as a “mess” requires that one acknowledge that there is a “higher” standard to which it should be compared. So im-skeptical denies the existence of that standard while simultaneously invoking it. Besides, in a world in which every man, woman, and child is guilty of falling prey to the most primal of temptations (viz., “becoming like God, knowing good and evil”), a “mess” is precisely what one would expect.

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