The Rambow Effect: How Moderate Views Fuel Extremism

Henry Rambow wrote an article which essentially regurgitates Sam Harris’s argument about religious moderates being blamed for the existence of extreme religious fundamentalists.

Like Harris, Rambow approaches the whole issue with incredible tunnel vision.  He seems oblivious to the fact that there is no reason to restrict the focus of his logic to religion.  The very same logic can be used elsewhere.

For example, think about how a moderate concern for animal welfare fuels animal rights terrorism.   Do you support your local Humane Society?  Then, according to Harris/Rambow logic, you are helping to legitimize extreme animal rights organizations and their acts of terrorism.

Concerned about the environment?  Then you are both legitimizing and fueling eco-terrorism.

Do you consider yourself a supporter of civil rights and a good liberal?  Then, according to Harris/Rambow logic,  you are both legitimizing and fueling the Regressive Left.  After all, if religious moderates are to blame for religious fundamentalists, then moderate leftists are to blame for the extreme, Regressive Left.

The irony of this Gnu Logic is that while Harris points his finger at religious moderates and blames them for the extreme acts of some religious fundamentalists, his same logic would make him (as a environmentalist liberal who supports animal rights) partly responsible for animal rights terrorism, eco-terrorism, and the anti-free speech efforts of the Regressive Left.

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403 Responses to The Rambow Effect: How Moderate Views Fuel Extremism

  1. Ilíon says:

    No, no, no! Don’t you get it?

    It’s different when *we* do it!

    Sheeseh!

  2. SteveK says:

    The walk from a fundamentalist view to an atheistic view is a very short one. Two peas in a pod.

  3. I guess also that if you criticise American foreign policy, you’re helping to legitimise ISIS and other terrorist groups.

  4. TFBW says:

    I’m not sure whether this criticism of Rambow is fair engagement of his point. Does he, in all fairness, essentially regurgitate Sam Harris’ argument? I’ve decided to invest the effort in my own analysis. This won’t be brief, sorry.

    The core of Rambow’s assertion (I don’t think it can be classified as an “argument”) is found towards the end of his article, where he claims, “moderate religion … is culpable in at least three ways,” as follows.

    First, moderate religion primes children — by the millions, if not billions — from an early age to accept without question the authority of the very same books that serve as the basis for fundamentalist ideologies, and it teaches children that the gods described in those books are worthy of worship. … Second, moderate religion propagates and legitimizes the vehicles of fundamentalist ideology — both the texts and the rituals. … Third, moderate religion lends credibility to fundamentalism by claiming to believe in the very same gods and the very same divinely-inspired texts that are exalted by fundamentalists.

    Note that the books/texts are the common element in all three of his accusations. The core of the objection, then, is that moderate religion is culpable because it (a) teaches children scripture, (b) results in scripture being widely available, and (c) lends both credence and an aura of goodness to scripture. Neither (a) nor (b) would be a problem unless (c) had some substance to it: the core issue must therefore be that the teachings of scripture are inherently bad, and moderate religion papers over that badness in a dangerous way.

    This makes sense in the context of the article’s title, “The Josiah Effect”, since Josiah’s chief crime (in Rambow’s esteemed opinion) was to simply take scripture literally and kill a lot of people because it said to do so.

    If we are to understand this as the core of Rambow’s claim, then there is a reason to restrict the focus to religion, although not necessarily a terribly legitimate one when all is said and done. The focus is restricted to religion because religion has scripture. Specifically, in fact, it’s the Bible that’s the problem. The Bible, you see, promotes all sorts of atrocities — a reference to Leviticus 20:13 follows here as sure as night follows day. Moderate folks know to ignore all the atrocious stuff, but they enable the fundamentalist extremists who don’t know not to take it literally.

    That, to me, seems to be a fair representation of the objection, and it means that parallels drawn with eco-terrorism and other forms of secular extremism miss the mark, at least at first glance. Secular extremists aren’t inspired by divine scripture, and secular moderates don’t lend conceptual support to bad scriptures in the way that religious moderates do.

    Sure, secular moderates lend conceptual support to ideas and ideals which also inspire secular extremists to commit their various acts, but a distinction exists. The ideas and ideals themselves do not contain the explicit instruction to commit awful acts, whereas the Bible does, you see. Charles Darwin may have enabled eugenics, thus Hitler, but he never explicitly told anyone to kill anyone. The Bible, in contrast, contains many explicit death penalties, several of which Hitler also embraced.

    Of course, this distinction doesn’t always hold. Darwin may not have explicitly promoted killing anyone, but then there’s Marx, and you have to overlook some pretty blatant calls to violent revolution in his case if you want to absolve him (and his associates) of blame for the bloodbath of 20th century Communism. Estimates vary widely, but Communism had the same order of magnitude body count as World War II (tens of millions), compared to which death attributable to religious fundamentalism (of any Bible-related sort) isn’t even a blip on the radar of the enlightened 20th century.

    The position can be saved, although the pleading becomes more and more specialised. Yes, secular ideas can be every bit as bad as Biblical ones (and have left a much larger bloodstain on recent history), but those books are merely the works of men, not an Infallible God. Religious moderates promote the whole “good, infallible God” angle, which promotes uncritical acceptance of those tenets on the part of fundamentalists.

    (Given the Most High status granted to science these days, even this lame distinction is weaker in practice than it ought to be. The people on Rambow’s side of this argument tend also to be those who insist that we must do whatever the scientists tell us is necessary to save us from global warming and such like. Science may be couched in caveats of tentativeness, but the demand for Total Obedience and assurance of Wise Benevolence seems to be nearly as great as any deity. Be that as it may, I won’t pursue this angle beyond these parentheses.)

    Any religious moderate worth his salt will, at this point, object that any inspiration to commit awful acts arises from a misunderstanding of scripture, and it’s hardly fair to be blamed for other people’s misunderstandings. To this, there are two obvious responses. One is that the very idea of divinely inspired scripture is inherently dangerous, precisely because of the damage which could arise from sincere misunderstanding. The other, which seems to be Rambow’s angle, is to challenge the assertion that a misunderstanding is involved at all.

    The core of this latter response rests on the proposition that King Josiah, for whom the Bible has great praise, was a (Jewish) fundamentalist who properly understood scripture, and was also a moral monster by simple merit of the fact that he carried out its instructions. I don’t think I’m doing any disservice to Rambow’s case by presenting it in those terms.

    In his article, Rambow draws on Pastor Steven Anderson as his example of such a modern-day Josiah, and links to a YouTube interview with him on USA Today. The content of this brief interview is rather surprising in some ways. On the one hand, Anderson’s stated attitude of hating gays stands in stark contrast with Jesus, who reserved his rage for religious leaders and temple money-changers, while associating freely with sinners. Mention of this incongruence is conspicuously absent from the interview — an oversight which I (charitably) attribute to general ignorance rather than editorial intent, as the interviewer couldn’t even correctly identify the First Commandment.

    On the other hand, Anderson isn’t quite the poster-child for anti-gay violence you might expect him to be, given the circumstances. He makes it perfectly clear that what he wants is not vigilante killings (which would violate “you shall not kill”), but a government-enforced law, like any other with the death penalty. He wears his hate on his sleeve, but the same simplistic thinking which makes him want to live under Old Testament Law equally prohibits him from actually killing anyone. That aspect is, of course, conveniently overlooked in Rambow’s article: important though it is, it would be ruinous to the parallels he draws with jihadists.

    But, one might argue, that aside, isn’t it enough that he wants the death penalty for homosexual acts? Isn’t that morally monstrous enough? Well, here’s where we encounter the other part of the problem. How did we decide that Josiah and Steven Anderson are moral monsters — the core assumption on which the whole indictment rests? By what standard was that decision made? As usual in such cases, no explicit standard is set: it is merely an appeal to popular sentiment — the Zeitgeist. You are expected to feel, not think; to agree on the basis of your gut, not your mind.

    That’s where I run into my own major objection to Rambow’s thesis. He wants to assert that Josiah is a moral monster, but he does so by implicitly elevating popular opinion to the status of received scripture, making moral pronouncements as though they were as certain as any God-inspired text. His judgement of Josiah is not one that invites challenge: it is stated as unquestionable truth.

    That’s not to say that his views are set in stone: he might change his mind about some particular, should he happen to have feelings of doubt about it, but this is no different to a fundamentalist who suddenly has a new revelation about the correct interpretation of scripture. The only clear distinction between Rambow’s former scriptural fundamentalism and his current (implicit) feeling-based fundamentalism is that the former was based on an external point of reference.

    Rambow correctly observes that there are those who naturally gravitate towards the view that they (and only they and other like-minded individuals) truly understand what is right. His mistake is to think that an element of “divine inspiration” is an important ingredient in this feeling. He seems to be his own counter-example in that regard, because his moral certitude (that Josiah is a moral monster, for example) seems to be as high as ever, despite renouncing scripture as a source of truth.

    Unless Rambow can demonstrate that the special ingredient of “divinely inspired scripture” really does have a significant effect, then his entire case falls on exactly the kind of objection that Michael raises: any extremist can take any idea and run with it to an extreme which horrifies moderates who hold to the same basic idea. This is true regardless of the origins of that idea, and to focus on the case where that origin is scripture is to embrace the genetic fallacy and express prejudice against the specific source — no more.

    Of course, Rambow offers no such demonstration. Like the rest of his article, he appeals to intuition and feeling. We are supposed to instinctively feel how dangerous scripture is, or intuitively recognise that fact.

    Sorry, Rambow: I see an entirely generic problem with human beings, nothing specific to scripture. You exemplify my point: you’re every bit as self-assured now as when you believed that your source of superior enlightenment was the Bible.

  5. @blamer says:

    Commenter TFBW gets it.

    The Vacuous Effect: How To Equate Religion With Irreligion

    Verily, God’s words are more inspiringly than anybody else. No other being has ever come close to inspiring as many acts of neighbourly kindness. And cruelty. Towards “the out group”.

    However mis-attributed Yahweh’s murderous commandments turn out to be; the Abrahamic fan club, still remains 100% culpable for its modern fanatics, their violent acts and abhorrent moral teachings. To the exclusion of all others.

    Until the world’s religions take “kill those God hates” out of their books: We absolutely care not that to err is human.

    Making excuses for God’s killings: is devine.

  6. Doug says:

    @blamer,
    What if “kill those God hates” was never in the book? Facts are inconvenient things sometimes, aren’t they? So is consistency: are you 100% culpable for those tens (some estimates: hundreds) of millions of atheist (i.e., communist)-responsible deaths during the last century? No, I didn’t think so. Hypocrite.

  7. TFBW says:

    @blamer said:

    … the Abrahamic fan club, still remains 100% culpable for its modern fanatics, their violent acts and abhorrent moral teachings. To the exclusion of all others.

    Do you have grounds for that claim, or are you just arbitrarily assigning blame where you’d like it to be?

  8. Kevin says:

    “the Abrahamic fan club, still remains 100% culpable for its modern fanatics, their violent acts and abhorrent moral teachings”

    No I’m not. In fact, I’m no more culpable for those things than I am culpable for car crashes causes by cell phone usage simply because I too own a cell phone.

  9. TFBW says:

    I’ve offered a detailed analysis of Rambow’s accusations; now I’ll go one better and offer what I think is a better analysis of the problem itself. I’ll even be relatively brief about it.

    Rambow thinks that the problem is scriptural texts full of horrors which fundamentalists happen to take literally. As I’ve already mentioned, however, Rambow can only make the assessment that the scriptures are full of horrors by elevating his own popular-liberal sentiments to the level of Gospel Truth. This latter fact guides us to where the real problem lies: not with scripture, but with epistemic arrogance (or the lack of its opposite, epistemic humility).

    Rambow’s problem, both as a fundamentalist Christian and its secular counterpart, is his lack of epistemic humility. It’s a common problem on all sides of all arguments, really, and the moderates who don’t exhibit epistemic arrogance usually do so for lack of passion rather than an abundance of humility. It’s one thing to hold to an extreme view, another thing to do so arrogantly.

    Extreme views aren’t necessarily wrong, and they should not be dismissed on the basis of their extremity alone, but extremists are more prone to the arrogance of presuming greater enlightenment. Dawkins is the first example of this vice that springs to mind, actually, but that’s because I take special interest in him. Quite likely Pastor Steven Anderson is a good example as well, based on what little I’ve seen of him.

    In short, the trick is in recognising that one’s views might be right or wrong, and in giving other people the opportunity to be right or wrong on their own efforts — primarily because that’s how you would also like to be treated. Sometimes conflict is inevitable: we can only live under one set of laws, and they can be quite contentious. Even so, as a wise man once said, “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” That includes respecting the rights of others to be completely wrong about some really important ideas.

  10. TFBW – “Rambow can only make the assessment that the scriptures are full of horrors by elevating his own popular-liberal sentiments to the level of Gospel Truth.”

    No, there is a much simpler method of making this assessment, read the texts.

    Mohammad instructed his followers directly, explicitly, and by his example to invade, conquer, murder, extort, rape, rob, and enslave. He further instructed explicitly that a wife is to be beaten into obedience, a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, homosexuals are to be executed as are blasphemers, critics, and apostates. The head of religion is also to be the head of state in a theocracy aptly described in modern terms as a brutal fascistic theocratic dictatorship.

    These are not mere “popular-liberal sentiments”, they are textual facts one need only read to confirm.

    The Jews of the the OT, for their part, used an even more brutal form of conquest, total annihilation. The Jews of the OT were utterly genocidal, except when they kept the virgin girls for themselves. On the plus side, these instructions were geographically limited. There was no Jewish expansionist mandate beyond the invasion theft of what Jews then re-named Israel. Their bizarre system of brutal laws is also in the plain texts for the reading with over 600 commandments to be followed.

    Fast forward to the days as told in the stories of Jesus we find quite a different set of instructions. Jesus said don’t throw stones, submit to your masters, pay your taxes to the non-believer government, turn the other cheek, love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you. Clearly, the message of Jesus as written in the texts is a polar opposite message as compared to Muhammad’s to come.

    New atheists like Harris and Hirsi Ali have gone out of their way to point out these textual facts and more than a few atheists have openly urged Muslims to convert to Christianity if shedding the irrationality of religion altogether is a personal bridge too far.

    Fundamentalism per se is not the problem, rather, the problem is the fundamentals. The fundamentals of Christianity, while equally irrational as compared to Islam, are orders of magnitude less dangerous to world peace and my personal security and thus highly preferable if one wishes to engage in religion at all.

    Thus, I find your limitation of assessment method assertion to be without merit.

    However, I would like to say the following statement of yours was quite incisive and saved me a great deal of writing!
    “the core issue must therefore be that the teachings of scripture are inherently bad, and moderate religion papers over that badness in a dangerous way.”

    When I read “his same logic would make him (as a environmentalist liberal who supports animal rights) partly responsible for animal rights terrorism, eco-terrorism, and the anti-free speech efforts of the Regressive Left.” posted by the author of the above article I was thinking much the same, that the analogies are invalid because they lack the texts considered to be holy.

    The moderate religious can be fairly argued to be contributing to fundamentalism by preparing large populations to accept the religious texts, and once those texts are accepted fundamentalists who take the time and commitment to actually read and put them into practice transition to acts of horrible brutality because the texts are inherently horribly brutal in their plain text reading.

    No such pathway from peaceful moderation to violent fundamentalism exists in the analogies presented because there are no inherently violent holy texts in those movements waiting to be discovered, read, believed, and put into devastating action.

  11. TFBW says:

    @Stardusty Psyche: thanks for the feedback. I’m glad that I’ve anticipated objections and encapsulated them neatly in my otherwise lengthy analysis. You seem to have misunderstood the thrust of the part of my comment you quoted, however. You said:

    These are not mere “popular-liberal sentiments”, they are textual facts one need only read to confirm.

    The “popular-liberal sentiments” to which I refer are not the scriptures, but rather the implicit moral framework by which a party promoting the “scripture is the problem” thesis judges the scriptures to be bad. In order to make a moral evaluation of something, such as a religious text, one requires a moral standard against which the text is to be judged. In order to reach the conclusion, “the teachings of scripture are inherently bad,” one must have an a priori idea about what is good and what is bad. For a critic like Rambow, his own popular-liberal sentiments are what provide that guidance. Thus, for example, Rambow knows that prescribing the death penalty for homosexual intercourse is morally monstrous, because he knows that there’s nothing wrong with homosexual intercourse as such, so it’s a death penalty for something that’s not even wrong. And how does he know there’s nothing wrong with homosexual intercourse? Because it’s a component of popular-liberal sentiment.

    The situation is actually quite symmetric here, and perhaps I haven’t made that sufficiently clear. A religious fundamentalist might declare a popular-liberal sentiment like “there’s nothing wrong with homosexual intercourse” to be false, and may cite scripture for support. Conversely, someone who holds to popular-liberal sentiments will declare the scriptures to be wrong (and evil) for saying what they say. In each case, one party is using the moral standard to which they subscribe in order to pass judgement on the other. The only substantial difference (at this level of detail) is that one is written, while the other is an unwritten social norm, thus harder to pin down and more prone to change, depending on who has the most effective propaganda at the time.

    In other words, when a critic like Rambow rails against the evils of scripture, he’s saying, “my (unofficial, implicit, personal) religion is right and yours is wrong” — no more, no less. Atheists aren’t impressed when members of other religions make this assertion; it should come as no surprise that the feeling is mutual.

    No such pathway from peaceful moderation to violent fundamentalism exists in the analogies presented because there are no inherently violent holy texts in those movements waiting to be discovered, read, believed, and put into devastating action.

    Experience shows that the lack of such texts does not prevent violent extremism, and it’s a matter of record here (thanks to Rambow) that even weird Christian extremists like Pastor Steven Anderson can be constrained in their violence by scripture, so the focus on scripture as the problem still comes across as a post-hoc rationalisation of prejudice rather than good reasoning. I don’t dispute that there are violent scriptures (akin to secular equivalents like the Communist Manifesto), but the evaluation must be made on a case by case basis.

    Also, “it’s wrong because my sentiments say so,” is not an objective basis for criticism. You’re welcome to express your distaste, of course, but assertions of evilness serve only to emphasise that you have a religion of your own, and you are fundamentalist about it, whether it has a written scripture or not.

  12. Michael says:

    TFBW:

    If we are to understand this as the core of Rambow’s claim, then there is a reason to restrict the focus to religion, although not necessarily a terribly legitimate one when all is said and done. The focus is restricted to religion because religion has scripture. Specifically, in fact, it’s the Bible that’s the problem. The Bible, you see, promotes all sorts of atrocities — a reference to Leviticus 20:13 follows here as sure as night follows day. Moderate folks know to ignore all the atrocious stuff, but they enable the fundamentalist extremists who don’t know not to take it literally.

    That, to me, seems to be a fair representation of the objection, and it means that parallels drawn with eco-terrorism and other forms of secular extremism miss the mark, at least at first glance. Secular extremists aren’t inspired by divine scripture, and secular moderates don’t lend conceptual support to bad scriptures in the way that religious moderates do.

    I would view this as a distinction without a difference. I would consider it significant if it were true that the human brain was hardware and the scripture was software. But I don’t think it accurate to view scripture as some type of code script that gets plugged into a brain and then determines the behavior of the human. Like it or not, we all bring a certain interpretative framework to the reading of scripture, which explains the diversity of views within the Christian church. Ultimately what you have is not scripture by itself, but ideas about scripture and its meaning. This, in my mind, is not really different from ideas about the environment or ideas about animal well-being.

    What’s more, I just don’t see how moderates ” enable the fundamentalist extremists who don’t know not to take it literally.” Fundamentalist extremists don’t look to moderates for any form of validation. In fact, there is nothing a moderate could do or say to change the extreme fundamentalist approach, since the latter dismisses the former. For example,” Pastor” Steven Anderson thinks only the KJV of the Bible is the correct one. And I’ll bet he can get really nasty when insisting on this. How exactly did moderates enable this view?

  13. TFBW says:

    I would view this as a distinction without a difference.

    True, but those who hold to the enablement theory (such as Rambow) assume that the difference exists, so it’s important to do the necessary analysis to show otherwise.

  14. TFBW – “The “popular-liberal sentiments” to which I refer are not the scriptures, but rather the implicit moral framework by which a party promoting the “scripture is the problem” thesis judges the scriptures to be bad.”
    Indeed I judge conquest invasion killing to rob, rape, enslave, subjugate, and extort to be bad. That judgement is itself subjective and cannot be proved to an absolute certainty. However, if I postulate these things are bad, and the basic reliability of the human senses, and that meanings are discoverable by reading, then I can, within that postulated framework, objectively conclude that the scriptures attributed to the recitations of Muhammad and recordings of his life actions are bad, since they objectively contain those bad aspects.

    However, for the person who presupposes that all things Muhammad said and did are in accordance with Allah and therefore by definition good, some individuals will conclude that robing and raping and killing in accordance with textual Islam is therefore good. Thus the grave danger of moderate Islam in paving the way to acceptance of debauchery as mandated by the almighty and therefore good.

    “Atheists aren’t impressed when members of other religions make this assertion; it should come as no surprise that the feeling is mutual.”
    Indeed, but fortunately we atheists have the fundamental sense of empathy most humans feel for each other on our side. Even most Muslims are repulsed by the debauchery that is textual Islam and practice a form of dissidence, treating the texts as a buffet to be picked and chosen from.

    “Experience shows that the lack of such texts does not prevent violent extremism,”
    That is a converse argument that does not invalidate my original argument. The mere fact that there are other mental pathways to violence does not mean the moderate Islam to violent Islam pathway does not exist.

    ” even weird Christian extremists like Pastor Steven Anderson can be constrained in their violence by scripture, so the focus on scripture as the problem still comes across as a post-hoc rationalisation of prejudice rather than good reasoning.”
    Here you conflate very different scriptures in a grossly over generalized statement, as though scripture is some kind of homogenous single mass.

    “Also, “it’s wrong because my sentiments say so,” is not an objective basis for criticism.”
    I never made a claim to absolute objectivity in moral judgement. I know of no moral absolutes.

    My claim is that if one postulates that conquest invasion murder rape torture robbery enslavement extortion are wrong then it can be objectively shown that textual Islam is wrong because textual Islam objectively prescribes these actions.

    “you have a religion of your own”
    If I have a religion then everything is a religion and the word religion loses its meaning. The number 1. meaning according to Oxford is:
    “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods:”

    You can ascribe whatever meanings you want to words if you wish, but if you choose to ignore the meanings most others ascribe to those same words you will only create a communication wall between yourself and everybody else.

  15. Kevin says:

    “Indeed, but fortunately we atheists have the fundamental sense of empathy most humans feel for each other on our side.”

    I don’t think humanity evolved empathy any time within the last 5000 years or so, so we can safely be assured that the people of ancient Israel and the surrounding areas also felt empathy. So now it comes down to the assumption that 21st century Western values are morally superior, despite both modern humans and humans thousands of years ago having the trait of empathy.

    I for one remain unimpressed with Western morality, which in even its flawed state is entirely propped up by technology that allows basic needs to be rather easily met for most. Just see what most people would do if the power grid failed for a few months. We as a society might remember what empathy was once it was over.

  16. Michael – “What’s more, I just don’t see how moderates ” enable the fundamentalist extremists who don’t know not to take it literally.” Fundamentalist extremists don’t look to moderates for any form of validation. In fact, there is nothing a moderate could do or say to change the extreme fundamentalist approach, since the latter dismisses the former. For example,” Pastor” Steven Anderson thinks only the KJV of the Bible is the correct one. And I’ll bet he can get really nasty when insisting on this. How exactly did moderates enable this view?”

    I don’t actually know the true life story of Steven Anderson, but if some kindly moderate folks raised him with the notion that the Bible is the inerrant word of god that would be an enabling action of moderates. It is logical that the original Greek texts of the NT are the most accurate representation of this supposed word of god, and presumably Anderson considers the KJV to be the most accurate translation.

    A Qur’an is not considered legitimate unless the Arabic appears side by side with the translation to other language. Moderates play a key enabling role to fundamentalists by teaching them from their very youngest days that the Qur’an is the inerrant word of Allah, recited perfectly by Muhammad from the voice of Gabriell, and later written down precisely in Arabic from these recitations of Muhammad. That notion is deeply engrained in Muslim children so early and so consistently that it becomes an embedded aspect of their psyche.

    This lays the foundation for fundamentalism. I mean, who would not want to study the word of the almighty in its most minute detail? The full text of the Qur’an then becomes a landmine, a set of debauched instructions lying in wait to be discovered, believed, and implemented to devastating effect.

    The logic is inescapable. Moderate parents and a whole social upbringing deeply inculcated this notion of the Qur’an as the perfect word of god. In the Qur’an it says Muhammad is the exemplary man. Therefore, read the Hadith to learn the example to be followed. All the things we find so horrible about Sharia in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State, and all over the Muslim world are simply putting this process into action.

    Western Muslim parents are understandably dismayed when their children go off to fight for the caliphate with all its debauchery, and as a parent I have a lot of empathy for how painful that must be, but they unwittingly laid the groundwork for hijrah to the IS by telling their children the books are the word of god. Their children read those books and took them at their word, and thus are being lead to their own violent deaths.

  17. Kevin says:

    The only way so-called “moderates” can keep violent or oppressive extremism from happening is to completely abandon their beliefs. No more believing in God. No more caring for animal rights. No more civil rights movement. No more pro-life position. No more opposing Donald Trump. No more left wing political movements. And the list goes on.

    Extremists are responsible for themselves, and no one else is responsible for them.

  18. FZM says:

    Indeed I judge conquest invasion killing to rob, rape, enslave, subjugate, and extort to be bad. That judgement is itself subjective and cannot be proved to an absolute certainty. However, if I postulate these things are bad, and the basic reliability of the human senses, and that meanings are discoverable by reading, then I can, within that postulated framework, objectively conclude that the scriptures attributed to the recitations of Muhammad and recordings of his life actions are bad, since they objectively contain those bad aspects.

    This doesn’t seem to be saying much more than that, given the basic reliability of the human senses and that meanings are discoverable by reading, the Koran teaches things which some people (subjectively) feel to be bad.

    I don’t think it touches on TFBW’s main point much unless an assumption is made that because some individuals have a kind of feeling that some type of behaviour is bad or wrong, the behaviour in question is therefore bad or wrong. Some further argument is required to prove that the things the Koran teaches which some individuals feel are bad are in fact, in some more objective, less personal, way, identifiable as bad, even if it can’t be proved with 100% certainty.

    Also, claiming that the Koran teaches people to rape, rob, subjugate and extort could be seen as begging the question. This is because when the Koran in certain circumstances authorises taking someone’s property, forcing someone to have sex against their will and so on it presuambly states that these things are not intrinsically immoral acts and when done in line with Koranic teaching do not equate with theft, rape etc.

    Indeed, but fortunately we atheists have the fundamental sense of empathy most humans feel for each other on our side. Even most Muslims are repulsed by the debauchery that is textual Islam and practice a form of dissidence, treating the texts as a buffet to be picked and chosen from.

    I suspect that the idea that most Muslims are repulsed by the ‘debauchery that is textual Islam and practice a form of dissidence’ is false. From what I have heard the Koran and the Hadiths contain a range of teachings and are not just a list of commands to rob, kill rape etc. So, the fact that the teaching of the texts can be understood in different ways arises from their actual content.

    Further, the idea that there is a universal sense of empathy in humans which means that some of the more controversial behaviours and actions authorised by the Koran have been considered always morally wrong and unacceptable seems very false.

  19. FZM says:

    I don’t actually know the true life story of Steven Anderson, but if some kindly moderate folks raised him with the notion that the Bible is the inerrant word of god that would be an enabling action of moderates.

    I guess to a lot of Christians (Catholics, Orthodox for example) the idea that the Bible is the inerrant word of god whose teaching and meaning is evident and easy to understand/interpret for every individual who reads it would seem immoderate in itself.

    Besides, if Pastor Anderson was so strongly attached to the Greek text of the NT as the inerrant word of God it seems hard to understand how he could be in favour of any death penalty for homosexual acts ever being carried out because to do so would seemingly contradict Jesus own teaching in the NT.

    I’m also thinking that in the past, on the basis of arguments that religious, specifically, Christian, belief is dangerous and encourages immoral actions and that eradicating religious belief and establishing a wholly secular state would improve society significantly, militant atheists have engaged in systematic robbery, extorsion, torture, murder etc. So perhaps moderate atheists who believe that religious belief is dangerous or socially harmful and something whose influence needs to be resisted and argued against on moral grounds are helping to create the context in which extremist atheists canbe inspired to engage in violence and oppression of those who hold religious beliefs.

  20. Kevin – “The only way so-called “moderates” can keep violent or oppressive extremism from happening is to completely abandon their beliefs. No more believing in God. No more caring for animal rights. No more civil rights movement. No more pro-life position. No more opposing Donald Trump. No more left wing political movements. And the list goes on.”

    I have a simpler suggestion. Moderates should become familiar with what their holy books actually contain. If you must believe in the speculation of god at least be clear to your children which bits of your holy books you reject and why.

    Certainly I think your kids would be far better off if you did abandon your belief in god altogether, but they are your kids and it is not up to me to try to dictate to you what you teach them.

    If you tell your kids “every word in this book is absolutely true and good because it is the word of the almighty”, and then your kids read that the prophet did himself and also instructed his men to invade, kill, rob, rape, enslave, extort, and conquer, then do not be surprised when your children grow up, read those passages, and fly off to a newly established holy order that is actively doing just exactly what the holy book prescribes. And yes, it is reasonable to fault such parents because this sequence of events is foreseeable.

    As an alternative, if you reject those parts of the texts and you have specific apologetic reasons for that rejection teach that from the start, rather than a blanket statement of wholesale literal acceptance of a set of books containing landmines of debauchery just waiting for your children to step on.

  21. FZM – “I suspect that the idea that most Muslims are repulsed by the ‘debauchery that is textual Islam and practice a form of dissidence’ is false. From what I have heard the Koran and the Hadiths contain a range of teachings and are not just a list of commands to rob, kill rape etc.”
    Indeed, that is where the buffet style of religion is employed. Taken together, the Qur’an and Hadith contain a wide variety of messages. This is largely due to the conciliatory nature of Muhammad when he was the leader of a small and weak band of followers. As his power grew his messages became increasingly violent as a trend until he was murdered by one of his female victims of his depravity.

    To add to the confusion the Qur’an is not in date order, rather, in length of verse order. There is some trend that makes later verses longer and therefor placed first, but the verses are actually quite scrambled up.

    In one place Muhammad tells us there is no compulsion in religion, yet in another place he says to kill apostates. So the moderate just sort of bleeps over the nasty bits and lives in a kind of dreamworld where the deadly parts do not exist. The fundamentalist goes about the scholarly business of figuring out the date order of the texts and discovers that Muhammad became increasingly violent right up to his death. The conclusion is obvious, that Allah has declared the violence of Sharia and the Islamic State to be good. Hence the debauchery that comes from the fundamentals of Islam.

    “Further, the idea that there is a universal sense of empathy in humans which means that some of the more controversial behaviours and actions authorised by the Koran have been considered always morally wrong and unacceptable seems very false.”
    Ok, but not my claim. I said “the fundamental sense of empathy most humans feel for each other”. Most is not universal.

    “Besides, if Pastor Anderson was so strongly attached to the Greek text of the NT as the inerrant word of God it seems hard to understand how he could be in favour of any death penalty for homosexual acts ever being carried out because to do so would seemingly contradict Jesus own teaching in the NT. ”
    Yes, it does amaze me frequently that people who claim to know the bible seem to just stop at the OT or somehow miss the bits in the NT when Jesus said don’t throw stones, turn the other cheek, love your enemy, what god has put together let no man put asunder…

    “militant atheists have engaged in systematic robbery, extorsion, torture, murder etc. So perhaps moderate atheists who believe that religious belief is dangerous or socially harmful and something whose influence needs to be resisted and argued against on moral grounds are helping to create the context in which extremist atheists canbe inspired to engage in violence and oppression of those who hold religious beliefs.”
    Sorry, I just don’t see how that follows. There are no holy books of atheism. Even if on page 127 of The God Delusion we found instructions to commit debauchery it would not matter much because the essence of skeptical atheism is that there are no authorities, no books to be accepted uncritically, no authors presupposed to be infallible. All propositions are open to fault finding.

  22. TFBW says:

    @Stardusty Psyche:

    … if I postulate these things are bad … then I can, within that postulated framework, objectively conclude that the scriptures … are bad, since they objectively contain those bad aspects.

    Conversely, if someone postulates that some scripture or other is true, then they can, within that postulated framework, objectively conclude the exact opposite.

    Similarly, if I postulate that all elephants are pink, then it can be objectively shown that Nelly is pink, because Nelly is an elephant. The logic is impeccable, but it doesn’t tell us whether Nelly is actually pink, even if Nelly is actually an elephant.

    Clearly we are going to have to do better than merely postulating morality.

    The mere fact that there are other mental pathways to violence does not mean the moderate Islam to violent Islam pathway does not exist.

    I’m not making any claim of that sort. The claim I was addressing was, “no such pathway from peaceful moderation to violent fundamentalism exists in the analogies presented because there are no inherently violent holy texts in those movements.” My point is that extremism occurs even in the absence of holy texts. Thus, your explanation of the form “X because Y” is invalid because X is counterfactual.

    Here you conflate very different scriptures in a grossly over generalized statement, as though scripture is some kind of homogenous single mass.

    I entirely agree that scripture (and religion) ought not to be treated in such a manner, and the invalidity of such a generalisation was the exact point I was trying to illustrate at the time, so I don’t follow your criticism.

  23. Michael says:

    I don’t actually know the true life story of Steven Anderson, but if some kindly moderate folks raised him with the notion that the Bible is the inerrant word of god that would be an enabling action of moderates. It is logical that the original Greek texts of the NT are the most accurate representation of this supposed word of god, and presumably Anderson considers the KJV to be the most accurate translation.

    This linear view is incredibly oversimplistic. In reality, there are multiple trajectories from such a moderate upbringing. A child raised with the notion that the Bible is the inerrant word of god could just as easily become an atheist, for example, when they discover a literal reading of Genesis conflicts with Earth science and evolution. In fact, there are dozens of trajectories. The one occupied by Anderson seems to be quite rare, given his church only has about 100 members and about half of them are children. If he was somehow representative of Christianity, atheist activists would not have to come up with some “blame the moderates for extremists” argument. They would just point to the mass of extremists. They feel the propagandistic need to blame moderates for extremists precisely because the latter are so rare.

    So why would you cherry pick the one rare trajectory over all the others? Because you are engaged in confirmation bias – trying to prop up what you already believe.

    Also, the point in my blog entry stands. You could make the same case that teaching a child that animals have rights or teaching them that we have a responsibility to protect and/or save the planet is the enabling action that leads to eco-terroism and animal rights terrorism.


    Western Muslim parents are understandably dismayed when their children go off to fight for the caliphate with all its debauchery, and as a parent I have a lot of empathy for how painful that must be, but they unwittingly laid the groundwork for hijrah to the IS by telling their children the books are the word of god. Their children read those books and took them at their word, and thus are being lead to their own violent deaths.

    Again, this is oversimplistic. One thing I have noticed about the Muslim terrorists is that they have lapped up and commonly regurgitate anti-American and anti-Israeli propaganda and political views. Can you point to a Muslim terrorist who was also not “pro-Palestinian”? It seems to me that hating on America as the evil, capitalist, imperialistic power (“blood for oil”) and hating on Israel as “the oppressor of the Palestinian people” are necessary enabling ingredients for extremist Islamic terrorism. Come to think of it, many of the Muslim terrorists have been college-educated here in the West. Isn’t hating on Israel fairly common among the universities?

  24. Ryan says:

    Stardusty Psyche,

    Let’s see how this works: I postulate that Stardusty Psyche is a blithering fool, therefore within that postulated framework I can objectively conclude that Stardusty Psyche is a blithering fool. That’s a very small echo chamber isn’t it? It seems that I have blatantly turned my own subjective opinion into an objective fact in the course of a few words.

    I think you may have created a new logical fallacy, Stardusty: argumentum convertenda opinione propria in realitatem. “Argument by turning one’s own opinion into reality”. Or argumentum dicendo opinionem propriam esse realitatem. “Argument by saying one’s own opinion is reality”.

  25. TFBW – “Clearly we are going to have to do better than merely postulating morality.”
    What else is there? You may wish to do better, but I have yet to hear or read of any better. But please do share with us your proposed moral absolutes.

    ” My point is that extremism occurs even in the absence of holy texts”
    That does not demonstrate that any “such” pathway exists. The pathway originally in question was the contribution of moderates in the nurturing of fundamentalists by teaching the blanket acceptance of holy books that in fact contain landmines of debauchery waiting to be discovered, believed, and acted upon. No “such” pathway exists absent such holy books.

  26. Michael – “You could make the same case that teaching a child that animals have rights or teaching them that we have a responsibility to protect and/or save the planet is the enabling action that leads to eco-terroism and animal rights terrorism.”
    If you had a book on ecology that contained passages exhorting believers to engage in Eco-terrorism and you taught your children that every word in that book is true and holy and the word of the almighty then yes, that would be an enabling action to Eco-terrorism.

    “Isn’t hating on Israel fairly common among the universities?”
    Sorry, I just don’t follow that whole paragraph, but to the last question, no, not as a people. Israel is an apartheid state in how it has structured its control of the occupied and surrounded territories it operates as bantustans. Many Israelis and many Jews worldwide have the same opinion. This is not “Israel hating”, just taking a realistic look at the policies of Likud government.

  27. Ryan – “I think you may have created a new logical fallacy, Stardusty: argumentum convertenda opinione propria in realitatem. “Argument by turning one’s own opinion into reality”. Or argumentum dicendo opinionem propriam esse realitatem. “Argument by saying one’s own opinion is reality”.”
    I am indeed honored to receive this recognition that will undoubtedly require the re-writing of every philosophical compendium being actively maintained!!!

    But, unfortunately, my notoriety is destined to be short lived. You see, my friend, geometry precedes me by millennia, for example. We postulate that 2 points define a line, and 3 points define a plane. Given a few such postulates we can construct a whole system of rational thought and objectively prove, within this postulated framework. a great many geometric theorems.

    However wonderfully objective these geometric proofs may seem, we must always bear in mind that they are not absolutely proved because they rest upon unproved basic postulates.

    So, my detractors here may reduce my statements to trivial self references, but there is a bit more to what I am saying than just that. Nealy all of humanity makes basically the same postulates I propose, in terms of avoidance of harm and promotion of human flourishing as “good”…rape, robbery, murder, enslavement, and extortion as “bad”.

    If you care to join me and the vast majority of humanity in these postulates then I can show you objectively that textual Islam is “bad”.

  28. TFBW says:

    Stardusty Psyche said:

    What else is there?

    Like that’s my problem! The absence of a moral framework does not validate your postulates — it just makes them entirely arbitrary. It seems to me that you have to abandon the idea of good and evil completely, except as expressions of personal taste, unless you have something real to pin them on.

    A theist can appeal to God as the definitive source of morality. You can (and obviously do) disagree with that, but you’ve offered precisely nothing to replace Him, and yet you suppose you can still have some kind of moral truths. All you manage to obtain, however, are postulates with no more solid grounds than your emotional disposition. Why should anyone else be governed by your sentiments, even if they happen to agree with some of them — even if some of them are extremely common? You certainly wouldn’t accept my sentiments as a source of authority, would you?

    That does not demonstrate that any “such” pathway exists.

    You lack the grounds to make this claim, as you don’t have a moral theory which is actually capable of treating a statement like, “holy books that in fact contain landmines of debauchery,” as an actual matter of fact, rather than a matter of opinion or taste. I can’t even properly disagree with you until you make your argument coherent.

  29. FZM says:

    What else is there? You may wish to do better, but I have yet to hear or read of any better. But please do share with us your proposed moral absolutes.

    You don’t really need absolutes. Just some argument to show that the moral claims you make have some truth to them or some basis beyond your own feelings. Without that I don’t see how your feeling (or postulation) that something is morally wrong produces a moral norm which other people who do not share your feelings aught to recognise or abide by.

    Otherwise it looks like there’s the risk of what Ryan described:

    Stardusty: argumentum convertenda opinione propria in realitatem. “Argument by turning one’s own opinion into reality”. Or argumentum dicendo opinionem propriam esse realitatem. “Argument by saying one’s own opinion is reality”.

    That does not demonstrate that any “such” pathway exists.

    The ‘pathway’ seems relatively clear; the belief that there is a need to take action to change things that are morally wrong, or that there is a need to act to increase/maximise possible goodness. Then disagreement among people about what is morally wrong and to what degree, what actions will increase or maximise goodness etc. When this basic dynamic exists, the emergence of ‘extremism’ is a possiblity.

    The pathway originally in question was the contribution of moderates in the nurturing of fundamentalists by teaching the blanket acceptance of holy book.

    I don’t know enough about the Koran but teaching blanket acceptance of the Bible would seem to lead simply to confusion and paralysis of action. Interpretation is required to extract and frame teachings which can then have some practical application.

    For example:

    If you had a book on ecology that contained passages exhorting believers to engage in Eco-terrorism and you taught your children that every word in that book is true and holy and the word of the almighty

    In respect of the Bible the analogy would seem to be ‘if you had a book on ecology that contained various historical-theological narratives appearing to show divine approval for eco-terrorism at certain times and places in the history of one nation and then the same book contained later narratives in which divine condemnation and prohibition of eco-terrorism was described, and you taught your children that every word in that book is true and holy and the word of the almighty’… would you be enabling eco-extremism?

  30. TFBW – “you have to abandon the idea of good and evil completely, except as expressions of personal taste,”
    Ok.

    “yet you suppose you can still have some kind of moral truths”
    Au contraire, mon ami. I assert no moral absolutes. I know of no moral absolutes. To the best of my knowledge there are no moral absolutes. If you can cite one, or more, I would indeed be grateful.

    “Why should anyone else be governed by your sentiments,”
    We each do whatever we want, that is the only thing we can do. I have no expectation you will be governed by my wants.

    “you don’t have a moral theory which is actually capable of treating a statement like, “holy books that in fact contain landmines of debauchery,””
    If you and I can agree that rape, robbery, murder, and extortion are “debauchery” then I can show you objectively that Islamic texts contain incitements to “debauchery”. If you think rape, robbery, murder, and extortion are “good” then the texts of Islam can be objectively demonstrated to meet that standard of “good”.

  31. FZM says:

    Nealy all of humanity makes basically the same postulates I propose, in terms of avoidance of harm and promotion of human flourishing as “good”…rape, robbery, murder, enslavement, and extortion as “bad”.

    What you say here appears compatible with textual islam and textual Islam may agree with you; from what I gather it claims that it is all about the avoidance of harm and promotion of human flourishing. It’s just the meaning and understanding of these terms in textual Islam may be different to the meaning you give them.

    I agree that there is a general consensus that rape, robbery, murder, enslavement and extortion are ‘bad’, there seems less of a consensus about when killing other humans constitutes murder, in what circumstances taking over the property of another without their consent constitutes theft in the moral sense, what constitutes enslavement and when it is a moral evil and not an economic neccessity, when forced sexual intercourse is rape in the moral/legal sense and so on.

    I also suspect that most people have believed/assumed that rape, robbery, murder etc. were bad for reasons other than that they just had a ‘feeling’ that they were.

  32. FZM – “You don’t really need absolutes. Just some argument to show that the moral claims you make have some truth to them or some basis beyond your own feelings.”
    Distinction without a difference.

    “In respect of the Bible the analogy would seem to be ‘if you had a book on ecology that contained various historical-theological narratives appearing to show divine approval for eco-terrorism at certain times and places in the history of one nation and then the same book contained later narratives in which divine condemnation and prohibition of eco-terrorism was described, and you taught your children that every word in that book is true and holy and the word of the almighty’… would you be enabling eco-extremism?”
    Indeed, which is why I, Harris, and Hirsi Ali (not that I consider myself in their professional league) much prefer Christianity as a far lesser evil with respect to Islam.

    Jesus largely abrogated the OT among Christians but nobody has successfully abrogated Muhammad among Muslims, the Ahmadiyya notwithstanding.

  33. FZM – “I agree that there is a general consensus that rape, robbery, murder, enslavement and extortion are ‘bad’”
    Not in Islam. Per Muhammad, the almighty says these things are “good”, therefore the IS.

    Textual facts.

    Facts of the world we live in at this moment.

  34. Ryan says:

    Harm is a loaded word, it can’t be said enough… harm is a loaded word. Most people would probably agree that bad in some way or another constitutes harm, which means that defining bad as harm is a circular definition and doesn’t help us make any progress. Can we objectively define harm? Most atheists I talk to assume the concept is simple and everyone agrees on the meaning, but that is very far from the truth. Is it merely physical pain? Emotional pain? Is it possible for a person to feel harmed and not be justified in that feeling? If so, how do we determine that? Harm is a loaded word.

  35. TFBW says:

    Stardusty Psyche says:

    I assert no moral absolutes. I know of no moral absolutes. To the best of my knowledge there are no moral absolutes.

    In which case the entirety of your position can be summarised, without loss of force, as, “I don’t like what Islam teaches.” Believe me, nobody said you had to like it, so we have no disagreement.

    … or at least we ought to have no disagreement, if you would actually present your case within its legitimate bounds. Unfortunately, you have a tendency to use phrases like, “holy books that in fact contain landmines of debauchery,” which is exactly the sort of thing someone would say if they believed in moral absolutes. You profess not to believe in moral absolutes, but you use the language of a moral absolutist. It’s a confusingly mixed message.

  36. Ilíon says:

    Stardusty Psyche:I assert no moral absolutes. I know of no moral absolutes. To the best of my knowledge there are no moral absolutes.

    TFBW:… or at least we ought to have no disagreement, if you would actually present your case within its legitimate bounds. Unfortunately, you have a tendency to use phrases like, “holy books that in fact contain landmines of debauchery,” which is exactly the sort of thing someone would say if they believed in moral absolutes. You profess not to believe in moral absolutes, but you use the language of a moral absolutist. It’s a confusingly mixed message.

    Exactly.

    Deniers of moral reality *always* use the language — and thought categories — of moral absolutism. In fact, they tend to be even more absolutist about the moral obligations they assert others have (even as they deny that there are any moral obligations) than normal people are; that is, normal people who admit to moral absolutes tend to realize that *how* a moral absolute applies depends upon the situation, whereas moral denialists tend not.

    Stardusty Psyche:I assert no moral absolutes. I know of no moral absolutes. To the best of my knowledge there are no moral absolutes.

    Even should one ever find a denier of moral reality who doesn’t explicitly assert moral obligations (for others) even as he denies that there are any, all his arguments implicitly assert that there is a moral obligation — for *you* — to not assert that there are any moral obligations.

    Moral relativism is intellectual hypocrisy, top to bottom.

  37. Michael says:

    If you had a book on ecology that contained passages exhorting believers to engage in Eco-terrorism and you taught your children that every word in that book is true and holy and the word of the almighty then yes, that would be an enabling action to Eco-terrorism.

    All you are doing is pointing out different forms of enablement.

    Sorry, I just don’t follow that whole paragraph, but to the last question, no, not as a people. Israel is an apartheid state in how it has structured its control of the occupied and surrounded territories it operates as bantustans. Many Israelis and many Jews worldwide have the same opinion. This is not “Israel hating”, just taking a realistic look at the policies of Likud government.

    I’m sure many, probably all, members of ISIS would agree with your assesment of Israel as an apartheid state. Anti-Israel and anti-American political views seem to be just as involved in Islamic terrorism as anything found in the Quran.

  38. John says:

    Illion, what do you exactly mean when you say:

    ”all his arguments implicitly assert that there is a moral obligation — for *you* — to not assert that there are any moral obligations.”

    I think it seems the moral relativist is simply trying to make people act more consistently with reality when he is trying to show that moral relativism is the truth, not making a moral judgement about it.

    And, at least to me, it doesn’t seem as if there really is a moral demand that the relativist is either knowingly or unknowingly implying when arguing for moral relativism in any way.

  39. SteveK says:

    John,
    Pardon the interruption…..

    The moral relativist, I guarantee you, will insist that everyone is obligated to *willingly* act/think consistent with reality and consistent with what is true. That’s the point of them arguing with you. They demand action.

    They will insist that the person who *willfully* does the opposite (pursues lies) is an immoral person in the sense that they are lying, deceiving, perpetuating lies, brainwashing, etc. All of these terms have a moral component to them. Take the moral component away and willfully seeking after lies is equal with willfully seeking after truth. Argument becomes pointless except as a way to express yourself.

  40. SteveK says:

    John,
    Here’s some dialog to put what I said in perspective:

    Relativist: My argument wins, and your view is false. I’ve proven that there are no moral absolutes.

    Me: Okay, you really got me there with that awesome argument. You’ve proven beyond any doubt that I really am choosing to live for what is false (moral absolutes). I’m living a different life than you, but so what?

    Relativist: (foaming at the mouth) But, but, but…your way of living is WRONG! Believing in falsehoods as if they are true is WRONG! Spreading those lies to your children as if they are true is WRONG! Voting on the basis of those lies being true is WRONG!

  41. Ilion says:

    John:Illion[sic], what do you exactly mean when you say: …

    I exactly mean what I said, exactly … and what SteveK said following.

    I mean *exactly* that “Moral relativism is intellectual hypocrisy, top to bottom.”

  42. Kevin says:

    “Moral relativism is intellectual hypocrisy”

    We could in theory have some loon who has his own personal moral code, does not apply it to anyone else, and does not mind when others treat him (or others) in manners in which he personally would not behave. This would be moral relativism minus hypocrisy.

    Of course, 100 percent of self-described moral relativists utterly fail in upholding their own standard, so the intent behind your post is quite accurate.

  43. TFBW – ” The absence of a moral framework does not validate your postulates. You lack the grounds to make this claim, as you don’t have a moral theory which is actually capable of treating a statement like, “holy books that in fact contain landmines of debauchery,” as an actual matter of fact

    Indeed, that is why they are postulates, because no human has everr stated a moral absolute that iI have ever heard. Care to state a moral absolute for me?

    “yet you suppose you can still have some kind of moral truths.”
    Not at all. All I have are moral postulates. I make no claim they are absolutely true.

    “why should anyone else be governed by your sentiments”
    I have no such expectation. I only seek common ground with my fellow human beings.

    “You certainly wouldn’t accept my sentiments as a source of authority, would you?”
    Indeed, I would not, nor do I see your acceptance of my authority since I assert no authority. I merely seek a degree of consensus.

    You lack the grounds to make this claim as you don’t have a moral theory which is actually capable of treating a statement like “holy books that in fact contain landmines of debauchery.” as an actual matter of fact”
    Indeed, I make that claim as a mater of moral postulate and textual fact.

    It is textually factual that taken together the Qur’an and Hadith contain vast and clear instructions to invade, conquer, rape , murder, rob , extort and enslave. If we postulate that such action are debauchery then the holy books of Islam contain landmines of debauchery.

    If you postulate rape, murder, robbery, extortion, and enslavement are good then the texts of Islam factually support that postulate.

    Which is it for you then?

  44. Michael – “I’m sure many, probably all, members of ISIS would agree with your assesment of Israel as an apartheid state”
    I am sure many, probably all, member of ISIS would agree that that sun appears to rise in the general direction of the East and is very bright to look at on a clear day. Does that make that assessment wrong?

  45. Ilion – “all his arguments implicitly assert that there is a moral obligation — for *you* — to not assert that there are any moral obligations.

    Moral relativism is intellectual hypocrisy, top to bottom.”
    Your implications are your own, not my hypocrisy.

  46. Ryan – “Can we objectively define harm? Most atheists I talk to assume the concept is simple and everyone agrees on the meaning, but that is very far from the truth.”
    If an atheist thinks harm is easily defined or can be objectively defined I doubt that person has thought about the subject in much depth.

    Harm means many different things to many different people. I think the best we can hope for is some sort of broad consensus on its meaning.

  47. TFBW says:

    Stardusty Psyche said:

    Indeed, that is why they are postulates, because no human has ever stated a moral absolute that I have ever heard. Care to state a moral absolute for me?

    You’re not making sense. A postulate is a thing suggested or assumed as true as the basis for reasoning, discussion, or belief. If you hold to moral relativism, you don’t need to postulate as far as your own morality is concerned: you can assert it as a fact, so long as it’s understood to be a fact specific to you, not to people in general. It’s trivially obvious that anyone who happens to share your moral tastes will reach the same conclusions, so you don’t need “postulates” in that area either.

    The whole term “moral postulate” suggests that there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether a particular moral claim (e.g. “rape is evil”) is actually true or false. This runs contrary to relativism, in which no such objective fact exists: a claim is true or false relative only to a particular moral judge. To postulate that “rape is evil” is to assume, for the sake of argument, that the statement “rape is evil” is true. Given that “rape is evil” does not specify a party who makes that judgement, such a postulate only makes sense if we also postulate that morality is objective. You seem to want to make such a postulate and yet assert moral relativism, which makes no sense at all.

    And what do you even mean by, “a moral absolute?” Given how badly mangled your other terminology is, I suspect that it is equally ill-defined.

  48. John says:

    SteveK:”The moral relativist, I guarantee you, will insist that everyone is obligated to *willingly* act/think consistent with reality and consistent with what is true. That’s the point of them arguing with you. They demand action.”

    I think the relativist is simply pointing to an epistemic obligation rather than a moral one.

    SteveK:”They will insist that the person who *willfully* does the opposite (pursues lies) is an immoral person in the sense that they are lying, deceiving, perpetuating lies, brainwashing, etc. All of these terms have a moral component to them. Take the moral component away and willfully seeking after lies is equal with willfully seeking after truth. Argument becomes pointless except as a way to express yourself.”

    And this could be the relativist simply saying that not following the truth is ”wrong” in the sense that it is irrational, kind of how saying 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong, not in the moral sense but in an epistemic one.

    But I admit this runs the risk of going into territory that might point out that epistemic obligation is similar to moral obligation and as such the relativist is still contradicting himself.

    Kevin:”Of course, 100 percent of self-described moral relativists utterly fail in upholding their own standard, so the intent behind your post is quite accurate.”

    So what you are saying is that the moral relativist will inevitably use absolute-like language as time goes on?And that when they encounter someone who treats them wrongly or discards their opinion as worthless and treats their opinion and themselves in a way they wouldn’t approve of and would actually fight against they will quickly return to realism?Interesting…

  49. John says:

    Another thing, related to the relative morality debate, which I unfortunately forgot to include in the my above comment, but what I’ve noticed about moral relativists is that there are some who try to think through moral relativism more consistently than others, and then they tend to say stuff such as ”Live and let live and also love and let love” and ”If it doesn’t break my back nor pick my pocket, what difference does it mean to me?” (although that is a Jefferson quote) and cases where they speak badly about other people who claim to be relativists but behave as absolutists in some moral judgements as if hypocrisy and inconsistency in terms of your beliefs at one moment and your beliefs/actions at another is actually a bad thing, almost morally wrong and not just epistemically.

    What I’m wondering is whether or not all of these sayings above can be classified as an inconsistency, as an unconsciouss betrayal of relativism, as a ”fail in upholding their own standard” and not some epistemic/reasoning mistake/error or whatnot, because if it is, it would almost certinaly prove what Kevin said:”Of course, 100 percent of self-described moral relativists utterly fail in upholding their own standard, so the intent behind your post is quite accurate.”

    Because if statements like ”Live and let live and also love and let love” can be shown without a doubt to be nothing more than another type of moral statement that assumes some type of absolutes and a type of moral realism, than this would undermine the claims relativists have about tolerance and whatnot and would turn relativism into an even more horrifying belief than I, and certainly many other people, have though of it at first.

  50. Ilíon says:

    Kevin:We could in theory have some loon who has his own personal moral code, does not apply it to anyone else, and does not mind when others treat him (or others) in manners in which he personally would not behave. This would be moral relativism minus hypocrisy.

    Soon or late, all theory must run up against reality.
    Of course, 100 percent of self-described moral relativists utterly fail in upholding their own standard, so the intent behind your post is quite accurate.

    I would put it: “… the reasoning behind my conclusion is quite accurate.

    Not only do human beings — all of them — expect-and-demand that others behave in ways they deem to be moral (especially toward themselves), but they also tend to be at the least somewhat taken aback to learn that others have different non-moral preferences to their own.

    You like peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches?! Eewww!

    And then there is the fact that in an age or culture which tries to ignore or deny actual morality, people will try to elevate all manner of non-moral preferences into moral issues.

    You serve peanut butter sandwiches! Monster!

  51. Ilíon says:

    me:… all his arguments implicitly assert that there is a moral obligation — for *you* — to not assert that there are any moral obligations. Moral relativism is intellectual hypocrisy, top to bottom.

    Stardusty Psyche:Your implications are your own, not my hypocrisy.

    Even as he attempts to deny the truth of what I said, he validates it — “You’re saying mean things about me (*) … and you *should not* do that!

    (*) I’m talking about your mindset and actions and claims

  52. SteveK says:

    John,
    “And this could be the relativist simply saying that not following the truth is ”wrong” in the sense that it is irrational, kind of how saying 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong, not in the moral sense but in an epistemic one.”

    I addressed this in the dialog comment. To find out what the relativist is charging you with, just admit you are wrong but want to continue believing it is true and living your life that way. Admitting you are wrong is following the epistemic truth.

  53. Dhay says:

    My own views on Henry Rambow and his article were given in a response two threads back, ending: “… the problem is not moderate Christians, it’s not Bibles (or even Korans); the problem is the loopy who is not happy unless he is at one extreme or the other, or both consecutively; the problem stares back at Rambow from his mirror.”

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/christophobic-activists-actually-try-to-blame-christians-for-orlando-massacre/

    *

    Quillette evidently likes Rambow’s crudely simplistic and over-dramatic thinking and writing style; it has now accepted or commissioned a second article from Rambow, a fantasy fiction short story about a PC/SJA-oppressed academic.

    http://quillette.com/2016/06/22/safe-university/

    Based on the two articles, I strongly advise Rambow not to give up the day job.

  54. Michael says:

    I am sure many, probably all, member of ISIS would agree that that sun appears to rise in the general direction of the East and is very bright to look at on a clear day. Does that make that assessment wrong?

    I don’t think there are any Muslim terrorists who try to kill Jews because the sun rises in the East. I think it has more to do with notion that Israel is an oppressive, apartheid state. Given your own political views enable Muslim terrorists, it is laughable to see you point your finger at others and try to make their views the problem.

  55. Ilion says:

    Michael:Given your own political views enable Muslim terrorists, it is laughable to see you point your finger at others and try to make their views the problem.

    Never expect intellectual consistency from:
    * Freudians
    * Darwinists
    * Marxists
    * leftists in general
    * materialists/atheists
    * moral relativists/denialists
    and the moreso the more of these boxes can be checked for a particular individual.

  56. Michael – “I think it has more to do with notion that Israel is an oppressive, apartheid state.”
    Israel simply is an apartheid state with respect to the West Bank and Gaza. Speaking of this as a “notion” is like speaking of historical British colonialism as a “notion”.

    “. Given your own political views enable Muslim terrorists,”
    So how I see Israel affects Muslim terrorists? What, do you suppose they call me up for the green light before each shooting or bombing?

  57. Ilion – “(*) I’m talking about your mindset and actions and claims”
    So now you read my mind as well. Good thing, since I have apparently lost it, perhaps you can employ your clairvoyant skills to assist me in its recovery, I shall be forever in your debt if only you would be so kind…

  58. TFBW – “The whole term “moral postulate” suggests that there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether a particular moral claim (e.g. “rape is evil”) is actually true or false”
    No, a postulate is not an objective fact, it is just something that seems to make sense but is acknowledged to be unproven, thus, provisionally accepted as a working principle for the purpose of making apparent forward progress.

    ” such a postulate only makes sense if we also postulate that morality is objective”
    Why? I get my morality from my personal sense of ought. I make no claim or even suggestion it is objective.

    If you have an objective moral truth please do share it here. I have never heard any objective moral truth. If you can name one that will be a very big moment in my life so please do if you can.

    “And what do you even mean by, “a moral absolute?””
    Indeed, what would that even ,mean? An objective moral truth? A moral absolute? I hear these terms used but I confess I cannot even imagine such a thing. If you know of such I will be forever in your debt if you would share it with me here.

  59. TFBW says:

    @Stardusty: you’ve not understood my comments, and you generally seem unreceptive to explanations, so I’m abandoning the discussion as a waste of time.

  60. TFBW, I note you have not been able to cite any moral absolute, or objective moral fact. I have repeatedly asked for a citation of at least one but you offer none. All you seem capable of doing is asserting moral relativism is false and then you run away when you are unable to produce even one objective moral fact as an alternative.

    Thus, my sort of personal relative morality stands completely unrefuted by you.

  61. Doug says:

    @Stardusty,

    my … personal relative morality stands completely unrefuted

    No surprise. It is, after all, “personal” :-p How is a “personal” anything “refuted”?

  62. TFBW says:

    @Stardusty: you can’t even imagine what a “moral absolute” is, so how would you recognise one if you saw it? Also, contrary to what you say, I have at no time asserted that moral relativism is false, so this serves only to prove my earlier claim: you’ve not understood my comments, and I’m wasting my time trying to explain things to you. Furthermore, since you profess moral relativism, there’s nothing to argue about: you have your morality, and others have theirs, and nobody is right or wrong in any absolute sense, so there’s absolutely no sense in trying to argue about it.

  63. SteveK says:

    SP
    “Thus, my sort of personal relative morality stands completely unrefuted by you”

    The result being that “the problem of evil” is a problem created by your own personal relative morality. Rape isn’t actually “evil”. Your personal relative morality put that label on it.

    In summary: You put moral labels on things and then you point to that label so you can complain about them. This isn’t my problem, it’s yours.

  64. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    If I postulate that God exists, and the majority of the people in the world both now and throughout history have postulated the same thing, then you must accept it, correct? Or, when it comes to this question, suddenly one can discover real truth and is no longer restricted to postulating their own ideas and living as if they are true? Put another way, what is the difference between a society postulating “rape is evil” and putting people in prison for it and another society postulating “atheism is evil” and putting people in prison for it?

  65. dognillo says:

    Ryan, I can’t answer for Stardusty, but I can answer for myself. The difference between the two societies you mention is that I want to live in a society postulating that rape is evil and putting people in prison for it, but I don’t want to live in a society that postulates atheism is evil and puts people in prison for it. As for accepting something that the majority of people in the world both now and throughout history have postulated, I may have to live by it because it’s being imposed on me, but I don’t have to accept it as right or true. I don’t accept that the state has any legitimate right to rule over individuals, but I don’t have much choice in the matter.

  66. Ilion says:

    Stardusty Psyche:Your implications are your own, not my hypocrisy.

    me:Even as he attempts to deny the truth of what I said, he validates it — “You’re saying mean things about me (*) … and you *should not* do that!”
    (*) I’m talking about your mindset and actions and claims

    Stardusty Psyche:So now you read my mind as well …

    Aren’t these types just so cute?

  67. TFBW – “you can’t even imagine what a “moral absolute” is, so how would you recognize one if you saw it?”
    Translation, you cannot name a single moral absolute, or objective moral truth, or objective moral judgement, So you play hide the ball with this thing you apparently assert is real, yet you cannot put into words. Your position is “I have a secret but you would not understand it if I told you so I am not going to tell you”.

    I can describe my position in as much detail as anyone may wish. You cannot seem to describe yours at all.

    “since you profess moral relativism, there’s nothing to argue about: you have your morality, and others have theirs, and nobody is right or wrong in any absolute sense,”
    Ok, so you acknowledge that my line of reasoning is valid in terms of absolutes. In order to evaluate my morality we would have to define my postulates and then evaluate whether I am being self consistent. That is a process I am capable of engaging in. You do not seem to be capable of even beginning a process of analyzing your supposed moral absolutes or objective moral propositions because you either cannot or will not even put them into words.

  68. SteveK – “In summary: You put moral labels on things and then you point to that label so you can complain about them. This isn’t my problem, it’s yours.”
    I put moral labels on things according to my personal sense of ought, not merely because I wish to complain about them. I have my human frailties, to be sure, but I don’t think I am as shallow as all that.

    “Rape isn’t actually “evil”. Your personal relative morality put that label on it.”
    If you, hypothetically (I don’t mean to suggest for a moment you actually have such inclinations) disagree with with my assessment that rape is evil, that will become your problem, because it turns out that the vast majority of my fellow citizens agree with my label on this subject, and we have decided to hire from amongst ourselves a group of men and women to hunt down, apprehend, and cage those who act upon a disagreement with our mutually agreed upon label of rape as evil.

  69. Ryan – “If I postulate that God exists, and the majority of the people in the world both now and throughout history have postulated the same thing, then you must accept it, correct?”
    Argumentum ad populum.

    ” Or, when it comes to this question, suddenly one can discover real truth and is no longer restricted to postulating their own ideas and living as if they are true? ”
    How do you know what the “real” truth is?

    “Put another way, what is the difference between a society postulating “rape is evil” and putting people in prison for it and another society postulating “atheism is evil” and putting people in prison for it?”
    I hope you have some more fundamental principles than those. Why is rape evil? Is only rape evil yet an unprovoked assault, non-sexual, is OK? Presumably you have some more fundamental principles such as avoidance of harm to others, whether a sex act is involved or not.

    What substantial harm does atheism itself inflict? How do the thoughts in my brain harm you? How do the thoughts in your brain harm me? If you happen to believe in a polytheistic pantheon of gods how does merely believing that harm me? How does my lack of belief, in and of itself, harm you?

    I we agree on the postulated position that harming others is “bad” and we have some fair agreement of what constitutes “harm” then we should be able to agree that rape is an infliction of harm on another but merely thinking in our own brains about the existence or non-existence of a deity is not by itself harmful to others.

    In my view that is a very significant difference.

  70. TFBW says:

    @Stardusty: “You cannot seem to describe yours at all.”
    You are mistaking lack of comprehension for lack of description.

  71. Ryan says:

    Stardusty: “Ryan – “If I postulate that God exists, and the majority of the people in the world both now and throughout history have postulated the same thing, then you must accept it, correct?”
    Argumentum ad populum.”

    OK, I agree, so then why did you say this?: “If you, hypothetically (I don’t mean to suggest for a moment you actually have such inclinations) disagree with with my assessment that rape is evil, that will become your problem, because it turns out that the vast majority of my fellow citizens agree with my label on this subject” (emphasis mine). Why would it be a “problem”. What if someone doesn’t want to rape but doesn’t believe it to be evil? Why would that be a “problem”? I don’t eat anchovies and never will, but I don’t think it is evil to eat anchovies, so why would it be a problem for someone to take the same stance toward rape in your worldview?

    Stardusy: “What substantial harm does atheism itself inflict?” Many would say that it leads people away from God and will end up bringing great harm to themselves and others. You will have a different opinion of course, but is it more than just and opinion? Are you now saying that “harm” is something we can objectively define and test in a scientific manner and then use it to deduce moral principles? Earlier you agreed that “harm” is a loaded term and is not much more helpful than the word “bad”. You seem to contradict yourself a lot.

  72. FZM says:

    Ryan,

    Why would it be a “problem”.

    It looks like Stardusty was deploying a ‘might is right’ kind of argument; a group of people can get together and force everyone else to live in conformity with their shared personal moral beliefs if the group is large enough or powerful enough to do so.

    Apart from this sort of scenario, I don’t really see how purely personal moral beliefs or ‘postulates’ can have any relevance to (or influence on) anyone apart from the individual holding them.

  73. FZM says:

    Stardusty,

    All you seem capable of doing is asserting moral relativism is false and then you run away when you are unable to produce even one objective moral fact as an alternative.

    In respect of this reply to TFBW, I can’t remember where you put forward an argument to suggest that moral relativism is true, it feels like you have just been asserting that it is.

    In principle anyone could take a moral position, say something trivial like ‘murder is wrong’ (when ‘murder’ means an immoral act of killing) and assert that it is an objective moral fact, or probably an objective moral fact.

    To prove that it isn’t, or more ambitiously, to prove that no objective moral facts at all exist, I think you would need some kind or argument or reason beyond just denial and personal incredulity (or maybe) incomprehension.

    Alternatively, taking another line, perhaps it is the case that in principle some moral objective facts might be proved to exist, if only a strong valid enough argument existed for the fact. In this case, showing an ability to recognise such an argument and what its content aught to look like would be essential.

  74. Ryan says:

    FZM,

    Yes, I think I misunderstood Stardusty’s point in my quote. Thanks for pointing that out.

  75. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    Let me rephrase my previous question so it is a little more difficult to deflect: What is the difference between a society postulating “rape is harmful to other people” and putting people in prison for it and another society postulating “atheism is harmful to people” and putting people in prison for it?

    It seems to me that your position must be that both are acceptable, assuming these are indeed postulated by and agreed upon by the majority of the respective societies (and both of these have historical examples, so they are not merely hypothetical). The only way to differentiate between the two is to either (a) assert some sort of objective morality (not culturally dependent) that makes one right and the other wrong or (b) assert some sort of objective basis (not culturally dependent) for determining “harm” which makes one right and the other wrong (this is effectively an objective morality couched in different terminology).

  76. Ilion – “Never expect intellectual consistency from:
    * Darwinists
    * leftists in general
    * materialists/atheists
    * moral relativists”
    So, since you never expect intellectual consistency from such individuals it appears you consider those postilions inherently inconsistent. Perhaps you would be so kind as to point out my inconsistencies on these subjects.

    Darwin was one man who wrote more than 150 years ago. His seminal work was a great advance in our scientific understanding of biological evolution. Nothing he said is true because he said it. All things he said are subject to questioning and modification. He undoubtedly got some details wrong and lacked key insights, such as the role of DNA in biological evolution.

    I might be considered generally left, but I also get accused of being homophobic, misogynist, racist, sexist, islamophobic, and all sorts of ists and ics. I do not ascribe to any particular school of thought. I am an unabashed cherry picker of ideas that seem good to me.

    What else is there but the material? The very term “abstract object” is incoherent, oxymoronic, and meaningless. One can at least coherently assert a substance dualism, although that substance is unevidenced, at least one is in that case asserting something that is a thing. That substance then is merely another material we simply have not been able to describe or directly observe scientifically.

    Atheism is most fundamentally an absence of a belief in god. I cannot say there absolutely is no god because my access to absolute knowledge is very limited. Perhaps I am god and you are all figments of my divine imagination. Yet, I am personally convinced I am not god and there is no god. I am personally convinced of the basic reliability of the human senses, the basic commonality of human experience, and that logic is a valid descriptor of how our apparent universe operates. Based on these postulates I see no credible evidence for a god, hence I am personally convinced there is no god.

    My morals are my personal sense of ought. Based on the postulate of the basic commonality of human experience I think we all have a personal sense of ought. This is plausibly accounted for as the mechanism by which an advanced social species behaves socially and has an overall survival advantage for a social species, albeit with potential side effects that may be neutral or even harmful to survival in individual cases. I have never heard of a moral absolute, objective moral truth, objective moral principle, or anything that enumerates specifically what kind of morality there could possibly be other than the concatenation of all our personal senses of ought as they interact relative to each other.

    Oh yes, but please do point out my myriad in intellectual inconsistencies.

  77. John – “Because if statements like ”Live and let live and also love and let love” can be shown without a doubt to be nothing more than another type of moral statement that assumes some type of absolutes and a type of moral realism, than this would undermine the claims relativists have about tolerance and whatnot and would turn relativism into an even more horrifying belief than I, and certainly many other people, have though of it at first.”

    One problem with discussing moral relativism is that including all caveats in all statements becomes cumbersome and tedious so there is a tendency to drop them, which in turn leads to the appearance of an absolute claim, which is then seen as hypocritical for a moral relativist.

    I think the golden rule is generally good. I am convinced love is generally better than hate. In my view we should all be treated equally under the law. I personally believe that slavery is basically wrong. I feel we should live and let live.

    I know of no moral assertion that can be objectively determined to be real, no moral claim that has been absolutely shown to be true.

  78. TFBW – “@Stardusty: “You cannot seem to describe yours at all.”
    You are mistaking lack of comprehension for lack of description.”

    So what is this moral absolute then? You spend many words not stating it.

  79. Ryan – “why would it be a problem”
    I answer that question in the same sentence, so I am not sure why you cut the sentence off.
    “because it turns out that the vast majority of my fellow citizens agree with my label on this subject, and we have decided to hire from amongst ourselves a group of men and women to hunt down, apprehend, and cage those who act upon a disagreement with our mutually agreed upon label of rape as evil.”
    Indeed the problem is connected to actions, not mere thoughts.

    I see you had some follow up comments so allow me to continue on…
    Please see July 1, 2016 at 12:13 am above, but to summarize, merely thinking a thought does not harm others, physically attacking another person harms that other person. That is a substantial difference in my view.

    I occasionally remind my fellow atheists that in addition to the establishment clause our great 1st amendment has a free exercise clause. I does not bother me at all what you merely think, you can say just about anything you want, and you can generally live your life the way you want and these things are very broadly not my problem or concern unless you act in inflicting harm on others. “Harm”, of course, means a lot of different things to different people so we would have to do a lot of writing to see if we could come up with some mutually agreed upon meanings for “harm”. Our vast system of law is largely just that, a detailed enumeration of the consensus view of “harm” that in the consensus view rises to the level of calling for punitive action against the one inflicting this action considered harmful.

    I see you think I “contradict myself a lot”. Well, I certainly invite you to detail any contradictions you think I have, but to be fair, I must say, the chances of you catching me out on a self inconsistency are very small indeed, but by all means, my friend, give it a go, I would consider it a personal favor because in my personal sense of ought it is “bad” to be self inconsistent so I continually seek out any self inconsistency I may have so I can make a change to eliminate it.

  80. TFBW says:

    FFS, Stardusty, you don’t even understand the concepts behind the words you are using. If morality is objective, then every sufficiently well-specified moral statement is going to have an absolute (non-relative) truth value. What makes you think I can pick an example of an absolute one?

    Have you studied any moral philosophy at all, or are you just working on the basis of your own raw talent here?

  81. SteveK says:

    SP
    “I put moral labels on things according to my personal sense of ought, not merely because I wish to complain about them.”

    The point being YOU are the one responsible for everything moral, hence your “evil” isn’t anyone’s problem but yours. For the moral relativist there’s no universal problem of evil, there are 7 billion-ish different versions of it at any given time.

    Some of the lucky one’s have no “problem of evil” whatsoever. We call these people psychopaths. Those people are morally perfect in their own eyes – without a moral problem to resolve. They are pure, like gods. Rationally, there is no logical argument against seeking to be just like them.

    “…and we have decided to hire from amongst ourselves a group of men and women to hunt down, apprehend, and cage those who act upon a disagreement with our mutually agreed upon label of rape as evil.”

    I think you’d agree that the higher moral goal would be rid the planet of all evil so that you wouldn’t have to do any of this. Make sense, right?

    Since you and your group OWN the “problem evil” from beginning to end I have to ask, what are YOU doing to get there? In other words, what are YOU doing to reduce this hunting down and caging activity?

  82. FZM – “In respect of this reply to TFBW, I can’t remember where you put forward an argument to suggest that moral relativism is true, it feels like you have just been asserting that it is.”
    Actually, I have, but in a long thread things are not always apparent. No problem.

    What other kind of morality would there be other than relative morality? I feel I have a personal sense of ought, and I postulate on good evidence the basic commonality of human experience, so I think we all have our own personal senses of ought. Do you happen to work with finite element analysis at all? Large scale dynamics are analyzed by iteratively solving difference relationships between adjacent elements. This is what WL Craig called a sort of herd morality.

    Some say there are moral absolutes, or a real set of morals, or objective morals, yet I have never heard of one such. TFBW seems to be the sort of person who will spend an hour telling me he or she doesn’t have the time to tell me something that would take one minute to say. Just say it if there is such a thing. How hard is that?

    So, the presence of my personal sense of ought, the observation of the relative moral actions between us all, and the absence of any specified alternative all combined have personally convinced me that moral relativism is the only possible form of morality.

    “In principle anyone could take a moral position, say something trivial like ‘murder is wrong’ (when ‘murder’ means an immoral act of killing) and assert that it is an objective moral fact, or probably an objective moral fact.”
    If that is so trivial then by all means, cite that as your proposed objective moral fact as an actual position you actually take.

    “To prove that it isn’t, or more ambitiously, to prove that no objective moral facts at all exist, I think you would need some kind or argument or reason beyond just denial and personal incredulity (or maybe) incomprehension.”
    I you cite X is an objective moral fact the burden is on you to prove it is, not me to prove it isn’t.

    I make no claim to prove no objective moral facts exist. I lack the capability to search every corner of the universe for such a fact. One can speculate that in a galaxy far far away there is a little munchkin who knows the true moral facts, but there is no positive evidence for that speculation, and one can make up as many such speculations as one wishes, so I consider that kind of assertion to be mere idle speculation lacking in merit, infinitesimally likely, and entirely unconvincing.

    I can, however, provide mountains of evidence that shows people do each have their own personal sense of ought, and these senses of ought vary from person to person and society to society, and no absolute reference point for judging these various moralities has yet been absolutely demonstrated.

    “Alternatively, taking another line, perhaps it is the case that in principle some moral objective facts might be proved to exist, if only a strong valid enough argument existed for the fact. In this case, showing an ability to recognise such an argument and what its content aught to look like would be essential.”
    I recognize that people who refuse to state their position while insisting I would be too ignorant and unintelligent and unimaginative to understand it if only they did state their position are just making excuses for their inability to articulate their positions.
    “I have a secret I tell people all the time but you are too dumb to understand it so I am not going to tell it to a dummy like you”
    Really? That is considered to be a valid form of argumentation? By who?

  83. SteveK says:

    “In other words, what are YOU doing to reduce this hunting down and caging activity?”

    It’s considered bad form to answer your own question, but I’ll do it anyway. It seems there are two ways to minimize evil and achieve “heaven on earth” for every moral relativist.

    1) The first way is for each individual to seek to become like the psychopath. I explained the logic of that above. Moral evil is forever gone.

    2) The second way is to rid the planet of all the “evil” people you are constantly having to hunt down and cage.

    The first way seems far easier to do because it only involves YOU. It would take some hard work and perhaps some medical intervention to speed up the process, but it’s doable. The second way is basically impossible to achieve.

    So there you have it! Heaven on earth, with no evil whatsoever can be achieved – and sooner than you think. Take action!

  84. John says:

    Stardusty:”I am convinced love is generally better than hate.”

    So you are convinced of that.

    Let me ask a question:How were you convinced of it?

    Stardusty:”I personally believe that slavery is basically wrong.”

    So,in your view,you believe that slavery is really wrong?

  85. John- “Stardusty:”I am convinced love is generally better than hate.”
    “So you are convinced of that.
    Let me ask a question:How were you convinced of it?”
    Human beings generally have an innate sense of empathy. We are social animals so it is not surprising that we have mechanisms for behaving socially.

    “Stardusty:”I personally believe that slavery is basically wrong.””
    “So,in your view,you believe that slavery is really wrong?”
    What do you mean by “really”? I can’t absolutely prove it is wrong. A great many people have and some still do feel it is good. The relationship of parent to child has some similarity of slave to master in terms of responsibility to work and give while receiving nothing in return.

    At this time the broad consensus is that slavery is wrong and I feel the same.

  86. TFBW – “FFS, Stardusty, you don’t even understand the concepts behind the words you are using. If morality is objective, then every sufficiently well-specified moral statement is going to have an absolute (non-relative) truth value. What makes you think I can pick an example of an absolute one?”
    Well, then if you think moral relativism is wrong, and morality is objective, and therefore all sufficiently well specified moral statements have absolute truth value it would seem that picking one to cite would be a very simple matter, yet you continually refuse to do so.

    So, you think moral relativism is the case then? Why do you have such difficulty in simply stating your views?

  87. TFBW says:

    You make no sense whatsoever. You want me to pick a moral statement? Did you want it to be true in my view? Whatever for? So you can judge it by your own standards? I’m dancing to your lunatic tune, but fine: “axe-murdering an innocent child for giggles is evil.” There is a moral statement which I can really get behind. Now please tell me what the hell it’s supposed to prove.

    And also admit that you have no training in philosophy, since you avoided that question last time. It’s clear that you think you’re really good at this stuff, given how you lecture and assert your superiority ad nauseam.

  88. John says:

    ”What do you mean by “really”? I can’t absolutely prove it is wrong. A great many people have and some still do feel it is good. The relationship of parent to child has some similarity of slave to master in terms of responsibility to work and give while receiving nothing in return.”

    You may not be able to absolutely prove it is wrong, but you stated that you believe slavery is basically wrong.

    The language you use makes it sound as if you believe it isn’t a mere opinion.

    Stardusty:”I am convinced love is generally better than hate”
    Stardusty:”Human beings generally have an innate sense of empathy. We are social animals so it is not surprising that we have mechanisms for behaving socially.”

    Ok,so you believe love is indeed a better action than hate?

  89. TFBW – “axe-murdering an innocent child for giggles is evil.” There is a moral statement which I can really get behind. Now please tell me what the hell it’s supposed to prove.”
    How is that a moral absolute? What is your proof that this is absolutely evil? It seems evil to me, but what if there is a god who by definition is perfectly good, and this god takes pleasure in the murder of an innocent child? Wouldn’t that make such an act good?

    Given the stories of the OT and the Qur’an I would say god might very well deem your supposedly absolutely evil act to be be morally good.

    And what do you say to the gleeful murderers out there who say they have the true morality and yours is false? Perhaps their asserted god is very much on their side as opposed to your asserted god who is on your side. By what objective standards do you say your assertion of god is true and the other assertions of god are all false?

    How do know the golden rule is “good” and “might makes right” is evil? Some would say that it is the moral duty of the strong to dominate, torment, and victimize the weak and to fail to do so if one possesses that strength is itself the height of immorality. On what objective basis do you prove that proposition false?

    Given that your philosophical training is so obviously superior to my philosophical ignorance I am sure you will be able to objectively dispense with my skeptical objections in very short order.

  90. John – “You may not be able to absolutely prove it is wrong, but you stated that you believe slavery is basically wrong.
    The language you use makes it sound as if you believe it isn’t a mere opinion.”

    Hmm…Ok, I did not expect that. I did not realize my language gave that impression.
    Ultimately morals are “mere” opinion. They are important to how we as a social species behave socially
    In my personal sense of ought humans should generally have self determination. I make no claim to be able to objectively prove that proposition. It just seems “good” to me. It seems most of my fellow citizens basically agree with that general proposition.

    “Stardusty:”I am convinced love is generally better than hate”
    Stardusty:”Human beings generally have an innate sense of empathy. We are social animals so it is not surprising that we have mechanisms for behaving socially.”
    “Ok,so you believe love is indeed a better action than hate?”
    Yes “I believe” in the sense that this is my personal sense, yes. Not that I claim to be able to objectively prove it, no.

  91. John says:

    ”In my personal sense of ought humans should generally have self determination. I make no claim to be able to objectively prove that proposition. It just seems “good” to me. ”

    Should?This seems incompatible with moral relativism.

    You may claim you have a subjective personal moral code that isn’t absolute so that it only applies to you, but you still believe that some things ”should” be done.

    But to claim that morality is relative and subjective yet have those same personal opinions turn into imperatives seems to turn this into a kind of word salad in the end.

    After all, can you really believe in moral relativism and that your moral code is just an opinion but at the same time claim it’s an opinion that tries to claim objectivity for itself?Seems like a contradiction.

    On one hand, morality is relative and it’s just your opinion.On the other, that completely relative subjective opinion somehow turns into objective statements about reality that is still an opinion about what should objectively be done.

    You know what this reminds me of?The ”opinions on facts” and ”sheer opinion” distinction.

    The former believes that there are facts but people have differing opinions on what exactly they are or how they should be understood.The latter states that there are no facts and that all that we are left with is sheer opinion that isn’t an opinion about facts because there aren’t any objective facts to speak of.

    So far your it seems your statement sounds more like the former rather than the latter.

  92. SteveK says:

    SP,
    “Ultimately morals are “mere” opinion.”

    And in this case the opinion has NOTHING to do with the facts that they are supposedly attached to. In other words, your opinion is *actually* completely detached from the thing it is describing. Allow me to demonstrate.

    Objectively (on your view) moral reality does not exist in any factual sense independent of the human doing the evaluating. You would say human behavior, as a matter of fact, has no moral features or qualities about them. What’s going on is you are evaluating human behavior and labeling it with a morally descriptive term according to your opinion.

    Note how your moral term has NO relationship to the thing being described. To make this more clear, let’s apply the same thinking to something else.

    Planets, as a matter of fact, have no squareness features or qualities about them. Objectively and factually planets lack squareness like human behaviors lack morality. But let’s say you evaluate a planet and label it with the descriptive term “square” according to your opinion.

    In the same way human behaviors are good according to your opinion, planets are square. Your moral terms tell me NOTHING true about human behaviors. But if you are attempting to do that, your moral opinions are always FALSE just as the squareness term is false if I were attempting to say something true about planets.

  93. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: merely thinking a thought does not harm others, physically attacking another person harms that other person. That is a substantial difference in my view.

    So, now you believe “harm” can be objectively defined? Or is this merely “your view” as you said. You seem to be unclear about your own position. So, let me try again: What is the difference between a society that postulates that rape harms other people in their view and so puts people in prison for it and another society that postulates that atheism harms other people in their view and so puts people in prison for it? Are you now saying that the assertion atheism harms other people is objectively false even if it is postulated in the view of a particular society?

  94. John – “SP”In my personal sense of ought humans should generally have self determination. I make no claim to be able to objectively prove that proposition. It just seems “good” to me. ”
    —“Should?This seems incompatible with moral relativism.”
    Please read the whole sentence and consider the opening qualifier. “Should” is in my personal sense of “ought”. I feel like some things “should” be or “ought” to be. My sort of relativism does not deny that we feel we ought to do things, but I cannot find any way to prove my personal sense of ought is absolutely or objectively true.

    “But to claim that morality is relative and subjective yet have those same personal opinions turn into imperatives seems to turn this into a kind of word salad in the end.”
    Personal opinions and a personal sense of ought leads to personal imperatives. How is that a word salad?

    It would indeed be very poor reasoning if I were to assert my personal sense of ought proved an objective imperative. I make no such claim.

    “On one hand, morality is relative and it’s just your opinion.On the other, that completely relative subjective opinion somehow turns into objective statements about reality that is still an opinion about what should objectively be done”
    If somebody follows that line of argument they are not thinking clearly, I agree.

    I get the feeling you have communicated with other people who have expressed to you that disjointed argument. All I can ask is that I not be expected to defend positions I do not hold or express.

  95. SteveK – “In the same way human behaviors are good according to your opinion, planets are square. Your moral terms tell me NOTHING true about human behaviors. But if you are attempting to do that, your moral opinions are always FALSE just as the squareness term is false if I were attempting to say something true about planets.”
    Sorry Steve, I really do not follow your analogy. I don’t see that it is apt. My sense of ought is real. I really do experience a sense of ought. I really feel like I should do X and I ought to do Y and it would be good to do P and bad to to do Q.

    I can list some fundamental moral principles I have postulated. Then I can discuss how I reason from those principles to more specific ethical judgements. We can then evaluate the quality of my reasoning in terms of its adherence to a set of postulated rules of logic. All this does in fact affect my physical behavior, my self evaluation of my own behaviors, and my evaluations of the behaviors of others.

    Further, in communicating with my fellow human beings I find a high degree of commonality of our personal senses of ought, enough commonality of language and opinion that I can conduct meaningful conversations on the subject and we the people as citizens can arrive at certain baseline consensus positions and write them into law with a high degree of agreement between us on many moral issues.

    So, I really must disagree that all this has tells you “nothing true about human behaviors”. It is true, for example, that if one violates one of these consensus views written into law that violation is likely to have some very real influences on true human behaviors.

    Maybe you are attacking, for the sake of argument, the validity of the very notion of morality. Perhaps you are suggesting that my materialist deterministic perspective means we are fundamentally amoral, that we have no more morality than a machine has morality because ultimately we are merely machines. Ok, fine, that is an interesting analytical argument to make, and in some respects I would agree with that argument, but my sense of ought feels real to me.

    While, ultimately, we may be mere machines we are quite apparently machines with self awareness and experiences and self perceptions such that we go about our daily operations by the means of, among other things, the very real perception of a personal moral sense.

  96. TFBW says:

    @Stardusty:

    Given that your philosophical training is so obviously superior to my philosophical ignorance I am sure you will be able to objectively dispense with my skeptical objections in very short order.

    Absolutely. I dispense with them thus.

    You objections are not sceptical. In order to be a sceptic, you must first understand that which you doubt. You have no understanding of this subject, and simply elevate your own basic intuitions to the level of “obvious truth”, then blather about it at length and without interest in being corrected (except to the extent that you, personally, as someone with no competence in the field, feel that you have made an error). You are a living example of the Dunning–Kruger effect. You demand explanations which you would then reject on the basis of your own self-assured correctness, and your ability to write a word salad which you feel qualifies as a knock-down argument then further reinforces your delusions of competence.

    I’m not going to fuel your delusions any further by actually engaging your questions. The last straw has come and gone. You need education, but you are not receptive to it — not from anyone here, at least. You are here to gloat, and strut, and posture in a superior manner. Go away and learn from someone qualified that you actually respect. Come back when your teacher is satisfied that you know the difference between various meta-ethical positions, such as cognitivism versus non-cognitivism and such like. Then we can talk — assuming you manage to also rein in your rampaging superiority complex.

  97. TFBW – “You are a living example of the Dunning–Kruger effect.”
    Oh, I was wondering how long it would take for you to say “you’re too stupid to know how stupid you are” 🙂 Sorry TFBW, I do not find that to be thusly dispensing.

    “I’m not going to fuel your delusions any further by actually engaging your questions.”
    Translation, you are unable to counter my positions with rational argument.

    “You need education, but you are not receptive to it — not from anyone here, at least.”
    Au contraire, mon ami. By all means, educate me.

    ” Go away and learn from someone qualified that you actually respect. Come back when your teacher is satisfied that you know the difference between various meta-ethical positions, such as cognitivism versus non-cognitivism and such like. Then we can talk — assuming you manage to also rein in your rampaging superiority complex.”
    Funny, you ending that bit citing esoteric moral philosophy schools with an accusation of “rampaging superiority complex”

  98. TFBW says:

    You’ve proved my point as far as I’m concerned. I won’t waste any further time reading your blather.

  99. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    You do believe in absolute morality, your denial of it seems to be merely a tactic to escape difficult questions. You suggested above that putting people in prison for atheism would be a bad idea in any society whether or not the society as a whole felt that atheism was harmful to other people (probably because they would believe it leads people away from God/the gods). Such a position as you’ve taken is a rejection of moral relativity. You seem to base your absolute morality on the concept of harm, which you suggested is “attacking” someone else. I’m assuming you meant physically, but that would need to be broadened if one wanted to make theft, defamation, vandalism, perjury, and a list of other acts illegal.

  100. John says:

    ” I don’t see that it is apt. My sense of ought is real. I really do experience a sense of ought. I really feel like I should do X and I ought to do Y and it would be good to do P and bad to to do Q.”

    If you do experience a sense of ought, then this makes your claim of moral relativism confusing.

    You may not be able to prove your sense of ought is absolutely objective, but that doesn’t matter.As long as you experience a sense of ought, it is hard to believe you can be a consistent moral relativist.

    In fact, this goes to show that a majority of human beings who have ever lived seem to find the idea of objective morality self-evident or at least a working hypothesis since they feel a sense of ought.

    But it is then the duty of the moral relativist to provide evidence of moral relativism and show how our intuition regarding morality is wrong.

    You do not doubt your senses when it comes to whether or not this world is real or just an illusion, or whether solipsism is true or not.Yet you doubt your senses when it comes to morality.You DO feel a sense of ought yet you still believe in moral relativism.

    This is what confuses me.Do you feel you have a sense of ought and that you should follow it?If so, then moral relativism just gets more confusing.For if you feel you have a sense of ought and that you should truly follow it, then you may not be a moral relativist.

    Your belief is akin to moral objectivism.You have a sense of ought and a sense you should follow it.And as long as you believe you have a sense of ought and you should follow that sense of ought, you are not a consistent moral relativist.For moral relativism would lead you to believe that sense is just an illusion.It doesn’t matter if you cannot prove it is absolutely true.As long as you believe you have a sense fo ought and that you should follow it, you are practically not a moral relativist.

  101. Ryan – “You do believe in absolute morality,”
    Absolute morality would be a morality that is absolutely provable, or demonstrably objectively true. WL Craig, actually does a fairly good introduction on this wherein he makes a very well reasoned argument that on atheism there can be no absolute or objective morality. On that particular point I agree with WL Craig.

    “your denial of it seems to be merely a tactic to escape difficult questions.”
    Oh, I am not so shallow as all that.

    “You suggested above that putting people in prison for atheism would be a bad idea in any society whether or not the society as a whole felt that atheism was harmful to other people (probably because they would believe it leads people away from God/the gods). ”
    In my personal sense of ought, based on my postulates of fundamental moral principles, yes.

    “Such a position as you’ve taken is a rejection of moral relativity.”
    I think you are conflating my desire to apply my personal judgement across humanity with a claim that my personal judgments can be demonstrated to be objective facts. Those are 2 very different things you seem to be equating. In my personal sense of ought slavery is “bad” so I consider slavery in every society on Earth to be “bad” but I make no claim to be able to objectively prove slavery is “bad” anywhere because this is a personal sense of mine based on my personal postulates of fundamental moral principles.

    “You seem to base your absolute morality on the concept of harm, which you suggested is “attacking” someone else. I’m assuming you meant physically, but that would need to be broadened if one wanted to make theft, defamation, vandalism, perjury, and a list of other acts illegal.”
    No, I don’t mean just physically, As you mention, there are many forms of harm that people perpetrate. But again, those are not absolute or objectively provable principles simply because I would use my personal judgments across humanity.

    I think you might be thinking I would say I apply certain principles to absolutely everybody and therefore I have an absolute morality. That is a matter of semantics.

    Google gave me this, but you can find much more if you search on the term “moral absolute”
    “Moral Absolutism is the ethical belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context of the act.”

    So, to use that terminology, I am not asserting moral absolutism. I am merely applying certain of my personal moral judgments to the whole of humanity.

  102. SteveK says:

    John
    “If you do experience a sense of ought, then this makes your claim of moral relativism confusing.”

    I agree. We experience a sense of moral order plain and simple. We don’t give ourselves this sensation, it comes to us from beyond ourselves. We perceive moral order when we engage our senses with the world around us, similar to perceiving visual order when doing the same thing. Individuals may argue how light/dark something appears to be but it’s nonsense to think that it’s relative in the same way SP tells us morality is relative.

  103. John says:

    ”I think you might be thinking I would say I apply certain principles to absolutely everybody and therefore I have an absolute morality. That is a matter of semantics.

    Google gave me this, but you can find much more if you search on the term “moral absolute”
    “Moral Absolutism is the ethical belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context of the act.”

    So, to use that terminology, I am not asserting moral absolutism. I am merely applying certain of my personal moral judgments to the whole of humanity.”

    You may not be asserting Moral Absolutism, but it seems you could be claiming, whether you know it or not, Moral Realism.

    Your site for Absolutism says this:

    ”It (Moral Absolutism) is related to, but not the same as, Moral Realism (the position that certain acts are objectively right or wrong, independent of human opinion)”

    Here is a definition of Moral Realism from the very site you quoted the definition of Moral Absolutism from:

    ”Moral Realism (or Moral Objectivism) is the meta-ethical view (see the section on Ethics) that there exist such things as moral facts and moral values, and that these are objective and independent of our perception of them or our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes towards them. ”

  104. John – “If you do experience a sense of ought, then this makes your claim of moral relativism confusing.”
    Not confusing to me, but quite apparently I have not expressed myself clearly enough.

    “You may not be able to prove your sense of ought is absolutely objective, but that doesn’t matter.As long as you experience a sense of ought, it is hard to believe you can be a consistent moral relativist.”
    It matters to me and is easy for me to believe about me, but quite apparently not so easy for you to believe about me. I will try to be more articulate.

    “In fact, this goes to show that a majority of human beings who have ever lived seem to find the idea of objective morality self-evident or at least a working hypothesis since they feel a sense of ought.”
    That is a reasonable conclusion.

    “But it is then the duty of the moral relativist to provide evidence of moral relativism and show how our intuition regarding morality is wrong.”
    I will do my best.

    “You do not doubt your senses when it comes to whether or not this world is real or just an illusion”
    Hold up right there Buckaroo. I postulate the basic reliability of the human senses, but I can speculate I am god and you are all figments of my divine imagination. I cannot and you cannot disprove that speculation, yet I have no positive evidence for it so I consider it to be infinitesimally likely.

    The senses are, of course, demonstrably flawed in certain important ways. Human senses are notoriously susceptible to illusion. Many things can and do fool our senses.

    “or whether solipsism is true or not.Yet you doubt your senses when it comes to morality.You DO feel a sense of ought yet you still believe in moral relativism.”
    I believe I have demonstrated my consistent skepticism above.

    Not only are our senses of the outside world limited, flawed, and subject to illusion so are our inner senses also limited, flawed, and subject to illusion. Thus my consistent skepticism.

    “This is what confuses me.Do you feel you have a sense of ought and that you should follow it?If so, then moral relativism just gets more confusing.”
    I do not feel generally confused although I am at times uncertain and I do sometimes vacillate before a decision and regret certain decisions after I make them.

    “For if you feel you have a sense of ought and that you should truly follow it, then you may not be a moral relativist.”
    I don’t feel I should truly follow my sense of ought, it is simply an important part of my intelligence. All my brain function is part of my intelligence. I am aware of a part of my internal data processing in detail in my rational thoughts. I also have subconscious data processing networks active without my direct conscious monitoring of them but from time to time these networks will come to some computational result and issue a signal that I consciously detect as an emotion, or a feeling.

    My personal sense of ought is a very real internal sense, a real brain function, a part of my intelligence. I embrace every aspect of my intelligence as a part of who I am.

    “Your belief is akin to motral objectivism”
    I don’t see the connection. Google returns this:
    “Moral objectivism is the position that moral truths exist independantly from opinion. There are several versions of moral objectivism, of varying levels of strentgth. They area, from weakest to strongest: Moral universalism. Moral realism.”

    “You have a sense of ought and a sense you should follow it.And as long as you believe you have a sense of ought and you should follow that sense of ought, you are not a consistent moral relativist.”
    I think I am being consistent. I factor in my sense of ought as part of my intelligence when making decisions. I make no claim that what I think ought to be is demonstrably an independent moral truth and I don’t see how such independent moral truths could possibly exist so I am personally convinced they do not exist.

    If you can find an inconsistency in my actual stated position I will be in your debt.

    “For moral relativism would lead you to believe that sense is just an illusion.It doesn’t matter if you cannot prove it is absolutely true.”
    If that is a position some people take I think they are not thinking clearly. I know of only 1 fundamental absolute truth and a few corollaries, cogito ergo sum. In my life as I perceive it I do not wait for perfect knowledge to act. I act when my personal probability estimate surpasses a personal actionability threshold. Else, I would be paralyzed.

    “As long as you believe you have a sense fo ought and that you should follow it, you are practically not a moral relativist.”
    I do not ascribe to any established school of thought because I do not wish to defend positions I do not hold or express. I am an unabashed cherry picker of good ideas.

  105. John says:

    Stardusty:”I postulate the basic reliability of the human senses, but I can speculate I am god and you are all figments of my divine imagination. I cannot and you cannot disprove that speculation, yet I have no positive evidence for it so I consider it to be infinitesimally likely.”

    So, you decide to trust your senses when it comes to reality and consider it infinitely more likely that your senses and intuition is correct, so that you basically accept your intuition like a working hypothesis and don’t bother much about claims to the contrary?

    Stardusty:”Not only are our senses of the outside world limited, flawed, and subject to illusion so are our inner senses also limited, flawed, and subject to illusion. Thus my consistent skepticism”

    So what if I postulate you aren’t real but could likely be an extra-terrestrial creature who has hijacked the Internet and made an account just to examine the human species?

    Or that you are actually Stephen Hawking deciding to troll some religious believers?Or that you are actually a Christian but got mind-controlled by the anti-Christian Illuminati to become a non-believer?

    Indeed, our senses are limited and flawed, yet I don’t see you postulating that pigs can actually fly or that the sky is green or whatnot.

    In fact, if our senses are so flawed, then how can we even postulate they are flawed in the first place?You are assuming that our senses are reliable enough to postulate objective reality and distingish truth from falsity.

    Stardusty:”I don’t feel I should truly follow my sense of ought, it is simply an important part of my intelligence.”

    Stardusty:”My personal sense of ought is a very real internal sense, a real brain function, a part of my intelligence. I embrace every aspect of my intelligence as a part of who I am.”

    Would it be wrong then not to embrace every aspect of your intelligence or…?

    Stardusty:”I make no claim that what I think ought to be is demonstrably an independent moral truth and I don’t see how such independent moral truths could possibly exist so I am personally convinced they do not exist.”

    Yet you still claim you have a sense of should and ought.Please explain then, why is it that certain things ”should” be in your view.

    And also,it’s a non-sequitor to claim just because you have no idea how independent moral truths could exist it means that you can jump to the conclusion that they don’t exist.

    ”I do not ascribe to any established school of thought because I do not wish to defend positions I do not hold or express. I am an unabashed cherry picker of good ideas.”

    So you are not actually a moral relativist?

  106. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    You are really confused my friend, and quite the sophist. I will try yet again with my example and be somewhat more explicit this time. There is a hypothetical society that exists in the past. You, Stardusty Psyche, are not born yet; you don’t exist. This society has postulated that in their view atheism is harmful to other people because it leads those people away from God. Therefore, they arrest and imprison such people. There is nothing wrong with this according to your principles of how a society determines morals, right? Your opinion here is meaningless since you don’t exist in this time or place. None of us here care what your opinion is. The question is sine te (without you), there is nothing wrong about such a law, correct?

    Now, if you start rambling on about “harm”, and “atheism doesn’t harm anyone”, you are now speaking about parameters to judge moral decisions that exist independent of you, or any person for that matter. This would constitute the basis for an absolute morality, or at least moral realism.

  107. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: So, to use that terminology, I am not asserting moral absolutism. I am merely applying certain of my personal moral judgments to the whole of humanity.

    You would’ve been great friends with many dictators. Your own whims and wishes are to be applied to all of humanity… past, present, and future. I must be speaking to God. I can’t distinguish between what you’ve said above and megolamania. And, please, don’t trot out some cut-and-paste dictionary definition. I regularly read Latin and Ancient Greek and have spent hundreds of hours pouring over lexicons, I’m quite capable of using a dictionary.

  108. Ryan says:

    *poring over

  109. SteveK says:

    SP,
    “I don’t feel I should truly follow my sense of ought, it is simply an important part of my intelligence.”

    This is false unless you insist otherwise. But if you insist otherwise you are telling us that you don’t feel that you should truly follow your sense of logic. Ought you follow what is logical? Should I do that too or is it optional? If it’s optional then being irrational is a-okay?

  110. Ryan says:

    Picking up on what SteveK said…

    Stardusty said: I don’t feel I should truly follow my sense of ought, it is simply an important part of my intelligence.

    Then it is not a sense of ought. If you don’t feel you need to follow it, it is not an ought. You are seriously confused about the meaning of some of the basic terminology being used here. Let’s see how this insane definition works: A: You ought to go to the store and buy some bread. B: So I should follow your advice and go and buy bread? A: No. B: But you said I “ought” to. A: That’s not what “ought” means. B: ??

  111. John July 2, 2016 at 12:01 pm ”Moral Realism (or Moral Objectivism) is the meta-ethical view (see the section on Ethics) that there exist such things as moral facts and moral values, and that these are objective and independent of our perception of them or our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes towards them. ”
    * Ok, you are following up on further statements from a site Google parsed to answer my search, fair enough.

    It is becoming apparent to me that there are many things I am not
    Moral realist
    Moral Objectivist
    Moral universalist
    Moral absolutist

    You might think I am one of those things without realizing it but that is not the case. In my view morals are personal and I know of know of no standard or source to use to objectively measure my personal morality against.

    For example I think concentration camps for Jews are “bad”. Concentration camps for Jews violate my personal sense of morality. I feel personally justified in taking military action any place on Earth to liberate Jews from concentration camps.

    I think human starvation is “bad”. I feel morally justified in sending food to starving people in any place on Earth.

    I cannot absolutely prove to you that concentration camps for Jews are objectively “bad” or the human starvation is objectively “bad”. Indeed, there are many people who favor such things under certain circumstances. But I do not wait for perfect or absolute objective certainty to act. My sense of theses things as “bad” is strong enough to rise above my personal actionability threshold, so I am quite at peace with taking action based on my personal sense of morality absent any known absolute objectively real moral reference.

  112. SteveK says:

    You seem to act out of your sensations rather than your intellect. That’s what my dumb dog does. I’m seeing a parallel.

  113. John July 2, 2016 at 12:43 pm” if our senses are so flawed, then how can we even postulate they are flawed in the first place?You are assuming that our senses are reliable enough to postulate objective reality and distingish truth from falsity.”
    * It seems that way, yes. Maybe one of your speculations about who I am or whatever are true, but there is no positive evidence they are true and you have clearly demonstrated the ability of humans to make up such things continually so it seems reasonable to provisionally reject them all and move forward in my apparent life as though my senses are basically reliable.

    “Would it be wrong then not to embrace every aspect of your intelligence or…?”
    * I would say unwise.

    “Yet you still claim you have a sense of should and ought.Please explain then, why is it that certain things ”should” be in your view.”
    * Because that is the innate physiology of the human species. That is how we are in fact constructed. That is how we are “wired up”. Our emotions are parts of our intelligence. The feelings we have, our sensibilities, the little voices we hear as we sometimes verbally and emotionally spare with ourselves all within our own thoughts…all these things are components of our intelligence, our brain function and simply are the way we operate.

    “And also,it’s a non-sequitor to claim just because you have no idea how independent moral truths could exist it means that you can jump to the conclusion that they don’t exist.”
    * Indeed, that would be fallacious reasoning. My mere ignorance is not absolute proof of non-existence. I do take a preponderance of negative evidence into account in making probability estimates, but a preponderance of negative evidence is not strictly a positive proof.

    “So you are not actually a moral relativist?”
    * Things have meanings relative to each other. I do not know of any absolute reference point for meaning, truth, goodness, evil, or any moral proposition.

    There are schools of relativism that insist on some of the non-sequiturs folks here have been ascribing to me so I am not that sort of relativist. I do my best to avoid fallacious reasoning.

  114. Ryan July 2, 2016 at 2:43 pm
    “You are really confused my friend, and quite the sophist”
    * If a sophist reasons with clever but specious arguments at least your characterization of me is half right, but which half ?-)

    “Your opinion here is meaningless since you don’t exist in this time or place. None of us here care what your opinion is. The question is sine te (without you), there is nothing wrong about such a law, correct?”
    * You are asking my opinion whilst telling me my opinion does not matter. I feel kind of damned if I do and damned if I don’t here.

    We sometimes make judgments about the actions of past societies. I think the Confederate South and the Imperial Japanese were not so great, but you can say I was not there so my opinion does not matter. Well, then why ask me to comment on these historical situations?

    “Now, if you start rambling on about “harm”, and “atheism doesn’t harm anyone”, you are now speaking about parameters to judge moral decisions that exist independent of you, or any person for that matter. This would constitute the basis for an absolute morality, or at least moral realism.”
    * When I “ramble on” about harm I do so from my personal perspective. I communicate with my fellow human beings and find a large commonality between our individual moral judgments. That commonality is indeed often mistaken as proof of a moral realism, but upon closer analysis that attribution becomes untenable.

    We are all members of the same species. It should not be surprising that most of us experience the world in basically the same way. How much difference in behavior would we expect from this ant to that ant to the other millions of ants in that species? Or bees? Or mice? Or monkeys? Or Homo Sapiens?

    If nearly all the bees of a particular species fly preferentially to a particular species of flower would we conclude there is some sort of moral realism that says sucking nectar from that particular flower is objectively good?

    Most of us have a revulsion to harming others. Most of us cringe when we see others in pain. Most of us do not like to see others injured and will tend to be very empathetic and sympathetic toward the suffering of others. That does not mean that inflicting suffering on others is objectively “bad”, it just means that most of us are psychologically constructed to avoid inflicting harm on others. We are a social species, so it is not surprising to find it within our nature to behave socially.

    Our individual sense of ought is a strong driver for social behavior and is easily accounted for by biological evolution, with no need for moral realism, god, absolute morality, and all the rest.

  115. Ryan July 2, 2016 at 2:57 pm
    “Stardusty said: So, to use that terminology, I am not asserting moral absolutism. I am merely applying certain of my personal moral judgments to the whole of humanity.”

    “You would’ve been great friends with many dictators. Your own whims and wishes are to be applied to all of humanity… past, present, and future. I must be speaking to God. I can’t distinguish between what you’ve said above and megolamania. ”
    * Who, little old me? Actually, the god of the OT is the great megalomaniacal monster, but that is another story…

    Ooo baby baby it’s a wild world…

    But really, aren’t you getting just a bit overwrought here? I’m not quite so bad as all that, really. When you read about some terrible massacre someplace or some obscene repression on some other continent don’t you pass some kind of moral judgement? If I do also am I really such a dictatorial megalomaniac?

  116. Ryan July 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm
    “Picking up on what SteveK said…
    Stardusty said: I don’t feel I should truly follow my sense of ought, it is simply an important part of my intelligence.”
    “Then it is not a sense of ought. If you don’t feel you need to follow it, it is not an ought. You are seriously confused about the meaning of some of the basic terminology being used here. Let’s see how this insane definition works: A: You ought to go to the store and buy some bread. B: So I should follow your advice and go and buy bread? A: No. B: But you said I “ought” to. A: That’s not what “ought” means. B: ??”
    * Do you always do what you feel you ought to do, or what you feel you should do? Do you ever act against your own feelings of right as opposed to wrong? Do you ever do wrong things knowing at the time you feel they are wrong?

    Are you always absolutely certain the thing you are doing is the correct thing to do? Even though you do your best to make a “good” moral judgement are you ever uncertain that your judgement truly is “good”?

    I said “I don’t feel I should truly follow my sense of ought” How can I be certain my moral judgement is “the” “true” moral judgement? I know of no absolute standard of morality to test my personal moral judgments against in order to determine if they are “truly” the correct moral judgement.

    My sense of ought is just a feeling. It is an emotion. That feeling is somewhat formalized by my rational codification of these fundamental innate sensibilities as to what is “good” and what is “bad”. I make no pretense to have absolute certainty that my moral judgement are “real” or “objective” or “absolute”.

    I do the best I can with what I have, which is all I can do, and I don’t feel bad about it nor do I feel paralyzed into inaction by my lack of absolute certainty. I make judgements based on probability estimates and I act. That is all I know how to do because I am personally certain I am not god.

  117. SteveK July 2, 2016 at 5:51 pm
    “You seem to act out of your sensations rather than your intellect. That’s what my dumb dog does. I’m seeing a parallel.”
    * Ha Ha!
    I suppose that was meant to be a bit of a dig, but actually, you are correct. Your dog is a mammal just like I am. There are a great many parallels between the behaviors of other animals and human behavior.

    The apes are highly similar to humans, and are capable of acquiring a significant degree of language, use a few tools, and have a few cultural traits.

    Don’t you ever act out of your sensations? Have you ever fallen in love? Acted out of anger? Do emotions drive your behavior at all? Chances are, if you are like most people I have known including myself, you act from a combination of your emotions and your rationality.

    When it turns out you made a bad choice do you ever say to yourself “dang, I had a bad feeling about this, I should have listened to my emotions more carefully”? Have you ever decided to “follow your heart and not your head”?

    Such is the stuff of songs and poetry and drama, the human condition, our complex physiology, indeed similar in many respects to other animals.

  118. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    I’m on the verge of giving up on you. I’m becoming convinced you are either a troll or seriously unqualified for discussions of these subjects. But I’ll try again. The hypothetical about a past society that imprisons people for atheism. I am not asking for your opinion here, I’m asking for you to concede that it is in a real objective sense not wrong for a society to do such a thing. I think you don’t understand moral relativism very well. Moral relativism does state something objectively about morality: that nothing can ever be objectively and absolutely right or wrong.

    So, if a society in the past postulates that atheism harms other people (in their view) and imprisons people for it in order to prevent others from being harmed (as they understand it in their view), there is nothing wrong with this. I’m not asking for your touchy-feely opinion about it now in 2016. I’m asking about how that society stands in relation to reality. If you are unwilling to concede that it was not objectively “wrong” or objectively a “bad idea” for such a society to do such a thing, then you have rejected moral relativism and do believe in some sort of objective morality.

    There is no distinction between your own personal sense of “ought” and a general sense of “disgust”. I see no difference between your sense of “ought” and my sense of “one shouldn’t eat food that’s been lying on the ground”. If one asked me about a past society that regularly ate food off the ground and asked if I would concede that it wasn’t wrong for a society to do such a thing and I kept saying “Well, my personal taste is that I don’t like eating food off the ground…” I would sound like a fool, unqualified for the discussion. And thus it is with you. Your sense of “ought” is your own personal taste, like my sense of “ought” that one shouldn’t eat from the ground. Your personal sense of “ought” didn’t exist in the past when this society was imprisoning people for atheism and there is no way you can say it was objectively wrong for the society to do such a thing. What right do you have to impose your personal tastes and touchy-feelies on other people? If I postulate that you are harmful to other people and should be put away in a prison for the rest of your life, how is this any different from you postulating that you aren’t harmful to other people? The simple answer is that there is no difference unless one attempts to appeal to some objective definition of “harm”.

  119. John says:

    Stardusty:”Because that is the innate physiology of the human species. That is how we are in fact constructed. That is how we are “wired up”. Our emotions are parts of our intelligence. The feelings we have, our sensibilities, the little voices we hear as we sometimes verbally and emotionally spare with ourselves all within our own thoughts…all these things are components of our intelligence, our brain function and simply are the way we operate.”

    And not following that would be wrong or…?

    Stardusty:”I would say unwise.”

    What makes it unwise?

  120. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: Absolute morality would be a morality that is absolutely provable, or demonstrably objectively true.

    No. False. I think this is at the core of your confusion. The existence of absolute morality is not dependent upon the ability of humans to prove it anymore than any other objective fact about reality is. I assume you accept that the earth orbits the sun is an objective fact of reality? And also that the earth is flat is objectively false? At one time humans did not have the ability to objectively prove that the earth orbits the sun and it was believed by many that the sun orbited the earth. The fact that humans did not have the ability to objectively prove it does not mean that the earth did not orbit the sun at that time! The objective fact that the earth orbits the sun was true even when we didn’t possess the ability to conclusively prove it. You are making reality dependent upon human observation, when it’s the other way around.

    You keep demanding that we present conclusive evidence that you will find convincing that there is objective morality, as if you are the final arbiter of what does and doesn’t exist. Two things, if I may address the most-holy-arbiter-of-all-reality-Stardusty: (1) We (the human race) do not possess the ability to conclusively prove the existence of absolute morality the way you demand. We (those of us who are moral absolutists) “postulate” it, to use your term, because the phenomena of the reality we experience seems to imply it’s existence. As a postulate it explains the ubiquitous moral phenomena we encounter everyday much better than moral relativism. (2) Even if we (humanity) possessed the ability to conclusively prove the existence of objective morality and showed you the proof, it is quite possible that you may lack the intellectual ability to grasp it, or that your bias against it may prevent you from seeing it. There are still people that believe the moon landing was staged and there is no evidence that can be shown to them to prove otherwise. How do you know that you are completely unbiased toward the evidence? Do you presume yourself to be above bias? Is that why you believe yourself to be the most-holy-arbiter-of-all-reality?

  121. John says:

    Stardusty:”I feel morally justified in sending food to starving people in any place on Earth.”

    So you believe it would be real progress by doing that?

  122. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    ISIS feels morally justified and a personal sense of “ought” to kill anyone who gets in their way. They are convinced that such people will bring harm to the world and that they are making the world a better place by killing those people. They have postulated that unbelievers do real and serious harm to this world and feel they should remove them from it like one would remove cancer from the body. They have taken into account human suffering and have decided that killing a few hundred thousand people is better than allowing 6 billion people be harmed by unbelievers. They believe that a person going by the name of “Stardusty Psyche” who has posted on an online blog is crazy and they don’t care what that person’s personal sense of “ought” is. This is a valid view and justifies their actions, correct?

  123. Ryan July 3, 2016 at 1:33 pm
    “I’m becoming convinced you are either a troll or seriously unqualified for discussions of these subjects.
    * “Troll” is typically any person who disagrees with the prevailing opinion and is not easily swayed by fallacious or meritless arguments. You consider me a likely “troll”. How amusing. Please do pardon me while I yawn.

    “But I’ll try again. The hypothetical about a past society that imprisons people for atheism. I am not asking for your opinion here,”
    * I have a feeling you are going to do just that but ok, I will continue on nevertheless.

    ” I’m asking for you to concede that it is in a real objective sense not wrong for a society to do such a thing. ”
    * I have no means to measure a real objective moral sense. I am not aware of any real objective moral reference point against which to measure a moral proposition.

    “I think you don’t understand moral relativism very well. Moral relativism does state something objectively about morality: that nothing can ever be objectively and absolutely right or wrong.”
    * I do not make that claim. Here is a statement to consider:
    There are no absolutes.
    Hmm…wait a moment, methinks there is a problem with that statement. It is palpably self contradictory.
    You see, my friend, I am well aware of that potential self contradiction. That is why I say I know of no such thing, as opposed to asserting there is no such thing. Further, to the best of knowledge, no person has ever expressed a valid moral absolute, therefore, I provisionally postulate there is no such thing as a moral absolute until such time as somebody convincingly expresses at least 1.

    “So, if a society in the past postulates that atheism harms other people (in their view) and imprisons people for it in order to prevent others from being harmed (as they understand it in their view), there is nothing wrong with this. ”
    * I think there is, and I can explain why, but I cannot state it is wrong as an absolutely provable fact.

    “I’m not asking for your touchy-feely opinion about it now in 2016. I’m asking about how that society stands in relation to reality.
    * I know of no absolute reality reference point to use in order to answer that question.

    “If you are unwilling to concede that it was not objectively “wrong” or objectively a “bad idea” for such a society to do such a thing, then you have rejected moral relativism and do believe in some sort of objective morality.”
    * If there is an objective or real or absolute reference for morality I am unaware of it. I cannot conceive of there being such a thing. I am personally convinced there is no such thing. My sort of moral relativism postulates there is no absolute moral reference and proceeds on various postulated moral propositions, much as geometry postulates that 2 points define a line and proceeds within a closed system of reasoning absent a proof of that fundamental postulate.

    “Your sense of “ought” is your own personal taste, like my sense of “ought” that one shouldn’t eat from the ground. Your personal sense of “ought” didn’t exist in the past when this society was imprisoning people for atheism and there is no way you can say it was objectively wrong for the society to do such a thing. ”
    * Ok, there is no objective way for me to say that was wrong.

    “What right do you have to impose your personal tastes and touchy-feelies on other people?”
    * I claim the right for myself of self defense. (If you ever have a chance to see the Nick Nolte performance in Lorenzo’s Oil about the meaning or the word “arrogant” I highly recommend it). I further claim the right of self defense includes the right to defend my children, and the defenseless of my tribe, and that the whole of humanity is my tribe.

    “If I postulate that you are harmful to other people and should be put away in a prison for the rest of your life, how is this any different from you postulating that you aren’t harmful to other people? The simple answer is that there is no difference unless one attempts to appeal to some objective definition of “harm”.
    * We don’t need an objective or provably real or provably absolute standard to make meaningful distinctions.

    Meaning is relative. Things have meaning in relationship to each other.

    In the USA who we put in prison based upon some fundamental propositions. Those propositions are written down in a document called the Constitution of the United States of America. Under the law you do not get to simply say so and so has to go to jail. You have to demonstrate that your proposed law is in accordance with those fundamental propositions.

    Nobody has shown any proof that those propositions are absolutely correct, but those are the propositions we refer to as a test of any law.

    Most notably, we have the 1st Amendment and the 14th Amendment. Your hypothetical postulate of putting people in jail merely for being atheists cannot be derived from those fundamental propositions and is therefore invalid under the law.

    We act within a relative framework absent absolute certainty based on fundamental consensus postulates of principle and process.

    Welcome to the human condition, my friend.

  124. John July 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm
    “Stardusty:”Because that is the innate physiology of the human species. That is how we are in fact constructed. That is how we are “wired up”. Our emotions are parts of our intelligence. The feelings we have, our sensibilities, the little voices we hear as we sometimes verbally and emotionally spare with ourselves all within our own thoughts…all these things are components of our intelligence, our brain function and simply are the way we operate.”

    And not following that would be wrong or…?

    Stardusty:”I would say unwise.”

    What makes it unwise?”
    * The term “unwise” is just something from my own experience, your mileage may vary. In my life I have come to regret times I have not balanced the whole of my faculties and only paid attention to a single aspect of my intelligence. Perhaps that is not your experience in your life. I would say it is unwise for me. You can judge for yourself what is wise for you, but if the commonality of human experience I sense is the case then it seems likely that for each of us to take into account the whole of our faculties is wise.

  125. Ryan
    “No. False. I think this is at the core of your confusion. The existence of absolute morality is not dependent upon the ability of humans to prove it anymore than any other objective fact about reality is.”
    * Indeed. I said I know of no such thing and specifically avoided making a claim there could be no such thing. An absolute human morality, a morality we as humans could point to and actually use as a reference point in our moral judgement would be dependent upon our ability to prove such.

    “I assume you accept that the earth orbits the sun is an objective fact of reality? ”
    * No, I could be god and simply dreaming of Earth and sun, which might not exist at all. I am personally convinced that is preposterous notion, but no more preposterous than the speculation of any god at all.

    If there is to be a god it may as well be me.

    “And also that the earth is flat is objectively false? ”
    * No, for the same reasons.
    However, if we make certain postulates such as the basic reliability of the human senses, we can work objectively within a closed set of reasoning to come to that objective conclusion in the sense one can objectively navigate a rational space using postulates of fact and process.

    “You are making reality dependent upon human observation, when it’s the other way around.”
    * I said I know of no absolute moral reference and specifically avoided the claim there could be no such thing.

    “We (the human race) do not possess the ability to conclusively prove the existence of absolute morality the way you demand”
    * Ok, so no human being has available a demonstrably absolute moral standard. You can speculate such a thing exists “out there” but that is of no functional value to we humans who have no provable access to it.

    Thus, by our own assertion, we are all forced into some sort of moral relativism by virtue of this inherent human ignorance.

    “We (those of us who are moral absolutists) “postulate” it, to use your term, because the phenomena of the reality we experience seems to imply it’s existence. ”
    * Ok, hence my repeated use of the terms “I know of no” as opposed to “there is no”

    ” (2) Even if we (humanity) possessed the ability to conclusively prove the existence of objective morality and showed you the proof, it is quite possible that you may lack the intellectual ability to grasp it, or that your bias against it may prevent you from seeing it.”
    * Oh boo hoo, poor you faced with such stupid people as me who just could not see the wisdom you present. Life is really tough for you that way, I really do pity you thusly.

    Oh yes, your intellect is just so vastly superior to mine, I really do feel badly for you having to deal with the lowliness that is my ilk.

    “Is that why you believe yourself to be the most-holy-arbiter-of-all-reality?
    * Do you still beat your wife?

  126. John July 3, 2016 at 2:37 pm
    Stardusty:”I feel morally justified in sending food to starving people in any place on Earth.”

    “So you believe it would be real progress by doing that?”
    * I seems like a good thing to do, in general. But “real”? In what sense? Yes, it seems to me that other people are real, and helping other people avoid starving to death seems to me to be a good thing.

    I can’t absolutely prove these things but I do not require absolute proof to act. I act based on probability estimates. I am not paralyzed by an absence of absolute certainty.

  127. Ryan says:
    July 3, 2016 at 3:12 pm
    “Stardusty,

    ISIS feels morally justified and a personal sense of “ought” to kill anyone who gets in their way. They are convinced that such people will bring harm to the world and that they are making the world a better place by killing those people. They have postulated that unbelievers do real and serious harm to this world and feel they should remove them from it like one would remove cancer from the body. They have taken into account human suffering and have decided that killing a few hundred thousand people is better than allowing 6 billion people be harmed by unbelievers. They believe that a person going by the name of “Stardusty Psyche” who has posted on an online blog is crazy and they don’t care what that person’s personal sense of “ought” is. This is a valid view and justifies their actions, correct?”

    * I don’t think so. I cannot absolutely prove Allah is false, or Yahweh is false, or Jesus is false, or Vishnu is false, or any of the thousands of speculated gods are false.

    I have heard that the folks here are Christian. I was raised as a Christian. I know a fair amount about Christianity. I know a bit about the Bible. I know the OT is just about the most ugly set of books ever written.

    The plain text of the OT says it is more than simply OK, rather, a requirement to march into lands, murder every living human being, and steal their land. This is deemed “good” because god said to do it and god is deemed to be perfectly good in all things.

    I say that is “bad”. I claim to have better moral standards than your god. I love people. I say love is better than hate and destruction and genocide.

    Your god is a monster.

    Allah is a monster.

    Muhammad was a monster.

    Those are my personal moral judgments according to my personal sense of ought based on my fundamental sense of empathy for the whole of humankind.

    I claim that is better than your god, or the god ISIS worships, or any god I have ever heard of.

    I claim for myself the right of self defense, and by extension the defense of the defenseless in my tribe, and the whole of humanity is my tribe.

    Jews, Christians, and Muslims all are known to say they are all children of Abraham, thus a common people. Abraham was a psychopath who would kill his own child because he heard voices in his head. That is despicable in my personal sense of morality.

    I say the promotion of human flourishing is “good”. Killing ones own son is therefore “bad”. Yahweh is therefore “bad”. Allah is therefore “bad”. Muhammad is therefore “bad”. The Islamic State is therefore “bad”

  128. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    Which one of these is true (if any):

    Since there is no objective morality…

    (1) If a person acts according to their own personal sense of “ought”, this is good.

    (2) If a person acts according to the established “ought” of the society they live in, this is good.

    (3) If a person acts according to Stardusty’s personal sense of “ought”, this is good.

  129. Kevin says:

    “Abraham was a psychopath who would kill his own child because he heard voices in his head. That is despicable in my personal sense of morality.”

    If this biblical story is true, then you are factually incorrect in describing God as “voices in his head”. If the story never happened and is fiction, you are getting the story wrong because Abraham was speaking to God, not hearing “voices in his head”. And if you believe Abraham truly existed and that he truly went to kill his son based on “voices in his head”, well you just made that up…or got it from whatever Internet atheist made it up. No matter the spin, you have no credibility with this line.

    Which is hilarious, given how often atheists use it. It’s the equivalent of “if humans evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys”.

  130. FZM says:

    Stardusty,

    What other kind of morality would there be other than relative morality?

    No morality, or nothing worth calling ‘morality’. It might be that moral talk is just meaningless or nonsense, or that scepticism towards all talk of morality (whether’ relative’ or ‘objective’) is the correct position.

    I can, however, provide mountains of evidence that shows people do each have their own personal sense of ought, and these senses of ought vary from person to person and society to society, and no absolute reference point for judging these various moralities has yet been absolutely demonstrated.

    Can you provide the arguments that demonstrate that none have been ‘absolutely demonstrated’, because it would be interesting to see what they are and what you understand by ‘absolutely demonstrated’?

  131. SteveK says:

    What other kind of morality would there be other than relative morality?

    Uhhh,, the kind that actually obligates.

  132. Ryan
    “Stardusty,
    Which one of these is true (if any):
    Since there is no objective morality…
    (1) If a person acts according to their own personal sense of “ought”, this is good.
    (2) If a person acts according to the established “ought” of the society they live in, this is good.
    (3) If a person acts according to Stardusty’s personal sense of “ought”, this is good.”

    * Indeed, since I have no access to an absolute moral reference I would be unable to absolutely prove 1, 2, or 3 to be “true” or “false”.

    Our society does broadly endorse the notions of promotion of human flourishing, and avoidance of harm. Most people broadly agree with those propositions. So, for the most part, we all pretty much agree on the basics of acceptable human behavior.

    We don’t have much difficulty in agreement that murder, theft, assault, kidnapping and other major crimes are “bad”. A small percentage either do not agree or don’t care and we call such people criminals when they act accordingly.

    We don’t live in total chaos simply because we lack access to an absolute moral reference point.

  133. Kevin July 4, 2016 at 3:59 am
    “SP – Abraham was a psychopath who would kill his own child because he heard voices in his head. That is despicable in my personal sense of morality.”
    “If this biblical story is true, then you are factually incorrect in describing God as “voices in his head”.
    * Given the multitude of mutually exclusive such stories throughout history that seems very unlikely simply on statistical grounds. Based on the paucity of evidence for any god that is infinitesimally likely.

    “If the story never happened and is fiction, you are getting the story wrong because Abraham was speaking to God, not hearing “voices in his head”.
    * How would one distinguish the feeling of communicating with a god from the feeling of a psychopathic hallucination?

    “And if you believe Abraham truly existed and that he truly went to kill his son based on “voices in his head”, well you just made that up”
    * That is how people “hear” god. It is a voice, a feeling, a vision sometimes literally in a dream. I am not making it up, that is how the stories are written. It is the author who is making it up, or writing down something that somebody else made up.

    Genesis 22New International Version (NIV)
    Abraham Tested
    22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
    “Here I am,” he replied.
    2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

    Clearly, the story is written as a voice that Abraham heard. I am not making it up. That is what the text says. I have never heard a god, but I do sometimes sense a sort of voice in my head. Thoughts come to me in the English language and I “hear” them internally. One indication of insanity is believing those voices originate outside my head. I do not have that form of insanity since I realize my dreams and thoughts are my own brain function, but I know many people fail to make that distinction and they are known colloquially as “crazy”.

    I know of no gods. I have never seen a god. I have never heard a god. I know of no valid arguments for the existence of a god. I know of no valid evidence for a god. But I know there are lots of crazy people. Therefore, I place the likelyhood that Abraham was a crazy person as very high, if he ever existed at all.

    “Which is hilarious, given how often atheists use it. It’s the equivalent of “if humans evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys”.”
    * Sorry, I do not see any parallel between that kind of faulty reasoning and my statements about Abraham.

  134. FZM July 4, 2016 at 7:15 am
    “Stardusty,What other kind of morality would there be other than relative morality?”
    “No morality, or nothing worth calling ‘morality’. It might be that moral talk is just meaningless or nonsense, or that scepticism towards all talk of morality (whether’ relative’ or ‘objective’) is the correct position.”
    * The absence of a thing is not another kind of that thing. But, more broadly, ok, in your view maybe there could be no “worthwhile” morality.

    “SP -I can, however, provide mountains of evidence that shows people do each have their own personal sense of ought, and these senses of ought vary from person to person and society to society, and no absolute reference point for judging these various moralities has yet been absolutely demonstrated.”
    “Can you provide the arguments that demonstrate that none have been ‘absolutely demonstrated’, because it would be interesting to see what they are and what you understand by ‘absolutely demonstrated’?”
    * I know of no arguments for an objective morality or an absolutely true moral assertion or a known “real” moral proposition. I am unable to prove the universal negative, but thus far I have not encountered a single example, so my provisional assertion is there are none.

    If you have one handy by all means please do share it with me. That would truly be a unique event in my life and I would be in your debt.

  135. John says:

    ”But “real”? In what sense? Yes, it seems to me that other people are real, and helping other people avoid starving to death seems to me to be a good thing.”

    Are you conflating everyday realism and experience and the acceptance of it’s common sense reality with your sense of ought and it’s level of reality?

    Because if so, you’ve created a dillema for yourself:

    1: Either you are not a moral relativist, anymore then you are a solipsist or seriously entertain Matrix-level skeptical ideas.

    If so, then by your own admission Common-sense Realism seems to be true for you in a similar/equal sense as moral objectivism.

    2: Or you believe in an objective reality because it’s common sense but at the same time question your own common sense for the sake of skepticism as well as for the sake of questioning morality’s objectivity.

    Which would be you questioning morality because you can always doubt your senses, even Commonsense Realism.This would make the Evolutionairy Argument Against Naturalism so much more ironic and hilarious when we consider your situation.

    And this would be almost irrational because you are accepting Commonsense Realism in your everyday experience as well as practicing a belief in a personal ought but yet doubt both of them in an inconsistent manner.

  136. John says:

    ”The term “unwise” is just something from my own experience, your mileage may vary. In my life I have come to regret times I have not balanced the whole of my faculties and only paid attention to a single aspect of my intelligence. Perhaps that is not your experience in your life. I would say it is unwise for me. You can judge for yourself what is wise for you, but if the commonality of human experience I sense is the case then it seems likely that for each of us to take into account the whole of our faculties is wise.”

    So basically there is no objective obligation to be rational then?

  137. SteveK July 4, 2016 at 9:51 am
    “SP What other kind of morality would there be other than relative morality?”

    “Uhhh,, the kind that actually obligates.”
    * How does an obligation to adhere to a code guarantee it is an objectively correct code?

    “We hold these truths to be self evident” No proof provided, merely an assertion of opinion as to what is “obviously true”.

    Our constitution enumerates certain of these “self evident” rights, not as proved facts, rather, as postulates of basic principles, sometimes called relative morality. Yet we are obligated as citizens to adhere to this relative morality consensus opinion else face criminal conviction and sentencing.

  138. John July 4, 2016 at 11:19 am
    “Are you conflating everyday realism and experience and the acceptance of it’s common sense reality with your sense of ought and it’s level of reality?”
    * Since I provisionally accept the basic reliability of the human senses, then the feeling that I “should” do something is a real feeling.

    “1: Either you are not a moral relativist, anymore then you are a solipsist or seriously entertain Matrix-level skeptical ideas.”
    * I don’t ascribe to any particular school of thought, too much baggage. I am a cherry picker of good ideas. I realize we need some kind of common terminology to communicate, but I avoid identification with any particular school of thought because unwanted implications always seem to come with that identification.

    “If so, then by your own admission Common-sense Realism seems to be true for you in a similar/equal sense as moral objectivism.”
    * The human senses, including my feelings about what I should do or ought to do seem real to me, yes. I don’t see how it would then follow there must exist and objective moral standard.

    “2: Or you believe in an objective reality because it’s common sense but at the same time question your own common sense for the sake of skepticism as well as for the sake of questioning morality’s objectivity.”
    * Ok, I’ll go along with that, not precisely my words but fair enough. Perhaps one difference is that I see no default driver toward a moral reality, whereas I do see a default line of reasoning toward a real physical existence. A real physical existence is very different from an asserted real moral object of some kind. A moral object would be akin to an abstract object which is itself an oxymoronic and incoherent term.

    “Which would be you questioning morality because you can always doubt your senses, even Commonsense Realism.This would make the Evolutionairy Argument Against Naturalism so much more ironic and hilarious when we consider your situation.”
    * Sorry, I don’t get the joke!

    “And this would be almost irrational because you are accepting Commonsense Realism in your everyday experience as well as practicing a belief in a personal ought but yet doubt both of them in an inconsistent manner.”
    * Hmm…I don’t see where I am being inconsistent.

    Feynman said “the philosopher who pondered the reality of his food died of hunger” I mean, it is all good fun and a stimulating intellectual exercise to continually ask why why why, and how do we know, and to say prove it prove it prove it. I kind of like the way presuppositionalists will yammer on like incessant children because we should be able to answer the incessantly questioning child else how grown up are we really?

    That drove Descartes to cogito ergo sum from which he hoped to build a rational reality. He succeeded in doubting his way all the way back to this one absolute truth, but he found no way to move forward with it, nor has any person since, including me.

    Hunger seems real to me. So I eat my food while pondering its reality. The feelings I sometimes have that I should do something or I ought to do this or that seem real to me. So I factor those feelings into my choices.

    As a child I sang:
    Row row row your boat
    Gently down the stream
    Merrily merrily merrily merrily
    Life is but a dream

    Perhaps, but it seems real to me so I live it as if it is real and all my emotions feel real to me so I treat them as valuable aspects of my intelligence.

    I see no inconsistency in all that.

  139. John says:

    ”The human senses, including my feelings about what I should do or ought to do seem real to me, yes. I don’t see how it would then follow there must exist and objective moral standard.”

    It doesn’t, but if you live reality as if it was real based on your senses and live morality as if there were oughts for you, then in no way can you be classified as an anti-realist or as a moral relativist.It is simply inconsistent behaviour.

    ”Perhaps one difference is that I see no default driver toward a moral reality, whereas I do see a default line of reasoning toward a real physical existence.”

    Sounds like you might be presupposing moral relativism.But you are saying you experience a sense of ought, and there are parallels to experiencing a sense of objectivity, and thus the line of reasoning is still valid.

    ”A real physical existence is very different from an asserted real moral object of some kind. A moral object would be akin to an abstract object which is itself an oxymoronic and incoherent term.”

    As far as I know, ethics doesn’t describe moral statements as objects.It has more to do with value systems and the like.

  140. John July 4, 2016 at 11:22 am
    “So basically there is no objective obligation to be rational then?”
    * What would obligate us to be rational? Survival would be a strong motivator.

    There are moments in my life where rationality is completely mollified by pure emotion or physicality. I don’t feel obligated to be thinking in a time sequence of rational concepts at all moments in my life, although the vast majority of my waking moments are spent in that condition.

    Emotions are part of our intelligence. I prefer to use my whole intelligence in concert, at least as well as I am able, sometimes not so well.

  141. John says:

    Stardusty:”What would obligate us to be rational?

    There are moments in my life where rationality is completely mollified by pure emotion or physicality. I don’t feel obligated to be thinking in a time sequence of rational concepts at all moments in my life, although the vast majority of my waking moments are spent in that condition.”

    It doesn’t matter if you aren’t rational all the time.It only matters in some cases.

    So are we obligated to be rational at least when in discourse?

  142. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    You are an intellectual coward, and this is despicable in my personal sense of morality (to quote you). Whenever you are pressed on a position you hide behind robotic, repetitive, talking point like statements such as: “I know of no argument…” “I know of no absolute…” “I know of no…”. You sound like Marco Rubio in the one debate where he kept repeating the same talking point. Robotic, mindless. Ok, we get it, you’re ignorant about everything… a complete nincompoop. So then, stop communicating with others about these topics if you have nothing of any real objective value to contribute. No one cares about your delusions of “human flourishing” (<– is that an objective term?). If it's not real, it's fake. Everything you say about morality is no closer to reality than "blah, blah, blah". Unless you suddenly disagree, and now believe that your moral views do correlate with reality in some way?

    I posited three positions one may take for a relative morality, with the assumption that morality was not objective. I prefaced it with this, which you must not have read: Since there is no objective morality…

    (1) If a person acts according to their own personal sense of “ought”, this is good.

    (2) If a person acts according to the established “ought” of the society they live in, this is good.

    (3) If a person acts according to Stardusty’s personal sense of “ought”, this is good.

    Now, the first time you hid in intellectual cowardice behind “Indeed, since I have no access to an absolute moral reference I would be unable to absolutely prove 1, 2, or 3 to be “true” or “false”. My question is not whether any of these are objectively true. Pause, and reread the last sentence if you don’t understand. My question is which one you personally use and apply for your meaningless (in a real, objective sense) morality.

    Earlier you said: In my personal sense of ought slavery is “bad” so I consider slavery in every society on Earth to be “bad”. Do you realize that this is position (3) above?: If a person acts according to Stardusty’s personal sense of “ought”, this is good. This is the principle that your relative morality is based upon, correct? Your relative morality rejects positions (1) and (2) because in your slavery example you judge slavery to be wrong in your relative morality regardless of whether it is an individual doing it or a society.

  143. Ryan says:

    Stardusty, you are a monster and should be put in prison for the rest of your monstrous life. I can’t prove what I said, and it’s just my own personal sense of morality. But, you are a monster. Let me be more emphatic:

    Stardusty is a monster.

    Yahweh is awesome.

    Allah is awesome.

    Stardusty is a despicable monster.

    I can’t prove anything that I said but it’s based upon my personal sense of morality and empathy for human flourishing.

    This is how bipolar you sound. You jump back and forth between making sweeping proclamations and then claiming you are incapable of making sweeping proclamations. One sounds unintelligent when doing such things.

  144. SteveK says:

    How does an obligation to adhere to a code guarantee it is an objectively correct code?

    When the obligation applies to you, independent of anyones opinion, then it’s the correct one.

  145. Kevin says:

    Regarding the Abraham bit, nothing in the text indictated he didn’t hear it externally. Assumption upon assumption upon assumption. But if you don’t mind embarrassing yourself, far be it for me to dissuade you.

  146. SteveK says:

    Ryan
    I too picked up on SP’s duplicitous “bipolar” behavior in my comment way up the page. If his words/opinions are telling us something true about human behavior, then his morality is objective. But if they are not then his words/opinions are empty. I closed with this:

    “In the same way human behaviors are good according to your opinion, planets are square. Your moral terms tell me NOTHING true about human behaviors. But if you are attempting to do that, your moral opinions are always FALSE just as the squareness term is false if I were attempting to say something true about planets.”

  147. Ryan says:

    Kevin said: Regarding the Abraham bit, nothing in the text indictated he didn’t hear it externally. Assumption upon assumption upon assumption.

    This is a great point and demonstrates that Stardusty is not a “skeptic” so much as one who really hates religion and has an ax to grind (possibly unresolved issues with parents? since Stardusty claims to have been raised “Christian”).

    The closest the text comes to something that could be interpreted as “voices in the head” is in Gen 15:1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.(ESV) However, this same story relates just a few verses later in Gen 15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.(ESV) Here it is presented as something that happened outside of a vision. Then in Gen 16:7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.(ESV) Here God appears as a physical person and not in a vision. And Gen 18:1-2 And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him.(ESV) Again the story relates that God appeared not as a voice in someone’s head but as a physical person speaking to one who is awake and not dreaming. Stardusty can reject these stories as untrue if he/she/it wants, but if he/she/it wants to criticize the stories, then he/she/it needs to criticize the actual story as it’s told, not some made-up version that he/she/it has created (<– this is where null-subject languages like Latin and Greek demonstrate their superiority over languages like English and French). Stardusty's argument is really a straw-man. This is evidence to me that Stardusty is not the unbiased “skeptic” that he/she/it presents him/her/itself to be, but has a personal vendetta against religion in general.

  148. Ilíon says:

    You are an intellectual coward, …

    Well, yes. But that’s because he is intellectually dishonest — he *knows* that the position he is trying to convince others to adopt as being the truth about the reality is not only false, but absurd and incoherent and irrational; and still he’s pushing it … while also attempting to appeal to its denial when that is more convenient.

  149. TFBW says:

    (this is where null-subject languages like Latin and Greek demonstrate their superiority over languages like English and French)

    English used to be perfectly adept at this. The pronoun “he” was for males and persons of indeterminate gender; the pronoun “she” was for females and personified objects (such as ships, countries, etc). The feminists ruined it by declaring it “sexist”, and public education more or less capitulated in the name of political correctness. I still maintain “sexist” language in protest. If it irks a feminist, that’s just a bonus — my revenge for crimes against language.

  150. Ilion says:

    TFBW:… The feminists ruined it by declaring it “sexist”, and public education more or less capitulated in the name of political correctness.

    Aided and abbetted by a certain class of male (notice, I didn’t call them men) trying to be hip or cool, typically academics and wannabe intellectuals, a significant number of whom like to pretend to themselves that they are opposed to feminism and to the wider leftism.

    TFBW:… I still maintain “sexist” language in protest. If it irks a feminist, that’s just a bonus – my revenge for crimes against language.

    One of the ways I fight back is to use “gender inclusive language” is ways that they never wood — if I need to speak of a sex non-specific plumber or murderer, or moron, I’ll use the pronoun “she”.

    Also, if I’m reading something and I come across a “she” where English demands “he”, I almost always stop reading, for the author has just demonstrated himself (except for a few man-hating lesbians, women, don’t use that false construction) to be a fool, and fools are rarely worth my time. If I have a way to do so, I’ll generally let him know why I’m not going to waste my time with what he wrote — they almost always come back with a really lame rationale.

  151. John July 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm
    “Stardusty:”What would obligate us to be rational?”

    “So are we obligated to be rational at least when in discourse?”
    Sorry, I am not sure what you mean by “obligated”. If we don’t follow certain conventions of discourse others will just stop communicating. To me it seems reasonable to follow certain generally accepted principles of logical and rational discourse. I don’t see how those principles could be construed as some absolute obligation, but they seem reasonable to me and what most of us consider rational discourse is my personal preference.

  152. “Ryan – I can’t prove anything that I said but it’s based upon my personal sense of morality and empathy for human flourishing.”

    Ok, what fundamental principles of human flourishing have I violated in your view? I condemn the notion of killing all human beings on Earth except a handful. I consider that sort of genocide to be the antithesis of human flourishing. I think any being that would commit genocide against the entire population of Earth is acting contrary to human flourishing. How, specifically, does my condemnation of global genocide equate to a position against human flourishing in your sense of morality?

    I oppose using the method of genocide to steal the land of others. In my view that act is counter to the flourishing of those being murdered and is not justified by the coveting of that land by the murderers. How does this view of mine against land theft by genocide mean I am advocating a position against human flourishing in your moral sense?

    I am opposed to stoning a woman to death on her wedding night if she turns out not to be a virgin when she said she was. How does the stoning to death a woman on her wedding night promote human flourishing and what specific fundamental moral principles are you applying to come to this judgement and what is your specific moral justification for this act of stoning a woman to death on her wedding night?

    “One sounds unintelligent when doing such things.”
    Oh, then by all means please do use your vastly superior intelligence to detail your intricate moral constructions founded upon your postulates of moral good and evil to arrive at justifications for genocide and land theft and execution for consensual sex.

  153. SteveK July 4, 2016 at 2:15 pm
    “SP How does an obligation to adhere to a code guarantee it is an objectively correct code?”

    “When the obligation applies to you, independent of anyones opinion, then it’s the correct one.”
    * How do we determine this application without any human opinion? If no human renders an opinion on the application then there is no human application.

    It must be somebody’s opinion that this obligation applies to me, else there is nobody making the application and no application is made.

    Sorry Steve, you can’t get here from there by taking no path.

  154. “Ryan – Stardusty is not a “skeptic” so much as one who really hates religion and has an ax to grind (possibly unresolved issues with parents?”
    * Thank you ever so much for the free internet psychoanalysis.

  155. “Ilíon July 5, 2016 at 5:28 pm
    “he *knows* that the position he is trying to convince others to adopt as being the truth about the reality is not only false, but absurd and incoherent and irrational;”
    * Your talents as a mind reader are wasted on this little thread. You should work pro poker, you could clean up knowing what everybody else is thinking.

  156. “TFBW July 5, 2016 at 7:47 pm
    my revenge for crimes against language.”

    * Vindictive much?

  157. “TFBW – English demands “he”,”

    * Please introduce me to the god of English, or are you she?

  158. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    Do you acknowledge that your rant about Abraham listening to “voices in his head” was a straw-man argument? Either show where the text describes it that way, or admit to the fallacious straw-man argument.

    As far as my psychoanalysis, I’ll just point out that you didn’t deny anything I said.

    Now, back to your narcissistic megalomania. In your opinion, should everyone person on earth live according to your personal sense of morality? I’ll spare you from reciting your trite talking-point like “I know of no argument…” garbage and answer for you based upon what I can piece together from your incoherent nonsense that you think is a rational argument. In your opinion, every single person on earth should act in accordance with your own personal sense of morality. And, you repeatedly admit that this is not an objective morality that exists outside of you, but merely one of your own making.

    Now, there is a difference between moral absolutism and moral universalism (or moral objectivism). And both of these are distinct from moral relativism. Theists are generally moral absolutists, believing in some eternal, unchanging standard; and you are not based upon your ramblings. You are not a <moral relativist either, though, because you impose your morals across time, space, and culture. You believe in an objective morality, one that transcends all cultures and times, but it’s not an absolute standard, but your own personal sense of morality. You apply your own personal standard to every person on earth. This is evidence of megalomania.

    There are very few people on this earth, very very few, that have the arrogance to impose their personal opinion on every other individual. You see, there is one major point where moral absolutists and moral relativists agree: Neither of us believe that an individual has the right to impose their personal morals on others. One thinks there is an eternal standard, similar to the laws of physics, and the other thinks morals are determined by societies as they work things out as a community of many people. You, my megalomaniac friend, are unique in that whereas the rest of us seek some standard outside of ourselves to apply to others, you self-consciously apply your own personal standard to everyone else. This is why I say that you are a narcissistic megalomaniac.

  159. TFBW says:

    Ilíon said:

    [Stardusty Psyche] is intellectually dishonest — he *knows* that the …

    I firmly disagree. I see no evidence of any knowledge in his posts, and I think the onus is on you to show otherwise.

  160. Ryan July 6, 2016 at 4:10 am
    “Do you acknowledge that your rant about Abraham listening to “voices in his head” was a straw-man argument? Either show where the text describes it that way,”
    * The texts say he heard voices. Given the fact that god is not in evidence the chances of those voices not being in his head are infinitesimal.

    Sorry for the brief reply, gotta run…

  161. Kevin says:

    Well he believes the Bible enough to accept that Abraham and Isaac weren’t fictional, so that’s a good start.

    Still have to work on awareness of the essentially universal male gender pronouns used to describe God, and grammatical rules that require God to be capitalized, but it’s a start.

  162. Ilíon says:

    Ryan:You are an intellectual coward, …
    me:Well, yes. But that’s because he is intellectually dishonest — he *knows* that the position he is trying to convince others to adopt as being the truth about the [nature of] reality is not only false, but absurd and incoherent and irrational; and still he’s pushing it … while also attempting to appeal to its denial when that is more convenient.

    TFBW:I firmly disagree. I see no evidence of any knowledge in his posts, and I think the onus is on you to show otherwise.

    Please!

    To play stupid is not to be stupid; and to play ignorant is not to be ignorant.

    There are three — and only three — general categories of explanation for why a person asserts a false proposition —
    1) stupidity — a person may assert (or believe) a false proposition if he is categorically incapable of understanding the truth of the matter;
    2) ignorance — a person may assert (or believe) a false proposition if he is capable of understanding the truth of the matter but does not presently properly understand it;
    3) intellectual dishonesty — a person may assert a false proposition if he is capable of understanding the truth of the matter but does not wish himself or others to properly understand it.

    While any specific instance may involves elements of more than one category, these three are the *only* categories of explanation available to explain the continued behavior of ‘Stardusty Psyche’ after so many demolitions of his position … and of yourself.

    ============
    Let’s overlook ‘Stardusty Psyche’ for the moment and focus on you.

    Are you too stupid to understand what I am saying? I don’t believe that you are — and nothing can convince me to believe that you are too stupid to understand this. The subject matter has to be really abstruse before stupidity becomes a live option; and even then, a claim (or charge) of stupidity is generally a cover for impatience of lack-of-interest on the part of one party or the other.

    So, perforce, I must look to one of the other explanations.

    Are you intellectually dishonest on this point? While understanding that there may well be some element of this involved, I presently have no reason to believe that to be primarily the case; and thus it would be intellectual dishonesty on my part to ascribe your silly demand purely (or mostly) to intellectual dishonesty.

    Are you lacking some grounding knowledge or understanding which is necessary to understand what I had said? Well, since we all start out as ignorant, and since I presently have no reason to ascribe your self-vitiating (*) demand to (or primarily to) intellectual dishonesty.

    That is, charity, experience, and reason demand that I (presently) ascribe your silly demand to ignorance rather than to stupidity or dishonesty.

    Of course, now that it has been explained to you, should you persist then dishonesty becomes a live option.

    ===========
    (*) Gentle Reader, consider again what I wrote: “… [‘Stardusty Psyche’] *knows* that the position he is trying to convince others to adopt as being the truth about the [nature of] reality is [… false …] and still he’s pushing it … while also attempting to appeal to its denial when that is more convenient.

    Now, recall the continued behavior of ‘Stardusty Psyche’ in this thread. Does he not assert that there is no such actual thing as morality even as he attempts to silence criticism of his absurd position by appealing to some (false, as it turns out) moral standard?

    Such continued behavior *cannot* be explained by stupidity or by mere honest ignorance. It can be explained *only* by dishonesty.

  163. TFBW says:

    With respect, Ilíon, I stand by my remark. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, any sufficiently advanced form of ignorant stupidity is indistinguishable from intellectual dishonesty. I think you’d have your work cut out for you to prove that Stardusty is guilty of the latter and not the former, and Hanlon’s Razor advises us — wisely, I think — to assume the former if there is any doubt.

    But let it not be said that I am unreasonable about it. If you can point to anything in this thread that Stardusty has said which could reasonably be classified as “knowledge”, I will reconsider my position.

  164. SteveK says:

    SP: What other kind of morality would there be other than relative morality?
    Me: Uhhh,, the kind that actually obligates.”
    SP: How does an obligation to adhere to a code guarantee it is an objectively correct code?
    Me: When the obligation applies to you, independent of anyones opinion, then it’s the correct one.
    SP: How do we determine this application without any human opinion? If no human renders an opinion on the application then there is no human application.

    You’re now looking at the knowledge question (how can we know) where I’m sticking with your original question, which is an existence question (does it exist). You started of with “what other kind of…”, which is an existence question.

  165. John says:

    ”To me it seems reasonable to follow certain generally accepted principles of logical and rational discourse. I don’t see how those principles could be construed as some absolute obligation, but they seem reasonable to me and what most of us consider rational discourse is my personal preference.”

    If it’s not absolute nor an obligation, then there is quite literally no reason to be rational in discourse.It merely comes down to what a person wants to do for whatever reason he wants it to do.

    But another thing, you seem to not to realise your position isn’t merely that of a subjective personal preference when we consider some of your past comments such as:

    me:“And also,it’s a non-sequitor to claim just because you have no idea how independent moral truths could exist it means that you can jump to the conclusion that they don’t exist.”

    Stardusty:”Indeed, that would be fallacious reasoning. My mere ignorance is not absolute proof of non-existence. I do take a preponderance of negative evidence into account in making probability estimates, but a preponderance of negative evidence is not strictly a positive proof.”

    You seem to at least have an implicit belief that people should not use logical fallacies and just blatantly go on as if it was a given and try to have more rational discourse with me.

    Something which is contradictory to the idea that it’s just a personal preference.

    And another one:

    Illion:”(*) I’m talking about your mindset and actions and claims”

    Stardusty:”So now you read my mind as well.”

    You seem to imply there that people should represent your opinion fairly and not misrepresent you.Another thing that contradicts your idea that obligations of rationality are a subjective preference.

  166. John says:

    ”The texts say he heard voices. ”

    It doesn’t say he heard voices.It says God asked Abraham a favour and talked to him.

    A favour that contradicts the previous promise of multiplying descendents and would logically lead Abraham to suspect that something was up, and lead him to probably think his son would either be resuscitated or he would be stopped by God before he actually killed his son.

  167. Ryan says:

    TFBW said: any sufficiently advanced form of ignorant stupidity is indistinguishable from intellectual dishonesty.

    I would agree with this. I honestly think that with Stardusty it’s a mix of both. I think he is actually confused about the concepts of relative and objective morality, and also about the relationship between reality and an observer’s ability or inability to perceive it (constantly insisting that if he can’t perceive something it must not be real). However, I pushed him to admit the “voices in the head” argument was a straw-man and now he’s grabbing at straws (pun intended) to save himself from admitting he’s not completely rational and unbiased toward religion. In that instance I’m convinced it’s intellectual dishonesty and that he knows the text doesn’t present interaction between Abraham and God like that stupid “Noah” movie with Russell Crowe.

  168. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    I assert that the stories in Genesis relating to Abraham do not present Abraham as “hearing voices in his head” or even just “hearing voices” (which is an idiom in contemporary English that implies the voices are in one’s head). Here is how the section about the sacrifice of Isaac begins: After these things God tested Abraham and said to him… (ESV). It doesn’t say “Abraham heard a voice” it says “God said to him” and earlier in the story God appears to Abraham as a physical person and even eats with him. I assert that you employed a straw-man argument by suggesting the story relates a delusional Abraham hearing voices in his head, because that was not the intent of the author and was not how the text was understood by the culture that received it (the Jews). Prove me wrong or my assertion stands.

    Evidence I would accept to disprove my assertion:
    (1) An argument showing that the author of the stories intended for the audience to view the interactions between Abraham and God as merely voices in his own head.
    (2) Evidence that the majority view of the ancient Jews (300 BC – Augustus, Hellenistic Period) was that Abraham was hearing voices in his head.

    Short of that, I submit that you are hearing voices in your head, and that is where you got the silly notion from. That or you watched that stupid “Noah” movie and assumed the Bible actually presents the stories in that way.

    Now, what would you accept as evidence for an absolute morality?

    Is this a valid argument?: Different cultures and people have different views about atheism, therefore atheism cannot be objectively true.

    Is this a valid argument?: Different cultures and people have different views about morality, therefore morality cannot be objectively true.

    You suggested above that because different cultures and people disagree on morality, therefore there isn’t a single absolute morality. This is actually a corollary of the fallacious argumentum ad populum. Your argument is basically “since not everyone accepts it, it’s not true”. That’s cute, but it’s wrong! If I claimed to have defeated atheism by saying “different cultures and people disagree about whether or not atheism is true, therefore atheism can’t be objectively true” I’d sound like an idiot, and so it is with you. If there is an absolute morality, it will not matter what personal opinions about it are, just as the fact the earth orbits the sun is true regardless of the views of humanity. You assume that morality is dependent upon human opinion, even if it were absolute! Here’s the tiny circle of your argument: Morality is based upon human opinion, therefore morality can’t be absolute, because it’s dependent upon human opinion. You have never proved why morality must be based upon human opinion, you simply asserted it. If morality is based upon human opinion of course morality isn’t absolute! But that is a circular argument my irrational friend.

  169. FZM says:

    Ryan

    I think he is actually confused about the concepts of relative and objective morality, and also about the relationship between reality and an observer’s ability or inability to perceive it (constantly insisting that if he can’t perceive something it must not be real).

    From my own reading of the discussion so far I think this is right.

    I was wondering if Stardusty could express his/her views with more clarity if he/she avoided the traditional language and vocabulary of morality and talked more about emotions and something like ’emotional compulsions’ as a replacement for it instead. (For example, some situations cause him/her emotional distress and he/she doesn’t like them, and he/she feels a compulsion to do something to mitigate the distress).

    This could be one way of avoiding the normative meanings that can easily be read into more conventional ‘moral’ vocabulary.

  170. “Ryan – Evidence I would accept to disprove my assertion:”
    * Oh please. When somebody says “Elvis told me to kill my son” or “Oden told me to kill my son” or “Ju Ju told me to kill my son” the conclusion is obvious, that person has a mental disorder. They hear voices. They think those voices actually come from outside the head. They are crazy.

    People who hear Yahweh tell them to murder are just as crazy as all the rest. There is no more reason to take the OT seriously than the women who drown their kids in the bathtub on god’s instruction.

  171. Kevin says:

    “People who hear Yahweh tell them to murder are just as crazy as all the rest. There is no more reason to take the OT seriously than the women who drown their kids in the bathtub on god’s instruction.”

    First, Yahweh is the name of a male god, so given your clarity in the quoted post, your apparent confusion as to God’s/Yahweh’s proper gender pronouns earlier is quite entertaining.

    Two, you say there is no reason to take the OT seriously – in other words, to regard it as true events – but then you can’t even acknowledge that God spoke to Abraham in the story, rather than Abraham being psychotic and “hearing voices”. Your approach to this is like saying Darth Vader chopped off Luke’s hand with a chainsaw, because lightsabers do not really exist. Either you believe the story is fiction and the fictional God spoke to the fictional Abraham, or you believe Abraham really existed and that it is therefore possible he only heard voices in his head – though there is no evidence that this was the case. Tell me, which is it?

    Three, God is capitalized per grammar. If you care about any sort of credibility.

  172. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    (1) Are you afraid to answer the following question? What would you accept as evidence for an absolute morality?_________________________ (<— For your answer)

    (2) How about these questions, are you afraid to answer them?:

    Is this a valid argument?: Different cultures and people have different views about atheism, therefore atheism cannot be objectively true. (This is a valid argument/This is not a valid argument) Select one.

    Is this a valid argument?: Different cultures and people have different views about morality, therefore morality cannot be objectively true. (This is a valid argument/This is not a valid argument) Select one.

    (3) Are the stories in the OT myths, or reports of actual events (i.e. real history)?

    (4) In the movie “Superman” with Christopher Reeves, when Clark Kent goes to the Fortress of Solitude and his dead father Jor-El speaks to him, is he hearing voices in his head? Of course not! We interpret the scene within the context of the story. The story creates its own universe with its own rules, and we immerse ourselves in it. Now, if the stories in the OT are myths, fables, whatever you want to call them, then they function in the same way. In the context of the story Abraham is not hearing voices in his head but God himself is speaking to him. Are you too dense to understand this or are you simply avoiding admission of your straw-man argument? Or do you believe the stories in the OT are not myths, but reports of actual events?

  173. Kevin “Yahweh’s proper gender pronouns”
    * So now you are the god of pronouns and can tell me what is “proper”. I do not feel obligated to participate in the delusions of others.

    “you can’t even acknowledge that God spoke to Abraham in the story, rather than Abraham being psychotic and “hearing voices”.
    * Huh? The story says Abraham heard a voice he attributed to god. Lots of people hear voices they attribute to god as instructions to kill innocent human beings. We generally call such people homicidal maniacs suffering from auditory hallucinations.

    “Either you believe the story is fiction and the fictional God spoke to the fictional Abraham, or you believe Abraham really existed and that it is therefore possible he only heard voices in his head – though there is no evidence that this was the case. Tell me, which is it?”
    * Nobody knows for certain. It was likely and entire fabrication. If a real Abraham heard voices the chance of those voices being really Yahweh’s voices are the same as if Ju Ju’s voices or Oden’s voices, or pink unicorn voices, or Santa Clause voices or my voices or brain in a vat voices or any other made of speculative nonsense voices.\

    “Three, God is capitalized per grammar.”
    * There is no god of grammar, or are you she? But by all means, please do cite for me your objectively true source for “correct” grammar.

  174. Ryan – “(1) Are you afraid to answer the following question? What would you accept as evidence for an absolute morality?_________________________ (<— For your answer)"
    * To me "absolute morality" is so nonsensical I cannot even imagine how one would detect it. But your god, being omnipotent and omniscient and all, could undoubtedly instill that acceptance of her evidence in me if only she wanted to, but given that absence, apparently she has no such desire.

    "Is this a valid argument?: Different cultures and people have different views about atheism, therefore atheism cannot be objectively true. (This is a valid argument/This is not a valid argument) Select one."
    * That argument is simply garbled. For my part I do not argue atheism is objectively true. I might be god and you might be a figment of my divine imagination.

    "Is this a valid argument?: Different cultures and people have different views about morality, therefore morality cannot be objectively true. (This is a valid argument/This is not a valid argument) Select one."
    * More gobildy gook.

    "(3) Are the stories in the OT myths, or reports of actual events (i.e. real history)?"
    * False dichotomy. Where are you going with all these questions? I sense an attempted trap game here.

    "(4) In the movie “Superman” with Christopher Reeves, when Clark Kent goes to the Fortress of Solitude and his dead father Jor-El speaks to him, is he hearing voices in his head? Of course not! We interpret the scene within the context of the story."
    * Ok, maybe the whole OT is pure fiction, you got me on that one, good going Ryan.

    "Or do you believe the stories in the OT are not myths, but reports of actual events?"
    * Mostly myths built around a few real places and people seems to be the most evidenced assessment.

  175. Kevin says:

    Welp that is basically all I need to see to confirm that Stardusty is so conceited as to be incapable of admitting being wrong, or is a troll, or a hilarious combination thereof. No one can possibly be that flat-out stupid.

  176. Ryan says:

    (1) Stardusty said: Ok, maybe the whole OT is pure fiction, you got me on that one, good going Ryan.

    We made some progress! I take it you understand the point we’ve all been trying to get across: If the stories about Abraham are made-up stories like the mythology of the Greeks and Romans then we must accept the stories as presented. Imposing “explanations” upon the stories is ridiculous, like saying that Luke Skywalker was hearing voices in his head when Obi Wan Kenobi spoke to him.

    On the other hand, if you accept that Abraham and Isaac were historical people and the sacrifice story really happened as described in the OT with Abraham hearing voices that he thought were coming from God… well then you would be the first atheist I’ve ever met to take that position. If this is your position, then you have a surprisingly high view of the historical reliability of the OT. But I don’t think you really do believe the OT is historically reliable. The general position of unbelievers (and some believers) is that the stories are fiction and that Abraham himself is a made-up character. To conclude, stop using the “hearing voices in the head” straw-man in the future.

    (2) Stardusty said: To me “absolute morality” is so nonsensical I cannot even imagine how one would detect it.

    Therefore, stop claiming there is no absolute morality. If you are incapable of understanding the subject, then stop talking about it. I don’t understand quantum physics, and so I don’t talk about it. I don’t go on blogs and pontificate thus: To me “quantum physics” is so nonsensical I cannot even imagine how one would detect it, therefore it cannot exist and it’s silly that anyone believes in it. If I asked you to find the participles and the causal clause in this string of Greek from the Gospel of John you may be at a loss: ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται· ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ. To someone with the proper training this is a simple question, and the answer can be given after one reading of the text, since it’s a very simple Greek text. But to one unqualified it probably feels the way quantum physics does to me. If you have no idea what evidence for an absolute morality would be, then you don’t understand the concept itself and aren’t qualified to speak about it. It’s quite possible that there is an absolute morality and you aren’t capable of recognizing it, just like there are 2 participles in the Greek I quoted and you probably have no idea what they are without outside help or guessing.

    By the way, rejecting something you don’t understand is called argument from incredulity: http://www.toolkitforthinking.com/critical-thinking/anatomy-of-an-argument/denial-arguments/argument-from-personal-incredulity

    Stardusty said: But your god, being omnipotent and omniscient and all, could undoubtedly instill that acceptance of her evidence in me if only she wanted to, but given that absence, apparently she has no such desire.

    I agree. Perhaps God doesn’t have the desire to prove himself to those who aren’t honestly open to the possibility of his existence, the same way a wise person won’t answer the questions of a “troll” that has no real interest in serious discussion.

    (3) Stardusty said: “Is this a valid argument?: Different cultures and people have different views about morality, therefore morality cannot be objectively true. (This is a valid argument/This is not a valid argument) Select one.”
    * More gobildy gook.

    I assume that means you believe it’s an invalid argument. Then what was the point of you saying this: I can, however, provide mountains of evidence that shows people do each have their own personal sense of ought, and these senses of ought vary from person to person and society to society, and no absolute reference point for judging these various moralities has yet been absolutely demonstrated. Why is any of that relevant? Weren’t you using that as an argument against an objective morality? Either way, you admit now that the differing opinion of cultures and people is entirely irrelevant to whether or not an objective morality exists. And I agree with WL Craig that an objective morality cannot exist in a godless universe, since it requires an objective, set-apart mind that is the reference point for all value and meaning (God).

    So, according to you, you have no evidence for or against an absolute morality, but you insist that it’s better to assume morality isn’t absolute. Absent of evidence, there’s no reason to assume either. Perhaps your bias against absolute morality is motivated by your atheism? Atheism, therefore no absolute morality. This suggests all this talk about morality is really just a side issue, and the issue you really need to grapple with is atheism/theism.

  177. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: But your god, being omnipotent and omniscient and all….. I might be god and you might be a figment of my divine imagination.

    No, you cannot be God, since omniscience would imply knowing that one is God. You really don’t understand the concept of “God” as described in the major monotheistic religions, do you?

  178. Kevin July 8, 2016 at 6:24 am
    “Welp that is basically all I need to see to confirm that Stardusty is so conceited as to be incapable of admitting being wrong, or is a troll, or a hilarious combination thereof. No one can possibly be that flat-out stupid.”
    * Is there an edit function on this site? The “l” is next to the “p” on the keyboard, I have made several similar typos also, then I always think, gee that looks kind of bad, wish I could fix it..

    Well, anyhow, sorry Kevin, I don’t know what you are referring to. You didn’t list any specifics about why positions are “flat out stupid” and therefore either I am that stupid or I get some kind of weird enjoyment out of making up stupid stuff.

    Sometimes I state opinions as opinions. If somebody objects to them I can elaborate. I am personally convinced of a number of things and I do not always include all caveats, postulates, and alternative considerations in every statement because doing so makes writing and reading very cumbersome and tedious.

    I made a statement back there someplace about Abraham hearing voices in his head. It should be apparent to the reader that it is also possible the whole thing was just made up, or who knows, maybe a ventriloquist was hiding behind a nearby rock.

    If Abraham really did live and if he really did hear voices then the only rational explanation for that is that he had a mental disorder such that he was unable to distinguish his own thoughts from external voices, which is a well known problem many human beings in fact have.

    Lots of people kill while claiming to have heard god tell them to kill. We routinely consider such people to either be crazy or liars.

    So sure, we can make a list of rational possibilities
    Crazy
    Liar
    Myth

    When we hear in the news of another parent killing their kids on orders from god I generally attribute that to being crazy, insane, suffering from a mental disorder. The next time it happens I suspect you will think much the same. So to me that fits the story in the Bible the best, but liar or myth are rational alternatives as well.

  179. Ryan – “Therefore, stop claiming there is no absolute morality.”
    * I made no such claim as an absolute certainty of what speculatively lies beyond our capacity to detect.

    I am unable to prove the universal negative.

    No person I have ever heard of, or read, or come in contact with has ever presented even 1 moral absolute, a moral principle demonstrable objectively true. Therefore I am personally convinced there is no such thing.

    But by all means, if you have one available to please do share it with us here, i would be in your debt.

    “If you have no idea what evidence for an absolute morality would be, then you don’t understand the concept itself and aren’t qualified to speak about it.”
    * I don’t know how one could find evidence for updownness because that is just a nonsense term. How could there even be such a thing as updownness? This is not written in a foreign language or in a mathematical language I am unfamiliar with. It is written in the English language.

    If you think you have some special communication with the updownness god and you can explain it to me then by all means please do so. I see no reason to suppose your powers of articulation and conceptualization are so much more fantastically advanced that your special intellect is beyond the reader’s comprehension. For you to claim so is the height of conceit.

    So, since you seem to know so much more about absolute morality than I do then by all means, please do give me an example of an objectively demonstrably true moral proposition.

    “By the way, rejecting something you don’t understand is called argument from incredulity:”
    Rejecting unevidenced, unexplained, irrationalities does not come under that fallacy.

    “SP no absolute reference point for judging these various moralities has yet been absolutely demonstrated.”
    Why is any of that relevant? Weren’t you using that as an argument against an objective morality?””
    The argument was a non-sequitur assertion of a negative absolute and in my rush that day looked like such a total mess my crude characterization was the first thing that came to mind.

    A negative argument based on a preponderance of negative evidence, in a setting where one would rationally expect to find positive evidence of X if X exists, is valid evidence against X, but not an absolute proof against X. Science doesn’t do absolute proof and those of us who tend to be scientifically minded go about our lives without requiring absolute proof to act.

    “Either way, you admit now that the differing opinion of cultures and people is entirely irrelevant to whether or not an objective morality exists.”
    * No, it is relevant evidence, but not an absolute negative proof. With so many people with so many ideas yet not one has identified and communicated to me a single moral absolute, yes, that is extremely strong evidence that so such thing exists and is entirely relevant to what I am personally convinced of.

    “So, according to you, you have no evidence for or against an absolute morality”
    * Wrong, I have extremely strong evidence against absolute morality and zero evidence for it.

    But, throw me a bone here wouldgyabro? Could you just stop playing hide and seek with this thing? How about you just tell me what this supposed absolute moral proposition is? I mean, it would be nice if you could give me a whole system of them, but howzabout you start real simple for an ignorant troll like me and just name 1?

    ” This suggests all this talk about morality is really just a side issue, and the issue you really need to grapple with is atheism/theism.”
    * Really? There’s a magic man out there in the Santa Clause role of monitoring all my activities for naughty or nice for the purpose of torturing me for all eternity if I am naughty? I should grapple with that? Why? It is such nonsense I can scarcely believe billions of my fellow humans actually believe it.

    Or maybe there is a whole pantheon of gods and goddesses, celestially running amok, cavorting with each other and a few select Earthlings. Is that what you suggest I grapple with?

  180. Ryan July 8, 2016 at 7:09 am

    “Stardusty said: But your god, being omnipotent and omniscient and all….. I might be god and you might be a figment of my divine imagination.”

    “No, you cannot be God, since omniscience would imply knowing that one is God. ”
    * Who said I am your god? I could be my god, me, and I am just having a silly dream about you.

    Who said god has to be omniscient?

    “You really don’t understand the concept of “God” as described in the major monotheistic religions, do you?”
    * I didn’t claim to be Yahweh or Allah, after all, I am god so why would I want to be one of your mythological beings? I am having a good time in this dream and my divine imagination is doing just fine TYVM! When I wake up you are going to poof out of existence again so I suggest you get busy proving to me I am not my god while you still have the chance!

    But, I do understand that mutually exclusive properties have been attributed to god in scripture, such as an omniscient god who gave man free will, and presumably possesses free will himself, free will being incompatible with and omniscient being.

  181. SteveK says:

    SP,
    Stop pretending you are ignorant and confused about the term “absolute morality”. Because you know what morality means from a relativistic human perspective, you therefore know what it means when morality is independent of the human perspective. Lots of things exist independent of the human perspective.

    It’s not a nonsensical or contradictory term like “updownness”. The fact that you equate that term with absolute morality demonstrates your dishonesty.

  182. SteveK says:

    SP,
    please do give me an example of an objectively demonstrably true moral proposition.

    a) Premise: If a moral statement can accurately describe an objective fact, then the moral statement is an objective truth independent of human opinion.
    b) Human behavior is an objective fact
    c) Moral terms can accurately describe human behavior
    d) Conclusion: a moral statement can be objectively true

    I suppose your only option is to deny (c) while at the same time insisting that rape, killing, beating, stealing can be described using moral terms. When you do that, I will remind you that you are contradicting yourself and are morally *obligated* to stop believing that this contradiction is possibly true.

    Can moral terms accurately describe the person who believes that a logical contradiction is possibly true?

  183. FZM says:

    Stardusty,

    No person I have ever heard of, or read, or come in contact with has ever presented even 1 moral absolute, a moral principle demonstrable objectively true. Therefore I am personally convinced there is no such thing.

    What criteria are you personally using to assess whether a moral principle is allowed to count as ‘demonstrably, objectively true?’

  184. FZM July 8, 2016 at 11:50 am
    “Stardusty,No person I have ever heard of, or read, or come in contact with has ever presented even 1 moral absolute, a moral principle demonstrable objectively true. Therefore I am personally convinced there is no such thing.”

    “What criteria are you personally using to assess whether a moral principle is allowed to count as ‘demonstrably, objectively true?’”
    * If I am able to show that the asserted principle rests upon fundamental principles that are merely postulated or asserted or taken on faith or assumed then I am convinced the the asserted principle is not a moral absolute.

  185. SteveK July 8, 2016 at 11:26 am
    “Stop pretending you are ignorant and confused about the term “absolute morality”. ”
    * Well, I don’t think I said precisely that. I was asked what evidence for it I would accept. I can’t think of any such evidence. I don’t see how such a thing could possibly present evidence for its existence. I can only think of evidences against it.

    “Because you know what morality means from a relativistic human perspective, you therefore know what it means when morality is independent of the human perspective. Lots of things exist independent of the human perspective.”
    * Indeed, it makes sense that things exist without us knowing about it, but in what sense can morality exist outside of our knowing about it? Is this morality thing some kind of object out there? If so, what is it made of?

    Morality is a human concept that might conceivably also be a concept of some other intelligent being. I don’t see how any morality can exist outside of a thinking mechanism such as a human brain.

    “It’s not a nonsensical or contradictory term like “updownness”. The fact that you equate that term with absolute morality demonstrates your dishonesty.”
    * As an external object, yes, I find an notion of a morality that is just sort of out there somehow existing to be nonsensical.

    I suppose you assert that absolute morality does exist in a thinking being, god. Well, ok, but same question, what is god made of? Absolutely nothing at all? Then in what sense does it exist at all? Is god made of something? Ok, what is that stuff? Where is that stuff? Isn’t that just another material of natural existence?

  186. John says:

    ”If Abraham really did live and if he really did hear voices then the only rational explanation for that is that he had a mental disorder such that he was unable to distinguish his own thoughts from external voices, which is a well known problem many human beings in fact have.”

    Except it isn’t.

    That same voice in his head told him his son will have lots of descendents, which is contradicts the plead to kill his son.

    So it’s obvious Abraham made a logical conclusion that something was up and decided to go ahead because the only other logical conclusion is that he will either be stopped or his son resuscitated.

    And if Abraham was actually mentally ill, then we would have some additional evidence to support this thesis other then merely the text saying God spoke to him.Speculating he was ill on the mere basis of him hearing God’s voice is question begging.

    And another thing, if Abraham was mentally ill, then his body and mind would be disfunctional beyond mere hearing voices in his head, so that this would render it hard to believe such an old man would be capable of killing another human being.

    And why was it the case the voices in his head didn’t even try to change the command later?

    And let’s not forget Abraham’s son was most likely not a young child, but an individual in his late teens or early twenties.A person like that could easily overpower an older man such as Abraham, especially if that man also has mental issues.

    So it seems your explanation is unlikely.

  187. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: If Abraham really did live and if he really did hear voices then the only rational explanation for that is that he had a mental disorder

    Give objective, absolute proof for this statement, or it’s merely your opinion. God, aliens, etc. are possible explanations.

    Stardusty said: I don’t know how one could find evidence for updownness because that is just a nonsense term.

    Straw-man! “Updownness” does not have a wikipedia article, nor does it have a definition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_absolutism Absolute morality is not nonsensical, you simply can’t understand it.

    Or can you? Stardusty said earlier: Absolute morality would be a morality that is absolutely provable, or demonstrably objectively true.

    Here you give a definition of absolute morality, so how is it nonsensical then?

    Rejecting unevidenced, unexplained, irrationalities does not come under that fallacy.

    Are you now saying that you know what evidence for absolute morality would be?

    Stardusty said: Wrong, I have extremely strong evidence against absolute morality and zero evidence for it.

    Now you have “extremely strong” evidence. And what is it?

    Stardusty said: With so many people with so many ideas yet not one has identified and communicated to me a single moral absolute, yes, that is extremely strong evidence that so such thing exists and is entirely relevant to what I am personally convinced of.

    Oh yes, so you do accept this as a valid argument now: Different cultures and people have different views about atheism, therefore atheism cannot be objectively true.

    According to Stardusty, an argument of the following form is valid: Different cultures and people have different views about A, therefore A cannot be objectively true.

    Is the fact that so many people have so many ideas about atheism extremely strong evidence against atheism?

    What would evidence for absolute morality look like? Throw me a bone here wouldgyabro? Could you just stop playing hide and seek with this thing? What would evidence for absolute morality look like to you, stop playing hide and seek with it!

    Stardusty said: Really? There’s a magic man out there in the Santa Clause role of monitoring all my activities for naughty or nice for the purpose of torturing me for all eternity if I am naughty?

    Think of it this way: God will put people in prison, because they bring harm to others and the world. You agree with the concept of putting people in prison for harming others right?

  188. SteveK says:

    Is this morality thing some kind of object out there? If so, what is it made of?

    These questions can be addressed separately so stop asking and stick to the original question.

  189. SteveK July 8, 2016 at 11:39 am
    “SP,please do give me an example of an objectively demonstrably true moral proposition.”

    “a) Premise: If a moral statement can accurately describe an objective fact, then the moral statement is an objective truth independent of human opinion.
    b) Human behavior is an objective fact
    c) Moral terms can accurately describe human behavior
    d) Conclusion: a moral statement can be objectively true”
    * Ok, but that is not a proposed objective moral proposition, a moral fact, a specific moral judgement that can be proved to be absolutely true.

    You simplly stated some premises ad hoc, then reached a general conclusion without providing a specific example.

    “I suppose your only option is to deny (c) while at the same time insisting that rape, killing, beating, stealing can be described using moral terms.”
    Are you asserting any of those acts are objectively evil or bad? How about we define god as absolutely good and absolutely moral, then we say god sanctions rape, killing, beating, and stealing, therefore those things are good. That’s what Muhammad did, hence the IS. Prove that isn’t the plan of the almighty.

    “When you do that, I will remind you that you are contradicting yourself and are morally *obligated* to stop believing that this contradiction is possibly true.”
    * I don’t see how I am contradicting myself.

    “Can moral terms accurately describe the person who believes that a logical contradiction is possibly true?”
    * We operate by the principle of non-contradiction, but that is a postulate, not a proved logical proposition.

  190. SteveK says:

    Tell me where the logic is wrong, SP. That’s all I need you to do right now.
    – Is the premise false?
    – Are any of the other statements false?

  191. Ryan says:

    Here is an objective moral fact: God is of infinite value and worth. God is the most valuable thing in reality. Therefore, God is to be cherished and valued above anything else in reality. To not do this introduces evil into reality by placing the less valuable above the more valuable, which is disgusting (analogy: valuing video games over an infant and letting the infant die as a result, this would be considered disgusting because it misplaces value).

    All other morals are contingent upon this one moral fact. Humans have more value than animals because they are created in the likeness of God, the One of infinite value. The Jews use the term “kadosh” to express this idea. Killing another human is generally wrong therefore, but there are nuances such as execution of murderers, wars (protecting other human life) because the prohibition against killing humans is not an independent moral, but contingent upon the infinite value of God. You have a similar view, Stardusty, as you said you believe in self-defense.

  192. FZM says:

    Stardusty,

    Thanks for the response.

    * If I am able to show that the asserted principle rests upon fundamental principles that are merely postulated or asserted or taken on faith or assumed then I am convinced the the asserted principle is not a moral absolute.

    How do you determine whether the fundamental principles are merely postulated, asserted, assumed, rest on faith etc. or whether they have the kind of basis that would make them objective?

  193. SteveK July 8, 2016 at 2:34 pm
    “SP Is this morality thing some kind of object out there? If so, what is it made of?”

    “These questions can be addressed separately so stop asking and stick to the original question.”
    * Translation, you cannot handle certain questions, or you simply don’t have a broad enough perspective to realize the relevance.

  194. SteveK says:

    Better translation: I’m asking you to stick to YOUR original question

  195. John -“That same voice in his head told him his son will have lots of descendents, which is contradicts the plead to kill his son.”
    * Only if that son was his only path to founding many decendants.
    Genesis 25:6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
    Genesis 25:1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
    Genesis 25:4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
    1 Chronicles 1:32 Now the sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: she bare Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And the sons of Jokshan; Sheba, and Dedan.

    So, for a man with multiple wives and concubines killing just 1 son is not an big impediment to having lots of descendants.

    “So it’s obvious Abraham made a logical conclusion that something was up and decided to go ahead because the only other logical conclusion is that he will either be stopped or his son resuscitated.”
    * Ok, so somebody tells you you will have lots of kids and also tells you to kill your son so you go ahead and kill your son because you figure he will be miraculously resuscitated because that is the only way out of the contradiction.

    What an incredibly convoluted and dangerous argument. I certainly hope you do not follow that sort of reasoning with respect to the well being of your own children if you have any.

    “Speculating he was ill on the mere basis of him hearing God’s voice is question begging.”
    * Whenever an individual tells his or her physician that he or she hears the voice of god from time to time and sometimes feels compelled to commit an act of homicide thereby I can pretty much guarantee the doctor is not concerned about a begging the question argument.

    “And another thing, if Abraham was mentally ill, then his body and mind would be disfunctional beyond mere hearing voices in his head”
    * No, actually such unfortunate people can be highly functional, watch the old Russell Crowe movie “a beautiful mind”

    “And let’s not forget Abraham’s son was most likely not a young child, but an individual in his late teens or early twenties.A person like that could easily overpower an older man such as Abraham, especially if that man also has mental issues.”
    * In those days people believed in lots of things like demon possession, and spirits of many sorts. A person who suffered from delusions of contacts with god might very well be both believed and followed to their deaths, just look at Muhammad.

  196. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    You don’t believe in absolute morality, so everything you say about a culture 3000 years ago is the same as “blah, blah”. It has no import, it has not relevance, it’s simply your unscientific, irrational, biased opinion. No one cares what Stardusty thinks about Abraham. Unless you think your statements about Abraham carry some weight outside of your small mind, they are irrelevant.

  197. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    Is your personal sense of morality more valid than my personal sense of morality?

    Why do you expect Abraham to live by your personal sense of morality when he never met you?

  198. Ryan – “Give objective, absolute proof for this statement, or it’s merely your opinion. God, aliens, etc. are possible explanations.”
    * God is not a rational explanation, it is an idle speculation that only introduces more unknowns. Aliens are at least inductively conceivable without inventing new physics out of whole cloth, as god would require. However, we have no scientific evidence for space alien visitations or even their existence, so they remain speculative but speculative within the bounds of known material existence.

    ” Absolute morality is not nonsensical, you simply can’t understand it.”
    * Then by all meas provide an example a an objective moral evil or an objective moral good, instead of playing hide the ball using endless generalizations.

    Just name one. Tick Tock, my friend.

    “Different cultures and people have different views about atheism, therefore atheism cannot be objectively true.”
    * I never claimed atheism is objectively true. I am god, donchyaknow?

    “Different cultures and people have different views about A, therefore A cannot be objectively true.”
    * Not my claim. Never said that.

    “What would evidence for absolute morality look like to you, stop playing hide and seek with it!”
    * Already stated, don’t know. Just because I am god does not make me omniscient!

    How about you try me? Name 1 absolute moral good or moral evil

    Tick Tock.

    “Think of it this way: God will put people in prison, because they bring harm to others and the world. You agree with the concept of putting people in prison for harming others right?”
    * I oppose torturing inmates and also I oppose locking people up indefinitely for minor crimes and I oppose locking people up for their choice of consenting adult sex partner.

    But then, I consider my personal morality to be far superior to the debauchery of Yahweh and Allah.

  199. SteveK July 8, 2016 at 2:54 pm
    *Tell me where the logic is wrong, SP. That’s all I need you to do right now.
    – Is the premise false?
    – Are any of the other statements false?*

    Premise a) contains the unstated premise that objective facts exist and the further premise that objective facts outside ourselves are discoverable and identifiable by us.

    But, we must first postulate the basic reliability of the human senses, and if we do that then we can maneuver objectively within that closed logical space, but not consider our findings to be absolutely proved.

    Statement b) is false if by that you mean we can objectively state what human behavior is or objectively characterize human behavior, but it is true if you mean that humans do behave, on the postulate of the basic reliability of the human senses.

    Statement c) is so vague as to lack meaning beyond a generalization or approximation.

    The conclusion is a non-sequitur from the argument given. It is also not something I can strictly disprove, nor have I claimed to. I just keep asking the folks here for some examples but everybody just keeps talking in generalities, almost like nobody can actually think of one.

  200. SteveK says:

    SP,
    LOL. You are stumbling all over skeptical yourself. You need to answer your own skeptical questions before you start demanding answers from anyone else.

    unstated premise that objective facts exist

    Keeping your same level of skepticism, is this unstated premise true or false?

    the further premise that objective facts outside ourselves are discoverable and identifiable by us.

    Same question. Is this additional premise true or false?

    But, we must first postulate the basic reliability of the human senses, and if we do that then we can maneuver objectively within that closed logical space, but not consider our findings to be absolutely proved.

    You need to prove this out beyond the same level of skepticism before you can do anything else. I’ll wait here until you figure it all out. When you do, come back and we can continue the morality question.

  201. SteveK says:

    *all over your skeptical self

  202. Ryan says:

    A summary of Stardusty’s horrible logic:

    (1) Stardusty thinks absolute morality is “nonsensical” (To me “absolute morality” is so nonsensical), while at the same time giving a definition of absolute morality (Absolute morality would be a morality that is absolutely provable, or demonstrably objectively true) . Keep in mind “nonsensical” means “having no meaning”. Contradiction #1: Either absolute morality is nonsensical, or it can be defined, but not both.

    (2) Stardusty claims to not know what evidence for absolute morality would look like (To me “absolute morality” is so nonsensical I cannot even imagine how one would detect it), while at the same time claiming to know there is zero evidence for it (I have extremely strong evidence against absolute morality and zero evidence for it). Contradiction #2: Either Stardusty knows what evidence for absolute morality looks like, or Stardusty doesn’t know what evidence for absolute morality looks like, but not both.

    (3) Stardusty claims this is not a valid argument: “Different cultures and people have different views about atheism, therefore atheism cannot be objectively true.” (* That argument is simply garbled.) While at the same time using an identical argument as evidence against absolute morality ( With so many people with so many ideas “different cultures/people different views” yet not one has identified and communicated to me a single moral absolute, yes, that is extremely strong evidence that so such thing exists “therefore cannot exist/be true”) Contradiction #3 Either an argument of the form “Different cultures/people have different views about A, therefore A cannot be true” is valid or it is not, but not both.

  203. Ryan says:

    Stardusty, I gave an ojective moral fact above, you may have missed it because a lot of new posts have recently gone up.

    Anyway, you didn’t attempt to answer these questions:

    Is your personal sense of morality more valid than my personal sense of morality?

    Why do you expect Abraham to live by your personal sense of morality when he never met you?

    And one more on a different topic:

    Do things exist that are not made up of physical matter?

  204. Ryan July 8, 2016 at 3:50 pm
    “You don’t believe in absolute morality, so everything you say about a culture 3000 years ago is the same as “blah, blah”. ”
    * This sounds kind of like a variation on “atheists don’t believe in anything”

    “It has no import, it has not relevance, it’s simply your unscientific, irrational, biased opinion.”
    * Rationality is based on postulates of logic that are not themselves proved.
    My personal morals are based on postulates of good an evil you would probably broadly agree with such as
    I is good to promote human flourishing, and bad to inhibit it.
    Individual self determination is good.
    It is good to avoid harming others and bad to intentionally and gratuitously harm others.

    Using this system of rationality I conclude Yahweh and Allah are extremely bad characters.
    I conclude that Mosaic law is bad.

    My assessments, while not absolutely provable, are a bit more meaningful than mere whims of the moment.

    ” No one cares what Stardusty thinks about Abraham. Unless you think your statements about Abraham carry some weight outside of your small mind, they are irrelevant.”
    * People care a great deal about rational assessments of Yahweh, Abraham, Moses, Allah, and Muhammad. Rational arguments such as I am making are a major factor in many religious people turning away from religion, which is a very good thing.

    I am not a major player in this process, more like a voice in a chorus, although I do occasionally have some direct personal impact on individuals I communicate with, mostly I engage with people whoo disagree with me for my personal purpose of testing the validity of my opinions.

  205. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: I is good to promote human flourishing, and bad to inhibit it. Why? Some believe humanity is bad for the planet: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/feb/14/environment.highereducation Why shouldn’t humans go extinct?

    Individual self determination is good. Why? I don’t agree with this, nor do most people throughout history. Self-determination is what motivates rapists and murderers. Subordinating ones’s own desires to the common good is what motivates people considered great throughout history.

    It is good to avoid harming others and bad to intentionally and gratuitously harm others. Why? And objectively define “harm”. ISIS agrees with you here which is why they are preventing unbelievers from harming the world.

    Rationality is based on postulates of logic that are not themselves proved.
    My personal morals are based on postulates of good an evil you would probably broadly agree with…
    I don’t agree with them. …Using this system of rationality I conclude Yahweh and Allah are extremely bad characters. I conclude that Mosaic law is bad.

    Ok, my turn. My personal morals are based on the postulate that “Yahweh is perfectly good”. This need not be proven according to you. Using this system of rationality I conclude that Mosaic law is good. Is your system more valid than mine?

    You’re still afraid to answer these questions:

    Is your personal sense of morality more valid than my personal sense of morality?

    Why do you expect Abraham to live by your personal sense of morality when he never met you?

    Do things exist that are not made up of physical matter?

  206. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    The system of morality I believe exists is not based upon unproven postulates, but follows by logical necessity from certain facts about reality. It is not a postulated morality, but a necessary morality, which is why it is both objective and absolute. Your acceptance (or rejection) of it neither proves nor negates its existence since it’s not based on human postulates. I outlined it above in an earlier post.

  207. Ryan July 8, 2016 at 3:51 pm
    “Is your personal sense of morality more valid than my personal sense of morality?”
    * Relative to my reasoning I think your reasoning is less valid. I am fully aware that my detractors here and elsewhere would make the same sort of statement but flipped around from their points of view.

    Hence my use of the term relative morality.

    To the best of my knowlege, that’s the best we can do. I know of no absolute standard of morality for each of us to judge the other against. All we can do is make arguments with each other to see if we can arrive at a consensus.

    Our baseline consensus of morality for the purpose of at least functioning as a civil society is written into our laws.

    “Why do you expect Abraham to live by your personal sense of morality when he never met you?”
    * I have no such expectation. My primary concern is for the future The actions and codes represented in scripture have real influence on the behavior of people. I seek to discredit bad ideas wherever I find them as my little contribution to helping people see the folly of following bad scripture.

  208. RyanJuly 8, 2016 at 6:02 pm
    “The system of morality I believe exists is not based upon unproven postulates, but follows by logical necessity from certain facts about reality. It is not a postulated morality, but a necessary morality, which is why it is both objective and absolute. ”
    * If it is all so rock solid why can’t you tell me some objective and absolute and necessary morally good and morally bad propositions?

    Why won’t you be specific?

    “Your acceptance (or rejection) of it neither proves nor negates its existence since it’s not based on human postulates. I outlined it above in an earlier post.”
    * Sorry, I missed any enumeration of specific assertions of good and evil that are objective and absolute and necessary. All I read are generalizations that there are such things but still no enumeration of such things.

  209. Ryan July 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm
    “Stardusty said: I is good to promote human flourishing, and bad to inhibit it. Why? Some believe humanity is bad for the planet: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/feb/14/environment.highereducation Why shouldn’t humans go extinct?”
    * Indeed, that’s why I prefaced with
    ***My personal morals are based on postulates of good an evil you would probably broadly agree with such as***

    I totally agree with you and I sometimes point out such things to atheists who think their innocuous sounding principles are somehow demonstrably objectively true.

    “Individual self determination is good. Why? I don’t agree with this, nor do most people throughout history. Self-determination is what motivates rapists and murderers. Subordinating ones’s own desires to the common good is what motivates people considered great throughout history.”
    * Indeed, other individuals determine for themselves what most of us consider bad. In general, I think individual liberty is good, but when it comes into conflict with the principle of avoidance of harm it becomes bad.

    “It is good to avoid harming others and bad to intentionally and gratuitously harm others. Why? And objectively define “harm”. ”
    * Indeed, that is yet another detail requiring a great deal of elaboration. I made a few short statements on a subject literally volumes have been written about. At some point I trust the reader to realize I am only mentioning a tiny piece of the picture as part of a conversation without any attempt to present a comprehensive dissertation on morality.

    Further, I make no claim to be able to objectively define “harm”. We would have to do a great deal of communicating to attempt to arrive at a set of situational ethics by consensus, and we still would not get to any objective definition.

    “ISIS agrees with you here which is why they are preventing unbelievers from harming the world.”
    * Actually ISIS agrees with you!!! God told them so that makes it good.

    “Rationality is based on postulates of logic that are not themselves proved.
    My personal morals are based on postulates of good an evil you would probably broadly agree with”…
    “I don’t agree with them. …”
    * Ok, I guessed wrong on that one. WL Craig says he agrees broadly with the applied ethics of Sam Harris. That was the spirit of my guess at our agreement. But if not, then not.

    “Ok, my turn. My personal morals are based on the postulate that “Yahweh is perfectly good”.
    * Ok, so you have no objective moral good or evil or absolute moral propositions. Your entire personal code rests on an asserted postulate that is itself not proved.

    Welcome to my world, my friend!!!

    “This need not be proven according to you. ”
    * On moral relativism, you are correct. Thus, you are a moral relativist.

    “Using this system of rationality I conclude that Mosaic law is good. Is your system more valid than mine?”
    * In my view yes. But my view is arrived at relative to my moral postulates. Your view is arrived at relative to your moral postulate(s).

    “You’re still afraid to answer these questions:”
    * I shall fear no evil in this valley of the shadow of death!

    “Is your personal sense of morality more valid than my personal sense of morality?”
    * In my view yes, in your view no.

    “Why do you expect Abraham to live by your personal sense of morality when he never met you?”
    * I actually answered this one but I don’t mind paraphrasing myself occasionally. I have no such expectation. I am just going around debunking bad ideas for the purpose of dissuading others from following them. I do not expect to have a huge effect in this process, but I do intend to cast my vote in the election, as it were.

    “Do things exist that are not made up of physical matter?”
    * To exist a thing needs to be made of stuff. Science most certainly has not answered what that stuff is fundamentally. Science will never answer with absolute certainty answer what that stuff is, but we can get closer and closer to that fundamental truth, even though we can never be certain we have arrived at it even if we have arrived at it. However, we certainly have not yet arrived at the true nature of the underlying reality.

    The notion of an “abstract object” is oxymoronic, incoherent, and thus meaningless.

  210. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    To repeat and rephrase what I said above:

    Here is an objective moral fact: God is of infinite value and worth. God is the most valuable thing in reality. Why? God is defined as the source of all things, so if there is anything of value, its existence is dependent upon God, and it follows that God is more valuable than the thing itself because without God the thing of value would not exist. Is there anything of value? All humans value something, meaning the existence of value is as solid as the existence of reality itself, it could all be a big delusion, but just as much as reality itself could be a delusion. So value exists, and if anything has value then the source of all things (God) has more value. Therefore, God is to be cherished and valued above everything else in reality. To not do this introduces “evil” into reality because it introduces an irrationality… a “lie”, inverting the hierarchy of value and threatening all things of value in the process. This is what we call “disgusting”, or “evil”. An analogy: valuing video games over an infant and letting the infant die as a result, this would be considered disgusting because it misplaces value.

    This is the one absolute moral fact, and all other morals are contingent upon this one moral fact. Humans have more value than animals because they are created in the likeness of God and are therefore more like God (the One of infinite value) than animals, which gives them more value. the One of infinite value. Killing another human is generally wrong therefore, but there are nuances such as execution of murderers, wars (protecting other human life) because the prohibition against killing humans is not an independent moral, but contingent upon the infinite value of God. Here’s where your system is internally inconsistent. You said one of the postulates was that “harming humans is bad”. In that case, killing another person would never be allowed in your system, and killing in self-defense would contradict the postulate of the system. The absolute morality has only one absolute moral: God, as source of all things, shall be valued above everything else. This is never to be violated, no exceptions, and the system has a perfect internal consistency. All other morals are “embedded” inside this one moral. “Do not kill people” is then a general moral principle that is derived from the one absolute moral because people are images of God.

  211. Ryan,
    Thanks for all that, really. It is obvious to me that you really spilled your guts here about a lot of things that are very important to you.

    You and I share a great deal of applied ethics. I suspect we would judge right and wrong criminal and civil actions in very much the same way, perhaps for different internal reasons, but arriving at very much the same functional applied ethics.

    Here is where your argument for an objective moral truth, a demonstrably real moral proposition, and absolute moral fact…all falls down.

    “Here is an objective moral fact: God is of infinite value and worth. God is the most valuable thing in reality. Why? God is defined as the source of all things,”

    That is nothing more than pure assertion. There is no objective truth value in your statement. You have provided no evidence for your assertions. You has simply made an ad hoc definition.

    We could do a find and replace function substituting the word “StardustyPsyche” for the word “God” and have a set of statements with truth value equal to yours.

    You, I , or the neighbor’s dog could be substituted for the word “God” and have equal truth value to what you have merely asserted by ad hoc definition.

    I admit the lack of objective truth value in my moral propositions. I warmly invite you to come to the same realization about yours.

  212. John says:

    Dusty: ”Only if that son was his only path to founding many decendants.
    Genesis 25:6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
    Genesis 25:1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
    Genesis 25:4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
    1 Chronicles 1:32 Now the sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: she bare Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And the sons of Jokshan; Sheba, and Dedan.”

    Except there is one tiny difference between Isaac and the rest of these:

    Genesis 17:19 — ”Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”

    It seems Isaac was the one with whom God was going to continue having covenental relationships with.

    So that already creates a big difference between Isaac and the rest.

    And even if there wasn’t such a difference, you basically believe that somehow God’s previous promises don’t matter enough to still create a contradiction between His promises before and his demand after.

    The contradiction, however, still clearly exists.

    ”Ok, so somebody tells you you will have lots of kids and also tells you to kill your son so you go ahead and kill your son because you figure he will be miraculously resuscitated because that is the only way out of the contradiction.”

    If you believe God clearly told you your son will also have many descendents (contrary to your argument he was disposable) then it would be logical to deduce that he will be resuscitated.

    The only way out of this is to argue that Abraham also heard voices in his head which promised him plenty of children and other things as well, are also manifestations of a mental disorder.

    A disorder for which there is no evidence other than your assumption that it simply could not have been God because it is more rational to reject that.

    ” Whenever an individual tells his or her physician that he or she hears the voice of god from time to time and sometimes feels compelled to commit an act of homicide thereby I can pretty much guarantee the doctor is not concerned about a begging the question argument.”

    Except every such doctor would take further tests to confirm his initial thoughts.

    Something which nobody can do with Abraham based on scripture which speaks of events thousands of years ago.

    Once again, other than God allegedly speaking to him, there is no further evidence upon which to base the conclusion that he is mentally ill.

    After all, how can you distinguish between him being mentally ill that is causing this, and God actually speaking to him?There is no way to do it.

    And let’s not forget that there may be other things that could cause such symptoms without it being a mental illness.

    ”No, actually such unfortunate people can be highly functional, watch the old Russell Crowe movie “a beautiful mind””

    So your argument is basically for me to watch a movie…

    Why am I not surprised you would use a movie as an actual argument?

    ” In those days people believed in lots of things like demon possession, and spirits of many sorts. A person who suffered from delusions of contacts with god might very well be both believed and followed to their deaths, just look at Muhammad.”

    Look, you’re grasping at straws now.

    Do you really think that his son would actually believe Abraham was telling the truth instead of him being insane or possesed by spirits you rather should not trust?

    And how is it exactly that you think this would be enough for Isaac not to try to go against his father in the first place?

    If Isaac does not want to be sacrificed, he can easily fight him, outrun him, or generally stop him from doing this.

    You also don’t seem to know that God’s demand wasn’t actually a ”demand” per se.It was more of a plea by God for Abraham to sacrifice his son.

    The original language manuscript includes a particle which means ”please”.

    A plea he could have rejected without a punishment or any such things.And Abraham accepted it.

    Yet you believe that Isaac would somehow be so obedient and blinded that he would still want to be a part of this without any further reason other then sheer obedience.

    Face it, your thesis is untenable.

  213. John says:

    Dusty: ”If we don’t follow certain conventions of discourse others will just stop communicating. To me it seems reasonable to follow certain generally accepted principles of logical and rational discourse. I don’t see how those principles could be construed as some absolute obligation, but they seem reasonable to me and what most of us consider rational discourse is my personal preference.”

    Then how does this comment by you exist?:

    me:“And also,it’s a non-sequitor to claim just because you have no idea how independent moral truths could exist it means that you can jump to the conclusion that they don’t exist.”

    Dusty:” Indeed, that would be fallacious reasoning. My mere ignorance is not absolute proof of non-existence. I do take a preponderance of negative evidence into account in making probability estimates, but a preponderance of negative evidence is not strictly a positive proof.

    So you seem to imply with this comment that people should not use invalid reasoning and you also seem to tacitly assume you should respond to me and admit when a mistake is made due to the fact we are in discourse.

    Such behaviour is incompatible with thinking that this is a personal preference as you cannot help but behave as if it was a rule to follow.

    And you will now undoubtedly go on to do some serious damage control, claiming you still believe it’s a personal preference and yada yada yada.

    But your behaviour is clearly incompatible with your beliefs at this point.

  214. FZM says:

    Steve K

    But, we must first postulate the basic reliability of the human senses, and if we do that then we can maneuver objectively within that closed logical space, but not consider our findings to be absolutely proved.

    You need to prove this out beyond the same level of skepticism before you can do anything else. I’ll wait here until you figure it all out. When you do, come back and we can continue the morality question.

    I was wondering about an aspect of this, specifically about the standard of proof Stardusty has in mind which a claim must meet in order to be considered ‘absolutely proved’.

    Where does knowledge of this standard come from? Is the content and truth of the standard itself proved absolutely, or is it another postulation?

  215. John –
    Thanks for that further apologetic citation. I had only cited those items to show Abraham had many sex partners and children.

    “Genesis 17:19 — ”Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.””
    * So, first Abraham hears a voice telling him to have a son and what to name him, then, decades later, that same voice tells him to kill that son, and moments before actually committing this murder that voice tells him not to do it.

    Have a son, kill a son, don’t kill a son. Abraham was even crazier than I had realized.

    “The contradiction, however, still clearly exists.”
    * Indeed, Abraham is all over the map with these voices he keeps hearing, but would we expect a a paranoid schizophrenic to have auditory hallucinations that are consistent over 2 decades?

    “Schizophrenia is divided into subtypes based on the “predominant symptomatology at the time of evaluation.”[5] The clinical picture is dominated by relatively stable and often persecutory delusions that are usually accompanied by hallucinations, particularly of the auditory variety (hearing voices), and perceptual disturbances. ”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoid_schizophrenia

    As I mentioned previously, here is a dramatic depiction of how a victim of this condition can be highly functional, even brilliant, yet suffer from acute auditory and visual hallucinations.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Beautiful_Mind_(film)

    “A disorder for which there is no evidence other than your assumption that it simply could not have been God because it is more rational to reject that.”
    * I have just given you evidence that human beings alive today are known to suffer from this disorder. There is no credible evidence that any human being alive today actually does hear the voice of god. Many say they do, but when that voice tells them to kill, which in case after case it still does, we call those people criminally insane.

    Criminal insanity is a real human condition greatly in evidence. Hearing voices from an actual god is not in evidence at all.,

    “And let’s not forget that there may be other things that could cause such symptoms without it being a mental illness.”
    * Judging historical events is always uncertain. Fantastic stories are attributed to myth or trickery or imagination or some other known human process.

    Do you believe and angel of god actually dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad? Again, the more reasonable explanation is that Muhammad was insane, or a liar, or a myth.

    You apply those choices to all but 1. I just go 1 god more!

  216. John July 9, 2016 at 7:24 am
    I admit I am kind of scratching my head trying to figure out what your point is exactly here. You seem to think I am being somehow inconsistent. I read the quotes of my words you provided and it all seemed very self consistent to me. So I will see what I can do here…

    “So you seem to imply with this comment that people should not use invalid reasoning and you also seem to tacitly assume you should respond to me and admit when a mistake is made due to the fact we are in discourse.”
    * “Should” as in a personal preference or personal sensibility, yes. I make no claim to be able to prove that as a universal moral good.

    “Such behaviour is incompatible with thinking that this is a personal preference as you cannot help but behave as if it was a rule to follow.”
    * A personal preference is a rule to follow, a rule I make up for myself I refer to internally to speed my decision making. Rather than re-think every little situation starting from scratch with first principles and going through the same moral reasoning dissertation over and over and over it is more expedient for me to devise an internal rule to follow when that same situation arises again and again.

    “And you will now undoubtedly go on to do some serious damage control, claiming you still believe it’s a personal preference and yada yada yada.
    But your behaviour is clearly incompatible with your beliefs at this point.”
    * Well, I just don’t see what damage I have done. I don’t need absolute certainty to act. I act when my probability estimate level exceeds my personal actionability threshold.

  217. FZM July 9, 2016 at 11:11 am
    “I was wondering about an aspect of this, specifically about the standard of proof Stardusty has in mind which a claim must meet in order to be considered ‘absolutely proved’.”
    * Indeed, I can’t imagine such a thing, which is why I am personally convinced such proof is not possible.

    “Where does knowledge of this standard come from?”
    * Very good question. Some would say god, but which god? There are so many gods. You could be right about at most 1 of these mutually exclusive choices, and how would know for certain you have the correct one? This difficulty is one reason I am personally convinced there is no god.

    “Is the content and truth of the standard itself proved absolutely, or is it another postulation?”
    * All attempts I have ever heard at answering these questions always lead back to a fundamental postulate of some sort. So I am convinced no human will ever devise an objetive morality containing known real moral assertions of absolutely known propositions of good and bad.

    Hence, I am convinced relative morals are all that will ever be available to humanity.

  218. John says:

    Dusty: ” “Should” as in a personal preference or personal sensibility, yes. I make no claim to be able to prove that as a universal moral good. ”

    It does not matter if you don’t make a claim.What matters is how you behave and what assumptions you make and what conclusions we can gather from your behaviour.

    You may be a moral relativist, but, like a majority of humans that has ever existed, if given enough time, you will behave as if your opinion is an imperative you should follow and as if it can be true or false.

    In other words, your behaviour will be contradictory.

    Dusty: ”A personal preference is a rule to follow, a rule I make up for myself”

    Oh really?It seems hard to believe this considering you have only talked about moral claims and behaviour until now.

    Now, when pressed about rationality, you make similar claims to your moral claims.

    But it seems pretty obvious to anyone who reads your comments that it’s EXTREMELY likely that you took rationality for granted.

    You took the idea that people should admit mistakes and avoid fallacies and not misrepresent you for granted.

    And now it’s obvious that what you are doing is mostly just serious damage control to try to somehow fit your previous behaviour into your conception of duty and morality in order to avoid any serious inconsistency.

    Heck, when looking at your attempts at damage control, it’s evident that you take for granted the idea that people should clarify their positions and avoid views that are false and aren’t held by the persons in question.

    You demonstrate this by your very insistence to try to defend yourself and claim you don’t actually believe in any absolute moral duty and that it’s just a moral preference, as if it is really important to tell people exactly what you believe and try to stop people from making false assumptions either intentionally or unintentionally.

  219. John says:

    ”Indeed, Abraham is all over the map with these voices he keeps hearing, but would we expect a a paranoid schizophrenic to have auditory hallucinations that are consistent over 2 decades?”

    Actually, that is what is happening.

    God allegedly told Abraham that his son Isaac would have many sons multiple times, repeating it actually.

    So I think that this is pretty consistent.

    ” I have just given you evidence that human beings alive today are known to suffer from this disorder. There is no credible evidence that any human being alive today actually does hear the voice of god. ”

    And?Once again, outside of Abraham hearing any such voices, there is no further evidence to suggest he was mentally disordered.

    The only thing that we literally have is him hearing the voice of God.

    Unless the mental disorder you mention can in many cases only manifest itself in terms of auditory hallucination, your case is still begging the questoin.

    ”Do you believe and angel of god actually dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad?”

    That happened in a dream, so that is a different category entirely, whether it’s true or not.

  220. John July 9, 2016 at 2:03 pm
    “You demonstrate this by your very insistence to try to defend yourself and claim you don’t actually believe in any absolute moral duty and that it’s just a moral preference, as if it is really important to tell people exactly what you believe and try to stop people from making false assumptions either intentionally or unintentionally.”
    * Sorry John, you really lost me on this one. I am being inconsistent and doing damage control?

    Human beings feel things and think things and make up imaginary stuff and have emotions and reason and many aspects to our thoughts. The brain is very complicated, obviously.

    So, I really feel like I should do X and I ought to do Y. That feeling is real. Communicating with others I find out that other people seem to have the same sort of feelings from time to time. Some people say that means there is some kind of external absolute reference point or source or authority for what we should do or ought to do or what is morally good.

    I attribute these feelings the the individual functions of each individual brain.

    It is true that functionally our behaviors might be indistinguishable. If you refrain from murder because god told you it is bad and I refrain from murder because it violates my personal sense of what I feel I should do, well we both end up refraining from murder.

    So you can believe me or not, that is up to you. I am not asking you to take anything on faith or just because I say so. If the arguments I make begin to make sense to you then you might choose to modify some of your opinions. If not, well, OK,

  221. John says:

    Dusty: ”So, I really feel like I should do X and I ought to do Y. That feeling is real. ”

    And do you feel like you should follow that sense you have?

    Dusty: ”I am not asking you to take anything on faith or just because I say so.”

    And you’re still taking for granted that people should clarify themselves when given the chance to do so.

    It really looks like as if you actually believe in objective epistemic duties and you clearly behave like this.

    Of course, you will now continue by saying it’s just a personal preference.

    But can you really say that it’s a personal preference after having now blatantly acted as if there are objective epistemic duties?

    It’s pretty obvious you will keep stumbling like that over the course of time, so why even insist in believing in moral relativism and in this type of rationality/duty relativism when you simply cannot help but behave and act as if there are duties?

  222. John – “It really looks like as if you actually believe in objective epistemic duties and you clearly behave like this.
    Of course, you will now continue by saying it’s just a personal preference.”
    * Ok, yes a person who behaves commensurate with principle X because he believes that principle is objectively true and a person who behaves the same for somewhat different reasons has the outward appearance of behaving the same.

    From my point of view you are behaving just like a person who only acts on personal preference! But in truth, neither one of us can be sure of the motivations for that behavior from the behavior alone.

    “But can you really say that it’s a personal preference after having now blatantly acted as if there are objective epistemic duties?”
    * Funny, I was going to suggest you are actually acting on personal preferences, not the objective duty you claim! This seems to be more and more the case with liberal Christians, but in truth I know nothing about you so I do not presume to put you in any little category. Liberal Christians do indeed seem to pick and choose at the buffet of scripture, ignoring what does not meet their personal preference, accepting things that do meet their personal preference, while convincing themselves this somehow constitutes acting in accordance to god’s objective moral code. I say such liberal Christians are only acting according to personal preferences and rationalizing that as somehow objective because they snatched the bits they prefer from scripture.

    So I “blatantly act like” your position?
    Why do you feel yours is somehow the default position?
    I can just as easily say you are “blatantly acting like” my position.

  223. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    Give an example of one thing that has absolute undeniable evidence.

    Your personal morality is made up by you inside your head, if I follow you. Therefore, it’s not any different from an imaginary friend or hearing voices in your head… i.e. there is no reason to assume anyone else has the same imaginary friend and hears the same inner voices as you do (your made-up internal morality). So why in the world would you expect Abraham who lived roughly 3500 years ago and never met you, to have the same imaginary friend and hear the same inner voices (your personal morality). Is that a rational expectation? No, it’s not, unless your morality is based upon some objective aspects of reality external to your small mind. In that case it would be rational to expect Abraham to have a similar morality.

    I would summarize your personal approach to morality thus: There is no absolute morality, and you make it up yourself in your own head and based upon nothing objective from outside your head, yet you function as if it is absolute and binding across space, time, and culture, expecting every single person that ever lived or ever will live to abide by it and rebuking them if they don’t by appealing to your made-up, imaginary friend, voices in your head morality. You call that rational? I would call behaving contrary to what one knows to be true denial at the least, and certainly irrational.

  224. Ryan July 9, 2016 at 5:45 pm
    “Give an example of one thing that has absolute undeniable evidence.”
    * Cogito ergo sum. However, that is only an absolute truth for myself, so perhaps not what you are asking for. I am not aware of any way for me to absolutely prove anything to you. Hence the fact that science doesn’t do absolute proof and science is always provisional.

    “Your personal morality is made up by you inside your head, if I follow you. Therefore, it’s not any different from an imaginary friend or hearing voices in your head”
    * On the postulate of the basic reliability of the senses there are some very important differences.

    “there is no reason to assume anyone else has the same imaginary friend and hears the same inner voices as you do (your made-up internal morality).”
    * We use language to communicate about such things to verify our observations against the observations of others.

    “So why in the world would you expect Abraham who lived roughly 3500 years ago and never met you, to have the same imaginary friend and hear the same inner voices (your personal morality). Is that a rational expectation?”
    * Human beings seem to have changed little physiologically in that time. Based on poetry, prose, art, mathematics, written language, and archaeological studies we can deduce that humans then had roughly the same spectrum of thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that humanity has today.

    I am not terribly concerned about the past for its own sake. I am very concerned when figures of the past are used as models for present human behavior.

    “I would summarize your personal approach to morality thus: There is no absolute morality, and you make it up yourself in your own head and based upon nothing objective from outside your head, yet you function as if it is absolute and binding across space, time, and culture, expecting every single person that ever lived or ever will live to abide by it and rebuking them if they don’t by appealing to your made-up, imaginary friend, voices in your head morality. You call that rational?”
    * You have somewhat distorted my views to the point of irrationality, but there are some elements you have described fairly.

    “There is no absolute morality,”
    * I am personally thoroughly convinced that is the case, fair enough.

    “you make it up yourself in your own head and based upon nothing objective from outside your head”
    * While strictly true I would say that you leave the impression I care about nothing except my own little closed eyes imagination. I think the human senses are basically reliable and I use my connection to what I perceive as the outside world in formulating my personal moral assertions.

    “expecting every single person that ever lived or ever will live to abide by it and rebuking them if they don’t by appealing to your made-up, imaginary friend, voices in your head morality.”
    * That is going kind of far afield. I certainly do not expect all of historical humans to have lived my way, that would be just silly. I am primarily concerned with figures in the past that are used and models of behavior for today. I ask of these proposed examples that they be subjected to scrutiny on the basis of consensus moral principles of today.

    Those principles, while not strictly proved, are much more than my mere personal isolated whim. A great many of us have communicated on these subjects to arrive a a broad consensus on certain points.

    I do “hear” voices in my head. It think in English. I “pronounce” words in my brain without vibrating my vocal cords. The key difference between me and the figure of Abraham is that I identify these voices as having internal origin, not coming from outside. I do not suffer from the delusion of the paranoid schizophrenic.

    “I would call behaving contrary to what one knows to be true denial at the least, and certainly irrational.”
    * Lot’s of people in modern times “know” god wants them to kill other human beings. I call that homicidal insanity, which is a reasonable assessment of Abraham also.

  225. John says:

    Dusty: ”But in truth, neither one of us can be sure of the motivations for that behavior from the behavior alone.”

    And you’re still behaving as if you just have to clarify things in some cases as if there are objective epistemic duties.

    ”So I “blatantly act like” your position?
    Why do you feel yours is somehow the default position?
    I can just as easily say you are “blatantly acting like” my position.”

    The irony of that statement.

    You ask me a question in order to advance discussion and still behave as if there are epistemic duties by just plainly accepting these guidelines.

  226. John July 10, 2016 at 7:03 am
    SP ”So I “blatantly act like” your position?
    Why do you feel yours is somehow the default position?
    I can just as easily say you are “blatantly acting like” my position.”

    “The irony of that statement.”
    * Interesting you said that. The moment you read it I could sense how you would see it from your perspective as an implicit confirmation of yours as the default position, it isn’t, however.

    “You ask me a question in order to advance discussion and still behave as if there are epistemic duties by just plainly accepting these guidelines.”
    * I am behaving as if there is widespread commonality in the intrinsic physiology of human beings that leads us to a broad similarity in the sensibilities we each experience as individuals.

    We are all wired up in pretty much the same way. What looks to you like an imposition of epistemic duties from an objective external source, is in my view merely the appearance of such by virtue of the fact that most of us have broadly the same personal internal behavioral drivers.

    Imagine 10 radio controlled cars lined up along line A. The goal is to drive in formation to line B. There is an operator with great dexterity who can operate 10 controllers simultaneously, which is real easy for her because she is omnipotent. If all she does is engage all the throttles the radio controlled cars veer off and crash in all different directions. If she controls them carefully, however, the cars move and arrive at line B in beautiful formation.

    Now, suppose we line up 10 more cars at line A. But these cars are not radio controlled. They are self driving cars. They have been pre-programmed to take a particular route at a particular speed at a particular time. They have on-board sensors and internal data processing pathways that allow them to intelligently adjust to outside disturbances and remain on course. These cars leave line A simultaneously, travel abreast evenly, and arrive at line B in beautiful formation.

    To an outside observer the radio controlled cars (your cars) and the self-drive cars (my cars) look the same. This observer scratches his head and wonders, how is it that my cars operated so uniformly?

    Why is the default assumption, then, that all cars are radio controlled?

    “You ask me a question in order to advance discussion and still behave as if there are epistemic duties by just plainly accepting these guidelines.”
    * This is the ironic statement.

  227. John says:

    Dusty: ”Interesting you said that. The moment you read it I could sense how you would see it from your perspective as an implicit confirmation of yours as the default position, it isn’t, however.”

    The irony in the above statement…

    Dusty:”What looks to you like an imposition of epistemic duties from an objective external source, is in my view merely the appearance of such by virtue of the fact that most of us have broadly the same personal internal behavioral drivers.”

    What’s the difference between a person acting on it because he believes it’s objective and the other because it’s just his personal preference which he can’t help but follow and behave as if it were objective over time?

    Dusty: ”We are all wired up in pretty much the same way. What looks to you like an imposition of epistemic duties from an objective external source, is in my view merely the appearance of such by virtue of the fact that most of us have broadly the same personal internal behavioral drivers.”

    So should we follow our innate wired in sense or not?

    Dusty: ”Imagine 10 radio controlled cars lined up along line A.” ”Why is the default assumption, then, that all cars are radio controlled?”

    Do you think I should respond to this question?

  228. John
    “What’s the difference between a person acting on it because he believes it’s objective and the other because it’s just his personal preference which he can’t help but follow and behave as if it were objective over time?”
    * To the outside observer there is no functional difference in individual behavior, hence your misconception as your viewpoint as the default position.

    “Dusty: ”We are all wired up in pretty much the same way. What looks to you like an imposition of epistemic duties from an objective external source, is in my view merely the appearance of such by virtue of the fact that most of us have broadly the same personal internal behavioral drivers.””

    “So should we follow our innate wired in sense or not?”
    * Should how? I don’t see how there could be any outside ultimate authority driving what you should do. If you feel like you should do this or you should do that I do suggest you give those internal judgments due consideration, but that is up to you.

    “Dusty: ”Imagine 10 radio controlled cars lined up along line A.” ”Why is the default assumption, then, that all cars are radio controlled?””

    “Do you think I should respond to this question?”
    * Ditto previous response.

  229. John says:

    ”To the outside observer there is no functional difference in individual behavior, hence your misconception as your viewpoint as the default position.”

    Which would undermine the belief that it’s not objective because humans tend to behave and in the end believe otherwise.

    Isn’t this actually an argument for moral and other duty?The vast majority of all of mankind finds duties to be self-evident.It is up to the relativist to disproove duties and proove relativism.

    Dusty: ” Ditto previous response.”

    Well then, I will respond.

    My original response was: Are you seriously making an argument for this?

  230. John -“Which would undermine the belief that it’s not objective because humans tend to behave and in the end believe otherwise.”
    * Argumentum ad populum. A general human tendency is not a valid argument for objectivity.

    “My original response was: Are you seriously making an argument for this?”
    * My arguments are entirely serious, yes.

    The majority of humans find beauty to be self evident. That does not make any particular perception of beauty an objective fact, rather, a subjective individual judgement relative the the internal sensibilities of the individual.

    To paraphrase a common saying “morality is in the eye of the beholder”

  231. John says:

    Dusty: ”Argumentum ad populum. A general human tendency is not a valid argument for objectivity.”

    So common sense is out the window now?

    ”My arguments are entirely serious, yes.”

    You do realise we were not talking (just) about morality, but about rational or epistemic duties?

  232. SteveK says:

    ”My arguments are entirely serious, yes.”

    Your arguments, if both logically valid and sound, amount to nothing really since there is no obligation to live by the conclusion – because there is no obligation to do anything or feel any way – because humans are not supposed to be anything in particular.

  233. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: The majority of humans find beauty to be self evident. That does not make any particular perception of beauty an objective fact, rather, a subjective individual judgement relative the the internal sensibilities of the individual.

    You miss the point. It does imply that beauty is a real thing existing outside of humans. The fact that we don’t agree %100 is irrelevant. Same with morality. The universal human experience of morality implies there is something real upon which it is based. That is not argumentum ad populum, you’re dumb and confused if you think so. In the same way that we can assume reality is real, we can assume morality is real.

    The only example you could give of a thing with absolute, undeniable evidence was cogitas, ergo es (you think, therefore you are). So, why do you demand absolute, undeniable evidence for God and morality, yet are satisfied with simply suggestive evidence in other things? Irrational bias. Confirmation bias. Your entire approach is confirmation bias.

    You said earlier that absolute morality is “nonsensical”, but then you defined it. So which is it, Mr. irrational? Is it “nonsensical”, or can it be defined?

    According to you, you have no evidence against absolute morality and you have no evidence for absolute morality. So why the bias against it? You should be entirely neutral as to whether there is absolute morality. Irrational bias. Confirmation bias.

    According to you, you have no evidence against the existence of God and you have no evidence for the existence of God. So why the bias against the existence of God? You should be entirely neutral as to whether God exists or not. Irrational bias. Confirmation bias.

    If you disagree, show your evidence against the existence of God or absolute morality, and explain why it’s evidence against.

  234. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    You love to pull out the argumentum ad populum card, making one think it is the only logical fallacy you’ve learned in your short time studying logic.

    So, why do you apply it to us? Is it objectively, absolutely valid? Are the fallacies you refer to objectively, absolutely irrational? Or merely a convention like the speed limit on the freeway? If conventional, then they do not say anything about the actual rationality or irrationality of an argument. Is there such a thing as an objectively rational argument?

    Earlier you said morality is based upon postulates like mathematics is. Now, science is based upon postulates as well, correct? And science employs the based-upon-postulates mathematics. Therefore, morality is no less objective and absolute as science. In fact, according to you, there is no way to distinguish between science and morality. If you disagree, explain how science is different from morality.

  235. TFBW says:

    Ryan said:

    You love to pull out the argumentum ad populum card, making one think it is the only logical fallacy you’ve learned in your short time studying logic.

    I don’t see any evidence that Stardusty has studied logic. Just because he can parrot the phrase “argumentum ad populum” doesn’t mean anything. Show me an example of a syllogism anywhere in his comments — even an enthymeme — and I’ll reconsider my position. Nothing he has said even qualifies as an “argument” in the logical sense. If that’s no longer true, please let me know, as I stopped paying attention to his comments quite some time ago for this very reason.

  236. FZM says:

    Ryan,

    The only example you could give of a thing with absolute, undeniable evidence was cogitas, ergo es (you think, therefore you are).

    If I remember correctly Stardusty didn’t claim that he could prove this to be absolutely true in any general sense such that it might convince anyone other than himself. He just said that he was convinced, in an apparently purely personal way, that there was undeniable evidence for it.

    You said earlier that absolute morality is “nonsensical”, but then you defined it. So which is it, Mr. irrational? Is it “nonsensical”, or can it be defined?

    Stardusty’s replies keep suggesting this question to me because he seems to rely a lot on the argument that things like absolute morality, absolute proof, objective fact etc. are all nonsensical, inconceivable or unimaginable concepts.

    So far it hasn’t been clear to me if he means that he can show these concepts to be demonstrably nonsensical, inconceivable and so on, in a way that others might find valid or convincing (probably by showing they are somehow logically incoherent or self-refuting?) or he just means that in the light of his own purely personal standards of coherence, sense or conceivability he finds them nonsensical, inconceivable or incoherent.

    It often seems that when Stardusty seems to change tack and start to write as if he assumes that ideas like absolute morality, objective fact aren’t nonsensical or inconceivable and could be proved if only the appropriate evidence or argument was available, this doesn’t go very far before reverting back to the (I guess purely personal) ‘nonsense’ argument discussed above.

    So in general I think that it’s not clear whether Stardusty is making comments which are intended to have some general validity and meaning for people other than himself, whether it is all just about the contents of his own mind and personal, entirely subjective postulations and assumptions which he doesn’t believe to be demonstrably valid or relevant to anyone else or finally whether it is just impossible to say which at any moment because both are always equally possible and indistinguishable.

    If Stardusty had expressed his apparent position with more clarity earlier (a possibly totally subjective and personal position, equally possibly not, with no way to distinguish between them at any time) I suspect most posters would have been less inclined to engage with him.

    (I’ve been using the pronoun ‘he’ to refer Stardusty in this post, ‘she’ might be equally appropriate, I just thought writing he/she all the time would be pretty clumsy and make it harder to read).

  237. John July 11, 2016 at 11:45 am
    Dusty: ”Argumentum ad populum. A general human tendency is not a valid argument for objectivity.”

    “So common sense is out the window now?”
    * Ok, so you only sense there is such a thing as objective morality. Fine, you can sense that. People sense all kinds of things that turn out not to be the case.

    ””You do realise we were not talking (just) about morality, but about rational or epistemic duties?”
    * Sense of duty, personal sense of ought, personal sense of should, sense of morality…ok, essentially the same question, are we self drive cars that only seem to some people to be getting their instructions from and objective external source?

    What evidence is there of this objective source? What is it made of? Where does it exist? How do our brains snatch these objective instructions out of the ether at just the right moments to guide our decision making?

  238. John says:

    ”Ok, so you only sense there is such a thing as objective morality. Fine, you can sense that. People sense all kinds of things that turn out not to be the case.”

    My point was that the burden of proof lies on you.

    People used to believe the Earth was flat thousands of years ago, but that belief got refuted with an abundance of evidence.A lot of which can be found with sight and perception alone as well.

    People believe and behave intuitively that realism is true and that idealism or solipsism are not true.

    It is up to the idealist to show that there isn’t a mind independent reality.

    People believe and behave intuitively that morality is objective and not subjective and it is up to the relativist to show otherwise.

    ”What evidence is there of this objective source?”

    Nobody said anything about an objective source of any sort.Simply that there are rational duties.

    ”ok, essentially the same question, are we self drive cars that only seem to some people to be getting their instructions from and objective external source?”

    So you are trying to make your argument apply to rational duties as well?

  239. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    You avoided my questions.

    First of all, is the concept of absolute morality “nonsensical” or can it be defined? We really can’t continue discussion until you give a definitive answer to this question. You’ve gone back and forth on this one so much it’s giving me motion-sickness. Until you figure this out and give a definite answer you’re really not even qualified for this discussion.

    Morality is no less objective than science, correct?

    Since you accept the general reliability of the senses, your sense of morality is no less indicative of reality than your sense of sight or hearing, correct? Or is your sense of morality an illusion, a perception that gives you false information about reality?

    What is energy made up of? Until you answer this question I’ll regard your question about what morality is made up of as a red herring.

    You have no evidence for or against absolute morality, so why aren’t you neutral? Why do you have an unjustified bias against absolute morality?

    You have no evidence for or against the existence of God, so why aren’t you neutral? Why do you have an unjustified bias against the existence of God?

  240. SteveK July 11, 2016 at 12:36 pm
    ”SP – My arguments are entirely serious, yes.”

    “Your arguments, if both logically valid and sound, amount to nothing really since there is no obligation to live by the conclusion”
    * My arguments lead to no absolute obligation, that is true. Perhaps you require absolute obligation to act, I do not.

    “– because there is no obligation to do anything or feel any way – because humans are not supposed to be anything in particular.”
    * I do not need an external source dictating to me what I am supposed to be in order for me to act upon my own personal judgments of what I think are good goals for what I am to be.

    You are invited to take my words for what they are worth to you, perhaps noting at all, perhaps food for thought, perhaps a small increment in our personal growth.

  241. Ryan July 11, 2016 at 1:28 pm
    “You miss the point. It does imply that beauty is a real thing existing outside of humans. ”
    * No, my friend, I am well aware of your very common misconception.

    “The fact that we don’t agree %100 is irrelevant.”
    * Differences in human perceptions provide valuable information about their causal mechanisms.

    “Same with morality. The universal human experience of morality implies there is something real upon which it is based. ”
    * At last we agree!!! The brain is indeed real, I am convinced.

    “That is not argumentum ad populum, you’re dumb and confused if you think so. ”
    * Right back atchya baby 🙂

    “In the same way that we can assume reality is real, ”
    * What reality do you assume is real?

    “we can assume morality is real.”
    * My sense of morality is absolutely real to me. I know this because I am self aware. Even if I am a brain in a vat I really must me sensing what I sense myself sensing. This is a corollary to cogito ergo sum.

    “So, why do you demand absolute, undeniable evidence for God and morality”
    * Not my demand. I would appreciate some sound rational arguments for starters. So far I have never heard any from anybody in any setting whatsoever.

    “You said earlier that absolute morality is “nonsensical”, but then you defined it. So which is it, Mr. irrational? Is it “nonsensical”, or can it be defined?”
    * I define “massless mass” as a mass that has no mass, yet this term remains nonsensical. I could define a being as made out of massless mass and claim this being is the source of massless mass but this is all still just gibberish. I can put it in the form of a conditional saying that if a being were made out of massless mass then massless mass would exist. Again, this is just another form of gibberish.

    “According to you, you have no evidence against absolute morality and you have no evidence for absolute morality. So why the bias against it?”
    * Because there are an unlimited number of idle speculations of that sort one can make. I have no evidence against invisible magic pixies living under my bed and I have no evidence for invisible magic pixies living under my bed but I am biased against invisible magic pixies living under my bed, undoubtedly because I am a pixyist jerk, but there it is.

    “If you disagree, show your evidence against the existence of God or absolute morality, and explain why it’s evidence against.”
    * You are the one making speculations about unseen and unheard things made out of unknown stuff with powers of unknown origin.

    You show me your evidence against invisible magic pixies under my bed.

  242. Ryan “So, why do you apply it to us? Is it objectively, absolutely valid? Are the fallacies you refer to objectively, absolutely irrational? Or merely a convention like the speed limit on the freeway? If conventional, then they do not say anything about the actual rationality or irrationality of an argument. Is there such a thing as an objectively rational argument?”
    * The so-called “laws” of logic are descriptive postulates. They make sense to me and the vast majority of people. I have never heard any alternative suggestions I consider worthwhile. But the fundamental “laws” of logic are postulated, not proved.

    ” If you disagree, explain how science is different from morality.”
    * I know of no scientific theory of an absolute morality that somehow exists “out there” separate from brain function. There is a very great deal of science that demonstrates the connection between the brain and our thoughts.

    There is no science to show us that thoughts somehow originate outside the brain. There is no such thing as soul science, or god science, or outside moral source science. There is a vast science of brain function as the source of our thoughts and actions.

  243. TFBW July 11, 2016 at 8:55 pm
    “I don’t see any evidence that Stardusty has studied logic. Just because he can parrot the phrase “argumentum ad populum” doesn’t mean anything. Show me an example of a syllogism anywhere in his comments”

    If pigs had wings then they could fly
    Pigs have wings
    Therefore, pigs can fly

    Now that I have demonstrated what a masterful logician I am your respect for the validity of my arguments will undoubtedly become very great indeed.

  244. TFBW says:

    Great work, Stardusty. Now that you’ve presented a valid but unsound modus ponens argument that pigs can fly, how about you apply the same rigour to the rest of the nonsense you’ve been spouting?

  245. FZM July 12, 2016 at 6:03 am
    * First, FZM, please all me to say that I really appreciate this post!

    “Ryan, The only example you could give of a thing with absolute, undeniable evidence was cogitas, ergo es (you think, therefore you are).”

    “If I remember correctly Stardusty didn’t claim that he could prove this to be absolutely true in any general sense such that it might convince anyone other than himself. He just said that he was convinced, in an apparently purely personal way, that there was undeniable evidence for it.”
    * Yes, Descartes struggled long and hard to build a system of rationality so he searched for all things that were absolutely beyond all doubt. That got him back to cogito ergo sum, which is the fundamental personal absolute truth.

    But Descartes was, and to the best of my knowledge, every human being has been, unable to build upon this for to form a generalized reality of absolute truths, truths that were beyond any doubt whatsoever.

    “Ryan – You said earlier that absolute morality is “nonsensical”, but then you defined it. So which is it, Mr. irrational? Is it “nonsensical”, or can it be defined?”

    “FZM – Stardusty’s replies keep suggesting this question to me because he seems to rely a lot on the argument that things like absolute morality, absolute proof, objective fact etc. are all nonsensical, inconceivable or unimaginable concepts.”

    “So far it hasn’t been clear to me if he means that he can show these concepts to be demonstrably nonsensical, inconceivable and so on, in a way that others might find valid or convincing (probably by showing they are somehow logically incoherent or self-refuting?) or he just means that in the light of his own purely personal standards of coherence, sense or conceivability he finds them nonsensical, inconceivable or incoherent.”
    * Those are indeed some fascinating distinctions…let’s continue on.

    “It often seems that when Stardusty seems to change tack and start to write as if he assumes that ideas like absolute morality, objective fact aren’t nonsensical or inconceivable and could be proved if only the appropriate evidence or argument was available, this doesn’t go very far before reverting back to the (I guess purely personal) ‘nonsense’ argument discussed above.”

    “So in general I think that it’s not clear whether Stardusty is making comments which are intended to have some general validity and meaning for people other than himself, whether it is all just about the contents of his own mind and personal, entirely subjective postulations and assumptions which he doesn’t believe to be demonstrably valid or relevant to anyone else or finally whether it is just impossible to say which at any moment because both are always equally possible and indistinguishable.”
    * For me, a proposition or a term can be nonsensical for several possible reasons.

    An oxymoronic term (incoherent term) makes no sense because it is self contradictory. On the postulate (“law”) of non contradiction it is irrational and meaningless to combine mutually exclusive terms, such as “abstract object”.

    Other things I sometimes say are nonsense, not because they are oxymoronic on their face, rather, because they quickly lead to contradictions and absurdities as commonly expressed by others, although one might form some kind of speculation in support of the notion that has at least some non-disprovable or speculative possibility in some form, such as “god”.

    The term “god” is not self contradictory on its face, however, if one ascribes to god mutually exclusive properties such as omniscience and free will then that particular formulation of god becomes incoherent. I would not say it is impossible for us to have some fuzzy ill constructed thoughts about an omniscient being with free will, it is just that when one applies the postulates (“laws”) of logic to those proposed properties then these fuzzy ideas are shown to be just that.

    One can speculate rather coherently that god is simply some undiscovered force. God is actually made of something and physically exists someplace or somehow but we just have not been able to detect this godstuff yet. Well, fine, but that is no more than idle speculation a la teapots in orbit.

    “whether it is all just about the contents of his own mind and personal, entirely subjective postulations and assumptions which he doesn’t believe to be demonstrably valid or relevant to anyone else”
    * So why bother communicating, I am sometimes asked. If it is all just your subjective, relative, unprovable personal opinion what is the point? I could ask in return, what is the point of living at all?

    My life seems real to me. I imagine each of you as real human beings thinking real thoughts and doing real things. I do not assert I can absolutely prove anything to you, but if we mutually agree to postulate the basic reliability of the human senses and the validity of the “laws” of logic then we can engage in communications that might seem worthwhile to both of us.

    You can take my words, or leave them. If they are worth something to you then take them for their perceived value.

    “If Stardusty had expressed his apparent position with more clarity earlier (a possibly totally subjective and personal position, equally possibly not, with no way to distinguish between them at any time) I suspect most posters would have been less inclined to engage with him.”
    * I hadn’t considered that! Perhaps I am like the typical radio personality who intentionally makes some outrageous statements, which predictably get people all riled up, calling in shouting and complaining, news coverage for these offensive statements, all with the desired result, increased ratings that create increased ad revenue. Marketing 101.

    Well, actually, I try to be as clear as I know how to be.

    “(I’ve been using the pronoun ‘he’ to refer Stardusty in this post, ‘she’ might be equally appropriate, I just thought writing he/she all the time would be pretty clumsy and make it harder to read).”
    * Oh, that’s ok, “he” is accurate, and don’t worry, I’m not fluid about it. I sometimes just bite the bullet and say “he or she”. Webster managed to create a bit of outrage about the singular use of “they”.

    This discussion
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/they
    cites the use of “they” in conjunction with “everybody” or “anybody”, so there is still a sense of speaking of multiple people, and together means “any one person of many such people”, so still not the strictly singular usage of “he said this” or “she said that”. “They said this” still sounds like a group of people speaking, not one person speaking. So, I think, problem still not solved.

  246. SteveK says:

    “personal judgments of what I think are good goals for what I am to be.”

    You don’t stop there. You have personal judgements of others that you insist MUST be lived out on punishment of fines/jail/etc. NONE of your judgements are rooted in anything factual about the other person. You are the one obligating others while insisting there are no obligations for you.

  247. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: You are the one making speculations about unseen and unheard things made out of unknown stuff with powers of unknown origin. Are you speaking about photons? They have no mass or volume, they cannot be heard or seen, are made out of unknown stuff and have powers of unknown origin. Are you saying that scientists who believe in photons are crackpots or something? You don’t believe in photons?

  248. Ryan says:

    Photon: An elementary particle that has no mass or volume, cannot be seen or heard, is made out of unknown stuff and has powers of unknown origin.

    Does anyone disagree with this definition? Stardusty, is there anything false in my definition of a photon? Are you anti-science, Stardusty? If you accept the scientific consensus on photons, then please stop the silly blustering about morality or God not being seen or heard. Things can be known indirectly, that means without direct observation, science operates on this principle regularly. You should embrace it.

  249. SteveK says:

    “I do not need an external source dictating to me what I am supposed to be…”

    You exclude yourself but insist that others NEED an external source that dictates their life. I can see that you personally value hypocrisy and are able to express it clearly.

  250. Ryan says:

    SteveK said: “I do not need an external source dictating to me what I am supposed to be…”

    You exclude yourself but insist that others NEED an external source that dictates their life. I can see that you personally value hypocrisy and are able to express it clearly.

    I think this summarizes the problem we all have with Stardusty’s approach. His argument is essentially:

    If something doesn’t have mass/volume, and can’t be seen or heard, it doesn’t exist.

    Absolute morality and photons don’t have mass/volume, and can’t be seen or heard.

    Therefore, absolute morality and photons do not exist.

    Since there is no absolute morality, I make up my own morality.

    My own personal morality is sufficient for judging not only my own actions, but those of everyone else in existence.

  251. TFBW July 13, 2016 at 11:56 pm
    “Great work, Stardusty. Now that you’ve presented a valid but unsound modus ponens argument that pigs can fly, how about you apply the same rigour to the rest of the nonsense you’ve been spouting?”

    * Apparently you found my inference or my assertion or both to be unsound, and therefore reject my conclusion, Pity, I had so very much hoped to convince you that pigs can indeed fly by abandoning ordinary prose and constructing a valid argument with admirable rigor.

    Alas, to no avail. You remain as unconvinced by my formalization of my argument as you would have been by any conversational method I might have employed.

    If formalization does not convince you then formalization has no value
    Formalization does not convince you
    Therefore, formalization has no value

  252. “SteveK July 14, 2016 at 11:26 am
    “SP personal judgments of what I think are good goals for what I am to be.”
    “You don’t stop there. You have personal judgments of others that you insist MUST be lived out on punishment of fines/jail/etc.”
    * Indeed, I claim for myself the right of self defense. I claim the right to communicate with my fellow citizens to mutually agree upon a set of codes of conduct that are outside the bounds of certain mutually agreed upon fundamental principles as expressed in our supreme civil law, our constitution, as well as laws subservient to it.

    I make no pretense of access to a source of absolute truth or moral objectivity in making these claims, communications, or codes.

    NONE of your judgements are rooted in anything factual about the other person. You are the one obligating others while insisting there are no obligations for you.”
    * Others obligate me in like manner. I am subject to the laws of our nation just like everybody else, whether I agree with each or not, just like everybody else.

    In my personal sensibilities that is fair, given that in my opinion our supreme law is fundamentally reasonable (the lack of voting congressional representation for residents of DC notwithstanding).

  253. Ryan July 14, 2016 at 3:05 pm
    “Stardusty said: You are the one making speculations about unseen and unheard things made out of unknown stuff with powers of unknown origin. Are you speaking about photons? They have no mass or volume, they cannot be heard or seen, are made out of unknown stuff and have powers of unknown origin. Are you saying that scientists who believe in photons are crackpots or something? You don’t believe in photons?”
    * Ok, Ryan, my friend, you seem somewhat unfamiliar with the physics of electromagnetic radiation. The classical model is given in Maxwell’s Equations. Einstein, while rightly remembered for his seminal works on relativity, actually won his Nobel prize for his pioneering work on the photoelectric effect. I invite you to purchase a college physics book and study the chapters on electromagnetic radiation, just as a second source introduction to the fundamentals of the subject.

    You might also want to look into how the eye works. Photons are seen. In fact, that is what we see, photons. So, it is apparent to me that you have some study to do on these subjects.

    One more thing you might want to investigate is the mass/energy equivalence, famously stated as E=mc^2. Thus, a photon of a particular energy can, in principle, be converted into a particular mass, and vice versa.

  254. Ryan July 14, 2016 at 3:13 pm
    “Photon: An elementary particle that has no mass or volume, cannot be seen or heard, is made out of unknown stuff and has powers of unknown origin.

    Does anyone disagree with this definition? Stardusty, is there anything false in my definition of a photon?”
    * I confess I typically respond to comments in line, that is, sequentially. Yes, I very much disagree with that definition.

    Can you cite a source for this definition? It is very unfamiliar to me.

    “Are you anti-science, Stardusty?”
    * No.

    ” If you accept the scientific consensus on photons,”
    * You have not cited evidence your proposed definition is somehow a “scientific consensus”.

    “then please stop the silly blustering about morality or God not being seen or heard. Things can be known indirectly, that means without direct observation, science operates on this principle regularly. You should embrace it.”
    * Sorry, Ryan, my friend, I am not able to discern a coherent argument in your statement.

  255. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    Apparently you found my inference or my assertion or both to be unsound, and therefore reject my conclusion …

    I reject both the premises, as it happens, although rejecting either one would be sufficient to reject the conclusion.

    You remain as unconvinced by my formalization of my argument as you would have been by any conversational method I might have employed.

    But I have the advantage of being able to say precisely why I disagree with you. I disagree with premise #1 because wings are not sufficient for flight (not everything with wings can fly), and premise #2 because it’s anti-factual (pigs don’t have wings). It follows logically that I may reject your conclusion (that pigs can fly) because I rejected one or more of the premises on which the argument was based. Blessed clarity!

    If formalization does not convince you then formalization has no value

    I reject this premise. The value of formalisation is not merely in its ability to convince, but in its ability to clarify whether disagreements are reasonable. Indeed, formalisation may serve to convince me that your argument is fallacious. How is it possible to know whether an argument is fallacious unless it can be expressed with sufficient clarity? Informal descriptions can be (and are in this case) a smokescreen behind which fallacies may hide.

    If you can’t express your key points as a valid formal argument, then there is no reason to think that you have a valid argument.
    You can’t express your key points as a valid formal argument.
    Therefore, there is no reason to think that you have a valid argument.

  256. SteveK July 14, 2016 at 5:18 pm
    “SP I do not need an external source dictating to me what I am supposed to be…”
    “You exclude yourself but insist that others NEED an external source that dictates their life. I can see that you personally value hypocrisy and are able to express it clearly.”
    * Most people think our laws are generally good, which is why they are our laws. Some people ignore our laws. It is not hypocrisy to notice this important difference between people.

    Most people have empathy. We call those who lack empathy sociopaths. It is not hypocrisy to notice the difference, in fact, it would be rather foolish to pretend there is no difference.

    A common question that an atheist speaker will ask a Christian audience is if it were not for the 10 commandments and the teachings of Jesus would go around robbing and raping and killing? Typically a few people will raise their hands or answer “yes”. The pragmatic atheist response is “please keep believing that Jesus is your lord and savior”

  257. SteveK says:

    I claim the right to communicate with my fellow citizens to mutually agree upon a set of codes of conduct that are outside the bounds of certain mutually agreed upon fundamental principles as expressed in our supreme civil law, our constitution, as well as laws subservient to it.

    You obligate others while insisting that nobody has any obligation to live a certain way. That is a logical contradiction. It’s the logic of your worldview that is messed up. How will you fix it? Do you even care?

  258. SteveK says:

    Others obligate me in like manner. I am subject to the laws of our nation just like everybody else, whether I agree with each or not, just like everybody else.

    Yes, by people who have a worldview that includes obligations. That is not hypocrisy. That is logically consistent living.

    Now contrast this with your worldview where no obligations exist. In that worldview you tell me that nobody is obligated to live any particular way – except they actually are. You cannot have it both ways. If people are obligated to obey human decrees then admit that your worldview includes obligations.

  259. Ryan “I think this summarizes the problem we all have with Stardusty’s approach. His argument is essentially:

    If something doesn’t have mass/volume, and can’t be seen or heard, it doesn’t exist.

    Absolute morality and photons don’t have mass/volume, and can’t be seen or heard.

    Therefore, absolute morality and photons do not exist.

    Since there is no absolute morality, I make up my own morality.
    My own personal morality is sufficient for judging not only my own actions, but those of everyone else in existence.”
    * If “something” has no mass, no energy, takes up no space, is not made of anything, has no dimensions, and has no location then in what sense does it “exist”?

    Photons have energy. They have measurable properties. They are directly detectable by our eyes. Therefor we have vast evidence that photons exist.

    Where is this absolute morality? What is it made of? How big is it? What instruments can I use to measure it? How does the brain snatch just the right bits of absolute morality out of the ether at just the right time?

    Because no person has ever answered any of these questions I am convinced there is no such thing and it does not exist.

  260. SteveK says:

    Where is this absolute morality?
    It’s expressed in reality but originated in the mind of the divine. It’s similar to (but not the same) the way an idea gets expressed in reality but originates in the mind.

    What is it made of?
    It’s “made” of the relationship between divine and created beings. Love is made out of similar “stuff”.

    How big is it?
    It’s about the size of blue or north or happy

    What instruments can I use to measure it?
    Your mind does a pretty good job. You’ve admitted to perceiving it several times so you already know. I don’t think a light meter or a scale will do the job.

    How does the brain snatch just the right bits of absolute morality out of the ether at just the right time?
    We can discuss this after you figure out the process of how the brain becomes conscious.

  261. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    If “something” has no mass, no energy, takes up no space, is not made of anything, has no dimensions, and has no location then in what sense does it “exist”?

    Other things which don’t “exist”, based on the same criteria: logic, reasons, duties, empathy, mathematics, science, statements, concepts, beliefs, arguments, inferences, judgements, obligations, rights, morals (absolute or otherwise), good, evil, languages, countries, cultures, religions, fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, pretty much anything ending in “ism”, and pretty much everything Stardusty has been talking about.

  262. Kevin says:

    To me this is a fruitless tangent. If you believe in God, you probably believe in objective morality. If you manage to convince yourself that existence is possible without a creator, then you probably don’t believe in objective morality.

    There are somewhat notable aspects of the morality discussion, such as the fact that 100 percent of relativists become outraged or annoyed when others act or treat them in a manner that violates their moral code, but ultimately it the moral question is contingent on the belief in existence of a creator and the qualities thereof.

  263. TFBW “If you can’t express your key points as a valid formal argument, then there is no reason to think that you have a valid argument.”
    * Interesting that all texts not in the form of a formal argument provide you with no reasons to think they are valid, since you seem to assume that if a person does not express key points as a valid formal argument then they cannot do so.

    Thus, the Bible presents to you no reasons for its validity, nor does the vast majority of human writing on all subjects.

    Ok, well, you have cut yourself off from nearly all sources of information and nearly all human communication, but that is your choice to make.

  264. SteveK July 15, 2016 at 11:37 am
    “SP I claim the right to communicate with my fellow citizens to mutually agree upon a set of codes of conduct that are outside the bounds of certain mutually agreed upon fundamental principles as expressed in our supreme civil law, our constitution, as well as laws subservient to it.”

    “You obligate others while insisting that nobody has any obligation to live a certain way. That is a logical contradiction. It’s the logic of your worldview that is messed up. How will you fix it? Do you even care?”
    * Equivocation.

    There is no absolute obligation to obey the law. Obedience to the law is done either by consensus, threat of negative consequences, or simply not done depending on the individual.

    Here is one definition for obligation:
    “An act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment:”

    I am convinced there is no source of absolute or objective morality. One may experience a personal sense of obligation which is an emotional state which is an individual’s brain state.

    One may feel compelled to do something or to refrain from something against personal preferences by considering negative consequences, but that does not argue for the existence of a source for absolute or objective morality.

    You seem convinced I am being somehow inconsistent or hypocritical, which I am not. I simply advocate for the imposition of negative consequences for certain antisocial behaviors. Those laws apply to me as well as anybody else, so I have no expectation of being exempted from them.

    Maybe you think one must choose between the notion of an objective morality and anarchy. I have joined with the vast majority in participation in the process of creating law by consensus, so I reject that dichotomy as false.

  265. SteveK says:

    “There is no absolute obligation to obey the law. ”

    Demonstrably false. Just look at all the people forced (obligated) to obey. The intention to obligate, absolutely, comes before anyone is forced to obey the decree. You’re wrong.

  266. SteveK says:

    “Those laws apply to me as well as anybody else, so I have no expectation of being exempted from them.”

    If this were true then your worldview would have intended obligations. But it doesn’t. There is the contradiction.

  267. SteveK July 15, 2016 at 12:22 pm
    “SP Where is this absolute morality?
    It’s expressed in reality but originated in the mind of the divine. It’s similar to (but not the same) the way an idea gets expressed in reality but originates in the mind.”
    * What does “expressed in reality” mean? A rock is real, does it somehow express an absolute morality? Perhaps you mean the reality of human behavior. How does that somehow indicate an absolute morality to you, given the broad spectrum and great prevalence of why you would consider to be immoral? Sorry Steve, “expressed in reality” is a hopelessly vague term as you have introduced it here.

    “originated in the mind of the divine” only pushes the question back a step while introducing a further unknown as a substitute for the first unknown, so this has no explanatory value. Where is the divine then? What is it made of and all the rest of my questions?

    “SP – What is it made of?
    It’s “made” of the relationship between divine and created beings. Love is made out of similar “stuff”.”
    * Love is an emotion. Emotions are a part of our intelligence, which is brain function. Love is brain function like all human thought.

    “SP – How big is it?
    It’s about the size of blue or north or happy”
    * Right, and blue is a perceptual experience of certain wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation as they are absorbed by our sensory cells in our eyes, producing signals that lead to the brain function that is the perceptual experience of blue.

    Or do you suppose there is some sort of absolute blue out there?

    “SP What instruments can I use to measure it?
    Your mind does a pretty good job. You’ve admitted to perceiving it several times so you already know. I don’t think a light meter or a scale will do the job.”
    * So no scientific instruments can measure this asserted absolute morality thing. It exists only in our imaginations. Indeed.

    “SP – How does the brain snatch just the right bits of absolute morality out of the ether at just the right time?
    We can discuss this after you figure out the process of how the brain becomes conscious.”
    * Our brain has internal self diagnostic data pathways.

  268. TFBW July 15, 2016 at 12:29 pm
    “Stardusty said:If “something” has no mass, no energy, takes up no space, is not made of anything, has no dimensions, and has no location then in what sense does it “exist”?”

    “Other things which don’t “exist”, based on the same criteria: logic, reasons, duties, empathy, mathematics, science, statements, concepts, beliefs, arguments, inferences, judgements, obligations, rights, morals (absolute or otherwise), good, evil, languages, countries, cultures, religions, fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, pretty much anything ending in “ism”, and pretty much everything Stardusty has been talking about.”
    * Indeed, there is no reason to suppose any of those things exist as such outside the workings of our brains. Logic is descriptive of how the universe seems to work, and is postulated, not proved, as is the whole of mathematics.

    A statement can be transmitted by something that exists by encoding it into an arrangement of physical objects such that this arrangement is understood by an other observer who knows the meaning of that arrangement. The meaning, however, exists only as a dynamic set of brain states.

    And how is it that a country exists? I can walk across a field leaving one country and entering another without ever knowing it.

    Where does a religion exist? What of the core objects of religions, their gods and goddesses, deities and life forces? Consider the gods, goddesses, deities, and life forces asserted by all religions that have ever existed. Where does he, she, or it exist in each case?

  269. Kevin July 15, 2016 at 1:14 pm
    “There are somewhat notable aspects of the morality discussion, such as the fact that 100 percent of relativists become outraged or annoyed when others act or treat them in a manner that violates their moral code, ”
    * 100% of people who do not like to be insulted become annoyed when they are insulted. Do you suppose you are pointing out some sort of inconsistency among relativists?

    “but ultimately it the moral question is contingent on the belief in existence of a creator and the qualities thereof.”
    * Right, just because beings have power to create does not mean they are good or evil or have any morality at all.

    Maybe the almighty is actually Satan. Considering the state of humanity many have suggested as much.

  270. Kevin says:

    “100% of people who do not like to be insulted become annoyed when they are insulted. Do you suppose you are pointing out some sort of inconsistency among relativists?”

    Here’s what I encounter (in essence) in pretty much every encounter with a relativist. Given that every relativist I have personally interacted with was a leftist, I will use abortion as an example.

    Relativist: Morality is a subjective matter that differs between individuals and cultures.
    Me: Abortion should be illegal if there is no medical reason to do so.
    Relativist: YOU HATE WOMEN!! YOU WANT TO CONTROL WOMENS BODIES YOU BIGOT!!!!! GO TO SAUDI ARABIA IF YOU WANT YOUR RELIGION TO BE LAW!!!

    While I have been told all of those things, the point isn’t that this was a literal conversation to dissect. What we have is a relativist who condemns others for not adhering to his moral code, which is so totally subjective.

    It’s not a question of someone not liking getting irritated. It’s a question of someone who CLAIMS that morality is subjective turning around and judging others and casting condemnation on those whose subjective morality differs from their own.

    That’s why I say 100 percent of relativists behave like objectivists. Otherwise a relativist has zero justification in condemning another, unless he is so full of himself that he believes his opinion should carry more weight.

    “Maybe the almighty is actually Satan. Considering the state of humanity many have suggested as much.”

    Those who believed that Satan was the creator would definitely have a different outlook on the state of morality, which again is why I don’t believe this tangential topic will ever go anywhere. Someone who believes in the Christian god will most likely not believe morality to be subjective, and someone who believes there is no god will most likely not believe in objective morality. And there’s no way to bridge that gap in starting assumptions by just talking about morality.

  271. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    One cannot see a photon. If so, describe what a photon looks like. Who has seen a photon directly? Also, photons have zero resting mass. 0. They have no mass and no volume. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photon#Physical_properties http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/photons-zero-mass-black-hole/

    And what is energy made up of? Does energy exist? Your hardline materialism is inconsistent with contemporary science.

    Simple questions you cannot answer:

    Is science more objective than morality? Explain.

    What evidence do you have against the existence of absolute morality? Why is it evidence against?

    What evidence do you have against the existence of God? Why is it evidence against?

    Is your sense of morality a real sense like sight/hearing that gives you information about the external world? If not, why do you refer to it as a ‘sense’?

  272. SteveK July 15, 2016 at 3:04 pm
    “SP There is no absolute obligation to obey the law. ”

    “Demonstrably false. Just look at all the people forced (obligated) to obey.”
    * I have broken the law from time to time without suffering any consequences. Lots of people do not recognize any such obligation and in fact behave lawlessly.

    Some deny that the duty to obey the law exists at all. How do you suppose the law forms some sort of absolute obligation?
    Is there in existence an absolute obligation to never drink alcohol? Why the flip flop in the law then? Perhaps this asserted absolute obligation changes each time the law flips the other way?

    ” The intention to obligate, absolutely, ”
    * How does a human intention translate to an actual absolute?

  273. SteveK July 15, 2016 at 3:08 pm
    “SP Those laws apply to me as well as anybody else, so I have no expectation of being exempted from them.”

    “If this were true then your worldview would have intended obligations. But it doesn’t. There is the contradiction.”
    * You seem to be kind of hung up on this notion of absolute obligation. We pass laws by consensus in order to influence people to behave socially and influence them to not behave antisocially.

    We can think of that as some sort of obligation under the law but that is just a grammatical and procedural convenience. People don’t actually have to obey the law, palpably, since many do not. The credible threat of negative consequences tends to reduce antisocial behavior absent any absolute obligations.

  274. Kevin “Relativist: Morality is a subjective matter that differs between individuals and cultures.
    Me: Abortion should be illegal if there is no medical reason to do so.
    Relativist: YOU HATE WOMEN!! YOU WANT TO CONTROL WOMENS BODIES YOU BIGOT!!!!! GO TO SAUDI ARABIA IF YOU WANT YOUR RELIGION TO BE LAW!!!”
    * You are not exaggerating by much, or perhaps not at all. I agree that among atheists there is a pernicious lot variously known as social justice warriors, third wave feminists, Black Lives Matter, “free”thoughtblogs, atheism plus, and probably a few more wretched little titles I don’t recall at this moment.

    In my view human life is defined by brain function. In my personal sense of morality the right to life for an individual is preeminent, and this is written not only into our Declaration of Independence (which is not a controlling legal document) but more importantly expressed in the 14th amendment. I am also personally convinced that I have an obligation to provide for the substance of my minor children, and that laws requiring parents to do so are just. Further, I am convinced of my own humanity irrespective of my physical location. Curl me up and stuff me into a tight bag of water and I am still the same inherent human being.

    I make no claim to be able to absolutely prove these principles, but I am personally convinced they are good. In combination my principles lead inevitably to the legal obligation of a mother to continue to provide sustenance to her unborn child, once he or she becomes a human being, unless there is a credible threat to her own life thereby.

    I do not have the technical means to determine precisely when that is, but the court has ruled states may outlaw abortion beginning at viability, defined as the earliest known stage of development for a live birth such that the child survived even with the aid of advanced technology.

    Simply making these points will likely set this pernicious sort of atheist on a rocket launch of vitriol and irrationality that I have experienced many times.

    “It’s a question of someone who CLAIMS that morality is subjective turning around and judging others and casting condemnation on those whose subjective morality differs from their own.”
    * There is no inconsistency as long as one bears in mind at all times that these judgments are ultimately not absolute.

    A relativist moral judgement can be made objectively in a way similar to a mathematical judgement can be made objectively, by first making some postulates of fact and process. If we all provisionally agree to these postulates then we can objectively maneuver in this closed logical space. In this case I can pass a judgement upon others that they are acting badly on the provisional acceptance of some set of moral postulates.

  275. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: A relativist moral judgement can be made objectively in a way similar to a mathematical judgement can be made objectively, by first making some postulates of fact and process. If we all provisionally agree to these postulates then we can objectively maneuver in this closed logical space. In this case I can pass a judgement upon others that they are acting badly on the provisional acceptance of some set of moral postulates. (emphasis mine)

    So…. since we don’t all agree to the postulates, as you repeatedly have said, then what? And, if there is an ancient society that has made different postulates from you and based upon their postulates their “relativist moral judgement can be made objectively in a way similar to a mathematical judgement can be made objectively” (direct quote from you), then you accept their morality? Or you simply override it with your own prescribed postulates? Your system is inconsistent, contradictory, and therefore incoherent and nonsensical.

    And still waiting for an answer to these simple questions:

    Is science more objective than morality? Explain.

    What evidence do you have against the existence of absolute morality? Why is it evidence against?

    What evidence do you have against the existence of God? Why is it evidence against?

    Is your sense of morality a real sense like sight/hearing that gives you information about the external world? If not, why do you refer to it as a ‘sense’?

  276. SteveK says:

    “Some deny that the duty to obey the law exists at all. How do you suppose the law forms some sort of absolute obligation?”

    You are very confused, SP. I give you an example that demonstrates your statement is false and and all you have to say in response is that some people deny this reality. LOL.

    How does a human intention translate to an actual absolute?

    Forget how and just ask does this kind of thing exist. The answer is ‘yes’ and you know it. You intend to communicate a specific meaning then you express that meaning as symbols on a computer screen.

    Those symbols on the screen are objective, and even if I cannot read or understand them they have been obligated by you to have absolute meaning – independent of anyone’s opinion, even your own opinion if it conflicts with the intended message that put them there. Misinterpreting the meaning of those symbols is an example of failing to respond to what those symbols objectively mean.

  277. TFBW says:

    My summary of Stardusty’s position (in my words, not his):

    Morality doesn’t exist, so I make up my own based on my gut feeling as to what it should be like. I then complain about other things that don’t exist, such as religion and extremism, because these non-existent things don’t conform to my imaginary morality. None of this can actually be expressed as a formal argument, but logic doesn’t actually exist either, so I don’t see that as a big deal. Why go to the bother of dealing in logic, which is just a series of postulates, when I can just postulate the outcome I wanted? Therefore, I am right, and you are all a bunch of perpetually wrong-headed dimwits who I will continue to lecture, not so much because there is any chance of persuading you, but because I like to exhibit my intellectual superiority.

    Have I missed anything significant? In particular, have I missed anything which would make engagement with Stardusty something more than an exercise in futility? Are we done here yet?

  278. Ryan July 15, 2016 at 4:28 pm
    “One cannot see a photon. If so, describe what a photon looks like.”
    * The human eye is not sensitive enough to send a signal to the brain if 1 photon is absorbed by a receptor in the eye. We see photons, plural. Light. Electromagnetic radiation in the visible bandwidth. That is what we see.

    Light detecting instruments are sensitive enough to “see” a single photon.

    “Who has seen a photon directly?”
    * We all see photons directly (unless one is blind) but the human eye lacks the sensitivity to to send a signal to the brain due to the absorption of a single photon.

    “Also, photons have zero resting mass. 0.”
    * Photons do not rest, rather, they are emitted, travel at the speed of light in that medium, and are then absorbed. Photons have a particular energy, and therefor a particular mass equivalent calculable using E=mc^2.

    “They have no mass and no volume.”
    * Again, they have energy which is equivalent to mass and their fields are extended, as there is an electric field and a magnetic field associated with each photon.

    You seem to be kind of hung up on somehow contending that photons are not physical. The fact is they are detectable, measurable, and fairly well understood as real physical objects, if one uses the term to mean any entity that has mass or energy and acts within physical space by certain processes we describe as “laws”.

    “And what is energy made up of?”
    * Humanity has yet to discover the true fundamental nature of the underlying reality.

    “Does energy exist?”
    * By my definition of existence, yes.

    “Your hardline materialism is inconsistent with contemporary science.”
    * You misunderstand contemporary science. Science can only be materialism. If there is a god made of godstuff then godstuff becomes a newly discovered material for science to study.

    “Simple questions you cannot answer:
    Is science more objective than morality? Explain.”
    * For example, the science of chemistry. The 92 chemical elements naturally occurring on Earth were here before humans existed. They were here before humans were able to separate and identify them. The elements are physical objects waiting to be discovered and studied and understood. So, the study of the elements is objective in the sense that they have an immutable set of properties waiting to be discovered. There is an outside source for the “laws” of chemistry, which is the properties intrinsic to the chemical elements available to any interested person for discovery.

    There is no such known outside source for morality. No moral object out there has ever been identified scientifically. Thus, we have no moral object out there waiting for various investigators to discover and come to the same conclusions about,

    “What evidence do you have against the existence of absolute morality? Why is it evidence against?”
    * Nobody can give me an example of an absolute moral good or an absolute moral evil or an absolute moral proposition of any kind. You all just keep talking in vague generalities and nobody can cite even 1 such moral absolute.

    “What evidence do you have against the existence of God? Why is it evidence against?”
    * Where is this god thingy? Why does she play hide and go seek with us? Where is your evidence against magical pink trolls in orbit around the center of the Andromeda galaxy? Those magical pink trolls monitor your every thought and control your eternal fate, so you better give me some really good evidence against magical pink trolls or you will burn in pink troll hell for eternity.

    “Is your sense of morality a real sense like sight/hearing that gives you information about the external world? If not, why do you refer to it as a ‘sense’?”
    * I sense both internal and external processes. I sense the mid-day sun as warm because the electromagnetic radiation from the sun is converted to kinetic energy when it is absorbed by my skin, and that increase in temperature causes cells in my skin to send signals to my brain that are interpreted as “warm”. When some loving or kind thing happens with me I get an internal feeling sometimes described as a “warm” feeling.

    We describe certain aspects of our thoughts as our “sensibilities”. Humans sometimes blur the perceptual line between the internal senses and the external senses and I am not immune to this trait, being just an ordinary guy, after all.

  279. Ilion says:

    TFBW:Have I missed anything significant?

    As I said so long ago, he isn’t simply (and honestly) mistaken due missing or misunderstanding some logically prior fact — and he isn’t stupid — he’s intellectually dishonest: he *knows* what he is saying, he *knows* that it is illogical, self-contradictory and irrational, and yet he says it.

    TFBW:In particular, have I missed anything which would make engagement with Stardusty something more than an exercise in futility?

    No, because it’s logically impossible to reason with those who give themselves permission “argue” illogically and irrationally.

  280. SteveK July 15, 2016 at 9:18 pm
    “SP – Some deny that the duty to obey the law exists at all. How do you suppose the law forms some sort of absolute obligation?”
    “You are very confused, SP. I give you an example that demonstrates your statement is false and and all you have to say in response is that some people deny this reality. LOL.”
    * Sorry, I have seen no demonstration by you of any absolute obligation in obedience to the law or anything else. Why would there be such a thing? How could there be? We simply pass laws to influence behavior. The term “legal obligation” is just a grammatical term or procedural assertion.

    “Those symbols on the screen are objective, and even if I cannot read or understand them they have been obligated by you to have absolute meaning – independent of anyone’s opinion, even your own opinion if it conflicts with the intended message that put them there. Misinterpreting the meaning of those symbols is an example of failing to respond to what those symbols objectively mean.”
    * Now written words are objective? In what sense? I oblige words to have absolute meaning? Ok, well, I do intend for the reader to obtain a particular meaning from them. I don’t see how that forms some sort of objective obligation. We have a broad consensus on the meanings of letters and words, but I know of no god of language that somehow makes this consensus meaning into an objective obligation, nor do I consider myself capable of imparting an objective obligation of meaning to the symbols I use.

    I fully expect others will find meanings in my words other than what I intended. Perhaps the reader of my words is interpreting my words closer to their consensus meaning and I have in that sense misspoken, with the reader having a more valid interpretation of the words than the writer, if we use some widely accepted usages as a standard against which to make our provisional judgments..

    Indeed, several here have been so kind as to point out my myriad errors of expression!

  281. TFBW July 15, 2016 at 9:24 pm
    “My summary of Stardusty’s position (in my words, not his):
    Morality doesn’t exist, so I make up my own based on my gut feeling as to what it should be like. I then complain about other things that don’t exist, such as religion and extremism, because these non-existent things don’t conform to my imaginary morality. None of this can actually be expressed as a formal argument, but logic doesn’t actually exist either, so I don’t see that as a big deal. Why go to the bother of dealing in logic, which is just a series of postulates, when I can just postulate the outcome I wanted? Therefore, I am right, and you are all a bunch of perpetually wrong-headed dimwits who I will continue to lecture, not so much because there is any chance of persuading you, but because I like to exhibit my intellectual superiority.

    Have I missed anything significant? In particular, have I missed anything which would make engagement with Stardusty something more than an exercise in futility? Are we done here yet?”

    * Ha Ha Ha! I needed a good chuckle so thanks for that! Ok, I might consider a couple of your points to be just a wee bit of a strawman.

    Morality exists as individual brain function. In communicating with others we find a great deal of commonality in our individual senses of morality, so much so that many people have jumped to the conclusion that there is some outside absolute reference point for our morality, yet nobody can name a moral absolute, which indicates there is no such thing.

    Religion as a human activity does exist, quite obviously, so I guess you put that in for comedic exaggeration, again, thanks for the chuckle!

    Logic cannot be absolutely proved, nor can one point to a logic object out there that we can somehow use as an absolute logic reference, but logic sure seems, well, logical! It seems to be how the universe works. The universe, quite apparently , has a great many regularities in its processes which logic seems to describe very well.

    Am I lecturing a bunch of dimwits? I don’t think so, at least the dimwit part! Maybe you could say I am lecturing if I sound tedious to you. Mostly I am just responding to questions and I pose a few questions in return and others are kind enough to respond to those questions and pose a few more of their own and kind of on and on like that, you know, that is generally called a “conversation” as opposed to speaking in a series of formally constructed syllogisms or other forms of logical arguments.

    If you want to put your assertions into formal logical arguments that’s fine, but most people simply do not converse in that manner.

  282. Ryan says:

    TFBW said: My summary of Stardusty’s position (in my words, not his):

    (Morality doesn’t exist, so I make up my own based on my gut feeling as to what it should be like. I then complain about other things that don’t exist, such as religion and extremism, because these non-existent things don’t conform to my imaginary morality. None of this can actually be expressed as a formal argument, but logic doesn’t actually exist either, so I don’t see that as a big deal. Why go to the bother of dealing in logic, which is just a series of postulates, when I can just postulate the outcome I wanted? Therefore, I am right, and you are all a bunch of perpetually wrong-headed dimwits who I will continue to lecture, not so much because there is any chance of persuading you, but because I like to exhibit my intellectual superiority.)

    Have I missed anything significant? In particular, have I missed anything which would make engagement with Stardusty something more than an exercise in futility? Are we done here yet?

    I think that sums up Stardusty’s position almost perfectly, with the caveat that when pressed his position seems to transform into a consensus-based morality.

    And yes, I’m done with Stardusty. It’s a waste of time going in circles with him. One cannot have a discussion with someone that jumps all over the place. Stardusty retreats into extreme skepticism whenever necessary to avoid any criticism (earlier suggesting nothing can be objectively proven), then goes on the offense and drops the skepticism shtick not applying it to himself, his own opinions, or science. If he doesn’t like a position, simply apply extreme skepticism: Nothing can be known unless one has absolute, undeniable proof, and this is impossible, so argument over. If he likes a position, then we can and should trust our senses. Confirmation bias runs very strong through everything Stardusty posts. And I know that the atheists and moral relativists I’ve had serious discussions with before would feel the same way.

  283. Ryan says:

    Mea culpa, I messed up the formatting on the previous post. TFBW’s quote ends with “Are we done here yet?”

  284. Ryan says:

    Stardusty’s morality really reduces to ethnocentrism as he has formulated it. But the biggest thing I’ve taken away from everything he’s said is this: morality, mathematics, and science are coequal, since all of them are based upon postulates. Unless he said somewhere that science doesn’t need postulates and is based upon objective, undeniable reality itself.

  285. Ilion July 16, 2016 at 12:46 am
    TFBW: “Have I missed anything significant?”
    “As I said so long ago, he isn’t simply (and honestly) mistaken due missing or misunderstanding some logically prior fact — and he isn’t stupid — he’s intellectually dishonest: he *knows* what he is saying, he *knows* that it is illogical, self-contradictory and irrational, and yet he says it.”
    * That is indeed a neat little bit of mind reading you are doing there, could you please teach me your skills?

    You apparently “know” what I “know”. Interesting. How exactly are you probing the inner workings of my brain to determine that i am somehow aware of being “illogical, self-contradictory and irrational,” yet dishonestly asserting that my “illogical, self-contradictory and irrational,” positions are just the opposite of what I “know” they are?

    TFBW: “In particular, have I missed anything which would make engagement with Stardusty something more than an exercise in futility?”
    “No, because it’s logically impossible to reason with those who give themselves permission “argue” illogically and irrationally.”
    * Methinks you saying I am just being dishonest so it is impossible to reason with me is just a cop out excuse for your palpable inability to form rational counter arguments to my well reasoned assertions.

  286. Ryan “when pressed his position seems to transform into a consensus-based morality.”
    * Transform? What was my position before that? Individuals have individual morality. Collective morality is the consensus of individual moralities. Where is this “transformation”?

    “One cannot have a discussion with someone that jumps all over the place. ”
    * While a true statement, it does not apply to me, as you seem to be implying it does. I have stated and restated essentially the same thing time and again. How you get “jumping all over the place” is on you.

    “earlier suggesting nothing can be objectively proven”
    * Descartes was also guilty of such “extreme skepticism”, which is how he reasoned all the way down to cogito ergo sum, and was unable to build up from there, as all humans have failed to do since.

    “Nothing can be known unless one has absolute, undeniable proof, and this is impossible, so argument over.”
    * Knowledge is a probability estimate. I act absent a probability of 1.

  287. Ryan July 16, 2016 at 3:41 am
    “Stardusty’s morality really reduces to ethnocentrism”
    * So first I am a relativist who is incapable of making any absolute judgments and then I am ethnocentrist who judges others only by his own cultural norms. I am one messed up guy!!!

    “But the biggest thing I’ve taken away from everything he’s said is this: morality, mathematics, and science are coequal, since all of them are based upon postulates.”
    * They share that trait, but that does not make them the same things.

    “Unless he said somewhere that science doesn’t need postulates and is based upon objective, undeniable reality itself.”
    * Science is an attempt to get as close as humanly possible to a description of the physical world as it actually exists. I am convinced there is a single absolute physical reality, but I have no means to determine all descriptive details of that single physical reality with an absolute certainty.

  288. Ilion says:

    … One cannot have a discussion with someone that … retreats into extreme skepticism whenever necessary to avoid any criticism (earlier suggesting nothing can be objectively proven), then goes on the offense and drops the skepticism shtick not applying it to himself, his own opinions …

    That particular game is called “selective hyper-skepticism”; it’s very popular with so-called atheists and materialists.

  289. SteveK says:

    “Ok, well, I do intend for the reader to obtain a particular meaning from them. I don’t see how that forms some sort of objective obligation.”

    You don’t see how the act of creating symbols with a fixed meaning obligates them to actually, and objectively, have a fixed meaning? LOL. You can’t make this stuff up folks.

  290. SteveK says:

    You obligated the SYMBOLS to be a specific thing not the people reading them. Get it now, SP?

  291. SteveKJuly 16, 2016 at 2:31 pm
    “SP – Ok, well, I do intend for the reader to obtain a particular meaning from them. I don’t see how that forms some sort of objective obligation.”

    “You don’t see how the act of creating symbols with a fixed meaning”
    * Symbols do not have a fixed meaning to all readers. I ascribe an intended meaning but others can and often do find other meanings in them.

    “obligates them to actually, and objectively, have a fixed meaning? LOL. You can’t make this stuff up folks.”
    * Where does this supposed objective obligation reside? Is there a symbol god policing this asserted ridged system?

    To paraphrase a common saying, symbolic meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

    To a Christian the cross is a symbol of all that is good and holy. When I see the cross drawn on paper I think of the superstitious nature of humankind. What happened to your objective obligation for the meaning of a symbol? There never was one.

    Symbolic meanings are subjective from the moment the writer puts pen to paper.

  292. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    Ha Ha Ha! I needed a good chuckle so thanks for that! Ok, I might consider a couple of your points to be just a wee bit of a strawman.

    Well, I’m pleased that I managed to entertain rather than offend, at least. I don’t want to misrepresent you, though, so let’s see if I can deal with the “strawman” issues.

    Morality exists as individual brain function …. yet nobody can name a moral absolute, which indicates there is no such thing.

    That’s basically what I said, right? “Morality doesn’t exist, so I make up my own based on my gut feeling as to what it should be like.” If others happen to have a similar gut feeling and make up something similar, then you have something like a shared hallucination in that group, but it’s no more “real” for being shared.

    Religion as a human activity does exist, quite obviously, so I guess you put that in for comedic exaggeration, again, thanks for the chuckle!

    Well, not exactly. You’re changing the criteria of “existence” on a case by case basis, it seems. Earlier, you said:

    If “something” has no mass, no energy, takes up no space, is not made of anything, has no dimensions, and has no location then in what sense does it “exist”?

    When I pointed out that religion meets these criteria, you said:

    Where does a religion exist? What of the core objects of religions, their gods and goddesses, deities and life forces? Consider the gods, goddesses, deities, and life forces asserted by all religions that have ever existed. Where does he, she, or it exist in each case?

    That’s a bunch of rhetorical questions which seem to solicit the answer that religions don’t exist — or at least that gods don’t — because they are immaterial. There’s conflicting rhetoric here.

    Moving on:

    Logic cannot be absolutely proved, nor can one point to a logic object out there that we can somehow use as an absolute logic reference, but logic sure seems, well, logical! It seems to be how the universe works. The universe, quite apparently , has a great many regularities in its processes which logic seems to describe very well.

    It’s true that logic can’t be proved, and that it’s not material, but you seem to want to grant it some sort of authoritative force anyhow. Is this a special case? Are you willing to give logic a free pass for “existence” despite it not existing in space-time as such? You object to “morality” existing for its lack of materiality, and yet you’re more accommodating of “logic”.

    My characterisation of your views contained some pretty silly-sounding denials of existence, but I didn’t stoop to accusing you of employing a double standard. Was I wrong? Is that how I need to adjust my statement? Do I need to say, “I complain about other things which wouldn’t exist if I were to apply my criteria for ‘existence’ consistently, but I tend to decide whether things ‘exist’ on a case by case basis rather than sticking to a single criterion.”

    Am I lecturing a bunch of dimwits?

    My final sentence, to which you are referring here, is unnecessary, and I’d just as soon drop it as fix it. Let’s not waste time on it, but focus on the other aspects.

  293. Ryan says:

    Science can only be materialism.

    That’s the problem. That’s the tiny box Stardusty has locked himself in and is the source of stupid questions like this: Is there a symbol god policing this asserted ridged system? And this equally stupid assertion: If there is a god made of godstuff then godstuff becomes a newly discovered material for science to study.

    Stardusty’s intellect is limited to thinking about things in terms of matter and space; everything must be made of ‘stuff’. He thinks this is scientific, and therefore superior to anything else. He can’t defend any of this, and doesn’t realize that his view is outdated and contemporary science is not limited to matter and things extended in space, but he keeps telling himself this. He must conclude that everything that exists is material/matter, and everything that exists is extended in space, i.e. has volume. Therefore he must conclude that energy is actually a ‘stuff’ made out of matter, something akin to the outdated idea of phlogiston. This of course is not how any physicist views energy.

  294. TFBW July 16, 2016 at 3:26 pm
    “Well, I’m pleased that I managed to entertain rather than offend, at least. I don’t want to misrepresent you, though, so let’s see if I can deal with the “strawman” issues.”
    * It was obvious to me that you were fully aware that you were exaggerating some of my points for comedic effect and more seriously for argumentum ad absurdum, which is all good fun!

    “SP Morality exists as individual brain function …. yet nobody can name a moral absolute, which indicates there is no such thing.”

    “That’s basically what I said, right? “Morality doesn’t exist,”
    * Morality does not exist as an outside absolute, but it does exist as real brain function. We have the real experience of moral sensibilities. I don’t think you said precisely that.

    “so I make up my own based on my gut feeling as to what it should be like.” If others happen to have a similar gut feeling and make up something similar, then you have something like a shared hallucination in that group, but it’s no more “real” for being shared.”
    * If by “real” you mean some sort of real external object that we are all observing and coming to similar conclusions about, yes, that is about right.

    “SP – Religion as a human activity does exist, quite obviously, so I guess you put that in for comedic exaggeration, again, thanks for the chuckle!”

    “Well, not exactly. You’re changing the criteria of “existence” on a case by case basis, it seems. Earlier, you said:
    SP – If “something” has no mass, no energy, takes up no space, is not made of anything, has no dimensions, and has no location then in what sense does it “exist”?”

    “When I pointed out that religion meets these criteria, you said:”

    “Where does a religion exist? What of the core objects of religions, their gods and goddesses, deities and life forces? Consider the gods, goddesses, deities, and life forces asserted by all religions that have ever existed. Where does he, she, or it exist in each case?”

    “That’s a bunch of rhetorical questions which seem to solicit the answer that religions don’t exist — or at least that gods don’t — because they are immaterial. There’s conflicting rhetoric here.”
    * No conflicting rhetoric, simply distinctions to be made. You are correct that my rhetorical questions are phrased to imply that I take certain positions in response to them, fair enough.

    But, in each case I accommodate religion as a real human activity and that human activity exists because it demonstrably has mass, energy and takes up space. Human beings doing certain things are real.

    But where are the core objects of these real human activities, I ask? Please point me to the the mass, the energy, and the space of all the gods and goddesses and deities humans imagine(d) to be outside real objects as they go about their real activities.

    “Moving on:”

    “SP – Logic cannot be absolutely proved, nor can one point to a logic object out there that we can somehow use as an absolute logic reference, but logic sure seems, well, logical! It seems to be how the universe works. The universe, quite apparently , has a great many regularities in its processes which logic seems to describe very well.”

    “It’s true that logic can’t be proved, and that it’s not material, but you seem to want to grant it some sort of authoritative force anyhow. Is this a special case? Are you willing to give logic a free pass for “existence” despite it not existing in space-time as such?”
    * No free pass, but in order to function I provisionally accept some things and move on, else I would be re-hashing everything from first principles at every moment of the day and I would be mentally inundated with philosophical arguments throughout the day. I mentally put an item on the list of working stipulations with a little note along side labeling it “provisionally accepted but not strictly proved, if anybody manages to disprove this item then it is to be removed from the list.

    To me the “law” of non-contradiction makes sense. I put it on my list of working stipulations appropriately labeled. Now, if somebody ever disproves this principle, fine, I will discard it, but I consider that to be infinitesimally likely.

    “You object to “morality” existing for its lack of materiality, and yet you’re more accommodating of “logic”.”
    * The universe is well described by logic and mathematics. There is a sort of outside source for logic and mathematics which is the processes we observe in the universe. As I child I would sometimes wonder if space aliens would arrive at 3.14159… as an approximation for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Would space aliens even define a circle at all? It seems to me they would because our mathematical constructs describe the processes of the universe very well and it seems to me that an intelligent species elsewhere would likely make these same observations and formulate descriptive mathematics as we have.

    Morality isn’t like that. Planets do not move in moral paths. A comet does not follow a moral trajectory. There is no moral equivalence between energy and mass waiting for a distant species to independently discover.

    So no, not a free pass for logic, it is just that logic is highly descriptive of outside real processes, whereas morality is not.

    “My characterisation of your views contained some pretty silly-sounding denials of existence, but I didn’t stoop to accusing you of employing a double standard. Was I wrong? Is that how I need to adjust my statement? Do I need to say, “I complain about other things which wouldn’t exist if I were to apply my criteria for ‘existence’ consistently, but I tend to decide whether things ‘exist’ on a case by case basis rather than sticking to a single criterion.”
    * I don’t need a thing to exist as a provable outside object in order to find utility in it. Provisional acceptance of logic has the utility of describing the outside universe so well, some people have been led to wonder at the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”. Our consensus morality has utility as a mechanism for driving social (as opposed to antisocial) behavior in a social species, homo sapiens.

    “SP – Am I lecturing a bunch of dimwits?”

    “My final sentence, to which you are referring here, is unnecessary, and I’d just as soon drop it as fix it. Let’s not waste time on it, but focus on the other aspects.”
    * Oh, that’s ok, it is true that a lot of atheists come off as smug with delusions of intellectual grandeur, so I don’t mind living that down from time to time.

  295. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said:But, in each case I accommodate religion as a real human activity and that human activity exists because it demonstrably has mass, energy and takes up space.

    So religion is now a physical object with mass, energy and volume? What is the ‘stuff’ that religion is made of? Human actions are not physical objects. This is getting weirder… But earlier you clearly denied that religion exists as something real external to the mind:

    “Other things which don’t “exist”, based on the same criteria: logic, reasons, duties, empathy, mathematics, science, statements, concepts, beliefs, arguments, inferences, judgements, obligations, rights, morals (absolute or otherwise), good, evil, languages, countries, cultures, religions, fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, pretty much anything ending in “ism”, and pretty much everything Stardusty has been talking about.”
    * Indeed, there is no reason to suppose any of those things exist as such outside the workings of our brains.

    Do you deny that you contradict yourself? At one point you say religion doesn’t exist outside our minds, then later religion has mass, energy and takes up space. Have you ever sat down and seriously thought through your world view? Because sometimes you seem to make things up as you go.

    Is this a special case? Are you willing to give logic a free pass for “existence” despite it not existing in space-time as such?”
    * No free pass, but in order to function I provisionally accept some things and move on

    So you do give it a free pass, you just deny that you do. There is no reason for you to believe it exists, but you function as though it does anyway. Special case. Also, you “accept some things and move on…” that doesn’t sound very ‘skeptical’ to me.

    There is a sort of outside source for logic

    Where is located? What is it’s mass and energy? According to you, it’s an absurdity unless it possesses these traits. Can’t you see that you contradict your own materialism? When it comes to morality/God you chide everyone for not being able to ascribe these traits to them, but now we come to logic and you give it a pass for pragmatic reasons. I call foul play.

    There is a sort of outside source for logic and mathematics which is the processes we observe in the universe……Morality isn’t like that.

    Except that earlier you described your morality as functioning just like mathematics: postulating things and making conclusions from those postulates.

  296. SteveK says:

    “Symbolic meanings are subjective from the moment the writer puts pen to paper.”

    LOL. Written tests are now subjective processes whereby the test taker answers according to how they interpret the symbols on the page.

  297. Ryan July 16, 2016 at 3:49 pm
    “SP -Science can only be materialism.”

    “That’s the problem. That’s the tiny box Stardusty has locked himself in and is the source of stupid questions like this: Is there a symbol god policing this asserted ridged system?”
    * Why is that a stupid question? Christians believe there is a morality god who polices adherence to the absolute morality god issues and this morality policing god makes Christian morality objectively true and this god obligates us to this objective moral truth.

    So, if symbolic meanings are objectively true and carry an obligation with them why not call for a symbol god likewise?

    “And this equally stupid assertion: If there is a god made of godstuff then godstuff becomes a newly discovered material for science to study.”
    * How is this somehow stupid? One view of god is substance dualism, that soulstuff is kind of like dark energy or dark matter, some form of stuff that is material but is at this time of unknown properties.

    If god exists then god must be made of something, must act in a time sequence of events, must be someplace or everyplace and therefore have a particular expanse or an infinite expanse. This godstuff then is just another natural material, since this material is said to have always existed. Being a natural material godstuff is subject to scientific investigation and characterization just as all the other sorts of stuff subject to scientific inquiry.

    Ryan, my friend, I really would suggest you consider these questions more thoroughly before you go throwing out the “stupid” charge.

    “Therefore he must conclude that energy is actually a ‘stuff’ made out of matter, something akin to the outdated idea of phlogiston. This of course is not how any physicist views energy.”
    * I am sure you have heard of the famous equation E=mc^2. Do you know what it means?
    Energy equals mass times the speed of light in a vacuum squared.

    This is known as the mass-energy equivalency relationship, a part of Special Relativity theory
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass%E2%80%93energy_equivalence
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/equivME/
    http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/energy/mass-energy.html

    Did you think I was somehow just making this up? This is settled science of some 100 years.

  298. Ryan July 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm
    “Stardusty said:But, in each case I accommodate religion as a real human activity and that human activity exists because it demonstrably has mass, energy and takes up space.”
    “So religion is now a physical object with mass, energy and volume? What is the ‘stuff’ that religion is made of? Human actions are not physical objects. ”
    * I said religion is real “as a human activity”. Religion is a real process, just as a falling rock is a real process and an orbiting planet is a real process. Real objects continually move and change. We identify certain patterns or processes of change and name them, such as water melting from solid to liquid. This process exists not as an object but rather a description of the changes that objects undergo.

    “This is getting weirder… But earlier you clearly denied that religion exists as something real external to the mind:”
    * Right, there is no religion object out there somehow floating about. Sex is a real process. Running is a real process. Breathing is a real process. Religion is a real process. These are things real people really do.

    “SP -Other things which don’t “exist”, based on the same criteria: logic, reasons, duties, empathy, mathematics, science, statements, concepts, beliefs, arguments, inferences, judgements, obligations, rights, morals (absolute or otherwise), good, evil, languages, countries, cultures, religions, fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, pretty much anything ending in “ism”, and pretty much everything Stardusty has been talking about.”
    * Indeed, there is no reason to suppose any of those things exist as such outside the workings of our brains.”

    “Do you deny that you contradict yourself?”
    * Yes. I said “as such”.
    There is no argument object out there, no evil as such somehow existing someplace, no religion “as such” existing.

    The concept of religion is only a series of brain states. Religion can also be seen as a real human activity. There is no religion “as such”, as some sort of object out there for us to objectively discover and observe and characterize.

    “There is a sort of outside source for logic and mathematics which is the processes we observe in the universe……Morality isn’t like that.

    “Except that earlier you described your morality as functioning just like mathematics: postulating things and making conclusions from those postulates.”
    * Ryan, I can see that some of the subtleties of language, the caveats, the qualifiers, are often lost on you. That leads you to many false conclusions of how I am supposedly contradicting myself.

    I urge you to read just a bit more carefully and open your mind to the idea that I might not be quite so stupid as you suppose.

    I said there is a “sort of” outside source for logic. This is the processes of the universe. When we observe the processes of the universe they seem to be very well described by logic and mathematics. That does not mean logic and mathematics somehow exist out there “as such”, as objects unto themselves, as objective stuff. It just means that intelligent beings separated from each other are likely to formulate the same systems of logic and mathematics because they are describing the same processes.

    Morality is not like that. Not only is there no objective moral object out there just as there is no objective logical object out there, but there are no processes in the universe that are accurately described by morals, whereas there are processes in the universe accurately described by logic and mathematics.

  299. SteveK July 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm
    “SP Symbolic meanings are subjective from the moment the writer puts pen to paper.”

    “LOL. Written tests are now subjective processes whereby the test taker answers according to how they interpret the symbols on the page.”
    * A degree of objectivity can be arrived at if we agree to certain postulates of fact and process. We may then objectively maneuver within that logical space. However, since the entire system rests upon postulates that are not themselves proved, then our logical maneuvers are not strictly objective.

    A test is given within a closed system of agreements that are arrived at by consensus. All those in this closed system mutually agree to abide by the rules and the stipulated meanings. To that extent the test is objective.

    More generally symbolic meanings are not in a test environment. Still, there is broad consensus as to the meanings of symbols, but that is an ever weakening consensus the more broadly the symbols are employed.

  300. SteveK says:

    I think I’m done here. Our worlds are so far apart and I haven’t the time or desire to continue.

  301. SteveK July 16, 2016 at 9:38 pm
    “I think I’m done here. Our worlds are so far apart and I haven’t the time or desire to continue.”

    Ok, fair enough, but consider, if you wish, this interesting interview with Ali Sina. He goes on at length about the differences in meanings to words. Symbols on paper are subject to equivocation,

    http://myislam.dk/articles/en/sina%20on-muslims-in-europe.php

  302. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    Morality does not exist as an outside absolute, but it does exist as real brain function. We have the real experience of moral sensibilities.

    I see. So how about I adjust my first sentence as follows.

    Morality is nothing more than a fairly convincing illusion which I experience inside my head, but I choose to act as though it is real, while fully understanding that it is not.

    I’m not sure that you’ll find that satisfactory, though. I would point out that the difference between this and outright delusion is that the deluded person fails to recognise that the illusion is an illusion. You are not deluded, but elect to behave as a deluded person would anyhow — you “play along” with the illusion.

    On the reality of religion, you say:

    But, in each case I accommodate religion as a real human activity and that human activity exists because it demonstrably has mass, energy and takes up space. Human beings doing certain things are real.

    I think I can accommodate this. All human activity, in your model, is nothing but matter in motion, so to speak, but we can categorise certain complex high-level combinations of material activity as “religion” or “ideology”. That’s a bit weird, since we wind up with particular instances of non-existent universals, but let’s not get too picky. I offer the following as a revised second sentence.

    I then complain about the actions of others that don’t conform to my imaginary morality, particularly if that non-conformance is systematic (e.g. the result of following scripture).

    It seems to me that I can stop at this point, because there’s no logic involved as such, and therefore no need to take a position on the metaphysical status of logic.

    Are those two sentences sufficiently descriptive of your position?

    Some other comments on things you have said.

    So, if symbolic meanings are objectively true and carry an obligation with them why not call for a symbol god likewise?

    Do you believe that “2 + 2 = 4” is an objectively true statement? Does it require a symbol god to make it so? It seems to me that you just throw around god-related demands as a smoke screen rather than a coherent objection.

    If god exists then god must be made of something …

    You fall back on this demand for a thing to be material in order for it to exist, yet you selectively grant “existence” to abstractions and subjective experiences. If we were to hold you rigidly to your own demands, we could say that if experience exists, then it must be made of experience-stuff, and this would be just another natural material. That would, of course, be a ridiculous thing to say: it entirely fails to understand what experience is. We could play the same game with “mathematics”, and it would be equally ridiculous. It’s equally ridiculous when God is the subject, but you (and many other New Atheists besides) are simply oblivious to that fact.

  303. Ryan says:

    Stardusty, you keep saying that for something to exist it must be made of something. Yet you acknowledge that logic is not made of ‘stuff’, but rather a ‘process’. Therefore, logic doesn’t exist. Or else you must soften your position on materialism. If everything that exists must be made of ‘stuff’, then logic doesn’t exist. Period. Sorry, but you don’t get it both ways. We are not going to give you a pass when a primary argument that you use against the existence of God/morality is the fact that they are immaterial, and then go on accepting the existence of dozens of other immaterial things: science, mathematics, religion, brain functions (not the brain, but the ‘process’ which is an abstraction), etc. We could probably find hundreds of things that you accept as existing which are immaterial. This is not about the “subtlety” of language that’s lost on us as you said above, or that we need to “read more carefully”. I’m confident that I understand the subtleties of human language better than you as I’ve read poetry, philosophy, and personal letters in ancient languages. No, the simple fact is that you contradict yourself and shift your position as it suits you.

  304. Ryan says:

    Stardusty, this is my last attempt. It’s kind of a litmus test to see if you can be intellectually honest. If you can’t, there is absolutely no reason for me to continue the conversation:

    Something cannot exist unless it is made of matter, having mass and energy.

    Logic is not made of matter, and has no mass or energy.

    Therefore, logic does not exist.

    This is a valid argument. But is it sound? I assume you understand what the symbols ‘valid’ and ‘sound’ mean, because their meaning is not subjective. The only way to save logic from nonexistence is to deny one or both of the premises. I deny the first premise, which is basically materialism. If you deny the first premise then you also are denying materialism. If you deny the second premise then I would love to see you try to edit the wikipedia article on ‘logic’ and add a section about the physical properties of logic itself. So, 1) logic doesn’t exist, 2) materialism is false, or 3) edit the the wikipedia page and bring it up to date on what we know about the physical properties of logic. Have fun.

  305. TFBW -“I’m not sure that you’ll find that satisfactory, though. I would point out that the difference between this and outright delusion is that the deluded person fails to recognise that the illusion is an illusion. You are not deluded, but elect to behave as a deluded person would anyhow — you “play along” with the illusion.”
    * I suppose one might take that outlook on much of life, our feelings, our notions of self importance, our delusions that we can control our fates. Now you have me all wistful and feeling depressed at the pointlessness of it all!

    But no, I don’t feel like it is all a grand illusion that I am somehow playing along with. I just consider that there are many aspects to my intelligence, not only my rational reasoning skills but also my emotions and my feelings that I should do this or I ought to do that. My experiences themselves are the only thing I can say with absolute certainty are real, and I am convinced my experiences are also connected mechanistically, albeit somewhat mysteriously, to real events.

    On deeper examination I can take a reductionist view that all these apparent sensibilities are really just signals being processed in my brain and are thus, in some sense, an illusion. But I do not find that analysis useful in my daily life. I can’t analyse the firings of my brain cells simply by thinking about it. I am only capable of making decisions at the level of my emotions, feelings, and rational problem solving intelligence.

    “I then complain about the actions of others that don’t conform to my imaginary morality, particularly if that non-conformance is systematic (e.g. the result of following scripture).”
    * Well, Ok, I complain from time to time about what I consider to be antisocial actions, as opposed to thoughts. You can think whatever you want, although I might feel inclined to disagree with your ideas and what I consider to be the absurd notions found in holy texts, but ultimately I am not advocating people be somehow punished simply for holding views I disagree with. I am concerned about things like the content of a science curriculum in a public school, fair treatment of homosexuals, not getting blown up or shot, and other actions that various religious folks sometimes take based on the tenets of their religion.

    So, yes, I complain about some things sometimes. How is that a problem or an inconsistency on my part?

    “It seems to me that I can stop at this point, because there’s no logic involved as such, and therefore no need to take a position on the metaphysical status of logic.

    Are those two sentences sufficiently descriptive of your position?”
    * Sorry, you kind of lost me there as to which two sentences but no, if you are saying that my positions are somehow not logical then no, that is not a sufficient description of my position.

    Let me take a stab at stating some premises and a conclusion.
    1. Human thought is an artifact of brain function.
    2. Brain function is a distributed, dynamic, set of signal (data) processing subnetworks that combined form a single overall signal (data) processing network.
    3. There exists a single ultimate physical reality, the most fundamental nature of which is presently unknown to any human being.
    4. The stuff of the universe acts in processes that are highly regular and can be accurately described with logic and mathematics.
    5. There are no moral objects, logical objects, or other so called abstract objects.
    6. Emotions, feelings, sensibilities are signal processing results wherein a subconscious data processing subnetwork issues a resultant signal that is used as an input to other signal processing subnetworks in the brain.
    7. There is a high degree of commonality in the structure of the brain within our species, giving rise to a high degree of commonality in the signal processing results of our internal subnetworkis further giving rise to a high degree of commonality in our individual personal senses and sensibilities and rational processes.

    Therefor. The appearance of deriving our sensibilities from a single outside source is due to the commonality of our brain structure, not an actual outside source.

    I admit, I am writing off the top of my head, so please forgive me if my writing is not on the level of a scholarly paper intended for peer review. I just thought that since we seem to be somewhat meandering in conversation I would consider your preference for a somewhat formalized argument.

    “Do you believe that “2 + 2 = 4” is an objectively true statement?”
    * No, in the absolute sense. Yes, it is objectively true within the closed system of logic and mathematics, which is ultimately not proved.

    “Does it require a symbol god to make it so?”
    * To be absolutely true, yes. To be true by consensus within a closed system of logic we the people take on a sort of god like role, ultimately resorting at base to simply stating “it just is”.

    “You fall back on this demand for a thing to be material in order for it to exist, yet you selectively grant “existence” to abstractions and subjective experiences”
    * Only as a real process of real objects. An “abstract object” is an oxymoron. Abstractions are dynamic brain function and really exist as brain function really exists, but not as entities unto themselves, somehow objects out there.

    “we could say that if experience exists, then it must be made of experience-stuff”
    * Indeed, and the stuff of experience is the dynamic processes of the brain. God really exists as a a function of your brain. If you say you feel the power of the Lord enter your heart then I believe you are really experiencing that feeling and that feeling itself is real because it is a real process of your real brain. The mistake is believing it is an actual outside object.

    “We could play the same game with “mathematics”, and it would be equally ridiculous. It’s equally ridiculous when God is the subject, but you (and many other New Atheists besides) are simply oblivious to that fact.”
    * Indeed, experiences, mathematics, and god are closely related. None exist as outside objects somehow made of experience stuff, or mathematics stuff, or god stuff. All exist as real processes in real brains.

  306. Ryan –
    “Something cannot exist unless it is made of matter, having mass and energy.
    Logic is not made of matter, and has no mass or energy.
    Therefore, logic does not exist.”
    * Indeed, there is no logic object in existence. Logic exists as a process of the human brain. The brain exists. Brain function exists not as an object, out there, but as a real sequence of brain states.

    Does “flow” exist? No, not as some kind of flow object out there. But flow is a real process of a fluid substance.

    Allow me to get a little help from my friend, Oxford
    Something – A thing that is unspecified or unknown
    Thing – An object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to

    The first stated premise uses the word “something”. This is by definition an object. There is no logic object. To be more clear we could use the term “An independent object” in place of “Something” in the first premise, in which case the stated argument would clearly be both valid and sound.

    Jumping exists “as a human activity”. Jumping is not “something” in the sense of an object. There is no “jumping object” out there. Jumping is a real process, it is a time-spacial sequence of events that animals really do. Jumping is not an illusion. We are not foolish for believing in jumping and we would be foolish to deny jumping. Jumping is an action, a real action, which exists only in the sense that an action can be said to exist, as a valid description of a process.

    Logic and god are actions of the brain, real actions, but not real objects unto themselves.

  307. MP says:

    Stardusty Psyche: “But I do not find that analysis useful in my daily life.”
    That’s what everyone was telling you. You do not live as if your philosophy was true. You cannot live as if your philosophy was true. And you admit all that. You only use it to rationalise rejection of beliefs that you do not like (for example, religions), while beliefs you do like (for example, “2+2=4”) get a pass.

    So, doesn’t all that lead you to asking if there might be something wrong with your philosophy? Maybe you need a new one?

    Not to mention that you can easily get into more internal problems here: just ask if materialism is “absolutely true”…

  308. Ryan says:

    One more time for the sophist:

    Something cannot exist unless it is made of matter, having mass and energy.

    The process that is called ‘logic’ is not made of matter, and has no mass or energy.

    Therefore, the process that is called ‘logic’ does not exist.

    Simple questions. Do you accept or reject the first premise? Do you accept or reject the second premise? Unless you reject one of the premises, the process that is called ‘logic’ does not exist. Period. If you reject the second premise The process that is called ‘logic’ is not made of matter, and has no mass or energy. demonstrate it by editing the wikipedia article on ‘logic’ (found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logic) by adding a section titled “physical properties of logic”. Unless you edit the wikipedia article, you’re just using empty rhetoric to save a failed theory.

    If you can’t give a simple answer (either accept/reject each premise) then this debate is over. You’ve been stumped. You are stuck. Your position has been demonstrated to be untenable. Sit with this one until you figure it out and can give a simple answer. I’m having no more discussion with you until that time.

    As to the ‘symbol god’, I answer that yes there is a ‘symbol god’, it’s the collective group that creates the symbols and assigns and controls the meaning of the symbols. A simple demonstration will suffice. Here is the famous undeciphered Linear A: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_A Many people including myself would be very excited if someone were to decipher this script. The concept of deciphering a script assumes that the symbols have a fixed meaning, one that can be discovered, not a meaning that is created by the observer. If anyone could look at the script and have it mean whatever they want, then the script wouldn’t need to be deciphered. If the symbols that make up Linear A do not have a fixed meaning then deciphering them is impossible. The silly nonsense you peddle wouldn’t last very long in this field.

  309. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said:
    I feel we should live and let live.
    I feel I have a personal sense of ought.
    At this time the broad consensus is that slavery is wrong and I feel the same.
    I feel like some things “should” be or “ought” to be.
    I feel personally justified in taking military action any place on Earth to liberate Jews from concentration camps.
    I feel morally justified in sending food to starving people in any place on Earth.
    I refrain from murder because it violates my personal sense of what I feel I should do.

    Trust your feelings… Follow your heart. The irrefutable ‘logic’ of the skeptical scientist, Stardusty.
    The underlined portions are meaningless rhetoric in the worldview of Stardusty; being ‘justified’ is meaningless in his system, except as a delusion.

  310. FZM says:

    Stardusty,

    Descartes was also guilty of such “extreme skepticism”, which is how he reasoned all the way down to cogito ergo sum, and was unable to build up from there, as all humans have failed to do since.

    I think earlier on you were writing that Descartes couldn’t prove ‘cogito ergo sum’ in way that was valid for everyone, but that a person could choose to hold it as being an absolute truth or as being certain.

    From what I can see, aside from ‘personal truths’ and arbitrary postulates, and variants of global scepticism that are probably self-undermining, we are left with something like Pyrrhonian scepticism:

    Nevertheless, a Pyrrhonian global skeptic labors under no such modern constraint, since he only alleged that he, personally, did not know anything and made no statement about the possibility of knowledge. Nor did Arcesilaus feel bound, since he merely corrected Socrates’s “I only know that I know nothing” by adding “I don’t even know that”, thus more fully rejecting dogmatism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_skepticism

    This kind of scepticism feels like something of a ‘discussion killer’.

    However, something that interests me is the idea of ascribing probabilities or likelihoods of being true to claims and assertions in the context of this kind of extreme scepticism. This would happen if someone was saying that while you can’t prove anything with absolute certainty, or objectively, many things can be proved to be probably true, more likely true than false, objective or relative and so on.

    And I was wondering how this works with ‘foundational claims’ of this kind:

    e.g. That absolute knowledge or objective knowledge can be differentiated from postulates or assumptions.

    Identifying the criteria we can use to differentiate them.

    That the default position is to assume claims to be postulates or assumptions unless proved otherwise.

    The distinction between external and internal data in relation to the mind.

    Because if there is no way of making a good, non-arbitrary argument that one position or response to these things is more probable than the other the result seems to be that there is equal justification (or lack of it) for assuming or postulating the opposite of what ever position any individual chooses concerning them, or even to postulate neither and something else altogether.

  311. FZM says:

    For example, the science of chemistry. The 92 chemical elements naturally occurring on Earth were here before humans existed. They were here before humans were able to separate and identify them. The elements are physical objects waiting to be discovered and studied and understood. So, the study of the elements is objective in the sense that they have an immutable set of properties waiting to be discovered. There is an outside source for the “laws” of chemistry, which is the properties intrinsic to the chemical elements available to any interested person for discovery.

    The problem is here that I don’t think that any of this can be proved . For knowledge of the chemical elements and the science of chemistry we rely on empirical ‘sense data’ interpreted and known by, and in, our minds. It seems hard to conceive of a way of knowing or proving that such data would continue to exist in the form in which it is perceived and understood by human minds were there no human minds in existence at all to perceive and interpret it.

    Even the distinction and the means of differentiating between externally derived empirical sense data and other data our minds might be dealing with seems rooted in the mind (or imagination?) itself and so would be an ‘internal’ matter. Unless there is some way of determining that it is really ‘objective’ or ‘external’.

    Finally, if the ‘laws’ of chemistry that we can become familiar with can only be known by postulating the reliability of logic, the reliability of our senses, the reliability of our ability to distinguish between data from external sources and internal ones, arbitrary postulates may be playing a big role in them. This would undermine the idea that it can probably be known that they exist independently of human minds and have an outside source. The opposite may equally be the case.

  312. Kevin says:

    “Logic and god are actions of the brain, real actions, but not real objects unto themselves.”

    Agreed that these are similar. A reality with logic and a reality with God make far, far more sense than realities without them.

  313. FZM – ” “I only know that I know nothing” by adding “I don’t even know that”, thus more fully rejecting dogmatism.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_skepticism
    This kind of scepticism feels like something of a ‘discussion killer’.”
    * Indeed, Feynman said “the philosopher who contemplated the reality of his food died of hunger”.

    To live my life I am satisfied to do without absolute certainty, since it seems to be unavailable to me. My life seems very real to me, my senses seem basically reliable, and the universe seems discoverable. The only way to live my apparent life is to make these stipulations and move forward.

    So, it just does not bother me that there is no identifiable source for objective or absolute morality. I am content to accept a few broadly held consensus moral principles
    The golden rule
    Avoidance of harm
    Promotion of human flourishing
    Respect for self determination
    Empathy for sentient beings
    Rights to self defense, free expression, individual life
    Basic equality of human life

    I can’t absolutely prove these things are good, but they seem reasonable to me. I simply am willing to have extensive conversations about how to best apply these principles in the real world, how they come into conflict with each other, and how best to resolve these conflicts.

    “However, something that interests me is the idea of ascribing probabilities or likelihoods of being true to claims and assertions in the context of this kind of extreme scepticism. This would happen if someone was saying that while you can’t prove anything with absolute certainty, or objectively, many things can be proved to be probably true, more likely true than false, objective or relative and so on.”
    * Knowledge is a probability estimate. I only know things to some probability. I act when my personal probability estimate exceeds my personal actionability threshold.

    “Because if there is no way of making a good, non-arbitrary argument that one position or response to these things is more probable than the other the result seems to be that there is equal justification (or lack of it) for assuming or postulating the opposite of what ever position any individual chooses concerning them, or even to postulate neither and something else altogether.”
    * To resolve this for myself I start with the basic reliability of my senses. Data that comes to me seeing with my eyes, hearing with my ears, smelling with my nose, tasting with my tongue, and feeling with my skin is data of external origin. Data that comes to me simply by thinking, absent input by these sensory means is of internal origin, either because it is hardwired into my brain structure or the result of my brain processing data of external origin.

  314. FZM “The problem is here that I don’t think that any of this can be proved ”
    * Indeed, which I why I have long ago abandoned attempts to absolutely prove anything. Millions have tried, all have failed, so I don’t expect I will be the first!

    “For knowledge of the chemical elements and the science of chemistry we rely on empirical ‘sense data’ interpreted and known by, and in, our minds. It seems hard to conceive of a way of knowing or proving that such data would continue to exist in the form in which it is perceived and understood by human minds were there no human minds in existence at all to perceive and interpret it.”
    * If a tree falls while nobody is around does it make sound? If we define sound as a characteristic traveling pressure wave pattern then I think “yes” is the only reasonable answer. It would be highly egocentric to think the objects of the universe gain or maintain their intrinsic properties only because I am around to observe them.

    If the cosmological principle were not the case then the universe would look like a disordered mess, as opposed to the beautifully regular place we continually discover it to be.

    “Even the distinction and the means of differentiating between externally derived empirical sense data and other data our minds might be dealing with seems rooted in the mind (or imagination?) itself and so would be an ‘internal’ matter. Unless there is some way of determining that it is really ‘objective’ or ‘external’.”
    * Indeed, perhaps life truly is but a dream, Perhaps I am god and you are just a figment of my divine imagination. I simply don’t think so. It all seems very real to me.

    “Finally, if the ‘laws’ of chemistry that we can become familiar with can only be known by postulating the reliability of logic, the reliability of our senses, the reliability of our ability to distinguish between data from external sources and internal ones, arbitrary postulates may be playing a big role in them. This would undermine the idea that it can probably be known that they exist independently of human minds and have an outside source. The opposite may equally be the case.”
    * I would not assign a 50% probability to the illusory nature of my very existence, rather, I consider that to be infinitesimally likely. I have yet to receive any credible evidence for it. If this is all a dream it is uncanny and vivid and complicated yet regular in the extreme. I have dreams from time to time and they are typically disjointed, vague, fleeting, and surreal in nature. These dreams would then have to be disjointed dreams within a grand and highly regular dream. Such is the stuff of philosophical musings and I do enjoy indulging in it from time to time but in truth it seems to me like nothing more than fantastic speculation, so I am quite content to come back down to Earth with my materialist relativist realist worldview.

  315. Ryan-
    “Something cannot exist unless it is made of matter, having mass and energy.
    The process that is called ‘logic’ is not made of matter, and has no mass or energy.
    Therefore, the process that is called ‘logic’ does not exist.

    “Simple questions. Do you accept or reject the first premise? Do you accept or reject the second premise? Unless you reject one of the premises, the process that is called ‘logic’ does not exist. Period.”
    * You are equivocating with the term “something”.

    As an argument to show that logic is not an object it is both valid and sound, providing we fix a bit of the wording:
    An object cannot exist unless it is made of matter, having mass and energy.
    The process that is called ‘logic’ is not made of matter, and has no mass or energy.
    Therefore, the process that is called ‘logic’ is not an extant object

    I would generalize it a bit more:

    An object cannot exist unless it is made of stuff
    The process called “logic” is not made of stuff
    Therefore logic is not an extant object

    Yet, we have not addressed the reality of logic. Is all reality confined to the simple existence of objects? I say that objects change. They move, they interact, they gain energy and lose energy. These changes actually occur and are in that sense real. Change is not itself an object, rather the real transitions of objects. Change is a real phenomenon of stuff. When we describe that change we are describing a real phenomenon.

    Changing stuff is a real process
    The brain is stuff
    Logic is changing brain stuff
    Therefore logic is a real process

    So what is this god of yours made off? Are you suggesting god is not made of anything but is actually a process? A process of what then? What stuff is changing such that god is a real process?

    If god is not made of anything at all then in what sense do you say god exists?

    The only reality I can identify for god is that of a real brain process. Humans really do imagine god in their real brains.

    “As to the ‘symbol god’, I answer that yes there is a ‘symbol god’, it’s the collective group that creates the symbols and assigns and controls the meaning of the symbols.” you are describing a consensus of human opinion, hardly an objective truth or a god.

    Presumably the author has a single meaning for a symbol, although that is not always the case. Sometimes the author has an artistic intent to elicit a variety of meanings, perhaps unexpected meanings. Thanks for the link to those undeciphered scripts, quite fascinating. Some signs are glyphic or pictographic representing whole words or concepts. Here the meaning is even fuzzier, as we know a single word can mean different things to different people.

    As for the ancient script Linear A the author of a particular symbol most likely had a particular meaning in mind at the time the symbol was written, but the idea that we can somehow go back in time to read the mind of that individual and discern the precise notions intended to be conveyed merely by looking the symbol today is unrealistic. We can and do decipher ancient languages to a high degree of confidence, but that hardly constitutes an objective truth.

  316. Ryan – “Trust your feelings… Follow your heart. The irrefutable ‘logic’ of the skeptical scientist, Stardusty.”
    * Well, I wish I had more to go on, but wishing does not make it so.

    So, I resort to communication with my fellow human beings and it turns out that most of them feel pretty much the same as I do, luckily for me. So, we all get together and form a consensus, which is the law, a sort of baseline of commonality of feelings.

    It’s a messy and uncertain process, continually communicating and debating and reasoning in public. There is no end in sight for this process.

    Absent an identifiable source of absolute morality, lacking a means to determine what is objectively moral, this is kind of what I am stuck with. But, take heart, it generally works fairly well, life is not so bad, for me at least, wish it was better for us all, but again, wishing does not make it so.

  317. Kevin July 17, 2016 at 8:58 pm
    “Agreed that these are similar. A reality with logic and a reality with God make far, far more sense than realities without them.”
    * Logic describes the observations of my everyday physical world very well. I can write mathematical descriptions for physics and chemistry. I can apply logic to all the sciences to describe and explain the world all around me to a very great extent.

    I am not aware of any such explanatory or descriptive utility for god.

  318. Kevin says:

    “Logic describes the observations of my everyday physical world very well. I can write mathematical descriptions for physics and chemistry. I can apply logic to all the sciences to describe and explain the world all around me to a very great extent.”

    Agreed.

    “I am not aware of any such explanatory or descriptive utility for god.”

    I’m a skeptic toward philosophical naturalism. It has no explanatory power for why matter and energy exist, nor why matter and energy had properties to be able to naturally result in self-awareness.

    Logically, creation and intent make much more sense than “just because”. If you are content with “just because” as an answer, let me not try to dissuade you of it. Until there is sufficient evidence for me to accept philosophical naturalism as an explanatory notion, then a creator it is.

  319. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    I don’t feel like it is all a grand illusion that I am somehow playing along with. … I can take a reductionist view that all these apparent sensibilities are really just signals being processed in my brain and are thus, in some sense, an illusion. But I do not find that analysis useful in my daily life.

    Isn’t the second part of that quote (after the ellipsis) simply an explanation as to why you do play along with the illusion? You’re not making a clear commitment here. Are emotions things which correspond to some kind of external reality? You’ve answered “no” to that fairly clearly in the past, by saying that they are nothing more than brain states. Now you’re saying you “don’t feel like it is all a grand illusion.” Well, if it’s entirely inside your head, and yet it feels like it’s actually representative of something out there in the real world, then that’s pretty much the definition of an illusion right there.

    Make a clear commitment one way or the other. Your position suffers from the equivalent of quantum indeterminacy: every time it’s examined, it changes.

    Well, Ok, I complain from time to time about what I consider to be antisocial actions, as opposed to thoughts.

    Indeed. That’s where this whole discussion started. That’s why I mention it.

    How is that a problem or an inconsistency on my part?

    I’m not currently trying to identify problems or inconsistencies. I’m trying to summarise your position in a manner which does not misrepresent it, in your view. I’m doing this because you’ve written thousands of words in this thread, many of which appear to conflict (per my “quantum indeterminacy” quip). I’m trying to boil it back down to a short statement which is actually amenable to analysis. If you’d rather hide behind a Great Wall of Words, then say so: I’d be only too happy to quit.

    Sorry, you kind of lost me there as to which two sentences but no, if you are saying that my positions are somehow not logical then no …

    To clarify, I’m not saying that they are illogical, I am saying that they don’t rely on logic. There’s a certain cost in that, but the benefit is that it doesn’t depend on logic being objectively real — which is just as well, since that appears to be a luxury it can’t afford. My current candidate two-sentence summary of your position is as follows.

    Morality is nothing more than a fairly convincing illusion which I experience inside my head, but I choose to act as though it is real, while fully understanding that it is not. I then complain about the actions of others that don’t conform to my imaginary morality, particularly if that non-conformance is systematic (e.g. the result of following scripture).

    So, am I still describing a straw man, or is that an accurate description of your position, as far as it goes?

    I just thought that … I would consider your preference for a somewhat formalized argument.

    I appreciate the gesture, but that’s just a numbered list of statements, not an argument with premises and a conclusion. Perhaps you really should consider some formal study in critical thinking. I mean, it’s one thing to profess a love of it, and quite another to be proficient at it, right? And why not? I did my philosophy degree purely for the love of it, and to see if I was as proficient as I thought I was.

    My apologies for not responding to the rest of your post, but I don’t want to take focus away from the task at hand — my attempt to produce a fair summary of your position.

  320. Dhay says:

    Somewhere back there, lost in the mists of time and digression is a Thread Starter discussing Henry Rambow’s article, which article alleges that moderate views fuel extremism. Please forgive my digression from the digression in returning to it.

    The Rambow article includes:

    In both Islam and Christianity, it is easy to dismiss fundamentalist doctrines as perversions of scripture. …

    That’s correct, though Rambow doesn’t treat it as such: Rambow, like the Fundamentalist pastor Steven Anderson who Rambow immediately afterwards quotes approvingly, insinuates that moderate Christian doctrines as being perversions of scripture. Rambow continues:

    >

    … But the fundamentalists have a ready defense against this charge. When Curtis suggested that Anderson might be perverting Christianity, Anderson said, “Let the viewers read for themselves. Let them pull the Bible off their shelf and look up Leviticus 20:13, and then let them be the judge.”

    Whatever happened to the New Covenant? And while we’re about it, consider what happened to the Old Covenant?

    Anderson and Rambow don’t have much of a defence, I’d say: the scripture’s there, but it’s the Old Covenant; what I celebrate and in Communion explicitly re-affirm each Sunday is not the Old Covenant but the New Covenant.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?search=new+covenant&version=ESVUK&searchtype=all&bookset=2&resultspp=500

    I see, as Michael has correctly identified, that Rambow is echoing Sam Harris’ views:

    Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance—and it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism. The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts. By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God’s law. By failing to live by the letter of the texts …
    [The End of Faith, P. 21]

    By insisting that the only valid form of Christianity is Christian Fundamentalism, Harris, Anderson and Rambow – all three of them reveal themselves to be … Fundamentalists.

    What would Rambow, Anderson and Harris have moderate Christians do each Sunday? Abandon Communion, perhaps and replace it with some Old Covenant ritual where you sacrifice a bull and re-affirm the Old Covenant – perhaps they would have us reinstate the whole Jerusalem Temple based Jewish sacrificial cultus, which is all explicitly there in the text of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers and which on a Rambow/Anderson/Harris interpretation must be implemented.

    We have a New Covenant: look it up; then be the judge of whether Leviticus 20:13 together with all the details of how and when and why to perform the Temple sacrifices applies still.

    It is not because I don’t know my texts or ignore them that I reject the Fundamentalism of Rambow, Anderson and Harris, but because I do know my texts and don’t ignore them. I follow Christianity, not Mosianity!

    Again, my apologies for derailing the digression.

  321. TFBW says:

    That’s like apologising for interrupting someone mid-fart.

  322. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: We can and do decipher ancient languages to a high degree of confidence.

    “We”. Don’t include yourself among those who do such tasks. Your existence contributes nothing to such things, and we who do such things do not operate under your assumptions; if we did, there would never be any progress. We assume symbols have real meanings assigned to them by their creators and we endeavor to understand the messages they communicate. The fact that words can have a range of meanings including metaphorical use does not invalidate this one bit. Every specific instance of a symbol has a finite intended meaning, and words do not have an unbounded range of meanings. “This is a nice car” has never meant “In 49 BC, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, initiating a civil war that resulted in Caesar defeating Pompey the Great in the Battle of Pharsalus.” “This is a nice car” will never convey that. The symbols have a finite range of meaning. Every instance of language conveys a specific meaning.

  323. Ryan says:

    Dhay said: Again, my apologies for derailing the digression.

    The digression has been very enlightening in demonstrating the extent to which someone can protect a failed theory by craftily shifting positions and equivocating.

    But the problem with “fundamentalism” is simply the definition of the terms. Harris, Rambow and the like seem to be convinced that the extremist positions are the true interpretations of the texts, and so they conclude that people will eventually follow down that path as an inevitable consequence of believing the texts to be authoritative. They present people like myself as constantly resisting the true meaning of the texts.

    The simple question is: How do they know what the real interpretation of the text is? I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and I read it in Greek, Latin, and some Hebrew, i.e. I take it very seriously. But I don’t come to the same conclusions as Anderson, in fact I think he’s a hate-filled man that is unqualified to preach and should step down immediately. And many others that believe the Bible is inspired feel the exact same way.

    So what gives? Am I deluding myself, knowing deep down inside that Anderson is really right? I’ve read Leviticus 20:13 many times, and I have no problem with the verse, and yet I do not come to the conclusion that Anderson does. Unless they can make a more compelling argument, all they have is “a very small portion of people that read these texts are hate-filled bigots”.

  324. FZM says:

    Stardusty,

    To live my life I am satisfied to do without absolute certainty, since it seems to be unavailable to me. My life seems very real to me, my senses seem basically reliable, and the universe seems discoverable. The only way to live my apparent life is to make these stipulations and move forward.

    I find that the thing about these sceptical approaches is that they do not just undermine belief in the possibility of knowing things with absolute certainty, but the possibility of knowing things per se , even in a probabilistic way.

    But I agree that if you want to move beyond the Pyrrhonian style denials of the possibility of knowledge, or a Cartesian position that while someone can know that they are a thinking thing with certainty, they can’t know anything else, you need to ‘dogmatise’ a bit and adopt some position, even if it is arbitrary.

    Knowledge is a probability estimate. I only know things to some probability.

    I was going to ask the question: how do you know that?

    Then I thought that this is maybe a personal statement not one intended to be generally valid, so a person would have equal justification (or lack of it) in adopting the personal view that knowledge is only certainty, and claiming that they only know things with certainty.

    To resolve this for myself I start with the basic reliability of my senses.

    That is certainly one way of resolving it. But there is the question of what you make of other people’s approaches to resolving it, for example, those people who would, say, adopt the point of view that the default position is to say that only absolute truths exist, and that there are no postulates or assumptions, therefore morality has to be absolute.

  325. FZM says:

    If a tree falls while nobody is around does it make sound? If we define sound as a characteristic traveling pressure wave pattern then I think “yes” is the only reasonable answer. It would be highly egocentric to think the objects of the universe gain or maintain their intrinsic properties only because I am around to observe them.

    I was thinking that this is a pretty wild response; I can’t remember seeing a moral argument used to justify the point of view that we can know that our experience of the external world is pure unmediated picture of certain features of what is there outside (i.e. we can know that the human mind is a transparent recipient of realities that exist externally, provided they are of certain particular mathematically describable kinds, because to think otherwise would be egocentric).

    My point was about whether we can know that the things which the mind experiences as external are actually external, and that this is not something that human minds create or produce themselves, with most human minds producing similar experiences of externality because they are mostly wired up in the same way. And whether we can know that the content of these experiences faithfully mirror what is ‘out there’ or perceived as external, or whether this may also be partly produced or created by and in the minds themselves. Again, most human minds may perceive pretty similar or identical stuff because they are wired up the same way.

    I don’t know if the fact that humans can translate their experiences into numbers and describe them mathematically goes any further in making them, or proving them to be, things which exist in the form in which humans perceive and describe them independently of any human mind.

    Rephrasing your last sentence to better reflect my idea: ‘It would be highly egocentric to think the objects that human minds perceive in the universe gain or maintain the intrinsic properties that human minds attribute to them only because human minds are around to observe them’.

    I would not assign a 50% probability to the illusory nature of my very existence, rather, I consider that to be infinitesimally likely. I have yet to receive any credible evidence for it. If this is all a dream it is uncanny and vivid and complicated yet regular in the extreme.

    This makes me think of Descartes ‘evil demon’ thought experiment, where Descartes imagines himself as a disembodied spirit being fed false experiences by an evil demon…

  326. Michael says:

    By insisting that the only valid form of Christianity is Christian Fundamentalism, Harris, Anderson and Rambow – all three of them reveal themselves to be … Fundamentalists.

    What would Rambow, Anderson and Harris have moderate Christians do each Sunday? Abandon Communion, perhaps and replace it with some Old Covenant ritual where you sacrifice a bull and re-affirm the Old Covenant – perhaps they would have us reinstate the whole Jerusalem Temple based Jewish sacrificial cultus, which is all explicitly there in the text of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers and which on a Rambow/Anderson/Harris interpretation must be implemented.

    We have a New Covenant: look it up; then be the judge of whether Leviticus 20:13 together with all the details of how and when and why to perform the Temple sacrifices applies still.

    It is not because I don’t know my texts or ignore them that I reject the Fundamentalism of Rambow, Anderson and Harris, but because I do know my texts and don’t ignore them. I follow Christianity, not Mosianity!

    Well stated. Seriously, is anyone willing to make the case that the two people who understand how to interpret the Bible are Sam Harris and Steven Anderson?

    BTW, Anderson himself never attended college and did not graduate from any Bible college. Neither is he ordained. He runs a completely independent church that is rented space in a shopping center that has about 100 members (and close to half are children). So we are talking about the fringe of the fringe here. What’s more, Anderson is a Holocaust denier. So in the end, I am not surprised that anti-Christians like Sam Harris would hold up a nutcase like Anderson as the representative of Christianity.

  327. Kevin July 18, 2016 at 6:25 am
    “I’m a skeptic toward philosophical naturalism. It has no explanatory power for why matter and energy exist, nor why matter and energy had properties to be able to naturally result in self-awareness.”
    * Indeed, why is there something as opposed to absolutely nothing at all? And given that there is something, why is this something structured in a way that can give rise to all this amazing variety of order and complexity, as opposed to a mere amorphous soup of rudimentary stuff?

    I cringe at atheists who try to pass off silly equivocations to supposedly answer these timeless questions and scoff at theists who think their god speculation adds anything more than another unknown to the puzzle.

    “Logically, creation and intent make much more sense.”
    * No, because the inevitable questions are simply pushed back a step where they are met with no better explanation, whist introducing an even greater unknown to this great mystery of our existence.

    “If you are content with “just because” as an answer, let me not try to dissuade you of it. ”
    * I am not content with “just because”. I am convinced there is an answer. I am equally convinced I shall never know what that answer is and then I will die and know nothing at all ever again.

    “Until there is sufficient evidence for me to accept philosophical naturalism as an explanatory notion, then a creator it is.”
    * why does god exist, why does god have properties to be able to naturally result in self-awareness?

    Why is the thing that eternally exists a powerful creative intelligence, as opposed to an amorphous soup with no creative powers at all?

    Sorry, Keven, your speculation has added nothing, rather, only worsened the problem of the origin of existence itself.

    Irrespective of this great mystery of its origins, the manifest fact is that there is an existence, a very grand existence indeed. And in this vast and vividly apparent existent god remains a mere speculative inference, while the material is in copious glaring evidence.

    The great evidence all around us is that the material stuff of existence is itself eternal, since it is very apparently present, and has no apparent means of being either created or destroyed. The conclusion based on evidence is inescapable, the material stuff we observe, owing to its presence and its conservation, must be eternal.

  328. TFBW “Well, if it’s entirely inside your head, and yet it feels like it’s actually representative of something out there in the real world, then that’s pretty much the definition of an illusion right there.”
    * I don’t think a symbolic representation is an illusion unless one confuses the symbol for the thing being symbolized.

    My experiences are real, even if they are imperfect internal representations of the outside world as in sensory perception, or my internal thoughts and feelings which are the result of brain function.

    Maybe we have different views of what an illusion is. To tell you the truth, I have not studied this word in any detail, let’s see what my friend Oxford says:
    A thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses:
    A deceptive appearance or impression:
    Ok, so to the extent that senses are inaccurate or misleading then I suppose we all suffer from some sorts of illusion or delusion from time to time.

    I only meant that in general I accept the basic reliability of the human senses as some fair representation of an external material reality, and I pay attention to all the aspects of my intelligence as real and potentially useful data processing and for the real pleasures they sometimes bring to my experiences.

    “Your position suffers from the equivalent of quantum indeterminacy: every time it’s examined, it changes.”
    * Ha, Ha, Ha! Well, I do my best to be consistent but I am not above correction or clarification. From time to time I am not as articulate as I would hope to be and find I need to go back and clean up my language to make it more precisely understandable.

    “Morality is nothing more than a fairly convincing illusion which I experience inside my head, but I choose to act as though it is real, while fully understanding that it is not. I then complain about the actions of others that don’t conform to my imaginary morality, particularly if that non-conformance is systematic (e.g. the result of following scripture).”
    * Is morality an illusion? If one thinks it is an external objective object, I would say yes, but as an experience inside my head? No, it is an evolved behavioral driver, a mechanism selected for that drives a highly evolved social species to behave socially.

    Is fear an illusion? I don’t think so. It is a powerful internal signal that is internally output when subconscious pattern correlation signal (data) processing networks determine that I am in a dangerous or somehow problematic situation. Fear is a powerful behavioral driver, selected for because of its survival benefit.

    So, just as I experience fear to drive my behavior away from a problematic situation I can also experience “should” or “ought” to drive my behavior toward a socially beneficial action.

    This seems to me to be a very real biological process. I am not sure in what sense these behavior drivers would be considered illusory.

    “I then complain about the actions of others that don’t conform to my imaginary morality, particularly if that non-conformance is systematic (e.g. the result of following scripture).”
    * Yes, I sometimes complain based on my personal sense of what “good” behavior “should” be. I don’t see an illusory aspect to that since I am well aware that I lack any absolute basis to make these complaints.

    So, TFBW, I’m not sure where that leaves things conversationally but I will differ with you about my premises and conclusion. The conclusion does indeed follow from the premises, which was my stated intent.

  329. Kevin says:

    “The great evidence all around us is that the material stuff of existence is itself eternal, since it is very apparently present, and has no apparent means of being either created or destroyed. The conclusion based on evidence is inescapable, the material stuff we observe, owing to its presence and its conservation, must be eternal.”

    It is entirely escapable as a conclusion, since I completely disagree with it. The idea that matter and energy have simply existed in of themselves for no reason whatsoever is, in the context of the theism/atheism discussion, less tenable than the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    The seemingly undeniable existence of the physical world is not proof of anything except that matter and energy exist. On the philosophical matter of contingency and necessity, God is vastly superior to naturalism as a worldview. Ed Feser, among others, often discusses the topic.

    But, at this point it is pretty much us throwing our opinions of “better explanation” at each other, which I’ve yet to find a profitable endeavor in the many years I’ve been doing it, so I’m going to bow out now.

  330. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    Ok, so to the extent that senses are inaccurate or misleading then I suppose we all suffer from some sorts of illusion or delusion from time to time.

    You know what an optical illusion is, right? A thing has a certain visual appearance, but the reality is slightly different — e.g. the image is actually static, but appears to move, or the lines appear curved but are actually straight, etc. The contrast is between appearance and reality.

    This seems to me to be a very real biological process. I am not sure in what sense these behavior drivers would be considered illusory.

    I describe morality as an illusion, given your assertions about the subject, because there is no reality — there is only the appearance of moral facts, no actual moral facts. Is this wrong? I don’t deny the moral experience — that certain things seem to be good or evil to people — but only that the “good” and “evil” aren’t properties which can be found in the physical world as such, so there is no reality against which the moral experience might be judged accurate or inaccurate.

    The illusion, in this case, is not simply a difference between appearance and reality, but an appearance without a reality. Is that fair comment, or would you perhaps prefer to say that the appearance is the reality in this case?

    Let me have another go at describing your position in my own words. I’ll avoid the use of “illusion” this time, since that seems to be a sticking point. Here’s my latest proposal.

    Morality is a subjective but undeniable experience which leads me to classify certain things as “ought to be done” or “ought not to be done”. It does not correspond to an external reality, however: “oughtness” is not a physical property. I sometimes complain about the actions of others which don’t conform to my experience of morality, particularly if that non-conformance is systematic (e.g. the result of following scripture).

    Are we there yet? Is that a fair summary of your position, or do you have objections to this new formulation?

    I will differ with you about my premises and conclusion. The conclusion does indeed follow from the premises, which was my stated intent.

    Please show your working, as they say. Have you listed seven premises and a conclusion which follows from them? If so, by what rule of logic does the conclusion follow from the premises? If it’s a multi-step argument where some of the statements follow logically from the earlier premises, please specify those relationships.

    I challenge you to submit this argument to any qualified philosophy professor and see whether he agrees with your assertion that the conclusion follows from the premises, since you’re clearly not going to accept my judgement on the matter.

  331. SteveK says:

    When you know something is an illusion you know about both the false reality and the true reality. You know the truth of the situation, that’s how you know it’s an illusion.

    So…if you theorize that morality is an illusion you are saying there’s this false moral reality and a true moral reality. What is the true moral reality here?

  332. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: Why is the thing that eternally exists a powerful creative intelligence, as opposed to an amorphous soup with no creative powers at all?

    Because a powerful creative intelligence answers this question you posed: Indeed, why is there something as opposed to absolutely nothing at all? much better than an amorphous soup with no creative powers at all. If the eternally existing something has no creative powers, we should expect absolutely nothing at all, but if it’s a powerful creative intelligence, we should expect a universe of intricacy and complexity, much like the one that exists.

  333. Dhay July 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm
    “It is not because I don’t know my texts or ignore them that I reject the Fundamentalism of Rambow, Anderson and Harris, but because I do know my texts and don’t ignore them. I follow Christianity, not Mosianity!”
    * When did Harris ever say that to be a fundamentalist Christian one must read Mosaic law and stop there? That would be the height of irrationality.

    Chronological abrogation is a principle we live by. We take a person’s last will and testament to be the basis for disbursement of the estate. We take the later law that strikes down the early law as the controlling legal authority. We take the most recent word, the most recent instruction as our basis of action, unless there is some argument of diminished capacity or dishonestly.

    A Christian is by definition a follower of Christ. It would be absurd, and I am certain Harris never suggested this, to define fundamentalist Christianity without first studying in detail what Jesus is purported to have said and done and to give that preeminence.

    Now, that leads to other difficulties as to why a loving god would first order genocidal land conquest but then instruct all humanity to behave as pacifists. But, all you Christians are supposed to be loving your enemies, not throwing stones, turning the other cheek, giving double to the one who robs you, paying your taxes, serving your masters, not getting divorced, and praying for those who persecute you.

    That is why Harris and Ali have gone out of their way to point out that Christianity is demonstrably far less of a threat to humanity than Islam. Jesus largely abrogated Moses in Christianity, but nobody has abrogated the extreme debauchery of Muhammad in Islam, and Harris is taking flak for pointing these seemingly obvious facts out.

  334. Ryan
    ““We”. Don’t include yourself among those who do such tasks.”
    * At this point my kids would call you a “grumper”! “We” as in the sum total of human endeavors, the present state of the art, the activities and accomplishments of humanity as a whole.

    “We” went to the moon. “We” have developed great technology and on and on. It’s just a little figure of speech. Apparently my use of the word “we” does not have a single specific meaning!

    “We assume symbols have real meanings assigned to them ”
    * Now you are at it with the “we” thing! Ok, no, I do not make that assumption I start with the hypothesis that the author had some sort of intent when making the symbol, unless he or she was just doodling..

    ““This is a nice car” has never meant “In 49 BC, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, initiating a civil war that resulted in Caesar defeating Pompey the Great in the Battle of Pharsalus.” ”
    * Ok, but what is the objective meaning of a “nice” car? While we may reasonably exclude a vast number of possible meanings, I still see no way to assign an objective single meaning to “nice”.

    “Every instance of language conveys a specific meaning.”
    * That seems to me to be an unsupportably grandiose claim.

  335. FZM – “SP Knowledge is a probability estimate. I only know things to some probability.”

    “I was going to ask the question: how do you know that?”
    * I am personally certain of my external uncertainty, This is a corollary to cogito ergo sum based on self awareness.

    How could I possibly be certain of outside existence if I experience my own uncertainty?

    Can you offer even the wildest, most speculative, most unevidenced assertion that I am actually certain of the outside world despite my experience of uncertainty about it?

    “But there is the question of what you make of other people’s approaches to resolving it, for example, those people who would, say, adopt the point of view that the default position is to say that only absolute truths exist, and that there are no postulates or assumptions, therefore morality has to be absolute.”
    * That works if I am the god of perfect knowledge and I know I am just making you all up in my perfect imagination. But I, the perfect god of knowledge do not think that, so that position quickly crumbles to absurdity.

  336. FZM “This makes me think of Descartes ‘evil demon’ thought experiment, where Descartes imagines himself as a disembodied spirit being fed false experiences by an evil demon…”
    * Ok, we can consider demons and gods, and the idea that this grand universe we seem to observe is really all just some sort of dream.

    But I keep coming back to the notion of the philosopher contemplating the reality of his food until he dies of starvation and I think I prefer to simply eat.

  337. Michael – “Well stated. Seriously, is anyone willing to make the case that the two people who understand how to interpret the Bible are Sam Harris and Steven Anderson?”
    * Yes!!! Is my knee jerk answer, but that is imprudent and not strictly supportable, and really just a reflection of my strong agreement with Sam Harris on a whole range of issues,

    First, I don’t know anything about Steven Anderson. Second, the word “the” is strong in this context and would be exclusive of all others and I don’t think there is any single person to fill that interpretive role.

    “What’s more, Anderson is a Holocaust denier. So in the end, I am not surprised that anti-Christians like Sam Harris would hold up a nutcase like Anderson as the representative of Christianity.”
    * How does that follow? Are you suggesting Harris is a Holocaust denier?

    So, I just did a little search and I cannot find any connection between Harris and Anderson.

    I do see where Anderson is expressing hate, so it seems he completely missed the message of radical love the words attributed to Jesus espouse in the the gospels.

    Harris has described Jesus as a hippie who got crucified. and generally finds Islam, not Christianity, to be the great religious menace of our time.

    Here is a good comparison between Jesus and Muhammad. These simply are the textual facts and I am convinced you cannot find evidence of Harris being somehow ignorant or oblivious or dishonest about these textual facts:
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/articles/jesus-muhammad.aspx

  338. FZM says:

    Satrdusty,

    How could I possibly be certain of outside existence if I experience my own uncertainty?

    My suggestions weren’t specifically about your personal views and experience (from what I can see you seem to have understood them all to be about you personally) but about how you would react to other individuals who have a different experience or choose different a different position from among a range of apparently arbitrary ones.

    I am personally certain of my external uncertainty, This is a corollary to cogito ergo sum based on self awareness.

    I guess you can say that your own personal experience is that you are personally aware of your own external uncertainty, but from what I can tell you haven’t been saying that you can prove that anyone else is, or aught to consider themselves, in this same position.

    Likewise the idea that awareness of external uncertainty follows from cogito ergo sum; you may perceive it as such, but what should others make of it?

    In fact I think it is probable that others will not evidently see that ‘I think therefore I am a thinking thing’ has some kind of corollary or necessarily includes the idea that ‘I know that I am uncertain about outside experience’. It might equally be that ‘I think therefore I know I am a thinking thing’ gives in itself no indication as to whether to doubt outside existence, to take outside existence as certain, or neither.

    Also, it seems that all sorts of different (and between different individuals potentially conflicting)propositions might be claimed by an individual as being ‘corollaries of their own self awareness’.

    That works if I am the god of perfect knowledge and I know I am just making you all up in my perfect imagination. But I, the perfect god of knowledge do not think that, so that position quickly crumbles to absurdity.

    No, it works if you apply a bit of scepticism about how anyone (remember, again, what I was saying was not about just you) goes about identifying perfect knowledge or absolute knowledge and differentiating it from imperfect knowledge, postulates and probabilistic knowledge . What criteria is used to assess a claim and to make the judgement? How do they know these criteria are valid and the ‘right ones’? Do they have perfect or absolute knowledge of these criteria and the fact they are valid?

    If you believe yourself to be the ‘god of perfect knowledge’ , you can prove things certainly to yourself to your own satisfaction. I was wondering what happens when you meet someone else who also believes that they are the ‘god of perfect knowledge’ and know different things to you.

  339. Kevin says:

    “Second, the word “the” is strong in this context and would be exclusive of all others and I don’t think there is any single person to fill that interpretive role.”

    Sam Harris, in a response to Chris Hedges:

    “Well, one of the things I argue is that the fundamentalists are in fact right about what the books say. If you read the Bible, God really does want you to kill homosexuals and Amalekites. Liberal religion like yours, Chris, is certainly preferable to fundamentalism, and is necessary in the short term, but it involves a certain level of intellectually dishonest cherry-picking.”

    Harris believes that dismissing the Old Testament as being replaced by the doctrine of grave is “cherry picking” and not taking the Bible seriously. I’ve seen him say similar things elsewhere. To directly address what he said, he believes applying the Old Testament to the modern Christian is the “right” way to read the Bible.

  340. Kevin –
    “SP The conclusion based on evidence is inescapable, the material stuff we observe, owing to its presence and its conservation, must be eternal.”

    “It is entirely escapable as a conclusion, since I completely disagree with it. The idea that matter and energy have simply existed in of themselves for no reason whatsoever is, in the context of the theism/atheism discussion, less tenable than the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    The seemingly undeniable existence of the physical world is not proof of anything except that matter and energy exist”

    * Simple denial is not a sound escape.

    Matter/Energy exist
    Matter/Energy cannot be created
    Matter/Energy cannot be destroyed
    Therefore Matter/Energy has always existed and will always exist

    All the evidence we have supports the premises. I said “the conclusion based on evidence is inescapable,” You can argue philosophy, logic, theology, speculation, or whatever you wish, and I very much enjoy doing so as well, so, fine.

    But, what is the evidence? All our science is based on conservation. There is no poof science. The mass-energy equivalence equation of Special Relativity is, among other things, a restatement of conservation. All our equations of physics are just that, equations. The LHS=RHS.

    This is funny because it violates all evidence and all the equations of science, yet is tempting to throw in when we get stuck and can’t figure out a problem.

    The conclusion “based on evidence” is utterly inescapable. Your only escape is to depart from the copious evidence supporting all our restatements of conservation.

  341. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    Therefore Matter/Energy has always existed and will always exist

    Thus spake the first law of thermodynamics. Then the second law spoke, declaring that entropy shall always increase until it reaches a maximum. If matter/energy has always existed and will always exist, then it would be forever in a state of maximum entropy. It isn’t. Go figure.

    So, are you going to respond to my most recent reply to you, or are you having too much fun with your ill-informed faux-scientific posing?

  342. Kevin says:

    “The conclusion “based on evidence” is utterly inescapable. Your only escape is to depart from the copious evidence supporting all our restatements of conservation.”

    It is utterly escapable, and I don’t have to depart anything except philosophical naturalism. TFBW already pointed out one problem, but I can also point out that the evidence works equally well in pointing out that nature can’t create or destroy energy. That leads me to the inescapable conclusion that nature is not all there is, otherwise, as pointed out, nature would be in a state of maximum entropy. I’ve read attempts by atheists to escape the less convenient law of thermodynamics, and they fall flat. Given infinite time, entropy would be total. We do not see this, so the inescapable conclusion is that either A) matter and energy are not eternal, or B) matter and energy are actively sustained.

    Either leads to God, or at least a creator of some sort. No evidence leads to atheism beyond “I cant see it, therefore it isn’t there” types of interpretation. Sorry if you don’t accept that, but it’s the simple truth.

    I made the mistake of continuing reading after my initial attempt at exiting the thread. For real this time, I’m bowing out. In conclusion, there is no reason to think matter and energy are eternal and the totality of existence, since the implications of almost all evidence leads to a creator fashioning the universe – including the stability of no loss of matter or energy. (I say “almost all evidence” because of curious outliers like the topic of suffering.) I see no logical nor evidential justification for atheism.

  343. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: Can you offer even the wildest, most speculative, most unevidenced assertion that I am actually certain of the outside world despite my experience of uncertainty about it?

    And then, just moments later: Therefore Matter/Energy has always existed and will always exist…. The conclusion “based on evidence” is utterly inescapable.

    Hmm, it seems that your experience of ‘uncertainty’ about the external world disappeared very quickly and morphed into ‘utterly inescapable conclusions’ about the external world. Do you take yourself seriously?

    Then this reversal, where you first deny that a specific instance of language has a definite meaning and then you make an argument that assumes that language can have a definite meaning:

    “Every instance of language conveys a specific meaning.”
    * That seems to me to be an unsupportably grandiose claim.

    Followed by:

    These simply are the textual facts and I am convinced you cannot find evidence of Harris being somehow ignorant or oblivious or dishonest about these textual facts

    The OT texts are instances of language. You denied that instances of language convey specific meanings. Therefore, you can’t conclude any textual ‘facts’ about those texts because they could mean any number of things. Or, if the OT texts convey a specific meaning that can be known, then you agree with my statement: Every instance of language conveys a specific meaning.

    And one last contradiction to point out: You reject the existence of God because God is not made of physical matter, but you accept the existence of logic although logic is not made of physical matter.

    I think I’ve sufficiently demonstrated that you shift positions back and forth as it suits the point you’re trying to make at the moment. This makes discussion with you impossible. One cannot have a real discussion with someone that contradicts himself continually.

  344. SteveK says:

    Good catch, Ryan, regarding the ‘textual facts’. The dishonesty is obvious.

  345. Talon says:

    Interesting list of Big Bang alternatives and their flaws – TLDR: a Universe that began to exist is still the only scientific position to hold.

    http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Did-the-universe-begin-to-exist-or-is-eternal-a-brief-survey-20150718

  346. TFBW “here is only the appearance of moral facts, no actual moral facts. Is this wrong?”
    * Yes. Moral facts are not at all apparent to me. I don’t need moral facts. I know of no moral facts. I realize that other people mistake their personal behavior driving judgments to be of outside origin or somehow factual by some objective standard. I have to work hard to even appreciate that worldview.

    “so there is no reality against which the moral experience might be judged accurate or inaccurate.”
    * I know of no objective outside reference for such a judgement, OK…

    “but an appearance without a reality”
    * What appearance? Morality does not appear objectively factual to me. I simply feel that some things are good and some things are bad. How is this some sort of illusion? I really do experience these feelings. I am well aware that I cannot identify an outside source for these feelings. I accept that my internal behavior drivers are in the hardwired and learned nature of my brain function. These are real experiences that arise from my internal structure. How is that a problem at all?

    ““oughtness” is not a physical property”
    * Well, I appreciate the refinement process but this term is indistinct to me. On materialism things that exist are physical and properties are of physical objects, typically as they change, but potentially a static property such as an object’s mass.

    My sense of what I ought and ought not do is a signal (data) processing result of my physical brain. So…I am not clear how all that relates to the term “oughtness”. Maybe “oughtness” is somewhat synonymous with “advisability”.

    “I challenge you to submit this argument to any qualified philosophy professor”
    * That was not the intent, as I stated. You can take both the premises and the conclusion for what they are worth to you, perhaps nothing at all.

  347. SteveK July 19, 2016 at 12:58 pm
    “When you know something is an illusion you know about both the false reality and the true reality. You know the truth of the situation, that’s how you know it’s an illusion.

    So…if you theorize that morality is an illusion you are saying there’s this false moral reality and a true moral reality. What is the true moral reality here?”
    * I don’t theorize morality is an illusion. I say it is a real experience.

    I do theorize that objective morality, or absolute morality, or an outside source for a “true” morality is an illusion. In that case the true moral reality is personal brain function. The commonality of brain structure amongst individuals of a single species gives rise to a commonality of personal experiences and for some people this leads to the illusion of a single outside source for an absolute morality.

  348. Ryan “If the eternally existing something has no creative powers, we should expect absolutely nothing at all,”
    * If the eternally existing something has no creative powers then we should expect that “something”, not “absolutely nothing at all”. If there is an eternal “something” why would that lead us to expect “nothing”? Sorry Ryan you are doing no better than calling white to be black.

  349. FZM “but from what I can tell you haven’t been saying that you can prove that anyone else is, or aught to consider themselves, in this same position”
    * Right, I can’t strictly prove it, but given the high degree of commonality I observe with other members of my species that seems to be a reasonable inference.

    “Likewise the idea that awareness of external uncertainty follows from cogito ergo sum; you may perceive it as such, but what should others make of it?”
    * That is up to each individual to determine personally.

    “In fact I think it is probable that others will not evidently see that ‘I think therefore I am a thinking thing’ has some kind of corollary or necessarily includes the idea that ‘I know that I am uncertain about outside experience’”
    * The root is self awareness for both. So, my use of “corollary” may be misplaced. “I think therefore I am a thinking thing” has the same basis as “I know that I am uncertain about outside experience”, namely, self awareness.

    Observations are correlated when they are associated with each other, or have some kinship with each other, and that is what I meant by “corollary”, but that may have been a poor choice of words for the derivative nature “corollary” can mean.

    I appreciate you taking the time to parse my language in such fine detail.

    “Also, it seems that all sorts of different (and between different individuals potentially conflicting)propositions might be claimed by an individual as being ‘corollaries of their own self awareness’.”
    * Indeed, these are the things I hold personally certain to myself, beyond which all is subject to negative speculation.

    “I was wondering what happens when you meet someone else who also believes that they are the ‘god of perfect knowledge’ and know different things to you.”
    * I disbelieve them and don’t worry much about it. The most likely explanations for a claim of divinity are insanity or dishonesty.

  350. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    What appearance? Morality does not appear objectively factual to me. I simply feel that some things are good and some things are bad. How is this some sort of illusion?

    Because, in general, when you say, “some things are X”, you are saying that there exist some things which have a property X. Some things are heavy: there exist things which have a property of heaviness (i.e. they weigh a lot). Some things are free: there exist things which have a property of freeness (i.e. they do not cost money). If some things are evil, then I understand you to mean that there exist things which have a property of evilness, even if the “things” in question are abstractions like “activities” rather than “objects”. So, to say “murder is evil” is to ascribe the activity of “murder” with a property of “evilness”. Even if you say, “I feel that murder is evil,” you are saying that your feelings are the basis for the judgement that “murder” has a property of “evilness”.

    If, by “some things are evil”, you mean only that you find some things abhorrent, then “some things are evil” is a bad choice of words, because it is phrased in a manner which describes the world itself, not your emotional disposition towards the world. When you talk about your own feelings in a manner which is phrased as though you are talking about the world outside of you, it looks very much like you are seeing those properties of “good” and “evil” in the world itself. Given that you’ve asserted repeatedly that they don’t exist, they must be illusions. When I look at the “bulging chessboard” optical illusion, I see quite clearly that the lines are curved, even though I can prove that they are not. Your choice of words suggests a similar situation — experiencing things which you know are not real — thus, “illusion”.

    So, if we’ve established that “good” and “evil” are simply emotional dispositions which you feel in relation to certain things, can you explain (without appeal to your feelings) why anyone else should particularly give a damn about your feelings?

  351. FZM says:

    TFBW,

    When you talk about your own feelings in a manner which is phrased as though you are talking about the world outside of you, it looks very much like you are seeing those properties of “good” and “evil” in the world itself.

    I think I was thinking about this earlier in the thread. Stardusty has been talking a lot about his personal feelings of moral obligation though, so maybe he feels a ‘personal moral ought’ that means he needs to talk about morality in these terms.

    So, if we’ve established that “good” and “evil” are simply emotional dispositions which you feel in relation to certain things, can you explain (without appeal to your feelings) why anyone else should particularly give a damn about your feelings?

    I am guessing here, but the explanation might be about power.

    If an individual or group of individuals have certain emotional dispositions which make them feel a need to influence or control the behaviour of other individuals, if they possess sufficient coercive power or power of influence they might be able to succeed, regardless of the particular emotional dispositions of the individuals they are seeking to control.

    I think this approach ends up reducing morality to something like ‘might is right’.

    It would make some unusual claims about ‘morality’ and its justification possible. For example, anti-Semitism can be considered morally evil principally because of the total military defeat of the Third Reich in 1945 by nations who had a collective emotional disposition to view it as such, Soviet ethics and morality shouldn’t be treated as any guide to moral conduct because the Soviet system couldn’t keep pace with military and economic developments in the West, and things like that.

  352. FZM says:

    Stardusty,

    Right, I can’t strictly prove it, but given the high degree of commonality I observe with other members of my species that seems to be a reasonable inference.

    So I imagine this argument goes:

    1) Either I am aware of my own external uncertainty in a self evident way or I have reasoned or thought myself into a position such that I am aware of my own external uncertainty.

    2) I observe that I have a high degree of commonality with other members of my species

    3) Therefore I infer that they are aware of their own external uncertainty in a self evident way or have thought/reasoned themselves into a position such that they are aware of their own external uncertainty.

    However, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to infer that because you personally claim to experience some proposition about the possibility of external knowledge as being self-evident everyone else experiences it in the same way. In fact, I would say we know that this is not likely to be the case.

    Maybe you think you can convince people to believe that they can’t know anything for certain except that they are a thinking thing aware of their own external uncertainty (by just systematically denying any claim they make to the contrary strenuously enough?), and then once you have done that you can conclude that it is a reasonable inference that everyone has the same experience of doubt about the external world. Doing this kind of thing undermines the validity of the argument from inference though.

    Finally, doubting your own external certainty should lead you to doubt the certainty of your inferences and observations about other members of your species (even that there are things like species out there at all), besides the reliability of inferring things about their thoughts about the basis of knowledge. Unless your experience of doubt about your own external uncertainty is only a small or limited doubt; for the most part your experience of external uncertainty is only that it just makes external things probably, if not strictly, proved.

    All this is a bit of a digression… I don’t think you have shown that there is a good reason for anyone else to trust the validity of your inference about some experience of external uncertainty being foundational and self evidently all we can be certain of, and my questions were about how you deal with people who disagree with you on these points.

    I disbelieve them and don’t worry much about it. The most likely explanations for a claim of divinity are insanity or dishonesty.

    In the post I was replying to you appeared to make a claim for your own divinity.

  353. Kevin -“Well, one of the things I argue is that the fundamentalists are in fact right about what the books say. If you read the Bible, God really does want you to kill homosexuals and Amalekites. Liberal religion like yours, Chris, is certainly preferable to fundamentalism, and is necessary in the short term, but it involves a certain level of intellectually dishonest cherry-picking.”

    “Harris believes that dismissing the Old Testament as being replaced by the doctrine of grave is “cherry picking” ”
    * No, he didn’t say that, you said that. What he said is true as a conditional statement. Sam Harris might have been talking about fundamentalist Jews at the time, I don’t know, but he sometimes refers to the ongoing land theft in Palestine and its connection to the genocidal land theft by ancient Jews.

    There is also the apologetic problem of Jesus affirming the prophets and stating every bit of the law must be followed, which is highly inconsistent with his other pacifist teachings so that leads to some potential ambiguity that could lead to justifiable charges of cherry picking.

    Liberal Christians also may have some rather untenable positions on homosexuality and divorce which is also arguably cherry picking.

    ” To directly address what he said, he believes applying the Old Testament to the modern Christian is the “right” way to read the Bible.””
    * No, he didn’t say that, you said that.

    I had never heard of Chris Hedges so I looked up a few things he has been saying about Harris but did not find that particular conversation. The assertion that Sam Harris is not aware of the notion of Jesus overturning or modifying certain parts of Mosaic law or that a Christian should somehow stop at the OT is preposterous.
    *

  354. TFBW -“Thus spake the first law of thermodynamics. Then the second law spoke, declaring that entropy shall always increase until it reaches a maximum. ”
    * You are anthropomorphizing and generalizing limited principles that were derived by early scientists to study heat, with no justification that they can somehow be universally applied to show the stuff of existence cannot be eternal.

    “So, are you going to respond to my most recent reply to you, or are you having too much fun with your ill-informed faux-scientific posing?”
    * I am not aware that I skipped or missed anything you said. If you are suggesting I am avoiding some point you have made because I am incapable of countering it then please, by all means, give me the date and time stamp, I will go back through the thread, I see what I might possibly have missed.

  355. Kevin -“I’ve read attempts by atheists to escape the less convenient law of thermodynamics, and they fall flat. Given infinite time, entropy would be total.”
    * We do not have a “law” of thermodynamics or anything else in science. Science is always provisional, descriptive, and limited in scope.

    Thermodynamics is just that, heat. Heat is not a primary phenomenon, rather, a high level description of a highly complex underlying reality, an underlying reality far to complex and and made of such tiny and inscrutable parts that it would be utterly impossible for humans to do useful work at that level.

    So, to study this high level phenomenon scientists made a few descriptive principles that generally work very well for describing heat flow systems.

    Somehow, folks have gotten it into their heads that no physical system can “violate” these heat “laws”, which is just simplistic thinking.

    “No evidence leads to atheism beyond “I cant see it, therefore it isn’t there” types of interpretation.”
    * You are atheistic, or more generally a non-believer, about innumerable speculations by that reasoning as well.

  356. SteveK says:

    “I don’t theorize morality is an illusion. I say it is a real experience.”

    Yours is a real experience but it comes with NO duty/obligation tied to anything – and that, my friend, is NOT morality.

    “In that case the true moral reality is personal brain function.

    That would still be the illusion of morality because your brain function lacks any duty/obligation. Morality entails a duty of some kind. Where is that missing element? If you cannot refer me to it, then what you are describing is something else.

  357. SteveK says:

    The illusion is that your personal senses make it seem like you have a duty to fulfill.
    The reality is that you have no actual duty to fulfill.

    It’s obvious to me that you willingly choose to let the illusion control your life, SP. Why not seek treatment for this condition or just ignore it as best you can?

  358. Dhay says:

    Stardusty Psyche > [Quoting Kevin] “Harris believes that dismissing the Old Testament as being replaced by the doctrine of grave is “cherry picking” ”
    > * No, he didn’t say that, you said that. …

    Kevin > Harris believes that dismissing the Old Testament as being replaced by the doctrine of gra[c]e is “cherry picking” and not taking the Bible seriously. I’ve seen him say similar things elsewhere. To directly address what he said, he believes applying the Old Testament to the modern Christian is the “right” way to read the Bible.

    Perhaps this is your nitpick on Kevin’s blindingly obvious spelling error.

    Stardusty Psyche, I’ll assume this is not some nit-pick of Kevin’s writing “grave” where “grace is obviously meant, and that you are serious in doubting that Sam Harris said the words Kevin said he did, or perhaps that he meant by them what Kevin said. Since you doubt Kevin, here’s a Sam Harris website forum post where AmericanHumanist quotes Sam Harris as saying to Chris Hedges in a truthdig interview:

    Sam’s response: “Well, one of the things I argue is that the fundamentalists are in fact right about what the books say. If you read the Bible, God really does want you to kill homosexuals and Amalekites. Liberal religion like yours, Chris, is certainly preferable to fundamentalism, and is necessary in the short term, but it involves a certain level of intellectually dishonest cherry-picking. …”

    https://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/6039/#72651

    Yep, same words.

    I can add in this quotation from a response to Harris, quoted from a different truthdig interview, this time by Blair Golson.

    [Harris:] “…the real word of God in Islam is that if you change your religion, you should die for it. Isn’t that also the case in the Bible? Don’t we see similar edicts and punishments for apostasy? Yes … most Christians think that Jesus brought us the doctrine of grace, and therefore you don’t have to follow the law. While it’s true that there are other moments in the New Testament when Jesus can be read as saying that you have to fulfill every ‘jot and tittle’ of the law (this is in Matthew) — and therefore you can get a rationale for killing people for adultery out of the New Testament — most Christians, most of the time, don’t see it that way. The Bible is a fundamentally self-contradictory document. You can cherry-pick it.“[6]

    http://www.bethinking.org/is-religion-harmful/stoning-and-the-cherry-pickers

    Those were interviews, so perhaps Harris was rushed and hasty in his opinion; here’s his carefully considered and prepared opening position declaration in debate with Andrew Sullivan, as found on Harris’ own blog:

    … while He may be many things, the God of the Bible and the Qur’an is not a moderate. Read scripture more closely and you do not find reasons for religious moderation; you find reasons to live like a proper religious maniac—to fear the fires of hell, to despise nonbelievers, to persecute homosexuals, etc. Of course, one can cherry-pick scripture and find reasons to love your neighbor and turn the other cheek, but the truth is, the pickings are pretty slim, and the more fully one grants credence to these books, the more fully one will be committed to the view that infidels, heretics, and apostates are destined to be ground up in God’s loving machinery of justice.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/sam-harris-vs.-andrew-sullivan

    I’m of the same opinion you are, Kevin. Harris believes applying the Old Testament to the modern Christian is the “right” way to read the Bible.

  359. Dhay says:

    Dhay > Perhaps this is your nitpick on Kevin’s blindingly obvious spelling error.

    Left in in error.

  360. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    You are anthropomorphizing and generalizing limited principles that were derived by early scientists to study heat, with no justification that they can somehow be universally applied to show the stuff of existence cannot be eternal.

    You base your “eternal universe” theory on the first law of thermodynamics, and think that the second law (which would undermine your theory) doesn’t apply. That pretty much sums you up. Walter Mitty atheism strikes again.

    Goodbye, Stardusty.

  361. Kevin says:

    That’s what I get for typing on my phone. A grave error.

    Speaking of grave errors, Harris makes two of them in that final piece you quoted. One, that someone who takes the Bible seriously is going to be dangerous, which is absolutely absurd; and two, that one must cherry pick the Bible in order to avoid applying the Mosaic law to himself.

    Harris again proves he has no idea what he’s talking about.

  362. FZM says:

    While it’s true that there are other moments in the New Testament when Jesus can be read as saying that you have to fulfill every ‘jot and tittle’ of the law (this is in Matthew) — and therefore you can get a rationale for killing people for adultery out of the New Testament — most Christians, most of the time, don’t see it that way.

    It is weird that for so long (1600+ years) most (nearly all?) Christians haven’t adopted the reading of Matthew Harris proposes here, maybe he just knows better how to interpret the Bible than all those Saints and Church Fathers.

  363. Ryan says:

    TFBW said: You base your “eternal universe” theory on the first law of thermodynamics, and think that the second law (which would undermine your theory) doesn’t apply. That pretty much sums you up. Walter Mitty atheism strikes again.

    Exactly. Evasive is the word I would use to describe Stardusty. Positions change, words shift their meaning, everything realigns in order to save his theory. The one and only position Stardusty has remained consistent on is Stardusty is correct. That is the fundamental “postulate” upon which his entire argument rests.

    First he states this blithering nonsense: To paraphrase a common saying, symbolic meaning is in the eye of the beholder. To a Christian the cross is a symbol of all that is good and holy. When I see the cross drawn on paper I think of the superstitious nature of humankind. What happened to your objective obligation for the meaning of a symbol? There never was one. Symbolic meanings are subjective from the moment the writer puts pen to paper.

    And then he forgets what he said about the subjective meaning of symbols and this comes out: they are textual facts one need only read to confirm. Now the symbols (in this case Ancient Hebrew symbols which he can’t read) are so objective that one can deduce “textual facts” from them. One gets motion sickness trying to understand what he really believes.

    But, I think this sums it up very well:

    Stardusty said:The most likely explanations for a claim of divinity are insanity or dishonesty.

    Stardusty said:I might be god and you might be a figment of my divine imagination.

    Therefore, since Stardusty has made a claim to possible divinity, the most likely explanation is that he is insane and dishonest.

    Stardusty is insane and dishonest, according to himself.

  364. Ryan – “And then, just moments later: Therefore Matter/Energy has always existed and will always exist…. The conclusion “based on evidence” is utterly inescapable.

    Hmm, it seems that your experience of ‘uncertainty’ about the external world disappeared very quickly and morphed into ‘utterly inescapable conclusions’ about the external world. Do you take yourself seriously?”
    * An inescapable conclusion based on evidence is not a certainty, it is a rational argument within a closed system of logic. What about that seems to not be serious to you?

    ““Every instance of language conveys a specific meaning.”
    * That seems to me to be an unsupportably grandiose claim.

    Followed by:

    These simply are the textual facts and I am convinced you cannot find evidence of Harris being somehow ignorant or oblivious or dishonest about these textual facts”
    * Indeed, those are the facts of the words in the texts. A fundamentalist theist makes the assumption, or believes, or takes on faith that the literal meaning of the words as commonly defined is the word of Yahweh or Allah or whatever god.

    The textual facts are the sequence of letters in the texts. On the notion that those letters can be interpreted according to common definitions for words then certain textual facts are present for the fundamentalist.

    But the textual facts from the point of a fundamentalist are not the only possible meanings of those texts. Some consider them to be valid metaphors, others consider them to be pure fiction, some even consider the true meanings are deeply hidden in a secret code that can only be deciphered with intense study and could only have been encoded by the almighty.

    Ryan, you continually accuse me of contradicting myself only because you do not understand so much of what I am expressing.

    “Therefore, you can’t conclude any textual ‘facts’ about those texts because they could mean any number of things.”
    * Yes I can. The textual facts are the letters and other characters, which in turn form words and sentences and paragraphs and books.

    “And one last contradiction to point out: You reject the existence of God because God is not made of physical matter, but you accept the existence of logic although logic is not made of physical matter.”
    * You are equivocating with the word “exist”. An object exists when it has matter or energy or takes up space or is made of some material of perhaps as yet unknown sort. Extant objects have real static properties such as mass and charge, as well as real dynamic properties such as motion.

    A real property must be a property of an extant object. A real process is a process of something, meaning some thing, a thing, an object. If there is no stuff at all to be a process of then there can be no real process.

    Logic does not exist as an object. Logic is a real process of the brain. Logic is real brain function.

    So, if god is not made of anything at all then in what sense do you say god exists?

    If god exists as a real process then what is the material stuff that god is a process of?

    “I think I’ve sufficiently demonstrated that you shift positions back and forth as it suits the point you’re trying to make at the moment. ”
    * I realize you think that, however the root of the difficulty is your lack of understanding, not any contradictions on my part.

    “One cannot have a real discussion with someone that contradicts himself continually.”
    * When you gain a greater depth of understanding on these subjects you will cease to (falsely) perceive contradiction on my part.

  365. Ryan says:

    Stardusty: Logic is a real process of the brain.

    Can you prove this or is this one of the tenets of your faith? Because I reject it, and I don’t know anyone who accepts that article of faith besides you. Prove it.

    Does “evil” exist outside of your head as a part of the external world? And if not, then why do you speak about it as though it does? And you have never been able to explain what makes your moral views and different than another person’s. If they are not based upon anything in the external world, it is irrational to apply them externally to others, unless you are a megalomaniac.

    Earlier you came to the conclusion that one cannot know that anything exists externally, but then you simply chose to reject that conclusion because you didn’t like it. That is a textbook example of denial. You have no way to prove things either absolutely or with a certain probability, but that conclusion is too difficult for you to handle emotionally, so you reject it. You just move on and proceed as if you can prove things. But you are in reality still stuck at the start line.

    Nothing you say about science, or morality, or God can be proven to be any closer to reality (not even probably) than anything I or anyone else says. You say there isn’t absolute morality; I say there is. You have no way to prove that your position is any closer to reality, or even probably closer to reality than mine. Which means that everything you say about God, morality, etc. is a waste of time. You don’t get to skip steps and say “then a miracle happened” to avoid a problem. You are still stuck on resolving how you can prove anything about the external world either absolutely or with a probability. Until you solve that problem I will simply reject anything and everything you say as unproven, unscientific hogwash.

    This is similar to what TFBW said earlier, to which you are still unresponsive: So, if we’ve established that “good” and “evil” are simply emotional dispositions which you feel in relation to certain things, can you explain (without appeal to your feelings) why anyone else should particularly give a damn about your feelings?

    Stardusty’s answer:__________________________________________ (still nothing)

  366. SteveK says:

    “The textual facts are the sequence of letters in the texts.”

    The lying continues.

  367. Ryan says:

    SteveK said: “The textual facts are the sequence of letters in the texts.”

    The lying continues.

    Exactly. Neither Stardusty nor Sam Harris are referring to a specific sequence of Hebrew letters, I doubt that Stardusty can even read Hebrew letters. By “textual facts” he is referring to the meaning intended by the letters, which is an abstraction that transcends Hebrew or English. But again, this contradicts his skepticism about the ability of symbols to have objective meaning, so he pretends the “textual facts” are the “sequences of letters”.

    If he can demonstrate where Sam Harris is talking about a particular sequence of Hebrew letters in and of itself and independent of the meaning it conveys, then he can say The textual facts are the sequence of letters in the texts. Otherwise, it’s just a rhetorical tactic to avoid acknowledging he contradicts himself. He needs to hold many different and mutually exclusive positions, so that he can argue from any angle he needs to depending upon the situation. If you point out a contradiction, he will cast you as a moron that is incapable of understanding the nuances of his genius. In this way, he is a true disciple of Harris, who also complains constantly that no one understands him.

    I would label Stardusty as quasi-troll. I back off from calling him a “troll”, as he seems to be open to serious discussion at times, but then he blatantly changes positions to save face in a way that is “evasive” at the least, and possibly outright lying.

  368. TFBW says:

    Stardusty is a Sam Harris fan. Maybe his feelings of personal enlightenment and lack of ability to construct an actual coherent argument have something to do with drugs. It would certainly explain a lot.

  369. TFBW – “If some things are evil, then I understand you to mean that there exist things which have a property of evilness,”
    * What object is evil? I do not know of something, some thing, a thing, an object that is intrinsically evil.

    Some actions of some objects (physical human beings) are by my personal sensibilities evil.

    “even if the “things” in question are abstractions like “activities” rather than “objects””
    * Ok, you are considering a description or a process of physical objects to be an abstracted thing.

    Abstraction is brain function, so I don’t see where this will get us but you have introduced some interesting language so let’s see where it goes…

    “So, to say “murder is evil” is to ascribe the activity of “murder” with a property of “evilness”. Even if you say, “I feel that murder is evil,” you are saying that your feelings are the basis for the judgement that “murder” has a property of “evilness”.”
    * Ok, so in this manner of expression activities can have properties. I would say activities can be categorized or placed within sets, still waiting for the other shoe to drop!

    “If, by “some things are evil”, you mean only that you find some things abhorrent, then “some things are evil” is a bad choice of words, because it is phrased in a manner which describes the world itself, not your emotional disposition towards the world. ”
    * At last we agree! Yes, it is a poor choice of words. It is simplified common language. It quickly becomes exceedingly tedious to include every qualifier, caveat, and philosophical worldview dissertation into common expressions of opinion.

    “Your choice of words suggests a similar situation — experiencing things which you know are not real — thus, “illusion”.”
    * If I say “that’s just not right” what I mean is that according to my personal sensibilities, which are a function of the signal (data) of my brain I am experiencing the personal feeling that the action in question is somehow negative.

    Kind of cumbersome. I think if I actually went around talking like that most people would consider me to be a tedious pompous pontificating jerk. Plus, I am just too lazy to couch my every expression in all the philosophical terminology needed to make every utterance strictly supportable against a scholarly critique.

    “So, if we’ve established that “good” and “evil” are simply emotional dispositions which you feel in relation to certain things, can you explain (without appeal to your feelings) why anyone else should particularly give a damn about your feelings?”
    * Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!

    “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” is a great book title. Indeed, why would it concern me what is rattling about inside the skull of some other human being? You might be thinking the moon is made of green cheese, so what does that matter to me at all? Of what consequence to my life are the firings of brain cells in some other brain?

    I don’t think you “should” give a damn about my feelings in the sense of some absolute necessity. But we quite apparently do care since we are taking the time out of our lives to engage one another.

    Indeed, why is that? I say it is because we are social animals and it is in our biological hard wiring and our learned behavior to interact with one another at length and endeavor to comprehend the thoughts and idea and concepts and feelings of one another. Most of us have the property of empathy, we simply do care.

    For myself, I find that engaging with people who disagree with me is the most likely way to discover errors or gaps in my positions.

  370. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    But we quite apparently do care since we are taking the time out of our lives to engage one another.

    Not anymore. I have decided that the best solution is to write you off as an incoherent crank who is a complete waste of time. I have cared enough to spend as much time as I have already, but the point has long since come where you’ve demonstrated that your position is entirely reliant on other people giving a damn what you think, having no intrinsic merit of its own to recommend it.

    For myself, I find that engaging with people who disagree with me is the most likely way to discover errors or gaps in my positions.

    An admirable idea, but you first need to find someone that you trust when they say, “there is an error/gap in your position.” Every time someone has said so here, your response has been simple contradiction — you prefer your own authority over anyone else in this forum. As such, your time would be better spent somewhere else — somewhere where you would actually accept the correction as offered, rather than dismissing it based on your own feelings of correctness.

  371. Ryan says:

    Stardusty said: Of what consequence to my life are the firings of brain cells in some other brain?

    Wow. Total lack of empathy. You mentioned you have children; for their sake, please at least pretend that you care about their “firings of brain cells”. Anyway, I’m content to finish here. I’ll leave you alone inside your tiny little box of narcissism.

  372. FZM July 21, 2016 at 7:59 am -“Finally, doubting your own external certainty should lead you to doubt the certainty of your inferences and observations about other members of your species ”
    * Indeed, that’s why I call them inferences, as opposed to certainties.

    I think you summarized some things rather well in 1, 2, 3 above.

    “I don’t think you have shown that there is a good reason for anyone else to trust the validity of your inference”
    * I am not asking for your trust, that is what con-men do. I am simply expressing a number of my ideas. If they make sense to you then you might derive some positive value from them. If they do not make sense to you then perhaps they are worth nothing to you or you might get some value out of solidifying in your mind things you consider unreasonable.

    “In the post I was replying to you appeared to make a claim for your own divinity.”
    * Just for the record, in case there is any doubt, I do not think I am god

  373. SteveK July 21, 2016 at 11:18 am
    “SP I don’t theorize morality is an illusion. I say it is a real experience.”

    “Yours is a real experience but it comes with NO duty/obligation tied to anything – and that, my friend, is NOT morality.”
    * Ok, so in your view morality must include a duty/obligation, presumably imposed from outside. I don’t think that is the most commonly held definition of the word.

    Allow me to get a little help from my friend Oxford to see what their take on the consensus meaning is:
    1. Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.
    1.1A particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society

    So, that definition does not seem to include your requirement of duty/obligation, by which infer you mean to be imposed from outside the individual.

    I have principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. So by that definition I have morality.

  374. SteveK July 21, 2016 at 11:47 am
    “The illusion is that your personal senses make it seem like you have a duty to fulfill.
    The reality is that you have no actual duty to fulfill.”
    * Trying to get a handle on your language I looked up “morality”, “duty”, and “obligation” but they all just define each other in terms or the other.

    I feel I should to this and I ought to do that, typically about the most mundane decisions throughout the day. That is just the sense or feeling I have that drives my decisions toward certain actions, similar to fear or disgust or revulsion that drives me away from certain actions.

    If I thought that meant there was some outside obligation, some force from on high commanding these things down to me that I must obey on pain of eternal torment, then yes, that would be an illusion.

    “It’s obvious to me that you willingly choose to let the illusion control your life, SP. Why not seek treatment for this condition or just ignore it as best you can?”
    * Hearing voices in my head is apparently a nearly universal human experience. Considering them to be of real outside origin is one definition of insanity. Have you considered treatment for this condition?

  375. SteveK says:

    “Have you considered treatment for this condition?”

    I don’t hear voices in my head, SP. Nice strawman.

  376. SteveK says:

    “If I thought that meant there was some outside obligation, some force from on high commanding these things down to me…”

    I could use a very apt example show you how much egg you actually have on your face, but what’s the point? You’ve shown yourself to be a dishonest person who changes his story.

  377. Dhay July 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm
    Stardusty Psyche > [Quoting Kevin] “Harris believes that dismissing the Old Testament as being replaced by the doctrine of grave is “cherry picking” ”
    > * No, he didn’t say that, you said that. …

    “Perhaps this is your nitpick on Kevin’s blindingly obvious spelling error.”
    * Actually, I thought is was some kind of reference to Jesus returning from the grave, the resurrection, widely considered to be a cornerstone of Christian theology. But grace seems more reasonable, No, I don’t care about a few typos, you can find many of mine. We needn’t be petty about them. This is just an opinion blog, not a scholarly peer reviewed paper.

    “https://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/6039/#72651”
    * Ok, well, that is just some snippet quoted in a blog entry. I really don’t want to get into a sequence of quote mining arguments. Catholics believe the RC pope has the sole right to scriptural interpretation by apostolic succession beginning with Peter who is said to have been given this authority by Jesus. Serious Christian fundamentalists start at Genesis, end at Revelation, and apply the principle of chronological abrogation giving special authority to the things purported to have been said by Jesus. Liberal Christians are typically rather shallow in their scholarship and engage in wholesale cherry picking. Sam Harris is well aware of all of this and a little snippet from some interview is not going to show him to be some ignorant fool on this subject.

    “SH -“Yes … most Christians think that Jesus brought us the doctrine of grace, and therefore you don’t have to follow the law. While it’s true that there are other moments in the New Testament when Jesus can be read as saying that you have to fulfill every ‘jot and tittle’ of the law (this is in Matthew) — and therefore you can get a rationale for killing people for adultery out of the New Testament — most Christians, most of the time, don’t see it that way. The Bible is a fundamentally self-contradictory document. You can cherry-pick it.“[6]”
    * Yes, of course, and I mentioned this above. The fact that Jesus affirmed the prophets and required obedience to the law, and also admonished people to behave contrary to the law is self contradictory and allows nearly any apologetic argument to be made within Christianity

    “SH – but the truth is, the pickings are pretty slim, and the more fully one grants credence to these books, the more fully one will be committed to the view that infidels, heretics, and apostates are destined to be ground up in God’s loving machinery of justice.”
    * Yes, again, of course, what part of this is inaccurate? Infidels, heretics, and apostates are going to suffer eternal torture, or “destined to be ground up in God’s loving machinery of justice.”

    Torturing a person for all eternity hardly seems to be the act of a being of infinite love.

    “I’m of the same opinion you are, Kevin. Harris believes applying the Old Testament to the modern Christian is the “right” way to read the Bible.”
    * If you don’t wish to apply the OT to your religion why do you have it in your book? I was raised a Christian and the OT was a very important part of what I was taught.

    Harris clearly points out the self contradictory nature of the Bible taken as a whole, meaning there is no single “right” interpretation. If you are fundamentalist who takes the pacifist instructions of the gospels then you have some apologetic gymnastic reason to dismiss the affirmation of the prophets and admonition to obey every jot and tiddle. Or, you can try to flip that around in which case you are back to stoning and all the rest of the ugliness of that section of the bible. Or you can leave it all up to the RC pope to simply declare various portions of the bible to be metaphorical. Or you can do what liberal Christians do which is wholesale cherry picking with little discernible apologetic depth.

    So, you just have not made any sort of case against Sam Harris here.

  378. TFBW July 21, 2016 at 12:54 pm
    “Stardusty said:
    You are anthropomorphizing and generalizing limited principles that were derived by early scientists to study heat, with no justification that they can somehow be universally applied to show the stuff of existence cannot be eternal.”

    “You base your “eternal universe” theory on the first law of thermodynamics, and think that the second law (which would undermine your theory) doesn’t apply. That pretty much sums you up. Walter Mitty atheism strikes again.Goodbye, Stardusty.”
    * I never mentioned the first “law” as a basis. There simply has never been an observed instance of stuff poofing into existence or poofing out of existence. All equations of science are just that, equations, the LHS=RHS, no poof term, no “and then a miracle occurs” expression. We have mountains of evidence confirming conservation and no evidence against it. That’s about as solid as it gets in science.

    Order and disorder are not like that. We have vast evidence for the increase of order by natural forces. Every time a snowflake forms we go from an amorphous soup of molecules in solution to a beautifully ordered crystal. Attractive forces lead to concentrations of heat (order) where previously there had been an even distribution of heat (disorder).

    Order arises from disorder spontaneously by natural attractive forces.

    If X exists, and X cannot be created, and X cannot be destroyed, then elementary logic tells us X has always existed and X will always exist. This is just logic applied to observation in a glaringly apparent manner.

  379. SteveK says:

    “Harris clearly points out…

    Sequences of letters on the page (textual facts) don’t tell us what Harris is clearly pointing out. I’m confused?? Of course, I’m not really confused. I’m just exposing your repeated dishonesty and lying.

    Maybe Sam Harris himself is that force from on high commanding these sequences of letters to have a specific contextual meaning and purpose. Nah…can’t be.

  380. Ryan – “The one and only position Stardusty has remained consistent on is Stardusty is correct. ”
    * Well, at least I am consistent about something!

    “they are textual facts one need only read to confirm”
    * Indeed, what is a “textual fact”? Is it a case of absolutely certain meaning? No, rather, it is the fact of which letters are written, and the words those letters form. A textual fact is the fact of the plain text as it appears in writing.

    The plain text meaning of a textual fact is the meaning of the words taken at face value according to the consensus view for the meaning of the words factually written. Still no absolutely certain meaning, but a fairly solid basis for interpretation on the assertion that is the optimal interpretive methodology.

    I sometimes make statements without a great deal of supporting discussion because the statements seem so non-controversial. Then, you somehow find them controversial so I go into greater depth as to the precise meaning of the terms I am using. This process is somehow a self-contradiction to you.

    “Now the symbols (in this case Ancient Hebrew symbols which he can’t read) are so objective that one can deduce “textual facts” from them.”
    * Yes, the textual facts are the actual letters and words found on the scrolls or carved in stone or pressed into clay.

    The plain text meaning of those textual facts is perhaps the simplistic approach to deriving meaning from these ancient symbols, but not the only way, metaphor and coded meanings being other interpretive candidates.

    “Stardusty said:The most likely explanations for a claim of divinity are insanity or dishonesty.

    Stardusty said:I might be god and you might be a figment of my divine imagination.

    Therefore, since Stardusty has made a claim to possible divinity, the most likely explanation is that he is insane and dishonest.

    Stardusty is insane and dishonest, according to himself.”
    * You have apparently sunk to the level of being intentionally obtuse, equivocating at the end from a conditional possibility to an affirmative assertion.

    Indeed, I estimate the likelihood that I am insane in conjunction with the likelihood that I am god, infinitesimal.

  381. Ryan says:

    SteveK, remember that symbols are completely subjective from the moment they are written on the page, and so The fact that Jesus affirmed… Oh oops, I forgot that symbols are subjective and so we can’t affirm anything about what Jesus did or didn’t affirm. However, we must remember that Sam Harris is the symbol god, and so he has the authority to determine absolutely the meaning of the symbols contained in the document known as the Bible. We should be thankful that the symbol god Sam Harris is so humble to condescend to our level and authoritatively dictate the meaning of symbols for us. Don’t question Sam Harris, SteveK, or his disciples.

  382. SteveK says:

    The plain text meaning of a textual fact is the meaning of the words taken at face value according to the consensus view for the meaning of the words factually written.

    …so I go into greater depth as to the precise meaning of the terms I am using.

    Yes, it’s contradictory.

  383. Ryan says:

    SteveK, remember that although Sam Harris has no training in ancient languages or cultures (the prerequisite to understanding a text like the Bible), he nevertheless is more qualified to interpret it than someone like me, who does have extensive knowledge about the languages and cultures. Sam Harris is more qualified than the qualified experts, because he’s a dilettante… oops, I meant to say because he’s a god… a symbol god. So, if I disagree with Sam Harris’ interpretation that the Bible is contradictory, or one of his disciples’ interpretation (Stardusty), I am wrong, and Sam Harris is right. This is irrefutable, inescapable, and absolutely true. Once one accepts the postulate that Sam Harris is the long-awaited symbol god, then everything becomes very simple and falls into place.

  384. Ryan July 22, 2016 at 12:07 am
    Stardusty: Logic is a real process of the brain.

    “Can you prove this or is this one of the tenets of your faith? Because I reject it, and I don’t know anyone who accepts that article of faith besides you. ”
    * Really? I would say that a materialist non-Platonist would pretty much have to hold that view. On materialism, what else could logic be but brain function that is descriptive of how the constituents of the physical universe are observed to interact, as well as brain function that extends these logical concepts into further abstractions, abstractions also being brain function?

    “Prove it.”
    * Science doesn’t do proof. However study in neuroscience, neurosurgery, experimental psychology, brain scanning, drug effects, and brain injury effects form a huge body of scientific evidence that brain function is what accounts for all our thoughts.

    “If they are not based upon anything in the external world, it is irrational to apply them externally to others, unless you are a megalomaniac.”
    * I suppose in some sense we all tend to be self absorbed. It is believed that a baby human being is entirely egocentric. It is commonplace for a particular tribe or class of people to think of themselves as the preeminent humans and all others are of a lower sort. Our own petty little problems seem to be of great importance to each of us.

    The rationality of application of principles is in our social nature. None of us lives alone, devoid of human contact, an absence of which is considered the most terrible punishment absent physical abuse or death. As a social species we must devise ways to interact and one way is to communicate with each other about behaviors and to actively try to influence the behavior of others. How is all this somehow irrational?

    “Earlier you came to the conclusion that one cannot know that anything exists externally, but then you simply chose to reject that conclusion because you didn’t like it.”
    * Philosophically my only certainties are based on self awareness. But my hunger seems real to me so I choose to consider my food real and eat it. You may criticize me for all this if you wish but I intend to enjoy my lunch nevertheless.

    “You have no way to prove things either absolutely or with a certain probability, but that conclusion is too difficult for you to handle emotionally, so you reject it.”
    * I act based on probability estimates. When my personal probability estimate rises above my personal actionability threshold I act. I do not find this to be emotionally difficult in the case of estimating the probability that life is all some kind of dream to be infinitesimally likely.

    “You just move on and proceed as if you can prove things”
    * No, I move on as if I do not need to prove things to move on.

    Perhaps this is the core of your problem. You require proof to act, but human perception offers only uncertainty, so you delude yourself into thinking you have proof so you can move on. I simply do not suffer being driven to your delusion because I have no need of proof to move on.

  385. Ryan July 22, 2016 at 1:39 am
    SteveK said: “The textual facts are the sequence of letters in the texts.”

    “The lying continues.”
    * Tut, tut, the plain text meaning of the textual facts of your statement might hurt my widdow feewings, but fortunately, I do not accept the objective meaning of those textual facts 🙂

    “if he can demonstrate where Sam Harris is talking about a particular sequence of Hebrew letters in and of itself and independent of the meaning it conveys,”
    * The term “textual facts” comes up mostly against scripture deniers, and especially in Islam and Judaism, but from time to time in Christianity.

    For example I might say, “the Qur’an states that a man should beat his wife into obedience”, and the Muslim says, “No, Islam is a religion of peace and Muhammad treated women very well and never advocated beating a woman”. Then I say, “The textual facts are that Qur’an says men are in charge of women and if they disobey then their husbands are to admonish them, sleep separately from them, then beat them into obedience”

    Upon more vociferous scripture denial I then say, “fine, go to 4:34 in the Qur’an and read the textual facts for yourself”
    http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=4&verse=34

    The next tactic is to deny the translation: “You are not an Arabic speaker, that is a false translation.” To which I answer, “Then why did so many Arabic speakers translate the Arabic into English the same way? Why do so many Arabic speaking clerics give detailed instructions as to the proper methods for wife beating?”

    Textual facts are the facts of what the text actually says. Even this is frequently denied by the liberal theist or the dishonest theist.

    From there we can consider the plain text meaning. Based on the consensus view of the meaning of these words as recorded in dictionaries what is the plain text meaning of the words? If the plain text meaning of your scripture is to commit genocidal invasion land conquest that looks kinda bad for your scripture. It is difficult to spin that into a good thing.

    On the other hand, maybe the texts are metaphor, or maybe they are fiction, or maybe they are code. We can never be sure of any objective meaning for the text. All we can do is start with the textual facts, consider their plain text meaning, and consider any other possible intents of the author or editors.

    But there I go “lying” again.

  386. TFBW July 22, 2016 at 1:48 am
    “Stardusty is a Sam Harris fan. Maybe his feelings of personal enlightenment and lack of ability to construct an actual coherent argument have something to do with drugs. It would certainly explain a lot.”
    * Ha, Ha, Ha, indeed, you are a trip!!!

  387. TFBW –
    “SP For myself, I find that engaging with people who disagree with me is the most likely way to discover errors or gaps in my positions.”

    “An admirable idea, but you first need to find someone that you trust when they say, “there is an error/gap in your position.”
    * Why would I need trust? I argue on the merits absent trust. I consider an assertion of error on the merits of the assertion, not any sort of trust for the individual.

    “you prefer your own authority over anyone else in this forum”
    * Right, I do not argue from authority nor do I accept arguments from authority.

    “somewhere where you would actually accept the correction as offered, ”
    * Your attempts at correction simply lack merit, so why should I accept them, because you perceive yourself to have greater authority? Please do excuse me while I am underwhelmed.

    “dismissing it based on your own feelings of correctness.”
    * Of course I feel I am correct. I would not hold an opinion I believed to be incorrect. How would that make any sense at all? Nor am I swayed by authority, accusations, or ad populum. I insist on arguments that have merit, or I reject them on the merits.

  388. SteveK says:

    But there I go “lying” again.

    True

  389. SteveK July 22, 2016 at 1:48 pm
    “SP – Have you considered treatment for this condition?”

    “I don’t hear voices in my head, SP. Nice strawman.”
    * So you do not think in English? You never mentally pronounce words? You do not recall the voices of others? You never imagine the voices of others? You never have dreams during which you experience hearing the voices of others or your own voice speaking?

    You are the first person I have ever communicated with who lacks these experiences.

  390. SteveK says:

    From an outside origin. That’s what you were referring to when you talked about getting treatment. More dishonesty from you.

  391. SteveK July 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm
    “SP Harris clearly points out…

    “Sequences of letters on the page (textual facts) don’t tell us what Harris is clearly pointing out. ”
    * “Clearly” does not mean “absolutely”.

    It is clear that public speakers use plain text meanings for their words. If we read a statement by a modern public speaker we can often derive some clear meanings. If you wish to speculate some other meanings, go right ahead, but they are not clear to me.

    “I’m confused?? Of course, I’m not really confused. I’m just exposing your repeated dishonesty and lying.”
    * Quite apparently you are very confused indeed.

    “Maybe Sam Harris himself is that force from on high commanding these sequences of letters to have a specific contextual meaning and purpose. Nah…can’t be.”
    * Indeed, I consider that possibility to infinitesimally likely. What seems clear to me is that a serious modern day public speaker like Sam Harris has the intent that we apply the plain text meaning of his words in order to understand his points, but if you have some alternate suggested meaning go right ahead and speculate and I quite likely could not absolutely disprove such a speculation.

    And somehow in all this you find a lie? If so, you are indeed confused.

  392. Ryan July 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm
    “SteveK, remember that symbols are completely subjective from the moment they are written on the page,”
    The meaning of the symbols to the reader is subjective. The fact of the symbol itself is just that, a textual fact.

    ” and so The fact that Jesus affirmed… Oh oops, I forgot that symbols are subjective and so we can’t affirm anything about what Jesus did or didn’t affirm.”
    * That is what the words in the book say. One possibility is that the figure of Jesus was a complete fabrication and the gospels are pure fiction. But you may read the text yourself and find the textual facts of what was written.

  393. SteveK July 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm
    The plain text meaning of a textual fact is the meaning of the words taken at face value according to the consensus view for the meaning of the words factually written.

    …so I go into greater depth as to the precise meaning of the terms I am using.

    “Yes, it’s contradictory.”
    * Huh? What is contradicting what?

  394. SteveK July 22, 2016 at 9:39 pm
    “From an outside origin. That’s what you were referring to when you talked about getting treatment. More dishonesty from you.”
    * You did not say “from outside origin”. How is it “dishonest” to respond to the actual words you wrote?

    Does god speak to you? Perhaps in dreams? Many people have said they heard the voice of god, either in a waking state or in a dream. The bible has many stories stating explicitly that god spoke to a human being. Has that ever happened to you?

  395. SteveK says:

    At least 3 people can see the problem you are unable to see yourself. We’ve highlighted the problem and you still cannot see it. Not my problem.

  396. TFBW says:

    Stardusty said:

    I insist on arguments that have merit, or I reject them on the merits.

    And if someone says that your ability to judge that merit is terribly flawed, how do you decide whether or not they have a point?

  397. SteveK July 22, 2016 at 10:24 pm
    “At least 3 people can see the problem”
    * Oh,well then, 3 people could not be wrong, that has never happened…

    “you are unable to see yourself. We’ve highlighted the problem ”
    * Falsely, as I have detailed equally many times.

  398. TFBW July 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm
    Stardusty said:
    I insist on arguments that have merit, or I reject them on the merits.

    “And if someone says that your ability to judge that merit is terribly flawed, how do you decide whether or not they have a point?”
    * Indeed, that is a fascinating dilemma. How do I know I am not insane? Maybe I am so mentally debilitated that I have ho ability to judge my own insanity.

    Conversely, if we all judge a person to be insane how do we know that we are not all insane and he is the only sane one?

    I put that sort of thing on the list of speculations such as
    I am a brain in a vat
    I am in a matrix
    I am strapped to a gurney having an endless hallucination
    I am god dreaming

    These have been proposed many times by many people and they are not strictly disprovable. But I have no positive evidence for any of them so I consider them all to be infinitesimally likely.

    I provisionally accept the basic reliability of the human senses, that the universe is discoverable using my senses, that logical reasoning can be used to characterize both myself and the external world.

    Honestly, I just don’t worry much about it. My life seems real to me. In particular, logic seems to work very well.

    So how do I know if the accusation by a person that I am somehow unable to judge an argument has merit? On the merits of their own arguments and the evidence they bring of my supposed flaws.

    How do I know I am capable of solving problems generally? Decades of successes recognized in my exceptional gpa, the great respect I get from experienced peers in my field, the successes I have in my life in the application of my reasoning skills in technical and business matters, money in the bank as the fruits of my reasoning skills.

    Do you really suppose a few guys on some blog are going to knock me off my confidence with some half baked arguments culminating in mere insult?

    The merits of the argument. Try it guys. Any fool can argue from authority, ad populum, straw man, and ad hominem.

    Do you say my “ability to judge that merit is terribly flawed”? Back that up with some tightly reasoned argument based on precisely what I have actually said and we shall see, else you are just arm waving.

  399. TFBW says:

    Stardusty blathered irrelevantly at great length, as is his wont, then said:

    How do I know I am capable of solving problems generally?

    This isn’t about “solving problems generally.” This is about distinguishing dialectic from rhetoric, and being able engage in the former. It is not a general skill, and does not follow from having other specific skills. Skill in other areas can help, of course, but they are no substitute and no guarantee.

    Decades of successes recognized in my exceptional gpa, the great respect I get from experienced peers in my field, the successes I have in my life in the application of my reasoning skills in technical and business matters, money in the bank as the fruits of my reasoning skills.

    I can claim all that, too, but it’s largely irrelevant, as I say. To the extent that it’s not irrelevant, I can point out the exceptional GPA associated with my Graduate Diploma in Philosophy. I’ve been through a course, and had to demonstrate my reasoning skills to the satisfaction of numerous impartial experts. They rated me highly. Do you have that sort of independent verification of your skills, or are you relying on self-assessment?

    Do you say my “ability to judge that merit is terribly flawed”? Back that up with some tightly reasoned argument based on precisely what I have actually said and we shall see, else you are just arm waving.

    That would be pointless. Everyone else here is already persuaded that you are spouting nonsense. The only possible target of an argument supporting the claim, “Stardusty is terrible at reasoning but thinks he’s pretty darn good at it,” would be you, and I’m already convinced that you wouldn’t know a good argument if it bit you, so why waste my time? The predictable outcome is that you reject my argument for a bunch of bad reasons, thus proving my point to everyone but you — a futile effort.

    As I’ve said numerous times already, you need to go and get some training from someone that you respect. Someone who, when they tell you that you’re doing it wrong, you will trust enough to accept the correction. Someone whose criticism is untainted by religious motives, and which you will take on board, even if it seems wrong to you. This forum cannot provide that: you have no reason to trust us.

  400. TFBW-
    “Do you have that sort of independent verification of your skills, or are you relying on self-assessment?”
    * Yes, but it doesn’t really matter because anybody can get on line and claim anything about themselves. That is why I am not claiming you are fundamentally incapable of making a logical argument. You have simply failed to apply your capabilities validly to my arguments.

    “As I’ve said numerous times already, you need to go and get some training from someone that you respect.”
    * Why? This is not personal. I do not need to respect an individual human being to accept rational arguments.

    “Someone whose criticism is untainted by religious motives,”
    * Why should I care about the motives, religious or otherwise of an individual making an argument? The argument stands or falls on its merits irrespective of the motives of the individual.

    You are quite apparently very much a devotee of argument from authority. I am not.

    “which you will take on board, even if it seems wrong to you”
    * Why would I take something on board that seems wrong to me, simply because of the perceived authority of the individual? No. There are no scientific authorities, none whatsoever. Nor any authorities of logic, or reason.

    Your suggestion is that I take on the role of a child, go off to find some wise person I can trust to educate me out of the errors of my thinking, then I will come to realize how correct TFBW was all along. What an idiotic suggestion you make.

    ” This forum cannot provide that: you have no reason to trust us.”
    * Trust? Why should I need trust? Some kind of faith? What are you even trying to say? What a preposterous set of suggestions.

    The simple fact is that I have met every post on this thread with irrefutable reason and none of you can show my logic to be in error so this has all come down to insults, accusations of dishonesty, and admonitions to go find trust.

    QED

  401. TFBW says:

    I have nothing further to add.

  402. Ryan says:

    Stardusty,

    TFBW is exactly right, and you are very naive to think that emotions have no effect on your reasoning abilities. No person is %100 objective, period. Some let their emotions control their reasoning more than others. In fact, one of the main reasons for studying philosophy and logic is to learn how to make conclusions more objectively. I think we are all pretty much done going in circles with you, as it’s pointless.

    Before I go, I want to point out that your entire world view is one of faith. You have said that you cannot prove anything about reality, not even the existence of the external world. So, you simply move on and build a world view that isn’t built on proving anything, but is simply built on faith. Every one of your positions reduces to faith. If someone breaks down one of your positions and puts it under the microscope, we see that it is made out of faith. When we dig through the steps of how you come to your various conclusions it always become unprovable at some point: No, I move on as if I do not need to prove things to move on. So, you believe things without proof. In fact, everything you believe is without proof.

    You can’t even work with probabilities. You claimed that you could: Knowledge is a probability estimate. But you have failed to demonstrate how you can prove that any statement about reality is more probable than any other without appealing to your own faith or consensus (argumentum ad populum). Of the two statements There is a God who created the universe and There is no God, you have no method to prove that one of these statements is more probable than the other, let alone proving one is absolutely true. You haven’t shown that you can prove probabilities any more than you can prove things absolutely. It’s all just faith. Faith. Faith. Faith. Your entire world view is nothing more than a personal faith… a personal religion. You expect others to simply trust that you are right, like you trust yourself. Well, I don’t trust you and I’m not going to put my faith in you.

  403. Ryan-
    “Ryan July 23, 2016 at 4:12 pm
    “Stardusty,TFBW is exactly right, and you are very naive to think that emotions have no effect on your reasoning abilities. ”
    * Ok, that would indeed be rather poor assertion to make. When did I ever say anything of the sort?

    “I think we are all pretty much done going in circles with you, as it’s pointless.”
    * I am not going in circles. If you feel you are, well, Ok. I introduced some terms and have used them consistently. Others simply have not understood the manner in which I use those terms, for example.
    Textual Fact – The actual text found in a particular book, important because so many people either have not read the text or actively deny that the text is even in the book.
    Plain Text Meaning – The literal meaning of the text taken at face value according to consensus reference sources such as popular dictionaries.
    Metaphorical Meaning – A non-literal meaning to the text, which opens up a wide degree of speculation as to the intent of the author.
    Fictional meaning – The purported author never lived and even basic names and places in the story never actually happened because the whole book was made up from whole cloth by a later anonymous author, in which case the intended meaning is highly speculative.
    Code Meaning – The true meaning is hidden in some code decipherable using numerology.

    If you want to quibble about or refine these terms, fine, but I am not going in circles about them and have stated their usages as clearly as I know how to do.

    ” You have said that you cannot prove anything about reality, not even the existence of the external world. So, you simply move on and build a world view that isn’t built on proving anything, but is simply built on faith”
    * Since I acknowledge the ultimate unprovability of outside reality then in what sense do I take it on faith?

    The statement “I don’t know for sure so I will take my best guess” is hardly a statement of faith. Faith means different things to different people, so I will again ask my friend Oxford to weigh in on this word:
    1 Complete trust or confidence in someone or something:
    2 Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    My worldview fits neither 1 or 2 above.

    “SP No, I move on as if I do not need to prove things to move on. ”
    “So, you believe things without proof. ”
    * No, I act without proof. Consider a military general who has no proof of where the enemy is but launches an attack based on the best available evidence and his estimate of highest probability of success, never fully believing he is doing the right thing, but having calculated this move is his best chance.

    Nor do I suggest you take my words on faith. You can discard them as nonsense out of hand, meditate on them, pray on them, read about it, or just not take it very seriously…my words are offered only as food for thought, take them for what they are worth to you, perhaps nothing at all.

    “Of the two statements There is a God who created the universe and There is no God, you have no method to prove that one of these statements is more probable than the other, let alone proving one is absolutely true.”
    * If you and I agree that the human senses are basically reliable, the universe has properties that are discoverable, and we can use logic to describe the universe then yes, I can make estimates of probabilities regarding a great many things including god, I mean, who actually thinks this is all a dream? I am personally convinced it is not all a dream. My life seems very real to me.

    “Well, I don’t trust you and I’m not going to put my faith in you.”
    * Good!!! At least we agree on that much 🙂 You may be aware that the Buddha said much the same thing some 2500 years ago to his own students, instructing them to not take the words of others on faith, not even his own. Each individual should decide for themselves.

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