The relationship between evolution and philosophy

I like this section. In it Lennox says that capital ‘E’ Evolution has undergone mythification and become a substitute for belief in God, and this is not a good thing. As a theist you’d think he’d be in favor of any mythification (excluding those two recent movies starring Sam Worthington and a bunch of CG monsters, which really weren’t that good at all) and evolution should be given its chance to attract a congregation of worshipers and be added to the pantheon of theism, but it seems that some deities are more worthy than others. It can’t be for want of a lack of evidence, can it? I mean, evolution is at least as unobservable as all other gods.

Finishing with that quote from D. M. S. Watson Lennox claims Watson backs up Lewis (are you keeping up?) with evolution “is accepted by zoologists, not because it is observed to occur or… can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible” P97). This quote from Watson is quite well known for appearing in creationist writings, and I’m being a little coy about the quite. Read more about it here at your first port of call that is wikipedia or going to this site provides an entertaining read.

102 thoughts on “The relationship between evolution and philosophy

  1. Marco

    Must you talk in riddles and sarcasm? I am assuming, to explain it coherently that you like this section because it is so easy to find articles where it has been refuted to yours (and most scientist’s) satisfaction?
    I would be more interested in your own coherent logical views in this regard. Mythication of Evolution goes to explaining the rise of eugenics and the thought of a “superior race” and other such negative imperatives based on survival of the fittest and extinction of weaker genes. Combining it with theism clearly gives the worst of both worlds, meaning that a combination of chosen memes and inheritance of good traits to be the superior surviving combination – both righteous and genetically superior.
    This is clearly against the spirit of what Lennox is trying to say.
    I would like to see if you could forget your atheist prejudices against particular quotes, and see if you can find a grain of truth in what this section is saying – Naturalism somewhat necessitates a belief in some of the attributes of Evolution. Theism somewhat necessitates a belief in some of the attributes of creationism. There is nothing wrong with this. What is wrong is what Lennox and Dawkins both do – that is, turn it around and say that because evolution is the best explanation for all the facts, that it demonstrates a truthiness of Naturalism – or in Lennox’s case that Creation is the best explanation for ALL the facts and that it demonstrates a truthiness of Christianity.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      I couldn’t care less if Dawkins and others have turned evolution into a myth, and I wouldn’t bother to defend whether they have or haven’t. Everyone believes whatever they want to believe, good evidence or bad. Have you ever watched “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”? I haven’t, but would like to because it drew the very lines you’re drawing between evolution and eugenics. The film was slammed for doing so.

      I like this section not because it’s easy to dismiss by evidence to the contrary (which makes it hardly different from any other section in the book) but because of the tension of Lennox’s self-proclaimed theism with his utter misunderstanding of what it actually means to accept belief in the god of others. Here he says scientists are deifying evolution, then he pooh-poohs them for doing so. Why? Because they don’t deify evolution enough? Because they don’t erect churches to evolution and hold mass for evolution? Because they don’t convert primitive peoples to the god of evolution? No, no, no. It’s because he believes they believe in a god that isn’t his.

      Reply
      1. Nathanael

        I concur with with focus on Marco’s intial reply here.
        Why you think this isn’t a good book is inextricably intertwined with your personal beliefs.
        Hit it from that angle and you’re playing the ball rather than ad hominem by stealth.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          I concur with with focus on Marco’s intial reply here.
          Why you think this isn’t a good book is inextricably intertwined with your personal beliefs.

          I stated quite clearly that I’m looking at the book as an atheist. I have also conceded points to Lennox, but those seem to get forgotten, and I didn’t come here to talk about the few things I can agree with him on.

          If you like, let’s change places. I’ll start look at the chapter on biology as a Christian (or should it be theist?) and you tell me why I’m always wrong as an atheist. Let me know if you’d like to give it a go.

          Reply
  2. Marco

    In that case, I still do not understand what you believe in yourself, nor still the logic of the tension you say there is that I did not perceive at all. Eugenics, to me, is a logical corollary to deifying evolution. In a sense it involves rejecting the moral basis of an omniscient God, and replacing it with a different imperative, based on foreseeable consequences- selfish pragmatism. This unless a whole new *organised* belief system as opposed to your “people believe what they want to believe” assertion. In an organised system, people tend *not* to believe what they would naturally want to believe. People don’t believe in fairy tales so much as absorb the “moral of the story”. Fiction more elegantly does this and Secular humanists should take heed if they want to make an impact as an organised ethical grouping, rather than being defined by what they *don’t* believe in.
    I think deifying evolution is dangerous and I don’t see why it is hypocritical for Lennox to say so.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      In that case, I still do not understand what you believe in yourself, nor still the logic of the tension you say there is that I did not perceive at all.

      As I’ve said time and time again, what I believe matters little. We are not logical shoppers and we all believe whatever we want to believe; we just have different blinkers in different situations. Maybe it’s relationships, maybe it’s money management, maybe it’s dietary habits, but whatever it is we each have a belief that can look pretty silly in the cold light of someone else’s logic. Agree to disagree about belief and move on. And tell Kylie I said that, too. She still seems to think I’m secretly trying to take away people’s belief. I’m the one arguing against even talking about it!

      Eugenics, to me, is a logical corollary to deifying evolution. In a sense it involves rejecting the moral basis of an omniscient God, and replacing it with a different imperative, based on foreseeable consequences- selfish pragmatism.

      Second part first. We’ve been over this so many times before. There are societies that aren’t based on any god, and others based on a god that is not the Christian god. I live in one of them. When you can show me any evidence that basing a society not on the teachings of a god is any worse off than one which does, then we can go further. But 120 million Japanese people kind of sort of disagree with you. Especially as this is one of the safest societies in the world. They are the one black crow that proves that all crows aren’t black, as Lennox would say.

      And the same goes for individuals. There are literally millions of people on this planet that don’t believe in any god, and even more that don’t believe in the Christian god. I’d need to see some evidence that they are any less moral than the ones who follow a god.

      Now the first part second. If eugenics was the logical corollary of evolution, then why don’t we see more scientists arguing for it? Actually, as evolution is accepted by everyone to be the mechanism at work here, then why isn’t everyone arguing for eugenics? Even 15 year-olds at school are taught evolution, but not too many of them are advocating racial purity. The answer is because it isn’t the logical corollary of evolution. Believing that evolution is the mechanism at work in the living world, and that finding such a prevalent natural phenomenon as the diversity of life has a natural explanation gives great confidence that natural explanations can be found for all natural phenomena, in no way says that we should ‘improve’ on it with unnatural selection such as eugenics.

      I think deifying evolution is dangerous and I don’t see why it is hypocritical for Lennox to say so.

      Deifying anything is dangerous. Just look at the way some countries treat their constitutions and the mess it gets them into as times change but the ink on the paper doesn’t. And history is replete with examples of terrible crimes because god is deified… Lennox’s problem is, and has always been, that he claims theism, but argues Christianity. This is just another way of showing it.

      Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Re Japan: Name a Japanese equivalent to Oskar Schindler, please. From the outside, it looks like the lack of any moral authority above and beyond society was a major factor in enabling the Rape of Nanjing, etc. etc. etc. and the fear and loathing that all your neighbours still have for your countrymen, to a much greater extent than the Germans are feared and loathed by their neighbours today.

        Even 15 year-olds at school are taught evolution, but not too many of them are advocating racial purity. The answer is because it isn’t the logical corollary of evolution.

        No, the answer is because they are not self-consistent thinkers, and because they are still living on the moral capital of previous generations, just blindly considering some things to be good and some things to be bad without any logical reason.

        As I’ve said time and time again, what I believe matters little.

        Then I can’t see any motivation for this blog beyond you trolling your brother, which seems kind of petty.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Re Japan: Name a Japanese equivalent to Oskar Schindler, please. From the outside, it looks like the lack of any moral authority above and beyond society was a major factor in enabling the Rape of Nanjing, etc. etc. etc. and the fear and loathing that all your neighbours still have for your countrymen, to a much greater extent than the Germans are feared and loathed by their neighbours today.

          And allowing refugees to drown off Australian shores is hardly a glowing testament to present day Australia, nor the stolen generation from our recent past. And how much of that was informed by misappropriated theism? So pick a society and you’ll find an atrocity. Japanese are no more or less moral than other societies, but it’s still a hell of a lot safer to live here than in almost all other societies.

          Reply
        2. winstoninabox Post author

          Even 15 year-olds at school are taught evolution, but not too many of them are advocating racial purity. The answer is because it isn’t the logical corollary of evolution.

          No, the answer is because they are not self-consistent thinkers, and because they are still living on the moral capital of previous generations, just blindly considering some things to be good and some things to be bad without any logical reason.

          So let’s exclude the teens. How old should people before before you believe they can take responsibility for their belief that evolution has nothing to do with eugenics? It doesn’t matter because the point remains the same. Most people understand evolution is the process at work here, and none of them are calling for eugenics.

          Reply
        3. winstoninabox Post author

          Then I can’t see any motivation for this blog beyond you trolling your brother, which seems kind of petty.

          Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

          My motivation for this blog was that after Nathanael’s insistence that I read it and think about it I told him that I’d critique “God’s Undertaker”. After doing so for a while on FB it just wasn’t working out. He failed to comment much (although thanks to Marco there was some dialogue) and FB just wasn’t suited to it. After further discussions on FB about other stuff he’d posted, he started to threaten to delete posts he didn’t like. He also has a habit of making big claims about evidence contrary to what I put forward, and then just never coughing up. Actually, when he makes these claims I pretty much know the conversation is at an end because he says we’ll continue when he gets back with it, and just never does. Much like he’s gonna read the Quran, I imagine.

          After the deleting the posts threat I started to think of ways to have a dialogue that was less prone to his whimsy. He’d also complained I never put my money where my mouth is, so I knew that if I just got a free blog then he’d say that yet again. So vex cathedra was born.

          BTW, about 6 months ago I even offered him $100 for the charity of his choice if he’d give me an answer based on his belief. I wanted to know what the fate of the unlearned (those who die without the knowledge of JC) was. I said he could make an answer of any length, even one sentence would suffice. He accepted, readily I might add. He has also never once offered that answer nor mentioned it again. I can only conclude he has no interest, even when motivated by cash for others, to discuss the specifics of his faith.

          So if discussions about faith is what motivates you to come here, then against my better judgement I’ll try to participate if you want to. Give me a topic and I’ll put it up. To me though, it’s just crossing a line which makes the discussions that little bit too personal, that little bit too open to hostility and the injuring of friendships. But we can give it a try, so long as we can all remain friends. Even if it does explode in our faces I promise I won’t delete the posts, for at least they’ll be a reminder of why I don’t discuss belief.

          Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Re: Re Japan: Name a Japanese equivalent to Oskar Schindler, please.
        Sure, in every society you find atrocities. What characteristics of a society are likely to generate a minority of people who will stand against those atrocities when everyone else is participating in them? You asked for “evidence that basing a society not on the teachings of a god is any worse off than one which does”. In German schools children are taught about dissenters who went out of their way to protect non-German victims of German fascism. Are Japanese children taught about dissenters who went out of their way to protect non-Japanese victims of Japanese fascism? If not, I wish to submit this absence as evidence.

        Re: Teens
        You misunderstand me here, the 15 year olds are actually at the age that is most likely to examine their assumptions and strive for self-consistency. The sloppy thinkers I refer to are everyone.

        Re: Trolling Nathanael
        Thanks for clarifying your reasons, it makes much more sense now! I think you have actually said the same sort of thing before but I forgot about it being a muddled-headed sort. I think Marco and I are both pushing you to go the fundamentals, not to attack your core values and incur your eternal enmity, but because we think it would be more fruitful and interesting. We want to know why you think what you think: this interests us. It will be good for you, too, since if you have to state and defend the core axioms of your worldview, you will end up with a more rigorous and self-consistent worldview.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          What characteristics of a society are likely to generate a minority of people who will stand against those atrocities when everyone else is participating in them?

          Yes, I could point to programs that at least our school does which might suggest an emphasis on morality. All our kids visit the Hiroshima Peace Park and are asked to consider about nuclear war. We have several volunteer programs such as reading for the blind, kids can learn sign language. Our junior 3 students had to write about the recent Algeria terrorist situation, and let’s not forget the huge humanitarian effort in Japan after the earthquake 2 years ago. Just as Ozzie kids are taught that taking aboriginal kids from their homes to breed them out is really not nice at all (BTW, our kids learn about the stolen generation at the end of junior 3). It would seem that both countries have responded to their histories in their own way.

          But this isn’t the point, is it? Error correction is just one strategy. At various stages in history all societies have been taken over by leaders with an agenda and lead down a path that in hindsight was not moral. Is Japan, a country that in 4,000 years of history, any worse off morally for not having a strong belief in a god? I don’t see it.

          Re: Teens
          You misunderstand me here, the 15 year olds are actually at the age that is most likely to examine their assumptions and strive for self-consistency. The sloppy thinkers I refer to are everyone.

          Ha ha. I did misunderstand you. I’m still not changing my point.

          Re: Trolling Nathanael
          Thanks for clarifying your reasons,

          Nathanael has responded with his own view of the proceedings. It just goes to show that two people can give very different versions of the proceedings.

          Edited for overrun italics.

          Reply
      3. Marco

        So if discussions about faith is what motivates you to come here, then against my better judgement I’ll try to participate if you want to. Give me a topic and I’ll put it up. To me though, it’s just crossing a line which makes the discussions that little bit too personal, that little bit too open to hostility and the injuring of friendships. But we can give it a try, so long as we can all remain friends. Even if it does explode in our faces I promise I won’t delete the posts, for at least they’ll be a reminder of why I don’t discuss belief.

        That’s fantastic. I promise we will remain friends.

        Reply
      4. Nathanael

        What you believe matters greatly, as it’s the contextual framework of your faith that underpins your entire approach.

        Reply
  3. Marco

    The important thing here, that as a rule, evolution is taught not as a religion replacement for whatever religion, but as a science separate to religion, that demands religions be consistent with.
    Fiction is a more important explanatory device – I do not think it helpful if the story about the Good Samaritan which teaches us to be kind to people wherever possible, be replaced about the reproductive facts about red kangaroos, where most males die virgin, and a select few have harems.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      The important thing here, that as a rule, evolution is taught not as a religion replacement for whatever religion, but as a science separate to religion, that demands religions be consistent with.

      Since evolution isn’t taught anywhere in any public or private curriculum as a religion that I’ve heard of this is hardly a problem. I thought the problem was that evolution has a corollary of eugenics, which as that also isn’t happening, isn’t.

      Reply
  4. Marco

    Evolution (the deification of evolutionary principles to the point where they replace biblical teachings( and the good morals that tag along) with evolutionary teachings (and the dubious and varied morals that entertains)) is what I think leads to the corollary of eugenics.

    I am saying that evolution must not be deified. You are saying that it hasn’t and wouldn’t necessarily point to eugenics.

    The point is that biblical teachings are gradually being eroded from the curriculums in many countries, and so are the good morals that tag along, educationally speaking. Quite separately, evolution is being taught more dogmatically as true as heliocentricity or other physical scientific truths. Thus the turn to the thought of one race or another being superior in the grand scheme is a pernicious thing that keeps simmering in population’s collective subconscious. More so if Evolution is seen as an equivalent explanatory thesis to theism.

    Reply
  5. Nathanael

    I disagree that I never cough up.
    And because it takes 6 months to come back to something (or more) doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten it.
    I have provided evidence on numerous occasions for questions you’ve raised in the past in FB. You’ve chosen to reject it and say it’s not enough for you.
    To get the $100 monkey off my back and put some money where it will do some good, here’s the simplest response I can offer.
    The fate of the unlearned has three points that I’ve resisted posting on more because I lack to energy to take the supplementary path it might lead us down, not because I don’t want you to give $100.
    In summary:
    1. God has made the possibility of knowing and believing in God possible through the created order and conscience (i.e. a belief in moral absolutes and a recognition that in spite of our best efforts we wilfully do what we know to be wrong either by commission or omission).
    2. Anyone sincerely seeking a relationship with God and dies “not having heard the truth” would have ended up believing in God anyway while alive if presented with a fuller revelation of that God
    3. Those incapable of making a rational decision on the basis on mental impairment or age will not be subject to the same standard. Do I know definitively what the boundary posts are for those conditions? No. But an all know, all loving God would.
    Here endeth the response.
    Any South African World Vision project will do, thanks.

    As a sidebar, just after my acceptance of the above offer I was diagnosed with mild anxiety based depression which my doctor said he believed I’d probably had for well over a year.
    In spite of initial treatment, my condition worsened in late January after V’s Grandmother died.
    The marathon of Mary’s melanoma and Victoria’s own stresses of leaving work and caring for mother, father, grandmother, sister-in-law (who has recently left her husband and is filing for divorce) and running my own consulting practice has taken its toll.
    I’ve been on anti-depressants and other activities to pull me back into balance, but V has also had a very bad run of health through January and much of February which has also drawn my energies away from anything much that wasn’t about getting through the day or I found energising.
    We cancelled a family holiday due to V’s illness, so I haven’t really had a break that’s been about re-charging the batteries for well over 15 months.
    So my energy going in other directions has been as much about doing things that energise me rather than drain me – which I find your style of engagement does around these issues.
    The Quran is slowly being plodded through and will eventually get done.
    “My insistence we read the book” is an overstatement of my suggestion. We were going in circles because you were rejecting the whole basis of my some of my approach to epistemology and we couldn’t agree on fundamental definitions of words that were plainly obvious to everyone but you (like faith).
    So having an outside text to focus on seemed a good way to give focus.
    Interestingly in their own way Chris and Marco have challenged the very issues I found most frustrating in dealing with your style.
    Incidentally many of my friends who follow my FB profile but don’t comment actively, completely independent of each other expressed concern about how your style was I was allowing to affect me negatively.
    They (rightly or wrongly) interpreted you on a spectrum from passive/aggressive baiting to trolling.
    Do with that feedback what you will, but perhaps your perception of your approach and your way of playing the ball isn’t as accurate as you think it is, in spite of your repeated insistence to the contrary.
    So I’m more than willing to acknowledge that I reached a point of absolute vexation and overload and wasn’t willing to continue things the way they were.
    Whether your blog was free like blogspot or paid like vex cathedra is irrelevant to me.
    Time and money are both worth something so don’t accuse me of something I would not have done.
    The fact you stepped up from Satan’s Rainbow to a format that you’ve invested in setting up is positive and hopefully my more frequent contributions in the midst of our very challenging family season reflect that.
    End sidebar – please return to your normal programming (perhaps with a different perspective).

    Reply
  6. Nathanael Small

    Clearly what you claim as easy to dismiss by evidence has many possible responses both pro & con, which promote discussion – the stated aim of the book.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      That I started the blog to discuss the book is hardly evidence that the book promotes discussion. Over a year ago it was my stated aim before even reading the book to discuss it!

      Are we getting much discussion about the contents of the book? I don’t think so. But if you do then so be it. I’m not going to quibble over that.

      I still think that in this first half of the book the application of science has been less than successful in mounting a convincing argument for theism. Again, you probably take the opposite point. As you wish.

      Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Do you have a PayPal account? Obviously ‘No’ otherwise you wouldn’t be asking.

      Make a PayPal account. It’s free and very useful for moving money around between countries, which is useful for me at least. Then let me know what it is and I’ll send the money to you.

      If you are against that then nominate the charity by name you wish to help and I’ll see if I can PayPal them directly. This is another good use for a PayPal account as many establishments take PayPal.

      If neither of those is doable then I can offer to pay up when I’m back in Oz.

      Reply
  7. Nathanael

    on japan, a professional colleague of mine whose many years of experience in the automotive industry had him in Japan for periods of time concluded that behind their apparent stability lies a hidden but subtle and all pervasive racism that borders on xenophobia.
    I find the cultural Taoism and obsession with honour and shame as their culture expresses it as pernicious as fundamentalist Islam.
    The global economy will continually put pressure on this – but Japan’s lived in complete denial of their true economic position (zero real growth and profit) for over 20 years, so it’s become a generational fallacy.
    Your revolving doors of Prime Ministers (eerily paralleling ours) it is the tip of the iceberg of a completely broken economic and political system held together by a syncretistic patchwork of irrational thinking.
    Australia, for the record, does not have theism or Christianity as its dominant belief system.
    Sadly, many well intentioned but naive believers try to claim we have Christian origins akin to the USA, but that’s the fallacy of language that’s committed time & time again.
    To quote Rob Bell and bring the grammar to the fore, christian is a great noun, but a lousy adjective.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      on japan, a professional colleague of mine whose many years of experience in the automotive industry had him in Japan for periods of time concluded that behind their apparent stability lies a hidden but subtle and all pervasive racism that borders on xenophobia.
      I find the cultural Taoism and obsession with honour and shame as their culture expresses it as pernicious as fundamentalist Islam.

      Then perhaps if you told me what country is the benchmark for morality I’d better be able to understand where my example falls down. Because as I see it there is no Shangrila, there is a collection of good and bad everywhere. But within that there will be places that score higher on some things than other places. Japan scores pretty high on safety and politeness, and from my personal experience no worse than Australia on racism. I may get denied a flat here from landlords who think foreigners as tenants are too much trouble, but at least I’m not going to get beat up walking down the street just for being white.

      So, where do you suggest I live to get me some good theist values?

      The global economy will continually put pressure on this – but Japan’s lived in complete denial of their true economic position (zero real growth and profit) for over 20 years, so it’s become a generational fallacy.
      Your revolving doors of Prime Ministers (eerily paralleling ours) it is the tip of the iceberg of a completely broken economic and political system held together by a syncretistic patchwork of irrational thinking.

      I’m sorry, but evidence from the future is not admissible.

      Australia, for the record, does not have theism or Christianity as its dominant belief system.
      Sadly, many well intentioned but naive believers try to claim we have Christian origins akin to the USA, but that’s the fallacy of language that’s committed time & time again.
      To quote Rob Bell and bring the grammar to the fore, christian is a great noun, but a lousy adjective.

      Hoots mon! No true Christian would have such a belief system. So which country am I moving to again?

      Edited for overrun italics.

      Reply
  8. Marco

    Australia, for the record, does not have theism or Christianity as its dominant belief system.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. It is a somewhat subjective judgement. Monotheistic religions are much more mainstream in Australia than in Japan. In times of stress, such as a huge natural disaster ( think cyclone Yasi, or a tsunami) the activity of organised religions and the attitudes of the people in them make a huge positive difference. The main problem in Australia in this sense is Islamophobia. We have tended to blame the religion, rather than organised terrorism in general, and their wayward leaders. This denies the positive difference that theism, in the form of Islam, makes to our collective moral fibre.

    Reply
    1. Nathanael

      I go by census results and National Church Life Survey, a now 20 year longitudinal trans-denominational Christian study.
      The vast majority of Australia is agnostic.

      Reply
      1. Marco

        Do you have any links? I have looked at the Wikipedia articles on religion in Japan, and tried to compare notes with Australia. It appears Australians identify with monotheistic religions considerably more than Japan, although it is dropping in most western countries. When you say that most of Australia is agnostic, that is usually a Christian term for nonchristian. Most people that I think are agnostic don’t identify themselves as such.

        Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Census results (2011) say 61.1% of Australians identify as Christian. 31.7% stated no religion or declined to answer the question. You can’t (well, you can and you have, of course, but you can’t expect us to accept it) make up your own definition of Christian that excludes the vast majority of people who identify as Christian.

        Reply
      3. Marco

        I agree with Chris. So, our answer to “So, where do you suggest I live to get me some good theist values?”

        Is obviously Australia. And theism as a general, cross denominational meme, is one that tends to stay in spite of cross conversions to different denominations or monotheistic religions, or even to that of an austere monotheism such as Spinoza’s.

        Reply
  9. Marco

    I also would like to re-challenge Winston’s – “Japan’s doing fine, ethically speaking, without theism” – in a second round.

    Reply
  10. Marco

    I want to start by saying that it is ostensibly *not* about general observations about societies with a score of how theistic it is. What this is about is that there is a chain of causality between any individual’s ethics via memes that they are taught through their life (particularly early on) and the organised philosophy/religion which codifies and formally advertises (ok preaches) these memes in the context of a self consistent philosophy.

    Japanese incorporate elements of various religions in a syncretic fashion[3] rather than identifying with one or another in a traditional sense- thus for centuries, rather than identifying as Shinto or Buddhist, they would perpetuate religious memes to their offspring without necessarily identifying themselves with the religion that meme originated from.

    Thus while Japanese in general continue to have exposure to such memes, and a willingness to perpetuate them perhaps in competition with materialist memes, they will do ok. Take away the source, and promotion of these memes reduces considerably.

    Saying that no country requires religion because Japan has done fine for centuries without it is like saying, that just because fregans can live in health indefinitely without money for food – that money is not important for being fed in a generalised sense.

    Japan is not a complete exception to religion – it has a long connection with Shintoism, a polytheistic religion. Most native Japanese ethical considerations can be connected by a causal chain to the various religions that have had an influence on Japanese culture over the generations. Their gradual removal from influence in recent decades is starting to leave a vacuum hard to fill with regular education channels.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Japan is not a complete exception to religion – it has a long connection with Shintoism, a polytheistic religion.

      I agree. But I also think that it isn’t important to what I said. I was raised in a nominally Christian society, but have decided to reject the source of the morality. I haven’t, however thrown out the morality. Japan, too. The thing I do disagree with which is the implication running through these discussions is that theism has jurisdiction over morality. That without God morality is not possible. I strongly disagree.

      Most native Japanese ethical considerations can be connected by a causal chain to the various religions that have had an influence on Japanese culture over the generations.

      I agree.

      Their gradual removal from influence in recent decades is starting to leave a vacuum hard to fill with regular education channels.

      Sorry Marco, but I’m unsure about the point of this.

      Religion is every where here, but it isn’t how people identify themselves. Disagree with a Christian about the authenticity of the Gospels and they’ll argue with you; the religion is part of their self. Disagree with a Japanese about Shintoism and they’ll just agree that you’ve got a point.

      Plus I still don’t see how Japan is doing any worse than any other country.

      Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        I can’t imagine throwing out the source of the morality and keeping the morality … my thermodynamicist instincts just twitch uncontrollably at the violation of the principle of “you can’t get something for nothing” implicit in such a mental action. Doing things without any reason, or because everyone else is doing them, or out of fear of punishment, seem like ignoble forms of tree/sheep/oppressed peasant thought to me.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          I can’t imagine throwing out the source of the morality and keeping the morality … my thermodynamicist instincts just twitch uncontrollably at the violation of the principle of “you can’t get something for nothing” implicit in such a mental action. Doing things without any reason, or because everyone else is doing them, or out of fear of punishment, seem like ignoble forms of tree/sheep/oppressed peasant thought to me.

          One can take the same action as another but for a different reason. All vegetarians don’t eat meat, but some because of ethical treatment for animals, some because they want to support foods with a less negative impact on the planet, some because they think the cost of meat is too expensive and some because they just don’t like the flavor. Or it could even be a mixture of those.

          Likewise some may not kill because it was once written thou shall not on a stone tablet that ended up in a quite famous book, some may be squeamish, some may fear the law and some may follow the golden rule. Or again, a mixture of the above.

          And so just as there are different reasons why one does something (or doesn’t do something), that reason may change over time. A belief that once fueled an action (or non-action) may change, but the action itself may not. So just as a vegetarian may find that there are humanely killed animals that he or she would consider eating the flesh of, that person may then consider that the industry is still more harmful to the planet than supporting the growing of lentils for lentil soup, and so remain a non-meat eater.

          I find it worrying that the three posters here think that theism has authority over morality. Do you really only do good because of a belief in a higher authority?

          Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Do you really only do good because of a belief in a higher authority?

        I don’t ‘do’ good. I recognise good is not obedience to the ephemeral laws and customs of my generation. I need a definition I can accept. I find I cannot define ‘good’ without reference to an omniscient self-existent being… whether or not this being is a convenient fiction.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          I don’t ‘do’ good. I recognise good is not obedience to the ephemeral laws and customs of my generation. I need a definition I can accept. I find I cannot define ‘good’ without reference to an omniscient self-existent being… whether or not this being is a convenient fiction.

          What I like when talking to your Chris is your willingness to admit that what you believe is what you believe regardless of the evidence. I find it so refreshing for a theist to say that god may be a fiction but I’m going to believe in him anyway.

          Reply
  11. Marco

    Plus I still don’t see how Japan is doing any worse than any other country.
    First of all, I specifically said that this is not what we are getting at. Just as Japan was famous and successful for quickly developing in the decades after the 2nd World War, mainly by copying from the United States commerce and technology – so it is with religious memes. The fact that Japan did not need to be an original source of technology at the time, (and does not need to be intimate with a source of the morality that makes their ethical standards good), does not mean that an original source is not necessary. If anything, the necessity of a strong, reliable source of morality memes is increased if some societies are sponging off assumed useful memes.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Sorry I didn’t follow the intention of your post. I’ll start again.

      What this is about is that there is a chain of causality between any individual’s ethics via memes that they are taught through their life (particularly early on) and the organised philosophy/religion which codifies and formally advertises (ok preaches) these memes in the context of a self consistent philosophy.

      Yes, there is a chain. But the chain can be broken and reattached to another chain. People change religions and people fall away from religion. In both cases new memes can be assimilated.

      Japanese incorporate elements of various religions in a syncretic fashion[3] rather than identifying with one or another in a traditional sense- thus for centuries, rather than identifying as Shinto or Buddhist, they would perpetuate religious memes to their offspring without necessarily identifying themselves with the religion that meme originated from.

      Yes, OK.

      Thus while Japanese in general continue to have exposure to such memes, and a willingness to perpetuate them perhaps in competition with materialist memes, they will do ok. Take away the source, and promotion of these memes reduces considerably.

      I don’t know if that last sentence is true or not. It reads more like opinion. But again it doesn’t take into account that other memes can and probably do arise to take up the place of old memes.

      Saying that no country requires religion because Japan has done fine for centuries without it is like saying, that just because fregans can live in health indefinitely without money for food – that money is not important for being fed in a generalised sense.

      No, it is not saying that. Morality and ethics are important, but the source doesn’t have to be theistic. Japan is a country with an extremely small population of Christians (about 5%) – the theism that Nathanael would claim is needed – yet Japan is no worse off in any measurable way ethically than Italy, which I think you said is something like over 90% Catholic (Nathanael is of course going to say that Catholics aren’t Christian, but you get my meaning). And so we have the situation where apparently any god will do when creating morality.

      Japan is not a complete exception to religion – it has a long connection with Shintoism, a polytheistic religion.

      I think there’s quite a lot of religion about here. Temples are everywhere, tiny shrines to cats and foxes and penises abound, a building isn’t even begun until a priest comes and says some mumbo-jumbo over the land. But none of that means that the Japanese themselves hold strongly to religion. They attend the ceremonies and perform the rituals, and when asked where the dead go they’ll answer “to heaven”, but none of them think of it the way Nathanael thinks of Christianity.

      Most native Japanese ethical considerations can be connected by a causal chain to the various religions that have had an influence on Japanese culture over the generations.

      And none of that matters to the original point, which you didn’t want to talk about in your reply.

      Their gradual removal from influence in recent decades is starting to leave a vacuum hard to fill with regular education channels.

      As I replied to Nathanael recently, evidence from the future is not admissible. When Japanese society break down because god has left the building, then we’ll know. But until then…

      Look, there are anywhere between 1% and 15% of the world’s population who either don’t believe in god or are ambivalent towards god. Are they drink driving more or less than the theists? Are they cheating on their spouses more or less than the theists? Are they dumping toxic waste in the river more or less than the theists? Are they abusing their children more or less than the theists? I’m going to make up an answer based on my personal experience and say “No”. Most people I know aren’t theists, and most people I know seem to be living the same lives, good and bad, as theists. If there’s any hard evidence to contrary then let me know.

      Now you might say that that’s because they were raised on theist principles. But Marco, that doesn’t matter. The source can be removed and the actions remain the same. People don’t act good because of an ever-watching sky-father, and people can act good without an ever-watching sky-father. They will replace that source with something else, and it may even be something that they can’t define on a national census. Or they found another reason to be good before they were ever (if ever) exposed to theism. I only need one good person who has no belief in theism on this whole planet to prove your position is wrong, and I think my chances of finding one person are pretty good. For if that one person can be good without god, then the rest of us can do it, too.

      Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Now, you know Marco isn’t talking about individuals: when he says ‘Japan’; he is talking about the society as a whole.

        Not singling out Japan, but looking at it from the other direction, consider this. Pretty much all developed societies are on an unsustainable path, due to:

        * birthrates falling below replacement level, and
        * an entitlement mentality where people feel no guilt at looting collective institutions (primarily governments, but also things like insurance companies) to get the best deal for themselves, which has led directly to:
        * an unaffordable and unsustainable level of entitlements and regulation, and
        * an unhealthy and unsustainable level of infantile dependence

        You should re-read “The Railway Children” to refresh your memory of how far and fast Western values have strayed from the ones that facilitate a sustainable society. (And, because everyone should re-read “The Railway Children” at least once a decade).

        Which developed countries have avoided this common pathology? Only those that have a strong motivating ideology elevating certain values above the least-common-denominator avoiding-doing-bad-stuff things that you ennumerate. (I can only think of Israel, parts of red-state America, and possibly Singapore). This ideology need not be, but most commonly seems to be, theistic.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Now, you know Marco isn’t talking about individuals: when he says ‘Japan’; he is talking about the society as a whole.

          And I thought I gave Marco’s opinions a fair going over in the rest of the post.

          Not singling out Japan, but looking at it from the other direction, consider this. Pretty much all developed societies are on an unsustainable path, due to:

          * birthrates falling below replacement level, and
          * an entitlement mentality where people feel no guilt at looting collective institutions (primarily governments, but also things like insurance companies) to get the best deal for themselves, which has led directly to:
          * an unaffordable and unsustainable level of entitlements and regulation, and
          * an unhealthy and unsustainable level of infantile dependence

          Which developed countries have avoided this common pathology? Only those that have a strong motivating ideology elevating certain values above the least-common-denominator avoiding-doing-bad-stuff things that you ennumerate. (I can only think of Israel, parts of red-state America, and possibly Singapore). This ideology need not be, but most commonly seems to be, theistic.

          Eighty-five percent and up of the population is theist. Probably more so when these problems were in their infancy. So what you’re saying is the moral and ethical background that got the world into these supposed difficulties is the same that’s going to get it out of it…

          Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Eighty-five percent and up of the population is theist. Probably more so when these problems were in their infancy. So what you’re saying is the moral and ethical background that got the world into these supposed difficulties is the same that’s going to get it out of it…

        First, I said developed world, not world, so 85% is a ridiculous number.
        Second, your implied argument here is a complete and utter logic fail.
        “Eighty five percent of people eat meat. Probably more so when tofu burger sales started rising. So what you’re saying is the food preferences that started this tofu burger craze are the same that’s going to stop it…”

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Which developed countries have avoided this common pathology? Only those that have a strong motivating ideology elevating certain values above the least-common-denominator avoiding-doing-bad-stuff things that you ennumerate. (I can only think of Israel, parts of red-state America, and possibly Singapore). This ideology need not be, but most commonly seems to be, theistic.

          Sorry I missed the “developed’, but fortunately the 85% remains 85% whether it is the world or just the developed parts of it.

          As for my utter logic fail, meat eaters and tofu, well there’s got to be a connection between them otherwise it is a logical problem. But you yourself provide the connection between theism and the right ideology. Admittedly the statement is weakened with the ‘need not be’, but you very strongly suggest that the countries that are best equipped to deal with the perceived problems ‘most commonly seems to be, theistic’. Now you could also claim there is no connection between theism and theistic ideology. Or I suppose you could claim that the post-start-of-the-decline theists are no true theists.

          At north of 85% of the population of developed countries being theist, theism was by far the prominent -ism before the problem of a decline in the theistic ideology you speak of, theism was by far the prominent -ism during its decline, and theism is still by far the most prominent -ism. Pardon me if I remain skeptical that theistic ideology, the ideology that has been the dominant ideology since forever, is the cure.

          Reply
      3. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Less than 85% Much less than 85%! Japan alone is sufficient to bring it below 85%! Sheesh.

        Anyhow, this problem has arisen with the *collapse of theism* in these countries. Not in the 19th century. Not in the 1950s. Not in the 1960s. In the last few decades when atheistic relativism has been the dominant cultural force in Europe, North America, and East Asia.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          As always, let’s resort to wikipedia and if you’ve got anything to counter it, we’ll go from there. Straight from the introduction to “Atheism”:

          Since conceptions of atheism vary, determining how many atheists exist in the world today is difficult.[23] According to one estimate, atheists make up about 2.3% of the world’s population, while a further 11.9% are nonreligious.[24] According to another, rates of self-reported atheism are among the highest in Western nations, again to varying degrees: United States (4%), Italy (7%), Spain (11%), Great Britain (17%), Germany (20%), and France (32%).[25] According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, people describing themselves as “atheist” were 2% of the total population in the US, and within the religiously unaffiliated (or “no religion”) demographic, atheists made up 12%.[26] According to a 2012 global poll conducted by WIN/GIA, 13% of the participants say they are atheists.[27]

          I’m pretty confident on my claim of 85% (and probably higher in the previous 50 years).

          Reply
      1. Marco

        I kind of think that example could be as much evidence for the need for theism in Japan as it is that Japan had people that risked their lives to save victims of atrocities from their own government.

        The more I look at WWII, the more I see materialism taken over from religious ideals as motivating factors. Evils as being absence of good, rather than ones own version of righteousness battling another. Ideas of superiority of one race and nation over another.
        Functioning democracies with reasonable rule of law and natural justice, have filled the vacuum of good since then, but it looks pretty frail to me.

        Reply
      2. andrewshellshear

        I do feel that some of Japan’s problems are due to its isolationism and emphasis on conformity, neither trait of which are related to your concerns, in my opinion. I also find that in general Japan is a highly moral society. Perhaps I’m being overly influenced by Canon’s ideals. In any case, these suggestions of societal lack of morals really make me sad, as they have little to do with the Japan that I know.

        Reply
      3. Marco

        Hi Andrew, it is really good to see you join in the discussion!

        I have gone back through the comments, and I really don’t think I or Chris implied Japan was not a relatively moral society.

        To look at it another way, just because Japan was a highly technological society before ever having a strong input in scientific research, does not mean that scientific research is not necessary for a highly technological society.

        Just as there is a potential limit in how advanced a country can become just by copying ideas, so too may there be a limit in how moral ideas can be copied or assimilated into a moral society, and it never obviates the need for moral ideas to have a fundamental and continuous source and basis at any rate.

        Reply
      4. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        I’m certainly not suggesting ‘societal lack of morals’, or going out of my way to compare Imperial Japan unfavourably to Nazi Germany! My thesis is that the seeds of moral heroism (which will usually fall on barren soil, alas) must derive from something that is more than “the common agreement of society on how people should behave”: which can at times lead to a safe and harmonious society and at other times become pathological and lead to the Rape of Nanjing.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Though what is the moral heroism you speak of? Is it any more heroic to have done the actions of the Schindler’s of the war than to have lied about your age to fight on the frontline? I don’t think so, but in saying so I don’t mean to lessen their actions.

          The only difference is the capacity one individual had to make change. As capitalists or diplomats these people could save lots of people with small actions. Here the granting of a visa can save a family. But an under-age soldier may die before even firing a shot. They could even die by disease or injury without even seeing the enemy.

          Moral heroism may not even be an issue here. We can never know why a person risks his or her life for others. It could be moral integrity or it could be guilt, anger or just having a rebellious nature.

          I still don’t see how one can get around the percentage of people who are theists, and the cause of the problems. Did you ever find anything to challenge my 85%? To promote theism as the best alternative you need to:
          1. Show that theists are causing the problems at a rate less than the theists in the population.

          2. Show that theists are solving the problems at a rate less than the theists in the population.

          BTW, I’m not saying that atheism is better than theism. I’m saying that when it’s all said and done there’s no evidence that believing in a god makes one any more moral than not believing in a god.

          Reply
      5. Marco

        Though what is the moral heroism you speak of? Is it any more heroic to have done the actions of the Schindler’s of the war than to have lied about your age to fight on the frontline? I don’t think so, but in saying so I don’t mean to lessen their actions.
        You have, once again hijacked the intent of the statement and changed its meaning. Chris was talking about moral heroism, and you just started talking about heroism in a quantative way.

        We can never know why a person risks his or her life for others.
        What are you talking about? We can certainly get a fair idea by asking them. You certainly think a person’s belief in God is a factor for suicide terrorists who proclaim in their video that their actions are dictated by God, when in reality they are usually following a script given to them from the peoples that brainwash them, or threaten to torture them.

        It could be moral integrity or it could be guilt, anger or just having a rebellious nature
        No it couldn’t for *moral* heroism as opposed to your random acts of heroism.

        1. Show that theists are causing the problems at a rate less than the theists in the population.

        2. Show that theists are solving the problems at a rate less than the theists in the population.

        Not really with the generational meme passing we are talking about.
        Theism is the source of the memes that Atheists and other non-theists use to guide their moral thinking. You seem to think that we cannot trace back memes to their source and we should just look at the morality of a theist vs an atheist. Even one of the most basic common moral memes of “do unto others” is strengthened by theism and ignored by materialism and pragmatism. When we talk about *why* we are moral, your answer is that we cannot possibly know. My answer is that we hook on to the sort of selfish memes that are nurtured and propogated by theism and theists.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          You have, once again hijacked the intent of the statement and changed its meaning. Chris was talking about moral heroism, and you just started talking about heroism in a quantative way.

          What I have done is question Chris’s underlying assumption. People fought evil in the war in whatever way they could that was within their power. If one felt a moral obligation to fight against evil, and the only action one felt they could make was to fight, then that is no less than people who directly saved tens of thousands of people. Sorry I didn’t write the word ‘moral’ in front of ‘heroism’.

          We can never know why a person risks his or her life for others.
          What are you talking about? We can certainly get a fair idea by asking them.

          So then its pretty funny how right after that you say that suicide terrorists’ stated reasons for doing something isn’t the real reason, but brainwashing.

          I’m not saying that at one end people act chaotically or at the other people never have a conscious reason for doing something, but that in the moment when someone makes a decision to do something, especially if the decision was a spur of the moment decision, there may be other factors that come into play. Later when the person justifies their action to others they may reconstruct the reason without clearly understanding what happened.

          No it couldn’t for *moral* heroism as opposed to your random acts of heroism.

          Your *moral* heroism seems to be rather vague. Two action may be exactly the same and have the same outcomes, but one action gets to be classified as moral heroism because the person says they did it for noble reasons. Two diplomats sign visas allowing refugees to leave the country – one does so because of a moral imperative, the other because she is being blackmailed. But that secret dies with all concerned. Do the refugees care why the their visas were signed? No. History records two moral heroes and you get to tell me I’m wrong.

          Theism is the source of the memes that Atheists and other non-theists use to guide their moral thinking.

          Meme’s change. That’s their nature.

          Reply
      6. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        What is your justification for doing ‘good’ instead of ‘evil’ when *everyone* around you is saying: ‘everything is permissible, everything is laudable, if it works towards victory for the Emperor’? *That* is the point I am trying to get at.

        Reply
      7. Marco

        Your *moral* heroism seems to be rather vague. Two action may be exactly the same and have the same outcomes, but one action gets to be classified as moral heroism because the person says they did it for noble reasons.
        I’ll drill down with this. Investigating motives behind actions is something that police and lawyers do successfully all the time. As far as I am concerned it is a science. Not an exact science, but nonetheless most actions of this nature are somewhat determined by conscious decisions in your past. Every time we watch a drama, we think about what we would do in that situation. We leave evidence of the motives of what we do, good or bad. Thus, just as we can piece together the motives, opportunity of a criminal, we can piece together the motives of a hero. A criminal tends to have more motives to lie about his motives of the crime, while a hero may have motives to profit from their heroism, altruism by definition has little to no payback for the hero as far as the potential hero is concerned. .

        Thus moral heroism is not motivated by peer pressure, loyalty to a crown or country, monetary or material reward. We can think and see case by case whether it could be considered thus. It has nothing to do with how many people are saved.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          I agree that police officers and lawyers are concerned with people’s motives, but only insofar as it pertains to the case that they are concerned with. But we need an answer that goes beyond “I stole because I was poor” or “I dumped toxic waste to make a profit”. Others who are poorer did not steal, others who stood to make a bigger profit didn’t dump their toxic waste. Why did these criminals do what they knew to be wrong?

          And so we may ask these moral heroes why they signed visas for refugees, and they may answer because of their Christian morality, but this is obviously not the whole story. Many people have a similar morality but did nothing or may have been in the crowd smashing shop windows. So why did these particular Christians stand up and risk their life to oppose what they saw as immoral? We may never know the reason they followed through on their morality when others failed to. We’re they always rebellious? And why? Were they always helping others? Why?

          Reply
      8. Marco

        Meme’s change. That’s their nature.

        Viruses change. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t study where they originate, which ones are beneficial, how they propagate. I think it is quite scientifically fatalist to say that societies with good hygiene get virus based diseases just as often as ones without – so hygiene doesn’t make a difference.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          I’m going to go back a little.

          You seem to think that we cannot trace back memes to their source and we should just look at the morality of a theist vs an atheist.

          We can trace memes back to their source, but my point was that memes change. Sometimes so much that they become divorced from the origin. It’s quite possible to make a system of morality the same as a Christian morality, just with god taken out. To then state that this morality is Christianity without god is just honesty in labeling more than anything else.

          Even one of the most basic common moral memes of “do unto others” is strengthened by theism and ignored by materialism and pragmatism.

          If so, then why do so many theists ignore it? Probably because it is at odds with other portions of their morality, and so gets swept aside. Go to a Christian site and say that you support gays marrying because you’d like them to support straights marrying and see how far you get.

          When we talk about *why* we are moral, your answer is that we cannot possibly know. My answer is that we hook on to the sort of selfish memes that are nurtured and propogated by theism and theists.

          And I agree with you, up to the point that a meme goes beyond the theism which spawned it, if it spawned it at all. One of the troubling things I feel when talking with theists, especially Christians, is they seem to believe that morality began 2000 years ago. Morality changes as cultures change. What was acceptable back then may not be acceptable now, thank goodness. And that goes double for some of the morality mandated by god.

          I think why we are moral will be found in the evolution of us as social animals. Our brain has developed morality because it works to strengthen social cohesion. Sometimes that morality may not be effective, but sometimes camouflage, running fast or having bright feathers to attract mates doesn’t work either. I seriously doubt that we’ll find morality as a separate entity from our own inner selves, but we’ve had that conversation back when this site started.

          Reply
      9. Marco

        I think why we are moral will be found in the evolution of us as social animals. Our brain has developed morality because it works to strengthen social cohesion. Sometimes that morality may not be effective, but sometimes camouflage, running fast or having bright feathers to attract mates doesn’t work either. I seriously doubt that we’ll find morality as a separate entity from our own inner selves, but we’ve had that conversation back when this site started.

        I am still a little confused about what you think the source of morality is. I made a suggestion that you thought it was “hardwired” into our brains through heritable genes, but I remember you rejecting that suggestion. My thesis is that what is hardwired in our brains is our instincts in generating memes that encapsulate moral themes. These moral themes are taught to our children, and basically morality is a *learned* feature from there. We will have as much morality as a chimpanzee in the wild if morality is not taught to us. Just like genes, memes have to go forth and multiply if they are not to degrade and become extinct. The moral theme – in this case God, is what is important for this meme population surge to fill niches in moral thinking. The meme cannot go viral and then be forgotten about after a few weeks.
        The niches in moral thinking are in peoples minds that are not made up about what they would do in a particular situation.

        I am not ruling out the possibility that secular humanism may find a competing moral theme that would do the same memetic job as God, but my suspicion is that it will either end up looking like a religion, or continue to duplicate and propogate memes from continuing theistic religions.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Marco, I’ve little disagreement with your take until…

          The moral theme – in this case God, is what is important for this meme population surge to fill niches in moral thinking.

          I don’t think a god is required at any level. You keep saying there is, and saying that because secular morality came from theistic morality that theistic morality is still important for secular morality. It just isn’t so. Secular morality has outgrown or shrugged off, choose the verb that appeals to you, theistic morality.

          I am not ruling out the possibility that secular humanism may find a competing moral theme that would do the same memetic job as God, but my suspicion is that it will either end up looking like a religion, or continue to duplicate and propogate memes from continuing theistic religions.

          I’d recommend reading some secular moralists and seeing if you think god is still required.

          Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          That we can be moral beings without god. I can understand what Marco is saying about secular morality being based on theistic morality, but disagree with his belief that theistic morality is still important to it. And as to his idea that secular morality will become it’s own religion, well, possibly but that’s for the future.

          This whole discussion reminds me of the debate about Australia becoming a republic. As a nation Australia has the maturity to find it’s own way separate from and independent of the monarchy, but the constitution that we’d adopt is basically the same as the one we had under the monarchy, but with the words governor-general crossed out and president written in.

          Can we be moral without god? There’s no question that we can. Is that morality going to much different from a theistic-based one? Probably not. But with the exception that we don’t look to the all-seeing sky father for justification for our morality.

          Reply
      10. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Nooo!

        “That we can be moral beings without God” is a definition of secular morality. That’s all it is. How do you suppose we do that? What do you tell Mr Ahmadinejad? What is your ‘do unto others’ based on? Suppose Mr Ahmadinejad tell you, ‘well, if I were a poof I’d kill myself, so hanging the miserable bastard *is* “do unto others”‘. Where do you stand?

        This whole discussion reminds me of the debate about Australia becoming a republic. As a nation Australia has the maturity to find it’s own way separate from and independent of the monarchy, but the constitution that we’d adopt is basically the same as the one we had under the monarchy, but with the words governor-general crossed out and president written in.

        That is exactly the right analogy for me, since I am a diehard monarchist who considers republicanism in the Australian context not a sign of maturity but of witless adolescent rebellion. You cannot just cross out a name that has moral legitimacy and insert a name that does not and expect things to be ‘business as usual’. I *swore allegiance* to the Queen and her successors. If you insecure rebellious nitwits want to ditch the Monarchy, go ahead, but I will never accord the resulting government any measure of legitimacy. You’ll have to throw me in gaol for refusing to obey the dictates of your tin-pot banana republic.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “That we can be moral beings without God” is a definition of secular morality. That’s all it is.

          It becomes the truth if there’s one person who doesn’t believe in god who is also moral (well, your definition of moral since I’m convincing you). If that one person can do it, then others can too. Do you think in the 3% of the world’s atheists there’s one person who can match your standard for morality?

          How do you suppose we do that? What do you tell Mr Ahmadinejad? What is your ‘do unto others’ based on? Suppose Mr Ahmadinejad tell you, ‘well, if I were a poof I’d kill myself, so hanging the miserable bastard *is* “do unto others”‘. Where do you stand?

          The implication is that Mr. Ahmadinejad will listen to a theist more than a non-theist. I doubt a resident of Salt Lake City is going to have any more luck convincing him that hanging poofs is not in god’s plan. There’s no quid pro quo between different strands of theism.

          And as a point of order in the example, Mr. Ahmadinejad really needs to want to be hung. “if I were” imagined scenarios don’t fall under ‘do unto others’. Otherwise I’d say “If I were a billionaire I’d give you heaps of money, so how about you give me some now”.

          This whole discussion reminds me of the debate about Australia becoming a republic.

          It’s nice to have some agreement.

          That is exactly the right analogy for me, since I am a diehard monarchist who considers republicanism in the Australian context not a sign of maturity but of witless adolescent rebellion. You cannot just cross out a name that has moral legitimacy and insert a name that does not and expect things to be ‘business as usual’.

          Here’s where we part ways for the analogy. Any moral legitimacy that the monarchy or god has , has been given to them by us.

          Reply
      11. Marco

        That we can be moral beings without god.
        The secular humanist, like the related atheist, defines itself by what it is *not*. It does not specify how one could work out moral codes from first principles, just that one need not invoke God but needs to invoke science. Ok theist, thanks for your memes now rack off.

        I’ve had a think about examples to demonstrate my ideas on societies with theism vs without. Firstly, my thesis is that with well connected (via trade in both goods, people and ideas) countries with both democracy and the rule of law, theism will make virtually no difference in the medium term (say a couple of generations). However for isolated countries – like North Korea, Iran, Maoist china, Stalinist Russia, etc. there could be a way to weed out the other determinants like how isolated they are, and not comparing them to countries that are not isolated, I think there is a case to be made that theism helps rather than hinders, for the country’s citizens themselves.

        Reply
        1. andrewshellshear

          It disagree with your assertions about how a secular humanist defines itself. It thinks the golden rule is very old, perhaps predating recorded history, which makes the assertion that the golden rule belongs to theism hard to prove. It is also happy to discuss these matters in more detail in person but really hates arguing online as everyone seems bitter and sarcastic and adversarial much of the time, regardless of viewpoint, and it does not find that conducive to its own learning or teaching.

          Reply
        2. winstoninabox Post author

          Ok theist, thanks for your memes now rack off.

          Again, there’s this underlying belief that theism hold the copyright on morality. It’s just not true. Whether we stand on the shoulder of moral giants who came before, or create shoulder of our own, nobody ‘owns’ these memes.

          Reply
      12. andrewshellshear

        Sorry, my previous post in which I was saying “it” was meant to have angle-brackets gollum angle-brackets around the whole thing (but it’s not being shown because wordpress.)
        So just imagine it as if gollum were saying it.

        Reply
      13. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        You just have to imagine us saying these things, in our own sweet lovable voices, punctuated with our own earnest grins and traditional hand gestures. If you know people, it is easy to imagine them as they are rather than cartoon internet trolls! Good to see you out here in cyberdiscussionland, Androoo : )

        Reply
      14. Marco

        I have read (again) the Wikipedia entry on secular humanism, and it gives me a feeling of chasing my own tail when trying to summarise, or define it in a way we can all agree even about what it is. The only clear point is a lack of a need of God for morality, and vague if any clear instructions about what morality is trying to achieve for the humanist.

        Reply
      15. Marco

        Yes. I can feel the Deja Vu washing all over me.

        I will jump back a few comments.
        Go to a Christian site and say that you support gays marrying because you’d like them to support straights marrying and see how far you get.

        Looking from the “inside” of fairly conservative branch of the Uniting Church, which as a whole, is quite liberal and progressive, is quite an interesting case in this regards. There was quite an uproar, especially in NQ about a new policy to allow openly gay members to be ordained.
        The uproar was partly due to the imagined typical being a promiscuous gay male, when the truth was, the cases in play were all monogamous lesbians that were wishing to be ordained, and had support from their parishes at that. When it comes to the crunch, and the realisation that the new age gayness appears to frown on promiscuity and value lifetime monogamous commitments, religious groups will gradually become witnesses for the defence of gay marriage rather than for their continuing ban. This is happening so gradually, and from the more liberal church movements first, that it is not noticeable to the outsider, and may take several decades. The do unto others kind of empathy we are talking about has real resonance in religious groups, and gay people may also want to be part of church groups and visa versa. It is plausible that institutions like the military will eventually shun homosexuality more than churches do.

        Reply
      16. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        The implication is that Mr. Ahmadinejad will listen to a theist more than a non-theist.

        No, that’s not the point at all! The point is not whether or not Mr Ahmadinejad listens. The point – still, again – is simply: how are *you*, the secular humanist, justified in telling *anybody* off because their morality is different from yours?

        Reply
      17. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Any moral legitimacy that the monarchy or god has , has been given to them by us

        Okay, I’ll grant you that. So how do you propose to get people to grant moral legitimacy to not-God or not-Monarchy? You *cannot* just arbitrarily slot something else in there and expect people to treat it in the same way.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Okay, I’ll grant you that. So how do you propose to get people to grant moral legitimacy to not-God or not-Monarchy? You *cannot* just arbitrarily slot something else in there and expect people to treat it in the same way.

          You sell them a better product. Or as Marco would like to say, meme.

          Reply
      18. Marco

        I would be happy if secular humanists decided that morals that were common across all cultures (or say most successful cultures) could be considered *human* values. So moral imperatives such as thou shalt not kill, steal etc. and the golden rule should be common across all of humanity and we could go and tell mr Ahmedinejad that the basis for us to tell him to stop is that these human values are *absolute* as far as humanity is concerned, and is verified by the agreement between noted moral philosophers even though they were separated in time and space.

        We could then feel justified because these human values have been violated.

        Reply
      19. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        I would be happy if secular humanists decided that morals that were common across all cultures (or say most successful cultures) could be considered *human* values.

        Yes, that would be a good preamble to the various humanist manifestoes, with which I would have no quarrel whatsoever:.

        “We believe there is a morality applicable to all human beings which has an objective reality in the same manner as the human creation of mathematics has an objective reality, and that this morality is binding on all human beings. Our understanding of this morality is based on analysis of the common features of morality found in all human cultures, as illuminated by the insights of those great sages and saintly persons who may rightly be known as the “Tiger Woodses of Compassion”.”

        Reply
      20. Marco

        Thanks Chris, that is exactly what I was trying to say. I would like to hear from a humanist about why they think it isn’t part of the manifest.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          After reading ‘Appeal to Emotions’ I see the same extrapolation to the extreme as your nutter hanging poofs counter to ‘do unto others’. Being able to empathize with others and ‘do unto others’ are guidelines to behaviour that will cover almost every situation without recourse to morality. Even more importantly, without recourse to a god either. You are correct to say that these must be coupled with reason, but morality isn’t required.

          Mr. Miyagi who loses his profession of whaling is not a moral problem. Reason tells us his profession is dying, just as many other professions have over the course of human history. But empathy makes us feel for the out of work whalers, church inquisitors and chimney sweeps of the world and ‘do unto others’ tells us that we should help them to reskill and find new employment, just as we hope he would for us if the situation were reversed.

          Reply
      21. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        What do you mean by ‘without recourse to morality’? Morality just means a system of guidelines for right conduct. Your ‘do unto others’, without further elaboration, is only a very crude moral system. It’s like you are saying, ‘we don’t need chemistry, we have Diet Coke and Mentos’.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          I’m not going to quibble about whether 3 words can hold the weight of being a moral system, so for the sake of argument let’s call it one.

          It’s a moral system that coupled with reason and empathy will sail you safely through the troubled seas of life in all but the edge cases which no one but theists bring up as problems without showing that their system would solve it anyway.

          This is just like reading Lennox’s book. he picks three cases where science hasn’t found answers and tries to squeeze god in through the crack. Picking destitute whalers and crazy gay-hating lynchers and saying ‘What would you do without god to guide you?!?!” does nothing to convince anyone currently living a moral life without god to reassess their value system.

          Reply
      22. Marco

        This is just like reading Lennox’s book. he picks three cases where science hasn’t found answers and tries to squeeze god in through the crack. Picking destitute whalers and crazy gay-hating lynchers and saying ‘What would you do without god to guide you?!?!” does nothing to convince anyone currently living a moral life without god to reassess their value system.

        Again – it is not about what you would do nor whether God is guiding you or not. It is not about crazy cases either – it is about any non-trivial case. What makes you justified in saying anyone elses ethics or morals are wrong. I don’t know about you, but I had to learn about empathy, and it still is something that appears to be a temptation to suppress it for personal gain, group gain, or just because I can. If I don’t think about how this affects the other person, just think how much money I could make. The ideal for any individual is to be able to suppress these instincts in a situation where everybody else cannot. To put it in a way that any individual can be moral without God does not instil any confidence in me that they will be moral even if they know 100% that noone will catch them out. I think individuals should not be immoral even if they know they can get away with it. That is where I sense a true believer. Where there is no reward for being moral, no punishment for being immoral, yet they do it anyway.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          You and Chris are missing the point of morality with the insistence on justification. You can’t logic someone into morality. That is why empathy is so important. We are social beings, our brains have evolved in a social structure. We make connections with others, and our learned behaviours, our morality, is derived in that setting. Fish and birds live in social setting too, but we’re not here discussing the morality of them; trying to justify their actions.

          It’s bizarre that you’ve gotten to some age and then started saying that you need justification. And the really bizarre point is that you’re searching for a single justification, like there’s one and only one reason why you’d be moral.

          There’s no one reason you can give that will convince me to accept a morality based on a god. None. Christianity threatens me with eternal damnation, and even that isn’t enough to swallow its morality. Heck, it’s a reason NOT to swallow its morality. If you can’t come up with justification for moral actions outside of a decree from a god on what you should be doing, then you should try experiencing society from another angle.

          Reply
      23. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        I’m not going to quibble about whether 3 words can hold the weight of being a moral system, so for the sake of argument let’s call it one. It’s a moral system that coupled with reason and empathy will sail you safely through the troubled seas of life in all but the edge cases which no one but theists bring up as problems without showing that their system would solve it anyway.

        Yes, when coupled with reason. I would be *overjoyed* if atheist thinkers took this as an unproved axiom and extended it with reason. Ecstatic. But we live in a world that appears to be incapable of using reason to extend its initial knee-jerk sentimental reactions and ends up behaving like a horde of spin-driven marionettes. I have yet to see a populariser of atheism who recognises this problem and is wading in to combat it. I would *love* to see that. It is far more important to me that people believe that moral questions are real questions with real answers, just like mathematical questions, than that people believe in God.

        I’ve got a lot of posts out there -both as myself, and as my mollusc alter ego- which are me wrestling with real problems, where my system tells me one answer and the consensus morality tells me something different. They are not academic problems I dug up to be contrarian. They bug me.

        Reply
      24. Marco

        If you can’t come up with justification for moral actions outside of a decree from a god on what you should be doing, then you should try experiencing society from another angle.

        You’re confusing me. Are you talking about yourself here? I was brought up a humanist, but I think there is a need for absolute morality, because we can’t just rely on people’s own conscience – there are too many material temptations. I have turned to a theistic way of thinking, without believing in God, because of the philosophical necessity of absolute morality.

        Reply
  12. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    Mr. Miyagi who loses his profession of whaling is not a moral problem.

    I don’t see how it can’t be. There will always be people who cannot or will not reskill and will commit suicide out of despair when their way of life disappears. You let their occupations die because they are not economic and people will call you a heartless economic rationalist and dance on your grave, no matter how much your policies improve overall economic opportunities for your citizens.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s