Re: [OriginsTalk] Re: Atheist morality
- Al: "Morality, even if only an incipient morality, seems to exist
pretty routinely among apes."
Jim: When I speak of morality, I have in mind universally normative
moral principles. While apes may exhibit behaviors that we regard as moral,
the likelihood that they understand that they are behaving in accordance
with universal moral principles is nil.
Al: Whether or not apes have any insight into their moral behaviors
(such as they are) is an open question and, unless you are a primatologist,
I doubt if you're in a position to evaluate related liklihoods.
Me: "I was arguing that morality is meaningful only with respect to
meaningful beings, and that the wholly materialistic conception of human
beings offered by Darwinism makes the lives of human beings no more
meaningful than the lives of, say, cockroaches (in the Darwinian scheme of
things, both humans and cockroaches are nothing more than unintended,
meaningless, and purposeless products of the blind evolution of matter)."
Al: "Morality meaningful only to meaningful beings?"
Jim: That's not what I said. I said that morality is meaningful only
WITH RESPECT TO meaningful beings.
Al: Ok, is this right?- You are saying that morality can be palpably and
intrinsically real only to those beings that believe they have a special
in the universe, beyond what purely material considerations alone would
suggest. If I haven't got it, elaborate further.
Jim: Morality establishes right and wrong
behaviors (that is, the behaviors we ought, or we ought not, to do), but
it's nonsensical to think that the behaviors of beings living a meaningless
existence can be either right or wrong.
Al: To be clear: by "meaningless" in this context, you refer to beings
in a universe in which he is not special - over and above what materialism
First, I disagree that there's any evidence that the universe is meaningful
with respect to human beings in the way you're suggesting; your assertion
that it is appears to be isolated and bare, without support, without
For example, your belief that the universe is meaningful with respect to
human beings can be explained (an hypothesis) by the idea that human
beings naturally tend to explain the world in terms of beings (gods, for
that they have a relationship with, interact with. There's at least some
The point is that your assertion that a genuinely meaningful universe exists
with respect to humans has no more intellectual standing or status than my
And upon this uncertain base, you attach the arbitrary req't that your
of meaning is the *only* path via which human beings can genuinely believe
right and wrong.
So, I see your statement: "..that morality is meaningful only WITH RESPECT
TO meaningful beings" as one bare assertion piled atop another bare
Second, the incipient moral behaviors in our evolutionary forbears may well
have developed and differentiated into what we now recognize as normative
moral principles (in our particular culture that is, because there's a lot
the world over as to what's right and what's wrong).
Jim: If a being is living a meaningless existence, what could be wrong about
Al: "Meaningless" in the sense that that being doesn't regard itself as
having a special
place in the universe. Beyond that, such a being would simply have to
Al: "...atheists and materialists of all strips routinely report
that morality is
important to them."
Jim: I don't doubt that they do, but atheism and materialism provide no
basis for morality.
Al: Apparently no basis that you would personally approve of in a
sense. Practically speaking, of course, atheists/materialists routinely
in a moral fashion and that is really the bottom line.
We're human beings, we have big brains, we rationalize everything - to the
point of actually requiring that manifestly good, social behavior in a
sense can only be *really* valid if there's a detailed theoretical
Oh, we are the precious ones, Jimmy.
Jim: Morality is important to atheists and materialists (who
are essentially the same people) because they don't actually live their
lives in accordance with the moral logic of a materialistic conception of
reality, which entails that no living thing has the kind of inherent value
that can give meaning to morality.
Al: So, now you're saying that materialists/atheists live morality in the
same way you do, are by their moral behavior undistinguishable from
that of Jim Goff. And you assert that they're behaving properly but for
the wrong reasons. It's important to them, according to you, *because*
of the mismatch between beliefs and behavior. But it's important to you
because of the harmony between beliefs and behavior.
I suggest that a more logical, less convoluted way of accounting for this
phenomenon you describe is simply that your premise that only a belief
in the exclusive inherent value of human beings can result in the embrace of
genuine moral behavior - is wrong.
Jim: Serial rapist and murderer Ted Bundy
captured the moral implications of a materialistic worldview quite well in
this taped statement to one of his surviving victims....
Al: I understand that you're using Bundy's statement to illustrate the moral
implications of materialism (via reductio ad absurdum). But you are also
inappropriately indulging in the besmirching materialism via
association with a whacko like Bundy. I'm pretty sure you could have found
a better example if you weren't so willing to bring emotion into the
in service of your argument.
That said, this is a psychopath's rationalization of his murderous behavior.
contributes no more to the discussion than that of a paranoid schizophrenic
urged by the "voice of God" to exterminate sinners or than that of the
jihadist compelled to slaughter the infidel.
Bundy's analysis (and your inclusion thereof) overlooks the scientifically
coherent view that (most) human beings carry within them a genuine
tendency toward moral behavior, an apparently good idea among social
Tell me, Jim, do you absolutely rule out that human morality has its entire
origins in matter? Do you assert that that's impossible?
Jim> Bundy wanted to know why it would be wrong to kill a human, but not
a hog. Atheism can give no principled answer to his question.
Al> One doesn't need a "principled" (theoretical) answer to behave in a
socially acceptable manner. Why does morality need this so-called
explanation? Isn't it good enough to know that we're wired that way? That
maybe someday when science has deeper insight into how the brain works,
we may be in a better position to answer such questions?
Jim: The materialistic worldview inherent in atheism provides no reason
for thinking that the life of a human being is morally significant, but the
of a hog isn't.
Al: Maybe, maybe not. People seem to think that they are somehow more
valuable than other animals without invoking religious justification. What's
sure is that most people behave pretty morally most of the time. It doesn't
appear that a developed theory about morality is req'd for people to behave
morally. There is no empirical evidence that a designer is req'd for the
existence of morality.
Wouldn't the designer be just as responsible for human behaviors that are
immoral such as murder, etc. Isn't the designer responsible for immoral
behavior as well as moral behavior?
Jim: (Please note: I'm not arguing that atheists are immoral, but I
am arguing that their worldview gives them no reasons for living moral
lives. They find those reasons in a moral order to which their worldview
Al: I understand. But you also underscore the likely unnecessariness of a
detailed theoretical underpinning for morality to practically obtain. It
it's part-and-parcel of us, perhaps an ancesteral heritage.
Al: "Many people that are persuaded that evolution is a fact and
that Darwinism is a viable theoretical construct have personal religion and
don't have a personal interest in 'wedging' their religious views into the
Jim: I, too, have no interest in wedging my religious views into science.
Al: Excuse my cynicism, but I'm guessing there's a quibble about whether or
not evolutionary biology is "real science".
Jim: The same is true of every ID proponent I've read (I've read some
two dozen of their books and a large number of their essays). Like ID
proponents, I think that science should not be shackled by an a priori
commitment to materialism,
Al: Science *is* shackled to materialism, forced to work within its
because human beings themselves are so shackled. Further than that, we don't
even know *if* there's other dimensions to reality.
How to you seriously expect that science is going to, in part, anyway,
the world with considerations of design when there's absolutely no evidence
of the existence of a designer (aside from the bare existence of the very
and beings whose nature and existence we seek to explain).
Jim: and I think that if science is properly construed, it is consonant
with (but not the same as) a theistic worldview, but I don't think that
science should be the handmaiden of religion.
Al: What does "properly construed" consist of?
Jim: If science is unconstrained by any a priori metaphysical commitments
(as ID theorists argue it should be), it is free to explore all three
modes - chance, necessity, and design - in its search for explanations of
Al: If design is indeed one of the potential and actual explanatory modes, I
haven't seen the slightest indication that human beings have any idea how to
about exploiting it toward gaining knowledge. What I have seen, instead,
been dishonest attempts to debunk perfectly legitimate science because of
that science's apparent offense to religious sensibilities.
To my lights, there are no "a priori metaphysical commitments" in science,
evolutionary biology. I think this assertion, is, at best, a confusion with
limitations, at worse (and sadly, most likely) a part of a cynical program
science and education such that religion - Christian views - eventually
C'mon Jim, we both know that ID is a social and political movement that
views that are more congenial to religious views, especially Christian
religious views. The
Wedge strategy isn't motivated by the potential discovery of knowledge; it
does not share
science's very reason for existence: the discovery of knowledge.
ID is the most recent iteration of scientific creationism.
Jim: That freedom of inquiry is available to science if
science is consonant with a theistic worldview (theism does not entail that
every natural phenomena must be attributed to design), but if science is
committed to materialism (as evolutionary biology currently is), it can
pursue only chance and necessity as possible explanations for natural
phenomena (design having potentially theistic implications that a
commitment to materialism cannot abide).
Al: As I've been saying, science is necessarily confined by the same
human beings, namely a sort of practical, working materialism vis-a-vis
knowledge about the world. This means that if there's no evidence of a
there can hardly be discussions in science about design. If there's no
for a designer, a reasonable hypothesis is that it's an imaginary construct
reasonable and practical for science to dismiss it until there is such
what is unfair or unacceptable about that?
Jim: If science were an organism with
three eyes, and if science operated in harmony with a theistic worldview,
it would be able to look for explanations for natural phenomena with all
three eyes wide open. But when science is constrained by an a priori
commitment to materialism, it can look for explanations with only two eyes
open, the third having been poked out by the commitment to materialism. If
science is committed to materialism (as evolutionary biology presently is),
it can promise to deliver "scientific" explanations, but it can't promise
to deliver the most truthful explanations. To be on the side of truth,
science must have all three explanatory modes in its explanatory toolkit.
Al: So far it appears that we only have 2 eyes to begin with.
Al: "Science in general and Darwinian evolution in particular
implies no such thing (that we're puropseless bags of chemicals) - such
considerations are irrelevant to science, outside its purview."
Jim: I agree that science is incompetent to decide moral questions, but
Darwinian evolution quite obviously implies that human beings are nothing
more than purposeless bags of chemicals. What else could products of the
blind evolution of matter be?
Al: Evolutionary biology has only attempted to explain the diversity of
implications are left to the consumer of this knowledge; eb isn't in the
business of specifying existential implications of what it discovers. *You*
such implications. And then you have the nerve to complain about them. And
then blame the messenger of the original of the bare, implication-free
Al: "...can you give some objective evidence that people *are* more
than meaningless bags of chemicals, or even that they are more 'meaningful'
than any other animal?"
Jim: I doubt that I could deliver any evidence that you'd regard as
persuasive, but it would be illogical to conclude that my failure to do so
entails that humans must be meaningless bags of chemicals after all.
Al: I agree, I don't draw that conclusion. By a similar token, I would
you not to have already concluded that human beings aren't meaningless
bags of chemicals. Do you agree? Do you, in the spirit of blind, agenda-free
inquiry that you imply motivates you agree to the *possibility* that the
is in fact without a designer and that we are in fact meaningless bags of
Me: "If we live in the wholly material universe offered by atheism,
and if we are the wholly material beings that Darwinism makes of us, then
how do you account for nonmaterial things like love, justice, morality and
reason? Are they properties of matter? Properties of energy? Of space? Of
Al: "Epiphenomena of brains (that, of course, are themselves
Jim: To say that (for example) our thoughts are "epiphenomena of brains"
is to say that our thoughts are derivative from our material brains, which
entails that our thoughts are mere natural events occurring in our brains.
If that's the case, then our thoughts must be determined by natural causes,
all of which are irrational (i.e., lacking reason and understanding). How,
then, could our thoughts be rational?
Al: I dunno. It would be illogical to conclude that my failure to answer
specific question about rational thought entails that brain function must
involve design forces afterall.
Al: What it says is that I *believe* our brains are purely material
that think and do things brains typically do. And, as usual, there's no
that other than material forces are at work, regardless science's present
to understand much about how the brain does what it does or, for tht matter,
full appreciation of all it's capable of, muchless how it accomplishes those
I say I believe that the above qualities are epiphenomena of brains because
is neuroscience's present view and, as far as I'm concerned, science, all
represents the very best human beings can do toward understanding the
I suppose neuroscience is then on the chopping block for you ID guys
evolutionary biology, eh?
Jim: All natural (or material) causes fall into the categories of chance
and necessity (or natural law). If our thoughts are natural events
determined by chance, why do we reliably say "4" when asked for the sum of
2 + 2? And if our thoughts are natural events determined by necessity (or
natural law), why do our thoughts so often differ when we're exposed to the
same stimulus (such as the question "Should abortion be legal?"). It seems
clear to me that if our thoughts are rational, they cannot be produced by
irrational natural (or material) causes. It follows that they must be
produced by something that transcends matter.
Al: What you're telling me is that you can't imagine how the human brain
does what it does without recourse to something that transcends matter.
All that tells me is the universe isn't limited by Jim Goff's imagination.
Al: "These (a soul, God, transcendent aspect of our being) are not
consensus reality, so you can't expect science (or evolutionary biology) to
include them in its purview."
Jim: I don't. Evolutionary biology speaks to such things only by
implication. The same is true of ID theory.
Al: Individuals draw implications, eb does not speak to such things, via
implication or otherwise..any more than cosmologists do when they're trying
to fathom the extent of the universe or neuro-scientists do when they're
exercising their brains to understand brains.
Btw, what theory does ID have? What does ID do aside from trying to debunk
evolution via popular media and claiming that it can somehow detect design?
Al: "Why do you rule out that God simply established physical laws,
stepped back and let it roll and has nothing much to do with us now."
Jim: That's a possibility, but I don't see it as a probability. Why
would a Creator want to have nothing to do with his creation?
Al: Why not? Do you presume to have insight into the motivations of God? Who
cares if you can imagine such motivation or not - that's altogether
God also limited by your imagination?
Al: "I know, I know; IDers are referring to Darwinism only, not
science in general. I don't accept that. Evolutionary biology is science,
so objections to EB also apply to science at large."
Jim: To say that objections to evolutionary biology also "apply to
science at large" is to commit the fallacy of composition (which
illogically holds that what's true for the part must also be true for the
Al: Be that logical fallacy as it may, it's irrelevant because evolutionary
is in empirical fact no different than the rest of science in that it
measures, it generates theories that fit the observations and measurements -
just like science at large.
The real reason, we both know, that you *have* to insist that eb is a
and that you otherwise manifest respect for science at large is because (1)
views render you unable to abide the legitimate scientific findings of eb
and (2) it's
easier to discredit science one part at a time than it is to risk alienating
of science - though most individual scientists, regardless of discipline,
think ID is pure
cynical nonsense. And if in some fantastic future, Iders are successful in
way with evolutionary biology, we both know that other disciplines will
the whole of science is diluted and reduced to a puddle intellectual
Al: "...it seems that IDers aim to twist science such that it's
forced to award its imprimatur to their particular flavor of Christianity."
Jim: This will come as news to ID proponents who are not Christians. In
fact, it would come as news to all ID proponents.
Al: Creationism dressed up in new clothes.
Jim: "The soldier who throws his body on a grenade to save the lives
of his buddies sacrifices both his happiness and his life, but his
sacrificial act of bravery is of the highest morality. It's an act that is
(in Clare's words) 'objectively GOOD,' but it's certainly not good for the
soldier's own comfort, pleasure and happiness."
Al: Another hypothesis, if you'll allow, is that this phenomenon has less
to do with morality than that it's behavior that naturally emerges from the
relationship of vital dependence of every man on every other in the group
as it faces common dangers that the group working a whole has to survive
> >>The Wall Street Journal today has an article by >Robert Lee Hotz onI have no problem if you want to believe that. It's a religious
>the discovery of "mirror" cells in the motor cortex >that reflect the
>actions and intentions of others as if they were our >own. They cause us
>to identify with the characters in a novel, or suffer >when we watch
>others suffer on the evening news. If we are good, it is >because we see
>ourselves as part of the human race and the happiness of >others makes
>___Which is a perfect testimony to how God wired us to need him, and
>that he made us in his image!
belief. It's your privilege.
>However, just like the chimps blowing the bonobo argument back to hell,atheists don't need an argument against God any more than you need an
>this gives them a fantastic problem to explain away all the things that
>atheists always used as the argument against God.
argument against Poseidon
>____________________________you're going to have to define good and bad for me. I'm pretty sure
>And the best Susan could do for examples of "good" atheists were just
>famous names that weren't serial killers. Whoopedoo.
the context of that list was there were no admirable or good
atheists. Obviously that was silly.
>History tells us Christianity formed the culture where these guys couldhahahahaha! A lot of them would have been hanged or burned at the
>perform their tasks without a general fear of getting enslaved,
>infanticided, gladiatored, fed to lions, or like the founding patron
>saint of the ancient pagan myth of spontaneous abiogenesis pointed out,
>getting eaten by your enemies.
stake if they had been born a couple hundred years earlier.
>Now the Bill Gates foundation is a good example of utilitarian morality.
>Gobs of free software (at a cost of three cents per CD or almost-free
>server time for downloads), a few million in hardware, to get the next
>generation of Indians on Microsoft.
Global Development Program
University of Kwa Zulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 2006. Photo by S. Farmer.
Nearly 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. For one person
in eight, hunger is a constant, potentially deadly, companion. The
vast majority of the poor also lack access to the most basic
financial services and only a tiny minority have access to the
The foundation's Global Development Program is working with motivated
partners to create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of
poverty and hunger. Our strategy is focused. Because most of the
world's poorest people rely directly on agriculture, we support
efforts to help small farmers improve crop production and market
access. Because loans, insurance, and savings can help people weather
setbacks and build assets, we facilitate access to financial services
for the poor. And because information can change lives, we support
free public access to computers connected to the Internet.
We also support a range of learning opportunities, including
potential new areas of long-term giving, and we respond to
emergencies through our Special Initiatives grantmaking.
Global Health Program
Toward a Healthier World
Millions of people-most of them children-die each year in developing
countries from diseases that are preventable and treatable. Moreover,
tragically little research is done to prevent or cure some of the
world's biggest killers, such as malaria and tuberculosis.
The foundation is guided by the belief that all lives, no matter
where they are lived, have equal value. The mission of our Global
Health Program is to encourage the development of lifesaving medical
advances and to help ensure they reach the people who are
disproportionately affected. We focus our funding in two main areas:
* Access to existing vaccines, drugs, and other tools to fight
diseases common in developing countries
* Research to develop health solutions that are effective,
affordable, and practical
View printable version
>He gave $2 million in 1901 to start the Carnegie Institute of
>Andrew Carnegie repackaging Christian love in a smiley face and selling it.
Technology (CIT) at Pittsburgh, and the same amount in 1902 to found
the Carnegie Institution at Washington, D.C. He later contributed
more to these and other schools. CIT is now part of Carnegie Mellon
He served on the Board of Cornell University.
In Scotland, he gave $2 million in 1901 to establish a trust for
providing funds for assisting education at the Scottish universities,
a benefaction which resulted in his being elected Lord Rector of
University of St. Andrews. He was a large benefactor of the Tuskegee
Institute under Booker Washington for African American education. He
also established large pension funds in 1901 for his former employees
at Homestead and, in 1905, for American college professors. The later
fund has evolved into TIAA-CREF. One critical term was that
church-related schools had to sever their connections to get his
money. He also funded the construction of 7,000 church organs.
Also, long before he sold out, in 1879, he erected commodious
swimming-baths for the use of the people of his hometown of
Dunfermline, Scotland. In the following year, Carnegie gave $40,000
for the establishment of a free library in the same city. In 1884, he
gave $50,000 to Bellevue Hospital Medical College to found a
histological laboratory, now called the Carnegie Laboratory.
He owned Carnegie Hall in New York City.
He founded the Carnegie Hero Fund commissions in America (1904) and
in the United Kingdom (1908) for the recognition of deeds of heroism,
contributed $1,500,000 in 1903 for the erection of the Peace Palace
at The Hague, and donated $150,000 for a Pan-American Palace in
Washington as a home for the International Bureau of American
Carnegie was honored for his philanthropy and support of the arts by
initiation as an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity
on October 14, 1917 at the New England Conservatory of Music in
Boston, Massachusetts. The fraternity's mission reflects Carnegie's
values by making the world a better place by developing young men to
share their talents to create harmony in the world.
By the standards of 19th century tycoons, Carnegie was not a
particularly ruthless man, but the contrast between his life and the
lives of many of his own workers and of the poor, in general, was
stark. "Maybe with the giving away of his money," commented
biographer Joseph Wall, "he would justify what he had done to get
that money." 
By the time he died, Carnegie had given away $350,695,653
(approximately $4.3 billion, adjusted to 2005 figures). At his death,
the last $30,000,000 was likewise given away to foundations,
charities, and to pensioners.
>Thomas Edison stiffing a man twenty times smarter than himself and thenOh, is this the conflict with Westinghouse and Tesla? That cancels
>trying to destroy his work too boot, and stunting science progress as a
out his thousands of inventions?
>Einstein, whose "atheism" is in question.No it's not.
>And John Dewey, for God's sake, the great destroyer of US education,yeah, that's your view. We're supposed to be teaching bronze age
>subordinating academic discipline to the cause of socialist and atheist
science in schools.
>And the fact that tyrannizes are so good at deifying their leaders istyrannizers? So have you come up with a theocracy that wasn't a
oppressive totalitarian state? Have you come up with the name of a
free and open society that didn't have a secular humanist government?
I've been asking for this for weeks.
COGAN BOOKS & MORE
THE EVOLVING ARTIST
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