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Re: Religious Immorality

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  • evolvender
    So now this gets interesting. I don t see any direct contradiction in what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking about slightly
    Message 1 of 27 , Apr 1, 2008
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      So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct contradiction in
      what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
      about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
      reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
      objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
      scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
      objective absolute morality.

      I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
      understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
      in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
      with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
      capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
      information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
      correct information.

      Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
      Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
      conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
      book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
      governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
      increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
      governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
      thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
      charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
      business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
      ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
      I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
      leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
      If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
      rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the point.

      Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
      towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
      debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
      of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
      must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
      liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
      social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
      religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
      philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
      the threat of infinite suffering.

      Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
      religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
      involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
      that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
      science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
      on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
      foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
      From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
      moral and what isn't.

      I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.

      _Ajita Kamal



      --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
      Gagliardi" <alessandro@...> wrote:
      >
      > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
      oppression, for
      > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
      somehow
      > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
      Let us
      > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that scientific
      > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
      not the
      > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
      tend to
      > give more to charities than do secular liberals. (Unfortunately, I
      have no
      > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.) The
      claim of
      > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
      absurd. And
      > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
      the most
      > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
      name a few
      > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd claim
      (as so
      > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
      > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
      "morality" is
      > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
      > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
      high
      > ground on the matter.
      >
      > -Alessandro
      >
      > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
      >
      > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
      For me
      > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual honesty.
      > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
      it feels
      > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
      To embrace
      > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have to be
      > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
      You have
      > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and face the
      > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the face
      and work
      > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
      or a reward
      > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
      I feel
      > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
      and hope to
      > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
      > >
      > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
      out of
      > > childhood.
      > >
      > > -James
      > >
      > > ------------------------------
      > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
      > > From: evolvender@...
      > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
      > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
      > >
      > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
      > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel it is
      > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has undoubtedly come
      > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive when all
      > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the response.
      > >
      > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of suffering and
      > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
      > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
      > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
      > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
      > > replaced.
      > >
      > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting anymore.
      > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
      > >
      > > -Ajita Kamal
      > >
      > >
      >
    • evolvender
      I meant to say bigotry and oppression are almost universally considered IMMORAL. ... point. ... scientific ... honesty. ... to be ... face the ... it is ...
      Message 2 of 27 , Apr 1, 2008
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        I meant to say bigotry and oppression are almost universally
        considered IMMORAL.

        --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "evolvender"
        <evolvender@...> wrote:
        >
        > So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct contradiction in
        > what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
        > about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
        > reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
        > objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
        > scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
        > objective absolute morality.
        >
        > I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
        > understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
        > in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
        > with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
        > capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
        > information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
        > correct information.
        >
        > Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
        > Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
        > conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
        > book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
        > governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
        > increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
        > governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
        > thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
        > charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
        > business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
        > ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
        > I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
        > leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
        > If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
        > rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the
        point.
        >
        > Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
        > towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
        > debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
        > of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
        > must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
        > liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
        > social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
        > religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
        > philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
        > the threat of infinite suffering.
        >
        > Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
        > religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
        > involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
        > that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
        > science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
        > on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
        > foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
        > From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
        > moral and what isn't.
        >
        > I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.
        >
        > _Ajita Kamal
        >
        >
        >
        > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
        > Gagliardi" <alessandro@> wrote:
        > >
        > > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
        > oppression, for
        > > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
        > somehow
        > > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
        > Let us
        > > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that
        scientific
        > > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
        > not the
        > > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
        > tend to
        > > give more to charities than do secular liberals. (Unfortunately, I
        > have no
        > > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.) The
        > claim of
        > > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
        > absurd. And
        > > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
        > the most
        > > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
        > name a few
        > > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd claim
        > (as so
        > > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
        > > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
        > "morality" is
        > > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
        > > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
        > high
        > > ground on the matter.
        > >
        > > -Alessandro
        > >
        > > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
        > >
        > > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
        > For me
        > > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual
        honesty.
        > > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
        > it feels
        > > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
        > To embrace
        > > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have
        to be
        > > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
        > You have
        > > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and
        face the
        > > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the face
        > and work
        > > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
        > or a reward
        > > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
        > I feel
        > > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
        > and hope to
        > > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
        > > >
        > > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
        > out of
        > > > childhood.
        > > >
        > > > -James
        > > >
        > > > ------------------------------
        > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
        > > > From: evolvender@
        > > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
        > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
        > > >
        > > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
        > > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel
        it is
        > > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has undoubtedly come
        > > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive
        when all
        > > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the response.
        > > >
        > > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of
        suffering and
        > > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
        > > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
        > > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
        > > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
        > > > replaced.
        > > >
        > > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting anymore.
        > > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
        > > >
        > > > -Ajita Kamal
        > > >
        > > >
        > >
        >
      • Alessandro Gagliardi
        Thanks for pointing out that liberals tend to be in favor of things like universal health care and welfare and (as I understand it) are willing to put their
        Message 3 of 27 , Apr 1, 2008
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          Thanks for pointing out that liberals tend to be in favor of things like universal health care and welfare and (as I understand it) are willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to paying more taxes (so long as those taxes are going to the "right" place).  That would seem to balance the scales.  Actually, I've heard it said that part of the reason for the decline of fraternal organizations in this country was the New Deal.  Once Social Security was in place, the motivation to join a group like the Masons to take care of you and your wife in your old age became less of a motivating factor.  (And as a result, today the Masons could hardly take care of anyone if they wanted to.)  In many ways, I think this movement away from having smaller communities take care of their own is unfortunate, as it allows for greater anonymity and less motivation for social interaction.  But in the interest of universal fairness, I do think that this is a better system over all.

          But I digress....  Actually, what I want to talk about, rather than having a conversation as to precisely why we all agree that bigotry and oppression are immoral (and I will submit that though, in those terms, everyone can "agree," in reality, many of us probably support bigotry and oppression without even realizing it), is to talk about what we, as moral agents, actually DO.  Eric Schwitzgebel has some evidence suggesting that academic ethicists are in fact more likely to steal than their peers.  Whether this is true or not--or even if it is true, if it is correct to conclude that ethicists are actually less moral--it does emphasize the important distinction between moral reasoning and moral action.  It's one thing to sit behind a computer and argue about whether or not circumcision is moral (see "The True Nature of Naturalism" thread).  But what are you DOING to make the world a better place (short of voting for politicians who support universal health care)?

          -Alessandro

          On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 3:43 AM, evolvender <evolvender@...> wrote:
          I meant to say bigotry and oppression are almost universally
          considered IMMORAL.

          --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "evolvender"
          <evolvender@...> wrote:
          >
          > So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct contradiction in
          > what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
          > about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
          > reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
          > objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
          > scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
          > objective absolute morality.
          >
          > I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
          > understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
          > in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
          > with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
          > capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
          > information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
          > correct information.
          >
          > Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
          > Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
          > conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
          > book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
          > governmental charity.  Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
          > increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
          > governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
          > thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
          > charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
          > business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
          > ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
          > I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
          > leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
          > If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
          > rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the
          point.
          >
          >  Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
          > towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
          > debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
          > of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
          > must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
          > liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
          > social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
          > religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
          > philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
          > the threat of infinite suffering.
          >
          > Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
          > religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
          > involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
          > that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
          > science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
          > on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
          > foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
          > From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
          > moral and what isn't.
          >
          > I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.
          >
          > _Ajita Kamal
          >
          >
          >
          > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
          > Gagliardi" <alessandro@> wrote:
          > >
          > > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
          > oppression, for
          > > example?  The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
          > somehow
          > > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
          >  Let us
          > > not make the same mistake.  Watson recently demonstrated that
          scientific
          > > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
          > not the
          > > only one.  Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
          > tend to
          > > give more to charities than do secular liberals.  (Unfortunately, I
          > have no
          > > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.)  The
          > claim of
          > > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
          > absurd.  And
          > > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
          > the most
          > > honorable people I've known.  (Then again, I'm sure we could all
          > name a few
          > > dishonest scientists.)  But let's not make the equally absurd claim
          > (as so
          > > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
          > > sophistication.  In truth, I think that the very concept of
          > "morality" is
          > > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
          > > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
          > high
          > > ground on the matter.
          > >
          > > -Alessandro
          > >
          > > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
          > >
          > > >  Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
          > For me
          > > > science  embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual
          honesty.
          > > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
          > it feels
          > > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
          > To embrace
          > > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have
          to be
          > > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
          > You have
          > > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and
          face the
          > > > consequences. You have to  look your finite existence in the face
          > and work
          > > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
          > or a reward
          > > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
          > I feel
          > > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
          > and hope to
          > > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
          > > >
          > > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
          > out of
          > > > childhood.
          > > >
          > > > -James
          > > >
          > > > ------------------------------
          > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
          > > > From: evolvender@
          > > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
          > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
          > > >
          > > >   In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
          > > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel
          it is
          > > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has undoubtedly come
          > > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive
          when all
          > > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the response.
          > > >
          > > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of
          suffering and
          > > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
          > > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
          > > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
          > > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
          > > > replaced.
          > > >
          > > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting anymore.
          > > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
          > > >
          > > > -Ajita Kamal
          > > >
          > > >
          > >
          >



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          --
          Alessandro Gagliardi
          Integrative Neuroscience Program
          Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
          alessandro@...
        • JRS .
          Hey ajita, You make some really interesting points here. I think you are completely correct in regards to our need for some replacement for religion to teach
          Message 4 of 27 , Apr 1, 2008
          • 0 Attachment
            Hey ajita,

            You make some really interesting points here. I think you are completely correct in regards to our need for some replacement for religion to teach moral values. While a number values promoted by religion are morally questionable for the most part it does a decent job of telling people to be nice to each other. And yes, the main area where religion falls down is presenting consequences that are unsubstantiated as the reason to behave as they suggest.

            I do not agree about science being unable to find morality. I think people are just scared to do so because people like the idea of being able to decide for themselves what is moral. An objective morality would deny them that ability. Similar to the way evolution and geology deny people the ability to decide for themselves how we all got here. If we understood morality to the degree we understood evolution or geology it would put an end to philosophical debate about the topic for the intellectually honest except for those who wish to put weight into the idea "can we really know anything?". Aside from that idea being important in keeping an open mind it is not relevant to day to day living.

            I imagine once we make the step of taking morality out of the realm of religion and subjectivity it will be discussed in a way similar to the weather. The weather is extremely complex and difficult to determine but we would not put it's nature down to subjective philosophy.

            I think morality may also be the last refuge of free will. If morality was given a scientific factual basis there would be no way of rationalizing it away for the intellectually honest person. Life would perhaps become a little bit more paint by numbers if we knew very accurately how we should behave. I believe though when we have understood ourselves to such a point we will still find plenty of room for subjective freedom in the world of arts where we can indulge in all the fantastic supernatural and subjective ideas we like without damaging the freedoms and happiness of others.

            I can see no other path to truth than science. If morality is true then science can find it and define it. If science cannot find it then we need to step back and ask ourselves what it is we are really looking for.

            Nothing that is true has anything to fear from scientific inquiry

            -James


            To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
            From: evolvender@...
            Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 07:39:36 +0000
            Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality

            So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct contradiction in
            what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
            about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
            reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
            objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
            scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
            objective absolute morality.

            I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
            understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
            in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
            with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
            capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
            information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
            correct information.

            Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
            Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
            conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
            book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
            governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
            increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
            governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
            thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
            charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
            business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
            ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
            I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
            leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
            If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
            rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the point.

            Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
            towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
            debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
            of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
            must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
            liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
            social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
            religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
            philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
            the threat of infinite suffering.

            Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
            religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
            involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
            that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
            science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
            on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
            foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
            From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
            moral and what isn't.

            I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.

            _Ajita Kamal

            --- In naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com, "Alessandro
            Gagliardi" <alessandro@ ...> wrote:
            >
            > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
            oppression, for
            > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
            somehow
            > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
            Let us
            > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that scientific
            > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
            not the
            > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
            tend to
            > give more to charities than do secular liberals. (Unfortunately, I
            have no
            > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.) The
            claim of
            > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
            absurd. And
            > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
            the most
            > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
            name a few
            > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd claim
            (as so
            > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
            > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
            "morality" is
            > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
            > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
            high
            > ground on the matter.
            >
            > -Alessandro
            >
            > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
            >
            > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
            For me
            > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual honesty.
            > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
            it feels
            > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
            To embrace
            > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have to be
            > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
            You have
            > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and face the
            > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the face
            and work
            > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
            or a reward
            > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
            I feel
            > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
            and hope to
            > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
            > >
            > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
            out of
            > > childhood.
            > >
            > > -James
            > >
            > > ------------ --------- ---------
            > > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
            > > From: evolvender@. ..
            > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
            > > Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Religious Immorality
            > >
            > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
            > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel it is
            > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has undoubtedly come
            > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive when all
            > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the response.
            > >
            > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of suffering and
            > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
            > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
            > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
            > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
            > > replaced.
            > >
            > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting anymore.
            > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
            > >
            > > -Ajita Kamal
            > >
            > >
            >




            Find out: SEEK Salary Centre Are you paid what you're worth?
          • evolvender
            I agree with you that talking about morality alone is not enough. But why look at it as just a philosophical flirtation and not as a way to garner information?
            Message 5 of 27 , Apr 1, 2008
            • 0 Attachment
              I agree with you that talking about morality alone is not enough. But
              why look at it as just a philosophical flirtation and not as a way to
              garner information? I am not just someone interested in philosophy. I
              also am involved in organic agriculture, fair-trade politics and other
              political activities. However, if you could eradicate a large amount
              of suffering around the world by promoting an idea and changing a way
              of thought, that act of conversation is more effective than all the
              action there is. If we can convince warring sects that their
              naturalistic similarities are greater than their perceived
              superstitious differences, that is more effective than protesting on
              the streets of New York or arming one side over the other. Surely you
              are not suggesting that the Bush doctrine of action before thought is
              the way to go, are you? (I know you don't, I'm just using hyperbole to
              make the point here). Thought is sometimes the strongest form of
              action. It is often the basis for deciding which subjective morals can
              be deemed more important. How else are you going to know which issues
              deserve your action?

              --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
              Gagliardi" <alessandro@...> wrote:
              >
              > Thanks for pointing out that liberals tend to be in favor of things like
              > universal health care and welfare and (as I understand it) are
              willing to
              > put their money where their mouth is when it comes to paying more
              taxes (so
              > long as those taxes are going to the "right" place). That would seem to
              > balance the scales. Actually, I've heard it said that part of the
              reason
              > for the decline of fraternal organizations in this country was the New
              > Deal. Once Social Security was in place, the motivation to join a group
              > like the Masons to take care of you and your wife in your old age became
              > less of a motivating factor. (And as a result, today the Masons could
              > hardly take care of anyone if they wanted to.) In many ways, I
              think this
              > movement away from having smaller communities take care of their own is
              > unfortunate, as it allows for greater anonymity and less motivation for
              > social interaction. But in the interest of universal fairness, I do
              think
              > that this is a better system over all.
              >
              > But I digress.... Actually, what I want to talk about, rather than
              having a
              > conversation as to precisely why we all agree that bigotry and
              oppression
              > are immoral (and I will submit that though, in those terms, everyone can
              > "agree," in reality, many of us probably support bigotry and oppression
              > without even realizing it), is to talk about what we, as moral agents,
              > actually DO. Eric Schwitzgebel has some evidence suggesting that
              academic
              > ethicists are in fact more likely to steal than their peers.
              Whether this
              > is true or not--or even if it is true, if it is correct to conclude that
              > ethicists are actually less moral--it does emphasize the important
              > distinction between moral reasoning and moral action. It's one
              thing to sit
              > behind a computer and argue about whether or not circumcision is
              moral (see
              > "The True Nature of Naturalism" thread). But what are you DOING to
              make the
              > world a better place (short of voting for politicians who support
              universal
              > health care)?
              >
              > -Alessandro
              >
              > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 3:43 AM, evolvender <evolvender@...> wrote:
              >
              > > I meant to say bigotry and oppression are almost universally
              > > considered IMMORAL.
              > >
              > > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "evolvender"
              > > <evolvender@> wrote:
              > > >
              > > > So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct
              contradiction in
              > > > what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are
              talking
              > > > about slightly different things. From the point of view of
              addressing
              > > > reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
              > > > objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
              > > > scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
              > > > objective absolute morality.
              > > >
              > > > I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
              > > > understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
              > > > in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
              > > > with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
              > > > capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
              > > > information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
              > > > correct information.
              > > >
              > > > Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
              > > > Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
              > > > conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
              > > > book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
              > > > governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
              > > > increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
              > > > governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
              > > > thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
              > > > charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
              > > > business, hierarchical organization and division of social
              class, and
              > > > ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
              > > > I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/
              conservative
              > > > leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to
              give.
              > > > If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
              > > > rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the
              > > point.
              > > >
              > > > Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
              > > > towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
              > > > debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in
              fear
              > > > of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
              > > > must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
              > > > liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
              > > > social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
              > > > religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
              > > > philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence
              based on
              > > > the threat of infinite suffering.
              > > >
              > > > Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
              > > > religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
              > > > involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
              > > > that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
              > > > science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a
              light
              > > > on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
              > > > foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective
              senses.
              > > > From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on
              what is
              > > > moral and what isn't.
              > > >
              > > > I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.
              > > >
              > > > _Ajita Kamal
              > > >
              > > >
              > > >
              > > > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
              > > > Gagliardi" <alessandro@> wrote:
              > > > >
              > > > > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
              > > > oppression, for
              > > > > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic
              faiths)
              > > > somehow
              > > > > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high
              ground.
              > > > Let us
              > > > > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that
              > > scientific
              > > > > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
              > > > not the
              > > > > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious
              believers
              > > > tend to
              > > > > give more to charities than do secular liberals.
              (Unfortunately, I
              > > > have no
              > > > > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.)
              The
              > > > claim of
              > > > > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
              > > > absurd. And
              > > > > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
              > > > the most
              > > > > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
              > > > name a few
              > > > > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd
              claim
              > > > (as so
              > > > > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
              > > > > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
              > > > "morality" is
              > > > > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
              > > > > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a
              principled
              > > > high
              > > > > ground on the matter.
              > > > >
              > > > > -Alessandro
              > > > >
              > > > > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
              > > > >
              > > > > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer
              for.
              > > > For me
              > > > > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual
              > > honesty.
              > > > > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
              > > > it feels
              > > > > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
              > > > To embrace
              > > > > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have
              > > to be
              > > > > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your
              youth.
              > > > You have
              > > > > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and
              > > face the
              > > > > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the
              face
              > > > and work
              > > > > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
              > > > or a reward
              > > > > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of
              science and
              > > > I feel
              > > > > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
              > > > and hope to
              > > > > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
              > > > > >
              > > > > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
              > > > out of
              > > > > > childhood.
              > > > > >
              > > > > > -James
              > > > > >
              > > > > > ------------------------------
              > > > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
              > > > > > From: evolvender@
              > > > > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
              > > > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
              > > > > >
              > > > > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation
              without
              > > > > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel
              > > it is
              > > > > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has
              undoubtedly come
              > > > > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive
              > > when all
              > > > > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the
              response.
              > > > > >
              > > > > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of
              > > suffering and
              > > > > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies,
              contradictions and
              > > > > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
              > > > > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
              > > > > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and
              must be
              > > > > > replaced.
              > > > > >
              > > > > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting
              anymore.
              > > > > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
              > > > > >
              > > > > > -Ajita Kamal
              > > > > >
              > > > > >
              > > > >
              > > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > > ------------------------------------
              > >
              > > Yahoo! Groups Links
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > >
              >
              >
              > --
              > Alessandro Gagliardi
              > Integrative Neuroscience Program
              > Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
              > alessandro@...
              >
            • evolvender
              Hi James, Thanks for moving the conversation in this direction! I was wondering on starting a thread on this very topic- the nature of morality- if only to see
              Message 6 of 27 , Apr 1, 2008
              • 0 Attachment
                Hi James,

                Thanks for moving the conversation in this direction!
                I was wondering on starting a thread on this very topic- the nature of
                morality- if only to see how many moral relativists we have in our
                midst. I am obviously one of these and I'm guessing you are not. I
                really think this is the best place to start the conversation about
                morality. Instead of replying to your post now, I wish to wait until
                some of the more philosophical members of the group chime in on this
                subject. If this has already been discussed, can Tom or someone else
                please point me to the discussions?

                Thanks,
                Ajita Kamal

                --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...>
                wrote:
                >
                >
                > Hey ajita,
                >
                > You make some really interesting points here. I think you are
                completely correct in regards to our need for some replacement for
                religion to teach moral values. While a number values promoted by
                religion are morally questionable for the most part it does a decent
                job of telling people to be nice to each other. And yes, the main area
                where religion falls down is presenting consequences that are
                unsubstantiated as the reason to behave as they suggest.
                >
                > I do not agree about science being unable to find morality. I think
                people are just scared to do so because people like the idea of being
                able to decide for themselves what is moral. An objective morality
                would deny them that ability. Similar to the way evolution and geology
                deny people the ability to decide for themselves how we all got here.
                If we understood morality to the degree we understood evolution or
                geology it would put an end to philosophical debate about the topic
                for the intellectually honest except for those who wish to put weight
                into the idea "can we really know anything?". Aside from that idea
                being important in keeping an open mind it is not relevant to day to
                day living.
                >
                > I imagine once we make the step of taking morality out of the realm
                of religion and subjectivity it will be discussed in a way similar to
                the weather. The weather is extremely complex and difficult to
                determine but we would not put it's nature down to subjective philosophy.
                >
                > I think morality may also be the last refuge of free will. If
                morality was given a scientific factual basis there would be no way of
                rationalizing it away for the intellectually honest person. Life would
                perhaps become a little bit more paint by numbers if we knew very
                accurately how we should behave. I believe though when we have
                understood ourselves to such a point we will still find plenty of room
                for subjective freedom in the world of arts where we can indulge in
                all the fantastic supernatural and subjective ideas we like without
                damaging the freedoms and happiness of others.
                >
                > I can see no other path to truth than science. If morality is true
                then science can find it and define it. If science cannot find it then
                we need to step back and ask ourselves what it is we are really
                looking for.
                >
                > Nothing that is true has anything to fear from scientific inquiry
                >
                > -James
                >
                > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                > From: evolvender@...
                > Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 07:39:36 +0000
                > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct
                contradiction in
                >
                > what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
                >
                > about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
                >
                > reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
                >
                > objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
                >
                > scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
                >
                > objective absolute morality.
                >
                >
                >
                > I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
                >
                > understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
                >
                > in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
                >
                > with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
                >
                > capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
                >
                > information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
                >
                > correct information.
                >
                >
                >
                > Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
                >
                > Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
                >
                > conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
                >
                > book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
                >
                > governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
                >
                > increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
                >
                > governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
                >
                > thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
                >
                > charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
                >
                > business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
                >
                > ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
                >
                > I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
                >
                > leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
                >
                > If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
                >
                > rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the
                point.
                >
                >
                >
                > Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
                >
                > towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
                >
                > debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
                >
                > of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
                >
                > must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
                >
                > liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
                >
                > social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
                >
                > religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
                >
                > philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
                >
                > the threat of infinite suffering.
                >
                >
                >
                > Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
                >
                > religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
                >
                > involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
                >
                > that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
                >
                > science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
                >
                > on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
                >
                > foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
                >
                > From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
                >
                > moral and what isn't.
                >
                >
                >
                > I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.
                >
                >
                >
                > _Ajita Kamal
                >
                >
                >
                > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
                >
                > Gagliardi" <alessandro@> wrote:
                >
                > >
                >
                > > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
                >
                > oppression, for
                >
                > > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
                >
                > somehow
                >
                > > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
                >
                > Let us
                >
                > > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that
                scientific
                >
                > > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
                >
                > not the
                >
                > > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
                >
                > tend to
                >
                > > give more to charities than do secular liberals. (Unfortunately, I
                >
                > have no
                >
                > > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.) The
                >
                > claim of
                >
                > > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
                >
                > absurd. And
                >
                > > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
                >
                > the most
                >
                > > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
                >
                > name a few
                >
                > > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd claim
                >
                > (as so
                >
                > > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
                >
                > > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
                >
                > "morality" is
                >
                > > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
                >
                > > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
                >
                > high
                >
                > > ground on the matter.
                >
                > >
                >
                > > -Alessandro
                >
                > >
                >
                > > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
                >
                > >
                >
                > > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
                >
                > For me
                >
                > > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual
                honesty.
                >
                > > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
                >
                > it feels
                >
                > > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
                >
                > To embrace
                >
                > > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have
                to be
                >
                > > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
                >
                > You have
                >
                > > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and
                face the
                >
                > > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the face
                >
                > and work
                >
                > > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
                >
                > or a reward
                >
                > > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
                >
                > I feel
                >
                > > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
                >
                > and hope to
                >
                > > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
                >
                > out of
                >
                > > > childhood.
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > > -James
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > > ------------------------------
                >
                > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                >
                > > > From: evolvender@
                >
                > > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
                >
                > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
                >
                > > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel
                it is
                >
                > > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has undoubtedly come
                >
                > > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive
                when all
                >
                > > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the response.
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of
                suffering and
                >
                > > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
                >
                > > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
                >
                > > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
                >
                > > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
                >
                > > > replaced.
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting anymore.
                >
                > > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > > -Ajita Kamal
                >
                > > >
                >
                > > >
                >
                > >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > _________________________________________________________________
                > Are you paid what you're worth? Find out: SEEK Salary Centre
                >
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              • Alessandro Gagliardi
                You bring up an interesting point regarding pedagogy. How do we teach moral values? How should we teach moral values? I think that one of the ways in which
                Message 7 of 27 , Apr 2, 2008
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                  You bring up an interesting point regarding pedagogy.  How do we teach moral values?  How should we teach moral values?  I think that one of the ways in which the intellectual community has failed is that, with the exception of psychologists and teachers, we lack a sensitivity toward cognitive development.  For example, Ajita describes himself as a moral relativist.  However, moral relativism will not make sense to a five-year-old.  Religion would seem to have the jump on us in this regard as it can operate at all levels of cognitive development (though I'm sure many of the members of this list might doubt its ability to function at high levels of cognitive development). 

                  I do not pretend to have a solution to this problem.  I would find it morally repugnant to attempt to instill a moral attitude based on fear.  And yet, trying to teach a relativistic morality to a child is bound to be a doomed endeavor.  Then again, perhaps this is all much ado about nothing.  The friends that I have who were raised without any sense of religion are also among the most ethical people I know.  Somehow they (or their parents) apparently figured it out without a problem. 

                  ::shrug::

                  -Alessandro

                  On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 10:24 PM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                  Hey ajita,

                  You make some really interesting points here. I think you are completely correct in regards to our need for some replacement for religion to teach moral values. While a number values promoted by religion are morally questionable for the most part it does a decent job of telling people to be nice to each other. And yes, the main area where religion falls down is presenting consequences that are unsubstantiated as the reason to behave as they suggest.

                  I do not agree about science being unable to find morality. I think people are just scared to do so because people like the idea of being able to decide for themselves what is moral. An objective morality would deny them that ability. Similar to the way evolution and geology deny people the ability to decide for themselves how we all got here. If we understood morality to the degree we understood evolution or geology it would put an end to philosophical debate about the topic for the intellectually honest except for those who wish to put weight into the idea "can we really know anything?". Aside from that idea being important in keeping an open mind it is not relevant to day to day living.

                  I imagine once we make the step of taking morality out of the realm of religion and subjectivity it will be discussed in a way similar to the weather. The weather is extremely complex and difficult to determine but we would not put it's nature down to subjective philosophy.

                  I think morality may also be the last refuge of free will. If morality was given a scientific factual basis there would be no way of rationalizing it away for the intellectually honest person. Life would perhaps become a little bit more paint by numbers if we knew very accurately how we should behave. I believe though when we have understood ourselves to such a point we will still find plenty of room for subjective freedom in the world of arts where we can indulge in all the fantastic supernatural and subjective ideas we like without damaging the freedoms and happiness of others.

                  I can see no other path to truth than science. If morality is true then science can find it and define it. If science cannot find it then we need to step back and ask ourselves what it is we are really looking for.

                  Nothing that is true has anything to fear from scientific inquiry

                  -James


                  To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                  From: evolvender@...
                  Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 07:39:36 +0000
                  Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality


                  So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct contradiction in
                  what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
                  about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
                  reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
                  objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
                  scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
                  objective absolute morality.

                  I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
                  understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
                  in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
                  with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
                  capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
                  information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
                  correct information.

                  Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
                  Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
                  conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
                  book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
                  governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
                  increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
                  governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
                  thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
                  charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
                  business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
                  ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
                  I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
                  leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
                  If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
                  rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the point.

                  Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
                  towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
                  debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
                  of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
                  must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
                  liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
                  social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
                  religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
                  philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
                  the threat of infinite suffering.

                  Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
                  religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
                  involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
                  that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
                  science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
                  on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
                  foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
                  From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
                  moral and what isn't.

                  I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.

                  _Ajita Kamal

                  --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
                  Gagliardi" <alessandro@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
                  oppression, for
                  > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
                  somehow
                  > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
                  Let us
                  > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that scientific
                  > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
                  not the
                  > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
                  tend to
                  > give more to charities than do secular liberals. (Unfortunately, I
                  have no
                  > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.) The
                  claim of
                  > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
                  absurd. And
                  > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
                  the most
                  > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
                  name a few
                  > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd claim
                  (as so
                  > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
                  > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
                  "morality" is
                  > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
                  > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
                  high
                  > ground on the matter.
                  >
                  > -Alessandro
                  >
                  > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
                  For me
                  > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual honesty.
                  > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
                  it feels
                  > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
                  To embrace
                  > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have to be
                  > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
                  You have
                  > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and face the
                  > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the face
                  and work
                  > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
                  or a reward
                  > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
                  I feel
                  > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
                  and hope to
                  > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
                  > >
                  > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
                  out of
                  > > childhood.
                  > >
                  > > -James
                  > >
                  > > ------------------------------
                  > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                  > > From: evolvender@...
                  > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
                  > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
                  > >
                  > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
                  > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel it is
                  > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has undoubtedly come
                  > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive when all
                  > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the response.
                  > >
                  > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of suffering and
                  > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
                  > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
                  > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
                  > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
                  > > replaced.
                  > >
                  > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting anymore.
                  > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
                  > >
                  > > -Ajita Kamal
                  > >
                  > >
                  >




                  Find out: SEEK Salary Centre Are you paid what you're worth?



                  --
                  Alessandro Gagliardi
                  Integrative Neuroscience Program
                  Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
                  alessandro@...
                • Alessandro Gagliardi
                  No argument here. I certainly do not want to give the impression that philosophical inquiry is a waste of time. I just want to underscore the point that
                  Message 8 of 27 , Apr 2, 2008
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                    No argument here.  I certainly do not want to give the impression that philosophical inquiry is a waste of time.  I just want to underscore the point that that's not enough.  But it seems like my point is taken.  :)

                    -A

                    On Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 1:19 AM, evolvender <evolvender@...> wrote:
                    I agree with you that talking about morality alone is not enough. But
                    why look at it as just a philosophical flirtation and not as a way to
                    garner information? I am not just someone interested in philosophy. I
                    also am involved in organic agriculture, fair-trade politics and other
                    political activities. However, if you could eradicate a large amount
                    of suffering around the world by promoting an idea and changing a way
                    of thought, that act of conversation is more effective than all the
                    action there is. If we can convince warring sects that their
                    naturalistic similarities are greater than their perceived
                    superstitious differences, that is more effective than protesting on
                    the streets of New York or arming one side over the other. Surely you
                    are not suggesting that the Bush doctrine of action before thought is
                    the way to go, are you? (I know you don't, I'm just using hyperbole to
                    make the point here). Thought is sometimes the strongest form of
                    action. It is often the basis for deciding which subjective morals can
                    be deemed more important. How else are you going to know which issues
                    deserve your action?

                    --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
                    Gagliardi" <alessandro@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Thanks for pointing out that liberals tend to be in favor of things like
                    > universal health care and welfare and (as I understand it) are
                    willing to
                    > put their money where their mouth is when it comes to paying more
                    taxes (so
                    > long as those taxes are going to the "right" place).  That would seem to
                    > balance the scales.  Actually, I've heard it said that part of the
                    reason
                    > for the decline of fraternal organizations in this country was the New
                    > Deal.  Once Social Security was in place, the motivation to join a group
                    > like the Masons to take care of you and your wife in your old age became
                    > less of a motivating factor.  (And as a result, today the Masons could
                    > hardly take care of anyone if they wanted to.)  In many ways, I
                    think this
                    > movement away from having smaller communities take care of their own is
                    > unfortunate, as it allows for greater anonymity and less motivation for
                    > social interaction.  But in the interest of universal fairness, I do
                    think
                    > that this is a better system over all.
                    >
                    > But I digress....  Actually, what I want to talk about, rather than
                    having a
                    > conversation as to precisely why we all agree that bigotry and
                    oppression
                    > are immoral (and I will submit that though, in those terms, everyone can
                    > "agree," in reality, many of us probably support bigotry and oppression
                    > without even realizing it), is to talk about what we, as moral agents,
                    > actually DO.  Eric Schwitzgebel has some evidence suggesting that
                    academic
                    > ethicists are in fact more likely to steal than their peers.
                    Whether this
                    > is true or not--or even if it is true, if it is correct to conclude that
                    > ethicists are actually less moral--it does emphasize the important
                    > distinction between moral reasoning and moral action.  It's one
                    thing to sit
                    > behind a computer and argue about whether or not circumcision is
                    moral (see
                    > "The True Nature of Naturalism" thread).  But what are you DOING to
                    make the
                    > world a better place (short of voting for politicians who support
                    universal
                    > health care)?
                    >
                    > -Alessandro
                    >
                    > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 3:43 AM, evolvender <evolvender@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > > I meant to say bigotry and oppression are almost universally
                    > > considered IMMORAL.
                    > >
                    > > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "evolvender"
                    > > <evolvender@> wrote:
                    > > >
                    > > > So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct
                    contradiction in
                    > > > what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are
                    talking
                    > > > about slightly different things. From the point of view of
                    addressing
                    > > > reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
                    > > > objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
                    > > > scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
                    > > > objective absolute morality.
                    > > >
                    > > > I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
                    > > > understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
                    > > > in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
                    > > > with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
                    > > > capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
                    > > > information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
                    > > > correct information.
                    > > >
                    > > > Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
                    > > > Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
                    > > > conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
                    > > > book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
                    > > > governmental charity.  Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
                    > > > increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
                    > > > governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
                    > > > thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
                    > > > charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
                    > > > business, hierarchical organization and division of social
                    class, and
                    > > > ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
                    > > > I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/
                    conservative
                    > > > leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to
                    give.
                    > > > If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
                    > > > rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the
                    > > point.
                    > > >
                    > > >  Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
                    > > > towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
                    > > > debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in
                    fear
                    > > > of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
                    > > > must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
                    > > > liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
                    > > > social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
                    > > > religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
                    > > > philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence
                    based on
                    > > > the threat of infinite suffering.
                    > > >
                    > > > Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
                    > > > religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
                    > > > involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
                    > > > that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
                    > > > science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a
                    light
                    > > > on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
                    > > > foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective
                    senses.
                    > > > From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on
                    what is
                    > > > moral and what isn't.
                    > > >
                    > > > I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.
                    > > >
                    > > > _Ajita Kamal
                    > > >
                    > > >
                    > > >
                    > > > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
                    > > > Gagliardi" <alessandro@> wrote:
                    > > > >
                    > > > > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
                    > > > oppression, for
                    > > > > example?  The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic
                    faiths)
                    > > > somehow
                    > > > > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high
                    ground.
                    > > >  Let us
                    > > > > not make the same mistake.  Watson recently demonstrated that
                    > > scientific
                    > > > > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
                    > > > not the
                    > > > > only one.  Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious
                    believers
                    > > > tend to
                    > > > > give more to charities than do secular liberals.
                    (Unfortunately, I
                    > > > have no
                    > > > > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.)
                     The
                    > > > claim of
                    > > > > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
                    > > > absurd.  And
                    > > > > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
                    > > > the most
                    > > > > honorable people I've known.  (Then again, I'm sure we could all
                    > > > name a few
                    > > > > dishonest scientists.)  But let's not make the equally absurd
                    claim
                    > > > (as so
                    > > > > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
                    > > > > sophistication.  In truth, I think that the very concept of
                    > > > "morality" is
                    > > > > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
                    > > > > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a
                    principled
                    > > > high
                    > > > > ground on the matter.
                    > > > >
                    > > > > -Alessandro
                    > > > >
                    > > > > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
                    > > > >
                    > > > > >  Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer
                    for.
                    > > > For me
                    > > > > > science  embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual
                    > > honesty.
                    > > > > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
                    > > > it feels
                    > > > > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
                    > > > To embrace
                    > > > > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you have
                    > > to be
                    > > > > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your
                    youth.
                    > > > You have
                    > > > > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and
                    > > face the
                    > > > > > consequences. You have to  look your finite existence in the
                    face
                    > > > and work
                    > > > > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
                    > > > or a reward
                    > > > > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of
                    science and
                    > > > I feel
                    > > > > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
                    > > > and hope to
                    > > > > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
                    > > > out of
                    > > > > > childhood.
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > > -James
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > > ------------------------------
                    > > > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                    > > > > > From: evolvender@
                    > > > > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
                    > > > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > >   In light of the common religious strategy of accusation
                    without
                    > > > > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I feel
                    > > it is
                    > > > > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has
                    undoubtedly come
                    > > > > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive
                    > > when all
                    > > > > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the
                    response.
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of
                    > > suffering and
                    > > > > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies,
                    contradictions and
                    > > > > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
                    > > > > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
                    > > > > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and
                    must be
                    > > > > > replaced.
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting
                    anymore.
                    > > > > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > > -Ajita Kamal
                    > > > > >
                    > > > > >
                    > > > >
                    > > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > ------------------------------------
                    > >
                    > > Yahoo! Groups Links
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    >
                    >
                    > --
                    > Alessandro Gagliardi
                    > Integrative Neuroscience Program
                    > Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
                    > alessandro@...
                    >



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                    --
                    Alessandro Gagliardi
                    Integrative Neuroscience Program
                    Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
                    alessandro@...
                  • evolvender
                    Hey, I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before. However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn morality. We
                    Message 9 of 27 , Apr 2, 2008
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Hey,

                      I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                      However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                      morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                      moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                      youth then shape our specific world view.
                      In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                      childhood and adolescence). Some psychologists have categorized moral
                      development into many stages.
                      I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                      "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                      because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                      else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                      yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                      case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                      this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                      what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                      for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                      relatively long period of social development.
                      I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                      a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                      about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                      to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                      towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                      was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                      http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/52880

                      On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                      (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                      by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                      of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                      by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                      the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                      site, check out the contributors list:
                      http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_index.html

                      Regards,
                      Ajita Kamal


                      --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
                      Gagliardi" <alessandro@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > You bring up an interesting point regarding pedagogy. How do we
                      teach moral
                      > values? How should we teach moral values? I think that one of the
                      ways in
                      > which the intellectual community has failed is that, with the
                      exception of
                      > psychologists and teachers, we lack a sensitivity toward cognitive
                      > development. For example, Ajita describes himself as a moral
                      relativist.
                      > However, moral relativism will not make sense to a five-year-old.
                      Religion
                      > would seem to have the jump on us in this regard as it can operate
                      at all
                      > levels of cognitive development (though I'm sure many of the members
                      of this
                      > list might doubt its ability to function at high levels of cognitive
                      > development).
                      >
                      > I do not pretend to have a solution to this problem. I would find it
                      > morally repugnant to attempt to instill a moral attitude based on
                      fear. And
                      > yet, trying to teach a relativistic morality to a child is bound to be a
                      > doomed endeavor. Then again, perhaps this is all much ado about
                      nothing.
                      > The friends that I have who were raised without any sense of
                      religion are
                      > also among the most ethical people I know. Somehow they (or their
                      parents)
                      > apparently figured it out without a problem.
                      >
                      > ::shrug::
                      >
                      > -Alessandro
                      >
                      > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 10:24 PM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > > Hey ajita,
                      > >
                      > > You make some really interesting points here. I think you are
                      completely
                      > > correct in regards to our need for some replacement for religion
                      to teach
                      > > moral values. While a number values promoted by religion are morally
                      > > questionable for the most part it does a decent job of telling
                      people to be
                      > > nice to each other. And yes, the main area where religion falls
                      down is
                      > > presenting consequences that are unsubstantiated as the reason to
                      behave as
                      > > they suggest.
                      > >
                      > > I do not agree about science being unable to find morality. I
                      think people
                      > > are just scared to do so because people like the idea of being able to
                      > > decide for themselves what is moral. An objective morality would
                      deny them
                      > > that ability. Similar to the way evolution and geology deny people the
                      > > ability to decide for themselves how we all got here. If we understood
                      > > morality to the degree we understood evolution or geology it would
                      put an
                      > > end to philosophical debate about the topic for the intellectually
                      honest
                      > > except for those who wish to put weight into the idea "can we
                      really know
                      > > anything?". Aside from that idea being important in keeping an
                      open mind it
                      > > is not relevant to day to day living.
                      > >
                      > > I imagine once we make the step of taking morality out of the realm of
                      > > religion and subjectivity it will be discussed in a way similar to the
                      > > weather. The weather is extremely complex and difficult to
                      determine but we
                      > > would not put it's nature down to subjective philosophy.
                      > >
                      > > I think morality may also be the last refuge of free will. If
                      morality was
                      > > given a scientific factual basis there would be no way of
                      rationalizing it
                      > > away for the intellectually honest person. Life would perhaps become a
                      > > little bit more paint by numbers if we knew very accurately how we
                      should
                      > > behave. I believe though when we have understood ourselves to such
                      a point
                      > > we will still find plenty of room for subjective freedom in the
                      world of
                      > > arts where we can indulge in all the fantastic supernatural and
                      subjective
                      > > ideas we like without damaging the freedoms and happiness of others.
                      > >
                      > > I can see no other path to truth than science. If morality is true
                      then
                      > > science can find it and define it. If science cannot find it then
                      we need to
                      > > step back and ask ourselves what it is we are really looking for.
                      > >
                      > > Nothing that is true has anything to fear from scientific inquiry
                      > >
                      > > -James
                      > >
                      > > ------------------------------
                      > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                      > > From: evolvender@...
                      > > Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 07:39:36 +0000
                      > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                      > >
                      > >
                      > > So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct
                      contradiction in
                      > > what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
                      > > about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
                      > > reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
                      > > objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
                      > > scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
                      > > objective absolute morality.
                      > >
                      > > I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
                      > > understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
                      > > in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
                      > > with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
                      > > capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
                      > > information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
                      > > correct information.
                      > >
                      > > Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
                      > > Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
                      > > conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
                      > > book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
                      > > governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
                      > > increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
                      > > governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
                      > > thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
                      > > charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
                      > > business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
                      > > ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
                      > > I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
                      > > leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
                      > > If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
                      > > rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the
                      point.
                      > >
                      > > Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
                      > > towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
                      > > debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
                      > > of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
                      > > must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
                      > > liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
                      > > social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
                      > > religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
                      > > philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
                      > > the threat of infinite suffering.
                      > >
                      > > Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
                      > > religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
                      > > involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
                      > > that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
                      > > science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
                      > > on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
                      > > foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
                      > > From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
                      > > moral and what isn't.
                      > >
                      > > I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.
                      > >
                      > > _Ajita Kamal
                      > >
                      > > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
                      > > Gagliardi" <alessandro@> wrote:
                      > > >
                      > > > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
                      > > oppression, for
                      > > > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
                      > > somehow
                      > > > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
                      > > Let us
                      > > > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that
                      scientific
                      > > > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
                      > > not the
                      > > > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
                      > > tend to
                      > > > give more to charities than do secular liberals. (Unfortunately, I
                      > > have no
                      > > > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.) The
                      > > claim of
                      > > > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
                      > > absurd. And
                      > > > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
                      > > the most
                      > > > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
                      > > name a few
                      > > > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd claim
                      > > (as so
                      > > > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
                      > > > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
                      > > "morality" is
                      > > > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
                      > > > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
                      > > high
                      > > > ground on the matter.
                      > > >
                      > > > -Alessandro
                      > > >
                      > > > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
                      > > >
                      > > > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
                      > > For me
                      > > > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual
                      honesty.
                      > > > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
                      > > it feels
                      > > > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
                      > > To embrace
                      > > > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you
                      have to be
                      > > > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
                      > > You have
                      > > > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and
                      face the
                      > > > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the face
                      > > and work
                      > > > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
                      > > or a reward
                      > > > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
                      > > I feel
                      > > > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
                      > > and hope to
                      > > > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
                      > > > >
                      > > > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
                      > > out of
                      > > > > childhood.
                      > > > >
                      > > > > -James
                      > > > >
                      > > > > ------------------------------
                      > > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                      > > > > From: evolvender@
                      > > > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
                      > > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Religious Immorality
                      > > > >
                      > > > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
                      > > > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I
                      feel it is
                      > > > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has
                      undoubtedly come
                      > > > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive
                      when all
                      > > > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the
                      response.
                      > > > >
                      > > > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of
                      suffering and
                      > > > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
                      > > > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
                      > > > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
                      > > > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
                      > > > > replaced.
                      > > > >
                      > > > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting
                      anymore.
                      > > > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
                      > > > >
                      > > > > -Ajita Kamal
                      > > > >
                      > > > >
                      > > >
                      > >
                      > >
                      > >
                      > > ------------------------------
                      > > Find out: SEEK Salary Centre Are you paid what you're
                      worth?<http://a.ninemsn.com.au/b.aspx?URL=http%3A%2F%2Fninemsn%2Eseek%2Ecom%2Eau%2Fcareer%2Dresources%2Fsalary%2Dcentre%2F%3Ftracking%3Dsk%3Ahet%3Asc%3Anine%3A0%3Ahot%3Atext&_t=764565661&_r=OCT07_endtext_salary&_m=EXT>
                      > >
                      > >
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > --
                      > Alessandro Gagliardi
                      > Integrative Neuroscience Program
                      > Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
                      > alessandro@...
                      >
                    • JRS .
                      Hey Ajita, Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff. It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn t sure where he stood on the free will question but
                      Message 10 of 27 , Apr 3, 2008
                      • 0 Attachment
                        Hey Ajita,

                        Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.

                        It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood on the free will question but this: http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins seems to indicate that he is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.

                        In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.

                        So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout the best path to that objective from what we know.

                        I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need of further definition.

                        By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the society.

                        So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all it's citizens.

                        For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of citizens will be put at risk.

                        So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the correct moral stance.

                        The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those connections.

                        The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum net gain from this situation.

                        The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage. As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.

                        There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.

                        This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education and psychological support with the door being left open to re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to particular individuals.

                        I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social interaction in a similar way to those of physics.

                        Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.

                        If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the ground.

                        -James




                        To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                        From: evolvender@...
                        Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                        Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality

                        Hey,

                        I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                        However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                        morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                        moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                        youth then shape our specific world view.
                        In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                        childhood and adolescence) . Some psychologists have categorized moral
                        development into many stages.
                        I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                        "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                        because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                        else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                        yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                        case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                        this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                        what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                        for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                        relatively long period of social development.
                        I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                        a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                        about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                        to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                        towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                        was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                        http://www.american scientist. org/template/ InterviewTypeDet ail/assetid/ 52880

                        On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                        (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                        by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                        of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                        by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                        the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                        site, check out the contributors list:
                        http://www.edge. org/q2006/ q06_index. html

                        Regards,
                        Ajita Kamal


                        --- In naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com, "Alessandro
                        Gagliardi" <alessandro@ ...> wrote:
                        >
                        > You bring up an interesting point regarding pedagogy. How do we
                        teach moral
                        > values? How should we teach moral values? I think that one of the
                        ways in
                        > which the intellectual community has failed is that, with the
                        exception of
                        > psychologists and teachers, we lack a sensitivity toward cognitive
                        > development. For example, Ajita describes himself as a moral
                        relativist.
                        > However, moral relativism will not make sense to a five-year-old.
                        Religion
                        > would seem to have the jump on us in this regard as it can operate
                        at all
                        > levels of cognitive development (though I'm sure many of the members
                        of this
                        > list might doubt its ability to function at high levels of cognitive
                        > development) .
                        >
                        > I do not pretend to have a solution to this problem. I would find it
                        > morally repugnant to attempt to instill a moral attitude based on
                        fear. And
                        > yet, trying to teach a relativistic morality to a child is bound to be a
                        > doomed endeavor. Then again, perhaps this is all much ado about
                        nothing.
                        > The friends that I have who were raised without any sense of
                        religion are
                        > also among the most ethical people I know. Somehow they (or their
                        parents)
                        > apparently figured it out without a problem.
                        >
                        > ::shrug::
                        >
                        > -Alessandro
                        >
                        > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 10:24 PM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > > Hey ajita,
                        > >
                        > > You make some really interesting points here. I think you are
                        completely
                        > > correct in regards to our need for some replacement for religion
                        to teach
                        > > moral values. While a number values promoted by religion are morally
                        > > questionable for the most part it does a decent job of telling
                        people to be
                        > > nice to each other. And yes, the main area where religion falls
                        down is
                        > > presenting consequences that are unsubstantiated as the reason to
                        behave as
                        > > they suggest.
                        > >
                        > > I do not agree about science being unable to find morality. I
                        think people
                        > > are just scared to do so because people like the idea of being able to
                        > > decide for themselves what is moral. An objective morality would
                        deny them
                        > > that ability. Similar to the way evolution and geology deny people the
                        > > ability to decide for themselves how we all got here. If we understood
                        > > morality to the degree we understood evolution or geology it would
                        put an
                        > > end to philosophical debate about the topic for the intellectually
                        honest
                        > > except for those who wish to put weight into the idea "can we
                        really know
                        > > anything?". Aside from that idea being important in keeping an
                        open mind it
                        > > is not relevant to day to day living.
                        > >
                        > > I imagine once we make the step of taking morality out of the realm of
                        > > religion and subjectivity it will be discussed in a way similar to the
                        > > weather. The weather is extremely complex and difficult to
                        determine but we
                        > > would not put it's nature down to subjective philosophy.
                        > >
                        > > I think morality may also be the last refuge of free will. If
                        morality was
                        > > given a scientific factual basis there would be no way of
                        rationalizing it
                        > > away for the intellectually honest person. Life would perhaps become a
                        > > little bit more paint by numbers if we knew very accurately how we
                        should
                        > > behave. I believe though when we have understood ourselves to such
                        a point
                        > > we will still find plenty of room for subjective freedom in the
                        world of
                        > > arts where we can indulge in all the fantastic supernatural and
                        subjective
                        > > ideas we like without damaging the freedoms and happiness of others.
                        > >
                        > > I can see no other path to truth than science. If morality is true
                        then
                        > > science can find it and define it. If science cannot find it then
                        we need to
                        > > step back and ask ourselves what it is we are really looking for.
                        > >
                        > > Nothing that is true has anything to fear from scientific inquiry
                        > >
                        > > -James
                        > >
                        > > ------------ --------- ---------
                        > > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                        > > From: evolvender@. ..
                        > > Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2008 07:39:36 +0000
                        > > Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > So now this gets interesting. I don't see any direct
                        contradiction in
                        > > what you guys, Alessandro and James, say, considering you are talking
                        > > about slightly different things. From the point of view of addressing
                        > > reality, science (itself as a discipline, not its proponents) is
                        > > objective and thus supersedes religious tradition. However, few
                        > > scientists claim that science itself directly suggests some sort of
                        > > objective absolute morality.
                        > >
                        > > I submit that the point of having this conversation is precisely to
                        > > understand why we seem to all agree that bigotry and oppression Are
                        > > in-fact moral. I think that conversation has little directly to do
                        > > with either science OR religion, but a lot to do with our human
                        > > capacity for empathy. From there on, we can only go by the amount of
                        > > information we have available to us. Science provides us with the
                        > > correct information.
                        > >
                        > > Im not familiar with the scholar you mentioned but Im familiar with
                        > > Arthur C. Brooks who did a study that showed that religious
                        > > conservatives donated more to charities than secular liberals. His
                        > > book specifically claims that these conservatives are against
                        > > governmental charity. Liberals (religious or otherwise) are for
                        > > increasing the opportunities available to everyone in general by
                        > > governmental regulation of the power of the wealthiest classes,
                        > > thereby reducing the NEED for charity. You can call it politicized
                        > > charity, if you like. Conservatives , on the other hand, are for big
                        > > business, hierarchical organization and division of social class, and
                        > > ultimately crave the magnanimity of "donating" to those in need.
                        > > I would like to see some study that adjusted for liberal/ conservative
                        > > leanings and then asked if religion made a group more likely to give.
                        > > If religious liberals (who are for governmental regulation of the
                        > > rich) gave more than secular liberals, then religion can claim the
                        point.
                        > >
                        > > Religion has many positive things about it and the social impetus
                        > > towards increased altruism may indeed be one of them (although I can
                        > > debate whether 'charitable' acts in expectation of rewards or in fear
                        > > of punishments constitute altruism). But, that is precisely why we
                        > > must have alternatives like humanism in place. In fact, that secular
                        > > liberals are not charitable enough may be a symptom of the lack of
                        > > social organization in the atheistic community. I do not think
                        > > religion can be discarded without replacing it with some other moral
                        > > philosophy, presumably one that does not exert its influence based on
                        > > the threat of infinite suffering.
                        > >
                        > > Regarding the subject of morality itself, there is no question that
                        > > religious people function in ways they think is moral. But when this
                        > > involves an explosive device and a bus load of people, it is obvious
                        > > that this morality is relative and must be questioned. I agree that
                        > > science by itself offers no solution either. But it does shed a light
                        > > on the causes of pain and suffering. It enables us the vision and
                        > > foresight that was once unavailable to our limited subjective senses.
                        > > From there on forth we can have a philosophical discussion on what is
                        > > moral and what isn't.
                        > >
                        > > I am eager to hear any differing or concurring views.
                        > >
                        > > _Ajita Kamal
                        > >
                        > > --- In naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com, "Alessandro
                        > > Gagliardi" <alessandro@ > wrote:
                        > > >
                        > > > True, but what does science have to say about bigotry and
                        > > oppression, for
                        > > > example? The religious (particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths)
                        > > somehow
                        > > > assume that their religion entitles them to some moral high ground.
                        > > Let us
                        > > > not make the same mistake. Watson recently demonstrated that
                        scientific
                        > > > genius is no proof against racism and bigotry, and he is certainly
                        > > not the
                        > > > only one. Meanwhile, Jonathan Haidt claims that religious believers
                        > > tend to
                        > > > give more to charities than do secular liberals. (Unfortunately, I
                        > > have no
                        > > > citation for that study, so I don't know if it's true or not.) The
                        > > claim of
                        > > > the faithful that morality depends upon religious is obviously
                        > > absurd. And
                        > > > I will say, anecdotally, that academic scientists tend to be among
                        > > the most
                        > > > honorable people I've known. (Then again, I'm sure we could all
                        > > name a few
                        > > > dishonest scientists.) But let's not make the equally absurd claim
                        > > (as so
                        > > > many secularists have) that reason necessarily engenders moral
                        > > > sophistication. In truth, I think that the very concept of
                        > > "morality" is
                        > > > deeply misunderstood by both religious conservatives and secular
                        > > > intellectuals and neither have any substantial claim to a principled
                        > > high
                        > > > ground on the matter.
                        > > >
                        > > > -Alessandro
                        > > >
                        > > > On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 6:39 PM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
                        > > >
                        > > > > Yes, as far as i am concerned science has nothing to answer for.
                        > > For me
                        > > > > science embodies the highest morality. That of intellectual
                        honesty.
                        > > > > Science does not allow you to say something is true just because
                        > > it feels
                        > > > > true or you want it to be true. You have to prove it to be true.
                        > > To embrace
                        > > > > the intellectual honesty of science requires courage as you
                        have to be
                        > > > > prepared to let go of all the comforting fairytales of your youth.
                        > > You have
                        > > > > to have the strength of character to admit you are wrong and
                        face the
                        > > > > consequences. You have to look your finite existence in the face
                        > > and work
                        > > > > with the reality you've got without any promise of an after life
                        > > or a reward
                        > > > > for the suffering you will endure. That is the path of science and
                        > > I feel
                        > > > > extremely fortunate to have been given the gift of understand it
                        > > and hope to
                        > > > > do my best to honor the principles on which science stands.
                        > > > >
                        > > > > Without intellectual honesty we have nothing and do not graduate
                        > > out of
                        > > > > childhood.
                        > > > >
                        > > > > -James
                        > > > >
                        > > > > ------------ --------- ---------
                        > > > > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                        > > > > From: evolvender@
                        > > > > Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 19:46:14 +0000
                        > > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Religious Immorality
                        > > > >
                        > > > > In light of the common religious strategy of accusation without
                        > > > > evidence followed by non-response to rational arguments, I
                        feel it is
                        > > > > appropriate to take the offensive. This subject has
                        undoubtedly come
                        > > > > up before, however, it is ridiculous to stay on the defensive
                        when all
                        > > > > rational argument is ignored and more accusations are the
                        response.
                        > > > >
                        > > > > Throughout the ages religion has caused a great deal of
                        suffering and
                        > > > > continues to do so. The parceling of fallacies, contradictions and
                        > > > > bloody tales of suffering and conquest as moral guidelines is
                        > > > > reprehensible to any naturalist. The relativist view of morality
                        > > > > entails that such dogmatic belief systems are obsolete and must be
                        > > > > replaced.
                        > > > >
                        > > > > I agree with Ken that this conversation is not interesting
                        anymore.
                        > > > > Let us move on to a more meaningful place.
                        > > > >
                        > > > > -Ajita Kamal
                        > > > >
                        > > > >
                        > > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > ------------ --------- ---------
                        > > Find out: SEEK Salary Centre Are you paid what you're
                        worth?<http://a.ninemsn. com.au/b. aspx?URL= http%3A%2F% 2Fninemsn% 2Eseek%2Ecom% 2Eau%2Fcareer% 2Dresources% 2Fsalary% 2Dcentre% 2F%3Ftracking% 3Dsk%3Ahet% 3Asc%3Anine% 3A0%3Ahot% 3Atext&_t= 764565661& _r=OCT07_ endtext_salary& _m=EXT>
                        > >
                        > >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > --
                        > Alessandro Gagliardi
                        > Integrative Neuroscience Program
                        > Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
                        > alessandro@. ..
                        >




                        Click here Search for local singles online @ Lavalife.
                      • Alessandro Gagliardi
                        I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he was very convincing. (As a side note, for those who are interested in the neuroscience of moral
                        Message 11 of 27 , Apr 3, 2008
                        • 0 Attachment
                          I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he was very convincing.  (As a side note, for those who are interested in the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/ > as well.  It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural 'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".)  He does a good job of explaining things like why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is acceptable.  From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense.  But from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense.  However, while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of sociopaths...let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about higher level moral reasoning and behavior.  (Actually, Marc was careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse the two.)

                          So what about something like vegetarianism?  I'd rather not get into a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat.  That could get very heated and would be off the point.  But I hope we can accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you agree with them or not.  (For the record, I, myself, am not a vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments made by vegetarians as valid.)  I do not believe that Hauser or Greene can explain why someone would be a vegetarian.  I think it is outside of the scope of their study.  It is too abstract and does not make much sense from an evolutionary standpoint.  Vegetarianism is probably not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position.  But my point is that there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond evolutionary psychology.  These seem to be developments on top of that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them).  Perhaps someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree upon.  Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except that, for most people, it lacks a practical element.  But then...maybe that's my point exactly!

                          -Alessandro

                          On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                          Hey Ajita,

                          Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.

                          It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood on the free will question but this: http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins seems to indicate that he is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.

                          In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.

                          So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout the best path to that objective from what we know.

                          I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need of further definition.

                          By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the society.

                          So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all it's citizens.

                          For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of citizens will be put at risk.

                          So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the correct moral stance.

                          The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those connections.

                          The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum net gain from this situation.

                          The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage. As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.

                          There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.

                          This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education and psychological support with the door being left open to re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to particular individuals.

                          I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social interaction in a similar way to those of physics.

                          Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.

                          If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the ground.

                          -James




                          To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                          From: evolvender@...
                          Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000

                          Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality

                          Hey,

                          I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                          However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                          morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                          moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                          youth then shape our specific world view.
                          In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                          childhood and adolescence). Some psychologists have categorized moral
                          development into many stages.
                          I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                          "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                          because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                          else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                          yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                          case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                          this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                          what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                          for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                          relatively long period of social development.
                          I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                          a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                          about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                          to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                          towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                          was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                          http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/52880

                          On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                          (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                          by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                          of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                          by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                          the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                          site, check out the contributors list:
                          http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_index.html

                          Regards,
                          Ajita Kamal
                        • JRS .
                          Hey Alessandro, Thanks for the link, sounds interesting. I ll probably check it out latter on today For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that
                          Message 12 of 27 , Apr 3, 2008
                          • 0 Attachment
                            Hey Alessandro,

                            Thanks for the link, sounds interesting.  I'll probably check it out latter on today

                            For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical thinking.

                            I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to use it at times.

                            I want to be able to say something is immoral without people subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting of being tortured for all eternity.

                            Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and health of society and nothing more.

                            I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and punishment.

                            -James


                            To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                            From: alessandro@...
                            Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 10:04:22 -0400
                            Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality

                            I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he was very convincing.  (As a side note, for those who are interested in the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh. harvard.edu/ ~jgreene/ > as well.  It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural 'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".)  He does a good job of explaining things like why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is acceptable.  From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense.  But from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense.  However, while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of sociopaths.. .let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about higher level moral reasoning and behavior.  (Actually, Marc was careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse the two.)

                            So what about something like vegetarianism?  I'd rather not get into a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat.  That could get very heated and would be off the point.  But I hope we can accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you agree with them or not.  (For the record, I, myself, am not a vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments made by vegetarians as valid.)  I do not believe that Hauser or Greene can explain why someone would be a vegetarian.  I think it is outside of the scope of their study.  It is too abstract and does not make much sense from an evolutionary standpoint.  Vegetarianism is probably not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position.  But my point is that there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond evolutionary psychology.  These seem to be developments on top of that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them).  Perhaps someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree upon.  Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except that, for most people, it lacks a practical element.  But then...maybe that's my point exactly!

                            -Alessandro


                            On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@hotmail. com> wrote:
                            Hey Ajita,

                            Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.

                            It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood on the free will question but this: http://www.edge. org/q2006/ q06_9.html# dawkins seems to indicate that he is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.

                            In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.

                            So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout the best path to that objective from what we know.

                            I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need of further definition.

                            By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the society.

                            So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all it's citizens.

                            For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of citizens will be put at risk.

                            So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the correct moral stance.

                            The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those connections.

                            The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum net gain from this situation.

                            The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage. As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.

                            There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.

                            This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education and psychological support with the door being left open to re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to particular individuals.

                            I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social interaction in a similar way to those of physics.

                            Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.

                            If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the ground.

                            -James




                            To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                            From: evolvender@yahoo. com
                            Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000

                            Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Re: Religious Immorality

                            Hey,

                            I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                            However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                            morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                            moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                            youth then shape our specific world view.
                            In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                            childhood and adolescence) . Some psychologists have categorized moral
                            development into many stages.
                            I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                            "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                            because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                            else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                            yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                            case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                            this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                            what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                            for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                            relatively long period of social development.
                            I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                            a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                            about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                            to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                            towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                            was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                            http://www.american scientist. org/template/ InterviewTypeDet ail/assetid/ 52880

                            On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                            (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                            by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                            of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                            by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                            the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                            site, check out the contributors list:
                            http://www.edge. org/q2006/ q06_index. html

                            Regards,
                            Ajita Kamal


                            Click here Search for local singles online @ Lavalife.
                          • evolvender
                            Hi, I have no concept of any after-life. I am a true materialist. My position on the relative nature of morality is strictly a function of that and here s why.
                            Message 13 of 27 , Apr 4, 2008
                            • 0 Attachment
                              Hi,

                              I have no concept of any after-life. I am a true materialist. My
                              position on the relative nature of morality is strictly a function of
                              that and here's why.
                              A moral absolutist believes that there is good and bad. Think Ten
                              Commandments. When presented with a situation where, for example,
                              killing one person saves hundreds more, such simplistic models break
                              down. In fact, Marc Hauser's research shows clearly that people
                              actually make relativistic decisions all the time even though they may
                              be moral absolutists. Contrary to your claims, the default religious
                              position is moral absolutism; some ancient thinker's idea of right and
                              wrong. The problem is that society evolves and those ideas are
                              rendered obsolete. The reason religious people whose holy books spell
                              out their absolutist beliefs still manage to function like relativists
                              is because of cognitive dissonance.

                              The historical evidence is also on the side of relativism. The moral
                              standards of society are in a state of constant flux. Thus, your
                              parents' generation had quite different moral standards than our own.

                              As regards your point about the word "moral" I agree with your
                              assessment of the religious hold on it. However, there is already a
                              lot of legitimate science out there that has adopted the word into
                              popular jargon. The philosophy of moral reasoning also has a long
                              history. So, I don't think this is of particular importance.

                              " > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                              that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                              should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                              health of society and nothing more."

                              Can you support "...should just be statement of fact"? I am interested
                              in knowing how you think that behavior "damaging the stability and
                              health of society" could be an absolute principle and not something to
                              be determined by a process of assessing risks and consequences? It
                              seems to me as though in the real world, moral solutions depend on
                              varying parameters, requiring a relativistic approach to problem solving.

                              If you are interested you can check out something I wrote a while ago.
                              It tends to ramble a bit but I couldn't resist throwing it in here. I
                              hope this clarifies my positions a little better. If you still
                              disagree, I would love to hear your arguments.
                              http://culturalnaturalism.blogspot.com/2008/03/cnr-post-august-09-2007-brave-new.html

                              Regards,
                              Ajita Kamal


                              --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...>
                              wrote:
                              >
                              >
                              > Hey Alessandro,
                              >
                              > Thanks for the link, sounds interesting. I'll probably check it out
                              latter on today
                              >
                              > For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a
                              vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the
                              place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting
                              test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation
                              movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical
                              thinking.
                              >
                              > I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the
                              heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated
                              with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to
                              use it at times.
                              >
                              > I want to be able to say something is immoral without people
                              subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting
                              of being tortured for all eternity.
                              >
                              > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                              that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                              should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                              health of society and nothing more.
                              >
                              > I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell
                              makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what
                              is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and
                              subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not
                              exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate
                              of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that
                              if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and
                              punishment.
                              >
                              > -James
                              >
                              > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                              > From: alessandro@...
                              > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 10:04:22 -0400
                              > Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he
                              was very convincing. (As a side note, for those who are interested in
                              the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out
                              Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/ > as
                              well. It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural
                              'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".) He does a good job of explaining things like
                              why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life
                              because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that
                              refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is
                              acceptable. From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense. But
                              from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense. However,
                              while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects
                              of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of
                              sociopaths...let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about
                              higher level moral reasoning and behavior. (Actually, Marc was
                              careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at
                              all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse
                              the two.)
                              >
                              >
                              > So what about something like vegetarianism? I'd rather not get into
                              a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat. That
                              could get very heated and would be off the point. But I hope we can
                              accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you
                              agree with them or not. (For the record, I, myself, am not a
                              vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments
                              made by vegetarians as valid.) I do not believe that Hauser or Greene
                              can explain why someone would be a vegetarian. I think it is outside
                              of the scope of their study. It is too abstract and does not make
                              much sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Vegetarianism is probably
                              not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will
                              accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position. But my point is that
                              there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond
                              evolutionary psychology. These seem to be developments on top of
                              that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them). Perhaps
                              someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree
                              upon. Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except
                              that, for most people, it lacks a practical element. But then...maybe
                              that's my point exactly!
                              >
                              >
                              > -Alessandro
                              >
                              > On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > Hey Ajita,
                              >
                              > Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.
                              >
                              > It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood
                              on the free will question but this:
                              http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins seems to indicate that he
                              is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.
                              >
                              >
                              > In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we
                              define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no
                              longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things
                              need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we
                              attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our
                              knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.
                              >
                              >
                              > So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and
                              well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout
                              the best path to that objective from what we know.
                              >
                              > I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct
                              that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where
                              to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite
                              clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social
                              stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need
                              of further definition.
                              >
                              >
                              > By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical
                              and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is
                              having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the
                              society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the
                              society.
                              >
                              >
                              > So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding
                              whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from
                              the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society
                              more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all
                              it's citizens.
                              >
                              >
                              > For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside
                              the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or
                              participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for
                              citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so
                              their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of
                              creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships
                              are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm
                              animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and
                              limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however
                              multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming
                              animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain
                              citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be
                              culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting
                              citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of
                              citizens will be put at risk.
                              >
                              >
                              > So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the
                              correct moral stance.
                              >
                              > The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all
                              life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those
                              connections.
                              >
                              >
                              > The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum
                              net gain from this situation.
                              >
                              > The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage.
                              As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their
                              best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the
                              answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to
                              bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single
                              equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one
                              answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.
                              >
                              >
                              > There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the
                              science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at
                              this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at
                              a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that
                              prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from
                              an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.
                              >
                              >
                              > This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is
                              important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a
                              world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very
                              different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education
                              and psychological support with the door being left open to
                              re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to
                              particular individuals.
                              >
                              >
                              > I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective
                              morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social
                              interaction in a similar way to those of physics.
                              >
                              > Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in
                              order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to
                              determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.
                              >
                              >
                              > If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules
                              you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the
                              ground.
                              >
                              > -James
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                              >
                              > From: evolvender@...
                              > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                              > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > Hey,
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                              >
                              > However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                              >
                              > morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                              >
                              > moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                              >
                              > youth then shape our specific world view.
                              >
                              > In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                              >
                              > childhood and adolescence). Some psychologists have categorized moral
                              >
                              > development into many stages.
                              >
                              > I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                              >
                              > "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                              >
                              > because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                              >
                              > else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                              >
                              > yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                              >
                              > case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                              >
                              > this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                              >
                              > what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                              >
                              > for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                              >
                              > relatively long period of social development.
                              >
                              > I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                              >
                              > a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                              >
                              > about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                              >
                              > to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                              >
                              > towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                              >
                              > was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                              >
                              >
                              http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/52880
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                              >
                              > (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                              >
                              > by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                              >
                              > of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                              >
                              > by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                              >
                              > the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                              >
                              > site, check out the contributors list:
                              >
                              > http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_index.html
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > Regards,
                              >
                              > Ajita Kamal
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              >
                              > _________________________________________________________________
                              > Search for local singles online @ Lavalife - Click here
                              >
                              http://a.ninemsn.com.au/b.aspx?URL=http%3A%2F%2Flavalife9%2Eninemsn%2Ecom%2Eau%2Fclickthru%2Fclickthru%2Eact%3Fid%3Dninemsn%26context%3Dan99%26locale%3Den%5FAU%26a%3D30290&_t=764581033&_r=email_taglines_Search_OCT07&_m=EXT
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                            • Alessandro Gagliardi
                              Well, while I personally use the words moral and ethical differently, a lot of people don t. So if you think the word ethical might free you from some
                              Message 14 of 27 , Apr 4, 2008
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                                Well, while I personally use the words "moral" and "ethical" differently, a lot of people don't.  So if you think the word "ethical" might free you from some of that baggage, I suppose you could do so and be in good company.  (If you're curious, I consider ethics to be more rational, as it is a branch of philosophy, and morality to be more feeling-oriented.  Hopefully the two agree, but they may not always.) 

                                Yes, unfortunately, popular religion has done a number on our sense of morality.  Something I like to remind Christians (and many former Christians) of is that the word "sin" is taken from archery, and all it means is "to miss the mark."  I really like that, because it doesn't have any of that "bad" and "wrong" associated with it.  You just missed the mark.  And if you're a Christian, the mark is simply to love God (whatever God is) and to love your neighbor.  Being something of a pantheist, I tend to associate God with nature or the universe, so from that point of view, I'm actually a big fan of the Christian ethic (as I have just defined it).  Also, interpreted in that way, the two commandments of loving God and loving your neighbor are really just two points on a continuum, your neighbor being the most immanent manifestation of how the universe presents itself to you.  But now I'm sounding mystical.  I apologize. 

                                Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that I understand where you're coming from but I don't think it has to be that way.  At the same time, even though I consciously have defined sin in the manner above, decades of conditioning can't help but make me feel ill whenever I hear that word.  So in fact, while I will use it to make the point above, I never use that word otherwise for exactly the same reason that you prefer to avoid the word "immoral."

                                ::shrug::

                                -A

                                On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 6:04 PM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                                Hey Alessandro,

                                Thanks for the link, sounds interesting.  I'll probably check it out latter on today

                                For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical thinking.

                                I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to use it at times.

                                I want to be able to say something is immoral without people subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting of being tortured for all eternity.

                                Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and health of society and nothing more.

                                I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and punishment.

                                -James
                              • Alessandro Gagliardi
                                Two things: 1) You re absolutely right that religious dogma is founded in pre-rational dualistic absolutist thinking. I m just finishing reading the Torah and
                                Message 15 of 27 , Apr 4, 2008
                                • 0 Attachment
                                  Two things:

                                  1) You're absolutely right that religious dogma is founded in pre-rational dualistic absolutist thinking.  I'm just finishing reading the Torah and it exhibits the moral sophistication of a five-year-old.  Fortunately, many religious thinkers since then have gone beyond that and developed more relativistic ways of approaching these problems.  Unfortunately, most of the major religions have enshrined these ancient texts such that they will not go away and will continually provide fodder for the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons in the world (to say nothing of the Osama Bin Ladens!)

                                  2) I'd like to make point about the semantics of the word "principle."  A principle is very different from a law.  A principle is sensitive to varying conditions in a way that a law is not.  When people talk about "the spirit of the law" as opposed to "the letter", they are referring to the principle behind the law.  Most people, for example, uphold a principle that causing harm is to be avoided.  Of course, that is impossible to enforce as a law.  Harm is inevitable.  But as a principle, it can guide our actions so as to lead us to hopefully minimize the amount of harm we cause.

                                  -A

                                  On Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 6:13 AM, evolvender <evolvender@...> wrote:
                                  Hi,

                                  I have no concept of any after-life. I am a true materialist. My
                                  position on the relative nature of morality is strictly a function of
                                  that and here's why.
                                  A moral absolutist believes that there is good and bad. Think Ten
                                  Commandments. When presented with a situation where, for example,
                                  killing one person saves hundreds more, such simplistic models break
                                  down. In fact, Marc Hauser's research shows clearly that people
                                  actually make relativistic decisions all the time even though they may
                                  be moral absolutists. Contrary to your claims, the default religious
                                  position is moral absolutism; some ancient thinker's idea of right and
                                  wrong. The problem is that society evolves and those ideas are
                                  rendered obsolete. The reason religious people whose holy books spell
                                  out their absolutist beliefs still manage to function like relativists
                                  is because of cognitive dissonance.

                                  The historical evidence is also on the side of relativism. The moral
                                  standards of society are in a state of constant flux. Thus, your
                                  parents' generation had quite different moral standards than our own.

                                  As regards your point about the word "moral" I agree with your
                                  assessment of the religious hold on it. However, there is already a
                                  lot of legitimate science out there that has adopted the word into
                                  popular jargon. The philosophy of moral reasoning also has a long
                                  history. So, I don't think this is of particular importance.

                                  " > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                  that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                  should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                  health of society and nothing more."

                                  Can you support "...should just be statement of fact"? I am interested
                                  in knowing how you think that behavior "damaging the stability and
                                  health of society" could be an absolute principle and not something to
                                  be determined by a process of assessing risks and consequences? It
                                  seems to me as though in the real world, moral solutions depend on
                                  varying parameters, requiring a relativistic approach to problem solving.

                                  If you are interested you can check out something I wrote a while ago.
                                  It tends to ramble a bit but I couldn't resist throwing it in here. I
                                  hope this clarifies my positions a little better. If you still
                                  disagree, I would love to hear your arguments.
                                  http://culturalnaturalism.blogspot.com/2008/03/cnr-post-august-09-2007-brave-new.html

                                  Regards,
                                  Ajita Kamal


                                  --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...>
                                  wrote:
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > Hey Alessandro,
                                  >
                                  > Thanks for the link, sounds interesting.  I'll probably check it out
                                  latter on today
                                  >
                                  > For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a
                                  vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the
                                  place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting
                                  test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation
                                  movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical
                                  thinking.
                                  >
                                  > I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the
                                  heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated
                                  with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to
                                  use it at times.
                                  >
                                  > I want to be able to say something is immoral without people
                                  subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting
                                  of being tortured for all eternity.
                                  >
                                  > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                  that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                  should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                  health of society and nothing more.
                                  >
                                  > I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell
                                  makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what
                                  is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and
                                  subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not
                                  exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate
                                  of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that
                                  if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and
                                  punishment.
                                  >
                                  > -James
                                  >
                                  > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                  > From: alessandro@...
                                  > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 10:04:22 -0400
                                  > Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >             I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he
                                  was very convincing.  (As a side note, for those who are interested in
                                  the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out
                                  Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/ > as
                                  well.  It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural
                                  'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".)  He does a good job of explaining things like
                                  why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life
                                  because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that
                                  refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is
                                  acceptable.  From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense.  But
                                  from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense.  However,
                                  while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects
                                  of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of
                                  sociopaths...let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about
                                  higher level moral reasoning and behavior.  (Actually, Marc was
                                  careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at
                                  all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse
                                  the two.)
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > So what about something like vegetarianism?  I'd rather not get into
                                  a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat.  That
                                  could get very heated and would be off the point.  But I hope we can
                                  accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you
                                  agree with them or not.  (For the record, I, myself, am not a
                                  vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments
                                  made by vegetarians as valid.)  I do not believe that Hauser or Greene
                                  can explain why someone would be a vegetarian.  I think it is outside
                                  of the scope of their study.  It is too abstract and does not make
                                  much sense from an evolutionary standpoint.  Vegetarianism is probably
                                  not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will
                                  accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position.  But my point is that
                                  there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond
                                  evolutionary psychology.  These seem to be developments on top of
                                  that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them).  Perhaps
                                  someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree
                                  upon.  Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except
                                  that, for most people, it lacks a practical element.  But then...maybe
                                  that's my point exactly!
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > -Alessandro
                                  >
                                  > On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > Hey Ajita,
                                  >
                                  > Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.
                                  >
                                  > It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood
                                  on the free will question but this:
                                  http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins seems to indicate that he
                                  is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we
                                  define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no
                                  longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things
                                  need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we
                                  attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our
                                  knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and
                                  well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout
                                  the best path to that objective from what we know.
                                  >
                                  > I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct
                                  that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where
                                  to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite
                                  clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social
                                  stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need
                                  of further definition.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical
                                  and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is
                                  having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the
                                  society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the
                                  society.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding
                                  whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from
                                  the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society
                                  more stable and looking after  the physical and mental health of all
                                  it's citizens.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside
                                  the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or
                                  participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for
                                  citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so
                                  their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of
                                  creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships
                                  are beneficial to the psychological health  of citizens. To harm
                                  animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and
                                  limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however
                                  multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming
                                  animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain
                                  citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be
                                  culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting
                                  citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of
                                  citizens will be put at risk.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the
                                  correct moral stance.
                                  >
                                  > The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all
                                  life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those
                                  connections.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum
                                  net gain from this situation.
                                  >
                                  > The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage.
                                  As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their
                                  best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the
                                  answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to
                                  bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single
                                  equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one
                                  answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the
                                  science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at
                                  this coming to pass if it does, because  it will only come to pass at
                                  a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that
                                  prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from
                                  an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is
                                  important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a
                                  world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very
                                  different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education
                                  and psychological support with the door being left open to
                                  re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to
                                  particular individuals.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective
                                  morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social
                                  interaction in a similar way to those of physics.
                                  >
                                  > Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in
                                  order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to
                                  determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules
                                  you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the
                                  ground.
                                  >
                                  > -James
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                  >
                                  > From: evolvender@...
                                  > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                                  > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
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                                  >
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                                  >
                                  >
                                  >             Hey,
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                                  >
                                  > However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                                  >
                                  > morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                                  >
                                  > moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                                  >
                                  > youth then shape our specific world view.
                                  >
                                  >  In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                                  >
                                  > childhood and adolescence). Some psychologists have categorized moral
                                  >
                                  > development into many stages.
                                  >
                                  > I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                                  >
                                  > "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                                  >
                                  > because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                                  >
                                  > else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                                  >
                                  > yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                                  >
                                  > case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                                  >
                                  > this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                                  >
                                  > what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                                  >
                                  > for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                                  >
                                  > relatively long period of social development.
                                  >
                                  > I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                                  >
                                  > a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                                  >
                                  > about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                                  >
                                  > to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                                  >
                                  > towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                                  >
                                  > was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                                  >
                                  >
                                  http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/52880
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                                  >
                                  > (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                                  >
                                  > by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                                  >
                                  > of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                                  >
                                  > by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                                  >
                                  > the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                                  >
                                  > site, check out the contributors list:
                                  >
                                  > http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_index.html
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > Regards,
                                  >
                                  > Ajita Kamal
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
                                  >
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                                  >
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                                  >
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                                  >
                                  > _________________________________________________________________
                                  > Search for local singles online @ Lavalife - Click here
                                  >
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                                  --
                                  Alessandro Gagliardi
                                  Integrative Neuroscience Program
                                  Rutgers University Mind Brain Analysis
                                  alessandro@...
                                • Mike Layfield
                                  James wrote: I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. James, I agree with
                                  Message 16 of 27 , Apr 4, 2008
                                  • 0 Attachment
                                    James wrote:
                                    "I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct that
                                    promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society."

                                    James, I agree with the value (and hopefully the truth) of your claim,
                                    and I see a lot of overlap with Jonathon Haidt's 2nd of 4 principles
                                    of moral psychology: "Moral thinking is for social doing."
                                    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt07/haidt07_index.html

                                    Also, regarding the health aspect of morality, I see significant
                                    overlap with Loyal Rue's 3 Imperatives (from his book, "Everybody's
                                    Story"):
                                    1) maximize personal motive satisfaction (through psychotherapy)
                                    2) maximize social conformity (through politics)
                                    3) maximize biodiversity (through ecotherapy)

                                    Health is central to Rue's approach. The above imperatives deal with
                                    health at three levels of organization, and each is in a constant
                                    state of tension with the others. Personal wholeness depends not only
                                    on personal motive satisfaction, but also on social coherence and on
                                    the integrity of the biosphere. The good life presumes life and life
                                    presumes healthy living systems. Many liberally-minded folks embedded
                                    in our culture of radical individualism reflexly reject Rue's second
                                    imperative as a sort of "gateway meme" to fascism, but consider the
                                    conversation in which we are currently engaged. Are we not attempting
                                    to achieve a consensus on the nature of morality? and is consensus not
                                    a measure of conformity? The point of the Rue's three imperatives is
                                    to optimally balance them. Imagine three circles of vital concern
                                    overlapping in the middle. It is in the region of overlap where we
                                    must focus our efforts. People can not be fully healthy and happy if
                                    they can not achieve personal motive satisfaction. A society can not
                                    be fully healthy if it can not achieve coherence through some measure
                                    of conformity. An ecosystem can not be healthy if its component parts
                                    are damaged or destroyed.

                                    Nothing matters to water. It doesn't care whether it is vapor, liquid
                                    or ice. But to living organisms, things like temperature and chemistry
                                    matter. Living things care. As Ursula Goodenough has written, "All
                                    creatures evaluate."

                                    The following is an excerpt from Loyal Rue's "Everybody's Story:
                                    "...the entire domain of moral reasoning depends on there being in the
                                    world something we might call moral consciousness, that is the ability
                                    to generate a variety of options for behavior together with the
                                    ability to winnow them away selectively on the basis of moral rules.
                                    Apart from these abilities nothing in morality makes sense. This said,
                                    we may now ask about value of these abilities. If moral consciousness
                                    is a good thing then what makes it a good thing? The biological answer
                                    is that moral consciousness is a good thing because of its adaptive
                                    value, that is, its power to assist us in meeting the challenges to
                                    viability. This means that the value of morality per se is derived
                                    from the value of viability. But if the value of having a range of
                                    behavioral options is relative to viability then the value assigned to
                                    any particular option is also determined relative to the standard of
                                    viability, and if the value of every moral option is relative to the
                                    same standard then that standard may be said to be objective. If one
                                    therefore chooses to act in ways that contradict the value of
                                    viability one thereby chooses contrary to the conditions of one's
                                    choosing. I believe this qualifies as an objectively irrational
                                    act.... The important point is that viability deserves special [moral]
                                    status... It is the one value to command all others."

                                    Rue does not in the above selection claim to have cracked the
                                    naturalistic fallacy, only that if anything matters then what matters
                                    most is viability. Nihilism may be intellectually plausible, but it is
                                    not existentially feasible.

                                    Mike
                                    ---
                                    "Common sense is overrated."
                                    E.O. Wilson
                                  • JRS .
                                    hey Ajita, I had a read of your blog and I see you have chosen one of the other interesting areas of ethics to explore. Abortion is one of those things where
                                    Message 17 of 27 , Apr 5, 2008
                                    • 0 Attachment
                                      hey Ajita,

                                      I had a read of your blog and I see you have chosen one of the other interesting areas of ethics to explore. Abortion is one of those things where ethics and morality struggle precisely due to the gradient effect you describe. I find the abortion debate and the animal liberation debate have a lot in common. It all revolves around the question of when does an entity become ethically relevant. In the future AI may well present us with the same dilemma from another front.

                                      Here is the solution i present though. If we determine morality as actions that move society towards greater health and stability we can asses every action from this standpoint. From this view everything has moral value, even a rock, however different things have different moral value and the moral value of one thing can trump another. For example the moral value of not destroying a rock is fairly low and the moral value of saving a human is very high so if destroying a rock would save a human then destroy the rock. If destroying the rock would serve no positive gain then you should probably leave the rock be.

                                      So you see just as our definitions of a person or a morally relevant entity can operate on a sliding scale so too can the moral value we assign them.  This means we can maintain our objective moral equation.  There  may be situations where the moral equation determines that abortion is wrong and others where it determines it to be right. The same for eating meat and even destroying rocks or killing bugs.

                                      I think people confuse objective morality with one size fits all morality. A morality where the equation is only calculated once based on one groups situation and then that result is applied to everyone. This of course is entirely unreasonable, the equation needs to be calculated every time for every situation and refined when it does not produce correct results. Just like in science.

                                      Objective morality is not about rules set in stone but about the equation by which those rules are determined. It's totally reasonable to disagree on the results as we have access to different information. The important thing is that we agree on the equation. If we agree on the equation then our conversations can be a much more productive mutual education about the about the facts.

                                      To understand  the equation we need solid definitions and I have given my definition of morality. If you disagree with the definition I have suggested then I'm interested as to how you would change it.

                                      Morality is meaningless if it is not properly defined. It is no more useful than a gut feeling and religion shows us how useless and unreliable that is.

                                      One persons gut feeling may be to save a starving child, the others may be to blow up a bunch of people in a crowded market.

                                      Objectively defined morality is our only way out of this as far as i can see.

                                      We can say when a pile of sticks stops being a pile when we make the decision to define a pile properly as 2 or more sticks resting on top of each other and let go of romantic ideas of subjectivity.

                                      I think subjectivity is an over reaction to authoritarian rule. We are afraid to say someone is wrong because they might be right. The thing to remember is that someone can be wrong even if their conclusion is right if their method for arriving at that conclusion is faulty.

                                      It's not what we conclude but how we arrive at that conclusion that makes us right to believe it.

                                      Someone who believes in evolution simple because they have been told it is true is wrong to believe it.

                                      -James


                                      To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                      From: evolvender@...
                                      Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2008 10:13:12 +0000
                                      Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality

                                      Hi,

                                      I have no concept of any after-life. I am a true materialist. My
                                      position on the relative nature of morality is strictly a function of
                                      that and here's why.
                                      A moral absolutist believes that there is good and bad. Think Ten
                                      Commandments. When presented with a situation where, for example,
                                      killing one person saves hundreds more, such simplistic models break
                                      down. In fact, Marc Hauser's research shows clearly that people
                                      actually make relativistic decisions all the time even though they may
                                      be moral absolutists. Contrary to your claims, the default religious
                                      position is moral absolutism; some ancient thinker's idea of right and
                                      wrong. The problem is that society evolves and those ideas are
                                      rendered obsolete. The reason religious people whose holy books spell
                                      out their absolutist beliefs still manage to function like relativists
                                      is because of cognitive dissonance.

                                      The historical evidence is also on the side of relativism. The moral
                                      standards of society are in a state of constant flux. Thus, your
                                      parents' generation had quite different moral standards than our own.

                                      As regards your point about the word "moral" I agree with your
                                      assessment of the religious hold on it. However, there is already a
                                      lot of legitimate science out there that has adopted the word into
                                      popular jargon. The philosophy of moral reasoning also has a long
                                      history. So, I don't think this is of particular importance.

                                      " > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                      that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                      should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                      health of society and nothing more."

                                      Can you support "...should just be statement of fact"? I am interested
                                      in knowing how you think that behavior "damaging the stability and
                                      health of society" could be an absolute principle and not something to
                                      be determined by a process of assessing risks and consequences? It
                                      seems to me as though in the real world, moral solutions depend on
                                      varying parameters, requiring a relativistic approach to problem solving.

                                      If you are interested you can check out something I wrote a while ago.
                                      It tends to ramble a bit but I couldn't resist throwing it in here. I
                                      hope this clarifies my positions a little better. If you still
                                      disagree, I would love to hear your arguments.
                                      http://culturalnatu ralism.blogspot. com/2008/ 03/cnr-post- august-09- 2007-brave- new.html

                                      Regards,
                                      Ajita Kamal

                                      --- In naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...>
                                      wrote:
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Hey Alessandro,
                                      >
                                      > Thanks for the link, sounds interesting. I'll probably check it out
                                      latter on today
                                      >
                                      > For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a
                                      vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the
                                      place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting
                                      test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation
                                      movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical
                                      thinking.
                                      >
                                      > I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the
                                      heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated
                                      with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to
                                      use it at times.
                                      >
                                      > I want to be able to say something is immoral without people
                                      subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting
                                      of being tortured for all eternity.
                                      >
                                      > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                      that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                      should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                      health of society and nothing more.
                                      >
                                      > I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell
                                      makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what
                                      is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and
                                      subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not
                                      exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate
                                      of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that
                                      if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and
                                      punishment.
                                      >
                                      > -James
                                      >
                                      > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                                      > From: alessandro@. ..
                                      > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 10:04:22 -0400
                                      > Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he
                                      was very convincing. (As a side note, for those who are interested in
                                      the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out
                                      Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh. harvard.edu/ ~jgreene/ > as
                                      well. It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural
                                      'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".) He does a good job of explaining things like
                                      why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life
                                      because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that
                                      refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is
                                      acceptable. From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense. But
                                      from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense. However,
                                      while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects
                                      of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of
                                      sociopaths.. .let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about
                                      higher level moral reasoning and behavior. (Actually, Marc was
                                      careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at
                                      all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse
                                      the two.)
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > So what about something like vegetarianism? I'd rather not get into
                                      a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat. That
                                      could get very heated and would be off the point. But I hope we can
                                      accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you
                                      agree with them or not. (For the record, I, myself, am not a
                                      vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments
                                      made by vegetarians as valid.) I do not believe that Hauser or Greene
                                      can explain why someone would be a vegetarian. I think it is outside
                                      of the scope of their study. It is too abstract and does not make
                                      much sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Vegetarianism is probably
                                      not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will
                                      accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position. But my point is that
                                      there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond
                                      evolutionary psychology. These seem to be developments on top of
                                      that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them). Perhaps
                                      someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree
                                      upon. Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except
                                      that, for most people, it lacks a practical element. But then...maybe
                                      that's my point exactly!
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > -Alessandro
                                      >
                                      > On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Hey Ajita,
                                      >
                                      > Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.
                                      >
                                      > It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood
                                      on the free will question but this:
                                      http://www.edge. org/q2006/ q06_9.html# dawkins seems to indicate that he
                                      is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we
                                      define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no
                                      longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things
                                      need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we
                                      attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our
                                      knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and
                                      well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout
                                      the best path to that objective from what we know.
                                      >
                                      > I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct
                                      that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where
                                      to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite
                                      clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social
                                      stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need
                                      of further definition.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical
                                      and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is
                                      having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the
                                      society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the
                                      society.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding
                                      whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from
                                      the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society
                                      more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all
                                      it's citizens.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside
                                      the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or
                                      participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for
                                      citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so
                                      their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of
                                      creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships
                                      are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm
                                      animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and
                                      limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however
                                      multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming
                                      animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain
                                      citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be
                                      culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting
                                      citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of
                                      citizens will be put at risk.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the
                                      correct moral stance.
                                      >
                                      > The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all
                                      life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those
                                      connections.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum
                                      net gain from this situation.
                                      >
                                      > The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage.
                                      As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their
                                      best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the
                                      answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to
                                      bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single
                                      equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one
                                      answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the
                                      science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at
                                      this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at
                                      a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that
                                      prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from
                                      an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is
                                      important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a
                                      world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very
                                      different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education
                                      and psychological support with the door being left open to
                                      re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to
                                      particular individuals.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective
                                      morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social
                                      interaction in a similar way to those of physics.
                                      >
                                      > Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in
                                      order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to
                                      determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules
                                      you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the
                                      ground.
                                      >
                                      > -James
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                                      >
                                      > From: evolvender@. ..
                                      > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                                      > Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Hey,
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                                      >
                                      > However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                                      >
                                      > morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                                      >
                                      > moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                                      >
                                      > youth then shape our specific world view.
                                      >
                                      > In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                                      >
                                      > childhood and adolescence) . Some psychologists have categorized moral
                                      >
                                      > development into many stages.
                                      >
                                      > I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                                      >
                                      > "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                                      >
                                      > because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                                      >
                                      > else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                                      >
                                      > yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                                      >
                                      > case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                                      >
                                      > this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                                      >
                                      > what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                                      >
                                      > for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                                      >
                                      > relatively long period of social development.
                                      >
                                      > I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                                      >
                                      > a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                                      >
                                      > about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                                      >
                                      > to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                                      >
                                      > towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                                      >
                                      > was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                                      >
                                      >
                                      http://www.american scientist. org/template/ InterviewTypeDet ail/assetid/ 52880
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                                      >
                                      > (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                                      >
                                      > by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                                      >
                                      > of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                                      >
                                      > by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                                      >
                                      > the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                                      >
                                      > site, check out the contributors list:
                                      >
                                      > http://www.edge. org/q2006/ q06_index. html
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Regards,
                                      >
                                      > Ajita Kamal
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > ____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
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                                    • evolvender
                                      Thats an interesting concept, James. I enjoyed going through your reply. So it seems there are two properties of the nature of morality that we are discussing.
                                      Message 18 of 27 , Apr 5, 2008
                                      • 0 Attachment
                                        Thats an interesting concept, James. I enjoyed going through your reply.
                                        So it seems there are two properties of the nature of morality that we
                                        are discussing.

                                        relative morality vs. absolute morality
                                        objective morality vs. subjective morality

                                        I am pretty sure we're both relativists, although you do not prefer
                                        using the term, quite understandably.

                                        Now, I also believe that morality is subjective. That is to say that
                                        there is no objective moral standard determined by the universe
                                        outside of our human judgment.
                                        In biological terms, morality is an emotional response. Since emotion
                                        is the tool of subjective experience, uniquely determined by biology
                                        and environment, morality is subjective. But emotion is powerful and
                                        the urge to impose our morals on the universe can be gratifying.

                                        Most religious cultures that have existed preached their own version
                                        of objective morality (supposedly absolute AND supposedly objective).
                                        We know that every generation the moral standards are shifted. Isn't
                                        it a little pretentious to believe, just like the religious, that WE
                                        have discovered the true objective morality? Is it not possible- no,
                                        very likely, that future generations will look at some action of ours
                                        and cringe with disgust at the immorality of our ways? I believe that
                                        it is highly probable that the human species is just beginning its
                                        journey. A lot more things are waiting for us to find them (or we'll
                                        find them anyway) and those things are bound to change us in ways
                                        we've never imagined. Throughout this journey, I believe that only our
                                        palsticity in moral behavior will save us (can't prove this one, but
                                        can justify the belief probabilistically).

                                        You say:

                                        > Morality is meaningless if it is not properly defined. It is no more
                                        useful than a gut feeling and religion shows us how useless and
                                        unreliable that is.

                                        Morality is understood fairly well in biology as the emotion driven
                                        mechanism that guides social behaviors such as co-operation,
                                        punishment etc. The gut feeling that people experience is natural
                                        selection's ultimate creation, a signal to interact with members of
                                        one's species. The problem arises when we try to define morality in
                                        terms other than biological. There we are stuck because outside of
                                        biology, morality has no meaning.
                                        You are making the same error that those who criticize naturalism
                                        make- because morality is meaningless to a naturalist, naturalists
                                        must be immoral. (I'm not saying you think morality is meaningless,
                                        the religious think we all do). The argument to this is that we are
                                        who we are. Knowledge of my gastro-intestinal tract does not make me
                                        lose my appetite, it just helps inform me what is good for me to eat.
                                        Understanding the evolutionary reasons for the presence of a sex drive
                                        does not keep me from lusting, it just help me make more informed
                                        decisions when I act on that lust. Similarly, understanding morality
                                        in biological terms does not have to make a moral living meaningless-
                                        just a lot more complicated.

                                        You mention right and wrong a few times towards the end. I really do
                                        not see these concepts having any meaning in a naturalistic
                                        understanding of morality. I understand "good" and "bad", relatively
                                        of course. However, "right" and "wrong" are statements about
                                        quantitative measurements, of which morality is not one.

                                        Tell me what do you think.

                                        Regards,
                                        Ajita Kamal




                                        --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...>
                                        wrote:
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > hey Ajita,
                                        >
                                        > I had a read of your blog and I see you have chosen one of the other
                                        interesting areas of ethics to explore. Abortion is one of those
                                        things where ethics and morality struggle precisely due to the
                                        gradient effect you describe. I find the abortion debate and the
                                        animal liberation debate have a lot in common. It all revolves around
                                        the question of when does an entity become ethically relevant. In the
                                        future AI may well present us with the same dilemma from another front.
                                        >
                                        > Here is the solution i present though. If we determine morality as
                                        actions that move society towards greater health and stability we can
                                        asses every action from this standpoint. From this view everything has
                                        moral value, even a rock, however different things have different
                                        moral value and the moral value of one thing can trump another. For
                                        example the moral value of not destroying a rock is fairly low and the
                                        moral value of saving a human is very high so if destroying a rock
                                        would save a human then destroy the rock. If destroying the rock would
                                        serve no positive gain then you should probably leave the rock be.
                                        >
                                        > So you see just as our definitions of a person or a morally relevant
                                        entity can operate on a sliding scale so too can the moral value we
                                        assign them. This means we can maintain our objective moral equation.
                                        There may be situations where the moral equation determines that
                                        abortion is wrong and others where it determines it to be right. The
                                        same for eating meat and even destroying rocks or killing bugs.
                                        >
                                        > I think people confuse objective morality with one size fits all
                                        morality. A morality where the equation is only calculated once based
                                        on one groups situation and then that result is applied to everyone.
                                        This of course is entirely unreasonable, the equation needs to be
                                        calculated every time for every situation and refined when it does not
                                        produce correct results. Just like in science.
                                        >
                                        > Objective morality is not about rules set in stone but about the
                                        equation by which those rules are determined. It's totally reasonable
                                        to disagree on the results as we have access to different information.
                                        The important thing is that we agree on the equation. If we agree on
                                        the equation then our conversations can be a much more productive
                                        mutual education about the about the facts.
                                        >
                                        > To understand the equation we need solid definitions and I have
                                        given my definition of morality. If you disagree with the definition I
                                        have suggested then I'm interested as to how you would change it.
                                        >
                                        > Morality is meaningless if it is not properly defined. It is no more
                                        useful than a gut feeling and religion shows us how useless and
                                        unreliable that is.
                                        >
                                        > One persons gut feeling may be to save a starving child, the others
                                        may be to blow up a bunch of people in a crowded market.
                                        >
                                        > Objectively defined morality is our only way out of this as far as i
                                        can see.
                                        >
                                        > We can say when a pile of sticks stops being a pile when we make the
                                        decision to define a pile properly as 2 or more sticks resting on top
                                        of each other and let go of romantic ideas of subjectivity.
                                        >
                                        > I think subjectivity is an over reaction to authoritarian rule. We
                                        are afraid to say someone is wrong because they might be right. The
                                        thing to remember is that someone can be wrong even if their
                                        conclusion is right if their method for arriving at that conclusion is
                                        faulty.
                                        >
                                        > It's not what we conclude but how we arrive at that conclusion that
                                        makes us right to believe it.
                                        >
                                        > Someone who believes in evolution simple because they have been told
                                        it is true is wrong to believe it.
                                        >

                                        > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                        > From: evolvender@...
                                        > Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2008 10:13:12 +0000
                                        > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > Hi,
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > I have no concept of any after-life. I am a true materialist. My
                                        >
                                        > position on the relative nature of morality is strictly a function of
                                        >
                                        > that and here's why.
                                        >
                                        > A moral absolutist believes that there is good and bad. Think Ten
                                        >
                                        > Commandments. When presented with a situation where, for example,
                                        >
                                        > killing one person saves hundreds more, such simplistic models break
                                        >
                                        > down. In fact, Marc Hauser's research shows clearly that people
                                        >
                                        > actually make relativistic decisions all the time even though they may
                                        >
                                        > be moral absolutists. Contrary to your claims, the default religious
                                        >
                                        > position is moral absolutism; some ancient thinker's idea of right and
                                        >
                                        > wrong. The problem is that society evolves and those ideas are
                                        >
                                        > rendered obsolete. The reason religious people whose holy books spell
                                        >
                                        > out their absolutist beliefs still manage to function like relativists
                                        >
                                        > is because of cognitive dissonance.
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > The historical evidence is also on the side of relativism. The moral
                                        >
                                        > standards of society are in a state of constant flux. Thus, your
                                        >
                                        > parents' generation had quite different moral standards than our own.
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > As regards your point about the word "moral" I agree with your
                                        >
                                        > assessment of the religious hold on it. However, there is already a
                                        >
                                        > lot of legitimate science out there that has adopted the word into
                                        >
                                        > popular jargon. The philosophy of moral reasoning also has a long
                                        >
                                        > history. So, I don't think this is of particular importance.
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > " > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                        >
                                        > that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                        >
                                        > should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                        >
                                        > health of society and nothing more."
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > Can you support "...should just be statement of fact"? I am interested
                                        >
                                        > in knowing how you think that behavior "damaging the stability and
                                        >
                                        > health of society" could be an absolute principle and not something to
                                        >
                                        > be determined by a process of assessing risks and consequences? It
                                        >
                                        > seems to me as though in the real world, moral solutions depend on
                                        >
                                        > varying parameters, requiring a relativistic approach to problem
                                        solving.
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > If you are interested you can check out something I wrote a while ago.
                                        >
                                        > It tends to ramble a bit but I couldn't resist throwing it in here. I
                                        >
                                        > hope this clarifies my positions a little better. If you still
                                        >
                                        > disagree, I would love to hear your arguments.
                                        >
                                        >
                                        http://culturalnaturalism.blogspot.com/2008/03/cnr-post-august-09-2007-brave-new.html
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > Regards,
                                        >
                                        > Ajita Kamal
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@>
                                        >
                                        > wrote:
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Hey Alessandro,
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Thanks for the link, sounds interesting. I'll probably check it out
                                        >
                                        > latter on today
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a
                                        >
                                        > vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the
                                        >
                                        > place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting
                                        >
                                        > test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation
                                        >
                                        > movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical
                                        >
                                        > thinking.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the
                                        >
                                        > heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated
                                        >
                                        > with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to
                                        >
                                        > use it at times.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I want to be able to say something is immoral without people
                                        >
                                        > subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting
                                        >
                                        > of being tortured for all eternity.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                        >
                                        > that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                        >
                                        > should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                        >
                                        > health of society and nothing more.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell
                                        >
                                        > makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what
                                        >
                                        > is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and
                                        >
                                        > subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not
                                        >
                                        > exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate
                                        >
                                        > of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that
                                        >
                                        > if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and
                                        >
                                        > punishment.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > -James
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                        >
                                        > > From: alessandro@
                                        >
                                        > > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 10:04:22 -0400
                                        >
                                        > > Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he
                                        >
                                        > was very convincing. (As a side note, for those who are interested in
                                        >
                                        > the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out
                                        >
                                        > Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/ > as
                                        >
                                        > well. It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural
                                        >
                                        > 'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".) He does a good job of explaining things like
                                        >
                                        > why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life
                                        >
                                        > because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that
                                        >
                                        > refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is
                                        >
                                        > acceptable. From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense. But
                                        >
                                        > from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense. However,
                                        >
                                        > while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects
                                        >
                                        > of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of
                                        >
                                        > sociopaths...let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about
                                        >
                                        > higher level moral reasoning and behavior. (Actually, Marc was
                                        >
                                        > careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at
                                        >
                                        > all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse
                                        >
                                        > the two.)
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > So what about something like vegetarianism? I'd rather not get into
                                        >
                                        > a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat. That
                                        >
                                        > could get very heated and would be off the point. But I hope we can
                                        >
                                        > accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you
                                        >
                                        > agree with them or not. (For the record, I, myself, am not a
                                        >
                                        > vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments
                                        >
                                        > made by vegetarians as valid.) I do not believe that Hauser or Greene
                                        >
                                        > can explain why someone would be a vegetarian. I think it is outside
                                        >
                                        > of the scope of their study. It is too abstract and does not make
                                        >
                                        > much sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Vegetarianism is probably
                                        >
                                        > not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will
                                        >
                                        > accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position. But my point is that
                                        >
                                        > there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond
                                        >
                                        > evolutionary psychology. These seem to be developments on top of
                                        >
                                        > that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them). Perhaps
                                        >
                                        > someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree
                                        >
                                        > upon. Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except
                                        >
                                        > that, for most people, it lacks a practical element. But then...maybe
                                        >
                                        > that's my point exactly!
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > -Alessandro
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Hey Ajita,
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood
                                        >
                                        > on the free will question but this:
                                        >
                                        > http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins seems to indicate that he
                                        >
                                        > is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we
                                        >
                                        > define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no
                                        >
                                        > longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things
                                        >
                                        > need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we
                                        >
                                        > attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our
                                        >
                                        > knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and
                                        >
                                        > well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout
                                        >
                                        > the best path to that objective from what we know.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct
                                        >
                                        > that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where
                                        >
                                        > to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite
                                        >
                                        > clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social
                                        >
                                        > stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need
                                        >
                                        > of further definition.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical
                                        >
                                        > and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is
                                        >
                                        > having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the
                                        >
                                        > society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the
                                        >
                                        > society.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding
                                        >
                                        > whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from
                                        >
                                        > the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society
                                        >
                                        > more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all
                                        >
                                        > it's citizens.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside
                                        >
                                        > the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or
                                        >
                                        > participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for
                                        >
                                        > citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so
                                        >
                                        > their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of
                                        >
                                        > creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships
                                        >
                                        > are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm
                                        >
                                        > animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and
                                        >
                                        > limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however
                                        >
                                        > multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming
                                        >
                                        > animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain
                                        >
                                        > citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be
                                        >
                                        > culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting
                                        >
                                        > citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of
                                        >
                                        > citizens will be put at risk.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the
                                        >
                                        > correct moral stance.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all
                                        >
                                        > life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those
                                        >
                                        > connections.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum
                                        >
                                        > net gain from this situation.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage.
                                        >
                                        > As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their
                                        >
                                        > best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the
                                        >
                                        > answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to
                                        >
                                        > bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single
                                        >
                                        > equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one
                                        >
                                        > answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the
                                        >
                                        > science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at
                                        >
                                        > this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at
                                        >
                                        > a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that
                                        >
                                        > prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from
                                        >
                                        > an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is
                                        >
                                        > important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a
                                        >
                                        > world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very
                                        >
                                        > different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education
                                        >
                                        > and psychological support with the door being left open to
                                        >
                                        > re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to
                                        >
                                        > particular individuals.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective
                                        >
                                        > morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social
                                        >
                                        > interaction in a similar way to those of physics.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in
                                        >
                                        > order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to
                                        >
                                        > determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules
                                        >
                                        > you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the
                                        >
                                        > ground.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > -James
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > From: evolvender@
                                        >
                                        > > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                                        >
                                        > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
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                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Hey,
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > youth then shape our specific world view.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > childhood and adolescence). Some psychologists have categorized moral
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > development into many stages.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > relatively long period of social development.
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        >
                                        http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/52880
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > site, check out the contributors list:
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_index.html
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Regards,
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > Ajita Kamal
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > > __________________________________________________________
                                        >
                                        > > Search for local singles online @ Lavalife - Click here
                                        >
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        >
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                                      • Mike Layfield
                                        Hello Ajita, ... Firstly, morality as it is experienced by our species combines emotion with reason. Even religious conservatives who don t believe in ethical
                                        Message 19 of 27 , Apr 6, 2008
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                                          Hello Ajita,

                                          You wrote:
                                          > In biological terms, morality is an emotional response. Since emotion
                                          > is the tool of subjective experience, uniquely determined by biology
                                          > and environment, morality is subjective.

                                          Firstly, morality as it is experienced by our species combines emotion
                                          with reason. Even religious conservatives who don't believe in ethical
                                          reasoning use it all the time. Secondly, while emotional experience is
                                          by definition subjective, the root nature of emotion in all species,
                                          (which I believe derives from the ancient adaptive reflexes of
                                          "approach" and "avoid") directs its subjects toward the common goal
                                          of the continuance of life, or as Loyal Rue would say, viability. This
                                          standard goal of all emotion, affiliative, disaffiliative and in
                                          subtle combinations, can be said to be objective.

                                          The adaptive strategy for our species is to achieve and combine
                                          personality and sociality. Our motivational systems combine selfish
                                          and social emotions with reason. When they are functioning properly
                                          they help each of us in the pursuit of the enduring prospect of a
                                          rewarding life. Even suicide bombers are behaving in a way that they
                                          believe will further the enduring prospect of life, either for
                                          themselves in their imagined heaven, or for their families and
                                          comrades left behind.

                                          Mike
                                          ---
                                          "We will not serve what we do not love and we can not love what we do
                                          not know."
                                          Loyal Rue
                                        • evolvender
                                          Hey Mike, I like the way you condensed the issue. The adaptive strategy for our species is to achieve and combine personality and sociality. I think in
                                          Message 20 of 27 , Apr 6, 2008
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                                            Hey Mike,
                                            I like the way you condensed the issue.
                                            "
                                            The adaptive strategy for our species is to achieve and combine
                                            personality and sociality."

                                            I think in quite different terms and yet cannot even remotely disagree
                                            with that.
                                            -Ajita Kamal

                                            --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Mike Layfield"
                                            <mike@...> wrote:
                                            >
                                            > Hello Ajita,
                                            >
                                            > You wrote:
                                            > > In biological terms, morality is an emotional response. Since emotion
                                            > > is the tool of subjective experience, uniquely determined by biology
                                            > > and environment, morality is subjective.
                                            >
                                            > Firstly, morality as it is experienced by our species combines emotion
                                            > with reason. Even religious conservatives who don't believe in ethical
                                            > reasoning use it all the time. Secondly, while emotional experience is
                                            > by definition subjective, the root nature of emotion in all species,
                                            > (which I believe derives from the ancient adaptive reflexes of
                                            > "approach" and "avoid") directs its subjects toward the common goal
                                            > of the continuance of life, or as Loyal Rue would say, viability. This
                                            > standard goal of all emotion, affiliative, disaffiliative and in
                                            > subtle combinations, can be said to be objective.
                                            >
                                            > The adaptive strategy for our species is to achieve and combine
                                            > personality and sociality. Our motivational systems combine selfish
                                            > and social emotions with reason. When they are functioning properly
                                            > they help each of us in the pursuit of the enduring prospect of a
                                            > rewarding life. Even suicide bombers are behaving in a way that they
                                            > believe will further the enduring prospect of life, either for
                                            > themselves in their imagined heaven, or for their families and
                                            > comrades left behind.
                                            >
                                            > Mike
                                            > ---
                                            > "We will not serve what we do not love and we can not love what we do
                                            > not know."
                                            > Loyal Rue
                                            >
                                          • evolvender
                                            Alessandro, I am really really REALLY grateful to you for pointing me towards Joshua Green s research. I have been in favor of merging reason and emotional
                                            Message 21 of 27 , Apr 6, 2008
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                                              Alessandro,
                                              I am really really REALLY grateful to you for pointing me towards
                                              Joshua Green's research. I have been in favor of merging reason and
                                              emotional states: a stance that would likely favor a changing,
                                              relativistic morality.
                                              -Ajita

                                              --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Alessandro
                                              Gagliardi" <alessandro@...> wrote:
                                              >
                                              > I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he was very
                                              > convincing. (As a side note, for those who are interested in the
                                              > neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out Joshua
                                              Greene's
                                              > website < http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/ > as well. It has a
                                              number
                                              > of his articles on it including "From Neural 'Is' to Moral
                                              'Ought'".) He
                                              > does a good job of explaining things like why most people would
                                              agree that
                                              > refusing to save someone's life because their bleeding would stain
                                              your car
                                              > seat is immoral, but that refusing to donate $10 to save the life of
                                              a child
                                              > in Africa is acceptable. From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no
                                              > sense. But from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense.
                                              > However, while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics
                                              > aspects of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of
                                              > sociopaths...let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about higher
                                              > level moral reasoning and behavior. (Actually, Marc was careful to
                                              point
                                              > out that he was not talking about moral behavior at all, only moral
                                              > reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse the two.)
                                              >
                                              > So what about something like vegetarianism? I'd rather not get into a
                                              > discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat. That
                                              could get
                                              > very heated and would be off the point. But I hope we can accept
                                              that there
                                              > are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you agree with them or
                                              > not. (For the record, I, myself, am not a vegetarian; though I do
                                              accept
                                              > many--though not all!--of the arguments made by vegetarians as
                                              valid.) I do
                                              > not believe that Hauser or Greene can explain why someone would be a
                                              > vegetarian. I think it is outside of the scope of their study. It
                                              is too
                                              > abstract and does not make much sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
                                              > Vegetarianism is probably not a good example as only a portion of
                                              the people
                                              > on this list will accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position.
                                              But my
                                              > point is that there are moral positions that people take, and act
                                              on, that
                                              > go beyond evolutionary psychology. These seem to be developments on
                                              top of
                                              > that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them). Perhaps
                                              > someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree
                                              upon.
                                              > Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except that,
                                              for most
                                              > people, it lacks a practical element. But then...maybe that's my point
                                              > exactly!
                                              >
                                              > -Alessandro
                                              >
                                              > On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@...> wrote:
                                              >
                                              > > Hey Ajita,
                                              > >
                                              > > Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.
                                              > >
                                              > > It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he
                                              stood on the
                                              > > free will question but this:
                                              http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkinsseems to indicate that he
                                              is very close to our way of thinking if not on the
                                              > > same page.
                                              > >
                                              > > In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we
                                              define
                                              > > morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no
                                              longer useful.
                                              > > I believe in order to have useful discussions things need to be
                                              broken down
                                              > > into objectives and facts. So what are we attempting to achieve,
                                              what are
                                              > > the facts and how can we use our knowledge of the facts to obtain our
                                              > > objective.
                                              > >
                                              > > So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and well
                                              > > defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout
                                              the best
                                              > > path to that objective from what we know.
                                              > >
                                              > > I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct that
                                              > > promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where
                                              to agree on
                                              > > this being the objective of morality we could then quite clearly
                                              asses the
                                              > > moral value of an action objectively. Social stability is fairly self
                                              > > explanatory but the health is perhaps in need of further definition.
                                              > >
                                              > > By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical and
                                              > > mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is
                                              having
                                              > > their physical or mental health negatively effected by the society
                                              then the
                                              > > has a negative impact on the health value of the society.
                                              > >
                                              > > So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding
                                              whether
                                              > > an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from the
                                              point of
                                              > > view of the net benefit it gives in both making society more
                                              stable and
                                              > > looking after the physical and mental health of all it's citizens.
                                              > >
                                              > > For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist
                                              outside the
                                              > > realm of society because they are are unable to understand or
                                              participate in
                                              > > the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for citizenship.
                                              They lack the
                                              > > capacity to negotiate their own fate so their fate becomes subject
                                              to our
                                              > > will. Animals are however capable of creating emotional
                                              relationships with
                                              > > people and those relationships are beneficial to the psychological
                                              health of
                                              > > citizens. To harm animals forces a desensitization to those emotional
                                              > > relationships and limits the maximum mental health of a citizen.
                                              There are
                                              > > however multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of
                                              harming
                                              > > animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain
                                              citizens, as
                                              > > animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be culled to
                                              stop them
                                              > > from destroying the environment or hurting citizens, if we do not
                                              test drugs
                                              > > on animals first the health of citizens will be put at risk.
                                              > >
                                              > > So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the
                                              correct
                                              > > moral stance.
                                              > >
                                              > > The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with
                                              all life
                                              > > and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those
                                              connections.
                                              > >
                                              > > The most moral course of action would be that which gets the
                                              maximum net
                                              > > gain from this situation.
                                              > >
                                              > > The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this
                                              stage. As
                                              > > such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their best
                                              > > judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the answer
                                              > > subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to bring
                                              together
                                              > > gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single equation.
                                              The answer
                                              > > to this riddle is not subjective, there is one answer, that answer
                                              just
                                              > > remains open to speculation.
                                              > >
                                              > > There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the
                                              science of
                                              > > morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at this
                                              coming to pass
                                              > > if it does, because it will only come to pass at a point at which
                                              it is
                                              > > clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that prohibit theft and
                                              murder.
                                              > > This is unless of course the law comes from an emotional
                                              legislator rather
                                              > > than a scientific one.
                                              > >
                                              > > This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is
                                              > > important to mention that such a law would probably come about in
                                              a world
                                              > > where the consequences for breaking the law would be very
                                              different to what
                                              > > we have today. Most likely compassionate education and
                                              psychological support
                                              > > with the door being left open to re-evaluations of the law if it's
                                              > > determined it's damaging to particular individuals.
                                              > >
                                              > > I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective
                                              > > morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social
                                              > > interaction in a similar way to those of physics.
                                              > >
                                              > > Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in
                                              order to
                                              > > make the next advancement in society rather than a means to
                                              determine friend
                                              > > from foe, sinner from saint.
                                              > >
                                              > > If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules you
                                              > > have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the
                                              ground.
                                              > >
                                              > > -James
                                              > >
                                              > >
                                              > >
                                              > > ------------------------------
                                              > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                              > > From: evolvender@...
                                              > > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                                              > >
                                              > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                              > >
                                              > > Hey,
                                              > >
                                              > > I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                                              > > However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                                              > > morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                                              > > moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                                              > > youth then shape our specific world view.
                                              > > In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                                              > > childhood and adolescence). Some psychologists have categorized moral
                                              > > development into many stages.
                                              > > I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                                              > > "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                                              > > because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                                              > > else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                                              > > yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                                              > > case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                                              > > this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                                              > > what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                                              > > for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                                              > > relatively long period of social development.
                                              > > I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                                              > > a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                                              > > about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                                              > > to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                                              > > towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                                              > > was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                                              > >
                                              > >
                                              http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/52880
                                              > >
                                              > > On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                                              > > (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                                              > > by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                                              > > of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                                              > > by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                                              > > the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                                              > > site, check out the contributors list:
                                              > > http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_index.html
                                              > >
                                              > > Regards,
                                              > > Ajita Kamal
                                              > >
                                              > >
                                              >
                                            • Mike Layfield
                                              Hello again Ajita, I was just paraphrasing Loyal Rue. I suppose it would have been more accurate to say the adaptive strategy of our species is to achieve and
                                              Message 22 of 27 , Apr 7, 2008
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                                                Hello again Ajita,

                                                I was just paraphrasing Loyal Rue. I suppose it would have been more
                                                accurate to say the adaptive strategy of our species is to achieve and
                                                "integrate" personality and socialality which are mutually contending
                                                yet mutually dependent.

                                                I think you and I are alike, Ajita, in that we come to this forum
                                                primarily informed by the understandings of the biological sciences.
                                                After reading Ed Wilson's Consilience, I began to investigate and
                                                appreciate naturalistic philosophers who are well-informed in biology,
                                                like Dan Dennett and Loyal Rue, and of course, Tom Clark. My
                                                perception is that the trend toward interdisciplinary understandings
                                                is accelerating at a remarkable pace. Consilience is coming. The many
                                                blank spaces on the map of unified knowledge are everywhere being
                                                filled-in with testable hypotheses. If we can just avoid ecological,
                                                social and psychological collapse, I think we just might get there.

                                                Mike
                                                ---
                                                "He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own."
                                                Confucius

                                                --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "evolvender"
                                                <evolvender@...> wrote:
                                                >
                                                > Hey Mike,
                                                > I like the way you condensed the issue.
                                                > "
                                                > The adaptive strategy for our species is to achieve and combine
                                                > personality and sociality."
                                                >
                                                > I think in quite different terms and yet cannot even remotely disagree
                                                > with that.
                                                > -Ajita Kamal
                                                >
                                                > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "Mike Layfield"
                                                > <mike@> wrote:
                                                > >
                                                > > Hello Ajita,
                                                > >
                                                > > You wrote:
                                                > > > In biological terms, morality is an emotional response. Since
                                                emotion
                                                > > > is the tool of subjective experience, uniquely determined by biology
                                                > > > and environment, morality is subjective.
                                                > >
                                                > > Firstly, morality as it is experienced by our species combines emotion
                                                > > with reason. Even religious conservatives who don't believe in ethical
                                                > > reasoning use it all the time. Secondly, while emotional experience is
                                                > > by definition subjective, the root nature of emotion in all species,
                                                > > (which I believe derives from the ancient adaptive reflexes of
                                                > > "approach" and "avoid") directs its subjects toward the common goal
                                                > > of the continuance of life, or as Loyal Rue would say, viability. This
                                                > > standard goal of all emotion, affiliative, disaffiliative and in
                                                > > subtle combinations, can be said to be objective.
                                                > >
                                                > > The adaptive strategy for our species is to achieve and combine
                                                > > personality and sociality. Our motivational systems combine selfish
                                                > > and social emotions with reason. When they are functioning properly
                                                > > they help each of us in the pursuit of the enduring prospect of a
                                                > > rewarding life. Even suicide bombers are behaving in a way that they
                                                > > believe will further the enduring prospect of life, either for
                                                > > themselves in their imagined heaven, or for their families and
                                                > > comrades left behind.
                                                > >
                                                > > Mike
                                                > > ---
                                                > > "We will not serve what we do not love and we can not love what we do
                                                > > not know."
                                                > > Loyal Rue
                                                > >
                                                >
                                              • JRS .
                                                Hey Ajita, Sorry for my intermittent emails on this topic as I find it hard at times to find time to reply properly. I also feel regretful that I am unable to
                                                Message 23 of 27 , Apr 8, 2008
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                                                  Hey Ajita,

                                                  Sorry for my intermittent emails on this topic as I find it hard at times to find time to reply properly. I also feel regretful that I am unable to reply fully to a lot of the other posts people have made here which I have found interesting.

                                                  I really appreciate people taking the time to contribute their thoughts.

                                                  The best i can do is try to refine my points some more to make it easier for others to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the ideas i am presenting.

                                                  I do not believe in subjectivity in the sense that anything is a matter of opinion. I do however believe it is inevitable that different peoples perspectives will cause people to arrive at different conclusions and we can only operate on what is the most likely truth from where we stand.

                                                  However, someone being right to believe or not believe something does not mean they have a correct belief and does not prevent there from being a truth independent of their observations.

                                                  For example, someone in prehistoric history would have been right to think that the world was flat and the sun revolved around the earth because it was the most likely scenario given what they understood. So while the conclusion they came to was the best they could with the understand they had they where still wrong.

                                                  I believe that when two people disagree it is not correct to put the disagreement down to subjectivity, instead it should be acknowledged that there is a difference in understanding. Both people can't be right, either one or both people are wrong. A trade in understanding is required in order to work out the most probable truth in such a situation and the ideal result is an agreement that requires one or both people to change their position.

                                                  I think there is a confusion between subjectivity and personal preference. We often say things like artistic appreciation and taste are subjective but i disagree. The illusion of subjectivity is created by the assumption that there is intrinsic values. This is false and misleading. 

                                                  For example, if i where to ask you whether a painting is beautiful i have asked you an incomplete and meaningless question. I have not given you the benchmark by which to asses it's beauty. It would be the same as asking is 5 greater or less than? "Greater or less than what?" should be your immediate response. The same is true about the question of beauty. "Beautiful to who?" should be your response to my question. It is only once i have given you the answer to that question that you can give a meaningful answer to mine.

                                                  If i ask you if the painting is beautiful to you and you do find it beautiful you can answer yes and that is an objective fact. There is nothing subjective about whether you feel the painting is beautiful or not. The painting cannot have any beauty value outside of a specified observer so that is a meaningless question, not a subjective one.

                                                  The same is true of right and wrong. Without an objective these are meaningless. Wrong things are simply things that hinder an objective, right things help an objective. When we do state an objective however it becomes quite clear whether something is right or wrong because we can observe and study an actions effect upon that objective and asses whether the objective has been helped or hindered. The scientific method can be applied in such circumstances.

                                                  So in moral reasoning we can come to an objective position on the topic if we choose to define the objective of morality.  This objective is tied to our feelings i agree but our feelings are objective as we feel a particular way. I can say objectively that something pleases me.

                                                  From a purely rational perspective morality comes from our individual desires to achieve our own objectives. To achieve our objectives we need means. Society is the most potent means to achieving any objective so all objectives are served by society. The healthier and stabler society the more useful a tool it is for achieving our objectives. The fact that we are so closely related through our genetics re-enforces the logical argument for cooperation with biological rewards for cooperation.

                                                  So I think it is reasonable to define the objective of morality as i have based appon these arguments. Compared against this objective, right and wrong can be objectively defined because you can study the effects actions have upon it.

                                                  It is reasonable for people to disagree on what does and does not serve this objective but as I have stated in such circumstances one or all are wrong and it is unproductive to fail to work out the truth due to appeals to subjectivity.

                                                  Claims that two people with contradictory positions can both be correct are false and hamper our progress towards greater understanding.

                                                  -James

                                                   



                                                  To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                                  From: evolvender@...
                                                  Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2008 05:45:35 +0000
                                                  Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality

                                                  Thats an interesting concept, James. I enjoyed going through your reply.
                                                  So it seems there are two properties of the nature of morality that we
                                                  are discussing.

                                                  relative morality vs. absolute morality
                                                  objective morality vs. subjective morality

                                                  I am pretty sure we're both relativists, although you do not prefer
                                                  using the term, quite understandably.

                                                  Now, I also believe that morality is subjective. That is to say that
                                                  there is no objective moral standard determined by the universe
                                                  outside of our human judgment.
                                                  In biological terms, morality is an emotional response. Since emotion
                                                  is the tool of subjective experience, uniquely determined by biology
                                                  and environment, morality is subjective. But emotion is powerful and
                                                  the urge to impose our morals on the universe can be gratifying.

                                                  Most religious cultures that have existed preached their own version
                                                  of objective morality (supposedly absolute AND supposedly objective).
                                                  We know that every generation the moral standards are shifted. Isn't
                                                  it a little pretentious to believe, just like the religious, that WE
                                                  have discovered the true objective morality? Is it not possible- no,
                                                  very likely, that future generations will look at some action of ours
                                                  and cringe with disgust at the immorality of our ways? I believe that
                                                  it is highly probable that the human species is just beginning its
                                                  journey. A lot more things are waiting for us to find them (or we'll
                                                  find them anyway) and those things are bound to change us in ways
                                                  we've never imagined. Throughout this journey, I believe that only our
                                                  palsticity in moral behavior will save us (can't prove this one, but
                                                  can justify the belief probabilistically) .

                                                  You say:

                                                  > Morality is meaningless if it is not properly defined. It is no more
                                                  useful than a gut feeling and religion shows us how useless and
                                                  unreliable that is.

                                                  Morality is understood fairly well in biology as the emotion driven
                                                  mechanism that guides social behaviors such as co-operation,
                                                  punishment etc. The gut feeling that people experience is natural
                                                  selection's ultimate creation, a signal to interact with members of
                                                  one's species. The problem arises when we try to define morality in
                                                  terms other than biological. There we are stuck because outside of
                                                  biology, morality has no meaning.
                                                  You are making the same error that those who criticize naturalism
                                                  make- because morality is meaningless to a naturalist, naturalists
                                                  must be immoral. (I'm not saying you think morality is meaningless,
                                                  the religious think we all do). The argument to this is that we are
                                                  who we are. Knowledge of my gastro-intestinal tract does not make me
                                                  lose my appetite, it just helps inform me what is good for me to eat.
                                                  Understanding the evolutionary reasons for the presence of a sex drive
                                                  does not keep me from lusting, it just help me make more informed
                                                  decisions when I act on that lust. Similarly, understanding morality
                                                  in biological terms does not have to make a moral living meaningless-
                                                  just a lot more complicated.

                                                  You mention right and wrong a few times towards the end. I really do
                                                  not see these concepts having any meaning in a naturalistic
                                                  understanding of morality. I understand "good" and "bad", relatively
                                                  of course. However, "right" and "wrong" are statements about
                                                  quantitative measurements, of which morality is not one.

                                                  Tell me what do you think.

                                                  Regards,
                                                  Ajita Kamal

                                                  --- In naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...>
                                                  wrote:
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > hey Ajita,
                                                  >
                                                  > I had a read of your blog and I see you have chosen one of the other
                                                  interesting areas of ethics to explore. Abortion is one of those
                                                  things where ethics and morality struggle precisely due to the
                                                  gradient effect you describe. I find the abortion debate and the
                                                  animal liberation debate have a lot in common. It all revolves around
                                                  the question of when does an entity become ethically relevant. In the
                                                  future AI may well present us with the same dilemma from another front.
                                                  >
                                                  > Here is the solution i present though. If we determine morality as
                                                  actions that move society towards greater health and stability we can
                                                  asses every action from this standpoint. From this view everything has
                                                  moral value, even a rock, however different things have different
                                                  moral value and the moral value of one thing can trump another. For
                                                  example the moral value of not destroying a rock is fairly low and the
                                                  moral value of saving a human is very high so if destroying a rock
                                                  would save a human then destroy the rock. If destroying the rock would
                                                  serve no positive gain then you should probably leave the rock be.
                                                  >
                                                  > So you see just as our definitions of a person or a morally relevant
                                                  entity can operate on a sliding scale so too can the moral value we
                                                  assign them. This means we can maintain our objective moral equation.
                                                  There may be situations where the moral equation determines that
                                                  abortion is wrong and others where it determines it to be right. The
                                                  same for eating meat and even destroying rocks or killing bugs.
                                                  >
                                                  > I think people confuse objective morality with one size fits all
                                                  morality. A morality where the equation is only calculated once based
                                                  on one groups situation and then that result is applied to everyone.
                                                  This of course is entirely unreasonable, the equation needs to be
                                                  calculated every time for every situation and refined when it does not
                                                  produce correct results. Just like in science.
                                                  >
                                                  > Objective morality is not about rules set in stone but about the
                                                  equation by which those rules are determined. It's totally reasonable
                                                  to disagree on the results as we have access to different information.
                                                  The important thing is that we agree on the equation. If we agree on
                                                  the equation then our conversations can be a much more productive
                                                  mutual education about the about the facts.
                                                  >
                                                  > To understand the equation we need solid definitions and I have
                                                  given my definition of morality. If you disagree with the definition I
                                                  have suggested then I'm interested as to how you would change it.
                                                  >
                                                  > Morality is meaningless if it is not properly defined. It is no more
                                                  useful than a gut feeling and religion shows us how useless and
                                                  unreliable that is.
                                                  >
                                                  > One persons gut feeling may be to save a starving child, the others
                                                  may be to blow up a bunch of people in a crowded market.
                                                  >
                                                  > Objectively defined morality is our only way out of this as far as i
                                                  can see.
                                                  >
                                                  > We can say when a pile of sticks stops being a pile when we make the
                                                  decision to define a pile properly as 2 or more sticks resting on top
                                                  of each other and let go of romantic ideas of subjectivity.
                                                  >
                                                  > I think subjectivity is an over reaction to authoritarian rule. We
                                                  are afraid to say someone is wrong because they might be right. The
                                                  thing to remember is that someone can be wrong even if their
                                                  conclusion is right if their method for arriving at that conclusion is
                                                  faulty.
                                                  >
                                                  > It's not what we conclude but how we arrive at that conclusion that
                                                  makes us right to believe it.
                                                  >
                                                  > Someone who believes in evolution simple because they have been told
                                                  it is true is wrong to believe it.
                                                  >

                                                  > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                                                  > From: evolvender@. ..
                                                  > Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2008 10:13:12 +0000
                                                  > Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > Hi,
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > I have no concept of any after-life. I am a true materialist. My
                                                  >
                                                  > position on the relative nature of morality is strictly a function of
                                                  >
                                                  > that and here's why.
                                                  >
                                                  > A moral absolutist believes that there is good and bad. Think Ten
                                                  >
                                                  > Commandments. When presented with a situation where, for example,
                                                  >
                                                  > killing one person saves hundreds more, such simplistic models break
                                                  >
                                                  > down. In fact, Marc Hauser's research shows clearly that people
                                                  >
                                                  > actually make relativistic decisions all the time even though they may
                                                  >
                                                  > be moral absolutists. Contrary to your claims, the default religious
                                                  >
                                                  > position is moral absolutism; some ancient thinker's idea of right and
                                                  >
                                                  > wrong. The problem is that society evolves and those ideas are
                                                  >
                                                  > rendered obsolete. The reason religious people whose holy books spell
                                                  >
                                                  > out their absolutist beliefs still manage to function like relativists
                                                  >
                                                  > is because of cognitive dissonance.
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > The historical evidence is also on the side of relativism. The moral
                                                  >
                                                  > standards of society are in a state of constant flux. Thus, your
                                                  >
                                                  > parents' generation had quite different moral standards than our own.
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > As regards your point about the word "moral" I agree with your
                                                  >
                                                  > assessment of the religious hold on it. However, there is already a
                                                  >
                                                  > lot of legitimate science out there that has adopted the word into
                                                  >
                                                  > popular jargon. The philosophy of moral reasoning also has a long
                                                  >
                                                  > history. So, I don't think this is of particular importance.
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > " > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                                  >
                                                  > that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                                  >
                                                  > should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                                  >
                                                  > health of society and nothing more."
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > Can you support "...should just be statement of fact"? I am interested
                                                  >
                                                  > in knowing how you think that behavior "damaging the stability and
                                                  >
                                                  > health of society" could be an absolute principle and not something to
                                                  >
                                                  > be determined by a process of assessing risks and consequences? It
                                                  >
                                                  > seems to me as though in the real world, moral solutions depend on
                                                  >
                                                  > varying parameters, requiring a relativistic approach to problem
                                                  solving.
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > If you are interested you can check out something I wrote a while ago.
                                                  >
                                                  > It tends to ramble a bit but I couldn't resist throwing it in here. I
                                                  >
                                                  > hope this clarifies my positions a little better. If you still
                                                  >
                                                  > disagree, I would love to hear your arguments.
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  http://culturalnatu ralism.blogspot. com/2008/ 03/cnr-post- august-09- 2007-brave- new.html
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > Regards,
                                                  >
                                                  > Ajita Kamal
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  > --- In naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@>
                                                  >
                                                  > wrote:
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Hey Alessandro,
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Thanks for the link, sounds interesting. I'll probably check it out
                                                  >
                                                  > latter on today
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a
                                                  >
                                                  > vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the
                                                  >
                                                  > place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting
                                                  >
                                                  > test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation
                                                  >
                                                  > movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical
                                                  >
                                                  > thinking.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the
                                                  >
                                                  > heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated
                                                  >
                                                  > with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to
                                                  >
                                                  > use it at times.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I want to be able to say something is immoral without people
                                                  >
                                                  > subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting
                                                  >
                                                  > of being tortured for all eternity.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                                  >
                                                  > that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                                  >
                                                  > should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                                  >
                                                  > health of society and nothing more.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell
                                                  >
                                                  > makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what
                                                  >
                                                  > is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and
                                                  >
                                                  > subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not
                                                  >
                                                  > exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate
                                                  >
                                                  > of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that
                                                  >
                                                  > if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and
                                                  >
                                                  > punishment.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > -James
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                                                  >
                                                  > > From: alessandro@
                                                  >
                                                  > > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 10:04:22 -0400
                                                  >
                                                  > > Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he
                                                  >
                                                  > was very convincing. (As a side note, for those who are interested in
                                                  >
                                                  > the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out
                                                  >
                                                  > Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh. harvard.edu/ ~jgreene/ > as
                                                  >
                                                  > well. It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural
                                                  >
                                                  > 'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".) He does a good job of explaining things like
                                                  >
                                                  > why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life
                                                  >
                                                  > because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that
                                                  >
                                                  > refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is
                                                  >
                                                  > acceptable. From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense. But
                                                  >
                                                  > from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense. However,
                                                  >
                                                  > while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects
                                                  >
                                                  > of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of
                                                  >
                                                  > sociopaths.. .let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about
                                                  >
                                                  > higher level moral reasoning and behavior. (Actually, Marc was
                                                  >
                                                  > careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at
                                                  >
                                                  > all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse
                                                  >
                                                  > the two.)
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > So what about something like vegetarianism? I'd rather not get into
                                                  >
                                                  > a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat. That
                                                  >
                                                  > could get very heated and would be off the point. But I hope we can
                                                  >
                                                  > accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you
                                                  >
                                                  > agree with them or not. (For the record, I, myself, am not a
                                                  >
                                                  > vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments
                                                  >
                                                  > made by vegetarians as valid.) I do not believe that Hauser or Greene
                                                  >
                                                  > can explain why someone would be a vegetarian. I think it is outside
                                                  >
                                                  > of the scope of their study. It is too abstract and does not make
                                                  >
                                                  > much sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Vegetarianism is probably
                                                  >
                                                  > not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will
                                                  >
                                                  > accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position. But my point is that
                                                  >
                                                  > there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond
                                                  >
                                                  > evolutionary psychology. These seem to be developments on top of
                                                  >
                                                  > that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them). Perhaps
                                                  >
                                                  > someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree
                                                  >
                                                  > upon. Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except
                                                  >
                                                  > that, for most people, it lacks a practical element. But then...maybe
                                                  >
                                                  > that's my point exactly!
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > -Alessandro
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Hey Ajita,
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood
                                                  >
                                                  > on the free will question but this:
                                                  >
                                                  > http://www.edge. org/q2006/ q06_9.html# dawkins seems to indicate that he
                                                  >
                                                  > is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we
                                                  >
                                                  > define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no
                                                  >
                                                  > longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things
                                                  >
                                                  > need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we
                                                  >
                                                  > attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our
                                                  >
                                                  > knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and
                                                  >
                                                  > well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout
                                                  >
                                                  > the best path to that objective from what we know.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct
                                                  >
                                                  > that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where
                                                  >
                                                  > to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite
                                                  >
                                                  > clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social
                                                  >
                                                  > stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need
                                                  >
                                                  > of further definition.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical
                                                  >
                                                  > and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is
                                                  >
                                                  > having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the
                                                  >
                                                  > society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the
                                                  >
                                                  > society.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding
                                                  >
                                                  > whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from
                                                  >
                                                  > the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society
                                                  >
                                                  > more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all
                                                  >
                                                  > it's citizens.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside
                                                  >
                                                  > the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or
                                                  >
                                                  > participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for
                                                  >
                                                  > citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so
                                                  >
                                                  > their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of
                                                  >
                                                  > creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships
                                                  >
                                                  > are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm
                                                  >
                                                  > animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and
                                                  >
                                                  > limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however
                                                  >
                                                  > multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming
                                                  >
                                                  > animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain
                                                  >
                                                  > citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be
                                                  >
                                                  > culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting
                                                  >
                                                  > citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of
                                                  >
                                                  > citizens will be put at risk.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the
                                                  >
                                                  > correct moral stance.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all
                                                  >
                                                  > life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those
                                                  >
                                                  > connections.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum
                                                  >
                                                  > net gain from this situation.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage.
                                                  >
                                                  > As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their
                                                  >
                                                  > best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the
                                                  >
                                                  > answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to
                                                  >
                                                  > bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single
                                                  >
                                                  > equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one
                                                  >
                                                  > answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the
                                                  >
                                                  > science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at
                                                  >
                                                  > this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at
                                                  >
                                                  > a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that
                                                  >
                                                  > prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from
                                                  >
                                                  > an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is
                                                  >
                                                  > important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a
                                                  >
                                                  > world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very
                                                  >
                                                  > different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education
                                                  >
                                                  > and psychological support with the door being left open to
                                                  >
                                                  > re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to
                                                  >
                                                  > particular individuals.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective
                                                  >
                                                  > morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social
                                                  >
                                                  > interaction in a similar way to those of physics.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in
                                                  >
                                                  > order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to
                                                  >
                                                  > determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules
                                                  >
                                                  > you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the
                                                  >
                                                  > ground.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > -James
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > From: evolvender@
                                                  >
                                                  > > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                                                  >
                                                  > > Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
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                                                  >
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                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Hey,
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I have come across this argument against reason-based morality before.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > youth then shape our specific world view.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > childhood and adolescence) . Some psychologists have categorized moral
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > development into many stages.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain number of
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see someone
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > relatively long period of social development.
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I bring
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have read
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual tendency
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this discipline
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  >
                                                  http://www.american scientist. org/template/ InterviewTypeDet ail/assetid/ 52880
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of philosophy
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?", edited
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic array
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this thread)
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of answers to
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here is the
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > site, check out the contributors list:
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > http://www.edge. org/q2006/ q06_index. html
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Regards,
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > Ajita Kamal
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > >
                                                  >
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                                                  > >
                                                  >
                                                  > > ____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
                                                  >
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                                                • evolvender
                                                  Hey James, I meant to reply to your post long ago but completely forgot about it, so sorry. If you read my reply to Mike you will see that we are talking about
                                                  Message 24 of 27 , May 13, 2008
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                                                    Hey James,

                                                    I meant to reply to your post long ago but completely forgot about it,
                                                    so sorry. If you read my reply to Mike you will see that we are
                                                    talking about the concept of "objectivity" differently.
                                                    You are correct in that there is a truth that is objectively existent,
                                                    irrespectively of our opinions. But it depends on the subject. If two
                                                    people argue about a mathematical problem, there is no doubt that
                                                    there is an objective answer regardless of their positions. However,
                                                    what if they are arguing about the degree of beauty of a painting?
                                                    Your point is that each person has an opinion that is objectively true
                                                    about that person. My point is that outside of these two people, the
                                                    painting loses its objectivity. Beauty does not exist outside of the
                                                    observer and thus the subject of beauty itself is subjective.
                                                    We are clearly opposed to each other in that I believe that there is
                                                    such a thing as subjective opinion and you don't. However, I dont see
                                                    why there needs to be belief in "intrinsic value" for a belief in the
                                                    concept of subjectivity. In fact, I dont believe in intrinsic value at
                                                    all. I think the opposite is true, that there is no such thing as
                                                    intrinsic value (qualitatively) and therefore there is only subjective
                                                    opinion about things such as beauty and artistic taste and so on.
                                                    Intrinsic value only exists for objective criteria- scientifically
                                                    verifiable data. My desire to preserve the environment is extrinsic to
                                                    nature and intrinsic to myself. It is therefore subjective.

                                                    The desire to define an objective morality is commendable. However, it
                                                    is misguided. The entire history of civilization is testament to this
                                                    attempt towards defining an objective morality. Morality is a
                                                    qualitative phenomenon and by definition all qualitative phenomenon
                                                    are subjective. Each observer may be objectively said to have an
                                                    opinion on the subject but as a whole there is no objective morality.

                                                    I mentioned before that "right" and "wrong" are quantitative value
                                                    statements. This means they cannot be used to judge subjective
                                                    opinions. Just as it is absurd to say the beauty of a painting is
                                                    wrong or right. However, the painting may be factually wrong or right.
                                                    How is this quantitative? Well, we can make a series of observations
                                                    and then verify them scientifically. Therefore, in this example,
                                                    beauty is subjective and factual representation is objective. This is
                                                    intuitive enough.

                                                    We agree that in order to make any moral progress we must define
                                                    morality in terms that are deemed universal. However, any illusions of
                                                    objectivity are just that- illusions.
                                                    Let me know what you think.

                                                    -Ajita Kamal


                                                    --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...>
                                                    wrote:
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > Hey Ajita,
                                                    >
                                                    > Sorry for my intermittent emails on this topic as I find it hard at
                                                    times to find time to reply properly. I also feel regretful that I am
                                                    unable to reply fully to a lot of the other posts people have made
                                                    here which I have found interesting.
                                                    >
                                                    > I really appreciate people taking the time to contribute their thoughts.
                                                    >
                                                    > The best i can do is try to refine my points some more to make it
                                                    easier for others to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the
                                                    ideas i am presenting.
                                                    >
                                                    > I do not believe in subjectivity in the sense that anything is a
                                                    matter of opinion. I do however believe it is inevitable that
                                                    different peoples perspectives will cause people to arrive at
                                                    different conclusions and we can only operate on what is the most
                                                    likely truth from where we stand.
                                                    >
                                                    > However, someone being right to believe or not believe something
                                                    does not mean they have a correct belief and does not prevent there
                                                    from being a truth independent of their observations.
                                                    >
                                                    > For example, someone in prehistoric history would have been right to
                                                    think that the world was flat and the sun revolved around the earth
                                                    because it was the most likely scenario given what they understood. So
                                                    while the conclusion they came to was the best they could with the
                                                    understand they had they where still wrong.
                                                    >
                                                    > I believe that when two people disagree it is not correct to put the
                                                    disagreement down to subjectivity, instead it should be acknowledged
                                                    that there is a difference in understanding. Both people can't be
                                                    right, either one or both people are wrong. A trade in understanding
                                                    is required in order to work out the most probable truth in such a
                                                    situation and the ideal result is an agreement that requires one or
                                                    both people to change their position.
                                                    >
                                                    > I think there is a confusion between subjectivity and personal
                                                    preference. We often say things like artistic appreciation and taste
                                                    are subjective but i disagree. The illusion of subjectivity is created
                                                    by the assumption that there is intrinsic values. This is false and
                                                    misleading.
                                                    >
                                                    > For example, if i where to ask you whether a painting is beautiful i
                                                    have asked you an incomplete and meaningless question. I have not
                                                    given you the benchmark by which to asses it's beauty. It would be the
                                                    same as asking is 5 greater or less than? "Greater or less than what?"
                                                    should be your immediate response. The same is true about the question
                                                    of beauty. "Beautiful to who?" should be your response to my question.
                                                    It is only once i have given you the answer to that question that you
                                                    can give a meaningful answer to mine.
                                                    >
                                                    > If i ask you if the painting is beautiful to you and you do find it
                                                    beautiful you can answer yes and that is an objective fact. There is
                                                    nothing subjective about whether you feel the painting is beautiful or
                                                    not. The painting cannot have any beauty value outside of a specified
                                                    observer so that is a meaningless question, not a subjective one.
                                                    >
                                                    > The same is true of right and wrong. Without an objective these are
                                                    meaningless. Wrong things are simply things that hinder an objective,
                                                    right things help an objective. When we do state an objective however
                                                    it becomes quite clear whether something is right or wrong because we
                                                    can observe and study an actions effect upon that objective and asses
                                                    whether the objective has been helped or hindered. The scientific
                                                    method can be applied in such circumstances.
                                                    >
                                                    > So in moral reasoning we can come to an objective position on the
                                                    topic if we choose to define the objective of morality. This
                                                    objective is tied to our feelings i agree but our feelings are
                                                    objective as we feel a particular way. I can say objectively that
                                                    something pleases me.
                                                    >
                                                    > From a purely rational perspective morality comes from our
                                                    individual desires to achieve our own objectives. To achieve our
                                                    objectives we need means. Society is the most potent means to
                                                    achieving any objective so all objectives are served by society. The
                                                    healthier and stabler society the more useful a tool it is for
                                                    achieving our objectives. The fact that we are so closely related
                                                    through our genetics re-enforces the logical argument for cooperation
                                                    with biological rewards for cooperation.
                                                    >
                                                    > So I think it is reasonable to define the objective of morality as i
                                                    have based appon these arguments. Compared against this objective,
                                                    right and wrong can be objectively defined because you can study the
                                                    effects actions have upon it.
                                                    >
                                                    > It is reasonable for people to disagree on what does and does not
                                                    serve this objective but as I have stated in such circumstances one or
                                                    all are wrong and it is unproductive to fail to work out the truth due
                                                    to appeals to subjectivity.
                                                    >
                                                    > Claims that two people with contradictory positions can both be
                                                    correct are false and hamper our progress towards greater understanding.
                                                    >
                                                    > -James
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                                    > From: evolvender@...
                                                    > Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2008 05:45:35 +0000
                                                    > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > Thats an interesting concept, James. I enjoyed going
                                                    through your reply.
                                                    >
                                                    > So it seems there are two properties of the nature of morality that we
                                                    >
                                                    > are discussing.
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > relative morality vs. absolute morality
                                                    >
                                                    > objective morality vs. subjective morality
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > I am pretty sure we're both relativists, although you do not prefer
                                                    >
                                                    > using the term, quite understandably.
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > Now, I also believe that morality is subjective. That is to say that
                                                    >
                                                    > there is no objective moral standard determined by the universe
                                                    >
                                                    > outside of our human judgment.
                                                    >
                                                    > In biological terms, morality is an emotional response. Since emotion
                                                    >
                                                    > is the tool of subjective experience, uniquely determined by biology
                                                    >
                                                    > and environment, morality is subjective. But emotion is powerful and
                                                    >
                                                    > the urge to impose our morals on the universe can be gratifying.
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > Most religious cultures that have existed preached their own version
                                                    >
                                                    > of objective morality (supposedly absolute AND supposedly objective).
                                                    >
                                                    > We know that every generation the moral standards are shifted. Isn't
                                                    >
                                                    > it a little pretentious to believe, just like the religious, that WE
                                                    >
                                                    > have discovered the true objective morality? Is it not possible- no,
                                                    >
                                                    > very likely, that future generations will look at some action of ours
                                                    >
                                                    > and cringe with disgust at the immorality of our ways? I believe that
                                                    >
                                                    > it is highly probable that the human species is just beginning its
                                                    >
                                                    > journey. A lot more things are waiting for us to find them (or we'll
                                                    >
                                                    > find them anyway) and those things are bound to change us in ways
                                                    >
                                                    > we've never imagined. Throughout this journey, I believe that only our
                                                    >
                                                    > palsticity in moral behavior will save us (can't prove this one, but
                                                    >
                                                    > can justify the belief probabilistically).
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > You say:
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Morality is meaningless if it is not properly defined. It is no more
                                                    >
                                                    > useful than a gut feeling and religion shows us how useless and
                                                    >
                                                    > unreliable that is.
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > Morality is understood fairly well in biology as the emotion driven
                                                    >
                                                    > mechanism that guides social behaviors such as co-operation,
                                                    >
                                                    > punishment etc. The gut feeling that people experience is natural
                                                    >
                                                    > selection's ultimate creation, a signal to interact with members of
                                                    >
                                                    > one's species. The problem arises when we try to define morality in
                                                    >
                                                    > terms other than biological. There we are stuck because outside of
                                                    >
                                                    > biology, morality has no meaning.
                                                    >
                                                    > You are making the same error that those who criticize naturalism
                                                    >
                                                    > make- because morality is meaningless to a naturalist, naturalists
                                                    >
                                                    > must be immoral. (I'm not saying you think morality is meaningless,
                                                    >
                                                    > the religious think we all do). The argument to this is that we are
                                                    >
                                                    > who we are. Knowledge of my gastro-intestinal tract does not make me
                                                    >
                                                    > lose my appetite, it just helps inform me what is good for me to eat.
                                                    >
                                                    > Understanding the evolutionary reasons for the presence of a sex drive
                                                    >
                                                    > does not keep me from lusting, it just help me make more informed
                                                    >
                                                    > decisions when I act on that lust. Similarly, understanding morality
                                                    >
                                                    > in biological terms does not have to make a moral living meaningless-
                                                    >
                                                    > just a lot more complicated.
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > You mention right and wrong a few times towards the end. I really do
                                                    >
                                                    > not see these concepts having any meaning in a naturalistic
                                                    >
                                                    > understanding of morality. I understand "good" and "bad", relatively
                                                    >
                                                    > of course. However, "right" and "wrong" are statements about
                                                    >
                                                    > quantitative measurements, of which morality is not one.
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > Tell me what do you think.
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > Regards,
                                                    >
                                                    > Ajita Kamal
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@>
                                                    >
                                                    > wrote:
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > hey Ajita,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > I had a read of your blog and I see you have chosen one of the other
                                                    >
                                                    > interesting areas of ethics to explore. Abortion is one of those
                                                    >
                                                    > things where ethics and morality struggle precisely due to the
                                                    >
                                                    > gradient effect you describe. I find the abortion debate and the
                                                    >
                                                    > animal liberation debate have a lot in common. It all revolves around
                                                    >
                                                    > the question of when does an entity become ethically relevant. In the
                                                    >
                                                    > future AI may well present us with the same dilemma from another front.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Here is the solution i present though. If we determine morality as
                                                    >
                                                    > actions that move society towards greater health and stability we can
                                                    >
                                                    > asses every action from this standpoint. From this view everything has
                                                    >
                                                    > moral value, even a rock, however different things have different
                                                    >
                                                    > moral value and the moral value of one thing can trump another. For
                                                    >
                                                    > example the moral value of not destroying a rock is fairly low and the
                                                    >
                                                    > moral value of saving a human is very high so if destroying a rock
                                                    >
                                                    > would save a human then destroy the rock. If destroying the rock would
                                                    >
                                                    > serve no positive gain then you should probably leave the rock be.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > So you see just as our definitions of a person or a morally relevant
                                                    >
                                                    > entity can operate on a sliding scale so too can the moral value we
                                                    >
                                                    > assign them. This means we can maintain our objective moral equation.
                                                    >
                                                    > There may be situations where the moral equation determines that
                                                    >
                                                    > abortion is wrong and others where it determines it to be right. The
                                                    >
                                                    > same for eating meat and even destroying rocks or killing bugs.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > I think people confuse objective morality with one size fits all
                                                    >
                                                    > morality. A morality where the equation is only calculated once based
                                                    >
                                                    > on one groups situation and then that result is applied to everyone.
                                                    >
                                                    > This of course is entirely unreasonable, the equation needs to be
                                                    >
                                                    > calculated every time for every situation and refined when it does not
                                                    >
                                                    > produce correct results. Just like in science.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Objective morality is not about rules set in stone but about the
                                                    >
                                                    > equation by which those rules are determined. It's totally reasonable
                                                    >
                                                    > to disagree on the results as we have access to different information.
                                                    >
                                                    > The important thing is that we agree on the equation. If we agree on
                                                    >
                                                    > the equation then our conversations can be a much more productive
                                                    >
                                                    > mutual education about the about the facts.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > To understand the equation we need solid definitions and I have
                                                    >
                                                    > given my definition of morality. If you disagree with the definition I
                                                    >
                                                    > have suggested then I'm interested as to how you would change it.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Morality is meaningless if it is not properly defined. It is no more
                                                    >
                                                    > useful than a gut feeling and religion shows us how useless and
                                                    >
                                                    > unreliable that is.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > One persons gut feeling may be to save a starving child, the others
                                                    >
                                                    > may be to blow up a bunch of people in a crowded market.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Objectively defined morality is our only way out of this as far as i
                                                    >
                                                    > can see.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > We can say when a pile of sticks stops being a pile when we make the
                                                    >
                                                    > decision to define a pile properly as 2 or more sticks resting on top
                                                    >
                                                    > of each other and let go of romantic ideas of subjectivity.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > I think subjectivity is an over reaction to authoritarian rule. We
                                                    >
                                                    > are afraid to say someone is wrong because they might be right. The
                                                    >
                                                    > thing to remember is that someone can be wrong even if their
                                                    >
                                                    > conclusion is right if their method for arriving at that conclusion is
                                                    >
                                                    > faulty.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > It's not what we conclude but how we arrive at that conclusion that
                                                    >
                                                    > makes us right to believe it.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Someone who believes in evolution simple because they have been told
                                                    >
                                                    > it is true is wrong to believe it.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                                    >
                                                    > > From: evolvender@
                                                    >
                                                    > > Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2008 10:13:12 +0000
                                                    >
                                                    > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Hi,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > I have no concept of any after-life. I am a true materialist. My
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > position on the relative nature of morality is strictly a function of
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > that and here's why.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > A moral absolutist believes that there is good and bad. Think Ten
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Commandments. When presented with a situation where, for example,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > killing one person saves hundreds more, such simplistic models break
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > down. In fact, Marc Hauser's research shows clearly that people
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > actually make relativistic decisions all the time even though they may
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > be moral absolutists. Contrary to your claims, the default religious
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > position is moral absolutism; some ancient thinker's idea of right and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > wrong. The problem is that society evolves and those ideas are
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > rendered obsolete. The reason religious people whose holy books spell
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > out their absolutist beliefs still manage to function like relativists
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > is because of cognitive dissonance.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > The historical evidence is also on the side of relativism. The moral
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > standards of society are in a state of constant flux. Thus, your
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > parents' generation had quite different moral standards than our own.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > As regards your point about the word "moral" I agree with your
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > assessment of the religious hold on it. However, there is already a
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > lot of legitimate science out there that has adopted the word into
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > popular jargon. The philosophy of moral reasoning also has a long
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > history. So, I don't think this is of particular importance.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > " > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > health of society and nothing more."
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Can you support "...should just be statement of fact"? I am interested
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > in knowing how you think that behavior "damaging the stability and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > health of society" could be an absolute principle and not something to
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > be determined by a process of assessing risks and consequences? It
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > seems to me as though in the real world, moral solutions depend on
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > varying parameters, requiring a relativistic approach to problem
                                                    >
                                                    > solving.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > If you are interested you can check out something I wrote a while ago.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > It tends to ramble a bit but I couldn't resist throwing it in here. I
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > hope this clarifies my positions a little better. If you still
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > disagree, I would love to hear your arguments.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    http://culturalnaturalism.blogspot.com/2008/03/cnr-post-august-09-2007-brave-new.html
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Regards,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Ajita Kamal
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@>
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > wrote:
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Hey Alessandro,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Thanks for the link, sounds interesting. I'll probably check it out
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > latter on today
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > For the sake of disclosure i should probably mention that i am not a
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > vegetarian either but i like using it as an example because it's the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > place where modern ethics struggles and so presents an interesting
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > test for any ethical philosophy. I think the animal liberation
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > movement really brings to the for unanswered questions in ethical
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > thinking.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I think what makes morality a difficult word to use at times is the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > heavy supernatural use of it. The word morality has been contaminated
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > with so much supernatural baggage that I find myself not wanting to
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > use it at times.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I want to be able to say something is immoral without people
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > subconsciously feeling that I'm saying that the action is warranting
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > of being tortured for all eternity.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Saying something is immoral should just be at statement off fact
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > that no one need to be made to feel ashamed of or offended by. It
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > should simply say that the behavior is damaging the stability and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > health of society and nothing more.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I think the connotations of being condemned to an eternity of hell
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > makes us overly wary of defining specifically what is moral and what
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > is not. I think subconsciously we keep morality ambiguous and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > subjective in order to protect ourselves from a hell that does not
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > exist. Though perhaps we also do it to protect ourselves from the hate
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > of others. Society is still struggling to get away from the idea that
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > if people break a moral law then they are deserving of hate and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > punishment.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > -James
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > From: alessandro@
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 10:04:22 -0400
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I heard Marc Hauser speak at the NYAS a year ago and he
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > was very convincing. (As a side note, for those who are interested in
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > the neuroscience of moral reasoning, you might want to check out
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > Joshua Greene's website < http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/ > as
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > well. It has a number of his articles on it including "From Neural
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > 'Is' to Moral 'Ought'".) He does a good job of explaining things like
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > why most people would agree that refusing to save someone's life
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > because their bleeding would stain your car seat is immoral, but that
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > refusing to donate $10 to save the life of a child in Africa is
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > acceptable. From a utilitarian perspective, this makes no sense. But
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > from an evolutionary perspective, it makes a lot of sense. However,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > while Hauser and Greene make a strong argument that the basics aspects
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > of moral behavior are hard wired (with the possible exception of
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > sociopaths...let's not forget sociopaths), they say nothing about
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > higher level moral reasoning and behavior. (Actually, Marc was
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > careful to point out that he was not talking about moral behavior at
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > all, only moral reasoning, and cautioned the audience not to confuse
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > the two.)
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > So what about something like vegetarianism? I'd rather not get into
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > a discussion about whether or not it is immoral to eat meat. That
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > could get very heated and would be off the point. But I hope we can
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > accept that there are legitimate arguments for that claim, whether you
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > agree with them or not. (For the record, I, myself, am not a
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > vegetarian; though I do accept many--though not all!--of the arguments
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > made by vegetarians as valid.) I do not believe that Hauser or Greene
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > can explain why someone would be a vegetarian. I think it is outside
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > of the scope of their study. It is too abstract and does not make
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > much sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Vegetarianism is probably
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > not a good example as only a portion of the people on this list will
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > accept vegetarianism as a valid moral position. But my point is that
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > there are moral positions that people take, and act on, that go beyond
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > evolutionary psychology. These seem to be developments on top of
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > that, apparently unique to humans (and rare even among them). Perhaps
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > someone can come up with a better example that more people can agree
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > upon. Ending hunger for all human beings might be a good one except
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > that, for most people, it lacks a practical element. But then...maybe
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > that's my point exactly!
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > -Alessandro
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:09 AM, JRS . <jrs300@> wrote:
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Hey Ajita,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Thanks for the link to that edge question stuff.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > It was interesting reading Dawkins post. Wasn't sure where he stood
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > on the free will question but this:
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins seems to indicate that he
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > is very close to our way of thinking if not on the same page.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > In regards to moral relativism, i am inclined to think that if we
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > define morality in such a way that it becomes relativistic it is no
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > longer useful. I believe in order to have useful discussions things
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > need to be broken down into objectives and facts. So what are we
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > attempting to achieve, what are the facts and how can we use our
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > knowledge of the facts to obtain our objective.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > So for morality to be a useful idea it needs to have a clear and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > well defined objective. We can then determine what we know and workout
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > the best path to that objective from what we know.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I believe the objective of morality is to form a code of conduct
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > that promotes an increasingly healthy and stable society. If we where
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > to agree on this being the objective of morality we could then quite
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > clearly asses the moral value of an action objectively. Social
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > stability is fairly self explanatory but the health is perhaps in need
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > of further definition.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > By health I mean does the society facilitate the optimal physical
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > and mental health of it's citizens. If any one citizen of a society is
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > having their physical or mental health negatively effected by the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > society then the has a negative impact on the health value of the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > society.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > So, taking the objective of morality stated above, when deciding
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > whether an action/policy is moral it simply needs to be looked at from
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > the point of view of the net benefit it gives in both making society
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > more stable and looking after the physical and mental health of all
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > it's citizens.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > For example, if we look at animal liberation. Animals exist outside
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > the realm of society because they are are unable to understand or
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > participate in the codes of conduct and agreements necessary for
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > citizenship. They lack the capacity to negotiate their own fate so
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > their fate becomes subject to our will. Animals are however capable of
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > creating emotional relationships with people and those relationships
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > are beneficial to the psychological health of citizens. To harm
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > animals forces a desensitization to those emotional relationships and
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > limits the maximum mental health of a citizen. There are however
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > multiple factors in this case that effects the net loss of harming
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > animals. Meat eating may be important to the health of certain
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > citizens, as animals cannot be negotiated with they may need to be
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > culled to stop them from destroying the environment or hurting
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > citizens, if we do not test drugs on animals first the health of
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > citizens will be put at risk.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > So we have a clear equation here that we can balance to form the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > correct moral stance.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > The emotional benefit of cultivating emotional connections with all
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > life and the psychological and physical costs of maintaining those
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > connections.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > The most moral course of action would be that which gets the maximum
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > net gain from this situation.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > The solution to this equation is not easy and unclear at this stage.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > As such it is left to the discretion of the individual to make their
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > best judgment. It is important to note that this does not make the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > answer subjective, simple unknown. The same as with our attempts to
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > bring together gravitational a electron magnetic forces into a single
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > equation. The answer to this riddle is not subjective, there is one
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > answer, that answer just remains open to speculation.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > There may come a time where eating meat becomes illegal as the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > science of morality progresses. There will be minimal discontent at
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > this coming to pass if it does, because it will only come to pass at
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > a point at which it is clear that it is to our benefit. Like laws that
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > prohibit theft and murder. This is unless of course the law comes from
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > an emotional legislator rather than a scientific one.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > This might seem like something extreme by modern standards but it is
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > important to mention that such a law would probably come about in a
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > world where the consequences for breaking the law would be very
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > different to what we have today. Most likely compassionate education
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > and psychological support with the door being left open to
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > re-evaluations of the law if it's determined it's damaging to
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > particular individuals.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I believe as we let go of subjective morality and embrace objective
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > morality we may begin to see the laws that govern sentient social
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > interaction in a similar way to those of physics.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Laws will simply become the rules necessary for us to follow in
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > order to make the next advancement in society rather than a means to
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > determine friend from foe, sinner from saint.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > If you want to build a rocket ship to the moon there certain rules
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > you have to understand and adhere to otherwise you won't get off the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > ground.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > -James
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > From: evolvender@
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 06:45:58 +0000
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Re: Religious Immorality
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
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                                                    > >
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                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Hey,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I have come across this argument against reason-based morality
                                                    before.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > However, it assumes that children NEED to be given reasons to learn
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > morality. We often tend to forget that the underlying template for
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > moral behavior is in our genetic information. The experiences of our
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > youth then shape our specific world view.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > In humans, brain development is real slow (as evidenced by our long
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > childhood and adolescence). Some psychologists have categorized
                                                    moral
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > development into many stages.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I think individuals have the propensity to develop a certain
                                                    number of
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > "empathy neurons". These neurons are also called "mirror neurons"
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > because they are the ones that light up in an MRI when you see
                                                    someone
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > else being pricked with a pin. You "mirror" their pain by putting
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > yourself in their shoes. When these neurons are absent, like in the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > case of severe autistics, the individuals lack this ability. Damn,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > this is what I wanted to avoid- I've completely digressed. Anyway,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > what I intended to say was that children can be taught to sympathize
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > for others and make relativistic moral decisions, over their
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > relatively long period of social development.
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > I'm the first to confess my lack of training in philosophy, so I
                                                    bring
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > a mostly science background to the conversation. However, I have
                                                    read
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > about a few examples of moral dilemmas and the common human response
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > to them that relies on relativistic thinking- an instinctual
                                                    tendency
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > towards minimizing suffering. Some scientific work in this
                                                    discipline
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > was done by Marc Hauser. You can read about it here:
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    http://www.americanscientist.org/template/InterviewTypeDetail/assetid/52880
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > On a different note, If any of you are into small doses of
                                                    philosophy
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > (like I am), I highly recommend "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?",
                                                    edited
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > by John Brockman. It is a collection of thoughts on an eclectic
                                                    array
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > of subjects (many similar to the one we are discussing in this
                                                    thread)
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > by the greatest minds living today. It was a compilation of
                                                    answers to
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > the "2006 Edge Question" that was posed by Steven Pinker. Here
                                                    is the
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > site, check out the contributors list:
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_index.html
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Regards,
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Ajita Kamal
                                                    >
                                                    > >
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                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > __________________________________________________________
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > > Search for local singles online @ Lavalife - Click here
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > >
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                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    http://a.ninemsn.com.au/b.aspx?URL=http%3A%2F%2Flavalife9%2Eninemsn%2Ecom%2Eau%2Fclickthru%2Fclickthru%2Eact%3Fid%3Dninemsn%26context%3Dan99%26locale%3Den%5FAU%26a%3D30290&_t=764581033&_r=email_taglines_Search_OCT07&_m=EXT
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                                                    > >
                                                    >
                                                    > > __________________________________________________________
                                                    >
                                                    > > Search for local singles online @ Lavalife - Click here
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