Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Su/on of God, part 1

A commenter mentioned a movie known as "Zeitgeist" to me, and says it is causing him some troubles.

First off, I commend J for exposing himself to challenges from alternative worldviews. Many is the time I've found myself facing off against a position that is different from my own and had to think deeply through it, to get to the other side. Sometimes it has taken months, and in a couple of cases almost a year. In one of those cases, the challenger won the battle for my heart and mind, and so I switched (and haven't regretted it). In the other, the challenger was shown to be an empty suit, so I didn't switch (and haven't regretted it). But this is the way to learn - expose yourself to hard stuff, occasionally or frequently the best the other side has to offer, and then figure out and/or find its worth by testing it.

On the other hand, "Zeitgeist" is hardly the best the other side has to offer, but it IS something alot of people don't have experience dealing with. Plus, it has the fact that it contains fairly well-produced visual and audio effects (with cool background music) going for it, and that can serve to cause an unconscious bolstering of the case in the mind of the viewer. Such is the power of media.

Anyway, I first watched 31 minutes of the film and noted some of my thoughts. I was going to do more, but I assembled so much material to comment on in the 1st 31, I figured watching the rest would be a total waste of my time. Later I did some selective websearching to find what others have said. Their links will follow my review, in part 2, due out Thursday.

I have to admit it - I found myself laughing out loud more than 5 times in the first 31 minutes, so poor were the arguments and so obvious the naked assertions. My favorite was their habit of drawing parallels between "the sun of God" and "the son of God" in an attempt to make their pitiful case that Jesus was a sun god. Are they aware that "sun" and "son" are homophones in English only? Are the words for "sun" and "son" in NT Greek, OT Hebrew, OT LXX Greek, New Testament-era Aramaic, or heck, even Latin and old French (since these guys are all about the Dan Brown-type stuff), homophones? This is either wholly disingenuous or pitifully underthought.

And of course, never stated but pervasive is the naturalistic worldview, which is grossly logically untenable and has undergone numerous merciless beatings on this blog alone. So that's a huge initial problem, and it leads to heavy bias against the supernatural. Of how much respect is such bias worthy?
In case J is unfamiliar with what I consider to be the most powerful argument in favor of the Christian worldview, I pause here to recommend these to J's reading.

Anyway, here goes:

-Minute 9-10:45 - interesting speech by an unidentified someone.
"We've been lied to by every institution" - presumably, I'm just sure he means every institution except the one he represents. Do such overgeneralisations help anyone?
"The same ones who gave you your government...your int'l banking cartels..." Please. The early believers in Jesus who died horrible deaths for their claim that their obscure Jewish rabbi teacher, who had died in disgrace in a remote part of the world had come back to life, thus proving His claim to be God in the flesh, gave us the government and banking cartels? This is the stuff of wild-eyed Dan Brown imaginations.
"All they care about is what they have always cared about...controlling the whole...world" I can't speak for everyone else, but I know *I'm* not under any group of people's control as far as my conscience and beliefs go. So the dumb overgeneralisations commence, and so early on!

Minute 12 - an excerpt from George Carlin(?), yet more thoughtless overgeneralisations. But that's Carlin's stock and trade, one of his main tools - irreverent hyperbole for comedic effect. That's fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't do anything to boost my confidence that this is meant to be a serious movie.
"Religion" has convinced people there's an invisible man? Which religion? Does Carlin realise that Mormonism (polytheistic), Hinduism (polytheistic), paganism (polytheistic), and Buddhism (atheistic) are also "religions"? Which "invisible man"? Certainly not Christianity - we believe that God (specifically, Jesus Christ) has made Himself visible numerous times throughout human history - in the Garden, the numerous theophanies in the OT, the appearances of 'the angel of the Lord', etc.
"If you do any of these 10 things, you go to Hell." I don't know about anyone else (wait, yes I do), but I've broken all 10 Commandments. Hundreds, if not tens of thousands of times. Yet I'm not headed for Hell. Why is that? One wonders whether Carlin or the Zeitguys know.
"...but He loves you" - Carlin apparently feels the need to misrepresent the Christian faith in extreme ways. His description of Hell may or may not be accurate, but this kind of blurb/punchline assumes, among numerous other things, the innocence and blamelessness of human beings in the matter of divine justice. Of course God is to blame! How could it be that I'd be responsible for my own actions? It's just stock liberal junk.
"God needs money..." No doubt Carlin is playing on the numerous examples of pastors and religious leaders prying money out of their followers by making power plays from their pulpits and altars. True enough - that exists. But to give no credit to the many other examples of Christian pastors and missionaries, for example, who labor faithfully for little or no pay or even gratitude is just unbalanced and unfair. And no serious Christian (yes, we exclude the Word of Faith-ers like Benny Hinn) is claiming, nor does the Bible claim, that God "needs" money; far from it.
Neither is any mention made of these other pagan religions' and their clergies' thirst for money. Nor how the modern liberal establishment craves money and power as well. Money is a temptation for EVERYone. But it doesn't do Zeitgeist any good to recall those inconvenient facts.

It occurs to me, by the way, that much of this material is answered in the Paul Manata series of reviews of Hitchens' "god is not Great" book, found on the Narrow Mind radio show. I recommend it, if you're in the mood for a good butt-whipping.

More in part 2, coming Thursday.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The fundamentalists keep on coming

Chris (from Oz) said...
Why do we need to account for evidence's utility and existance (sic) ?

Just stop a second and listen to yourself. Why do you need to account for its *existence*? Are you looking for explanations or not? Interested in truth or not?

Tell you what, though...
Why do we need to account for Jesus Christ's bodily resurrection from the dead?
Answer me that and you may have your own answer.

There are many mysteries. Why can't this be one ?

This sure seems to me a convenient escape hatch. You come in here all sure that you can just throw around "prove it!"s about MY position, and you have less than no evidence for your own position. Typical atheist move, actually.

Prove that evidence's utility and existance (sic) must be accounted for.

It is apparently a fruitless exercise for someone with such a powerful faith as yours. You put the greatest faith-healer to shame with your blind confidence in the power of your convictions. It's a bit embarrassing.
Atheists, gather 'round - this guy is no friend of your position either.

A theistic God is certainly not the only explanation for evidence. And doubtful it's the best.

How could you possibly know that, since you were, one sentence ago, strongly questioning whether evidence even needs to be accounted for. You need to figure out WHETHER it needs to be accounted for before we can deal with this question.

Using logic and reason, which we both agree is useful.

I don't agree that they are useful on atheism, no. I'm waiting for your argument.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An entire building made of concrete

From the Jolly Nihilist's latest answer:

Faith indeed played a role in permitting my foundation—evidentialism—to be laid. However, once in possession of a foundation upon which to build, the temporary scaffolding (faith) became outmoded…no longer needed.

I don't have a whole lot to say in response to the Jolly Nihilist's latest post, actually. I'm pretty happy with what he's said, and so there might only be a little more fleshing-out to do before I spend some time on his extension of the Flying Ethereal Cosmic Flying Catfish Monster business.
But Vox Veritatis and I put our heads together and came up with some questions to ask him.

A note before the questions - Keep in mind that the JN has retreated to this admission of the faith-scaffolding b/c it has become clear that his First Principle - that evidence is the best way for humans to approximate truth - cannot justify itself. Any attempt to do so ends up in an infinite regress.

1) I know you didn't continue with the scaffolding of faith. Why didn't you keep relying on faith? After all, you consider that faith was sufficient to get you to your big First Principle that you find so attractive, while that FP could never get you there by itself.

2) Why did you choose this FP? It seems a completely arbitrary standard. Why not the equally-but-no-less-arbitrary "mustard is the best way to discover truth"? Mustard as FP is not self-justifying either, but one could just as easily make evidence-free faith appeals to it, just as you have to your evidentialist FP.
I don't expect the JN to go this route, but rather other commenters - the fact that mustard is a prima facie silly example makes no difference. Unless the argument for the evidentialist FP is successful, it is just as arbitrary as mustard.

And remember - the JN cannot say "I chose this FP b/c it seems to me to be the best way to live in this world", b/c then I'd request evidence that it is, and we're back where we started - at the choice between faith and an infinite regress of evidence, and this question itself leads to the infinite regress.

3) The JN said:
I use faith once…as scaffolding…to lay my building’s foundation. This hardly equates to a life rife with faith appeals.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure you would claim that your life is rife with appeals to evidence. That's the best way to discover truth, after all.

So it goes like this:


| Answer |
| Question |
| Evidentialist FP |
| Faith scaffolding |


You appeal to something more basic to answer less basic questions. In doing so, how is it an avoidance of appealing to the faith foundation-scaffolding? This question is meant to unmask atheists' widespread allergy to claiming that their position is faith-based. Faith is for wackos and fundies, after all, not for rational people like atheists with rational positions like atheism.

4) In what way is this evidentialism thing a FIRST Principle since faith precedes it logically?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Some good music

My brother's band, Scales of Motion, puts out some very good, musically complex, riff-driven alt-rock and I recommend their latest album, Cave Dweller.

The album is available for about 8 more days on mediafire for free download. I've been listening to it alot. Enjoy if you want. If you don't want to, just try to live with yourself.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An interesting question to ponder

Chris (from Oz) asked:

you said that atheism is a violent strain of extremism, and when pressed, want proof that it can't lead logically to a violent lifestyle, that it leads one to being a nice person ? Bit of a stretch don't you think(?)

It's a stretch for YOU, which is good, and for which I'm thankful.
But for many many people in history that hasn't been a stretch at all, but rather they realised that violence was one of many logical conclusions/outcomes of atheism.
Think about it - you just got thru saying that atheism has virtually no content. So an atheist - whether he decides to be nice or to be violent, what does he have to inform him on which is better?

Atheism is the lack of a trigger

No, atheism is the lack of a god.

Yep, there's no fundamental "ought".

Fair enough - so it's impossible to say "you ought not to torture Chris from Oz's child for fun", right?

And, le plat de résistance:

(Atheism) neither prohibits violence, nor promotes it

Precisely. And it neither prohibits altruism, nor promotes it.
If I gave 33.33% of my millions (I'm independently wealthy) (not really) to Greenpeace/Ma Theresa/pick your favorite charity, 33.33% to the Fascist Us-Only Front For Mankind's Violent Destruction with special earmarks "For use in purchasing chemical and bio-weapons only, to be used on children only", and 33.33% to my own personal private gratification, am I a bad guy, a good guy, or a whatever? Which?

Monday, September 15, 2008

No faith, just faith

Chris (from Oz) said...
What type of faith ? Dogmatic faith in things not in evidence.

Then, later, he said:

From your link, it seems that you're saying there's no way to prove that evidence is the best way to discover truth, as trying to do so degenerates into a circular proof. Sounds right to me.

Fair enough.
This leads him, however, to one of the problems I've stated:
Since he (the Jolly Nihilist) has chosen a faith-based position for his First Principle, why not just go with "faith is the best way to discover truth"? Obviously evidence failed him in this question and faith resolved the problem. Why not just stick with that? Why go with what failed him in this most important, overarching question of First Principle?

No religion for good people

NAL said:
that people are good at their base, there would be no need for religion

What is your argument for that?
Maybe people are hypothetically good but not perfect. Wouldn't there be a need still?

Do you really need the fear of eternal damnation to keep your evil in check?

The fear of damnation doesn't keep my evil in check at all anyway. It's the power of the Holy Spirit working in me that does that.
Romans 1-2 tell us that unbelievers know certain things about God, that He is, that He is creator, that He is invisible, that He is eternal, and that we stand condemned under His law. Put all those together, and that's scary, but it still doesn't lead us to repent and trust God. It leads us to greater evil. It's by unmerited mercy and grace that our lives and conduct become better.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The diseased faith

Chris (from Oz) parroted the poor thinking of Sam Harris thusly:

Yes, Rhology, not exactly the same religions, but the same disease. Faith.

It's a matter of good fortune that most of today's Christians don't follow the examples of the Old Testament any more. But there are some gaining ground.

Just like the majority of Muslims don't fly planes into buildings.

It is people like yourselves, who consider faith a virtue, that allow extremists of all religions to operate.

As demonstrated quite a few times on this blog, notably here, atheists have quite a bit of faith as well. Maybe you should think about specifying what kind of faith. Jihadi faith? I'm with you! Christian faith? Only if you think that radically loving people and wanting the ultimate best for them is dangerous and sick.

You don't understand the OT's relationship to today. Here's a primer.

who consider faith a virtue, that allow extremists of all religions to operate.

I am only too happy to encourage extremists of the Christian faith to operate all they want, all they can. For their faith is for the building up of the world and people's spirits, both.
OTOH, I discourage extremism of the violent strain like Islam, and atheism. Extreme Islam is dangerous b/c it is violent in its exemplar, Mohammed, and in its commands. Extreme atheism is dangerous b/c in the end, nothing matters. At all. Thus the atheist's passions are free to run in whatever direction he feels that day. And we know that people are evil at their base, so those passions will run to evil, to hurt, to theft, to murder, to selfishness. So it's all about the CONTENT of that faith.

Here's hoping you meet more educated Christians in your lifetime than you have so far, and that you learn from them more than you so far have.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Evasive tactics

Today, we're dealing with the 1st half of the Jolly Nihilist's latest response to me on the topic of his First Principle.

I will have to say that I agree with the JN's definitions of the Cosmic 1st Principle and the Philosophical FP, and at the same time question their utility. But it seems that the PFP is the best one can hope for out of a atheist nihilist, who believes that there was nothing, then a horrendous space kablooie, then a void filled with disparate kinds of matter, then a planet, then rocks, then from rock, life! And best of all, it just happened.

At 2nd glance, however, the PFP is a cop-out. It is "an indivisible, unsplittable foundation of human thought." And thus this principle did not exist before humanity did. Further, one has to ask whether it existed before the 1st person thought about these Big Questions. Could this PFP be only a few hundred years old, or less?

He goes on:
Evidentialism, as I embrace it, might be insufficient according to CFP standards but, once again, it is not a CFP.

But that's not the challenge I raised. It is my claim that the PFP has not responded to my challenges to it, contained here. Apparently, the JN's strategy is not to answer the challenges (he can't, anyway) but rather to define his "principle" so that it covers less ground. He's painted himself into a corner - his FP explains very little, and faced with further challenges, if he continues the pattern, it will explain almost nothing.

So, to review, his FP:
1) doesn't cover or explain anything before human thought appeared.
2) doesn't cover or explain anything, furthermore, before the first human who thought of it, thought of it.
3) is taken on faith (see point #1 in the original challenge).
4) is completely arbitrary (since he can, of course, marshal no evidential argument in its favor, since to do so would beg the question entirely).
5) can't pass its own test.
6) can't survive without smuggling in all sorts of other concepts he didn't mention. It's not a *FIRST* principle at all, but rather a tied-for-first-with-lots-of-other principles. Which is cheating. I have ONE First Principle. That's why it's called a FIRST principle.
7) tells us nothing about what we OUGHT TO do with the information we have, even if we grant that it is sufficient to overcome the first 6 challenges.
My FP does.

In regard to #5, the JN says:
one can marshal evidence to demonstrate evidence’s utility

He's been saying that for quite some time.
He has not explained how he escapes the problem of the infinite regress, and given that he's had at least 2 chances to do so, I don't know if he plans to try.

Although I have never directly observed my brain, it has been seen before.

The JN completely misunderstands the point.
I am not questioning that he has a physical brain inside his physical skull. However, if he were a brain in a vat:
1) the doctors seeing his brain were a figment of the chemical stimulations afforded his brain by the vat. They don't really exist.
2) Further, he never fell down the basement stairs.
3) Also, I don't buy this undocumented story that he fell down the stairs at one year old. Where are the multiple unbiased witnesses? The videotape proof? I mean, how likely is it that someone would fall down the stairs? Not very likely, right?
(Point #3 is sarcastic, mocking atheists' frequent challenges to the Resurrection of Christ, etc. It's not a strong argument.)
4) The JN says: I am still a living, thinking, conscious human.
You mean, YOU THINK you are, but in reality you're deceived.
See, I am demanding evidence that the JN is not a brain in a vat and nothing more, and he's giving me answers that are just as easily accounted-for in a brain-in-a-vat scenario. I thought he was supposed to marshal evidence!

The JN goes on to admit it:
Can I be certain there is no Cartesian Demon? No, I cannot.

Agreed. You can't, but I can.
Further, if the JN can't be certain there is no Cartesian Demon, neither can he be certain that the God of the Bible doesn't exist. I'm not saying he's said he's sure TGOTB doesn't exist, it's just a sidenote.

The Cartesian Demon’s construct would be reality, in every sense of the word we normally use.

Except for the fact that it *wouldn't* be reality. It would be fantasy, and it would SEEM to be reality. But lots of things aren't what they seem.

even if [the Cartesian Demon theory is true], nothing significant changes for us regarding method [of truth discovery].

Not in the world created for you by the CartDem, true. But the world the CartDem created for you is not real. Its mathematics are made up. Its physics are made up. Its morality (if one exists) is made up. Your brain is not transported by your physical body to different locations, doesn't sleep, doesn't love, etc. It is in a vat with electrodes stuck in it. It's unpleasant, but like you said, you can't rule it out and have no evidence to the contrary.

One cannot claim just anything to be manifest; in order for that word to be applicable, the fact at hand must be blindingly obvious

Neither the fact that you're a brain in a vat nor the fact that you're not a brain in a vat are blindingly obvious. Let's be consistent here.
Incidentally, the fact that actual infinites don't exist IS blindingly obvious, and that's a problem for your position in multiple ways.

The sun’s existence is manifest

Why? B/c you think you saw it? I have other possible explanations for it.
Perhaps it's a giant lamp created by highly-advanced extraterrestrial life.
Incidentally, this solution is far more harmonious with Occam's Razor than the literally billions of causes and forces that would have had to be marshaled to form a star with a planet like ours.

I, by clear contrast, am concerned with the world of experience.

Which, for all you know and for all the evidence you CAN'T marshal, is illusory.

My PFP accepts certain things as “granted,”

On faith. But this runs afoul of my 3rd point in the original post.
Since he has chosen a faith-based position for his First Principle, why not just go with "faith is the best way to discover truth"? Obviously evidence failed him in this question and faith resolved the problem. Why not just stick with that? Why go with what failed him in this most important, overarching question of First Principle?

the Chinese express bafflement as to why, if god has revealed himself, he has allowed so many centuries to elapse before informing them

Oh, that must by why the vast, vast majority of humankind throughout history has believed in the supernatural and in the idea that the world was created by some entity (leading them many times into paganism).
Ancient Chinese knew about God. Who cares if modern China has largely wiped out that idea? I recommend Don Richardson's Eternity In Their Hearts for anyone who's interested in this question.

I have been unfailingly clear in my rejection of moral truth.

Sometimes, and then other times you just put the Papal mitre right back on and make moral judgments, as if you expect anyone else should care about them. I call 'em like I see 'em, and I call inconsistency. Only I've done it over and over again. On this, the JN is incorrigible.

I'll deal with his response on the subject of the Flying Catfishghetti Etheremonster later. This is enough for now.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sept 11

God forgive us our trespasses. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A better bumper sticker

Liberal mouthpiece for the New Baptist Covenant, the Mainstream Baptist, has put this bumper sticker up at his blog and termed it a "A Thought Provoking Bumper Sticker".

Edit: And take a lookie here. Unbelievable.

So let us let it provoke some thoughts.
1) Jesus never ran for political office.

2) There are good governors and bad governors. Pick one - whom does Prescott like? Dukakis? Schwarzenegger? Grey-out Davis? It's a double-edged sword. The sticker kicks dirt on all governors.

3) There are good and bad community organisers. Martin Luther King, Jr. David Duke. Osama bin Laden. The point is obvious - it's not the office but the person who is relevant. And yes, I'll take Palin a thousand times out of a thousand over Oblahma.

4) I'm not the 1st to say this, but it strikes me as very odd that Oblahma is spending all this time comparing his experience to Palin. Much as I might wish Palin were heading the ticket, she's not. Against just whom is he running here? Is he the veep candidate?
I guess the Oblahma campaign thinks the voter is too stupid to see the smokescreen - attack Palin's paucity of experience in order to blunt the McWhatsHisName campaign's attacks on the same towards Oblahma.

5) Let the record show yet another Obamessianic reference. It is truly, truly sad.

6) What Jesus did was of course nothing like what Oblahma did. Further, it was far from His primary, secondary, or tertiary goals in His earthly ministry.
But such should be expected, considering the source. Oblahma's church of 20 yrs has fed him a steady diet of Liberation Theology, which is almost wholly political and this-world-centered. Sin? Justification of an unworthy, dirty sinner before a holy God? Atonement? Adoption by a loving God of enemies of His to become, rather, His children? These are foreign concepts to the Liberation Theologian.

7) The community organiser/governor thing is all about executive experience. Pilate had it. Jesus had it too. While it's true He was a community organiser of sorts, He is the very God of the universe.

Col 1:16 For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Col 1:17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Col 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Col 1:19 For it was the {Father's} good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
Col 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say,} whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Col 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, {engaged} in evil deeds,
Col 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach...


Col 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
Col 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Col 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.


And then, take a look at the combox, where Jeff the Baptist said:
The bumpers sticker is funny, but when Jesus was offered all power and authority on Earth he refused it. I don't see anyone at the top of either ticket who would make that choice.

1) Yes, Christ refused it because Satan was the one doing the offering. Does Jeff the Baptist deny, then, that Christ WILL have all power and authority in the future? He could take it any time He wanted, but His incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection were part of the plan to redeem people for His own possession. That part is complete. The next coming of Jesus will be to do precisely that - to claim all power and authority, visibly, totally, finally, and completely.
2) Jeff the Baptist is complaining about human candidates for a powerful political office. Hopefully he will put all his trust in God, rather than in politics, overcoming the temptation that is so common to conservatives and libs alike, though that temptation is expressed in different ways.

At any rate, as promised, here's a better bumper sticker:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Society is just confused

From the previous post, Tom Foss said:

What does it mean to be "worthy" of something that does not depend on one's worthiness?

But what is his argument that being killed does not depend on one's worthiness? I don't grant that at all.

If I say, "you are all worthy of feet," I'm not making a moralist statement, I'm making a Dadaist one.

OTOH, he is welcome to his view. It emasculates, however, any statement that might otherwise imply a moral obligation, since I could just make the same claim about anything, no matter how evil it might appear to be.
This bleeds over into the "worthy of death" vs "worthy of being killed" thing. Apparently, it's by Tom Foss' arbitrary fiat that these two statements are of different quality. But why should anyone be more consistent with Tom's method than he himself is being?

Moving on...

The "should" is determined by society, and at its core, by the necessary elements required for society to exist.

Apparently, the basis for Tom's morality is society - it all starts there. Simple humanism, really. Ah, the dangers of making man the focus!
And what can this say to someone who doesn't like society? Who doesn't think there should BE a society? Call them a sociopath, throw them in jail, whatever - that's just might makes right, the imposition of morality by force, the shoving of his moralistic views down another's throat. What is his argument for this assertion?

Killing someone is not merely allowing death to take place; killing someone necessarily implies that death would not have otherwise taken place at that moment.

Feeding someone is not merely allowing eating to take place; feeding someone necessarily implies that the feeding would not have otherwise taken place at that moment.
So what?

1) There's no necessity that society exist.
There is if the species is to continue.

Let me restate my #1 then.
1) There's no necessity that the human species exist.

that society exists is a given.

Well, who would argue that?
The question is: Society exists. What are our moral obligations?
Where is the prescription?

Last I checked, humans couldn't asexually reproduce.

Humans could take the approach from other animals, like eagles and lions - raise the young for a bit and then send them out on their own. Get together just long enough to reproduce, then separate again.
Again I have to bring up the So What? On your view, humans could have evolved so that we live together in societies or live apart as individuals, either way. What does that say about morality, about telling us what we OUGHT to do, what we OUGHT to value, how we OUGHT to think, what we OUGHT to hold dear?

morals evolve as society progresses.

You're confusing categories - IS and OUGHT. Please understand me - I'm not questioning THAT societies have general scruples. I'm questioning the prescriptive power of said scruples. The simple fact that most people hold that, say, it is morally right to shove Jews into ovens doesn't mean that I should believe that such is right. But apparently Tom thinks that if the society believes that to be true, it's true. If it evolved that way, that's the moral right. Thus the danger of basing one's morality on humanity.
Praying mantises and black widow spiders evolved in such a way that the male and female fornicate and then engage in cannibalism. If humanity had evolved and flourished with that behavior as its model, would Tom now be arguing that such behavior fits very well within his moral framework? If not, why should anyone respect a system that can only support such inconsistent and arbitrary appeals?

women are not property, slavery is not right, and unruly children should not, in fact, be stoned to death.

1) Neither are women property in the Bible. Ignorant statements like this don't help anyone.
2) One wonders whether Tom realises the nature of biblical, Old Testament slavery, which is more properly termed 'indentured servitude', with all sorts of legal rights and protections.
3) Tom also shows unfamiliarity with the 'stoning children to death' thing in the OT, tipping his hand that he's probably reciting Hitchensian or ironchariots talking points or something. It was not young children who were subject to this penalty, but rather grown children. Tom might be well-served to read the entire passage in question.
And of course, he shows his gross inconsistency right here. Apparently, for Tom, societal evolution determines morality except when it makes Tom uncomfortable and militates against his own morality. In that case, suddenly, it's NOT OK.
Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

The consensus is not a matter of percentages

He himself said in his first comment:
-A single, solitary person, so far as I can figure it, cannot be moral.
-the morals of a given society are determined by what that society can agree on.

But society is not unanimous about anything. Thus, I introduced the question of %. Apparently Tom is more interested in making naked assertions that sound good at first and then back off of them when challenged.

I'm sure you're not stupid enough to think that it is.

I made no guess or hypothesis one way or the other. I was waiting for him to explain it to everyone, and I'm disappointed.

They're generally free to band together and secede.

1) They're still part of society, though.
2) This speaks not at all to the question of whether it's morally OK to secede.
3) One wonders at what point someone ceases to be part of "society". I'll venture a guess - it's whenever their presence IN society stops discomfiting Tom's argument.

People seclude themselves from the larger social group in order to form their own small societies, based on their own consensus of morality.

And one of these small secluded societies might conceivably come to believe that it is a moral obligation to seek out and murder all humanists who have first names that begin with "T". And Tom Foss would presumably call them immoral to do so. But why?

why those at the YFZ compound do not share our moral outrage over raping children.

Well and good, but is it OK to rape children?
I don't care whether anyone BELIEVES it's OK to rape children. I want to know WHETHER it is OK.

we come again to the closest thing society has to moral absolutes:

Not at all. As we've seen, these 'absolutes' are arbitrary and inconsistent. Tom has failed.
God-defined moral absolutes, however, are absolute and right by definition, AND they are backed up by disciplinary and punitive authority and force.

"killing people is morally wrong"

Even this, his "most basic" of precepts, is hopelessly misaligned. Apparently it is now immoral to kill a guy who is holding a knife to my wife's throat after breaking in to my bedroom and trying to kill me.
Or to shoot a terrorist who is about to blow up a schoolbus with a bomb belt.

because society cannot exist if we cannot reasonably trust one another not to kill us when we stop watching them

Tom must not watch the news. Is it really possible for someone in the modern age, who uses the Internet, to be this hopelessly naive? I guess so.
Tom apparently does not realise that morality exists not only to tell us what we ought to do, but to tell apart good from bad and correct action and desire from incorrect action and desire. It serves to protect us against bad people. If everyone were perfect, there's really no need for law, nor law enforcement.
Everyone knows deep down that God's Law exists and condemns them as sinners (Romans 2:14-16). This is one of the reasons why Tom, while embracing a humanist morality at one level, also tries to bind others' consciences to moral judgments as if they SHOULD follow them.

we have to roll up our sleeves, get together as a society, and decide what the parameters

Once again, we have to ask: When and where did "society" get together and establish this moral agreement? Where would "society" do so in the future?
Tom has not answered this question. He tells us that it's in evolution, in development. But again, different forces in "society" are evolving and developing in different directions. Which one is correct? They can't all be correct.

The Yanomamo, the Auca, the 3rd Reich, Vichy France (who willingly exceeded the quotas for sending French Jews to Germany set by the Nazis)... when was their moral consensus created? And was it OK? Tom Foss would probably say no, but on what basis?
Don't presume to speak for me, Rhology.

Let the reader judge whether presuming that Tom would think that the Nazi genocide was a bad thing was a mean and nasty thing for me to do. Tom seems a little prickly on this topic. Will we be frightened by what we'll find about his thoughts?

On a personal level, Rhology, I would say that these "astray" societies were obviously doing morally wrong things

Well well, I was right.
And I love it - "on a personal level".
Fine then. On a personal level, I would say that hunting down and murdering all humanists whose first names begin with the letter "T" is obviously morally RIGHT, since I, and the society (which my society and I have defined) of which I am a part, consider their existence morally reprehensible. We're right back at the beginning - I have decided that he is worthy of death.
Tell me - what is the qualitative difference between these two statements?

Just because a government does something or codifies a law doesn't mean that those actions or codes are in line with the moral consensus of the people.

Don't wriggle out of this. Answer the question.
Forget the Nazis, then - take the Auca, the Yanomamo, Vichy France.
Taking the easy way out is no way to make quality, substantial arguments.

The always-prolific Anonymous chimed in:
It's not a single decision, it's a process consisting of vast numbers of decisions made by huge numbers of people over large expanses of time.

So these decisions are "made" during an unobservable and unexaminable period of time by an amorphous, undefined group in an undefined area on undefined questions. Pardon me if I'm not bowled over in wonder at the fecundity of societal moral reasoning.

By definition they're not part of that consensus.

By definition? Whose definition? Make an argument that the definition doesn't include them.

They can either remove themselves from society or risk the consequences.

In most other contexts, my guess is that Anonymous would reject the notion that "might makes right", but here he has no problem throwing it out there.

They're composed of individuals who make choices.

Oh, NOW we're talking about individuals! Great - I'm ready.
Who? How many? Their entire life histories and backgrounds? Who made the study? What questions were asked?

The point to all this is to demonstrate the vacuity, the void, of the alternatives to the Christian worldview, where the living God is the source of morality. The distinction is more than obvious, and given Tom and Anon's terrible confusion and inconsistency, thank God for it!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Societal moral consensus

Yet again, the Atheist Experience provides me with fodder for a post. These days, I've been feeling pretty low on inspiration, so any help is appreciated.

I had followed up on yet another post containing moralistic statements from the atheist of the hour, this time laying out 6 stages of the development of morality within a society. The final one is:
Stage 6 - Universal Principles - this is a theoretical stage in which there is an attempt to define the principles by which a just society operates. In this society, decisions are based on equal respect for all. For example, a majority would not get to vote on restricting the rights of a minority.
And later:

We don't need fictional characters from Bronze Age myths dictating to us what is right or wrong. We are fully capable of making sound moral decisions all on our own.
So I, only too happy to take such things to their logical conclusion, said:

I have decided that all of you are worthy of death.

We are fully capable of making sound moral decisions all on our own. Right?
The implication is obvious. A firestorm has followed. Apparently, the "we" had quite a few qualifications. Apparently, this "we" means "those who agree with us. The rest are stupid."
But I digress.
Further down, Tom Foss said:
My thinking, though, is that saying "you all deserve death" is like saying "you all deserve bones." Death isn't a punishment or reward that requires people to prove their worthiness, it's an inevitable fact of life.
So one wonders why Tom would have a problem with my statement. It's perfectly consistent, as far as I can tell, with a naturalistic viewpoint. What else is an inevitable fact of life? Being born. Eating. Excreting waste. Drinking water. Moving one's limbs and appendages about. Learning.

He goes on to make a statement that, for that reason, is unjustified:
I see a major difference between "you deserve death" and "you deserve to be killed." The latter has some meaning; it implies that the target should encounter death before they otherwise would, which is indeed a punishment (at least, by my reckoning). If that's what Rhology meant, then that has some practical meaning. I'd like to know what his criteria are for determining who deserves to be killed, and how he arrived at that conclusion, and chances are I would disagree.
If he were to be consistent, he'd neither disagree nor agree. There's no "should" in his worldview, no way to prescribe nor proscribe the 'right' behavior for anyone to follow.
Further, putting someone to death is simply enabling a natural process to take place. It's the same as giving someone a carrot to eat. Or a slab of steak. Or a live hamster (if one were so inclined). Or brain from a living person. It's all-natural. It's all the same.

Then, my favorite part:

morals are determined not by individuals, but by social consensus... In order for any society--even a mere grouping of two people--to exist, they must agree on some basic moral principles...All morals result from the interactions of social animals, and so the morals of a given society are determined by what that society can agree on.

1) There's no necessity that society exist. On naturalism, it so happens that humans evolved in such a way that living together in community aids in survival, most of the time. But of course, praying mantises have evolved in such a way that they hang out alone all the time, except when they get together for sex and dinner (in that order). So what?
2) I've heard this claim many times and always I have wondered whence this social consensus comes. When and where did "society" get together and establish this moral agreement? What % is a consensus, and what is the basis for pegging the % at that point?
3) What of those in society, such as anarchist protesters, murderers and other psychopaths, and M-16-toting, compound-dwelling Mountain Men, who have no and want no part in this societal moral consensus? Whence comes the "should" in "these guys should have no say in our moral deliberations"? It's arbitrary.
4) What of entire societies who have gone "astray"? The Yanomamo, the Auca, the 3rd Reich, Vichy France (who willingly exceeded the quotas for sending French Jews to Germany set by the Nazis)... when was their moral consensus created? And was it OK? Tom Foss would probably say no, but on what basis? He has to be inconsistent with his own stated views to avoid the awful (and embarrassing) conclusion.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dr really fun

Some fun excerpts from my most recent comment interaction with Dr Funkenstein:

none of the gospel writers were actual eyewitnesses to the event as far as historians can tell.

Except for Matthew, the apostle. And Mark, who was at Gethsemane and who was Peter's amanuensis. And John, the beloved Apostle.
No doubt you meant except for those 3 guys.

I asked: Let's be careful about investing this with too much power. Is the principle of falsifiability falsifiable?

Technically yes, if someone possessed absolute knowledge

Come on! You are being so disingenuous. The point is lost to you.
Your answer is: "Well, the principle of falsifiability is falsifiable if you're God. Who of course doesn't exist."
Your answer is, no, it's not. Thank you. For someone who claims to be after the truth, stuff like this doesn't inspire much confidence in your seriousness.


Some philosophers have proposed that there can be 3 options - true/false/neither.

OK. Let's test it.
1) The LoNC is either true or not true. Or it's neither true nor not true. Please explain.

2) The universe either exists or does not exist. Or it is neither the case that it exists nor that it does not exist. Please explain.

Those 2 will suffice.

there is no debate amongst logicians over the basic laws of logic.

I don't deny that. I just deny that certain debates have any sense to them. But you can clear it all up, starting with those 2 examples I just cited.


'atheism explains everything, I just don't know how'.

Fair point. The distinction I'd make is that the mechanism exists in Xtianity to acct for these big questions, even though I don't have a full explanation of every detail. Atheism lacks even the mechanism, and so explains less than nothing.