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01:31 AM on 07/31/2010
Paul of Tarsus tells us in Romans 7:19, "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." Is there a comment on or replacement for that from the "the kind of evolutionary naturalism about morality that [you] endorse" Dr. Ruse? My guess is that there is not, even while it represents the necessary beginning for any discussion of morality. In which case, the discussion here is not about morality but only about evolution, with gestures toward morality tossed in to attract attention.
12:27 AM on 07/31/2010
I can't read all of this - but the sheer notion that believing in a god dictates that there will be morality astounds me. what arrogance !! many gods, many versions of morality, or is it actually morosity.
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TerryDArc
The heart is the real Fountain of Youth
12:07 AM on 07/31/2010
"...sparked by the essentially non-directedness of the Darwinian evolutionary process..."

There you go again. Directed by what? This suggests the logical fallacy known as "begging the question" or assuming the proposition in some way and twisting the arguments to the end that it seems like you're actually going to prove something when it's all BS.

"Directedness" is YOUR interpretation of the universe. For many of us, this is simply a blatant, obvious fallacy. There is no moral or logical requirement for "directedness". Only in your mind.

You want an intelligent designer? Start off with an assertion like you make in the 1st sentence. You know what happens when you start a long journey in the WRONG DIRECTION? You do not get anywhere intelligiblbe.

Sorry, Michael, no cigar.
07:31 AM on 07/31/2010
I think you have completely misunderstood the article. He is not positing directedness. Quite the contrary. He is simply correctly stating that the Darwinian position has no such directedness and exploring the philosophical consequences in the field of ethics.
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Weirdo
It's a Wall Street government
12:02 AM on 07/31/2010
"The moral argument for the existence of God is popular and persuasive. If you don't have God, you can't have morality."


I thought Plato put the lie to that a couple thousand years ago, with his question that goes something like: does god choose what's good because it is good, or is it good because god says so? If the latter, then morality is arbitrary, because god could have just as easily said the opposite. If the former, then morality exists independent of god and according to an external standard.

I think even Aquinas held that god chooses what is good because it is good, in order to save the belief in the goodness of god.
10:59 PM on 08/04/2010
As far as I know, Weirdo, you are right. I have read most of the Summa, and Aquinas' infatuation with Aristotle seems to have led him to the likely idea that first principles exist independent of God.
As to Plato's work, I hold him to be one of the first true theologians. He concerns himself with God as a question for the theoretical science. Thus, divinity in regards to morality can logically be distilled to the two points he questions, and the theoretical field is narrowed, thus making progress.
Granted, he presented Socrates as always favoring some one of the positions he so carefully distills, but it is not very often clear which is the one Socrates prefers. Nevertheless, I take him as a prime example of how theology should go forward. It must forget its current dogmas and ask the questions concerning divinity's nature honestly, not rhetorically, as Plato boldly referred to "God" rather than to "Gods."
Chris Henderson
politguard.com
11:29 PM on 07/30/2010
Michael, as a PhD student in philosophy, specifically evolution and morality, I heartily endorse your view, and if my peers are anything to go by, the philosophical community is well and truly turning a corner in its thinking. You've played no small part in making that happen.

Morality without God is not only possible, but the future of morality requires that we surgically remove any reference to the supernatural. As Joshua Greene might put it - our survival as a species depends on it.

I'm not in the least bit interested in arguing against the existence of God, nor converting those who prefer faith over reason - sufficient arguments have already been made, and those who don't accept them do so for their own irrational reasons, so more arguments aren't going to convince them.

Rather, I am interested in helping build a new, robust, pragmatic, flexible morality that might resolve disputes and foster human flourishing in the real world - an endeavour I think is entirely achievable. However, the great challenge won't be in constructing such a morality (people like Gauthier and Binmore are already 4/5ths of the way there), it'll be persuading people to abide by it rather than an erroneous supernaturalist or moral realist position.

As I've said, that won't take more arguments, that'll require people seeing the secular, naturalist morality in action, and seeing that it actually does work and that there's nothing to fear. And that might take another 50 years or more.
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Weirdo
It's a Wall Street government
12:28 AM on 07/31/2010
"However, the great challenge won't be in constructing such a morality (people like Gauthier and Binmore are already 4/5ths of the way there), it'll be persuading people to abide by it rather than an erroneous supernaturalist or moral realist position."


I wonder how hard that would really be, because it seems that most people already live according to a moral standard free from supposed supernatural influences. For example, most people see that slavery is wrong, or that executing homosexuals is wrong. They didn't get those ideas from reading the Bible. Much of the Bible is "interpreted," which simply means making it palatable to modern sensibilities.
12:58 AM on 07/31/2010
the Bible offered the Golden Rule which became the foundation of western civilization, treat others as you would want to be treated.
this ethos lingers even in modern secular societies, which is why people behave better than they did in the past.
still, the atheist adheres to a subjective morality at best.
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Dan Jighter
03:20 AM on 07/31/2010
I think the issue is providing an intellectual framework for discussing and building up morality. People might not function according to the morality of the Bible per se, but many think of the basis of their morality coming from God. Getting people to accept that morality as a firm foundation without God is the challenge.

Also, most people are effectively moral realists. Even if you remove the supernatural, getting them away from moral realism would be a challenge.
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Dan Jighter
03:41 AM on 07/31/2010
How does the moral theory you are arguing for work? Roughly speaking, of course, I don't expect a complete lecture on your entire research in 250 words or less.
04:11 AM on 07/31/2010
Okay, deep breath...

As a matter of empirical fact, people are inclined to pursue their interests (being 'intrinsic interests' - those interests we have by virtue of the properties we have, i.e. pursue happiness, avoid pain - not the 'ultimate interests' of our genes or 'proximate interests' which is what we *think* we desire).

The best way to satisfy our interests is to be social. Being social carries problems of selfishness and free-riders driving society towards a Nash equilibirum, AKA Hobbes' State of Nature, war of all against all.

Morality functions as a system to regulate social interaction to facilitate cooperation and punish selfishness and free-riding that leads to harm. But there is no one solution to these problems in every environment.

Thus a robust secular morality has a core value of fostering cooperation (and thus satisfying interests), but admits multiple strategies for promoting prosocial behaviour and solving the problems of cooperation - i.e. it's pluralist at the level of norms, but norms are judged by how well they satisfy the core vale in that environment - i.e. it's not relativist.

Once the principles are clear, and strategies/norms are settled upon, and checks/balances put in place - this is translated into a set of practices to follow and habituate - i.e. moral education. But it's not indoctrination, and would allow for modification and revision. It'd be like having a Little Book of Answers and a Big Book of Questions.

Best I can do in 250 words...
11:12 PM on 07/30/2010
If you don't have God how can you have morality? Interesting! Christianity, which came out of the Jewish tradition, has been persecuting Jews since they voted to allow gentiles into the Christian group. Remember that he was the Messiah, a Jewish concept, Gentiles came later. Thousands of years of Passion plays and pogroms and ghettos. Today the Jewish state has its own ghetto problem, even with their own experience with being mistreated. These are all God based. None of them thought they were being immoral. They all had their reasons to sidestep some horrid history.

So I would ask, where is this God based morality. Besides anecdotes of some saint in the past, can you show me a Christian or Jewish nation that has been the exemplar of morality (God based of course). Your evolutionary concept does come into play here. In the 50s in the US, there was a great deal of hate and discrimination against the Jews. Gregory Peck actually made a movie about it. The fundamentalist movement hated the Jews. Today that movement has a belief that once the Jews retake the entire historical holy land Jesus will return. The fundamentalist's are now Israel's greatest supporters. The Jews have not changed and God, I think has not changed. A construct in the fundamentalists internal world view has changed. What would have been an outrage 50 years ago is now the right and moral thing to do.
01:05 AM on 07/31/2010
the godless nazis and the atheist communists were the most anti Semitic people on earth, and committed genocide no christians ever dared.
only in christian countries have jews survived and prospered, starting from when George Washington, a closet Catholic, told American Jewry they had a place in the new republic.
the jewish religion of today, Rabbinical Judaism, didnt exist when Christianity was created, and didnt fully define itself until a few centuries later.
the first christians were jews.
there was no one jewish religion at the time of christ, there were pharisees, essenses, saducees, zealots, baptists and others. the problem old europe had with jews was cultural, not religious. they did not assimilate to preserve their heritage.
07:36 AM on 07/31/2010
padraig
it may suit your argument to claim the nazis were godless but that is a blatant historical falsehood.
They were religious. You are just redefining them as godless because of their appalling acts. But defining them in a way convenient to yourself doesn't make it true.
03:48 PM on 08/01/2010
That is not completely accurate. There were blood laws defining Jewishness in France long before the Nazi's came to power. The European Jewish Ghettos go back to the time of Constantine the Emperor of the Roman Empire that adopted Christianity as the State Religion. There were pogroms in Russia under the Czars as well as under the communists. The inquisition during the middle ages was one of the darkest periods of torture and death for the Jewish people. These were all Christians. And back to the point of this article, they not only thought their torturous activities were ok, they thought they were mandated by God.

And where did you study religious history. There were Jews at the time of Christ. Pharisees and Sadducee are schools of thought with in the Jewish community. They all considered themselves Jews and descendants of the 12 tribes. Europe hated the Jews because they had not accepted the Messiah. They believed that the Jews were responsible for Christ's death. It was not because they would not assimilate. Why would France need to have Blood laws defining Jewishness if all of the Jews refused to assimilate.
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dubbleplusgood
Occupy Your Brain
10:40 PM on 07/30/2010
At the end you said this may not make the case for atheism, Atheism doesn't need a case to be made for it. Atheism is a rejection of an extraordinary claim that was made without zero evidence. It's the same way I don't need to prove to anyone leprechauns don't exist. Although lately a certain artistic rendition on the front of a certain cereal box is giving me doubts about those green-clad critters.
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colamonkey
My micro-bio contains this sentence.
11:38 PM on 07/30/2010
They're magically delicious!
10:04 PM on 07/30/2010
Just as evolution has given us sight which lets us know about many objects in the natural environment, it has given us both reason and a moral sensibility, which allow us to figure out the morality of our current situations.

This isn't the same as saying that whatever moral values happen to have evolved must be good ones. We have the capability of discerning the immorality in slavery, oppression of women, and a hundred other things previously valued in our evolutionary development.

None of this is very relevant to religion, which must stand or fall on the merits of its moral teachings, not on some lame argument that you can't have morality without religion.

Yes you can have morality without religion.
But most morality has come from religion in our history so far.
So religious traditions, if you can regard them without superstition or superciliousness, remain repositories of moral thinking and experience.

We would certainly have to pick and choose from amongst the obsolete and just-plain-wrong elements in this repository. But we have to exercise moral judgment in relying on ANY traditional materials.
That's what God wants us to do. Evolution doesn't care. But we do.
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10:15 PM on 07/30/2010
Religions are just the tool used by societies to create the authority to enforce the rules.
10:27 PM on 07/30/2010
Where did the rules come from?
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BOBinPS
Really?
11:48 PM on 08/01/2010
"But most morality has come from religion in our history so far."

Not really. Religion reflects social morality, it does not create it. Without the human inclination to instinctual morality, all religions would not automatically reflect the directives of the last 5 Mosaic commandments. But they do. Because they are self-evident.
02:46 AM on 08/02/2010
I didn't mean that religion creates moral instincts or conventions, only that, as I said, it is a repository of thinking and experience about moral issues.

Morality is not in general self-evident. Therefore moral philosophy, literature that explores moral perspectives, and the combination of the two found in religious traditions, are valuable.
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10:01 PM on 07/30/2010
Morals are like manners, they develop so societies of social animals can work together with minimum friction for betterment of the group.
10:26 PM on 07/30/2010
What constitutes "betterment"?
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10:33 PM on 07/30/2010
Survival for a start. Societies don't like members killing other members and they don't like activities that would cause the killing of one another.
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timm553
In vino veritas
10:39 PM on 07/30/2010
In the most simplistic terms, less malice and killing.
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BOBinPS
Really?
09:52 PM on 07/30/2010
I am very sympathetic to your viewpoint. I think those who are not, do not understand that the societal aspects of inherited human behavior, in fact, evolved with us. Most human religions have always contained the viewpoints of the biblical second tablet of Moses. From an evolutionary perspective, I believe that human societies concede these values to be self-evident.

I think this perspective explains the truth that humans have been, and always will be, "religious" meaning moral. Of course the details of morality will be cultural, and will evolve as societies progress. But even within these cultural differences, common values dominate, while one cultures terrorist is another's freedom fighter, etc.

Thanks for an important post.
07:44 AM on 07/31/2010
"I think this perspective explains the truth that humans have been, and always will be, "religious" meaning moral. "

I hate to point out the blindingly obvious but "religious" does not mean "moral" any more than "moral" means "religious."
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BOBinPS
Really?
11:52 PM on 08/01/2010
Acknowledged. But as philosophy, religion attempts utopian morality. I agree it fais in practice.
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mjeffn
Freedom's just another word 4 nothing left to lose
09:28 PM on 07/30/2010
This article reminds me of Archie Bunker saying, "thththththththhtt".
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mjeffn
Freedom's just another word 4 nothing left to lose
09:27 PM on 07/30/2010
I can't focus on this nonsense even when when I force my eyes to read it. More garbage on the Jesus page.
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dubbleplusgood
Occupy Your Brain
10:43 PM on 07/30/2010
your lack of focus also prevented you from explaining why you think it's garbage. Oh and the 'Jesus page'? lol. I think your all-powerful buddy can handle different viewpoints. Or is he petty and jealous too like poppa?
09:14 PM on 07/30/2010
"morality is a collective illusion put in place by our genes to make us social animals."

I believe that is pretty much the only argument that does not invoke God.

The *mechanism* for it would seem to be "mirror neurons" -- a person actually feels what another person is experiencing. Autistic persons, and Asperger's syndrome persons, have less (or none) of this empathy and as a consequence do not exhibit the usual traits of morality.

Certainly the concept of the Golden Rule is almost an exact application of the mirror neurons.

"We could have evolved completely different sentiments to be social, and what we now think is true we could then think is false or stupid"

This idea has merit on the individual level.

However, while one can certainly establish a theory of some sort of evolved morality, doing so does not eliminate God -- rather, it is an interesting exploration on "how it was done."
07:47 AM on 07/31/2010
"...while one can certainly establish a theory of some sort of evolved morality, doing so does not eliminate God -- rather, it is an interesting exploration on "how it was done.""

the thing that would disturb me about this argument is that it is applicable to anything and everything. With your perspective any scientific result becomes incorporated into "how god did it."

As with most theories of everything they rapidly become theories of nothing. Which is what your position leads to.
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c-tom
Badges we don't need no stinking badges
08:28 PM on 07/30/2010
An excellent post - but very disappointing for me since when I saw the title "Darwinism and the Moral Argument for God" I was hoping for an argument about is god moral not whether morals can exist without god.
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KrautMan
Carpe jugulum
09:02 PM on 07/30/2010
"I was hoping for an argument about is god moral"
That would be a short argument.
09:15 PM on 07/30/2010
"I was hoping for an argument about is god moral not whether morals can exist without god. '

Feel free to start such an argument :-)

I'll go first -- Yes.
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07:57 PM on 07/30/2010
The definition of what is moral, on any given day, may be nothing more than arbitrary collective thinking among the main stream of any particular group. I point to Hitler or George Bush Jr. if you are familiar enough with the works of either. The modern social structures which empowered them were the equivalent of mobs hearding behind unethical leadership rationalising it all the way “for the betterment of civilization" and claiming God was behind their cause. What of the morals of ancient Rome? Call it as you see it. It is human nature for some to veer off the moral path for personal gain or even entertainment of one sort or another; we see this every day with individuals, families, business' countries, courts, religions etc... My guess is that mans inclinations to associate, comes from the days when safety in numbers were the difference between life and death, feast or famine. And now in our “modern” society we splinter off into a network groups, however overlapping, living and working among eachother and yet still in competition for whatever resourses and power are available. I doubt that human nature has evolved at all in 5000 years, it is one thing that remains constant in regards to man. Human nature is prone to redefine morality out of convenience or for the purposes of necessity in rationalizing ones personal behavior, with or without religion or God.