We Go Together / Like Essence and Telos / Doo-bop a doo-bee doo

Here's Adam of Daylight Atheism's reply to the questions I asked him yesterday about the difference between moral and mathematical laws, and whether either is human-independent.  (He also pointed out that we've sparred on this point before, and you may want to refer back to the map-territory post). I believe that mathematics and logic are discovered, rather than invented, although those terms are apt to get us bogged down in deep semantic waters.I think it sheds more light on my position to … [Read more...]

Human-Independent Morality

Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism recently reran an essay he wrote in response to Peter Hitchens ("Atheists Don't Just Want Sex and Drugs").  Specifically, he was taking issue with Peter Hitchens's claim that a moral system that lacked God must lack authority.  Hitchens wrote: For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a nonhuman source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself. I've gone back and forth on whether I believe that first sen … [Read more...]

If only I weren’t determined to fight about free will!

The Chronicle of Higher Education is holding an essay symposium on Free Will and I have so many problems with Jerry Coyne's contribution: "You Don't Have Free Will."  To begin with, I have a general suspicion that the debate over free will is terrible at least in part because the definition of free will is incoherent.  (Yudkowsky has a good essay on recognizing and defusing definitional debates).What we are fumbling after is the reason we are morally culpable for our own actions.  Why do we t … [Read more...]

Evolution Doesn’t Select for Ethics

Remember you can vote once per day for the About.com Atheism Awards.  I’m one of five nominees for Best Atheist Blog.  More details here.The second most incorrect thing people say about evolution is that it is the survival of the fittest.  (The most incorrect award has to go to the claim it doesn't exist).  The problem with this framing is that it sets up a picture of evolution-as-craftsman, carefully scrutinizing genetic variations and selecting and nurturing the most promising varian … [Read more...]

It’s Utilitarianism All the Way Down?

In the recent thread on human-independent morality, Ash had a question for me and Adam Lee: I’m curious if you both consider morality in the way that Harris and Carrier do, as a means to achieve maximum well-being and minimum suffering. Speaking for myself, this is the only way I can see morality being objective. I agree with Harris that there might not be any one single moral “code” that can achieve a given end in this framework, but that one can nevertheless describe all such codes as either p … [Read more...]

Human Approximations of Morality

Adam Lee, author of Daylight Atheism, has just gotten into an argument with Peter Hitchens over Divine Command Theory.  Peter Hitchens contends: "For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a nonhuman source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself." Adam responded in two posts, the first titled "There Is No Non-Human Moral Authority" and a second responding to comments Hitchens made in-thread. I think I disagree with both the guys in … [Read more...]

It’s a Fair Cop, Douthat

In a response to a lot of the debate that followed Jennifer Fulwiler's conversion story at Why I'm Catholic, NYT columnist Ross Douthat posed a question to atheists that I find hard to answer.  Jennifer wrote that she abandoned atheism because she thought she was required to be a nihilist in a world without God, and, of the three propositions:God is not real Atheism logically requires nihilism Nihilism sucks so bad it can't be trueShe thought she was most likely to be wrong about … [Read more...]