C. S. Lewis Gets Morality Wrong

C. S. Lewis Gets Morality Wrong June 1, 2015

C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity is a fundamental work in Christian apologetics. Many Christians point to this book as a turning point in their coming to faith, but Lewis’s ideas on morality need work.

Lewis says that there is a “real” right and wrong. If this were not so, how could we declare the Nazis wrong? Find a man who rejects this premise, Lewis says, and you will quickly detect the hypocrisy. He may break a promise to you, but as soon as you do the same, he declares that that’s not fair and falls back on a “real” rightness.

But it doesn’t work that way. “Right” and “wrong” come with an implied point of view. Of course I say that the Nazis were wrong, but when I do so, the word wrong is grounded in my point of view. (Kind of obvious, right? Whose point of view would I be using but my own?)

That statement is simply a less clumsy version of, “The Nazis were wrong according to Bob.” There is neither a need to imagine nor justification for an absolute standard.

Lewis doesn’t use the term “objective morality” (he wrote about 70 years ago, which explains a few odd phrasings), but I believe this is what he means by “real right and wrong.” Let’s use William Lane Craig’s definition for objective morality: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

Despite Lewis’s claims, we needn’t imagine that morality is objectively grounded. We see this simply by looking in the dictionary. The definition of “morality” (or “right” or “wrong”) doesn’t require any sense of objective grounding or absoluteness.

Like Lewis, I insist that you keep your commitments to me, that you follow the basic rules of civility, and so on. When you don’t, I’m annoyed not because you violated an absolute law; you violated my law. It ain’t much, but it’s all I’ve got, and that’s enough to explain the morality we see around us.

To the person who insists that objective morality exists, I say: show me. Take a vexing moral issue—abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, capital punishment, sex before marriage, torture, and so on—and show us the objectively true moral position. If you want to say that objective morality exists but it’s not reliably accessible, then what good is it? This kind of objective morality that looks nonexistent might as well be.

When we see a widespread sense of a shared morality within society, are we seeing universal moral truth? Or are we seeing universally held moral programming? That latter explanation is natural and does the job without the need to imagine an objective moral truth that doesn’t exist.

Evolution explains why part of morals is built-in. What we think of as proper morals has survival value. It’s not surprising that evolution would select for a moral instinct in social animals like humans. Evolution is often caricatured as being built on the principle “might makes right.” No, natural selection doesn’t favor might but fitness to the environment. A human tribe with trust and compassion might outcompete a more savage rival tribe without those traits.

We see this moral instinct in other animals. In a study of capuchin monkeys, for example, those given cucumber for completing a task complained when others got grapes (a preferred food) for the same task. These monkeys understood fairness just like a human. (An excellent video of the monkey’s reaction is here @1:18.)

As an aside, I think it’s a mistake to look down on other primates and their “less-developed” sense of morality. The same powerful brain that gives us honor and patriotism, justice and mercy, love and altruism, and other moral instincts that we’re proud of also gives us racism, self-pity, greed, resentment, hate, contempt, bitterness, jealousy, and all the others on the other side of the coin. No other species has perfected violence, slavery, cruelty, revenge, torture, and war to the extent that humans have.

If we exceed the morality of our primate cousins on the positive side, we also do so on the negative side. Let’s show a little humility.

Human morality is nicely explained by an instinctive and shared sense of the Golden Rule plus rules that are specific to each culture. The dictionary doesn’t demand any objective grounding in its definition of morality, and neither should we.

I believe in Christianity 
as I believe that the sun has risen: 
not only because I see it, 
but because by it I see everything else. 
— C. S. Lewis

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 10/17/12.)

Image credit: ho visto nina volare, flickr, CC

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  • Castilliano

    I’ve been exploring morality for an upcoming discussion group, so I want to thank you, Bob, not just for this post, but your other morality ones too.

    One good comparison I’ve found is to “beauty”, except we’ve made more progress in understanding there isn’t a platonic ideal out in the cosmos. This is even though humanity shares many of the same views on it (i.e. healthiness and smiling are attractive) Also, like “morality”, the word doesn’t become meaningless simply because we have different POVs on it.
    Cheers

    • I’m glad it was helpful. Feel free to add any comments here if your discussion group brings up new ideas.

    • Clemency Fane

      Beauty – that’s a great idea for comparison, thanks.

  • Kodie

    I’ve never read Mere Christianity but I see when it was written, Nazis were current. I haven’t seen many Christians sick to their stomach over a genocide since the 1940s, when most Christians weren’t born yet. I get such an irony about remembering the past so we don’t repeat it.

  • MNb

    “Let’s use William Lane Craig’s definition for objective morality: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.””

    With the explicit exception when that “anybody” is named God. Then they are suddenly not always valid and binding.

    “Evolution explains why part of morals is built-in.”
    There is sometimes a misunderstanding here. Evolution explains why humans are ethical and does not tell which ethics are the right ones. So when theists ask “how do you ground your morals” evolution is not good enough an answer.
    Philosophy provides the answer. If the content of ethics cannot be determine by science we must use deduction. That means we must accept some axiom, presupposition, basic assumption or whatever fance name we give it. Just like with Euclidean Geometry the choice is in principle a random one. “I’m rather happy than unhappy” is as random a choice as “God decides”. That’s where WLC fail and what Adam (with capital) doesn’t get. Unsurprisingly most humans agree with the first statement, including many believers at least to some extent. So we should not be surprised that humans can agree on many ethical issues.

    “The same powerful brain ….”
    Another aside: recently read about some research done by Chinese scientists. That same powerful brain also seems to have given us Alzheimer. Homo Sapiens is the only species that can get it. Thanks, Intelligent Designer.

    • I wonder if our ability to get much older is a factor in Alzheimer’s. That is, if chimps got to be 70 or 80, maybe we’d see it in them as well.

      • Clemency Fane

        Thanks for the informative post – I have a co-worker who believes in absolute morality, but it always seems the same as his idea of morality.

        My mom has advanced Alzheimer’s so I’ve wondered about this too. I haven’t been able to find any research showing that longer life is a factor, but quite a few researchers note that more women have Alz than men, and women usually live longer.

        This study showed a protein linked to longevity in humans and mice appearing to protect against the symptoms of Alz, but the plaques and deposits were still present in the brain tissue.

        https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/diagnosis/protein-tied-to-long-life-may-protect-against-alzheimers/

        • I’m amazed that people cling so strongly to the idea of absolute/objective morality when evidence for it is so weak. True, we have a strong, shared sense of the wrongness of some actions (torture, murder), but that can easily be explained by shared moral programming. And where’s the objective morality in society when we see it change so much. Old Testament morality wouldn’t work today.

          I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s Alzheimer’s. That’s gotta be tough.

        • Clemency Fane

          Thanks, I appreciate it. It’s a horrific disease.

          I think for my co-worker the concept of absolute morality allows him to eliminate any gray area or need for empathy. Right and wrong are obvious and simple, and I’m not sure he sees any need for evidence.

          For example, today he told me he’d heard that Abercrombie & Fitch refused to hire a Muslim woman because her head scarf wasn’t permitted by their dress code, and he asked what I thought of that. [Background to maybe help put this in context – he also says that all Muslims should be killed.]

          I told him I would first want to know whether their dress code restricted other religious symbols – crosses, etc. He seemed surprised and said he didn’t know. Then he went on to another news item he’d seen about a southern US town hiring an imam to say a prayer at a public event.

          I think what he looks for in establishing absolutes is confirmation of his view, and simplicity. That said, he’s actually an intelligent person, and I think that’s one of the reasons I struggle with these conversations with him. I’ve thought for a long time that issues are debated over generations of people because they’re complex, and there may not be simple, one-size-fits-all answers.
          [Sorry for the lengthy comment!]

        • I’d wonder if he claims (1) that objective morality exists and (2) everyone can reliably access it. Without both of these, this is a meaningless conversation.

          Then ask him the objectively correct resolution to, say, abortion. Presumably, he wants it highly restricted or totally illegal. That’s fine–that’s his opinion. But he says that this is objectively correct, which means that we can all access this truth and know that it’s true. But how is this possible when, for this and indeed every moral issue, you can find good Christians (and others) on all sides of the issue?

        • Kodie

          Here’s what I think, and your spectrum argument works well. Objectively, I’m pretty certain, that there’s no reason not to get an abortion if you want one, and if there’s no guilt or shame or restrictions to getting one, it would be a fairly easy to consider it an option early enough that it’s not morally blurry. And they know that too, that’s why they have to guilt and shame, and people have to be absolutely certain and deliberate a long time how they’ll feel afterwards and if this is the right decision. Even atheists seem to think reducing the number of abortions is a good goal; meanwhile, people who get them would still be stigmatized even because they are uncommon and missed their earlier window of opportunity. Shaming abortions like they should not be had seems to come unwittingly as a result of even thinking that there’s just something we don’t like about it even if we think it should be legal and easy to get one.

          Now, from the other side, and the emotional propaganda wins this for them, they can’t unsee “child” in that clump of cells. Emotionally, for most, expecting a child is a happy thing that almost everyone calls that clump of cells a baby when they want it. It’s considered disgusting to not want that thing. You’re not going to talk about being pregnant if you’re planning to get an abortion, because people would all be happy for you, and then expecting a birth. So being pregnant and not being happy, you sneak off on your private time and nobody could ever tell. When they compare slavery and dehumanization to abortion, what they see is not what you or I see. They are appalled that anyone would do such a thing that, in an ideal world, would be wanted. That’s the social custom – to want and then make a baby. How could we call it a clump of cells when it’s a baby to them? They really only do have one choice here as their moral choice, which is to protect the human from being killed. They are emotionally manipulated pawns making the only moral conclusion they can come to, given that circumstance. Their true opinion (arguments against abortion) comes from enslaving women and taking away their rights to be sexual beings without bearing children. That’s the irrational part.

          If we take away the part where abortion should be legal or illegal, and when, and just discuss women’s sexuality, the issue becomes much less divisive (as I see it). Are women humans? Is marriage a social construct? Is marriage the only way we’ve developed to socially manage humans at their development into sexually mature beings? Is cultural delight over a pregnancy a sexist attitude toward women or is it just one way we’ve managed to spin something that, in all realistic aspects, can and is difficult to do? Our culture reveres mothers and motherhood as if that’s our hardest job, so much so that we’re obligated to take it on… just seems like so much of a snow job. Putting women on the double-standard pedestal – you already have the hardest job, why do you want to be an astronaut/doctor/engineer/steel-worker/soldier? We can handle these questions more rationally and sort out the morality of abortion, just not the when, but science may give us a better idea. I think the idea is that “weeks” is an estimate, you don’t know exactly up to that line in weeks what exactly is going on. If you say “20 weeks” is the cutoff, and someone says “19 weeks and 6 days,” whatever day you got pregnant might be mistaken, and whatever you get at “20 weeks” your fetus might already have, and it would be unethical on that actual fetus to perform an abortion.* It’s kind of random like how old you need to be to buy your own beer, and not based on the anatomical features now present in one’s own developing fetus that should or shouldn’t be aborted. That’s why I don’t like guilt and shame and stigma around abortion. The longer emotions make you think twice, the closer to that line you’re likely to be. If you didn’t want to get pregnant before you were, then you should easily know that you don’t want to be pregnant when you are. If you can do this by 5 or 6 weeks without delay or hesitation, you’re not going to get all the way to 20 weeks and hope it’s still ok.

          *I saw an article I didn’t click on about the morality of micro-preemies, babies born way too soon and our technological ability to keep them alive anyway. If I find it again, maybe I’ll remember to post it.

        • Clemency Fane

          “Is cultural delight over a pregnancy a sexist attitude toward women or is it just one way we’ve managed to spin something that, in all realistic aspects, can and is difficult to do?”

          I think there are aspects of both. Your comments about women being told that motherhood is the hardest job, etc., are also on point IMO. It’s taboo for women to express anything other than complete joy in their kids at all times. I don’t have kids, and I can’t imagine living up to that kind of pressure.

          It also amazes me that women who choose not to have kids are frequently considered selfish. Their reasons for that choice aren’t considered important. Yet people say all the time they had kids because they wanted someone to take care of them when they get old. ???

        • To your first point, there’s a book by Katha Pollitt, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights that promotes an unashamed pro-abortion stance. I’m partway through (no epiphanies yet, though I like that direction).

          They seem to have a childlike view of pregnancy. Their view of a fetus as a marvelous thing is quite right … sometimes. And other times, it’s a terrible and unwanted burden. Is it that hard to put themselves in the position of a 15yo girl who really, really doesn’t want a baby?

          They wring their hands about the 20 weeks (or whenever)–“Shouldn’t we err on the side of life?” and all that. But they ignore other hard lines that we legally draw all the time. There are myriad crimes with all their variations and extenuating circumstances, and you’re going to put someone in prison, taking away years of their lives. Should it be 5 years or 6? We’re talking about someone’s life here!

        • Clemency Fane

          My guess is he’ll agree with (1), it does exist. He’s said before that truth is absolute. However (2) may be a sticking point because I think he’ll say morality resides with God.

          I already know if I try to argue with scriptural inconsistencies he’ll shut down. So I think the abortion example may be worth pursuing. You’re correct that he thinks abortion should be illegal, and it’s never right to get one.

          Also, if morality resides with God, how would he explain a nonbeliever who makes the “correct” decision by deciding to have the baby (independent of societal influence, etc)? Most of the fundamentalists I know here would say God works in mysterious ways, etc. I hope he comes up with something more interesting than that.

        • So objective morality exists (in God’s head or in his library or something) but we just can’t reliably access it? Then the whole idea devolves into “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” category.

          He’ll say that he has it all figured out, even if you don’t, but then we’re back to subjective morality.

        • Clemency Fane

          I hope the reliable access topic doesn’t deteriorate into an argument on biblical correctness and literal meaning. I need to think about how to approach that in a different way with him, or guide him into a what-if-no-god-just-for-kicks.
          I’ve asked him why I don’t see any self-maimed or blinded Christians, citing Matthew 5:30 (I think) and then he admitted some parts might need interpretation.

        • But surely he agrees that objective reality is not reliably accessible since there’s so much division on important questions. Then he must explain why he things he’s got it figured out … but then you digress into another morass.

        • Kodie

          I think the morality on these issues is accessible, but it may not be objective still. My take on murder is that the victims are primarily the survivors, the next of kin. This isn’t really a popular notion, but a dead person cannot grieve what they’re missing out on, and it discounts the lives of people who didn’t have any family.

          If they were tortured in some way before being murdered, their victimhood was real, and so should be accounted for in, say, a case where a woman was kidnapped, raped for a week (or an hour), then murdered vs. a case where she was simply murdered quickly. I’m not going to say there’s no suffering in the process, just that the suffering has ended certainly. If the body of the murdered person is then shot or stabbed extraneously or dismembered or otherwise assaulted or eaten or whatever, that certainly makes the perpetrator seem much sicker, but I’m feeling rather certain that those acts against a dead person’s body aren’t crimes against that person.

          So with abortion, I’m in favor of women having the right to an abortion at any time, but I’m less sure about whether there is a line before birth that should be accounted for. At some point, a fetus can be removed from a woman without it dying, and so that should be the factor – she doesn’t want to be pregnant anymore, she doesn’t have to be, but that doesn’t mean the fetus has to die. An embryo is alive and growing but cannot feel or know. It is a superstitious belief that it can, or would weep up in heaven over never having been born to live on earth.

          The objective reality should lead the morality over what to do and when. The superstition causes a delusion that a fertilized egg is a person where an egg or sperm alone are not, even if they’re in the same relative space about to join. Apparently, it’s an “abortion” for a fertilized egg to exist yet be inhibited from implanting in the uterine wall, and not abortion to prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. It’s a superstitious belief that sexual intercourse is a miraculous event intended to join that sperm and egg to create a new life, that once that life has started, it’s immoral to interfere in life. It’s a superstitious belief that one’s own choice to end their life on their terms with their dignity intact is the same kind of interference in god’s prerogative. It’s a superstitious belief that once somebody is born, their welfare is entirely up to their parents. I mean, if you want to interfere in parenting decisions up to birth but not after, then that is irrational. What you really want is for the parents to come crawling to church before you’ll give a damn for that child you forced to be born. That is irrational.

          Once we can regard a decision as rational or irrational, the reality should guide the morality. It’s fine (sort of), if people choose to ignore reality when making moral judgments, but they can’t claim to be the objectively moral ones. Their morals are built on a fiction, so cannot be rational or objective. If this was important to god, he’d do something specific. Instead, we have these picketing morons repeating propaganda to shock the gullible.

          When some anti-abortion person dies and goes to heaven, how can they be joyous? This specific irrational belief in how something can be so important one day to fight and protest, the next day is unimportant, yet still occurs. Rationally, someone who is anti-abortion arrives in heaven, confirming their beliefs, should continue to be troubled by abortion, especially since there’s nothing they can further do about it. Rationally, heaven is a miserable place or doesn’t exist. Rationally, god doesn’t care that much about abortion, or doesn’t exist. Show me an actual god and not some lie about how a fully formed infant the size of my thumb isn’t made of resin.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the victims are primarily the survivors, the next of kin

          so the murder of someone with no next of kin, perhaps no emotional or economical connection to anyone living, would be a victimless crime? i’m certainly not saying Kodie wants to [e.g.] leap to conclusions and start a vigilante purge of the homeless, but the legal/philosophical foundation needs work if only to avoid indirectly justifying those who might.

        • Kodie

          I’m not saying that as a conclusion either. I have a hard time when someone dies listening to people mourn everything that person will miss, however. That person is dead and will miss nothing. Usually, this occurs when children or very young adults die, or when parents die before their children hit such milestones. The child will miss the parent when he or she is not there and has died and cannot come to their wedding, for example. The child who died will not miss their first school dance, for example. Everyone alive who knew that person will miss that person when they are not there growing up with them. We frame it often as if the murder victim will be deprived of everything they had to look forward to in life, and often these are normative things that are taken for granted. What if they had lived and their life did not go that way at all? What if they got hooked on drugs and lost their home, and couldn’t take care of themselves and had to live on the street?

          As a society, we just seem to care more for normative people and expect normative lifestyles, without considering the consequences? It’s the way pro-forced-birth proponents treat fetuses, as if they are being deprived of a magical life with all the fortunes ahead for them, when that is not the case. When someone decides not to have an abortion, then there is a person with a mind that can think and remember the good times or the bad times or whatever, make plans and goals or fall into whatever happens. Without that mind, the awareness of living doesn’t exist, the awareness of what could have or should have happened, the successes or failures or whatever happens are imaginary.

          Even people who love to be alive often feel like they have to complete certain experiences before they die (of whatever cause), and so often people are described as having lived a “good” life or a “full” life, or with no regrets, or people worry about dying with regrets, as if they can look through a scrapbook of their memories and get nostalgic after they die. A survivor might wish that they hadn’t said something they said as the last words before someone died, like the dead will never forgive them, like while they were dying, that last bitter conversation is what came to their mind, that’s stuck there no unresolved for all eternity, so they die and feel resentment that can never be made up to the living victim.

          I just think our ideas about life and about death and murder and who is really a victim. Certainly, if you murder someone by beating them to death, the trauma they suffer before they die is and should be accountable. How do they feel about being dead? Would they rather be alive? You can’t ask dead people that question, but the safe presumption is they would have rather been alive. It’s like, if you’re reading a book, and in the middle of the book, you start having chest pains, call an ambulance, and you die on the way to the ER, how much of that time is going to be spent wishing you knew how the story ends? For the rest of eternity, how much agony will you be in that you didn’t get to finish the book?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i was very fond of a roleplaying game called ‘Wraith’. the players took the part of spirits with either ‘unfinished business’ on Earth or an exceptionally sinister or traumatic cause of death. emotional connections were more or less the fuel for the fact that they were still hanging around. there was an afterlife with multiple planes each based on a mishmash of real-world cultural mythologies. i can’t really do the scope of it justice in a paragraph or two.

          this was one of five big games by the same company, each one focused on a different trope-tastic supernatural entity. Vampire, Werewolf, Mage and Faerie were orders of magnitude more popular than Wraith, which was discontinued comparatively quickly. all five games were rebooted (some renamed) after about a decade, and the second time around “Geist” didn’t even expand past the basic rulebook.
          that’s how much even we fantasist-escapists avoid thinking about death.
          (like i said, i was very fond, but it’s one of those games one just can’t play on one’s own.)

        • Clemency Fane

          Follow-up – he surprised me on items 1 and 2. He disagreed that there is such a thing as objective morality. Morality resides with God, and for nonbelievers it is always subjective. So accessing any type of moral code isn’t possible unless you’re religious. Each non-believer has their own code.

          I brought up the example of abortion, and he strongly stated that it is universally wrong. When I said that there were Christians on all sides of the argument, he didn’t surprise me. If they think it’s acceptable under any circumstances, they aren’t true Christians. I started to ask whether fear of God was then the only deterrent to a life of total hedonism, but he got started on biblical clarity on homosexuality. That’s a recurring theme with him, which I usually answer with biblical contradictions. That isn’t working well, so I’ll have to figure out a better way to steer the conversation away from his personal hot buttons.

          Thanks for the tips. I’ve been studying your previous posts on objective morality as well as Leah Libresco’s. Right now I lean toward denying the cat. I’ve never studied these topics so it’s very educational – and more than a bit overwhelming, and I see I’m just at the tip of the iceberg.
          (Edited – biblical contradictions, not contractions)

        • Morality resides with God, and for nonbelievers it is always subjective.

          And for believers too, it sounds like.

          Doesn’t the Bible say that morality is written on our hearts? That’s how most Christians explain how nonbelievers can be moral—not that they’re right but that they’re made by God.

          If they think [abortion is] acceptable under any circumstances, they aren’t true Christians.

          Must be cool having a card to God’s library. Too bad those Christians who disagree with him could say the same thing about him—that they have it right, and they can point to verses to back that up, but your friend is the one in the wrong.

          … and we’re back to subjective morality.

          he got started on biblical clarity on homosexuality. That’s a recurring theme with him, which I usually answer with biblical contractions.

          It’s not hard to argue that the Bible actually says very little about homosexuality—and, of course, nothing about same-sex marriage. I’ve written posts about this.

          That isn’t working well, so I’ll have to figure out a better way to steer the conversation away from his personal hot buttons.

          Have you looked on youtube for “street epistemology”? Or read Peter Boghossian’s book? That might help you avoid the no-win avenues of conversation.

        • Clemency Fane

          I just purchased Dr. Boghossian’s book. I like that his approach is courteous and respectful, since this is a co-worker. His remarks rarely fall into either of those categories, but I’d rather not do the same. Bigotry is a strong word and I’ve hesitated to use it, but his efforts at evangelism were a factor in my de-conversion.

          Thank you for your comments and suggestions – finding support in TX was difficult. I’m really glad I saw Neil Carter’s blog which led me to Patheos Atheist.

        • Dys

          My issue is with the conflation of absolute and objective. Absolute, to me, means the person making the claim believes that morality exists separate from humanity, as some platonic form. Which strikes me as absurd, since if there were no humans, there’s nothing to indicate the morality exists at all.

          I can see a basis for objective morality (in perhaps a different sense than you mean it), because there are objective facts about humanity. It’s fairly easy to derive where the notion that theft, lying and stealing are wrong came from when considering the objective fact that humans are social animals, and those types of actions weaken social cohesion.

          I’ve had it pointed out to me before that this line of thinking runs into the is/ought problem a bit, but I find it to be more descriptive than prescriptive.

        • Someone recently (on this blog?) raised the example: Was credit card fraud immoral in 1920, before credit cards existed? If you imagine God’s “Big Book of Morals” in his library with the correct answer to every problem, then the answer is Yes, credit card fraud was illegal in 1920. Otherwise, your answer has to be more convoluted–“In the sense that any stealing is illegal, yes,” say.

          This is/ought problem is only a problem if you imagine absolute oughts. The regular kind, the ones that we deal with in our lives, don’t create problems IMO.

        • smrnda

          A similar example I give is about our concept of rights. At what point did the right to freedom of speech exist? Where was it before humans?

          The credit card fraud example might be dealt with by the idea that fraud was illegal, just credit card technology didn’t exist. Though at times we admit something that looks wrong or bad isn’t actually illegal, and that though a new law can be passed,the person who did it first gets away with it.

        • Drugs are like this. Some new psychoactive drug won’t be illegal because it’s in that category; it has to be specified and made illegal.

        • MR

          Though at times we admit something that looks wrong or bad isn’t actually illegal…

          I was on a jury where that was the case. It was similar to the Facebook case in the recent Supreme Court ruling. The guy had written something that was taken as a threat, but it boiled down to whether a perceived threat can be considered a threat by law or if there has to be intent behind it. I argued that it did not appear, nor had they proven, that what he had written was intended as a threat, even though it was taken as one. We all agreed that what he did was wrong, but we couldn’t agree that what he did was illegal. We ultimately let him off.

        • TheNuszAbides

          that ‘eternal’ stance certainly requires either (a) the full-on-blinders approach to Hebrew policies on slavery or (b) selective skepticism about scripture (i.e. “God didn’t write/dictate/inspire that part”).

          ETA: or (c) present belief (which the Most Righteous can probably handle not openly professing) that there are (and always will be) ‘acceptable levels’ of slavery…

        • MR

          But, we’re not just social animals, we are also selfish animals. Our evolutionary history extends further and deeper into that realm. Our evolutionary ancestors couldn’t speak, so couldn’t lie, but if we change that to deception and stealing, those attributes could definitely offer an evolutionary advantage. We wouldn’t consider that immoral in, say, a mammalian ancestor, but we still carry those predispositions within us. When those predispositions conflict with our new found social traits, we may see it as immoral. Which really taps back into our own selfishness because a person who violates social norms is also a potential danger to me.

          [edit to add:] Those two natures are in constant conflict, and often at the root of what the Christian would call sin.

        • Rudy R

          Our evolutionary ancestors probably didn’t have the cognition to understand morality, not unlike our modern day cousins, the chimps. Given there is only a 1% difference in DNA between humans and chimps, but a huge difference between our cognitive skills, one could wonder, provided advanced aliens exist, what moral values are we not observing that’s akin to the human/chimp comparison?

          It’s not hard to fathom the type of codes of behavior that would be considered immoral, given that most humans are speciests, treating animals like they’re sole purpose is to serve humans. In a way, the machines in the Matrix series that has tapped into people’s minds and created the illusion of a real world, while using their brains and bodies for energy is in no way any less moral than how humans are treating livestock. And it seems to me, in this example, that subjective morality is at play.

        • Kodie
        • TheNuszAbides

          Haidt’s The Righteous Mind has a pretty good take on this, the nutshell being we’re “90% chimp and 10% bee”. he also touches on the ‘superorganism’ (corporation, military) and its moral/evolutionary implications.

          ETA: i think you and i have previously covered Haidt, sorry. or had you ‘only’ read The Happiness Hypothesis? (there’s plenty of overlap.)

        • MR

          I’ve only read the Righteous Mind. Sounds like I need to pick up the Happiness Hypothesis.

        • TheNuszAbides

          there’s rather a bit of overlap, i wouldn’t rush 🙂

        • TheNuszAbides

          Which strikes me as absurd, since if there were no humans, there’s nothing to indicate the morality exists at all.

          i like that this holds some promise as a thought experiment not too blasphemous for some believers otherwise willing to converse (i.e. less pearl-clutchy-triggery than “let’s just pretend for a moment that there’s no god, for argument’s sake!”).

        • mz

          I tend to think that absolute/objective anything is an artifact of ancient Greek idealism that had been co-opted by Christian theologians. Ironic, isn’t it, that a pagan idea should be co-opted by Christianity? Absolute/objective morality is just a subset of that. After all, if a mathematical figure can have an objective reality, why not morality?

          What amazes me is when Christians insist that morality must be either absolute/objective or nonexistent. No middle ground or controversy is permitted. It seems that moral certainty is a siren song whose temptation is irresistible.

          One would think that at least one idea that we would have learned from history is that when a powerful person, religious or otherwise, surrounds themselves with yes people that their view of reality gets skewed. Sometimes I think that the only thing that we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history.

        • Christians borrowing from pagans? That can’t be right–Christians invented everything!

      • TheNuszAbides

        downside to longevity? (one of several?) well, it seems sensible (speaking as a sophomore at best in biology) that the bulk of human brain evolution has had the most practice (especially right up to the point of one’s final generation of offspring, especially^2 for the women)-therefore-strict-evolutionary-utility for half a century of operation per human, let alone 150-200% of that duration.

      • mz

        I have read speculations that the fact that cancer seems prevalent in our time may be an artifact of the increasing longevity of our population due to our standards of nutrition and material comfort. Alzheimer’s, and even other diseases, may also share that characteristic.

        If so it may imply that there is some kind of ‘natural’ life span of the mind that is somehow independent of that of the body. It may also imply that death of the mind and/or the body is something that is a result of evolution. Not that I’m advocating that we shouldn’t, “…rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

    • Kodie

      I don’t think evolution can explain everything. I mean, evolution also created slavery. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Altruism isn’t completely who we are, from evolution or else there would be no greed. Members of the human species dehumanized other humans in order to own them and put their labor to use for themselves, and it’s not a very hard thing to do. I mean, there were people who went their whole lives not really being greedy but just never considering slaves to be people, or at least worthy of dignity and freedom. We’re enslavers of animals still. How most humans now think of animals (that aren’t pets) doesn’t seem wrong to most of us, it’s just how things are, and still, people can get worked up over a giraffe hunter but not a case full of hamburger meat. Cock-fighting bad; buffalo chicken wings good.

      So, being at the time, humans would have one set of ethics for humans, and a separate one for slaves, once slaves could be included by society in the category of humans, how we once treated them turns into a horrific realization. I actually don’t think most people who thought slaves weren’t humans ever changed their minds and it’s more a generational thing. Still, we get systemic racism, cops killing young black men, and I want to think these guys don’t think of themselves as racist in general, but they have deep issues with the black race they’re not confronting. The internet blows up about getting cops home safe vs. black lives matter.

      Humans seem to think, or maybe this is mostly in the past?, that arriving at some land, claiming it from people who already dwell there seems to be the thing to do, the righteous thing to do. This is another case of self-interest that turns disgusting if some stranger were to arrive and fight you for your land. How dare they. Empathy just doesn’t seem to factor in at all. You have no other beef with these people other than that they live where you decided you want to settle, and their ways of life are different. How else could millions of US schoolchildren learn the story of the first Thanksgiving, Christopher Columbus, etc. and demonize Indians as savages who were not welcoming. How welcoming would you be? To this day, most Americans seem to think Columbus Day is fine, and these Indians should stop whining about the distant past and let us keep our white-man holiday.

      Natural empathy seems to need at least a little extra coaching, because we don’t have it.

      • TheNuszAbides

        yes, yes, yes. some people get ignored/shouted down for castigating The System (or perhaps just for how they go about their castigations, what fashion errors they commit, etc.) but this is totally on point. and “WE” created the framework! externalizing (no matter how many times one chants “God is everywhere-everything-not-external-how-dare-you-put-words-in-my-mouth/mind”) the source is one of the most massive cop-outs possible.

    • Evolution explains why humans are ethical and does not tell which ethics are the right ones.

      I agree that evolution explains how morality exists, not which principles are correct. (Are morality and ethics significantly different?) And certainly science doesn’t tell us what principles to hold, though a la Sam Harris, we can use science to tell us which principles/rules/laws create a better society.

      Tell me more about your concern about the grounding of morality. Obviously, if the question is “Why does morality exist?” evolution explains that (we’re social animals being a major factor). But to “Why is the Golden Rule nearly universally respected?” doesn’t evolution point to the survival benefit of it?

      • Kodie

        I don’t think the golden rule is natural though. It’s a political statement, simplifying human morality into a phrase. I don’t think it’s universally accepted either. Most people seem to mess it up. Normal ethical behavior among humans does seem to line up more with “do unto others before they do unto you” or some more competitive way to miss the original point to it. Humans aren’t just moral, we’re also greedy, self-interested, oblivious to what’s going on around ourselves, short-sighted, petty, and suspicious. That’s because the other guy is too! We’re not just going to share our stuff with someone and not expect it back.

        Good manners says you should give a gift or an invitation without any expectations, but also says, if your friend invited you to a dinner party, (1), you’re supposed to hand them a small token when you walk in the door, (2), you’re to have no expectation that they’ll use your gift (if it’s food or wine) at their party, and (3), if you have a dinner party of your own and don’t invite your host, you’re a fucking unsociable shit; (3b) If you get invited to a lot of dinner parties and don’t eventually reciprocate, you’re off the list. GTFO of the neighborhood.

        People very easily work up caveats to the golden rule just like they do any moral statement. It’s not ok to kill someone, but what if they were trying to kill you? Of course it’s ok to kill them. What if you came home to see them climbing out your window with your tv? Not ok to kill them. What if they killed your father? Not ok to kill them! What if your neighbor’s home country’s president rallied an army and someone from that army killed your father? It’s ok to petition your own government to rally an army and kill anyone from that other country’s army on sight; not ok to go rogue and kill your neighbor.

        The golden rule gives idealistic instruction, and religious people are almost more keenly aware how difficult it is to stick to religious teachings and examples than anyone else. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not at all about doing unto others with the evolutionary expectation that they will do in kind. It’s the opposite expectation – that it’s never right to treat someone poorly, no matter what, because we know what it feels like. Give and give and give, expect nothing special in return. We’re not wired that way, that’s why it’s a rule. To follow that rule, one has to suppress all kinds of social anxiety, jealousy, impatience with others, and reasonable suspicion that they will not keep your best interests or treat you well. While following that rule, it’s easy to be taken advantage of, because that is how people are wired. They might not be doing it out of malice or greed themselves, but they’ve been trained to expect something from you. When you decide that this tactic isn’t bringing you the returns, you’ve broken the rule, and no longer treating someone as you would have them treat you.

        • Greg G.

          I think the golden rule may be natural and that it allowed politics to develop. Monkeys understand it as “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine,” and it becomes a bonding mechanism. It works for those within your group but it is needed to defend one another against a different group.

          It gets screwed up because our political alliances are more complicated. Our in-group may include complete strangers so it isn’t clear who is our in-group.

        • Kodie

          That’s not the golden rule, that’s a bastardization of it. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” means only, ONLY, that you treat others as you would like to be treated, out of empathy, not to get anything in return. Treating others kindly is not for your reward but simply the right way to be, regardless of their treatment of you. The “if I do unto you so you’ll do unto me” is in expectation of returned kind treatment, and may be revoked if the other treats you poorly – that is how most people actually are, but that is not in reference to the golden rule.

          I had a friend whose idea of the golden rule was also corrupt by narcissism and some libertarian concepts. As he saw it, if he had no problem with something, everyone else was irrational for having a problem with it. Therefore, he’d be a really shitty person if he could see himself on the receiving end of it and calculate that it was bearable. Treat others only as shitty as you would have them do unto you and you wouldn’t care (and you know they won’t). Do unto others only as good as you have to that if they acted toward you in kind (and they’re dependably much better than that), that it wouldn’t be the worst. He’s not my friend anymore.

        • MNb

          “not to get anything in return”
          When following the Golden Rule people do expect something in return: that others apply it to you as well.
          I agree that the Golden Rule in itself is not sufficient to build an ethical system upon.

        • Kodie

          No, that’s not the golden rule.

        • MNb

          I didn’t say it was the Golden Rule. I said that people following it expect that others apply it to them as well.

        • Kodie

          Then it’s corrupted. People don’t follow the golden rule, they follow what they think it says.

        • MNb

          Shrug. Homo Sapiens is capable of corrupting anything. That doesn’t make it wrong or useless.

        • Kodie

          I didn’t say it was wrong or useless.

        • Greg G.

          That’s not the golden rule, that’s a bastardization of it.

          It is the foundation of the golden rule from about 50 million years ago.

          The Golden Rule is a good first step. You don’t go overboard with it, though. You might give a bum a few bucks but you wouldn’t give your life savings to them, even if you would like it if someone gave you that much. If you can help someone, you do. But if that person is in a position to help you and doesn’t, you will be less likely to follow the Golden Rule with them in the future.

          A monkey picks fleas off another monkey who does the same in return or to a more dominant monkey hoping to not be bitten as often. The dominant monkeys do it less for subordinate monkeys than vice versa. The same holds for sharing food and other behaviors. The Golden Rule is stated many different ways. I think that monkey behavior fits some of them.

        • Kodie

          Two different things are being said. The golden rule is regarding empathy, is to imagine you are on the receiving end of your treatment of another person, put yourself in their place, and don’t do anything you would not wish done to yourself. END OF. Treating someone poorly because they have treated you poorly, or you expect them not to reciprocate your kindness is a violation of the golden rule. While you’d love for someone to hand you a million dollars, you find it typically acceptable that they give you no money at all.

          Human nature is to be more calculating and bargaining. If I do this for you, what can I get out of it? That is not the golden rule. When you hold the door for someone and they just walk in like you’re the concierge and don’t say thank you, human nature expects a courteous acknowledgement of the favor, but the golden rule does not. The golden rule says you would like it if someone held the door while you were coming up behind them, and the golden rule tells you to say thank you because that’s kind. They could have let it shut on you, but they didn’t, so the golden rule only tells you how to treat everyone kindly. A polite society, such as we expect, does not always follow the golden rule, so you find yourself resentful of someone who doesn’t acknowledge you holding the door. How rude of them to not follow the golden rule. Judging others is not how you’d wish to be treated either.

          Calculating what treating others kindly will gain you in return is not following the golden rule. I don’t care if monkeys have it worked out like that, and people have it worked out like that. I’m not even saying there’s anything wrong with that evolutionary strategic approach to social encounters. The golden rule is a purer manifestation of empathy without greed or expectation that those favors will ever be returned, only because it’s the right way to be 100% of the time, without judgment, resentment, or expectation of the other person’s actions toward you.

          Do unto others AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM do unto you, only means to put yourself in their place and treat that person like you would wish to be treated. Do unto others AS YOU HOPE THEY RETURN IN KIND BUT NOT IF THEY DON’T is an evolutionary strategy motivated by cooperative self-interest. Which there is nothing wrong with that, but they are conflicting ideas.

        • Greg G.

          Do unto others AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM do unto you, only means to put yourself in their place and treat that person like you would wish to be treated.

          That is half of the Golden Rule, the Jesus version. But there is the Rabbi Hillel version, “Don’t do what your neighbor hates.”

          So even if you are not actively doing the Jesus half with your neighbors, you can still do the Hillel part.

          Do unto others AS YOU HOPE THEY RETURN IN KIND BUT NOT IF THEY DON’T is an evolutionary strategy motivated by cooperative self-interest.

          This is the more realistic version. Continuing to treat people who do not reciprocate is not a healthy relationship.

        • Kodie

          I don’t know about you people. Everyone is your neighbor. You can’t predict what they will all hate. You might never see them again to have any favor reciprocated.

          Most people shit on the golden rule, that’s what I’m saying. They look out for #1 and shit on their neighbor – people they might never see again, especially since they’re not likely to see that same person again.

          We’re not talking about building codependent personal relationships with your close friends or coworkers you see every day, in which you calculate the probability that they will do whatever you need them to do because it’s their job, no matter how shitty you are to them because they are subordinate to you, or your friend is very forgiving so you have a little leeway in just how shitty you can treat them before they abandon you.

          Do unto others AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. AS AS AS, WOULD WOULD WOULD. It has nothing to do with transaction, it has nothing to do with treating someone better than they might treat you, or treating someone well while they treat you poorly. It’s a manifest in itself, and why is this so fucking hard for you people to get clear, to treat everyone as you would like to be treated ONLY OUT OF EMPATHY, and in expectation of nothing. It’s nice to let someone in front of you, they will never ever have the chance to personally return the favor to you, so should you not let anyone in front of you? The golden rule says between letting someone ahead of you and claiming your turf no matter what, you should do for someone else what you would like if you were that person. Not one thing else.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGFqfTCL2fs

        • Trivial complaint: sometimes the Golden Rule is applied thoughtlessly. I’ll be getting close to a crosswalk in the parking lot. A car is coming by, and they could keep driving and not inconvenience me in the least–they’d be gone by the time I got there. But (this being Seattle) they usually stop so I can cross. And now I feel an obligation to trot quickly across the crosswalk.

          The exercise is good for me, so no worries, but sometimes selfish works out just fine.

        • Greg G.

          communitychannel on YouTube did a video on that.

        • MR

          Reminds me of the door holding experiment.

        • I hadn’t seen that. Yes, that seems a very clear parallel.

        • Kodie

          It’s the opposite in Boston. Many pedestrians will cross “wherever” and expect traffic to stop, they will go halfway across the street that’s clear and stand there waiting for the other side to stop, or they will give pretense that they’re jogging across the street to beat whatever quickly oncoming car, but will slow way the fuck down as soon as they’ve seen you stop for them to cross. Plenty of other people don’t even look, they have the right-of-way because they’re a pedestrian and don’t care if you have the green light, maybe they’re even texting or talking on their phones or jogging.

          Now I know pedestrians do have the right-of-way, but the buttons here do work if you want to stop the traffic and get the walk sign. I’m not trying to hit anyone, but I have a special hate for people who seem to think having the right-of-way alone will save their life. First of all, cars need a little distance to brake, and secondly, a lot of Bostonians wear all black at night, so can’t be easily seen. I don’t wonder a lot when I hear about an accident with a pedestrian or a bicyclist. Cars are also fucking nuts, so if you are not inside a vehicle, I don’t know how you expect to make it if you don’t look up from your damn phone or walk in the middle of the street at night looking invisible to drivers. It’s not like I don’t have anything to lose, so I wish these people would cooperate with the system. As it is, stupidity doesn’t have as high a death rate as you would think.

        • My “crazy Boston driving” memory is the double parking during move-in week in September when the colleges start back up. Forget about finding a nice space right where you want it.

        • Kodie

          Move-in day does indeed suck. I think last year, I didn’t have to work that day because it was also Labor Day? I plan around for these things. I think I might have had the whole weekend off so I could secure my spot, and there are a few precious spots in my neighborhood that are not in front of a residential building, and then plan not to go anywhere until it’s over. If I park next to a retaining wall or a park or a restaurant, nobody’s going to surprise me with a move-in permit and tow my car before the next time I go look at it again.

        • TheNuszAbides

          this! sometimes it’s a tiny strain to resist shaking my head as i [always] trot.

        • Yes. Not all altruism is good, and not all selfishness
          is bad.

        • MNb

          “I don’t think the golden rule is natural though. It’s a political statement, simplifying human morality into a phrase.”
          But that’s not a contradiction. Politics are an important part of human nature.

        • Kodie

          So is religion. So is bending the rules.

      • MNb

        “(Are morality and ethics significantly different?)”
        No. Morals just reminds me too much of the RCC. It’s a personal aversion.

        “Tell me more about your concern about the grounding of morality.”

        There isn’t more to tell. Of course the development of ethics can be studied by science. I just suggest anyone who wants to adopt a decent (in terms of consistency) ethical system to carefully pick the starting point.

        • TheNuszAbides

          indeed, the more universal a tone one wants to set, the (to steal from a recent Popehat post) more crisp one’s axioms need be.

      • mz

        ISTM that evolution, or more accurately selection, tends to select for “what works” even if “what works” only “works” in the short term. Which might go to explain why we have so many practices that are anachronistic and “…seemed like a good idea at the time…”

        Having said that, ISTM that over the past ten thousand years or so we have been evolving a morality that, with many fits and starts, accommodates higher population densities and greater diversity of humans living in close proximity. The tendency has been, since the last ice age ended, higher concentrations of populations, at first around agricultural facilities and then later, urban areas. It has been pointed out by other people that humans, like many other organisms, tend to breed until their environment can no longer sustain them, and then breed some more.

        The morality, or rather the moral behaviour that has evolved, evolved to fit this trend. Not the other way around.

        • You’re right that evolution has no foresight, so it can’t take a short-term hit today for a greater benefit tomorrow. But I don’t think that evolution explains that much with our own anachronistic practices–only those that are hardwired in us (Hyperactive Agency Detection has been suggested as one of those).

          The rise of cities is a new thing, though I could imagine some city-friendly traits being selected for even in that time. Widespread tolerance for lactose and alcohol are quite recent, for example.

        • mz

          I’m thinking that moral behaviour, being an aspect of culture, will be subject to cultural evolutionary pressures rather than biological evolutionary ones. Cultural evolution is analogous to but not the same as biological evolution. For instance, it generally proceeds at faster rates than biological evolution. (It also can occur across cultures as cultural memes are shared.) Changes in behaviour can happen within a few generations. One of the most important aspects of evolution is competition between organisms. It is usually left to say that species compete with each other for resources, but there is another important aspect that is often left unsaid; that the chief source of competition for an individual organism is other members of the same species. Humans, especially but it is also true of most mammals, spend a great deal of their time interacting with other members of the same species. So variations in behaviour is a fertile ground in which selection can operate.

          So, for example, we see slavery being discussed in the New Testament as though it is an institution that is an intrinsic part of the culture; it is completely taken for granted as though to make a moral judgement about slavery would be about as unthinkable as if Jesus were to tell his followers to flap their arms and fly to the next country. But about 70 generations later, an eye blink in biological evolutionary terms, slavery becomes a major moral issue, one that wars are fought over.

          Something similar, I think, happens as the environments that humans find themselves in change. A hunter-gatherer population with its small relatively homogenous population may take xenophobia for granted as a way to protect the tribal identity. It is an environment that requires a different set of moral behaviours from that of a city like Ancient Rome where, depending on your social standing, getting along with, and doing business with, a large number of neighbors who may have come from diverse cultures in the Roman Empire will have an equal or higher priority than tribal identity. Again, the behaviour of large parts of human populations changed in about 70 to 100 generations. In fact, the concept of tribal identity may have shifted to loyalty to the empire. Racism as a set of beliefs has taken a different form. Especially when you consider that racism is a moral issue in our current culture.

          Which brings me to this: something is occurring that is analogous to vestigial organs in biology. That is vestigial (anachronistic) behavioural practices. The xenophobia of the hunter-gatherer has changed but it survives as racism. We also see something similar happening in immigrant populations that make a new home in foreign countries. How many modern cities have a Chinatown or a Little Italy or a Korean neighborhood? We also see a diversity of strategies among individuals as to how they adapt their behaviour to the adopted environment. There will be different balances of old and new behavioural practices. Will some of these strategies be more successful than others? I think that it is likely. That’s what selection, like the hokey pokey, is all about.

          One strategy that I think that is not likely to succeed in the near future is continuing to maintain racism. Unfortunately, that is part of our political reality at present.

        • Let’s just make a very clear distinction between evolution and cultural evolution. Evolution can certainly inform our observations about cultural change, but it’s distinct.

          You raise an interesting point about xenophobia/racism. Is an us vs. them attitude truly vestigial, as in an oddity carried over from a time when it was actually useful? It seems to get plenty of exercise today.

        • Greg G.

          Some were ahead of the curve on slavery 2000 years ago:

          ” ‘They are slaves,’ people declare. NO, rather they are men.
          ‘Slaves! NO, comrades.
          ‘Slaves! NO, they are unpretentious friends.
          ‘Slaves! NO, they are our fellow-slaves, if one reflects that Fortune has equal rights over slaves and free men alike. That is why I smile at those who think it degrading for a man to dine with his slave.

          But why should they think it degrading? It is only purse-proud etiquette … All night long they must stand about hungry and dumb … They are not enemies when we acquire them; we make them enemies … This is the kernel of my advice: Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters.

          ‘He is a slave.’ His soul, however, may be that of a free man.”

          –-Seneca the Younger, Epistulae Morales, 47.

  • johzek

    The CS Lewis quote at the end of your blog post illustrates his fondness for metaphors which may also partly explain his popularity. Metaphors are so much more easily remembered and can be downright poetic at times as compared to an attempt at a reasoned argument.

    • Clemency Fane

      Good observation. I was accused of being negative when someone trying to re-convert me used that quote. I said I had never understood it, because sunlight is visible and quantifiable, but Christianity isn’t. I guess like so many other aspects of religion it is supposed to be taken in a spirit of already being willing to believe.

      • Rare Bat

        I’d reply “Different suns don’t shine on different countries.”

        • Clemency Fane

          Great answer. This isn’t the first time I’ve wished I had some of you folks here when I hear comments like that. I take notes on what I learn on these blogs.
          (I know, nerd alert!)

        • Rare Bat

          I know, I try my best to make as good comments as I can because I’m only here once a day or so (at a time that varies).

        • Snowflake

          Pretty cool when you do come here. I wish you were here more.

          ETA: I love bats. Rare and otherwise.

    • TheNuszAbides

      people who bail on figuring shit out because “thinking is hard” (or some variant thereof) should be flagged before they escape the education system, and be forced to wear distinguishing accessories until they bloody well shape up.
      #enlightened_despot

  • Matthew Crowley

    I once had a short verbal encounter with a man who asserted that without absolute morality, i.e. YHWH, we would have Nazism. Moments later, he asserted that YHWH killing babies in the Noachian flood was “good” because the humans murdered were in fact wicked…

    • Inconsistent? Not surprising.

    • Kodie

      Well, technically, he could see into their soul. I would say if you know that people are wicked, then I don’t know anyone who isn’t, but last year, I met a young boy of about 11 who would say sick fuck things about idolizing Stalin, and he wanted to grow up to be a dictator. I have a feeling some of that came from not only being pretty well read in history for his age, but fantasizing to some extent because he may have been the target of bullying – and I didn’t see any in our situation, but he actually was kind of a tool and the other kids ignored him or rolled their eyes. I would have liked to walk away from him myself. But here, I was given the opportunity to “kill Hitler as a young boy” and I didn’t. I didn’t even want to. But listening to him, and not wanting to over-react, and I wasn’t in position to talk to his parents, he’s not too young to know what he’s saying to get a reaction, and I don’t know him anymore. Was he just kidding me or serious? Will he shoot up his school someday? If what we learned about god were true, obviously killing wicked people before they become worse is ok, drowning and all the suffering for only a little while, who cares; While killing 6 million Jews who weren’t actually wicked because of a personal prejudice turns out not to be ok.

      Another way to look at it was, shit, saving Noah’s family didn’t solve that problem of wickedness, so why did god spare them? Why is the moral of that story god made a promise to go back to his workshop and find another way to deal with wickedness? Another problem with that story is how much did it really need to rain to kill everyone else? Seriously, that story goes on and on and on with rain and flood for a long time he was drowning people who just fucking wouldn’t drown. It rained and rained some more, and they just kept swimming and climbing to higher ground, those last few wicked bastards! Shit, some of them were safely on a nice boat all this time too, and they were allowed to bring dates.

    • MNb

      I have always failed to see any substantial difference between WLC’s Divine Command Theory and the Führer Principle.

      • TheNuszAbides

        au contraire, WLC’s theologisms can’t help but be chock-full of Divine Substance! (i may have just hit upon a fresh euphemism for Equine Excrement…)

  • Rare Bat

    Morality is a great thing. Absolute morality is a terrible thing.

    • Derrik Pates

      Religious morality isn’t. It’s simply “here’s the rules, follow them, your judgment is shit so you shouldn’t use it”. Morality requires the ability to decide for oneself, which is the first thing religion tries to deny us.

      • Rudy R

        Religions have moral pronouncements, i.e. ten commandments, and not moral values. There is a big difference.

        • TheNuszAbides

          indeed, terribly selective (and more to the point, rarely-if-ever conscious/reasoned) externalization/internalization of what the worst followers then trumpet as ‘values’. blech.

  • Without Malice

    The Nazis were evil bastards; but how about the fire bombing of German and Japanese cities for the purpose of doing nothing but terrorizing the civilian population? Or the dropping of atomic bombs on non-military targets? What about the 2,000 year history of virulent anti-Semitism on the part of Christianity that led directly to the Holocaust? And the bible, with all its God approved slaughter and hatred is of no help in any of these. If there was one thing that everyone would agree is evil, I think it would be that children are never to be harmed; yet we have God himself ordering their slaughter. The God of the bible is a moral monster. I have one and only one criteria for any being who could be called God: that such a being must be in every way better than the best of all men. The God of the bible fails that test, and fails it miserably.

    • RoverSerton

      You may be “without malice” but you are not without logic.

    • Rudy R

      To the victor belong the moral highground.

      • That kinda explains why the Nuremburg trials used the legal rules of the winners.

        • MNb

          Perhaps you should read about those trials, because this is a very one sided judgment. For instance accused Admiral Karl Dönitz got support from the American Admiral Chester Nimitz regarding the Laconia incident.
          The prosecution far from always got it her way.

          If you at the other hand meant that those legal rules were meant to make sure the trials were fair you’ve made quite an empty statement, because that’s what the western allies (especially the Americans) were fighting for. The amazing thing is that the Russian judges hardly tried to bend the legal rules against the suspects.
          After the Constitution the Nürnberg trials are the second thing the USA should be proud of as a contribution to humanity.

        • I’m not following. Yes, I realize that this wasn’t a show trial. I forget the numbers exactly, but something like 5 of the accused were acquitted.

          Nuremberg is often cited by apologists because someone in the trial cited a Law above our laws. That’s what I’m rejecting.

        • MNb

          Ah, sorry, I didn’t get that.

          “someone in the trial cited a Law above our laws.”
          Not literally iIrc. When preparing for the Trial and formulating the Charter the prosecutors faced the problem that there hadn’t been laws against the crimes committed.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_principles

          So they invented the concept of “Higher Law.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_according_to_higher_law

          These folks knew what they were doing, so

          “”Higher law” can be interpreted in this context as the divine or natural law or basic legal values, established in the international law, – the choice depending on the viewpoint. But this is definitely a Law above the law.”

          Any apologist who thinks the Charter with the Nürnberg Principles is faith based is ignorant or lying. The apologist is allowed to ground them on faith but the secularist is equally allowed not to do that.

        • That’s an angle I hadn’t seen. I’ve always seen “Law above the law” as a supernatural reference.

          To me, Nuremberg is simply an example of “might makes right.” Of course the German leaders will be tried according to the laws or legal principles of the winners. What other laws could conceivably be applied??

        • MNb

          To me, Nuremberg is simply an example of “might makes right.” Of course the German leaders will be tried according to the laws or legal principles of the winners.”

          These two are not identical. The prosecutors who formulated the Charter foresaw another point: that those laws and legal principles could be used against the winners as well. In that respect it was not “might makes right”. Especially the SU disliked that. So the winners were exempted – and that’s the “might makes right” aspect. Thus far this problem hasn’t been solved, as the American refusal to accept the International Court of Justice shows.
          But that doesn’t change the unfairness of calling the Nürnberg Trials “might makes right”. It was an attempt (quite successfull, even though limited) to ground right on general principles and not only on might.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I’ve always seen “Law above the law” as a supernatural reference.

          well, international law as we know it was in a stage somewhere between prototype and toddler (depending on geopolitical persuasion) at the time, so even some of the ones crafting it may well have shared that view.

    • And then the Christians say that God follows his own rules for morality (despite the Bible saying otherwise and without listing what God’s rules must be). Their religion is unfalsifiable.

    • MNb

      “how about the fire bombing of German and Japanese cities for the purpose of doing nothing but terrorizing the civilian population?”
      Whether people approve or disapprove, the evaluation is almost always based on utilitarianism.

      • TheNuszAbides

        ditto The Bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki, the next order of magnitude of ‘efficiency’.

  • Rudy R

    I find the argument for an objective morality or subjective morality extremely boring. Philosophers can argue both sides but it still gets us no further in the discussion, other than showing support for your particular biased position. Instead of defining moral values in terms of good and bad, or right and wrong, we could be discussing moral values in terms of what maximizes human flourishing and minimizes human pain.

    • Boring? I find the objective/subjective discussion frustrating. The objective morality claim is a very big one, and the arguments for it from professional apologists are flabby. Or nonexistent.

      • Snowflake

        I find it interesting. When I’m removed, at least.

  • RichardSRussell

    If you want to say that objective morality exists but it’s not reliably accessible, then what good is it?

    This calls to mind the old computer-geek joke about why it is that, if we have read-only memory (ROM) and read-write memory (RWM), we don’t also have write-only memory.

    • Write-only memory?! I smell a technology opportunity!

      • Greg G.

        I had a WOM thumb drive once… for a very short time.

      • William Davis

        It might sell, just like magic copper amulets. After all, you could never prove it doesn’t work…to do that you’d have to read from it 😉

    • Lightning Baltimore

      CDRs and DVDRs are write-only-memory (not including erasable ones, of course). 🙂

  • RichardSRussell

    The main thing “objective morality” advocates need to remember:
    Power corrupts.
    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    God is all-powerful.
    Draw your own conclusions.

    • TheNuszAbides

      seems like Acton’s Dictum (“…tends to corrupt”) is practically dogmatized in these moments.

  • katta

    I don’t think, that there was ever a person who called himself the “evil overlord”. They all had some kind of morality by which they lived and which they thought importand and true. It ‘just’ was different whith the morality other people believed in. If Hitler had won, a lot more people than now exist would think that kind of mindset right and good.

    • Right. Pretty much everyone see themselves wearing the white hat.

      • TheNuszAbides

        silly humans and their perspective issues!

  • Pofarmer

    The problem that someone claiming objective morality has is that there are all kinds if different moral norms at work, not only today, but across history. What’s considered moral is fluid. The best example I can think if is burning heretics. The Catholic Church burnt their last heretic in 1826. This was considered morally justified. Today? So much for objective morals. Next!

    • MR

      I wouldn’t say it’s so much fluid, as viscous. It definitely changes over time, but it’s more like molasses. Circumstances change, people ruminate on it, then they begin to move in a new direction, or the change happens over a series of generations. At least at the societal level.

      • Pofarmer

        I see. O reason to disagree here.

      • William Davis

        I think you are right. Status quo bias is actually important to keep society stable, but it can have some negative side effects for sure.

        • MR

          Sticky is another way I’ve described it (or have I heard it described…? Hmmm…). I’m thinking of the marriage issue here. It took something like 15 years of serious debate where attitudes remained mostly in one camp, and then, boom, in a relative short period of time there’s this shift in another direction. But it’s not like that change happened suddenly in people’s minds. It took time for people to process, and also for a new generation to start coming of age and influence the culture.

  • tyler

    has anybody figured out yet what it means for morals to be valid and binding without some sort of social or personal consequence

    • adam

      Yes, IMAGINARY beings…

  • Nick

    “Of course I say that the Nazis were wrong, but when I do so, the word wrong is grounded in my point of view.”

    Sure, but the obvious follow-up question is, why should anyone care what you think? Why should we prefer Bob’s morality to Hitler’s? If you respond that your view is more amenable to human flourishing, is more rational, etc. then you are starting to tap into objective ways of evaluating moral systems. If you respond with a shrug and say, “I dunno, it’s just my opinion and lots of people agree,” that strikes me as a pretty pathetic, flaccid response. Surely you have some kind of rational reasons for your moral views that you think make them preferable to other ones.

    • MNb

      “why should anyone care what you think?”
      Where does BobS claim that anyone should care? At the other hand the fact that he attracts quite a few commenters indicates that people do care indeed.

      “Why should we prefer Bob’s morality to Hitler’s?”
      That question is only relevant if you assume objective ethics. BobS maintains that ethics are subjective exactly because this question can’t be answered.

      “that strikes me as a pretty pathetic, flaccid response.”
      What was your question again? Ah, yes,

      “why should anyone care what you think?”
      How typical that you don’t apply this question to yourself.

      “Surely you have some kind of rational reasons for your moral views that you think make them preferable to other ones.”
      So now you claim that you can read BobS’ mind …..

      In contrast will speak for myself. No, I don’ claim that those “some kind of reasons” are rational. They are emotional. To get specific: I prefer being happy to being unhappy. If you are consistent (if) you are going to ask “why ….”. Wrong question. There is no why, just like there is no why for the question why we should the axioms formulated by Euclides and not a set of other axioms.

      • Nick

        “Where does BobS claim that anyone should care?”
        I didn’t say he did. I asked a question.
        “That question is only relevant if you assume objective ethics.”
        Well no, I’d say it’s relevant if we want to ensure that people with Nazi-esque ethics don’t assume positions of power anymore.
        BobS maintains that ethics are subjective exactly because this question can’t be answered.”
        Can’t be answered? It is IMPOSSIBLE to explain why we should prefer one system of morality over another? If you were confronted by someone who said we should kill all the Jews, you’d be unable to articulate any reason why you don’t agree with him other than, “I just don’t?” I find that hard to believe.
        “How typical that you don’t apply this question to yourself.”
        Um…I’m arguing right now that you should care what I think. What are you talking about?
        “So now you claim that you can read BobS’ mind….”
        LOL. Um no. I assume Bob is an adult like every other adult (and child of mature enough age) I’ve ever met in my life. When you ask adults moral questions, they generally have SOME kind of reasoning behind why they think what they think. They put some kind of thought into it.
        “No, I don’t claim that those “some kind of reasons are rational. They are emotional. To get specific: I prefer being happy to being unhappy. If you are consistent (if) you are going to ask “why…”. Wrong question. There is no why…”
        You’re telling me that your views on every moral issue under the sun, from homosexuality to abortion to drug legalization to war to tax law, have ZERO basis in reason or empirical data whatsoever? If you can’t articulate why anyone should care about your subjective happiness, why shouldn’t you be killed if it makes someone else happy? I’m sorry to put it in such blunt terms, but the idea that you’re suggesting, which seems to be that essentially there is no basis upon which we can even begin to have a moral dialogue, gives way for tyranny of the strong over the weak.

        • MNb

          “I find that hard to believe.”
          Yeah, but that only shows your lack of understanding. This

          “It is IMPOSSIBLE to explain why we should prefer one system of morality over another?”
          and this

          “If you were confronted by someone who said we should kill all the Jews, you’d be unable to articulate any reason why you don’t agree with him other than, “I just don’t?”

          are not the same questions, to begin with. Moreover your second question is based on a strawman.
          Yes, I can give an answer. That answer is based on a basic assumption (presupposition, axiom, whatever you call it) that you and Hitler can reject if you feel like, exactly because basic assumptions can’t be proven by definition. The big fun though is that that applies to nazism and christianity as well. Not to mention that nazis and christians both like to use arguments for their moral systems that are demonstrably wrong, but that’s only partially relevant here.

          “I’m arguing right now that you should care what I think.”
          Yes, unlike you I have enough understanding skills to get that. My question was exactly yours – why should I? Thanks for not answering it. It shows that your question to BobS

          “why should anyone care what you think?”
          is equally silly, which was my point. It’s always nice when someone who lacks understanding skills unintentionally confirms what I write.

          “They put some kind of thought into it.”
          Again that’s not the same as

          “Surely you have some kind of rational reasons for your moral views that you think make them preferable to other ones.”
          The outcome of that thinking might very well be that there are no rational reasons – with the accent on rational. Of course I already explained that; those reasons are according to psychology emotional. But yeah, lack of understanding like yours is hard to remedy. So I expect that I have to repeat this many times.

          “You’re telling me that your views on every moral issue under the sun, from homosexuality to abortion to drug legalization to war to tax law, have ZERO basis in reason or empirical data whatsoever?”
          I’m telling you that that basis is emotional. Then we can use reason to deduce some rules and use empirical data to check if those rules work out as I expect, but the choice of the basis is emotional (BobS btw prefers instinctive). That emotional basis is called empathy.

          “the idea that you’re suggesting, which seems to be that essentially there is no basis upon which we can even begin to have a moral dialogue,”
          I didn’t say that. My, you are slow to understand indeed. I said that that basis is emotional and not rational. I’ll spell it out for you.
          The. basis. of. morality. is e. m. o. t. i. o. n. a. l. That emotion is called empathy, spelled e. m. p. a. t. h. y.

          “gives way for tyranny of the strong over the weak.”
          My ethical system rejects that. No ethical system ever prevented such tyrannies. Christianity many, many times supported such tyrannies and morally justified them. No such tyranny ever embraced my ethical system.
          This is a problem for you, not for me.

        • TheNuszAbides

          When you ask adults moral questions, they generally have SOME kind of reasoning behind why they think what they think. They put some kind of thought into it.

          ah, an optimist!

    • Rudy R

      Ahhh, the is/ought problem. Are you the old Adam or new?

      If you respond with a shrug and say, “I dunno, it’s just my opinion and lots of people agree,” that strikes me as a pretty pathetic, flaccid response.

      It may be pathetic, but that’s how the world works.

      • Nick

        So you can’t speak coherently to ANY reasons why we should prefer your moral values over Nazi values? No reasons at all? All we can do is throw up our hands and say we agree to disagree? C’mon now.

        • Rudy R

          I’ve got some coherent reasons why we should prefer my moral values over Nazi values. Incidentally, they are shared moral values, not just my own.
          Evolutionary speaking, living organisms prefer life over death, at least before they reproduce, so as a living organism, I prefer life over death. Since Nazis didn’t prefer life over death for others not of their own group, their moral values conflicted with my, and my groups moral values.
          Psychologically speaking, safety needs take precedence and dominate human behavior, protection from harm being one of them. Humans form groups that provide security for its members and if a group is in a constant state of fear, then a group has failed in it’s charter. To quell the fear, many groups create laws that try to prevent and short of that, punish those in-group and out-group members when those laws are broken. Nazis failed in keeping all its group members safe from harm and provided a real safety threat to out-groups, so their conduct (morals) were deemed inappropriate.
          Contrary to Hume’s Law, we also live in a world that is governed by the laws and concepts of Newton, Einstein, Darwin, Freud and Maslov.

    • adam

      Hitlers morality is the bible’s morality

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zt5gLf455Q8

      • Greg G.

        NonStampCollecter for the win!

      • Nick

        Compelling argument, but it doesn’t actually answer my questions.

        • Greg G.

          Many people have moralities that are compatible because they don’t bother their neighbors too much. Nobody’s morality is any more right than the next person’s morality. But if you piss people off, they will resist you. Hitler pissed off people who could resist him when he tried to impose his will on the world. Had he been successful, some people would have defended his actions the way Bible believers defend the slaughter of the Canaanites, the Amalekites, and the Midianites by the Israelites.

          I think life is precious and short so we should find as much happiness as we can without interfering too much with other people’s similar pursuits. But that’s just me and many people I know.

        • MR

          I think life is precious and short so we should find as much happiness as we can without interfering too much with other people’s similar pursuits. But that’s just me and many people I know.

          I have one life, and it is short
          And unimportant…
          But thanks to recent scientific advances
          I get to live twice as long
          As my great great great great uncleses and auntses.
          Twice as long to live this life of mine
          Twice as long to love this wife of mine
          Twice as many years of friends and wine
          Of sharing curries and getting shitty
          With good-looking hippies
          With fairies on their spines
          And butterflies on their titties.

          —Tim Minchin

    • why should anyone care what you think?

      People always ask that. I can never figure out why.

      It’s like they’ve never discussed or debated anything with anyone. Why would anyone do that, right Nick?

      Opinions are evaluated on their merits. If I provide good reasons to accept my view, you’d be wise to do so. Otherwise, reject it.

  • James Raskalinikov Dean

    Are you really trying to learn about morality by looking in the dictionary? You may well be a man without a chest, a product of the social engineering education system that CS Lewis worried about, 70 years ago.

    • MNb

      Perhaps he should have worried more about the christian indoctrination education system.

      • James Raskalinikov Dean

        Do you know that he lived in the UK? I think CS Lewis was worried about a great deal of things. It’s a shame Bob whatshisface who wrote this article wasn’t around to tell him just to look in his dictionary. It would have saved him a lot of bother!

        • adam

          “It’s a shame Bob whatshisface who wrote this article wasn’t around to tell him just to look in his dictionary. It would have saved him a lot of bother!”

          Yes, it is a shame…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          And I bet CS Lewis would have had a very positive effect on him.

        • adam

          It obviously hasnt, nor has it to you, since even you cant understand Lewis.

        • MNb

          Yes, I do know. So what? Did you know the UK in Lewis’ time had a christian indoctrination education system as well? Every single western country had, perhaps with the exception of France.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I know the UK after Lewis’s time, when what he was writing about in the Abolition of Man had been implemented. And I stand by what I said earlier. The education system, and other social engineering devices, clearly have brought about ‘men without chests.’

        • adam

          “The education system, and other social engineering devices, clearly have brought about ‘men without chests.'”

          No not clearly at all.
          Why dont you DEMONSTRATE?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          This thread seems like a demonstration of it. But the reference doesn’t make sense I guess unless you have read the book. Loosely put, I think the ridiculousness of someone looking in a dictionary to prove what morality is demonstrates that CS Lewis’s fears were well founded.

        • adam

          Or as you have demonstrated YOU dont understand Lewis or Bob…

          If you wanted to prove what morality is, you’ve wasted that trolling.

    • adam

      Are YOU really trying to learn about morality by looking in the bible?

      • James Raskalinikov Dean

        Is there something that strikes you as wrong about the quote from Deuteronomy? Do you think your dictionary is going to help you discover whether the quote is immoral? And do you go along with the writer of this article in thinking that the wrongness you feel about the above is subjective – just a feeling in you?

        • adam

          ” And do you go along with the writer of this article in thinking that the wrongness you feel about the above is subjective – just a feeling in you?”

          Of course, that feeling is called Empathy..

          IF the bible was a source of objective morality, then is would be perfectly fine to kill these kinds of people.

          I mean, dont YOU think it is perfectly fine to kill those say “Let us go and worship other gods”? Certainly the bible god does…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Adam, I think you should read The Abolition of Man. Presumably this book is what the writer of the article is talking about. My complaint about his article is that he seems not to understand what CS Lewis had to say. He would not suggest looking in a dictionary to see what morality is if he had understood what CS Lewis had to say about morality, and its being objective, or external – not a mere personal feeling. When you say ‘if the bible was a source of objective morality’ please be aware CS Lewis was not saying The Bible was that objective morality. You should also read CS Lewis on the Psalms, where he talks about the psalms full of hate, that seem evil, to anyone with an awareness of morality.

        • adam

          “My complaint about his article is that he seems not to understand what CS Lewis had to say.”

          Then spell it out.

          “He would not suggest looking in a dictionary to see what morality is if
          he had understood what CS Lewis had to say about morality,”

          So instead of using a standardized version of the meaning we can agree on, we should allow CS Lewis to define it however he wants to make his political point about his ‘god’?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I T H I N K Y O U S H O U L D R E A D T H E A B O L I T I O N O F M A N BY C S L E W I S

        • adam

          Sorry, but you havent given me enough reasons to read your book

          “My complaint about his article is that he seems not to understand what CS Lewis had to say.”

          Then spell it out.

          If you dont know, just say so.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          It’s not my book. It’s everybody’s book! We are commenting on an article about CS Lewis. If you want to know about whether the article’s or my comments are right or wrong then I suppose you have to read the book. It’s a very short book, but not an easy read, but definitely worth the effort.

          But to give a simplistic sample, do you think you can ever learn what ‘love’ really is from looking it up in a dictionary? Do you think even Plato’s Symposium nails what ‘love’ really is?

        • MR

          I think it’s generally considered a cop out to simply suggest reading a book. Bob managed to write a summary of his thoughts on the book, surely you can point out where you think he’s wrong and why.

          Why do theists always think “love” is a gotcha? It’s not magic, you know, it’s simply biology.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Both you guys might be psychopaths. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I don’t think ‘bad’ makes sense for psychopaths. But MR, what are you asking? Do you want a similarly long critique of Bob’s essay? This is just a comments thing. I’ve already said comments worth.

          But really, do you think it’s a cop out to say that in a discussion about whether or not what a book said was true or right, that people should read the book being discussed?

        • adam

          ” This is just a comments thing. I’ve already said comments worth.”

          AGAIN, not near enough to warrant reading your book.

          Look, if you cant distill out enough of it’s importance to make it worthwhile to read, just say so.

        • Kodie

          So fun when people are delusional about how much they’ve added to the discussion. What comic books are we going to talk about next?

        • adam

          ” What comic books are we going to talk about next?”

          I hope it is Spiderman

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Has anyone in the above chat said anything about the Bible being proof of God’s existence? Why on earth did you post this? Were you attempting to demonstrate that you don’t know much about reasoning?

        • adam

          Dont be such an obvious idiot, read the post.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You mean you were responding to ‘what comic books are we going to talk about next?’

          I thought we were talking about Bob’s article. So it’s a bit mean of you to call Bob’s article a comic book. Unless you’re into comics, and you meant lets get some chat on about Tom Strong or something. In which case, that would have been a nice thing to say about Bob’s article.

        • adam

          Dont be such an obvious idiot, read the post I was responding to.

        • MR

          Are you not familiar with how blogs work? It’s perfectly fine to recommend someone read a book, sure, but if you have something to critique about what Bob wrote, you should point out what you think is wrong. Have you read the book? If not, then maybe you’re not qualified to critique Bob’s understanding of it. If you have, do tell us what you think is wrong with Bob’s view. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I think it’s what happens in these kinds of forums. People express ideas, and others critique them. If you do a good job, you might convince someone to go actually read the book. I think Adam hit it on the head: “If you don’t know, just say so.”

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          To be honest, I don’t think Bob has read the book -the Abolition of Man. If he has, he appears to have understood it so little that he may as well not have read it.

        • Greg G.

          From The Abolition of Man:

          Lewis takes the authors to task for subverting student values. He claims that they teach that all statements of value (such as “this waterfall is sublime”) are merely statements about the speaker’s feelings and say nothing about the object. Lewis says that such a subjective view of values is faulty, and, on the contrary, certain objects and actions merit positive or negative reactions: that a waterfall can actually be objectively praiseworthy, and that one’s actions can be objectively good or evil.

          Is this an accurate representation of Lewis’ point? If so, what does the word “subjective” mean according to Lewis?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          yes that is a fair representation I think.

          Simply put, Lewis argues, taking the waterfall for example, that it is not merely a subjective feeling that the waterfall is sublime, but rather that the waterfall actually IS sublime, and that we are aware of it, as we are aware that it is noisy, and moving, and wet. He lays out his arguments very carefully, and I can’t do them justice.

        • Kodie

          Then you should have said a long time ago, instead of trying to sound like you had something to say, that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • Pofarmer

          C.S Lewis writes pretty stuff. But I don’t find it particularly compelling.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          The first time people hear Schoenberg usually they don’t get it. Maybe it’s the same with CS Lewis. By pretty stuff do you mean the Narnia stuff?

        • Pofarmer

          No, his apologetics. I get it, I just think he is out to lunch.

        • MR

          And then you explain where he appears to have failed in his understanding and why. That give us something to talk about and ponder. If you just state, “I don’t think he understands,” then it’s just a drive-by critique and adds nothing to the conversation. I can just as easily say, “I don’t think you’ve read the Abolition of Man, either,” and leave it at that. Where does that get us?

          Personally, Lewis bores me to tears, except for the CoN when I was a kid. I’ve read Mere Christianity, but not the Abolition of Man, and so far, you’re not presenting a very good case for me to take an interest in reading it.

          Our understanding of morality has come a long way since Lewis’ time. He was a smart man. I bet he would have taken the time to consider the new evidence if he were alive today. We don’t want to get stuck in a 50-year old theory if there’s new research to consider, do we?

          CS Lewis argues that in a sense we have evolved to become creatures that are now sensitive to morality. if it were really an arbitrary human construct, like grouping shades of colours in certain ways, then there is nothing necessarily wrong with hurting people. Just like there is nothing necessarily wrong with eating po rk, and things like that, but great taboos arise about things. The sense of morality, Lewis argues, in not arbitrary like taboos on eating pork.

          You’re right that our sense of morality is not arbitrary. But, it’s not objective either. Human beings have a shared morality because we have a similar genetic make up, a similar cognitive make up and shared experiences. We have what I call a universal morality because of that bond. But that’s very different from what we would call an objective morality.

          Certain types of morality will remain static as long as we remain social creatures. It will always be to our benefit that we don’t go around murdering each other if we want to reap the benefits of working as a group. That sense of morality is honed in us by social evolution, not some outside objective morality influencing us. Morals don’t come from God or some Platonic forms floating around out there in the ether. Social evolution explains our morality just fine. Explains it better even.

          If morals were objective, then it would always be wrong to murder. Yet, God in the Bible supposedly lays out any number of ways when it is perfectly fine, he even commands us to murder. Like when you have a rebellious son. Does that sound objective to you? Not even Christians believe we should be doing that. That advice was fine when rebellious sons could overthrow a whole tribe, but rings hollow in the present day. Like eating pork. It’s the very definition of subjective. It depends on the circumstances.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Well this is half-interesting. You seem to be saying that morality has come a long way, like computers have come a long way. Or you seem to be saying that our understanding of morality has come a long way – if this, I would really like to know what you mean. Are you referring to particular studies?

        • adam

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          When Vik Sharma say ‘not from God’ I think he must mean ‘not from the Bible’ or something like that. Otherwise, I don’t know what his point is. And I don’t know why he thinks slavery on earth has ended.

        • adam

          “When Vik Sharma say ‘not from God’ I think he must mean ‘not from the Bible’ or something like that.”

          Keep thinking then…

          “Otherwise, I don’t know what his point is.”

          You dont understand CSL, you dont understand Bob….so who is surprised?

          “And I don’t know why he thinks slavery on earth has ended.”

          And I dont now why you think he thinks that…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Do you think slavery has ended? I do not.

        • Kodie

          The utility of slavery comes from people, but rather collectively, most people are so appalled by slavery, which I really think they aren’t, actually. God is described plenty in the bible as being in favor of one “chosen” group of authors of the bible, he felt for them when they were victims of slavery, and felt for them again when they had the freedom to own their own slaves, he instructed them how, not for the slaves’ dignity or humanity, but how to beat them just enough to get them to work without disabling them by injury or death, like you’d treat any other labor animal.

          For the most part, at least in the US, we’re against outright ownership of another person. We overcame a tradition kind of late compared to Europe. We overcame the tradition that allowed us to consider slaves as subhuman and available labor to get rich from. But as a culture, we are still apparently fine with low pay and shitty work conditions, if that is ok with another country’s culture, of removing choices, of not paying fair wages – it’s still a form of slavery if freedom is not a real choice. If you can make $2/hr or $0/hr, you choose to work practically for free, for as many hours as you can be assigned, and have no free life. You get shelter and meals and treated like shit, or you get freedom and nothing and die of starvation and exposure. Every time I don’t like my job, I’m advised if I don’t like conditions, my only option is to seek work elsewhere, as if I can improve my own conditions by working for another employer whose culture allows them to see workers as expendable and pay them as little as possible, and treat them like shit. If you don’t like it, as if there is a choice to take “freedom” and live like a free person, but it’s more like a threat – this is the standard for people like you, if you want to complain go even try finding somewhere else that’s any better, ha ha.

          Of course slavery still exists. Real slavery, like the US South, or the bible, where “indentured servitude” seems like a fair idea, but the terms are owned by the slave-holder, and the servant can never meet them, and signing on for that means you not only work to pay off your debt, but there are no laws as to how you’re treated. In biblical times and US slavery times, slaves were an expensive investment, and to be treated as you would treat your car or your washing machine so you don’t have to replace it. Now, slaves are so cheap that you don’t have to worry about that stuff.

          But as a culture, we say we don’t stand for slavery as if it has ended, while ignoring where our goods come from and who actually makes them and what conditions they work in. Many imported goods come not just from sweatshops but from actual dictionary definition of the slavery we’re morally disgusted by and opposed to. Ignorance is great for people, but when you expose them to the facts on slavery globally, they also prefer to ignore it. They don’t look at their dish towels or their lawn chairs and feel sick. They see the sign up at Wal-mart (or many other places) and go goofy for low prices, stacking them up and taking them home to fill out the patio. Looks good, doesn’t look like slavery, shut up you whiner, this doesn’t affect me at all. That’s your “objective morality”.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You are right again. You are saying that slavery is wrong. It goes on today. It has gone on for as long as history has been written. And it is wrong. It has universally felt to be wrong. Necessary, but also wrong. And the voice of the slave throughout history in all cultures calls for justice, for their political system to recognize the objective morality.

        • Kodie

          How have you demonstrated that this is objective? You have only gone so far as most people have empathy to understand how another person doesn’t wish to be enslaved. However, most people are just fine with slavery and do not care if it goes on.

        • MNb

          “It has universally felt to be wrong. ”
          Oh oh, are you ignorant.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobus_Capitein

          A christian, like you. What’s more – a theologian, with many centuries of theology behind him.

        • Kodie

          The voice of the slave throughout history calls for self-interest. They want to be free, they don’t have the freedom. Their captors say shut the fuck up to them and any allies they may have. The voice of “objective” morality says the same thing – it’s engraved in stone, I no longer have to address or pretend to address your complaints. We can’t work this out, we’ve already decided you’re wrong and we’re right.

        • MR

          It’s subjective morality. Subjective to mankind. Humans can feel empathy for other humans. Humans would not want to be put in that situation. Show me that it is subjective outside of the human factor.

        • adam

          We’ve ended the social acceptance of it in difference to the bible god.

          I.e. We’ve displayed better MORALITY than the god in the bible stories.

        • MR

          Well, both, in a sense. Morals evolved along with man, of course, but my point was that our understanding has come a long way. I’m just a simple layman, so can’t point you to specific studies, sorry. Most of my understanding comes from books and articles over the years. Stephen Pinker and Jonathon Haidt come to mind, but I’m sure there are many resources.

          Our morals are really about our interactions with each other. They are subjective to the human experience. One clue is when you remove the human element, we see things differently. We don’t consider a lion killing another lion to be immoral. Or one animal stealing food from another as wrong. We just call it nature. Morality kicks in when humans are involved. It’s principally about our interactions with each other.

          For the most part, it is innate. To some degree it is reasoned, which helps when moralities conflict or go against our need to survive. Actually, other innate parts tend to kick in in those moments. The interactions can be complex, but it explains what we see better than the concept of objective morality. Objective morality seems obvious, but the moment you look closely and try to pin it down, it quickly becomes subjective. There always seem to be exceptions. (e.g., don’t kill, but okay to kill enemies…) Remove humans, remove the idea of objective morality, what change is there in the universe?

        • Kodie

          I think a good cartoon analogy could work – two friends in a cabin together, starving over a long winter, start to envision one another as food. Because it’s a cartoon, one or both is an anthropomorphized animal. Funny, because Bugs Bunny is both an animal and the overall protagonist of the Looney Tunes universe, if someone has to be eaten, we hope it is not the bunny instead of the person, who’s a jerk. Rabbits are herbivores, which makes the situation even more absurd.

          I’m just thinking of a scenario where two people who are pals, mates, companions of any kind, and how to choose which one survives if only one can. It doesn’t need to involve cannibalism. There’s only room for one person on the raft, so someone has to die. If a person chooses themselves to survive, then he either has to depend on the other person to volunteer to die, or to fight with him to decide. In a sinking ship scenario, the captain is supposed to be the last one off the boat, and the crew has to aid guests off before they can go, and the men put the women and children on the rafts first. Is any of this “right”? If there are just two people, all things being equal, is it more moral to select oneself to survive, even if you have to fight or kill the other person before they die of other causes, or is it more moral to volunteer to die?

          I think they’re both equally valid conclusions. You can’t share the only resource, and one person will necessarily die as a result of the other surviving. Why should it be me? Why would it be immoral in the situation to both want to get to live? The other person isn’t a vicious mugger sticking a gun in your ribs in the alley, but I guess it is self-defense if the other person would have you die instead of him. The person who chooses to sacrifice himself will get a noble remembrance, and the person who is allowed to survive will suffer guilt and possibly be labeled a coward, like the captain of a sinking ship would be. If it turns out the survivor actively killed the other person before taking rights to the only raft, even worse. But I don’t know how immoral can that possibly be?

        • MR

          See, this is where I think the concept of sin kicks in. Way before we were human, the principal goal was to survive. We didn’t have these morals, maybe some form of basic morality when we became social creatures, but the number one thing was survival. Does a trait give us an advantage, great! That’s the criteria for survival. Stealing food from someone else when food is scarce helps an animal to survive. Killing a competitor helps an animal to survive. Deception can help an animal to survive. We don’t assign values of good or right or wrong when we view it in terms of animals. But deep down, we are animals. [edit: I don’t want to imply that these traits are conscious choices, just traits that evolved.]

          Social evolution has given us a reason to help and support one another, what we call ‘be good to one another’, but those other underlying traits that helped us survive are still there. When those traits conflict with our evolved trait of ‘be good to one another’, we call that sin.

          It’s not objectively right or wrong, but, as humans, we collectively view it as wrong from a social aspect:

          “Hey, look, if you want to live in this society and derive from it’s benefits, there are laws you will abide by,” or as parents, “If you’re going to live under my roof, you’re going to follow my rules!”

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          If we remove humans from the universe, do we not break the universe? Humans are a part of the universe. We are the universe come to life – and to consciousness.

          We are the universe seeing itself.

          And it seems to me, and I think to CS Lewis, but not to Bob, that just as we are aware of light, because we have evolved so to be such creatures that are aware of light, we are aware of morality.

          I don’t think it’s easy to show this, but I understand that light is also a very difficult thing to reduce to words.

          We can, and do, make ourselves believe that it’s OK to do all sorts of things that aren’t OK really. And there is the rub, as Shakespeare says. We can’t pin morality down, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and that it isn’t merely subjective.

          I love Pinker, but don’t know the other guy. Will check him out!

        • MR

          If we remove humans from the universe, do we not break the universe?

          Most certainly not. It got along without us for billions of years.

          Humans are a part of the universe. We are the universe come to life – and to consciousness.

          Hooray for us! But it doesn’t mean anything except to us.

          …because we have evolved so to be such creatures that are aware of light, we are aware of morality.

          You’re pre-supposing objective morality. Show me that morality means anything outside of our existence. Morality is simply an evolved trait.

          I don’t think it’s easy to show this.

          Likely because it doesn’t exist.

          We can’t pin morality down, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and that it isn’t merely subjective.

          Science seems to be doing a pretty good job of pinning it down. And all the evidence shows it’s subjective.

          Yeah, Pinker’s great. I like his sense of humor. Terrible speaker, though.

          For Haidt I’d recommend: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Not sure I buy into all of it, more research needs to be done, but I found the book enlightening.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I know what you’re getting at here. Did you ever read The Origins of Virtue?

          All I have to say is that the reductionist description seems to me that it might be a big mistake.

          And about the universe getting on without us, I don’t know what to think about this.

          I remain amazed at the fact that the universe exists, and was once all dust, and that dust has come to life, and within that life thought was born, and we what seem like individual bits of the universe come to life sit around talking about what it all means.

        • MR

          I know what you’re getting at here. Did you ever read The Origins of Virtue?

          Nope.

          All I have to say is that the reductionist description seems to me that it might be a big mistake.

          That’s nice. I wasn’t talking about reductionism, but you don’t seem too convinced if it “seems that it might” to you. To me when theists talk about reductionism it’s just a scare word. You’re feeling more and more disingenuous.

          And about the universe getting on without us, I don’t know what to think about this.

          I remain amazed at the fact that the universe exists, and was once all dust, and that dust has come to life, and within that life thought was born, and we what seem like individual bits of the universe come to life sit around talking about what it all means

          Yes, well, self-importance is one of our human traits. Religions and philosophies warn against it, but whadaryagonnado?

          Remember that guy that lived just off Dongsi Street on Quianlang Hutong in Beijing at the turn of the last century? On the second floor, third building in? Yeah, no one does. But, he was happy, lived his life, loved his family. That’s about all I can hope for and I’m cool with that. When the rapture comes and everyone’s swept up to heaven to meet Jesus and live happy forever, what exactly will the guy that lived just off Dongsi Street on Quianlang Hutong in Beijing at the turn of the last century add? What will you add? What was the universe lacking before you came into existence such that it needed you to come into existence?

          Why do you suppose you feel the need to have an objective purpose in life?

          More importantly, what is your objective purpose?

        • Kodie

          That guy made a pair of shoes that some kid wore on his trip to Spain where he bought a wallet from a woman who made the wallet to sell to feed her 4 children, one of whom went to law school and became a lawyer, and defended an innocent man who would have been executed for his crime, and that man was my grandfather!

        • MR

          Oh, my God, what a coincidence! It’s a miracle! There must be a God!

        • Kodie

          No no no! You have to see, we’re intertwined but also interchangeable.

        • MR

          Wha’!? You mean none of us have an objective purpose? I’m just a replaceable cog in the wheel?

          Woe is me! Nihilism! Nihilism! Nihilism everywhere! Bring out your dead! Bring out your living! All is vanity!

          There is no remembrance of former things,
          nor will there be any remembrance
          of later things yet to be
          among those who come after.
          –Ecclesiastes

        • Kodie

          Religion serves everyone who feels like, even though the world gives them all the evidence they need, that they particularly matter. I was thinking of all the jobs I’ve had and how they’d all be sorry to lose my special talents, but it turns out, ordinary people don’t have high standards, so extraneous effort is not only not commended, it’s not even noticed. Everyone wants credit, and some people get credit but don’t even think that’s enough. These are the same people who don’t look around and see special individuals. Everyone in the world except your family tends to evaluate you in terms of how you can be an asset to them or a detriment to them. If you are in a role, the job interviewer asks the applicants, “what can you bring to the role of ____?” and they talk about fit, nobody gives a shit who you are as a person. Everyone wants an opportunity to talk about who they really are, but nobody really gives a shit.

          I work with children and I noticed, not really coincidentally, that the normal done thing is to indulge children in expressing things that have no goddamned interest to you and act like it’s interesting as hell. I was sort of joking-venting to someone while a 13-year-old was adjacent, about the number 100. There is nothing so goddamned boring as waiting for a preschooler to count all the way to 100. You know who can count to 100? Anyone who is almost 5. You know who never counts to 100? Everyone who isn’t 4 going on 5. I have had some dull conversations with children that I can always manage to find a way to participate in without dying of boredom; they are either short or easily steered to something that can interest both of us, but there is no way out of 100. Sometimes, I think of adults expressing pride in their individuality as telling me all the integers from 1 to 100.

        • Kodie

          Of course you’re amazed, that’s how you’re adamant that love is something more than just chemical. Life is just chemical. I really don’t know. If you have something crazy like elements, like lava, or the ocean, and you have any idea how simple the first living thing was, it’s hard to think of a world without living things at all. Once it started, it took off. Every couple months or so, I get some news in my facebook feed about some organism that has found its niche in the most hostile environment. I think the most intellectual page I like is PBS, probably, so there is a lot of news I’m probably missing too. Living things adapt to their environment or go extinct. It wasn’t just dust and then people, like the bible says. It blows your mind that over millions of years, a mind that can think but still be so confused as yours would be possible. Consider that an evolutionary type of “simplicity” if you will. You’re not that smart! Humans are capable of a vast intelligence, but most of us are still at the dumb end, confused about that stuff. That doesn’t mean it’s not true, it just means you’re incredulous.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But kodie, it was just dust! And then people. Physicists say the universe came into being an almost the only atom present was hydrogen. And from that to this. As you say, with an apparent purposeful direction. We have a universe from nowhere, it’s physical ‘laws’ apparently tuned to create the elements, and tuned to allow chemistry, and to allow life.

          On the subject of the simplest living thing, did you know even Dawkins says it may have been an event so remarkable that even given the size of your universe it only happened once.

          I understand that the state of our universe is so improbable that it has generated serious speculation that there exist an infinite number of universes, which would go some way to explain the inexplicable nature of our own. I mention this just to save you the effort of mentioning it to me.

        • Kodie

          Where did I say apparent purposeful direction? I don’t think your reading comprehension is up to par, and your incredulity is obscuring your ability to have an intelligent conversation about this. Given the size of the universe, the properties that would eventually create life almost certainly happened more than once. You’re sort of rambling incoherently from bits and pieces you can’t articulate like that whole CS Lewis thing you started with. It’s like when you read something but can’t explain it, it means you didn’t understand it fully, so don’t even start.

        • TheNuszAbides

          agreed, Mind merely touches on several fascinating ideas and its crux is (judging by the state of yourMorals.org) still an ongoing project.

        • MR

          The beauty of science, they don’t just assume they’re right, they keep searching and looking for new data and tossing out the theories that don’t work. How are those Christians doing on their research, by the way?

          I’ve added Happiness to my list, thanks. It might be a while before I get to it, but it’s there so I don’t forget.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The H.H. didn’t particularly grip me (i listened to it last year). it’s the sort of thing that would have been far more valuable back when i was less skeptical and almost painfully relativistic. Mind is still a blast, though; been meaning to slip his bibliography for that into my reading list.

        • Kodie

          Kind of arrogant to think the universe wouldn’t be if there were no humans to experience it. If you can’t show objective morality, it’s just an instinctual feeling you have, then you have to consider that you’re just wrong, and you can’t trust your feelings about this.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The Righteous Mind casts the broadest net over recent findings and re-examining older ones; I’d recommend it over The Happiness Hypothesis assuming you’ve read more spiritual literature than moral/political/ evolutionary psychology (and some other stuff).

        • TheNuszAbides

          Well this is half-interesting.

          what a condescending shit.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Yeah, you’re right! But when I put this I didn’t realise MR’s comment was as long as it was. I only saw the first bit. But I meant it, it sounds exactly like a condescending shit!

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I think it’s really interesting about the taboo thing you said about killing your son being perhaps a practical survival thing in the ancient world. I think that’s brilliant.

          I think there is a category error going on, as they say. And it seems to me even more clear that CS Lewis is right about the universality of morality – which as you say, you are not necessarily disputing. I think the dark passages from the books of the Old Testament were always dark passages, and came only into a sort of acceptance because of taboo thinking, like the thing about not eating pork, very probably for practical reasons, like the killing the son thing for the reward of political stability, or survival.

          I am also very persuaded by the Phenomenon of Man. It says we see a constant in evolution, not only a random unrolling, a definite rolling out in search of an ever increasing mind. The mind capacity of the animals gets ever bigger. Until, he says, thought is born.

          At present, CS Lewis still makes good sense to me.

        • adam

          “At present, CS Lewis still makes good sense to me.”

          And yet you admit you dont understand Lewis enough to explain it..

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But it’s only you who keeps saying this adam. I said I didn’t think I could encapsulate the essence of his argument into a bitesize chunk. I’m not sure it can be done. I have, however, made the attempt, and put up an extract from the book which gets to the core of the matter. I have never said that I did not understand what CS Lewis was on about. One of the great things about CS Lewis is that he writes so clearly. The ideas are complex, and can apply ‘close application of mind’, as they say, but Lewis is very followable, which no doubt goes some way to explaining his popularity.

        • adam

          If CS Lewis writes so clearly, then it should be easy for you to understand enough to demonstrate what you CLAIMED about Bob, not understanding.

          His ideas are not complex, the complexity is in trying to make his ideas make sense in the real world as opposed to the IMAGINARY. Not all that different to Scientology in my mind.

        • MR

          I think it’s really interesting about the taboo thing you said about killing your son being perhaps a practical survival thing in the ancient world. I think that’s brilliant.

          Why, thank you. I’ll take the compliment because self-importance is a human trait.

          And it seems to me even more clear that CS Lewis is right about the universality of morality – which as you say, you are not necessarily disputing.

          Please don’t put my words in C. S. Lewis’ mouth. He wouldn’t like that. We are talking about two very different things. I do dispute objective morality. There is no reason to believe in it. I used the term “universal,” which is my own term that means, “all humans share some basic moral values because we are all human.” Other people have used the term “shared morality,” and that is a good description, and all I am saying. I came up with the term “universal” because I was trying to distinguish between objective morality. Obviously it’s a confusing term, and I will either have to drop it or do a better job at explaining what I mean.

          And, then, even saying that “all humans share some basic moral values because we are all human” isn’t true. I can’t say all humans because psychopaths, perhaps some autistic people, people with certain brain damage…, do not necessarily share those same values.

          My definition is in no way an objective definition of morality. I don’t believe objective morality exists and gladly dispute it. You may need to go back and reread what I wrote because you obviously didn’t understand what I meant. (Not that it was your fault.)

          Let me be clear. Morality lies solely within man. It does not exist out in the universe separate from us. [edit to add: It is subjective to man, subjective to individuals and subjective to circumstances.] There is no objective morality.

          At present, CS Lewis still makes good sense to me.

          I absolutely agree with adam below. You don’t understand it enough to explain it, so I can’t see how it could make sense to you at all, except as a way to salvage your belief in magic woo.

        • TheNuszAbides

          he drinks from the cup of Lewis, whose writings are purportedly clear, easy to follow; yet he who is so insistent that others haven’t read it (by following their presumably clear-enough writing in response) can’t do Lewis’ arguments justice. just gush about how nifty and misunderstood they are.

        • MR

          Reminds me of Christians gushing over the Bible ’til you point out all the awkward bits.

        • Kodie

          At present, you are even more confirmed that you CS Lewis is correct, but still not able to articulate anything substantial to go on. The more I read from you misunderstanding and reformulating posts you’re responding to, the more I can’t fucking understand how illiterate you must be to have a completely different take on things. If you’re unable to articulate what you believe from an author who convinced you, the more I think you are an emotional thinker, and the argument you’re sitting on is entirely emotional. Religious arguments tend to lack any substance that isn’t fully emotional.

        • adam

          To be honest, it does appear that YOU understood it so little that YOU may as well not have read it.

        • adam

          “Both you guys might be psychopaths.”

          And we both might be geniuses, what does that have to do with the conversation.

          “But really, do you think it’s a cop out to say that in a discussion about whether or not what a book said was true or right, that people should read the book being discussed?”

          Of course it is a cop out.

          NOW, if you want to DEMONSTRATE that what a book said was true or right, THAT is a method of debate and discussion.

        • Kodie

          It’s fine to recommend a book, but to demand someone read a book rather than say whatever you think that book has to explain is W E A K. D O Y O U H E A R M E W E A K.

        • adam

          “Why do theists always think “love” is a gotcha?”

          It is the seque into THEIR ‘god’ is ‘love’

          When the bible god by its own definition cannot be love:

          “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8

          “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud “1Corinthians 13:4

          “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,” Exodus 20:5In the logical form of Modus Tollens, the following is the conclusion drawn from the above passages:

          P1. IF God is love, THEN God is not jealous.
          P2. God IS jealous.
          C. Therefore God is NOT love.

          This conclusion is catastrophic for Christians, as it negates their entire philosophy of “God is Love.” God cannot be love, if God is jealous, but God IS jealous. Christians can attempt to whittle off parts the square “loving God ” to try and fit into the round “jealous God”
          and create one God, but according to their own scriptures, it does not work. Counter examples of “righteous jealousy” do not work either, because the Bible does not distinguish between jealousy and righteous jealousy. In fact, the above passage from Exodus 20, and others like it such as:

          “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Deut. 6:13-15does not portray a god in the sense of having “righteous jealousy” (i.e., merely being vigilant in maintaining something) but is a god who feels resentment, envy, and is suspicious, and is therefore, filled with “wrath, and threats” and is bent on destroying or punishing even those who are merely born to those who “hate” him. This too, is unjust and immoral,
          and similar to the idea of all of humanity being punished for the so-called “sins” of Adam and Eve. This is a “believe in me or feel my tortuous wrath” philosophy, and it is not “righteous” at all.

          Nevertheless, many Christians attempt to show a distinction between love and jealousy, and righteous jealousy by asking hypothetical questions such as, “If my wife runs out on me with another man, and I am jealous,
          does that prove I love her?” This counter example however, does not work, because either the Bible is correct in that God cannot love and be jealous, or, the Bible is wrong–and he can love and be jealous. This
          is a dilemma, and illustrates the absurdity of the Christian position, especially when we consider the following verse.

          “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud ” 1 Corinthians 13:4 Now, the Christian can say that he loves his wife, and he can be jealous, but the passage above from the Bible states that love is NOT jealous. So, either the Bible is wrong, or the Christian who claims to love and be jealous is. If it is claimed that this passage is merely poetic, evocative, and descriptive, then we can also say that Jesus being the “son of God” is merely a poetic and evocative description of him, and is
          similar to the poetic and evocative description of “me and my grandmother being one” in that we share the same philosophy. This is why biblical exegesis is so important. In the case of biblical exegesis, or the critical explanation or interpretation of the Bible, the meaning of
          the text, and the context in which it is written is used to discover the relevance of what is written. However, when Humpty Dumpty semantics and ad hoc explanations are employed in order to create meaning, the text becomes virtually meaningless.

          Even if the Christian god were true, the Bible tells us he is not “all-loving” and therefore, Christians are fooling themselves in believing their god has this character trait. They are conditioned via tenacity and authority by counter factuals claiming that all they have to do is believe, and their god will “love” them and they will go to paradise when they die—based on nothing but faith that their god is an “all-loving” god–when the H-D method has proven that their god is not all-loving at all. For people who are told what to believe about their god via tenacity or authority, many are satisfied with that, and logic,
          reason, and the H-D method are no use to them when applied to their religious scripture–they plug their collective ears and go la-la-la-la-la–but for those of us that want answers that make sense, further inquiry is required. http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/07/beliefs-habits-doubt-love-jealousy.html

          Such are the MANY contradictions of the bible.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          have a look above, I went into it a bit more.

        • adam

          Sorry, but you havent given me enough reason to read your referenced book.

          “But to give a simplistic sample, do you think you can ever learn what ‘love’ really is from looking it up in a dictionary?”

          love – Merriam Webster.
          : a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person

          : attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship

          : a person you love in a romantic way

          That, some biology, psychology and chemistry – sure.
          As much as any emotion.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          So you think you know what love really is then? Surely not!

        • Kodie

          Another evasive, non-forthcoming pseudo-intellectual? Or the same one?

        • adam

          “So you think you know what love really is then? Surely not!”

          How not?

        • Kodie

          We don’t attribute the experience to something it’s not. If you don’t make positive statements about what else you think love is, then you’re a know-nothing blowhard WaterOnMars, Billie Jean, Adam, we know you.

        • adam

          So I can count on you to enlighten me on what love really is?

        • Kodie
        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          No! Don’t count on me. But what I mean is the dictionary definition doesn’t do the job. Plato’s symposium doesn’t do the job either. I I suspect it cannot be done – it is not the sort of thing that can be put into words, that can be reduced to words. And the reductionist view, that it’s just what the dictionary says plus a bit of hormones and the illusion of consciousness doesn’t seem a satisfactory description either.

        • Kodie

          Sure it can be reduced to words. Poets do it all the fucking time, lyricists, novelists, etc. That feeling is so rich and yet still so chemical. We’re animals with communication skills, who can blossom those tender feelings made from a chemical reaction into words.

        • MNb

          A loving christian who starts yelling if an atheist asks him to explain something …. nicely confirming what I wrote above about christianity and faith.

          If you so badly want us to read that book, that you start yelling, why don’t you buy it and send it to us?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I didn’t mean to be yelling! I was merely spelling out what I meant. It seems very odd to me that someone who claims to be interested in this stuff would not themselves want to know what CS Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man.

        • adam

          Even odder still, that someone who makes claims about a book doesnt have what it takes to distill enough of it to make it interesting enough to read…

          Or to back up his CLAIMs about Bob’s understanding.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You are quite right Adam, I do not feel up to the task of distilling enough of the book to make it interesting for you. Perhaps if you look at an extract you will see for self if it seems like the sort of thing you might be interested in:

          However subjective they may be about some traditional values, Gains and Titius have shown by the very act of writing The Green Book that there must be some
          other values about which they are not subjective at all. They write in order to produce certain states of mind in the rising generation, if not because they think those states of mind intrinsically just or good, yet certainly because they think them to be the means to some state of society which they regard as desirable. It would not be difficult to collect from various passages in The Green Book what their ideal is. But we need not. The important point is not the precise nature of their end, but the fact that they have an end at all. They must have, or their book (being purely practical in intention) is written to no purpose. And this end must
          have real value in their eyes. To abstain from caUing it good and to use, instead, such predicates as ‘necessary’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘efficient’ would be a subterfuge.
          They could be forced by argument to answer the questions ‘necessary for what?’, ‘progressing towards what?’, ‘effecting what?’; in the last resort they would have to admit that some state of affairs was in their opinion good for its own sake. And this time they could not maintain that ‘good’ simply described their own emotion about it. For the whole purpose of their book is so to condition theyoung reader that he will share their approval, and this would be either a fool’s or a villain’s undertaking unless they held that their approval was in some way vahd or correct.

        • adam

          “You are quite right Adam, I do not feel up to the task of distilling enough of the book to make it interesting for you. ”

          Then obviously YOU dont understand what CS Lewis was saying.

          And apparently lied about Bob misunderstanding him as well.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Could you distil Prospero’s speech at the end of The Tempest?

          Well…

          He basically says he’s giving up now, and leaving the magical island, and all the magic.

          I think it’s a little like that with the Lewis book. It’s quite a remarkable book. It takes time to say what he says, and I don’t think I could do justice to his thought with my short version. I’ve already tried, but I get the feeling that whatever I said about it would not satisfy you, almost as if you are primarily interested in arguing for the sake of it.

        • Kodie

          No, you blowhard. We’re sick to fucking death of blowhard pseudo-intellectual idiots who claim they have something important to add to a discussion, never input that “brilliant” information, and then blame US for not wanting to engage. HYPOCRITE HYPOCRITE HYPOCRITE.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          you’re not being very gentlemanly Kodie!

          This article is a guy slagging CS Lewis. I just want to put in a word for him, for the sake of humanity.

          You seem really angry about stuff!

        • Kodie

          I’m a little pissed off that you are deluded that you have done anything like put in a word for CS Lewis, you evasive bullshit artist, sock puppet. You’re actively hostile about something but you think you can answer in riddles and forget about content.

        • adam

          “I just want to put in a word for him, for the sake of humanity.”

          Then you have been a miserable failure for your lack of understanding of what he wrote.

        • adam

          “I don’t think I could do justice to his thought with my short version.”

          Then I am back to – you really dont understand it very well then.

          “but I get the feeling that whatever I said about it would not satisfy you, almost as if you are primarily interested in arguing for the sake of it.”

          So YOU have a SUBJECTIVE ‘feeling’ about what would satisfy me?

        • adam

          Interesting how that doesnt jive with wiki

          Prospero states his loss (magic) and his continuing imprisonment if the audience is not pleased. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prospero

          So since it is OBVIOUS you dont understand Prospero’s speech.

          Certainly ANOTHER indication that you dont understand CS Lewis EITHER.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I meant the one a little earlier, about burying his book as deep as ever plummeted sound, or how it goes.

          But my point was that the perhaps the speech cannot be reduced without losing what it is. The wiki link you put up demonstrates this nicely.

          I don’t get your meme. Are you saying you feel like a pigeon walking round on a chess board when you had expected to face a shower of bullets and control them with your mind?

        • Kodie

          I think it’s super interesting that people who think they are so smart and love to hear the sound of their own voice will, predictably, start off their long long diatribes stating that they don’t feel like summarizing an author, or they don’t feel like making an argument, that it’s somehow going to take up too much of their precious time to fill in the gaps of their assertions with valid, well-though arguments. It’s sooooo predictable that you’re “all” representing “philosophy” with the same attitude.

        • adam

          It is the VERY BEST that THEIR ‘faith’ provides for them, the VERY BEST…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          The long long diatribe is an extract from the book. I’m not smart enough to adequately summarize CS Lewis.

        • Kodie

          Are you smart enough to do anything? Are you too dumb to realize when you brought it up that we’d have follow-up questions for you?

        • adam

          It is just the VERY BEST that his ‘faith’ provides for him.

        • adam

          Then you are not smart enough to understand it….

        • Susan

          if not because they think those states of mind intrinsically just or good, yet certainly because they think them to be the means to some state of society which they regard as desirable.

          So, not objective.

          this end must have real value in their eyes.

          Not objective.

          they would have to admit that some state of affairs was in their opinion good for its own sake.

          In their opinion.

          and this would be either a fool’s or a villain’s undertaking unless they held that their approval was in some way vahd or correct.

          Same problem. They can argue for their position and appeal to shared morality. But that does not make it objective.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But is it a fool’s or a villain’s undertaking? Or do they really believe that in some way what they seek is objectively good? Perhaps they do, perhaps they really do not! But it seems to me his point is that they do seem to believe in an objective morality, and not that morality is subjective.

          I do not think that with this passage he is attempting to demonstrate that morality is objective. I think he is trying to show that the social engineers seem, ultimately, to think so, whether they are consciously aware of it or not.

        • MNb

          Yes, I think that quote terribly wrong and indeed I think it’s based on a feeling. That feeling is called empathy, a feeling christianity claims the monopoly of and again and again fails to show, as you just confirmed. Or you wouldn’t have asked your silly questions.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          What silly questions? And do you really mean empathy? Empathy is the ability to imagine what is like for someone else. What the writer of the article seems to miss is that this feeling that it ‘wrong’ to hurt people is not subjective. You seem a little confused about the fact that the feeling is mentalistic it must be subjective. Warmth and light are arguably mentalistic events, but we feel that when we experience these things we are sensing something external. CS Lewis argues that in a sense we have evolved to become creatures that are now sensitive to morality. if it were really an arbitrary human construct, like grouping shades of colours in certain ways, then there is nothing necessarily wrong with hurting people. Just like there is nothing necessarily wrong with eating pork, and things like that, but great taboos arise about things. The sense of morality, Lewis argues, in not arbitrary like taboos on eating pork. As evidence for this he adds at the end of his book a very long collection of extracts from spiritual texts written around the world at different times and within myriad different cultures yet all saying essentially the same thing.

        • Kodie

          It’s quite subjective. People rationalize hurting people every day as “not hurting” them, or not hurting anybody, or not risking anybody’s safety, or their feelings don’t count. How we feel about pigs and people is subjective. Pigs aren’t likely to say much about how we treat them. The only reason most people think it’s ok to eat pork is because it’s too delicious to stop. We treat many people in our busy day as if they are not better than a pig, except for the killing and eating part – most of us don’t personally kill the pig, either.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Interesting that you’re now talking about vegetarianism! But I meant that the thing about not eating pork as an example of a taboo, which might seem moral or religious, but is really an arbitrary thing. Hurting the animal, however, seems a different sort of wrong. It’s seems really wrong, and this sense of wrongness isn’t a subjective feeling or a social trend, like flared trousers.

        • Kodie

          The taboo is because they seem dirty, like most Americans won’t eat a bug. There’s no rule that says we shouldn’t, and it’s been on talk shows and reality stunt shows enough, but most Americans won’t eat a bug on purpose. Just to show you, it really is arbitrary. Americans don’t eat dogs, but there’s nothing wrong with it. In India, they don’t kill cows, but in the US, it’s one of the top two preferred meat animals.

          In biblical times, there may also have been no reliable way to kill the bacteria from pork that can make you really ill. I don’t know. If a lot of people get sick from eating a food, if you’re superstitious, you might make a law from god obviously telling you not to eat that kind of animal. I don’t think there is much in the bible about which plants not to eat, which are poisonous. People used to think tomatoes were poisonous to eat.

          I think it’s more like a superstition that if you ingest something, you become like something. Another tribe ate pork, and the prejudice against those people’s culture made them think eating pork had something to do with it. Crazy, right?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          It’s crazy, yes. Like hairstyles and fashion. But do you see there are different types of wrongness?

        • Kodie

          I don’t think you’re doing a good job illustrating it, no.

        • adam

          Why do I feel like we are getting a Snow Job from ‘James’?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Is there anything I’ve written that wasn’t clear enough for you? Sorry if there was.

        • Kodie

          Everything you’ve written has been either an unsupported assertion, a non sequitur, a passive-aggressive lack of substance, an outright refusal to go into it followed by a long ramble to nowhere, or a tone troll. When are you actually going to get around to the topic you introduced and badly wish to get a word in for CS Lewis or any other one of your favorite authors?

        • adam

          Apparently either not sorry enough to remedy it, or not capable enough.

          See Kodies’ response below for a better explaination.

        • Kodie

          Polite non-response, keeping the tone civil at the cost of ever clarifying his position. Every opportunity to say what he means instead of blaming us for not being mind-readers is a hostile offense. Every dishonest, phony polite non-response is a hostile offense.

        • adam

          Liars for Jesus playbook, I think it is in the Preface.

        • MR

          Dishonest tactics do seem to run through so many of these theists. It seems to undermine their moral arguments.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Yeah but Kodie, again I’m surprised at you complaining about someone being ‘hostile’, because you seem quite comfortable with being hostile.

        • Kodie

          I think it’s the appropriate reaction.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I’ve added some stuff above. As an aside, I think it’s really interesting how a discussion develops in this format. I had no idea this would happen. I just wanted to slag Bob for writing an article ‘demonstrating’ that ‘CS Lewis gets morality wrong’ and he had no more to say really than he’d looked up what morality was in a dictionary. Even if CS Lewis is wrong about morality, Bob’s article does nothing to show this.

        • adam

          “I just wanted to slag Bob for writing an article ‘demonstrating’ that ‘CS Lewis gets morality wrong'”

          slag
          Definition of SLAG chiefly British
          : to criticize harshly

          And yet you COMPLETELY FAILED to demonstrate that Bob was incorrect.

          “and he had no more to say really than he’d looked up what morality was in a dictionary.”

          The you either didnt read Bob’s article or like with CS Lewis and his book, FAILED to understand

          “Even if CS Lewis is wrong about morality, Bob’s article does nothing to show this.”

          The you either didnt read Bob’s article or like with CS Lewis and his book, FAILED to understand it.

        • Kodie

          This is where you would take Bob’s comment that you have trouble with, and tell all of us what’s wrong with it, but you don’t. You’re really just a drive-by with something stupid to get off his chest and nothing to back it up.

        • adam

          Are there difference ‘types’ of morals?

          Please demonstrate.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Well, there are, for instance, moral taboos, like not breaking religious laws about eating pork, and these seem different to the wrongness of murdering someone. We could argue that there was nothing wrong with either of these things, but don’t you feel you would argue in a different way? I feel there is an important qualitative difference.

        • Kodie

          You keep repeating yourself. Sure, we can agree, as a society, mostly that there is a qualitative difference between eating pork and killing a person. There is a qualitative difference between cutting someone off in traffic, and giving that person the finger as they slow down to 25mph, which is kind of what you’re doing. You cut into traffic, and you do this passive-aggressive bullshit dance around the topic. We’re trying to get somewhere and you just don’t give a shit.

          How are you using your stupid example to, in any way, demonstrate your claim of objective morality?

        • adam

          “Sure, we can agree, as a society, mostly that there is a qualitative difference between eating pork and killing a person. ”

          But according to the bible the punishment is the same.
          so there is no qualitative difference between eating pork and killing a person.

        • Kodie

          I think he’s trying to demonstrate objective morality not because it’s grounded in the bible, but because it somehow feels qualitatively different than subjective morals and cultural practices.

        • adam

          I respectfully disagree.

          He is NOT trying to demonstrate objective morality, just trying to instill doubt on subjective morality WITHOUT providing ANY demonstration of objective morality.

          That where the NEED to duck, dodge and distracts come into play.

          He is using the same tactics and much of the same type of language as a couple of IDiots on another blog I ran into on Pathos.

          This just seems to be a new twist on Lying for Jesus.

          They led everybody on and on and on and on and on and on and on

          When one of them FINALLY provides links to answer a claim he made, ALL of them, ALL the links were links to some creation ministries ‘scientific’ papers….

        • Kodie

          I don’t think he’s that smart, he thinks this difference is self-explanatory, just like all the other pseudo-intellectual sock puppet doppelgangers, and such.

        • adam

          “Well, there are, for instance, moral taboos, like not breaking religious
          laws about eating pork, and these seem different to the wrongness of
          murdering someone.”

          Well if you buy into the bible, and claim objective morals, then the punishment for each is the same and there would be no difference.

          So in reality there are only two kinds of claimed morals, subjective which we keep pointing out as demonstrable and objective which you keep failing to demonstrate.

          Maybe like with your lack of examples with CS Lewis and Shakespeares Tempest, you really dont understand what objective morals are supposed to be.

        • adam

          ‘It’s seems really wrong, and this sense of wrongness isn’t a subjective feeling or a social trend, like flared trousers.”

          Certainly it is subjective, because everybody has different views on it.

        • MNb

          “this sense of wrongness isn’t a subjective feeling or a social trend”
          I recommend you sticking your nose outside of your American, 21st Century door.

          https://www.google.com/search?q=Picture+pile+of+dead+buffalos&client=opera&hs=o6z&biw=1366&bih=659&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=bQRyVePXJuuIsQShz5vYCg&ved=0CBwQsAQ

          Totally a social trend.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I’m not sure what you mean.

          I didn’t mean to say that the environment, culture, do not have an effect on the way things go.

          Roman world death fights in huge stadiums seem to our age so wrong that it hard to imagine them getting off the ground.

          But also, we know there are all sorts of just as horrible things going on in our world that seem to be quietly condoned.

          But interestingly, although awful things go on, and have gone on for as long as we know about, the sense that these things are actually awful has always been there. The sense of ‘wrongness’ itself is not a social trend, though what people will put up under different circumstances changes.

        • adam

          “But interestingly, although awful things go on, and have gone on for as long as we know about, the sense that these things are actually awful has always been there.”

          Simply not true.

          Most people have no problem with EVERYONE being punished with Original Sin done by someone else.
          Punishing the innocent for the actions of another

          Most bible believing people have no problem with their ‘god’ being disappointed with its creation and committing mass murder of them

          The Cannanites

          Jesus being killed as a sacrifice so that those who are actually guilty excape responsibility…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Adam, it’s bigger than whether ‘Christianity’ is ‘true’.

          To me it seems crazy to believe something because a religion tells you to believe it. And by religion I guess I mean organized religion, which is presuming to have an authority. Something like that. It seems to me it’s a mistake to believe anything because any authority like that said so. It may or may not be true, but having heard it on the BBC, for instance, is not a good reason to believe it.

          I think there is evidence that the terrible things from history that we hear about that seem so alarming today to us felt terrible and alarming to the people alive then.

          But I think you’re right – not to everyone. And not to everyone in the same way.

        • adam

          “I think there is evidence that the terrible things from history that we hear about that seem so alarming today to us felt terrible and alarming to the people alive then.”

          And yet that evidence is absent from your posts…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          For instance, in the Confessions of St Augustine, there is an account of someone not wanting to go to the arena, but then getting into it, and sort of getting addicted to it. But it is clear throughout that his initial revulsion was ‘normal’. A bit like how people feel about bull-fighting perhaps. All sorts of people say how they would never go. They know it’s ‘wrong’ to kill those animals for fun. But they can bend the rules a bit in their heads.

          In history we find accounts of bodies of enemy people being put on spikes and lining the road sides for miles. If this felt in any way deeply ‘normal’ and not shocking to the people around about, why would it have been done?

        • Pofarmer

          “If this felt in any way deeply ‘normal’ and not shocking to the people around about, why would it have been done?”

          To say, “If you resist us, we’ll do this to you.”

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But you get that there is a shock value in it? Because it IS shocking?

        • adam

          Yes, in the same manner many religions create a “Hell”

          ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE.

        • Kodie

          Why would it be shocking? Because people don’t want to die. You seem to think this makes it objective, if humans have awareness of their own mortality, that of course, for advertising purposes, how the human brain can be manipulated and threatened for the purposes of keeping them out of town by the bodies of other dead intruders? For similar reasons, we think if we leave a dead animal carcass or like a bug, the other bugs will “get the message”. So, if your message is to shock humans using their fears against them, sure you can intimidate them easily, but another person would laugh at your attempt because they are confident their army can beat yours. It’s not inherently shocking.

          If you start to think of humans as animals that we are, maybe this “objective” idea is our species behavior, for as large brains as we have, we still get caught up in the illusion, or emotional reaction to popular stimuli. We want to be popular, potato chips don’t advertise to single middle-aged ladies spending another Friday night with her cats. They advertise to popular thin teenagers who have a friend with a convertible, and eat chips all over the car without making any crumbs. Just because we might envision ourselves one way doesn’t make it totally true, it certainly means we are an animal with animal behavior. We want to stay young and carefree and have lots of friends, buy this thing! We want to send a message about what we do to intruders coming into our city, and you seem to think that means they did it because they’re actually tough. They could have dug up graves to make it look like they killed more intruders than they’re capable of. Just to be shocking? Why are you impressed that humans might find the message they might be beheaded if they don’t turn back now, similarly offensive? Are they repulsed or are they fearful, those are two different emotions. If it is “objective” like external to humanity, then humans throughout history would arrive at the same emotion which could not be desensitized. If it is just our animal species common predictable behavior (have you ever in your life watched a fucking documentary about animals? You should, especially if you are confused about morality) that can be overridden by rationality and cultural norms, then how can you use this stupid example? It’s obvious that some people will be shocked, but not for the same reasons centuries later that you would be shocked.

        • Greg G.

          I saw a news article about Vietnam War reenactments in Oregon where veterans of that war and of Iraq interact with people who never went to war. The article featured a soldier from the South Vietnamese Army, too. The veterans are addicted to the thrill.

          I have read about roads being lined with the bodies of the enemy. It was intended to humiliate the enemy and to intimidate other rebels. A few centuries ago, live people were suspended in cages and left there until the decayed. There are reports from even the last century of huge crowds gathering for the entertainment of a public execution. For some cultures to this day, public execution features audience participation. Our revulsion is subjective.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But I don’t see what you mean by saying it is subjective. Do you merely mean that some people can stand to see these atrocities done? You are missing the point.

        • adam

          ” You are missing the point.”

          BECAUSE you are NOT making it..

        • Kodie

          You’re missing the point. Let’s say you are in favor of execution, your morals personally decide that if you take a life, you deserve to be killed by the state, and you like to go witness this being done. Why on earth would you like to watch it? To make sure that it’s being done of course, the process is basically “state v. murderer” and you are state. To ensure the sentence is fulfilled, the state is invited to witness executions, on account the prison executors might abuse its power and execute someone cruelly (which is against the law), or secretly spare someone and sneak him out with a new fake identity. You’re invited to account for the manner in which the execution is performed and that it is actually performed.

          At your first witness to execution, the method was electric chair. Let’s say your objective emotions made you nervous about what it would be like, as you had never seen someone die before. I mean, can you say it’s normal even if you feel like you’re obligated to be there, and that the prisoner deserves it and the state deserves its justice done, that you might not like to watch? You get through it but the hype you made in yourself, you’re not sure what to make of it. You psyched yourself up to watch what you obligated yourself via civic duty to watch, and it was about as difficult but not impossible to watch.

          I made a lot of assumptions so far – that it’s moral to execute someone, that it’s a civic duty to witness it, that you weren’t sure you could stomach doing what you obligated yourself to do, and that you barely could.

          Moving on. Now that you’d seen one, you can think other things – you’re not personally obligated to witness the execution performed; you’re no longer completely convinced that it is moral to execute someone; you are completely convinced, no matter how you felt at the end of the day that it is still moral to execute someone, and you need to take a second look and decide if you’re personally morally obligated to witness on behalf of the state – it’s not like the chairs have nameplates on them or you have to make reservations. So you go watch again.

          So now you’ve mingled with some of the people who were there last time, and it’s sort of a club, like those “weather watchers” on the news who call in the temperature on their backyard thermometer in the suburbs. It wasn’t as shocking (to you!) as you’d seen it before. You’re neither repulsed, nor giddy at the execution, you feel properly sober about the idea. Some of the repeats you met feel like they’re doing their civic duty also. It’s an important appointment to meet, they feel a sense of pride over something so …. weird. You share this pride.

          The state switches to lethal injections. In your head, you think, how much more civil and less cruel than the electric chair. You look forward to the presentation’s updated appearance. In your silent thoughts, you think, “I miss the electric chair, really, you could see that finality. The lethal injection is just not dramatic.”

          I haven’t even talked about the court of public opinion yet! You know, when they trot out these suspects and everyone in town and all over the internet thinks the world requires their personal verdict depending on sensational news clips and editorials? See, if it’s your civic duty to witness executions, it’s also your civic duty to go into court and take a seat, bring a notebook, and watch the whole case. One day, your best friend from high school who was a pretty neat guy was on trial for killing his wife after she cheated on him. He’s found guilty and sentenced to execution by lethal injection.

          You know, you don’t have to go, right? But, you’d have been dismissed from jury duty if called, because you had a bias for your friend, maybe a woman cheated on you once, etc. It would be difficult for you to listen to the facts and be fair. Since you did witness the case anyway, and under no obligation to reach the same verdict as the jury, your opinion of the witnesses called to the stand was probably biased. You can think of many different excuses for your friend. Or you may be disgusted how he turned out, and try to think of anything from high school that foreshadowed the crime, and yeah, come to think of it, his girlfriends in high school did wear a lot of eye makeup, and if you looked closely, did seem like they had bruises you couldn’t quite make out through the eye shadow.

          When you go to that guy’s execution, will you feel different or the same? Do you get a little bit of excitement either way, do you feel nostalgic and wished you kept in touch with your friend and keep him out of trouble? I bet you feel something that’s not the same as witnessing some sensationalized sicko whom you definitely, despite skipping a lot of court cases, agree with the verdict, because the verdict just is. You weren’t there, you don’t know what the facts were, but you felt, up to that point, confident that the system worked, and if they said someone was guilty, your official self-appointed obligation to witness their execution was never wrong, you had no reason to protest a wrongful conviction, etc. The state on your behalf convicted and sentenced someone to death, and you agree in principle without ever having sat in on a court case until your friend was on trial.

          When your friend is executed in front of you, do you think it will have an objective feeling for you or a subjective feeling for you? What makes those objective executions “objective” to you, is it because you didn’t know these people personally, is it because you identify as “objective” with whatever “the state” decides? Or you subjectively feel detached from those people because they are nobody to you, and you are nobody, you are “the state”?

        • Greg G.

          No, that there was a point in time that hanging your dead enemies was an acceptable form of propaganda. Now it is not. If it has changed, it is not objective nor absolute. There may have been reasons for why they did things that don’t occur to us.

          If there are two cars stuck on each of two railroad crossings and the train is going to hit the car with 5 people. Would it be objectively moral to throw the switch to hit the single occupant car? What if one car had two old people and the other had a young medical student? When you play these what-if games, you can adjust them to where there is no clear objective moral choice. How far do you have to slide the scale to reach an objective moral choice?

          What if there was one car with one person, it would seem to be right to throw the switch, unless he was a terrorist driving a bomb to a populated area. How evil would the person have to be before it would be more moral to let the train hit him?

        • MNb

          Are you aware that during Antiquity genocide was a totally normal thing to do – to be expected if a tribe or city refused to surrender? Ie are you ignorant, deluding yourself or dishonest?
          Are you aware that the first abrahamistic religion to formulate laws for war was islam and not christianity?
          Elsewhere you wrote something about “it seems objectively wrong to harm animals”. Are you aware that your big hero Jesus didn’t have any problem with it, given Matth. 8:30-37, Marcus 5:1-20 and Lucas 8:27-38, describing Jesus drowning innocent pigs? No, it doesn’t matter if you take this story as a metaphor. If reflects what Jesus thought about pigs and was unaware how hygienic and intelligent they are.
          Only few apologists have been as effective undermining their own position as you.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Are you aware that this isn’t really about ‘Christianity’. Lewis’s writings on morality go beyond ‘Christianity’.

        • Kodie

          I have a lot of doubts that people who were expecting such a welcome would have filed the emotion under ‘grossed out’. ‘How barbaric of them’ might have come to mind, or ‘how tough’. I don’t assume they had similar feelings about it to our modern sensibilities. They had their own cultural ideas around what was to be expected, in general, death was closer to them anyway, and they’re familiar with what that looks like. How dispassionate about killing animals some people are compared to others, and depending on which animals. Companion animals like a dog might be off-limits but a wolf, not, or like having to “sacrifice” a lot of cats to go into a pharaoh’s tomb or whatever. They make it a lot like “it needs to be done” and they don’t get all squeamish about doing it. Or you assume they had to suppress some natural squeamishness to be ok with it? I don’t know, maybe. We’re rather shocked as a culture about abuses against a dead body, like there’s still some dignity left in there that needs to be treated reverently. People choose not only to be cremated but to be sprinkled somewhere particular. Is this rational? It may be natural or cultural, but is it rational?

        • Kodie

          I think people who read the atrocities dealt by their god in the bible are desensitized to it from the leaders of their church. Sick fucks who defend slavery, for example. I get the totally human utility of enslaving people and dehumanizing them, but their god has instructed them how to have slaves, and that is the only confusing part. It’s historically very human to treat other people like they don’t matter, and it’s hypocritical of Christians, for example, to cry about every sperm, and then withhold their compassion for children living in poverty. It’s hypocritical for them to judge women, real humans, especially if they think that’s god’s job. Anti-abortion is just such an irrational opinion. It’s not the same as slavery or the holocaust. These are people who say things like “meat is murder, yummy yummy murder” and get offended when someone tries to compare eating meat to a holocaust, like how dare you afflict my delicate senses about such a serious matter over something so trivial to the balance as a delicious steak or a bucket of chicken wings, and then turn around use “political correctness” like an epithet because those filthy liberals are the sensitive ones.

          Give me a fucking break. They get offended and provoked about their precious imaginary friend’s opinions, and lack empathy for others and justify using all sorts of insensitive language because the world and reality is all asking them to change how they think about other people a little bit, and they’re proud to be so thoughtless. I’m saying this because this is where objective morality leads – an unchanging, bullying standard that doesn’t consider new information valid at all. It doesn’t consider what’s actually right, it just considers what used to be right as set in stone. They’re hypocritical crybabies.

        • adam

          “What the writer of the article seems to miss is that this feeling that it ‘wrong’ to hurt people is not subjective”

          You seem to miss is a demonstration that this ‘feeling’ exists anywhere outside the human brain.

          Here is a demonstration that it ONLY exists in the brain…

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage

        • What the writer of the article seems to miss is that this feeling that it ‘wrong’ to hurt people is not subjective.

          What is it then? Take a contentious moral issue–abortion, say–and show that it’s (1) objective and (2) that humans can reliably access this objective morality.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You mean you want me to show that it is wrong to kill those unborn babies, even if they are very young? Do we have to take a contentious moral issue? What about murdering someone for profit instead? I’m not sure how one would show that it was wrong. Lewis’s appendix on the golden law is certainly a way in which one might attempt such a thing.

        • Kodie

          In which you once again evade the question being asked.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          How has the question been evaded? I just suggested not talking about abortion, because I fear it will just muddy the waters. I don’t think it’s necessary to bring abortion in here, do you?

        • Kodie

          Take a contentious moral issue.
          Show that it’s objective.
          Show that humans can reliably access this objective morality.

          Those were the only directions. You complained about the example Bob suggested instead, and you avoided answering THE ONLY FUCKING QUESTION.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I addressed the question. I said I don’t know how you could show this, but CS Lewis’s appendix was certainly one way you could try.

          But it seems very odd to me that anyone can really believe what Bob seems to suggest.

          Is abortion a contentious issue or not? Bob said it was. Is it just a subjective thing or is it really contentious? And the problem is what do we mean by ‘really’.

          The best treatment of this problem I have seen is CS Lewis’s the abolition of man. He takes a hundred or so pages in his attempt ‘to show’ that morality is objective.

          I don’t think Bob expected me to do it in a comment. But maybe he did, cos he seemed to think a dictionary definition conclusive evidence to counter CS Lewis.

        • Kodie

          You didn’t address the question. You fondled it gingerly and put it down. Bob gave you one suggestion, you didn’t have to take it, and you didn’t have to ask him permission to choose another one. You started to pick up another one of your own choice, but you left it lying there, unaddressed as well.

          That is evading. Yes, since you brought it up, we all expect you to put some effort into explaining what you mean, and if all you mean is read a book (which you rudely suggested in all caps to do instead of buck up and articulate in a few paragraphs), then no. You have not added content, and we find your input quite worthless.

        • adam

          “He takes a hundred or so pages in his attempt ‘to show’ that morality is objective.”

          And he obviously FAILED

          And he obviously failed HORRIBLY since you dont understand what his points were.

        • MR

          That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? JRD makes a bid deal that Lewis takes a hundred pages or so, not “to show”, mind you, but “in his attempt to show,” objective morality, and JRD can’t even give a single, tantalizing morsel. What is the point of engaging him, again?

        • MR

          And then I turn around and engage him, d’oh! I keep hoping, though… 😉

        • adam

          I see what he does as a tactic that I have observed on another Pathos site they claim it is Socratic in effect.

          For me, engaging him is two-fold,

          to learn more about this tactic, which doesnt seem effective to me at all, and not engaging enough to be Socratic. Look at the example on JRD and his ‘book’ not nearly engaging enough for anything more that a cursory wiki read.

          So it leads me to believe this is just a partially ‘scripted’ set of “robo calls” and JRD really doesnt know what CS Lewis has to say, and apparently doesnt CARE either.

          A veiled ‘witnessing’ to atheists by people who cant defend their position honestly.

          and the other is as MNb might say ‘entertainment value’, watching them trip over themselves in their own dishonesty.

        • MR

          So it leads me to believe this is just a partially ‘scripted’ set of “robo calls” and JRD really doesnt know what CS Lewis has to say, and apparently doesnt CARE either.

          Oh, I love the robo-call description!

          Yeah, the dishonest tactics are what pushed me out of Christianity in the first place. As Christians we supposedly had the moral high ground, but I found that we average Christians were quite happy to spread misinformation and lies for political and other reasons. Then I discovered Christian leaders were quite happy to spread misinformation and lies about science and other things in order to protect themselves from critique. Then the final step was to read the Bible without blinders. People like JRD remind me of why I left all the time.

          I have no doubt JRD doesn’t care about what either C.S. Lewis or science says. I think his point is to cause confusion and muddling on an atheist site. He thinks it works because that kind of argument works for the kind of person who is just looking to validate their beliefs, which it’s pretty obvious that is what he is doing. But for the person who is truly questioning, and I’ve been there and know what it’s like, it’s clear that religion doesn’t have the answers and can only work at damage control.

          Science is just trying to understand the world around us and is actually making discoveries that have real benefit for man. All religion can do is complain loudly and pitch roadblocks. Show me a theist who can show modern research that provides evidence for objective morality. Ha! And yet, even this idiot (me) can come up with examples of subjective morality just from my daily life.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          It’s not either or, you know.

          Bertrand Russel said he was agnostic, I think to be consistent, because he couldn’t prove that God didn’t exist, so would not call himself an atheist.

          CS Lewis wrote about doubts – that there was nothing there, that Christ was not the messiah.

          Scientists are forever at pains to stress the limits of science.

          And while you can think of examples of subjective morality from every day life with ease – doesn’t this in itself suggest that behind this bending of morals – there is an immutable objective morality? (By which CS Lewis does not mean the literal text of the Bible etc)

        • Greg G.

          And while you can think of examples of subjective morality from every day life with ease – doesn’t this in itself suggest that behind this bending of morals – there is an immutable objective morality? 

          No, it suggests that morality is subjective. Scott_in_OH makes the point discussing conscience in the recent Kreeft article:

          The differences in consciences are bigger than the apologists suggest. Even on the question of murder, different people, different cultures, and different religions give different interpretations. Can you kill if someone attacks you? If someone dishonors you? If someone rapes your sister? If a black man looks at a white woman? If your wife has an affair? If someone draws a picture of Mohammed? Conscience is emphatically not universal.

          The Bible says “Thou shalt not kill” but requires killing people for picking up sticks on one day of the week while it is a normal activity for any other day. That shows that homicide has been subjective for centuries.

          If the universe was nothing but stars and barren planets, there would be no morality, subjective or otherwise. Add one being, and still no morality. Add enough beings with a will to live so that they begin to understand the meaning of death and their own mortality, then they might decide to not kill one another. But other factors might override that decision because it is not absolute.

          Consider a universe with one immortal being and one or more mortals. There could not be a moral injunction against the mortal killing the immortal but there could be one the other way. If it was absolutely immoral to kill, it would be immoral for the immortal to do it. If the immortal could kill mortals, it would be a relative morality.

          If there is a Creator who defines morality, why not make immoral activities impossible? Why make possible things immoral? If masturbation is immoral, why not make it as unfulfilling as tickling oneself? It could still be possible to reproduce by having orgasms only in moral ways. Perhaps traveling fast is absolutely moral but traveling at light speed is absolutely immoral. If murder was absolutely immoral, we would be box turtles.

          So our moralities are related to our vulnerabilities. Our vulnerabilities are related to our needs. Our needs are relative to the characteristics of our species. Our moralities are related to our present conditions and limitations, not to the mandates of the universe.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          It isn’t a question of adding beings to the universe. The universe becomes beings. We are the universe aware of itself, and that awareness includes an awareness of morality. This morality is a part of the universe, like light, like gravity.

          I agree that our actions what we allow to be acceptable are not constant. But this does not seem proof to me that behind it all there is not some constant moral law.

        • Greg G.

          Sharks are a part of the universe that are also aware. Their morality is different than any human’s and much simpler. Social creatures will have a different morality from a social ones. If there was an absolute morality, it would be common for all and not be subject to the various lifestyles and survival strategies.

        • Kodie

          I like to repeat what I’ve said before: if you are alive, at least part of the universe acknowledges your existence, and might even love you.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Same and different, it seems to me, cause a lot of troubles.

          I would argue that while it is true about all life being part of the universe, something happened with human beings that was new. Thought was born. I don’t think it is meaningful to compare sharks with humans when we are talking about morality. It is like talking about human ability to breathe through gill slits.

        • Kodie

          You’re biased. What’s so different about thought that it entails all that baggage you find so settling to saddle it with? The reality is you’re overwhelmed by thought and bored enough to imagine all this extra stuff that it’s distracted you.

        • Greg G.

          Then gorillas. A child fell into a gorilla exhibit in Chicago. One female gently picked up the child and carried him to the access door, then kept the other curious gorillas away.

          Koko the gorilla and several chimps were taught sign language and could communicate. When told to put pictures of apes in one pile and pictures of humans in the other, she insisted her picture belonged in the human pile. Koko often sign about the pet kitten she had several years before.

          One chimp picked up sign language but preferred to sign with chimps rather than humans. Then a new student began to work and that chimp was fascinated. Her brother was deaf so she was more fluent in sign. That chimp thought the other keepers were boring.

          Have you ever noticed that human brains are bigger relative to body mass than any other species. The fossil record shows a gradual increase over a long period. It took a million years to evolve an extra 200 cc of brain volume. Then 250,000 years ago, both H. sapiens and H. neanderthal added 250 cc in 200,000 years. Since the Neanderthals went extinct, our species’ brain capacity has decreased.

          We are better at some mental skills than chimps but they have been shown to be better at some activities.

          So our brains are better at speech and tools. But we still make mistakes simply because we are working with modified monkey brains.

          But you seem to be resorting to specism. We think that thinking is most important. We think our moral choices are better. Horses think running is better. Dolphins would think swimming is more important.

        • Kodie

          Morality exists in the universe like your neighbor’s dog’s pile of steaming shit also exists in the universe, or a tire fire on the outskirts of town. Everything that exists has nowhere else to be.

        • MR

          That’s funny. I was going to give a pile of steaming dog shit as an example in a comment to Adam, since he likes him some Platonic Forms so much. If there is some form of perfect love or perfect morality or perfect human being or some platonic “dog form” out there, then there must also be some perfect, objective “steaming pile of dog shit” form out there, too.

        • MR

          And while you can think of examples of subjective morality from every day life with ease – doesn’t this in itself suggest that behind this bending of morals – there is an immutable objective morality?

          No, it doesn’t. It suggests the exact opposite. Social evolution is sufficient to explain morality. I don’t need to invent gremlins in my gas tank to understand how my car runs. I get it, people need their fantasies, but I’d be a fool to believe something just because someone says: “It could happen!” I’d end up believing a lot of shit.

          But, you believe. You must have some powerful evidence. Tell me why.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Well, no joke, perhaps because I read it again so recently at the end of Bob’s article, that little quote from CS Lewis sums it up. Just look at this universe, and us, and everything. This is why I believe in, for instance, a morality that is part of the universe, like light.

        • MR

          I see light throughout the universe, where else do you see morality?

        • MR

          Follow up: Visited a mountain-top 60-inch telescope last night. Got to see Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, globular clusters, planetary nebula and a double star system. No sign of objective morality, though.

        • Greg G.

          I see the light of the sun and I see many disparate forms of morality from different minds. It’s like you are arguing for an Absolute Morality of the Gaps.

        • Kodie

          That’s where you get your head stuck up your metaphorical ass.

        • adam

          “And while you can think of examples of subjective morality from every
          day life with ease – doesn’t this in itself suggest that behind this
          bending of morals – there is an immutable objective morality?”

          No, it suggests the power of human IMAGINATION..

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You do know I can read this?

        • adam

          I dont even PRETEND to be as idiotic as you act.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Did you think about this sentence much before you typed it in?

        • adam

          Yes, I dont even PRETEND to be as idiotic as you act.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Well that just makes it worse then.

        • adam

          “You mean you want me to show that it is wrong to kill those unborn babies, even if they are very young? ”

          Sure, why not?

        • The division within Christianity on contentious moral issues makes quick work of the claim that morality is (1) objective and (2) this objective morality is reliably accessible by humans. Instead of savoring an idea that might be appealing but is wrong, I’d like to address it head on and resolve it.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Bob, according to you anyone wondering if abortion was ok could just look it up in the dictionary and see if the dictionary defines it as a bad thing.

          CS Lewis argues that the mystics are right. There is an objective reality, but we cannot reduce it to words. It is what the Tao Te Ching has to say.

          Now, even if it is not reliably accessible in a way that perhaps the rules to Scrabble are, or codes governing fishing rights on a certain stretch of river, this isn’t necessarily a problem – not a reason to deny the existence of the code, or to think it cannot be in a sense ‘reliably’ accessed.

          It seems we have an instinctive sense of it.

          You argued, I know, that this is a mere accidental and ultimately meaningless consequence of our having evolved. But again, this is not a matter to be resolved by looking in a dictionary, so I wonder how you ever arrived at such a conclusion.

        • Greg G.

          Even if there is an objective reality, there is no way to know it. If it cannot be reduced to anything like communication, nobody can know if they have a common morality, let alone an objective one. We are still left with subjective interpretations of it. All we can do is build a society around our common values.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But I’m thinking our common values actually are what we can know about that objective reality.

          It’s just that Greg. I’ve got no more to say. But I think it very important that we acknowledge that it is an objective reality.

        • “Objective” in the sense that we can all consider the evidence and agree? Yes. But not in the sense of some external grounding or morality that would be true whether or not humans were here.

          Or moral sense comes in large part from our programming.

        • according to you anyone wondering if abortion was ok could just look it up in the dictionary and see if the dictionary defines it as a bad thing.

          Nice zinger! I’m kidding, of course. Dictionaries don’t talk about the rightness/wrongness of something. Whether objective grounding is part of the definition of “morality,” on the other hand is precisely what a dictionary can do for you.

          It is what the Tao Te Ching has to say.

          I must’ve read a dozen translations of the Tao Te Ching, but that was a while ago. I don’t remember anything about objective morality. If there’s anything that strengthens your argument that it exists, summarize it.

          even if it is not reliably accessible in a way that perhaps the rules to Scrabble are, or codes governing fishing rights on a certain stretch of river, this isn’t necessarily a problem – not a reason to deny the existence of the code, or to think it cannot be in a sense ‘reliably’ accessed.

          You have two difficult problems. First, whether objective reality exists or not. If it’s not reliably accessible, we could easily be deluding ourselves when we imagine an objective morality. We are simply unreliable witnesses, and we’d be fools to believe our own feelings unskeptically.

          Second, without a reliable way to access it, the argument devolves to be like “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” What difference does it make whether it’s 10 angels or 100? And what difference does it make if morality truly is grounded outside humanity if the door to that truth is locked?

          It seems we have an instinctive sense of it.

          Is this morality universally true, or do humans universally share a common sense of morality?

          You argued, I know, that this is a mere accidental and ultimately meaningless consequence of our having evolved. But again, this is not a matter to be resolved by looking in a dictionary, so I wonder how you ever arrived at such a conclusion.

          What is your problem here? Do you really not get it? Or is it simply an inability to say, “Yeah, good point”?

          Webster’s gives “a doctrine or system of moral conduct” as a definition of “morality.” None of the definitions even suggest that objective grounding is an inherent part of morality. Where this trips up some apologists is when they say something stupid like “atheists have no morality.” Look in the dictionary—they do.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You do not have a good point about the dictionary proving anything beyond how people use words. If you had a good point I would say so, if you like people to do that sort of thing.

          But I already said this.

          The thing about the Tao is that, like the objective moral code, you cannot say what it is. The Tao, in fact, is the moral code.

        • adam

          ” The Tao, in fact, is the moral code.”

          Like with EVERY other CLAIM you’ve made, you look IDiotic without demonstrating it.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Do you want me to demonstrate to you that CS Lewis equates the The Tao with objective reality? You can just pop that into google for yourself.

          Do you want me to demonstrate for you that CS Lewis is correct about this? Do you need someone to read everything for you and explain it you?

        • adam

          ” The Tao, in fact, is the moral code.”

          Like with EVERY other CLAIM you’ve made, you look IDiotic without demonstrating it.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Again, a curious sentence. I presume you did think about this one a bit because you capitalized certain words.

        • Kodie

          You’ve obligated your tedious self to the task by bringing it up and continuing to use words you don’t articulate to stand in for a valid argument you desperately wish others to receive.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Excellent sentence Kodie! It’s like off the bit in Ulysses, when it all goes nuts.

        • You do not have a good point about the dictionary proving anything beyond how people use words.

          Right! I’ve been pushing back against anyone who imagines that we’re bound by the definition of “morality” to think that it’s objectively grounded. You seem to be saying that this is not that big a deal and rather obvious. Again, I agree. It’s hard to see why anyone would be tempted otherwise.

          It’s good that we’re on the same page now.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I have no idea what page you are on. You are now saying you have been pushing back against anyone who imagines that we’re bound by the definition of “morality”. But you are claiming you are bound by the dictionary definition of “morality”.

          Perhaps you are bound by your arbitrary idea that morality is arbitrary.

          In any case, we are not on the same page.

        • If your goal was to chase your tail so that I’m disgusted with the conversation, you’ve succeeded.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          My intention was to point out that you had written an article that was flawed. And I do feel like I have succeeded.

        • Kodie

          You have already pointed out what your opinion about it was, and you succeeded in expressing your opinion. Why are you still here if you can’t articulate any arguments to support your opinion?

        • MNb

          “What silly questions?”
          The ones you asked in your previous comment.

          “the fact that the feeling is mentalistic it must be subjective.”
          I didn’t write that. You put dishonestly a non-sequitur in my mouth. I argue that the feeling depends on the subject. That’s what subjective means. Some people feel empathy when they see someone else suffer. Some don’t.

          “Warmth and light are arguably mentalistic events”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Warmth (better: heat) and light are well defined quantifiable physical concepts. That’s a very funny false analogy you bring up here. Does it come from CSL? That would be even funnier.

          “As evidence for this he adds at the end of his book a very long collection of extracts from spiritual texts written around the world at different times and within myriad different cultures yet all saying essentially the same thing.”

          That’s evidence for common descent, something nobody here ever denied ……

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I don’t think we’re using our terms very precisely. All human experience is a mental event. This is what I mean by mentalistic. And ultimately all any one of us will ever know about human experience is in our own minds. All of it is in a sense created within our individual minds.

          By subjective I mean like when Shakespeare says, ‘there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so’. And ‘Man is the measure of all things’. This sort of thing. That each person’s opinion is ultimately of equal value, and there is no way to determine which value judgements are correct. That there is no way single objective scale against which to measure anything, to find the ‘truth’ about it.

          But it seems to me that this not the case with morality, and a great many other things. By saying morality is objective I am saying that each person’s opinion is not of equal value, and that there is in a sense some objective scale against which things can measured. Plato puts it, ‘God is the measure of all things’.

        • Kodie

          By saying you feel, or, it seems like, morality is objective, and whatever sense you feel some objective scale against which it can be measured, you’re still just repeating what you said earlier without adding anything to the conversation. So what, you feel this way. Demonstrate it somehow.

          Otherwise, accept that this just may be an illusion and not real.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I think one has to accept that one cannot be certain about anything. And often I think the only honest way we have to describe the world is to say, it seems like, it feels like, because we cannot have certainty.

          But it seems to me that it is wrong to kill someone. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios where we can challenge this, but always I feel it would be wrong.

          This is not subjective in the sense of what people might think about Damien Hurst’s sliced in half shark is subjective.

        • adam

          “But it seems to me that it is wrong to kill someone.”

          Good for you for having better morals that the bible god.

        • Kodie

          I agree there are “feelings,” but we have to take into account that our feelings of what is true and what is actually true could be two different things, especially when you can’t ever know and have no way of accessing what you want to be true in order to prove it or demonstrate it to other people. On the other hand, can you admit you might be wrong about it? Can you admit if there is no way to access it and expose it as a reality, that your feelings might be misleading and not based on anything real?

          Is murder wrong? Let’s say yeah. Without any aggravating circumstances to consider, murdering another human being is wrong, because someone will be hurt. But the issue becomes all kinds of subjective when we do consider the circumstances, such as:

          Is this really a person?

          Is this person trying to kill me right now?
          Is letting someone die the same thing as killing them?
          Is a preventable accident the same thing as murder?

          Are we at war?

          Has this person chosen to die under strictly legal definitions and qualifications as being allowed make that choice for themselves?
          Is killing an animal as bad as killing a person?

          Life is complex, and I can understand the desire for some order to make it make more sense, but personal and cultural and familial values factor into an equation when there is an actual circumstance in front of you – you have to decide what to do. Sometimes, the decision is very easy, i.e. don’t murder this person. Just because you hate people, maybe, you find it rather easy to remember not to hit the gas pedal into a crowd of pedestrians that decided to cross as soon as you have the green light you’ve been waiting for for a minute and a half. Just because you’re a selfish idiot who texts while driving doesn’t make it “ok” when you accidentally rear-end a minivan full of Duggars, even if it killed Josh, and his friends O.J. Simpson and Roman Polanski.

          Morals help us navigate specific situations, but don’t always tell us the right way out. You kind of have to be there, and use your best judgment, and with help from the judgment of a jury of your peers if necessary. If you use your “intuitive” objective morality, you’re likely to err on the side of endangering yourself or others needlessly, like, say, don’t murder someone, no matter what – what if you were camping with your family, and you believe a bear has the right to live, and he’s not doing anything immoral for bears to do, he’s just mauling your family…. I mean, why is saving your family “objectively moral” or not letting god kill your family on his time, per se, with a bear while you’re camping. How do you come to the necessarily quick decision that it is ok to kill a bear in that situation, or do you stick to your objective morality and let the bear do its thing?

          If you think “murder” is never ok, you might lack compassion for people who are suffering with a terminal disease who ask to die. You can interfere with god to save your family from a bear, but you can’t interfere with god to give peace and dignity to a person dying of cancer. You’ve made your so-called “objective” decision already so you don’t have to consider situations again in the future, and you get on your high horse of “morality” telling people they don’t have the right to die when they want. These are just examples of difficult situations for the individuals involved that don’t need your input. Obviously, if someone is at peace with dying, what do you gain by interfering, or labeling someone who has committed suicide a “coward”? Since life is complex, and people like you crave simplicity, if you can’t understand mental illness because you don’t have one, what is your necessary role in judging someone’s life “worth it” or not? Cowards like Christians don’t seem to take responsibility for driving a gay teenager or trans teenager to suicide by bullying them, and then turn around and label them. It’s their “objective morality” that tells them there’s nothing wrong with speaking their mind and hassling someone about who they are (I think with some misguided intention of “hating their sin” so they’ll change into a straight person and fit in?), and then blame that person for being too weak to adapt to the social (NOT GOD*) expectations of them?

          *I want to bring up “god” because I am an atheist, and so much junk about complaining about something that doesn’t exist. People who believe god has the ultimate judgment often take these matters into their own hands, here and now. People who don’t fit into the narrow religious “objective” morality are bullied until they fuck off or fit in, both of which contribute to their personal misery. In “objective” morality, personal misery is one of those “subjective” effects of choosing your own morality. Do people really get punished in hell? No, they get punished on earth by religious people. If you’re going to get stuck on objective morality, you have to know where it leads; it leads to a place of immoral assholery in order to force people to conform, and the subjective rationalization that forcing people to fit into your ideals, any way you can, is absolutely ok.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Did you have some very unpleasant experiences with organised religion? This really is the first time I’ve been on this site, and am just sticking around for a bit out of interest. It is starting to seem to me that maybe a few people posting here who seem so angry might have had experiences like that.

          Regarding the cases where we try to imagine a situation where it would be ok to murder someone. This kind of thought experiment is interesting, but it seems to me that we are merely showing exceptions that prove the rule, in the sense that they prove there is in general a rule, and it’s only exceptional cases in which the rule seems not to apply. We are not showing that there is no rule.

        • MNb

          “maybe a few people posting here who seem so angry might have had experiences like that.”
          Not me. I only have pleasant experiences with organized religion, whether christian, jewish, islamic, buddhist or hindu (yup, we have them all in the country where I live).

          “we are merely showing exceptions that prove the rule”
          If those exceptions depend on the circumstances as they usually do and those circumstances are man made as history provides plenty of examples of then the rule is subjective – depending on the subjects that hold it.

          “We are not showing that there is no rule.”
          No. But that’s not the point. Subjective moralists like me are totally fine with formulating rules. No rule or objective rule is a false dichotomy.
          Do you think I, as a teacher math and physics, can get by without? I just recognize that they are subjective. In classroom they depend on me, what I want, what my goals are and as I try to be flexible, also on my pupils.
          Once again you have nicely argued against your own position.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I don’t know what you’re on about really.

          So, these subjective moral rules, do you mean people just choose for themselves what is right and wrong totally?

          I think we could say that people have a subjective response to an objective moral law.

        • MNb

          “I don’t know what you’re on about really.”
          I explain you how subjective ethics work. I find it quite amazing that objectivists aren’t capable of getting it and argue against subjectivism by assuming objectivism and hence provide arguments that simply don’t apply. Like this one:

          “we are merely showing exceptions that prove the rule”
          For some reason you seem to think that this is a problem for subjectivists, while it totally isn’t, as I tried to show you.

          “these subjective moral rules, do you mean people just choose for themselves what is right and wrong totally?”
          If you imply that those people influence each other in all kind of ways, yes.

          “we could say that people have a subjective response to an objective moral law.”
          You can say anything you like. That doesn’t make it coherent, consistent or conforming reality. Thus far you haven’t made a case at all that there is an objective moral law indeed. Frankly Daniel Fincke with his empowerment ethics has done a much better job in this respect.
          For instance this quote of yours raises the immediate question: if people repond subjecitvely to that objective moral law, how do they have access to it? If they can’t, why bother?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I still don’t know what you’re on about.

          People respond subjectively to light. Are you also implying that you are wondering how it is that people access light?

          I think I’ve been coherent enough. The case that there is an objective moral law was very nicely made by CS Lewis. It says all that same things I’m saying, but goes into more depth.

          Bob wrote the article we are commenting on not having read that book. If you are really interested in this, and I believe you are, I certainly am, I cannot recommend that book enough. Someone put a link to a free online version at the top of the article comments.

        • Greg G.

          I liked being religious until I realized how absurd the teachings were. I left for intellectual reasons but was reluctant to leave for emotional reasons. I am so glad I did though.

        • Kodie

          I have a problem with anyone treating their fantasies to live out real life against other people in our society. That means, if you think homosexuality is not ok, why should you feel comfortable harassing someone until they commit suicide? Isn’t that more a failing in you to accept differences? If god is real and truly does have a problem with that person, why would he not interfere himself? Yes, organized religion, or really any group, often has the effect of giving confidence to one’s opinion and the support to motivate that person to act against another person. Where is god? All I see are people acting like assholes because their invisible friend gives them the permission via a mob of other people. If homosexuality were “an abomination against god,” why do people act as though it were interfering in their own existence in any way that they are compelled to act?

          Do you understand the equation? If I’m offending god, let god defend himself. It’s like, if I live next door to you, and decide to listen inside my house to heavy metal with my headphones, I’m not doing anything to you, so if you think heavy metal is terrible, I’m not affecting your opinion of it, nor am I causing you to suffer from listening to it. Smashing my door in and taking a sledge hammer to my stereo system is poor sportsmanship. Everything I’m doing is legal and consensual for all parties involved, but you (the religious) feel compelled to do something violent to counteract my music preferences.

          Other than that, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There are exceptions to murder because sometimes murder is ok. You have to adjust what’s right and what’s wrong to available circumstances, and the circumstances, the outcomes, the consequences of injury, are the factors that matter. The rule can’t be a rule without circumstances. If someone is harmed, then the action is wrong, but then that can get silly. The bear will be harmed, is that bear someone with a family? Is your own family objectively better than the bear and his family? No, it’s subjectively better, because you are the factor, it’s your family.

        • Greg G.

          Killing a close relative for trivial reasons makes no sense. You should read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I like that book. I like all Dawkins books, but I think he is better on evolution than philosophy.

        • Why would the dictionary be helpful in that way? My point was that it was helpful to point out to the boneheads who think morality is objectively based to look it up in the dictionary. That should cure them of the habit pretty quickly.

      • SpeltMan
        • adam

          Come back when you can actually demonstrate what I posted IS a fallacy.

          After all, it is a QUOTE right out of the bible.

        • SpeltMan
        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Bob attempted to use the dictionary to show that morality was not objective.

          You commented, ‘are you really trying to learn about morality by looking at the Bible?’ This is a fallacy because that suggestion was never made. Indeed, to do so would be a mistake along the lines of Bob’s.

          Also, one of things about Christianity is that overtly breaks from the tone of the Old Testament. So this also seems a bit like a fallacy.

        • Kodie

          Bob used the dictionary to show you that objective morality is not in there. You brought it up, you have to demonstrate it.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          This is the point Kodie. How is it that the dictionary is the final arbiter in all this? The answer to whether CS Lewis was right or wrong about morality is not going to be found in the dictionary. One often does not find the word ‘carfax’ in the dictionary, but this does not mean there are none in our world.

        • adam

          “The answer to whether CS Lewis was right or wrong about morality is not going to be found in the dictionary.”

          How do you know since you admit you dont understand his book?

        • Kodie

          You’re mischaracterizing Bob’s remark, “The definition of “morality” (or “right” or “wrong”) doesn’t require any sense of objective grounding or absoluteness.”

          Show us this fantasy you’ve convinced yourself isn’t just wishful thinking, and we’ll finally get started. What I understand is that humans find it hard to believe justice doesn’t exist, that balance doesn’t exist. If you’re good, your parents reward you, and if you’re bad they punish you. But the world doesn’t work exactly like that, either. What your parents say is bad is not what the neighbors say is bad. What you want is for there to be some ultimate final reference of what’s good and what’s bad, and forget thinking about it. People who believe the bible is this ultimate objective morality, for example, don’t test their feelings about whether something is wrong or right. If the bible says it’s wrong, they have no problem judging others, they have no problem considering an alternate valid point of view. And if they feel good about something because it’s in the bible, then they don’t need to feel bad about it because the morality of the bible turned them into an obedient and uncaring monster, right?

          That’s what obedience to an objective morality will do for you. You want to win an argument, you want to do what’s right according to someone else, and you want 100% certainty that how you behave at all times is according to this code, no confusions, no dilemmas, nobody trying to change your mind and see things their way. Is that what you want? To refer to the inanimate list of objective morals, that if a person is hurt by your actions, it really isn’t your fault? Because objective morality just seems like a lazy way to rationalize all your behavior and blame others for being human and having a different reaction. Is it moral to share your wealth with the poor? Is it more moral to share a lot once at Christmas time, or share a little bit at a time over the year? Is something like that on your list? Because people feel good about giving at Christmas time, and charities have to work hard to milk it, because donations drop off the rest of the year, and they have to ration it out. When is the longest you’ve been hungry?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          One of the mistakes you are making is, I think, that when CS Lewis says morality is not subjective, but objective, he most certainly does not mean that the text of the Bible IS that objective morality. CS Lewis was not a ‘Christian Fundamentalist’. I know there are some people who appear to believe the Bible is an objective moral code, rules to be followed unquestioningly, as you say. This, however, is not CS Lewis. Rather it is the moral code that informed the Bible that is the objective reality – the light behind the sun. This seemingly universal, unbiquitous, ubichronic (!) human sense of things being right and wrong.

          When Bob says he draws his conclusions about things from the dictionary says, it seems to me he is making the same mistake as the one you were complaining about.

        • Kodie

          I didn’t say you said or CS Lewis said that the bible was that objective morality. I am merely demonstrating what believing in the sense of an objective morality would lead. You are in denial. Bob said the use of the word or concept of morality is not tied to any objectivity. That’s where it’s your fantasy that you construed because of your faulty human senses gullibly consuming a book without digesting it. The dictionary is just a book, so is CS Lewis’s book just a book. Some dope made up a convincing argument that you can’t articulate, you lose.

    • The dictionary is useful to verify the claims of some people that morality is defined as being objective. It’s not.

      • James Raskalinikov Dean

        How on earth does a dictionary verify anything? Which dictionary did you look in? How have the writers of the dictionary reached their decision? Surely they know it is not the business of dictionary writers to decide if morality is, as CS Lewis says it is, not an arbitrary subjective thing.

        • Kodie

          The dictionary is not in the business of portraying your religious views on morality. Meanwhile, you’re doing a terrible job adding to the discussion.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You’re right about dictionaries. They are in the business of recording how words are used.

          What would you know about bringing value to a discussion? You don’t seem to understand that it’s not the done thing to swear at and insult people.

        • Kodie

          There’s nothing much to talk about except how evasive, dishonest, and hypocritical you are. You don’t have to swear at people to be considered hostile.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You’re right!

        • Greg G.

          Effective communication requires that each understands the meanings attached to the words. Otherwise you talk past each other.

        • Huh?? When you say that morality is objectively grounded and the dictionary says makes no reference to objective grounding, then you’re wrong. You’ve invented a different definition for the word. You do understand how definitions, the dictionary, and all that work, right?

          If you want to shake things up a bit and define “morality” differently than the rest of us, I suppose you could do that, but that conversation becomes confusing as we must remember to use James’s special dictionary as appropriate.

          My suggestion: let’s just use words as they’re defined.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You really do misunderstand what dictionaries are.
          And you don’t seem to understand CS Lewis’s point about morality not being subjective.

          My suggesting: lets keep in mind that dictionaries merely attempt to record how words are used. They do not make proclamations about philosophical matters.

        • And now we’re going in circles.

          When some agenda-driven idiot says that “morality” means something that’s objectively grounded, you can point them to the definition to show them how wrong they are. That’s the point of the dictionary.

          If someone says that objective morality exists, that’s fine, but keep in mind that that’s a qualified version of the morality defined in the dictionary.

  • Eric Thorson

    As eloquently argued as this post might be, I cannot imagine a social world built on its premise. Show me, indeed.

  • SeraphicFather

    It’s curious how the author gets it right and CS Lewis gets it wrong if there are no ‘real’ right and wrong!

    • Kodie

      Boring.

      • SeraphicFather

        you’re right…

        • Kodie

          Couldn’t you think of anything interesting to say?

    • MNb

      It’s curious but not surprising how your joke is build on silly ambiguity.

    • Where’s the contradiction? I got it right even though there’s no “real” right. Right and “real” right are two different things.

      Show me that “real” right (presumably, objective morality) exists and we can discuss further.

      • James Raskalinikov Dean

        But bob, how can your right have any real meaning?

        Is it like this?

        we can say, here is a sum – 3+4 = ? We do the sum, and we say the answer is 7 – and we get it right – objectively right. This is “real” right. I think you mean this.

        But then we can say, lets look at all the numerals and say which is the nicest one: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 – and then someone says, 7, I think 7 is the best one. And now we can’t say that this is “real” right.

        According to you, your being right about CS Lewis being wrong about morality is like the second type of right. I think this is what you mean.

        • Step 1: show that objective morality exists. Seems obvious to me that it doesn’t. But you claim it does. Fair enough–show me.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          This doesn’t really follow on from what I said…

          But anyway, someone put a link to The Abolition of Man. This is best argument that morality is objective. I think you really should have read this before writing an article on why CS Lewis is wrong about morality.

          Maybe you hadn’t heard of it – it’s not that well known.

        • You talked about objectivity in math. There may well be objectivity in math. We should talk instead about objectivity in morality–that’s what I’m having trouble seeing.

          Thanks for the tip about Lewis’s Abolition of Man. Could you summarize his argument for objective morality for us?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I have done in other comments, but I’ll do it again.

          However, there really is nothing like the original. It really is a classic.

          Basically he argues that people sometimes seem to suggest is an arbitrary subjective morality is actually an objective morality. As a suggestion to a way one might scientifically establish this beyond his own reasoning, he includes an appendix of extracts from sacred texts and stuff like that from all history and shows that an underlying law seems to permeate.

        • MNb

          “people sometimes seem to suggest is an arbitrary subjective morality is actually an objective morality.”
          You gave a few examples which hilariously failed ….

          “an underlying law seems to permeate.”
          If I understand him correctly (not that likely) Daniel Fincke makes such an argument as well. Indeed you might call that objective, I grant you that. There are three problems though for CSL.

          1. Concluding “hence god” is a god of the gaps; in fact Evolution Theory (notably Frans de Waal) is the superior explanation.
          2. That underlying law is not installed in all human beings, as sociopaths show.
          3. That underlying law formulates what many (not all!) people have in common, not their differences.

          Does CSL address these points? The stuff I actually have read shows his thinking is shallow, so I would be surprised.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          The stuff you have read show’s CS Lewis’s thinking is shallow? I think your thinking is shallow if you haven’t taken the trouble to see for yourself what CS Lewis’s writing is like.

          Your three problems do not seem relevant. But as asides, they might be a bit interesting. For instance, psychopaths do seem blind to morality. It is not that morality is not there. It is that they do not see it.

        • MNb

          “I think your thinking is shallow”
          Good for you. Hopefully you won’t mind if I don’t lose even a split second of sleep over it.

          “The stuff you have read show’s CS Lewis’s thinking is shallow?”
          “you haven’t taken the trouble to see for yourself what CS Lewis’s writing is like.”
          Nice contradiction. I don’t know what the word reading means to you, though the majority of your comments isn’t exactly promising in this respect. To me it means exactly like that. I already told you what CSL’ writing is like: shallow.

          “Your three problems do not seem relevant.”
          Handwaving never makes a good impression – not that yours can get much worse. Apparently your hero CLS didn’t address them. Well, when it comes to their pet theologies apologists never cared much about science and logic. You’re clearly no exception.

          “It is not that morality is not there. It is that they do not see it.”
          I suggest you to become a psychiatrist, pick out a few psychopaths and make them see that objective morality of yours. Don’t forget to publish your results in a renowned scientific magazine.
          Or you’re just silly again. I begin to get how a shallow thinker like CSL can make such a deep impression on you.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I suppose it depends on what you mean by the stuff you have read shows CS Lewis to be shallow. I took it to mean you have read about CS Lewis rather than read him. I think since you now suggest CS Lewis did not care about science and logic that I was right.

          You miss the point about psychopaths.

          The point was that psychopaths cannot ‘see’ morality. And you cannot make them ‘see’ it any more than you can make profoundly deaf people hear sounds, and profoundly blind people see light.

        • MNb

          “you can make profoundly deaf people hear sounds, and profoundly blind people see light.”
          And again an analogy that backfires.

          http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/02/15/bionic-eye-helps-the-blind-to-partially-see/

          So I repeat my suggestion: become a psychiatrist.

          “I think since you now suggest CS Lewis did not care about science and logic that I was right.”
          I think since you minequoted me and deliberately omitted “when it comes to their pet theologies” you love your premature, biased and hence usually false conclusions.
          Of course CSL’s trilemma is the prime example of him not caring about logic.
          Of course you handwaving the three points I mentioned above is a good example of you not caring about logic and your silly remark on sociopaths is a good example of you not caring about science.
          All ‘cuz god.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          If you have nothing to add, add nothing.

        • MNb

          You’d better follow your own advise. But as you’re a funny guy you won’t – to my on going entertainment.

        • OK. I must admit that I don’t see anything much of interest here.

          The natural, default position is that what we think is objective morality is instead simply a shared or a deeply felt morality. With this, there’s nothing left unexplained for which the much-less-likely objective morality must be posited.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Bob, you get worse as time goes on. Lewis is arguing that the shared and deeply felt morality is in fact an external thing that we are aware of.

          Are you saying it is an illusion of consciousness – or something like that?

        • Lewis is arguing that the shared and deeply felt morality is in fact an external thing that we are aware of.

          Obviously. And I am saying that the natural explanation is superior.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Bob, I take it you have not yet read the Abolition of Man.

          I think you should read it, and then write a follow up piece about your feelings regarding CS Lewis on morality. You could then start on your ‘natural’ explanation for this objective reality. I assume you mean that this apparent objective morality is an illusion of consciousness, shared by people merely because they are all very similar animals and evidence of nothing beyond that they are what they are. Or something.

        • Time is short, my friend. Unfortunately, your summary (and the more expansive critique by Greg G) suggests that there’s nothing new here.

          I see no evidence for objective morality and plenty against it. I invite your argument that it exists. I think that any sense that it exists is simply a sense that it’s shared or that it’s strongly felt.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          In that case Bob Seidensticker, you should post a retraction. You have published an article claiming CS Lewis is wrong about morality, but have not even read the Abolition of Man.

          I think you should post a retraction.

          You could simply re-title it, ‘I wrote an article saying I think CS Lewis is wrong about morality, but I haven’t read what he has to say about morality.’

          This would be ridiculous, but honest. I think your present position is ridiculous, and dishonest.

        • In that case Bob Seidensticker, you should post a retraction. You have published an article claiming CS Lewis is wrong about morality, but have not even read the Abolition of Man.

          Wrong again. I made very clear what book of Lewis’s I was responding to.

          If you’re saying that Lewis was all over the map, with one idea here and another inconsistent idea there, then you’re right that I haven’t covered all the many seasons of Lewis. Again, not something I promised to do.

          You could simply re-title it, ‘I wrote an article saying I think CS Lewis is wrong about morality, but I haven’t read what he has to say about morality.’

          This would be ridiculous, but honest. I think your present position is ridiculous, and dishonest.

          And your reason is ridiculous.

          One wonders why you’re here shooting off your mouth. Have you read all that I’ve said about morality? Apologize, then come back when you have.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          No Bob, I have not read all that you have said about morality. But then again I haven’t written an article Called Bod Seidensticker Is Wrong about Morality.

          No-one has ever said CS Lewis is all over the map. He expresses his thoughts about morality very clearly in that short book, The Abolition of Man. When scholars discuss CS Lewis’s morality, this is the book they generally talk about.

          What exactly is it you wish me to apologize for?

          I think you have made your position worse. It would be impolite to say any more.

        • Kodie

          Being impolite hasn’t stopped you before.

        • adam

          “No-one has ever said CS Lewis is all over the map. He expresses his thoughts about morality very clearly in that short book, The Abolition of Man”

          YOU have demonstrated by your inability to understand it enough to articulate it here.

        • I haven’t written an article Called Bod Seidensticker Is Wrong about Morality.

          And I’ve written an article called, “C. S. Lewis Gets Morality Wrong.” I make clear the C. S. Lewis source, his Mere Christianity. I’ve read the book twice. (You may not realize it, but he wrote about morality in several places, not just the one.) I make clear the problems and why they’re wrong.

          It’s all laid out there. I’m sure you’d like it.

          If the problem is simply the title, I can help you understand how titles are extremely short versions of the article and leave the majority of the story on the cutting room floor.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Ok Bob, you read that Mere Christianity twice, and it went over your head both times. Or maybe not. I don’t know. From what you have written it would be kindest to conclude I don’t know.

          I think it odd that you are telling someone who has put you on to the Abolition of Man that CS Lewis wrote about morality in more than one book.

          You are a blagger Bob. You did not say, CS Lewis gets morality wrong in Mere Christianity, and not in his other works.

          As I say, I think you make it worse for yourself each time you argue against the truth.

          Thanks though, for helping me to understand that the title of an article (or otherwise?) is not the same as the article itself.

          Did you look this up in the dictionary?

        • adam

          “As I say, I think you make it worse for yourself each time you argue against the truth.”

          Where is Bob arguing against the truth?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Bob seems pretty confused. He wrote an article saying CS Lewis was wrong about morality, but Bob seems not in the least bit interested in what CS Lewis had to say about morality. In his own words, time is too short. Bob isn’t arguing against anything except his own fancies.

        • Kodie

          In your own words, you can’t make a summary, so you decide you don’t have to. You are arguing for your own fancies, YOU are confused, and you seem not the least bit interested enough to boil down what your pet author has to say about your pet subject.

          Conclusion for Jimmy: Nothing.

        • adam

          hmmm Bob ACTUALLY read and articulates what CSL had to say about morality. And YOU provide NOTHING to demonstrate otherwise.

          disingenuous Merriam Webster….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

          “As I say, I think you make it worse for yourself each time you argue against the truth.”

          Where is Bob arguing against the truth?

        • MR

          Claims to have read it. Can’t articulate it. Criticizes others who have, but can’t refute them. I see.

        • adam

          Dishonest for a dishonest ‘god’

        • You did not say, CS Lewis gets morality wrong in Mere Christianity

          May I encourage you to read the blog post? It’s quite clear.

          Thanks though, for helping me to understand that the title of an article (or otherwise?) is not the same as the article itself.

          Tell you what: in the future, just consider the post itself to be the title. That’s a bit cumbersome, like a map that’s at 1:1 scale, but it may be the training wheels that you need. Titles are quite condensed, and that may be throwing you off.

          Did you look this up in the dictionary?

          Good for you! I’m pretty sure the rest of us all understand how a dictionary works and see how it’s useful to avoid being fooled by unscrupulous people who want to switch definitions while no one is looking. But keep at it, my friend. You’ll get it with time.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I think you’re an unscrupulous person Bob! For reasons stated above. Good luck with all your endeavors. Let’s hope you don’t harm anyone.

        • MNb

          “I think you’re an unscrupulous person Bob!”
          Given the silliness of your average thoughts that’s rather a compliment.

        • And a Merry Christmas to you, too.

        • MNb

          “You’ll get it with time.”
          I doubt it.

        • MNb

          When teaching Newtonian Mechanics (I’m a teacher math and physics) I don’t have to read Principia Mathematica (and the books written by Galilei) to understand it and teach it well. It doesn’t exactly speak for CSL that you aren’t capable of reproducing what he wrote and instead think it necessary to refer to the original source.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Well, I guess it’s a bit like Shakespeare, and literature in general. I can, and have, restate CS Lewis’s arguments, but I understand that something will be lost. I can, and have, put quotes directly from CS Lewis. But again, something is lost.

          I think you would agree with me that there is a difference between maths and physics and moral philosophy.

          We are not going to get a proof in the same way.

          BTW, as a teacher of math and physics, what would you say if a student asked you about the physics of the building collapses on 9/11? Just wondering.

        • adam

          “This is best argument that morality is objective.”

          And THAT IS the problem, it is NO argument that morality is objective.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          but, adam, that is exactly what it is. Perhaps you mean it is a fallacious argument. But from your former posts I expect if that is the case you will be explaining why in a short time.

        • adam

          no, CSL, like you FAILS to make the argument, and just presumptuously makes the claim.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          So it is not just that you think he his argument is flawed. You say he does not make that argument. When you say he fails to make the argument, what does he do then, in his book, the Abolition of Man?

        • adam

          no, CSL, like you FAILS to make the argument, and just presumptuously makes the claim.

  • yewtree

    Interesting article, but it doesn’t quite go far enough. I think morality is neither objective nor relative. Rather it is relational – it is about relationships.

    Most things that are wrong, are wrong because they do not contribute to human flourishing and bodily integrity. Often, a moral conflict arises when two conflicting goods are at stake — I would recommend reading Godless Morality by Richard Holloway for more exploration of that.

    And finally, I think Terry Pratchett probably had it right when he wrote: “There’s no justice – there’s just us”.

    • Greg G.

      What definitions are you using that differentiates “relative” from “relational”?

      It is moral to pick up sticks on six days of the week but a mortal sin to do it on the seventh. It is immoral to kill except in circumstances when somebody picks up sticks on the wrong day when it is immoral to not kill him. The ancient Jews interpreted it that there would have to be two male witnesses and the person would have to continue picking up sticks after being warned then tried before the Sanhedrin before the sentence could be carried carried out. So it then became a mortal sin only after being warned in the sight of two people if the Sanhedrin agreed.

      It seems both relative and relational to me. Perhaps I have a wrong definition.

    • TheNuszAbides

      Terry Pratchett probably had it right

      Richard Pryor may have come up with it first. but it’s one of those tricks that while potentially profound isn’t that hard to stumble upon.

  • CSalt

    Rather than see morality as a set of “rules” – I see it as a gift from God – designed for our benefit, and the benefit of society. For instance, when we read in Ephesians that we are to “put away lying, and speak the truth” – we are also introduced to the reason for not lying “we are members one of another”. As believers, in a dispensation for grace – not under law – we receive moral truth as wisdom and instruction – from a gracious Savior. This truth is designed, not to condemn, but to provide insight into how we can best bless others. Saved by grace, if we never “do” one right thing, we are still accepted by Christ – but as we trust Him, we are have opportunities to “do” right things – and in so doing – help other people.

  • SpeltMan
  • TheNuszAbides

    The same powerful brain that gives us honor and patriotism, justice and mercy, love and altruism, and other moral instincts that we’re proud of also gives us racism, self-pity, greed, resentment, hate, contempt, bitterness, jealousy, and all the others on the other side of the coin. No other species has perfected violence, slavery, cruelty, revenge, torture, and war to the extent that humans have.

    well put. so tired of the “only [insert pejorative label of choice here, suffix -tard optional and frequent]s are stooopid enough to be [racist/corrupt/atheistical/religious/whatever]” trope. any one of us can rationalize any position we take on any subject. not saying that everyone bothers to, nor that each who does so is as elaborate as the next; just that learned habits aren’t always (my guess would be hardly ever) consciously chosen.

  • dtheroux

    Bob, In C.S. Lewis’s book “The Abolition of Man” he presents a case for objective morality or what he called “The Tao.” He showed that “The Tao” is universal, to deny it is incoherent and self-refuting, and no naturalist/subjectivist/utilitarian argument can get around this. Perhaps you will find the following of interest:

    “C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism,” by David J. Theroux
    http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2846

    Here also is Lewis’s “The Abolition of Man” free online:
    http://www.basicincome.com/bp/files/The_Abolition_of_Man-C_S_Lewis.pdf

    • James Raskalinikov Dean

      Yeah, but Bob got round this by looking up ‘morality’ in the dictionary!

      • adam

        And YOU got around this by FAILING to understand the book enough to demonstrate what YOU claimed that Bob has misunderstood CS Lewis..

        BTW, YOU still have FAILED to demonstrate that Bob misunderstood CSL

        So you are being disingenuous AGAIN…

        Even with Greg G’s review, there is nothing HONEST enough in CS Lewis’s IMAGININGS to make me want to read it.

      • dtheroux

        As C.S. Lewis well notes, the natural law is universal and no attempt to counter it with some variation in subjectivism/utilitarianism can counter the inherent incoherence and self-refuting nature of the naturalist position. Here is a quote from C.S. Lewis:

        “[I]f a man will go into a library and spend a few days with the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics he will soon discover the massive unanimity of the practical reason of man. From the Babylonian “Hymn to Samos,” from the “Laws of Manu,” the “Book of the Dead,” the “Analects” [of Confucius], the Stoics, the Plantonists, from Australian aborigines and Redskins, he will collect the same triumphantly monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery and falsehood, the same injunctions of kindness to the aged, the young, and the weak, of alms giving and impartiality and honesty. He may be a little surprised (I certainly was) to find that precepts of mercy are more frequent than precepts of justice; but he will no longer doubt that there is such a thing as them law of nature. . . . [T]he pretence that we are presented with a mere chaos—though no outline of universally accepted value shows through—is simply false and should be contradicted in season and out of season wherever it is met. Far from finding a chaos, we find exactly what we should expect if good is indeed something objective and reason the organ whereby it is apprehended—that is, a substantial agreement with considerable local differences of emphasis and, perhaps, no one code that includes everything” (“Christian Reflections”)

        Regarding the incoherence of naturalism, perhaps the following will be helpful:

        “The Argument from Reason,” by Victor Reppert
        http://www.lewissociety.org/reason.php

        “Darwin, Mind and Meaning,” by Alvin Plantinga
        http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/library/plantinga/Dennett.html

        “Naturalism Defeated, by Alvin Plantinga
        http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/naturalism_defeated.pdf

        “Naturalism and Moral Realism,” by Michael Rea
        https://www3.nd.edu/~mrea/papers/Naturalism%20and%20Moral%20Realism.pdf

        “Naturalism and Libertarian Agency,” by Stewart Goetz
        http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1756

        • MNb

          “he will collect the same triumphantly monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder”
          If CLS – and you guys – had cared to look a little further than his nose he might have found that the folks during Antiquity were totally OK with genocide. Heck, it’s even in the Bible.
          To do you a favour I looked at the first link.

          “One phenomenon that is sometimes neglected in the development of theistic arguments is the existence of rational thought.”
          At this point I predict a god of the gaps.

          “I will present a model of the atheist universe which I will call mechanistic materialism.”
          Good job not defining what he means, hence running the risk of attacking a strawman. I mean – is there something like non-mechanistic materialism? If yes, what’s the difference? If no, why add “mechanistic”? Not a promising start.

          “The most basic level of analysis is that of physics, which makes no reference to purposes or logic whatsoever.”
          Yup, strawman indeed. On materialism the evolution of the eye did not serve any purpose and no single biologist, not even christian ones when doing their job, claim that. The only reason biologists use language that is similar to such teleology is because refrasing it in terms of causality results in clumsy language. Biological research is all about causality though and when descending on small scale levels they replace it by probabilism.

          “I think that the materialist’s commitment can be described by three theses. One, causation within the physical order is mechanistic, that is, non-purposive. Two, the physical order is closed, that is, nothing apart from the physical order can cause anything to happen within the physical order. Third, all states supervene on physical states. By this I mean that given the state of the physical, there is only one way that anything not physical (biological, psychological, sociological, moral) can be.”
          Oh oh, this is wrong.

          1. Modern physics is not causal, but probabilistic. Granted, that’s non-purposive as well.
          2. Correct. That’s what the scientific method is about. Reppert forgets to add that it’s him who needs to provide convincing evidence/arguments (plus a method to evaluate them) that it’s otherwise.
          3. Indeed all states supervene on physical states. However thanks to quantummechanics (which means since eight decades or so) we know that there is more than one way that anything not physical can be. That’s exactly what probabilism is about.

          Reppert conflates materialism with Lamarckian determinism here and that’s quite stupid, to be honest. Such determinism has been outdated for quite a while.

          Next step: introducing the Problem of Evil! Eh? What has that to do with the incoherence of naturalism, which Reppert promised to show? Not to mention that Reppert fails to recognize that the argument from the PoE is an reductio ad absurdum. It begins with “let’s assume there is a god; let’s assume that god is omnivolent, omnipotent, omnipresent and a few other things.
          Given human nature I can assure you that when I point it out I never hope that the believer will “accept the argument in virtue of is legitimacy as an argument.” I’m already happy if the believer recognizes the problem – and that it’s a problem for him/her to solve, not for me.

          “(apart from pure quantum chance)”
          Well, well,well. So Reppert is aware of quantum mechanics. Then he was simply dishonest above.

          “We know from science that the same process can be given distinct explanations depending on the level at which we are analyzing it.”
          This is just bogus. Biologists totally accept the dominance of quantummechanics and hence make sure that what they say about entire systems does not contradict QM. The same for psychology and sociology.

          “These levels of explanation involve purpose, however”
          Repeating the strawman does not make it any better. Neither biologists nor psychologists nor sociologists use purpose in their theories and hypotheses, only causation.

          “Let us say we have an explanation, at the level of particle physics, for a round peg going into a round hole. In this case, the explanation in terms of physics fails to make mention of pegs or holes, but the physical structure of the peg and the hole, (as well as the force putting the peg into the hole), is what makes the causal transaction possible.”

          More bogus and now it’s just getting ridiculous – Reppert shows a total lack of understanding of quantummechanics. QM applies to daily life phonemena like pegs and holes as much as to subatomic particles. There is one and only one reason we don’t use it: calculations get insanely complicated and on a daily life level (where we meet pegs and holes) classical, causal theories of physics work almost as well. But it can be totally demonstrated that those causal theories are simplifications of QM, due to the correspondence principle. I have reproduced such a mathematical proof myself as a student.
          At this point my prediction is more concrete: purpose hence god.

          After so many bloopers I read mainly diagonally and hit on

          “What clearly cannot play a role in physical causation are properties ascribed as a matter of convention.”
          Yup, there it is – the god of the gaps. Repeated here:

          “but one cannot given an account of this logical necessity by describing contingently connected physical states.”
          So my second prediction was wrong – in the last paragraph Reppert neglects his (imaginary) point about purpose. Not very coherent, if you ask me. At any rate he totally failed to show the incoherence of naturalism, due to his combination of the god of the gaps and the strawman “biology, psychology and sociology are about purpose”.

        • Greg G.

          IIRC, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond tells about the tribes who live high in the mountains of New Guinea consider it immoral to not kill a trespasser. Where they live, protein is hard to come by so every insect is a meal. If someone is in the territory, they are assumed to be there to steal food from the territory or are scouting the territory in order to attack. Killing the stranger is just protecting your family.

          The best moral strategy in times of peace and prosperity may not be the best when times are rough. If there is no one morality that holds in every conceivable situation, we cannot say that any morality is objectively right. Morality is relative to the situation and the reading of the situation is a subjective thing.

          Lewis’ quote is interesting but it only reflects the best case scenario of each civilization. His library didn’t include the New Guinea tribes.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Perhaps CS Lewis’s library did not include New Guinea tribes. But this really doesn’t matter. Do you think these New Guinea tribes think that it is ok to murder in general – or just in these particular instances, which as you theorize, are unusual and have come about through certain circumstances?

          When you talk about the best moral strategy, do you mean the most moral – the one most in accordance with the ineffable moral law?

        • Greg G.

          Many cultures oppose killing friends and family but are OK with killing enemies. The size of the circle where killing becomes acceptable vary subjectively.

          The best moral strategy is what would work best for the individuals in a social structure in a given situation.

          Many years ago in Readers Digest, a missionary wrote about dealing with a certain tribe. When the missionary tried to teach about Jesus, the tribe thought Judas Iscariot was the hero. They thought luring an enemy in by pretending friendship, then betraying the person and killing him was a cool thing to do.

        • That book sounds like Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel L. Everett.

          If I remember correctly, in this book, a guy tries to convert the tribespeople but realizes that they’ve got things more figured out than he does.

        • Greg G.

          I think I read the story when I was in high school over 40 years ago. Two tribes exchanged a member of each tribe to make peace. It was taboo to hurt that person. The missionary then told them that Jesus was one of those from God. The tribe then thought Judas was an asshole. That’s all I remember.

        • MNb

          These people are quite remarkable.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piraha_people

          “they lost interest in Jesus when they discovered that Everett had never seen him.”
          They made Everett deconvert.

        • MNb

          On the usage of “purpose” in biology:

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleology-biology/

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          btw, thanks for posting this!

    • JRD also commented on Lewis an the Tao, but I didn’t realize that Lewis was influenced by Taoism. It was traditional Chinese Taoism that Lewis was talking about?

      Can you summarize the argument for objective morality in Lewis’s “Abolition of Man” (or whatever argument you think is best)? JRD tried, but his summary was underwhelming.

      • MNb

        Greg G did it for you above.

      • dtheroux

        Bob, You obviously have not read “The Abolition of Man” as C.S. Lewis makes it clear that he is using the word “Tao” in its natural-law meaning of “the way” or “the truth” or “the principle,” and that this has nothing to do with Taoism per se.

        • Greg G.

          Lewis’ Tao would be pretty much from the quote you provided HERE. I think that is roughly the working morality for pretty much all of us.

  • Greg G.

    I read The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. Thank you, dtheroux, for posting the link.

    The transcriber’s notes at the end of each chapter are very useful. I recommend reading them before reading the chapter to clarify some of the references. For example, Olaf Stapledon was a famous science fiction writer in the 1940s but the name didn’t ring a bell.

    The last chapter is The Abolition of Man. It is Lewis’ dystopian fears. He argues “Each generation exercises power over its successors: and each, in so far as it modifies the environment bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists and limits the power of its predecessors.” He fears that things like eugenics and contraception gives the preceding generation control of the succeeding generation.

    The second chapter is The Way, also known as the Tao. His definition is basically “for practical principles known to all men by Reason are simply the Tao“. That is pretty much the defintion of subjective morality, too, but without pretending our assumptions are absolutely correct. The Buddha taught that which can be described is not the Tao. So we have no way to know if our Tao is the same as the next person’s or if either is the correct version of the Tao. So it is subjective.

    Lewis says, “Those who understand the spirit of the Tao and who have been led by that spirit can modify it in directions which that spirit itself demands. Only they can know what those directions are.” That is exactly how non-objective-moralityists make moral decisions, too.

    This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected.

    The train wreck is “If it is rejected, all value is rejected.” One can modify the values and reason a new Tao. The value can be subjective. So our the morality derived from our value system is subjective. Our morality doesn’t have to be identical to our neighbor’s morality, just compatible with it.

    The first chapter is Men Without Chests where the chest separates the head from the viscera and the human part from the animal part. He quotes the ancient scholars as far back as Plato:

    St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in ‘ordinate affections’ or ‘just sentiments’ will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science. Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.

    That is indoctrination. The student learns to regard as bad what the teacher says is bad. So the students are given certain values so that the only conclusion that can be reached from those values just happens to be the Tao. That does not make the Tao objective, it is just the result of the subjective values of the first teacher, and so it is subjective.

    Also, the assumed values are human-centric, based on the arbitrary way humans happened to evolve. If humans had evolved from primates without forward-facing eyes, the need to have help “watching your back” would not have been as important, and the human race would not be a social species. We would live like hermits and our values would be those of hermits instead of social creatures. Our morality is designed around the arbitrary evolutionary path our species took and would be different if our species was different. So it is subjective to the species we happen to be, not to an objective law of the universe (this is just a digression, not a refutation of Lewis’ claims).

    The irony is that Lewis fears the older generation controlling subsequent generations through eugenics and contraception but advocates controlling the subsequent generations through indoctrination.

    Some of us value Critical Thinking and Knowledge to evaluate what is better and what is worse. We base our morality on those conclusions. We can modify its dictates on a case by case basis, just as Lewis does. We recognize that our values may differ from the next person’s values, but that doesn’t make them wrong.

    The paper does not show “objective morality” because it is a circular argument with the assumption of objective values were plugged in at the beginning.

    • MR

      Our morality doesn’t have to be identical to our neighbor’s morality, just compatible with it.

      Excellent.

      No, it’s all excellent. Thank you, Greg, for this great review.

      • James Raskalinikov Dean

        But you are saying nothing. It isn’t our morality that is going to be identical to our neighbors. Each is going to have their own personal interpretation of an objective morality. That they are compatible with each others is evidence of the objective morality – the Tao, if you will.

        • MR

          But, you are saying nothing. You just repeat baseless assertions. Subjectivity, subjectivity everywhere, and no objectivity in sight.

        • adam

          So just MORE dishonesty from JRD, to justify the dishonest god he worships…

        • Kodie

          Are you in denial that humans are animals?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          same and different… fish and cats are animals, fish are not cats. I am saying that I think humans, with their capacity for thought as we know it, are not like any other animal.

        • Kodie

          You seem to be in denial that we are pretty much like any other animal.

        • Greg G.

          Not all fish are cats but all cats are fish that are modified by evolution to live out of water, just like all other land vertebrates. That is cladistics.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But I think you already knew that all life on Earth is related. I wish to emphasise that humans are qualitatively different in their sense of morality. Steven Pinker argues they are qualitatively different in their use of language. Other creatures may have something like langauge or morality, but it is very different in humans.

          The problem here might again be the same different thing.

        • MNb

          “Steven Pinker argues they are qualitatively different in their use of language. ”
          Source? Especially regarding the word “qualitatively”? The only thing I could find is

          http://stevenpinker.com/publications/logic-indirect-speech

          “This feature makes an indirect request qualitatively different from a direct one”
          and that doesn’t compare humans with other animals. And I’m not going to trust religious goofs like you, who minequote and don’t care about science when they defend their pet theologies on face value.

          “it is very different in humans”
          If all species are different in some respect – and they are – the word difference becomes irrelevant and your quote becomes empty: they are all the same because they are all different.
          You are the one who is saying nothing.

        • Greg G.

          What do we mean by qualitative versus quantitative? Is there a significant point?

          I would say that an example of a qualitative difference is the difference between the ability of controlled gliding from a tree to the ground versus the ability to fly from the ground up to the tree branch. The ability to migrate by flight would be a quantitative difference.

          There is the danger of committing the Beard Fallacy. A few whiskers are not a beard but adding one whisker at a time will result in a beard. But when do several whiskers become a beard? A bird ancestor that could glide might use the ability to enhance leaps. Increasing that ability would quantitatively lead to flight.

          On first glance, the difference in swimming between a hippo and a dolphin might seem to be a qualitative difference. But the difference between the swimming of a hippo and a dog seems to be quantitative. The difference between the swimming of a dog and an otter seems to be quantitative. The difference between an otter and a seal or a walrus seems quantitative. The difference in the swimming ability between a walrus and a manatee would be negligible quantitatively. The difference between a manatee and a dolphin seems to be quantitative.

          Mammals care for their young. Primates have forward facing eyes which provide some advantages but makes a social structure advantageous so that all directions can be observed at all times. Expanding the mammalian family morality to the group would be a bit qualitative and a bit quantitative. The sharing and moderating of agression toward the group is not so much different between wolf packs, monkey tribes, chimpanzee tribes, and New Guinea mountain tribes.

          Agriculture allows greater population density which requires moderation of the inter-tribal aggression to strangers in the same locality and inter-city warfare demands it. While dominant members of a small group might steal from submissive members, the pecking order would not be established with strangers so even that practice would have to be moderated. Alliances between cities expands the morality to include bigger groups as city-states give way to nation-states.

          As the alliances between nation-states shift, our tribal morality is expanded to gloabal proportions. The Jain sect of Hinduism long ago took that to the extreme by including animals, insects, and plants.

          But this is all cultural change. We have not evolved collectively toward this widespread peacefulness.

          Humans had big brains for many thousands of years but not much apparent advance in culture. It is like the big brains allowed the generation of many ideas, some good and some bad. Brains are expensive, metabolically, so they would have to earn their keep. The way to generate a few good ideas requires generating many ideas and most of them will be “not good”. Storytelling is a way to pass down good ideas to the next generation but even more bad ideas would be passed down along with them. But the goal of life is survival, and advancement is incidental, so stagnation would be normal. The questions about where the migrating animals came from and went would develop superstitions.

          Agriculture was a major leap. That would have led to new crops from accidental selection to artificial selection to improved crops. It led to domestication of animals and artificial selection of them. It led to greater population density which led to increased trade as food had to be transported. That required record keeping which led to writing which led to learning from people who were not present.

          The big brains could do thinking and get reliable enough results without having to be always correct. Simple mental algorithms were sufficient. Many were usually true and quick enough to be better than gathering sufficient information to make certain decisions. It took alot of overkill in brain capacity to overcome the incorrect conclusions, I expect. It made survival easier. But things that are usually true are what we call fallacies. When people began to separate the inferences that were usually true from those that are always true, logic was formed. The ability to generate more complex thoughts that were true helped. But it was misapplied for thousands of years, trying to figure out how many angels could dance on the head of a pin and such.

          We see the changes increasing in the Nile and Euphrates regions and spreading. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond discusses how civilization passed all around the Mediterranean to Europe which had some helpful geographic features. There was a lull, though, after the collapse of the Roman Empire when religion ruled Europe. When scientists realized they had no need of the God hypothesis and started explaining the world without trying to force the supernatural into it, knowledge began to increase exponentially. The technological increases resulted from it. That forced some reconsideration of warfare because of its increased efficiency.

          Our world is the result of the post-religion era. Religion is a drag on the collective knowledge. Great minds given to religion instead of addressing real knowledge slows us down.

          Now, photons of red light are quantitatively different from photons of violet light. They are both electromagnetic but with different wavelengths that might result from the relative velocity of the source. But our perception of them is qualitatively different. The pigment in our eye that detects red light does not react to violet light and vice versa. All the wavelengths of light in between are quantitatively different and are perceived quantitatively by how strongly the different pigments of the eye react to them.

          In light of all that (pun intended), I don’t see much point in debating quantitative versus qualitative. It seems to be a difference in how collectively you view the details.

        • MR

          He wants to leap from one to the other and say there’s no connection, instead of tracing the steps backwards one step at a time to their common denominator.

          “That child has red hair and that child has brown. Are they related?

          He wants to say no, the child gets its red hair as a gift from God or from Plato’s Forms or whatever, instead of simply tracing the lineage back through a few generations of ancestors to the red-headed postman.

        • Greg G.

          He recently said he thinks morality is a property of the universe, just like gravity.

          PS: He said it again in another reply to you at the same time I was posting this.

        • adam

          And yet it is so easy to demonstrate gravity…

        • Greg G.

          Dark matter is actually Absolute Morality. It’s the only explanation.

        • Greg G.

          Original Sin is causing the expansion of the universe. That is why all the other galaxies are moving away from us. Why have I never thought of this before?

        • MR

          You probably shouldn’t give him any ideas. He’s highly impressionable.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But Greg, this is what CS Lewis said.

        • adam

          Gravity is easily demonstrated…

          Just HONESTLY demonstrate your objective morality and be done with it.

        • Greg G.

          You mean here?:

          We have an instinctive urge to preserve our own species. That is why men ought to work for posterity. We have no instinctive urge to keep promises or to respect individual life: that is why scruples of justice and humanity—in fact the Tao—can be properly swept away when they conflict with our real end, the preservation of the species.

          Can we objectively say whether Square A is darker than Square B or that Square B is darker than Square A?

          http://brainden.com/images/same-color-illusion-big.png

          If we cannot tell something as simple as this, why would we think we could say that a waterfall is actually sublime? How would our minds be able to react to a morality that is external to our brains?

          A silly part of the Adam and Eve story is the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil transferring knowledge from the stomach through the bloodstream through the blood brain barrier and to form the dendrites that would store than knowledge. This absolute morality seems to work the same way as that fruit.

          By the way, Square A and Square B are the same color. I verified it by doing a Print Screen, pasting that into Paint, and using the Eyedropper tool sample each. I even made a rectangle with the color and moved it over each square and it blended with each.

        • Kodie

          I’ve asked Jimmy a few times if he could consider that his feelings are mistaken. Since feelings are all he has to go on, why not consider that what he wants is just confirmation bias. I don’t know how a waterfall is sublime. It’s neat. I think waterfalls are neat. Who the fuck is telling me I have to agree that they’re really sublime? The thing is, is it the water or that in certain situations, there’s just nowhere else for it to go? The earth has lots of water, and lots of inclines in the topography, but the coincidence of a river with a steep dropoff is a geological coincidence, like how I live 30 minutes from the ocean (10 without traffic but there’s always traffic). And to me, who grew up near falls, it wasn’t sublime. I distinctly remember a teacher telling the class the name of the town everyone knew and some lived in was named for an actual waterfall. A waterfall so fucking obscure, how could something like that be sublime? I’ve been to Niagara Falls and seen it from Ontario side. I’d heard all my life that’s the better side to see it from. Probably 15 years later, my boyfriend at the time and I went to see it in Buffalo, and boy was that a shitty falls! I had no idea you can’t even see it from New York – all I heard was Canada has the better view. Almost no business even calling it an attraction, or illustrating it on the license plates a couple of plate designs ago.

        • MR

          Water is necessary for us to survive. Why wouldn’t our instincts have evolved to be tickled pink at the sound of falling water which can be heard from a distance, and the sweet, sweet sight of cool, clear water…, water….

        • Kodie

          That’s probably why people worshiped the sun and hated the rain. Maybe they didn’t hate the rain, and we still like sun even though we have lamps, we hate rain because we get our water from the faucet and hate getting wet.

        • MR

          I don’t know that people hated the rain. I think that’s more of a modern inconvenience. They didn’t have to drive in it after all.

        • Kodie

          I think, guessing, people always responded to brighter days with more positivity than cloudy or rainy days. There’s a whole thing about it in the bible where it killed everyone.

        • MR

          Well, there is that…. Anything in excess….

        • Kodie

          Once there was agriculture, people could see what happens when it didn’t rain enough. I actually find it strange that humans have made it work wherever they wanted to live. If it didn’t rain enough, they managed to irrigate. If it was too swampy, they build shelters on stilts. Since where I live, it’s always been wintry as shit in the winter, I wonder about people who choose to settle in places that are perpetually wintry. It’s amazing what people will put up with. Well before anyone knew what the sun could do, I think people prefer the sun to anything else, but I don’t know why people saw some other shit and decided it was ok. One of my favorite movies is Cast Away and there’s a transition from where Chuck knew to collect rainwater but sheltered himself with a makeshift tent to one where he has found a more permanent shelter in a cave that has a built-in skylight and he sleeps through getting rained on. I also like to think of that movie as an alternate ending to Joe vs. the Volcano.

          The modern take on rain seems to be you have to put up with it, because it does help the flowers grow, but it’s hard for me to think of primitive man thinking anything like that. All living things that experience rain have to be used to it? I guess. I think of cavemen seeing the day was gloomy and pulling up the hides, someone build a fire. I mean, do you think a rainy day hunt was just like a sunny day? Maybe it was even more productive. Since early versions of ancient mythical gods were usually the sun, I tend to believe their opinion of rain wasn’t great.

        • MR

          Kodie, have you had this obsession with Tom Hanks looked in to? (To be fair, I haven’t seen either movie, though I did see ‘Big’.)

          IIRC, man spent most of his evolution in semi-arid conditions, so rain was probably, generally a welcome thing–from an evolutionary perspective.

          Of course, all things being…, ahem, subjective….

        • Kodie

          I don’t have a Tom Hanks obsession. But from the time I borrowed Cast Away from the library the first time, I watched it 5 times in one week. It seemed to apply to my life at the time. I do like movies more than once, but that was a little bit strange for me. I started trying to pair other Tom Hanks movies with it, like trying to find a common thread of all his prior movies in one movie. Ultimately, I decided that Chuck should have watched Joe vs. the Volcano before he left and he might have packed some more useful things for getting off the island, like 4 of those full-size trunks he used as a raft. They are both good movies, Joe is from Hanks’ pre-League of their Own silly period when he was also making movies like Turner and Hooch and Money Pit. I don’t think the record bears this, but I felt like he was a has-been (like Travolta was before Tarantino revived his career) with a notable lull until League of their Own when he became launched as a serious actor. I haven’t even seen Turner and Hooch or Bachelor Party or Apollo 13 or most of Philadelphia or Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail or Nothing in Common! How could I be obsessed? He’s just in a lot of things, two of them involve being stranded in the ocean.

        • MR

          [side whisper to the others: Obsessed.]

          Okay, but you did convince me to put Joe and the Volcano in my queue, but do I really have to watch Cast Away?

        • Kodie

          Tell me why you think you won’t like it. I made this mistake once, having seen Dragnet in the theater one summer (the only summer of my life I think I have seen more than one movie, my boyfriend that summer and I went to 13 movies), I later recommended it to another guy I was going out with to rent and watch in his family room with his family, and it wasn’t funny at all like I remembered. I highly recommend Cast Away unless you only like terrible movies, in which case, see Joe vs. the Volcano which is terrible but also awesome. If you’ve seen Forrest Gump already, don’t need to see it again. If you didn’t see Forrest Gump already and you don’t want to, you don’t need a good reason to miss it. Skip Punchline, see Money Pit. I hope it’s not as bad as Dragnet. Oh Splash! was also very good. John Candy was in that, you should see that.
          Quick!

        • MR

          Tom Hank’s voice, for one thing. And isn’t the highlight of the movie that he figures out how make fire? I mean, that’s not a big sell….

          You couldn’t pay me to watch Forrest Gump again. And it’s disturbing that my auto correct suggested it as I was typing!

          Fine, I’ll add Cast Away to the queue, but that means you have to watch The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

        • Kodie

          No, he does make fire, but that’s not the highlight of the film. I think that’s a thing in the previews for people who don’t want to watch something good and rather stick with something Tom Hanks-y. I’m not going to make a total promise, but my recollection of interviews at the time, Cast Away features about an hour where nobody says anything to anyone. He might talk to the volleyball during that time, but I don’t think it’s that much. Critics or something thought audiences wouldn’t put up with such a long time with no dialogue, but if you don’t like to hear Tom Hanks talking, this is the movie to see him not talking. And when he does make fire, you’ll understand why.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          So Greg, you put up an optical illusion, and asked if we could be objective about whether the squares were the same colour or not, and then showed that we can.

          While you were putting this together did you ever wonder where you were going with it?

          Was your point that things may not be as they appear to be at first glance?

        • Greg G.

          Was your point that things may not be as they appear to be at first glance?

          Yes, but as with other illusions, people can think they see things that are not there. Some friends has many Bev Doolittle prints. She does Native American themed art work with “spirits” hidden in the details. They had one called “Hide and Seek” beside the front door so you saw it first. It has 24 panels of white and reddish brown horses with a background of a hillside with snow and reddish brown rocks. The horses looked camouflaged. But one of the panels had the illusion of a horse played out by the rocks and snow. When the print caught your eye from across the room, though, you saw that the snow and rocks in each panel spelled out “Hide and Seek”. It illustrates to me how people can see things that aren’t really there.

          You didn’t get to the question about how knowledge of absolute morality is ingrained into the brain. Knowledge is stored in the brain as memory. Long-term memory works as neurons make dendrites with synaptic connections with other cells. Date-rape drugs block the proteins that form these connections so no long-term memory can be formed.

          How does some property of the universe create knowledge in the brains of all members of one species but no members of any other species?

          It is like Adam and Eve eating the fruit. They can get knowledge of the flavor and the texture by chewing it and the sensory nerves transmit signals to the brain to form a short-term memory which may turn into a long-term memory when the connections are grown between neurons. But those connections are not the same in everybody. How is objective morality going to do that? It would have to be magic.

        • Kodie

          Can you think for yourself?

        • Greg G.

          I’ll add that the difference in swimming between and eft and a newt is quantitative. The difference in swimming between a tadpole and a frog is qualitative but the the steps in the changeover are quantitative.

        • MNb

          Wow, that’s insightful. Here I have another one for you. You and I are the same and different too.
          Here, especially for you, another mammal that’s not like any other animal.

          http://io9.com/this-bizarre-animal-communicates-like-no-other-mammal-o-1691865553

    • James Raskalinikov Dean

      You say this:

      The train wreck is “If it is rejected, all value is rejected.” One can modify the values and reason a new Tao.
      The value can be subjective. So our the morality derived from our value
      system is subjective. Our morality doesn’t have to be identical to our
      neighbor’s morality, just compatible with it.

      I think you missed the point. But then again, I think that’s largely what this book is about. People don’t realise they miss the point.

      Lewis says ultimately we all make our own decisions. But these decisions are not based on an arbitrary morality, made up as one chooses. They are responses to an objective reality. The responses might be arbitrary, and made up as one chooses, but the objective reality they are responding too is not.

      • TheNuszAbides

        we all make our own decisions. But these decisions are not based on an arbitrary morality

        reiterating the concept of something ‘prior to’ the choices that form an Earthly/practical system of morality is not demonstrating that any such thing exists. where does Lewis demonstrate it? saying “we do these particularly subjective things that overlap” is not demonstrating an Ultimate Source; it seems that it’s only “evidence” for such a thing in the sense that Lewis wants to massage/shoehorn some kind of Looking-Out-For-Us uber-consciousness into (or just barely sufficiently outside of) the universe. couldn’t the ‘coincidence’ simply be common descent (as MNb previously posited but which I saw no rebuttal to), that all of these systems are developed by groups of members of the same species?

        too bad Lewis never got involved in something like the Marsh Chapel experiment. would seem like a tremendous opportunity for someone with his ability to articulate. or perhaps only a chance to show his true pearl-clutching colors…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          There is a problem with demonstrating the existence of this ‘objective morality’. There is also a problem in naming it.

          But so is there a problem in demonstrating the existence of gravity.

          There is the proposition that morality is in a sense as real and external a thing (as much as it can be) to a human being as is gravity.

          About the Marsh Chapel thing, yes I agree I would love to have heard what CS Lewis thought about a psychadelic experience. Did you ever read Door of Perception? I guess it would have been a bit like that. Or perhaps a bit like the Great Dance passage from Voyage to Venus.

        • What’s hard about demonstrating gravity? Drop an apple–there you go. That force that sucks things down to the earth–that’s gravity.

          There are some very hard things about gravity, but demonstrating that it exists is very easy.

          Morality’s objectivity should be easy to demonstrate.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          “What’s hard about demonstrating morality? Hurt somebody – there you go. That force that sucks things down to earth – that’s morality.

          There are some very hard things about morality, but demonstrating that it exists is very easy.”

          I think morality may be very like gravity. It may indeed be something like a dimension to the universe.

          You can show the effects of this thing we call gravity, but you cannot show what it is. No-one has ever detected a particle of gravity.

        • Kodie

          Are you aware you’re being ridiculous? Gravity is a relational equation. Morality is also relational, but in a way we try to get the better benefits. Murder can be ok, it really depends. We’re not cool with it in the US, quite a bit for superstitious reasons about interfering in god’s prerogative, but your situation is not dire enough to warrant considering murder to be a benefit to your society.

          Look, I think you’re stuck on your favorite bedtime tale, and it’s time for you to read other things and learn. It’s become obvious you’re ignorant about science, it’s obvious you’re ignorant about animal behaviors, and it’s obvious you’re closed off to other information about morality. You’re arguing for the argument in one book you haven’t thoroughly understood well enough to articulate, and if you even read it, you read it to confirm your bias about objective morality and could not get out of it what an objective reader like Greg G. could get out of it. That means you believe in objective morality for reasons other than what you read in a book, and are probably unable to comprehend opposing arguments without flailing around shouting “you missed the point!” again and again. If you can’t say the point, if you continue to make excuses for the point and why it appears subjective, then maybe you have to admit that you could be wrong about this.

        • “There are some very hard things about morality, but demonstrating that it exists is very easy.”

          Uh, OK. You know that I am quite happy with morality existing, right?

          What’s difficult here? Just explain why objective morality exists or drop the claim that it does. Easy.

          No-one has ever detected a particle of gravity.

          Well, yes and no. You do know about the Higgs boson, right?

        • Greg G.

          I think morality may be very like gravity. It may indeed be something like a dimension to the universe.

          Objective Morality of the Gaps again. If killing was against objective morality, carnivores would never have evolved. Cats are obligate carnivores. If killing for food is an exception, then it is not an objective force.

          If laughing at the misfortune of others is immoral, then how did laughing hyenas evolve? No, wait…

        • Kodie

          Here is you dancing around the topic again, baseless assertions. Gravity can be demonstrated, you idiot. Morality can be demonstrated, you idiot. An objective moral standard to reference is just your naive gullible idea that you’re fascinated with so much you can’t even express.

          Why are you telling everyone else to read books, you’re the illiterate one.

        • TheNuszAbides

          except for Crome Yellow i have only read excerpts of any work by any Huxley thus far.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Doors of Perception is great!

        • TheNuszAbides

          But so is there a problem in demonstrating the existence of gravity.

          i would agree articulating and encapsulating it in language and theory has been a monumental task, but demonstration is hardly a challenge.

          it still looks like you/Lewis are having some kind of “is/ought” slip. i don’t see anyone here asserting that human moralities spring ‘arbitrarily’ from some nothingness or lack of any sense – simply that positing an ultimate source, Golden standard, ur-Morals ideal is both unnecessary and (so far) not compelling. i think you and he may give too much credit to What Great Thinking Has Gone Before; the sort of thing that may have comforted Lewis–albeit as someone who could express doubt over how close his personal religion was to ‘the right track’–in a sense similar to the “who would die for a lie” meme.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Demonstrating morality is hardly a challenge either.

          And I’ve seen a few people posting that morality, as we humans see it, is just an arbitrary illusion, consequent to the way evolution has rolled out.

          Are you sure you do not give enough credit to what great thinking has gone before? I’m not sure either way!

        • TheNuszAbides

          the key contextual difference here is between ‘the existence of gravity’ and ‘the existence of some More Fundamental Thing prior to individuals and groups making choices that form systems of morality’.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          gravity and morality? Is that what you mean? Is morality like gravity – Is morality an arbitrary human construction, or is it more like gravity?

        • adam

          Gravity is easily demonstrated…

          Just HONESTLY demonstrate your objective morality and be done with it.

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • Kodie

          You’re so endeared to the comparison that you cannot see otherwise. Repeating your feelings about how morality must be some external, ever-present property of the universe, just like gravity, does not make that true. You actually have to demonstrate that morality is like gravity, not just keep deflecting questions you’re asked to ask other people what they think. Hey doofus! We already told you. It’s still always your turn to present your evidence and supporting arguments. Start with the next thing on your list after “feels like it”.

      • TheNuszAbides

        and who ever claimed that the decisions are based on an ‘arbitrary’ morality? hope you aren’t using ‘arbitrary’ as a synonym for ‘subjective’…

        if we are ‘missing’ a ‘point’, perhaps you can try harder to explain how or why you’ve managed to ‘hit’ it. show more of Lewis’s brilliantly clear expostulation.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I am using arbitrary to mean arbitrary. Does this make it any clearer for you?

        • Kodie

          You are using arbitrary interpretations to mean pretty much nothing. You say when I wake up I can throw my cat out of the window because I feel like it, to you, that’s how “subjective” morality works. Arbitrary is like flipping a coin. Subjective means taking into account your environment and its customs.

        • MR

          Equivocation tactic on his part.

        • TheNuszAbides

          sure, except for the part where you don’t answer the question, which further indicates that you’re addressing a straw-man rather than any of the perspectives addressed to you.

      • Greg G.

        but the objective reality they are responding too is not.

        Suppose there is an objective morality. We are not capable of knowing anything about it. Instead we decide what we like and go from there. We value that we can thrive and we allow others to thrive so that they will allow us to thrive. We might expand that to include other life forms as well. We might end up with Lewis’ version of morality. But there is no way to know if that is not exactly opposite of the objective reality.

        So it doesn’t matter whether there is an objective morality, we don’t know what it is. You assume your morality is similar to it but that is based on total ignorance of objective morality. Objective morality might be like lion morality where the male collects as many females as he can defend and kills any offspring from the previous relationship so he can try to get in a few litters before he is chased off.

        The morality that everybody lives by is a subjective morality that exists whether there is an objective morality or not. You don’t know that there is an objective morality and you can’t know what it really is.

        PS: You are now arguing for Objective Morality of the Gaps.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          “Suppose there is an objective morality. We are not capable of knowing anything about it.”

          But I think we are! We can’t say what it is perhaps, we cannot reduce the Tao to writing, but can know something about it. Ultimately, for sure we all live our own lives. But we do not create morality for ourselves. We interpret it perhaps, but we do not create it.

          And I don’t think it really makes sense to compare morality in animals with morality in humans. I think they are so different it might not be useful.

        • Greg G.

          But we are only see subjective results and extrapolating a subjective morality. We don’t have any idea whether that is the objective morality. Perhaps the objective morality requires us to serve the needs of cats.

          You are still arguing for an Objective Morality of the Gaps.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I think you are misunderstanding something. We cannot say what that objective morality is. We cannot reduce it to words.

          But this is true of a great many things. We cannot say what an atom actually is. But we can know a great deal about it.

          Your suggestion that this objective morality may simply be a decree to serve the needs of cats, as if it were like on the stone tablets in the bible, really makes me think you misunderstand.

          Incidentally, interesting that those tablets were broken – perhaps symbolic of how the objective morality cannot be reduced to words. Just an aside.

        • Greg G.

          We cannot say what that oebvjtice marltoiy is. We cannot reduce it to words. We don’t even know that it exists. We can talk about the subject morality as we understand it.

          At some point in a chess match, there may be one move that is objectively better than any other possible move. At other points, there may be several possible moves and no one move is objectively better than the others. In life, we can only anticipate the future probabilistically. Is sharing a piece of candy that has peanuts with a hungry person an objectively moral thing. No, it is contingent upon the person not having a severe peanut allergy. Offering a fruit juice is a subjective matter if it contains grapefruit juice and the person is on certain medicines.

          I mentioned in my review that Lewis mentions modifying the morality as necessary. That alone means it is subjective.

          You aren’t getting my cats analogy. What if serving cats in a certain way benefits us in objective ways that we don’t know of because nobody has done it properly.

          I understand the point you are trying to make about objective morality but what works best in a range of specific circumstances is not universal. There may be one morality that is objectively perfect for one situation but is not perfect for another. You would have to argue that there is a different objective morality for every situation.

          The quote of Lewis that dtheroux provided is pretty much my working morality. It is probably yours, too. I say it is subjective and you probably agree.

          Three Moralities for the Elven-kings under the sky,
          Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
          Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
          One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
          In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
          One Morality to rule them all, One Morality to find them,
          One Morality to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
          In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

          Your Objective Morality is no more real than the One Ring.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          The nuts thing, the juice thing, the chess thing, I guess you mean you can’t have a blanket rule for every situation.

          This is not the issue. The issue is whether morality itself is absolute or arbitrary. Does morality itself seem to be something created at the whims of individuals? Or is it beyond that?

        • Kodie

          Here you go slamming that which you do not understand again. Morality doesn’t seem like it’s something created at the whims of individuals. It seems like you don’t know what hyperbole is? If it’s beyond the whims of individuals, let’s say, Joe feels like raping all the dogs in the neighborhood, and Kate feels like vacuuming at 3am on the top floor of an apartment building. People can surely be so whimsical, but they usually decide to consider how their neighbors feel. Is that arbitrary, you schmuck? When people decide to do something that harms their neighbor, they often calculate how much of a shit they give for their neighbor, vs. how likely is this going to instigate trouble I don’t want (like a person who is angry at you now, their revenge plots against you, your eviction, your incarceration, etc.). A few weeks ago, my neighbor below moved out, and I had a window of time that I could decide to vacuum at 3am and harm no one.

          You like to think people deciding to be thoughtful is “objective” and since most people getting along in society do decide to be thoughtful as much as they can (and are thoughtless plenty of the time too, mostly because they did not think through the consequences of their typically otherwise harmless actions), that it comes from some external source, and not per se, a law forbidding everyone from vacuuming at 3am. Your idea of “arbitrary” is like, what’s wrong with murder, why not decide to do it or not? Like, flip a coin and go where the wind takes you on that decision. Feels like a murdering kind of day, like taking a bike ride or calling up your friend to meet you at the movies. Are you playing stupid or are you actually stupid?

        • Greg G.

          It is a combination of our evolutionary derived inclinations, what we learn from others, what we figure out on our own, and the situation we are in at the time. None of those factors will be the same for any two people.

          Dogs have been shown to have a sense of fairness. If they are trained to do something with no reward but they see another dog getting a reward for the trick, they will hold out for a treat. But if the other dog is getting a better treat, the dog doesn’t care.

          Capuchin monkeys will do a chore for a piece of cucumber but if another monkey gets a grape, the first monkey will throw a fit. The researchers say that the hierarchy of the preferences of the monkeys is pretty much in accordance with the cost at the grocery, which would indicate that it is similar to human preferences.

          Chimpanzees have been shown to refuse to eat if it will result in a different chimpanzee being shocked.

          But humans have been shown to be mean in some circumstances where they are put in charge of punishment of others.

          So, our empathy and our sense of fairness are genetically passed to us as well as a tendency to be mean. But these are not universally passed down as in sociopaths. MNb recently posted a link to an article that said that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths.

        • Kodie

          I don’t even know what you think objective morality is anymore. Let’s say it can’t be broken down into words – can it be broken down into circumstances? Can it be subjected to situations, cultures, government policies, etc.? Can it be, absolutely, rendered into a court transcript, which is words? A judicial decision, which is words? Can it be reasoned out from a set of difficult choices one has to make, to make the best possible choice, or can more than one choice be equally good or terrible?

          Let’s talk about objective immorality. Is it worse if someone walks into the grocery store with a bomb because his religion tells him that’s the way to paradise, or is it worse to poison the school cafeteria food for unknown reasons?

        • adam

          “I don’t even know what you think objective morality is anymore. ”

          His ‘god’ of course…

        • Kodie

          It sounds like it is whatever you want it to be. I can’t think of a word that describes this stupidity.

        • adam

          I like MNb’s IDiotic

        • MR

          Objective immorality is something I’ve been mulling over, too. If the perfect platonic forms exist: love, beauty, good, morality…, then surely their opposites do too: hate, ugliness, evil, immorality.

        • Kodie

          Morality seems to be more goal-based, not necessarily in an immediate or reciprocal sense. If someone near you at the grocery store drops their wallet and all the change falls all over the place, it seems an immediate instinct (for me) to help them round up all the change you can find, but not so far to inconvenience yourself to chase 3 pennies that went way over there. If someone ahead of you in line dropped a dollar but didn’t notice, your calculations are different. I’ve actually ran out of the store to catch someone before they drove off because they forgot to collect their change at self-checkout. But I’ve also grabbed more than $5 because nobody I could see was ahead of me before. If they’re there, and they dropped a dollar on the ground, you tap them on the shoulder and let them pick it up. Even if nobody is behind you to keep you honest.

          The goal is “what kind of society do you want to live in” and “how much effort would I expect from a stranger to get along”. I don’t expect a stranger to let me know I’ve dropped a dollar, and I expect them to pick it up if nobody else would know about it, even though I’ve seen other people do what I would call the “right” thing.

          Other societies have different goals. We’re not yet so small a world that everyone behaves in the interests of the whole group. They operate in the interests of their part in their smaller group. In the US, where slavery is abolished, we don’t allow slavery, but we do allow slavery in the form of hiring illegals to work for barely anything, off the books, not taxed, not reported. We like it so much that we enjoy the literal fruits of their labor at a cost we can afford, but we don’t want them stealing “our” jobs – the ones they can’t apply for because they’re not permanent residents. We love slavery in other countries, we don’t consider it our moral obligation to change laws everywhere to protect workers, child labor, sweatshops, etc. There’s a total disconnect between what happens when we prefer cheap goods, or prefer American-made, but cannot have both, because of our labor laws, which we all tend to enjoy as “progress”. People at the low end still suffer not earning a living wage, having to work more than one job, and not having an actual life to enjoy. They are hired as a machine, to make money to eat, to continue being a machine all their lives. I’m sick to death of hearing that “those jobs” were created for the teenager or college student (and what college student can earn such shitty wages part-time to pay for school nowadays anyway?) What exact right do teenagers have to jobs so they can save for a car, over a single parent raising 3 kids with no other job skills? While we’re at it, let’s blame the lack of available birth control, and employers’ strange ideas about whether or not they should pay for that, or give their employee a real raise and time off to raise their children now?

          Morality is, what kind of society do you want to live in, what are the goals here? Slavery rules in the bible, as I’ve mentioned before, are relevant to how much can you beat your labor animal to get it to work harder before you’ve actually injured or killed it? It seems like that mentality is still at play in jobs all across the US. How low can you pay someone, how threatening their job security can you be, how stingy on benefits can you be, how much morale can you leach from your employees before they’ll quit on you, or you’ve broken the law? And will that leave you high and dry? No. Someone always wants to work for dirt. Immigrants working for dirt proves that is true. Teenagers working for dirt to “pay their dues” and save for some luxury item before they get into living expenses proves that is true. It seems like the goal here is to keep business moving at a pace to keep up with demand, and to quiet the voices asking “why are we working so hard to live only for another day of work?” If you don’t like it, leave, that’s the goal. If you don’t like work, we’re not going to feed you for free either, nor the children we won’t invest in you preventing being born.

          The goal seems pretty short-sighted, and that might just be the kind of animal we are. It’s hard to convince anyone of long-range projections. They don’t want their taxes to go up to encourage more people to quit production at their shitty jobs and pay them not to work at all. They don’t want their taxes to go up to encourage people to have sex and make babies they can’t afford to keep. Blame the workers, slavery exists, keep beating on those slaves just enough to consider “pride” of employment the better option. The goal is not to make this a nice society for everyone. People scrape for their dollars, and we come back to the problem before of 2 people, one raft. It’s perfectly moral, I think, to take rights to the raft if one of you has to die. It’s moral not to share, if you think it’s me or them. There’s no immediate return on investment, there doesn’t seem to be any change made at all when you do share.

          If the goal is “let’s all make sure everyone gets where we’re going and don’t leave anyone behind if we can help it,” we don’t live in that kind of society. I’m not even talking about the 1%. Of course to keep their wealth, those closer to the bottom have to do whatever they can to scrounge as many of their dollars as they can, which means resenting people who do not work. It makes a lot of sense at that level to do that. How can it be immoral? When you have $100 for 50 hours of work, and your neighbor has $50 for not working at all, are you inclined to give your neighbor $25 to even it up? But are you ever going to bring it up to your employer that you actually deserve $500 so you can offer your neighbor $50, if he can find a replacement for you at $100? Nope. It’s not greed, it’s survival. If the circumstances are one way, we cannot stand up to greed if it costs our survival, so we pick on someone else.

        • Greg G.

          I must look like more of a shady character than you. People seem to very careful about dropping money and forgetting change when I am behind them. I did find an extra nickel in my change from a vending machine. I’m on Easy Street, now.

        • Kodie

          <—- I have the kind of face people think is a nice person. I think everyone should be careful of dropping their money, but all bets are off if they're on their cellphone at checkout.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t even know what you think objective morality is anymore.

          His definition of objective morality seems to have shifted since I reviewed The Abolition of Man. Before, it seemed to be a standard to be striven for. Now, it seems to be something like Sam Harris calls it, the best possible deed in a given situation. I would agree that there might be a choice of action that is better than any other in a given situation as long as it is not conflated with the former definition of objective morality.

        • adam

          “His definition of objective morality seems to have shifted since I reviewed The Abolition of Man.”

          Which is WHY he couldnt review it himself, he was dishonestly representing himself and his ideas…

        • Kodie

          I have come to the idea that we can make a better choice given most sets of circumstances, but it also depends on the goal. Humans have human ideals, some of it is individual, and some of it is social. Religious people are obviously influenced socially by their group, and how different churches and denominations have different plans for their group’s presence in a larger society. Sometimes a religion overrides a best possible deed in a given situation by their group’s identity. Often, their best possible deed involves pleasing an imaginary persona, and their very subjective interpretation of what that being wants them to do. A moral thing to do would be to accept rationally that homosexuality causes no harm to society, and that their ideas of what is an abomination or lust-centered fornication all over the house and in front of the children they adopt is not based on reality, but some imaginary fear. That homosexuals getting married will lead us toward pedophile marriages and incestuous marriages, and all kinds of acceptance for any way you want to be. Their moral directive comes from their goals, ostensibly to protect society and children from these gross predators or growing up confused or learning outside the home that it’s valid for them to love someone of the same sex and marry them and raise a family. In order to protect their children, the morality override is to be offensive to gay people, like voice directly at them they are going to hell, etc., mock them in the media, and deny them access to marriage, travel, shelter, adoption, employment and the family benefits most married people enjoy from their employer. This, to meet their goals, is the moral thing to do. To please god, this is how they need to be, and they justify it that way. God sees them as good, but will disapprove of any act of acceptance toward gay people. If the law of the land pushes against their will, what will they do then? Most of them will obey the law, but they will fight it as long as they can. Others will choose to go out of business or alter the nature of their business through whatever loophole they can discover – and claim moral high ground over those who let the government force them against their beliefs. Meanwhile, they all have different goals entirely. Some believe they will never cave in, and some will come to the final understanding that god knows who they are inside their heart and will not hold it against them.

          Now, if we have a different society with a different culture. Like slavery. We have so many Christians come here to tell us that god put up with slavery and didn’t like it, that he never prohibited it because people were just going to do it anyway. But did those slave-owners go to hell, do they think? I mean, if everyone thinks the same way, our goal is to get things done as cheaply as possible, who was the first person who owned another person for labor? Did that person feel at all squeamish about it, and then had to convince people this was acceptable? I mean, just look at an efficient system, we look at them now. We made factories and dumped polluting waste into the air and the water and the ground like it was just going to disappear. We loved it then, and we still do. We’re tired of people pointing out a downside to everything we like. It’s not suppression of a guilty, dirty feeling of being human.

          I have a hard time talking to people who think humans are amazing wonderful creatures and how can you compare it to a cockroach? Cockroaches also have no aversion to using the landscape at will, they don’t think or feel how is this going to affect anyone else. No animal does. Only humans can, and we still feel great about ourselves. God can call them dirty sinners, and I don’t know what that really means. When they are sinning against their neighbors, sinning against their habitat, they glorify themselves and get defensive and shut out criticism, that’s not the thing they feel dirty and sinning about. What do they feel dirty and sinning about then?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          The Tao te Ching, the way, whatever it is, that book by Lao Tzu, whoever he was, says just that sort of thing – it is there but it cannot be put into court transcripts and things.

          I think it is not that it can be subjected to situations, it is more that situations are subjected to it.

        • MNb

          “We cannot say what an atom actually is.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          We perfectly can say what an atom actually is. Especially made for amateurs like you:

          http://fearofphysics.com/Atom/atom1.html

          When you have digested this you might be ready for

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atom

          Yup – the atom “reduced” to words.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          yes, the point is, we can describe an atom, but we cannot say what it IS. Introductions to physics don’t usually go into this sort of thing.

        • adam

          ” We cannot say what that objective morality is. ”

          Sure we can, it is a philosophical IMAGINING….

        • Kodie

          I don’t think there’s even a tao. I have to go forward in time, no matter what happens, no matter what I do. “The way” is no other direction. Other than that, should I try to make myself a little comfortable and share of myself what I can to make others comfortable as well? I guess.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Yes, I think it’s very weird. It’s like we’re sliding through time, like falling through gravity… I increasingly think morality is a dimension of the universe. But I know that doesn’t really mean anything useful.

        • MNb

          “like falling through gravity”
          BWAHAHAHAHA! Fancy admirer of CSL uses a fancy word, showing he doesn’t understand what it means. But kudos – you admit it yourself.

          “I know that doesn’t really mean anything useful.”
          Indeed. Just like objective morals. That doesn’t mean anything useful either.
          Or the word god.

          Gravity is certainly not a meaningless word though.

          http://www.particlecentral.com/force_page.html

          It has so much meaning that even philosophers contemplate it.

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/quantum-gravity/

          Yup, the good old days of physics meets philosophy are returning. Will you jump this bandwagon? No room for god, I’m afraid, though it won’t require you to abandon your faith.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          which is the word you think is fancy? Gravity? Falling? Which word is being improperly used?

          Why do you bother posting comments if you haven’t really got anything to say!

        • MNb

          “Which word is being improperly used?”
          Gravity.
          Why do you bother reacting to my comments if you think I haven’t really got anything to say?

          Plus of course I said a few things. I said your usage of the word gravity was nonsensical and referred to reliable sources to illustrate why. I said that the word god is meaningless. That objective morals are meaningless.
          You at the other hand suddenly realized

          “I know that doesn’t really mean anything useful.”
          You’re really a very funny guy. And that’s the main reason why I bother to post comments in reaction to yours. You’re highly entertaining.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You might well have something to say. I think everyone does. I replied because I thought it a bit unfair to burst out laughing and accuse me of misusing a word! And because I am quite taken by the idea that gravity might be thought of as another dimension, and so might morality.

          Why can’t we say that we fall through gravity? We travel through time. It seems to me OK as a metaphor.

        • MNb

          “Why can’t we say that we fall through gravity? ….. It seems to me OK as a metaphor.”
          A metaphor for what?

        • Kodie

          Morality is an abstract concept that we apply to concrete situations. But there are no rules.

        • MR

          And I don’t think it really makes sense to compare morality in animals with morality in humans. I think they are so different it might not be useful.

          So, now we have objective moralities for cats, and objective moralities for dogs, objective moralities for cheetahs, objective moralities for fish…. Is it me, or is it getting awfully subjective in here?

          Evolved morality explains things just fine. Shoehorning God into the equation neither adds nor explains anything.

        • Greg G.

          Have you noticed the correlation between a species’ objective morality and the type of teeth they have?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I suppose I’m saying it is this way.

          There is an objective morality – a part of the universe.

          Human beings are sensitive to it in a way that no other animal is.

        • adam

          “Human beings are sensitive to it in a way that no other animal is.”

          But OBVIOUSLY not sensitive enough to demonstrate it…except as an IMAGINARY philosophical construct.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          like gravity

        • Kodie

          Most animals are sensitive to gravity, they’re also sensitive to light, and they all have some kind of morality. Even plants for fuck’s sake have morality.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          This is like an extreme version of CS Lewis’s thing.

          Even plants have morality. It’s like Tielhard de Chardin’s thing about geology being like living things.

        • Kodie

          Living things probably because wanting to stay alive in a competitive environment is an important part of it.

        • adam

          But it is SOOOOO easy to demonstrate gravity…..

          Where is the demonstration of YOUR ‘objective morality’?

        • Greg G.

          Karma will punish you if you keep touting Morality of the Gaps.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Greg G, it’s only you that is talking about Morality of the Gaps. Dawkins, as we know, goes on about the God of the gaps. That’s fair enough, as long as he means that it is a fallacy to suggest that a gap in understanding is evidence for God.

          However, it seems to me this talk about morality is not about establishing whether or not there is a God – whatever that may mean.

          I’m still persuaded that morality seems objective. There is, however, no morality of the gaps here.

        • MR

          I’m still persuaded that morality seems objective.

          Of course you are, you’re not interested in following the evidence, you’re interested in what supports your world view. All you have is baseless assertions, and every time you try to defend them you end up illustrating just how subjective morality is.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But I am interested in following the evidence. I’m not making this up. I think there are misunderstandings because of category errors.

          All I have to say is I am persuaded that it I think morality is objective – that is it is not an arbitrary construct. I’m open to new evidence. If it shows I’m wrong, then that’s the way it is. I’ll go with what seems to be the truth.

        • MR

          Then answer Kodie’s question. “Seems to be the truth” is pretty weak.

        • Kodie

          You’re not open at all, you wave your hands and it’s whatever you want to be true. You haven’t argued it, you have only argued about it. If we’re wrong and you’re right, what is that evidence? We’ve shown you, Greg G. even read that book and reviewed it, and your handwave answer was he missed the point. Since you can’t make that point, Greg’s answer stands. You’re opposed to new information or evidence, and you have none of your own.

        • MR

          You say you’re interested in following the evidence, but there is none for objective morality and plenty for subjective morality, so I really don’t believe you when you say that.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But when you say there is no evidence for objective morality, am I right in thinking that you reject, for instance, the examples of the Tao in CS Lewis’s appendix as evidence?

          I guess it may be that you do not find the evidence as persuasive as I do, but I think it wrong to say that there is no evidence.

        • Kodie

          Normally, when someone thinks it’s wrong to say there is no evidence, they demonstrate that lack of no evidence with evidence. But you’re special.

        • MR

          That’s not evidence. You’re like a conspiracy theorist who reinterprets everything to match his pet theory but never asks himself if he might be wrong, never stops to consider or attempt to understand competing theories, and never tries to verify that his own theory is true. You’re like the protagonists in Foucaults’ Pendulum, inventing a fiction they end up believing, but that has no bearing in reality.

        • Kodie

          Persuaded by what? If say you’re persuaded by an argument you can’t articulate from some author’s book, you deserve punishment. You have to come up with an answer to that question.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I have, however, too many times now, put into my own words a version of CS Lewis’s argument. But CS Lewis’s argument includes a lengthy appendix. It strikes me that CS Lewis did not feel that his argument could be set out, like a computer program.

        • Greg G.

          That is probably because it wasn’t a logical argument.

        • adam

          Because it wasnt a valid logical argument….

          Exactly what YOU’VE been demonstrating here..

        • Kodie

          You’re a liar?

        • Greg G.

          You are not providing any evidence or reason to make the case. As many responses as you have made, you could have rewritten the whole book several times. One quality post with your evidence would be better than the empty posts you have given.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Greg, you claim to have read the book. I thought this discussion was about whether or not Bob’s article was flawed, and more interestingly, whether CS Lewis was right about morality being objective.

          When you say say, ‘you are not providing any evidence or reason to make a case’ I think you are not being very fair. I have spoken plainly, giving evidence and reasons to support what I feel.

          You might not be satisfied by them, but it is unfair to suggest that such things have not been provided.

        • Kodie

          All you have done is say you have feelings that are the opposite of everything you’ve been shown. Your supporting argument is “I read a convincing book.” How many ways do people have to demonstrate that you’re wrong before you can come up with an actual answer?

        • Greg G.

          Greg, you claim to have read the book

          Yes, I did. I also discussed the highlights of what I read. I provided relevant quotes from it to back up my understanding of it, too.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Did you really read the book?

        • adam

          DISHONEST

          : characterized by lack of truth, honesty, or trustworthiness

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You should forward this to Bob. He loves the dictionary. Me too really, but in a different way.

        • adam

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • Greg G.

          I read the online PDF of the book.

          PS: I even provided the link to it at the beginning of my review.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Did you print it out? Or put in a mobi format or something? Or did you just read it on the computer?

        • Greg G.

          I read it on the computer. Why? Does the Objective Morality only come through with paper?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Why do you think anyone would argue that the ‘objective morality’ would only come through on paper?

          Did you really read it? Did you just skim through it? How long did it take you to read it?

        • adam

          disingenuous Merriam Webster….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          thanks again for this adam, but I don’t need dictionary definitions from you. I’ve got a dictionary, and moreover, the internet has taken dictionaries to the next level!

        • adam

          Maybe unlike CSL book, you should take time to read it and understand it.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You mean read and understand the dictionary? I hope Bob reads your comment.

        • Greg G.

          It took a few hours. The stuff about Gaius and Titius was boring and pointless so I had to put it down a few times.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I found that section fascinating. What did you think was pointless about it?

        • Greg G.

          It reads like a critique of a high school textbook. I read it a few times thinking I was just missing the interesting part.

          What did you find fascinating about it?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You read it a few times! That’s quite something. I’m taking you at your word here.

          It was a critique of a high school text book. And it kept showing again and again how the authors of the textbook were deeply wrong.

          I thought that was fascinating.

        • Greg G.

          But was the passage in the textbook near the beginning where they give a very simplified explanation and get more complex in the later part of the book? It would be like criticizing a physics textbook for starting with Newtonian equations instead of the more general Einsteinian formulas.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          No it wouldn’t.

          There is a category error here, as they say. As CS Lewis’s book makes clear.

        • Greg G.

          As CS Lewis’s book makes clear.

          No, it doesn’t. If he made it clear, I would agree with you.

        • MR

          At heart the book is an appeal to lost innocence, isn’t it? “Woe, woe, what will we do if we reduce everything to numbers and science! What is life without magic!” It’s an appeal to emotion, an appeal to loss, an appeal to fear. What after all is a world without faeries and princesses?

          It reminds me of those people who post on Facebook about how the past was so much better. They idealize their childhood, blocking out the memories of rampant racism, abuse of women and children…, oof, that ubiquitous cigarette smoke hanging in the air.

          “But we’ll lose our childlike wonder, we’ll lose the Old Stories, and the tales of knights conquering dragons and men slaying giants!”

          Yes, and they will be replaced by other, more mature wonders. The wonders of the universe, of our true past, of our psyche, our potential future. We don’t need fairy tales and naivete to be in awe.

          CSL wants us to cling to the past, to our innocence; but those were shattered long before now. The Great Wars did that for Europe, JFK’s assassination did that for the U.S. Mankind is leaving its childhood behind. It’s a shame it took tragedy to set us on that path, but sometimes that’s what it takes to shake people out of their lethargy. Is it good, after all, for a grown man to continue to believe in Santa Claus? Civilization is entering into adulthood.

          Don’t hold us back, JRD. Leave the Old Stories behind.

        • Kodie

          Holy shit, man. If CS Lewis makes something clear, you ought to be able to reiterate it. If you can’t, maybe it wasn’t clear?

        • adam

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • Kodie

          Wow, which one upsets your personal preference and subjective morality more?

        • adam

          disingenuous Merriam Webster……
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • adam

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…..
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • MR

          Much more than he’s been able to do.

        • MR

          Usually giving evidence means, you know, giving evidence.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          OK, but seriously, what evidence do you think I have failed to give?

        • adam

          Only the ones to back up your CLAIMS…

        • MR

          “I feel that…” really doesn’t strike me as evidence.

        • adam

          “Greg G, it’s only you that is talking about Morality of the Gaps.”

          No, actually it is YOU who demonstrating that this is where you are coming from.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          adam, you remember you wrote a weird thing a while ago about tactics, or something, and robo calls.

          My only tactic here is to say what I think is true. I don’t think it very likely that anything I say will affect how anyone thinks about things. I guess I think everyone feels the same way, they just want to know the truth about stuff.

        • adam

          Look, for the record, I don’t expect an honest answer from you, as you’ve failed to demonstrate that you are capable.

          And what I think is true, is that you are here to spread propaganda, which like manure needs to be well spread to be effective, but you are finding it most difficult to control the smell.

          Language can be used to clarify meanings and thought and it can be used to try and bury the stench of BULLSHIT…

          You dont use language to clarify.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But what was all that stuff you wrote about tactics? I guess I think that if you really feel you are fighting against evil then that excuses you a bit. I’ve told you the truth. I have no reason to do otherwise.

        • adam

          ” I’ve told you the truth. I have no reason to do otherwise.”

          Just another unsupported CLAIM, that lies in contradiction to your posts.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Oh yes young adam? And I offer you the prize of ten pounds if you can show me where I have once posted up a dishonest word on this ‘blog’.

        • Kodie

          That you were open to the evidence.

        • adam

          Oh NO, Kodie….

          Now you are going to get 10 pounds of his bullshit in a 5 pound sack….

        • Kodie

          I got another one – where he puts quotes around the word ‘blog’ like this isn’t a blog. Let’s put some objectivity on the subject, what does god say in the bible what a blog is and what’s just pretending to be a blog?

        • adam

          That is because he is:

          disingenuous Merriam Webster….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

          But then he HAS to be to represent a dishonest ‘god’….

        • MR

          But what was all that stuff you wrote about tactics? I guess I think that if you really feel you are fighting against evil then that excuses you a bit.

          So you think you’re fighting against evil? Wow.

          And that excuses you from using tactics? Well, that undermines your objective morality, doesn’t it?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          MR, no, I was on about something adam had said. I thought he said he felt he was fighting against evil. I don’t know what adam is on about. Actually, also I don’t know what you’re on about. But I don’t think objective morality has been undermined.

        • adam

          ” But I don’t think objective morality has been undermined.”

          You can’t weaken the foundation of something that has no foundation.

          disingenuous Merriam Webster.
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • MR

          I see. That was somewhat ambiguous.

          But I don’t think objective morality has been undermined.

          Oh, I thought you did a pretty good job. Pretty much everything you said pointed to subjective morality! 😉

        • Kodie

          Every time you’ve been patiently attended with a question asking you for evidence, you answer something else, like that time Bob asked you about any contentious moral issue, and you didn’t like his suggestion and stalled dishonestly to avoid having to take on any moral issue at all. Because you can’t. Not because you don’t know how, which you’ve admitted, but because you cannot demonstrate any issue where objective morality can or has been applied (by the universe, I guess). Why do you think the universe cares what ends up with people? Why would the universe have created a rule just for people?

        • MR

          And what I think is true, is that you are here to spread propaganda…

          Agree. He wants to muddle the waters, not present evidence or anything remotely compelling.

        • Kodie

          Your only tactic is to say how you feel and build a tent. Your effect on people is annoyance because how ignorant can anyone be to believe something they can’t put into words because it’s so mmmmmfph! Wordless! It’s just there, I asserted that I feel like there must be has to just be something, I can’t say!

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Kodie, just have a read of the book – the Abolition of Man.

          You were going on before about how the inexpressible can find expression in poetry. Well, it seems to me that it’s a bit like that. I’m not saying the book is like poetry, but that book addresses this, that some things about the universe will not be put into court transcripts.

        • adam

          You do understand, in order to sell your book, you need to provide enough information to make it either relevant or interesting and you’ve done NEITHER…

        • Kodie

          Are you certain you were not put in a trance and persuaded by pretty language and fallacious emotional arguments? Because you seem like you have an emotional attachment to the presupposed conclusions of this book, which is not a sensible approach. Here you go on preaching everyone read this, someone actually did and took it down, and your only response to that was that he missed the point. No, it’s called critical thinking and reading comprehension, which I haven’t seen you demonstrate yourself capable of either.

          You read a book, and presumably all our posts as well, but have not given the impression that the book is worth reading, not summarized any part of it, nor made any arguments of your own brain to make anything like a point. Can you at least admit you’re inadequately prepared to have this conversation? When someone’s reading comprehension of mostly concise blog posts is so poor, I don’t guess a lot of credit is due for your reading a whole book by a guy who is known primarily for his literary ability to make shit seem like it’s gold.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          To be honest Kodie, I have skimmed over a lot of what you have put, because I guess you have issues. And you keep saying that I won’t summarise the book when I have, which makes me think you don’t really listen.

          Why don’t you just exercise some critical thinking and read the book instead of hoping other people will do your thinking for you.

        • Kodie

          “To be honest”????? This is how you liars shift the blame and get out of answering direct questions.

        • MR

          LOL! Nice. You don’t even have to be in the same room with him to see the bullshit written all over his face. 😀

        • adam

          I told you that you would get his 10 pounds of bullshit in a 5 pound paper sack..

          It is afterall, the VERY, VERY BEST that his ‘faith’ has to offer for him..

        • adam

          disingenuous Merriam Webster….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • MR

          Compared to Greg’s clear and concise analysis.

        • Kodie

          Human beings are inventive.

        • adam

          And IMAGINATIVE….

        • Kodie

          Bear with me, but I feel like a human’s imagination is more like a container than an engine of thoughts. People are born curious and highly suggestible, that this imagination they have is satisfied consuming ideas rather than coming up with them. Yes, there is this ability, it doesn’t sit idle, it is still seeking information to feed the innate desire to be thinking about something all the time. Let’s call most people’s brains like an emotional eater, looking for something to occupy it.

          I don’t know if that’s accurate, but it does explain a lot of what we’re entertained by. We’re trained to do a job, sometimes a complicated job, and keeping up a family, for example, tends to take a lot of effort. We don’t really have time to use our brains, but we are distracted by shiny things to plug up all the gaps from thinking about our job or our family. That feels productive. Without this, we get “bored”. Our brains are bored when they’re not fed, we often don’t look for opportunities to imagine things on our own, and take a substitution from someone else’s imagination.

          I think this is where religion appeals, in more than one way. It feeds us an imaginary thing, and it also feels like all this idle nothingness (most of the time) is amazing. It’s amazing that we can think and feel unlike those other animals right? Let’s focus all on that “ability” most of us have no use for. We’re able to learn languages and reading, and we put on clothes to go outside, lots of skills. Most of these skills were invented very long ago, it’s not like we’ve even gotten very far.

          How many tools have you invented in your life? I don’t mean like patented, I mean, what they now call “hacks” or using something it’s not usually used for because you didn’t have that thing, but had something that could be used instead? Maybe in an average life, 5 or 10 tools, but you already knew what tool you needed, you know what you needed it to do, and you could recognize the general attributes in another thing that could perform the task. I think that’s about as inventive as most people get. For that matter, actual toolmakers observed their environment seeking attributes of something to fill a need they already had. I need things smashed, rock can smash, I need my hand to grip the smasher better, I make handle. This just doesn’t happen as much as our brains are working all the time in case it needs a tool one day in 10s of thousands of days. The rest of the time we’ve got earworms camping out.

        • adam

          “Bear with me, but I feel like a human’s imagination is more like a container than an engine of thoughts.”

          How about an ‘oven’

          This is where your curiosity and suggestibility ‘bake’ things. Some are so burned in by this process they become VERY difficult to get remolded or removed.

          As for life hacks, my dad was a semi-pro hacker, so I have hacked my whole life. I have almost made a living out of it.

        • MR

          And we’re saying it’s built into man (and to some degree, other animals).

          You’re taking the Platonic view. That it’s separate. We’re taking the Aristotelian view. It’s part of our wiring.

          The Aristotelian view is what science says. We have plenty of evidence to explain it through the evolutionary process. The Platonic view has no evidence. Just wishful thinking.

          It’s mechanics vs. magic woo as far as I can see.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Have you ever read any Plato? What I think is one of the most lovely things about Plato is that it’s like going back in time, two and a half thousand years ago, and it seems EXACTLY like life today – OK, it’s a bit different, like going on holiday in another country – but exactly the same. Just guys talking about stuff. It’s just like this.

          I personally don’t think I’m taking the Platonic view, or the Aristotelian view. I see all the good stuff they say in everything. Also, more importantly, I don’t think CS Lewis was either.

          CS Lewis accepted the fact of evolution. But he did not find it sufficient to explain what he experienced. The mechanics did not explain the ‘magic woo’.

          Just read his book.

        • MR

          Oh my God, you’re right! Just like when he talks about how human beings used to be fused together and rolled around doing cartwheels to get around and how after they were separated they still yearn for each other because they want to be fused again. Yes. Exactly. Like. Today. Exactly the same.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          What you on about MR? CS Lewis or Plato? What you’re saying is not ringing any bells…

        • MR

          Sorry, when you asked me if I’d read Plato, I assumed that you yourself had, too, since what I described is some basic Plato about the origin of man. So, then, you only read the bits you like? It never occurred to you that Plato got plenty wrong and that he claims things that not even you believe to be true? How do you distinguish between what Plato got right and what Plato got wrong? I suppose you believe in Atlantis, too? Plato went on and on about forms and Aristotle turned around and said he was wrong. His own pupil said he was wrong, but here you are so certain.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          When I first discovered Plato I got obsessed by it. And I read nearly all of it. And I’m very glad I did. And not because of his famous ‘ideas’ that can be shown to be fallacious. But because of what I said, that it’s like going back all those years and finding the world is the same, in a deep way. And because of how they are written. The beautiful question and answer way.

          I think given that Plato is the original source for the Atlantis myth, and having read the book wherein he describes Atlantis, I conclude that there isn’t much evidence for the existence of Atlantis, as described by Plato.

        • MR

          Ditto for objective morality.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Are you just saying the first thing that pops into your head?

          I think you have to accept there is a prima facie case for objective morality. There is not one for Atlantis… whatever that may have been.

        • adam

          “I think you have to accept there is a prima facie case for objective morality.”

          disingenuous Merriam Webster….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • MR

          Dude, there is no case for objective morality. You’re just clinging to your obsession. The world has moved on.

        • adam

          “Just read his book.”

          Just HONESTLY show it’s relevance…

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I’ll help you out here adam. For no good reason, though for a clear one, the apostrophe on it’s indicates a contraction – the ‘ always means something has been omitted. it’s means it is. the ‘ represents the i of the is.

          This is all quite arbitrary, so don’t feel bad for muddling it up.

          It’s made more confusing because usually when talking about possessives the ‘ seems to do the job. Santa’s sack, for instance.

          But it remains that the ‘ represents a missing bit of text. It used to be that you would write Santaes sack – but it just switched to just using the apostrophe instead. Apostrophe is just Greek words meaning a turning away.

          Weird huh?

        • adam

          “Just read his book.” Just HONESTLY show it has relevance…

        • MR

          Evolved morality explains things just fine. Shoehorning God into the equation neither adds nor explains anything.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Did you say this before? Evolved morality, though, has a serious problem. As is outlined in the Abolition of Man.

        • MR

          Which you can’t seem to articulate.

        • Greg G.

          Scientists have learned much about instinct in the last 70 years. Lewis could not speak on that with any authority. He said [with my bolding added]:

          We have an instinctive urge to preserve our own species. That is why men ought to work for posterity. We have no instinctive urge to keep promises or to respect individual life: that is why scruples of justice and humanity—in fact the Tao—can be properly swept away when they conflict with our real end, the preservation of the species.

          We have instincts of self-interest and self-preservation which often conflict with our societal instincts. We also have an instinctual sense of fairness. So when we don’t keep promises, tell the truth, or take advantage of others, there will be a price to pay.

          It was reported that some monkeys were being observed feeding in the wild. The species had about four different warnings for different predators. A young male gave a distress call for a land predator so all the other monkeys went up the tree while the male ate as much as he could in the meantime. When the other monkeys realized they had been had, they instilled some regret on that one.

          Isn’t that how we learn, too?

          We have instincts that follow Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We are not exactly automatons controlled by instincts as we can override them as necessary. But there may be some we do without even realizing we have done so. I have seen research that suggests humans select or reject possible mates by scent. I don’t recall whether that odor is consciously detectable or if it is only recognized subconsciously.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Greg, this is blaggers central.

          The quote from the text is not what CS Lewis was saying. It is an extract from him imagining that position.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, he is imagining a strawman based on a lot of ignorance of instincts.

        • adam

          “Greg, this is blaggers central.”

          blagger

          A derogatory term used to mock and humiliate a white person. The N word for white people. It is an extremely offensive word to ridicule any white person.

          “That guy is such a filthy, nasty blagger!”
          http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=blagger

        • adam

          “As is outlined in the Abolition of Man.”

          So surely it would easy for you to post this ‘outline’

          disingenuous Merriam Webster….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • Kodie

          WHAT THE SERIOUS PROBLEM IS – your job to explain in detail. It’s like you get royalties or something from this book, you even asked Greg if he went over to Barnes and Noble to purchase his copy legitimately or if he read it online for free, like you have a stake in this!

          But anyway, you’ve long since admitted you have no input on this subject and you’re here to proselytize a book you think is neat.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I think this is interesting. Saying there is an objective morality, a dimension to the universe, cats, dogs, fleas, etc are aware of it in their own way – which I would argue is not very much.

        • MR

          You’re just inventing a magic fairy tale that can be explained by other means.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But anything can be explained by other means.

        • Greg G.

          Magic can explain everything, even LastThursdayism.

        • MR

          You’re right, people make shit up all the time.

        • Kodie

          Explain anything by any means.

        • Greg G.

          On Terry Pratchett’s DiscWorld, there is a different Grim Reaper for each species.

      • adam

        “I think you missed the point. But then again, I think that’s largely
        what this book is about. People don’t realise they miss the point.”

        And obviously YOU dont realize you missed the point, because YOU FAILED understand the point well enough to articulate even as well as Greg G does on a first read.

      • Kodie

        The responses are not arbitrary. You keep using arbitrary to mean subjective, as like it’s a bad thing. Please do a better job explaining what you really mean. It looks just like you’re in denial, and you can’t get to a point. People who are looking for easy answers to hard questions should think why those questions are hard. It looks like you read a book and the author guided you to the conclusion he made, rather than be able to think about it for yourself. Greg G. read the same book and illustrated to you where you went wrong, and all you have to say for yourself is “you read it wrong, you didn’t arrive at the same conclusions you were supposed to!” Hey, it’s called literacy, it’s called reading comprehension, and critical thinking.

    • TheNuszAbides

      it looks like he wants to claim that “the ______ underlying anyone ever developing any kind of morality” is something that could possibly be ‘rejected’. but saying that rejecting ‘proto-morality-construction’ is rejecting ‘all value’ appears 100% circular; if one doesn’t presume the ‘before-each-and-all-development-of-moralities’ then one might be a caricature of a contrarian who rails against any imposition of any system of morality — but even that caricature had to somehow determine that following a[ny] morality is somehow inappropriate, wrong, undesirable, etc. or that convincing people as much was useful, instructive, etc. or that simply getting people to question their moral values is … etc.

    • MNb

      Thanks for saving me the time of reading it.

      “the assumption of objective values were plugged in at the beginning.”
      Also thanks for confirming my evaluation that CSL was a shallow thinker.

    • You’ve given a far better summary than the Christian proponents; thanks.

      The Buddha taught that which can be described is not the Tao.

      I think you mean Lao Tzu, not Buddha.

      Is he really talking about Chinese Taoism? Isn’t that weird for a Christian? Or is this just a metaphor?

      The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.

      That is indoctrination.

      And does it even work that way? Isn’t something like the Golden Rule programmed in us?

      • Greg G.

        I started to put “The Buddhists teach” but it sounded better the other way. Too bad it was incorrect.

        I don’t think the things that the little ones have to be trained to feel are the things that are already programmed in.

        Another quote from the text:

        There is a difference between a real moral advance and a mere innovation. From the Confucian ‘Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you’ to the Christian ‘Do as you would be done by’ is a real advance.

        I don’t think that is quite right. I think “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them” is better. My Catholic neighbor might like me to share some extra pork with him but my Muslim neighbor would not. Even with beef, the Muslim would need to know how it was killed and blessed.

        • I don’t think the things that the little ones have to be trained to feel are the things that are already programmed in.

          Agreed. I missed your bit vs. Lewis. My bad.

        • I also reject Lewis’s claim that Christianity gives an advance. Better still is the other-centric phrasing, “Do to others as they would prefer.

        • Greg G.

          I think Lewis would even agree that “Do to others as they would prefer.” is an advance of my offering.

    • James Raskalinikov Dean

      Your final paragraph is very interesting. You say that CS Lewis has made a circular argument. It is not completely clear as it is written, but I think you are saying that human beings evolved to feel the way they do about the world because that is just how it happened to go. “Objective Morality”, or the Tao, or whatever we might call it is an illusion. The fact that we are all very closely related members of the same species might account for how we have mistaken our very similar psychological states for proof of there being something beyond individuals. We feel the same way about things because we are so biologically similar. It is not that the ‘moral’ feelings we have are in any way particularly meaningful. That they seem this way is an illusion of consciousness.

      OK, this is an interesting idea.

      But I think it also interesting that that this does not establish that CS Lewis made a circular argument. I think it also very interesting that CS Lewis addresses this point in the book.

      • Greg G.

        It is circular to argue that those who are indoctrinated to a specific version of morality to be the standard by which an absolute morality is judged.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Sorry Greg, I have to ask you to have another go at expressing this thought. I don’t get it.

        • Greg G.

          The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.

          That argues against Objective Morality if humans are not automatically attuned to it. Instead, it is indoctrination.

          If those are the people Lewis is judging morality by, he is not getting Objective Morality, he is getting the lessons passed down over time. Either the morality was passed down from monkeys and lemurs or the first instructor, who could not have been properly trained or indoctrinated, made them up.

        • Kodie

          Who was it not too long ago who was arguing about original sin being why babies were born naughty and uncivilized?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But Greg, you put this quote up before and I wasn’t sure you where you going with it.

          Do you think this is CS Lewis’s thought being expressed here? Do you really think CS Lewis is going to write this sort of thing? He puts this in as evidence that:

          “Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it — believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit., our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt.”

          As you know, Lewis is arguing for objective morality.

          You put this up as evidence that Lewis had made a mistake in his reasoning. I think you misunderstood.

          And this shows what folly it is to take someone’s word for what a writer has to say about things. Bob was delighted that you had saved him the bother of doing any thinking for himself.

          But I believe in you Greg! I’m sure you will restate your position.

        • Kodie

          “Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed” SO WHAT IS THAT EVIDENCE OF REALITY? People believed something until it was evidently not true?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Kodie, would you be so kind as to elaborate a little?

        • Kodie

          What about what you posted do you think is evidence for your beliefs? It is an obvious fallacy.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Erm… The point is Greg claims CS Lewis made an error in his reasoning, that he made a circular argument. However, he illustrates this with a quote that doesn’t fit. At present I think that Greg might have thought that ‘The little human must be trained…’ or how it went was CS Lewis speaking about how things actually were.

          I really don’t know why Greg put that quote up. I don’t think he has read the book.

        • Kodie

          Don’t change the subject.

        • Greg G.

          I proved you wrong about that HERE.

          Are you Otto from A Fish Called Wanda?

          Otto West: Apes don’t read philosophy.

          Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don’t understand it.

        • adam

          “I really don’t know why Greg put that quote up. I don’t think he has read the book.”

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • MNb

          Yup – again you show that your assumption of objective morality has made you incapable of considering any other standpoint.
          What “teachers and even all men believed” can’t be evidence for anything.Long ago “teachers and even all men believed” that the Earth was flat. So this

          “He puts this in as evidence that: “Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed””
          is a non-sequitur and hence only evidence for your poor logical skills.

          The mistake Kodie makes is not having the patience to spell every little detail out for you and hence assuming that you’re smarter than you actually are.

        • MR

          Logic is one of those attributes that God inexplicably ignores.

        • MR

          The mistake Kodie makes is not having the patience to spell every little detail out for you and hence assuming that you’re smarter than you actually are.

          ^1

        • Kodie

          It’s not a mistake. It’s perhaps a flaw, but not a mistake.

        • Greg G.

          No, the quote you provide comes from the previous paragraph where he addressed a separate issue.

          Then he addressed Augustine, Aristotle, Plato, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confuscianism, and even Judaism in the next two paragraphs. The paragraph after that begins:

          This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as ‘the Tao‘. Some of the accounts of it which I have quoted will seem, perhaps, to many of you merely quaint or even magical. But what is common to them all is something we cannot neglect.

          When he mentions the Tao throughout the rest of the book, he is including Plato and all the other beliefs mentioned.

          You are the one who misunderstood. Will you restate your position?

        • MR

          The Tao is like The Plan in Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Anything and everything can support it. No need to worry about contradictions because you just reinterpret the contradictions away. Like putting up wallpaper. Smooth out the inconsistencies over here and they appear over there. Not to worry, that’s not what we’re talking about right now. Smooth them out over there and they appear over here. Hey, just don’t look here right now. See no problem!

        • Greg G.

          That sounds like “The Apologist Two Step“.
          Apologist: “That is condemned in the OT.”
          Doubter: “But the OT also says This.”
          Apologist: “But we’re no longer under OT law.”
          Doubter: “Then it is OK to do That.”
          Apologist: “That is condemned in the OT.”

        • MR

          That made me think: Have you ever noticed that the “How do you determine” questions never get answered?

          How do you determine what is or isn’t valid in the Old Testament?
          How do you determine which religion is the correct religion?
          How do you determine between an answered prayer and chance?
          How do you determine subjective morality from objective morality?

        • Greg G.

          You don’t have to determine it when it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          yes, this is the interesting stuff. Scientists are always saying how the, hmm, I don’t know stuff is the most interesting.

        • MR

          The problem is the claim to know. You can’t claim to know that you know what is is or isn’t valid in the OT if you have no way to determine it….

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I think you’re right. I think Dawkins should have called his book the religion delusion.

        • Greg G.

          I think you’re right, too, at least on the book title.

        • Kodie

          Scientists have a method for discovering the solutions to these problems. You and everyone who is like you, are asked how you determine what you wish to believe actually is true.

          You don’t have a method.

        • adam

          Re: no problem….

        • Greg G.

          Dang. That meme makes the same point I was arguing over at Debunking Christianity. I wish I had seen it earlier.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Greg, I have not misunderstood, unfortunately.

          Yes, CS Lewis includes the morality expressed in Plato as part of the Tao. However he is talking about quite a different thing in the earlier quote, about the little human needing to be trained. Here he is pointing out that it was the erroneous belief of past ages that morality was learned, in exactly the same way that reading an writing have to be learned. Reading and writing is not instinctive, like speaking a language is. However, CS Lewis argues that the human understanding of morality is not like reading and writing. It is instinctive.

          You don’t have to teach children to know what right and wrong is – though of course children need guidance. It was, and probably still is widely thought that you had to teach children what right and wrong is, or they will have no understanding. And it turns out this is not the case. Knowing about morality is not like knowing about spelling words.

          I will remind you Greg, that you have put these quotes up as a demonstration that CS Lewis makes a circular argument in his book. Your quotes demonstrate nothing of the sort. But they do demonstrate that that the handful of people posting on here, including the author of the article, do not seem to know much about evaluating arguments.

          I’ll say it again, the irony is dark. We have people posting who sound exactly like the men without chests that CS Lewis feared would be produced by the social engineers.

          But I still have faith in you Greg. And everyone.

          Perhaps, since you do take all this seriously, you might have another go at explaining how you think that CS Lewis has made a circular argument. I do not think he has.

        • Greg G.

          Nope. The quote you took is from the paragraph referring to Gaius and Titius who Lewis continuously cites as wrong. Then he cites Augustine and Aristotle approvingly. Immediately after that, in the same paragraph, Lewis puts the Plato quote I gave. There is no indication of disapproval of Plato’s quote. The next paragraph mentions other philosophies in a positive manner. The paragraph after that, he wraps up the things in the previous two paragraphs in the Tao. He never denounces that Plato quote.

          If you disagree, please produce the text where he excludes the quote.

          As it stands, indoctrination is required to understand the Tao which means it is not an objective part of the universe.

          Have you stated your theory on how the neurons and synapses in human brains get wired by this objective morality and animals are immune?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Greg, But CS Lewis is saying two things here.

          First, that people are wrong to think that the Tao must be learned, as reading and writing must be learned.

          Second that the Tao exists, that Plato was aware of it – That we can see the Tao in Plato.

          His complaint is that the social engineers deny the existence of the Tao.

          If you really care about the truth please say again how you think CS Lewis has made a circular argument.

        • adam

          “If you really care about the truth please say again how you think CS Lewis has made a circular argument.”

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • Greg G.

          If you really care about the truth please say again how you think CS Lewis has made a circular argument.

          Lewis quotes Plato as saying morality must be taught. How does he know that the teachings Plato refers to are right? He assumes they are because he assumes his conclusion. That is circular reasoning with a very short radius.

          dtheroux posted another quote by Lewis on the subject in a reply to you. He lists several features of morality that are common to various cultures over recorded history. I’ll ignore that he says that not every culture has every one. Even if cultures had the same culture, it would be the fallacy of hasty generalization to jump to it being an objective morality of the universe. Even if you checked every culture of every intelligent species in the cosmos, it would not follow that it was a force of the universe. It could just be one evolutionary strategy that leads to high intelligence. It remains to be seen if developing high intelligence is a good long term strategy for life on a planet.

          But if you are going to catalog the morality of various cultures, you should not just look at the part you want to assume is objective morality. What Lewis points out as common to many cultures is half the story. It is only how people in the same social group treat one another. It is common for have a morality where it is good to lie, cheat, steal, and murder those who are not in their social circle.

          The combination of how you treat friends and how you treat enemies is the whole package. We see that in humans, other great apes, packs of wolves, and prides of lions. You and Lewis would have to include the bad parts, too, if you are trying to be objective.

          Pinker shows how as societies get larger, the friends and family ethic gets expanded as groups get larger. The “enemy” side of morality is still there but we have fewer enemies and that culture may become our friends in the next war, so we are less brutal.

          So, if there was an objective morality, it would be like the Force, with a Light Side and a Dark Side, but everybody would have both.

        • MR

          And if objective morality consisted of Platonic forms like love, goodness, kindness, etc., then there would also be Platonic forms of hate, evil, cruelty, etc.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          CS Lewis was a professor of literature. As you say, in the quote dtheroux put up you can see this. He sees the same voice behind the morality of every culture. He is so overwhelmed by the similarity in tone that he that he is moved to write the books he wrote.

          I really think you misunderstand his point. He is saying that there is universal moral law, if you will. An objective morality. A Tao.

          I have said before that I think this could be an illusion of consciousness. But this doesn’t really matter. CS Lewis is only establishing that the Tao exists, and that morality is not an arbitrary construction, decided on an ad hoc basis.

          It is not that he knows the teachings of Plato are right. Indeed, CS Lewis points out that Plato’s assumption that morality is something that is taught, like reading and writing, is wrong.

          It is that he sees in Plato the same morality that he sees in texts like Plato from all over the world.

          This is not a logical fallacy. This is not a circular argument.

          I do not understand your thing about the other half of the story. You yourself are calling these things the bad parts. Why are you doing this? Surely you can see then, there is no contradiction.

        • adam

          “But this doesn’t really matter. CS Lewis is only establishing that the Tao exists, and that morality is not an arbitrary construction, decided on an ad hoc basis.”

          No, like YOU, he establishes NOTHING but his own IMAGINARY Tao.

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          So Adam, here we go again. Do you not get a bit bored of just posting up the same thing?

          I’m not sure what you are saying. By his own imaginary Tao, what do you mean? Do you mean thought is a mental activity?

        • adam

          “Do you not get a bit bored of just posting up the same thing?”

          Just responding to your ten pound challenge.

          Just watching how much BULLSHIT you can shovel at 10 lbs a post.

          “By his own imaginary Tao, what do you mean? Do you mean thought is a mental activity?”

          Well seeing as how neither he nor you can actually demonstrate this ‘Tao’ is anything but IMAGINARY…

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          imaginary… but isn’t everything imaginary? Isn’t you typing at your computer just imaginary?

          Also, I am increasingly starting to feel that you really believe I am an agent or something, and don’t really mean what I’m saying.

          This is very interesting!

        • adam

          “imaginary… but isn’t everything imaginary? Isn’t you typing at your computer just imaginary?”

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Are you really trying accrue lots of ten pounds?

        • adam

          What, you werent sincere in your offer?

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Honestly Adam, just never say anything untrue! Life is much easier.

          For sure, if I had lied I would feel bad about it. And why not pay out ten pounds! It would give me the illusion of somehow having atoned for doing a bad thing.

        • adam

          “Honestly”

        • MR

          Kodie called him out on his use of ‘honestly’ earlier. Love it.

        • Kodie

          Ah, how’s that “objective” morality working for you? If you don’t feel bad about lying, it’s the same as not lying at all. According to the universe and the system whereby you detect your own dishonesty – feelings. A million words to communicate to you from actively OBJECTIVE fellow humans is not how you’re convinced or shown you’re actually a liar.

        • Kodie

          You offered 10 pounds to show you where you were lying. But you were lying when you said that. It all comes down to you being so dishonest you can’t even admit where you’re dishonest. How are you talking about objective morality? Is lying an objectively moral good thing?

        • Greg G.

          I understand what Lewis is saying about the Tao. The indoctrination in the Plato quote is circular.

          I then went into what happens if he dropped that one circular quote to show that he makes a hasty generalization. He can show correlation of similar moralities in humans but that does not indicate causation by a force of nature.

          Then I show that he is cherry-picking human behaviors related to in-groups while ignoring out-group behaviors that are just as common in humans. I also show this behavior extends to non-human social species.

          The last two points apply to the quote provided by dtheroux.

          I also attempted to that as population density has increased, the size of our in-groups have grown to include strangers, so now our in-group behavior, what Lewis calls the Tao, is the tentative default in situations of doubt. That does not make it an Objective Morality.

          The Abolition of Man makes some interesting observations but the conclusions about morality do not stand to scrutiny. The idea of Objective Morality is not supported by it. Evolution explains our behaviors better than Lewis does.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          So you are saying the indoctrination in the Plato quote is circular. I sorry, but I’m not sure what you mean by this. But anyway, more importantly:

          It seems to me you have argued that human behaviour does not universally conform to the Tao, not that there is no Tao. The in groups and out groups thing you seem to be saying are different responses to the Tao.

          Your point about population densities increasing seems a bit odd, because such a thing does not effect the Tao. And we do not find people’s stated understanding of morality changing with different circumstances. We find people abandoning morality when things get tough. Or at least we find a tendency to abandon the Tao when things get tough, or similarly odd. Not everyone does it, though.

          When you say evolution explains our behaviours better than CS Lewis does, I assume you mean other writers making a more evolution centric explanation for our behaviours, and indeed everything else.

          Isn’t this exactly what CS Lewis is writing about – the fear that the Tao will be replaced by something else?

          How are evolution centric writers to demonstrate that their new Tao is better? Surely they can only appeal to the Tao.

        • MNb

          “I’m not sure what you mean by this”
          That’s your standard reply as soon as someone shows you’re wrong, isn’t it?
          What again was “falling through gravity” a metaphor for?
          The feeling I get is that you increasingly don’t understand what you write yourself anymore.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          MNb, perhaps you are sure what Greg means by, ‘the indoctrination in the Plato quote is circular’.

          I am telling the truth, I don’t know what it means. Please make it clear for me if you can.

          But also, don’t worry about it.

          Falling through gravity… I’m saying this seems like a metaphor because I don’t really know what gravity is. Everything is falling around everything. Does it make sense to say we are falling through gravity? I don’t know.

          And I understand everything I write. If you just tell the truth all the time it isn’t hard.

        • adam

          “If you just tell the truth all the time it isn’t hard.”

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • Greg G.

          MNb, perhaps you are sure what Greg means by, ‘the indoctrination in the Plato quote is circular’.

          OMG. Circular reasoning is when the conclusion is assumed in the premises. Lewis used Plato making that assumption to support his premise.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Is this the case then:

          Lewis argues:

          People used to think morality was something that had to be taught, like reading and writing.

          To support this claim, he paraphrases examples where this seems to be the case.

          The premiss might be then, Plato said this. The conclusion is then, People used to think this.

          There is no fallacy here. But moreover, you have persuaded Bob whatshisface that CS Lewis’s abolition of man’s central argument is flawed! Come on Greg, send him a message!

        • Greg G.

          To support this claim, he paraphrases examples where this seems to be the case.

          The premiss might be then, Plato said this. The conclusion is then, People used to think this.

          Already refuted. You tried to claim such a statement from Lewis referred to the Plato quote. I showed that it was about Gaius and Titius. I showed where the Plato quote is included in the definition of the Tao.

          It seems that your cognitive dissonance is working overtime. You have lost this argument. This has become tedious when you keep trying to salvage completely destroyed points.

          Matthew 9:13a – “Now go and learn…”

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But I’m not salvaging anything, am I.

          Do you think you might be so kind as to lay out the fallacy neatly like I did. Show the premiss, and the conclusion.

          Then we can see clearly how it fallacious.

          thanks!

        • Greg G.

          But I’m not salvaging anything, am I.

          I didn’t say you were salvaging anything. That might imply you had a modicum of success.

          I have laid the the fallacies. Your cognitive dissonance blinds you.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Humour me thought Greg,

          Show the fallacy clearly, the premiss or premisses, and then the conclusion, and so on, or not.

          If you really think ‘cognitive dissonance’ is hampering my thinking then surely you can see the importance of laying out the fallacious argument in one of the ‘standard’ ways.

          Premiss.

          Conclusion.

        • Greg G.

          Premise 1. Various cultures treat their friends, family, and neighbors in a similar ways.

          Premise 1a. People need to be indoctrinated to do this.

          Conclusion. Therefore, objective morality and natural laws.

          I have spent too much time explaining these. They should be in your inbox. Look them up.

          If you don’t agree with this, show us yours. Show us how logical it is.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Greg…

          The argument you have laid out above is f*cked. Can one say f*cked on here? I don’t know. Apologies to anyone offended.

          The conclusion I’m thinking I should interpret as ‘there must be morality and natural laws’. But I don’t know if that’s really what you’re saying.

          I agree this argument is flawed. I don’t even know if it is an argument.

          But in no way does it reflect what anyone, CS Lewis, CS Lewis talking about Plato, is saying in the Abolition of Man.

          And of course it does not show that CS Lewis made a circular reasoning fallacy in his book.

        • Greg G.

          The argument you have laid out above is f*cked. Can one say f*cked on here? I don’t know. Apologies to anyone offended.

          Then do your own and show us how logical the argument is?

        • MR

          The argument you have laid out above is f*cked. Can one say f*cked on here?

          With that kind of language, you don’t seem to give much regard to this theory of yours about objective morality.

          [Can we have that ‘disingenuous’ meme, please, adam.]

        • adam

          Take your pick….

          It is difficult for me to decide….

        • MR

          A little of both. Again, so much for his defense of objective morality.

        • adam

          defense?

          You are on a roll today…

        • Kodie

          I like the red one.

        • Greg G.

          I like the two-face, forked-tongue, fingers-crossed handshake.

        • Kodie

          I think the personal choices reflect one’s perception and one’s manner of processing these dummies. To me, that one is second best, it illustrates in all languages in a black-and-white graphic “this is what you look like to me”. Your approach is quite diplomatic and educational. To me, the red one cuts no slack, not to say slack is not the Tao, but slack is for some and not others, namely me. The McDonald quote is 3rd for me, a plain non-serif font on a beige background, but reading is a chore, not just for me, but for people like Jimmy. He doesn’t know what that says. I had to read it a few times myself. It takes the long way around to make sure your target won’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. The yellow and black one sure is rude and sarcastic, but it’s my 4th choice overall. Saying Jimmy is an idiot is not worth a meme. He already speaks as slowly as anyone could. Flames should come from the heart, to speak in Jimmy terms. That meme fails on its potential to say so many more things, or simply mark “bullshit” with a fat stamp in red ink.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Don’t give much regard to objective morality?

          But I do though, don’t I? I’m worried about breaking the Tao. If I were just at home on my own I wouldn’t mind saying f*ck, even without the asterisk.

          I don’t really care about what we might call taboo language, but I get that some people do, so I feel I should refrain from using what we might call taboo language. But this is just a sort of rule of thumb. Because of all the many exceptional situations that arise in life.

          MR, are you really pretending to be offended by ‘that kind of language’?

          You are also breaking the Tao, are you not!

        • adam

          “You are also breaking the Tao, are you not!”

          What Tao, you’ve not demonstrated that YOUR Tao is anything but IMAGINARY…

        • MR

          You’re like a walking definition of subjectivity.

        • adam

          “But I do though, don’t I? I’m worried about breaking the Tao. ”

          Yes, it seems like you are worried about a lot of IMAGINARY things, like why an IMAGINARY Othello IMAGINARILY kills his IMAGINARY wife.

        • Kodie

          So you have not demonstrated that the “Tao” is anything. Just to repeat myself, you have not demonstrated this “Tao” to be anything. You have only gone straight from asserting it to using the term to presume we have all agreed that it exists. I think you need to set down and do a little bit of work showing evidence of it if you want to claim honesty. If you don’t, you’re dishonest.

        • Kodie

          Seriously, you care more about offending people with shitty language than you do from lying so fucking much? Whatever this Tao bullshit is, you certainly don’t seem to have a grip on it.

        • Kodie

          You certainly can say fucked. You’re wrong though. You’re illiterate, dishonest, and intentionally doing all you can to waste everyone’s time. You’re not arguing in good faith – Greg G. and a lot of other people have gone to a great deal of effort to honestly try to communicate to you where you have erred. You have some shitty nerve to demand someone go over and over and over again something you can’t read the first time through. This puts into question your ability to comprehend anything you’ve read, especially while you are trying to convince people the answers you want them to get are not from you, because you can’t even process the thoughts into coherent language, but from books you’ve read.

        • Greg G.

          When all the flowery language of an English Literature professor is removed, my logical outline is about all that is left.

          We are still waiting for you to fill out the logical structure you see as so wonderful.

        • Kodie

          So your dishonesty leans in on how much work you can get other people to do for you while ignoring it. Are you illiterate?

        • Greg G.

          He also criticizes the work others do for him. He doesn’t understand it when you explain it in depth and complains when it is simplified.

        • MNb

          Greg G already made clear – better than I can – what he meant. Your reaction just remains “I don’t know what you mean.” It rapidly becomes striking how often you pull off this little trick. You may be telling the truth; that tells us something – a lot – about your skills to understand views that are not yours.

          “I’m saying this seems like a metaphor because I don’t really know what gravity is. Everything is falling around everything. Does it make sense to say we are falling through gravity? I don’t know.”
          If you had cared to actually study some physics you would have known. If you are telling the truth again and care about what you write – ie prefer to avoid nonsense – you should ask a teacher math and physics.

          Like me. Gravity is an abstract concept used in theories of physics to describe the phenomenon that two bodies with mass always attract each other and never repel. It applies to all kind of observed facts, not only falling things. That’s why you wrote nonsense – just like “giving birth through evolution” is nonsense.

          “If you just tell the truth all the time it isn’t hard.”
          You are the living example of the opposite. Or you wouldn’t have written “falling through gravity”.

        • adam

          “I am telling the truth, I don’t know what it means. ”

          Yes, since it in not in your book you have no clue…

        • MR

          Notice the disingenuous use of false equivalence:

          Isn’t this exactly what CS Lewis is writing about – the fear that the Tao will be replaced by something else?

          How are evolution centric writers to demonstrate that their new Tao is better? Surely they can only appeal to the Tao.

          He pits CS Lewis’ writings against the writings of “evolution-centric writers.” Not scientists, but “evolution-centric writers.”

          I’m sorry, but Lewis isn’t a scientist. He has a hypothesis and is trying desperately to make connections that bolster his beliefs. Science does actual testing and experimentation in an attempt to find truth.

          JRD isn’t interested in truth unless it is his truth. When he uses such false equivalence by saying things like “evolution-centric writers,” it shows me just what a fraud he is.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          MR Science, as is commonly pointed out by scientists, is not philosophy. Science has nothing to say about all sorts of interesting things because those things are not the sorts of things that can be looked at in such a careful way.

          Science will not tell us why Othello killed his wife, and what it means that he killed his wife.

          CS Lewis understood the limits of science. And he understood the power of science. He took great pains to be rational, to be scientific if you will, about his thinking.

          I used the phrase ‘evolution centric writers’ because Greg said evolution has better answers. But we all know evolution isn’t writing any books.

          We might say ‘evolution informed writers’, but CS Lewis, being rational as he was, was persuaded that evolution was a fact.

          What do you think I might have said instead? really?

        • MR

          And science can inform us here. Philosophy does not.

          CS Lewis didn’t know a fraction of what we know today. Lewis didn’t test his theories. Science does.

          You used the phrase “evolution centric writers” because you were being disingenuous, and still are.

          You ignore what you don’t want to see.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          What do you think you know, for instance, that CS Lewis did not know a fraction of?

          Why is this ‘new’ stuff, if you can name it, so important? So important that you seem to think it makes everything that CS Lewis did know somehow unimportant?

        • MR

          What does Lewis know of social evolution?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          I suspect far more than you think. He wrote a novel called, That Hideous Strength. He was very concerned about social evolution being controlled. And his novel was no mere flight of fancy. He knew what was really going on, and he hated the Establishment.

        • Greg G.

          The Wikipedia page about that book says:

          In the foreword, Lewis states that the novel’s point is the same as that in his non-fiction work The Abolition of Man, which argues that there are natural laws and objective values, which education should teach children to recognise.

          Does that satisfy you that you are wrong about the Plato quote being something Lewis was arguing against?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Hang on Greg, the wikipedia page says this.

          I think we might interpret this as CS Lewis thinks education (a bit vague…) should teach children to recognise that there are natural laws and objective values.

          I’m going to have a look at the page, but it strikes me very much that it’s not the sort of thing that one would expect wikipedia to be making a final judgement about.

        • Greg G.

          You should try to make a few quality posts. A large quantity of pointless posts aren’t helping.

          You brought up The Abolition of Man. I gave it a once over and the Plato quote leaped out at me. The more you argue with me, the more I read it over again and every time I find something else wrong with it. I just went to a Wikipedia page because of something you wrote and it concurs with me and just happens to disagree with you.

          You are digging yourself in too deep. You should stop before you disturb a Balrog.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          You gave it a once over!

          You are looking to wikipedia for the truth! Like Bob looking to the dictionary!

          I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging you. Sorry for that. It’s not a once over sort of book though, like Othello.

        • adam

          ” It’s not a once over sort of book though, like Othello.”

          Well that is OBVIOUS for you, as apparently you STILL dont understand it enough to make your argument.

        • Greg G.

          I gave it a once over several times now.

          I have noticed that people who are wrong a lot object to reference sources more than most people do.

        • Kodie

          Hey asshole, did you even read Greg G.’s post all the way through before you passed judgment on it? As for adam’s response, how many times have you read it and still not come up with a coherent summary to support your beliefs?

          You seem to be convinced that if someone reads your book, they will come away with the same conclusions as the book reaches, and that you, having (presumably?) read it yourself, have also reached. CLUE: no.

        • adam

          “I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging you.”

          Sure you do, otherwise you wouldnt do it.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Plenty of people in our age do entertain the monstrous dreams of power
          that Mr. Lewis attributes to his characters [the N.I.C.E. scientists],
          and we are within sight of the time when such dreams will be
          realizable”. George Orwell, that wikipedia page

        • adam

          monsterous dreams of power?

        • MR

          Nice side step. That book was written 72 years ago. That Hideous Strength was fiction. CS Lewis was a novelist and a poet. The commonalities between men and human cultures are because they are between men and human cultures. You don’t need to shoehorn an outside force to explain it. Philosophy has handicapped your ability to recognize reality.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          But surely you did the sidestep? You have avoided saying how the new knowledge (social evolution?) has made what CS Lewis had to say about things no longer important?

          Moreover, CS Lewis did write novels and poems, but this was not his day job. He was a professor at Oxford and Cambridge.

        • MR

          I never said it was important, and you haven’t shown that is; much less that it’s true. Lewis was a literature professor, not a scientist. He couldn’t know what is known today about social evolution when he wrote his book 72 years ago.

          Do you deny that social evolution is true?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Do I deny that social evolution is true?

          Well, we would of course have to define our terms. I do not deny that masses of people can be controlled, and that people are reactive to their environments, like the imagined captured raptors in the original Jurassic Park.

          But I feel the term ‘social evolution’ is in important ways not like ‘evolution’, the theory of how life is how it is, more or less.

        • MR

          Can we have that disingenuous meme again, adam?

          Get back to me when you can come up with an honest definition and answer.

        • adam

          “Get back to me when you can come up with an honest definition and answer.”

          You can be SO FUNNY sometimes….

          Something to think about while you wait……
          for your hahahahahaha ‘honest’ definition and answer…

          You are killing me here..

        • adam

          “But I feel the term ‘social evolution’ is in important ways not like ‘evolution’, the theory of how life is how it is, more or less.”

        • adam

          “But surely you did the sidestep? “

        • Kodie

          Are you actually accusing someone of evasion? You have avoided TOTALLY ALL RESPONSIBILITY for supporting your baseless opinions, throughout. You’re not just dishonest, you’re fake.

        • adam

          “I suspect far more than you think.”

          You ‘suspect’ but are unable to demonstrate.

        • Kodie

          The only reason we know anything about what CS Lewis wrote about is because Greg G. could actually handle the task of reading a book and analyzing what he read for us. Can you do that? You cannot.

        • adam

          “Science has nothing to say about all sorts of interesting things because those things are not the sorts of things that can be looked at in such a careful way.”

          Ahh, you mean IMAGINED things….

          “Science will not tell us why Othello killed his wife, and what it means that he killed his wife.”

          Ahh, you mean an IMAGINARY Othello and his IMAGINARY wife…

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Why did Othello kill his wife? What did it mean?

        • adam

          Ahh, you mean an IMAGINARY Othello and his IMAGINARY wife…

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Yes. It’s a play.

          But why did Othello kill his wife, and what did it mean? And what does it mean that Iago’s killing of his wife happens right next to it, and is so different? What does it all mean?

        • adam

          Ahh, you mean an IMAGINARY Othello and his IMAGINARY wife…

          So no real Othello and no real wife ONLY IMAGINARY..

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Yes. It’s a play.

          But why did Othello kill his wife, and what
          did it mean? And what does it mean that Iago’s killing of his wife
          happens right next to it, and is so different? What does it all mean?

        • adam

          But why did Othello kill his wife, and what did it mean?

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

          Othello didnt kill anybody, because Othello is IMAGINARY..

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Can imaginary people not do things?

        • Greg G.

          Imaginary people can only do imaginary things for imaginary reasons and only in the imagination. What drugs are you on?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          jesus Greg come on, this adam guy has been taking shite for days. I think I’m being patient here. And I really want to know what he means by imaginary. And whether he cares why Othello killed his wife.

        • Greg G.

          The story is fiction. The characters are fiction because they were imagined that way.

        • adam

          “I think I’m being patient here. And I really want to know what he means by imaginary.”

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • Kodie

          I don’t give a shit why Othello killed his wife.

        • adam

          Othello didnt kill any one, because Othello is IMAGINARY…

          Do YOU believe he ACTUALLY killed someone?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Hang on a minute adam…

          Obviously nobody believes Othello really happened. So why would you be saying this? Are you doing a tactic?

          I’m going to be straight with you. Unless you say, ‘GREEN BANANA at the top of one of your posts, I will never ever respond to anything you say again. You have to write it in capitals like that. I really mean it. If I do not see that at the top of your post I will act as if your post does not exist.

          This is a solemn promise, and you know I tell the truth.

        • adam

          It is YOUR claim that he killed his wife.
          Nobody killed anybody is the TRUTH….

          “This is a solemn promise, and you know I tell the truth.”

          No, you’ve demonstrated no such thing.

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • adam

          “I’m going to be straight with you. Unless you say, ‘GREEN BANANA at the top of one of your posts, I will never ever respond to anything you say again. You have to write it in capitals like that. I really mean it. If I do not see that at the top of your post I will act as if your post does not exist.

          This is a solemn promise, and you know I tell the truth.”

        • Kodie

          There’s no victim of Othello’s crime. Why should I care?

        • adam

          “Can imaginary people not do things?”

        • Kodie

          Where’s the body?

        • Greg G.

          The actors imitated murder because that was the script they were hired to perform. The best person to ask the questions of would be the author. The second best way would be to read his writing on the subject. Anybody else can only give their subjective opinions.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Would it mean anything at all if you were to tell people why you think he killed his wife, and what it all means?

        • Greg G.

          In the story, he was deceived into thinking she was unfaithful to him. So what?

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          So what? That’s the thing!

          What does it mean?

          Now obviously none of this is going to lead to a proof of God’s existence etc, but it is a question that science cannot answer, and not because science is weak, but because the universe is the way it is.

          Literature, poetry, is a phenomenon of the universe. It cannot be a scientific conclusion that such stuff can be disregarded, because it is not ‘scientific’.

        • adam

          “What does it mean?”

          It means that someone IMAGINED Othello and wrote a story.

          disingenuous Merriam Webster…….
          adjective dis·in·gen·u·ous ˌdis-in-ˈjen-yə-wəs, -yü-əs-

          : not truly honest or sincere : giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere

        • adam

          “Now obviously none of this is going to lead to a proof of God’s existence etc,”

        • Greg G.

          Science cannot answer questions about imaginary things. Why is that a problem for you?

          PS: Philosophy can give you answers but you need science to determine which of those answers are reliable.

        • Kodie

          Holy shit, you’re fucked. Human expression is an extension of the human animals’ capacity for thought and language. We made that shit to entertain ourselves.

        • adam

          “What does it mean?”

          It means people can IMAGINE all kinds of things..

        • Kodie

          Do you think Othello the fictional character had a good reason for killing his wife? Do you think God the fictional character had a good reason for killing everyone on earth? Do you think God the fictional character had a good reason for tsunamis, cancer, and the idiocy you’re afflicted with currently?

        • adam

          ‘Would it mean anything at all if you were to tell people why you think he killed his wife, and what it all means?’

          No, why do YOU?

        • adam

          “But why did Othello kill his wife”

          It’s a play, nobody killed anybody except in the IMAGINATION

        • MR

          Subjectively those questions have answers. You tell us what they mean objectively. I see no objective meaning.

        • Kodie

          Why do you think this is an important question? I asked you similar questions you ignored totally. What you have is a hobby horse and a high estimation of your belief, that’s cognitive dissonance, your evasion of certain questions when you’re asked them is almost more obvious than the actual things you do bother to say, which files you in the intentionally dishonest category. 10 pounds sir.

        • adam

          “But why did Othello kill his wife,”

          But Othello did NOT kill anyone

          It’s a play

          Make believe..

        • Kodie

          I’m going to guess he justified it because she was nagging him about something. Look, I can read Shakespeare and give you a more sociologically accurate answer. The real answer is Othello didn’t kill anyone.

        • Kodie

          You’re unable to quite get at whatever you think philosophy lends to a subject that’s adequately explained by science.

        • Off topic: video of Rube Goldberg marble machine in the Netherlands (near Gouda, I think):

          http://mentalfloss.com/article/64781/watch-11000-marbles-run-wild

        • Greg G.

          So that’s where the marbles I lost went.

        • MR

          Thanks for that!

        • Greg G.

          The Plato quote describes teaching the right things. How does it know what the right things are? Taken back to the first teachers, they would have had to teach morals they made up and probably got wrong, according to Plato. The conclusion is assumed.

          Lewis defines the Tao as a certain selection of human behavior. Humans sometimes conform to it and sometimes do not conform to it.

          Population densities do not affect the Tao because it is a made-up concept. Population densities increase the number of people a person must deal with. Treating each other as neighbors requires less energy than trying to kill one another or treating them as a threat.

          The Tao is not being replaced as it is an imaginary concept. Pinker explains it as an increasing the radius of the circle of neighbors or something vaguely like that.

          There is no new Tao. There is no old Tao. In-group behavior is just the way mammals have treated their young for a hundred million years expanded to wider and wider groups. Out-group behavior is like the protection of the mammalian offspring from potential predators.

        • MR

          Humans acting like humans because they are human.

          Mammals acting like mammals because they are mammals.

          No need to invoke the Tao, Forms, or God.

          Sounds like someone needs to borrow Willie O’s razor.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          So about the circular argument then… you are saying it was Plato that was at fault? I guess i go along with that, at least regarding what has been put up here in the comments.

          Pinker acknowledges the Tao in the Language instinct.

          There is a lovely bit about all the similarities of man, jokes about cocks, in groups out groups, all universal in every ‘culture’ every studied.

          It doesn’t surprise me that people behave differently under different circumstances.

          Wuthering Heights is about this.

          Take a random person. Put them in a prison where eveyone is treated badly, and that person will alter their behaviour. They will clam up, for instance.

          Put the same person in a hippy commune, or something like that, and similarly they will change their behaviour.

          But the Tao will be the same. It really feels to me just that the two situations make one differingly open to the Tao.

        • Greg G.

          Plato didn’t make the argument Lewis did. Lewis may have quoted him out of context. If Plato was not using it the way it sounds out of context, then Lewis alone is guilty of the fault. If Plato’s point was as it sounds in context, then Plato was wrong in his quote but Lewis is guilty for using it.

          How does Pinker use the word “Tao”? Is he using it as a force of the universe or is he just using it as a label for the behaviors Lewis wraps up in it?

          Are you talking about the Tao that Lao Tzu didn’t talk about, the Tao that Lewis talked about, or the Tao that you have in your mind? It’s an imaginary concept. Each of you may imagine a different thing. Those imaginations have nothing to do with reality. It doesn’t matter if your subjective opinion changes or not.

        • Kodie

          Is the “Tao” just a fancy woo word for “animal behavior”? Because I have mentioned this and others have, we’re animals. Living things desiring to live and prosper tend to work out what works to get along and do that living and prospering thing. Although humans through culture manifest a wide range of behaviors, those behaviors are human. I mean, I think that’s all this is. Morality is a way that living things work out how to be, some of it is instinctual to a point, so selfishness is, so is detecting agency where there is no agency.

          Like, morality is, let’s see, it’s an overall concept. Let’s even say “morality exists in the universe”. Maybe you’re not talking about objective morals but the fact that collectively we have some sense of each other and… humans are social creatures, so we communicate, cooperate, etc., to make the best for the group. I think you’re trying to make doing stuff like that some force outside us put upon us to strive for some set of idealistic morals. Just not the case, no matter what you want to call it. Our big brains, intellectual capacity, ability to empathize and calculate outcomes based on past outcomes, like “if we sneak into the movie theater 10 minutes in, nobody will catch us,” our ability to rationalize, like “movies are expensive, and only the big corporations make all that money so it’s ok to sneak into the movies once in a while instead of pay for a ticket”. Is there a right and wrong answer here? Most people would have to say sneaking into the movies is obviously stealing, but plenty of people will also say that’s not really “stealing” because you don’t take anything, and it’s no big deal, it’s more like a silly caper than a crime. If you’re the righteous angel on the shoulder of someone about to sneak into the movies, they will call you lame. Is doing the right thing more important, or is belonging to a group more important?

          Keep in mind, this is on the scale of things a fairly harmless crime, where the same rationalizations might be made at your frat rush mixer, and some young woman had a beer too many and is passed out on the couch.

          We do measure these things, as a society. “Youthful indiscretions” involving raping a passed-out adult woman are often filed along with sneaking into the movies. Stepping back to think what is the harm here, who will be harmed, do they deserve to be harmed (as in the corporate movieplex scenario), there is a right and a wrong, there is a perpetrator and there is a victim. Morality overall is our acceptance or non-acceptance of how much harm is done and to whom. Rape plays an acceptable part in our society up to a point, and rape victims are publicly humiliated and blamed for their own rapes. Rapists and rape apologists don’t want to hear it. Anyway, ducks rape like nobody’s business and nobody is calling the duck police to have this behavior punished. We might care about ducks so far as to ban duck hunting, for example, that’s human assault against another species (duck hunters don’t want to hear about that any more than rape apologists want to hear about how the “slut” wants to “take back” her “decision” to attend a frat party and get “what she asked for” either), but there’s nothing we much care to educate ducks how to treat their ladies. That’s all up to the ducks.

          We’re humans, we’re animals, we can think about it and talk it out and come up with a solution for ourselves. If that is what you think morality overall comes down to, then that is subjective to US HUMANS, and accountable to nobody but OTHER HUMANS. That’s why in other times or places, people put up with stuff that nobody was complaining about at the time. Our inner personal desire to be treated fairly might just be the entirety that one could call “objective”. Objectively, among humans, we’d like to be treated fairly. Often the culture will decide for us what to put up with before we think it’s not fair. Empathy for others in a situation you’re not yourself in is a helpful trait of our human behavior.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          Also, where does he say not every culture has one? One what? Sorry.

        • Greg G.

          It is at the end of the quote where dtheroux replied to you:

          that is, a substantial agreement with considerable local differences of emphasis and, perhaps, no one code that includes everything

          Notice that I said “every one”, which of course refers to the items listed in the quote.

        • James Raskalinikov Dean

          “I’ll ignore that he says that not every culture has every one.”

          That’s what you put. I missed the every. I get it now. But I don’t get why you said you would ignore his saying that. He seems to be saying that not one of the individual examples covers the whole Tao. I like that he’s saying that.

        • Greg G.

          The line doesn’t help his argument and I respect that he made the admission, which is why I only mentioned it in passing. There were so many major issues with the whole quotation.

        • MR

          It is instinctive.

          Which is what we’ve been telling you. Social evolution explains that.

        • MNb

          That’s because you – like quite a few other apologists – are not capable of considering any other standpoint than “there is objective morality”.

          Assume objective morality.
          Indoctrinate people with that objective morality.
          Then happily shout: “objective morality exists! Look at those people!”

    • In a limited defense of Lewis, I don’t think the point of the book was to argue ‘Objective morality / the Tao / etc exists’. His argument was ‘If all this exists, what then? How then should we organize society’.

      He may very well be wrong, but it’s not a circular argument per se. It’s like saying ‘If I had an umbrella, I wouldn’t be wet right now’ when someone is outside in the in the rain. His statements that such a moral code exists, is static, and is divine is something expressed in other books, which I think were written considerably before this one.

      • Greg G.

        JDR insisted long and hard that TAoM was proof of absolute morality. I don’t think that is the point of the book as it would have ended after chapter 2. But I think absolute morality was a point Lewis wanted to make. The Tao he refers to is not the Tao of Buddhism and Lao Tzu. I was trying to understand JDR’s understanding.

        • I suppose maybe, and I guess I have to say that the over fifty plus years between us writing today and Lewis’ time complicates things a lot given that Lewis both inconsistently applies arguments from book to book, mixes and matches subjects, and so on. Many of his book, I think I’ve read, aren’t even intended to be ‘books’ at all at first and were merely transcripts from disconnected speeches, letters, etc.

          There’s a difference between ‘absolute morality’ per se, ‘objective morality per se’, and a ‘shared morality that’s innate’ per se, but Lewis unhelpfully conflates between all three and makes assumptions. The third, last concept seems to me to be scientific fact (apes, from birth, view unfairness as bad for them, desire to protect their infants, etc) while the first is quite different. I don’t know.

  • MNb

    CSL rejecting science:

    http://www.godofevolution.com/a-meme-about-c-s-lewis/

    “For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.”
    In other words: Evolution Theory can explain everything it claims to explain, except Homo Sapiens. This

    “in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology”
    is a well known creationist statement.

    http://fpb.livejournal.com/297710.html

    “nor does it (Evolution Theory – MNb] discuss the origin and validity of reason.”
    Eh yes – Evolution Theory totally discusses the origin of reason – and morality as well.

    http://www.cambridge.org/de/academic/subjects/philosophy/philosophy-science/evolution-reason-logic-branch-biology

    “the Myth asks me to believe that reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of a mindless process at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming.”
    Nope – that’s not the Myth, with or without capital. That’s Evolution Theory itself. Plus Evolution Theory doesn’t ask you to believe it – it asks you to accept or reject it based on empirical evidence.
    The final touch is here:

    “the Myth – that small or chaotic or feeble things perpetually turn into large, strong, ordered things.”
    Science – not only Evolution Theory, but also physics and chemistry – postulates it’s totally possible. Someone else pointed at snowflakes. So CSL explicitely rejects science here.
    As the cherry on the cake I add:

    “What the Myth uses is a selection from the scientific theories – a selection made at first, and modified afterwards, in obedience to imaginative and emotional needs.”
    Another fine example of CSL’s shallow thinking. But it gets better:

    “In the science, Evolution is a theory about changes: in the Myth, it is a fact about improvements.”
    Uh no. It’s believers, quite like CLS himself, who have formulated the strawman that atheists think evolution is about improvements. They do so because for instance CSL himself assumes improvements, like the first (long) quote above clearly shows. CSL doesn’t even realize he is arguing against himself …..

    We shouldn’t be surprised that IDiots love CSL too.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/11/darwin_in_the_d079181.html
    http://creation.com/cs-lewis-and-evolution

    Granted, IDiots and other creationists lie even when they merely breath, so I’m not saying CSL was one of tem. His ambiguity is enough though, which is based on the quote “On materialistic thoughts” in the last link. For those who (understandably) can’t stomach creacrap and are not willing to click that link:

    “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”
    Unfortunately for CSL science is totally probabilistic. He rejects that concept here explicitely for one and only one reason: it doesn’t suit his pet theologies. CSL gets quite a lot more things wrong besides morality.

    • Greg G.

      You have the gift of prophecy. We just saw Sparkling Moon saying this, too.

  • Greg G.

    Substitute “Morality” for “Language” in this SMBC comic.

  • Something that many Christians seem to fail to grapple with is that even if ‘objective morality’ deeply exists (I’ll go out on a limb and state that I think it does), that doesn’t therefore imply that said morality is 100% static and unchanging at all. Nor does it imply anything whatsoever about if said morality comes from a divine source.

    Objective mathematical constants exist. The speed of light would be a certain value regardless of whether or not humans went existent or still were around. 2+2=4 would be true the same way. Those things are part of the fabric of the universe, but they’re not ‘divine’ just because they’re removed from humanity.

    I do have some qualms myself with Bob’s viewpoint of morality, because it seems to risk devolving into a ‘might makes right’ scenario. If whomever has the guns, money, etc in society wants to hurt me, hurt Bob, and hurt others, then I’d say that there’s such a thing as inherent human rights that people have from birth and that I ought to be left alone, as a moral imperative. And I’d stretch that back into time and forward into time and say that human beings should never be enslaved, should never be dominated over, and so on– it was wrong in the OT under Moses, it’s wrong now under ISIS, it would be wrong in 2055 under General Zod, etc .

    Bob would agree, but his agreement is framed as a personal preference and personal standard rather than anything broad for society (similar to ‘I like opera’, ‘Cheese is delicious’, etc). If it’s all just personal preference, then what exactly is there to say, though, if the oppressor goes ‘Well, my preference is different’? As far as atheist commentary on morality goes, there’s– as one would imagine– a kind of wide spectrum. Nothing wrong with that. I think that many (probably Richard Dawkins for one) would not agree with Bob and would argue that morality is deep and innate, thus being ‘objective’ somewhat like how the speed of light is an objective calculation, even though it’s not ‘divine’ at all.

    • MNb

      “2+2=4 would be true the same way”
      There is a mathematical system where 2+2-0 ……

      • What system? Addition modulo 4?

        • MNb

          Probably – I don’t know the English words. In Dutch it’s “klokrekenen” – calculating on clocks.

        • “Clock arithmetic” is another name for modular arithmetic.

    • that doesn’t therefore imply that said morality is 100% static and unchanging at all

      Tell me how objective morality can change over time. And how we can tell it changing authentically vs. it changing because it’s actually subjective morality that people confuse for objective.

      (Part of our problem is the several definitions of “objective.”)

      Objective mathematical constants exist.

      Right. Let’s keep the discussion with the claim of objective morality.

      it seems to risk devolving into a ‘might makes right’ scenario.

      It wouldn’t be crazy to define “right” as what the consensus view of society is at the moment. However, I’d rather see the platform from which each claim of morality comes made explicit. Example: when I say “X is wrong,” that’s just shorthand from “from Bob’s perspective, X is wrong.”

      I’d say that there’s such a thing as inherent human rights that people have from birth and that I ought to be left alone, as a moral imperative.

      The UN Declaration of Human Rights (or whatever it is) is one version of this. And most people would be mostly on the same page. Here again, it’s relative. It’s just the consensus view of smart, thoughtful people.

      And I’d stretch that back into time and forward into time and say that human beings should never be enslaved, should never be dominated over, and so on– it was wrong in the OT under Moses, it’s wrong now under ISIS, it would be wrong in 2055 under General Zod, etc .

      That’s your opinion, one that I share. Most everyone in the West would share it. Shared isn’t objective, though.

      If it’s all just personal preference, then what exactly is there to say, though, if the oppressor goes ‘Well, my preference is different’?

      Christian apologists like to imagine that “I like opera” and “the Holocaust was wrong” are identical moral claims. I disagree.

      However, you’re right that “might makes right” gets in there somewhere. The Nazis were tried at Nuremburg under Western legal rules. “Yeah, but here in Germany, we do things a little differently” doesn’t count.

      I think that many (probably Richard Dawkins for one) would not agree with Bob and would argue that morality is deep and innate

      Of course it’s deep an innate. And that could be one definition. But my definition is WLC’s: moral truth that’s correct whether anyone believes it or not. That’s the definition that I’m rejecting.

      • Philmonomer

        And I’d stretch that back into time and forward into time and say that human beings should never be enslaved, should never be dominated over, and so on– it was wrong in the OT under Moses, it’s wrong now under ISIS, it would be wrong in 2055 under General Zod, etc.

        That’s your opinion, one that I share. Most everyone in the West would share it. Shared isn’t objective, though.

        FWIW, (i.e. not a lot), I’d be willing to bet that if I lived in the OT times under Moses, I’d be ok with slavery (especially if the slavery happens as a result of a battle)–better to be enslaved then killed, right?

        I have no real illusion that my own morality is anything other than a reflection of my own times. (Well, moral impulses given to me through evolution, as modified by culture).

        Another example of how I reflect my own times: modern methods of killing animals for human consumption are morally outrageous; I still eat it anyway.

        • I predict that synthetically grown meat more-or-less indistinguishable from actual animal flesh will be available within decades. (I see a lot of environmental benefits from this and would like to see a Manhattan Project to push this forward, but there’s no will for that.)

          Anyway, once that day comes, we’ll look back on us today in horror. “You mean you guys actually raised animals with faces and then killed them? Just to eat them?”

        • Dannorth

          If you haven’t read it try the Food of the Gods by Arthur C. Clarke.

  • guerillasurgeon

    Nice post. You want to see your opponents in action, go here – look at the comments.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/06/11/so-called-prophet-of-god-convicted-of-sexually-abusing-his-child-brides/

    You might even be able to do some good.

    • Nice piece of work. Thanks, Jesus.

      • Greg G.
        • I can’t find the comment you’re referring to (thanks, Disqus). Has someone interesting popped up?

        • Greg G.

          No, it was another POPPONE sock continuing his tirade. I checked for it an hour or so after I tattled and it didn’t work then. He must have deleted that account. The name was rather long, all caps, and derided SCIENCE. I saved the name on my other computer, I think.

        • The guy gets an A for effort. And for being a mindless zombie for Christ.

  • JedRothwell

    Morality is a product of natural instinct. It is similar in other primates and other species. Like any instinct, it is never absolute. It is contingent. It varies from one individual to another both in strength and in the behavior it promotes. For example, some people have a stronger sex drive than others. Some are more aggressive; others more timid. Instincts often conflict with one-another. So, for example, when two individuals are both confronted by the same danger, one might flee while the other fights. (They respond differently to a so-called “fight or flight” stimulus.)

    Looking at other instincts, no one one would say there are absolute, unvarying, objective standard of sexual attraction, or beauty. There are some general rules. Youth, good health, and bi-lateral facial symmetry are considered beautiful by most people, in most cultures. (E. O. Wilson) But many individual people are attracted by faces that are somewhat asymmetrical or unhealthy. Many Japanese people think that slightly crooked upper canine teeth (yaeba) are cute. So-called “beauty spots” (asymmetric warts or birthmarks) were considered attractive in European 18th century fashion.

    There are people (and other animals) who feel no sense of morality: psychopaths and sociopaths. They lack the instinct. They are dangerous. There are not many of them because if there were, the species would go extinct. But anyway, their existence proves that morality is inborn, but not always or automatically inborn. Any member of any species may lack morality, or some other instinct such as self-preservation or the urge to procreate, just as any individual might be born with some other abnormality. Whether such people should be considered evil is a philosophical question. I think biology can give no answer. But biology does show that their world view and behavior are a product of their instincts. So are yours, mine, and everyone else’s. We are no less driven by instinct than any other species, wild or domesticated. We happen to be domesticated (domesticated by ourselves), but in my opinion, domestication does not suppress instincts, but rather it redirects them.

    This model of morality explains things better than a free-floating absolute standard of morality out there in the cosmos. It is easier to reconcile with the world view of predators (us) versus prey (sheep — who would never agree that we are moral) — or, for example, intelligent insects on another planet that lay eggs in paralyzed living species. If they invaded earth and did that to us we would not find it moral, but they would, since they cannot survive otherwise. As Don Marquis put it:

    i went to a movie show
    the other evening in the cuff
    of a friends turned up trousers
    and saw the three little pigs
    and was greatly edified by the moral lesson
    how cruel i said to myself
    was the big bad wolf
    how superior to wolves are men
    the wolf would have eaten those pigs raw
    and even alive
    whereas a man would have kindly
    cut their throats
    and lovingly made them into
    country sausage spare ribs and pigs knuckles
    he would tenderly have roasted them
    fried them and boiled them
    cooked them feelingly with charity
    towards all and malice towards none
    and piously eaten them served with sauerkraut
    and other trimmings
    it is no wonder that the edible animals
    are afraid of wolves and love men so
    when a pig is eaten by a wolf
    he realizes that something is wrong with the world
    but when he is eaten by a man
    he must thank god fervently
    that he is being useful to a superior being . . .

    • Nice point about the sociopaths’ different moral programming illustrating that morality is simply our programming.

    • MR

      Excellent, JR! I don’t think we’ve done enough to emphasize the instinct aspect of morality. Thank you.

  • Phil Rimmer

    Every science fiction writer (except perhaps C.S.Lewis) knows that the moral requirements of an intelligent and sociable species will be based on its evolutionary trajectory and the impositions of its ecosystem. It is a source of great shame not to be eaten by your offspring, once your egg laying days are done, on the rocky and calorie poor planet of Ultima Thule. What is more, things change!

    • Greg G.

      Butterflies with brightly-colored, very noticeable wings that taste bad usually live a while after laying eggs possibly to teach one bird that lives in the area not to bother with that type of butterfly, saving one offspring from having to teach it. Monarchs can even lay multiple broods. Butterflies that rely on camouflage for survival die shortly after laying eggs, apparently to prevent a bird from practicing spotting them.

      A black widow’s mate effectively sacrifices himself to provide nourishment for his eggs.

  • BillYeager

    Dammit Bob, I missed this article first time around and am late to the discussion of a pet topic of mine. As I am currently running through a bit of a testing phase with an objective morality argument I have been developing, I wanted to take up your challenge:

    To the person who insists that objective morality exists, I say: show
    me. Take a vexing moral issue—abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research,
    capital punishment, sex before marriage, torture, and so on—and show us
    the objectively true moral position.

    Objective Morality: All autonomy is equally valid where informed consent is equally honoured and which does not propagate dysfunction.

    I think that is about as succinct as it gets.

    So, with regards to your list of ‘vexing moral issues’, I say that the definition of objective morality as I have defined is a reliable arbiter of the ‘objectively true moral position’ for each. Unless, of course, you have a rebuttal otherwise?

    P.S. As a coder I think you’ll recognise the inherent value of not propagating dysfunction.

    • This does work as a moral principle and it is succinct, though I don’t see how makes a convincing argument for objective morality.

      You didn’t apply it to a current moral issue. What is the correct position on abortion (or any other issue)?

      (I would also suggest that the language makes it distant. You might try a more approachable phrasing–but that’s just a matter of personal taste, of course.)

      • BillYeager

        I don’t see how makes a convincing argument for objective morality…You might try a more approachable phrasing

        Let me tackle both points you raise by clarifying that, actually, the absolute-root of the concept of objective morality as I propose is not even the maxim I highlighted in bold but is, in fact, the follow on qualifier regarding that “which does not propagate dysfunction”. It is this rule which creates the ‘autonomy of consent’ maxim when we ask the question of how to objectively define morality in terms of human behaviours.

        The interconnectedness of our reality absolutely depends on the functioning of systems and the interaction between them, at all levels of scale. Systems with inherently dysfunctional components fail and/or propagate dysfunction beyond their own system to others, thereby demonstrating an exponential increase in dysfunction beyond the root cause. You could call it ‘entropic dysfunction’. E.g. It is possible for one single dysfunctional component within its own system to result in a cascade of entropic dysfunction beyond itself, ultimately capable of destroying all systems it reaches. Cancer is probably a pertinent biological example.

        In human behaviour we know that dysfunctional components of the sociofamilial system induce dysfunction within the growing child, both neurologically and psychologically. That child grows into an adult with a markedly different brain as a result of that dysfunction. More often than not a highly dysfunctional brain which, itself, perpetuates and propagates further dysfunction, both neurologically for the adult survivor at the biological level and psychologically for both the adult survivor and those they interact with at the social level.

        The behaviours the adult survivor exhibits which further promote dysfunction are, therefore, morally ‘wrong’ even though those decisions are, in themselves, dysfunctional behaviours derived from their damaged internal decision-making system.

        There’s a lot more to expand on but given the constraints of this platform I’d like to limit this reply to applying the rule to one of your stated ‘vexing moral issues’, abortion. I used this argument in another comment thread just recently, perhaps you could provide rebuttal if you think it is incorrect.

        Which decision is most likely to propagate dysfunction, the mother ending the pregnancy through terminating the foetus by exercising her autonomy, or forcing the mother, through projecting equal bodily autonomy upon the foetus, to endure an unwanted pregnancy and either raise the child herself or give it up for adoption?

        The data shows that while there are outliers to this scenario, whereby
        the mother and child might actually thrive even in light of the mother’s
        original desire not to continue the pregnancy, statistically it generally does not provide for a healthy and nurturing environment for either individual, often resulting in life-long neurological and psychological disorders.

        • Let me tackle both points you raise by clarifying that, actually, the absolute-root of the concept of objective morality as I propose is not even the maxim I highlighted in bold but is, in fact, the follow on qualifier regarding that “which does not propagate dysfunction”.

          To paraphrase Hypocrites: first, do no harm; second, if it doesn’t do harm then keep your nose out of it. That would be my approach.

          The interconnectedness of our reality absolutely depends on the functioning of systems and the interaction between them

          We have to make sure we’re using “objective” in the same sense. I’m using Wm. Lane Craig’s definition of objective morality: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

          Which decision is most likely to propagate dysfunction, the mother ending the pregnancy through terminating the foetus by exercising her autonomy, or forcing the mother, through projecting equal bodily
          autonomy upon the foetus, to endure an unwanted pregnancy and either
          raise the child herself or give it up for adoption?

          I support your conclusion, though I don’t see how there’s any objective morality here, just good argumentation.

        • BillYeager

          first, do no harm; second, if it doesn’t do harm then keep your nose out of it.

          Hence the rule of following the path of least dysfunction and not ruling necessarily for positive functionality itself. I’d propose even a null value where there is no inherent dysfunction but a positive functionality is not apparent. That would be when noses would be kept out of it!

          I’m using Wm. Lane Craig’s definition of objective morality: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

          Which this absolutely abides by. Much like math, or functional computer code, Dysfunction is an objectively provable state whether you believe in it or not.

          In a quick anecdotal straw poll, I’d ask you to think of all things you believe are morally wrong and to find one that is not measurably dysfunctional behaviour. For this I’ll trust that you’re a reasonable human being who bases his morality in non-religious grounds.

          If I were to ask a religionist for their examples of morally wrong behaviour I know they will propose acts that are absolutely not dysfunctional, such as homosexuality, along with those that are, concerning murder and rape, etc. His religious morality will disagree with homosexuality but, as we know, there is no logical reason for it other than because their ‘god’ says so appeal-to-authority fallacy.

          Your reluctance to accept this rule with the accompanying maxim concerning the autonomy of consent (on the basis that it is entirely non-dysfunctional a way to objectively guide positive human interaction), as the definition of truly objective morality, seems as though you want it to feel less ‘cold’. But we do live within a multitude of systems on numerous scales and it is the propagation of dysfunction within these systems which causes harm. What other reliable measure of right and wrong do you think there is which doesn’t in effect describe a functional/dysfunctional condition?

        • Which this absolutely abides by. Much like math, or functional computer code, Dysfunction is an objectively provable state whether you believe in it or not.

          Sounds like Sam Harris’s approach. He tries to quantify harm to decide whether a moral demand (women wear burkas, for example) is the best path.

          In a quick anecdotal straw poll, I’d ask you to think of all things you believe are morally wrong and to find one that is not measurably dysfunctional behaviour.

          Are you aware of Jonathan Haight’s categories of morality? The conservative-only moralities include purity/sanctity (ickiness). We might disagree with those conservatives on whether this is dysfunctional.

          His religious morality will disagree with homosexuality but, as we know, there is no logical reason for it other than because their ‘god’ says so appeal-to-authority fallacy.

          Right, but I think you’ll still disagree with the conservative if their brains have a different idea of what encompasses morality.

        • Greg G.

          (women wear burkas, for example)

          A lot of Somalis live around my part of town. The women use their burkas to hold their phone to their ear. I wonder how I would look in one.

        • BillYeager

          Are you aware of Jonathan Haight’s categories of morality?

          I’ve now read through that article you cite and, to be honest, I don’t see an argument for claiming multiple categories of objective morality exist, only multiple categories of subjective morality, especially when:

          I think you’ll still disagree with the conservative if their brains have a different idea of what encompasses morality.

          Which proves my point. To attempt to define morality this way will simply result in further subjective disagreement. Simply put, pursuing subjective morality doesn’t help anyone as it will always end up being reduced to one side calling the other side ‘wrong’ in their attempt to define ‘their’ moral rules.

          In terms of objective morality, ‘harm’ is the dysfunction damaging the integrity of the system. You use the phrase

          the amorphous domain of morality

          in that article, implying that morality is largely undefinable and confidently declare in this one:

          The dictionary doesn’t demand any objective grounding in its definition of morality, and neither should we.

          almost as though you want to insist that objective morality *cannot* exist. I read Pirsig’s ‘Lila’ many years ago and he, too, holds the same, almost desperate need to believe there cannot be an objective definition of morality. But by acknowledging the multitude of systems that both form us as biological beings and the psychological and social systems we inhabit, it can easily be seen that harm to components of those systems or, more correctly, dysfunction, is a measurable metric by which we can objectively describe morality.

          Murder is harmful to the human system of the victim, for obvious reasons, but it is actually the propagation of the wider dysfunction caused by murder, affecting those in the immediate sociofamilial group system as well as, if murder were not recognised as morally wrong, the wider community and social structure systems, which makes murder so particularly egregious in its immorality.

          If murder were not almost-universally understood as a moral wrong, the entire human-species system of interaction would face catastrophic levels of dysfunction. But why do we, almost-universally, understand murder to be morally wrong? Because we inherently recognise the dysfunctional threat the act poses to our own internal human system and that of the sociofamilial systems we live in. We recognise both the dysfunction of the perpetrator and what an unchecked propagation of that dysfunction could do across society.

          Don’t forget, the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, are arbitrary labels with no true definition. So you can’t argue for something being morally ‘wrong’ if both morality and ‘wrongness’ only possess values derived from subjective opinion and, therefore, are permanently subject to revision and change by whichever ‘side’ is making the assertion.

          Now, in the case of moral ‘wrong’ being defined through dysfunction (harm to the system), you can certainly make numerous evaluative judgements for and against any particular contentious issue, not by seeking to subjectively define morality to fit that particular issue, but by describing the systems affected by that issue. Then we are able to objectively measure the dysfunction inflicted across the many systems (biological, psychological, social), plus the propagation of that dysfunction beyond the local effect, which will give us a reliable position to understand the true moral value.

        • I’ve now read through that article you cite and, to be honest, I don’t see an argument for claiming multiple categories of objective morality exist, only multiple categories of subjective morality

          Right. I make no claim of objective morality.

          Simply put, pursuing subjective morality doesn’t help anyone as it will always end up being reduced to one side calling the other side ‘wrong’ in their attempt to define ‘their’ moral rules.

          The problem as I see it is imagining objective morality when there isn’t any. I’ve never seen evidence that “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not” exists.

          In terms of objective morality, ‘harm’ is the dysfunction damaging the integrity of the system.

          My definition of objective morality is the quote above. Are we not on the same page?

          almost as though you want to insist that objective morality *cannot* exist.

          (1) Let’s make sure we’re using the same definition of the term.

          (2) My claim isn’t that. Rather, I declare that I’ve seen zero evidence for it. It’s a remarkable claim, and if anyone claims that it exists, they have the burden of proof.

          Murder is harmful to the human system of the victim, for obvious reasons, but it is actually the propagation of the wider dysfunction caused by murder

          You’re focused on dysfunction, and yet humans don’t agree. Murder is (almost by definition) dysfunctional, but that’s too easy an issue.

          I say, “Two gay men want to get married? What’s not to like?” And the conservative will handwave about this being an attack on the very moral foundation of society. Does dysfunction exist here? We simply can’t agree.

          Don’t forget, the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, are arbitrary labels with no true definition.

          Don’t forget that the definitions of those words have no objective component.

          So you can’t argue for something being morally ‘wrong’ if both morality and ‘wrongness’ only possess values derived from subjective opinion and, therefore, are permanently subject to revision and change by whichever ‘side’ is making the assertion.

          I disagree. Hopefully you can see why.

        • BillYeager

          The problem as I see it is imagining objective morality when there isn’t any.

          This statement is a contradiction in itself, surely you can see that? Subjective morality is that which does not exist, it is merely a woolly notion which doesn’t define anything tangible or measurable. The actual problem is people imagining subjective morality when there isn’t any.

          I’ve never seen evidence that “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not” exists.

          You use the term ‘values’ but are not accepting a definition of objective morality which is based in actual measurable values of dysfunction? If so, then surely you don’t mean moral ‘values’ you mean moral ‘feels’, namely, how you emotionally perceive an issue. If so then, as I said previously, you’re not actually doing anything more than simply emoting. In order for anything to be ‘valid and binding whether anybody believes’, that thing has to possess measurable qualities which objective define it independently of opinion.

          Put it this way, imagine the workings of a mechanical clock, this is a system of components which need to all remain functional for the clock to be a functional system, yes? Now, a manufacturing error causes one of the cogs to strip off some of the teeth off a cog it is connected to. The clock system is now dysfunctional due to one component being dysfunctional, but you don’t know where the manufacturing error actually is, be it one of the two cogs concerned or a part that connects to them.

          Applying subjective opinion to evaluating the problem, by simply stating how you feel about it, isn’t a measure of anything tangible or useful to the issue of understanding the problem sufficiently to know what the true condition of the issue is or the best resolution to it and the dysfunction is still present whether you, or anyone else, wants to believe so or not.

          Let’s look at how objectively morality reflects the true state of the following:

          I say, “Two gay men want to get married? What’s not to like?” And the conservative will handwave about this being an attack on the very moral foundation of society. Does dysfunction exist here? We simply can’t agree.

          Both of you give a subjective opinion and neither of you are presenting anything which can serve as an arbiter of what the true condition of the issue is, therefore, nobody is describing anything useful and you both believe your position to be ‘correct’.

          Objective morality, based on a measure of dysfunction, supports your position, Bob, not because you’re a decent human being, but because the data supports the fact that same-sex relationships are no more dysfunctional than opposite-sex ones, as well as a multitude of data points which serve to describe the lack of a dysfunctional state of harm in the individual or the wider society through such a union. As you know, it is actually the dysfunctional persecution and prejudice from those who see same-sex marriage as being morally ‘wrong’, which propagates dysfunction widely. Their position is not a moral truth, it is simply fallacy. These are objective facts with tangible states whether anybody believes in them or not.

          I have to ask you again, what other measure of value do you think morality must possess if you do not accept the measure of dysfunction as being sufficient a definition?

        • Michael Neville

          Subjective morality is that which does not exist, it is merely a woolly notion which doesn’t define anything tangible or measurable.

          My morality, which I admit is wholly subjective, is based on doing no harm to others. Furthermore I admit that my definition of harm is entirely subjective and subject to change. So what? I have a workable morality. Those who insist that “objective morality” exists usually disagree on what is moral or immoral. So it appears to me that “objective morality” is just as subjective as my morality. At least I’m honest in admitting that my morality is subjective.

        • BillYeager

          I admit that my definition of harm is entirely subjective and subject to change. So what? I have a workable morality.

          So what? Well, for starters you’ve just described exactly what I stated the problem as being, namely, it is an arbitrary definition, subject to change depending on the circumstances. It has no true state.

          Those who insist that “objective morality” exists usually disagree on what is moral or immoral.

          That’s a specious claim to make given that you’re not even defining what those who ‘insist’ objective morality exists are even claiming it to be. In order for them to be disagreeing on what is moral or immoral then they clearly do not describe an objective morality.

          Let me clarify:

          Dysfunction is an objectively provable state whether you believe in it or not.

          Which means objective morality defined as a measure of dysfunction meets that criteria.

          You stated that your definition of ‘harm’ is entirely subjective and subject to change, meaning so is your morality if you are basing it on your perception of harm at any given moment. But by perceiving morality through dysfunction, a quantifiable state, then morality does not change, only the conditions derived from the systems-derived data points do.

          Now, in the case of moral ‘wrong’ being defined through dysfunction (harm to the system), you can certainly make numerous evaluative judgements for and against any particular contentious issue, not by seeking to subjectively define morality to fit that particular issue, but by describing the systems affected by that issue. Then we are able to objectively measure the dysfunction inflicted across the many systems (biological, psychological, social), plus the propagation of that dysfunction beyond the local effect, which will give us a reliable position to understand the true moral value.

          Example: You wake up in isolation on a futuristic island, but you need other people in order to create a liveable environment, so you start pressing a button on a control-pad labelled ‘more humans’, resulting in the instantaneous production of another person. Doing so is a functional response to the systems of those conditions. It is not morally wrong for you to use that button to create a functional and healthy system of humans and social community. If, however, you kept pressing the ‘more humans’ button, well beyond the capacity of the island’s resources and the social community to provide for a healthy environment for them to thrive, the systemic data points would now be different, the conditions are different, objectively your dysfunctional behaviour is propagating further dysfunction. It is now morally wrong for you to keep pressing that button.

          Morality didn’t change, the systemic conditions being described did. So measurable values which were functional at the beginning, changed to show measurable dysfunction being caused within the systems of the island, for the very same act of pressing the ‘more humans’ button. You became dysfunctional and, ergo, morally wrong in your decision to keep pressing that button regardless.

        • you’ve just described exactly what I stated the problem as being, namely, it is an arbitrary definition, subject to change depending on the circumstances. It has no true state.

          Right, but whatcha gonna do about it?? That’s just the way it is. You could gnash your teeth about violence in the world, but that doesn’t get us to world peace.

          You stated that your definition of ‘harm’ is entirely subjective and subject to change, meaning so is your morality if you are basing it on harm.

          You have a universally applicable algorithm that allows you to quickly decide whether an action is moral or not? I think that you and Mr. Conservative will come up with different answers. Even if you define your terms very carefully, you’re still stuck with not-completely-unambiguous data on social harm (which sounds like a key to your argument). That makes it very difficult to decide whether there’s a net positive or negative from some policy.

          If, however, you kept pressing the ‘more humans’ button, well beyond the capacity of the island’s resources and the social community to provide for a healthy environment for them to thrive, the systemic data points would now be different, the conditions are different, objectively your dysfunctional behaviour is propagating further dysfunction.

          Right—so how many humans do you create? Maybe X is best to be in balance with the island’s productivity, but Y is best for having a creative society and Z is best for having a safe society.

          The other problem is that measuring these qualities is inaccurate.

        • BillYeager

          you’re still stuck with not-completely-unambiguous data on social harm (which sounds like a key to your argument). That makes it very difficult to decide whether there’s a net positive or negative from some policy.

          Again, it is not required for there to be a net positive to functionality, only that there not be a propagation of dysfunction which harms the integrity of the functional systems it affects.

          Going back to my biological analogy, the mutation of a single cell could be described as dysfunction of that single system-of-the-cell, but if that mutation didn’t result in propagation of dysfunction into the wider systems it affects then there is no threat to their systemic integrity.

          Harmful cell mutation such as cancer are a good example of catastrophic propagation of dysfunction. Human systems of interaction are just as prone to ‘cancerous’ propagation of dysfunction, with our ‘inherent’ (evolved) morality serving as the basis for the rejection of and reaction to such systemic threats.

          Right—so how many humans do you create? Maybe X is best to be in balance with the island’s productivity, but Y is best for having a creative society and Z is best for having a safe society.

          That would be dependent on whatever your functional goal was. It is not necessarily morally ‘good’ to create as many humans as can exist before dysfunction propagates, but it is objectively morally wrong to continue to create humans beyond that point.

          The other problem is that measuring these qualities is inaccurate.

          Not if you are evaluating the multiple systems for propagation of harm. You don’t need to know how much dysfunction there is, only that it is propagating into other systems of the island.

          Example: The first created human beyond the point of the island system to be able to provide for a healthy nurturing environment, suffered sufficient neurological stress during their developmental years that the elevated levels of cortisol resulted in alterations in gene expression to such a degree that their physical brain developed differently from how it otherwise would have. This difference in brain architecture and chemistry resulted in harm to the integrity of their psychological process, causing them to experience mental and emotional instability which expressed as violence to themselves and others within the island system. The dysfunction propagated from a decision to make a single button press beyond that which would not propagate dysfunction into the wider systems into one which did.

          As I said, I see no argument to support a need to measure positive morality in order to understand objective morality, only a measure of the propagation of the dysfunctional into systems beyond itself.

        • You have lots of analogies, which is confusing. I think your argument would be easier to understand if you focused on moral issues. Better: focus on current moral disagreements like abortion or capital punishment.

          There are smart people on different sides of these issues. They disagree. Do you propose to have them accept your view as the way to a single answer to these questions?

        • Kodie

          I don’t really understand this one extra person crap. Unless there’s a lottery system, that one extra person isn’t the only one who would suffer. Everyone would have a slight amount less of resources, and up to a point, that would be ok, and then everyone would suffer slightly. I mean, that’s if they were pretty communal about resources, too. You can have a lot fewer people, but some of them are total dicks about hogging the resources, and then even more people would suffer than just that one.

        • BillYeager

          The points you highlight are exactly the propagation of dysfunction I have described. The analogy of the island is used to present a simplistic example of multiple systems of interaction being exposed to a dysfunction which ultimately propagates and damages the ‘island system’ whole.

        • Michael Neville

          …it is an arbitrary definition, subject to change depending on the circumstances. It has no true state.

          It is a true state. It is true for me. You may not agree with my morality but you cannot say it doesn’t exist. I can say that objective morality doesn’t exist because there’s no evidence for its existence.

          That’s a specious claim to make given that you’re not even defining what those who ‘insist’ objective morality exists are even claiming it to be. In order for them to be disagreeing on what is moral or immoral then they clearly do not describe an objective morality.

          I apologize. I didn’t realize that you had been raised in a cave by wolves and had entered civilization in the last couple of days. Please let me educated you on how the human side of the world operates.

          There are a bazillion (that’s any number greater than three) priests, preachers, shamans, prelates and other assorted godbotherers (do you need an explanation of that word?) who insist that objective morality exists, usually determined by whichever Supreme Being™ they follow, and these godbotherers know exactly and in minute detail what objective morality entails. However each one of these people have their own description of what is or is not “objectively moral”.

          For instance, one group of godbotherers, called “Catholic bishops”, have determined that artificial contraception is objectively immoral and their favorite god has a hissy-fit whenever anyone uses a condom or takes a birth control pill. On the other hand, these Catholic bishops do not consider child rape done by their subordinates to violate objective morality, as shown by how the Catholic bishops support and protect child rapists. Other people consider child rape to be objectively immoral. So obviously there is disagreement over what constitutes objective morality. If such disagreement exists then morality cannot be objective. QE fucking D!

        • BillYeager

          I didn’t realize that you had been raised in a cave by wolves and had entered civilization in the last couple of days. Please let me educated you on how the human side of the world operates.

          So your response to my statement:

          In order for them to be disagreeing on what is moral or immoral then they clearly do not describe an objective morality.

          is to then school me in how a gazillion people all have different opinions on what constitutes objective morality, therefore I’m wrong?

          If none of those gazillion people are actually employing objective morality, a morality which is true regardless of subjective opinion, then why use them as an attempt to rebut my proposal for recognising and measuring actual objective moral value?

          On the other hand, these Catholic bishops do not consider child rape done by their subordinates to violate objective morality… If such disagreement exists then morality cannot be objective. QE fucking D!

          Let me correct that last assertion and perhaps then you’ll see why your attempt to use a gazillion other people as a rebuttal is false.

          If such disagreement exists then their morality cannot be objective. QE fucking D!

          Just because they claim their morality to be objective does not make it true. Frankly I’m surprised you’d struggle to recognise that fact from the get-go, given you’re discussing clergy.

        • Michael Neville

          a gazillion people all have different opinions on what constitutes objective morality, therefore I’m wrong

          That’s it. If there was such a thing as objective morality then everyone, except for sociopaths, would agree on what is or is not objectively moral. Since such agreement does not exist, then the silliness called objective morality cannot exist. All your hand waving and bullshit does not obscure this simple fact.

          Besides, if “objective morality” isn’t a figment of the imagination then you’d be able to show us an example of it. Since you can’t then even you have to admit that it doesn’t exist. QE you’re an idiot for believing in such nonsense D!

        • BillYeager

          Something which is objectively measurable does not need agreement. It simply is, whether you agree with it or not.

          How many more examples of a true moral wrong described through the propagation of dysfunction do you need? Are you even bothering to consider the content of my posts or just jumping straight to hitting the reply button to continue creating fallacious rebuttal attempts regardless?

          How ironic.

        • Michael Neville

          Objective morality does need agreement by everyone that it exists. People may not abide by it but objective morality would be recognized as such by everyone. And that doesn’t happen, which means that objective morality doesn’t exist. QE everlovin’ D!

        • Proponents of objective morality often want to stop at their claim of objective morality. The vitally important second step, as you note, is that this is seen and agreed to by every thinking person. If something is objectively true but we can’t see this fact, who cares?

        • BillYeager

          Did the process of evolution require everybody to agree it existed in order for it to exist?

          ‘Objective’ – You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

          Is probably the kindest reply I can make to you.

        • Michael Neville

          So you’re saying that “objective morality” is subjective to each individual. That’s been my objection to that silly notion all along.

        • BillYeager

          :deep breath:

          No. That is not at all what I am saying and for you to infer such in the face of clear and concise discussion explaining otherwise is, well, I’m not sure what it is. At best it is gross misunderstanding of the entire concept of objectivity, at worst it is wilful and you are simply trolling the discussion.

        • Michael Neville

          You started off by insisting that “subjective morality” was “wooly” and such a thing didn’t exist. I explained that my morality, the morality that I live by, is wholly subjective, which meant that you were wrong about it not existing. You also pretended that “objective morality” was “based on a measure of dysfunction” without ever bothering to define what you meant by “dysfunction”.

          I’ve been arguing that objective morality doesn’t exist because if it did exist then everyone everywhere would agree on what is or is nor moral. I’ve offered examples showing that this is not the case. You’ve disagreed based on bullshit, hand waving, and being pompous. You have never (a) shown that subjective morality doesn’t exist (you’ve made that claim without offering the least evidence to support it) and (b) explain ed what you mean by “dysfuction”. As a result, I’m forced to guess what your lengthy but meaningless bafflegab is supposed to mean.

          It’s not my fault that you’re at best semi-intelligible. Your claim that your writing is “clear and coherent” shows that you have no clue what those words mean.

        • adam
        • Joe

          Something which is objectively measurable does not need agreement.

          Then why ask for our agreement?:

          How many more examples of a true moral wrong described through the propagation of dysfunction do you need? Are you even bothering to consider the content of my posts

        • BillYeager

          Then why ask for our agreement?

          I’m not asking for anyone’s agreement, I’m asking for rebuttals which attempt to falsify the assertion I am making so that I can test its integrity. It is holding up well so far.

          It also helps me to see where the phrasing I use to describe what I am perceiving to be a truth can communicate it sufficiently to be readily understood. This part needs more work.

        • Kodie

          I don’t see morality as something that can be objectively measurable. It needs people, and people have different needs and goals. It doesn’t apply to other animals necessarily, so I don’t know how it could be objective in any sense. Morality is not a physical quality like gravity. I really think it’s absurd to try to cram it into a category it doesn’t belong in. I can already think of about a dozen situations when it’s ok to kill a person. If I could stay up all night thinking about it, it might go up to a hundred or more.

        • BillYeager

          I can already think of about a dozen situations when it’s ok to kill a person.

          Absolutely and those situations will be in cases where there is a need to prevent the propagation of dysfunction. The typical moral dilemma scenarios, for example, where it is the one life lost to save the many, but rather than it being about many lives automatically justifying the loss of one, which isn’t always true, it is about the measure of dysfunction propagation to ascertain the true morally wrong response in those scenarios, which may actually support saving the one life over the many.

        • Kodie

          What you’re calling dysfunction is also subjective.

        • BillYeager

          What you’re calling dysfunction is also subjective.

          Just to keep you in the loop of this discussion without repeating the response I have just given to Bob, who asserted same, you can read it here .

        • Kodie

          I’m not talking about necessary to resort to killing to effect an outcome.

        • Kodie

          Maybe there is a best morality for achieving human goals, but then the human goals are not objective. How can morality be objective if humans cannot ever get their shit together to decide how best to live? Some people think it’s better to starve the poor to teach them to get a job and earn their own living rather than share with them. If everyone could agree on a common goal, then their moralities would line up and it still wouldn’t be objective.

        • BillYeager

          Maybe there is a best morality for achieving human goals, but then the human goals are not objective.

          Correct, human goals are not necessarily objectively reasoned and, therefore, the evaluation of moral wrong, the measure of the propagation of dysfunction, extends into considering those ‘human goal systems’ when applying this process as a reliable metric.

          Our reality is entirely based in systems of operation and interaction. Instead of seeking to evaluate subjective opinion-based assertions to resolve a moral quandary, we need only evaluate the integrity of the inter-connected systems related to the problem we are considering.

          Look, take this quote from Bob’s article above:

          When we see a widespread sense of a shared morality within society, are we seeing universal moral truth? Or are we seeing universally held moral programming? That latter explanation is natural and does the job without the need to imagine an objective moral truth that doesn’t exist.

          He asserts that universally-held moral programming is natural, but then doesn’t acknowledge why it is universal and why it is natural. The biological systems which created single-cell lifeforms are reliant on not propagating dysfunction, because where that did occur in organism systems they swiftly collapsed.

          But evolution advances through change and many positive changes come from beneficial erroneous mutation, localised dysfunction which does not propagate further dysfunction. Which is why dysfunction, itself, is not necessarily morally wrong, only its propagation into other systems.

          Beyond biological evolution we now have metaphysical evolution of our individual psychological systems and how they interact with other individual psyches and group metaphysical systems, such as immediate sociofamilial community as well as the systems of the wider society of our whole species. Dysfunction propagating within these metaphysical systems of operation and interaction describe the objective ‘moral wrong’ I am discussing and equate to the same universal truth I am proposing objectively exists, the inherent systemic nature of limiting the propagation of dysfunction.

        • Kodie

          Human goals are not necessarily objective.

        • This statement is a contradiction in itself, surely you can see that?

          Nope.

          Subjective morality is that which does not exist, it is merely a woolly notion which doesn’t define anything tangible or measurable.

          “Subjective morality” is morality. Look it up—there is no objective anything in the definition of “morality.” You’re frustrated that there is no universally accepted, unambiguous clarity on what’s moral and what’s not? Yeah, life’s a bitch.

          “I’ve never seen evidence that “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not” exists.”
          You use the term ‘values’ but are not accepting a definition of objective morality which is based in actual measurable values of dysfunction?

          I always use the same definition of objective morality. It makes things simpler. Is this not a definition you can work with? I introduced it several comments ago, and you seemed to have no problem with it.

          In order for anything to be ‘valid and binding whether anybody believes’, that thing has to possess measurable qualities which objective define it independently of opinion.

          Right. Which is why I reject it.

          Applying subjective opinion to evaluating the problem, by simply stating how you feel about it

          Yes, I see the limitations of subjective opinion. We all agree.

          The point is: you got something better?? Then show us. Take abortion or capital punishment and show us the proper approach that is (1) objectively correct (as opposed to widely accepted, for example) and (2) accessible to all people (not revealed to just a few sages, for example).

          Objective morality, based on a measure of dysfunction, supports your position, Bob, not because you’re a decent human being, but because the data supports the fact that same-sex relationships are no more dysfunctional than opposite-sex ones, as well as a multitude of data points which serve to describe the lack of a dysfunctional state of harm in the individual or the wider society through such a union.

          Take this opinion on the road. Explain it to some conservatives and see how they respond. I’d be impressed if even a single one changed based on your new view.

          What do we learn from this?

          I have to ask you again, what other measure of value do you think morality must possess if you do not accept the measure of dysfunction as being sufficient a definition?

          A measure of dysfunction is fine, but your definition will obviously not satisfy everyone. And we’re back to square 1.

        • BillYeager

          You’re frustrated that there is no universally accepted, unambiguous clarity on what’s moral and what’s not? Yeah, life’s a bitch…Explain it to some conservatives and see how they respond. I’d be impressed if even a single one changed based on your new view.

          No, I’m not looking at whether there is a universally accepted definition of morality, I’m looking at whether there is a universally true definition of morality. Huge difference.

          Darwin wasn’t looking for what was accepted, he was looking for what was true. He recognised the process of biological evolution and the systems which resulted in more complex functional systems and functional alterations through adaptation to the prevailing conditions.

          In evolution, a single cell mutation can lead to functional systems being improved or damaged. A propagation of dysfunctional cell mutation, however, leads to systemic dysfunction and collapse. This holds true for computer code, too. If you call a subroutine which has erroneous code and it responds dysfunctionally to the call, it can threaten the integrity of the entire program’s functionality. Hell, it might even threaten the integrity of the computer hardware it runs on, or the network it is connected to and the computers connected to that network.

          Evolution explains why part of morals is built-in. What we think of as proper morals has survival value

          Your own statement even recognises that the systems which make up the biological, psychological and social process of evolution thrive through, what we perceive to be, ‘inherent moral behaviour’. I am stating that this behaviour, even though we label it morality after we have slapped our personal opinion all over it before then roundly disagreeing with others who have slapped their different personal opinion all over it, too, is actually the process of strengthening functional integrity through minimising the propagation of dysfunction.

        • No, I’m not looking at whether there is a universally accepted definition of morality, I’m looking at whether there is a universally true definition of morality. Huge difference.

          It’s not particularly useful if only a few people are wise enough to see this, but that’s still an interesting quest.

          You haven’t responded to my point about dysfunction. This seems to me to be the problem: you see dysfunction differently than the conservative—both your interpretation of the facts and your analysis of what is good and what is bad—so you’re back to square 1.

        • BillYeager

          This seems to me to be the problem: you see dysfunction differently than the conservative

          I think you see this as a left-v-right battle for who gets to define things.

          My concern is not the conservative moralist fudging their subjectivity all over the topic.

          A far more pressing need, in terms of seeking to be able to recognise and describe the inherent purpose of the objective morality which, as I propose, serves to enhance and strengthen the functional systems we live in and by, is the ongoing rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

          How do you think we could possibly hope to describe morality to a synthetic intelligence if it cannot be observed and measured, if it is not a viable algorithm? The closer we get to the singularity without there being a way to define the objective morality which I propose does actually exist, the greater the risk we will find ourselves facing a potentially unstable and dysfunctionally malevolent AI entity.

          I do get that I need to better describe what I am perceiving, though, so thanks for all this input. It is exactly what I was looking for.

          The evolution of functional systems of increasing complexity are dependent on math, physics, chemistry, biology and neurology/psychology. The single greatest threat to these systems is the propagation of dysfunction. That is the purpose of what we call ‘morality’, to protect against systemic dysfunction.

          When it comes to our neurology/psychology we have evolved ever-more complex metaphysical psychosocial constructs which guide our behaviours and interactions. The propagation of dysfunction sometimes expresses itself clearly within these systems (violence, abuse, oppression, victimisation, etc.) and, for most people, our inherent functional morality recognises the threat such dysfunction poses to the integrity of vast swathes of the interconnected metaphysical systems we live by.

          This is why we humans inherently tend to ‘know’ what is morally ‘wrong’, even if many struggle to objectively explain why, because we are predisposed to do so as a requirement for the evolution of functional metaphysical-systems of increasing complexity. Our entire Universe through to our individual identity, itself, could not have arisen in a reality where there did not exist an inherent mechanism to protect against the propagation of dysfunction.

        • Sure, we can have an algorithm for defining morality. It would be a subjective algorithm.

        • BillYeager

          That’s a very glib response. An algorithm is not subjective if it wholly describes an objective truth.

          For somebody who recognises the purpose of a ‘morality process’ within the system of evolution, you routinely discuss morality as though it is what we humans subjectively define it as, rather than seeking to describe what it actually is.

          I think you are conflating morality and human ethics.

          Ask yourself what the ‘morality process’ systematically accomplishes and you will see that what is morally ‘wrong’ (outside of arbitrary religious interpretation) is always that which propagates dysfunction:

          No other species has perfected violence, slavery, cruelty, revenge, torture, and war to the extent that humans have.

          I would postulate that this is because no other species has such an advanced and complex set of functional metaphysical components (i.e. billions of individual minds within a multitude of systemic constructs, from the ‘self’ through to ‘society’) which can tolerate a larger expression of dysfunctional propagation without resulting in a total collapse of the whole.

          But whenever one examines human behaviours throughout history, it is when we express the moral process effectively through ethical treatment of each other that we dramatically reduce the propagation of this dysfunction.

          What else do you believe the morality process to be if it is not a means of systemic protection and repair?

        • For somebody who recognises the purpose of a ‘morality process’ within the system of evolution, you routinely discuss morality as though it is what we humans subjectively define it as, rather than seeking to describe what it actually is.

          You act like there’s an alternative to subjective morality. I’ve seen no evidence of such a remarkable thing.

          you will see that what is morally ‘wrong’ (outside of arbitrary religious interpretation) is always that which propagates dysfunction

          We’ve been over this. The problem is, “What is dysfunction?” You and the conservative won’t agree. There’s no objective way to evaluate two different moral paths to decide which is better (or has the least dysfunction).

        • BillYeager

          We’ve been over this. The problem is, “What is dysfunction?” You and the conservative won’t agree.

          The conservative can disagree all they want but dysfunction is an objectively measurable construct, irrespective of subjective opinion:
          dysfunction

          n.

          Abnormal or impaired functioning, especially of a bodily system or social group.

          Ok, let’s take the issue you raise about disagreement between myself and ‘the conservative who will not agree with me on what dysfunction is and believes their religion-based system to be suitably functional’.

          Evaluation of a system:
          Step 1: Describe a functional system (Let’s say the system of Parent/Child interaction on the topic of sexuality)

          Step 2: Describe an output of the functional system ( In this example it would be a healthy and functional young adult (I think you’ll agree said Xtian will accept this as the reasonable expected output regardless of their subjective opinion on what actually constitutes a healthy and functional young adult))

          Step 3: Measure for related dysfunction in the output. (If the output is not a healthy and functional young adult then the claims towards the components of the system being entirely functional are clearly false).

          Example: When we introduce a challenge catalyst for the described system (for this example the child is gay and the ‘loving’ Christian parents promote a negative perspective on all things homosexual, the usual tropes we’re all familiar with), we can objectively measure the dysfunction inherent in the output of their supposedly functional ‘system of Parent/Child interaction on the topic of sexuality’, by way of data showing the massively increased prevalence in neurological and psychological disorders in gay adults raised in such environments.

          So, whatever the Xtian moralist wants to define as morally ‘wrong’ (i.e. homosexuality), the objectively proven fact is that, in this given example, their supposedly functional system is itself propagating dysfunction, ergo their ‘morality’ on sexuality is objectively wrong.

          As I have said before, can you cite anything you’d define as a moral wrong which does not propagate dysfunction? I’m assuming you struggled to think of anything, which led to you questioning the objectivity of defining dysfunction itself. Contrary to your assertion, dysfunction is objectively observable, you need only describe a functional system and its functional output, first.

        • Michael Neville

          You’ve neglected to explain how your “dysfunction” idea isn’t subjective. Perhaps you don’t understand what subjective means. Or perhaps you’re confusing your opinions for facts.

        • BillYeager

          Said the guy who resorted to argument ad populum a week ago who believes that a falsifiable hypothesis supported by objective data seeking to describe an objective reality is mere subjectivity.

          In your perspective Darwin’s proposed description on the origin of species, evolution, was just arbitrary subjectivity. Yet you, surely, must accept that evolution is an objectively measurable process, no? Evolution is made of myriad systems of action and interaction which is dominated by functional output because if it were dominated by dysfunctional output it would collapse.

          We are creatures who nurture our young because if we gave birth to a baby and then left it to fend for itself we’d not be here to have this discussion. Where that process of nurture becomes dysfunctional we see morally wrong behaviours, such as newborn babies being abandoned to die. There is an objectively measurable systemic process of neurological and psychological actions and interactions describing the inherent nurture evolution has developed which prevents the majority of us from neglecting our offspring.

          Yet here we are in the comments section of an article where the author cites morality to be ‘universally held moral programming’ derived of evolution but apparently devoid of objective process. That’s not how evolution works. The components of the evolutionary process don’t simply ‘exist’ as notions, they are actual systemic processes with functional outputs. This is not my opinion, this is objective fact and If you don’t believe me, or don’t get it, then I haven’t the time to try convincing you.

        • Michael Neville

          What a lengthy, verbose, pedantic way of saying that you don’t have any idea if your “objective morality” is actually objective. Which is what I’ve been saying all along.

        • BillYeager

          That isn’t what I said at all, but thanks for proving my point again concerning your seemingly-wilful inability to understand the difference between objective reasoning and subjective opinion. Like I said, if you don’t get such a basic principle of argument I don’t have the time to keep explaining it to you.

        • Michael Neville

          You can’t explain a basic part of your argument and it’s my fault that you fail to do so.

          Every example you’ve given of “objective reasoning” has looked exactly like a subjective opinion. As I said before, I think you confuse your opinions for facts.