Is Life Absurd Without God? A Reply to WLC’s Influential Article (3 of 3).

Is Life Absurd Without God? A Reply to WLC’s Influential Article (3 of 3). May 14, 2019

Let’s conclude our critique of William Lane Craig’s essay “The Absurdity of Life without God” (the critique begins here) by examining a few more of WLC’s claims.

Morality

Craig tells us that we are morally adrift without God. How can we live without objective morality? How can we live in a world with the Auschwitz experiments of Josef Mengele? He says, “My heart was torn by these stories [from the concentration camps],” and yet how does God help? Craig imagines that we live in a world with Auschwitz and God! Throwing God into the mix does nothing to remove the Holocaust from history; instead, it brings up yet another question, What the hell was God doing while Auschwitz was in operation?

As for objective morality (moral truth that is correct independent of whether anyone believes it), this is just his fantasy. He is quick to proclaim it, but he’s done nothing to justify this bold claim.

From the “Wait—this guy is a professor? category, consider this example in which he clarifies what objective morality is:

[The Holocaust] would still have been wrong, even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everybody who disagreed with them, so that everybody in the world thought the Holocaust was right and good.

Let’s think this through. We have our world, where everyone says the Holocaust was wrong, and we have Bizarro World, where things are identical except that everyone says the Holocaust was right. Each world has a William Lane Craig, and these two philosophers are identical except for opposite views on this one issue. Where is the objective grounding for either view? WLC in our world would say that the Holocaust was still wrong, but how is this anything but his opinion? Neither version of WLC could point to anything to convince the other. Craig’s own example therefore proves my point: there is no reason to imagine objective morality.

Now return to Craig’s quote and imagine it happening: Germany won the war, Nazi thinking had swept the world, and we all believed that the Holocaust was morally right. That’s a terrible thing to imagine, and yet Craig blunders forward apparently unaware that we live in a very similar world—just replace Nazi thinking with Christian thinking, and replace the extermination of the Jews with the extermination of the Canaanites.

Craig himself wrote an impassioned defense of the Israelites’ “slaughter of the Canaanites”. Craig misses the irony of Christian parents reading their children bedtime stories about the Israelites’ heroic conquests in Canaan and then deploring comparable actions by the Nazis the next day during homeschool time. Christians say that the Canaanites deserved it, but the Nazis said that the Jews deserved it (h/t NonStampCollector).

(As an exercise to the reader, sketch out the parallels between the Holocaust and the Flood.)

Is atheism absurd?

In part 1, we saw how Craig will drop the word “ultimate” in phrases such as “ultimate purpose” or “ultimate meaning” and declare that purpose and meaning don’t exist in the life of the atheist. I agree that I see no ultimate purpose in life, but there’s plenty of purpose. Look up “purpose” in the dictionary, and you’ll find no requirement for an ultimate anything. One is left to puzzle over whether in ignoring any distinction between purpose and ultimate purpose he’s deliberately deceptive or just a sloppy writer.

Craig mocks the naturalist position when he quotes Bertrand Russell saying that we must build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.” In the first place, millions of atheists don’t see despair as having a role in their lives, let alone an obligatory one as Craig imagines. But second, he’s quoting Russell out of context. Russell wasn’t recommending despair for mankind, he was recommending reality (h/t commenter Steampunk Gentleman).

Craig plays games with “absurd,” a critical word in an essay titled, “The Absurdity of Life without God.” According to the dictionary, he’s saying that life is meaningless, ridiculously unreasonable, or incongruous without God, and that’s obviously what he means when he (mis)quotes Russell. But the word actually has another meaning:

In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe.

And this definition actually works. It’s simply the observation that there is no inherent or ultimate meaning in life. So in that sense, life is absurd without God.

So Craig is using “absurd” either to make an obvious and uninteresting point (there is no reason to imagine ultimate meaning in life) or a false one (life has no meaning). Worse, he may be deliberately switching between the two as benefits his presupposition.

Insight gained . . .

We wade through paragraph after tedious paragraph as Craig marvels how atheists think Reality wasn’t cobbled together just for their benefit. But Craig is sensible when it suits him. Using the example of feminists annoyed with the conclusions of Freudian psychology, Craig says,

If Freudian psychology is really true, then it doesn’t matter if it’s degrading to women. You can’t change the truth because you don’t like what it leads to.

Yes! It doesn’t matter whether you like the truth or not! The truth is the truth, and you’re stuck with it.

Why does the essay not reflect this obvious fact, and why bury it almost at the end? If this idea had been in the first paragraph, it might have informed the essay and grounded it in reality.

And insight lost

But when thinking sensibly doesn’t suit him, Craig rejects it.

Do you understand the gravity of the alternatives before us? For if God exists, then there is hope for man. But if God does not exist, then all we are left with is despair.

Completely backwards. Don’t introduce an alternative until you have shown that it’s viable. This is like wrestling with the consequences of life with the winning Powerball lottery ticket versus without it. First, let’s see if you have such a ticket.

Note also that the “If God exists” phrase is an attempt to conjure up God out of nothing. This is is the Hypothetical God Fallacy.

We finally reach the end of Craig’s long essay, wanting only to make it out with our sanity intact. In the very last paragraph, he acknowledges the elephant in the room and admits:

Now I want to make it clear that I have not yet shown biblical Christianity to be true . . .

You got that right!

But what I have done is clearly spell out the alternatives. If God does not exist, then life is futile.

Wrong. Life is ultimately futile.

There is no reason to imagine that God exists or that you have that winning lottery ticket. Grow up and get over it.

Notice how he’s doubling down on the Hypothetical God Fallacy. Why bother pointing out that if a certain insanely unlikely thing doesn’t exist, then life is futile? That might be true, but who cares until you’ve shown that it’s a viable possibility?

It seems to me that even if the evidence for these two options were absolutely equal, a rational person ought to choose biblical Christianity. It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and destruction to life, meaningfulness, and happiness.

No, what’s irrational is groping for an option that is not first well supported by evidence. Craig finds what he’d like to be true and then rearranges the facts to support that conclusion. This is not the argument of someone honestly searching for the truth (but I appreciate his illustrating this flawed thinking so clearly).

And notice the slippery debater’s trick. He feigns a concession (“even if the evidence were equal”) to make us more accepting of the ridiculous argument that “God exists” and “God doesn’t exist” are equally likely. And yet he admitted in the same paragraph that he has done nothing to defend his Christian conclusion. This entire bloated essay simply says that it would be nice if God exists. Stated less charitably: it would please Craig if God exists.

Religion imagines that it has something to add to the conversation when its answers to life’s Big Questions change based on where they’re asked! Ask “What is life’s purpose?” in a Buddhist country and you’ll be told it’s to cease suffering and reach nirvana. In a Muslim country, it’s to submit to Allah. In a Christian country, it’s to learn about and praise God.

Craig is determined to justify his childish view of reality. He’s made clear that no argument would change his mind. For anyone who finds his arguments enticing, however, I encourage them to put on their big girl panties, grow up, and demand that supernatural claims be backed with serious evidence.

Seeing life accurately can be daunting, but it’s also invigorating. Problems get solved only by seeing them as they are, not as we wish they were.

Dance like no one’s watching,
love like you’ll never be hurt,
sing like no one’s listening,
live like it’s heaven on earth. 
— William Pukey

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/22/15.)

Image from Håkan Dahlström, CC license

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  • Fortunately the massacre of the Canaanites is just propaganda, since the archeological record shows it did not happen.

    That said, have not seen the link where said genocide is defended, but I’d not be surprised at all if it was claimed they were demons. That Pentecostal pastor I mentioned justified the OT massacres (not sure of which, if Canaanites or Amalekites. Never mind) with them being demons. Worst of all was his claim of Jesus being around (Trinity) when that happened (as well as Jericho, I guess the Flood, etc).

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      The fact that xtians *approve* of the Canaanite genocide propaganda is all I need to know.

      • That is the same man who I’ve often mentioned that claims every knee shall bow, every tongue will confess Jesus (etc), including people as Muhammad, Confucious, etc. that no religion that lacks Jesus brings salvation or can rebuke demons, and more.

        Meanwhile others in the same station complain when Christians are mocked, but say nothing of assholes as the one of above, or that one I’ve often brought.

  • Brian K

    I attempted to read Craig’s article this morning. How a paper that does nothing but re-state its thesis over and over passes for wisdom is beyond me.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      We’ll said. The only change that occurs is Craig states his thesis with growing conviction and deception (in the sense that he pretends elements of his thesis have been shown to be true). It’s childish and pathetic.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      ‘Restate the thesis’ without ever offering any support for it

      IMHO

    • Brian Curtis

      Repetition makes things true. What do you think prayers are for? /sarc

      • Ignorant Amos

        “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

  • Lex Lata

    “It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and destruction to life, meaningfulness, and happiness.”

    It seems to me positively rational (and humane) to prefer realism, stoicism, and post-mortem oblivion to a soteriology that consigns Anne Frank, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama(s), Malala Yousafzai, and billions of other human beings to an eternity of hellfire for the mere sin of not belonging to The Most Correct Religion.

    • I remember to have seen elsewhere that John (the writer of that Gospel) was an annihilationist, that view being more extended in the very early times than now. Same for things as the “wage of sin being death”.

      • Lex Lata

        My recollection of the specific scriptures is vague, but I know there is support in the Rorschach test known as the Bible for orthodox fire-and-brimstone torment, annihilationism, universal reconciliation, and variations on all of the above. Annihilationism is at least easier to defend as being less inconsistent with the idea of a benevolent father-type God, and universalism even more so, of course.

        But folks like the Baptist schoolteacher who told my sister’s first-grade class to imagine being burned by matches all over their bodies for ever and ever doubtless viewed them as heresy. (To his credit, my dad pulled her out of that school immediately on hearing about this.)

        • Ficino

          To his credit, my dad pulled her out of that school immediately on hearing this.)

          When I first read this, I thought, wow, your dad had a lot of power to pull the teacher out of the school. Was he the pastor? Then I realized, you meant he pulled your sister out of the school! lol

          Good for him.

        • What a bastard.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Was it a Baptist school or a public school where the teacher happened to be a Baptist?

        • Lex Lata

          A Baptist school. My dad went through a pretty bible-thumpy phase for a while.

  • Mike Panic

    Life is far more absurd with imaginary control freak ghosts and goblins controlling you and demanding constant worship.

  • Ann Kah

    Life isn’t futile. Life is what you make of it, and it exists and is important to us to the extent that we use it wisely. And when it’s over, it’s over, and we will no longer care. That isn’t futility. That’s merely a recognition that there will eventually be an end to it. I’m not going to get a second go-round. There are no do-overs. And that is just as true of the believer as it is of the atheist.

    Ask for our bodies to be planted somewhere that they’ll fertilize the flowers. That means they’ll still be of some use when we are gone. Not to us, of course…

    • Mike Panic

      Being buried in a heavily sealed concrete box adds nothing to the flowers. All those chemicals remain toxic for a long time. Local cemeteries require burial in a concrete vault to avoid the grounds looking like a bomb cratered landscape as the coffin lets go and is crushed.

      • Ann Kah

        There are natural burials, you know. And my parents’ bodies went to the local medical school, as they wished. Lots of options besides concrete vaults, but in the end, that’s not going to be the choice for the deceased to make.

        My sister said she wanted to be buried in the garden, in the beets (a vegetable she loves but her husband doesn’t). He said when she died, there weren’t going to be any beets…

        My huband’s ashes went over the waterfall to the huge fields of bluebells down on the flood plain, and I expect I’ll end up there as well. Not a bad place, for anyone who wants to remember the dead.

        • Guestie

          “He said when she died, there weren’t going to be any beets…”

          LOL.

        • Mike Panic

          And this pertains to me how? It may matter to you but is irrelevant to me.

        • Ann Kah

          This pertains to you in precisely the same way that your whine about concrete boxes pertains to me.

      • Michael Neville

        The large World War I cemeteries in France just had the bodies placed in wooden coffins and buried six feet under. No toxic chemicals or cratered landscapes involved. This is the British Army cemetery in Daours. France where several thousand victims of the 1916 Somme Offensive are buried. No craters or concrete tombs.

        http://www.lutyenstrustexhibitions.org.uk/communities/4/004/012/082/974//images/4603646167.jpg

        • Mike Panic

          Local codesz require the vaults for burial. Eventually the ground will saubside unless every grave was so close to the other they allmost touched. Then the gradual subsidence becomes invisible as it happens over decades. There are sinkholes all over the world as the ground finaLly subsides over old mines and caverns.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • And the gentleman in the photo is … ?

          Or perhaps your focus is on the cemetery. I’m guessing this isn’t Daours, France.

          https://www.google.com/maps/place/Daours,+France/@49.9052866,2.4449975,167m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x47e78eaf4648b3c9:0xbd78b381c32cd6e0!8m2!3d49.901187!4d2.448775

        • Ignorant Amos

          And the gentleman in the photo is … ?

          A certain fat baldy opinionated bastard on this blog, that for the most part, usually gives zero fucks about a lot of stuff…but not everything.

        • I didn’t recognize you without your camo paint and beret!

        • Susan

          I didn’t recognize you without your camo paint and beret!

          I did. Remove the camo paint and the beret and the face is the same. So nice to see him in that context. (By nice, I mean meaningful.)

          And so nice to see the modern day face of someone I’ve known and admired for so many years.

          =====

          Edit: 2 minutes later.

          I always inserted an image of Hagrid when I pictured IA.

        • Ignorant Amos

          *blushes*

          Ta very muchly.

          Hagrid…I can live with that. }80)~

        • Ignorant Amos

          All part of the 7 S’s of stealth in field craft training…

          Shape
          Shine
          Shadow
          Silhouette
          Spacing
          Sound
          Sudden movement

          …and of course the circa 25 years in civvy street between pics.

        • the circa 25 years in civvy street between pics.

          Entropy is a bitch.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Nope…not France….Belgium.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It doesn’t matter…it’s where every comrade that has ever fallen in the defense of liberty and defended our right to speak as we do here. Am a bit pished Bob….feel free to ignore my bullshit.

        • I agree–they’re remarkable monuments. Not bullshit at all.

          I only asked about the location because I thought I could add an aerial view using Google maps. That is a heckuva lot of graves.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Apologies.

          I couldn’t remember the name of that particular cemetery last night, we were mostly in Belgium for the tour. We visited so many sites. But that is a French graveyard with a commonwealth graveyard attached.

          That one was indeed in France.

          French military cemetery La Targette, 62580 Neuville-Saint-Vaast, France.

          https://www.google.com/maps/search/French+military+cemetry+La+Targette,+62580+Neuville-Saint-Vaast,+France/@50.3504074,2.7472573,137m/data=!3m1!1e3

          I should’ve known as the crosses are not British graves, they’re French. The commonwealth graves are the tablet style headstones to the bottom right of the pic.

        • Wow. The sheer number of crosses (and knowing that this is just one cemetery) helps give emotional rather than just intellectual impact.

          It reminds me of some Holocaust memorials (I’m thinking of the one in Boston, but I’m sure there are others) where they list all the names.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Just looking at an image of it is emotional enough…ya wanna try being there.

          We visited a couple of WW1 German graveyards. Langemark among them. They are very depressing places. The Germans treat them guys as failures so the upkeep of the cemeteries isn’t up the standard of those maintained by the CWGC. The visitors books are full of British folk paying their respects. And there are a number of “Star of Davids” among the headstone. Most of the graves have more than one body in them. Then there is the mass grave with 20 odd thousand in them.

          http://www.greatwar.co.uk/ypres-salient/cemetery-langemark.htm

          Apparently Hitler ordered the cemeteries to be left alone when he heard Germans were desecrating them. He had Vimy Ridge memorial and cemetery guarded by SS troops.

          https://www.thestar.com/news/2007/04/07/how_hitler_spared_vimy_ridge.html

          For which I’m grateful.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c0cd00b8cc9eea71f94cafd61895f1dcd07236962f924eebce9eb0fd7fffd758.jpg

        • I’ve only visited two war cemeteries, and they were both WW2 cemeteries around Normandy. I believe the first was American, and the second was German. Both well maintained, though the German one was a lot denser and more subdued.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It reminds me of some Holocaust memorials (I’m thinking of the one in Boston, but I’m sure there are others) where they list all the names.

          We paraded at the Menin Gate, Ypres and laid Poppy Wreaths. Every night of the year the local fire brigade buglers volunteer to play the Last Post at 20:00 hrs. Apart from the period of German occupation, the ceremony has remained uninterrupted since 1928.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menin_Gate#%22Last_Post%22_ceremony

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND78FKdCkJc

          The walls are covered with the names of 54,395 missing soldiers whose bodies were never found. A lot of dust gets in the eyes at that place every night.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/37d90b601c9cdbbfd351e67aaae52d5a742a8b0021fa3204523c4a2244f85ae7.jpg

        • Thanks for the history lesson. It’s too easily forgotten.

        • We focus so much on WW2 that we dismiss the carnage from WW1.

          Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast had a long series of podcasts (20 hours?) on WW1. Quite good. He’s very engaging.

      • Søren Kongstad

        That is a strange US tradition, to embalm the dead and bury them in metal constructions

        In Europe, at least here in Denmark people are not embalmed, when buried they are buried in wooden coffins, with environmentally friendly paint.

        In fact most are cremated, the heat from the flamings being used for heat in some of the crematoriums.

        • Grimlock

          We do pretty much the same thing in Norway, as far as I know.

          It also allows for a reuse of the land after a set time period. Which is useful.

        • Greg G.

          It also allows for a reuse of the land after a set time period.

          What about the ghosts?

        • Grimlock

          They gotta move on. It’s why we ain’t got so many properly old ghosts – we make them move on.

        • “Poltergeist” was a documentary. Just sayin’.

        • Kodie

          They’re heeeeere.

        • Kodie

          I recently wrote a post about how I used to walk daily through a cemetery in my old neighborhood. There’s a thing where nobody remembers the dead. The system of creating a cemetery seems to have been developed to keep the remains segregated from living humans, so we living wouldn’t get sick. Probably, they don’t get a lot of visitors after a time. Your loved one isn’t there, it’s just bones and a headstone with their name, lifespan, and relation to others. I cannot say I support cemeteries, but there’s the one hand where we acknowledge that being dead means you will be forgotten, that drives religious belief because people want to be remembered, and god has to, and then there’s the other thing, do you need to really be remembered? I had walked through a cemetery and saw graves and mausoleums of people who were dead over a century. I didn’t wander into the plots, so these were all buried by the path.

          For me, the value was …. taking advantage of this sacred belief that, once a plot of land is designated for burial, you don’t reuse it, and it’s always a quiet park, preserved forever. Movies where suburban developments were built on Indian burial grounds that haunted the houses… yeah, I know it’s not true, and it also expresses the respect we should have for Native lands and whatever purposes on those lands they have. What reuse of a land do we need? I live in one of the major US cities, and they can’t seem to stop building new buildings. Just like this:

          https://www.curbed.com/2018/12/4/18125536/real-estate-modern-apartment-architecture

          It’s just another anthill to me. It’s just another thing that probably isn’t built carefully enough that it won’t be torn down again in a while, to overcharge incomers on a rent boom for a bland apartment across the street from a Domino’s Pizza, or next to Target, not in any way a desirable location, and pay extra if they want to park a car, and superficially luxurious on the inside because everything’s new, but you know these things are made as cheap as can be, and they’re not to house the homeless, they’re not affordable, and they are driving up the rents of everyone in a 50 mile radius, because people, for some reason, want to live here. Is it useful to use the land, to drive people I know out of their homes to raze the property and build something else?

          In Norway, what are they doing with the cemetery land, and why don’t people want to preserve it? It’s a park for people who want to get away from the living, because the living can be terrible. Why do we need to put a shitty box on top of it?

        • Grimlock

          In Norway, what are they doing with the cemetery land, and why don’t people want to preserve it?

          Ambiguous phrasing on my part. The land is in general reused for new graves. It might be more accurate to say that the specific lots are being reused.

          With respect to development of living areas and such, your description reinforces my existing impression that the building development industry is way better regulated in Norway than in the US. And that it’s a good thing.

          ETA: Our biggest city has a million inhabitants in the city area. I guess that makes it easier to have easily accessible park land and nature in the vicinity. Though the housing prices have skyrocketed the last couple of decades, partly due to some… Interesting… Policy decisions. But that’s another matter.

        • Mike Panic

          I will be cremated. My ashes spread as instructed. I have always admired the Noric countries. Ancestry says I am 3% Scandanavia. Your English is better than many Americans.

        • Treyarnon

          The same in the U.K. We bury generally without embalming and the coffin goes direct into the ground without a concrete or metal grave liner. My Dad was buried this April in a willow coffin in a grave where my uncle was buried in 1982. The ground was perfectly level before it was opened again, as are all the far older graves in that cemetery. It’s simply been back filled and will be topped up as it settles and a year or so will pass before the marble gravestone is replaced.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Yep.

        My (c)remains are going to be burned, and the ashes scattered to the four winds.

        • Greg G.

          I want to go out with a bang. People should remember me for that. I want to be cremated with pockets filled with firecrackers.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Mike Panic

          As are mine according to my desires.

        • Kodie

          I think back to nature. What are ashes made of? What can ashes do for nature? I have not studied this, I am really asking. I recently listened to a RadioLab series about immigrants crossing the border and what happens to their bodies in the desert if the don’t make it. They tested it on pigs first, and unfortunately had to have regular living pigs euthanized to perform their experiment. Regardless of how well protected these corpses were, they were always found and devoured by critters of the desert within hours or days. I mean, kind of amazing how that works, so it was sort of interesting. Being cremated and dashed on a location is pretty much oblivion, but is it nourishment to the flowers or something? Maybe donate my organs, donate my body to science? But I feel more in tune with being meat and chemicals to return to nature. I don’t know if cremating does that. It just makes you easier for someone to carry you to Fenway Park or the Eiffel Tower or whatever.

        • MR

          Fenway Park? Jesus Christ! And I don’t mean that in a religious sense.

        • Kodie

          Have you been? I went there one time. Sox lost quick, felt cheated, but I had never been to a MLB game before, and I thought I should do things I never did before. I ordered my seats and the date, and yes, Jesus Christ, that is kind of a cathedral. I mean, when you arrive, and find your section and walk up the ramp, it’s quite like one is meant to walk into a church, how it reveals itself. I know people drop ashes there, but I don’t think you could get in with a whole urn at one time, but you could bring in a baggie probably. Pocketful of grandpa.

        • MR

          Haven’t been to Fenway Park, but it did permanently fix itself in my conscious as being an actual place and not mere words when I visited Boston. I have no real use for sports other than it keeps the riff-raff at home on weekends, lessening traffic, unless of course there’s a game near me, which means the traffic is unbearable and it’s just better for me to stay home. I just can’t imagine someone wanting to be scattered at a ball park, and knowing that people do means that if I never had a desire to go to a ball park before, I certainly have no desire to go now. Pocketful of grandpa? Oh, my God, you have me doubled over in a paroxysm of laughter and disgust.

        • Kodie

          I don’t really follow sports, except I live in a sportsmania city, so I can’t help but have some idea something is going on, and the closer we get to championships, the more I want them to lose, because it gets a little insane. Where I grew up, I didn’t get this same sensation for major sports, and my father did not follow major sports… nor did one of my grandfathers. This is why I had never been to a major league baseball game, so I decided to do it. I got a Fenway Frank with everything* and a beer. I took pictures. Never did it again, don’t really say I enjoyed it enough to want to, but some of the nosebleeds are cheap. I researched seats to find a price point and quality viewing angle, I got 2nd row over the … can’t remember what it’s called, bullpen? When I used to work downtown, it was a nightmare catching the T when there was a game, because people from out of town have no idea how to even get on and off, they all want to crowd by the door so nobody can fit in. Getting home from the game was similar at Kenmore – everyone bunches because they don’t know where to go, and I was the only one heading westbound, so they were all in my way, but none of them were on my train when I finally got through the bunching.

          *Something people might not know is New England style hotdog buns are cut on top instead of on the side. I think it was $6 for one hotdog. You fix it yourself, “everything” is ketchup, mustard, relish, and onions, and my favorite part of the whole experience was there’s this huge machine like a giant classroom pencil sharpener, that cranks out thinly diced onions. While I had been eating hotdogs on side-cut buns my whole life, usually just with mustard, every once in a while, I get together the works at home. I have to say that $6 hotdog might have been the highlight, other than how the stadium presents itself when you enter – pretty much a cathedral when you enter your section from the ramp from below, not kidding. Still not a Sox fan, and can’t be more pleased they are losing as fuck this year.

          Fenway Park gets so many requests to sprinkle cremated remains on the
          field that the park’s operators have had to start saying no.

          https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/11/23/cremation-rates-rise-scattering-ashes-has-become-new-destination-wedding/lof5tqgVwLkg5yMvU7GS6N/story.html

        • Greg G.

          donate my body to science?

          I donated my body to science. Science is contesting the will. –Rodney Dangerfield

      • Guestie

        And I’ve always wondered, why don’t they just throw some topsoil and grass seed into the low spots. Charge an extra $100 upfront for the cost of the dirt and the labor to drop it in place.

        • Mike Panic

          They do. It is buried in the cost of the plot. Pun intentional LOL

      • Guestie

        I jokingly told my wife I wanted all my money converted to gold and put in the casket. An economist friend observed that by reducing the supply, I would simply raise the value of the world’s remaining gold and would fail in my purpose of taking it with me. I told him he wasn’t funny.

        • Greg G.

          Taking your gold with you would be like smuggling pavement into heaven.

        • Mike Panic

          Reminds me of the guy who wanted to be buried with his money. When he died she put a check in his coffin.

    • WLC can’t get his head around the idea that a billion years from now he won’t exist, and I can’t get my head around WLC thinking that. Jeez–how self-important is he?

      • Otto

        Jeez–how self-important is he?

        He thinks his best friend is the be-all and end-all… so pretty self-important.

  • Jemolk

    The defense of objective morality can actually be quite simple, though it requires a fair bit of background. For just one perspective (that of the naturalist objectivist utilitarian that I personally hold to be correct) in an extremely abridged version that can thus work as a comment on a blog post rather than requiring an academic paper, I argue that morality is most accurately described as long-term societal-level rationality from social beings such as humans, and that this involves empathy, compassion, and altruism. Essentially, harming some humans directly, be it by killing them, oppressing them, or simply refusing to help them in their time of need, harms humanity as a whole indirectly, as it is through our complex societal interrelations and interdependency with one another that we are able to reach anything even resembling our current heights. Extending this to nonhuman animals is also rational, because we are part of that same ecosystem as well. Thus morality naturally arises, and is objective, which is to say, it does not depend on any subjects to define its tenets.

    Now, WLC does not do this work, just asserts it to be true. Worse, if morality is created by his god, it is then definitionally subjective. It depends on a conscious entity’s mind — in this case the subject is a god, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still subjective. It’s absolute in that its rules are not at all dependent on circumstance, and it applies to everyone top-down as a matter of authority. It’s the worst of all possible worlds when it comes to moral theory, and WLC is badly torturing his technical terminology to make it look good to people who don’t know any better.

    • Ficino

      Worse, if morality is created by his god, it is then definitionally subjective. It depends on a conscious entity’s mind — in this case the subject is a god, but that doesn’t matter.

      How do you counter the theist’s contention that special pleading is warranted because God is special: God’s essence is identical with His existence, so God is Existence Itself – and thus definitionally objective. So God’s acts are identical with His essence so morality as God’s act is objective. Because Existence Itself = God = God’s acts = morality so all objective.

      • Jemolk

        Quite simply, trying to define a problem out of existence doesn’t make it stop being a problem. I define morality as I do because I believe (and can argue, and have extensively argued) that it better fits our usage and how we actually operate and think about such concepts, making it a better definition due to capturing the function and use of a word being the purpose of a definition. How is this definition of god a better definition? It’s not; it just serves their rhetorical purposes better. It’s the same as the problem with the Ontological Argument — constructing definitions like this is an extremely perverse way of making circular arguments. It’s buried under some layers, like pretty much any fallacy is in actual usage, but they still went and assumed their conclusion. There’s a reason those are off-limits for valid arguments — if you can pull argumentative shenanigans like this for god, you can prove 1 = 2.

        So how do you counter their contention? By pointing out what they’re doing logically — namely assuming their own conclusion.

        • Ficino

          That’s what I usually try to do, when I try at all. Usually the discussion bogs down at the point where the Thomist accuses me of having an irrational world view because I’m not sound enough on the PSR or the principle of identity or the PNC or some other axiom.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Then just say, “So in other words, I can’t be right because I’m not a Thomist?” And then go “LOL”.

      • Hans-Richard Grümm

        “God is Existence Itself” is as meaningless as “Thor is Strength Itself” or “Aphrodite is Beauty Itself” – and strength and beauty are at least actual properties.

      • Grimlock

        How do you counter the theist’s contention that special pleading is warranted because God is special

        “That’s, like, just your opinion, man.”

        Maybe also wonder why I should be convinced of this idea of good as equal to being/act.

        • Ficino

          You should be convinced by the argument from infinite bowling balls in The Great Labowski III.

          /s

        • Grimlock

          I probably should. I guess I am epistemically irresponsible, and I blame God for making me so.

      • Rudy R

        So God’s acts are identical with His essence so morality as God’s act is objective. Because Existence Itself = God = God’s acts = morality so all objective.

        Pure example of a chopraism. And you realize this gibberish equates to Existence Itself = morality. If you’re trying to play Devil’s advocate, I’d give this method a rest

    • That’s the tricky thing–“objective morality” can be defined in lots of ways.

      It’s rather like the Christian “proof” of God: “You believe that love exists, don’t you? Well, there you go–God is love.”

      • Jemolk

        The problem with that, as I replied to everyone else that asked, is that you’re setting the definition specifically for the sake of the argument. I can argue at great length (and only at great length, sadly, which is why I’m not attempting to actually do it here) that my definition of morality is a better definition because it better fits our understanding and usage of the term. “God = love” is a definitional claim that doesn’t at all fit conventional usage of it unless we want to claim that god is a nonsentient abstract concept involving hard-to-nail-down feelings of deep appreciation, which I seriously doubt most Christians are, up to and including the ones making the argument here. It’s a question of what definitional claims are even theoretically justifiable. One involves a complex argument that I’m really not at all sure I can adequately reproduce in blog post comments, and the other involves some pretty obvious circular reasoning.

        For the record, your points apply pretty well to WLC’s claims, but you were a bit too broad, reaching a bit too much and tarring all philosophies of objective morality with that brush, where most do not fall prey to the traps that WLC’s Divine Command Theory does. Ethicists in general tend to know what they’re doing when debating ethics, and make far more robust theories than any of the crap you’re rightfully shredding here, so please don’t drag them into your (overall much appreciated) critiques of shoddy philosophy so carelessly. It was a side point anyway, so you could just as easily have said WLC gives us no reason to imagine objective morality as what you did, which was that we have no reason to imagine objective morality.

    • Grimlock

      Thus morality naturally arises, and is objective, which is to say, it does not depend on any subjects to define its tenets.

      Eh. You did pretty much define it, though. You chose the moral framework to work within. Rather like someone determined the rules of chess. Your morality is about as objective as the rules of chess. Are the rules of chess objective?

      • Jemolk

        The difference is that unlike with the rules of chess or WLC’s Divine Command Theory nonsense, I do in fact have rather extensive arguments for why these definitions are best. These arguments, unfortunately, are a) extremely long-form, so much so as to be somewhat inappropriate for a comment section or anything else shorter than an academic paper, and b) so far as I know, unlinkable, because I know of no papers which make them. Perhaps I could find one with enough digging, but it’d be a lot of effort for not much result — the point was simply that the arguments made here as such were excessively broad and to be defensible required further qualification or else a serious, convoluted and comprehensive debate with professional philosophers much more rigorous in their logic than WLC, and thus one that you’re highly unlikely to make much headway in.

        • Grimlock

          Well, I can’t dispute that you have arguments that you find compelling. But so do others for their own moral framework. I’m pretty confident that WLC would say that he has compelling arguments for his position. I doubt I’d find them all that compelling, but still.

        • Jemolk

          Well, certainly. The point being, of course, that there is a distinct difference between arguments that make extensive use of logical fallacies and ones that use further arguments (if not necessarily ones that can be neatly made on blog post comment sections) to support their disputed points. You are of course free to dispute points further — that is what philosophy does. My point is that what WLC does in defense of his ideas, the mistakes he makes and the fallacies he uses, cannot rightly be held against other theorists in nominally the same theoretical territory.

        • Grimlock

          I’d like to note that my original remark simply pointed out that, contrary to what you seemed to say, your view of morality was in fact defined (by you) into existence.

          Needless to say, I don’t consider WLC to be representative for moral philosophy.

        • Jemolk

          Well, no, it wasn’t. Something being defined into existence means that someone is creating unrepresentative definitions of a thing specifically for use in an argument, and not because they’re good definitions. It’s a particularly perverse sort of circular logic. Anselm’s Ontological Argument is an example of defining something (in this case, god) into existence. I’m laying out a framework (built, by the way, on the work done by philosophers for thousands of years before me)for an understanding of what morality is. This is not to say that this view is the only interpretation of morality there is. But to claim that there is a view of it that would not involve interpretation would be fundamentally false, as would claiming that the fact that interpretation is necessary says anything at all about the equivalency of those views. An equivalency, I might point out, that you seem to be invoking here. A, not to put too fine a point on it, false equivalency.

        • Grimlock

          Right, saying that it’s “defined into existence” was the wrong term to use. Rather, I should’ve stuck with how I first phrased it, imitating you, and point out that you’re are defining the moral framework’s tenets.

          I’m not sure what you’re getting at in the last third of your comment. Would you elaborate?

        • Jemolk

          I would suggest that I am laying out what I have found to be (through a combination of emiprical evidence and extensive philosophical reasoning) an excellent way of understanding what we mean when we use the term ‘morality.’ Tying into what I was getting to in the last third, there — all moral reasoning is going to go beyond the immediately empirically investgatable facts. However, moral reasoning, like other interpretive reasoning, uses those facts as a baseline, making it quite unlike the rules of chess. Further, one can use those facts well or badly, and one can reason well or badly. You have appeared to be suggesting by your analogies that, in reasoning that goes beyond the facts, there are no wrong answers, when it would be more accurate to say that there is no single correct answer we can determine at this time. Because there are definitely wrong answers — those that misrepresent or disregard the facts, for example, or those that use fallacies or otherwise bad logic, or those that are internally inconsistent. You have seemed to me to be suggesting (at the very least a high degree of) equivalency between the arguably correct answers (one of which I personally argue for) and the simply incorrect ones (such as WLC’s claims).

          Part of this may be merely us talking past each other, though. I’m using objectivism here as a technical philosophical term meaning that, if my theory is correct, then something being moral or not is fully independent of whether any being thinks it is or not, similar to how whether or not there’s a tree in your front yard is independent of whether or not you notice it. This makes it an objectivist theory. The thing about philosophy, though, is that in most cases what we deal with in it is at least partially outside our ability to directly empirically investigate. What this means is that scientific experimentation cannot get us all the way there, and so even the best results are more disputable. What this does not mean, but is frustratingly often taken to mean, is that it’s all just speculation. Again, however, the words you used seemed to me to imply the latter, inaccurate, understanding.

    • Rudy R

      …morality is most accurately described as long-term societal-level rationality from social beings such as humans, and that this involves empathy, compassion, and altruism.

      Empathy, compassion and altruism are subjective, so these premises cannot be the foundation of an objective morality.

      harming some humans directly, be it by killing them, oppressing them, or simply refusing to help them in their time of need, harms humanity as a whole indirectly,

      This is subjective as well. There could be a case where harming some humans directly could benefit humanity as a whole indirectly.

      • Jemolk

        The mistake you’re making here is that morality being subjective is, in terms of philosophical definitions, a matter of it being dependent on the mental state of some subject. The rules involved here are not, thus, this is not subjective, but objective. Empathy, compassion, etc. are useful guides, not the rules themselves. The question remaining is whether this system, which I laid out just the barest hint of the framework of to show it could be done, is what we should use. As I said to Ficino, the reason I can get away with setting the definitions I do in philosophic circles is because I have extensive arguments (far too long to reproduce here, and I know of no sources to cite that make them for me) that these definitions are better as definitions.

        To your second point — yes, such cases exist. Utilitarianism in particular sometimes takes some flak for being so upfront and accepting of this, but ultimately, I do not believe allowing something to happen is any different morally than making it happen, and that is what produces such scenarios. Killing a would-be mass-murderer can be thought of as doing direct harm to one individual, but that is to unjustifiably remove the act from context. If killing one person means that 20 others don’t die, then you are not killing one so much as saving 19. Of course, there are various caveats to this as well — the classic question of the morality of harvesting the organs of one healthy person to save a dozen comes up here, and I have to point out that in such a case saving the dozen and killing the one are not the only consequences that need be considered here, and that this would produce other, far more destructive long-term consequences, avoiding which is in my view the entire purpose of morality. But these are arguments largely for another time and venue, given the difficulty of seriously in-depth philosophical debate over such a medium as this. I simply wished to point out that the response to WLC, while mostly accurate as applies to WLC, overgeneralized to the point of attacking much more defensible philosophies to which the article’s arguments do not apply (on account of having been explicitly addressed in academic circles at least by those philosophies).

        • I applaud your efforts to keep your comments succinct. That said, I appreciate that that makes it tough to get across long-form ideas.

        • Jemolk

          Thanks. And yes, it certainly does. My main point is just that while WLC fails in all these ways, it doesn’t mean there aren’t occasionally good arguments for something he presents terrible arguments for, and I’d rather not see those good arguments be associated with his terrible ones, or have people primed to do so. I appreciate your commentary, I just want to see this little bit of carelessness (in a single line of the post that stuck out to me because of my area of expertise) not replicated. The badly abridged longer-form ideas are here as support for that point.

        • A helpful addition, thanks.

        • Rudy R

          The mistake you’re making here is that morality being subjective is, in terms of philosophical definitions, a matter of it being dependent on the mental state of some subject.

          Stating I made a mistake doesn’t make it so. You’ll have to explain why it is a mistake. I’d be interested in your position on the is/ought problem as it relates to morality. Sam Harris has made the best argument for objective morality, IMHO, but it still doesn’t solve the is/ought problem. He essentially makes the case that morality can be objectively defined through empirical study, given human flourishing as the foundation. I agree that human flourishing would be the objective in determining what is good and bad for human well-being, but human well-being is an “is” premise, not the conclusion. Sam Harris still is backed into the corner as to explain why we “ought” to favor human flourishing, which would be the conclusion. As you know from your philosophical training, an “is” premise can not lead to the conclusion.

        • Jemolk

          The mistake is the confusion of terms. Something being subjective means quite specifically in this context “The mandates of this moral theory can vary based on the contents of some conscious being’s mind.” That is definitively not the case with the things you were applying it to there. Now, I would still have to argue for my theory much more extensively if I really wanted to prove it, and in this case I would have to demonstrate that the is-ought dichotomy doesn’t work as cleanly as claimed. I’ve been working on that for a while, but while I’m pretty damn confident of how it works in my head, putting it into words is far more difficult, and I’ve yet to find a way to communicate the concepts adequately as a result. To briefly attempt it here, though, in its most simplistic form, it is that an is cannot lead to an ought, but several thousand is statements certainly could. I’m not the first to take this line, but it’s been quite difficult to conclusively demonstrate. However, the is-ought distinction is not relevant to all objective moral theories, only those that take a strictly naturalist line. Kant is certainly one of the more prominent proponents of an objective moral theory, but his version doesn’t run afoul of the is/ought distinction.

          Second point: Harris doesn’t do a good job of presenting the relevant philosophic points at all. I’d definitely recommend going to actual philosophers for something like this. Russ Shafer-Landau is one current big name in ethics whose work I happen to know off the top of my head addresses this for laymen. Or you could go back to J. S. Mill or Kant, who both extensively wrote to defend their theories. Either way, please please please don’t get your information on the nuance of ethics from someone like Harris. He’s… not exactly the best source for any of this.

          I’ll just leave this extensive response as an explanation of why not to just go with Harris here, as it explains things in the long-form needed better than I can here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxalrwPNkNI

        • Rudy R

          To briefly attempt it here, though, in its most simplistic form, it is that an is cannot lead to an ought, but several thousand is statements certainly could. I’m not the first to take this line,

          Sure, you can take this line, but it is contrary to Hume’s is/ought distinction.
          I disagree that Harris doesn’t do a good job presenting the relevant philosophic points at all. Using The Moral Landscape as your only source would not capture the entirety of his thoughts on morality. He writes books succinctly that are easily readable by a broad audience. You should also refer to his Youtube videos as well. And before you slight that mode, remember he is trying to reach a broad audience that lives in the 21 Century. Incidentally, I’m not defending objective morality…just that Sam Harris is more convincing than others. I think objective morality, to borrow the English vernacular, is bollocks. It’s pathetic that theists like WLC cling on to objective morality to justify their god when subjective morality is more broadly consistent with philosophy and serve the same purpose.

        • Jemolk

          Wouldn’t slight YouTube at all. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s exactly where the critique of his book I posted came from. The argument is more that you’re going to get better philosophy from philosophers than from someone like Sam Harris. That said, you’re free to find things convincing or not as you do. There isn’t necessarily one correct answer here, certainly there isn’t one that we’ve identified thus far.

          And yes, my line of reasoning would be contrary to Hume’s. That’s the entire point — to show that Hume’s reasoning does not extend as far as he thought.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I thought Harris was a philosopher…of sorts.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, I think he has a PhD in Neurobiology.

        • Pofarmer

          He does, in fact, have a degree in Philosophy.

        • Yes, a bachelor’s from Stanford.

        • Rudy R

          Still interested in seeing your line of reasoning.

        • Jemolk

          I suppose I can try. Give me some time to get my thoughts together and go over some of my old class papers on the subject and I’ll see if I can come up with something that works for this. It’s really difficult to put into words, though. Doesn’t help that my brain doesn’t internally use anything that can be communicated directly, but I’ll see what I can manage and reply again.

        • Jemolk

          All right, I’m back. Took way longer than I thought/hoped, but I’m back, and I’m ready tp try to lay out my argument for dealing with the is/ought issue.

          Part of the problem here is that this explanation won’t, and can’t, just rely on the narrow question itself or even the field of ethics. In the course of this, I’ll have to directly deal with epistemology, and brush up against at least several more. I’ll also have to deal with several aspects of my broader position on morality at least. This may still be inadequate, in fact. I also can’t make any real assumptions about the level of knowledge someone reading this might have of the relevant facets of ethics and epistemology. So please bear with me, this is going to be long. Here goes.

          There are two general theories of what constitutes truth in epistemology: the correspondence theory of truth, and the coherence theory of truth. Correspondence theory is the one you’ll be familiar with — for a statement to be true, it must correspond to the world. Simple enough. Coherence theory, by contrast, applies to entire worldviews, not to individual facts in them. It can thus coexist with correspondence theory. Coherence theory, in the short form, asks you to sum up all your views into one, cohesive, undifferentiated whole and apply the principle of non-contradiction to that whole. It essentially says that if, e.g., your views about biology contradict your views about sociology, then your worldview is false. Pretty clear so far, yes? The important part of this is the suggestion that you can in fact do this, and should, with all understandings about reality at once, creating from the mass what may amount to a “Theory of Everything.” As for how this relates to is/ought, we’ll get to that very soon, but I’ve got more background to set up first.

          The answer to the narrow question lies in the explanation of how morality motivates a person. To get to that, though, I first have to lay out the ethical and meta-ethical theories that we’re dealing with in this case. In terms of ethical theory, the one I argue for is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism, simply put, is the ethical theory that one should do the greatest good for the greatest number of beings. Greatest good is defined in terms of ratio of happiness (in terms of lifetime satisfaction and contentment) to suffering. An action is right in utilitarian terms if it produces a greater value when you take the happiness it produces and subtract from that all the suffering it produces, relative to other actions available in the scenario. For an example of how this might work if we could neatly quantify happiness and suffering, let us say you have 4 actions in a particular case. Action 1 would produce 10,000 units of happiness and 9,995 units of suffering. Action 2 would produce 500 points of happiness and 450 points of suffering. Action 3 would produce 50,000 happiness and 50,000 suffering. Action 4 would produce 75 happiness and 5 suffering. in this scenario, the ranking from correct to most horribly incorrect is 4 (at net 70) > 2 (at net 50) > 1 (at net 10) > 3 (at net 0). Keep in mind this is also all consequences of that action in particular. There’s no cutoff date, though there will come a point in the future when the action in question can no longer be the sole determining factor in outcomes, and so more recent/more impactful actions take precedence instead. The more recent actions would use the state of affairs when they were taken, including the consequences of the prior action, as their starting point. To judge an action at the time you could take it, you must thus consider all foreseeable consequences, regardless of how distant or how intended, and compare that group with the sum of all foreseeable consequences of all other actions. Whichever action you take, the foreseeable consequences of it are yours. And we’re not just talking the ones you did foresee, but the ones you could foresee. Finally, it should also be remembered that this is about the sum of good for all beings affected, regardless of which beings they are. You’re offered no special status in this, nor are those you’re close to. Everyone must be considered impartially.

          Next, for meta-ethical positions, I take a naturalist objectivist point of view. Naturalist objectivism is the meta-ethical position that moral facts exist (objectivism), and that they arise from arrangements of physical facts (naturalism). For the moment, it’s the naturalist portion that’s crucial to discuss. This is also where coherence theory enters the picture. But I also need here to introduce a further concept — levels of description. Simply put, something may not be meaningfully able to be described in terms of its component parts. Think of giving directions by describing molecular positioning in space-time — useless. I’ll be arguing here that morality is a similar case in a few crucially relevant respects. But what this all rests on is an entire conception of reality utilizing coherence theory to make further inferences based on a massive assemblage of physical understandings. So it’s finally time to dig into that coherentist conception of reality which I hold to be true.

          This is far too massive a subject for a book, let alone even the longest post allowed here, so I’ll look at only the most limited portions. Remember, though, that for justification, many of these things will reach directly into other disciplines. Let’s look at the kinds of beings we are, what morality is taken to be, and what as a result of that morality does. To the kinds of beings we are, we are social creatures. We live together and rely on one another’s strengths to fill in for our weaknesses. Individually, we are far weaker than most any other creatures our size, and weaker even than some beings a fraction of our size. We spend multiple years as hapless juveniles, wholly dependent on our parents for everything, even food, where most species can walk within hours of being born and hunt within days or weeks. But as a species, we have created massive cities, changed the face of the planet entirely, and even found ways to leave it behind. The explanation for this disconnect is that we are far more as a group than as individuals; that that group, which may be termed society, is far more than the simple sum of its parts. This makes society another relevant level of description, in that what is relevant about it is not captured by describing its parts individually. It follows, then, that there will be terms that apply at that level of description that do not apply at lower levels.

          Next, for what morality is taken to be. In regard to our moral intuitions, which guide what we think of morality as, the most universal among them involve such rules as “do not kill other members of society (without very, very good reason),” and “do not act violently towards other members of society (except in self-defense),” and “do not take from other members of society what is justifiably theirs.” Each of these things is a prohibition on acting against your society to gain more for yourself as an individual. What this does, then, is maintain a collaborative environment where members of society do not pit themselves against one another and may thus work together towards common goals. Now remember the previous paragraph to this one. We as humans fundamentally rely on this paradigm, or else we’d all be dead in short order, at least historically speaking. As a result, we grew to be happier when our society is good for all its members. This is, at its core, a survival instinct. It also, however, determines to a great degree how we find fulfillment in life, making lifetime happiness and contentment decidedly not a zero-sum game — in fact, I would suggest it makes those things more like a co-op game where if one wins, all win, and if one loses, all lose. This neatly deals with several of the objections to utilitarianism as a moral philosophy, such as questions of “what if more happiness is created by genocide than by refraining from genocide” by making the case that such a circumstance can never in actual reality occur. This also at long last leads into why Hume’s is/ought distinction does not apply here.

          The famous is/ought distinction of David Hume says that one cannot derive an ‘ought’ statement from an ‘is’ statement. What may be less well-known is how he goes on to say that most ought statements take the form, explicitly or implicitly, of “if you want [x], then you ought [y].” ‘Ought’ statements, according to Hume, are thus in reality if-then statements. The formulation of morality lacks the ‘if’ portion, and Hume thus concludes that there is no basis for its ‘ought’ claim. But does it really lack the ‘if’ statement? Or is it merely that this ‘if’ statement is always true for the sort of beings that asked the question? I contend the latter, based on the understanding of humans laid out above, as well as the purpose of morality laid out above. The if-then statement is “If you are the sort of being that thrives only in collaboration with other, similar beings, then you ought to act in ways that long-term benefit and do not harm the group.” Morality, then, in this understanding, is society-level long-term rationality for social beings, and applies in particular ways in particular circumstances due to the complex combinations of lower-level facts. Utilitarian calculation of consequences is the most thorough way of determining what those relevant facts are and how to weight them in the given circumstances.

          As for why we need a separate term from something like simply rationality — the way rationality is generally dealt with is in the very short term. This is reasonably explainable because of our evolutionary necessities as well. Early hominids did not have the luxury we have today of being able to plan ahead too far, but also did not need to. They could take each scenario individually, and had to in order to ensure they dealt with any and all present problems. But they also needed an instinct or understanding for how their lives were intertwined, how they needed to help one another and be helped in turn for any of them to make it. The very simplistic rules of thumb I mentioned above in the characterization of what morality is taken as constitute precisely that, at least in the minimally complicated, though hard and unforgiving, lives of very early humans. Thus, they function as separate concepts in our minds, but they are not logically fully separable; and thus the gap is bridged.

          Hopefully this absurdly long comment was useful. It took a lot more out of me than I thought it would even when I began typing it out. Even if you don’t agree with it, I hope you can at least now see where I’m coming from.

        • Rudy R

          Your rationality for objective morality is far more cogent than any theists and in all practicality, how you framed our moral landscape is closer to being more probable on how it was established. But you still haven’t bridged that great divide between is and ought. And I will also tell you that if theists weren’t so dead set on insisting morality is objective and god is the source, atheists probably wouldn’t waste much time with whether morals are objective or not.
          Your long comment was useful. And you are closer to Sam Harris’ thinking than you might think. I’d like to delve deeper, but I’ve typed more than I can tolerate on my cell. Will get back more fully after my 2-week vacation.

        • Jemolk

          Fair, fair. I don’t think my understanding is that far from Harris’s, honestly, I just don’t think he does at all a good job of explaining it. And for is/ought, well, I suppose it may not have been as clear as I wanted it to be. I think I can expand on anything that didn’t seem to work, though. I just don’t always know what I can assume and what I can’t when dealing with neurotypical folks. I’ll be happy to talk more after you’ve gotten back.

        • Harris does have a BA in philosophy, for what it’s worth.

  • Ficino

    Craig himself wrote an impassioned defense of the Israelites’ “slaughter of the Canaanites”. Craig misses the irony of Christian parents reading their children bedtime stories about the Israelites’ heroic conquests in Canaan and then deploring comparable actions by the Nazis the next day during homeschool time. Christians say that the Canaanites deserved it, but the Nazis said that the Jews deserved it (h/t NonStampCollector).

    Yes, Bob, you nailed this one. It recalls the argument that the Hitler character gives to the Mossad agents in George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. The Israelis find Hitler hiding out in the Amazon. He defends himself by recalling the Hebrews’ massacres of Canaanites. “We only did what you did.”

  • eric

    But what I have done is clearly spell out the alternatives. If God does not exist, then life is futile.

    Futile: adjective. Incapable of producing any useful result; pointless

    So, WLC thinks all the things we do on this Earth are pointless? I certainly don’t. Takes quite a bit of narcissism to equate “I won’t live forever” with “incapable of producing any useful result.”

    • Die Anyway

      I’m sort of ok with futile. The things I do in life have a short term point but in the long term I’m going to die and it won’t have mattered what my point was at any given time. I frequently opine that the only thing we *have* to do in life is get from one end to the other. And I’m ok with opting out early if that’s your preference. It’s not my preference, I enjoy being alive and seeing what each new day brings. I enjoy fishing, hiking, eating, reading. The point of going to work every day was to earn money to pay for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc. The point of getting married was to have a companion and produce offspring. But when I die it won’t make a bit of difference to me how any of that turned out. In the meantime, I’m having a good time getting to point B. But in the end… futile.

      • eric

        in the long term I’m going to die and it won’t have mattered what my point was at any given time

        It won’t matter to you, but it will matter to others. Thus, “useful” and “has a point.” Which was kind of my original point, that it takes a bit of narcisssim to confuse “useful specifically to me” with “useful” in the general sense. I will fully admit, lots of stuff I do is not really useful to me. Then again, that’s not why I do it.

        Now, if you want to talk about futility on the scale of sun-going-nova or even big rip…frankly, on that scale, I think concluding futility or non-futility is just an exercise in rectal extraction. The honest answer there is we simply don’t know what physics and engineering is left to be found and whether, if or when we find it, humanity could or will have any such uber-long term impact. It’s just impossible to say one way or the other. About the best argument the futilists could muster is that the smart money is on “no long term impact; everything humanity does will be entropically erased.” I’d agree that’s where the smart money is…but would dispute that we have enough certainty about how the universe works to make it a strongly held conclusion.

    • Otto

      I am sure he wouldn’t mind if I took his car off his hands without his permission…after all, in the grand scheme of the Universe (with or without a God) a car is ultimately pointless.

    • Quite a paradox when the stuff we do (eliminate smallpox, electricity, internet) counts for nothing and then Yahweh, Mr. No-Show, gets credit for doing nothing.

  • Michael Neville

    Craig really wants his god to exist because then Craig will live forever instead of dying and being forgotten. So WLC has convinced himself his god does exist and whines about the mean atheists who don’t believe him.

  • Søren Kongstad

    I’ve had that discussion a couple of times with believers.

    I remember on an internet forum were a very nice lady said that nothing impermanent had any meaning, or could be ultimately good.

    She was a mother, and I was a new father at the time. And I asked, about if she ever tucked in her children and kissed them goodnight, or perhaps opened the door to their rooms in the night and watched them sleep in their bed. The joy, love and meaning you feel as a parent in those moments is overwhelming, yet by the nature of the acts it is very fleeting, over in an instant, and over when they grow old and leave your home (if not before). But how could anyone claim that it is meaningless, or that, if the word have any meaning, a parents experience of love and wonder over a small moment in a childs life is not good?

    The way out of that corner was of course that what we experience is but a reflection of gods love whic is eternal, and thus fleeting moments on earth are indeed eternal – in other words, special pleading.

    • Jim Jones

      As someone once said, if sexual orgasms continued on forever, they’d rapidly lose their charm.
      It’s because of impermanence that we cherish them.

      • Wisdom, Justice, Love

        If everyday is 70deg F, how does one know they have good weather?

        If bowling were called “touching your nose with your finger”, most people would “roll a strike” every time. Thus making it boring, and there would be a lack of desire to do it.

        The idea of eternal perfection is boring. It is the challenges of life that give people flavor. Monotheists can’t wait to be on “easy street”.

        • Jemolk

          The contrast need not be with terrible things or even mediocre things; it does need to exist, though. The problem with perfection as such (in the way it is conventionally construed) is that it would be unchanging, thus unable to remain stimulating, and thus boring, and thus not perfect. As a result, I’m not even convinced that perfection makes sense as an attribute of anything to actually exist. On the other hand, I can perfectly well imagine a pretty damn enjoyable life in which I dealt with only enjoyable things, but in great variety and enjoyed for vastly differing reasons, and regularly switched between so that no one thing ever outstayed its welcome.

          I’d say the problem with people like WLC is less a desire for utopia, and more a combination of lack of imagination and no desire to do the work to get us there.

        • Wisdom, Justice, Love

          Usually…
          The mind of a theist is not that advanced.
          To them it’s like getting EVERYTHING they asked Santa for.

          Getting everything in life with no effort, responsibility or consequences. That’s a GOAL. That’s a PROMISE god offers, if you suck-up properly.

          Materialism in heaven, completely necessary.

        • It’s like the 72 virgins for Muslim martyrs. Sex is disgusting and hot women are filthy sluts … except when you get into heaven, and then it’s wine and bonking 24/7.

        • Wisdom, Justice, Love

          Which I’m not sure how things work. But wouldn’t you have 72 virgins. Then 71 virgins and 1 non-virgin. Then 70 virgins and 2 non-virgins. Etc.

        • You’re unfamiliar with celestial magic–they’re perpetual virgins.

          Or something.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Never trust people with only one book…

          https://vimeo.com/24341019

        • MR

          I’ve always found the “heaven would be boring,” or “I wouldn’t want to be in heaven with people like you,” atheist arguments to be just silly, I-didn’t-want-to-play-your-stupid-game-anyway pettiness.

          There are other issues that don’t make sense, like the whole objective meaning, value and purpose thing. What possible objective meaning, value or purpose could any of us possibly have? It’s just an appeal to ego and immortality, or playing off our fear of death. And, who cares if the streets are paved with gold and precious stones adorn everything? What possible meaning could that have in heaven?

          Sure, I’m down with going to heaven; but as an argument, it’s doesn’t really make sense. It’s just a hook.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Like Wisdom, Just, Love said above, it’s materialism in heaven. Thus the whole talk of “everlasting riches”, “storing up treasures in heaven”, eternal life is a “reward”.

        • MR

          Right. Why do we need treasure? What’s the upkeep on a heavenly mansion? What percentage will I have to spend on healthcare? I thought we were getting socialized medicine in heaven.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          I realized that the notions of Heaven and the afterlife in general are just the worldly pleasures of life times infinity: Love, Happiness, Joy, Peace, Bliss, Sex in life, everlasting Love, Happiness, Joy, Peace, Bliss, and Sex in the afterlife. It’s all just a fantasy.

        • Kodie

          There’s so many pop culture versions of heaven as permanent vacation at a resort with all the amenities. I got no problem with that. Whatever heaven Christians actually imagine isn’t great, it’s just something they want so badly to not get sent to the other place. If you have a terrible dinner put in front of you, and the other option is a spanking, you’ll eat it.

          Maybe sometimes, you take the spanking. But I think most people would rather eat a series of their least favorite and poorly cooked meals if they don’t get spanked eternally. You’re supposed to be grateful to be given the chance. Someone got killed a long time ago just so you don’t have to put up with an eternity of spankings and “get to” eat that crummy food instead. The options are assumed. It’s either one or the other. You don’t get to opt out, so you have to get on board. Make your choice. That’s the whole argument.

        • MR

          It’s either one or the other. You don’t get to opt out, so you have to get on board.

          And this points to one of the absurdities of Christianity for me. I didn’t get to opt in, either, which means that God essentially forced people into creation knowing they would burn for all eternity? Oh, right, let’s not call it that, let’s call it “eternal separation.” It’s still fucked up. You’re not saving me from something if you’re the one making the rules. It’s absurd.

        • I’d say the problem with people like WLC is less a desire for utopia, and more a combination of lack of imagination and no desire to do the work to get us there.

          He’s gotten himself into heaven. You say you’re left out? Then I guess it sucks to be you. WLC is focused on his own salvation. As long as it’s satisfying to him, it’s all good.

        • Jemolk

          Hey, if he’s willing to just hope that that utopia exists after he’s dead, I guess he didn’t really want it that much. Now, me, my inclination is to so far as possible make that utopia real here on earth. Likewise, WLC doesn’t want to die? Well, as it happens, at least right now, neither do I. His solution is just to claim that he won’t. Mine is to do what I can to make immortality a reality. If I don’t succeed, I’ll be disappointed, but it’s more about the journey anyway; I just want that journey to continue for a good deal more than a single century if possible, and am willing to see what I can do to make it happen. Either way I’d be helping people, which I find fulfilling, so I’m certainly not going to be wasting my mortal life pursuing immortality; it’d just be something I’d really like to see happen and would be quite willing to contribute to.

          Basically, what I’m saying is that I actually do want a utopia, and to make the necessary change happen, you have to accept that we’re not already there. WLC is just a sack of hot air.

        • He’s trying to save his ass, focused on the destination, while you’re trying to improve life on earth for yourself and others, focused on the journey.

          I find your approach much more laudable than WLC’s.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Worse…those with Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) state that it is a debilitating nightmare.

    • Great example.

      And why did you even have to make it? Surely she took pleasure in many impermanent things. That raises the question: what permanent things did she have in mind that did have meaning? Presumably her life is supposed to be permanent and unending, but no event during that life is permanent. So they’re all meaningless?

  • Jim Jones

    > But what I have done is clearly spell out the alternatives. If God does not exist, then life is futile.

    Rubbish. I dealt with this on Godless Mom:

    1. “If all of life is meaningless and ultimately absurd, why bother to march straight forward, why stand in the queue as though life as a whole makes sense?” —Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There

    Because we figured out the recipe for key lime pie.

    2. If everyone completely passes out of existence when they die, what ultimate meaning has life? Even if a man’s life is important because of his influence on others or by his effect on the course of history, of what ultimate significance is that if there is no immortality and all other lives, events, and even history itself is ultimately meaningless?

    No meaning. Well, except for the pie.

    3. Suppose the universe had never existed. Apart from God, what ultimate difference would that make?

    We would not have key lime pie.

    4. In a universe without God or immortality, how is mankind ultimately different from a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs?

    What part of “Because we figured out the recipe for key lime pie” did you not understand?

    5. What viable basis exists for justice or law if man is nothing but a sophisticated, programmed machine?

    Justice is the controlled application of revenge. And there’s no key lime pie in prison.

    6. Why does research, discovery, diplomacy, art, music, sacrifice, compassion, feelings of love, or affectionate and caring relationships mean anything if it all ultimately comes to naught anyway?

    Those things are nice. But they still aren’t . . . key lime pie.

    7. Without absolute morals, what ultimate difference is there between Saddam Hussein and Billy Graham?

    Billy used fewer suicide bombers and watched less porn. And he enjoyed more key lime pie.

    8. If there is no immortality, why shouldn’t all things be permitted? (Dostoyevsky)

    Because I’ll kill you if you do bad things. And there’s no key lime pie for the dead.

    9. If morality is only a relative social construct, on what basis could or should anyone ever move to interfere with cultures that practice apartheid, female circumcision, cannibalism, or ethnic cleansing?

    I don’t like those things. Neither do the victims. You seem unhappy. Can I interest you in some key lime pie?

    10. If there is no God, on what basis is there any meaning or hope for fairness, comfort, or better times?

    God doesn’t offer meaning or hope for fairness, comfort, or better times – or even key lime pie.

    11. Without a personal Creator-God, how are you anything other than the coincidental, purposeless miscarriage of nature, spinning round and round on a lonely planet in the blackness of space for just a little while before you and all memory of your futile, pointless, meaningless life finally blinks out forever in the endless darkness?

    No, that sums it up perfectly. But now I need carrot cake to feel better, because a personal Creator-God can’t fix that.

    And tomorrow I’ll have some key lime pie.

    Now it’s your turn:

    1. Define ‘god’.

    • Guestie

      There better be some pork ribs before the pie. Just sayin’

    • Michael Neville

      Because we figured out the recipe for key lime pie.

      Note to self: Go to the store and get some limes.

      • Greg G.

        My favorite restaurant is LaShish the Greek because of their Key Lime Red Snapper.

    • So that’s what they have for dessert in heaven. Y’know, when you say it like that, it’s pretty obvious.

    • Where did these 11 brainless challenges come from? Was Godless Mom responding to some Christian post?

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Replace “key lime pie” with “dutch apple pie” and your comment would be 100% perfect! 😀

  • Michael Newsham

    WLC speaks of the slaughter of the Midianite prisoners, when all males from ages grandfathers to newborn babies, and all women who were not young virgins, from old ladies to pregnant women and young brides, were slaughtered by Israelite soldiers (the young virgins were handed over to be enslaved), as being tough on the Israelites who were good folk who had to do all that killing. It is like Himmler’s Posan speech, where he commends the SS for massacring all the Jews and still managing to be decent chaps all through it.
    “Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And . . . to have seen this through and—with the exception of human weakness—to have remained decent,has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned ”
    At least Himmler, unlike Craig, has the decency to try and hide it.

    • That reminds me of RM Price’s distinction between Rick Warren (in his The Purpose Driven Life) taking the Bible literally vs. taking the Bible seriously. Warren said that the Noah story is literally true. But what about the self-contradicting inconsistencies in the story? What about its unscientific claims? What about the cruelty? These don’t trouble Warren; he took the Bible literally but not seriously.

      It sounds like Himmler had to begin to take the killing seriously, but WLC doesn’t have to.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Taking the Bible literally vs. taking the Bible seriously. That’s a new one for me!

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    This appears to be just one, overblown, argument from consequence, or argument from fear. Like many apologists WLC is terrified of oblivion and seeks a comforting lie to help him sleep at night. This is why so many of their arguments seem like childish whining to those who don’t believe, they need a big daddy figure to tell them it is all going to be fine so they don’t have to face unforgiving reality.

    • At every stage of a child’s life, there should be a strong parent figure. If not the father/mother, then an uncle or a coach. I wonder if those so inclined grow up from this, expecting yet another strong authority figure as they become adults. (You don’t suppose that at some point we’ve got to be the ones in charge??)

      • Kit Hadley-Day

        well quite, sad thing is many of them want the perks of being in charge without the responsibility. They want to be able to boss people around but when it comes to justifying their actions and being held accountable they simple point up and say ‘just doing what the big man told me’, so childish in many ways.

  • Anri

    SMBC puts it quite concisely: https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2012-07-15

    • Greg G.

      That is from way back. I remember reading it, in the time before I knew what the big red button was for. It was before the popup mouseover text.

  • adhoc

    The great thing about objective morality is that it is so subjective.

  • Michael Neville

    As an aside, the photo in the OP is of a house on Filbert Street in San Francisco. The house is build level, the street is one-in-four and the photo is taken as if the street were level. The saying about Filbert Street is it’s so-called because only a nut would drive on it.

    • I found the photo angled like this. It’s so weird looking, that it’s hard to get my mind around how it must actually look if you’re there.

      • RichardSRussell

        You’d figure it out in person, because you’d be walking around like this / not this |

      • Kit Hadley-Day

        just look at the trees growing next to the house, kind of give the game away, what with trees tending to grow up rather than perpendicular to the ground, still a very mind bending picture.

      • Kodie

        I did an image search on the picture and found a lot of other similar pictures just to get a grasp on the houses look like they’re leaning but they’re not. I think it is a perfect image for the article.

  • Guestie

    From a recent discussion I had with a laidback mainline Christian (i.e., not fundy at all). He took the magnanimous “live and let live” stance that different people believe different things and that is all just fine. I asked him if he hoped his faith was “correct”. Did he hope that Christianity was true? “Of course,” he said. “So your hope is that most people spend an eternity in hell?” I asked. A very, very, very long pause. Then he changed the subject.

  • aCultureWarrior

    Leave it to sodomite Bob to twist things to meet his selfish agenda. Care to debate me Bob or do you still know your limitations?

  • Lisa Cybergirl

    As they say on Welcome to Night Vale, sleep like there’s nobody watching.

  • Greg G.

    Are xkcd and Cross Examined channeling one another?

    From 5/14/19

    [The Holocaust] would still have been wrong, even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everybody who disagreed with them, so that everybody in the world thought the Holocaust was right and good.

    From 5/13/19

    https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/alternate_histories.png

    • (All I can come up with is: great minds think alike.)

      The NonStampCollector video in the post is interesting to me for two reasons: first, that it gave me some helpful new insights and second, that the insights are really, insanely obvious (and yet I still had to have them pointed out to me).

      And the lesson from that is also twofold: first, I ain’t that smart and second, it’s nice to be in an environment where it’s easy to tap into smart people’s insights.

      • Jemolk

        And the lesson from that is also twofold: first, I ain’t that smart

        I think the real lesson is, nobody is. We all rely on those who came before and those we’re around to some extent. None of us on our own would be able to come up with a fraction of what we have as a group. It’s just in vogue in capitalist society to take what the individual can be responsible for much too far in order to justify what is, when you get right down to it, a rather perverse ideology.

    • And now responding to the content of the cartoon: Mind. Blown.

    • ildi

      [The Holocaust] would still have been wrong, even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everybody who disagreed with them, so that everybody in the world thought the Holocaust was right and good.

      I disagree. This seems to be arguing for an objective morality.

      • Greg G.

        This seems to be arguing for an objective morality.

        Of course it is. It is a quote from the article above where the article is quoting William Lane Craig.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Bad argument for them.

        Following that argument, the genocide of the Canaanites, Midianites, etc. were ALSO wrong no matter who won…

  • Joe

    We have our world, where everyone says the Holocaust was wrong, and we have Bizarro World, where things are identical except that everyone says the Holocaust was right. Each world has a William Lane Craig,

    Are you sure we don’t have the Bizzaro world William Lane Craig here in our world, Bob?

    • I considered that, but no. Bizarro World WLC would have a goatee.

  • Rizdek

    It almost seems to me people who have to have some sort of “ultimate” meaning have a mental disorder or depression almost akin to being lovelorn. Someone is totally infatuated with someone else and either has been jilted and/or the object of his/her affection does not return the love and they feel like life just isn’t worth living. The jilted lover just can’t understand why everyone isn’t in total despair. The desperate theist just can’t understand why the rest of us don’t see the problem.

  • Bastard Gringo

    godbots hold a fondness for absurdities.

  • Brian Curtis

    “My religion is true not just because I believe it, but because I literally can’t comprehend or even imagine any other way of looking at life!”
    .
    “Yeah, that’s not a problem with atheism… it’s a problem with your brain.”

  • Kodie

    I’m going to go ahead and say something that might sound stupid cruel, but hear me out. What if genocide was right? I mean, what if the results of genocide made the world a better place overall? It just doesn’t happen to work that way, no matter how much bigots want to enforce this tool of control over the population, but if it actually had a positive effect, could we say it was morally wrong? I mean, people are people, and getting rid of a group of people doesn’t mean you are the better group morally, I mean, I guess it means the opposite of that in regular world, it’s kind of like, round up all the Nazis, and if you could, would you? I mean, I guess they did the best they could with the Nazis after the fact, and not everyone left to live ok in Germany was a Nazi, but maybe they agreed with them.

    The next thing on my agenda is extermination. I mean like bugs and whatnot. Swarms of pests can be poisoned to death with barely any fuss. Isn’t that genocide? What makes that morally right to kill living things by the thousand because you are better than they are? They are not trying to eat you, eat your house, eat your dog, or make families on your bananas and shit all over your kitchen because they are morally inferior, but damn that annoys a superior being. How dare a swarm of inferior beings make themselves comfortable in a human being’s home! Might that not be how people felt about Jews and all the others chosen for death by Nazis?

    Again, this turns out to be the wrong way, but if it solved an actual problem confronting humanity, how is it morally wrong? It isn’t absolutely immoral, is it?? But does morality depend on the act or the result? Isn’t that the trolley problem?

    I heard this on NPR on my drive home from work tonight, TED Talks Radio: A black man goes undercover in the alt-right

    That’s a link.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      I would say that genocide against humans is not the same thing as bug extermination/pest control because the Nazi’s victims were not bugs/pests, they were human just like the Nazis. The Nazis had to deny their victims their humanity by viewing them as mere pests infesting a home in order to justify an obvious crime against humanity.

      Person: “Hey Nazis, why did you kill all those poor people?”
      Nazis: No, they weren’t people. They were like rats infesting our country. We were just acting like exterminators. You wouldn’t let rats infest your home, would you?

      • Kodie

        Well, bugs can be pests to humans, is that why it’s ok to kill them en masse, when most people consider that to be wrong to do to humans? To call what rats do as “infesting” but humans not, don’t the pesties just look for a comfortable home located near some fresh trash, looking forward to a new tomato core or bad hamburger meat you just noticed you forgot to use? Can’t you relate to the feast of being a bug?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          If ANY human can be considered a pest, then NOBODY is safe.

          Simple enough, IMHO.

          Picard said it better than I could:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL5kjRKjpdE

        • Kodie

          So we have morality so we can trust each other – it is basically the golden rule, I have to treat others decently to protect myself from bad treatment, only it really doesn’t seem to work that way. The same people who think there is an objective morality are also some of the more offensive and egregious humans ever. They hate segments of the population and judge them and seek to hold their control over those other people. This is generally true as long as humans have been on earth. Tribalism is ganging up together to protect ourselves against X invader. It’s against people of a different color, or a different gender, or a different sexuality, and especially other politics and religions. People calculate their moral decisions against people who can’t fight back, and those people aren’t necessarily shoved into gas chambers, but still oppressed with the aid of propaganda, just like we have a propaganda against bugs. I don’t think humans are very special among living creatures, but I guess the attitude of being special comes from being one, from competing with not only other humans but other living creatures, of which we have assumed dominion. Is it not clear that other living beings have assumed dominion over us, or have no consideration for us when they decide to invade and annoy us? I don’t love bugs, it’s pretty much a holocaust in my kitchen sometimes. Eh…. not so much, I just clean up a little and the fruit flies starve and fail to reproduce successfully. So it’s kind of scientifically curious and cruel.

          It cannot be absolutely immoral to behave that way toward groups of humans. We worry, well some of us worry. Many don’t know what it’s like to be really hungry. I mean, if that’s how you’re going to deter humans you don’t like, such as saying poor people need to “get a job”, hunger is not as much a motivator as you think to get a job. Starving a day or more makes things very weird. If you don’t have any money, and you try to get a job, you still won’t get paid for 2 weeks. That’s the best case scenario where you get a job the day you run out of food and money, and it is probably a real shitty job. People cannot relate to it. A lot of people don’t know this and think they are a good person, and plenty of people know and are ok with this. Same people who think the holocaust was wrong and think they are god’s favorite.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          The very idea of treating any human as vermin, again, imperils oneself.

          It’s countersurvival, IMHO, and very likely to be weeded out by natural selection.

        • Kodie

          I’m not really suggesting that we treat other humans as vermin. But saying doing so imperils my survival implies that anything is permitted morally if it does not imperil me, which is, well, how you get populations of people treating anyone who doesn’t fit in as vermin, or at least worth LESS, that lesser worth means less power, or no power, not only to retaliate, but just live in peace. For some people, it’s always a battle of near futility, that some systems are so embedded in what it means to many people to be perfectly moral, perfectly just in keeping others down. They are not seeing any peril in their survival, and in fact, see these other people as competition for resources if they should have equality.

          I keep bringing up bugs and other pests, because we very easily see their lives as totally expendable, and deserve to be killed. They are in competition for our resources, our homes, and they don’t mean it. They are just looking for a good place to set up camp, just like all of us do.

        • Jemolk

          It cannot be absolutely immoral to behave that way toward groups of humans.

          I think it can be… but not if it is ever moral to act in the same way to another living being whose mere existence does not imperil ours. Tapeworms, viruses, etc. can be wiped out because the mode of their existence is the destruction of another existence — to be neutral when one thing is destroying another is to take the side of the destroyer. But rats, mice, insects? Things, in short, not classified as parasites, but as pests? If there is a clear line to be drawn, this must be it. Humans are, after all, when it comes right down to it, not that different.

        • Kodie

          I just wrote a long post about how I feel, and what I’ve actually done. When it comes down to pests, we’re just animals defending our lives and homes from invading species. I don’t think I’m better or different from them, but if I have the tools to do so, I try not to be entirely cruel if I have options. When Christians post, I get a lot of railing against the idea that humans share a lot of similarities with the kinds of pests we complain the most about. How dare a mosquito give us an illness that can kill us or deform (wanted) babies in the womb. But it’s ok for us to give them an illness to kill them? They aren’t trying to cause problems, that’s just their evolutionary skill to exploit openings and available resources…. sound like any other species we can think of?

          When we say it’s ok to treat an insect to a holocaust, but not people, I get that we’re saying, we have laws, we have morals. There are also laws against killing off other animals that might be pests like wolves or deer. Solutions are allowed if they humanely deter the animals, and I guess it is so at home, well you’re allowed to cause great suffering upon an animal without a long lifespan to begin with, and maybe that’s one of the things we’re talking about. They’re not going to go extinct from tenting one house. You’re allowed to seal the cracks, clean your kitchen and thus deprive any remaining fruit flies of the opportunity to prolifically procreate, which reduces the population.

          And then there’s climate change and a few other political policies like health care, denying social services, and the prospect that we’re more and more dependent on robots who can do almost anyone’s job. This can result in fewer people procreating, but how does that pair with forcing birth and denying birth control. The future seems like it will be a bloodbath of competing for resources, they seem to want it as dystopian as possible. Feels like a way to create a holocaust in slow motion without being made to feel morally repugnant. That’s not even getting into blatant white supremacy, but that’s there too.

          When we all get to that point, what will the right thing to do be? What will be morally allowable? Surviving when your life and your family’s life is at stake, I can’t think it will be seen as immoral when we’re circling around the drain anyway. The people who seem best posed to succeed in a competitive system are the most destructive and the least caring about how other people actually fare, if they can justify they deserve to fare poorly.

          I think taking pleasure in getting rid of an entire city of bugs, for example, it’s the wrong way. Recognize they are like us, and we are like them. What’s really different if you feel some sort of emotional approach to extermination that at least recognizes their creatureness, either way? It’s, so to speak, in your heart. Doing an identical act with different intention or whatever, might make you feel better, so it doesn’t matter to the bugs if you exterminated them with glee. I feel like it does make a difference in what kind of person you are.

        • Jemolk

          This, TBH. Avoiding that problem is reason enough to extend morality to nonhumans to whatever extent possible. Even rats and such. Perhaps especially rats and such.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          When’s the last time hundreds of people came into your house and squatted there, defecate all over the place, had babies there, and eat all your food? If this happened to me, I would do whatever it takes within the law to get rid of them by either asking them to leave, or call the police and have them make them leave etc. You can’t do the same thing with pests.

        • Kodie

          Where you live isn’t just your house, but your community, and sometimes, it changes from how you liked that it was. Are you going to call the authorities because your neighborhood population changes in “tone”? You can’t exterminate them, and they don’t mean to bother anyone, they’re just different than what you’re used to, so that is how it is when pests find your home amenable and settle in.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Have you ever had a bedbug infestation?

        • Kodie

          I’ve had fleas, fruit flies, and a little bit of mice. I am not saying don’t exterminate, I am just saying why people feel like some people are like that. I don’t really feel I’m a superior being, I’m just saying the morality involved is, pests don’t know they are trying to make you miserable and cause problems. Just like humans, they are looking for some good real estate with amenities. Just like Nazis, it seems like a positive moral decision to conquer the invading population with extreme prejudice.

          I exterminated the fleas and also the tapeworms in my 2 cats, one which involved traumatizing a cat with an enema, which didn’t work, then bring her to the vet to force the tapeworm killing medicine, which traumatized her again. They had gotten fleas from being in a shelter for a week after there was a fire in one of my former apartments, essentially evicting me to go live with my parents again. Like, how much worse can you make a year, than find out you infested your parents’ house with fleas. Hopeless. I don’t know how eucalyptus is supposed to affect fleas, but I tried that before bombing them. I starved fruit flies by cleaning up a lot, and tried traps that were most cruel, like drowning in turned wine and making a trap out of a salad bin and they couldn’t find the way out, and have to say, I put up with them a long time before I got to that point. I had given up and gotten used to them, gross. I also tried to put the spiders on notice, because they were also going to starve, and probably drown or get wiped up with a soapy rag like dirt. I trapped exactly one mouse in a snap trap, and plugged all the holes in my apartment with steel wool. I read something once that I was going to try, but couldn’t bring myself to do it – that’s mix grains like flour or bread crumbs with cement, which turns living mice into blocks of cement. Could not do it.

          Taking dominion over a place and expecting it to be your place, what I’m saying, that’s exactly what the critters do. We war with them and mostly win. They keep coming back if the conditions are right. You’re not trying to wipe a species off the earth, just your home, so doing something that might be cruel to thousands of them doesn’t feel like you are shooting elephants or tigers or anything like that. But the problem you have one day might be a tiger, and it’s you or the tiger, meanwhile, the tiger is just doing his food shopping. If we’re talking, are you or your home in danger, you’re just an animal protecting yourself and your home.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          You wouldn’t know what an infestation is until you’ve had bedbugs. Trust me, I wouldn’t wish this upon anybody. I’ve also had cat fleas, mice, fruit flies, even roaches and bees take up residence in my place. But the difference is that you can eradicate all of the above with over-the-counter pesticides or other household remedies. But bedbugs are a whole other ballgame that you just can’t simply bug bomb out of existence. (The bedbug exterminators had to cook my place to 150 degrees F in order to bake the fuckers to death). So I sympathize with you. Many say that all life is sacred, but bedbugs will make you question that. 😀

          I hope you never ever see a bedbug in your life. I mean it.

        • Kodie

          Every time I see a discarded mattress on the sidewalk, I think bedbugs are going to jump on me and come home. They once did a bedbug check in my building – for some reason, they train beagles for this. Someone in my building had their apartment cooked a few years ago. Any time I have some pest, the problem seems overwhelming to me anyway, and I just avoid it for a while.

          I heard this morning on NPR, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” Limericks segment:
          https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=724490406&ft=nprml&f=
          (transcripted portion starts around 2:35 if you click to play the segment)

          SAGAL: Your driver will not talk to you. Here is your next limerick.

          KURTIS: Some bites can’t be scratched with mirror head shrugs, so
          dinosaurs kept their nests’ spreads snug. It made pterodactresses (ph)
          throw out their mattresses because dinosaurs may have had…

          APPLE: Oh, bed bugs.

          SAGAL: Bed bugs, yes.

          (SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

          KURTIS: Bed bugs.

          SAGAL: It’s true.

          KURTIS: What a good one.

          SAGAL: Scientists now tell us that dinosaurs had bed bugs, although the really surprising thing is that dinosaurs had beds.

          (LAUGHTER)

          SAGAL: A new study based on 15 years of research has found that
          bed bugs originated 100 million years ago just after the appearance of
          the first-ever Best Western.

          (LAUGHTER)

          SAGAL: This means that millennia before humans walked the earth, there were other species that never, ever changed their sheets.

          ROY BLOUNT JR: Bed bugs probably say we used to have dinosaurs.

          (LAUGHTER)

          So there’s no hope for humans, just temporary solutions. And despite whatever we do to holocaust any pest, they never come after us out of spite.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Every time I see a discarded mattress on the sidewalk, I think bedbugs are going to jump on me and come home.

          A common misconception. Bed bugs do not jump. They have no jumping legs unlike fleas which do. Instead, bed bugs can only crawl and run – and they do run fast, almost as fast as roaches. The freakiest thing is that they are extremely light footed. One bed bug can run along the length of your arm and you could barely feel it, an ant is more heavy footed than a bed bug.

          They once did a bedbug check in my building – for some reason, they
          train beagles for this. Someone in my building had their apartment
          cooked a few years ago.

          Unfortunately that’s the best way to get rid of them. DDT used to do the job until it didn’t.

        • Kodie

          I used to work somewhere there were cockroaches, and anyway, I learned this about cockroaches. Don’t step on a cockroach with your shoe to kill it, since it might be a pregnant female, and the eggs will come home with you on your shoe.

          I know I’ve made a thing about bugs especially, but I have always hated them. When I was a kid, I had these floral sheets, and if I woke up in the middle of the night, I was convinced that the pattern was actually bugs crawling all over my bed. In my teens, I moved into another bedroom when my brother moved out, and there was some issue where the window or screen was broken, and Japanese beetles would come in, and they are the worst. They are pretty harmless, except I hate them. They are thick substantial bugs. They would come into my room because of the light of my tv, and I would whack every single one on the wall, and it really was gross, all the dead bug splats on my walls. When I was living back at home later, after the fire, I had two cats living in my bedroom with me and discovered an ant problem. My mother keeps getting plagued by various ants, this was my only encounter with ants, despite what a slob I am. I don’t remember how we got rid of the ants. I found the trail, I found the tiny holes in the floor, I watched them travel on what looks like highways, and these little brown crumbs on the cat food dish were actually ants that I couldn’t see from my height. I tried circling the holes in the floor with chalk. Ants don’t really like chalk, but because they are an army, some will sacrifice to break a trail over the chalk. I really don’t like bugs and they just want to live like we do, so I think if I get bedbugs, that’s it for me.

          What else is involved with the aftermath? I am thinking if you cook your home up good and they die off, at least there are no chemical residues, you don’t have to wash and wipe everything or throw out all your food, just the bed. I guess you’re in for a new mattress? As for discarded mattresses, I do scan the sidewalk for decent trash – people get rid of good stuff sometimes, but a strong no on any upholstered pieces.

        • You’ve heard the story of apostle John and the bedbugs? The boys were staying in a house, and the bedbugs were bad. John commanded them to leave his bed, and he got a good night’s sleep. The next morning, he allowed them to return (so they could torment the next poor bastard who got that bed??).

        • Ignorant Amos

          Apparently they’re making a comeback in the US after nearly being completely eradicated before the ban on DDT…here’s an instructional video on how to deal with the critters without the use of pesticides..very enlightening…

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xjgBTTJYqI

        • Susan

          When’s the last time hundreds of people came into your house and squatted there, defecate all over the place, had babies there, and eat all your food?

          Humans do this all the time to other species.

          Often in excess of what they need.

          Check out the latest subdivision in your area.

        • Kodie

          Often in excess of what they need.

          And we do it without regard, which… I’ve been saying critters don’t mean us harm when they invade our personal spaces, and are just looking for good real estate to settle in. We can consciously regard the habitats of animals that we just plow down for more human consumption. I have seen too many stories on the news about bear sightings in the suburbs to ignore.

          If we don’t actually kill them, we’ve certainly not succeeded overly in displacing them. They keep hanging out, and then there’s that danger problem of a bear in your yard that is the natural outcome of upsetting the woods, which brings us to the solution to finding a bear in your backyard so your kids and dogs can’t play. This is what we wanted, what did we expect?

        • epicurus

          Human’s attitude to beavers as pests that must be killed I’ve always found hypocrital as they do exactly what humans do – manipulate their environment to provide a home and living area for themselves. When I mention that to the person saying they need to kill a beaver on their property I usually get the response that misses the point ( on purpose I’m sure) “ What? So you’re saying we should kill people!?”

        • Kodie

          Well, we are in competition for the space with the beavers, or other humans, let’s say. We think, we cannot reason with beavers and ask them to leave, and if we kill a few beavers to hold our ground, there’s still plenty of other beavers. We don’t really kill humans that way, with the attitude that they are replaceable. We might if we are at war with people in another country – those “others” aren’t people, they are beavers getting in our way, and if we get rid of anyone in our way, we will have dominion over this space.

          When someone misses the point, tell them, yeah, that’s actually something humans do to gain control of land. It’s called war.

    • Ignorant Amos

      …not everyone left to live ok in Germany was a Nazi, but maybe they agreed with them.

      When I served in Germany during the 80’s, there was enough old WW2 Nazi’s about to notice.

    • That is an awkward question. I’m of European descent living in the US. Things would be very different here without the genocide of the American Indians centuries ago. I like the status quo, but I try not to think about what that’s built on (what other status quos were destroyed). Maybe it’s like I try not to think about arguments for vegetarianism?

      Tribes swept across Eurasia within (mostly) recorded history–the Huns, Ghengis Khan, and so on–and who knows what violent movements of people happened before.

      I heard a podcast recently where two thoughtful people were (briefly) debating if exterminating mosquitoes would be a net positive. Given the disease they cause, yes, but messing with nature has caused lots of problems in the past.

      • Kodie

        Just think why people are overly uncomfortable with immigration or what they deem as lesser populations rising up. Things will change and they like things they way they seem to be. They don’t seem to have any problem with “good” white Christians flooding the population with their good white Christian babies, being that type of action keeps women suppressed into their roles. They don’t like women having (taking their) jobs, they don’t like black or brown people doing good for themselves, while they keep saying anyone can start with nothing, rise from terrible poverty in crime-ridden neighborhoods with terrible schools, and just make a decision to succeed, and when they do, there’s still some reason they don’t deserve to have the same success as a white man. Just think if you can think like a white supremacist, how the Indians must have felt. We did that to them, so they think it’s going to happen to us.

    • Damian Byrne

      it’s kind of like, round up all the Nazis, and if you could, would you?
      I mean, I guess they did the best they could with the Nazis after the
      fact, and not everyone left to live ok in Germany was a Nazi, but maybe
      they agreed with them.

      What you’re talking about there would more or less be counted as self-defence. You’re targeting those of a specific ideology, an ideology that is proven beyond all doubt to be expansionist and racist. In order to not be killed, you just have to not be a Nazi (let’s ignore for now today’s world, where everyone and anyone is apparently a Nazi).
      When people think of genocide normally, they think of demographics being targeted, people being killed for things beyond their control. Being killed for being Roma, for being Jewish, for not being the Aryan master race etc.

      • Kodie

        Why would Nazis do what they did unless they felt it needed to be done to survive? How do you persuade enough people to fear, hate, imprison, and then systematically kill so many people? It’s not like the Jews or the Roma were threatening to round up Aryans in the first place, but it’s hard to say “but that’s different, those people are pure evil”. People’s ideology isn’t a permanent state, and ideas exist independent of minds in a way. If you killed off most of the Nazis to save the Jews, are you now morally superior? Would it blot out the ideology of a Nazi? Couldn’t it rise up again, spread just as easily, isn’t it happening again and again throughout history? You can’t kill an ideology by killing the people who have that ideology, and it’s a dangerous idea to think that’s an answer anyway. What if, from another perspective, that makes you the Nazi and them the slaughtered Jew? The bible has stories about “those people were totally wicked,” and somehow we get the idea that we can rid the earth of wickedness by killing all the people with that subjective quality. To the Nazi, all the people they killed off were inherently wicked in some way, and threatened a particular way of life, and in order to survive in this way, they decided to assemble everyone with a wicked quality, in their assessment, and kill them so wickedness would threaten them no more.

        How do you persuade so many people to accomplish this without defining some kind of threat?

  • Jemolk

    Bob, I posted something of a monstrosity on my philosophical views after finally relenting and posting my reasoning w/r/t objective morality and the is/ought problem. The thing is, I forgot how Disqus reacts to two edits in quick succession (because that reaction seems profoundly illogical), and now it’s in moderation. Could you please approve it?

    • Jemolk: problem fixed. Thanks for letting me know.

      Disqus: stop trying to help me.

      • Jemolk

        Thanks.