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Ch. 5: The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False 
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Robert Tulip wrote:
In this sense, the goal of objectivity is that rational judgment should base values on facts. As a coherent system of thought, atheism seeks to base its values on facts, arguing that Christianity’s values are based on fantasy.


In a sense. It is a rather broad comparison. Depending if you consider atheism a movement as comparable to Christianity or not I suppose. I don't think that it is. There would undoubtedly be certain conditions you should have to meet to be considered a -ity as opposed to an -ism.

:book:



Wed Apr 08, 2009 5:00 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Yes, from the modern humanist framework of autonomy, but no if we argue a moral authority can be external and objective. In a sense, Darwin argued for such an external basis in the theory of cumulative adaptation, and Dawkins develops this with his observation of the genetic basis of empathy in The Selfish Gene.


I don't see how you can argue that Darwin ever advocated moral authority as external and objective when in fact Darwin saw moral sense as a product of evolution.

Darwin The Descent of Man: "No tribe could hold together if murder, robbery, treachery, &c., were common; consequently such crimes within the limits of the same tribe 'are branded with everlasting infamy'; but excite no such sentiment beyond these limits."

I would be interested to hear about your sources of information here, not the least among other comments you have made.

:book:



Wed Apr 08, 2009 5:08 pm
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Grim: "You would 'so what' enlightenment?"

Nope, unless the context were that it was all divine inspiration. Context, context.


Robert, saying that all metaphysical claims of religion are false is a good example of skepticism. There is no reason to think any metaphysical claims are true, since there is no evidence through either empiricism or rationalism. The burden of proof isn't on Hitchens.

As an objective moral authority, evolution doesn't count. Our selfish genes reflect manifested altruism on the organism level, but this is an aspect of the propogation of genes. We find meaning in the behavioral forces that compel us to act certain ways, and call that meaning morality. It is evolutionarily beneficial for us to kill a competing male that isn't from our in-group, but such an act is overridden by our reason and declared immoral in today's society. This results from our understanding that what we consider an in-group versus out-group is relative, and to progress as a species we must consider all humans to be in-group.

The truest moral authority is then our reasoning. We must consider as best we can how another person wants to be treated, and treat them in that way. That it isn't objective doesn't reduce it's importance. To strive for an objective source is to never find the answer, which is subjective. We have to work with the tools we're given.

An example of this can be found in college courses that teach qualitative assessment. Quantitative(as opposed to qualitative) assessment is highly valued and has been used everywhere in corporate America due to it's objectivity. Recently, corporations are realizing that quantitative assessments do not accurately capture the values of what they are trying to assess. So they turn to qualitative assessment. The problem is that qualitative assessment is subjective, but even with this limitation, accurate and valuable assessments and deliberations can be made.

RT: "I am applying a rational criterion to the selection of Biblical ideas, namely whether they are compatible with science."

Whether or not biblical ideas are compatible with science seems irrelevant in this context. The discussion is about the ideas that aren't compatible with science, the metaphysical. This includes the connection you propose between the bible and the cosmos. Just because the workings of our solar system and the signs of the zodiac may be empirically analyzed, doesn't mean any proposed connection between that and the bible can be analyzed. A base of scientific analysis, mixed with a dash of magical metaphysics, and voila!, we have morality a la carte!

RT: "It certainly looks a far better option than the atheist rejection of theology on principle."

I don't reject it on principle. If you posted something here that lent any credibility to theology in how it applies to modern life, I would appraise it for what it's worth. To me, it isn't even an option, there is nothing there but man-made tales(which I don't consider theology). We may trust the wisdom of men who wrote the book in some cases, but that is a tribute to them as the authors, not to the bible as a book. When they wrote of such things as gods and resurrections and metaphysical connections, this is where you are searching for the key to unlock human goodness it seems(Christ is tied to the cosmos!). First, if there were such a thing as the key to unlock human goodness, it would be found in the areas written with pragmatic human wisdom, not metaphysical hodgepodge. Second, what makes you think such a key exists at all? You'll looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow I fear.

RT: "Maybe there are other scientific mysteries locked with the opacity of the Bible?"

What a testament that would be to one or more of it's authors, who would have to have been far ahead of their time, similar to Da Vinci! It would be a shame for them to have hidden their discoveries in the bible rather than publish them openly. You say there may be 'other' scientific mysteries in the bible. Did I miss the first one that was mentioned? Or was is a cryptic allusion that you personally interpreted to represent a scientific idea?



Wed Apr 08, 2009 6:23 pm
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Interbane wrote:
Nope, unless the context were that it was all divine inspiration. Context, context.


Regardless, you don't think that perhaps the ends may justify the means slightly?

:book:



Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:30 pm
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You may notice that in several posts i mention certain references in the bible that i do not deny hold some degree of truth. What i am saying is that these works should stand or fall on their own merit, as i said earlier. That means i should be able to pick up a copy of the bible right next to Atlas Shrugged and evaluate both on their content, not a pre- conception that one will automatically contain divine truth while the other is the mere scribbling of hapless humans.

My assertion that there is nothing special or transcendent about the bible is no different than your own assertion that there is.



Wed Apr 08, 2009 8:17 pm
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Grim, I don't think the ideas in question are about justification. Rather, it's over explanatory concepts that are either verified or falsified. Though it does seem to be an attempt by Robert to go from an 'is' to an 'ought', or an objective set of 'oughts'.



Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:09 pm
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Interbane wrote:
Grim, I don't think the ideas in question are about justification. Rather, it's over explanatory concepts that are either verified or falsified. Though it does seem to be an attempt by Robert to go from an 'is' to an 'ought', or an objective set of 'oughts'.


Monks interested in science is a question of justification? I suppose I could live with that, but must they really be dissected over 'explanatory concepts' which judge their lives and discoveries 'verified or falsified'? Mendel is not even that classical of an example; regardless the implications and importance of his work defy the association to his occupation. If he were not a priest he may not have been in a position to make his observations and inferences.

:book:



Wed Apr 08, 2009 10:21 pm
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wissssshhhh......

Much of the Renaissance (but not all of it) was based on religious idealism or sponsored by wealthy European religious establishments, but hey...'so what.'

:book:



Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:54 pm
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'So what' in regards to what? If you're using that fact as support for a claim, then it would be in the same context I used before.



Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:17 am
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i don't think anyone has said that if you are a religious scientist anything you did was categorically useless, Grim.

As you indicated many of the great works of the renaisance were produced by or for religious people. They can be celebrated as fantastic advances while not being helped or hampered by their religious association.

The fact that religious institutions sponsored these works does not give the church credit for the renaissance, if that is what you are implying.



Sat Apr 11, 2009 8:22 am
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Interbane wrote:
'So what' in regards to what? If you're using that fact as support for a claim, then it would be in the same context I used before.


Yes, but you disregard the faith as if it has no importance, "so what" as if you can realistically claim that without its metaphysical implication knowledge would have developed as it has or that it was of no consequence to those people who grew an developed within a religious atmosphere. Its pretty much as raw in conjecture and as broadly inaccurate a statement can get. Besides it has no critical merits weather or not God truly exists or not in relation to someone or a group of people, now long dead, who believed that he did and devoted work to that belief. Reality is the flexible medium of our rigid perceptions and notions of it.

:book:



Sat Apr 11, 2009 10:58 am
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Grim wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Yes, from the modern humanist framework of autonomy, but no if we argue a moral authority can be external and objective. In a sense, Darwin argued for such an external basis in the theory of cumulative adaptation, and Dawkins develops this with his observation of the genetic basis of empathy in The Selfish Gene.


I don't see how you can argue that Darwin ever advocated moral authority as external and objective when in fact Darwin saw moral sense as a product of evolution.

Darwin The Descent of Man: "No tribe could hold together if murder, robbery, treachery, &c., were common; consequently such crimes within the limits of the same tribe 'are branded with everlasting infamy'; but excite no such sentiment beyond these limits."

I would be interested to hear about your sources of information here, not the least among other comments you have made.

:book:
Evolution provides an external moral authority, not in the sense of a metaphysical absolute, but in the sense of what actually works in the world to constrain the action of the autonomous individual. Humans have evolved to have moral sentiments.

Friedrich Hayek explores this theme of Darwinian morality in his book The Constitution of Liberty, where he discusses how British common law evolves by precedent, in contrast to the 'rationally designed' system of the French civil code. Hayek argues the British approach to law applies the Darwinian mechanism of cumulative adaptation and is closer to organic reality and natural justice as an evolutionary model of the grounds of morality.

"Cumulative adaptation" is the mechanism of evolution - Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins has a good discussion of this. Any system, such as the law, which develops by cumulative adaptation and incremental change is evolutionary in the same way DNA is evolutionary.

The distinction between a metaphysical absolute and an actual constraint is that the former is supernatural while the latter is real. Religion mixes the two, but Hitchens falsely claims that the former is the only approach which can properly be called religious. The teachings of Jesus which I mentioned earlier here are a prime example of religion based on actual constraint, but the church wrongly simplified these teachings into a mythical framework of punishment and reward.



Sat Apr 11, 2009 4:01 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Evolution provides an external moral authority, not in the sense of a metaphysical absolute, but in the sense of what actually works in the world to constrain the action of the autonomous individual. Humans have evolved to have moral sentiments.

Friedrich Hayek explores this theme of Darwinian morality in his book The Constitution of Liberty, where he discusses how British common law evolves by precedent, in contrast to the 'rationally designed' system of the French civil code. Hayek argues the British approach to law applies the Darwinian mechanism of cumulative adaptation and is closer to organic reality and natural justice as an evolutionary model of the grounds of morality.

"Cumulative adaptation" is the mechanism of evolution - Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins has a good discussion of this. Any system, such as the law, which develops by cumulative adaptation and incremental change is evolutionary in the same way DNA is evolutionary.

The distinction between a metaphysical absolute and an actual constraint is that the former is supernatural while the latter is real. Religion mixes the two, but Hitchens falsely claims that the former is the only approach which can properly be called religious. The teachings of Jesus which I mentioned earlier here are a prime example of religion based on actual constraint, but the church wrongly simplified these teachings into a mythical framework of punishment and reward.


Evolution provides explanation for general morality as an essentially functional behavioral expression of cost or benefit to any particular species; at the root here is an obvious relativism. I deny your assertion that evolution provides any external certainty. It is ridiculous to think that a theory which present life as continual change and development can provide some type of firm or universal moral justification. Human evolution has created the capacity for violence and war. What actually works in the world may seem abhorrent to a morally conscious human observer, even one who truly understands the ethical implications or basis of a selfish gene.

Hayek seems to have bastardized the focus of Darwins theories, which are focused on natural systems, as have all "social Darwinist" impostors. Evolution is not 'rationally designed,' Darwin was used as a poor and imprecise metaphor for lack of a better explanation (i.e. simple synergy). Within a evolutionary ethics 'organic reality and natural justice' results in a genetic predisposition towards protectionism of ones own gene pool. There is no ground for even elementary property rights based on evolutionary predisposition as an essentially survivalist striving, much less a system of laws.

"Cumulative adaptation" as you quote is too quickly twisted and poorly explained by its author for me to take much credibility from your conclusions. I feel that this is little more than a continuation of the bastard-socialization of natural theory that may be unfounded in reality within the limits of evolution theory, and the naturalistic terms of evolutionary subject matter.

If what you say is correct, and I would contend that it is actually a gross misrepresentation of theory and generally inaccurate, then jesus is but a deterministic evolutionary result no different than the Frenchman's code of laws. He is no less existent in the evolutionary paradigm as I see it except that he is not a direct product of our genes rather a result of it.

:book:



Sat Apr 11, 2009 11:25 pm
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Grim: "Yes, but you disregard the faith as if it has no importance, "so what" as if you can realistically claim that without its metaphysical implication knowledge would have developed as it has or that it was of no consequence to those people who grew an developed within a religious atmosphere."

Grim, I said so what about astrologers gleaning information from the sky. Their work isn't to be demeaned, of course, but using their works as an implication that a metaphysical connection exists between the bible and the cosmos is wishful thinking. They saw the mechanical workings of the heavens, that's all. So what if they put it in the bible? It doesn't mean they instilled a secret divine message. They wrote their findings. Also, I never mentioned faith. We all use faith, distinctly different from religious Faith. Also, welcome back. Life settled down a bit?

RT: "Evolution provides an external moral authority..."

I'm not sure if I'd call it authority. If anything, the authority is internal, as our interests are promoted by our selfish genes. Evolution does provide an excellent framework for understanding why we're moral creatures. I think by definition evolution cannot provide an external authority, since it is only a process. We humans are the authority of morality, using reason.

I think a distinction is necessary. What evolution has given us morally are the mechanisms by which to abide by moral codes. Empathy, guilt, love. Those moral codes are the greatest portion of the discussion. Some say there are universal moral rules, such as not killing. But not killing isn't an absolute. We had to kill people who weren't from our in-group to survive. By using reason, we can and have constructed a moral framework by which we live. Some of this is rigid, such as the legal system, and some is loose, like doing what is polite or proper. So, we have our moral codes, which are constructed, and our moral mechanism, which is evolved. However, our moral mechanism influences us greatly in our creation of moral codes, but that influence isn't an authority.

It's by using reason that we understand other people are very much like ourselves, and for ourselves to live pleasantly, there must be altruism. This is the golden rule of morality, worded differently. Our primitive nature manifests in negative acts not because we are sinners, but because our genes are selfish. People have the tendency to view the world through the lens of in-group and out-group. We get angry if someone we don't know threatens us, but if we realize a second later they are our friend, an interesting and embarrassing internal reversal occurs. Categorizing others as out-group members is one of the largest problems in the modern world. Religion, nationalism, race, these are all characteristics that separate people.

If evolution were to serve as an external authority, we would live primitively. Reason is what we use to construct moral codes which channel our evolved moral mechanism. I think finding an objective tether for morality is wishful thinking. Man is the measure.



Sun Apr 12, 2009 2:58 am
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Interbane wrote:
using their works as an implication that a metaphysical connection exists between the bible and the cosmos is wishful thinking. They saw the mechanical workings of the heavens, that's all. So what if they put it in the bible? It doesn't mean they instilled a secret divine message. They wrote their findings.


There is nothing metaphysical about writing your findings or observing nature. The study of the natural world, outside of an interpretation of it, suggests little of the metaphysical implications of a divinity, other than it was an important part of an ancient intellectuals life. There is a difference between looking at the stars and developing a supposition about why they are in their places. The two are exclusive even if their implications or instincts are similar. It would do great disservice to lump what was a mutually fertile mixture as somehow inconsequential or distasteful. Did you get this idea from Hitchens?

Interbane wrote:
If anything, the authority is internal, as our interests are promoted by our selfish genes.


Yes my point exactly; however, the implications of the selfish gene in current ethical perspective suggests a biological predisposition for what can only be described as immoral. If "internal authority," from whatever legitimacy that may develop is biologically internal, how can we ignore basic biological moral and ethical contradictions?

Interbane wrote:
We humans are the authority of morality, using reason.


You seem to be suggesting an absolutist notion of morality that is misplaced, realistically. On the one hand you continue my point of moral relativism "not sure" to "call it authority" on the other hand you feel "moral codes are the greatest portion of the discussion." What you start by saying is that there can be no moral absolutes then finish with questioning "if evolution were to serve as an external authority," concluding it would be "reason...we use to construct moral codes." Evolution as an argument for the content of moral development is exactly what is illogical, human construction of the abstract has been limited by our evolutionary status not the abstract limiting our evolution. There is a moral tether, the point is that it is relative to the biology of the organism or group or species based on their present refinement, nature or subjective degree of evolution. And of course there is a flaw in this reasoning as in any other.

:book:



Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:23 am
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