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Re: Ch. 11: Putting Ethical Beliefs to the Test
I guess I've sputtered a bit with this book. The two authors are competent, there isn't much I disagree with, but it's maybe a bit dull. I also think they never overcome the awkwardness of their hook of the 10 commandments. What they really are saying is not, contrary to the subtitle, that the commandments need to be revised, but that commandments aren't the way to go in the first place. Their "non-commandments" are assumptions about reality, and they're ethical beliefs, too. The precepts don't specifically tell anyone what they should do, as Bayer and Figdor think this will be up to every individual. It's an individualistic, perhaps libertarian-tinged, approach. It reminds me that it's quite specific to their own culture, our own culture, the culture that Jonathan Haidt termed WEIRD (Western, educated, industrial, rich, democratic). To much of the rest of the world, morality has more dimensions than those of avoiding harm and working for justice, the two dimensions that define morality for us. This isn't to point out a weakness in what they've done, but it can be a good thing to note that their list doesn't have universality (as they have not in fact claimed it does). They want to show that atheists are at no disadvantage when it comes to morality, and when it comes to figuring out simpler realities, atheists appear to have superior tools. These tools (rules of evidence) are often also possessed by those with religious worldviews, so there isn't necessarily a meaningful split between people who believe in God and those who don't.