The Inherent Value of Human Life

 

Following are portions from a personal email debate/discussion where I presented an argument for God’s existence from the inherent value of human life. It is an argument I am honing, constructive comments appreciated. :-)

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I wrote on 15/5/2008:

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Quote from you:

As for an Atheist’s view on “human life (being) no more significant than a cockroaches”, I would very much like to hear why the non-belief in god must tag along such a woefully-worded philosophy? Indeed, does atheism necessary have a philosophy? [sic]

Now with the correct definitions in place this a shocking pronouncement. Every view needs a philosophy! In fact, atheism is one among the chief philosophical world-views today. And on the atheistic view thats what humans are – nothing more than chemicals, atoms in motion, accidents of natural processes, no inherent value and no ultimate worth. You are right in saying the paragraph is melancholy. Thats what is the logical conclusion of atheism results in – woeful depression. We are all lowly worms, on an insignificant spec in a cold universe, destined to die and be forgotten, all evidence of our existence and accomplishments to be extinguished when the universe dies. 

 But if you do think that human life has inherent value, (and it seems you do) it begs the question as to why? Why is it that human life has value or significance? Why do we act in such a way that reveals this deep seated belief? Why is genocide wrong? Why is murder morally reprehensible? Why do we protest the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Why does what people believe really matter? On the atheistic view I just can’t find any reasonable answer.

You could phrase the argument like this: 

1) If God does not exist, then human life does not have any inherent value.

2) Human life does have inherent value.

3) Therefore, God exists.

This argument does not succeed in giving us the full picture of the Christian God, but it does succeed in giving you a God that had endowed human beings life with value. This is at least consistent with Christianity. Still, if you can agree with this argument then that would give you good philosophical grounds for theistic belief and sufficient reason to consider atheism totally bankrupt. If a world-view cannot consistently be lived with or make sense of all the available information, then it should be regarded false and other explanations should be preferred. 

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I wrote on 1/8/2008:

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…What I mean by inherent is an essential, permanent, or characteristic attribute. This inherent value, as an essential attribute, presides in every human life as a right or privilege such that, if it could be taken away, that life would no longer be human. The premise is 1) If God does not exist, then there is no inherent value to human life. I give reasons below.

You say that the human brain has developed the ability to empathise. But this is to confuse the ontological question I am advancing with the epistemological question. I am not trying to get at how we come to know human life has value, but rather am asking does human life have value intrinsically. On atheistic evolution there just is nothing special about humans, we are mere molecules in motion. Ethics and morality are socio-cultural-biological conventions, akin to driving on the right or left side of the road, or to the preference of the taste of chocolate over vanilla. Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science from the University of Guelph says, 

The position of the modern evolutionist… is that humans have an awareness of morality… because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth… Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love they neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves… Nevertheless,… such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction,… and any deeper meaning is illusory… 1

Richard Taylor, an eminent ethicist, writes,

The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well.

Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant.

Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion.2

He concludes,

Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning. 3

And so we find a meta-ethical foundation for ethics and morals is indispensable. If atheism cannot provide this meta-ethical foundation then it follows that, if God does not exist human life has no inherent value. This is certainly more likely than its contradictory and many atheists agree. Consider the following diagram fig-1.jpg

 

fig-1.jpg

fig-1.jpg

 

 

If God exists then it is at least possible for human life to have either, no value, contingent value or inherent value. But if God does not exist then human life has either no value or contingent value. If human life has inherent value, then that requires a meta-ethical foundation which atheism cannot supply. Value ascribed to human life by other human life cannot be inherent (an essential attribute) for anything that is given by a human can be taken away by a human. So why can’t human life have contingent value?

If the value of human life is a contingent and subjective quality (non-essential and dispensable) a consequence of that is value could be lifted from human life and actions we would like to universally condemn would become permissible. For instance, it would no longer be wrong to practise self-mutilation or to snort cocaine to the one who no longer cares to live. All that needed to happen for the British Empire to justify the cruelty of slavery was to lift the value off of the black African human life. Black men were reduced in white men’s eyes to animals, but when they were called men again (in the social justice movement led by Christians) suddenly it was wrong to enforce such treatment upon them. For Nazi Germany to justify the genocide of the Jews all they needed to do was remove the value of their lives, thus making it not wrong to kill Jews but instead a virtue. Without inherent value in human life, at most these acts would be socially impolite or culturally distasteful but never objectively wrong. On non-theistic views morals and ethics are precisely socio-cultural-biological conventions and there is no qualitative standard above humankind to condemn of commend these actions. The humanist will attempt to call things like genocide and slavery objectively wrong by making the value of human life the standard. One is apt to wonder why, given atheism, we think that human beings are anything special? Surely this is speciesism – showing unmerited favour towards ones own species. As a stopping place for our moral intuitions the value of human life is simply ad hoc. Without a standard qualitatively above human-kind morality becomes subjective.

But if human life has inherent value, then it really is wrong to enslave someone or kill them indiscriminately. And if it really is wrong to to enslave someone or kill them indiscriminately then this inherent value must be prescribed, for rights and privileges are the dictates of a personal agents. And in the case of the inherent value of human life, this personal agent must be qualitatively above all humankind, and that personal agent can only be the creator.

So the question is not Premise 1 but Premise 2, namely, does human life have inherent value? And I think it does. Moreover, I think you think so as well. This is a properly basic, deeply human, metaphysical intuition. I take it you think that human life is not as a worm or an insect – insignificant, worthless and purposeless, due to be forgotten in the death of the universe. But if you are an atheist, this is exactly what you must believe to remain consistent with your view, at least on the correct definition. It is the logical conclusion of naturalism, as Richard Dawkins says, “There is no good, no evil, no purpose – just pointless indifference. We are machines for propagating DNA. It is every objects sole reason for being.” But can Dawkins live consistently with his view? I think not. His books are full of moralizing like the humanist. It seems he agrees, like me, that there are some things that really are objectively wrong, such as genocide and slavery, and if you wish to condemn these practices with meaning, that entails that there is a qualitative standard above humankind that gives human life inherent value and not just contingent value, from which it follows that God exists. 

 

Footnotes:

1. Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9.

2. Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), pp. 2-3, 7.

3. Ibid.

32 replies
  1. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    “And on the atheistic view thats what humans are – nothing more than chemicals, atoms in motion, accidents of natural processes, no inherent value and no ultimate worth.”

    That is naturalism, not atheism.

    ” But if you do think that human life has inherent value, (and it seems you do) it begs the question as to why? Why is it that human life has value or significance? Why do we act in such a way that reveals this deep seated belief? Why is genocide wrong? Why is murder morally reprehensible? Why do we protest the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Why does what people believe really matter?”

    Because we are also humans, In a cold universe, all we have is each other,

    “On the atheistic view I just can’t find any reasonable answer.”

    Theism doesn’t provde anything more. It isn’t any more a philosophy than atheism.

    “1) If God does not exist, then human life does not have any inherent value.

    2) Human life does have inherent value.”

    Human life does not have inherent value. A body without a brain does not have value. It is sapience that is valuable.

    “This argument does not succeed in giving us the full picture of the Christian God, but it does succeed in giving you a God that had endowed human beings life with value. ”

    If value is added on, it is not inherent.

    “Ethics and morality are socio-cultural-biological conventions, akin to driving on the right or left side of the road, or to the preference of the taste of chocolate over vanilla. ”

    False. The last two are arbitrary. The conventions of morality and biology have emerged because they help keep us from dying- they are goal oriented and hence not arbitrary.

    “Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. ”

    Ethics is a system of dealing with conflicting moral rules. It is as illusory as math and logic- it doesn’t physically exist, but it DOES reflect reality.

    ” For instance, it would no longer be wrong to practise self-mutilation or to snort cocaine to the one who no longer cares to live.”

    Those are morally neutral actions. You are aware that tattoes and piercings fall under that category?

    “Without inherent value in human life, at most these acts would be socially impolite or culturally distasteful but never objectively wrong.”

    Or you could point out such actions are hypocritical. After all, using forced labor isn’t inherently wrong (see the prison system)- it is when it is justified on skin color that it is wrong.

    “The humanist will attempt to call things like genocide and slavery objectively wrong by making the value of human life the standard. ”

    No, they set human happiness as the standard. Specifically the set the point of morality as the good of sapient life.

    ” One is apt to wonder why, given atheism, we think that human beings are anything special? Surely this is speciesism – showing unmerited favour towards ones own species.”

    We aren’t. Sapient aliens have the same value. Your position seems to be that xenocide is acceptable.

    “And in the case of the inherent value of human life, this personal agent must be qualitatively above all humankind, and that personal agent can only be the creator.”

    And then people don’t have inherent value. All we have is abscribed value. Having God give it to us doesn’t fix your problem. It just means you are appealing to a bigger authority figure.

    “that there are some things that really are objectively wrong, such as genocide and slavery, ”

    Objectively wrong means the practice itself is wrong. Except it isn’t- we genocide pests and we enslave animals.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    “That is naturalism, not atheism.”

    Consistent atheism implies naturalism.

    “Theism doesn’t provde anything more. It isn’t any more a philosophy than atheism.”

    Theism is a philosophy, just as atheism. In fact, they are the two major world-views people hold to today. It is surprising you’d say this.
    Theism does provide a reasonable answer – that God has endowed his creation with inherent worth. The atheistic answer you give is begging the question – why is it important that we have each other?

    “Human life does not have inherent value. A body without a brain does not have value.”

    You have chosen to disagree with Premise 2, but have used a straw man to do so. Human life (to which I ascribe inherent value) has two aspects: that which makes it human, and that which makes it alive. A body without a brain is not alive, therefore it (the body) has no inherent value.
    But it seems you do agree with premise 2. Look at your own statement following

    “After all, using forced labor isn’t inherently wrong (see the prison system)- it is when it is justified on skin color that it is wrong.”

    “It is sapience that is valuable”

    I agree sapience is valuable. That does not mean that human life is excluded from the possibility of having inherent value.

    “If value is added on, it is not inherent.”

    I agree. (You bring the same point out again bellow.)

    “And then people don’t have inherent value. All we have is abscribed value. Having God give it to us doesn’t fix your problem. It just means you are appealing to a bigger authority figure.”

    But to endow is not necessarily to add. Remember inherent value is an essential quality. For the inherent value of human life, it is essential quality such that if it were removed it would cease to be human life. On the Christian theistic view it is the Creator who provides humans with this value, and God would do this from eternity (logically simultaneous with the divine decree of creation). Thank you for the reminder to avoid equivocation.

    “Ethics and morality are socio-cultural-biological conventions, akin to driving on the right or left side of the road, or to the preference of the taste of chocolate over vanilla. ”
    False. The last two are arbitrary. The conventions of morality and biology have emerged because they help keep us from dying- they are goal oriented and hence not arbitrary.

    Your saying that ethics and morality are not arbitrary because they have the goal of keeping us from dying. But is this goal not arbitrary itself if you cannot affirm why human life (or sapience) is worthwhile? But the goal of the above statement was not to show that morality on atheism is arbitrary. The goal was to show that on atheism the ethics we derive from socio-cultural-biological conventions are morally equivalent to the preference of taste.
    On theism, commonly held moral truisms could be derived from socio-cultural-biological conventions as their origin bears no weight in the discussion of their objectivity. It is on atheistic evolution that ethics are not an objective set of justifiable claims. As Michael Ruse says “Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction,… and any deeper meaning is illusory”

    “Those are morally neutral actions. You are aware that tattoes and piercings fall under that category?”

    I’m surprised you’d think snorting cocaine is morally neutral. Your obviously not in law enforcement. :-) When I spoke of self-mutilation I was thinking of cutting wrists, chain-sawing off a leg, etc. If all you think of as self-mutilation is tattoos and naval rings then I’m inclined to agree. But I don’t think you could convince a mother her daughter is performing a morally neutral act when she intentionally cuts herself.

    “Without inherent value in human life, at most these acts would be socially impolite or culturally distasteful but never objectively wrong.”
    Or you could point out such actions are hypocritical.

    So is hypocrisy wrong? How is your answer not objective?

    “No, they (humanists) set human happiness as the standard. Specifically the set the point of morality as the good of sapient life.”

    How is human happiness not as arbitrary as human life four the foundation of morality? And who is it that determines the good? It seems to me, in order to discourse with meaning on ethics, there needs to be an objective platform provided by something transcendent. As morals are prescribed and not just described, that transcendent source of morality must be personal.

    “Objectively wrong means the practice itself is wrong. Except it isn’t- we genocide pests and we enslave animals.”

    Objective means a practice really is wrong, such that it always has been wrong and always will be wrong no matter if the whole word disagrees. I think genocide and slavery really is objectively wrong. By-the-way, we don’t genocide pests, we exterminate pests. Genocide applies only to people in my understanding of the English language. Take for instance a great white shark that forcibly copulates with another great white shark. Such an action is not rape. Or when an eagle takes the trout from another eagles talons, it doesn’t steal it. Those actions have no moral dimension to them, and to say they do is to anthropomorphise animals.
    You really don’t think enslaving animals is objectively wrong? I don’t mean keeping livestock or shearing sheep here. I’m thinking of teaching brown bears to ride unicycles with chains as whips. Is this wrong? I think so. And as long as I affirm that some things are objectively wrong I can be consistent with my ethical intuitions. Whereas an atheist must be inconsistent with his view if he wants to affirm anything as objectively wrong.

  3. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    “Consistent atheism implies naturalism. ”

    Atheism says nothing on the subject of the supernatural. The two are not incompatible, even when done consistantly. Rationally, maybe, but consistantly? Nope.

    “Theism is a philosophy, just as atheism. In fact, they are the two major world-views people hold to today. It is surprising you’d say this.
    Theism does provide a reasonable answer – that God has endowed his creation with inherent worth. The atheistic answer you give is begging the question – why is it important that we have each other?”

    Theism is the belief that a God exists. It says nothing about said nature of the God. In addition, if something is endowed with a trait, it isn’t inherent.

    “You have chosen to disagree with Premise 2, but have used a straw man to do so. Human life (to which I ascribe inherent value) has two aspects: that which makes it human, and that which makes it alive. A body without a brain is not alive, therefore it (the body) has no inherent value.
    But it seems you do agree with premise 2. Look at your own statement following”

    So if it is not “human”, it lacks value? How does this protect from declaring people not human?

    “But to endow is not necessarily to add. Remember inherent value is an essential quality. For the inherent value of human life, it is essential quality such that if it were removed it would cease to be human life. On the Christian theistic view it is the Creator who provides humans with this value, and God would do this from eternity (logically simultaneous with the divine decree of creation). Thank you for the reminder to avoid equivocation.”

    Appealing to a soul?

    “Your saying that ethics and morality are not arbitrary because they have the goal of keeping us from dying. But is this goal not arbitrary itself if you cannot affirm why human life (or sapience) is worthwhile? But the goal of the above statement was not to show that morality on atheism is arbitrary. The goal was to show that on atheism the ethics we derive from socio-cultural-biological conventions are morally equivalent to the preference of taste.”

    They aren’t. They are goal based. Taste is not.

    “On theism, commonly held moral truisms could be derived from socio-cultural-biological conventions as their origin bears no weight in the discussion of their objectivity. It is on atheistic evolution that ethics are not an objective set of justifiable claims. As Michael Ruse says “Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction,… and any deeper meaning is illusory””

    Mike is wrong. Morality exists to further the happiness and common good of sapience. To insist it is about reproduction ignores adoption.

    “I’m surprised you’d think snorting cocaine is morally neutral. Your obviously not in law enforcement. :-) When I spoke of self-mutilation I was thinking of cutting wrists, chain-sawing off a leg, etc. If all you think of as self-mutilation is tattoos and naval rings then I’m inclined to agree. But I don’t think you could convince a mother her daughter is performing a morally neutral act when she intentionally cuts herself. ”

    Illegal is not immoral. As for cocaine, it isn’t super dangerous- they use the source as a soda ingredient in Peru! Drugs vary in there danger, from things like caffine which is pretty safe, tabacco, which is pretty stupid and things like escasy and PCP which are extremely dangerous. Their is nothing inherently bad with taking mind altering substances.

    As for cutting and removing limbs, those are generally evidence of suididal tendancies or mental illness. Of course, this leads into… “fun” subjects. Like wacky deaf activists, people who feel their limbs just aren’t right…

    “So is hypocrisy wrong? How is your answer not objective?”

    Hypocricy shows another person has no standing. If you are hypocritical, why should we listen to you- it shows you are acting entirely for self interest.

    “How is human happiness not as arbitrary as human life four the foundation of morality?”

    Because human life gets into really sticky problems. Here is a quick look:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WhatMeasureIsANonHuman

    “And who is it that determines the good?”

    Life, happiness, self actualization- the usual suspects.

    ” It seems to me, in order to discourse with meaning on ethics, there needs to be an objective platform provided by something transcendent.”

    Nope. All you need to do is set morality as a way of reaching a goal, with the goal being the good of sapient life. Why should people do that? They have no reason to- and that is what makes it morality.

    “As morals are prescribed and not just described, that transcendent source of morality must be personal. ”

    You are going to need a logical justification for that- it makes no sense.

    ” By-the-way, we don’t genocide pests, we exterminate pests. Genocide applies only to people in my understanding of the English language.”

    So it is okay because we have defined them away… looks at part about slaves… the hypocrisy meter is flcikering.

    “Take for instance a great white shark that forcibly copulates with another great white shark. Such an action is not rape. Or when an eagle takes the trout from another eagles talons, it doesn’t steal it.”

    Actually, those definitions don’t require a human component.

    “Those actions have no moral dimension to them, and to say they do is to anthropomorphise animals.”

    It is called empathy.

    ” I don’t mean keeping livestock or shearing sheep here. I’m thinking of teaching brown bears to ride unicycles with chains as whips. Is this wrong? I think so. And as long as I affirm that some things are objectively wrong I can be consistent with my ethical intuitions.”

    Except the sheep and livestock are more slaves that the animals at the circus. Conditions may vary for circuses, but they generally aren’t killed and eaten when they have outlived their usefulness. No human society has ever done that to subject groups.

    “Whereas an atheist must be inconsistent with his view if he wants to affirm anything as objectively wrong.”

    Nope.

    “expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations”

    A person can do that by pointing out how an action increases pain and suffering in the world. There is no inconsistancy there.

  4. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Atheism says nothing on the subject of the supernatural

    It seems you have radically redefined atheism. I request a definition from you before you proceed as its obvious you are using it in a non-standard way.

    Theism is the belief that a God exists. It says nothing about said nature of the God.

    Actually theism does have say something to say about the nature of God. Look at the definition of theism that you use. Just from this small statement we can know that said entity has the property of existence (if it exists). On any standard definition “God” is the ultimate being, and that tells us something about his superlative nature, hence we can minimally attribute to God omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and the like, including omni-benevolence.

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Appealing to a soul?

    Not at all – I’ve said nothing at all about a soul (which I take to mean the immaterial aspect of self). Value, specifically inherent value, can be ascribed to a human life logically simultaneously from the divine decree of creation. This need not require a pre-existing soul as human life can be in a potential state prior to its state of being.

    In addition, if something is endowed with a trait, it isn’t inherent.

    Endowment of a trait such as inherent value can make a certain life-form human, whereas logically prior to its endowment it was not. It analogous to the quality of sapience in the Homo genus that make the primate form a Homo sapien (though I think sapience is more problematic to define than ‘human life’ is).

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    “The goal was to show that on atheism the ethics we derive from socio-cultural-biological conventions are morally equivalent to the preference of taste.”
    They aren’t. They are goal based. Taste is not.

    To be clear. I agree that ethics are not morally equivalent to preferences of taste – because I think God is the source of all moral authority. On atheism though, lacking a source of moral authority, ethics are equivalent to preferences like taste.

    The example of taste does not point out the purpose of an ethic, but the objectivity of an ethic. In the end, on consistently applied atheism, ethics are amoral – that is to say they do not appeal to right or wrong. As Ruse said – “illusory.”

    But what if we make sapience the standard that determines our morality? The same arguments I used against making human life the standard applies – because such a move is ad hoc and arbitrary. It is conceivable we could have evolved different morals, such that that rape and murder would be right. Also we cannot condemn the actions of another because they are only acting in accord with what they believe to be right, for the good of society, and for the good of their own self-actualisation and happiness.

    Neitzsche was right I think when he said if God is dead, traditional values die with him.

    Saying our common moral intuitions are for the goal of “not dying” is still appealing to an objective set of claims about what’s right and what’s wrong. So the questions remains – how do you get that objective standard? Why is the goal of “not dying” to be preferred? Because it is right we preserve and protect sapience? Because it furthers human happiness? How are these not ad hoc? What foundation do they rest on?

    Much better we base our common basic moral intuitions on the inherent value of human life.

    No you say, but why? All you have to say here is (1) “Theism doesn’t provide anything more,” and (2) “Because human life gets into really sticky problems.” Now citing the deaths of fictional characters as if they were human is not answering the question, why is human happiness the standard of what is right and wrong? Its completely arbitrary!

    Whereas the inherent value of human life is not arbitrary – it finds a transcendent ground in God, the arbiter of all moral standards. There is no reason given by you that doesn’t just knock the question back a step. Look at your statement carefully.

    Hypocrisy shows another person has no standing. If you are hypocritical, why should we listen to you- it shows you are acting entirely for self interest.

    So is pure self-interest wrong? How is your answer not objective?

    Again;

    Mike is wrong. Morality exists to further the happiness and common good of sapience. To insist it is about reproduction ignores adoption.

    Its atheism that ignores adoption. Altruistic behaviour is deeply problematic for evolutionary ethics whereas adoption makes sense if human life has inherent value. So it increases human life and happiness. Again that is arbitrary and unjustified speciesism.

    It is called empathy.

    Empathy doesn’t give morals objectivity. It gives us the socio-cultural conditioning of human beings which are subjective and insufficient to explain our common basic moral intuitions.

  7. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Illegal is not immoral.

    If so, should we obey the law? If we knew we won’t get caught is it right to disobey the law? That statement is deeply problematic. And not only on the face of it. What if you are Hitler and genuinely believe extermination of the Jews is needed so a new age of prosperity and human happiness can begin. Is self-actualisation really the standard that morality is based upon?

    Your stand on taking drugs is actually consistent with atheism for once – that it is neither right or wrong. But that’s a hard case to make. Do you really think taking mind-altering drugs for recreation is not wrong? After walking the slums and seeing the mass of humanity captive to addiction and drug abuse will you think the same? Would you say the same to your own children?

    Perhaps then you’ll revise your statement and say snorting cocaine is not conducive to human happiness or the goal of developing sapience? But then that is requiring the answer to the question why is human happiness or sapience important. When talking about ethics you can’t escape reference to higher standards. Why stop at human happiness or sapience?

  8. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Actually, those definitions don’t require a human component.

    You misunderstand. It’s not a human component that makes forceful copulation into rape, its a moral component – a moral component that the animal kingdom is without. A great white shark doesn’t have any moral compulsion on what it eats. A lion does not muse on the merits of monogamy. But a human does have moral compulsions – compulsions that are not sufficiently explained by the humanist or naturalists evolutionary explanation of ethics. The question is why do we think and act as if human life is inherently valuable, and that morals are objective?

    “expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations”
    A person can do that by pointing out how an action increases pain and suffering in the world. There is no inconsistancy there.

    I beg to differ. In pointing out the pain and suffering you are appealing to personal feelings. You are conflating subjectivity with objectivity.

  9. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    “On atheism though, lacking a source of moral authority, ethics are equivalent to preferences like taste.”

    God’s taste is still taste.

    “But what if we make sapience the standard that determines our morality? ”

    Only sapient life can suffer.

    “It is conceivable we could have evolved different morals, such that that rape and murder would be right. ”

    Unlikely- murder is defined as killing that is wrong. As for rape, that would require a situation similar to the Puppeters.

    “Also we cannot condemn the actions of another because they are only acting in accord with what they believe to be right, for the good of society, and for the good of their own self-actualisation and happiness. ”

    We can point out they are failing at that.

    “Whereas the inherent value of human life is not arbitrary – it finds a transcendent ground in God, the arbiter of all moral standards. There is no reason given by you that doesn’t just knock the question back a step. Look at your statement carefully. “”

    So mine is arbitrary because it is the will of people, while your is not arbitrary because it is the will of God. You see the problem?

    “So is pure self-interest wrong? How is your answer not objective?”

    It is fine. Insisting that others adhere to a differant standard is nonsensical- morality is supposed to be universal.

    “If so, should we obey the law?”

    Depends on the law. I know a person who would have been put in a… very bad place if the People’s Republic found him.

    “What if you are Hitler and genuinely believe extermination of the Jews is needed so a new age of prosperity and human happiness can begin. ”

    That is an argument for disobeying the law. As it is, the problem with Hitler was that his belief were false- a problem exaccerbated due to his refusal to question them.

    “Is self-actualisation really the standard that morality is based upon? ”

    Nope. Science means that not all dreams can come true!

    “After walking the slums and seeing the mass of humanity captive to addiction and drug abuse will you think the same? ”

    The slums existed before drugs. Cocaine exacerbated the situation, but before that people simply turned to alcohol.

    Of course, some countries have pulled of legalization without such problems (Netherlands, Peru).

    “When talking about ethics you can’t escape reference to higher standards.”

    Prove it.

    “But a human does have moral compulsions – compulsions that are not sufficiently explained by the humanist or naturalists evolutionary explanation of ethics.”

    So do dogs, dolphins, apes, chimps, etc. It isn’t rare.

    “The question is why do we think and act as if human life is inherently valuable, and that morals are objective?”

    Heuristic.

    “I beg to differ. In pointing out the pain and suffering you are appealing to personal feelings. You are conflating subjectivity with objectivity.”

    Cut the nerve and there is no pain. Without conciousness, there is no suffering. These are based on the chemistry of our bodies and are as real as any other reaction.

  10. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    God’s taste is still taste.

    Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD! With this in mind take another look at the response to the Euthyphro Dilemma.

    So mine is arbitrary because it is the will of people, while your is not arbitrary because it is the will of God. You see the problem?

    I see the problem. But that is not what I believe. Straw man fallacy. Go back to my response to Euthyphro Dilemma.

  11. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    It is interesting your objections. You are left with the rather uncomfortable position of defending that sapience is the standard on which to base morality and the value of human life. In order to do so you include animals among the atoms in the universe that have moral compulsions.

    “But a human does have moral compulsions…”
    So do dogs, dolphins, apes, chimps, etc. It isn’t rare.

    You also exclude animals from those who suffer.

    “But what if we make sapience the standard that determines our morality? ”
    Only sapient life can suffer.

    So to review, animals are conscious and have moral compulsions, yet cannot suffer as they are not sapient. But then look at how you determine what is right and wrong.

    A person can do that by pointing out how an action increases pain and suffering in the world.

    This has a really non-sensical implication. People can know objective wrongs because of pain and suffering, but animals (such as dogs and dolphins) can know what is right and wrong apart from suffering. How do animals achieve this?

    And how do you, (on atheism at least) a mere animal, get to proclaim the following?

    As it is, the problem with Hitler was that his belief were false- a problem exaccerbated due to his refusal to question them.

    Your challenge…

    “When talking about ethics you can’t escape reference to higher standards.”
    Prove it.

    Ok… look at the back and forth of the discussion thus far.

    (1) Why are things wrong? Because we are sapient.
    (2) Why is sapience the standard of what’s wrong? Because only sapience can feel pain.
    (3) Why is pain and suffering wrong, such as Hilter’s beliefs caused? His beliefs were false.

    That’s a circular argument.

    Is self-actualisation really the standard that morality is based upon?”
    Nope.

    But that was your previous point. Have you reversed your position from below?

    “And who is it that determines the good?”
    Life, happiness, self actualization- the usual suspects.

    “It is conceivable we could have evolved different morals, such that that rape and murder would be right. ”
    Unlikely- murder is defined as killing that is wrong.

    So you believe that murder is wrong? Or do you believe there is not such thing as murder? Or do you believe that sapient life has determined that killing is wrong, therefore there is such as thing as murder? This trilemma is an interesting conundrum. The affirmative in the first and second questions affirm objective morals or that there are no objective morals respectively. The third, if affirmative, renders moral values completely arbitrary (ironically the problem posed to Euthyphro is turned back upon the atheist), thus its not unlikely at all that we could have evolved different moral values given different societal pressures. That view is subjectivism and cannot be lived consistantly.

    (Unlike the atheist the theist is free affirm that killing is wrong, and so it is the superior worldview.)

    We can point out they are failing at that.

    The subjectivist can only point out that we feel they are failing at their own self-actualisation or the betterment of society. As it is a given they feel the opposite what more can you say if there is not a higher qualitative standard of right and wrong to condemn or commend the practice of something, or worth of a human life?

    But it doesn’t look like you are a subjectivist.

    Insisting that others adhere to a differant standard is nonsensical- morality is supposed to be universal.

    That is an argument for disobeying the law. As it is, the problem with Hitler was that his belief were false- a problem exaccerbated due to his refusal to question them.

    Are you agreeing that objective moral values do exist?

  12. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    “No, they (humanists) set human happiness as the standard. Specifically the set the point of morality as the good of sapient life.”

    “I’m surprised you’d think snorting cocaine is morally neutral. Your obviously not in law enforcement. :-) ”
    Illegal is not immoral.
    “If so, should we obey the law?”
    Depends on the law. I know a person who would have been put in a… very bad place if the People’s Republic found him.
    “What if you are Hitler and genuinely believe extermination of the Jews is needed so a new age of prosperity and human happiness can begin. ”
    That is an argument for disobeying the law. As it is, the problem with Hitler was that his belief were false- a problem exaccerbated due to his refusal to question them.

    Our back-and-forth on this particular issue I think really telling how an atheist cannot avoid referring to higher ground to base their morals. The civil law of a nation, for law abiding citizens at least, represents a standard that is above any individual, to which all of that nation are accountable and can justly be condemned when certain actions are committed. But Samuel Skinner thinks it is OK to break the law by sniffing cocaine, that there are laws one should weigh and analyse to judge what is moral, and that it is even good to disobey an unjust law and lawmaker such as the People’s Republic.

    My point here is Samuel is referring to a standard that stands above the law. It transcends human government qualitatively. My point throughout is to show that without giving an explanation for what that transcendent standard is and why it stands above the law and judges it, then that standard is ad hoc or contrived. As such morals are arbitrary and totally subjective, and when human life or “sapience” is employed as the higher standard, the explanation succumbs to an unjustified specieism.

    It follows then that one cannot condemn with real meaning or authority that something is wrong. Not even atrocious acts such as rape and Hitler’s ‘final solution.’ In the same way one cannot commend actions such as helping the poor as did Mother Theresa, or rescuing a drowning child. In fact, one cannot affirm without being contradictory anything we call good, such as love and kindness, generosity and pleasure.

    The above are examples of things that we all want to do. We want to condemn and commend things, and presume we are speaking more authoritatively that just declaring our personal feelings or tastes when we do so. Moreover, it is impossible to live like all things were amoral – without morality (which is the view a moral-subjectivist must hold if he is to be consistent.) As Paul states in Romans 2:14-15

    Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

    As atheism cannot provide an answer to explain the objective standards and inherent value of human life we can know from human experience, atheism is an inadequate basis for morality. This is not to say atheists cannot be moral. It is to say that atheists cannot live consistently with applied atheism. Emmanuel Kant says to make sense of our moral experience we must live as if God exists. As theism better explains the existence of this higher law, it should be should be preferred.

  13. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD! With this in mind take another look at the response to the Euthyphro Dilemma.

    So you are using your own taste to justify anothers taste to justify your own taste?

    I see the problem. But that is not what I believe. Straw man fallacy. Go back to my response to Euthyphro Dilemma.

    You are taking the position that God is a standard for God… because God is a standard.

    You also exclude animals from those who suffer.

    No I don’t- if they are sapient, they are in. Sapience isn’t a human only quality.

    And how do you, (on atheism at least) a mere animal, get to proclaim the following?

    Animal is simply a classification that means I am mobile, multicelled and can’t produce my own food. It has no bearing on my ability or inability to make moral choices.

    Ok… look at the back and forth of the discussion thus far.

    (1) Why are things wrong? Because we are sapient.
    (2) Why is sapience the standard of what’s wrong? Because only sapience can feel pain.
    (3) Why is pain and suffering wrong, such as Hilter’s beliefs caused? His beliefs were false.

    That’s a circular argument.

    1 Why are things wrong? Because they make sapient life suffer.
    2 Why is sapience the standard? because only sapience can suffer.
    3 Why is pain and suffering wrong? Because it isn’t what sapients desire.
    4 Why is Hitler beliefs bad? Because they were false and caused massive amounts of suffering.

    If people didn’t mind suffering, causing them to suffer wouldn’t be wrong.

    But that was your previous point. Have you reversed your position from below?

    Self-actualization refers to an individual living up to their maximum potential, It is good, but it is not something morality is based on.

    (Unlike the atheist the theist is free affirm that killing is wrong, and so it is the superior worldview.)

    How do you deal with warfare? Or capital punishment? Or police situations? Killing is not always wrong if it prevents worse things from happening.

    So you believe that murder is wrong? Or do you believe there is not such thing as murder? Or do you believe that sapient life has determined that killing is wrong, therefore there is such as thing as murder? This trilemma is an interesting conundrum. The affirmative in the first and second questions affirm objective morals or that there are no objective morals respectively. The third, if affirmative, renders moral values completely arbitrary (ironically the problem posed to Euthyphro is turned back upon the atheist), thus its not unlikely at all that we could have evolved different moral values given different societal pressures. That view is subjectivism and cannot be lived consistantly.

    What is considered murder is culturally determined. Soldiers, police officers, self defense and the like are not considered murders when they kill, but my be congradulated for their actions.

    The subjectivist can only point out that we feel they are failing at their own self-actualisation or the betterment of society. As it is a given they feel the opposite what more can you say if there is not a higher qualitative standard of right and wrong to condemn or commend the practice of something, or worth of a human life?

    Self-actualization is irrelevant. And we don’t use feeling to decide things about the world- if we want to see how they are, we can do polls, look at statistics, etc. For example, we could look at how the rate of infant-deaths decreases with increased medical care and accuse those who reduce the amount of medical available as immoral.

    But it doesn’t look like you are a subjectivist.

    I believe things are wrong, but not inherently so, but because of the effects they have and what they need to have in order to occur.

    Are you agreeing that objective moral values do exist?

    I am saying objective harm exists.

    Our back-and-forth on this particular issue I think really telling how an atheist cannot avoid referring to higher ground to base their morals. The civil law of a nation, for law abiding citizens at least, represents a standard that is above any individual, to which all of that nation are accountable and can justly be condemned when certain actions are committed.

    Except nations can have immoral laws. Laws are comprised by the legislature, which is a collection of people. They represent their constituents, not the truth or morality.

    But Samuel Skinner thinks it is OK to break the law by sniffing cocaine, that there are laws one should weigh and analyse to judge what is moral, and that it is even good to disobey an unjust law and lawmaker such as the People’s Republic.

    Actually, it would be okay… except doing so funds the drug cartels. Growing it on your own doesn’t.

    As such morals are arbitrary and totally subjective, and when human life or “sapience” is employed as the higher standard, the explanation succumbs to an unjustified specieism.

    Sapience actually includes a fair number of animals.

    Not even atrocious acts such as rape and Hitler’s ‘final solution.’

    Sure we can. They caused pain and suffering to sapients on a massive scale.

    In the same way one cannot commend actions such as helping the poor as did Mother Theresa,

    Don’t bait me:)

    I’ll explain how I view morality. It doesn’t exist outside of people or other moral actors. A rock doesn’t have morality, a planet doesn’t have morality and single person alone doesn’t have morality. Morality only enters when there are other people. There isn’t anything magical about it- it is the thing that enables us all to get along without killing each other.

    When people say something is wrong, evil, heinious, etc, it doesn’t mean that it offends the universe or violates some immortal standard- the universe doesn’t care. It does mean that it has caused pain and suffering to creatures that can feel it.

    The reason we care so strongly about it is we are often the aformention creatures.

  14. Dominic Bnonn Tennant
    Dominic Bnonn Tennant says:

    You are taking the position that God is a standard for God… because God is a standard.

    Until you are able to learn the distinction between objective and subjective standards—which are the very things under discussion here—I’d ask you to stop wasting everyone’s time by trying to pass off this insipid equivocation as an argument.

    If people didn’t mind suffering, causing them to suffer wouldn’t be wrong.

    You’ve redefined the term “wrong” to simply mean “that which causes suffering”. And your justification for what makes it wrong is that sapient creatures don’t desire it. That’s a flagrantly illicit move, as anyone with even a modicum of ability to analyze ethical issues can see. Desire doesn’t dictate morality; neither have you given any reason to elevate this particular desire above others. So your whole thesis is totally arbitrary. I simply have to reject it, and you have no grounds for trying to impose it.

    Self-actualization refers to an individual living up to their maximum potential, It is good, but it is not something morality is based on.

    What does “good” even mean in that sentence, under your view?

    How do you deal with warfare? Or capital punishment? Or police situations? Killing is not always wrong if it prevents worse things from happening.

    Are you really this naive of Christian ethics, or are you just asking for rhetorical effect? Christians have ethical grounds for war, capital punishment, and civil defense. On the other hand, your own position commits you to the view that the greatest good would be to kill everyone, including yourself, since this is the only way to maximally reduce suffering.

    Self-actualization is irrelevant. And we don’t use feeling to decide things about the world- if we want to see how they are, we can do polls, look at statistics, etc. For example, we could look at how the rate of infant-deaths decreases with increased medical care and accuse those who reduce the amount of medical available as immoral.

    This is an amazingly confused statement. You don’t use feelings to decide things about the world? What about your feelings regarding the rate of infant deaths? Or are you going back on your original thesis that ethics are grounded in the desire to alleviate suffering? You know that desire is a feeling, right?

    I am saying objective harm exists.

    Maybe you could define “objective harm” so that we can comment further on that.

    Except nations can have immoral laws. Laws are comprised by the legislature, which is a collection of people. They represent their constituents, not the truth or morality.

    How do you know that the laws are immoral? Just because they conflict with your particular desires? Some other majority’s desires? What grounds do you even have for arguing that the same ethics must apply to everyone? That they transcend national borders? Why can’t one country rightly hold to different ethics than another?

    Sapience actually includes a fair number of animals.

    You’ve notably failed to define sapience. On the one hand, it can be defined to exclude anything except humans, since humans are the exemplar of sapience and other creatures merely evidence it by analogy. On the other hand, sapience can be defined to include even birds. Why don’t you give us a definition of sapience and then justify it, and explain how you know that only those animals encapsulated by it can suffer, and no others?

    I’ll explain how I view morality. It doesn’t exist outside of people or other moral actors. A rock doesn’t have morality, a planet doesn’t have morality and single person alone doesn’t have morality. Morality only enters when there are other people. There isn’t anything magical about it- it is the thing that enables us all to get along without killing each other.

    That’s reasonable as far as it goes; but of course, a single person alone does have morality, because morality is defined in relationship to God. But you have at least correctly identified that morality implies persons. Pity you can’t spot the obvious inference from there regarding objective morality—which I note that you’re trying very hard to hang onto despite that your worldview, in the final analysis, is completely amoral.

    When people say something is wrong, evil, heinious, etc, it doesn’t mean that it offends the universe or violates some immortal standard- the universe doesn’t care. It does mean that it has caused pain and suffering to creatures that can feel it.

    That’s manifestly untrue; I’d go so far as to call it a blatant lie, except that I think you’re too naive to have noticed that it’s false. In fact, most people do mean that something violates an “immortal” standard when they say it is wrong. What most people certainly don’t mean when they say something is wrong is merely that it causes undesirable suffering. That just isn’t what “wrong” means. On the contrary, people get morally offended at something which causes suffering because causing suffering is wrong—meaning that it violates a real, non-arbitrary standard.

  15. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    Until you are able to learn the distinction between objective and subjective standards—which are the very things under discussion here—I’d ask you to stop wasting everyone’s time by trying to pass off this insipid equivocation as an argument.

    This is not answering the question. Objective is available to everyone- subjective is a personal measure.

    You’ve redefined the term “wrong” to simply mean “that which causes suffering”. And your justification for what makes it wrong is that sapient creatures don’t desire it. That’s a flagrantly illicit move, as anyone with even a modicum of ability to analyze ethical issues can see. Desire doesn’t dictate morality; neither have you given any reason to elevate this particular desire above others. So your whole thesis is totally arbitrary. I simply have to reject it, and you have no grounds for trying to impose it.

    Desire does dictate morality. It is wrong to have sex with someone if they don’t want it- it is called rape, but if they want it it isn’t immoral. Same with causing people pain- what the military puts people through would be considered torture for some parts except they are volunteers.

    I have shown that your belief that desire is irrelevant is false.

    What does “good” even mean in that sentence, under your view?

    Worth having.

    Are you really this naive of Christian ethics, or are you just asking for rhetorical effect? Christians have ethical grounds for war, capital punishment, and civil defense. On the other hand, your own position commits you to the view that the greatest good would be to kill everyone, including yourself, since this is the only way to maximally reduce suffering.

    Except that isn’t what individuals want.

    I am aware that there have been ethical system based on Christianity (just war comes to mind)- I was pointing out that killing is not always wrong. Which the ethic of just war accepts.

    You can’t say “killing is wrong” and treat it as an absolute if the ethical system you are using accepts that there is legitamate killing.

    This is an amazingly confused statement. You don’t use feelings to decide things about the world? What about your feelings regarding the rate of infant deaths? Or are you going back on your original thesis that ethics are grounded in the desire to alleviate suffering? You know that desire is a feeling, right?

    I use feeling to decide actions. I use information to access how the world works. Feeling should NOT be used for accessing how things work.

    Maybe you could define “objective harm” so that we can comment further on that.

    Objective harm is something that causes pain to a person by its nature and their reaction to it, while specifically excluding personal perferences. For example, blasting music at a person would be an objective harm if it killed their ear drums, but not towards a person who was totally deaf.

    How do you know that the laws are immoral? Just because they conflict with your particular desires? Some other majority’s desires? What grounds do you even have for arguing that the same ethics must apply to everyone? That they transcend national borders? Why can’t one country rightly hold to different ethics than another?

    Because there in one human nature and one best way to do things. Deviations from this increase the amount of suffering based on how large the deviation is.

    <blockquote.You’ve notably failed to define sapience. On the one hand, it can be defined to exclude anything except humans, since humans are the exemplar of sapience and other creatures merely evidence it by analogy. On the other hand, sapience can be defined to include even birds. Why don’t you give us a definition of sapience and then justify it, and explain how you know that only those animals encapsulated by it can suffer, and no others?

    Cats
    Dogs
    Dolphins
    Apes
    Chimpanzees
    Parrots
    Etc (Not a biologist- there are definately more)

    That’s reasonable as far as it goes; but of course, a single person alone does have morality, because morality is defined in relationship to God. But you have at least correctly identified that morality implies persons. Pity you can’t spot the obvious inference from there regarding objective morality—which I note that you’re trying very hard to hang onto despite that your worldview, in the final analysis, is completely amoral.

    As an atheist I obvious dispute the first part. And yes, I am admitting the universe is amoral- morality only emerges when there is more than one actor.

    The universe is entirely amoral. After all, none of its component parts are moral and they do not have any emergent properties that make the universe any different. To claim it is anything but amoral is similar to claiming that for any other inaminate object.

    That’s manifestly untrue; I’d go so far as to call it a blatant lie, except that I think you’re too naive to have noticed that it’s false. In fact, most people do mean that something violates an “immortal” standard when they say it is wrong. What most people certainly don’t mean when they say something is wrong is merely that it causes undesirable suffering. That just isn’t what “wrong” means. On the contrary, people get morally offended at something which causes suffering because causing suffering is wrong—meaning that it violates a real, non-arbitrary standard.

    Assuming your own premises isn’t helping. People are fine with suffering- do you see how much they cheer on the building of prisons and the extension of prison terms? Law and Order they call it in the US.

    Obviously, suffering isn’t always considered a problem when it happens- in fact it was the goal of the prison system. It depends on who is suffering and why that is the problem. If we see a kid hit by a car and mostly unhurt, we are outraged at the neglant driver- if we see the same kid hit a parked car while showing off with no hands on the wheel, we find it a just reward, even if the amount of pain is the same!

  16. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Desire does dictate morality. It is wrong to have sex with someone if they don’t want it- it is called rape, but if they want it it isn’t immoral. Same with causing people pain- what the military puts people through would be considered torture for some parts except they are volunteers.

    I have shown that your belief that desire is irrelevant is false.

    You are profoundly confused.

    Firstly, the fact that desire factors in moral choices is not the same thing as to say that desire dictates morality. If you truly believe that desire dictates morality, then you are left in the ridiculous position of affirming that rape is right for the rapist, even though it’s wrong for the person being raped.

    Secondly, desire manifestly does not dictate what is right and wrong, since obvious counter-examples spring to mind. Punishment of any kind tends to be undesirable to the criminal—yet justice is at the heart of how morality works out in society. Are you saying that it’s wrong to punish criminals because they don’t want to be punished? Or are you just assuming that the desire of the majority is sufficient to establish what is right?

    Thirdly, you are being completely arbitrary in your selection of what kinds of desires qualify as moral ones. If morality is dictated merely by desire, then why is desiring and raping a woman any more or less moral than desiring and eating a chocolate?

    What does “good” even mean in that sentence, under your view?

    Worth having.

    Again, this has been thoroughly refuted already. You’re just repeating the same insipid, irrational “arguments”, just as you do on SCAE’s blog. This marks you as a troll.

    your own position commits you to the view that the greatest good would be to kill everyone, including yourself, since this is the only way to maximally reduce suffering.

    Except that isn’t what individuals want.

    So what? Pretty much everyone desires that there be no more suffering. The fact that they don’t desire to die may be factored in under your view, but what grounds to you have for saying that it should override the maximal reduction of suffering? Killing everyone will result in an eternal state of no suffering. Conversely, any other course of action will result in suffering of some kind, even if much enjoyment factors in as well. What makes the one state better than the other? Your opinion? Ex hypothesi, I disagree. Ex hypothesi, I have a strong desire to eliminate all suffering. Ex hypothesi, I have the means to do. Ex hypothesi, I wipe out all mankind, including myself, since this is the only rational course of action under your system of ethics (if it can even be dignified with such a title). Have I done wrong? If so, why? If not, don’t you think there is a problem with your ethical system? You’ve set up this absurd tension between suffering and desire in your worldview. Maybe you should resolve that.

    Feeling should NOT be used for accessing how things work.

    That would seem to exclude you from being able to make any arguments about how morality works. Aren’t you relying on your moral intuitions?

    Objective harm is something that causes pain to a person by its nature and their reaction to it, while specifically excluding personal perferences. For example, blasting music at a person would be an objective harm if it killed their ear drums, but not towards a person who was totally deaf.

    Well, that’s a fairly trivial statement. What does objective harm (aka “harm”) have to do with morality, though?

    Because there in one human nature and one best way to do things. Deviations from this increase the amount of suffering based on how large the deviation is.

    Well, by that logic homosexuality is wrong, so at least we have something in common.

    Cats
    Dogs
    Dolphins
    Apes
    Chimpanzees
    Parrots
    Etc (Not a biologist- there are definately more)

    You’ve given me a list of animals you think have sapience. I’m not sure why, because my question was: Why don’t you give us a definition of sapience and then justify it, and explain how you know that only those animals encapsulated by it can suffer, and no others? You’re astoundingly silent on that topic, aren’t you? Try again.

    As an atheist I obvious dispute the first part. And yes, I am admitting the universe is amoral- morality only emerges when there is more than one actor.

    This is a just-so story. You admit that there is nothing in the universe which can account for morality, and then wave your hand and say it just “emerges”. In other words, you don’t have a clue; you don’t have any explanation at all—but the rational, coherent, highly plausible theistic explanation is just a bit uncomfortable for you so you’ll just keep believing the inexplicable, impossible, comical lie that morality “emerges” from a universe in which, by rights, the very notion of it is actually incoherent. Talking about “emergent” qualities is just the atheist equivalent of “God did it”.

    After all, none of its component parts are moral and they do not have any emergent properties that make the universe any different. To claim it is anything but amoral is similar to claiming that for any other inaminate object.

    Well, now you’re taking things even further and just outright contradicting yourself. You admit that not only do you have no explanation at all, but that your “morality emerges” just-so story is actually complete balderdash. Notice: you say that to claim that the universe is anything but amoral is similar to claiming that for any other inanimate object (ie, stupid). So you’re making animateness some kind of standard, where we can start claiming things are moral. Inanimate objects can’t be moral; animate ones can. Okay, well presumably you actually mean more than that—a tree is animate, but not moral. So what you really mean is intelligent or, to use your favorite word, sapient. But let’s just go with animate for now.

    The obvious problem is that your view can easily be extended to show that human beings aren’t animate. None of their constituent parts are animate, and these parts don’t have any emergent properties which make them any different. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so if this logic applies to the universe and morality, it must apply to humans and animateness. Cut off my arm and it’s just a piece of dead meat. It’s inanimate. The atoms which comprise it and the rest of my body are inanimate. In fact, there is no component part of humans which is animate, or which evidences emergent animate properties. Human beings are no more animated, under your view, than a river or a chemical reaction in a beaker. We move and produce energy and waste and whatnot—but that’s not animate. That’s just a physical system going about its physical processes. Your view is so naively reductionistic that you can leave no room for the obvious. So you contradict yourself by making animateness the precondition for morality when there can be no such thing in your view. And of course, that being the case, there’s no such thing as morality either. The logic extends.

    Obviously, suffering isn’t always considered a problem when it happens- in fact it was the goal of the prison system. It depends on who is suffering and why that is the problem. If we see a kid hit by a car and mostly unhurt, we are outraged at the neglant driver- if we see the same kid hit a parked car while showing off with no hands on the wheel, we find it a just reward, even if the amount of pain is the same!

    Wait, so now goals factor in? Goals like…justice? Where did this come from? I thought the whole system was grounded in desire and suffering. Here you are refuting yourself again. Obviously, suffering and desire are not the grounding factors in what constitutes moral actions. They are merely obvious elements which often have significant roles in them. In fact, you are explicitly presupposing a different deciding factor—namely justice. So for all your bluster and waffling about your absurd ethical theories, the whole time you’ve actually been basing them on some other moral theory (probably not a very considered one from the looks of things; I’m guessing you’re just relying on your moral intuitions and social conditioning). Your supposed ethical theory doesn’t prescribe morality. It doesn’t even describe it. It just presupposes it. Either you’re extremely dense, or you’re trying to waste our time here.

  17. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    Firstly, the fact that desire factors in moral choices is not the same thing as to say that desire dictates morality. If you truly believe that desire dictates morality, then you are left in the ridiculous position of affirming that rape is right for the rapist, even though it’s wrong for the person being raped.

    If people don’t mind pain, than it doesn’t matter. The only reason rape is wrong is because the person being subjected to it doesn’t want it.

    You seem to think I believe all desire are equal- they aren’t. In this case the rapists desire is to have power (rape isn’t usally about sex), a desire which isn’t bad, but is being used to justify causing pain and suffering to others which makes it wrong. Additionally, the rapist themself would object to being raped- they are being hypocritical in their desires.

    Secondly, desire manifestly does not dictate what is right and wrong, since obvious counter-examples spring to mind. Punishment of any kind tends to be undesirable to the criminal—yet justice is at the heart of how morality works out in society. Are you saying that it’s wrong to punish criminals because they don’t want to be punished? Or are you just assuming that the desire of the majority is sufficient to establish what is right?

    We don’t draw and quarter people anymore. Criminal justice exists to ensure we live in a safe and ordered society- a virtue that even criminals value. For them to object would be hypocritical- after all, they would go to the police just like any others if someone tried to kill them, rob them, etc except in places where the police are useless and we get to see what conditions are like without police and the rule of law.

    The system exsts to prevent us from returning to Mont’au (cookie if you get the referance :)

    Thirdly, you are being completely arbitrary in your selection of what kinds of desires qualify as moral ones. If morality is dictated merely by desire, then why is desiring and raping a woman any more or less moral than desiring and eating a chocolate?

    The chocolate does not itself has desires. The person being raped does.

    Again, this has been thoroughly refuted already. You’re just repeating the same insipid, irrational “arguments”, just as you do on SCAE’s blog. This marks you as a troll.

    Which is why you don’t bother showing how it has been refuted. Because copy and paste or merely posting a hyperlink would break your hands. Or do you simply like asserting statements with no proof whatsoever?

    SCAE? Are you talking about this guy?
    http://www.thinkingchristian.net/2008/12/discover-god/

    I was banned from that place for being abrasively sarcastic after the writer repeatedly made logical fallacies and I pointed them out… which is hypocritical when he said things like:

    “I know that you absolutely never check for data on anything, but here are some resources showing how homosexual behaviors are not good for anyone, least of all the homosexual:”

    Because, as well all know, calling your opponents idiots is okay if you do it carefully enough.

    So what? Pretty much everyone desires that there be no more suffering. The fact that they don’t desire to die may be factored in under your view, but what grounds to you have for saying that it should override the maximal reduction of suffering? Killing everyone will result in an eternal state of no suffering. Conversely, any other course of action will result in suffering of some kind, even if much enjoyment factors in as well. What makes the one state better than the other? Your opinion? Ex hypothesi, I disagree. Ex hypothesi, I have a strong desire to eliminate all suffering. Ex hypothesi, I have the means to do. Ex hypothesi, I wipe out all mankind, including myself, since this is the only rational course of action under your system of ethics (if it can even be dignified with such a title). Have I done wrong? If so, why? If not, don’t you think there is a problem with your ethical system? You’ve set up this absurd tension between suffering and desire in your worldview. Maybe you should resolve that.

    Because my view is based on people’s desires and people do NOT desire that. They wish to minimize suffering, which can be done without killing everyone. Think The Culture.

    That would seem to exclude you from being able to make any arguments about how morality works. Aren’t you relying on your moral intuitions?

    Only for immediate reactions. Planning and long term actions require justification.

    Well, that’s a fairly trivial statement. What does objective harm (aka “harm”) have to do with morality, though?

    Because people are opposed to objective harm.

    Well, by that logic homosexuality is wrong, so at least we have something in common.

    You truely have no idea what I am saying, do you?

    That is the logic you used to condemn homosexulaity- and it was the same logic that was used by the Progressives. The problem (aside from really bad statistics) is that the same logic can be used to ban alcohol. And sports. And contact with other people. And having genders at all- after all, things would be simpler if everyone was asexual.

    I avoid that because people desire those things, even igf they have the possibility of harming themselves. Which is why I don’t object if someone goes mountain climbing.

    And, before you strawman, yes, if people have obligations, they have to consider others before their own desires.

    Why don’t you give us a definition of sapience and then justify it, and explain how you know that only those animals encapsulated by it can suffer, and no others?

    Because the sentance is inchorent. How can I give a definition and justify it? The only reason I can attack the definition of the word atheism in the dictionary is by pointing out that I am using a different one.

    Additionally, you give it right there- “only those animals encapsulated by it can suffer:. Asking me how we know the inhabiants can suffer is simple- we use the same methods that we use to figure out if other people are suffering.

    You admit that there is nothing in the universe which can account for morality,

    There is nothing in the universe applies the same for art. Or love. Or a host of other things we value. These things only exit because we evolved to have them.

    In other words, you don’t have a clue; you don’t have any explanation at al

    I do- I am using account to mean there is nothing you can point to in the external universe and say “it is justified by this”.

    but the rational, coherent, highly plausible theistic explanation is just a bit uncomfortable for you so you’ll just keep believing the inexplicable, impossible, comical lie that morality “emerges” from a universe in which, by rights, the very notion of it is actually incoherent. Talking about “emergent” qualities is just the atheist equivalent of “God did it”.

    The universe is amoral. We all know that. You can ignore it all you want, but the fact is reality doesn’t care about human standards of right and wrong- ships with preists sink as often as those without.

    The theist explanation is not even remotely better- you just make morality God’s desires. But to avoid the problems you claim God is better and gets to ignore the objections when people do it… even though they are logical objections and cannot be handwaved away.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so if this logic applies to the universe and morality, it must apply to humans and animateness.

    Except that one is an emergent property (sapience and animence) and one isn’t (morality). You can make an object as big as you want to and it will not become a wit more morally inclined. Does the Sun care that it will kill us all? Does the heart of our galaxy care? Does the galaxy itself? You claim that it doesn’t enter until we hit universe level, even though emergent properties start showing up much earlier- cells are animate for instance.

    That’s just a physical system going about its physical processes.

    So what? Thinking about morality is a physical process- just because the processor is made of carbon and hydrogen and water doesn’t make the results any worse. Just because we are deterministic doen’t dump morality.

    The logic extends.

    And merely shows that morality isn’t a property of the universe. Which is why I am not a believer in absolute morality- I hold to objective morality.

    I thought the whole system was grounded in desire and suffering.

    Goals are based on desires. People want justice because of what it brings. At least, that is why the desire is embeded into our brains.

    the whole time you’ve actually been basing them on some other moral theory (probably not a very considered one from the looks of things; I’m guessing you’re just relying on your moral intuitions and social conditioning).

    Don’t leap to conclusions- you might find you have a hard time leaving the isle.

    I desire justice because I want to have the same standards applied to me. Most people value justice because they consider it good- and why do they consider it good is the question you don’t bother asking.

    Your supposed ethical theory doesn’t prescribe morality.

    Shareholder (not the company versions) decisions are the most obvious example where this thinking is explicately used.

    It doesn’t even describe it.

    It does. Morality is to the goal of achieving peoples desires, with the problem being people’s desires often conflict. Like economics, but one man, one vote and you have to vote consistantly- hypocricy is wrong because it is something no one wants- unless they are doing it themselves.

    It just presupposes it.

    It presupposes the existance of desires. Of course, given your insistance that morality is absolute, I’d love to see how you convince machine life to obey your morality. It is impossible for you to do so unless they have already been programmed to do so.

    Either you’re extremely dense, or you’re trying to waste our time here.

    Given you misunderstood me repeatedly and showed like understanding of what I was saying, the problem is on your end.

    Interestingly enough these conversation has been civil until you came along. I mean actually civil, not civil with veiled insults.

  18. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Samuel’s above reply left me mostly confused. Lets look at the logic.

    Premise 1.)

    The universe is entirely amoral. After all, none of its component parts are moral and they do not have any emergent properties that make the universe any different. To claim it is anything but amoral is similar to claiming that for any other inaminate object.

    Premise 2.)
    Humans are a component part of the universe.

    Premise 3.)
    Therefore, Humans are amoral

    Perhaps Samuel meant to exclude human and sentient life from premise one. But as the argument stands it is logically sound so the conclusion is inescapable and necessary. The trouble is the conclusion is at total odds with our intuitions – that there are obviously things that are right and wrong objectively. Therefore, one of the premises must be denied.

    The theist has an immediate escape by denying the first premise. Samuel will have to either retract or modify his statement that forms the first premise, if he is to avoid the conclusion. He must also give an account as to how objective morals exist in a universe without God. Another rather sticky alternative route to avoid the conclusion is to pronounce premise two false, thus rendering humans not a component part of the universe. The trouble is it seems that human life is a component part of the universe.

    Samuel’s reply gives us some insight as to how an objective moral property may come about in the universe.

    Except that one is an emergent property (sapience and animence) and one isn’t (morality). You can make an object as big as you want to and it will not become a wit more morally inclined. Does the Sun care that it will kill us all? Does the heart of our galaxy care? Does the galaxy itself? You claim that it doesn’t enter until we hit universe level, even though emergent properties start showing up much earlier- cells are animate for instance.

    From this I discern that Samuel thinks the (i) morality is not an emergent property, and (ii) the emergent property of animatedness shows up in cells. I grant (ii) and I don’t know why he switched talking to motion, rather than morality, but (i) gives me pause in light of this next statement.

    my view is based on people’s desires…

    So a sun will burn on Heidi and not care (or even know) if it giving her cancer, and so the action of burning on Heidi is neither moral nor immoral, even though the Heidi, now a skin-cancer victim, did not desire it. That sounds reasonable. In an amoral universe there is no moral right and wrong. Besides, moral properties are properties of persons and the sun is not a personal being.

    But what if a person, say Brom, deliberately made the sun-protection factor in the sun-lotion useless and gave it to Heidi, desiring her to get burnt and possibly get skin-cancer to alleviated his emotional pain from Heidi dumping him. He knew that Heidi did not desire pain, burnt skin or skin-cancer, yet did it anyway. We would both agree that Brom did something wrong. From entirely natural phenomenon (the sun burning, Brom’s desire to harm Heidi, Heidi’s desire not to burn, bad sun-lotion) the property of wrongness has emerged. How could this have happened if (i) morality isn’t an emergent property?

    Perhaps the moral property of wrongness emerged because of Heidi’s desire. But remember, it was Brom’s desire that Heidi get burnt and develop skin-cancer. Also remember that Brom is a sapient and animated creature, and from his perspective it was right, for it alleviated his own pain. How can one affirm that what Brom did was wrong, unless you refer to higher standard above Heidi and Brom? Their desires cannot be the standard, that much is clear. And it can’t be Brom’s hypocrisy that he himself would not desire to be burnt or to have skin cancer, for that is referring to higher moral standard – do unto others as your would have them do unto you) – which itself is a moral standard that needs grounding. One can think of many examples where the property of rightness or wrongness emerges, and these still needs to be a foundation for their being.

    Much better moral properties foundation be the inherent value of human life, and since value is bestowed only by personal beings and inherent value can only be bestowed by a personal being qualitatively above all humans beings, we have good grounds for thinking that God exists based solely upon our moral intuitions.

  19. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    I apologize for my delay. On a ironic note my laptop started to burn (burning plastic smells horrible), but mostly the delay was due to laziness.

    Premise 3.)
    Therefore, Humans are amoral

    Perhaps Samuel meant to exclude human and sentient life from premise one. But as the argument stands it is logically sound so the conclusion is inescapable and necessary. The trouble is the conclusion is at total odds with our intuitions – that there are obviously things that are right and wrong objectively. Therefore, one of the premises must be denied.

    The theist has an immediate escape by denying the first premise. Samuel will have to either retract or modify his statement that forms the first premise, if he is to avoid the conclusion. He must also give an account as to how objective morals exist in a universe without God. Another rather sticky alternative route to avoid the conclusion is to pronounce premise two false, thus rendering humans not a component part of the universe. The trouble is it seems that human life is a component part of the universe.

    Samuel’s reply gives us some insight as to how an objective moral property may come about in the universe.

    Premise 3 should be a conclusion, not a premise.

    Of course I intended to exclude humans from the first premise- I was attempting to show that morality is only available based off of sapients and thus it would be senseless to include them. If I had said it the way you imply, it would be me embracing nihlism.

    “there are obviously things that are right and wrong objectively. ”

    I accept that. Don’t you subscribe to absolute moral standards?

    From this I discern that Samuel thinks the (i) morality is not an emergent property, and (ii) the emergent property of animatedness shows up in cells. I grant (ii) and I don’t know why he switched talking to motion, rather than morality, but (i) gives me pause in light of this next statement.

    I was rebutting this:

    The obvious problem is that your view can easily be extended to show that human beings aren’t animate. None of their constituent parts are animate, and these parts don’t have any emergent properties which make them any different. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so if this logic applies to the universe and morality, it must apply to humans and animateness. Cut off my arm and it’s just a piece of dead meat. It’s inanimate. The atoms which comprise it and the rest of my body are inanimate. In fact, there is no component part of humans which is animate, or which evidences emergent animate properties. Human beings are no more animated, under your view, than a river or a chemical reaction in a beaker. We move and produce energy and waste and whatnot—but that’s not animate. That’s just a physical system going about its physical processes. Your view is so naively reductionistic that you can leave no room for the obvious. So you contradict yourself by making animateness the precondition for morality when there can be no such thing in your view. And of course, that being the case, there’s no such thing as morality either. The logic extends.

    But what if a person, say Brom, deliberately made the sun-protection factor in the sun-lotion useless and gave it to Heidi, desiring her to get burnt and possibly get skin-cancer to alleviated his emotional pain from Heidi dumping him. He knew that Heidi did not desire pain, burnt skin or skin-cancer, yet did it anyway. We would both agree that Brom did something wrong. From entirely natural phenomenon (the sun burning, Brom’s desire to harm Heidi, Heidi’s desire not to burn, bad sun-lotion) the property of wrongness has emerged. How could this have happened if (i) morality isn’t an emergent property?

    “emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.”

    Adding in another human being isn’t exactly a simple interaction.

    Their desires cannot be the standard, that much is clear. And it can’t be Brom’s hypocrisy that he himself would not desire to be burnt or to have skin cancer, for that is referring to higher moral standard – do unto others as your would have them do unto you) – which itself is a moral standard that needs grounding.

    Why not? Does Brom desire hypocrisy? Or is he just engaging in it to benefit himself… which would be ignoring morality and hence evil.

    Much better moral properties foundation be the inherent value of human life,

    So strangers don’t have the same value as yourself? How do you define human life?

    inherent value can only be bestowed by a personal being

    ?

  20. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Samuel,

    Of course I intended to exclude humans from the first premise- I was attempting to show that morality is only available based off of sapients and thus it would be senseless to include them. If I had said it the way you imply, it would be me embracing nihlism.

    I thought so. But why do you exclude sapient humans? Sapience on your view is a mere mechanism of the cold universe. Moreover, such a move is ad hoc.

    Don’t you subscribe to absolute moral standards?

    I hope this is rhetorical as I’ve made it clear I do think there is an absolute moral standard.

    “emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.”
    Adding in another human being isn’t exactly a simple interaction.

    I suppose this depends on your view of what a human is. But on your own view morality can’t arise when there are no other people, so you haven’t avoided the question how morality emerged?

    Why not? Does Brom desire hypocrisy? Or is he just engaging in it to benefit himself… which would be ignoring morality and hence evil.

    Desire? – In the example of Brom and Heidi I tried to show you that desire is not a good way to determine what is objectively right and wrong. Both had competing desires so (if you are to avoid complete amorality) at least one of them must have been objectively right or wrong.

    Why not? – I told you why it can’t be Brom’s hypocrisy that is the standard! Because claiming that as the standard is referring to another different standard – do to others as you would have them do unto you.

    “ignoring morality hence evil” – evil is an objective judgement, exactly the kind of thing you need to ground ontologically.

    So strangers don’t have the same value as yourself?

    I don’t know how you got that from my comment.

    How do you define human life?

    I don’t know why you’d have difficulty with the definition of human life. I would have thought something like that was obvious. I have said before defining “sapience” is more problematic than defining “human life.”

    The easiest way is to define “human” is as the descendants of Adam. For the purposes of this argument I define human life as the only race of sapient creatures who, given the proper functioning of their cognitive faculties, have the ability to make moral judgements as well as can be held morally accountable themselves.

    Yes, this does mean I think animals do not have sapience.

  21. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    I thought so. But why do you exclude sapient humans? Sapience on your view is a mere mechanism of the cold universe. Moreover, such a move is ad hoc.

    Sapience isn’t a mechanism f the universe.

    The reason I exclude sapience from “the universe” is because that is what I am arguing where morality comes from. As such, when I try to show the universe doesn’t have morality inherent in it, I leave it out.

    I hope this is rhetorical as I’ve made it clear I do think there is an absolute moral standard.

    Than why do you need people for there to be absolute moral standards?

    I suppose this depends on your view of what a human is. But on your own view morality can’t arise when there are no other people, so you haven’t avoided the question how morality emerged?

    There is no morality when there is only one individual. It requires two or more individuals because morality deals with actions between individuals.

    Desire? – In the example of Brom and Heidi I tried to show you that desire is not a good way to determine what is objectively right and wrong. Both had competing desires so (if you are to avoid complete amorality) at least one of them must have been objectively right or wrong.

    Why not? – I told you why it can’t be Brom’s hypocrisy that is the standard! Because claiming that as the standard is referring to another different standard – do to others as you would have them do unto you.

    “ignoring morality hence evil” – evil is an objective judgement, exactly the kind of thing you need to ground ontologically.

    I’m not being asked to make moral standards- I’m being asked to make universal moral standards. As such, anything that results in different rules for different people is disqualified.

    I am grounding the judgement of evil. Brom is commiting his actions to make him feel better- he is causing pain to others to make himself feel better.

    That is pretty close to pure evil that you can get in this world.

    I don’t know how you got that from my comment.

    Humanness is decided by genes. However, using yourself as the standard, other indivuals are less human than you- there genes progressively become more different, although the varience is slight. It becomes noticable with people who have Downs Syndrome who you could argue are a different category- the same goes for people with cancer and others. And what happens when you get individuals with genetic engineering or non-organic parts?

    Humanity is not a good standard.

    I don’t know why you’d have difficulty with the definition of human life. I would have thought something like that was obvious. I have said before defining “sapience” is more problematic than defining “human life.”

    The easiest way is to define “human” is as the descendants of Adam. For the purposes of this argument I define human life as the only race of sapient creatures who, given the proper functioning of their cognitive faculties, have the ability to make moral judgements as well as can be held morally accountable themselves.

    Yes, this does mean I think animals do not have sapience.

    Three problems.
    1) As an American I reject all systems based on bloodlines.
    2) The bible implies there were other people who were not based off Adam. After all, Adams children did not marry one another. Does that mean that you consider most of the worlds people nonsentient?
    3) You are arguing that animals, aliens and robots have no moral worth.

  22. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Samuel,

    I’m going to insist before you post any more on this thread that you define your terms, particularly sapience, as that is where you derive your moral values.

    just quickly,

    1) As an American I reject all (moral?) systems based on bloodlines.

    Accept the moral system that says to reject all moral systems based on bloodlines? Try not refute yourself in the future.

    2) The Bible implies there were other people who were not based off Adam. After all, Adams children did not marry one another. Does that mean that you consider most of the worlds people nonsentient?

    I don’t see it anywhere implied that Adam’s children married and had offspring to any other type of creature other than fully human beings. I reject the assertion that Adam’s children did not marry their siblings.

    3) You are arguing that animals, aliens and robots have no moral worth.

    I argue that robot’s have no moral value, yes. As ‘things’ they are means to an end, and not ends in themselves. I don’t need to argue for aliens moral worth, for as there is no evidence as yet aliens even exist. Aliens are little else but red-herrings.

    As for animals, its a tricky question. Personally I don’t hold them morally accountable for their actions, and I’ve no reason to think they are aware of objective moral values and an absolute code of ethics. When a great white shark forcibly copulates with another great white shark, it doesn’t rape said shark, but only forcibly copulates with it. An eagle that takes a fish from the talons of another doesn’t steal it, it merely take it. I don’t think in the animal kingdom the emergence of morality arises. When it comes to humans though, there is obviously a difference, forcible copulation becomes rape and taking food without permission becomes stealing. So the idea of animals moral worth brings us back to the main theme, which is how that moral value came to be found in human life.

    And the discussion thus far, as I remember, it is only going around in circles. I say that humans have within themselves the property of intrinsic worth, from which moral values can be determined and discovered. You say it arises from sapience? But you need to define that for everyone as thus far its really unclear.

  23. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    Note to self- don’t pile on bookmarks.

    “Accept the moral system that says to reject all moral systems based on bloodlines? Try not refute yourself in the future. ”

    I accept a moral system that rejects systems based on bloodlines.

    “I don’t see it anywhere implied that Adam’s children married and had offspring to any other type of creature other than fully human beings. I reject the assertion that Adam’s children did not marry their siblings.”

    The fact that Cain went off and married does. Not to mention that they cannot have simply used incest- after x generations it stops working.

    “I argue that robot’s have no moral value, yes. As ‘things’ they are means to an end, and not ends in themselves. I don’t need to argue for aliens moral worth, for as there is no evidence as yet aliens even exist. Aliens are little else but red-herrings. ”

    I am talking about sentient robots. You could design them to be slaves, but… RUR comes to mind.

    Aliens are not red herrings. They are a good test of principles- namely, what makes something valuable.

    “When it comes to humans though, there is obviously a difference, forcible copulation becomes rape and taking food without permission becomes stealing. ”

    It starts to begin in animals that live in social groups- solitary animals tend to be a bit more sociopathic.

    “And the discussion thus far, as I remember, it is only going around in circles. I say that humans have within themselves the property of intrinsic worth, from which moral values can be determined and discovered. You say it arises from sapience? But you need to define that for everyone as thus far its really unclear.”

    Fair enough.
    Sapience refers to an organism’s ability to make decisions about its surroundings and its actions. Organisms with brains that are essentially preprogrammed do not have it (ants), while those that have the capacity to learn do (foxes).

    Basically, the distinction between things that are programmable and things that aren’t.

    If my definition is flawed, post the correction.

  24. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    A Summary from memory;

    In this post I have attempted to defend God’s existence from the inherent value of human life. Simon has taken issue with the first premise, namely that if God does not exist human life has no inherent value. Simon posits instead that human life is valuable, not because God has endowed human life with inherent value, but because human life is sapient, like many of the higher animals. This sapience he has defined as the ability to act freely and of ones own accord without the manipulation of programming.

    Evaluation;
    (1) Simon’s explanation on which he hangs his ethical system is ad hoc. He has not answered why sapience should determine the ultimate standard of what is right and wrong.

    (2) Simon has less assurance of human freedom than the theist. who can be assured of creaturely freedom if God exists. Simon affirms that we are not biologically determined, but in doing so begs the question.

    (3) in the course of objecting to a moral-type argument for God’s existence, Simon has made a teleological argument for the opposing side. If creatures are programmed this strongly implies a programmer.

    Regarding Cain’s wife, it would be better you remain silent on issues concerning scripture when it is clear you have no serious engagement with it, nor the proper training to do so. There are four responses that spring immediately to mind. Cain may have been married prior to his exile – the narrative is not explicit either way. The restriction of incest was given to Moses’ generation. Incest would only have been necessary for the first generation, and minimal in the second. To condemn incest you need to hang your condemnation on a standard you are yet to support.

    Although intruiging for science-fiction fans, until a sapient robot or alien life-form can be produced they remain complete red-herrings to the discussion.

  25. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:


    My name is Simon?

    “(1) Simon’s explanation on which he hangs his ethical system is ad hoc. He has not answered why sapience should determine the ultimate standard of what is right and wrong. ”

    Because we don’t believe that machines should have any ethical value. They simply follow orders and cannot enjoy life. It makes no difference to a pully if it exists or not- the same holds true for the more primitive living things.

    “(2) Simon has less assurance of human freedom than the theist. who can be assured of creaturely freedom if God exists. Simon affirms that we are not biologically determined, but in doing so begs the question.”

    One of the fun things of looking at history is you can see people with the exact same personality as you. However, they had very different actions- and history than me. This is the nature vs nurture debate that has gone on forever, but essentially BOTH are important.

    Of course, if you mean we have any freedom ouside of that, the answer is no. We are determined by our surroundings and our genes- nothng can change that. Even a soul just moves the problem ne step back- either God sets our personality or a random number generator does.

    “(3) in the course of objecting to a moral-type argument for God’s existence, Simon has made a teleological argument for the opposing side. If creatures are programmed this strongly implies a programmer. ”

    Of course. Natural selection is the programmer as the creatures with poor programing die. Like moths to the fire- which is the reason that having only instincts and no learning behavior is a bad idea.

    “Regarding Cain’s wife, it would be better you remain silent on issues concerning scripture when it is clear you have no serious engagement with it, nor the proper training to do so. There are four responses that spring immediately to mind. Cain may have been married prior to his exile – the narrative is not explicit either way. The restriction of incest was given to Moses’ generation. Incest would only have been necessary for the first generation, and minimal in the second. To condemn incest you need to hang your condemnation on a standard you are yet to support. ”

    The minimum amount of individuals needed for a viable genepool is approximately 200. 2 does not even begin to cut it. Incest would become worse and worse with each increasing generation and I sincerely doubt that when you exile your son for murder you let him take your daughter with him.

    Additionally, there are condemnations of incests are pretty muchly universal with the exceptions tending to be the royal family. Nobles are funny that way.

    Condemnation of incest is simple- parent-child involves extreme abuse of power, while sibling tends to involve… genetic problems. Non-related siblings has not been considered immoral and has actually taken place (I believe Taiwan), but doesn’t work as well for intimacy- being raised together interferes with that. People have the inbuilt instinct to mate with outsiders.

    “Although intruiging for science-fiction fans, until a sapient robot or alien life-form can be produced they remain complete red-herrings to the discussion.”

    Why? A universal morality can easily deal with new cases while a patchwork morality can’t. New case tests are a great way to sort the chaff from the wheat.

  26. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Samuel,

    Sorry for the name error. Your last post was full of double speak. In order to make your positions clear, please answer the following questions.

    (1) Are you a determinist?
    (2i) If so, how could you possible know this was true on naturalism (i.e. without reference to God)?
    (2ii) If no, then how are you assured that you, indeed, are not just a machine with no inherent value?

    (3) Are you an objectivist when it comes to morality?
    (4i) If so, on what ground do you pin your morality on?
    (4ii) If no, why do you objective about your disagreement with objective morality?

  27. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    “Your last post was full of double speak. In order to make your positions clear, please answer the following questions.”

    Care to give an example of double speak?

    1 Yes.

    2 Determinism is the position that the universe is entirely predictable. It does not require an individual to set up the conditions- determinism works as well using physical laws.

    2″A machine is any device that uses energy to perform some activity. In common usage, the meaning is that of a device having parts that perform or assist in performing any type of work. ”

    If the shoe fits, I will wear it. Given I have insisted that individuals do not have inherent value, that seems to be an accurate summation of my position.

    3 Yes
    4 Desire and harm

  28. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Samuel.

    Determinism is the position that there is no creaturely freedom – though it may appear you have choice, you do not. i.e., as in biologically determined.

    Before I go on, just to make emphatically clear…

    (1) Are you a determinist?

  29. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    What do you mean by biologically determined? I don’t deny the effects of nurture- a determinst just believes there is no other influences besides nature and nurture and that your actions are entirely set by those.

  30. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    I mean just what you have made it out to be. In other words, you are not free. Nature has determined what you decide, how you got to where you are toady, and who you are, and who you will be. Now how is it you can hold moral values as objective if man is merely a machine with no free will. If we are programmed by nature (and nurture) how is it you can condemn someone’s actions as wrong (and conversely praise someones actions as good or right) when they had no choice in the matter?

    You must give some sort of account about how foxes, humans, etc., acquired sapience, on your definition, if its not going to be a figment of your imagination. You can’t just assume it – its the ad hoc linchpin of your whole argument.

    Desire and harm provide the ground for objective moral values to stand on (on your view). Sapience is the ground that desire and harm rely on. What does sapience rely on?

    On the Christian view, sapience is a result of God giving human life inherent value, which also includes things like an actual free-will, the capacity for rationality, to have relationship with God, to be creative, and other things. But if God has not given us those things, then the naturalistic account reduces moral values to mere subjective expressions determined by nature – so your system of ethics, Samuel, is thoroughly inconsistent.

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  1. […] Skinner has been trying to articulate and defend a non-theistic version of ethics in the comment thread of ‘The Inherent Value of Human Life’. Since I don’t think that debate is proving fruitful, I’m going to undercut it with a […]

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