Morality in the Real World 01: Introduction

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 14, 2010 in Ethics,Podcast

In episode 01 of Morality in the Real World, Alonzo Fyfe and I discuss our goals for this new podcast. We ask: What is morality? Does moral value really exist in the natural world? Can we know moral truths?

Download Episode 01

You can also listen to this podcast at archive.org, or subscribe in iTunes or out of iTunes.

Every five episodes we answer audience questions, so please do post your questions and objections below. Make sure your questions address the topics of this episode only. If we plan to address the subject of your question in later episode, we will not answer it in the next Q & A episode. You can also leave your question in audio and we will play it back during the Q & A episode and respond to it: call 413-723-0175 and press 1 to leave a voicemail.

Transcript of episode 01:

LUKE: Welcome to ‘Morality in the Real World.’ I’m Luke Muehlhauser.

ALONZO: And I’m Alonzo Fyfe.

LUKE: Alonzo, I saw this amazing clip on YouTube the other day. Have you heard about Hugo Tale-Yax?

NEWSMAN: 31-year-old Hugo Tale-Yax, stabbed as he tried to protect a woman from a mugger. This surveillance tape shows him bleeding to death on the sidewalk, as 25 people pass him by. In that hour and 20 minutes, one man takes a cell phone picture. Another actually lifts his body, sees the blood, and walks away. By the time paramedics got there, it was too late.

INTERVIEWEE: To just leave him there to die, that’s just… no morals, you know? No morals, no conscience.

ALONZO: Well, I haven’t heard of him specifically, but I heard a lot of stories like it in graduate school where somebody who was hurt and people just passed him by. As the one person interviewed in the clip said: “no conscience, no morals.”

LUKE: “No morals.” And it seems obvious that passing a guy who is bleeding to death on the sidewalk is wrong, but… I want to know: How do we know? What is right and wrong? What are we referring to when we call something wrong? Like when I refer to Starbucks, I’m referring to that coffee place across the street, but when I…

ALONZO: No matter what street you happen to be on.

LUKE: Right! But when I say something was morally right, what exactly am I referring to? It’s not like… Look, if we do an autopsy on Gandhi it’s not like we’ll find a glowing blue orb of “moral value” inside his heart of something. So what are we talking about? Is morality maybe just a matter of opinion, or are some things objectively right or objectively wrong?

ALONZO: To me that story raised the question: “How do I get people to call the police when I have been stabbed?”

LUKE: That’s an important question.

ALONZO: Particularly when you have been stabbed.

Anyway, those are the questions we’re going to explore in this podcast. Is morality real, or is it something we made up like religion? And does it matter?

LUKE: You know, Alonzo, when I start to ask these questions, I think of this guy Ajita Kesakambali who lived in 600 BC in India…

ALONZO: You think about him a lot, do you?

LUKE: Well, he’s got a cool name! Ajita Kesakambali. Anyway, even way back then, this guy said: “Ideas like generosity are the concepts of a stupid person. He who speaks of their existence, his words are empty and confused; a cry of desperation.”

And sometimes I wonder: was he right?

Alonzo, one of the crazy things about morality is that we’re all so sure that we know what’s right and wrong, and yet everybody has a different opinion – especially when you look at history. I mean, 200 years ago almost everybody thought slavery and racism and sexism were okay.

ALONZO: They didn’t just think it. They were certain of it. When I was in high school studying the civil war, I was struck by the fact that the people fighting on both sides were so certain that they were right that they were willing – even eager – to kill those who disagreed. It was the right thing to do.

LUKE: And in another 200 years everybody will probably think differently than we do now. Maybe in the future our descendants will look back at how we treat animals today like we look back on how rich people used to treat their slaves 200 years before us.

ALONZO: Maybe. But that doesn’t mean that all opinions are equally valid. Five hundred years ago everybody thought the Earth was the center of the solar system. Now, we know better. We literally know better.

LUKE: But that’s science. How do we know what’s really better when it comes to morality?

ALONZO: That’s one of those interesting questions you spoke about. Can we make moral progress in the same way we make scientific progress? Do we have more and better moral knowledge today than people had 200 years ago, or just different prejudices? Will people living 200 years from now know moral facts we haven’t discovered yet?

LUKE: And if there is moral knowledge, where does it come from? It seems like we know morality through some kind of inner feeling or inner thought – the conscience, like that guy in the YouTube clip said. We close our eyes and our conscience tells us what is right and wrong.

ALONZO: It seems that way, but think about this: A few years ago, I was collecting signatures for a ballot initiative. I met somebody who said he just knew that mixing the races was just plain wrong.

As it happened, at just about that time an interracial couple walked by, and he could see just by looking at them that this was wrong. He could feel it. Did his intuitions represent moral knowledge? Or did they just represent his prejudices?

LUKE: You know, I thought about these kinds of questions a lot right after I became an atheist.

ALONZO: You used to be a Christian.

LUKE: Yeah, so back then I thought morality was whatever God said it was. Whatever he wanted, that was the right thing to do. So when I lost God, I didn’t know what to think of morality. I thought, “Is morality just a fairy tale, too? Is there any evidence for it? I don’t see any evidence for it.”

ALONZO: So what did you do?

LUKE: I went on a search to see if any theory of morality could stand up to the test any better than God did.

ALONZO: Which it did.

LUKE: No, it really didn’t.

All the theories of morality I found made bad arguments. For example, utilitarianism is this moral theory that says that happiness has intrinsic value, so we should maximize it as much as we can – you know, do whatever produces the most happiness for the most people. But nobody ever showed me a shred of evidence that happiness has intrinsic value. Why not collecting marbles? How do you know happiness has intrinsic value instead of collecting marbles? Nobody could ever tell me.

ALONZO: Certainly, somebody told you that you knew that happiness had intrinsic value simply by experiencing it. If you could experience it in the right way, then you would know…

LUKE: Yeah, but that’s just like the argument that we experience God or that intuition tells us that God exists. Well I had experienced God, and my intuition did tell me there was a God, but I was way wrong about that. So if I can’t trust inner experience or my intuition when it comes to God, I wasn’t about to trust inner experience or intuition when it came to morality. I need better evidence than that.

ALONZO: It is strange that when atheists talk about God, they say that subjective experience and intuitions are unreliable, and we should depend on science instead. But when it comes to morality they ignore their own standards and depend on their subjective experience or intuitions. In fact…

LUKE: Exactly! And I just couldn’t embrace a double standard like that, so until somebody could give me a good argument or show me some good evidence, I couldn’t believe in morality anymore.

ALONZO: Luke, if you don’t believe in morality, why are you doing a podcast about morality?

LUKE: Well, I changed my mind.

ALONZO: You seem to do that a lot – change your mind.

LUKE: That’s because I’ve been wrong about so many things; I’m probably wrong about a lot of things right now, unfortunately I just don’t know which things I’m wrong about right now. Anyway, yeah – about 9 months after I had given up my search for a true theory of morality, I interviewed you for another podcast and what you said about morality in the real world actually made sense to me.

ALONZO: Thank you.

LUKE: So for me, I’m doing this podcast because I want to explain what it is that turned me around about morality. I want to explain why I used to be a non-believer in morality, but now I think there might be something to it.

ALONZO: To be honest that makes me kind of nervous. I don’t want to convince anybody of something that turns out to be wrong. But, I would like to present some ideas where people can look at them and think about them. Maybe I got a few things right.

LUKE: So Alonzo, what’s the point of this show? Is this just a podcast of abstract thinking for wannabee philosophers?

ALONZO: Not for me. I studied morality because I have always thought of it a practical subject. If somebody stabs me I want at least one out of 25 people to call the police. In the case of Hugo Tale-Yax, morality broke down and it cost him his life. There are literally lives at stake here.

Which is exactly why there is – and should be – some anxiety over the possibility of being wrong about morality.

LUKE: So here we are: we’re atheists and naturalists. We accept what science says about who we are and our place in the universe. But we think there really is moral value in the natural world, and there’s nothing spooky about it.

ALONZO: That’s right. If morality exists, it has to make sense in the real world. This is a podcast about morality in the real world.

Audio clips

(in order of appearance)

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{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike N September 14, 2010 at 3:29 am

I’ve thought about the Tale-Yax case since I saw it in the paper. For the most part I don’t think it was a breakdown in morality.

Probably in some individual cases, sure, but I think most people that walked past were frightened. Modern society creates this climate of fear where the slogan “don’t get involved”. People think that by helping somebody in trouble they are leaving themselves open to that same trouble. At that point I can only assume some kind of biological imperative kicks in to trigger their self-preservation instinct, with the result being that they leave well alone.

Probably most people think somebody else will help. It’s not an espeically new state of affairs either – look at Kitty Genovese. That case prompted a whole load of research showing that people were less likely to act when part of group or crowd (diffusion of responsibility). Milgram linked it to information overload (although that seems a little more tenuous to me …)

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mojo.rhythm September 14, 2010 at 4:13 am

Judging from the title, I assume this podcast will be more focused on applied ethics, no?

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe September 14, 2010 at 4:30 am

This is among the best blog posts I’ve seen yet (and it doesn’t even have typing errors). Rock on guys! I’m looking forward to this series.

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BJ Marshall September 14, 2010 at 4:46 am

Is there any way we can subscribe outside of iTunes, similar to the way my podcast aggregator gets updates to CPBD?

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JoeD September 14, 2010 at 5:59 am

Luke, I do not listen to podcasts very frequently, but again, I want to thank you for keeping the small talk and insider humor out of these podcasts!! There are scores of podcasts out there, jampacked with guys laughing and ranting and cutting up about crap that nobody outside their little circle of friends cares about.

You stay on topic, and keep the discussion substantial.

No questions now, I just wanted to say – great job!!

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lukeprog September 14, 2010 at 7:36 am

BJ Marshall,

Do you mean that you are subscribed to this:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/cpbd.rss

…for Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot?

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BJ Marshall September 14, 2010 at 8:22 am

Yes, I am subscribed to that feed. Since I don’t use iTunes, I would like to subscribe to a similar feed for Morality in the Real World.

Thank you for all the awesome content you create.

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Garren September 14, 2010 at 8:50 am

I like the revisions from the ‘beta’ versions of the first episode. Definitely more polished.

Hope to see an explicit reference back to the criticism of the intrinsic value of happiness in contrast to how Desirism succeeds where classic utilitarianism (supposedly) fails on this point.

*popcorn*

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dh September 14, 2010 at 9:00 am

Something that struck me about the Yale-Tax case, or at least a comment in the article I read about it was this statement: “Any animal that is hurt on the street, the city or anybody walking by goes to rescue it. But in this case, he saved this woman’s life, and where was the conscience of the people around him?” Rolando Tale-Yax said.” Besides having a distinctly “you’d help an animal on the Sabbath” ring to it … I read him as assuming “rescuing an animal that is hurt” is good thing, indicative of having a conscience, and so basic that it makes those same people (metaphorically speaking) not helping this person seem all the more unconscionable. Yet Rolando probably *eats* animals. There seems to be something slippery in thinking about (among other things) the good samaritan as one who helps a creature (human/animal) in trouble and how the notion of good samaritan relates to the cause and nature of the trouble the creature is in. Interesting first case. I look forward to seeing where you go with this effort.

Q: Will you be addressing empathy (itself and the social mediations thereof) in your discussions of what might or might not be objective about morality?

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Yair September 14, 2010 at 9:54 am

Ahh, I wish you’d only did podcasts on any other subject – I think morality is that one thing your wrong about.

But to the point – it’s a good first podcast, but you have to emphasize that you assume here that there are objective truths that your intuitions can be wrong or right about. You are implicitly talking about Moral Realism. This is just fine as a starting point, it just needs to be stated clearly, and as soon as possible, so that the reader/listener would get used to the idea that it may be that there aren’t, and to consider that if there aren’t, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no morality in any sense of the word.

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Little James September 14, 2010 at 10:20 am

The Tale-Yax story illustrates a well-known social psychology phenomenon called the bystander effect. I remember learning about it in my intro to social psych class.

The way I understand the bystander effect is that it comes from a “diffusion of responsibility” — you look around, see no one else helping, and rationalize that these people must know something you don’t. “Maybe the person isn’t really hurt, maybe it’s just a drunk guy in a puddle of ketchup, if he’s really hurt then surely someone else will help, someone who is perhaps a trained medical professional, what do I know about identifying a possible trauma?” The problem is that everyone is making this assumption about everyone else.

Overcoming this as a bystander is very very difficult. I think you almost have to specifically know about the bystander effect to be able to overcome that social pressure. The more people are walking by not helping, the harder it is for one individual to help. I once called an ambulance for someone who had passed out in a parking lot, and it was exceedingly difficult to convince myself “you, yes YOU, must help this person.” It took me several minutes of internal struggle to do it. If I hadn’t taken a social psych class, I probably would have passed by and let the diffusion of responsibility win.

Of course, the social psychology side doesn’t tell you whether it’s moral or immoral to help. However, I do think it comes to bear when we are all quick to judge these bystanders as amoral monsters who just let this poor man die. The point of social psychology is that social pressure affects all of us more strongly than we can imagine, and it can cause any of us to do things we would consider out of line with our good character. (think of the Milgram experiment)

Coming back to Alonzo’s question, in my social psych class we did address the question “so what do I do if I’m on a sidewalk dying and need a bystander to help?” The key is to not diffuse the responsibility throughout the group. Instead of saying “somebody help me” (which will put responsibility on the group as a whole), single out an individual, make eye contact with them, and ask them specifically for help, like “you there, yes you sir, please call an ambulance.” If you can get one person to help, the rest of the group will also readily help.

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Little James September 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

To follow up to my last comment, the future Alonzo envisions, where he is stabbed on the street and someone helps him, will require more than just moral advancement. It will probably require fundamental changes in the way the human mind works. After all, we have evolved to have a huge vulnerability to social pressures that can override almost any other desire. The easiest way to get someone to do something immoral (even if they know it is immoral) is to apply the right social pressure.

I guess I see his point about moral advancement, but Tale-Yax is a really bad example of “a breakdown of morality.” I bet every one of those bystanders would agree that it is immoral to let someone die on a sidewalk when you are capable of helping.

I don’t want to sound fatalistic and resigned to our unfortunate brain wiring. Moral progress should be possible, but there is more to the story than just getting people to think the right way about morality.

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Alonzo Fyfe September 14, 2010 at 10:51 am

Yair

…you have to emphasize that you assume here that there are objective truths that your intuitions can be wrong or right about. You are implicitly talking about Moral Realism.

Actually, no.

We are assuming some form of realism but not moral realism.

In fact, everything we have said so far (which, in this context means “just this one podcast”) is still compatible with the idea that all moral claims are false and there are no moral facts at all.

We have not ruled out moral eliminativism or “error theory”. It is a mistake to argue that we are assuming as true propositions that can be denied without contradicting anything said so far.

About the only claim actually asserted here in the first episode is that, at least for certain classes of propositions, I intuit that P; therefore, P is an invalid inference. There are simply way too many instances in which people have intuited that P where not-P has proved to be true.

So, we should reject “I intuit that P” as a source of (moral) knowledge.

However, even in this case, we’re going to have a lot more to say about “moral intuitions”, what they are, why they work, and why they are not to be trusted.

so, the best thing to do in this episode is to simply take it as a description of things to be covered in future episodes.

Later, when we get into the substance of the discussion, if you discover that we have “assumed moral realism” I would like to see why you believe that.

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Garren September 14, 2010 at 11:16 am

I for one have trouble distinguishing between moral realism and anti-realism. Maybe it would help if I could figure out if I’m a realist or anti-realist with respect to mathematical truths.

Meanwhile, I’m quite a bit more interested in whether sophisticated modern thinkers can affirm the _truth_ of some moral statements in a way which doesn’t deflate moral considerations. The ontological status of such moral truths can sit on the back burner.

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cl September 14, 2010 at 11:22 am

Both of these questions revolve around the claim that we should reject “I intuit that P” as a source of moral knowledge:

LUKE: Yeah, but that’s just like the argument that we experience God or that intuition tells us that God exists. Well I had experienced God, and my intuition did tell me there was a God, but I was way wrong about that. So if I can’t trust inner experience or my intuition when it comes to God, I wasn’t about to trust inner experience or intuition when it came to morality. I need better evidence than that.

ALONZO: It is strange that when atheists talk about God, they say that subjective experience and intuitions are unreliable, and we should depend on science instead. But when it comes to morality they ignore their own standards and depend on their subjective experience or intuitions. In fact…

Question 1 [to Luke]: I’m confused, because you seem to intuiting that genocide is wrong, categorically. What’s your evidence that the Canaanite genocide was bad?

Question 2 [to Alonzo]: I’m confused, because you seem to be conforming to strong Western prejudices against middle-aged men having sex with teen boys. What standard are you using when you say the Greeks were “probably wrong” concerning pederasty?

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Yair September 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

@ Alonzo Fyfe

Well, alright. Perhaps my biases are showing through. There are instances there where you seem to imply non-Realist or non-Cognitivist morality as being equal to morality not existing, but this is indeed not the thrust of your argument and you explicitly raise questions like whether morality is a matter of subjective opinion, so it’s just a matter of emphasis at most.

I would emphasize again that it’s a good first podcast. It’s a fairly minor criticism, even if it holds.

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woodchuck64 September 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm

cl,

Question 1 [to Luke]: I’m confused, because you seem to intuiting that genocide is wrong, categorically. What’s your evidence that the Canaanite genocide was bad?

Speaking for myself, it’s so difficult to come up with a real world scenario where genocide wouldn’t thwart more desires than it fulfills, that I think it’s reasonable to be all but categorical in declaring genocide wrong under desirism.

Even if you had an extremely warlike race that you couldn’t isolate or rehabilitate, wiping out the fighting class would probably be justified, but we have no evidence to think warlike behavior is DNA-only and there would be no reason to kill women and children.

Question 2 [to Alonzo]: I’m confused, because you seem to be conforming to strong Western prejudices against middle-aged men having sex with teen boys. What standard are you using when you say the Greeks were “probably wrong” concerning pederasty?

Alonzo also said pederasty is associated with a risk of abuse and violence against children. Practices that may damage young people emotionally and physically when balanced against the malleable sexual desire of the adult seem easily more desire thwarting than desire fulfilling. Studies of sexual victimization are pretty unanimous in showing long-term harm, and I see no reason to think this is somehow Western specific.

In any case, I’m speaking for myself, of course, and looking for weak spots in desirism as always. I expect this series will continue. Looking forward to moral prescription under desirism being explored in depth.

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mojo.rhythm September 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Cl,

The Canaannite situation is an internal problem for Christianity, i.e. Yahweh miserably fails to meet up to the own ridiculous moral standards He sets for puny humans!

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Hermes September 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I’m just stunned that Cl brought up the Canaannite genocide. There’s no way to come out looking good by doing that.

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lukeprog September 14, 2010 at 3:12 pm

BJ,

Good idea, I added the link.

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lukeprog September 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Yair,

For the first many episodes we are going to talk about desirism without calling it a moral theory. So I’d like to hear if you disagree with anything about it at that stage.

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cl September 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Luke? Alonzo?

woodchuck64,

…I think it’s reasonable to be all but categorical in declaring genocide wrong under desirism.

I disagree, and suspect you’re arguing from intuition there [no offense].

…we have no evidence to think warlike behavior is DNA-only and there would be no reason to kill women and children.

I’m not claiming it’s “DNA-only,” but nonetheless, warlike tendencies appear to be “DNA regulated”:

Research into the aggressive behaviour of male chimpanzees, our closest biological ally, suggests that the urge to go to war is in our DNA… [Apes of war... is it in our genes?]

I imagine that like most everything else, warlike tendencies are a combination of DNA and culture – which is precisely why eliminating the entire warlike culture along with all the DNA seems appropriate. After all, this is exactly what we do to other species: we just call it “extermination” instead of “genocide.”

Another reason to eliminate the children would be to spare them the privation of growing up under the mistreatment of their captors. If the Israelites would have mistreated these Canaanite children such that their lives would have been more privation than joy, could it not entail less suffering overall to eliminate them? Is this not precisely the logic that precedes many an abortion?

Alonzo also said pederasty is associated with a risk of abuse and violence against children.

Where did you read that? Did he give any evidence to support his statement, or was it just another assertion? If so, is the data backwards-compatible, such that we can make an accurate judgment on the Greeks?

Studies of sexual victimization are pretty unanimous in showing long-term harm, and I see no reason to think this is somehow Western specific.

I agree, but bias runs deep in all of us and I believe you’re smuggling in the very same Western bias I’m trying to question here. In Greek society, pederasty was not “sexual victimization” in the same way we Westerners think of it. I don’t have my Plato quotes handy, but if you don’t believe me, look into it a bit yourself [if you haven't]. I’ve taken a course on it, if that counts for anything, and the literature I’ve read is near-unanimous. Of course, there’s no way I’ve read everything, so shoot me a link if you think I’m being selective.

Practices that may damage young people emotionally and physically when balanced against the malleable sexual desire of the adult seem easily more desire thwarting than desire fulfilling.

I agree, but that’s just a generalization. Alonzo would have to demonstrate that such was the case in Greek society. I’ve seen no such demonstration. If – in Greek society – pederasty didn’t have these alleged negative effects, then what’s the problem?

mojo.rhythym,

The Canaannite situation is an internal problem for Christianity, i.e. Yahweh miserably fails to meet up to the own ridiculous moral standards He sets for puny humans!

Empty claim noted.

Hermes,

I’m just stunned that Cl brought up the Canaannite genocide. There’s no way to come out looking good by doing that.

Your problem is that you assume I’m more concerned with “looking good” than cold pursuit of truth. Why don’t you quit worrying about superficial things and dig into the actual arguments for once? Or, in short, quit trolling.

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cl September 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm

woodchuck64,

Re-reading my comment, I don’t mean to leave the implication that Plato was pro-pederasty. In fact, excerpts from Plato’s Laws seem somewhat favorable to your argument. I recall that Plato advocated prohibition of pederasty. Contrast this to Pausanias’ or Phaedrus’ speeches in Symposium. What I meant was, in many of Plato’s writings, we find pro-pederasty sentiments that are seemingly incompatible with the “sexual victimization” argument.

Anyways, an actual argument [from Alonzo] supported with evidence and desirist principles is my main interest here. That would help me learn. To simply allude to an unspecified subset of “venereal disease” doesn’t cut the mustard.

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Hermes September 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Cl, this is why you make me laugh. Drop the pretense of being insulted or challenged. It’s just not credible.

First off, strictly on a philosophical level you bringing it up shows you haven’t listened to Luke’s previous comments on the subject. Remember the whole discussion of objective/subjective and where each came into the mix? No? Go back and read the comments again from everyone.

Secondly, if you actually did not get it the last time and are earnestly curious — kudos to you if you are — then why not pick a generic example? Why drag in one of the larger moral mistakes of the Abrahamic religious texts?

Why ask people to repeat what you aren’t listening to?

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woodchuck64 September 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

oops, got a comment snagged by moderation

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Hermes September 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Cl, on a less abrasive note, you should watch the presentation by Dr. John Walton that Luke posted.

Dr. Walton is a professor of Old Testament Studies at Wheaton College (“…four-year Christian liberal arts college and graduate school, we seek to honor Jesus Christ with mind, soul, body, and strength.”).

Luke’s blog post: Genesis Does Not Depict Creation from Nothing

Dr. Walton’s presentation: Genesis As Ancient Cosmology – Dr John Walton

While I (obviously) don’t agree with some of his conclusions or his Christian focus, his presentation is otherwise quite good.

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Hermes September 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm

woodchuck64, it might be that you included too many links. Go back to the page if you can and edit out some of the links if it won’t ruin your message.

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Bill Maher September 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm

its kind of painful watching cl getting hosed really bad. he seems like (for the most part) a nice guy.

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cl September 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Hermes,

Drop the pretense of being insulted or challenged. It’s just not credible.

There’s no pretense. Snipers don’t challenge anyone. I’m simply noting your tendency to show up, make a personal remark or two usually always directed at me, then eschew any pertinent arguments entirely – and all of that while donning a rationalist’s cap. Believe me, I don’t feel insulted and I certainly don’t feel challenged. I think annoyed or distracted are probably more appropriate words.

First off, strictly on a philosophical level you bringing it up shows you haven’t listened to Luke’s previous comments on the subject.

No it doesn’t. That I brought up the Canaanites does not entail that I haven’t listened to Luke’s previous comments. Your logic is invalid. Now, if you want to actually have a discussion as opposed to making baseless accusations, cite whatever statement[s] of Luke’s you allege I haven’t listened to, and I’ll respond.

Why drag in one of the larger moral mistakes of the Abrahamic religious texts?

Why make more baseless assertions? You claim it’s a mistake. You are the positive claimant. Substantiate your claim. I’m not interested in arguing against your opinions and you ought to respect the burden of proof.

…on a less abrasive note, you should watch the presentation by Dr. John Walton that Luke posted.

Are you assuming I paid no attention to Luke’s post? Likewise, I read Dr. Walton’s presentation. I’m not a Craig-ite. Whether Earth was created “from nothing” or “from something” is tangential. The point is that Earth was created, and that’s consistent with scripture.

Besides, let’s not bog this discussion down with an irrelevant one. If you want to actually ask some intelligent, non-loaded questions such that we might discuss Dr. Walton’s presentation, I’m happy to meet you over at that thread. Let me know.

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Hermes September 14, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Cl, if what Dr. Walton said sunk in then you’re on a better path to understanding mythic texts. It’s not far enough, but it’s better.

As for talking with you, you can’t be serious. You have already decided that you are at war with facts. There’s nothing to discuss with such a person. I hope in a few years you snap out of it.

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Paul King September 14, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I think that the comparison of experiencing happiness to “experiencing” God is something of a category error. Happiness is an emotional state, while God is (supposedly) an external entity – the cause of the experience, rather than the experience itself.

The problem with the argument from religious experience is not that the experiences don’t happen or aren’t convincing, the problem is getting from the experiences to the claim that God exists etc. etc.

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Yair September 15, 2010 at 1:42 am

Luke – we’ll see.

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AlonzoFyfe September 15, 2010 at 4:42 am

Paul King

The comparison was not between experiencing God and experiencing happiness. It was between experiencing God and experiencing the intrinsic value of happiness. In both cases, one infers from their experience the existence of something (God / Intrinsic Value) and the inference from experience to existence is . . . questionable.

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drj September 15, 2010 at 5:37 am

cl,

If some act thwarts more desires than it fulfills in all possible worlds, then perhaps it could be called a ‘categorical wrong’ under desirism. Maybe “categorical wrong” would still be the wrong term though, or maybe desirists would object to that, I don’t know.

But with that in mind, it seems obvious that genocide would be a good candidate for a ‘categorical wrong’ in desirism. Or even if there are possible worlds where genocides are desire maximizing, I think it can be said with confidence that such circumstances are so wildly improbable and unlikely in this one, that we can reasonably suspect that they will never materialize. In either case, the desirist can be forgiven for saying things like, “genocide is wrong”.

Here’s hoping you’ll leave this pedantic nitpicking aside and move on to more interesting, substantial things.

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woodchuck64 September 15, 2010 at 6:53 am

(Luke, please delete several duplicates currently in the moderation queue, thanks)

cl

I disagree, and suspect you’re arguing from intuition there [no offense].

Not moral intuition (as much as I can avoid it) but intuition about desires enhanced/thwarted from actions of and related to genocide. Intuition because I obviously can’t measure those desires precisely, and am judging harm and good (desire thwarting/fulfilling on balance) according to my experience. I see the risk of substituting moral intuition for analysis.

which is precisely why eliminating the entire warlike culture along with all the DNA seems appropriate

But not as long as all evidence to date points to genetics and environment as defining (warlike) behavior, rather than strictly genetics. Taking into consideration the desires of the children of the warlike tribe must mean we will consider the possibility that a different environment may produce different results.

Another reason to eliminate the children would be to spare them the privation of growing up under the mistreatment of their captors. If the Israelites would have mistreated these Canaanite children such that their lives would have been more privation than joy, could it not entail less suffering overall to eliminate them? Is this not precisely the logic that precedes many an abortion?

That’s difficult because you can’t know with confidence that someone is going to experience a life of complete misery until they actually do; even the Israelites were supposed to treat captives well. But I’m not certain how to do the desire calculation for potential future desires, especially for potential persons. Would be interesting to see a discussion of abortion and desirism.

Where did you read that? Did he give any evidence to support his statement, or was it just another assertion? If so, is the data backwards-compatible, such that we can make an accurate judgment on the Greeks?

That was a comment at “There’s a God for That”, CSA. No more evidence than I offered, but then I wasn’t expecting the burden of proof.

In Greek society, pederasty was not “sexual victimization” in the same way we Westerners think of it.

In my understanding of desirism, that doesn’t matter. What matters is the desires thwarted/fulfilled. However (as you note), the question might be whether Greek society was structured in such a way as to avoid the risks and abuses inherent in sexual relationships between adult and young person. I’m assuming not, unless I see strong evidence to the contrary. That is, I’m assuming that this Greek practice had, as a significant component, adults taking advantage of youth (which adults are wont to do throughout history and then claim it is for the good of those youths), which modern studies show is quite likely to be harmful (desire thwarting) over all.

Put another way, I believe modern sensitivity to sexual issues is scientifically justifiable in a society-independent manner and the Greeks had no way of knowing this anymore than being aware of the transistor. I can not take seriously the idea that the ancient Greeks were onto something unique and special about adult/teen sexual relationships that no one has figured out or reproduced since.

But here’s the thing: who really wants pederasty to be right? No one. To get a real sense of desirism applicability, we need a moral topic that conceivably one person could conceivably want to be true and the other want to be false.

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cl September 15, 2010 at 10:51 am

Does anyone else find it odd that “rational atheists” would be so prone to irrational sniping?

Bill Maher,

its kind of painful watching cl getting hosed really bad. he seems like (for the most part) a nice guy.

What am I supposed to do with that? Didn’t you read my comment to Hermes, where I said I care not to argue against opinions? Since you claim to prefer reason, would you care to *actually explain* how I’m getting hosed? As it is, your personally-motivated comments just come across as atheist cheerleading.

The way I see it, Luke and Fyfe are the ones getting hosed here. Valid objection after valid objection after valid objection, from multiple commenters both theist and atheist, and… crickets. The pattern persists right here in this thread, where I asked Luke and Fyfe one question each, and… crickets. Point out contradictions and inconsistencies, and… crickets.

So Bill, lest yours be another empty claim, perhaps you can use your superior wisdom to explain – how am I getting hosed?

Hermes,

You have already decided that you are at war with facts.

Yet, when it comes to interacting with me, you make nothing but unsubstantiated, personally-motivated attacks – just like this one. So, I’ve concluded it’s actually you who cares not for facts or arguments. Your commenting history all but proves it.

There’s nothing to discuss with such a person.

There’s plenty to discuss here. The problem is, you prefer trolling and personal attack. There’s really nothing to discuss with you, which is why I cut you off way back. I gave you a second chance thinking that maybe you were actually interested in the arguments, but, apparently that’s not the case.

Whatever though. Keep trolling. It’s a free world. As for me, I’m going to revert to the “don’t respond to Hermes unless he actually makes a pertinent comment” mode.

drj,

If some act thwarts more desires than it fulfills in all possible worlds, then perhaps it could be called a ‘categorical wrong’ under desirism. Maybe “categorical wrong” would still be the wrong term though, or maybe desirists would object to that, I don’t know.

I’ve thought along those lines, myself. For example, take woodchuck64′s statement that,

…it’s so difficult to come up with a real world scenario where genocide wouldn’t thwart more desires than it fulfills, that I think it’s reasonable to be all but categorical in declaring genocide wrong under desirism.

Luke seems sympathetic to this statement, as do other Fyfists [i.e. faithlessgod]. My question is – if that’s true – what’s the difference between saying “genocide is intrinsically wrong” and “genocide is intrinsically desire-thwarting?” If there is no possible instance where genocide can be good, on what grounds can we deny intrinsic values? Conversely, if we really believe that no intrinsic value exists, then under what conditions is genocide good?

…with that in mind, it seems obvious that genocide would be a good candidate for a ‘categorical wrong’ in desirism.

I disagree. It takes only a slight modification of Alonzo’s “mean alien analogy” to challenge that. What if an entire race of aliens came to Earth and said, “Either you worship us or we kill everybody?” Presuming we had the means to kill all the aliens, wouldn’t that genocide be good? Why or why not?

Or even if there are possible worlds where genocides are desire maximizing, I think it can be said with confidence that such circumstances are so wildly improbable and unlikely in this one,

Why “possible worlds?” Genocides are desire-maximizing in this world. This is precisely why humans eliminate species they deem threatening. Normally, we wouldn’t go around exterminating entire populations of squirrels, but when there’s a greater good at stake, we do. Now, you can certainly point out that we typically do this to non-human species, but what’s the difference? If humans are “just another animal species,” why the special treatment? If it follows that it’s okay to eliminate a population of squirrels for the greater good, why doesn’t it follow that it’s okay to eliminate a population of humans for the greater good?

Here’s hoping you’ll leave this pedantic nitpicking aside and move on to more interesting, substantial things.

Here’s hoping you’ll leave your opinions of my arguments aside, and actually address them.

woodchuck64,

Unfortunately, I spent my time allotment on the mockers. I’ll respond to your comment later, and I apologize for not taking it first. I usually just take comments in chronological order, but I think I should change that strategy in favor of one that prioritizes competent debate.

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Hermes September 15, 2010 at 10:59 am

Cl, let’s put that to the test.

Given the best possible information you have available to you, what is the approximate age of the Earth?

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe September 15, 2010 at 11:08 am

@cl,

You got some interesting points here and there, and I’d like to read something titled “Objections to Desirism”, written by you. Is there such? If not, is it in the works?

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Alonzo Fyfe September 15, 2010 at 11:46 am

Any talk about desirism prescribing or proscribing genocide in virtue of it being “desire maximizing” misses the point of desirism.

Desirism is concerned with the evaluation of desires.

It is a love of genocide – or an aversion to genocide – that needs to be evaluated for its capacity to fulfill or thwart desires. Not genocide itself.

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woodchuck64 September 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Alonzo,

Thanks for your time and patience explaining the details and practical application of desirism. Although I’m very much a novice in the ethics biz, I find desirism very persuasive so far, although I have plenty of gaps in my understanding which I’m working to fill.

Any talk about desirism prescribing or proscribing genocide in virtue of it being “desire maximizing” misses the point of desirism.

Desirism is concerned with the evaluation of desires.

It is a love of genocide – or an aversion to genocide – that needs to be evaluated for its capacity to fulfill or thwart desires. Not genocide itself.

You’re distinguishing

1) evaluating genocide for its capacity to fulfill/thwart desires

from

2) evaluating love/aversion to genocide for its capacity to fulfill/thwart desires

In 2), don’t you at some point have to do 1) anyway under the assumption that love of genocide may lead to genocide and you need to understand how genocide effects desires? If so, isn’t there a sense where desirism offers an intermediate calculation and verdict (desire fulfilling on balance or desire thwarting on balance) just for 1)? If so, does that qualify as a pre/proscription?

I understand that desirism is about pre/proscribing desires. However, every desire leads to a likely set of actions. Therefore, desirism is indirectly pre/proscribing actions that are likely to result from desires. Is this a reasonable conclusion?

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Alonzo Fyfe September 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm

woodchuck64

In 2), don’t you at some point have to do 1) anyway under the assumption that love of genocide may lead to genocide and you need to understand how genocide effects desires?

Of course you do.

However, desires are persistent entities that you can’t just turn off because you have found some rare and exotic circumstance in which it happens to maximize desires. The aversion will still be there, motivating genocide avoidance, even if the agent encounters a rare and exotic sitution in which genocide might just so happen this once to produce good consequences.

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vanilacrmcake September 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I’ve found a few patterns that I’d term Cl-isms. Just for fun!, not personal by any means. Cl is, after all, my favorite poster on this forum.

1. “Why don’t you quit worrying about superficial things and dig into the actual arguments for once? ”

2. “Your logic is invalid. Now, if you want to actually have a discussion as opposed to making baseless accusations…”

3. “Does anyone else find it odd that “rational atheists” would be…”

4. “when it comes to interacting with me, you make nothing but unsubstantiated, personally-motivated attacks”

5. “Unfortunately, I spent my time allotment on the mockers. I’ll respond to your comment later, and I apologize for not taking it first.”

6. “lest yours be another empty claim”

7. “where I asked Luke and Fyfe one question each, and… crickets. Point out contradictions and inconsistencies, and… crickets.”

8. “You are the positive claimant. Substantiate your claim. I’m not interested in arguing against your opinions and you ought to respect the burden of proof.”

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Paul King September 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Alonso Fyfe

It’s still a very poor comparison. Experiencing happiness is still relevant to evaluating it, so it seems that all you can do is quibble on whether the value is intrinsic or not. At least you can know that you are experiencing happiness which is more than we can say for “experiencing God”.

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woodchuck64 September 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Alonzo,

However, desires are persistent entities that you can’t just turn off because you have found some rare and exotic circumstance in which it happens to maximize desires. The aversion will still be there, motivating genocide avoidance, even if the agent encounters a rare and exotic sitution in which genocide might just so happen this once to produce good consequences.

I see. People’s malleable desires of this sort are most easily molded in broad categories, so finding some exceptions does not change the desire prescribed. (Although I imagine if many exceptions were found, it might be necessary to subdivide the categories and then work to prescribe desires for one subcategory while proscribing desires for the other).

So, a given action motivated by a prescribed desire is not necessarily desire-fulfilling, although the majority of such actions will be. And a given action that is desire-fulfilling does not necessarily mean the desire that motivated it is prescribed, although most of the time this will be true. (Likewise for proscribed desires and desire thwarting). Think I got it.

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mojo.rhythm September 16, 2010 at 8:16 am

vanilacrmcake,

Booyah! You could create a comment-posting algorithm that spits out those quotes and/or variants under the name Cl; I reckon it would pass the Turing test!

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cl September 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm

woodchuck64,

I apologize for the absurd length of this reply, but, I’m trying to be thorough.

It’s worth noting that you’ve tackled the pederasty question much more valiantly – and from a different angle entirely – than Alonzo, who simply alluded to an unspecified subset of “venereal disease” then leaped to the conclusion that the Greeks were “probably wrong” with no further evidence or argument. I commend your willingness.

Taking into consideration the desires of the children of the warlike tribe must mean we will consider the possibility that a different environment may produce different results.

I agree, and this entails the possibility that a different environment may produce desire fulfilling – or desire thwarting – results, given the same DNA. Those children still have the warmongering DNA, and it’s not difficult to imagine the Israelites subjecting them to mistreatment, or, that they might conspire against the Israelites at some later point. There’s also a spiritual component which, frankly, I’m not interested in discussing in such a biased environment.

That’s difficult because you can’t know with confidence that someone is going to experience a life of complete misery until they actually do; even the Israelites were supposed to treat captives well.

I agree, but note that the Israelites were also supposed to “honor the Lord their God” and avoid worship of idols, too – and they built that damn golden calf anyways. The Israelites’ stubborn rebelliousness and penchant for falling into error is a consistent theme of the OT.

Anyways, that we “can’t know with confidence” is exactly why I think abortions on those grounds are wrong – and exactly why I think across-the-board condemnation of genocide amounts to concession of intrinsic value. We can’t know with confidence, but an omniscient God could – especially if everything is predetermined as the Bible seems to suggest. So, in essence, the person who judges genocide as “morally wrong” makes two corollary claims: that no morally sufficient reason for genocide can exist, which entails that genocide is intrinsically wrong. I see no substantial difference that would result from changing “genocide” to “desires for genocide.” Notice that Alonzo didn’t answer your closing question.

Also note that I would agree with Alonzo when he says something like, “people generally” have reason to promote an aversion to genocide. That’s fine as a sort of hypothetical prescription, but morality is hardly that black-and-white. The same “people generally” also have reason to promote an aversion to warmongering, and genocide of the warmongering is a strong step towards promoting an aversion to warmongering, is it not?

In my understanding of desirism, that doesn’t matter. What matters is the desires thwarted/fulfilled.

I understand that a desire’s tendency to thwart/fulfill other desires is what matters, and that’s precisely why I think objection to the term “sexual victimization” does matter. It is not “victimization” if there is no victim – i.e., no desires thwarted. A relationship of mutual consent has no victims – i.e., no desires thwarted. Greek pederasty was not synonymous with child rape, though I think it’s a safe bet child rape occurred in that society as it seems to occur in any. I’m attempting to draw a line of demarcation between “adult-youth sex” that tends to thwart other desires, and “adult-youth sex” that tends to be neutral or even desire-fulfilling. In the desirist context, I object to labeling all “youth-adult sex” as wrong – especially without a sound argument. Such just reeks of personal intuition, which we’re supposed to eschew under desirism. Further, note that risks and abuses – including the risk of VD – are inherent in most if not all sexual relationships. This is why I found Alonzo’s original argument unpersuasive.

But here’s the thing: who really wants pederasty to be right? No one.

Those are exactly the types of moral approaches Luke and Alonzo condemn. They state ad nauseum that we ought to eschew intuition and preference, since intuition is often wrong and preference often leads to bigotry. Consider the following statement of Luke’s:

I do not respect hocus pocus morality that tells you to close your eyes and ask your “conscience” what is right and wrong. This moral system – which most people follow – is merely an unconscious attempt to justify your own moral prejudices as if they were moral facts, and it has led to every kind of immorality and bigotry ever encountered. There is no reason to think we have evolved an accurate “morality detector” in the brain, and there are lots of reasons to think that we do not directly perceive moral values. So moral facts (if they exist) should be – like everything else – discovered only through our most reliable methods of truth-finding: logic and evidence. [Luke, About Me]

If we’re supposed to discard intuition and personal preference, we should – in all cases. Instead, Luke and Alonzo condemn things like genocide, smoking, trash TV, incest, parents of fat children, creationism, on and on and on, yet, I don’t ever see any cogent “logic and evidence” upon which they lean. To me, the correct question to ask is, “Is pederasty right, regardless of our opinions?” Or, “Is smoking right, regardless of our opinions?”

To get a real sense of desirism applicability, we need a moral topic that conceivably one person could conceivably want to be true and the other want to be false.

Have you seen the show To Catch A Predator? Our society is literally teeming with people who want pederasty to be right. Even so, examples are a dime a dozen. Take smoking. Alonzo calls the desire to smoke “irrational” and argues that “people generally” have reason to promote an aversion to smoking. In doing so, he uses something that doesn’t exist [people generally], and assumes that the values of non-smokers should somehow override the desires of smokers. In truth, most non-smokers have a reason to promote an aversion to smoking – but most smokers – and certainly companies like Philip Morris – have reason to promote the desire to smoke.

Since no cogent logic or evidence accompanies Alonzo’s claims about smoking, I suspect his arguments might be based on the very bias he and Luke claim we ought to eschew. All it would take to change my mind is – logic and evidence.

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cl September 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Hermes,

Given the best possible information you have available to you, what is the approximate age of the Earth?

I’ve already explained this: I am an agnostic as to the question, “How many calendar years have passed since Earth began to exist?” I have no idea and I believe it’s irresponsible to make non-conservatively stated claims about the matter. I know that scientists have various models that approximate an age of 4.5 billion calendar years.

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe,

You got some interesting points here and there, and I’d like to read something titled “Objections to Desirism”, written by you. Is there such? If not, is it in the works?

Well thanks. Yes, it’s in the works. The problem is, Alonzo and Luke refuse to supply direct answers to a growing number of questions from several commenters. Therefore, many missing pieces of the puzzle remain. If I’m going to make a judgment, I want to judge accurately – and I need input from them to make that possible – not deflection.

Nonetheless, yesterday I was thinking that I ought to proceed with the material I’ve already amassed. So, keep an eye on my blog, or, I’ll come back here and post a link. However, if you haven’t seen it yet, the post Something That Made Me Think of Desirism might be of interest. In fact, there’s an entire “Desirism” category on my blog. Some of that material will certainly make it’s way into the 12 objections post. Also, I intend to write something like “12 strengths of desirism” as a follow-up. I don’t think the theory is a total wash. I think it provides some very useful insights into the concept of morality, and I believe something like desirism is strongly complementary to DCT [sans the rejection of intrinic value].

Alonzo,

It is a love of genocide – or an aversion to genocide – that needs to be evaluated for its capacity to fulfill or thwart desires. Not genocide itself.

I understand that desirism is concerned with the evaluation of desires’ tendency to thwart/fulfill other desires. The problem is that this leads you to argue hypothetical prescriptions which may or may not apply in any given real-world instance.

You might say something like, “people generally” have reason to promote an aversion to genocide, and I would agree. Of course “people generally” have reason to promote an aversion to genocide. Yet, “people generally” don’t exist, and the real-world is nowhere near as black-and-white as your “people generally” arguments presume. We don’t need “rare and exotic” circumstances to illustrate exceptions to the hypothetical prescription “people generally have reason to promote an aversion to genocide.” History is replete with accounts of warmongering populations that tend to thwart other desires overall. To use your lingo, “people generally” have reason to promote an aversion to warmongering desires that tend to thwart other desires, overall – but warmongerers typically aren’t that receptive to verbal condemnation.

Take capital punishment for example. “People generally” have reason to promote an aversion to frying poor bastards in an electric chair. Yet, “people generally” have reason to promote an aversion to crime – and capital punishment is a strong attempt at persuasion in that direction. What does desirism prescribe when things get fuzzy, as they often do in the real-world? How do we catapult desirism from an academic exercise to something with real-world import for making accurate evaluations?

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Hermes September 16, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I’ve already explained this: I am an agnostic as to the question, “How many calendar years have passed since Earth began to exist?” I have no idea and I believe it’s irresponsible to make non-conservatively stated claims about the matter. I know that scientists have various models that approximate an age of 4.5 billion calendar years.

The question I asked was;

Given the best possible information you have available to you, what is the approximate age of the Earth?

I did not ask for a specific number of years, I asked for an approximate age. I did not ask you to give someone else’s point of view. I asked you, given the best possible information you have available to you, what is the approximate age of the Earth?

There are facts that available to anyone who is curious, and some have been provided directly to you. You can also — on your own — investigate, verify, and reference in support of the approximation you choose to specify. They do not require any private intuitions. They do not require that I tell you what the answer is. I am not the arbitrator of the most likely answer, and I don’t have to be. You don’t even need to be close, just a fraction of what the current best possible information informs us of. I’d be happy if you specify a range that is — more or less — half or twice of what current working geologists^ think. If you are not within that range, though, I think it is reasonable for you to offer facts to support your contention.

Be clear and concise, and you will show me that my assessment was mistaken.

^. Don’t like geologists, that’s OK. Who or what do you propose as an information source or group that is superior to geologists? A resource most likely to provide the details to anyone who honestly and impartially investigates this narrow issue?

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Hermes September 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm
Hermes September 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Cl, I’ll make it even easier on you.

If you are within a range of between 10% or 10x what current working geologists have a consensus on, I will retract my assessment that “You have already decided that you are at war with facts.”

For example, if the consensus is that the Earth is about 1 year old, you could give anything between 36 days and 10 years. Conversely, if the consensus is that the Earth is 1 trillion years old, anything in the range between 10 trillion years (10,000,000,000,000) and one hundred million (100,000,000,000) years.

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Hermes September 16, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Rub that last sentence. Replace it with;

Conversely, if the consensus is that the Earth is 1 trillion years old, any answer you give in the range between 10 trillion years (10,000,000,000,000) and one hundred billion (100,000,000,000) years will be satisfactory.

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Hermes September 16, 2010 at 10:14 pm

[ The agnostic position does not apply to an issue if sufficient knowledge is available to arrive at a conclusion on that issue based on the preponderance of the evidence. Agnosticism is not equal to solipsism. ]

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cl September 17, 2010 at 12:19 am

Really? Really? I came back hoping for some salient comments on morality, and this is what I get? This is why I’m glad I don’t have a popular blog. Quality control goes out the window.

Hermes,

I’m pretty sure you’re trolling, but, if not, are you this obtuse on purpose? If I were an atheist, I’d be embarrassed to have you on my team. I’d be thinking, “What does any of this have to do with morality?”

I did not ask for a specific number of years, I asked for an approximate age.

And, scientists use their models to approximate the age of the Earth at 4.55 billion years. I figured you knew enough about it to know that such estimates are approximated. Sorry I forgot to include the “+/- 1%”.

I did not ask you to give someone else’s point of view. I asked you, given the best possible information you have available to you, what is the approximate age of the Earth?

And, I’ve explained this to you – three times now. I don’t have a point of view. I don’t approximate the age of the Earth.

Be clear and concise, and you will show me that my assessment was mistaken.

Hermes, I don’t think anything I say will ever convince you that your assessment is mistaken. You’re a head-hunter who accosts me on nearly every thread I comment on here. Admitting that your assessment is mistaken would entail a great deal of cognitive dissonance, and then you wouldn’t look so cool in front of your atheist buddies anymore. FSM knows we can’t have that.

For example, if the consensus is that the Earth is about 1 year old, you could give anything between 36 days and 10 years. Conversely, if the consensus is that the Earth is 1 trillion years old, anything in the range between 10 trillion years (10,000,000,000,000) and one hundred million (100,000,000,000) years.

Gee, I wonder where people get the idea that atheists are arrogant? Most computers have calculators these days, you know. I don’t need you to explain simple percentage calculations. Quit posting useless, irrelevant comments on what used to be a pretty on-point blog.

[ The agnostic position does not apply to an issue if sufficient knowledge is available to arrive at a conclusion on that issue based on the preponderance of the evidence. Agnosticism is not equal to solipsism. ]

Whatever. Go dig up your next bit of rhetoric to make yourself feel superior. If I was running around making an explicit truth-claim like, “I know that all the scientists are wrong and the Earth is less than 10,000 years old,” or “macroevolution is a lie promoted by scientists waging a grand conspiracy,” your claim that I’m “at war with facts” would have some merit. As it is, you’re just attempting to slander me for no good reason. Do you ever ask yourself what’s motivating you?

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vanilacrmcake September 17, 2010 at 2:32 am

In my most humble opinion sirrah, I believe my uber-list has already rendered those two points redundant

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vanilacrmcake September 17, 2010 at 2:33 am

Oh dear, the comments are out of order. That was to ildi

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Tshepang Lekhonkhobe September 17, 2010 at 2:50 am

Cl,

Thanks for your work. When you write that stuff, please mention the questions that weren’t addressed by both Alonzo and Luke (instead of just skipping) so that someone less fiery than you can ask them :-)

I’m also glad that you aren’t dismissing Desirism whollesale, only filtering the ‘junk’.

And then, you really are too militant in your approach. It makes people more averse to listening to you. So tone down a bit.

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Hermes September 17, 2010 at 3:02 am

Cl, if you are being earnest in your response at the moment, I recommend that you relax and, in a day or so, go back and carefully read your own comments and mine from the last couple days.

I will await a follow up response from you sometime in the next few days. If you wish, at that time, I would be glad to discuss what any of this has to do with morality. I hope that will not be necessary.

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ildi September 17, 2010 at 8:13 am

If I was running around making an explicit truth-claim like, “I know that all the scientists are wrong and the Earth is less than 10,000 years old,”

No, you’re just running around claiming that 10,000 years is as valid an estimate as 4.5 billion years and that scientists have an “anti-creationist” bias.

vanilacrmcake: you can add to your list

9. “But that’s just YOUR opinion.”

10. “Quit posting useless, irrelevant comments!”

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Hermes September 17, 2010 at 8:23 am

[ withholds response to ildi pending Cl's reply ]

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woodchuck64 September 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

cl, I apologize, I’m going to backpeddle a bit. I’m no longer sure of the value of arguing desire fulfilling or thwarting for specific cases (of genocide, pederasty) because desirism is necessarily only concerned with the general case.

More specifically, although I estimate that the Canannite genocide was desire thwarting, there’s no logical reason it couldn’t have somehow turned out to be desire fulfilling. Very low probability but not 0 probability. But in making a decision about whether to encourage the desire to commit genocide under desirism, we’re taking all genocides, past, present, and future, and estimating in each case whether it resulted in desire fulfillment or desire thwarting over all and reducing all that to a single yes or no.

Likewise for pederasty, although I estimate that Greek society could not plausibly have had an adult/youth sexual dynamic that didn’t result in over all desire thwarting, there’s no logical reason it couldn’t have somehow turned out to be desire fulfilling. Very low probability but not 0 probability. But in making a decision about whether to encourage the desire for pederasty under desirism, though, we’re taking all possible pederasty relationships, past, present and future, and estimating in each case whether it resulted in desire fulfillment or desire thwarting over all and reducing that to a single yes or no.

That said, we might still suppose whether or not a hypothetical “desire for pederasty under ancient Greek society” should be encouraged or discouraged and arriving at an answer would come from estimating desire fulfilling or desire thwarting from ancient records. However, if after studying all data, we concluded yes, it was desire fulfilling over all, it would be useless for modern society because the “desire for pederasty under ancient Greek society” has no application today, certainly not to modern pederasty practices, and further the “yes” could only be a weak yes because of the poor quality of ancient records (relative to modern records).

If desirism is descriptive, that means our current moral sense may already be the result of a sort of implicit calculating of desire fulfillment/thwarting in the form of social law development, so intuition should tell us something. But from a theist perspective, that’s begging the question and I think this might be key to my understanding your objections.

So the only way to go further and prove that current desirism moral beliefs regarding desires are more than just intuition is to actually flesh out scientific methodology for arriving at explicit and formal desire conclusions and then start using it.

Take smoking. Alonzo calls the desire to smoke “irrational” and argues that “people generally” have reason to promote an aversion to smoking. In doing so, he uses something that doesn’t exist [people generally], and assumes that the values of non-smokers should somehow override the desires of smokers. In truth, most non-smokers have a reason to promote an aversion to smoking – but most smokers – and certainly companies like Philip Morris – have reason to promote the desire to smoke.

Smoking is proven to generally result in illness and reduced quality of life; smokers with terminal cancer usually admit that the nicotine rush was not worth the disease. So for every smoker, we seem to have net desire thwarting. This is still informal, but is it good enough in your opinion? Obviously I could justify the first statement with medical studies pretty easily, the second might be a little harder but not impossible.

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cl September 17, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe,

When you write that stuff, please mention the questions that weren’t addressed by both Alonzo and Luke (instead of just skipping) so that someone less fiery than you can ask them

I used to include a list of them; it made no difference. People “less fiery” than me have also asked them; it makes no difference. Still, I’ll index all my questions and objections in an upcoming post. That should help, right?

…you really are too militant in your approach. It makes people more averse to listening to you. So tone down a bit.

Yeah, well… I’m sure there’s a grain of truth to that, but consider all the haters I have to put up with in these threads, and consider that it didn’t start out like this. After a while, a person gets sick and tired of getting stonewalled and insulted for nothing other than being persistent with tough questions. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As Luke says, sometimes it takes mockery to change an opinion. I’m testing different strategies to see what works.

So, let me do me, and I’ll let you do you. I appreciate your concern but let’s stick to the issues.

ildi,

…you’re just running around claiming that 10,000 years is as valid an estimate as 4.5 billion years and that scientists have an “anti-creationist” bias.

That’s a bald-faced lie – and of course – with no citations. Now, run over to the James Lee thread, and try to find something that supports your inaccurate paraphrase. Not once have I said what you attribute to me. Pay attention to nuance.

woodchuck64,

I tend to object to probability statements with no math.

…desirism is necessarily only concerned with the general case.

If that’s the case, isn’t it useless for specific, real-world evaluations?

…in making a decision about whether to encourage the desire to commit genocide under desirism, we’re taking all genocides, past, present, and future, and estimating in each case whether it resulted in desire fulfillment or desire thwarting over all and reducing all that to a single yes or no.

Correct. That’s why I said I would agree with Alonzo when he says, “people generally have reason to promote an aversion to genocide.”

If desirism is descriptive, that means our current moral sense may already be the result of a sort of implicit calculating of desire fulfillment/thwarting in the form of social law development, so intuition should tell us something.

True, but Luke’s running around telling us we shouldn’t trust those intuitions.

So the only way to go further and prove that current desirism moral beliefs regarding desires are more than just intuition is to actually flesh out scientific methodology for arriving at explicit and formal desire conclusions and then start using it.

YES, and, as other commenters have noted, this is exactly what desirists DON’T do. How is it that I’m the only one who’s ever attempted an actual, empirical evaluation here? It makes no sense. It seems like the Fyfists just want to engage in an academic exercise. Like I said, show me the math. Let’s crunch some numbers. This theory is supposed to be objective and empirical.

Smoking is proven to generally result in illness and reduced quality of life; smokers with terminal cancer usually admit that the nicotine rush was not worth the disease.

Sure, but recall that desirism doesn’t promote maximization of health, so any prescription against smoking can’t be made on those grounds.

So for every smoker, we seem to have net desire thwarting. This is still informal, but is it good enough in your opinion?

No, it’s not. I know plenty of smokers and drug users who really don’t care. If I don’t give a damn whether I live or die, why in the world should I base my morality off somebody like Alonzo Fyfe? That’s just it: smoking is irrational for people who care about health. For people that don’t, that judgment doesn’t apply. There are plenty of people who simply aren’t concerned with maximizing health and well-being. Why should we force the values of others onto them?

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Hermes September 17, 2010 at 9:12 pm

[ withholds responses to ildi and Cl for ~2 more days pending Cl's reply ]

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ildi September 18, 2010 at 8:51 am

That’s a bald-faced lie – and of course – with no citations. Now, run over to the James Lee thread, and try to find something that supports your inaccurate paraphrase. Not once have I said what you attribute to me. Pay attention to nuance

What, is it too soon? Not ready to out yourself yet? I hate to break it to you, cl, but your efforts to hide behind “nuance” notwithstanding, you already outed yourself in the Lee thread.

You were able to drag out the “I’m agnostic about whether God exists” line for a while, too, but eventually your position made itself clear then as it does now by the questions you pose and how you pose them. Once the truth came out, though, you just came across as a disingenuous asshat.

In case there’s some confusion in your mind, “I’m agnostic about” doesn’t mean “I refuse to tell you”.

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Hermes September 19, 2010 at 4:45 am

[ withholds responses to ildi and Cl for ~1/2 day more days pending Cl's reply ]

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ildi September 19, 2010 at 9:28 am

In my most humble opinion sirrah, I believe my uber-list has already rendered those two points redundant

There’s something singualarly appropriate about having ten of them in a morality thread, though…

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ildi September 19, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Personally, when I look around, I see some facts that are consistent with the idea that humans were created less than 10,000 years ago
-cl

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Hermes September 19, 2010 at 1:11 pm

[ tips hat to ildi ]

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ildi September 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Hermes, you have forced me to venture to the dark side:

cl:

Recall that science is not only a practice, but also an institution, which means conflict-of-interest issues loom. Personally, I’d like to see more focus on anomalous evidence, for example, tools found in Aixen-Provence limestone that dates to 300 myr [The American Journal of Science and Arts, 1:145-46, 1820].

bad.archeology.net:

Tools in rock at Aix-en-Provence (France)

According to an account published in The American Journal of Science and Arts volume 1 (1820), numerous quarrymen’s tools were found during limestone quarrying near Aix-en-Provence (France) between 1786 and 1788. The strata of limestone were separated by strata of sand and clay and beneath the eleventh layer, at a depth of between 12 and 15 m (40 to 50 feet), the sand contained what were described as the stumps of stone pillars, fragments of partly worked limestone and the handles of petrified wooden tools. A large, broken slab of agate-like material some 2.1 to 2.5 m long and 25 mm thick, appeared to have been a quarryman’s board like those used at the time, with rounded and wavy edges.

These sound like the remains of a petrified forest, the stone ‘pillars’ being fossilised tree stumps and the apparent tool handles the remains of branches. At the time of the discovery, such phenomena were not understood and it is easy to see how the quarrymen might interpret natural petrified tree remains as petrified humanly-created tools. In short, there is no real mystery here and certainly no evidence for phenomenally ancient tools!

cl:

However, scientism seems to force acceptance of evolution, and many atheists adhere to the philosophy of scientism. I would imagine they simply don’t see any other alternative. I imagine they would say something like, “Well, evolution is the only thing we have any solid evidence for, so that’s what I have to believe. Of course, as you seem to imply, there’s no good reason an atheist couldn’t believe in transpermia or some other theory.

wiki:

Panspermia proposes that life that can survive the effects of space, such as extremophile bacteria, become trapped in debris that’s ejected into space after collisions between planets that harbor life and Small Solar System Bodies (SSSB). Bacteria may travel dormant for an extended amount of time before colliding randomly with other planets or intermingling with protoplanetary discs. If met with ideal conditions on the new planets’ surfaces, the bacteria become active and the process of evolution begins. [emphasis mine]

cl:

I’ve read Uncommon Descent and various Discovery Institute literature, and I think most of the people who reject ID – scientists, philosophers, whoever – do so because they say it’s a “God of the gaps” fallacy. Typical responses are that Behe never proved his case with the eye or cilia, and that unguided evolution actually *can* account for such complex structures. Of course, it doesn’t help that Darwin’s falsifiability criteria invite an argument from ignorance:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

–Charles Darwin, Origin of Species

I can’t go on; it burns, it burns!

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Hermes September 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

ildi: Hermes, you have forced me to venture to the dark side:

If I knew my comparative silence had such an impact, I would have stopped talking to people years ago. By now, we might have a cure for cancer or generic vaccines for both colds and flus. :-(

[ shuts up and starts to read ildi's new message ]

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Hermes September 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

[ withholds commenting on ildi's new message pending a fresh response from Cl to previous direct question on approximate age of the Earth given best available information ]

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lukeprog September 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Oh God. Are we arguing about the age of the earth?

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Hermes September 19, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Luke, I request your patience as well as the patience of others. Now, as dryly as I can muster…

I discourage everyone from turning this into an argument. Personally, I do not begrudge Cl’s previous sharp comments to me, I admit my own sharp comments to Cl, and for now I will provide dead-pan factual responses when possible if the conversation continues. If not, I may be more direct in my assessment.

As I specified to Cl earlier, I am not the arbitrator of what is the correct answer, but I gave a wide range for Cl to provide an answer that is held by a consensus of working geologists or some other more appropriate group if Cl has a reasonable if not superior replacement for the arbitrator.

Cl can offer support for whatever tentative conclusion that Cl considers to be supported by the best available evidence.

My conservative position is that there is ample support available to quickly reach a tentative conclusion about what the general age of the Earth is. That position will likely be reached by anyone given the available facts.

As such, an educated person familiar with the available support could fairly easily provide an answer that was within a reasonable fraction of the consensus age demonstrated by the arbitrating group (working geologists or other group) or other valid non-group resource.

I think that Cl is fully capable of providing a direct and simple answer that is verifiable using the best available support.

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ildi September 19, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Oh God. Are we arguing about the age of the earth?

Good times, good times…

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Hermes September 20, 2010 at 7:11 am

[ seems as if patience was warranted as Cl has gone silent -- a vacation maybe? ]

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ildi September 20, 2010 at 7:55 am

I will await a follow up response from you sometime in the next few days. If you wish, at that time, I would be glad to discuss what any of this has to do with morality. I hope that will not be necessary.

Wait a minute; you’re not going to finish your story unless cl comes back to this thread? I feel so cheated…

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Hermes September 20, 2010 at 7:58 am

Patience is requested.

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vanilacrmcake September 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

“Oh God. Are we arguing about the age of the earth?”

I was promised free pizza and beverages?…

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Hermes September 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

[ waiting a little bit more for Cl to respond as Cl seems to be around now ]

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Hermes September 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

Cl, for what it’s worth, this was not directed towards you specifically but for people like you.

A few quotes from Alan Sokal in The Marketplace of Ideas interview that sums things up quite well;

If you are sloppy about evaluating evidence, then you are ethically liable for the mistakes that you’ve made. [ ~45:00 mark ]

* * *

The main point is … it’s important when you make claims about factual matters in the world, to understand clearly what is the evidence on which those claims are based and to and try evaluate that evidence as impartially as possible. [ ~45:50 mark ]

I’d add that if you have evidence before you, not evaluating it at all is also an ethical failure, not only a philosophical or logical one. Ignoring evidence is like a white lie and it should not be treated as a valid method of justifying a point of view.

Ignorance of details you are unaware of is a valid justification for drawing the wrong conclusion or having an invalid chain of reasons in reaching any conclusion at all.

Having the details available to you and then ignoring it in preference to your previous ignorance so you can reach a different conclusion or avoid any conclusion at all is not valid.

Along those lines, and in the spirit of Alan Sokal’s comments as well as many others; You can have your own opinions, but you can not have your own facts.

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ildi September 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Hermes: I think what’s relevant here also in terms of addressing cl’s (mis)understanding of scientific knowledge is Isaac Asimov’s The Relativity of Wrong

The young specialist in English Lit, having quoted me, went on to lecture me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern “knowledge” is that it is wrong. The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. “If I am the wisest man,” said Socrates, “it is because I alone know that I know nothing.” the implication was that I was very foolish because I was under the impression I knew a great deal.

My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.

So, to paraphrase one of my heroes:

When people thought the earth was 10,000 years old, they were wrong. When scientists estimate the earth to be 4.5 billion years old, their estimates may be adjusted based on new evidence. If you think the estimate of 4.5 billion is as wrong as 10,000 years… oh, wait, cl still thinks there is evidence for the 10,000 year estimate.

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ildi September 22, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Actually, the longer version of the essay that appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is a much better read, as it contains the snark for which Asimov was known and loved:

First, let me dispose of Socrates because I am sick and tired of this pretense that knowing you know nothing is a mark of wisdom.

No one knows nothing. In a matter of days, babies learn to recognize their mothers.

Socrates would agree, of course, and explain that knowledge of trivia is not what he means. He means that in the great abstractions over which human beings debate, one should start without preconceived, unexamined notions, and that he alone knew this. (What an enormously arrogant claim!)

In his discussions of such matters as “What is justice?” or “What is virtue?” he took the attitude that he knew nothing and had to be instructed by others. (This is called “Socratic irony,” for Socrates knew very well that he knew a great deal more than the poor souls he was picking on.) By pretending ignorance, Socrates lured others into propounding their views on such abstractions. Socrates then, by a series of ignorant-sounding questions, forced the others into such a mélange of self-contradictions that they would finally break down and admit they didn’t know what they were talking about.

It is the mark of the marvelous toleration of the Athenians that they let this continue for decades and that it wasn’t till Socrates turned seventy that they broke down and forced him to drink poison.

OMG, does cl think she’s using the Socratic method? It would explain so much…

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Hermes September 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Ildi, thanks for the Asimov quote. He’s quite practical with his wit. I’ve encountered many of those one-discipline experts that he rightly slams, and I think that is much of the problem with stridently religious people. They are so adept at bludgeoning things that look similar to nails with their one hammer that they have an aversion to screwdrivers, saws, and wrenches let alone power tools.

I think that’s what made Asimov and a few others so valuable; they were able to cross disciplines and understand where subtlety between domains was appropriate as well as domain experience in a specific area should be ceded to one group of specialists over another.

If you read the back and forth between Brian_G and others (Patrick plus a few more) — http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11664 — on where theologians should have input on known unknowns like ‘where the center of the universe is’, it’s clear that at a minimum Brian_G is describing a preference to deferring to one-hammer-specialists (theologians; hey, we’re the center of the universe!) instead of taking the best current answer (we don’t know, but if it’s a single place it’s stunningly unlikely that the single place just happens to be the one under our feet ).

While bored waiting for Cl to not answer questions in person, I whipped up a spreadsheet and punched in some numbers between what various Christian creationists propose for different fields and what specialists in those fields propose and it’s quite an amazing difference. Who said — paraphrasing — that reality as it is, is much grander and awe inspiring than the small world run by a small god as proposed by theologians? That if anything is a soft sell, as the differences are so astounding as to make me wonder what glory the same creationists are actually in awe of? Something so small? So beholden and enslaved?

does cl think she’s using the Socratic method? It would explain so much…

I don’t think so in her case. I think it’s more solipsistic. The kind of argument that is promoted by movies like “What the *bleep*” and other icons of ignorance like the Discovery Institute and ICR. As Asimov wrote (thanks again for the quotes!);

“The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.”

Worse, I think Cl is taking it along another angle entirely. She doesn’t care if she’s right or wrong, only if she can teach others that they must have doubt. Either Cl hasn’t been exposed to or actively rejects the point that Asimov was making.

For me, I don’t have to know for certain in order to make a reasonable guess on what is most likely true. I can hold things to be true knowing that they can be refined. Yet, I do not need to take in all sorts of nonsense as plausible if it has no positive support in it’s favor.

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Hermes_not_Trismegistus September 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm

[ Hermes - posting from a different user ID; some reason can't use just "Hermes" ]

Ildi, thanks for the Asimov quote. He’s quite practical with his wit. I’ve encountered many of those one-discipline experts that he rightly slams, and I think that is much of the problem with stridently religious people. They are so adept at bludgeoning things that look similar to nails with their one hammer that they have an aversion to screwdrivers, saws, and wrenches let alone power tools.

I think that’s what made Asimov and a few others so valuable; they were able to cross disciplines and understand where subtlety between domains was appropriate as well as domain experience in a specific area should be ceded to one group of specialists over another.

If you read the back and forth between Brian_G and others (Patrick plus a few more) — http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11664 — on where theologians should have input on known unknowns like ‘where the center of the universe is’, it’s clear that at a minimum Brian_G is describing a preference to deferring to one-hammer-specialists (theologians; hey, we’re the center of the universe!) instead of taking the best current answer (we don’t know, but if it’s a single place it’s stunningly unlikely that the single place just happens to be the one under our feet ).

While bored waiting for Cl to not answer questions in person, I whipped up a spreadsheet and punched in some numbers between what various Christian creationists propose for different fields and what specialists in those fields propose and it’s quite an amazing difference. Who said — paraphrasing — that reality as it is, is much grander and awe inspiring than the small world run by a small god as proposed by theologians? That if anything is a soft sell, as the differences are so astounding as to make me wonder what glory the same creationists are actually in awe of? Something so small? So beholden and enslaved?

does cl think she’s using the Socratic method? It would explain so much…

I don’t think so in her case. I think it’s more solipsistic. The kind of argument that is promoted by movies like “What the *bleep*” and other icons of ignorance like the Discovery Institute and ICR. As Asimov wrote (thanks again for the quotes!);

“The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.”

Worse, I think Cl is taking it along another angle entirely. She doesn’t care if she’s right or wrong, only if she can teach others that they must have doubt. Either Cl hasn’t been exposed to or actively rejects the point that Asimov was making.

For me, I don’t have to know for certain in order to make a reasonable guess on what is most likely true. I can hold things to be true knowing that they can be refined. Yet, I do not need to take in all sorts of nonsense as plausible if it has no positive support in it’s favor.

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Hermes_3 September 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm

[ Hermes and alternate account now not posting? ]

[ Reposted from http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11303 where simple questions have been avoided. Unfortunately, that is not the only location. Another example can be seen throughout the comment thread here -- http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11245 -- with various people commenting on this tendency towards the end of the posted comments. ]

Cl, for what it’s worth, this was not directed towards you specifically but for people like you.

A few quotes from Alan Sokal in The Marketplace of Ideas interview that sums things up quite well;

If you are sloppy about evaluating evidence, then you are ethically liable for the mistakes that you’ve made. [ ~45:00 mark ]

* * *

The main point is … it’s important when you make claims about factual matters in the world, to understand clearly what is the evidence on which those claims are based and to and try evaluate that evidence as impartially as possible. [ ~45:50 mark ]

I’d add that if you have evidence before you, not evaluating it at all is also an ethical failure, not only a philosophical or logical one. Ignoring evidence is like a white lie and it should not be treated as a valid method of justifying a point of view.

Ignorance of details you are unaware of is a valid justification for drawing the wrong conclusion or having an invalid chain of reasons in reaching any conclusion at all.

Having the details available to you and then ignoring it in preference to your previous ignorance so you can reach a different conclusion or avoid any conclusion at all is not valid.

Along those lines, and in the spirit of Alan Sokal’s comments as well as many others; You can have your own opinions, but you can not have your own facts.

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lukeprog September 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Hermes,

Akismet went crazy on you. I dug your posts out of the spam queue.

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Other September 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Thanks Luke! (Feel free to nuke any dupes at your discretion.)

Best guess: I may have triggered the spam filter when I re-posted a similar message in two places.

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Hermes September 22, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Damn…forgot to change my settings back.

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lukeprog September 22, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Dunno. Akismet is kinda stupid about blocking people who have had a thousand approved comments in the past.

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cl September 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Is there really any wonder why I haven’t been interested in responding to this thread? I know they say “don’t feed the trolls,” but, at the very least I ought to address the 2% of these screeds that actually attempt to make points:

ildi,

These sound like the remains of a petrified forest, the stone ‘pillars’ being fossilised tree stumps and the apparent tool handles the remains of branches. At the time of the discovery, such phenomena were not understood and it is easy to see how the quarrymen might interpret natural petrified tree remains as petrified humanly-created tools. In short, there is no real mystery here and certainly no evidence for phenomenally ancient tools!

I don’t think the site you linked to gives any credible treatment of the issue, whatsoever.

In case there’s some confusion in your mind, “I’m agnostic about” doesn’t mean “I refuse to tell you”.

Thanks for clarifying, but it wasn’t necessary. I know what “I’m agnostic about” means. It’s not that I’m refusing to tell you how old I believe the Earth is, it’s that there’s nothing TO tell you. I don’t know. I take an agnostic stance on the issue. Why is that so difficult for you to accept?

Hermes,

If you are sloppy about evaluating evidence, then you are ethically liable for the mistakes that you’ve made. [Alan Sokal]

What mistakes have I made? You claim I ignore evidence; what evidence have I ignored?

As I specified to Cl earlier, I am not the arbitrator of what is the correct answer, but I gave a wide range for Cl to provide an answer that is held by a consensus of working geologists or some other more appropriate group if Cl has a reasonable if not superior replacement for the arbitrator.

What was wrong with the answer I gave you?

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Hermes September 25, 2010 at 4:24 am

Cl, thank you for responding.

As I noted to Luke this is not an argument. I would like this to be a discussion, but even if you are not engaged in it I do not consider it an argument. I, like you, am confident in my current assessment of reality, and as such there’s no argument. What could be argued over? At worse, observations can be made.

Taking things one at a time, not focusing on specific people or topics for now, please provide general comments on the Alan Sokal quotes and my additional comments;

I’d add that if you have evidence before you, not evaluating it at all is also an ethical failure, not only a philosophical or logical one. Ignoring evidence is like a white lie and it should not be treated as a valid method of justifying a point of view.

Ignorance of details you are unaware of is a valid justification for drawing the wrong conclusion or having an invalid chain of reasons in reaching any conclusion at all.

Having the details available to you and then ignoring it in preference to your previous ignorance so you can reach a different conclusion or avoid any conclusion at all is not valid.

Along those lines, and in the spirit of Alan Sokal’s comments as well as many others; You can have your own opinions, but you can not have your own facts.

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prairienymph December 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

There are scientific studies on morality that we can look at. Facts, if you will. How those facts are interpreted are something else.
http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/episode/2011/12/03/december-3-2011/ has a quick and interesting overview of Dr. Kiley Hamlin’s studies on morality and 8 month old babies.

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