Christian Luke vs. Atheist Luke

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 31, 2009 in Christian Theology,General Atheism

The Nature of Existence is a documentary film for which Roger Nygard wrote down the toughest 85 questions he could think of about the nature of existence and then asked them of the world’s leading gurus, scientists, philosophers, and spiritual leaders.

Below, I took Nygard’s 85 questions and answered them very briefly (1) as I would have at age 20, when I was still a Christian, and (2) today, as an atheist. Perhaps I will answer them again in 5 more years and note the differences.

Why do we exist?

Christian Luke: God created us to please himself. Atheist Luke: Humans evolved from earlier primate species.

What is the best thing about existing?

Christian Luke: Knowing that God loves me. Enjoying his gifts. Atheist Luke: Discovering and learning about the universe I find myself in.

What is our purpose?

Christian Luke: Our purpose is to worship God and fulfill his goals for us. Atheist Luke: There is no ultimate “Why.” But there are moral “oughts,” and they can be thought to provide purpose.

Is the world a better place for having had humans in it?

Christian Luke: Despite the suffering we cause each other, we must be pleasing God enough for him to keep us around. Atheist Luke: I don’t know.

How can we improve humanity?

Christian Luke: Infect everyone with the love of Jesus. Atheist Luke: Promote good desires, discourage bad desires. Redesign humanity using the tools of biology, robotics, and neuroscience.

What is the best advice or philosophy for living?

Christian Luke: Seek the truth of God, do what God wants. Atheist Luke: Seek the truth, do what you can to make the world a better place.

What is religion?

Christian Luke: Man’s ritualistic, communal attempt to connect with the divine. Atheist Luke: Man’s ritualistic, communal attempt to connect with the divine or ultimate meaning of the universe.

Why are there multiple religions?

Christian Luke: God is mysterious and confusing, and Satan deceives. Atheist Luke: For the same reasons there are multiple New Age superstitions and pseudosciences.

Should religions be challenged?

Christian Luke: Sure. Atheist Luke: Definitely.

Is skepticism a good thing?

Christian Luke: Yes, but not if it challenges faith and the witness of the Holy Spirit. Atheist Luke: Yes.

Why do people get angry when their beliefs are challenged?

Christian Luke: Having your central beliefs and values challenged can be scary. Atheist Luke: Having your central beliefs and values challenged can be scary.

Which One Is Right? Can all religions be correct?

Christian Luke: Jesus is God. Other gods are illusions. Atheist Luke: All supernatural claims are probably false.

What does fear have to do with belief?

Christian Luke: I don’t know. Atheist Luke: I don’t know.

Do we have a need to believe in something?

Christian Luke: God has placed a God-shaped hole in our hearts, which only he can fulfill. Atheist Luke: Of course we seek out beliefs that are comforting. Also, we appear to have hyperactive agency-detection faculties.

What is spirituality?

Christian Luke: Connecting with God. Atheist Luke: Connecting with the transcendent, maybe?

Can religion and science coexist?

Christian Luke: Of course. Atheist Luke: Yes, but reality (as revealed by science) constantly contradicts religious doctrines.

What’s the difference between religion and science?

Christian Luke: Science is more rigorous and successful. Most religions only have a grain of truth. Atheist Luke: Science has a much better track record with the truth.

Can a religion change with society?

Christian Luke: Yes. Atheist Luke: Yes.

Was man created or evolved?

Christian Luke: Created, and maybe also evolved. Atheist Luke: Evolved.

Is there a God?

Christian Luke: Yes. Atheist Luke: No.

What is the definition of God?

Christian Luke: God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Creator of the universe. Atheist Luke: Believers define them how they like.

What gives you certainty in your belief?

Christian Luke: My personal experiences of God. His inner witness to my heart. Atheist Luke: I’m not 100% certain of anything. Science has been pretty successful at uncovering truth, it seems.

How do you deal with doubt?

Christian Luke: I ask God to give me faith and reveal himself to me. Atheist Luke: I try to doubt as much as I can. There are far more falsehoods being told than truths.

Who created God?

Christian Luke: Nobody; God has always existed. Atheist Luke: Humans invented various concepts of God.

Is God male or female?

Christian Luke: Neither. Atheist Luke: In most myths, he is depicted as male or ungendered.

What does God need from us?

Christian Luke: God doesn’t need anything, but he wants love and worship. Atheist Luke: God doesn’t exist.

Who is/are the Messiah(s)?

Christian Luke: Jesus is the Messiah. Atheist Luke: God didn’t send anybody, because God doesn’t exist.

Who is the Devil?

Christian Luke: The Devil is ‘Satan,’ who tempts us to sin and wars against God. Atheist Luke: There are a great many mythical pictures of the Devil.

What is faith?

Christian Luke: Faith is knowing what is unseen and putting your trust in God. Atheist Luke: There are many meanings. Faith usually means trusting something for which you don’t have abundant evidence.

What is a fact?

Christian Luke: A fact is a well-substantiated truth claim. Atheist Luke: A fact is a well-substantiated truth claim.

How can we tell what is faith and what is fact?

Christian Luke: It’s a spectrum, with no clear demarcation. Atheist Luke: Ditto.

What is truth?

Christian Luke: Truth is that which corresponds to reality. Atheist Luke: Ditto.

How do we determine truth?

Christian Luke: Science, reason, the Bible, God’s revelation to us. Atheist Luke: Science and reason.

Which truth is right?

Christian Luke: Huh? Atheist Luke: Huh?

Is the holy-book literally true?

Christian Luke: No. Atheist Luke: No.

What is the origin of the holy book?

Christian Luke: God inspired various authors to write it. Atheist Luke: Compiled and edited over centuries from dozens of authors with contrary viewpoints. Not divinely inspired.

How do we accept a holy book that positively portrays unacceptable behaviors like slavery, incest, murder, etc.?

Christian Luke: I don’t know. Atheist Luke: We shouldn’t.

Can we take what we like about a religion/belief system and make our own version and throw out the rest?

Christian Luke: No. God’s truth is God’s truth. Atheist Luke: People do, that’s for sure.

What is morality?

Christian Luke: Morality is obedience to God’s will. Atheist Luke: There are many definitions for “morality.” One of those that corresponds to reality concerns the promotion of desires that tend to fulfill other desires, and the discouragement of desires that tend to thwart other desires.

Is there a moral yardstick that applies to all cultures?

Christian Luke: Yes: God’s will. Atheist Luke: Sure; see above.

Where does morality, or our “conscience,” comes from?

Christian Luke: God wrote his law on our hearts. Atheist Luke: Our “conscience” was probably evolved and culturally inculcated.

Is altruism or morality possible without belief in a deity?

Christian Luke: Yes. Atheist Luke: Yes.

What is sin?

Christian Luke: Disobedience to God’s will. Atheist Luke: That’s a strongly religious term. I’ll let believers define it.

What is the punishment for sin?

Christian Luke: Separation from God. But God offers a way out. Atheist Luke: There is no God to punish us for sin.

Is thought the same as deed?

Christian Luke: No, but God cares about both. Atheist Luke: No.

Does God want to test us? Why?

Christian Luke: Yes. Maybe for the same reasons he tested Job. Atheist Luke: No; God does not exist.

Should a person have sex before marriage?

Christian Luke: No. Atheist Luke: You should probably find some sexual compatibility with someone before you commit your entire life to them, yes.

Is masturbation a sin?

Christian Luke: Yes. Atheist Luke: No.

What determines sexual orientation?

Christian Luke: I don’t know. Atheist Luke: It appears to be mostly genetic.

Why is God interested in our sexual behavior?

Christian Luke: Because he is interested in all our behavior. Atheist Luke: God doesn’t exist.

Should women be treated differently than men?

Christian Luke: No. Atheist Luke: Yes. For example, they like to be spanked.

Do we have free will?

Christian Luke: Yes. Atheist Luke: Not contra-causal free will, no.

Is everything predetermined?

Christian Luke: No, though God’s purposes will ultimately be accomplished. Atheist Luke: Current physics suggests: “Probably not.”.

What entity predetermines fate or destiny?

Christian Luke: The will of God, natural laws, and free human choices. Atheist Luke: Natural laws and random chance.

Why is there suffering?

Christian Luke: Some of it is due to evil human choices. The rest; I don’t know. Atheist Luke: The universe is indifferent to our suffering and pleasure.

What is best path to happiness?

Christian Luke: Surrender to God. Atheist Luke: I don’t know. Create your own reality and live according to your values?

Does God intercede in human tragedies?

Christian Luke: When he chooses to, yes. Atheist Luke: No.

Does prayer work?

Christian Luke: When it accords with God’s will, yes. Atheist Luke: No.

If prayer works, why does God allow holocausts, and disasters?

Christian Luke: I don’t know. Atheist Luke: God doesn’t exist.

If prayer doesn’t work, why pray?

Christian Luke: Prayer can also improve one’s relationship to God. Atheist Luke: To calm yourself down?

Does meditation work?

Christian Luke: For some, I suppose. Atheist Luke: Ditto.

How does meditation work?

Christian Luke: Calms you down, focuses your thoughts?. Atheist Luke: Ditto.

What is a soul

Christian Luke: My soul is the eternal part of my nature, from which my free will acts. Atheist Luke: Souls don’t exist.

Do animals have souls?

Christian Luke: No. Atheist Luke: No.

Does a soul have the same thoughts and feelings when outside the body?

Christian Luke: I won’t know. Atheist Luke: Souls don’t exist.

If a soul does not carry our memories, then what is a soul since it is our memories that make us up?

Christian Luke: I don’t know if our soul carries our memories, but there is more to me than memories. Atheist Luke: Souls don’t exist.

What purpose does a brain serve if a soul can exist and feel without it?

Christian Luke: I’m not sure a soul feel without the brain. The brain controls the body. Atheist Luke: Souls don’t exist.

Is there an Afterlife?

Christian Luke: Yes. Atheist Luke: No.

Where is it, where do we go after death?

Christian Luke: A spiritual realm, either heaven or hell. Atheist Luke: Nowhere.

Why do we need an afterlife?

Christian Luke: I’m not sure we need it, that’s just the way things are. Atheist Luke: We don’t.

When does life begin?

Christian Luke: I don’t know. Sometime after conception, sometime before birth. Atheist Luke: I don’t know.

When should abortion be allowed?

Christian Luke: I don’t know. Atheist Luke: I don’t know. Before the fetus develops desires, I suppose?

Is it ever appropriate to kill another person?

Christian Luke: If it’s part of God’s will. Atheist Luke: Maybe.

What are supernatural beliefs?

Christian Luke: Beliefs about a non-natural reality. Atheist Luke: Ditto.

Are there extraterrestrials? Who are they?

Christian Luke: I don’t know. Atheist Luke: I don’t know.

Do psychics work, and if you are religious, are they allowed?

Christian Luke: No. Atheist Luke: No.

Where do the voices in our heads come from?

Christian Luke: God, demons, or psychological phenomena. Atheist Luke: Psychological phenomena.

Will there be a doomsday?

Christian Luke: An end of the world as we know it? Yes. Atheist Luke: Some day, I suppose, a comet will hit Earth or the sun will explode or something.

What is the greatest danger facing man’s existence?

Christian Luke: Satan? Evil humans? Atheist Luke: Currently? Probably nuclear proliferation.

How do we stop conflict?

Christian Luke: Preach the love of God, live by example. Atheist Luke: Destroy or reform the systems that promote conflict, for example corporatocracy and capitalism.

Should different cultures be preserved, or are our cultural differences the source of strife?

Christian Luke: Cultures are often beautiful, but we don’t need to keep all of them. Atheist Luke: Ditto.

Should political leaders invoke a deity in decisions or policy?

Christian Luke: No. Atheist Luke: No.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Joshua Blanchard October 31, 2009 at 7:31 am

Real quick: I think you may have answered the abortion question mistakenly. I assume you mean abortion could be allowed “before” the fetus develops desires, not “when” the fetus develops desires.

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Kip October 31, 2009 at 8:14 am

ROFL @ “Yes. For example, they like to be spanked.”

Confused @ “Create your own reality.” Huh? Do you mean in a Gandhi-ish “be the change you wish to see” sort of way?

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lukeprog October 31, 2009 at 10:22 am

Joshua,

Oops, thanks.

Kip,

I mean that people who actively create their life seem to be happier than those who passively let life create them.

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ColonelFazackerley October 31, 2009 at 11:06 am

I tend to assume that spirit is a synonym for soul, and that if someone claims to be spiritual, they are saying they are particularly in touch with, or concerned about, their soul. So, while Atheist Luke’s response to the spirituality question was qualified with a question mark, I was wondering why he did not dismiss it, like the soul questions.

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ayer October 31, 2009 at 11:07 am

“When should abortion be allowed?Atheist Luke: I don’t know. Before the fetus develops desires, I suppose?”

Interesting answer. So under desirism, the morality of killing a human being varies with the level of desires existing in that human being? That’s bad news not only for fetuses, but for newborns, the senile, the mentally handicapped, etc.

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Josh October 31, 2009 at 11:33 am

Ayer,

I should note, once again, that THE FACT THAT DESIRISM POSITS THINGS CONTRARY TO OUR MORAL INTUITION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ITS TRUTH VALUE.

But yes, to go along that line… is it a problem to euthanize someone who is in a “vegetative” state, for example? They certainly don’t give a shit.

If you’re going to say “Well we don’t know that they are really incapable of desires!” then you’re changing the rules of the game—if they really desire to not die, then they are not in such a state that we can say that they have no desires, thus we cannot apply the reasoning that you expressed. So, if you respond, please keep it ON TOPIC:

Suppose that we KNOW that someone has, say, no brain faculty to have desires (or care about dying in any way). What’s wrong with euthanizing them? It seems fair to not kill them cruelly, because this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t feel pain—but what’s wrong with humane death? If your answer relies on “They have a soul!” then you have to agree that we will never see eye to eye here…

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majinrevan666 October 31, 2009 at 2:03 pm

“THE FACT THAT DESIRISM POSITS THINGS CONTRARY TO OUR MORAL INTUITION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ITS TRUTH VALUE.”

If that has nothing to do with its truth value, what does?

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Joshua Blanchard October 31, 2009 at 2:11 pm

I agree with majinrevan’s surprise at Josh’s statement that our moral intuitions aren’t relevant to the truth value of a moral theory.

It is common practice in analytic ethics to use clear cases as tests for moral theories. We make a basic assumption that our moral intuitions are relatively trustworthy – after all, we use them to make decisions every day.

There are further reasons to trust our moral intuitions – e.g., we should believe what seems to be the case to us, barring sufficiently strong evidence to the contrary.

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 2:46 pm

“It seems fair to not kill them cruelly, because this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t feel pain”

That’s absurd. You’ve already stated the subject in question has no desires as justifying their death. Desires are the anima of desirism. There are no moral qualms to be had about tenderizing a steak with a mallet. Why then have a qualm about doing so to a slab of meat you’re intentionally expiring?

You might as well use the exercise as a way to create a safe outlet for the desires of sadists. Remember: Moral Intuition is no defense here.

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drj October 31, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I’m not really a desire-ist, but it should be blatantly obvious, that it is a good, and strong desire not to live in a society where others have the power to murder beings who have desires simply because they are in a temporarily desire-less state.

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Leviathan October 31, 2009 at 3:36 pm

How do we stop conflict?

Atheist Luke said: “Destroy or reform the systems that promote conflict, for example corporatocracy and capitalism.”

I think you should lay off the Chomsky a bit, Luke. Destroy capitalism? How about fixing what’s wrong with it, and leaving what’s right to create wealth and encourage innovation. Euro-style mixed econocomy, secular governing, mostly-free trade, etc. sounds good enough to me.

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Leviathan October 31, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Oh I guess you did say “or reform.” My bad :)

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J Wahler October 31, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Luke you lost me at “they like to be spanked”. Is that an empirical claim you’re making about the other gender or is that a belief you know is properly basic? Kidding of course. This sort of run down though would be a great sort of debate ‘cheat-sheet’ for evaluating and contrasting worldviews, in lieu of extended probing as exemplified by your dialogue with someone like a Vox Day.

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Kelley Clark October 31, 2009 at 4:08 pm

LMAO – I died at the spanking bit. But, you know, it is true!

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lukeprog October 31, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Using the deliverances of our moral intuitions as evidence for or against a moral theory assumes that our moral intuitions are correct. But there are good reasons to suspect our moral intuitions are not correct. I’ve written about this many times before, for example here.

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lukeprog October 31, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Leviathan,

In this case, I’m not influenced by Chomsky but Michael Albert.

There is much to be improved about capitalism as currently practiced, but there also seem to be some problems that are fundamental to capitalism that might (might!) be solved by an alternative system, for example participatory economics.

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majinrevan666 October 31, 2009 at 4:35 pm

“Using the deliverances of our moral intuitions as evidence for or against a moral theory assumes that our moral intuitions are correct. But there are good reasons to suspect our moral intuitions are not correct. I’ve written about this many times before, for example here.”

Every objection to the reliability of moral intuitions
you put forth can also be made to the reliability of our
cognitive faculties.

I think that you’re making a category error when you say
that, because our intuitions are inapplicable to facts
about the physical world, they must also be inapplicable
to facts about morality.

I have no idea what you mean by saying that we should apply Logic and evidence to assess whether something is right or wrong.

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Josh October 31, 2009 at 4:54 pm

“If that has nothing to do with its truth value, what does?”

I have no idea, to be quite honest. To be clear, I am not a desire utilitarian; I’m a pretty sure noncognitivist who is a subjective realist on my good days.

But it must be clear that our intuition isn’t the thing that talks about the truth value of morals. Consider the fact that our intuition about most other things about the world is not a good guide to truth (Newtonian mechanics, evolution, relativity, cell biology, neuroscience, quantum mechanics, chemistry, etc.). Next, since all the evidence suggests that our moral intuition is just a product of our evolutionary history, it’s easy to imagine a different evolutionary history where, say, murder is totally cool and awesome. Finally, note that our moral intuition is not constant in time or space, which suggests that at least someone’s moral intuition is wrong, since they can’t all be right. All this together tells me that our moral intuition is NOT the right place to check for the truth value or moral theories. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people out there who have moral intuition that is “100% true”, but just that it’s not a good justification.

“It is common practice in analytic ethics to use clear cases as tests for moral theories. We make a basic assumption that our moral intuitions are relatively trustworthy – after all, we use them to make decisions every day.”

The flaw in this is made clear if you just consider any other case where we could check a theory against our intuition. Plato, for example, came up with a theory of motion that fit with our intuition. However, it took Galileo to come up with a new theory that went against our intuition and prove it to be a closer approximation of reality. Einstein came along with an even closer approximation of reality—and it is EVEN LESS intuitive. If they simply said “Does this theory correspond to my intuition about motion?” they would have rejected Galilean and Einsteinian relativity outright.

“That’s absurd. You’ve already stated the subject in question has no desires as justifying their death. Desires are the anima of desirism. There are no moral qualms to be had about tenderizing a steak with a mallet. Why then have a qualm about doing so to a slab of meat you’re intentionally expiring?

You might as well use the exercise as a way to create a safe outlet for the desires of sadists. Remember: Moral Intuition is no defense here.”

I wasn’t just speaking in context of desirism in my example. I wanted to encompass other possible theories. For example, I would certainly say that a bacterium has no desires (they don’t even have brain states to register desires) but they can feel something like “pain”, i.e. some stimulus that causes them to move away. So you don’t necessarily need desires to feel “pain.” That’s all I was saying with that little comment.

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ayer October 31, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Josh: “But it must be clear that our intuition isn’t the thing that talks about the truth value of morals. Consider the fact that our intuition about most other things about the world is not a good guide to truth (Newtonian mechanics, evolution, relativity, cell biology, neuroscience, quantum mechanics, chemistry, etc.). Next, since all the evidence suggests that our moral intuition is just a product of our evolutionary history, it’s easy to imagine a different evolutionary history where, say, murder is totally cool and awesome.”

If by “intuition” you mean beliefs that are properly basic, then all of our scientific knowledge is derivative of our belief that our sense perception and cognitive faculties are reliable (at least when they are used in a group enterprise like science), and these are also products of our evolutionary history. And there are many “intuitive” paths to knowledge that are just as reliable as the empirical path of science–e.g., logic, mathematics, etc. Moral “intuition” is in that category.

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John Quincy Public October 31, 2009 at 7:15 pm

John: “. Finally, note that our moral intuition is not constant in time or space, which suggests that at least someone’s moral intuition is wrong, since they can’t all be right.”

I love the post. Though it is simpler to say that intuition is a personal thing while a moral system is a group thing. That cuts off things like this:

ayer: “(at least when they are used in a group enterprise like science)”

Not even group enterprises, but a group setting. I hear something. Did you?

For the pointy head thing: This is where solipsism ends and we get onto useful things.

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ayer October 31, 2009 at 8:52 pm

lukeprog: “Using the deliverances of our moral intuitions as evidence for or against a moral theory assumes that our moral intuitions are correct. But there are good reasons to suspect our moral intuitions are not correct.”

I understand that is your position, but if desirism leads to an inability to say that infanticide and euthanasia are wrong, it has serious problems. What you said to Vox now applies equally to you: “I admire your consistency but I must say your concept of morality is terrifying.”

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ildi November 1, 2009 at 5:45 pm

our scientific knowledge is derivative of our belief that our sense perception and cognitive faculties are reliable (at least when they are used in a group enterprise like science)

That’s not how the scientific method works; are you possibly misunderstanding what replicability means?

Shows like Mythbuster wouldn’t be half as interesting if our perceptions and cognitive abilities were half as accurate as we thought they were whether as individuals or in a group setting. We wouldn’t have needed a tool such as the scientific method to begin with.

I missed the infanticide discussion…

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Penneyworth November 2, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Luke,

You just said plain as day that desirism is just one way of defining morality. Joseph H. Smith dude… I must have been asking the wrong way, because I’ve been asking you over and over and over to either admit this or refute it. Saying that desirism is just your definition of morality makes moral realism perfectly valid. There are relationships between desires and states of affairs. We’ll call this morality. Sounds fine to me. But I’ll tell you what, there are plenty of folks out there like me who must either refuse this new definition or no longer value “morality” in the slightest.

Can you now stop the nonsense about desirism having a so and so % chance of being “true”? It’s 100% true by your definition.

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ayer November 2, 2009 at 7:28 pm

“But I’ll tell you what, there are plenty of folks out there like me who must either refuse this new definition or no longer value “morality” in the slightest.

Can you now stop the nonsense about desirism having a so and so % chance of being “true”? It’s 100% true by your definition.”

I agree. Desirism redefines “morality” to be identical to itself and thus appears to be tautological.

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steve November 2, 2009 at 10:51 pm

“but if desirism leads to an inability to say that infanticide and euthanasia are wrong”

Depends maybe whether its always reasoned that both infanticide and euthanasia need necessarily always be reasoned as being totally absolutely right or wrong.Im talking about in every single instance.

Faiths morals often claim many absolute morals,that at times in certain intances sure leaves some of us wondering just how moral the supposed moral actually is.Or from whos point of view the absolute moral is being judged as supposedly being right or wrong.

Claimed often as being divine and of god/s etc,they still strangly often seem to be rather “relative” to the faithful folk with whom these so called set of absolutes morals belong.Its one thing to claim the moral is of god,but its a different thing to prove.

Id be willing to hazard a guess maybe faith deciphered morals actually have far more of the actual “inability’s” present, that Ayer asks Luke can Desirism handle .

In the sense of being able to fairly decide whats always right or wrong.For starters faith morals are often bound up in old customs that dont easily evolve,even though humans never ever seem to stop learning and evolving all the time.

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lukeprog November 3, 2009 at 6:13 am

ayer,

No. Even if you accept my definitions about morality, desirism can still be false.

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ildi November 4, 2009 at 9:20 am

ayer:

I understand that is your position, but if desirism leads to an inability to say that infanticide and euthanasia are wrong, it has serious problems.

Yahweh and the fetus:

Genesis 38:24 “And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.”

Exodus 21:22-23 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life.

Numbers 3:15-16 Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shalt thou number them. And Moses numbered them according to the word of the LORD.

Numbers 5:27-28 Once she has done so, if she has been impure and unfaithful to her husband, this bitter water that brings a curse will go into her, and her belly will swell and her thighs will waste away, so that she will become an example of imprecation among her people. If, however, the woman has not defiled herself, but is still pure, she will be immune and will still be able to bear children.

Yahweh and children:

Genesis 22:3 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Exodus 12:29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.

There’s more about killing children for disobedience and misbehaving, but you get the drift; what was that you were saying about serious problems?

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ayer November 4, 2009 at 7:55 pm

ildi,

You are assuming that God is subject to the same moral duties and obligations to which we are subject. I’m sorry, but that’s just not correct. As William Lane Craig says:

“Our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses.We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.”

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ayer November 4, 2009 at 7:55 pm

“No. Even if you accept my definitions about morality, desirism can still be false.”

False as determined by what criteria?

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lukeprog November 5, 2009 at 5:25 am

ayer, see the FAQ on how desirism could be falsified.

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ayer November 5, 2009 at 6:24 am

lukeprog: “that non-desire reasons for action exist, for example intrinsic values or categorical imperatives”

You list the above in the FAQ as a way desirism could be “empirically” falsified; if, as most theists hold, objective moral values are properly basic and not arrived at inferentially, what method do you have in mind that would establish them empirically and thus falsify desirism?

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lukeprog November 5, 2009 at 6:43 am

I deny that anything about moral values is properly basic.

In the case of desirism, it is neuroscience that would must handily falsify the theory.

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ayer November 5, 2009 at 8:38 am

lukeprog: “I deny that anything about moral values is properly basic.

In the case of desirism, it is neuroscience that would must handily falsify the theory.”

So then intrinsic value/objective moral values could exist (thus rendering desirism false), but because they are not subject to neuroscience the adherent to desirism would not accept that desirism is false. Doesn’t that make desirism “nonfalsifiable”?

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lukeprog November 5, 2009 at 9:40 am

ayer,

No. There are many ways to falsify desirism besides with neuroscience. For example, philosophical argument could demonstrate the existence of intrinsic values, and this would falsify desirism.

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ayer November 5, 2009 at 10:44 am

lukeprog: “For example, philosophical argument could demonstrate the existence of intrinsic values, and this would falsify desirism.”

Philosophical argument does not result in “falsification”; only observation or physical experiment can do that:

“Falsifiability (or refutability) is the logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

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lukeprog November 5, 2009 at 10:57 am

ayer,

Sure. I meant that desirism could “be shown to be wrong” by philosophical argument demonstrating the existence of intrinsic value.

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ayer November 6, 2009 at 11:43 am

lukeprog: “Sure. I meant that desirism could “be shown to be wrong” by philosophical argument demonstrating the existence of intrinsic value.”

It could be “shown to be wrong” in the sense that an argument against it would be more plausible to an open-minded inquirer than the argument for it. But then such arguments can be made against solipsism as well, and because solipsism is self-consistent in it own absurd way, it is highly unlikely that philosophical argument would change the solipsist’s mind. Since desirism is similarly self-contained I believe philosophical argument would encounter the same problem.

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