Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ethical Natualism and Value Systems: The Illusion of Moral Landscapes (part 1 of 3)

  photo eo_wilson_zpsb233ffb2.jpeg
 E.O. Wilson

            The ideological tendencies of scientism seek to scrap traditional philosophically based ethics and produce a whole new ethical system based upon a scientific understanding of human biology. The official name for the school is “ethical naturalism.”[1] “Bio-ethics” implies the genuine ethical issues that emerge from biologically based intrusion of humanity into the natural processes of living; cloning, artificial insemination and the like. What I call “Ethical naturalism” is an attempt to actually replace the philosophical discipline of ethics with one derived from science.[2]Of course the major issue is that science has no mission to determine how we should live. Ethics is primarily about understanding how we should live, how we treat others, how we decide what actions to take in a given situations. These are not scientific questions they are philosophical questions. In their attempt to wipe out all other forms of knowledge the scientism movement seeks to eradicate philosophy from human thought. In this chapter I will argue that applying science to ethics is the fallacy of trying to derive an “ought” form an “is.” I also argue that the diversity of ethical theory is not a weakness but a strength and one that disproves the wisdom of this urge to reduce ethics to science.

Ethical thinking is divided into two major schools of thought: deontological ethics and teleological ethics. The former is based upon the notion that ethical thinking proceeds from rule keeping, that the good is derived from an understanding of duty and obligation. There’s a specific aspect of deontological thought called ‘rule deontology’ which says that ethical thinking should be understood in terms of rule keeping, or that the nature of duty and obligation is  best understood by an understanding of  rules. A lot of people think deontology is just a simple rule keeping mentality; just follow the rules and don’t understand them. That’s the simplistic version. The rules have reference to duty and obligation which is the real meat of deontological understanding. The latter school, the teleological says that ethical action should be judged by the “consequence” of that action. The outcome is where we determine the right or wrong, the “do” or “don’t” in a situation. This kind of thinking is also called ‘consequentialism.’ What both of these have in common is that they each seek to find the “good” in actions. That means they are about values. The good isn’t some natural substance we can discover in parts per million, it’s not a molecular structure; it’s a result of the valuations we place on concepts, ideas, and actions.

             Most ethical systems are going to be one or the other of these two schools. The attempt to make a scientifically determined ethical system from understanding human biology is a version of teleological ethics. They seek to derive the good from the outcome; that fits values of a utilitarian nature. So ethics is about values. We made ethical axioms based upon the values that we take to a given issue. It’s the subjective aspect of value-based thinking that scientism finds so objectionable. Ethics doesn’t give us clean neat little paint-by-numbers solutions. It’s not totalitarian. It requires reflection, it offers conflicting solutions. As Dorothy Emmett put it “morality is always contestable.”[3] Those who seek scientific precisions and no need to question further don’t like traditional ethics because it doesn’t yield neat easy solutions but requires a life-time of study and thought. Those who seek cold hard objective fortress of facts don’t want to have to spend years thinking about it and then still risk being wrong. James Rachels made a famous defense of ethical naturalism in which he expressed the idea that ethics not being based upon scientific fact is an oddity:

Ethical naturalism is the idea that ethics can be understood in terms of natural science. One way of making this more specific is to say that moral properties (such as goodness and rightness) are identical with natural properties, that is properties that figure into scientific descriptions or explanations of things. Ethical naturalists also hold that justified moral beliefs are beliefs justified by a particular kind of causal process. Thus C.D. Broad observed that ‘if naturalism be true, ethics is not an autonomous science, it’s a department or an application of one or more of the natural or historical sciences.’ [4]

We see there the tendency to crowd out all other forms of thought but the scientistic ideology. Rachels expresses surprise that no one thought this way before, for example in the early twentieth century. “During this period philosophy was thought to be independent of the sciences. This may seem a strange notion especially where ethics is concerned. One might expect moral philosophers to work in the context of information provided by psychology which describes the nature of human thinking and motivation.”[5] That would only be strange if one based right and wrong upon desires and motivations rather than something beyond human valuation, or if one based ought upon something other than what is (such as what should be). The ethical naturalists remove the transcendent grounding and based ethics squarely upon scientific data as though it’s perfectly natural to think science tells us how to live, or as the values are built into nature and all we have to do is get some scientific data. Examining the thought of three famous ethical naturalists this becomes apparent.

E.O. Wilson

            We can see this motivation in the thinking of E.O. Wilson, who in this generation is probably the grand daddy of scientific ethics:

Centuries of debate on the origin of ethics come down to this: Either ethical principles, such as justice and human rights, are independent of human experience, or they are human inventions. The distinction is more than an exercise for academic philosophers. The choice between these two understandings makes all the difference in the way we view ourselves as a species. It measures the authority of religion, and it determines the conduct of moral reasoning.

The two assumptions in competition are like islands in a sea of chaos, as different as life and death, matter and the void. One cannot learn which is correct by pure logic; the answer will eventually be reached through an accumulation of objective evidence. Moral reasoning, I believe, is at every level intrinsically consilient with -- compatible with, intertwined with -- the natural sciences. (I use a form of the word "consilience" -- literally a "jumping together" of knowledge as a result of the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation -- because its rarity has preserved its precision.)[6]

The first problem loaded into this quotation is the implication that there is no value in back of ethics; the value application is so obvious that just knowing the fact will obtain it for us. Notice that eliminates any sort of value-oriented thinking, such as philosophy and religion. It’s all just a matter of logic and facts. What facts, how do we interpret them? That seems not to occur to him. He brings it all down to religion vs science. Notice there is no philosophy in his world. It’s not a matter of philosophy, religion and science, but just religion and science. Philosophy has ceased to exist for him. It seems to be a matter of hard fast get it right with scientific precision vs. the shaky nature of religious faith which has nothing to offer apart from faith. He asserts in the second paragraph that science and religion are competing. Competing for what? They exist to provide two totally different kinds of knowledge. Science is about the workings of the natural world, which has nothing to do with determining what should be done and religion is there to give us an understanding of aspects of reality that are beyond scientific understanding. That would seem to be scientism’s point; there is nothing beyond their grasp. In the second paragraph he asserts that logic and empirical evidence will agree in the end. Is this a statement of faith? Logic can’t be decided by empirical matters. We can’t prove a universal principle with empirical evidence. Wilson says that “moral reasoning” will dove tail with scientific objective evidence, yet I say the implications of scientism will destroy ethical thinking altogether. Look at the ominous beginning to the subject; ethics requires a multiplicity of views it’s about the subjective issue of values yet these are the aspects Wilson sees as the problem that he wants to eliminate.
            Wilson seems to indicate that through scientific understanding we will bring together different disciplines. Of course the implications are clear that theology won’t be one of them and it seems as though philosophy doesn’t exist for him. So he’s really talking about bringing together different kinds of scientific disciplines to take over a form of thinking that has never been understood as part of the scientific domain (remember, as we said in chapter one, the title of his book—consilience—refers to the reduction of all forms of knowledge to science alone). In this sense there’s a strange reversal of roles. Traditionally the religious ethical thinking tends to be the one pursuing for objective ethics on the grounds that God’s word gives us a universal inviolable standard that makes moral decisions clear. The atheist is usually the relativist. Here the atheist takes over the objectivists’ ground; science will establish facts of ethics so we don’t need to wonder anymore. The religious thinker winds up recognizing the relative nature of a value based assumption. What we need to realize at this point is that conservative types of Christian thinkers have always made a mistake in thinking that the issues in morality are about objective proof. Because they have made an issue of objectivity, they have played into the hands of the biologically based ethicists. Objectivity and certainty are not the big issues in ethics. They never have been. He seems to assume that all religious ethics and philosophical ethics rely upon transcendence, nor does he seem to see the difference in transcendence and transcendentalism.  “The choice between transcendentalism and empiricism will be the coming century’s version of the struggle for men’s souls. Moral reasoning will either remain centered in idioms of theology and philosophy, where it is now, or it will shift toward science-based material analysis. Where it settles will depend on which world view is proved correct…”[7]

            The myth of ethical uncertainty and fear of ethical uncertainty are seen in Chruchland and Harris re-telling of the myth of the enlightenment. By re-telling the myth of the enlightenment I mean the old idea: religion is stupid and oppressive and stifles scientific knowledge and keeps us bogged down in superstition, while science frees us (from religion and superstition) for a bright shining future of gadgets and control of nature and getting things right.


            Patricia S. Chruchland, (1943--) is a Canadian-American Philosopher who works in the filed of  neurophilosophy. She has taught at University of California, San Diego since 1984. In Braintrust: What Neuro Science Tells us about Morality[8] Chruchland’s basic argument is that morality is social, and social life is essentially the interactions of different sets of neurons. Values originate in the brain and grow out of the social interaction of these sets of Neurons. Thus there’s no trick to moral values, they are just imposed upon us by the goals our neurons set for us and the demands of social interaction. The title of the second chapter is “Brain Based values.” "Moral values ground a life that is a social life. At the root of human moral practices are social desires;  Since are brains are organized to value self welfare as well as welfare of kith and kin, …robust institutions about right and wrong take root and flower."[9]

 Neurons care. We don’t care, we just think we do, brains do. She goes on to ask “how do brains come to care about others?”[10] It’s actually the unseen pilot, the real us inside us that does the caring. She gives a naturalistic take on how caring forms as a biological urge, of course it’s totally divorced from even an ideal much less a spiritual reality of love. Her answer is rooted in self preservation, and somehow the sense is turned outward to others, probably because we depend upon others for our own survival.[11] .
            Thus what she’s doing is building a biological basis for social contract theory. The fact of it being grounded in nature and brain chemistry is supposed to give it a magic “ought” that makes it right. After all, the concept of right is nothing more than a chimera designed to cover up the practical need for social alliances. “Depending upon ecological considerations and fitness considerations, strong caring for the well being of offspring has in some mammalian species has extended further to encompass kin or mates or friends or even strangers as the circle widens. This widening of other caring in social behavior marks the emergence of what eventually flowers into morality.”[12] So caring is just an accident of having peptides like Oxycotin. [13] It doesn’t mean anything accept in pragmatic terms. Chruchland shows total unconcern for moral philosophy in her understanding of the moral dimension. She’s supposed to be informing us about what science tells us about morality but it sort of slips out that the moral thing is just a joke, charade, delusion or gimmick. “We could engage in a semantic wrangle about weather these values are really moral values (emphasis hers) but a wrangle about words is apt to be unrewarding.”[14]  A wrangler over words is apt to be quite unrewarding, especially when it might disprove your thesis. “Of course only humans have human morality. But that is not news only a [15]tedious tautology. One might as well note that only marmosets have marmoset morality…” Her whole concept of morality apparently is just a semantic game. At that rate informing us of what science tells us about morality is a joke; apparently it’s telling us that morality is just a word game. She goes on, however, in trying to construct a meaningful social contract theory.
            Indeed she does define morality as something basically akin to science:

Morality seems to me to be a natural phenomenon—constrained by the forces of natural selection, rooted in neurobiology, shaped by the local ecology, and modified by cultural developments. Nevertheless, fairness requires me to acknowledge that this sort of naturalistic approach to morality has often seemed insensitive to metaphysical ideas about morality, such as that morality is essentially dependent on a supernatural source of moral information and moral worth. Because this is a not uncommon view, it may be useful to consider what a supernatural approach can teach us.[16]

Of course there is also the idea that morality has a lot to do with such supernatural entities as Immanuel Kant, and we might also ask what concepts of duty and obligation and the kingdom of ends has to tell us about morality. Churchland doesn’t mess around with armatures in moral philosophy such as Kant, nor with Moore, Macintyre, or Rawls. Instead, she arbitrarily defines morality by the biological basis for behaviors labeled as “moral” rather than by the subject matter or the logic or some ontological basis. This relates to what we said about reductionism in that chapter (5) because it’s simply re-labeling and losing of phenomena. Any aspects of moral thinking not reducible to brain chemistry are just assumed not to matter and to merely be a matter of semantics.
            Of course when it comes to exploring what “a supernatural view has to teach us” she just plays the same trick again; reduces the supernatural out of existence and reduces moral thinking to biology. Rather than argue against the existence of God, however, she merely “deconstructs” morality by first taking apart conscience. Appealing to Socrates she points that conscience doesn’t always advise us the right way, it doesn’t always tell us the same things.[17] Of course there are not very many moral philosophers of the stature of Kant who tells us about conscience. Who is to say that Socrates didn’t take the right way given the circumstances?


            Sam Harris wrote the Moral Landscape, subtitle: “how can science determine human values?” So it’s not going to just inform us of our values but “determine” them. Presumably regardless of what we do value, the priests of knowledge, those lucky enough to go to big name universities and major in genetics will determine what we want in the future. Harris begins by observing that he’s talked with thousands of people, most of them well educated, who believe that human values are not based upon truth content, and that well being and misery are so poorly defined we can’t know what they mean.[18] He warns that he’s not trying to give a scientific account of what people do in the name of morality. Nor is he suggesting that science can help us get what we want out of life. “Rather I am arguing that science can, in principle, help us understand what weshould do and should want –and therefore, what other people should do and should want in order to live the best lives possible. My claim is that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions just as there are right and wrong answers to questions of physics, such answers may one day fall within reach of maturing science of the mind.”[19] So apparently it’s not just a matter of understanding what human beings value and want, but of teaching them what they should value and want? Who is to decide this? Science can tell us what to think is, but it can’t tell us what is right. According to Churchland there is no true “right and wrong,” just brains wanting things. Science can make it seem right in our minds through control so that what we want is what science tells us to want. But of course this is “helping” we who are too feeble to help ourselves, we who are stuck in the religious thinking. He just told us science we can’t help us get what we want then he tells us that it will. How can this be? Because he wants to use science to change what we want to what he wants us to want. But of course he masks this in terms of what we should want. Then what does it mean that he includes telling others what they should want? Then falling within reach of the science of the mind? That’s not a hint about control? He wants science to reach beyond the mere ability to explain the physical workings of the world and to become the orbiter of values. Of course that means arbitration of values would be controlled by scientists. None of these would be Svengalis can ever explain how science can know what the proper values are in the first place. Presumably they will choose pleasure over pain for the greatest number, but how do they know that’s what should be?
            He goes on treading on the toes of ethicists. He says, “Once we see that a concern for well being (defined as deeply and inclusively as possible) is the only intelligible basis for morality and values, we will see that there must be a science of morality.”[20] In light of this quotation it is apparent that Harris’s ethics are basically teleological. He’s clearly a consequentialist if not a utilitarian.[21] In other words, it is the end result that makes an action moral, not duty or obligation to act, but how the action turns out. The extent to which it conforms to the desired goal is what makes it moral. The way he works it out is that science will tell us which of the problems is more devastating and which hurts more people that will tell us how to spend our resources. “…would it be better to spend our next billion dollars eradicating racism or malaria?”[22] So he’s already working from an implicit value system that’s based upon an ethical philosophy which has already put in place well being as the end toward which ethical thinking must strive, and the underlying value behind ethical theory, to the exclusion of deontology (duty and obligation) and all other theories. He does this before he has the scientific means to determine the value system. So this is really a shell game. He’s going to give us the means to determine what’s best for us but we have to determine it within a framework he’s already picked out that excludes alternatives. Not that we all wouldn’t agree that we should do “what’s best” but the issue is how we know what’s best. He’s already decided the supreme issue is the outcome in terms of physical comfort and avoidance of physical pain. He doesn’t recognize that this a value that he’s put in place as a philosophical underpinning, so we don’t get a answer to weather or not we embrace that as a value.
            He deals with the issue of the subjective nature of ethics, which is the basis of relativism. He distinguishes between subjective/objective in two senses, practice and principle. He’s opposed to ideals of good, such as Platnoic forms. He’s only speaking in terms of a diminished naturalistic sort of good that comes as a side effect of the way we do things. That’s good in terms of our value system, he assumes we all value outcome as a moral goal. His distinction between experience (practice) and ideal (principle) allows him to say that we can do things better without trying to establish the moral good, but then that’s supposed to give us a moral good.[23] When he brings religious views into it he thinks that ideas of heaven and hell prove that religious views are really based upon pleasure and pain too. They are not really concerned with the good for its own sake but with avoiding hell. [24] In this manner he seems to be attempting to reduce all value systems to his own. One of the major problems with his handling of value systems is the basis for adopting one. It’s obviously simplistic and self serving to just assume everyone is about the same value system I want. It’s also delusion to assume that there are not hidden subtexts in one’s value system.  One of the major problems in determining a value system is in assuming that the “ought” or “one should” aspect of a valuation of actions can be determined by factually ascertaining the nature of things. We see this assumption in Harris’s statement about science as coming to understand what’s going on in the universe. What do we mean by “going on?” There are multiple aspects to what’s going on, how we determine which of those is crucial? What if we decide that what’s going on is going on spiritually? We are not supposed to think that because that’s not what science tells us. Science isn’t going to tell us what’s “going on” in any but a materliasitc framework. So the reductionist view has so truncated reality that it dictates the disappearance of a whole aspect of reality embraced by the vast majority of people to suit the ideological framework put in place by a tiny elite who want us to accept their values as facts. This is the bias we set in place just by reducing the field of ethics to scientific proof.
            There is another troubling aspect to Harris’s take on science and ethics. Brain Earp, Research Associate, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics tells us that Harris tries to subsume ethics under the banner of science.[25] We can see that in the wording of Harris’s argument. In saying that science is about finding “what’s going on in the universe” that pretty much subsumes everything that isn’t excluded form existence. Earp talks about a lecture that Harris gave at Oxford, hosted by Richard Dawkins, called ““Who says science has nothing to say about morality?” When prompted by Dawkins interview that he was going up against questions with which moral philosophers had grappled for centuries Harris said: “Well, I actually think that the frontier between science and philosophy actually doesn’t exist… Philosophy is the womb of the sciences. The moment something becomes experimentally tractable, then the sciences bud off from philosophy. And every science has philosophy built into it. So there is no partition in my mind.”[26] If there is no ground between philosophy and science then he’s subsuming ethics under the banner of science and there need be no difficulty. The problem is he’s not content to just allow philosophy to continue doing it’s thing, he wants to take over its ground but then impose his reduction and re-label everything and replace real moral philosophy with ideology (see the C.D. Board quote fn 4). He takes out moral reasoning and replaces it with reduction to numbers. Imposes a surreptitious value system in the guise of “facts,” and replaces duty and obligation with teleological thinking. This view is supposed to carry the assurance of being factual proof of what’s “going on in the universe” yet this just transgresses one of the basic concepts of modern thought. This is a problem sometimes referred to as “Hume’s Fork”[27] but more commonly called ‘the is-ought. 

part 2

[1] James Rachels, “Naturalism” pdf, accessed 5/27/13. Originally published in Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory, Hugh Lafollette, ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, 74-91, 2.
[2] Ibid. 2
[3] find Dorothy Emmett, morality is contestable.
[4] C.D. Broad quoted in Rachels, Op cit., 2. Original quotation by Broad, C. D.: “Some of the Main Problems of Ethics,” Philosophy, 31 (1946) 99-117
[5] Ibid.,1.
[6] E.O. Wilson, “the Biological Basis of Morality.” The Atlantic Online: The Atlantic Monthly Digital Edition (April, 1998) URL:  visited July 25, 2012.
[7] E.O. Wilson, Consilience, New York: Knopf, Inc., 1998, p.240
[8] Patrcia S. Churchland, Braintrust: What Nueroscience tells us about Morality. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 2011, 12.
[9] Ibid., 12.
[10] Ibid., 12.
[11] Ibid., 13.
[12] Ibid.,14.
[13] Ibid.,14.
[14] Ibid., 26.
[15] Ibid.,26.
[16] Ibid., 191
[17] Ibid., 193
[18] Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science can Determine Human Values.” New York: Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc., 2010, 28.
[19] Ibid. 28 (emphasis his).
[20] Ibid 28
[21] One difference in being a utilitarian as opposed to a general consequendtilsit would be that the utilitarian. would be that the utilitarian has the dictum of “greatest good for the greatest number.” Whereas a consequentialist who is not a utilitarian my try to forgo that idea.
[22] Ibid., 28
[23] Ibid., 30
[24] Ibid., 33
[25] Brain Earp, “Sam Harris is Wrong About Science and Morality,” Practical Ethics, ethics in the news, blog, University of Oxford, Nov. 17, 2011.  accessed 5/21/2013
The Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics  is at Oxford it’s a major think tank that deals with modern concerns of ethics and science.
[26] Ibid.
[27] “Hume’s fork” really refers to several things that all fall under the general category of “synthetic and a pripori.” The is-ought dichotomy falls under this rue brick in the sense that it’s a juxtaposition of a practical empirical sate of affairs “the is” vs a an ideal transcendent concept (the ought). The “is/ought” problem originally appears Hume’sTreatise on Human Nature, book III, part I, section 1.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

America sells it's soiul

 photo donald-trump-cartoon1_zpsnvqwl3tb.jpg

Hilary slaughtered Trump last night, He was whining he couldn't answer a single question the polls show he won? what's going on?I have seen people on blogs who ask for thoughtful discussion about the election .any other time I would say bravo., But I will not discuss Trump as though he;s a real candidates, he is not, he is not worthy of the respect a real candidate deserves, IN the America of my childhood would not have gotten the ballot in any state,
you are all discussing it as though Trump is a viable alternative to considered. If we take him at his word he's not, If we can't take him at his word he is not a viable option. If we can take him at his word he wants to bomb allies, steal their oil, torture innocent women and children increase nuclear proliferation do away with national parks, kill his political opponent, kill journalists, destroy NATO and allow Putin to approve in om eastern Europe, destroy the lives of protesters who cause him trouble, He has said all ofr these things,I cannot find single Republican who cancan Hillary did thiat should get her put in jail Trup is accursed of child abuse and he's defrauded hundreds of people out of millions of dollars. This is a fact of public record.
OI he's a bit Loutish boys will be boys, No he is not a viable candidate he does't deserved polite thoughtful discussion. He has no polices anyway. Or the rat ionization that he's the great Christian leader, his spiritual adviser is selling eternal life and He believe adulatory is not a sin, half his supporters say he willexplode a nuclear weapon. Among those who say they will vote for Trump, 48 percent say he’ll create a database to track Muslims; 36 percent say there will be race riots; 33 percent say the government would default on its debt; and 32 percent say Trump would punish his political opponents and authorize internment camps for illegal immigrants.

Only 22 percent of Trump supporters believe he will start a nuclear war.

There is a strong possibility Trump is a spy for Russia, or is in some way ready to hand America  over to Putin.

Yet he is going to win why? simple answer, Americans are assholes they want an asshole to lead them, They don't are about truth or right they only care about feeling safe and getting rich and getting even with those they pretend kept them from being rich (liberals and minorities), they need their scape goats.

The Republicans destroyed Democracy, They spent 30 years building a society of hatred and racism and now we get the pay off. The pay off is a society based on being an asshole. Selfish pigs who think they can win nuclear war because they are too stupid to know about nuclear winter, or they don't care and want to destroy life because they are evil., They sold their souls because they were so angry that they didn't get rich.

They see what Trump is. is there anyone at this point who doesn't see it? they don't care they are willing to accept pure evil to get what they want, That's America

Monday, September 26, 2016

Modern Scientist's Rejection of God is Ideological.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Moern physicists no longer understand laws of physics as prescriptive injunctions that determine what the universe does. Now they see them as just descriptions of how the universe seems to behave. Is their rejection of law just a desire to get  the law maker (God) out of the picture? That is abundantly clear, at least for some scientists. Paul Davies, a major physicist, thinks so:
Many scientists who are struggling to construct a fully comprehensive theory of the physical universe openly admit that part of the motivation is to finally get rid of God, whom they view as a dangerous and infantile delusion, And not only God but any vestige of God-talk, such as 'meaning,' 'purpose,' or 'design' in nature. These scientists see religion as so fraudulent and sinister that nothing less than total theological cleansing will do. [1]
The concept of law was formed in a time when scientists inextricably linked God with science. Robert Boyle purposely appealed to dive command in creation, as did Newton. [2] These were devout believers, and it was also expedient in the confessional English state. The English dealt with heretics by not inviting them to weekend at Westmoreland or by passing them over for honors. After the time of Newton the field of scientific acuity shifted to France. The French put heretics in jail. The Catholic church was much more in charge in France, enjoying the support of the monarchy, than in Protestant England.[ [3] Thus the French Philosophs rebelled with great ferocity against the Church and religious belief. The French rebellion carried over into all areas of modern letters, not the least in science.

Modern scientists since the enlightenment have sought to take God out of the picture. Philosophers are honest enough to admit there is a problem calling the law-like regularity “description.” After Chalmers explains that Boyle's “stark ontology” made nature passive and left God to do all the work, he writes:
I assume that, from the modern point of view, placing such a heavy, or indeed any, burden on the constant and willful intervention of God is not acceptable. But eliminating God from the account leaves us with the problem. How can activity and law like behavior be introduced into a world characterized in terms of passive or categorical properties only?[4]

At least the scientific realists, such as Calmers know there is a problem in the tension between unalterable regularity, and description. Many scientists either don't see the problem, or refuse to acknowledge it. Some assert a confidence in science's ability to one day answer all questions.

In recent years, under the influence of the new atheism, some physicists have began to compete with God. They claim not only to offer the better explaination, but to learn enough so as to one day erase the God concept from any serious consideration. , (in answer to a question for discussion posed by the Tempelton foundation, “does science make belief in God obsolete?”): “Yes 'science' we mean the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge (including history and philosophy), not just people with test tubes and white lab coats. Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral?"[5] Of course he offers no evidence that science can answer such things (notice he expanded the definition of science to include disciplines many scientists seek to get rid of (philosophy)vi that is an area that could answer the questions that science can't. He also offers no evidence that religion still can't answer them, but he goes on to say, “Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.” So he's made two fallacious moves here, the classic bait and switch and straw man argument. He says science makes God obsolete but then only if we expand science to include non-science. We could just include modern theology instead of nineteenth century theology and bring religion into science. Sorry, but belief in God does not rest with young earth creationism.

Pinker is not just using young Earth creationism to debunck all religion, even though that is a straw man argument. He's really making the same kind of answer that physicist Sean Carroll is making. He's saying “since we now have the capacity to learn everything (someday) we don't need to appeal to God to answer what we don't know thus he asserts that the only reason to believe is the God of the gaps argument). Carroll puts it a bit differently:

Modern cosmology attempts to come up with the most powerful and economical possible understanding of the universe that is consistent with observational data. It's certainly conceivable that the methods of science could lead us to a self-contained picture of the universe that doesn't involve God in any way.  If so, would we be correct to conclude that cosmology has undermined the reasons for believing in God, or at least a certain kind of reason?vii[7]

Of course this is the standard wrong assumption often made by those whose skepticism is scientifically based. Explaining nature is not the only reason to believe in God. Moreover, they are nowhere near explaining nature in it's entirety, the TS argument is the best answer to the questions posed by the transcendental signifiers. It's pretty clear that for Carroll, and those who share his outlook the signifier “science” replaces the signifier “God” in their metaphysical hierarchy. They still have a TS and that speaks to the all pervasive nature of the TS. I've discussed in the previous chapter how the best answer to questions of origin have to be philosophical. That is confirmed by Pinker when he argues philosophy as part of science. The TS argument is philosophical. Science is not the only form of knowledge. Carroll admits there is not as of yet a theory that explains it all. He admits, “We are trying to predict the future: will there ever be a time when a conventional scientific model provides a complete understanding of the origin of the universe?”[8] He asserts that most modern cosmologists already feel we know enough to write off God and that there are good enough reasons.In his 2005 article he says, as the title proclaims, “almost all cosmologists are atheists.”[9]

That may be true of cosmologists but I doubt it, and I have good reason to. First, I don't see any poll of physicists in the article. He only argues anecdotally by quoting a few people. If there was a poll it would be at least as old as 2005. A More extensive study from 2007 (two years after publication of Carroll's article) don't back up those findings. This study was done by Harvard professors who find the majority of science professors believe in God.[10] They present a bar graph that show about 35% professor's ar elite research universities believe in God with no doubt. About 27% believe but sometimes have doubts. About 38% are atheists. That actually means that 60% are not atheists. True that's not cosmologists but there is good reason to think the majority of cosmologists are not atheists. The most atheistic groups in the study were psychologists (61%), biologists (about 61%), and mechanical engineers (50%), not physicists (among whose ranks cosmologists number). [11] “Contrary to popular Opinion, atheists and agnostics do not comprise a majority of professors even at elite schools, but they are present in larger numbers than in other types of institutions.”[12] No group has “almost all” as atheist. Even if cosmologists are mostly atheists (not studied because they are a handful and highly specialized) it's still appeal to authority and could be based upon hubris. They do not have any empirical data at all to prove the universe could spring from nothing. I will will demonstrate the problems with this view much more clearly in the next chapter. Let's just remember the atheist position on this point is an appeal to faith.

[1] Paul Davies, Jackpot...op. Cit.,15.

[2]  Alan Chalmers, “Making sense of laws of physics,” Causation and Laws Of Nature, Dordrecht, Netherlands : Kluwer Academic Publishers, (Howard Sankey, ed.), 1999, 3-4.

[3]  Joseph Hinman, God, Science, and Ideology. Chapter 2.

[4]  Chalmers, op., cit.

[5]  Stephen Pinker, quoted on website, John Tempelton Foundation, “A Tempelton conversation, “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?” The third in a series of conversations among leading scientists...Onlne resource, website. URL: accessed 9/4/15.
Tempelton bio for Pinker: Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

[6]  Anthany Mills, "Why Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Hate Philosophy," Real Clear Science. (May 22, 2014) OnLine resource, URL: href=" accessed 10/7/15.
"In a controversial interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as “distracting.” The host of the television series Cosmos even suggested that philosophy could inhibit scientific progress by encouraging “a little too much question asking.” He thus follows a growing secular trend that cordons Science off from all other forms of inquiry, denigrating whatever falls outside science’s purported boundaries – especially the more “speculative” pursuits such as philosophy."

[7] Sean Corroll, Does The Universe Need God?” on Sean Carroll's website, Perposterous, online resource, URL: accessed 9/4/2015
Carroll is an astrophysicist and a theoretical physicist, Moore Center for Theoretical Physics and Cosmology, California Institute of Technology. He's authored many books.

[8]  Ibid.

[9] Sean Carroll,"Why (Almost All) Cosmologists Are Atheists," Faith and Philosophy,22(2005) p. 622.

[10] Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “How Religious Are America's College and University Professors.” SSRC, (published feb. 2007), PDF URL, accessed 9/4/15 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: sample was 1,417, representing over 300,000 professors.
Neil Gross is assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University. He works on classical and contemporary sociological theory, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of intellectuals. His first book, tentatively titled Richard Rorty's Pragmatism: The Social Origins of a Philosophy, 1931-1982, is forthcoming.

Solon Simmons is assistant professor of conflict analysis and sociology at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His recent work has focused on values talk in congressional speeches, third party political candidates, industrial reorganization and the ongoing conservative critique of American higher education

[11]  Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Answering Sotnak's Argument on Moral Outrages Objectivity


, "Ethical Subjectivism and the Argument from Outrage." The Secular Outpost

 Makes an interesting point about the methods of argumet used to justify "objective ethics." [1] He deals with augments that have the following structure:

In arguing for the superiority of theistic ethics over secular ethics, apologists sometimes present some version of an argument like this:1. If theism is not true, then ethics is subjective.2. Ethics is not subjective.3. Therefore, theism is true.
This is the form o argument Craig often uses, Sotnak's argument is that it is emotion that moves the argument it doesn't establish a basis for moral good. The issue is usually that God gives us moral objectivity and yet this is being sold by the use of subjective emotive means rather than logic,

Note the examples that are given: Hitler’s genocidal policies, or torturing children for pleasure. In choosing these examples, the apologist is counting on the audience to feel powerful negative emotions in response to the examples. The suggestion that, say, stomping on kittens isn’t objectively wrong is just outrageous!
The irony, though, is that according to subjectivism, moral judgments are motivated not by reason, but by feeling. And the irony is that the apologetical strategy here only seems to be effective when the chosen examples can be expected to provoke strong negative feelings. Contrast the following two example arguments:
A1. If subjectivism is true, then stomping on kittens is not objectively wrong.
A2. But stomping on kittens is objectively wrong.
A3. Therefore, subjectivism is not true.
B1. If subjectivism is true, then gathering sticks on Sunday is not objectively wrong.
B2. But gathering sticks on Sunday is objectively wrong.
B3. Therefore, subjectivism is not true.

The point is interesting but the problem is the oral outrages used for emotional leverage by apologists and I think you are right that is not the ace card thy need to play. But they are not in themselves the grounding of ethical axioms. They merely point to a reality beyond them selves. The reason they outrages us is because they so antithetical to the nature of the good, which grounded in God's love, At some intuitive level we sense that the connivance and hater kin these examples is a violation of the ultimate nature of the good,
We need the regulatory concept because we cant use the intuitive as grounding it can only point to the grounding.
I you will recall the basis of my ethical view point is not objectivity. Even though I believe God is objective hes the only one who is. We can't be objective so must shoot for less subjective. So we need a regularity concept beyond ourselves.


He uses a certain concept about slavery as a further example.

Or how about:C1. If subjectivism is true, then buying slaves from foreigners is not objectively wrong.C2. But buying slaves from foreigners is objectively wrong.C3. Therefore, subjectivism is not true.These days, it is hard to find theists (even among Biblical literalists) who will disagree with C2, even though a straightforward reading of the Bible suggests that they should (Leviticus 25:44-46). Why? Isn’t it because they are motivated more strongly by their negative feelings about slavery than they are by speculation about some theistic basis for opposing slavery? Doesn’t subjectivism provide a better explanation for why opposition to slavery is much more common among contemporary theists than it was in America in the mid-1800’s?uf
The problem is he's not proving that theistic ethics is really based upon subjective premises but only that people don't worked up about abstractions, These issues like slavery are used because the users feel that the opponent will be less likely to disagree with the immorality of outrages. Like saying :if you mess around with objective moral values you will wind up justifying things you don't like. That may backfire because it has the effect of seeming to ground axioms kin the subjective. But if we understand that the emotive aspects are only pointers that bid us look at higher reasons the nvit;s not grounded imn those emotive matters.

We have to know what the secularist would turn to as grounding. I think the signpost nature of moral outrage indicates we need the regulatory concept and i doubt the secularist can find one as compelling as God.

From the commemnt section: these comments are telling in that they point up the cultural divide between theists and atheists.

One, we have no basis for saying these things are objectively wrong other than depending on the subjective declarations of God. To say a God's declarations are objective is to misunderstand what objective means. Objective can not depend on any thought or be dependent on anyone's decisions, even a Gods.

Meta: The problem here is you are treating God like he's just another guy, you can't put God in the category of other minds, that's like counting the speedometer a another entry in the race. Saying the referee won the boxing match. God is the basis of reality not just another thing reality. Moreover, God is universal mind, He knows things from each and every perspective, He doesn't just have one more perspective he has the the one true objective understanding, God knows what it is like to be us better than we do ourselves.

Furthermore, if it is based on what we feel is wrong we have no way of knowing if those feelings reflect a divinely inserted feeling of some natural feeling.

Yes we do. We have the Bible and that gives us a record of the man God became,me imn history, and we have scientific means of studying religious experience, See The Trace of God Rational Warrant for Belief by Joseph Hinman,m on amazon

I would say we would be less able to actually make beneficial and progressive moral decisions basing them on what we think we feel due to a God's ins crutable actions than with careful thought and reflection on the kinds of things that seem to augment the well-being of people and reduce unnecessary suffering.

Empirically disproved both in Bible and in the body of scientific work discussed in my book,.(Jesus died for sins of the world that set's up a pretty good example for moral behavior. So there are standards we can appeal to,

johzek Joe Hinman • 8 hours ago
If it were only a matter of God's understanding then we probably could accurately characterize this understanding as being objective if we felt the need to, after all he knows all the facts and the relationships between them. However, the relevant issue here pertaining to objectivism and ethics is not God's understanding or omniscience but his omnipotence. This being not only created the facts as they are but can change any of these facts at any time at his discretion or whim. This exposes the subjective nature of theism at its core.

No that's wrong, right and wrong is based upon arbitrary whim. God is not about might makes right. He has character and right is that which is in harmony with God's character ( love), it;s to stay thiat way, Having the power to change it does not mean he will because God is not shallow
btw omnipotance does not mean the ability to do all things it means all authority. Pantocrator, the Pan prefix means all or everything or everywhere. He has charge in all places,.

It seems to me that a better word to use in this context, that is, in the context of creating and controlling, would be the word "absolute". An absolute moral fact is a moral fact as long as God deems it to be a fact.
that's a good point

If as you say "God is a universal mind" and "God is the basis of reality" then a universal mind is the basis of reality. Everything that exists apart from this universal mind and all the facts relating to those things which can be changed at will owe their existence to this mind. This is SUBJECTIVISM.
• Reply•Share ›
No it's the only true objectivity, Universal mind is not localized, God knows your point of view better than you do, he can see it all you see and feel it, He can weight all views equally.
btw I am not worried about being objective,my argument is not that ethics must be objective but that it must be grounded in the absolute, as you say, in unchaining truth always applicable in all cases.God's perfect love ios the only thing that does that.

[1] , "Ethical Subjectivism and the Argument from Outrage." The Secular Outpost