The God Delusion - Chapter 7

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The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #1

Post by otseng »

McCulloch's questions:
Is there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, often in opposition to religious morality?
Do believers really use the Bible as a source of their moral values?

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Post #31

Post by jjg »

Morality is derived through human reason and the objective acts suited to. Human reason might keep gut instincts in check. The reason searches for truth as much as our reasoning of science searches for truth. The whole function of human reason is to find meaning. To say we cannot know meaning in our actions and objects is to say that all the ethics our society and law are built on are in vain which is a in an endevour in irrationalism.

Its true that in courts lawyers will appeal to emotions and that in different cultures may even distort moral prinicples but through reason and retrospection we can define fundamental rights and moral principles.

Humans are individual beings for with and from their society. So mrality deals both with individual rights and society as a whole. Anything deviating from that is going against our very nature.

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Post #32

Post by bunyip »

> "bunyip, youare right just like applying the term selfish to a gene whether metaphorically or not is a meaningless analogy."

Not so. The problem is the paucity of language. If you can work up a metaphor to explain the process of a gene's drive to replicate itself, go right ahead. Richard's complained for years that everybody reads the title without reading the rest of the book, then grizzles about "meaningless analogy". It's not meaningless at all, but you have to recognise that our language is wholly human centred. We don't know how to create and employ words to do the jobs new concepts in biology create.

> "But morality is important to humans and as you said cannot be explained by mere genetics."

Of course it's important to humans. We created the concept to provide a descriptive for behaviour. We haven't recovered from the shock of discovering it might apply to other animals, as well.

What do you mean by "mere" genetics? If you don't recognise that as the starting point for all behaviour, "moral" or otherwise, then it's back to square one.

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Post #33

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:As far as not having to teach your kids fairness, I say consider yourself fortunate.
No, I still have to teach my children. While they have an innate sense of fairness, they also have an innate sense of selfishness. I have to help them choose between good and bad. So, what usually happens is that they want to apply fairness to others, but greed to themselves. Like last night for example when I gave the kids ice cream. I tried to put the same amount of ice cream in each cup. They knew it is was the fair thing to do. But, they each also wanted to look for that cup that had that little bit more of ice cream. Then I had to intervene and stop them from looking for that little bit more.
If all kids were aware of fairness, then why do some kids who are bullies not see themselves as bullies?
Just because people knows something, it doesn't mean they follow it. I'm sure that even bullies desire fairness. Let's say that a 11 year old bully is tormenting the 9 year old kids. Then a 19 year old black belt karate expert beats the 11 year old bully to a pulp. Would not the concept of a fair fight enter the mind of the 11 year old?

Even adults are aware of fairness, but many do not practice it. And even more, it's almost impossible to fully practice it. Is it fair that I have more money, better access to health services, more sanitary conditions than the majority of the world? If there was no concept of fairness, then such inequalities would not matter. And no one could argue that such inequalities was not right.
Sure, something so severe such as not realizing that they were killing someone because of diminished capacity or simply not knowing that it was wrong.
Most murderers are not able to get by with the insanity plea. Most murder are intentional and deliberate acts and they realize what they are doing.
Not long ago society accepted oppression of women and blacks. We evolved.
Yes, it was not long ago. Suppose we go back 50 years where Jim Crow laws were in effect. Since society accepted the discrimination of blacks, would it make it right and acceptable? I would say no. So, if one believes that discrimination by race is not right no matter what any society thinks, then it cannot evolve.

I think we have to distinguish between laws, societal acceptance, and morality. Certainly laws and societal acceptance can change. But morality does not.
We can only judge it based on the society in which it exists and the time period in which you are evaluating it.
So, depending on time and location, then slavery, racial discrimination, gender discrimination could be considered right?
Natural selection has never been fair. It just is.

Yes, natural selection is amoral. Good and bad cannot be applied to it.

However, like I've mentioned before, we do apply good and bad to human natural selection. If natural selection simply weeds out those that are not able to survive, then it should also be considered amoral when this is applied to humans. But it is not. It would be considered immoral to apply this to humans.
The best explanation of a higher standard is no explanation at all. What question does it answer that doesn't create even greater questions? That is the "God works in mysterious ways" explanation that doesn't answer anything.
We've covered this argument in chapter 4. Yes, it does raise more issues. But simply raising more issues does not nullify it as a viable explanation. What I do suspect is that there are certain raised issues that people would rather not face, so it would be easier to simply dismiss it all.
I don't demand he be fair. But if He isn't then I expect a reason just as my daughter expects a reason why my son gets away with X while she doesn't. Is that so unreasonable?
I can't recall anywhere in the Bible that says that God will promise everyone on Earth to have a fair life. So, to expect God to enforce fairness and equality on all would be an unreasonable expectation.

And this brings up another point. It's been mentioned that natural selection has no concept of fairness. But even this world is not fair. Rarely are situations and events and circumstances around us fair. Yet, why the conviction within us for fairness?
Loyalty is earned, not an inherent right.
The question though is why is loyalty considered right? Suppose someone earned your loyalty, then broke that trust. If loyalty is not considered right, then nothing wrong has been done.
And as far as those unloyal and taken care of in prison, well, the survival of the fittest.
Well, if you or I are in prison, I would think we would not hope for that.
Yet they still happen. There are times police are disloyal in attempts to make undercover drug raids. Is this wrong?
Yes, they still happen. So isn't it odd that though people are unfair and disloyal, yet it persists in all cultures that they are still considered virtues?

If anytime if anyone is disloyal, and disloyalty is not considered wrong, then the disloyal cannot be considered to be doing anything wrong.

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Post #34

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: Sure, something so severe such as not realizing that they were killing someone because of diminished capacity or simply not knowing that it was wrong.
Most murderers are not able to get by with the insanity plea. Most murder are intentional and deliberate acts and they realize what they are doing.
But if one exception exists where the person doesn't realize that what they are doing is wrong, can we say the the concept of right/wrong it innate, or simply the presence of it is makes it innate, not the concept itself?
otseng wrote:I think we have to distinguish between laws, societal acceptance, and morality. Certainly laws and societal acceptance can change. But morality does not.
But what we consider moral would change.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: We can only judge it based on the society in which it exists and the time period in which you are evaluating it.
So, depending on time and location, then slavery, racial discrimination, gender discrimination could be considered right?
If we went back to the days before the womens rights movement and asked most of those living then if they thought it was immoral to see women as property, I would be willing to bet more would say it wasn't immoral than would say it was. The same for slavery. The fact is that it was acceptable at that time. Some may have seen it as wrong, but more saw it as right otherwise the movements would have happened long before they did.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: Natural selection has never been fair. It just is.

Yes, natural selection is amoral. Good and bad cannot be applied to it.
Agreed
otseng wrote:However, like I've mentioned before, we do apply good and bad to human natural selection. If natural selection simply weeds out those that are not able to survive, then it should also be considered amoral when this is applied to humans. But it is not. It would be considered immoral to apply this to humans.
You lost me here.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: I don't demand he be fair. But if He isn't then I expect a reason just as my daughter expects a reason why my son gets away with X while she doesn't. Is that so unreasonable?
I can't recall anywhere in the Bible that says that God will promise everyone on Earth to have a fair life. So, to expect God to enforce fairness and equality on all would be an unreasonable expectation.

And this brings up another point. It's been mentioned that natural selection has no concept of fairness. But even this world is not fair. Rarely are situations and events and circumstances around us fair. Yet, why the conviction within us for fairness?
I see it this way, if God exists, he should represent what man should strive for. He should be the benevolent, all-loving entity. If such is true, then His standards should be higher than natural selection. He should represent fairness. Is He not the model for man just as parents are the model for their children?

Loyalty is earned, not an inherent right. [/quote]
The question though is why is loyalty considered right? Suppose someone earned your loyalty, then broke that trust. If loyalty is not considered right, then nothing wrong has been done.[/quote]

Loyalty isn't always right. It can be misplaced easily.
otseng wrote:
Confused wrote: Yet they still happen. There are times police are disloyal in attempts to make undercover drug raids. Is this wrong?
Yes, they still happen. So isn't it odd that though people are unfair and disloyal, yet it persists in all cultures that they are still considered virtues?

If anytime if anyone is disloyal, and disloyalty is not considered wrong, then the disloyal cannot be considered to be doing anything wrong.
This one I will have to think over.
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one persons definition of your life; define yourself.

-Harvey Fierstein

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #35

Post by seventil »

otseng wrote:McCulloch's questions:
Is there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, often in opposition to religious morality?
Do believers really use the Bible as a source of their moral values?
1) I wouldn't think of the Zeitgeist is by its nature opposed to religious morality.

2) I think the New Testament is a good source for moral values (key the slavery and chauvinist verses) - however, I believe in the underlying "Moral Law" (that C.S. Lewis often speaks about) as our ultimate guidance for morality and ethics. This Moral Law, I believe, can reach it's apex through Christianity.
"He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath
already committed breakfast with it in his heart" -- C.S. Lewis

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #36

Post by McCulloch »

seventil wrote:[H]owever, I believe in the underlying "Moral Law" as our ultimate guidance for morality and ethics. This Moral Law, I believe, can reach it's apex through Christianity.
And I believe that our understanding and implementation of this Moral Law is inhibited by Christianity.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #37

Post by Cathar1950 »

seventil wrote:
otseng wrote:McCulloch's questions:
Is there is a moral Zeitgeist that continually evolves in society, often in opposition to religious morality?
Do believers really use the Bible as a source of their moral values?
1) I wouldn't think of the Zeitgeist is by its nature opposed to religious morality.

2) I think the New Testament is a good source for moral values (key the slavery and chauvinist verses) - however, I believe in the underlying "Moral Law" (that C.S. Lewis often speaks about) as our ultimate guidance for morality and ethics. This Moral Law, I believe, can reach it's apex through Christianity.
Do you have any examples of this Moral law mentioned by CS Lewis?
If you mean do on to others, the idea predates Jesus. What makes you think Christianity can reach this un-named apex?
“He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath
already committed breakfast with it in his heart” -- C.S. Lewis

Take the food away from him and let him starve and then tell us the depth of this.

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #38

Post by bunyip »

“He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart” -- C.S. Lewis


> "Take the food away from him and let him starve and then tell us the depth of this."

I think you're missing the point of the Lewis citation. Who says that's his brekkie to be "taken away"? If i recall my Lewis, the point of this quote is that it's somebody else's meal. And he's clearly stimulated by its visual appeal, he only needs to consummate the relationship by eating it. Should he do so just because he's hungry?

And what does the original possessor of the ham and eggs do in response? What are the "moral" guidelines here?

the bunyip

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #39

Post by seventil »

Cathar1950 wrote:
Do you have any examples of this Moral law mentioned by CS Lewis?
If you mean do on to others, the idea predates Jesus. What makes you think Christianity can reach this un-named apex?
Hi Cathar! Sure, I like this subject.

In Mere Christianity, Lewis wrote:

1. There is a universal moral law.
2. If there is a universal moral law, then there must be a universal moral lawgiver.
Therefore,
3. There must be God.

That was his basic proposal and spent a good deal of time trying to prove this.

Now, I won't do the man justice here (I suggest reading through it, he explains it much better than I can) but I'll try to summarize:

(taken from http://apologetics.johndepoe.com/morality.html)

There is a Universal Moral Law

The first step in Lewis's moral argument is to establish that there is a universal moral law. One reason to accept this premise is that without it, all moral disagreements would make no sense. Lewis points out that we appeal to a universal moral standard all the time. If someone cuts in line at an amusement park, we say, "that's not fair." When a psychotic murderer tortures, rapes, and brutally kills his victims, we say, "that's evil." Whenever we appeal to these standards, Lewis notes that we do not have to explain why these things are considered morally bad or evil. They are morally wrong, and everyone knows it. If a complete stranger walked into your house and picked up your television and started walking out, more than likely you will get up and say something like, "Hey, stop that! That is my tv." What you are doing in that scenario is appealing to a universal moral law. You assume it is an understood standard for all people to follow a principle of not taking things that are not theirs. If this person responded by saying, "So what?", you would probably think that person was very strange or perhaps crazy. When people do not understand certain moral values (for example, sociopaths who feel there is nothing morally wrong with any actions, including killing innocent people for no reason), we think there is something is seriously wrong with them. Lewis believes that this is best explained because we (correctly) assume there is a universal moral law.

Another reason Lewis explains for why there must be a universal moral law is that all moral judgments would be meaningless. For example, when we say, "The Nazis were wrong to murder the Jews," what do we mean? Does it mean it is just my personal opinion that the Nazis were wrong? If that is so, it does not seem to make much difference what the Nazis do. It would be on par with my difference of opinion regarding chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Or consider the claims against countries who repress women or mistreat women. If there is no universal moral law, on what grounds can we judge these countries to be committing a moral evil? Without a universal moral law, all of these claims amount to mere differences of opinion, but there cannot be a right or wrong view. In other words, without a universal moral law, the Nazis happen to prefer Nazi morality, and you happen to prefer anti-Nazi morality, but there is no real standard by which we can judge which of the two views is correct. Without a universal moral law, this judgment is a matter of opinion. However, it seems clear that the moral status of certain actions (e.g., the Nazis) is not a matter of subjective opinion, and this is because we presume there is a universal moral law.

So, C. S. Lewis, if he is right thus far, has established that there is a universal moral law. At this point he hasn't appealed to God or made claims that even most atheists would find contentious. In fact, Lewis believes that the moral law is something that all humans are bound to follow, no matter how hard they try to escape from it. So, Lewis believes that this first premise is well-founded.

If There is a Universal Moral Law, then There is a Universal Moral Law Giver


After establishing the existence of a universal moral law, Lewis wonders at the explanation of the existence of this universal moral law. Lewis arrives at the conclusion that a universal moral law implies a moral law Giver. Moral laws, unlike physical laws, are obligations or rules that one is responsible to follow. Without a person who makes these laws, it seems utterly inexplicable that they should exist. We can imagine a molecule by molecule physical duplication of our universe existing without any moral rules, so it seems that moral laws are not entailed by any physical, natural features of the universe. If the universal moral law is not entailed by the natural, physical aspects of the universe, how do we explain the universal moral law? Lewis believes that the best answer to this question maintains that the universal moral law implies that there is a universal moral law Giver. This law Giver could not be any arbitrary being. The kind of being to which the universal moral law points would be supremely powerful (in order to create the universal moral law), perfectly good (in order to be the objective standard for the moral law), and a being who is interested in our behavior (in order to explain why he makes us subject to the moral law). In other words, the moral law Giver would have to be like the personal God of the Christian tradition.

Even though this second premise is much more controversial than the first one, Lewis has put forward a plausible explanation for the moral law. Moreover, since better explanations do not seem forthcoming, it seems that Lewis has given a substantial defense of the second premise.

Therefore, God Must Exist

If one accepts the first two premises, then the conclusion follows logically. So, to resist Lewis's argument, one must show that one of the two premises is false. Below I will consider some of the most often cited ways to deny one of the two premises.

Is the Moral Law "Herd Instinct?"


One way to deny the second premise of Lewis's argument suggests that the universal moral law can be explained by herd instinct. By "herd instinct," I mean something developed by our physical nature like evolution or survival of the fittest. This means that we find ourselves obligated to follow our strongest impulse, which can be explained by naturalistic processes. The problem with this rejoinder is that our our strongest impulse is not always the right thing to do. For example, there are times when self-sacrifice is the right thing to do, yet it is not something that could be explained by herd instinct. Furthermore, this tries to get something more from something less. We would expect to be able to explain features of our physical features by appealing to physical processes, but we've seen that the universal moral law is not the sort of thing that would be entailed by any combination of physical material and laws.

Is the Moral Law Just a Social Convention?

Another way to resist Lewis's argument suggests that the moral law is merely a learned social convention. (This could be seen as a way to challenge the first premise by denying that the moral law is universal, or it might be a way to deny the second premise by offering an alternative explanation for the universal moral law.) Even though we often learn morality through social conventions, that does not prove that morality is reducible to social conventions. We also learn things like mathematics and logic through social institutions, but we know that math and logic are not reducible to society. This objection confuses how we learn moral laws with the nature of moral laws.

It is also worth noting that, on this view, we can accept groups of people as the source of morality but not individuals. But it is not clear why this distinction should be made. Of course, if we acknowledged that morality is completely subjective (i.e., up to each individual to decide for himself) this would also lead to obvious problems. So, the alleged solution is to hold that morality is determined by societies or other social conventions. But this suggestion also leads to obvious problems. For example, how could we ever say a society has morally improved, if the moral standard is set by that society? This would also lead to the absurd conclusion that advocates of social change, like Martin Luther King Jr., are morally evil, since they oppose what is established according to their societies conventions. Moreover, this would make any social convention that establishes moral laws infallible, but we know that these societies can be judged as to whether they are meeting objective moral standards (e.g., the Nazis; any society that violates human rights). Clearly, morality cannot come from social convention.

Is the Moral Law My Will Itself?

Some suppose that the moral law is something we must impose upon ourself. Many believe Immanuel Kant proposed morality in this function. Yet, this too cannot fully account for the nature of morality. This would make the one being held responsible to the rules as the same person giving the rules. It seems rather pointless to have morality on one's own terms. Why even bother with morality at all? Even if one puts tough restrictions on oneself, one can change them as it becomes convenient. It is like a jailor who locks himself in a cell, but keeps the key. The appearance of being confined to his jail cell is illusive. He is not really bound to his cell because at any time he can unlock it and leave. Therefore, our own will cannot account for the moral law.

Could There Be No Moral Law?

Another way to reject Lewis's argument is to deny the first premise. If there is no universal moral law, then there is nothing that needs to be explained. Perhaps, the critic might claim, we have these moral intuitions, but they are all false illusions of a law that doesn't really exist. In other words, there is no moral law. The problem with this view is that the moral law is not a mere description of human behavior but a prescription for human behavior. If the moral law were something we could cast off and live without, this could be a plausible solution, but living without the moral law is simply impossible. Since we did not create it, we cannot cast it off. We cannot escape the moral law because it is impressed upon us. We cannot escape the moral law any more than we can escape the laws of logic or mathematics. Denying the universal moral law would ultimately lapse into moral relativism leaving all moral statements and actions meaningless, thus making Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa equally good and evil. Such a view of morality is not only impossible to live in practice, but obviously wrong when comparing saints and villains (like Hitler and Mother Theresa).

The case sketched above summarizes C. S. Lewis's moral argument for the existence of God. Lewis's argument contains some features that are common to most versions of the moral argument for the existence of God, but there are some subtle differences in some of the other arguments that are worth exploring.
"He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath
already committed breakfast with it in his heart" -- C.S. Lewis

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Post #40

Post by seventil »

bunyip wrote:
“He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart” -- C.S. Lewis


> "Take the food away from him and let him starve and then tell us the depth of this."

I think you're missing the point of the Lewis citation. Who says that's his brekkie to be "taken away"? If i recall my Lewis, the point of this quote is that it's somebody else's meal. And he's clearly stimulated by its visual appeal, he only needs to consummate the relationship by eating it. Should he do so just because he's hungry?

And what does the original possessor of the ham and eggs do in response? What are the "moral" guidelines here?

the bunyip
I've always liked the quote from Lewis for various reasons. Substitute hunger for sexual desire and Lewis is basically saying: It's perfectly natural to want to have a sex with a woman, just as it is to be hungry: what separates us from the beasts is the fact that we don't arbitrarily take the food when we know we shouldn't.

I suppose if a guy wanted to share his eggs with you, though, you'd have to make a judgment call on how good the eggs looked. ;)
"He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath
already committed breakfast with it in his heart" -- C.S. Lewis

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