Friday, September 28, 2012

Don't Impose Your Views ... Only We Can Do That!

Worldviews Passing in the Night
Following the last post, I want to finish with the most important issue that I believe was exposed with Bill Nye's ridiculous video by devoting a separate post to my interlocutor's (tildeb) final comment, the gist of which is as follows:
I suspect we would agree on almost everything - like family and friends and jobs and the cost of living and health concerns and so on... right up until you tried to have your religious beliefs privileged or their intentions imposed on others or if I argued to keep true to the secular ideals of personal autonomy! … All religious claims for historical creationism are equivalently based solely on belief. At best - like abiogenesis - we should agree that neither of us knows and hold that opinion until such a time that reality offers us compelling evidence to adduce a change. Belief of the religious kind does not produce knowledge and certainly doesn't fill in gaps where we currently have none. Yet far too often, this is exactly where religious belief stakes out its ground. As if this weren't bad enough, too often the conclusions deduced from these beliefs are then imposed on the rest of us by influencing public institutions, public practices, public policies, public law, public education, and so on. Nowhere is this more problematic than over issues claimed by the religious to be about morality... but that's for another day.
I don't want to cut and paste the whole thing but I believe this gives proper context to tildeb's point. What I want to concentrate on is the idea that he brings in the emphasized phrases of his quote -- because this is where the real crux of the issue resides. Like Bill Nye (on the video in the original post), tildeb does not want to allow people who think like me to "have their beliefs privileged or their intentions imposed on others ... by influencing public institutions, public practices, public policies, public law, [or] public education."

The mind-numbing arrogance and irony contained in this way of thinking is breathtaking. Notice that tildeb will not only mock the beliefs of others, he will fight to keep them from ever having them "imposed" on those with whom he agrees. How does he believe this should be handled?

By imposing his beliefs on those who disagree with him.

Notice that those who take Intelligent Design seriously and understand what it claims (as well as what it does not claim), are perfectly content to "teach the controversy." This means that they want to teach everything about Darwinism -- including its presuppositions, missing evidence, process flaws, and catastrophic inability to explain the origin of anything, let alone life itself. They have no desire to ban the teaching of Darwinism or to avoid it in any way. In fact, they have argued passionately for the opposite.

It is not "Creationists" who are imposing their beliefs on anyone. It is the materialist priesthood of Darwinist believers who are imposing their metaphysical worldview on others and enforcing it in every public institution that tildeb mentioned. You can read my thoughts on that subject here: "Defrocking The Priests of Scientism".

The final irony in tildeb's way of thinking is that he claims that this issue is "nowhere more problematic than over issues claimed by the religious to be about morality."

Apparently those who think this way believe that it would be immoral for religious believers to impose their views on them. This charge is brought to us by subscribers to a worldview in which "morality" has no basis ... and pontificated on by those who are perfectly happy to impose their religious views on us.

Ironic is a nice word for that ...


  1. You may want to consider an alternative view by reading my book "Making Stuff Up is Unwise."

    1. So I assume this to mean you have seriously considered alternate views yourself? I doubt it when I go to look at the Table of Contents in your book. There I found reference to the "harm of religion" and realized I have no reason to take seriously someone who is remains blissfully unaware of the 100 MILLION people who were murdered under the atheistic/naturalistic worldview of folks like: Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao. How about a chapter on the harm of the atheistic religion?

      Also, I did not see any chapters on ...

      1) How consciousness "emerges" from physical material alone I did see a blurb from your chapter on mind-body dualism and how your "concept" is that "it's probably a verb, an action of the material brain." Are concepts also material? And how do you identify "I" in that concept if there isn't a self that must be independent of your physical brain?

      2) Morality: How Atheism Fails to Ground It, Even in Principle

      3) Logic: Where do the laws we use to survive and reason originate

      4) Mathematics: How the Language of Science relies on metaphysically real concepts that Naturalism claims do not exist

      In short, I see nothing in your book that deals with the most important aspects of reality and tackles the complete failure of the Naturalistic worldview to explain them ...

      But since we're recommending books, how about you have a go at this one: Philosophical Foundations For a Christian Worldview

      I'm pretty sure it's a little more thoroughgoing treatment of the subject that (if you're really serious about your challenge to consider alternate views) might give you something to think about.

      Cheers ...

  2. Part 1

    Let me make what should be an agreeable statement of fact: I respect what's true in reality, and I respect reality's role to arbitrate claims made about it.

    Seems such a simple idea, but it isn't that easy for some of us to accept across all claims. Some of us partition reality. I do not respect claims that do this partitioning, that impose belief on reality and use it - not reality - to arbitrate what must be true about it. Relying on belief to be the arbiter is unequivocally and knowingly untrustworthy.

    Having said that, let's look at why you present a false dichotomy with making your creationist beliefs to be an equivalent kind of knowledge about reality similar to the scientific consensus - based not on my belief but by the single method of science in which all of place the trust of our very lives each and every day.

    You use the slippery word belief to suggest yours and mine are the same. They are not. The word has two very distinct meanings; yours, meaning a personal belief of the religious kind for your claims versus mine, meaning belief to indicate a high degree of confidence. My confidence is based entirely on the proven track record of the scientific method and not - like yours - on my personal religious preferences.

    I believe my keys have been left on the counter, not because the entrails of a chicken have been divined to indicate their location or some deity intervenes on my behalf with a personal revelation but because I have a history of leaving them there so I believe that's where they are to be found. The two meanings of 'belief' are not the same and this double meaning within a single term confuses us from successfully comparing and contrasting why your belief (meaning faith of the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen) is not equivalent to my belief (meaning confidence and trust on independent information). I contend that reality is best suited to arbitrate claims made about it and not claims made3 based on your personal religious beliefs... and certainly not equivalent as kinds of knowledge to be taught to the next generation.

  3. Part 2

    Simply put, your faith does not produce practical and applicable knowledge about reality. At best it makes claims that are empty assertions but no new knowledge. Ever. At any time. No religious belief does, which is why there tens of thousands of versions of just christianity whereas there is exactly one method of science. This is not a trivial difference. Religious claims about reality produce zero new knowledge. Zero practical applications. Zero technologies. Zero efficacious therapies. Zero formulas. Faith - the kind of belief you rely on - does not produce any new insight or avenue for legitimate inquiry into how reality operates. It explains nothing. It is equivalent in all ways to what we call 'delusion' because it comes with a method of inquiry - assertion independent of reality - that has no means for independent and repeatable verification. In any human endeavor, the use of such a faith-based beliefs is considered a vice... if not a questionable mental state that endorses an unacceptable level of credulity and gullibility. Only in the context of religious belief is this kind of faith considered a virtue and it is brooks no boundaries to its claims of certainty.

    In comparison, the method of inquiry with which I entrust claims made about reality is both verifiable and repeatable. It consistently produces practical applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time. This method allows us to hold a sliding scale of confidence that always falls short of certainty and is always subject to best evidence that can alter specific conclusions. But conclusions are not method; the method remains identical to all of us even if certain conclusions are more or less provisional based not on faith but best evidence. That's why scientists argue and criticize the work of others, and that's a good thing because over time this method is self-correcting. It is a method used by all people every day in order for us to successfully function in the world. It reliably produces a constant stream of new knowledge, verifies old, opens up new avenues of research, allows us to successfully make all kinds of predictions about the reality we share undreamt of in earlier times. This method is a supreme achievement of humanity, one that is welcomed in almost every corner of the globe... everywhere, that is, except where its findings come into conflict with people's cherished religious faith-based beliefs. Only here is the method considered insufficient because only here does reality as arbiter of claims made about it play no role. And as far as I can tell, when someone doesn't care about what's true but is determined only to promote what is believed to be true through faith, then any conversation about what is true is already over.

  4. tildeb ...

    I completely agree with this: I respect what's true in reality, and I respect reality's role to arbitrate claims made about it.

    ... And that's why I am a follower of Christ. The worldview He presented and represented coheres with reality better than any other view I see out there. It is consistent with every scientific finding I have ever read about. But that's where your worldview stops. Conversely, Christianity can also account for consciousness, reason, continuity of personhood, moral realism, mathematics, and the laws of logic (and more ...)

    So, while my worldview is all-encompassing, yours is not. Naturalism cannot explain any of those things ... and has no hope to even in principle.

    You buy into the post-Enlightenment mindset that faith and reason are inconsistent with science and reality. But that is because you (like most people, many Christians included) believe that faith is "blind" or a "leap." It is no such thing. There is not a single instance in the Bible where someone jumps to blind faith in something for absolutely no reason. Biblical faith is always active trust based on evidence.

    The definition of knowledge is "justified, true belief" where truth is "correspondence to reality." So, my knowledge, just like yours, is based on evidence and reason that I can have from what I see in the real world. The fact that you don't accept that evidence is irrelevant to whether or not my knowledge is justified.

    You can continue to repeat the same mantra that you are repeating here but, unless you seriously consider what I just said, the greater deficiencies in accounting for and understanding ALL aspects of reality are yours, not mine.

  5. You claim I completely agree with this: I respect what's true in reality, and I respect reality's role to arbitrate claims made about it.

    Is that claim true?

    Well, this thread began when you wrote we shouldn't trust Bill Nye's criticism of teaching creationism to children because, according to Nye, it's profoundly anti-science. Is this claim true? Yes it is, and I've written rather too much explaining why creationism is not founded on any independent evidence collected and/or adduced from reality but stands firmly contrary to, and in conflict with, the reality we share. I listed all kind of fields where evidence could have indicated a creationist event yet do not. Belief in creationism must therefore be powered by something other than evidence from reality and sustained by some belief that does allow reality's absence of evidence (where it should clearly be located) to matter. The method of inquiry that informs all our sciences relies on reality. For someone to claim something about reality - that a creationist event has taken place and has produced effect in reality - while exempting that claim from reality's arbitration of it defines what anti-science means in action: a rejection of reality's right (and the very method we use to find what that arbitration looks like)to arbitrate claims made about it.

    Obviously, holding a belief in clear opposition to what reality tells us about that claim it is not "respecting reality's role to arbitrate claims made about it." It is exactly the other way around. So, no, your agreement is not true; you do not respect reality's role to arbitrate claims made about it, In fact, you insert your belief in reality's place. You believe in a creationist event not because of evidence found in reality (for it is absent) but because you believe it in spite of evidence from reality. This is why Nye's criticism is spot on: when you teach children to respect reality-denying beliefs, you are doing them - and the rest of us - harm. You are teaching them to respect beliefs over reality. That's why creationist beliefs are correctly labelled as 'religious indoctrination' that undermine a child's mental development to think critically and rationally about reality. There is no means at the creationist's disposal to teach these children the difference between a belief and its truth value from reality. That's why it is a shameful practice that will one day be viewed as one of those head-scratching mysteries how loving and concerned parents could be so misguided to do such a dreadful thing to those who are dependent on them for guidance.

    1. Like the previous post, you continue to repeat your mantra of ridiculous assertions and ignore counter points. You have given me no reason to respond to this same point for yet another time. If you don't have something to add, you "input" will no longer be accepted. I've responded to this exact same line of "thinking" on your part at least 6 times and continue to get the same response.

      I don't have time for this.

    2. But you're NOT responding to this absence of evidence, Bob. You continue to skip over it with mere hand-waving, with excuses - like 'groupthink' - to dismiss relevant and meaningful drawbacks in what reality tells us about your creationist claim. And the absence of evidence matters... if you really are willing as you say you are to respect reality's role to arbitrate claims made about it... claims like we were created rather than the product of evolution: common ancestry by natural selection just like Nye says. In other words, your criticism of Nye does not touch why what he says is actually true and why what you say is actually not true.

      Perhaps this is why you feel the need to continue to apply moderation to my comments, fearing that without this administrative control your opinions may be clearly shown to be intellectually dishonest because you are unwilling or unable to moderate your own views when shown to be duplicitous. I hope this suspicion is wrong, that you can be forced by principle to admit your beliefs stand in conflict with what reality tells us about them. Perhaps then you will begin to see what your religious beliefs really are: fabrications you are willing to impose on others not to suit to what is true in fact but what you would prefer to believe is true to match up with your religious faith. This is how religious fabrications continue to be implanted into the most vulnerable among us - our children - at the cost of intellectual integrity and the healthy use of our critical faculties.

      So show us, Bob: are you part of the solution to respect reality and what is true about it or a part of the problem to pretend your beliefs are an equivalent substitution, a substitution to be foisted on others through indoctrination and censorship?

  6. Thanks for your insights, Aviator Bob!

  7. I've been meaning for a while now to get back to your repeated assertions - also mentioned by Craig in the video clip - about the supposed necessary link between god and morality, that you cannot have the latter without the former.

    You seem convinced that our concepts about right and wrong, good and evil, are in some way attached only to the factual existence of, if not your god, then at least a monotheistic, god, that if your god did not exist then we could not determine these moral (and ethical) differences, that we would have no means at our disposal to even begin. You link this to the idea - also enunciated by Craig to explain why atheism is contrary to morality - there must exist a universal objective standard - or code or metric or spectrum - against which to compare and contrast human desires, thoughts, motivations, intentions, and behaviours (and their effects) for us to determine their morality. Without a god-sanctioned moral standard, we simply cannot legitimately determine moral and ethical ramifications, we are told by the religious the world over; only by accepting a god-sanctioned standard can human beings truly be moral agents.

    Is this claim true, and how can we know?

    Firstly, I challenge anyone to unify within only the religious communities of the world a single god-sanctioned moral standard. Yet from this battlefield of conflicting religious moral standards littered throughout human history (each standard supposedly sanctioned by god) we continue to have various people of faith insist such an objective standard really, really, really does exists... and usually the believer just so happens to know what is! The miracle of revelation in action! (I'm probably not alone sincerely wishing you religious folk could get your own moral house in order and find consensus for this supposedly objective god-sanctioned moral standard; it would save so many lives and so much unnecessary human suffering if you could just come to some agreement even between yourselves before you so readily and glibly assure us non believers of our moral folly.)

    This lack of evidence for such a single god-sanctioned standard in no way dampens the fervor of those who are certain that this single standard does exist... and, in addition, just so happens to exist independently of humans, which also just so happens to be accessible through sharing the believer's specific religious faith. What a coincidence.

    If we cannot find any consensus from the religious community for any kind of shared moral standard derived from their holy texts to reveal a god-sanctioned one, then is there any other natural explanation for our species-wide shared sense of morality in spite of religious differences?

    The short answer is yes, but the explanation follows in the second part.

    1. Well, at least you have actually responded to the issue with this one ... however inadequately ...

      Despite the fact that your baseless assertion about "conflicting God-sanctioned moral standards," can you please provide for me the atheistic/Naturalistic moral standard and why we should adhere to it?

  8. Part 2

    Secondly, we need to define what it is we're trying to describe when we use the 'morality'. I like to define it as where on some metric we agree to use to compare and contrast implications if the thing or action we are examining were expressing a principle applicable to all. So where might these various metrics originate?

    Again, the short answer is: from us.

    One of the metrics is our common biology revealing, for example, a very high degree of consistency across all other influencing factors like culture, language, gender, race, and so on. Interestingly, religious belief is potent enough to overcome one's 'natural' (meaning biological) tendency to protect one's children from harm in the service of divine authority. For those who subscribe to Divine Command Theory (like Craig does), for example, dead children is not a moral problem if god so orders it.

    But this biological metric is not the whole story for some claim to an 'objective' morality. Far from it.

    Because we can learn, we are able to elevate other metrics for our moral values. Professionals (doctors, police officers, nurses, teachers, engineers, lawyers, etc.) are taught to elevate their professional code of ethical conduct above and beyond their subjective personal preferences (imagine if police officers enforced only subjectively preferred laws!). Citizens are taught to elevate the law (social contract) over their subjective behavioural desires. Military personnel are taught to elevate rank and privilege over their personal use of armed might. Public servants are taught (some never learn) to elevate public policy over personal preferences. And so on.

    We can select moral systems with the kind of metric for values we all share, based on sound reasoning and tangible benefits that are not accompanied by the detritus of ancient misogynistic and bigoted systems. We can select a metric of human rights, of human well being, of sustainability, of fairness, and of reciprocity. These metrics do not have to be religious nor do they require some other authority other than their inherited stand alone best reasons. If your morality cannot withstand such equivalent scrutiny, then I think it lacks something fundamentally important to be considered good
    (like Craig's moral support for the soldiers who massacred the Canaanites), and earn its rejection on its lack of reasonable merit. Furthermore, a moral metric that cannot stand alone on best reasons is not improved when we protect them by divine excuses. Advocating for poor morality because its divine is about the worst possible system one can have and we see this endlessly played out throughout the world when religion is left to rule - through secular power - the moral roost.

  9. Part 3

    Each of these metrics can be considered 'objective' in the sense that no one individual is responsible for their creation and all within the prescribed jurisdiction are to operate under their purview. But each metric is also subjective in the sense of non permanence, meaning that that changes over time are to be expected in response to changing environments, legislation, and best practices. Does this impermanence render today's codes of ethical conduct for all professionals nihilistic (as is often leveled at atheists who do not subscribe to the local religious moral values)? Of course not.

    The problem arises when a certain set of the populace firmly believes that a preferred metric - usually a brutal Iron age one - is elevated by divine fiat, to cover all other metrics, and imposed on everyone everywhere for all time. This is an odious metric of presumed authority with no recognizable boundaries for where this authority ends or any mechanism for correction or evolution. This is why the religious claim for 'objective' value superiority consistently yields intractable problems between competing and contrary individual religious metrics (usually instigating violence as the only means for change). The difficulty is getting the religious to appreciate that until they get their own house in unitary order, meaning one global religious belief with one moral value system, they have no business insisting that others - like the professions - should subjugate their 'subjectively' inferior value metrics to their 'objectively' superior one. This arrogance of belief - and not the atheist secularism - is a recipe for perpetual conflict and strife.

  10. What might a moral metric look like?

    If you think of the moral metric as one of elevation (to link back to the Craig video) - an agreement to use, let's say, sea level as our relative starting point for comparison of different elevations, then my hope is to get you to see that the relative and subjective starting point (sea level) does not need to be universally true for everyone everywhere all the time (local airports often use their position as the starting point for local elevation comparisons) in order to accurately and objectively compare elevation judgements (determining which is higher or lower relative to the same starting position. In other words, we can use a local metric and still create valid and meaningful objective comparisons.

    A locally agreed upon relative moral metric (like respecting agreed upon human rights, for example) can produce the means by which we can then successfully compare what promotes them and what reduces them. Objectively. From the moral relativism that humanity exhibits in reality, we can arrive at objective value judgements. We do not need Either god OR subjective moral value judgements. This is clearly not the only choice and those who present their religious moral metric as the only one that keeps subjective moral judgements at bay is demonstrably false.

    I mention the biblical moral value metric in such terms as Divine Command Theory, Iron age morality, ancient, bigoted, and misogynistic, because there is compelling evidence from the bible that these are fundamental aspects to any moral metric derived from it. Believers have to account for these aspects of the metric they claim are god-sanctioned and show why they are somehow superior or of a higher quality producing superior moral judgements than others readily available. This I do not think christian believers can do; at best we see interpretive contortions to highlight these but not those, picking the ones already held in esteem while ignoring those contrary to today's moral zeitgeist. This reveals why there is no single biblical moral metric but a hodgepodge of morally dubious ingredients flavoured to personal tastes.

    But the point is that religious belief of the christian kind, obviously, is no protector from committing morally repulsive acts when in competition with the desires of the individuals involved. We have better moral metrics than the convoluted and often repulsive ones we can gather from the bible. Or the koran. Or any so-called holy book. All we have to do is agree to select one that presents a common concern to all of us.

  11. The problem with your "locally agreed upon moral metric" is that, by definition, it is relativistic. Who's going to "agree upon human rights" for instance? Hitler had an idea of what those should be. So does the Taliban.

    The irony in your view lies in the assumption of "human rights." Where do you get such an idea? Why should humans have rights? That sounds pretty speciesist to me there, tildeb. In fact, if you want to make the arbitrary assumption that humans have more rights than other bags of protein, shouldn't those "rights" promote perpetuation of the species? That's the "goal" of evolution after all, isn't it? On that view, there is absolutely nothing wrong with rape. On that view, might makes right and the powerful make all the rules about whose "rights" should predominate.

    The attempt to build a relativistic ethic is doomed to the depravity of the human proclivity to dominate and, on your Naturalistic/atheistic view, there is absolutely no standard of right/wrong or justice/injustice. Those are nothing but arbitrary terms meant to promote the things we like ... and it all depends on who "we" are.

    You also grossly misunderstand what the theist means by objective right and wrong. Though some would subscribe to your characterization, once again, you are lumping all theists in together. I, for instance, do not subscribe to the "right for all people at all times in all situations" absolutist ethic you presume. It's unworkable and unlivable and fails to deal with the nuances of practical ethics. So, once again, your assumptions about what all us theists think is grossly inaccurate.

    1. The problem isn't that a moral metric is relative because what is being compared and contrasted is an objective comparison. (This understanding continues to elude critics of Harris' The Moral Landscape.) An elevation doesn't magically become higher or lower (or unknowable) in comparison because we subjectively select sea level or an airport or any other relative point of reference, any more than an act becomes more good or more evil in comparison because we subjectively select human rights or well-being or reciprocity. Until you actually grasp what this means, you will continue to talk past me and miss this (and Harris') central point about morality.

      You bring your morality to your reading of theology. In other words, morality precedes religion. That's why you only cherry pick biblical references to suit your current (and evolving) morality. The moral metric of your biology precedes all and this is demonstrable not only in infants but across the species boundary. You simply assert that this innate moral concern belongs to god, which is then somehow (miraculously?) transferred (by mechanism unknown) to humans from some 'exterior' location. This 'explanation' fails to make more sense than a natural one, and fails to explain why we have a common morality long before we are exposed to religious indoctrination. We can show that morality develops, which is why it is so difficult today to find christians who endorse slavery - yet who lack any biblical injunctions to reject it as 'immoral'. How can this be, unless god's moral gift changes with time? Yet you feel quite comfortable calling this shift in the moral zeitgeist to the "human proclivity to dominate." According to Steve Pinker (The Better Angels of our Nature), he can demonstrate that we - as a species - are actually improving these 'natural proclivities'. The 'blame' for becoming more moral can demonstrably attributable to putting Enlightenment secular values into practice through law. This is a rather profound improvement over any moral metric any religious holy book can offer in a fair comparison.

      I think these points are an important consideration contrary to theistic claims that lack of faith means a lack of moral standards... a meme long supported and advanced by those who cling to Iron age codes of conduct. Fortunately for us all, times change and the time of religious privilege on moral grounds can be successfully exposed for the fraud it is.

    2. This is the most frustrating topic I ever encounter with those who think like you, tildeb, because you fail to see the difference between epistemology and ontology when it comes to morality. (And, as is usually the case, since you haven't actually studied the Bible (whether you've read it or not), you equate the Bible's use of the word "slavery" with the modern definition of the word when the two are wildly different things ... but that's another subject)

      What "objective comparison" sets your "sea level"? That's nice to say ... and impossible to demonstrate. The theistically grounded view of morality does not get transferred to humans from some unknown location. It doesn't reside anywhere but in the character of God Himself. Steve Pinker can claim he can demonstrate that we are "improving" as a species but improving from where? Who gets to decide? And what do you mean by "improving" anyway, unless you have an external standard by which you make your comparison?

      What you are defending is simply how we come to know moral things. What you cannot defend is their grounding and this is a far different thing. Evolution can only measure/identify behavior; it cannot measure motive or intent and those are what make a behavior moral or immoral.

    3. Let me first up some confusion you seem to have about the role of ontology and epistemology in claims made about morality.

      What we know (ontology) is only as sound as how we know it (epistemology). This is why I've spent (wasted?) so much time explaining why reality is so important to arbitrating claims made about it. If we have no means to test our faith-based beliefs in reality, then our faith-based conclusions (our ontological claims) are equivalent not just to making stuff up but trying to live out our delusions by imposing our faith-based beliefs on reality... to our collective detriment.

      The way we determine if our faith-based beliefs are, in reality, delusional is the major problem when we assume our ontological arguments suffice by appearances alone. One may have a faith-based belief in creationism, for example, because things look created but how does one test that belief when we refuse to allow evidence from reality to arbitrate it, to determine if the claim is true IN reality? The epistemology of faith - elevating the religious kind of faith to be considered a virtue, a good thing, a sign of allegiance to an ontological claim a priori - doesn't work. It does not produce insight into reality. As I've already shown in previous comments, religious faith has failed to produce any knowledge we can trust. This is an ontological failure that has occurred because its epistemological method - exempting its truth claims from being arbitrated by reality - renders the faith-based beliefs to be equivalent to wishful thinking untethered to reality, to empty assertions, to assumptions that are, quite frankly,reliably wrong. In every case where our knowledge advances (endorsed by reality through methodological naturalism), religious beliefs are forced to retreat from previous claims they have made. This is not surprising. What is surprising is that otherwise rational people continue to believe - in spite of compelling evidence to the contrary - in all kinds of Oogity Boogity (religious faith being just one of many).

    4. Part 2

      The right now question to ask is on what grounds should religious belief lay claim to having anything legitimately informed to say about morality? Why should any rational person assume that religious belief offer us insight into morality when it clearly has no track record of doing so in any other area of human concern... except by special sanction, privilege, exemption, indoctrination, and power, none of which informs understanding morality one iota.

      To understand the metrics by which we 'judge' (measure) moral actions (like any other comparison) means we need a common starting point. You insist that this starting point - this grounding for a moral metric - must be objective (presumably universal) and that it resides "in the character of God Himself". You state this claim as if it were true, so let's bring back our recent friends under discussion, ontology and epistemology, and see what they have to say about your claim.

      What is being claimed? You tell us that morality originates in the character of god. Is this true? More importantly, how can we know?

      This is where you leave the rails of reality behind and eliminate any method by which we can test the claim. You can show us no god for this claim, nor demonstrate that your supposed 'insight' accurately describes the 'character' of this critter so well as to reveal the supposed 'source' for human morality. Your ontological claim is nothing but an assertion.

      Yet on this assertion (that is clearly a priori) you will take a stand for the morality you similarly assert comes from it, which is then magically delivered to humans while providing no explanation (that is not testable, predictive, or demonstrable) how this is done. You have no epistemology related in any way to reality for this claim you make about it, that morality comes to us from the character of god.

      I do. I can demonstrate a biological basis for certain attitudes, concerns, and behaviours we call 'moral'. As a matter of fact, there is a lot of such evidence in reality, more than enough to assert with a great deal of confidence that what we call morality is produced and developed primarily by our shared biology. Furthermore, this explanation helps us to understand how such moral considerations common throughout our species (and also found in many other species) like reciprocity and altruism long predate all of our 'holy' texts and are exhibited (and shown preference) by infants as young as three months... long before any religious indoctrination can take place. Unless you consider the "character of god" to be identical with human biology, then you have no equivalent epistemology available to me from reality to describe the 'ground' from which our shared morality arises. My ontological position is, therefore, much stronger than yours because I can provide direct evidence from reality to inform my explanation for the source of our moral grounding: evolution.

    5. You have the audacity to lecture me about my supposed "confusion" on the difference between ontology and epistemology when, for the umpteenth consecutive time, you fail to see that you automatically (and a priori) dismiss any test against "reality" by insisting that "reality" is only the physical world. You literally cannot countenance that some reality is NOT physical.

      This is the same as demanding scientific "proof" for God when you are the only one who gets to define "science" and "proof" on your own terms ... and then pronounce those who disagree with you "delusional." This practice of yours, tildeb, is not just arrogant, it's plain stupid. I don't know how else to put it.

      Just as a point of interest, your labeling me "delusional" is a tacit admission that there is a something beyond the physical existence of the neuron network in my brain that must be getting "fooled." Just what is that tildeb? Are some molecules "fooling" the other molecules? To ask the question is to answer it ... and to believe that such a thing counts as an intellectual point of view is ... well, I already said it ... stupid.

      You are so lost in the confines of your materialist world, you literally cannot comprehend that the actual extent of reality is bigger than you can imagine. Actually, "cannot" might be too kind. WILL not is more like it.

      Your infant example proves the point that YOU are the one who has no understanding of the difference between ontology and epistemology! You think that moral virtue is obtained by "religious indoctrination" -- by learning from some holy text. And your example proves that none of us need "religious indoctrination" to know what's right or wrong. So you have proved, through your own ignorance, that morals exist . Neither one of us needs the Bible to know right and wrong ... which is exactly the point I make.

      For the absolute last time ... you can "demonstrate" nothing about morality except the observance of certain actions/behaviors. Nothing. And what makes those actions right or wrong has no basis in biology. It cannot have such a basis because the thing that makes those actions right or wrong (objective morality) is not physical. It's not biological. It's not even true because tildeb says so -- as incomprehensible as that may be for you. If I see someone take a hose out of my neighbor's garage, that is an observance of a behavior. But is he stealing the hose? Does he have permission to take the hose? Is he retrieving his own hose that was stolen from him?

      You can't answer any of those questions with biology ... and yet those are the very questions that one must ask to determine the morality of the behavior. If you either can't, or won't, admit that simple fact, I think it is fairly obvious which of one us is deluded.

    6. I must say, Bob, you sure like your tropes and canards. What I say is that if you make a claim about reality, then you need to back it up with evidence from reality. Otherwise, your epistemology of linking effect with asserted cause is disconnected and your ontological claims equivalent to delusion. Feel free to quote me next time you claim I say something; that way, we'll know if I have actually said it rather than you (once again) merely asserting that I have. It will save us both time and , I hope, hurt feelings. I'm not calling you delusional, Bob; I'm calling your claims for god-caused effects equivalent to delusions because you cannot back them up with evidence from reality. If you can't do that linking based on evidence then you need to back off asserting the claim to be true and present them as what they actually and honestly are: personal faith-based beliefs. To use the example you give, all you can say is what you saw; you overstep yourself if you claim to know intention when you don't (or character when you can't) as if these assertions you make are justifiable from some other source. This is the dishonesty I have previously mentioned. You make assertions that are wholly your own (your faith-based beliefs) and then try to present these as if they are conclusions derived from reality... a reality that does not produce the evidence needed to justify your assertions.

      You can claim that you believe morality comes from the character of god, but realize this is entirely of your own making. This is a qualitatively different kind of claim (and a much poorer one) than one that is derived or adduced from reality-based evidence. When you pretend claims from these different sources are equivalent kinds of beliefs, you are being intentionally dishonest.

      When you want to find out what the evidence from reality shows us about our expressions of morality, let me know. I'll be glad to share what this evidence is and what explanations seem to best fit these results. As for your claims of intentions and purpose and meaning you attribute to some interventionist creative divine critter, unless you can link this evidence of effect to your faith-based belief in its cause, it's clear you're just spouting personal belief indistinguishable from making stuff up while trying to blame me for daring to point it out.

    7. "What I say is that if you make a claim about reality, then you need to back it up with evidence from reality."

      Yes, that is what you say - and I have said that I agree with that - but when you say it you assume, despite all evidence to the contrary, that "reality" can only include the physical world. That's YOUR definition, which you are entitled to use, but which flies in the face of: consciousness, the laws of logic, concepts, numbers, moral reality, and - the very language your scientistic, myopic mindset - mathematics.

      None of these things is physical, but every one of them is REAL and you couldn't do your science without them, yet you hold to your personal, faith-based belief that they are not real without proper justification.

      "To use the example you give, all you can say is what you saw; you overstep yourself if you claim to know intention when you don't (or character when you can't) as if these assertions you make are justifiable from some other source"

      This is a mindbogglingly inane comment. Obviously, both of us can only "say what you saw" but what we saw does not, and cannot, speak to the morality of the action in question. Biology can NEVER speak to the morality of the action in question. Talk about intentionally dishonest?! You live in some kind of personally-constructed pretend world that denies agent causation (apparently) and holds that the action of the guy taking the hose out of the garage cannot include any morally significant content. If that's not the most ridiculous statement you've made, it's in the top two.

      By the way, the hose-out-of-the-garage example has nothing to do with "some interventionist creative divine critter" ... it's just about a guy taking a hose.

    8. On the one hand, when you make a claim about the physical world, of course you have to back it up with physical evidence! That's why creationism fails: there is NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE for a creationist event in the physical reality we share. You keep trying to wave that fatal problem away. When you make a creationist claim, for example, about the historical Adam and Eve - a physical claim - you have to back that up with physical evidence! But there is none. That's why christian creationism fails: there is NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE. In fact, in both cases, there is overwhelming physical evidence contrary to these fairy tales. And in addition, where physical evidence should be present to support them, it does not align. You can pretend all you want that pointing out these fatal flaws in your fairy tales is somehow dishonest on my part. You can silence me in a moment with an equivalent reservoir of evidence from reality that supports your case. But unlike you, I am quite willing to change my mind... if the evidence from reality backs up your assertions. But it doesn't and it is intellectual cowardice to pretend that fault for this insurmountable problem belongs elsewhere than on he who refuses to accept what reality has to say about these ludicrous claims.

      On the other hand, if consciousness isn't linked to what's physical, isn't a biological process, isn't causally linked to the operation of brains, please indicate how all the evidence that points to exactly this is interpreted incorrectly. Talk about inane.

      The laws of logic are axioms upon which reasoning cannot work because it otherwise would have no relative starting point. But you're hardly a fan of recognizing the need for such starting points when you just know that only objectively and divinely sanctioned (and delivered) axioms must be from the character of god. This is a peculiar place to be entrenched with such clarity and certainty.

      What is a concept if not a mental representation of reality? What is morality if not a comparison of consequences to the effects in reality of actions? What are numbers if not representations of comparative quantities found in reality? What is math if not the symbolic representation of reality? In other words, all these words you attribute to be non-physical yet real shows a very clear confusion between descriptions of relationships - communicated by way of symbols and representations - and nouns - communicated by direct references to physical things. You must have the latter to inform the former. What is 'real' about the former is so only by way of linking them to the latter. Otherwise it's all just so much gibberish.

    9. So, while you not only offer no explanation for the most important aspects of our existence, you continue to not only deny they are real, you are too cowardly to even acknowledge that I made the point. It's as if it never happened ... This, tildeb is the DEFINITION of intellectual cowardice.

      It's understandable though. I would probably be afraid to admit that my worldview had no possibility of explaining the most important aspects of reality too. I really hope you find a way to be honest with yourself even if you find it impossible to be intellectually honest with me about it.

      The proof is in the pudding: "The laws of logic are axioms upon which reasoning cannot work because it otherwise would have no relative starting point."

      Exactly! You're starting to get it, tildeb! Are you really so resistant to the truth that you cannot see that you just admitted that we couldn't even have this conversation, let alone do science, without the laws of logic? And you believe you have explained it by a hand-waving gesture to just declare it a "starting point." Ha! Where did the "starting point" originate there, tildeb? Did it just "appear"? Did someone just declare it to be so? If so, why should we acknowledge it as a starting point? Why not some different laws of logic?

      And let me ask you this ... Is free will real or just an illusion? (Can't wait for your response to that one)

    10. What you call the 'laws of logic' is a human articulation - a human construct - of a common starting point for communication, on a fundamental agreement of axioms in reasoning to relate our symbolic language to be representational about our physical reality. Without accepting such axioms, no reasoned communication is possible.

      This starting point comes from the interaction of our biology with out environment, Bob. It comes from the development of our frontal lobe, developed over time. It is not evidence of POOF!ism. It is evidence of a means of communication between a specific branch of the primate family whose brains have adapted over time to offer benefit to more progeny than brains not so capable. Maybe now you're starting to get it. (Maybe you haven't noticed that the world is filled with different languages, many with different grammars, but relying on the same general axioms. This is a clue, BTW...)

      You are an accumulation of our common ancestry and your brain has been developed by evolutionary process interacting with different environments to allow you the luxury of complex language. Your prayers didn't develop it; you did by mental exercise as an infant. You related your environment to sound made in sequence by others and you attached meaning to these sounds as representations. You learned the grammar necessary to understand complex representations and even learned to ask for a special treat differently from different people. You couldn't have done this with the neurology ready, willing, and able to allow this development in a remarkably short time.

      You see, Bob, it doesn't need an explanation of Oogity Boogity to make sense of how language comes from how our biology interacts with our environments. I can show you where in your brain your language processing becomes specialized. I can impair your language ability by causing your brain pinpoint damage. I can impede your language neurology so that you think your words make sense but any other listener will hear nothing but gibberish. I can show how language memory aids information retrieval... and how to impair with chemicals and electrical fields. I can also impair this process - not by sacrificing a goat or casting an evil eye your way or praying to some god or goddess to strike you mute but- by interfering directly and physically with your brain neurology.

    11. Part 2

      Language is entirely based in our biology, so it makes sense to visit our past and see if we can make predictions of this evolutionary pattern. And, indeed we can because this is what we find. We can link the development of increasing language phonemes to the same anthropological spread and growth by human migrations. We can show how languages are related and which predates which. The further back in time we go, the less developed are our human ancestor's language centers of their brains. To hypothesize about an origin would be to speculate that our pre-language articulations was inherited from our ancestry with other humanoid species but that we alone found it beneficial as a branch to improve on this ability.

      Language development is considered by many to be a major evolutionary divide between us and other hominids. So when you pretend that the 'laws of logic' somehow offer evidence for POOF!ism, you obviously have no clue about language development by means of making representational sounds to symbolically represent reality. Putting these sounds together to make meaning of reality requires a grammar, which means common LOCAL rules. But in the same way that quantities increase by addition and decrease by subtraction REGARDLESS of local sounds that represent the quantities in this common occurrence, (1+1, i+i, un plus un, one minus one, and so on), so too do the 'laws of logic' develop by axioms over time. No Oogity Boogity is required. And it's common to ALL forms of communication that require sophisticated grammar to transfer very specific information. Local rules widely followed eventually appear to be highly designed (although I have to say that IDiots fail to appreciate the route by which this process naturally occurs in schools of fish, flocks of birds, cellular interactions, and so on, where communication appears to be almost instantaneous and intelligent... but it's not).

      So you can see, Bob, that answers to questions of development are hard because they are detailed and require study and understanding. Jumping as you like to do to beginnings and simply asserting that something complex MUST have been POOF!ed into existence by some vastly clever cosmic design engineer answers nothing. In fact, ID/creationism is an inquiry stopper because for a moment you actually believe you have an answer when upon examination you have absolutely nothing related to knowledge about reality.

      So, while you not only offer no explanation for the most important aspects of our existence, you continue to not only deny they are real, you are too cowardly to even acknowledge that I made the point.

      I can't hand you detailed understanding of how the world works, Bob, when you already think yourself with all the answers. I attempted to get you to appreciate the difference between things that exist independently in reality and things that are merely conceptualized representations. Having a word for the conceptual representation does not make the word itself 'real' as in existing independently of the mind (the mind is what the brain does, in case you're interested); it makes the concepts mind dependent, which can also be shared. This is another huge evolutionary advantage to be able to teach our young very sophisticated concepts so that each new human doesn't have to start from scratch. And this leads back to the damage done to children's minds who are taught to respect, and share in, the beliefs of others as if they were true in fact on the merit that they are religiously believed.

    12. After all the blather and circular reasoning, we've learned nothing new. Just a rehash of the same myopic, naturalistic/atheistic assumptions that fail to account for the reality we all experience every day.

      Nowhere have I ever advocated "Poofism" and, while you use lots of words to say precisely nothing, your verbosity cannot make correlation become causation. Just because you can locate (or inhibit) neural activity in my physical brain that correlates with some action, you will never explain the origin, nature, or content of the thoughts that I am thinking ... unless "I" tell you what I am thinking. This means that "I" cannot be my physical brain. You can pretend your tired, blathering insistence to the contrary is compelling. It's not.

      Additionally, your claim that ID is a "science stopper" is actually laughable. Your worldview told us that ~97% of our DNA was "Junk" left over from all those years of failed attempts to "evolve." Now we know (via the ENCODE Project) that 80% + of our DNA is actually functional -- just like the ID folks predicted it would be. So who was the "science stopper" in that little scenario?

      Finally, readers will note that you refuse to respond to my question regarding whether free will is illusory. Just an oversight, I'm sure -- but your answer to that question is the only one I'm interested in now.

    13. Bob, you jump to so many points that I cannot hope to adequately address them all without having to break the response into dozens of comments. So I select what I consider the central point of your comment and address it. As far as language is concerned, we develop it and the axioms included in it. We see this repeated with each and every human birth, in case you didn't notice the typical path all human children follow (even deaf and dumb ones). If that's not biology in action, then I don't know what is.

      I avoided the free will question because we could write volumes on it. In a nutshell we are neither free to will what we want nor have independence to separate it from our neurobiology. I have no clue what it is you mean by 'free will' and neither do you.

      As far as junk DNA, let all note who found out that the way the strands ball up activates certain parts that, before now, seemed to have no function. It sure wasn't any 'creation' scientists or any one from the Discotute or any of the supposed 'Intelligent Design' gang. You see, Bob, they don;t do real science. Those who do allow for such corrections, but you wouldn't appreciate that epistemology informing the ontology if it hit you over the head. So no, Bob, the ID folks did not predict anything scientifically verifiable nor did the honest scientists 'stop' advances being made. It takes a dullard of the first order - or an advocate for creationism - to turn gaining real knowledge into a criticism.

      And yes, we will eventually have excellent knowledge about how the brain produces what you call 'consciousness' but these are still early days in neuroscience. Stay tuned... again, advances in knowledge are not going to come from proponents of the Great Designer (hallowed by His name). Wouldn't it be swell if creationists and IDiots everywhere had to hold their breath until such knowledge was forthcoming? It would be so much.... quieter.

    14. I avoided the free will question because we could write volumes on it. In a nutshell we are neither free to will what we want nor have independence to separate it from our neurobiology. I have no clue what it is you mean by 'free will' ...

      Well of course you didn't answer the question ... and I think it's a bold face lie to say you "have no clue what it is..." You know exactly what it is, and so do I. We both have the ability to consider alternate outcomes and choose between desires. Your problem is that you don't want to admit that you know what free will is because the reality of it completely undermines your case for pure material neurobiology to explain the human mind. It can't be done. That's what you know.

      On a side note, your claim that we are not "free to will what we want ..." makes everything you have written absolutely meaningless ... if you're right about your materialist explanation that is. If your "mind" is nothing but the illusion of molecules and electrical impulses clashing in your brain, your statements and musings mean nothing. You can't have it both ways.

      As for "Junk" DNA, you might want to run that by the history of the complete failure of the "new atheists" (starting with the village id .. er, "philosopher of science" .. Richard Dawkins) who prattled on about how its Junk status "proved" the claims of evolutionary biology. Can't wait to hear how they respond and continue to defend the exact opposite findings of the-Theory-that-can-never-be-wrong.

  12. This has gone on long enough. tildeb ceased to offer a reasonable atlernative case long ago. His final comment about wanting those who disagree with him to just be quiet betrays the arrogance of the "Priests of Scientism" he represents so well.

    His appeal to a "science of the gaps" is eye-opening considering the mockery he and others like him throw at those they claim want to appeal to a "God of the gaps." Irony and hypocrisy run deep in the realm of the Materialist Religionists who would continue to defend the likes of "Bill Nye, the not-so-scientific Guy." I think that became obvious over the last three posts.

    Thanks for reading ...


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