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Thread: The Morality Arguement

  1. #1 The Morality Arguement 
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    Now I havent really posted much in this forum but I would like to start with this, what are some reasonable counter-arguements against one of Chrisitianitys favorite proof of God? Namely the Morality Arguement, hwo can morality be explained by Darwinism? Ive heard a number of explanations but to me they usually seem a little weak. Then again maybe I should just do a bit more research.


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    The Evolutionary Origin of an Altruistic Gene
    Evolution Easily Explains Morality - Rhyme and Reason by Philip Brocoum
    Tachyphrenia: The Evolutionary Basis of Morality

    And this thread might offer some insight:
    Is it natural for humans to kill one another?


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    It's pretty clear that what ever biological tendencies towards human moral code didn't extend beyond the tribe--much as wolf morality doesn't extend past the pack--most evidence points to humans traveling and living in small groups through most of its evolution. With the advent of agriculture and civilization, all communities developed their own codes with natural selection working both on individuals but entire communities. Separation of individual decision making to kill others seems to be a pretty common thread among all the successful communities--community leaders made those decisions. Hebrew nor Christian laws aren't particularly unique when measured against the full spectrum of rules already tried, developed and found generally beneficial to other societies. It's no coincidence that most religions and cultures have forms of the golden-rule for example--it's a cultural meme that simply makes societies more successful.
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    I'm going to pick on this one. Didn't read the other ones yet.
    An oft-heard theme is that religion is necessary so that we can have morality. I’ve even had people say to me, “Since you are an atheist, what keeps you from murdering people since it doesn’t matter anyway?” That line of thought actually implies two things:
    1. Morality comes from religion
    2. Morality comes only from religion
    I’m willing to accept that many people get their morality from religion. I am rather offended, however, that these same people are so arrogant as to think that I couldn’t possibly be getting my morality from elsewhere.
    First of all, many Christians commit murder and many atheists don’t, so being religious doesn’t guarantee you have morality and being atheist doesn’t imply you don’t. Second, people had laws and moral codes for thousands and thousands of years before Christianity was ever invented. It’s pretty clear that morality did not originate with Christianity (or any other religion) nor is it the only source of morality.
    Morality actually comes from two places:
    1. Evolution
    2. Our brains
    If you are unfamiliar with evolution/natural selection, my favorite definition is: “That which survives, survives.” I can’t think of any simpler way to put it. Traits that positively affect our chances of survival live on to the next generation, and traits that negatively affect them don’t. You don’t even have to do any studies or research to see that this is the only possible way it could be. It’s just so obvious.
    Now, imagine a species composed entirely of murderers. That species will murder itself into extinction really quickly. Evolution, natural selection, and survival of the fittest guarantee that any species alive today necessarily cannot be made up of murderers. Voilà, we have morality.
    It really is that simple.

    We have morality because we need it in order to survive. Even in a world of total randomness, we would still end up with moral species. Imagine a world with 100 species randomly filled up with murderers. The species with high concentrations of murderers would die out and the “moral” species would live on. There is no thought required, no grand design, no godly being, it just happens.
    Trouble is, a species with a middling concentration of murderers also survives. This seems to be exactly what we've got. Besides that, morality is not only a function of instinct it is also a function of culture. Culture includes religion. Thus you have not disproven a need for a cultural system of ethics (such as religion).
    Of course, it’s not so black and white. There are, after all, other ways to be moral besides not being a murderer. Still, it’s pretty easy to imagine that a species filled up with thieves is worse off than a species with cooperative people.
    An important part of human morality is that our brains allow us to go beyond simply what nature came up with. “Nature red in tooth and claw” is an accurate description. When a new lion takes over the group, for example, he kills all the baby lions because he wants to spread his genes, not the genes of the former leader. It makes perfect sense, but human beings have more evolved brains than lions and we are able to see why this is wrong.
    "More evolved" .... A sure sign that the writer does not understand evolution.
    Being able to go beyond our instinctual desires is the main thing that separates humans from animals. Still, I’m sure we all know just how hard it is to overcome our instincts. It’s hard to resist a beautiful woman, for example, and some men can’t (rapists). Still, from nature’s perspective, rape is a perfectly legitimate way of passing on your genes, which explains why there are rapists in the world. Ironically, if all raped women aborted their children perhaps rapists would die out.
    So, what magic allows us the ability to judge morals beyond that which nature intended? Some people think it’s religion, but I think it’s our brains. A lion is just doing what comes naturally to him when he kills off all the cubs, but we humans are conscious and we are able to see that death sucks and do our best to avoid it.
    Do you want to know where I personally get my morals from? The Ethic of Reciprocity:
    Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
    I know, I know, it sounds like I’m getting my morality from religion, but I’m not. I just happen to like how it’s phrased. That phrase, or a similar one, shows up in over 21 religions throughout the world. The fact that so many people independently came up with the same moral law implies to me that it comes from our brains rather than some higher being.
    The law also just makes sense, plain and simple. I don’t want to be murdered and I don’t want my stuff stolen, and the best way to ensure I live in a murder-free/theft-free world is to not commit murder or theft. It works in reverse with philanthropy, too. If I was down on my luck I would want people to help me out, so in turn I try to help out people who need my help as well.
    I want to point out that evolutionary morality is not only the source of good in the world but also the source of evil. Unfortunately, we live in a world where being ruthless and greedy makes you rich and powerful, which in turn makes you attractive to the opposite sex and helps you pass on your genes. This is why there are so many greedy bastards in the world, and why we keep getting into wars and countries keep trying to take over the world.
    Lastly, I want to point out that we are still evolving. “Ha ha,” I hear someone cry, “If evolution works as you say it does then why are there still murderers in the world?” People seem to think that we are at the end, that millions of years of evolution have finally culminated in the perfect being: humans. It’s not the end. Who knows what we will evolve into a million years from now.
    We all have to take it upon ourselves to ensure that in the future we pay more attention to our brains rather than our instincts.
    Wait a minute. Why would we pay more attention to our brains if our instincts are good? I thought the whole idea of the article was we evoved as moral people with good instincts. If we use our brains to override instinct, why wouldn't or shouldn't our brains some up with the criminal solution?
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    Why would we pay more attention to our brains if our instincts are good?
    I get a bit fed up with this idea also. Why do such people never contemplate instincts "gone wrong"?

    The classic example is the baby's cry. Everybody responds, physically and emotionally, to a baby's cry. The instinct is to do something to settle the crying. Which is all very well for people who've been raised with babies around all the time - as in the typical small group of evolutionary history - and in large or extended families, where older siblings / cousins / neighbours have learned by both observing and practising baby handling skills from a very early age.

    So what happens to feelings and instincts when we can't do anything to settle the crying. Because it's in a flat doors or floors away and you don't know the family and wouldn't know how to deal with them anyway. Or you're strapped to your seat in a bus or a plane, rows away from the tired, frustrated and/or incompetent parent. The instinctive 'gottagetitdone', 'can'trelaxuntilthebabydoes' feelings can't be suppressed so they come out as frustration, annoyance or full-blown anger.

    And all those tragic cases of parents of babes in arms killing them. Many of these people never knew a baby until they had their own. They never learned how to respond appropriately. The instinct is to do something. When you're not skilful at either identifying the problem or dealing with the baby until it's solved - or both, what will you do?

    You'll get tired, frustrated, despairing that the baby will never shut up - and every new cry presses the do something button again and again and again. If you've managed to get barely three or so hours sleep on any of the preceding four or five days, you could get angry as well as tired or tearful. That's when babies die.

    Same thing goes in other circumstances for other beneficial instincts - the instinct to nurture and to protect our own is pretty strong. It's not uncommon to compare an angry human mother to a hissing, spitting, clawing mother cat when her baby is threatened. Which is all well and good when the threat is immediate and obvious. What about when the threat is disease - and you have no idea about germ theory? Do you insist that the water from the well or the river be boiled or purified? Or do you look for someone to blame - the old crone at the edge of the social group, the people on the other side of the mountain, the spirit of some tree or rock or river needs to be dealt with? You "protect" your own by stirring up others to join you in shunning, attacking, killing or sacrificing others to keep your children / family/ group "safe".

    The instincts to nurture and to protect are generally regarded as good. When they go awry, they can be extremely dangerous.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    I thought the article (Evolution Easily Explains Morality - Rhyme and Reason by Philip Brocoum)was about gaining morality from other areas than religion.
    It’s pretty clear that morality did not originate with Christianity (or any other religion) nor is it the only source of morality.
    Morality actually comes from two places:
    1. Evolution
    2. Our brains
    The "Our Brains" point would include religion and other cultural influences. I'll debate on this point:
    We have morality because we need it in order to survive.
    Granted human beings are not self-sufficient immediately after birth, thus they need at least one parent to feed and raise them. To label rearing a child as purely instinctual (a product of evolution), forces consideration in situations where mothers abandon their children. Is abandonment behavior a defect of the brain or the brain reacting to cultural influences, which can over-ride instinctual impulses?
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    Is abandonment behavior a defect of the brain or the brain reacting to cultural influences, which can over-ride instinctual impulses?
    Abandonment and/or infanticide are relatively common in some societies without cultural or health practices making it possible or desirable to restrict the numbers of children a woman is responsible for. In our evolutionary past, when a lot of people's diets or lifestyles made nutrition a bit of a hit or miss matter, fertility was never guaranteed, let alone the survival of infants. The presence of grandmothers past child-bearing age is now considered to be one of the pre-eminent reasons for the success of our species. Even if it isn't your own grandmother, someone able to take over the feeding and other close attendance to the needs of a toddler when its mother is pregnant or breastfeeding a new infant is one of the best guarantees of success.

    As for the "instincts". Mothers have to care for their existing children as well as newborns - which child is going to "lose" in such circumstances. In starving families, there is always one child much weaker than the rest. It's the mother's job to ensure that the other children are better fed and to make the weak one's progress to death as easy as possible. It has always happened. We may never be able to stop this entirely.

    I also remember a woman on one site I visited talking about her grandmother and great-aunts in the mining villages of Wales. Cold, mountainous country, no contraception, frequent pregnancy. Many of the later pregnancies became "stillbirths" - they didn't have much chance when they'd been put, unclothed, into the coal cellar and left for a day or two - because the mother knew she'd never be able to afford to feed another mouth on top of the eight or more she already had. Even though babies were born at home, men weren't part of the process. So they were allowed to believe the baby had never lived at all. No wonder those women looked grim in photographs - it wasn't just the holding still for minutes at a time. They were pretty glum if not depressed living like that.
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    I was thinking in the context of one new child, for example the phenomena characterized as Postpartum Depression (PPD) affecting the instinctual desire for a new mother to care for her first child. It appears there is a correlation to low income or access to resources to this type of depression. I imagine if such conditions existed in the evolutionary history of humans, you could have a relatively incapacitated new mother (e.g. Unable to hunt for food, or have food brought to her) experiencing PPD consciously ignore her child until she/he dies.

    The self preservation instinct could also have a higher priority. There has been instances of famine where mothers have eaten their children. This would mean the inherit "morality" of continued existence over rides altruism.


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    This would mean the inherit "morality" of continued existence over rides altruism.
    AFAIK, this tends to happen when women already have other children to care for - it's the extreme version of devoting/denying resources to family members who will/won't benefit from a parent maintaining her strength. There is some, but not much that's reliable, evidence of this sort of thing happening among nomadic, desert-based indigenous Australians if a birth occurred to a weakened woman during travel through an arid area in a bad season/year. (But it's very much good citations needed for this one. There's a lot of not very good anthropology done with these groups 80+ years ago.)
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    This just indicates that altruism may arise from evolution. It does not preclude the possibility that humans may be particularly adapted to using religion, or something similar to it, to reinforce altruistic behavior.
    The basis of human consciousness and self-awareness is that we evolved the ability to model and anticipate the actions of other intentional entities. This ability spans from the simple action of throwing a spear to where the deer will be, rather than where it is, to anticipating the actions and reactions of other human beings like ourselves, so that we can anticipate threats, form alliances, and even manipulate or resist manipulation by others. Out of this initial advance came the ability to create respresentations, express those representations in language, and create a representation of one's self just as one could create a model of the intentions of other people. This self representation became 'I', self awareness, and we became conscious beings.
    What this means is that we are essentially social creatures, who have a strong empathy for others of our kind, and even for other animals. This empathy is the basis of human rights, expressed in what we now call the Golden Rule (which, though expressed in the Bible, predates it by millenia): Treat others as you would like to be treated. This is no more or less than the expression of an evolved capacity common to all human beings who are not stunted by development or upbringing. We understand each other as being like ourselves, and are affected (in the most literal sense of the word) by their pain, pleasure, sadness, or joy. In order for this bond to be broken, we must cease to see the other as human. This capacity for empathy is present even in many other mammals; we, as conscious beings, are able to codify it. As we continue to understand ourselves better, we improve upon the expression of it. Our current standard of human rights is a recent achievement, which is not reflected or prefigured in the bronze age values enshrined in the Bible.
    Use of the word "achievement" implies that the current standard is an improvement over the older standard. This is a subjective and biased judgement. I don't understand the claim that it is not "prefigured" in the Bible, since it was earlier stated that the Bible contains a version of the Golden Rule.
    But the root of it is and always has been in our genes, and survived there because it conferred a strong adaptive advantage.
    There has always been a debate about the extent of genetics versus learning in human behavior (nature vs nurture). To state that the root of the behavior is in our genes is debatable. I suppose it depends on the meaning you give to "root."
    The ethics of the Bible is simply an earlier, more primitive, expression of this innate ability.
    Different, yes. More primitive? What criteria were used to determine this?
    I do not wish to harm others because I know they are like myself; I literally feel their pain, and share their joy. I support the codification of mutually supportive conduct because it works in my favour as well as everyone else's, ensuring our safety, well-being, aid in the event of need, and the delight of peaceful human coexistence. This is all that morality and human rights require. I neither ask nor need more.
    If you do not feel this human bond, and require the ministrations of a cosmic tyrant to hold you to civil conduct, then you have my pity--but not my respect.
    Posted by Elentar at 4:34 PM

    Here Elentar has abandoned any pretense of scientific objectivity and gone into full preaching mode. What Elentar pities or respects has no scientific significance.
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    This just indicates that altruism may arise from evolution. It does not preclude the possibility that humans may be particularly adapted to using religion, or something similar to it, to reinforce altruistic behavior.

    Agree. And I would add leverage that propensity towards altruism of our immediate family to encourage it towards strangers. Secular humanism combined with modern social sciences are likewise achieving similar results.

    Use of the word "achievement" implies that the current standard is an improvement over the older standard. This is a subjective and biased judgement.


    It can directly arrived at by taking measurements of things people almost universally consider human misery... slavery,superstitious based persecutions, child abuse, deaths by war and by violent actions in general etc. Those societal structures and philosophies which reduce those things are making achievements.
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    Quote Originally Posted by antiquus View Post
    Now I havent really posted much in this forum but I would like to start with this, what are some reasonable counter-arguements against one of Chrisitianitys favorite proof of God? Namely the Morality Arguement, hwo can morality be explained by Darwinism? Ive heard a number of explanations but to me they usually seem a little weak. Then again maybe I should just do a bit more research.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    It can directly arrived at by taking measurements of things people almost universally consider human misery... slavery,superstitious based persecutions, child abuse, deaths by war and by violent actions in general etc. Those societal structures and philosophies which reduce those things are making achievements.
    I think that all you are saying here is that the consensus of people living today prefer the current standard of human rights over the bronze age values enshrined in the Bible. The current standard of human rights is the consensus of what most people living today believe. Therefore this is just a tautology.
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    I think that all you are saying here is that the consensus of people living today prefer the current standard of human rights over the bronze age values enshrined in the Bible. The current standard of human rights is the consensus of what most people living today believe. Therefore this is just a tautology.
    This is simple. Do you reject the concept that killing people or allowing them less justice because of their genetics or gender can be considered bad? Or are you so steadfast in your idea that specific effects of morality can't be qualified, quantified and measured that you would en deny such as claim? The light of reason can and should be applied to specific religious and other philosophies. The hand waving claim it's "just a tautology," sounds like one more attempt to avoid measuring the effects of religion by science.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    This is simple. Do you reject the concept that killing people or allowing them less justice because of their genetics or gender can be considered bad?
    Yep. Well, it can be considered bad, or good depending on who you are and what you believe.
    Or are you so steadfast in your idea that specific effects of morality can't be qualified, quantified and measured that you would en deny such as claim? The light of reason can and should be applied to specific religious and other philosophies. The hand waving claim it's "just a tautology," sounds like one more attempt to avoid measuring the effects of religion by science.
    I don't know why you want to call it hand waving. I call it being objective and making a logical argument.
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    Yep. Well, it can be considered bad, or good depending on who you are and what you believe.
    More ducking the subject. So by your "logic," Rome was just as good society to its citizens when it was throwing Christians to the lions simply because of their religious beliefs, as after it stopped tossing them to the lions? Or how about parents that cling to the belief that their child shoudl be denied immunizations or medical aid once so nature...or supernatural forces can "decide." Do you really think we can't use the degree and distribution of human suffering as a metric? Do you really think we couldn't measure that degree of human suffering? A sick kid versus a healthy one? A man who was crippled by a preventable desease contracted as a child, versus a healthy more productive adult who never caught that illness? A great deal of thought through the age of reason and to this day has been specifically about making logical arguments for increased representative governments and more tolerant cultures because they improve the effectiveness of society (e.g. John Stuart Mill's utilitarian argument) and improve conditions for people. I find it hard to believe that you don't think there's any objectivity, logic or reasoning behinds ideas such as the golden rule, presumption of innocence under the Code of Hammurabi, The Bill of rights, or Universal declaration of human rights--they, and many others represent, products of reasoning as societies tried, through through and struggled to find effect ways to move from tribalism (and our natural instinctive propensities) towards increasingly complex and larger societies--and many of their effects are measurable by science.
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    What is Morality?


    i have known friends who have been in large families, and as far as babies crying, in my friends large families, i have noticed that a baby crying is not a reason to drop everything and run to get the baby to quit crying..i have also noticed that my friends seem to be better ppl for it..

    you say the instinct is to run and stop the baby from crying..till experience kicks in..
    then the instinct is to get your spouse to deal with it..

    yes, you are speaking of an extreme cases of lack of knowledge and frustration, and of mental illness, the cause of instincts "gone wrong"



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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Yep. Well, it can be considered bad, or good depending on who you are and what you believe.
    More ducking the subject.
    I didn't duck anything. You just didn't like my answer.
    So by your "logic," Rome was just as good society to its citizens when it was throwing Christians to the lions simply because of their religious beliefs, as after it stopped tossing them to the lions?
    Good and bad are not concepts with scientific definitions. Whether I like the idea of throwing Christians to lions or not is irrelevant to a scientific discussion.
    Or how about parents that cling to the belief that their child shoudl be denied immunizations or medical aid once so nature...or supernatural forces can "decide." Do you really think we can't use the degree and distribution of human suffering as a metric? Do you really think we couldn't measure that degree of human suffering? A sick kid versus a healthy one? A man who was crippled by a preventable desease contracted as a child, versus a healthy more productive adult who never caught that illness? A great deal of thought through the age of reason and to this day has been specifically about making logical arguments for increased representative governments and more tolerant cultures because they improve the effectiveness of society (e.g. John Stuart Mill's utilitarian argument) and improve conditions for people. I find it hard to believe that you don't think there's any objectivity, logic or reasoning behinds ideas such as the golden rule, presumption of innocence under the Code of Hammurabi, The Bill of rights, or Universal declaration of human rights--they, and many others represent, products of reasoning as societies tried, through through and struggled to find effect ways to move from tribalism (and our natural instinctive propensities) towards increasingly complex and larger societies--and many of their effects are measurable by science.
    What you find hard to believe is irrelevant. That is an argument from incredulity.
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    That is an argument from incredulity.

    There's been thousands of years of reasoning to develop moral codes to improve societies--that progress, though its taken in fits and starts, is pretty easy to see and is certainty measurable.

    In recent centuries reason like every other field, is backed by and augmented by science--not only by measures of suffering, but in the social and psychological sciences. Incredulity Indeed. Science is not only applicable to science--science can and is being applied at nearly every level of modern nations to improve mental health, sort out the instinctive bases--such as discussed earlier, and through our increased understanding of psychology, sociology, and every other human behavior as individuals and groups. The application of science to morality to develop law, government, criminal justice, counseling etc has produced dramatic gains around the world in recent decades by nearly every measure.
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    It seems you are making an assumption that everyone will agree with your metrics.

    Are you equating science with atheism by any chance?
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    There is on going research in the measurement of happiness/wellness. It seems to be an issue that governments are concerned about.
    Whilst collecting data on subjective well-being is not an exact science, the measures used are very reliable in predicting health and welfare outcomes. It can be argued that whilst these measures are not perfect they are the best we have so far, and these are the measures that politicians are talking of using to measure the relative performance of each country.
    Some studies used "smiles" as a metric to evaluate happiness.
    In subsequent research, conducted with Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, Ekman and Friesen confirmed the unique link between positive emotion and the true Duchenne smile. The researchers attached electrodes to the heads of test participants and then showed them a series of short films. Two shorts, designed to produce positive emotions, displayed frolicking animals; two others, meant to evoke negative responses, came from a nurse training video depicting amputated legs and severe burns...
    ...Some researchers now believe that genuine smiles are not transient sparks of emotion but rather clear windows into a person’s core disposition. University of California at Berkeley psychological scientists LeeAnne Harker and Dacher Keltner used FACS to analyze the college yearbook photos of women, then matched up the smile ratings with personality data collected during a 30-year longitudinal study. Women who displayed true, Duchenne-worthy expressions of positive emotion in their 21-year-old photo had greater levels of general well-being and marital satisfaction at age 52. “People photograph each other with casual ease and remarkable frequency, usually unaware that each snapshot may capture as much about the future as it does the passing emotions of the moment,” Harker and Keltner wrote in a 2001 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. A related study, published in a 2009 issue of Motivation and Emotion, confirmed a correlation between low-intensity smiles in youth and divorce later in life.

    Psychologist Produces The First Ever Wold Map of Happiness

    Satisfaction with Life Index

    The Science Behind the Smile

    High Income Improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being

    Gross National Happiness

    Ron Gutman: The hidden Power of Smiling

    The Psychological Study of Smiling
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    It's a small reach to make a logical inference between the unnecessarily number of sick kids or wife beatings as a bad thing and developing the appropriate measures for the suffering as well as the overarching conclusion about the degree of suffering in that society. Beyond the clinically dry, often skeptical view of scientist sometimes depicted by non-scientist, is how most real science works, to reduce the world of suffering--from understanding and curing disease or measuring effectiveness of criminal justice studies, to forecasting tornadoes are just a few of many examples of this.

    I can just imagine a world where Tornado apologist (a denomination of Thor worshipers) were complaining about the improvements in tornado forecasting and warning systems. Arguing that families woken in the middle of night killed and crippled or left homeless by their violence being something we want to reduce because it's a bad thing was a only a non-scientific value judgement and a tautology. Fortunately there aren't many tornado apologist and weather, communication structure and psychological research about warning systems all continue to be measured and life and overall suffering reduced.

    Like tornadoes, religious effects on society, including its morals, are just as valid subject by science as every other natural phenomena and arguably even more important than many because of its direct effects on families and individuals.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; February 14th, 2013 at 10:44 AM.
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    This OP causes me to recall the on-going discourse between Noam Chomsky and Daniel Everett on the topic of Universal grammar and how recursion to be the crucial feature of it. Everett has published work that goes against Chomsky's well establish work, based on his interaction with the Pirahã Tribe.

    It seems Daniel Everett stumbles upon the Pirahã Tribe in the Amazon as a missionary and tried to convert them to Christianity. The Pirahã People had no belief in deities nor a religion, yet have been living happily within their social structure. They believe in spirits, but not what would normally labeled as supernatural (i.e. non-natural realm). Perhaps they are a living example of a moral society without religion.

    According to Everett, the Pirahã have no concept of a supreme spirit or god[11] and they lost interest in Jesus when they discovered that Everett had never seen him. They require evidence based on personal experience for every claim made. [5] However, they do believe in spirits that can sometimes take on the shape of things in the environment. These spirits can be jaguars, trees, or other visible, tangible things including people.[12] Everett reported one incident where the Pirahã said that “Xigagaí, one of the beings that lives above the clouds, was standing on a beach yelling at us, telling us that he would kill us if we go into the jungle.” Everett and his daughter could see nothing and yet the Pirahã insisted that Xigagaí was still on the beach.[13]
    I recall an article where a group of researchers were doing further study and the metric of smiles was used to gauge the well being of the tribe. If I can find it again, I'll update this post. There are a few video on youtube about Daniel's experience with tribe as well.

    The Faculity of Language: What is it, Who Has it, and How did it Evolve

    Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã

    Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by D. Everett
    Jungle Life: Facts and Stories of the Piraha - gives some excerpts of the above book.

    Pirahã people

    How Do You Say Disagreement in Piraha
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    i don't know..

    i think a study of a persons emotional sate of being (in this case 'happy') is temporary and dependant on how a person 'feels' at any given time..i can be sad in the morning,happy at night and everywhere inbetween throughout the day..i suppose thought that the value would be in the averages..

    (course i did not read your links..) so i really am not argueing for or against your article/point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    It's a small reach to make a logical inference between the unnecessarily number of sick kids or wife beatings as a bad thing and developing the appropriate measures for the suffering as well as the overarching conclusion about the degree of suffering in that society.
    If you really want to use science to support your moral ideas, you will need a real theory of morality. Not handwaving, but something testable, that can be used to evaluate moral dilemmas in an objective manner. I doubt such a science can actually be developed. Lacking such, you are left with cherry picking a few facts that seem to support your preconceived notions. It's not much different than religious people cherry picking biblical verses to support their own preconceived ideas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrMojo1 View Post
    There is on going research in the measurement of happiness/wellness.
    Would you mind telling me how you will use these measurements to evaluate moral truths or resolve moral dilemmas?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    If you really want to use science to support your moral ideas, you will need a real theory of morality. Not handwaving, but something testable, that can be used to evaluate moral dilemmas in an objective manner..
    interesting from wiki:
    Kohlberg's six stages can be more generally grouped into three levels of two stages each: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional. Following Piaget's constructivist requirements for a stage model, as described in his theory of cognitive development, it is extremely rare to regress in stages—to lose the use of higher stage abilities.[14][15] Stages cannot be skipped; each provides a new and necessary perspective, more comprehensive and differentiated than its predecessors but integrated with them.[14][15]
    Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)1. Obedience and punishment orientation(How can I avoid punishment?)2. Self-interest orientation(What's in it for me?)(Paying for a benefit)Level 2 (Conventional)3. Interpersonal accord and conformity(Social norms)(The good boy/good girl attitude)4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation(Law and order morality)Level 3 (Post-Conventional)5. Social contract orientation6. Universal ethical principles(Principled conscience)The understanding gained in each stage is retained in later stages, but may be regarded by those in later stages as simplistic, lacking in sufficient attention to detail.

    -----

    i was looking for that test where they say something like, you can take this now or wait and share it, cant find it if i dont know what i am looking for..
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by MrMojo1 View Post
    There is on going research in the measurement of happiness/wellness.
    Would you mind telling me how you will use these measurements to evaluate moral truths or resolve moral dilemmas?
    Why would that be necessary? What is a moral truth? What is a moral dilemma? Why would I need evaluate or resolve them?

    Within this thread the question was put forth can there be a moral society where there isn't religion. It has been suggested that a basic definition of a moral society is when overall well being (happiness) is attained by all. The Pirahã Tribe appears to be such a society. Most of reports I've read by researchers comment the same point that everyone in the village appears very happy and smiles a lot. So there is actual evidence that you can be moral without any influences of religion.

    As to addressing well being within a society, I'd observe, measure, evaluate, then repeat. I'd suggest forwarding a robust questionnaire to investigate what is it they are lacking to the entire populace and compiling a database of their answers. That's where I'd start, then let the responses dictate the next phase.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    If you really want to use science to support your moral ideas, you will need a real theory of morality. .
    It's already happening and completely embedded in the funding, research and application across practically every field of psychology, psychology, criminology and every other behavioral science. And it doesn't need to be as complete as a theory, anymore than the physicals of gases had to be complete when Pascal started to figure out the basic gas characteristics. The only significant difference is the study of morality is much more complex being both effected by the environment, cultures and individual behaviors. Yet despite these limitations, what's being learned has already tremendously improved human lives in modern nations. It can and likely go much further in due time as more is learned. Universal concepts of morality and behavior that maximize human well being are already well on their way of being developed--we see it in the common threads of religious, life philosophies and its attendant forms of how to organize social structures--and in more recent decades increasingly linked to measurements that show the relative differences of well being between different systems (which ones have less death of preventable disease Which ones are more effective at reducing unwanted pregnancies and babies? Which ones reduce overall violence? And many more.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrMojo1 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by MrMojo1 View Post
    There is on going research in the measurement of happiness/wellness.
    Would you mind telling me how you will use these measurements to evaluate moral truths or resolve moral dilemmas?
    Why would that be necessary? What is a moral truth?
    Exactly. There is no such thing as a moral truth. That's why it isn't a science.
    What is a moral dilemma? Why would I need evaluate or resolve them?
    Moral dilemmas are the things we debate about all the time, and which we use our moral code to resolve. Like whether the killing of civilians in a war is justified, like whether to spend my money to feed the poor in a foreign country or whether to put the money toward my child's education. Whether an aborted fetus is a human life. Lots of things like that. We need to resolve them because we have to decide what to do in certain situations, and how we live our lives.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    relative differences of well being
    Hah. What's that? And you accuse me of hand waving.
    Last edited by Harold14370; February 15th, 2013 at 03:30 AM.
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    Hah. What's that? And you accuse me of hand waving.
    Already provided numerous examples. Rate of preventable disease, economic opportunity, violent crime rate, etc. There's been considerable work, in US courts over the centuries because it relates to American ideas in phrases such as "pursuit of happiness", "for the common good" and well as towards international standards by the UN and other organizations: http://unu.edu/publications/policy-briefs/measuring-human-well-being-key-findings-and-policy-lessons.html There are many hard science analogs to this work, such as the tremendous amount of research on material basic properties well before we understood atomic structures--or perhaps even better the conglomeration of characteristics analyzed to measure things such as a diagnosis of bipolar-disorder, or to measure instability in an approaching storm, or beam strength in a pine board. The very complexity doesn't make any of these immune from science.

    Its rather fascinating though to argue with people who think science can't be used to study a natural phenomena. If not science, what than? There really is no other credible options. Inability to resolve all moral issues, doesn't mean it fails as a science, anymore than arguing that Newton's science wasn't valid because he didn't understand relativity. Many other moral issues at the center of the moral debates we already have partly answered when applied to modern environments--we know how to reduce teen pregnancy, adolescent STD, harmful drug us for example and have been doing so in many blue states and Europe for decades--and often only found effective measurable progress by applications of modern science.

    But I'm willing to agree to disagree as long as application of science to the myriad of moral and ethical issues remain valid conversation. The science can be applied to every phenomena of the natural world (i.e., the real stuff)--including human behaviors.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; February 15th, 2013 at 11:23 AM.
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    Once people agree on an objective they can use science to help them reach their objective. No one disagrees with that. But you have to have an agreed upon objective first, like reducing preventable diseases. Most people are going to go along with that, so that isn't even a moral issue. You might even find that some religious people want to reduce preventable diseases, and they will use science to do it. Science is not the exclusive province of atheists. A lot of great science was done when there were hardly any atheists around.

    The problem comes up when people want different things. Science isn't going to solve that problem, or tell people what they ought to want.

    I think particularly with some of the sociological studies, you go a bridge too far. You reach conclusions that are not warranted given the quality of the science and the data available, because it fits your bias. If you are going to toss aside centuries of time tested traditional practices, you'd better be pretty sure about the science behind it. Sociology just isn't there yet.
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    I still don't follow why you are introduced moral truth, and then answered your own question. I agree there are many people who have contributed to science, but it has only been religious who are actively trying stop it or push some crap (i.e. Creationism) as science. I don't know why you brought up the point of "Science is not the exclusive province of atheists" in your post. Perhaps you have atheism on the brain, and it has hampered your objectivity a bit. When I find myself fatigued about a certain topic/discussion, I don't participate beyond reading the responses. Sometimes it is good to take a break.

    As far as time tested traditional practices, what does that mean? Who is throwing them out and are these practices successful in the first place? Perhaps you are a traditions apologist. Tradition alone isn't a convincing reason for many. I would argue it is a disregard of tradition that has existed longer, and those curious to find another way of doing thing are the trail blazers of discovery and science.

    All that has been discussed in this thread is that you don't have to be religious to be moral. There is no dispute on this point.
    The next thing being discussed is that what is considered moral for humans. Altruism has been suggested as a basic tenet. I've suggested what benefits everyone and that there is a desire to research this further.

    You comment about sociology may be true, but what about the fields psychology and neurology? There is valid concern for "mental fitness" within societies. There seems to be an increase of people who "gone crazy" and found guns, and then hurt other people. Investigating to the sources of these episode is worthwhile, it may save lives. It is unknown at this time if these causes are related to stress or something else. There was a time being "shell shocked" was just another term for a coward on the battlefield. Today we there is well establish science in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it doesn't just happen to soldiers.

    Based on the history of science, you have to be actively looking for other explanations to find discoveries. Holding dogmatically to traditions would have kept humans in a cave scratching images on the walls.
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    I think particularly with some of the sociological studies, you go a bridge too far. You reach conclusions that are not warranted given the quality of the science and the data available, because it fits your bias. If you are going to toss aside centuries of time tested traditional practices, you'd better be pretty sure about the science behind it. Sociology just isn't there yet.
    It's all about design of the investigation. Psychology and a couple of other areas can be susceptible to the same problems.

    One of which is the perennial one of WEIRD subjects, especially university students. The residents in Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic. nations are a distinct minority of the world's total population, and college students are an unrepresentative minority within those nations themselves. Doesn't mean to say you can't do useful research. It does mean you are very, very brave if not foolhardy to apply your results to the whole of the country in question. Let alone to treat these results as universal human characteristics across time and for all societies.
    Psychological research conducted in 'WEIRD' nations may not apply to global populations
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