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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  17:02:45  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
First, I want to thank Kil for his latest "Evil Pick" where deist Dr. Hal Bidlack speaks on Skepticality.

Lately I've been exploring my own spiritual side, even though I doubt I'll ever shed "atheist" as part of the description of my worldview. Then again, I'm young, so who knows? I'm becoming more interested in religion's relationship to two things:

1.) Morality
2.) States of transcendence

With regard to morality, I was struck most by Bidlack's mention of his incredible and irrational guilt after 9-11, including thoughts that he should have died in the flames just in the cause of trying to help someone else. Reminds me of a song Utah Phillips sings about building a ship that we might never see finished, and then invokes all sorts of heros of civil rights as people who have helped work on the ship. This is a humanist idea (as Phillips is very much not religious), but the metaphor is incredibly similar to a Buddhist concept of trying to build a bridge over a chasm even though it is probably impossible, or the Biblical story of the promise land that Moses never got to see, despite his greatness, due to his inescapable human flaws.

With regard to transcendence, the ex-nun and now historian and "freelance monotheist" Karin Armstrong talks about the dichodomy between logos and mythos, and calls for a balance between the two. She talks about how current mainstream religions totally fail to give people the kind of transcendent experience we crave as part of our nature, and so we turn to drugs and art for this experience. My Quaker co-workers gain this experience while worshipping in silence, even the ones who have told me in confidence that they are atheists with regard to literal theology. This idea of mythos and logos reminds me of Einstein's quote "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." Einstein wasn't religious, and the best way to describe his worldview based on his writings is either atheist/agnostic or deistic humanist, so clearly by "religion" he meant something other than literal theology and organized religion. The experience of transcendence connects us emotionally to things greater than ourselves and a sense of inner peace, and this experience is thus connected to the cultivation of empathy and compassion, and an intuitive sense of morality.

I suppose one could say I'm being seduced by the arguments of universalists, and thinking more and more that there are common threads throughout all fully-formed worldviews, including secular humanism.

It makes me sad that Bidlack is so apologetic-sounding in much of this talk. But I enjoyed the beginning where he says he's sick of being condescended to by atheists, and about atheists at TAM who tried to convert him, one even with tracts!

There's something in the novel "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" by Tom Robbins about how people who hate something very intensely often end up becoming what they hate. The passage is in reference to an extremely butch man-hater, but I think it fittingly applies to what are increasingly being labeled "evangelical atheists", such as the Rational Response Squad and their slogan "Believe in God? We can fix that."

I'm glad Bidlack is wise enough to know nothing is broken, and brave enough to share his personal take on this issue.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com


Edited by - marfknox on 08/16/2007 17:07:26

marty
BANNED

63 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  18:34:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send marty a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Where do you think morals are derived?
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  19:40:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marty

Where do you think morals are derived?
That's a good question.

I, for one, don't see any connection between a transcendant experience and "a sense of inner peace," nor any connection between that and empathy or compassion. Empathy and compassion come simply from being able to imagine yourself in another person's shoes, and thus get a grip on the emotional consequences - be they painful or joyful - of that person's circumstances. The ethic of reciprocity follows naturally from there, and upon that framework we can build a solid morality.

It could be argued that empathy is, itself, a "transcendance of self," which certainly brings with it a sense of something greater than oneself, but it seems clear that that's not the sort of transcendance that marf is talking about.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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marty
BANNED

63 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  20:07:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send marty a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What is the evolutionary advantage of empathy?
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  20:14:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marty

What is the evolutionary advantage of empathy?
Can't you think of any advantages yourself? Go ahead, try. I'll bet you can do it.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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marty
BANNED

63 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  20:37:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send marty a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert

Originally posted by marty

What is the evolutionary advantage of empathy?
Can't you think of any advantages yourself? Go ahead, try. I'll bet you can do it.




Here you go again with the faggity avatar and the pseudo condescending thought which you yourself do not understand.You are a fucking moron! Why not try and be part of the conversation?
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  20:56:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marty
Here you go again with the faggity avatar and the pseudo condescending thought which you yourself do not understand.You are a fucking moron! Why not try and be part of the conversation?
Ah, now I don't even understand myself, do I, Marty? I just wanted to give you the opportunity to rethink your question. You see, rather than offer you an answer that you would find unsatisfactory and criticize, I just wondered what you could come up with on your own.

I guess your vitriolic outburst means that you came up blank? Hmm. And who's the moron again?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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@tomic
Administrator

USA
4607 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  21:05:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit @tomic's Homepage Send @tomic a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Warning Official Warning Warning

I'd rather not just lock this topic because marf began what could be an extremely interesting discussion. But it will end up that way if the personal attacks continue.

@


Gravity, not just a good idea...it's the law!

Sportsbettingacumen.com: The science of sports betting
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marty
BANNED

63 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  21:06:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send marty a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert
Ah, now I don't even understand myself, do I, Marty? I just wanted to give you the opportunity to rethink your question. You see, rather than offer you an answer that you would find unsatisfactory and criticize, I just wondered what you could come up with on your own.

I guess your vitriolic outburst means that you came up blank? Hmm. And who's the moron again?




I see, you were too chicken shit to converse because you presumed that you would be ridiculed by your own words. Pussy!
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  21:15:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't think it's the thread that needs to be locked up.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  21:59:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Not knowing the answer to a question does not make one a moron. Nor does asking the question in the first place. HH, I find it rather rude to tell someone to answer a question they posed on their own.

Marty, do you not see the reason or do you think there is no reason? Those two are very different lines of thought and would drastically change how I would respond to your question.

Edited to add: And your response Marty does not help you nor this thread one bit. Why even make it? In fact, the only thing I see it as is an attempt to provoke HH into a shouting match with you, bringing this thread down the tubes with it. Marf made a really good OP and I was hoping this thread would continue that way. Lets not go down the wrong path here. Please.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 08/16/2007 22:08:40
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  22:03:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marty
I see, you were too chicken shit to converse because you presumed that you would be ridiculed by your own words. Pussy!
No, Marty, it's like this. Creationists and other assorted contrarians loves to play a little game called "move the goal posts." It starts by them asking an "innocent" question, such as "Where do you think morals are derived?" When this first question is answered, they criticize the answer by saying that it doesn't address some further question, such as "What is the evolutionary advantage of empathy?"

Note that at no point is there ever an attempt by the creationist to understand the answers that they've been given. The only point in the game is to find something to attack with yet another question. The creationists are attempting to get to a point where the other person is too tired/pissed off/frustrated to answer yet another leading question, at which point they can claim victory.

It's a boring game to participate in if you're the one trying to honestly answer questions, though. So rather than play along, I only choose to engage in conversations where there is equal give-and-take, Marty. If you're going to ask a question, then you can at least show that you've given the matter sufficient thought to be interested in the answer. But I don't see that from you. The mere suggestion that you expend any effort thinking about the question was met with such hostility that I know you don't care what our answers will be. The question is just a setup.

I don't like you, Marty. I don't think you're truthful about your motives, but I'm willing to be proven wrong. If you want to engage the members here in honest conversation, then do so. That requires more than attempting to steer the conversation with leading one-line questions, however. That's what trolls do, Marty. If you want answers, then give your own thoughts. Show me that you are actually attempting to puzzle out possible answers. Show me that this isn't just a game you're playing.

If not, if you continue to add nothing but loaded questions and insults, then I suggest you stop polluting other members' threads with your foul language and pointless blather.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  22:07:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Ricky
HH, I find it rather rude to tell someone to answer a question they posed on their own.
As would I, if I thought the question was honestly posed. And I think you're fooling yourself if you think it was. But we'll see. Maybe Marty will surprise me and show that he's actually given a great deal of thought to this matter.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  22:17:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert

Originally posted by Ricky
HH, I find it rather rude to tell someone to answer a question they posed on their own.
As would I, if I thought the question was honestly posed. And I think you're fooling yourself if you think it was. But we'll see. Maybe Marty will surprise me and show that he's actually given a great deal of thought to this matter.


Perhaps Marty was not honest in posing such a question. If that is the case, then this will be shown later on down the road and you can criticize him them. But if you try to cut him off before hand, then you are responding based on what you think he will say and not what he actually said. Don't you see how annoying that could be when trying to engage in a discussion and only lead to further hostilities? Can't you empathize with that?

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  22:32:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Ricky
Perhaps Marty was not honest in posing such a question. If that is the case, then this will be shown later on down the road and you can criticize him them.
Yes, which is why I haven't directly criticized him yet.

But if you try to cut him off before hand, then you are responding based on what you think he will say and not what he actually said.
I didn't cut him off at all. In fact, I asked him to give me more before I proceeded.

Don't you see how annoying that could be when trying to engage in a discussion and only lead to further hostilities? Can't you empathize with that?
Except I don't see where Marty has engaged anyone in any sort of a discussion yet. That was actually my intention. To get Marty to discuss his thoughts on the matter instead of merely pumping us for answers. Surely you can see the difference.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/16/2007 22:35:12
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2007 :  23:11:12   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
ooooh kay... Well, I thought this topic might start controversy, but this wasn't exactly the type I was expecting.

Anyway, Dave wrote:
It could be argued that empathy is, itself, a "transcendance of self," which certainly brings with it a sense of something greater than oneself, but it seems clear that that's not the sort of transcendance that marf is talking about.
Actually, I think that's a very good way of putting it.

I am NOT using the word "spiritual" to refer to anything that is literally outside of own thoughts, emotions, and subjective experience.

marty asked:
Where do you think morals are derived?
and
What is the evolutionary advantage of empathy?
There's a big subject. I suggest you read my book review here: http://www.skepticfriends.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=7771 and then read Hauser's book if you want a complete answer. Here's a clip"
The main thesis of the book is introduced by means of metaphor. Hauser introduces three illustrated characters. First, the Kantian Creature, who derives her morality purely from her rational mind. Second, the Humean Creature, who derives his morality purely from his emotions. And finally, the creature that Hauser supports, the Rawlsian Creature, "equipped with the machinery to deliver moral verdicts based on unconscious and inaccessible principles. This is a creature with moral instincts." He refers back to all three creatures throughout the book, and excellent device for easing comprehension of many complex topics.


But the short answers are: Morals are derived from our human nature and the condition of our existence. There are many evolutionary advantages for empathy, although it should be noted that in accordance with our evolutionary history humans in general exhibit a hierarchy of empathy, first with relatives, then without others in their social grouping (race, religion, tribe, etc.), then with strangers that they can see, and finally with strangers who are distant to them. In other words, we more easily emphasize with a sister's toothache than we do with a child starving to death in Ethiopia. We see this truth evident in our actions.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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