What would Darwin do?

At Evolution News and Views, David Klinghoffer presents a challenge:

Man needs meaning. We crave it, especially when faced with adversity. I challenge any Darwinist readers to write some comments down that would be suitable, not laughable, in the context of speaking to people who have lived through an event like Monday’s bombing. By all means, let me know what you come up with.

Leaving aside Klinghoffer’s conflation of “Darwinism” with atheism, and reading it as a challenge for those of us who do not believe in a supernatural deity or an afterlife (which would include me), and despite lacking the eloquence of the speakers Klinghoffer refers to, let me offer some thoughts, not on Monday’s bombing, specifically, but on violent death in general, which probably touches us all, at some time.  Too many lives end far too soon:

We have one life, and it is precious, and the lives of those we love are more precious to us than our own.  Even timely death leaves a void in the lives of those left, but the gap left by violent death is ragged, the raw end of hopes and plans and dreams and possibilities.  Death is the end of options, and violent death is the smashing of those options;  Death itself has no meaning. But our lives and actions have meaning.  We mean things, we do things, we act with intention, and our acts ripple onwards, changing the courses of other lives, as our lives are changed in return.  And more powerful than the ripples of evil acts are acts of love, kindness, generosity, and imagination. Like the butterfly in Peking that can cause a hurricane in New York, a child’s smile can outlive us all. Good acts are not undone by death, even violent death. We have one life, and it is precious, and no act of violence can destroy its worth.

823 thoughts on “What would Darwin do?

  1. Blas:
    We can add: I want have sex tonight, are you going to lie with me?

    Are you giving this question as an example of something morally acceptable or of something morally unacceptable?

  2. petrushka:
    We haven’t seen any such thing.

    Yes we did. And you ended saying this:

    petrushka: But disagreements over projected consequences are the stuff of moral thought. That is why I think it is impossible to have a completely rational morality. We do not know the future, and we do not know the long term consequences of policies and laws.

  3. hotshoe: Are you giving this question as an example of something morally acceptable or of something morally unacceptable?

    I´m just testing Lizzie´s rationale founded morality.

  4. Blas: I´m just testingLizzie´s rationale founded morality.

    No dice, Blas! Spit it out! Is is okay, or is it wrong, to ask someone that question “are you going to lie with me” ??

    You have to have the answer (at least a plausible answer predicted by your hypotheticals) – or else it’s not science. It’s just trolling. What does your morality suggest the answer should be? How does that differ from what you understand an “atheist” morality suggests the answer should be?

    You don’t want to be a troll, do you? I’m certain that’s not why you’re here. So spit it out!

  5. 1. You and William have claimed that we are morally obligated to obey God because he created us and has a purpose for us

    No, I haven’t. To my knowledge, I have not made such a claim, and if I said anything remotely like that, you’ve taken it out of context and have left off a whole lot of necessary, other information.

  6. William J. Murray, May 15th:

    To my knowledge, I have not made such a claim, and if I said anything remotely like that, you’ve taken it out of context and have left off a whole lot of necessary, other information.

    William J. Murray, April 29th:

    I’ve shown that in order for a logically coherent and meaningful moral system to exist, an absolute morality (or, absolute good) must exist. I’ve argued that absolute morality can only exist in the mind of a purposeful being. I consider it fair to call such an absolute good/absolute moral mind, which necessarily created humans for a purpose (“oughts”, or morality, requires a purpose) – “god”.

    In this argument, no other qualities are necessary in any “god” to justify the necessary conclusion that a god – of some sort, at least as described as the mind that holds absolute good and created humans for a purpose, and in that mind we all inhabit the same moral landscape (making morality universal) – is necessary for an absolute morality to exist. What I personally believe in addition to this about god is irrelevant to the argument.

  7. keiths:

    The question isn’t what will happen to the creatures. The question is, are they morally obligated to obey their pimply-faced creator [who commands them to have sex because he is horny and wants to watch]?

    Yes or no? And why?

    Blas:

    Yes. Because is what we ought to do in order to get our goal.

    Seriously? You think the creatures are morally obligated to have sex for their creator’s entertainment, because by pleasing him they will advance their own interests, which they are morally obligated to do?

    By that logic, if your creator asked you to torture babies for pleasure, you would be morally required to torture babies, because doing so would help you achieve your goals, and whatever helps you achieve your goals is thereby moral.

    Do you really believe that?

    Aside from the stunning lack of empathy, you still have a logical problem: you haven’t justified your claim that we are morally obligated to do whatever advances our own interests.

  8. William J. Murray:
    It provides no reason why one should act in accordance with your rule.

    Yes, it does. Game theory shows that it is the strategy most likely to benefit the actor. In other words it is exactly as rational as yours – because of the consequences to your self. It’s auto-karma.

    Except that my rationale is based on a premise for which we have evidence, whereas yours is based on a premise we have to take for granted.

  9. Blas: We already see that Stalin and Polpot followed that rule.

    Please provide evidence that Stalin and Pol Pot followed that rule.

    We can add: I want have sex tonight, are you going to lie with me?

    No.

  10. Lizzie: Please provide evidence that Stalin and Pol Pot followed that rule.

    “do as you would be done by”

    Stalin and Polpot saw his neighbors opressed by the rich capitalists of their countries and they did what they expected others do if they were opressed by the capitalists start the proletarian revolution. Off course they evaluated the costs and benefits and they saw that is better that some die to save the oppressed.

    No.

    So you expect a No for answer when you ask for sex?

    Other question, why I have to act according the theory of games?

  11. Lizzie: Yes, it does.Game theory shows that it is the strategy most likely to benefit the actor.In other words it is exactly as rational as yours – because of the consequences to your self.It’s auto-karma.

    Except that my rationale is based on a premise for which we have evidence, whereas yours is based on a premise we have to take for granted.

    Your evidence come from a society where that rule was teached since 1700 year ago, when Constantino cleared the christians. You have benn educated reading the Bible where that rule is the golden rule. You have no prove that societies where that rule do not exists are worst or better for more people. And you have no prove that if I do not apply that rule is better for me at any time.

  12. Blas: So you expect a No for answer when you ask for sex?

    The Golden Rule would be:

    Respect a No for an answer when you ask for sex!

  13. Blas: Stalin and Polpot saw his neighbors opressed by the rich capitalists of their countries and they did what they expected others do if they were opressed by the capitalists start the proletarian revolution. Off course they evaluated the costs and benefits and they saw that is better that some die to save the oppressed.

    Is that what they teach in school where you come from, Blas? Murdering hundreds of thousands of your countrymen because they don’t agree with your politics is “doing as you would be done by”?

    Emigrate!

  14. keiths:
    keiths:

    Blas:

    Seriously?You think the creatures are morally obligated to have sex for their creator’s entertainment, because by pleasing him they will advance their own interests, which they are morally obligated to do?

    By that logic, if your creator asked you to torture babies for pleasure, you would be morally required to torture babies, because doing so would help you achieve your goals, and whatever helps you achieve your goals is thereby moral.

    Do you really believe that?

    Our discussion it is not if I believe or not, our discussion if that is logic.

    Aside from the stunning lack of empathy, you still have a logical problem: you haven’t justified your claim that we are morally obligated to do whatever advances our own interests.

    I never said that we are obligated to do whatever advances our own interested. I said that morality is about what we “ought to do”, we only ought to do somethign when we have goal. The only way that we have a goal is that our life have a purpose and the only possibility thar our life has a purpose is being created.
    Can you show me if this is illogical?

  15. damitall2: Is that what they teach in school where you come from, Blas? Murdering hundreds of thousands of your countrymen because they don’t agree with your politics is “doing as you would be done by”?

    Emigrate!

    Look at your country, they are probably teaching the same.

  16. keiths,

    keiths:
    William J. Murray, May 15th:

    William J. Murray, April 29th:

    Keiths,

    I appreciate that you provided the full context of what I said in the quote, which shows that you did in fact leave off important, necessary qualifiers that belie your paraphrasing of what I said. Please note the term “absolute”. A pimply-faced teenager in a basement that creates a universe is not taken as the “absolute” source of purpose or good, even for that universe. As I have explained before, even God cannot change what is good, and so the arbitrary purposes a pimply-faced teenager in the basement might decide to use to create life in his or her universe do not rise to the level of “absolute”.

    Absolute means absolute, not “absolute with a given context”.

  17. It’s not because god creates us, but rather because god (and the characteristics of god) are absolute that we are obligated to our purpose; not because god “commands” us and we should “obey”, but because that is the nature, and the purpose, of god’s existence, and since everything that is created is created from god, is necessarily the purpose of everything that exists.

    God doesn’t “command” us any more than gravity “commands” us; we are only obligated to “obey” god in the sense that we are obligated to “obey” gravity. I’ve made this exact comparison before to illustrate this aspect of our relationship to moral law, and yet you continue to mischaracterize it completely with the analogy of “some pimply-faced creator in a basement” giving us commands.

    This is the reason I don’t respond to much of what you write; your framework of assumptions about my theology is not only far afield; you are apparently immune to correction about it, insisting over and over that I answer questions or challenges that are framed far outside of any relevance to my actual views and which blithely ignore what I have already explained about it.

  18. So, you’ve defined the purpose of your moral system as self-benefit (the reason “why” I should act in accordance with it). Thus, if I feel my self-benefit can be served better in some other way, then via your moral purpose, I should do whatever I believe to be in my self-interests, whether it coincides with your game-theory or not.

    Correct?

  19. William J. Murray:
    So, you’ve defined the purpose of your moral system as self-benefit (the reason “why” I should act in accordance with it). Thus, if I feel my self-benefit can be served better in some other way, then via your moral purpose, I should do whatever I believe to be in my self-interests, whether it coincides with your game-theory or not.

    Correct?

    William, you defined a “rational” morality as one in which there were “consequences” for immoral actions. I have given you just such a morality.

    If mine doesn’t make sense, nor does yours.

  20. Lizzie, this will tread the edge of your rules, but the Pol Pot post is about the dumbest thing I’ve seen posted on the internet. It is so perverse I can only assume that Blas doesn’t really follow the English language.

    By Blas’ reasoning we would follow Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbors as we love ourselves by killing them when they are hungry or in pain. It just goes to show that even the golden rule can be corrupted.

  21. petrushka:
    Lizzie, this will tread the edge of your rules,but the Pol Pot postis about the dumbest thing I’ve seen posted on the internet. It is so perverse I can only assume that Blas doesn’t really follow the English language.

    By Blas’ reasoning we would follow Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbors as we love ourselves by killing them when they are hungry or in pain. It just goes to show that even the golden rule can be corrupted.

    So there is no rule, no rational morality.

    QED

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