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. Off course, if God exists, he created us with a purpose.

    Kindly demonstrate your chain of reasoning.

  2. Your assertion about god string together a long chain of unsupported assumptions.

    1. God exists. unsupported
    2. God has attributes that can be discerned by humans. unsupported.
    3. God has attributes that Blas is privy to. unsupported and grandiose.
    4. God has attributes that conform to Blas’ personal theology. Grandiose and bordering on delusional.
    5. God created humans. unsupported
    6. God has a purpose for humans. unsupported and does not follow from the assumption of creation.

    None of these assumptions is supported ether by reason or evidence. They’re just stuff you made up or which you copied from someone else that made it up.

  3. petrushka:
    Religion does not reflect a unified and unchangeable god. So these unchangeable aspects of god are not accessible to humans..

    Well you are moving from discussing the possibility of an atheist rational morality to the posibility of knowing a God you believe do not exist.

  4. You made a statement about god an purpose that is completely unsupported. Prove it.

  5. When you say rational I assume you mean reasoning from premises. Rationality does not preclude reasoning from false or defective premises.

    The existence or nonexistence of god has nothing to do with building a rational morality.

  6. petrushka:
    You made a statement about god an purpose that is completely unsupported. Prove it.

    Prove what? I said “if” God exists. And the possibility that exist is perfectly rational. No need for prove the possibility of His existance.

  7. Let’s assume that your God exists and therefore you have a purpose.

    What is it?

  8. OMagain:
    Let’s assume that your God exists and therefore you have a purpose.

    What is it?

    Which is the God you suppose exists?

  9. Blas, in response to my “pimply-faced teenager” scenario:

    I answered at least two times. If God exists it is, was and will be only one. He will not change.

    The people inside the teenager’s universe might make the same assumptions about their creator, but they would be wrong. How do you know that your assumptions are correct?

  10. Yes, but the people inside the teenager’s universe think God exists. Little do they know that he is really a teenager fooling around in his parents’ basement.

    How do you know that you aren’t similarly deluded? Do you still think you should obey your creator, no matter what?

    Do you begin to see my point, which is that we aren’t morally obligated to obey our creator (if he exists) just because he is our creator?

  11. keiths

    Do you begin to see my point, which is that we aren’t morally obligated to obey our creator (if he exists) just because he is our creator?

    Yes, maybe God created us without a purpose, or maybe He forgot us in this small planet and do not care, or may be He punished us to live without knowing any thing about him. That are possibilities, but it would be an irrational god. And that will let us in the same position than atheists. Morality is only possible if exists a rational God as our mind imagine.

  12. Blas,

    Yes, maybe God created us without a purpose, or maybe He forgot us in this small planet and do not care, or may be He punished us to live without knowing any thing about him. That are possibilities, but it would be an irrational god.

    Why would it be irrational for God to create us without a purpose, or to forget about us, or to not care what we do?

    And even if there is a God who created us with a purpose in mind, why should that by itself morally obligate us to fulfill his purpose?

    If I believed that God created me and wanted me to torture babies for pleasure, my conclusion wouldn’t be that I ought to torture babies. It would be that God is probably evil.

    Yet you claim that it is our moral obligation to obey God merely because he is our creator. Why?

  13. So God must be as you imagine Him to be? I’m always astonished at hoe fundies know so well the Mind of God, previously thought to be unknowable.

  14. petrushka:
    Lizzy,I don’t think you can build a successful morality on intentions as commonly understood. I know that Christianity emphasizes what is in your heart,but I would argure the Harry Potter Principle: “Where your treasure lies,there your heart will be also.” I wish I knew the original source.

    Matthew 6:21 We had to learn a bible passage by heart every morning at my Quaker boarding school, and there was a special prize (The Complete Works of Shakespeare) if you could learn the whole of the Sermon on the Mount, which I did 🙂

    Taken figuratively,it means we fool ourselves. Individuals and societies fool themselves. It’s even worse when public policy goes aftershort term goals with flowery sounding rhetoric.

    There is general agreement that societies should organize themselves to maximize well being and minimize pain. But the devil is in anticipating long term consequences.

    Edit: found the quote,not far from where I expected.

    Well we are sometimes blind to our own ulterior motives. Nonetheless, both legally and socially, we distinguish between intentional consequences and non-intentional consequences (hence murder vs manslaughter), and indeed much of moral philosophy is about concepts like “double effect” – if your intention is to bring about X, which is good, but X necessarily brings about Y, which is bad, you are not necessarily morally culpable for Y.

    An abortion to save the life of a mother is a classic example.

  15. Well we are blocked here. I do not understand what we are discussing here.
    Is your point that teist morality is as irrational of atheist morality?
    I will try to answer again in other words.

    keiths:
    Why would it be irrational for God to create us without a purpose, or to forget about us, or to not care what we do?

    If God created us rationals, with free will and with a sense of morality ( we think that there are things that are right to do and others are wrong) then God should be more rational, more free and more moral than us. Then if he is more free he created us because he wanted, not by chance. If he wanted us he has a plan for us, if not it wouldn´t want create us. If has a plan he cares tha we comply the plan.

    keiths:
    And even if there is a God who created us with a purpose in mind, why should that by itself morally obligate us to fulfill his purpose?

    Your question suppose that your purpose do not match His purpose. Wich is the purpose of your life? It is rationaly founded?

    keiths:
    If I believed that God created me and wanted me to torture babies for pleasure, my conclusion wouldn’t be that I ought to torture babies.It would be that God is probably evil.

    Then you agree with WJM that there are self evidents moral truths.

    keiths:
    Yet you claim that it is our moral obligation to obey God merely because he is our creator.Why?

    If you build a clock, you espect to read the time on it. If the clock do not show the correct time. Do you keep it? Did the clock fullfilled his task?
    If Gos exists and we do not obey him we are like a broken clock.

  16. Your argument are full of if god this and if god that.

    Your beliefs are all unfounded assumptions, the very kind of assumptions that have been disputed for thousands of years.

    Rational deductions can be derived from any set of assumptions. Rational deductions are not dependent on accepting any particular assumptions about god.

    Perhaps the concept you are reaching for is “true” or “certain.” Certainly it can’t be rational.

  17. we distinguish between intentional consequences and non-intentional consequences (hence murder vs manslaughter),

    I have in mind things like war, police action, self-defense, capital punishment, “justifiable homicide,” abortion and the like. I also have in mind less violent public policies.

    There is a tendency in these discussions to illustrate with easy cases where motive seems clear.

    I don’t see a lot of arguing about easy cases, so I see no point in discussing them.

    Perhaps the “burning bed” case is relevant. A woman killed her husband not in immediate self-defense, but because he had a long history of abusing her, and she had exhausted all the non-violent approaches she could think of.

    In public policy in the U.S. we have a number of prisoners being held without trial and without charges. This is the very thing Americans derided other governments for doing.

    I have to think there are “rational” reasons for doing this, because it continues under a president who promised to end the practice.

    There are endless examples, but my point is simple. We do not have fully consistent and fully rational moral precepts that cover hard cases. I don’t think it’s possible.

  18. petrushka:

    Rational deductions can be derived from any set of assumptions.

    No, there are set of assumptions that led to contradictions.

  19. Blas,

    I’m not sure I can make this any clearer, but let me try.

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

    2. If that’s true, then any creator who has a purpose for his creatures should be obeyed.

    3. Suppose humans eventually learn how to create universes. A pimply-faced teenager creates a universe in his parents’ basement. He populates it with human-like creatures because he’s horny and he wants to watch them having sex.

    4. He created the human-like creatures.

    5. He has a purpose for the human-like creatures.

    6. Therefore, according to your claim (see #1), the creatures are morally obligated to obey their pimply-faced creator. They are morally obligated to have sex for his voyeuristic pleasure.

    7. Both of us regard that as absurd, but it follows from your claim.

    8. Therefore your claim is incorrect. We are not obligated to obey God simply because he is our creator and has a purpose for us.

    9. Therefore, if we are morally obligated to obey God, it must be for a different reason.

    10. You say we are morally obligated to obey God. Therefore, if you are being rational, you must have a different reason than the one you stated. What is it?

  20. keiths,

    If you build a clock, you espect to read the time on it. If the clock do not show the correct time. Do you keep it? Did the clock fullfilled his task?
    If Gos exists and we do not obey him we are like a broken clock.

  21. You’re saying clocks are morally obligated to show the correct time?

    And do you think the human-like creatures in the hypothetical basement universe are morally obligated to have sex since their pimply-faced creator made them for that purpose?

  22. Blas:
    keiths,

    If you build a clock, you espect to read the time on it. If the clock do not show the correct time. Do you keep it? Did the clock fullfilled his task?
    If Gos exists and we do not obey him we are like a broken clock.

    You don’t find it the least bit grandiose to claim intimate knowledge of god’s thoughts and motives?

  23. petrushka: You don’t find it the least bit grandiose to claim intimate knowledge of god’s thoughts and motives?

    And Blas is also contradicting 2000 years of religious teaching that we are ALL broken, that we are all BORN BROKEN, that we cannot fix our selves and must pray to the Lord Godfather to forgive us the brokenness of merely having been born to a daughter of Eve and to take us into his presence where we will be healed. (Healed by the Son Godfather, according to some versions)

    What on earth is that dogshit Blas is spouting about god throwing out the “broken clocks”? That’s not how Blas’s own religion says it’s going to happen. How can Blas be so wrong about xis own beliefs?

    According to Blas’s own religion, Blas is every bit as much a “broken clock” as I am. So xis explanation as to why we should obey god is not only wrong, it’s specifically useless as a way to differentiate between the supposedly ‘unbroken clocks’ (the obedient created ones) and the supposedly “broken clocks” (the moral ones who would disobey an immoral order by their creator). Stupid idea, Blas, stupid expression of that stupid idea

    Not to mention a stupid religion to begin with.

    Give it up, Blas. You’ll be a better person when you do.

  24. petrushka: You don’t find it the least bit grandiose to claim intimate knowledge of god’s thoughts and motives?

    I never claimed to know God´s though and motives. I am discussing moral rationality. I give you an example of why we have to obey God if it exists, because you didn´t understood my explanations.

  25. hotshoe:

    Give it up, Blas.You’ll be a better person when you do.

    May you be more specific? About what I should give up?

    PS I think you are talking about other religion or you do not understand mine very well.

  26. Blas,
    Feel free to speak openly and truthfully any time instead of acting secretively. Go ahead and tell us what religion you own. Don’t make us guess. But I will state up front that I have guessed your religion is Abrahamic in origin (jewish christian or muslim). So if my guess is correct, feel free to explain exactly what I “do not understand very well” about your immoral so-called god.

  27. You wrote:

    Morality is only possible if exists a rational God as our mind imagine.

    So you’re telling God He must be rational.

  28. Blas: I never claimed to know God´sthough and motives. I am discussing moral rationality.I give you an example of why we have to obey God if it exists, because you didn´t understood my explanations.

    I understand your explanations. If there is a god as it exists in your imagination, certain things follow.

    If not, other things might follow.

    What you fail to understand is that this has nothing to do with whether a rational morality can be deduced. Deductions follow from premises. The specifics of the premises have no effect on whether rational deductions can be made.

    My argument is along different lines. I also make assumptions, which I have discussed. I didn’t put them into a syllogism.

    My informal syllogism is something like this:

    1. Moral good and evil are judgments about consequences of actions.
    2. We cannot absolutely know the future and cannot absolutely know all consequences prior to acting.
    3 Therefore we cannot absolutely judge actions and cannot absolutely define actions as good or evil.

    This is just the rough sketch of an idea.

    As has been pointed out, some people include obedience as a moral virtue, above and beyond consequences. I don’t have any interest in that line of argument. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

  29. Blas,

    I’m still interested in your answer to this question:

    And do you think the human-like creatures in the hypothetical basement universe are morally obligated to have sex since their pimply-faced creator made them for that purpose?

    Why or why not?

  30. petrushka: I understand your explanations. If there is a god as it exists in your imagination, certain things follow.
    If not, other things might follow.

    What you fail to understand is that this has nothing to do with whether a rational morality can be deduced. Deductions follow from premises. The specifics of the premises have no effect on whether rational deductions can be made.

    Agree. I agree with what you said below, given the theist premises thereis no way to say absolutely judge actions and cannot absolutely define actions as good or evil. Then there is no rational morality. And that is the yopic of the post and the discussion. So I do not know why you are still aswering my comments.
    Is it because you are assuming that given the theist assumption also is impossible to build a rationale morality?

  31. keiths:
    Blas,

    I’m still interested in your answer to this question:

    Why or why not?

    Sorry keiths I alreyde answered that, I do not find others way to be understood.

  32. I understand your previous answers, but they don’t make logical sense.

    If we are obligated to obey God because he is our creator and has a purpose for us, then the creatures in the basement universe are obligated to obey the pimply-faced teenager because he is their creator and has a purpose for them.

    If you don’t think they are obligated to obey the teenager, then we are not obligated to obey God — unless you can offer a different reason why we must obey God.

    Can you?

  33. Heya, Blas,
    are you ever going to let us in on the deep dark secret of which religion exactly you adhere to?

  34. keiths:
    I understand your previous answers, but they don’t make logical sense.

    If we are obligated to obey God because he is our creator and has a purpose for us, then the creatures in the basement universe are obligated to obey the pimply-faced teenager because he is their creator and has a purpose for them.

    If you don’t think they are obligated to obey the teenager, then we are not obligated to obey God — unless you can offer a different reason why we must obey God.

    Can you?

    What will do the teenager if the creatures do not perform the task he expected they will perform when hecreated them?

  35. The question isn’t what will happen to the creatures. The question is, are they morally obligated to obey their pimply-faced creator?

    Yes or no? And why?

  36. Blas: What will do the teenager if the creatures do not perform the task he expected they will perform when he created them?

    I don’t know. Are you going for the argument that the teenager’s creations should obey the teenager on the grounds of obey God, or He will fucking well destroy your blasphemous ass ? If that is the argument you’re going for, well, that position can be boiled down to might makes right, so you might want to re-think it.
    If, on the other hand, you’re going for some other argument, I’d be interested in seeing what you’ve got.

  37. keiths:
    The question isn’t what will happen to the creatures.The question is, are they morally obligated to obey their pimply-faced creator?

    Yes or no?And why?

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

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

    And here we see the other side of the immoral theist’s excuse for behaving “morally”. Not because doing good is good in itself, oh no.

    They’ve got two answers. ‘

    EITHER
    obey your creator (do the things it has commanded you to do, and avoid doing the things it has commanded you not to do) because it will make your life miserable if you don’t, and maybe torture you for eternity if it’s really the mean son of a bitch its representatives say it is.
    OR
    obey your creator because you will reach your goal, that is heaven.

    So much for theist morality. It’s either fear or self-centered grasping for reward.

    Not a decent basis for morality,and infinitely inferior to the actual morality that our social species has proven capable of evolving when we leave creators out.

  39. hotshoe: And here we see the other side of the immoral theist’s excuse for behaving “morally”.Not because doing good is good in itself, oh no.

    They’ve got two answers.‘

    EITHER
    obey your creator (do the things it has commanded you to do, and avoid doing the things it has commanded you not to do) because it will make your life miserable if you don’t, and maybe torture you for eternity if it’s really the mean son of a bitch its representatives say it is.
    OR
    obey your creator because you will reach your goal, that is heaven.

    So much for theist morality.It’s either fear or self-centered grasping for reward.

    Not a decent basis for morality,and infinitely inferior to the actual morality that our social species has proven capable of evolving when we leave creators out.

    Please define good.

  40. Blas: Please define good.

    Is that all you have to say for yourself, that you can’t define good as anything other than what your creator orders you to do (or to avoid doing if so ordered)? Really, it that all you can add to this conversation? Really?

  41. Blas:
    hotshoe,

    Show me that you can.

    Show me where in the bible, goodness (the foundation of goodness) is described in any terms other than pleasure, absence of pain, health or well being. How is heaven described?

  42. Blas:
    hotshoe,

    Show me that you can.

    No dice, Blas. Are you pretending that you don’t remember how this conversation began a couple weeks ago? Or have you genuinely forgotten? Refresh you memory, scroll up and re-read the responses, including your own. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

    You’re the one who has been claiming that the only measure of whether we’re morally good is if we obey our creator, else we’re broken clocks – and we all know what broken clocks deserve: they deserve to be thrown in the trash; that’s so obvious that you don’t even have to state it outright, you can just imply it. When pointed out that, according to your religion, we’re ALL “broken” and that therefore brute obedience is no way to differentiate between people who are moral and people who are immoral, you squirm and pretend that we don’t have the right idea about your religion. (Without, of course, you actually making the slightest effort to impart to us a more-correct idea about your religion.)

    But regardless of the specifics of your personal religious sect, the problems with all religiously-inspired morality remain. You don’t have any way of knowing how to do good merely for the sake of doing good. You don’t even know what “good” is – except as orders to obey your creator. While that’s what you’re doing when you think you’re behaving morally-good, then you’re not behaving morally at all; you’re behaving in complete utter selfishness, either out of fear of torture or greed for paradise-rewards.

    It’s not good, and surely you know that. No wonder you try to wriggle out of defending your flawed concept of “good”.

  43. petrushka: Show me where in the bible, goodness (the foundation of goodness) is described in any terms other than pleasure, absence of pain, health or well being. How is heaven described?

    Is that related with the logic of a theistic morality?

  44. hotshoe: No dice, Blas.Are you pretending that you don’t remember how this conversation began a couple weeks ago?Or have you genuinely forgotten?Refresh you memory, scroll up and re-read the responses, including your own.Go ahead, I’ll wait.

    You’re the one who has been claiming that the only measure of whether we’re morally good is if we obey our creator, else we’re broken clocks – and we all know what broken clocks deserve: they deserve to be thrown in the trash; that’s so obvious that you don’t even have to state it outright, you can just imply it.When pointed out that, according to your religion, we’re ALL “broken” and that therefore brute obedience is no way to differentiate between people who are moral and people who are immoral, you squirm and pretend that we don’t have the right idea about your religion.(Without, of course, you actually making the slightest effort to impart to us a more-correct idea about your religion.)

    But regardless of the specifics of your personal religious sect, the problems with all religiously-inspired morality remain.You don’t have any way of knowing how to do good merely for the sake of doing good.You don’t even know what “good” is – except as orders to obey your creator.While that’s what you’re doing when you think you’re behaving morally-good, then you’re not behaving morally at all; you’re behaving in complete utter selfishness, either out of fear of torture or greed for paradise-rewards.

    It’s not good, and surely you know that.No wonder you try to wriggle out of defending your flawed concept of “good”.

    As I understand it, this post was about the possibility to make a founded rational athesitic morality. After almost 800 cmments I do not see any founded rational athesitic morality. Maybe if you define “good” rationaly and atheistic you can provide the first one, and then you will bw able to show how we can “do good merely for the sake of doing good”.

  45. Well, I’ve given one, Blas, and I gave a completely rational derivation, based on game theory.

    It amounts to “do as you would be done by, and temper punishment of cheaters with mercy.”

    Do you see anything wrong with that one?

  46. Lizzie:
    Well, I’ve given one, Blas, and I gave a completely rational derivation, based on game theory.

    It amounts to “do as you would be done by, and temper punishment of cheaters with mercy.”

    Do you see anything wrong with that one?

    We already see that Stalin and Polpot followed that rule.
    We can add: I want have sex tonight, are you going to lie with me?

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