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Good and Evil


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3 minutes ago, pogi said:

The second you try and define it, you have lost all objectivity.  Science defines things as it is observed in nature, without bias.  It doesn't define things that don't exist in nature without anything to observe, based entirely on personal bias.

If you want to discuss this more, I suggest you refer to my long reply on developing morality.

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11 minutes ago, Ahab said:

We are all children of God... all of us people who scientists call "human"... so there is no way and there never will be a way to remove God from any equation in which we are or were or will ever be involved.

Even if you do not believe the above statement is true.

Hi Ahab. 

Cheers to you, too :)

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14 minutes ago, pogi said:

The second you try and define it, you have lost all objectivity.  Science defines things as it is observed in nature, without bias.  It is not in the business of defining things that don't exist in nature, without anything to observe, and which is based entirely on personal bias, culture, and values.

You mean things like good or evil, right?  Just trying to make sure I understand what you mean here.  Like how scientists...you keep talking about Science as if it is some monolithic entity capable of making unbiased judgments, which it is not, so I am replacing your word "Science" with the word "scientists here... anyway like I was saying like how scientists might observe a pride of lions stalking prey without saying anything about whether that is good or evil, actually killing another living being to eat it... in contrast to how some religionists or nature lovers might use words like good or evil to talk about the same thing?  You mean like that?  Am I understanding you correctly?

Edited by Ahab
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1 hour ago, Meadowchik said:

Well I'm sure you'll understand that I won't take your word to be the authority on that. Provide some reasoning and compelling evidence, and that might be persuasive.

Cheers and good night from the Firth of Forth.

Here is one example off the top of my head - Follow the prophet. 

Does that sound like a moral that is based in scientific objectivity to you?  What scientific objective processes were employed in deciding that moral, exactly?

What more do you need? Seriously.  You dismiss every plain and obvious example I give you.  You suggest they only exist because science hasn't proven them wrong yet.  Yet they do EXIST as religious TRUTH claims.  Which leads me to conclude that those moral truth claims are not constrained by scientific objectivity, because 1) they exist and 2) they are not scientifically objective.  Which is precisely why science doesn't accept them - because they are not constrained by scientific objectivity.  Do some religions evolve with science, sure, that doesn't mean they are of necessity constrained by it.  There are all sorts of religions that believe in whackado things that science has "proven" wrong. Evolution for example (or the belief against it).  The Earth is only a few thousand years old, is another... How many do you need?

Edited by pogi
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55 minutes ago, Ahab said:

You mean things like good or evil, right?  Just trying to make sure I understand what you mean here.  Like how scientists...you keep talking about Science as if it is some monolithic entity capable of making unbiased judgments, which it is not, so I am replacing your word "Science" with the word "scientists here... anyway like I was saying like how scientists might observe a pride of lions stalking prey without saying anything about whether that is good or evil, actually killing another living being to eat it... in contrast to how some religionists or nature lovers might use words like good or evil to talk about the same thing?  You mean like that?  Am I understanding you correctly?

That sounds about right.

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1 hour ago, pogi said:

Are you suggesting that my spirituality is not based on, or depends on, the possibility of experiences?  Come on stem..conscious minds depend upon conscious "experiences".  What else is there?  Of course spirituality depends upon the possibility of experiences.  

Ok.  Spirituality depends on conscious minds and depend on experiences ranging, one might say, from spiritual to non spiritual.  And?  

I admit I was more caught up on God in your statement.  

1 hour ago, pogi said:

I guess I don't get it. This seems to prove my point.  Suffering and misery is based on subjective judgments. And if morality is based on suffering and misery, then morality is based on subjective judgments. 

Let me ask you this - is objective morality about the individual or about the whole?

It'd be about the whole which includes the individual.  

Here's my take (I'll try again).  You say

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On a scale of 1 to 10, I might experience the misery of losing a loved one totally different from you.  I might rate the misery of a paper cut totally different from you.  I might rate the misery of drinking urine totally different from you.  I might rate the misery of bone cancer totally different from you. 

ANd you go on listing other examples.  Then you conclude:

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That kind of destroys the argument of Sam Harris.  A Buddhist monk would suggest that "it just is" and that we don't need to judge it as good or bad.  They just simply observe it and experience it without judgment.  Misery is a subjective judgment.  It only exists because of human judgement.  The role of science is not to make subjective judgments, but to simply observe, much like a Buddhist monk in meditation without judgment of "good" or "bad"...it just is!!!

I don't think it destroys anything.  Particularly since as I pointed out each of your statements expressing how people experience misery subjectively applies to physical health as well.  Here:

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On a scale of 1 to 10, I might experience the misery of over eating and lack of exercise totally different from you.  I might rate the physical misery of a paper cut totally different from you  .I might rate the physical misery of drinking urine totally different from you.  I might rate the physical misery of bone cancer totally different from you. .

Would you also say that medical science is subjective.  it only exists because of human judgment?   Of course not.  Medical science assumes the goal of physical health.  Science of morality assumes the goal of well being (and surely that simply needs an agreed upon definition).  

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53 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Ok.  Spirituality depends on conscious minds and depend on experiences ranging, one might say, from spiritual to non spiritual.  And?  

...and, therefore, my demonstration of his faulty logic is correct.  My example would be equally objectively true.

53 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I admit I was more caught up on God in your statement.  

The same way I am getting caught up on your morality statements.  To me God is objectively equivalent to morality in science.  1) It only exists in our head, as far as we can tell. 2) Each person views it differently.  3) It can give subjective purpose and meaning to life.

53 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Would you also say that medical science is subjective.  it only exists because of human judgment?   Of course not.  Medical science assumes the goal of physical health.  Science of morality assumes the goal of well being (and surely that simply needs an agreed upon definition).  

Would I say that medical science is based entirely on a subjective premise, Ummm...yes.  It only exists because humans judge the pursuit of health/well-being (whatever that is) to be a "good" thing.  It is an applied science/soft science.  I thought we have been over this?  It's goals of well-being are entirely subjective.  It uses the hard sciences to accomplish those goals.

As I have already explained,. the goal of well-being already belongs to the medical sciences.  Holistic well-being is a cornerstone of nursing philosophies and approaches.  Many holistic medical practices (not just nursing) focus on different aspects of well-being.  Some are holistic, others are not.  Sam Harris is trying to hijack those goals and call it moral science instead of medical science.  That is nuts.  We don't need to confuse what they do with judgments of morality, good and evil -  It just is!   Because that is what some humans wanted to pursue.  I 

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It'd be about the whole which includes the individual.  

Here's my take (I'll try again).  You say

 

To use Harris' same reasoning again:

Imagine a universe where everyone had Huntingtons Disease (an incurable and absolutely terrible inherited disease that causes much suffering for the individual and family) .  Wouldn't that be a bad thing?  You see where this is going?  You can follow this down the same rabbit hole of logic that he uses. 

It could be argued that Hitler was onto something then.  Putting to death anyone who suffers with inheritable disease/defects would eliminate that form of suffering from the world, and would be a net benefit to the whole in the long run and maximize pleasure and well-being.  To not put to death those who carry this trait would be to promote it's existence in the world - which would be immoral, because Huntington's disease is "bad".   The human race would objectively benefit in measurable ways over time. 

Torturing individuals to gather information that would be a net benefit to the whole, would also be moral.  Etc. Etc.  The ends justify the means to a lot of nasty sh** given a morality that is about net well-being of the whole. 

Edited by pogi
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8 minutes ago, pogi said:

...and, therefore, my demonstration of his faulty logic is correct.  My example would be equally objectively true.

The same way I am getting caught up on your morality statements.  To me God is objectively equivalent to morality in science.  1) It only exists in our head, as far as we can tell. 2) Each person views it differently.  3) It can give subjective purpose and meaning to life.

Would I say that medical science is based entirely on a subjective premise, Ummm...yes.  It only exists because humans judge the pursuit of health/well-being (whatever that is) to be a "good" thing.  It is an applied science/soft science.  I thought we have been over this?  It's goals of well-being are entirely subjective.  It uses the hard sciences to accomplish those goals.

As I have already explained,. the goal of well-being already belongs to the medical sciences.  Holistic well-being is a cornerstone of nursing philosophies and approaches.  Many holistic medical practices (not just nursing) focus on different aspects of well-being.  Some are holistic, others are not.  We don't need to confuse what they do with judgments of morality, good and evil -  It just is!   Because that is what some humans wanted to pursue.  I 

It could be argued that Hitler was onto something then.  Putting to death anyone who suffers with inheritable disease/defects would eliminate that form of suffering from the world, and would overall benefit the whole in the long run and maximize pleasure and well-being.  Torturing people to gather information that would benefit the whole, would also be moral.  Etc. Etc.  The ends justify the means. 

To use Harris' same reasoning again:

Imagine a universe where everyone had Huntingtons Disease (an incurable and absolutely terrible inherited disease that causes much suffering for the individual and family) .  Wouldn't that be a bad thing?  You see where this is going?  You can follow this down the same rabbit hole of logic. 

I"m certainly not saying that there aren't practices in place that fit well into this notion of objective morality and well being.  I am suggesting we can use hard sciences to help uncover morality much like we use hard sciences to help uncover physical health.  I think I agree in that we are simply repeating the argument we had on the other thread, and it doesn't appear we're granting each other much.  

I think I disagree, sir.  I will agree to that.  

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50 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I am suggesting we can use hard sciences to help uncover morality much like we use hard sciences to help uncover physical health.  

Do you pretty much use morality and well-being interchangeably?  Because I have no clue what you mean here unless you are talking about well-being instead of "morality". Sam Harris is not pretending like we can objectively measure or "uncover" morality, he is suggesting that we can measure the experience of well-being and uncover how to maximize it, and simply asserting that such a pursuit is morally "good". 

Edited by pogi
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15 hours ago, pogi said:

Here is one example off the top of my head - Follow the prophet. 

Does that sound like a moral that is based in scientific objectivity to you?  What scientific objective processes were employed in deciding that moral, exactly?

What more do you need? Seriously.  You dismiss every plain and obvious example I give you.  You suggest they only exist because science hasn't proven them wrong yet.  Yet they do EXIST as religious TRUTH claims.  Which leads me to conclude that those moral truth claims are not constrained by scientific objectivity, because 1) they exist and 2) they are not scientifically objective.  Which is precisely why science doesn't accept them - because they are not constrained by scientific objectivity.  Do some religions evolve with science, sure, that doesn't mean they are of necessity constrained by it.  There are all sorts of religions that believe in whackado things that science has "proven" wrong. Evolution for example (or the belief against it).  The Earth is only a few thousand years old, is another... How many do you need?

I haven't dismissed any of your examples but instead I've explained how they fit into what I am saying. Remember we are talking about constraint, not control. It is not a binary or absolute.

Also this observation about scientific constraint on religion is something that has just bubbled up because of your earlier statement. I considered what you said and essentially questioned it then without having done so before. Therefore I might have not been very clear.

After more thought, I'll try to explain it by saying that, if you look at the overarching trend of religion over history and also at localised intervals, the scientific process constrains religion much like gravity constrains human beings.

A way to understand the impact of gravity is to visualise planet Earth in space and all the billions of dots on it representing humans and human activity. Remove the Earth itself from that image, and what do you see? There will be mostly dots and lines that approximate the shape of the Earth's surface. Of course there will be airships and submarines and drilling sites that escape or penetrate the surface, but for the most part, the shape described is the Earth's surface, because of gravity.

Such a relationship between religion and the scientific method can be observed as well, because people use religion to live. When they live, they perpetuate religions. Therefore religions which have helped them live also live. How do conscious beings get assistance to live? By ideas which help them understand their relationship with the world. Thinking, experimenting, and observing then refining based on conclusions on a cyclical basis is a characteristic of the human condition. The scientific process is just a formalised version of this. Religion is another, that is not only this but does depend upon it. 

The point of all this is to say that we can develop a morality objectively and that even religions develop morality objectively. Of course there can be subjective moral rules like "follow the prophet" but there is still that anchor of some kind of Golden Rule Morality that constrains. We talked about Nephi killing Laban a few weeks ago. Nephi was concerned about doing something that was usually considered wrong. Was it wrong because God said it was wrong? Or was it wrong, because any conscious, thinking human being will usually see a problem with killing their kind because they're social beings? I think we can say with confidence that at any time in human history, killing another person was seen as a problem for society and for the individual. 

Human societies might run afoul of moral codes they once adopted, but when they do so at the expense of the ones that helped them live, they'll decrease their ability to live. Therefore the moral codes that help human beings persist when human beings live. We can reasonably say that the Golden Rule and all its versions arise out of the human characteristic as a social and conscious being.

And on a note to tie this in with the OP, this is not a bad thing! It does not, by the way, make religion useless or meaningless. It does not dispel the possibility of God. Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "...how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know."

As an atheist, I find this an uplifting concept in the context of life that can be discouraging and weary. It is a hopeful thing.

 

 

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52 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

I haven't dismissed any of your examples but instead I've explained how they fit into what I am saying. Remember we are talking about constraint, not control. It is not a binary or absolute.

Also this observation about scientific constraint on religion is something that has just bubbled up because of your earlier statement. I considered what you said and essentially questioned it then without having done so before. Therefore I might have not been very clear.

After more thought, I'll try to explain it by saying that, if you look at the overarching trend of religion over history and also at localised intervals, the scientific process constrains religion much like gravity constrains human beings.

A way to understand the impact of gravity is to visualise planet Earth in space and all the billions of dots on it representing humans and human activity. Remove the Earth itself from that image, and what do you see? There will be mostly dots and lines that approximate the shape of the Earth's surface. Of course there will be airships and submarines and drilling sites that escape or penetrate the surface, but for the most part, the shape described is the Earth's surface, because of gravity.

Such a relationship between religion and the scientific method can be observed as well, because people use religion to live. When they live, they perpetuate religions. Therefore religions which have helped them live also live. How do conscious beings get assistance to live? By ideas which help them understand their relationship with the world. Thinking, experimenting, and observing then refining based on conclusions on a cyclical basis is a characteristic of the human condition. The scientific process is just a formalised version of this. Religion is another, that is not only this but does depend upon it. 

The point of all this is to say that we can develop a morality objectively and that even religions develop morality objectively. Of course there can be subjective moral rules like "follow the prophet" but there is still that anchor of some kind of Golden Rule Morality that constrains. We talked about Nephi killing Laban a few weeks ago. Nephi was concerned about doing something that was usually considered wrong. Was it wrong because God said it was wrong? Or was it wrong, because any conscious, thinking human being will usually see a problem with killing their kind because they're social beings? I think we can say with confidence that at any time in human history, killing another person was seen as a problem for society and for the individual. 

Human societies might run afoul of moral codes they once adopted, but when they do so at the expense of the ones that helped them live, they'll decrease their ability to live. Therefore the moral codes that help human beings persist when human beings live. We can reasonably say that the Golden Rule and all its versions arise out of the human characteristic as a social and conscious being.

And on a note to tie this in with the OP, this is not a bad thing! It does not, by the way, make religion useless or meaningless. It does not dispel the possibility of God. Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "...how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know."

As an atheist, I find this an uplifting concept in the context of life that can be discouraging and weary. It is a hopeful thing.

 

 

I’m sorry but you are ignoring my point that prophets can proclaim whatever truth they want without any scientific thought.  Are prophets influenced (very different from any formal rule which constrains them) by popular science?  Sometimes.  Yet we still practice faith healings and believe in a spirit as our main source for validating truth - the antithesis of objectivity!

I will also suggest that you try to get a better understanding of scientific objectivity because this: 

“We can reasonably say that the Golden Rule and all its versions arise out of the human characteristic as a social and conscious being.”

Is a good example of what scientific objectivity is not.  Ask any scientist if morality is scientifically objective, and they will say no.  Even Sam Harris suggests it is only “potentially” (his exact word)  within the realm of science.  We don’t have the tools to make it objective yet.

Please re-read the definitions of what scientific objectivity is.  
 

Edited by pogi
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12 minutes ago, pogi said:

I’m sorry but you are ignoring my point that prophets can proclaim whatever truth they want without any scientific thought.  Are prophets influenced by popular science?  Sometimes.  Yet we still practice faith healings and believe in a spirit as our main source for validating truth - the antithesis of objectivity!

I did not ignore it at all, I did address it.

12 minutes ago, pogi said:

I will also suggest that you try to get a better understanding of scientific objectivity because this: 

“We can reasonably say that the Golden Rule and all its versions arise out of the human characteristic as a social and conscious being.”

Is a good example of what scientific objectivity is not.  Ask any scientist if morality is scientifically objective, and they will say no.  Even Sam Harris suggests it is only “potentially” (his exact word)  within the realm of science.  We don’t have the tools to make it objective yet.

Please re-read the definitions of what scientific objectivity is.  
 

I would say that I have been taking scientific objectivity seriously this entire time with its definition in mind. 

“We can reasonably say that the Golden Rule and all its versions arise out of the human characteristic as a social and conscious being.”

I wrote a detailed post describing this reasoning process, which you never addressed despite me referring you back to it:

Here:

 

 
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  On 9/12/2020 at 12:55 AM, pogi said:

Do you believe like Sam Harris that we don't have free-will? 

This question was at the end of your remarks, but I'll answer in first. Regarding free will, in my own contemplations, I have arrived at this: we may or may not "have free will," but as a general rule it is better to act as if we do. 

 

  On 9/12/2020 at 12:55 AM, pogi said:

I don't think we are talking about the same things, but I'll engage you.   

Perhaps not, but there might be some relevant crossover :)

  On 9/12/2020 at 12:55 AM, pogi said:

It is also a natural characteristic of human beings to be tribal and unkind to different tribes, and also to maintain order within tribes.  It is our nature.  Are you suggesting that our nature is immoral?    

I would say that obviously human beings have moral and immoral natures, or in other words, the ability to behave in ways that generate benefit and harm. 

  On 9/12/2020 at 12:55 AM, pogi said:

I agree that it is reasonable to be kind if we want outcome 'A' (the maximal social and physical survival of all humans).  "Reasonable" and "moral" are not the same thing, however.  But what can science objectively say about the goodness or badness of objective 'A'?  Nothing.  It might be able to help us achieve objective 'A', but it can't tell us if it is morally good or bad.  Why must morality be so anthropocentric instead of being ecocentric?  Is it scientifically and objectively false to have an ecocentic morality that doesn't emphasize the survival and social well-being of humans over other species and ecosystems?  It seems like our tribalism and wars are good for ecosystems in the end.  Overpopulation and human consumption is not the ideal for an ecocentric morality. Given objective 'B' (ecocentric morality), maybe human unkindness is a moral good.  We are animals after all, it seems all animals are unkind to each other.  Maybe there is a "good" natural reason for that.   It all depends on what your goal is, and science can't tell us if a goal is morally right or wrong, true or false.    

In the context of the morality in theism versus morality in atheism, we can encounter similar questions in both. Is God the God of everything in the same way? Is God the Father of rocks, or just their Creator? Did God create rocks for the use of humans or lichen? Is there a lichen God somewhere watching over its children? In both theism and atheism, the various dilemmas between anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism still remain.

Similarly, the problem of what "good" is, or how to define "morality" remains, too. But perhaps a common ground can be found by defining "moral" as causing benefit and not causing harm. Actions can then fall on a continuum of more or less moral. They can become more moral by causing more benefit and less harm, etc...

Another common ground we might find is that as a self, a person centers theirself as the principal actor in their moral drama. So the dichotomy of anthropo verses eco-centrism is addressed with the self, not because the moral universe revolves around the self, but because the ability to act starts with the self. 

This is why, for example, humanity in general does not assign accountability to a newborn baby. A newborn baby is perfectly egocentric and cannot act beyond the involuntary functions of his body. There is no moral drama unfolding when a baby sleeps or cries. However, this changes as the infant grows and is able to act. We gradually assign accountability more to them, or in other words, we expect moral behavior from them because they can act.

Similarly, this ability to act has implications on a person's moral universe in the collective sense. A healthy ten-year-old child can act, but her sphere of influence might only remain within the context of her own family or village. As she grows and increases in the ability to act and move about the world, her moral universe enlarges. She starts to see that her actions have power that impact other selves. She has discovered moral responsibility. 

Going back to anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism, the common ground of moral action beginning with the self naturally provides not only addressment of the dilemma but also a path to resolution between them. We start with where we have the ability to act, ourselves. If we then adopt a morality of kindness to other human beings, we address ecomorality by continuing the expansion of our moral universe to the ecosystem. We act in more moral ways as we become more able to act more morally. 

 

 

A person reasons that they exist. They can then reason that other people exist, too. With those two understandings (which are both inherent in having a conscious mind and being a social creature) they can then develop an algorithm of treating others in a way they want to be treated, or not treating other in a way they don't want to be treated. Kant described it two ways, "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law," and also, "So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end and never as only a means." This type of thought process is precisely one that becomes more moral because it becomes more objective, since by using it in any given human interaction you will seek to treat others in a beneficial, harmless or neutral way regardless of what else you want at that specific moment. 

 

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48 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

I did not ignore it at all, I did address it.

I would say that I have been taking scientific objectivity seriously this entire time with its definition in mind. 

“We can reasonably say that the Golden Rule and all its versions arise out of the human characteristic as a social and conscious being.”

I wrote a detailed post describing this reasoning process, which you never addressed despite me referring you back to it:

Here:

 

 

 

A person reasons that they exist. They can then reason that other people exist, too. With those two understandings (which are both inherent in having a conscious mind and being a social creature) they can then develop an algorithm of treating others in a way they want to be treated, or not treating other in a way they don't want to be treated. Kant described it two ways, "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law," and also, "So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end and never as only a means." This type of thought process is precisely one that becomes more moral because it becomes more objective, since by using it in any given human interaction you will seek to treat others in a beneficial, harmless or neutral way regardless of what else you want at that specific moment. 

 

So your solution is to hijack morality as a values based (making it non-objective) code of conduct and turn it into a measure of effectiveness in causing "benefit" or "harm" (which is largely subjective and relative, by the way).  Got it.  And what is your scientifically objective basis for that definition?  You see, you are just making stuff up.  There is nothing objective about it.   I could just as easily say that morality is to behave in ways that causes you, the individual, to win at whatever you are pursuing in a competitive world, at all costs.  Do you see how fanciful you are making it.  Morality is basically whatever suits your fancy (or values - making it biased).   There is no scientifically objective reason why I should accept your description/definition of morality as a universal and objective fact of nature - like gravity.

Edited by pogi
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1 minute ago, pogi said:

So your solution is to hijack morality as a values based (making it non-objective) code of conduct and turn it into a measure of effectiveness in causing "benefit" or "harm" (which is largely subjective and relative).  Got it.  And what is your scientifically objective basis for that definition?  You see, you are just making stuff up.  There is nothing objective about it.   I could just as easily say that morality is to behave in ways that causes you, the individual, to win at whatever you are pursuing in a competitive world, at all costs.  Do you see how fanciful you are making it.  Morality is basically whatever suits your fancy.   There is no scientifically objective reason why I should accept your description/definition of morality as objectively true. 

That's not at all what I have said and it not at all how I've said it. I have shown you a reasonable process multiple times and you've never actually addressed the steps. Tell me, exactly, where there is a lapse of reason here:

A person reasons that they exist. They can then reason that other people exist, too. They can then develop an algorithm of treating others in a way they want to be treated, or not treating other in a way they don't want to be treated. 

And I am not making it up at all. I think you might pause here and give a good, long thought to the world history of all the versions of the Golden Rule. Why is some version of it ubiquitous in most if not all human cultures? Why do persistant civilisations share such similar core moral codes? Why are those core codes all very closely tied to individual and group survival? Step away from that tree and look at the forest.

 

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25 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

A person reasons that they exist. They can then reason that other people exist, too. They can then develop an algorithm of treating others in a way they want to be treated, or not treating other in a way they don't want to be treated. 

A person could equally reason that they exist.  They can then reason that other people exist, too.  They can then develop an algorithm for winning against all other competitors.   That is morality!  Why?  Because I said so.  -  That is essentially what you are doing.  

Edited by pogi
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9 minutes ago, pogi said:

That is all good and dandy, but what does this have to do with morality? 

A person could equally reason that they exist.  They can then reason that other people exist, too.  They can then develop an algorithm for winning against all other competitors.   That is morality!  Why?  Because I said so.  -  That is essentially what you are doing.  

No, it is not at all what I am doing. Think about what I am saying. They are developing an algorithm to make the world a place where they treat everyone else how they themselves would want to be treated. This is not a fanciful idea full of loopholes. It is an algorithm that, when followed, even becomes self-calibrating. People who do it, through a feedback loop, can get even better at it. A child offers everyone a cookie because she likes cookies, but then learns that Grandma does not want a cookie, but fruit. So she gets the fruit for Grandma, because she realises that if she liked fruit more than a cookie, she'd want to be given fruit. The child is using a reasonable method and she is refining it by using it.

Edited by Meadowchik
corrected words
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13 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

No, it is not at all what I am doing. Think about what I am saying. They are developing an algorithm to make the world a place where they treat everyone else how they themselves would want to be treated. This is not a fanciful idea full of loopholes. It is an algorithm that, when followed, even becomes self-calibrating. People who do it can, through a feedback loop, can get even better at it. The childn offers everyone a cookie because she likes cookies, but then learns that Grandma does not want a cookie, but fruit. So she gets the fruit for Grandma, because she realises that she would if she liked fruit more than a cookie, she'd want to be given a cookie. The child is using a reasonable method and she is refining it by using it.

Great, you discovered an algorithm to make the world a place where they treat everyone else how they themselves want to be treated. So what?

All you can objectively conclude is that your algorithm is objectively effective at helping people to treat everyone else how they want to be treated.  That is all you can objectively conclude.  My algorithm was objectively effective too.  So what?  You can't objectively conclude that such a thing is morally good or bad.  That requires an objective description of morality, which you haven't provided.  You simply provided the assertion that morality is _____.   

If you answer the question you may start see the problem - What does this have to do with morality?

Edited by pogi
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22 minutes ago, pogi said:

Great, you discovered an algorithm to make the world a place where they treat everyone else how they themselves want to be treated. So what?

All you can objectively conclude is that your algorithm is objectively effective at helping people to treat everyone else how they want to be treated.  That is all you can objectively conclude.  You can't objectively conclude that such a thing is morally good or bad.  That requires an objective description of morality, which you haven't provided.  You simply provided the assertion that morality is _____.   

If you answer the question you may start see the problem - What does this have to do with morality?

Let's start by observing the obvious moral codes like not killing, not stealing, and not lying. Notice anything? They are very much in line with people pretty universally not wanting to be killed, robbed, or deceived. Is this a miraculous coincidence or is it to be expected of social beings who think?

To answer your question directly, morality is our beliefs of what is right and wrong or acceptable and unacceptable behavior. As specific examples of near-universal codes, human beings have figured out the codes to not kill, not steal, and not lie through that algorithm. 

People of course can have a wide range of beliefs about morality. Some beliefs and some morals can be fanciful and esoteric, but there are beliefs people can adopt through an objective process which are close to universal. The great thing about it is that it is an algorithm founded in verifiable fact that, if used means that people calibrate their own behavior and what they expect of others by using it. 

Edited by Meadowchik
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16 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

To answer your question directly, morality is our beliefs of what is right and wrong or acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Exactly.  What is scientifically objective about that?  Remember that scientific objectivity cannot be influenced by personal or community beliefs, perspectives, and values.  Even if it is a universal value or belief, it can't influence the outcome, or it is not objective. 

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Scientific objectivity is a characteristic of scientific claims, methods and results. It expresses the idea that the claims, methods and results of science are not, or should not be influenced by particular perspectives, value commitments, community bias or personal interests, to name a few relevant factors

 

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11 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

No, it is not at all what I am doing. Think about what I am saying. They are developing an algorithm to make the world a place where they treat everyone else how they themselves would want to be treated. This is not a fanciful idea full of loopholes. It is an algorithm that, when followed, even becomes self-calibrating. People who do it, through a feedback loop, can get even better at it. A child offers everyone a cookie because she likes cookies, but then learns that Grandma does not want a cookie, but fruit. So she gets the fruit for Grandma, because she realises that if she liked fruit more than a cookie, she'd want to be given fruit. The child is using a reasonable method and she is refining it by using it.

That's a nice thought and analogy, kind of goes with this article I googled: https://theconversation.com/religion-does-not-determine-your-morality-97895

*****

https://www.livescience.com/47799-morality-religion-political-beliefs.html

"Liberals more often mention moral phenomena related to fairness and honesty," Wisneski said. "Conservatives more often mention moral phenomena related to loyalty and disloyalty or sanctity and degradation."

*****

And this wiki article, wish I could c/p all of it, so many good quotes. I'll narrow it down to these...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_morality

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death."

— Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, 1930
 
*****

"What is particularly pernicious about it [the myth] is that it exploits a wonderful human trait; people want to be good. They want to lead good lives... So then along come religions that say 'Well you can't be good without God' to convince people that they have to do this. That may be the main motivation for people to take religions seriously—to try to take religions seriously, to try and establish an allegiance to the church—because they want to lead good lives."[17]

*****

He has stated that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis held broadly Christian religious beliefs that inspired the Holocaust on account of antisemitic Christian doctrine, that Christians have traditionally imposed unfair restrictions on the legal and civil rights of women, and that Christians have condoned slavery of some form or description throughout most of Christianity's history. Dawkins insists that, since Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Bible have changed over the span of history so that what was formerly seen as permissible is now seen as impermissible, it is intellectually dishonest for them to believe theism provides an absolute moral foundation apart from secular intuition. In addition, he argued that since Christians and other religious groups do not acknowledge the binding authority of all parts of their holy texts (e.g., The books of Exodus and Leviticus state that those who work on the Sabbath[18] and those caught performing acts of homosexuality,[19] respectively, were to be put to death.), they are already capable of distinguishing "right" from "wrong".

*****

A well-known passage from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, "If God is dead, all is permitted,"[1]:63 suggests that non-believers would not hold moral lives without the possibility of punishment by a God. Greg M. Epstein notes a similar theme in reverse. Famous apologies by Christians who have "sinned" (such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Swaggart) "must embolden some who take enormous risks for the thrill of a little immoral behavior: their Lord will forgive them, if they only ask nicely enough when—or if—they are eventually caught. If you're going to do something naughty, you're going to do it, and all the theology in the world isn't going to stop you."[1]:115–116 Some survey and sociological literature suggests that theists do no better than their secular counterparts in the percentage adhering to widely held moral standards (e.g., lying, theft and sexual infidelity).[e]

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13 hours ago, pogi said:

Exactly.  What is scientifically objective about that?  Remember that scientific objectivity cannot be influenced by personal or community beliefs, perspectives, and values.  Even if it is a universal value or belief, it can't influence the outcome, or it is not objective. 

 

A belief can be scientifically objective. 

My example of cookies and fruit made that clear. The girl prefers cookies, fact. Grandma prefers fruit, fact. Their preferences are subjective, but the existence of their preferences is not. The little child can understand that despite her preference for a cookie, the preference for fruit exists. Her first attempt with the cookie is an objective application of a subjective assumption. Her second attempt after she's recalibrated is an objective application of an objective discovery.

I can believe that it's wrong to induce labor unnecessarily because I read data that shows it increases the chances of surgery and therefore increases the risk of harm. That belief would be scientifically objective.

I think you are confusing the definition of scientific objectivity. Belief about what is moral, right and wrong, can be scientifically objective.

 

 

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On 9/15/2020 at 5:19 PM, pogi said:

Do you pretty much use morality and well-being interchangeably?  Because I have no clue what you mean here unless you are talking about well-being instead of "morality". Sam Harris is not pretending like we can objectively measure or "uncover" morality, he is suggesting that we can measure the experience of well-being and uncover how to maximize it, and simply asserting that such a pursuit is morally "good". 

I'm not sure objective is the key here.  What Sam is suggesting, though, is practically speaking morality can be objective, even if we can't necessarily conclude that philosophically.  I agree with him.  The science that goes into determining the peaks and valleys of the moral landscape can be objectively practiced.  Much like the science that goes into determining physical health and it's various measures and disciplines--its own peaks and valleys.  One practice may not really harm your health but may harm mine.  No doubt there is an assumption in play--that is morality should be dealing in the realm of well being or suffering.  I do think he has a great point...morality doesn't seem to mean much of anything outside of such a spectrum it seems to me.  There is nothing worse than the worst amount of suffering for the longest amount of time for everyone.  That's simply bad.  thus any actions taken to put us in, near or approaching that are simply morally bad actions.  Anything that moves us away from that worst place possible are morally good.  If a society is out there preaching the subjugation of women and we can measure the effects of such a thing, we can summarily objectively categorize it as bad, if it's born out that such a practice results in suffering rather than in well being.  

I get you are wanting to suggest there's no objective reason to say morality should be considering in light of well being and suffering.  But I don't know what that means. I don't know what that means not because I don't know what the words are, or why you would suggest as much...I mean that because morality doesn't make sense at all without well being and suffering being considered.  

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11 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I'm not sure objective is the key here.  What Sam is suggesting, though, is practically speaking morality can be objective, even if we can't necessarily conclude that philosophically.  I agree with him.  The science that goes into determining the peaks and valleys of the moral landscape can be objectively practiced.  Much like the science that goes into determining physical health and it's various measures and disciplines--its own peaks and valleys.  One practice may not really harm your health but may harm mine.  No doubt there is an assumption in play--that is morality should be dealing in the realm of well being or suffering.  I do think he has a great point...morality doesn't seem to mean much of anything outside of such a spectrum it seems to me.  There is nothing worse than the worst amount of suffering for the longest amount of time for everyone.  That's simply bad.  thus any actions taken to put us in, near or approaching that are simply morally bad actions.  Anything that moves us away from that worst place possible are morally good.  If a society is out there preaching the subjugation of women and we can measure the effects of such a thing, we can summarily objectively categorize it as bad, if it's born out that such a practice results in suffering rather than in well being.  

I get you are wanting to suggest there's no objective reason to say morality should be considering in light of well being and suffering.  But I don't know what that means. I don't know what that means not because I don't know what the words are, or why you would suggest as much...I mean that because morality doesn't make sense at all without well being and suffering being considered.  

I think is helps to think of objectivity and subjectivity as behaviors we can enhance or diminish. Perhaps we cannot think with perfect objectivity, but we can think with more objectivity or construct paradigms which are more objective once a premise is stated. Like, we can say that, if suffering is generally bad, then it is good to decrease suffering. That gives us something to work from, and then a set of articulated tools that can help us learn after the work has done. We might say, this happened when we assumed X, and so now we will add another premise so now we assume X and Y, or we might start with a new premise Z altogether.

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2 minutes ago, Meadowchik said:

I think is helps to think of objectivity and subjectivity as behaviors we can enhance or diminish. Perhaps we cannot think with perfect objectivity, but we can think with more objectivity or construct paradigms which are more objective once a premise is stated. Like, we can say that, if suffering is generally bad, then it is good to decrease suffering. That gives us something to work from, and then a set of articulated tools that can help us learn after the work has done. We might say, this happened when we assumed X, and so now we will add another premise so now we assume X and Y, or we might start with a new premise Z altogether.

Agreed.  And I don't think that's much different than other branches of science.  I keep going back to physical health ala medical science--but that is precisely what we have.  There is not one way to achieve good physical health.  There is not one way to stay out of the pits of the valley wherein one's health is so bad it's near death.  It may be someday we unlock a little more insight on how to maintain health, or we may raise the bar as to what it means to be healthy...but I don't see how that would suggest everything's subjective.  One person could do one thing and lack health because of it, while another could be doing the same thing and his/her health may be just fine, unaffected or perhaps even increase.  It feels to me that Pogi is stuck arguing a useless point.  But, granted, he's not alone.  

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10 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

My example of cookies and fruit made that clear. The girl prefers cookies, fact. Grandma prefers fruit, fact. Their preferences are subjective, but the existence of their preferences is not.

Exactly!  You are not thinking this through to the unavoidable conclusion.  

All we can objectively conclude is that preferences exist!  We can't objectively conclude that those preferences are right or wrong. The preferences themselves are, as you say, "subjective"!  Just like morals, values, food preferences, etc.

10 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

The little child can understand that despite her preference for a cookie, the preference for fruit exists. Her first attempt with the cookie is an objective application of a subjective assumption. Her second attempt after she's recalibrated is an objective application of an objective discovery.

I have no idea what this means. 

10 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

I can believe that it's wrong to induce labor unnecessarily because I read data that shows it increases the chances of surgery and therefore increases the risk of harm. That belief would be scientifically objective.

No, it wouldn't be scientifically objective.   All the objective data tells us is that induced labor increases the risk of surgery.  Period.  Nothing more.  We have no objective data beyond that point.  That is the objective end of the line.  Thou shalt go no further.  Anything beyond that is a subjective judgment about right and wrong.  If the patient's subjective preference is to not be harmed, then she has to weigh the risks.  People view risk differently.  It is a subjective judgment.  Some are much more risk tolerant than others and just want the baby out...NOW!  There is nothing objectively "wrong" about that. 

10 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

I think you are confusing the definition of scientific objectivity.

I couldn't have made it through nursing school, or passed the NCLEX exam if I didn't understand scientific objectivity.  It is drilled into our head, I have to document everything objectively.  My job is to distinguishing between subjective data and objective data. That is what I do. We are constantly being trained on the difference.  

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Belief about what is moral, right and wrong, can be scientifically objective

You're wrong.

The only objective thing we can say is that so and so believes that ____ is morally right or wrong.  We can't objectively say that the belief _____ is morally right or wrong.  The belief itself is a subjective judgment. It might be based on objective data like, induced labor increases risk or surgery, but the moral/value  judgment itself of right or wrong is entirely subjective!!!   

 

 

Edited by pogi
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