Friday, November 5, 2010

Does morality exist?

I find myself in an interesting position. While the vast majority of humans believe morals exist, there is little agreement on what the proper moral values are, where they come from, if they are objective or subjective, if they can be discussed scientifically, etc. etc.

Consider the following:
a) Who and what do morals apply to?
b) What is the goal of moral action?
c) How can we objectively determine what moral code is correct?

I have questions about (a). For example, would you agree that sentient beings are the subject of morality? Then how do we define sentience? Are dolphins and whales sentient? Must one be self-aware to be the subject of moral choices? Do moral questions apply to your treatment of your dog? Do those questions apply once we remove humans from the picture altogether: Is it wrong for hyenas to start eating their prey before it's dead?

Which brings me to part (b). I disregard most theistic explanation of moral goals as inadequate, arbitrary and capricious. Certainly punishing the 4-year-old Afghani girl for learning to read by throwing battery acid in her face was not a moral calculation made by god. It was made by men, and I mean those with Y-chromosomes and a misogynistic worldview. But suppose we describe the goal as the simultaneous minimization of suffering and maximization of thriving. Leaving aside the definitions of those words entirely, who again are we talking about? Are they hyenas acting immorally? What about humans who go hunting? They reduce the population of deer [which have no wild predators now], reducing overcrowding and famine. In this way they increase the well-being of the group of deer. But they do so at the expense of the suffering and death of individuals within that population.

Finally, if (c) can be answered convincingly, I would gladly reconsider the arguments in question. But I don't believe science will be able to tell us this. I certainly don't believe gods will tell us this [due to the anthropomorphic origin of all gods thus far encountered].

For now, put me down as a moral non-cognitivist. I don't know what you mean when you talk about morality. But I'm willing to talk about it as long as we can come to some sort of working definition. So long as the definition does not beg the question.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Length limits and a format guideline

As per John's suggestion, I'll do my best to keep posts to 150 words or less; also, to avoid tangents, I'll formulate a reply, and include a challenge of my own, to be answered in like fashion.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The discussion so far

John wrote:
AGREED: Heritable variation leads to differential survival and reproduction and population genetic change over time. DISPUTED: These changes over time (beneficial, fatal, and neutral) ALONE are responsible for the origin and total diversity... of life on earth.

Validity for considering ID for discussion: M. genitalium (simplest known self-replicating free living organism) has a TINY genome of 580,000. Probability of random sequencing: FACTORIAL 580K or about 1 in 8 E 3,000,000, X mutation frequency X % fatal mutations X ratio simplest:most complex organism = not enough billions of years. All this AFTER the miracle of “life.”

“Where does such a creator come from?” Where does anything come from? Scientific fact: “out of nothing, nothing comes” ANY existence creates a paradox. Show me what went “bang” and I’ll show you God, the rest is timeline and direction.

I do not so marry my position that belittling the position belittles my person.

Whereupon I replied:
Your description of the ‘creation’ of M. genitalium is fatally flawed, detailing an assembly of the entire nucleotide sequence from randomly assorted nucleotides. What scientists support this mechanism of abiogenesis? Furthermore, it is a straw man attack: evolution presupposes replicating life. Few numbers are used to support your math; ...a logical leap from simplest:most complex organism is made, and without a metric standard.

THEN you say life already existed? This argument is neither realistic nor coherent!

Rumination on why there is something rather than nothing is no argument for ID. My real question was not about the origins of the universe.

If human existence necessitates a more complex designer, does not its existence also presuppose some designer of the designer? What predictions can be made based on ID that would help us understand the natural world? If it’s to be considered in a scientific setting, how can ID be falsified?