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Theism/atheism debates

Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby triceratopses » 17 Feb 2016, 18:03

BrentGolf wrote:A smashed brain doesn't work anymore and a dead person is in a lower functional state than a living one, so smashing someones brain is immoral, objectively.


And what do tell is the definition of "functioning better"? How do a particular collection of particles function better than another?

I'll preempt you and remind you that you cannot appeal to any human experience, subjective experience, and any state of qualia to establish "betterness", since none of those actually exist.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby BrentGolf » 17 Feb 2016, 18:44

triceratopses wrote:
BrentGolf wrote:A smashed brain doesn't work anymore and a dead person is in a lower functional state than a living one, so smashing someones brain is immoral, objectively.


And what do tell is the definition of "functioning better"? How do a particular collection of particles function better than another?

I'll preempt you and remind you that you cannot appeal to any human experience, subjective experience, and any state of qualia to establish "betterness", since none of those actually exist.



In order to have any meaningful conversation that actually forwards the subject, one first has to accept that certain experiences are real. Now if you're one of those people that likes to talk existentially about how nothing is really real, and we aren't really here, we aren't actually experiencing the things we think we are, and that digestion isn't actually digestion, then fine. Have fun and enjoy the circular logic that results.

For me I like to accept that I am actually here, I am actually experiencing the world around me, and that there are some truths to be learned from that interaction. Obviously we are biological creatures and our experiences are in fact just reactions in chemistry at the level of the brain, but you're not actually saying anything that hasn't been talked about for hundreds of years and I personally don't find it helpful in having a real conversation about our existence. Obviously, to each his own. But how is that helpful?


A healthy brain functions better than a smashed to bits brain, objectively.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby triceratopses » 17 Feb 2016, 19:36

BrentGolf wrote:For me I like to accept that I am actually here, I am actually experiencing the world around me, and that there are some truths to be learned from that interaction. Obviously we are biological creatures and our experiences are in fact just reactions in chemistry at the level of the brain, but you're not actually saying anything that hasn't been talked about for hundreds of years and I personally don't find it helpful in having a real conversation about our existence. Obviously, to each his own. But how is that helpful?


You're not very well versed in the philosophy of mind then.

What you describe is the scientific view that mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain. That is, subjective awareness actually exists, is not an illusion, functions, but is mainly produced by the brain alongside brain activity.

This view is not taken seriously by the larger scientific community, which say that mind is an emergent phenomenon of the brain, where subjective awareness does not actually exist, its an illusion, and all that exists is just moving particles in the brain or the neurons or in particular proteins in the neurons.

If you think mind as an emergent property consists of circular logic, you should see what amounts from asserting that subjective awareness is produced by brain. Scientists who assert mind as emergence are at least consistant, they accept that which exists is physical and everything else cannot be real ie. your experience, whereas epiphenomenalists try to assert that subjective awareness which is immaterial, formless, unfindable in space, can be produced by material form moving in space.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby finley » 17 Feb 2016, 19:50

BrentGolf wrote:You guys are completely missing Sam's points here. Every example you guys have been giving about bad things here and people getting killed there are totally irrelevant to his points. He's talking about what is and isn't moral, objectively.

TG said something about building objective facts on a subjective premise. This doesn't work, I'm afraid: any deduction built upon a subjective premise remains subjective. Building a vast swaying tower of layer upon layer of logic (as some thinkers are prone to do) so that the original premise is obfuscated, is just sleight-of-hand. More often than not it involves some subtle error of deduction.

People do immoral shit all the time, that says nothing to disprove his point.

The fact that they do it would not, by itself, harm his theory. It's the reason they do it that's the problem. Namely, they have moral concepts that do not accord with Harris's, and show no tendency to align with them.

Science doesn't have much to say about whether working on Sunday is immoral, or stoning your wife for adultery is immoral.

Indeed. I get that. And IMO that makes it a peculiarly useless theory. Of what practical application is it?

Let's take a different example: slavery. You probably all know that slavery has been more the rule than the exception for most of human history. That's not because people thought it was bad but did it regardless: few people want to think of themselves as "bad". They genuinely thought it was morally acceptable.

Now, since he's an awfully nice chap, I'd guess Sam Harris thinks slavery is bad. How would he debate the morality of slavery with African slave-traders, or American slave-owners? He couldn't. He has absolutely no objective reality to refer to that makes slavery inherently bad, nor could he construct an "objective" moral precept from his subjective view.

I don't think it's coincidence that abolitionists were mostly religious people and mounted their assault on slavery with religious diatribes, not logic. The only moral point of reference available to them was the Christian (specifically, Protestant) view that all men are brothers and children of God. However nonsensical you might consider that to be, it worked.

All the philosophical things like, oh did we really experience that, do we really feel, are we even really here? Nonsense. A smashed brain doesn't work anymore and a dead person is in a lower functional state than a living one, so smashing someones brain is immoral, objectively.

Personally I don't hold with all that "it's all an illusion" stuff, but triceratopses is quite correct in that the universe does not view a corpse as better than a living creature. They both have their place in the grand scheme of things.


He loves us? Then why did he create parasites that's life cycle involves eating eyeballs? God is mysterious

I touched on this point with the farming example. If you start from the assumption - as in Genesis - that God looked on his creation and saw that it was good, then there must logically be something good about eyeball-eating parasites. I confess I'm not sure what it is, but I've come across similar (although much less disturbing) problems before.

Example: I get some kind of nocturnal digging animal that roots around on my land, digging up new transplants. The "scientific" response is to put poison everywhere and wipe the bastards out. The more thoughtful response is to recognise that whatever-it-is (I'm told it's a skunk-like animal) likes digging, and can't be expected to know that this bit of land belongs to me. A bit of observation reveals that it will only dig in uncovered earth and is reluctant to dig through mulch. Solution: bring the mulch around the transplant stems, and if I want something dug over - such as a freshly-manured bed - leave it uncovered. Skunk turns the manure into the ground, for free, and is happy to be paid in worms. Transplants are largely left alone.

Moral of the story: if something is fucked-up, it could well be because humans are doing something wrong.

Why did he take so long to create us? Many billions of years have gone by with no people, that's weird. Yeah, he's very patient

My answer to that is that life would not work properly without evolution. It's an excellent design feature. Thermodynamics dictates that its a slow process.

Why? cause I said so

True enough, but the alternative postulates from atheists boil down to the same thing. Example: you clearly value your own life, you believe that the lives of others have value, and since you indulge in various forms of self-improvement, you believe that your own life has meaning. Why? Because. :wink:
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby BrentGolf » 17 Feb 2016, 20:09

finley wrote:Personally I don't hold with all that "it's all an illusion" stuff, but triceratopses is quite correct in that the universe does not view a corpse as better than a living creature. They both have their place in the grand scheme of things.


Of course the universe doesn't know or care about anything, but what do you think you've said? How does that change the fact that we as people do know and care, and can perhaps know and care objectively?

A smashed brain doesn't matter to the universe, but it matters to the smashed brain.


finley wrote:True enough, but the alternative postulates from atheists boil down to the same thing. Example: you clearly value your own life, you believe that the lives of others have value, and since you indulge in various forms of self-improvement, you believe that your own life has meaning. Why? Because. :wink:


Huh? Why would my life have "meaning?" What meaning does my life have? Please tell me because I'm not aware of it, maybe I'm wasting it :eek:

Here's what I think. There is no purpose to life, there is nothing more than our brains, we won't ever see our dead loved ones again, religious answers are as unsatisfactory as could possibly be, and there's no reason on earth to think our lives are dictated by a divine overlord that pimp slaps us when we take his name in vain.


But I asked you and you never answered. If morality doesn't come from evolution, and Sam is wrong and science has nothing to say about it, where did it come from? Is your answer God done it? Or is there something else you'd like to put forward instead of Sam's and others non divine origins of morality?
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby triceratopses » 17 Feb 2016, 20:34

finley wrote:TG said something about building objective facts on a subjective premise. This doesn't work, I'm afraid: any deduction built upon a subjective premise remains subjective.


How would he debate the morality of slavery with African slave-traders, or American slave-owners? He couldn't. He has absolutely no objective reality to refer to that makes slavery inherently bad, nor could he construct an "objective" moral precept from his subjective view.


And this is where the religious people utterly fail. Scientific materialism fails because it negates qualia and therefore cannot introduce any evidence outside of moving particles, and religious people fail because they don't understand that subjective premises are non-relativistic and produce future results.

The actual qualia of morality will produce a result of similar type in the future, things such as intelligence and empathy and all related states of mind.

So for the slavery argument, the simple action of locking up a person is experienced subjectively when it is carried out, and this will itself produce a corresponding destructive mental state in the future. Why is it destructive? Because it is unrealistic. It fails to realize equality between self and others and places one's own self at the forefront. It is also motivated by greed, hostility, etc. Such states of mind lead to stupidity, small scopes of mind, and future instances of greed and anger as well as a propensity for them. They are contradictory to large scopes of mind, being a patient person, being chill about possessions, etc.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby finley » 17 Feb 2016, 20:47

BrentGolf wrote:A smashed brain doesn't matter to the universe, but it matters to the smashed brain.

And is therefore subjectively bad. I know. It's pretending that this is "scientific" (or even novel - I mean ffs, it's not exactly earth-shattering stuff) that bugs me.

Huh? Why would my life have "meaning?" What meaning does my life have? Please tell me because I'm not aware of it, maybe I'm wasting it :eek:

ehhh, it really pains you to admit that living might involve unfounded beliefs, doesn't it? :D

I can deduce from your behaviour that you believe your life has meaning. If you didn't, you'd sit in a corner and wait for death. You wouldn't be out there working, forming relationships, going to the gym, debating with idiots on the internet, and suchlike.


But I asked you and you never answered. If morality doesn't come from evolution, and Sam is wrong and science has nothing to say about it, where did it come from? Is your answer God done it? Or is there something else you'd like to put forward instead of Sam's and others non divine origins of morality?

It comes from our heads, by exactly the mechanism TG described earlier. Morality per se does not have "divine origins". My point was merely that religious people have this set of premises from which they start their moral deductions - a highly constrained set derived from their conception of God. Atheists have this other set. The difference with atheists is that there is no constraint on their selection of premises. None. Harris, for example, has unwittingly chosen his from the Christian canon. Other atheists pick and choose all sorts of different things; for example, if you genuinely start from the premise that life has no meaning, your moral view must be nihilist (unless you are dishonest or irrational). As TG said, atheists are not a homogeneous group.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby BrentGolf » 17 Feb 2016, 22:02

finley wrote:ehhh, it really pains you to admit that living might involve unfounded beliefs, doesn't it? :D

I can deduce from your behaviour that you believe your life has meaning. If you didn't, you'd sit in a corner and wait for death. You wouldn't be out there working, forming relationships, going to the gym, debating with idiots on the internet, and suchlike.



I have unfounded beliefs. I happen to believe there is life outside our solar system. Do I have any scientific evidence at all other than a desperate plea to probability? No, but I believe it none the less. Call it faith :cool:


As far as whether my life has meaning, no it most certainly does not. There is no higher purpose to life, we just are. But experiences are real, at least within my brain and my own feelings, so of course I choose to live my life to the fullest and try to get all I can out of it. The universe doesn't care about smashed brains and wasted lives, but that doesn't mean I don't use the ethics my brain deems correct to respect people and be a functional member of society.

Honestly, I think we're again having a definition disparity. We are using the word "meaning" in two different ways it seems. But we've hashed over definitions enough so let's not go there.


My life, for better or worse, has no meaning. In my opinion, neither does yours, but do your thing my friend :cool:
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Tempo Gain » 18 Feb 2016, 00:07

I believe we can make objective judgments about the reality which we perceive through our subjective lens. For example, I feel comfortable asserting that being hit in the head with a bat is bad based on simple objectively defined criteria concerning harm.

I find it funny the hoops that people feel they have to jump through to deny simple truths like that being bashed in the head is bad, or that not having your skull smashed open is good, or that we really are thinking about things, or that our suffering is real.

In my view, simple criteria about good and bad, as well as our capacity for reason and empathy, are all that are needed to develop a sense of morality. As I've said, I'll go further and say that's where it comes from--any religious ideas about the topic, we've dreamed up ourselves. If you say there's a God behind it, well I haven't seen any proof of that. If he does exist, he's clearly spectacularly incompetent about advancing his moral ideas, based on the amount of immoral behavior that does exist in the world and his methods of doing so. Or he doesn't care too much.

To me, under the scheme advanced by Harris and others, that immorality exists isn't surprising. We're evolved animals and our animal impulses are still strong. In our hunter gatherer past, we didn't have the moral concepts that we have now, based on our knowledge of modern hunter gatherer societies. Food production gave us the time and proclivity to think about moral and other philosophical ideas more, including religion. Our views have changed over time (with views about slavery being a good example), and our history means that the spread of ideas has not been even. Things will continue to change, and may regress if our conditions worsen. And always, the unevolved ape lies within us, not needing much to break through.

I find your ideas about farming totally scientific Finley. You're taking rational steps to maximize the things that are important to you.

finley wrote: I would argue that a person who believes in a (non-existent?) benevolent God is more likely to construct a benevolent moral code than someone who believes in nothing at all, since the latter leaves every other possibility open.


I don't know. Don't you think I could do a good job? On the other hand, the history of moral progress under religion has been pretty spotty.

To show that there are universal moral truths, you still need to explain why the universe-at-large agrees with you.


There are no "universal moral truths". Yet man is capable of making objective determinations, which is all that is required.

Of course Sam Harris's WPME scenario is "bad", and nobody would like it if it happened.


By saying "nobody would like it if it happened" you've proved his simple point--we can make objective determinations about what is "bad" and what is "good". It's not a scenario--it's a thought exercise intended to demonstrate this fact.

BrentGolf wrote:A smashed brain doesn't matter to the universe, but it matters to the smashed brain.
And is therefore subjectively bad. I know. It's pretending that this is "scientific" (or even novel - I mean ffs, it's not exactly earth-shattering stuff) that bugs me.


I wouldn't really call it "scientific." I doubt it could be tested in any real way. But it doesn't conflict with science in any meaningful way that I can see.

It comes from our heads, by exactly the mechanism TG described earlier. Morality per se does not have "divine origins". My point was merely that religious people have this set of premises from which they start their moral deductions - a highly constrained set derived from their conception of God. Atheists have this other set. The difference with atheists is that there is no constraint on their selection of premises. None.


That's interesting. I don't see the difference though. If people have this set of premises, where did they come from? They either thought it up based on some other criteria--what? Or it has divine origins, which you're saying it doesn't. What was the constraint on their selection of premises?

Harris, for example, has unwittingly chosen his from the Christian canon. Other atheists pick and choose all sorts of different things; for example, if you genuinely start from the premise that life has no meaning, your moral view must be nihilist (unless you are dishonest or irrational). As TG said, atheists are not a homogeneous group.


My life may not have a higher meaning, but it has plenty of meaning to me. If that meaning didn't exist, I might be totally immoral, who knows. But it does, and even if you believe in a higher meaning, yours does for you too, and for enough people to make morality possible.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby triceratopses » 18 Feb 2016, 00:33

Sorry Tempo harm to a particular collection of particles is meaningless. It only becomes non-meaningless when you accept actual subjective awareness.

Scientific materialism does not accept subjective awareness. Period. This is not even slightly controversial, this is standard scientific materialism accepted by 99% of scientists.

You're either not a materialist, which is doubtful since you say mind is just the brain, or you haven't thought about the topic enough.
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