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  1. #1
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    Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Argument as Follows...

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

    2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

    3. Therefore God exists.

    Objective Moral Values: A set of moral values that are absolute and unchangeable as opposed to relative or subjective morality.

  2. #2
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    I'd dispute [1]. The notion of objective moral values and duties doesn't have to be grounded in theology. Can't I believe that morality is an objective feature of our universe, just like the laws of physics, without believing that there is also an entity corresponding to God?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    I'd dispute [1]. The notion of objective moral values and duties doesn't have to be grounded in theology. Can't I believe that morality is an objective feature of our universe, just like the laws of physics, without believing that there is also an entity corresponding to God?
    I'm glad you asked this because I probably should have cleared this up in the first post. By objective, I mean a universal, unchangeable set of moral absolutes.

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by estill View Post
    I'm glad you asked this because I probably should have cleared this up in the first post. By objective, I mean a universal, unchangeable set of moral absolutes.
    Right. I can believe that, universally and unchangeably, rape is wrong; how would this contradict the belief "There is no entity in our universe that corresponds to God"?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Sam Harris' Moral Landscape (TED Talk) is one such attempt to use science to derive an object moral system without the need to appeal to a deity.

    The cool thing is that it is intuitive, using the minimization of pain and suffering as an axiom and it has the added benefit of being easily proven or even neurologically measured (he's a neurologist).

    The original need for deities was to stop the questions and challenges that inevitably came about:

    Q: why can't I eat lobster, it's delicious?
    A: shut up, God said so

    Hence, most of the OT laws have been ditched, though the way modern Jews create workarounds is rather amusing.

    Now that we have science, there's no need to say "shut up, God said so", we can say, "shut up, and figure it out yourself, here's the study".

    It does require everyone to have the same axiom but Harris' approach seems to make a lot of sense.

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Sam Harris' Moral Landscape (TED Talk) is one such attempt to use science to derive an object moral system without the need to appeal to a deity.

    The cool thing is that it is intuitive, using the minimization of pain and suffering as an axiom and it has the added benefit of being easily proven or even neurologically measured (he's a neurologist).

    The original need for deities was to stop the questions and challenges that inevitably came about:

    Q: why can't I eat lobster, it's delicious?
    A: shut up, God said so

    Hence, most of the OT laws have been ditched, though the way modern Jews create workarounds is rather amusing.

    Now that we have science, there's no need to say "shut up, God said so", we can say, "shut up, and figure it out yourself, here's the study".

    It does require everyone to have the same axiom but Harris' approach seems to make a lot of sense.
    Can you explain a bit more? I can see how you can neurologically define "pain" or "suffering" (or rather, it seems plausible that such definitions could be constructed). But that isn't a moral system. Morality doesn't come in until you say "...and that's wrong." How do use neurology, or even science in general, to arrive at the conclusion that "pain" or "suffering" is wrong?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

  7. #7
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Can you explain a bit more? I can see how you can neurologically define "pain" or "suffering" (or rather, it seems plausible that such definitions could be constructed). But that isn't a moral system. Morality doesn't come in until you say "...and that's wrong." How do use neurology, or even science in general, to arrive at the conclusion that "pain" or "suffering" is wrong?

    The axiom is to minimize the pain; the measurement to determine how much if any. The moral system is to configured to minimize said pain.

    We know where the pain centers of the brain are and can make appropriate measurements. We can also measure levels of certain hormones to see if someone is sad. We can use psychological techniques to observe behavior given one moral path vs another; e.g. using Miligram's experiment to determine how much power we give people.We can statistically determine that there is no intellectual difference between male and female children - therefore, to forbid education for one gender is immoral. We can use economic models and theories to determine how to maximize our relationships between our resource competitors. At a more basic level we can use our eyes and common sense - is female genital mutilation moral? male genital mutilation?

    In short, anything that is reproducible, verifiable, open and using science and reason. Ideally with periodic updates and challenges.

    Once we have the facts, then we can construct a moral framework and then create laws and best practices and begin changing society.

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    The axiom is to minimize the pain; the measurement to determine how much if any. The moral system is to configured to minimize said pain.

    We know where the pain centers of the brain are and can make appropriate measurements. We can also measure levels of certain hormones to see if someone is sad. We can use psychological techniques to observe behavior given one moral path vs another; e.g. using Miligram's experiment to determine how much power we give people.We can statistically determine that there is no intellectual difference between male and female children - therefore, to forbid education for one gender is immoral. We can use economic models and theories to determine how to maximize our relationships between our resource competitors. At a more basic level we can use our eyes and common sense - is female genital mutilation moral? male genital mutilation?

    In short, anything that is reproducible, verifiable, open and using science and reason. Ideally with periodic updates and challenges.

    Once we have the facts, then we can construct a moral framework and then create laws and best practices and begin changing society.
    I think you misunderstood my question.

    I get that "pain" and "suffering" are scientifically quantifiable under Harris's argument. That's not what my question is about.

    Rather, my question is: How do you move from "this causes pain" to "doing this is wrong"? You say that it's an "axiom", but that means that taking the negation of the axiom would be equally valid.

    That is, using Harris's same quantification of pain and suffering, you could build a moral system by taking the axiom of maximizing pain. Call this "Harris Prime". Why is Harris's system of minimizing pain better than Harris Prime?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

  9. #9
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Rather, my question is: How do you move from "this causes pain" to "doing this is wrong"? You say that it's an "axiom", but that means that taking the negation of the axiom would be equally valid.
    My understanding of the Harris position is we take as an axiom that everything we do should factor in the well being of conscious creatures insofar as is practical/possible. His position is that acting in a way that maximizes the well being of conscious creatures that can be affected by what we do is the right thing to do. Of course, it suffers from the same problem any moral system suffers from, which is how you arrive at something being the 'right' or 'wrong' thing to do in the first place.

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    My understanding of the Harris position is we take as an axiom that everything we do should factor in the well being of conscious creatures insofar as is practical/possible. His position is that acting in a way that maximizes the well being of conscious creatures that can be affected by what we do is the right thing to do. Of course, it suffers from the same problem any moral system suffers from, which is how you arrive at something being the 'right' or 'wrong' thing to do in the first place.
    This just moves the goalposts, I think (which was your point, if I understand it properly). How does Harris know that we "should" factor in the well-being of conscious creatures? Why shouldn't we totally ignore it and focus only on our own well-being?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

  11. #11
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by estill View Post
    I'm glad you asked this because I probably should have cleared this up in the first post. By objective, I mean a universal, unchangeable set of moral absolutes.
    It is impossible to have a moral code like that. An action can be moral in one situation and immoral in another. For example, murdering someone because you enjoy it is immoral. Murdering someone because they have the black plague and there is no way to quarantine them and not killing them will result in the deaths of millions is a moral action. In fact it would be immoral to not commit murder in that situation. The only absolute moral rule I agree with is that an action is moral if it maximizes happiness. However, happiness is subjective... so it kind of indirectly leaves morality as subjective as well.
    abc

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    This just moves the goalposts, I think (which was your point, if I understand it properly). How does Harris know that we "should" factor in the well-being of conscious creatures? Why shouldn't we totally ignore it and focus only on our own well-being?
    Well, yes, that is my point. As I understand it, his position is that social animals tend to flourish when they behave in a cooperative way, so he assumes (dern the torpedoes) that behaving in a cooperative way is the right thing to do.

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    It is impossible to have a moral code like that. An action can be moral in one situation and immoral in another. For example, murdering someone because you enjoy it is immoral. Murdering someone because they have the black plague and there is no way to quarantine them and not killing them will result in the deaths of millions is a moral action. In fact it would be immoral to not commit murder in that situation. The only absolute moral rule I agree with is that an action is moral if it maximizes happiness. However, happiness is subjective... so it kind of indirectly leaves morality as subjective as well.
    You can make even your sort of moral claims into a "universal, unchangeable set of moral absolutes." E.g., "Universally and unchangeably, murdering someone because they have the black plague and there is no way to quarantine them and not killing them will result in the deaths of millions is a moral action."
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

  14. #14
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    You can make even your sort of moral claims into a "universal, unchangeable set of moral absolutes." E.g., "Universally and unchangeably, murdering someone because they have the black plague and there is no way to quarantine them and not killing them will result in the deaths of millions is a moral action."
    Yes but then if we were to write a book including all actions that are moral and immoral it would be infinitely long.
    abc

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Rather, my question is: How do you move from "this causes pain" to "doing this is wrong"? You say that it's an "axiom", but that means that taking the negation of the axiom would be equally valid.
    More pain = more wrong. For example, because not chopping someone's hands off at birth causes less pain we shouldn't do it.

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    More pain = more wrong. For example, because not chopping someone's hands off at birth causes less pain we shouldn't do it.
    Right, I understand what the moral axiom is. I'm asking how you know that the axiom is true. You could take the axiom "more pain = more good" instead and still have a perfectly valid moral system. Why should we take Harris's axiom as true instead of "more pain = more good"?

    ---------- Post added at 01:31 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:30 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by MyXenocide View Post
    Yes but then if we were to write a book including all actions that are moral and immoral it would be infinitely long.
    A few questions:

    1.) How do you know that there would have to be infinitely many statements, rather than, say, a trillion per action?

    2.) What is the problem with having infinitely many statements?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

  17. #17
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Right, I understand what the moral axiom is. I'm asking how you know that the axiom is true. You could take the axiom "more pain = more good" instead and still have a perfectly valid moral system. Why should we take Harris's axiom as true instead of "more pain = more good"?
    Pain is used by the brain to teach us to avoid the same situation in the future. It's built-in that we are pain avoidance machines so as to ensure our future survival.

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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    Pain is used by the brain to teach us to avoid the same situation in the future. It's built-in that we are pain avoidance machines so as to ensure our future survival.
    1. The brain doesn't 'teach' us anything. It isn't like our brain was like, "Hey, I need to be able to teach people to avoid pain, so I'm going to evolve the ability to experience pain!"
    2. That we 'naturally' want to avoid pain, or physically recoil from pain, does not tell us anything about whether pain is "good" or "bad". Conceivably, there are things which are "good" but which we wish to avoid.
    3. Why should we care about future survival in the first place? Even if we do, why should we care about anyone's future survival other than our own?

    I ask again, how do you know that "more pain = more worse" is right? What is logically or scientifically wrong with the statement "Maximizing pain is good"?
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

  19. #19
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    1. The brain doesn't 'teach' us anything. It isn't like our brain was like, "Hey, I need to be able to teach people to avoid pain, so I'm going to evolve the ability to experience pain!"
    2. That we 'naturally' want to avoid pain, or physically recoil from pain, does not tell us anything about whether pain is "good" or "bad". Conceivably, there are things which are "good" but which we wish to avoid.
    3. Why should we care about future survival in the first place? Even if we do, why should we care about anyone's future survival other than our own?

    I ask again, how do you know that "more pain = more worse" is right? What is logically or scientifically wrong with the statement "Maximizing pain is good"?
    1. Well, OK, our brains has a memory that is used to associate situations with pain. We constantly map our currently experiences against memory in order to decide whether we wish to revisit that pain or not. The point is that we already have a built-in process for pain avoidance.
    2. The pain isn't good or bad, it's the corresponding harm done to our bodies which is the good or bad thing.
    3. Because our future survival depends on the current survival of our 'tribe' - few human animals can exist on their own, especially in a modern world.

  20. #20
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    Re: Is God Necessary for Objective Morality?

    Quote Originally Posted by SharmaK View Post
    1. Well, OK, our brains has a memory that is used to associate situations with pain. We constantly map our currently experiences against memory in order to decide whether we wish to revisit that pain or not. The point is that we already have a built-in process for pain avoidance.
    We decide whether to revisit pain or not based on how we value pain. If I think pain is good, and that it should be maximized, I'm not going to avoid it.

    2. The pain isn't good or bad, it's the corresponding harm done to our bodies which is the good or bad thing.
    The same issue still exists. Why is bodily harm bad?

    3. Because our future survival depends on the current survival of our 'tribe' - few human animals can exist on their own, especially in a modern world.
    This is far too vague and unsupported. If I can murder someone and not get caught, why shouldn't I? I'll still have an income, a house, and the ability to purchase food.
    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. - Soren Kierkegaard
    **** you, I won't do what you tell me

    HOLY CRAP MY BLOG IS AWESOME

 

 
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