Morality is natural

Richard Carrier has the time, and somehow has remained independent, to make these long-form blogs on things I normally wouldn’t bother with, because I can see they are bunk on the surface. But he makes the exercise valuable by presenting complete analyses of everything these fraudsters leave out. In this case, it’s what we know about how morality developed through human history.

The recent blog starts with a mocking of a theologian’s thesis, that Americans are pagans. By pagan, Johnson means anyone who replaces something with God as their focus in life. This is opposed to the actual definition which is pre-Christian polytheism.

I usually don’t finish these, as I said, they are long. It’s usually the links to his earlier work, where he expands on an important detail, where I find the value. In this case, it’s another debunk of a poorly formed argument, but he provides more on the counter argument. Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day. Darwin gave us the beginning of the science that has been built upon, showing us how it was “naturally selected” for moral behavior. Lincoln translated our Christian culture into this new idea with the phrase “better angels of our nature”. That is, it’s our nature, not angels like you see in the Bible stories.

From the blog:

[A]theism predicts that moral rules will only come from human beings, and thus will begin deeply flawed, and will be improved by experiment over a really long time (each improvement coming after empirically observing the social discomfort and dissatisfaction and waste that comes from flawed moral systems) … [and] only slowly over thousands of years, because humans are imperfect reasoners. And that is exactly what we observe. Just look at the examples of slavery and the subordination of women in the Bible [Old Testament and New].

By contrast, theism predicts a universe directly governed by justice-laws, or a kind and just stewardship, or the enacting and teaching of divine justice and mercy, everywhere, from the start. But we observe no such laws built into the universe, and no stewards or law-enforcers but us, and no perfect moral code has existed anywhere throughout history. The best moralities have always just slowly evolved from human trial and error (see Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature and Shermer’s The Moral Arc). Thus, the evidence of human morality (its starting abysmal and being slowly improved by humans over thousands of years in the direction that would make their societies better for them) is evidence against God, not evidence for God.

One of my critiques of atheist discussions is too much time is spent addressing contradictions in the Bible, and not enough on how ethics naturally developed. We can spot the unsound logic of the theologians, but we’re not so hot at laying out the data, or even the overview of how the work of humans built the basis of a moral world. If it were just some dusty history I could see why we wouldn’t do it, but it’s the map forward too. It starts with three metrics:

So what’s left? All we can do is try to empirically ascertain what’s best, from observing how societies go well or poorly, how human lives go well or poorly, how human individuals’ inner quest for satisfaction goes well or poorly, to build up evidence for which values actually statistically perform better on all three metrics. In other words, all we have left is Ethical Naturalism.

Morality is natural beause it is conducive to survival.

For me, morality is highly social.

I agree that societies need rules.

But the choice of the rules in a given society is the reflect of the way the society is organized and works.

Rules of a primitive society, of imperial Roma, of feudalism, of our modern societies differ.

I thought about adding after I said “selected naturally”, but I felt it was implied

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The blog includes discussion of how imperfection is to be expected in a world without gods. This is contrasted to the narrative of being “fallen” or any other comparison to being less than gods. The god narratives require explanations of why we are “guided” instead of simply given the instruction manual, why we are allowed to choose and fail, rather than shown the right path.

I think science can help with morality too. For example, how to prevent STDs. One way is not to sleep around or use a condom, but it was science that helped us learn this health issue and safer sex. That’s one example of how science helps us with morality.

Absolutely. Which is why it’s so important that we recognize it’s us driving the ship toward a more moral world, not waiting for gods.

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The gods do not help with peace and love, unless they are the Four Deities of Betazed, which are said to be concepts of nature, peace/stability, love/compassion, and truth/honesty. :smiley: The Klingons killed all their gods. Star Trek baby! Like a religion, as my husband says. Of course, the Bajorans aren’t doing very well and might do well to rid themselves of the prophets.

Seriously though, during human history, the gods have only brought about blood shed by humans and not much love for one’s fellow man and woman and children. I don’t think, unless people dropped their religious beliefs, we can go out into space, because if there is other humanoids or other species of any sort out there, they don’t want anything to do with us now. If we went out there now, there’d be Evangelists causing interstellar incidences that could very well lead to War of the Worlds, in the literal form, not fantasy/Sci-Fi form. So even astronomy, astrophysics, and other space sciences could help us greatly with morality and interpersonal relationships. As long as we have racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc and continue to be a violent species, space science won’t be worth much if we keep those attitudes. That means, even gun violence has to go too.

Louisiana, which no one has posted on yet, which I may this weekend while I’m off, is making a big mistake with the posting of 10 Commandments in every classroom mandate. It will not contribute to morality. It will only cause more violence. We cannot go out into space pushing Earth religions. It must take a backseat, at least, and yes, with all the planets out there, I seriously doubt we are the only sentient species in the Universe, but they probably don’t look like Vulcans, Betazoids, Bajorans, Nausicans, or Klingons.

Yeah, not sure where to start with that one. I’m trying to listen to actual people, people who hold those sorts of beliefs. And I do find that they have values in common with myself. But, then it goes something like this:

Sure, I agree we should educate children, including being sure they have a good breakfast.
So, let’s get God back in the schools.
Wait, what?
Yeah, they’re sitting there, post the 10 commandments, you know…
No, sorry, you lost me.

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It’s also important to recognize why it is us driving the ship - namely because our gods are created (invented) from within our own thoughts, with our thoughts in turn being created from within our bodies communicated with themselves.

It also helps to appreciate that our bodies have a few hundred million years of biological knowledge/lessons embedded within it - and that our mind/thoughts/soul/gods are a product our body’s experiences with the environment we are embedded within.

IMHO, the only “goddess” anyone should have is the Universe/Nature, due to the powerful forces it possesses. Currently, Mother Nature is so angry that She wants to burn, blow, drown, impale/smash (due to flying debris) us off the face of the Universe. That should be the only thing humans fear and second to that and to a lesser degree, other humans and potentially unfriendly alien species, but hope for the possibility of friendly ones.

See that brings me right back to how few appreciate what the Physical Reality ~ Human Mind divide is all about. It’s always getting muddled up.

Earth isn’t angry, Earth is doing what it has always done.

Earth isn’t doing anything to us, it’s us doing it to ourselves.

The universe wasn’t angry at the dinosaurs, but ya know: location, location, location and timing matter. What happens, happens.

Anthropomorphizing isn’t always detrimental. For instance, it may improve your well-being by creating a sense of comfort and connectedness.

Anthropomorphism can also promote wildlife conservation

anthropomorphizing may help you better understand other people and connect with the world around you.

Additionally, anthropomorphizing might make it easier for you to experience connectedness and empathy

Human brains process social information quickly, so it’s natural for them to assess non-humans with the same thought process.

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Alcohol isn’t always detrimental.

My problem with stuff like “Earth is angry” is that it’s a gateway to good ol human denial. It’s not us. it’s Earth doing this.

That’s one reason we been unable to enact any of the right choices that would help fix anything geophysical because we have no personal connection to Earth.
Snd everything is always about us.

(Well, okay there was that Ozone Hole thing, we get a passing grade on that effort, though that problem hasn’t been solved at least it has been mitigated to an extent.)

This is probably why I keep striving to hustle my Earth Centrist philosophy because it naturally encourages recognizing our fundamental kinship with other creatures and Earth in general. AND IT ALSO PLACES OUR GODS IN THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE.

My wife used the phrase “kids today” this morning. We all laughed.

I’m happy you’re happy.

What we are doing is making her angry and we need to change our ways and take care of the Earth. I don’t see that as a “not us” thing. Maybe she is doing what she’s always done, but it’s gotten worse because of what we’ve done and that makes her angry.

There is nothing wrong with giving the Earth life, because it is a living thing. It’s not just an object within the Universe. It is alive, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s own thought processes, but to see it a living thing, makes all the difference if one cares about life. Even the Native Americans know the Earth is a living thing.

I hustle that the Earth is angry with humans being it is alive and if one doesn’t care about something that is living, enough to take care of it, then let them get blown way or drowned. It is NOT a gateway to human denial.

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Yes, I’ve even heard they refer to Earth as “Mother Earth”.
But America’s natives had an intuitive understanding that moderns, buried under today’s digital assault, within a world order that prioritizes facade over substance - that we seem incapable of fathoming.

Modern science has shown us that the conception is actually, factually, absolutely true. We were created out of Earth’s processes and our bodies carry the relics of hundreds of millions of years worth of evolutionary advance
But, thanks to advances in philosophy.

I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t think you appreciate how much those words still put the onus upon Earth. What people need to learn (or at least would need to for constructive change) is about what we are doing to Earth. We know why we are doing this, we even know what would need to be done to - consume less, nurture Earth’s natural resources, and work with her processes.

For the past half century, when we could have realistically done many things to slow down our glutinous tendencies, and the warming trajectories. But, we were too self-absorbed and self-serving to even entertain that bottom-line reality - that is, cool our jets, focus more on learning more about Earth’s process, really realizing that we are all in this together. Develop a feeling of kinship with other creatures and Earth’s processes, which automatically carries with it a sense of responsibility and genuine caring for more than achieving the most stuff for the least effort.

“Earth is angry”, is okay, but so too is talk of the Tooth Fairy when these kids start losing their baby teeth. But the point is that such conceptualization takes us away from understanding the real dynamics of what’s happening. In the case of the Tooth Fairy the kids have plenty of time to learn about it and to comprehend the real dynamics of tooth replacement. My problem with “the Earth is angry” is that we’ve run out of time to figure out the physical reality behind that and to start learning to take Earth’s geophysical processes seriously.

No, really, we haven’t. It’s bad, it’s really bad, but we aren’t dead yet.

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It seems you haven’t spent much time learning about the science and history of our Global Heat and Moisture Distribution Engine - or those tipping points we’ve passed without even noticing it. And since, I know you uncritically embrace the silliness of the Pinker’s philosophy on AGW, be happy, and I’ll not bother you with the nuances, they really are a downer, enjoy your Monty Python, it’s so much easier to stomach.