1/23/09

Altruism or Allfalseism

Professor Richard Dawkins’ attempted explanations of altruism are no less than fascinating and his conclusion is well, all-false-ism. Firstly, he assures us that only now, conveniently within his lifetime and only amongst his own privileged class of scientific cenobites is the truth of the matter understood:
To read/Or not to read



“It is important not to mis-state the reach of natural selection. Selection does not favour the evolution of a cognitive awareness of what is good for your genes. That awareness had to wait for the twentieth century to reach a cognitive level, and even now full understanding is confined to a minority of scientific specialists.”[1]

Elsewhere, we have pointed out that when Prof. Richard Dawkins was asked to provide his “most persuasive” case for Darwinian evolution he made reference to his faith in natural selection.Prof. Richard Dawkins decides to explain altruism by comparing human beings whose brains can compute 20 million billion calculations per second to birdbrains—quite literally, bird’s brains:

“What natural selection favours is rules of thumb…Rules of thumb, by their nature, sometimes misfire. In a bird’s brain, the rule ‘Look after small squawking things in your nest, and drop food into their red gapes’ typically has the effect of preserving the genes that built the rule, because the squawking, gaping objects in an adult bird’s nest are normally its own offspring. The rule misfires if another baby bird somehow gets into the nest, a circumstance that is positively engineered by cuckoos.”[2]



Now he reaches his conclusion regarding the urges toward altruism:
“Could it be that our Good Samaritan urges are misfirings, analogous to the misfiring of a reed warbler’s parental instincts when it works itself to the bone for a young cuckoo? An even closer analogy is the human urge to adopt a child.” [3]

At this point Prof. Richard Dawkins appears to have a moment of clarity that is sadly all too quickly dulled again by his commitment to his absolutely materialistic worldview. He has obviously come to a conclusion that is subhuman or inhuman, a conclusion that speaks volumes about the worldview that he has made a career of preaching. According to his worldview, adopting a child or any form of altruism is merely gene or brain damage. Thus, he rushes in with a qualifier that is meant to soften the shocking blow of his amoral conclusion:
“I must rush to add that ‘misfiring’ is intended only in a strictly Darwinian sense. It carries no suggestion of the pejorative. The ‘mistake’ or ‘by-product’ idea, which I am espousing, works like this. Natural selection…programmed into our brains altruistic urges, alongside sexual urges, hunger urges, xenophobic urges and so on.” [4]

Basically, he believes that in the past when “we lived in small and stable bands like baboons” [5] altruism was performed “towards close kin and potential reciprocators.” Natural selection branded this urge into our genes so that by now when we act in an altruistic manner it is counter Darwinian.
Prof. Richard Dawkins is so eager to rescue his conclusion from the arid wasteland of his materialistic worldview that he offers a doxology to natural selection that is just short of a halleluyah chorus as he refers to “misfirings, Darwinian mistakes: blessed, precious mistakes.”[6] In fact, according to the Dawkinsian worldview not only is altruism a mistake but we are accidents. Not just we humans but you as an individual, “We are very lucky accidents or at least each one of us is—if we hadn’t been here, someone else would have been.”[7] But he does not stop there. No, he is so keenly aware of the logical conclusion to which he is leading us that he actually requests that his readers cease thinking and allow him to massage and reshape the heartless inhuman conclusion,
“Do not, for one moment, think of such Darwinizing as demeaning or reductive of the noble emotions of compassion and generosity.”[8]

This is because such misfiring mistakes, blessed as they may be, have produced, in the guise of sexual desire, “great poetry and drama: John Donne’s love poems, say, or Romeo and Juliet.”[9] He discusses sexual desire because while, as he claims, the only Darwinian reason for sex is procreation[10], a couple may still feel desire for each other even though they know that they are infertile. Thus, that misfiring mistake is still beneficial at least because it produces things that Prof. Richard Dawkins considers aesthetically pleasing.

“Mercy to a debtor,” he continues, “is, when seen out of context, as un-Darwinian as adopting someone else’s child…much of it [sexual lust] constitutes a misfiring. There is no reason why the same should not be true of the lust to be generous and compassionate, if this is the misfired consequence of ancestral village life.”[11]


The bottom line is that the Darwinian/Dawkinsian worldview is pure selfishness: everything that any organism does is done for the benefit of the self (Prof. Richard Dawkins is, after all, the conceiver of “the selfish gene”). This includes human beings and includes altruism in the form of mercy, adoption, etc.Therefore, altruism in its many forms must be, can only be, explained by “blessed, precious mistakes.” Yet, and furthermore, these mistakes are not “Calvinistically deterministic” but are filtered though relative/situational ethics (or, as a cleaver chap would state it—the moral zeitgeist). Prof. Richard Dawkins describes this as the “civilizing influences of literature and custom, law and tradition - and, of course, religion.”[12] Simply stated, when evidence is lacking Prof. Richard Dawkins calls upon the mighty powers of the supernatural realm of his worldview: not “God did it” but “Natural selection did it.” How? Why? When? What?
These are fascinating questions and very advantageous for Prof. Richard Dawkins who has built his career answering them. But note very, very carefully that what is meant by “answering them.” Prof. Richard Dawkins sings the praises of Darwinianism since, according to him, they allow one to be an intellectually satisfied atheist.But what this means is that Prof. Richard Dawkins can, in the guise of scientific respectability, invent stories that fill the gaps in our knowledge. His a priori adherence to his absolutely materialistic Darwinian worldview is the basis from which he weaves tall tales. These are woven together with just enough of what one can see through a microscope our out in nature to seem as if pure speculation equals empirical science. Here is one such example “The story as I have told it…may not actually be the right one. But something a bit like it surely did happen.”[13] It is simply fascinating to encounter an argument that produces such a subhuman and irrational conclusion. Such that the arguer has to backtrack and ask you to stop thinking that the logical conclusion of the argument is accurate.

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006), p. 220
[2] Ibid., p. 220
[3] Ibid., pp. 220-221
[4] Ibid., p. 221
[5] Ibid., p. 220
[6] Ibid., p. 221
[7] Sheena McDonald’s, Interview with Richard Dawkins (1994 U.K. Channel 4)
[8] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 221
[9] Ibid., p. 221
[10] Ibid., p. 221
[11] Ibid., pp. 221-222
[12] Ibid., p. 222
[13] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden – A Darwinian View of Life (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1995), p. 91

29 comments:

  1. The bottom line is that the Darwinian/Dawkinsian worldview is pure selfishness: everything that any organism does is done for the benefit of the self (Prof. Richard Dawkins is, after all, the conceiver of “the selfish gene”).

    Well, now we know that Mariano hasn't read The Selfish Gene.

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  2. For those who haven't- everything an organism is programmed to do is for the benefit of the genes propogation due to the fact that genes that don't follow this rule die out.

    Sort of like why societies that have no military are rare in history- they get conquered.

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  3. Jesus H. Christ!

    I drop by to see if my absence has lead to an improvement, and I find a Shill for DI Day header, a reprint of an article from WND (C'mon! Raise the friggin' bar!) and this page.

    Mariano: If you want to learn about the evolution of morality, try reading a book or three on the evolution of morality (Try Primates & Philosophers, to start...the other methodological naturalists, agnostics, atheists and deists here can probably add more and better books. In any event, key terms to look for are "reciprocal altruism". If God put that in us, then He put a pretty damn good facsimile of it in bonobos) and maybe neuroscience (like this) and evo psych if you've got time left over.
    Remember, too, that it's not our job to teach you about the natural world. It's right there, man. Just reach out! Failing that, there are people looking to answer the questions that you have about this godless universe, and a bunch of them, and I know this sounds crazy, write magazine articles and books about what they've found.
    (We're only here because we are, quite frankly, shocked to find out that this atheism thing is dead. I assume that it's because an interventionalist god finally decided to rise above the anecdotal. Good for it or them, I say, it's about goddamn time!)

    Dawkins may be a competent zoologist and a good science popularizer, but he's an abysmal philosopher. There are people looking at these things, but Dawkins is clearly not one of them. I think he stopped, at least on the moral side, on Huxley's cold, ignorant (though not in the pejorative sense) and, oddly, unDarwinian view. More precisely, I don't think Dawkins gives it much thought (of course, I say this with only two of his books in my house, and of those the Ancestor's Tale sits unread because it's two friggin' inches thick. I like toilet reading, but I don't spend that much time in the bathroom).

    Two final thoughts:
    1) you suck
    2) stop sucking (or I'll be forced to drop by again to remind you of point #1)

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  4. Leslie - shouldn't you be embarrassed by the amount of rubbish produced by Christian apologists rather than posting links to it? Christian book reviews and commentaries on research in evolutionary biology, psychology, ethology and neuroscience are hardly trustworthy guides to research in the field. You are being bamboozled.

    Why not listen to some of the people who do actual research in the field:

    Beyond Belief III.

    The whole conference is good, although it will take a few days to watch through the whole set. Of particular relevance here are probably the talks by Koob, Ramachandran, Haidt, Sejnowski, Churchland and Zak. Paul Zak also has a blog called The Moral Molecule with some good articles on neuroeconomics.

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  5. I'll just respond with two very brief things.

    First, I think it's far greater rubbish to argue that morality is just a sociobiological construct with no absolute basis. I'd think such a claim should be embarrassing to you. Secondly, I disagree with your implication that none of the people noted have done actual research in the field.

    But I really don't want to get into it, because I didn't post these things for you skeptics to begin with. I figured you guys would read or skim over it and label it rubbish and I doubt anything I say is going to change your mind. Instead, I posted it for those who are open to other interpretations of the data.

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  6. First, I think it's far greater rubbish to argue that morality is just a sociobiological construct with no absolute basis.
    You people don't have an absolute basis either. In the OT, your "god" commands the death of babies and pregnant women of enemy peoples, now you people say you're "pro-life" while defending those earlier actions.

    Atheists understand that way back then, it was more necessary for those kind of brutal actions for people to surive, after all, they had no actual "god" to proved "manna" from heaven for them or something. We know that morality evolves over time.

    Theists are just in denial about it...and go on to justify baby-killing in the OT while decrying it in modern times.

    That is not "absolute morality".

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  7. "First, I think it's far greater rubbish to argue that morality is just a sociobiological construct with no absolute basis. I'd think such a claim should be embarrassing to you."

    You think that, if it gives you comfort.

    "Secondly, I disagree with your implication that none of the people noted have done actual research in the field."

    I think you must be joking, or you have never read any real research in the field.

    "Instead, I posted it for those who are open to other interpretations of the data."

    Right, right - that whole "academic freedom" spiel, is it? Well go ahead, knock yourself out with pseudo-science and evolution denial if that's what floats your boat. You're being pathetic and ridiculous, but that's your prerogative.

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  8. You think that, if it gives you comfort.

    I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, but fair enough, I suppose.

    I think you must be joking, or you have never read any real research in the field.

    Not all the authors have relevant experience, but some of them do. Regardless, I don't think you have to be doing personal research in the field to question the conclusions in a reasonable way.

    Right, right - that whole "academic freedom" spiel, is it? Well go ahead, knock yourself out with pseudo-science and evolution denial if that's what floats your boat. You're being pathetic and ridiculous, but that's your prerogative.

    Hey now, no need to get rough. You don't know whether I deny evolution or not. Here, I'm simply denying that it can explain everything people want it to be able to explain. And I don't believe you guys are open to other interpretations. I'm not trying to insult anyone, I just haven't seen anything that would cause me to believe otherwise; point being, I didn't post the links for you guys, since I figured you wouldn't consider them worthwhile to begin with.

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  9. "Hey now, no need to get rough. You don't know whether I deny evolution or not."

    I admit that my frustration with this site and its author(s) has been building up lately, and I may be taking it out on the wrong person.

    Can you accept evolution without accepting its consequences? It isn't just a silly game that someone came up with: "Oh let's apply evolutionary thinking to morality just for the heck of it - no actual reason!" It all began with Fisher, Haldane, Hamilton and Maynard-Smith and the theory of kin selection and nepotistic altruism. Modern sociobiology (now called evolutionary psychology) is just an application and further development of the same kind of thinking.

    To apply the concept to prosocial behavior, the general idea is very simple: our natural behavior affects our inclusive fitness, and therefore behavior must to some extent be an evolutionary variable. Innate behavioral traits that raise our inclusive fitness will tend to become amplified. Parental investment is probably one direct consequence of this.

    Because life in general is a non-zero-sum game, there are many kinds of (fitness) benefits that individuals could obtain from group living. But not all kinds of animal behaviors are conductive to group living: in game theory speak, a population of 100% amoral defectors could effectively not exist. Such a "group" is an unstable strategy with extremely low payoff (no benefits at all obtained from group living). This tells us that something additional is required for successful group living, and that a species that evolves it may benefit greatly. Whether this happens as an evolutionary adaptation or by neutral drift doesn't matter one jot - either mechanism will do the job and enable group living. A species that evolves in this direction will be boosted upwards in the fitness landscape by forming social groups.

    One of the most promising candidates for that "something additional" that is required for group living, is an extended capacity for empathy and altruism beyond kin to the whole group. This primitive basis for "morality" is only a small step away from nepotistic altruism and parental investment, and as already noted, taking that small step can yield significant benefits to the individuals that form social groups.

    Of course, the mutations that cause species to change over time are random, so there is no guarantee or law that prosocial behavior must absolutely evolve. Whether it actually happens will depend in part on whether there is some evolutionary pressure causing altruistic behavior to be selected for, and thus differentially amplified, or whether such neutral mutations that happened in the past can yield a fitness advantage in the future (as so-called "pre-adaptations"), with the same result. Again, precisely how it happened is of lesser importance to the issue of morality than the hypothesis that it did happen in some way of this kind.

    Now I would like to ask you: which parts of the above do you think are ridiculous or unreasonable? You did say previously that you thought that "morality as a sociobiological construct" was some great piece of rubbish.

    Over and over again I have offered book recommendations on such topics (e.g. "The Origins of Virtue" and "The Agile Gene" by Matt Ridley are excellent starting points), but it appears that few theists ever read these books, and instead content themselves with Christian book reviews. I can only repeat that by this you are only bamboozling yourself. If you are comfortable with this state of affairs, then by all means, don't check the facts for yourself, stay ignorant if that's your only path to fulfillment and happiness. That's what I meant by "You think that, if it gives you comfort."

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  10. Now I would like to ask you: which parts of the above do you think are ridiculous or unreasonable? You did say previously that you thought that "morality as a sociobiological construct" was some great piece of rubbish.

    There are a couple of parts. First of all, it's the fact that I really don't feel like this explains morality at all. In this article that I linked to, the author put it this way - "Since morality is essentially prescriptive--telling what should be the case, as opposed to what is the case--and since all evolutionary assessments of moral behavior are descriptive, then evolution cannot account for the most important thing that needs to be explained: morality's 'oughtness.'" He further states, "When morality is reduced to patterns of behavior chosen by natural selection for its survival value, then morality is not explained; it's denied." But this is a philosophical problem, not a scientific problem. And that's my point when I say science can't do everything that people sometimes want it to do.

    Another point with which I take issue is a point that C.S. Lewis brings up in Mere Christianity. Specifically, it's a point of confusion, I believe, on the part of the skeptic. I hate to keep quoting people, but I don't see any reason to try to say it again when it has already been said so well. So here are the words of Lewis:

    "Now I do not deny that we may have a herd instinct: but that is not what I mean by the Moral Law. We all know what it feels like to be prompted by instinct--by mother love, or sexual instinct, or the instinct for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act in a certain way. And, of course, we sometimes do feel just that sort of desire to help another person: and no doubt that desire is due to the herd instinct. But feeling a desire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not. Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires--one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys."

    Again, it's this idea of oughtness, but here I specifically think Lewis does a good job of noting the problem with this biological reductionist idea of morality. He says much more on this, but I'll leave it here. My point is, while there may be certain instincts and such, I do not believe biology has in any way shown these things to be mere reflections of natural selection in our psychological or social structures. To try to reduce it to that seems to me to simply ignore the real issue at hand.

    So ultimately my problems with this supposed biological explanation is that firstly, it is not really an explanation, and secondly it ignores the fact that there is more to morality than what can be naturally observed.

    As for reading those books ... I'm not going to read them, but it's not because I don't care. It's because, firstly, I'm not a biologist. I wouldn't expect a biologist to have an in-depth grasp of theology or philosophy, and I should think it fair to not expect someone who is more studied in theology or philosophy to have an in-depth grasp of biology. This isn't to say that I don't care or desire to be naive. I try to keep up with these kinds of things by listening to debates and lectures (though this is made increasingly difficult by the unwillingness of evolutionary biologists to debate those who disagree with the theory - and before you get onto me for that, I understand their reasoning, but I disagree with it and regardless, it's hard to listen to something that doesn't exist). I simply can't study it all, and I'm not inclined to understand some things as much as I am others. Secondly, I would refer you back to my problems with most biological theories. They make philosophical assumptions about these types of things before they even get going - assumptions with which I take great issue - so even if I read the entirety of every book, unless they are willing to admit that there is something more to it than biology or natural selection, I really couldn't care less what conclusions they come to. I don't think that stubborn - I think it reasonable, so long as I have come to my philosophical conclusions in a reasoned fashion, which I have. My decision to believe in God is not based on a mere leap into the dark, but neither is it based on science. In my mind, science can disprove God about as much as a leap in the dark can prove him. Philosophy is where these types of things are better discussed, and while science can lend a hand to the philosophical debates, it can never itself be a part of it, unless it is overstepping its bounds, which thanks to many outspoken atheistic scientists today, it does quite frequently.

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  11. Leslie - you are confusing the body of an explanation of the foundations of morality with the body of a normative ethical theory. These are different things, although they sometimes overlap. Where they overlap you make the mistake of giving the philosophical dimension precedence, although the biological basis was established many thousands of years before the philosophy of it even existed. From that you falsely conclude that there is a conflict between the two, and when push comes to shove, you feel that biology must give.

    Let me try to show you how confused such a notion is.

    Consider for instance the female Bonobos, who carry and care for their young for five years, and are only able to reproduce at roughly that rate. This makes childbearing a comparatively costly affair since a lot of time and energy must be devoted to protecting the offspring. I think I may assume that you would have no issue with accepting an explanation from evolutionary biology for the parental investment in this case, and for primates in general, other than humans, because you ascribe no morality to these creatures.

    Now what about the parental investment in human beings? With humans, one behavioral trait that we share with the Bonobo has acquired a moral dimension: caring for your children. Would you not in fact consider parents who mistreat or fail to take proper care of their own children to be vastly immoral individuals? I don't know what your holy book says about it, but what does your gut feeling tell you? Is it morally permissible to abandon an infant to the winds?

    Now all of a sudden there's a "new" mystery crying out for explanation: where did this morality come from? Well, the word "morality" is merely an abstract (and wildly varying!) human construct, but what it describes has at its heart a biological and evolutionary basis, and we only need to look to our cousin species to understand that.

    Compounding the issue, at least for people who don't think about it carefully, is the fact that what we today regard as human "morality" is an amalgam of both common and divergent cultural preferences. You only need to look around the world to confirm that what people consider to be moral or immoral behavior varies vastly across the globe. Moreover, the moral preferences are seen to change over time, with some behaviors acquiring moral dimensions while others lose it. Buried within this spectrum of moral norms, there is a core set of human universals which we owe to our common biological ancestry. That, is what evolutionary biology is able to explain.

    Regarding books on the topic, you had this to say:

    "As for reading those books ... I'm not going to read them, but it's not because I don't care. It's because, firstly, I'm not a biologist. I wouldn't expect a biologist to have an in-depth grasp of theology or philosophy, and I should think it fair to not expect someone who is more studied in theology or philosophy to have an in-depth grasp of biology."

    I'm not a biologist either, but if I read only from my own field of expertise I wouldn't know very much at all.

    "They make philosophical assumptions about these types of things before they even get going - assumptions with which I take great issue"

    For not having read the books you sure seem to know a lot about what's in them.

    "unless they are willing to admit that there is something more to it than biology or natural selection, I really couldn't care less what conclusions they come to."

    Well why didn't you say so from the start...would have saved me a lot of typing. In other words, unless the science points to a supernatural explanation you can't be bothered to take an interest.

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  12. Clarification: in "..giving the philosophical dimension precedence.." I was implying explanatory precedence, not normative.

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  13. Well why didn't you say so from the start...would have saved me a lot of typing. In other words, unless the science points to a supernatural explanation you can't be bothered to take an interest.

    I didn't say that from the start because that's not what I think. But I should add that most skeptics have the exact same type of bias of which you accuse me, it just happens to go in the other direction. That is, if the science in any way suggests the supernatural, it must be bad science or not science at all. I find it interesting that it conveniently is such a one way street.

    I believe that I can sum up our disagreement though, or what seems to me to be our disagreement, around one comment you made:

    "Where they overlap you make the mistake of giving the philosophical dimension precedence, although the biological basis was established many thousands of years before the philosophy of it even existed."

    You're right - I do give explanatory precedence to philosophy. But I do so rightly because the laws of logic and rationality were around long before biology ever was. And frankly, you too must have a set of philosophical assumptions before you ever come to biology or anything else for that matter. I make no apologies for giving precedence to philosophy, because things like epistemology, morality, etc. are a) far more important and b) affect everything else that I think about. So really, it's not me choosing to give precedence to philosophy; it's me be willing to admit that my philosophy determines how I interpret everything else. When the best that atheists can offer is the denial of things as an explanation, even the things upon which their very evidences rely, then yes - I am going to ignore their conclusions, because it's inconsistent and often times just flat out self-refuting. I say, let's deal with the foundation first, and then we can worry about constructing the house.

    I'm sure this will leave you rather baffled and/or frustrated. You may even think I'm stupid. I'm not trying to be - I'm simply trying to make sense of the world which I experience. But if that leaves me looking stupid to the atheist, then so be it. I am still left to conclude that my method is far more satisfactory and consistent, and has a much firmer foundation to build upon.

    Regardless, I do believe this whole discussion is where we have fundamental disagreements, and I highly doubt any further discussion here will produce anything but misery for us both, so I respectfully conclude my remarks.

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  14. "When the best that atheists can offer is the denial of things as an explanation, even the things upon which their very evidences rely, then yes - I am going to ignore their conclusions, because it's inconsistent and often times just flat out self-refuting. I say, let's deal with the foundation first, and then we can worry about constructing the house."

    This simply boggles my mind. Are you seriously implying that the account I gave above relies on the denial of something that we know as fact? That I have missed the "foundation"? You know, I actually thought that it was the very foundation that I was describing to you.

    And you always evade the hard questions - why no comment on the comparison between parental investment and morality that I offered? Could you not come up with any epistemological excuse for disregarding the implications?

    I can't think of any other way of interpreting your comments than as a bad case of psychological projection.

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  15. Did you read the article I linked to by Greg Koukl? If you do (assuming you didn't), I think you will understand my view better. You'll still disagree and think I'm being ignorant perhaps, but at least you'll understand it and it will save us both a lot of time typing away, and I think it will basically answer all the questions you're asking. I've tried already to answer them, but apparently we're having a communication gap. As for how you interpret it and view me personally, again, I really don't care too much.

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  16. Yes I did: he makes the same mistake as you - confusing an explanation for the origins of moral behavior with a normative ethic, thinking that if the former does not also provide the latter, then its explanation is invalid. That's just a non sequitur and a misunderstanding, as I tried to explain to you. But perhaps I always fail to explain anything because my explanations do not provide any "oughts," only "was" and "is" ..

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  17. And by the way, I have read the book by Wright, which appears to be Koukl's only source. I have no idea who Koukl is, but his cartoonish understanding of this subject is archetypal of the theistic struggle against reality.

    And it is becoming laughable: theists want scientist to commit the naturalistic fallacy, so that they can have something to criticize. And so when scientists are careful to avoid that and point out that we do not derive "oughts" from "is" or "was," then the theists go into ostrich mode and just keep insisting that "science can not tell us why we should be good" and therefore (fallaciously) "science has not explained morality." It's just bad logic and non sequiturs all around.

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  18. Adonais- nice work, as usual.

    Leslie- two things. One- you say:

    You're right - I do give explanatory precedence to philosophy. But I do so rightly because the laws of logic and rationality were around long before biology ever was.

    If God exists, yes. Otherwise, not. Laws of logic and rationality only exist in brains.

    And frankly, you too must have a set of philosophical assumptions before you ever come to biology or anything else for that matter.

    Biology came to us before we came to it, and most organisms live quite nicely without philosophy. Yes, we humans often do make philosophical assumptions. But they are not really necessary to life. Despite the problem of induction, we continue to do things that work. And despite the fact that there is no absolute basis for morality, life goes on.

    Two: obviously, biology is not the whole picture when it comes to morality. We humans are quite capable of making decisions that take our genes out of the pool: sacrificing our lives for strangers, for instance. Our increasing dependence upon learned behavior, and not just instinct, has made it possible to ignore or go against our "natural" (inborn) tendencies, for instance for what we see as the good of the nation, or the world. Cultures are extragenetic, and have their own dynamics and evolution, which now overlaps and sometimes overwhelms our genetic heritage. That's where the "is/ought" problem comes in, and there is no absolute answer to it, only the ever-changing tapestry of human history.

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  19. @adonais

    Thanks for recommending "Beyond Belief III". After hearing 10 mins of Harris propaganda I had enough, but then noticed your list. I've seen Koob and Ramachandran so far. First was interesting but boring, second very good speaker with fascinating story.

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  20. Shalom aleikhem to one and all.

    Kuhlmann;
    Lacks elucidation.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Samuel Skinner;
    Nice to see you around again.
    I have not heard from you in some time and have been wondering about you.
    I am concerned about you my friend.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Modusoperandi;
    I wonder if you would ever even dream of using any other name in place of an expletive: Darwin, Muhammad, you mother, Mickey Mouse, anyone at all.
    Arguments from ridicule, arguments for embarrassment, arguments from outrage, etc. are irrelevant to the discussion.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Zilch;
    Interesting point, “Laws of logic and rationality only exist in brains.”
    Are the laws of logic and rationality eternal or can we pinpoint a beginning of them?

    aDios,
    Mariano

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  21. Mariano "I wonder if you would ever even dream of using any other name in place of an expletive: Darwin, Muhammad, you mother, Mickey Mouse, anyone at all."
    I do. I really do dream of such things.

    "Arguments from ridicule, arguments for embarrassment, arguments from outrage, etc. are irrelevant to the discussion."
    Yes, it's outrageous of me to point out that shilling for the Discovery Institute doesn't help your case.
    If anything, it's even more outrageous of me to recommend that you read those who actually study such things, rather than Dawkins' view.
    Frankly, I'm ashamed that I would ever encourage you to expand your knowledge of the real world, and how we really came to be the delightful mishmash of conflicting urges that we are.

    Would you prefer that I huzzah'd your promoting the people that would reduce science to the level of astrology?
    Should I give you a hearty handshake congratulating you for stopping at Dawkins?
    Should I send you roses for cribbing from WND, that non-muckraking and unparanoid font of wisdom. Indeed, it's the Light of News. A paragon of goodness built on a foundation of good, solid investigative journalism. That you did it with no commentary, then came back with a "well, it's an interesting story, but it's not my opinion" shows you to be McCain to WND's Palin, and reflects poorly on your integrity.

    I may be an idiot, but I'm honest. You've got it the other way 'round.

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  22. No, Mariano, since the laws of rationality and logic only exist in brains, they are not eternal. It is not possible to "pinpoint" their beginning, since they evolved slowly with the evolution of brains. But I think it's safe to say that there were no laws of rationality or logic on Earth before, say, a billion years ago.

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  23. zilch,

    I'm guessing you would have a similar opinion with regards to, say, mathematics? Would you agree with the statement, "2+2=4 was not true until human brains were developed enough to fully understand mathematical concepts"?

    If this is true, could we then say that humans essentially "invented" these objective mathematical truths, since to say that we "discovered" them would imply that these truths (and also perhaps laws of logic) were in existence before humans were? Or is there a better word than "invented" that you would use?

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  24. Logan: yep, pretty much. "2+2=4" is meaningless if there is no brain to comprehend it, just as "the Sun produces heat by means of nuclear fusion" is meaningless without brains to comprehend it. It's a model, a description, of the way things work, and as such, requires a modeler, and such a modeler must evolve, as far as we know. I said "pretty much" because some non-human animals can also count- for instance, crows can count up to about seven.

    About "invention"- did we humans "invent" nuclear fusion? You could say we "discovered" it, as we discovered mathematics. I'd prefer to say that we "described" it, since it doesn't carry the implication that we are talking about an object, whereas we are actually talking about a kind of relationship, with math as well as fusion.

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  25. Mariano, if your "lacks elucidation" comment was self-referential, it was brilliant.

    Maybe it's too much to ask for you to read The Selfish Gene, but I do hope that you will at least investigate what the title of the book means before you reference it again. Maybe then, you'll stop repeating this "everything that any organism does is done for the benefit of the self" nonsense.

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  26. I hope to find you all well. Thank you for your comments and general participation on this blog—your presence is appreciated.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Modusoperandi;
    Pardon but I have no time for belligerence, ridicule and every sort of logical fallacy.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Zilch;
    I would argue that we did not invent the laws of rationality or logic but that we discovered them and I agree that these exist in a mind.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Kuhlmann;
    Nonsense does not elucidation make.

    aDios,
    Mariano

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  27. Mariano "Modusoperandi; Pardon but I have no time for belligerence, ridicule and every sort of logical fallacy."
    Pointing out the Emperor's lack of clothes is hardly belligerent. Irreverent, perhaps.
    "...every sort of logic fallacy..."? Golly. I'd be stung if some of your contributions weren't so worthy of the stinkeye.
    Stop being worthy of ridicule and I'll stop ridiculing. Start reading biology, cognitive psychology, evo-devo, neuroscience, etc books. Remember, that Dawkins is not a prophet. He's a science popularizer. Using the gaps in his knowledge and philosophy only shows that he's not an expert in everything. That's quite common.

    In short, "...why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
    I try to fill the gaps in my own knowledge by reading, shrinking my beam. Until you do the same, your mote remains, and my points stand. It's no logical fallacy to point out that you don't know what your talking about. It's not my fault that you seem to be intentionally remaining ignorant of the bio/evo/psych world outside of Dawkins. Bonobo psychology alone, will hold you in it's furry hands for hours, enrapt at just how "human" they can can be (and then one gets scared and tosses feces).
    Dawkins level of knowledge is in no way a measure of the state of the art, much as Behe's ignorance of blood clotting during Dover in no way reflected the same.

    All we can do is point you in the direction of such things. You have to open the proverbial door.

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  28. Modusoperandi;
    I suppose that my problem in reading what is supposed to be products of the scientific method, even in peer-reviewed science journals, is that I can all too easily parse the observations, which anyone could verify, and the worldview adherence interpretations.

    aDios,
    Mariano

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