Quote notes (#75)

A solid traditionalist argument from Nick B. Steves concludes an exploration of self-deception:

What if the veneer of religiosity was cultivated not so much to impress others as to impress — effectively trick — oneself? The human person has a very nearly infinite capacity for self-delusion. That’s why I consider myself religious … but not spiritual. Whatever in religious practice may seem dull, mundane, and ordinary is more to be trusted than those parts of it which seem highly emotional or consciousness-raising.

ADDED: While we’re on the topic of religious tradition —

On one hand [Dawkins] believes that morality, being natural, is a constant thing, stable throughout history. On the other hand, he believes in moral progress. To square the circle he plunges out of his depth, explaining that different ages have different ideas of morality, and that in recent times there has happily been a major advance in our moral conventions: above all, the principle of equality has triumphed. Such changes ‘certainly have not come from religion’, he snaps. He instead points to better education about our ‘common humanity with members of other races and with the other sex — both deeply unbiblical ideas that come from biological science, especially evolution’. But biological science, especially evolution, can be used to authorise eugenics and racism. The real issue is the triumph of an ideology of equality, of humanism. Instead of asking what this tradition is, and where it comes from, he treats it as axiomatic. This is just the natural human morality, he wants us to think, and in our times we are fortunate to see a particularly full expression of it.

April 22, 2014admin 15 Comments »
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15 Responses to this entry

  • bob sykes Says:

    The problem with citing evolution as a source of morality is that it cuts both ways. The only thing selected for by evolution is increased reproduction. Characters only matter to the extent that they contribute to reproduction. Dawkins seems to have forgotten this.

    There is a huge literature on the topic of altruism vs. selfishness. The consensus (arrghhh!) conclusion is that there should be some sort of equilibrium between saints and sinners. A society of saints is open to exploitation by selfish sinners, and a society of sinners is open to subversion by people who cooperate altruistically.

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    Michael Reply:

    this pre supposes all sorts of things, particularly that groups competing have equal proportion of all sorts of traits, abilities, built in goals ,none of that is true. It assumes rational calculation of game theory which doesn’t happen.Perhaps ethno societies reach stasis using these counter weights. But imagine yourself three standard deviations stupider does Galts Gulch still seem like nirvana?
    Forget Dawkins citing evolution as a source of morality its nonsense and he must know it after all the left has been trashing natural law as nothing more than pseudo Christian patriarchial yada yada for decades at least, there is no evolutionary morality in the sense of a cohesive system designed consciously. evolution has no higher inteligence than our own right now, but all the “morality” we have up to now has been crowd sourced by lesser intelligences and system tested in much different environments, our bio chemistry rewards us for feeling sentimental about such morality but that doesn’t mean it still serves us.

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    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 at 11:39 am Reply | Quote
  • Orthodox Says:

    If there’s no God, then there is no punishment for completely exterminating your enemies. The only way you get punished is if you let your enemies live or create new, stronger enemies. As soon as you have a superior weapon, such as an atomic bomb, logic could dictate totally exterminating your enemies to allow your tribe to populate the entire Earth. (Nuclear winter was/is overrated.)

    [Reply]

    Michael Reply:

    logic does dictate destroying your enemies when you have the opportunity, the emotional gene expressions of Europeans make us queasy about it so we play Russian roulette hoping what? an accident will befall them?

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    RiverC Reply:

    Logic doesn’t dictate that at all. It dictates pacifying your enemies when you have the opportunity. As there are a number of ways to do this, including joining your enemies (or getting them to join and be absorbed by you.)

    What we have is more a situation where no one can agree who really is whose enemy nor what methods of pacification really ‘work’ anymore.

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    Michael Reply:

    thats a looser definition of enemy, however Id still say your options are interim solutions till the final solution becomes possible sleep much better not wondering if theyre faking it and what sort of enemy are you willing to join? hey hitler can I join hey stalln want to join nato. hey socialist become a capitalist hey black guy inject some euro genes and stop killing us.

    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 at 12:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • Michael Says:

    @bob sykes
    its not simply reproduction ,its reproduction of ones own DNA; and if resources permit next closest copies in ascending order. As I keep saying leftists are right ,morality is subjective ; theirs included. Whats not subjective is the sole purpose of life ,to reproduce itself ,not love its neighbor. All the rest we think of as morality is actually gene expression that helped at some time in some environment ,possibly still does, or not. But lets not be sentimental. The only demonstrably objective good is the survival and reproduction of ones self and as resources permit a backup plan of assisting other in ascending order of closest copy of ones DNA. Its good because its the whole and only points sans God, and its good because it works, it also happens to be efficient and just ,things we adapted to value. Its the capitalism of the Universe and should be emulated. But of course when I say us Im speaking as DNA the essence of life, to DNA we are mere seed husks. have we reached the point we can overwrite the prime director well I cant help but remember the scene between God of bio genetics and Rutger Hauer the task is to use the tools we wish to eliminate or radically change to effect that change. Is it even possible to have a life form as intellectual as our survive long.perhaps the whole consciousness thing was a mistep in the long run

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    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 at 12:34 pm Reply | Quote
  • Michael Says:

    Now that being said what would a harsh new morality look like. I think this is where we are heading in the dark enlightenment ,and heres a problem, up to now we could imagine an society where we agree to some altruism because joe/jane sixpack is more likely to produce the next bill gates than bill and melinda are. But what if we dont need them anymore to do that and we don’t have any low skilled work needing doing.In other words future developments might make the problems with multi culturalism become problems the Gatica type.I would bet that gene therapy turns most people steadily more european But how do we cope with the genetic singularity the genetic arms race will be as fierce within ethnicities as between ethnicities.

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    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 at 1:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Quote notes (#75) | Reaction Times Says:

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    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 at 1:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    In an interview some years ago, Dawkins invoked the is/ought distinction in order to rebut accusations that atheism sanctions bad behaviour and if we’re just animals why shouldn’t we act like animals, eh? Presented with a ruthless, Ragnar Redbeardian exaltation of the strong over the weak, Dawkins vehemently rejected this view of things and insisted you couldn’t derive it from Darwinism — because you can’t derive an ‘ought’ from ‘is’. Just because nature is red in tooth and claw, it doesn’t follow there is a moral imperative to accept this state of affairs. We are not obliged to be as selfish as our genes: “I see absolutely no reason why, understanding the way the world is, you therefore have to promote it. The darwinian world is a very nasty place: the weakest go to the wall. There’s no pity, no compassion. All those things I abhor, and I will work in my own life in the interests of thoroughly undarwinian things like compassion.”

    But in the next breath Dawkins admitted he couldn’t actually put forward an intellectual argument against Ragnar Redbeard because he can’t derive an ‘ought’ from ‘is’ any more than Ragnar can — he can’t say the strong “ought” to protect the weak, that feelings of outraged empathy imply there is a moral imperative to strive to overcome our selfish instincts: If somebody used my views to justify a completely self-centred lifestyle, which involved trampling all over other people in any way they chose, roughly what, I suppose, at a sociological level social Darwinists did — I think I would be fairly hard put to it to argue on purely intellectual grounds. … I couldn’t, ultimately, argue intellectually against somebody who did something I found obnoxious. … I don’t feel equipped to produce moral arguments in the way I feel equipped to produce arguments of a cosmological and biological kind.”

    So he lamely concludes: “I think it would be more: ‘This is not a society in which I wish to live. Without having a rational reason for it necessarily, I’m going to do whatever I can to stop you doing this.’ … I think I could finally only say, ‘Well, in this society you can’t get away with it’ and call the police.”

    And in that moment he has conceded the basic Redbeardian premise — it all boils down to competing wills striving for supremacy. Dawkins just happens to be lucky that his vision of right currently has a monopoly of might, that he can call the police …

    [Reply]

    nydwracu Reply:

    Rorty said pretty much the same thing, you know…

    (Insofar as Dawkins and Rorty are wrong, it’s because of selection processes / some civilization-scale analogue of game theory. Certain strategies reliably outcompete others. I don’t think that point has been widely grasped yet even within the academy; they’re slow, and now we’re ahead of them.)

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    Handle Reply:

    Well, at least Dawkins is being honest about it, unlike Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne.

    But still, for someone that admits he believes in moral relativism and that his morality is at root just a lot of subjective preferences originating in biological and cultural inheritances and not derivable from any universal natural principle, he’s awfully selective about who he likes to criticize. (And he’s learned the hard way that Islam’s off limits too).

    But if a devout Catholic is asked about abortion and says ‘it’s just wrong’, Dawkins is there to criticize, “Any Fetus Is Less Human Than an Adult Pig.”

    But when Barry Eich gets fired because the hashtag activists think his support for traditional marriage ‘is just wrong’, or when Andrew Sullivan talks about enhanced interrogation with the fully-reasoned argument ‘it’s just wrong!’ – Dawkins does not correct them and say, “No chaps, I’m sorry. I may share your sentiments, but let us be intellectually correct and recognize that these transcendental, universalist moral claims are completely invalid. It is nonsensical to say ‘it is wrong’, and instead you can only say ‘I don’t like it’. I know, I know, it has much less rhetorical heft, well, I’m sorry, that’s how it goes.”

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    fotrkd Reply:

    I was amused by your original ‘I’m more pessimistic…’ post. It was very ‘light’ for such infuriation. Now you just seem to be getting constantly vexed! When did Dawkins learn the hard way about Islam, for instance? Or become the required spokesman for Eich?

    There are serious inconsistencies with Dawkins position. It’s also questionable if he furthers his position in any successful way… for a scientist he seems to have responded towards his (legitimate) fear of organised religion… irrationally.

    As far as nature red in tooth and claw goes… well yes, but it’s clearly a bit more than that too, otherwise the killer apes would have donked us on the heads long ago…

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    laofmoonster Reply:

    Perhaps you can’t derive ought from is, but a moral system that does not take the self-preservation of moral agents into consideration becomes moot.

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    Posted on April 22nd, 2014 at 7:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    fotrkd:

    As far as nature red in tooth and claw goes… well yes, but it’s clearly a bit more than that too

    Sure, there are natural instincts for empathy and cooperation &c. It’s just that they are only natural and Nature is descriptive, not prescriptive. If the ‘is’ is all there is, there is no transcendent imperative to foster those instincts rather than other, less humane ones.

    otherwise the killer apes would have donked us on the heads long ago…

    Haven’t there been significant times and places when donking was the norm? (“At the bottom of the stairs: anarchy, hell, Haiti, Mogadishu, Lagos. For you they are waiting! For you, for you, for you, these hells! For you! Stop on the stairs; listen quietly; hear Mogadishu, in the blackness below, reeking of piss, waiting for you; purring; licking her chops. She wants you. You! And your family! Anarchy is hungry, hungry, always hungry. Insatiable. Yet patient.”)

    laofmoonster:

    a moral system that does not take the self-preservation of moral agents into consideration becomes moot

    Debatable. “For whosoever will save his life …”

    In any case, one might feel self-preservation of the moral agent properly entails the ruthless subordination of other moral agents. (“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”)

    [Reply]

    Posted on April 29th, 2014 at 8:28 pm Reply | Quote

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