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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Religion and science

I see that y'all are debating this issue in response to my previous post. That's fine, though not the topic of the post as I saw it.

As far as I'm concerned, to say "Religion and science are compatible" is simplistic and misleading. There is something true that can be intended those words, but they suggest a lot more that is not true. At the very least, some religious positions are plainly incompatible with well-established science.

It is also simplistic and misleading to say just "Religion and science are incompatible." Doubtless, occasions can be found where I (or people I see as intellectual allies) have used this expression as shorthand. But we've also spent a lot of time elsewhere, or even in the same places, discussing the more complex ideas involved. Let me be clear, though, at least some recognisably religious positions are not in conflict with science. That's because there are some positions that are very thinned out in their epistemic content - in the extreme, they make no supernatural claims at all but merely suggest that there is wisdom to be gained by studying certain traditions or holy books, or psychological value to be gained from participating in certain rituals. I don't think that we are in position where claims such as those are incompatible with well-established scientific findings. Put that broadly, the claims may even be true.

Of course, there may also be wisdom to be gained from studying Shakespeare and psychological benefit to be gained from participating in many purely secular activities (sport, sex, whatever).

Furthermore, I see no conflict between science and a range of religious positions that are thinned out to the point of resembling deism. It's also possible for religious positions to be changed ad hoc to conform to well-established science (although when that happens I think it is rational to reject such a position, whether or not the reasoning is labelled "scientific" or "philosophical").

The interesting question is whether certain traditional or popular claims made by Abrahamic theologians are difficult to reconcile with well-established science. It is when accommodationists seem to suggest blithely that there's no problem, or that even if there are problems we should not say so, that I comment (sometimes trenchantly). There are many problems, IMO. If you want to know what some of them are, well one good place to start would be Philip Kitcher's essay in 50 Voices of Disbelief.

41 comments:

NewEnglandBob said...

I feel that it a bit misleading to talk about the 'thinned out' religious positions or deism when none of that applies to the majority of the 2 to 3 billion people who follow the Abrahamic religions.

I do not know of anyone who is a deist. Are you talking about the people who say "I don't have a religion but there must be some higher power"? Those people are not deists, they just don't think about religion or gods.

I also do not think that people who claim religion and science are incompatible would argue that there can be no value to be gained from participating in certain rituals. Life is a series of large and small rituals.

Russell, can you give us an example of a major religion that is compatible? Buddhism, maybe?

Russell Blackford said...

No, not really. I actually think that all the popular religious positions run into problems with science. IMO, there's almost bound to be a problem once you start thinking in terms of human exceptionalism and/or of a providential and loving deity.

Perhaps there's a form of watered-down Buddhism that is fully consistent with science, but I think it would be no more than a philosophy of self, perhaps plus meditative techniques (and without any sort of reincarnation, even of the variety preached by the classic Buddhist sages such as Nagasena, which denied that there is a spiritual self that can transmigrate).

Still, I do think that some (usually Western) Buddhists have very thinned out views that are probably compatible with science. Also, many (usually highy educated) Christians have very thinned out religious views. This may even be more typical than otherwise of the Anglican Church in the less evangelical dioceses of Western countries. Maybe not many go as far as Shelby Spong, but I bet a lot go a long way down the same path.

H.E. Baber, who often debates with Ophelia Benson, seems to think that something like "deism + ritual" is pretty much it in her circle of US Episcopalians, and who am to say she is wrong about them?

I agree that it's hard to find a classic 18th-century type deist who identifies with Thomas Paine, etc., although I gather such people do exist. I came across a website for such views once, but I have no idea how popular it is.

Anonymous said...

Not only are they compatible, but both are necessary. "Faith and reason are the two shoes on your feet. You'll get farther wearing both then only wearing one."

Going back to Augustine and Aquinas, Catholics have never had a problem reconcling religon and science.

The first avoids the ignorance of the fundy.

The second avoids the nihilism of the atheist.

NewEnglandBob said...

Anonymous, back up some of those platitudes with reason. I see none of what you comment. Faith and reason are incompatible with each other.

Anonymous said...

"Faith and reason are incompatible with each other."

Both are compatible as yin and yang, and as necessary. The first deals with teleos. The second with mechanos. Both are necessary to a balanced and healthy world view.

Unless you are an ignorant fundy.

Or a nihilistic atheist.

A pox on both their houses.

DEEN said...

@Russel: I agree there very well might be religious subgroups that are rarefied enough to not clash with science. But I was wondering how they came to be that way?

I can only come up with two possibilities for now:
1) They actually do have a reliable communication channel with a supernatural entity, and were told to stay away from making certain claims. But this claim in itself is a conflict with science.
2) They have basically surrendered to science, and removed everything from religion (or as much as they dared) that could possibly conflict with science. I suppose you could see this as "compatibility", but it surely doesn't put religion on the same level as science.

What do you think?

DEEN said...

@Anonymous: what about atheists that are not nihilists?

Anonymous said...

"what about atheists that are not nihilists?"

I would claim that it is not logically posible for an atheist to avoid nihilism. First, one must distinguish between existential nihilism and moral nihilism. As for atheism inevitably resulting in nihilism the argument is in four parts:

1. Without a God, existence is but a meaningless (if fortunate) accident. Accidents by definition can have no meaning or purpose, they just happen. Only a deliberate act of Creation done with forethought and with an ultimate aim in mind can give Existence an inherent meaning or purpose. Lacking such a Creator, Existence is pointless.

2. Without a soul, consciousness and the Self are merely illusions incapable of the free will (which is also an illusion) or volition necessary to create meaning. Therefore it is impossible to really create meaning as even the most sophisticated of us are merely products of our brain chemistry and genetic programming.

3. Furthermore, all actions in an inherently meaningless universe, no matter how devoted or passionate, are themselves meaningless gestures in a cold indifferent universe.

4. Atheism provides no basis for universal, inherent human dignity and is indeed corrosive of the very concept. Where in Selfish Gene theory is the mandate for me to treat a Black man as my equal? Where does materialism require me to accept all men as my brothers? Or treat them better than convenience and self interest would require?

The atheist would counter that he can create his own meaning. Such meaning I would argue exists only between his ears and is merely a form of solipcism. If you have Walter Mitty-ish fantasies of power and glory are you in reality powerful and glorious?

Morally, existentially and individually atheism is inherently and inescapably nihilistic.

NewEnglandBob said...

Anonymous, your four points are nothing but unsubstantiated dogma.

You are an inflexible theist who is blinded by 'purpose'. You want it so bad that you can't live without it.

Anonymous said...

"You want it so bad that you can't live without it."

Well it does help avoid the pit of nihilism inherent in atheism.

Anonymous said...

"your four points are nothing but unsubstantiated dogma."

Then it should be easy for you to refute them logically and empirically.

Please do so.

DEEN said...

"Atheism provides no basis for universal, inherent human dignity"
Since atheism is merely an absence of belief in Gods, atheism doesn't really provide a basis for anything, so this is trivially true. That doesn't make all atheists nihilists, it just means that atheists tend to ascribe to other more positive philosophies as well, such as humanism.

Besides, there is ample empirical evidence for emotions such as empathy. This explains respect for human dignity just fine, as well as why most people follow the Golden Rule. In turn, empathy can easily be explained in evolutionary terms.

There is also no contradiction between a cold and indifferent universe, and the fact that we experience life as rich and meaningful. It's meaningful to us. Who cares if it's meaningful to the universe?

But all of this is besides the point. Even if you were right that atheism leads to the conclusion that life is inherently meaningless, that would not be an argument against the validity of atheism. At most, it's an argument for why you would desire atheism to be invalid. It's a classic case of a logical fallacy called "appeal to consequences". Because of this, we don't even need to refute every single point you make.

You know, in light of the civility discussion in the other thread, I'd like to add that being uncivil can save a person a lot of effort. I can't rule out the possibility that NewEnglandBob made a much better trade-off in effort and civility.

NewEnglandBob said...

Anonymous:

"You want it so bad that you can't live without it."

Well it does help avoid the pit of nihilism inherent in atheism.

Nihilism is NOT inherent in atheism. One must turn the purpose driven life into the life driven purpose. One makes one's own contentment without an artificial other-worldly-delusion.

NewEnglandBob said...

anonymous:

your four points are nothing but unsubstantiated dogma."

Then it should be easy for you to refute them logically and empirically.

First you need to support your points logically and empirically instead of just floating them out as dogma.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you are really just begging the question. You are defining "meaning" and "purpose" in such a way that atheists can't even believe they exist. But what justification do you have to believe your definitions are the correct ones to use in this discussion? Why must there be such a thing as an "inherent purpose"? What if life is pointless (in the sense that you mean)? Is that really a logical impossibility, or just a possibility of which you're not very fond?

To actually talk about this, we need definitions of "meaning" and "purpose" that both sides can agree on. Give us such a definition and we can start to talk about whether your argument (1) might have any validity.

Similar with (2), but for free will. Define it. Go ahead. But I warn you, no one in the history of the world has ever come up with a satisfactory definition for free will that allows any kind of rigorous analysis of the concept.

Consider the following questions:

Is it possible to feel like free will even if you don't really have it? Would it be possible to tell the difference between having free will and merely feeling like you have free will (when you actually don't)? These are the kinds of questions that make it impossible to rigorously discuss "free will".

Define free will and we can begin to talk about whether (2) could possibly be valid.

(3) is contingent on (1). If you cannot show us why (1) is valid, then there's no reason to believe (3) is valid either. It's basically the same point.

For (4), I assume you don't expect the fact that you like chocolate ice cream or the fact that you enjoy Tom Clancy novels to provide you with any sort of moral compass. Similarly, there's no reason to expect that being a bowler or a software engineer to do so either. Then why would you expect atheism to do so? Human beings can form identities based on notions that have no bearing on morality.

Atheists don't get their morals from atheism -- obviously. They get them from somewhere else. And I guarantee they do because I am an atheist and almost all my friends are either atheists or hard agnostics. And I would never hope to meet a more loving group of people. They treat strangers like friends and friends like family. They not only avoid hurting others to benefit themselves -- they go out of their way to help others. You have to explain away the existence of all these moral atheist before you can convince me that atheism is injurious to human morals.

Plus, in my experience, the morals of atheists tend to be more humanist than religious morals. Let's not forget that slavery, racism in general, and sexual inequalities have all traditionally been supported with religious arguments.

Questions: Do you personally know any atheists? Who gave you these ideas about atheism? Did you talk to any atheists in the course of forming these ideas? Did you read any atheist philosophers talking about meaning, purpose, or the like before deciding all this? Basically, what are these conclusions based on?

-Dan L.

Anonymous said...

"One must turn the purpose driven life into the life driven purpose."

Meaning what exactly?

"One makes one's own contentment without an artificial other-worldly-delusion."

The issue is creating meaning while inhabiting an existence without inherent meaning or purpose. It can't be done.

NewEnglandBob said...

"The issue is creating meaning while inhabiting an existence without inherent meaning or purpose. It can't be done."

It is done all the time. What meaning does religion give? the fear of retribution from sky-daddy? Please.

Anonymous said...

"First you need to support your points logically and empirically instead of just floating them out as dogma."

OK, let's take them one at a time.

Accidents by definition are mere chance events without meaning or purpose. There is no reason why they should happen. They serve no funtion and are not the product of willful intent.

Accidents can be fortuitous, but remain devoid inherent meaning no matter how good their results.

Sans a Creator (not necessarily a deity, it could be an alien scientist in a parallel universe creating another bubble universe while experimenting with an LHC of his own), the existence of our Universe is but an accidental by product of the Big Bang.

Without a Creator, existence in inherently meaningless and without purpose - it has no reason for existing.

So far so good?

tomh said...

Anonymous wrote:
I would claim that it is not logically posible for an atheist to avoid nihilism.

You can claim anything you want - everyone is entitled to an opinion and most everyone has an opinion. But your four opinions listed are easily refuted by contrary opinions that have just as much evidence to back them as yours do.

1. Only a deliberate act of Creation done with forethought and with an ultimate aim in mind can give Existence an inherent meaning or purpose.

Not true. Existence can have as much meaning or purpose as one's individual mind can invent.

2. Without a soul, consciousness and the Self are merely illusions incapable of the free will (which is also an illusion) or volition necessary to create meaning.

Not true. There is no soul, consciousness is an outgrowth of brain activity. No illusions involved and no external force necessary.

3. Furthermore, all actions in an inherently meaningless universe, no matter how devoted or passionate, are themselves meaningless gestures in a cold indifferent universe.

Not true. Actions are as meaningful as the actors make them. You speak as if the "universe" passes judgment on human actions, giving them meaning or a lack thereof.

4. Atheism provides no basis for universal, inherent human dignity and is indeed corrosive of the very concept.

Not true. Atheism allows one to throw off the mind-numbing shackles of god-worship and realize the inherent dignity of reality.

The atheist would counter that he can create his own meaning. Such meaning I would argue exists only between his ears ...

Well, of course it does. Just as your god-worshipping dignity only exists between your ears.

Anonymous said...

"That doesn't make all atheists nihilists, it just means that atheists tend to ascribe to other more positive philosophies"

My argument would be that a purely materialistic world view provides no basis for such philosophies. they just don't have a basis for objective morality or a foundation for ethics as there can be no concept of universal human diginity in a materialistic world view.

It's like Wiley Coyote stepping off a cliff. For a few moments he hovers in mid air until he notices that...
there...
is...
nothing...
supporing ...
him.

It's not that atheism makes you bad, it just doesn't give you a reason for being good.

Anonymous said...

"Besides, there is ample empirical evidence for emotions such as empathy. This explains respect for human dignity just fine, as well as why most people follow the Golden Rule. In turn, empathy can easily be explained in evolutionary terms."

There is ample evidence for emotions such as hate. Claims that evolution alone provides a sufficient basis for human dignity fly int the face of the first law of ecology - the primary threat to any organism's survival comes from emmbers of its own species. This is especially true of species, such as ourselves, that lack true predators. We provide our own competition.

The Romans had a saying derived from harsh reality: "man is a wolf to man". Too much is made of selfless altruism found in nature, like Wilson's self sacrificing ants that give their lives for the sake of their sisters. Such altruism is far from universal. Indeed it is limited to only those members of the organism's immediate breeding group. These same selfless ants are just as capable of slaughtering the members of a rival colony.

Our evolutionary cousins , the chimpanzees (with 98.4% of our genetic makeup) are nasty bastards that wage war, hunting down and killing chimps from rival troops. They kill the "Other" without hesitation and with apparent delight.

So where in nature is the dictat that I should universally treat all humans, especially those that are different than myself, with decency and dignity?

There is no purely material basis for universal morality. Modern Darwinists can respond that selfish genes do not always make selfish people, because it may be in the interests of the genes to encourage some forms of social cooperation, particularly within the family. For example, a mother might spread her genes most effectively by sacrificing her own life to preserve the lives of her offspring, who carry the same genes.

That's a pretty weak reassurance when contemplating the kinds of things that commissars and fuehrers tend to do. Stronger medicine is required if Darwinism is to avoid the obloquy that now attaches to "social Darwinism," and so Dawkins desperately tries to square his gene theory with some acceptable morality by proposing a robot rebellion. He writes: "Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to."

This is not only absurd but embarrassingly naive. If human nature is actually constructed by genes whose predominant quality is a ruthless selfishness, then pious lectures advocating qualities like generosity and altruism are probably just another strategy for furthering selfish interests. Ruthless predators are often moralistic in appearance, because that is how they disarm their intended victims. The genes who teach their robot vehicles not to take morality seriously, but to take advantage of fools who do, will have a decisive advantage in the Darwinian competition. If a man is preparing his son for a career with the Chicago mafia, he'd better not teach him to be loving and trusting. But he might teach him to feign loyalty while he is planning treachery!

Anonymous said...

"It's meaningful to us. Who cares if it's meaningful to the universe?"

As I said before, such meaningfulness exists only between your ears as a form of solipcism.

I'll ask again, if you have Walter Mitty-ish fanatsies of power and fame are you really powerful and famous?

Anonymous said...

"Even if you were right that atheism leads to the conclusion that life is inherently meaningless, that would not be an argument against the validity of atheism. At most, it's an argument for why you would desire atheism to be invalid. It's a classic case of a logical fallacy called "appeal to consequences". "

The claims that God does exist or does not exist are equally faith statements in that even n principle neither claim is falsifiable or testable either empirically or logically. Both claims are meaningless in a Popperian sense. When faced with such a situation, all one can do is argue the consequences of each claim.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

My argument would be that a purely materialistic world view provides no basis for such philosophies. they just don't have a basis for objective morality or a foundation for ethics as there can be no concept of universal human diginity in a materialistic world view.

There is no such thing as objective morality. Is homosexuality morally bad? Is the answer to that question an objective fact? Then why is there such a disagreement about it? We can say the same about alcohol use, eating pork, fellatio...the list goes on. Provide some reason to believe there is such a thing as "objective morality" and we can talk about it.

You seem to be an incredibly unsophisticated philosophical thinker. You refuse to engage in any but the most shallow analyses of the notions of "meaning," "purpose," or "free will" and now "objective morality." Given this, why should we take anything you have to say seriously?

Also, you seem to say that atheists, because they have no escape clause to god, are subject only to morality derived through developmental biology. What is this assumption based on? What's wrong with the notion of morality as a cultural artifact? Last I checked, atheists DID believe in culture.

-Dan L.

Anonymous said...

The claims that God does exist or does not exist are equally faith statements in that even n principle neither claim is falsifiable or testable either empirically or logically. Both claims are meaningless in a Popperian sense. When faced with such a situation, all one can do is argue the consequences of each claim.

This isn't strictly true. Well, it is if we're talking about "god," not "God." Basically, we can't falsify the statement "there is a god with unknown attributes." But as soon as you ascribe attributes to a god (say, by referring to God -- the Abrahamic God certainly has attributes ascribed to it), we have a statement "There is a god with known attributes." We can falsify this by showing how a god with those attributes could not possibly exist in our world. For instance, we can rule out the Greek gods because we've been to the top of Olympus and -- surprise -- nobody's home.

If anyone could actually agree on what the attributes of the Abrahamic God are, then we could try to falsify that as well.

And arguing from consequences still cannot show whether an idea is true or not, regardless of whether it's the only option we have.

--Dan L.

Anonymous said...

"There is no such thing as objective morality."

My point exactly - if you don't believe in God there can be objective basis for morality and human dignity - both of which are unnatural concepts contrary to human nature. As such, a non material spiritual basis must be provided to justify and enforce restrictions we would not naturally embrace as a species.

"Is homosexuality morally bad?"

It's anti-Darwinian. Species and individuals that fail to breed are evolutionairy failures. Furthermore, the rupturing of membranes from this practice provides a ready path for disease vectors, not just HIV. As such it would have to be rated as "immoral" as obesity, heavy smoking, or drunk driving.

Ironically, the RCC with its "culture of life" (against homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia, abortion, etc.) is superior in a Darwinian sense than its critics.

"Is the answer to that question an objective fact?"

Yes, as objective and factual as evolution.

"Then why is there such a disagreement about it?"

Fear of being labelled un-PC inhibits people from examining the issue in dispassionate darwinian terms.

"We can say the same about alcohol use"

Causing more deaths and addictions than all other drugs combined.

"eating pork"

Unhealthy and unsafe to eat prior to the modern era. Leviticus is not a moral code so much as a health code.

NewEnglandBob said...

Anonymous said:

"Without a Creator, existence in inherently meaningless and without purpose - it has no reason for existing.

So far so good?"

No, totally irrelevant. It needs no meaning. That is your poroblem.

NewEnglandBob said...

Again, I see no real arguments from Anonymous that are even worth talking about. I guess when you believe in woo, it seems OK to fabricate.

Anonymous said...

"It needs no meaning."

Existence needs no meaning only if you are a nihilist.

DEEN said...

@Anonymous:
"As I said before, such meaningfulness exists only between your ears as a form of solipcism."
If that's true, then your God also only exists in your head. But since I can give meaning to the lives of my loved ones, as they give meaning to my life, I'd say it exists beyond just between my own ears. And solipsism? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

"There is no purely material basis for universal morality."
There's no purely religious basis for universal morality either. While many religions claim an objective moral standard, they are all quite different and nowhere near universal.

"'Is homosexuality morally bad?'

It's anti-Darwinian."

Why are you using how "Darwinian" homosexuality is to answer this question? Even though you don't consider it a proper basis for morality?

I think I'm going to have to agree with NewEnglandBob, you're just trying wasting our time. It's all pretty much off-topic anyway. I'm going to ignore this thread for now, and check back tomorrow to see if there are more comments about the original topic. Good night all.

DamianP said...

Anonymous, who is actually andyet:

Neither a belief in God, nor an adherence to the bible, provides you with an objective basis for morality or meaning. I'm sure that you have heard of Plato's Euthyphro dilemma (which can be used just as effectively against meaning/purpose, as it it is for morality), so I won't bother to repeat it here. Very few philosophers are convinced by the arguments that have been put forward in an attempt to escape from it, but I don't even need that to show that you don't adhere to an objective morality (or that meaning/purpose is dependent on God).

You are a Catholic, I believe (do I have that right?). Even if you aren't, I suspect that you belong to a particular Christian denomination. The very act of accepting the moral teachings of that denomination has already condemned you to a level of subjectivity in everything else that you believe.

In other words, there is no objective method of deciding between, not only the various moral teachings of the myriad of different religions (Islam, Christianity, etc), but also between the 33,000 denominations of Christianity, specifically (most of which teach slightly different things). If you know of an objective method, let's hear it.

Also, can you provide scriptural support for any of the thousands of modern moral dilemma's (child custody cases, drink driving, etc) that we face today, which weren't even thought of when the bible was constructed? If not, how do you decide what is moral in those instances?

The answer, of course, is that you do as all atheists do, only you won't admit it.

As to your contention that life is meaningless without God, unless you either provide a sound logical argument for that position (which you haven't done), or else, show how each and every ethical system that doesn't rely on a belief in God is wrong (i.e. everything that moral philosophers have been working on for centuries), you will remain unconvincing.

And even if you could fulfill those demands, it is empirically true that atheists are just as moral as theists, without any guidance from God. That should tell you something.

By the way, when you say that God provides meaning and purpose, what do you mean, exactly? How does He do it? What you mean, of course, is that you read the bible and you believe in God, and that that is somehow more meaningful than anything that an atheist is able to experience. It's absurd on its face (and it completely ignores the reality of meaning and purpose in human culture). The only way that it could be true is if you could show, empirically, that God "puts" something inside of you that I don't have.

Now get to work refuting all of those moral philosophers of the last two thousand or more years.

Anonymous said...

My point exactly - if you don't believe in God there can be objective basis for morality and human dignity - both of which are unnatural concepts contrary to human nature. As such, a non material spiritual basis must be provided to justify and enforce restrictions we would not naturally embrace as a species.

Anonymous, you're just flailing at this point. Can you even begin to define "human nature" in a way that doesn't beg the question? My point exactly is this:

EVEN THOSE WHO CLAIM TO GET "OBJECTIVE" MORALITY FROM GOD CANNOT AGREE ON WHAT IS OR ISN'T MORAL. Therefore, "objective morality" cannot possibly be objective -- if it was, people who had this "objective morality" would be able to agree on the answers to moral questions.

It's anti-Darwinian. Species and individuals that fail to breed are evolutionairy failures. Furthermore, the rupturing of membranes from this practice provides a ready path for disease vectors, not just HIV. As such it would have to be rated as "immoral" as obesity, heavy smoking, or drunk driving.

Maybe it's not anti-Darwinian. Maybe it's a natural human response to overpopulation -- some people stop procreating. That would be very Darwinian. Also, homosexual sex is not actually much more dangerous in terms of tissue damage than heterosexual sex (that is to say, heterosexual sex without proper lubricant can also be very injurious to vaginal tissue). But these issues are beside the point -- being a result of evolutionary processes does not make something moral. This is not an argument for homosexuality being moral or immoral. You fail.

Ironically, the RCC with its "culture of life" (against homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia, abortion, etc.) is superior in a Darwinian sense than its critics.

The above is so stupid that I'm just going to ignore it.

"Is the answer to that question an objective fact?"

Yes, as objective and factual as evolution.


You didn't answer the question, so I cannot accept your answer to the meta question. Is homosexuality immoral? How do you know?

Fear of being labelled un-PC inhibits people from examining the issue in dispassionate darwinian terms.

That's really stupid too. I'm not worried about being PC or not PC, and I still think homosexuality is perfectly moral. In fact, since I personally know homosexuals and am aware of their coming-out stories, I know that they were born gay. And so even if there was such a thing as God, since he created these people gay, it would be moral to be gay.

Again, evolutionary theory cannot tell us what is moral or immoral. Why do you keep bringing up "Darwinism"?

Unhealthy and unsafe to eat prior to the modern era. Leviticus is not a moral code so much as a health code.

That's an unsubstantiated theory about pork. In fact, pork facilitated the spread of civilization everywhere because they're incredibly efficient at recycling human trash into human calories. The pig has been a staple part of the diets of successful populations since about 5000 BC. It was the principal source of protein for the colonization of New Guinea and other south Pacific islands.

I disagree about Leviticus, to keep it brief. Strange that I take the Bible more seriously than you do, though.

--Dan L.

NewEnglandBob said...

"Existence needs no meaning only if you are a nihilist."

You have won the "stupidest statement of the day" award, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

Causing more deaths and addictions than all other drugs combined.

Don't tell the pope. He calls wine a sacrament, and from what I hear, he's always right.

--Dan L.

Anonymous said...

"Why are you using how "Darwinian" homosexuality is to answer this question? Even though you don't consider it a proper basis for morality?"

It's as "immoral" as eating shellfish, and for the same reasons. Leviticus probably bans shellfish as an "abomination" because a few Hebrews experienced a deadly allergic reaction to eating them. To be on the safe side, the Levites banned it for everyone. In order to stay strong in competition with other desert tribes and while conquering the promised land, activities that harmed the health of the individual were banned by dietary restrictions. Those that affected the tribes birth rate were also banned.

From a Darwinian point of view it all makes perfect sense.

NewEnglandBob said...

Once again, the ignorance knows no bounds from Anonymous:

"From a Darwinian point of view it all makes perfect sense."

Using Darwin's theory to explain how an iron age people, 3000 years before Darwin's birth, wrote their fairy tale bible is laughable.

The ignorance compounds itself because anonymous thinks conscious decisions are done by natural selection.

Anonymous said...

The limits of NEB's debating skills:

"You're stoopid!"

And here I was under the impression that atheists were supposed to be brighter than everyone else. Silly me.

Care to actually address any of my points?

NewEnglandBob said...

Anonymous:

No, not until you make some. Dogma doesn't count.

Your ignorance speaks volumes.

DEEN said...

"And here I was under the impression that atheists were supposed to be brighter than everyone else. Silly me."
It's not our intelligence you're challenging. It's our patience.

"Care to actually address any of my points?"
Why should we? We've addressed most of them already, and you don't really address ours points either.

But I'll give you one last chance. You said:
"Without a Creator, existence in inherently meaningless and without purpose - it has no reason for existing."
Show us you can actually think and answer this question: what is the reason the Creator exists? Answers involving circular reasoning will not be accepted.

Russell Blackford said...

For Zeus's sake will the people who post as "Anonymous" please adopt identities so we can follow this more easily?

Russell Blackford said...

DEEN, I agree with your (2). I think this phenomenon is evidence that the religions concerned are human constructions, not divinely inspired.

Like I say, the claim: "Religion and science are compatible" is simplistic and misleading. It's certainly not the sort of claim that a body such as the NCSE or the AAAS should be making.