Author Topic: Re: Top-downers and Bottom-uppers  (Read 2553 times)

Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: Top-downers and Bottom-uppers
« on: December 03, 2014, 02:20:16 PM »
Under the right physical and chemical conditions, oxygen and hydrogen self assemble into water. One example where this happens is in mitochondrial respiration, with no need for a "programmer" or "designer" to overlook it. I don't see it as an "unexpected surprise", but an inevitable outcome because of their properties. However, with your logic, you'll just say that something designed the laws of the universe to make it that way. I think I'll continue to stick with Occam's Razor as adding a designer really adds no explanatory power whatsoever.

You might as well say that there's no need to postulate an author for this post since these letters, words, phrases, and sentences might have (a) always existed, or (b) emerged by chance. We need to keep in mind not only Occam's Razor, but Einstein's admonition as well: "As simple as possible, but no simpler." Adding a designer provides a sufficient cause for the observed effects in both examples. Without a sufficient cause your solution is oversimplified.

I don't believe in objective morality in that way, religious people do and they're usually the first to want to impose their version of morality on others.

Earlier you said, "Society condemns people like sociopaths and narcissists not because they act differently, but specifically because their actions can cause harm to others and that's where the line is drawn. If they didn't harm others, I would see no reason to care." It seems to me that, in that statement, society (and you) are appealing to a moral standard -- "It's wrong to harm others" -- and that you expect others to abide by this dictate. But why should we, if this standard -- "It's wrong to harm others" -- is nothing more than a temporary consensus among a particular group of people? And especially when we consider the practical meaning of the word "others" in that dictate. The full version (if we're not allowed to appeal to an objective moral standard) reads something like this: "It's wrong to harm others who do not conform to the norms (ie, whims) of our particular society." Note that I equate "norms" with "whims" -- what else can they be if there is no permanent and objective standard?

There's a difference IMO between feeling disgusted at a behaviour and morally condemning it.

You're right. Being disgusted is an emotion. Condemning an act on moral grounds is a judgement. The two meet in the moral indignation I mentioned earlier.

That comment has got me thinking, in many ways the christian god is accountable to nobody but himself. He says don't kill but orders the killing of millions in the bible, so he's above the moral code he wants humans to follow.

It's a sloppy translation. The commandment, in the original Hebrew, reads, "Thou shalt not murder." And that's clearly the intent since the text then goes on to describe under what conditions capital punishment is allowed.

As far as God being "above the law" -- that's a more difficult question because it seems that we have to say either (a) that the Law is below God and is therefore really nothing but a reflection of His whims; or (b) that the Law is above God and that he must submit to it (which would make the Law greater than God and He would thus no longer be God). The Christian solution is to assert that God IS the Law -- ie, they cannot be separated.

Now I know that sounds like an evasion, but it's not really a theological problem at all; it's a limitation of human reason that causes the quandary, and we meet with the same kind of paradoxes in all sorts of mundane things as well. Like numbers. Mathematicians will tell you that the set of all even integers, and the set of all odd integers, are both infinite. Which would make you think that they are the same size. And mathematicians will tell you that they are the same size. But they will also tell you that the set of all integers -- even and odd together -- is also infinite, and of equal size to either of the "smaller" sets. And they prove this by showing you that the set of all even integers can be "mapped", one for one, onto the the set of all integers (eg, 2 maps to 1, 4, maps to 2, 6 maps to 3, etc): since there's a match for every integer, there must be the same number of each. And of course normal brains go "tilt" at this point and begin to suspect that it's all just word games when we talk about such things. As we suspect it is when theologians start talking about God being identical with (but still more than) the Moral Law. My conclusion: some things are beyond our understanding and always will be. But we shouldn't mistake a mathematical or philosophical problem for a theological one.

Have you read Machiavelli's The Prince?

Bits a pieces, a long time ago. What a cynic!

Like I said before, I think operating as if there is a father figure in heaven waiting to judge you for your transgressions is a little immature.

And you're absolutely right in thinking that. It's an immature picture of God suited for the immature. As my younger son at first obeys me because I'm simply bigger and more powerful and can force my will on him, but later obeys me because he has come to believe that I have his best interest at heart.

Jesus describes Hell as the place where "the worm [of resentment] dies not and the fire [of unsatisfied desire] is not quenched." So picture a person who is constantly "closing himself in" by holding grudges, and wishing for revenge, etc. Such a one, left to his own devices, will eventually become a person who cannot escape the prison he has made for himself: a place where "the worm [of resentment] dies not and the fire [of unsatisfied desire] is not quenched." I'm sure you see how that picture -- the one given by the Man Himself -- differs from the immature picture of an arbitrary Judge punishing some poor helpless creature for mere temporal weakness. And I'm sure you can imagine how it works the other way as well: a person who is continually "opening himself up" with acts of increasing gratitude and kindness and loyalty and fortitude will eventually become the kind of person fitted for a world where "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

As for your example, if the wife felt she was being harmed by her husband's view on their marriage then I don't know why she just wouldn't leave him. If she's okay with it, then I really don't see a problem. Marriage is less about love and more about social contracts these days anyways, at least in most examples that I see around me.

Marriage has always been about "two becoming one flesh" in the combined DNA of their offspring. The rub is that it doesn't take just a few seconds of copulation to make a person; nor does it take just nine months of incubation in the womb; it takes a lifetime: and during that lifetime the "new life" needs a stable and nurturing environment: ideally, a father, a mother, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Other caring people over, under, before, behind, to the left and to the right. The institution of marriage attempts to promote that stable and nurturing environment.

Like I said before, I don't find fault with sociopaths and narcissists existing, especially since I do think that their brains are wired differently. My sister was diagnosed with anti-social disorder, I can't feel any indignation unless she does something to harm someone else, can I? They are more prone to behave badly than otherwise normal people, and that's where the line needs to be drawn.

There you go drawing those lines again. And expecting others (like you sister) to stay within them. If she strays are you going to try to force her back in the box you've drawn?

Don't get me wrong -- I think people acting in concert have a God-given right to encourage and insist and in some cases even compel others to stay inside the box of Objective Morality. But now let's take "God" and "given rights" and "objective" out of that statement as see what's left: "People acting in concert may choose to encourage and insist and in some cases even compel others to stay inside a box of their own imagining." Kind of hard to think something like that is binding on me.

A system where psychopaths couldn't exist would be seriously flawed, IMO.

And that's apparently what God thought when He allowed for free will in His creation: those kinds of things are necessary evils; the kind of things that can't be avoided if people are to be truly free to make real choices. And that's a clue to the oft-asked question about how an all-good God could create such a mess as we see around us.

Like I said I don't believe in moral objectivity or a black and white view of the world.

Objective Morality is hardly black and white. God apparently knows we like puzzles and He's left this one (and many others) for us to work on. But the fun isn't in deciding if Objective Morality exists or not: the game begins once you accept that it does and you start trying to figure out exactly what it says.

But I assume theists do...

Well, this theist doesn't. See above.

so what gives the supernatural the right to sit in moral judgment of another? Or a religious person who vehemently believes that some version god in on their side? 

God has a right to sit in judgement over His creatures simply because they're His -- He created them. Parents can sit in judgement over their children because this right has been delegated to them by God. Etc. There's a recommended chain of command and it's our job to (a) discover exactly what it is, and (b) to implement it. Again, the fun is not in wandering around trying to decide if there is a chain of command; the game begins in earnest once you accept that there is such a chain and you go looking for your place in it.