Amazon.com Widgets

« Daily Show: To Kill a Mockingturd - Pakistani Intelligence | Main | Links With Your Coffee - Friday »

Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?


 

Comments

as a "surfer" of the history ideas, i'd like to thank 1gm for giving me the opportunity to "surf" this wave of the new atheism movement or whatever it's called. i'ts been a real rush. watching the wave recede has been sad and painful at times. including the loss of enthusiasm of fellow surfers here. there were heady days indeed, when the horsemen unleashed their fury on an unsuspecting and poorly prepared opposition, an opposition that had "grown fat, and kicked", that took it's own power for granted. it reminded me of the summer of '77, if you were a young punk, part of a wave overcoming the dinosaurs of classic rock, bringing new life and new enthusiasm to the hoary stone table.

which i was.

and one day, i realized that punk, as i had known it, was dead, had completely sold out and been derailed. and that the "dinosaurs", zep, the who, the beatles, etc,, would continue to be listened to and discussed and have influence much farther into the future, and for many more people, than, say, the buzzcocks or even (i tremble to mention their holy name) the ramones. i realized that, great as the clash were, there were only 4 or 5 songs they might be remembered for, and they werent' even their best songs. and that, no matter how eternal my love for patti smith might be, no one else would ever care.

strange as this may sound, this is how i felt watching this clip of people whose presence and impact in the world i have enjoyed very much for years, who challenged the self-satisfied old order. in this clip, i finally and depressingly saw the "young turks" (harris and dawkins) as bloodless, calculating, often incoherent and finally, and most damagingly, unentertaining and irrelevant. woe to the young turks who fail to entertain.

incoherency, on the other hand, is not necessarily a sin unless coherency is a pillar of your platform.

but here in this clip the number of straw man arguments, the amount of casual digression and circular arguments (" i define x as the worst possible thing. if you don't admit it's the worst possible thing you're illogical, since i have defined it as such.") and the clear ivory tower "i have no fucking clue what's happening on the ground and don't really care" attitude point clearly to men who have completely given up caring about what they actually say and are merely feeding some kind of media machine which, in turn, spits out their paychecks.

this is exactly what happened to the punks in the late 70's. i saw it happen then and i'm seeing it happen now with these ridiculously disconnected men who, like those punks, even the best ones, had no respect for their audiences. it works the same way: at the beginning, their lack of respect for the people supporting them defines their authenticity. at the end, it defines their irrelevance.

just one example of harris's disconnect from the real world: at one point, about halfway through, just speculating for no apparent reason ("riffing" in musical terminology, to keep the analogy going) he says "what if there were a "happiness pill"? a pill that would cure grief and other forms of misery? would you take it, would you want to take it, wouldn't you rather, perhaps, experience your grief at least for a little while before seeking oblivion?"

"oblivion" having earlier been described by mr. harris as the ultimate happiness, with no context or evidence.

so, is this ignorant, or disingenuous? could mr. harris be unaware of the existence and use and abuse of such "happiness pills" throughout human history? is he unaware of the multitude of studies, both on humans and animals, involving addiction to such "happiness pills" and how likely it is for a sentient creature, in pain, to turn to them, and how fast?

he asks his question as if he doesn't know. he even postulates that "one day, such a pill may be created", as if he had never heard of the opium poppy (for instance).

this is, for the love of the fsm, THE MANS AREA OF EXPERTISE! he is clearly on autopilot throughout this "death of the new atheism" fest, his anaesthatized body breaking on the rocks of the question of science and morality- in public- and he doesn't even care. he's feeding the machine.

"new atheism" is dead. looking for the next paradigm. i'm shooting for some form of gnosticism. you know, the world was created by some kind of demon, who himself was created by a completely amoral and eternal source of ultimate power. it's about as likely as harris and dawkins adding anything significant to the gene pool or the history of ideas. and between the demon and the amoral source, i just want to know which one i need to pray to for a musical revolution in this foul, tired, jaded, overstimulated "year of our lord" 2011.

:)

My life is too short to read this in its entirety.

you know, the world was created by some kind of demon, who himself was created by a completely amoral and eternal source of ultimate power.

beckerism is dead. Now the silly becker is recycling old ideas - for which he gets a little credit, I guess. I mean, it is fucking absurd to hold Yahweh up as "good", so the idea that we all had it wrong and really God is a bastard made a little more sense when the silly becker floated the idea years ago. But it is still pretty dumb. So ... beckerism has clearly run its course, reduced now to baiting the gnu atheists.

How can not believing in God be "dead"? The reply to this idiocy is the same: "not playing with hula hoops" isn't a fad that goes out of fashion.

I gave up my life long hobby of not Skiing.

tim, some schoolin' for the prof.

Now the silly becker is recycling old ideas - for which he gets a little credit, I guess.

yes, gnosticism is a VERY old idea. and it's true i've mentioned these ideas before here- mostly as a joke, but more importantly to point out to you silly atheists that if the idea of the "creator" being "good" in any way that you non-philosophers might define the term, most of your sillier arguments fall away (leaving the more interesting ones). in any case i tacked it on here mostly as a joke, and to show that i wasn't merely trashing the existing paradigm but willing to offer an alternative, one which, as silly as it sounds, doesn't seem to me to be any sillier than harris and dawkins lame performances in this clip.

it is fucking absurd to hold Yahweh up as "good", so the idea that we all had it wrong and really God is a bastard made a little more sense when the silly becker floated the idea years ago.

yes it is fucking absurd for people who have a very superficial understanding of what "good" is (like most people, and here in particular). if the idea that god might not be "good" in any way you might define the term was new to you when i first floated the idea here, i'm disappointed in you. you are not a young man and for someone who has so much to say about "god" or the lack of one you apparently haven't even bothered, over all these years, to investigate basic definitional aspects of one of the 2 or 3 most fundamental points that you use in your arguments. this is indeed "silly".

How can not believing in God be "dead"? The reply to this idiocy is the same: "not playing with hula hoops" isn't a fad that goes out of fashion.

if atheism was merely "not believing in god" there would be little to talk about here. it isn't. and the "new atheism", which is what i've been talking about, is certainly much more than this. it is a movement involving political, media, commercial and yes, even religious interests. merely "not believing in god" is pretty boring, no matter how reasonable, and it is this definition of atheism that the "new atheists" often hide behind when challenged- "nobody here but us chickens", as it were. it's disingenuous and dishonest and cowardly and, in my opinion, beneath you.

don't get me wrong- i am fairly impervious to ad hominem and use it frequently myself. i don't mind being called silly or irrelevant or whatever. you simply have no valid points here and are avoiding mine. specifically: are you man enough to admit that harris and dawkins are completely ineffective here, using poor logic, rambling pointlessly and seeming to be attempting mostly to fill the time for which they will be paid anyway? and that this is an indication that their points have been made already with great frequency and aplomb and they're just tired of it and are now just resting on their laurels while they rake it in, knowing that people like you and the readers here will lap up whatever they say uncritically and defend it against anyone who objects to their lameness (like me), simply out of misplaced loyalty?

i ask you this question in all seriousness. if richard dawkins came out and said "blah blah, and furthermore, fufufufuh and so there" (which is exactly what he does here, though he leaves most of it to harris) would you defend his right to do so, like others here (not all) do? if so, it would surprise me, i didn't have you figured for that sort. but make no mistake: "that sort" may as well turn in their "freethinker membership cards" RIGHT NOW.

if atheism was merely "not believing in god" there would be little to talk about here. it isn't. and the "new atheism", which is what i've been talking about, is certainly much more than this.

You are right, in a sorta wrong way. Not believeing in god can be a defining part of ones life in the same way that not doing the hula hoop can be defining if everyone else is using the hula hoop.

Similarly there are lots of people for which judiasm is a defining element of their life even though the belief structure has little bearing on their lives.

to point out to you silly atheists that if the idea of the "creator" being "good" in any way that you non-philosophers might define the term, most of your sillier arguments fall away (leaving the more interesting ones).

If a god were to exist, the idea that he could be defined as good or evil is equally silly. something that created somehting the scope of the universe would have to be dispassionate towards the plights and morality of chemical reactions on a spec of sand.

So the idea that anything other than physics and science could help us understand the ways of the god is stupid, As is the idea that prayer could be anyting more than talking to yourself.

there are lots of people for which judiasm is a defining element of their life even though the belief structure has little bearing on their lives.

do you even see how foolish this sounds? how can something be a "defining element of [ones] life" and have "little bearing" on it?

If a god were to exist, the idea that he could be defined as good or evil is equally silly.

well, congratulations. so, why do you guys make such an issue of this? it's one of your main points. don't make me go quote-mining, i'm not trying to make you look stupid just for fun.

something that created somehting the scope of the universe would have to be dispassionate towards the plights and morality of chemical reactions on a spec of sand.

why? sez you, so...?

So the idea that anything other than physics and science could help us understand the ways of the god is stupid,

first, physics is a branch of science. 2nd, there is no god. right? so wtf are you talking about? and who said anything about prayer?

grasping at straws (and strawmen) as usual.

do you even see how foolish this sounds?

So to clarify, people for which "Being Jewish" is important, despite not going to temple or believing the religion really teaches. Foolish, yes, but thats how many people operate. Not so foolish for atheists however because there is no philosophy at the core of not believeing in another philosophy.

well, congratulations. so, why do you guys make such an issue of this? it's one of your main points. don't make me go quote-mining, i'm not trying to make you look stupid just for fun.

What do we make an issue of? I think we generally mock the idea that god is a source of morality and most assertions as to gods motivations are very human and constantly contradictory. If we pick on the idea that god is good more often, its because that is the assertion we face more often.

So to clarify, people for which "Being Jewish" is important, despite not going to temple or believing the religion really teaches. Foolish, yes, but thats how many people operate.

not foolish at all, unless you consider, say, italians who find their "italianness" meaningful without being catholic (or roman pagan or whatever) as being "foolish".

as i have shown over and over here (it's not that complicated, you're just being, again, unbelievably obtuse) jewishness is not a religion (JUDAISM is) but an ethnicity, a nationality, a cultural identity. most jews are not "religious" in any way you would recognize as such. conversely, many people not ethnically jewish practice the jewish religion. we've been over this so many times here i'll say again: don't make me go quoteminining. i have no interest in making you look foolish, and wish you would stop doing it yourself.

If we pick on the idea that god is good more often, its because that is the assertion we face more often.

i understand this well. i too respond to the most common idiotic ideas i face, especially when they threaten my quality of life. still, when discussing core issues with people i consider my peers, these things don't even come up- it's a given that they are idiotic and we move on to more substantive problems.

therefore, i must question, after years of discussing this with you, and years of your obtuseness on the issue, whether you are a "peer", or simply an unthinking sockpuppet of the "new atheist" weltanschauung, a groupie, someone who decides on the validity of a point based purely on who is making it. i'm giving you a chance here. don't blow it.

p.s. why isn't this conversation appearing on the "recent comments" sidebar? i realize it isn't so recent but it disappeared sometime last week, when older threads were still appearing. i wouldn't put an attempt to bury the issue past you guys, given your responses here. lets "man up", shall we? or not, whatever.

The jewish race debate besides the point.

My point is just that many people can identify with a philosphy despite not actually believeing it. So its no stretch that atheists can have a lack of a believe as somehting that is central to their identity. So it doesn't require they have faith or belief system or any such thing. Which is what people like to assert.

That is the point.

i understand this well. i too respond to the most common idiotic ideas i face, especially when they threaten my quality of life. still, when discussing core issues with people i consider my peers, these things don't even come up- it's a given that they are idiotic and we move on to more substantive problems.

Well, in this isn't a case of discuss the core issue but instead trying to find the source of morality. The exceptions to rules are improtant to determining what is at the core of how morality developed.

Certainly its fair to discuss the immorality done in the name of science and how it relates to what science teaches us about morality.

its also fair to identify where the teachings of god have inspired immorality. In the case of god the criticism is more important because some claime infalability and supernatural motives, so showing falable human reasing is a clear counter arguement.

Well, in this isn't a case of discuss the core issue but instead trying to find the source of morality.

well if this isn't a "core issue" i don't know what is. but anyway you defined the subject at hand above as "why are we here", which made no sense at all in terms of either the subject of the harris/dawkins discussion, or the points i've brought up. i let it go- fine, now you're back to the ostensible topic of the discussion in the clip.

everything you say after this point in your comment makes sense and i have no problem with it- except it doesn't address anything whatsoever that i was asking about in my comment that you were theoretically responding to. curiouser and curiouser.

this is in fact what i'm accusing harris and dawkins of doing here: just saying any old thing that pops into their heads, on topic or not, in the sure knowledge that their groupies will eat up anything they put on the table and proclaim it extremely tasty, while ignoring or denigrating anyone who doesn't care for their "buffet". sycho-fancy may be fancy but lacking in real nutrition and warning: may contain poison.

The jewish race debate besides the point.

there IS no debate about jewish ethnicity, you and others like you are simply making it up. and if it's besides the point, why have you brought it up tens of times over the years, often if not usually completely out of the blue, as you did here? disingenuous. misdirection. dishonest.

if you still think there's a debate over whether jewishness comprises, in some way, an ethnicity (among other things), i'll be happy (again) to show you your ass. i, however, have no need to see it again.

there IS no debate about jewish ethnicity, you and others like you are simply making it up.

Do you care what the point of the discussion was?

BTW, every anthropology class I ever had said that race wasn't a scientifically defined term. Making a debate on it an aside to every point.

user-pic

While I found Harris' argument underdeveloped and faulty logically...

I'm not sure how that supports your closing remarks of gnostic demons with ultimate power.

I mean, Harris just seems inarticulate in this instance. However, I want to toss Sartre, Beauvior, and Hume at him - specifically Sartre's brilliant "Existentialism is a Humanism" which reaches different but related conclusions onto establishing group morality out of ambiguity and subjectivity.

I am curious what you think the faulty logic is?

going with the all caps thing now, first time ever. deep breath:

I SAID, THE NEW ATHEISM IS DEAD.

don't any of you pussies have anything to say about this? i'm as sure as i've ever been about anything, given the evidence of this clip and the general patterns of modernmedia narratives that you don't have to be a genius to map out. i'ts TIME. this issue will be on the cover of time magazine soon enough, so why not be the first to address it? let 1gm go proactive again, let it be the cutting edge. this is the subject of the future re: "new atheism". don't get left behind.

harris is stoned on his own depression and babbling. dawkins is self satisfied and complacent, providing mostly "hyaw hyaw harumph yes indeed" and adding a definite stench of media whore to the proceedings. hitchbitch is still a force- he still cares what his readership thinks more than he cares about what his management thinks- but he's dying. dennet we never hear from. the heavy hitting bloggers like p.z. and coyne etc. wear extremely thin with their online personas and the quieter ones go unnoticed. some, like norm, have seemingly gotten fed up and moved on to other interests.

the case has been made. there's nothing new to say. the ball is in the court of public opinion. it's OVER.

and no one has anything to say about this before the msm picks up on it? they will, you know. they must. how many more "performances" like this one from the "best of the best" do they need to see before they see what i see? do you see it yet?

I SAID, THE NEW ATHEISM IS DEAD

New Atheism is a branding campaign. It was shocking for a moment and then it stopped being shocking. Atheism is constanst of reasonable people that will never go anywhere and now a lot of people be will more open about it because New Atheism reduced the shock value.

Your insults seem to imply that these very smart guys aren't self aware about what they are doing. Yet when put on a panel and asked hard questions they always prove quite aware while the Rabbis seem to always argue that religion is quite lovely if you only question it in a vapid sorta way.

going with the all caps thing now

Now you just need to distribute them properly throughout your posts.

Sam Harris has come completely unglued. I agree with all those who see this as the death knell of the "new atheism". Such unbelievable nonsense.

As a non-theists, I anxiously await more politically astute and scientifically accurate representatives of our fundamentally oppositional cause.

I can definitley see room to disagree with him on a number of points, I think there are clearly some philisophical assumptions that that Scientific thoughtcan give us insight but not answers and where the scientific method is fairly useless. beyond those assumptions I think his reasoning sounds pretty good.

What do you think is "Unglued" about his arguement?

I found this to be quite delightful. It was a summary of his position, and I felt well delivered.

All questions can be approached through the scientific method, moral or not. It seems reasonable to apply the scientific method to moral questions. The value of that endeavor is just now begging to seem fruitful because of technology and scientific advancements in other fields.

I do not understand you hostility JB. Regardless of how eloquently or effectively he is arguing his point, the notion that humanity is at a point where the science of morality can begin to be developed in earnest seems straight forward.

Hemingway applied to scientific method to moral questions:

"What is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

I don't think that's what you mean, but I'm not sure what you do mean.

It's been a while since I've commented here, and I've often wondered what OGM (Norm, in particular) now thinks of post-election Obama after endorsing him in the high-traffic days of the site. Those days were also the heyday of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and their ilk. I'm grateful to OGM for introducing me to much of their content.

However, I agree that Harris is circular and inarticulate here; he's certainly not as eloquent or lucid as Dawkins at the podium. Like RS says, though, that doesn't invalidate his argument that scientific knowledge can inform moral judgements. It's much like Dawkins's argument that science may not be able to explain everything about the natural universe at this time (i.e. time before the Big Bang), but that doesn't mean it will never be able to explain it all. We understand what we can and continue our pursuit of truth.

Becker's just pissed off 'cause he knew that this event was on the horizon and because the Arab-Spring occurences don't make him feel all warm and fuzzy and shit.

This comes as Palestinians mark the Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes after Israel was founded in 1948.

"We heard terrible slamming behind us in the car - boom, and another boom and another boom - until it reached us, and we simply flew up in the air," one witness told Army Radio.

"He went on and crashed into a bus. He got out and began to go crazy, throwing things at people," the man said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the lorry driver was a 22-year-old resident of the Arab village of Kafr Qassem in central Israel, Reuters news agency reported.

joann, nice of you to try to personalize things a bit but no, no matter how i may see developments in israel as "big picture" issues and be personally affected by them, they are not a factor in the point i'm trying to make here, which, briefly, is that "freethinking uncritical groupie" is a contradiction in terms.

i remember when i first started commenting here. because i often found myself arguing with people who were attacking israel or jews, i was often accused of this very thing- uncritical loyalty- and i've had to work very hard to shed this perception. even now i'm quite sure there are readers here who think that i support any and all actions of the state of israel and it's government. this couldn't be farther from the truth but "haters gonna hate".

i write for the humans here, like you, not the robots- who are invited to go fuck themselves, except- oops- they haven't quite got to that point in their engineering and design where this would be a possibility. i'm sure it's only a matter of time, though. :)

joann, nice of you to try to personalize things a bit but no, no matter how i may see developments in israel as "big picture" issues and be personally affected by them, they are not a factor in the point i'm trying to make here, which, briefly, is that "freethinking uncritical groupie" is a contradiction in terms.

i remember when i first started commenting here. because i often found myself arguing with people who were attacking israel or jews, i was often accused of this very thing- uncritical loyalty- and i've had to work very hard to shed this perception. even now i'm quite sure there are readers here who think that i support any and all actions of the state of israel and it's government. this couldn't be farther from the truth but "haters gonna hate".

i write for the humans here, like you, not the robots- who are invited to go fuck themselves, except- oops- they haven't quite got to that point in their engineering and design where this would be a possibility. i'm sure it's only a matter of time, though. :)

sorry about the double post. just switched to google chrome yesterday and i'm still getting trying to get a feel for it.

p.s. why isn't this conversation appearing on the "recent comments" sidebar? i realize it isn't so recent but it disappeared sometime last week, when older threads were still appearing. i wouldn't put an attempt to bury the issue past you guys, given your responses here. lets "man up", shall we? or not, whatever.

Eh, Norm has had to create a shorter window for when commnents show up, to avoid older posts being subjected to spam.

I think the manly thing to do here is to not develop conspiracy theories.

...to avoid older posts being subjected to spam.

maybe you missed this part:

...it disappeared sometime last week, when older threads were still appearing.

i think "conspiracy theory" is a pretty hyperbolic description of my wish that the regular readers should be able to engage in current conversations, especially those related to the very nature of the blog and which don't seem to contain any spam. but you're right, sorry about the "man up" thing and the implication that someone out there is afraid to discuss these things. that couldn't possibly be the case, of course.

What kinda crazy juice you drinkin this week?

moving to the bottom to avoid skinny thread syndrome:

red said:

...every anthropology class I ever had said that race wasn't a scientifically defined term.

correct, me too. that's why i use the term "ethnicity" rather than race, but you're the one who's always bringing it up, i merely respond.

do you not believe that jewishness is a matter of religious belief and has nothing to do with ethnicity? if you don't you could have fooled me. again, i don't want to go quote mining and make you look silly but trust me on this- i don't know what you really think, i only know what you write here, and what you write makes no room for the existence of a jewish people separate from the jewish religion.

sorry about the o.t., but you keep bringing this up! and still, this is just between you and me since anyone who only looks at the "recent comments" won't even be aware of the currentness of this thread.

but you know what? that's ok with me if that's how you want it. a verbal battle in a private corner of cyberspace with no witnesses. maybe this will keep us honest. you seem to need some encouragement in this area.

Navigation

Support this site

Google Ads


Powered by Movable Type Pro

Copyright © 2002-2017 Norman Jenson

Contact


Commenting Policy

note: non-authenticated comments are moderated, you can avoid the delay by registering.

Random Quotation

Individual Archives

Monthly Archives