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Author Topic:   Original Sin - Scripture and Reason
Granny Magda
Member
Posts: 2343
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007
Member Rating: 3.2


(1)
Message 166 of 203 (669254)
07-28-2012 12:02 PM
Reply to: Message 165 by Modulous
07-28-2012 10:46 AM


Re: we are in part, by nature, selfless beings.
Hi Mod,

Okay, put like that, it makes sense. My apologies to GDR.

Mutate and Survive


This message is a reply to:
 Message 165 by Modulous, posted 07-28-2012 10:46 AM Modulous has acknowledged this reply

    
GDR
Member
Posts: 4316
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 167 of 203 (669260)
07-28-2012 1:05 PM
Reply to: Message 162 by Granny Magda
07-28-2012 7:16 AM


Re: Selfish Genes and Original Sin
Granny Magda writes:

And neither of them say that we, as individual animals are selfish. They say that genes are selfish. But this is your problem; the selfishness of genes is only a metaphor, a way of helping us understand how genes operate. Genes are not and never will actually be selfish. They can't be, they're mindless. You have hooked onto a metaphor as if it were real.

I get that and frankly it is obvious. However, Dawkins extrapolates the idea of selfish genes into the field of human behaviour.

Granny Magda writes:

Note that neither of your quotes describe individuals as selfish. The theory is there to explain individual altruism, not individual selfishness - that already has an explanation in "survival of the fittest". You would be able to draw better comparison between original sin and survival of the fittest, at least that would make some sort of sense as it would actually be about the biological drive toward selfishness. Your version makes no sense in that you are trying to link sin to a theory that is intended to explain altruism.

I dont have a problem using the concept of survival of the fittest but any time Ive used that expression the materialists on the forum take exception to it so I find it easier to avoid the term. I dont agree that Dawkins is trying to explain altruism. I believe he is trying to explain mutually co-operative behaviour and linking it to our genetics. Id say that Dawkins, although he doesnt phrase it that way, is making a link between our selfish genes and the whole idea of survival of the fittest.

If you dont agree that it is our genetic that drive our behaviour then what do you say it is?

Granny Magda writes:

Except that, as PaulK notes, memes are selfish too. I know that you responded to that with a Wiki quote, but your quote does not say what you seem to think it does. Memes are selfish in exactly the same way that genes are selfish, i.e. they're not selfish at all, because they're not sentient. It's just a metaphor. Genes are no more selfish then an apple is being selfish when it falls to the ground in accordance with gravity. Genes are just objects, obeyin g the laws of chemistry. The selfishness is just an explanatory tool that Dawkins concocted to explain how survival of the fittest could co-exist with the evolution of apparent altruism and self-sacrifice.

A meme is simply an idea or thought that gets transmitted within a society and has the ability to transform the thinking of the society and the individual that are part of it. It may be selfish, unselfish or neutral.

GDR writes:

I dont think that they are synonymous. Selfishness is a state of mind and sin are the actions that flow from that state of mind.

Granny Magda writes:

And genes don't have minds.
Rabbits do though. I asked you this question for a reason and you have thus far ignored it; where in my example does the rabbit sin? When he risks his own life to save his fellow bunnies? that doesn't sound like sin to me. When his genes tell him to do this? That''s no sin either, since mere chemicals cannot sin when they obey the laws of chemistry. So where's the sin? I contend that there is no sin and that this is why the two ideas are such a poor fit.


Rabbits to the best of my knowledge have no sense of right and wrong. They jsut do what comes naturally which is a good example of what Dawkins writes about. They are a product of their selfish genes. They are primarily about self-preservation as well as about acting co-operatively for the good of not only themselves but for the good of the DNA of the organism.

Dawkins is saying that humans have the ability to rise above that, in that we have a sense of morality. Dawkins view is that this sense of morality has evolved from the base selfish nature of our genes through the naturalistic memes. Im fine with that except I dont accept that the fundamental basis for memes that guide us towards truly altruistic behaviour comes from a naturalistic source.

Granny Magda writes:

In my opinion, the false concept of "sin" is a barrier to a positive and effective moral framework. It should be abandoned.

Sin is just a word. What word would you like to apply to the holocaust? In my view it is simply a word to describe the actions of someone who behaves selfishly, in that they are looking to their own good at the expense of the good of someone else.

GDR writes:

The Genesis story is a metaphor for the understanding of our base nature which is that we are selfish or self serving. Over the millennia since then men have worked at sorting out what it all means. One concept that was proposed, (after the time of Paul for that matter), was that of original sin. It is a term that stuck and so I decided to use it in the title of this thread as it gives us a term of reference to work with. Im not at all keen on the term either.

Granny Magda writes:

Well abandon it then. The term carries too much cultural baggage to be of use.

What term would you like me to use. Obviously it has negative connotations for you and to others even including myself, but as we saw in the quote earlier that isnt necessarily true to all. Ill re-quote a section from wiki with the Catholic definition.

quote:
In the theology of the Catholic Church, original sin is regarded as the general condition of sinfulness, that is (the absence of holiness and perfect charity) into which humans are born, distinct from the actual sins that a person commits. This teaching explicitly states that "original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants".[7] In other words, human beings do not bear any "original guilt" from Adam's particular sin, which is his alone. The prevailing view, also held in Eastern Orthodoxy, is that human beings bear no guilt for the sin of Adam.
This is very close to what Dawkins is talking about when he says that we can reject the sinful genes of our birth.

Im wondering what term it is that you would have preferred me to use.

GDR writes:

It isnt that a baby is born in sin but that he is born as a blank slate composed of his/her genes and that those genes are selfish replicators.

Granny Magda writes:

Well then you're not sticking to the concept of original sin any more than you're sticking to the concept of the selfish gene. You are mangling both of them to fit them together and you are achieving nothing by doing so except bungling the science and making what looks like apologetics for one of the most evil ideas in the history of thought. Please drop this idea, it's just broken.

If we stick to your narrow understanding of the term original sin then I agree with that. Ill repeat the quote from Dawkins in the OP.

quote:
We have the power to deny the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.
Just maybe its you that doesnt understand the concept of the selfish gene. Dawkins is saying that we can deny our selfish genes and even the selfish memes that we may have been indoctrinated with ,and essentially rise above all of that through unselfish social replicators.

He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 162 by Granny Magda, posted 07-28-2012 7:16 AM Granny Magda has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 168 by Granny Magda, posted 07-28-2012 3:12 PM GDR has responded

    
Granny Magda
Member
Posts: 2343
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 168 of 203 (669269)
07-28-2012 3:12 PM
Reply to: Message 167 by GDR
07-28-2012 1:05 PM


Re: Selfish Genes and Original Sin
I dont have a problem using the concept of survival of the fittest but any time Ive used that expression the materialists on the forum take exception to it so I find it easier to avoid the term.

So far, using this version hasn't exactly met with unqualified approval either.

Personally, I would prefer that you used the term "survival of the fittest". It would still not be an especially meaningful comparison, but at least it would be a more valid one. Survival of the fittest is, after all, used to explain individual selfishness. The selfish gene isn't so much.

I dont agree that Dawkins is trying to explain altruism. I believe he is trying to explain mutually co-operative behaviour and linking it to our genetics.

I think that, more specifically, he is attempting to explain how evolution can lead to the emergence of mutually co-operative behaviours that appear to defy a naive view of survival of the fittest.

So, going back to the rabbit example, a straightforward view of survival of the fittest would lead us to expect that the rabbit would not pause when it sees danger. It would flee. It would benefit most from saying "Devil take the hindmost" and preserving its own genes. The selfish gene theory exists as an explanation for why this isn't the case.

This is why I think it's a bad fit. There is no need to resort to the selfish gene to explain the kind of individually selfish acts that might be described as sin; natural selection and survival of the fittest do that just fine. The selfish gene is there to explain other behaviours, not those we might call sin.

Id say that Dawkins, although he doesnt phrase it that way, is making a link between our selfish genes and the whole idea of survival of the fittest.

Yes, exactly. He's trying to explain altruistic behaviours in the context of survival of the fittest. He's trying to explain how self-sacrifice can evolve. That has no connection with sin or immorality.

A meme is simply an idea or thought that gets transmitted within a society and has the ability to transform the thinking of the society and the individual that are part of it.

Agreed.

It may be selfish, unselfish or neutral.

Not agreed. A meme can be nice, nasty or neutral, but in the sense that a selfish gene is selfish. A meme is always selfish as well, even the nice ones that tell us to be kind to each other.

A meme seeks only to replicate itself. It does that whether it is a positive meme or a harmful one. In that sense, it is always selfish, just as a gene that creates an altruistic behaviour is as selfish as a gene that creates an individually selfish behaviour.

I agree that Dawkins is saying that we can rise above the harmful memes, by recognising them as what they are, but that doesn't mean that the memes ( even the good ones) aren't selfish in the biological sense.

Rabbits to the best of my knowledge have no sense of right and wrong. They jsut do what comes naturally which is a good example of what Dawkins writes about. They are a product of their selfish genes. They are primarily about self-preservation as well as about acting co-operatively for the good of not only themselves but for the good of the DNA of the organism.

Right. So if we apply a similar scenario to a human, we have the same situation. The human, driven by his selfish genes, exhibits a behaviour that is potentially harmful to himself, but benefits his kin. This is not a situation that can be described as sinful, yet it is exactly the type of situation that Dawkins was trying to explain with his theory. Again, sin is a bad fit for the theory. They are separate notions that cover different ground.

Sin is just a word. What word would you like to apply to the holocaust? In my view it is simply a word to describe the actions of someone who behaves selfishly, in that they are looking to their own good at the expense of the good of someone else.

I would call the Holocaust a collection of superlatively immoral acts. That does not mean that it is a sin. I feel that the word "sin" is too explicitly religious. It includes an implicit assumption that some supernatural entity disapproves of the act in question. That muddies the issue by inserting unnecessary entities. Saying that the Holocaust was deeply immoral is enough. The concept of sin adds nothing helpful to the equation. We can see this in the way that so many religions regard morally neutral or morally good acts (sexual acts, worshipping other gods, etc.) as sinful.

What term would you like me to use.

Moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. That is adequate and it does not confuse any moral debate with unnecessary baggage.

Obviously it has negative connotations for you and to others even including myself, but as we saw in the quote earlier that isnt necessarily true to all. Ill re-quote a section from wiki with the Catholic definition.

quote:
In the theology of the Catholic Church, original sin is regarded as the general condition of sinfulness, that is (the absence of holiness and perfect charity) into which humans are born, distinct from the actual sins that a person commits.

I find both of those highlighted areas abhorrent. There is no such thing as a "general condition of sinfulness". There are only immoral acts and the people who commit them. Further, the idea that babies are born into such a condition is grossly offensive. They are not. They have the potential to commit immoral acts and they almost certainly will do so at some point in their lives, but to ascribe a moral condition to a babe in arms is insane and vile.

I agree that it's not quite as bad as the version where we must take collective guilt for the sin of Adam , but it's still pretty awful. The fact that the Catholic church regards this sort of filth as acceptable goes a long way towards explaining why it is such a morally bankrupt organisation. That lot wouldn't recognise morality if it bit them on the arse.

If we stick to your narrow understanding of the term original sin then I agree with that.

I don't think it works for any version of original sin, not because of problems with the religious side of the comparison, but because of problems with the science end of it. Whatever version of original sin we use, the comparison is invalid because the selfish gene concept is not and was never intended to explain the kind of individual selfishness that is commonly called sin. It was intended to explain the opposite of that. That's what makes it such a bad metaphor, not that original sin is so awful , but that the selfish gene was never about immoral acts in the first place.

Dawkins is saying that we can deny our selfish genes and even the selfish memes that we may have been indoctrinated with ,and essentially rise above all of that through unselfish social replicators.

I don't think it's quite that. He's saying that we can move from a shoddy form of morality based upon selfish replicators to a better, artificial form of morality. Frankly, I don't know if I agree with him or not, but he's not talking about moving from an immoral condition to a moral one. That undermines the comparison, fatally I think.

Mutate and Survive

Edited by Granny Magda, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 167 by GDR, posted 07-28-2012 1:05 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 171 by GDR, posted 07-28-2012 7:00 PM Granny Magda has acknowledged this reply

    
GDR
Member
Posts: 4316
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 169 of 203 (669278)
07-28-2012 5:20 PM
Reply to: Message 164 by Modulous
07-28-2012 8:50 AM


Re: we are in part, by nature, selfless beings.
Modulous writes:

So I'm baffled how you missed the parts of Chapter 6 that were or relevance to what I was saying.

To show me what Id missed you used the following quote from Chap 6.

quote:
The key point of this chapter is that a gene might be able to assist replicas of itself that are sitting in other bodies. If so, this would appear as individual altruism but it would be brought about by gene selfishness.

That is my point. Dawkins says that it appears as individual altruism as opposed to true altruism. There are going to be some that will say that there is no such thing as true altruism and that we are only a product of our selfish genes. I disagree but I do believe that an argument can be made for that view. Unlike jar I dont actually believe that I can truly know my own motivation for what I do. In many ways it is harder for me as a Christian to sort things out. If I send money to those Ive never met, and never will meet in the third world, an argument could be made that Im just trying to get in good with God. My own view is that one of my motivations is that it would be pleasing to God and is done out of gratitude, but deep down I know that I am essentially selfish and so Im left wondering. I suggest that this is the basis for the understanding of grace in Christianity.

I do agree with Dawkins though that we can overcome our selfish replicators, but I have enough trouble trying to sort out my own heart or motivations, let alone the motivations of someone else.

Modulous writes:

But its more than that! It isn't just reciprocal altruism (doing good to others so as to expect others to do good to you)! Sometimes acts that have no benefit at all to the actor (such as a 'suicidal' act of heroism), might have a benefit to the genes' chances of replication. That's the point of Chapter 6! Now granted, the genes might make 'mistakes'. That is, they may cause behaviours that in certain specific cases don't benefit them at all, but it should be the case that on average those genes that cause that kind of behaviour to those that possess it should benefit the gene. We are living in an almost entirely different environment than the genes we possess prospered in - so we should expect lots of these kinds of 'mistakes'.

I have no problem with that except that I believe that there is something beyond that, and as humans we are capable of pure altruism. Dawkins I believe would say that the memes or social replicators that account for that have evolved naturally over time. I would agree with that except that I believe that the memes or social replicators that have brought this about, originated from heart and mind of God working in human hearts and minds.

Modulous writes:

I've already explained in previous posts, this very thing. In short: Your genes are influencing you to behave in certain ways. Be nice to family, family are those that are closest to you, who you live with. Help out other allie s. All that kind of stuff.
And then you have memes/learned behaviour. We have learned that all humans are part of one big family. We have learned that all humans are fundamentally are potential allies. We have believed this idea, we have spread this idea.
Therefore, since the genes are telling us to look after our own, and the hypothetical American considers the Sudanese one of their own, then they will take action to 'look out for them'. Donating money or food or whatever.
We should see that same American will probably reserve more money for his own family, and will probably be more inclined to help out friends who are difficulty too. If they spend all the money on the Sudanese and don't give any for their family to eat or clothe themselves, we'd probably say they were mentally ill.

That is a very good synopsis of the materialist position. I think you go a little further than Dawkins does in his book but I dont think he would have any problem with your position.

I dont think it explains everything however. You mention in the last paragraph that your hypothetical American might send money to the Sudanese but will save more for his family. Yes, that is no doubt true but at the same time the money that is being sent to Sudan is no longer available to his own family so in fact at the end of the day, he actually does have less for his own family. I still contend that there is such a thing us pure altruism where there is no benefit for the individual or his DNA. As Dawkins says, we have the ability to reject the selfish genes of our birth.

Modulous writes:

Indeed. It's in the gene's interests to invest some costs into other people. The closer the stronger the influence. They don't have to be relatives for the genes to 'treat ' them like relatives. If you learn that your brother of 25 years was adopted, you don't generally find yourself loving him any less. Likewise, if you consider your fellow churchgoers as 'brothers and sisters' you may find you treat them better than the genes would otherwise have caused.
So yes - whether it is selfish memes exploiting certain brain structures built by selfish genes or whatever - 'selfishness' will almost certainly be an important part of any description of selflessness that is prevalent.

I understand that it can play an important part but I dont believe that it is the only part. I guess it really boils down to the idea that we view the world the same way but where I see an involved God you see natural forces. Really well written and thought out post by the way.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


This message is a reply to:
 Message 164 by Modulous, posted 07-28-2012 8:50 AM Modulous has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 170 by Modulous, posted 07-28-2012 6:38 PM GDR has responded

    
Modulous
Member
Posts: 7449
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 170 of 203 (669288)
07-28-2012 6:38 PM
Reply to: Message 169 by GDR
07-28-2012 5:20 PM


Re: we are in part, by nature, selfless beings.
That is my point. Dawkins says that it appears as individual altruism as opposed to true altruism.

I'm not sure I'm spotting the difference.

There are going to be some that will say that there is no such thing as true altruism and that we are only a product of our selfish genes.

But there is such a thing as true altruism, and we have our genes to thank for their vital role in it. Just because the altruism has a cause, does not make it not true altruism.

Dawkins I believe would say that the memes or social replicators that account for that have evolved naturally over time. I would agree with that except that I believe that the memes or social replicators that have brought this about, originated from heart and mind of God working in human hearts and minds.

Indeed, I'm happy for the God effect to be brought in given the forum we're in.

Really all that's left is to persuade you that an altruistic act, that was influenced by genetic factors, is a truly altruistic act.

It is an act that comes at a cost to the individual without necessarily expecting reciprocation. If you want to discount 'reciprocal altruism' from being 'true altruism' I still contend that true altruism is entirely possible in a purely naturalistic account.

If you want to say that God has refined or channelled our altruistic and selfish instincts or some such, I'm fine with that. Of course, my position is that inserting God here is unnecessary - but I'm not going to argue that here.

That is a very good synopsis of the materialist position. I think you go a little further than Dawkins does in his book but I dont think he would have any problem with your position.

THat's likely because I am drawing on other Dawkins related sources than The Selfish Gene. From his talks and other books. He elucidates his position on this subject quite well in The God Delusion:

quote:
What gives us the powerful urge to send an anonymous gift of money ...to tsunami victims on the other side of the world whom we shall never meet, and who are unlikely to ever return the favour? ... Isn't goodness incompatible with theory of the 'selfish gene'? No.
...
The most obvious way in which genes ensure their own 'selfish' survival relative to other genes is by programming individual organisms to be selfish...But different circumstances favour different tactics. There are circumstances - not particularly rare - in which genes ensure their own selfish survival by influencing organisms to behave altruistically. {eg., kin selection and reciprocal altrusim, reputation and advertisement}
...
Through most of our prehistory, humans lived under conditions that would have strongly favoured the evolution of all four kinds of altruism. We lived in villages, or earlier in discrete roving bands like baboons...Most of your fellow band members would have been kin, more closely related to you than members of other bands...now that most of us live in big cities where we are no longer surrounded by kin...why are we still so good to each other...?
...
What natural selection favours is rules of thumb, which work in practice to promote the genes that built them. Rules of thumb, by their nature, sometimes misfire....Could it be that our Good Samaritan urges are misfirings, analagous to the misfiring of a reed warbler's parental instincts when it works itself to the bone for a young cuckoo?

It seems pretty consistent with what I've been saying I think. Its from Chapter 6 (again), The roots of morality: why are we good?

I still contend that there is such a thing us pure altruism where there is no benefit for the individual or his DNA. As Dawkins says, we have the ability to reject the selfish genes of our birth.

I agree - those would be the misfirings. As Dawkins puts it in the God Delusion:

quote:
Darwinian mistakes: blessed, precious mistakes.

I understand that it can play an important part but I dont believe that it is the only part. I guess it really boils down to the idea that we view the world the same way but where I see an involved God you see natural forces. Really well written and thought out post by the way.

Thanks. I think my main objection is to get you to appreciate what natural forces are capable of. You can go right ahead and believe that God is capable of awe-inspiring things too if you want. Might we agree on this, also from the God Delusion, as a existence-of-God-neutral position:

quote:
Such rules of thumb influence us still, not in a Calvinisitically deterministic way but filtered through the civilizing influences of literature and custom, law and tradition - and, of course, religion.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 169 by GDR, posted 07-28-2012 5:20 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 172 by GDR, posted 07-28-2012 8:22 PM Modulous has responded

    
GDR
Member
Posts: 4316
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 171 of 203 (669293)
07-28-2012 7:00 PM
Reply to: Message 168 by Granny Magda
07-28-2012 3:12 PM


Re: Selfish Genes and Original Sin
Granny Magda writes:

Personally, I would prefer that you used the term "survival of the fittest". It would still not be an especially meaningful comparison, but at least it would be a more valid one. Survival of the fittest is, after all, used to explain individual selfishness. The selfish gene isn't so much.

I agree.

Granny Magda writes:

I think that, more specifically, he is attempting to explain how evolution can lead to the emergence of mutually co-operative behaviours that appear to defy a naive view of survival of the fittest.
So, going back to the rabbit example, a straightforward view of survival of the fittest would lead us to expect that the rabbit would not pause when it sees danger. It would flee. It would benefit most from saying "Devil take the hindmost" and preserving its own genes. The selfish gene theory exists as an explanation for why this isn't the case.

I agree

Granny Magda writes:

This is why I think it's a bad fit. There is no need to resort to the selfish gene to explain the kind of individually selfish acts that might be described as sin; natural selection and survival of the fittest do that just fine. The selfish gene is there to explain other behaviours, not those we might call sin.

Here would be my definition for sin. Sin is an act or desire based on selfishness, where the act or desire would be detrimental in some way to another being. (The second part might be considered redundant but I think it helps to clarify my thinking.) With that definition in mind then you would be absolutely correct in saying that the term original sin is the wrong term to use. A better term might be the original state of selfishness that we all come into this world with.

Granny Magda writes:

Yes, exactly. He's trying to explain altruistic behaviours in the context of survival of the fittest. He's trying to explain how self-sacrifice can evolve. That has no connection with sin or immorality.

Maybe, but my reading is that he trying to explain behaviours that appear altruistic. He actually seems to me to be conflicted as to whether such a thing as truly altruistic behaviour really exists.

Granny Magda writes:

Not agreed. A meme can be nice, nasty or neutral, but in the sense that a selfish gene is selfish. A meme is alw ays selfish as well, even the nice ones that tell us to be kind to each other.
A meme seeks only to replicate itself. It does that whether it is a positive meme or a harmful one. In that sense, it is always selfish, just as a gene that creates an altruistic behaviour is as selfish as a gene that creates an individually selfish behaviour.
I agree that Dawkins is saying that we can rise above the harmful memes, by recognising them as what they are, but that doesn't mean that the memes ( even the good ones) aren't selfish in the biological sense.

Essentially a meme is a non-material idea. Memes are infectious in that they jump from mind to mind and they themselves are subject to being altered or infected by other memes. They can be picked up in conversation, on tv, from books, the internet or from EvC, and can then be spread to others. I agree that the meme itself cant be evil or good but the idea that it carries can cause evil or good.

This is the point where my theistic beliefs and your non-theistic beliefs divide, as I think that up to this point we are essentially in agreement except for the odd nuance.

We would agree that memes flow from our consciousness and ultimately from our reasoning and imagination. You, (Im assuming this is the case and correct me if Im wrong), believe that all of our memes, positive or not, have evolved through completely natural foundations, whereas I believe that the we are the products of a moral intelligence and that that moral intelligence influences our memes. I contend that moral intelliegence is in fact the primary positive meme, that enables us to overcome the selfish genes of our birth, as well as the negative memes that we encounter.

This is from the OP:

quote:
Original sin has always been a difficult doctrine to understand. My contention is that if we combine scripture and reason it is no longer difficult. Dawkins came to his understanding of selfish genes that we are born with through reason, and if we overlay the Genesis story with his reasoning we gain, what is in my view, a clear concept of original sin, along with the realization that we should move beyond that in our lives.

The point Im making is that I can gain a better understanding of the scriptures by applying my own reasoning and the reasoning of others to that understanding.

The term original sin was an attempt by early Christians to explain the state of selfishness into which people are born, and is understood in several different ways. However, if we apply the reasoning of Dawkins to that, we can come to several conclusions of what the scriptures are actually trying to tell us.

Firstly, as you have pointed out, the term original sin doesnt do justice to reason or, in my view, the scriptures. I have already said that I believe that the term, original state of selfishness is more apt. Secondly, with the same reasoning as employed by Dawkins, and a simple understanding of scripture we can see that we are meant to reject the selfish genes of our birth. The vast majority of people regardless of belief see that the idea of caring for others and even for other species is a good thing. That is a meme. We will disagree about the first cause of that meme but we can, I think, agree that it is a meme and a positive one.

The point is, that I understand my Christian faith better as a result of getting my head around the reasoning of Dawkins and applying it to my understanding of the message in the scriptures.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


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GDR
Member
Posts: 4316
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 172 of 203 (669295)
07-28-2012 8:22 PM
Reply to: Message 170 by Modulous
07-28-2012 6:38 PM


Re: we are in part, by nature, selfless beings.
Modulous writes:

I'm not sure I'm spotting the difference.

I suppose it is simply the question of whether our actions are basically a result of our selfish genes or have we been able to reject their influence and act selflessly against the influence of the selfish genes of our birth.

Modulous writes:

But there is such a thing as true altruism, and we have our genes to thank for their vital role in it. Just because the altruism has a cause, does not make it not true altruism.

From a materialist point of view I would agree that our genes would have to be the first cause of the memes that affect us but in order for true altruism to come about we have had to be changed by our memes to the point that we are able to act against the input of, and against the interests of our genes.

Modulous writes:

It is an act that comes at a cost to the individual without necessarily expecting reciprocation. If you want to discount 'reciprocal altruism' from being 'true altruism' I still contend that true altruism is entirely possible in a purely naturalistic account.

Maybe, but we can only speculate. It all depends on our starting point when we consider it.

Modulous referring to quote from The God Delusion writes:

It seems pretty consistent with what I've been saying I think.

I agree that it is. Frankly though, when you read that it sure seems to me that he is grasping at straws. The reasoning to me is pretty thin when he says What natural selection favours is rules of thumb, which work in practice to promote the genes that built them. Rules of thumb, by their nature, sometimes misfire. He is essentially say that his theory doesnt always hold and because it doesnt it proves his point.

The Selfish Gene was written decades earlier and it seems he has revised some of his thinking.

GDR writes:

I still contend that there is such a thing us pure altruism where there is no benefit for the individual or his DNA. As Dawkins says, we have the ability to reject the selfish genes of our birth.

Modulous writes:

I agree - those would be the misfirings.

Does that really sound reasonable to you.? I think that from a materialist point of view the argument that all apparently altruistic acts can eventually be worked back to a selfish cause is much more reasonable. (Not that I agree with that position, it is just that I think that is more reasoned position than talking about genetic misfiring to explain altruism.)

Modulous writes:

Such rules of thumb influence us still, not in a Calvinisitically deterministic way but filtered through the civilizing influences of literature and custom, law and tradition - and, of course, religion.

Yes I can agree with that and I dont believe in a deterministic world. However, as I believe that God works through human minds and heart I cant divorce the influence of God from any of those civilizing influences. They just exist and we have no way of empirically knowing whether God is in those influences or not. We make choices as to what we believe.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


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Modulous
Member
Posts: 7449
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005
Member Rating: 2.5


Message 173 of 203 (669300)
07-28-2012 9:02 PM
Reply to: Message 172 by GDR
07-28-2012 8:22 PM


Re: we are in part, by nature, selfless beings.
Frankly though, when you read that it sure seems to me that he is grasping at straws. The reasoning to me is pretty thin when he says What natural selection favours is rules of thumb, which work in practice to promote the genes that built them. Rules of thumb, by their nature, sometimes misfire. He is essentially say that his theory doesnt always hold and because it doesnt it proves his point.

I'm not seeing why its grasping at straws, its a reasoned conclusion. What's so desperate about pointing out that genes that evolved in one environment may not function as 'planned' in another environment? The theory still holds: the cooperative behaviour was created by genes that act in a way that has ancestrally promoted their replication, in conjunction with the environment in which those genes were expressed and the learning of culture etc that follows.

The selfish gene explains the cooperative behaviour.
The alien environment and culture et al explains why we are at least partially cooperative with people that can't reciprocate or aren't closely related, or part of a social alliance.

Does that really sound reasonable to you.? I think that from a materialist point of view the argument that all apparently altruistic acts can eventually be worked back to a selfish cause is much more reasonable.

But they can eventually be worked back to selfish causes. The genes that cause cooperative behaviour do so because ancestrally that has promoted their replication. That those genes may cause behaviour that isn't in the genes' self interest in novel environments sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Meet the Dodo. It never learned to avoid large mammals. This behavioural trait of not running away from large mammals, or of being generally friendly/tame worked fine for its ancestral genes. But it worked against them when mankind discovered how tasty and easy to catch they were.


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GDR
Member
Posts: 4316
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 174 of 203 (669377)
07-29-2012 3:33 PM
Reply to: Message 173 by Modulous
07-28-2012 9:02 PM


Re: we are in part, by nature, selfless beings.
Modulous writes:

But they can eventually be worked back to selfish causes. The genes that cause cooperative behaviour do so because ancestrally that has promoted their replication. That those genes may cause behaviour that isn't in the genes' self interest in novel environments sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Meet the Dodo. It never learned to avoid large mammals. This behavioural trait of not running away from large mammals, or of being generally friendly/tame worked fine for its ancestral genes. But it worked against them when mankind discovered how tasty and easy to catch they were.

That makes my point. That argument is much more reasonable than trying to say that altruism is the result of the misfiring of genes. Obviously it isnt a position that I agree with, but it is much more easily and reasonably made as you just did.


He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 13231
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 175 of 203 (670519)
08-16-2012 1:59 AM


My Summary
This discussion has really gone nowhere.

Aside from the obvious misrepresentations of Dawkins the whole argument relies on a misrepresentation of the whole selfish gene concept. Even the stripped down version of Original Sin does not closely match the actual idea of the selfish gene.

The argument is hopelessly weak anyway - the version of Original Sin invoked has no specifically Christian content and is so obvious that I can hardly doubt that it was known long before even the beginnings of Judaism. But that is no excuse for skimping on getting the facts right. If the argument is not worth that effort then it isn't worth presenting in the first place. True, this argument never was worth presenting in the first place, but that's still no excuse for the level of misrepresentation seen here.


    
Phat
Member
Posts: 9902
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.4


Message 176 of 203 (739233)
10-22-2014 2:16 AM
Reply to: Message 124 by jar
07-24-2012 4:09 PM


Re: Trying to summarize
jar writes:

... my point is that as a human I am charged to at least try to do what is right and not simply fall back on "memes" or "depraved on account of I'm deprived" or "The Fall" or "Original Sin" or any other label.

Do you look down on people who use excuses for not going that extra sacrificial mile and trying hardest to do their best? Would it surprise you if God gave people a break who never earned it?

Would you ignore such a God?

Would you cling to your sense of honor and duty even to the point of never admitting that you could have a speck in your eye and therefore were as guilty as the slacker with a beam in their eye?


...."When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less."

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Phat
Member
Posts: 9902
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.4


Message 177 of 203 (739234)
10-22-2014 2:25 AM
Reply to: Message 150 by jar
07-25-2012 2:49 PM


Re: we are in part, by nature, selfless beings.
...as a Christian I also believe that we have a duty, a responsibility, to always try to do what is right for others even when that may be difficult, unpleasant, counter to our desires and regardless of whether our motivation (as opposed to "motive") is conscious, unconscious, within our control, out of our control, genetic, "Original Sin", "The Fall", "I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived" or any other possibility.

As a human we have control over our behavior within certain limits. Yes, it is possible to alter behavior by surgery, drugs, illness, experience, but those are abnormalities and often can be treated. That does not change the fact that I believe I am charged to try to do what is right for others even when that might not be best for me or what I "want" to do.

Do you believe that if your leg was hurting quite a bit that day that you could ask to be excused from your duty...without sinning as a result of not trying or sacrificing enough?

...."When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less."

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jar
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Posts: 29468
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 2.2


(1)
Message 178 of 203 (739246)
10-22-2014 9:18 AM
Reply to: Message 176 by Phat
10-22-2014 2:16 AM


Re: Trying to summarize
Do you look down on people who use excuses for not going that extra sacrificial mile and trying hardest to do their best?

They lead their lives, I do not. It is not for me to try determine whether they tried their best or not.

Do you believe that if your leg was hurting quite a bit that day that you could ask to be excused from your duty...without sinning as a result of not trying or sacrificing enough?

I'm not at all sure what sin or sacrifice has to do with anything. It really would depend on how much the persons leg was hurting, wouldn't it, and whether or not such practices were a habit.


Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 176 by Phat, posted 10-22-2014 2:16 AM Phat has acknowledged this reply

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 9902
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.4


Message 179 of 203 (790337)
08-29-2016 3:15 PM


Original Sin Remix
The subject of Original Sin has been discussed quite often here at EvC, and I saw GDRs topic as one of the few still open on the subject. This particular post has nothing to do with memes or selfish genes, however.
jar,in another topic writes:

If humans are not ultimately responsible then God is responsible for all the problems. Or God is unable to successfully oppose some other force or unwilling to.

That makes God a royal asshole.

But what I actually say is that even if Original Sin were real it is irrelevant. We are still responsible for what we do.

The great con is selling the idea that some belief or act or payment can mediate the effects of Original Sin. And it is both a very successful con as well as an absolutely legal con; better'n the lottery.

It is selling the idea that God or Jesus will assume your debts.

But the reality is that there is no evidence that God has actively intervened in the past.

So God has done nothing in terms of changing people(Saul became Paul) in terms of intervening in protection of Israel, for example...in any way ever?
I suppose we cant prove it...but I still dont think evidence should be the only standard in support of Christianity...and if so, let the Christians themselves be the evidence.

The idea that Jesus paid for our sin is a strong one...I wouldn't throw it away quite yet.


Chance as a real force is a myth. It has no basis in reality and no place in scientific inquiry. For science and philosophy to continue to advance in knowledge, chance must be demythologized once and for all. RC Sproul
"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." Mark Twain "
~"If that's not sufficient for you go soak your head."~Faith

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ringo
Member
Posts: 13739
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 180 of 203 (790465)
08-30-2016 1:27 PM
Reply to: Message 176 by Phat
10-22-2014 2:16 AM


Re: Trying to summarize
Phat writes:

Would it surprise you if God gave people a break who never earned it?


Matthew 25.
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 Message 176 by Phat, posted 10-22-2014 2:16 AM Phat has acknowledged this reply

  
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