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Author Topic:   Morality without God is impossible
Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


(1)
Message 18 of 306 (872634)
03-01-2020 9:53 AM
Reply to: Message 17 by Tangle
03-01-2020 6:00 AM


Re: A Universal Morality
The behaviour of any individual actor is a result of their innate sense of self preservation and every choice made attempts to serve that goal. All judgements of good and bad begin from this reference point which is unique to the individual.

If this is true then the morality of any action can be determined by assessing how effectively the action served the goal. This would apply universally without exception.

I anticipate that someone will point out that there are plenty of immoral actions that serve self preservation of the individual but in every case these are short term benefits.

So there does not appear to be a godly intervention in any of this process.

I don't see the god either but how could you tell anyway? Universal conditions lend no support to the idea of a god.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 69 of 306 (872796)
03-04-2020 4:42 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by Stile
03-04-2020 12:24 PM


Re: A Universal Morality
But, until you can read the minds of other people - you cannot say that just because an explanation possibly exists then it therefore MUST BE the explanation that an individual used.

I am referring to the most fundamental basis for making any choice or taking any action. There are a multitude of explanations that an actor might provide but they all trace back to the programmed desire for self preservation. Any choice that benefits the actor, in whatever way, attempts to serve the ultimate and fundamental goal of self preservation. We survive by making choices that benefit us. (This is probably why we evolved a brain in the first place and can make choices at all.)

My point is that if we all make decisions in the same way with the same machinery then there is a fundamentally common or universal element to our behaviour. Every moral code is a distillation of the results of all those previous choices made by members of the group. An attempt to enforce behaviour that benefits the group. The individual complies because the group is beneficial to them.

Every religion that ever existed was an attempt to codify the behaviour that was perceived to benefit the group and even though they are all different they have the same origin. Self preservation and reproduction.

So if there is a universal code of conduct it is to live long enough to breed. A couple of hundred thousand years later and we have the modern world with spiteful ice cream eaters and all.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 66 by Stile, posted 03-04-2020 12:24 PM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 83 by Stile, posted 03-05-2020 1:42 PM Dogmafood has responded

  
Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 104 of 306 (872863)
03-05-2020 7:51 PM
Reply to: Message 83 by Stile
03-05-2020 1:42 PM


Re: A Universal Morality
As soon as we have intelligence (defined here as something like the difference between "making a choice" and "acting on instinct") - then the idea you're proposing is no longer valid.

What is the difference between instinct and choice? You point out that choice can override instinct but the reverse is equally true. How long can you choose to hold your breath? I am sure that you would agree that my dog is a creature driven by instinct and yet does she not choose to obey my command?

Your only fall-back is if you want to say that "real choice doesn't exist" and all we have is "the illusion of choice."

I wouldn't use that fall back. There is such a thing as choice and it is directly built on instinct. Your instinct is to survive and your choices are subservient to that. No doubt we can choose to override that instinct but then where are we?

A 35 year old identified genius does not make decisions "in the same way with the same machinery" as a 35 year old village idiot

Yes they do. One is just better at it than the other one and we decide which one is better based on how well their choices benefit their personal condition. Of course we are not all using the same brain and all brains are not equal but they all work the same way. They are all subject to the same laws of chemistry and physics.

Some religions are created in an attempt to codify behaviour to benefit certain individuals and screw the group.

I would say that applies to every religion. Those 'certain individuals' are the group. Anyone who is intentionally being screwed is not part of the group.

My point is that as soon as intelligence develops to the level where one can choose to go against instinct - to go against "living long enough to breed" - then it's no longer "a universal code of conduct."

I am trying to think of some examples of that and surely there are some that look that way. Suicide and self sacrifice to benefit another. Suicide is meant to end one's own suffering and self sacrifice is meant to avoid the suffering of another. Both directly related to an instinct to avoid pain. (edit: which is directly related to the instinct to survive.)

Edited by Dogmafood, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 107 of 306 (872866)
03-05-2020 8:33 PM
Reply to: Message 105 by jar
03-05-2020 8:03 PM


Re: An External Morality
Anyone can behave sacrificially without thought of personal reward of any sort in this world or the next

Certainly without conscious thought of personal reward but personal reward is at the heart of every choice to act.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 136 of 306 (872944)
03-07-2020 10:25 AM
Reply to: Message 124 by Stile
03-06-2020 4:11 PM


Re: A Universal Morality
Hardly anyone "thinks the same way" as anyone else.

I am pointing to the common elements that every moral agent uses to make a decision and you are pointing out that not all decisions are the same. Obviously I would agree that not all decisions are the same. Surely you would agree that humans are of a kind and universally share some characteristics. Deviants not withstanding. If there is a common morality then it will be built on these common elements.

The most persistent and fundamental of those common elements is the instinct to survive. Any universal morality will necessarily accommodate that instinct. At the same time, every moral code is an effort to influence that instinctive behaviour. So there are elements that every moral code will necessarily have.

I am saying that if we are looking for universality then we need to look for similarities as opposed to differences.


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Replies to this message:
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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 139 of 306 (872988)
03-08-2020 9:19 AM
Reply to: Message 137 by RAZD
03-07-2020 12:35 PM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
Are the morals of a lion the same as the morals of an antelope?

The salient point is not that their behaviour should be the same but rather that their behaviour should be judged by the same standard. Any universal standard would need to apply equally to any moral agent. Of course not all moral agents are the same and indeed every one of them is unique and so how do we judge them by the same standard? We do that by finding the common denominators that are possessed by each and every agent.

If morality is born from the act of making choices then the moral obligation of any agent is modified by their ability to make choices. The lion can not be found guilty of eating meat on a Friday nor the antelope praised for being a vegetarian. So even though they are not expected to behave in the same way they can be assessed by the same measure.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 162 of 306 (873098)
03-09-2020 10:53 PM
Reply to: Message 147 by Stile
03-09-2020 9:06 AM


Re: A Universal Morality
The whole idea of "a universal idea... deviants not withstanding..." means you're attempting to force that a "universal idea" exist.
If deviants exist - then the idea isn't universal.

Well you always have to account for outliers but all that I am trying to say here is that there is such a thing as a human and they are a distinct species. They all have certain qualities that make them a human. For example we could say that every human has a pre frontal cortex and yet there are some humans that do not. That's what I mean by deviants. There are psychopaths with no empathy and there are comatose humans with no moral agency. These are deviants and they do not negate the idea that there can be universal conditions that apply to any moral agent or that there can be universal elements that a functioning moral code must have. It doesn't mean that they all have to be the same but they will all share common elements.

I am not trying to force anything. I see that there are universal conditions and I am trying to identify them not to dictate them. In the context of morality, being able to make choices is a universal condition or requirement. Having not only the capacity to make a choice but also the opportunity to act on that choice. Self awareness and a theory of mind are requirements that any moral agent must possess. There are at least a bunch of rules that apply universally.

But there is no part of morality that works like that.
Morality is extremely situation-specific. It almost always depends on the exact details and the exact subtleties of the situation.

Absolutely. Just like the speed of light and the relationship between energy and mass.

Doing things 'because we should' is an immature moral system.
Doing things 'because we want to' is a mature moral system.

Figuring out why we should do something will help us want to do it. Understanding why you shouldn't follow an instinct or desire is the only means you have to resist the impulse. The very essence of your ability to choose.


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Replies to this message:
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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 163 of 306 (873099)
03-10-2020 12:23 AM
Reply to: Message 150 by RAZD
03-09-2020 10:15 AM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
Or in other words, what is moral for the lion differs from what is moral for the antelope, and morality is relative to the species/society they live in.

Of course every moral agent is unique. Not only between species but within as well. The acceptable moral behaviour of a starving man is slightly different from that of a wealthy man. This doesn't mean that they aren't being held to the same standard.

And any universal standard would need many chapters, with many subchapters, amendments and exclusions added over time in order to encompass all life.

That is not how you distill a universal standard. You look for common elements and reduce them to their most fundamental qualities.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


(1)
Message 166 of 306 (873107)
03-10-2020 9:30 AM
Reply to: Message 165 by frako
03-10-2020 6:47 AM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
Moral agency lies on a spectrum and is not a simple yes or no question. The fact that we can see it developing in other species should give us some insight into what it is and where it comes from.

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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 187 of 306 (873252)
03-12-2020 7:58 AM
Reply to: Message 168 by RAZD
03-10-2020 11:50 AM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
RAZD writes:

That is not how you distill a universal standard. You look for common elements and reduce them to their most fundamental qualities.
1. Live
2. Reproduce

Any others?

These are the most fundamental and every choice ever made was an attempt to serve those goals. It seems to me that evaluating how well any choice serves these goals is an objective standard. Even so, I don't see how that condition speaks to the existence or non existence of god or to the penultimate source of that condition.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


(2)
Message 200 of 306 (873319)
03-13-2020 10:52 PM
Reply to: Message 190 by Stile
03-12-2020 9:48 AM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
Our top scientists in the leading cognitive behavioural fields studying exactly this sort of thing currently have no idea how to specifically identify "the goal that is served" for any choice we currently make.
Yet - you think you're able to do it for all choices ever?
And you've identified it for all of them to be "to live and/or reproduce?"
How?

If we look back to the beginning stages of life here on the planet and the single celled critters. The eukaryotes in particular as they are near the beginning of our line. Little sacs of chemicals that consume resources and reproduce with variation between generations. No choices and no thinking. Just a chemical process of reproducing with variation going on for a long time. All of this taking place within an environment that culls all of those variants that are not aligned with the conditions of the moment. Evolution in a word.

And so all of those actions for the first couple of billion years are simply a response to stimuli. A response that leads to their surviving long enough to breed. An accumulation of programmed behaviour that has proven to be beneficial to survival and reproduction. Instinct in a word and all behaviour was purely instinctive. Chemical reactions under the rule of an unbreakable law.

Somewhere along the line some ancestor of ours developed the ability to weigh the difference between two courses of action. Not just the ability to choose but the tendency to make the right choice with regard to survival. This is where the ability to choose comes from.

Why should this point of evolution be considered anything other than chemical reactions under the rule of law? I don't see any fundamental difference between the first choice and the latest choice beyond the number of inputs that went into the calculation.

I am not sure if mixing our fabrics is detrimental to survival but I can see how murder is detrimental. I presume that if god wanted a universal law of morality it would be reinforced by the universal laws of physics.

Edited by Dogmafood, : No reason given.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


(1)
Message 202 of 306 (873647)
03-18-2020 7:42 AM
Reply to: Message 201 by Stile
03-14-2020 9:01 AM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
You don't have any science.
You don't have any brain scans.
You don't have any measurement of "motivation that's based on survival" at all.

Consciousness and memory have emerged and been retained across generations because they are qualities that are, on balance, beneficial to our survival. I would challenge you to find a scientist who disagrees. Looking for the actual spot in the brain where those qualities reside and how they physically work is a different thing.

I'm not saying that point of evolution should be considered anything else.
I'm saying there are more "points of evolution" beyond that one, before you get to where mammals are now.

Which one of those later points of evolution was fundamentally different from all of the rest of them? What is it about being consciously aware of making a choice that makes the act of choosing fundamentally different from an instinct?

Why do you think it's impossible for evolution to create an ability (consciousness) in humans to allow us to decide based on "choice" rather than "the chemical reactions driving survival?"

What part of your consciousness is not a chemical reaction? Even though it is all just chemical reactions I am not saying that choice is an illusion. Choice is a chemical reaction and if there is a god then we can be sure that they made us to behave the way that we do.

This evidence of "people can choose to die" or "people can choose to be destructive" or "people can choose to not reproduce" flies directly in the face of what you're claiming.

I don't think so. It's just that same old process of evolution trying new things. Not every choice is successful and not every choice is consequential. Morality is being aware that people can make choices and that those choices can be influenced. In every case the goal of that influence is to increase survival and reproduction.

Yet - against this - you think you have the answer?

I am certainly not claiming to have THE answer. I have a tentative answer that fits with what I feel to be true. Everyone else has to choose their own.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 204 of 306 (873833)
03-20-2020 8:28 AM
Reply to: Message 203 by Stile
03-19-2020 11:43 AM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
I'm under the impression that you're claiming that "all choices" are made in order to promote survival/reproduction... etc.
No?

I originally said

dogmafood writes:

The behaviour of any individual actor is a result of their innate sense of self preservation and every choice made attempts to serve that goal. All judgements of good and bad begin from this reference point which is unique to the individual.

Are you simply saying that "some level of survival/reproduction is considered when anyone makes a decision?"

Those elements are usually not consciously considered but they are the foundation upon which every evaluation of good and bad is built.

As long as "the motivation" for the decision is allowed to be "whatever the person decided upon in the end" and not necessarily to promote survival/reproduction.

We justify our decisions in any number of ways but all of those justifications rest on the evaluation of whether or not the action will benefit the actor. The trolley problem for example. The man at the switch is ultimately concerned with how his decision will impact himself.

Choice: Use of forethought, reason and past-experience-reflection to weight options and consciously pick one for execution.
Instinct: No use of forethought, reason or past-experience-reflection to weigh options - the reaction is unconsciously executed.

I submit that the difference between the two is that we are aware of one and not aware of the other. Consciousness allows us to add recent data points to the decision matrix but the matrix still works in the same way and still seeks personal benefit and which actions help us to survive.

Have you ever heard of Maslow's Pyramid?

You will notice that in a pyramid all of the upper portions are built upon the lower parts and at no time can they be up there all by themselves.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


(1)
Message 207 of 306 (873885)
03-20-2020 8:59 PM
Reply to: Message 205 by RAZD
03-20-2020 3:18 PM


Re: De Wall: The Bonobo and the Atheist
Morals are evolved.

Obviously I agree with that but the fact that it's true doesn't really help us decide if we needed a god to get here. Rubs up a bit against the Genesis account but doesn't discount a god.

Then religion was plastered on it to create an external authority.

Perhaps deism is a product of evolution as well and religion is an attempt to leverage that tendency.


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Dogmafood
Member (Idle past 32 days)
Posts: 1815
From: Ontario Canada
Joined: 08-04-2010


Message 228 of 306 (874305)
03-28-2020 6:47 PM
Reply to: Message 227 by Stile
03-24-2020 9:27 AM


Re: Are the morals of a lion the same as an antelope?
How are you so sure that those elements are used "as a foundation for every evaluation" and not "something that's moved past, and no longer required to be considered?"

I think that its true because I don't see any other basis that could be used for the evaluation of good and bad. What other basis could there be?

There are many evaluations that that are not based on whether or not they will benefit the actor.

I don't think that there are. Kindness, fairness, altruism, self-sacrifice, charity, mercy, love. All of these things exist because they make the actor feel good or feel the least amount of bad. Why do we feel good? It is a chemical response that reinforces behaviour that helps us to survive. This is what I mean when I say that everyone uses the same equipment and make decisions in the same way. The differences between your decisions and mine exist because our experience is different. Different inputs into the same equation.

All those people at the trolley switch are looking for the choice that makes them feel the most good or the least bad. That's how we make choices.

In the context of this thread, why is it that behaviours like kindness and love etc actually are beneficial to survival? Why is the universe this way and not the opposite where selfishness is the most beneficial? God may be the reason things are this way but how could you tell? God could also be the reason if things were opposite. The only difference would be the nature of our gods.


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