Monday, August 01, 2011

Cosmic Deviants

  • Why doesn't the U.S. get the Honda Civic Type R?
  • Gosh, thanks for the compliment!
  • This is one way to get physics/physicists into the mainstream media. Speaking of famous atheists, what do atheists, in general, think about the idea of right and wrong? I would think (and actually do) that with no divinity, that right and wrong can have no essential meaning. And so, even the most heinous of activities (say killing for the fun of it) can't be wrong. I imagine this is well established within the entire ethics versus morality difference, but just wanted to make sure. Anyone?


Rick said...

The notion of right and wrong is indoctrinated from parents to children. In this sense, "right" and "wrong" are concepts that only apply in relation to a moral authority ("daddy", "mommy", or "God").

However, morals are also needed for a well-functioning society. This is why we have laws. We also have human rights. A little philosophy will show that morals and ethics derive from the welfare of the individual.

The question is: If moral doesn't come from God, where does it come from?

We can see animals engaging in altruistic behavior (for example, a female gorilla rescuing a gorilla baby from the water), and say: Ah, part of our morals come from our instincts. Usually mass murderers become that way because they were mistreated in their childhood. So their brains are, for all intents and purposes, broken. They simply cannot feel empathy normal human beings have. This empathy is wired into our brains. But it can be changed, for good or ill.

Other morals come from the concensus of society. Ultimately, moral is determined by men - whether those men gather in a meeting and decide what they think it's best for society, or whether they just make up some holy scripture and claim "God told them". This is why different cultures have different morals (and different religions). They're made by normal people.

Sure, finding which are the best morals for society is not easy. It's perhaps the most difficult problem in the world. And philosophers around the world have been working on it for centuries, perhaps millenia. But we have to keep working - and it has worked. For example, 100 years ago black people were considered inferior. Now they're not. And this is a victory for mankind. But if moral comes from God, why did we have to wait more than 1900 years to do this?

Saying good morals can't come from men is just sidestepping the point and saying "The sky wizard did it".

Angry said...

Rick: Certainly something is needed for a "well functioning society" but I would call that "ethics." There's a bunch of semantics into which we can get bogged down, so I prefer to frame it in terms of some sort of gauge-invariant :) question:

As an atheist, must one admit that, though killing others for fun should generally be regulated in society, there's nothing universally wrong about it besides a general propensity for people to condemn it?

Alrenous said...

If morality doesn't exist without a god, it can't exist with a god either.

All extant models of god are simply some sort of supreme consciousness. They're not fundamentally different from human consciousness, just smarter or more knowledgeable.

Anything that a god-consciousness entails is also entailed by regular human consciousness.