A voice for the non-religious in Swindon

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” ― Christopher Hitchens

Where do our morals and ethics really come from?

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” ― Christopher Hitchens

We were privileged to have Will Watling speak for us last night and one of the points that really struck me during the talk was in regards to morals and ethics and whether they are inherent in humans. Are we really born with a built-in knowledge of what’s right and wrong?

It’s a point I’ve never really given much thought to, mainly because I’m good without god and that’s that. But last night lead me to question whether I’m that way because I was taught by teachers and parents that morals came from the bible? I asked myself, what if I had been brought up by non-religious parents? Would I see the world differently and with a different code when it came to how to act around people, animals, the environment? …. and then I looked at my three children and I had my answer!
They are kind, they care about people, they know right from wrong and they’re all happy. . . and 100% godless, on my part anyway. They do hear about moral stories in school, from the bible….but always ask me when they get home from school what the stories mean, and I can always think of myriad other ways to demonstrate the same point without needing the bible as an example.

The question then arose “Are they that way because the kindness I taught them, in the freethinker form, originally came from ideas that somehow root back to what was passed down to me from church and my parents when I was a kid? From my parent’s parents to them etc….and how far back do you go to break out of the religion bubble and find societies that existed and flourished without a requirement for religion as a moral framework”

It’s certainly something I need to look much more deeply into, like I said, I’d never questioned it until the talk I heard!

This is what I love about humanism, atheism and general non-religious living – all the wonderful questions and things to explore!

(B)

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About Belinda

Secular, atheist, humanist, freethinking mother of 3.

29 comments on “Where do our morals and ethics really come from?

  1. noelgoetz
    April 19, 2014

    Warning: Religious alert. The following observations are not humanist in origin so please turn the page, if you might find them offensive in any way. Thanks.

    Please bear with me. Though some would like it to be. The world is not a vacuume tube. Mankind is born in ‘Search Mode’ which relates closely with your post, about morals and what are their origins. I don’t mean to blather, but man, throughout recorded history, will make up a god, carve a god, cast a god in gold because ‘it seems to me (personally) that nowhere along the line, has anyone answered the question, to the hunger that all men have, for the questions concerning the ultimate meaning of life, answered from reasoning birthed in a vacuume tube. Those answers only seem to come from a brisk wind pushing us from behind, towards God, a higher power, ultimate meaning… whatever. Without the origins you discussed being explored, the meaning of life is a confusing holding bin of ‘eat drink and be merry for tomarrow we die’ with a small amount of effort to find a semblence of solitutude somewhere in the middle parts. That, or it’s a depressing rubbish bin to bide time in, until the worms have their fill of our rotting carcasses. Most people sincerely, want to believe there is more, but many do not want the accountability that is generally demanded of a ‘higher power’. It’s the knee-jerk reaction of all humans, (myself included), once any pressure to conform to a set of moral guideposts, is applied. However, we all desire order. We desire nice-ness from others, we want our children to grow up to be good people. But nice-ness and goodness are a moving target unless some very important questions are first answered and that’s a huge subject unto itself. And without ‘set in stone guideposts’ we have no other avenue, but to become our own moral beacon, becoming the ultimate decision maker as to good and evil, right and wrong. Certainly however, society will make you highly uncomfortable for not living under it’s own rules as to how you should live, under the threat of punishment. And living in that Twilight Zone of moral relativism, society would then have no moral right to make a person conform. Travelling that avenue just a tad further, I wonder why it is that people are willing to live under and take comfort from living under laws as long as they don’t have to address the questions to the origins of those laws. Which smacks a wee bit of hipocracy as I see it. No, of course I am not an atheist or a humanist, just a regular person with a regular family, working a regular job who at one point in his life wanted an ‘ultimate answer’, so that I could just get on with it. Some call that weakness, self delusion, the need for a crutch. Heck, that’s what I certainly accused others of being before coming to a faith. But deep down, I think most of us recognize that kind of a response is more of a deflection. Personally after weighing the options I find a faith in God both mentally and spiritually liberating. Of course embracing a faith doesn’t answer all of lifes questions, but once trusting it as a foundation for all the larger questions, (I) have come away more satisfied and ‘more in awe’, ‘than more in confusion’.

    It should bear noting that in the Christianity that I practice, that the entirety of the law- (the do’s and don’t do’s) were summed up quite nicely by Christ himself when he said that the law and prophets (everthing having to do with how we relate to our God, family and community) are wrapped up in two simple commands. Love God with all your heart. And love your neihbor as you love yourself. And in accomplishing this, you have fulfilled the entirety of the law (moral perfection). Of course that’s where the impossibility of it comes to light, and why those of us who call themselves Christians need the crutches that only God offers.

    (If you read to this part, though you may not agree with anything I’ve said, you are commended for being patient, if not open-minded. And quite considerate of horrid spelling). Blessings. Noel

  2. Belinda
    April 19, 2014

    Thanks for your reply. The part that stood out the most for me was this bit:

    ” Love God with all your heart. And love your neihbor as you love yourself. And in accomplishing this, you have fulfilled the entirety of the law (moral perfection).”

    It leads me to ask, what about me? I have no desire to love any type of god whatsoever. Does this make me morally inferior and viewed as such? I don’t think a single one of us could be “morally perfect” .

    I don’t judge my morals by anyone except myself, as we all see the world so differently. I’d go so far as to say i don’t even “love they neighbour as thyself” because there’s no accounting for the bad day i might be having! 🙂

    • noelgoetz
      April 19, 2014

      Thanks for your reply. The part that stood out the most for me was this bit:
      ” Love God with all your heart. And love your neihbor as you love yourself. And in accomplishing this, you have fulfilled the entirety of the law (moral perfection).”
      It leads me to ask, what about me? I have no desire to love any type of god whatsoever. Does this make me morally inferior and viewed as such? I don’t think a single one of us could be “morally perfect” .
      I don’t judge my morals by anyone except myself, as we all see the world so differently. I’d go so far as to say i don’t even “love they neighbour as thyself” because there’s no accounting for the bad day i might be having! 🙂

      Hi Belinda. Ahhhh, the great dilema, and a very insightful question/comment that all people face regarding love and in respect to our personal moral compass. But this will require some moves on the dance floor that I haven’t attempted since 1970’s Disco. My only personal references are co-joined with my religious beliefs so if you will bear me out let me make a feeble attempt at explaining. In many respects no one loves God on the purely human level (on the level void of the Spiritual). Why? One over-riding reason is that love requires input. Loving your children, God, and others requires input. Love is shown, acted out, takes emotion and energy. People, myself included are generally lazy and unless the act of love gives us something in return, we won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole. Example- if I love my children, I should therefore get their love, obedience and bright eyes looking up at me with adoration- in return. Oh, I might be able to love them for a time but if my genes weren’t in them, if I hadn’t a part in giving them birth, I would have moved on eons ago especially after those famous first words, that come out of all childrens mouth- “NO!!!.” The same words we use when we know that God is asking something from us. And that’s Gods dillema as well. In giving birth to the human race, He (if I may be somewhat crude) ‘Has a stake in the game’. Part of who He is. His nature, His DNA is wrapped up in a group of people who continually say “NO!!!!” to Him. But He has given us birth. He is tied to us. But that was not enough for me to do as He asked, to love Him and to love others. It’s like trying to join two magnets together when their poles are opposite. You can push against them as hard as you wish, but they will never willingly snap together. But that didn’t stop God. He changed the rules of nature so that we could love Him, and that’s what we Christians are celebrating Easter today. God made the impossible, possible, for those of us who shook our fist at him and said NO!!! to him to be able to love him and to love others. He paid the penalty for the word NO!!! by sending His Son (who by the way, always said YES!!!) to die (pay the penalty) for us- NO!!! people. You see, the God DNA resides in every person it want’s to be joined to God but it can’t on it’s own, it’s the same DNA that makes our children reach up with their arms towards us waiting, wanting, demanding that we pick them up and so it is with God. But if I tell my child to pick up their toys first (demand something from them) before I tell them I’ll pick them up, at some point they will quit asking, which is how mankind responds to God.

      You asked- “Does that make me morally inferior?” No. It makes you human. But as I rstated in my last reply, man naturally attempts relatationship with God wether it be the true one or the false one, but its almost always on that mans terms.

      Personally? I love Christ not because it came naturally or because I wanted to but because of what God first did for me. Belinda, the best reference and explanation I can give to the origin of love itself comes from Gods personal note to you and I. Allow me to reference it from the bible. Please read it over several times to let it sink in. Though it is simple. It is wholly wieghty in it’s heart and perfect logic.

      1John 4:7:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

      I think God always answers questions best. My very best to you and your household. Noel

  3. Neil Davies
    April 20, 2014

    Thanks Noel for your replies, I’ll be honest and say I struggled to understand the point you were trying to make. All I can say as an atheist and humanist is that I cannot love God because in all likelihood no such being exists. You’re right that mankind is ‘born in search mode’ and this is where I believe the concept of God arose from. Different philosophers call it different things (Jesse Bering calls it ‘theory of mind’ is his book The God Instinct, Daniel Dennett calls it the ‘intentional stance’ in much of his work) but it’s our innate bias towards assuming some agency as a cause for purely natural events. That’s why in a way I disagree with people who say children are all born atheists.

    Even if some deity did exist, I certainly couldn’t ever love one who performed some of the actions that the God of the Bible does. Maybe you can answer the famous Euthyphro dilemma, I’d be fascinated to know what your answer would be:

    “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

    I’ve seen and heard several prominent Christian theologians say it’s the latter and quite cheerfully say they have no problem will God’s commandments to slaughter entire races of people. One wonders what they would have thought if they had belonged to one of those races. Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg of problems with taking that position. To take the other position however, admits that there is a moral standard outside of God which he merely asks us to follow (or enforces if you prefer). It also seems obvious that the human race has consistently pushed the scope of moral philosophy beyond anything God ever deigned to teach, a process that continues to this day and no doubt will carry on.

    Pastor Douglas Wilson says our morality is a gift from God, and is a direct reflection of his nature. If that is so, one wonders why in reading most of the things God does in the bible I’m repulsed by their clear immorality, when the very sense of morality I’m using to form those judgements is supposed to reflect his nature? Any thoughts on any of that would be good to hear.

    Neil

    • noelgoetz
      April 20, 2014

      Hi Neil. Thanks for the reply. I find it an honor that you would ask me ‘a why?’

      Just as a note, though I am a ‘churched’ man, I have no formal schooled theology, my responses are as I’ve said before personal, heavily influenced by personal experience and reading of the Scriptures that I believe are wholly inspired by God himself and for which I make no apology. My thoughts really aren’t necessarily the doctrine of mine or any other denomination. So it’s quite possible and probable that some other Christian folks might find cause to disagree with me.

      To your question(s) however it will have to wait a few hours. I am preparing for Easter Service and will finish this on my return…. (Clock slowly ticks away in a quiet house. The shades are drawn. Only the aging, overweight dog that sleeps on carpet near the entry, lightly stirs at the muted sound of the cars passing by on the heavily travelled street, where it dreams of its owner bringing after church pizza scraps. All the while, the universe hangs in the balance.) 🙂

      I’m back. Alas no scraps for the dog, who forgot what he was hoping I’d bring home anyway, as he really needs to go outdoors to pee.

      To your question, now that the dog has been emptied. “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

      (Again, I come at this from a biblical world view, where as you come at it from an atheistic world view, so my argument is based on what I know, not on what I do not know. So it’s from this perspective that I will attempt to answer.)

      In answer to your question? Neither, would be my first response. I would like to quote a verse out of the ‘Common English’ version of the Bible- James 1:17 “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, (in whose character there is no change at all).”

      Understanding from this reading, since God ‘does not change’, and I would argue ‘cannot change’, in regards to His character perfection and nature, it would go, that He would of course assume ‘moral perfection’ as the perfect normative, and anything less, would not, nor could stand in the presence of perfection. God therefore designed mankind with moral perfection in mind.

      Bear with me as I follow up with what followed, the preceding passage. Verse 18 “He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.”

      Mankind was procreated and birthed in perfection, into perfect bodies and in a perfect environment, in an environment where there was no threat and therefore we abided in perfect peace and harmony. There was no reason that mankind could not have lived forever as perfectly moral operatives as there was nothing that he had need of. Man wasn’t required to ‘Manipulate’ his environment to survive therefore there was no need for coercion, death or malice to make things go his way. Before Sin, man lived in perfect morality.

      But there is of course, the obvious follow up. “I don’t believe in God, but for the sake of argument, let’s say there is one. Why would He make such a mess of it if He were indeed truly perfect?”

      Thanks for the question 😉 I think that you’ve already read (at sometime or other) along the lines of how I will answer. “Freewill. Free determination.”

      The one thing that I have come to fully understand is that God and Jesus Christ himself never coerced, or tricked anyone. And nor could He if truly loved His offspring. You cannot coerce true love. True love comes with eyes wide open. How could I love God, if I didn’t also have the choice to reject Him as well? Love is an equal opportunity employer. If I ‘Must’ choose love, than it by nature is not love. Just as if I cannot choose my work, then I am nothing more than a slave. Freewill, was the reason for the whole ‘Tree of the knowledge of Wisdom and the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil arrangement’. The tree itself was not the temptation. The tree was opportunity for free choice and self determination. Without it God could not truly love or be loved on an equal footing with His creation. But with all things “Freewill and Free determination” comes both personal responsibility and consequence. Man chose to try on the “Big Boy Pants” of Freewill and Free determination, and that’s where we are today. We are living in the world of our making.

      “But that’s not fair” some might say. And I would respond that I didn’t make up the rules of Freewill and love, but still those rules sound fairly logical to me.

      But the next question is, “if God is all knowing why did He do this in the first place?” I don’t know for sure, but probably for some of the same reasons people want to have children. To love them, to teach them, to watch them grow into wonderful people. Love is procreated, it is shared, it creates and builds up. It never tears down.

      “But the hatred, the murder, the theft, the viciousness. You see it throughout the bible ‘and’ you see God instigating it as well, so how could that come from a loving God?”

      This is the really tricky question. How could a loving God be the author of hatred? Well I guess I would have to answer in several different directions at once.
      First, though mankind decided to put on his Big Man Pants all by himself, unfortunately he wasn’t mature enough to keep them spotless. We are sitting in a diaper of our own making and on our own terms.
      Who said that it was Gods responsibility to show up every time someone soiled his diaper? That’s not freewill. It’s would be the same as your mum and dad paying all your bills and debts to society until you were 70. That’s not free will, that giving license. If I’m busy playing in the school yard and choose to soil myself instead of running to the potty, it’s my mess and my responsibility instead of chasing around the playground until it was too late. I think this pretty much lets God off in this regard.

      “But you didn’t answer the part about God instigating hatred himself? Can a loving God instigate something that is antithetical to His very nature?”

      In my opinion? Yes, He can. Lets go back to God’s nature. He is perfect and expects perfection and His perfection is inapproachable by imperfection. (Remember He designed man for perfection). Once original sin entered the world, so did death. Sin and death go hand in hand. Sin threw the proverbial stick into the spokes of perfection. Man from then on, set his own course. Mankind since the inception of sin, was bound to die of one ailment or another whether by disease, murder, or an aging body. One way or another all men are going to die no matter the cause. Where God I think comes into this is that He wanted to throw us a lifeline, an opportunity to enter back into that perfection. The law was given by God, to show man, that no matter how good he thinks he’s doing, ‘ That the horse has already left the barn’. Man trying to attain perfection is like trying to make black paint, white by adding more and more white paint. It just doesn’t work, and it never will.

      God entered into the scene and gave man kind a list of do’s and don’ts just to prove that mankind could never attain to perfection by his own doing. He even gave us the 10 Commandments. Here he said, you do this and this and you’ll have pulled up you big boy pants and done it all by your self. But it didn’t work. Even to the point telling them to remove by war, all of the idol worshipping nations around them. Notice they had already been at war for thousands of years already killing and being killed (God did not come up with that solution as His first choice). But even by killing off the Godless nations around them were they unable to make black paint, white again. God afforded men every permission to use whatever means possible to become pure again, though again it was not in His perfect plan for mankind. He let them do that which was already residing in their own hearts.

      “Well that’s just a mean trick then! ” Is it really? Doesn’t man try and recreate the “Garden of Eden” here on earth minus influence by God? Not only that, but we legislate it, enforce it, fine, jail and coerce anyone who does not agree with our version of the Garden of Eden?” We’re still doing it. Even after thousands of years of failure. We’re still trying to get back to the garden. We still want personal perfection and relationship with our creator. But it will never happen on our terms.

      “But it’s still a trick! God is a puppeteer! A wolf in sheep’s clothing! Who in their right mind would worship a God like that!” Remember. We want nothing to do with God. He is not the puppeteer. We pull our own strings and pull the strings of others.

      “God is love? Oh really. Don’t be ridicules.” Yes. God is love. Maybe I missed the mark in what I said above. Maybe I was 95 percent wrong on some or all of it, but the one thing I can assert with an open heart and mind is that God is truly love, and proved it.”

      “What proof!” God knew that by our own efforts that black paint could never be made white by adding our good works, being nice to each other ….fill in the blank. Mankind had intentionally poked God in the eye and said we don’t want you and we don’t need you, and all the while God who loved us paid the ultimate price for making the unclean clean. Turning black paint into white. The only way He could restore relationship and perfection was to pay the ultimate price by sacrificing His perfect nature, by allowing it to be sullied by imperfect man. Sending His awesomely loved and perfect Son to mediate, to pay the fines for, and turn back what mankind had done. He died at the hands of men, who so willingly kill each other for dollars, pounds, euro’s, hate, lust, anger wickedness, so that we could be free from the on going penalty for our rebellion. That’s what we Celebrated in church today Easter Sunday. Gods gift to mankind. At no cost to man. No coercion. No stipulations. Just faith. Christ was the tree in the middle of our garden. But we hated him for it. So we stripped it’s leaves, we cut off it’s branches, and after beating him senseless we hung him on it just to show Him who was the boss.
      But what mankind has failed to understand, is that it was by this loving sacrifice that we are made whole again. We are forgiven. Our badness, our lies, our hatred died on that cross as well. And believing in that sacrifice, our sins are cast as far as the east is from the west and God promises that he will remember them no more. That Christs death has overcome the death of our bodies and that by believing only, we will return to sinlessness and perfection and relationship with a loving and eternal God. Foolishness? Then I am a fool. And gladly so.

      • noelgoetz
        April 21, 2014

        I reread my post and wish to retract the following schizophrenic statement concerning God authoring or instigating hatred. Can a loving God instigate something that is antithetical to His very nature?”
        And I answered-
        “In my opinion? Yes, He can.” What I should have written was something along the lines thatt God “does not instigate or author” hatred, but instead (Allows) it as the consequence of Freewill. A tremendous difference I know. And if I stated anything else contradictory please point it out. I’m wholly open to correction and rebuttal. 🙂 Thanks.

  4. Neil Davies
    April 21, 2014

    Thanks Noel. Hard to know where to begin really. The majority of that, as with a lot of religious apologetics, is difficult to follow and comes over as more elaborate fairy story and word play then actual explanation. But that’s likely because I don’t believe a word of it 🙂

    But I should at least try to comment, so my first thought (or question I suppose) is that if, as you say, God created man with moral perfection in mind, birthed into perfection, into perfect bodies and a perfect environment, etc. etc. and that man could have lived that way forever as perfectly moral operatives, why would ‘free will’ have made any difference at all? If a man is a ‘perfect moral operative’, the inclusion (or not) of free will does not remove that perfection. Perfect is an important word in theological arguments and not to be used lightly, because it is more restrictive than you think. Giving man free will would not have negated his moral perfection for, if it did, you are saying that God created a morally perfect being and then deliberately removed that perfection (or installed a flaw in it) such that it would be possible for man to act immorally. Or the other alternative is that God simply failed in his attempt to make a ‘perfect moral operative’ in the first place. I’d be interested to know which you feel is more likely.

    I also find it interesting you would say that God does not coerce love and that we have the choice to reject him. How does eternal punishment in hell for not believing *not* count as coercion? What if the supposed choice I am offered is one it is impossible for me to make? Seems unfair to commit me to an eternity of punishment for not doing something it is not within my power to do. And hardly loving either, for that matter.

    The question of free will is of course a hugely interesting one and one I’m reading a lot about. It’s still debated scientifically and philosophically and I do think that progress is being made. My mind has changed several times only recently on it, at the moment I tend to think we do have free will, in some form at least. But hypothetically, if the question was finally answered and proven that we don’t have free will, how would that affect your thoughts about God and your religious beliefs?

    How does your view of man being effectively perfect and presumably immortal before ‘sin’ tally with the scientific evidence of our natural evolutionary heritage and origins? Are you a creationist, or a young earth creationist?

    There are probably more questions I could come up with for the latter part of your post but I would simply be posing them within the (what I perceive as) fairy tale logic of the story you painted. None of it makes any sense whatever when connected to the real world, so I’ll leave it at that for the moment 🙂

    Neil

  5. Neil Davies
    April 21, 2014

    The more I think about the whole moral perfection/free will argument, the more bizarre it seems. Maybe you can help me with this: did God create mankind (as a perfect moral agent) and then at some later time give him free will? That would appear to be the only way to interpret the story, because otherwise God would have created mankind as a perfect moral agent with free will initially, which would make sin impossible.

    Assuming the former case to be true then, leaves you with the conclusion that God created mankind without free will – basically then he created a race of robot slaves to worship him. Interesting conclusion. Then of course, he gave the robots the capacity to disobey him, and punished them when they did!

    • noelgoetz
      April 21, 2014

      Good Morning Neil. Your concerns and questions are weighty and well reasoned. Based on the biblical account, the place, and what I will call ‘the tree of free will and self determination’, were created first, and then man set in the acreage encompassing that place. With forethought it seems, the environment/setting for freewill was of utmost importance to God and as so, it was created first.The only timeline I can offer is the one that is written of. I think it salient to this discussion that ‘the very first recorded sentence from God to man’ was directly linked to this issue,

      “16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying , Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat : 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die ”

      It is presupposed here that God needed this subject addressed forthrightly with no ambiguity. You can easily interpret it yourself but in layman’s it says to me-
      ‘Pay attention. There’s nothing here that your not free to eat of, nothing is being withheld from you, so don’t be afraid. But You need to know something, there is one tree here that I’m telling you NOT to eat. If you eat it you will most certainly die’.

      This is where I think your question comes in. Is a perfect moral agent capable of “Sin” or making a choice that would be harmful to himself? Notice God did not speak this to the animals, which He created before man. Mankind alone was instructed, which makes it fairly clear, that man had the ability to reason. It wasn’t a trick command, the facts were laid bare. ‘You can choose to. You can choose not to. But know this, I don’t want you to, and I’m telling you not to because in doing so you will die’. So then, was man immoral in considering to eat of it or not? No, he was free to think about it. He was free to reason to himself. It goes on later to say that God walked daily with man in the garden and they talked with each other. Man certainly had ample opportunity to question God about it, ask more questions, but the text doesn’t seem to suggest that it was much of an issue at that point. So was it incongruous of a perfect loving God to offer man this choice? At this moment, I’m thinking that to give man the opportunity, was to say to man. I am removing myself from the equation and putting ultimate destiny in your own hands.Though we are not equal, as I am the creator and you are the created, in this respect to choice, you are more like me than you are different than me. You’ll be perfectly free and happy if you choose not to eat, but with choice comes ultimate responsibility, and I can’t protect you from your choice once you’ve made it.’

      Choice/Freewill and the ability to reason is what separates us from the animal world. Animals have no freewill. They have only instinct. This freedom to choose sets us clearly in a league akin to a certain strain of godhood as it relates to our place in the world. Without choice/freewill, we are nothing more than beasts and yet we are left with the ability to act like them if we so choose.

  6. Neil Davies
    April 21, 2014

    Not entirely sure that that addresses my questions. Humans are of course different in many ways to other species but that’s not really relevant to the question at hand (and again I’m wondering if you see those differences from a creationist point of view. But that’s another discussion).

    I’m not at all sure what you mean by ‘the environment for free will’ as free will is a capacity of human beings, assuming it is real, and what I was trying to find out was when that capacity was granted to humans by God, in your opinion. Still not clear on that really.

    Perhaps that’s not all that important. The question that I’m thinking now is, assuming God gives man free will and then says “Don’t eat from this tree or very bad things will happen”, why would a perfectly moral agent disobey God? I bet what you are saying about being able to harm himself, that perhaps wouldn’t be an action that was impossible to perform, but there were at least two people in the frame. In fact, had God been clear about what was at stake, i.e. the fate of the rest of human kind for all eternity, I think it’s fairly safe to say Adam and Eve (I assume we are being literal here) would have not eaten the apple, as a perfectly moral agent would never condemn billions upon billions to pain, suffering and ultimately death knowingly.

    Unless of course that being is God, because that is exactly what he did in this story of yours. And this is the being on which my own sense of morality stems from? Sorry, impossible to believe and luckily there’s absolutely no reason to even entertain the possibility.

    • noelgoetz
      April 21, 2014

      My apologies. I’m not a linear thinker as such. That’s why I don’t play chess, I can’t think past the first move and so prefer a good game of checkers.These discussions so easily move in so many directions.But to go back to your earlier question, I believe free will comes at first breath (Birth), though it may not be exercised in a discern-able fashion until later.

      “…why would a perfectly moral agent disobey God?”

      I have to ask, does a state of perfect morality preclude the ability to act in an opposite fashion? I may be in a state of perfect fullness but there’s always room for one more scoop of ice cream. Again Adam was not chained nor was God standing over him daily with a cricket paddle. It’s difficult to put a finger on because, there weren’t any other commands to disapprove of, there were no other choices to make except for one. And in this instance it only took one choice. Forgive me if I’m trying to read ahead here but maybe your closer than I am. Maybe the question should be, is morality, morality, in the absence of choice? But there was a choice here and I’m not privy to Adams thoughts, only the thoughts that I, a fallen man might think if I were in that situation. I don’t have a mental or spiritual point of reference in my own life to give a satisfactory answer as to what Adam and Eve may have been thinking.
      Maybe framing the question differently would help me. And in that slant, Adam and Eve themselves had not experienced the penalty for sin.
      They themselves did not have a point of reference as they hadn’t experienced pain or been deprived of the extreme closeness that they shared with God. So we shouldn’t read too much into what they knew or didn’t know especially having the gift of seeing into the future.

      I think you’re being slightly cheeky when you say, “Sorry, impossible to believe and luckily there’s absolutely no reason to even entertain the possibility.”

      Of course it’s possible to entertain, as you’ve had to have been entertaining it, to exclude the possibility of it. And since maybe a billion more or less have entertained it over the ages and have believed it to be fact you find yourself at some risk 🙂

      I’m only thinking of some of these things for the very first time, so I thank you for challenging me, and be forewarned Freewill affords me the opportunity to change my mind at any moment 🙂 I look forward to more. I pray Peace, Prosperity and an open heart to you and the other members of this forum. An exercise in futility you may be thinking, but I hope for it none the less.

  7. Neil Davies
    April 22, 2014

    So here we have an issue:

    “I have to ask, does a state of perfect morality preclude the ability to act in an opposite fashion? I may be in a state of perfect fullness but there’s always room for one more scoop of ice cream.”

    No, that’s precisely wrong. If you are perfectly full, *there is no way in which you could possibly be fuller*. That’s exactly why I made the point about the word ‘perfect’ earlier on, as there is no wiggle room there. The ontological argument for God is based around the word perfect and the total lack of wiggle room that it implies (it’s a terrible argument anyway, but it is an example of how perfect is used in theology). Maybe perfect is not the word you mean to use, I don’t know as this is your story, not mine! I’m simply pushing at the weak spots to see if you think it holds up or not 🙂

    Having said that, throw free will into it and it complicates things, not due to the definition of ‘perfect’, but due to the definition of ‘free will’. I would suggest that a perfectly moral agent with free will has the option to act immorally given the choice, but simply will always choose not to, due to their nature. David Hume’s definition of free will is basically the ability to act on your desires, so if you use that definition then there’s no problem as a perfectly moral agent would always desire to act morally, even given the choice not to.

    If I then use Douglas Wilson’s definition of morality as ‘the reflection of the nature of God’, then it seems very difficult to understand how a perfectly moral agent, even given free will and ample opportunity, would choose to disobey him seeing as that would clearly and obviously be immoral.

    “They themselves did not have a point of reference as they hadn’t experienced pain or been deprived of the extreme closeness that they shared with God. So we shouldn’t read too much into what they knew or didn’t know especially having the gift of seeing into the future.”

    Absolutely. So now take that thought forward and you have to ask why God chose to warn them that to disobey him would mean death if they had no concept of what death meant? Without any concept of pain or suffering, how does the threat of those things act as a deterrent? It seems to me whichever way you approach this story, push at the weak spots and it ends in inconsistency and confusion.

    “I think you’re being slightly cheeky when you say, “Sorry, impossible to believe and luckily there’s absolutely no reason to even entertain the possibility.””

    Not cheeky, just sloppy. Of course I meant to say impossible *for me* to believe.

    “Of course it’s possible to entertain, as you’ve had to have been entertaining it, to exclude the possibility of it. And since maybe a billion more or less have entertained it over the ages and have believed it to be fact you find yourself at some risk :)”

    Not in the slightest. The argument from numbers is a terrible one for a Christian to resort to, not just because it’s a fallacy but because there are more people on the planet that don’t believe it than do. I don’t feel at risk at all, for even if I am wrong and I end up stood before some deity or another after I die I will be able to say I was willing to believe but in my honest opinion the evidence was totally inadequate to allow it. What kind of deity would punish someone for using the free will and rational mind it had given me in the first place? I would feel far more at risk in your position, because having chosen to believe in a deity, there is a strong likelihood, given one exists, that you’ve picked the wrong one (as there have been tens of thousands). And the punishment for doing that are always worse than simply not believing at all 🙂

    “I pray Peace, Prosperity and an open heart to you and the other members of this forum. An exercise in futility you may be thinking, but I hope for it none the less.”

    Again, not in the slightest. Peace and prosperity always require work but I can guarantee you we all have an open heart and just as importantly and open mind.

    • noelgoetz
      April 22, 2014

      Neil, very well reasoned on several fronts. “I knew that “but there’s always room for a scoop of ice cream” thing would come back to ‘bite me’. I was being the ‘cheeky’ one. And you’re right, the word ‘perfect’ is somewhat like the word ‘eternal’ which is limitless in scope, and is somewhat restrictive for earthly use. Again, I have no actual point of reference in my own life for perfection. So having me in this philosophical armlock, I no choice but to plead “Uncle”. (I’ve never been much for wrestling though. I’m one of those kick’em in the nuts guys, who then runs off giggling.)

      You touched on a point that’s come to mind on once or twice when you reasoned-
      “So now take that thought forward and you have to ask why God chose to warn them that to disobey him would mean death if they had no concept of what death meant?”

      My only response, is that the scripture doesn’t make reference to whether the animals died, only that man at that point would never die. I know, that may sound like a wiggle, but according to the “Story” it is plausible. But you’ve gotten me to thinking. God in speaking about His creation said that it was good.. not that it was perfect. The reasons for which is a tangle in itself, that I don’t have the energies for this morning. But certainly something that we could address later (the subject is becoming like it needs it’s morning teeth brushed, if you know what I mean) 🙂

      But as time and your audience permit, please keep the dialog alive. Off to work at the Pawnshop, where I sweat over incoming and outgoing. Though it “pains me” I will remind myself to take heed of the words of Solomon- “Wisdom is found on the lips of those who have understanding, but there is a rod for the back of those with no sense.” Be well.

  8. Neil Davies
    April 22, 2014

    You may well be right about the animals dying, I’m not familiar enough with it to know for sure. Either way, I feel a bit like I’m debating the colour of Gandalf’s socks (or if indeed he wore any). Very happy to continue discussing it, but I’m more interested in the real world than the bible, and what evidence from the real world you might point to to justify belief, if any.

    • noelgoetz
      April 23, 2014

      Hi Neil. YES! But just a couple of queries/comments up front concerning evidence. As in court proceedings there are types of evidence that are either direct or circumstantial. Is the testimony of witnesses admissible, and under what circumstances? Will any type of Here-say evidence be admissible, which is often relied upon in civil matters? Anecdotal evidence?

      See my point? Most of us are willing to believe something true based only on the word of a good friend. Heck, I’m usually willing to pull off to the side of the road and ask directions from a complete stranger trusting that he would not maliciously mislead me. Though I am wholly willing, in some regard I am the one be asked to give testimony, if we are to explore this ‘real world’ in regards to belief, I would only ask you to tell me what you believe to be a reasonable preponderance of evidence to be. You see, most people humanists included are willing to believe some things that may have little to no ‘concrete’ evidence to support it. Black holes, String theory, Evolution, or Conspiracy theories such as was Edward Snowden a government plant? And is Elvis Presley still in hiding?

      Don’t work too terribly hard on an answer. Just some basics to get started. But keep in mind that I was half a grade from failing completely in High School science, Algebra, Language and only went to community college to chase skirts and find out where the best parties were (which qualifies most of what you probably think of me 🙂
      But don’t worry, I know you’re not expecting miracles, since you obviously don’t believe in them anyway. 😉

  9. Neil Davies
    April 23, 2014

    Hmm, this is not a good start. My threshold for evidence is very high, as should yours be. This is not only an extremely important question, but also an extraordinary claim you are making, so, as the saying goes – extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Hearsay and anecdote just don’t cut it. I certainly hope you’re not going to ask me to accept eyewitness testimony (notoriously unreliable) on such a big issue. I would gladly believe someone who told me a TV programme was really good and I should check it out, I’d be a little more sceptical if the same person told me they’d met the son of God. You should be too.

    Unfortunately though you seem to be suggesting that your evidence will comprise at least some of these things, despite their fatal weaknesses, yet you also seem to be suggesting that you don’t accept the overwhelming evidence for facts such as evolution. This is where my heart sinks. Before I get to that though, do you know anything about black holes? If you’re saying there is no concrete evidence to believe they exist – well I’m afraid you’re wrong. They are probably my favourite objects in the cosmos and are staggeringly amazing things. Does science have a complete explanation of them – not remotely, whatever is going on at the very centre of these things in all likelihood needs a deeper understanding of physics than we currently possess. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. In their most impressive form, super-massive black holes, or as active galactic nuclei, they truly are mind-boggling. A great book to read on them is Gravity’s Engines: The Other Side of Black Holes by Caleb Scharf. I’ve studied a bit of astronomy, cosmology etc and black holes (not that that should mean anything to you) so you’ve picked a particularly interesting subject to me there.

    I’ll give you string theory – that’s really just awesomely complex mathematics at the moment, although it does make predictions about the universe that could potentially be confirmed by observation at some point. This is why I don’t ‘believe’ in string theory, yet. I understand and accept it’s a hugely successful mathematical model, but whether it goes beyond that is still very much open to question.

    Evolution – I was so hoping you were not going to turn out to be a creationist. That’s so disappointing if it’s the case. I’ve studied evolution too, not to the same degree as astronomy (and again it shouldn’t mean anything to you that I did) and it also is just an amazing subject to get some understanding of. But anyway – evolution, as a process of change over time, is a fact. The evidence for this is utterly overwhelming. The current theory of evolution, the modern evolutionary synthesis, is the best explanation we have of how that process of evolution occurs. It of course has it’s beginnings with Charles Darwin’s work over 150 years ago. I’m more than happy to discuss evolution with you as far as I am able, but if you’re planning to ask me questions such as ‘where are the transitional fossils?’ and ‘how can evolution be true as it violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics?’ then I would probably not want to waste my time or your time as nothing I could say would have much effect. To be clear – to deny the reality of evolution is equivalent to claiming the Earth is flat. And I’ve met people who believe that too.

  10. daveygod
    April 23, 2014

    Apologies, but there is just too much here for me to take in. But if I may, can I add my two-pennyworth of reasons why morality and ethics cannot come from Noel’s god?

    1. Far too many people who do not believe in Noel’s god are both moral and have acceptable ethical standards.

    2. Far too many people who do believe in Noel’s god are immoral and have unpleasant ethical standards.

    3. There is no evidence that Noel’s god even exists. If he/she/it/ they don’t exist, the neither do morals and ethics.

    4. Noel obviously believes in his god’s morality and ethics based on the Bible. The Bible is one of the most morally and ethically abhorent works ever written. Make of that what you will.

    • noelgoetz
      April 23, 2014

      Thank you Neil and Davey. Much of what the scientific community is willing to classify as “theory” is IMHO, a bowl of plain cooked pasta dough thrown into an atom smashing blender and then having someone with a PHD come along and tell you by method or modeling, that it in “IN FACT” started out as Rigatoni, instead of Spaghetti.
      Most rational people agree that not all science, is equal. I’m not debating logical, repeatable and truly observational science, but there is a vast chasm in what is claimed, and what is readily observed. What some scientists are claiming as close to fact, is in practice a constantly moving target and more akin in reality ‘to your claims’ that Christianity was birthed in fantasy.
      Real science at its core is always looking, prodding, poking, observing and within reason extrapolating. That’s why there are two competing realities one’physical laws’ which by very definition are ‘set in stone’ so to speak, and there is ‘theory’. And if you want to bring ‘theory’ into the picture, then what you are undeniably bringing to the table ‘IS A REASONED FAITH’ birthed in extrapolation. The same standard of reasoning that when discussing faith, you it seems want excluded from the discussion.
      Neil. You have a great mind and a certain openness to discussion, and I’m thankful for affording me a voice in our earlier parlay, but in some respects when it comes to maintaining an open mind, on a subject you have trouble with, you set the wall so high, that someone who doesn’t hold ‘to the tenants of your faith’ , could never scale it. In layman’s terms, we call that bias. The exact bias, you freely expound when castigating/labeling those who claim to have a faith. That is clearly is not a neutral open seeking mind (notice I did not use the word’ heart’), but far closer to a closed mind. Which is clearly at odds with the scientific prerogative. IE: Since Neil can’t can’t prove a ‘certain thing’ scientifically, ‘that thing’ is therefore a certain impossibility.
      The field of Science is evolving. I’m sure I’d be correct in saying that much that has been touted as science has been either remolded or dismissed out of hand, something that science will rarely admit to in a press release. T
      However the making of reasonable claim, and theory should be applauded because it keeps us looking, stretching, making sense of the world, experiencing the grandeur and allowing us to contemplate the cog that we are in it. I have to wonder at the BOTH the religious and atheistic cosmologists who sometimes get into numbers of probability, in 5 to the powers of 10 and beyond. Again numbers like this, are basically incomprehensible and ‘theory’ based in numbers like these come far, far, closer to faith than the opposite of it. So, how could I not, deduce that someone who allows numbers like that in regards to “Theoretical Science” not in essence, be discussing something otherworldly? Granted, numbers are tool we use to measure, but measuring is based on the finite, and if things are finite… (Oops. I’m not prepared to go there.) 🙂
      I have done near zero reading on black holes, string theory, cosmology etc. and the little that I have read is mostly ‘Gobbled y Gook’ to me. Those are ‘terms’ that I thought you could relate to, that you have personal interest in, and as you confirmed, ‘did strike a cord’. But please make no claim that I discount science or the process of discovery? Instead, I welcome all ‘claims’ birthed in the realm of reasonable certainly, and believe as things progress as they are now with advanced computing that when we finally do open the curtain open on a whole area’s of science that there are things that we can’t even imagine at this time, things that would floor the both of this. But disproving the existence of God won’t be one of them.
      Neil. I’m taking a leap here 🙂 But how could a scientist searching the depths of physics be honest in removing a claim out of hand, when there is far greater anecdotal evidence in the observable world for the existence of a spiritual realm. Can anecdotal evidence be merely cast into waste can? Science could not have evolved to the place it holds without the use of anecdotal evidence. Yet some claim it nonsense without equivocation.
      I would strongly assert, that if scientists can hypothesize based on numbers even far less than what I mentioned earlier, couldn’t faith ‘or the lack of it, be something that a number could also be attributed to, leaning towards or away from the lack of a spiritual dimension? But my knowledge of ‘Cosmology’ is almost as useful to my argument, as ‘Cosmetology’, and we both could rightly be accused of trying to put ‘makeup’ on that pig. 🙂

      (Though my children would argue otherwise) I’m not a complete moron, and in the same sense I’m not a scientist either. We carry with us different make ups, leanings and talents. I don’t have the mental capacity that you do and at my age I’m ill prepared to argue cosmology beyond what I’ve mentioned or any of the higher sciences with you. So alas, based on the standards ‘that you’ve set’ I have no option but to concede. I’m a toddler where you are an Olympic hurdler. I trip over my feet, while you not only clear hurdles of scientific theory, but you strain forward to the next one, in a long line of hurdles. And for that I congratulate you. Yes, under threat of death, I might, and again say might, buy a book or two on Amazon and brush up on the latest debates from both sides, but in the very end, and I mean’ in the very end’, what good would it do. Who would I be fooling?
      But clearing hurdles, only to have endless hurdles stretching into eternity (insert your definition of eternity) could be considered akin to the insanity of a ‘dog chasing it’s tail’. Wholly based on your understanding, I would have no other choice but to believe that there is ‘no meaning’ to life other than instinctively doing whatever it takes to survive as long as possible, which even Solomon in his great claim to wisdom, pronounced was fruitless exercise.
      I can’t fault you (personally) as it relates to your stand. It’s the same stand that millions upon million of others (myself included) have at one time laid claim to over the eons. To firmly grasp the spiritual with the mind though, is as impossible as chilling ice cream in a freezer unplugged from the wall. You can’t prove the Spiritual in a test tube. And this is near where I first came into this discussion.
      In reality, how could you or I can discount the (belief) of the other? Belief is personal and and a constituent of faith, and from my vantage point, I have personally observed both the Spiritual in the material. I have a magnification tool in my toolbox that I didn’t have, pre-Christ, and while it is freely available to you, have rejected it out of hand. You therefore are compelled to utterly discount my faith, as a product of mass hysteria, a biological anomaly, a flaw which is again, acclaim based on the tenant of your faith.

      While science claims that it will someday offer us a living breathing man from the laboratory minus a soul. I propose what they will bring out is a suit hanging from a dime store manikin.

      • Neil Davies
        April 24, 2014

        OK I’ll try to respond to as much as I can, forgive me if I skip important bits:

        “And if you want to bring ‘theory’ into the picture, then what you are undeniably bringing to the table ‘IS A REASONED FAITH’ birthed in extrapolation. The same standard of reasoning that when discussing faith, you it seems want excluded from the discussion.”

        No, this is wrong. To save myself some time I’ll just quote Wikipedia: “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.” Faith does not come into it. I don’t have faith that the current scientific theory of evolution is true, instead I accept that it is the best explanation we currently have to explain the observations. It almost certainly will be improved as more observations are made, as more data comes in. What you’re doing is equivocating between the everyday usage of the word ‘theory’ and the scientific usage of the word. Not surprising, it’s a frustratingly common tactic.

        Faith, religious faith, on the other hand, is belief without evidence or indeed in spite of evidence to the contrary. If you had solid evidence for your belief, why do you call it faith? The lack of sufficient evidence is implicit in the usage of the term itself.

        “IE: Since Neil can’t can’t prove a ‘certain thing’ scientifically, ‘that thing’ is therefore a certain impossibility.”

        No, this is wrong. And again it demonstrates a misunderstanding of what science is and does. Science does not prove things, only mathematics and logic do that. Science is a method of examining evidence and providing provisional explanations for that evidence by the process of hypothesis, prediction, testing and analysis. Hypotheses that survive may become fully fledged theories or even describe physical laws.

        Science is not in the business of absolute proof. Science is not in the business of absolute certainty. When the evidence is as overwhelming as it is for something like evolution (the process) then, yes it is fair to call it a fact. Just as it is fair to call the Earth orbiting the Sun a fact. So no, just because science cannot prove something that does not mean that something becomes a certain impossibility. That is clearly and obviously wrong – for example, science cannot prove there is life outside our solar system. Are you suggesting that because of that I would claim it was a certain impossibility? I would hope you can see why that would be ridiculous (in actual fact, I would be happy to bet that we will find very strong evidence of it in the next 30 years).

        “I have to wonder at the BOTH the religious and atheistic cosmologists who sometimes get into numbers of probability, in 5 to the powers of 10 and beyond. Again numbers like this, are basically incomprehensible and ‘theory’ based in numbers like these come far, far, closer to faith than the opposite of it.”

        You’ve lost me with this point. 5 to the power 10 is 9765625, I’m really not sure what exactly is incomprehensible about that. Numbers are just numbers, huge ones are no different fundamentally than small ones. You seem to be saying theories that use big numbers are somehow inferior to those that don’t. Sorry, but that’s complete nonsense. Maybe you’re talking about large (or rather enormously small) probabilities, that makes more sense – but is still totally wrong. If you have a specific theory in mind, let me know, otherwise I can’t really comment any more on this.

        “I have done near zero reading on black holes, string theory, cosmology etc. and the little that I have read is mostly ‘Gobbled y Gook’ to me.”

        Which begs the question, why suggest there is no concrete evidence for black holes (for example)? Where did you get the idea that was the case? As I explained before, it’s not the case at all. If you’re wrong about that instance, and you are, is it not possible you’re wrong about the others too? Such as evolution for example? Does your opinion of that have the same shaky foundations, or the same source? I have several books on black holes, only some of which I understand. Some are filled with physics that is pretty much gobbledy-gook to me. That’s just my own ignorance and no basis at all to make claims about black holes.

        “But how could a scientist searching the depths of physics be honest in removing a claim out of hand, when there is far greater anecdotal evidence in the observable world for the existence of a spiritual realm.”

        But none of it stands up to scrutiny. Or logic, most of the time. It’s not like science totally ignores this stuff though, not all. There are scientists I’ve met personally who investigate supernatural, spiritual and pseudo-scientific claims all the time. It’s hardly a big branch of science I’ll grant you, but that’s because most of the questions have been answered satisfactorily long ago. To put it another way – there are almost always better explanations for the sort of anecdotal evidence you refer to than the existence of some entirely separate realm. I could go on but this is too long already…

        “Yes, under threat of death, I might, and again say might, buy a book or two on Amazon and brush up on the latest debates from both sides, but in the very end, and I mean’ in the very end’, what good would it do. Who would I be fooling?”

        First of all, I’m no cleverer than you, I don’t have access to any information you don’t, that’s all bullshit. You ask what good would reading a book do? What good would learning do? I do it because while I am here I want to further my own understanding of what we as a human race have discovered about the universe we inhabit. I do it because I get great pleasure out of it. That’s just me, not everyone has an interest in it, I understand that. You sound like you do though. I’m reading a book on dinosaurs I got the other day and it explains clearly how birds are dinosaurs. Birds evolved directly from one particular lineage of dinosaurs, the evidence is conclusive now. Which I find just amazing! Birds are dinosaurs in the same way that bats (or humans for that matter) are mammals. Remarkable. How cool is that? It makes me very sad that there are kids out there who would go wild for that sort of thing, but will probably never know it because their parents are creationists and reject evolution because it conflicts with their specific religious beliefs, which they then inflict on their kids. It makes me sad. I’m not sure I answered your question anyway!

        “Wholly based on your understanding, I would have no other choice but to believe that there is ‘no meaning’ to life other than instinctively doing whatever it takes to survive as long as possible, which even Solomon in his great claim to wisdom, pronounced was fruitless exercise.”

        My conclusion, my belief if you will, based on my understanding, is that there is no extrinsic meaning to life. But so what? So what? I provide my own meanings, plural. There are many. Family, friends, pets, work, hobbies, learning, helping others, experiencing, enjoying, and leaving the world a better place than I found it. I simply do not need to think there is any more to it than that. The most important meaning to life is that it ends, I think it’s important to know that and act accordingly.

    • noelgoetz
      April 23, 2014

      Hi Davey. Thanks for your interest in the subject. I’m not sure if you wanted me to respond or not. Maybe you were hurrying and just wanted to get something off your chest. In case you did want me to respond, I just wanted to ask a couple of general statement/questions that may be relevant. That way we can get down to the ‘nitty gritty and in the very least you’ll come away knowing with certainty if I’m as full of it, as you probably think I am :).

      1. Where do you think morality was first birthed? You know, where did it spring from?

      2. Are all morals equal?

      3. Do good people, do bad things? Do bad people do good things? Why?

      4. On #3. I’m a little confused. I don’t think both of those things belong in the same statement. Are you saying morals do or do not exist, and can the presence of a god can be proved by, or by the lack of morals?

      5.On. #4. You’re making an argument based on the bible. Is the bible relevant or not when discussing morals?

      By the way, I agree Christians can be as bad or worse acting then people who have no religion. You should hear what I’m thinking right now 😉

  11. noelgoetz
    April 26, 2014

    Neil, thank you for the time that you have put into your replies and “straightening out” some of my ineptitude. You could have pushed my face into the mud much further than you did so again I appreciate you civility. I have started writing various responses concerning the scientific reasoning that you use, and though I might make a few salient points, I’d probably flub it up in some fashion or another and distract the over-all conversation. This is the first blog that I’ve had any real interest. The subject is important and one, that I think every individual will debate throughout ones life, if only in quiet reflection. Since this conversation has consumed much time as well as emotional and mental energy I will probably pull back just a tad in the quickness of my responses. That said, I do find one area that I think atheists/humanists may spend little time thinking about.

    I think if we were to delve right to the core of this conversation “I think” following the logic I would be correct in assuming that all nature and the universe in general (if the resources were handily available) could be summed up as pretty much just a mathematical equation. That humankind, is merely part of that equation.

    My question would go out to others in your community. Do you see yourself as being just a number, a One or a Zero, an algorithm? If there is no divine spark, do your thoughts, emotion, and life, are they really all that significant? Love, Hate, Murder, Concern, Nurturing and everything else that makes us human, are they too just a complex equation, that in reality are nothing more significant than an equation on a chalkboard and being so, could be so predictable that your very next action could be predicted?

    What righ,t does a number have to justice and love. If the world most vile dictators and serial killers and their actions are nothing more than a complex algorithm, in what seems a predictable though interesting mathematical exercise, then isn’t it foolishness to care about anything?

    What is Justice? Just math, Children? Zero’s and One’s? A tree? Really nothing more than a number. Where’s the real logic in hope, love, grace, forgiveness, all emotion for that matte? That you exist should be of no importance to anyone including yourself. Isn’t this at it’s core what you’re preaching? Isn’t this at it’s center very truth of what you assert? Though I may have made a few assumptions that could be argued against, I think that overall it’s a valid observation from someone outside of your community.

    l I’d be very interesting in posing this idea as ‘a separate subject’ for discussion. I’d be interested in hearing what the individual members of your group and readers of your blog think. Thanks again Neil.

    • Neil Davies
      April 26, 2014

      I suppose it’s possible that the whole shebang could be reduced to an equation. Max Tegmark is a physicist who thinks reality *is* mathematics – I haven’t read his book yet to unpack what he means by that, but that might be close to what you mean. In this lecture:

      (which I invite you to watch as it’s brilliant), another physicist Sean Carroll shows an equation that describes pretty much all the things we humans encounter on a day to day basis (at 5.45, he explains it also), because the stuff we are familiar with is covered by quantum mechanics, relativity and the particles and forces we are familiar with. As he explains there is still tons we simply don’t know, of course. But if we can write such an equation down now, I see no reason why we couldn’t do something similar with even greater understanding of the universe.

      But I reject your premise that if that were possible, it would cast everything we humans care about as meaningless. Of course it wouldn’t, why would it? If tomorrow the news carried a story that science had cracked it, got the equation that explained everything, would you suddenly stop caring about your children (assuming you have children)? Of course not. Would I suddenly stop loving the people I love? Of course not. It wouldn’t make one jot of difference to me, other than being really extraordinarily interesting and cool.

      The reason, I would suggest, is this: the things you talk about, and many many others things too, are emergent properties; of the universe itself, of human consciousness, of human culture and society. Just because the fundamental physics of it all could be discovered doesn’t instantly reduce those things to the fundamental physics, nor does it immediately explain them. As Carroll says in his lecture, we know the basic physical rules that underpin our every day world, but that doesn’t mean we can explain everything. Consciousness is still a complete mystery, hell we can barely predict the weather accurately beyond a few days.

      So that’s what I would say to that I guess: A) we’re pretty much in the situation you fear so much already, with regard to every day stuff and B) so what? It makes no difference.

      • noelgoetz
        April 27, 2014

        Neil: “I suppose it’s possible that the whole shebang could be reduced to an equation.”

        Thanks. So let’s flesh this out just a bit more. I wasn’t sure. Does this mean that (you personally) think “the whole shebang” (which would include humankind) could be reduced to an equation? Or do you lean in another direction? You’d have to agree that a substantial amount of discussion rests on that answer.

        Neil: “But I reject your premise that if that were possible, it would cast everything we humans care about as meaningless.”

        I’m comfortable with your rejecting my premise, because now, we are entering into a premise that has less to do with mathematics and physics. If rejecting my premise was like pulling out blocks in a game of Jenga, and the smartest guy wins, then I’d be more concerned, but it’s not. We are human. These are human dilemma’s that aren’t going to be answered by using a calculator. Because ‘meaning’, in the sense that most people are able to relate to it, isn’t mathematical or chemical.

        Neil: “Consciousness is still a complete mystery, hell we can barely predict the weather accurately beyond a few days.”

        Consciousness has something to do with self realization. Consciousness as far as it relates to the Christian is not a mystery. Though we might not be able to adequately define it in physical terms, we do understand it on the conscious level. Consciousness finds it’s expression in a persons humanity. I’m fairly certain this isn’t something that one can apply to an atom.

        “As Carroll says in his lecture, we know the basic physical rules that underpin our every day world, but that doesn’t mean we can explain everything.”

        The problem is that ‘some atheists’ want to have their cake and to eat it too. They want to defend their position from a basic foundation of physical rules but then they also want to conveniently argue that in some instances that they apply.

        So rounding back to where I started. Do you believe that the universe as we know it, or imagine it to be is at it’s core a mathematical equation? I’d be interested to hear what others think as well. Is this something worthy as a topic in itself? Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Noel

  12. Neil Davies
    April 27, 2014

    “Does this mean that (you personally) think “the whole shebang” (which would include humankind) could be reduced to an equation?”

    “Do you believe that the universe as we know it, or imagine it to be is at it’s core a mathematical equation? “

    You ask it twice but I think I already answered that question – yes, I think it’s possible, even probable. I can expand on that I guess; considering the progress human beings have made in discovering the physical laws, and that we have a strong understanding of the universe right back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the big bang, I think we stand a good chance of discovering the fundamental laws. However it may be the case that it’s beyond our reach – either because they are simply beyond our ability to understand (J.B.S. Haldane said “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose.” – that may well be true of the maths), or because even if we come up with a theory that describes the laws, there might be a barrier beyond which observation is impossible and so we may never to able to confirm if the answer is the right one. Cosmologists have equations now that describe self-contained universes that may or may not be the kind of universe we inhabit. But hey, may as well be optimistic about it, the point is the endeavour that is the search at the end of the day, not the answer.

    “You’d have to agree that a substantial amount of discussion rests on that answer.”

    Maybe, maybe not.

    “We are human. These are human dilemma’s that aren’t going to be answered by using a calculator. Because ‘meaning’, in the sense that most people are able to relate to it, isn’t mathematical or chemical.”

    True. I already said as much.

    “Consciousness has something to do with self realization.”

    Consciousness is an emergent property of brains. It has a lot to do with a lot of things, but that’s what it is.

    “Consciousness as far as it relates to the Christian is not a mystery.”

    Yes, Christianity has an explanation for it. It’s wrong though.

    “Though we might not be able to adequately define it in physical terms, we do understand it on the conscious level.”

    You understand consciousness on the conscious level? Huh?

    “Consciousness finds it’s expression in a persons humanity. I’m fairly certain this isn’t something that one can apply to an atom.”

    I suppose the first bit is right to a degree, but are you implying therefore that other species do not have consciousness? Yes, you can’t apply it to an atom, obviously. I don’t believe anyone ever suggested that (maybe Deepak Chopra). You can however apply it to the vast assemblage of atoms we call the brain, self-evidently.

    “The problem is that ‘some atheists’ want to have their cake and to eat it too. They want to defend their position from a basic foundation of physical rules but then they also want to conveniently argue that in some instances that they apply.”

    I don’t understand the point. Theism as a model fails completely to explain anything about the universe we observe. I’m confused about what you’re saying in the last sentence – the physical laws always apply (apart from where they break down on the very edge of our understanding, singularities in black holes, the big bang etc, but that’s because we don’t have the right rules yet, not because those ultimate rules don’t apply) but they maybe not be sufficient to explain something. Not sure how best to explain because I’m not sure if I’m even talking about the same thing, but just knowing the fundamental physical laws doesn’t mean you can derive higher level behaviour from them. I’m struggling to think of a good example… even knowing precisely the quantum mechanics of two hydrogen atoms bonded to an oxygen atom, you wouldn’t be able to derive the theories behind fluid dynamics purely from those quantum laws. That may not be a good (or even a correct) example but I’m going back again to emergent properties, that’s what I’m talking about.

    And besides, as a wise man once said: “Have your cake and eat it… there’s no other reason to have a cake” 🙂

    • noelgoetz
      April 27, 2014

      Thank you Neil for making clarifications about your ‘beliefs’. I think that you’ve placed so much faith in the advancement of science to this point, that credibility is at serious issue here. Not, that you are not wholly entitled to believe in something, and make claims based on those beliefs, but if a rubber band were stretched to the extent that you’ve used extrapolation, you’d be in danger of putting an eye out.
      Are you saying that your following statement in the light of ‘current knowledge’ should be understood as fact? If not, you use terms that would make the reader believe that you do.
      Neil: “I can expand on that I guess; considering the progress human beings have made in discovering the physical laws, and that we have a strong understanding of the universe right back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the big bang, I think we stand a good chance of discovering the fundamental laws.”
      “and that we have ‘a strong understanding’ of the universe right back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the big bang” ?
      Gee and I thought it was just us religious zealots who can be accused of drinking the kool-aid. Yes, I’d have to agree that we have made enormous leaps in many area’s and across many fields of our understanding, especially in things pertaining to earth and what goes on here, but aren’t their any ‘respectable’ non-religious scientists who themselves, challenge the “Theory” of the Big Bang? Or are they only credible, if they believe in the ‘current flavor of the month’ on how the universe began? Are you saying that we are so advanced at this point, that only an extremely slim or that no possibility exists that science may be premature in making this kind of claim?
      Noel: “We are human. These are human dilemma’s that aren’t going to be answered by using a calculator. Because ‘meaning’, in the sense that most people are able to relate to it, isn’t mathematical or chemical.”
      Neil: “True. I already said as much.”
      Noel: “Consciousness has something to do with self realization.”
      Neil: “Consciousness is an emergent property of brains. It has a lot to do with a lot of things, but that’s what it *is*.”

      Correct me Neil, if I’m making an outlandish assumption, but wouldn’t most people agree that that ‘meaning’ is indelibly tied to ‘consciousness’. On one hand, you agreed that “meaning” isn’t mathematical or chemical, and yet you say that consciousness is an emergent property of brains, ‘which according to your belief’ “IS” mathematical/chemical. I might be missing the logic here but how do you reconcile the two?

      Noel: “Consciousness as far as it relates to the Christian is not a mystery.”

      Neil: “Yes, Christianity has an explanation for it. It’s wrong though.”

      Neil. You certainly have a leg up when explaining some of the physical properties we discussed and ‘theory’, but that’s about as much a knee jerk accusation as what Christians are accused me of. On one hand you want to use numbers and assumptions that don’t come close to lottery odds, and yet you dismiss out of hand the possibility that the Christian explanation is wrong.

      What are the odds of it being wrong, and what models/explanations are you using to come to that conclusion? I understand that putting numbers or making odds on something can be a tricky proposition since the parameters can sometimes be a little fuzzy, but if I hear you correctly, millions upon millions of Christians are flat out wrong, so far wrong, that you can’t put any number on the possibility of it being true. I think you’ve removed the ‘human’ from the equation to the point, that in your view ,science is the new faith and anyone who doesn’t agree, is somehow misguided and not to be taken seriously.

      Noel: “Though we might not be able to adequately define it in physical terms, we do understand it on the conscious level.”

      Neil: “You understand consciousness on the conscious level? Huh?”

      Yes, on the conscious level, because it is on the conscious level that the Consciousness/Spiritual is lived out. I’d be correct in assuming, wouldn’t I, that you believe in dimensions that can’t be seen, and are difficult if not impossible to measure, wouldn’t I? But yes, things point to it. Well, in this world, things point to the spiritual that can’t be seen or measured, but that human experience points to as being valid. No, maybe you can’t take a picture of it, measure it’s length and depth but based on observation, something is certainly going on here that science has no basis in fact to explain away.

      Neil quoted: (J.B.S. Haldane said “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose.” – that may well be true of the maths), or because even if we come up with a theory that describes the laws, there might be a barrier beyond which observation is impossible and so we may never to able to confirm if the answer is the right one.

      Thanks to Mr. Haldane! For putting a spiritual face, on an observational dilema! Crossing the barrier that he is articulating, goes beyond what the scientist can reason, it’s something that we in Christianity have a term for.

      “Faith’.

      “Faith” is a word with a biblical definition, and is one, if you were doing your very best, might want to consider applying. The definition is as follows.

      “Faith is the object of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.”

      So, what stands in your way of using the word ‘Faith’ to describe what you sometimes hypothesize? Is it because it fraught with moral implication? Something outside of ones self? Is it because it cannot be poked or prodded? But only alluded to? Well, in some respects, neither can the big bang. Numbers and Models can only achieve so much. There are things about the Big Bang that can only be pointed at, and still, you have ‘certain faith’ that it happened, and all that ‘*is*’, has sprung from it.

      So sorry for not proofing the following. No wonder my statement didn’t make sense. I failed to insert the word “DON’T” at the bottom.

      “The problem is that ‘some atheists’ want to have their cake and to eat it too. They want to defend their position from a basic foundation of physical rules but then they also want to conveniently argue that in some instances that they ‘DON’T’ apply.”

      Neil: ‘Theism as a model fails completely to explain anything about the universe we observe.’

      Well Neil, that’s only because you choose not to include ‘humanity’ in your ‘model’. And without including it, how could it ever make sense? But you’ll have to forgive all of us who in our flawed estate consider ourselves human, especially when at our core, we are nothing more than a cosmic calculation. 🙂 BTW. Yes I have 5 lovely children all of whom, before knowing the answer to one plus one, knew that a kiss added up to love.

  13. Neil Davies
    April 28, 2014

    We’ve reached the point now where I’m going to have to start repeating myself 🙂

    “I think that you’ve placed so much faith in the advancement of science to this point, that credibility is at serious issue here.”

    That is not the case I’m afraid. My confidence in the advancement of science is not based on faith, it is based on… wait for it… the advancement of science over the last couple of centuries. In other words, the evidence. Show me any other method of acquiring knowledge that has improved our understanding of the universe in such a short space of time.

    “Are you saying that your following statement in the light of ‘current knowledge’ should be understood as fact? If not, you use terms that would make the reader believe that you do.”

    I assume you’re aiming that comment at when I said “and that we have a strong understanding of the universe right back to a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the big bang”. That’s the situation we’re in, in isn’t simply my opinion: you may (or may not) have seen recently the findings of the BICEP experiment which looked at the cosmic microwave background radiation to find evidence of the theory of inflation (which was invented back in the 80’s by physicists). It found the evidence predicted by the theory, which is a very strong indication that the theory is right. This is a perfect example of how science works: observations are made, hypotheses that attempt to explain the data are invented, models are derived, predictions are made and tested against further observations… and on and on. Inflationary theory describes what was going on in the universe trillionths of trillionths of a second after the big bang. So it’s fair to say we have a strong understanding of that (although the BICEP results need to be replicated by other experiments to be accepted, that hasn’t happened as yet but I don’t think it will take that long – again, another example of how science works, one result from one experiment is not enough). Sorry if you find that hard to accept, but there it is. I’m not claiming it to be Fact, or the Truth, I’m simply explaining where we are today.

    “aren’t their any ‘respectable’ non-religious scientists who themselves, challenge the “Theory” of the Big Bang? Or are they only credible, if they believe in the ‘current flavor of the month’ on how the universe began? Are you saying that we are so advanced at this point, that only an extremely slim or that no possibility exists that science may be premature in making this kind of claim?”

    I expect there are scientists out there who challenge the big bang theory, yes. But they would undoubtedly be in a tiny minority. The Big Bang theory is not remotely ‘current flavour of the month’ – far from it, it’s been around since the 1920’s (and was actually proposed by a Catholic priest). It isn’t remotely a controversial theory, despite what you may believe – it’s survived nearly a century of scientists trying to disprove it after all, and all the observational data we have collected in that time have only strengthened it. I don’t know what you think the big bang theory actually says, but really all it claims is that the universe is expanding and therefore at some point all the matter in the universe was at a single point. That’s it. The evidence backs that up completely. It makes no claim beyond that.

    You said earlier you’ve done nearly zero reading on this sort of thing, so it does surprise me that you return to the subject – I can only suggest you do go and read as much as you can about it, because it does appear a lot of your assumptions about it are inaccurate.

    “Correct me Neil, if I’m making an outlandish assumption, but wouldn’t most people agree that that ‘meaning’ is indelibly tied to ‘consciousness’. On one hand, you agreed that “meaning” isn’t mathematical or chemical, and yet you say that consciousness is an emergent property of brains, ‘which according to your belief’ “IS” mathematical/chemical. I might be missing the logic here but how do you reconcile the two?”

    Of course meaning is indelibly tied to consciousness, it’s a product of it after all. Philosophers today spend their careers trying to figure out the ‘meaning of meaning’, so I’m certainly not going to be able to sort that out for you I’m afraid. Brains obey the laws of physics, that doesn’t mean it will get you anywhere taking abstract concepts we as conscious, sentient beings have invented and trying to reduce them to the physics.

    “On one hand you want to use numbers and assumptions that don’t come close to lottery odds, and yet you dismiss out of hand the possibility that the Christian explanation is wrong.”

    I still don’t know what point you’re trying to make regards numbers/lottery odds, but nevertheless, the Christian explanation of consciousness (which is what we were talking about there) is wrong, sorry. It proposes an immortal soul separate from the physical brain which survives after the death of the brain. There is simply no reliable evidence whatsoever to support that idea and in fact it is flat out contradicted by the clear and conclusive evidence that the mind and the brain cannot be separated; damaged the brain and the mind is damaged also. So that’s why I dismiss the Christian explanation for consciousness.

    “I’d be correct in assuming, wouldn’t I, that you believe in dimensions that can’t be seen, and are difficult if not impossible to measure, wouldn’t I?”

    No, actually I really don’t know about that idea; I understand that different numbers of extra spatial dimensions are predicted by different versions of string theory and that as yet (as far as I know) no observational evidence of them has been found. I think it just might be possible that the LHC might find that evidence but I don’t know much beyond that. So it’s certainly possible but I don’t believe or not believe it currently, I can’t commit either way due to the lack of evidence. You seem quite fixated on ‘belief’ – it’s perfectly OK to simply say ‘I don’t know’ if that’s the situation.

    “Well, in this world, things point to the spiritual that can’t be seen or measured, but that human experience points to as being valid. No, maybe you can’t take a picture of it, measure it’s length and depth but based on observation, something is certainly going on here that science has no basis in fact to explain away.”

    On what evidence to you make that claim? If you can’t see it or measure it, how do you know anything at all about it? There is a big, big difference, between the two things you’re trying hard to say are equivalent and what our respective beliefs are about them. Extra spatial dimensions are a prediction of a theory, yet, as I explained to be confirmed. That is very different from a supposed ‘spiritual realm’ that exists in addition to and separate from the natural world we can observe and that somehow interacts with it (how, exactly would it do that?).

    “Thanks to Mr. Haldane! For putting a spiritual face, on an observational dilema! Crossing the barrier that he is articulating, goes beyond what the scientist can reason, it’s something that we in Christianity have a term for.

    “Faith’.”

    No, not at all – the explanation of what Haldane was expressing in his quote was in the passage I included the quote in; he’s highlighting the point that human beings simply may not have the cognitive capacity to understand what the true nature of the universe may be. That doesn’t mean a scientist requires faith to accept that the best models and theories we do come up with (by use of our reason, so obviously not beyond our reason) are not the best explanations we have at that point.

    ““Faith” is a word with a biblical definition, and is one, if you were doing your very best, might want to consider applying. The definition is as follows.

    “Faith is the object of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.”

    So, what stands in your way of using the word ‘Faith’ to describe what you sometimes hypothesize?

    I think that is an excellent definition of the word because it answers your question for me quite well – why do I not use the word to describe what I hypothesize (assuming you mean current scientific theories like the big bang)? Firstly, they are not ‘things hoped for’, they are simply models of the universe that fit the data – and secondly the models are built from evidence of things that are very much seen; almost literally in the sense that almost all of the observational evidence comes from the electromagnetic spectrum (of which visible light is a part). So the word fails to apply on both parts of the definition you offer. It does of course apply perfectly to religious beliefs because I imagine most people who believe them actively hope them to be true (a dangerous bias) and they are based on things unseen, which I would describe as a lack of evidence. As I said earlier, faith, religious faith, is belief without evidence or indeed in spite of evidence to the contrary.

    “There are things about the Big Bang that can only be pointed at, and still, you have ‘certain faith’ that it happened, and all that ‘*is*’, has sprung from it.”

    Once again for luck – I don’t have faith, certain or otherwise in the big bang theory. I accept that it is the best scientific model we currently have. If it didn’t agree with the evidence, I wouldn’t accept it and neither would anyone else. As Richard Feynman said “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

    “Well Neil, that’s only because you choose not to include ‘humanity’ in your ‘model’. And without including it, how could it ever make sense? But you’ll have to forgive all of us who in our flawed estate consider ourselves human, especially when at our core, we are nothing more than a cosmic calculation.”

    I don’t even think that first bit makes sense, how exactly am I choosing not to include humanity? Are you suggesting I don’t consider you, or myself, human, in some sense? I’ll try not to take offence at that. And again I do despair at the insistence you have to use the idea that the universe may well be fundamentally explainable at a mathematical level (whether we are capable of doing so or not) as meaning we are ‘nothing more than a cosmic calculation’ – it’s certainly not my opinion.

    As I said I fear from now on I’ll simply be repeating myself, so if this is my last reply, I thank you for your considered replies and discussion 🙂

    • Neil Davies
      April 28, 2014

      And if in fact I do bow out now, which I may have to for time reasons as much as anything else, I really really urge you to watch the video I linked to in an earlier reply (the Sean Carroll one titled Poetic Naturalism) because, having watched it a few times now myself, it explains what I’ve been attempting to explain and addresses your questions far far better than I’ve managed to do. If you’re willing to spend significant time discussing all this here, then I’d hope you’d also be willing to take 50 minutes to watch the talk and if you do, please reply and give me you’re thoughts on it because I would love to hear them.

      • noelgoetz
        April 28, 2014

        Of course I will.  You’ve invested an enormous amount of time, in not only allowing my questions/concerns but thoughtfully responding, to what I’m positive has been a fair amount of irritating banter on my end .  Much earlier on I think I mentioned that I haven’t always been a Christian. Growing up, my mother was what some might describe themselves as a free-thinker, well-read, and quite the revolutionary in regards to race and equal justice. She and my father founded and edited an underground newspaper in the San Francisco area and with the long hair (minus the beads) were quite the hippies. They were forever dragging us along to march and picket. The stories I could tell you.  Then something happened, my mother became an evangelical Christian. And then years later my father- but not quite so evangelical, but convinced none the less. ‘No one could have seen that coming’.  Even as a pre-teen and into my early teens I berated her for years. We were the kind of family that would sit for hours around the table arguing and defending one point or another. So I of course argued the common off the top of the head arguments and worse made fun of her at every opportunity.  I was firmly on the side of unbelief and unconvinced. It sounds illogical, but I’ve now come to understand things that I can’t prove. Nothing is as frustrating as not having the tools and the ability to use those tools to explain ones self adequately. So asking questions and adding personal experience and examples are what I have to offer.  Though I don’t agree with all your conclusions, I can’t help but appreciate you as a person who takes a stand and ardently and skilfully defends it. I have to admit that I like you, you’re sincere and as honest I believe that any of us are. And yes I will watch the video sometime “later in the week “as I have to fill in for my Pastor in teaching this Wednesday nights service and will be busy studying for that.  Take care.

  14. daveygod
    April 28, 2014

    Well, Noel, I’ve never studied philosophy, but I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can.

    1. Where do you think morality was first birthed? You know, where did it spring from?

    I don’t know who ‘invented’ morality, but I would guess the Ancient Greeks were the first to think about the subject.

    2. Are all morals equal?

    Probably not, but why is that an important distinction? Is it more wrong to murder somebody than it is to steal from them? Yes, of course, but I wouldn’t encourage anybody to do either of these.

    3. Do good people, do bad things? Do bad people do good things? Why?

    Yes to both. Why depends on individual circumstances.

    4. On #3. I’m a little confused. I don’t think both of those things belong in the same statement. Are you saying morals do or do not exist, and can the presence of a god can be proved by, or by the lack of morals?

    If morals only exist because they are provided by your god, then until your god is proven to exist, morality is not proven. The fact that we have morals without your god shows that they are unlikely to be God-given.

    5.On. #4. You’re making an argument based on the bible. Is the bible relevant or not when discussing morals?

    The bible is very relevant when you are discussing biblical inspired morality. It is but a small part of the picture when discussing morality generally.

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