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July 18, 2013

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Everyone is following the same moral law - it's human nature. It's the compulsion to survive and transmit your genes to succeeding generations. This is not relativism. It's not that "each person is a moral compass," but instead each person has the moral compass built into them by evolution.

Unfortunately I'm still waiting to meet a Christian who even understands the idea of evolutionary morality. OK, maybe you disbelieve in evolution, but you could at least try to understand the concept instead of just crowing about relativism again and again.

but instead each person has the moral compass built into them by evolution.

Almost correct but not quite. It's actually God that has built into ourselves "the moral compass"...

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. - Rom. 1:19-20
Though they know God's righteous decree... - Rom. 1:32

The Goat Head responds to John Moore:

The compulsion to survive and transmit your genes to succeeding generations is inadequate to explain many of our most cherished moral ideals.

Rape is an excellent method of gene transmission. Genocide is very good for survival and gene transmission. Infanticide works well to ensure that it is your genes that survive instead of others. Ruthless Competition works better for survival and gene transmission than any other method. Quite easy to see this from history. Met any Carthaginians lately?

I'm still waiting to meet a Christian who even understands the idea of evolutionary morality.

I’m still waiting for someone to describe it so it's believable.

Everyone is following the same moral law

What do you mean by "following"? Do you mean, actively following? Do you mean that we all hold the same morals? Surely, not. Do you mean we’re all doing our best? Of course, some of us like doing very bad things and get a kick out of immoral behavior. Do these types of people hope to survive?

Ultimately:

Everyone tries to survive ≠ everyone follows the same moral law


Goat Head gives the typical knee-jerk reaction in mentioning things like rape and genocide. Those things don't tend to transmit your genes very well in the long run, because the most powerful tool humans have for their genetic survival is cooperation. It's what we do best. Remember, we're not talking about individual survival or short-term survival. The goal is long-term survival for the whole species.

KWM asks, "Do you mean that we all hold the same morals?"

I say we all have the same goal, but we pursue many different strategies in hopes of attaining that goal.

Most people are trying their best, but no one knows which strategies really work best in the long run. Then again, some people are insane and not really trying. But the point is that genetic survival is an objective standard we can use for judging right and wrong.

John Moore,

I say we all have the same goal, but we pursue many different strategies

I don’t think so. If, by same goal, you mean survival, pursuing survival isn’t necessarily moral.

Let’s assume survival is always the ultimate moral cause (even though it’s clearly not). What are these “strategies”? It seems you’ve just moved the moral judgment to the “strategy” instead of the “goal”.

For example, a homeless man may steal a loaf of bread to survive as he sees fit or Bernie Madoff may swindling billions to survive as he sees fit – are these strategies equally valid because they’re pursuing survival? The truth is we make many moral decisions each day that have absolutely no bearing on our abilities live and reproduce (and may even hurt them).

No one knows which strategies really work best in the long run.
But the point is that genetic survival is an objective standard we can use for judging right and wrong.

It's obvious we all don’t “follow” the same moral law as you stated earlier. As far as survival being an objective standard, it’s no more an objective standard than a suicide pact between friends.

A strategy is only valid if it works in the long run. Theft is one strategy, but it tends to fail because people cooperate to fight against it. Generally speaking crime doesn't pay.

You talk of following a moral law, but there aren't any rigid laws, just as there is no single best strategy. On the other hand, everyone is compelled to pursue survival and transmit their genes to future generations. That's what you're really trying to do whether you view it in those terms or not.

@ John Moore
“Remember, we're not talking about individual survival or short-term survival. The goal is long-term survival for the whole species.”

I can buy someone looking out for himself. I can buy someone looking out for his family and/or close friends. I may even be convinced of the odd altruistic sacrifice *, but no way have I ever seen anyone making personal life decisions based on saving the species.
*and if I can think of any it’s always to the detriment of society
Come on John, we went through this argument last month.

The closer someone is related to you, the stronger is your urge to cooperate with them.

Just for perspective: I'm talking about a consequentialist morality as opposed to a morality based on laws handed down. It's a different way of looking at the problem.

Goat Head responds to John Moore:

"On the other hand, everyone is compelled to pursue survival and transmit their genes to future generations"

John, this is demonstrably untrue. Look around. The non immigrant birth rate in the US is below replacement. We obviously are not "compelled".

Homosexuality being celebrated and encouraged. Completely at odds with transmitting genes to future generations.

Also, you say, "the most powerful tool humans have for their genetic survival is cooperation. It's what we do best. Remember, we're not talking about individual survival or short-term survival. The goal is long-term survival for the whole species."

Again, easily disproved. Historically what we do best is conflict, not cooperation. A simple perusal of a reputable history text should suffice.

Evolution is all about short term survival. If it could be said to have a "goal", it is only for an individual to survive long enough to reproduce. This idea of a species having evolutionary goals is wishful thinking on your part.

Unless, of course, you think an outside intelligence is directing evolution. Or if you think the system was designed for a certain end. Perhaps that is where you are going with this.

Interesting.

From the "cheap seats",

Goat Head 5

The Goat Head lobs a few questions from the cheap seats for John Moore:


Do you think there are genes that code for moral behavior?

If so, how do these "genes" compel us to act morally? Is behavior genetically determined?

Do we have any free will or volition to act in a way contrary to what our genes code for?

Just wondering,

Goat Head 5

You ask several good questions, Goat Head.

Birth rates declining? Homosexuality on the rise? This is because sheer numbers of babies don't give you the best chance at long-term survival. It's more important to raise a few children well rather than having a lot of poorly raised children who might never give you grandchildren.

Conflict or cooperation? It's both. We cooperate with those on our team in conflict with other teams.

Evolution doesn't have a goal; we are the ones with the goal. Our goal must be long-term survival. It's no good to have lots of kids if you don't have any grandkids.

Certainly our genes affect our behavior in many ways. Humans are very sociable beings, and we cooperate well. This probably has genetic underpinnings, although cooperation itself isn't necessarily moral.

No, I don't think we have free will. Our volition is simply to do what our genes make us want to do.

JM - "No, I don't think we have free will. Our volition is simply to do what our genes make us want to do."

Then why do we bother with rules/laws or punish people for breaking them. In your world no one can be held responsible.

A reply to John Moore:

Thanks for your answers to my questions.

Denying free will, being a determinist, whether a religious one like Calvinists or an Atheistic one, is difficult. Living, as we all must, with the illusion that we are making actual choices, when we know we really are puppets, whether of our genes or of an all determining God, is very depressing.

You have my sympathies.

Goat Head 5

The Goat Head to John Moore"

"Birth rates declining? Homosexuality on the rise? This is because sheer numbers of babies don't give you the best chance at long-term survival. It's more important to raise a few children well rather than having a lot of poorly raised children who might never give you grandchildren"

John, that isn't the way natural selection works. As someone once said, "Quantity has a quality all its own."

That low birth rate "quality" thing doesn't work when other nearby populations are having nine kids to a family. In that equation your genes lose, big time. The low birth rate "quality" trait is selected against. Any competent biologist would tell you this.

Goat Head 5

Robert suggested that without free will "no one can be held responsible."

Being "responsible" means nothing more than enjoying the benefits or suffering the ill effects of the things we do. It's not a question of what we should get.

Why punish criminals when they don't have free will? Because some harm came from them, and we want to avoid getting more of that harm.

It's not that the criminal has some kind of evil spirit. It's just that the criminal happened to do something we don't like. And we expect he'll do it again if we don't stop him.

If we are puppets, then there must be a puppet-master. But we aren't puppets. No one planned our fate ahead of time.

Is God your puppet-master? That's what sounds depressing to me. Maybe you'd have a greater sense of freedom without clinging to this God concept.

The video contains a strange contrast. In describing the atheist's first "factual error", Alan Shlemon refers to the contrast between "absolute" and "relative" morality, indicating that God provides mankind with absolute morality. Then in discussing the atheist's second "factual error", Mr. Shlemon explains that God had one set of rules for the Israelites before Christ, as expressed in Levitical law, and then a different set of rules under the "new covenant" as implemented by Christ.

What is "absolute" about a set of rules when they can be summarily changed by a "new covenant"?

I think the real problem here for Christians is actually the assertion of biblical inerrancy. If all of the bible must be right, then God's moral law cannot be absolute, because He changed it over time. On the other hand, if God's moral law as expressed by Jesus must be right, then clearly it must be admitted that there was something wrong about the previous law. It can't all be right.

As for the rest, I'd say that I don't agree with the atheist's position as expressed in this video. (I haven't tried to trace back and see whether Mr. Shlemon has expressed it accurately.)

There is a regrettable misuse of the term "objective." In science, this term mens evidence-based, with careful attention to validation, checking for and correcting flaws that arise from inadequate observation, faulty logic and confirmation bias. Morality (or ethics) can be objective, in the sense of being grounded on evidence - we can tell when people are hurt, and when they are made better, and we can work out the relative merits of alternative actions, according to the overall harm or improvement they produce. Paul, when writing to Titus, specifically describes the rationale for doing all the good things he instructs Titus to do: because it helps everybody. This is not controversial, even for Christians.

We are a social species; our survival as a species depends crucially on our ability to succeed in acting collaboratively. The principles of sustainable collaboration are essentially "the moral law", and "the moral law" is nothing more nor less than the principles of sustainable collaboration. Our ability to develop, acknowledge and apply these principles is profoundly augmented by our general capacity for empathy and compassion, which has become an integral part of our reproductive cycle (though some proportion of individuals do not exercise this capacity in their behaviors, for any of a variety of reasons).

Our development throughout recorded history has shown a trend whereby the scope of cross-cultural breadth and inclusiveness for collaboration has, on the whole, been expanding. This has been working at an accelerating rate since the end of WW-II.

The world wars of the 20th century were undeniably severe setbacks in this trend. Those wars "took the roof off" when it came to issues of national sovereignty international collaboration, and the ability of any nation or group of nations to defy the intrinsic rules for sustainable collaboration, but those wars were not the end of humanity, and the painfulness of the lessons taught to the survivors has produced, as a direct consequence, an unprecedented expansion of global population. (That of course raises other problems; China has addressed overpopulation through governmental enforcement; many Westerners are sensitive to the issue and, whether deliberately or unconsciously, are having fewer children; other regions may be heading for severe trouble.)

As for "playing the Nazi card", when will apologists ever learn? It serves their purpose so poorly, considering how much Hitler's "final solution" was dependent on a predominantly Christian society with a doctrinally ingrained hatred toward Jews (and other non-Christians, and homosexuals, who were also targeted for imprisonment, slave labor and extermination).

The unsuitability and ultimate failure of Hitler's "final solution" as a means of "sustainable collaboration" is patently obvious as a matter of simple logic. The fact that the final solution was carried to such nearly total success is a testament to the power of unthinking devotion when it is granted to, and usurped by, totalitarianism. It demonstrates human fallibility, just as did the Levitical laws, which obviously were a product of men, not any sort of deity, no matter what those men may have asserted to justify themselves.

JM - "we expect he'll do it again if we don't stop him."

And who gets to decide who has the genes that makes them do them do the things we like and who has the genes that makes them do the things we don't like?

The Goat Head replies to John Moore:

"Is God your puppet-master? That's what sounds depressing to me. Maybe you'd have a greater sense of freedom without clinging to this God concept."

Actually, John, I am a firm believer in free will. We are slaves to neither a puppeteer God nor our genes.

Your choices are your own, John. This is at the same time freeing and frightening. Can't blame God OR your genes for your mistakes.

Goat Head 5

The Goat Head weighs in from the cheap seats:

Otto says, "Our development throughout recorded history has shown a trend whereby the scope of cross-cultural breadth and inclusiveness for collaboration has, on the whole, been expanding. This has been working at an accelerating rate since the end of WW-II."

I must call BS on this, Otto. The trend has been towards Balkanization, not "cross-cultural breadth and inclusiveness". Read your newspaper and some history.

Goat Head 5


John Moore Wrote (first post):
" Everyone is following the same moral law - it's human nature. It's the compulsion to survive and transmit your genes to succeeding generations. This is not relativism. It's not that "each person is a moral compass," but instead each person has the moral compass built into them by evolution. Unfortunately I'm still waiting to meet a Christian who even understands the idea of evolutionary morality. OK, maybe you disbelieve in evolution, but you could at least try to understand the concept instead of just crowing about relativism again and again.
"

Ok, so in your view evolution built in each person a moral compass.

Why follow it?

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