January 2014



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by Lloyd H. Whitling

 

Wisdom: [4] A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.

Morality: [1] The quality of acting in accord with standards of right or good conduct.

Moral: Praiseworthy; Immoral: blamable

Amoral: Senseless as to what qualities elicit, or act in favor of, blame or praise.

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People call atheists ‘immoral’, ‘amoral’ and evil without having anything factual to show for it, nor any realistic explanation of what they mean. That is wrong, and this is why.

Even to equate moral conduct with wise conduct would not satisfy the nitpickers who would then want to know by what standards do we recognize someone as wise. Certainly, some truisms must apply here: It would seem obvious that to wreak havoc upon public property and so bring repercussions onto yourself would be unwise, but would it be immoral? It would seem obvious that to cause intentional harm to one’s friends would be both unwise and immoral, but studying your dictionary will never tell you why. It would seem unwise, but neither moral nor immoral to die for the sake of some questionable cause and yet proponents of that cause will deem it highly moral, and immoral to refuse. History shows many examples of people considered very moral who were unwise, and of people accredited with high wisdom whose reputation resulted from acts considered immoral by their peers. Are morality and wisdom of equal importance, or is one to be considered of more value than the other? How can we recognize the truth about such considerations in some way that could be accepted as universal?

From a correspondent:

“Ethics, or morality, or whatever we choose to call it, is a human invention. We could travel the universe forever in the Starship Enterprise and never find any  morality. The only time it would appear is when we opened our mouths and let the word issue forth.”

I will agree that morality is a concern that humans consider important, but have to disagree with such a denigrative choice of words. They cause such a statement to be entirely erroneous. To start with, any disclaimers you choose to apply to ‘morality’ also apply to ‘invention’, ‘distance’, ‘time’, ‘reality’ and many other words whose applicability to human existence we choose to take for granted by remaining oblivious to “argumentum ad absurdum“. Logical fallacies do not make for truth (another word you will never find any of on your starship trip). If morality does not exist in the abstract, by that same token we should deny existence of truth, and so your statement cannot be granted credence by its own condition of logic. Be good, for good is good to do.

Furthermore, words are, themselves, a human invention in that same way. We agree on meanings for them so that we can convey information to other humans and elicit understanding about ideas, events, intentions, promises and all other kinds of what amount, in that same way, to “human inventions.” That you can say that and have me understand it shows that this invention works— for so long as everybody will enable that.

Invention, even as you describe it, is to view something as a human creation, something artificial, which does not separate it from being natural, since we are natural animals. “A human invention”, as you call it, is not absolutely so about morality in a natural rather than religious setting. There, people get called ‘moral’ because of good behavior. ‘Morality’ simply provides a label for what we mean by that. The word is used, by the religious, to refer to what they call “Godly behavior.” It is used by secular people to refer to social behavior. Related to that, it is used in Gaian Hedonism to refer to the pleasure/pain process involving principles derived from awareness of homeostasis and homeorhesis. What is so wrong about something being a human invention with practical applications to aid understanding of a process, examples of which I would bet surround you? The religious setting is what you should seek to deny; as a secular person, the natural is what you ought to understand and support, not abandon with a wholesale contempt for your choice of expressions to derogate.

Morality is a word for our recognition of a behavioral condition, as valid as any other word that describes a human concern, but in this case regarding intentional (self-initiated) behavior. Red is a condition of light reflected from a surface. Dark is a condition, hard is a condition, painful is a condition, steep is a condition. All of them describe something our senses tell us about objects or events. Morality, as described according to dictionary definitions, is about intentional good or bad. To be natural, it would have to be as recognized throughout the animal kingdom, the same recognition a secular person should give to it in order to be logically consistent, the limiting standard would be about whether or not animals other than humans can assign values to intentions.

But, first, let’s get down to basics. From what can we infer moral parameters in order to give it valid natural meaning and substance?

All of existence, everything in existence, boils down to events and processes if you want to get at the rootmost reductionist level of things. In fact, if you want to get at the root of things, that is the only way to do it, and everything to exist can be understood according to that. So called “concrete” things result from events involved in the processes that result in them: a galaxy’s worth of microparticles that assembled into whatever their configuration is, all interact in the processes that resulted in their semblance of concreteness. Awareness of that has resulted in philosophies that contend how all our awareness of reality is an illusion (which treat it from that point on as a delusion) with which I also disagree at many levels, for the fore-given reason. So it may be, but it is one we understand and find useful, and so we are not deluded by it. The illusion is necessary for our survival; to present it as delusion, even if only by indirect inference, interferes with that.

The most important result of understanding existence in that manner is a growing of awareness that all kinds of events constitute reality, not all of which are “concrete”, but are just as real nevertheless in that we can recognize them as what they portend to be. They are real in much the same way that a brick house, built from particles of clay or gypsum, is real and dependably solid to our senses, even though it is an assemblage of particles that are, themselves, assemblages of particles. To call such an edifice “illusion” and treat it as “delusion” is meaningless to our lives and could result in actual harm. As I said, we understand the illusion and find it useful.

What makes them real is that they are observable when understood in that fashion. Aside from religious claims, morality is nothing more than a response process that results from awareness of actions and evaluations of their consequences, and a natural animal need for consequences to be desirable rather than regrettable while we all act to maintain at least a semblance of equilibrium. It is about intentional conditions of behavior and conditions of the results of such. It is the gaining of wisdom from our contemplations of, and experiences with, our environments. It is that multitude of differences in the makeup of our environments, and of ourselves, that makes attempts to legislate to enforce moral compunctions regrettable and unethical, as we each have different needs and coexist in different circumstances.

Morality does involve intention. Nature sometimes gets accused of being immoral, but nature cannot be shown to act upon intentions, with whatever zeal we would work to push that accusation. Acts of nature cannot be shown to be truly self-initiated, either, without accrediting nature with a capacity for choice and the possession of a “self”. Accidents have to be shown to result from intention to be considered immoral or blamable (however regrettable their consequences may be), even though legal action may result from irresponsible behavior. If you take a test and provide a wrong answer, that is not intentional however regrettable the result. To intentionally provide wrong answers is, however, if harmful, immoral in any way that results in loss or pain to others. That secular people recognize that shows up in accusations from our side against religion, that it is immoral because it causes harm and those people ought to know better; it results in religious (intentional?) accusations against science as being immoral because they accuse it of providing misleading information in a “war against religion”; and our accusations against religious political propaganda as being immoral because it intentionally slanders third parties demonstrably innocent of the charges laid against them, which results in harm from which someone hopes for gain. In other words, we lay the blame onto them and view them to be responsible for intentionally harmful acts.

Now, let’s say a troll comes into this discussion with the intention of causing a disturbance, especially with religious convictions in his mind (trolls, they say, are almost always males) of preventing peaceable pursuit of Gaian hedonistic topics. We view his presence as regrettable, and I believe we have every right to consider it to be immoral because of the intended constructive nature of the events his presence harmfully perverts. On the other hand, if he turns out to be just another dumb boob who cannot grasp the nature and validity of Gaian Hedonism and has no ill intentions at all, he would produce the same results and, no matter what our feelings may be, we cannot justify that as immoral if we could learn the truth about him. He might learn from us, if we don’t misjudge him. We have to make ourselves forgive honest, stalwart stupidity, and we must learn others’ intentions before we judge them.

As you see, I hope, morality is observable. You just have to know and understand how to see it, the best way being (as in nature) to balance pleasure against pain and predict the outcome of all the interactions between the parties involved, and also with innocent bystanders, and see how and where the natural balance of things gets upset or upheld.

Once you understand that, you can determine for yourself what is and is not moral. You do not need a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a bevy of nuns, angels, nor a horde of priests, preachers or rabbis to explain to you the nature of what conduct gets people blamed or praised. All you need is awareness of action and consequence, what to avoid (what is bad: What could get blamed onto you?) and what to accept (what is good: For what may you earn praise, or, at least, do with no expectation of repercussions?), and what acts to restore equilibrium, whether gained from your own experience, from observing others, or from advice, from previous generations, or (best) from all of the above.

You can equate morality with wisdom, but the match is incomplete. A better synonym would be ‘blamability’.  If you hit your thumb with a hammer by accident, you know that is not immoral unless you have intentions for doing so (like getting off from work to go fishing or something) (but then, that makes it not an accident, and it would necessarily make you a liar for the story you would have to fabricate) that would result in loss or harm to others. You will learn from it, and gain wisdom, we should hope.

So, morality is a useful word for us, and a defensible word if we understand it according to a secular, hedonic way of perception. If another way of seeing it produces a different result while maintaining its own inherent integrity, I need that to be explained to me. If another way of seeing it produces a very similar result, that is verification and I would also welcome someone to constructively apprise me about that. To deny it any value at all is to dispose of valuable, useful tools, and unwise.

Your arguments conflate the religious and secular understanding of good and bad behavior. Moral concepts will never be universal for so long as they remain moral precepts. Moral notions with no more force of rectitude than religion gives them will vary with the number of religions that persist across the world. For so long as morality remains understood as only a religious contrivance (“human invention”), agreement will never occur and that is regrettable. People will be smashing their thumbs for god, beating their own backs with chains, or burning their eldest children upon alters. For atheists to relegate morality to religion, and for scientists to continue allowing that to occur, is also regrettable and a bit stupid. The thought vested into moral values, for so long as such is the case, requires defense of values-sets as vested interests owned by the various players in the religious morality game, and that results in all the wars and pogroms now and as far back into history as we can go.

Rather than condemn the idea of morality to death, why should we not instead recognize the importance of it and find ways to use it to present our own ideas on the subject? I cannot justify that secular people talk about good and bad, right and wrong, harm and benefit while denying a role for a moral concept inherent to secular thought. We cannot have things two opposing ways and claim sound, rational ability to reason. We can’t. We lack the ability to convince because of it.

If we want to have any influence at all upon a religious world, especially upon those who might loosen their fearful grips on credos and then dare to acknowledge their doubts; if we especially want to bear upon those borderline politicians who, if they saw we have a defensible understanding of good and evil, good and bad, malice and justice (or whatever other pair of potential players you would want to name), would deign to offer secular people a place at the table, we have to play the game with the cards in our pile. We have the best cards, if we bother to actually consider them.

We have to understand exactly what all of them are getting at, and then learn how to present our better, more verifiably accurate view of that aim and how to accomplish it. We can only do that with science, and that would result only from asking the right questions about it, questions focused on that aim, and finding out how to test our answers to those questions. Otherwise, we doom our own selves by our preconceptions and our hardheaded preference to remain ignorant about important principles.

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From a second correspondent:

>- OK, I’ll limit myself to a single test case: “Abortion is immoral.” Correct moral rule or not? Cite me the tests you have run to support your conclusion. Remember, my assertion, which you promised to falsify, is that ALL moral rules are a matter of opinion. You, conversely, are looking for appeals to testable facts (NOT opinions) to find a counterexample.

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To start with, who said “Abortion is immoral?” If that is a secular statement, I cannot recognize its source, nor the reasoning behind it. I never made that statement, have not heard of any supporting science behind it, and so am not interested in proving it or testing it; that is for the person who did assert it to do. I do not know if abortion is immoral, moral or innocuous, or always one of those under every circumstance. It is the person’s onus who made the statement to test it and document reasons for his/her conclusions. If that cannot be done, proper science requires that it be set aside and not acted upon for so long as that remains the case. Such a statement must be regarded as frivolous for the duration of that.

Opinion? I must inquire: What are facts, if they are not tested opinions that have shown some basis in reality? Since the statement is yours, what correct questions did you ask that led to that conclusion? Do you have a defendable inference from which it was derived? Do you agree with it? What predictions can you make regarding it? Who are the parties involved and how will each be affected? What historical data exists about it and what does that show? How does it affect each of the social layers in the human groups in which it occurs? Can a better hypothesis be generated from that pool of data? It may be a single simple statement, made without one iota of support. That being the case, the proper response is to apply the Principle of Defeasibility.

What you have made into an example is a religious decree that has nothing to do with science. If they are of science, then they are testable, but we must first establish parameters that we can find in nature, preferably observable in more than just the human animal. Epicurus set those parameters in a very primitive fashion around 400 years BCE, and they still are as testable and observable in modern times and terms.

Beyond what I have already written, there is more here than meets the eye with just one reading. I did NOT promise to falsify anything; that is your interpretation of what I wrote and a red herring, which informs me about your personal misunderstanding of how science works. To falsify something in one leap of logic, or one pass at the bat, is akin to the creationists’ demand that we produce evidence of how evolution works by reproducing 60,000,000 years of development in one laboratory experiment. They know it cannot be done, and you know it cannot be done.

To falsify something occurs as a part of a scientific procedure, after hypotheses (drawn from inferences about observations) get generated about something being investigated and predictions made about them. Those predictions lead to new experimentation, the results of which may support or else falsify a hypothesis.

To falsify a moral statement requires that we first agree exactly and unequivocally what we mean by that. Good and bad? Okay, now we must define exactly what we mean by those two terms. What do we mean by ‘good’ and what do we mean by ‘bad’, precisely? What is our overall aim in defining that? Look to Epicurus for those parameters, and to all kinds of universally accepted practices for answers. Or: substitute ‘praiseworthy’ as a substitute for ‘good’ and ‘blamable’ as a substitute for ‘bad’ to make the entire picture clear in your mind.

Now: It is possible that I, a bona fide member of the illiterati, do not have a correct understanding of that process, but I would expect a serious correspondent to direct me toward that rather than simply try to shoot down my efforts by criticizing them as “opinions” while tendering  unverified opinions of his own about religious injunctions.

With nothing to show how they were generated, any opinion is as valid and suspect as the next. Moral rules are all opinions, of course; as already said, science is also opinions, but we tend to want to overlook that, or note what differences there may be in the natures of those opinions. What we are after is how opinions can be verified as functionally true, or relegated to the worthless and baseless category. My opinion is that moral statements can be regarded to be testable opinions; your opinion is that they cannot. Let me restate my opinion to render it complete:  “Valid moral statements must be testable, or regarded as baseless and disregarded in abeyance for so long as they are not.” That statement takes into account the scientific method and the Principle of Defeasibility, among others. Let us equate morality with tested wisdom, as seems to be the practice around the world in spite of religious claims (and that is testable).

If I do understand the process, then it still remains to show how it would be applied to a moral statement against abortion. The simple axiom, “Abortion is immoral,” offers nothing testable. It needs to be restated into ‘Abortion is immoral because…’ and then testable reasons given. This is where the requirement for valid questions comes into play. Such questions give rise to predictions, and it is that which can be put to the test. “Valid moral statements must be testable, or regarded as baseless and disregarded in abeyance for so long as they are not. To test moral statements requires short term effects to be played against the long term in order to assess overall levels of benefit and harm.” That set of statements takes into account the scientific method.

Look at it this way, just to try it out: Ask yourself, “For what would future people who might be affected by it, blame or praise the people of our generation?” That sets the long term question, whether or not it can be answered. Compare that, for the short term, with, “For what would people who might now be affected by it blame or praise those involved in the event?” Don’t be too surprised to discover there is no answer to either question, in which case we would have to value such events innocuous for so long as that remains the case.

Your religious injunction is not testable as expressed. The principle of defeasibility requires it to be rejected for so long as that is true. It is up to those who equate abortion with murder to make that case using natural, testable parameters, because it is their job to produce the evidence for defeasement.

Let us now acknowledge the source of such a statement, and the basis from which they derived it. The current source being Xianity, the basis being scriptural injunctions and apologia developed by the various Xian sects within the two main Xian cults, Catholicism and Protestantism. It being a religious injunction, I would surmise the only acceptable proofs that would render falsification effective for the religious would come from religious scriptures. To be valid in a religious setting, any apologia must be able to show how the apologist derived an opinion from that source to gain universal support among congregants.

I seem to recall the opposite having already been accomplished by the astute members of one of the sects, who proclaimed the religious position to be in disagreement with biblical descriptions about the beginning of human life. The result, as I recall it, was that the moral statement proved to be an erroneous product of unsupported apologia and not an original biblical edict.

You or I, however, don’t much care about convincing the religious. We want a secular version of such evidence, in case a secular version of such a statement might someday be made. We would first want to determine exactly what we want to know about it, and that would have to be exactly what we would mean by the phrase ‘abortion is immoral’ as used within that statement, and how that would relate to the processes of existence as we understand them. It being a secular interest, it would then necessarily have to be considered without input from any religious sources.

In other words, in Nature (the overall process), does the statement, “abortion is immoral”, have any applicable meaning? Would it arise as a concern in a strictly secular setting? As written, as shown, no. Abortion may be a wise or unwise choice, depending on circumstances, and so it would be wrong to put that injunction into the hands of those unaware of them, or who would not suffer the consequences. It would necessarily be a personal choice made by the person who would suffer the consequences of choosing wrong, as specified by the philosophy behind Gaian Hedonism.

The proper questions: One thing those who engage in such discussions overlook is that science is not the simplistic, black/white enterprise we see in religion. To apply a scientific process and hope for a cogent scientific result, a lot more needs to be known about a topic before engaging in any hard pursuit of answers. Answers require questions, and questions require investigators to first determine what it is they really want to know. All kinds of parameters must first be made known before the investigation would ever begin, if trustworthy results would be hoped for. Just because that is the case, I still submit, does not make it an impossible task nor an unworthy endeavor. (We will likely never see it undertaken in our lifetimes because no grant money will ever be forthcoming to support it. It would not be done just to satisfy two contrarians and find them some common ground).

Such questions would necessarily arise from determining what should be the proper aims for such an investigation. That might best be discovered by looking at the precedents humanity has established in their various systems of laws, the basis from which those laws were derived, and especially what laws persist in the simplest forms of government, and that all be verified or falsified by comparing the results of that with other forms that human groupings develop, and all their effects upon the affected populations.

Question: What purpose did those various laws serve for each society where they were found? Since morality is about intentional human behavior in the imparting of wisdom (subject to a different discussion if the foregoing has not been convincing) regarding the praiseworthiness or blameworthiness of various behaviors, the results of such investigations will arrive as statements, those (in turn) most likely in two forms: there will be ‘don’t’ statements and ‘do’ statements. There may be thousands of them, after sorting out those that are about ethics, which deal in a formal fashion with contractual matters and business concerns (such as how to convert stock options into cash and calculate the taxes owed) have been sifted out, only a few of which will be applicable to the areas of human activities covered by the phrase, ‘moral wisdom’.

Assessments made of those remaining will likely look for their commonality, possible questions being, “What concerns do they share? What are secular people so universally concerned about that they will want to impose certain rules on their own activities. What among that do they share as concerns with religious groups?” We can predict that, most likely among other things, the common ground among all of them boils down to instructions about how to behave without doing harm or causing losses, or at worst causing minimal damage, to other human beings, once gods and priests have been removed from the picture. “Do as you will, harming no one.”

The result would be a secular equivalent of moral sense, and probably the truest form of moral wisdom that humanity has ever devised. We likely already practice it, for the most part, as a natural consequence of our ingrained sociability, our senses of self and others, our traditional upbringing, input from our peers concerning how we offend them and what they do or say that offends ourselves, and our own experiences with pleasure, pain and stress induced by an unbalancing existence. We just apparently don’t know how to express that. It would be far less than is required of us in our present circumstances, vary according to circumstance, but is not by any means nonexistent, it is just that all the kowtowing to gods, preachers, and all the other self-appointed representatives of the supernatural will have been removed. Will it still be called morality after all of that. I doubt it, it will more likely be called ‘good etiquette’. We have already called it ‘wisdom’.

From a third correspondent, who wants to still make it a human invention by tying it to “what people want or like”:

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>- A killer gets incarcerated and sometimes executed because he does something that we don’t like. It’s that simple. We dislike it so much that we tell people in the strongest terms that they are not to behave in such ways. In short, we do not have a taste for it.

>- Rape is against the law simply because women don’t DESIRE to be raped. We make laws against rape because women want it that way. But in the case of rape, men also want such laws. Men don’t want their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters getting raped. They don’t WANT it. It’s motivated by pure desire. There is nothing moral or immoral about it. All human behavior is reducible to desire and/or taste.

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It leaves one to wonder, does this writer have someplace in mind to go with this, or a philosophy that derives from it? Is there something wrong with calling something ‘immoral’ if a general agreement is reached that it is undesirable?  Is there anything at all among those statements that actually negates anything that preceded it? So, desire gets to be the culprit in this scenario: What differentiates a desire to rape from a desire for food?– a desire to travel from a desire to murder?– a desire to teach from a desire to steal? In each instance, one is blameworthy, the other is not, under current conditions.

Question: Why would such a general agreement come about, outside of a religious setting? It would be because people recognize the undesirable harm that certain actions cause to others innocent of them, and the undesirable harm that comes from allowing some individuals to advantage themselves at others’ expense.

Of course (most) women don’t desire to be raped, and (most) men do not want *their* women raped, but what does that mean? Does it automatically make men not want to rape other men’s women? No, but even though that is so, men and women recognize rape as immoral, and undesirable because it is blameworthy. Rape is self-initiated intentional bad behavior that harms others. Rape is politically incorrect behavior that forces people to engage in acts for which they gave no permission. Rape is blamable behavior. It exemplifies a form of exploitation that consolidates all the available pertinent information into a mental picture of why some actions are acceptable and others are not. It demonstrates a way of first understanding the meaning of a word, and then applying that understanding to the gamut of potential action/consequence situations there are, without making it necessary to re-express, time and again, what makes it so, about which we should be gaining a growing awareness by this point in this essay.

Ask yourself: What is wise or unwise about permitting the freedom to rape and pillage at will? It is not at all about desire, beyond a desire to live unmolested in a community of human beings; but it is about an agreement that people should not victimize other people by raping, robbing, pillaging, molesting, punching, beating, murdering, damaging, injuring, lying and the rest of the gamut of illicit and illegitimate actions to fall under that heading. It is wise agreement based on common interest in the avoidance of mental or physical pain or loss, and an unheralded recognition of pain as a cost for pleasure, and that gain (the pleasure side of the equation) made at an innocent victim’s expense of comfort and balance is wrong, with an unrequited expectation of reciprocation included. Pain, pleasure, balance, the Gaian secular trilogy.

Raping and pillaging is wrong not only because we don’t like it, it is wrong because it injures our inherent sense of justice and fair trade, and it permits us to be mistreated whether or not we would do any of those things to others. (Moreover, why should not something be wrong if only because it is common to not like it? If it hurts, we won’t like it. Why should we not have a word at the ready by which to identify that? Is this person saying it is wrong for humanity to do that, and only because he does not like it?– that it is immoral while we are rendered unable to say so by this idea? That is mainly what I gain from his comment. He does not like it, so the word ‘immoral’ is immoral.)

As far as that goes, women often complain about men’s tendency to view them as property. That is, they *desire* us to not do that. To be or feel so demeaned as a result of sexism feels painful in a psychological sense. Does that make anyone declare it immoral to do so? No. One’s thoughts cannot be known by another except by inference. It is the actions associated with such thoughts that get condemned. A person who experienced such an inclination and rejected it must be far wiser than another who followed through on it. But, can intentions be demonstrated? Can you describe how a rape can occur by accident? What an interesting story that might make.

I love chocolate, but cannot eat it because of what gets added to it. If I eat it and get diarrhea as a result, were my actions immoral or just plain stupid? Many people do not eat salads, fresh vegetables and the like, because they desire to be spared from some aspect of those foods. If they refrain and eat donuts, pie and ice cream instead, is that immoral? Even if they lose their health as a result, is there an opinion that says they are immoral people for that reason? No. Not unless their poor choices were made with an intention to do themselves harm at, worse, the expense of others. Stupidity is not immorality even when unwise, and it is here that the synonym falls short.

Stupid, yes. Immoral, no. Morality includes intentional actions regarding or affecting others. It does not include our personal behavior unless or until we can be shown how others will be ill affected by it and continue it in spite of that. Our laws in that regard work under the heading of negligence. To become obese despite knowing the social consequences could be deemed immoral if some pre-existing health issue is not to blame.

Now, in a society wherein sex plays a heavy role in the condemnation of many relatively innocent activities, desire may play some small part in it. It has to be a perverted part, but it is a part. That might contribute to a view that desire plays a role, especially if you have set through many sermons about lascivious lust and the salaciousness of godless human beings. You know, those sermons where atheists get condemned for perpetuating immorality because of our supposed amorality. What those amount to is lies spawned from ignorance. Anyone who has suffered through them and realized that, and had only a narrow view of humanity that such promotes as a result, will attribute to that view all of his or her opinions and abandon them with no awareness of with what to replace them. Many people have expressed concern over what they called a ‘hole’ left after they abandoned religion. To help them find themselves and a basis for their inner sense of justice gave me a reason to write: I also wanted that for myself.

But, look at our own society and see the contradictions inherent to that: Desire gets equated with lust and so immoral if acted upon; yet, our very aggressive capitalistic commerciality depends upon desire to function, and thousands of advertising agencies make a good living at learning how to access that in the appropriated name of hedonism. Sex–even married sex–is regarded as religiously immoral, and skin exposure is linked to that, yet that very same ingredient is present throughout the gamut of promotion for other products, and sex products are only a part of that gamut. Smoking the weed is by most regarded to be immoral, even for medical reasons, but what does that have to do with desire? We aren’t born with an inherent lust for Mary Jane, even if our desire is to deal with glaucoma. Nobody promoted it. The religious complaint is that it interferes with your desire for God, but that presents it as interfering with a desire they *want* you to have. If that’s the case, and you are correct, then the religious are immoral for intentionally acting in defense of that God-desire.

Hmmm, now that I have thought about it…!

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>- I merely tried to say that morality (like God) is

>- imaginary. It is not something that actually exists,

>- except in our speech. It has a sort of linguistic

>- meaning.

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This has already grown to over-long, but my friendly naysayer continues, and so must I:

I heartily disagree, and that is the same argument you must have failed to read at the beginning. People do not agree about God. God cannot be observed. People do make agreements about morality and you can see that at work. Morality, therefore, is observable within the events and processes wherein it is involved. The absence of it is also observable within events and processes wherein morality is not present. The inapplicability of it is observable where it has no bearing. The results of morality are predictable, whereas God is not (God is more akin to the absence of morality than its presence), nor is there any agreement among the thousands of religions about exactly what it is that people are calling ‘God’.

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>- Yes, “men agree that rape is immoral”. But their

>- agreement is irrelevant. It is only an agreement

>- about a purely abstract concept that they invented.

>- Their desires and primal urges are not imaginary,

>- not at all something they invented or made up.

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I heartily disagree with that. Men did not invent morality, the same as they did not invent sociability; it is a natural process that is part and parcel of fungible human social existence as a condition of our interactions with each other, as seen throughout the social animal kingdom, necessary for our survival as an animal subject to evolution’s balancing processes. People observe what is harmful and what is beneficial, make agreements accordingly, and give those agreements names. It is not abstract, but about the predictable consequence of various kinds of social events. The names chosen for that just happen to be ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’. Morality can be, and often is, described according to many standards, and some of those may be hokey. Don’t derive rules out of exceptions.

What is important about the standards is whether or not they work, not who created them. Do they hamper or promote sociability? Is life better under one society’s moral edicts, or under another’s?

Think ‘wisdom’. Morality is a part and parcel of social living. If I do something foolish to myself, that is not a part of social living, unless somebody gets some on them. Even then, that would be accidental, not intentional, and therefore not immoral unless it was self-initiated and I might get held liable for negligence. In which case it might be illegal if not immoral.

A strawman gets introduced:

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>- There’s no such thing as perversion, except

>- (again) in a purely linguistic sense.

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I heartily disagree. Perversion is generally associated with morality, especially sexual deviance, but its general meaning is that something has been twisted away from a norm, made misshapen, and the like, whether about actions or artifacts. The word describes actual conditions that people communicate about, and so need a word to represent them.

The Xians are very good at perverting the intentions of atheists and scientists to make them seem devious, if you need an example. To pervert something is an act of perversion. Acts are not “things”, but that does not make them irrelevant, as they are events in processes. Actions, still part and parcel of events and processes, and as fully so as “concrete things”, are as real and tangible and measurable as are objects. Learn to picture existence as events and processes if you have a hard time understanding this, and it will become clearer. That is not a putdown against you. No one finds it easy to learn what they were never taught.

I will, however, admit to having chosen the wrong word. Rather than ‘perverted’ I should have written ‘perverse’. I predict that would not have affected your response. Either way, if an observable event or process can be named and described in such a way that others can accurately recognize it, we have to accept it as a genuine feature of reality.

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>- Dude, you can’t get away from it. ALL human

>- behavior is ultimately reducible to desire and/or

>- taste, to nothing but a variation of primal urge.

>- Anything added is just that, something ADDED.

>- It is only (socially contrived) embellishment, and

>- nothing more.

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One more time, I would love to see some basis for that incredibly perverse set of statements. That cannot be made true by merely repeating it, it has to show that it is true and not just a matter of a certain attitude or choice of words or the degree of bluster. Once again, “desire” is the claim, and “not desire” is the usual example, and even its pertinence is questionable, especially as an argument against any of this. Try to use that comment to show why this statement is erroneous: “Morality plays blameworthy behavior against praiseworthy behavior to determine what actions will be good, bad, or innocuous, based upon assessments about how pleasure, pain and imbalance get induced in others and at whose expense.” What induced any behavior has nothing to do with that! The pertinent part comes during the response made to a stimulus, whether desire or something else. The choice to engage, or not engage, in an immoral action makes it blameworthy or not blameworthy.

Human behavior is as easily understood as observable events and processes as is anything else, and as subject to variable conditions that can be (have been) recognized and given data values. Desire, taste, pleasure, pain, stress due to imbalance, and any other sensory or emotion-based perception is as much a part of that as any other kind of stimulus. It is the results and the intentions that make something moral, immoral, accidental, or inconsequential. Rather than remaking contradictory statements, can you not show why that one is wrong? If not, why not accept it, draw some inferences from it, and then find some way to show them true or false? Why do like a dog chasing a rabbit around and around a tree? Stand still, and you will eventually “get it.” Stop, think, and the rabbit will run up your back.

Yes, something usually initiates a sequence of interactive events, and those events usually lead to at least one consequence. That is only a natural set of facts to which we may or may not be oblivious. If we (purposefully or not) remain oblivious to something that has been defined for us, and that we have been shown how it works and the nature of it described, that does not render it nonexistent. If we wish to not recognize that some of our actions lead to predictably harmful consequences, and announce that wish, does that not raise doubts about such a person’s disingenuous intentions? By the same token, if we would wish to condemn something innocuous by declaring it immoral without showing cause, should that specious action not also raise similar doubts?

If we, humanity as a whole, choose (for whatever reasons) a descriptive label for a recognizable sequence of events, that is our own choice and not for somebody else to discredit without showing verifiable reasons. The consequences will accredit or discredit our choices and we should gain moral lessons from that. That does not make them irrelevant or meaningless or whatever other putdown term might get chosen. It simply means that we should recognize the nature of events humans initiate as good, innocuous or bad (to use the simplest terms). In other words, we recognize an aspect of them in terms of values: cost (bad), balanced result (innocuous), or reward (good). If one of us should accost the other in a painful manner and do harm, we recognize that as intentionally bad and call it an immoral act. Even without a word, never discredit the urge to get even.

We learn or we don’t learn. We share information or we don’t. We acknowledge or we don’t. We appreciate or we don’t and we take to heart or we don’t. Those are some of our ongoing array of choices, all of which present consequences as the events and processes play out. What more do you need to know? Some of it has been given a name, and some of it has not, but that has nothing to do with anything other than we give recognition to intentional harm done to others and seek to remove incentives or recover damages for doing that.

Morality is a problem to understand because it is so poorly defined, and whatever definition one will accept has heretofore depended directly upon whatever worldview one supports. A religious person will demand belief in a supernatural or the religious creed as a source requirement. A secular person will want to understand it according to natural causes and conditions. An atheist, apparently, will want to reify and then deny it with no attempt to grasp it as a concept and not as a thing. Is there something about atheism that requires a concept, or a condition, to become a reified “thing” before recognition can be granted? If so, then I need to make a change of my irreligion.

We can assess moral statements, and learn they come from at least three diverse sources, which may put them in conflict at the outset. We can name those sources religious, nature (political), and humane (altruistic). The one element all of them have in common is the element by which we learn to recognize a statement as having a moral intent; that element usually (not always) is the aim for social cohesion by those regarded as leaders, and peaceable coexistence among the general population. What is adjudged “right” tends toward unity in the religious or political group; wrong becomes that which disrupts. Since, at the social level, disruption leads to loss and cohesion portends gain, moral assessments are enabled in accordance with that. Applied to religions, disruptive religions may be rightly deemed immoral by all but their own members, whereas those which promote harmony among diverse groups may be rightly deemed moral.

The weakness of social cohesion as a moral aim is that the greatest cohesion results from the greatest level of centralized control, to the point where personal freedom becomes a buzzword for which no example can be shown. A better aim for moral considerations is to promote actual justice.

A humane version of morality does recognize that, but further values that which enhances artistic and imaginative freedom. It would aim for cohesion through the widespread practice of nurturance. Although it seems contrary, informed dissent becomes something to encourage in a system such as that; newness and futurism become ideals; personal enterprise something to promote and abet; progress is seen as a worthy goal; the best solution to a compromise results in win/win outcomes where all parties advance; Gaian Ethical Hedonism is seen not as a lewd voyage into abandonment and gluttony, but as a viable philosophy to advance mankind toward higher levels of freedom, wealth and ability through eudemonia (homeostasis in more modern terms), for not only the maximum number of individuals but for the social structure that spawns and supports it.

What, in such a place (if it could exist in a pure form) would then become regarded as evil? For an answer, one needs only to surmise what would work against accomplishment of such heady aspirations: lethargy; sloth (mental and physical emanations of laziness); the practice of obstructionism; purposeful ignorance, whether to promote such or to adopt it as a practice or philosophy; manipulation of others for one’s own gain (physical or psychological slavery); to allow oneself to be so manipulated; any action taken against the nurturant advancement of one’s fellow humans, which would include such acts as theft and murder, lying, or other manipulation of factual information; stealing resources, whether from other groups, nations, or individuals; suppression of individual expression, whether political, artistic, inventive, or other, for so long as it cannot be demonstrated to pose a threat to the greater freedom within the social structure.

We have cards in our pile, and they are good ones but we need to recognize them and take them to heart. I believe them to be the best ones in the deck, and that it is wrong for us to throw our cards away, agree that we are “amoral”, that science cannot have anything to say about morality, that morality is not a testable idea that can attain to objective results without any effort to demonstrate that.

That is bovine feces. We know about statistics that show atheists to be the least per capita occupants of prisons, the least per capita of welfare recipients, of suicides, divorces and the whole shebang; and we know of recent studies showing how religion plays a role in the declining health of societies across the world, so we know we have something going for us. We ought to figure out how to explain it and put that in our case and realize that (whatever it is) constitutes our own sense of morality, our own special form of wisdom, our own statement of common values. Rather than condemn it or stay distracted from the main body of agreement while fighting about details, we should learn to explain it. What do we have to lose by doing so, but our own religious indignation?

Let me end with this: Are we better off if we refuse to consider information for emotional reasons if we are religious?– or if we are not?

 

—Lloyd—   ©2013


Evolution presents a basically simple subject tainted with prejudicial and illogical equivocations and denials. The denials, whether from scientists or the religious, are expressed about whether we feeble-minded humans can understand certain aspects of how the universe developed, whether the Big Bang actually occurred, whether outside influences were involved, the age of whatever process(es) brought it about, conflation of some elements of it with others, the right to express an untestable guess and pose it where it can be compared to the grandfathered-in untestable guesses… on and on and on, the argument itself evolving with whatever wicked new hoax can buy its way in. Evolution is about one thing: development. Whether mechanical, cosmological, biological, anamorphosis or any other specific category, evolution is about the development of that subject within the confines accredited to it, perhaps relative to other categories but not to be conflated with them.

Conflation: Conflation results in equivocation, where data from one argument gets used to advance the other in an attempt to treat them as the same.
Does not the greater portion of the disagreement cackled over evolution involve apparently purposeful equivocation between biological and cosmological evolution? Whether or not God exists; “God created the heavens and the Earth” is a subject different from the development of biology. Whether a god named God yanked out Adam’s thirteenth rib to create Eve is a different subject than the Big Bang. To bounce back and forth to toss in arguments about both is conflation, that is wrong, and it happens from both sides. It happens on the religious side because they fear to not involve the god named God in their posits, and because some ancient guy thought the Bible recounted every single year of Earth’s history. It doesn’t. It only goes back to about when people figured out how to write, and how to make something other than a cave wall to write on. I suspect it doesn’t even go back that far.

Human behavior is as easily understood as observable events and processes as is anything else, and as subject to variable conditions that can be (have been) recognized and given data values. Desire, taste, pleasure, pain, stress due to imbalance, and any other sensory or emotion-based perception is as much a part of that as any other kind of stimulus. It is the results and the intentions that make something moral, immoral, or inconsequential. Rather than making contradictory statements, show why that one is wrong. Otherwise, accept it, draw some inferences from it, and then find some way to show them true or false. Don’t do like a dog chasing a rabbit around and around a tree? Stand still, and you will eventually “get it.” Stop, think, and the rabbit will run up your back.

As an evolved socially oriented species, we humans arrived in the present with intact, highly developed moral instincts that have become misdirected by powerful influences that have learned to turn us against our own best interests. We have been taught to suffer guilt and shame for innocent and innocuous actions and thoughts for which we intended no actions. We overpopulate our planet while millions starve to death for lack of sustenance because we inherited creeds that trample our innate sense of propriety to death. We have learned to reverse our understanding of good and evil and make it stick. We have learned live in ways that overwhelm the natural processes that govern biological support on our planet, so now we put ourselves at risk of environmental changes may go beyond our range of adaptability. That is a predictable result of global warming. When that occurs, the creedents will have lost the argument, but nobody will win.