When did morality and moral responsibility begin?

Readers here will know that, being a determinist, I’d prefer to dispense with the term “moral responsibility,” replacing it with the simply idea of “responsibility.” That’s because I don’t think we have dualistic free will that would allow us to decide between doing “right” and “wrong”. If that’s the case, then why add the adjective “moral,” which implies that one does have a choice?

And, as most of you know, I don’t think this omission would overthrow society. We’d still put people in prison for bad behavior (but for sequestration, rehabilitation, and as deterrence, but not for retribution), and could also praise them for good behavior—for praise is an environmental effect that can change someone’s behavior or impel others to act well—but we would be less likely to see people as good or bad by “choice”. And the prison system would be run more humanely, involving studies about the best way to change people’s behavior or the best way to deter other people’s latent criminality.

What I’d like to ask here, though, is when humans supposedly became morally responsible—if that’s what you believe.

We always hear that “unlike humans, nature is amoral.” You can’t say that the actions of animals are moral or immoral—they just are.  When a male lion invades another group and kills the cubs, when a chimp tears another chimp to bits, those are just bits of nature, and aren’t seen as wrong.  And the amorality of nature is touted even by those who realize that our primate relatives show rudiments of morality, making it likely that some of our moral instincts were inherited from our pre-hominin ancestors.  So why, when a stepfather kills his stepchild (something that, presumably is not something he decides to do “freely”), that is morally wrong, but when a lion does it, or a chimp kills an infant, it’s just nature, Jake.

Now the idea of ethics—a codified set of rules to which we adhere for various reasons, usually as a form of societal glue—clearly was concomitant with the rise of human society and language.  But much of our morality is surely based on evolution. I’m not saying that those evolved principles are the right ones to use today: clearly in many cases, as with xenophobia, they aren’t.  But some of them remain salubrious, including reciprocal altruism, shame, guilt, and so on.  So why can we do wrong but chimps can’t?

In other words, is it really true that all of nature, including primate societies, must be seen as amoral, while human actions must be judged by this thing called “morality”?

Why, if a male lion has no more choice about killing step-cubs than a human does about killing stepchildren, do we hold the human morally responsible but the lion not? (The ability of humans to foresee consequences and take in a variety of inputs seems to me irrelevant here).  Should we punish cub-killing lions, given that they cause enormous pain and terror to the cubs and their mothers?

225 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    sub

    • Lowen Gartner
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      meeto

      • jesperbothpedersen1
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        meethree

        • peltonrandy
          Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          mefour

  2. Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Hey,

    I think a human-like moral system must have evolved gradually with the rise of larger group sizes in the Paleolithic. As group size transitioned from 50 (avg. chimp group) to 250-500 (avg. human band) you would need a more complex system to govern social relations. Conformity and the desire to conform would have been selected for. We see that chimpanzees don’t care at all about conformity or the desire to conform.

    Of course, like you point out, base level morals are exhibited by many primate species so the actual roots of moral behaviour are deeper and probably connected to social life.

    Cadell

  3. NewEnglandBob
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Af

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Arrrg.

      After reading Punker’s ” The Better Angels of our Nature” I would say it was not too long ago that responsibility kicked in.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Pinker’s “Better Angels” is one of the books that should really be on my “to be read” shelf. Unfortunately, if I get it this side of finishing Gould’s “Structure of Evolutionary Theory”, I’ll never get that finished.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          As someone with almost 100 books on her “to read” list, I say do it — put it on your “to read” list!

        • JBlilie
          Posted August 22, 2013 at 4:48 am | Permalink

          And some books simply won’t get read. Don’t fret about it. Many books leap places in my pile — and I’m always happy about it!

  4. Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Hey,

    I think a human-like moral system must have evolved gradually with the rise of larger group sizes in the Paleolithic. As group size transitioned from 50 (avg. chimp group) to 250-500 (avg. human band) you would need a more complex system to govern social relations. Conformity and the desire to conform would have been selected for. We see that chimpanzees don’t care at all about conformity or the desire to conform.

    Of course, like you point out, base level morals are exhibited by many primate species so the actual roots of moral behaviour are deeper and probably connected to social life.

    Cadell

    • Frank
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I agree with the gradual acquisition of morality in some sense, but why start arbitrarily at the Paleolithic? Did the late australopithecines exhibit moral behavior? Homo habilis, or ergaster? How subject to morality were the Neanderthals? Just as with other characters (including general cognitive skills), adding a temporal dimension makes any of our “clearly” unique human traits mere extensions of what has gone before, and we can drop some of the arrogance many people adopt with respect to how we differ from “the animals.”

  5. Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I think you’ve just laid bare one of the contradictions inherent in the popular understanding of morality.

    When you approach it as you do, or as I do as an optimal strategy for individuals living in a society, those sorts of absurdities simply don’t arise.

    b&

    • Bruce S. Springsteen
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Second this. Morality conceived as social adaptation dissolves all other problems traditionally associated with its definition.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      When you approach it as you do, or as I do as an optimal strategy for individuals living in a society, those sorts of absurdities simply don’t arise.

      Agreed, which is why I find most moral argumentation pretty tedious. I never find myself in a moral quandary.

    • Lucio
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      “If the universe was fine-tuned with human life in mind, then the designer hates us with unimaginable passion.

      The overwhelming majority of the surface of the Earth is quickly lethal to a naked, unprepared human simply dropped at that point.”

      And yet I’m here sitting comfortably in front of my computer enjoying a hot cup of coffe and cake after having a warm, exquisite bath, and with plans on watching a movie later lying in my big confortable couch with my loving family.

      You’re right, the Designer hates our guts, this life is really like the bottom of hell :)

      LOL

      Have you considered the idea that if the world wasn’t so dangerous for humans we wouldn’t have invested so much time and energy developing scientific reasearch to learn to deal with those hazardous conditions and diseases, and while doing that, understanding the universe and discovering, thanks to that, the signs of it’s Design, ultimately finding the hallmarks of the Designer? Perhaps because the Designer wanted us to eventually discover it’s existence by looking at the creation it left for us through the eyes of science?

      We don’t know the plans of the Designer or it’s intentions, all we can do is look at it’s design/creation around us and try to figure out why it is like it is. I shared my ideas on it in the previous paragraph.

      • Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Wow.

        You really have no clue just how overwhelmingly egotistical you’re coming off as, do you?

        Here you are, an unimaginably insignificant mote in time and space…with the primary purpose of said incomprehensibly vast time and space being for you to have a cup of coffee with your cake.

        Dude, you so need to stick your head in the Total Perspective Vortex.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Lucio
          Posted August 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          “Here you are, an unimaginably insignificant mote in time and space…with the primary purpose of said incomprehensibly vast time and space being for you to have a cup of coffee with your cake.”

          You committed the fallacy of equivocation, I didn’t say the purpose of the “incomprehensibly vast time and space” is for me to enjoy cake and coffee, my argument was that, unlike you described, the universe is not such a hazardous and life unfriendly as you claimed it is. That was my argument.

          The fact that we are just a small bag of chemicals compared to the entire cosmos doesn’t mean, in any way, that we’re not designed. One thing does not relate to the other. We can be insignificant in SIZE compared to the universe, an yet be the main reason for it’s existence, since as far as we know only humans can observe and understand the cosmos.

          So far you haven’t shown any evidence to support your atheistic worldview, only blind opinion, the type of “why would a supernatural Desginer create a universe that in my eyes could be a lot better?”. If you’re an atheist because you fail to see purpose in the universe, then that might be a lack of observation from your part, and not a sign of bad design.

          • Posted August 31, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

            Wow.

            Just, wow.

            I’ve seen examples of hubris before, but yours takes the cake.

            Let’s try again with the Total Perspective Vortex, shall we? Only this time I’ll do more than wave the sales brochure in your face.

            To any number of significant digits comprehensible to a human, the universe is composed of absolutely nothing. For, quite literally (and not in the figurative sense of “literally,” but the actual literal sense) billions and billions and billions and many dozens of billions more light years in each and every direction, that’s all there is: nothing. Perfectly empty space (with an insignificant asterisk we’ll get to in a moment). That’s what the Universe is fine-tuned for: the Void.

            Of that insignificant fraction of that which isn’t nothing, the significant majority of it is negative energy, a somewhat mysterious something-or-other that we know is there from its effects but that not only can we not directly observe but we still don’t know exactly what it is, either. It’s the repulsive force driving the accelerating expansion of the universe. Of all that is, it’s most of what is…and what it’s doing is diluting that which is even further, creating even more nothing — as if we didn’t have enough of it already. That’s what the “stuff” of the Universe is fine-tuned for: expanding the Void.

            Of the minor fraction remaining of that which isn’t nothing and also isn’t negative energy, the overwhelming majority is dark matter. Again, we don’t know what, exactly, it is, though this is the area of astronomy making the most exciting advances these days; I’d be surprised if we don’t have an answer by the end of the decade. But we know it’s there because, again, we can see what it does: it bends the light of distant galaxies, and it holds galaxies from flying apart. That’s what the “physical” bits of the Universe are fine-tuned for: phantasmically-insubstantial near-nothingness that it’s taken all of the history of science just to have a chance at figuring out what, exactly it might is, and that we didn’t even know existed until very recently.

            Of the trivial fraction remaining of that which isn’t nothing and isn’t negative energy and isn’t dark matter, almost all of it is free hydrogen and helium. That’s what the ordinary matter in the Universe is fine-tuned for: the most insubstantial and least reactive elements, respectively.

            Of the little bit left over that isn’t nothing and isn’t negative energy and isn’t dark matter and isn’t free hydrogen and helium, the significant majority is stars in galaxies. Stars, of course, are themselves virtually entirely composed of hydrogen and helium. And galaxies have supermassive black holes at their cores…and those black holes are destined to eventually — after some unimaginable number of hundreds of billions of years — swallow up all the stars in all the galaxies…and, then, over the course of trillions of years, themselves entirely evaporate into nothing but undetectably dim background radiation. That’s what the regular matter in the Universe is fine-tuned for: assembling into giant structures of concentrated nothing to be eventually dispersed as the closest you can get to nothing without actually being nothing.

            Of the ordinary matter that isn’t nothing and isn’t negative energy and isn’t dark matter and isn’t free hydrogen and helium and isn’t bound up in stars, the overwhelming majority is nothing but neutrinos, even less substantial than hydrogen, so insubstantial that a veritable torrent of them are streaming through your body every millimicrosecond of every day, and yet you’re incapable of even pretending to notice them. That’s what the non-steller matter in the Universe is fine-tuned for: interacting as little as possible with anything else.

            Of the minuscule fraction of matter that isn’t nothing and isn’t negative energy and isn’t dark matter and isn’t free hydrogen and helium and isn’t bound up in stars and isn’t neutrinos, basically all of it is nearly 100% gas giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn. And, once again, these gas giants are nearly entirely hydrogen and helium. That’s what the planetary-scale matter in the Universe is fine-tuned for: yet more hydrogen and helium to bulk up the supermassive black holes.

            Of the insignificant portion of matter that isn’t nothing and isn’t negative energy and isn’t dark matter and isn’t free hydrogen and helium and isn’t bound up in stars and isn’t neutrinos and isn’t massive gas giant planets, virtually all of it is the mass of rocky planetary bodies like those in the inner Solar System. That’s what the heavy matter in the Universe is fine-tuned for: rocks. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots…and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of rocks.

            Of all the innumerable quadrillions upon quadrillions of rocky planetary bodies in the Universe, only one, the Earth, has ever been home to humans. That’s what the planets of the Universe are fine-tuned for: anything — anything — but Earth.

            Of all that is our humble abode, your calculator doesn’t have enough zeroes to indicate, again, how much of it is simply rock and inert minerals. That’s what the Earth itself is fine-tuned for: dirt. That’s why we call it that, after all.

            Of the thinner-than-an-eggshell space several feet on either side of the surface where life could survive, still again again, virtually all of it is dirt. And water. That’s still what the habitable zone of the Earth is fine-tuned for: dirt.

            Of that homeopathic solution of the habitable zone of Earth that is actually alive, 99.999%+ of it, by number and mass, is microbes of one sort or another — bacteria, viruses, variations on that theme. That’s what life on Earth is fine-tuned for: organisms so small and simple we didn’t even know they existed until a few centuries ago.

            Of the inconsequential percentage of living organisms that are visible to the naked eye, practically all of them are plants. That’s what multicellular terrestrial life is fine-tuned for: living things that just sit there and do a whole lot of nothing but grow and die, millennium in and millennium out.

            Of the remaining handful of macro-scale organisms that don’t photosynthesize, nearly all of them are arthropods, especially beetles. That’s what animal life is fine-tuned for: bugs.

            Of what few animals that aren’t bugs, basically all of them aren’t human. That’s what vertebrate life is fine-tuned for: anything but humans.

            So, here you are, not even a squished parasite on the pimple on a gnat’s butt, and you have the fucking nerve to even hint at suggesting that your cup of coffee is the reason why the Universe exists?

            God damn.

            b&

            • Lucio
              Posted August 31, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

              Ben, do you realize that your entire argument can be summed up in this:

              “The universe is TOO BIG and we’re SO SMALL, therefore we can’t be the product of Design”.

              So it’s all about SIZE right? You mean that if the Universe was really designed by a supernatural agent, it wouldn’t be such a waste of space and mass?

              Do you think you could have done it better than the Designer?

              It’s a laughable argument really, if I may say. And the worst is that because of the way you laid it out, it seems this is your entire view about life and everything, and very passionate.

              But it’s not based on evidence, it’s based on a fixed idea on your head that such a waste of space and mass shouldn’t exist in a designed Universe.

              Am I wrong?

              • Posted August 31, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

                You didn’t read a word I wrote, did you?

                One last attempt.

                You’ve been blathering about what purpose the Universe has been fine-tuned for.

                By any an every rational measure, the Universe is fine-tuned for the Void. It’s (within any rounding you care to use) all there is now, and virtually all of that which is left over does nothing but extend the already-nearly-limitless Void. The fraction of a fraction of the remainder is, itself also, superbly fine-tuned for turning that which is into that which is indistinguishable from Void, or else is already so insubstantial it might as well be Void. Of the imperceptible fraction of that which is being more leisurely about creating more Void, all of it is superbly fine-tuned to instantly killing anything alive. And the life that there is is finely-tuned for being nothing even remotely human.

                The only fine-tuning related to humans is the evolutionary fine-tuning of humans to this unimaginably hostile Universe that’s concerned with nothing other than extending the Void. And we are only fine-tuned to our environment in the same sense that a puddle is fine-tuned to the shape of the hole it finds itself in.

                So for me to even to pretend to try to understand what you’re driving at, I must conclude that this Jesus of yours who designed us hates us so much he set us adrift in an empty sea of LifeBeGone, and designed us in such a way that we’re guaranteed to drown ourselves in our own filth mere millennia after we finally figured out how to record our thoughts for posterity.

                Or, I have to conclude that you’re terribly uneducated and horridly egotistical and think that the Universe isn’t hellbent on our destruction and that all this Void was created just so you’d get a kick out of thinking how neat it was that Jesus went to so much trouble to entertain you with it.

                And, honestly, we both know that it’s the latter. You’re just not used to being called on it to your face.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted August 31, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

                You’re not so much wrong as you are making a rather sweeping claim for which (as Ben so eloquently illustrated) there is *absolutely* no evidence. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Your argument reduces to “the teeny, tiny part of university that I have chosen to look at looks designed to me; therefore it is designed.” This rather pathetically conflates two fallacies, the Argument from Personal Ignorance, and the “I am the smartest person in the world, so if I don’t understand it, no one does”. Well, I guess those are flip sides of the same fallacy.

                But, if you want to present some evidence that the universe is designed in any way, specifically designed for human existence, along with a testable hypothesis as to the identity, nature, and historical workings of the designer (I’m guessing you think it’s allah), I’ll be happy to read it.

                And, yes, I could have done it better than the (note the capital D) Designer. For one thing, I would have put the light-sensitive cells in the human eye on the correct side of the retina.

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

                For one thing, I would have put the light-sensitive cells in the human eye on the correct side of the retina.

                Each and every human could use a better-designed spine and studier knees, and I think most mammalian males would go for better protection of their reproductive organs. And all tetrapods could do with a better arrangement of the recurrent pharyngeal nerve.

                Any “designer” who came to me with “plans” for the human body would get fired on the spot for gross incompetence.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

                The counter-argument would then be that you’re arguing from opinion because the design doesn’t live up to your personal preferences. ;-)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

                Ha! My counter argument is just ask the women who died in childbirth!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

                Yes, and my feet sorta suck, and it would be a kindness to women if they either had bigger hips or humans had long, pointy heads. Hell, bipedalism in general is a hassle. Humans should’ve been designed as quadrupeds.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

                I’d like a stern conversation with the supposed designer about my Morbus Crohn.
                I somehow fail to see the intelligent design behind the genetics and the enviroment that lead to that disease.

                Along with a shitload of questions regarding the proposed intelligent design about the universe.

                But remember that even though the universe was created with humans in mind, it is argument from opinion to question the intelligence of the designer. He/she/it is supernatural after all…..;-)

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

                But remember that even though the universe was created with humans in mind, it is argument from opinion to question the intelligence of the designer. He/she/it is supernatural after all…..;-)

                Apparently, “supernatural” does not necessarily imply “competent” or intelligent”!

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

                I know. We’ll have to come up with some sort of common definition for “intelligent” and how to apply that to the universe….it’s a bit tricky. ;-)

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

                I somehow fail to see the intelligent design behind the genetics and the enviroment that lead to that disease.

                Oh, that’s easy.

                You see, Jesus’s uncle / brother (depending on if Satan is YHWH’s brother or son; it’s not quite clear) conned Eve into tricking Adam to eat some sin fruit. Before then, our bodies and everything else in the Universe was perfect. The moment Adam took a bite from that apple, it all fell apart. And it’s all Eve’s fault.

                Like, duh!

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                Oh ffs… I keep forgetting that sneaky snaky devil. Thanks Ben. :-)

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                Bipedalism frees up our hands to do interesting things. The best of both worlds would be hexapodianism; think of a Centaur.

                You can also see in our hands that they’re converging on an optimal design but still have quite a ways to go. When you lay your hand flat, your fingers are uneven lengths. When you curl them, not all pairs of fingers are equally useful in opposition. It wouldn’t take much tweaking of the human hand to fix both problems, and to remove some of the other limitations such as that tendon in the ring finger that hampers movement.

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

                I’ve been sitting here thinking about the perfect body type now. Centaurs would be good but I bet they still would have back pain depending how long their spine was. Maybe we should be like the round animals like spiders but with better hands. They have so many legs, they can do lots with them all at the same time. Also, laying eggs is way better than live birth. The more I think about it however, the more nightmarish it becomes!

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                You’re actually headed in the right direction.

                James P. Hogan wrote some entertaining novels about robots that undergo Darwinian evolution. The first one is Code of the Lifemaker. In the sequel, The Immortality Option, one of the Lifemakers makes a personal visit, but in a body that he intelligently designed for himself. And Mr. Hogan put a lot of thought into said design, and it really is a most impressive and elegant design…and, yes, quite nightmarish.

                He’s also a very entertaining author. Fast-paced, thoughtful, whimsical, insightful…I’d highly recommend putting him at the top of your entertainment book pile.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

                I’ll put his book on my list!

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

                You’ll want both. The perfectly-designed being only shows up in the sequel, but the sequel wouldn’t be as good without the first….

                b&

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                “Hexapodia as the key insight…
                I haven’t had a chance to see the famous video from Straumli Realm, except as an evocation. (My only gateway onto the Net is very expensive.) Is it true that humans have six legs?” (From Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep)

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

                One of my favorite novels! I was wondering if anybody was going to pick up on the reference….

                b&

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

                :-)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                Well, that just put my “to read” list into the triple digits. :)

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

                Any “designer” who came to me with “plans” for the human body would get fired on the spot for gross incompetence.

                I hope I didn’t screw up the tags; I’m trying to learn a few new ones. (My kingdom for an edit button!). I also wish for more indentation levels, as this thread is getting hard to follow.

                These are the standard examples; no need to come up with new ones until someone shows why these *don’t* provide powerful evidence against an Intelligent Designer!

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

                The counter-argument would then be that you’re arguing from opinion because the design doesn’t live up to your personal preferences.

                May I refer to you as JBP? I know from your postings that you are not arguing for a theistic position, so I see this is a devil’s advocate post.

                What I’d say is that, although it could probably be argued that some of the standard examples showing bad design could possibly be explained as mere personal preference, at least a couple of them can’t easily be, and are more or less clear examples of objectively bad design. Diana’s “death in childbirth” is probably the most powerful of these, but the humble human eye works just fine (as an example), as it is ludicrous to claim that having the light-sensitive cells on the wrong side of the retina is not a design flaw. Especially when the designer, some tens or hundreds of millions of years earlier got it right with the squid and octopus (Maybe he/she/it is getting senile?). In any case, putting a layer of tissue between the light and the light-sensitive cells is a design flaw on the same order as putting your thumb over the lens of the camera is when taking a picture.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

                @Mark Joseph

                “May I refer to you as JBP?

                Sure thing, or just Jesper if you feel like it.

                “I know from your postings that you are not arguing for a theistic position, so I see this is a devil’s advocate post.”

                By all means no, I’m not arguing for a theistic position.( btw the defintion of theism is a bit blurry here because it is not a religious theism )

                But it sort of is a devils advocate post because I’m trying to entertain the idea that a designer exists, while at the same time keeping in mind that we may or may not be the ultimate purpose of the design.

                Basically I’m trying to dig a bit deeper in the idea of ID when removed from religious intentions.

                I think it’s a fun exercise, but please do tell me to can it if it gets too annoying. :-)

                “What I’d say is that, although it could probably be argued that some of the standard examples showing bad design could possibly be explained as mere personal preference, at least a couple of them can’t easily be, and are more or less clear examples of objectively bad design. Diana’s “death in childbirth” is probably the most powerful of these, but the humble human eye works just fine (as an example), as it is ludicrous to claim that having the light-sensitive cells on the wrong side of the retina is not a design flaw. Especially when the designer, some tens or hundreds of millions of years earlier got it right with the squid and octopus (Maybe he/she/it is getting senile?). In any case, putting a layer of tissue between the light and the light-sensitive cells is a design flaw on the same order as putting your thumb over the lens of the camera is when taking a picture.”

                I wholeheartedly agree.

              • Lucio
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

                @Mark

                “Ben might not know what “ID states”, but I do”

                Apparently, just like Ben, you don’t Mark. ID might be right or wrong, but if you don’t understand what ID states, then you’re just making you look like an ignorant.

                ID is a theory of design detection, nothing else. And as such, it DOES NOT PRETEND TO IDENTIFY THE DESIGNER NOR NEEDS IT TO INFER DESIGN, IT JUST PROVIDES A SET OF RULES TO IDENTIFY DESIGN. Basically, “if it shows high CSI, it’s designed”. Get it?

                If you don’t understand that, then it’s just willful ignorance from your part on what ID really claims (not surpring coming from atheists, I really have no expectations on you people)

                Of course, all your rambling about ID not offering at testable hypothesis about the Designer, blah blah, it just incoherent rambling irrelevant to the ID theory, because as I said, is NOT ID’s job to identify the Designer. Leave that to the philosophers, ID just detects design and that’s all.

                “all the ID crowd has done is to pick at what they think are weaknesses in evolutionary theory. There is no coherent ID theory”.

                Mark, your ignorance speaking again. ID does not confine itself to biology or evolution. ID extends it’s design argument to PHYSICS AND COSMOLOGY AS WELL, so your nonsensical, childish assertions FAIL yet again because of your ignorance on the subject under discussion (again, not surprising coming from an atheist).

                The rest of your argument looks like of bulveristic nature (typical among the low end of ID-critics), and does not provide any counter evidence. Again, no surprise here.

                MARK, CAN YOU THINK FOR YOURSELF OR DO YOU BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ WITHOUT QUESTION IT?

                Have you read Darwin’s Doubt YOURSELF to verify YOURSELF if the evidence is wrong, by YOURSELF? I bet my house you didn’t do it nor ever will do it, because that’s what scared atheists do: Delude themselves to avoid facing the evidence face to face.

                @Ben:

                “You’re a liar for Jesus”.

                LOL I give a fuck about Jesus and Christianity, FUCK JESUS, and any other delusional religion there is out there. I just follow empirical evidence Ben. You should do the same. For once. Try it, it doesn’t hurt. I promise. You may lose your atheism, but what’s good about it anyway? It seems the only thing atheism has done for you is destroy your observational abilities and rational capabilities.

                By the way your rant against Darwin’s Doubt is laughable, you only show opinions from ONE blog, this one, and from someone (Jerry) who admitted that “he was not a paleontologist and that he would leave it up to them”!

                http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/07/regarding_matzk074561.html

                Not only that, just by looking at the URL of some of theose posts, it’s obvious Jerry relies on bulverism to claim Meyer’s supporters are not qualified. Is this the kind of sources of information you use to inform yourself about scientific matters? No wonder your brain is suffering.

                Please, all of you, stop being so pathetic and INVESTIGATE THE EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE FOR YOURSELVES instead of following reviews from people who have no idea what they’re talking about and rely on ad hominem/bulveristic arguments to find air among the overwhelming evidence that’s crushing them.

                And by evidence I don’t mean some philosophical bullshit the likes of “the world is badly desgined so there’s no designer”, I mean LAB evidence, EMPIRICAL evidence, OBSERVATIONAL evidence. For example, “how much bits of information are required to build insulin, one of the shortest and oldest proteins there is, and does population genetics allow for the generation of this information in the span of a few billion years by the means of natural selection acting on random mutations?”. THAT TYPE OF EVIDENCE.

                If you can’t show the maths, the numbers, the empirical evidence, then you’re not doing science, you’re just golluble atheists who believe already falsified speculative fairy tales like neo-Darwinism without questioning it.

                What comes next? The hard evidence you people claim to have, or some bulveristic, ad hominem or philosphical counter argument?

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

                Briefly, then I’m done too. So, if you want to have the last word, it’s yours.

                1) My quote from the Curmudgeon shows that I do understand what ID is. As long as you don’t offer the identity of the designer, or a plausible mechanism, you are proffering magic or religion, not science. Imagine the collective creationist orgasm if we evolutionists said “well, we believe that the fossil record shows descent with modification. We don’t know how this happened; that’s for someone else to figure out.”

                2) CSI?? If it weren’t for your (from the christian point of view) blasphemy, I’d think you were William Dembski in disguise. That CSI implies design is what is to be proved, not an assertion or an axiom; after all, evolution explains the appearance of design. You might as well define god into existence.

                3) “It is NOT ID’s job to identify the Designer”. See previous response. Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. I don’t believe in magic.

                4) I’ve already pointed out refutations of ID’s explanation of physics etc. Not my problem if you didn’t read them. In short, life is adapted to the universe; the universe is not adapted to life.

                5) Lucio, fuck you. I think for myself. I’ve read more creationist books than you ever will (I was a YEC fundamentalist missionary for 23 years). I have a masters in theology, so I have had a lot of experience in analyzing specious arguments, and a masters in mathematics, so I can “do the math”.

                6) I have not read Darwin’s Doubt, and have no intention of reading it, not because I’m not willing to expose myself to other viewpoints, but because Meyer is not a paleontologist, and life is too short to read books by people who do not even know what they are talking about (besides Ben’s references, see Donald Prothero’s dismantling of the book in a review on Amazon). If a real microbiologist wanted to write a book about cell theory from an ID point of view, or if a real paleontologist wanted to write a book about the Cambrian explosion from an ID point of view, I might read it. (You might want to ask yourself why no such book exists). But Meyer is neither. As the reviews show, he cobbles together items that he does not understand, arguing toward a predetermined RELIGIOUS conclusion. Why would I waste my time on him?

                7) The evidence for evolution is a library full of peer-reviewed scientific articles covering every detail of biology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, comparative biochemistry, biogeography and some subjects I’m sure I’ve forgotten. It is presented in outline form in Dr. Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” and Richard Dawkins “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The DNA evidence is summarized nicely in Sean Carroll’s “The Making of the Fittest,” and the fossil evidence in Donald Prothero’s “Evolution: What the Fossils say, and Why it is Important”. Numerous others, of course, but right now those are my “Big Four”.

                8) If ID is true, then:
                a) Why do all living creatures fall into nested taxonomies? This is a necessary conclusion of evolutionary theory; it is an embarrassment to theistic ID (why did god make everything look so much as if evolution were true?); I imagine that non-theistic ID can’t explain it at all, at least in a non-arbitrary manner.
                b) Why is there a fossil record at all, showing creatures in each stratum that are similar to, but not the same as creatures in an adjoining stratum, with each creature in a given stratum being somewhat intermediate in form between the creatures in the strata above and below it? This is another necessary conclusion of the earth’s biological and geological history; it’s not explainable at all by ID (unless you believe in “hydrodynamic sorting” he said, rolling on floor and laughing his ass off).
                c) Why do all creatures on earth share a common biochemistry? This is yet a third necessary conclusion of evolution (given only the assumption of one universal ancestor); it is merely an arbitrary happenstance within ID, whether theistic or non-theistic, as god or the unidentified designer, while she certainly could have designed every being to use a common biochemistry, could equally certainly have designed multiple biochemistries.
                d) Finally, the evolutionary relationships of living things were worked out on the basis of comparative anatomy even before the time of Darwin. Then, the paleontological evidence supported and confirmed this schema. Finally, when the molecular evidence became available, the whole thing was confirmed once again, when it could easily have failed most abjectly and spectacularly. This is what Pope John Paul II (note: I am virulently anti-catholic) meant when he wrote “The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.” This convergence is the core of the evidence for evolution; people are anatomically more closely related to monkeys than they are to horses, to horses than they are to fish, to fish than they are to bananas, and to bananas than they are to yeast. And, lo and behold, that is what we find in the fossil record, and in comparative biochemistry (for example, the nature of the differences in the amino acid sequence in cytochrome C).

                What is ID’s explanation for this set of facts? A well-defined designer and an explanation of his/her/its mechanism? Or just oogity-boogity?

              • Lucio
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

                Two ATHEIST scholars give an analysis of natural selection that is meticulous and devastating.

                http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/08/natural_selecti_2075991.html

                Not even atheist scholars can believe such fary tales like neo-Darwinism once they examine the evidence in detail.

                Atheists in this blog should do the same.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

                Why the deuce should we care if they are atheists or not?

                Your appear to be driven by ideology and thus jump to unscientific conclusions about the reality that surrounds you.

                Take a chill pill, and think your argument through to its logical conclusion.

                There is no god. Get over it and grow up, please.

              • Posted September 3, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

                Since when is Michael Egnor an atheist?

                In his own words on Forbes:

                http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/06/neurosurgeon-intelligent-design-opinions-darwin09_0205_michael_egnor.html

                he self-describes as Catholic:

                Im Catholic, and my religious faith was mocked by my fellow scientists.

                And he’s a neurosurgeon, not a scientist nor a researcher. His knowledge of biology outside the area of neural anatomy is limited to an undergraduate degree, and his ignorance of the subject makes me wonder how he managed to get a passing grade.

                Even for an habitual liar-for-Jesus such as yourself, describing a single hitpiece by Egnor as “[t]wo ATHEIST scholars” is particularly transparent and egregious. He’s one person, not two; he’s Catholic, not an atheist; and he’s a surgeon, not a scholar.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • That guy
                Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

                I know Michael Egnor is a catholic, actually, he was the one who wrote that STUPID review of Jerry’s post I was complaining about.

                But the first line of the article I linked says the name of the two atheist scholars:

                Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini.

            • Lucio
              Posted September 1, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

              Ben, your arguments make no sense.

              Also, I made clear I’m not religious. I’m not a Christian or whatever. You bring Jesus up in a way as to mock me, but I don’t care about Jesus anyway, or any other religious figure out there. I’m an agnostic theist.

              “Or, I have to conclude that you’re terribly uneducated and horridly egotistical…”

              Darwinists love to claim the one who doesn’t “get it” is the other, but never bring any evidence to support it. You’re not the exception Ben. You have lots in the “opinion” deparment, and nothing on the “evidence” department.

              “and think that the Universe isn’t hellbent on our destruction and that all this Void was created just so you’d get a kick out of thinking how neat it was that Jesus went to so much trouble to entertain you with it.”

              So you’re religious after all it seems, you worship the “Void”.

              “And, honestly, we both know that it’s the latter. You’re just not used to being called on it to your face.”

              Oh Ben, I’ve had way too many discussion with darwinist zealots to know better. I’m not green in this area.

              If you bring OTHER argument other than your uninformed opinion about what the Universe should be (leaving aside who arrogant that is), and support it with evidence instead of opinion, great, I’ll keep this up, else you’re just wasting my time.

              Having an opinion is great, but where’s the EVIDENCE tu support it Ben?

              Opinion doesn’t count.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

                Ben brought some good evidence. He talks about how most of the matter that make us up is a tiny fraction of the matter that makes up whatever dark matter is. If the universe were designed, you’d think it would be the other way around.

                No one has absolute proof of the existence or non existence of a designer but given the way the universe is, it is improbable that it would be intelligently designed given what Ben has produced a evidence.

                Moreover, this fine tuning is certainly no evidence for a designer. It happens to be that the universe we were able to evolve in happens to be suited for life to evolve – that is no proof of a designer. If it were not “tuned” in this way, we wouldn’t be here to notice it.

                What concerns me is you through around words like “Darwin lobby” and “Darwin zealot” then extol Meyer’s book. That hints that you’ve been hanging with the Discovery Institute crowd because there is no “Darwin lobby” as I said before and Meyer’s work is full of a lot of errors that have been discussed by actual palaeontologists.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

                Well, I don’t seem to be able to put my comments where they belong, and I’ve already messed up this thread enough, so I’ll gather a last few things I want to say and put them here; apologies for the mess.

                It is very clear to anyone who wants to look at the evidence that life is fine-tuned to the universe; not vice versa. Ben’s arguments above are certainly the most amusing, but if a lighthearted refutation of a weighty question does not float your boat, you can find serious refutations on pages 219-223 of David Mills’ Atheist Universe or in Victor Stenger’s book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: How the Universe is Not Designed for Humanity.

                *

                Not a very powerful argument, especially because we don’t know the intentions of the Designer…I think diseases and medical conditions are Designed to exist, otherwise we wouldn’t have invested so much time learning about the human body…So if the Designer’s plan was to get humans to LEARN about the Universe around them, then what better way than making it hazardous and problematic?

                Your first statement is contradicted by your second (which is also just your personal opinion) and by your third (admittedly, with the conditional). I call BS (especially since you go on in your other posts to enlighten us further as to the goals and plans of the capital-D Designer). Furthermore, your argument reminds of some particularly loathsome religious assertions that god caused Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean (ad infinitum) so that people would have a chance to show their compassion and concern for others less fortunate. “So if the Designer’s plan was to get humans to LEARN to be compassionate and to care for others, then what better way than making natural disasters that kill hundreds and render thousands more homeless?”

                Everything is not perfect for me, and I give a huge, toe-curling, mind-aching, earth-shaking, wall-quaking fuck “about learning about the Universe” which provides a disconfirmatory counterexample to your hypothesis. By the way, I didn’t care a rat’s patootie about learning about the Universe back when I believed in an intelligent designer. You know, opium of the masses and all that.

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

                Im not a Christian or whatever.

                If I had a dime for every Christian on teh Innertubes who professes to not be a Christian whilst spouting neverending streams of Christian apologetics, I’d be one of the richest people on the planet. I suppose it’s conceivable that you might be the first exception to the rule that I’ve encountered, but that’s certainly not the way I’d place my bet.

                You have lots in the opinion deparment, and nothing on the evidence department.

                Still haven’t read a word I wrote.

                You’ve been claiming that the Universe is fine-tuned for human life. And I’ve spilt page after page of electrons giving example after example of things that the Universe actually really does, and all of it is overwhelmingly inimical not only to humans in particular, but to baryonic matter. The Universe is frantically evaporating into nothingness, it’s what most of the Universe already is, it’s what everything in the Universe does best and most.

                You’ve yet to suggest that anything I’ve presented is an inaccurate picture of what the Universe is fine-tuned for, and you have the nerve to suggest that I’m the one offering nothing but opinion.

                But I’ll try again.

                The near-perfect emptiness of the Universe is evidence that the Universe is fine-tuned for creating emptiness.

                The fact that the overwhelming majority of the Universe that isn’t empty is Dark Energy, and that Dark Energy does nothing but increase the emptiness of the Universe, is evidence that the Universe is fine-tuned for creating emptiness.

                The fact that, for the next dozen orders of magnitude, the dominant feature of the Universe at each scale either is nothing or vanishingly insubstantial, plus it’s most effective at increasing the emptiness in the Universe, is yet more evidence that the Universe if fine-tuned for creating emptiness.

                But, go ahead. Pick any scale you want, from the Angstrom range to the megaparsec range, and demonstrate how the dominant force at that scale promotes human health and wellbeing.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Lucio
              Posted September 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

              @Mark

              You give me the final word? LOL, do you think you’re the first deluded atheist I debate with? I know exactly what “give the final word” means, it means “I have no real evidence to back up my speculative arguments in a way that I can win this argument, so I better just try to escape while I can”.

              I find it hard to believe someone like you can have a master degree in ANYTHING, your arguments are so ridiculous and in such a number that I don’t even know how to start to address them.

              Oh, and of course, NO EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE from you this time either. Your arguments are based on just-so stories and ridiculous speculations about what the power of evolution can magically do.

              CSI? Moron, CSI is not an ID invention. Actually CSI is the reason why chance-based theories of abiogenesis were ruled out in the 1970s BY ATHEIST SCIENTISTS THEMSELVES.

              You’re just digging deeper into the ignorance hole you got yourself into. You’re a joke.

              Oh, and that Prothero review about Darwin’s Doubt?? LOL he’s as deluded as all of you people and you form a circle of delusion by getting feedback from agenda-drive atheists like him:

              http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/08/darwin_defender_2075711.html

              “I don’t believe in magic.”

              But you do believe in miracles it seems. 3.7 billion years of miracles. The miracle of biological information arising naturally when such thing has NEVER been observed in human history and there’s no EMPIRICAL evidence of such ridiculous event happening ANYWHERE. All there is is a bed time story called “evolution dunnit, just don’t ask how”.

              “Life is adapted to the universe; the universe is not adapted to life.”

              Yet another IGNORANT statement. Let me name you SCIENTISTS WHO AGREE WITH THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE FOR LIFE:

              Barrow, Carr, Davies, Dawkins, Ellis, Greene, Guth, Harrison, Hawking, Linde, Page, Polkinghorne, Rees, Smolin, Susskind, Tegmark, Vilenkin, Weinberg, Wheeler, etc.

              These are scientists of varying religious persuasions who accept that the universe is fine-tuned for life. You fail again LOL.

              Keep digging the ignorance hole of yours.

              Also: Your arguments from homology and common ancestry DON’T REFUTE ID IN ANY WAY. ID is not against common ancestry and neither against homology. WHY? Because homology can be a sign of reuse of succesful design patterns, NOT evolution.

              Homology is just a proof of design as of evolution, except that evolution FAILS completely when analyzing imaginary phylogenetic trees:

              http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/06/dna_study_turns072951.html

              That’s what happens when you study phylogenetic trees that DON’T EXIST.

              Evolution is a 150 year old joke, invented by someone who thought cells where little balls of jellow (for real, look it up), and needs replacing. And ID is the replacement, right on time as Darwinism is collapsing under the weight of so much unsubstantiated speculations that are falsified with every passing day.

              @Jesper

              “There is no god. Get over it and grow up, please.”

              Don’t be butthurt, I know that evidence for design can get any atheist angry an all fired up, but the ones who need to grow up is you people, and stop believing in evolutionary bed time stories and phylogenetical fairy tales based on nothing but wishful speculation.

              You people are so gullible LOL

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

                @Lucio

                @Jesper

                “There is no god. Get over it and grow up, please.”

                Don’t be butthurt, I know that evidence for design can get any atheist angry an all fired up, but the ones who need to grow up is you people, and stop believing in evolutionary bed time stories and phylogenetical fairy tales based on nothing but wishful speculation.

                You people are so gullible LOL

                Hehe….nice try my dear. :-)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

                I’m glad this didn’t turn into ad hominem attacks! That’s classy Lucio, calling people morons.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

                Hi Diana:

                Don’t worry; I’ve been called “moron” by more intelligent people than Lucio. As always, I just consider the source.

                My goal was to explain the science correctly, for myself, as I presume that most of the people on this list already know the outline of the evidence for evolution. As Jesper pointed out earlier, I love science.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                Yeah weirdly he never engaged me after the first comment he made to me. Meh. :)

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

                Hi Diana:

                Maybe he thinks women are intellectually inferior. I understand that that is a big part of the religions to which most creationists belong.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

                The thought did cross my mind!

              • Posted September 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

                One of my favorite quotes from HBO’s Deadwood:

                [b]“I’ve been called worse by better”.[/b]

                Sol Starr’s response to a ticked off Bullock after watching his good friend being subjected to Swearengen’s anti-semitic tirade.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

                :-)

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I see morality and empathy as strongly linked. As soon as you can identify with someone else, you tend to want to treat them nicely.

    If this is accepted, question then becomes, do sentient animals, especially social animals have empathy? I’ve trained my dog to be well behaved but does she know certain things are “wrong”. If her snout is on the counter and I say something, before I even say the words but start to speak, her snout is off the counter but I never punished her for it, just told her “no”. Also, if I’m sad, my dog recognizes that — as a sentient animal that is social and domesticated among humans would she not pick up on human “morality”.

    As well as chimps – do they have empathy? They have self awareness….they know when they are hurting a chimp by ripping it a part and they enjoy that but are there things that chimps think are wrong?

    • Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Empathy and sympathy are two different subjects. Empathy is a positive self-indulgent trait linked to the rewards of cooperation and survival.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        I know there is a lot of hand wringing about these psychological terms but to me the linguistic answer is easy – empathy is closer. You experience the emotion yourself from the Greek translation: suffer in.

        Sympathy is that you experience along side (together or with). You get that something is good or bad but you don’t feel it as if it is you.

        Are you saying that we may have moved from having sympathy to having empathy? I would say as social animals with higher cognitive abilities we probably had both for much of our evolution and empathy gradually extended as we moved out from families, to tribes to cities, etc.

        • Kevin Henderson
          Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          Sympathy tends to make people weak and not necessarily focus on a solution which would improve the moral outcome of an event. Sympathy does, however, tend to drive people to act for good quicker than empathy might.

          Empathy has a much greater advantage, in the long run, for making society and individuals stronger and make decisions which are thought out better than sympathy would encourage them to consider. Empathy can lead to a better understanding of moral actions, but it may not motivate persons to act as quickly as sympathy.

    • Paul S
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      I’ve read somewhere about individual chimps being ostracized following a harmful event. That to me suggests that they do indeed have a sense of good and bad based on common behavior. Now I have to spend the next week trying to find where I read it.

      • Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        For ‘good’ and ‘bad’ read ‘like’ and ‘dislike’? Like and dislike being biologically based psychological intuitions.

        I find there’s a difficulty using words that have moral meaning when trying give a non-moral description. It’s a bit like the use of teleological language in evolution: the selfish gene. Or using notions of choice when explaining why we should not subscribe to the notion of free will.

        We’re so accustomed to using the language of teleology, morality and mind that it’s difficult to express ourselves well while avoiding it. We have to make more stilted statements.

    • Dale
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes Diana, I agree. I think that empathy must have a lot to do with “mirror neurons”. In accordance with the golden rule, our moralistic behavior is rooted in self interest.

    • Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      I knew that yourself and Ben Gorem would be able to put into words what I could not. Eloquently yet simply. When a male lion mauls a cub to death, he is not thinking of the emotional toll his actions are taking. When a gunman walks into a classroom of 5 yo’s and guns them down, nearly every one of us contemplate the emotional score of that action – for the family, and the community. I love animals, I tend to anthropomorphize (GAH! Google spell check screw YOU) more than is comfy for a skeptic. Yet, I do not think that even the dolphins, chimps, and elephants have the ability to have their hearts broken over information that does not immediately concern them. And that’s giving them a lot of credit. I believe a mother elephant grieves when she loses a mother or a baby. I do not believe she grieves over another mother’s loss from another herd. She might acknowledge the death, as they have been found to have a very crude ritual of recognization when coming upon bones of other elephants (I’ve read human bones too, but I’m not sure about that). When I became a mom, news stories about abuse and tragedies to infants and toddlers shook me in a way I never expected. From the 18mo girl in China who was ran over and had 8 people step over her broken but still alive body, to the Newtown murders, to the food poisoning in India, to the chemical warfare in Syria…this stuff just tears me apart. Again, I have ZERO education in psychology or philosophy, but I would say our ability to empathize across tribes, borders, and species is what gives us “moral responsibility”. Yes, I believe that we alone are encompassed in this. And it’s not enough to save us or this planet. When you have kids shooting an athlete because they were “bored” and endless bloodshed over mystical prose there is just something broken there. We contribute to and encourage amoral behavior through violence as entertainment and through religious accommodation. So, what does “moral responsibility” grant us? I’m just not sure.

  7. ladyatheist
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Morality can’t exist outside of human culture, and it isn’t universal. Killing your own child is immoral in the U.S., but in some muslim areas “honor killing” is not only moral but required. In some African areas, children that are “possessed” can be killed to kill the demon. Female infanticide used to be considered moral in some cultures.

    Sometimes you don’t want a bad or foreign gene passed on, and sometimes culture just gets stupid.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Morality is universal, in that all cultures have morals. If you go back far enough in description and understanding and get very, very general you can discover moral beliefs and values which are pretty much universal. Fair is good and cheating is bad. Treat similar things in a similar way. Do not cause unnecessary harm. Live up to your primary commitments. Follow the most important rules in your group.

      The problem is that these basic guidelines are so basic that they’re sensitive to all sorts of interpretations — and you quickly end up with contradictions between groups, like your example on ‘honor killing.’ Or “that wasn’t cheating — I was just making it fair.” Or “genocide isn’t unnecessarily destructive if the most important rule in my tribe is to be someone in my tribe.”

      Sometimes the answer to resolving the conflict is to consider whether or not YOU would feel the same IF you accepted all the background facts and assumptions that THEY believe. That’s one way science helps us become more moral, I think. If there are no demons, then there is no question of killing them.

  8. Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    ??

  9. Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    §

  10. mecwordpress
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne. Your example of two “morals” is flawed. When a lion kills the offspring of another male the female(s) in the pride go into estrus, thus the newcomer can father a new batch. No lion knows how long they may lead a pride, so it is imperative that a new leader does not wait until the cubs get old enough for the female(s) to go into estrus. Since human females, of a certain age, never go out of estrus, the analogy fails; the lion has a distinct survival interest in killing the cubs (in the opinion of his genome). There is no such interest in humans. So I think this is actually a case where one CAN make the distinction you are asking; when an act by an animal is ammoral i.e. it’s just “nature” but the same by a human is immoral. IMHO, of course.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      You could argue, however, that humans by taking care of their children are only protecting their genes and in this way this is their nature. If we kill our children, this is against our nature.

      The difference is we are capable, as a species, of recognizing our nature and either resisting it or not.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        At the core of this there is, of course, the question of whether or not “your” children are actually “yours”.
        Until quite recently (mid-late 1980s), the joke that “motherhood is a matter of record, and fatherhood a matter of opinion” was simply no joke.
        Statistics are patchy and socially “loaded” (and true values probably vary between cultures), but converge on somewhere between one tenth and one third of children not being the offspring of the parents of record.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 22, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

          Typically the woman does know the children are hers nevertheless. ;)

    • Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      One explanation of the Cinderella Effect–the claimed high levels of maltreatment of stepchildren than biological children–is evolutionary. You can read about it in Wikipedia.

      So the analogy does not fail.

  11. Kevin Alexander
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I think it comes from our ramped up ability to think about what we’re doing that makes the difference.
    As we shift from a rule based system, which after all is what instinct is then codified in culture, to a consequentialist based system, we stop saying morality is what the priest says it is to what is best for our future.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      It seems to me that the difference between humans and other animals (as far as we know) is that we have the ability to recognize our instinctive behaviour, analyze it, and choose to indulge or resist it.

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        and choose to indulge or resist it.

        Diana, exactly! Evolution created a grab bag of behaviours, some advantageous, others not so much. You have to understand the consequences of each so you can know what to keep and what to suppress.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        “The ability to recognise… ” AND the leisure to perform … [various navel-gazing].

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know that we need leisure to make decisions like this. Indeed, we can be forced into decisions in times when we are in crisis; for example, a human female may have the natural instinct not to kill her young but under bad circumstances ignore that instinct and her empathy to do so in order for her other offspring to survive.

  12. John K.
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I think any group of animals that relies on social structures has some form of morality. After all, what morality mostly boils down to is how members of a society ought to treat each other. The difference between species seems mostly in levels of complexity rather than in kind. Even piranhas do not eat one another when they swarm, and more social creatures like primates can recognize more complex moral issues such as unfair rewards in experiment. Humans just have even more complex and nuanced social interactions.

    I think a lot of people like to tie an emotional response to morality. The most egregious moral violations people conjure up when asked for examples of the worst type of immoral behavior tend to be the most emotionally charged ones. Things like violence against children or deliberate infliction of suffering seem to be the most common examples of the “worst of the worst”. I suspect that is why people do not bother to ascribe moral judgments on members of different species, because we have no emotional investment in coexisting in a society with them. A human cannot really put any social pressure on a chimp in any regular sense, so moral expectations are often going to lead to disappointment. I think the tendency for discarding moral guidelines when humans interact with other humans of very different cultures can be explained this way as well. Moral courtesies are mostly reserved for the rule observant people within a society, most people feel quite justified in redacting all moral considerations from people that they think are against or outside their group. How often have we heard revenge fantasies about catching those who have harmed children in some way?

    I would say that we do have some moral expectations of some species that coexist with us. Other commentators have already brought up dogs. Things do get pretty weird in that area though. I too tend to avoid the use of the word moral in general, since it has been co-opted by religious thinking for so long and tends to have too much baggage.

    • Sastra
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      No no, please do not throw out the word “moral” and give it to the religious. It’s not closely connected and in that iffy gray zone like “spiritual” or “sacred.” It’s a perfectly fine secular word.

      “Atheists can’t be moral. It takes religion for that.”

      Do you really want to agree with them? Do you really think your own little more precise ‘clean’ nuanced definitions are going to resolve any confusion here?

      I don’t.

  13. William
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I would think that humans became morally responsible slowly, over the course of evolution, as they developed the ability to think further and further ahead. Someone who can’t foresee that winter is coming doesn’t have a moral responsibility to store up food in advance, but someone who can foresee winter does.

    • JBlilie
      Posted August 22, 2013 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Squirrels?

  14. Lianne Byram
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Interesting question. I think that the concept of morality likely arose when our species’consciousness developed to the point where our ancestors began to perceive themselves as having the ability to make choices. I am also a determinist so I think that this sense of free agency is a delusion of sorts. I think that the issues that we assign to the moral realm are products of our evolution as social animals. We are erroneously convinced that we have free will so we judge ourselves and each other according to the thing called “morality” but give animals a pass because it is more obvious to us that they are incapable of free choice.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      The ability to have a conscience and to feel guilty. No one has to tell me it’s bad to hurt someone because if I think about hurting them or actually hurt them, I feel bad. So, there is something innate in human brains that make us feel bad.

      However, we can suppress feeling bad if we rationalize it for a higher cause like killing for the greater good or killing for honour and it can be brain washed out of us as well if we are indoctrinated.

      The question is – do animals have the same conscience?

      • Lianne Byram
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        I agree that it’s innate. I think that conscience and the ability to feel guilt are tied to empathy which can be turned off under certain circumstances like those you mentioned. Also I gather that psychopaths are born without it which suggests that conscience may be unrelated to consciousness, so it may be present in other animals. Some of the things I’ve read about chimps seem to indicate they might be able to feel guilt.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

          Yes, psychopaths have something wrong with their brains. I recently read about a lawyer who is a sociopath & has a book out about what it is like to be a sociopath. She says “ruining people” is her way of getting close to someone.

          • Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

            Wow! What is the name of that book?

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

              I think it is Confessions of a Sociopath. Write up here. She is also a Mormon. :)

  15. Logicophilosophicus
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Dawkins reckons: “Our misfiring selfish genes mean we don’t ape the nastiness of nature, but extract ourselves from it and live by our values.”

    That seems to suggest a belief or opinion that morality is a superior determinant of behaviour which lies outside the realm of natural selection.

  16. secmilchap
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Within the past few years an article was posted on a WebSite, a personal account by a scientist returned from a field trip. He described the condition of a pre-/proto- human female skeleton that clearly showed marks of muscles having separated from bones, as in poisoning by ingesting liver from a carnivore. Then he began thinking about how she might have lived so long to allow the disease to progress to that point and suddenly had a flash of insight: “Someone took care of her.” She would have been disabled before the disease progressed to the point apparent from the fossilized skeleton. Some of us were compassionate a long time ago – without any ‘scripture’!

  17. secmilchap
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    It has not been very many years since I read an account by a scientist, reporting on a field investigation. He had examined a fossil skeleton of an early human/humanoid, and decided that she had died of excess vitamin poisoning, as from ingesting liver from a carnivore. Marks of separated muscle were evident. He was thinking about how she might have survived so long; disease should have incapacitated her before the symptoms that he saw became evident. Then he had a flash of insight: “Someone took care of her!” I still get chills when I recall this article. Morals and/or ethics were in us long before ‘scripture’ began poisoning our brains.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm, I’ve not heard of that case (though I have heard of people dieing of vitamin poisoning from eating carnivore offal ; “A” and polar bear livers specifically, but other cases may exist), but there’s an abundant record of Palaeolithic human remains with evidence of “medical” treatments, from simple feeding while broken legs heal, up to the complexities of trepanning to “let the madness out” (or whatever their motivation was).
      If you make a guess that the actual history of a behaviour (“social/ medical care” in this case) extends to twice the age of the oldest (recognised) archaeological evidence for that behaviour, then that suggests that “medical/ social care” has been going on for tens of thousands of years.
      Whether that is longer than the perniciousness of religosity …. honestly, I doubt it. We have cave paintings of (alleged) hunting magic scenes, which gets pretty close to recognisable religion for me, going back to in excess of 30,000 years. And that’s the ones that we’ve found. With the same guesswork as above, that suggests the behaviour has been going on for upwards of 50,000 years. A long time.
      But theoretically, the question is amanable to investigation by finding new evidence (and appropriately interpreting it, which may be very hard).

  18. Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Even if there was such a thing as free will, which, of course, there isn’t, there are no such things as objective moral truths.

    There are moral feelings, however, with no truth value, that are evolved adaptations,and which are, at their core, shared by most of us.

  19. darrelle
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    “We’d still put people in prison for bad behavior (but for sequestration, rehabilitation, and as deterrence, but not for retribution), and could also praise them for good behavior—for praise is an environmental effect that can change someone’s behavior or impel others to act well—but we would be less likely to see people as good or bad by “choice”.

    This is not intended to address your main premise, which I largely agree with, but.

    It seems to me that if, “praise is an environmental effect that can change someone’s behavior or impel others to act well,” is a valid argument then the same argument is valid for retributive punishment. I don’t think even widespread adoption of your ideas about free will and responsibility would be enough to inspire the changes you (and me) hope for.

    What comes first? The desire to be more “moral” or the rationalizations to support that desire, like there is no “free will” therefore . . . ?

    • Richard Olson
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      The paragraph cited by Darelle in 16 nags at me, perhaps because I still have reservations about what is implied by “determinism” & “free will”, and how this manifests in individuals’ decisions.

      I have no quarrel with the claim that people’s behavior is affected by praise. Say that on 8.21.13 a high school counselor convinces the faculty to treat the class bully from the impoverished home with carefully administered positive reinforcement for acceptable social behavior. Soon observant/empathetic students join in and reinforce this policy. The bully’s hostility gradually diminishes as he slowly but steadily integrates peacefully into the social environment at his school.

      This particular example of creating an environmental effect may or may not be realistic. A real-world example of my confusion about determinism/human behavior/free will is perhaps best illustrated by the example of societal attitude change (in the USA) re non-heterosexuals.

      How does a 180D shift in attitude, by well over 100 million people, occur over the course of 4 decades and a year or so despite vigorous and unrelenting opposition by an entrenched, highly viisible, and well-funded opposition that vies for postition as the most potent and legitimate societal authority? How/where does this outcome fit within a deterministic explanation?

  20. Kevin Henderson
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    How morality is defined is still evolving. Our morality (human beings) has best been shaped through reasoning and discussion in the last three hundred years.

    The animal kingdom is littered with moral traits exhibited by almost all species, Consider wolves, elephants, dolphins, ants, bees, cuddlefish, even single celled organisms and bacteria and virus. All moral actions are ultimately linked to social connections and hereditary considerations.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      How morality is defined is still evolving. Our morality (human beings) has best been shaped through reasoning and discussion in the last three hundred years.

      With Joe Haldeman’s “Forever War” on the bookshelf beside the bed … ain’t that just so! (Yes, it’s fiction ; but as an exploration of how people could behave, it’s worth the effort.)

  21. ladyatheist
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    It may have started before we branched out from monkeys:

    • ladyatheist
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      (note: I pasted only the URL – I was trying to obey teh roolz)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        That reminded me of the video where the monkey that gets angry when his pal is rewarded with a higher value item. I loved how that capuchin took no crap!

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

        Paste a YouTube url and the video embeds. You need to delete the “http://” part and paste the rest. WordPress will add that part back in, and only the url will appear.

        Pasting Amazon book urls does the same thing. I do not know if the same tactic can be used to prevent embedding, but I’m going to try it next time.

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Great stuff, but give the monkey that damn grape.

  22. SelfAwarePatterns
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    An interesting question.

    I think moral responsibility begins when punishing someone for an act provides an effective deterrent from others committing that act. Punishing a human who kills his stepchildren will provide a deterrent from other humans killing their stepchildren (at least to some extent). Punishing a lion who does the same thing will have no deterrent on other lions.

    • Jonas
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Aye.

  23. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I remember hearing of cases where dolphins, elephants, chimpanzees and a few other species of mammals would try and support members of their pod/herd/troop who were in difficulty and similarly try and avoid being caught doing selfish acts.

    My suspicion is that any mammal species that lives in collective groups will probably evolve to include ‘moral’ behaviours. Someone could probably write an interesting paper collating the data to support or disprove the hypothesis. I would expect that solitary animals would not show such behaviour.

    So in answer to the question ‘when did humans supposedly become morally responsible?’ would be that the ancestral species of humans became socially aware quite a long time ago. ‘Moral responsibility’ is an artefact of philosophers and theologians who start from the mistaken premise of ‘souls’.

  24. docbill1351
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The Dalai Lama’s book, Ethics for the New Millennium, boils down to just what you said: responsibility.

    Personal responsibility to family to community to nation to world. It’s like turtles all the way down except responsibility all the way up.

  25. Michael Johnson
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    The main question seems to be: why do we think humans are morally culpable and animals not?

    Here’s a thought: humans can reflect on their own mental states. They can know when they are doing something they believe is wrong.

    Animals can do wrong things. In some cases we might want to say they believe X is wrong and they also do X. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a case where an animal believed X was wrong, *knew* that it believed that, and did X anyway (and was also not morally culpable).

    My idea is that culpability comes not from violating the moral law, but from violating what you know you believe to be the moral law. Animals are not reflective enough to see themselves as acting against moral considerations (and maybe have no moral concepts), but we are. Thus if we act wrongly AND we believe we acted wrongly, then we’re culpable.

    • Michael Johnson
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Small argument in favor of this view: we judge people’s actions less harshly when we know they did what they thought was right (even if it wasn’t).

      • lkr
        Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps — there is empathy for those who act out of principle but ignorance of facts,

        but rarely so if we don’t respect a person’s idea of what is “right” — see 9/11 jihadists, assassination of [name your target], preachers urging disposing of HIV drugs in favor of faith…

        • Michael Johnson
          Posted August 22, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

          I didn’t say whether one acts rightly depends on whether one thinks one acts rightly. That’s relativist in a way that I’m not happy with. I recognize that many individuals act wrongly, and are “responsible” as JC uses the word. I think what’s different in the human and animal cases is that humans have the ability to conceptualize themselves within the moral order: to believe of their actions that they are right or wrong. When an orangutan commits rape, it acts wrongly, and it is probably JC-responsible– i.e. we should remove it from polite orangutan society for the well-being of all. But it is not morally responsible because it has the inability to see itself as acting wrongly. Humans do have this ability, so they are culpable. When they act wrongly but believe they are acting rightly, their blameworthiness consists in not adequately considering the (moral) reasons that there are for their actions (as such). Animals cannot consider these reasons because they either lack moral concepts or are unable to see themselves as acting for moral reasons.

    • Logicophilosophicus
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely agree. Of course, that leaves the question of the origin of the moral law or moral sense/impulse open.

      • Michael Johnson
        Posted August 22, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        Agreed. I think it’s best to leave that issue to the side. You can understand moral responsibility as a condition of creatures who can conceptualize their actions in moral terms without deciding what the ultimate source of morality is. This let’s you argue over the latter question while ignoring the former. But of course it may turn out that if morality is a transitory human construct, then although it is clear that animals aren’t moral agents, it might become suspect why we should care about that fact.

  26. alanchais
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Probably when we begin to realize that we can live together peacefully, reasonably, and responsibly. We’re not fighting for survival, we’re slowly changing our mindset to work as a group – for the greater good – instead of self interests (of course as society gets bigger, there will be more room to exploit the common person, but that’s amenable).

  27. Grania Spingies
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I think the issue is fairly straight-forward.

    Even though we acknowledge and have observed that some primates and fellow mammals have the ability to show compassion, altruism, an understanding of fairness and empathy; what we haven’t determined yet is that any of them demonstrate genuine foresight, and insight into the complete consequences of their actions.
    I don’t mean basic consequences as in: throw stone, hit target/ kill target. I mean as in the extended consequences: kill mother – starve infant slowly to death; kill baby – cause intense anguish and grieving for parent(s).

    That is one of the things that for hundreds of years has been recognized by law: if someone lacks the cognitive ability to see the consequences of their actions – let alone plan the consequences of their actions; they cannot be held completely accountable for it.
    This is why we have charges of manslaughter as opposed to murder, why juveniles or the mentally incapacitated are not tried as adults and why animals are not regarded as guilty for actions that would be regarded as immoral or criminal when performed by humans.

    (and yes, I know that the law is not perfect, nor is it applied consistently; and yes, even animals have in past times bee tried as if they were human).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I agree. I think you nailed it here.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      That is one of the things that for hundreds of years has been recognized by law: if someone lacks the cognitive ability to see the consequences of their actions – let alone plan the consequences of their actions; they cannot be held completely accountable for it.

      I don’t know American law, but in the UK those considerations were only codified in the mid-1800s (Wiki’s : “M’Naghten Rules” 1843). Trying animals for (for example) murder was still going on in the mid-1600s, though it was recognised as a legalistic silliness then.

    • Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Very well said! What I was also trying to say earlier! There isn’t a complex understanding of consequences, especially the emotional consequences. It does sadden me to observe the violence of chimps, especially while understanding that they have ideas regarding fairness and well-being – so when they commit infanticide are they intentionally trying to hurt that parent(s) or are they just getting rid of possible social/physical rivals? I really really REALLY wish we could get inside the minds of some of these more complex and emotional animals.

  28. still learning
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone read Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Science of Evil: on empathy and the origins of cruelty? Also, Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development?

    • R. Schauer
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Haven’t read them but they just hit my to read list. Thanks! BTW, Discipline and Punish by Foucault – outlines the history of prisons and the morality of that…may be of interest to you.

      Basically, the notion of justice (which can be traced to Horace in the Middle Kingdon of Egypt) from canon laws create sin, guilt , judgment and atonement through sacrifice, including death, permeate our society’s psychie. It’s sacrifice to save society’s soul. Even God’s son had to do three days. Its how our govts and courts operate. Foucault explores it all nicely.

  29. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I was certain that out of “moral responsibility” you would dump “responsibility” and keep “moral” as in “moral behavior”, since that is a common description in biology.

    How does a determinist which in this case has determined [sic!] that he is without access to en emergent model of choice define “responsibility”?

    This must be the key question though:

    So why can we do wrong but chimps can’t?

    There are two options.

    1. You do away with “right and wrong” and describe it as “immoral” based on relative social contexts. I.e. in some cultures it is immoral to kill. Apparently not in chimp culture.

    2. You keep the terms “right and wrong” because you like the sound of them.

    • Lyndon
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Of course there are other options; you get rid of all of those words:

      “That human (or chimp) is doing something that will mean the tribe (clan, society, etc.) does not last as long, will not be as successful, will not accumulate as much gold or grapes, etc.”

      The desire to continue to reproduce the words “moral” or “right or wrong” arises because you think those words are necessary for social regulation. You like the efficacy of their emotional weight (probably both for self measurement and for interpersonal effect) and are scared of social discourses where we are not speaking in such ways, with such weighted emotional anchors. You want Hitler to be immoral and to have committed a wrong, not just to have been the agent developed by his genes/environment who brought a great deal of destruction to many other peoples’ desires. If all you want from the term “wrong” is to mean not following the law or the rules or the norms of society, similar to being wrong when you do not move you chess piece in the prescribed way, then there is the question of whether you are separating out the more robust connotation that attaches to the word (for many people) and why you feel that such a reproduction is necessary.

  30. Lyndon
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    A new book by philosopher Heidi Ravven covers some of these questions. It is called The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will.

    It is a fairly long account that I have only skimmed at Barnes and Nobles, but it seems well done. It is probably focused more on the later history of free will and ethics and the way religion framed (tainted) the picture. But it seems rather comprehensive so I am sure she hits on the more biological and emotional aspects of such beliefs.

  31. James Rednour
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I think morality arose alongside consciousness. Once an individual has an awareness of the self and the other – and understands that the “other” is a “self” like him – then morality emerges. When one understands that others have the same wants, needs and fears then a moral sense emerges.

    So when did consciousness emerge? No idea. I see some merit in Julian Jaynes’ bicameral mind hypothesis which would place the advent of the true modern definition of consciousness around 3000-4000 years ago. That seems fairly recent, but I’d argue that the homo sapiens of today are very different social animals than the homo sapiens of 10,000 years ago.

    • Lyndon
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      The other approach is to ask when this arrives within a person. There are interesting thoughts there from developmental psychology, both to a robust consciousness and to the recognition of moral and social rules.

      I enjoyed Jaynes as well, but I would say his theory’s merit is very questionable. On your idea we would get something like consciousness arriving and then we would recognize others have consciousness like me, and then we can build a process of recognizing the consciousness and ~rights of others. I am not saying that is a bad theory, but it may not do justice to the social nature of the mammal species and pre-conscious hominids. Much of our “moral” sense seems very much laid out already before we make the “other” connection.

      • Logicophilosophicus
        Posted August 22, 2013 at 12:18 am | Permalink

        I have read Jaynes’s “Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mnd” several times over the last 30 years. The length of the title is a bit of a conversation stopper, but it’s not quite long enough: should be “Self-Consciousness”…

        I thought his idea was crazy at first sight – how could a civilisation capable of, for example, the Rhind Pyrus, be “pre-conscious”? But his evidence is hugely seductive, and his theory nails a likely mechanism linking religion and morality. Bicameral minds experience “internal dialogue” (Jaynes would have pointed out that this idiom is a bicameral fossil) as the presence of a god/muse/daemon whispering instructions and disapproval. As the concept of a single (though complex) mind spread, religion gradually became a vague folk memory, and the concrete gods of the age of the Iliad became purely spiritual beings – even then, only in the minds of those least neurologically developed, or most psychologically primed/indoctrinated. The process clearly continues.

        Anyway, I think Jaynes had more of value to say about the origin of religion than the origin of morality.

  32. Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    As always I am late to the party, due to time zones.

    This issue is much to complex for a short answer in this comment form, and it is too early in the morning for an erudite comment anyway. A few quick thoughts:

    (1) I do not understand the difference between “responsible” and “morally responsible”, and consequently I do not understand why one should get hung up about the m-word.

    (2) The ability of humans to foresee consequences and take in a variety of inputs seems to me irrelevant here.

    I am deeply puzzled by this because that seems to be exactly what the whole debate is about. This difference is why we punish a murderer but not a landslide. This difference is what makes some of us say that sane and mature humans have free will despite determinism. How can it possibly be irrelevant?

    (3) Recently I happened on the following publication: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1933-1592.2006.tb00603.x/abstract

    It provides empirical data addressing the often-discussed question whether people are dualists when they talk of free will and moral responsibility. The authors conclude that no, most people are in fact intuitively compatibilist; but judge for yourself.

  33. Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    If that’s the case, then why add the adjective “moral,” which implies that one does have a choice?

    Does it? You don’t have to connote the word “moral” that way.

    is when humans supposedly became morally responsible—if that’s what you believe.

    This would have been a gradual process, as human (and pre-human) society and social interaction gradually evolved over millions of years.

    So why, when a stepfather kills his stepchild … that is morally wrong, but when a lion does it, or a chimp kills an infant, it’s just nature, Jake.

    Because our morals are our feelings about the behaviour of our fellow conspecifics. That’s what morality evolved to do, to facilitate with-species social interaction. Thus our sense of morality simply isn’t about other species, it’s about our species.

    Of course to a *chimp* the killing of a chimp infant might (or might not) be immoral, because their sense of morality will be about their species.

    Your questions about applying our morality to other species presupposes that there is something “objective” about morals (in which case they would have to apply everywhere), when really they are simply *human* opinions about other humans.

  34. Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Also, to us, morals are about the behavior of sentient beings because we are sentients and the whole point of morals is how to live together. Thus it would not appear to make a lot of sense to speak of morals before we became sentient.

  35. Lyndon
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    As to Jerry’s question, for the most part we remove the emotional, interpersonal judgment when we see chimps interacting, even if it is of a social nature. Instead we ask, rather coldly, about the evolutionary structured behavior and emotion and at least some about their socialization and environment conditioning that leads to that chimp’s interactions, behaviors and emotions. We ask how certain actions by animals, say eating young, will help the gene and species reproduce.

    With humans that gets far messier, mainly because we are living members of societies, families, and relationships that requires us first to internalize social rules that attach to the social emotions within us, which creates complex selves that fit into society. Complex human rules become tightly woven with the more basic social and emotional instincts, including within a linguistic framework: “Stealing your brother’s toy *is* wrong!” This wraps up those emotions into a self that is responsive to concepts and words. Therefore our “moral discourses” are something that we think useful, that we guard from obliteration. Those other people *are* wrong. The identity of my self as good requires that there is a bad way to be, and the good way has a strong emotional attachment (much of it brought about through continuous parental and societal approval, things that feel good). We have selves that feel not only fairness, perhaps instinctually ingrained in some instances, but also ones that have strong emotional beliefs attach to more complex ideas and behaviors.

    Last month on this site I was arguing for a blank slate view, really more for the idea that behaviors and mental representations are infinite and can be infinitely shaped by an endless, varied environment. When it comes to the way emotions attach onto more complex “moral” concepts, the way societies go about socializing such processes and reproducing such discourses, we see that we can get an endless and infinite representational and behavioral repertoire as regards possible selves and possible worlds. We can sanctify meat or dairy, fish or vegetable; deify waterfall or sun, ravioli or Luke Skywalker; and forbid any number of things. The brain/mind (a set of genes) that is raised in such an environment has these concepts and socializing processes structure their brain/mind and behavior. The characteristics (say sexual and gender behaviors) that are usually candidates for having direct genetic instantiation are also seen as capable of being thoroughly changed or obliterated by the type of social discourses we set up around any individual. That is easier to see when those characteristics are more readily shaped by and part of linguistic discourses, but it is probably true that all of our characteristics that seem extra-linguistic are capable of being conceptualized and manipulated by language, or at least by radical alterations to the environment and social world we find.

  36. Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I could be wayyyy off here, but I’ve often wondered if the desire to keep elders around as a source of information is another path to morality. Taking care of the elderly is a heavy burden, even with modern medicine. So perhaps language and oral information put us on the path to moral responsibility. I don’t know of other species who risk the entire “herd” to keep alive members well past their prime.

  37. Peter Ozzie Jones
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I think it was after Genesis 2:25 when we started covering our private bits.
    (Initially Adam & Eve were not ashamed to be naked)

    Yes, this week I took my g’son to our zoo (sowwy Jerry, ours tries to be very animane) and watched the naughty baboons!

  38. Posted August 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    If you want a real indication that mainstream “rock” has died, check this out. Oh. My. God. I know Def Leppard aren’t necessarily considered musical geniuses, but they certainly deserved a better cover than this. My brain lost neurons over this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZsZGUBTGpE

    • Posted August 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Erm….wow. This was sooo meant for the other thread. Note to self: close your effin’ browser windows.

  39. Hempenstein
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    When? If we’re talking Colombia, one milestone was probably 1821, when, from an earlier post of yours, the Inquisition heaved its last.

  40. Dominic
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    It did not go because it never was – never was one fixed thing. Morality is a mutable idea, so it is what you choose to call it.

  41. prochoice
    Posted August 23, 2013 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    The concept of “moral” or “ethical” responsibility has its value, when compared to “problems with the penal law” (abortionforbidding laws, not doing things on a sundays…) or “behaviour the bureaucracy will make impossible, in spite of its being erased from the penal law” (that applies to suicide in Germany and Scotland, for example).
    Of course such things do not go back beyond the beginnings of modern states (perhaps princes and their respective counselors enforcing their beliefs with the sword).

    The next very recent problem with this question is the realm. “The humans” as opposed to “all (other) animals” is a 20th or, at best, 19th century idea.
    Before there was behaviour that applied to a gender, a grownup versus very small children version of behaviour (idea of “childhood” beyond age 5 or so is European-colonial or maybe Jewish), AND the members of quite small groups defined by wealth and/or occupation.
    Think of slave economy societies where slaves did not look so different from their masters, ancient Greece, Celtic states, etc.)

    It all boils down to social experience while growing up – the dog in an earlier comment does behave moral. Learned behaviour.
    It is a social animal. Put it in a PET scan as soon as the gadgets get portable – at least social living mammals will have the same brain activity.
    For a testable version, comparing different species, look up what Konrad Lorenz called “imprint” (his word, German “Prägung”, described behaviour).
    Of course his focus was too much on sexuality.
    Other behaviour, for example sharing food or not in a situation where the test subject may have appetite but is not extremely hungry, would be much more useful, but I do not remember any tests done.
    If you want a feel of “this behaviour is false” without any ability to stop it, try eating addicts.
    (Personal experience, that´s why I know/I always knew that the idea of “free will” is nonsense, and how difficult it is to trick out behaviour that was useful in a horrible childhood but is detrimental now)
    I would LOVE to go under a scanner to see if remembrance and prediction will show up in my brain exactly as i say it is!

    • prochoice
      Posted August 23, 2013 at 3:28 am | Permalink

      As to Jewish commandments – how old is the Jewish tradition, how long do prescriptions of certain rituals and ideas go back?
      A.F.A.I.K. for written information, Chinese and Jewish tradition compete, but stories and rituals could be much older – or is a guess, because there is no proof for the time oral traditions are unchanged – what do you think?
      During womens´movement I tried to get some info on the time line of such ideas as “childhood” (as we now see it), and “puberty”/marriageability, but I did not get far, oldest possibility beginning of patriarchy around 5000 B.C.
      The question of which behaviour you want to explore is, to my experience, a severe limitation to any discussion of what is a value, and could be to your question also, Professor Coyne.

  42. Lucio
    Posted August 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m a non-religious theist, and I must say I was outraged by ENV’s reply to this post here: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/08/i_have_to_answe075951.html

    I’m an ID but when I see Christianity shoved down my throat I feel nothing but outrage.

    This people at ENV should understand the difference between science and religion, and leave Christianity out of scene.

    They were attacking Jerry’s post on the grounds that it arguments against FREE WILL. Please, you don’t need to be an atheist to see free will is false, all you have to do is look at the evidence of the correlation between backgrounds and choices EVERYWHERE. But I guess that at ENV they don’t care about the evidence when it contradicts their religious worldview…

    How dissapointing. In this regard, I agree with materialists: Religious people are deluded.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      I just laughed at it. It’s the DI crowd so it’s stooopid! :D

      • Lucio
        Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        “It’s DI so it’s stoooopid” is not a really a scientific argument, I hope you agree.

        But religion should be taken as what it is: A set of beliefs that are not supported by evidence (not yet, at least), and as such should not be put side by side with scientific arguments.

        It’s understandable that us IDs are sometimes called creationists if there are Christian morons out there mistaking one with the other.

        Most non-religious theists like me hate when Christians blindly claim to know the truth based on some “book”.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          I’m a bit confused. Is a non-religious theist someone who belives in a god, but not in scriptures?

          • Lowen Gartner
            Posted August 30, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

            I was wondering the same thing. It occurred to me one can be a theist and think that God is evil and offers no path to afterlife/salvation and thus is not worthy of worship. Come to think of it…..

          • Lucio
            Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            Yes, that would be correct. A non-religious theist doesn’t believe in any particular religion. In my case, it’s simple: I think empirical evidence clearly points to the fact that free will is false (determinism is true, at least outside of origins). And because most religions depend on the existence of free will to be true, then that rules out most or all religions to me.

            That doesn’t mean that the Bible is not historically correct in many ways, but the God of the Bible has to be false (at least in regards to the existence of sins) if free will is false.

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

              Cool, thanks for the reply. :-)

              Can you elaborate on how you came to the conclusion that a god exists, and what god you believe in?

              • Lucio
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

                I’ve a been a theist for as long as I can remember (I was raised in a family of theists), however, before ID, being a theist was more like a habit, and nothing more.

                Being a kid that had a lot of interest in science and read a lot of science books, I’ve always been a materialist for the most part, religion was something I never took seriously, even as a theist. My idea back then was that even though the universe is materialist, someone had to “push the start button”.

                But when I learned about ID about 9 months ago my theism stopped being based on a habit and became evidence-based for the first time.

                I understand that atheists are biased against ID and think is just a religious conspiration by Christians with a hidden agenda. Maybe Christians do in fact try to use ID to support their wordlview. But I don’t care about that, that doesn’t mean that the evidence for ID is automatically wrong in any way. We can still take the evidence and see for ourselves if this guys are just making stuff up or not. As a college student who took microbiology clases and knows a thing or two about molecular biology, I know how to discern between wishful speculation and tangible evidence.

                Why do I conclude there’s a designer? Because biology is not the only place where we see pervasive design patterns, there’s also design in physics and cosmology. It’s too much evidence from the natural world to ignore, even behind a materialistic filter (which I adhere to for the most part). Nevermind the ultimate question: Why is there “something” when the ultimate simmetry is “nothing”? What broke the simmetry? Etc etc. The are more than enough reasons to believe in a theistic world. In my view, a lot of faith and commitment is required to be an informed atheist.

                What type of god do I believe in? I’m an agnostic in this sense.

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

                You so desperately need to read Jerry’s book — the one that gave its title to this Web site.

                I’d be a lot more willing to grant ID at least a patina of respectability were it not for a few critical failings.

                First, each and every example ever used as evidence of design has been unequivocally been demonstrated to have arisen through means of random mutation and natural selection. Perhaps the best example is the one Darwin himself famously used: the eye. A young Richard Dawkins gave a most delightful Christmas Lecture demonstrating the evolution of the eye in a most engaging manner. The pattern continues, up and down, from flagella to morality and everything between.

                Next, even banal everyday occurrences demonstrate order and design spontaneously arising from randomness and chaos. Who stacks the gumballs so nice and neatly in the gumball machine? And throw a fair die enough times, and the percentage of winning throws rapidly converges on the same proportions as the die.

                Perhaps most telling is that no evidence is ever even hinted at, let alone adduced, for the existence, let alone nature, of the designer. Where, at the least, are the tool marks?

                From a logical perspective, ID is a non-starter. Who designed the designer? If the designer isn’t evidence of a super-designer, why are we evidence of a designer?

                And that leads to not only the aesthetic but the moral failing of ID: it shuts down inquiry utterly. Ultimately, the argument is, “Because I said so, that’s why.” And because it is nothing more than an attempt to pervert the science classroom into Sunday School lessons: do a quick Google search for the “wedge document” and “cdesign proponentsists,” and research the Dover Trial while you’re at it.

                Cheers,

                b&

                P.S. Apologies for any bad editing…there’s a cat sleeping on my left arm, and I’m not exactly the world’s greatest one-handed typist…. b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                Although I disagree with you regarding the evidence of a designed universe and the fact that a predictable pattern doesn’t imply design, I’m still curious as to why you call yourself a theist.

                Do you actually believe in an intervening god and do you belive that there are only one designer?

              • Lucio
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

                “A predictable pattern doesn’t imply design”. I never said that. What’s a predictable pattern? If you mean a repetitive pattern, such patterns do not contain specificity, and are therefore not the type of patterns that ID bases it’s arguments on. If you want to argument against ID, you should know that ID refers to CSI, complex specified information (long non-repetitive sequences that match an independent functional pattern)

                “I’m still curious as to why you call yourself a theist.”

                I’m a theist simply because I believe there’s a supernatural creator of the Universe (a being that created the natural laws and is, therefore, above the natural world, hence “super-natural”).

                “do you belive that there are only one designer?”

                There’s no particular reason to believe in “one” Designer instead of many, but between “one” and “many”, a single Designer is a simpler proposition, by Occam’s razor.

                “Do you actually believe in an intervening god?”

                I sense some condescending tone there. As far as I know, I think the same about you: Do you ACTUALLY believe that the universe is just one big accident and that it just came to existence for no reason and in an uncaused manner? Such proposition is absurd and doesn’t survive scrutiny. Not only because extrapolating the properities of quantum mechanics to an entire universe is insane, but also for a bigger problem than that: Were do the laws of physics come from if the universe is not eternal?

                You might not agree with me on the evidence of Design (although I’m curious, do you actually know what is the argument ID makes? If you do, I’d like you to explain it to me briefly, since you can’t say you don’t agree with the evidence of ID if you don’t understand the arguments first), but an uncaused universe is an insane proposition and a greater miracle than the existence of a creator.

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                Do you ACTUALLY believe that the universe is just one big accident and that it just came to existence for no reason and in an uncaused manner? Such proposition is absurd and doesnt survive scrutiny.

                “Accident” is a prejudicial term implying calamity resulting from intentional actions gone awry.

                “Just came to existence” is as incoherent as the Platonic philosophical concept of nonexistence itself. That sort of nonexistence is as meaningless as “north of the North Pole.”

                And classical causality is not only itself not especially coherent (Is the water boiling because it’s reached a certain temperature, or because I want some tea?), but soundly demonstrated fallacious by introductory-level schoolbook experiments in quantum mechanics. Further, the Big Bang is an event that, due to its scale, would have been governed in large part by quantum mechanics, and is best understood as exactly the same type of spontaneous “for no reason” events we see every day in the quantum realm.

                Your hangup is, as with so many Christian and Christian-inspired ones, a refusal to let go of Plato. Plato basically didn’t get anything right. If you really must turn to the ancients for your metaphysics, give Democritus a try.

                If you want to try to excavate yourself from the cognitive mess you’ve made for yourself, start with this question: Who designed the designer? When you realize that all answers to that question lead inevitably to contradiction (or special pleading), you’ll begin to understand why insisting that there must be an ultimate designer is exactly as incoherent as insisting that there must be an ultimate, or largest, prime number.

                The ancients had problems with infinities and zero and the like — let alone irrational or imaginary or transfinite numbers. You’re just repeating their same problems in modern language. The rest of the world moved past those overly simplistic limits centuries ago; why won’t you?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

                Hear, hear! Plato will slowly drive you insane. I have an unfounded theory that Nietzsche went nuts in the end, not from syphilis but from having to translate Plato. :)

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

                Forced into a choice between syphilis, rabies, and Plato, I think I’d pick them in that order….

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

                To me it is very simple. I have seen no evidence or trace of a designer and therefore, speaking of Occam’s razor, the honest and simple answer is no, we’re not designed.

                Pretending for a moment that I buy the idea of a designer, my next question would be, by whom and how… and ultimately, only here?

                This designer of yours, is it the designer of the universe and everything in it, or is it just the designer of life as we know it?

                Remember I’m asking you these questions because I’m genuinely curious about your concept of a god, and try not to be cynically dismissive of them…..if you please, of course. :-)

              • Lucio
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                “I have seen no evidence or trace of a designer”

                By evidence or trace, what do you mean exactly? If you mean seeing with your own eyes the Designer, then that’s not required to believe or prove it exists. You don’t need to see the writer to know that a book was devised by an intelligent mind. The book in your hand is proof enough of the existence of the writer (unless you believe wind and erosion can produce a written work). In the same manner, you don’t need to see with your eyes the Designer to know that the digital computer-like code written in DNA and the epigenetic information on each cell was intelligently designed.

                “Pretending for a moment that I buy the idea of a designer, my next question would be, by whom and how… and ultimately, only here?”

                “Whom?” Who knows, that’s speculation. ID doesn’t try to indicate who the designer is, it just looks at some features of the natural world and says “this can’t have been produced by chance or natural law in the limited time available on Earth”, and so it concludes such features are the product of design.

                “How?” That doesn’t concern ID. Do you need to know how a book was written to prove the existence of it’s writer? of course not, all you need is the book.

                “Why only here?” We don’t know if it’s only here. Maybe the Design includes other planets and civilizations in other galaxies. Who knows. That’s not important or necessary to infer the existence of a Designer.

                “This designer of yours, is it the designer of the universe and everything in it, or is it just the designer of life as we know it?”

                I already said that the evidence of Design pervades in biology, cosmology and physics. So the Designer didn’t only create the Earth and life on this planet, but also fine-tuned the laws of physics themselves to allow for life to be possible (there are currently around 40 physical constants known to physcis that have to be fine-tuned with an astronomical precision to allow life), and also fine-tuned the initial conditions during the Big Bang (the initial entropy condition of the universe had to be fine tuned to one part in 10^10^123, and if I recall correctly the expansion rate to about one part in 10^60, else the Universe would either implode or rip itself apart). So this means that the Design permeates the entire cosmos and it’s necessary in all fields (biology, physics and cosmology) to allow for life to exist.

                One of the reasons the idea for Design is so strong is because we reach the conclusion of design from several independent lines of evidence (biology, cosmology and physics). It’s not enough to say “darwinism proves design wrong and so there’s no god”, because you still have the problem of design in physics and cosmology. The same applies the other way around. It’s very hard to ignore the evidence for Design when it’s so spread across the entire natural world. That’s why I really believe a lot of faith is required to be an informed atheist.

                That’s why the evidence for a theistic world is so strong, because it pervades everything and an incredibly precise Design is needed at all levels, from the physical constants to the digital sequence of enzymes, just for life to exist.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

                “By evidence or trace, what do you mean exactly?”

                Physical proof that there is a designer. We do not know what predated the big bang and yet you suggest that an entity of some sort created it.

                Does your creator, or designer if you will, operate within the known natural laws of physics?

                “If you mean seeing with your own eyes the Designer, then that’s not required to believe or prove it exists. You don’t need to see the writer to know that a book was devised by an intelligent mind. The book in your hand is proof enough of the existence of the writer (unless you believe wind and erosion can produce a written work). In the same manner, you don’t need to see with your eyes the Designer to know that the digital computer-like code written in DNA and the epigenetic information on each cell was intelligently designed.”

                A book is a human invention that implies a human creator…or designer if you will.

                Just because we can decode and manipulate DNA that doesn’t mean that there must be a creator or designer. There is some reserach indicating RNA as a precursor of DNA, but this tells of nothing of the existence of a designer/creator.

                “I already said that the evidence of Design pervades in biology, cosmology and physics. So the Designer didn’t only create the Earth and life on this planet, but also fine-tuned the laws of physics themselves to allow for life to be possible (there are currently around 40 physical constants known to physcis that have to be fine-tuned with an astronomical precision to allow life), and also fine-tuned the initial conditions during the Big Bang (the initial entropy condition of the universe had to be fine tuned to one part in 10^10^123, and if I recall correctly the expansion rate to about one part in 10^60, else the Universe would either implode or rip itself apart). So this means that the Design permeates the entire cosmos and it’s necessary in all fields (biology, physics and cosmology) to allow for life to exist.”

                Try and break it down. Are you talking about the conditions predating the big bang, or are you talking about the conditions for life?

                Just because the universe seems finely tuned( for what btw? )mathematically speaking it doesn’t mean that a designer initiated and guides the process, and there’s nothing intelligent about the universe and the laws of physics if we look at it from the viewpoint of life. In fact, it’s pretty damn harsh out there.

                Intelligence indicates that there is a conscious being that initiated the process which lead to the universe as we know it. There simply is no proof of that, not mathematically speaking, or physically speaking.

                We do not know what predated the big bang and suggesting that there has to be a designer or a creator is simply speculation on your part.

                Btw, is this designer/creator supposed to be a physical being that obeys the laws of physics, or is it an entity of some sort that predates and somehow transcends the laws of physics as we know them?

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                Life give the appearance of design for a superb reason: it is designed. It’s just that no intelligence lays behind the design.

                Rather, the design has spontaneously arisen from the circumstances and environment in which life occurs, in the exact same way that crystals spontaneously form in suitable environments.

                The process of evolution is so simple and elegant that it practically reduces to a tautology: that which survives, survives. An organism that’s better fitted to its environment has a higher chance of having great grandchildren than one that isn’t; the sum result of this process is what we observe as the fact of Evolution.

                Jerry explains all this perfectly clearly in his book, and Richard Dawkins has given a number of eloquent public presentations (available on YouTube) on this exact topic, as well. Here’s a short essay of his on the exact subject:

                http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-11-23/

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Lucio
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                @Jesper, thanks for your comment:

                “Btw, is this designer/creator supposed to be a physical being that obeys the laws of physics, or is it an entity of some sort that predates and somehow transcends the laws of physics as we know them?”

                The Designer fine-tuned the laws of physics, therefore the Designer has to be, by all means, ABOVE the laws of physics. In other words, the Designer has the power to infuse information into the very fabric of space-time, so it trascends space-time.

                Note that in the context of ID, life on Earth could be designed not by a god, but by aliens or other type of intelligence, since an alien civilization could have, for example, brought life to Earth and participated in it’s evolution infusing biological information where Darwinian processes could not generate it. So why do I believe in a supernatural creator? Because biology is not the only thing that it’s fine tuned, physics and cosmology are too, and for that only a supernatural designer can do the job.

                I only say the above so you see that my belief in a supernatural creator does not come out of thin air. I believe in a supernatural Designer because a natural designer doesn’t have the power to fine-tune the laws of physics, and that’s exactly what we see.

                “There is some reserach indicating RNA as a precursor of DNA”

                The RNA-world hypothesis is frowned upon by many biologists, since it just pushes the problem of biological information a step back. No only that, the experiments are so “designed” that it only proves that only with an supervising intelligence you can make it work (the irony). And even then it doesn’t work like they expect it. Read here about it: http://www.lifesorigin.com/chap10/RNA_world.php

                “Try and break it down. Are you talking about the conditions predating the big bang, or are you talking about the conditions for life?”

                It’s the same. The conditions during the Big Bang have to be fine-tuned to prevent the Universe from collapsing or ripping itself apart, both scenarions unfriendly for life. That’s the fine-tuning in Cosmology. Life needs to be fine-tuned in a direct way in physics (the strenght of the nuclear force, for example, to allow many elements including Carbon to exist, being that element essential for life as we know it), and in biology (life needs huge imputs of digital information to create proteins, cells, tissues, organs and body plans, information that exists in the genome and epigenome and which origin exceeds by orders of magnitud the powers of darwinistic mechanisms).

                So yes, life can only exist if:
                1-A Universe exists that allows galaxies, stars and planets to form (needs cosmological fine-tuning with astronomic precision)
                2-The laws of physics allow for the creation of heavy elements and chemical reactions needed for life (needs fine-tuning of at least 40 physical constants with, again, an astronomical precision)
                3-The above is still not enough: For life to exist there must be an vast imput of biological information and complex information processing systems that can manage, retrieve and repair the biological data neccesary to build proteins, which can then form cells and tissues, which then form organs, which then arrange themselves into fully functional body plans.

                For life to exist all those things need to be present, and such scenario, to occur by chance, exceeds by far the probabilistic resources of the entire Universe. Not only that, it exceeds the probabilistc resources of even a Multiverse scenario (if such a hypothetical “universe generator” even exists). So you see, the Universe screams Design up, above, and all around, and it’s impossible to escape the theistic implicancies of the existence of such Design.

                “there’s nothing intelligent about the universe and the laws of physics if we look at it from the viewpoint of life. In fact, it’s pretty damn harsh out there.”

                Be careful about that argument, because it’s an argument from opinion. You’re basically saying “The universe, by MY standards, looks badly designed for life, so it can’t be designed, because a supernatural being would create a perfect world”. But you must understand that such idea is not even an argument, because we can’t know which are the plans of the Designer. I personally, at first, also found that the world looks badly designed (in part), but I’m starting to find underlying patterns of purpose even in the apparently “badly designed” things, you just have to think objectively. In any way, it doesn’t matter. Whether the world is badly designed or not, that doesn’t rule out a Designer in any way. Apparent “bad design” is still “design”, and therefore requires a Designer.

                “We do not know what predated the big bang and suggesting that there has to be a designer or a creator is simply speculation on your part.”

                I think I explained why it ISN’T speculation.

                If you want to know more about where my arguments come from, I recommend you read Stephen Meyer’s work. If your commitment to materialism is not closing your mind to evidence, you should find that reading fascinating. Meyer can be a Christian, but his arguments are praised by biologists at universities such as Harvard and his last book, “Darwin’s Doubt”, was called the “best science book ever written”.

                Have you heard such world-class praise given to Dawkins, Matzke, Prothero or other evolutionists of the Darwin lobby? There’s your answer.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

                With regard to fine tuning you really should read Lawrence Krauss’s book, A Universe from Nothing as the “fine tuning” of the universe does not prove a designer. It is possible that universes have no life in them or have lots. Indeed, the stuff that we are made of is marginal and the universe is actually dominated by dark matter so it certainly does not seem fine tuned as it does not favour the cosmic dust that is us.

                Lastly, if you’d like to read a bit about the people who laud Meyer’s start with Jerry’s post about Prothero’s review. Also, words like “Darwin Lobby” are pure Discovery Institute drivel. There is no “Darwin Lobby” (although Jerry has been accused of being in one :)). There are people who accept evolution. Period. They are not part of a lobby though you will see many of us complain when ID is taught as science because it is not science but religion.

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

                If the universe was fine-tuned with human life in mind, then the designer hates us with unimaginable passion.

                The overwhelming majority of the surface of the Earth is quickly lethal to a naked, unprepared human simply dropped at that point. Change that to the volume of the Earth, and your pocket calculator doesn’t have enough zeroes to display your odds of survival; you’d simply be instantly vaporized in magma or the like.

                The Earth could fit inside Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Jupiter is as much bigger than the Earth as the Sun is bigger than Jupiter. It’s a couple hundred solar radii from here to the Sun. It’s a quarter million miles farther from here to the Sun than it is to the next nearest star. From here to the other side of the Milky Way is a few dozen thousand times farther than from here to the next nearest star. And that still doesn’t get us out of the local neighborhood.

                In all that space, the only place you’d survive even as long as you could hold your breath is in a few small spaces here on the surface of the Earth.

                But wait! There’s more! Due to human activity, the Earth is becoming less hospitable to human life every day. Our population has grown exponentially for all of civilization, but, were we to continue on that same exponential curve for but a few more centuries, human flesh would outmass the Earth itself. This window of time in which our civilization can enjoy the exponential growth that is the very hallmark of what it means to be human, maybe a dozen millennia, simply isn’t even a noticeable fraction of the time in which primates have existed — let alone mammals, let alone vertebrates, let alone life, let alone the Solar System, let alone the Universe. And your own lifetime isn’t even a noticeable fraction of the time since the Egyptians had perfected the art of brewing beer, long before the Christians would have us believe YHWH drowned the planet.

                So, please. Don’t try to bullshit us with this idiotic nonsense of the universe somehow being “fine-tuned” for life. It’s as incomprehensible as claiming that ants are the biggest animals ever to roam the face of the Earth, or that nothing can withstand the destructive force of a gnat’s wingbeat. It’s not even a non-starter.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for taking the time to explain in detail where I glossed over in my laziness :)

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

                Detail? That warn’t no detail. I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

                As a wise man once wrote, space is big.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                Now I want peanuts!

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                Something tells me the discussion is becoming brittle….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

                It shell only get worse.

              • Posted August 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

                Egg sac lily.

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

                @Lucio

                “The Designer fine-tuned the laws of physics, therefore the Designer has to be, by all means, ABOVE the laws of physics. In other words, the Designer has the power to infuse information into the very fabric of space-time, so it trascends space-time.

                Note that in the context of ID, life on Earth could be designed not by a god, but by aliens or other type of intelligence, since an alien civilization could have, for example, brought life to Earth and participated in it’s evolution infusing biological information where Darwinian processes could not generate it. So why do I believe in a supernatural creator? Because biology is not the only thing that it’s fine tuned, physics and cosmology are too, and for that only a supernatural designer can do the job.”

                So are you now proposing a superiour alien lifeform and is there only one superiour alien?

                Or are you proposing a supernatural omnipotent monotheistic deity?

                “The RNA-world hypothesis is frowned upon by many biologists, since it just pushes the problem of biological information a step back. No only that, the experiments are so “designed” that it only proves that only with an supervising intelligence you can make it work (the irony). And even then it doesn’t work like they expect it. Read here about it: http://www.lifesorigin.com/chap10/RNA_world.php

                AFAIK the current consenus is that given the simplicity of RNA compared to DNA it may well indicate that RNA ( or mRNA ) preceded DNA, at least on this planet. Alas I am not a biologist or an expert on abiogenesis so I don’t know of the latest research papers.
                The honest answer is that we still don’t know how life as we know it on this planet started, let alone if there is life as we know it on other planets.

                But I await the evidence with great anticipation.

                Do you agree that evolution is the process by which life( again as we know it, and keep in mind that evolution and abiogenesis is two different subjects, at least for the time being ) develops and evolves?

                “It’s the same. The conditions during the Big Bang have to be fine-tuned to prevent the Universe from collapsing or ripping itself apart, both scenarions unfriendly for life. That’s the fine-tuning in Cosmology. Life needs to be fine-tuned in a direct way in physics (the strenght of the nuclear force, for example, to allow many elements including Carbon to exist, being that element essential for life as we know it), and in biology (life needs huge imputs of digital information to create proteins, cells, tissues, organs and body plans, information that exists in the genome and epigenome and which origin exceeds by orders of magnitud the powers of darwinistic mechanisms).

                So yes, life can only exist if:
                1-A Universe exists that allows galaxies, stars and planets to form (needs cosmological fine-tuning with astronomic precision)
                2-The laws of physics allow for the creation of heavy elements and chemical reactions needed for life (needs fine-tuning of at least 40 physical constants with, again, an astronomical precision)
                3-The above is still not enough: For life to exist there must be an vast imput of biological information and complex information processing systems that can manage, retrieve and repair the biological data neccesary to build proteins, which can then form cells and tissues, which then form organs, which then arrange themselves into fully functional body plans.

                For life to exist all those things need to be present, and such scenario, to occur by chance, exceeds by far the probabilistic resources of the entire Universe. Not only that, it exceeds the probabilistc resources of even a Multiverse scenario (if such a hypothetical “universe generator” even exists). So you see, the Universe screams Design up, above, and all around, and it’s impossible to escape the theistic implicancies of the existence of such Design.”

                So you agree that life is finely-tuned for the universe and not the other way around?

                What data do you have about the conditions that lead to the big bang?

                “Be careful about that argument, because it’s an argument from opinion. You’re basically saying “The universe, by MY standards, looks badly designed for life, so it can’t be designed, because a supernatural being would create a perfect world”. But you must understand that such idea is not even an argument, because we can’t know which are the plans of the Designer. I personally, at first, also found that the world looks badly designed (in part), but I’m starting to find underlying patterns of purpose even in the apparently “badly designed” things, you just have to think objectively. In any way, it doesn’t matter. Whether the world is badly designed or not, that doesn’t rule out a Designer in any way. Apparent “bad design” is still “design”, and therefore requires a Designer.”

                Alright, you claim purpose with the universe, but agree that it doesn’t appear to have been created with human purpose in mind or with life as we know it in mind, because we simply don’t know the intention of the proposed designer/creator?

              • Lucio
                Posted August 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

                @Jesper

                “So are you now proposing a superiour alien lifeform and is there only one superiour alien?

                Or are you proposing a supernatural omnipotent monotheistic deity?”

                I thought I was clear on this: Aliens (if they exist) might have the power to control life by genetic manipulation (or other similar processes), so they could be resposible for the infusions of vast of amounts of biological information seen from the beginning of Earth. Note that a supernatural designer could do the same thing, so regarding biology, both an alien civilization or a supernatural designer could do the job.

                However, as I said already, biology is not the only natural field showing design; physics and cosmology do too. And because an alien civilization, no matter how advanced it is, can’t control the laws embbeded into the fabric of space-time, then a supernatural Designer is the only probable cause for the observed Design in those fields. And by Occam’s razor, a far more simple explanation for Design in physics, cosmology and biology is that the SAME entity is resposible for all the Design evidenced in nature (meaning, I don’t believe aliens are resposible for the observed design, we don’t know if they even exist). In this case, a supernatural Designer is the most simple explanation for the underlying design that permeates the natural world.

                “The honest answer is that we still don’t know how life as we know it on this planet started”.

                That’s true, however what we DO KNOW is that to build life you need large amounts of specified information (even the simplest bacterium needs about 2000 proteins to function), and we ALSO KNOW that the ONLY known source of information is intelligence (we have NEVER observed, not in the lab or the natural world, information being generated by purely natural processes). Hence, the idea that the first living creature could have emerged spontaneusly from purely natural causes is implausible because it requires more probabilistic resources that the universe has (there isn’t enough time and mass in the universe to allow the necessary number of chemical reations to generate, by natural causes, the information required to build even the simplest living creature). Let me give you an example: The universe has the probabilistic resources to build, by natural causes only, ONE single protein. And not any protein, a short one, of about 100 aminoacids (the average lenght is about 300 Aas). Creating a longer protein exceeds the probabilistic resources of the universe (not enough time available in 13.7 billion years), and as I said, the simplest bacterium requires about 2000 of them. We humans have about 100,000 different proteins.

                Remember also, that before the first living bacterium existed, there was no natural selection, so this first living organism had to spontaneusly arise, which of course is impossible.

                Hence, even if we don’t know for sure how the first living organism came to existence, we know that natural causes alone don’t have the power to do the job. This is based on what we KNOW about nature, and the more we learn about biochemistry and life, the more implausible the natural scenario becomes.

                Hence there’s no reason to believe abiogenesis is possible on principle, and that’s why we hear fary-tale-like stories like “aliens planted life on earth” from serius scientists. Such stories just try to escape the huge problem of abiogenesis by pushing it back to another planet.

                “But I await the evidence with great anticipation.”

                With the recent advances in microbiology and biochemistry making abiogenesis more implausible as time goes by, you might wait forever.

                “Do you agree that evolution is the process by which life develops and evolves?”

                No, I don’t agree. Evolution, as described by neo-Darwinism (natural selection acting on randomw mutations) doesn’t have the power to generate novel funcions and the levels of biological iunnovation we see in life and the history of Earth. Let alone the fact that mutations only occur in the genome, and body plans are built with information from the epigenome, so neo-Darwinism can’t even explain where the information from the epigenome came from, if mutations and natural selection couldn’t do it (as I said, the more we advance in out comprehension of the complexity of life, the more implausible the idea of evolution becomes, which is why an ever-growing number of scientists have given up on the current theory of evolution and are starting to find other ways to explain the levels of biological information seen in nature)

                “So you agree that life is finely-tuned for the universe and not the other way around?”

                I never said such thing. I said the opposite: The Universe is finely-tuned for life.

                “What data do you have about the conditions that lead to the big bang?”

                I don’t understand your request. If you want to learn about the conditions after the big bang you can search papers on the subject. By the way, we don’t know the conditions that “lead” to the big bang. That’s a mistery, we don’t know WHAT generated the explosion, and we know the conditions only after about a plank unit of time after the big bang. Before that, it’s all speculation. However, the fine-tuning of the expansion rate andentropy can still be observed, we don’t need to see what caused the Big Bang to see it was fine-tuned.

                “Alright, you claim purpose with the universe, but agree that it doesn’t appear to have been created with human purpose in mind or with life as we know it in mind, because we simply don’t know the intention of the proposed designer/creator?”

                No. I say that if the Universe LOOKS badly desgined, then it’s just because we don’t understand the purpose of the Design (or maybe the Designer is not perfect and did the best it could, that’s another option, we don’t have to believe that supernatural = perfect. In any case, appearance of bad design does not rule out design in any way), but I didn’t say that the Universe looks like it didn’t have life or humans in mind, actually, the Universe looks not only created of life and intelligent beings like humans, but also it looks like it was designed to be DISCOVERED (for example, we have an atmosphere that it’s almost perfectly transparent and allows us to learn about galaxies, starts and our position on the Universe, besides learning about cosmology. If they atmosphere was slightly blurry we would be blind to the universe outside of our planet. Not only that, the moon has a relative size to the Sun’s distance that allows perfect solar eclipses, and thanks to this perfect ratio we were able to prove Einstein’s theory of relativity, something it would have been impossible otherwise).

                So yes, if we look closely enough, things that appear to have been randomly put toghether (like the position of the moon, the sun and the earth) actually look like they have a very specific purpose. The same applies to life on Earth, things that now appear to have no purpose might have very specific purposes as well. Look the example of the “junk DNA” myth, previously thought to serve no purpose and not it was discovered that it actually serves like an operating system in the cell to control modules of information in the genome.

                Design is everywhere in nature, and the biology of the 21st century will only make it more evident.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted August 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

                @Lucio

                Thanks for the reply and your dedication.

                I only have a few questions left for you.

                Can you define your Designer in the simplest terms possible?

                Do you have a hypothesis of how your proposed designer came into existence?

                Last but not least, how would you define life?

                “Design is everywhere in nature, and the biology of the 21st century will only make it more evident.”

                And as I stated earlier, I’ll await the evidence with great anticipation, I’m very patient in that respect so no need to worry on my behalf.

              • Posted September 7, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

                @ Lucio / August 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm

                “By the way, we don’t know the conditions that ‘lead’ to the big bang. That’s a mystery, we don’t know WHAT generated the explosion, and we know the conditions only after about a plank unit of time after the big bang.”

                Well, I guess “plank” could be just a typo (or autocorrect) for “Planck”, but anyone who calls the Big Bang an “explosion” is simply not a credible critic of cosmology.

                “If they atmosphere was slightly blurry we would be blind to the universe outside of our planet.”

                Of course, the atmosphere is slightly blurry; that’s why stars appear to twinkle. So, you’re clearly not a credible critic of physics at all.

                /@

              • Posted September 8, 2013 at 2:31 am | Permalink

                Oh, and this: “Not only that, the moon has a relative size to the Sun’s distance that allows perfect solar eclipses, and thanks to this perfect ratio we were able to prove Einstein’s theory of relativity, something it would have been impossible otherwise”

                If you seriously think that that is the only thing that allowed us to validate Einstein’s theory of general relativity, you’re not a credible critic of any kind of science!

                /@

            • Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

              Penn of the famous magic duo put it superbly: there’s as much factual history in the Bible as there is pizza.

              And if the authors of the Bible got everything so spectacularly worng, from history to physics to biology to morality to politics to economics to everything else, what on Earth makes you think that their central thesis, that there’re some hidden overlords running amok, has even a hint of credibility?

              If you’ve got some other extra-Biblical evidence of the existence of the divine, that’d be one thing. But the only examples I’ve ever encountered have either themselves been equally laughably absurdly incorrect or been determined protestations of willful ignorance: “I don’t understand this-and-such; therefore, gods did it.” That sort of thing was somewhat excusable in the days before understood the hydrologic cycle, but in the information age? Seriously?

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Lucio
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

                “You keep insisting on evidence, but you ignore all the evidence that’s presented. ”

                LOL Ben, the one doing that is you. If by “evidence” you mean arguments based on philosophical grounds, then that’s all you’ve got really. No scientific arguments from you so far showing that ID is wrong. I reckon you don’t even know what ID states!

                ID is not based on religious nor philosophical, not even teleological premises. ID is based in EMPIRICAL evidence and inductive reasoning, THE SAME REASONING DARWIN USED TO MAKE HIS THEORY.

                But you didn’t know that right? Of course, committed atheists don’t care about the evidence that undermines their miraculous godless world, they live in a fantasy they don’t want to wake up from even at the cost of remaining deluded.

                The one that continuosly looks to ignore the empirical evidence is you.

                I made a comment response to Jesper’s last comment to me showing how top geneticists, Hardvard molecular biologists and a even palenotologists all give huge praise to Meyer’s last book, “Darwin’s Doubt”, which has been called “the best science book ever written”. I also showed how two ATHEISTS published a book explaining how natural selection is useless for evolutionary purposes. Yes, ATHEIST scientists. And also I showed a new book called “Biological Information”, brought up by a group of top scientists in many fields which shows the indadequacies of current evolutionary models and it’s partly written by ANTI-IDs.

                Yes, anti-IDs and atheists scientists admitting how RIDICULOUS current evolutionary theory is.

                But your friend Jerry didn’t like that post I think, because it was up for moderation and is yet to be seen. Just showing how scared commited atheists are to the evidence, they don’t even want to acknowledge it exists LOL.

                Pathetic.

                The ones living in a fairy tale is people like you Ben, who are oblivious to what’s has been going on on biology in the last few years and don’t care about evidence that threatens to undermine or kill their atheistic worldview.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

                Well, Ben (wink wink, nudge nudge) might not know what “ID states”, but I do; I learned it from the Sensuous Curmudgeon, who stated it brilliantly:

                “An unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, perhaps), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.”
                (http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/intelligent-design-the-great-incongruity/)

                Until you can give us a coherent account of the designer’s identity, along with a testable hypothesis concerning its method(s) of design, your ideas do not even rise to the level of hypothesis, but remain at the rank of “unsupported assertion”.

                With the exception of a few bits of obvious nonsense (Dembski’s “law of conservation of information” springs immediately to mind), all the ID crowd has done (besides sucking up funds that could better be used on scientific research), is to pick at what they think (because they do not bother to actually learn the science) are weaknesses in evolutionary theory. There is no coherent ID theory (“it looks designed to me, therefore it is designed” is the argument from ignorance, not a theory), no scientific support for the idea (and plenty against it; you have not addressed the argument from bad design except to wave your hands and say that it really is good design), no legal support (see Kitzmiller vs. Dover), and there is no scientific research program in biology that uses ID theory to further knowledge of the natural world. Furthermore, the foundation document of the ID movement, the Wedge Document, clearly shows it to be a political (specifically, theocratic) movement, not a scientific one; if you doubt that, you really need to read Forrest and Gross’ book Creationism’s Trojan Horse. Here are the conclusions:

                “The conclusion that the Wedge is primarily a religious rather than a scientific movement thus becomes unavoidable.”

                and

                “A historical look at the ID movement demonstrates its traditional creationist ancestry, and a comparison of ID with young-earth “scientific creationism” reveals close kinship in tactical approach, rabid anti-evolutionism, and the actual content of the respective belief systems.”

                and

                “The Wedge has not once broken its stride over the last ten years, despite its total failure in genuine scientific productivity—and despite the rapidly rising volume of expert criticism of its “science” and accompanying philosophical pretensions. But no matter: in his more candid moments, [Phillip] Johnson admits that this purportedly scientific/academic movement is religious to the core. A movement based on religion does not need the credibility afforded by scientific evidence.”

                It is for reasons such as this that the expression “not even wrong” was coined.

              • Posted September 2, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

                It would appear that this discussion has reached its illogical conclusion, for it is clear that you are not living in the reality-based world.

                Put simply, your post is full of outright fabrication — lies for Jesus, in other words.

                Meyer’s book is worthless. For in-depth ripping of it to shreds, see here:

                http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/the-first-review-of-stephen-meyers-new-id-book/

                http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/discovery-institute-claims-that-meyers-id-book-is-approved-by-one-of-britains-top-geneticists-doesnt-mention-that-hes-a-creationist/

                http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/another-pan-of-darwins-doubt/

                It is an especially transparent lie when you claim that the same evidence and reasoning Darwin used in On the Origin of Species instead concludes that design is the right answer; the lie is as transparent as claiming that Magellan’s circumnavigation of the Earth is proof that the Earth is flat.

                There’s really nothing more to add on this subject. You’re a liar for Jesus, pure and simple, and I’ll not be a party to helping you further broadcast your lies.

                Idiot design is every bit as idiotic a position as geocentricism, as Astrology, as the daemon theory of disease, as the proposition that there are monsters under the bed. Those who espouse it are truly idiots and no more deserving of respect than a perpetual motion machine con artist.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

                I’ve pointed out the Meyer’s post at least once, Ben. He isn’t interested in listening. When we talk he hears the equivalent of the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

                It is also clear that he feels by saying something is true, it makes it so but only where his notions are concerned; everyone else needs evidence (which he will surely reject as “opinions”).

              • Posted September 2, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

                Yeah, it’s become apparent that he really is a garden-variety liar-for-Jesus troll after all.

                Amazing how many of them so loudly protest that they’re not really Christians or that The Designer could be an alien…right before spewing a load of bog-standard Sunday School lessons that simply substitute “The Designer” for “Jesus.” I’m just waiting for one of them to insist that, not only would The Designer naturally have made a personal appearance here, but it’s imperative that He must have been Crucified during the Roman Empire as well….

                b&

              • Posted September 2, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

                As long as you and your kind believe there was a magical boat with two of a kind of every creature on this planet, you have absolutely nothing sophisticated or worthwhile to discuss in the scientific arena. The Noah myth is one of the least vile of the biblical stories, hence the Ark-themed baby nurseries. Of course, the impossible zoo boat story has a much darker side – one that I’ve never seen as mural in a baby room – and that is the apocalyptic murder of every human and animal on the planet, aside from those in the zoo boat. Perhaps, to add a bit of authenticity, one can paint a Noah’s Ark theme while adding thousands of people drowning in terror and bloated water-logged corpses of families deemed not worthy of the magic boat ride. Finished with a rainbow. You can’t forget that. The madman’s (abusive husband) promise to never hurt us again if we just behave and don’t make him mad. Because it was our fault you see?You want to muck up my child’s education with this reprehensible nonsense? We are LAST in the sciences of developed nations. LAST. You guys can’t see the forest for the trees.

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

                “As long as you and your kind believe there was a magical boat with two of a kind of every creature on this planet . . . ”

                Excellent, Jeanine!

          • Lucio
            Posted August 31, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            @Jesper

            Thanks for your patience in reading my long comments.

            “Can you define your Designer in the simplest terms possible?”

            Pretty tricky question. Note that my views on what the Designer is like are mostly speculative, since it’s based on a subjective interpretation of the observed patterns of Design. So, in my view, the Designer is:

            1-Supernatural: It exists outside of the physical laws.
            2-Benevolent: It cares about it’s own creation and, ultimately, us (the intelligent beings that have the ability to observe such creation).

            The first, 1), is based on evidence in the sense that only a supernatural intelligence can fine-tune the laws of physics. But 2) is based on a subjective, and hopefully holistic, interpretation of the observable world. If you want details about why I particularly think our Designer is rather good, as opposite to evil, I can expand on that.

            “Do you have a hypothesis of how your proposed designer came into existence?”

            There’s not need for it. If it is supernatural, then it’s outside of space-time, and therefore it’s timeless, which implies it always existed. This means that the Designer is the “prime reality”, and needs no explanation. It just “is” and has “always been”. You may find this unsatisfying as an explanation, but this is not different from the idea that the laws of physics are the “prime reality” (something that an atheist must believe). A “prime reality” HAS to exist whether in a theistic or atheistic scenario. In the case of theism, the prime reality is the Designer itself (the supernatural), and in atheism the prime reality is the laws of physics (the natural). I personally find the atheistic prime reality troubling, because under the absence of a supernatural intelligence (existing in timelessness), WHAT created the laws? If the laws exist within space-time (the natural), then they’re NOT timeless, and therefore they can’t exist back in time infinitely, which means they have to have been created at some point in the past… but WHAT created them, if “natural” is all there is in a atheistic scenario and self-creation is out of the question? This a another reason why, even outside of the evidence of design in biology, physics and cosmology, theism seems to be inescapable in the search for the truth of the origins of nature. The natural can only come from the supernatural, for the natural must have a beginning and it can’t be self-created.

            “Last but not least, how would you define life?”

            Life is a very complex concept, but I assume you mean “how would you define life under a theistic worldview”. Even then, what are you asking precisely? What’s the purpose of life? Can you clarify this? It’s a BIG question.

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted August 31, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

              “Thanks for your patience in reading my long comments”.

              No problem, it’s actually been a pleasure digging a bit deeper than often is the case in these kind of discussions.

              “Life is a very complex concept, but I assume you mean “how would you define life under a theistic worldview”. Even then, what are you asking precisely? What’s the purpose of life? Can you clarify this? It’s a BIG question.”

              Indeed it is a complex issue, and the reason I ask is because I’m trying to distinguish between biology and chemistry. You may consider those subjects to be two sides of the same coin, but as earlier stated, we still don’t know exactly how the two are connected in terms of life as we usually define it. That’s also the reason why I try to distinguish between abiogenesis and conventional biology/evolution by natural selection.

              My question was not regarding a proposed purpose with life as we know it, it was simply to see if we could find a somewhat common definition.

              It still puzzles me though, that you appear to think the universe was created for us homo sapiens, even though we have no evidence whatsoever of human life on other planets. It’s a helluva lot of space for such a small experiment, so to speak.

              I guess my question boils down to this: If we assume a designer designed the universe with human purpose in mind, then why only here?

              • Lucio
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

                “It still puzzles me though, that you appear to think the universe was created for us homo sapiens, even though we have no evidence whatsoever of human life on other planets.”

                I do think that the Universe LOOKS like it was created for homo sapiens, but only because we really don’t have evidence of other intelligent species out there. Other than that, I find it perfectly possible that we are just one of many, or millions, of civilizations in the Universe. Design is design, whether one civilization or many.

                “It’s a helluva lot of space for such a small experiment, so to speak.”

                As I said to Ben, this is an argument from “waste of space” of sorts, which I hope you agree, it’s not really an argument agaisnt design, unless your idea of a designed universe is one where there’s matter and life in every inch of it, which is not necessary unless you have “limits to space or matter”, which I don’t think the Designer has. :)

                “I guess my question boils down to this: If we assume a designer designed the universe with human purpose in mind, then why only here?””

                As I said, I don’t claim life exists only here, or that humans are the only type of intelligent life out there, it’s just that we don’t know of life anywhere AND, if we consider that life on Earth was designed, then you’d have to wonder if the Designer would want to make life everywhere else, or if Earth and humans are enough for it’s purposes (whatever those are).

                “I’d like a stern conversation with the supposed designer about my Morbus Crohn.
                I somehow fail to see the intelligent design behind the genetics and the enviroment that lead to that disease.”

                As I said to Ben, I think diseases and medical conditions (also catastrophes, wars, and all the things that look wrong about this world) are a driving force for human invention and learning. If the world was perfect, do you think humans would care about anything other than just enjoying a good life? Do you think that in a perfect world, where there were no problems, humans would care about learning about the human body, animal life, etc? We would likely be happiliy living an ignorant life, oblivious to the creation.

                I think the world was made imperfect to push humans to LEARN about it (develop science) and, eventually, discover the creator behind it thanks to that. The theory of ID is the first time in human history we can actually use what we have learned from science to infer the existence of the Designer. I think this was the Designer’s plan in the first place.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

                “I think the world was made imperfect to push humans to LEARN about it (develop science) and, eventually, discover the creator behind it thanks to that. The theory of ID is the first time in human history we can actually use what we have learned from science to infer the existence of the Designer. I think this was the Designer’s plan in the first place.”

                Alright, let’s assume you’re right about a designed universe and that ID is the theory that can prove it.

                Would you then consider ID as the start of a grand unifying theory of all ( or most ) branches of science?

                And here is a fun one: Would you be willing to work against the purpose of the designer, if we discover that human existence was not a part of the purpose with the universe?

                Or do you consider the designer to be perfect and above criticism from its human creation?

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

                The hubris in this post is nauseating. Truly disgusting how you can revel in the misery of millions just so you could enjoy reading about it in a textbook.

                You are one sick and twisted…again, I’ll leave it at that.

                Just go to your nearest health professional and ask for treatment for sociopathy, okay? That’s a good loon.

                b&

              • Lucio
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

                “Would you then consider ID as the start of a grand unifying theory of all ( or most ) branches of science?”

                Never thought of it, but if ID theory continues it’s growing course to the point when, eventually, every scientist on Earth accepts that the Universe is indeed designed (which I assume will happen by the end of this century if biological investigation keeps it’s course), then I think it makes perfect sense to consider that ID will help develop a TOE.

                Remember though that ID is basically a theory of information and design detection, nothing else, and it can be applied to design in biology and cosmology as to design in forensics or anything else that needs a way to detect design and foresight.

                “Would you be willing to work against the purpose of the designer, if we discover that human existence was not a part of the purpose with the universe?”

                I’m not sure I follow. If ID is right, then humans were purposefully designed, simple as that. The question might be then: “what if humans are not the center of the Design and are just a small part of a more important whole?”. In this case, were humans are not really that important even if they’re designed (as an ant won’t be so important compared to humans even if the ant was designed), then I guess life might look like it looks through the eyes of atheism, although not completely, because it wouldn’t be “with no purpose at all” but “part of a bigger purpose”.

                “Or do you consider the designer to be perfect and above criticism from its human creation?”

                I think we can’t answer that right now. We don’t know the purpose of the Designer, so we don’t have anything to compare it’s creation too. If the creation is exactly what the Designer planned, then we couldn’t critizise it’s competence, only it’s morals or intentions (if we feel the Universe is harsh on humans). For now I’m an agnostic on this, I can’t know if the Designer is perfect or not, but if the Designer is the ultimate reality, then does it even make sense to judge if it’s perfect or not? Perfect compared to what?

                As for the idea that the eye is badly designed (which you said you “wholeheartedly” agree with), not so new studies have shown that it’s not the case at all, and the image processing that occurs in the eye depends on a highly sophisticated system:

                http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=126974&CultureCode=en

                http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v471/n7337/full/nature09818.html

                Junk-DNA, the badly designed retina, etc etc, these are examples or APPARENT bad design that then turned to be GOOD design after all.

                This is not isolated, new research in biology constantly shows that things that had no apparent purpose are in fact designed to serve or enhance certain biological functions. Thanks to the advances in microbiology we can now see cell structures at a molecular level, and, not surprisingly to ID, showing that the deeper we look into the cell, the more complex and intrincated it becomes, and the more implausible it’s that mutation + natural selection could have had any participation on it.

                There’s a pattern here of ever-growing complexity and sophistication that arises the deepr we look into the structure of living organisms, and there’s no doubt that the 21st century biology will finally contribute to the acceptance of design in the natural world.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

                “I’m not sure I follow. If ID is right, then humans were purposefully designed, simple as that.”

                Purposeful from the viewpoint of the creator maybe, but not necessarily so from the viewpoint of humans.

                “The question might be then: “what if humans are not the center of the Design and are just a small part of a more important whole?”.

                It might as well just be that humans are a byproduct of the creation and thus serves no purpose, and it just might be that there is no “important” whole.

                As you point out, we have no way of knowing the intention of the designer, and I’d argue that thinking we do is human exeptionalism.

                In other words: It’s argument from opinion.

                “In this case, were humans are not really that important even if they’re designed (as an ant won’t be so important compared to humans even if the ant was designed), then I guess life might look like it looks through the eyes of atheism, although not completely, because it wouldn’t be “with no purpose at all” but “part of a bigger purpose”.”

                Are you implying that the ants purpose in the creation is less important than the human role?

                If that is the case: How do you know the plan and the intention of the designer?

                “I think we can’t answer that right now. We don’t know the purpose of the Designer, so we don’t have anything to compare it’s creation too. If the creation is exactly what the Designer planned, then we couldn’t critizise it’s competence, only it’s morals or intentions (if we feel the Universe is harsh on humans). For now I’m an agnostic on this, I can’t know if the Designer is perfect or not, but if the Designer is the ultimate reality, then does it even make sense to judge if it’s perfect or not? Perfect compared to what?”

                Well, if we are discussing what is perfect, then we first need to establish what constitutes perfection. As you rightly point out, perfect compared to what?

                Perfect is a term that so far is not applicable to the known universe simply because we don’t know what intention lies behind its creation.

                But we can guess and keep guessing until we go extinct.

                “This is not isolated, new research in biology constantly shows that things that had no apparent purpose are in fact designed to serve or enhance certain biological functions. Thanks to the advances in microbiology we can now see cell structures at a molecular level, and, not surprisingly to ID, showing that the deeper we look into the cell, the more complex and intrincated it becomes, and the more implausible it’s that mutation + natural selection could have had any participation on it.

                There’s a pattern here of ever-growing complexity and sophistication that arises the deepr we look into the structure of living organisms, and there’s no doubt that the 21st century biology will finally contribute to the acceptance of design in the natural world.”

                Hopefully time will tell.

                The funny thing is that I’m not ideologically adverse to the idea of a designer. I’m just questioning the supposed objective human purpose, and of course the purpose behind the designer itself.

              • Lucio
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                “Purposeful from the viewpoint of the creator maybe, but not necessarily so from the viewpoint of humans.”

                Under atheism, humans have no inherent purpose, because we’re just a cosmic accident. But under theism, we HAVE purpose by simple being the object of design. We may not agree with the purpose we were created for, or we may not know it, or understand it, but ont thing is for sure: If something is designed, then it has a purpose. If you design a machine, or paint a picture, you’re doing it with a purpose. In the same sense we have a purpose just by existing, even if we don’t agree with or understand such purpose.

                “It might as well just be that humans are a byproduct of the creation and thus serves no purpose, and it just might be that there is no “important” whole.”

                If you read ID theory and the last advances in biology, and see how deep design goes into living organisms, the idea that humans are simply a “byproduct” of creation, and have no purpose, seems a bit farfetched. I repeat: If something is designed, then it has a purpose, by definition. A design only exists because there was a purpose and a plan behind it. There’s no such thing as a “unpurposeful design”.

                “Are you implying that the ants purpose in the creation is less important than the human role?”

                As far as I can tell, yes. Humans are unique on Earth, there are no other species that come even close to us in terms of intelligence and self-conciousness. We’re also the only species on Earth that knows it’s going to die. If design permeates biology, then we have strong reasons to believe we are the most important part of it (at least within Earth, not including life in other planets), simply because, of all the other species, we are the only one that can aknowledge it’s creator. That doesn’t mean ants are not important, maybe ecosystems could break down without ants, but I have no doubt that the Designer wanted a self-councious species to exist, it’s no like we humans are especially good to Earth ecosystems…

                “If that is the case: How do you know the plan and the intention of the designer?”

                I can only now what I can infer from observation of the world, and nothing else. Whatever I believe about the Designer is based on the evidence from the ID field (which helps me to identify how deep the design in biology goes, a good starting point to understand who much “work” and “precision” was actually put into the design) and in my own interpretation of the events I see, starting with the premise that *most* of what I see must have a purpose (something I only started considering after being introduced to ID. Before ID I didn’t think anything had a particular purpose as I was, even as a theist, completely adherent to materialism).

                Note I say “most” and not “all”, because I believe there’s a chance, whether big or small, that the world can’t be law-like and at the same time work the way the Designer wants it to work without sacrificing this “law-induced materiality” on some degree (the deterministic nature of the world). Just by looking at the world we know that it works in a deterministic/law-like fashion (we can’t be sure it’s that way 100% of the time, but it looks like it is), so maybe the Designer had to make some sacrifices in it’s Design to make it comply the laws of physics. Maybe the “perfect” Design needed flexible laws of physics, but the Designer decided that it was important the Universe was law-fixed (which it’s what we see, the laws of physics and it’s associated constants appear to have been uniform during the entire life of the Universe or else our cosmological models would fail).

                This is speculation of course but my point is that MAYBE the Universe’s imperfections (at least the ones we think are imperfections) come from the fact that it’s law-fixed (a requirement to make our Universe discoverable and to allow creating scientific models), and therefore it’s extremely limited and unflexible, meaning there are relatively few ways (or just one) to make the Designer’s plan work. So maybe the design looks “bad” simply because it’s impossible, even for a supernatural Designer, to create a law-fixed Universe, which behaves in a determinisitc fashion, that at the same time is an oasis for humans and all life. The supernatural Designer might be infinitely powerful, but it can’t do anything if it’s plan includes a law-fixed Universe that puts a huge limit to it’s creative possibilites.

                I always keep this in mind because it’s not too farfetched (the Universe is law-fixed after all and we have no idea why) and it would explain a lot of the things that appear to have no purpose, on the grounds that maybe some things are just bound to occur (and the Designer has no choice but to let them happen, even if they’re “bad”) on a design impedimented by a neccesary external constraint (in this case, a law-fixed Universe).

                I hope it makes sense.

                I repeat, it’s all some vague ideas that I have come about from observing the world. The only tangible evidence is the one ID provides from biology, physics and cosmology, the rest is subjective, but hopefully well-argumented, interpretation.

                “I’m just questioning the supposed objective human purpose, and of course the purpose behind the designer itself.”

                Which is perfectly fine. I reckon you’re an agnostic, rather than an atheist then?

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                “Under atheism, humans have no inherent purpose, because we’re just a cosmic accident.”

                I know. It can be scary, but it appears reality dosn’t give a hoot about us.

                The truth is that we don’t know why we are here. We are trying to figure out how, not why.

                Why is a question of subjective experiences that varies from human to human.

                How on the other hand might just be explainable by the means of science. Let’s wait and see what turns up and then, maybe, somewhere down the line we can start to discuss why. For now though, there is no evidence pointing to a why-solution to the unknowns about the univers, nature and objective human purpose.

                Human purpose ultimately ( for now at leat ) is something we have to decide for ourselves.

                “Which is perfectly fine. I reckon you’re an agnostic, rather than an atheist then?””

                I’m an agnostic atheist/anti-theist.

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

                The truth is that we dont know why we are here. We are trying to figure out how, not why.

                Actually, the real truth is that it’s a leading question. How fast over the limit were you speeding when I pulled you over? When did you stop beating your wife? What’s the meaning of life?

                The question presumes that we’re the playthings of the gods, which in turn presupposes the existences of the gods. Considering that the gods are unabashedly every bit as much childish fantasies as the monsters under the bed, it should be obvious that the question has no meaning in the first place except as a rhetorical trap for recruiting suckers into the con.

                Your life is your own, whether you want it to be or not. If you can’t handle the adult responsibility of deciding your own purposes, that’s your problem. But don’t expect anything more than pity and sympathy from those who are responsible to be their own masters. And don’t expect us to accept you as our own master, either, even if you’re claiming by proxy the power of your imaginary friends.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

                The question presumes that we’re the playthings of the gods, which in turn presupposes the existences of the gods.

                Exactly. And that is where I would pose the question: What kind of coward would choose to obey these gods of the gap?

                I hate supernatural celestial deities. They’re always so damn smug and selfcongratulatory about their own creation.

                Yuck, I say.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

                Yes, that purpose of life question always perplexed me. As if some third party has laid out a mystery for you to unravel. You do what you want with your life and some of us are fortunate to be born in the right part of the world, into the right circumstances so that we have the luxury of choosing to do what makes us happy.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

                @Diana:

                It’s all what you say, but it’s also more. The honest atheist answer to the “meaning of life” question is in two parts, of which the religious never listen to the second, because they are too busy weeping, gnashing teeth, and screaming when they hear the first.

                The first part of the answer, of course, is that there isn’t any externally-imposed meaning of life, the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism notwithstanding. As Ben points out, it’s a leading question; as Jack Vance commented, “Of all questions, why? is the least pertinent. It begs the question; it assumes the larger part of its own response; to wit, that a sensible response exists.”

                At this point the weeping, gnashing and (especially) screaming start, but these are based on the desire for there to be an externally-imposed meaning of life (but this is just wishful thinking), and its flip side, the fear that without “god” that life will be meaningless (but this is the fallacy of appeal to consequences).

                The second part is that, having been freed from the tyranny of any particular sky-tyrant, the adult individual is free to invent/discover the meaning/purpose of his or her own life (he said, scandalizing every preacher, pastor, priest, rabbi and imam who ever lived, and who arrogated to themselves the privilege of telling others what their purpose in life was). So the moral child follows (the) god (his or her parents told him or her about) and is an object; the adult doesn’t, and is a subject. Eric Maisel’s “The Atheist Way” is a good resource, though there are plenty of others.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

                I never was that child since I have been a life long non believer (and therefore not even an apostate but just as hell bound :)).

                I always found the Oprah’s of the world talking about finding your “life’s purpose” confusing. For me, it’s hard finding something I want to do that is practical not finding what some “other” has laid out for me.

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

                I’ve pretty much always been much to busy living life than to worry about what some invisible sky faery thinks I should do with it. Even before I fully realized the utter infantile absurdity of theistic propositions.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Lucio
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

                “It can be scary, but it appears reality dosn’t give a hoot about us”

                I did offer a possible explanation for that in my previous comment (that a law-fixed Universe might be impossible to be perfect in every way and that’s the reason it’s imperfect even if it’s designed) but you didn’t offer any opinion on that idea.

                “The truth is that we don’t know why we are here. We are trying to figure out how, not why.”

                As far as ID is concerned, the “how” is already answered: By innovation of an intelligent agent. And the “why” is what we have been discussing all along in this thread and, as I say, something I offered some food for thought about.

                “Why is a question of subjective experiences that varies from human to human.”

                True, but only in part, because objective analysis of the design can lead to some understanding of the “why” behind the design, in the same way studying an ancient tool can helps understand the purpose behind it’s creation.

                My point is, we have ENOUGH information at hand to start answering the hows and the whys, at least in part, so saying “Let’s wait and see what turns up” I think is a way of ignoring the evidence that ALREADY exists in the hope new evidence will someday come that can suit your worldview. You might wait forever, so why not start analyzing the evidence we have NOW and see where THAT evidence leads to?

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

                “My point is, we have ENOUGH information at hand to start answering the hows and the whys, at least in part, so saying “Let’s wait and see what turns up” I think is a way of ignoring the evidence that ALREADY exists in the hope new evidence will someday come that can suit your worldview. You might wait forever, so why not start analyzing the evidence we have NOW and see where THAT evidence leads to?”

                Maybe you think this because you alreday have a proposed answer to the questions?

                I don’t. I’m perfectly fine with not knowing what or who created it all, let alone if it really is created, let alone again is it was created with intent and purpose and all.

                That’s what’s so friggin cool about most science. It’s a method that doesn”t care the least about human emotion.

                I fucking love science.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

                And, if you were a sexologist, you would love fucking science! ;-)

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

                LOL. :-)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

                But you couldn’t put that on a licence plate like the proctologist did with “assman” on Seinfeld (yes, I’ve recently become conscious of the fact that Seinfeld has had a strong influence on me).

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

                (yes, I’ve recently become conscious of the fact that Seinfeld has had a strong influence on me).

                Hehe…that makes two of us…..not that there’s anything wrong with that!
                ;-)

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                I do believe I earlier mentioned Epicurus, no?

                This statement:

                I did offer a possible explanation for that in my previous comment (that a law-fixed Universe might be impossible to be perfect in every way and thats the reason its imperfect even if its designed) but you didnt offer any opinion on that idea.

                Merely identifies the particular incompetence of your gods. And you’ve previously identified their malevolence — that they’re fucking us over royally so we’ll really appreciate how good we’ve got it.

                As I wrote, no theist has ever offered a rebuttal to Epicurus, and you’re a prime example of the types of spinning y’all do to desperately divert attention away from the subject.

                You keep insisting on evidence, but you ignore all the evidence that’s presented. You claim we were designed by a beneficent overlord, yet ignore the evidence that surrounds you of trivial ways in which an entity of far lesser power than you’re claiming for your overlord could truly help us immeasurably…and yet we have no help but that which we create for ourselves.

                Your own theory is far more thoroughly debunked than the Luminiferous Aether; Michelson-Morley has nothing on but one lone child helplessly brutalized because nobody — not even Jesus — could be bothered to call 9-1-1.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Posted August 31, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

              We knew centuries before the Caesars (and the manufacture of your own favorite death cult) that there are no powerful entities in our neighborhood with our best interests at heart. Epicurus’s Riddle not only remains unanswered, but no serious attempts have been made at answering it, only at putting names to the incompetences and malfeasances of the innumerable alleged gods who, inexplicably, have still been worshipped ever since.

              Today, we have amazingly powerful evidence of that. Even a young child with a cellphone knows enough to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, yet, apparently, Jesus can’t even figure out how to do that, or is too lazy to give a fuck, or only watches disasters unfold for the lulz.

              If your designer isn’t even as capable and / or morally responsible as the least of us, remind us again why we should respect it or those who worship at its altar?

              b&

              • Lucio
                Posted September 1, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

                ” Even a young child with a cellphone knows enough to call 9-1-1 in an emergency, yet, apparently, Jesus can’t even figure out how to do that, or is too lazy to give a fuck, or only watches disasters unfold for the lulz.”

                So again, you claim there isn’t a Designer, because the Designer would “behave better towards humans”? Not a very powerful argument, especially because we don’t know the intentions of the Designer.

                You have an idea that a Designer should be good or else doesn’t exists. Just your opinion Ben.

                “Any “designer” who came to me with “plans” for the human body would get fired on the spot for gross incompetence.”

                Oh, the arrogance of the atheist… they think they know everything and could do a better job than the Designer itself, even if they have no idea of what the purpose of the Design is in the first place.

                I think diseases and medical conditions are Designed to exist, otherwise we wouldn’t have invested so much time learning about the human body.

                All the things that look “wrong” about our world (diseases, catastrophes, etc etc) have acually HELPED humans develop all scientific fields directly or indirectly.

                Even our violent nature, prone to wars, has helped us develop science, since a lot of the most useful inventions come from war (Internet, for example).

                So if the Designer’s plan was to get humans to LEARN about the Universe around them, then what better way than making it hazardous and problematic?

                Do you think humans would give a fuck about learning about the Universe if everything was perfect for them?

                Answer that and you might change your way of thinking about the Designer’s plans that you think you know so well.

              • Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

                So again, you claim there isnt a Designer, because the Designer would behave better towards humans? Not a very powerful argument, especially because we dont know the intentions of the Designer.

                Woah there, cowboy. Who was it, again, who, just a few posts back, was arguing that the Designer was beneficent?

                Why, I do believe that it was you.

                You have an idea that a Designer should be good or else doesnt exists. Just your opinion Ben.

                No.

                You’re claiming that the Designer is good, and I’m demonstrating that no good Designer exists.

                If you now want to switch gears and claim that an incompetent antagonistic Designer is responsible for human life, I could maybe pay you some attention. Is that now your position? Do you have any evidence to support your claims of existence of the Demiurge?

                I think diseases and medical conditions are Designed to exist, otherwise we wouldnt have invested so much time learning about the human body.

                Ah. I see. It’s good that so many countless millions of children died in agony or were horribly disfigured from Polio, because it gave Jonas Salk an opportunity to become an household name.

                And I suppose it’s a good thing that Francis Collins’s daughter was raped, because that gave Francis an opportunity to agonize over it?

                I better leave it at that. The language most fitting to describe such horrifically evil sentiments as the one you’re endorsing is not language that our host generally tolerates.

                In the mean time, look up the Broken Window Fallacy. Maybe my blood pressure will have returned to normal by the time you read up on it.

                b&

            • Posted September 2, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

              The bottom line is, ID’ists are HEAVILY banking on the “designer” as being their version of the Christian god. If you truly don’t have a stake in who the designer is, then it wouldn’t matter to you if the designer turned out to be an Aztec god, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Allah. So stop the bullshit lies. You really think we are so stupid as to believe that you have an honest interest in the truth. Because you do not. Because, unlike scientists, ID’ers are not content with “we don’t know”. Unlike scientists, ID’ers have a vested interest in the outcome. Do you understand that confirming a theory is just as interesting as finding out the theory was incorrect? I 100% support your right to believe in whatever manner of ridiculous god you want. On the other hand, I will fight you with everything I have when it comes to trying to sneak your religion into my child’s education. Keep your kids at home, or send them to bible school if you want them to believe in a designer. Keep your religion out of my child’s classroom. Leave us, those who respect the scientific process, the fuck alone and we will do the same with you.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted September 2, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

                Brava!

                IDists (sorely tempted to use the usual appellation here…) pretend not to be interested in the science. Of course, it’s not pretense–they really *aren’t* interested. What they are interested in is establishing their theocracy (see the Wedge document, and the book by Forrest and Gross to which I referred earlier). And we will fight that to the bitter end.

              • That guy
                Posted September 3, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

                Jeanine, I fear for your child, for it will grow to “hate without understanding”, if he/she is to follow your line of reasoning.

                Let’s be clear on something, I despise religion. Especially religion based on free will (aren’t they all?), because it leads to a form of twisted morality and wrong justice. Christians are the worst at this, for they’re hypocrites of the worst kind. As for the other religions, I bet they’re as twisted as theirs.

                You don’t want your kids to be taught religion? Great, neither do I. I want my kids to think for themselves and not be imposed a way of thinking about the world that’s is biased by faith.

                Ironically Jeanine, you’re imposing a religion on your child, the religion of methodological naturalism, which as an axiom it’s based on faith only, it can’t be proven. And yet you defend it with passion.

                Doesn’t that make you religious?

                I don’t care what you think about ID, but you should know better than anyone that you have to teach your kids to study the evidence for themselves, which you’re not doing.

                Have you, Jeanine, unbiasedly studied the empirical evidence that supports ID? Or have you just read about ID from agenda-driven middlemen like Matzke, Coyne Prothero, Dawkins, etc who have a mission of discrediting ID without even know what ID really is?

                You’re fooling yourself by calling yourself someone who respects the scientific process. You obviously don’t, because the scientific process involves analyzing the evidence and forming conclusions based on it, NOT reading ranting reviews from the likes of Matzke, Coyne Prothero, Dawkins, etc. Is reading biased reviews “following the scientific process”? For you, apparently it is.

                So don’t come at me claiming you’re the one on scientific side of the debate, you’re as religious as any other deluded Christian I’ve met, the only thing that’s different is that Christians delude themselves into thinking free will is real, and you delude yourself into thinking materialism is an unquestioned fact, both sides ignoring that evidence proves both sides wrong.

                Do I sound arrogant? Maybe, but I have my reasons: Among deluded religious people like Christian zealots, and deluded materialists like the ones on this thread, I’m the only one who just observes the evidence unbiased by any preconceived filter. Before being an ID, I was an evolutionist and a materialist, so I know how faith drives both views.

                I don’t have to show respect for people who can’t distinguish between the science, and the axiom that drives the science.

                By the way, I think Jerry’s blocking me or something, it’s hard to post, so this might be my last post.

              • Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

                Yeah, you lost me after referring to my child as “it”. Using “it” to refer to people or animals says a whole lot about the person using the word.
                I scanned the rest of your post and found nothing new – nothing that hasn’t been discussed a million times. You are bringing nothing new or interesting to the table.

              • gbjames
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

                “Do I sound arrogant?”

                Yes. And a few other adjectives come to mind.

              • Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

                And it’s laughable that you ask me if I have read the evidence supporting ID. Why should I have to? I am perfectly content with the evidence supporting evolution by natural selection, of which there is an abundance across the sciences. Do you study every book about Santa Claus in order to determine you don’t believe in Santa? Give me a break. ID brings nothing to the table. The claim that I am a zealot is erroneous and boring. My child will grow up just fine, thank you for your concern (not). He will not be subjected to fears of hell, suppressed sexuality, or a squashing of curiosity. Rather, he is growing up in a loving, gentle household, a household in which his curiosity will be encouraged and hopefully flourish. So really, come at me with something new – this is boring.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

                Of course you haven’t read the evidence supporting ID. There isn’t any!

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

          First of all, you misquoted me. I didn’t say, “it’s DI so it’s stoopid”. I said “It’s the DI crowd so it’s stooopid”. Are you mixing up DI with ID? The DI (Discovery Institute) are the chief liars for Jesus. Anything they say is pure nonsense and isn’t worth getting worked up about. They misconstrue everything from this site and refuse to allow commenting on their’s. I hardly think I need to put forth a “scientific” argument to show this (mostly because it’s not worth the effort as this isn’t the first time they’ve said ridiculous and stupid things). If you think the Discovery Institute is anything but liars for Jesus, then you’re welcome to expand on that here.

          As for Intelligent Design, there is no evidence for it, as you point out. Indeed it is highly improbable and attempts to make it so (as with Meyer’s book) involve twisting all evidence then creating a marketing and lobbying machine to try to insert it into the mainstream while discrediting evolution (Wedge document).

          Further, you may want to call ID “not creationism” because it isn’t YEC (DI does this ad nauseam) but creationism it is. Even the courts recognized this as so in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case where Judge John E. Jones III concluded that “The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism”. Details of the trial here.

        • Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

          But religion should be taken as what it is: A set of beliefs that are not supported by evidence (not yet, at least), and as such should not be put side by side with scientific arguments.

          You’re halfway there.

          All you need to do to continue your journey to sanity is to understand that nothing even vaguely comes close to science when it comes to evaluating truth claims. As such, a set of beliefs that can’t withstand scientific scrutiny are best described as fanciful and delusional. You’re absolutely correct that religious beliefs shouldn’t be put side-by-side with scientific arguments…but the proper conclusion is that therefore they should be put in the garbage bin, not on a pedestal.

          Cheers,

          b&

  43. Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    The idea that free will does not exist is completely antithetical to our legal systems. Capital or first degree murder is based upon the premise that people premeditate to commit murder, implying that they make choices ahead of time to act in an immoral manner. In fact, scientific studies have shown that manipulation of belief in determinism impacts moral behavior, something that would not be expected if free will did not exist (see link above).

    • Lucio
      Posted August 30, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      It’s easy to see free will is false. If humans are predictable, then their actions are determined, and hence they’re not free. Simple as that.

      “Feeling free” to chose A or B does not imply that such choice was not predetermined. There’s a pervasive correlation between backgrounds and choices seen everywhere. Global surveys, for example, show how people from same countries/cultures/sex, etc (backgrounds) have similar views and make similar choices. The more we learn about a person’s background the more we can predict how the person will behave in a determined situation.

      This is a fact and it’s based on our everyday experience. And if people are predictable, then they’re not free, even if they FEEL free.

      Hence free will, as in “the ability to make UNCONSTRAINED choices”, is false, because such thing as a “unconstrained choice” does not exist.

      So yes, even though I’m an ID and a theist, I also adhere to methodological naturalism (except on information origins) so I agree with Jerry on this particular post.

      • Posted August 30, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        So, what makes you think that you were compelled by anything other than free will to write your last post? The fact that you think that you didn’t make an unconstrained choice in writing your post is just amazing. I would really like to know what part of the universe compelled you to respond?

        • Lucio
          Posted August 30, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          It’s interesting how I never hear evidence from free will advocates, only arguments the type of “If free will is false then the world as I know it makes no sense so free will has to be real, no matter what evidence says”.

          How I make choices if free will is not real? Simple:

          1-Choices occur because we weight pros and cons based on our previous experiencies.
          2-That “weighting of pros and cons” depends on our rational thinking.
          3-Our rationality is built according to our background and previous life experiences.
          4-We don’t have control over our background.
          5-Hence, our choices are not ultimately free.

          Note that choices can FEEL free, and I do feel free to make them, but ultimately my choice to respond to your comment was determined to happen, simply because the rational process I used to make that decision was built based on my background, and ultimately without my control.

          That’s why free will is an illusion. Even if you think you’re making a choice, the rational process you’re using to make it was built during your whole life according to your life experiences, and you don’t have control over it, because it’s embedded in your thinking! How can you be sure that your choice to respond to my comment was completely free? Only because it FELT free?

          And I’m leaving aside the obvious correlation between backgrounds and choices, which constitutes the empirical evidence against free will.

          • Posted September 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

            I love it when determinists argue against the existence of free will. If weighing pros and cons is not an exercise in free will, then how can an atheist and a theist come to opposite moral conclusions? I was an atheist for the first 33 years of my life. Based upon prior experience, I should have remained an atheist. However, I didn’t. Since then, my subsequent “deterministic” choices have been different than my prior “deterministic” choices. It is quite easy to prove determinism is false. Just base all your choices on the flipping of a coin. The universe will neither prevent you from flipping the coin nor determine its outcome.

  44. Posted September 2, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    BAH! Can someone please tell me the secret to text formatting here? HTML or blog commands seem to fail.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted September 2, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jeanine:

      You wrote: [b]“I’ve been called worse by better”.[/b]

      For tags, you have to use the “angled brackets”. Those are the ones that look like “greater than” and “less than” symbols in math (I can’t type them here, as it would make a mess of the sentence).

      For example, if I wanted to make what you wrote bold, I’d use those types of brackets, and obtain: “I’ve been called worse by better”.

      Similarly, using the letter “i” will get you italics, and the word “strike” will get you strikethrough text.

      When I want to learn a new tag, I just google “wordpress strikethrough tag” or whatever, but the brackets themselves are always the ones I’ve indicated.

      • Posted September 2, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Thanks! I’ve tried that and it didn’t seem to work – I am no programmer but have some experience with html! I will look up wordpress commands. I even have a blog for my job, which uses the brackets instead of html coding


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