6th January 2012

“It is only by dispelling the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason and Morality.”

Baron D'Holbach1723 – 1789

13 Responses to “6th January 2012”

  1. Dan Says:

    Nice idea, but these traits are (largely) relative, not absolutes. We can only hope to incrementally make our way towards truth, reason and morality, but gathering information about things and other people before judging them. I’ve never met a religion fully committed to this, but neither are all atheists committed to this either.

  2. Dan Says:

    Sorry, in the third line, it should be “…by gathering…”

  3. Atheist MC Says:

    I guess the goal is an evidenced based society; government policy based on evidence, morality based on evidence. The problem is we all filter evidence through our biases, whether via religion or some other ideology we hold sacred in the hope of maintaining our own world view.

  4. CaptainZero Says:

    For more Baron D’Holbach, take a look at Jonathan Miller’s series A BRIEF HISTORY OF DISBELIEF on YouTube

  5. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Morality is a subject for science:

    The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris Permalink: http://amzn.com/143917122X

  6. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    This is a cool TED talk from Harris:


  7. R J Says:

    hi folks…………………

    i’ve been deathly sick………….but try

    to read qotd each day. the discussions

    have been great.

    keep it up !!!!

  8. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Take good care R j, just wouldn’t be AQOTD without you.

  9. reetBob Says:

    I’m not convinced that science – evidence – can lead ethics as Ted Harris claims.

    Evidence can demonstrate the best route to achieve an ideal; for example, where the goal is personal contentment, evidence can prove, or disprove, that belief in mysticism promotes contentment.

    It cannot help us choose between the ideals: is personal contentment more important than material wealth, how about personal health, a world with or without war, is interpersonal conflict a good thing, and so on

    Ideals are guided by something outside science, evidence should light the way.

  10. Dan Says:

    I’ve only given Sam Harris a cursory read to be honest, but from what I understand of this argument, I’ll try to explain.

    Basically, because morality and ethics of all types can generally be boiled down to anything that maximizes happiness while minimizing harm (to oneself and especially to others). This seems to me to be widely agreed upon by atheists and by theists of all stripes, except those who are so ardently set on their religious “morals” that the rest of humanity generally agrees that they are in fact grossly immoral.

    So it’s not a huge leap to state this as an axiom of universal human morals.

    And it is, at least in concept if not in practice, a measurable morality or code of ethics.

    Thus morality and ethics can be assessed by various scientific methodologies.

  11. reetBob Says:

    Dan, I haven’t read anything yet but I will.

    My issue with religion is that it defines the goals and also the way to achieve them, even when these methods are demonstrably counter-productive. Using evidence-based techniques to find the optimum legislation will obviously lead to better conditions than under sharia.

    You say It’s not a huge leap to state this as an axiom of human morals, whilst I agree in principle – I believe we should aim for such things – Im not convinced that science can demonstrate the link.

  12. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    ReetBob Dan is pretty much there with understanding Sam Harris, I think you will agree if you read the book.

    Harris is much more objective than morality defined by religion. What Harris is proposing isn’t another set of pseudo-morals that leave tons of unanswered questions like “Why does god kill the children?” Rather Harris asks what leads to human flourishing as its basis for morality.

    Obviously women wearing cotton bags to obscure their flesh in 130 degree heat doesn’t lead to human flourishing. The removal of a woman’s clitoris isn’t necessary for it either.

    Cutting off of the testicals of young boys under the misguided belief that it will keep their voices high is unreasonable and stupid. Yet it is as much a part of Catholicism as anything.

    Piercings, tattoos, pain rituals, are all nonsense, not moral ideas.

    Sam Harris’ morality isn’t about justifying burying little girls up to their necks and stoning them to death. A philosophy professor explained that morality is different things to different people. He was wrong, it is the same for all people everywhere.

    Never is it OK to slice a person’s head off. If you believe it is OK your are not expressing a morality, you are sick in the head insane.

    For too long we have walked away from criminal behavior saying “Oh it is their culture” NO IT ISN’T! A spade is a spade, rape is rape not culture.

    Religion adopted the morality position to conceal its perversions. Science can define morality in ways religion can’t, and religion defines morality in ways science will not.

    Read the book! Just as alchemy led to chemistry, astrology to astronomy, religion to philosophy, pseudo-science to science the subject of morality can be formalized too by rational thought. Morality can stand as a subject on its own apart from religion. There is no need for religion to be a moral and ethical person.

  13. Dan Says:

    Thanks Sinjin.

    I’m sure that ReetBob isn’t arguing that such religious atrocities are anything less than immoral, he’s just saying that that doesn’t necessarily make it possible to have a morality based on the scientific method. Or that’s not what he was saying, I’m not certain.

    And ReetBob, while I agree that one must be careful in describing the study of ethics as a science, there exists precedence for this: economics. Once called “Moral Philosophy,” economics (particularly the Marginalist school of economics if I’m not mistaken) has already attained quite a bit of influence over the ethics of public life. Basically, anything that could possibly benefit or threaten another human being can be crudely quantified and weighed against the gains of the causative action.

    It’s a “dismal” science to be sure, and called so for good reason, but it’s still a science.