Matthieu Miossec

Doctoral Student - Genetic Medecine (Congenital Heart Disease),

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Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion

Religion has a long history of claiming absolute knowledge over questions of morals. Often today, we hear preachers on the street tell us that, for all our scientific and technological achievements, we are losing touch with our morals. Is that true? Is religion than the only or at least the best answer to our moral shortcomings?

The other view is that morality has progressively changed and increased with time and we shudder to think about what stood as morals in our past. In great part, it can be argued that science has fed many moral values by revealing natural truths about ourselves and other animals such that we can no longer see the world in a way that make certain immoral behaviors justifiable.

So which one is better equipped to inform morality? Is there a third institution better equipped perhaps?

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    Oct 12 2011: Hi Matthieu:>)
    I don't believe there is only one answer to this question, and from what I've seen in the discussions on TED, the debate simply continues to seperate people. I believe in using all possible information that is available, to determine how I will live my life. If some folks want to be totally guided by science, or exclusively guided by religion, it is a choice s/he makes, and I believe that to be limiting. There are many people who use both, or neither, and live a life that is morally beneficial to themselves and to the whole of humanity.

    It's been awhile since I watched the talks by Steven Pinker and Sam Harris, but as I recall, Pinker presents data, indicating that violence is decreasing. As I recall, Harris suggests a "middle ground". I believe we are evolving to the point of being able to more effectively sift through information and make better choices as human beings. We KNOW more about dominating, violent behaviors for example, because of the information we get from science and religion. We can, as informed people of the world, determine what behaviors are unacceptable, and that information has come from both science and religions. They are both valuable resources we can use to heal our world, rather than cause a wedge by continually seperating that which is connected.
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      Oct 12 2011: One need not exclude the other, but can it not be said that the knowledge we've derived from science feeds our morality better nowadays?
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        Oct 12 2011: Depends on how the information is used. Science/technology has certainly served to connect us around the world, and provide the opportunity to learn and exchange more information. That is a HUGE step forward for all of us. Violation of human rights, for example, can happen more easily when people are isolated, so I believe the advanced technology will facilitate changes in that respect. People who are guided by extreme behaviors, under the guise of religion or politics for example, are now going to be watched by the entire world. Because of technology/science, we have a stronger voice regarding unacceptable behaviors. That being said, there are billions of people who use religion as a beneficial life guide, and will continue to do so, thereby feeding our morality in a beneficial way.
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      Oct 12 2011: But why bother with superstition?

      I tell stories to my kids where good behaviour is valued. They get it, even though I tell them it's just a story and nothing about it is true.
      You don't need superstiton, there is nothing good about it. And religion is more than story telling. It claims to know some sort of absolute truth. This has disastrous consequences.
      Get rid of it. Get a better world to live in.
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        Oct 12 2011: Gerald,
        You have the right to believe in whatever you want. Don't you think/feel that others have that right as well? If a person wants to "bother with superstition", s/he has that right. Would you feel better if everyone conformed to what you believe to be "right" behavior? Suggesting to "get rid" of something that is precious to many people, is extreme. Furthermore, I'm sure you're aware that throughout history, there have been several movements which tried to destroy certain beliefs and the people who practiced them? We need to deal with the behaviors that threaten, abuse and violate the rights of others, no matter what the underlying "reason" is for such a threat. We, as individuals, can create a "better world" by filtering all the information and getting rid of extreme behaviors.
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          Oct 12 2011: YES! People should have the right to believe anything they want. But it should be a choice. Brainwashing vulnerable children with beliefs should be illegal. This is abuse.
          Religions know how to take advantage of such vulnerability.
          A good education can lower vulnerability among people. The educated have learnt to put ideas to the test, to doubt constantly about what they know. This is pure freedom, and it should be promoted.
          THEN, you may chose to go for Muhamed or Jesus or Feng Shui. But let's make sure you've had the proper education first.

          Also, you make it sound like science is just another religion. It's not. Science is the pursuit of knwoledge through doubt and rational criticim. There couldn't possibly be anything wrong with that. There is no authority in science. Anyone may tip physics upside down, provided one brought a completely different explanation that explained more.
          So I don't feel like Hitler when I say that science should eradicate superstition. I'm just preaching freedom of though, here.
          Let's free the hostages.

          And seriously, let's ban religion teaching on children. The damage is so hard to heal afterwards.
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        Oct 12 2011: Gerald,
        Yes...I agree...people should have the right to believe anything they want and it should be a choice.

        "A good education can lower vulnerability", and SOME educated people have learned to put ideas to the test. However, there are many well educated people who get stuck in their own beliefs, and fail to even see anyone else's belief as being valid in any way.

        I agree...freedom should be promoted. I do not, in any way, shape or form suggest that science is "just another religion", and cannot even guess how you came to that conclusion. Nor have I said ANYWHERE that there is anything "wrong" with science. I've said over and over again that I use ALL information to form my worldview.

        It might be helpful to actually look at what a person has expressed before you argue?
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          Oct 12 2011: Well said.
          I'm just adding that information shouldn't come from anywhere other than science, which we agree to be the only source of knowledge that benefits from doubt and criticism.
          Thus, you'd be better off restricting your worldview to science, according to my definition of it.
          Wouldn't you?
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        Oct 12 2011: Thank you Gerald.
        It may be "well said", but you apparently do not seem to be understanding what I am saying.
        I do not agree that science is the only source of knowledge....
        In my perception, I am "better off" making my own choices.
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          Oct 12 2011: But surely you'd rather go for the explanations that make sense and that accept criticism? Who wants ready-made truths?
          Honnestly...
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        Oct 12 2011: Yes Gerald, I accept explanations that make sense.
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          Oct 12 2011: but you refuse to stick only to those that do make sense?
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        Oct 16 2011: I accept explanations that make sense to me Gerald.
        What part of that statement do you not understand?
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          Oct 16 2011: But you think there's more than sense-making explanations, right?
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        Oct 16 2011: Gerald,
        You are taking yourself in a circle, and that doesn't make any sense to me.
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          Oct 16 2011: Nah, it's just you, refusing to admit that what isn't scientific doesn't make sense. I was just trying to get you saying that you like to know that there's more to reality than good explanations of it.
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        Oct 16 2011: Perhaps you have not realized yet that I don't say what others want me to say....it is a waste of time in my opinion Gerald. People, trying to get other people to say something that s/he wants to hear does not appeal to me. I like to be well informed with all available information:>)
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          Oct 16 2011: "All available information"
          coming from nonsense explanations as well as sensible ones. Got it.
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        Oct 16 2011: Good...glad you've "got it" Gerald. What YOU decide is nonsense doesn't really matter...except to you. We're right back to a statement you made in a previous comment...

        "YES! People should have the right to believe anything they want. But it should be a choice".
        (Gerald O'brian - 4 days ago on this thread)

        You see? You went around in a circle:>)
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          Oct 16 2011: You still have the right to believe anything you want.

          My whole point, which you chose to miss, was that science was only about looking for sensible explanations. What isn't science is bad explanations, that fail the rational criticism test.
          Hence, when you say science is not enough, it's like saying that irrational ideas which bring nonsense information about reality are a good alternative.
          THIS is nonsense. It's your right to say nonsense. And of course, it's my right to let you know about it.
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        Oct 16 2011: I've got your point Gerald. I also know what science is about, I never said ANYWHERE that "science is not enough", and I firmly believe science is a very valuable tool, which I've stated over and over again.

        It might be helpful Gerald, for you to actually look at a person's comments before arguing. You are arguing with yourself...or are you trolling?
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          Oct 16 2011: QUOTE : I do not agree that science is the only source of knowledge....

          Am I arguing with myself?
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        Oct 16 2011: It appears so
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          Oct 17 2011: It appears so, I agree. Let's find someone else with constructive conversation.
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    Oct 27 2011: I feel there is a third way to inform morality that should take place over generalized concepts: experience.

    For as much as we hear in childhood about "don't judge others until you walk a mile in their shoes," "treat others how you want to be treated" etc., it's hard to understand why we don't apply any of that to the adult world. Morals that are based on experiencing being treated poorly by someone with a lack of moral sense are well informed and generally worth listening to.

    As for things that one would rather not ever experience, experience can also inform those morals. If you wouldn't ever want it to happen to you, it's probably morally wrong. If it's similar to an experience that was negative and you have a moral opposition to someone else experiencing what you did, it's probably morally wrong.
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      Oct 27 2011: Kenji, you are resonating a chord on my piano.

      Reared a Southern Baptist interpreter of the Bible, as a child I found precious doubt, because the God that was presented felt he needed to coerce believers. (See Revelation 22:18 and Luke 12:8-10; two of many examples.) However, my indoctrination was so strong I could not free myself.

      Over 35 years as a chemical engineer, I worked with people from over 40 ethnic backgrounds, many of them motivated by Eastern philosophy or religion, including Christianity. As a Protestant, I longed for them to say something like, "Phil, I am impressed with your goodness and want to understand what motivates it." It never happened. Some conversations, I perceived, justified me to treat them "as I wanted to be treated": I practiced the Great Commission.

      For example, I said to Kishor, "Have you met Jesus?"
      He answered, "I don't understand the question."
      I said, "Is Jesus your Lord and savior?"
      He confidently said, "No. I have studied many prophets and pray to Jesus, but that's as far as I would go."
      Then he asked, "What do you mean by heaven?"
      I answered, "Eternal life with Jesus and all people God gave Him to save."
      He responded, "That could happen, but I'd be pleased to be reincarnated a better human or higher being."

      After a couple experiences like that I began to feel arrogant questioning another human being’s inspiration and for the first time in my life (maybe I was 45) saw non-Christians as human beings as valuable as me. Later, I began to see their inner peace—not questioning my religion--as in fact superior to mine. Not long after that, I became not a believer but a human being (now 68) and member of the community of living species. My faith is in reality, unknown as it is.

      Does my story relate to your "third way?"

      Phil
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    Oct 18 2011: Religion has it's own moral bias which in the Christian Bible is often spectacularly contradictory. Science is amoral in that knowledge alone cannot dictate it's own use. I would prefer a third option.

    Morality is a uniquely human issue, and as such, only humans are capable of determining what those moral values should be. I am referring to something in the nature of a social contract. We have the technology now to conduct a reasonably accurate poll of society. With this data, we could determine a set of societal morals. Recurrent polls could be conducted at agreed upon intervals to determine the effectiveness of the current morality and suggest any necessary restructuring.

    Morality, as with any other aspect of human societies is not and should not be forced to be static. Our morality must be allowed to evolve with us. That failure of moral evolution lies at the heart of our current moral drift. In our western, Judeo/Christian society, we have tried to freeze our moral evolution at a point two thousand years in the past. Denying moral evolution while embracing social evolution has led us in strange directions.

    The Bible says "Thou shalt not kill." and yet the United States, a country of loudly "Christian" values invades other countries and kills thousands, and they were not alone. Clearly, our society has evolved beyond the morality we profess to embrace. This leads to a deep seated rift between those clinging ever more tightly to "traditional" (read outmoded) morality, and those attempting to establish their own morality in the absence of any reasonable alternative.

    We need to establish a human moral compass based on human truths and values. Forget about flawed and self-promoting religions. Science, no matter how hard it tries, cannot pretend to human understanding. Only we can understand ourselves. Only we humans know what is right and wrong for us.
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    Oct 17 2011: Colleen, Your comment is straight to the point regarding some religions and priests and the fact it has been often brushed under the rug is evidence of our moral ineptitude. Nothing is more egress in a house culturally we revere.

    However I would take exception to the statement; " it can be argued that science has fed many moral values by revealing natural truths about ourselves and other animals such that we can no longer see the world in a way that make certain immoral behaviors justifiable".

    If this is true, then how does science justify the legacy issues of chemical contamination's in our bodies, waters and soil, nuclear waste, and all the negative consequences of our past stupid choices?

    Science isn't moral one wit. Its simply available to the highest bidder which the evidence demonstrates in spades. In fact in most cases, Science removes causes from effects to effectively transfer liability, responsibility and accountability on to future generations. The evidence is over whelming.
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      Oct 17 2011: Good point Craig,
      The statement you refer to, is taken directly from Matthieu's introduction, and one which I agree with. The statement simply says that science has revealed natural truths about ourselves and we can no longer see the world in a way that make certain immoral behaviors justifiable.

      Science, in my perception, does not "justify" any misuse of information which science provides. It is people within the system who misuse the information, thereby causing negative consequences...yes? Just as it is people who misuse information provided by spirituality, religions and holy books. In my perception, both science and holy books provide information which can create a better world. The challenge is how people choose to use the information.

      I agree with you that often scientific information is "available to the highest bidder", It is up to us, as individuals, and members of our world, to sift through information and decide how or if we use it. I believe we have evolved as humans to the point where we are capable of practicing well thought out processes that could be beneficial to the whole.
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      Oct 17 2011: That the products of science have been used and abused to carry out terrible actions and damage our environment is undeniable. But this is mixing what we learn from science, with how we use it. You can read a book and learn or you can strike someone to the head with it, but that doesn't make what's in the book any less valuable.
  • Oct 12 2011: Personally I dislike it when science and religion are described as two competing schools of thought. the simple fact of the matter is that science is a process we use to gain understanding and religion is a collection of stories that is used to create moral consensus. using science to determine morality is like using a calculator if murder is ever justified, and likewise religious stories only give you as solid of an understanding of the physical universe as a kids book. This does not mean that the two never interact as the context in which a religion is understood is vastly important to what morals it generates, and our understanding of the universe has a large impact on that context.

    basically what i am saying is that you have to take the lessons form religion and adapt them to fit with the facts and understanding that we have through science. both are unqualified to fill every facet required by the other.

    i think it is also worth mentioning that religion tool used to gain moral consensus, and science is not the only way to gain understanding of the physical world.
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      Oct 12 2011: This is the problem. Religion has been poisoning our philosophies for so long, that we actually think that science is about calculus and astronomy, and could not possibly bring understanding about moral and human issues.

      Well what about biology? Ahhhh, biology, religion's worst enemy. According to biology, human beings are animals. And the study of animals is a science.
      Biology is the worst thing that ever happened to religion, and the best that ever happened to philosophy.

      If more people saw this, it would be a bright era indeed.
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        Oct 12 2011: I think many are confused by the distinction between edicting and informing moral values.
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        Oct 12 2011: Well when you bring up the idea that science can inform morality, there is almost an automatic reply that science does not tackle questions of morality. Most of us agree with that because that was never the substance of the argument, it's a strawman. Designing experiments to determine what is moral or asking scientists to act as moral authorities is not what's defended here. What's the defended here is that our understanding of science permits us to make better moral judgments by what it tells us about nature. You're quite right to focus on biology, it is a massive contributor to our moral progression because of what it tells us about humans and animals, but of course physics, particularly astrophysics has a big part to play too.
        • Oct 26 2011: Religion can also play a detrimental role in an understanding of morality. My example would be the scientific discovery of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. This "should" have enlightened the religious that the behavior is not "unnatural" unfortunately that isn't the takeaway.
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      Oct 12 2011: "adapt them to fit with the facts and understanding that we have through science" This is what I am trying to convey.
      "using science to determine morality is like using a calculator if murder is ever justified" This is what I am not trying to convey.

      I though I was being fairly explicit in my title and description to avoid the question being taken as meaning that we can somehow devise a scientific experiment that can tell us right from wrong or that science should endeavour to reveal moral truths. I defend none of that. It seems that this strawman (not necessarily intentional) is forever going to prevent this debate from actually taking place.

      It is worth also pointing out that the question never points out exclusivity over morals of one or the other.
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        Oct 12 2011: Topic: "Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion"

        Do you honestly think the topic "never points out exclusivity..."?

        "adapt them to fit with the facts and understanding that we have through science" seems more open minded, and it seems closer to what you have expressed in other conversations.
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        Oct 12 2011: OK...It leaves room for more information. I still like "adapting everything to fit" as my preference:>)
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    Oct 5 2011: There's no better teacher for morals than nature.
    Within social relations we teach eachother by listening to our heart. What feels good is good.
    Everything a man can think of is limited wether it comes from religion or science.
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    Oct 3 2011: I claim to be a more righteous being than any deity I ever read about.

    ... and it's not hard.
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    Oct 31 2011: Just listened to a conversation between Richard Dawkins & Wendy Wright (U-Tube). Dawkins was quite up front about the idea that he would not like to live in a world where morals were derived from Darwinian principles. For once I agreed with him.

    :-)
    • Oct 31 2011: Bragging about never agreeing with one of the foremost intellectuals of our time says a lot about you.

      :-)
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      Oct 31 2011: Well, everyone in their right mind could agree to that. There is a difference between deriving and informing morality. Science's purpose is to reveal nature to us, informing our morality, not dictating it.

      Notice how Wendy Wright is totally clueless when it comes to evolution though and repeats the same garbage like a mantra...reminds me of someone.
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        Nov 1 2011: I love you too Matt.

        Beneficial random mutations are selected by environmental pressures thereby tending to improve the organism over many generations. (or similar)
        Great theory; but where's the evidence?

        Wendy was a bit annoyed at constantly being told she was dumb; does Dawkins honestly believe she has not looked at the available evidence ?

        :-)
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          Nov 1 2011: To be annoyed mostly reveals one to be powerless or impotent.
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          Nov 1 2011: He doesn't think, he knows. She keeps going "where are the transitional fossils?" when there are many. So no she hasn't looked at the evidence, she doesn't know what the flip she's talking about and neither do you given that you're asking me for evidence once again.
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    Oct 28 2011: To Andrea, As you said, we are close on many thoughts. However, we take them in different directions.

    “I'd rather be the person who resists nuclear bomb proliferation . . .” Developing nuclear bombs was inevitable; I want to have them first and use that strength to discourage evil men from developing them, thereby resisting proliferation.

    “I imagine, self-righteous experts of both science and religion suffer and propagate about equally.” A scientist is not self-righteous—waits for repeatable evidence before drawing conclusions. If not, he is religious. The religious make an assumption then construct doctrine based on the assumption without regard for evidence.

    “My sister, in heart failure -- the last stop for patients, prescribes as a matter of course, along with scientific remedies, a spiritual one: purpose. She is convinced people getting involved in something beyond themselves can change health in remarkable ways.” I am glad your sister has purpose.

    After my triple by-pass, I was prepared for death to remedy suffering but was inspired to survive to continue supporting my three ladies—my wife and adult daughters; I began a fitness program. Eight years later, with a stage 3 carcinoma in my right lung, we studied diets to strengthen resistance to cancer. The family has benefited. I have no objection to people calling these wonderful results “spiritual.” However, I regard them as open-mindedness and behavior according to understanding.
    “A mission to undo religion and faith clouds the objective analysis of them. Respect for the strengths of both science and religion seems best.” Equivocating “faith” and “religion” is common, but unacceptable to me. To me, “faith” means trust in and commitment to, in my case, reality. Faith has strength: religion has weakness. Usually, religion immorally divides humankind.

    I prefer: understanding informs morality, especially by disclosing the immorality of religion.

    Phil
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      Oct 29 2011: Phil,

      Your "purpose" to continue supporting your "three ladies" is inspiring. They are very lucky to have your sustained commitment to caring for yourself so you can care for them, too. All best in your efforts to do more of the same!

      I saw nothing strong in obliterating whole cities of people in Japan to sable rattle at Russia.

      I see it as strategic opportunism. As do historian Paul Ham and many US military leaders. With, I'd add, the predictable consequence of creating martyrs of the upwards of 300,000 scorched civilians while leaving the US looking like global thugs.

      Its not much different then global-scale gang warfare, in my mind. One group of thugs paranoid that the other group of thugs is treading on their turf and/or coming to kill them, pipe-bombs the rival group's 'hood to show their manlier-manliness. Then: Retaliation. And, Repeat.

      None look manly when little children are torn apart by shrapnel or burned skinless.

      Or, when generations of people are left with the physical and psychological scars "Little Boy" bombs leave in the dusty craters of their wake.

      Again, religion Is used as a convenient tool in these quite unnatural and inhuman behaviors:

      "I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb (...) it is an awful responsibility which has come to us (...) We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes." Harry S. Truman, August 9, 1945.

      So, here again, I agree with you.

      Religion is used for immoral means. And, I'd add: devastating, disgusting ends.

      Still, I hold science no less accountable for dividing humankind. It is equally corrupted when humans use it as a tool of their free will to further their immoral means.

      I'd rather not drop bombs in a strategic attempt to avoid a lose-lose fights, then risk all. Including my country's reputation for the fleeting, superficial so-called "glory" of a dubious, deadly win.

      Andrea
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        Oct 29 2011: Andrea,

        Your contributions amaze me and I thank you; I say never stop.

        Of course the joy of trying to fulfill the role of husband and two roles of father is amazing, and the ultimate goal is their peace and confidence when I die. In the meantime, my first duty is to stay out of hospitals. My friend Kishon Seth, about 76, and I tell each other that idea at least once a week. I want to share Kish’s and my refrain with everyone: your duty is to stay out of hospitals.

        Once again, I think a small change in language would help us understand how parallel our thinking is. I would agree that many “scientists” are evil and many “clergymen” so wish to help humankind that it is a tragedy they are not social workers or psychologists or political scientists—in any role except purveyors of “the truth” when they deny reality for religion.

        Machiavelli taught us the greatest evil of the clergy: by joining with the politicians, the clergy help politicians persuade the people to accept and effect evil even though the people feel intolerant toward evil. We know of Truman, Bush, and Lincoln so using religion.

        Thank you for the quotation of Truman. We can find an analogous quotation of Geo. W. Bush, and you and I watched in horror as he invaded Iraq, based on the advice of his heavenly father and the “prayers” of the majority of Americans. We should have started impeachment proceedings the day after his declaration.

        Continued
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        Oct 29 2011: Continuation:
        Abraham Lincoln was also guilty of abusing religion. He was perhaps the most politically skilled citizen America has known. Reared in a religious community that opposed slavery, he opposed slavery but did not want to be known as an abolitionist. To object to the Dred Scott decision in 1857, he could have advocated an amendment to the US Constitution. However, to protect his perception of success (a religion in that it involves an assumption, just like Einstein and his static universe), Lincoln cited the Declaration of Independence and started the precedent that the Declaration (religious) trumps the US Constitution.

        The 1789 Christian majority of the people wanted to continue attributing to God responsibility and accountability for governance, and, therefore, never accept the role We the People as defined in the Preamble to the US Constitution (a subject about which Google and you introduced me to TED). The unintended consequence of Lincoln’s failure to uphold the US Constitution brought America to its current status: Christian democracy instead of the secular republic the 1787 founders wanted.
        Instead of Independence Day wherein we state our dependence on God and claim freedom, a privilege, America should have a double federal holiday around September 17, wherein we renew the seven, secular goals stated in the Preamble then follow with national debate of remaining injustices and proposals for Constitutional amendments to remedy them.

        In a recent conversation, I asked perhaps my dearest Christian friend: Given two equally earnest Christians, one detests slavery and the other supports it based on Bible references; both are of the people, but which one is of We the People? That was the end of our dialogue on that subject. (We plan to go to lunch in a week.)

        The evolution of humankind’s goodness—understanding--informs morality quicker and better than religion does.

        On our way to a sing-along taking us back forty years in friendships.
        Phil
        • Oct 29 2011: Concerning what you said about the U.S. meant to be secular - What did the Declaration of Independence mean when it said,
          ".....for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

          We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." ???

          Most of everyone that signed this important landmark document were Christian or at least believed in a "Creator" as was written about. Therefore I am wanting to learn more of what you were speaking about concerning secularism. Thanks again Phil! You seem to be a very nice person, regardless of our difference of beliefs, and I hope that you do not mind conversing with me either. Have a great one!
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          Oct 30 2011: Phil,

          There is debate about Lincoln's personal religious leanings. Though it's true Lincoln used religious rhetoric in his mission to emancipate slaves.

          Had he not, the likelihood he would have succeeded would have been significantly less.

          Imagine him saying: "Lets look at the research guys. Science say slavery is immoral." He wouldn't have got far.

          Instead, Lincoln used two strong planks to scaffold his anti-slave case: political and religious.

          By calling on prevailing populists' biblical Law, which from Moses forward rejects slavery, as well as "We the-equal People" law, Lincoln's argument was "cross-reinforced," Christian belief buttressed civil action against slavery.

          In fact, this demonstrates how Lincoln employed scientific-style "proof," by citing "relevant texts" as confirmation of his thesis.

          I'd say Lincoln's strategy here was quite elegant. He used diverse moral vernaculars to illuminate immoral acts and amplify their evils to all.

          Though I agree, it would have been preferable for Lincoln to have advocated a Constitutional amendment regards the post-emancipation Dred Scott case.

          But his arguments would have had nothing of the dimension of his anti-slavery positions. He couldn't argue religious law which left him with only the Constitutional law, one less-than solid plank.

          Calling up the voices of the Founders as he did compellingly in the fight against slavery wouldn't have worked. Nearly all were Christian. Of the few who weren't, the most compelling church/state separation advocate, Thomas Jefferson, would have been dissonant, though, due the fact he owned slaves.

          One wishes our polymath president Jefferson would have asserted his Enlightenment energies more while authoring the Declaration, but he didn't.

          So Lincoln spoke in ways both religious and non-religious could hear.

          As did Ghandi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their transformative iterations against immoral , anti-human oppression.

          Andrea
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        Oct 30 2011: Andrea, forgive me for trailing you here. I am trying to address Jay Goltz's kind communication, which gave me no "reply" button.

        Jay, thank you for the kind words and opportunity to learn. Let me address only the "Nature's God" part of your question. The colonization of America was conducted for "spreading the Christian faith." One of the taxations that led to the revolution was a law suit by the clergy (see below). The small, poor population in the colonies felt weak compared to the 1770s empire builder, Great Britain. To inspire colonial soldiers, deists, such as Thomas Jefferson, led the declaration: Our God will beat your God. Hence, "Natures God" and all the other deistic terms in the Declaration, without pointing out that subtlety to the Christian majority soldiers.

        Here's some supporting evidence:

        Royal Charters were clearly Christian commissions by British Kings:
        First Virginia, 1606: “Wee . . . accepting . . . noble a worke . . . in propagating of Christian religion to suche people as yet live in darkenesse and miserable ignorance of the true knoweledge and worshippe of God and may in tyme bring the infidels and salvages living in those parts to humane civilitie.”
        Connecticut, 1662: “. . . whereby Our said People . . . may win and invite the Natives of the Country to the Knowledge and Obedience of the only true GOD, and He Saviour of Mankind, and the Christian Faith, which in Our Royal Intentions, and the adventurers free Possession, is the only and principal End of this Plantation.”

        From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Virginia#Religious_freedom_and_disestablishment.
        “. . . in 1763 . . . The Virginia legislature had passed the Two-Penny Act to stop clerical salaries from inflating. King George III vetoed the measure, and clergy sued for back salaries.”

        In the historical context, the Declaration states: Nature’s God will beat the King’s God, Christianity.
        I feel this is a start; please consider this much and comment.

        Phil
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        Oct 30 2011: Andrea,
        There were many early documents that declared slavery immoral on practical and humane bases, for example, Thomas Paine's letter of 1775, published in Philadelphia. See http://www.constitution.org/tp/afri.htm .

        Lincoln's failure in Dred Scott 1857 (and 6 years before emancipation in 1863), was his appeal to the religious Declaration instead of upholding the secular US Constitution. The Constitution starts with the Preamble, which states seven secular goals, declared by We the People. No where does the Preamble grant any authority to God or religion.

        The articles that outline the institutions and methods of governance follow. There are no duties or authority for clergymen or God therein. It stipulates that the slave trade will end in 1808. The founders expected slavery to dwindle to termination. Lincoln could have sacrificed his political ambitions and negotiated for the Thirteenth Amendment, adopted on December 6, 1865, only 8 years after Lincoln tragically invoked the Declaration.

        If Lincoln had chosen not to unconstitutionally trump the US Constitution by citing the Declaration, his political focus might have avoided the Civil War.

        Politicians who involve religion in governance are a bane to the people and their nation. Politicians should keep their religion private and citizens should keep their religions private. Non-religious people should not be forced to suffer the burden of religion.

        I must say, it seems to me your “Imagine [Lincoln] saying: ‘Lets look at the research guys. Science says slavery is immoral.’ He wouldn't have got far,” is not instructive at all, and that is being kind.

        Also, the New Testament condones slavery. See http://www.religioustolerance.org/sla_bibl2.htm .

        Phil
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          Oct 30 2011: Phil,

          Thanks for the Dred Scott chronology correction.

          My sense without researching further is the Scott case amounted perhaps to a lesson-learned. If so, Lincoln's focus on the Declaration, again, would have been wise.

          Scott had already lost in it's Constitution-focused battle, which rival Steven Douglas also used. So Lincoln adding this arrow to his argument quiver, which, via proximity to the Constitution where progress was not being made, makes sense..

          The Declaration of Independence includes the "all men are created equal" and deserve the rights set forth in the Constitution focus.

          Further, slaves understood the language of Biblical liberation, why we hear echoes of the spirituals they sang in their labors still. And many slaves saw the value of the Declaration in support of their "unalienable rights."

          The link you provide takes religious Scripture, just as religious fundamentalists do, out of context.

          For example, it quotes one line of a parable about slavery that calls for forgiveness. Only by parsing out the one line, it erroneously suggests the scripture condones slavery. Which it does not.

          In another it parses three lines from a parable which, again, does not condone slavery.

          This parable used the servant/master example, to speak in the contextual vernacular while proving a point that earnest commitment to ones tasks is good and willful neglect of ones work is not good.

          It is frustrating that rhetoric like it, which preach to tolerance, use exactly the tactics they complain about.

          I stand by my position regards Lincoln's sourcing more than science-only documents. I maintain, if he hadn't, as it was in the Scott case, his points would've been largely ignored. By weaving in all relevant evidence he bolstered his points,

          Whether we agree with it or not, the Declaration was relevant.

          But, I couldn't agree with you more regards the Preamble. It is, in my view, the purest interpretation of our Founders' intent.

          Andrea
  • Oct 28 2011: One of my favorite lectures from Christopher Hitchens is on the "moral" list of 10 commandments.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IePirrYBP_s

    An hour long, but very much worth watching.
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    Oct 28 2011: I think as an individual, you need to take guidance from anywhere you can get, even if it is from science and/or from religion. We live in an age where now we can make better informed decisions due to scientific discoveries and also from a humble man who belongs to some religion. As you said below in some comment, its about can and not about want. People can learn IF they want to.
  • Oct 28 2011: http://youtu.be/r6w2M50_Xdk Just watch it.
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    Oct 24 2011: Matthieu,Some TEDsters may not have experience, but ethical practice of science is the norm. My 35-year career was inspired by chemical engineering ethics. It entails the application of prior knowledge to innovate and assure the economical and safe provision of products that actually help humankind.
    Here’s just one example. A boss called me to his office and said, “You indicated that we are not recognizing your contributions. You have a reputation for changing things. I have a plant expansion that has been designed over the last two years by two excellent chemical engineers. Your task is to review but not change the project, oversee purchase of the equipment, oversee installation, then restart the plant, on-time, in budget. If you accomplish those goals, I will see to it that you are recognized.” I gladly accepted the job.
    After reviewing the plant and the expansion scope, I contacted the chemical engineer who was operating the existing plant. When I asked if there had ever been a reportable incident—an injury or an environmental impact, he initially said, “No.” A few minutes later, he said, “About five years ago, we had an overpressure and released on odorous gas that was noticed.”
    We investigated the incident by experiments that proved there had been a runaway reaction. We then designed some experiments to measure the limits of a runaway reaction and realized that the new, larger reactor could explode.
    With the laboratory data, we designed a patented pressure relief system that assures public safety. In addition, we redesigned the reaction sequence so that a runaway was not possible.
    These changes required a 15% budget overrun, six months delay, and lost sales due to the expansion delay.
    I still have the letter of gratitude for the new reactor design, and I rose to the level “Technical Advisor,” which on pay scale is equivalent to a supervisor.
    Religion coerces people to favor believers and dust off non-believers. It's no good.
    Phil
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    Oct 23 2011: I don't understand the system--preventing my response to Frans Keller, but regarding the stupidity remark, I respond:

    It is alright to claim God exists. However, people who take the next step—describing or characterizing the God--may be taking risk they will regret. That is the clergy’s second greatest fault—willfully taking that risk. Their greatest fault is persuading people to follow.

    The clergy will not distract me again. Now I want relief from the financial, legal, and war burdens the clergy create. I appeal to believers for relief.

    Phil
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    Oct 23 2011: I mean no offense to believers as I express my understanding. However, I think it is important for believers to know they adversely affect the lives of non-believers. Non-believers like me have carefully considered religion and decided life is better without it. I hope believers will patiently refute my thoughts and appreciate my defenses.

    All humans live together as humankind and equally face the unknowns.

    Science helps humankind without favoritism or judgment. For example, cellphones are available worldwide without regard for the users’ religions. Evidence that evolution follows environmental change in the universe is available to everyone.

    Religion’s objective is to empower clergy over believers. Many people want subjugation to the clergy; consequently, Abraham Lincoln’s dream of governance “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is rendered impossible.

    The clergy claim to know what no one knows. Followers accept each clergy’s distinct moral system. A religion’s objective is extinction of competing religions, and, consequently, many believers hate nonbelievers. Mystery, spiritualism, and mysticism constructed by the clergy keep willing believers segregated.

    From person to person, empathy may overcome hate. However, empathy cannot overcome religion.

    Because each religion is morally divisive, religion cannot inform morality.

    Science has no stake in the competition between religions, yet it informs morality by exposing the immorality of religion.

    Believers who agree with these thougths could become inspired to reform religion.
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      Oct 23 2011: Phil--

      Science, like religion, has a history of fomenting unintended consequences. Albert Einstein believed in God and his scientific research (to his dismay) was used for competitive ends:: nuclear weapons. Which many consider immoral.

      Here is Einstein on God, mystery and religion:

      "A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."

      Scientists--as scientists of integrity will attest--are no less human and prone to conveying "confirmation-bias" than others.

      A particularly damaging example is Joseph Biederman, child psychiatrist at Harvard University and practitioner at Boston Mass.

      His competitive streak amounted to a $1.6M conflict of interest.

      This revealed after Sen. Charles Grassley and NIH spent years tracking his denial of unreported, unethical income from drug companies. His science, among other scary things, prescribes anti-psychotic drugs for children as young as two. Still, he practices on children, even as he uses them as research subjects for Big Pharma antiotes that are highly competitive.

      Yes, some clergy do damage. But so do some scientists. Some scientists spread hate, too. It just is cloaked in more subtle vernaculars. And they have just as many believers -- including students -- who spread their biases. In fact, many research scientists and research universities clearly imply that faculty and students comply with their focus to improve their publishing rates, professional vitas and enrollment incomes.

      In the purest understanding of scientific reasoning, it is anti-science to suggest scientists are better qualified to teach morals than others are.

      All people can and must teach morals. First by modeling the ego-strength to admit they don't have the corner on al answers.

      Andrea
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        Oct 23 2011: Andrea, I appreciate your response. Yet, it ignores my concerns. I hope for dialogue that addresses my concerns.

        Responding to yours, anytime I want to address the evil of religion, my example is Albert Einstein. He willfully used the “Cosmological Factor” to deny his 1905 mathematical model, which showed that the universe is dynamic. To “force the universe" to conform to his static paradigm, he added a fudge factor. Like all unethical scientists, he yielded to an ethical scientist. In 1930, he met with Edwin Hubble, who had observed the expanding universe. Einstein thanked Hubble for revealing Einstein’s greatest “blunder.”
        Science corrected Einstein’s scientific blunder, and he admitted it, as every caught scientist must. But Einstein never matured beyond religiosity, as you note. He once remarked to a young physicist: “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element.” Such arrogance reflects his indoctrination by clergymen.

        The discovery of nuclear weapons would have happened without Einstein. It is best that We the People discovered them. The fourth obligation of We the People (defined in the Preamble to the US Constitution) is defense. We the People have no defense against nuclear weapons if we have no nuclear weapons.

        Unethical scientists (like Biederman) are evil. However, every clergymen is evil because he claims to know what he knows he does not know. The clergy are aware that there are plenty of gullible people and only few who care enough to examine their own religiosity, as I do. Nothing holds the clergy in check: religion does not have what science has—the unstoppable, noble march toward understanding.


        There are two kinds of people: 1) women and men who seek understanding and 2) the clergy, who know everything—according to their differing opinions. I think men and women owe intolerance for the clergy’s pretense.
        phil
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          Oct 23 2011: Phil--

          I think you are communicating your bias against clergy over your preference for understanding.

          Khalil Gibran on how defenses can be drawn down and war ceased. From "Peace Contagious"

          "Then the two birds began to twitter and scold, and soon they were fighting and making harsh noise upon the air. All of a sudden two other sparrows came sailing from th sky, and they sat quietly beside the restless two. And there was calm, and there was peace."

          And, multi-faith clergy seeking understanding in humane ways:

          http://www.journeyinfaithfilms.com/cast.cfm

          In the Holy Land, where, as in the U.S.. fundamentalist beliefs communicated as national rights that proclaim God as on their side. Are employed to blast the hell out of other humans in so-called "defense."

          The visionary behind this "staying in relationship" journey, Fr. Michael O'Connell, is a friend of mine.

          He has been instrumental in calling out his Catholic Church for evils. Notably priest pedophilia. His early work -- based on science and religion -- has paved the way for civil prosecution of church hierarchy. Including, recently, the bishop of Kansas City.

          There are more servant leaders like him out there. They put their lives and livelihood at risk in defense of nonviolent solutions. And in doing, are among the true "angels" among us whose work, sometimes by design, doesn't get as much press as the uglier, more evil behaviors of fellow men and women.

          But, as Gibran illuminates, their presence to peace and morality is contagious.

          And, may be, as the sparrows unnoticed or hidden, but close to holy. If we pay attention, respect their methods, name not only evils, but also goods. And perhaps even adapt parts of their modeling, by communicating them, we can be carriers of.

          A quote of Michael's I hope you'll appreciate:

          "the deepest and most perduring teaching of our Church is that we are given a brain for a reason.”

          Andrea
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          Oct 23 2011: As I conclude Andrea's wise words: stupidity is everywhere but there's also light to clear the shadows.
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    Oct 20 2011: Matthieu,

    Neither science or religion is a better equipped teacher of morality. Neither has demonstrated sufficient evidence.

    Both, in their best efforts, betray their best "moral" intents. Both, in roughly equal measure, consistently defend and rationalize irresponsible, incomplete and otherwise immoral information.

    In other words: doctors of science are no less morally corruptible than religious leaders.

    Demagogues on both sides -- particularly those who use the podiums favored by their fellow believers to promote their polarized positions -- are perhaps the biggest problem of all.

    Exhibit A. I'd say, is: Harris himself.

    Anyone who says "Notice we don't (judge) in science," (as Herris does) illuminates their "insiders bias." He sounds an awful lot like religious leaders who say "Notice we don't judge in our belief, only the other guys do."

    I'd counter with this snippet edited to relate to your conversation, that I wrote on the Dalai Lama's method. His Holiiness marries "Scientific + Spiritual Enlightenment"

    "Note to Enlightenment-minded skeptics: the definition of morality isn’t limited to inter-connectedness achieved only via meditation, at religious schools, or wearing Marian mantles. And to those on the path of spiritual enlightenment: neither is it solely about hard-facts research-based dogma."

    Human reflection, cultivated by the engaged application of diverse wisdom that is informed by religion, science and lived and expressed experience is the best informer of morality,

    Self-righteous pontificators, be they anointed in an Ivory Tower or a Holy Temple should never be conferred the last word on what constitutes the most informed source of truth. Exactly because the source they profess points primarily at the institutional environment from which they come and were taught in.

    These experts -- regardless how intellectual or spiritual they sound -- are the ones people who seek lives of integrity should be most skeptical of.

    Andrea
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      Oct 20 2011: Andr,
      Please explain "people who seek to lives of integrity."
      Phil
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        Oct 20 2011: Phil,

        Any person who comes from any philosophical belief who seeks to live their life as an expression of highest integrity.

        The key word here is: seeks.

        Anyone who believes they or their belief, be it religious-based or science-based, is better equipped to teach morality has violated a key indicator of integrity.

        Their self-bias betrays their inability to make a judgement that meets the highest moral standards that represent the essential core of all belief -- from scientific, to religious, to natural.

        Which is the knowledge that one has as much to learn from "the other" and/or from what one doesn't yet know, than they've already learned on their own or with "their own."

        Andrea
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          Oct 21 2011: Andrea, I appreciate your quick response, plus your identification of the key word: seeks. I agree with you.

          Yet, I think your response, probably unintentionally, takes for granted "integrity," which Stephen L. Carter thought was worthy of a book: Integrity (1996). I do not agree with his premise: you must do the work to discover your truth, report that truth to your world, and live by it.In the first place, I do not think "the truth" is a worthy goal for one person (in typically 80 years for goodness sake), because it leads to the trap you cover in your last two sentences.

          Therefore, I modified my quest from "your truth" to "understanding."Then, I added a fourth requirement, which some think is included in Carter’s first, but I think is worthy of a separate item: quick response to necessary change when there are new viewpoints or new ways of measuring.Hence, your key word, “seeks.”

          Seeks never ends, and that, happily is where I am, all because 1) my inherited sect claims my wife (my androgynous half) will burn in hell and 2) I seek understanding in integrity.

          I read today that the Dalai Lama celebrated some people who burned themselves, some to death, for the Tibetan cause. I want to read about what he said. I hope he did not extol their sacrifices.

          BTW, elsewhere in this conversation I complained about Harris's selective citations against religion. Citations my wife and other believers would not subcribe to.

          Phil
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        Oct 21 2011: Phil,

        I haven't read Carter's book.

        But integrity and truth, in my view, aren't finite achievements. They, rather, represent something like a "living" and dynamic dialectic between self, others, environment, world, etc.

        In fact, in that split second we have the audacity to be sure we know the full picture of anything, its seems, the split second later (O.K. sometimes a day or two), this "Eureka!" or "Hallelujah!" moment tends to be followed by a "cosmic correction" that reminds us that there is more to our experiential or observational awakening, or the story. Or even that an equally audacious inverse might be quite true, too.

        I like your term "understanding," but even this can be tricky. Again, just when I think I understand something, I'm flipped upside down by something that either dilutes what I thought I understood into something yet again more nuanced, or, slaps down my ego by flipping my understanding (and me) on my, er, keester.

        I prefer the concept of "staying in relationship" with knowledge. Including of my moral beliefs--and, potential biases.

        This infers, again, that there is not a be all truth or understanding, but in the conscious seeking of the most elegant expressions of this knowledge, one (I) begins to understand it.

        The elegance I'm referring to here is the type scientists refer to. Which is the most complex interpretation, understood and communicated in the simplest way. The religious term for this would be "radical," which in spite of how it is rhetorically misused, if not corrupted, means the most essential or that which comes from the core.

        A dichotomy it would seem, but this, lets call it: "radical elegance" is what both science and religions preach if and when they express their fullest dimensions as seekers--and spreaders of knowledge that to the best extent it can be, is infused with sincere intent and integrity.

        Andrea
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          Oct 21 2011: Andrea, I’m glad you like “understanding.”

          I appreciate your “staying in relationship with knowledge” and think it is similar yet different. Please consider the four elements I wrote over years after rejecting Carter’s ideas.

          Confronted with the vast knowledge humankind has developed over some 2.6 million years, the newborn, with only about 80 years to live, has the duty to self to tend to four items regarding anything of interest to him:
          1. Do the work to reach understanding.
          2. Publically express the understanding.
          3. Act according to the understanding.
          4. Quickly respond to new methods or new viewpoints that effect new understanding.
          With this process, when a person encounters the unknown, he feels comfortable to admit to himself, “I do not know.”

          For example, regarding the question, “Does God control evolution?” he responds, “I do not know.” He might fairly add, “Yet, I don’t think so.”
          To the question, “Is the earth’s sun a god?” he responds, “No. It is a natural nuclear reactor.”
          With understanding, the theist, given the question, “Does God exist and conform to your characterization?” may answer, “I do not know, but my life is enriched by my faith that it is so.” With such understanding that person’s life truly is enriched without threats to differing believers. I am certain of it with my other half.

          I have tried to express “radical elegance” “infused with sincere intent and integrity” as I experience it at home. Am I close to your meaning?
          If not, maybe your examples would help me understand.

          Phil
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        Oct 21 2011: Phil --

        Yes, I think you get close to "radical elegance" in how you seek both the complexity and simplicity of staying in relationship with knowledge.

        In particular to your response to new methods and viewpoints that effect new understandings. For most, this takes a mix of self- and relational reflection. A good example of this relational reflection is, as you note, what you experience in your home, with your wife. Another, though far less intimate and thus less interpersonally risky, is this conversation.

        My interests tend toward a mix of self- and other commitment. So, this infant you use in your example, in my view has a duty to her/himself to tend to your four items regarding anything of interest to him/herself, and also, to his/her best abilities, regarding anything of relational salience.

        So, for example, this means partners tend not only to their own interests, but to see their interests as partially interconnected with their partners interests. And, this, in my view, reverberates beyond partners to neighbors in both the immediate and physical experience to the universal, distanced and metaphysical.

        Again, these are ideals to seek and grow with. And, Carter's finite "I don't know," is a far cry from them. I like something social scientist James Garbarino, PhD continually answered my questions (for an article on cultural impacts on children's development) with: "Yes, expect if...."

        I like your way of articulating this same concept from a somewhat different angle. Which, if I'm getting it correctly, means even when answers aren't absolutely evident, as a reflective person, respectfully sharing a personal and thoughtful view is the most congruent and engaged way to answer.

        Your example of the theist whose answer to the question of predestination is familiar. My Catholic mother gave a similar answer to my Darwin-doubting pre-teen daughter last night, while I was stumbling around defending both God and the Origins of Species.

        Andrea
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          Oct 21 2011: Andrea, I am glad I was able to appreciably relate to your thoughts.

          Just a couple of clarifications:
          In doing the work to understand, the infant who is not deranged cannot miss the importance of his relationships, and thus will do the work necessary and publicly express and practice the relationships. I agree with you fully that our mutual dedication to understanding each other is relational. We are not trying to “convert” one another, but are working to understand and share the seeking.
          The “I don’t know,” response is not Carter’s: it’s mine. Carter knows. He knows there is a God; souls are real; his soul will go to heaven; etc. That’s why he writes about “Your (his) truth.”

          However, I think there is no excuse for fostering misunderstanding. Immediately, I dislike Garbarino’s ideas IF he does not reflect understanding of Kahlil Gibran’s poem, “Children.” If a child asks me, “Mr. Phil, is there a God?” my response might be, “Jake, I don’t know. Your mom and dad worship a God, but some of your neighbors worship different Gods or philosophies and they can’t all be right. They are responding to the uncertainties of life in a way that gives each sect confidence; yet divides them. You came from a good path; if you focus on your goodness and accomplishments, you will stay on the path. Be confident of your own goodness: always follow it.”

          I did not realize I wrote about predestination. Could you cite the sentence/phrase that invoked predestination (so I can understand)?

          You are in an exciting time, bridging the generations.

          I just modified my adaptation of Gibran’s poem, adding “mankind’s”:

          Your students are with you yet they belong not to you.
          You give them your empathy but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.
          You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
          For mankind’s psychological maturity goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

          My children benefited from Gibran.

          I think we are still on topic.

          Phil
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        Oct 21 2011: Phil--

        Predestination has to do with God controlling what happens in the world, which I erroneously misplaced the mention by relating it to your example of a theist. You used it in an early example, but not related to the theist example. Sorry.

        Your example of explaining the question of if there is a God or not is similar to Garbarino's style. I'm a Khalil Gibran fan, but should be clear that Garbarino's focus, unlike Gibran's has little to do with faith or spirituality. He is focused much on how culture undermines the healthy psychological development of children. And, is careful to not foster misunderstanding of individual nuances in the communicating of his generalized findings. Which inspires my respect that he doesn't view his scientific findings as the absolute fact.

        I was simply using his response as an example of one that is responsive and inclusive of relevant nuances.

        I think your answer to children's question of if there is a God is delightfully respectful and empowering. It uplifts their external reality while shining light on their capacities for individual interpretation -- and most valuably, the ability to live lives of moral expression.

        Andrea
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          Oct 21 2011: Andrea,
          I appreciate so much the clarifications. Your regard for Gibran does not surprise me.
          I must read a Garbarino book.

          In case you did not see it on another conversation I participated in, here's an expression of how I feel after our dialogue, with gratitude to the Jive Aces and the song writers and skit writers:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXvJ8UquYoo .

          Listening for the umpteenth time gives me chills and gets me out of my chair to ask Cynthia to dance!

          Phil
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        Oct 21 2011: Phil--

        Many thanks for this wonderful expression of how you feel.

        I'm not sure what I enjoyed more: it, or the thought of you getting out of your chair to dance with your wife!

        Both give hope that positive social contagions can, and do, live on when people dare to engage "constructive" passions.

        Andrea
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      Oct 20 2011: We're both agreed that morality from authority is undesirable. The problem is Harris is not presenting himself as a moral leader, he's showcasing an idea. We're not going to ask scientists to arbiter what is moral and what isn't. I think too many people are looking at the issue as though science and religion were the mirror of one another, that there needs to be a symmetry in the way they run things or how we understand something relative to them. When I suggest science inform morality I don't mean: Let science do what religion does, but with science. I also don't mean: Let science actively take an interest in morality and let science research morality.
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        Oct 21 2011: Mathieu --

        Harris's premise isn't bad. Hie presentation of his argument, in my view, is.

        It is, to use your words, asymmetric. And, the inflammatory examples he uses, without balanced qualification, amounts to moralizing. Exactly as a priest, imam or pastor might to make a converse argument.

        I have tremendous respect for science. But not when it is promoted by narrow views that put the field on a higher pedestal than others.

        I have dear friends whose science is broadly published. I have other dear friends who are faith leaders from various philosophies.

        I've known some who appear quite gentle and wise, but in fact are just better practitioners of manipulation.

        My "experiential" evidence that they sincerely seek to practice integrity is proven when they are willing to question their absolute truths and admit they don't have the whole picture. Better yet, when they admit they've learned from their own less-flattering mistakes. They change others through modeling their morals as much as asserting them.

        I don't see Harris doing so in this presentation.

        Andrea
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          Oct 21 2011: So disregarding Sam Harris (he is the not the only one to defend such an idea). Can a better case not be made for the idea expressed in this conversation? Can one be better without necessarily being all-encompassing or exclusive?
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        Oct 21 2011: Matthieu.

        Yes.

        A better solution would be an inter-discipline method that engages as equal both religious and scientific knowledge. Not through acceptance only, but through actual collaboration. On the lines of your "third way" idea.

        The big challenge is: can institutions on both sides transcend the social silos and revenue spreadsheets that separate them?

        I get at some of the themes in the essay I adapted a quote for your conversation from, which has a talk by the Dalai Lama embedded in it. His Holiness speaks of the relationship between "knowledge" and "morals." If you look at the video, he begins his talk at about the 9 minute point.

        Here is the essay: http://dynamicshift.org/archives/civilized-compassion-not-detached-attached

        Andrea
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    Oct 20 2011: During my sixth decade, I discovered the point expressed below and almost immediately dropped out of religion. I prefer the quest for morality and regret that I was reared to believe in souls. My regret does not extend to people who believe in souls, worship, and praise, because only a decade ago I was there. Nor is it a claim that I am expressing the truth or a better path. Each of us has a unique path. Yet, perhaps a child’s path should not be burdened by indoctrination into religion.

    I wax a little theistic to say a newborn human, unlike the other animals, may be a god facing death. Lower case “god” in that he/she has the ability to perceive/imagine anything--even a way to overcome death, but also lower case because death is certain.

    Overcoming death seems to require spirituality—another realm/world, and what belongs in the other world is perhaps the soul. In the other world, God controls--capital “G” because it subjects to neither birth nor death and because it judges souls. The god’s duty is worship and praise to God. Worship and praise may be carried out through prayer, song, meditation, sermons, and ceremony--practices. Some gods dedicate every waking moment to the achievement of a favorable afterlife.

    Morality is not its objective and therefore cannot be informed by the spiritual quest.
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    Oct 17 2011: Matthieu, I like your final question: "Is there a third institution better equipped perhaps?"

    I think, "Yes."

    And perhaps the third institution is understanding.



    Phil
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      Oct 16 2011: I would argue that a truly moral person does not need policemen, teachers, cameras or God to watch over them. It's good that we've moved passed the idea that a non-believer can't be moral without God. I'm happy to see that religion no longer ignores that fact. But let's go ahead and take a step further in admitting that some people don't need a guardian to be moral. That is real morality!
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      Oct 16 2011: Adriaan,
      I agree with you that "It is recognized that non-Christians live lives that are just as moral as the lives of Christians—many of them, in fact, live more moral lives".

      Based on that statement, it surprises me that you would state..."A moral life that is lived to satisfy the Divine is a spiritual life. The two look alike in outward form, but inwardly they are totally different. One saves us, the other does not. This is because if we live a moral life to satisfy the Divine we are being led by the Divine; while if we live a moral life to satisfy people in this world, we are being led by ourselves".

      Doesn't it say somewhere in the bible that we are made in the image and likeness of god...the divine? Yes, it does. Doesn't it say that we are all one? Yes it does. With this in mind, your statement contradicts the information from the bible.

      Maybe YOU "behave differently" if you "know there is a camera", but I and many others do not. Many of us take responsibility for our actions and behave in a certain way because that is our choice...not because someone is watching over us.
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          Oct 17 2011: With or without the Bible there are bad people doing bad things. Your argument would be convincing if evil was almost inexistent or at least not ever carried out by Christians/Religious people. That couldn't be further from the truth. Have we already forgotten all the child rape that goes on within the supposed houses of god?
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          Oct 17 2011: Adriaan,
          Please don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say anything about anyone being "perfect". Yes, I do watch the news, I am very mindful of what is happening in our world, and I consider myself a well informed person. Let's stay on track with the discussion.

          In his introduction, Mattieu writes..." it can be argued that science has fed many moral values by revealing natural truths about ourselves and other animals such that we can no longer see the world in a way that make certain immoral behaviors justifiable".

          This is an excellent point, and one way we can connect the relevance of science and religion/spirituality. There are people who use religion/spirituality/holy books as valuable life guides. There are also people in our world who use the information from those sources as an excuse to abuse and violate the rights of others, as well as selectively excluding many people from the doors of heaven if s/he does not follow the dogma of a certain religion. These extreme beliefs, demands and threats cause seperation of people, rather than supporting people coming together for a common cause.

          You write Adriaan... "This may be illustrated by an example. If we do not do harm to our neighbor be cause that is against our religion and therefore against the Divine, our refraining from evil stems from a spiritual source. But if we refrain from doing harm to others simply because we are afraid of the law or of losing our reputation or respect or profit — for the sake of self and the world, that is — then this stems from a natural source and we are being led by ourselves."

          WHATEVER causes us to refrain from doing harm to another person Adriaan, is a good thing. You seem to focus on the idea of someone watching over you as a better way to live. I believe that to make well informed, kind, considerate choices is a better way to live.
          To behave a certain way because someone is watching feels hypocritical.
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          Oct 17 2011: Matthieu and Adriaan,
          The catholic church is selling most of the property they own in this area, to pay off their legal committments and financial compensation to those who were sexually assaulted by representatives of god, in the house of god. As there have been many trials in this area in the past few years, I am constantly reminded daily about the unfortunate, innocent children who were raped within the "house of god". Apparently, it didn't matter to the offender if god was watching or not, and we have people whose lives were drastically changed because of the decisions priests made as to how they used/misused their position. The bishop in this area, still maintains that it is not the church's fault. This is how religion contributes to our morality?
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          Oct 18 2011: Hi Adriaan.

          Just a quick note on this passage, "Ever watch the news and see what people do?? They are all images and likenesses of God?"

          Yes I watch the news and see what people do. Then again, I've also read the Old Testament with a God who has no problem killing people for disobeying him, who is okay with spreading pestilence and famine and murdering the firstborn children of Egypt to get his own way. A God who destroyed every living thing on earth except for one boatload because he didn't like what they were doing.

          Yes Adriaan, those people on the evening news are as much in the image of that God as the ones doing "good works".

          I'm not questioning your beliefs, only the morality of the Godly actions in question. The excesses in the Bible make man's most horrible crimes look amateurish by comparison.
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          Oct 18 2011: Adriaan,
          You ask..."Do you think it was the church's fault because they had not installed enough cameras? or should have organized these horrendous events differently"?

          WHAT? "Organized these horrendous events differently". What are you talking about?

          No, it was not the church's fault because "they had not installed enough cameras". It was the church's fault for choosing to ignore this issue for many years, even though they knew it was happening to thousands of children.

          You write..."The church officials should have thrown out those crooks, but I seem to remember they did not and I do not know why".

          I DO know why Adriaan, because it was brought out at all the trials, and it has been in the news constantly. The church officials were covering up for the offenders.

          You see Adriaan, cameras, and cover-ups are not the bases of good morality. People need to be accountable and responsible for the choices s/he makes without being prodded by someone watching over him/her.
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          Oct 23 2011: Adriaan,
          I realize your post above is addressed to Winston, and I got the notification, so I will respond on just one little point.

          You write..."God is a Love itself and could not even frown at us and He does not mind if you think Him angry and bad. Because that means you recognize evil for what it is, He loves you anyways".

          Your god does not "even frown at us", and yet in your posts, you promote the idea that if we do not accept your god and the dogma that goes with your religion, he will send us to hell. There is a contradiction there. A god who is "Love itself" would not send masses of people to suffer in hell for eternity. A loving god, if he/she/it exists, would love us unconditionally, which is what some people who practice religion in a benificial way believe. Those who try to force a religion on people with threats and fear, are not using their beliefs in a beneficial way for the whole of humankind.

          Good morality is based on love, not fear. Whether the guidence and information is coming from science or spirituality/religion, the important factor, is how people choose to use the information.
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          Oct 23 2011: Adriaan,
          The words were copied directly from your previous post, and at this time, are still there.

          Adriaan, this comment thread is not about prison, or what the judge would say. Yes, you are off topic again.

          Adriaan, I am very clear about my beliefs, and have been consistant in expressing them.
          I'd prefer to teach kids how to behave with respect, and loving kindness based on love and a desire to extend love to others, as an extension of his/her "self". I believe kids ARE born good and loving, and I like to encourage growth of that love because it is pleasurable, rather than forcing "a kid to not do bad things" that "develops into obedience".

          Let us not forget what the topic is.
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          Oct 24 2011: Adriaan,
          The words I quoted are from your previous post, on this page, six days ago, last paragraph.

          I am NOT against religion at all Adriaan, and quite a few of my comments support religion.
          I have also, several times, told you that I respect the fact that you have certain beliefs. Disagreeing with some of your beliefs is not an "attack".
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          Oct 24 2011: You are absolutely right Adriaan. The statement you wrote, which I copied, is still in your comment...this page... 6 days ago...last paragraph.
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          Oct 26 2011: Yes Adriaan...that's the one. I don't think you are missing a thing:>)
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          Oct 26 2011: If a child is encouraged to challenge parental authority by evil doers, parents don't curse them and their descendants for hundreds of generations. Good parents go "it's ok, just don't listen to that snake again". What a miserable parent the Old Testament God is.
          Eternal life taken away for being naively trapped by the devil...
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    Oct 16 2011: Can't conclude whether science is better informed or not but defintely science continuously shaping up our concept of morality that what I feel.

    During Hippocrates time , disease was considered as form of punishment from God , so treating that was a SIN , immoral , but study of scinece shaped up our sense & measure of morality.

    Till today , stem cell research, bio-technological advancement raising lot of moral questions , I am sure science again will shape up these.....

    Interesting thing is that with many scientific developments religion at the begining and also after having the benefit of the same for quite sometime contninue to denounce science, after sometime they start claiming, "well you see it was written in our scripture many years back , you just found it only now !!!"

    Some other start claiming thier book is the mother of all science and strats explaining some the vague lines of book in the light of new scientific knowledge ........!!! Though may be earlier they just disproved the whole scientific concept in the name of God & that same holy book !!!
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    Oct 12 2011: More evidence that we don't actually require religion for developing ethical behaviour:
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-10/uow-bss100311.php

    "A new study presents the first evidence that a basic sense of fairness and altruism appears in infancy. Babies as young as 15 months perceived the difference between equal and unequal distribution of food, and their awareness of equal rations was linked to their willingness to share a toy."

    I'm pretty sure that we evolved religion out of a fear that OTHER people wouldn't behave if they weren't somehow threatened.
  • Oct 11 2011: I would like science and religion to first admit that they have failed miserably at providing a moral context for humanity.
    Perhaps then, they might look at the task anew to see what it is they should do based on what they did, or didn't do.
    Is it immoral to kill another human? Apparently not. That is a conclusion I arrived at and it was most definitely influenced by both science and religion. Oh, both sides want you, or me to be guided by this code, but they can break it with impunity it seems. And they have. I mean, sometimes people are brought to trial, punishment and so on, but that does not mean they didn't get away with it. They did.
    C.S. Lewis said we all know when we are treated indecently. Most then, know when they are treated decently and they know when they treat others decently or indecently. I don't think this requires science or religion. Just a word and a concept. And willingness.
    The result is then scientific. No need to make a religion out of it.
    An animal trusts its mother. Or learns to. Humans do the same. But we destroy trust for some reason. I believe that is because of religion. I really believe science should become the new religion and religion should become scientific. The first is grounded in doubt, peer review, testing and proof. The second needs to apply method and not opinion to its claims if it is ever able to gain some validation for claims science cannot prove or disprove either.

    I don't think either should be considered as viable voices for such an endeavor until, as I said, both admit their record sucks. I think a new morality should be founded upon and in Human Rights first. There are those who will claim you don't have rights to food or shelter just because you are born. Soon enough, with our finite resources, these same clowns might cry you have no birth right to air! Hell, America already believes this. Americans do too but don't know it, yet.
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      Oct 11 2011: It's not science's job to provide a moral context for humanity, that's not the question. Why ask science to excuse itself for something it never claimed to be an authority on? Which people stand for science? Here it sounds like you're defining science as everything that is not religion.

      "I really believe science should become the new religion and religion should become scientific." That makes no sense. By definition, science cannot be a religion and vice-versa. This is a horrible supposition which I can't even begin to make sense of. I'm not sure any of what you've said truly makes sense.
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    Oct 8 2011: I'd say philosophy is the "institution" you're looking for.

    Science makes me think of Demikhov's two-headed dogs and DARPA flying microchipped insects around the room.
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    Oct 7 2011: "Morality is simply the attitude we take towards people we don't like," that seems to be truest sense of discourse regarding whether something is right or wrong, it is too irrevocably intertwined with our feelings to truly be objective, leading to uncompromising views. Religions are short sighted, at least most are, something I read raised a lot of questions about people who call themselves relgious, simply stated, if they care so much about Creationism, then why aren't they at least curious to hear what Evolution has to say, or physics for that matter, why don't they care what the universe is made out of? Science makes a better case, but one that also has to be taken with a grain of NaCl, lest we become subject to the prevailing theories of the day, only to be overturned by new ones in the next decade.
    The best litmus test is Kantian, use reason AND experience and you can't go wrong...or right...it depends.
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    Oct 6 2011: Well to play devils advocate a bit I don't see how one can derive morality from science. While it is a wonderful thought process for learning about the world, is there any scientific agreement that suffering is wrong, or life is good. That said I don't place much stock in much religion for morality.
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      Oct 6 2011: Not directly no, that is why we can consider it as a informant rather than a source or an authority on the matter. Take for example the idea that animals are nothing but automatons and can't feel suffering. This was quite a popular idea in pre-Darwinian times. However, evolution and our understanding of neuroscience faces us with the truth of the situation such that it is impossible to hold the previously mentioned views without being inconsistent. Animals do feel suffering and our morality with regards to animals continues to evolve because of this.
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        Oct 6 2011: Well I agree that the scientific method should inform our actions as it give a clearer light on reality. That said while we can deduce that animals feel pain there is no bit of science can can say we should not torture them. In many ways I really do not know where it comes from.

        In many ways though I think the concept of morality itself is itself the problem. Too many emotions get involved and we end up with social programming that irrational, or outdated. It may be a bit semantic but we should strive not so much to be moral but ethical. Ethics are rules that exist to ensure the overall well being, and to reduce problems. They are easily changed. Enter any profession and you will receive a code of ethics, no one will ask you to be moral. As we gain new knowledge the code can be updated. I feel this is what you are getting at when you want to have a science based moral system, which I do support.
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        Oct 8 2011: What about post-Darwin epiphenomenalism? We're all automatons.
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    Oct 5 2011: Wow. Morality an interest of mine ever since trhat first smack! I'd like to associate it directly with pain and thats not a bad start if we include the emotional pain as well. That smack was awfully wrong! I know something of the subject as I teach young ones who are seemingly devoid of such sense. I like the mirror neurons, the connection the feeling what others do and the learning from such. I like put yourself in their shoes. I'm scared of neurobioligical determinism and the implications for social responsibility but should i be? With the dire consequences that come with no free will. I want to be responsible, i think i could be good at it!. And yet when i look inot the minds of the ones I teach i sense them locked into the firing and misfiring of brains that are usually damaged in some form. My job to help them find the key Hmmm I'm not happy with this comment. Tell me why?.
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      Oct 17 2011: Phillip, it seems to me you have some responsibility for helping people who have been subjected to enough of the world's indoctrination to be in conflict with their preferences (people who are not newborn babies). Among their preferences is the will to avoid pain either to someone else or upon themselves--to be moral. But they are trapped in self-contradiction. Your job is to help them identify their preferences and accept them instead of accpeting the imposition of this world's indoctrinations.
      How far from your thoughts am I?
      Phil
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      Oct 17 2011: Hi Phillip,
      You're not happy with your comment, and you ask why? I cannot tell you what you think and feel, but I can share some of my concerns, which may be similar yours?

      I agree that there are dire consequences that come with no free will, and I also agree that when we look into the eyes and minds of the ones we teach, we may sense them locked into programming that is damaging to themselves and others....usually caused by destructive, abusive behaviors they were subjected to as children.

      Perhaps you're not content with your comment because the task seems overwhelming? I sometimes feel that I just cannot do enough. While volunteering with several social services agencies and dept. of corrections for many years, I saw the same families over and over again, falling through the cracks in systems that were formed to help them. They are becoming more and more dependant on the systems which fail to teach them how to have genuine free will in themselves, or how to be empowered to make good life choices. We don't seem to be breaking the cycles that produce immoral and destructive behaviors.

      We have conversations over and over again, and I get frustrated with the processes because it sometimes feels overwhelming, and perhaps you feel this as well?
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    Oct 5 2011: Dogs manage to have morality without religion.

    I would hope humans could at least do that.

    *cough*mirror neurons*cough*
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      Oct 5 2011: That's not morality Gisela, that's their insticts and nature.
      Man is flawed, but that doesn't mean animals are better than man
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        Oct 5 2011: Do a search on the phrase "dog morality". You'll be surprised.

        Also, who said anything about "better than"? Why are people incapable of positing things without a hierarchy?
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          Oct 5 2011: "Dogs manage to have morality without religion.

          [u]I would hope humans could at least do that[/u]

          *cough*mirror neurons*cough*"

          Apparently I misunderstood, If by writing above you didn't mean that Dog's are "better than" humans.

          Let me google "hierarchy".

          Touché !!
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        Oct 5 2011: No, I meant it on a purely functional level, given the relative capacities of our brains and dogs' brains. And it's not like we don't have insight into the physical aspects that enables it (mirror neurons).

        "Better than" when applied to morality wouldn't have any objective meaning.
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      Oct 5 2011: yes, in fact, we can assume that moral is at least ten times, but probably hundred/thousand/etc times as old as religion.

      also, moral is similar in different cultures, while religion can grossly differ.
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      Oct 5 2011: It is undeniable that the stronger moral certainties that we have as humans (such as an aversion to murder) come from evolved behavior that we share with many species. I often point to other great Apes for examples of altruism when religious people advance that morality is an essentially human behavior. We know they have no Bible or Koran.
  • Oct 4 2011: If we define morality to mean a set of social rules and behaviours for the benefits of its members - which can be thought of as humanity - then it is certainly possible for us to use both the scientific method and knowledge derived from the scientific method to help inform us on what exactly is beneficial.

    We can then use this information to help devise effective social rules and behaviours and by extension laws - that best conforms to the idea of overall benefit in society.

    Religion - been that they are largely derived from arbitrary and commonly outmoded ideas, with hefty doses of mythology to round out the arbitrary moral systems that they espouse - can help to inform us on the history of morality, help us to understand who we are and where we've come from.

    But ultimately, we cannot cede decisions on how to codify rules on social behaviour for the benefit of all of us - to the arbitrary and historical decisions of those that came before us. We require reason, logic, data - in order that we may derive the best degree of benefit.

    There is little doubt that in using a scientific methodology towards determining morality, we will cover old ground. Our intuition has allowed us to thrive thus far - but there is also little doubt that we will turn on head many of the assumptions that we take for granted with regards to our welfare and well being.
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    Oct 4 2011: Science informs our intellect and prepares us to guide our actions based on truths that we may chose to ignore. Morality is a code of conduct that guides our actions and removes our individual right to choose.
    Science gives us information but does not tell us how to act, it is societal codes of conduct based on some larger moral code that governs action.
    Science may inform us that animals feel pain and suffer as we do, but it is our morality that ultimately decides how we treat the animal in the end. Does the new information from science influence the individual?, sure, but it hardly informs our morality.
    We are in an enlightened age where science has expanded our view of our magnificent environment exponentially, yet we live in a world where unspeakable acts of violence and hate seems perpetual.
    We are not lacking science I fear, we are lacking character, morality.
    Western societies owe their code of moral conduct to religion, no question, and as religion becomes less relevant in society these moral codes are questioned and may in the end become obsolete.
    It will not be science that will replace these codes of conduct or even be informative on it.
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        Oct 5 2011: Hello Griffin,
        I, like you believe that science may influence moral thought and alter behavioral norms within a culture. After all, codes of conduct (morality) are general rules that a society are accepting of and are prepared to have govern it.

        When any society moves away from their religiously influenced morality, that society will begin to embrace or establish other codes of conduct to influence their behavior, some of those influence may well be informed by science.
        The morality (code of conduct) a society embraces determines the type of society that exists.
        My feeling is that when we abandon a set of rules that have been religiously informed and nurtured in time we will inevitable have to create other rules, in Law most likely, with some kind of arbitrary punishment to force adherence to the new morality.

        The farther away from religious governance the closer toward some arbitrary system of morality regardless of how that system is informed. Whether the influence is science, Hollywood or some other religious code. I suspect the later will be the case.

        I believe that science has an important roll to play in our human evolution, but thousands of years of history and trial and error must also be a great source of information to our shared morality.
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    Oct 4 2011: Morality as a subject is hard to quantify, objectify or measure. It is difficult to demonstrate the existence of moral concepts through experimentation. It is this reason that I don't think the scientific method is ideal for constructing a belief system about morality.

    However, science and technology create moral dilemmas that are would not be seen with out it. Only in the modern age to kids witness thousands upon thousands of murders in the media and video games. Only in our times do we have to deal with things like global climate change. People may debate the ethics of vegetarianism, but only in the modern times can you eat meat and never actually see livestock.

    This will only continue. If we make conscious robots, would it be unethical to enslave them? If manufactured organ replacements make retirees live another 50 years, what will that mean for how we care for them, and for the young people that support them? One could go on and on about ethical questions created by technologies that allow us to do what we never could before.

    Science is bad and answering these questions, but technology is good at forcing us to consider them. Ironically, it may be hard to experimentally prove the existence of virtue, but technological society seems to be a moral experiment in itself.
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    Oct 3 2011: I think you state it right Matthieu.

    Science cannot say what is right or wrong (that is something humans need to decide and debate upon), but it can give us clues about our moral behavior, and once we do decide (what is right or wrong), science can surely inform about the details.

    Furthermore, science can help us out to find techniques that make (good) moral behaviour more likely.

    Though this branch of science is still young,... much research and tests to be done...
  • Oct 3 2011: Morality, to me, stems from seemingly self-evident great truths and we then pick and choose which institution justifies our responses. Often we will still have a moral code of conduct regardless of if there is institutional justification.

    Scfy first-contact story with game-theory elements and moral dilemmas.
    http://lesswrong.com/lw/y4/three_worlds_collide_08/

    "...everyone was calling the aliens Babyeaters.

    The children were sentient at the age they were consumed. The text portions of the corpus were very clear about that. It was part of the great, the noble, the most holy sacrifice. And the children were loved: this was part of the central truth of life, that parents could overcome their love and engage in the terrible winnowing. A parent might spawn a hundred children, and only one in a hundred could survive - for otherwise they would die later, of starvation...

    When the Babyeaters had come into their power as a technological species, they could have chosen to modify themselves - to prevent all births but one.

    But this they did not choose to do.

    For that terrible winnowing was the central truth of life, after all."
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      Oct 3 2011: I agree that some of our morality is objectively true to start with. There is much more for moral relativism though. I will read your link soon. Moral dilemmas are interesting in the sense that they reveal that questions of morality are not always simple and for two scenarios with equal outcomes there may be a different response based on context.
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        Oct 3 2011: "Moral dilemmas are interesting in the sense that they reveal that questions of morality are not always simple and for two scenarios with equal outcomes there may be a different response based on context."
        Lots of words spelling moral relativism. Do not agree, having lived long enough (take "living" not necessarily in terms of years but as all that one can do in those years)
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    Nov 1 2011: In this conversation, my comments on religion come from what I know: my quest to understand the Christian Bible and perhaps three Christianities. The other religion I have spent considerable time with is Hinduism. I know just enough to recognize I know nothing about it. Yet, I am not unwilling (tee hee) to share my ignorance, perchance I could learn from a generous TEDster.

    It seems the Hindu mind is confused and conflicted by the ancient practice of purposefully mixing the physical with the spiritual: mixing reality with intellectual constructs which are diverse.

    As an example, I cite a book that provides insight into how Eastern belief may mislead believers: Chopra, Krishan. Your Life Is in Your Hands. 1999. Element Books. Boston, MA 02114.
    The writer, an MD, discusses oxygen, a physical substance, and the breath of life in parallel discussions that confound at least a non-Hindu reader with the word “prana.”
    On Page 176: “When we breathe in through the nose, the air passes by small bones in the nose called turbinates, which swirl it into a refined stream most suitable for oxygen exchange[, and] prana is said to travel into the brain along the olfactory nerve. When we breathe through the mouth this does not happen. Instead, . . . the unprepared air moves directly into the lungs. It [prana] travels in and out of the body without going to the brain directly.” Note that statements about oxygen intake are unclearly interspersed with spiritualisms.
    Then, on Page 178, the reader has a chance at clarification: “According to ancient scriptures, prana not only signifies human breath, but also the breath of the universe, the life force. It is the tendency of the unmanifest to vibrate and take form; it is the energy behind both mind and matter.” But, readers have to go back to Page 176 to apply this information.
    Awareness of this confusion helps me take phantasms reported by Yogis with a fractional grain of salt.

    Phil
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    Nov 1 2011: A lifetime focused on scripture, for example, the Christian Bible, may end in confidence and satisfaction, yet enslaved in ignorance. For example, excessive study of the Bible can instill belief that humankind was created, as is, 4000 years ago.

    Yet one conversation with another Christian can invoke arrogance, controversy, conflict, and even hatred. For example a Christian who has never heard of transubstantiation might ridicule the one who practices it; a Christian baptized by emersion might castigate one who was christened; a Unitarian may tolerate a Trinitarian.

    Sectarianism creates hatred among Christians over what no one knows and is thus socially damaging and immoral. Religion is worse, as it inspires world wars.

    On the other hand, every moment spent studying nature or reality builds understanding, delight, and social harmony. The moral superiority of science over religion is astonishing.
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      Nov 1 2011: Phillip,
      You leave out the good things of religion.
      You don't have questions, there's no need to study a thing.
      If you play by the rule there's always help at hand and you're always right.
      The future is bliss and even more if today is hardship.
      You never have to choose because decisions are made for you.
      So life is made easy going, why don't you buy it?
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        Nov 1 2011: Hello, Frans,

        I appreciate the question.

        Of course I'm still trying to discover myself--dig out of five decades' self-indoctrination into religion, but it it seems I prefer "understanding, delight, and harmony," and humility to "confidence and satisfaction."

        I am interested in your thoughts: what would you add?

        Phil
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          Nov 2 2011: Thanks for the appreciation.

          As being human there's an inner urge to expand consciousness.
          Once you saw something you can't make it unseen again.
          There's no choice left than to awake as the soul loves to know itself.

          Understanding gives delight and brings harmony which reveals the beauty of life and inspires love.

          For heaven we don't have to die. Look around, heaven and hell are on earth both and we can choose for one or the other every day.
          We are self responsible for all good and bad and need to take that responsibility and align with the one and only being that’s now and only now.

          Phillip, I can understand that it is difficult to navigate your own course after so many years. You're not the only one in history and often they became the best navigators.
          To discriminate all thoughts and see clearly takes a lot of unlearning to make up your own mind.
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        Nov 1 2011: Frans........Bravooooo¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡
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          Nov 2 2011: Jaime, forgive me for replying here: I want to respond to Frans 30 minutes before the end.

          Frans, thank you for the additional thoughts. At age 68 I do not feel there is enough time to fill the gaps, but am very happy to close a few each day. TEDsters accelerate my progress.

          Phil
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          Nov 2 2011: Phil,

          The difference between a preacher and a pastor?

          Humility.

          Andrea
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        Nov 2 2011: Frans---

        I am with you.

        Questioning religion exclusively without questioning secularism with equal fervor becomes religious, in translation. A religious-type zeal to conquer religion, so to speak. That employs circular logic.

        And only clouds the more elegant, if complex, answer that sees any human attempt to isolate fundamental morals as incapable of encapsulating the dynamic and many-faceted prism that contains moral truth.

        Andrea
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          Nov 2 2011: Andrea, I appreciate the comment. I often ask myself, "Am I just a preacher for another brand of religion?" Also, during the Q&A after a speech at LSU, the professor asked me, "Might someone say you are a preacher?" I don't think so.

          I prefer to think I have heard Bertrand Russell in this 90 second statement: http://deskarati.com/2011/08/04/bertrands-wise-words/ .

          I think Frans is a subtle contributor, and it seems to me he approves of my thinking, at least for me. I like his post very much.

          It reminds me of my wife's response to my work, essentially, "Your passion is to absorb thought, consider it, and decide your opinion. I am glad you are passionate about it. But in the end, you don't KNOW any more than me."

          She's correct. :-)

          Phil
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    Nov 1 2011: Most religions, one way or another, indoctrinate, coerce, or force women to accept subservience to men. An institution that is itself immoral cannot inform morality.

    Research leads in women’s liberation from oppressions imposed by religion and thereby helps inform morality.

    Phil
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    Oct 31 2011: To Jay Goltz, regarding, "Concerning what you said about the U.S. meant to be secular - What did the Declaration of Independence mean when it" cited "Nature's God?"

    Jay, secularism is in the US Constitution, complete with its goals; stated in the Pramble. For the first time in American history, the leaders--not the 1776 leaders of Independence, but the 1787 Founders of the nation, made a break from religion. Instead of continuing to say that governance was from a God, they wrote, "We the People . . . in order to [fulfill seven secular goals] do [form and establish republican, federal governance]."

    First nine, then gradually thirteen states ratified the claims. But most Americans neither know nor honor the facts, perhaps because they do not want to be responsible and accountable for governance.

    Following Christian tradition, the majority wants God to be responsible and accountable.Consider the refrain: come into my heart; cleans me; save me. No where do you hear ideas like "Thank you, Lord, for your ideas; they cleansed me; I perform virtuously and continually review my behavior to make certain I have not deviated."

    Churches could not suvive it if believers declined supplication to take up moral excellence.

    Jay, sorry I missed this for a couple days. Please alert me if I have missed more.

    Phil
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    Oct 30 2011: To Andrea, regarding, "I couldn't agree with you more regards the Preamble. It is, in my view, the purest interpretation of our Founders' intent."

    May I modify that to "1787 Founder's intent" to note that the signers of the Constitution were addressing how American people would govern their nation, whereas the 1776 Leaders were declaring war against Great Britian if not independence by negotiation?

    About each week, I start a new dialogue about We the People and the seven goals in the Preamble, last week meeting for the first time with a Muslim friend from before my retirement ten years ago. I find it difficul to draw interest. Most Americans seem to prefer the religious Declaration trumping the secular Constitution. Understandably, non-Americans can't relate to the universal appeal of the Preamble, perhaps justifiably because "unity" would need modification and the American rejection of We the People does not go unnoticed.

    Regardless, We the People does not respond to Matthieu's question.

    Unless you have more to say in this conversation or responses to my comments, I thank you for everything I leaned and look forward to new TED conversations of interest to both of us.

    Phil
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    Oct 30 2011: Matthieu, I’d like to start a new sub-thread—discussion of the evolution of science compared to the evolution of religion.

    For example, religion, despite the horizon’s curvature, proclaimed a layered construction of the universe. Flat or not, religion’s earth had ends that many navigators feared. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth#Early_Christian_Church . "[S]ince the eighth century, no cosmographer worthy of note has called into question the sphericity of the Earth."[110] However, the work of these intellectuals may not have had significant influence on public opinion.” “Portuguese exploration of Africa and Asia, Columbus's voyage to the Americas (1492) and finally Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the Earth (1519–21) provided the final, practical proofs for the global shape of the Earth.” Religion immorally retards understanding.

    Second, consider nuclear energy. See http://world-nuclear.org/info/inf54.html .
    • “The science of atomic radiation, atomic change and nuclear fission was developed from 1895 to 1945, much of it in the last six of those years.
    • Over 1939-45, most development was focused on the atomic bomb.
    • From 1945 attention was given to harnessing this energy in a controlled fashion for naval propulsion and for making electricity.
    • Since 1956 the prime focus has been on the technological evolution of reliable nuclear power plants.
    • Uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist.
    Religion immorally retards mankind’s progress in harnessing and utilizing nature.

    Lastly, there’s DNA, with history beginning in 1866: http://www.dnai.org/timeline/ . Science progresses with surprising speed.
    In general, religion’s commitment to doctrine keeps it stagnated in the distant past. Meanwhile, science incidentally exposes religion’s fallacies. The current generation, including believers, needs to put religion in its proper place—in the private contemplations of believers, and out of the arena of governance.

    Phil
  • Oct 30 2011: The philosopher of science Michael Ruse wrote:

    "The position of the modern evolutionist … is that humans have an awareness of morality … because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. …Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. … Nevertheless, … such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, … and any deeper meaning is illusory." Was he mistaken when he wrote this?
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      Oct 30 2011: Sounds good to me. You really ought to read the context in which this paragraph takes root in, I think you'll find it might be at odds with the brand of morality you're trying to defend.
  • Oct 29 2011: Matthieu Miossec: Matthieu you may want to study the history of slavery from someone taking into account more than just how it was in the U.S. with african americans. You may be surprised to find that so called "slavery" is not all inclusively immoral - rather immoral slavery is immoral. This is why a historiographical approach to such issues is important to gather in the multiple sides, theories, and writer's presuppositions etc... For instance, there were those persons that indebted themselves and servitude was how they paid the debt. Some times servitude was mutually agreed upon in order for the servant to have shelter, food, etc.. and they were even allowed to raise families at their masters house. There are also many written testimonies of how the "slaves" loved their master like family and visa versa. And when I say master, its not some hard brute with a whip cracking the backs of his servants. In this case, the master would be harsh, abusive, and hateful. These have never been acceptable moral qualities; even in the past. Therefore we have never justified abuse and harsh treatment of fellow man so how can you say that we have evolved? The only way to justify slavery, as they did, is if you are the majority power and abuse that power at other peoples expense for your gain; which of course is immoral and the result of subjective thinking.
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      Oct 29 2011: You assume I focus all my attention on America. A fair assumptions if we both lived in America and were both educated in the US. That's not the case. So essentially you're telling me that the morals of an epoch full of slavery compared to our times have not changed at all? That somehow incorporating another form of mild ancient Romano/Greek slavery (that of debt repayment, although rest assured there were other kinds of more typical slavery too) excuses the ownership of other men encouraged by racial difference? (As if necessary wars excused the worse of wars, sounds like a distorted association fallacy to me). I really don't see much strength in that argument, looks more like a shifting of focus.

      As a side note, a master does not need to be violent toward his slave for the whole relationship to be abjectly immoral, the slave merely needs to be used against his will, something that is infinitely easier to live with if you think the person you're enslaving is actually an inferior being. Cruelty may have always been an immoral behavior, but slavery went unquestioned for many years with most people (not a powerful majority dictating the world's views) having no qualms about it. There was certainly no bias on the part of Christians to be more moral about then the rest, clearly delineating the limits of objective God-given morality. I don't blame them for it, but it is a pertinent observation, especially for those who argue that morality doesn't show improvement over the ages.
      • Oct 29 2011: I have to agree with you that ownership against someones will is immoral slavery and should not be practiced (it is similar to kidnapping). But not all of slavery existed in this way. For example lets say that you and your best friend went out to eat at a restaurant far away from town. You both sit down and order a delicious meal and eat it with much joy. After eating, the waiter brings you the bill which you expected. Only this time, both of you forgot your wallet and tell the waiter that you are unable to pay for your meal. The waiter says, “No problem! We have a load of dishes in the back that need washing. If you wash all of these dishes, we will call it even for the meal. What do you think?” Would you think that this is a fair deal? This is similar to if someone loaned you money and you could not repay them, what should you do? The moral thing to do is to either pay them back or give them something of value (could be goods or manual labor) in order to square the deal. Otherwise, you take and reap the benefits of what was given to you and the other person suffers. Would that be fair?
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          Oct 30 2011: Yes I got that the first time, that doesn't excuses other, more obvious forms of slavery which you seem to dodge altogether.
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          Nov 2 2011: Jay, "immoral slavery" is redunduncy. The examples you give are bartering or indenturing--not voluntary enslavement.

          Here's James Madison in 1785: The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.

          Because they refuse to be We the People as defined in the Preamble to the US Constitution, the majority of American citizens are slaves, as described by Madison.

          Phil
      • Oct 29 2011: Oh and I apologize for an implicit assumption that you may live in the U.S. or only read U.S. history on slavery. I said that because many people relate slavery to the type that happened in the south of the U.S. (Which is forced labor etc...) I enjoy our conversation though! Keeps us thinkin' :)
      • Nov 2 2011: @Matthieu: Well the type of slavery that is in the Bible - what I believe to be the word of God, does not support slavery that it against the will of another person, but is not all against indentured servitude etc.... That Bible teaches that all men were created equal under God but it is what we do with this freedom that separates us. And @Phil Thanks for posting that quote from James Madison. Very insightful actually. I wonder if the U.S. has stepped over the "Great Barrier" the he spoke of. Looks like this post is going to end soon but it was a pleasure speaking with you all on these challenging topics.
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          Nov 2 2011: That doesn't really address my post at all. Ok, your interpretation of the Bible says something relevant to your morals. But there still was a time when it was judged much less severely then it is now. How come? Please tell me how the Bible makes the difference between then and now.

          You have 8 hours.
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          Nov 2 2011: Jay, first, I agree it has been a pleasure to discuss such a heartfelt topic with TEDsters, and I’m sure everyone is grateful to Matthieu for his question.

          As you probably perceive, there’s a Bible interpretation for every human who ever considered it. Each clergyman’s interpretation is unique, even though each may report to an institution.

          The modifiers you use to justify slavery are not scriptural. All you need to do is try to apply your reasoning to yourself and you may be constrained to change. Further, it matters not how you react to the Bible on slavery: the US Civil War was between Christians who felt the Bible supported slavery of traded Africans and Christians who felt regardless of Bible verses slavery is immoral.

          Have your read Huckleberry Finn’s struggle with his own thought and his Sunday school instruction that if he did not return runaway slave Jim to his owner HF would go to hell? HF has seen that Jim is a great human being and as he approaches the shore he thinks, “All right then, I’ll just go to Hell.”

          Even today, you can conduct a dialogue between sworn Christians and find people who will not answer the question, “Should slavery be restored to the states that had it?”

          Also, your statement about equality neglects election of believers. Consider John 6:38-39. I know, I know, I’m reading it without an indoctrination filter.

          Looking forward.

          Phil
    • Oct 29 2011: Rationalizing any form of slavery is such an irrational action. Dare I say, an action only deemed proper by a deluded person?

      Justifications of slavery all fall short, but somehow a part of the religious thinkers need to come to terms with it in their own minds, I guess. The fact that Jesus (if he ever really existed) was obviously okay with slavery is undeniable given the "Historical" written record of the Bible and makes people say and think strange things.
      • Oct 29 2011: It is called understanding context Jason, not rationalization. You probably wouldn't fully know what I am talking about being that you had to add in the comment "if he ever existed" when referring to Jesus being a real person. His existence as a real person is a fact of history written about by many historians; believers and non-believers. Here is something you probably have never read before: “To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the 'Christ-myth' theory. It has 'again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars.' In recent yeas 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus' – or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in diposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.” Grant (1977) 200
        • Oct 29 2011: Was anything written about Jesus before 100 years after his death? I think he probably existed, but there is not any real proof. Now... I do not think he was any more divine than you or I.

          Your quote proves absolutely nothing. Your "understanding context" is a sad excuse for slavery. What else have you talked yourself into believing?
      • Nov 2 2011: "Your quote proves absolutely nothing" - What is sad is that you are blinded by atheism. You as well as all the others that think that this reality came into existence from nothing and by nothing. Just an accident that life is able to occur and that you deny anything that would posit a God . What is also sad is your unwillingness to follow evidence. That although many highly credited historians, from left to right, admit that John's Gospel was dated within 30-40 years after Jesus's crucifixion you will not accept it. But again, you would not know the truth because you hate the truth. C. Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris are also blind and have all debated and lost when it comes to morality and God's existence. Never have they come up with why God does not exist nor will they ever. God does exist and again I say, you are blind not to know this. I do not say you are blind to insult you but to make sure you know that this is what Jesus said: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." - The truth is right in front of you and you do not see it. In fact the opposite, you think I am blind. How unfortunate. One thing is certain that we can agree on and that is death. What happens the second after our last breath? We will find out sooner or later. Until then, I hope that you continue to seek all sides of truth and that God reveals himself to you. I say all this out of love and not hate. Because, if Jesus is literally everything that he said he was, I would want you and everyone to know and believe in him. Wouldn't you?
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    Oct 28 2011: To Jaime Lubing, "Faith is celebration . . . no more."

    Celebration of what?

    Phil
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      Oct 28 2011: Phil , celebration of what deserves your beliefs.......any philosophy is unable to define faith.
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        Oct 28 2011: Jaime, I appreciate your response and have benefited from "celebration."

        I don't think humans should be encouraged to hold beliefs; I believe humans are better off not to believe and thereby remain open-minded to reality. Humans have in common the need to seek understanding. When a person considers something that cannot be resolved, the best option is to admit to self, "I do not know." It is not a problem to add thoughts based on the incomplete understanding.

        For example, is there extraterrestrial life? I do not know. However, with perhaps hundreds of billions of solar systems and perhaps other universes, statistics would hint that there may be extraterrestrial life.

        Also, I think "celebration of what deserves your beliefs" is a unique usage of "faith," if not by you alone, by a small segment of humankind. Also, it is circular in that it assumes what you believe is deserving. It does not recognize Socrates' question. "He asked whether we call the GOOD good because the gods have done it or whether they have done it because it is GOOD."

        A crucial question humankind constructed is, “Does God exist?” The best response is, “I do not know.” (I might add, “I don’t think so.”) The other two options are problematic. “No,” could be wrong; yet reality could change your opinion at any time. “Yes,” is more problematic if you cannot resist the next step—characterizing God: your characterization could be wrong. My understanding of my world is so limited, I cannot risk attempting to extend my misunderstandings. I see through a glass darkly.

        I do not condone equivocating "faith" and "religion." When I state my faith, I mean "trust in and commitment to" reality much of which is unknown. You have helped me understand that I celebrate that faith, and I thank you.

        I look forward to your thoughts.

        Phil
  • Oct 28 2011: Russell: Where would you say is a good place to base morality in the world? Science? Religion? Another view?
  • Oct 28 2011: Russel: I will re-state what you commented because it is a fair assessment: "Few and far between are the Christians who follow the teaching of Christ!
    i.e. Turn the other cheek , Don't cast the 1st stone, judge not,. Love your enemy.
    The teachings are a wonderful foundation for morality... however they bear little relationship to what you will hear in a modern so called Christian church." This unfortunately is true of many so called church going Christians. I have personal stories that I could even share that would also fit in with this description. Like those that attend church for image or status etc... and who use it for their means. However Christianity is a living relationship with Jesus who lived and died 2000 years ago. If one intentionally follows and believes in him, their actions should be reflective of their beliefs. Jesus taught to be slow to anger, eager to love, and quick to make peace. Obviously this is harder said than done as we have seen; otherwise we would have much more peace in this world today.
  • Oct 28 2011: "Few and far between are the Christians who follow the teaching of Christ!
    i.e. Turn the other cheek , Don't cast the 1st stone, judge not,. Love your enemy.
    The teachings are a wonderful foundation for morality... however they bear little relationship to what you will hear in a modern so called Christian church." This unfortunately is true of many so called church going Christians. I have personal stories that I could even share that would also fit in with this description. Like those that attend church for image or status etc... and who use it for their means. However Christianity is a living relationship with Jesus who lived and died 2000 years ago. If one intentionally follows and believes in him, their actions should be reflective of their beliefs. Jesus taught to be slow to anger, eager to love, and quick to make peace. Obviously this is harder said than done as we have seen; otherwise we would have much more peace in this world today.
  • Oct 28 2011: Matthieu Miossec:
    But on the issue of animals I would have to agree that it is a very fuzzy area but it too must fall with in some bounds of what is plainly right and what is really wrong. Otherwise, one person may decide that killing animals for pleasure is acceptable while his neighbor sees it as an atrocity. This is a subjective moral example of which neither person would be necessarily right or wrong. I admit that this is a new topic to me though so thanks for bringing it up.

    I must ask how are they saying that objective morality can come from science? I do not think I have read on this possibility accept from Sam Harris. Also I do see Jesus as a teacher of moral goodness and ethics and as a person to which we can learn how to apply our moral duties. For instance, cheating on your wife (adultery) is not a good moral thing to do. But Jesus taught that even looking at a woman lustfully causes you to commit adultery with her in your heart. This is saying that by merely looking at a woman lustfully, it creates a tension in the heart that pulls a mans thoughts/thinking away from his wife. In some cases, it leads to physical adultery and adultery is immoral. This I would take as moral duty not to look lustfully at other women. Jesus also spoke about giving to the needy and non-violence from the point of pure love – even for enemies. Reminds me of a wise saying that, “Violence does not cease by more violence but by agape love with fellow man.”
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      Oct 28 2011: I think my previous posts answer your points already. The understanding you derive from science permits you to apply your morals better. There will always be moral relativity too, which leads to the discrepancies, but these discrepancies tended to narrow with knowledge. Nobody could argue that there are inferior races giving what we know as fact (well they could, but they'd be racist lunatics).

      I'm not really a big fan of thought crimes. I think it's more of a case that if you look at other women lustfully, you're probably not with the right person or you're not cut out for long term relationships. Can you think of any time where you had to consciously stop yourself from looking at a woman lustfully? Personally I can't.
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    Oct 26 2011: My concern with the question of morality is: who is the victim of morality?
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      Oct 26 2011: Hi Cliff,
      I think/feel that all of us as part of a global community are the victims, recipients and participants of morality?
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    Oct 26 2011: Matthieu, I think believers should not take their status quo caually.
    If you choose, pursue spirituality to its end: If you can't raise the dead, try enumerating past lives: see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOk0tZHwCs4&feature=fvwrel . (It takes about 1.5 hrs but is worth the time.)
    Believe in the Dalai Lama and dust off non-believers like me ! If that does not justify dusting me off, remain faithful to the cause and find a way to dust me off -- if you want to.On the other hand, you can accept that some people have considered these phantasms and have chosen faith in reality, unknown as it may be.
    I think religion is no good: find faith in reality. If you can’t, please make room in world governance for those of us who can. Accommodate us, I beg you—for goodness’ sake.
    In the meantime, keep enjoying the benefits of technology, such as being able to assert that you can recall your past encarnations right there on youtube.
    Phil
  • Oct 24 2011: Secularism destroys transcendent (moral) codes. Dennis Praeger 10-2-07
    Basic Definitions of Science: If it's green or wiggles, it's biology. If it stinks, it's chemistry. If it doesn't work, it's physics.
    They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me!
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      Oct 24 2011: Larry, I appreciate your association with Praeger. You can find one of my complaints about Harris in other parts of this conversation.

      Chistianity may be good for some, but it is past time for Christians to recognize that some thoughtful people reject Christianity because they personally are committed to empathy toward all humans. I am one of those. I am a non-believer who demands accomodation in this world. I offer nothing but intolerance for religion's attempts to coerce me or oppress me.

      Not that I need justification to decide my preferences, but some of the important literature follows:

      Christians:
      Luke 14:25: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
      Luke 12:51: Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.


      Secularists:
      Empathy is first an intellectual activity. Not every person participates, for some people prefer division. Empathy’s greatest glory is that it can neither do, nor suffer, wrong to or from any person. Empathy shuns force, for people exercise empathy in free will. Where there is unity, there is justice. (Phil Beaver, 10/24/11, adapted from Plato, “Symposium,” Agathon’s speech, about 385 BCE)

      In these two references from ancient literature we see the basis for Christian division of humankind contrasted with secular empathy for alll but those who choose division. I reject Christianity and do not recommend religion for anyone.

      Believers owe it to non-believers and themselves to find a way to accomodate non-believers.

      The time for pretense has long passed.

      I look forward to your coments and would welcome change (having been a Christian until my early fifties, I obviosly am a candidate for change when facing reality).

      Phil
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    Oct 24 2011: Andrea, talk about appreciation! Your patience is much appreciated.

    We gave up on the Saints game at 21: nothing. I’m sure the best part of the drive was the focused conversation.


    I think I see one difference in our languages. When I write “science,” you think “scientists.”
    Consider nuclear power. It existed before people discovered it: the sun is a natural nuclear reactor. To credit/blame people for nuclear power is thus an error.

    On Einstein’s blunder being exposed by Edwin Hubble, people do not prevent the progress of science. Science marches on regardless of an individual’s ethics. Science always exposes unethical researchers.

    The products of science are discovery, technology, and understanding. The products are available to every human, equally.

    Neither MDs nor stock analysts are scientists. Each of them examines information and makes the best judgment they can.

    The scientists who claim the role of science is to judge information are either ignorant or liars. Science operates on evidence that is repeatable. An apple falls from a tree at an acceleration rate of 32.2 feet per second squared no matter how heavy the apple or how far it falls. Statistical studies indicate that prayer does not help medical results and the researchers present the results of the study as questionable indication—not fact. In science, there’s no judgment involved—only repeatable facts.

    In contrast, religion imagines an issue, makes an assumption about the issue, constructs a doctrine about the assumption regarding the issue, and tries to live according to the construct. Believers are compelled to support the originator: the clergy. Science eventually disproves the issue or the assumptions about it, eliminating the basis of the religion. Of course, the religion tries to survive by denial of science.

    Please tell me about religions that do not claim to know what no one knows.

    I want to learn more.

    Phil
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      Oct 27 2011: Phil,

      Agreed, nuclear energy emerges from natural processes.
      Disagreed, that people "do not prevent" the progress of science.

      To be true, you'd need a bivalent truth that people do not abet the progress of science. Through communication of observations and conclusions scientists infer, they both progress and abet science.

      If people don't imagine and prevent "natural" science progress, we might as well throw the towel in on cancer, etc., research.

      Further, not holding people accountable for nuclear weapons is akin to not blaming people for religious evils. Without engagement and communication by people who interface with them, weapons used by people in institutions like religions and militaries would never be employed.

      Regards research on prayer's effect on healing:

      You are understating the net research findings. I presume you are referring to intercessory prayers--appeals for divine help. Their biological effects are inconclusive.

      However, the biological effect of the practice of prayer (intercessory or meditative) both alone and/or in community as well as the psycho-social benefits of religious affiliation has been proven to have positive impacts on health measurements.

      An easy way to understand is though how stress reactions work. Stress hormones produce cortisol. Cortisol overloads weaken the immune system, leading to both specific and systemic physical breakdowns. Meditation and prayer, as well as sustained relationships and sense of belonging all reduce cortisol levels. Reduced cortisol improves biological function. Which, in turn, improves healing. These can have positive impacts as preventive and prescriptive agents.

      A religion that doesn't claim to know all: Universalist Unitarian.

      And finally, a Q that occurs to me: How many scientists haven't learned or worked with religious institutions?

      Consider:

      Theist Isaac Newton, apple-falls-from-tree scientist.
      Atheist Steven Hawking, member of Vatican Academy of Science.

      Andrea
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        Oct 28 2011: Andre, I appreciate the chance for more understanding.

        My point about nuclear energy existing and its discovery being inevitable and it’s best that the “good guys” discovered it first makes a transition from science to politics. From Robert Oppenheimer to Harry S. Truman and the defeat of Adolph Hitler.

        See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/transcript/oppenheimer-transcript/ . There, we read:
        “President Harry Truman believed that national security depended on keeping nuclear technology secret. Oppenheimer, along with nearly every other nuclear scientist, disagreed.
        “On October 25, 1945, Oppenheimer met with President Truman to share his concerns. When the President assured his visitor that the Soviets would “never” get the bomb, Oppenheimer became frustrated. “Mr. President,” he said, “I feel I have blood on my hands.”
        “Blood on his hands,” Truman complained later, “Damn it, he hasn’t half as much blood on his hands as I have. You just don’t go around bellyaching about it.”
        Scientists position themselves wrongly when they mix science and politics. And vice-versa.

        I agree with you fully: 1) intercessory prayer has not been conclusively studied and 2) prayer motivates some believers to overcome health problems. Other motivators are stronger, for example, consciousness that your family depends on you to live and contribute.

        “Universal Unitarian” is in itself a claim to exclusivity. The Baton Rouge church flies the flag “Tolerance.” I fruitlessly presented there an essay on its origins and harm to them. TED excelled with the conversation, “Tolerance is insufficient: I suggest respect.”
        Tragically, Newton spent the last part of his life trying to apply his skills to prove the Bible. I have listened to Hawking and can’t detect favor for belief. I think another interesting question is: How many scientists hold religion in high esteem? Neil deGrasse Tyson is surprised any scientists are religious.

        Thanks again,

        Phil
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          Oct 28 2011: Phil --

          A scientist friend of mine is a Universalist Unitarianism leader. It's chock full of scientists. Including leaders of secular research universities.

          Prayer/meditation may, as you say, motivate believers to overcome health problems.

          But motivation is far from the entire scientific effect of mediation/prayer, which has little to do with cognitive motivation and much, if not everything, to do with quantifiable but non-cognitive biological responses.

          As is evidenced by things like the high incidence of preventable heart disease. Cognitive/behavioral cures can be among some of the least successful. Notably, risk factors for these diseases, in spite of overwhelming scientific research, are increasing, not decreasing in recent decades.

          My sister and brother-in-law are in cardiology at Mayo Clinic. My brother-in-law does scientific research. His father did transformative research on cholesterol in the 70s, so widely known, it amounts to "Heart-Care 101" worldwide.

          My brother-in-law, sister and their colleagues have rafts of evidence that even when patients families beg them to change, even when the patient is scared witless by the statistics that scientists point to to show them they are likely to die if they don't change their behaviors like smoking, overeating, etc., a statistical minority of people will actually make significant changes to improve their health.

          My sister, in heart failure -- the last stop for patients, prescribes as a matter of course, along with scientific remedies, a spiritual one: purpose.

          She is convinced people getting involved in something beyond themselves can change health in remarkable ways.

          A mission to undo religion and faith clouds the objective analysis of them. Respect for the strengths of both science and religion seems best.

          Andrea
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          Oct 28 2011: Phi,

          Personally, I'd rather be the person who resists nuclear bomb proliferation, than the father of the atomic bomb.

          Oppenheimer was considered a technocrat scientist who used his professional credentials to influence government policy. Most directly by consulting with the fascist Nazi government in Germany, and, as you note, the US government.

          Ironically, the moment his first test bomb exploded, what came to Oppenheimer's mind were religious phrases expressing faith mystery and omniscient power:

          "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one (...) I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

          If science is used to judge morality, who will judge whether science is in cahoots with megalomaniacs and ethnic-claensers like Hitler?

          After his fall from grace, Oppenheimer himself was exceedingly concerned with how scientific research -- as his on nuclear weapons -- can devastate humanity. In fact, he joined Einstein and numerous other scientists who deeply question the absolutist belief that science is incorruptible.

          He did a series of lectures on this theme called "The Hope of Order." Notice, he uses a faith-implying term "hope" not a scientific-fact implying term to set up his thesis.

          This, the thesis born in the imagination of a scientist, as all research begins. An "imagined" thesis -- which is akin to your point that religion is begun by imagined issues.

          issues, theses? Are they not in this frame parallel constructs?

          Whatever the case, Oppenheimer, like many scientists who are capable of higher-order reasoning which calls on them to reflect on their former expertise, in hind-sight often find their high-minded science lacked humane understanding.

          I would say that "something" is the ability to judge self as quickly as the ability to judge other.

          A problem, I imagine, self-righteous experts of both science and religion suffer and propagate about equally.

          Andrea
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      Oct 28 2011: Phil science and religion are two different things. Science and faith are similar because they share the unknown boundaries: Today the science become a phenomena ( in the philosophical way of a fact) and religion is a natural sense from the mistery....in both cases the faith is the bridge....sometimes the scientist begin his research by faith or science, but it doesnt matter the departure point because the arrive is in the opposite. If you begin with faith finish in science....or if you begin in science finish in faith. Just consider : believe or demostrate.
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        Oct 28 2011: Hello, Jaime. Your comments remind me of a 1941 speech by Einstein. See at http://www.einsteinandreligion.com/scienceandreligion.html .

        I wish we knew Einstein's definition of "religion." Some have said it is similar to Spinosa's--"His extremely naturalistic views on God, the world, the human being and knowledge serve to ground a moral philosophy centered on the control of the passions leading to virtue and happiness. They also lay the foundations for a strongly democratic political thought and a deep critique of the pretensions of Scripture and sectarian religion." from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spinoza/ . I do not know.

        If we had to do away with the words "science" and "religion," respectively, I'd choose "understanding" based on repeatable evidence and "assumption" based on intellectual construct. For example, Einstein's assumption that the universe is static was alright, but when he used a fudge factor to try to force his mathematics to agree with his assumption, he became not a scientists, but a religionist.

        I appreciate your writing but don't understand. What do you mean by "faith"?

        Phil
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          Oct 28 2011: Faith is celebration.....no more. The faith concept has to be lived...
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    Oct 23 2011: Andrea,
    Sorry for delay. We attended a “Sunday at the Park” dance—a great feature of Baton Rouge fall.

    Again, you ignore my concerns; they are not easy.

    Turning to your concerns again, Gibran dreamed about peace being contagious just as Lincoln dreamed about governance by the governed.

    Multi-faith clergy exclude my religion: faith in reality, most of which is not known: When I do not know something it is best to admit to myself I do not know.
    My claims are not passing: every clergy rejects my company the moment they learn where my faith has been placed. Well . . . they would let me buy them lunch to discuss it. No clergyperson can withstand faith in reality. Your friend’s committee is all clergy--does not include an open minded person of faith in reality, and there is a reason for it: I call the question before they are ready to answer. And "Freethinkers" do not want to associate with a person who claims he does not know that God does not exist—claims "no God" is a leap of faith he cannot take. I insist that they not bash believers--be welcoming toward my Catholic wife.

    Regardless of its arguments, no church will again dissuade me from what I am: a human being and member of the community of living species. And no church will again convince me to place my faith anywhere but in reality. To place my faith in God would require me to turn my back on reality, unknown as it is.
    What I want is for the clergy to admit they are a heavy burden to humankind. The only way that can happen is for believers to demand inclusion of non-believers.

    It is alright to claim God exists. However, people who take the next step—describing or characterizing the God--may be taking regrettable risk. That is the clergy’s second greatest fault—willfully taking that risk. Their greatest fault is persuading people to follow.
    Phil
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      Oct 23 2011: Phil --

      Sounds like lovely day in LA.

      I'm sorry you feel I'm ignoring your comments. I'm not. I'm only asking you to see clergy as as human as scientists, you, I and we all are.

      There are clergy who admit their religions have and do abet evil. This isn't to say you must orient your Self around their reconciliation efforts. Nor -- in any way -- to suggest that you conform to anything but your experience of your reality, which I know is shared by many. Including me.

      Only to point out that reconciliation for religious evils is not anathema to many.

      Today, the Dalai Lama was prohibited from entering Africa because government officials there feared his presence there would offend China. This from the government that under Nelson Mandela created the truth in reconciliation process to atone for ethnic cleansing.

      One church: the Universalist Unity church which a scientist friend of mine is a leader of, which sees atheism and secular humanism as equally important beliefs And, above all, as you do -- calls for it's community to learn and understand, not conform, to fellow humans beliefs.

      But, with all this said, I do much appreciate your passion and defense about how characterizing God as a delimited and absolutely defined entity can, has and still can hurt many people. And, I could not agree with you more: followers of any doctrine are at risk from it's leaders who coerce their follower-ship.

      I trust you'll correct me if I'm still not getting your point. And appreciate your presence to this debate. I'm not sure I feel we are as far away from each other as you feel. But do respect that you feel that way. And, am willing to continue learning what I'm missing.

      Andrea
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        Oct 23 2011: Andrea,

        I appreciate your response. I hope your day is lovely, too.

        I am not the best writer, and my message is not easy to receive, let alone understand. Perhaps our parallel understandings can be realized by directly discussing each of these points:

        Humans live together and equally face humankind’s unknowns. Agree? (typical)

        Science helps humankind without favoritism or judgment. Pseudo-science is a bane.

        Religion empowers diverse clergy over diverse believers--excludes non-believers. Religions claim to know what no one knows, causing an immoral division of humankind.

        Believers ruin governance for everyone, including the clergy: Abraham Lincoln’s dream, governance “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is rendered impossible. For example, attend the seventh inning stretch during this evening’s Baseball World Series Game and listen to the heartfelt propaganda: "God Bless America". I could brook "God Bless Humankind," but only against my wishes. I think the people, believers and non-believers, are responsible and accountalble.


        Believers control religion (are "co-dependents" to the clergy) and have the responsibility to include non-believers in governance as they are—no conversions, persuasion, or coercion. Let non-believers live in inclusive peace, under the rule of written law.

        These are only my opinions and earnest pleas on behalf of non-believers. I look forward to your opinions, and a direct response to each point would lend understanding and perhaps change.

        Phil
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          Oct 24 2011: Phil,

          I'm not a MLB fan but watched the Saints tonight with my son, after a beautiful Sunday drive.

          Re: Humans live together and equally face humankind’s unknowns. Yes, agreed.
          Re: Science helps humankind without favoritism. Sometimes, yes. Always, no.
          Ie: PhD, MD friends tell me medicine favors people with money.
          Re: Pseudo-science is a bane. Agreed, yes.
          Re: Science helps humankind without judgement. Sometimes, yes. Always, no.
          Ie: nearly every scientist I know says judgement is exactly what science calls for. It takes information and judges it.
          Re: Religion empowers diverse clergy over diverse believers. Often, yes. Always, no.
          Re: Religion claims to know what no one knows. Sometimes, yes. Always, no.
          Re: Religion causes immoral divisions of humankind. Often, yes.

          Let me try to "score" this--

          I agree:
          Humans live together and equally face humankind’s unknowns. Religion causes immoral divisions of humankind. And pseudo-science is a bane.

          I disagree:
          Science is best-qualified to pass judgement on what is moral and what is not. There's too much contrary evidence.

          Including respected researcher Daniel Kahnaman's views on "The validity Illusion" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/magazine/dont-blink-the-hazards-of-confidence.html?pagewanted=4). He says:

          "(S)tatistical evidence of our failure should have shaken our confidence in our judgments of particular candidates, but it did not. It should also have caused us to moderate our predictions, but it did not. We knew as a general fact that our predictions were little better than random guesses, but we continued to feel and act as if each particular prediction was valid." (...) "Expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes."

          He finds distanced analysis doesn't allow for good feedback. And prefers "adversarial collaboration." I'd add, this takes significant insight and patience by both/all collaborators.

          Which, I appreciate you for having with me!

          Andrea
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    Oct 23 2011: Andrea,
    Sorry for the delay. We attended a “Sunday at the Park” dance—a great feature of Baton Rouge fall.

    Again, you ignore my concerns. They are not easy.

    Turning to your concerns again, Gibran dreamed about peace being contagious just as Lincoln dreamed about governance by the governed.

    Multi-faith clergy exclude my religion: faith in reality, most of which is not known: When I do not know something it is best to admit to myself I do not know.
    My claims are not passing: every clergy rejects my company the moment they learn where my faith has been placed. Well . . . they would let me buy them a lunch to discuss it. No clergyperson can withstand faith in reality. Your friend’s committee is all clergy--does not include an open minded person of faith in reality. There is a reason for it: I call the question before they are ready to answer. The same is true of so called Freethinkers. They do not want to associate with a person who claims he does not know that God does not exist—claims "no God" is a leap of faith he cannot take. With me around, they feel uncomfortable bashing believers. (I demand they be inviting toward my Catholic wife.)

    Regardless of its arguments, no church will again dissuade me from what I am: a human being and member of the community of living species. And no church will again convince me to misplace my faith from reality. To place my faith in God would require me to turn my back on reality—whatever it is.
    What I want is for the clergy to admit they are a heavy burden to humankind. The only way that can happen is for believers to demand accomodation for non-believers.

    There are among humans three types: 1) women and men who seek understanding and 2) clergymen who posses all knowledge--so they say in their diverse ways.
  • Oct 21 2011: Winston Lake: I always find it fascinating when one that criticizes God goes to the Old Testament and makes accusations against it like they know something. You may have read the OT but that does not mean that you understood it and it's context. Heck most Christians don't even have a smallest grasp on the context of many of those stories. If God does exist, for instance, wouldn't it be with in his grasp to purge heinous evil from this Earth he deemed it necessary? Especially since if God exists than he would know all perspectives and all men? Winston, do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person?
  • Oct 21 2011: Does that question even make sense? I never knew of anything in "science" being able to explain why I love to look at the sun set or why some music moves people to tears. Have you? Of course there are those in religious realms that have done or said something very wrong. But anyone can put that towards science as in didn't science create the atomic bomb? Couldn't we also say that science was responsible for oil spills, other industrial pollutions, and crimes against humanity (like human testing)? Morality is ingrained in our natural being. Ex. Even a 6 yr. old knows that lying is wrong. Question is, how do these moral values exist and what is the basis for their existence? Is science the basis for why I know that love is better than hate? And why I know that giving is better than stealing? Where does this basis lie if not outside of ourselves?
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      Oct 21 2011: Don't confuse want and can. I have had this discussion before with someone who said that science couldn't explain love. It can, but people don't want it to. Just like some people don't want to know how a movie was made because it spoils it. There are very precise reasons for your appreciation of sunsets and symphonies, but why you would bore yourself to know these reasons is the real issue. Again its want not can. In fact I listened to a podcast recently about fidelity and oxytocin

      Otherwise, your whole argument is a series of strawman arguments against science. What science reveals to us does not in any way legitimise the use we have made of it. So no, bombs, oil spills and human testing are all within the realm of human faults which in no way bear on what natural truths reveal. There is nothing in physics that says that using atomic bombs is a good thing. Humans decided it was a good thing.

      It is true that some morality is ingrained in our natural being. Our aversion to killing members of own species has an obvious root in the cooperative behaviours that have we've evolved as social animals. This is morality that need not indeed be revealed. However, not all morality is obvious at first because we don't always have the right tools to assess things. Science may inform (not dictate) our modern moral values. To what extent is what's being discussed here.
      • Oct 23 2011: I appreciate your comments Matthieu. How can science explain love? By breaking it down to the chemical and physiological changes in the brain etc...? I would definitely be interest in how science would try to explain this. I was not trying to make a straw man argument so sorry if it seemed that way. I was trying to show that science should not be seen as the source of morality because it, like religion, has also led to some unfortunate events in the past. This is probably due to the fact that some science, in the hands of man, can be used to harm others. Just like some religions do. However, I would maintain that the Christian faith taken from the words of Jesus reflects the epitome of morality. Love, peace, forgiveness, justice, and mercy (even towards your enemies) - this is what Jesus taught. Although some of his followers do not follow it :-/ , Jesus's teaching were quite remarkable with regard to our heart and morality.
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          Oct 23 2011: "has also led to some unfortunate events in the past." But it hasn't. I cannot accept that. No scientific theory has objectively said "you should use your knowledge of physics to build a bomb." that we chose to use our scientific prowess to make bombs came from our need to beat Germany in WWII. There lies the strawman. You can't accuse science for what it is used for. But what science reveals on the other hand has a huge impact on our morality. Our place in the Universe, our relationship with the animal kingdom through common ancestry, all this knowledge informs our morality does it not? Can you think of a scientific idea that would directly lead to immoral behavior? Without invoking the Lynsenkoism card that is.

          You make the same argument for religion, pointing to the bad deeds done in its name but saying it doesn't reflect the message of Jesus and therefore should be discounted. How does that make sense? This to me reveals a huge bias towards Christianity.
      • Oct 25 2011: " But it hasn't........”
        I understand your point here and I agree with you that it was the man or men in power that abused the use of science. By saying that science has “led to unfortunate events”, I am stating that without the science behind the atom bomb, how could the bomb exist in the first place? Contrary to this, I actually love science and what it has done in the positive sense. But I cannot accept that science actually does something itself like it is an agent of cause. Man is always behind science.

        “But what science reveals on the other hand has a huge impact on our morality.” How could science have any impact on morality? Did some scientific advancement inform us that torturing little girls was bad? Has someone discovered that rape was actually not good? Has science taught us how to love better and treat others with respect? I cannot accept that like I can't accept that science led us to discover that the universe existed. Whether you or any skeptic likes it or not, every person (theist or atheist), is born with a sense of objective morality independent of anything related to science. Just like the universe existed independent of science in the world.

        “Our place in the Universe, our relationship with the animal kingdom....” I also have to disagree here that knowledge informs morality. We are born with morality. Even a 3 year old child knows right from wrong before being informed. Spend five minutes with a group of them and eventually you will here, “that's not fair!” In fact, opposite to what you state, I believe that in a naturalistic world-view one cannot trust his cognitive faculties in any sort. Darwin expressed this doubt in a letter to William Graham, July 3rd, 1881, when he wrote:
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          Oct 25 2011: We can all agree that we do inherit some objective morality. Not killing and raping, that is definitely a behavior that has evolved and can be seen in other species. But nothing is ever "one thing or the other". Surely you must concede that not all morality is prenatal. If you look at fuzzy areas for morality such as our morality towards animals, you see a wide array of opinions on how animals should be treated informed by a morality that has much to do with what science has told us about other species. Besides, my pointed is not voided if morality is inherent. It's easier to be moral vis-a-vis something if you properly understand it. In other words, having and applying a moral code is different. Applying morality correctly requires some understanding which some argue can come from science.

          Surely you can see my point as you yourself see the necessity in a teacher of moral and ethics in the person of Jesus Christ. Surely then not all morals are ingrained and us or at least they are but a frame which needs to be fed information.

          I don't mind if you take your time. I'm often not around during the weekend anyway. We can both agree that a debate is all the more interesting if we take our time to think about it rather than send our immediate knee-jerk responses.
      • Oct 25 2011: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?" In a naturalistic sense, our mental thinking or cognitive faculties are derivatives (memory, perceptions, reasoning) of a monkey's mind … whose cognitive faculties are in turn derivatives of a lower mammal … and so on. How can morality exist even with science being what it is in this world-view?

        “You make the same argument for religion,.... This to me reveals a huge bias towards Christianity.” I will admit that I am biased to Christianity and will never deny this. Jesus's teachings, especially “the sermon on the mount”, are some of the best teachings ever written on ethics and morals. I challenge you to dispute this. If any person calling themselves a Christian commits murder even in the name of Jesus, they are being disobedient to Jesus and Christianity. I have studied world religions and know that not all religions are the same just like not all atheists are the same. So again, yes, I am biased towards Jesus and what he taught.

        Sorry for such a long response but sometimes it is required when objections are raised. I also thank you and enjoy writing with someone that doesn't share the same views as me and who does not curse and get flagrant about it.
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          Oct 26 2011: Jay, I'd like to respond to "Jesus's teachings, especially ‘the sermon on the mount’, are some of the best teachings ever written on ethics and morals. I challenge you to dispute this."

          The Bible is the work of ancient clergymen practicing the art of gaining power over the gullible masses and people without the confidence to follow their own goodness. The notion of souls is an intellectual construct that empowers the clergy: souls are not real. The “sermon on the mount” describes rewards in the afterdeath for the people who submit to oppression during life. Heaven is also only an intellectual construct, so there is no reward for accepting oppression. Thus, the “sermon on the mount” is immoral.

          Of course, I do not know the truth, but neither do people who use the Bible to justify their preferences. Bible believers use the Bible to immorally divide humankind.

          For example, American Christians justified slavery of Africans based on Bible scripture and the reasoning, “We are rescuing them from the horrid enslavement they would suffer in the hands of their African captors.” Christian slave-owners preached to the slaves the “sermon on the mount.”

          I feel I have met your challenge, Jay, and would appreciate your rebuttal.

          Phil
        • Oct 26 2011: Few and far between are the Christians who follow the teaching of Christ!
          i.e. Turn the other cheek , Don't cast the 1st stone, judge not,. Love your enemy.
          The teachings are a wonderful foundation for morality... however they bear little relationship to what you will hear in a modern so called Christian church.
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          Oct 28 2011: The success of the bible is due to the fact it shows the human mind's blueprint of imagination, and the measure of truth is always seen in the effectiveness, to which the Christian bible does rank #1. The fact that clergy has misinterpreted this great writing really works against anyone using it as a valid tool, unless they follow the doctrine. The problem to this is the over sight that in the beginning this God made a Heaven (firmament or separation) and an earth. After much study, I now see the bible story plays on two stages. Heaven is the stage of human imagination, not an after life, and earth is the stage of the physical world of atoms. This is clearly seen in the story of Noah, where it's clearly depicted as the Imagination of men causing the great flood. This brings us to a matter of science. In dating the bible story, it states the age of water is 13,000 years old, and this matches science. Now science also says rock is billions of years old, but I am sure you know that Jesus used water to make aged wine. We have no idea the age God made earth to be. Furthermore, through engineering we know the blueprint in the imagination is first, the drawing second and the building third. I am not alone in seeing this. In a newly published book called The Origin of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it shows that L. Frank Baum transposed the bible blueprint into his series of books. Which as we know were also effective in teaching moral values. Quite simply, with courage, brains and a heart, we can make a peaceful home in our temporary presence in this thing we call life. It is my understanding also, that the Myers Briggs personality test was discovered from using these same maps, which have been 99% accurate in discovering each human's personality world wide since 1912.
      • Oct 26 2011: Thanks for writing Phil! You said that the, “The Bible is the work of ancient clergymen ….The notion of souls is ….souls are not real.” Also you said, “Bible believers use the Bible to immorally divide humankind.” & “Thus, the “sermon on the mount” is immoral.”

        What evidence do you have for these claims? They are mouthfuls of statements that would take much explaining considering the many wonderful people that have lived perfectly moral lives and had faith in these “immoral teachings”. I believe that the Bible is a compilation of ancient texts that were written to record historical events pertaining to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. There are also many extra biblical sources that speak about Jesus as the Christus. A few of these historians which scholarship accepts as authentic are Josephus, Tacitus, and the Jewish Talmud and all three mention Jesus and/or his followers. There also is no natural hypothesis that can explain why Jesus's body was never found. You say this all never happened but there is much evidence to the contrary if any person would actually research the history of it
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          Oct 27 2011: Jay, I’ve been tending to other affairs. Sorry.

          The evidence I have that soul is only intellectual constructs is 1) research for the origins of the term 2) absence of evidence. The origin of the idea is unknown. Plato, Aristotle and others who wrote about soul were merely commenting on thoughts earlier thinkers left. Among all the billions of people who have lived, no one can or could introduce another person to a soul. Dear nonagenarian Aunt Margaret asked me, “Phil, when did you first get the notion souls are unreal?” I answered, “I always took them for granted until the first time I really thought about them.” About fifteen years ago, I stopped trying to convince myself to bear witness about things I do not know.

          Religion in general requires a person to contradict themselves, and the moment I realize I am contradicting myself, I feel delight to understanding and thereby have the opportunity to reform. When a Christian friend sends me an email urging me to witness for God, I answer, “Jack, I must say I do not know God and therefore cannot introduce anyone to God.” Joe, also on the distribution, writes, “Phil, I know God. Let me come by one day and I will introduce you.” Joe knows better, but convinces himself he can tolerate the conflict.

          Both Jack and Joe are good neighbors, but they don’t realize they are indoctrinated. I have no desire to influence them, because for all I know each of them is correct (I don’t think so, though), even though they follow different sects.
          Phil
      • Oct 26 2011: Phil, do you really think that the sermon on the mount was immoral? On what grounds can you make this claim? I wonder what your take is on reality, morality, etc..? Saying, “Thus, the “sermon on the mount” is immoral.” communicates to me that you think that it is immoral. Below I posted a few passages from this sermon. Please tell me what about them is immoral and also what basis you are making your judgement on?
        In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

        Jesus also talks about disputes in Matthew 5: 38-52: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

        Here is Jesus telling them to love enemies in Matthew 43-46: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
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          Oct 27 2011: Jay, I am referring to Matthew 5:3-12. The writers, the clergy, would persuade people to accept oppressed lives so their souls can reside in heaven. Offering a phantasm for a life is immoral.

          I look forward to your response.

          Phil
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          Oct 27 2011: Jay, I’m back again.

          Yes, I think the “sermon on the mount” is immoral. It’s ideas do not approach my own goodness, low as I may be. My own virtue is my authority. The basis of my judgment is my thought; no man, living or dead can improve on my thought for me. Also, never again will the desire to belong entice me to contradict myself: I am a human being and that’s as far as I want to go with my limitations. Of course, I also am a citizen of the USA and want to do everything I can to help my country and our world.

          Matthew 5:27-28 was written by a pervert—a clergyman who could not appreciate women as persons—could only perceive them as objects for his use. That ancient, perverted writer cannot transfer his guilt to me. His attempt to transfer his guilt is immoral.
          Matthew 5:38-52 is not original teaching. It came from the Zoroastrians (almost extinct) among others. Anyone who follows the ideas finds himself oppressed or dead and unable to defend his family. Therefore, the teaching is false and immoral.

          Another point: “reward” is coercive and thus immoral. Everyone including the clergy knows that virtue is its own reward, but believers empower clergymen by perceiving that clergymen facilitate if not originate reward. Believers are co-dependents to the clergy.

          If my arguments make sense to you, it might be evidence that you are indoctrinated in religion. If so, it is not a bad thing to learn. Recognition seems the first step toward reform.

          I look forward to your responses.

          Phil
      • Oct 26 2011: Lastly I would have to agree with part of what you said, “Bible believers use the Bible to immorally divide humankind.” I believe the Bible also divides humankind but in terms of – good and evil. God serves as a firm foundation for objective morality therefore we can think in terms of good and evil. If you do not agree with this? Where do you think the basis for right and wrong lie? Good talking with you!
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          Oct 27 2011: Jay,
          Each person is on a unique path and I appreciate your path. I imagine our paths often parallel, not in time or space, but in psychological maturity with bases of judgment I could not imagine.

          I have been reduced to self reliance and dialogue with the willing, because I do not want to limit my association again in my lifetime: I am a human being and member of the community of living species. Also, I am a US citizen who wants to help our world. I do not want division, except on the basis of written, justice. Let lawbreakers suffer the penalty.

          That being said, the most immoral idea I have found in the Bible is in Luke 14:26-27. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” I heard many sermons wherein the clergyman cajoled me to think this was Jesus, ultimately expressing love for me.

          Five decades I went along with the attempt to persuade me, always fighting a high heart rate, incredulity, the hair standing on the back of my neck, beads of sweat popping up, and/or fast breathing. I convinced myself I was experiencing the Holy Spirit acting on my soul. It stopped when I wrote about my preference for goodness.

          Ralph Waldo Emerson was 26 when he ended his self-indoctrination in Christianity. In American underground literature, “Divinity School Address,” Emerson instructs the Harvard Divinity School class of 1838. I think he states, if I say Jesus was only a man you will want to kill me. He states that the church perverted Jesus message for virtue. You might see something different. Harvard did not allow him back for thirty years.

          Whether Jesus taught Luke 14:26-27 or clergymen just wrote that Jesus taught it, no one weak enough to stoop to so low as to invoke the word “hate” to try to coerce me can get anything but my distain and rebuke and certainly cannot be my Lord.

          Jay, you are so warm about my preferences: I look forward.

          P
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          Oct 28 2011: To comment on Philip's Luke 14:26-27. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” Basically the human society trains us to believe our physical body is who/what we are. We identify with the form of what we are as who we are. I am the child of, the relation to, the spouse of, etc. Over looking the formless, which is really what we are. This is self evident to all if they come to realize there is never a time they can say "I am Not." No one is separate from Life, so no one can lose their life, because I and Life are One, not two. Life is not exclusively owned by any object, being, or creature. When the atoms of a creature dies, life has not ended. Life is always on, and this is where we get into the realm of omnipotent, omniscience. If we understood this, we wouldn't identify with form and procreate in what we call sex. Sex is absolute identification with form. It is also the cause of all the evil we witness in the world. If you look into all the crime of the world, you will find a highly sexual being trying to assert control and dominance, totally missing what they truly are. They are absolutely identified with form. But form is fleeting, and that is self evident in all grave yards. This is also why Jesus said Eat, drink and be merry. Because no matter what age, this is the true joy of life. It's a shame so much of the bible is so grossly misunderstood. But then again, this same Jesus says all will not understand, so expecting them to is equally delusional.
      • Oct 28 2011: Phil: About Matthew 5:3-12 - Oppression can be defined as: “Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control” Now here is Matthew 5:3-12:
        “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, 
for they will be called children of God. 
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
        11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

        Are there not those that mourn in this world that need comforting? Does man not hunger for both food and purpose in life? Is peace an oppressive quality? The history of the Earth is filled with stories of oppression (like that defined above) that has led to much death and misery; that is why Jesus spoke these words; to comfort those who mourn and bring joy to those who believe
      • Oct 28 2011: Michele Rubatino: The fact is, we live in a reality of space and time. In order to know this reality and truth, we must follow the evidence of logic (and science) where it takes us as objectively as possible. As far as Christianity goes, modern historical scholarship would seriously disagree with your statements concerning it. Being that Jesus was the Man behind it all, I decided to reveal what a few scholars say about the subject.

        “No serious historian of any religious or nonreligious stripe doubts that Jesus of Nazareth really lived in the first century and was executed under the authority of Pontius Pilate, the goverener of Judea and Samaria.” - C.A. Evans in Evans and Wright (2009) 3

        “There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church's imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that anymore.” Burridge and Gould (2004) 34

        “To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory.” It has 'again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars.' In recent yeas 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus' – or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in diposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.” Grant (1977) 200

        Jesus was real, he spoke of great things and changed the world. It is up for us to decide whether or not to believe in him or not.
      • Oct 28 2011: Matthieu Miossec:
        To say that all morality is prenatal would mean that all morality is objective and independent of what we as a group of humans beings decide is moral as community; Like rape, murder, theft, lying, etc... If this were not so, we would live in a subjective construct of morality that could be changed or edited as the powers that be see fit to do. This is evident in the scientific world of discovery. Namely the ostracizing of a scientists because of a new discovery that does not fit in with the so called “community”. What if this was the way morality was decided? Hasn't this happened before in the past?

        But on the issue of animals I would have to say that it is a very fuzzy area but it too must fall with in some bounds of what is plainly right and what is really wrong. Otherwise, one person may decide that killing animals for pleasure is acceptable while his neighbor sees it as an atrocity. This is a subjective moral example of which neither person would be necessarily right or wrong. I admit that this is a new topic to me though so thanks for bringing it up.
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          Oct 28 2011: "To say that all morality is prenatal would mean that all morality is objective and independent of what we as a group of humans beings decide is moral as community"

          Good thing I never advanced that then.

          "If this were not so" It is so.

          "we would live in a subjective construct of morality that could be changed or edited as the powers that be see fit to do."

          We used to think owning slaves was acceptable. We're past that now, morality evolves!
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    Oct 17 2011: I agree: “Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion.”

    How can the idea be expressed so that there is widespread acceptance instead of this volume of debate?

    I wish the conversation had common definitions. In the two talks that were cited, “religion” seems to mean either Christianity or Islam with examples and literature quotations that many modern believers would not accept.

    Perhaps Merriam Webster Online (MWO) would suffice:
    “Religion” is a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.
    “Science” is knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws.
    “Morality” is conformity to ideals of right human conduct.
    MWO shows that those are merely the definitions I thought fit Matthieu’s purpose; Matthieu might not agree, and I would vote with him.

    Also, what suffices for religious institutions may not work for individuals; a recent TED conversation produced: “Religion is each person’s acquisition and implementation of preferences for how to experience the unknown and variously integrate the resulting understanding or privation into their life.” I want to influence people to advocate togetherness and let them take care of their institutions.

    Morality progresses with understanding, for example, other animals feel pain. Understanding advances by elimination of unknowns. The vastness of unknowns seems to increase with understanding. For example, we suddenly question Einstein’s criticality of the speed of light. Thus, each person faces unknowns, no matter how advanced humankind’s understanding may be.

    Elimination of each person’s preferences for how to experience the unknown does not seem likely. Perhaps the way to morality is by showing each person that he/she benefits by understanding instead of believing “with ardor and faith.”
    Phil
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    Oct 17 2011: In regards to your questions about religion being a great guide for morality, it really depends on the religion you are talking about. The more contemplative traditions, being the Eastern ones, have a better sense of morality than the western religions. Jainism for example, is perhaps one of the most ethical religions out there and it is at its core a very peaceful religion. Taoism is a great religion to follow since it extends the moral community to that of the biotic communities (by virtue of being nature oriented). In regards to the western traditions, we know that the bible, the Qur'an and Torah or not great guides for morality being that it advocates violence, murder, sexism, patriarchy, etc. Lets take the ten commandments for example. These should be the best moral principles ever known to man being that the creator of the universe wrote these down himself but the first three injunctions have nothing to do with morality. Or lets take the story of Lot. It seems to advocate that homosexuality is bad but that its ok for ones daughter to get raped by a mob. it is safe to say that there are moral hierarchies in the bible. It would be absurd to state that good things cannot be found (the golden rule for example) but there is more immorality in the western traditions than good moral principles.

    In regards to science losing touch with our morals, I think this is false but you also answered this question yourself when you stated that "In great part, it can be argued that science has fed many morals values by revealing natural truths about ourselves and other animals such that we can no longer see the world in a way that make certain immoral behaviors justifiable". Your reference to Pinker and Harris also gives you your answer.

    Most importantly, if it was not for science and philosophy, environmental ethics would be at a loss. Due to this merger, we are forced to adopt an ecological based ethics, which will ultimately be good for every biotic community.
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    Oct 17 2011: Forgive me, but I know not what your referring to with this sentence.

    "You can read a book and learn or you can strike someone to the head with it, but that doesn't make what's in the book any less valuable"


    How does it relate to my post? Please clarify?
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    Oct 17 2011: Colleen,
    May I suggest that your last paragraph contains the problem of which I speak. You say it is up to us individuals, to shift through the science to hold it accountable. I say that is looking at the wrong end of the donkey and is ineffective. We need for Science to be accountable on the front end of how it farmes a question through its analysis and conclusions.

    Recently I wrote a white paper for the National Science Foundation regarding their Social, behavioral and economic directions for the next 10 years. They talk about "broader impacts" of scientific research in an effort to incorporate the triple bottom line . Their way of addressing social relevance.

    However when one looks at their funded research and asks, how do these research questions contribute to social relevance, in terms of what society needs now? Little seems transferable particularly as it relates to the simultaneous integration of environmental, economic and social sphere's.

    If Science is accountable to the collective good and not short term profiteering perhaps we would see real solutions as a product of our Scientific methodology. Instead we see unaccounted liabilities in increasing numbers.
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      Oct 17 2011: Hi Craig,
      My statement in the previous comment is..."It is up to us, as individuals, and members of our world, to sift through information and decide how or if we use it"

      Being a person who usually sees the glass more than half full, I believe that we all need to be accountable as individuals..."be" what we want to "see". We need to look at all sides of the "donkey" to be effective.

      One way I address "social relevance" for example, is being very much a part of the processes. I believe if we are not part of the solutions, we are part of the problems. With that in mind, I challenged a toxic business in the community where I live years ago. There was an attempt to drive me out of the community with destruction to my home and threats to my life. I am still here and the toxic business is gone. It was not easy, but the alternative was to stand back and watch a business pollute the area with carcinogens.

      In the meantime, I've served on the local planning commission and development review boards, and at present serve on the regional planning commission and serve as chair for the regional project review committee. It has taken years, in this area, to change the practices of some developers from doing projects fast, mindless and cheap, to doing projects that are environmentally safe and productive. We now review projects that include solar and wind power, rain gardens, permiable surfaces for sidewalks and parking lots, green roofs, etc. etc. Science has given us the information regarding how we can make our world more environmentally safe. We as individuals can choose to use that information...or not.

      I know this is only a tiny part of the whole, but we all need to be part of the solutions, and it sounds like you are part of the solution with your contribution of your paper to the National Science Foundation Craig...thank you for that.
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        Oct 17 2011: Hello Colleen,
        We are kindred spirits. I honor your commitment to challenge and be a constructive part of the process. I too work on a number of levels attempting to ask the hard questions or reconnect the dots with different eyes.And I must admit to frustration and despair at times, yet connecting with kindred souls brings joy and renewed commitment. Thank you for all you do.

        What state and communities do you work? I'm curious.
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          Oct 17 2011: Thank you Craig,
          I honor your committment and participation as well.

          Vermont, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Project and Policy Review Comm. and Transportation Advisory Comm. focusing on the environment at this time...thanks for asking:>)

          Namaste
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        Oct 17 2011: "if we are not part of the solutions, we are part of the problems."
        I like that phrase and your courage to take responsibility.
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    Oct 12 2011: sorry I guess I posted the same thing twice.
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    Oct 12 2011: I get that you're proposing "The findings of science inevitably get mixed in the general knowledge of the day, therefore passing as common sense." It's just not a very good theory because you haven't supplied any possible scenarios, real or hypothetical.
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    Oct 10 2011: Alright, I guess that's fair enough. Switching gears to science being an informant.

    Now I'm sure a case could be made to scientifically prove (or at least suggest) an animal's autonomy. The fact that a dog can recognize its owner, a monkey itself in a mirror, or any visible response to outside stimuli can be recorded and analyzed as observable evidence. We could probably type up a pretty wicked paper, share our results, and perhaps convince the scientific community without a doubt that animals are sentient creatures. But... do we really need to?

    How many people actually had to read a scientific paper before they could remain convinced that animals were conscious? It's hard to believe we ever had to discover it. We just go by intuition that they are. Even a family that denies Fluffy's "ability to reason" recognizes it as a member of the family. In fact to cite evidence, many cultures from around the world have not only recognized the autonomy of animals, but have respected it. The Native Americans would run buffalo off a cliff, then apologize and perform a buffalo dance to bring the spirits back to life. The Hare Krishnas won't eat meat, considering it murder. All creatures are spirit-souls in their eyes.

    So when exactly did science ever unveil that animals were conscious like us?
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      Oct 11 2011: I wouldn't call it switching gears as this was always my position: "Morality is better informed by science than it is by religion."

      I think total and cutting-edge scientific awareness isn't needed for morality to be informed by science. The findings of science inevitably get mixed in the general knowledge of the day, therefore passing as common sense. The science of a few hundred years ago is now well-established in the collective consciousness.

      I can see that in this particular case, a strong case can be made that certain cultures were in some ways already aware of animal sentience. Certainly, as with everything, some people were ahead of their time. However, it is interesting to contemplate when these moral values lose their exclusivity and expand into a wider space. I hope it will not have escaped you that animal rights has become an important issue in our time.
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        Oct 11 2011: Some people were ahead of their time? The Egyptians worshiped cats! :P The animal kingdom has always been a very defining part of our relationship with the world. Every culture has had animals throughout their myths, either deified or just as simple characters, and with the clear understanding that they were conscious creatures. Even Judaism had the serpent that tempted Eve and Balaam's talking donkey.

        See, here are the problems I see with your theory. The premise you establish is a world where morality has long been informed by religion, and where science has emerged as a better informant. First, you're establishing two institutions as the primary forces shaping a culture's mores: science and religion. But you don't actually specify a religious institution. You've just been vaguely referencing your impression of Christianity as religion, and the assumptions you've been suggesting have been just that since you haven't really supplied any evidence. You then go on to present science as an institution of authority (which sounds a lot like religion btw :P) and argue that our supposed enlightened perception of the world should largely be credited to scientific discoveries, even though you haven't listed a single one.

        This is the problem with a lot of the science vs religion theories and squabbling: it's really just dogma vs dogma. At best it can be called Creationism vs Naturalism. It's just provincial reasoning.

        Not that I want to shout down your theory or anything. You've just been really persistent with it, and haven't been making a good case. I think an interesting question relating to this topic would be "What is intuition?"
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          Oct 11 2011: "You then go on to present science as an institution of authority" No, I have dealt with this point three times in this exchange but you keep ignoring that.
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        Oct 12 2011: are you familiar with the Churchland's and Neurophilosophy? They've got something to say regarding "pop psychology" (what I'm interpreting you to mean by "science getting mixed in to become common sense") and how true science will invariably lead us down the "right" path to morality
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    Oct 10 2011: So where's the scientific love?

    Scientifically, we can deem a political activist a threat and suggest they ought to be eradicated. But can we scientifically justify compassion? Science (in this era at least) is notable for naturalistic philosophies such as epiphenomenalism and other memes that (arguably) attempt to devalue the human experience.

    And perhaps they're accurate views of reality. Maybe the world is a blind equation. But if so, how are we supposed to (scientifically) justify these human feelings of compassion and remorse? Where's the guilt in killing automatons?
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      Oct 10 2011: Because something is an automaton, it does not feel compassion or pain? We're agreed on the notion that we are automatons, but I think you're getting carried away by the lack of emotions that is often perceived to be the trait an automaton would have.

      The finer point I was making is that we can no longer lie to ourselves thinking that animals cannot perceive pain as we do and that irrefutably changes our attitude towards them.
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        Oct 10 2011: But I haven't agreed! :P I just like talking philosophy. Which seems boring to a lot of people, so sorry if it is.

        "Take for example the idea that animals are nothing but automatons and can't feel suffering."

        I'm not sure there was ever any question throughout history as to whether or not animals felt suffering. The indoctrination (or assumption?) back in the day was that animals were created by God for our enjoyment. ("Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." Genesis 9:3, NIV) I think I've even read that when European scientists first explored the New World, they cataloged the God-given purpose of every new plant and animal (but don't quote me!).

        So it's not that we thought they couldn't perceive pain, but that we just didn't care... because they didn't have souls. They were here for us. Even today, there are a lot of (simple?) people that would argue that non-human animals "do not have the ability to reason" and thus are not to be valued equal to human life.

        So history has shown us at least two ways of valuing life: by intelligence, or by whether or not it has a soul. Maybe automated life shakes this up a bit (or maybe not). Now I do agree that life should be valued by the simple fact that it's alive, but I was kind of hoping you could explain how we could justify that scientifically.
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          Oct 10 2011: Undoubtedly, religion has played its part in playing down the emotional depth of animals. But there has also been a current of thought that regarded animals as 'mindless automatons' incapable of suffering in any recognizable form. This idea may seem completely bizarre to us, but only because we have the benefit of science to tell us this cannot be so. As to whether we chose to act upon this knowledge or not is another problem altogether. On questions of morality, science is not an authority but an informant. You can't really edict morality through science, that was never my proposition so I cannot really defend it. It is entirely possible; although not all that plausible, to imagine that someone would completely ignore all of science in making ones brand of morality. However, this would not only require one to ignore science but also to ignore the science that has seeped into our societal values. It seems that to endow oneself with a morality that is devoid of scientific consistency requires a tremendous effort.
  • Oct 9 2011: Religion seems to give a good template for a moral code, but the problem sometimes is that people stop looking to redefine or challenge it. Of course this is not universally true to all theists.

    Science celebrates the uncertainty of everything. Ideally this would include morality since science is suppose to question everything. It claims not to know truth, but know the best truth through rational thinking and experimentation. It always looks to make itself wrong, thereby strengthening its ultimate arguments. Of course this also is not universal to all scientists.

    I refer to Hamlet, and Crime and Punishment:
    In life, we can rely upon structures of absolute morality: rules of society, religion, the word of a father, etc.
    These are the pillars of which Hamlet and Raskolnikov were erected upon early in life.
    However, when there comes contradiction between these structures: raskolnikov seeing injustices, and extreme poverty while Hamlet has to choose between a murder or suicide, these pillars crumble.
    Without a code of morality, the only way these men could truly discover what is truly immoral and
    what is truly moral is to cross that very line. Raskolnikov murders a man, then realizes that he did an immoral act. Hamlet kills the king, and subsequently tells Horatio to reveal the mistakes.

    The structures of absolute morality such as religion give people a sense of direction and certainty. However, when the structure crumbles or is weakened, they are left playing minesweeper blinded.

    Science is a structure that admits there is no way to determine absolute morality. For many this wouldn't be enough, yet for others it is a tree that will be cut down many times to grow back stronger.

    Personally I side with science, and don't believe in absolute morality.
    Just some food for thought.
  • Oct 8 2011: Morality has a set of rules. They vary from place to place,
    Time to time and region to region. This just goes to show MORALITY,
    Is a concept of the MIND,deemed fit for a society to run in a PROPER,
    Way . Here again PROPER ,can always be defined and redefined.

    Science can go to the level of DNA and further down, but again it
    Is for each individual.If the individual is in a secluded place what
    Morality will come into play?

    When the individuals join to form a group, morality comes into play.
    The place of our birth influences the concept of morality. The place
    Itself is influenced by the prevailing religion and living conditions.

    If the prevailing religion shows the right temper to question and
    Then accept , the society will benefit .
    Apart from religion ,the icons of public life influence the society.

    Hence morals are always in a fluid state, ever getting changed
    And influenced by the times prevailing.
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    Oct 8 2011: Can't we just have a little from columns A, B and C?
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    Oct 5 2011: The "other" view you suggest is as old as Plato. Also Confucius talks a good amount about benevolence as virtue.

    Perhaps there is some confusion here. Is the question not background-ed with ethics? I would say there is no difference between "religion" and "science" for those who practice conformism to a belief system(s); that is just as religious as anyone who labels themselves Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, etc.

    Perhaps what is "science" and what is "religion" are not apparent here. Fundamental philosophy can/has come from many levels of intelligence. Chris Cop turned me onto the term "probabilist" dictating himself to be somewhat a nihilistic existentialist, thus he conformed. His religion is to have logic implied on various degrees. Many value logic. Fuzzy logic. Just a few things we have in common with our pursuits.

    "Know thyself" "The unexamined life is not worth living"

    These are neither scientific nor religious quotes but quotes of a philosopher.

    Frans Kellner said it best. Our forefathers of thought in the Greek and Latin languages originated the philosophies that those cultures later rejected. And that later eastern philosophers would champion. These philosophies are that knowing self will lead to humility. In fact I believe Socrates dictates intellectualism is the know how of preventing evil.
    Naive, but interesting to think that we went from believing people are innately good, to believing you are born corrupted and a religion will save you. Going against everything that the original philosophers were trying to illuminate, sad really.

    Conclusion: Neither are "better", but take something from both (historically, modernized, and intra/inter-personally). Cognitive scientist today agree that Buddhism has mapped out the brain pretty accurate, long before neurology was a considered science.

    Being natural towards our preordained conditions will set you on plateau of higher awareness, let alone morality. While you go with the flow, create more flows.
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    Oct 5 2011: Oh dear , I think I've just started talking on the subject of morality forgetting their was a question to address. i am sorry for this diversion. I forgot the religion bit. Oh well.
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    Oct 5 2011: I know why I've totally forgotten the evolutionary wiring of morality. Reciprocity, superiority (though i hate that one), kinship and reputation - (bet you hate that one Gisela) I'm sure I've missed a couple. Oh well not the point. Point is these are good starting points. People behave in various ways often to best adapt to their environments. I'm sure the rich can afford to be more generous but so often they're not. Hmmm. I'm not finsihed yet!
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    Oct 4 2011: Science has become like politics, we have the best money can buy. Religion runs a close second. Unfortunately neither have dealt effectively with issues of morality as modern societies demonstrate in spades.
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    Oct 3 2011: Myths should be read as fiction, for a start. That could be intersting.
    Superstition brings nothing to morality. On the contrary, its punishment and reward management strips a man from the ability to be fully righteous.
    I don't tell my kids that being nice to one another will get them presents from Santa. I'd be a lousy father if I did, since they'd be learning nothing about morality.


    In fact religion is great at preaching immorality, isn't it? Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, ... They know what I'm talking about.
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    Oct 3 2011: In order to answer that I would have to know "what sort of question your question is". Your "deeper understanding" is a scientific one." Mine is not. Where do we begin? What I was saying in my first reply is that it seems like we disagree at a very fundamental level. Do you believe that there are in fact questions (in regards to morality or religion) that cannot be answered with science alone?
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      Oct 4 2011: Of course, The question is not whether one has a total monopoly on morality over the other. But I believe that our understanding of life is influenced by science whether we actively take an interest in science or not.
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    Oct 3 2011: Matthieu, science is a limited knowledge. Scientists learn every day something new. Particle physicists detect neutrinos travelling faster than light, a feat forbidden by Einstein's theory of special relativity.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/sep/22/faster-than-light-particles-neutrinos

    If you think deeper all human knowledge is progressive
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      Oct 3 2011: Human knowledge is indeed progressive, as arguably our moral values have been too. Particles physicists have not conclusively detected neutrinos travelling faster than light, this will not be true until it is reliably repeated like all good science. The theory of special relativity still applies. At worst it is incomplete.
  • Oct 3 2011: I think that neither religion nor science can determine the definition of morality or be a criteria in measuring the degree of morality. Science may provide a logical explanation for causes and consequences that used to be considered 'just the way it is' but science does not have authority in making the final decision. For example, we understand the pros and cons of having an abortion when the baby is likely to suffer from a terminal illness but that does not mean science gives someone the right to kill a life.
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      Oct 3 2011: This is why I use the term "inform". By its sole nature, science cannot give someone the right to kill a life. What I defend however is that our scientific knowledge informs our morals. Think for example of animals. The view that animals don't suffer, a common view of a pre-Darwinian times, is practically extinct thanks to our scientific understanding of life. We can no longer ignore the fact that animals really do suffer and that forces us to have a more humane attitude towards them. There was a time when lowering a cat into flames was a perfectly acceptable means of entertainment.
      • Oct 3 2011: In general I think it is right to say our understanding of science do help us reach the ethical decision. But when it comes to questions like foetal transplantation or how far can a psychologically ill person considered a criminal when they committed a crime, I believe not so much has been progressed despite scientific development.
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    Oct 3 2011: Mathieu- I am assuming that you believe that science is better equipped to handle issues of morality than myth is.I on the other hand believe a good bedtime story is more effective for handling that sort of thing than science is.Of course if this is a question of " Relativism" moral or otherwise- then we all are neither right nor wrong.Right?:)