Faith-Based Climate Policy?

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A group of 86 evangelical preachers have issued an urgent call to action urging that the United States limit its emissions of greenhouse gases in order to slow or stop man-made climate change. Why? The statement offers among other reasons:

Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God's world, and any damage that we do to God's world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).

Just how do they know that God has ordained that the average temperature of the earth should not exceed 59 degrees Fahrenheit? It was certainly considerably lower during ice ages.

In any case their chief policy recommendation is:

In the United States, the most important immediate step that can be taken at the federal level is to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program.

The evangelical leaders stress that they support action against climate change because "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."

The evangelical signers essentially skip over what God has to say on the issue of just how to supply modern sources of energy to the 1.6 billion people who've never so much as flipped on a light switch. Boosting energy prices with carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes will obviously delay access to modern energy to the world's poorest people. It is an open question which is the more urgent problem: mitigating man-made climate change or alleviating abject poverty in which 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 per day and 2.8 billion live on less than $2 per day.

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  1. ‘trenchant’ observations comparing parallels between religious enviroids to environmental religoids in 3…2..1…

  2. “Just how do they know that God has ordained that the average temperature of the earth should not exceed 59 degrees Fahrenheit?”

    Because it was intelligently designed. Duh.

  3. If you believe that we human beings are stewards over the earth [and that is a big if], then I think it is reasonable to say that we must not contribute to significant change to the earth, God’s gift to us.

    I am not sure I believe the above, but it is an argument, based on faith, that can neither be proven or disproven. These people believe it, they are acting on it.

  4. an explanation from Matt as to why this would be inaccurate in 1,000,000,000…999,999,999…999,999,998…

  5. This is God’s world, and any damage that we do to God’s world is an offense against God Himself

    Jeez, first the Muslims raise hell over some crude scribblings, and now God Himself is offended by us puny humans. If I were God I’d ask for a refund and go meddle in some other universe’s affairs.

  6. Do these same evangelicals believe God drowned the miscreants in New Orleans? I guess it is easy for their God to start and direct a hurricane but hard for their God to suck out the earth’s extra CO2.

    The FSM can clearly do both, and make a kick-ass grilled cheese sandwich. This is obviously a case of misdirected worshipping.

  7. Do you think humans should destroy the Earth, Mr. Bailey? Why not? Why would you care if poor people suffer? If poor people mean anything, why do they mean anything? Why would you care about massive floods (as long as your own comfort wasn’t damaged)? Why is any of this important to you? Or is it?

    The above-quoted religious people say that it is all because of God, and they probably would admit that their position is based on faith, rather than science. Fine with me, I am just glad they are being candid and clear about their motivations and priorities. What is less clear to me is where an atheist gets any sense of right or wrong. It is not clear to me how an atheist would answer all the questions of the previous paragraph. Now that would be a much more interesting HnR post.

  8. Anticipating Ron’s question, noted British prognosticator John Milton’s treatise on the hazards of abrupt climate change, _Paradise Lost_, contains an explanatory drawing by noted environmental artiste Gustav Dore.

    It illustrates how God long ago signaled his displeasure with eartly climes exceeding 59 F by having his graduate student Lucifer interpose his high albedo wings between the sun and the Lower Regions, thus adusting the radiation balace to His satisfaction..It was nice while it lasted .

  9. I would like to know, Dave W, why a belief in god is necessary to not want to see the earth destroyed, poor people suffer, etc.

    There are so many ways to answer your questions, I could sit here and wax poetic on them for hours. Since I don’t have time to do that, I’ll give you a few simple reasons:

    I don’t want the earth destroyed because I live here and I find beauty all over the face of, under it’s waters, and in the air around it.

    I care if poor people suffer because I hate to see anyone or anything suffer. It might be for purely selfish or asthetic reasons, but so what?

    Why do poor people mean anything? The same reason I mean anything – because I am a thinking, breathing person.

    I can’t say I really care about massive floods, as far as that goes, but if I do care, see my response above to why I don’t want to see people die/suffer.

    Is any of it important to me? Not so much…I’m a cynical, apathetic, atheist bastard, so why should it?

    (Being glib with that last paragraph there, but I’m just so sick of people not understanding that you can be a caring, moral person without believing in an invisible sky god.)

  10. Do you think humans should destroy the Earth, Mr. Bailey?

    Humans are incapable of “destroying the Earth” in any meaningful sense.

    What is less clear to me is where an atheist gets any sense of right or wrong

    Gee, that’s a new one. Timely, too.

  11. “Humans are incapable of “destroying the Earth” in any meaningful sense.”

    There’s that too, Phil. 🙂

  12. Poverty kills. Let me count the ways:

    1)Starvation.
    2)Malnutrition.
    3)Untreated diseases for which there is a cure but which was too expensive.
    4)Untreated diseases such as malaria for which no one bothered to come up with a cure or vaccine because no one could afford to pay the drug company for it. Bill Gates’ foundation astutely recognized this and put up a bounty of sorts for someone to come up with a malaria vaccine, but these things take time.
    5)Death by disease due to lousy education. AIDS easily comes to mind.
    6)Wars (civil or cross border) caused by people trying to gain wealth. This sort of war is not initiated by nations where people have created wealth. They are initiated by/in nations that haven’t realized that creating wealth instead of stealing it is the more effective method of getting rich.
    7) Marginal strength housing in earthquake zones that simply collapses and kills during earthquakes.
    8) Building houses in flood zones without some sort of effective diversion process for the inevitable floods.
    9) Death by tsunami because the government(s) made the decision that alleviating poverty and its associated ills was a better use of money than an early warning system.

    This is off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more. This does not even mention all the poverty producing misery that ensues when poor people don’t die from poverty.

    Global warming seems to be real, for now anyway. If so, we need to adjust for it precisely because it is not realistic to think that poor nations that have finally figured out how to end poverty (create wealth, gee, why didn’t I think of that?) will allow themselves to stay poor by not growing.

    Anyone who advocates a moral crusade to end manmade global warming due to human deaths from said warming needs to consider the alternative, namely continued deaths from poverty.

    And all this “we-must-stop-global-warming-now” stuff is a bit arrogant and assumes we the people have created said warming. Despite what you may have heard from the lazy mainstream media, there are respected, highly credentialed scientists who are less than convinced “man” is creating this warming. Read the Sallie Baliunas interview for example:
    https://reason.com/9810/fe.baliunas.shtml

    To say that it would truly suck to end the process of global poverty reduction in the name of stopping something we can’t stop would be an understatement.

  13. Oh god, I was wrong;
    it was earth all along;
    well you finally made a monkey;
    -chorus: yes, we finally made a monkey
    You finally made a monkey out of me!

  14. Hey Dave,

    Did you read Ron’s post?

    “Boosting energy prices with carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes will obviously delay access to modern energy to the world’s poorest people.”

    Is English your first language? I apologize if it is not.

  15. What is less clear to me is where an atheist gets any sense of right or wrong.

    From his Momma?

    Dave W, empirical evidence would seem to suggest that religious belief is not necessary for a “sense of right or wrong.” Personally, I would say a “sense of right or wrong” is so universal that it’s intrinsic to being human and not reliant on any other attribute of thought. We may disagree on WHAT constitutes right or wrong, many of us don’t always act accordingly (including religious people), but it seems almost everyone at least has that particular “sense.”

  16. Lowdog, your answers are appreciated, but they don’t make you sound a whole lot more sophisticated than the answers of the sky god people. You value life because you do. If someone else did not value life, it would simply be a personal disagreement, a matter of taste. You think the good is wherever your preferences tell you. Instinctual, I guess. Maybe you have a prettier word for it.

    I am not here to argue you out of that position, but your answers would not seem to make you any smarter, neither ratiocinatively nor morally, than the sky god picture.

    FWIW, your internally, self-determined would seem at odds with making any laws. If there is no morality beyond what an individual wants to believe, there is no soapbox for you to stand on and announce that terrorism or murder or anything else is wrong or bad. You can say wrong or bad for you, maybe, but not wrong or bad for anyone else. It is difficult to believe that you would cling to the particular individualistic morality you describe if the world were to ever take it seriously.

  17. but it seems almost everyone at least has that particular “sense.”

    Fyodor,

    I have always found this exact fact fascinating and underdiscussed. I am not fully satisfied with Prof. Pinker’s explanations (although many of them seem plausible or true so far as they go).

    Depending on how much we share this “sense” and the identity, logic and/or organization of the sense, as it is widely shared, it might be a powerful argument for gods or against gods. Right now, our probing of this “sense” is unscientific — maybe it can’t be explored scientifically. Science should try, though (and, like I said, Prof. Pinker has indeed started this work).

  18. So the religious have a sense of right and wrong because they prefer to go to heaven instead of hell when they die.
    All personal motivations stem from self interest. Especially in the religious community.

  19. Humans are incapable of “destroying the Earth” in any meaningful sense.

    you’re going to have to expand on this one for me, cause i’m just not following.

  20. “Boosting energy prices with carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes will obviously delay access to modern energy to the world’s poorest people.”

    Yeah, the problem is that there is no *scientific* reason to care about poor people. And the free market does not, neccessarily or even usually. Which is what makes Bailey’s moral criticism such a puzzle.

  21. downstater (and others),

    This is an amusing look at ways to actually try to destroy the Earth, instead of merely make it less livable for humans and/or others.

    http://www.livescience.com/technology/destroy_earth_mp.html

  22. downstater, at worst, we could make some portion of the planet uninhabitable for humans, or for other species. We are capable of causing extinctions, obviously, of individual species. We might from time to time exacerbate natural geological or meteorological problems, or cause new ones. But “destroy the planet?” Nonsense hyperbole. If stuff like this didn’t do it, neither can we.

  23. “The evangelical signers essentially skip over what God has to say on the issue of just how to supply modern sources of energy to the 1.6 billion people who’ve never so much as flipped on a light switch.”

    Screw ’em!! They’re not even Christian.

    🙂

  24. Yeah, the problem is that there is no *scientific* reason to care about poor people.

    1. So what?
    2. Why is that a problem?
    3. There’s no scientific reason to, hell, I don’t know, prefer Macallan to Glenlivet, yet people do. OMG WTF?!

  25. Yeah, the problem is that there is no *scientific* reason to care about poor people.

    Of course, there is no scientific reason to care about rich people, either. “Science” and “caring” are categorically separate.

    And the free market does not, neccessarily or even usually.

    To someone operating in a free market, the poor are a legitimate market segment, one that can be supplied at a profit. Just ask Walmart. So, actually, the free market gives the same reason to “care” about poor people as it does rich ones.

  26. Why care?
    Because humans are social beings and a back rub is best administered by another.
    Because we must care for our young, the young learn to care.
    Because no one enjoys being alone.
    Because it is better to live among those who help each other out when help is needed, as eventually, everyone needs help.

    Science isn’t everything, as humans have a strong subjective component. But what is religion other than successful personality cults (except for Judaism)?

  27. The argument that people without religion are somehow lacking in morals is backwards in its logic. By this argument it is the theists who are unable to formulate a sense of right and wrong without God. That is their problem not mine. It is classic projection to assume that those of us without divine motivation would therefore have the same inability to successfully cultivate a moral framework.

    Which is what makes Bailey’s moral criticism such a puzzle.

    I won’t speak for Ron, but my moral criticism stems from the fact that “national legislation” is not “market-based”, it is coercion.

  28. “. If there is no morality beyond what an individual wants to believe, there is no soapbox for you to stand on and announce that terrorism or murder or anything else is wrong or bad. You can say wrong or bad for you, maybe, but not wrong or bad for anyone else. “

    Dave W – libertarianism 101: “Thou has the right to do anything, as long as that does not infringe on the rights of anyone else”.

    Murder, terrorism certainly fit that. As well as environmental causes – I have a right to breathe clean air.

  29. Of course, there is no scientific reason to care about rich people, either. “Science” and “caring” are categorically separate.

    Another excellent statement of the problem.

  30. Dave W – not true. I defer to a more collective endeavour. Not on a large scale, necessarily, but on a more personal one. If my friends and I are talking about where to go for dinner, I don’t make the decision without any consideration for my friends’ desires.

    As someone else said, we are social creatures, so we create social constructs.

    Also, I tend to lean anarcho-capitalist, so of course you’re not going to hear me clamouring for a lot of laws.

  31. Another excellent statement of the problem.

    If you have a point, Dave, you have done an excellent job of hiding it.

  32. 3..2..1..

    Wellfellow, there is a well established, if incomplete, group of facts indicating that exists. Do people take theses facts as ‘evidence’ for gaia, or some such nonsense, sure. Doesnt make the facts any less relevant. The parallel between the religious and environmental is useful for clearing the thicket of superstition from environmental reasoning, but its broad use on this forum gives folks cover from dealing with the truth.

    The truth cannot be held responsible for its proponents.

  33. Gee Dave W, it sure is nice to know that you’re belief in a mythological ruler of the universe keeps you from murdering, raping, and thieving. I hate to think of what sort of immoral, sociopathic, bastard you’d be without your precious God to keep you walking the straight and narrow.

    I’m so sorry you’re so inherently depraved that you can’t figure out right and wrong on your own without some tyrannical deity–or rather, the so-called priests and prophets who invented him–telling you who to behave.

    I’m also sorry you’re such a smug, condescending asshole.

  34. Actually, I prefer cooler temperatures. Not quite Ice Age cool, mind you, but say around the temperature in the Ed Sullivan Theater when Letterman is taping his show. Unfortunately, when I designed the Earth I went with a heat pump system and a Lucas thermometer, so it’s hard to keep things constant.

    Frankly, if I really cared about whether people had electricity I’d have put outlets in trees.

  35. Okay, Ron, we can argue about whether global warming is really happening, how fast, etc. But I look at it from this perspective: I embrace these clerics compared to the Bush-loving, Kyoto-rejecting wing of evangelicals because compared to those zealots, their M.O. is much, much less scary.

    Part of the Religious Right’s reasoning for rejecting the concept of climate change is not just the idea that we can alter things in a way God never intended, but is rooted in millenialism. The faster things go to hell per the Book of Revelations, the sooner Jesus comes back to earth. Droughts and famines? Great, Jesus is gettin’ ready. Hurricanes and floods? Even better. It doesn’t matter if federal policies aid it or not, the result is the same: Rapture. The biggest problem with these chuckleheads is that if they feel they should force the Apocalypse on me, ready or not, they probably don’t have an issue with forcing the rest of their repugnant worldview on me through legislation.

    So frankly, if there is a moderate religious voice out there that’s a little less concerned with bringing me the end of the world, I say cut them some slack. At least these people acknowledge that yeah, for the moment they need to live in this world.

  36. Oh, Akira . . . your pop would be sooo diappointed.

  37. the problem is that there is no *scientific* reason to care about poor people. And the free market does not, neccessarily or even usually. Which is what makes Bailey’s moral criticism such a puzzle.

    What I find puzzling is what your fisrt sentence has to do with the last. Is Bailey claiming that science dictates a moral answer to the issue? I don’t see where he says such a thing.

    As for your second sentence, you touch upon a dilemna that libertarians face in the marketplace of ideas. Advocating libertarianism or the free market does not look like a moral position, regardless of whether either would achieve the results of the moralists better than the means that the moralists choose. I think an analogy that someone of the left (relativiely) might appreciate is that advocating restraint in the areas of military action and law enforcement may look like being soft on crime or terrorism, especially to those on the right. But sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something, depending on what that something is. Likewise, free marketers think that the free market would yield the best results for fighting poverty regardless of whether advocating such a program looks like concern for the poor, and certainly regardless of whether the free market itself cares about anything, which of course it doesn’t. The free market is merely an intellectual construct and doesn’t have any thoughts or feelings of its own.

  38. Part of the Religious Right’s reasoning for rejecting the concept of climate change is not just the idea that we can alter things in a way God never intended, but is rooted in millenialism. The faster things go to hell per the Book of Revelations, the sooner Jesus comes back to earth. Droughts and famines? Great, Jesus is gettin’ ready. Hurricanes and floods? Even better. It doesn’t matter if federal policies aid it or not, the result is the same: Rapture.

    This is news to me. I thought the president was being honest when he said he opposes Kyoto because it is too expensive for the little good it would do, assuming we the people are even causing global warming in the first place. Instead of something as “unlikely” as the Sun as Sallie Baliunas suggests in her Reason interview, a concept that as near as I can tell no one has even come close to refuting.

    Glad to know you have divined the president’s real intentions, namely the apocalypse. Perhaps you could provide a link that proves it?

  39. Fyodor,

    I am not surprised that Bailey cares about the poor because Bailey is a real person (I saw I photo I think) and real people do tend to care about the poor, as Lowdog and/or one of the others have noted.

    However, I can’t understand why Bailey would think that others *should* care about the poor. There is no basis in science and reason that I can see for expecting a caring attitude in others, or for criticizing the lack of a caring attitude in others. I think Bailey (and the multitudes who think like him) are effectively advocating a (implicit) faith-based position when they expect others to care about the poor. I am not attacking the expectation as wrong. Rather, I am attacking it as inconsistent with Bailey’s science-and-reason-only-thanks ethos (is ethos the correct word here?).

  40. Oh! Before anyone comes back with “even if atheists can figure out morality on their, it’s meaningless without God,” let me just say, fine. I don’t think that there is any “meaning” to the universe or “purpose” in our lives, save the meaning and purpose we create for ourselves and others.

    Why do you need existence to have “meaning?” Why do you need to justify your life by thinking it fulfills some higher cosmic purpose? Is it arrogance, or just plain cowardice in the face of stark, godless, universe?

    Theists have two choices: Either they get off their philosophical high-horse, or suck it up and grow a spine.

  41. Right now, our probing of this “sense” is unscientific — maybe it can’t be explored scientifically. Science should try, though (and, like I said, Prof. Pinker has indeed started this work).

    I’m glad you brought Pinker up. Actually, I think if you read more of his stuff you’d find that science has been and is exploring this issue, and Pinker’s talk of human mental and moral universals is absolutely supported by science.

  42. Advocating libertarianism or the free market does not look like a moral position, regardless of whether either would achieve the results of the moralists better than the means that the moralists choose. I think an analogy that someone of the left (relativiely) might appreciate is that advocating restraint in the areas of military action and law enforcement may look like being soft on crime or terrorism, especially to those on the right. But sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something, depending on what that something is. Likewise, free marketers think that the free market would yield the best results for fighting poverty regardless of whether advocating such a program looks like concern for the poor, and certainly regardless of whether the free market itself cares about anything, which of course it doesn’t.

    Nice post fyodor. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If so, then in my opinion Ted Kennedy is on his way, because it should be obvious to anyone who has a clue that paying people money on the conditions that you 1) not work 2) not get married 3) bring a baby into the world under conditions 1 and 2, has massively destroyed the African-American family, and done absolutely nothing to end or even reduce US-definition poverty in the US.

  43. Dave W.,

    People vote for those who advocate government solutions that allege to alleviate poverty, and to theoretically help others in other ways too. They do this even though they have to give up their hard earned money in taxes.

    It is axiomatic that people who vote this way care about poor people and others in need. The notion that they would refuse to help others if they are not forced to via taxes is ludicrous precisely because of their well-intentioned votes for statists.

  44. However, I can’t understand why Bailey would think that others *should* care about the poor. There is no basis in science and reason that I can see for expecting a caring attitude in others, or for criticizing the lack of a caring attitude in others.

    1. I am a person.
    2. I assume arguendo that other people are real.
    3. I do not like to see human suffering.
    4. Given (2), I assume that other people do not like to see human suffering.
    5. I am interested in alleviating human suffering.
    6. Given (2) and (4), I assume there are other people who are interested in alleviating human suffering.

    It’s the same reason we believe people should not poke each other with pointy sticks, Dave. It hurts when you do it to me, and I don’t like being hurt; therefore, since you are also a living being, I assume it hurts when I do it to you and you would not like it.

  45. in my previous post “wrong” should be –factually incorrect–. This discussion is tough enough without bringing ambiguous words into it!

  46. Dave W. — I would be interested (seriously) in knowing which of the following (if any) describes your worldview:

    A. “Right” and “wrong” simply are another way of saying “what God wants people to do” and “what God does not want people to do.” There is no such thing as rightness or wrongness aside from whether God wills it or not. I try to do what God wants because I trust that what he wants will be good for me.

    B. There is such a thing as rightness or wrongness aside from whether God wills it or not. Rightness and wrongness have an objective existence outside of God. But humans are incapable of knowing what they are. Only God has the power to know what is right and wrong, and so I follow his word.

    C. Rightness and wrongness have an objective existence outside of God, and humans are capable of knowing what they are. But the only humans I’ve ever met who seemed to have that knowledge were also followers of God.

    Full disclosure: I’m inclined toward atheism but believe that any god’s existence/non-existence is ultimately unknowable.

    Thanks.

  47. I think Bailey (and the multitudes who think like him) are effectively advocating a (implicit) faith-based position when they expect others to care about the poor.

    But that’s just a tautology because you’re defining the very act of caring about others as being implicitly faith-based. I suppose that’s one way of looking at it, but you’ll have to accept that some don’t see their caring about others as being based on any sort of religious like faith. So you’re left with saying that that’s what you call it, and I’m left with saying, well call it that if you like, but so what? It becomes an argument over definition which is an argument over nothing. And has Bailey ever claimed that everything he might possibly say flows from science and reason only? He might feel he would say nothing inconsistent with science or reason, but that’s different from saying that they are his only sources of inspiration.

  48. Rather, I am attacking it as inconsistent with Bailey’s science-and-reason-only-thanks ethos (is ethos the correct word here?).

    Do you have some eveidence, say, of Ron’s own expression, that “science-and-reason only” is Ron’s ethos?

  49. Dave W,

    Also, I don’t believe Bailey even says (here anyway) that anyone else should care about the poor. He is primarily saying that the preachers in question are wrong in their assessment for what would help the poor. He also seems to imply that he acknowledges abject poverty to be an “urgent problem.” That might mean that he cares about the poor himself and/or that he assumes others do. The latter would seem to be empirically observable. The former would reflect his own feelings. Now maybe you think that that by itself is faith-based. If you only meant that the wanting of other people to care about poor people is faith-based, then I don’t think Bailey even goes there. Although, I would say the same thing that that I would say about applying that label to caring personally about the poor, that unless someone attributes his stance to a faith, then I wouldn’t call it faith-based myself, but you’re free to see that as implied, just know that it’s a tautology based on your preferred way of looking at things.

  50. But that’s just a tautology because you’re defining the very act of caring about others as being implicitly faith-based.

    I don’t know about that. If Pinker isolates the caring center in the brian and determines that we all have one and determined what the operative chemical reactions were, then that would be one conceivable way to make the phenomenom of caring would be a lot more science based than it is now. I would go so far as to say that a drug that suppressed this (hypothetical) caring center would probably act as a performance enhancing drug for competitive businesspeople.

    Hypothetical question: Imagine a new drug that suppressed this (hypothetical) caring center and it turns out that this drug works as a performance enhancing drug for competitive businesspeople. If shutting down my caring center would tend to make me better off financially, would there be any reason not to? Any scientific reason not to? Any faith based reason not to?

  51. “how do they know that God has ordained that the average temperature of the earth should not exceed 59 degrees Fahrenheit? It was certainly considerably lower during ice ages.”

    Are we to conclude that Ron is contending that libertarians ought not believe in global climate change from fossil fuel combustion.. on principle? What would that principle be?

    Or that global climate change is not a signifigant problem when compared to poverty?

    Ron, aren’t you a science correspondent? You seem to be “stovepiping” the science to match the politics here.

    How much does a hurricane cost? How much does the economic distress from global climate disaster effect economic growth?

    And when the western economy sneezes, millions die in under developed areas. How many die when storm and drought accentuated by human created climate change hit under developed areas?

  52. What I do find interesting is that about the only time I can follow Dave W’s arguements is when we’re debating religious and moral philosophy. In fact, this is the first thread in which I’ve been able to follow along.

    Dr X – how do we know that any hurricanes are caused or even “accentuated” by human created climate change? I’ve been somewhat moved recently by a small possibility that humans are influencing climate change (although the causes seem to be a delayed effect, effectively), but to try to get even more specific and say certain storms or even small-scale weather phenomenon are because of man-made climate change, you’re on much, much less solid footing.

  53. If shutting down my caring center would tend to make me better off financially, would there be any reason not to?

    That’s up to individuals to decide for themselves, not for me to decide for them. They would still have to be responsible for whatever they did.

    About the possible existence of a caring center, just because it hasn’t been found yet doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. But either way, it’s irrelevant to the issue. If an individual doesn’t see his own sense of morality as based on faith, then I would accept that it’s not. If you believe that it is, that’s your belief. Perhaps you believe that the inability to find a caring center in the brain somehow proves that caring is of divine origin, but that’s still your belief. Caring about others (or advocating that others do) still does not contradict the use of science and reason for solving problems. And that last sentence goes for those who consider their beliefs faith-based AND those who do not.

  54. But what is religion other than successful personality cults (except for Judaism)?

    I thought someone might take exception to this assertion, but it seems to be unprovocative.

  55. Glad to know you have divined the president’s real intentions, namely the apocalypse. Perhaps you could provide a link that proves it?

    Reread my post, happyjuggler. I never said that was the president’s intention, only that of the right-wing evangelical loonies who support his environmental policies.

    Oh, and here’s your link. Wasn’t hard to Google it either.

    http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2004/10/27/scherer-christian/index.html

  56. Fyodor:

    Bailey may be expecting the people to care about the poor based on the religious codes they purport to follow. That is an understandable criticism, akin to when I take Bailey to task for apparent deviations from his “ethos.” I am just not sure that Bailey is the one to be engaging in that kind of criticism, since he is the science writer and not the theology writer.

    Really, however, I did and still get out of Bailey’s post that he thinks that these people *should* care about the poor, without regard to their particular theology and their particular scriptures, such as they may be.

  57. amazingdrx,

    And when the western economy sneezes, millions die in under developed areas. How many die when storm and drought accentuated by human created climate change hit under developed areas?

    Thanks for explaining exactly why poor countries very much need economic growth. Unless you intend to supply them for free the means to power their factories, homes, and transportation etc. by means that you don’t think contribute to global warming, then don’t be shocked they take the moral position to grow their economies via the same cheap polluting methods that even the “greenest” of developed countries use.

    China, India, and the rest of the world’s poor countires are starting to realize that the best way to end poverty is economic growth, and this pollutes. Their pollution will pass, and then dwarf developed countries pollution soon. Somehow struggling to reduce our so-called greenhouse gases in developed countries from our current 100+% of 1990 emission levels to 90% of 1990 emission levels will accomplish nothing relevant when the third world’s devlopment is added in.

    These countries are trying, and succeeding, to massively reduce poverty. You are trying to claim that so-called greenhouse gas reduction will benefit these poor people. That dog don’t hunt.

  58. Caring center: this was just one hypothetical example of caring might conceivably be reduced to a scientific issue, susceptible to meaningful scientific study. It was chosen because this mechanism is easy to picture and because it is a nice springboard for my hypothetical question.

    I am not saying that a caring center exists or that anybody should start looking for one. Like I said in one of the earlier posts, if we did scientifically study a caring center (or other studyable caring mechanism of whatever nature), then its organization and structure and algorithms and the rest might be strong evidence against gods *or* for gods, depending on what we found.

    For example, if Prof. Pinker could credibly explain all portions of caring center activity with reference to evolutionary survival struggles, then this would seem to shrink the number of places that gods of morality could live. On the other hand, if God’s signature were repeatedly coded into the chemical bonds of the caring center, along with a scan of his cosmic driver’s license, well . . . I think you know where that (probably unlikely) path leads.

  59. I get that Ron sees economic development as the cure for poverty, that such development will entail “greenhouse” emissions, that those who claim to care for people living in poverty seem to think they’ll have to stay there in order to reduce greenhouse emissions.

    What Ron seems to be addressing is the logical contradiction between subscription to GW catasrophe scenarios with their concurrent legislative cures, and concern for poverty in undeveloped areas.

  60. Dog, I don’t do climate change is unprovable debating anymore. The higher gulf water temperature feeding the hurricanes,and melting glaciers and icecaps kind of swung the case in my opinion.

    I have moved on..to..we better stop burning fossil fuel as soon as possible and how is the very best way to do that? Sorry.

    I’m sure many others will debate it with you though. Good luck with that.

    If you find out rove owns solar and wind power patents I’ll listen.

  61. So many posts on right and wrong with so little mention of philosophy.
    There are plenty of atheistic/humanistic/ naturalistic philosophical systems that define rights and wrongs based on the world we see.

    Then there’s the whole Law-Predates-Monotheism thing.

  62. Why are all supposed outcomes of global warming predicted as negatives? How about shifting rain patterns that enable the world to feed itself?

    Computer simulations are only as flawed as the people that create them…If reality could be simulated (accuratley) any faster than it happens, well, then I guess we’d be able to just crank up the timemachines and keep living in cooler climes (or hurry up and get to Rapture!).

    I’d like to see less argument based on hypothesis-as-fact. But then, I guess we all see what we beleive.

  63. zardoz,

    In case you, and the flakes that wrote that article you linked to, didn’t notice: not every policy of Republicans has something to do with the religious right. The religious right has in fact long been uneasy with capitalism for example. But they vote Republican for the social plank of that party anyway.

    Nothing in that linked story written by environmentalists actually shows evidence that the Religious Right is trying to bring about the Apocalype, let alone via global warming. They do a damned good job of trying to implicate them by association though. It kind of goes like this: Many or most of the people who believe in the Apocalypse are in the Religious Right. The Religious Right votes Republican. The Republicans vote in ways that horrify the environmental author. Some environmental disaster scenarios jibe with the Apocalypse. Therefore the religious Right is voting for Republicans because they want to bring about the Apocalypse.

    Despite the ridiculous assumptions in that chain I outlined, their evidence presented that this is what is going on is scant. An Apocalypse watch group added global warming disasters to their list of things to watch out for, and some Texas nut group is funding some fundamentalist Israeli Jews to breed a pure red heifer.

    This is hardly proof. What this article really sound like to me is that someone is trying to rally the environmental faithful against Republicans.

    I reread your post. This is why I thought that you claimed Bush believed this. I embrace these clerics compared to the Bush-loving, Kyoto-rejecting wing of evangelicals because compared to those zealots, their M.O. is much, much less scary. I apologize. It is now clear to me that you choose to support those who are not as loony as your link’s author tries to paint them to be.

    Just because some environmental author with an anti-Republican agenda says that a bunch of loonies are voting Republican because they are trying to bring about the Apocalypse does not mean that this is an accurate portrayal of the Religious Right’s support for Republicans. It is also in my opinion hardly a reason to choose to blindly follow faith-based folks who come to a different conclusion. But feel free to support them anyway if you wish.

  64. Jeff P. — That’s the kind of discussion I was trying to start with my questions to Dave W. posted at 12:42. No one seems interested.

  65. Dr X gives me a few sentences about how he has been convinced that climate change is real, and now I am magically also convinced! (NOT!!)

    #1, there is no way to prove that gulf temps were higher due to “global warming”, etc, etc, etc.

    Ah fuck it, you don’t want to debate things with me, I won’t try to push the issue. You mostly ramble on about conspiracy theories, anyway, so it’s no real surprise.

    Maybe you can tell us all how Bushitler used ray guns created by soviet scientists in concert with Chinese collaborators to create hurricane Katrina.

  66. I get that Ron sees economic development as the cure for poverty, that such development will entail “greenhouse” emissions, that those who claim to care for people living in poverty seem to think they’ll have to stay there in order to reduce greenhouse emissions.

    What Ron seems to be addressing is the logical contradiction between subscription to GW catasrophe scenarios with their concurrent legislative cures, and concern for poverty in undeveloped areas.

    Thanks kgsam. That says it much more succinctly than I’ve been able to do.

  67. JP,

    I don’t have ready answers to your questions — can’t say that I ever thought about things in that way before.

    As I have said before, I am in personal life a Catholic, although I see that personal life as irrelevant to the discussions that go on here because this is not a religious board and I do not seek to persuade anyone to join my religion. I guess my answer to your questions is ultimately, “whatever the Church says my answer should be.”

    However, and this is the more important part so I am making it bold, when I discuss issues here, I leave my Catholicism behind and try to stick only with positions supportable with recourse to science and reason. When I speak about ID here, for example, I speak about it philosophically, as a person who comes reliably and firmly to agnostic conclusions when thinking about the world in a non-faith-based way.

    Certainly there are potential problems with this approach. For one, those bad boyz of HnR, named Hak and Akira, think that they spot my Christianity in everything I write and that my science-and-reason-only-hat is some kind of selfserving sham. For another, sometimes I let the hat slip off myself — as when I conjure up Ghosts Of Consumer Choice to hector T. into thinking less about his own sinus headaches and more about stagnating lifespans for everybody else.

    However, in this thread, I feel on firm ground. The problem here isn’t that I am letting my science and reason hat slip off. Rather, it is that I feel like I have caught Bailey’s science hat slipping off Bailey. Which is my big gotcha here (gotta have a gotcha!), because on Bailey it ain’t supposed to be just a hat.

  68. I don’t get your gotcha. But I can see how you believe you’ve got your gotcha.

  69. I don’t think it is exactly an ironclad, airtight gotcha. I am hopeful that Bailey will at some point write a longer article whether caring is a mere evolutional relic, or whether it goes deeper than that. That is the kind of impulse I am hoping this minor gotcha to have.

    If caring really is an evolutional relic, then maybe humankind needs to drastically redefine or get rid of it as humankind’s survival challenges gradually switch from underpopulation type problems to overpopulation type problems.

    On the other hand, if caring goes deeper than that — I would love to hear Bailey’s thoughts on that.

  70. Dave — Thanks for your response. I was raised Catholic and remain very interested in RC theology. FWIW, I think the RC Church’s current position is closest to my formulation C, minus the implication in C that only believers can be good.

    Regarding whether one can have a non-faith rational basis for saying what other people “should” do, I think the answer is No unless the parties can agree on the ends they’re trying to promote. E.g., if Ron and his audience agree that the overarching goal is to raise the living standards of all people (or if Ron assumes that his audience agrees with that), then one could rationally arrive at what people “should” do to increase the likelihood of reaching that goal. As another example, if Ron and his audience agree that the overarching goal is to enable every person to exercise the most freedom possible without infringing anyone else’s freedom, then again one could rationally arrive at what you “should” do to reach that goal.

    But, as for determining — rationally determining — which overarching goals are the “right” goals, I don’t think it’s possible. Philosophers have been at it for 2,500 years and are no closer to an answer now than they were when they started.

  71. jp,

    Regarding whether one can have a non-faith rational basis for saying what other people “should” do…

    Sure you can. Societies around the world are based on such human created social constructs. There’s no big mystery as to why filial piety is a traditional virtue of China and freedom a traditional virtue of the West after all.

  72. Dave W.,

    For someone who claims to know a lot about atheism your statement regarding the old slander against atheists (“how can atheists have a moral system?” is a way of putting it) is fairly pathetic.

  73. jp,

    But, as for determining — rationally determining — which overarching goals are the “right” goals, I don’t think it’s possible.

    Its an issue of practical experience more than anything.

  74. But, Hakluyt, take individual freedom, for example. Someone in a different society might believe that the preservation of his people’s “culture” is the ultimate goal and therefore trumps individual freedom. How can one reason to the position that we’re right and he’s wrong?

  75. Dave W.,

    Let me get this straight, you take a radically skeptical approach towards ontology (and metaphysics as well as far as I can tell) but at the same time you claim to be able to switch between various systems of analysis based on radically different presuppositions at will? Ha! Gotcha!

  76. Daniel Dennett has (i beleive) an excellent attempt at reconciling faith-based beleif in what is ‘good’ or ‘right’ with science-based biology/systems constructs. Though his arguments could also be interpreted as undercutting his atheistic views, they seem reasonably balanced.

    IN particular, I seem to recall something addressing the inherent superiority (from a biological-survival standpoint) of mechanisms or ‘choices’ that involved cooperation. In the book Freedom Evolves if you care.

  77. Let me get this straight, you take a radically skeptical approach towards ontology (and metaphysics as well as far as I can tell) but at the same time you claim to be able to switch between various systems of analysis based on radically different presuppositions at will?

    Close. Whether I am radically skeptical depends on the presuppositions I am holding in the context of a given discussion. When I was younger, I thought that everyone could radically switch presuppositions like I do. Gradually it has occurred to me that this is a superpower that few have. It also helps that the God of Catholicism is way non-interventionist, of a radically indeterminate nature and pretty Aristotelian. Nevertheless, I like to believe that I know and control when I am presupposing Him and when I am not.

  78. Bailey may be expecting the people to care about the poor based on the religious codes they purport to follow.

    Yes, he may. Then again, he may not. I have no idea why you think he “may” be thinking such a thing, nor why you even care.

    I feel like I have caught Bailey’s science hat slipping off Bailey.

    As I have said before, only sans the metaphor, it is fallacious to think Bailey can or is somehow obligated to wear only that hat.

    I am hopeful that Bailey will at some point write a longer article whether caring is a mere evolutional relic, or whether it goes deeper than that.

    Why do you care what Bailey has to say on the subject? Seems to me that’s simply not his area of interest or expertise and you can probably find plenty of other science writers who would have more to say about it. That said, it’s hardly rocket science. Yes, caring about each other helped us to survive, just like baboons grooming each other. As for:

    then maybe humankind needs to drastically redefine or get rid of it as humankind’s survival challenges gradually switch from underpopulation type problems to overpopulation type problems.

    That presupposes both that overpopulation is a problem (and one superseding all other problems) and that caring about others as we do can only increase population. I won’t go into why I’m skeptical of the former, but people who advance knowledge of birth control to third world nations is a good empirical rebuttal of the latter.

  79. This is the Dave W I’m used to…making no sense, whatsoever.

    Between gauis, Dave W, and Dr X, we’ve got some real nuts around here.

  80. The idea that “faith based” caring is “deeper” than secular reasons for caring brings a question.
    What does “deeper” mean?
    Is mystical implicitly deeper than rational?
    What if I assert the reverse?

  81. Dave W.,

    Nevertheless, I like to believe that I know and control when I am presupposing Him and when I am not.

    This is the problem with radical skeptics such as yourself: you don’t like your first principles to apply to your own claims. Anyway, ultimately any claims you might make are swallowed by your first principles as to make any conversation with you a pointless exercise.

    When I was younger, I thought that everyone could radically switch presuppositions like I do.

    According to your first principles (Mr. self-proclaimed ubermensch) you have no idea whether you can switch presuppositions. You’re the sort intellectual coward who isn’t willing to apply his first principles to himself.

  82. Fyodor,

    Birth control is nice, but targetted exterminations would probably be a lot more efficient and effective from an economic standpoint.

    If I really became convinced that exterminations of poor people would increase the survival probability and comfort level for the survivors, then the scientific economist in me would say “go for it.” That is always one of those things that scares me back to Church. I am curious how atheists deal with this apparent conundrum. So far I see 2 ways:

    1. The Phil-Slash-Lowdog approach: since I don’t want to exterminate poor people, and I am a normal person, it is safe to assume that other normal people don’t. This is a cool approach if you are comfortable in your normality, I guess. This seems to be the typical answer I get when I discuss these issues, anyway.

    2. Fyodor approach: overpopulation will never be a problem.

    I am gotcha’ing Bailey here to see if he has a third way. I realize that deeper, more academic writers have probably given us a third, fourth and fifth way already, but I have trouble following academics and philosophers and require the dumbed down version.

  83. jp,

    How can one reason to the position that we’re right and he’s wrong?

    One could argue that as cultures compete what survives is superior, of course that presumes a lot.

  84. Hak,

    If you want to discuss first principles from a Catholic point of view, then we should go to a Catholic board and do that. This particular board is connected to Reason (as opposed to Faith) magazine, so I try to stick to non-Catholic principles here at this particular board.

    I welcome gotcha’s on me where my Catholicism slips out unintended and/or unnoticed. Akira’s post about me above is a great example of how *not* to do this kind of gotcha. You’ve got to catch me being a lot more Catholic than I have been on this thread (or any of the ID ones for that matter).

  85. Dave W.,

    You deliberately miss my point (and for good reason on your part). According to your first principles you have no earthly idea whether you can change presuppositions or not and thus there is absolutely no reason to accept your ubermensch claim.

  86. Dave W.,

    https://reason.com/0004/fe.rb.billions.shtml

    That is the link for the Reason interview with Norman Borlaug. His is not a household name, bu the is basically the person most responsible for overpopulation not being a problem from a food point of view.

    And below is the link to an article on Julian Simon, the person most responsible for debunking the centuries-old notion that overpopulation is about to become a catastrophe. Not only is it not about to become a problem, he makes an eloquent case for it never becoming a problem. He has written several well documented books to this effect as well.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.02/ffsimon_pr.html

    In short, overpopulation will never be a problem, not the least of which is because the human population will max out in perhaps about 40 years or so and then start declining. 😮

  87. In regards to humans, population is not a problem.
    The problem with humans is politics.

  88. Dave W.,

    BTW, this is exactly why any conversation with you boils down to a rather tiresome “brain in the vat” discussion. Such materialistic agnosticism is ultimately a dead end, which is also why any conversation with you is ultimately an empty one which leads to you trying to blindly club people over the head with your one borrowed idea.

  89. What is less clear to me is where an atheist gets any sense of right or wrong.
    Here’s your gatcha, Dave W.
    Your theist presumption jumps out right there.

    Where do theists get any sense of right and wrong?

  90. One could argue that as cultures compete what survives is superior, of course that presumes a lot.

    I agree. (1) That’s one argument (an argument to which I’m sympathetic). And (2) it presumes that everyone agrees that cultural survival is a morally good goal. Someone could as plausibly argue that cultural survival is meaningless without individual freedom (or an intellectual elite, or loving individuals, or whatever one chooses to promote as morally good).

  91. kgsam,

    He’s doing a Doestoevsky and asking (as Doestoevsky did through the character Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov) “How can people be good without God?” (one must note that this is a paraphrase). The answer to Ivan (and Dave W.) being that they can’t.

  92. KGSAM,

    I think the difference is that I am looking across the theism divide and asking, while Bailey is looking across this same divide, albeit in the opposite direction, and judging instead of asking.

  93. Dave W.,

    The question is so juvenile, indeed, so wholly ignorant, that it is a reasonable inference that you are judging.

  94. kgsam,

    Your theist presumption jumps out right there.

    Yes, it definately does at that. Then again it is axiomatic that the Catholic Church believes that any non-theistic metaphysics, etc. must be amoral, which is partly why the last Pope had such a problem with Buddhists. Buddhism being the one religion I know of that the last Pope openly bashed.

  95. question restated:
    How can people be good without believing that they should be good?

    Believing in God as the source of good is believing that one should be good because one has a belief that requires one to be good.

  96. kgsam,

    Well, a lot of theistic belief is based on circular reasoning like that.

  97. The idea of “good” and “bad” was created by humans (who are created in the image of god, whatever that means) as they created many ideas, pholosophies, and interpretations.
    It can be a useful concept.

  98. Dave W. –

    You frequently make these “gotcha” posts whenever you perceive someone not of “faith” to be making a moral claim, as you find these claims to be arbitrary constructs without foundation.

    What you seem to fail to realize is that all moral claims of those who are “religious” are also arbitrary constructs to the exact same extent. But the “religious” deceive themselves further by asserting a second arbitrary construct, a “God”, and with a straight face claiming this to be a foundation for the first arbitrary construct, their moral code. Stacking arbitrary constructs on top of one another doesn’t provide any foundation.

    All human beings are on the exact same footing when it comes to finding a foundation for morality. Some of them just like to imagine otherwise.

  99. It is interesting that we use the same term to refer to all the stuff we produce as in “goods and services”.

  100. Hak: I’m way late for this thread, but the point about the last Pope bashing Buddhists interests me. Is there a link that is illustrative?

  101. It is also interesting that many people of “faith” have no faith in their own rational facluties. Which leads to other interesting question: How do they choose what to have faith in? Whose interpretation will they choose to accept?
    What are the tools people use for choosing?
    Reason or feelings.

  102. The idea of “good” and “bad” was created by humans . . . as they created many ideas, pholosophies, and interpretations. It can be a useful concept.

    Similarly, I tend to believe that our general sense of good and bad, or right and wrong, is instinctive, like our reaction to poo as stinky, to sugar as more-ish, and to bodily symmetry as pretty. The details of right and wrong are subject to acculturation and some modification, but I think the basic “moral” sense is essentially a human instinct.

  103. Between gauis, Dave W, and Dr X, we’ve got some real nuts around here.

    Hey, I like gaius!

  104. Then again, maybe I only like gaius because my brain is addled by all the anti-epilepsy drugs being dumped in the water supply. Not to mention the corn syrup!

  105. You should like all of us.

  106. Thoreau: I must be drinking the same stuff you are.

  107. I must be drinking the same stuff you are.

    Roman-blend lattes with corn sweetener and a shot of anti-seizure medication?

  108. gauis is fine, I have no problem with him, or anyone else on these message boards, personally, but he is a total loon with his pessimistic worldview (or should that be westview?) and his seeing everything that we do as just more evidence of our seemingly impending demise.

    I just don’t think he’s right, is all I’m saying.

  109. Thoreau: Oh. Never mind, it’s been a long day.

  110. Kgsam, although your questions continue to be good, you really should be asking them at a theologically themed board so that you can get some better answers.

    This is the ask-an-atheist-board!

  111. Ron,

    Well, the controversy start in 1995 or so when JPII published a book which discussed Buddhism in some rather negative ways. JPII was specifically concerned with the lure of Buddhism in the West, especially since he found the Buddhist worldview to be of little merit (though he made a number of mistakes in describing this worldview wasn’t very helpful either).

  112. Ron,

    He also used some honorific titles in some rather insulting ways – putting them in “” so as to emphasize their lack of true legitimacy. Interestingly enough no Buddhists to my knowledge rioted over these slights, though there was a small boycott I think.

  113. Ron,

    Part of it was sort of a snooty attitude of JPII about Buddhists gaining converts in the West, as if the West was some sort of closed domain of the Catholic Church. Of course what else do you expect out of a closed-off group of people as the Pope and his lieutenants?

  114. I am curious how atheists deal with this apparent conundrum.

    The only conundrum is in your own mind. As I’ve already pointed out, experience demonstrates quite clearly that atheists are perfectly capable of subjugating personal comfort to ethical considerations. You will doubtlessly continue your armchair philosophizing that ignores this, but as far as I’m concerned, the matter’s been dealth with.

  115. This is the ask-an-atheist-board!

    I thought it was the ask-a-libertarian board.

  116. I might be a theist; depending on the definition.

  117. Kgsam, although your questions continue to be good, you really should be asking them at a theologically themed board so that you can get some better answers.

    I expected you to understand your own beliefs well enough to be able to explain them.

  118. Hak: Thanks. Something the current Pope said recently seemed to be an indirect slap at Buddhism, but I can’t remember the words he used. I know some Buddhists–the religion is way to (spiritually) labor-intensive for me. I’m strictly a “cafeteria” religionist: “I’ll have some of the spiritually transformative experiences please, leave out the guilt and damnation, and I’ll take a dollop of mysticism on the side”.

  119. Fyodor,
    I wasn’t trying to make light of your answers, which I found thoughtful and helpful and coherent as I always do. I even came back on the computer tonight to re-read your comments now that I have more time. Like you said on that other thread, people seldom change their opinions while you are in the middle of a discussion, and I think that goes treble for a weighty topic like the moral foundations of atheism.

    Mike, kgsam,
    You guys seem to be taking seriously a couple of comments I made as, more or less, humorous asides. To explain the “gotcha” thing a little more, I have been accused of looking too hard for gotcha’s in the past (and that is probably true). However, here I wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t setting traps where I was going to hold it against people if they got the “wrong” answer. This isn’t really an area about gotcha’s at all — because nobody has answers that are all that great. Let’s take me for instance — Hak accused me of circular reasoning, but really I said that I suspend reason entirely, and rely on faith, when it comes to moral questions. How persuasive is that!?!?!? Not very, I would submit, not here anyway! What I still hope to do here is to be able to make criticisms and/or probe apparent contradictions without being seen as doing something cruel. This place is pretty anonymous, and its not like these discussions will put you in a bad light at school or work or anywhere. I mean, I am perceived as a nut and so what. Besides the fact that I think the size of the US gov’t should be drastically cut, the other big reason I come here to discuss is that I like the quality of the discussion here. Because I basically think the ppl who congergate here tend to be smarter than average bears. Who can handle an intellectual challenge or 10.

  120. KGSAM,

    One “con” to being a Catholic is that you have to voluntary subjugate your own mind to external authority.

    An associated “pro” is that you get to toss the tougher questions to the external authorities.

    Getting back to your question about how people can be good without belief — I think the Catholic answer is that the most reliable way to be good is through belief and that if you don’t have the belief there is an indeterminate but substantial risk that you won’t be good.

  121. Getting back to your question about how people can be good without belief — I think the Catholic answer is that the most reliable way to be good is through belief and that if you don’t have the belief there is an indeterminate but substantial risk that you won’t be good.

    OTOH, by making morality contingent on a belief in God, some people who find no reason to believe in God may think they must reject morality as well.

  122. Getting back to your question about how people can be good without belief

    Whose question was that?

  123. You said: question restated:
    How can people be good without believing that they should be good?

    I said: Getting back to your question about how people can be good without belief . . .

    I am not sure whose question you were restating, but it was the one I had in mind when I started this sub-thread about how I get to dodge your questions. I know that because I wrote a long answer to the above-quoted question and then scrubbed it and replaced it with a short reply saying something about that your questions were good but I didn’t have ready answers.

  124. If it was supposed to be a restatement of my question then I shouldn’t have been trying to answer it. I don’t think it is a good restatement of my question, if that is what it is supposed to be, but it is a good question in its own right.

  125. Dave W.,

    …Hak accused me of circular reasoning, but really I said that I suspend reason entirely, and rely on faith, when it comes to moral questions.

    I didn’t accuse you of circular reasoning, I simply stated that you are unwilling to deal with the repercussions of your first principles (materialistic agnosticism) vis a vis your own statements. But you refuse to deal with that and would much rather make up crap. This is partly why any conversation with you turns into a boring, solipsistic mess.

  126. What is less clear to me is where an atheist gets any sense of right or wrong.
    Yes, that’s where it started.
    I was restating it from by perspective, that as there is no objective (acceptable to skeptics) evidence of the God of (most or many) Christians, the answer is the same. Christians AND atheist get their sense of right and wrong from the same place, their beliefs.

  127. that’s my perspective

  128. Via a e-mail alert from the American Institute of Physics, of which info can be located here http://www.aip.org/gov
    I learned today that Bush’s budget proposal has science spending increasing across the board in all science categories except for … wait for it… Biological and Environmental Research. Here’s the relevant data from the e-mail.

    The figures below are as compared to the current funding year, with no allowance for program changes.

    HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS: Up 8.1% or $58.4 million, from $716.7 million
    to $775.1 million.

    NUCLEAR PHYSICS: Up 23.7% or $87.0 million from $367.0 million to
    $454.1 million.

    BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH: Down 12.0% or $69.6 million
    from $579.8 million to $510.3 million. Important note: the current
    budget has $128.7 million in congressional earmarks (the remaining
    non-earmarked budget is $451.1 million.)

    BASIC ENERGY SCIENCES: Up 25.2% or $286.4 million from $1,134.6
    million to $1,421.0 million.

    FUSION ENERGY SCIENCES: Up 10.9% or $31.3 million from $287.6
    million to $319.0 million.

    ADVANCED SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING: Up 35.8% or $84.0 million from $234.7
    million to $319.7 million.

    Can’t get any more bad news about global warming if there is no new research, right?

  129. kgsam,

    Apprently if its not from a supposedly God-inspired book or a man who claims to be in direct communication with God he has a hard time understanding where moral considerations come from. That’s a blatant theistic bias.

  130. That high fructose will do it thoreau. Works everytime..mwhahahahaha.

    The epilepsey drugs can be neutralized with an aluminum foil beanie so they are unreliable.

    For those of you who don’t have one, or are not sure your home made model is adequate protection..

    http://zapatopi.net/afdb/

  131. “…a dollop of mysticism on the side”.

    Try the zen slaw. Delicious!

  132. Hak said: Well, a lot of theistic belief is based on circular reasoning like that.

    I said: Hak accused me of circular reasoning . . .

    Hak said: I didn’t accuse you of circular reasoning . . .

    Note to Hak: be careful or the get a clue squad might come for you.

  133. Mike said: You frequently make these “gotcha” posts whenever you perceive someone not of “faith” to be making a moral claim, as you find these claims to be arbitrary constructs without foundation.

    First, I don’t think that I complain every time an atheist makes a moral claim. However, the things I have said on this thread might lead one to believe that an atheist couldn’t make a claim on morality. That would be troubling, so I did some thinking on this this morning. My thoughts.

    1. The message I am getting here about atheist morality is that it comes from inside you, the individual, as an innate sense and that that is all there is to it. Hopefully I am on non-controversial ground here.

    2. This has at least one nice outcome for the atheists. That is, it largely insulate them from moral claims from other people. For example, I can come on this board and say that I think it is wrong for (almost) anybody to eat a chimp or a dog, but when I talk to atheists on this score, I can’t really expect to have a lot of traction.* Maybe some atheists will agree, but if an atheists knows the facts and has thought about what morality she feels like bringing to bear on the facts, then that’s it . . . I am out of ammo with my moral argument. That has got to be a comforting feeling for atheists. I am not making fun. I am serious. This relative freedom from hard moral suasion, at least at the moral code level, would be a great comfort, which I am denied, not being an atheist. Hopefully, I am still on non-controversial ground here. At least I can say that I would be surprised came on here and said, “Gee that nut Dave W.’s moral claims are really keeping me up at night with a guilty conscience.” It ain’t gonna happen; no, it ain’t gonna happen. And that is exactly what I am trying to get at with this point #2. I don’t see this as a criticism of atheism and I hope it isn’t taken that way.

    3. So point #2 represents the sweet, comfortable part of the atheist perspective, but there is another side to this coin. The bad part is that you really do undercut yourself when making controversial moral claims about others, in areas where there is little moral consensus. An atheist probably can say, I think murder is wrong and point to the wide consensus against murder. So far, no problem. However, not all moral issues enjoy such a concensus. For example, on this thread, Bailey is discussing which has a higher priority: helping the poor we have with us know, or maintaining the earth in a habitable condition. That is a tough question. There is not a concensus. When Bailey criticizes others (in this case a religous groop) for their moral reasoning on this disputed juncture in the moral code, he ain’t got nothing but the force of his feelings. His statements should be expected to have a greatly diminished moral suasion because he is purportedly not referring to anything outside his moral sense when he tries to convince the religious groop that it has its moral priorities backward. Bailey’s atheist viewpoint kicks the soapbox out from religious people (see happy point #2), but, by the same token, he kicks it out from under himself. that is the quid pro quo.

    FOOTNOTE

    * Sometimes my frustration is almost palpable and leads me astray. When I first started following this board, I used to make moral claims that what was happening in Asian factories was slavery. I got corrected on that whenever I said it here, and, let’s face it: you guys were right and I was wrong. Slavery is overblown. To the extent we can even figure out what is really going on behind the factory walls in the faraway land, it looks at best something like indentured servitude or debtor’s prison. It doesn’t look like slavery because there is some meaningful consent, albeit consent against a background of desperate poverty. The point of this footnote is not to get you thinking about Asian factories (we get lots of nice, dedicated threads here for that). Rather, I am trying to show you that I face real frustration when I try to make a moral claim in a largely atheistic setting, like here. Or to put it in Clintonian terms: “Bailey, I feel your pain on this.”

  134. It is not an open question at all – fighting global warming is not the best way to help humanity or the poor in particular. Bjorn Lomborg’s “Global Crises, Global Solutions” proves beyond any doubt that undertaking such efforts as fighting HIV or malaria, for example, yield dozens of times the bang for the buck.

    Fighting global warming came in last place of all the problems that were studied, and to even break into positive cost-benefit territory, some pretty generous assumptions were needed.

    It should be pretty obvious – we can do a lot more good providing 40 mosquito nets to an African village than we can buying a solar panel and decreasing global warming by .0000000001 degrees.

  135. Dave — Thanks for laying it all out like that. I agree with all your general points but would like to add some details.

    First, there are atheists who believe that philosophy determines their moral code just as certainly as any theology could. Ayn Rand is probably the best known example. I don’t find her proofs especially persuasive, but many thoughtful people do.

    Second, something that follows from not being bound intellectually by a moral code (as opposed to being bound at the gut level, which is unavoidable but somewhat malleable) is that one remains very open to new facts and their implications for rules of conduct. If the situation changes (for example, someone develops technology to enable detection of pregnancy and abortion within two weeks after insemination), the non-bound person who may previously have found abortion objectionable is readier at taking the new facts into consideration and changing his position accordingly. There’s also a risk, of course, that the non-bound person will not give sufficient weight to high-level values (such as the rule of law). Vigilance and humility are therefore in order.

  136. I’ve sais it before and I’ll say it again: Christians Theists AND atheists get their sense of right and wrong from the same place, their beliefs.

    That theists have organized personality cults (exl. Judaism which is not a personality cult) to cite as historical source makes theism no less a belief based philosophy than any non-theist moral philosophy. I think a naturalistic base (that it works, makes life better, etc.) is more substantial than assertions of arbitrary edict from an unknowable and unexplainable God.
    And I’m not even claiming to be atheist.

  137. “I’ve sais it before and I’ll say it again: Christians Theists AND atheists get their sense of right and wrong from the same place, their beliefs.”

    I don’t think anyone’s disputing that (I’m not, at any rate).

  138. Dave W.,

    It would be helpful if you realized that the comment about circular reasoning wasn’t directed at you.

  139. Note to Dave W.: Don’t let your meglomania get the best of you.

  140. Dave W.,

    First, I don’t think that I complain every time an atheist makes a moral claim.

    Actually you do. Atheism is something that really sticks in your craw and its obvious you’ve got a real beef with atheists.

    However, the things I have said on this thread might lead one to believe that an atheist couldn’t make a claim on morality.

    Heh. Dude, you questioned the ability of atheists to morally centered persons, a claim made by generally dense theists throughout human history. That you make the claim is fairly good evidence you’ve made little study of what atheists actually argue, or of atheistic thought in general. Its not surprising that your thoughts are based on unthinking assumptions and stereotypes though.

    The message I am getting here about atheist morality is that it comes from inside you, the individual, as an innate sense and that that is all there is to it. Hopefully I am on non-controversial ground here.

    No, that is not the message. There is no “innate morality” – what is moral is a social construct based on things like human experience, tradition, etc.

    This has at least one nice outcome for the atheists. That is, it largely insulate them from moral claims from other people.

    Oh here we go. Another typical line of argument from a theist on this matter. No it doesn’t insulate atheists as a rule from moral claims of others because atheists don’t determine moral claims merely on their own personal whims.

    That has got to be a comforting feeling for atheists. I am not making fun. I am serious.

    Yes, I am sure snide, condescending and intellectually juvenile remarks give you some comfort.

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