Post by sdr
What Atheists Can't Answer
By Michael Gerson Friday, July 13, 2007;
Page A17 Washington Post
" Human nature, in other circumstances, is also
clearly constructed for cruel exploitation,
uncontrollable rage, icy selfishness and a range of
other less desirable traits.
So the dilemma is this: How do we choose between
good and bad instincts?
The choice between theism and atheist is a false dicotomy since there
are other non-religious thinking based alternatives. Attempt that
niether confirm or deny such religious based issues.
A False Dilemma involves a situation in which two alternative
statements are held to be the only possible options, when in reality
there exist one or more other options which have not been considered.
The fallacy relies on a misuse of the "or" operator. The dilemma need
not be limited to two choices; it may involve three possibilities, in
which case it is known as a trifurcation. There may be even more
choices involved, in which case the fallacy may arise simply by
accidental omission - possibly through a form of wishful thinking -
rather than by deliberate deception. Two extreme points on some
spectrum of possibilities can give the impression that the options are
...by appealing to the core principles of neurobiology, evolutionary
theory, and cognitive science, practitioners of a new human science
can reach a deeper understanding of why we feel certain courses of
action to be intrinsically correct. They can help us to understand why
we have moral feelings. For now, though, the scientists can offer no
guidance on whether we are really correct in making certain decisions,
because no way is known to define what is correct without total
reference to the moral feelings under scrutiny. Perhaps this is the
ultimate burden of the free will bequeathed to us by our genes: in the
final analysis, even when we know what we are likely to do and why,
each of us must still choose.
The challenge to science and philosophy to solve this dilemma is very
great-in our opinion, there is none greater. Society, through its laws
and institutions, already regulates behavior. But it does so in
virtual blind ignorance of the deep reaches of human nature. By
relying on moral intuition, on those satisfying visceral feelings of
right and wrong, people remain enslaved by their genes and culture.
Their minds develop along the channels set by the hereditary
epigenetic rules, and while they exercise free will in moment-by-
moment choices, this faculty remains superficial and its value to the
individual is largely illusory. Only by penetrating to the physical
basis of moral thought and considering its evolutionary meaning will
people have the power to control their own lives. They will then be in
a better position to choose ethical precepts and the forms of social
regulation needed to maintain the precepts.
Promethean Fire - Reflections on the Origins of Mind
Charles J. Lumsdem - E.O. Wilson - 1983
...innate censors and motivators exist in the brain that deeply and
unconsciously affect our ethical premises; from these roots, morality
evolved as instinct. If that perception is correct, science may soon
be in a position to investigate the very origin and meaning of human
values, from which all ethical pronouncements and much of political
Philosophers themselves, most of whom lack an evolutionary
perspective, have not devoted much time to the problem. They examine
the precepts of ethical systems with reference to their consequences
and not their origins. Thus John Rawls opens his influential A Theory
of Justice (1971) with a proposition he regards as beyond dispute: "In
a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as
settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political
bargaining or to the calculus of social interests." Robert Nozick
begins Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) with an equally firm
proposition: "Individuals have rights, and there are things no person
or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong
and far-reaching are these rights they raise the question of what, if
anything, the state and its omcials.may do." These two premises are
somewhat different in content, and they lead to radically different
prescriptions. Rawls would allow rigid social control to secure as
close an approach as possible to the equal distribution of society's
rewards. Nozick sees the ideal society as one governed by a minimal
state, empowered only to protect its citizens from force and fraud,
and with unequal distribution of rewards wholly permissible. Rawls
rejects the meritocracy; Nozick accepts it as desirable except in
those cases where local communities voluntarily decide to experiment
with egalitarianism. Like everyone else, philosophers measure their
personal emotional responses to various alternatives as though
consulting a hidden oracle.
That oracle resides in the deep emotional centers of the brain, most
probably within the limbic system, a complex array of neurons and
hormone-secreting cells located just beneath the "thinking" portion of
the cerebral cortex. Human emotional responses and the more general
ethical practices based on them have been programmed to a substantial
degree by natural selection over thousands of generations. The
challenge to science is to measure the tightness of the constraints
caused by the programming, to find their source in the brain, and to
decode their significance through the reconstruction of the
evolutionary history of the mind. This enterprise will be the logical
complement of the continued study of cultural evolution.
Success will generate the second dilemma, which can be stated as
follows: Which of the censors and motivators should be obeyed and
which ones might better be curtailed or sublimated? These guides are
the very core of our humanity. They and not the belief in spiritual
apartness distinguish us from electronic computers. At some time in
the future we will have to decide how human we wish to remain-in this
ultimate, biological sense-because we must consciously choose among
the alternative emotional guides we have inherited. To chart our
destiny means that we must shift from automatic control based on our
biological properties to precise steering based on biological
Because the guides of human nature must be examined with a complicated
arrangement of mirrors, they are a deceptive subject, always the
philosopher's deadfall. The only way forward is to study human nature
as part of the natural sciences, in an attempt to integrate the
natural sciences with the social sciences and humanities. I can
conceive of no ideological or formalisric shortcut. Neurobiology
cannot be learned at the feer of a guru. The consequences of genetic
history cannot be chosen by legislatures. Above all, for our own
physical well-being if nothing else, ethical philosophy must not be
left in the hands of the merely wise. Although human progress can be
achieved by intuition and force of will, only hard-won empirical
knowledge of our biological nature will allow us to make optimum
choices among the competing criteria of progress.
On Human Nature - Edward O. Wilson 1978
Post by sdr
...Theism, for several
millennia, has given one answer: We should
cultivate the better angels of our nature because
the God we love and respect requires it. While many
of us fall tragically short, the ideal remains.
Atheism provides no answer to this dilemma. It
cannot reply: "Obey your evolutionary instincts"
because those instincts are conflicted. "Respect
your brain chemistry" or "follow your mental
wiring" don't seem very compelling either. It would
be perfectly rational for someone to respond: "To
hell with my wiring and your socialization, I'm
going to do whatever I please." "
If it were the case that religion is our instructor,
then there would be no prisons. There are, and
consider, further, that the most religious (at least
professing to be) group in this country is the two
million criminals in our prisons. 'Nouf said.
But if you still think that morality/ethics is in any
way/shape/form associated with religious belief, then
but think about the depravity of priests and preachers
--who have been caught. Shouldn't that, at least, be
enough to remove any convictions you might have had
about religious instruction "bettering" our "naturally
Further: People who think they should be good BECAUSE
their God requires it are only setting themselves up
for the most evil preacher's definition of The Good.
Time and time again we have seen preachers "inform"
their congregations that God wants them to fight this
or that war (Confederate preachers urged their
congregations to kill as many Yankees as possible), or
to butcher and plunder this or that people (in the
best of Islamic traditions, Turkish preachers told
their congregations that murdering Armenians for their
possessions (and raping their women and children
before slaughtering them) was what God expected of
them... and because acknowledging this monstrous truth
about Islam before the whole world is so impossible,
the Turks to this day refuse to acknowledge that the
Armenian/Muslim genocide even ever took place).
But I don't have to prove to any parent that we are
ALL born with unfettered instincts--to be "bettered"
by the (sometimes even the most casual & offhand)
instructions of our parents and societies: Every child
KNOWS the difference between good and evil (deeds) by
the time he/she is four or five. And if they don't,
then that is a certain sign that such children live in
a warped and perverted society or family.
The four-year-old who does "evil" may not yet know how
to "get away with it," but he certainly knows he had
better not get caught doing it.
Therefore, if there be man or woman on this earth who
still does not know the difference between Good and
Evil... let them inquire of any (as-yet religiously-
uninstructed) four-year-old: for he will surely know,
and tell them.
S D Rodrianhttp://poems.sdrodrian.comhttp://physics.sdrodrian.comhttp://mp3s.sdrodrian.com
All religions are local.
Only science is universal.