Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident Part II

we hold these truths II post Redating this post once again.

And here is the other post. Please make note of the referenced paper by Steve Lovell on this one. I made the link to Lovell's site under "link". The other link to him on this page is broken. Since Euthyphro keeps coming up here, Lovell answer is once again required reading.

I took the passage from the Declaration of Independence because I am convinced that it captures some powerful moral intuitions that all of us have (at least we Americans and others who live in democratic countries). I realize even those who have those moral intuitions fail sometimes to fully act out their commitment to those intuitions; witness Jefferson himself with respect to slavery. (I have read that he went before Congress and denied his affair with Sally Hemmings. Somehow whenever I try to picture that, I keep coming up with a wagging index finger and an Arkansas accent. But I digress.) However, these intuitions seem to imply at least deism, and it looks as if the deism required, while it might (as it did for Jefferson) exclude miraculous intervention of the type we find in the Resurrection, it does require God to have enough providential control over the world to "endow" us with inalienable rights. The "Deism" of the founding fathers, from what I have read of them allows for providential governance of human affairs, even if it does not allow for miracles.

The fact that, as the Un-Apologetic Atheist reminds us, he was attacking divine right monarchy, doesn't change the ontological commitments of the actual statement. Fat George would no doubt have actually replied that he ruled by divine right; he could easily have replied, if that had been his position, that it's a dog eat dog world and he's top dog. As an old chess friend of mine used to say, "Might does not make right, but might does what it wants to."

It would take a considerable amount of evidence to show that Jefferson did not intend the references to a Creator to be taken literally. Rakshasas perhaps has such evidence, or someone else does. I haven't seen it. I don't know how the "lexical force" of Jefferson's statements are going to work if the ontolgoical commitments of the assertion are incorrect.

UAA's rewrite of Jefferson's argument therefore must be a revision of what he said; it suggests that we have rights just in virtue of the fact that we exist. You now have to supplant the reasons given in Jefferson's statement for why we have these rights with some other reasons.

Careful examination of the concept of a right, for starters, implies the existence of an objectively binding moral obligation. Think about it. When the police say "You have the right to remain silent," it implies that the police are under an absolutely binding moral obligation not to beat a confession out of the suspect. Othewise, the right does not exist. But objective moral values are denied by many modern atheists. Consider Michael Ruse, for example:

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 they 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 . . . .

Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9.

Now if you are an ethical subjectivist, it seems to me that you have to say that Jefferson was just wrong when he said we have inalienable rights. So at least some (but surely not all) atheists would have to say this, people like Bertrand Russell (see previous post), J. L. Mackie, and Ruse. But if that is what an atheist believes, then he should be honest enough to say so. As I discussed in my previous post on moral objectivity, people are sometimes inclined to be subjectivists in considering highly controversial, vexed issues, not realizing that this implies that the claim "We have inalienable rights" comes out false.

Now, in response to Chris, I never said that only theists have a claim to morality. What I did say was that apparently in this statement Jefferson explains the existence of our inalienable rights in terms of our having been created in such a way as to possess them. Of course agnostics and atheists have had plenty to say about ethics, but it simply doesn't follow that what they had to say is consistent with atheism. Atheists can be ethical; they often have and live by moral values, they write about morality, but nevertheless it might be still true that if atheism of the naturalistic variety is true, there cannot be objective moral values.

Second, I am not especially persuaded by Euthypro-style arguments--see the Lovell paper you linked by the title.

21 comments:

Rakshasas said...

". . . nevertheless it might be still true that if atheism of the naturalistic variety is true, there cannot be objective moral values."

Yes, it may be true. But it is not logically required. It is perfectly plausible that we are indeed possessing inalienable rights without necessitating belief in a diety.

Joshua_Duncan said...

But then you're left with the task of coming up with an account of why we have inalienable rights without deity. This is a tall order.

Rakshasas said...

First, I disagree with your statement. Recognizing that something is does not create a mandate that it's reason for being is explained.

Theists can recognize that God exists without being required to explain why God exists.

Second, _I_ am not staking any claim to what _I_ believe in this conversation, so even if it where true that someone claiming that objective rights exist and that they are in fact a naturalistic atheist was then compelled to explain why those rights exists, I am making no claim to those beliefs here and thus would be under no such compulsion. For the purpose of the discussion I am not required to do anything based on beliefs I have not claimed.

callieischatty said...

great blog

Victor Reppert said...

But no one seems to have responded at all to the argument that I have given that if something like evolutionary naturalism is true, then there can be no inalienable rights. Namely, I said that one could argue that since our species existence depends on our outcompeting others, then we should feel no compunction about achieving our advantage by outcompeting others. Sure we have social needs as well as physical, but perhaps those could be taken care of not by being, but by appearing to be a moral person. The Sophist philosopher Antiphon argued that it works to your advantage if, in public, you act as if you esteem the laws of the community, but when alone (or when you can get away with it) you act in accordance with the law of self-preservation.

As a Christian, on the assumption that Christianity is true, I can argue that someone who follows Antiphon's advice is being irrational. As an atheist ......

Again, atheists are often moral people. I just don't see how the atheist can successfully argue that someone who chooses to be immoral is being irrational.

Victor Reppert said...

Also, I fixed the link to Steve Lovell's paper.

Victor

Rakshasas said...

one could argue that since our species existence depends on our outcompeting others, then we should feel no compunction about achieving our advantage by outcompeting others.Evolution happens when a species population adapts in a superior way to its' environment over another species.

The first problem with this argument is that it assumes that evolution is intentional, it is not. The word "compete" here can only be properly applied in the very weakest of meanings in the first half of the argument.

The second problem is that you move from something applied to a species to something applied to an individual.

So, frankly, I don't think there's much to respond to here.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, For a philosopher you don't ask enough questions... Taking it from the top, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...” Thomas Jefferson, “Declaration of Independence”, 1776.

It is a declaration of independence from Britain, a political document. Many colonists were angered at the British claiming to own the colonies that the colonists themselves had worked hard to found, and hence the pro-revolution colonists would have cited "self-evident truths," or, "God," or anything else for that matter to get those damned taxes and gun toting Red coats out of town. It was a believing age, and hence the ones seeking independence cited "God" as being on their side of the question of "liberty," though other colonists in America, reading Paul the apostle, stayed out of the fray with Britain because Paul taught that God lay behind whatever "powers that be," including the British crown. So whose side was "God" really on? It was a moot point that no one could agree on. But claiming "God" on the side of the colonists was tantamount to saying that "God" was not behind the British crown's claims to owning the colonies. It was a case of your "God's will" versus our "God's will."

A similar disagreement, each side claiming "God" was on their side, happened during the Civil War. After the states of the South seceded from the Northern states in the U.S., the Confederacy drew up its own separate Constitution and made sure it contained an invocation to God: "We, the people...invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God..." Learning what the South had done, a few legislators in the North drafted bills to have a Divine invocation added to the Constitution in the North, but all such bills were voted down. To this day (2004), the U.S. Constitution does not mention "God" nor invoke "God's favor and guidance." It does however, guarantee "freedom of religion." [See The Confederate Constitutions, compiled by Charles Robert Lee, Jr.]

In a less believing age, revolutionaries gathered followers by citing quotations from Marx or Mao rather than "God."

A few further questions:

1) Who or What is "God?"

2) How can you get people to agree concerning "God?"

3) Exactly how does "God" "grant" or maintain "rights?"

4) Exactly what "rights" does "God" grant?

5) If you are speaking of the "God of the Bible," what rights did "God" "grant" in the Old Testament and in the New Testament?

6) How do such "rights" agree or disagree with one another from one Testament to the other?

7) Are any rights from the Old Testament still valid today, or, are any no longer valid today? On what basis?

8) Are any "Biblical rights" different from America's "Bill of Rights?" Please explain which ones and why or why not.

Also, I recently saw an ad for a book by a Constitutional attorney who has studed the notion of "Freedom of Religion" and argued several important court cases, and concluded that such a concept is highly problematical, and may not even truly exist, because the religious spheres and demands that religion makes on each follower of each sect, denomination and belief system, overlap with one another and cannot help but conflict with one another, and will continue to do so in the legal sphere.

Cheers,
Ed
http://www.edwardtbabinski.us

Victor Reppert said...

Ed: Do you mean to imply that Jefferson didn't believe what he wrote when he appealed to a creator? Demonstrating that something like that is true requires a lot of evidence. In any event, I am concerned with the statement's meaning, not its author's intentions. Does the fact that it comes from a political document make a philosophical analysis of its contents irrelevant? Why?

God is, on my account, a being omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good, a being who created the univese. Of course we can't get people to agree about God; some people, like you, will invariably get it wrong :). God grants rights by creating people, by loving them, and by giving commandments that proscribe doing certain things to them. We get the right to life when God says "Thou Shalt Not Kill." The issues about how the OT compares to the NT are afield from the central point I am trying to make, that I can understand what it means to say that God grants rights, but I don't see how an evolutionary process could endow us with rights in the same way.

The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

Please forgive me for taking so long to reply to this, but I would simply point out that we create governments precisely BECAUSE none of those things are actually inalienable.

Might does make right in the animal kingdom, for instance. We create governments of democratic rule (find THAT in the animal kingdom!) so that we do not have to be ruled only by those who have the most guns, or who have the harshest majority.

In rejecting the Divine Right of Kings, as it was called, Jefferson and his peers asserted that it was human and their gift of reason that allowed for the formation of a "just" government. Our rights are "inalienable" only so long as we posess reason and instill our governments with protections against tyranny. It was for this very reason that we rebelled, and formed just such a government.

So to answer Joshua's question, we have inalienable rights because we recognize that we wish to live that way, and create a shared government to "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity".

Please feel free to email me from my blog if you'd like additional clarification on this point or have additional questions about how an evolutionary biologist and atheist can insist upon "inalienable rights." I love such discussions. Cheers!

Steven Carr said...

Steve Lovell writes, in the paper Victor links to 'An action is morally wrong for a particular agent at a particular time, if and only if, and because, God commands that agent to refrain from that action at that time.'

So if I try to torture my children for fun at 8.30 pm EST, it is not morally wrong if I don't hear a command from God to refrain from that action at that time? (I could then always wait until 8.35 pm EST)

Jason said...

{g} It's kind of funny to read the Un-Apologetic Atheist admiting that democratic rule cannot be found in the animal kingdom--but obviously exists among _us_.

The obvious conclusion is either that in doing so we're operating according to principles not found in the animal kingdom (despite being animals of some sort ourselves); or else that of course democratic rule _can_ be found in the animal kingdom (among us), and so it must really be a manifestation of the principles of the animal kingdom.

The UAA would, I suppose, correct himself and go for option 2.

(Note: it's somewhat difficult to pick out when various people made various comments in this thread--the post follows-up a much earlier post, retimed to appear now; and I for one don't remember whether this is also a re-timed post. But if so, then some of the comments actually date back several months. (I haven't seen Rakshasas around in a while, for instance.) I expect Steve's post is recent, though, since it's picking up on a topic he's been working on recently in other comment threads. I mention this in case the UAA isn't around anymore; a lack of reply from him should not be considered grounds against him.)

Anyway, I agree with Steven Carr (in principle at least--I haven't checked the linked article to Steve Lovell, but I _have_ found Steven to be a little sloppy at quoting in the past... But covering my bases in case he's misquoting again, doesn't mean I disagree with the basic point he's making. {s!}) Even if we expanded such an explanation of morality to include whispers in our conscience from the Holy Spirit (which I _do_ think happens routinely, btw), the mere fact God _tells_ us (one way or another) doesn't constitute the fundamental _rightness_ (or wrongness) of an action; not morally any more than it would merely logically.

(I suspect what Steve meant, if he did indeed write that, was that God doesn't hold people culpable for doing things in ignorance of what the morality actually is. But that's a rather different contention, and still isn't strictly solved simply by God telling us something.)


Relatedly, I don't hold that our creation and continual upkeep by God is, in itself, a _moral_ grounding; any more than I hold that our creation and continual upkeep by a nonsentient natural system would be, in itself, a _moral_ grounding. Granted, it's something without which (one way or another) we wouldn't be here now to be debating the issue; but that's factual or causal priority.


Rakshasas (at some point {g}) wrote: "Theists can recognize that God exists without being required to explain why God exists."

Actually, I think we _are_ required to explain why God exists. Much of the whole point to orthodox Christian theology is dedicated to contemplating this. (Except that orthodox Christian theologians have often declined to do so, and even often declined that it's a proper topic for contemplation. {annoyed sigh})

Serious theological problems crop up when Christians avoid considering this and taking it into account (or when we try to do it, but don't do it along the lines of orthodox theology). I certainly don't blame opponents for taking shots at those problems. (I've occasionally blamed opponents for other things, but not that. {g})


On the other hand, I think it _is_ an evasion to try to downplay the role of competition in evolutionary development and its links to any kind of 'morality' explanation based ultimately on evolutionary theory (or, if you prefer, ultimately on whatever maintains and drives biological evolution in an atheistic Nature). In point of fact, "species" do not compete at all; individuals of a species do, against each other as individuals (though those individuals may also constitute distinct social groups, species, genuses, etc.) And the successes or failures of these competitions, are what pare off less successful alterations in a population's genetic pool. (The successes get pared off less rapidly, usually; giving a better chance for the genes which provided the success to spread. Keep in mind, natural selection _builds up_ nothing; that's the role of the random copy-error mutations in the neo-Darwinian synthesis.)

It may be distasteful (a distaste which can ultimately be only the genetic equivalent of passing gas, if Dawkins et al are correct), but Victor _is_ basically correct about the relevance of 'moral claims' in such a situation. So is Michael Ruse: morality must (on those grounds) be an illusion. It may be a _convenient_ illusion, to us as individuals, or to our species as a group; but it's still only an illusion.

Which means, in passing, that Dennett, Dawkins, etc. are either deceived about the relevance of their own rights-based appeals ('evolution should be taught in schools _because_ people _deserve_ to know the truth', etc.); or else they're trying to deceive people into accepting their courses of action thereby, since supposedly they know very well that the ethical appeals they tacitly and explicitly make aren't _really_ grounded on the sort of reality the appeals otherwise seem to be implying. But that's how the language game is played, and so if they want to get anything done then that's what they'll say. Of _course_ we can trust them--either to say whatever they think will get the job done, or else to be deceived, like most of the rest of us, into thinking that what they're saying has the relevance they claim it has. If we fall into the trap of trusting them _ethically_--well that's understandable, since our genes are coded to lead to that illusion, and it _is_ a handy illusion (especially for those who have transcended the illusion and so can manipulate those still under the perception of the illusion). But that's our problem, not theirs. (Or if they slip by accident for a while into really believing what they're ethically implying, then that's just what happens.)


This is why some atheists are so keen on trying to derive a system of _real_ ethics instead of only illusory ones. And God bless them for trying {g} (they're being faithful to _that_ extent, at least. Sometimes in other ways, too, such as when they zorch evil and nonsensical claims about God, which sadly even Christians have a tendency to keep on making.) But trying to derive a system of real ethics by _essentially_ identifying it with something that isn't really ethical, is a losing proposition--no less so than it is for various theists (often Christians among them) who try to ground an objective ethic on something that isn't intrinsically ethical after all.

I've never yet met an atheist (of any stripe) who was willing to agree the theists were correct to do so; or who wasn't willing to point out the intrinsic contradiction (once they perceive it) and to hold that contradiction against the theist.

I return the favor. {g}

(And I really do take the atheistic complaints, in this case, to be a _favor_; so long as what I'm primarily concerned with discerning truth, and not primarily with defending whatever my ideology currently is.)


Jason

Don Jr. said...

There was a good discussion that was along these lines under the blog entry "Positive Atheism: Ethical Stability," over at Richard Chappell's Philosophy, et cetera. (It might be too lengthy of a discussion for some, but it is interesting nonetheless. Also, I think it gets at the heart of the issue that Dr. Reppert has raised here.)

John W. Loftus said...

I commented on Lovell's paper in here.

Jason said...

Tech note: your Oct 12 2006 redate of this post looks cut-off at the bottom, Victor. (Maybe it always did; I can't remember. But if it didn't, I thought you'd want to know.)

Steve Lovell said...

Oh dear Mr Carr.

You appear to be willfully misinterpreting the scope of the "at a time" clause in my comment.

To say

(1) An action is wrong at time t if God forbids it at time t

is quite different from saying that

(2) An action is wrong at time t if at time t God forbids it.

Of course, there are some logical nicities here, but they are easily dealt with. I don't think time comes into many of God's commands at all. But the Bible seems to indicate that God does sometimes issue commands to particular people at particular times, and I wanted my presentation of DNT to be consistent with that.

Let's say that if God simply forbids action A (with no reference to times or people) then ...

For all people, p, and all times t, God forbids p to A at t.

Problem solved.

Sometimes I wonder whether Carr is making any attempt to read the work of theists charitably. It's such absurd contributions at this one from Carr that prevent me from posting comments more often. The comments don't really deserve our attention and responding may just be "casting pearls before swine" or "answering a fool according to his folly".

Steve Lovell said...

Loftus' response (linked above) to my paper and subsequent comments is interesting.

I have attempted to defend a position I call Divine Nature Theory (DNT) which I will try to summarise here. DNT seeks to avoid the Euthyphro dilemma by saying that God's commands are rooted in his nature. This is intended to make morality dependant on God without making it arbitrary.

Questions then arise about how we come to our knowledge of morality and how we know that God is good.
My view is that God gave us the gift of conscience, and that we can (in general) trust our conscience even if we don't know that it was given to us by God.

In this way we can use our conscience to form moral beliefs ... including ultimately the belief that God is good. Here I've been charged with accepting an objectionable circularity. I admit the circularity, I only deny that it's objectionable.

Loftus comments that he thinks "inherent circularity in trying to defend the DNT points to the non-existence of God."

I'm not sure what exactly comes under the word "defend" here. The circularity appears in offering a justification of our belief that God is good which includes a description of the where our conscience has come from any why it's reliable. This justification is one that I offer within DNT and is a defence in the negative sense of showing how moral knowledge is possible on DNT. It is not a defense in the sense of an argument for DNT. Of course if there were no "negative" defense then a positive one would be out of the question ... but that's a different point.

Anyway, Loftus goes on to quote my common response here, which is an analogy with the evolutionary account of our senses. It goes like this ...

“It might be helpful to consider the similarities of a non-moral case: trusting our senses. One theory of why we should trust our senses is that natural selection would have eliminated species whose senses weren't reliable. But why should we accept this theory? Because it's confirmed by scientific data? But that data comes to us through our senses! The justification is circular.”

What would Loftus say if to me "the inherent "inherent circularity in trying to defend evolution points to the truth of creationism."?

If Loftus thinks the circularity involved in DNT counts against it, then surely this circularity is equally damaging to evolution.

Loftus' response here is:
"But is this really an analogous case for our moral faculties? We are able to justify our senses pragmatically, but that’s all. They seem to help us live and work and play in our world. Can we trust our senses to tell us what is real? No."

So the case is apparently not analogus because we cannot have anything but a pragmatic confidence in our senses. Does Loftus think that we can have more confidence (and not of a pragmatic kind) in our moral beliefs than in our beliefs based on our senses? If so, this is surely a very unusual position for an atheist.

I don't really see what else Loftus can mean by saying that the two cases aren't analogous. But perhaps his problem is just that while the analogy is a good one it can't do the work I want it to.
Presumably it wont do the work I want it to because beliefs based on our senses are trusted only pragmatically but I'm trying to defend a higher form of confidence for our moral beliefs.

Now I am trying to defend a higher form of confidence for our moral beliefs than a mere pragmatic confidence, but if this is Loftus' view then he has really given the game away ... since it would follow that on his view we can only have (at best) a pragmatic confidence in our moral beliefs, in other words our moral beliefs would be those we can get away with espousing. This doesn't seem to be a good way of arguing that Atheism can ground an objective morality just as well as Theism.

But perhaps Loftus is more confident in his moral beliefs than in those based on his senses. If so, I'd like to know where he thinks our moral beliefs come from and how such moral confidence is possible in a world of scepticism about both God and our senses.

mattghg said...

I remember hearing a lecture on the concept of human rights at Kiel where, after having very briefly dealt with the theistic justification ("this works fine, but doesn't apply to non-believers(!)"), the lecturer then spent the next hour and three quarters examining and rejecting various attempts to justify talk of human rights without reference to God. In short, they all basically amounted to saying that it's probably mutually beneficial for us to pretend like people have rights - which evidently isn't the same thing.

Consider Article 1 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which seemingly owes a lot to the US Declaration of Independence under discussion:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights

It seems to me that this poses a Euthypro-like dilemma for the atheist: Is it the case that
(a) The UN says that people have 'dignity and rights' because they, in fact, do
or
(b) People have 'dignity and rights' because the UN says so?

If (a), then you're still left with the question of where on earth (if earth...) this dignity and these rights come from. You might appeal to the human ability to reason; however, not only is it far from obvious that being able to reason gives one rights (short of baldly asserting as much), but also this line of argument would either deny human rights to mentally-handicapped people and babies or, in a Singer-esque move, put the latter on an ethical par with chimpanzees, thus losing any idea of human rights.

If (b), then these notions are utterly arbitrary, and would be even if the UN had the power or the will to ever enforce anything ever. In fact, this view really leads to
(c) People don't have
'dignity and rights' after all.

Solon said...

>>God is, on my account, a being omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good, a being who created the universe.

Why would you choose the Christian god as the definition of god? Obviously it is only one type of god.

>>if something like evolutionary naturalism is true, then there can be no inalienable rights

Certainly that is one aspect of Nietzsche's critique of Christian pity: "the weak shall perish - and we shall give them every possible assistance."

>>In point of fact, "species" do not compete at all

Of course they do. They compete for dominance over resources all the time.

>>This is why some atheists are so keen on trying to derive a system of _real_ ethics

No, I'd say it's because they aren't really atheists. You can't kill off the Christian god and maintain his morality, yet that's what they want to do with their holier-than-thou and dreadfully naive optimistic rationalism. What they should be doing is questioning morality itself: what it is, what it serves - what they actually serve.

------

Btw, what are all the {g} things for??

IlĂ­on said...

Solon: "[God is, on my account, a being omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good, a being who created the universe.]

Why would you choose the Christian god as the definition of god? Obviously it is only one type of god.
"

[Other than the fact that what you're questioning is merely the beginning/basis of the Jewish/Christian conception of the Godhood] How about because the other conceptions of divinity are inescapably incoherent(*)? As as the denial of the divine.


(*) For instance, most non-Biblical conceptions of the Godhood make the god(s) out to be effects of time/space/matter, and so are incoherent from the start -- the reason such conceptions of divinity can, and with regularity do, throw out a paradox (i.e. an incoherency) such as the Euthyphro dilemma is precisely because the conception is incoherent at its root. In these conceptions, the god(s) as as contingent as you and I are; it/they differ from us in degree, rather than in kind, it/they are no more actually divine than are the Space Aliens who next year are going to conquer Earth and utterly destroy the human race.

Jason Pratt said...

JP: {{In point of fact, "species" do not compete at all; individuals of a species do, against each other as individuals (though those individuals may also constitute distinct social groups, species, genuses, etc.) And the successes or failures of these competitions, are what pare off less successful alterations in a population's genetic pool.}}

Solon: {{Of course [species] do. They compete for dominance over resources all the time.}}

Spoken like someone who didn’t bother to actually read what I’d written. {s}

{{I'd say it's because they aren't really atheists.}}

I agree that “you can’t kill off the Christian god and maintain his morality”. However, it doesn’t make much sense to claim that people who explicitly reject the existence of God and who are trying to derive a system of real ethics explicitly without God, are not in fact explicitly rejecting the existence of God.

{{Btw, what are all the {g} things for??}}

Emoticons. {g} is an abbreviation for {grin}. {s} is an abbreviation for {smile}. I tend to spell out pretty much everything else, such as the {annoyed sigh} or modified grins and smiles.

JRP
(6/19/08)