Monday, June 04, 2007

Ed Babinski on morality: Interesting stuff, but what follows?

Moral Objectivity, Victor Reppert, Edward T. Babinski
Dear Vic (Victor Reppert for the sake of blog search engines *smile*),

I enjoyed reading your discussion at your blog on moral objectivity, along with comments left by others.

Is it me, or are you asking more philosophical questions concerning moral objectivity than you have in the past? Asking questions and analyzing the answers (interminably so, especially when such questions are large overarching ones) appears to be what philosophy does best.

VR: I have never stopped or slowed down in asking philosophical questions. It’s what I do. Though, if we have no prospect of getting an satisfactory answers, at least satisfactory enough to help us in making choices that guide our conduct, I’m not sure what the questions do for us. There are some things that I think are true philosophically; this does not mean that I ask any fewer questions than those who don't hold to any philosophical truths.

EB: On the question of "moral objectivity," I think that the most objective thing any of us can say with anything near certainty as fellow philosophical debaters is that we each like being liked and hate being hated.

We certainly like having our particular thoughts appreciated by others. And we are a bit perturbed when others don't "get" what we're saying, so we continue trying to communicate our views in ways we hope others might understand.

I also assume each of us generally prefers not having lives nor property taken from them, and generally prefer not being abused either psychologically nor physically.

I also assume that when one person has something in common with another, be it a love of a game (chess, golf, soccer), a song, the sight of a sunset/sunrise, a philosophical point of view concerning the big questions, or a religion, that liking the same thing tends to bring people together and increase their joys.

Therefore, I'm not sure that "objectivity" is necessarily what I am primarily after, nor what most people are primarily after.

VR: You were doing fine until you said therefore, and committed a huge non sequitur. We have a good deal to gain from appearing to me moral, appearing to be concerned about the welfare of others, etc. We are also “after” other things besides moral objectivity. The question I am posing has to do with whether moral values can be objectively true. If a society practices, say, female genital mutilation, can we say, not just that we don’t like the practice, but that it is really wrong, if in their society it’s thought to be a good thing. Is there some standpoint overarching us and those who approve of this practice that we can appeal to so that we can say that what they are doing is really wrong.

EB: But I will say that there is a marvelous article in this week's Discover about animals with feelings. One anecdote from the article involved a magpie (freshly deceased from an accident with a car) that lay by the side of the road surruonded by four live magpies that went up and pecked gently at it, then two flew off and came back with some tufts of grass in their beaks and laid it beside the dead magpie. Then they stood beside it for a while until one by one the four magpies flew off.

VR: None of my philosophical projects requires maintaining that humans are uniquely rational. As I said when I was interviewed on Infidelguy, for all I know there may be a whole colony of dolphins off the coast of Miami that make rational inferences, or make moral judgments. (The true Miami Dolphins!) There is nothing especially Christian about the Cartesian idea that animals are just machines. Bill Hasker, for example, is not a materialist about animals either. You simply are not going to get an argument going against any of the positions I have been defending over the years by telling me all the things Koko the gorilla can do.

EB: This anecdote sparked my own memory of another one that I read in a turn of the century book titled Mutual Aid by the Russian evolutionist, Kropotkin (his theory of evolution emphasized the benefits of mutual aid & cooperation). Kropotkin cited Australian naturalists and farmers who observed the way parrots cooperated to denude a farmer's field of crops. The parrots sent out scouts, then rallied the other birds, and they would swoop down quickly and devour the crops, but sometimes some of them got shot, and rather than simply fly off altogether the birds "comrades" (remember, this is a russian biologist speaking) would squawk in a fashion of bereavement, trying to remain as long as possible fluttering near the fallen friend and group member.

I also have read stories about the intelligence of crows, even their sense of humor. One naturalist mentioned seeing three crows on a wire, and one of them slipped, seemingly intentionally, and held himself upside down by one claw, which apparently amused the others. (I'd also read about experiments and anedcotes involving birds with amazing memories and vocabularies, even speaking and acting in ways one would consider appropriate for brief human-to-human exchanges.)

Elephants and llamas were some of the other animals mentioned in the Discover piece that reacted strongly to the death of members of their own species. Elephants have come back a year later to the spot where another elephant has died (as seen on Animal Planet) and they react strongly to the bones. I also recall reading in a Jan Goodall book about a young chimp (fully grown, not a baby) reacting so strongly to the death of his mother, that he simply climbed a tree and wouldn't come down and eat until he himself had died, apparently of grief.

The works of Frans de Waal (a famed primatologist), contain some touching stories about the compassionate behaviors of primates, notably of the most peace loving chimp species, the bonobo. When Frans took his own baby son (who was sitting in a forward facing harness strapped round Frans's chest) to visit some chimps at a zoo where Frans had gotten to know the chimps well, a mother chimp with her own young one saw Frans holding his baby up to the viewing glass, and the mother took her own baby's arms and twisted her baby around in a single movement so it was facing outward, and held her baby up to the glass so that the two babys could eye each other. Frans and the mother chimp also exchanged glances. Frans mentioned a case of a female photographing chimps on their little chimp island that had a moat around it. They were bonobos, a female dominated society, and food had just been given them, and they were portioning it out amongst themselves. The photographer wanted to get a shot but the chimps had their backs to the camera and were facing the food that had been delivered instead of facing the moat with the photographer on the other side, so the photographer started to wave her hands and scream and jump up and down to get the attention of the chimps. The other chimps looked round, except one who was suspicious and didn't turn around. So the female photographer continued waving her hands and shouting until finally that last female chimp turned around, and tossed the photographer a handful of food! The chimp apparently thought she was being asked to share her food! And well, she did.
In another case I've read about, Washoe the chimp was on a chimp island with other chimps, one of which climbed the fence and started wadding out into the moat surrounding the island (chimps can't swim, they sink, their bodies are denser than human beings since they have far less body fat). This chimp started to flail around in the water, drowning. Washoe saw this, clambored over the fence, and held onto some tall grass with one hand while extending the other to the drowning chimp, who was saved.

Meanwhile Robert Hauser (Harvard prof and author of Moral Minds) has asked a lot of people a lot of tough moral questions and found out how similar their responses were across the board regardless of whether the person was religious or not.

VR: This sounds really interesting. Gosh, science magazines can be a fun read. However, you seem to think I have defended some kind of human uniqueness doctrine, when I haven’t done any such thing. Where, in anything I have written, have I said anything that is precluded by any of these observations. Is there anything in Christianity that requires that animals just be machines.


terri said...

The author of Moral Minds is Marc Hauser, not Robert Hauser. He did an interview in the May 2007 issue of Discover Magazine which I briefly posted about.

Jason Pratt said...

Thanks for the fix, Terri!

Vic: {{You simply are not going to get an argument going against any of the positions I have been defending over the years by telling me all the things Koko the gorilla can do.}}

Not that Ed hasn't continually tried, again and again, to do this. After being repeatedly told, again and again, that you (and I for that matter) don't have a problem in principle with animals being conscious, having souls, etc.

I hope he eventually gets a clue, after 10 or 12 years of this...


Anonymous said...

Ed's rambling notwithstanding, Marc Hauser's research would raise questions...only if Christianity guarranteed that conversion would automatically make you a better moral reasoner. That's clearly not the case. For that matter we might ask why upon becoming a Christian we cannot automatically think clearer and faster than everybody else, or even have super-powers like the X-Men. The question is whether theism can provide a more coherent justification of morality than atheism. It is perfectly possible that this is indeed the case but that individual theists do not show much difference in their moral reasoning from nontheists. Christian transformation is both a matter of 'already' and of 'not-yet'.

There might be an interesting analogy with scientists who know much more than the average person about the workings of the world, but continue instinctually to operate according to the rules of folk biology or folk physics. Does that mean that those scientists don't actually know more than the average person?

Jason Pratt said...

{{For that matter we might ask why upon becoming a Christian we cannot automatically think clearer and faster than everybody else, or even have super-powers like the X-Men.}}

YEAH!!! I wanna know where my super-powers are! {g} (Come to think of it, those were promised in the scriptures, weren't they?!)

'course, there's the possibility that I'm not all that trustworthy a steward yet of what little supernatural power I (and everyone else) have already been given. (Come to think of it, stewards factor a lot into the parables, too, don't they? Not always favorably, either...) Besides, we _have_ in fact accomplished a lot with what little power all of us (rather than a lot of power to few of us) have been given. Arguably exceeding the signs that Jesus did, too, already.

Now that I think of it, I rather like that idea: it accentuates the whole 'fair-togetherness' thing stressed so often in the scriptures. {s} And it still counts as supernatural power, too.


Edwardtbabinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edwardtbabinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edwardtbabinski said...


VR: I have never stopped or slowed down in asking philosophical questions. It’s what I do.

ED: Only stopping when you reach what you consider to be an appropriately Christian/theistic conclusion in line with doctrinal religious beliefs in which you already have absolute faith.

Others find that there are yet more philosophical questions that could be asked, or that are beyond most or all people's personal knowledge, or beyond universal assent philosophically speaking, not to mention indeterminacies of scientific knowledge (a field that continues to accumulate knowledge, painfully slowly over centuries which isn't exactly an argument in favor of the supernatural).

I personally would love to know what lies behind the metaphysical curtain, wouldn't we all, instead of the groping, and instead of living in a world where so many people hold so many views of the divine found in holy books from cultures around the world, both old and new holy books (and books that interpret those holy books in denominational ways) and many of those persons believe that they know absolutely what "the divine's" lessons for humanity are. While the rest of humanity who writes the many other books that we see at Barnes and Noble seem to be far more concerned to write about a host of subjects and stories without bringing up the subject of religion or philosophy, certainly not directly and systematically or to try and convince anyone of anything in particular concerning religion. What a world, quite diverse in what it finds interesting, or in what music, books, movies, philosophies, theologies, it loves most. Is life all about getting to heaven via specific beliefs? Really? Conversely, if life is about conducting onesself relatively nicely toward one's fellows, most people do already do that, otherwise we wouldn't be able to get along in big cities.

By the way, I didn't know that you and Jason Pratt agreed that animals have souls. But does Pratt have to slap me down (figurative speaking) for not recalling having read that at your blog (what an instinctual reaction his part). As for suggestions that I may not have come to recognize what you have been saying to me these past years, I agree that may be true, but I also admit that the road works both ways. From my perspective you would not have composed the reply you did had you grasped what I have been saying. I also grant that communication (especially communications revolving round big questions) is an art that takes two to master, an exceedingly difficult art at that, like dancing on ice, especially since the two people in question have spent decades reading different books, thinking about subjects from different angles, and just basically not being in-synch with one another over these big questions, and especially so when one of the two persons is absolutely convinced he's found the big answers to the big questions.

About Jason's remark that you believe "animals have souls," I'd like to ask whether also believe in mind-body substance dualism for animals (for the great apes at least, and what about the lesser apes, the monkeys?) And what about the transition from soul-less animals to ones with souls? Was it a sharply demarcated transition or does it lie along a wide evolutionary spectrum of increasing "soul-ness" (and increasing substance dualism) being granted little by little? And do you believe can philosophy figure such things out?


VIC: Though, if we have no prospect of getting an satisfactory answers, at least satisfactory enough to help us in making choices that guide our conduct, I’m not sure what the questions do for us.

ED: I never said there was absolutely no prospect of any answer. Perhaps after death we'll know more, or everything, or nothing, or maybe we'll exist only temporarily in a personal form after we die. Perhaps in a thousand years science will find the right experiments to be able to convince a majority of the earth's inhabitants that either an afterlife exists, or it doesn't. It took science long enough to find the right experiments to convince the majority that contrary to our daily perceptions the sun does not move round the earth.

I have said in the past that I doubted certain philosophical arguments based on the inherent limitations of language itself. I doubted that philosophical arguments based on analogies constituted proof. And I haven't see any answers in philosophy that were uncontested and on good rational grounds, such that people with different intuitions seemed to simply fall into accepting one or another philosophical answers and arguments to the big questions as a way to back up their intuitions, and then defended such arguments like dogs do bones.

You stated, "if we have no prospect of getting any satisfactory answers, at least satisfactory enough to help us in making choices that guide our conduct, I'm not sure what the answers do for us."

I doubt with Marc Hauser that the vast majority of people (or "animals with souls" as Jason and you believe they have) make the majority of their decisions on how to conduct themselves based on philosophical and/or theological arguments. In fact, research suggests morality is built in the brain. Besides Hauser's research, here is one of the latest and newest lines of evidence from a Washington Post article published last week. The article begins, "'You gotta see this!' Jorge Moll had written. Moll and Jordan Grafman, neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., had been scanning the brains of volunteers as they were asked to think about a scenario involving either donating a sum of money to charity or keeping it for themselves. As Grafman read the e-mail, Moll came bursting in. The scientists stared at each other. The results were showing that..."

Furthermore, even if someone were to grant that philosophy had somehow come up with the ultimate universal proof that absolute moral laws existed (which I don't see philosophy doing in any universally convincing manner any time soon), each nation would still have to choose WHICH laws were absolute and/or "divine" and which were not. The leap from the assertion of the absoluteness of moral laws to defining exactly what those laws must be simply raises more questions, ones that biblical interpreters and koranic interpreters and people who read a host of holy books from around the world, or who live by one particular interpretation of their particular holy book, or who live by long held religious traditions, still cannot agree on. Exactly which moral laws are absolute, universally speaking, and which should a nation enforce as laws?

As for the moral laws that the vast majority of people would agree upon, they are probably the most obvious and inocuous such that even godless secular humanists would agree with such laws as well. [Again, see Marc Hauser's research, and the host of moral questions he posed to both religious and nonreligious people across the spectrum and the vast similarity of answers he received.]

As as for attempts to derive specific moral laws for a nation to follow based on laws and teachings supposedly laid down by God in the Bible, that alone requires endless arguments. And if you've got a full range of the spectrum of Christians, from conservative, moderate, to liberal in each Christian tradition and denomination, and if they are 21th century Christians influenced by over a hundred years of liberal democratic principles of humanity's right to govern themselves, and to speak freely and choose their own beliefs or lack thereof (the conservatives might give the others a hard time over that), and if they are all willing to compromise on the least common denominator of which laws to create based on the Bible, then they might conclude by legislating laws against the things any average person instinctually detests most and for the most obvious reasons, such that you don't even need the Bible to create those types of laws.


VIC: There are some things that I think are true philosophically; this does not mean that I ask any fewer questions than those who don't hold to any philosophical truths.

ED: I'm sure you feel that way inside, intuitively, but there's a communication difficulty between us here. For I feel differently inside, intuitively. I feel that if you had read the same books of philosophy and theology that I had over the years (our beginning coincided, for I gobbled up all of Lewis's theological works and essays, some 40 works of Chesterton and other Inklings, along with Francis Schaeffer's works and McDowell but later my reading veared off into classical Christian mysticism and non-Christian mysticism and eastern religion and wise sayings among all the world's traditions, as well as moderate and liberal theologians and philosophers which eventually raised more questions than answers) then you would have learned to ask questions that even affect your current absolute certainties of religious doctrine which also appear to me to be part of the web of thought that ties you to your particular philosophical argumentative preferences and "answers" to the big questions. I admit I have such a web too, and that we are out of synch.

It also seems that with age comes increasing incomprehension and incredulity concerning some of the things other people believe (and/or doubt) concerning the big questions, or even incomprehension and incredublity at what some other people love in the realms of of music, movies, books.

Speaking of books, just walk into a Barnes and Noble sometime and check out how many different stories and topics you can find. Some person sat down and spent endless hours researching each one of those books if they are non-fiction, or plotting out their stories if they are romance novels or muder mysteries, or science fiction, et al. And consider how few of those books deal specifically with philosophy or the Bible. It seems people pick up their beliefs about how to act with one another from a wide variety of places, history books, novels, science books, et al. The publication of a book or even a blog entry tells us something in itself, that that person wants to share in the human community, to give and join with other people, including arguing about matters if that's the purpose of the book.

The mere fact that human beings have been writing books since writing was born tells us something about the nature of humanity's wish to get connected and keep connected with other human beings, not just with "the gods" or "God." And the sheer variety of obessions of different topics that book writers are possessed by is amazing, what a panoply of subjects and topics and titles! Of course to anyone who believes in the absolute truth of only one book in the world, the obsession of certain history buffs for less than biblical periods of history, or the obesession of people who devote themselves to studying and explaining an incredible variety of subjects in science and/or the humanities with very little reference in each case to "God," must seem at least a bit unnerving.

Not to mention the fact that the Biblical authors themselves were in debt to works that were written before their time. The O.T. mentions the names of books now lost but which the O.T. authors relied upon to write the O.T..

In the case of the book of Proverbs, clear links exist to previous wise sayings from Egypt ("If Amenemope teaches us anything, it is that what the West has traditionally been accustomed to think of as 'Judeo-Christian morality' in fact preceded both Jews and Christians by more than a millennium, and that our hybrid Judeo-Christian/Greco-Roman
heritage is ultimately the heritage of Egypt," to quote the conclusion of a thesis by a Christian professor who also addresses a wide variety of possible objections).

While in the case of the N.T., the intertestamental period which preceded the N.T. period was a time during which there arose new ideas that would later be taken up by N.T. writers, including the rise of the notion of a fiery tortuous hell and the elevation of Satan to "prince of this world." Similarly, both Jesus and the Apostles made use of--and even appealed to the authority of--the oral traditions, deuterocanonical and extracanonical writings, and varying textual recensions of their day:

Among these are Matthew 2:23 (unknown prophecy), Matthew 23:2-3 (rabbinic tradition), Matthew 27:24 ("Story of Susanna" = Daniel 13:46 LXX), Mark 10:19 ("do not defraud" = Sirach 4:1 LXX), Luke 11:49 (unknown scripture), John 7:38 (unknown Scripture), Acts 7:14 (vs. Exodus 1:5), Acts 7:16 (cf. Gen. 50:12-14, Joshua 24:32), Acts 7:20-30 (Jewish traditions about the early life of Moses), Acts 7:36 (Testament of Moses), 1 Corinthians 2:9 (Apocalypse of Elijah23), 1 Corinthians 10:4 (Jewish tradition), 2 Corinthians 11:14 (Life of Adam and Eve), Galatians 3:19 (Jewish tradition; cf. also Acts 7:38, Acts 7:53, and Hebrews 2:2), Ephesians 5:14 (Apocalypse of Elijah24), 2 Timothy 3:8 (Book of Jannes and Jambres), Hebrews 1:6 (Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls), Hebrews 10:5-6 (Septuagint), Hebrews 11:4–5 (Book of Enoch), Hebrews 11:35-37 (2 Maccabees 6-7, Martyrdom of Isaiah), 2 Peter 2:4 (Book of Enoch), James 1:19 (= Sirach 5:13), James 4:5 (unknown Scripture), Jude 9 (Assumption of Moses), Jude 14-15 (Book of Enoch), and Revelation 15:3-4 (the Song of the Lamb). [Note also that John 10:22 places Jesus at the Temple during the Feast of Dedication (i.e., Hanukkah), a religious celebration whose only scriptural justification is in the Books of Maccabees. [1 Maccabees 4:36-59; 2 Maccabees 1:18-2:19, 10:1-8] [See this page for further discussion, written by a Catholic scholar, because Catholics readily acknowledge such evidence of a host of evolving prior traditions influencing the Bible, rather than insisting like Protestants that the Bible interprets itself. For Catholics only the Catholic magisterium interprets itself, i.e., the Catholic church.]

In the realm of fiction at least, certain people like C. S. Lewis of course provided the ultimate rationale, namely that fiction could point people toward God, even toward Christ (mypoeic fiction in particular, that he believed could "baptize the imagination"). Though the human imagination in fiction still remain a bit vaster and more unweidly and even with a greater range of humor than C. S. Lewis or Tolkein or other mythopoeic hypothesizers seem to have considered.

C. S. Lewis similarly argued that people might be anonymous Christians, even worshiping idols outwardly but the truth inwardly. Hans Kung employed the same rationale, namely that many people are "anonymous Christians" who simply didn't know it. Such rationales involve drawing the lines where they most suit the person drawing them so as to encircle or supersede other people's views. The fact that literally anybody can and does employ a similar rationale made me question Lewis and Kung's hypotheses. For instance even humanists can employ a similar rationale, and point out how human we all are; or, that whatever in the Bible most closely resembled other practical moral teachings found round the world is simply whatever was best in human beings, while the rest of the Bible's teachings are dross; or that western society benefited most during the past 300 hundred years via the ages of doubt in Europe, when biblical criticism began to develop (which had been denied to society for over a thousand years, ever since the days of the Christian Romam emperors who simply had the books of Christianity's earliest critics burnt), followed quickly by ages of liberalism in politics and belief in which the institutionalized state churches of Europe lost much of their direct political power, and people were free to publish and believe as they chose, and later to vote as they chose. I suppose deists might argue in a somewhat similar fashion of course, that much of the Bible and religious doctrine was far from inspired and could be discarded.

Lastly, speaking of some interesting philosophical/theological questions that moderate Christians raise, the following two pieces in the latest BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL raise questions concerning pain, suffering, chance and God:

Chance, Coincidence, and the Providence of God

As luck would have it, God was with us

Happy reading! Some fascinating stuff there!

Edward T. Babinski

Maybe if I feel better (a bit ill right now) I can find the time to re-edit this post and post it at Debunking Christianity and address the other attempts by Vic in his response to downplay the relevance of questions I have raised. Sorry for miscommunications, inaccuracies and ramblings. (But if Jason is a universalist, and Vic is a semi-universalist, then I suppose we'll be able to ramble on for eternity in one fashion or another, and with our group or new groups, in heaven, where again, our knowledge may only be partial, though greater than here.

Here we see through a glass darkly, no? And isn't there a deus abscondis question to also deal with (the hiddenness of God question)? Oh but the Discovery Institute has solved all those questions, along with C. S. Lewis and Vic Reppert, and other Christians with absolute answers. Now if I could just be absolutely sure that the human race has a chance of outlasting solar flares, roving wild black holes formed by the collisions of galaxies (see the altest Discover), nearby novas, asteroids, the increasingly diminishment of the earth's magnetic field protection from solar radiation, the movement of large stars near our own sun, and a host of other cosmic disasters waiting to happen, that no holy book written before the days of modern astronomy seems to know anything about, let alone how to avoid them. Pray? Ah yes, pray, and whatever happens it's "God's Will."

Jason Pratt said...

Ed: {{Only stopping when you reach what you consider to be an appropriately Christian/theistic conclusion in line with doctrinal religious beliefs in which you already have absolute faith.}}

That statement makes pretty much zero sense, Ed. People who have 'absolute faith' of the sort you're denigrating, don't open up critical dialogues to begin with, much less give credence to oppositional arguments on occasion (which Victor also does).

Victor is clearly _not_ a fideist. Which hasn't stopped you from treating him like one whenever that seems most convenient to you, over the years. It may make you feel more comfortable in dealing with him, but it isn't realistic and it tends to land you in absurd statements in relation to the actual facts, like that one. After which I, for one, kind of wish you had just deleted your third post attempt, too, rather than waste our time with it.

{{By the way, I didn't know that you and Jason Pratt agreed that animals have souls. But does Pratt have to slap me down (figurative speaking) for not recalling having read that at your blog (what an instinctual reaction his part).}}

The answer to that is yes, I do. Because you keep bringing it up and we keep telling you what the case is, and either you intentionally decide to treat us as though we never said anything on it, or else you're so incompetent that you can't remember from season to season or year to year what we answered the last ten times you tried to spring this on us. After the first five or seven times it happens, _my_ patience at least is exhausted; and we're way past the first five or seven times now. If this is what it takes for you to finally get a clue, you have only yourself to blame.

It happens regularly on other topics, too. To take a semi-random example, I see you're trying to scare us with the giant cosmic bogeys again. It apparently makes zero difference to you at all when we reply that we already know Nature is Big And Dangerous, thank you. I already have enough real death and destruction happening in my real life, to be very much scared (much less theologically disconcerted) by the concept that a black hole may careen along and punch a wormhole in the planet. That's an extemely low-probability event. The death of myself and everyone I love, on the other hand, is a 100% probability event, with a near 100% probability that the death will be painful, frightening, and even protracted. (If it comes to that, a black-hole punch might be near-instantaneous, depending on how it happens. Not a bad way to go, if so.) People have known Nature is larger than us, and frequently deadly to us, for as long as people have been people. Religions are frequently based on that notion, and practically always incorporate it.

This is very far from the first time I (and/or Victor) have answered this to you. After so many years of making the same tiresome attempt at 'shocking' us, you only have yourself to blame if you get mocked for trying it again. I don't give a single fart in a firestorm for giant gollywog cosmic disasters happening way the hell over there where no one I know or care about is being hurt by them. I care about the people I know and love being _certainly_ hurt _now_ by disasters small and large, personal and impersonal, way the hell over _here_. If I can still be a Christian when someone I love the most in the world is stricken with a disease that will almost certainly leave her moaning in pain for the rest of her natural life, sooner or later; then I can tolerate giant flaming balls of gas way over there, too, as nebulous 'threats' to my 'faith'. (Which is the same thing I've said before, over and over, with minor detail variations.)

You're skating on _very_ thin ice, over there by yourself, and insistently refusing to skate with us. One result is that I, for one, am not especially inclined anymore to bother answering little paragraphs of questions you ask us, even when the questions themselves are reasonably fair ones. This is because I have an expectation from long experience, with certainly no new evidence here pointing the other direction, that anything I say will be summarily ignored or misused or treated as something it isn't. If Victor cares to discuss it, that's his perrogative. (Or if someone else asks the questions, I may care enough to write a reply, assuming I have the time, which I am in short supply of right now. Exap comes to mind. I trust him to take a discussion seriously as a real discussion.)

{{But if Jason is a universalist, and Vic is a semi-universalist, then I suppose we'll be able to ramble on for eternity in one fashion or another}}

There might be some delay in that, I think. {wry s}


Anonymous said...

And Ed,

Please, stop trying to dazzle us by throwing the latest experimental results in the neuroscientific study of morality at us. Instead, why don't you stop and think critically about what these experiments are actually telling us, what the neuroscientific jargon actually means (as a neuroscience student I know just how sloppy some scientists can be with their language, throwing big words like 'information', 'function', 'substrate', 'may be implicated in', etc. around without rigor) and how we can constructively incorporate this new knowledge into the moral conversation.