Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Notes From My Talk On Objective Morality

I'm an atheist who thinks morality is objective. That makes me probably a minority among my fellow atheists. I recently gave a talk in front of a local atheist group on the topic of morality where I argued it is objective. I've decided to share the notes that I used that summarized my presentation. This isn't anything I haven't written already, but it would otherwise just sit here unused, so here it goes.

  • Define morality
  • Show what I think is morality's origin
  • Show why god cannot be the basis of morality
  • Show how demonstrating this lead me to reject moral relativism

Define morality:

Morality is the distinction between right and wrong, or right and wrong behavior. Ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with morality.

Show what I think is morality's origin:
  • Imagine a universe devoid of all life. For if planets collide, stars explode, and back holes devour entire worlds and there is no life to be affected by these events, there isn't a moral component to this universe. 
  • So therefore we can say that at some very basic and fundamental level, morality has to concern living things. Living things must exist, because life can respond physically and emotionally where it can either benefit or suffer at the result of actions that happen to it. 
  • And the higher the level of sentiment of the creature, that is to say, the more conscious it is to respond and be aware of its environment, the more sensitive it will be to external actions that affect it.
  • Therefore, it would logically follow that if morality depends on life, the more sensitive and consciously aware a living being is, the greater the moral concern should be with regards to actions that affect them.
  • So a very broader definition of morality can be the distinction between right and wrong as it relates to the treatment of conscious beings, with right actions being those that positively affect conscious beings or intend to, and wrong actions being those that negatively affect conscious beings, or intend to, when it cannot be reasonably avoided.

Show why god cannot be the basis of morality:
  • Euthyphro dilemma and epistemic problem
  • Is something good because god commands it, or does god command it because it's good? 
  • If the former, morality is arbitrary. If the latter, morality exists independently of god. 
  • "God is good" fails. New dilemma: Is god good because of the properties he has (loving, kind, and fair), or are the properties that god has only good because god has them (is being loving, kind, and fair good because god has those properties)?
  • If the former, then love, kindness, and fairness are objectively good independently of god. If the latter, totally circular: i.e. love is good because god is loving, and god is good because he's loving.
  • No matter how you look at it you can never avoid a trilemma:
    • arbitrarily decided by god
    • circular reasoning
    • morality exists independently of god

Show how demonstrating this lead me to reject moral relativism:
  • Morality exists independently of god
  • The only way to rationally ground morality is to show what it does. EXAMPLE: to intelligibly show why kindness is good, you have to show what kindness does: it positively affects conscious beings - that's why it is good. 
  • This lead me to think there is an objective basis.
  • The only way to intelligibly ground morality is in what things do, what they intend to do, or a principle around them that includes what things do.
  • Objective morality can still be relative to the species. Given our nature as human beings, as social primates, certain things will be good, certain things will be bad. Different nature, different morality. Still objective.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Quote Of The Day: The Racism Of Low Expectations

Today's quote comes from Maajid Nawaz, the coiner of the term "regressive left," from his BigThink talk:

… It’s what I call the racism of low expectations: to lower those standards when looking at a brown person if a brown person happens to express a level of misogyny, chauvinism, bigotry, or anti-Semitism, and yet hold other white people to universal liberal standards. The real victim of that double standard are the minority communities themselves because by doing so we limit their horizons; we limit their own ceiling and expectations as to what they aspire to be; we’re judging them as somehow that their culture is inherently less civilized; and, of course, we are tolerating bigotry within communities, and the first victims of that bigotry happen to be those who are weakest from among those communities.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Prerequisite List For Having A Conversation With Regressive Leftists

Before you have a conversation with regressive leftists where you'll be critical about Islam and terrorism, in order to preempt the usual responses you'll typically get, remember to mention the things on this checklist:

  • Yes, I'm fully aware that not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the vast majority of Muslims are not violent
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that Christians have committed violence in the name of their religion
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the Bible has many violent and sexist verses in it
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the US government has done many terrible things in its foreign policy
  • No, I'm not saying that Islam is the root of all evil or that religion is the cause of every problem in the world
  • No, I'm not suggesting that we kill all Muslims or attack innocent civilians
  • No, I'm not suggesting we discriminate against all people from the Middle East or South Asia 
  • And no, I'm not suggesting there is something inherently violent about Muslims

With that out of the way you can proceed onto your dialogue with the regressive leftist and you will have hopefully preempted many of their impulsive accusations that hinder real dialogue. This list may grow as I think of new ones. If you're interested, you can check out Sam Harris' version of this here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

PEW: 11 Percent of Americans Either Don't Believe In God Or Don't Know

According to last year's religious PEW survey, "Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults overall (9%) now say they do not believe in God, up from 5% in 2007." You must keep this in mind when reading their other results that showed only 3.1% of Americans are "atheists" according to their 2014 Religious Landscape survey. Three times less people identify as "atheist" than disbelieve in god or a universal spirit and that's one reason why we need to normalize the term "atheist." That was exactly what American Atheist president David Silverman's speech at the Reason Rally last week was all about. If you don't believe in a god or universal spirit, you are an atheist and you should be confident in identifying yourself as an atheist. An atheist is not someone who's certain there is no god, just as a theist is not someone who's certain there is a god. At a bare minimum, an atheist is someone who simply has no positive believe in a god (or a universal spirit) and can still be open to the possibility that there could be a god. That's it.

Declining Share of Americans Express Absolutely Certain Belief in God

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Atheist Rapper Greydon Square

At the Reason Rally a week ago I met atheist rapper Greydon Square. He focuses on atheist and science related topics and there aren't many rappers who do this, at least not many talented rappers, as he is. Since almost all mainstream rappers are theists of some sort, we are in desperate need of atheist rappers because there's a treasure trove of untapped subject matter there. Hip Hop is also a great medium for getting the atheist message out. Imagine an atheist debate that is entirely done in the form of a rap battle. I'm sure its been done, but probably not how I envision it. The ideal atheist vs theist rap battle would go like this. The theist would open with his argument in rhyme form, then he'd send the transcript to the atheist, who'd craft his response and send the transcript to the theist, who'd then respond and do the same. That way they'd each have time to directly respond to the claims the other made. It wouldn't be able to be live though, but it could be prerecorded and put together. This definitely needs to be done.

Anyway, check out some of his work, promote his music, buy his albums, and if he's performing in a town near you, go see him live.

This Is What Happens When You Take Religion Literally

In light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando I'm seeing the regressive leftists all over twitter saying that this shooting had nothing to do with the terrorist's Islamic faith. But of course that's bullshit. Both the Qu'ran and the Hadith speak very negatively about homosexuality, and in some cases recommend death. Religion is a factor in the motivation of behavior, both good and bad, and we have to acknowledge that and stop denying that religions like Islam do any harm (I'm talking to you liberals). We must be vigilant in refuting regressive ideologies everywhere, regardless of whether they're secular or religious.

Here is a wonderful example of a fundamentalist Christian who takes the Bible literally where you can see the poisonous effects it has on his brain. I present to you raging homophobe pastor Steven Anderson.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How To Stop Trump — My Theory

On Real Time with Bill Maher Bill is asking every guest how to stop Donald Trump from becoming president in the fall. Here's how I think Trump can be stopped.

As a thin-skinned narcissist, Trump cannot let any insults or criticism of himself slide. He has to respond to every negative comment and tweet at him. And when he responds, he can get really, really ugly, and that ugliness can turn off many people who aren't already supportive of him. So the way to destroy Trump is to have many high profile celebrities and politicians attack him relentlessly on TV and on social media in a tsunami of criticism. They should attack him exactly where it hurts him most — his business record, his appearance, the fraud he's perpetrated, his intellectual shortcomings on the issues, his mental stability in general. Trump will be spending all his time responding back and when he does the criticisms should come on even stronger so that he spirals out of control and eventually goes way over the line so that he looks so unpresidential, and like such a horrible, ugly, mentally unstable human being, that it will convince enough people not to vote for him, and that will cause him to lose the election. At least in theory.

That's how you take down Trump. Accusing him of being a racist is not going to hit him hard. Ruining his image as a successful business man, showing how much of a liar he is, and making him look mentally unstable will — for at least some of the people not already devout supporters. All you need to convince is a few million people and that's enough for him to lose the election in November.

So what do you think? Will it work?

Yesterday I accidentally created a post on a tweet I thought was really Donald Trump but instead it was a parody account. I didn't fully check out the source. Once I found that out I deleted the post, but here's the original tweet for your information.


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