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Comments by prolibertas

Go to: Debate: Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 66 by prolibertas

This is ridiculous. If we all had to agree on everything in order to work together, then no one could work together.

Wed, 23 May 2012 00:19:22 UTC | #943014

Go to: Are You a Believer? Take The Dawkins Test.

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 91 by prolibertas

Am I the only one who finds that very few of these quotes actually match up with the 'score' attributed to them? (I really don't know, I'm too lazy to read all the comments). Martin Luther King's quote is compatible with 7, Buddha's sounds like the very definition of 4, Jefferson's is compatible with any score, and Einstein's doesn't talk about God at all (unless you think 'religion' and 'theism' are inseparable, which requires colossal ignorance of world religions). Even Hitchens' isn't really about whether God exists, it's just about finding the idea unappealing.

But in any case I disagree with the scale, since I don't think agnosticism and atheism belong on the same scale at all. One is about knowledge, the other about belief. If atheism is put on the knowledge-scale, then Carl Sagan is absolutely right that it is 'very stupid' because you would have to be omniscient to know that there is no God. And if agnosticism is put on the belief-scale then that is even stupider, because it would the position of 'I don't know what I believe or disbelieve'.

Fri, 13 Apr 2012 03:29:27 UTC | #934326

Go to: One Jesus for liberals, another for conservatives

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by prolibertas

I'm not a Christian, so ultimately it's nothing to me what Jesus' opinions might have been, but I do have to say that his teachings strike me as liberal and even anti-conservative. How do conservatives reconcile 'turn the other cheek' with 'go to war'? Or 'sell all you have and give to the poor' with 'give nothing to the poor, because if they're poor it's their own fault for not working hard enough (oh they might be poor for reasons beyond their control? fingers in ears la la la la la I can't hear you). Jesus' teaching here wasn't, as some say, particular to the special case of the individual he was addressing, because he generalized it with 'for it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven'. I don't even agree with the liberals who say Jesus had conservative views on homosexuality, because Jesus didn't mention homosexuality. It was Paul who introduced the anti-gay and anti-woman verses in the New Testament.

Jesus was a pacifist and a socialist who fought against the conservative establishment of his time. In fact, if I was to criticize him for anything, it would be because he took pacifism and socialism too far.

Mon, 05 Mar 2012 20:11:43 UTC | #924701

Go to: “It’s Part of their Culture” - Reading Nick Cohen in the light of the Jaipur affair [Also in Polish]

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 69 by prolibertas

This article reminds me of why I was so shocked to find so many 'new atheists' are actually moral relativists. Moral relativism is the entire problem with these apologists for religious violence from other cultures.

Sat, 04 Feb 2012 19:13:26 UTC | #914610

Go to: Edge challenges leading thinkers to name their 'favourite explanations'

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by prolibertas

My favourite idea is something that's probably going far beyond the pale for many on this website, because it comes from Buddhist philosophy (though I'm sure that if truly rational people reject this idea, they wouldn't reject it for no better reason than because it comes from a religion). Namely, it's the idea that the sense of 'self' in the sense of an 'I' that is independent of nature is an illusion, and that a lot of existential suffering arises from it. Negative states of mind like hate, envy, anxiety, arrogance, defensiveness, tribalism, dogmatism, etc. arise from and ramify 'I', while positive states of mind like love, compassion, empathy, equanimity, forgiveness, etc. arise from and ramify liberation from 'I' (the purpose of meditation, which strictly defined is nothing more than training the mind) into a sense of what the hippies call being 'one with nature'. I think this idea wins points - much like natural selection - for the ratio of its simplicity versus the wide applications that it can have. It's a simple life philosophy that selflessness is the path to personal happiness as well as the happiness of others, and by linking personal happiness to the happiness of others it also just happens to kill the arguments that we cannot be happy or moral without a belief in God.

As a side-note, I'm astonished that this idea was ever linked to supernatural religion rather than atheistic materialism. After all, supernatural religion has usually contended for dualism, the separation of mind and matter that is supposed to create the real, eternal 'I' in the form of the 'soul'; while atheistic materialism and science have both contended for monism, the inseparability of mind and matter, which combined with the fact that all the matter and energy that forms us is in a constant state of recycle and exchange with the matter and energy of the earth and beyond makes 'I' absolutely continuous with nature, and therefore an arbitrary and artificial construction. And, as noted, it's a gem to have as a rebuttal to theistic arguments about how atheism means misery, amorality, and immorality. I put this mis-association down to a quirk of historical contingency.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 04:22:20 UTC | #908756

Go to: UBC study finds believers distrust atheists as much as rapists

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by prolibertas

We need to push the fact that this can go both ways. I.e., it could be said that if you believe in eternal life, then you have no motivation to care about this one; no motivation to care about hospitals, medicine, murder, war, or genocide. What does it mean to say that 'life is sacred' when the only consequence of death is an even better life?

I'm not saying we should actually push this as an actual truth, I'm saying we should push this as a simple reminder that the Moral Argument can go both ways.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 20:15:56 UTC | #894809

Go to: The religion of an increasingly godless America

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by prolibertas

I'm no fan of religious literalism, but I have to concede a point to the first commenter on the site (a Christian). And that is that the 'religious right' of America cannot truly be said to be following Jesus' teachings. If they did, they'd be anti-war, anti-capitalist, and pro-universal-healthcare. Which is the opposite of what they are. If anything, liberal hippies are more in line with Jesus' teachings than the 'religious right'. The truth is that the 'religious right' follows Paul, and ONLY Paul: i.e., being anti-women, anti-gay, and pro-justification-by-faith.

Thu, 24 Nov 2011 20:40:50 UTC | #892905

Go to: BBC tests morality

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by prolibertas

It's easy to explain why sex with an animal is immoral. The animal can't consent, therefore it's rape and animal abuse. A better example might have been protected-but-incestuous sex between a brother and sister. But even then, while I would find it disgusting, I wouldn't actually see it as a moral issue precisely because it does no harm.

Though I'd like to know how those who don't believe morality is about well-being and suffering judge anything to be right or wrong. Does it just come down to personal, irrational disgust?

Sun, 20 Nov 2011 19:55:08 UTC | #891797

Go to: Psychopaths: Born evil or with a diseased brain?

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 135 by prolibertas

Of course psychopathy is a disorder and not just an 'evil' choice the psychopath has made. But then, you can say that about any criminal behaviour committed by anyone. The only cases where anyone is said to have 'chosen freely' is simply when the genetic and/or environmental cause is unknown.

This story highlights something I've suspected for a long time: 'free will' is not just a harmless illusion, much less a necessary one. A justice system based on free will focuses on wreaking vengeance on an individual for their 'choices'. A justice system based on determinism would instead focus on treatment for their disorder. It doesn't take a genius to figure out which is the more compassionate and socially productive option, especially if an individual's 'free will' is an illusion.

Thu, 17 Nov 2011 01:08:46 UTC | #890897

Go to: 'You just don't understand my religion' is not good enough

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by prolibertas

It's a nice try, but if there's anything like an immutable natural law as regards religion debates, it is that no matter what you say, someone is going to call you a biased woolly thinker who attacks strawmen. There's no getting around it, even if your only intention is to 'understand'.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 20:42:56 UTC | #888345

Go to: Mr. Deity and the Philosopher

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by prolibertas

@ Baron Scarpia

I don't think there's any question about why we want to avoid suffering. The question that the different moral theories actually disagree on, the only question that is important, is how.

Mon, 05 Sep 2011 23:09:17 UTC | #867668

Go to: Mr. Deity and the Philosopher

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by prolibertas

Comment 16 by Baron Scarpia :

Why do we want to reduce suffering?

Frankly, this sentence is more answer than that question deserves.

Mon, 29 Aug 2011 21:55:35 UTC | #865329

Go to: Mr. Deity and the Philosopher

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by prolibertas

But what we ought to do about it has got to be decided on the basis of what reduces suffering best, surely. Arr we've been down this road before.

Mon, 29 Aug 2011 02:19:32 UTC | #865071

Go to: Mr. Deity and the Philosopher

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by prolibertas

Steve Zara: "It's quite reasonable to say that goodness is pretty much universal to humans because we mostly all built the same, so we all can suffer in the same ways".

Well well, who is sounding like Sam Harris now...?

@Paley I affirm objective morality with a foundation in well-being and suffering. I'd say any morality without foundation in well-being and suffering isn't morality at all. It'd be liking having a 'history' that isn't about the past.

Sun, 28 Aug 2011 22:24:33 UTC | #865011

Go to: How would you define morality & justice?

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 123 by prolibertas

Regardless of what people seem to think they think about morality, I've never met anyone (who isn't a psychopath) who doesn't act like they believe morality is about consequences in terms of well-being and suffering, and that there are realistically better and worse ways to increase well-being and decrease suffering. I've also never encountered (and can't imagine) an argument for an alternative moral system that doesn't ultimately appeal to consequences in terms of well-being and suffering in order to make its case anyway. I invite those who think otherwise to just try living their life as though this wasn't true.

Wed, 27 Jul 2011 22:47:20 UTC | #854844

Go to: Why Dawkins's case against religion creaks at every joint

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 86 by prolibertas

The real platforms, as I see them:

1) Critical thought demonstrates that the arguments for a God's existence don't work.

2) Critical thought matters.

If you agree to the first, you're an atheist; if you agree to both, you're a new atheist.

Wed, 13 Jul 2011 03:15:37 UTC | #849208

Go to: Down with Secularism!

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 82 by prolibertas

"The state should ensure that all its policies are based on rational considerations of evidence".

All you'll get is powerful religious lobbies insisting that their beliefs ARE based on "rational considerations of evidence", in which case, rationalism-over-secularism will serve only as a ramp to a Theocracy based on whatever religion happens to be the majority in a given country.

Mon, 20 Jun 2011 23:41:21 UTC | #640990

Go to: UPDATE: Fashionable Nonsense?

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 177 by prolibertas

I thought the definition was clear. Post-structuralism is the thesis that our description of reality is determined by the language in which we do the describing, and that since language is relative to culture, any description of reality is relative to culture. This gives rise to the postmodern thesis that there is no universal truth. Post-structuralism does have a place up to a point, in making us alert to how language might influence our perception of things, but I think people go far too far in saying that it completely determines our perception of things. Ultimately, words are our servants, not our masters.

Tue, 14 Jun 2011 20:45:49 UTC | #638579

Go to: Morality without 'Free Will'

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 191 by prolibertas

I'm having a hard time seeing 'compabilitism' as anything but a bunch of determinists trying to pretend like they have free will.

Seriously, what's the problem with straight determinism? We are not justified in seeking vengeance or retribution, but we are more justified in seeking rehabilitation or at least prevention. We are not justified in being angry or hateful towards others, but we are more justified in being compassionate. This all seems to me more moral, not less.

Compatibilism seems to be about treating people as though they had free will to do otherwise, even if they didn't. Imagine someone committing a murder because of a flesh eating virus inside their brain that made them behave like that. Most of us wouldn't hold them responsible for their actions, because it was the virus that made them do it. In fact it would be positively immoral to hold them responsible for their actions, because it was the virus that made them do it. But would compatibilism say we should treat them as though they were responsible? It seems so, if they acknowledge that all actions are genetically and environmentally determined and yet think we have to pretend that all actions are the result of 'free will' anyway.

Wed, 01 Jun 2011 21:05:45 UTC | #633056

Go to: When the magic works

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by prolibertas

The 'supernatural' is a linguistic error. The term 'nature' is defined in the first place by that which exists. As soon as something is actually detected to exist, it becomes part of our description of nature. To speak of phenomena existing 'beyond nature' is essentially to speak of phenomena existing beyond that which exists, which is on par with speaking of things existing north of the north pole.

Thu, 19 May 2011 20:41:27 UTC | #628588

Go to: Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 57 by prolibertas

Steve Zara: "You have to have values over and above the support of the increase of well-being, such as being for or against individualism and so on".

Surely the only reason you would hold a position for or against individualism is because you think your position will increase well-being. Why on earth else would you hold that position?

Thu, 05 May 2011 20:26:32 UTC | #623465

Go to: Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by prolibertas

@ Benjamin O'Donnell

It's not postmodernism. Sam's just arguing that values are simply facts about what we ought to do. So in science we value reason, falsifiability, parsimony, etc., which is saying nothing more than that it is a fact that we ought to rely on reason, falsifiability, parsimony if we want to figure out truth.

@ Steve Zara

Every time I see you comment on a Sam-oriented thread you cite your reason for objecting to his moral theory, but each time you seem to have a different objection... what happened to the old ones? It's almost like you're scrambling for any objection, hoping that one day one of them will stick.

Medical ethics committees will still be about health (what else?) And yes there can be unanswerable zero-sum scenarios, but this is no different to the fact that there are very likely certain cosmological truths that will never be answered (doesn't make us give up on all cosmology). And yes, even with detailed scientific information we will still need to make a decision as to whether or not we go ahead with a given policy, but our choice will merely be between making a good decision (one based on the scientific information about it) or a bad decision (one that is not). If science is telling us that a certain decision will increase well-being the best, then science is telling us that that decision is good, and if it's telling us that that decision is good, then it's telling us that we ought to do it. You could say that technically science is telling us no such thing in and of itself about what we ought to do, but you would be being pedantic. To all intents and purposes science would be telling us exactly such a thing, and to deny this is worthless.

Thu, 05 May 2011 05:07:58 UTC | #623217

Go to: Why I’d Rather Not Speak About Torture

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 330 by prolibertas

Even here critics are condemning the argument without even reading the article. No wonder Sam regrets bringing it up.

Mon, 02 May 2011 22:16:19 UTC | #622256


prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by prolibertas

This could be great. I think in 50 years Sam's position will be taken as self-evident. Although, I already took it as so self-evident that I was surprised that this rose as a debate at all, so I may be surprised by people again in 50 years.

Wed, 30 Mar 2011 19:38:11 UTC | #609275

Go to: Vatican tells U.N. that critics of gays under attack

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 117 by prolibertas

Oh no! We're oppressing their rights to oppress others! For shame!

Just f@#k off, Vatican.

Fri, 25 Mar 2011 21:38:34 UTC | #607126

Go to: Response to My Fellow 'Atheists'

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 110 by prolibertas

For me it comes down to this: What's more effective, 'atheism vs. religion', or 'reason vs. unreason'?

I can see where people can be turned off by 'atheism', and even see it as 'just another religion' (bear with me). If you place your identity in a conclusion (i.e. atheism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) then you automatically appear closed-minded to alternative conclusions, as one gets the sense that to attack your conclusion is to attack you personally. What's more, I think it actually does make many people more closed-minded to alternative conclusions, as they feel that to attack their conclusion is to attack them personally. This placement of identity with a conclusion, with the accompanying exacerbation of dogmatism it entails, is what can indeed make 'atheism' religion-like, and part of the very thing we are arguing against.

If we instead place our identity in a method (i.e. reason, open inquiry, falsifiability, parsimony, etc.) then to attack our identity is to be unreasonable by definition, meaning that our identity is safe, that we can be more open-minded in regard to conclusions, and that we are genuinely non-religion-like. Sure, plenty of religious people will claim that reason is on their side. But this simply opens them up to a debate where we can confront them (for to not allow reasonable criticism of your beliefs is to be on the side of unreason), instead of seeing them simply talk about 'offense' and 'intolerance' all the time, thereby both dismissing our arguments out of hand and magnifying the stigma surrounding us ten-fold.

Thu, 17 Mar 2011 01:30:17 UTC | #603818

Go to: Why Are Atheists So Angry?

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 138 by prolibertas

Wolpe's right that some can be unnecessarily nasty - on both sides of the debate. What I object to here is his blatant over-generalizing of atheists. Now, I think most of us are perfectly aware of the existence of religious scientists, we just don't think that proves religion and science are compatible (people can be mistaken, after all). And if we haven't been convinced by any arguments for the supernatural, then how can we not discount the supernatural like we do fairies, leprechauns and unicorns until convincing arguments do come up? And why would not being convinced of the supernatural mean we do not wonder about the immense amount that we do not know?

Sat, 12 Mar 2011 08:13:19 UTC | #601856

Go to: Response to Critics

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 183 by prolibertas

@ bendigeidfran

To answer the part of your comment I actually understood, I'd say moral scenarios that are not answerable in principle are those that are zero-sum, while those that are answerable in principle are those that are non-zero-sum. Fortunately, by far most moral scenarios are non-zero-sum.

I don't know why you keep going on about abortion dates. I've already addressed this. To say that it is answerable in principle is not to say that we already have the answer in practice. Just like discovering the laws of physics was always answerable in principle though we did not always know them in practice. The answer to the abortion date will depend on discovering all the circumstances surrounding it, such as the well-being of all involved. Clearly the choice of such a date will be made with reasons, and will not be arbitrary. But I'm just repeating myself now. When that happens I tend to stop replying. Farewell.

Tue, 01 Mar 2011 21:09:34 UTC | #597817

Go to: Response to Critics

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 175 by prolibertas

bendigeidfran: "I do say nothing can answer them. I don't think aspiring towards the impossible is worthwhile. If you want to quibble with simplest and say punching babies or throwing acid in faces then the triumph is yours".

Come on now, you can't really be this short of memory. It was you who said we can't even answer the simplest moral questions, ergo, I gave an example of answering one of the simplest moral questions. As you say, then, the 'triumph' is indeed mine. And if you admit that much then you admit that not all questions are unanswerable.

And it's not 'aspiring towards the impossible'. It's not like Sam is proposing to discover the answers to questions that genuinely aren't possible in principle, he's proposing to discover answers to those that are possible in principle. Just like in any other field. I mean, obviously.

Tue, 01 Mar 2011 06:40:50 UTC | #597559

Go to: Response to Critics

prolibertas's Avatar Jump to comment 164 by prolibertas

bendigeidfran: "Have foundational ought from is and answer the simplest moral questions. An abortion kill date is unreasonable to ask for. Try some other medicine dilemmas. They too are unreasonable to expect. Now say what is reasonable to expect. F all".

The simplest moral questions, getting ought from is? Like 'punching babies will hurt them and make me feel terrible, therefore I ought not to punch babies'? Answering the simplest moral questions is, well, simple.

What about deciding an abortion kill date? Since people do decide such dates, I assume they will have reasons determining such a date, and that these reasons will be offered in reference to the well-being of all involved. Why would such reasons be unreasonable to ask for?

Here is what is reasonable to expect. It is reasonable to expect that a science of morality would not already have all the answers to all moral dilemmas, because such a science has not yet begun! Imagine people of the 17th century demanding that physicists already have all the answers to all questions of physics before allowing a science of physics to begin. I trust you'll see the absurdity of this demand. Yet it is exactly the demand many people are making of a science of morality.

Even if there really are moral dilemmas that science can't answer, to say that science can't answer them is simply to say that nothing can answer them. Almost every discipline has problems that it may never be able to answer, i.e. cosmology may never be able to answer the problem of how the universe began. It doesn't mean anything else can answer it better than cosmology (despite what god-of-the-gaps theists say) and it certainly doesn't mean we throw out the discipline of cosmology altogether.

Tue, 01 Mar 2011 01:01:30 UTC | #597494