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Friday, May 06, 2011

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Charles E Flynn

Despite having spent a bit more money than I had anticipated on a one-day trip to New York, I think Carl has finally convinced me that this book is not ignorable. Specifically:

But if conscience is merely an accidental byproduct of a meaningless and purposeless process that did not have us in mind, then it isn't truly conscience, is it? For in that case, it isn't a witness to a real law; it is merely another blind impulse, one which, had the process gone differently, might have turned out a different way that would be equally arbitrary. Instead of caring for our young, we might have eaten them, like guppies, and there would be no grounds for passing judgment. It wouldn't be wrong; it wouldn't be right; it would just be.

Chris Burgwald

"Someone who disbelieves in God certainly can believe in the natural law, but he will not find it easy to carry this off.  To put a very large problem into just a sentence, how can there be a law without a Lawgiver?"

Well said.

Yes, you can be an atheist and be a basically-moral person.

But it seems to be that in order to do so, you have to accept that ultimately, you -- the atheist -- have no rational basis for being moral that does not conflict with your claims regarding God. That is, the moral system of the moral atheist is irrational within the confines of his metaphysics.

SDG

"had the process gone differently, might have turned out a different way that would be equally arbitrary. Instead of caring for our young, we might have eaten them, like guppies, and there would be no grounds for passing judgment. It wouldn't be wrong; it wouldn't be right; it would just be."

More pointedly, consider actual strategies in human experience. Virtues like altruism and fidelity can be successful strategies in promoting the good of communities and individuals, but equally selfishness and ruthlessness can be successful strategies for the individuals that employ them well. Ducks rape ducks, chimps sometimes kill and eat rival chimps, and humans sometimes practice ethnic cleansing, rape and so forth -- and these practices can be successful for those that employ them. Atheists can express disapproval but it is hard to see what such disapproval can mean other than "I strongly prefer different strategies on emotional grounds."

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