- Capitalism and Alternatives -

God, nonhuman animals, and morality.

Posted by: MDG on February 16, 19100 at 10:15:01:

In Reply to: Church and State - Inevitable posted by Stuart Gort on February 14, 19100 at 11:47:18:

[Lark tweaking, snipped]

: I love the discussion of church and state because I believe it goes directly to the root of man's inner conflict. So many wish to dance around things and avoid the inevitable conclusion that church and state are inextricably linked. The problem is one of defining morality. Where does it come from? What is it based on?

You assume that church and state are linked because historically that has often been the case, but such a condition is by no means eternal; furthermore, you imply that morality flows only from religion; again, I find that to be an assumption based upon historical conditions, but these conditions are not immutable. Morality can come from outside a belief in God simply upon reflection of the proper way to treat oneself and others.

: The use of the concepts of right and wrong unquestionably forces one to an acknowledgement of the existence of his own beliefs of moral absolutes. The fact that such language exists and is commonly used indicates man wants resolute affirmation of his goals and efforts and a clear confirmation of his boundaries.

Man may want resolute affirmation of his goals, etc., but there are no guarantees in this world. Morality can shift with the winds, depending on the individual's and society's goals. Man makes morality.

:I happen to find this one of the best logical indications of the existence of God that there is. How could a big bang produce beings that want to do right and who feel bad when they don't?

Why couldn't this happen independent of a God. You have no PROOF that a God exists, only faith. I also find it the height of hubris for anyone to assert that, should there really be a God, that they, mere humans, could possibly know the mind of God. For all we know, God wants us to murder and torture each other.

: Science has some explaining to do if it wishes to discredit belief.

No - believers have some explaining to do if they wish to prove the existence of God.

: Wanting to do right and organizing a society around principles is an amazing thing, really. The animal kingdom shows us only instinctual organization. Humans organize around a collective understanding of what is right and wrong. From organization to organization these ideas vary widely but there are basic values that all of them share. Murder, stealing, and lying for instance, is generally held as morally wrong regardless of ideology.

Man is not the supreme being simply because it strokes his ego to believe so. We are yet another animal, albeit very high up on the evolutionary ladder. Yet do we have a monopoly on morality? For a long time people thought they had a monopoly on thought and emotion and pain, leading villains like Descartes to cut living animals to pieces while explaining away their screams as the unthinking workings of a machine. Ethologists and other animal researchers, as well as anyone with common sense, now know that animals think and feel emotion. The continuing research is fascinating; Jane Goodall has demonstrated that chimpanzees, our closest cousins, engage in politics and warfare and murder (as opposed to mere killing). The renowned primatologist Franz De Waal believes, upon years of research, that nonhuman animals possess morality. On an amateur level, anyone who has lived with evolutionary advanced animals such as dogs or cats (as I have) and actually gotten to know them will tell you that these animals have emotions and do know the difference between right and wrong, albeit on a level not as sophisticated as human beings. It would behoove us as humans to show a little more humility and less haughtiness; we're not the lords of the Earth.

:But what is the basis for anyone to say what is right or wrong? Is it popular opinion, personal opinion, or something that transcends man?

The first two are demonstrable; the last is a matter of faith.

: Popular opinion changes dramatically from age to age. There is certainly no resolute, unshakable, absolute morality here - is there?

No -- unless you believe in God, in which case you take absolute morality on faith. That's fine, but in a more powerful man wants to impose his morality on you, appeals to God will get you nowhere if he's not a believer; his response to you will be along the lines of Edward G. Robinson in "The 10 Commandments": where's your messiah now, Israelites? (and don't count on any Hollywood magic suddenly parting the sea for you).

: Personal opinion is obviously nothing that should carry the imperative of a moral judgement.

Agreed -- it would be a wacky, unstable world if everyone lived by his or her own code of morality. That's why society codifies consensual (or at least politically derived) morality in it civil and criminal code.

: The basis for any moral absolute can only be God who exists beyond our reasoning, is unchanging, and imposes these values upon us. Although I believe in Him, I'm not specifically arguing that He exists here. I'm only suggesting that there is no moral absolute without Him. No real right and wrong can exist in a man centered world.

You are entitled to your faith-based opinion.

: What I do argue is that man has an innate belief in God

Your proof?

:and that belief, along with popular and personal opinion, has been codified into laws since day one.

That's true. Early "scientific" texts also referred to God(s) as the cause of many natural phenomena, but we now know that lightning, for example, isn't Zeus having a bad day.

:Separating the two realms of man centered moral opinion and God centered morality will be impossible unless man centered morality endeavors to stamp out belief in God. This, I perceive, is happening right now in our popular culture.

I certainly hope so. Those who claim they know what is absolutely right because they know the mind of God are a scary, dangerous lot. Just ask a poor female wretch living under the Taliban, an a black man and white woman who love each other but unfortunately are students at Bob Jones University, where interracial dating is deemed against God's plan and therefore cause to be expelled.

: The popular cry of separation of church and state is a specious, nay insidious argument that has as its goal the elimination of a belief in God.

Poppycock! (when's the last time you saw that word in print?). Separation of church and state is designed to maintain freedom of religion, and freedom from religious persecution, although if it should indirectly assist people in abandoning superstitions, so much the better.

:The U.S. Constitution does not prohibit the discussion of ecclesiastical matters in publicly funded discourses.

No one says it does. It prohibits government support of religion unless very broadly done.

:Our constitution merely prohibits the formation of a state religion.

Not exactly: itt means that Government will not support any one religion because such support would be a form of coercion, i.e., a state religion.

:It is painfully obvious to me what the founding fathers were worried about when they wrote the document. They didn't want this government to take an official position on the matter like Britain did. Freedom being venerated by every one of them

Washington & Jefferson's slaves might disagree, but go on:

:(I am interested how this policy paralleled the biblical concept of free will), they codified the right of men to do as they see fit with respect to religious issues into law.

I'll have to let someone familiar with the bible field that one.

: But why stamp out belief in God?

Agreed. Belief in God should not be stamped out, and I would oppose any attempts to do so. I would encourage, however, the promotion of critical thinking so that children and adults may approach the concept of God as independent thinkers.

:So man can be the arbiter of morality - and that's something that should be thought through by all who read this.

It's always good to remember the human condition. We ARE the arbiter of morality.

:Why does man, who intrinsically

Your proof?

:seeks to know the absolutes of good and evil wish also to arbitrate that standard?

Why do you wish to breathe air? It's not a choice -- it's what we are.

: Does this prove the existence of a spiritual war, with God and Satan battling to influence the free will of man?

That can only be answered according to your own faith.

:Or does this prove that man is hopelessly trying to cope with his own intelligence?

Or lack thereof.

Follow Ups:


The Debating Room Post a Followup