A Response to Richard Dawkins

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This past Friday, CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.

Asked “whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass,” Dawkins responded: “The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible.”

This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists — that not only do we not need religion or God for morality but that we would have a considerably more moral world without them.

This argument is so wrong — both rationally and empirically — that its appeal can be explained only by (a) a desire to believe it and (b) an ignorance of history.

Written By: Dennis Prager
continue to source article at nationalreview.com

80 COMMENTS

  1. What a light-weight rant. After wasting my time reading the article I’d say that the one who’s truly ignorant of history is Dennis himself. Apparently, pre-revolutionary China and a great chunk of the world did not exist in his history.

  2. ” (b) an ignorance of history. “

    I started laughing too hard at this point when thinking about the considerably more moral world this twit thinks we have with magic mans rules.I did not finish the article and did not really think it necessary to do so after that bit of nonsense. An ignorance of history indeed!!

  3. In ‘Letter to a Christian Nation’, Sam Harris nailed this type of “Morality comes from God” argument, as well as anyone could. I’ve noticed Sam’s ‘primary intuition’ rebuttal is rarely used in debates. It should be.

    “…you feel that you are in a position to judge that Jesus is the Son of God, that the
    Golden Rule is the height of moral wisdom, and that the Bible is not itself brimming with lies.
    You are using your own moral intuitions to authenticate the wisdom of the Bible—and then,
    in the next moment, you assert that we human beings cannot possibly rely upon our own
    intuitions to rightly guide us in the world; rather, we must depend upon the prescriptions of
    the Bible. You are using your own moral intuitions to decide that the Bible is the appropriate
    guarantor of your moral intuitions. Your own intuitions are still primary, and your reasoning is
    circular.”

  4. Prager is one of those guys who does not know enough to realize when he has lost. Yes, it is true that we can’t show that we have objective morality, but neither can he. To do so he would first have to show that his deity or deities exist (which he can’t) then show that revelation of moral values therefrom is genuine (which he can’t) then show that somehow his divine commands are themselves “objective” (which he also can’t without solving Euthyphro). No point in trying to explain that to him, though.

    The big picture is simply that the religious pretend to have objective moral standards, while we are honest about the need to construct the moral system for the world in which we want to live.

  5. If I were to use the OT as a base for morality, what would it teach?

    1. I should kill gay people

    2. I should make no images

    3. I should commit genocide

    4. I should kill disrespectful children

    5. If I fancy a young woman, I should rape her. She is then mine.

    6. I should stone adulterers

    7. I should not eat shrimp, and kill those who do.

    This is blithering nonsense. Any child could come up with a more rational set. Even animals have a morality that makes more sense.

  6. Denis Prager: My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins’s reason does. But, again, so what?

    WTF do you mean by so what? If two conscious beings communicate their aversions to being killed,
    then that’s all the reason for them to not kill eachother!
    What this fool, Denis Prager is essentially saying is that unless someone is there to tell him,
    as to whether he’s a good boy or a bad boy for how he acts; he won’t care for the concerns of others!
    He however clearly admits to being able to think that murder is wrong,
    but because he is so perversely desperate to have his acts validated by an authourity, he is lead to believe that,
    that is the sole reason to be moral.

    THIS IS WHY ATHEISM MATTERS!

  7. One of the best outlines of morality we have comes from Confucianism. It is not a religion. No insane god. No implausible miracles. No tall tales. No threats. It is just a treatise written by an ordinary human on how to behave well.

    A religion is frozen in time. It cannot add anything to handle new features of life. For example, Christianity can offer no guidance on driving, caring for the environment, use of antibiotics, intensive care, nuclear weapons, computer dating, earthquake preparedness…

  8. You see these “oh, I debated so-and-so and he couldn’t rebut…” throughout history. (The Talmud is full of them about talking to stupid Christians). And they usually lack a measure of honesty (the speaker always wins easily). To say that you can only know right and wrong because some unknown author(s) wrote that if you don’t toe the line, then the inspired zealots who worship Yaweh will kill you, and that it is only fear that has kept the monotheists in line for all of these centuries, is disgusting, since it says the worst about humanity.

    Furthermore, such people conveniently forget that there is so much horrible stuff in those same books that if someone tried to re-implement them, the Taliban would go “Whoa, dude, don’t be so radical!” We have evolved beyond a God that thought that slavery was a good thing, that women are property to be bought and sold, that disobedient children should be killed, (etc.). How can one possibly have a “Moral Compass” when one uses those texts IN THEIR TOTALITY as one’s guide throughout life. The reality is that the believers do not, because the believers ignore the stuff that disgusts them and take the few bits that sound like good advice. (Catholics conveniently forget that praying to dead saints or having their statues in your home is considered evil and is punishable by stoning).

    The Right writer really didn’t think it through. Because if he did, he would need to answer the question: “If you discovered today that there was no God, and that all of his dictates about what is good and bad in his eyes was nonsense, would you go out and start raping and killing? If no, why not? And if so, what is it that Atheists who go through that very same process are morally good people?”

  9. To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, “Do not murder,” murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; slavery in nearly all the world throughout most of history was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings in various Muslims societies are right.

    The statement above clearly shows the author of the article is a fecking blinkered idiot.
    His magic book goes to great lengths to talk about how apartheid, murder, genocide, slavery is all ok. His book, that he sights as the moral compass, is clearly derived from the opinion of the masses at the time (or over the time period) it was written. I’m staggered that things like this get into print. I’m actually annoyed out how fucking stupid this man is.

    That’s really upset my day.

  10. Surely societies in the Western world that have very few people practising religion have figured out that it’s not ok to murder, steal, rape, assault,etc. For example, some estimates say that 70 % of Swedes are atheists. How is it that Sweden has very few murders, yet the very Christian United States has had 550 000 murders in the last thirty years? I do like some features of the New Testament: forgiveness, helping the poor, being kind to others. But I don’t believe that Jesus was a divine being (if he actually existed), and I don’t think you need to worship “God” to do nice things for people.

  11. He says the 20th century was the most violent in history. I guess Steven Pinker is wrong then? And what about the motto “Gott mit uns”? The Third Reich was definitely anti-Jewish but it wasn’t anti-Catholic, apparently. The author of this piece is an intellectual lightweight.

  12. Another shameless pseudo-intellectual non-entity desperately attempting to parasitically scrounge some relevance for himself by attaching his name to Richard Dawkins one of the world’s leading public intellectuals, by attacking him.

    Fitting he does this from the pages of the National Review the publication founded by one of America’s greatest public pseudo-intellectuals, denier of Evolution, advocate of creationism, thankfully deceased, blowhard par excellence William F. Buckley Jr.

  13. “Dawkins and his supporters have a right to their atheism. They do not have a right to intellectual dishonesty about atheism.”

    This person is a derelict in search of blame. “Atheism” is not a movement or a belief. People do not make causalities in the name of “atheism”. Dennis Prager generalizes, makes assumptions about what atheists believe, even what they are. How can he begin to say what any person would do when confronted with a situation?

    Humans have forever throughout history been consumed with destroying each other, those of opposite beliefs, race, color, any difference has been enough without the disgusting philosophies in the Talmud/Bible and the Q’ran .

    Dennis Prager needs to understand that atheists comprise purely those people who do not believe that a god or god exists. Their individual morals are not dependent on their belief that there is no god or gods.

    I can see why Richard Dawkins will not have a debate with a person of such limited intellect and understanding. I wouldn’t care to, either.

  14. What a vapid article!

    Atheists such as Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.

    Even WITH God there are only opinions about good and evil – God’s opinions, which the faith-heads merely subscribe to like sheep. But looking at the evidence can show clear conscious, sociological and psychological reasons why things like slavery, rape and murder should not be allowed. The irony being, of course, that all 3 are sanctioned in the Bible.

  15. If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities. Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this.

    I wonder who he has been debating? He should have chat with Matt Dillahunty.. BTW….does anyone know the name for this logical fallacy? He’s trying to imply that atheists in general admit this (they don’t of course).

    • In reply to #18 by zeerust2000:

      I wonder who he has been debating? He should have chat with Matt Dillahunty.. BTW….does anyone know the name for this logical fallacy? He’s trying to imply that atheists in general admit this (they don’t of course).

      A bold-faced lie? It doesn’t really go deeper than this.

  16. I just love this objective reality thing,

    First for there to be an objective reality he has to prove his god is true. What if there is an objective reality but its Thor’s? Get’s you no-where until you establish a deity.

    Second, why does anyone need an objective reality. How do we look from a cows point of view?

    These people imprison us, fatten us up and then slaughter us to use as meat and skins for their feet and handbags, they even have the insensitivity to wear our skins on their feet and for their bags around us!

    Or are the cows thinking…

    Oh I am so glad my purpose in life is to feed humans and I desperately hope my skin is suitable for a nice car seat cover.

    What is more I do not blame the religious (that much) for the murders committed in gods name (I think they have a case to answer for current problems caused by their respective religions) but I blame them for believing in a God that himself commanded murder, rape and torture. Even from only a subjective reading of the situation I can tell these morals are not objectively true.

    Third it is the belief in an objective reality that has caused most of the suffering in history can’t we just say thinking such a thing exists is a bad idea?

  17. Religion is a moral compass…yeah,right.This hackneyed utterance by the pious is as nauseating as it is a whopping lie.The unspeakable evil visited on fictional people by a fictional god is familiar to us all.This quote from Epicurus comes to mind:

    “Is God willing to prevent evil,but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.Is he able,but not willing?Then he is malevolent.Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

  18. I have debated the best known atheists, including Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss (A Universe from Nothing), Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens. Only Richard Dawkins has refused to come on my radio show.

    I hope Dawkins doesn’t do it it the future either. Judging by this article, this guy does not deserve Richard’s time.

  19. It’s not for the lack of god that there’s no objective morality, it’s for the lack of any teleology in nature. The same science that rules out teleology in nature, i.e. Darwinian evolution by environmental filtration, also rules out god. So no help there.

  20. Quote:

    This argument is so wrong — both rationally and empirically — that its appeal can be explained only by (a) a desire to believe it and (b) an ignorance of history.

    Did he really aim this at people who identify as atheists? An ignorance of history – really?? Lets examine his following statement:

    To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, “Do not murder,” murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; slavery in nearly all the world throughout most of history was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings in various Muslims societies are right.

    Now then, anyone with google these days can quickly find the following quote from an article among many that demonstrate historically documented links between biblical justification and Apartheid. Therefore in Pragers world the Afrikaners were clearly were right on the basis of their interpretation of ‘objective morality’ derived from the inerrant written instructions of their god:

    The Afrikaners believed the British persecuted Dutch settlers. Finally in 1836, the Afrikaners abandoned the Cape area. They set out for the Transvaal region in the north to establish their own republic. This movement north became known as the “Great Trek.” In their minds it “forms the national epic–formal proof of God’s election of the Afrikaner people and His special destiny for them.”2 As they set out in covered wagons, according to their viewpoint:They were followed by the British army, like that of Pharaoh, and everywhere were beset by the unbelieving black “Canaanites.” Yet because God’s people acted according to His will, He delivered them out of the hands of their enemies and gave them their freedom in the promised land.3

    As for murdering Jews in Nazi Germany, does the term Gott Mit Uns ring any historic bells? Need we say more….. again.

    As for Slavery? Come on.. do Christians really have no access to Wikipedia?

    [Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts – Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States of America [111]Every hope of the existence of church and state, and of civilization itself, hangs upon our arduous effort to defeat the doctrine of Negro suffrage – Robert Dabney, a prominent 19th century Southern Presbyterian pastor… the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example – Richard Furman, President, South Carolina Baptist Convention

    And does he really think that clitoridectomies and honor killings in various Muslims societies have no links whatsoever to the supposed instructions of their god (which seem to be highly variable in the case of female genital mutilation – depending on what mood he is in perhaps)?

    There are strong differences of opinion among Sunni scholars in regards to female genital cutting.[35] These differences of opinion have ranged from forbidden[36] to optional[37] to recommended[38] to obligatory.[39] The historical religious view of Islam, on FGM, varies with the school of Islamic jurisprudence:[40][6]
    The Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be wajib (obligatory).[39][41][42]
    The Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be makrumah (honorable) and strongly encouraged, to obligatory.[43][44][45]
    The Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be sunnah (optional) and preferred.[43][46][47]
    The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence considers female circumcision to be sunnah (preferred).[43][48]

    Why do these religionists always return to the ‘objective morality’ argument time and time again as if it is some kind of trump card when based on their own actions, both historically and in the present day, it is so blindingly obvious that no such thing exists. Makes you wonder exactly whom requires the greatest ‘desire to believe’ and ‘ignorance of history’ in order to maintain their worldview doesn’t it?

    • Indeed, as Indians, Blacks and Coloureds in South Africa during the Apartheid years ,we suffered many indignities . Of course the Nederlandse Gereformeerde Kerk saw nothing wrong in this large scale injustice.They lived off the fat of the land smug in the belief that the god of the bible wanted it that way. of_ In reply to #23 by Steve_M:_

      Quote:

      This argument is so wrong — both rationally and empirically — that its appeal can be explained only by (a) a desire to believe it and (b) an ignorance of history.

      Did he really aim this at people who identify as atheists? An ignorance of history – really?? Lets examine his following statem…

  21. Asked “whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass,” Dawkins responded: “The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible.”

    This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists — that not only do we not need religion or God for morality but that we would have a considerably more moral world without them.

    This argument is so wrong — both rationally and empirically — that its appeal can be explained only by (a) a desire to believe it and (b) an ignorance of history.

    This author is clearly into the psychological projection of his own ignorance of rationality, empirical records, AND of history – on to others! Huge tracts of historical records and modern news items, document religious wars, atrocities and disputes!

    Thinking rationally and empirically is a process – not a badge of false authority for wishing to believe fumble-brained assertions!

    @OP link – Atheists such as Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.

    He also seems to be disingenuous or illiterate!
    It is well known that “Atheists such as Dawkins”, clearly state that there are ONLY human opinions as to what is good or evil in terms of interested parties. It is deluded theists who dishonestly claim that their personal opinions are set in stone by gods!

    In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior.

    Ah! God-faith-delusions modifying and “correcting” reasoning in accordance with the Catholic dogma of Pope Pius IX . Theist special pleadings really, really, really, do need that circular fallacious thinking to be mislabelled as “reasoning”!

    When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That’s why we have the word “rationalize” — using reason to argue for what is wrong.

    Reason certainly lost in this piece of writing!
    Ironical cognitive dissonance – personified through the rationalized, bemused, blinkered, wonderment, of delusion-specs!

  22. In a sense, it seems morality is merely behavior modification to allow me to live peaceably with my neighbors. Not lying, stealing, or cheating allows cooperative behavior that allows us to build our houses, harvest our crops, and protect our families.
    New research in Game Theory, particularly “The Prisoners Dilemma” by researchers Dyson and Press has been shown to suggest that evolutionary success depends on cooperative or altruistic strategies (rather than the selfish winner takes all).
    No “god or gods” are needed in the equation of describing moral behavior.

  23. I live in Los Angeles and I know Dennis and admire him. He is a very bright man with a great reputation for original thinking and a vast following.
    Having said that he is out to lunch in his belief in a God and his ad nauseam claim that without a God we are morally lost. I split with him on this because I found it dogmatic and offensive. At the time I was heading a very serious undertaking in creating a major curriculum on character education for U.S. schools. As a militant atheist I objected to his dismissive attitude towards those of us who put a high value on decency whilst not believing in invisible supernatural beings.

    He reminds me in a way of Francis Collins. Brilliant in one area and bonkers in another. His belief in a deity seems borne out of desperation because he sees everything as meaningless without one. Well as Richard Dawkins has frequently pointed out life is meaningless except for the meaning we give it. If we choose wisely it can be deeply meaningful for any individual. As he similarly points out we get our morality generally from a consensus of what is in the best co-operative arrangement for the good of society.

    Dennis is no lightweight and I strongly recommend his website where there are fascinating and original articles on a vast range of subjects. Just ignore the God references and you will end up with some very fascinating pearls of wisdom.

    On this particular topic I do agree with all the Comments I have seen calling him out on his pompous rant.

    • In reply to #27 by jumbys:

      I live in Los Angeles and I know Dennis and admire him. He is a very bright man with a great reputation for original thinking and a vast following. Dennis is no lightweight and I strongly recommend his website where there are fascinating and original articles on a vast range of subjects. Just ignore the God references and you will end up with some very fascinating pearls of wisdom.

      Some samples of Prager’s “very fascinating pearls of wisdom” as found in his “fascinating and original articles on a vast range of subjects”:

      Nothing produces evil -- both on a national and individual level -- as much as perceiving oneself  or one's    group as a victim.
      
       The left now has a president who is a true leftist
      
       It is --leaving-- not fighting in -- Iraq and Afghanistan that will lead to failures in those countries.
      
       The "marriage equality" substitution for "same-sex marriage" is just one more example of (the left’s) dishonest manipulation of English.
      
      "Racial tensions" is a lie perpetrated by the left.  …"racial tensions" is a euphemism for a black  animosity toward whites and a left-wing construct,…
      
      The George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin issue has been manufactured by the left -- the black left and the white   left -- and by the left-wing (mainstream) media.
      
      the primary reason for gun violence in America is not gun ownership, but the lack of a functioning moral conscience
      

      Some quotations:

      "The Bigger the Government, the Smaller the Citizen"
      "Repetition Is The Mother Of Pedagogy"
      "I breathe therefore I receive"
      "The absurd keeps you sane"
      "Clarity over agreement"
      

      His hope that “the absurd keeps you sane” would appear to explain why Mr. Prager so frantically cranks out so much of it “on a vast range of subjects” in vain.

  24. It’s time a law was brought in that anyone who regurgitates the “Look what Stalin and Mao did in the name of atheism…” argument gets locked in the stocks and has rotten tomatoes thrown at them for at least a fortnight.

  25. The argument seems to basically boil down to the following:

    If there is no ABSOLUTE source of morality then there is no reason for anybody to act in a moral way.

    Since people DO act in a moral way [at least the people who believe in the Christian God], there must therefore be an absolute source of morality, i.e., God”

    Of course, the initial premise is utter bollocks. There are plenty of reasons why people behave in a moral way towards others, including our innate sense of empathy and our realization that treating others with respect helps keep society as a whole moving smoothly. The fact that morality evolves over time (for example, we no longer believe that stoning homosexuals, committing genocide, etc., are “moral” acts) simply proves that morality is NOT based on absolute standards, not that there are no standards whatsoever.

    And then there is his “empirical” evidence that a priest would supposedly have been more likely to rescue a Jew during the holocaust than a lawyer, a doctor or an artist. Is it the fact that the fictional priest believes in God, or is it simply due to his semi-protected position as a priest? After all, mightn’t the layer, doctor or artists also have been God-fearing Christians who were simply afraid of losing their jobs or even lives if they took action? And what about all the priest we know of who have abused children and/or covered up such abuse? If rescuing a Jew is empirical proof that a priest’s actions are guided by an absolute morality, does that also mean that pedophilia is absolutely moral?

    I also have to laugh at his response to the argument that several wholesale slaughters in the 20th century were committed in the name of God by Muslims — those don’t count because they worshiped a different God than the one he is talking about…

  26. Absolutism is not moral. Real, objective morality is scientifically based on the subjective experience of conscious creatures. Pain and suffering are real and we don’t need any god to tell us this.

  27. Certain religious people will make it their life’s work to continually rattle the cage of atheists….they know they are wrong….but will still pretend to not understand atheism and rake up foul examples of despotic people for a cheap shot….but they really just show themselves up as stubborn ignorant ranters…… Descent caring people usually see fellow people in need when they help them…not Jewish people in need or Christian people etc….

    The article pertained to why humans should not just be cruel without a god moral ? humans are carnivorous animals that need the cruelty aspect within us – in order to kill animals to eat…..but we supress it (mostly) among each other ! using our own desire for peace among our groups.

    Atheism is the best way to live a real life and to be honest with yourself and others…., but Atheist’s are all different individuals – not uniform – symbol wearing sheeple….and finally the article said – “Atheists don’t have the right to intellectual dishonesty” – what does this mean ??? do any atheist’s claims to want that right ! there are enough religious people claiming that right….but I wouldn’t call them intellectual !!

  28. I finally get why Richard comes off as erudite. My 9 year old would wipe the debate floor with this guy. I’m to much of a “humanist” to unleash my 13 year old on him. That would be cruel.

  29. Others have already successfully refuted his fallacy that because morality exists at all it must therefore be objective and God must exist.

    However I think a very simple point has been missed,or at least not yet mentioned in this thread.
    And that is that this is just another example of infinite regression stopping at the ‘god’ barrier.

    Those who say that the Universe must have been created by God fail to comprehend that God therefore must have been created.

    Likewise, those who say Objective morality must come from God fail to realize that doesn’t stop morality being subjective at all, it just means it’s subjective to the whims of a deity. On what basis does this god decide what is right or wrong?

    All morality is subjective wherever it comes from, but that doesn’t stop it being valid.

    • In reply to #35 by Seraphor:

      Morality is objective, experience is subjective. That’s how we can say that “god” based “morality” is objectively wrong (and, as Richard points out, it is subjectively horrible).

  30. There are so many many reasons why this view is poverty stricken. The usual excellent arguments have been made against this impossible fantasy of objective morality.

    For me the clincher was when considering that the required informational content needed by such a system of morality was potentially infinite. The moral choice is never without some vestige of harm to someone somewhere, even if they are not born yet. The moral calculus of the moment by moment lesser evil choice to be made is extraordinary. Where is the data and algorithm to balance this theft of bread against the brief further survival of your own child, or the moment where after losing your temper with another you may defend yourself from his apparently murderous attack by use of force that may prove deadly. Everyday the moral absolutes of the religious need be traded off against each other.

    Old hands in the sin game, the Catholic Church, solves this problem and shoe horns in guilt all around in their dealing with lesser of two evils choices. Simply they no bid. If there is a moral conflict, pregnant raped young girl, woman with a dying and health threatening foetus, no calculus for them. No abortion. They simply fail to act, visiting the world with new horrors. If others should do the decent thing (as so often decent Catholics actually do) then sin is their Church’s gift to them.

    An objective morality with a such a poverty of material and imagination like that of the RCC generates the evil and the consequent guilt it feeds upon.

    Their defense, of course is that there is another calculus to be made (and not by you) involving abstract events in a spiritual domain, so just suck it up, deny that abortion and do as you’re told.

    • In reply to #37 by phil rimmer:

      Morality does not need to be absolute to be objective, it can be rational and evidence based. Stealing bread is obviously better than letting a child starve. Even lethal force is justified when employed in self defence or in the defence of others.

      • In reply to #38 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #37 by phil rimmer:

        Morality does not need to be absolute to be objective, it can be rational and evidence based.

        Peter, even in the best construction of a moral system (what we ought to do) there has to be some subjective axioms at the base (how we would like things to be). If you claim complete objectivity, the religious side (which pretends to have that from divine command) will always be able to chip you down to some relative assumption, and then you are stuck. It is better to admit the truth, up front, and then show that their side really can’t prove that they are in a more justified position.

        • In reply to #39 by Quine:

          Peter, even in the best construction of a moral system (what we ought to do) there has to be some subjective axioms at the base (how we would like things to be).

          Like let A=A?

          • In reply to #40 by Peter Grant:
            >

            Like let A=A?

            Like Sam Harris picking “human flourishing” as an axiomatic base.

          • In reply to #43 by Quine:

            Like Sam Harris picking “human flourishing” as an axiomatic base.

            Actually, it’s the well being of conscious creatures, which is much broader and as a definition of “the good” seems up there with A=A. What legitimate moral concerns do not involve the well being of conscious creatures?

          • In reply to #45 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #43 by Quine:

            Like Sam Harris picking “human flourishing” as an axiomatic base.

            Actually, it’s the well being of conscious creatures, which is much broader and as a definition of “the good” seems up there with A=A. What legitimate moral concerns do not involve the well being of conscio…

            Yes, “well being” is a subjective statement of how you want things to be. Some (few, thankfully) may want the well being of all the non-conscious entities by means the extinction of humans. That axiom would generate an entirely different system of morals.

            Please don’t mistake me, I am all for construction of a moral system that has the best chance of making a future world that we would want to mutually enjoy (in line with Sam Harris). However, I simply take the position that pretending that you don’t have to make some fundamental subjective assumptions at the core is just asking to be shown up as disingenuous. I think it is better to face the truth and move forward from there.

          • In reply to #47 by Quine:

            Some (few, thankfully) may want the well being of all the non-conscious entities by means the extinction of humans.

            The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few etc. And what exactly is the well being of a non-conscious entity?

            However, I simply take the position that pretending that you don’t have to make some fundamental subjective assumptions at the core is just asking to be shown up as disingenuous. I think it is better to face the truth and move forward from there.

            I just offered up logic as a subjective assumption, I’m all out.

        • In reply to #39 by Quine:

          In reply to #38 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #37 by phil rimmer:

          how we would like things to be

          That is indeed the foundation upon which any process by which we organise ourselves morally rests. It is entirely equivalent in nature to our aesthetic tastes, the two surprises being how uniform those tastes can be across our species and how different in a few particulars they may also be.

          An evidenced and rational organisation of moral societies is entirely possible and is mostly what happens in democracies by default. An outcome worthy of note is that societies that take note of harms afflicting all members of that society and treats them equally, tend to be more productive, happier, healthier, more problem solving yada, yada, yada.

          The sociopath statistician may well produce better decisions given an analysis of these weird moral proclivities and what makes people happy and productive, but woe betide him if his calculations correctly compute that the least harm derived, is not to immunise a population of children and have a one in a hundred thousand quasi random deaths saving a hundred times that number, but rather is derived from a process of testing the population for the one in a million hyper infective carriers and having them painlessly terminated.

          The level of revulsion at this least harm, more moral(?) process would not let it stand. Letting it stand could become a source of unraveling morals (or more readily a destabilising fear of unraveling morals) where our lame brain moral heuritics are trained out of us. Though these evolved heuristics (eg don’t hurt in-group members) may lead us to sometimes hurt more in-group members, by not being able to bring ourselves to directly hurt one. This seems particularly to be the risk, especially if they are hanging around train tracks with a truck on the loose. The deep wiring of the mostly moral visceral response saves more often that it harms. We guard our moral heuristics quite diligently.

          It is sometimes just as well that the hard political decisions, where some of our own are to be sacrificed for the greater good, are made by the socipathic and later scapegoated for their sins. Too many anti-heuristic decisions may become corrosive to a society.

          • In reply to #48 by phil rimmer:

            The sociopath statistician may well produce better decisions given an analysis of these weird moral proclivities and what makes people happy and productive, but woe betide him if his calculations correctly compute that the least harm derived, is not to immunise a population of children and have a one in a hundred thousand quasi random deaths saving a hundred times that number, but rather is derived from a process of testing the population for the one in a million hyper infective carriers and having them painlessly terminated.

            I’m a sociopath. You can’t just make stuff up that doesn’t make sense. Viruses evolve far more rapidly than humans do.

          • In reply to #50 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #48 by phil rimmer:

            I’m a sociopath.

            Snap! Society doesn’t really know it but they need us!

            You can’t just make stuff up that doesn’t make sense. Viruses evolve far more rapidly than humans do.

            That was my McGuffin. The details didn’t matter. The sociopath may promote something that is demonstrably more moral in its differential outcomes that nevertheless goes against a visceral morality was my point.

          • In reply to #56 by phil rimmer:

            Snap! Society doesn’t really know it but they need us!

            Yeah, we’re the only ones really willing to end the psychopaths :D

            The sociopath may promote something that is demonstrably more moral in its differential outcomes that nevertheless goes against a visceral morality was my point.

            Well, visceral “morality” is obviously wrong.

          • In reply to #57 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #56 by phil rimmer:

            Well, visceral morality is obviously wrong.

            K. Well, moral heuristics? That is the moral heuristics of others that they may have less strongly or not at all.(Just trying to ring the changes on the language…)

            Oops. Beer calls. Liquid philosophy….

          • In reply to #59 by phil rimmer:

            K. Well, moral heuristics? (Just trying to ring the changes on the language…)

            Also wrong, but largely good enough to get by.

          • In reply to #57 by Peter Grant:

            Well, visceral morality is obviously wrong.

            A statement which is obviously subjective.

          • In reply to #60 by Quine:

            A statement which is obviously subjective.

            As an empath, it’s actually quite objective.

          • In reply to #50 by Peter Grant:

            I’m a sociopath.

            I just knew it! Men named Peter are the worst kind. Also, big trouble keeping wives due to a pumpkin addiction.

      • In reply to #38 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #37 by phil rimmer:

        Morality does not need to be absolute to be objective, it can be rational and evidence based. Stealing bread is obviously better than letting a child starve. Even lethal force is justified when employed in self defence or in the defence of others.

        All morality is subjective. It may appear objectively better to steal a loaf of bread than to let a child starve, but only from a subjective human perspective. What of the millions of microscopic organisms living on that bread that will be killed in the acidic environment of the child’s stomach? What of the millions more that will benefit from the fertile environment of the child’s rotting corpse?

        Don’t get me wrong, I would never advocate for the moral well-being of microscopic organisms over the life of a human child, but that doesn’t mean one cannot recognize the subjectivity of one’s moral compass.

        Of course human morality is weighted in favour of human beings and that can give it the illusion of objectivity, but it is still subjective. Some subjective morality just has a greater human-centric weight attached to it, just as you can have a western-centric weight, or a christian-centric weight, or any number of slants that further confound or polarize the moral dilemma. The fact that we are all human means that this subjectivity is not challenged in the same way as religious or cultural slants of morality, where our differences are amplified and therefore directly challenged and we are forced to take note of our moral subjectivity.

        • In reply to #82 by Seraphor:

          What of the millions of microscopic organisms living on that bread that will be killed in the acidic environment of the child’s stomach? What of the millions more that will benefit from the fertile environment of the child’s rotting corpse?

          Microscopic organisms are not conscious creatures.

          Of course human morality is weighted in favour of human beings and that can give it the illusion of objectivity, but it is still subjective.

          Morality is about the well being of conscious creatures, not necessarily humans. Human embryos, for instance, are not conscious.

  31. In reply to #41 by Red Dog:

    That’s a tautology so there is no point in making it an axiom.

    It’s the basis of logic, but quantum indeterminacy makes logic look pretty subjective. Objectively, A only equals A most of the time.

  32. Notice how cleverly Prager avoids any evidence or proof of his particular “God”‘s existence. Having said that, just look at the morality presented to us by the Christian God, who smited goodness knows how many, including Onan, for spilling his “seed upon the ground.”. As for all the sinners murdered by Noah’s Flood, it makes a mockery of thou shalt not kill ! One law for God, another one for humans.

    What has Christianity got to teach me about morality ? Abolutely nothing !

  33. From the article:

    The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.
    I asked Samuel Oliner, “Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist, or a Polish priest?”

    Without hesitation, he said, “a Polish priest.” And his wife immediately added, “I would prefer a Polish nun.”

    And who were the Jews trying to escape from ? The very Lutheran and Catholic Christians who wanted them exterminated as vermin. Why did the “objective morality” God allow the situation in the first place ? If I was the almighty, there would have been no death camps and no wars. Prager’s God sits quietly and does nothing. Hmm, not much of a morality from that God, unless it be rat eat rat.

  34. Can someone please answer me this question:

    Let’s pretend for a moment that a god exists and he/she/it authored the rules and commandments that appear in the bible.

    How does that make morality objective?

    What is this god basing these commandments on? His own personal preference? His opinion? If so, how is that not also subjective?

    • In reply to #63 by RationalConclusion:

      Can someone please answer me this question:

      Let’s pretend for a moment that a god exists and he/she/it authored the rules and commandments that appear in the bible.

      How does that make morality objective?

      It doesn’t. Plato explained that over two thousand years ago, see Euthyphro.

        • In reply to #65 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #64 by Quine:

          Liked, and Plato is one of my least favourite philosophers!

          Plato was one of the smartest people, ever. Unfortunately, he lived in a time when so little empirical data was known to ground ideas, that his very powerful mind drifted off into the unsubstantiated, and unfalsifiable.

      • In reply to #64 by Quine:

        In reply to #63 by RationalConclusion:

        Can someone please answer me this question:

        Let’s pretend for a moment that a god exists and he/she/it authored the rules and commandments that appear in the bible.

        How does that make morality objective?

        It doesn’t. Plato explained that over two thousand ye…

        I’m familiar with the Euthyphro dilemma. I’ve seen it used to counter the claim that one should base their morals on gods word but I’ve not seen it used to counter the claim that morality based on gods word is objective. I suppose it works for both.

        • In reply to #69 by RationalConclusion:

          Yes, it works, but you will see that back in #5 I put it at the end of three steps. I think it is a mistake to let the religious slide on the first two, because if you do they are going to define ‘objectivity’ into divine command theory, and you have to fight up-hill from there.

  35. Perhaps centuries ago religion was needed to curb bad behavior. Studies show that there is a high correlation between crime and poverty. Certainly life would have been more challenging back then. Dealing with uneducated, illiterate groups of people must have been frustrating to those who were privileged do-gooder, rule following, bean counter, snoopy, minding everyone else’s business types. Creating a moral code linked to a supernatural force would have been easier than teaching people to learn to read, write, and discern information. Masses of people could have been gathered easily on a regular basis to preach proper behavior of the day or else.

    The problem is that there was never the wisdom or know how to educate people properly. Their views were based upon simplistic considerations of that time period. Yes, some views are timeless and common sense, yet the moral code of the religious did not grow when psychological insight presented new ways of approaching problems or challenges in life. They tied their moral code to a fear based reprimanding, unchanging being and now the literalists are reluctant to admit or acknowledge change in fear of repercussions or the collapse of a belief that was highly invested. Those who recognized a better way have either cherry picked, compartmentalized religion separately from superior moral views, or changed their God concept.

  36. I agree completely with Dawkins. Once you’ve studied cellular biology, genetics, biochemistry at an atomic and molecular level it is quite rediculous that morality can only be gained from religion. The individual uniqueness of every single human genome (apart from mono zygotes) (identical twins) teaches to respect all life on the planet. Science is true religion is false. I’m an evolutionist not because I believe in evolution belief is without proof and I have no faith because faith is a suspension of thinking.

    If a person doesn’t understand DNA, RNA, Proteins, (the central dogma of genetics) mitosis, meiosis, recombination and independent assortment (the basics) then that person is an ignorant person in the 21st century. All pseudoscience, the supernatural (religion) is very bad for the human condition. The things science has worked out, homologus,non homologus chromosomes, haploid, diploid cells, codons, anti codons, snps, point mutation, insertions, deletions, inversions, alleles, recessive, dominant,co dominance, plasmids, bacteriophages,horizontal transfer, semi conservative DNA duplication, exones, introns, the twenty l amino acids that mammalian eukaryotes use to make things like enzymes and the 61 codons that code them (3 codons are stop codons) i could go on.

    As Darwin said “there is wonder in this view of life” wise words from a man who was only getting brief glimpses into the invisible world.

  37. I posted the following comment at http://www.nationalreview.com/article/359999/response-richard-dawkins-dennis-prager/ on October 10th 2013 at 17.56 (Rome clock). Today (October 11th) at the same time I looked at the site to see if there were replies and the comment seemed no more there and there wasn’t even the usual message “This comment was deleted.”
    I would like to have your judgment, is the comment so terrible in grammar or there is something else wrong that I can’t see, is it too rude or politically incorrect?
    Thanks for your advice if any.

    — Start of the removed comment —

    Intellectual dishonesty!?

    Dear Dennis Prager,
    your trick is pretty simple: you use the singular instead of the plural.

    You write:
    “First, the rational argument.
    If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities.”

    And you avoid to explain what happens when you have two or more gods that states different things on the same issue: “Do not murder” by god 1, “smash all the infidels” by god 2, … and so on.

    And do not ask me who they precisely are god 1, god 2, god 3, and so on, they all (obviously their advocates, because “god” is a human invention), in turn, said all and its contrary.

    We accuse Muslims to justify war with the Quran, but W. Bush tried to do the same with the Bible and Israelis try to “morally” justify their permanent war against Palestinians and vice versa with gods commandments.

    I’m sorry, I think that it is because of people like you that wars of religion, or justified by religious excuses, will continue endless.

    And it happens because of intellectual dishonesty: the use of the singular instead of the plural and the claim that it do exist only one true god, your.

    For what concerns the episode of Samuel Oliner in which he chooses “a Polish priest”, maybe it happened because he was aware that priests (all over the world) are greedy of money and became very rich with all the gold the American Jewish Associations paid to the Vatican imploring to save the Jews; the same Jews that the papal State had locked up into ghettoes till 1870 when the Italian troops entered in Rome and opened them; not satisfied for that situation the Vatican intrigued to convince the fascist regime to introduce in Italy the racist laws in 1938 as the “good” Hitler had already done; the same Hitler and Mussolini with which the Vatican had stipulated agreements (in 1933 with the Nazi Germany and in 1929 with the Italian fascist regime). So you are speaking of intellectual dishonesty!?

    Best wishes.
    Fiorenzo.

    — end of the removed comment —

    Best wishes.
    Fiorenzo.

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