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Switch to Forum Live View Science can answer moral questions
4 years ago  ::  Apr 05, 2010 - 9:46AM #1
Kwinters
Posts: 21,084

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww


Science can answer moral questions


 


From TED talks.


 


Thoughts, comments and reactions - after you've watched the >24 min video

Jesus had two dads, and he turned out alright.~ Andy Gussert

“Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions…for safety on the streets…for child care, for social welfare…for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.

If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?”

Dale Spender
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4 years ago  ::  Jul 28, 2010 - 8:23AM #2
Mrtemijin
Posts: 2

Quite liked the video.  I went and read "The End of Faith" after that.  I certainly think there's credence to been able to come up with a "scientific" approach to answer moral questions.  There are times when I read/ hear about the thoughts and actions of people with religious belief and find them to be immoral. 


Interestingly I tried posting the video to a Christian friend's wall and she responded by saying she still did not get where an atheist would get there morality from...I was exasperated.  The video wasn't that hard to understand. 

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4 years ago  ::  Oct 18, 2010 - 1:01AM #3
seeker5
Posts: 3

I think he's talking about what is known as 'practical wisdom' rather than values or morality in respect to science. Then he goes on to talk about regular morality with little connection to science. Then how nice a science based morality would be. Doesn't ask/answer any hard questions. If you want to talk about morals talk to a real ethicist, not this guy. What he said hints of being cultre-centric and full of circular logic.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 02, 2010 - 3:56AM #4
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,565

It was mildly entertaining. Seeker5 has it right, though.


"Science" might someday have some useful things to add but right now the better words might be "reason in general". He also wants to limit who can talk about morality to "experts". That could be interpreted to mean we should listen say ... to the Iranian regime's theological rulers. That is exactly what they're saying. Only they think they're the experts we should listen to for that expertise.


The fact is that right and wrong, good and evil, etc; are the birthright knowledge of every human being. Our societies use knowing the difference as a mark of individual maturity and sanity. No one should in this day abdicate conscience to a so-called expert. That understanding is a field of relative truth, anyway.


Should we seek unity of thought on moral questions? Yes, we absolutely should. It would benefit all to communicate and share what we believe or think. Is there a limited set of correct answers? Probably, since there are limited sets of circumstances. Are there broad useful guidelines? Well, the various forms of the Golden Rule are examples.


"Science" it isn't. It is wisdom. It is understanding. But just as the complexities of Chemistry are greater than Physics and those of Biology are greater than Chemistry's; when we come to the realms of learning that deal with culture, the interactions of minds and still far greater abstractions; then, we move rapidly out of what can be dealt with by science.


Can science speak to us? We would be foolish not to listen to any voice, wouldn't we? Unfortunately it hasn't yet said anything profound or productive related to "goodness".

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 03, 2010 - 8:50PM #5
oddjoe
Posts: 811

 www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/14391712... has an interview with Sam Harris that is in writing.

Nonself-defensive competition against others (fighting against others) is the root of human evil.
Let's try to overcome humanity's drive to reproduce on this finite planet.
Anarchism + perfect understanding and compassion within the citizenry = utopian socialism.
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 03, 2010 - 11:12PM #6
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,565

Nov 3, 2010 -- 8:50PM, oddjoe wrote:


 www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/14391712... has an interview with Sam Harris that is in writing.





Its basically an argument that science "can" do it. When we see science start doing it in a respectable and defensible way that doesn't make the rest of us go "duh" and "big deal you haven't even reinvented a moral wheel" then, we may have something. Wake us up, then. Meanwhile its more likely Rip van Winkle time, or interminable coma, to wait for that.


This response is coming from a hardcore science lover. Philosophers, ethicists and assorted academicians can also talk all they want but it takes a sacrificing Abraham, a long-suffering Moses, a crucified Christ or a life-long vilified Muhammad to get us to apply those lessons in and to, our own lives. That is the verdict of 5ky of human history.


Not a single scientist has moved mankind to the major moral efforts that have raised humanity from the boundless savagery of its evolutionary biological heritage to its present levels of an improved humanity in ethical terms.


If, you doubt that; then, just study the newest data about the various Chimpanzee species. The genus name is aptly "Pan". Look at the manipulative, hedonistic paniscus species (BKA Bonobos), or the troglodytus species with its gang-like culture. They are mirrors of our most natural instincts minus the influence of a religious history. A chronology that we can and do, too easily, criticize; without concomitantly taking note of the saintly achievements of multiple millenia of rising general human moral and ethical progress.


Harris also cherry-picks the Danes and Swedes as the most Atheistic exemplars. The real Atheists were/are the Soviets, Maoist Chinese, Cubans, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, and other assorted Communist societies. Their track record of a morality based on the means being justified by the ends, is of course not an especially appetizing display of moral soundness. Short of Nazi "scientists" like Mengele and various things like the Tuskegee experiments as extreme instances, the record of science is neutral and could use a jot of improvement, too.


This really all seems to come from people who think science is on their side. It is yet another version of "Gott mit uns!" while you go to war with your siblings.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 05, 2010 - 8:55PM #7
JGL57
Posts: 524

So, screw whether religion is true or not, or if it can ever be known.  Just believe as a practical matter in order to be - inspired? - to be moral instead of immoral?


Hmmmm.  That doesn't work for me.  I can't believe in the pragmatic use of something unless I am convinced of its reality.  Morality based in what one wants to be real, or hopes is real, or supposes is real - not my thing.


But if belief in a god is the one thing keeping some people from being psychopaths, then I certainly prefer them to be believers.  But is there any scientific evidence that such is probably the way it is?  I am unfamiliar.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 06, 2010 - 2:26PM #8
in_my_opinion
Posts: 2,565

Nov 5, 2010 -- 8:55PM, JGL57 wrote:


So, screw whether religion is true or not, or if it can ever be known.  Just believe as a practical matter in order to be - inspired? - to be moral instead of immoral?


Hmmmm.  That doesn't work for me.  I can't believe in the pragmatic use of something unless I am convinced of its reality.  Morality based in what one wants to be real, or hopes is real, or supposes is real - not my thing.



Quite agree with that! Faith is being convinced of the truth of a reality.



But if belief in a god is the one thing keeping some people from being psychopaths, then I certainly prefer them to be believers.  But is there any scientific evidence that such is probably the way it is?  I am unfamiliar.




There are various preponderating evidences in history but nothing absolutely convincing. People have misused and still manipulate other peoples beliefs and allegiances to achieve questionable and self-serving aims. The proof of goodness seems to come in the earliest days of a religion when sincerity and honor seems to most predominate. Generally its for the first five or six hundred to a thousand years. Beyond that it seems best at the edges, where new converts see the light of its truth because of sincere carriers of its message. Converts tend to be more devoted and selfless.


On the other hand there is more than ample evidence that those who do not have a belief in a higher power than themselves, however perceived, are at best untrustworthy and have no limitations in self-delusion as to questions of good and evil, right and wrong.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 06, 2010 - 5:12PM #9
WFS
Posts: 43

I watched to video not knowing Sam Harris, so I also viewed part of another talk he gave, back in 2007. I regard myself a Christian, and I did not find his statement to be very offensive. It was obvious, at the end, that Harris is an atheist, but that does not make everything he said to be wrong or evil. My problem is something like this. He trusts the feeling and instincts of people to know what is good or bad, but he does NOT trust them to read history and interpret the stories, myths and legends if that interpretation varies in any way from his own "enlightened" view. Most atheists have a very high opinion of their intellectual powers and very little respect, if any, for deeply held religious views of others. Most people, even now, believe that morality comes "down" from God, as do I. What kind of God? To me, God is good, etc. God represents Life, etc. God is better than us, the best in us, not the worst. They have rejected God because their picture of God has been corrupted by organized religion, misguided kings, self-centered politicians, godless preachers and other assorted crooks, con-men and deceivers. IMO.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 06, 2010 - 5:22PM #10
WFS
Posts: 43

Nov 3, 2010 -- 11:12PM, in_my_opinion wrote:


 The real Atheists were/are the Soviets, Maoist Chinese, Cubans, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, and other assorted Communist societies.




Sam Harris does not regard any of the communist societies as atheistic. He uses a definition that excludes them as religious cults.

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