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  #91  
Unread March 10th, 2006, 08:55 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: The challenge—intellectual honesty

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MM: Wow, a second post wherein you did not directly call me immoral. However, you have posed a question in a way that if you don't get the answer you want then you have implied that I would be "intellectually dishonest". Do you really think I'll answer that?
You just did Margaret. Thanks. (And again your words reveal more about you than perhaps you realize.)

And once again, bravo to TomJ, apparently the only atheist here with the intellectual honesty and consistency (balls) to recognize and acknowledge the inevitable implication of atheism and lack of free will—that in such a world, no one is truly morally responsible in any meaningful sense for their behavior.

BTW Margaret, has it ever occurred to you that it’s always you, or others—and not me—that bring up this “God” fellow? Some sort of projection, or just paranoia?

Hugs and kisses,
Fred

Last edited by Fred H.; March 10th, 2006 at 09:07 AM.
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  #92  
Unread March 10th, 2006, 09:25 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: The challenge—intellectual honesty

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Originally Posted by Fred H.
you, or others—and not me—that bring up this “God” fellow
True, you're careful not to use the word. But you can't deny that you believe in some higher power. We use 'god' as shorthand, correctly.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
TomJ ... recognize and acknowledge the inevitable implication of atheism and lack of free will—that in such a world, no one is truly morally responsible in any meaningful sense for their behavior.
You're oversimplifying my message. People are able to weigh ideas and must be held accountable for any bad actions. My philosophy just says that people are sick rather than evil; they should be separated from society, rehabilitated if possible, and threatened with punishment if that adds another reason not to do evil things. They are, in a "very meaningful sense", responsible for their behavior.
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  #93  
Unread March 10th, 2006, 04:57 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Not a stake in the ground.

Hi Todd, This topic took me the longest to figure out what I really thought. But, here is my attempt at expressing it. It is not a stake in the ground in my case - since I find my thoughts on this wandering around and not finding anything solid to hold on to. But that kind of mind trip is fine with me. When it feels right I'll try to grab on to something. But, for now . .

Imagine an IMO before every sentence here.

I have alluded before to my suspicion that the kind of knowing that is essential to animals is that which is necessary to make decisions in response to challenges and opportunities in their environment. I believe this is an emotional form of knowing that we experience as internal sensations in our mind - that push or pull us toward or away from some behavior. All animals have this kind of internal mechanism although it is more or less highly developed in different species. (I attach no value to that, Carey

Also, I have proposed that these differences in development are not so much differences in the basic mechanism but differences in the quality and variety of the emotional inputs available to the core decision mechanism. And that all such inputs (even those from conceptual mental images) are resolved as emotional sensations that compete with those from other sources in the nervous systems of animals.

But these competing emotional signals are different from the conceptual mental images which some few animals have evolved to experience in added outer layers of cortex.

Even so, these conceptual mental images are closely associated with and intimately connected to that underlying emotional system. The ability to have them evolved to augment that system. These cognitive mental images can be produced or called up by emotional associations from memory (as when an odor or a song on the radio can bring back past memories). And, they are created to produce emotions of their own. In some cases those emotions participate in our decisions - as when we do a mental calculation on our odds of winning the lottery and then decide not to buy a ticket.

Sometimes those emotions make us feel better directly. Feeling better is the core force that causes us to do all the things we do in life. For example, when we are afraid as a child we can think good thoughts to mask the bad ones. These often take the form of narratives that make us feel better. Like, as a child when we imagined that the monster in the closet is really my friend and is there to keep the bad monsters away. Narratives are very useful, even for adults. Like, there is a God in heaven and when I die I will go and live with him there and I will be happy.

Our imaginations don't operate according to any physical limitations. Therein lies the problem. We can easily imagine things that make us feel good but that have no connection to objective reality. The history of scientific discovery and advance is a history of hard won objective causal explanations (narratives) of natural phenomena colliding with the cherished and fanciful social narratives that they inevitably refute.

Strong ideological emotions release dopamine and epinephrine and other chemicals that make us feel good. Ideology is like an emotionally potent drug. Science is not. Science is weak and once removed from the emotions associated with the medical cures, health improvement, cheaper power, etc. that they may some day foster. IMO the greatest obstacle to the scientific study of human nature is the difficulty for scientists to separate their natural human affinity for pleasing ideological narratives from their science.

Scientists, being pretty smart, are good at finding ways to make their ideological narratives appear as scientific narratives if they are so inclined. This can be vividly seen in the current debate over Intelligent Design where that process has been brought to the highest art.

I therefore think it is very important to be vigilant and guard against the intrusion of ideological narratives into scientific discussions. Like the ID debate, much of the discussion on this forum is arguing over who's ideological narrative is better than someone else's ostensibly scientific narrative. That's not science. It's a smart tactic of ideologues who despise science. The best way to avoid this is to eliminate ideology when it appears by ignoring or rejecting it and being suspicious of anyone who repeatedly brings it into the discussion. It's also important to ignore personal taunts which are designed to raise the emotional level of the discussion - and elicit the ideological emotions of others.

Ideology is insidious because we are emotionally driven organisms. Once it appears in a discussion the emotions it engenders can draw anyone in. It's a good tactic for science haters because no matter how any argument is resolved, the science is always left far behind. And to observers who don't know the difference, you have scientific arguments competing with ideological ones which gives the ideology great and undeserved credibility in their minds.

Yes, some narratives can be good. They can help a child feel unafraid of the dark or an older person face death more calmly. But, in science the only good narratives are the objective scientific ones that are assiduously separated from ideology. And when those are carefully constructed they might even be representative of objective reality. But they are fragile and very elusive entities in the minds of creatures that are designed to respond and direct their lives according to the strongest emotions in those minds. We need to protect them.

It's very hard to do science for that reason but I believe it is certainly worth the effort. And I applaud those special few who can pull it off.

Actually, by writing this I find that my thoughts on it have solidified a bit so thanks for the opportunity. But this has gotten way too long already so I'll quit and it's too hard to think about these things for very long so I'm not going to edit this as much as I usually would.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; March 10th, 2006 at 06:44 PM.
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  #94  
Unread March 10th, 2006, 06:42 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default One more try.

Todd, After re-reading the two posts preceding my last one I realize I gave you a brain dump about narratives that became a comparison of ideological vs scientific narratives. I now see that was not your focus, even though my last post (the rambler) occasionally landed somewhere close.

To address your point more accurately, I'd say that we are wise to remember that our conceptual mental images can range from wild fantasies to close approximations of reality. Also, that we construct them to make ourselves feel better - and only sometimes do people equate feeling better with finding a more accurate representation of reality (good scientists). Even then, they are only abstract models of that reality that we construct and when we communicate that construction to other minds it can never be the same as what was in the mind that created it.

Still, they are the best we've got for representing objective reality and they have proven very useful for improving the net happiness of those who hold them or can benefit from them - as well as for doing the opposite in many cases. I'd just say handle with care, don't mistake them for the real thing and follow the Golden Rule.

PS - I just found this gem back in the archives by John Fentress. He says it far more peotically than I. http://www.behavior.net/forums/evolu...99/msg589.html

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; March 10th, 2006 at 08:10 PM.
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  #95  
Unread March 11th, 2006, 12:53 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
TomJ, also an atheist convinced that humans lack free will, understands and acknowledges that a result of that POV is that criminals, like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Milošević, etc., are not “morally responsible” (in any meaningful way) for their dreadful behavior (although he still believes they s/b punished)
I want you to know that I REALLY appreciate this last parenthetical clause! You've gone out of your way to not misrepresent my views. Thank you!
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  #96  
Unread March 11th, 2006, 12:57 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
I don’t have extramarital sex, unlike TomJ
I would prefer my lifestyle to be called an open marriage, since my wife is OK with it and I would not do it otherwise. That she's not threatened actually matters to me, which must give you a headache since deterministic atheists have none of your morality.
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  #97  
Unread March 11th, 2006, 05:07 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Cool Re: A Non Free Will Übermensch

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TJ (#92): My philosophy just says that people are sick rather than evil; they should be separated from society, rehabilitated if possible, and threatened with punishment if that adds another reason not to do evil things.
Great stuff Tom—these “sick” people s/b “threatened with punishment.” Ties in nicely with your view that although those that behave badly aren’t “morally responsible” they s/b punished anyway. And I found your comment in the Feynman thread somewhat revealing:
Quote:
TJ: I can do a repeatable experiment where I remove the regret module from your brain and you would no longer be morally responsible for your actions….
Where would one do such an “experiment?” Auschwitz? I must say Tom, your frankness and resulting acknowledgements of the unavoidable implications of atheism have been gifts (not that that was necessarily your intension). I’d say that your amplifications may have provided more convincing indictments against atheism than whatever I might have argued . . . it’s almost enough to make one believe that there’s a God after all.

Nevertheless Tom, Bravo: unlike the other atheists here, all mealy-mouthed pansies, you’re Übermensch.
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  #98  
Unread March 11th, 2006, 08:23 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: A Non Free Will Übermensch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
these “sick” people s/b “threatened with punishment.”
Absolutely, punishment and the threat of punishment are some of the most effective tools that society has to 'help' people choose the better behaviors. I would prefer that everyone were given enough of a stake in society that they would prefer to do the right thing, but we're not there yet. So, punishment is needed and rehabilitation is better.

That they're not morally responsible just means that we should pity them rather than hate them. We still need to deal with the anti-social just as we must remove cancer cells from our bodies; it's not the cells' fault that they were affected by carcinogens.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
Where would one do such an “experiment?” Auschwitz?
I think a mental experiment is in order and you, yourself, said that someone with a damaged brain is no longer morally responsible. I don't need a scalpel to be convinced, plus we have examples of people suffering from brain damage that prove the point.
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  #99  
Unread March 18th, 2006, 11:26 AM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Smile Thanks!

Thank you for your interesting and articulate responses to my posts, Margaret. I appreciate your participation here very much. I'm not going to go down that nature/nuture interaction line just now because it is deserving of much more than a quick simple response and I don't have the time right now. Thanks for expanding on your thoughts, I did read this and appreciate it.

kind regards,

Todd
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