I read posts here that call different things, "harmful to humanity."  Others call something, "good" or "bad" or "evil."

A very simple question, who gets to decide the definition of  "harmful to humanity" and what is there critieria? The same for "good," "bad," and "evil?" These are not material terms. If everything is material isn't there just "is" and not these moral declarations if one is being thoroughly atheist?

Help me understand your position so I am fair and honest about the views. Thanks.

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I think we can agree on a couple of things.

1) Use of a capital G makes it clear enough for most people that you mean the one and only God. 2) Removing God from the world makes it seem a nonsense-filled-pickle for a lot of people (if not most people).

Yet I'm still satisfied that most people's leap of faith to atheism is reasonably based on the same scientific probabilities that predict that there's no Great Unicorn. Maybe we can still have fun discussing ways to reduce various suffering caused by Nonsense Filled Pickles?

:)

@Pope. I think we are agreeing somewhat. While we can only assume the suffering of others, including other animals, it is on the basis of scientific facts. I would be shocked if anyone here thought that, for example, one chicken eating another while still alive, did not cause pain. Science give us facts about our anatomy, the similarities with other vertebrates, to allow us to reach reasonable assumpitions which in my view we are ethically obliged to consider.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with recognising we are emotional beings. Compassion and empathy are good things, that in part help us make sense of facts.

To be absolutely clear, when I said the suffering of others was imagined, I did not mean imaginary. I am confident the suffering is real, it's just it cannot be proven. To my mind, this is a trivial point and to argue to would be to take out that chess problem again.

Its a good question and not as easily answered as some here suggest.

 

It seems to me the question really is whether there is anything that is morally wrong even if the majority of people thought it was right?  Heather below brought up the subject of child rapists and killers.  If there was a society who felt that that was not a bad or wrong thing then would it cease to be bad or wrong?   If Hitler had won the war, taken over the world and convinced the rest of the world that killing Jews was good and right, would it then have been so?

 

In other words is it man / society that determines what is right and beneficial or is it supplied for us, and even if no one beleived that raping children was wrong - would it still be objecively wrong?

 

When you feel uncomfortable about saying that if society beleived it to be right it would be right, then your own heart and intuition are directing you to somewhere other than atheism.

 

Just for general clarification:  the theist argument is not that you need to beleive in God or read the Bible in order to tell right from wrong.  Its never been that.  It is that without God you have no objective moral standard outside of yourself and society.  And that you know that there is an objective moral standard outside of yourself, so you can do the maths.

 

 

 

When you feel uncomfortable about saying that if society beleived it to be right it would be right, then your own heart and intuition are directing you to somewhere other than atheism.

I disagree. So far, I've heard no argument against my suggestion that empathy can be used as a criterion for how we should treat each other, including animals. In fact, I'll go further and say that human empathy was a major impetus in man's/society's invention of God and scripture, back before our ability to live comfortably secure gave us a more objective perspective. (We're not perfectly secure and objective now, but we are more secure and objective than we were way back in the days of myth and scripture.)

Why did the abolitionists not just, "Live and let live."  Or in this case, "Live and let die."  Why?  Because they recognized a grave injustice that their peers seems unwilling, or unable to see.  They were capable of empathy and compassion.  They loved justice.  They wanted to share the benefits of freedom with those who had been denied it.    Slave owners did not give up their privileges, and unfair advantages, without presenting many arguments, both biblical and scientific in favor of slavery.  In fact their arguments are almost identical to those stated here, by those who enjoy their power over " lesser beings".

Why not come out and say it, then, that you do NOT trust people to reach the right decision without being guilt tripped, browbeaten, badgered, and cowed into your orhodoxy?

@John Major

@Unseen. As Dogly has made an excellent point. Without the persistent voicing of a moral concern, maybe slavery would still be in vogue. I am sure the pro-slavery lobby rolled their eyes too and claimed, without knowledge and in error, that abolitionists were making no headway.

For slavery to be "in vogue" still to this day, we'd still have to have pretty much the same world back then, absent the communications that we have today, absent the scientific and educational advances. People don't change their mind because someone browbeat, badgered, harrassed, or otherwise abused them. Quite the opposite. Such behavior drives people further into their beliefs. Just look at the total and absolute lack of converts vegetarians and vegans have gained here. Despite the millions of words of arguments they've made, how many converts can you point to? Three? Two, One? or is it more like zero? People change their mind when it is time for their minds to change. My belief is that slavery ended when it was time for slavery to end.

I do trust people to make up their own minds but they should look at the arguments before doing so. Some vegetarians/vegans are presenting facts and arguments based on ethics of compassion. Those lacking the necessary compassion will never be persuaded.

There's no such thing as an obligation to look at and consider anyone else's argument, especially someone, like the sidewalk preacher, who is shoving it down one's throat. Obligations are only made based on the obligator's assent or by law. There are no other kinds of obligations.

Demonizing those who don't follow your path to compassion? It is up to them to decide who or what gets compassion and how far that compassion should go. I'm certain I can find some worthy causes you are doing little or nothing to support. People give the amount of compassion they can to what they choose to give it to. Nobody can spend all day every day of their lives being compassionate about chickens, whales, endangered owls, poor people, climate change, deforestation, and on and on and on. Or do we get no respite from being concerned?

You think it is a 'leap' to believe non human animals feel pain as we do and on that basis disparage anyone taking a moral view.

You're taking my argument too far. I don't disparage anyone for taking a moral view based on anything. If I disparage anyone, it's those who assume that everyone should adopt their moral view.

I believe you have not looked at the evidence showing the similarity of central nervous systems.

Wow, you actually believe I got to age 65 without understanding that there are similarities between the nervous systems of all vertebrates? You see, I did take biology class, even if it was in the 1960's. But even way back then it was common knowledge that everything from the most primitive chordates to human beings have a central nervous system with many similarities. See, this high and mighty attitude is exactly the sort of "we are so much more enlightened than you idiots" attitude that drives people away.

It does not follow, except by an act of the imagination, that a fish or a cow feels what I feel. I have had cats and dogs, and I know that if you take them to the vet for a shot or to draw blood, you notice that they hardly notice the prick of the needle. Similar behaviors aside, it appears that being a cow or a fish is quite different from being a human being.

@Unseen "For slavery to be "in vogue" still to this day, we'd still have to have pretty much the same world back then, absent the communications that we have today, absent the scientific and educational advances"

This is just not true. Slavery persists despite modern communications, educational and scientific advances. It's a huge concern for Amnestry International, here.

@Unseen "My belief is that slavery ended when it was time for slavery to end."

How then do you make sense of the fact that it has not ended?

@Unseen "People don't change their mind because someone browbeat, badgered, harrassed, or otherwise abused them. Quite the opposite. Such behavior drives people further into their beliefs. Just look at the total and absolute lack of converts vegetarians and vegans have gained here."

Britain allowed something as brutal as West Indian slavery to exist, and for so long, because it was virtually invisible. Few British people ever saw the slightest hint of it, for only a tiny handful of the three million Africans who had been pressed into slavery over the years ever set foot on British shores. There is a paralell here to public knowledge of slaughterhouse practices.

Abolitionists helped to lift the vision of the British public, it certainly didn't come to a halt when it was its time, as you suggest. What did the abolotionists do? How did they 'brow-beat, badger and harass' the British public? They had pamphlets full of eye-witness testimony. They had extraordinary graphics such as the famous image of the slave ship, Brookes, which showed captive Africans packed like sardines in a can. The potter Josiah Wedgewood struck a brooch that depicted an enslaved man on bended knee. At the bottom of the brooch was the inscription: ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’” Metaxas used this disturbing picture of a tortured slave and reproduced it on snuffboxes and made into cameos that women wore pinned to their dresses and in their hair. It was also made into a letter sealing fob, so even the wax seals on letters would draw attention to the cause. This action is not unlike animal activist tactics of today.

Maybe you would characterise these activists as sidewalk preachers?

@Unseen "There's no such thing as an obligation to look at and consider anyone else's argument"

I didn't say there was. This is a forum. You pick and chose the conversations you want to enter into. You have joined the 'Vegetarian/Vegan' section of this site haven't you? If you are not interested, don't engage. There's nothing I can do about that.

@Unseen "Nobody can spend all day every day of their lives being compassionate about chickens, whales, endangered owls, poor people, climate change, deforestation, and on and on and on."

I think you can spend your whole life being compassionate. All I argue, for those interested and with feelings of compassion, is that other animals have moral worth and our ethics should encompass their suffering.

@Unseen "Wow, you actually believe I got to age 65 without understanding that there are similarities between the nervous systems of all vertebrates?"

It seemed unlikely but I based this on the notion you had that it was a 'leap' to imagine other animals suffered pain given the evolutionary importance of pain perception.

@Unseen  "It does not follow, except by an act of the imagination, that a fish or a cow feels what I feel. I have had cats and dogs, and I know that if you take them to the vet for a shot or to draw blood, you notice that they hardly notice the prick of the needle."

I have never argued that a cow or fish feel what you or I feel. I have argued that they feel pain and can suffer and this makes then morally relevant. Have you noticed the fear reaction of dogs going into vets? I have. My dog reacts like I do when having an injection. It's not that painful.

 

 

 

Slavery persists despite modern communications, educational and scientific advances.

We were, I thought, talking about American agricultural slavery. Where that sort of slavery still exists, I'm sure what I said applies.

If you have switched to talking about sexual slavery, that's a horse of a different color. We use the same word but that doesn't mean its the same thing. Everything will always exist in the criminal underworld because it is the supplier for illicit desires and illegal business. Like the drug underworld, which will be with us as long as we make certain drugs illegal, the desire to repress sex we disapprove of will guarantee a marketplace.

Britain allowed something as brutal as West Indian slavery to exist, and for so long, because it was virtually invisible.

And then along came the modern communications, educational and scientific advances making it less invisible.

Abolitionists helped to lift the vision of the British public, it certainly didn't come to a halt when it was its time, as you suggest. What did the abolotionists do? How did they 'brow-beat, badger and harass' the British public? They had pamphlets full of eye-witness testimony.

Can't you see you're proving my case? Along came more modern communications, educational and scientific advances, etc. It was not the face-to-face kind of badgering, browbeating, and guilt-tripping some of you are engaging in here. You're doing it more to make yourselves feel better than accomplish anything. Changing minds works best when less personalized, allowing the other party to reach their conclusions on their own without you lording it over them with your scolding tone and your hands metaphorically disapprovingly on your hips.

I didn't say there was (an obligation to consider your arguments).

Didn't you say they should consider your arguments before forming an opinion? How can that not imply that they owe it to you or themselves to consider your (or your kind of) arguments? Besides, no one is going to consider every argument before forming an opinion for that would be a sisyphean task. One which could never be accomplished.

"Nobody can spend all day every day of their lives being compassionate about chickens, whales, endangered owls, poor people, climate change, deforestation, and on and on and on."

I think you can spend your whole life being compassionate. All I argue, for those interested and with feelings of compassion, is that other animals have moral worth and our ethics should encompass their suffering.

Unfortunately, you simply cannot accept that intelligent people can't agree with you. And since the rest of us can't be concerned about every single worthy cause without going insane, we pick and choose. Perhaps people who are already deeply involved in fighting deforestation, overfishing the oceans, saving this or that endangered species, etc., are all compassioned out, with no more concern to give, ready to let other causes (including yours) be other people's concern.

@Unseen "Wow, you actually believe I got to age 65 without understanding that there are similarities between the nervous systems of all vertebrates?"

It seemed unlikely but I based this on the notion you had that it was a 'leap' to imagine other animals suffered pain given the evolutionary importance of pain perception.

Going from morphological similarities to similarities in sensation is a leap of imagination. I have no idea if what a bird feels when it walks feels anything like what I feel, or if it feels anything at all.

@Unseen. "We were, I thought, talking about American agricultural slavery. Where that sort of slavery still exists, I'm sure what I said applies.


If you have switched to talking about sexual slavery, that's a horse of a different color. We use the same word but that doesn't mean its the same thing. Everything will always exist in the criminal underworld because it is the supplier for illicit desires and illegal business"

I didn't mention American agricultural slavery and I havn't switched to sexual slavery - a different horse colour as you call it, insinuating a shift of argument that just wasn't there.

You will see from here that slavery has not just run its course as you stated. There are still millions in forced labour. In 2005, the International Labour Organization provided an estimate of 12.3 million forced labourers in the world. So again, how do you sqaure that with your, 'belief is that slavery ended when it was time for slavery to end.'

So, if slavery did not end when it was time to end as you argue, why did it end in Britain? I've suggested it was the vigouress and determined energies of a moral minority that brought the issue to the masses through pamphlets, pottery etc etc that raised the issue. In very nebulus terms, you argue it was 'modern communications, educational and scientific advances' that won the abolitionist cause. Pamphlets - modern communications? Really? Surely you can see it was the ideas contained in the means of communication that finally won the day, not the invention of the printing press.

 @Unseen "It was not the face-to-face kind of badgering, browbeating, and guilt-tripping some of you are engaging in here."

This forum, face-to-face? Not at all, it's over the internet. As I said in my last post, you comment if you want to. No one is forcing you. Of course, the abolition of slavery in Britain did involve lots of face to face badgering and brow-beating. Was that wrong? Was that street preaching? Or do you still cling to the miguided belief that slavery just ended when it did and there was no need of it?

@Unseen "Didn't you say they should consider your arguments before forming an opinion?"

You accuse me of thinking it an obligation for other to look at my arguments. Another attempt at putting words in my mouth to make me look more extreme or strident than I am. Yes I did say people shoud look at the arguments. I did not say MUST. If I had meant MUST I would have said it. This is a forum for free thinkers right? Free thinking is defined as, 'a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason...' On this basis, yes, people should listen (read) the views of others if they have an interest to do so. It's NOT compulsary.

@Unseen "Unfortunately, you simply cannot accept that intelligent people can't agree with you. And since the rest of us can't be concerned about every single worthy cause without going insane, we pick and choose. Perhaps people who are already deeply involved in fighting deforestation, overfishing the oceans, saving this or that endangered species, etc., are all compassioned out, with no more concern to give, ready to let other causes (including yours) be other people's concern."

I do accept people will have differing views. Like abolitionists, I feel I am quite justifed in giving an opinion on a huge issue effecting the planet. Try to defeat the arguments I've put forward for the ethical treatment of other animals rather than asking me to quietly go away, and in lieu of that misrepresenting my position. Quite apart from the issue of the ethical treatment of other animals, the practice also raises huge issues for the planet, some of which you have touched upon. Global warming, loss of eco systems, endangering species etc all are directly tied up in the exploitation of other animals.

@Unseen "Going from morphological similarities to similarities in sensation is a leap of imagination. I have no idea if what a bird feels when it walks feels anything like what I feel, or if it feels anything at all."

Neither of us can know what a bird, perhaps a chicken feels. The point is, we can be fairly sure it feels pain and can suffer and on that basis has moral standing. It seems you are sayong because we can only imagine what a bird actually feels, rather than experience it ourselves, we need not consider the interests of the bird at all. Would that be the view you take on the industrial farming of chickens already described to you? Or maybe, you just think we have dominion over the animals?

 

 

 

I think "who gets to decide..." is still a good question, despite all the bashing when we disagree.

In the cases of slavery and woman's suffrage in the U.S., it first took moral outrage, then re-interpretation and re-wording of the constitution to change behavior at large.

In fact, I wish I had thought to include this relevant note a few minutes ago.

Blacks voted in the majority for Prop 8 in California (in addition to Romney's financial support via his church). Now, the NAACP has come out in favor of gay marriage:

In a move that some called historic, the county’s oldest African American civil rights group voted Saturday to endorse same-sex marriage.

The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution supporting gay marriage at a meeting of its board of directors in Miami, saying it opposed any policy or legislative initiative that “seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”

Directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force erupted in applause at their board meeting Saturday as their phones buzzed with the news.

“Today is a historic day,” Rea Carey, executive director of the task force, said a phone interview from Seattle. “This is what leadership looks like in this country.”

The vote marks a national turning point on the issue of gay marriage. President Obama announced this month that he supports gay marriage. A Gallup Poll last year found, for the first time in the poll’s history, that a majority of Americans supported the legalization of gay marriage, 53% to 45%. This year, the poll showed 50% supported it, while 48% opposed it.

“Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law,” Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the 103-year-old NAACP said in a statement.

“The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”

...

That's how people decide, and that's how things change!

@archaeopteryx

Actually, I've read that same paragraph, but I can't accept that it is the single most limiting factor. I haven't the time, and certainly not the inclination, to re-locate research and bring it to the board, but studies show that an abundance of available food allows for a size increase in all animals, and is the primary reason that humans are no longer limited to being 4-feet tall in heels.

The food thing is ridiculous. For example, to assert there is no limit on size as long as food is available begs the question of why is it that the taller people get the less healthy they are and the shorter their lifespans. The same is true of dogs, BTW.

So, please locate that article: I'd like to know where/how you got it wrong.

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