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 would like to refer you to Sam Harris' ted talk about how science can answer moral dilemma's (even if only in theory) http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html
But let me sum up his argument simply which that all morality is based on the concept of limiting human (and some would include all intelligent beings however in my opinion it remains a case to be argued) suffering and as we go forth in the field of neuroscience by leaps and bounds he sees it as inevitable that we can make a quantifiable estimate of this suffering and use these measurements to establish through logical argument the best moral framework in the circumstances.
In the mean time in my opinion our best hit at an understanding of human suffering would come from psychology but the core of the argument lays in the possibility of defining morality based not any moral dictatorship or absolutism but rather on the very minds that are subject to it's rulings.
I think much of the misunderstanding of this issue stems from a common misunderstanding of the atheist stance on the human mind where many would propose that without mysticism it is impossible to conceive a human mind that is more than just a series of interconnected neurons repeating their genetically determined orders, however this is not so. A true understanding of the human brain reveals a far more complex picture whereby there comes a tipping point at which consciousness can appear and in the words of French author man becomes the animal out of nature, meaning each mind becomes unique in seeing the self and non self as two very different worlds and even going to so far as to imagine other minds that also see the world in a partial way different of our own. In fact this very change can be seen in children between the ages of 3 and 5 where when presented with a situation where a character has less information then he does then he can imagine the world picture that this other character would have. This is seen in another ted talk below.


Thanks I hope that helps.

"...without mysticism it is impossible to conceive a human mind that is more than...."

I've heard the term "god of the gap" used to refer to the mysticism they need.

"One of the worst things about religion is that it tends to separate questions of right and wrong from the living reality of human and animal suffering."
Sam Harris, November 2006.

Harris is concerned with suffering, not just human. On what basis would anyone take the arbitrary view that only human suffering is morally important? It is the capacity to suffer that entitles an animal, human or otherwise, to moral consideration.

It is the capacity to suffer that entitles an animal, human or otherwise, to moral consideration.

Sounds like a pretty reasonable starting point to me.

@Blaine Leavitt - do you slaughter and consume the flesh of carrots?

Very fair.  I avoid killing most spiders, but the ones that catch me off guard are crushed for their insolence.


Not if you mark the perimeter of your home with their desecrated corpses as a warning.

@Blaine. Anytime you want a good nut loaf recipe, let me know my friend.

Speaking of nutloaves, has anyone seen Michael lately --?

Closet Buddhist.

Blaine - don't encourage him, his head is big enough as it is --

Blaine, if "Unseen" is food for your brain, I can only offer two words, "Sea kelp" --


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