A Question of Questioning Ethics Without Gods

An interesting discussion of ethical systems has sprouted on the TTransition thread. As it semi-self-truncated, I’d like to give it a place to grow here.


Raises the issue of the necessity for a “God” to effective ethical systems, but then demurs of the answering it… in the subsequent comment:

There’s nothing inherent in a system of secular ethics that leans towards collectivism versus individualism. I won’t do so here, but I can give you a fully worked out secular ethical system from first principles that leads one to a Christian ethical framework with a libertarian political philosophy…

Well, I, for one, would love to hear just such a system. So I’m putting up this post as a place where JP Miller will hopefully expand on this opening gambit.

My response, just a bit further down the thread, was this:

@JP Miller

Interesting points. Oddly, much of it sounds like I wrote it (though I’ve never written anything like it… only thoughts…)

My conclusion was that good religions were a “necessary belief” for a moral society.

The reasoning takes two tracks.

1) In a secular world, the unethical have an inherent advantage in hierarchical structures and will gradually rise to dominate them. (Look how much effort goes into anticorruption in governments and corporations as it is…) The unethical will win the structural battle without a huge countervailing force. Our society realizes this with phrases like “Good guys always finish last” and “To the victor goes the spoils” and more.

2) With no enforcer of the moral code, it becomes malleable., which allows its corruption into irrelevance given #1. The only enforcer above the rulers of humanity would be a “metaphysical” one, therefore religion becomes the necessary enforcer and social equalizer (limit on inflated self importance – think of those secular eugenics advocates…) It puts some things beyond the realm of human choice, and human corruption.

This may not be the only possible, but it is in existence now.
Imperfect though it is…

Which has the clear flaw (fatal?) that any artifice constructing a “God” as ethics enforcer has a rot at the middle of it, in that it begs to ask “Is a lie as good as the truth as long as enough people believe it?” and “What happens when one Evil Bastard exploits that belief while not holding to it himself? Are you not back at #1?”, which leads you eventually back to the question of the actual existence of a Moral Supreme Being… If one exists, this problem evaporates. If one does not exist, you are trapped in the fundamental immorality of the Polite Lie For Effect…

There is Pascal’s Wager to get you out of it:

“Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single paragraph of his Pensées, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a ‘wager’ — it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as “Pascal’s Wager”. We find in it the extraordinary confluence of several important strands of thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity.
4. The Argument From Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”

We continue the quotation.

But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all…

Again this passage is difficult to understand completely. Pascal’s talk of winning two, or three, lives is a little misleading. By his own decision theoretic lights, you would not act stupidly “by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you”—in fact, you should not stake more than an infinitesimal amount in that case (an amount that is bigger than 0, but smaller than every positive real number). The point, rather, is that the prospective prize is “an infinity of an infinitely happy life”. In short, if God exists, then wagering for God results in infinite utility.

What about the utilities for the other possible outcomes? There is some dispute over the utility of “misery”. Hacking interprets this as “damnation”, and Pascal does later speak of “hell” as the outcome in this case. Martin 1983 among others assigns this a value of negative infinity. Sobel 1996, on the other hand, is one author who takes this value to be finite. There is some textual support for this reading: “The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice to the outcast is less vast … than mercy towards the elect”. As for the utilities of the outcomes associated with God’s non-existence, Pascal tells us that “what you stake is finite”. This suggests that whatever these values are, they are finite.

Pascal’s guiding insight is that the argument from expectation goes through equally well whatever your probability for God’s existence is, provided that it is non-zero and finite (non-infinitesimal) — “a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss”.

This is followed by the usual ‘box’ with 4 squares. One line where “God Exists” and you have a probability of good outcomes for a wager that he does, and does not. For “God Exists : Proclaim God” the result is postulated as ‘infinite’ gain while for God:Non-God-Wager it is less. For the next line, God does not exist, and you get two other fractional values of return on your bet.

Counter to that, I’ve postulated what I’ve taken to calling “Smith’s Wager”.

What if God is just looking for a few good minds with which to share wisdom? To me, having someone “sucking up” isn’t all that pleasing. Similarly, having someone ‘pass judgment’ on my existence seems a bit much. So my four quadrants work out as:

Reality:      God Exists               God Does Not Exist

I Claim
God Exists:   At best a tautology      I'm a fool proclaiming lies
              or God can find me a 
              presumptuous fool 
              passing judgment on 
              His existence.

No God:       Oh Dear!  Frying in      I'm stating the obvious
              Hell are we?...          with no gain at all from it.

Now as I read those squares, none of them is a ‘win’ for me or my future.

Proclaiming the existence of God, I take a huge risk that God is a vain self centered entity lusting for my praise instead of an emotionally centered being looking for wisdom in others. I would like to think God at least as developed as I am, and I’d rather have folks to share thoughts with than a bunch of suckups praising me for existing… and being presumptuous that their opinion matters in the process.

Being a fool proclaiming lies is not exactly speaking well of my reasoning skills…

Frying in Hell, well, that’s not a very good outcome, is it?

Then running around shouting there is no God when there is none just makes me a self important ass who wants to piss on other folks beliefs.

Now as a Supreme Being (or even as a Superior One) I’d not be impressed with any of those choices by a ‘candidate for friend’ in cosmic pondering…

To me, the rational choice is to step outside the box. How to win this wager? To semi-quote WOPPER: “The way to win is not to play”. To be officially agnostic on the question of passing judgment on the existence of God. I simply do not know, and can not know given the available facts. That is the rational answer that I see, and avoids picking any of those squares. (In essence, it bets on God being a rational and emotionally balanced being lacking vengefulness for your lack of praise in an unknown, and appreciating your reasoning skills in a context of no data.) Then it becomes a matter of “choosing to believe” or not, based on the reasonably expected outcomes of that belief.

As I see much more good than harm from most ethical systems backed by a God idea (primarily the Judaeo-Christian batch), I choose to believe in that package. (Buddhism has it a bit more right, IMHO, but lacks the God bit as I read it. Just has a first enlightened teacher. To that extent, I find it in some ways more attractive. But then you get into variations like Shinto and the question of how many folks have essentially deified Buddha…)

So by Smith’s Wager, I end up at a tepid Judaeo-Christian end point, with sprinklings of Buddhism. But one lacking guilt, original sin, a vengeful God, one so emotionally weak as to need my praise and validation and so on. Perhaps a more mature and pondering God wondering at our misinterpretation of what it means to be a God…

Back At Ethics

So with that bit of background, here’s the actual text of that first comment, and a request to JP to expand a bit on the thinking behind it, plus the second comment:

JP Miller says:
24 December 2016 at 11:25 pm (Edit)

Gail Combs says, “Stefan Molyneux had at one time thought as you do. However he changed his mind after watching the result of moving away from Christianity. (I think it is this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqQdc0mX1_c )”

Interesting…but that piece and the other links, excerpts, and comments you make seem irrelevant to the point I was making…. although I’m a rather linear thinker (with IQ several std deviations above 100), so maybe I can’t grok the larger point you were making with all of that.

So, while I’m not sure I understand your thinking, let me clarify mine, as that might give you something more focused on which to help me understand you better (if you’d like to continue our dialogue). First, let’s separate my beliefs from what I think is needed by society as a whole. I am an atheist in that I do not think there is anything “metaphysical” that “exists” — i.e., the traditional God that is a being or entity or force that somehow has an effect on the natural world does not exist. However, I am not, as Steven Molyneux suggests, politically liberal; I am libertarian. Government is a necessary evil to be narrowly focused on but a few things (I think our Founders got it right).

Now, what do I believe is needed for society? I am not against religion. For those who wish to believe in the metaphysical, I understand that need and have no quarrel with it. In that regard, the Judeo-Christian religions seem to me the best mankind has developed as philosophical systems to guide behavior (there may be others equal or superior — e.g., B’hai? — but I have not done a comprehensive study of the world’s religions, so I must be tentative in this remark). I would argue with some of the specific implementations Judeo-Christianity and with some current teachings, but generally the ethical core of those religions is pretty good. In fact, I do my best to manage my model my own ethical and moral framework on what Jesus Christ had to say about what it means to live a good life. I think humanity would do well if all humans adhered to the basics of Judeo-Christian ethics. However, I see no need for the metaphysical aspect of those religions as a basis for a just and civil society. I don’t need to believe in God or metaphysics (“life after death,” etc.) to find a rich meaning for my life that is constant.

The challenge for our age, I believe, is for mankind to create one or more secular systems of ethics that can be codified and named, so it/ they can be taught as a practice. Those who believe in a religion have a codified system of ethics that their religion provides, which is good (assuming that system of ethics is not materially inconsistent with the basic of a Judeo-Christian POV on right versus wrong). However, those who do not believe in a religion do not have any specific systems of ethics with which to identify that are named and taught. Each person is left to sort such things out for themselves, and too many fail to do so, with the result that they do not follow any basic system of ethics, which often gets them into trouble with themselves (e.g., what is the meaning of my life?) and into trouble with society.

To summarize, I’m not against religion. I personally see no need for metaphysics. Mankind can, and does, make good use of religion. However, many, like me, do not find religion useful (i.e., metaphysical “existence” is nonsensical), so people like me are forced to sort out their life’s meaning and a useful code of ethics on their own, which is not good. I believe my initial question to you was, “Why is belief in God necessary for a just and civil society?” I asked that question because I thought that was the point you were making.

JP Miller says:
24 December 2016 at 11:33 pm (Edit)

Gail, I appreciate apologize for not reading your subsequent responses to my note. Your final comment, “In summary…” makes sense to me. I would not disagree that current “secular ethics” focuses on collectivism versus individualism, which I agree is hugely problematic. But, it need not be so. There’s nothing inherent in a system of secular ethics that leans towards collectivism versus individualism. I won’t do so here, but I can give you a fully worked out secular ethical system from first principles that leads one to a Christian ethical framework with a libertarian political philosophy… kinda like the Founders sans the metaphysical!

With that, take a moment to ponder ethical systems in the context of a God, and without one.

Perhaps even toss some rocks at Pascal’s Wager (and maybe even Smith’s Wager ;-).

Consider that the world is full of Evil Bastards. Some sociopaths or psychopaths. Often advantaged in their rise in corporations and governments.

How to constrain them, given that they are unlikely to voluntarily submit to ethical structures.

What happens when they rise to power in the enforcement system of your ethical structure?

How does one decide “Is there a God?”, and is it something to run around shouting?

Can there be an effective Ethical System without a God Idea? Or even with one?…

I’m sure you can come up with more interesting bits…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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101 Responses to A Question of Questioning Ethics Without Gods

  1. pearce m. schaudies says:

    Pre Christian Origins of epics (wiki)-
    The epic poems that stand at the beginning of many world literatures, such as the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer’s Iliad and the Icelandic Eddas, portray a set of values that suit the strong leader of a small tribe. Valour and success are the principal qualities of a hero, and are generally not constrained by moral considerations. Revenge and vendetta are appropriate activities for heroes. The gods that appear in such epics are not defenders of moral values but are capricious forces of nature, and are to be feared and propitiated.[2]

    More strictly ethical claims are found occasionally in the literature of ancient civilizations that is aimed at lower classes of society. The Sumerian Farmer’s Almanac and the Egyptian Instruction of Amenhotep both advise farmers to leave some grain for poor gleaners, and promise favours from the gods for doing so.[3] A number of ancient religions and ethical thinkers also put forward some version of the golden rule, at least in its negative version: do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.[4]

    Ancient Greek

    Socrates, as portrayed in Plato’s Republic, articulates the greatest good as the transcendent “form of good itself”.[6] The good, Socrates says, is like the sun. The sun gives light and life to the earth, the good gives knowledge and virtue to the intelligible world. It is the cause of goodness in people and actions, and it also is the cause of existence and knowledge. The pursuit of and love of the good itself (rather than any particular good thing) Socrates thought was the chief aim of education and (especially) of philosophy.

    In his personal life, Socrates lived extremely morally. He was chaste, disciplined, pious, responsible, and cared for his friends[7] InGorgias he defends the notion that it is better to suffer injustice than to do it. The Greeks found this paradoxical, but Socrates both argued and lived this philosophy consistently. That is because the doing of evil damages the soul, which is the highest part of humans.[8] In the Republic, Socrates is challenged to defend the view that we have reasons to be moral that do not come from rational self-interest, in response to Glaucon’s arguments in Book 2. The Republic develops the view that being a good person in an ethical sense involves achieving internal harmony of the parts of the soul. However, Plato’s ethical ideal, as expressed in the Republic, still has much in common with the Homeric conception of the leader of a tribe or city: the successful running of the city and the internal harmony of the citizen who runs it is the main ethical aim, and there is little mention in Plato of any strictly moral obligations the ruler may be under.

    Aristotle’s ethics builds upon Plato’s with important variations. Aristotle’s highest good was not the good itself but goodness embodied in a flourishing human life. His ethics are based on eudaimonia, variously translated as “happiness,” “prosperity,” “flourishing,” or “success.” A “great-souled” citizen who lives a life of virtue can expect to achieve eudaimonia, which Aristotle argues is the highest good for man. Following Plato, Aristotle gives a significant role in moral life the virtues, fixed habits of behavior that lead to good outcomes; the main virtues are courage,justice, prudence and temperance. The highest form of life is, however, purely intellectual activity.[9]

    Later Greek schools of philosophy, such as theEpicureans and Stoics, debated the conditions of the good life. Epicurus taught that the greatest good was pleasure and freedom from pain. The Epicureans emphasized the quiet enjoyment of pleasures, especially mental pleasure, free of fear and anxiety. The Stoics thought the greatest good not pleasure but reason and everything in accord with reason, even if painful. Hence they praised the life of reason lived in accordance with nature.[10]

    A theme of Ancient Greek ethics then is the role of the virtuous life in achieving eudaimonia, or the good life; and Aristotle, Epicurus and the Stoics all argued that virtue was necessary for happiness, albeit in different ways and with different conceptions of those terms.[11]
    Hope this helps … Sandy, Minister of Future

  2. Sören F says:

    “a Christian ethical framework with a libertarian political philosophy…”

    This sounds like it could fit onto what still holds center-stage in a country like – mine, Sweden? – if only you’d term it post-Christian instead (that same framework is there, recognizable yet history, roughly). It’s under pressure from the two fringe political sides.

  3. EM – the problem is somewhat harder than configuring X. I see it as a survival-of-societies problem, and that societies that don’t have some form of deity (higher than humans) or a belief in survival of the soul after death, don’t seem to have survived.

    Without that threat/promise of a judgement on how people have lived their lives, there is no limit on people doing as they please. The only problem for bad people is getting found out if they leave their victims alive to tell about it. “Bad” in this case I’m defining as doing something to other people they wouldn’t like to be done to them.

    Despite the amazing fact of life itself, and the underlying improbability of it as posited by our current theories, I don’t see any evidence of any deity who interferes in the normal chaotic systems to provide a wished-for outcome over normal chances. There’s no evidence that lottery winners are more deserving over those who lose their money. There seems to be no “higher purpose” served by afflicting old people with dementia, where their functions are gradually stripped (I’ve been watching my mum lose functionality for years now, and by now she’s basically not often aware if it’s light or dark or where she is living, her body still just about functions but she doesn’t remember much) or by any other degenerate disease. On the whole we can assign probabilities for any person getting such a disease, but for an individual it’s either you get it or you don’t, and though maybe we can in future fix genetic problems that doesn’t match the inherent perfection of the deity in charge of creation proposed by the religions.

    In the same way I don’t see evidence for a soul or for its survival after death. That’s despite my own impression that the essential “me” is looking out from these eyes and controlling the body as if it were a separate entity. There are a lot of books written about out-of-body experiences, and of people on the operating-table having experienced looking down on the scene of themselves on the table flatlining, but so far the experimental procedure of putting pictures on the tops of the cabinets in the operating-theatres (that would only be seen by such souls floating above) has not resulted in any hard evidence that it’s not just a hallucination of the brain, and an illusion of the consciousness.

    If the universe was not as it is, then we wouldn’t be here talking about how it was formed in the first place. That old anthropic principle in action. In a world where we can assign probabilities to anything happening and have infinite time allowed, then everything (no matter how improbable) must happen. We thus don’t need to specify a reason for life or a reason for anything else happening, just that the probability of it happening is non-zero.

    I don’t see any doubt that human life is easier when we have the support of a society. It’s possible to live of a tropical island on your own, but one period of illness (thus unable to collect food/water) could end the experiment, and of course old age/infirmity could make survival more difficult too. Trying this in a polar region isn’t recommended. With a village or community, we spread the risks among more people and there will be help when needed (providing you help in return when needed) to get over problems. The bigger the population, the more insurance against the bad times. Cooperation is needed, and the Judaeo-Christian ethics provide a pretty-good template for such cooperation so that people can live together without friction. Someone said “if there wasn’t a God, we’d have to create one” (can’t remember who) and there does need to be some higher court of justice to be able to keep some people honest and living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.

    Without any deity, we need to think about what we want out of this single chance at existence. The only reason I can see for wanting to leave a better world when you die is that you’d want your kids (and of course the kids of your siblings/family) to have a better time with their chance in the light. Those without family won’t have much of a reason to be good (unless they believe in a deity). Still, for those with a genetic stake in the future we’d want our kids to inherit a world that works well and has fewer problems. Not that it seems likely you’ll be looking down on them from Heaven (and being happy at their progress) or be re-incarnated as one of those kids, but I don’t think we can totally discount those options – there’s just no evidence around that makes that a high probability.

    As in Asimov’s story, when asked the question “is there a God” I have to answer “there’s not enough data yet”. Despite that, cooperation is a good strategy to deliver a better world for our progeny. As far as we know so far, we’re the only humans (or intelligence) in the universe. It would be a shame to lose that.

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    I tend to think of religion or an ethical framework that puts some sort of negative judgment on predatory behavior as sort of a “virtual alpha male” that out ranks all physical alphas in the tribe.

    Without such a belief system, the tribe alpha (or alphas) effectively become gods, because their behavior is constrained only by their personal values which in the cases of sociopaths (which account for 3% or more of society) are effectively unconstrained on all behavior that benefits them. This would be the basis for rulers like Caligula who did what ever came to mind with little regard for the consequences on others, in fact may even find the discomfort of others as entertainment.
    Divine right of Kings essentially made a physical person into that societies “god”, and religion served as a social construct to validate that place of power even when the king did not earn it through his actions.

    If however the society had a dominating ethical system (religion) that suggested there was some afterlife judgement on even the Caligula’s of the world, then you have the basis for a social control that might limit the damage such personalities could do. It might even force them to go against their nature and do good for the society even though it was a cost they would prefer not to pay if they were totally unconstrained.

    Since we know almost all social animals including man have some sort of rank hierarchy, it must serve some useful purpose to survival of the whole.

    It is only natural than that we would create (if it did not exist) an entity that was more alpha than all the physical alphas in our society to help control them for the mutual benefit of the troop/tribe.

    It is sort of an extension of “boy you are going to be in trouble when your Dad gets home” on a society wide level.

    This higher judgement restraint diminishes as a society moves away from the two prime social controls that are human constructs, the law or religion/social code – or – social contract.

    Societies have good reason to create one or both of those restraining codes, either code of law, or code of behavior, (either religious or tradition/taboos) to control the baser instincts of the species when he/she is in power. Societies which have such constructs are more productive, coherent, more stable and more resilient than they would be without them, therefore successful societies tend to evolve toward those constructs regardless whether or not such supreme powers actually exist, they must exist in some manner in the social constructs of the society.

    Societies without those constraints eventually eat their children and die due to the excesses of their ruling class.

  5. Fraizer says:

    It seems that this all begs the question: What is Good?
    How do we recognize it?
    Could it be God in us?
    Could it be that we were created in His likeness?

  6. Gail Combs says:

    Simon Derricutt says:
    “EM – the problem is somewhat harder…. that societies that don’t have some form of deity (higher than humans) or a belief in survival of the soul after death, don’t seem to have survived…”

    Well you beat me to that concept. {:>D

    “Without that threat/promise of a judgement on how people have lived their lives, there is no limit on people doing as they please. The only problem for bad people is getting found out if they leave their victims alive to tell about it….”

    It is actually worse than that. As long as the person is in your ‘clan’ you simple don’t care!

    We certainly so an example of that this election cycle. There is hard evidence that Hillary Clinton broke not one but several laws. However because she was an IMPORTANT PERSON in the Progressive ‘clan’ she was made exempt from those laws, not only by her co-conspirators in the US Government (Obummer, Lynch and Comey) but much to my dismay, by about 1/2 the electorate!

    That demonstration of the lack of the Judeo-Christian Deity (and ethics code) is why I defended Christianity in the first place!

    Note that with Islam, lying, trickery, stealing, torture and murder of the innocent, as long as they are not your brand of muslim, is all just fine and dandy and yet islam has lasted almost as long as Christianity and actually has more ‘believers’

    According to Dr. Bill Warner:

    … for Islam, migration was the beginning of Mohammed’s success. He preached the religion for 13 years and converted 150 Arabs to Islam. After he migrated to Medina, he became a politician and jihadist, which led to every Arab in Arabia becoming a Muslim.

    After Mohammed’s death, Islam exploded out of Arabia in its second migration. When Islam settles into a society, the society becomes all Islamic (with a couple of exceptions—Spain and the Balkans). Islam does not assimilate, but dominates. This is because of its Sharia law.

    The purpose of migration is to start jihad and the purpose of jihad is install the Sharia. Under the Sharia, the other religions are subjected to taxes, domination and humiliation. After enough time, everyone will become a Muslim.

    Today in the West, we see the beginning of the annihilation of our civilization due to the deference we pay to Islamic migration and Sharia and we refuse to see the true nature and goals of Islam—complete domination of all aspects of our society….

    So it looks like it is a combination of RELIGION (shaman/cleric) and POLITICS (warlord/king) that is most successful.
    From SCA: We Are the Worms of the Earth
    For we are the worms of the earth
    Against the lions of might.
    All of our days we are tied to the land,
    While they hunt and they feast and they fight.
    We give our crops and our homes and our lives
    And the clerics tell us this is right.
    And they’ve beat us before and they’ll beat us again
    But we’ll drink from their helmets tonight.

    Unfortunately no one uploaded a decent vid of this song like the 1980s Clam Chowder recording I have. DRAT, it is a favorite of mine and now it is stuck running around in my head…

  7. poitsplace says:

    Doubt you’re much of a Dr Who fan but they had a wonderful way of explaining the way the character views time “a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff”. This loosey-goosey description is a lot like my view of the way humanity interacts. We need all of it because that’s what we’ve become.

    I was most certainly born a liberal type. It’s just the way I am. I still dislike religion. But now I have respect for how the systems work…well kind of work. We need it all. We need the idealists to formulate the new ideas and keep us out of a rut. We need those “greedy capitalists” because let’s face it..those idealists flat out say most of the time that they’d never even try to make a business large (and profitable) enough to actually build the things they say they’d like (moon rockets, chip fabs, etc).

    And of course we need that cohesive, conservative group to anchor the society a bit…and to help defend it physically/culturally from other ideas. Let’s face it, the liberals strange brand of intolerant tolerance has been terrible in its interactions with the extremist muslims.

    We need religion for those that need religion for whatever reasons to keep their lives in order or satisfy whatever need they have for it…and freedom from it for some so religion doesn’t its self become that oppressive force.

    Well, that’s just my opinion anyway. Maybe I’ll change my views on it like I have so many other things. But that’s how I see it.

  8. Ron Clutz says:

    There are obviously both ethical and religious dimensions involved in many human and societal choices, one example being the climate change movement. It is also important to recognize the human journey regarding morality.

    The ethic of Good vs. Evil is a teleological paradigm, going all the way back to Plato, but still a reference for some today. This model asserts that values can be determined as eternal truths, applicable in all times and places.

    Most people have moved to an ethic of Right vs. Wrong, a legal paradigm. Here morality is relative to a society that determines what is morally acceptable or not. And of course, there are variations both among different places, and within a single society over time.

    Modern ethics has taken an additional step to an ethic of Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility, a contextual paradigm. Now moral behavior seeks the largest possible context: “the greatest good for the greatest number.” This can lead to some strange choices, such as suicide bombers or pro-life advocates who justify murdering abortion clinic doctors.

    It should be clear that when climate alarmists appeal to saving the planet for future generations, they are applying contextual ethics. Less obvious is the ancient religious notion that by making sacrifices, we humans can assure more favorable weather. These days, fossil fuels have become the sacrificial lamb required by Mother Nature to play nice with human beings.

    Some thoughts about heroes and followers (following on a topic upthread)

    These archetypes give expression to deep and abiding drives active within each and every human being. Humans want to be masters of their own destinies, which requires breaking free of the patterns and models imposed upon an individual by his/her family, ancestors and society.

    Joseph Campbell, in his studies of mythology, described this as a second-hand universe provided to an individual, in a similar way that a mother kangaroo carries her offspring in a pouch. The mythic Hero is the one who goes on a journey of discovery, leaving behind the known world, and arriving in a new place.

    But alongside this impulse is an equally strong need to be safe, secure and to belong, to be one with the others. A hero is alone, set apart, even when there are followers. So achieving a higher consciousness also produces significant anxiety and sense of fragility.

    Modern corporations have learned that they can motivate employees best by appealing to both drives. That is, through symbols and celebrations, people identify themselves as belonging to a larger solidarity with a purpose and mission, and at the same time, those who excel are recognized as exceptional and above the ordinary. In this way, the heroic impulse is nurtured, and people are rewarded for daring to strive for excellence.

    Plato was getting at this with the idea that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” There was also the notion that the one-eyed man rules in the kingdom of the blind. Sarte has a similar point with the en-soi and pour-soi: being-in-itself, and being-for-itself, or otherwise expressed as self-consciousness, and consciousness of self-consciousness. The higher awareness is a potential available to everyone, but only a hero goes through the struggle to attain such individuality.

    So everyone wants to know but also wants to fit in. Heroes dare to take a new path–others may or may not follow.

    There is another related quote, with particular relevance to CO2 hysteria:

    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that
    they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and
    one by one!” Charles Mackay

  9. Gail Combs says:

    poitsplace says: “Doubt you’re much of a Dr Who fan…”

    Don’t be so sure. Many of us are Science Fiction Addicts. Even though I haven’t watched TV in four decades, I know who Dr Who is, though probably not the one you are thinking of.

    Actually I remember a skit, part of the Boscon costume contest. It was in the early 1980s, a few years after the first Star Wars movie showed and most of the women were dressed as Princess Leia Organa. An enterprising guy took advantage. Dressed as dr Who, he popped out of the Tardis and then had a steady stream of Princess Leias popping out as he fiddled with and then hit and kicked the Tardis. No bad for a short skit created on the fly. It brought down the house and won first place.

    These are the Dr Who’s I remember:

    The Third Dr Who

    And the Fourth Dr Who

    NEVER get a SF addict onto the subject of SF…..

  10. Gail Combs says:

    poitsplace says…..
    There is a reason that one of the Ten Commandments was ‘honor thy Mother and Father’ There is often a lot of hard one wisdom in old heads and you really do not want to waste time re-inventing the wheel.

    “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” (credited to Mark Twain)

    On the other hand we have to be very careful we are not blinkered and blinded by ‘wisdom’ that just isn’t true.

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” — Max Planck
    shorten to
    “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

    So as thinking beings we have to sift through the body of knowledge available look at as much data as is available and apply logic. This is why Freedom of the Press is so very very important and the newest totalitarian move of declaring those who do not agree with the ‘Consensus’ Fake News is really the start of the death of a culture. It is why sites like this one and others, where we can openly discuss ideas and debate are so important.

    If you have Liberal friends please remind them that open discussion IS the only way for technology and civilization to advance and stagnation WILL end as death of your civilization and it maybe a lot soon and much nastier than you think.

    I have been very, very afraid we are sitting on the edge of another slide into a totalitarian Dark Ages. You may hate Trump, but at least he shook things up and has re-invigorated this country. With a lot of luck Trump will keep the totalitarian globalists elite from pushing us into a nuclear WWIII.

    And yes they DO want a nuclear war that wipes out a large portion of the current population. Or as Ted Turner, founder of CNN and the UN Foundation bluntly put it during an interview with Audubon magazine.
    “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.” – Source: The book You Don’t Say, by Fred Gielow, 1999, page 189.

    This goes back to the Club of Rome and the Population Bomb both not surprisingly showing up at the same time as the first formal verification of the Milankovitch hypothesis (1970-1974). The Milankovitch hypothesis is that glaciations occur when the Northern Hemisphere receives relatively little summer heat from the Sun, because of astronomical factors that alter the orientation of the Earth‘s axis and the eccentricity of its orbit.

    Calculations show the next Ice Age is due 11,500 years after the start of the Holocene and we are now ~11,720 years… I am also very, very sure that the elite are well aware of this and that is why there was such a major change of direction from economic growth to killing of western civilization centered around the 1970s

    They knew darn well that Global warming is NOT the problem. The two choices going forward are either glaciation or ‘Wild Weather’
    “The lesson from the last interglacial “greenhouse” in the Bahamas is that the closing of that interval brought sea-level changes that were rapid and extreme. This has prompted the remark that between the greenhouse and the icehouse lies a climatic “madhouse”! — Neuman and Hearty, Authors of Rapid sea-level changes at the close of the last interglacial (substage 5e) recorded in Bahamian island geology

    For back up on the possible coming glaciation see two comments of mine link 1 and link 2 (They are one after the other.)

  11. Dan_Kurt says:

    I have a suggestion for interested individuals to read: Foundations of Morality by Henry Hazlitt: . Hazlitt was an atheist who tried to come up with a non-religious justification for morality. A print version is available at Mises Institute
    Dan Kurt
    p.s. Hazlitt wrote this outstanding book as well (as a late teenager): Thinking As A Science.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Dan Kurt:

    WordPress likes to process anything inside angle brackets. If the syntax isn’t to its liking, the thing tends to evaporate… I fight it daily ;-)

    Easiest is just to paste in the http: url link directly without getting fancy and decorating it with the angle bracket URL / HTML enhancing wrappers…

    @poitsplace with sideref to Gail:

    I’m not a Dr. Who addict, but like it sometimes (just behind Star Trek / Star Wars and ahead of most of the rest…) and like Gail, think of #3 & #4 as the most iconic to me. Though #5 IIRC had some impact on my perception of The Doctor.

    FWIW, my two favorites that outrank Dr. Who and are NOT Star Wars / Trek are:

    Star Cops: A short lived British Sci Fi that had Box in it. A small tech device that could answer all sorts of interesting questions by gathering data from all over the computerized world. Now being sold by Apple as Siri and by Amazon and others under other names ;-)

    The Prisoner: Not actually Sci-Fi, more Spy Fantasy, but still… explored interesting things and made you think with a minimum of Flash! BANG! POW!! all the time.

    Honorable mention to: Blake’s 7 that I still have many shows from on BetaMax tape in a bag in the closet…

    There’s a common thread here. From the Star Cops wiki:

    Star Cops is a British science fiction television series first broadcast on BBC2 in 1987. It was devised by Chris Boucher, a writer who had previously worked on the science fiction television series Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 as well as crime dramas such as Juliet Bravo and Bergerac. Set in the year 2027, a time where Interplanetary travel has become commonplace, it starred David Calder as Nathan Spring, commander of the International Space Police Force—nicknamed the “Star Cops”—who provide law enforcement for the newly developing colonies of the Solar System. The series follows Nathan Spring and the rest of his multinational team as they work to establish the Star Cops and solve whatever crimes come their way. Operating in a relatively accurately realised hard SF, near-future, space environment, many of the cases that the Star Cops investigate arise from opportunities for new crimes presented by the technologically advanced future society the series depicts and from the hostile frontier nature of the environment that the Star Cops live in.

    In total nine episodes of Star Cops were made. A tenth episode, titled “Death on the Moon”, was planned but industrial relations difficulties during production led to it being abandoned shortly before recording was to commence. A combination of factors, including conflict between Boucher and producer Evgeny Gridneff and poor scheduling, meant that the series never found a satisfactory audience and the series was cancelled after one season. In recent years, Star Cops has undergone something of a critical re-appraisal and is generally hailed for being “a pretty good attempt at a moderately realistic “High Frontier” SF series”.

    I can’t see a commercial where someone says “Siri, what is…” or “Alexa, find…” and not hear an echo of Nathan Spring saying “Box, find all information on…”

    Oh, and just to point out that any mention of SF to an SF addict will result in more of the above ;-) regardless of thread topic… (“Yes, yes, I know, your cousin died and it’s a funeral, but in episode four of TNG there was a technical error in the…” ;-)

  13. Gail Combs says:

    And what ever you do DON’T mention Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov…..

  14. Cyberzombie says:

    Heinlein’s The Day After Tomorrow – great counter-insurgency after an Asian war win over the USA.

  15. Jeff says:

    But, but, but Sef Sermak of the Action Party (Progressives), and Salvor Hardin “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”…

    And what about Olynthus Dam and Arkady Darell? Or Preem Palver?

    (Another Asimov fan here. His niece Nanette writes for the SF Chron, and his daughter had an article or two there as well… I wonder if he ever had to stop her, saying “no, NO, Nanette”…).

  16. Zeke says:

    “Perhaps even toss some rocks at Pascal’s Wager”

    You have a taker (:.

    I think there has been a serious misunderstanding about making wagers and reasoning about the existence of God. According to Y’shua, all of our rationalizing one way or another in the end does not amount to much. God’s appraisal of us is based on what we love.

    “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

    Now that is from John chapter 3. You could call it “Nicodemus’ Wager,” because Nicodemus came to visit Y’shua at night, and he made a wager of his own. “Master, we know that no one can do the works you do, unless God is with him.” Nicodemus is wagering that something supernatural may be going on, but this is as far as he is able to admit.


    So He explains why He came to this very naturally minded, rational man, an expert in his own field of law.

    Which partly answers the question,

    “What if God is just looking for a few good minds with which to share wisdom?”

    He deals with every individual in a completely different way. “He knew all men”…and all things are open to Him.

  17. John Robertson says:

    God only knows.
    I used to be inclined to antagonistic toward the all powerful all seeing Christian God, eventually grew up a little.
    The Hunters God, if you hunt or love the land, could be called Everything and the context does not change from a God as described in most religious texts..
    We are herd beasts, we have tribal ethics as these have ensured our survival, we cannot have a civilization without trust in other people.
    Civilization as we know it still has borders.
    Rodger Zelazny had some interesting takes on God/Gods.
    But it seems we need a concept of morality and limits to coexist with others.
    That and our pattern seeking minds, we seem hard wired to see patterns in chaos, Faces in the firmament and Ghosts in the Tea..
    Creation, the world, reality as we see, it are all very large with respect to our comprehension.
    Our nature seems to lust for certainty.In a universe that mocks this desire on every front, for the more we learn the more we become aware of how little we know.
    However when you stop taking it personally most aspects of life are quite beautiful.if you chose to see them that way.
    So Buddha was right too.
    So if God exists outside of our perception, would we even know?

    I have come to a faith, of which I do not know and cannot know.

    Dunne in “An Experiment With Time” touched on our ignorance.
    If there is more than this life to experience we will all know soon enough.
    Meanwhile the Golden Rule works,as ugliness, evil and mean spiritedness all have real life rewards.
    Reality is as small as one wants to make it, is one explanation.
    However make your reality too small, harsh and brittle and you tend to shatter with any change.

    The excuses we offer up for our choices are ours, no gods need apply.
    Yet there is a order to this space we live in that charms the imagination, beauty?
    Is it only in the eye of the beholder?

  18. akaLogic says:

    The (non) existence of God is a footnote to metaphysics.

    Any ethical system that starts with, “Because I, he, this book” says so is absurd. Ethics comes from the nature of man, not the supernatural.

  19. RobL says:

    Ethics, morality and religion are an evolutionary developed construct designed to mediate and enhance survival chances for groups of humans (in competition with other groups of humans for resources), ie strengthen the tribe against human competition and Natural threats.

    They do not work to benefit all individuals – as a primary function of religion has been to convince adolescent males to risk all and die for the tribe prior to procreating – benefiting the tribe but only benefiting their genes very weakly (though survival of relatives if at all).

    Religions are cobbled together to rationalise survival ‘optimised’ ethics and moralities (eg don’t XX or YY because … fatuous reason – but proscription serves to enhance our chances of survival), and to an extent act as a testing pool for new innovations. While it is comforting to pretend that there is more to our universe – design or whatnot, the benefits that unquestioning belief brings to out ability to cooperate for survival means that to a large extent humans have been hard wired for faith/unquestioning belief, and are hence not very good at appraising questions relating to it honestly. We all carry around too many unacknowledged biases and assumptions to be good at arguing such issues.

    Religions founder in the face of technological innovation – improved medicine, industrialisation (increased value of good brain over body), highly technological warfare (decreasing value of and poor pay-back for revolutionaries and gun fodder youth), and control of fertility are the massive issues that antiquated religions have to find ways of dealing with mostly in regard to role of women. Islam is failing worst at this, though coming from a parasitical culture (that grew, prospered and finally fell on plundering the silk road trade) has ethics/morality/dogma better optimised for parasitical behaviour with regard to other civilisations.

  20. Sera says:

    Believers or not, everyone here is running the same theme of ‘order vs. chaos’. Perhaps we, as thinkers, just like keeping things tidy and in place? Everything has to be compartmentalized and pigeon-holed for the sake of order and it doesn’t matter as long as it works and everyone is ‘happy’.

    If faced with the question “Is there a supreme being?”, the scientific approach would be to prove that there isn’t one.

  21. beththeserf says:

    Enjoyed this post and thoughtful comments, lots of slants on religion and ethics.
    Agree with E.M. re God’s existence, not enough data so agnosticism’s an
    appropriate stance. Concerning Pascal’s Wager, seems to me that if an
    omnipotent deity has created our intellectually curious, laughter loving species,
    how would such a lick-spittle position measure up in the ‘deserving – of – eternal
    – life’ selection criteria? I dunno…

    Whether a deity exists or not, man – made religious and ethical systems, in all
    their variations, being made by us, are open to criticism and reformulation. A
    case in point, in Scotland, the dogmatic John Knox turning the Scots from the
    Catholic Church to Calvinist Protestantism, an undemocratic sect but by
    promoting universal literacy for scripture reading, bringing about unexpected
    change; in less than a century, the Scottish Enlightenment of Francis
    Hutcheson, Adam Smith, David Hume and James Watt.

    Being a serf, I enjoyed JP. Miller’s comment about people living in a society of
    fellow humans each wishing to be free of force and fraud. I think these freedoms
    are a good basis for evolving a system of ethics in which each individual is not
    a means to some end but an end in him/herself. Isn’t this what ‘ethical’ implies,
    honesty, non – coercive behavior to others? For serfs, :) Socrates exemplifies
    the ethical teacher – leading by example, a searcher after truth, but not its
    dogmatic possessor, and arguing ‘care for your soul’ and ‘know thyself.’

    Reading Karl Popper’s ‘Open Society and its Enemies,’ especially Popper’s
    analysis of Plato’s ‘Republic,’ I’d say that Plato is the antithesis of Socrates
    the ethical teacher. Plato promotes in his ‘Republic’ blueprint for a Utopia,
    the ‘noble lie’ of the metals in men, it’s for noble ends so that’s supposed to
    be alright, it’s to promote an unchanging ideal society where the wise, the
    ‘gold’ philosopher caste, educated for leadership in received knowledge,
    shall rule. Plato hopes that even the philosopher kings’ themselves will
    come to believe the noble lie.

    That’s not Plato’s only deception in The Republic. He uses Socrates, who
    questioned authority but chose death rather than undermine the laws of
    a democratic society, to become his sock puppet for a totalitarian society.
    Plato makes the Socrates of The Republic deliver a sophist argument
    whereby whatever harms the state is ‘injustice’ and ‘justice’ means being
    allowed to maintain your place in society. (Ch 6.) – Even serfs. :(

    Plato used ‘education’ as a means of indoctrination in his ideal state, and
    in my recent blog post where I looked at K-12 values education in Oz and
    the US. I cited essays by US attorney Robin Eubanks, in her blog ‘ Invisible
    Serfs Collar,’ analyzing values education designed to make-over students
    via internalized learning that permeates every aspect of K-12 education.
    A behavioral science approach from education policy centres at Princeton
    and Harvard is a basis for aligning motivations of students to socio – political
    goals and bring about actual cognitive changes in students. This is a long
    way from Socrates ‘know thyself’ and student learning as an end in itself.
    K-12 values education in Oz and the US is more akin to Plato’s indoctrination
    for the ideal state

  22. Just a quickie, perhaps more later. You say that “However, those who do not believe in a religion do not have any specific systems of ethics with which to identify that are named and taught.” Untrue. I practice Vipassana meditation, the technique used and taught by the Buddha, which is based on strict adherence to a moral code and self-purification through observing without reaction the nature of reality as it manifests from moment to moment in our own bodies and minds.

    The Buddha did not found a religion. He made a scientific examination of the nature of existence as it manifested in himself, the only place where we can directly observe the nature of the universe, and a microcosm of it. He then taught others this non-sectarian, universally applicable and available, technique.

    The religion of Buddhism arose in India about 500 years after his death, at a time when the main practice he taught had been lost to that country. Buddhism drew on the Buddha’s teaching, but was developed and presented by those who did not understand the teaching because they did not practise as he taught, and such understanding can come only through practise.

    Belief appears nowhere in the teaching of the Buddha. On the contrary, he praised those who did not accept what he said if they had not yet tested it for themselves.

    Michael Cunningham

  23. Hi, beth, “Know thyself” is the key to spiritual understanding and wisdom and essential if you are to lead an harmonious life, good for yourself and good for others. No god or philosopher is needed, just a technique by which you can understand reality from within yourself; and a lot of application.

  24. Gail – belief is a strange thing, and it seems humans are hard-wired to ignore evidence that doesn’t agree with their beliefs. I find that in myself, too. Though you have produced a lot of evidence for Clinton family illegalities and some really sick practices, I still find it very hard to actually believe that such things are really happening. I can accept it intellectually, and of course the evidence is strong, but I still can’t see how such a person could live with themselves whilst projecting an image of being “a good Christian”. We of course have other examples where a person has kept dark secrets during their lifetime, with Jimmy Saville being the obvious poster-child for this. In the same way, people could not believe that someone in such standing and supporting so many charities could act as he did, so he got away with it during his lifetime and things only started emerging after he died.

    With Islam, most Muslims I’ve known have been upstanding citizens with just a few gaps in their sense of humour when it comes to religious matters. Again it’s hard to believe that they intend world domination – but it’s written into their book that that’s the aim and so I need to accept that. Most people can be stirred when you point out logical errors in their beliefs or poke fun at them, and that isn’t just limited to religions but also to the sciences where a logical refutation of a well-established theory can bring you the same angry response.

    Combining religion and politics is a good way to power. The King can’t do wrong since he’s also a god, so if you go against the King you’ll get punished by all in that society. You won’t do that again, since it’s difficult when your body-parts are scattered around. Having prescribed clothing and ways of living is a good way of finding out those who don’t fully believe, so they can be weeded-out. Still, from a personal viewpoint I can’t see why someone would want power over others or to direct their beliefs, except maybe for the feeling of security if everyone left standing agrees that you are right in your beliefs.

    Then we come again to the “survival of the fittest” argument, which by its nature needs a diversity of things in order to be able to discard the ones that don’t work well and thus lead to improvements in general. Once you’ve got down to a single form left, or a single point-of-view that is shared by everyone, then when it comes up against a stress it can’t handle it will shatter. There isn’t only one answer to the question of life, since the conditions under which life exists are always changing. A life-form that is currently less-adapted to conditions must not be discarded totally, since the conditions may at any point change and that life-form may find the new conditions suit it better.

    These days I find beliefs of any sort difficult, and instead I hold a group of ideas that are “the best we know so far” which are all subject to change if new evidence comes along to disprove them. Where paradoxes exist between the various theories, it’s OK to use the theory that gives the right answers in this situation and use a contrary one where that applies better – they’re both useful in the right situations, but probably both wrong in an absolute sense. In practical terms, making something that works is more important than having a correct theory as to why. The closer the theory is to Truth, of course, the more likely it is that whatever it is you are making will work, but you don’t know the limits of the theory until you have gone beyond them.
    I see a lot of arguments in mainstream physics that LENR is not theoretically possible, but that ignores the experimental evidence. Yep, there are charlatans involved too and you can’t trust all the data, but some is indisputable. That shows me that the theories are not good-enough yet, not that the experimental results are wrong.

    Whereas this next bit is nothing to do with God, it does deal with belief. I was taught that Perpetual Motion is impossible and that we can’t get Work done without expending energy. There is a paradox built-in there, in that I was also taught that energy can be neither created no destroyed, and that paradox bugged me for around 4 decades, with an occasional trip to gnaw the bones while I got on with daily life and earning a living. I finally resolved this paradox around a year ago and put up an article about it, with a condensed set of points in the comment at http://revolution-green.com/some-energy-basics/#comment-2376328811 . Making a real device is a little difficult in the back shed, and family problems have reduced my workshop time to almost zero in the intervening time, but I will at some point (hopefully next year) have a real device to test and prove the logic. Of course, any successful attack on the logic would also mean that the device won’t work when built, so would save the effort of building it, so feel free to attack any of the points raised. They all have to be correct to lead to the result stated.
    The belief I’m attacking here is that thermodynamics (which is based on statistically-large groups of interactions) still applies over all scales. At atomic scales, and for single interactions, it doesn’t. Proving that belief wrong should make it easier (and a whole lot cheaper) to deal with whatever climate change happens….

  25. Gail Combs says:

    Sera says: “Believers or not, everyone here is running the same theme of ‘order vs. chaos’. Perhaps we, as thinkers, just like keeping things tidy and in place? Everything has to be compartmentalized and pigeon-holed for the sake of order and it doesn’t matter as long as it works and everyone is ‘happy’….”

    I think you are missing something when you say “..everyone here is running the same theme of ‘order vs. chaos’ … as thinkers, just like keeping things tidy and in place…”

    It is not just humans but all animals that seek to bring ‘order out chaos’. The ability to link cause and effect is critical to survival. Just ask any beast of prey. A snap of a twig, an unexpected movement, something entirely new and off they run to a safe distance and THEN turn to check out if there is danger. Same goes with the hunters. It doesn’t take long to figure out your dinner will run if you get too close and they see you. All learn to stay away from fire, or the edge of a cliff or….

    So yes we all try to link cause with effect. It is hardwired in all animals otherwise the individuals/species did not survive.

  26. Gail Combs says:

    Simon Derricutt,
    I haven’t read anything yet, but my take on “Perpetual Motion is impossible” should have added, in an atmosphere. In a pure vacuum without any friction all bets are off. The planets do not quite make it as they are not orbiting and spinning in a pure vacuum. There is matter in space as well as energy.

    On LENR, I don’t have the physics to follow the nitty-gritty but I am not about to toss it out either. Call me neutral but skeptical. There just is too much science out there that was initially called bumpkum; Plate techtonics and Helicobacter pylori bacteria causing ulcers to name just two. Of course there is also a heck of a lot of bad science too.

    Why most Published Research is False

  27. beththeserf says:

    Agree Faustino, Socrates and after him Montaigne, ‘Know yourself,’
    Shakespeare’s Hamlet, … self reflection in literature, a Jane Austin’s
    heroine,’ ‘Until this moment I never knew myself!’ )

  28. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Gail; Thatis something that I first encountered in the early 1960s when I visited the Berkeley Radiation Labs. and learned their manner of scientific research. First you propose a theory, then get funded. Obtain the experiment data proofs for your concept and publish. see the below about an Engineer that worked for the research laboratories.

    Once the experiment was done it was not likely that anyone could obtain funding to reexamine the data obtained…pg

  29. p.g.sharrow says:

    The Ethical treatment of OTHERS is the primary foundation of everything that Jesus of Nazareth tried to teach to the Jews and others that listened to his message. All OTHERS, regardless of their family, clan, tribe or nation must be treated in an Ethical manner. Do not indulge in vendetta, or revenge for past real or imagined slights or injury. These things always result in greater damage as time goes on and must be reduced. Forgive and forget, treat OTHERS as you would want them to treat you. The normal human reaction to poor treatment is retaliation even for an accident or misunderstanding.
    The best thing for civilized people to do to promote general peace is to treat OTHERS in an Ethical Manner.
    That said, there is a point where self defense is necessary for survival. Bullies must be restrained, killers eradicated. Even that is Ethical for them…pg

  30. “The normal human reaction to poor treatment is retaliation even for an accident or misunderstanding.” This is the problem – we react, because we don’t understand the nature of the universe, which is constant change, impermanence, no solidity, no self. And our reactions are driven by past conditioning – we won’t be free of this unless we learn to observe reality as it is, not as we would like it to be, without reaction. This is the only way to eradicate the past conditionings, to live in the moment and act with wisdom rather than react. The first person harmed by retaliation is yourself, you can’t retaliate with a peaceful, harmonious mind, only with a mind full of tensions and ignorance.

  31. Larry Ledwick says:

    The Ethical treatment of OTHERS is the primary foundation of everything that Jesus of Nazareth tried to teach to the Jews and others that listened to his message.

    The key question is who’s ethics?

    Real world example:
    During WWII the Japanese would behead enemy soldiers – in their cultural view this was an “honorable warriors death”

    Americans were outraged by this “atrocity”

    The problem with ethics is that they are culturally based and different cultures have very different definitions of honorable behavior. Using the golden rule test the WWII Japanese soldier would have preferred to be executed by the Americans if captured rather than surrender, so you still end up with a question of which point of view to use when applying the test of “do unto others”.

    The Germans were the opposite in many ways, they (except the SS types) still believed in a bit of the battlefield chivalry code of the armored knights. When the RAF pilot Douglas Bader was shot down and taken prisoner (he was famous for being an active fighter pilot even though he had artificial legs due to amputations resulting from an air crash) The German’s respected his accomplishment so much, that when his artificial legs broke during captivity they granted safe passage for the RAF to air drop replacement artificial legs to him.


  32. beththeserf says:

    ain’t it?

  33. cdquarles says:

    Not enough evidence? You’re swimming in it. Look up and look around and ask yourself why am I here and why is the material universe here. The why is more important, I say, than the how.

    God Is existence. Material existence requires existence, for it is only potential until an actor makes it actual. God is Act. God is also logical. God is love, but that word is so misused that I wonder if I or anyone else really knows what love means (as a human, for I know what love means to God). Want to know God? Seek Him diligently. To say there is no God is to say there is not only no existence, but that the speaker likewise does not exist. Evil is not just opposite of good, it is the deprivation of good and good is that which is Life and brings forth more life. The soul is that which make a living being living. In the composite form that material biological life-forms exist, the soul is manifested by chemical reactions. Death, of the body, is the irreversible cessation of metabolism. Life, qua Life, does not require a body.

  34. cdquarles says:


    Most of the things we work with, intellectually, are conditional truths. Given A (by faith as true), if B then C. As long as the conditions that make A true exist or are in operation, the rest follows as true. When those conditions are not there, if B then C may still hold true, for there may be rules set that still give the logical chain truth. When that isn’t the case, if B then C fails. How do we know? By faith, tempered by work and experience. Key point is that any dogma (not necessarily solely religious) that cannot evaluate itself by allowing itself to ask “If the tenets of my faith are false, my dogma (religion where applicable) is false” and there is one religion that I know of where that question was openly asked.

  35. cdquarles says:

    @ Gail, re LENR, I suspect that the relevant surface chemistry has not been rigorously studied and will hold surprises for us. I can see the possibility of there being LENR, based on packing dopants into crystal lattices and having the natural vibrations compress properly oriented and energetic configurations into such a reaction. Consider the implosion nuclear device. Consider sono-luminescence.

  36. Gail Combs says:

    Interesting… Progressivism as a mental illness

    It seems to align with what I have been thinking only says it much better.

  37. Gail Combs says:

    cdquarles says: Gail, re LENR, I suspect that the relevant surface chemistry has not been rigorously studied and will hold surprises for us….

    Surface chemistry is something most people completely overlook. I made a ‘Break Through’ for geologists studying caves with experiments I (and Bill W.) did as a Senior Thesis. We took samples from actual cave walls in a variety of caves. I shaped the samples into 1cm cubes all having the same surface area. By dissolving these cubes in acid, I showed the dissolving rate of limestone was dependent on the amount of clastics (sand) obstructing the surface by plotting the time it took to dissolve the limestone to the amount of clastic recovered from the sample.

    The geologists had been very puzzled about why different layers of limestone dissolved differently. To me it was obvious but I wanted to PROVE it. So I ended up doing two senior thesis one in chemistry for my Chemistry prof and one in Geology. (I really should have taken the offers up to get a PhD in geology)

    Salts Cave, Indiana showing bedding and the flutes and scallops that were also the subject of our study. My partner, a 1st year English major did switch to Geology. {:>D

    More pictures of salts cave HERE

  38. Gail Combs says:

    cdquarles says @ 28 December 2016 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for covering my point one. There is order out of chaos. WHO imposed that order?

    My point two is not as nice but is very very human.
    We see many people who we consider ‘Good’ Dr Gray (hurricanes) for example who were, due to their strong believe in truth and honour, treated very shabbily in this life. We see many many others, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Maurice Strong, David Rockefeller… who we consider ‘evil and nasty’ who WON BIG in this life.

    The belief in religion allows us to think there will be justice and the scales will be balanced. If not in this life then in the hereafter.

    That leaves me an Agnostic because I truly do not know, because I CAN NOT KNOW but I pray there is an honourable God for the sake of balancing the scales of justice, if not now at least in the long run.

  39. CDQ – for a long time people have asked the reason why we are here. In a world that appears to depend on probabilities, though, where anything that is possible to happen will happen if you wait long enough, there doesn’t have to be a reason for something existing except that it is not impossible. Because of that, asking the reason for life is really an ill-formed question, which implies that a reason must exist. There really isn’t a justification for the assertion that there must be a reason for things to have happened.

    The “Watchmaker” line of reasoning says that, if you find something like a (presumably mechanical with gears and levers) watch in your path, you would therefore deduce that somewhere there must be a watchmaker that made such a non-natural device. By induction, if you see something as improbable as a living being, then there must also be some entity around that designed and made that. If you look at a snowflake under a microscope, it would seem that it must be designed to be as pretty as it is, and each one is different.

    Another argument about the improbability of random chance concerns a gang of monkeys hitting random keys on typewriters and thus producing the complete works of Shakespeare after some very long time – someone calculated that it would be longer than the projected lifetime of the universe, but I’d question the assumptions built-in there. One assumption is that the monkeys wouldn’t crap on the paper and throw it at each other…. If the monkeys were instead using spell-checkers and predictive text they might complete the assignment somewhat earlier. This isn’t an irrelevant aside, by the way, since we see that in some mixtures of lipids and water then some of the structures of life naturally appear, such as tubes and layers. There does seem to be some bias in the way atoms go together that would tend towards something that looks like life.

    Rather than try to convince myself that life has a purpose or that there is some deity that directs that purpose, I find it better to admit that I just don’t know. I don’t see evidence of “good” people having fewer natural (so effectively random) bad things happen to them. I don’t see evidence of evil people having more mishaps (at least those that weren’t their own fault). A pandemic will take no notice of good deeds, only of how careful you are at avoiding contact with the bacteria or viruses. Maybe such a pandemic will give some people the opportunity to help others where otherwise they wouldn’t have done (and thus get lauded as saints or similar), but at what cost of suffering for the majority? We tend to pick out the good stories from among the bad ones.

    The concept of God is not well-defined, and of course neither is Love. These days we’re getting the same lack of definition of concepts being sold (for example the statement “Brexit means Brexit” which leaves no-one the wiser) and so people think they are talking about the same thing when they aren’t. You see God everywhere, but what sort of God is it? It probably isn’t the old man with the white beard sitting on a throne in the clouds somewhere. It also probably isn’t the one who gives each soul a set of tasks to complete in their time on Earth, or an entity who sees every sparrow fall (that by logical extension would also watch over every bacterium and even virus).

    There are still puzzles in evolution. We can see how things change on a continuous basis such that a flipper may change into a hand, but some of the complex sequences of chemical changes involved in plant sexual reproduction would seem to have had to appear complete and working in one big jump, since the intermediate stages seem to be non-workable. At this moment in our understanding, specifying a Purpose is an easy get-out (goddidit), given that the fossil record is incomplete and that in any case that didn’t preserve chemical biological processes. We can’t work out how feathers evolved, since before they were completely formed they would seem to have not conferred any survival advantages. Still, if we hand-wave these problems away by positing a deity that designed it, we wouldn’t bother finding out what actually happened.

    Around 40 years ago my brother joined the Mooneys. He thus assigns everything as God-based and his views tend to be binary in nature. This is what the Bible says, so it’s absolute truth, and if you don’t accept it there’s a (somewhat different from traditional) Hell awaiting you. He’s been trying to convert me for most of those 40 years. He says he has personal proof of God and of his tenets (but won’t say exactly what they were so I can’t dissect them) and thus backing for his views on gays (severely disapproves, possibly fatally in his ideal world), marriage, religious practices etc.. There is only one way…. The trouble is that it’s easy to fool people that they’ve seen something (or not seen it) since the brain doesn’t maintain an absolute view of reality but “fills in” what is inferred to be there from some pretty skimpy clues. There have been a fair number of experiments done on the failures of the brain in perceiving reality, and stage magicians (and spiritualist mediums) make good use of them. Someone skilled in the art can tell you your history (and future) in the course of a reading based on subliminal cues (I’ve tried doing this myself, and it was deemed successful despite me being not normally good at subliminal cues) and the customer (also known as a mark) tends to ignore the misses and and only remember the hits. Spend some time with the I Ching and you’ll be surprised how accurate it can be about what people do, which is of course non-random, but it’s lousy at predicting the lottery numbers (which are random).

    IIRC it was Feynman who said “the easiest person to fool is yourself” though he was probably not the first to notice that. Gail’s link of “why research is mostly wrong” (and pg’s engineer’s tale) point to our data on a lot of things not being quite right, too. Unless I’ve done something myself and checked all the measurements, there’s really not a lot that I can be certain of. It’s a bit of shaky foundation under that tower of science, but we take what we think is true and build upwards. Though it would be comforting to have a tower of Faith to lean on, I don’t have that but instead a whole load of uncertainties. As such, I see what actually works here and now and look for more data.

    Also IIRC it was Einstein who said “only a fool will do the same thing over and over again, expecting something different to happen”. Still, what reason do we have for expecting the same thing to happen when we do a certain thing, except that in our experience that’s what has always happened? Expecting the same results is simply induction, in the same way as we expect the Sun to rise tomorrow because that’s what has always happened before. There’s a vast amount of hidden assumptions when you really go and look at them. In an experiment, do we really have all the conditions the same as the first time? We’ll be in a different place in the universe than last time, so maybe something else is different that we don’t know. You never cross the same river twice.

    My uncertain viewpoint does not refute the existence of some deity, but simply doesn’t need one to exist in order to explain what we see. It would however restrict somewhat the intentions and interventions of that deity in our daily world. I can live with that.

  40. bruce says:

    Yes, we can never know. We can evolve logical reasons one way or the other. All limited by our chemistry, memory and intuition (wherever that begat).
    Praying for law and order on a grand scale might balance out our natural fickleness as to who we want as a leader.
    Kings, emperors, clan leaders, prophets, all carry weaknesses that someone else might not own. Thus the great pile of fodder for us to subscribe to as great drama. Till one man’s soft spot becomes a homely blemish too hard to overlook.etc…

  41. Oliver Manuel says:

    In my opinion the fundamental solar vibration tunes both the universal moral tone and the creativity in selfless geniuses, like Albert Einstein and my research mentor, Paul K. Kuroda.


    Those who live selfish lives create their own private hell.

  42. E.M.Smith says:


    It just sunk into my tiny brain that Kuroda was your mentor and his place in the cosmic scheme of things… Please forgive my sloth on that point… I knew his contribution. I knew your issues. I’d not made the connection. He was an astounding link in the nuclear advance of history…

    I think I have a tiny bit more clarity now…

  43. John P Miller says:

    Hi EM,

    I’ve been doing family Christmas stuff this week and not checking this board regularly, so I apologize for taking this long to notice your invitation, which I’ll try to grace with a thoughtful response.

    I was surprised to see you turn my comment into the basis for a post, but I’m pleased your post has prompted many heartfelt comments about things of which we rarely speak, but that are tremendously important: How do we decide how to guide our lives at the most fundamental level? Some find the notion of God in one of its various forms an essential component; some not.

    I’d like to respond to many of the foregoing comments, as many interesting things have been said — some I agree with, some not, and some I don’t understand. For now, though, I’ll try to stay focused on what I think you are asking: how do I construct a system of ethics without reference to God that has a Christian foundation and libertarian principles?

    You put your finger on two important issues:
    1) In a secular world, the unethical have an inherent advantage in hierarchical structures and will gradually rise to dominate them…


    2) With no enforcer of the moral code, it becomes malleable, which allows its corruption into irrelevance given #1….

    As for #1, this problem is less likely if the political structure is democratic and the society believes strongly in and teaches an appropriate code of ethics that limits the use of legitimate force to the fewest things needed for free and peaceful coexistence. Can such a political system become corrupted and result in one where ethics become very problematic? Yes, of course. In recent times, Nazi Germany is a good example. Nothing is forever. Everything must be relearned.

    As for #2, I believe secular government can act as the enforcer at the coarsest level of right and wrong, with the consent of the governed. That’s what our Founders tried to do.

    Someone pointed out that societies using God-based systems last longer than those not using a God-based system. Maybe; I’m not an historian. But, since the vast majority of societies throughout history have been God-based, there may not be a sufficient number of cases of non-God-based societies to make a meaningful judgment.

    As for the various comments, yours included, about whether God exists or whether and how that can be proved, I was not attempting to make that case one way or another. I personally can’t make a case for the existence of God or for the existence of an eternal human soul, even though I’ve tried. I have no problem with anyone who takes the view that God/ the human soul exists. To each their own.

    So, I’m going to skip over the “does God exist” issue and do what I said I could do (but didn’t do) and that you said you’d like to hear more about: outline an ethical system that does not need God as the source or arbiter.

    I suppose a truly well-worked rationale would be a lengthy essay, if not a book-length endeavor. It would have to deal with counter-arguments and objections and so forth to make its case thoroughly. Obviously, I’m not going to do that, but I will try to be as complete as I can in a relatively fewer set of words.

    One final preface: I don’t claim to have any new or surprising thoughts on this matter of ethical systems. Much of what I believe is informed by libertarian thinking (cf. Robert Nozick).

    I start my ethical thinking from the view that both economic and non-economic interactions are required for life. Ethics needs to cover those two primary kinds of interactions. I have 4 principles I try to live by:
    1. I must do my best to make the best of my abilities available to others – i.e., I must work for a living and do the best I can at that.
    2. I must do no harm to others.
    3. I must interact with others using the Golden Rule:
    a. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and
    b. Do not do unto others that which you would not want done to you.
    4. I must devote some of my time and money to those who are unable to care for themselves.

    As for how to put a system of ethics into practice in a society without the use of God as the ultimate enforcer, I propose a State established to use force for only four requirements: (1) to protect the members of the State from harm from those outside the State, (2) to provide for a system of justice that reveals and punishes violence and fraud within the State, (3) to provide for a system of justice that allows for adjudication of contract disputes, and (4) to provide regulations for basic public safety that cannot be ensured through other means.

    I’ll explore the 4 Individual Principles and 4 State Requirements in turn.

    The first principle acknowledges that everyone is dependent on others and that the best outcome for all is possible if each does the best they can to make their abilities available for the benefit of others. Free and fair trade of the output of one’s efforts provides the mechanism and motivation for people to support each other’s needs (see Nozick). In contrast, principles such as, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is contrary to human nature. People want to benefit from their efforts to the maximum extent others value those efforts.

    The second principle takes as an assumption that people do not want others to harm them: physically or psychologically. To have a society in which I am not harmed by others, I must start by not harming others. To do otherwise would be to do that which I do not want done to myself. If everyone in a society felt it ethical to do whatever harm they could get away with if it benefitted themselves, that society would collapse into chaos in which no one would be safe from harm.

    Therefore, the Golden Rule and its obverse is needed as a third ethical principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and Do not do unto others that which you would not want done to you (thanks to someone on this board for pointing out this twist on the Golden Rule).

    Taking the “do no harm” principle into specifics gets complicated. Lying can do harm, but sometimes a lie can do less harm than telling the truth. My approach is that one should tell the truth unless the harm the truth would do is almost certain and significant. Speaking ill of others can do harm. Saying things to someone, even if true, that you suspect or know will cause them pain can do harm. Taking from someone something that is rightfully theirs does harm. Physical assault on another is harm, surely, but there are times when physical assault may be the only way to prevent a greater harm. While Christ argued to “turn the other cheek,” my interpretation is that using violence should be avoided if at all possible unless doing so would almost certainly result in serious harm. There are no doubt many more types of cases one could describe that flow from the “do no harm” ethical requirement. And I suppose all of this can be summarized in the Golden Rule. If some of this sounds like situational ethics, in my view there’s no escaping that complication. Like golf, there are “only” 28 rules, but thousands of pages of “decisions” that apply the rules to specific cases. So it is with “do no harm.”

    Let’s apply this idea to economic transactions. If I’m selling something for money, what are my obligations to the buyer? Must I reveal any and all flaws in what I’m selling? Must I tell the truth when responding to questions about what I’m selling? Can I mislead, if not outright lie? My view is I am not obligated to reveal everything I know about what I’m selling, even if I know some information that might change the buyer’s willingness to buy or price he would be willing to pay. Caveat emptor. However, if the buyer asks a question about what I’m selling, I cannot lie and I cannot mislead. I can refuse to answer. For example, I am selling a car and the potential buyer asks, “Is there anything about this car I should know that might make me question the price?” I can answer, “That’s hard for me to judge, you’ll have to be more specific,” even if I know the engine is burning oil. If the buyer asks, “How is the engine?” I’m not allowed to say, “It’s only got 15,000 miles on it,” when I know it’s burning oil.

    As I said, applying the “No Harm” and Golden Rule principles gets difficult in the specifics.

    Finally, Rule #4: charity. I don’t think any ethical system is complete without a requirement for charity. There will always be people who cannot take care of themselves, for a myriad of reasons, physical or mental. However, only the individual can make the two required determinations needed for this principle: Who deserves charity? How much charity should be given? If we allow the State to make either of these determinations, then force is required to take from some citizens to give to other citizens. The only force that is legitimate for the State are the 4 I mentioned above because these four are needed by all citizens and the benefit is equally available to all citizens. Charity is only needed by certain citizens and is differentially required by those citizens.

    The last point I want to make is that many citizens learn and embrace ethical systems not too different from the above because they are part of a religious group that teaches these ethics and the God in each of those religions is the final enforcement mechanism. EM asks, what would enforce an ethical system if God was not part of that system? I believe the governmental system I described would do (and in the case of the United States does do) a reasonable job of being the final enforcement mechanism. What we’re missing is the initial inculcation of those ethical values generally throughout our society. Enforcement does not work when some not-so-large percentage of citizens do not believe in the ethical system in the first place.

    The problem is our society – let’s just focus on the United States for the moment – has no organized way to teach ethics outside of religion. It would not be hard to do, in theory. Our Founders created a governmental system that presumed an ethical system was in place because it, indeed, was in place through the religious practice of citizens. That governmental system did not require the specific ethics of one religion or another as its foundation; it took the common Judeo-Christian ethical thinking of the time as the foundation. There’s no reason we could not do that now: create curriculums based on the common ethical understandings of our Founders and teach those as the requirements for a just and civil society. Nothing in them is contrary to most religious teachings in today’s world (except, I have to say, for strict Islam…although most Muslims do not hold to the strict teachings of the Koran — to good effect — just as most Christians do not adhere to the strict teachings of the Bible — to good effect).

    I’m reasonably happy with the above, although I’m sure it could be improved significantly through constructive criticism. Many may find it not just imperfect, but in some important ways misguided. So be it. I’ve tried to respond to EM’s request as best I can in a way that at least makes sense to me. I’m happy to hear views from others.

  44. angech says:

    Being “trapped” in our bodies and existence,
    Subject to a dimension where time is both short and long and running out.
    Being unable to escape.
    Being both immensely important and vanishingly small.
    If there is a god and it has put us in this situation we must be very important, or as Pascal should have said, it does not matter.
    If there is a cruel and implacable god it does not matter either, eternal punishment, rather boring for the god, I think, awaits.
    A “good” god would not bother doing it.
    Which leaves the strange paradigm that we could only inflict this condition on ourselves to alleviate the boredom of existence.
    Good and evil are purely human constructs from our language development and can only exist in a human environment.
    Since we construct the concepts we then have the need for enforcement which builds in the need for a “State to enforce good”
    No one enforces evil.
    One of the ways of doing this is to call the state a god.
    Human nature naturally ensures that such systems can never work effectively for very long, determined people rise to the top and inflict harm on others in the name of good.
    As said, we are trapped.
    Helping others and all the other points of John Miller are certainly a way I approve of.
    It is equally true though that not helping others is equally valid, particularly those who do not want to be helped through the maze but find their own way.
    An interesting bunch of fellow travellers though.

  45. beththeserf says:

    Concur and will respond tomorrow, Oz time.

  46. philjourdan says:

    I simply do not know, and can not know given the available facts.

    That is why it is called faith. No one knows or can know. It is not provable or disprovable.

  47. p.g.sharrow says:

    @John P Miller ;
    It would appear to me that you are willing to lie and cheat, under certain conditions, say for money. Is that not stealing as well? Being absolutely honest does carry some real drawbacks for yourself. At what point does Ethical behavior toward others become important to you?..pg

  48. YMMV says:

    The history of atheism and Pascal’s Wager is interesting. Did Pascal actually believe what he wrote? His note is provocative like Fermat’s comment that the margin wasn’t big enough.

    There is another way of looking at this. You are offered two deals. In the Heaven Deal, you pay now and get paid back later. The reward varies, 72 virgins, a safe space forever, whatever. In the Hell Deal, better known as the Faust Deal (no offence to any real or fictional Fausts), you get paid now and you pay back later. Maybe there is another deal where you don’t play and you don’t get paid, they never say. Anyway, you have to have trust, which is to say you have to believe, that after you pay you will get to collect and it’s not just a scam. Since no God nor Devil of any persuasion has ever talked to me directly, I would have to take the word of some human (who might be devilish, possibly even an agent the Devil himself as far as I know). On the other hand, between benefits now and benefits later, now is the safer choice. Bird in the hand, devil you know, etc.

    Pascal didn’t have the Climate Change experience to guide him. A bunch of guys telling us we are going to go to hell if we don’t pay now, a bunch of high priest types with poor morals and/or ethics.

  49. Larry Ledwick says:

    The AGW community has always struck me as being very much in the same category as the seller of dispensations in the middle ages, (ie pay now benefit later).

    It requires a lot of faith to give someone money now (carbon taxes) and trust that they or their heirs and assigns will pay your grand children back in 50 – 100 years.(exorcise the the demons of global warming)

  50. DonM says:

    John P Miller,

    So you will sell me a deficient car if I am (ignorant, dumb, gullible, trusting, etc.) enough to buy it. But in the next breath (paragraph) you elaborate about the need for charity….

    If I meet your definition of the need for charity would you or would you not still sell me a crap car? If selling me a crap car would put me in the dumper (emotionally and/or financially) such that I then would qualify for your charity standard, would you still sell me the crap car? If your sister failed to ask pertinent questions about the car you are selling, would you still sell it to her? How ’bout your mom? If I sell your sister/mom a deficient car, do you think ill of me?

    (Personally, I can’t understand how anyone would think it is O.K. to knowingly harm someone by selling them a deficient car without their knowledge of the deficiency.)

    The thing is, if you think someone got away with something bad (or took advantage of your sister), while at the same time you would have done the same thing to a stranger, you will begin to experience the liberal guilt and look for ways to atone (or you will just remain a sociopath like Bill Clinton and do nothing to rectify your subconscious problems). I am tired of other people trying to include me in their atonement schemes; a formalized/common government mandated ethics curriculum would/does lead to big ugly common atonement efforts .. you can keep ’em.

    (and I don’t ever want to buy anything that you have to sell … I don’t trust you.)

  51. JP Miller says:

    PG, you say, It would appear to me that you are willing to lie and cheat, under certain conditions, say for money. Is that not stealing as well

    Where did I say or imply that? I said quite the opposite. I said lying is not acceptable. I said misleading is not acceptable (I guess that could be considered cheating?). What I did say was that I do not feel obligated to, unprompted, identify every possible characteristic of what I’m selling that might influence a buyer’s decision. The gray area here definitionally may be what is meant by “misleading.” That’s obviously a long discussion. In short, though, I would not allow myself to say or do anything that would mislead the buyer into believing something that is not true.

    As for DonM’s comment, he raises some interesting questions. I have to board a plane right now, but I’ll respond once I’m back where I can do that.

  52. p.g.sharrow says:

    JP Miller says:
    30 December 2016 at 2:13 am

    “Lying can do harm, but sometimes a lie can do less harm than telling the truth. My approach is that one should tell the truth unless the harm the truth would do is almost certain and significant.”
    “Let’s apply this idea to economic transactions. If I’m selling something for money, what are my obligations to the buyer? Must I reveal any and all flaws in what I’m selling? Must I tell the truth when responding to questions about what I’m selling? Can I mislead, if not outright lie? My view is I am not obligated to reveal everything I know about what I’m selling, even if I know some information that might change the buyer’s willingness to buy or price he would be willing to pay. Caveat emptor. However, if the buyer asks a question about what I’m selling, I cannot lie and I cannot mislead. I can refuse to answer. For example, I am selling a car and the potential buyer asks, “Is there anything about this car I should know that might make me question the price?” I can answer, “That’s hard for me to judge, you’ll have to be more specific,” even if I know the engine is burning oil.”

    If I were to enquirer as to the condition of the car and you would creatively improve it’s value, would that not be cheating, lying and stealing?
    Ethically and by law, you are required to disclose EVERYTHING that might bear on the car’s value to me…pg

  53. JP Miller says:

    PG, thanks for the quote. “Do no harm” is the principle. Thus, I would not lie if doing so would harm someone else. So, no, I would not lie or cheat for economic advantage because that action would harm someone else. However, if my wife said, “How do I look in this dress?” and I know she’s thrilled with it and hoping I’ll confirm her feelings, telling her “You look great” (when I don’t care for the dress or how she looks in it) would be a lie that would be consistent with my ethical framework.

  54. p.g.sharrow says:

    “How do I look in this dress?” or does it make me look fat?
    An ethical minefield for sure.

    My dear, you would look good in an old burlap bag!…;-)
    At least to me…pg

  55. John P Miller says:

    PG, yep. But, there are far more serious examples where lying might be the right thing to do. For example, I’m in Nazi Germany in 1943 and I’m harboring a Jew. The SS comes to my house and asks if I’ve seen this person. I would lie if I felt that would prevent that person from being incarcerated/ killed.

    Both my examples are “easy” ones. There are far more difficult examples.

    Lying isn’t the ethical criteria (as I indicated in my primary comment). Doing harm is the ethical criteria. But, even that stated the way I stated it is too simple. I could have added “unless doing a lesser harm prevents a greater harm and unless I can only defend myself or others from harm by doing harm.” But, as I said, a fully worked out ethical system requires a lot of specifics. While the simplicity of the 10 Commandments (and similar systems) is very helpful, it’s very difficult to create simple absolutes that require no qualification, IMHO.

  56. John P Miller says:

    DonM, you ask a number of interesting and difficult questions.

    Let’s start with, “So you will sell me a deficient car if I am (ignorant, dumb, gullible, trusting, etc.) enough to buy it. But in the next breath (paragraph) you elaborate about the need for charity….”

    And further you say, “If I meet your definition of the need for charity would you or would you not still sell me a crap car?”

    You re-worded my example, by saying I am selling a “deficient”/ “crap” car. Those are pejorative descriptions and not relevant to my example because no car is “deficient”/ “crap” at the right price if it meets the needs of the buyer. My deficient/ crap car may be someone else’s basic transportation or source for parts.

    Second, whether a person meets my criteria for charity has nothing to do whether I would sell them a car. If I had a car a person could afford, I would sell it to them. It’s not up to me to decide if someone should buy a car or not. But, consider the points I make below about the requirements for selling a car.

    Third, I think it was obvious(?) that I was assuming I am selling a car to a person with a reasonable ability to make an informed judgment, so I did not cover the four cases you suggest (ignorant, dumb, gullible, trusting). Your challenge to my ethical framework suggests binary conditions. A person is either ignorant or not, dumb or not, gullible or not, or trusting or not. Reality isn’t that simple, of course. People are “more or less” on each of those traits. But, let’s assume I can make a definitive judgment in each case and see how I would handle each.

    Ignorant: This implies a buyer who does not know much about cars and maybe does not know how to ask the right questions or how to take the right steps to be sure he is buying what he thinks he is buying. This buyer is not dumb (i.e., intellectually compromised), just not well-versed in car buying. From your point, we have to assume it’s obvious to me this person is ignorant. Is it my ethical responsibility to educate this person to where he can make a fully-informed decision? I don’t think so. Ethics does not require I ensure my buyer knows everything a person could know about car buying to ensure they don’t make a mistake. On the other hand, can I take advantage of his obvious ignorance? No, because I would not want someone taking advantage of my obvious ignorance (see ethical rule #3). My ethical responsibility is two-fold here, and is the same towards every buyer: (1) to provide all of the maintenance records I have as evidence relevant to the condition of the car, and (2) to insist he take the car to a mechanic for evaluation. If he refuses, then I do not sell the car to him because of his ignorance.

    Dumb: This implies a buyer who is intellectually impaired and not capable of understanding how to make a good buying decision. Again, assuming his condition is obvious to me, I cannot sell him the car. Ethical Rule #3 applies: If I were not intellectually capable of understanding a deal, I would not want someone taking advantage of my obvious shortcoming.

    Gullible: This implies a buyer who will believe anything I say (I think it might be hard to judge gullibility, but let’s assume I can judge that a buyer is gullible). Since I’m obliged to be honest and not misleading, then gullibility should not be a problem. Even so, I would strongly recommend the buyer have the car inspected by a mechanic because I would be concerned the buyer is assuming I would tell them anything they needed to know. It is the buyer’s responsibility to determine if the car meets their needs and if the price I’m asking (or that he can bargain for) is appropriate for its qualities.

    Trustworthy: This condition goes beyond gullibility. As always, I suggest the buyer have the car inspected. If they say, “No need, I am sure you would not sell me a bad car,” my response would be, “You’re the one who has to decide if this car is right for you and at what price. I’ll answer any questions as honestly as I can, but you should get the car inspected to be sure you know everything that is relevant to you.” If the person still refuses to get it inspected (and he is not dumb or ignorant) and does not ask me any questions, I will sell the car even though I know it is burning some oil.

    Let me take this example even further: the buyer does not even drive the car — in fact, the buyer does not even start the engine or test any of its functions (lights, wipers, etc.). Should I sell the car? Must I protect every buyer from what I judge to be their foolishness?

    You are making the case that if I know the car has a defect, I am obligated to reveal that to the buyer without being asked. I made the case that the buyer has the obligation to discover the relevant qualities of the car and I am obligated to be truthful and not misleading.

    What if a buyer does not ask me about the engine, but takes the car to a mechanic who does not recognize the car is burning oil. Do I inquire of the buyer what the mechanic found? If the buyer gives me a list of some things and does not indicate anything about burning oil, am I obligated to say, “It’s burning oil?”

    What if I’m selling a piece of land that may have numerous issues: drainage, soil erosion, zoning, liens, etc. Am I obligated to tell a buyer, if not required to do so by law and without being asked, about every possible issue that might affect the value of the land and its usability?

    Let me move on to another set of questions you ask that I find interesting. You say, “If your sister failed to ask pertinent questions about the car you are selling, would you still sell it to her? How ’bout your mom?”

    The point here is: Should I treat a relative (or a close friend or someone I’ve had previous dealings with) the same way I would treat a stranger in carrying out a transaction? Let’s separate out what’s ethical from what’s appropriate from a human relations perspective, because I think your question may be conflating the two considerations. From an ethical point of view, there’s nothing wrong with me treating my sister or my mother as I would a stranger, with the same considerations I’ve outlined above. However, while it may be ethical to do so, is it appropriate? Of course not. Relatives, friends, people with whom I’ve had previous dealings… all of these deserve different consideration. I would be fully forthcoming with (for example) my sister, even taking into account things I know about how she would use the car, her ability to pay for it, etc. I do that because of the personal nature of our relationship, not because of an ethical requirement. But, again, these actions are not informed by ethics, they are informed by the nature of personal relationships.

    In regards to your last paragraph, there is nothing in what I’ve said above that is, in my mind, “taking advantage of someone.” If my sister had bought a car from someone and did not have it inspected and found out later it was burning oil and the seller did not tell her that, I would feel bad for her, but I would hardly feel any animosity towards the seller. My sister made a mistake; only she is to “blame.” So, no, I’m not going to feel guilty about the fact that I would have done the same thing to someone else’s sister.

    You say, a formalized/common government mandated ethics curriculum would/does lead to big ugly common atonement efforts .. you can keep ’em.

    I’m surely not suggesting an ethics curriculum be mandated by anything other than local school districts, just like each school district (or, in some cases, states) develops its own history or social studies or English curriculum. I am no fan of federally imposed curricula — Common Core is anathema. What’s the objection to making ethics an element of what we teach in schools? Certain university programs (e.g., business, medicine, law) include ethics as part of the curriculum. Does it not make sense to teach ethical thinking/ behavior at grade school/ high school levels? I remember one of my sons doing a “values” exercise in grammar school, which was an obvious and valuable exercise in ethical thinking.

    I don’t see how teaching ethics leads to a “big ugly common atonement effort.” You lost me on that final point.

  57. beththeserf says:

    A serf’s musings on ethical behavior…

    I agree with John Miller that an ethical society based on democratic principles
    can be created without religion as its motivating force, as in the western
    democracies’ separation of church and state, both in the US and in Oz,
    great southern land. :)

    History, ‘the proper study of mankind,’ as somebody once said, what ever
    road you take, lots of ethical issues and corruption in the history of religion
    as in any other history.

    How to increase probity in a nation’s population? Likely that religion,
    particularly a fundamentalist religion, has a practical advantage over a
    democratic system. Inculcating fear and guilt can be a powerful impetus to
    good behavior, burning of heretics goes back a long way in the history of
    western institutional religions. You’ll probably increase social probity by
    preaching hell fires for sinners in the after life and by dishing out severe
    punishments in the here and now for infringements of the Ten Command
    -ments. In John Knox’ Scotland in 1696, there’s the case of nineteen year
    old theology student Thomas Aikenhead, executed for blasphemy. In New
    England’s early settlement, as described in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novella,
    ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ harsh punishments for adulterers – worse for witches.

    Then there’s the definition of ‘ethical’ behavior itself, what would ethical
    teachers like Socrates have to say regarding teaching based on fear and
    guilt or Pascal’s Wager? Where’s the altruism or nobility that I’d argue
    underpins ethical behavior? And there’s another problem concerning
    Church and State, and that’s the problem of the hubris of some religious
    leaders. Take a look at certain papal leaders and the problem of ‘power
    corrupts.’ ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ (This is not to denigrate respected
    Christian leaders and ethical traditions of the Judo-Christian heritage
    concerning the individual as an individual soul.)

    Look there’s always the problem with pesky humans that evolution wired us
    to be opportunists. Want to change that, you have to punish or indoctrinate,
    or take the wise- teacher role of promoting the golden rule and know thyself,
    and even Socrates wasn’t universally successful as wise teacher, but it’s
    the ethical way. Democracy ought only ‘educate,’ not indoctrinate, don’t
    expect your ninety-seven-per-cent-probity-success rate, i.e. in selling a car,
    likely more of the citizens observing the letter of the law rather than its spirit.
    Higher probity, of course, could be achieved with increased regulation and
    harsher laws.

    Increased regulation invokes negative costs. Allowing opportunist and
    creative people to go about their business free to act within the law and
    what do you get? Take the US as example. Why, you get people like the
    engineers who designed and built the Golden Gate Bridge, you get plant
    geneticist Norman Borlaug saving millions from famine by his wheat
    breeding program, you get great literature, the foresaid Hawthorne,
    Herman Melville, poetry of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickenson and Robert
    Frost, humorist Mark Twain, song writers, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin
    and Cole Porter, diversity, creativity that benefits us all.

    Back to fear and guilt. We’re up against a new kind of fundamentalist
    religion today and that’s the Church of Global Warming. Under the banner
    of Green politics, Gramski-ites have taken the long march through K-12
    education to promote a behavioral science approach to values ‘education’
    to produce the made-over student for socio- political ends, involving
    actual cognitive changes in students at an internalized level. Moulding
    students involves permeating all curriculum areas with state approved
    focus and that focus from K to 12 emphasizes emotional learning over
    rational thinking skills. High literacy and numeracy levels are not the
    priority. Students are a means to an end.

    An ethical society based on democratic principles can be produced
    without religion, but expect it to be constantly under attack from closed
    society ideologues who know what’s good for you better than you know

  58. p.g.sharrow says:

    Everyone that I have ever met during my 70 years knows if they are taking advantage of others. Some glory in their shrewdness or sharp abilities at taking advantage of the other’s gullibility or ignorance. Some are ashamed of taking advantage over those that are less astute. “Shrewd” users, are always trying to take advantage of the”gullible, foolish”, co-operators. It is their right! to win, the right thing to do. Survival of the fittest is the law of nature, of god. The value of “Ethical” treatment of others is an intellectual creation of Co-operators for civilized behavior. It is best thing for the prosperity of whole group that no one takes unfair advantage over others. Society needs to shame those that feel that it is their “right” to win advantage over others. It always surprises me that those that pursue “advantage over others” feel good about their successes at taking advantage of those more trusting co-operators…pg

  59. Zeke says:

    Someone brought up Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, The Scarlet Letter.

    It’s interesting — I ran across an essay about one of Hawthorne’s other novels, The Blithedale Romance. He wrote it after having joined an agrarian commune, which was based on freedom from society’s silly rules and conventions — and the virtues of fresh air and tilling the garden soil.

    “Several years later, in 1852, Hawthorne published The Blithedale Romance, a story recounting the failed attempt of a “knot of dreamers” to establish a new community outside Boston. As might be expected, some of the original members of Brook Farm read the novel as a thinly disguised satire of their efforts. In it, we see Boston intellectuals hoeing fervently amid the turnips, hoping that each stroke will “uncover some aromatic root of wisdom.” We see them drinking proudly out of “earthen cups” with the laboring classes, and merrily trampling on the artificial conventions that constrain the relations of the sexes. The novel, in short, seems to be a send-up of Hawthorne’s erstwhile friends.”

    For a generation more interesting in tossing out our silly conventions of marriage, one can see the greater utility of making The Scarlet Letter into a “classic” and required reading in colleges in Universities. And the results are in:

    Everyone got what they wanted. Also, the war on masculinity, femininity and childhood continue to astonishing degrees.

    Perhaps Hawthorne’s real classic was completely overlooked — but it is there for the Millenials to discover and enjoy.

  60. beththeserf says:

    Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ has a deeply moral theme, ‘be true,
    be true,’ without the truth nothing is good. It’s a study of the nature
    and effect of sinful passions on the characters involved and ways in
    which guilt is punished as revenge.

  61. JP Miller says:

    Beth, we obviously think alike. Your thoughts are enlightening. Educating people about ethics doesn’t mean indoctrinating people into a specific, codified ethical system with sanctions if you stray — outside of what reasonable criminal law requires. I don’t think too many people would object to an ethics curriculum that examined how lying, misleading, taking advantage, stealing, physical violence, etc. can be harmful, and jow to think ethically about what behavior is “right” and what behavior is “wrong,” legal requirements aside. Using the core beliefs of our Founders as reference points could hardly be problematic. Even examining the issue of slavery through their eyes could be valuable (rather than simply dismissing them out of hand on this serious matter).

    My concern about ethics is simple: only religious institutions teach ethics broadly to citizens. Given that fewer people (young people) are exposed to that education leads to too many people having no ethical bearings. Not good.

    As I said in one comment, I think the only way to solve this problem is for all major Judeo-Christian religions to unite and push for secular ethical education. Doing so could create a legitimate basis for discussion at the school board level as to what obligations the secular school system has in regards to educating children about ethics.

  62. beththeserf says:

    Yes, John, educating about ethics in an ethical approach as in
    your last para suggestion…
    ‘ I think the only way to solve this problem is for all major
    Judeo-Christian religions to unite and push for secular ethical
    education. Doing so could create a legitimate basis for discussion
    at the school board level as to what obligations the secular
    school system has in regards to educating children about ethics.’

  63. Larry Ledwick says:

    There are a couple of approaches to doing that, one would be for a group not associated to any specific religion to assemble a universal intro to ethics course based on ethics courses already being taught in college level courses where they are presently taught (lawyers, accounting, business majors etc.) Then look for endorsement from religious leaders of the universal aspects of ethics found in the major religions, and cultures. For example some cultural taboos are really ways to enforce certain types of ethical behavior (my word is my bond, do what you say you will do, don’t take advantage of the weak or impaired etc.)

    Then flavor that compilation with the writings of the major political leaders and thinkers which founded the US. (since their design of our Constitutional Republic presumed a basic social contract of prevailing ethical behavior). By doing it that way it would blunt any arguments that the course was some sort of religion in disguise as might be charged if it was pushed only by religious organizations. You would need the endorsement of leaders in business which are bound by ethics rules as well, and perhaps use their ethical rules as teaching references as the students are led to discuss why those ethical values are important (trust, fiduciary responsibility, due diligence, contract law, disclosure of conflicts etc.)

  64. Zeke says:

    Inre: Nathaniel Hawthorn
    I will quote the remark about the Scarlet Letter which I was referring to. By the way, I so thoroughly enjoyed beththeserf’s earlier post about Popper’s book on Plato, I can’t tell you. Plato’s system of the Philosopher King surrounded by a specially bred and communally raised aristocracy, which rules over the rest of the people, is the basic blue print of all caste systems. Plato and his caste system needs to be brought up and hated much more than it is. In fact, I am inspired to go find a couple of wonderful letters between John Adams and Tho Jefferson in which they discuss Plato. Maybe I can get to that a little later.

    It is imperative to understand the caste system, in which there are separate sets of laws for separate castes. This can help us to preserve and protect what we have in the free, English-speaking Protestant countries: equality before the law (the same laws apply to all people), and its corollary benefit of social mobility — up, down and sideways.

    I see most of the environmental policies as a method of getting the majority of people to accept laws restricting what they can eat and wear, and forbidding them from owning weapons, property, chariots or anything else that is “not sustainable.” Sometimes I think they nearly have these poor young people begging them not to let them use air travel or own cars or eat beef and butter.

  65. beththeserf says:

    Thx Zeke. Yep, Plato’s the blueprint alright. Yr reference to John Adams,
    a serf’s favorite TV series – next ter Foyle’s War.

  66. Zeke says:

    Here is an excerpt from a letter to John Adams from Thos. Jefferson, as mentioned, and I hope the subject of Plato is not too far off topic to be enjoyed by all who read this magnificent and salty summary by Jefferson. Adams’ response is even more incisive and permanently puncturing of Plato. Fortunately I did not have to type it out from the pages of my book. It was online at founders archive gov.

    “I am just returned from one of my long absences, having been at my other home for five weeks past. Having more leisure there than here for reading, I amused myself with reading seriously Plato’s republic. I am wrong however in calling it amusement, for it was the heaviest task-work I ever went through. I had occasionally before taken up some of his other works, but scarcely ever had patience to go through a whole dialogue. While wading thro’ the whimsies, the puerilities, & unintelligible jargon of this work, I laid it down often to ask myself how it could have been that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this? How the soi-disant Christian world indeed should have done it, is a piece of historical curiosity. But how could the Roman good sense do it? and particularly how could Cicero bestow such eulogies on Plato? Altho’ Cicero did not wield the dense logic of Demosthenes, yet he was able, learned, laborious, practised in the business of the world, & honest. hH could not be the dupe of mere style, of which he was himself the first master in the world.

    With the moderns, I think, it is rather a matter of fashion and authority. Education is chiefly in the hands of persons who, from their profession, have an interest in the reputation and the dreams of Plato. They give the tone while at school, and few, in their after-years, have occasion to revise their college opinions. But fashion and authority apart, and bringing Plato to the test of reason, take from him his sophisms, futilities, & incomprehensibilities, and what remains? In truth he is one of the race of genuine Sophists, who has escaped the oblivion of his brethren, first by the elegance of his diction, but chiefly by the adoption & incorporation of his whimsies into the body of artificial Christianity.

    His foggy mind, is for ever presenting the semblances of objects which, half seen thro’ a mist, can be defined neither in form or dimension. Yet this which should have consigned him to early oblivion really procured him immortality of fame & reverence. The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system which might, from it’s indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power & pre-eminence.

    The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained. Their purposes however are answered. Plato is canonised: and it is now deemed as impious to question his merits as those of an Apostle of Jesus. He is peculiarly appealed to as an advocate of the immortality of the soul; and yet I will venture to say that were there no better arguments than his in proof of it, not a man in the world would believe it.

    It is fortunate for us that Platonic republicanism has not obtained the same favor as Platonic Christianity; or we should now have been all living, men, women and children, pell mell together, like the beasts of the field or forest. yet ‘Plato is a great Philosopher,’ said La Fontaine. But says Fontenelle ‘do you find his ideas very clear’?—‘oh no! he is of an obscurity impenetrable.’—‘do you not find him full of contradictions?’—‘certainly, replied La Fontaine, he is but a Sophist.’ Yet immediately after, he exclaims again, ‘oh Plato was a great philosopher.’—Socrates had reason indeed to complain of the misrepresentations of Plato; for in truth his dialogues are libels on Socrates.—but why am I dosing you with these Ante-diluvian topics? Because I am glad to have some one to whom they are familiar, and who will not recieve them as if dropped from the moon…”

  67. beththeserf says:

    I will look up the John Adams ‘ response to Thos. Jefferson.
    Here’s a serf musing on Plato and other attacks on the open
    society drawing on the thoughts of large thinkers re proper
    tasks of governance and inroads of individual liberty to
    ‘educating’ to a single world view model.

  68. beththeserf says:

    This is the bit that serf thinks important:

    ‘Western Civilization, observes Hayek, is also abandoning that basic
    individualism inherited from classical antiquity, from thinkers such as
    Thucydides, Pericles, ( say, I’m adding Socrates to this list, ) Cicero,
    Tacitus through to thinkers of the Renaissance like Montaigne and
    Erasmus, defined as:

    ‘the respect for the individual man qua man, that is the recognition of his
    own views and tastes as supreme in his own sphere, however narrowly
    that is circumscribed, and the belief that it is desirable that men should
    develop their own individual gifts and bents.’ (P14.)’

    … I’ll stop now. (

  69. beththeserf says:

    ‘serfs’ edit

  70. Zeke says:

    I really enjoyed Beththeserf’s article, it was excellent.

    All except the passage which beth quoted. (: I don’t put any stock in classical writers for many reasons, but mainly because both Greece and Rome were caste systems. And while it is true that the European Renaissance was partly inspired by the rediscovery of the Greek and Roman writers of antiquity, it was not the better part. In the North, there was an escape from the reverence of Greeks, and a rise in national literature.

    The highest expressions of “individualism” (which Hayek is focusing on in beth’s quote) were developing in Northern Europe after the invention of the printing press (along with the appearance of middle classes with the fall of feudalism, and the greater availability of paper). At this stage, each country had its own decisions to make about what to read, print, and publish. Unlike the south, with its discovery and obsession with Greeks, the North was printing Bibles, primers, histories, and works of their own. This was done at extraordinary cost; most translators of the Bible into the national language were burned at the stake, and so were those who made primers for the sake of teaching others how to read. Many here may not remember that the first time people could even read the Bible in their own language was not until the 15th and 16th cent, due to the policy of the Roman Church outlawing any reading of the Scriptures except in Latin, a dead language.

    And now for one of the greatest advances in “individualism” of that time — universal literacy. This also was an extraordinary break with the Old World. For this we have the Protestants to thank, and in particular, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Colony. They were the first to seek to make sure that every one could read, and this included girls and the Indians.

    The Psalms in Algonquian

    That will be enough from me. Otherwise I will bang on and on about how absolutely nothing sprang from the heads of European intellectuals reading Tacitus, but the real work on the ground in our basic civil liberties were developed in the colonies, in the woods, by crazy Evangelicals like Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams, John Cotton and William Penn. None had the complete picture but all contributed to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and universal literacy. And the American way…

  71. Zeke says:

    The reason I took the time is because the question Chief’s article raises is whether freedom and prosperity will persist in post-modern America, without the ethics and safeguard of heartfelt Christianity.

    I am hoping to make sure that Protestant contributions to the very existence of our freedom and prosperity in the US and other English speaking countries are noted. Because to hear some say it, Massachusetts is the place of burning witches and various cruel punishments of adulterers, and I wanted to soften the humorous caricature. Though I know it is a common historical paradigm.

  72. Larry Ledwick says:

    As you mentioned some of the changes in society stemmed from the Protestant reformation in other ways. For example the Methodists allowed women to speak in church and they were granted authority in church leadership. At the time this was a profound and scandalous change. Although the church maintained male leaderships structure women were allowed to be active in the church in a way not endorsed by other sects. Lots of very complex changes merged to influence the development of northern Europe. Even the black plague can be credited with some of the advances in culture as it culled out great swaths of the population, increasing demand for anyone who could master certain key skills (giving some a hand up from low born status into respected trades). Also the sudden death of large numbers of both high and low born caused a tidal wave of wealth through inheritance to flow into families that in earlier times have been largely left out of inheritance as higher ranking relatives all died from the contagion. That labor shortages also led to efforts to build machines to automate some simple tasks so fewer hands were needed to do the same work (textile industry for example).

    This of course was spurred on by the introduction of reliable steam powered machinery which made it possible to move factories away from power sources like water wheels and site them closer to where their work was needed. This was a process that developed over multiple centuries as barriers to progress got knocked down by all these changes in society. Printing was critically important to the spread of technology allowing someone with a book to carry the design principles of a plant or process hundreds of miles and start a new factory based on that captured knowledge.

    All those things shifted education from the high born and useless to the talented and willing to work middle class breaking down social barriers and turning the classical philosophers into a side note in education rather than the core or teaching as education began to focus on real skills and knowledge like mathematics, chemistry and other building blocks sciences rather than esoteric debates about philosophy.

  73. beththeserf says:

    Many strands aren’t there Zeke? Then there’s The Scottish Enlightenment,
    coming out of John Knox’ universal literacy for bible study. A book written
    by a German, Arthur Herman, ‘The Scottish Enlightenment. The Scot’s
    Invention of the Modern World’ . The author argues that ideas and works
    of Scots, Adam Smith, Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, James Watt, Lord
    Kames and others produced an idea of modernity that shaped much of
    modern world as we know it. The Scottish diaspora, had significant
    influence in the United States, including the making of the American
    Constitution, eg James Madison and the common sense James Wilson,
    on the problem of how might a self governing republic rule over a vast
    expanse of territory without becoming an empire and therefore corrupt.

    The book is so well written and lively that when i loaned it out on two
    occasions I had great difficulty getting it returned…. excuses, excuses. )

  74. Zeke says:

    Nice to see you put in a good word for John Knox…That he was a Scot. XD

  75. Zeke says:

    John Knox came up a couple of times on this thread. Which was fun because I was reading one of his books just this month. It sounds like a great book, if it is half as good as your summary. But I am surprised that a German wrote it. It breaks the pattern of German scholars attributing everything to Germans, and no one noticing them doing it.

  76. Zeke says:

    Larry says,
    “…and turning the classical philosophers into a side note in education rather than the core or teaching as education began to focus on real skills and knowledge like mathematics, chemistry and other building blocks sciences rather than esoteric debates about philosophy.”

    I am learning to see how much was unknown to people who were living in history. When I read Sir Francis Bacon, I see him wanting to effect the very thing you said. He thought that empirical knowledge in science could be done through Universities by the academics. He could not have foreseen perfectly that the inventions of science which would actually improve human life would come from all walks of life, and that literacy and opportunity in America unleashed the genius of farm boys and amateurs — giving us photography, air conditioning, and inexpensive aluminum, for example. But I think Francis Bacon surmised something about the fact that very important discoveries often happen by accident, which covers a lot of discoveries in science.

  77. beththeserf says:

    Pesky humans, always confounding expectations.
    And there’s the Scots, romanticism and hard
    headed-ness, sometimes Robert Lous Stevenson
    said, in the same individual. Read somewhere that
    the two main characters In Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’
    were both representations of aspects of his own

  78. Zeke says:

    Right or wrong, hard headed, fully committed. Like the Scot who was drowning in a vat of Scotch — When his friends tried to rescue him, he fought them off bravely…

    Along similar lines, I have heard more than one commentator attribute Brexit to “bloodymindedness.” Isn’t that British for “because I can”? I don’t actually know.

    But add in a little Viking to the other two, and perhaps we can expect the unexpected in this coming new year!

    Cheers Larry and Beth

  79. beththeserf says:

    Auld Lang Syne to ye all, EM, Zeke, et al… (but not Big Al.)

  80. Gail Combs says:

    This is rather simplistic but it does get to the heart of the matter.

    Starting with the Bill Ivey admission in his e-mail to Podesta.

    …. I’m certain the poll-directed insiders are sure things will default to policy as soon as the conventions are over, but I think not. And as I’ve mentioned, we’ve all been quite content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry. The unawareness remains strong but compliance is obviously fading rapidly. This problem demands some serious, serious thinking – and not just poll driven, demographically-inspired messaging…. https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/3599

    So it is pretty obvious the lack of ethics in our younger members was a deliberate move on the part of the ‘Elite’ First by switching the focus of schooling from thinking and logic to feeling and second by the concerted attacks on not only the Judeo-Christian religions but also on the idea of ‘patriotism’

    What would Thomas Jefferson and John Adams think of and do to kids seen stomping on and burning the US flag?

    Jo Nova points out this in her recent article on Rex Tillerson.
    “The main message in the Huff Po piece is that if people who are powerful (you know, like CEOs of a “top ten” global company) can be badgered and cajoled into expressing support for something they don’t believe — perhaps just as a strategic move — it still shows how powerful badgering and heckling is. We might prefer to focus on facts and figures but the data shows homo sapiens are a gregarious species and that coercion and bullying is a major force in carving history.” — Jo Nova

    Lionell Griffith then discusses to WHY the ‘Elite’ have decided they want to develop the adult ‘two year olds’ we call Millennials.

    “many people who have become accustomed to getting their way by bullying will not be able to cope with the requirement to act like adults.” [– Jo Nova]

    Not being able to cope with the requirement to act like adults is a defining characteristic of a bully. They have the temperament of an out of control two year old demanding that others must yield to their demands. If they don’t get their way, they throw a tantrum (stage a protest march demanding what they want NOW!). If that doesn’t work, they resort to violence, vandalism, theft, extortion, battery, and eventually to the use of lethal force. In particular, they feel having their demands met is their just due without having to do anything for it but demand.

    Other people don’t actually exist for them in any way other than to provide for their fleeting whims instantly. If others do give in, their demands escalate. If others don’t give in their anger and demands escalate. Hence, both appeasing a bully and ignoring him end with the situation becoming worse. The only fix I know is to knock him down so hard they are afraid to get up for fear YOU will get angry if they do.

    In the final analysis, it is nothing but kindergarten playground politics played on the world stage by people with adult bodies and pathological ethics.

    FROM: It’s about character: Rex Tillerson’s

    Now cue in the demands for a Democracy instead of a Republic and you have a bunch of out of control ‘adult’ two year olds making demands based on the ‘injustices’ they read about on Twitter or Huff ‘n Puff’ or Rolling Stone.

    “The only fix I know is to knock him down so hard they are afraid to get up for fear YOU will get angry if they do.” I concur with. I Finally got angry enough to ‘go berserk’ and took my 6ft 6in 19 year old brother to the floor and really HURT HIM. It was the only way I could stop him from the decade of physical abuse he had showered on me. (I was 11 years old) He never ever touched me again and quit trying to kill me. (Four separate tries that I can think of.)

    I found that most bullies are actually cowards and will back down when confronted without their supporters. Trump needs to focus on some of the ring leaders, like George Soros, the Clintons and Al Sharpton and take them out. If he does the rest of the followers will quiet down fast.

    Until we clean out the septic tank called Washington DC we have no hope of installing good ethics outside of the Judeo-Christian religions. That was my initial point that I failed to make clearly.

  81. Gail Combs says:

    A sad comment on the Democrats: California Democrats legalize child prostitution

    I disagree with the writer based on #25 and #26 of the Communist goals. I also added Clinton’s help in reaching goals #4 and #7 (WTO part of the UN) and the attack we have seen on religion.

    Communist Goals (1963) Congressional Record–Appendix, pp. A34-A35 January 10, 1963 — From “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen

    4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war. – <a href="http://www.artistmarket.com/writers/piraino/clintonchina.htm"%5BClinton's China Policy]

    7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.
    17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.

    18. Gain control of all student newspapers.

    19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.

    20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policy-making positions.

    21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity, which does not need a “religious crutch.”

    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”

    We have pretty much put in place all of the goals of the Communist party in just 50 years.

  82. Cyberzombie says:

    @Gail That’s terrible. Much underage prostitution is used to support drug use (as per my CSI sister-in-law). E.M. run away!

  83. Zeke says:

    Inre: cyberzombie
    prostitution drug use
    + unemployment, food stamps

    Of course, we all want this country to always be a place where people can better themselves physically — in an economic sense, through economic freedom. Marriage and home ownership are the foundation of personal wealth here, see studies on the financial and health advantages of these.

    But the United States has always been a place where people could better themselves mentally (literacy) and spiritually, too. And that is why we do not actually fear or dislike immigration. Individual, legal immigration is welcome. We have so much to offer good people who just want to escape the darkness, the false systems, and the prostitution and drug use in the world.

    Don’t forget, we have something to offer.
    We have the gospel, and it is for every nation, tribe and tongue.

    But there are traps, bondage, cords and terrible hooks in sex-drug-occult movements, kids are getting lost and overdosing, and there are traps in inner cities and unemployment, and that is not good for anyone. Jesus can deliver people out of darkness. “If anyone comes to Me, I will in no wise cast him out.”

  84. cdquarles says:

    @Simon ” CDQ – for a long time people have asked the reason why we are here. In a world that appears to depend on probabilities, though, where anything that is possible to happen will happen if you wait long enough, there doesn’t have to be a reason for something existing except that it is not impossible. Because of that, asking the reason for life is really an ill-formed question, which implies that a reason must exist. There really isn’t a justification for the assertion that there must be a reason for things to have happened.”

    Sure there is, but you seemingly don’t want to ask yourself, honestly, the proper question. God, being existence qua existence is outside of time. Time is a created thing for a created material universe. While within it, there will be things we can’t know because we can’t sense them. Does that mean that they don’t exist? Consider unicellular life forms. They’ve been around a long time without us knowing such consciously. Hooke’s microscopes clued us in. 

  85. CDQ – although we give it a name and can measure it, time has no existence as such. We can add it into mathematical models and say precisely how long a thing will take. However, we measure time by comparing things that we know to be regular (or at least think we know are regular) such as a pendulum swing or oscillation of a certain atomic species. To start with, Galileo compared a pendulum beat to his own heart-beat, and thus came to the conclusion that each swing took the same time no matter how large the swing was. If he’d been goosed by a scantily-clad female he may have come to a different conclusion.

    The truth is that we don’t really know what time is, but we have ways to measure its passing with exquisite precision. We don’t know whether time is quantised, or whether there is some variable amount of “galactic time” passing between the instants when we are aware and measuring the ticks. You can call that galactic time “God time” if you wish, but the reality is that what we measure things by is by how fast a certain thing changes, and critically we define certain things as being more accurate than others. If there is some time-out where things do not change, we wouldn’t know the difference. Are we being stepped through a big simulation? We couldn’t tell, since we don’t experience those time-outs if they do exist.

    So: reality is probably weirder than we can imagine, but at the moment it does look like everything is neither black nor white but has a probability attached. As such, given enough time (whatever that is) anything that can happen will happen. If there is a dice-player, that doesn’t really affect the contention that, since we are here now talking about it, the improbability of Life happened. Maybe it’s such a wildly improbable chance that we are the only planet in the universe with intelligent life, and maybe this is the only universe in the multiverse with life, too. There are any number of weird hypotheses to explain things, and we have currently no way of eliminating the ones that are not correct.

    Those with a faith in their chosen deity do have a certain certainty that I’ll never have. For that reason I’ll try not to destroy that sense of certainty, though if someone is really insistent that I follow their version of God I will ask for specific evidence for their assertions. Saying it’s private doesn’t wash, by the way, since that won’t convince me. If you choose medical miracles, with evidence of diseases going into spontaneous remission and also some evidence that some of those may have a cause (for example, cancer cells are less heat-resistant than normal ones, so if you catch a bad ‘flu and don’t take Paracetamol/Tylenol to make it bearable by reducing the fever, that fever may kill the cancer in your body), the doctor’s opinion may be based on not-enough knowledge. Such miracles may be entirely explainable. Similarly stories of the lame walking or the blind seeing again can have explanations, as are stories of people rising from the dead, which used to happen so often that some people were buried with a string going to a bell on the surface – it depends on exactly how you know someone is actually dead. Western medicine is much more careful at defining death these days.

    I have read the “logical proofs of God” and the logic doesn’t work – they are based on incomputable probabilities where in reality there is a binary choice – yes or no. You can’t assign probabilities to an unknown, or at least if you do you’re fooling yourself. If yes, follow-up questions would relate to the nature of that deity. Which religion, if any, got it right and what is the evidence for that? What is the nature of spirit/soul and how do we measure it?

    Life is a lottery, and you can either say that someone is throwing the dice or that things just happen. Since if that dice-thrower exists, it logically does not care whether any individual grows or learns throughout life (have you looked after an Alzheimer’s patient who has lost memories of who they were, what happened an hour ago, and can’t learn anything new at all?) I find it more logical to presume that there is “no-one” in charge of things. There is no hard evidence to the contrary.

    When there is hard evidence, I’ll reconsider my attitudes. I don’t accept a personal story or something written in a book, no matter how old. I need something measurable. That’s something to do with being a physicist (believing six impossible things before breakfast) but then, if there’s something as big as a real God who affects daily lives then the effects would be statistically noticeable. Catholics maybe living longer with fewer illnesses (though as it happens 7th Day Adventists have that distinction, probably because of the wholefood diet they go for). Basically, with all the praying going on, there should be a statistical difference noticeable in the “natural accident” category, such as house struck by lightning, floods etc.. Maybe not in the “stupid avoidable accidents” category, though. Either there is a measurable difference, or praying makes no difference to the results.

    For you the answer is “yes”, but I need a bit more hard evidence and not a set of feelings and selected sequences that would fit the hypothesis. I’m too aware of the human tendency for confirmation bias, and to see faces with only the slightest of hints (I see a face in EM’s picture at the top of the screen). In fortune-telling, people remember the hits and not the misses, and an average run of hits/misses is remembered as spot-on correct. We are hard-wired to make stories to explain things, whether or not those stories have any truth or not. If they match the effects (for example you can’t stop Thor playing with his hammer and making thunderstorms, so you might as well live with it) then they’re *good enough* until something better comes along. At some point, children learn that they didn’t come from a gooseberry-bush or get delivered by a stork. They see the evidence for an alternative explanation….

  86. Larry Ledwick says:

    but then, if there’s something as big as a real God who affects daily lives then the effects would be statistically noticeable.
    . . .
    Basically, with all the praying going on, there should be a statistical difference noticeable in the “natural accident” category, such as house struck by lightning, floods etc.. Maybe not in the “stupid avoidable accidents” category, though. Either there is a measurable difference, or praying makes no difference to the results.

    That line of thinking assumes what you would consider “good things or events” are similar in nature to the events that “all that is” would consider good.

    Or – praying makes a difference in things people generally don’t notice or care about but in the greater scheme of things are really important.

    For example a house getting struck by lightning might be a “good thing” to the “greater being” because it teaches an important lesson to the person in the house. What if the “greater being” thinks physical things like houses are like advertisements on TV something that is necessary but not particularly desirable.

    Just taking the devil’s advocate view here.

    There is a view that our “physical consciousness” is only a thin veneer on our “real self” and only exists to allow us to “play the game of life” by the rules it imposes so that we can learn lessons or create situations that promote learning. In that case, if true, physical events would have no good or bad, only the resulting lessons would have value. In which case the metric you choose to measure for statistical proof would be irrelevant to the object of the exercise.

    What if on a physical level you had no clue about good things you have done, for example smiling and saying hello to some random person on the street when they felt totally alone and were pondering suicide and subsequent to your action they changed their mind but you never even knew your action had any special value. That would be a “good” that your statistical measure would miss.

    These kinds of discussions eventually boil down to a Fabergé egg of points of view and assumptions, and each needs to be unwrapped to see the next. maybe the journey is what is important and not the destination?

  87. Larry – nice points. Since, in what my model of the world shows me, all we have is the journey, it’s a good thing to enjoy it.

    The problem here for me is that any number of logical constructs and explanations can be (and are) put forward, most of which state that I wouldn’t understand the reasons for all the bad things and the appearance of random chance. I am thus required to take that explanation on faith alone and for me that just doesn’t work. Where I said about “believing 6 impossible things before breakfast”, I was alluding to the slight problem that various of the theories we regard as fundamental in physics are mutually incompatible, so the skill lies in choosing the explanation that gives the right answer in the circumstances under consideration. Obviously either one or both of relativity and quantum theory are wrong since they can’t both be right, but we just use the one that gives the right answer for the problem at hand. That sort of training (I described it a while back as “Heisenberg syndrome”) makes faith somewhat difficult – I use the theory while not believing it’s true, just that it will most likely give the answer I need.

    Still, if we’re alive to learn lessons, who sets the syllabus? There seems to be an underlying connection between humans so that we know a little bit more than would seem logically possible about what other humans will be doing. There’s thus also the possibility that the God that people sense is in fact a collective result of human life and is an überconsciousness. If you look hard at the I Ching (or a technical book on astrology) you’ll find that every positive thing has an equal and opposite negative thing in the same text for the particular configuration. A good practitioner can however choose the “correct” one of the alternatives as regards what people are doing or will do. For random chances like the lottery, though, you’re better off using a random number generator since that maximises your winnings – people’s choice of “random” number is anything but, so if you won with your favourite numbers there’s more chance you’ll be sharing the win.

    I can accept statistical proofs as reasonable – it’s after all how the Higgs particle was proved, though actually on that I’m still not convinced.

    Still, as humans we can only think a thought if we have the word for it, which sometimes means inventing new words and defining them. All the stuff we deal with that we can’t see is related to human-sized things we can see and understand and extrapolated from there. We see a wave on water, we extrapolate to an electromagnetic wave. Later on we extrapolate that to a probability wave in some undefined medium, but the visual image attached is still that of a water-wave. I can’t imagine infinity, since everything I know has its limits. I can define it mathematically, but can’t imagine it. We have the same problem in imagining what a non-human intelligence thinks, though we’re maybe a bit better since we managed to teach chimps and dolphins how to communicate with us. Such conversations tend to have a limited vocabulary, though, so not suited for philosophical explanations. Can we imagine what a deity would think about any of our concerns? I’d suggest probably not.

    At the moment I haven’t any acceptable evidence of a deity, let alone one that cares for each person or living entity. If anyone has such evidence, I will be interested to know.

  88. cdquarles says:

    Simon, the soul is not something measurable. It is that which makes a living thing living. You are limiting yourself by limiting your premise to that of existence being material only, because that’s all you can sense in your current form. That’s where you’re missing it. It seems to me that if it isn’t material, it doesn’t exist to you, yet can anything material bring itself into existence from no existence?

    Can we imagine what a deity would think about any of our concerns? Sure we can. The Supreme one that I know says to me, “Don’t worry about that, for when you acknowledge that you were made by me as a Father makes a child, who wants you to grow up and be a willing partner in the journey that I have set for you, you will inherit all that I have made for you.”

  89. cdquarles says:

    Most of the events in this material form are not of a moral nature. They just are and are neither good nor bad unless intellects with the ability to act on choices of behavior do act.

  90. David A Anderson says:

    Simon says, ” At the moment I haven’t any acceptable evidence of a deity, let alone one that cares for each person or living entity. If anyone has such evidence, I will be interested to know.”

    As cdquarles says, you are measuring. For a little background on ” measuring” let me share this…

    “The ancient Vedic scriptures declare that the physical world operates under one fundamental law of maya, the principle of relativity and duality. God, the Sole Life, is an Absolute Unity; He cannot appear as the separate and diverse manifestations of a creation except under a false or unreal veil. That cosmic illusion is maya. Every great scientific discovery of modern times has served as a confirmation of this simple pronouncement of the rishis.
    Newton’s Law of Motion is a law of maya: “To every action there is always an equal and contrary reaction; the mutual actions of any two bodies are always equal and oppositely directed.” Action and reaction are thus exactly equal. “To have a single force is impossible. There must be, and always is, a pair of forces equal and opposite.”
    Fundamental natural activities all betray their mayic origin. Electricity, for example, is a phenomenon of repulsion and attraction; its electrons and protons are electrical opposites. Another example: the atom or final particle of matter is, like the earth itself, a magnet with positive and negative poles. The entire phenomenal world is under the inexorable sway of polarity; no law of physics, chemistry, or any other science is ever found free from inherent opposite or contrasted principles.
    Physical science, then, cannot formulate laws outside of maya, the very texture and structure of creation. Nature herself is maya; natural science must perforce deal with her ineluctable quiddity. In her own domain, she is eternal and inexhaustible; future scientists can do no more than probe one aspect after another of her varied infinitude. Science thus remains in a perpetual flux, unable to reach finality; fit indeed to formulate the laws of an already existing and functioning cosmos, but powerless to detect the Law Framer and Sole Operator. The majestic manifestations of gravitation and electricity have become known, but what gravitation and electricity are, no mortal knoweth.3
    To surmount maya was the task assigned to the human race by the millennial prophets. To rise above the duality of creation and perceive the unity of the Creator was conceived of as man’s highest goal. Those who cling to the cosmic illusion must accept its essential law of polarity: flow and ebb, rise and fall, day and night, pleasure and pain, good and evil, birth and death. This cyclic pattern assumes a certain anguishing monotony, after man has gone through a few thousand human births; he begins to cast a hopeful eye beyond the compulsions of maya.
    To tear the veil of maya is to pierce the secret of creation. The yogi who thus denudes the universe is the only true monotheist. All others are worshiping heathen images. So long as man remains subject to the dualistic delusions of nature, the Janus-faced Maya is his goddess; he cannot know the one true God.
    The world illusion, maya, is individually called avidya, literally, “not-knowledge,” ignorance, delusion. Maya or avidya can never be destroyed through intellectual conviction or analysis, but solely through attaining the interior state of nirbikalpa samadhi. ”

    Such is the yogis view.

  91. p.g.sharrow says:

    While examining the fundamentals of the universe to discern the nature of mass/inertia as well as the creation of gravity I was able to see the face of GOD. Not some omnipotent dude sitting in a cloud but the soul of the universe. Everything that exists has an EMF signature or picture of it’s self or it’s soul. All things are a part of the soul that is GOD. As sure as the creation of atomic Hydrogen results in a H2 molecule, life will follow. Life results in Intelligence evolving. The sum total of intelligence of life is also that of GOD. We are in the middle of a battle between the “dark” way of “survival of the fittest” and the “light” way of co-operation. Ethical treatment of others is part of the way of Light. There is no such thing as Heaven or Hell, they are both the same place. The treatment of those that enter the hereafter comes from those whose lives they effected, good or ill, love or torment. You can not commit a sin against GOD! You can only commit sin against other beings.
    This has been known to humans as long as they have existed, but this fandom of cults that believe, my god is more powerful then yours, is a dark way that is used to justify bad treatment of Others to benifit the cult members and their leaders,…pg

  92. Thanks for the explanations and various viewpoints. pg’s is somewhat at variance with the others, though there’s probably more there that I can agree with.

    As a summary of the main points, it seems that we cannot measure any effects of God in any way and that it is defined as something that we cannot ever measure. There are no effects on any natural occurrences such as earthquakes, volcanoes, weather etc.. Presumably the soul/spirit is also something that we cannot measure and thus show its existence. It is thus necessary to believe, and this belief will affect yourself alone and no-one else, except to the extent that your own deeds will affect other people.

    As always, it is logically impossible to prove that something does not exist – the most we can say is that something hasn’t been seen (or measured) up until now. Still, the contention that it can never be measured does have implications, and also seems to me to be not logically justifiable except in the case of a known non-existence.

    It’s looking like the hard evidence I’d need will not be available, so I’ll have to wait until I die to find out if there is a soul or not. If not, of course I won’t be aware of anything after that so there’s not a lot of point in worrying about it. If there is, and I need to answer to some higher judgement, then I’ll simply say “I did what I thought was right” and see what happens.

    That doesn’t negate the need for a good ethics system, and to treat others as you would wish to be treated. If life started by chance alone, it still seems pretty rare and there’s joy to be had from being alive, so we’d like our progeny to have a good time with their lives as well. The Judaeo-Christian set of ethics seems pretty good to me providing people actually live to them. Looking back on the vicars and Church elders I knew when I was young, it does seem to be a case of public probity and private breaking of the rules, some of which later became public. Of course, a real belief in punishment after death may have reined-in the worst of that, so I do wonder whether the priests are actually believers in general or it’s just a job where they need to say certain things to earn a living.

    Like pg I see organised religions as power structures, where some people get to tell others what to do and what to think. Like other organisms, they want to grow and increase their power, and have control over more people with the associated increase in income for those higher up in the pyramid. It’s a promise of a better life in the next phase of existence if you’ll accept limits and charges in the only existence you can be sure exists (because in this life, you think and therefore you are). No proof is offered of the next existence, and you need to just believe what you are told….

    Maybe a list of people I don’t necessarily accept as telling the truth to me: politicians, newspapers, life-insurance salespeople, any other salespeople, sandwich-people with “The End Is Nigh!”, evangelists for any church, fortune-tellers, used-car salespeople, Al Gore (and any other AGW apologist)… the list goes on. We’re so used to getting lied to that all exhortations get put through the spam-filter. Is it unreasonable to ask for some level of proof? If so, why?

  93. Gail Combs says:

    An interesting letter from seventy years ago from Ayn Rand The Foundation for Economic Education: Ayn Rand Predicts Its Intellectual Bankruptcy

    …Now the choice of a personal purpose or of a social ideal is a matter of philosophy and moral theory. That is why, if one wishes to cure a dying world, one has to start with moral and philosophical principles. Nothing less will do.</b.

    The moral and social ideal preached by everybody today (and by the conservatives louder than all) is the ideal of collectivism. Men are told that man exists only in order to serve others; that the “common good” is man’s only proper aim in life and his sole justification for existence; that man is his brother’s keeper; that everybody owes everybody a living; that everybody is responsible for everybody’s welfare; and that the poor are the primary concern of society, its holy shrine, the god whom all must serve.

    This is the moral premise accepted by most people today, of all classes, all stages of education and all political parties.

    How are you going to sell capitalist economics to go with that? How are you going to get them to accept as moral, proper and desirable such conceptions as personal ambition, economic competition, the profit motive and private property?

    It can`t be done. Their moral ideal has defined these conceptions as evil and immoral…..

  94. Zeke says:

    So can you have an ethics system and maybe even a little godish business on the side, but just get rid of sin and guilt?
    Good luck with that. To that I would just say, “Watch and see.” Look at Gail’s link above and look down that trajectory. But if you think you are an empiricist, God is an empiricist, even more than any one of us. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” He allows every one to reap the thing they sowed. Your experiment will get more than you sowed, later than you sowed, and for longer than you sowed.

    I believe there are two kinds of people. There are people who hold a theory and love it to such an extent that they cannot recognize its failure, and suppress any one or any thing that is able to disprove the theory, or even offer rational criticism. Many people are like that. The scientists of the last two centuries are surpassing any one on these counts, in my opinion.

    The second type of person is the one who holds a theory, and even has taken his theory as an objective fact or law, and has confirmed it all of his life. But there does come a time when the person who is under implicit control of his own theory actually is able to question whether it has failed in real life. A lot of people here are in this category.

    Claims of objectivity are made often, but any objective observer can see that has not worked out :) :D !– neither in science, nor in journalism, nor in the study of history, nor any other branch of knowledge in which mankind parades his virtues of dispassionate and pristine judgment. Many claim to have sat down before the facts and drawn conclusions carefully from observations alone. And in turn, we all are positively addicted to trusting experts, and in accepting their image of objectivity in handling the data. But alternatively, we can, through decades of life, experience, observations and a bit of self-awareness, understand that men love theories and they confirm their theories with facts. Francis Bacon called these (nearly unconsciously held) theories –quaintly but accurately–the “idols” of the mind.

    So men love theories above all things. If you see a man without a god, look for his theories — his idols — and you will find them. All men love their own theories (which is a form of self love, and allow him to live out his own desires), and all men have beliefs. But where did he get his belief? Did he chose it consciously? Did it come from a text book? Well text books and paradigms change quickly and a new generation will have new textbooks (with carbon dioxide driving all earth sciences–and I think the new paradigm will even get rid of the holy grail of variable climate, the ice ages, but that is a guess!) It is true that it is “by faith” that Believers understand that He made all things, and that He is in Providential loving control of every part of the universe, to bring people back to Himself. So experience and testing shows me that this is exactly so. Your experience shows you that you can do whatever you want, because there may be no God, and certainly no such thing as sin, wickedness and iniquity. Chief pointed out, “Consider that the world is full of Evil Bastards. Some sociopaths or psychopaths. Often advantaged in their rise in corporations and governments.” In your system, the workers of iniquity have an advantage and the innocent and faithful are crushed by them.

    Both illustrate only this: that testing theories will give results, and that you yourself are the interpreter of those results.

  95. p.g.sharrow says:

    It would appear that Mark Zuckerberg has seen the light!
    I guess that the election of November has forced him to believe in the reality of GOD!…pg

  96. Gail Combs says:

    Zeke: “….Your experience shows you that you can do whatever you want, because there may be no God, and certainly no such thing as sin, wickedness and iniquity…..”

    Actually I think that is the crux of the matter.

    Can those who question the existence of God, or do not believe in him at all, SEE EVIL?

    Can they not only identify evil and wickedness but actively fight against it?

    From what I can see the answer is yes. Those who do not believe in God can and do fight against Evil.

    Hubby is one, Stefan Molyneaux and Mike Cernovich are others. (All three however have a grounding in Philosophy.) Hubby and Stefan Molyneaux have had at least some formal training.

    The big problem that I see and that Stefan Molyneaux also saw is IF you remove Christianity, the bedrock of our country and Western Civilization, you leave a gaping hole that gets filled in with ‘something.’ So the Progressives have deliberately tried to remove Christianity from the USA, starting in the 1950s with Johnson’s 501c3 tax-exempt status for churches. This was done so they could replace Christianity with THEIR Marxist/Globalist philosophy.

    ** Christianity is short for the Juedeo-Christian religions.

  97. Zeke says:

    Hi Gail.

    Gail says, “Can they not only identify evil and wickedness but actively fight against it?
    From what I can see the answer is yes. Those who do not believe in God can and do fight against Evil.”

    Yes, that is so true, and very important to the continuum of what we are talking about.

    In fact, this election was a totally humbling experience for me in that regard. People who I did not expect, and who I had written off a long time ago, were the ones who rose up to come to the aid of our country. And they did not always even have affection for our country at all, but simply wanted to confront a wrong! I have been thinking about the Dante passage in which he says,

    “And let this weigh as lead to slow your steps,
    to make you move as would a weary man
    to yes or no when you do not see clearly:
    whether he would affirm or would deny,
    he who decides without distinguishing
    must be among the most obtuse of men;
    opinion–hasty–often can incline
    to the wrong side, and then affection for
    one’s own opinion binds, confines the mind.”

    We can’t tell who will do what in the end. One may fall who you think will stand, and one may stand who you did not think would. There is help when you least expect it, and there is also Providence at work. Every one and any one can contribute something vital. So I am ready and happy to admit you are correct from recent experience. (:

  98. Zeke says:

    Anyway, people who have a vested interest in moral grey fight the light as well as the darkness, and sometimes more vigorously. That is my experience.

  99. Gail Combs says:

    Cyrus comes to mind…. Many think of Trump as a Cyrus.I may be an agnostic, but I was praying along with everyone else this election. And I will continue to pray for Trump’s good health.

  100. Zeke says:

    Good Gail. This was bigger than Exodus (:

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