Welcome to Atheist Discussion, a new community created by former members of The Thinking Atheist forum.

Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
A Naturalistic World
#1

A Naturalistic World
Atheists typically understand that this is a naturalistic world, with all that implies.  Yet they seem to express a fair amount of moral outrage when people behave naturalistically, i.e. in an opportunistic way to benefit themselves and their families and tribes.  Such are human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be in certain ways.  Transcending such limitations is a matter of education which not everyone can access.  Most people even seem to think it is somehow disloyal to take a wider perspective.

So while I understand moral objections idealistically, I don't understand why this situation surprises any atheist to the point of moral outrage.  It's not like atheists are in any position to insist that people should behave differently.

Perhaps someone could explain that to me.
The following 1 user Likes Alan V's post:
  • vulcanlogician
Reply
#2

A Naturalistic World
We are all ultimately nothing but a bunch of atoms crashing around the universe.  But I sure hate it when some of those atoms act like dicks. 

(didn't really answer the question, did it? Undecided Smile )
The following 4 users Like jerry mcmasters's post:
  • Astreja, vulcanlogician, Cheerful Charlie, Kim
Reply
#3

A Naturalistic World
Thumbs Up Jerry, that is sig- and meme-worthy.
The following 3 users Like Astreja's post:
  • jerry mcmasters, vulcanlogician, Kim
Reply
#4

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 05:39 PM)Astreja Wrote: Thumbs Up Jerry, that is sig- and meme-worthy.

Thanks! Smile
Reply
#5

A Naturalistic World
I think we humans can behave better than our evolution prescribes. We also evolved forebrains which in many folks get them past so-called biological imperatives. There's an is/ought problem here.
Freedom isn't free.
The following 5 users Like Thumpalumpacus's post:
  • Alan V, vulcanlogician, Fireball, Inkubus, Kim
Reply
#6

A Naturalistic World
I don't see what this has to do with atheists and atheism. 

Humans as a whole operate on instincts. A lot of these instincts once had a concrete purpose and reason, but they are more of a nuisance now. They are outdated in society, but our genes have not caught up to societal evolution.
[Image: color%5D%5Bcolor=#333333%5D%5Bsize=small%5D%5Bfont=T...ans-Serif%5D]
The following 5 users Like Dom's post:
  • Vera, Thumpalumpacus, Fireball, Inkubus, Kim
Reply
#7

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 06:42 PM)Dom Wrote: I don't see what this has to do with atheists and atheism. 

Humans as a whole operate on instincts. A lot of these instincts once had a concrete purpose and reason, but they are more of a nuisance now. They are outdated in society, but our genes have not caught up to societal evolution.

The thing that bugs me especially, is how instead of being honest (and self-aware enough, I guess), we insist on elevating those instincts and drives (which we share we all/most other animals) to something more, something noble and exalted, dare I say "spiritual" or "of the soul".


I keep quoting this but it sums us up perfectly:

"I have found the missing link between the higher ape and civilized man: It is we."

Only, I'm not sure we have the capacity and/or time to evolve any further.

May be for the better, too...

(Somewhat relatedly, I was watching something the other day, actually two separate things, where someone did something really really stupid... and then someone else commented things along the lines of: "Oh, they're not crazy, they're just in love." As if that "explanation unstupidified the stupid thing and made it something deserving of admiration. Hmm )
“We drift down time, clutching at straws. But what good's a brick to a drowning man?” 
The following 2 users Like Vera's post:
  • Alan V, Kim
Reply
#8

A Naturalistic World
Homo sapiens evolved to live in larger and larger social groups and structures.
That's the "natural" environment we find ourselves.
To do that we have legal structures, ethical systems and teach and learn values which promote the survival of both large and small groups.
Acting "naturalistically" does not imply or equate to acting only for a very small group.
No man is an island. Your assumptions might be flawed.
I fart in your general direction.  Angel
The following 3 users Like Bucky Ball's post:
  • Szuchow, Thumpalumpacus, Inkubus
Reply
#9

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 05:58 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: I think we humans can behave better than our evolution prescribes. We also evolved forebrains which in many folks get them past so-called biological imperatives. There's an is/ought problem here.

In my OP, I believe I implied what you said above.  So how do naturalists promote moral values without mere hectoring -- which seems hypocritical to me?  How do you address the is/ought problem?
Reply
#10

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 07:28 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote: Homo sapiens evolved to live in larger and larger social groups and structures.
That's the "natural" environment we find ourselves.
To do that we have legal structures, ethical systems and teach and learn values which promote the survival of both large and small groups.
Acting "naturalistically" does not imply or equate to acting only for a very small group.
No man is an island. Your assumptions might be flawed.

That is the educated, idealistic response. Again, I think I took that into account in my OP.

So basically you are saying more education is required, right? Then why the moral outrage and hectoring of so many naturalists/atheists?
Reply
#11

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 07:35 PM)Alan V Wrote:
(07-02-2021, 07:28 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote: Homo sapiens evolved to live in larger and larger social groups and structures.
That's the "natural" environment we find ourselves.
To do that we have legal structures, ethical systems and teach and learn values which promote the survival of both large and small groups.
Acting "naturalistically" does not imply or equate to acting only for a very small group.
No man is an island. Your assumptions might be flawed.

That is the educated, idealistic response.

And what did you want, exactly ?
An answer that is geared to the lowest common denominator ?
Why exactly is that where you want to find your answer ?
I fart in your general direction.  Angel
The following 2 users Like Bucky Ball's post:
  • Szuchow, Alan V
Reply
#12

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 07:37 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:
(07-02-2021, 07:35 PM)Alan V Wrote:
(07-02-2021, 07:28 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote: Homo sapiens evolved to live in larger and larger social groups and structures.
That's the "natural" environment we find ourselves.
To do that we have legal structures, ethical systems and teach and learn values which promote the survival of both large and small groups.
Acting "naturalistically" does not imply or equate to acting only for a very small group.
No man is an island. Your assumptions might be flawed.

That is the educated, idealistic response.

And what did you want, exactly ?
An answer that is geared to the lowest common denominator ?
Why exactly is that where you want to find your answer ?

You were quick in answering.  I added a bit more to my response above.

Yes, how do you educate people who have no access to education, or who think loyalty is more important than truth?  I obviously don't think hectoring and moral outrage are effective.
Reply
#13

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 04:51 PM)Alan V Wrote: Atheists typically understand that this is a naturalistic world, with all that implies.  Yet they seem to express a fair amount of moral outrage when people behave naturalistically, i.e. in an opportunistic way to benefit themselves and their families and tribes.  Such are human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be in certain ways.  Transcending such limitations is a matter of education which not everyone can access.  Most people even seem to think it is somehow disloyal to take a wider perspective.

I think this is a misunderstanding of evolution. There are several misunderstandings here, but the main one is to presume that our pro-social traits are not evolved, but only the negative, anti-social traits like selfishness and narrow tribalism. Both our good sides and bad sides evolved, so to attribute the good to "education" is somewhat incorrect. The positive is no less a default than the negative. Additionally, it's a mistake to conclude that because we possess a trait that evolution conspired to give us that trait; some traits are side effects of other traits that were selected for.

Once those two facts are accounted for, the OP's question seems to disappear.
[Image: sea-stones-whimsy-7-sm.jpg]
The following 4 users Like Dānu's post:
  • vulcanlogician, Alan V, Thumpalumpacus, Inkubus
Reply
#14

A Naturalistic World
Well, since Jerry has already won the thread, I don't know what I could add. But here goes...

As you said in your OP, Alan, "Such are the human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be..."

What makes you say that they are unfortunate?

Well... here's my guess: you figured it out. Your capacity to reason has endowed you with the ability to distinguish good states of affairs from bad ones. (More "fortunate" outcomes from "less fortunate" ones.)

BUT... being the evolutionary fluke that it is, your ability to reason doesn't give you the ability to shut off your cruder desires in order to best achieve the preferable state of affairs. That sort of thing requires that your rational part of your brain be stronger than the appetitive part of your brain. And (as you point out) not everyone has access to the sort of things (like a stable household, education etc.) that result in a person acting according to the rational part of their brain.

So whence comes the moral outrage?

Although it's contrary to our intuition, I think the outrage comes from the appetitive part of the brain (lower brain functions... or, put more precisely, the "nonrational" instinctive parts). Another gift of evolution. (That genius who gave us such things as "You pee with the same thing you have sex with.")

Evolution can explain this situation easily:

1. People who engage in destructive behavior are a danger to ourselves and our tribe.
2. What's the best way to deal with a person who endangers ourselves and our tribe?
 --Hitting them over the head with a club works pretty well.
3. What's the best way to coax an organism to hit another over the head with a club?
 --Fill them with anger.
4. But isn't filling them with anger also risky and dangerous to the tribe?
 --Yes. So let's fill them with 'moral anger' to keep the club bashing contained.

Of course, there's "non-moral" anger too. That comes in handy when evolution wants us to bash competing males over their heads to complete our mating rituals. Mother nature likes this design so much, she even outfitted rams with built in clubs on their heads so that they can dole out concussions when mating season finally arrives.

It's just how mother nature operates. When a fluke of nature becomes detrimental to a species, instead of removing the fluke, mother nature develops a new fluke to counter the old fluke. And at the end of a long line of flukes and anti-flukes lies the human condition....

To be fair, we don't always shit on our more "base" desires. Look at (American) football. Or rugby. We celebrate and encourage one another to bash into each other as hard as we can just as much as we exalt Gandhi. And we get just as upset when the linebacker didn't "slam that guy into the ground like he ought to have" as much as when one of our kids punches another on the playground.
The following 3 users Like vulcanlogician's post:
  • Alan V, Dom, Inkubus
Reply
#15

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 07:34 PM)Alan V Wrote:
(07-02-2021, 05:58 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: I think we humans can behave better than our evolution prescribes. We also evolved forebrains which in many folks get them past so-called biological imperatives. There's an is/ought problem here.

In my OP, I believe I implied what you said above.  So how do naturalists promote moral values without mere hectoring -- which seems hypocritical to me?

I generally don't hector anyone unless the misbehavior is egregious, or affects me or my family. In the latter case I don't appeal to morality at all, I simply tell them to stop the bullshit or things will get sideways.

If it's egregious behavior that doesn't affect me, I usually take a "c'mon, man, really" approach if I do something. But I don't see myself as any moral authority and generally don't worry about the weeds in their backyard, when my own has them too.

 
(07-02-2021, 07:34 PM)Alan V Wrote: How do you address the is/ought problem?

By being the best person I can be, and understanding that my emotions aren't regnant. Stepping outside of myself, if you will, and remembering that my biases are only that: my biases. Just because we may have evolutionary antecedents to our psychology doesn't not mean that our cerebral cortices cannot override those "instincts", if we can agree to call them that. It means that we each have a responsibility to work our own behavior.

When I go off half-cocked, my error rate rises significantly. Therefore, as I've grown older, I've learned the value of avoiding rash decisions or actions, and trying to understand the perspective I find morally offensive. I may still find it offensive, and may still speak up, but at that point there's more thought and less knee-jerk behind my behavior. That helps me better behave in a manner I consider moral.

Not all of life's problems submit to this heuristic, but it's a hell of a lot better than running my mouth in fourth gear while my brain's in neutral. Other folks no doubt have other ways to become better by their own lights, as well.
Freedom isn't free.
The following 1 user Likes Thumpalumpacus's post:
  • Alan V
Reply
#16

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 07:28 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote: Homo sapiens evolved to live in larger and larger social groups and structures.
That's the "natural" environment we find ourselves.
To do that we have legal structures, ethical systems and teach and learn values which promote the survival of both large and small groups.
Acting "naturalistically" does not imply or equate to acting only for a very small group.
No man is an island. Your assumptions might be flawed.

Dated as his work might be, Desmond Morris has some valuable thoughts on how humans have, over time, expanded their in-group to include people they don't know, and how that influences things like law and the social contract.

We still can be and far too often are very tribalistic, I believe we're moving in the right direction.
Freedom isn't free.
The following 2 users Like Thumpalumpacus's post:
  • Alan V, vulcanlogician
Reply
#17

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 07:40 PM)Alan V Wrote: I obviously don't think hectoring and moral outrage are effective.

In general you're probably right; both responses tend to raise defensive walls in individuals and that reduces the efficiency of communication.

Hectoring I usually avoid, as it is almost always counterproductive, but on a social level, I think over the last few decades we've seen some value from moral outrage. We can see examples from the 19th century as well, in the abolitionist movement in America. Of course, that helped kickstart a catastrophic war, but sometimes a cancer requires radical surgery, too.

There are no easy answers. The only answer I see is changing minds one at a time, starting with oneself, and hoping that propagates. But hectoring, badgering, preaching, it usually backfires.

"Lead by example" is a cliche. So is "be the change you want to see", so is "think globally and act locally", but what are you gonna do? Force everyone to acknowledge your own sense of morality, or simply exemplify it and hope to make a ripple in the pond?

There are no easy answers.
Freedom isn't free.
The following 1 user Likes Thumpalumpacus's post:
  • Alan V
Reply
#18

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 07:50 PM)Dānu Wrote:
(07-02-2021, 04:51 PM)Alan V Wrote: Atheists typically understand that this is a naturalistic world, with all that implies.  Yet they seem to express a fair amount of moral outrage when people behave naturalistically, i.e. in an opportunistic way to benefit themselves and their families and tribes.  Such are human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be in certain ways.  Transcending such limitations is a matter of education which not everyone can access.  Most people even seem to think it is somehow disloyal to take a wider perspective.

I think this is a misunderstanding of evolution.  There are several misunderstandings here, but the main one is to presume that our pro-social traits are not evolved, but only the negative, anti-social traits like selfishness and narrow tribalism.  Both our good sides and bad sides evolved, so to attribute the good to "education" is somewhat incorrect.  The positive is no less a default than the negative.  Additionally, it's a mistake to conclude that because we possess a trait that evolution conspired to give us that trait; some traits are side effects of other traits that were selected for.

Once those two facts are accounted for, the OP's question seems to disappear.

So you agree with Bucky then.  The premises are at fault for not taking into account the full scope of human evolutionary psychology.

I thought Bucky might offer a spirited defense of hectoring people who merely conform to social or tribal norms, since in effect we would be offering them another normative pressure to take into account.  That might be all they would respond to (which was a part of Thump's answer).

However, I would say that since we are all evolutionary kluges (as Vulcanlogician pointed out), and therefore still have more primitive tendencies, we can be forced back into reacting by such primitive tendencies by the threat of losing face in public (Thump again).
Reply
#19

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 08:23 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: Dated as his work might be, Desmond Morris has some valuable thoughts on how humans have, over time, expanded their in-group to include people they don't know, and how that influences things like law and the social contract.

We still can be and far too often are very tribalistic, I believe we're moving in the right direction.

The internet may still have a large part to play in this regard.
The following 1 user Likes Alan V's post:
  • Thumpalumpacus
Reply
#20

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 08:09 PM)vulcanlogician Wrote: Well, since Jerry has already won the thread, I don't know what I could add. But here goes...

As you said in your OP, Alan, "Such are the human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be..."

What makes you say that they are unfortunate?

Well... here's my guess: you figured it out. Your capacity to reason has endowed you with the ability to distinguish good states of affairs from bad ones. (More "fortunate" outcomes from "less fortunate" ones.)

BUT... being the evolutionary fluke that it is, your ability to reason doesn't give you the ability to shut off your cruder desires in order to best achieve the preferable state of affairs. That sort of thing requires that your rational part of your brain be stronger than the appetitive part of your brain. And (as you point out) not everyone has access to the sort of things (like a stable household, education etc.) that result in a person acting according to the rational part of their brain.

So whence comes the moral outrage?

Although it's contrary to our intuition, I think the outrage comes from the appetitive part of the brain (lower brain functions... or, put more precisely, the "nonrational" instinctive parts). Another gift of evolution. (That genius who gave us such things as "You pee with the same thing you have sex with.")

Evolution can explain this situation easily:

1. People who engage in destructive behavior are a danger to ourselves and our tribe.
2. What's the best way to deal with a person who endangers ourselves and our tribe?
 --Hitting them over the head with a club works pretty well.
3. What's the best way to coax an organism to hit another over the head with a club?
 --Fill them with anger.
4. But isn't filling them with anger also risky and dangerous to the tribe?
 --Yes. So let's fill them with 'moral anger' to keep the club bashing contained.

Of course, there's "non-moral" anger too. That comes in handy when evolution wants us to bash competing males over their heads to complete our mating rituals. Mother nature likes this design so much, she even outfitted rams with built in clubs on their heads so that they can dole out concussions when mating season finally arrives.

It's just how mother nature operates. When a fluke of nature becomes detrimental to a species, instead of removing the fluke, mother nature develops a new fluke to counter the old fluke. And at the end of a long line of flukes and anti-flukes lies the human condition....

To be fair, we don't always shit on our more "base" desires. Look at (American) football. Or rugby. We celebrate and encourage one another to bash into each other as hard as we can just as much as we exalt Gandhi. And we get just as upset when the linebacker didn't "slam that guy into the ground like he ought to have" as much as when one of our kids punches another on the playground.

Yours might be the answer which comes closest to explaining this for me:  We atheists are still people in a naturalistic world.  We don't automatically change by become naturalists.
The following 1 user Likes Alan V's post:
  • vulcanlogician
Reply
#21

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 08:33 PM)Alan V Wrote: However, I would say that since we are all evolutionary kluges (as Vulcanlogician pointed out), and therefore still have more primitive tendencies, we can be forced back into reacting by such primitive tendencies by the threat of losing face in public (Thump again).

If we as individuals allow that to happen -- if we place so much weight upon social approval that we remain silent in the face of what offends us. Part of the kluge, after all, is a brain capable of abstraction, empathy, and self-control.

This is at its heart a nature-vs-nurture discussion, it seems to me. I'm not sure that "forcing" comes into play so much as you seem to think. My being offended, after all, requires my permitting you to offend me. I have a say in the matter too.
Freedom isn't free.
The following 1 user Likes Thumpalumpacus's post:
  • Alan V
Reply
#22

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 08:33 PM)Alan V Wrote:
(07-02-2021, 07:50 PM)Dānu Wrote:
(07-02-2021, 04:51 PM)Alan V Wrote: Atheists typically understand that this is a naturalistic world, with all that implies.  Yet they seem to express a fair amount of moral outrage when people behave naturalistically, i.e. in an opportunistic way to benefit themselves and their families and tribes.  Such are human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be in certain ways.  Transcending such limitations is a matter of education which not everyone can access.  Most people even seem to think it is somehow disloyal to take a wider perspective.

I think this is a misunderstanding of evolution.  There are several misunderstandings here, but the main one is to presume that our pro-social traits are not evolved, but only the negative, anti-social traits like selfishness and narrow tribalism.  Both our good sides and bad sides evolved, so to attribute the good to "education" is somewhat incorrect.  The positive is no less a default than the negative.  Additionally, it's a mistake to conclude that because we possess a trait that evolution conspired to give us that trait; some traits are side effects of other traits that were selected for.

Once those two facts are accounted for, the OP's question seems to disappear.

So you agree with Bucky then.  The premises are at fault for not taking into account the full scope of human evolutionary psychology.

I thought Bucky might offer a spirited defense of hectoring people who merely conform to social or tribal norms, since in effect we would be offering them another normative pressure to take into account.  That might be all they would respond to (which was a part of Thump's answer).

However, I would say that since we are all evolutionary kluges (as Vulcanlogician pointed out), and therefore still have more primitive tendencies, we can be forced back into reacting by such primitive tendencies by the threat of losing face in public (Thump again).

IRL, the last thing I'm interested in doing is hectoring anyone about anything.
In fight or flight, I'm all about flight.
I fart in your general direction.  Angel
The following 1 user Likes Bucky Ball's post:
  • Alan V
Reply
#23

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 08:09 PM)vulcanlogician Wrote: Well, since Jerry has already won the thread, I don't know what I could add. But here goes...

As you said in your OP, Alan, "Such are the human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be..."

What makes you say that they are unfortunate?

Well... here's my guess: you figured it out. Your capacity to reason has endowed you with the ability to distinguish good states of affairs from bad ones. (More "fortunate" outcomes from "less fortunate" ones.)

BUT... being the evolutionary fluke that it is, your ability to reason doesn't give you the ability to shut off your cruder desires in order to best achieve the preferable state of affairs. That sort of thing requires that your rational part of your brain be stronger than the appetitive part of your brain. And (as you point out) not everyone has access to the sort of things (like a stable household, education etc.) that result in a person acting according to the rational part of their brain.

So whence comes the moral outrage?

Although it's contrary to our intuition, I think the outrage comes from the appetitive part of the brain (lower brain functions... or, put more precisely, the "nonrational" instinctive parts). Another gift of evolution. (That genius who gave us such things as "You pee with the same thing you have sex with.")

Evolution can explain this situation easily:

1. People who engage in destructive behavior are a danger to ourselves and our tribe.
2. What's the best way to deal with a person who endangers ourselves and our tribe?
 --Hitting them over the head with a club works pretty well.
3. What's the best way to coax an organism to hit another over the head with a club?
 --Fill them with anger.
4. But isn't filling them with anger also risky and dangerous to the tribe?
 --Yes. So let's fill them with 'moral anger' to keep the club bashing contained.

Of course, there's "non-moral" anger too. That comes in handy when evolution wants us to bash competing males over their heads to complete our mating rituals. Mother nature likes this design so much, she even outfitted rams with built in clubs on their heads so that they can dole out concussions when mating season finally arrives.

It's just how mother nature operates. When a fluke of nature becomes detrimental to a species, instead of removing the fluke, mother nature develops a new fluke to counter the old fluke. And at the end of a long line of flukes and anti-flukes lies the human condition....

To be fair, we don't always shit on our more "base" desires. Look at (American) football. Or rugby. We celebrate and encourage one another to bash into each other as hard as we can just as much as we exalt Gandhi. And we get just as upset when the linebacker didn't "slam that guy into the ground like he ought to have" as much as when one of our kids punches another on the playground.

Well said.   Thumbs Up
[Image: color%5D%5Bcolor=#333333%5D%5Bsize=small%5D%5Bfont=T...ans-Serif%5D]
The following 1 user Likes Dom's post:
  • vulcanlogician
Reply
#24

A Naturalistic World
You seem to be suggesting that theists have more philosophical justification than atheists to regard morality as objective. Is that an accurate interpretation of your post?
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.  Deadpan Coffee Drinker
The following 1 user Likes GenesisNemesis's post:
  • Alan V
Reply
#25

A Naturalistic World
(07-02-2021, 04:51 PM)Alan V Wrote: Atheists typically understand that this is a naturalistic world, with all that implies.  Yet they seem to express a fair amount of moral outrage when people behave naturalistically, i.e. in an opportunistic way to benefit themselves and their families and tribes.  Such are human default settings, as unfortunate as they may be in certain ways.  Transcending such limitations is a matter of education which not everyone can access.  Most people even seem to think it is somehow disloyal to take a wider perspective.

So while I understand moral objections idealistically, I don't understand why this situation surprises any atheist to the point of moral outrage.  It's not like atheists are in any position to insist that people should behave differently.

Perhaps someone could explain that to me.

I think you may be conflating "natural" with "rational". "Natural" is spiders eating flies they catch in their webs. "Rational "is understanding the the shapes and degrees of a triangle. The spider is not technically "rational". It eats what it catches. When a spider can construct an object to visit and take pictures of Saturn or concieve of light-years, please let me know.
I am tying notes to balloons and tumble-weeds and sending them out to the world. Where they are found, I do not know...
The following 1 user Likes Cavebear's post:
  • Alan V
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)