Sunday, October 3, 2010


I post the above because it so perfectly addresses some oft-heard tropes, without actually addressing them: if you don't believe in god, you must not be able to love life. If you don't believe in god, you must be an evil person with no moral grounding, no ability to experience transcendent joy, to live softly in this world.

And as long as we're on that subject, Sam Harris has a new book coming out, in which he argues that science has -- and ought to have -- much to say about morality. Here's a paragraph from a brief essay that summarizes his point.

As I argue in my new book, The Moral Landscape, questions about values—about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose—are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures. Throughout the book I make reference to a hypothetical space that I call “the moral landscape”—a space of real and potential outcomes whose peaks correspond to the heights of potential well-being and whose valleys represent the deepest possible suffering. Different ways of thinking and behaving—different cultural practices, ethical codes, modes of government, etc.—will translate into movements across this landscape and, therefore, into different degrees of human flourishing. I’m not suggesting that we will necessarily discover one right answer to every moral question, or a single best way for human beings to live. Some questions may admit of many answers, each more or less equivalent. However, the existence of multiple peaks on the moral landscape does not make them any less real or worthy of discovery. Nor would it make the difference between being on a peak and being stuck deep in a valley any less clear or consequential.

Makes sense to me.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating video. If I understood the higher sciences better I could have a better grasp of content. But my social science degree was intentional on my part: I get people, most of the time, but don't ask me to do math.(I love meteorology and geography and archaeology,though. A bit of hard science.)

Anyway, if one really asks "Do you believe in God?" It's sad that it has to go so far into the "proof" that is discussed. I agree completely with proof of most absolutes, and this one is lacking. But as a universal phenomenon, there is lots of proof. Almost all societies believe in higher than themselves powers. That's a human brain working, our consciousness. We need to explain our experiences, and we need to feel there is something "beyond." Something to achieve. Something that is beyond us.

Then the others of us, that accepted such as a coping mechanism.

I am going to paste a quote from something from a pop culture show, Angel. Joss Whedon is a clever man, and forgive the reference to such a venue (TV show) but this is what I understand clearly, about morality:

Angel: Well, I guess I kinda worked it out. If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters... , then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it.
Kate Lockley: And now you do?
Angel: Not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because, I don't think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there's no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.
Kate Lockley: Yikes. It sounds like you've had an epiphany.
Angel: I keep saying that, but nobody's listening.

That, to me, is morality. If nothing matters, then the littlest thing matters.


Sid Schwab said...

Well put, bl.

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