November 2010 archive

Evolution and Moral Ecology, Mini PhD Version

I’ve posted a new static page with an outline of my PhD thesis on evolution and moral ecology. If you’re interested in my overarching theory, it’s worth reading. Hopefully it’ll put a lot of the other missives I write in context. Although I don’t doubt it’ll also raise a lot of questions and objections. Happy to hear them. Any criticism that can steer me in a better direction will improve my thesis. I call it PhD 2.0.

Why Moral Anti-realism Isn’t Mad Dog Moral Nihilism

Just because the rules of cricket aren’t written into the very fabric of the universe doesn’t mean there are no rules by which we ought to play, should we choose to do so. And just because we’re not rationally obligated to adhere to this particular rule set, nor bound to follow these rules on pain of eternal torment from some otherworldly being, will we simply start playing by any rules we choose.

And yes, if everyone resolved that cricket was not much fun and decided to abandon it, or concluded the rules should be changed to resemble badminton, then cricket, as a sport, would necessarily change.

Likewise morality.

But, given the serious import we all place on morality – as well as the benefit it lends us all to play by its rules – it’s even less likely we’ll ever, as a group, decide no longer to play, or decide to change the rules so that it no longer resembles morality.

Morality, like cricket, need not be necessary in order for it to be important enough to concern ourselves over the maintenance and enforcement of the rules.

When Science and Religion Collide

ABC Religion has been kind enough to post response of mine to a very interesting piece by theologian Sarah Coakley on finding a reconciliation between evolution and God.

My response: when science and religion (or any other belief system) make claims that contradict each other, we have very good pragmatic reasons for favouring science. That being so, there is little room left for God, particularly of the interventionist variety. However, using naturalistic means alone, we can still provide a rich and detailed account of things like morality, so it’s not all bad news.

This view won’t be alien to regular readers of this blog, but it may well stir up some controversy on a site that is largely dedicated to discussions of the divine.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of comments it generates. I fully anticipate a strong backlash against the pragmatic argument for the priority of science, likely along the lines that science still presupposes certain ‘truths’ about the world, and these ‘truths’ can only be explained by resorting to a Creator, or something similar. There might also be the usual arguments suggesting morality is impossible without an absolute yardstick. Or, if I’m lucky, there might be some new arguments that I’m not aware of yet. We’ll have to wait and see.

And while I’m talking about ABC Religion, I do recommend that site, even for the atheistically inclined. Lots of solid, well written pieces of high sophistication, even if you disagree with the initial premises. Go give the site a look.

Mid-terms: What Goes Around…

In light of the results from the mid-term elections, I direct your attention to a post I made in May last year.

What goes around…

But, in the same spirit, the Democrats aren’t out for the count. They’re just winded. They’ll be back, or a bunch like them.

This is further guaranteed by a fundamental difference between this pendulum tip compared to the one that thrust Obama into the White House: this is not only an election about values, it’s an election driven by ignorance.

Values differ, and it’s to be expected that some people will favour one set of values over another, and each set will probably have its merits.

But facts are facts, and this lot who have swept into both houses of Congress are weak when it comes to their grasp of the facts. As a result, despite any actually good values they might possess, this bald ignorance and intellectual sluggishness will inevitably result in poor policy, and that will hasten their departure.

Let’s check back at the next election and see how this prediction fares in the light of history.