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« Adrian Moore on Infinity | Main | David Papineau on Physicalism »

July 30, 2007


American Keeper

It was a shame that the discussion on atheism was a sham. Burning straw men is not a rational discussion but a glorified witch hunt. The ad homenims, like assuming deistic thinkers have simply pulled their beliefs off the shelf and not considered religions beliefs for themselves, are non-starter for any discussion.

Intelligent theists do not make the claim that one must believe in God to be good (as was implied), but that one could not know morality without the existence of a deity. Maybe more time should have been spent giving positive reasons to believe there is no *god* rather than playing on the defense the whole time. Answering real questions about morality would have been helpful For instance: If there were no *god*, then all our 'morality' is hard wired in our dna via survival of the fittest. This would then allow rape (the ability for the strong to propagate greater numbers of offspring) and murder (the ability of the strong to overcome any of the weak she may encounter) to be moral actions. However, humans know that rape and murder are immoral.

Also, attacking 'record of organized religion' without examining the 'record of organized atheism' (please see Mao Tse Tung and Josef Stalin) is disengenuos.

I would hope that future podcasts are more balanced or at least more in depth.


I don't see how one needs a God in order to be morally sure. We know that rape and murder are wrong because we can empathise with our fellow human beings and their suffering.

American Keeper

One cannot know murder is wrong, from a physicalist viewpoint, based on empathy because the entity which is murdered no longer needs empathy. It is too late for them.

With rape, if survival of the fittest is a 'law of nature,' then why do humans empathize with the victim rather than rejoice with the perpetrator?

Besides these problems, do we only know things are wrong because of feelings? (I suppose if one were a postmodernist or an existentialist that would be fine, but then again, if that is the case, this question has no societal impact.)

Because one feels a certain way does not make an action right or wrong.


He seems to be suggesting that you should be ethical to fellow human beings you like. But what if you don't like some of your fellow human beings? Is it alright to hang a hoodie? Christians would say no, Jesus says hug that hoodie. But what argument does the speaker have for hugging?

Islamic scholars argue that 'proper' Islamic societies have always allowed other religions to practice happily alongside Islam. So how can the speaker suggest that only secularism can provide such an environment? Surely your average, liberal C of E type would also be supportive of this position? This argument that secularists are more moral and liberal seems to be a spurious argument for atheism. The argument for evidence that the speaker started with is far better, and atheists should stick to that argument rather than trying to cram in much more dubious arguments against theism.

Just keep arguing likelihood of God = likelihood of tooth fairy. Eventually that argument should penetrate the brain washing.

American Keeper's argument that morality must be hard wired into the DNA if there is no God is a bad argument. It denies the impact of culture and rationality, as well as the empathy that Donal mentions.

'Survival of the fittest' does not mean a war of all against all. Being kind to people can lead to collaborations that lead to the propogation of genes.

"Do we only know things are wrong because of feelings?" is a very good question. Kant would say no. Others (Hume?) would say yes. The speaker has written very many words on such matters, I refer you to him.

American Keeper

As far as morals being hard wired, I meant to imply that each person's DNA is the hardware with genes and environment coding the software. The biggest problem with this for the naturalist is that there is no free will.

If human beings are a combination of electrical impulses, chemical reactions, and the environment which is thrust upon them, a person does not have free will. They are no different than any other chemical reaction in the universe.

Because humans are simply products of environment, they cannot be moral agents. Morality implies the one is free to chose right from wrong. Creatures missing free will also miss morality.

If somehow morality has evolved, outside of religion, it may be that all reasons to be moral end in selfishness.

For a better society? Why? So my world is better.
For my children/town/country? So MY children/town/country are better off at the end of the day.
Because it is right to be kind? Why? This is not only anti-survival of the fittest, but it is selfish since I feel good when I am kind. Or the two above apply. It seems counterintuitive to think moral choices are those which make us feel good since most atrocities are enjoyed by criminals.

If being moral is being selfish, this fits with naturalism. IF morality is not being selfish, then how do creatures which lack free will, make selfless choices which can be deemed to be moral?


This is possibly the worst philosophy bites podcast I have ever heard. There was precisely no arguments for atheism whatsoever. The argument against design was dismissed by saying the body could be designed a lot better with no examples whatsoever. Also it assumes a criterion for better which was never given.

Charles Hatton

As an agnostic I'm afraid that I disagreed with the notion that this position is "fence-sitting", fudging or in any way weak. In fact, I think that since theist and atheist alike have not conclusively proved their position, then agnosticism is the only logical conclusion to come to.

If there was a being or a deity that could point the proverbial finger and create a universe then, then unless he/she/it desired to completely reveal themselves to the whole of mankind, we have no way to be sure if they exist one way or the other. We would be (are?) mightily outclassed trying to use science or religion to decide if there is a god, unless the deity was complicit in their own discovery.

Ray Salemi

I just listened to this old bite tonight and had to chime in that this podcast did not live up to the standards of Philosophy Bites. Have one person throw up straw men for the other to knock down is ridiculous.

Atheism is a non-philosophy. It eventually boils down to a group of annoying opinions about the unknowable and one can easily disassemble it with properly motivated questions.

I hope that there is another podcast somewhere in this feed with an interviewer who takes a serious run at Atheism and demonstrates that it is, at core, simply another religion.

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