Monday, April 25, 2011

God's Quality Control 6.4

Here I continue my thoughts on the debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on April 7, 2011. The purported focus of the debate is this question: "Are the foundations of moral values natural or supernatural?" However, Craig has re-framed the question somewhat, asking, "Without 'god,' to what authority can we appeal in order to bend others to our own will?" We finished the previous video with Craig asking the dishonest question, "How does Harris propose to solve the value problem?" Here's his dishonest answer:

<clip 1:04 The trick he proposes...>

Listen to his voice. Look at the faces he makes. Listen to his implications. The rest of his point is delivered as though he is pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. He presents Harris' perfectly reasonable statements as though Harris had lost himself in some kind of philosophical thicket, or is attempting to confuse his reader.

<clip 1:16 We should define good...>
<clip 1:35 it makes no sense to ask...>

Let's go back to the book. I notice that the part Craig is quoting here is on page 12. I wonder if he read as much of the book as I have, which is still about half. Harris says, "If we define good as that which supports well-being, as I will argue we must." Harris isn't playing any trick on the reader. He hasn't even presented an entire claim, as he clearly indicates by saying, "as I will argue." Harris goes on to say that per this definition, the question makes no sense. Why would a devotee of the Supreme Being need to misrepresent Harris in this way? Why would a devotee of the Supreme Being have to do all this play-acting? Why are these tactics needed by a god with so much to offer?

<clip 2:22 Harris isn't talking about morality...>

As though that's a bad thing. What could possibly be a worthier goal than promoting the flourishing of creatures that can suffer? How is that not about moral values?

<clip 2:36 His claim about science...>

No, Harris hasn't made that claim. No one needs to claim it, as it's obviously true. Harris is saying that because science can tell us about the flourishing of sentient beings, science can help us find a morality that is a gigantic improvement over the one we have now.

<clip 2:46 Flourishing of corn>

Yes, invent a preposterous claim and attribute it to Harris, then throw in some preposterous parallels to make it appear that Harris is making some kind of obvious mistake. Craig wraps up by continuing the pretense that the value problem needs to be solved and that Harris has failed to solve it.

<clip 3:22 Arbitrary and idiosyncratic redefinition>

Arbitrary and idiosyncratic redefinition, you say? Something like defining love so as to allow for the eternal torture of billions upon billions of humans? So as to allow for creating a largely falsified universe so as to make it impossible for people with brains to do the one thing they must do in order to avoid this eternal torture?

Craig goes on to pretend a deep analysis by discussing moral duties, as though it's not obvious that exactly the same arguments can be made concerning duties as can be made concerning values.

<clip 4:06 Is-ought>

Unfortunately I see that many of my fellow asuperstitionists are getting stuck on this same point. Harris is not saying that science can tell us about ought. He is saying, "Let's consider what might happen if we define ought according to the only genuinely moral foundation we've ever known, and use science to move forward." Perhaps once all of us asuperstitionists understand Harris' message, we can present it better to the superstitionists.

<clip 4:37 What foundation remains?>

The flourishing of creatures that can suffer seems like the most worthy foundation I've ever heard. Why not go with that until we find something better?

<clip 4:53 When a lion kills a zebra>

Actually, the seeds of a better morality have been with us all along even in statements like this. When a lion kills a human, it hasn't murdered the human. Nor does it deserve punishment. We might have to lock it up, or even kill it, but not because it deserves such treatment. Rather, it's to protect the rest of us. We could apply this to humans: forget about deserve and punishment. The first priority is to protect the rest of us from a murderer. After that, let's look to science to see what to do with the murderer. Let's look to science to see whether executing or imprisoning the murderer for life really does have some kind of therapeutic value for the bereaved, or for society at large. If not, then let's not execute or imprison for life. Let's look to science to find out what's best,  or at least to seek something better than what we do now. Craig neatly sums up the entire problem with our current morality.

<clip 5:21 Who or what imposes...>

Craig spends a couple of minutes blathering about his objections to Harris' notions concerning free will, but these are irrelevant points. It seems to me that he brings them up only in order to insinuate that Harris is suggesting that we let killers and rapists roam the streets. Leave it to the superstitionists, with their astounding abilities to believe the most preposterous notions, to believe that we want that kind of world.

That's 6.4. Thanks for watching.

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