The Raving Theist

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It’s Getting Better All the Time

November 6, 2006 | 48 Comments

The guiding force behind biological improvement is mindless natural selection, says Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion. But how about humanity’s moral evolution? Dawkins is convinced that ethical progress is inevitable and headed in a “consistent direction.” “[O]ver the longer timescale, the progressive trend is unmistakeable and it will continue,” he says — most likely towards a “post-speciesist condition.”

As to what “impels” this unilateral course, Dawkins offers two suggestions. First, “the driving role of individual leaders who, ahead of their time, stand up and persuade the rest of us to move on with them.” Second, he cites “improved education.” But ultimately, he’s not sure:

It is beyond my amateur psychology and sociology to go any further in explaining why the moral Zeitgeist moves in its broadly concerted way. For my purposes it is enough that, as a matter of observed fact, it does move, and it is not driven by religion — and certainly not by scripture. It is probably not a single force like gravity, but a complex interplay of disparate forces like the one that propels Moore’s Law, describing the exponential increase in computer power. Whatever its cause, the manifest phenomenon of Zeitgeist progression is more than enough to undermine the claim that we need God in order to be good, or to decide what is good.

Whatever the arguments for making moral decisions in the absence of God, that the idea that morality itself must trend in a particular direction presents a different question. People can focus upon specific problems, but what Dawkins seems to be suggesting is that there’s some force outside of the human deliberative process that creates better and better individual leaders and educators..

Comments

48 Responses to “It’s Getting Better All the Time”

  1. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    November 6th, 2006 @ 9:15 am

    RavingAntiabortionist:

    Where exactly is Dawkins postulating that “some force outside of the human deliberative process” is guiding moral evolution.

    I see that he is only admiting that it might be “a complex interplay of disparate forces” …..

    I suspect it is just wishful thinkging on your part that Dawkins would even hint at a supernatural force ….

  2. Thorngod
    November 6th, 2006 @ 10:41 am

    Even our intellectual “giants” are susceptible to slipshod thinking and excessive optimism. Dawkins needs to reflect a little further on our late 20th Century, the most horrendous chapter in human history. And there are strong hints, in my opinion, that the 21st will shower us with ever greater and more grusome entertainments.

    Empathy, generosity, brotherly and motherly love are not new phenomena in the human world–no more so than in the world of whales or elephants. If these sentiments have achieved an increasing popularity in your and my domain, it is only because increasing affluence enhances what group survival prescribes. If circumstance reverses, we will adopt a new barbarism post haste.

    Darwin loves us!

  3. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 6th, 2006 @ 10:49 am

    “there’s some force outside of the human deliberative process that creates better and better individual leaders and educators”

    As long as you’re careful with the use of the term ‘force’ (particularly with its singular-ness) I don’t have a problem with this statement. Similar “forces” (plural) are the reason we developed better and better eyesight, better and better cognition, better and better language, etc. As Dennett once put it, morality is a good trick.

  4. a different tim
    November 6th, 2006 @ 10:50 am

    I assume he (Dawkins, not RA) means a force or forces akin to the “forces” in economics (read yer Adam Smith). The forces that propel Moore’s Law are postulated to be precisely this kind of complex of economic forces and technical progress. Nothing supernatural about them.

    I have no idea what RA means, as with so many of his recent posts. There seems to be a hint at supernatural forces without actually specifying them.

    As an aside, I’d describe Dawkins observation of moral progress as contentious at best given the history of the 20th century, but I’d agree with him that moral progress, such as it is, certainly does not seem to correlate with religion. I think moral progress will depend on the measure you choose – many things that I would consider moral progress, such as religious and sexual tolerance, are considered regressive by some of our theist correspondents. So…the spread of what secularists like me consider to be moral progress probably does correlate with the spread of secular values. No surprises there.

  5. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    November 6th, 2006 @ 10:56 am

    Yah – my bad —— Raving Antiabortionist certainly does not necessarily indicate ‘supernatural forces’ …

    On the other hand, considering his recent posting, can one blame me to jump at that conclusion.

    Maybe the guy needs to stop being so darned vague with his posts. Rather annoying …

  6. Cthulance
    November 6th, 2006 @ 11:10 am

    It must be the god of the gaps in Dawkins’ knowledge of the forces driving moral evolution.

    Therefore abortion is murder and we should all become good Catholics post-haste.

  7. Professor Chaos
    November 6th, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

    RA circa 2004: Ali vs. Joe Frazier
    RA circa 2006: Ali vs. Trevor Berbick

  8. andy holland
    November 6th, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

    “The guiding force behind biological improvement is mindless natural selection, says Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion.”

    –If natural selection is mindless, then the product, Richard Dawkins, is mindless.

    andy holland
    sinner

  9. Professor Chaos
    November 6th, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

    Please explain this amazing insight further, andy, oh wise one.

  10. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    November 6th, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

    Dear Andy;

    There is nothing much more mindless than the superstition contained in that holy book you so revere !

    HA – why don’t you go worship one of your beloved pastors ……….. the cock craving Ted Haggard — who dared call Richard Dawkins arrogant because Dawkin’s understaning of evolution didn’t match his ignorant view of it. Go figure!

    Oh how I love it when the mighty self righteous fall !!!

    Check out the irony in this video clip —- CLASIC !

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=W6rSjrBhUIA

    HA HA HA burn in hell Haggard !!! (and self proclaimed sinner Andy Holland)

  11. Crosius
    November 6th, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

    I think it should be obvious to anyone that Richard Dawkins is tagging processes like breakthroughs in psychology, sociology and cosmology and concepts like environmental-, ecological- and sociological pressures as “forces” here, not things like crystals, chakras, imaginary sky elves or manifest destiny.

  12. Jahrta
    November 6th, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

    Whatever the arguments for making moral decisions in the absence of God, that the idea that morality itself must trend in a particular direction presents a different question. People can focus upon specific problems, but what Dawkins seems to be suggesting is that there’s some force outside of the human deliberative process that creates better and better individual leaders and educators..

    Yeah, it’s called time and experience, jackass

  13. andy holland
    November 6th, 2006 @ 3:54 pm

    Dear chaos,

    Richard Dawkins is the wise one – the visionary educator. I am just an ignorant Christian who sees God in all things created by the Divine Logos who became man – everything He says is the truth.

    It is up to Dawkins, who poses as a scientist, to explain the mechanism whereby “natural selection” which is mindless leads to mind – without using random chance which he correctly rejects. Otherwise, he should admit he is just peddling a sham religion.

    For some data on the accuracy of Christianity:

    Read II Esdras, last two chapters and remember, Hydrogen bombs and stars use nuclear fusion.

    St. Nilus the Myrhh-gusher (+1651) – “The Posthumous Pronouncements of the Venerable Myrrh-bearing Nilus, the Athonite”. Published by the Annunciation Cell of Elder Parthenius on Athos, Athens, 1912

    “After the year 1900, toward the middle of the 20th century, the people of that time will become unrecognizable. When the time for the advent of the Antichrist approaches, people’s minds will grow cloudy from carnal passions, and dishonor and lawlessness will grow stronger. Then the world will become unrecognizable. People’s appearances will change, and it will be impossible to distinguish men from women due to their shamelessness in dress and style of hair. These people will be cruel and will be like wild animals because of the deceptions of the Antichrist. There will be no respect for parents and elders, love will disappear, and Christian pastors, bishops and priests, will become vain men, completely failing to distinguish the right-hand way from the left. At that time the morals and traditions of Christians and of the Church will change. People will abandon modesty, and dissipation will reign. Falsehood and greed will attain great proportions, and woe to those who amass treasures. Lust, adultery, homosexuality, secret deeds, and murder will come to rule in society.
    “At that future time, due to the power of such great crimes and licentiousness, people will be deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which they received in Holy Baptism, and no longer will they hear the voice of their Conscience.
    “The churches of God will be deprived of God-fearing and pious pastors, and woe to the Christians remaining in the world at that time; they will completely lose their faith because they will have no way of receiving the light of knowledge from anyone at all. Then they will withdraw from the world into holy refuges in search of easing their spiritual sufferings, but everywhere they will meet obstacles and hindrances. And all this will result from the fact that the Antichrist desires to rule over everyone and to govern the whole world, and he will work miracles and fantastic signs. Likewise, he will give depraved wisdom to man so that he will discover the means by which one man can carry on a conversation with another from one end of the earth to the other. At that time men will also fly through the air like birds and descend to the bottom of the sea like fish.
    And when they have achieved all this, these unfortunate people will spend their lives in comfort without knowing, poor souls, that it is the deceit of the Antichrist. And, the impious one! he will crown science with such vanity that it will lead people to abandon the right path and to lose faith in the existence of God in Three Hypostases.
    “Then the All-good God, seeing the downfall of the human race, will shorten the days for the sake of those few who are being saved, because the enemy wants to lead even the chosen into temptation, if that is possible then the sword of chastisement will suddenly appear and kill the perverter and his servants.”

    andy holland
    sinner

  14. Openyourmind
    November 6th, 2006 @ 5:24 pm

    #1 – Where in the world could anyone get the idea that the human race is progressing on a moral level? One step forward, three steps back would be how I characterize the last 200 years.
    #2 – Christians are a diverse group – just as diverse as many world religions. What we have in common is that we believe we are not morally superior to others and that Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for humanity in love even though we didn’t and don’t deserve it. Don’t waste your time hating Christians if you don’t despise this core belief.
    #3 – Where in the world could anyone get the idea that moral progress has nothing to do with religion and scripture? What country or city doesn’t have medical institutions, educational institutions, orphanges, etc. that weren’t started by believers? Where else to we get the ideas “Pray for your enemies.”, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, “Consider yourself less than others…”, and “Love your enemies.” other than Judeo Christian scripture? In my personal experience with hundreds of families I see again and again the happiest, most joyful relationships in families where the father follows scripture closely, teaches it to his children, and models Christ’s love with his wife. Again, plenty of exceptions can be found out in situations where people are CLAIMING to be Christian and not following the full content and context of scripture. Plenty of ugly episodes in history can be pointed to where people CLAIMING to be Christian participated or tolerated horrible acts. Please, please discriminate between people CLAMING to be Christians and people who are bearing the spiritual fruits of BEING a Christian.
    Thanks for Listening
    God Loves you
    Openyourmind

  15. Facehammer
    November 6th, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

    Hey Andy. Explanation of how higher brain functions could have evolved through good old natural selection:

    There was some advantage to our primate ancestors if they had them.

    Simple as that. It’s no different to any other characteristic controlled by genes or sets of genes. Increased brain capacity might have helped them leap more accurately from branch to branch, or allowed for better social interaction, or enabled the use of primitive tools, like the sticks chimpanzees use to this day to “fish” for termites. In any of the above scenarios, a more complex brain would be an advantage, so the genes for it are selected and increase in frequency in the gene pool. Merrr.

    Oh yeah, and fuck you with your antichrist shit. He gets such a bad press. Get the fuck off the internet and into an Amish asylum, you hateful little man.

  16. andy holland
    November 7th, 2006 @ 11:11 am

    Dear Facehammer,

    Finally you get some of it! Genes!

    Gene expression changes within a generation – even the music you listen to can effect your current gene expression!

    The genetic algorithm is both simple and compound, but certainly it is a molecular logos driven mechanism.

    Selection is not sufficient in of itself going to cause (origin) therefore it is not even necessary. Its existence is not proof of cause, in fact on the social scale, it is often proved wrong.

    In the beginning was the Word….

    But rather than choosing the scientific truth – that is the tree of life, you have created a science of “selection” whereby you judge for yourself. So your “scientific” religion is in fact a religion of man’s judgment, because the fruit (result) of knowing good and evil is judging (selecting).

    So being driven by demons (foolish illogic), you invent a demonic science that murders the Holy Innocents, calls fire down from heaven naming it “trinity” and pollutes the Earth. Your luxury is an illusion. Your science a fantasy and shadow of true science, that seeks to give and express the truth.

    We have the technology to easily feed and cloth all the people on the earth, but instead, we exalt some (selection) and humble the rest (selection) – and call what is unnatural and inhuman “natural.” Darwin was simply doing what rationalists have always done – made his conscience clear by pretending away the disparity of his elitist system by believing it to be natural, rather than emptying himself. He justified the system he saw around him, his light was death – darkness.

    All foretold. If your light is darkness (death – natural selection, pretending to be superior to others) great is that darkness.

    But if you embrace the truth of love which gives, is charitable, is kind to enemies, blesses those who hate you – blesses and does not curse, then you pass from death to life in Christ Jesus who is, was and ever shall be the eternal Logos. For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And everything Jesus says is the truth.

    That is reality – if you are a true scientist, find it. Empty yourself. Or stay in a perpetual closed loop of “what is truth” (material)and like Pontius Pilot and Darwin become “what” you are, dust.

    andy holland
    sinner

  17. Doug
    November 7th, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    When Dawkins cites moral advancement but can’t account for it succinctly, and still says ‘of course it can’t be religion’, this is a faith statement. He doesn’t know why it is supposedly happening, but he is polemically committed to resisting associating anything positive with religion.

    When a religious person looks at this theoretical moral development and says ‘of course it is religion’, that is also a faith statement.

    I think a lot of these arguments boil down to your lens when you approach the problem. If your idea is that religion is the ‘root of all evil’, then you’re going to selectively look in such a way as to support this predisposition. If, in contrast, your idea is that religion is the source of great goodness in the world, you will also find a lot of evidence to back up your predisposition.

    I just wish neither side would claim objectivity when they’re both so clearly just finding what they’re already looking for.

  18. Jamaal
    November 7th, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

    I’m going to disagree with most of the atheist commentors on this page and say that this entry points out something really valuable to acknowledge about the ‘skeptical scientists’ out there.

    I’m also going to disagree with the Christian commentators and say that the answer isn’t “that God said so” because there’s no such thing, and it’s silly, and you might as well do a rain dance and pray to an albino moose. Does that do enough to establish that I’m not a closet theist?

    The “I’m a scientist, and I’m a skeptic.” group of religious commentators of late seem mostly to hold a another belief that is just as irrational and unsupported by evidence as the one of the theists, namely that with advances in scientific knowledge automatically comes advances in morality, equality, and the human condition. It comes from equivocating between ‘moral truth’ and ‘scientific truth’. The primary difference: There are hidden scientific truths that we attempt to and succeed in approaching through investigation. There are NO moral truths, or at the least there has been no convincing attempt to attach the physical nature of the universe into a prescriptive map for individual human behavior, though there’s a new try every week.

    As another commenter mentioned, it’s a bit shocking to see that with the scientific knowledge of the world of the last century being orders of magnitude greater than all times before and the blood flowing in greater torrents than ever imagined, yet another atheist claiming that civilization is becoming inevitably progressively more moral. One thing that he does have right is that belief in it is equivalent to Moore’s law: an arbitrary pronouncement made minutes into the dawn of a new age, and made with the ignorance of what will actually be the limiting factor in the future (see Moore’s Wall). Maybe it’s not the speed of the machine, it’s the ways that we can concieve to use it.

    Maybe it’s not the knowledge of the universe, it’s the civility not to exploit the weak because you can. This is what makes it even more depressing that many of this group are adherents to laissez faire economic models, ‘libertarianism’, and ‘objectiveism’, and so eager to turn this world into a meritocracy.

    One weak claim that I believe is legitimate: With much of the advances in scientific knowledge being in the field of killing the most people in the cheapest and most efficient way, as science advances, the fact that the human race continues to exist implies that some safeguards have been placed to protect people. The further the scientific advances, the more safeguards. Of course, by this I don’t mean that science brings safeguards, just that if they don’t increase in proportion to science that we’ll all be burned, dismembered or infected to death, as long as science progresses.

    Religion is nowhere near the threat that science is, and the attempt of scientists to set themselves up as the wise priests of a new age of scientific prosperity is laughable at best, but willfully ignorant and unbelievably dangerous at worst.

  19. a different tim
    November 7th, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

    Andy, your syllogism
    [Natural selection is mindless.
    Natural selection created Richard Dawkins.
    Therefore Richard Dawkins must be mindless.]

    Is analogous to this:

    [I am 5 ft 8 inches tall.
    I have created some music.
    Therefore the music I have created must be 5 ft 8 inches tall.]

    See the flaw in your thinking?

  20. Thorngod
    November 7th, 2006 @ 3:02 pm

    Openyourmind–short version of “Openyourmindtobibleblather”? “Christians are a diverse group….” Indeed they are–about as diverse as any species can get, with new forms emerging almost daily. But it’s true that they all have in common the savior idea of blood sacrifice.

    Why, OYM, do you think you need that blood sacrifice for the redemption of your “soul”? Every human is thrust unwillingly, unasked, into the world, and subjected to circumstances beyond his or her control. Under Christian doctrine, we are all doubly cursed, first through forced existence, and for most an unsavory one, then compelled to further humble and denigrate ourselves by confessing some great sin we did not commit. How generous of your loving God to offer to rescue us from the cesspool he bred us in!

    As for your lauded Christian-founded institutions, under what other aegis could most have been founded, since our society is overwhelmingly “Christian”?

    The mind is a terrible thing, OYM. And frankly, I think you’ve left a few of the doors in yours closed. But Darwin loves you, even if Yahweh does not.

  21. qedpro
    November 7th, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

    People,
    we all know that andy holland is an idiot.
    Don’t bother responding to his posts.
    Its like talking to a 3yr old.
    If we all agreed to ignore him, he’d go away and we could have a meaningful discussion.

  22. Funky Dung
    November 7th, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

    “We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better. But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse. The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative. The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.” – G.K. Chesterton

    Put more succinctly, the notion that any system, including morality, naturally progresses to a more organized or more sophisticated state flies in the face of the second law of thermodynamics.

  23. Facehammer
    November 7th, 2006 @ 7:33 pm

    Let’s break it down, yo!

    Finally you get some of it! Genes!

    Gene expression changes within a generation – even the music you listen to can effect your current gene expression!

    Evidence, please. As far as I know, it can’t. And a change in gene expression is nothing special – it just means a differently-shaped (and hence a differently-functioning) protein. The gene itself remains unchanged.

    The genetic algorithm is both simple and compound, but certainly it is a molecular logos driven mechanism.

    What?

    Selection is not sufficient in of itself going to cause (origin)

    Yeah, that’s why you need some method of coming up with new DNA sequences in order for new genes to arise. What’s that, you say? There already is such a mechanism? Mutation, you say? Oh, and what’s this I hear about crossing-over and extra chromosome replication?

    therefore it is not even necessary. Its existence is not proof of cause, in fact on the social scale, it is often proved wrong.

    Yes, natural selection does not have so much efffect on human societies – it’s all memes in this day and age. When significantly high brain capacity evolved, we became able to, if we wanted to, go against the instructions of our genes.

    But rather than choosing the scientific truth – that is the tree of life

    What, a phylogenetic tree?

    you have created a science of “selection” whereby you judge for yourself. So your “scientific” religion is in fact a religion of man’s judgment, because the fruit (result) of knowing good and evil is judging (selecting).

    There is no such thing as good and evil outside of human perception, Andy. And it sure as hell has never played any part in natural selection.

    So being driven by demons

    Get the fuck out.

    (foolish illogic), you invent a demonic science that murders the Holy Innocents, calls fire down from heaven naming it “trinity” and pollutes the Earth. Your luxury is an illusion. Your science a fantasy and shadow of true science, that seeks to give and express the truth.

    Shit, and there I was thinking science aimed to provide the closest approximation of the truth possible, regardless of religious dogma. And that christians don’t give a shit about polluting the planet, because it’s the rapture soon anyway. And that not only christians but god was particularly fond of raining fire.

    We have the technology to easily feed and cloth all the people on the earth, but instead, we exalt some (selection) and humble the rest (selection)

    Shit, and there I was thinking that, with the vast majority of followers in the richest, most powerful nation the world has ever known, the Americans could have forced their government to do something about all this poverty. But then I remembered that christianity is a hateful, small-minded, selfish meme seeking to destroy the very science that helped bring your country to the powerful position it is in today.

    Darwin was simply doing what rationalists have always done – made his conscience clear by pretending away the disparity of his elitist system by believing it to be natural, rather than emptying himself. He justified the system he saw around him, his light was death – darkness.

    Oh, so he wasn’t making observations about the natural world and drawing conclusions from it. Right. This is one of the things I despise most about you vermin – your minds are too weak and fragile to imagine anyone actually, logically coming to the conclusions you’re so afraid of, so you slander them and pretend that they must somehow be lying to themselves. We’re not, Andy – we’re not lying, we’re not making shit up because we’re afraid of having no answer to your in-your-face christian love. It’s because this is really how things are, and all the weak-mindedness and petty hate in the world isn’t going to change it.

    Oh yeah, and so what if evolution were to order societal elitism (even though it does no such thing)? Some people genuinely are brilliant, and others (the majority, it would seem) are a waste of DNA.

    All foretold. If your light is darkness (death – natural selection, pretending to be superior to others) great is that darkness.

    What’s all this light and darkness shit? There’s no absolute morality, Andy. And who are you to bang on about death? You’re a member of a death cult. You fear it, yet you love it.

    But if you embrace the truth of love which gives, is charitable, is kind to enemies, blesses those who hate you – blesses and does not curse, then you pass from death to life in Christ Jesus who is, was and ever shall be the eternal Logos. For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And everything Jesus says is the truth.

    Way to write a lot and say nothing, shithead. To quote LaVey, “when your enemy smites you on one cheek, smash him on the other” and “do unto others as they do unto you.” It really works – I’ve never been so satisfied in my life. Fuck Jebus’ love, if this is wrong I don’t want to be right.

    That is reality – if you are a true scientist, find it. Empty yourself. Or stay in a perpetual closed loop of “what is truth” (material)and like Pontius Pilot and Darwin become “what” you are, dust.

    Exactly, evolution is reality, according to the best tests humanity can devise. And there’s no reason to believe a bunch of feel-good intellectual mush over that, unless you’re too weak to face the absolute certainty of the looming, probably near, probably painful, total end of your existence.

    Are you trying to scare me with the thought that death is the end with the “dust” thing? Do you really think that will work? It won’t, because I’m not afraid of it in the slightest. Christianity is a religion of the fear of death, and I am free from it, now and forever.

    Funky dung, go away and research what happens to the total entropy of the universe when energy, and hence the potential for increased organisation, is applied locally. Does building a car fly in the face of thermodynamics?

  24. severalspeciesof
    November 8th, 2006 @ 11:07 am

    RA,

    Are you still mad at your school,
    where the teachers who taught you weren’t cool?
    You’re holding us down, turning us round,
    filling us with your …..

    You’re still an angry man
    hiding your head in the sand
    You used to give us great word
    But now it’s not heard
    You’re not doing the best that you can

    Sorry fellow commentors, I just couldn’t resist….

  25. Tom
    November 8th, 2006 @ 11:18 am

    Dawkins misunderstands a basic of evolution. It can’t be because he doesn’t know the theory, so I must assume it is probably because it’s advantageous for him to do so.

    Evolution does not speak of species’ improvement in any terms except for adaptability, the ability for populations to survive in current and changing conditions. What possible meaning could moral progress have by that view? What does the “pro” in “progress” mean? What “consistent direction” are we headed? If it’s beyond speciesism, how is that an improvement?

    In actuality, Dawkins has imported a non-evolutionary-based view of morality into his views, and in so doing he contradicts most of the rest of what he has written.

  26. Funky Dung
    November 8th, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

    Does building a car fly in the face of thermodynamics?

    Nope. It does, however, take more energy to produce than is stored in its structure. Also, over the span of its existence, considerable energy will have to expended to keep it running. If left to the natural processes, it will not get better, but worse. Natural processes must be acted against, with more energy expended than stored in the preserved structure, in order to maintain status quo, let alone bring about improvement.

    Societal constructs, including systems of morality, degrade with time unless maintained or developed through considerable human effort.

    To say that any system naturally improves with time in nonsense.

  27. Professor Chaos
    November 8th, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

    Funky Dung wrote: “To say that any system naturally improves with time in nonsense. ”

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at such astounding stupidity.

  28. a different tim
    November 8th, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

    Wonder where all the energy for life to evolve could possibly have come from.

    Clue. Look up in the daytime. The big glowing yellow thing in the sky. That’s it.

    While you’re at it, you might also look up the difference between closed and open systems, and the meaning of the word “fuckwit”. Honestly, do you really think that all the physicists who study thermodynamics don’t subscribe to evolution? Get a fucking clue.

  29. Facehammer
    November 8th, 2006 @ 1:24 pm

    Yeah, of course local entropy won’t decrease on its own. Though a transfer of energy that can cause entropy to decrease can occur naturally.

    I think we misunderstood each other a bit.

  30. Choobus
    November 8th, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

    Dung Beetle, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You are using “arguments” from “theism for assholes” second edition. Didn’t you know that the third edition was out? It has dropped some of the more embarrassing retard arguments.

    I must have been sick the day they taught us how morality obeys the laws of thermodynamics.

  31. Michael Bains
    November 8th, 2006 @ 6:32 pm

    … what Dawkins seems to be suggesting is that there’s some force outside of the human deliberative process that creates better and better individual leaders and educators..

    Which inaccurate observation indicates that you didn’t comprehend what you just cut and pasted.

    {shakin’head}

    Synergies occur between and across the individual elements. They do NOT, and Can Not, occur outside of them.

    Dawkins is stating that the we don’t yet know what the particulars of this synergistic occurrence, or Zeitgeist, may actually be.

    And the intellectual slippage continues…

    (Sorry to any (all most likely) of the previous commenters who’ve already pointed out this pre-sophmoric silliness. )

  32. Some Guy
    November 9th, 2006 @ 10:39 am

    I liked how Tim created a counterexample using logic.

  33. Funky Dung
    November 9th, 2006 @ 11:55 am

    You are using “arguments” from “theism for assholes” second edition.

    Actually, I made no reference whatsoever of theism, nor did I imply one. I’m also not against the theory of evolution as another vocabulary-impaired commenter suggested. I was merely pointing out what I believe to be a flaw in Dawkins reasoning. Rather than directly address my arguments, flawed though they may be, the locals decided that ad hominem attacks better demonstrated their status as shining examples of human evolution and progress.

    I’m aware of the difference between open and closed systems. My point was that, IMHO, it makes little or no sense to describe moral progress as natural and therefore inevitable. In order to discuss progress, one must be prepared to consider a superlative, which Dawkins does not seem to be providing (though I confess I have not read his books). Without a superlative, we’re just talking about change, which is inherently neither good nor bad.

    Few would dispute the notion that morality changes with time. Does it always improve, though? How do we define improvement? To what standard do we compare it? More precisely, to who’s standard do we compare the morality found at a certain time and place, espoused by certain people?

    Since increasing complexity seems to be the standard by which biological evolution is judged, let us, for the sake of argument, gauge moral progress in the same way. The problem is that there is an upper limit to complexity, beyond which additional information is not gained but lost. When every member of a class is in the same subclass and when every member forms its own subclass, there is no useful information in the subclass designation. Even if morality is somehow naturally progressing, it will eventually also regress into chaos unless humans act to preserve some relatively static version of it.

    Anyhow, I freely admit that I am merely speculating and brainstorming. All of my arguments and conclusions may be wrong. Feel free to demonstrate that. I only ask that you please consider doing so in a dignified manner. How can you expect to ever convince anyone if your knee-jerk reaction is to mock them? If your position is so unassailably right you shouldn’t need insults to convince me to accept it.

  34. andy holland
    November 9th, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

    >>”Gene expression changes within a generation – even the >>music you listen to can effect your current gene expression!”

    >Evidence, please. As far as I know, it can’t. And a change in >gene expression is nothing special – it just means a differently->shaped (and hence a differently-functioning) protein. The >gene .itself remains unchanged.

    Gene expression in terms of population does in fact change. The research is being conducted a couple of doors down from me. In one room is a $2M mass spect with a multi-million dollar lab above my head. Around the corner is a series of electronic pianos.

    Just had a tour recently. Sorry I don’t have actual written references. It shocked me when I learned about it.

    The implication is clear though, there is intra-generational change potential. Obviously the chances of passing on certain genes to follow-on generations is obvious. This sort of evolution is not so slow, not based on selection as much as ‘choice’.

    The mechanism of Darwin keeps getting pushed back more and more towards genetics as we begin to see more and more in genetics. The complex economic theories that are way beyond Malthus satire also should be considered. There is a collaborative aspect to optimized economic activity (remember a beautiful mind?).

    The over-simplifications of these 19th century theories helped cause real suffering among the nations (why do they so furiously rage together) and I don’t think one can deny that, anymore than one can deny the suffering caused by the Crusades of heretics which in accordance with prophecy (II Peter), the Way (Christianity) is ill-spoken to this day.

    History repeatedly teaches that when people have a “rational” excuse for bad behavior, and pretend it to be moral, all hell breaks through.

    Just like your bitter curing and bad language.

    andy holland
    sinner

  35. Facehammer
    November 9th, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

    Fuck off Andy. How’s that for bitterness, you cunt?

    Do you have any idea what gene expression means? It sure as hell doesn’t sound like it. Are you perhaps on about Dawkins-esque “selfish genes”? Why is biology’s increasing focus on genes as the units of natural selection a problem, if they’re following the scientific method of drawing conclusions from observations? In what way exactly is this theory responsible for mass murder? How is christianity different, when it really does have milennia of blood on its hands?

    I mean, really.
    The implication is clear though, there is intra-generational change potential. Obviously the chances of passing on certain genes to follow-on generations is obvious. This sort of evolution is not so slow, not based on selection as much as ‘choice’.

    There always have been and always will be different ways of expressing the same gene. A form of expression could also appear in the next generation, but it might not. The gene that causes that type of expression might not be passed on (y’know, meiosis?), or expression might be controlled entirely by environmental factors. This is not evolution at all, any more than the classic and endlessly moon-faced creationist strawman of evolution where a cat gives birth to an elephant. Walking past a gigantic device that measures how much ionised atoms are deflected by a magnetic field every day does not make you qualified to understand evolution. How exactly is differing gene expression in a single organism’s lifetime evidence against evolution again?

    Are you on about memes, by any chance?

  36. andy holland
    November 9th, 2006 @ 5:48 pm

    Dear Facehammer,

    Your insults are meaningless. You only debase yourself. Why can’t you see that? Are you in a Junior High School or something?
    Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

    Obviously I am too stupid for your brilliance.

    God bless you and help your gene expression change. Perhaps with age you’ll mellow a bit and see things differently.

    Peace,

    andy holland
    sinner

  37. JoeMatty
    November 10th, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

    Moral Evolution???? Are you kidding me? Remember the first swear ever uttered was Gone with the Wind, “Frankly Scarlet I don’t give a damn!” Now they are dropping “F bombs” in PG-13 movies. The ACLU’s stance on child pornography is “it is illegal to produce child pornography, but once it is produced, it is protected free speech.”

    Human behavior has gotten decidedly more decident by any anecdotal or statistical measure. There is no moral evolution.
    My goodness. Wake up.

  38. Facehammer
    November 10th, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

    Andy, when are you going to mature enough to realise that it’s only words? Haven’t you ever heard the “sticks and stones” thing? Do you realise that I could pile all my posts here to the sky with the most vile language, threats and curses, but it still wouldn’t make your argument (such as it is) even the slightest bit more valid?

    When are you going to explain how changes in gene expression are evidence against evolution? Is this the oh-so-typically christian moral outrage at some (oh noes!) naughty words in order to distract from the humiliation of being unable to provide an answer? Go on, try me – I’m at university now, I’ll certainly understand it if you have anything worth understanding. If you don’t come up with the goods I’ll have to just write you off as just another window-licking moron with a fear of not existing.

    I hope you manage to cut through all this pathetic christian shit and see evolution how it really is before Cthulhu rises from R’lyeh and eats you. I really do.

    Joe – surely greater freedom of expression is better? And even if it wasn’t, these particular memes must be better suited to their environment than the laughable prudishness that they out-competed. Cultural evolution through memetics? I think so.

    Decadence is fine, as long as it’s renewable.

  39. EK
    November 10th, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

    JoeMatty:

    What is immoral about “f-bombs”?

  40. nevins
    November 11th, 2006 @ 1:26 pm

    “But how about humanity’s moral evolution?”
    Has there been moral evolution? If so show me where and when this has occured. Anthropologic studies of many other species has shown them to have sometimes very human appearing social interactions, heirarchy, social structures, power structures and ways of dealing with transgressors. While the development of language has allowed for more refined social discourse, there are few appearances that we behave any differently from the rhesus monkey.

  41. darwinfish
    November 12th, 2006 @ 6:16 pm

    *sings beatles in her head*
    You have to admit it’s getting better….It’s getting better all the time…You have to admit it’s getting better, since you’ve been mine! get-ting-so-much-bet-ter all the time!…
    *is happy*

  42. Cthulance
    November 12th, 2006 @ 11:39 pm

    “I hope you manage to cut through all this pathetic christian shit and see evolution how it really is before Cthulhu rises from R’lyeh and eats you. I really do.”

    Too late *burp*

  43. Don
    November 15th, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

    some force outside of the human deliberative process that creates better and better individual leaders and educators.

    Evolution. But first I’d say we are not getting better educators and leaders. By no means. But we are moving forward. Our understanding of one another is less and less driven by superstition and tradition, and more and more by advances in psychology and sociology etc. Technology is bringing populations into more intimate contact with one another, fostering understanding. At the same time it fosters friction and competition and heightens fear. So we are in a very painful period of transition. The 20th Century makes things look worse, not better. The 21st will be worse yet. I think by the, oh, 24th or so we’ll be able to look back and see that humanity truly did evolve socially in a positive way, just that we had a difficult adolescence.

  44. R. Hoeppner
    November 17th, 2006 @ 12:01 am

    Facehammer,

    Is it because you have nothing intelligent to say that you resort to expletives?

    Go ahead, prove me right.

  45. Trevor Blake
    November 17th, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    Ethics do evolve, and evolution is not ‘goal oriented.’ Evolution in the biological world did not have humans in mind long ago and work toward us; we (and everything else) happened as the result of non-random survival of random mutations. Ethics also evolve, but only if they are self-reflective (capable of identifying error and eliminating or reducing it) could they possibly be said to be goal oriented. And even then, the goal is one we set – we could set other goals.

    It could be that some ethical decisions have biological roots (those relating to who and what we eat, and the wearing of clothes, seem very, very deep) but I consider the jury to still be out. The line between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ is still pretty thick. Sorry, Ayn.

  46. Gabriel
    November 26th, 2006 @ 10:11 am

    I think some of you may be looking too far into this or at the wrong perspective. The (force outside human deliberative) was not an attempt to make anyone think of god. Natural Selection takes place outside the human deliverative. And so does the process in wich morality evolves according to Dawkins.

  47. herrflick
    November 26th, 2006 @ 8:33 pm

    It is false that we are in a moral abyss in these times. Stadiums to not contain the spectacle of ritual slaughter. You won’t have entertainment provided to you in the form of public execution. It is difficult to purchase oneself a slave. Many historical examples demonstrate that the value placed on human life has increased, outside of warfare of course, and this undoubtably represents a moral improvement. We view such lack of respect for life as barbaric in our time but surely it was acceptable in its day. Past concepts of acceptable behaviour have suffered under the glare of scrutiny over time.

  48. Cuthbert
    November 29th, 2006 @ 5:10 am

    To come off with flying colours… Cuthbert

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