Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Morality and Ray Comfort

I am starting off with an easy debunking, Ray Comfort.

In his latest post called What's Wrong With a Bit of Cussing? Ray says:

If you are an atheist, you can’t say anything is morally "wrong." Is rape wrong? If you answer "Yes," I ask you "Who says?" If you say "Society," then if society deemed rape morally okay, does it become right? What about murder? Is that right or wrong? What say society says it’s right, just for getting rid of Jews and blacks? Is it then right? Is it morally okay to kill children in the womb? You say again, "If society says so." How about men marrying men? If society says so. Is pedophilia wrong? Same scenario.

First off, Ray's weird use of quotes around wrong. I understand what he is doing. He is trying to say that atheists cannot know what wrong means. So immediately he is dismissing any argument against his own.

Second, shouldn't we define what we are talking about? Without definitions then we could definitely be talking about different things using the same word. Since this is about morality. The word we should define is morality. I am going to use the Wikipedia definitions of Morality (shortened versions).

Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") has three principal meanings.

In its first, descriptive usage, morality means a code of conduct or belief which is held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong. Morals are arbitrarily created and subjectively defined by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience. An example of the descriptive usage could be "common conceptions of morality have changed significantly over time."

In its second, normative and universal sense, morality refers to an ideal code of belief and conduct, one which would be espoused in preference to other alternatives by the sane "moral" person, under specified conditions. In this "prescriptive" sense , moral value judgments such as "murder is immoral" are made.

In its third usage, 'morality' is synonymous with ethics. Ethics is the systematic philosophical study of the moral domain.

As we look again at the first sentence, "If you are an atheist, you can’t say anything is morally 'wrong.'" Ray is making the assertion that atheists cannot know what morals or what wrong means. Evidence points to the fact that atheists are less likely to break laws of society. In 1997, Rod Swift requested the religious status of Prisoners to compare percentage of incarceration rates among beliefs. Rod posted the results at his website, Holy Smoke. Now one person investigating or one study a pattern does not make. So at the Skeptic Files, they have organized all the studies on this subject. They all point to the same conclusion (one can verify this by looking up each study). Less than 1/10th of 1% of incoming prisoners are atheists. While atheists compose of 10-16% of the population as a whole (depending on which study you look at). If atheists have no morals then why are there not more atheists in prison? Why are atheist under represented in prisons?

Next Ray backs up his initial assertion with his form of "evidence". "Is rape wrong? If you answer 'Yes,' I ask you 'Who says?' If you say 'Society,' then if society deemed rape morally okay, does it become right? What about murder? Is that right or wrong? What say society says it’s right, just for getting rid of Jews and blacks? Is it then right? Is it morally okay to kill children in the womb? You say again, 'If society says so.' How about men marrying men? If society says so. Is pedophilia wrong? Same scenario." Here is Ray's strawman laid out. Atheists only get their morals from society. If we go back and look at the definition of morals, it paints a more full picture. "Morals are arbitrarily created and subjectively defined by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience." (emphasis mine) As you can see there is far more to morals than just societal pressures. Philosophy, religion, and individual conscience make up an individuals personal morality system. Most would say it is also based on empathy or how one feels toward people within their community.

One rule that has permeated all societies is the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This idea has appeared in all regions where man has appeared. It was around well before it was written in the New Testament, of which the Kings James translation is the what I quoted. Another name for it is the ethic of reciprocity. It is generally considered to be the basics for human rights. This is part of where we get that it is generally not okay to rape or murder (someone can always come up with a situation where it would be better to rape or murder than another single alternative, usually some form of genocide), as we would not want to have these actions done to us. The golden rule has updated to the platinum and double platinum rule, "treat others the way they want to be treated" and "treat others the way they don’t even know they want to be treated."

To actually answer Ray's questions, as facetious as they are, I would say:

1. Yes, rape in 99.9999999% of cases is wrong.
2. I say, so does society, so does the moral zeitgeist, so does the Platinum Rule, and so does empathy. I am sorry you lack empathy and don't understand that.
3. I didn't say just society, and if things were different they would be different. What you suggest overturns millions of years of evolution, thus it is nigh impossible to happen.
4. To me, I would still say no, but this is based on the society I grew up in, so my judgment could be different IF (that is a huge fucking if) we evolved differently, but we didn't so the point is mute.
5. I say it is wrong, most people on the planet agree with me, even ones who don't prescribe to your bible, Ray.
6. Well since the Christians did say that in recent history, I would disagree with them and their absolute morals.
7. To me, no. But obviously the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, the KKK (a christian organization) and the Nazis (Gott Mit Uns) all thought it was okay, and backed up their beliefs with bible verses.
8. I want to know how a child got in the womb in the first place. Child - a human being between the stages of birth and puberty. Fetus - a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate, after the embryonic stage and before birth. Embryo - a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division, in humans, it is called an embryo until about eight weeks after fertilization. Now if you mean Embryos then no, I have no problem with it. Most abortions are done within the first 12 weeks or pregnancy. Very few and only in extreme cases are done after that.
9. I think people should be allowed to marry whomever they want. I am intrigued that you only reduced it to men marrying men, I think there may be some homosexual underpinnings in your life Ray.
10. Pedophilia is wrong. The main reason for that is the harm it causes the child, who cannot ever give consent. If you can't understand that and require some old book to tell you this then you have serious issues.

I too notice that again Ray dodged the question asked. This is a standard tactic used by Ray Comfort. I will finish this with a quote from Eric Cartman.

What's the big fucking deal, bitch? It's not like it hurts anyone. Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck, fuck, fuck.


Froggie said...

Well stated, Beamer.

Hope you get to throw up some pics of the conference!

Rod Swift said...

The Rod Swift says:

That's the good thing about theorems and evidence and science -- reproducability of results :)

BaldySlaphead said...

Good post, sir!

Two comments:

1) Maybe atheists are just better at not getting caught
2) I'm interested to know more about the 0.0000001% of the time when it is acceptable to force a woman to have sex against her will?

BeamStalk said...

Baldy, I was thinking about extreme odd situations, that never really happen in life, but where you are forced to rape a woman or someone gets killed. Then things get weird. It is hard to blame the person doing the action in that case, but someone in the chain is doing something wrong. More of a hypothetical 0.00000000001%

rhiggs said...

Yeah I hope it would never happen in real life, but it is possible that a situation would occur where a person is forced to rape a woman in order to stop 100 women being similarly raped and killed.

In that horrible situation one rape is better than 100 rapes and deaths, so it could be argued that it is not morally wrong, as to not do it would cause much more harm.

It's sick even thinking about it. That's why the fundies use examples like that.

Lying is also morally wrong but everyone occasionally tells a white lie for the greater good, like telling someone they look nice when you don't actually think they do. You could argue that in a case like that, lying is not morally wrong. This is essentially the same as the above rape example, but just a lot easier to stomach...hence fundies don't use it

BaldySlaphead said...

Surely that would still be morally wrong, but ethically correct?


BeamStalk said...

That is a good point Baldy. It would be more of an ethical question, like the third definition I gave for morality. :)

I confused the first and third definition of morality. I was using the first definition up to that point. Then switched to the third definition. This is why it is so important to define your terms in the beginning.

So you are correct Baldy and I was wrong, for switching definitions.

Kerri Love said...

My answer to that question is my empathy. I also might argue that society mirrors our morals not the other way around.

as for that rape possibility, I imagine someone could suffer some sort of head trauma where they really don't know that the woman isn't consenting. Drugs might do it too but then it's a product of the drugs and so that's avoidable, but with some sort of brain trauma you might end up in a situation like that.

There was a ep of law and order or CSI or something where instead of a guy sleep-walking he sleep-has-sex. His girlfriend was cool about it but one night she was abducted and her sister was staying over without knowing about his condition and of course he had no idea what he was doing until she smashed a glass over his head and actually woke him up... I don't know how realistic the ep was but I know this condition exists, the only question I have is could you wake such a person up easier then in the tv show.

A quick wikipedia search did list this as Sleep sex or sexsomnia. One of the references says one man apparently tried to strangle his wife during one of these episodes and a teenager in the house called the police. Luckily they knew enough to send him to a specialist and not just charge him. I think the ep I saw was the Law and Order SVU episode they list but it's been on House as well

So would that fall into your 0.0000001% catagory?

Kerri Love said...

stupid email button

BeamStalk said...

Most definitely Kerri, a good example that I didn't even know existed.

You also make a good point that our laws are what most people already know and agree upon.

Sociopaths are examples of people who literally have no sense of empathy and thus wouldn't understand this.

Anonymous said...

You can find some real statistics about atheists in prison here: