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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some thoughts on mythical creatures and morality

I'm constantly bombarded by claims that without god, there can be no morality. Such a claim is absurd in the highest degree, but I thought it might be useful to explain why I think belief in a god is not required for 'morality'. Morals are entirely a construct of society. They are fluid and ever changing and I would argue that there are no single 'fixed absolutes' when it comes to morality. Each religion can make a claim to these absolutes, but it's largely an exercise in mental masturbation. In essence, the claim to an absolute morality is nothing more than an attempt to bolster an individual's belief that they have found the one true religion. 99% of the time I've encountered this argument I am also told that it's impossible to be an atheist and have morals (i.e. I'm immoral). Such an argument does two things. (1) It bolsters the belief in the accuser that morals stem only from their belief in god and (2) that the believer is somehow 'better' than the atheist because of that faith.

I've been told that without morals and without a belief in a god, that I am wasting my life. I reject those arguments as well. From an evidence-based perspective, this life is all there is. Death is final (all anecdotes aside). So, while we are alive, it seems that we serve both our own good and the good of our species to take care of each other and to support each other as best we can. That means (to me) that among other things the strong should protect the weak. In the simplest case, our species would cease to exist if we do not hold to this simple 'morality' because babies are weak and cannot survive without the protection of the strong.

Some say that the 10 commandments are the source of morality, but for the most part they merely codify common sense survival of the species concepts. The 'god' things are merely thrown in to make them look religious and to be self-serving to maintain the religion for which they were written. here's my view

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'

JM: Big deal. This is a self-serving commandment for religious leaders to maintain the discipline of their followers. There is no moral imperative in this commandment.

TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'

JM: Another silly order with no moral imperative behind it. The commandment is in the self-interest of the leaders of the religion nothing more.

THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'

JM: No moral imperative. Self-serving to the religion.

FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'

JM: No moral imperative. Self-serving to the religion.

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'

JM: This is a somewhat reasonable imperative, though not necessary for a moral society. One can think of numerous cases whereby it would be detrimental to honor either parent. Still, an infant is more likely to survive to reproductive age by honoring the commands of the parents (eat your veggies etc). This is not 'moral' though it may in many cases be very logical.

SIX: 'You shall not murder.'

JM: This is a moral imperative, but society has shown this to be a 'special case' imperative. Though shalt not kill except in war, or in the case of self-defense or in the case where killing might remove a greater danger etc etc. I would argue that again in the simplest case, murdering is most likely to reduce the gene pool and therefore be of less benefit to a reproductive species than the alternative.

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

JM: The commitment of one husband to one wife decreases the genetic pool, but it also provides stability and protection to the family. Perhaps the better morality would be not to commit adultery once you have children. Again, this is one of those very fluid morals in society.

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

JM: Except when.....There are many cases where theft has been justified, but again in keeping with the idea that society benefits most when resources are shared seems a reasonable evolutionary strategy.

NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'

JM: Not really a moral imperative.

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

JM: A rather nonsensical 'morality' in that coveting does no real harm to society and the actions that might result from coveting are covered elsewhere.

In short, the 10 commandments are not really much in the way of a moral imperative so I fail to see how religion can really make the claim that morality is impossible without religion. Morality is not expressly defined all that well by religion and most 'moral imperatives' are aimed at protecting the religion over the protection of the individual. Talk about a selfish gene!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reflections on Creationism: Dr Dino

I wrote the following a few years back:

I was introduced to young earth creationism in the rudest manner possible. A local high school teacher in Indiana told me that a ‘famous’ creationist was going to speak at his school. Furthermore, this person was going to rally the community to teach a ‘balanced approach’ via a 3-day seminar at a local Baptist church. I had heard that there were still people (long after the Scope’s trial) who still found fault with evolution, but I thought these were a small fringe group that perhaps suffered from isolation during reproduction. Thus, I walked into the church with mild curiosity and in good humor.

What I heard over the next three days was overwhelming. The speaker, one “Dr.” Kent Hovind, harkened me back to my 18th birthday when I went to buy my first car. The car dealer talked so fast and was so convincing that I started into a contract to buy a mustang convertible with pinstripes, rust-proofing, decals and a whole bunch of other unnecessary stuff while working a minimum wage job. Fortunately, my credit was so bad that financing could not be arranged. Hovind was even smoother than the car salesman and far more successful at selling his ‘product’ to a captive fundamentalist crowd. The people attending that conference were called to arms and for the next few months, I was involved in efforts to stop book banning in Terre Haute Indiana and a constant battle with creationists that I’ve been fighting ever since.

I hope to give you a glimpse inside the crevo (creation-evolution) debate and a glance into how, like the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks, the debate never dies. Florida is about to undergo revision of education standards and the demons of fundamentalism are stirring!

---Surprisingly, nothing has changed since I first went to battle with ye-creationism. There are no new arguments though there are new faces making the old arguments and for the most part, creationists prefer to politic their cause rather than bring it to the scientific literature (no surprise there!).


Joe Meert

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama wins Nobel???

I'm sure many people will blog on this topic. Here's my little rant. Whenever he is critized for not getting things done, his defenders say 'Give him a little more time he's only been in office a few months'. Now he wins the Nobel Peace Prize? I don't buy it. Perhaps in a few years when things are settled in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps when Iran stands down her nuclear ambitions. Perhaps when Obama's actually done something to earn the prize, I'd be the first to congratulate him. Right now, it makes a mockery of the prize and I'm quite sure there were some other (more worthy) nominees. Oh, and don't forget, the nominations were due in February of this year? So he had been in office for less than a month???

My suggestion? Have Obama turn down the prize or offer the money to more deserving nominees.

Joe Meert

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Searching for God

I love local news coverage. There's always something to learn about my community. Just yesterday I found out that during the commission of a bank robbery, both the Alachua County Sheriff's Department and the Gainesville Police department were answering to a higher call......Read on

from WCJB TV 20

Gainesville Police are on the trail of a thief who robbed a bank Wednesday afternoon in Northwest Gainesville.
It happened at the Sunstrust Bank on the corner of Northwest 43rd Street and 39th Avenue.
Authorities say a man walked into the Suntrust Bank around 4 p.m.
He handed the teller note demanding money. he said he had a gun but the teller never saw it. She gave him the money and he left on foot. No one is hurt but he is still on the loose.
The suspect is a white man about six feet tall, 180 lbs. he was wearing glasses, a flannel shirt and blue jeans. He has brownish gray hair. Authorities say he left the bank heading south toward the business complex behind it.
Helicopters from both the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and the police department were searching for the man in the sky.

If you have any information call the Gainesville Police Department.

No reports of any sighting and I have no information for helping GPD find god.


Joe Meert

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