Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles

I'm not yet a member of the Council for Secular Humanism, but I seem to agree with most of their principles. That's a rare and precious thing when you're a skeptic and an atheist.
  • We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.

  • We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.

  • We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.

  • We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.

  • We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.

  • We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.

  • We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.

  • We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.

  • We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.

  • We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.

  • We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.

  • We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.

  • We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.

  • We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.

  • We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.

  • We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.

  • We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.

  • We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.

  • We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.

  • We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.

  • We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

42 comments:

Shlomo said...

Try this site as well:

www.naturalism.org

asher said...

Sounds like great stuff. You really can't argue with an organization that stands for all these things and is committed to doing nothing about it.

Jewish Atheist said...

www.naturalism.org

Wow, that looks fascinating. Thanks!

CyberKitten said...

Interesting indeed.

(Adds site to favourites).

Sadie Lou said...

We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
I'm having a hard time understanding this one--explain it to me in your words. Please?

Jewish Atheist said...

We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence

I think they place a high value on human intelligence and probably believe that some religions tend to belittle human reason. I'm not sure I agree that it's so common, but I can see where they get it. For example, Martin Luther called reason "the Devil's greatest whore" and supposedly said that it "must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed."

to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms

Humanists believe in naturalistic explanations only.

to look outside nature for salvation.

and that we are responsible for our own salvation. "Salvation" to humanists is, of course, not the salvation of an immortal soul, but a metaphor for helping ourselves and each other.

Sadie Lou said...

Thanks for indulging my curiousity.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

Though I like much of what Humanism offers, you must also recognize that it is rather empty of real content. Why should we be moral? If all we are are accidental biological constructs without free will, living in a purely mechanistic universe where our very emotions and desires are programmed for us, of what worth is there in living? What makes life worthy of value and morality worthy of consideration?

The Humanistic points are nice and all, but for those curious people looking for a deeper meaning to life, they're rather superficial. Any good and honest religion would include almost all of these within it anyway, though surely many of them aren't so concerned about Reason.

"Moral principles are tested by their consequences."

Btw, you sure you agree with consequentialism? It can get you into some tight spots philosophically.

Jewish Atheist said...

If all we are are accidental biological constructs without free will, living in a purely mechanistic universe where our very emotions and desires are programmed for us, of what worth is there in living? What makes life worthy of value and morality worthy of consideration?

It sounds very much like they do believe in free will. Also, "naturalism" isn't synonymous with "mechanism." Mechanism went out of fashion with the arrival of quantum theory.

Btw, you sure you agree with consequentialism?

I don't really hold by any formal system. I'm more or less a pragmatist, I suppose.

The Humanistic points are nice and all, but for those curious people looking for a deeper meaning to life, they're rather superficial.

As I see it, the principles include several avenues towards deeper meaning, including "understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems," "protect[ing] and enhanc[ing] the earth," "enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest," "the cultivation of moral excellence," "the arts," etc.

I think the last principle sums up neatly the humanist's deeper meaning: "We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings."

CyberKitten said...

Orthoprax said: The Humanistic points are nice and all, but for those curious people looking for a deeper meaning to life, they're rather superficial.

Apart from the fact that I disagree... Why do we need a 'deeper meaning to life'? and what exactly is that 'deeper meaning'?

I think the task of improving oneself & the world around us is enough to be getting on with - to me at least.

Sadie Lou said...

joy rather than guilt or sin

Whoooo. I can open a nice can of worms with that one. So is joy the alternative to guilt or sin?
Man, they just are not factoring in all the looney-toons. That statement works fine if you're sane but who's to say that some nut-job isn't going to read this website and think, "Heck yeah! I'm going to indulge in what brings me Joy and I'm not gonna mess around with the guilt or the implications of "sin".

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Mechanism went out of fashion with the arrival of quantum theory."

QT hardly solves the free will problem.

"It sounds very much like they do believe in free will."

Yes, they do, but why? Really, that's a belief not based on scientific evidence.

"We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings."

Fair enough, but I see this and the other things you mentioned as more along the lines of obvious ways to live than a good philosophy on why you should act that way and what makes them truly meaningful. Maybe a number of humanists have found this, but it isn't found in these principles alone.


Cyberkitten,

"Apart from the fact that I disagree... Why do we need a 'deeper meaning to life'? and what exactly is that 'deeper meaning'?"

Well, we could argue that one doesn't "need" anything more than food and shelter, but survival for its own sake is pointless. It is in the human spirit to seek meaningful reasons for life and to justify our own existence.

"I think the task of improving oneself & the world around us is enough to be getting on with - to me at least."

Perhaps it is. But why should you do those things?

CyberKitten said...

Orthoprax said: Well, we could argue that one doesn't "need" anything more than food and shelter, but survival for its own sake is pointless. It is in the human spirit to seek meaningful reasons for life and to justify our own existence.

By saying that "survival for its own sake is pointless" you are assuming that there IS a point. What if there isn't?

As to "the human spirit" - what exactly do you mean by that?

I think that it is more in our 'nature' to devise meaning rather than seek it (if I understand your statement) though I agree that humans do spend quite a bit of time & effort justifying our own existence, both to ourselves & each other.

Orthoprax also said:Perhaps it is. But why should you do those things?

Because I can. Because I choose to. What other reason(s) do I need for most of the things that I do?

Orthoprax said...

CK,

"By saying that "survival for its own sake is pointless" you are assuming that there IS a point."

I am not, I'm assuming that we can provide a point. I do keep some hope that we can discover a universal point though.

"As to "the human spirit" - what exactly do you mean by that?"

Human drives. Typical desires and behavior.

"Because I can. Because I choose to. What other reason(s) do I need for most of the things that I do?"

Reasonable justifications if these are your very stated reasons for living. Otherwise a person could justify mass murder by your same logic. Because he could, because he chose to...

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou:

who's to say that some nut-job isn't going to read this website and think, "Heck yeah! I'm going to indulge in what brings me Joy and I'm not gonna mess around with the guilt or the implications of "sin".

I think that the humanists make a distinction between "sin" and immorality. I believe that with "sin" they're referring to things some religious people oppose but don't necessarily hurt other people, like eating shellfish, having homosexual relations, or mixing wool and linen. "Morality," on the other hand, would refer to things like murder, theft, and selfishness. They strongly support instilling children with morals.

Orthoprax:

QT hardly solves the free will problem

Agreed. However, it isn't the same as "mechanistic." You'll have to at least change it to "probabilistic." :)

"It sounds very much like they do believe in free will."

Yes, they do, but why? Really, that's a belief not based on scientific evidence.


You're right, of course. I myself have trouble believing in free will sometimes. However, since there isn't any evidence *against* free will, and since it feels so much like we have free will, I'm willing to accept it as possible for now.

Fair enough, but I see this and the other things you mentioned as more along the lines of obvious ways to live than a good philosophy on why you should act that way and what makes them truly meaningful. Maybe a number of humanists have found this, but it isn't found in these principles alone.

What's the difference between "obvious ways to live" and "a good philosophy?" Formalization?

CyberKitten said...

Orthoprax said: I'm assuming that we can provide a point. I do keep some hope that we can discover a universal point though.

I think we can each individually provide a 'point' to our own lives - but I don't think that there is a 'universal' point. We (collectively) are not here for any 'reason' beyond that which we give our lives.

By human drives. Typical desires and behavior... do you mean 'human nature'? I'm not totally convinced such a thing exists. Maybe you can have a go at defining it?

Orthoprax also said: Reasonable justifications if these are your very stated reasons for living. Otherwise a person could justify mass murder by your same logic. Because he could, because he chose to...

People can and do justify a great many things to themselves and others - including mass murder. I'm not sure exactly what point you're trying to make here?

July Al said...

By no means do humanists accept the notion of "free will" to any great degree. "Self-determination", certainly, "free choice", absolutely, but that is somewhat different from "free will". I've read several articles skeptical of "free will" in "Free Inquiry", their print publication.

Skeptics acknowledge that some people are moral cripples, but they also doubt that religion places any real restriction on such people. If it did, the jails and prisons would be empty.

If Sadie's faith faded today, would she become an ultra-Sadist, and go on a rampage of theft, murder and rape? Does she have so little regard for others that only the weak shackle of the fear of god restrains her lust for mayhem? I rather doubt it, but if she were such a monster and her fear of God ebbed, her fear of civil authority might well take its place.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: You're right, of course. I myself have trouble believing in free will sometimes. However, since there isn't any evidence *against* free will, and since it feels so much like we have free will, I'm willing to accept it as possible for now.

I think the 'free will Vs Causality' argument is a dead end. The whole cause & effect thing is, I believe, a red herring. Any particular effect has (potentially) an infinite number of possible causes if you go back far enough. This means that the ultimate untangling of an actually cause to an actual effect is probably impossible & almost certainly meaningless.

We have 'free will' when we choose to exercise it. We are self aware creatures who are controlled neither by our genes or by our circumstance. Potentially every action we take can be a free one if we choose it to be. Most of the time, however, we operate on a kind of auto-pilot because that's just a whole lot easier.

Stacey said...

I am a skeptic and atheist, too. I agree with each of their principles, so I guess I am a Jewish Secular Humanist.

Sadie Lou said...

JA--
What happens if being moral no longer brings you joy? Should one feel guilty?

Jewish Atheist said...

joy rather than guilt or sin

What happens if being moral no longer brings you joy? Should one feel guilty?

Sadie Lou:

Again, I'm pretty sure they mean guilt about "sins," as I defined them above. For example, humanists would believe it's silly to feel guilty about masturbating, although while many religions consider it sinful. I can't believe any humanist would argue that you shouldn't feel guilty if you willfully hurt someone.

Similarly, the "joy" in that context is probably about enjoying things which are considered sinful, but aren't immoral. Again, like masturbation, sex outside of a traditional marriage (not cheating, which would be immoral,) and eating non-kosher foods.

I think "immoral" vs. "sinful" is the key here. "Sinful" refers to acts which are traditionally forbidden but don't harm others, while "immoral" refers to acts which hurt others. Obviously, many sins of the Bible are also immoral, like murder, so humanists agree with those.

In Judaism, sins (and good deeds too) are divided into two categories: those that are between man and his fellow man and those that are between man and God. I submit that secular humanists recognize the first category as "immoral" and disregard the second category, which are "sins." This makes sense since they don't believe in God.

Sadie Lou said...

the bible doesn't classify sin this way. Sin is sin.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: the bible doesn't classify sin this way. Sin is sin.

Would you like to expand on that definition - just a little........

Jewish Atheist said...

In Judaism, the first five commandments are considered between man and God (the parents being a surrogate of some sort for your honor to God) and the second five are between man and man.

The Bible doesn't spell out a difference between kinds of sin, but the difference is obvious. One kind has a victim (other than oneself or God) and the other doesn't.

Laura said...

JA- You should also check out the Brights Net. It's some of the same type of stuff.

I sit on the fence when it comes to supernatural explanations. I've seen & experienced some things that I have yet to explain through reason or science. There's also other human experiences, like complex emotions (love, hate, sorrow), that can't be boiled down to instinct or complex chemical reactions in the body.

But I also don't believe that there is only one true mythology to explain the whole world.

CyberKitten said...

Laura said: There's also other human experiences, like complex emotions (love, hate, sorrow), that can't be boiled down to instinct or complex chemical reactions in the body.


Do you think that the alternative to 'supernatural explanations' is instinct or complex chemical reactions in the body?

So that anything that is difficult to explain in purely mechanical terms must have a supernatural explanation instead?

Laura said...

CK: No, that's not what I was saying at all. I think the world can't be boiled down to Supernatural and not - it's not that simple or absoulte. But I do think there are things out there that might not have explanations (at least not yet) that science can fully explain either.

Jewish Atheist said...

There's also other human experiences, like complex emotions (love, hate, sorrow), that can't be boiled down to instinct or complex chemical reactions in the body.

I'll admit that we can't currently explain exactly how emotions work, but how do you know that they "can't be boiled down to instinct or complex chemical reactions in the body?"

Laura said...

I don't "know" it. That's where faith comes in. Is my faith unshakable - no. Do I mean "God" when I say supernatural? Not necessarily, I think of it more as energy beyond the current level of common human perception. Maybe we just haven't found a way to see it or measure it yet. My beliefs tend to be a blend of science and spiritualism.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"You're right, of course. I myself have trouble believing in free will sometimes. However, since there isn't any evidence *against* free will, and since it feels so much like we have free will, I'm willing to accept it as possible for now."

Possible? Free will is a huge chunk of what a Humanist believes in. Most of the items on the list fall away if you lose faith in free will. If there is no free will then "morality" is an illusion.

A Humanist skeptical of free will is like a Christian skeptical of God.

"What's the difference between "obvious ways to live" and "a good philosophy?" Formalization?"

It's about the reasons behind the principles. Monotheists generally say that acting morally is obligated because God says so. Why should the Humanist act morally?

Orthoprax said...

Cyberkitten,

"I think we can each individually provide a 'point' to our own lives - but I don't think that there is a 'universal' point. We (collectively) are not here for any 'reason' beyond that which we give our lives."

Perhaps, perhaps not. The universe is a mystery.

"By human drives. Typical desires and behavior... do you mean 'human nature'? I'm not totally convinced such a thing exists. Maybe you can have a go at defining it?"

There is, yes, a general nature that humans follow. In any given situation you can often predict how people will react. But when I said "human spirit" I meant it, admittedly, in a more romantic sense.

"People can and do justify a great many things to themselves and others - including mass murder. I'm not sure exactly what point you're trying to make here?"

My point was that most people want to have real reasons behind what they do and not empty reasons like you've given. Are you truly satisfied with reasons that could just as well be applied to mass murder? And don't you see such reasons as unnacceptable for mass murder? Why are they enough for your said very purpose for living?

CyberKitten said...

Laura said: But I do think there are things out there that might not have explanations (at least not yet) that science can fully explain either.

Why? Do you think that some things are basically inexplicable? Beyond explanation (at least scientifically)?

Such as?

CyberKitten said...

Orthoprax said: My point was that most people want to have real reasons behind what they do and not empty reasons like you've given.

I'm curious what you mean by "real" reasons. Why should self-actualization be an "empty" reason for doing things? What reasons am I 'supposed' to be using to justify my day-to-day actions?

Orthoprax said: Are you truly satisfied with reasons that could just as well be applied to mass murder? And don't you see such reasons as unnacceptable for mass murder? Why are they enough for your said very purpose for living?

The short answer is - Yes. People are pretty much self justifying. They justify the great accumulation of wealth, they justify war, they justify murder, they justify love and commitment to the welfare of others. Some of these things I consider to be wrong actions. Some I consider right actions. However, there is no 'one' (or ever two or three) 'real' reasons for life. There are countless millions.

Laura said...

CK: You're reading way too much into what I'm saying. I meant just what I said... science can't explain everything that happens in the universe - at least not yet.

I'm not a believer in absolutism - I don't think things have to be one way or the other (Science or supernatural).

Some of the things I've seen that I can't fully explain: I've experienced a ghost that throws silverware across a haunted restaurant (The Red Lion in Chicago). Still have yet to explain that one.

I know someone who is what I can describe only as a psychic -he somehow is able to tap into what people are feeling. Maybe he's just in tune with senses most people don't use (it is said we only use a fraction of our brain capacity).

But what I'm saying is that no one knows everything about everything - not even science can explain everything about everything.

Jewish Atheist said...

Possible? Free will is a huge chunk of what a Humanist believes in. Most of the items on the list fall away if you lose faith in free will. If there is no free will then "morality" is an illusion.

If there is no free will, the whole thing's an illusion. I'll rephrase. I (usually) believe in free will because it feels so strongly like I have it. I'm also fascinated by the fact that I have no plausible explanation for how it works.

Monotheists generally say that acting morally is obligated because God says so. Why should the Humanist act morally?

Empathy plus the belief that no person has more worth than another.

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

Your entire way of life and every action you make is demoted essentially to "because you felt like it." And any action made is equally justified under that view.

Why'd you go into a career in medical research and find a cure for cancer?

I felt like it.

Why'd you start a war and kill a hundred million people?

I felt like it.

How can you judge one action good or bad? Or one better than another? The reasons behind them are worthless as are the actions themselves.

That is a pointless way to live. There is no value in it.

JA,

"I (usually) believe in free will because it feels so strongly like I have it. I'm also fascinated by the fact that I have no plausible explanation for how it works."

Me too, but the very fact that I do that bothers me. We take free will on faith, essentially, but in doing so we damage our stance in reason. Doesn't the theist do exactly the same thing?

"Empathy plus the belief that no person has more worth than another."

I think it is a little more complex than that. Why should we necessarily trust our empathetic feeings? Emotions are notoriously irrational.

It bothers me that we really have two choices. We can go in Cyberkitten's path and find our lives devoid of any meaning and worth. In the strict positivist stance we cannot even say that we are free, or moral, or conscious. We are mindless animals equipped with illusory control and a fictional sense of morality.

Or we can give credence to ideas that really do not deserve credence in a strict empirical sense, but which provide our lives with order and meaning and value. The Humanist might be able to restrict this urge to free will and meaningful moral commands, but can he truly judge himself as being less irrational than the theist? Maybe in degree, but certainly not in kind.

Jewish Atheist said...

Why should we necessarily trust our empathetic feeings? Emotions are notoriously irrational.

I'm not sure "trust" is involved. I know what it feels like to be human, therefore I empathize with other humans. Simply because you desire a more rigorous moral standard doesn't mean that one exists. We can only work with the tools we have.

We take free will on faith, essentially, but in doing so we damage our stance in reason. Doesn't the theist do exactly the same thing?

Perhaps the Deist or pantheist does, but not the Christian, Jew, or Muslim. Their "faith" goes far beyond believing in something which is reasonable but not provable. They believe in very specific ideas which aren't inherently and more believable than millions of other possible ideas.

Our "sense" of having free will isn't great evidence for its existence, but it's the only evidence that exists on the question. None exists to the contrary, particularly since we don't understand the first thing about consciousness to begin with. Believing in free will isn't unreasonable.

The Humanist might be able to restrict this urge to free will and meaningful moral commands, but can he truly judge himself as being less irrational than the theist?

Either free will exists or it doesn't. If it does exist, humanists are right, and if it doesn't, they couldn't believe otherwise anyway. There's not much sense in worrying about free will.

CyberKitten said...

Orthoprax said: That is a pointless way to live. There is no value in it.

No value to who? Pointless from what Point of View?

If I choose a course of action because it appeals to me who can say that it was pointless or of no value?

If I spent my life cataloging beetles, or exploring the Amazon, or reading everything I could find on a particular subject.. who is to say that I wasted my life?

Orthoprax also said: How can you judge one action good or bad? Or one better than another?

That's a good question. How do YOU decide on good & bad actions? Probably the same way I do. With a mixtue of criteria:

Am I advancing my 'cause' in any way? Am I gaining anything from this action? Am I causing anyone pain by doing this? Etc.. 'Good actions' also chime with your particular ethical set up - 'bad actions' clash with your personal ethics.

Orthoprax also said: We can go in Cyberkitten's path and find our lives devoid of any meaning and worth.

You seem to be assuming that there has to be a 'higher' meaning than that we each give our lives. Can you substantiate that? If the 'higher' meaning does not exist (which I believe it does not) then it does not mean that our lives are meaningless. It just means that we have to give our lives meaning and take responsibility for ourselves.

Finally Orthoprax also said: We are mindless animals equipped with illusory control and a fictional sense of morality.

We are certainly not mindless. Our self-awareness is one of the few things that separate us from 'mere' animals. We are animals though. No different to a large extent than the dog in front of the fire or the fish swimming in your tank. However, I firmly believe that we have free-will. Clearly you can decide to do something or decide not to. The choice is yours... and where there is choice of action there is morality.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"I'm not sure "trust" is involved. I know what it feels like to be human, therefore I empathize with other humans."

Ok, that may be fine in general, but how can you decide in tight moral situations? Can you always depend on your emotions to determine what is right?

"Perhaps the Deist or pantheist does, but not the Christian, Jew, or Muslim. Their "faith" goes far beyond believing in something which is reasonable but not provable."

Maybe that is true for the fundamentalists, but the more resonable views are still believing in something reasonable, no?

"Either free will exists or it doesn't. If it does exist, humanists are right, and if it doesn't, they couldn't believe otherwise anyway. There's not much sense in worrying about free will."

They couldn't believe otherwise, hehe, yeah. Doesn't mean it's not worth considering though.


Cyber,

"No value to who? Pointless from what Point of View?"

Do you agree that mass murder has no value or negative value? How can you judge that? Don't you think that your reasons for acting ought to be better than the mass murderer's?

"Am I advancing my 'cause' in any way? Am I gaining anything from this action? Am I causing anyone pain by doing this? Etc.. 'Good actions' also chime with your particular ethical set up - 'bad actions' clash with your personal ethics."

That's fine, but you ought to supply something along these lines and not just "I felt like it."

"You seem to be assuming that there has to be a 'higher' meaning than that we each give our lives. Can you substantiate that?"

If a person acts for the good of humanity or for some important cause that is a higher meaning than because "he felt like it." It's this pointless self-referencing that makes for pointless living.

"We are certainly not mindless. Our self-awareness is one of the few things that separate us from 'mere' animals."

Or maybe it is really an illusion. Maybe we are self-aware, but that doesn't mean we determine our own actions. Imagine a self-aware tree which thinks it is growing towards the sun because it thinks it is the right thing to do, but really it's just growing that way because it was determined to do so through other natural processes. It would have done it anyway even without its consciousness.

"However, I firmly believe that we have free-will. Clearly you can decide to do something or decide not to. The choice is yours... and where there is choice of action there is morality."

Clearly? Clearly that is how it appears to us, but we could be just as determined as that tree.

B. Spinoza said...

>Maybe we are self-aware

there's no maybe about it. We are self aware. which doesn't necessarily show free-will, but still, there's no denying being self-aware

>Clearly that is how it appears to us, but we could be just as determined as that tree.

maybe, but isn't that a big claim to make?

Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

"there's no maybe about it. We are self aware. which doesn't necessarily show free-will, but still, there's no denying being self-aware"

We know we are aware, but we don't know that we are truly self-aware. What exactly are we aware of?

"maybe, but isn't that a big claim to make?"

The point is that we cannot tell.

Jewish Atheist said...

how can you decide in tight moral situations? Can you always depend on your emotions to determine what is right?

No, of course not. I don't mean that you should make every moral decision based on what feels right. I was just saying that my moral system is rooted in empathy. Obviously, one must use reason in specific situations.

From empathy, it pretty much follows that no person is worth more than another. (Although one may have greater responsibility towards particular people, for example children or soldiers under one's command.)

Orthoprax, I've directed you towards Peter Singer before, and I'd really suggest that you read him if you're interested in this. He is a real moral, atheistic philosopher who brings rigor to his work.

Maybe that is true for the fundamentalists, but the more resonable views are still believing in something reasonable, no?

It depends how "reasonable" you're talking. Perhaps for people like Spong whose Christianity or Judaism is barely distinguishable from atheism or pantheism.

They couldn't believe otherwise, hehe, yeah. Doesn't mean it's not worth considering though.

Definitely fascinating to think about it, with interesting implications for philosophy and artificial intelligence. But if we act as if there's free will than we can be sure that either there is free will, or we're helpless to believe otherwise. Try to disprove that statement. ;)