Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Are We Robots?



A basic implication of atheism is that man has no soul and therefore no free will. After all, logically how could a soul evolve from microbes?

The atheistic perspective seems to be that man is a robot, no different basically than an electronic robot, which works automatically, based on a computer program (in this case, DNA) and environmental input.

The only thing unusual about the human robot is that it has self-awareness. I don’t think that the computer on my desk is aware of itself, however the human robot is aware of itself. Also, the human robot for some strange reason imagines that it is not behaving based on a pre-written program; rather it imagines that it is spontaneously, from moment to moment, deciding what to do. This, however, is a fantasy. According to atheists, everything which happens is predetermined by other causes; there is no causeless effect.

This would seemingly make the entire issue of morality irrelevant. Good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral is only relevant in regards to a being that can choose freely between different options. Regardless of what a robot does, it is not immoral because it does not choose anything. Perhaps the builder or programmer is immoral, however it makes no sense to put a robot in prison. And according to atheists, in the case of man, there is no intelligent builder. The mindless process of evolution created us. Hitler had to do what he did just like a volcano has to explode when it does. No matter what crime a person commits he can explain “my genes and environment made me do it”. Morality, like free will, is a fantasy.

A little while ago I exchanged email with Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker on this issue:

Question: If someone has committed a crime, is there any rational reason for him to feel guilt?
His answer: Guilt prompts one to repair harm caused to a person and not to repeat it, so if he has any ties to people and a community, then yes.

Question: Can he not console himself with the thought that he had no choice and he was under the control of his brain chemistry, environment, childhood experiences, etc.?
Answer: No, because his brain chemistry, environment, and so on can also lead him to inhibit the urge to commit a crime.

I’m not sure I fully understand him, however Professor Pinker's busy schedule doesn’t allow him to elaborate.

Professor Pinker argues in “The Blank Slate” chapter 10 that the criminal justice system should continue to function as usual, not for the reason that people usually understand, to bring criminals to justice, but rather to serve as a deterrent to other potential criminals. In other words, if a human robot goes haywire and damages other robots, we should kidnap him and lock him in a cage, not because he is evil, but because doing so will influence other human robots to behave more peacefully.

The fact is, that if we are merely dealing with poorly programmed robots that need to be controlled, the most obvious method would be eugenics. It is probably not that difficult to predict in advance which people have a higher likelihood of producing criminal children and simply sterilize them. This might prevent the vast majority of all crime while also controlling over population – two birds with one stone. This makes much more sense than to wait for a human robot to malfunction and do damage and then lock it up hoping that this will somehow influence other robots. Dell, for example, recalled all computers which had a defective battery, not only ones that actually caught on fire. Professor Pinker (The Blind Slate page 153) rejects eugenics because “The costs of freedom to the individuals and in possible abuse by authorities are unacceptable.” Why would it be more unacceptable than our present criminal justice system, which leaves many criminals free, some innocent people behind bars and many neighborhoods dangerous? I think we don’t accept eugenics because we believe that the criminal is responsible for his freely chosen behavior and he must be punished and the government has no right to sterilize people.

I think this demonstrates how atheism is fundamentally, deeply anti-humanistic. Once we remove “the ghost from the machine”, man’s soul, the divine spark, the image of God, whatever you want to call it, man is reduced to being not merely an ape, but to being an iPhone with limbs. This helps us understand why many atheists live alone and have few friends. Their lack of respect for others makes it difficult for them to form families and communities.

Seemingly, this denial of a spiritual component within man would deny the validity of egalitarianism, which is the basis of liberal democracy, and it would promote elitism. People’s inherent value should logically depend on their material attributes such as intellect, strength, beauty, wealth, etc. since only the material actually exists and has value.

In my humble opinion, the atheistic denial of free will is one of the clearest indications that atheism is illogical nonsense. I think we all know that we are not living in a real life version of The Stepford Wives.

74 comments:

Larry Tanner said...

"A basic implication of atheism is that man has no soul and therefore no free will."

The question of the existence of the soul is entirely different and separate than the question of free will. In any case, it's not true either that atheism logically leads directly to an entire disbelief in the concept of free will or that the soul, were it to exist, would play any functional role in human will.

"After all, logically how could a soul evolve from microbes?"

Theoretically, we wouldn't expect a soul to be a product of evolution through natural selection because the soul is supposed to be invisible, immaterial, and immortal.

I work in robotics. It may very well be possible to develop robots that can communicate something that we'd consider as self-awareness. We can already make smart robots and robots that make better and more consistent ethical decisions.

http://news.discovery.com/tech/robot-warrior-ethical-guide.html

"if we are merely dealing with poorly programmed robots that need to be controlled..."

Control presents an issue. Who would do the controlling and by what right? And who says we "need" to be controlled in the first place? Who defines this need and by what authority?

There's no reason to deny human autonomy and human agency. Clearly we can and do act of our own volition and on our own behalf.

The bible, on the other hand, seems to be a big fan of totalitarian monarchical governments led by John Edwards-type nymphomaniacs, yes?

Liberal democracy would be utterly abhorrent to the gods and humans of the hebrew bible.

jewish philosopher said...

"The question of the existence of the soul is entirely different and separate than the question of free will."

It's basically the same thing:

"But there’s an equally suspect, supernatural entity that often lurks at the heart of commonsense ideas about human nature: the freely willing self."

http://www.naturalism.org/atheism.htm#littlegod

"who says we "need" to be controlled in the first place?"

Anarchy doesn't seem to work well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchy_in_Somalia

"The bible, on the other hand, seems to be a big fan of totalitarian monarchical governments led by John Edwards-type nymphomaniacs, yes?"

Actually, the Bible condemns them, no?

Larry Tanner said...

"It's basically the same thing."

No, they're not. The quote you give simply says that we need to approach and examine the question of free will just as we do the question of something like the soul. But they are different questions.

Besides, if you believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing god then you must also ultimately deny free will. What you call free will is not actually free. You're false advertising.

I see you have dodged the thorny question of who in your magical society will decide who "needs" to be controlled. And who exactly determines "control," and in what form? I share your distaste for anarchy, but I don't share your desire for a Saddam Hussein-type religious regime, which is what you clearly want but will not dare admit.

"Actually, the Bible condemns them [i.e., totalitarian monarchical governments led by John Edwards-type nymphomaniacs], no?"

No, the bible celebrates warlords and over-sexed regal killers like Moses, Joshua, Saul, David and Solomon. Other kings, such as Herod, are equally detestable. Fortunately, it's seems doubtful that there ever actually was a real Abraham or Moses.

I find it highly laughable that you promote religion and religiousness as having some special moral authority or superiority. This is nothing better than grandstanding because in thought, word and deed religion is saturated with injustice, intolerance, cruelty and irrationality.

If you want to make the world a better place, may I advise that you focus on cleaning up the fundamentalists and zealots in your ranks?

jewish philosopher said...

So you believe that we are merely soulless meat machines, bags full of chemicals, who have developed spontaneously and naturally from microbes. Yet we do have free will, meaning we have the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes.

I don't think that makes sense.

God controls our behavior but not our choices, so free will and divine providence are not contradictory. I can choose to eat bacon, but God can cause my car to break down so I can't get to the store and buy it, for example.

"the bible celebrates warlords"

As does the history of every other country. Heard of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, etc?

"over-sexed regal killers"

I don't remember the Bible celebrating that; perhaps you were read Hustler and thought it was the Bible?

"in thought, word and deed religion is saturated with injustice, intolerance, cruelty and irrationality. If you want to make the world a better place, may I advise that you focus on cleaning up the fundamentalists and zealots in your ranks?"

I don't think there's any question that on the average, Orthodox Jews are more peaceful, kind and sober than atheists.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/09/orthodox-jewish-crime.html

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/01/genius-of-judaism-kindness.html

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/08/samsons-struggle-satmar-and-others.html

The point about egalitarianism, by the way, is that according to Judaism every human can potentially be as great Moses if he fully commits himself to serve God.

According to atheism, each person's value, if any, should be based on his strength, beauty, intelligence, etc since there is no such thing as free choice, guilt, innocence, virtue or vice.

Larry Tanner said...

"The point about egalitarianism, by the way, is that according to Judaism every human can potentially be as great Moses if he fully commits himself to serve God."

No thanks. I wouldn't want to be a giant, murdering asshole.

Anon2 said...

I would like to remind you that modern concepts such as equality, women's status, individual rights, personal liberty, etc appeared on the scene thousands of years after the appearance of the Abrahamic religions. And they appeared in spite of, not because of, religious precepts. Since religion puts god first, and humanism puts human's needs first, your argument about atheism being anti-humanistic is pretty lame.

Basically any philosophical or ethical system can be used for good or for bad, so painting things in black and white is a childish over simplification.

The "human robot" argument has be debated ad nauseum, it doesnt prove anything, except that organic creatures are different than machines.

Your problem with free will can be asked about any human emotion. What about love? Can a robot love? And if it can't, does that prove the existence of a human soul?

As far as punishment is concerned, our moral sense is an evolved impulse and helps us control our behavior. Its part of being a social animal. Many animals have punishment behavior, too. If you damage a specific part of the brain, your harm the person's moral sense. What happens to the soul then?

What Pinker meant is that since behavior is not entirely deterministic, there is room for us to control our behavior. We therefore have responsibility.

When a person is insane, we relieve him of responsibility. But what about his soul, if he still has one, why should he get off scot- free? According to you, his soul has free will and he should still be responsible.

Basically the soul doesn't explain any of the things you claim it does.

The vengeance urge evolved to help maintain order in communities and punish cheaters. Animals have it. But basically, we punish people either to keep them away from society if they are dangerous, or as a deterrent (for the perpetrator or for others).

Our freedom to choose, to love, to aspire for greatness, to grieve, are all real to us, even if we don't fully understand them. Adding a "soul" to the equation adds nothing.

jewish philosopher said...

Neither would I.

However you don't seem to mind being a short, fat asshole.

Larry Tanner said...

"However you don't seem to mind being a short, fat asshole."

I've had more practice at this. Way to love your fellow, brother. Or maybe this is your way of loving your fellow as you love yourself. Sooo very moral and godly.

jewish philosopher said...

That is what I find so cool about atheists. They'll curse out God. They'll spit on every Jew from Moses to Rabbi Moses Feinstein. Everybody's evil. But criticize them - OH MY GOD! HOW DARE YOU! HATER! HARASSMENT!

Like I should just be sitting in open mouthed awe of every half-wit pot head.

Larry Tanner said...

JP,

You made a snide and personal comment. I simply noted that this was not the moral behavior you seem to think religion inspires. You're the one with a hypocrisy problem, not me.

Was Moses a murderer? If he existed and if the stories about him in the bible are true then yes, indeed he was a murderer and a tyrant. There's no escaping the facts. I suspect this is why you are so angry, unhappy and hysterical. Your therapist must be filthy rich.

jewish philosopher said...

"You made a snide and personal comment."

As you constantly do.

"I simply noted that this was not the moral behavior you seem to think religion inspires."

Wrong.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2007/12/good-hatred.html

"Was Moses a murderer?"

He never killed an innocent person, therefore the answer is no.

"ndeed he was a murderer and a tyrant."

"tyrant": an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution

http://www.merriam-webster.com/netdict/tyrant

We see that Moses always was obedient to God's laws.

"There's no escaping the facts."

There's no escaping your ignorance and stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Larry:

What is your basis for saying that Moshe was immoral? What is your basis for saying anything is immoral, or that morality even exists?

Now, if we are the product of evolution, then our behavior is the product of evolution, too. Therefore, we can't expect to see behavior that is not the result of Darwinian evolution, e.g. free will. So if we are just like monkeys, only smarter why would we be expected to have free will? And if we don't have free will, why does Larry get all bent out of shape if people like Dovid HaMelech did bad things? He didn't have free will, any more than a chimp does when it eats another chimp.

Now, if we do have free will, what I'd like to know is how is it possible for the mind, which is made of matter, e.i. the brain, to have free will, if free will is not a property of matter? Unless, there is more to the mind than kust the brain.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Larry, the Torah does not believe in Totalitarian government. The Hebrew Kings where bnot above the Torah. Just look in the Rambam, Hilchos Melachim, if you don't believe me.

Now, atheists seem to have a profound prediliction for totalitarianism. Heck, they invented it. There's Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. etc. etc. We've been down this road so many times before, it's getting tedious.

Alex said...

Larry, are you satisfied with Pinker's second answer? -->

"Question: Can he not console himself with the thought that he had no choice and he was under the control of his brain chemistry, environment, childhood experiences, etc.?
Answer: No, because his brain chemistry, environment, and so on can also lead him to inhibit the urge to commit a crime.

But wait, Pinker said that one's brain can lead him on a better path. But it didn't in this case! The "bad side" won out over the "good side" -- How could he have freely chosen which side should win? Pinker accidentally allowed for free will!


Oh, and JP, you're only half-right when you say, "Perhaps the builder or programmer is immoral, however it makes no sense to put a robot in prison. "

Does it make sense to keep a danger off the streets?

jewish philosopher said...

Well, it's like the recall of Toyotas.

http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/toyota/toyota-consumer-safety-advisory-102572.aspx

The engineer who designed the cars may have been immoral, if he deliberately or carelessly created the problem and caused the death of drivers. Maybe he should be punished depending on the circumstances.

The Corolla or Camry, however, is not immoral. It just needs to be fixed. No one is going to put a Camry with a sticky pedal in prison.

Anonymous said...

oh, Larry, the Hebrew where not totalitarian. They were not above the law. Just look inside the Ramsam Hilchos Melachim if you don't believe me.

Now atheists, on the other hand, seem to love totalitarianism. Heck, they invented it. There was Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc, etc, etc.

jewish philosopher said...

(this refers to Anon2 Tuesday, February 02, 2010 4:07:00 PM; I'm sorry I didn't notice his comment until now)

"your argument about atheism being anti-humanistic is pretty lame"

Communist leaders must have missed that memo.

"Basically any philosophical or ethical system can be used for good or for bad"

Scientific racism, eugenics; Darwin was big on those. Hard to see who they helped.

"that organic creatures are different than machines"

I know that, however I don't think atheists do.

"Can a robot love? And if it can't, does that prove the existence of a human soul?"

Maybe.

"If you damage a specific part of the brain, your harm the person's moral sense. What happens to the soul then?"

I think brain damage damages the body's connection to soul similar to the way computer damage would damage your connection to the Internet. But that doesn't mean the Internet is gone.

"What Pinker meant is that since behavior is not entirely deterministic"

Why not? Where does an uncaused effect come from?

"Our freedom to choose, to love, to aspire for greatness, to grieve, are all real to us, even if we don't fully understand them."

I understand them.

Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7

Abe said...

>>>So you believe that we are merely soulless meat machines, bags full of chemicals, who have developed spontaneously and naturally from microbes. Yet we do have free will, meaning we have the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes.
I don't think that makes sense.

Why does it make any less sense than an invisible being that urges you to engage in irrational activities like the laws of nida and shabbat prohibitions? You might not embrace evolution, but as a man who posesses free will, that does not mean that you should engage in senseless exercises either.
It seems to me that the existence of these pointless rituals is reason enough to reject god. Its only logical that no true supreme being would ask you to engage in something that is so outright dumb.

Shalmo said...

I think Christopher Hitchens said it best:

Morality comes from humanism not religion. Religion simply takes credit where none is warranted because these things are innate. One does not a text to derive morality because morality is simply innate.

And the Abrahamic religions acknowledges this. That is why they say God punished Cain for killing Abel. How could God hold Cain accountable for murder if no text saying so had yet been revealed? This is because "do not murder" was written on the hearts of men long before it was written on a holy book.

JP do you have a rebuttal for this question?

Shalmo said...

JP I have a question. Why do you always stick with attacking atheism?

I believe you have properly outlined all your opposition points over the years. Now all that is left is for your opponents to evaluate them and judge their merits for themselves.

Because now you are just repeating the same stuff over and over again.

Now how about giving us arguments against Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Modern-Orthodox Judaism?

You have spent all this energy attacking one religion you don't approve of (atheism), so how about now moving on to the others?

jewish philosopher said...

"Why does it make any less sense than an invisible being that urges you to engage in irrational activities like the laws of nida and shabbat prohibitions? You might not embrace evolution, but as a man who posesses free will, that does not mean that you should engage in senseless exercises either. "

If a Torah commandment seems senseless to you, this is simply is proof of your ignorance and unintelligence.

Shalmo, if man is innately good, then why do they so often take each others lives and property? It seems like most people need a little help. The police can't be everywhere, therefore we need a divine lawgiver and law enforcer who is.

I think atheism is the main threat to Judaism since about 1920. Earlier, it was Christianity.

Anonymous said...

"Shalmo, if man is innately good, then why do they so often take each others lives and property?"

Every human being, except for psychopaths, have a conscience and thus a moral sense. (That doesn't mean they're innately "good")Certain rules are thus universal, like not raping your own children or killing your mother and eating her. No lawgiver needed. The rest are determined by each culture and tradition. Man is a social animal, and thus for the most part obeys authority and culture.

The only added enforement value of a divine lawgiver would be enforcing illogical laws that don't benefit mankind and thus would not appeal to man's conscience.

jewish philosopher said...

"Every human being, except for psychopaths, have a conscience and thus a moral sense."

Wonderful. So we can eliminate law enforcement, prisons and the military and then use the savings to finance universal health care and pay off the deficit. I suggest you email the White House. I'm sure the President will be delighted.

Abe said...

>>>If a Torah commandment seems senseless to you, this is simply is proof of your ignorance and unintelligence.

My reply to the above could easily be: If Darwin and evolution seems senseless to you, this is simply is proof of your ignorance and unintelligence. But I won't because I recognize that your lassitude for reason hinders your capacity to distinguish between sophistry and verisimiltude. Other than your automatous polemics, you still havn't offered any credible evidence why nida rituals and shabbat prohibitions should be more truthful than Darwinian evolution. And since you offer no credible reasons for the embrace of certain irrational torah commandments and rituals, it seems to me that you and Darwin have much in common.

jewish philosopher said...

Abe, as usual, you are a bottomless pit of illogical drivel.

I reject Darwin for the same reason I rejected Jesus - an extraordinary claim is made (worms became people) however the evidence is weak (worm fossils are older than people fossils).

You reject Torah because some of God's motives are unknown to you, which merely demonstrates the obvious fact that God is far more intelligent than you are therefore His motives remain beyond your grasp. Does a two year old understand all his mothers "senseless tyrany" when she gives him broccoli instead of candy?

I wish I could meet your mother, you probably never listened to her either.

Abe said...

>>>I reject Darwin for the same reason I rejected Jesus - an extraordinary claim is made (worms became people) however the evidence is weak (worm fossils are older than people fossils).

Other than its humanistic exhortations, I reject much of God and Torah for the same reason -- an extraordinary claim that a supreme being created the universe and by extension the need to embrace his irrational proscriptions and rituals. It seems that you and I are in complete agreement. Neither God nor Darwin makes much sense.

>>>You reject Torah because some of God's motives are unknown to you, which merely demonstrates the obvious fact that God is far more intelligent than you are therefore His motives remain beyond your grasp.
Why would anyone in their right mind capitulate to an invisible taskmaster whose motives are unknown? God could be an evil demented scientist, who gets his jollies performing terrible experiments on his unsuspecting sycophants.
How do we know that god is more intelligent than you? Because you howl his profundities with no evidence? Oh -- I forgot you have evidence, the Torah which states that god is enlightened, mysterious, sagacious, profound, profound, all powerful and will kill you in a heartbeat if you disobey him. And how do we know that the Torah is true? Because god says so. How could I be so obtuse not to recognize the truth in that logic !! Can anybody say circular reasoning?
I think I'll stick to drugs and pornography. Those debaucheries are much more satisfying than god and much less dangerous.

Anonymous said...

"Wonderful. So we can eliminate law enforcement, prisons and the military and then use the savings to finance universal health care and pay off the deficit."


Beyond the sarcasm, are you saying that my statement is false? Are you denying the existence of innate morals and conscience?

jewish philosopher said...

"I reject much of God and Torah for the same reason -- an extraordinary claim that a supreme being created the universe and by extension the need to embrace his irrational proscriptions and rituals"

Of course there you're wrong, the evidence for Judaism is obvious to any sober, honest person.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/12/truth-of-judaism.html

"Are you denying the existence of innate morals and conscience?"

Let's say I would not bet much on it. For example, if you're a young woman, would you hitchhike? If you have a store, would you leave it open unattended and ask people to pay even though no one is there?

Anonymous said...

You are mixing up two different things. Human behavior and human impulses.

Alex said...

"The Corolla or Camry, however, is not immoral. It just needs to be fixed. No one is going to put a Camry with a sticky pedal in prison."

JP, this is your worst analogy ever. If there's a proven, dangerous Camry in your garage, you ARE going to "lock it up" until it gets fixed.

Abe said...

>>>Of course there you're wrong, the evidence for Judaism is obvious to any sober, honest person.
http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/12/truth-of-judaism.html

My website is stronger than your website. Nyah, nyah-- nyah-nyah

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/kuzariflaws.cfm

http://atheism.about.com/od/argumentsagainstgod/Arguments_Against_God_Atheological_Arguments_for_Atheism.htm.
And that's why you're wrong.

jewish philosopher said...

Anonymous, I don't know who is mixed up however I know that we need God to be good.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2008/10/god-save-king-why-we-need-both.html

Alex, no one is putting dangerous Camrys in prison, while we do put dangerous people in prison. Why the difference, if man is merely a robot? We seem to feel that a murderer has made a choice to be evil and therefore justly deserves punishment.

Abe said...

>><Alex, no is putting dangerous Camrys in prison, while we do put dangerous people in prison. Why the difference, if man is merely a robot?

The question is moot, because man is not a robot.

jewish philosopher said...

Abe, there's plenty of evidence against the Holocaust too.

http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/holohoax.htm

However any honest, sober person will realize immediately that the preponderance of evidence is in favor of the Holocaust, not against it.

And how are you different than a robot?

Abe said...

>>>However any honest, sober person will realize immediately that the preponderance of evidence is in favor of the Holocaust, not against it.

True, and equally persuasive against god's existence is the lack of evidence for his existence. Its so evident, that even you would recognize the infallible logic in that assertion. Just lay back for a few minutes and allow your mind to reclaim an appreciation of sentient thought.

jewish philosopher said...

So where does free will come from?

natschuster said...

Abe:

Hiow do you know that humasn qare not robots? If we are just matter, then what is ther efor saying we ar enot robots?

Shalmo:

So where does Hitchins say our innate morals come from? If they evolve via a Darwinian mechanism, then they are just behaviors, not morals. Then there is no difference between humans helping each other, and chimps eating each other. And if morality is innate, then so is immorality. So how does Hitchins know that Mother Theresa's devotion to the poor of Calcutta is better than his habitual drunkeness.

natschuster said...

Oh, I just remembered. Hitchins does, in fact, think that his alcoholism is more moral than Mother Theresa's altruism.

Shalmo said...

JP I have a rather important question. Its a question I don't think most frummies think about, though I did when I was still a Jew.

Growing up all of bani-yisrael are taught to await the messiah. Rambam makes it a point for us in the 13 ikkarim to always await the moschiach ben David's coming.

We are told that when he comes the yetzer hara will disappear. So all people during the messianic age will become spiritually, and ethically perfect. Essentially we all will be like angels, sin free.

You say God gave us free will and that is why we can sin. And when the messianic era begins that means our free will will be taken away from us; hence why we will sin no more, because yetzer hara will be eliminated.

So my question is why did God give us free will to begin with? If he is planning to take it away in the first place during the messianic era; then he could just as well never have given us free will to begin with.

Wouldn't a better plan have been to just start the world in the format the messianic era is to follow?

He could have made Adam and Eve ethically and spiritually perfect from the get-go and avoided a lot of problems (the plagues, the floods, and the rest).... Indeed he could have avoided all the unnecessary OT slaughters if he just started the world in the messianic era.

What do you say to that?

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think it's possible to understand the motives of someone of vastly superior intellect. For example, insects surely do not understand humans.

Larry Tanner said...

Who says there really is such a thing as free will, anyway? We have this concept of free will and it makes sense on an intuitive level. Maybe it also makes sense on a day-to-day practical level. But does it actuually exist or is it simply a conventional term? Unfortunately, you don't find it necessary to prove your assertions.

Our will is influenced by many forces, right? Our will may be guided or obstructed by biological urges, by an unexpected event, by rationalizaton, by instructions given to us long ago by a parent, by awareness of what a law accepts or prohibits, by cost-benefit analysis, and so on. And when you disobey your god, you say it's your yetzer ha-ra, not your free will being rebellious.

Thus, two very important questions you have conveniently skipped over are how to tell whether free will is real or is rather a manner of speaking and exactly how free free will could actually be.

Of course, even if we agree on a decent definition of free will, why exactly would the idea of an immortal soul - one of the silliest and most illogical guesses ever devised - have any part to play in the existence of free will? In other words, if there's no god and no soul, we can still have the same free will that we thought we had with god and with a soul. As usual, when we start to examine these questions closely, god is actually irrelevant.

So your real question concerns how we appropriately value humanity and individual human life. Do we get to think of ourselves as better and more special than other living things or not? In most religions, and judaism is certainly no exception, the practitioners think of themselves as better (more human, more valuable, more such and such) than other groups. Your post on godly hatred is disgusting and moronic, but a good example of the in-group exclusivism that religion champions while daring to call itself moral.

Atheists don't see humans/humanity as robots or meat bags. That's your straw man fallacy, and that's very likely how you actually feel. If you hate humanity, blame that insane, inconsistent anthology of myths that you call a bible.

Atheists don't see themselves as intrinsically better than or morally superior to other groups or movements. That's religion's schtick. We simply reject the idea that your god exists, and you've given not one single reason to think it does exist. We reject that the book now called the bible is anything other than a product of all-too-human minds and hearts. Whatever beauty there is in the bible never needed any god in the fist place.

jewish philosopher said...

"But does it actuually exist or is it simply a conventional term?"

If it doesn't exist, then Hitler was no more wicked than Albert Schweitzer.

"if there's no god and no soul, we can still have the same free will"

How?

"Your post on godly hatred is disgusting and moronic"

No more intolerant than most atheists, as far as I can tell.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Is_Not_Great

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_Delusion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_Faith

"Atheists don't see humans/humanity as robots or meat bags."

What do they see?

Alex said...

"Alex, no one is putting dangerous Camrys in prison, while we do put dangerous people in prison. Why the difference, if man is merely a robot? We seem to feel that a murderer has made a choice to be evil and therefore justly deserves punishment."

I agree with your last sentence, but not your first. As I said before, we do lock up dangerous Camrys. We "lock them up" by not allowing them on the road. Stop saying otherwise. Even if man had no free will (which I totally disagree with) we should still lock up such a person to keep society safer. The alternative is what you seem to be suggesting.

jewish philosopher said...

Defective machines are repaired or destroyed, not punished. They are not evil, wicked, immoral, "have a debt to society". They are not to blame for blowing up and killing a family or something.

According to atheism, the same should logically apply to humans.

natschuster said...

Larry:

Daniel Dennet suggested that atheists call themselves "brights" because they are smarter than everyone else. And Dawkins said thjat he wanted to put religious people in jail because they are evil. And Harris said that it would be morally justified to kill religious people as a sort of prememptive self defense. He also wrote that moderate religious people are responsible for enabling the bad things doen by religious fanatics.

Alex said...

"Defective machines are repaired or destroyed, not punished. "

Some defective machines are repaired, if it's worth it. In the meantime, they must be "locked up." Don't you catch that????

Since you compare people to machines in your analogy, bad people should sometimes be destroyed. Right???

jewish philosopher said...

Atheism teaches that evolution, not God, created us. Therefore we are not endowed with a soul and do not possess free will. We are merely meat machines.

A machine obviously cannot be condemned as evil and should not be punished for a misdeed, since the machine made no bad choice.

A dangerous machine is either repaired or destroyed.

Logically, according to atheism, if a person harms other people he should be taken to a psychiatric clinic and be evaluated. If he can clearly be successfully treated and will no longer pose a threat to others, then he should be treated and released. If not, then the person would be stunned with a captive bolt pistol (as we do when slaughtering cattle) and then placed in an incinerator to eliminate any problem with blood born pathogens.

Alex said...

"A dangerous machine is either repaired or destroyed."

There's often a shortage of time before starting to repair the machine. During that time, it is "locked up."

Do you disagree? Are you saying that that's a bad idea?

You wrote: "however it makes no sense to put a robot in prison."

For an atheist, I gave a totally practical reason to keep a person in prison. However, to tip a hat to you, the prison should include rehabilitation that is guaranteed, ahem, to work. Fair enough?

jewish philosopher said...

Can you find a headline

"Brakes fail on Toyota Camry killing family of three. Car is sentenced to 25 years without parole."

Alex said...

You're not getting it.

The headline would more accurately say:
"Brakes fail on Toyota Camry killing family of three. Car is locked up in a garage until such time as it can be fixed. If not, it will be destroyed."

jewish philosopher said...

Right. A machine which which kills is treated entirely differently than a man who kills. According to atheism, this is illogical.

Joseph said...

Wouldn't Intelligent Design imply that we're God's robots? The only way out of that, as far as we know, is for God to create a system that doesn't use design.

jewish philosopher said...

God is so intelligent, He is able to design people not merely robots.

Alex said...

"Right. A machine which which kills is treated entirely differently than a man who kills. According to atheism, this is illogical."

This doesn't take away from the fact that you REALLY need to reword this: "it makes no sense to put a robot in prison." when in fact there is a sense.

jewish philosopher said...

It makes no sense to condemn or punish machines.

Alex said...

We are not talking about condemning or punishing machines. We are talking about protecting the public, whether from bad people or faulty machines. We were talking about locking up bad people in prison to protect the public. Not condemning. Not punishing. Protecting the public!
PLEASE tell me you understand this.

jewish philosopher said...

So we lock up criminals until they are proven safe? News to me.

What happens for example when a man murdered his girlfriends husband 20 years ago. Since then he has lived an unblemished, respectable life. Why does he go to prison?

Alex said...

You do realize that you're presenting the exception rather than the rule, right?

jewish philosopher said...

But you realize that prison is a punishment, not a storage area where we put defective products until we can tighten up a few screws.

Alex said...

Nice dodge.
Prison is indeed a punishment, as you say, but it is also a place to keep the bad guys away from the public. Is this not true? But ALL you said was: "it makes no sense (for the atheist) to put a (human)robot in prison." You didn't say "little sense." You said "no sense."

But it does, for the atheist, for the latter reason (your exceptional case notwithstanding).

jewish philosopher said...

No, it makes no sense. If the criminal can be fixed medically, then fix him. If not, destroy him.

Alex said...

Are you talking about a murderer or a thief? Destroy a thief?

Also, you are AGAIN forgetting the time factor. If the criminal can be fixed medically, but only after a long period of time, then he needs to be taken off the streets in the meantime.

jewish philosopher said...

The point is that even in atheistic societies such as the Soviet Union or Communist China, human criminals are treated entirely differently than dangerously defective machines and that's seemingly inconsistent with atheistic beliefs.

Alex said...

Naah, I think the point is that for an atheist (which I'm not, I'll remind you), the sentence "it makes no sense to put a (human)robot in prison" just doesn't cut the mustard -- because the atheist can think of more than one reason to put the guy in prison.

jewish philosopher said...

By definition, prison is a punishment. Cars in garages or lions in zoos are not in prison. And punishing people makes no sense if we have no free will and made no bad choice.

Alex said...

Well, if you're going to start off with a faulty definition, of course you're going to miss the whole point.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/477205/prison/272178/The-purpose-of-imprisonment


"There are a number of accepted reasons for the use of imprisonment. One approach aims to deter those who would otherwise commit crimes (general deterrence) and to make it less likely that those who serve a prison sentence will commit crimes after their release (individual deterrence). A second approach ((which is yours, JP)) focuses on issuing punishment to, or obtaining retribution from, those who have committed serious crimes. A third approach encourages the personal reform of those who are sent to prison. Finally, in some cases it is necessary to protect the public from those who commit crimes—particularly from those who do "

jewish philosopher said...

"One approach aims to deter those who would otherwise commit crimes"

Because they don't want to be punished. Prison is one form of judicial punishment.

"A third approach encourages the personal reform of those who are sent to prison."

At least in the US, I don't think that's even considered anymore. Prison is not therapy.

"in some cases it is necessary to protect the public from those who commit crimes"

That sounds more like involuntary commitment mental hospital.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involuntary_commitment#Containment_of_danger

Alex said...

Congratulations, JP, I give up. (I just wish you'd show this thread to your gemara rebbe and ask his opinion about your shakla v'tarya.)

David Johnston said...

The existence of a soul does not mandate free will. The nonexistence of a soul (which is to say, some immortal intelligence that lives beyond the body) does not mean that free will does not exist. Anyone who believes in reincarnation already believes that souls progress from microscopic life form on "upward". Nor does a refusal to believe in anything that should be worshipped necessarily require a refusal to believe in life after death, although it's a common combination. The assumption that an atheist can't believe in free will is based on the theory that atheists share the same axioms with you. It is unlikely that one will.

jewish philosopher said...

Free will implies an uncaused effect. How could this happen from the point of view an atheist?

David Johnston said...

How could it happen from the point of view of a theist? Either events are entirely predetermined or they...aren't. Now of course we have to believe in free will. We have no choice about it. But as Heisenberg said, "I'm not so sure..."

jewish philosopher said...

"How could it happen from the point of view of a theist?"

God gave us freedom to choose.

David Johnston said...

Does the phrase "God hardened Pharoah's heart" ring a bell? You can declare that God gives us freedom to choose, but that means nothing more than someone else saying "Quantum physics gives us the freedom to choose". Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But an atheist is still no more obligated to believe in predestination than a theist

jewish philosopher said...

Pharoah was an exceptional case; due to his wickedness, his freedom of choice was eventually limited.