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Everything posted by Polednice

  1. Polednice


    Well the "should" is the important part - the fact that it is, is trivial, as that's the reason I started the thread. If your ancestors hadn't procreated, you wouldn't be around to complain, so the hindsight argument isn't doing much for me. Because, as I stated clearly in the OP, there would not be enough children up for adoption if everyone went in for it, and it would be stupid to think that children needing caring homes should go to anyone other than adults who want them. The kind of awareness that's required is a culture change, not a bit of education. It would also be necessary to poll people who had both an adopted and unadopted child, otherwise it would be guesswork. The response to this is the same as my second comment.
  2. Polednice


    Indeed, but my point is that the perpetuation of one's genes should not be anything special that we aspire to. The choices here are adoption or a biological child, both of which include rearing. The proposed selfishness comes from ignoring the suffering of children in need, and the state of the planet. The fact that raising children is difficult doesn't negate this. I don't necessarily deny that, but I think this is something to be looked into. His feelings might not have been the same had he been there since the adopted child's birth, and a greater awareness of evolution and biology might curb people's natural affinity to prefer their own children. And how exactly would that latter argument hold on a planet of 7 billion people where population growth is not required?
  3. Polednice


    Given that the world has an issue with its population size, and also that we understand that the biological purpose of having a child is to perpetuate our genetic information, is it more ethical to adopt a child than to have one's own? I'd perhaps even go so far as to say it's selfish to have one's own when so many children are without parents. I don't think there is any paternal or maternal yearning that cannot be fulfilled by an adopted child, as any parent of one will tell you, so although it seems fundamentally natural and proper, I consider it an indulgence with our current knowledge for people to have their own kids. Perhaps there will be issues with the age of children up for adoption, as I could totally understand parents wanting a baby, and there may not be so many (I have no idea), but I think all the other arguments - about wanting to see what a child with your genes would look/be like, and a mother's desire to have a baby inside her - are outweighed by the alternative. I suppose if everyone did this, there wouldn't be enough children up for adoption to meet the demand, but I think people ought to be aware enough of the issues at hand for the supply to always be met.
  4. I didn't say that those concepts are the only ones that matter because I also don't think they exist. I also said that, even given a supernatural being, there would still not be transcendental "meaning".
  5. Definitions are important, and I think an atheist adoption of "meaning" is self-deceptive. I don't think our lives have meaning because life is insignificant and trivial in the context of the entire universe. There will come a point when our entire species is extinct, and no action or achievement ever committed will matter. That is surely the definition of meaninglessness. My point, however, is that this doesn't preclude an enjoyable and fulfilling life, it just won't ever have any significance beyond our tiny humanity.
  6. As Boethius would tell you, the existence of an all-knowing deity doesn't mean that we don't have free will. As he described it, god would be like a spectator at a chariot race - seeing all, knowing all, but not deliberately influencing every action. And, of course, today's religions are all founded on us having free will. Thus the question still stands: even if we can know a god exists, why listen to his demands except out of fear?
  7. These were all vague synonyms, but I accept that you're not advancing a particular definition. Well, the sense of "meaning" that is often used denotes that a life has intrinsic value - that, somehow, there is an absolute goodness to something, that things aren't merely relative, that there is a transcendent essence and intentioned reason behind our existence. Even with a god, that idea is bogus, but I don't think atheists ought to be trying to adopt it by saying that we can create "meaning" ourselves. We can find life enjoyable, we can value things and we can help each other, but I don't think that's "meaning" or "purpose" as it's typically conceived.
  8. I won't respond to the rest of your post because I don't know how much of it was parody and how much of it was you, and I'd rather engage only with your actual thoughts than with fictitious caricatures. With regards to the above, I've said that the idea of meaning is incoherent, so in order for me to state whether or not I think what you're describing is invalid, you'll have to tell me what you mean by "meaning". And I say in the most loving possible way that the correct turn of phrase is "a dog eat dog world".
  9. Right, but they're not true, so...
  10. I don't quite follow what you meant here. I recognise a biological component to superstition, in that we seem hard-wired to develop irrational beliefs, but I also recognise that with advanced cultures, that they can both be damaging, and we are capable of leaving them behind with rationality, hence the impatience.
  11. Are you suggesting that there is an authoritative religious answer to the question of same-sex marriage? There isn't. There's a Catholic answer, a Baptist answer, an Episcopalian answer, an Anglican answer, a Mormon answer, a Unitarian answer, etc. etc. As I stated earlier, the fact that some religious institutions would want to conduct same-sex marriage means that you cannot say the religious position is against same-sex marriage. I agree with you that civil unions provide an interesting solution, provided that they do match marriage rights identically. However, I focused on churches because you are saying that there is a religious position on this, but, as I've said multiple times now, that's not the case - there are many religious positions, all of them different. Thus, if a Christian gay couple would like their wedding to be blessed in a religious ceremony, by what logic do you suggest they are prohibited?
  12. That comment was indeed flippant and over-the-top, and I would never dream of trying to eradicate religion by authoritarian means - everyone certainly should have the right to believe as they wish when not causing harm. However, I am one of those atheists who cannot stand any firm belief in ideas without evidence, as I think even a moderate, harmless believer gives credence to garnering morality from absurdly vicious scriptures. Because of that, I think religion must 'die' for us to maximally flourish in terms of well-being, it being replaced by rational moral philosophy, but I would only ever seek for it to disappear by educating people. And I don't think that people should be able to think what they like without criticism, either - they shouldn't be treated as morons, but any ideas ought to be open to scrutiny.
  13. What is ill health, physical or mental, but the deviation from a common anatomical blueprint? If 70% of the population had schizophrenic hallucinations, we wouldn't consider them well because we have diagnostic tools that would lead us to believe there is a mass outbreak of schizophrenia. The issue here is to delineate between mental illness, which is rooted in a physical malfunction of the brain, and cultural norms which manifest to outsiders as 'insane', but which, in fact, arise without any biological dysfunction.
  14. I don't think I've been at all authoritarian in my suggestions in this thread. You came with a question about meaning, and I suggested a resolution by rejecting the assumption that meaning is a coherent concept. Now you push back and say that you can find value in your definition of god - well why the initial question if that's so successful for you? You still perhaps want help, but you clearly don't want it from me, so I'll leave it at this.
  15. It's certainly hypocritical for the religious to condemn the revelations of others when they already endorse fantastical thinking, however I think as inconsistent as its results would be, it's reasonable to measure sanity in terms of normalcy. In the U.S., while there are some crackpot religious sects, it is generally unheard of for people to witness the divine in person, so someone claiming such an experience may have something wrong with them. Yet, in some African societies, demons are tangible entities and witches are routinely murdered. Such acts would be considered 'insane' in the U.S., but they cannot be considered 'insane' in their home environment because they are an established cultural norm. The superstition needs to be fought against, of course, but it's not a sign of mental illness.
  16. Even accepting the premises of your argument, some of which are questionable, you're still wrong. It is demonstrably false to claim that religious same-sex marriages would be an imposition on religion for two reasons: 1) The religious approach to same-sex marriage is not homogeneous. Some religious sects are in favour of same-sex marriage, and many churches would be willing to host them. Is it not, therefore, an imposition by one religion on another to deny these churches the ability to marry same-sex couples? 2) Given the availability of churches willing to conduct same-sex marriages, same-sex couples will have no desire whatsoever to demand a religious ceremony from an institution that condemns homosexuality. Thus, there is no imposition to be found. Churches which oppose same-sex marriage will be perfectly free to not conduct them, but that is where freedom of religion ends. It does not extend to denying other churches the right to wed same-sex couples, just as it is not a legally permissible exercise of freedom of religion to enslave people because it is endorsed in the Bible.
  17. You seem quite unwilling to detach yourself from the notion of purpose which I regard as nonsensical, but I clearly won't be able to convince you of that. As far as I am concerned, we have values and that's it. They neither come from nor generate purpose, and they do not need an external source to be cultivated. I personally find it mightily liberating to make of life what I want without the concern of an authority telling me if it has intrinsic meaning. As far as I can tell, talk of purpose and meaning is smoke and mirrors to make the authority seem necessary, but I am yet to see anyone elucidate what purpose would actually be or look like. EDIT: And if you choose to value things solely because of an external source - e.g. a god or the law - you are able to do it, but that is hardly an avenue that will create a real sense of fulfilment. Surely you recognise that it's better to value something because its effects are good than to value it because you've been told to.
  18. I don't know why you interpreted "well-being" as "your own well-being" because of course that would be vapid and selfish. Even in terms of your own well-being, though, it does not equate with hedonism. That's far too simplistic. Your well-being can be constituted by whatever makes you happy and whatever you value. Thus, if you think that thinking of yourself is vapid, voila you've got your first tenet of personal well-being: caring for others. What else could constitute your well-being? Like I said, it needn't be about pleasure, but about self-fulfilment, so reading can be a part of it, learning a new subject or acquiring a new skill, perhaps writing or creating things. To say that well-being is important is not to impose any strictures on you whatsoever - your well-being can be whatever you want it to be, and can be founded on charity if that's what you want. You just have to shed the popular illusion that it requires supernatural endorsement or a meaning from some external source.
  19. Jaden, your view of religion is far too insular. There are people from all kinds of faiths, each of them mutually incompatible with yours, whose sacred texts contain prophecies that can be interpreted as being realised; whose adherents can attest to countless miracles at the hands of their own religious icons; and who can claim personal revelation that their god is the true god. Clearly, only one of these thousands of gods could be real, which necessitates that the majority of these experiences must be explicable by natural phenomena. However, if we must already accept that these experiences can be accounted for naturally, it is extremely likely that all such experiences of all faiths are natural deceptions, and there is no logical reason to believe - however convincing your experiences were - that your god is the one, true god. That's a very narrow, uninformed view.
  20. And yet I presume you are neither actively engaged in suicide attempts, nor waiting to simply waste away. Why? Most likely because you simply cannot help the fact that you are hard-wired to value things, and if you value survival, or even just a lack of a painful death, that opens up a big question about what else to value seeing as you've started. The real shackle that you need to free yourself from is the idea religion crapped out that eternal absolutism grants extra meaning. It doesn't - that's vapid, hollow, and worthless. Having a despot or an arbiter in charge doesn't make our values Real or True, it adds no value whatsoever. We shouldn't even indulge in thoughts of meaning or no meaning, it's a completely bogus concept - just concern yourself with well-being, and for that to thrive, religion must die!
  21. I often come across statements similar to the two below, which make sense in isolation but contradict each other when seen together: 1. We share 50% of our genes with a full sibling. 2. We share 90% of our genes with mice (or similar numbers for other species). There's obviously some distinction in definition not being revealed here - could someone explain it to me?
  22. Yes, mississippichem - I enjoy listening to Atkins, but I could tell by his general demeanour that his descriptions might require a pinch of salt. So, by the sounds of it, does this all play into Lawrence Krauss's recent book and the idea about an initial quantum fluctuation? Of course, I know about that - I didn't recognise from Atkins's description that he meant the same thing.
  23. I've recently been listening to some talks by Peter Atkins, a chemist and popular science writer, and I've heard him a couple of times talk about the beginning of the universe in terms of "nothing coming from nothing." This is because he says that current data in cosmology tentatively indicates that the universe might have a total energy of 0, and, therefore, the universe ought not be considered to be something coming from nothing, but nothing separating into its component, self-annihilating parts. Is there a name for this theory in physics? Does it have many proponents? Can anyone elaborate on it for me?
  24. That society did not produce a book. It produced a collection of tales which, some decades after the fact, were codified and written down by people who weren't there. It's self-evident because everything that appears in the Bible is precisely what we would expect of such a society if it were making up myths. It has a disproportionate focus on animals, on competitive agricultural politics and hierarchical social structures, and with pre-medieval morality. There is nothing within the Bible that could not have been a natural product of its time, and though this is not a slam-dunk against the argument that it was divinely inspired, it does mean that no supernatural agent is necessary to account for its contents, and therefore it is on par with the many, many other religious myths that our species has concocted for thousands of years.
  25. That's a quite silly way of twisting words to support your presuppositions. If getting to space is proof of anything, it's proof of brain-power.
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