Objectivity vs Subjectivity


It is very easy for those of us with some kind of STEM background to appreciate objectivity. In the sciences and mathematics, subjectivity, generally, has no place. Things need to be objective, if we are to get at the truth of the natural world. Thus, many times in discussions subjective details are left out and seen as unimportant. However, subjective experiences are part of being human. Thus, I would argue that people should not see subjective experiences as irrelevant or unimportant in all areas of life.

Now, this is not to say we need to add subjective thinking into the STEM fields. That would be an extreme mistake. However, what I am saying is that humans are not robots, and there is a time and place for understanding people’s subjective experience and not simply pushing those experiences aside.

To say that a conservative’s subjective views on abortion doesn’t matter, would be a grave mistake. The conservative might know people that regretted having an abortion. Certainly, there could be objective studies showing how most women tend to feel about their abortions, whether it be positive or negative. This is where people in the conversation tend to want to point out studies and use other scientific tools, as this conservative doesn’t have a large sample size of women who  had abortions. However, how the conservative feels certainly does matter and so does the women who regretted having the abortion. Their feelings and experiences do matter whether or not they speak with the strength of a study.

In this case, the conversation is about social standards, morality, and the effects abortions have on women. Even if most women don’t regret abortion, it is certainly worth noting that some women do. Additionally, what is a good social standard and what our morality should be should be up for debate, and while, objective science can help one cannot forget the subjective experiences of all the people effected by this debate. A philosophy that cannot be practiced in the real world is useless, even if some like the particular arguments of the philosophy.

Note: I’m not trying to answer the pro-life/pro-choice debate.

As always, let me know what you think!

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On Truth: An Atheist Quotes Scripture


I am going to do some very odd for an atheist, but bear with me. I am going to quote scripture.

In John 18 Pilate is questioning Jesus who, according to the Bible, will soon be crucified.

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Many claim to be pointing to the truth. The Christians have Jesus and the Bible. The Muslims have the Quran. Many atheists declare there is no god with at least some degree of certitude, and everyone seems to think that if everyone else followed the same thought processes that they did everyone would reach the same conclusions. When everyone doesn’t reach the same conclusions, the other group is wrong and excuses are made. In a sense, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Of course, we have no idea if Pilate really said this, or indeed, if this scene really took place. Still, imagine just giving up flabbergasted and retorting, “What is truth?” I’m sure most of my readers know that it was Barabbas who was released. Does the truth matter? And what do you do with truth once it is found? Do you get a gold star for finding the truth?

But there is a scarier situation. What if on the journey to find truth, all that is found is chaos and, ironically at the same time, nothingness? What if, on finding the truth, the notion of human progress seems flimsy at best. What if there are no answers on how to live a good life? What if, at base, there are no logical answers to life’s most urgent questions? Maybe you do get that damned gold star, but at what price?

I’m not saying truth is that grim, only what if? Does one live their life wearing their gold star with pride, or do they do something different?

As always, opinions welcome!

 

 

The Bias of the Obvious in Philosophy


Philosophers often struggle and strive to create logical arguments to get at the truth of a particular subject or so the claim is. In philosophy classes, students are bombarded with various forms of logical deductive and inductive arguments, so that they know what qualifies as a genuine argument. The students are trained to avoid logical fallacies, and they write many a paper, where they will lose many a grade point if they fail to make a logical argument and avoid these fallacies. Still, doing real philosophy is not this simple. I would argue, that philosophers are often “biased”.

This is not to say that philosophers aren’t, for the most part, making logical arguments. The problem is that even a logical argument can potentially be wrong, if new information arises. For example look at this argument:

  1. All white bears are polar bears
  2. X is a bear
  3. X is white
  4. Thus, X is a polar bear

That argument is logical, but it is also wrong. Non-polar bears can be, of course, white. But, if someone had never heard or seen a white non-polar bear, this argument would seem reasonable, wouldn’t it?

And, this brings us to the next point. Philosophy and logic are absolutely indispensable, but logic alone is not enough to bear the weight of the burden of proof in many cases. If someone had never had a science class or lived a long time ago, it would make sense to them that the sun went around the earth. Why? It seems patently obvious to the naked eye. Both modern knowledge and logical argumentation is necessary to prove that the earth in fact goes around the sun and the like.

One of the problems philosophy faces in arenas outside science and instead in arenas such as morality and religion is to get past the “obvious.” It is obvious to some that God exists, and it is obvious to other that he/she/it doesn’t. Many a premise and conclusion are made to prove both sides of this debate correct, but the debate still rages. For example, when people make the claim that something can’t come from nothing, this will seem obvious to many people, but has anyone ever dealt with absolute nothingness? Could we be wrong about the obvious? I’m not trying to claim the answer one way or the other, but the point is, how would we really know? These philosophers and lay people are relying on the obvious which is in reality a bias!

Nevertheless, it is not just religious philosophy that suffers from the problems of the bias of the obvious. For many the idea of maximizing happiness as a moral system seems obvious, not that there aren’t arguments for this, but should we be digging deeper? Sure being happy and causing others to be happy seems “nice.” However, it is tempting to ask if happiness and pleasure are really the highest aims to being human.

There are many other cases and examples I could have used in philosophy. I hope to have used some relatable ones. The problem with philosophy, sometimes, is that it is often trying to answer questions before we have enough knowledge, or it is trying to answer questions where superior knowledge will never be found. Often the bias of the obvious is used, so I beseech you to notice this when you are doing your own critical thinking.

 

Thank you for reading. Feel free to like and comment!

Why, as an Atheist, have I been Talking so much about Buddhism?


Here is my unscripted off the cuff remarks on my interest in Buddhism

Completely Off the Cuff Audio Blog #2: Why I Find Certain Theologians Annoying


I have created my second audio blog. This one is why I find certain theologians very annoying tell me what you think!.

Here’s the debate between William Lane Craig and Sean Carol I was talking about in my audio blog.

Objective Morality without God?


A typical argument for God from theists is that claim that without God there is no objective morality. The only morality, in this view, is Darwinian in nature, and some atheists actually agree. Most atheists, who I’ve heard, do not think there really is objective morality. Many people balk when they hear this. Of course, everyone wants to hear that pedophilia and murder are unequivocally wrong, and those deeds are actually wrong. The problem is using terms like “objective morality” in the first place.

I would argue that morality is more complicated than just either being objective or relative. Furthermore, I think the term “objective morality” is a little like the word “evil.” We want to call Hitler evil. We don’t want to think of him just as a bad person who did horrible things, but the term “evil” tends to evoke supernatural or other thinking that is not in the arena of reasonable thinking. Thus, I want to talk just about morality in general instead of arguing against objective morality. It’s just not a useful topic for what I’m trying to say, and I suspect discussing it is a less useful conversation than people tend to think.

What are morals? Morals, I suspect, had it’s origins in biology, but like I said before it’s more complicated than that. People are smart, and as such, inventive. Some amount of morality is certainly hardwired into us, but people are smart enough to out smart their biology. It’s too simple to say morality is objective, or morality is just an evolutionary byproduct. People can and have invented or changed what it means to be moral, as well. Slavery went on for a long time, but now it is seen, almost universally, as the terrible thing that it is.

The problem with morality now is that it still appears to be in it’s infancy. Many people disagree about morality. Many people use religion to decide what is moral. Others pick a moral philosophy, and still, others don’t even think about morality. We all have a long way to go, and I doubt we’ll ever reach perfection. However, my point is that morality is complicated. It’s more complicated than just biology. It’s as complicated as trying to figure what works best for humans individually and as a whole, which is no small task. Still, the shock people feel with atheists saying that there is no objective morality is not useful. The theist is simply shocking their audiences’ emotions, and atheists need to talk more clearly about morality.

Why I Disagree with Utilitarianism


Utilitarianism is, basically, the philosophical notion that our morality should consist of maximizing pleasure and minimizing suffering. At first glance, this sounds like a good idea. It certainly doesn’t sound nefarious. After all, who wouldn’t want “the most good for the most people.” However when taking utilitarian notions to their logical ends, leads me to say that I disagree with this philosophy.

For example, we can all agree with that the Holocaust was immoral, and of course, it wasn’t just immoral because it resulted in the death of millions. There were cruel and painful experiments forced on the victims. Now, take into consideration utilitarianism. If these cruel and unusual experiments could result in a large gain in pleasure, in the future, they are allowable. After all, the victims were going to die anyways, or so the argument could go. I cannot agree with this kind of logic.

Secondly, I don’t find utilitarianism practical. Utilitarians, usually, see the need to treat everyone equally, which sounds great, but it is problematic. Can anyone ever, really, value a stranger the same as they value their own mother? I doubt it.

As an atheist, I have to think critically about moral philosophy. I cannot just trust a book as infallible, and while I know utilitarianism is popular, I have to disagree with it. This is not to say I agree with Kant either. Instead, I find myself delving into other moral philosophies to try and find something I can salvage. I, also, find that the practicality of any moral philosophy is usually understated. What good is it to have a moral philosophy that is logically consistent but can’t be implemented?

For now, I will state where my thinking is. I am for differentiated caring, which I am stealing from Confucius. It is not that it is okay to not care about all people, but everyone, can’t value everyone equally, in my opinion. Thus, we should continue to value those close to us the most, but we shouldn’t stop caring for others with our spare emotional and materiel resources. I believe there are plenty of these spare resources around, and most of us are just selfish.

As always, let me know what you think!