Doesn't have an explanation for what we humans consider beautiful?

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Lux said "I used to call myself an atheist too. But I realized naturalism doesn't have an explanation for what we humans consider beautiful or noble. That led me to rethink. Now I think some "transcendent mind" must be at work in our world."

Lux made this statement in another thread; seemed logical to start a new thread.

It is a bizarre comment to me for two reasons.*

1. Why is it unnatural for humans to consider things beautiful or noble all on their own? I have heard Creationists say such things like 'Can science explain a sunset?' Well, first of all, of course science can explain a sunset in basic physics, but that isn't really what the question is asking. Rather the question is can science explain why we are awed by a beautiful sunset. To which my response would be - why not? Are we not capable of finding beauty and nobility all by ourselves? If you say not, why not?

2. Humans are part of the evolutionary process of the biosphere, would it be an accident that they would consider things beautiful or noble naturally? It is the human condition to find a baby 'cute'. To find furred baby animals adorable. To see the stunning beauty of a sunset. To sit before the ocean and be overwhelmed by its beauty and power. Our very evolution has conditioned us to fit into our world as perfectly as possible. So it only seems logical that we would have developed these characteristics very much on our own. It, and its opposite, I would go as far as to say, is required for our survival as a species.

I'm not saying gods might not be involved. I don't understand why a god must be required. And especially I don't understand why this concept would end up being a defining factor to choose to believe in a god.

*Lux used the phrase 'transcendent mind', and I am inferring he means gods. I.E. thinking entities beyond our physical reality.
 
Naturalism doesn't fully explain "love"(something we consider beautiful), and "self-sacrifice"(something we consider noble). At least that's how I feel.

When I thought I was an atheist, I participated in fora mainly to argue with believers. I thought they're naive uninformed unintelligent people for believing in such an unscientific notion as God and, I thought, I need to help them wake up from their cultic mentality. Yup, I was a self-righteous s.o.b. with a gigantic ego.

And I talked to this theist on a forum one day who asked me this question.

"How does naturalism or Darwinism explain how humans love?"​

So I answered,

"Just as in case of any animals, loving our children, spouses, or friends, or fellow countrymen helps to sustain our own species. It's in our DNA."​

Then he said this ...

"True. But, the difference is, other animals seem to engage in 'loving' behavior solely for sustaining the species, whereas humans' love will go beyond it. Other animals won't raise their offspring that are born defective, but abandon them. We may think that's cold and cruel, but it is logical, biologically. Why waste time and energy on those who can't contribute to the prosperity of the species?

A man can fall in love with a dying woman fully knowing she is not going to carry his children. And we find something "beautiful" about it. How do you explain this other than "soul connection", and "soul" is a concept that atheism doesn't have.

Why the difference . . . If humans are just another animal that happens to be smarter (this is the typical atheistic view, isn't it?), why are we the only animal engaging in 'loving' behavior that does not advance the prosperity of the species?"​


Also he gave us atheists this thought experiment.

A soldier is hurrying to move away from the area he knows is about to be bombarded by his army since they think none of their soldiers survived. Unable to communicate with the base (radio is malfunctioning), he is running as fast as he can. Once he crosses the river a half mile ahead, he's safe. But he encounters a local old man bleeding profusely from a stray bullet, begging for help.

Scenario-1
He carries the old man on his back. This significantly delays him and both die in the bombardment.

Scenario-2
He doesn't stop for the old man and makes it to the safe area in time.

I am not trying to discuss about which action (S-1 or S-2) we must take. My question is, why are we in awe of the action displayed in S-1?? We see something sublime — but not about the action in S-2 — don't we?

Speaking strictly from the survival point of view, S-2 shows the right action — isn't saving at least one, instead of risking two lives, better? In particular, the young dying for the old is wrong in terms of species-preservation. So, why do we consider the actions in S-1 "noble", but not the action in S-2 which in reality better serve the survival of the species??

Isn't it because our inner voice tells us that's the right thing to do? But, where does this voice come from? Is it our conscience? But then, why did we develop our conscience to work against our own survival and the betterment of the species? It's better for the species that the strong continue to live and procreate and the weak or old die away.

The voice within you ... can it be ... the voice of God ?​


After this, I started reading C. S. Lewis and then eventually changed my beliefs.
 
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I can easily explain away love, and self-sacrifice, without referring to DNA, or evolution, or God. Love, like self-sacrifice, is just a concept. We all want to believe these qualities are innate, or somehow spiritual, but, really, are they?

We are conditioned, by society, by family, and peers, to determine what love is, and isn't. Love is not... sex. Love is not... responsibility, or caring, or sharing. It's not lust, it's not respect, but we still refer to all of these states and events as "love".

In fact, if we truly look for "love", we cannot prove it's existence beyond it being an overused concept.

I feel it isn't "conscience", or the "inner voice" that assists us in deciding to save the old man, even if it means we die ourselves.

I think that what prompts us is some notion of what is right, and that notion is given to us, by other people, by kin, by church, by state, by our fiction and films, by friends. We know, consciously or otherwise, that if we're discovered to have not attempted to save the old man, our community/the world will look upon us badly. We feel that God will not favour us, or we feel that as a good Christian, or a good Muslim, we should attempt to save this old man, even at the expense of ourselves. We might pretend this is not the case, but I don't believe we try to save the old man because we're altruists -- we're compelled to assist him because if we don't, we'll experience terrible cognitive dissonance we'll later refer to as "survivor's guilt".
 
Naturalism doesn't fully explain "love"(something we consider beautiful), and "self-sacrifice"(something we consider noble). At least that's how I feel.

When I thought I was an atheist, I participated in fora mainly to argue with believers. I thought they're naive uninformed unintelligent people for believing in such an unscientific notion as God and, I thought, I need to help them wake up from their cultic mentality. Yup, I was a self-righteous s.o.b. with a gigantic ego.

And I talked to this theist on a forum one day who asked me this question.

"How does naturalism or Darwinism explain how humans love?"​

So I answered,

"Just as in case of any animals, loving our children, spouses, or friends, or fellow countrymen helps to sustain our own species. It's in our DNA."​

Then he said this ...

"True. But, the difference is, other animals seem to engage in 'loving' behavior solely for sustaining the species, whereas humans' love will go beyond it. Other animals won't raise their offspring that are born defective, but abandon them. We may think that's cold and cruel, but it is logical, biologically. Why waste time and energy on those who can't contribute to the prosperity of the species?

A man can fall in love with a dying woman fully knowing she is not going to carry his children. And we find something "beautiful" about it. How do you explain this other than "soul connection", and "soul" is a concept that atheism doesn't have.

Why the difference . . . If humans are just another animal that happens to be smarter (this is the typical atheistic view, isn't it?), why are we the only animal engaging in 'loving' behavior that does not advance the prosperity of the species?"​


Also he gave us atheists this thought experiment.

A soldier is hurrying to move away from the area he knows is about to be bombarded by his army since they think none of their soldiers survived. Unable to communicate with the base (radio is malfunctioning), he is running as fast as he can. Once he crosses the river a half mile ahead, he's safe. But he encounters a local old man bleeding profusely from a stray bullet, begging for help.

Scenario-1
He carries the old man on his back. This significantly delays him and both die in the bombardment.

Scenario-2
He doesn't stop for the old man and makes it to the safe area in time.

I am not trying to discuss about which action (S-1 or S-2) we must take. My question is, why are we in awe of the action displayed in S-1?? We see something sublime — but not about the action in S-2 — don't we?

Speaking strictly from the survival point of view, S-2 shows the right action — isn't saving at least one, instead of risking two lives, better? In particular, the young dying for the old is wrong in terms of species-preservation. So, why do we consider the actions in S-1 "noble", but not the action in S-2 which in reality better serve the survival of the species??

Isn't it because our inner voice tells us that's the right thing to do? But, where does this voice come from? Is it our conscience? But then, why did we develop our conscience to work against our own survival and the betterment of the species? It's better for the species that the strong continue to live and procreate and the weak or old die away.

The voice within you ... can it be ... the voice of God ?​


After this, I started reading C. S. Lewis and then eventually changed my beliefs.


There are many more possible reasons for which the person either takes or leaves the wounded man. As there are many distinctions between Beauty and nobility. There are no concrete explanations for either.
 
We know, consciously or otherwise, that if we're discovered to have not attempted to save the old man, our community/the world will look upon us badly.

If the reason we make self-sacrifice is "the community will look upon you badly, if you don't", how do you make sense out of what this German officer did?

This is the movie Karol I watched recently and was deeply moved. Watch the scene from around 1:18:50 to 1:23:00.


Don't you think what he did was "noble", even though his wife and children would have suffered from his decision, emotionally, also financially. The German community at that time looked upon this man so badly that they executed him. His family might have been shunned by the community afterward, I'd imagine.
 
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Thoughtful answers. Thanks. Don't have the time to go into a full response right now, but will when I can.

One quick question for Lux, or anyone who wants to chime in. In your soldier example, an atheist would be just as likely to try and save the other man as a theist would. Since the atheist doesn't believe in any divine beings, the voice in his head is from within his head. This is the tricky part about these type of responses. People who are atheists by and far have the same noble traits (or lack thereof) of any group of theists. They are plainly capable of doing the same good actions as theists would. That seems to make the necessity of a god to create these nobler parts of our humanity redundant.
 
Yup. That's what I said to the theist guy, and he said this.

I see "survival" as a self-centered animalistic instinct that we're all saddled with, "conscience" as a divine instinct that keeps reminding us of our true nature, the part that's made in the image of God. There always is a tug-of-war between these different types of instincts. In some occasions, animalistic instinct wins, in other times, divine instinct wins.

It all depends on how receptive one is to the divine voice. And the reception can be completely subconscious, that one doesn't have to think that he believes in God, doesn't have to know he is following the voice of God. In the same way homing pigeons follow the earth's magnetic field without knowing that's what they're doing.
 
And the reception can be completely subconscious, that one doesn't have to think that he believes in God, doesn't have to know he is following the voice of God. In the same way homing pigeons follow the earth's magnetic field without knowing that's what they're doing.

What is wrong with this statement is that it is completely what if. I could say the atheist is getting his morality vibes from The Man in the Moon. It makes as much sense!
 
What is wrong with this statement is that it is completely what if. I could say the atheist is getting his morality vibes from The Man in the Moon. It makes as much sense!

Of course it's a what-if. We are talking about our "beliefs" in a "faith" forum, what else do you expect?

What if the universe was united by our mental energy ...
What if the earth had a mind of her own (like Gaia) ...
What if the events in the Bible are true ...
What if an angel really dictated the Koran ...

It's all what-if! That's why they are called "beliefs", aren't they?

By the way, you asked me about my faith, so I tried my best in answering. Whether you like my answers or not is no concern of mine. I could totally care less. Especially if you don't believe in a theistic god, of course what I say won't make any sense to you. If it did, you'd be a theist!

I decided to change my beliefs, because I want to be a guy who'd carry the old man. Honestly, I don't know if I can be that heroic under such an extreme circumstance, but I know that I want to be, if I can at all. If the voice within that tells us to help the helpless isn't coming from divine, it's easy for me to decide not to, because my survival and my family's comfort come first.

If there were no God, the most important things I can think of in my life would be my own prosperity, also my family's, my friends', my country's and then ultimately the human race. So why should I carry the old man that I don't even know + is not gonna procreate anymore, "risking the most important things to me"?

If our ultimate goal is to survive and prosper as a species, "unconditional love" ceases to make sense. Our love should be conditional depending on what works best for the species, should it not?
 
I like your answers fine. I respond with different ideas - we call that sharing our points of view. That is the reason for being here, right? My point, and you said it yourself - all beliefs are personal to each of us. None are more probable than any other. You might be right that atheists get subconscious morals from a supreme being. I may be right that it is a natural reaction that the species has evolved to best survive. Maybe it is both!

Where we are differing is my disagreement with your last paragraph. There is a very natural reason for our species to care about each other beyond our immediate families. The human species has been so successful because of our willingness to cooperate, to band into groups for the best chance of survival for all. Which includes what is best for the common good just as much as individual good. I'm not telling you what to believe, I'm simply pointing out alternate possibilities to why humans would have developed morals and love completely on their own.
 
I like your answers fine. I respond with different ideas - we call that sharing our points of view.

Really? Correct me if I'm wrong, but all I heard you saying was the theistic idea I offered was just as ridiculous as us getting morality vibes from The Man in the Moon. You call that sharing a different idea? (Well, unless of course that's what you really believe. Somehow I doubt that.)

As for the rest of what you stated, I have a few questions for you. But I don't have time for that right now, so will come back when I can.

In the meantime, I'll offer you a youtube clip in which the speaker is a former atheist. She happens to explain why I thought I was an atheist, and why I realized I was wrong. Don't know if I'd convert to Catholicism in the future, I'm not so concerned about what denomination I should belong to at this point. All I'm interested in right now is to study the scriptures.

"How I grew up atheist and ended up Catholic" -Jennifer Fulwiler, THIRST 2013
 
LOL! 15 minutes in and already a couple of well-voiced assumptions expressed here at IO have taken a knock!

On the 'what if' front, my favourite story is of the conversion of CS Lewis, a staunch believer in the 'it's all myth/metaphor' when talking of the Gospels. J.R.R. Tolkein's response (they were friends at Oxford), was simply, "OK ... but what if it's not?"

I find this a telling argument. I am always surprised that those who insist they are 'open minded' are in fact quite 'closed' to the idea of a miracle.
 
There is a difference between being 'closed' to an idea, and not accepting said idea because there is zero lack of evidence. Having all the good miracles 2000 years in the past really doesn't cut it. If there are gods, give us a good miracle today in the modern world. And no wishy washy that some event 'could' be considered a miracle, kinda, maybe. Have it rain in my car while it stays sunny outside. Stop the Earth's rotation for a couple seconds. Have the stars align to read 'I am here'. I'm ready and willing to accept the impossible were it to happen. And if it did - something that is completely beyond the known laws of physics, I absolutely would sit up and take notice.
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Really? Correct me if I'm wrong, but all I heard you saying was the theistic idea I offered was just as ridiculous as us getting morality vibes from The Man in the Moon. You call that sharing a different idea?

Well, yes actually. If one doesn't believe in gods, the Man in the Moon, or the Tooth Fairy, or a Sharknado or just about anything else is equally plausible. As Wil is so fond of saying "It's Turtles all the way down". It's not mocking your point of view - I'm responding from my point of view. And it is sincere. If you would rather be insulted despite my telling you it is not meant that way, go for it. Just know that it is not my intent whether you accept that or not.
 
Having all the good miracles 2000 years in the past really doesn't cut it.
:p he gave one miracle that has stayed... many choose not to read them... Some are stories, some are books of law, others are works so grand no man could have written. But it takes reading those stories, etc. to ever understand the miracle.

As for the big miracles that are visually displayed, I agree. They do nothing for the modern man(or woman) I didn't see Moses (PBUH) split the red sea, or Noah (PBUH) build a ship that was filled with animals while the earth flooded, or a child born of a virgin mother. They are great signs of greatness, but at this point to believe them, you must believe that the book(s) that contain the stories are true.
 
Well, yes actually. If one doesn't believe in gods, the Man in the Moon, or the Tooth Fairy, or a Sharknado or just about anything else is equally plausible. As Wil is so fond of saying "It's Turtles all the way down". It's not mocking your point of view - I'm responding from my point of view. And it is sincere. If you would rather be insulted despite my telling you it is not meant that way, go for it. Just know that it is not my intent whether you accept that or not.

Wow ok ... I thought I read somewhere that you said you were a Deist. Don't Deists believe in God, "a creator" of the universe and all lives on earth?

1. If you don't, why do you call yourself a Deist?

2. If you do, do you seriously consider the Man in the Moon, or the Tooth Fairy, or Sharknado or just about anything else is equally plausible?

===========================================​

This conversation is about if naturalism can attest to how humans think certain things are beautiful or noble, right?

I offered my thoughts as to it can't. Could you offer your thoughts as to why you think naturalism can explain the human mindset that considers the actions in my examples beautiful or noble?

I don't know if you've watched the video I shared (btw, I'm still undecided on the issues of abortion and euthanasia. I think there are cases it may not be wrong. I may make a new thread about these some other time) ...

One thing Fulwiler (the speaker in the video) said that bothered me quite a lot was when she recalls her college atheist professor saying something to the effect of, "pigs are more cognitively complex than new-born babies. Therefore their lives are more valuable ..."

That's crazy, right? I found a counter-argument to that. "The potential cognitive ability that human babies will develop surpasses that of a pig", and then thought, "Wait a minute, what if the baby has a severe cognitive disability?"

My cousin's daughter has Down syndrome ... Someone always has to attend to her probably for the rest of her life. But we adore her. From a purely atheistic point of view, she can't contribute much of anything to the society. You could say some dogs can do better; guarding the house, chasing away vermin, be a police dog, or seeing-eye dog ...

?????

Do I really have to say "Some dogs lives are more valuable than her life, because they can contribute to the society while she can't."

?????

Then I immediately thought, "That's total BS!!!!!" ... But again, from a purely atheistic point of view, I'm logically bound to think that as an atheist. So I thought, ok, I won't be an atheist. ... ok, so, now what?

I was reading C. S. Lewis at that time as well and many things he said got me thinking ... Especially this:

"If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilised morality to savage morality."​

Also I read Francis Collins. He is a physician-geneticist noted for his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He argues:

"How is it that we, and all other members of our species, unique in the animal kingdom, know what's right and what's wrong... I reject the idea that that is an evolutionary consequence, because that moral law sometimes tells us that the right thing to do is very self-destructive. If I'm walking down the riverbank, and a man is drowning, even if I don't know how to swim very well, I feel this urge that the right thing to do is to try to save that person. Evolution would tell me exactly the opposite: preserve your DNA. Who cares about the guy who's drowning? He's one of the weaker ones, let him go. It's your DNA that needs to survive. And yet that's not what's written within me."​


OK ... I'll stop here for now. Gotta go to work.
 
All good questions; I will have to answer in parts as time permits.

Part 1.

Yes I am a Deist. As in everything theological, there are different denominations. Some accept a Supreme Being in the mix (though that entity does not involve itself in worldly affairs, it simply started the reality ball rolling). These tend to be the more historical and traditional forms of Deism. More modern versions of Deism believe 'God' is the universe. God is us. I am of the latter. My view is that the entire universe is one giant living entity, and that every little part has a role to play. All the universe is energy, in one form or another. All the universe is vibrations. The relevant point to our discussion is that if there is a Deity, we and everything else in the universe is part of it. There is no self aware entity distinct from all of us.
 
And if it did - something that is completely beyond the known laws of physics, I absolutely would sit up and take notice.
Why would God perform tricks outside of his own creation to please those without eyes to see or ears to hear? Sounds like something Satan would do rather than God, to deceive those without faith.
 
Part 2.

If you do, do you seriously consider the Man in the Moon, or the Tooth Fairy, or Sharknado or just about anything else is equally plausible?

It is probably more appropriate to say that Divine Beings are no more likely to be real than The Man in the Moon or the Tooth Fairy. What I am talking about here is what I perceive as a modern disconnect between reality and non reality in Theist religions. As an example, two men were talking about religious concepts before a student audience, an atheist and a Muslim. Both are college educated, university professors. Both believe in the scientific method, the theory of evolution, the physics that control the universe, etc.

The atheist suggested to the Muslim that he was a man of learning and education, and surely didn't believe that the miracles in the Koran literally happened, like Mohammed riding a flying horse to heaven. The Muslim countered that he absolutely believed that really happened.

The atheist was shocked by this. How can a modern highly educated and intelligent man believe in fairy tales? This is the disconnect I am talking about. If you had asked the Muslim did he believe in centaurs roamed ancient Greece, or that Thor was the God of Thunder in Norse countries, he would have flatly said no. Those were silly, old fashioned ideas.

But because equally unbelievable myths are in his religion, suddenly they are acceptable as real.

Does that not seem strange? If not how do you reconcile the two.
 
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