Presentation on theme: "Morals without God - A Secular System of Ethics"— Presentation transcript:
1Morals without God - A Secular System of Ethics Ian BryceSecular PartyEthics teacher
2A Secular System of Ethics Can we have moralswithout a god?We will try to construct a system of ethics based instead on scientific principles and reason.
3What to practice? Examples of ethics Golden Rule - do unto others…Allow rape of daughtersSlay hereticsLove and respect all beingsTorture the innocent in order to forgive the guiltyHelp others in your familyBe nice to others in your packAttack anyone outside your tribe
4Why practice it? Examples of reasons given Because the Chief saidBecause God saidBecause its written in our Holy bookBecause the priest saidIts good to be good (Kant)Duty for Duty’s sakeFor my own benefit (reciprocity)For reward in the AfterlifeSurvival valueThe Altruistic geneFamily benefitTo make society functionTo avoid jailIt feels good
5Chronology Dark Ages 300 AD-1500 AD The Church was in charge. Witchcraft,drownings,Inquisition
7The EnlightenmentThe Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in Church and state.
8Chronology THE ADVANCE OF SCIENCE Galileo - described planetary orbits (earth no longer at the center)Newton - gravity, laws of motionLavoisier - chemistryAmpere - electric currentDarwin attributed species to nature not a deityTHE ENLIGHTENMENTThe advance of Reason in human affairsSpinoza criticized the Bible, the mind is the bodyJohn Locke consciousness, monetarism, knowledge is gained through perceptionDideroNewtonVoltaireBenjamin FranklinThomas Jefferson
9Classical philosophers contributing to secular ethics David HumeImmanual KantJohn Stuart Mill 1861Friedrich Nietzsche 1887George Holyoake 1896Bertrand Russell 1927Ludwig Wittgenstein ?
10Classical contributors to secular ethics David Hume1743 “A Treatise on Human Nature”Ethical questions are subjective, unlike matters of factHence, Reward & punishment - only to change future behavior
11Classical contributors to secular ethics John Stuart Mill(and his father James Mill,and Jeremy Bentham)1861 “Utilitarianism”Use experience not intuitionGreatest happiness principle:Actions are “right” of they promote happiness“Wrong” of they promote painHappiness of everyone, not just the doer - “nobleness”
12Classical contributors to secular ethics Friedrich Nietzsche1887 On the Genealogy of MoralityRejected Christianity - “God is dead”
13Classical contributors to secular ethics George Holyoake1896 “English Secularism”Work for this life (not an afterlife)Uses material means and scienceIt is good to do good
14Classical contributors to secular ethics Bertrand Russell1927 “Why I am not a Christian”• Religion …is the enemy of moral progress in the world• Promoted science and reason• A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage• Political activist - Anti-war stance• Sexual freedoms
16Modern secular ethicists Peter Singer1977 Animal LiberationThe Expanding CircleUtilitarianismEthical reasoning since primitive timesLarge perspective: equal concern for all human beingsWe should bear a small pain to relieve another’s large painThus, are Americans immoral?Greater happiness through sharing
17Modern secular ethicists Christopher Hitchens2007 “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”Religion misrepresents the origins of humankind and the cosmosReligion demands unreasonable suppression of human natureReligion inclines people to violence and blind submission to authorityReligion expresses hostility to free inquiry
18Modern secular ethicists Ayaan Hirsi Ali2007 “Infidel: my life”Recounts her story as a Moslem womanHas suffered all the indignities including genital mutilation and forced marriage.She blames Moslems who refer to the marriage of the prophet Mohammad to a girl of nine to justify these things (even in Melbourne).And the West has failed to speak out.
19Modern secular ethicists Tenzin Gyatso~2000 many speechesIf science proves religion to be wrong, then religion must change.Progress in research, especially in the life sciences, needs to be directed by 'secular ethics': ethical principals that transcend religious barriers and are common to everyone.Who?
20Modern secular ethicists Tenzin Gyatso~2000 many speeches“If science proves Buddhism to be wrong, then religion must change.”“Progress in research, especially in the life sciences, needs to be directed by 'secular ethics': ethical principals that transcend religious barriers and are common to everyone.”14th Dalai LamaLeader of Tibetan BuddhismPopular leader of Tibet
21Facts - Religion See Table - broad Highlighted comparisons: Sacred textsProphet-founderGodsBeliefsChosen raceThus, a comparative analysis establishes, on many different bases, and beyond any doubt, that of any 100 religions or sects, no two can be true. 99 of them are wrong or 100 are wrong.
22More Facts - ReligionScientific evidence discounts intervention by any supernatural beingAll thorough tests of prayer show zero effectThe biblical miracles are impossible, according to the laws of physics, which have held since the Big BangMost religions have a known (and very human) origin. The holy books, prophets and miracles are clearly designed to give power to a particular sect.This does nothing to trouble the believers.Christianity - basis: Ancient Sin - Adam, Eve, nakedness, hence the crucifixion.
23Morality of the religions Much of human folklore and legends convey moral principles and altruismMany have been incorporated into religion, such as the Parables of the Old and New TestamentsGood and bad instructions have become mixedEg Thou shalt not steal, but you should slaughter any nonbelievers.
24Morality of the religions The teachings of churches vary through history, according to the whims of the person in power, eg Henry 8th.The instructions for extreme cruelty have been used to justify most wars, genocide, inquisitions etc in history.Religious leaders hold up their sacred texts as their moral authority - yet they are full of immoral instructions
25Morality of the religions Religious leaders themselves have a long history of using prostitutes, child sex, abusing boys etcThose instructions and actions of the churches which are sound, clearly do not come from their holy booksHence are available to secular thinkers too
26Morality of the religions Religious leaders of most creeds have a consistent history of oppressing minorities, eg the unmarried, the unhappily married, the pregnant, gays, and particularly womenIt is virtually impossible to improve this - can’t argue with their authority
27Morality of the religions How can belief systems which are both false and harmful be propagated for thousands of years?Passed down by fathers and clericsTo those most vulnerable - to children, who are programmed to accept all they are taught.By the time they reach outside the family, it is too late - others seem like aliensNeed to break the cycle - stop lying to the children
28Disagreements and science Unlike religions, science offers a path to resolving disagreements.Both parties are asked to present their evidence or analysis (for example the experiments they are relying on).These tests can then be examined and repeated by others.The methods and results are visible to all parties, so eventually a consensus will be achieved.When these principles are applied to a conflict, there is a path towards resolution.
29Enlightenment through science Cosmology has revealed the origins of the universeThe first generation of stars - making heavy elements (of which we are now made)The gas clouds condensing into new stars and planetsThe solar system clearing of dust, the earth accumulating water and gases
30Enlightenment through science Physics has shown we live in a material worldNo evidence of a supernatural or spiritual realm, hence no theoretical basis for religionsThere is apparently no way a supernatural being could influence the universe - the four known forces account for all phenomena, no “gaps” for spooksAt least in our domain - might be different at extreme energies and gravity in black holes etcHence physics strongly rules out the gods claimed by religions
31Enlightenment through science Biology has shown us how life works, and reproduced using DNAEvolution shows we are descended from common ancestors with other primatesOur sharing DNA with all life on earth, and the relatively insignificant differences between races and minority groups, is a powerful source of respect and harmony.
32Origin of moralsThe Evolution cycle: Heredity, Random variation, Survival valueGenes (packages of DNA)& memes (ideas)Reciprocity - altruistic gene
33Origin of morals - How to enforce? Chief of tribeRules, lawsStab in back? Need a higher authorityPowerful, invisible friendProphet, holy book - religionKings, rules, lawsFavor those who agree, convert or murder those who don’t
34So ethics, morals, religions etc are inventions of man We are free to invent our own!
35Enlightenment through science Neuroscience has shown us that the mind is what the brain does. Thinking is patterns of electro-chemical activity.The human mind has no extension in space outside the brain - astral travel is out.The human mind has no extension in time outside the brain - no previous lives or afterlife.
36Our Core paradigm for ethics: The welfare of sentient beings Our basis for ethics is: Respect for sentient beings.Because they are aware, or conscious, and capable of experiencing pleasure and painTheir welfare is important to us.
37Utilitarianism How to maximize the welfare of sentient beings? We know (because we experience it) that we humans (and animals) are self aware and consciousAnd thus capable of feeling pain, sorrow, joy, love, appreciation of nature etc.Our lives also rely on many social structures, such as:learning from the responses of others to our actions,establishing friendships where helpful actions are likely to be repaid,making plans for the future,enjoying success,and regretting failure.These capabilities add to our pleasure and pain, and hence to the value we place on life.
38Application to specific issues AnimalsAliensReligious educationEnlightened educationContraception and abortionRight to dieEuthanasiaFamilyMinoritiesBehaviorLaw and courtsEnvironmentPopulation growth
39Application to specific issues AnimalsMore primitive creatures with simpler brains probably experience such consciousness and social structures also – to a lesser degree.Thus, their feelings also deserve respect – but to a lesser degree than humans.A dog is worth less consideration than a human,a mouse less again, a worm less still, and so on.Thus, animals are deserve our respect, to varying degrees.But to a lesser degree than humans.
40Application to specific issues Aliens #1If we meet (or talk to) aliens?What would the churches do? Scan the sacred texts, conclude that they were heretics, infidels, atheists etc, and try to convert or exterminate them.What would we do? Observe that they are sentient, so we would respect them (treat them well).
41Application to specific issues Aliens #2BUT the aliens will have vastly superior technology…If THEY are religious…scan their sacred text, do humans believe in the Flying Dog Poo God? NO? Convert or exterminate!Let us hope the aliens practise secular ethics!Life on Mars…
42Application to specific issues Religious EducationReligion and hatred propagated by indoctrinating childrenWhen most vulnerable.Clear chain of events to:False beliefs about originsSupernatural beingsHatred of other racesThem indoctrinating next generation.We believe children have the right not to be lied to, in matters of origins and deitiesMany forms of child abuse are outlawed alreadyThis would impact parental behavior and “faith schools”.
43Application to specific issues Religious EducationTelling parents what they can tell their children would be very difficult.Even ABC’s Rachael Kohn says parents should have the right to “bring up their children in their faith”.Does that include “inculcating hatred in other creeds”?Meanwhile, a less ambitious plan:Enlightened education
44Application to specific issues Enlightened EducationStep 1: Teach “Comparative religion” in all schoolsStep 2: Teach “Origins” in schoolsStep 3: Teach “Universal Ethics” in schools
45Application to specific issues Enlightened EducationStep 1: teach “Comparative religion” in all schoolsTeaches all the variety of sacred texts, prophets, gods and beliefs around the world (see the big Table)Will dilute the dogma from home, church and ethnic enclaves in Australia.
46Application to specific issues Enlightened EducationStep 2: Teach “Origins” in schoolsThe basic tool in an enlightened education is to teach children the real origins of the world, of life, and of humans.They will gain a wonder at the natural environment, and a desire to preserve the ecosystems.They will also gain appreciation and acceptance of the variety of peoples surrounding them.
47Application to specific issues Enlightened EducationStep 3: Teach “Universal Ethics” in schoolsSecular ethics, as suggested by this material should be taught in schools –universal human values -based on respect for all sentient beings (humans and animals).
48Application to specific issues Contraception and AbortionA woman should be in charge of her own bodyShe can choose whether or not to reproduce.The mother’s rights come first.A foetus also has some rights, which slowly increase as it develops. Thus both mother and baby have rights, which need to be considered.Most assuredly, no religious figure has the right to dictate what she does.
50Application to specific issues Right to DieAny person has the right to choose whether to live or to die.We would support the right of people of sound mind to plan for their future, anticipating that they might for example become senile (known as a living will).The stigma on suicide imposed by the Catholic Church, which causes much pointless distress, must be overcome.
51Application to specific issues EuthanasiaIf a person has no quality of life, and no prospect of improvement, then termination should be allowed.As long as it is in accordance with their wishes, and those of relatives, friends and doctors.Note: The actual policies may vary depending on inputs and analysis. What we are specifying is the methodology.
52Application to specific issues FamilySociety and government should support all kinds of family arrangements,including:traditional families,individuals,couples,sole parents,and any relationship involving mutual support.
53Application to specific issues MinoritiesGays – Our freedoms should not be limited by choice of sexuality. There should be no stigma or laws restricting gays.Discrimination – no discrimination on the basis of race, creed, sexuality, religion etc.The marginalized - We should not judge unfairly those who have become marginalised in society - drug users, criminals, mentally ill. We should assist and rehabilitate them.
54Application to specific issues The origins of BehaviourThe physical influences on our behavior can broadly be split into nature and nurture, and include:• Our parents’ two genetic codes• Random selection from our parents’ codes• Randomness in the laying down of the growing brain• Nourishment from the mother• The environment while in the womb• Any diseases in the womb or in life• All environmental influences during child and adult life• All behavioural influences during child and adult life (i.e. the behaviour of others).Thus, we need to respect al of these factors.
55Application to specific issues The Law and CourtsWe identify specific objectives of the legal system:1) To physically prevent the offender causing further harm (jail etc)2) To improve the behavior of that person (eg rehabilitation, jail, fines, corporal punishment)3) To act as a visible deterrent to others (length of jail term, death penalty).The current legal system in most democracies effectively addresses these objectives in most cases.BUT……
56Application to specific issues The Law and CourtsHowever, these principles will allow a systematic approach, and remove some inequities:• In terms of the Utilitarian principle, identify the affected parties.• Describe the harm to each (a bystander being offended by seeing and act would rank lower than the welfare of the participants.)• This will provide guidance on the relative seriousness of the matter.• List the range of available options for the penalty.• How do they rank, in terms of the three objectives?• How do they rank, in terms of the cost to society?
57Application to specific issues EnvironmentWe recognize that humans are one of many species with a right to exist on earth.Further, the fate of humans depends critically on a healthy environment, including supplies of fresh air, water and soil.This is a challenge to the views of Bjorn Lomborg, who in his book “The Skeptical Environmentalist” looked only at the wellbeing of one species.His economic rather than scientific credentials led him to conclude that by his measures, humans are better off then ever, and the planet is in fine condition.
58Application to specific issues EnvironmentOur scientific approach tells a different story:The earth is rapidly warming, as a result of human activity.If we do nothing, catastrophe will engulf the ecosystems and the human race in around years.Even if we sharply kerb greenhouse emissions, the consequences will be severe.Third world countries expect, and are moving towards, the Western living standard.Thus if we maintain our extravagant lifestyles, emissions will blow out.Australia needs to cut down, even if we are a small player on the global scale.
59Application to specific issues EnvironmentJohn Howard’s glacial pace of action on climate avoids timely action.Will lead to disaster.His (and others’) lack of action has already condemned our main Reef and River.He is the disease, pretending to be the doctor.
60Application to specific issues EnvironmentTo achieve reductions, we need to urgently adopt all possible measures, which probably include:• Reduce per capita energy usage• Limit the population• Expand research into renewables• Improve the efficiency of coal and oil usage• Increasing renewable methanol into petrol• Introduce/expand nuclear energy• Place a real tax on all carbon (not just derivatives trading)
61Application to specific issues Population GrowthThe greatest threat to the planet is very clear - population growth.All measures to improve efficiency can only delay the inevitable - if we allow continued exponential growth.For example - 60% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2050 if we are to limit the CO2 to 0.5% (and severe climate changes).If we retain constant population - that’s a 60% cut per person - very difficult.If we continue to grow at the present rate, our population will double by then, so we need an 80% cut per person! Impossible.And 30 years later, double again. Need a 90% cut!
62Application to specific issues SummaryThus we have seen how secular principles can be applied to specific areas of social welfare and custodianship of the planet.
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