Evolution’s Random Paths Lead to One Place
A massive statistical study suggests that the final evolutionary outcome — fitness — is predictable.
In his fourth-floor lab at Harvard University, Michael Desai has created hundreds of identical worlds in order to watch evolution at work. Each of his meticulously controlled environments is home to a separate strain of baker’s yeast. Every 12 hours, Desai’s robot assistants pluck out the fastest-growing yeast in each world — selecting the fittest to live on — and discard the rest. Desai then monitors the strains as they evolve over the course of 500 generations. His experiment, which other scientists say is unprecedented in scale, seeks to gain insight into a question that has long bedeviled biologists: If we could start the world over again, would life evolve the same way? Many biologists argue that it would not, that chance mutations early in the evolutionary journey of a species will profoundly influence its fate. “If you replay the tape of life, you might have one initial mutation that takes you in a totally different direction,” Desai said, paraphrasing an idea first put forth by the biologist Stephen Jay Gould in the 1980s. Desai’s yeast cells call this belief into question. According to results published in Science in June, all of Desai’s yeast varieties arrived at roughly the same evolutionary endpoint (as measured by their ability to grow under specific lab conditions) regardless of which precise genetic path each strain took. It’s as if 100 New York City taxis agreed to take separate highways in a race to the Pacific Ocean, and 50 hours later they all converged at the Santa Monica pier. The findings also suggest a disconnect between evolution at the genetic level and at the level of the whole organism. Genetic mutations occur mostly at random, yet the sum of these aimless changes somehow creates a predictable pattern. The distinction could prove valuable, as much genetics research has focused on the impact of mutations in individual genes. For example, researchers often ask how a single mutation might affect a microbe’s tolerance for toxins, or a human’s risk for a disease. But if Desai’s findings hold true in other organisms, they could suggest that it’s equally important to examine how large numbers of individual genetic changes work in concert over time. “There’s a kind of tension in evolutionary biology between thinking about individual genes and the potential for evolution to change the whole organism,” said Michael Travisano, a biologist at the University of Minnesota. “All of biology has been focused on the importance of individual genes for the last 30 years, but the big take-home message of this study is that’s not necessarily important.” (via Yeast Study Suggests Genetics Are Random but Evolution Is Not | Simons Foundation)

Once we were blobs in the sea, and then fishes, and then lizards and rats and then monkeys, and hundreds of things in between. This hand was once a fin, this hand once had claws! In my human mouth I have the pointy teeth of a wolf and the chisel teeth of a rabbit and the grinding teeth of a cow! Our blood is as salty as the sea we used to live in! When we’re frightened, the hair on our skin stands up, just like it did when we had fur. We are history! Everything we’ve ever been on the way to becoming us, we still are.

I’m made up of the memories of my parents and my grandparents, all my ancestors. They’re in the way I look, in the colour of my hair. And I’m made up of everyone I’ve ever met who’s changed the way I think.

Terry Pratchett

So inspiring!

(via whats-out-there)

New Study Revisits Miller-Urey Experiment at the Quantum Level

For the first time, researchers have reproduced the results of the Miller-Urey experiment in a computer simulation, yielding new insight into the effect of electricity on the formation of life’s building blocks at the quantum level.

In 1953, American chemist Stanley Miller had famously electrified a mixture of simple gas and water to simulate lightning and the atmosphere of early Earth. The revolutionary experiment—which yielded a brownish soup of amino acids—offered a simple potential scenario for the origin of life’s building blocks. Miller’s work gave birth to modern research on pre-biotic chemistry and the origins of life.

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New Research: Fossils of New Squirrel-like Species Support Earlier Origin of Mammals

A research team led by paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have described three new small squirrel-like species that place a poorly understood Mesozoic group of animals firmly in the mammal family tree. The study, published today in the journal Nature, supports the idea that mammals originated at least 208 million years ago in the late Triassic, much earlier than some previous research suggests.

The three new species—Shenshou lui, Xianshou linglong, and Xianshou songae—are described from six nearly complete 160-million-year-old fossils found in China. The animals, which researchers have placed in a new group, or clade, called Euharamiyida, likely looked similar to small squirrels. They weighed between 1 and 10 ounces and had tails and feet that indicate that they were tree dwellers.

Based on the age of the Euharamiyida species and their kin, the divergence of mammals from reptiles had to have happened much earlier than some research has estimated. Instead of originating in the middle Jurassic (between 176 and 161 million years ago), mammals likely first appeared in the late Triassic (between 235 and 201 million years ago).

Read the full story. 

Some Cool PowerPoint Slides on Roman History and the Bible ›

This week I finished teaching my first independent university course, for which I  constructed my own website and curriculum. I have previously taught Latin and Greek courses from prepared syllabi, as well as discussion sections for courses on Greek and Roman history, but this is the first time that I got to construct an entire course curriculum on my own.

The course I taught was an introduction course to the Roman Empire, titled “CLAS/HIST 37B: Roman Empire.” As part of teaching this course I had to produce a large number of PowerPoint slides for each class lecture. There were 15 lectures total (each covering a 2 hour class). For each lecture, I made a PowerPoint presentation with about 20-25 slides (adding up to an approximate 300-375 slides total).

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You have to download the slides, but they’re definitely worth checking out. They’re an easy to read resource and they’re accessible.

Information Theory And The Origin of Life ›

The nature of information places important new limits on how the first living things must have emerged

Understanding the origin of life is perhaps the most important outstanding problem in science. Just where did life begin, what conditions does it need and how likely is it to emerge from pre-biotic soups elsewhere in the universe are questions that occupy a great many researchers.

Although fascinating questions, they are particularly hard to formulate in ways that are amenable to scientific investigation. Most research focuses on life-bearing molecules and self-supporting, or autocatalytic, chemistries. But even then, it is hard to agree even on a definition of life. So it is no surprise that progress is slow.

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Agency and Freewill in Metaphysical Naturalism ›

In the last two parts of my philosophy series, “ Thinking about the ‘Metaphysics’ in Metaphysical Naturalism,” there was an aspect in each discussion that suggests we live in a deterministic universe.

In my article about cosmology and time, I discussed the B-Thoery of time, which holds that all time is equally real, so that the past exists in the same moment as our present, and our present exists in the same moment as the future. This theory of time explains how our universe did not “begin” ex nihilo, but has always existed in four permanent dimensions, with time simply being the fourth dimension of space. This approach to time is useful for countering the apologetic cosmological argument, but it also leads to the conclusion that our universe is fully determined. After all, if the future already exists in the same moment as our present, then the future must already be determined.

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Modal realism tells us what possibilities are: they are states of affairs which obtain in every possible world. A necessary state of affairs is one which obtains in every possible world. Modal realism also makes clear what, in reality, makes propositions necessarily true or false. However, it does present some difficulties for the idea that some of the properties of objects are accidental. It is accidental that I have the property of being a writer of philosophy, in the sense that I could have been something else instead. The way we formulated this in the language of possible worlds was to say that, in some possible world, I am not a writer of philosophy. This implies that I exist in more than one world. But, if modal realism is correct, we cannot exist in more than one world, as we are bound in time and space to this one. If A is spatially and temporally unrelated to B, then they cannot be one and the same object. But if A is in one world and B is in another, then they are spatially and temporally unrelated to each other. Hence no-one can be in more than one world. The solution adopted by the modal realist is to say that, although I do not exist in any world but this one, I do have counterparts in other worlds: that is, individuals who are very like me in certain respects but different in others. Thus, I have a counterpart in some other world who is more like me than any other object in that world, but who, unlike me, is the Tsar of Russia. It is by virtue of my having some other world a counterpart who is the Tsar of Russia which makes it true that I could have been the Tsar of Russia.

Unfortunately, this raises problems for the notion of a necessary being, for a necessary being would be one which existed in all worlds. Since any being can inhabit one world at most, there is, on the modal realist picture, no such thing as a necessary being. We are assuming here, however, that everything that exists does so in time and space. Can this assumption be questioned? Perhaps a necessary being is one which does not exist in time and space. But this creates difficulties for the modal realist’s notion of what it is to be in a world. If to be in a world is to be in the space and time of that world, then beings outside time and space exist in no worlds. And since the sum of all possible worlds is all there is to reality, a being which is in no world is not real. Worse, it is an impossible being.

What consequences does this have for God? It seems, if the modal realist picture is correct, that the theist faces a dilemma, for, either God exists in time and space, or he exists outside of time and space (otherwise he does not exist at all). If he exists in time and space, then he cannot exist in more than one world. Therefore he is not a necessary being. If, however, he exists outside of time and space, then he cannot exist in any world at all. Therefore he is an impossible being. Either way, it seems we cannot keep the idea of a necessary God compatibly with modal realism.

Le Poidevin, Robin. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, p.29-30. London: Routledge, 1996. Print.


via We Fucking Love Atheism

Clueless Defender of The Moral Argument



If atheism is true, there’s no basis for objective moral values and duties. And if everything’s ultimately reducible to physical processes and matter just behaving according to law, it seems pretty tough to build a moral foundation that doesn’t leave you as a total…

When I saw the ‘commonly formed’ argument on morality, I agreed with you. At first glance, it does indeed seem faulty. But if we clarify it, we can find a better conclusion.

I can’t stand people who don’t have respect. Given your myriad misunderstandings of my position and the hastiness of your fault-filled response, I told you I wasn’t planning on responding because I have other pressing matters. Rather than leaving it at that, you indulge your ego. Not only do you respond to this, but after what I said, you chose to respond to another post regardless of what I said. Allow me to correct your faults.

Starting with your argument on the first point of the common morality argument, my first response is simply: moral objectives can exist without God.

BUT, moral objectives cannot be substantiated without God. Let’s review morality briefly: morality is an absolute set of rules defining right and wrong. At first glance, it seems atheistic. God isn’t necessary to define those, right? But for the laws of morality to be proven, they must come from a moral authority. If there is no God, and we are all just humans, then anyone saying “This is right”, or “This is wrong” is just stating their opinion. That opinion is no better than yours or mine. To have a standard of moral objectives, we must then have a moral authority, namely God. So to have proven laws governing morality, we must have a God.

In my response to by-grace-of-god—a response I linked you to—I addressed this issue. This is precisely why I accused you of skimming. You and her share the same view in ethics—a view known as substantive realism. Let’s consider the fatal flaws your position has:

  • Substantive realism is the view that states that “there are correct procedures for answering moral questions because there are moral truths or facts, which exist independently of those procedures, and which those procedures track.”1
  • Whether you argue that morality is simply objective or it’s objective because it hinges on god, your view begs the question and thus isn’t justified.
  • Given that your view begs the question, we need to look elsewhere; in other words, given that it isn’t enough to posit that morality is contingent on a deity, we’ve more work to do.
  • Enter my view, procedural realism: “there are answers to moral questions because there are correct procedures for arriving at them.”2
  • Such a procedure would be Kant’s CI procedure or Smith’s problem-solution model. Or it could be something simpler. The procedures could even vary. One thing is clear, however: morality is constructivist and more specifically procedural and this is evidenced by the codification of law throughout history.

You straw man the problem-solution model below, so we’ll get to that later. However, you completely disregard Kant’s CI procedure. There are four formulas3:

1) The Formula of the Law of Nature: “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.”

Kant placed a lot of emphasis on autonomy. Modern Kantians like John Rawls and Christine Korsgaard place similar emphasis on autonomy, but they also speak of self-legislation. This formulation is compelling because moral truths could arise from mere human agency rather than divine authority.

One may contend that a psychopath would will murder as if it were a universal law of nature. However, another point you missed in my essay The Moral Algorithm, is that morality is equivalent to crowdsourced knowledge. Rebecca Goldstein puts it this way:

There’s some ideal algorithm for working it out, for assigning weights to different opinions. Maybe we should give more weight to people who have lived lives that they find gratifying and that others find admirable. And, of course, for this to work the crowd has to be huge; it has to contain all these disparate vantage points, everybody who’s starting from their own chained-up position in the cave [Plato’s cave analogy4]. It has to contain, in principle, everybody. I mean, if you’re including just men, or just landowners, or just people above a certain IQ, then the results aren’t going to be robust.5

This was my point about moral epistemology. You mentioned this in your other hasty response, so I’ll address the point here since it has become germane to this discussion. In that reply you accuse me of reification fallacy. The accusation hinges on semantics and to put it bluntly, your subpar reading comprehension. I didn’t state that moral epistemology decided anything nor did I refer to it as a method. Though I’m sure you weren’t alluding to this approach, the methodological approach to moral epistemology and to epistemology overall is simply one approach among a few (e.g. psychological; ontological; evolutionary). In any case, that people possess moral knowledge is a given regardless of what view you advocate. You’ve been quibbling about moral classes and that’s precisely what led you to accuse me of reification fallacy. Though Sam Harris doesn’t use my choice of words, namely moral classes, he clearly alludes to the concept:

Whenever we are talking about facts, certain opinions must be excluded. That is what it is to have a domain of expertise; that is what it is for knowledge to count. How have we convinced ourselves that in the moral sphere, there is no such thing as moral expertise or moral talent or moral genius even? How have we convinced ourselves that every opinion has to count? How have we convinced ourselves that every culture has a point of view on these subjects worth considering? Does the Taliban have a point of view on physics that is worth considering? No. How is their ignorance any less obvious on the subject of human well-being?6

In the same vein, Goldstein talked about ruling out the peculiarities of certain people. Every moral opinion doesn’t count and that’s because some people and groups are morally superior to others. Unless you want to argue that people are generally on par with the Taliban when it comes to morality, you’re admitting to the fact that their are moral classes. A simple corollary are economic classes. It’s clear that some people are prosperous and others are not. Some people can afford mansions and luxury cars; some people can afford a three-story house; others can barely afford an apartment and still others can scarcely afford a room. In like manner, some people are simply morally superior to others and when looked at objectively, you’ll quickly realize that religious affiliation has nothing to do with it. Some people, for instance, can see the injustice in discrimination and perpetrating acts of prejudice against minorities and gays. You, given your blog’s description, probably cannot see how that’s unjust or perhaps you’re apathetic in that regard—and the fact that you’re a Christian has done nothing to do away with your discriminatory views. Given that I’m not anti-anyone and certainly not pro-Hispanic, I can claim moral superiority. Since you’ll accuse me of mere assertion, allow me to elaborate.

You’re admittedly anti-gay. This makes clear that you advocate restrictive legislation against them. You will protest the legislation of gay marriage in your state even if it’s already legal in your state. You have probably argued to invalidate the love gay couples share; this is quite common among conservatives. They misrepresent gays by accusing them of succumbing to so called sinful concupiscence. How am I morally better than you? I wouldn’t advocate restrictive legislation against a group if whatever they’re doing isn’t harming anyone. Other than your self-righteousness, what do you care if gays marry? Are you at their weddings? Are you watching them as they consummate their marriages? Are you there when they choose to raise children? You might clamor about public displays of affection, but it’s not like straight people don’t forget to get a room! Given your self-proclaimed discriminatory stances, I can honestly say you’re in a lower moral class than I am.

2) The Formula of the End Itself: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”

What is meant by treating a person never simply as a means, but always as an end? This means to extend kindness to others with no intention of exploiting them (e.g. I’ll befriend this guy because he’s rich). You may contend that this sounds like Jesus’ Golden Rule. Unfortunately, the Golden Rule isn’t original to Jesus. Patricia Churchland puts it succinctly:

The Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) is very often held up as a judicious rule, and exceptionless rule, and a rule that is universally espoused, or very close to it. (Ironically perhaps, Confucius, though known to prefer the development of virtues to instruction by rules, might have been among the first to give voice to a version of this maxim, though given his broad approach to morality, it is likely he offered it as general advice rather than as an exceptionless rule.)7

Like Churchland, I don’t think the Golden Rule is sufficient. Also, this formulation isn’t the Golden Rule. Kant argued that if we were to act to harm others, civilization would come to an end. It follows then that we’ll act to the benefit of one another. This is where Kant’s notion of a Kingdom of Ends comes from. We’ll get this shortly.

3) The Formula of Autonomy: “So act that your will can regard itself at the same time as making universal law through its maxims.”

This is related to the first formulation, but this formulation puts more emphasis on autonomy and like modern Kantians would argue, self-legislation. This formula of autonomy has manifested itself time and again. Morally superior people are not only admirable, but they compel one to emulate them. This formulation is prominent in rearing children. Children learn moral behavior from their parents. They quickly learn what’s apt and what’s inappropriate given other people’s feedback. If they do something wrong, they’re scolded. If they do something right, they’re commended. Going back to the notion of inverting authority into oneself, the child then becomes an adult who (roughly) follows the moral values instilled in her during childhood. She then becomes an autonomous self-legislator.

4) The Formula of the Kingdom of Ends: “So act as if you were through your maxims a law-making member of a kingdom of ends.”

This formulation is the most compelling given that it absorbs, so to speak, the other formulations.8 Kant didn’t only speak of wills; he spoke of rational wills. Thus, under this formulation, we are to act in such a way that would be acceptable in a community of rational wills.

Ultimately, your demand for an authority is quelled by the fact that we, at the very least, possess the potential to legislate. That is to say that anyone of us can be exemplary moral agents. Kant’s rational will is preferable over the Hobbesian sovereign who can bend and break laws as he pleases. Sounds a lot like that god you worship. I’ll get to this shortly.

Works Cited

1 Korsgaard, Christine M., and Onora Neill.The Sources of Normativity, p. 36-37. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Print.

2 Ibid.

3 Pecorino, Philip A. "Chapter Two: Ethical Traditions"Queensborough Community College. 2002.

4 Cohen, Marc. "The Allegory of the Cave." University of Washington. 2006

5 Goldstein, Rebecca. Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, p.105. New York: Pantheon Books, 2014. Print.

6 Harris, Sam. "Science Can Answer Moral Questions". Tedtalks. TED, 22 Mar 2010. Web.

7 Churchland, Patricia Smith. Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality, p. 168. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011. Print.

8 Bagnoli, Carla. "Constructivism in Metaethics"Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2011.

That is the meaning behind the first argument. Technically, we can have an objective standard of morality, but we must remember that without God, that standard is worthless.

Quod gratis asseritur gratis negaritur. That statement is a mere assertion and nothing more. This is precisely the issue with substantive realism.

Moving to your argument regarding the Trinity. You made a statement boasting of your ability to prove the Father and the Son don’t exist, yet provided no evidence of doing so. Then again, you can’t prove that we’re not all brains strapped to a bunch of wires in a laboratory, being manipulated by an evil scientist.

That bit of pretended epistemological skepticism at the end is completely irrelevant. You’re not going to impress an aspiring philosopher with musings akin to that of a pretentious undergrad student. More importantly, it’s a red herring. I don’t have to address that last bit to address what’s actually relevant given that I made a statement and didn’t substantiate it at that point in time. You should know two things. For one, I’m not the type to make bare assertions. Secondly, my discussions on this blog hinge on two things—one being the continuity of discussions and the other being the assumption that people are familiar with what I’ve previously written on the topic at hand. It’s rather unfortunate that I come across so many people who produce microwaved responses that demonstrate an egregious level of misunderstanding.

In any event, I’ll borrow from recent discussions to demonstrate a case against the son. I can also demonstrate a case against the father, but in the interest of brevity and because it’s not necessary, I’ll do what comes simplest.

Matthew 27:57-58 speaks of a Joseph of Arimathea. He came to Pilate to request Jesus’ body so that he may be buried. That files in the face of what we know about Pilate and the treatment of criminals who were crucified. Assuming the narrative is true, it’s highly unlikely Pilate would have listened.

Pilate was not a beneficent prefect who kindly listened to the protests of the people he governed. Was Pilate the sort of ruler who would break with tradition and policy when kindly asked by a member of the Jewish council to provide a decent burial for a crucified victim? Not from what we can tell. As Crossan dismissively states: “[Pilate] was an ordinary second-rate Roman governor with no regard for Jewish religious sensitivities and with brute force as his normal solution to even unarmed protesting or resisting crowds.” Even more graphic is the complaint of Philo, who lived during Pilate’s time and indicated that his administration was characterized by his “venality, his violence, his thefts, his assaults, his abusive behavior, his frequent executions of untried prisoners, and his endless savage ferocity” (Embassy of Gaius 302).1

These are the very books Christians depend on when claiming that the resurrection was historical, which it wasn’t. So what proof would we need? Historical evidence. The evidence is actually condemning. So let’s follow the logic. To assume a resurrection, you need to assume two things first: death by crucifixion and burial—hence the empty tomb. That leads to some problems. If Jesus was crucified, as is attested in historical accounts of crucifixions, he would have become a corpse on the cross and likely would not have been buried. Ehrman puts it this way:

The point of crucifixion was to torture and humiliate a person as fully as possible, and to show any bystanders what happens to someone who is a troublemaker in the eyes of Rome. Part of the humiliation and degradation was the body being left on the cross after death to be subject to scavenging animals.

John Dominic Crossan has made the rather infamous suggestion that Jesus’s body was not raised from the dead but was eaten by dogs. When I first heard this suggestion, I was no longer a Christian and so was not religiously outraged, but I did think it was excessive and sensationalist. But that was before I did any real research on the matter. My view now is that we do not know, and cannot know, what actually happened to Jesus’s body. But it is absolutely true that as far as we can tell from all the surviving evidence, what normally happened to a criminal’s body is that it was left to decompose and serve as food for scavenging animals. Crucifixion was meant to be a public disincentive to engage in politically subversive activities, and the disincentive did not end with the pain and death—it continued in the ravages worked on the corpse afterward.

Evidence for this comes from a wide range of sources. An ancient inscription found on the tombstone of a man who was murdered by his slave in the city of Caria tells us that the murderer “hung…alive for the wild beasts and birds of prey.” The Roman author Horace says in one of his letters that a slave was claiming to have done nothing wrong, to which his master replied, “You shall not therefore feed the carrion crows on the cross” (Epistle 1.16.46-48). The Roman satirist Juvenal speaks of “the vulture [that] hurries from the dead cattle and dogs and corpses, to bring some of the carrion to her offspring” (Satires 14.77-78). The most famous interpreter of dreams from the ancient world, a Greek Sigmund Freud named Artemidorus, writes that it is auspicious for a poor man in particular to have a dream about being crucified, since “a crucified man is raised high and his substance is sufficient to keep many birds” (Dream Book 2.53). And there is a bit of gallows humor in the Satyricon of Petronius, a one-time advisor to the emperor Nero, about a crucified victim being left for days on the cross (chaps. 11-12).

In sum, the common Roman practice was to allow the bodies of crucified people to decompose on the cross and be attacked by scavengers as part of the disincentive for crime. I have not run across any contrary indications in any ancient source. It is always possible that an exception was made, of course. But it must be remembered that the Christian storytellers who indicated that Jesus was an exception to the rule had an extremely compelling reason to do so. If Jesus had not been buried, his tomb could not be declared empty.2

Given the above, if we assume he was crucified, then given historical evidence, we’d have to assume he wasn’t an exception. However, what if we do assume he was an exception? Let’s say he was pulled down from the cross for some reason. Would he have been given a proper burial? Ehrman offers the following:

My second reason for doubting that Jesus received a decent burial is that at the time, criminals of all sorts were, as a rule, tossed into common graves. Again, a range of evidence is available from many times and places. The Greek historian of the first century BCE Diodorus Siculus speaks of a war between Philip of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the Great) in which he lost twenty men to the enemy, the Locrians. When Philip asked for their bodies in order to bury them, the Locrians refused, indicating that “it was the general law that temple-robbers should be cast forth without burial” (Library of History 16.25.2). From around 100 CE, the Greek author Dio Chrysotom indicates that in Athens, anyone who suffered “at the hands of the state for a crime” was “denied burial, so that in the future there may be no trace of a wicked man (Discourses 31.85). Among the Romans, we learn that after a battle fought by Octavian (the later Caesar Augustus, emperor when Jesus was born), one of his captives begged for a burial, to which Octavian replied, “The birds will soon settle that question” (Seutonius, Augustus 13). And we are told by the Roman historian Tacitus of a man who committed suicide to avoid being executed by the state, since anyone who was legally condemned and executed “forfeited his estate and was debarred from burial” (Annals 6.29h).

Again, it is possible that Jesus was an exception, but our evidence that this might have been the case must be judged to be rather thin. People who were crucified were usually left on their crosses as food for scavengers, and part of the punishment for ignominious crimes was being tossed into a common grave, where very soon one decomposed body could not be distinguished from another. In traditions about Jesus, of course, his body had to be distinguished from all others; otherwise, it could not be demonstrated to have been raised physically from the dead.4

Thus, given historical evidence, we can’t even assume that he was taken down from the cross after being crucified. We also can’t assume that he was given a proper burial. Therefore, we can’t assume that the Gospel accounts are reliable. Even if we assume all of that, the resurrection itself is a dubious assumption (see here). Proof isn’t mere assertion. Again, quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. I’ll spare you the problems with assuming that the Gospel Jesus was historical. I’ve probably given you more to consider than you bargained for.

By the way, if we take the narrative at face value, it makes little sense. According to John 19:38-42, he was buried in a new tomb and clothed in linen with spices. This special treatment makes no sense in light of the fact that the Jews wanted him crucified because he was calling himself their king (see Luke 23:1-3, which is to be read in conjunction with Luke 22:66-71 and 23:5-19). Also, Acts 2:36 and 3:13-17 explicitly blames the Jews and recall, it’s widely held that the same author wrote both Luke and Acts. Given all this, if my reasoning hasn’t be clear, it makes no sense that they buried him in accordance with their customs after wanting him crucified because he was claiming to be their king. Thus, even if taken at face value, the narrative is confused.

Lastly, there’s the issue of Joseph of Arimathea. It’s likely he wasn’t a historical person.

Richard Carrier speculates, “Is the word a pun on ‘best disciple,’ ari[stos] mathe[tes]? Matheia means ‘disciple town’ in Greek; Ari- is a common prefix for superiority.” Since commentators have seen the burial by the outsider Joseph of Arimathea as a contrast to the failure of the disciples and intimates of Jesus, the coincidence that Arimathea can be read as “best disciple town” is staggering.4

That the name can be read in this way definitively rules out coincidence and makes it more likelier that the author of Mark used the character in a literary way. In other words, the author wasn’t looking to convey historical events. Ultimately, we have compelling reasons to doubt his burial, assuming he existed; therefore, without getting into the problems inherent in notions of resurrection, we have compelling reason to doubt his resurrection.

Works Cited

1 Ehrman, Bart D.. How Jesus became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, p. 163. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2014. Print.

2 Ibid. (p.157-158, 160)

3 Ibid. (p.160-161)

4 Kirby, Peter. “The Case Against the Empty Tomb”Infidels. 2001.

Next, you stated that the explanation of ethics is incomplete, but that we shouldn’t reject it. Your next statement was simply stating that relativism is not the consequence of atheism, but offered no other alternative. So your paragraph here was rather vague and unsupported. So say that relativism is not the only alternative to objective morality without God, and yet providing no alternative gives me no reason to believe your claim of it existing. He who asserts must prove.

So she who asserts mustn’t prove? It definitely seems your rule doesn’t apply to you. The reason I say procedural realism is incomplete is because, as is common in philosophy, further elucidation is always possible. There are always points that have to be clarified or even defended. This response is a case in point. Unlike zealots like yourself, I needn’t an absolute explanation. Though you think your case is adequate, it isn’t. It’s fallacious and lacks justification. Given my presentation here and before that, in the links I provided, I definitely offered an explicitly stated alternative. That you don’t like the alternative isn’t my problem.

Your argument on moral classes is inherently flawed because all forms of morality are merely opinions if there is no higher entity backing them. Thus, the moral classes themselves are just the classifications of one man, as there has been no argument made for anything other than a vague notion of objective moral values without any authority, which is relativism. Despite what you say about not being a relativist, your arguments prove otherwise. No one class has any moral high or low ground, because both are opinions. Something cannot be objectively wrong unless we have a moral standard from a moral authority.

He who asserts must prove and yet you’ve offered no justification for the notion that objective morality requires an authority. Laws don’t always require a lawgiver, but if you were to refer back to the first section, you would see that I addressed the issue of authority. I also addressed these allegations of relativism; procedural realism has nothing to do with normative relativism. You took offense to me saying you’re clueless, but the fact that you don’t know the difference between one view of ethics and another proves that you’re sans a clue. The one thing that’s worse than ignorance is pretended knowledge. As for moral classes, refer back to the section aforementioned.

Your last sentence is of interest because it shows that the proponent of a moral argument for god is also an advocate of Divine Command Theory. Divine Command Theory falls victim to the Euthyphro Dilemma: is what is good commanded by god because it’s good or is it morally good because it’s commanded by god? If the former, god isn’t necessary to sustain morality. If the latter, anything is permissible. Choose wisely.

For a more esoteric take on Divine Command Theory, consider my essay Utilitarian Command Theory. In it I argue, using the Hobbesian sovereign, that if there exists a sovereign who wills laws according to utilitarianism and he wills laws that represent the greatest good for the greatest number, then he could, in theory, legislate laws that are detestable though they benefit the general population. On those grounds we can reject Utilitarian Command Theory, so it would be absurd to not reject Divine Command Theory given that god doesn’t account for the greatest good for the greatest number. There’s no shortage of verses in where he commands the Israelites to murder the infants and children of people he saw as enemies. Were those commands good because he commanded them? It would be absurd to accept the premise unless one believes in the dubious notion of inherited sin—a belief that has problems of its own and more importantly, a belief that’s pivotal to your lord’s purported sacrifice on the cross.

The circularity of the argument you mentioned is no better than your own. Your own view of stating that objective ethics exist without a god begs the question of where they came from or who enforces them? What makes them right, or ethical? To simply state that objective morality exists without a god begs all of these questions.

This is another error that could have easily been avoided had you familiarized yourself with my position. I laid plenty of resources at your table and you skimmed. Taking from a response I linked you to, I stated the following:

Generally speaking, humans are moral agents. This, in part, can be traced given evolution. There are, for instance, empathy, cooperation, and care for kin in nature. Therefore, the rudiments of morality can be seen in nature and not surprisingly, it is mostly seen in mammals—the phylum we pertain to. Given our common ancestry and given the congruence of our brains, whatever procedures (e.g. problem-solution; CI procedure) we employ to answer moral questions will be objective. Even if it doesn’t start out that way, it will get that way (e.g. Kant’s Kingdom of Ends). Given that morality is an example of crowd-sourced knowledge, the peculiarities of this or that individual or group will eventually be weeded out.

In another response I linked you to, I stated the following:

An explanation can consist of the following parts: evolution and/or neurobiology, genetics, cultural evolution, etc. The reason I offer a choice between evolution and neurobiology is because people have questioned whether evolution is necessary when explaining morality. In other words, who’s to say we evolved to be moral? What if our moral instincts find their origin in our brains? This is Churchland’s line of thinking in her book Braintrust. Then again, contrast that with Korsgaard’s view, which is based on Nietzsche’s internalization of man.  She maintains that we, as primates, may have internalized what was once external authority. In other words, when you look at most primate societies, you’ll find an alpha. This alpha serves as an authority. As h.sapien became a separate biological population, this sort of authority was seldom needed.  Eventually, we developed autonomy and upon doing so, we internalized the authority that was once external. In this sense, evolution can serve as morality’s foundation.

So this succinctly answers the question of where morality comes from. The question of who enforces morality has already been answered in previous sections, but there’s also an answer in Nietzsche’s internalization of man. The question of what makes them right was also answered in previous sections. Refer back to Kant’s formulations. My view, unlike yours, begs no questions. Had you comprehended my responses, you would have known that.

Moving down, the argument that procedures make something moral is rather stupid. A correct procedure is amoral. The correct procedure for walking down a hallway does not make walking down a hallway moral or immoral. Going beyond that, how does one decide what is and isn’t a correct moral procedure? Morality is entirely opinion without authority, so who is to say that murdering you for promoting atheism isn’t morally wrong? Or to murder me for promoting theism? Or that it’s murder at all, because the very word ‘murder’ implies moral wrong. You can say that it’s compatible with history, but that’s a fallacy. Majority does not equal morality.

A word of advice: learn philosophy or stray from philosophical discussions. Not only have you miscomprehended and thus misrepresented my views, you now misuse semantics to try to drive a failure of a point. The procedures aren’t amoral; they’re non-moral. The procedures themselves can’t be moral any more than atoms can be moral. The procedures, however, can be objective. In Kant’s last formulation, we find a population who has come to terms with a procedure. This procedure, which finds corollaries in the real world, is objective. It’s not objective on the basis of consensus, but rather, on the basis that everyone can see how they’re best served by it.

To decide what is a correct moral procedure, deliberation and time rather than assertion and religious faith are needed. Time is needed to weed out peculiarities. It took Americans close to a century to abolish slavery, for example. It took them that long to realize the injustice in owning and exploiting other people. This realization came by way of opposition and debate.

Another reason you should learn philosophy or stray from these discussions is that your attempts at anticipating my points are horrendous. You try to anticipate that I’ll appeal to the majority and insert a precooked punchline as if that makes a cogent case. Of course majority doesn’t equal morality. Neither does a singular lawgiver no matter how divine. That’s fallacious! If morality were mere opinion without an authority, we would have never made laws prohibiting murder. Such laws predate the Bible (see here), so Judaism nor Christianity can take credit for that. Moral progress comes by way of the aggregation of moral knowledge. I’d much rather continue the discussion on how to better our moral outlook than to prematurely close the book on discourse due to patently religious reasons.

As for the problem-solution method, who is to say that a problem is a moral problem? People pillaging a village may be a problem on a financial scale (the cost of rebuilding), but how do we know that it is a moral problem?

Another reason you should learn philosophy or stray from these discussions is that you seem to lack understanding of context. The problem-solution model is contextual. People pillaging a village clearly results in a moral problem. The problem-solution model need not address any fiscal ramifications. The problem-solution model need only address what’s wrong with pillaging. What’s a better way of solving territorial disputes? How can we convince guerrillas that their behavior is immoral? How can we convince them that there are better ways of attaining power and resources? Any problem-solution model should present a number of alternatives. With this model, it’ll be more difficult for everyone to see eye to eye on a solution, but solutions needn’t be unanimous to be effective.

Thus, I find, over the course of your moral views expressed in this essay, that you really have no actual atheistic standard of morality and thus fall prey to the problems of relativism. 

I know this is a broken record at this point, but either learn philosophy or stray from these discussions. You can’t accuse someone of having a view without demonstrating that they actually support said view. That is to say that for your accusation to stick, you would have to demonstrate that my views imply relativism. You’d be hard-pressed to make such a case.

Ultimately, apart from teaching you a thing or two, I hope to have scarred that ego of yours that’s being fed by all of your one follower who made you blush. Next time I tell you your response is inadequate and that I have other pressing matters, it will be best to just leave it alone. Given the elaborate nature of this response, I hope it’s enough to say that your other response faces many of the same problems found in this response. As such, I’ve no good reason to respond to that reply. My sincerest hope is that you seek to understand alternative views—even if you think they’re erred. More than knowing, as an aspiring philosopher, I value understanding. I know, for instance, that the moral arguments for god fail to make a case for god; that, however, will not keep me from understanding the arguments—and understanding them even better than proponents of the arguments.

(via the-thinking-third-party-deacti)