Date: September 16, 2019 04:55PM
> COMMENT: Look, I am not saying that Dothout is the
> epidemy of rational thought. Nor am I saying that
> this essay is devoid of meaningless rhetoric.
Then don't post it. Find something that is both "rational" and devoid of "meaningless rhetoric."
> That said, the point is to
> get past such things and focus on the argument
> that is the substance of the essay. The point, in
> a nutshell, is that Coyne dismisses all things
> about human nature that are required to support
> his acknowledged humanistic values.
False. He dismisses SOME things about human nature that YOU THINK are required to support humanistic values. But that isn't the standard.
> Please try to
> defend him on that score.
I don't accept your premise so I don't see the need to defend him against your views.
> COMMENT: Here is the third paragraph:
> "What’s striking about his response, though, is
> the extent to which its own account of the
> secular, materialist world-picture actually
> illustrates precisely the problems and tensions
> that I was talking about, in ways that even a
> casual reader should find obvious but which Coyne
> apparently did not. He can see the weak points in
> a religious argument, but the weaknesses of his
> own side of the debate are sufficiently invisible
> to him that his rebuttal flirts with
> I find this criticism of Coyne exactly correct!
> And Dothout then goes on to explain why. It is
> basically his thesis statement.
So now, after three paragraphs of vacuous attacks, Dotouth is finally getting to substance? Great. But that admits that the previous material, inane rhetoric, was superfluous.
> COMMENT: It is, of course, fair to differentiate
> between a proposed lack of meaning to the universe
> or the origin of life, and a proposed meaning in
> one's personal life. However, it does NOT make
> sense to claim meaning in one's personal life,
> while claiming that "the self" and freewill are
Saying that is possible, nay important, to create meaning in one's personal life presupposes that "the self" exists. Raising existential issues does not preclude acceptance of reality, which is his position as it has been that of many philosophers. Dothout and you are taking an acknowledgement of complexity and asserting that that is Coyne's conclusion, a conclusion that is contradicted by his patent statements about the self and meaning. In short, you are presenting a straw man.
> That is where Coyne gets into trouble
> with his materialist assumptions. And Dothout is
> quite right. Coyne seems totally oblivious to this
> obvious inconsistency.
Only if you fasten on the nuance and skip the main point.
> COMMENT: The point is that if human beings are
> nothing more than genetics, and other
> deterministic materialist criteria, there would be
> no point or reason to assign moral blame in any
> social context.
You see, there is your straw man. Coyne speaks of the existence of the self and of free will in some form and some degree, and you and Dothout reject that and insist that Coyne must, because you want, represent an absolutely deterministic view--which he does not. You simplify the man to the point of caricature and then attack that caricature, which is a straw man. It would be better to read what Coyne actually said.
> The moral basis for the interests
> of society and harmony become totally illusory,
> and subject to individual intuitions, be they
> Western, Eastern, or Nazism.
Only if one accepts your caricature of Coyne.
> There is no
> metaphysical grounding. And more to the point,
> individuals could not make free, moral,
> nondeterministic, choices to further a preferred
> social outcome, if they were just determinist
> biological automatons. Natural selection, as a
> materialist, deterministic, process offers no help
> here. You need to explain why Coyne's brand of
> materialism as applied to human beings, leaves any
> room for morality and freewill (and thus the
> prospect of a meaningful life)--except as an
Except that all of this is your gloss on what Coyne said. I feel no need to defend your simplification, your misinterpretation, of his words.
> COMMENT: We cannot speak to a mother bear on this
> issue because we do not understand animal
Wait--aren't you the one who speaks of free will? And here you are denying that to animals who, like humans, generally but not universally act in ways that appear altruistic? This is simply writing off evidence that doesn't support your conclusion.
> But we can speak to human beings, and
> the issue there with respect to altruism is
> motivation and action.
Having just refused to accept the "altruism" of animals, you say we must presume the "altruism" of humans, who are genetically virtually the same as other animals. The only way that makes sense is if you assert that humans differ from animals in the sense of having a "soul" or something like it. So you are presuming your conclusion.
> And in this context
> rationality and freewill are essential components.
> Now, you could try to invoke evolutionary
> psychology as an explanation of our moral sense,
> and as the ultimate explanation of altruistic
> behavior, but this has been tried and it doesn't
Hell yes it works. As it does in other species. But you have just denied other species free will and the ability to choose, so you win. Right? Well, I think your division between humans and other animals is untenable and hence feel no reason to follow you to your preferred conclusion.
> For one reason we are back to a
> psychological determinism.
No, we are not.
> That is NOT what we
> generally mean when we praise altruistic behavior.
> What we mean is that a person did the altruistic
> moral action WHEN HE OR SHE COULD HAVE DONE
> OTHERWISE. THEY WERE NOT JUST PROGRAMED IN THE
> RIGHT WAY. Whether you couch human nature in
> physical terms or psychological terms, as long as
> it remains deterministic you have a problem with
> freewill, and thus a problem with personal
Unless, like Coyne, you believe there is a significant but not complete degree of determinism. You know, like we see in twin studies--or in animal studies, which I refuse to rule out on your terms. So if one rejects your absolutist views, like Coyne does, the problem never arises.
> COMMENT: Look, I don't think the Bible gets us to
> moral principles in any satisfactory or effective
> way; and I reject all arguments to the contrary.
> Moreover, I have no interest in defending religion
> generally. But that does not change the fact that
> if you want meaning in life (like Coyne insists
> upon) you had better leave room in your worldview
> for a human nature that transcends determinism, in
> all of its forms.
"Transcends determinism?" Coexists with determinism. The answer is coexistence. A person who is abused as a child may lose his moral conscience and empathy and hence has a much narrower range of moral options available. Or a person may be born with severe mental or physical disabilities and hence have a constrained range of physical and indeed moral options. THAT is how determinism and free will interact. THAT is what Coyne describes and why he can see a significant extent of determinism and still leave room for free choice and moral meaning.
It is only through mischaracterizing his views by asserting them in extreme form that you get your straw horse to assail.
> COMMENT: What Coyne must show is that there is
> *some* materialist account of human beings; be it
> Darwinist, Physicalist, Behaviorist, Reductionist,
> or whatever, that upon rational analysis gets you
> to the prospect for a *meaningful* life
False. He only has to jump through your hoop if he accepts your inaccurate interpretation of his ideas. Why would he do that?
> requires the ability to control that life through
> free choices.
A crippled person still has free will and the ability to move. It may not be as great as someone free of such constraints, but it exists. Your critique does not apply to Coyne, who has said that individuals have the ability to create meaning in their own lives.
> The main point was to
> show that Coyne's worldview is not sustainable.
> That point was well stated.
It was not well stated. It required that he misconstrue the very Coyne words that he quoted. Coyne allows for free will. Dothout says he absolutely does not. Dothout attacks the "absolute," which exists only in his own--and in your?--mind.
> COMMENT: I stand behind everything I said in this
> exchange. When you read an essay like this, you do
> not have to take everything as gospel, or else
> reject the whole. You ask yourself whether the
> logic of the main thesis has validity; i.e.
> whether Coyne has a double standard on "meaning,"
> and draw a conclusion on that. You do not have to
> buy into anything or everything else. And most
> certainly, you cannot dismiss his point because
> you do not like his religious orientation.
I am an agnostic. I do not reject religion out of hand. If the argument were good, I'd find it interesting and perhaps illuminating. Dothout's article is facile. Coyne's "doubt standard" is absolutely correct. Like so many things in life, free will and determinism coexist. A person on drugs has diminished judgment and free will; a person without legs can move but not as freely as others; a comatose person has little or no free will. Anyone who thinks free will and determinism do not coexist, anyone who believes the choice between those is binary, is profoundly wrong. Dothout, therefore, is wrong.
> COMMENT: I picked this essay . . . because is shows how
> Coyne can be when attacking religion people; such
> that his arguments against religion become
> ludicrous ineffective.
It did nothing of the kind. If you want to engage Coyne effectively, you should pick an author who is willing to debate the DEGREE of free will, not argue about absolutes that no one believes in.
As Human pointed out,
> there are many of Coyne's own peers that criticize
> him for his narrowmindedness.
Perhaps you should have reached for one of those, someone who could argue with Coyne about the relative degrees of determinism and free agency. THAT would have been interesting and maybe enlightening. But Dothout is not capable of such a debate. Using him here weakens your point.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/16/2019 05:01PM by Lot's Wife.