Dan S. I don’t think I misread Greg Fish, it wasn’t that complicated and it’s a bunch of stuff I’ve read from other places. I didn’t misunderstand the new atheist argument about “morality” preceding “religion”, an aspect of that argument is one of the first disagreements I had with Coyne the first day I ever posted a comment on his blog. My point is the same, that any assertion made about that even in the early human population is so speculative that I wouldn’t consider it more than wishful thinking by those with an ulterior motive and I don’t think motives come any more ulterior than in the social and behavioral sciences. Except possibly those motivated by the urgent desire to prove faith, such as fundamentalism in its religious and anti-religious forms.
“Primate morality”, it’s come to a point where we’re making complex comments about “primate morality” and I’m supposed to take that phrase seriously in the context of science.
So many issues that could be raised, so little time.
How do you know that chimpanzees are better at making manifest their moral aspirations through actions than people are? What percentage of the teachings of Jesus do you think you could derive from mere observation of the behavior of contemporary “christians” without recourse to prior knowledge of those? How about even with prior knowledge of those but without the self-identification by the individuals you were observing as adherents of Christianity? I’ve observed many Jews, Buddhists, Moslems, agnostics who are better followers of those te achings than many “christians”. How well do you think that people who hold those teaching as their moral code practice them? Well enough that you don’t have to depend on their articulated self-identification as “christians”. And that’s just one of several complex riddles you would have to solve to some artificial and hardly universally held “human morality”. That is unless you change the meaning of “morality” itself, in order to construct some totally artificial “morality” that probably doesn’t exist within even one individual human being but which you can write up and publish in order for those with a similar professional, perhaps largely materialistic culture to agree with it out of what outsiders such as myself could suspect were less that unself-interested reasons.
I know you or gillt or the Sorbot will object at my daring to analyze the moral and ethical practices of behavioral and social scientists at this point, voicing my suspicions that their “objective” observations and interpretations of chimp morality and their analysis of the relationship of these “moralities” and “religion” are less than objective. But, unlike chimpanzees, the species that separate our species and theirs in the dead past and the pre-literate human and always illiterate earlier chimpanzee histories, there is a documented present and past in the communities of behavioral and social scientists to make recourse to. Any assertions made about their motives would be based on what folk such as yourself and Greg Fish and anyone who wants to say anything about it SAYS about it. And there is a written and documented record of what has been said about things like that in the past have come to. You must be able to appreciate that, unlike all but modern and relatively modern, human beings all those other beings are inarticulate, we have no access to their concepts of their actions, in all cases other than those where we can document their actions, those are totally absent as well. I don’t know how you could make the assumption that their “morality” isn’t evidence of a “religion” among them, that’s the development of a prior ideological position, not anything that someone who doesn’t believe that’s valid needs to take seriously.
You do remember that argument we had about the 35,000 year old statue last spring, when I had to point out to you that all of the speculations made about the motives of the human artist were contemporary inventions, none of which seemed to consider that the artist might have been a woman making a self-portrait or an image of her mother, that the figure could have been considered a piece of junk, even by the artist and a number of other points? Everything that was said about that available physical object, sprang from the imagination of a “scientist” or would be scientist or some blog wannabee or news scribbler. Any “correlations” such as the one you wanted to make to much later manufactured objects from much later populations and times (correlations with other, prior, speculations about those) had considerable gaps in time and place to contend with, no documented connection with those, as well as the lack of any real knowledge of meaning and intent by those making or viewing or using them. In the case of these, sometimes presumed to be, religious objects we don’t even have a plausible utilitarian use for them. It was speculation building on speculation filling in gaps with presumption, none of which had any basis other than previous presumptions and speculations in fulfillment of extraneous and, perhaps, ulterior desires on the part of those articulating them.
You can call that science if you want to, I can’t stop you. If that’s what “science” is, you can cancel everything I’ve said about science as a means of attaining more reliable information about the material universe because it looks a heck of a lot like a more sophisticated version of creation mythology to me. If physical and other hard scientists are content to contain that within science, then it’s going to pay a price and, perhaps, already is.
I was thinking that you hadn’t been trailing me lately just the other day.
B.S. Nelson If you’ve got a point, come out and make it because I’m not seeing much in what you say that’s worth making the effort to wonder about. I’d rather watch chimpanzees flinging stuff at people in zoos.
Oh, and, Dan S. I forgot to mention, about that 35,000 year old statue. I’ve yet to see any speculation about its “meaning” that takes into account that the attitude of the artist, never mind anyone else viewing it and the ideas they had about the object, was fixed for all time. The ideas that an individual have about a work of art changes, develops, sometimes is entirely overturned over time. You don’t know if the artist had second thoughts and went back to make modifications after they’d originally considered it finished. You don’t know if a second or third individual made modifications in it. Perhaps it was looted from another culture or was a found object and then modified.
Isn’t it fun to make up stuff about something like that? And to post comments you wonder will show up before what it refers to does? Though I’m going to post these two comments on my blog so they’ll appear in order.