Thursday, May 3, 2012

More Discussion - mostly on abortion

CD Host is green. My words are red

 I am still not clear on how [Consent is the driving principle of sexual morality] becomes different from moral relativism. That is that no sexual act is immoral by it's very nature. That it is a person's reaction to the sex act that makes it moral or immoral.

SSC is a well accepted non-religious morality of sex. A sex act is moral if it meets the 3 criteria:

a) Safe = That is it doesn't expose either party to excessive danger. There needs to be focus on best / safe practices to ensure the maintenance of health for both parties. And wherever there are unavoidable risks the parties need to be fully aware of the risks and consent to those risks.

b) Sane = The people offering consent are capable of good judgement. That means no permanent (like retardation) or temporary (like drug use) mental impairment. This is the rational man standard, that a rational man confronted with this sexual choice would make the sexual choice of the parties involved.

c) Consensual = Even if a person views an activity as safe as sane they still need to desire to partake of it at that time with that partner.

I'd argue that SSC is non-relative but situational moral standard. That is it establishes moral absolutes about sex, but those absolutes can only be applied in the context of consent.
I don't see a lot of absolutes here. I see a few nice words. As soon as you attempt to be precise about what they mean you get into very subjective language. What danger is "excessive?" Who decides "best/safe practices?" Who decides when someone's consent is impaired? Doesn't this just boil down to how I feel? 

Sexual choices are often made when someone's emotions and/or hormones are preventing them from thinking straight. Subjective criteria like this don't work well. In the heat of the moment you can discern something to be right and the next morning you can decide it was wrong. The same act might be deemed moral by one half of the couple and immoral by the other. It seems pretty much unworkable.
 
It is very similar, to contract law in our society. Sex is seen as essentially a contract between private parties. 
Contract law has one huge difference. There is a government and a court system to make contract law precise. Here there is nothing but my often quite biased opinion. Even the basics of SSC. Where do they come from? Why can't I just change them? The truth is I can. If I want to declare a date rape drug to be OK then I can amend (b) or drop it entirely. But morality is only useful when it gets hard. When we would have done the right thing anyway then it is not really helping us. It is when we would have done something wrong that we need it. But that is when we are going to be tempted to change it. If it has no foundation and no definition outside myself then why wouldn't I change it?
 
And I don't think consent as a criteria is necessarily that controversial. Most religious conservatives would agree that marital rape can occur (i.e. is definitionally possible) and is immoral.
Consent is not controversial but it can't be the whole thing. It just makes morality based on community opinion rather than personal opinion. In this case the community consists of the participants in the act. That is still relative.
 
In keeping with this contract view of sex, the SSC criteria says that if an individual engages in SSC actions they become responsible for consequences while if SSC is not met the other party is responsible for the consequences. So for example if a woman decides she loves her husband enough to have sex with him knowing he has AIDS and contracts AIDS she is responsible. If a woman has sex with a man not knowing he has AIDS and contracts AIDS she is not responsible.
I think this woman would know she is responsible in both cases. Counselors would tell her that she is not. They always say that. It does not really matter. Forgiveness is still the key. Can you ask for and accept God's forgiveness for yourself and the other person involved? 
 
Again this is similar to how we view lots of health related issues. For example as a society we treat liver failure as a result of excess drinking much differently than liver failure as a result of contagious disease.  
We do? I think if the person is still drinking that would tend to make them bad candidates for a liver transplant. Just like a liver disease that would destroy the new liver as well. If the excess drinking problem no longer exists I don't think the fact that the cause was moral rather than medical should be relevant. 
 
If we apply this to the situation of a conception due to rape to Rita vs. a conception due to birth control failure for Francine.

Francine doesn't want the health effects of hormonal contraception (safe) and so uses a diaphragm with spermicidal gel. She understands there is a risk of conception. They engage in sex. They understand they've increased the risk of pregnancy but did so for sane reasons to compensate for other another risk (i.e. hormonal effects). This act meets the SSC criteria. Francine and her husband are capable of raising the child. Many moderates would view an abortion in this situation as immoral, she consent to a higher chance of conception.

Conversely Rita does not consent. The rapist did not consult with her before failing to use a condom. Thus many moderates would believe that an act of violence took place and just as she is allowed to use violence to avoid the rape, she is allowed to take strong measures to correct for any consequences of the rape. Rita, because she lacked any moral agency, did not engage in sex and is free to treat the health risks of conception with the SSC criteria. Pregnancy is not safe, bearing a rapists baby is not something that any rational person would do and she did not consent.

This moderate position view abortion as a negative. A negative substantial enough to overrule Francine's objections but not such a strong negative as to overrule Rita's legitimate rights. The pro-choice position is that abortion is even less of a negative and thus the negatives of pregnancy are high enough and statistical consent is not strong enough that Francine retains her rights to terminate like Rita.
 
This is just nonsense. I know you don't hold this position. You would say both Rita and Francine have every right to abort their children. I think you do a good job of trying to show how the "moderate" position is reasonable. I just think it fails completely. Is the fetus human? If it is not then the justification for denying Francine an abortion is just silly. If it is then the justification for saying Rita can abort is worse than silly. It is frightening. 

Say you come upon a man in danger of death and you have a real chance to save him. Should you? What if I answered that it depends how you came upon that man. If it was your idea to go down that road you have to save him. If someone else pressured you or even forced you to go there then you can leave him. Would that make any sense to you? You are there. Who cares how you got there? 

I see the same thing with Francine and Rita. The question of whether they chose to come down this road or not does not matter. They are on the road and they need to make a choice based on the value of the life involved. It might not seem fair but life often seems unfair. 
 
I also don't agree with what you said about energy consumption and keeping fertility at 1-3 children per woman. Who cares about vague notions like standard of living. We don't need energy to have a good life. We need to love God and love each other. You can live very fulfilling lives and still have what the experts would call a low standard of living.

Not for long. If the median woman is having 10.5 kids at an average age of 30 (i.e. one child every 2 years 18-40) then population is growing 400% every 30 years. That's about 4.75% annual growth in population. Assuming that the one time jolt of introducing that many children only halves global output we are down to about $31t in global output. At about $1000 / yr /person you start having starvation and disease problems. If energy is growing at only 2% per year then living standards are falling 2.75% per year or falling by 14/15ths per century. I want you to think about what your standard of living would be like at 6.6% of your current salary. And then remember you live in the first world, in a rich country what's happening in Bangladesh or Mali?  
 
So within 100 years most of the population is starving to death or dying from exposure and the "holocaust" of abortion will pale in comparison to what's God's methods of birth control: war, famine, disease and sanitation failure will do. That situation just a century out is totally unacceptable even if you only care about preserving life and not the quality of life.

Math is amoral. If humans choose to breed like rats then they will die like rats.

This is just silly. People don't have 10 children on average (I am guessing you are not married). The human species has been around for a long time. It does not happen. These kinds of arguments actually go back to the 19th century. There was the iron law of wages and some similar thinking by Thomas Malthus. One problem is real data has never really fit the theory. People don't breed like rats.   

The other problem is we are not intended to build utopia. We are to live good moral lives. That is how we avoid being like rats. We just are not competent to figure out how many people should be in the world 100 years from now and manage society towards that goal. We need to let God worry about the big picture and focus our energies on the things we can control. 

The central problem of overpopulation is not the number of people but the way they interact. When people are self-absorbed and constantly using and abusing each other then the world is going to seem overpopulated. When people treat each other with love and respect then more people will seem like a blessing. 

Trying to solve these problems with contraception and abortion is essentially giving up on the concept of human dignity. Human life stops being a great gift and starts being a problem to be solved. It leads to genocide as legitimate government policy. Math is amoral. It sure is. So throw out the math and love the child. I have a university degree in Mathematics. I love equations. But matters of life and death should not be based on global calculations. 

If a Catholic society wanted to avoid a population increase they would have fewer people marry. Marriage would still be about procreation. Just a higher number of people would live as consecrated celibates. They would improve society in other ways while those called to marriage would continue to have large families.

A decrease in marriage decreases fertility greatly no question. It does to some extent decrease sexual activity but not nearly enough. A society with huge numbers of semi to fully sexually active people who aren't socially and/or legally permitted to be pregnant is not going to lead to less abortion.

The problem here is you don't think Catholic morality is actually livable. That celibacy cannot act as a population control because people will always cheat. I believe in grace. That God can enable us to live a life of love and sacrifice that would not be humanly possible. Will some people cheat? Sure. But Catholic sexual morality can be lived as the rule and not the exception in real world societies. 

Look at the Roman empire. Sexual perversity was rampant there. Christianity was able to take hold. It can happen. It is not only possible but it is essential. A lack of respect for sex and for life will cause civilization to fall apart. It is not compatible with human rights and human freedom long term.
 
That is because science has now shown the fetus to be human right from conception.

And this is where we get to the crucial point. I'd disagree. Moreover I'd argue that this is not a question science is even capable of answering. "What is human" is a moral question not a scientific question.


Science can say that a fetus is a living thing right from conception. Not only that science can tell us the species. It is homo sapien. So we are left with two choices. Just accept that it is human or try and dream us a new category for something that is alive and the same species as humans but not human.

When you take the second option you open the possibility of anyone anywhere doing the same thing with a people group they don't like. It can be based on race or on disability of age or anything else. Once we say being alive and being a member of the homo sapien species is not enough. Once we say we can add arbitrary criteria to the definition of what counts as human then anybody's human rights can be denied.

So the pro-abortion position is really anti-science. Pretending science has this unanswerable question involving what it human. It is only unanswerable because you don't like the obvious answer. Who counts as human? Everyone. Every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us…

The last bit comes from here:

http://www.equip.org/hank_speaks_outs/richard-neuhaus-on-abortion
 
 
I think we have gotten off point a bit. The original argument was one whether the pro-choice position was utilizing moral relativism in its assessment. You latest post is essentially a series of assertions, you are using the "say it louder" type argument. Catholic theology is going to be much more conducive to moral questions than the utter amorality of science. I'm going to chase you down the rabbit hole because I think you believe these things are true and they are preventing you from seeing that you actually picking criteria arbitrarily.

Not only that science can tell us the species

First off, species is considered by science to be a cultural not a scientific classification. It is determined by breeding patterns. That is genetically compatible animals that don't breed with one another are not considered to be part of the same species. You might have learned the capable of producing fertile offspring definition but that is now considered outdated because it was impossibly to apply consistently. 

I don't know that any of this is true. I have seen reports of scientists saying that species determination involves genetic research.
http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/info-books/elephants/scientific-classification.htm

Moreover, and most importantly, species classification is not applied to individuals but to communities. For example individuals can be infertile and thus not capable of producing fertile offspring at all with anyone.  

So an infertile individual is not a member of the species? I don't think science is that stupid. I mentioned this was anti-science. I think you are twisting the science to make the species question seem hard.

So no in a quite literal sense science can't tell us the species of the "preborn". Moreover biologists who do taxonomy classify young into two phases embryo when species are not fully differentiated and fetus when they are. This change happens in homo-sapiens at the 8th week. So if we are going to rely on the species definition the cut off would be, 8 weeks not conception. This incidentally is precisely what Catholic doctrine held in the 14th century, that at the 8th week the child was "fully formed" and thus inducing labor beyond this point was abortion. E
The key word here is "fully." This differentiation is gradual. So there is no obvious point at 8 weeks where you can say now this thing is human. Certainly the DNA does not change. Certain things happen at certain stages in a person's growth. Teeth grow at a certain point in development.  The child is not more or less human as a result. Differentiation is like that. Just another stage in the process of growing up. Actually many stages because it is not just one event. At no point does the nature of what it is change in a fundamental way.
 
Experimentally this cutoff is verified daily in drug manufacture. Cloning works on this very process. Because of there are undifferentiated cells you can grow human DNA inside bacterial cells.  
So because we abuse it it must not be human? That was the logic of Row v Wade, if we start killing them then people will stop thinking of them as human. Actually every genocide had the expectation. To some degree it works. Then there that pesky Catholic church with a long institutional memory and principles thinking.
 
My guess is that at this point you are going to drop "species" and the key cultural and biological components and then go to the genetic argument. Which is going to also fall apart.  
Why? Because you expect me to find this convincing? Science says a fetus is human. You can't get around it. As a Catholic I can embrace science. My creed never forces me into such anti-science position as you have just taken. No disrespect. Fundamentalists take anti-science positions. Lots of people do. I just think it is a sign of an error somewhere.
 
Once we say we can add arbitrary criteria to the definition of what counts as human then anybody's human rights can be denied.

Which is precisely the argument that PETA makes. They draw the line as what counts for rights as being able to attempt to avoid pain and thus argue that essentially all animals are entitled to rights. They see your "human" as arbitrary. And they have a 2600 year history of being able to apply this doctrine consistently.
They see my "human" as arbitrary. So then it is not "precisely the argument PETA makes." They make the error on the other side. We can lower human dignity by making other things equal to humans or we can lower it by excluding some humans.
 
Ahimsa, the idea that it is immoral to commit violence, and thus to eat meat, strikes me as morally consist. I may not agree but at least I find it plausible. Frankly, if we are talking about what is obviously true pretending that cell clump without a brain, getting nutrition from absorption not digestion, and unable to respond to stimulus deserves the full protection of homicide laws while an adult dolphin does not deserve any meaningful protection doesn't strike me as obvious, as you had claimed, in any sense.
I find it very sad to see someone be OK with abortion and yet get upset over cruelty to animals. It shows me how far humanity has slipped into immoral and irrational behavior. How choice is not an argument anyone wants to apply consistently. If they are really personally opposed to violence then they should oppose it even when it is politically incorrect.
 
Going in the other direction up till about 60 years ago people who liked your species definition had strong miscegenation laws. If whites and blacks formed a single breeding group then there were part of the same species. If they didn't breed they were two species. The species definition was key to justifying racial slavery and racial discrimination historically. Similarly this is why German anti-Semites thought breeding with Jews was a race crime, and clarifies what they meant by it. So just to be clear, the species definition does not even produce the ethics you were aiming for.
Like I said. I don't think you species definition is right. But even if it is then why would physically preventing breeding make them a different species. The fact that you have to prevent breeding means it is possible for them to breed. So we are talking about an irrational policy. So what is you point?
 
Who the society is going to protect is a choice the society makes. The choice is unavoidable there is no obvious natural cutoff. "Everyone" is by its nature meaningless. We as a society have to choose what we value. Right now we are moving towards a consensus on valuing intelligence. So in a widespread way catching dolphins in tuna nets is immoral, even though the whole point of the tuna nets is to kill tuna.  
This is scary. When it comes to human life we need to avoid choosing who to value and who to discard. Everyone is not meaningless. Everyone is the only answer that means anything. Every other answer means we will kill group X today and tomorrow we will kill group Y. Some day we will kill you or your children. 

Who cares about society's consensus. Society gets this wrong all the time. If we value intelligence then we kill Mother Teresa and Ludwig von Beethoven. We simply are not qualified to separate the good humans from the bad.
 
I applaud legal protections being applied to higher primates. We, the human culture, will create a network of protection which will protect and reinforce our goals as a culture.

As an aside, this post and your previous one contradict. I agree we should aim for a society where people are respected, protected, and cherished. To do that requires the very living standard you dismissed in your previous post. Without enough energy per capita they can't be fed much less cherished.
I know you don't worship the God that I do. Try and accept I don't worship energy per capita the way you do. I will cherish my fellow humans even when you equations say I can't. It does not depend on living standard. St Francis of Assisi talked about the gift of poverty. That being poor brings you closer to God and therefore leads to deeper joy. If living a moral life leads to more poor people that is no reason to be immoral.

I don't think it is true. I think moral societies tend to be more prosperous. I know capitalists say that greed produces wealth. You say that abortion produces wealth. I don't buy it. I would say that virtue leads to wealth. When America and Europe were moral there were prosperous. Since they have abandoned Christianity for secularism their prosperity has diminished. I would even say Christianity leads to scientific and social progress.

67 comments:

  1. After reading CD's comments I am pretty sure I will have a difficult time falling asleep tonight. If this person ever becomes king, the world will be a very frightening place for humans.

    Peter

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  2. Hi didn't know you had posted a reply in a new thread. There is a lot to respond to on this thread regarding history and science but in terms of morality I think we need to define our terms a bit here and exactly what is being discussed.

    The original claim was that the moderate position "If you don't like abortion don't get one" was really naive relativism, while I argued it was dealing with situation consent. You are now arguing that consent can't be a basis for morality because the humanity of the fetus over rides.

    More importantly you are arguing that societies aren't entitled to create moralities. Here we disagree, if a society can't create a morality than there is no morality. Morality as far as can tell seems to be a mechanism which allows humans to exist effectively within very large organizational structures. A morality is basically a set of guidelines for action for cooperation and organization. Societies are those very large organizational structures which are being maintained by moralities. So no I don't have a problem with morality being societal driven, they seem to be the natural place for a morality to reside.

    In general because humans have biological / evolutionary components that constrain what sorts of societies we can construct there is a common morality that exists for all societies, what you would call Natural Law. So for example all human societies must consider it moral to help those close to you and connected to you. All human societies are interested in making sure that people don't "cheat" and take unfair advantage of the benefits of the society based on deceit.

    In short, natural law creates vague moral precepts which become a morality in a societal context from which the society creates law and custom to explicate this morality. The doctrine of consent is part of our morality and we are creating law and custom to support it.

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  3. (part 1)
    Ok let me deal with the rest of the moral casse:

    This is just nonsense. I know you don't hold this position. You would say both Rita and Francine have every right to abort their children.

    Yes I would say they both do. I'm not moderate, I'm pro-choice, I was being asked to defend the position of the approximately 30% of Americans who are mostly pro-life but believe in the rape and incest exemption. But you could move the ball down the court and create the same situation for me.

    To take an example if my wife ran up huge credit card debts I'd be obligated for them because I consented to be married which is to pool finances.

    I think you do a good job of trying to show how the "moderate" position is reasonable. I just think it fails completely. Is the fetus human? If it is not then the justification for denying Francine an abortion is just silly. If it is then the justification for saying Rita can abort is worse than silly. It is frightening.

    I don't think most people view the situation as binary. Take my dolphin example. There are things between the level of dignity we give an adult member of our society and the level of dignity we give a cardboard box. The status of the fetus exists on a continuem.

    Say you come upon a man in danger of death and you have a real chance to save him. Should you? What if I answered that it depends how you came upon that man. If it was your idea to go down that road you have to save him. If someone else pressured you or even forced you to go there then you can leave him. Would that make any sense to you?

    If the rule was not "should you" but "must you". Yeah I could see that the force would change things. One of the key ideas of contract law is to try and avoid not explicitly agreed to obligations. So the person who forced me to go down the road could absorb the obligation. The rules governing saving people on roads in this "must you" hypothetical would need to be clearer to figure it out.

    "Should you" makes it a choice and thus recreates consent.

    This is just silly. People don't have 10 children on average (I am guessing you are not married). The human species has been around for a long time. It does not happen.

    Of course it happens. I don't have to pick up obscure examples, black fertility in the 1830s in the USA in Virginia was well over 10 children on average. Among whites living children it was 7 and that's with high infant mortality, bad nutrition, a high maternal death rate....

    The reason human women don't generally have 10 children in a world with good life expectancy, low infant mortality and good nutrition is they regulate births. You see birthrates today most likely near your town with the Quiverfull movement, when women stop regulating their procreation.

    These kinds of arguments actually go back to the 19th century. There was the iron law of wages and some similar thinking by Thomas Malthus. One problem is real data has never really fit the theory. People don't breed like rats.

    Exactly, people don't generally breed like rats. They anticipate and understand the implications and avoid them. But the 19th century did fit that model. If you are an Irish Catholic you are most likely in the United States because of the effect of Ireland's population going from 3m in 1770 to about 8.2m in 1830. The famines were how God restored the population to about the 4m Ireland could support. The next time around Ireland kept the population stable, engaged in capital investment so that they could utilize and harvest energy more effectively and then and only then, let the population grow.

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  4. (part 2)

    The other problem is we are not intended to build utopia. We are to live good moral lives. That is how we avoid being like rats. We just are not competent to figure out how many people should be in the world 100 years from now and manage society towards that goal. We need to let God worry about the big picture and focus our energies on the things we can control.

    Here we just fundamentally disagree, I consider this a total moral cop out. You cannot argue your morality is about preserving life and then argue it is up to God to preserve life when I point out problems.

    That would be like me defending the morality of abortion by saying the tooth fairy has a miracle and saves the fetus the second before the vacuum picks it up so nothing dies in an abortion. You cannot lay claim to a morality of human action based on its influence on other humans while throwing in an infinitely powerful being to address any problems that might occur based on your policies.

    And if we can use history, we do have history, including history in Catholic countries of how God manages population. God doesn't make the problem go away by magic. Rather he mostly uses resource depletion leading to mass starvation and then plague to drive the population low enough to allow resource recovery as his most common means of addressing overly high fertility. It is precisely to avoiding God's method's of handling the situation, because of a desire for something approaching human dignity, that humans generally regulate births themselves. I can point you to a dozen countries right now that are in various stages of letting God handle the problem. None of them has human dignity approaching what you see in cultures with heavy use of contraception and abortion by any measure you can think of.

    Yes, it is our problem to worry about. You simply can't make a moral objection to anything as compared to that road of unconstrained fertility.

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  5. Now onto science and history.

    What is the definition of species you are using? I'm reading your comments and you seem to think there isn't a connection between species and breeding patterns, when I see this as core to every definition I know of. So lets start there, what is the definition of a species? Given an animal how do I know what species it is in?

    ____

    Now onto differentiation. My positon is that limbs aren't developed by their potentiality, that is they don't exist at conception. For example there has been an experiment where the cells that would have formed the belly of a frog were injected with the RNA strand to form the head and a two headed tadpole was produced. Which means in this frog embryo that cell was neither a belly nor a head but just a cell capable of being either that would probably have become a belly. And we see the sames sorts of things in humans (accidentally) with drug manufacture when we inject human RNA into bacteria, chemical interference like Thalidomide or radiation.

    In my opinion the most important aspect of differentiation is the fact that the embryo can split for up to several weeks and create independent children, identical twins. If a single fertilized egg is a person and that personhood is established based on genetic uniqueness / conception I'm not sure how one argues killing one identical twin is murder. I think it makes far more sense to say that something is merely a potential not an actual until differentiation takes place and have identical twins be two people.

    Look at the Roman empire. Sexual perversity was rampant there. Christianity was able to take hold. It can happen. It is not only possible but it is essential. A lack of respect for sex and for life will cause civilization to fall apart.

    Roman society fell apart after it become Christian. It was thriving during the period of "sexual perversity".

    When America and Europe were moral there were prosperous. Since they have abandoned Christianity for secularism their prosperity has diminished.

    Can you give me the years for when America and Europe were moral?

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  6. Hi didn't know you had posted a reply in a new thread. There is a lot to respond to on this thread regarding history and science but in terms of morality I think we need to define our terms a bit here and exactly what is being discussed.

    Sorry if you had trouble finding this. Time is always an issue for me so slowing down the dialogue is not a problem. I am just happy to have a respectful exchange of idea that can benefit us both.

    The original claim was that the moderate position "If you don't like abortion don't get one" was really naive relativism, while I argued it was dealing with situation consent. You are now arguing that consent can't be a basis for morality because the humanity of the fetus over rides.
    Yes, the abortion question boils down to the humanity of the fetus. Once we settle on an answer to that one then all the rest of the questions become simple. The question of the "If you don't like abortion don't get on" argument is simple. It is simply wrong. Just like "If you don't like slavery then don't have one" is simply wrong. That is even the most simple-minded should be able to see it is wrong. Even if you are pro-choice you should not vote for anyone who seriously uses this argument. It means they are moral imbeciles. They should not be trusted with any public office.

    More importantly you are arguing that societies aren't entitled to create moralities. Here we disagree, if a society can't create a morality than there is no morality. Morality as far as can tell seems to be a mechanism which allows humans to exist effectively within very large organizational structures. A morality is basically a set of guidelines for action for cooperation and organization. Societies are those very large organizational structures which are being maintained by moralities. So no I don't have a problem with morality being societal driven, they seem to be the natural place for a morality to reside.

    I would not define morality that way at all. That is just corporate pragmatism. Achieving better results through sound management practices. Morality is the pursuit of what is good and right. It can be done corporately or individually but the definition of what is good and right is not made by the corporation or the individual.

    There are some things that are defined by society. Good manners. Like what fork we eat with. Society can change things like that all it wants. But when society accepts racism that does not make it moral. Same with when society accepts pornography or abortion. They don't become moral because they are common.

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  7. In general because humans have biological / evolutionary components that constrain what sorts of societies we can construct there is a common morality that exists for all societies, what you would call Natural Law. So for example all human societies must consider it moral to help those close to you and connected to you. All human societies are interested in making sure that people don't "cheat" and take unfair advantage of the benefits of the society based on deceit.

    In short, natural law creates vague moral precepts which become a morality in a societal context from which the society creates law and custom to explicate this morality. The doctrine of consent is part of our morality and we are creating law and custom to support it.


    I would argue that creating a proper place for the raising of children is one of the basics. Strong marriages happen more often when a society encourages chastity. Abortion is just the killing of another person. That is the most basic element of natural law. So we fail in some important areas.

    Natural law is based on biology. How we appear to be designed to live. So there is a higher sense of moral goodness being respected. We should not decide that cheating in business deals is OK. We can. There are corrupt governments that do it all the time. But it would not be right. But if we say bribery of police and judges is wrong even if it is culturally accepted then how can we say abortion is OK just because 51% tell a pollster that (if you phrase the question a certain way).

    Anyway, natural law is really the lowest level of morality. So failing there, and we are failing, means we are among the worst societies in the history of the world. We use moral language but only in a self-serving, short-term way. We don't have a consistent set of moral principles that respects even the most basic facts of humanity.

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  8. If the rule was not "should you" but "must you". Yeah I could see that the force would change things. One of the key ideas of contract law is to try and avoid not explicitly agreed to obligations. So the person who forced me to go down the road could absorb the obligation. The rules governing saving people on roads in this "must you" hypothetical would need to be clearer to figure it out.

    I guess I see moral law as more binding than contract law especially when a human life hangs in the balance. I can see that determining whether I am contractually obligated to do something can be quite complex. When a person is in danger of death and you are there then that all disappears. Save the life. Worry about the legalities later. That is the way Rita and Francine should be thinking.

    Of course it happens. I don't have to pick up obscure examples, black fertility in the 1830s in the USA in Virginia was well over 10 children on average. Among whites living children it was 7 and that's with high infant mortality, bad nutrition, a high maternal death rate....

    The reason human women don't generally have 10 children in a world with good life expectancy, low infant mortality and good nutrition is they regulate births. You see birthrates today most likely near your town with the Quiverfull movement, when women stop regulating their procreation.


    You are proving my point here. Humans can average a high number of children per family but only when certain circumstances are present. They are not always present. When they are not people change their behavior. You seem to feel that is always in a way that Catholic morality would reject. I think that is an assumption based on a very modern and very wrong idea of what is possible in terms of sexual self control.

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  9. Here we just fundamentally disagree, I consider this a total moral cop out. You cannot argue your morality is about preserving life and then argue it is up to God to preserve life when I point out problems.

    But your problems are just in your head. To solve them requires creating bigger problems that are real and immediate. Ditching respect for human life and replacing it with some sort of planned society that has the power to destroy life at will. That is what communism was about. News flash. It delivered all the killing but failed to deliver the wonderful society. Doing evil so that good many result is never going to work.

    That would be like me defending the morality of abortion by saying the tooth fairy has a miracle and saves the fetus the second before the vacuum picks it up so nothing dies in an abortion. You cannot lay claim to a morality of human action based on its influence on other humans while throwing in an infinitely powerful being to address any problems that might occur based on your policies.

    You can deny an infinitely powerful God. But you are asserting an infinitely powerful human capacity for utopia through population management (aka genocide). You lack faith in God. I lack faith in intellectual elites telling us what is best. Not that there isn't a place for intellectuals. Just that killing millions is not something we should do to prove someone's theory.

    And if we can use history, we do have history, including history in Catholic countries of how God manages population. God doesn't make the problem go away by magic. Rather he mostly uses resource depletion leading to mass starvation and then plague to drive the population low enough to allow resource recovery as his most common means of addressing overly high fertility. It is precisely to avoiding God's method's of handling the situation, because of a desire for something approaching human dignity, that humans generally regulate births themselves. I can point you to a dozen countries right now that are in various stages of letting God handle the problem. None of them has human dignity approaching what you see in cultures with heavy use of contraception and abortion by any measure you can think of.

    Disease and famine have always been problems. We had them when there were just a few million people on earth. They are really not a function of the number pf people. They are a function of how society treats the poor. If it provides basic nutrition and medicine to the poor then problems can be minimized.

    You will always have people dying under tragic circumstances. Abortion is not the answer to that. Abortion solves nothing. It just makes us care less about human life.

    Yes, it is our problem to worry about. You simply can't make a moral objection to anything as compared to that road of unconstrained fertility.

    Who is defending "unconstrained fertility?" Maybe some people in the quiverfull movement. Certainly not the Catholic church.

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  10. Now onto science and history.

    What is the definition of species you are using? I'm reading your comments and you seem to think there isn't a connection between species and breeding patterns, when I see this as core to every definition I know of. So lets start there, what is the definition of a species? Given an animal how do I know what species it is in?

    The inter-breeding concept is fine. The problem is with life cycles. Are chickens and eggs the same species? You seem to want to say No because a chicken does not breed with an egg. Actually the problem cases for defining species don't come with figuring out whether parents and offspring are the same species. They are. The problems come when inter-breeding is hypothetical. None of these problems exist with human fetuses. A fetus is the same species as its mother and father. It is human. All the rest is just a smoke screen to make a very simple scientific answer seem obscure.


    In my opinion the most important aspect of differentiation is the fact that the embryo can split for up to several weeks and create independent children, identical twins. If a single fertilized egg is a person and that personhood is established based on genetic uniqueness / conception I'm not sure how one argues killing one identical twin is murder. I think it makes far more sense to say that something is merely a potential not an actual until differentiation takes place and have identical twins be two people.

    The twin case is hard. I will give you that. But differentiation be the source of out human dignity. The gradualness of the process just does not fit. Humanity is not something that is a continuum.

    If you want to go with differentiation I would be OK with that. If you want to fight any abortions after the 8th week. I will leave aside the remainder and call you pro-life. It means you want Roe v Wade removed.

    The trouble is that differentiation is normally raised not as a position to hold but as one to try and attack the conception position. The attacker almost never has a position as coherent as differentiation or conception. So why talk about differentiation? Why not defend the position you actually hold?

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  11. Roman society fell apart after it become Christian. It was thriving during the period of "sexual perversity".

    Christianity took over the Roman Empire basically because it collapsed from withing and there was nothing left with any strength outside of Christianity. The point is society made this journey most today claim is impossible. That is the genie of sexual perversity was put back in the bottle of morality.

    Can you give me the years for when America and Europe were moral?

    Completely moral? No. But the rejection of religion has not exactly brought prosperity. Quite the opposite. The West has lost it's strong families. It has lost it's moral center. It is also losing it's place of economic advantage. So I don't buy the morality leads to poverty argument not only because it is unprincipled but also because I don't think your predictions are going to come true.

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  12. I'm going to follow your order on this response since I'm not sure if you are done with all your responses yet.

    Yes, the abortion question boils down to the humanity of the fetus.

    Not quite. Though again this gets to another segment of the population and their opinion. There are a bunch of issues beyond just humanity

    a) That the fetus is human.
    b) That the fetus is entitled to occupancy in the mother's womb. In particular it cannot be treated like a hostile.
    c) That the fetus does not have any of the responsibilities of a human and that the mother must by moral and legal force provide them.

    It is entirely possible to believe (b) and (c) and not (a). Arguably that's part of the morality behind Roe v. Wade and the viability test. For example in Florida there is a castle doctrine, that I have the right to defend my home against an attacker with lethal force if needed. That is ultimately if it requires shooting someone to get to leave the premises I'm entitled to do that. There are similar laws in about 20 states and in the rest only slightly weaker laws. Someone else is not entitled to take up residence in my home just because they need a home. Whatever applies to my home could even more strongly apply to my body as that is even a greater degree of invasion. One could very easily hold the fetus is human and still be pro-choice based on the right to bodily integrity.

    (BTW I didn't know you were Canadian before this round. I'd been assuming you were American, because of things like mentioning Roe v. Wade with abortion. I'm gathering you were comfortable debating this on my turf, US history and law but now that I know I'll throw it out there?)

    In fact I wouldn't use the home analogy. I think a person's body is much more central to their being than their home. I'd use the rape analogy. In almost any state a women is entitled to use lethal force to avoid being raped. I would certainly agree forcing a woman to carry a child to term is as invasive as forcing her to have intercourse against her will everyday.

    And no denies that the rapist is human when they drafted and supported these laws. Humanity is not sufficient to grant a right to not be killed under all circumstances.

    (con part 2)

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  13. Finally, this isn't just mere occupancy. As a human I have certain responsibilities to maintain my life. For example my large intestine produces toxins that leach into by bloodstream. Left alone these chemicals would destroy my brain. But my kidneys and my liver remove these toxins everyday and keep me alive. Similarly a little less than 1% of the heme in my blood is released in a raw and dangerous form everyday and my body cleans that out. However, the unborn they don't carry out this responsibility. Rather they pass these toxins in their raw, native, toxic state to their mother and have her kidneys and her liver break them down and pass them out of her body.

    The question is not, is the fetus human, But even if the fetus were human does any human have any right to demand a right to use another human as a dialysis machine without their consent? In this series of posts you've been attacking state power. I can think of few more naked exercises for state power than requiring me to filter someone else's blood on pain on lengthy imprisonment.

    I probably should have objected to the road analogy in the previous round. It is very misleading analogy. A better one, would be if someone was dying and needed a kidney or 1/2 your liver to survive do they have the right to go to court and get an order that you be strapped down to a surgical table and forced to give it to them?

    I don't see humanity as the endpoint of the debate. No question humanity complicates the morality of the situation tremendously. But in general most of the abortion laws as they exist today would be fully defendable under a doctrine that the fetus was human. And one way you can look at the viability test is this very line. The biological dependency means that any human rights granted the fetus are automatically rights denied the mother. It is a zero sum game.

    Morality is the pursuit of what is good and right. It can be done corporately or individually but the definition of what is good and right is not made by the corporation or the individual.

    You are question begging here. You are asserting the pre-existence of a good and right apart from morality. Further if morality is possible this good and right must be known. But what people consider to be good and right is how they define morality.

    You can have a "good" which is unknown to humans and an accompanying morality but that is mostly irrelevant to any discussion of human morals. Human morals are what are known and knowable. Morality ultimately is what people think it is. In the same way while I can be individually wrong about the definition of any word, the language community can't be wrong by definition. A word means what people as a conglomerate think it means.

    Further Christianity is crucially dependent on a non arbitrary (i.e. a knowable morality). This is the Euthyphro dilemma. That's why Aquinas used Aristotle's definition of the good, "good is what all desire". For all of Catholic theology, sin to be sin must be a false good, that is a false desire. If there exist true desires that are sinful, you pretty much just rejected the core argument of the Jewish prophets and the entire monotheistic tradition.

    Sorry if you want to defend Catholic morality you have to defend a societal good which is knowable by society.

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  14. As an aside since you are expressing interest in my opinion. I hold to Heiddegger's opinion that is I mostly agree with the Catholic answer to the Euthyphro dilemma. But... and this is not a small difference I believe the good is not constant but changes.

    That is members of societies experience events and teachings which train their person to have certain desires and values. They then pass these on to the society. So the good changes as the society and the individual experiences events. The good is ultimately nothing more than situational to the society, at that point in time.

    But that's it for the distinction. That really is the only point of difference. You are absolutely correct, this shift of the origins of morality changes morality from an end into a societal means to an end.

    But again in practice I happen to think that biology is controlling here and human aren't much different and thus moralities are not much different and thus the overlap is huge. Hence we can render moral judgements. But if biology stopped being controlling, for example if computers ever gained sentience their morality would likely be almost unrecognizable and non-understandable to us while still being a morality.

    But when society accepts racism that does not make it moral.

    That's a good example. Lets go back to our discussion of Islam. When I brought up that Muslims had a "better story" during the crusades, you casually dismissed this as impossible. Why is it impossible that another tribes deity would be more appealing than yours to the people who lived on the border between the two tribes?

    I think you do support idealogical tribalism but don't support racial tribalism because the society you draw your morals from operates cross racially but doesn't operate across religious boundaries. A 16th century Brit who is looking for a way to unify "Christiandom" now that Christianity is a bone of contention might very well see that what holds people together was Western Civilization not Christian Civilization and make that replacement. What then are the status of those who reject Western Civilization? So "heathens" becomes redefined as a cultural and not a religious term.

    To be honest, and try not to react emotionally. I know I'm pressing emotion buttons here and that's because I'm not a good enough writer to do this without hitting those buttons. I think your untroubled rejection of Islam comes from your acceptance of the moral framework that led directly to racism.

    Racism came from western culture because it was consistent with the values of western culture. It was only when western culture became cross racial, that racism became immoral to westerners. Now you and I are both not racist, but that's an accident of history, that we weren't born during the transition, not some great moral accomplishment on our part.

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  15. I would argue that creating a proper place for the raising of children is one of the basics.

    So would both sides of the abortion debate, our whole society has become much more invested in children. In fact pro-choicers often consider "responsibility towards children" to be the #1 goal. If you look at things like divorce rates, parental abuse, home stability ... pro-choice families excel at stability. That's not a point of debate.

    Strong marriages happen more often when a society encourages chastity.

    If that's the case then why are the divorce statistics showing the opposite? You couldn't ask for a better laboratory to test that than America. We have populations of tens of millions of secular liberals who consider non-marital sexuality natural and don't meaningfully discourage it. We have populations of over a hundred million of people who strongly encourage chastity, most religious. Divorce rates are higher among the religious, but worse out of wedlock births are much much higher.

    Going by the data encouraging chastity seems to result in weak marriages. I happen to think there are other causes but the evidence certainly doesn't support your position.

    You seem to feel that [regulation of birth] is always in a way that Catholic morality would reject. I think that is an assumption based on a very modern and very wrong idea of what is possible in terms of sexual self control.

    I'm not assuming anything. And to prove this I'll ask a simple question: give me Catholic society that wasn't suffering from very poor nutrition / starvation with that a low birth rate and didn't use some combination of: what we would today call abortifacient drugs, heavy masturbation (remember the church during the middle ages regulated sex heavily), infanticide, late marriage + lesbianism, contraception....

    We have books from the Catholic middle ages dealing with sex. For example Jean Gerson (15th century so pro-Protestantism) wrote what was a standard textbook in the middle ages for confessors which treated masturbation as universal for men 13-15 and fornication as universal thereafter. He discusses the use of what we call today spermicides, coitus interruptus, abortifacients, pessaries (a primitive diaphragm), and exercises that induce miscarriage.

    I have yet to find any society that we know anything about sexual practices that doesn't engage in pretty much the same litany of sins Humane Vitae is worried about. We have excellent contraception and almost no infanticide but other than that are period of time isn't abnormal. Catholicism dominated the entire west for 1000 years and a good chunk of the world for another 500. So when was this period where today's Catholic moral standards were mostly upheld rather than mostly broken?

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  16. To solve them requires creating bigger problems that are real and immediate. Ditching respect for human life and replacing it with some sort of planned society that has the power to destroy life at will. That is what communism was about. News flash. It delivered all the killing but failed to deliver the wonderful society

    We are successfully reducing fertility all over the world in capitalist, communist, and other societies. Capitalist countries use mechanism like price to achieve large scale human cooperation, there hasn't been any need for killing and terror. Here is a link to Google's fertility graph. You can look for yourself as far as countries.

    Pretty much 3% of the global population move to cities. People in cities breed at under replacement level. Until wages are high enough in rural areas that this migration stops or perhaps reverses fertility will stay low. High living standards in rural areas are dependent on population shortage in rural areas. There are some government like China that induced this change a bit more quickly (about 1 generation) faster than it would have on its own, using methods you are talking about. But mostly the same thing is happening now that's always happened in human history.

    Are chickens and eggs the same species? You seem to want to say No because a chicken does not breed with an egg

    That's a good question. 4 days after the egg is laid I could (assuming technology about 100 years more advanced than ours) hit the chicken embryo with human hormones / RNA and get a human baby out. Looking at external structures I couldn't tell if this is a chicken, a human baby or a turtle. Thus it is not a chicken yet, it hasn't differentiated enough. I don't know enough about chickens to know where the cutoff is, certainly well before the 21 days when it hatches, but at 4 days, no a chicken egg does not contain a chicken.

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  17. The trouble is that differentiation is normally raised not as a position to hold but as one to try and attack the conception position. The attacker almost never has a position as coherent as differentiation or conception. So why talk about differentiation? Why not defend the position you actually hold?

    You are right, that is exactly why it was raised. I'm trying to prove both a negative and a positive case. The negative case had to go first because you originally were asserting that the science was crystal clear and anyone who denied it was denying obvious science. Once we establish that the science ain't obvious on this at all that opens up the room for a real discussion.

    I did make the positive case very early. When the intellectual soul forms. Or to use modern language when uniquely human brain structures appear, that is brain structures not found in any other mammal. That time also coincides to when the fetus loses its last major primate characteristic, lanugo a type of primate fur and starts to grow human hair. It also is a time when the burdon on the mother is reasonable and consent at this point is obvious. In other words at 8 mo. I'd be prepared to give legal protection to the fetus and treat abortion as a form of infanticide. So in most cases criminally prosecute for manslaughter both mother and doctor.

    Before 2 mo, I don't abortion has much moral consequence. Which is why I don't have problems with chemical contraception.

    Between 2 mo where I don't care and 8 mo where I'm willing to toss people in jail I'd want to gradually introduce restrictions. Which is close enough for me to basically agree with trimesters and Roe v. Wade.

    If I were king I'd like to ground more heavily in religious tradition, which is Nancy Pelosi's position. Which means that Aquinas time / quickening (4 mo) would be the cutoff for abortion being legal in all cases, i.e. consent is established. At that point I'd want to make it a real hassle with lots of oversight and strong medical justification.

    Morally my position is that human is something that happens gradually starting when the mother's ovaries first form in the womb going through conception and happening sometime thereafter. There aren't any sharp lines, nothing is terrible clear cut and we need to exercise humility. Erring on the side of preserving life but not declaring with certainty things that are patently false, like that a fertilized egg should be treated with the same dignity as a 9 year old child, to try and avoid the mess of grey that unavoidably exist.

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  18. I'm going to follow your order on this response since I'm not sure if you are done with all your responses yet.

    I will respond by drips and drabs. I have work to do.

    a) That the fetus is human.
    b) That the fetus is entitled to occupancy in the mother's womb. In particular it cannot be treated like a hostile.
    c) That the fetus does not have any of the responsibilities of a human and that the mother must by moral and legal force provide them.

    It is entirely possible to believe (b) and (c) and not (a). Arguably that's part of the morality behind Roe v. Wade and the viability test. For example in Florida there is a castle doctrine, that I have the right to defend my home against an attacker with lethal force if needed. That is ultimately if it requires shooting someone to get to leave the premises I'm entitled to do that.


    This is another can of worms but it hardly help you. So if a whit guy comes into my home I welcome him warmly. If a black man with a hoodie steps on my property I shoot him dead. I agree. Abortion is like that in some ways. Not in good ways.

    In fact I wouldn't use the home analogy. I think a person's body is much more central to their being than their home. I'd use the rape analogy. In almost any state a women is entitled to use lethal force to avoid being raped. I would certainly agree forcing a woman to carry a child to term is as invasive as forcing her to have intercourse against her will everyday.

    Now you show where your first analogy breaks down. When someone enters your space and you have good reason to believe they intend to do you harm then it is moral to respond in a proportionate way that might involve lethal force. But a woman has no reason to believe her baby intends her harm. So the core reason why the force is justified in you analogy does not apply. So your analogy fails. The same applied to the castle case. If that reasonable fear of immediate harm is not there then deadly force is too much. Call the police and have them deal with it.

    This is why Catholic moral teaching says abortion can never be justified. It is the taking on an innocent life. Nobody debates the innocence. They debate the humanity.

    The question is not, is the fetus human, But even if the fetus were human does any human have any right to demand a right to use another human as a dialysis machine without their consent? In this series of posts you've been attacking state power. I can think of few more naked exercises for state power than requiring me to filter someone else's blood on pain on lengthy imprisonment.

    This analogy fails badly as well. There is the difference between not saving a life and actively doing something to kill a person. If the state was making women pregnant you would have a point. Guess what?

    Abortion is the invasive thing. The "pain on lengthy imprisonment" is a red herring as well. I only address it because it is another stupid argument that is made repeatedly. When a mother kills an infant or a toddler a judge and prosecutor decide on a just punishment. But the decision takes into account that a wrong has been committed. A child that was alive is now dead. They may or may not decide prison is appropriate. But they can't just forget about the child. That is what is needed with abortion. Not a justice that forgets the mother and her situation but not a justice that forgets the child either. The situations are hard but the system deals with hard cases all the time.

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  19. OK finally at the end.

    Christianity took over the Roman Empire basically because it collapsed from withing and there was nothing left with any strength outside of Christianity.

    Huh? In 311 Rome still had a large and functioning army. An army that would more or less survive even the collapse of Rome itself and be critical to the formation of feudalism. They still a functioning agricultural system, a city based economy... This was still a functioning empire, not at its height but not destroyed by any means.

    Rome had serious problems with maintaining an inclusive vision. Roman leaders saw Christianity as offering a common bond, a way to tie people together who did not have tribal affiliations without the long process of becoming culturally Roman. Christianity was successful in being able to cross cultural boundaries but not in maintaining the economic basis for the empire. Rome died under Christianity not before. The Rome that Christianity inherited was larger and richer than the one Julius Caesar had left behind. I don't agree with a Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) thesis that Christianity was the cause of Rome's fall. In fact I'd be willing to make a case that while Christianity was likely a slight negative in the fate of Rome the fact that there still is a Western Civilization at all, that the West survived the dark ages, may very well be due to Catholicism. That is I see Christianity as a symptom of the decline of Rome much more than a cause.

    But that being said, there is good reason there are people on the other side of this debate. You cannot make a timeline work which does not have Paganism not Christianity be the religion of Roman glory and Christianity the religion of Roman decline.

    The point is society made this journey most today claim is impossible. That is the genie of sexual perversity was put back in the bottle of morality.

    Sure, sexual mores change all the time. I've made this point in this very thread, that modern Catholic sexual morality (what you are arguing for) isn't the morality of Catholicism at all but rather the morality of the Victorian sexual reformers. The Victorian reformers accomplished a major shift in sexual morals, making marriage a universal institution, tying the sexual relationship much more closely to children (i.e. women's domestic duties not seduction as their focus) ... I don't disagree that mores can change in fact I think they are likely to change once we work through the population effects of modern medicine. It wouldn't shock me at all if my descendants in the year 2200 are total prigs in advanced countries most women are domestic and 3rd world countries are being pitied for having a female population that has to work and can only afford to marry in their late 20s at the earliest.

    Completely moral? No. But the rejection of religion has not exactly brought prosperity. Quite the opposite.

    I was asking for years, not assertions about the ties. Where is the data to support this tie you're claiming? I want you to be specific enough that we can look at data.

    Because what I think is true when you look at data is that high wages create sexual morality which causes overbreeding which drives down living standards which causes sexual immorality which causes population control which drives up wages .... in a cycle that plays out every few hundred years with the exactly length of the stages determined by energy technology. "Sexual morality" is nothing more than a societal mechanism to encourage population when lack of population is constraining economic growth.

    The West has lost it's strong families. It has lost it's moral center. It is also losing it's place of economic advantage

    I think the West is doing pretty good. But even if we assume it is losing its economic advantage, it is losing it to Asian countries with even more abortion and contraception. So I'm not sure how that proves your point.

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  20. Morality is the pursuit of what is good and right. It can be done corporately or individually but the definition of what is good and right is not made by the corporation or the individual.

    You are question begging here. You are asserting the pre-existence of a good and right apart from morality. Further if morality is possible this good and right must be known. But what people consider to be good and right is how they define morality.
    It is how you define morality. We have moral feelings. But are they morality or do they point to an ultimate morality? Feelings can change. A person might think adultery is wrong but then after they have a few affairs might say it is OK. Has morality changed?

    Similarly a society might say wife beating is OK. Over time they might discover a better way. Did wife beating become immoral or was it always immoral?

    I think these questions are central to every moral discussion. Where do we get morals. Do they come from examining moral feelings? If there is an ultimate good we are aiming for then we need to find the best way of determining what that is. That means looking at the most trustworthy sources of moral information and doing sound moral reasoning.

    If there is no ultimate good then why bother doing any reasoning at all? Just go with your feelings. Who cares where you end up? There is no right or wrong answer.

    You can have a "good" which is unknown to humans and an accompanying morality but that is mostly irrelevant to any discussion of human morals. Human morals are what are known and knowable. Morality ultimately is what people think it is. In the same way while I can be individually wrong about the definition of any word, the language community can't be wrong by definition. A word means what people as a conglomerate think it means.

    The language analogy is terrible. If morals were like language then nothing would matter. Martin Luther King changing people's ideas on race would be the same as calling something a couch instead of a chesterfield. They would also be the same as Adolf Hitler changing people's ideas on Jews. One would not be a better change than the other. Remember there is no ultimate good or if there is one it is irrelevant. Do you really believe that?

    Certainly moral debate in society is going to be limited by how much people know. What or who do they trust as a source of moral truth? The same is true of economic policy and foreign policy and anything else. But it is not really the same. When I say someone's moral thinking is off it is a much more personal thing than when I say someone's economic policy is wrong. It goes to the heart of what a human is all about. We are here to do good. If we don't do good we fail as human beings in a very profound way.

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  21. As an aside since you are expressing interest in my opinion. I hold to Heiddegger's opinion that is I mostly agree with the Catholic answer to the Euthyphro dilemma. But... and this is not a small difference I believe the good is not constant but changes.

    That is members of societies experience events and teachings which train their person to have certain desires and values. They then pass these on to the society. So the good changes as the society and the individual experiences events. The good is ultimately nothing more than situational to the society, at that point in time.


    But how can we know that what comes from this process is wise or just or that it leads to ultimate peace and joy? In other words how do we know it has any of the properties we normally associate with goodness? If we don't know that then why should we pursue it?

    But that's it for the distinction. That really is the only point of difference. You are absolutely correct, this shift of the origins of morality changes morality from an end into a societal means to an end.

    But again in practice I happen to think that biology is controlling here and human aren't much different and thus moralities are not much different and thus the overlap is huge. Hence we can render moral judgements.


    But if we think biology is the only real control then we will go there for ultimate moral truth. I think the truth is there but it is often less clear and frequently misinterpreted by people with other agendas. If you believe that morality is timeless then you will tend to trust old moral codes that have been widely respected for a long time. Those tend to be much clearer and harder to twist to one's own opinions. It is possible but it is entirely less credible.

    But if biology stopped being controlling, for example if computers ever gained sentience their morality would likely be almost unrecognizable and non-understandable to us while still being a morality.
    But why trust biology? If you believe in evolution that was not guided in any way by a supreme being then why would that produce good moral feelings? In fact, we recognize that feelings like racism can be innate and we must fight them because racism is wrong. So sometimes we trust our biology and sometimes we don't.

    Humans are trustworthy in moral matters if they have a well-formed conscience. This is true because they are made in the image of God who is the source of all goodness. But if society forgets how to form the consciences of the next generation then we are in a lot of trouble.

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  22. That's a good example. Lets go back to our discussion of Islam. When I brought up that Muslims had a "better story" during the crusades, you casually dismissed this as impossible. Why is it impossible that another tribes deity would be more appealing than yours to the people who lived on the border between the two tribes?

    I was doing an analysis that assumed that Christianity is true. How should Christians have interacted with Muslims that would have avoided the ugliness we have seen over the last 1400 years? So when somebody jumps in and sneers that it is because Christianity is a load of BS then I respect that but it is not part of the discussion I am trying to have. So I dismiss it. I can understand that a Muslim or an atheist is not going to just accept that Christian evangelism, when done right, should be effective. But I accept that. So I ask the question, why didn't that happen in this case?

    I think you do support idealogical tribalism but don't support racial tribalism because the society you draw your morals from operates cross racially but doesn't operate across religious boundaries. A 16th century Brit who is looking for a way to unify "Christiandom" now that Christianity is a bone of contention might very well see that what holds people together was Western Civilization not Christian Civilization and make that replacement. What then are the status of those who reject Western Civilization? So "heathens" becomes redefined as a cultural and not a religious term.

    There are ways of looking at history. I don't think looking at history and focusing on race is particularly useful. I do think focusing on religion and philosophy is a very fruitful way to analyze history. Is that driven by my society? A very small portion of the people I know do that kind of analysis. I have been impressed by those people. So is that being influenced by society? If you means that small group of people I was impressed with then sure. I draw many of my ideas from them.

    To be honest, and try not to react emotionally. I know I'm pressing emotion buttons here and that's because I'm not a good enough writer to do this without hitting those buttons. I think your untroubled rejection of Islam comes from your acceptance of the moral framework that led directly to racism.

    I have an untroubled rejection of Arianism and Albigensianism and Mormonism and many other Christian heresies. I don't really dig deep into every Christian heresy. Jesus gave us His Church so we would not have that much trouble finding the truth in the mass of different ideas that people put forward. I am not sure what that has to do with racism.

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  23. Racism came from western culture because it was consistent with the values of western culture.
    I don't think so. I think racism is in every culture from ancient times. We naturally love our own tribe and tend to distrust people who look different. Nothing western about that.

    It was only when western culture became cross racial, that racism became immoral to westerners. Now you and I are both not racist, but that's an accident of history, that we weren't born during the transition, not some great moral accomplishment on our part.

    It was born of the teaching of Jesus that we are all children of God. Jews were racists. They rejected gentiles. Jesus said the new Kingdom was for everyone. The church sometimes did a good job of this and sometimes not so good. Eventually it developed into a clear understanding that racism was immoral. So we inherit that understanding. It is not a great moral accomplishment on our part. Did society becoming "cross racial" help? Probably. But Christians making the moral case against racism helped a lot too. Yes, some of the last holdouts to racism were and are Christians. But the argument that God created all men equal even if empirical evidence seems to indicate otherwise. That was big. That idea is Christian in its origin even if many of its greatest advocates rejected much of Christianity.

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  24. OK noticed the new post on atheist pastors so figured you might be done for this round.

    I think we have have done a decent job on the moral issues, and I'll go more general there. But the focus on law rather than morality will make things a bit more concrete. Anyway there are a lot of open topics. Lets start with an easy one the castle doctrine:

    . The same applied to the castle case. If that reasonable fear of immediate harm is not there then deadly force is too much. Call the police and have them deal with it.

    Actually that understanding is precisely the opposite of the castle doctrine.

    1) Andy is robbing Billy's house. Billy sees him, Andy draw a knife and corners Billy. Billy shoots him. That's legal in all 50 states.

    2) Coby is robbing Denny's house. Denny sees him and tells him to leave Coby draws a knife. Denny could flee his house but instead decides to shoot Coby. That's legal in states with "stand your ground" laws.

    3) Elmer is robbing Frank's house. Frank sees him, tells him to leave. Elmer keeps disconnecting his television posing no threat to Frank. Frank wants him out so shoots him. That's what the "castle doctrine" permits.

    The castle doctrine permits deadly force against intrusion not just self defense. Again no denies Frank's humanity here. And that was the point, the humanity is not the only issue. There is also the right of occupancy. Under a pro-life law regime a woman has no right to bodily integrity, less rights than she does have with respect to her house.

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  25. The "pain on lengthy imprisonment" is a red herring as well. I only address it because it is another stupid argument that is made repeatedly. When a mother kills an infant or a toddler a judge and prosecutor decide on a just punishment. But the decision takes into account that a wrong has been committed. A child that was alive is now dead. They may or may not decide prison is appropriate. But they can't just forget about the child. That is what is needed with abortion. Not a justice that forgets the mother and her situation but not a justice that forgets the child either. The situations are hard but the system deals with hard cases all the time.

    Abortion as homicide would be a law which is:

    a) Effecting powerful and well connected people
    b) Involves incredibly long and harsh sentences so these people would be highly motivated to fight this in the courts.
    c) Is considered moral legitimate by huge sections of the population.
    d) Has overwhelming majority that are wildly against criminal prosecution

    The justice system doesn't handle anything remotely this complex. The traffic courts have (a) (c) but not (b) and (d). And those courts have a long history of failing once the sentences get beyond the most petty. The government has pretty much given up on criminal prosecutions for white collar crimes except in the absolute extremes because (a) and (b) drive the cost of prosecution so high. And that is with strong public enthusiasm for prosecution.

    The complexity of prosecuting abortion was one of the reasons the Roe got to the supreme court. The United States had a widespread effectively abortion system without medical / government safeguards. The issue in the late 1960s was whether to move from effective decriminalization to full legalization.

    Just to elaborate in the first half of the 20th century there was a prosecution for abortion of a woman in 1911 and texas in 1922. That's it. Oh and the DA lost the 1911 case.

    Because of this woman when Roe vs. Wade passed:
    Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia
    all had laws protecting women from prosecution.

    Even prosecutions for abortions were becoming problematic by the 1940s. Everyone agreed the effects of having large numbers of women become pregnant while their husbands were away at war, would be disruptive. So courts began putting roadblocks towards effective prosecution except in cases where the mother had died in an abortion. When abortion was a crime online.

    And all this remember was before the feminist movement. When most people were only willing to be secretively supportive of abortion. A pro-life criminal system today would be facing well organized, well funded open subversion.

    No the courts don't deal with anything remotely like this. If there is a complex crime involving defendants who are able to fund their defense they either plead it down very low or drop charges entirely.

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  26. I am not really done but I am getting busy. Need to stop somewhere.

    3) Elmer is robbing Frank's house. Frank sees him, tells him to leave. Elmer keeps disconnecting his television posing no threat to Frank. Frank wants him out so shoots him. That's what the "castle doctrine" permits.

    Interesting that your example has Elmer robbing. My understanding of the law is that Elmer need not be doing anything illegal or even unkind. He could be asking directions. Frank shoots him. That would be a closer parallel to abortion. The taking of an innocent life.

    I have no interest in the problems of implementing an abortion law. I am more interested the problem of a society that can't figure out that taking an innocent life is wrong. If society could figure that out then most of your issues go away. Actually many of society's problems would go away if they had the intelligence and the courage to answer the easiest of moral questions. Is it wrong to kill an innocent human being? If we can't get that right then there is no evil we are incapable of.

    One bit of clarification. Catholicism does not require that abortion be treated as homicide. That is it need not carry the same penalties as killing a person who is born. Just that the law should reflect that the death of an unborn baby is a serious injustice. The precise form of the law would be for politicians and judges to sort out.

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  27. Ok the next issue is moral philosophy. Essentially the same question got asked a few times, so I'll use your adultery example.


    If there is an ultimate good we are aiming for then we need to find the best way of determining what that is.

    I'd say if you want some sort of ultimate good what we are aiming for is the long term survival and replication of our DNA, "We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA" What actions can I take that will cause as many of the DNA strands to exist and exist in the greatest number 200 years from now? Those DNA combinations are from my perspective eternal. Some adaptions last only ten-thousand lifetimes the most important a trillion lifetimes.

    Virtually everything we associate as moral has to do with long term replication strategies. Because the strands of DNA that make us uniquely human involve tool use, we need large brains and opposite thumbs. Opposite thumbs mean are young are born immature and large brains mean they take a long time to mature. So we need to establish very stable environments for women and children. Or to put it bluntly women trade sex for food and protection. Men are invested in protecting their young. And so quote often humans engage in some form monogamy or serial monogamy and find that emotionally satisfying....

    The nice thing about a DNA god is that at least its morals make sense. I could never understand why a being capable of producing the universe would care about who was having sex with whom.

    But we don't need ultimate morality for the Heidegger stuff. Heidegger holds together regardless of whether there is or is not an ultimate morality and regardless of what it is.

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  28. (part 1)
    It is how you define morality. We have moral feelings. But are they morality or do they point to an ultimate morality? Feelings can change. A person might think adultery is wrong but then after they have a few affairs might say it is OK. Has morality changed?

    Again lets remember that morality at the society not the individual level. An individual changing their opinion is mostly irrelevant when it comes to the societal definition. The more relevant question is assume there was a society that decided it wanted to increase the amount of adultery would that be moral?

    And let me give you a few examples of precisely that sort of change in practice. In the 17th century marriage in England among the lower classes was a hodge podge of overlapping traditions. People who attended church had a banns announcement. Others went for village hand fastening, others did the full legal process registered with the church of England. But generally to avoid taxes lower class people did not have their baptisms or marriages recorded.

    England in 1695 passed a law requiring registrations for all types of marriages with a tax. The result was that the lower classes didn't get married at all instead preferring, multi-year fragile multi year relationships. These were called sui juris, what we would call common law marriages today.

    The law was quickly repealed but the cultural effects lingered. Both the church and village system of marriage had basically collapsed. The English state and English church were fine with this. Marriage would be an upper middle to class to upper class institution and now that the lower classes were excluded all sorts of complex legal frameworks and documentation could be created. Which is pretty much the church/state system we have today.

    It is against this backdrop that there was broad public support for Fleet marriage, or to use Catholic terminology Clandestine marriage. Which were marriages performed on Fleet Street often by disgraced clergy (i.e. clergy that had gotten fired) or pretend clergy. This system exploded in popularity. Certainly since these marriages were never recorded people often got married multiple times with remarriage after separation, and that took place for both poor and rich.

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  29. (part 2)
    The middle class reformers, those that would evolve into the Victorian Reformers strongly supported Fleet marriages and made sure the Fleet Street system was kept alive and thrived because it was re-normalizing marriage among the poor. They did this understanding full well that Fleet marriage led to what most Catholics would consider adultery and bigamy.

    So there you have it: people you approve of, whose morals you appeal to, vastly increasing the amount of adultery in society. And they continued to view family stability above adultery in importance as their power increased. The created a society of early marriage and little divorce. Everyone understood that early marriage and little divorce meant that men and women often stepped out but family stability was seen as more important than low adultery. That is we had a society which was permissive towards adultery.

    As we moved away from Victorian morality attitudes towards adultery became more hostile. Sexual fidelity was seen as critical to marriage and divorce for adultery became more common until divorce laws had to change creating a situation not much different in practice from what the Victorians were fighting against.

    Today among the middle to upper class we have a society of late marriage, frequent pre-marital sexual partners, including concubinage as a norm, low adultery and high marital stability. Most religious conservatives would like to break this system and return to the earlier one, which any honest assessment would indicate would increase adultery.

    Among the lower classes we have a society undergoing marital collapse. common law / fragile marriage and low adultery. Which everyone secular to religious including the lower classes would like to change in spite of the fact it would increase adultery.

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  30. Interesting that your example has Elmer robbing. My understanding of the law is that Elmer need not be doing anything illegal or even unkind. He could be asking directions. Frank shoots him

    No nothing like that. That sounds like urban legend. Castle mainly extends self defense beyond stand your ground. For example Colorado requires both unlawful entry and another crime to establish right to deadly force, which is where I was getting the example from.

    Alaska -- All members of the family have law enforcement rights regarding protecting other family members I.E. George thinks Henry is a threat to Katie based on reasonable information he can kill Henry.

    California -- Right to pursue in your home (i.e. you don't have to retreat and can continue attacking unless attacker surrenders).

    Georgia -- Unlimited escalation in your home. George starts a fight and punches Henry in Henry's home, Henry can shoot George.

    etc...

    Is it wrong to kill an innocent human being?

    Everyone agrees that is is wrong to kill innocent human beings. There is no disagreement there.

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  31. I'd say if you want some sort of ultimate good what we are aiming for is the long term survival and replication of our DNA, "We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA" What actions can I take that will cause as many of the DNA strands to exist and exist in the greatest number 200 years from now? Those DNA combinations are from my perspective eternal. Some adaptions last only ten-thousand lifetimes the most important a trillion lifetimes.

    You are still inserting some higher good here. "We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA." Why use the word "purpose?" Why not just "tendency?" So genetic reproduction is not why we exist. It is how we exist. Do we want the human species to continue? Is that an absolute good or is it just an emotion generated by evolution as a survival mechanism?

    Even the phrase "the most important" has an implied value system. What makes a DNA sequence important? Longer existence? But why is it better for DNA to exist than to degrade into component parts?

    It is interesting that I am the one arguing against contraception and abortion. If you really believed life was about making your DNA strands plentiful 200+ years from now then would you not be against them as well?

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  32. The nice thing about a DNA god is that at least its morals make sense. I could never understand why a being capable of producing the universe would care about who was having sex with whom.

    It is sad that you don't understand it. It means you don't really understand love and sex. CS Lewis talked about this. That before he met his wife he did not know that there was something real that all those love songs and love poems were talking about. That love is the greatest good in the world. That there is something spiritual and eternal about it. That it is worth dying for.

    Yes, it is connected with sex. So much so that any other type of sex is a betrayal of love. You don't need to be particularly religious to get this. But if you are religious it would make sense that God would want you to handle sex with the greatest of respect. We expect religions to have rules about stealing. So we expect God to care about how we treat each other's property. Why would He not care how we are treating the greater gift of sexual love.

    So a God that does not care about or sex lives is a God that does not care about us at all. There are those who are argue for a Christianity that embraces sexual permissiveness. It just does not make sense.

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  33. So there you have it: people you approve of, whose morals you appeal to, vastly increasing the amount of adultery in society. And they continued to view family stability above adultery in importance as their power increased. The created a society of early marriage and little divorce. Everyone understood that early marriage and little divorce meant that men and women often stepped out but family stability was seen as more important than low adultery. That is we had a society which was permissive towards adultery.

    I don't know why you think I would approve of post-reformation England. The split there was over the issue of marriage and divorce. Even if they were still Catholic I would not assume their society was a model one.

    You put forward a false choice. That we can have divorce or we can have adultery. The point of Christianity is not to put the current behavior in the best structure. It is to change behavior. That is no divorce and no adultery. You might think that is too hard but that does not mean they were "vastly increasing the amount of adultery in society."

    There is a tendency to read the modern lack of sexual self control into every culture and time period. Scholars look at their own sexual immorality and refuse to believe anyone anywhere did better. If they did they might have to face some unpleasant truths about themselves. So the interpretation of historical data is highly questionable. People assume adultery must have been common because they just can't imagine a society where people kept their clothes on.

    The truth is a lot of people likely did actually keep their wedding vows. There would have been some adultery but there always is. Would it be "vastly increased?" I doubt it. Divorce does not make adultery go away. It lowers the bar so people lower their behavior. Those that are of a mind to cheat will still cheat.

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  34. Everyone agrees that is is wrong to kill innocent human beings. There is no disagreement there.

    You have just made how many arguments that say abortion should be an exception. So what does it mean? All killing is justified to the person who does it. For a principle to mean something we need to follow it when it is hard. When we have an impulse to do the opposite.

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  35. There is a tendency to read the modern lack of sexual self control into every culture and time period. Scholars look at their own sexual immorality and refuse to believe anyone anywhere did better. If they did they might have to face some unpleasant truths about themselves. So the interpretation of historical data is highly questionable.

    Scholars reject the entire concept of "sexual immorality", they just look at the diversity of sexual behaviors in various societies. Morally they are modern westernes, so they see our morality as a far better fit and aren't apologetic at all. I would classify them as mostly indifferent not conscience stricken. If anything they struggle with how to relate to practices and attitudes they see as offensive and barbaric.

    But this does get to a core point that I've raised repeatedly in asking for a year and a place. If the past was a sea of sexual morality with a few islands of sexual depravity my "where and when" question would be easy to answer you would be able to rattle off dozens of times where the population eagerly embraced (modern) Catholic sexual codes and thrived. If your version of history was a fabrication and the sexual codes the church preaches today were never practiced anywhere and weren't even the codes that preached in the past then you might have trouble finding a place. I keep naming places and you keep dismissing them while trying to lay claim to the past.

    So simply, when you talk about the sexual codes that used to exist are you talking about the real past with real por the mytho-historical past? If the real past then when and where? I'm tired of having to present specifics and you just dismissing them as not indicative of Real Christianity™. If the mytho-historical past then I think you should indicate that and be honest about the fact you have no interest in how real people lived and morality as it actually existed, but rather are presenting a newly made up morality that you think our society should adapt the same as any other newly made up morality.

    CD: Everyone agrees that is is wrong to kill innocent human beings. There is no disagreement there.

    Randy: You have just made how many arguments that say abortion should be an exception. So what does it mean?


    I've made several arguments that:
    a) The fetus isn't a human being
    b) The fetus isnt' innocent (i.e. property rights violations)

    But even granting both of those... in real life goods compete with one another and wrongs compete with one another. We often have to do wrongs to avoid greater wrongs. Even if I were convinced the fetus were human and the mother wanted to have the child you could still potentially justify abortion based on the energy argument. If a society needed to use infanticide to avoid massive famine and plague they would be doing the right thing, even though I have no problem considering infanticide a wrong.

    This is why frankly I find Christian morality not "too hard" as you keep accusing me of but quite often destructive and evil. It starts with the assumption that moral goods are coordinated rather than understanding that in real situations moral goods are often in conflict and the moral thing to do is weigh between them and decide what is the best outcome. Achieving the greatest good for the greatest number often means doing a thing that in isolation would be wrong.

    Christian morality on sodomy got completely rejected two days ago by our president because ultimately the Christian path is and has created immense human suffering to prevent something which at best is a mild negative. People who are rejecting the Christian view of sodomy and gay rights don't think the Christian standards are too high but rather that they are downright destructive.

    I'll address DNA in the next post.

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  36. You are still inserting some higher good here. "We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA." Why use the word "purpose?" Why not just "tendency?"

    Because there is no difference when we talk about agents without free will. DNA's tendencies are its purposes. And going up a level to gravity and entropy the equations governing them are where purpose and tendency merge.

    Is that not your view of your God that intent and action are perfect congruent? I'm not sure why this would be problematic.

    Morality is human and societal. Ultimate morality, if it is to mean anything, would mean the morality that transcends societies. That morality transcends societies so much so that it even transcends the human to apply to almost all life on earth. A truly non situational morality a morality of all beings at all times under all conditions.

    I can use non human terms in talk in terms of amino-acids or I can use human terms and talk in terms of purpose.

    So genetic reproduction is not why we exist. It is how we exist.

    No I meant what I said. If you are looking for an ultimate morality, the morality of Natural law, genetic reproduction is why we exist. DNA strands that fail to effectively replicate are irrelevant to the game of evolution.

    Do we want the human species to continue?

    Of course. The DNA however might make other choices, and trade up t a better mode same as it did when it traded up Homo erectus for Homo sapiens.

    Is that an absolute good or is it just an emotion generated by evolution as a survival mechanism?

    Both. They are indistinguishable. My emotions, my morality is ultimately aligned with the "ultimate morality". That's the point that's what makes it an ultimate morality.

    Even the phrase "the most important" has an implied value system. What makes a DNA sequence important?

    Their ability to construct a machine capable of carrying and replicating them. 65 million years ago the DNA strands that were integral to those animals maintaining a constant body temperature became important as the climate became unstable, at the same time those DNA strands which allowed animals to operate in very hot low oxygen environments were less important.

    For purposes of this conversation they are self important.

    But why is it better for DNA to exist than to degrade into component parts?

    By definition a DNA strand is a self replicating strand of amino acids. Is and ought are unified.

    It is interesting that I am the one arguing against contraception and abortion. If you really believed life was about making your DNA strands plentiful 200+ years from now then would you not be against them as well?

    No humans don't use a breed for numbers strategy like fish. Over breeding just results in resource depletion and death. Our species requires finding and exploiting ecological niches so as to support a society. That is the ability to cultivate energy. The amount of energy we cultivate increases based on technology mostly not population....

    (reread my earliest arguments on this point).

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  37. But even granting both of those... in real life goods compete with one another and wrongs compete with one another. We often have to do wrongs to avoid greater wrongs. Even if I were convinced the fetus were human and the mother wanted to have the child you could still potentially justify abortion based on the energy argument. If a society needed to use infanticide to avoid massive famine and plague they would be doing the right thing, even though I have no problem considering infanticide a wrong.

    This is the scariest thing you have said yet and that is saying something. Your energy is a flimsy justification for genocide. It can be used to justify killing any group of people any time. There might be a "massive famine and plague." When you embrace the "do evil so good will result" thinking then right and wrong become meaningless. You do right to achieve good. You do wrong to achieve good. So right and wrong don't even matter.

    This is why frankly I find Christian morality not "too hard" as you keep accusing me of but quite often destructive and evil. It starts with the assumption that moral goods are coordinated rather than understanding that in real situations moral goods are often in conflict and the moral thing to do is weigh between them and decide what is the best outcome. Achieving the greatest good for the greatest number often means doing a thing that in isolation would be wrong.

    This is not even morality. This is just totalitarianism. Big Brother knows best. If he seems to be doing evil it is because you are not smart enough to know that it will somehow someday lead to great good.

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  38. But this does get to a core point that I've raised repeatedly in asking for a year and a place. If the past was a sea of sexual morality with a few islands of sexual depravity my "where and when" question would be easy to answer you would be able to rattle off dozens of times where the population eagerly embraced (modern) Catholic sexual codes and thrived. If your version of history was a fabrication and the sexual codes the church preaches today were never practiced anywhere and weren't even the codes that preached in the past then you might have trouble finding a place. I keep naming places and you keep dismissing them while trying to lay claim to the past.

    This is interesting. Most people want to shame the church for repressing people sexually for so many centuries. You are asserting Christianity has never been lived anyway. Nobody has been repressed. They were just sneaking around. As a Catholic you need to get used to being attacked from both sides. You are bad because you change people's sex lives and you are bad because you don't.

    Sin and grace have existed throughout recorded history. Has any society every been perfect? No. But respecting moral standards as a society does make a difference. Respecting them as an individual makes more of a difference. So it is too simple to say that society was moral in the 1950's and then the sexual revolution hit and everything went bad. There is some truth to that but there was more going on.

    So the historical arguments are just like the arguments from personal experience. If you see it then it can be quite convincing. If you don't then throwing data points back and forth isn't going to help.

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  39. Because there is no difference when we talk about agents without free will. DNA's tendencies are its purposes. And going up a level to gravity and entropy the equations governing them are where purpose and tendency merge.

    Is that not your view of your God that intent and action are perfect congruent? I'm not sure why this would be problematic.


    This is because you are defining morality. I define morality based on God. So creation tells me what is but because it is designed by God there is also something I can discern about what ought to be.

    But if you don't believe in an intelligent design then that inference is not valid. DNA only has a purpose if it was designed by an intellect.

    By definition a DNA strand is a self replicating strand of amino acids. Is and ought are unified.

    By definition? Why should DNA replicate rather than be broken down as food for some other animal? Both often happen. Why is DNA's ought inherent in it's is. If it was true that would be awesome. It would be a great argument for the existence of God. But I don't think it is true.

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  40. This is interesting. Most people want to shame the church for repressing people sexually for so many centuries. You are asserting Christianity has never been lived anyway. Nobody has been repressed. They were just sneaking around. As a Catholic you need to get used to being attacked from both sides. You are bad because you change people's sex lives and you are bad because you don't.

    There are a few assertions here about Catholic sexual morality:

    a) The most human sexual moralities are relatively similar whether Christian or not.

    b) There are trade offs between various sexual sins, trying to reduce some necessarily means increasing others. The relative importance of these various sins is the mechanism by which the Western societies and the Catholic church responds situationally, while being able to claim an absolute moral standard.

    c) That this shift isn't unusual. Catholic sexual morality was in dialogue with the societies that created it, changing in some places and influencing the society in others. You see this most clearly in areas of emphasis but there are steady changes in underlying doctrines.

    d) However, societal sexual moralities (common practice) and the Catholic sexual moralities differed considerably even in uniformly Catholic countries. Today's situation with a church preaching a morality that is seen even by church going Catholics as too far removed from practicality and thus ignored, has happened in the past and is generally resolved within a few generations via. changes in church doctrine / emphasis and thus getting into alignment enough with people's practice to be effectual on influencing behavior.

    e) That the version of morality being preached by the Catholic church today is Victorian and not congruent with earlier church teachings. The church is now preaching traducianism and jovinianism.

    If we define repression as sexual views not in alignment with today's liberal views, yes the Catholic church has been repressive. But that's a stupid definition of repression. And there are areas where traditional Catholicism has been more liberal than today's views.

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  41. DNA only has a purpose if it was designed by an intellect.

    That's a matter of opinion I guess. Which sorts of metaphors you are willing to apply to what. In any case if you don't want DNA to have intent or purpose that's removable. In that case Ultimate morality becomes a what is, not an ought and thus not a morality, which however is interpreted by humans as an "ought". Humans are the meaning making machine and all meaning is an illusion of the mind. Which is Buddha's take. I'm enough of an empiricist I don't have any problem not divorcing the two. Stevenson , "Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms" is a classic philosophical book that defines morality as purely a class of emotional reactions.

    By definition? Why should DNA replicate rather than be broken down as food for some other animal?

    What distinguishes DNA from other proteins is a mechanism for accurate self replication. That is essentially the definition. It is like saying why is a wheel designed to roll, that's what defines a wheel. All complex proteins can be reduced to simple proteins but DNA is unique in being able to build life.

    This is not even morality. This is just totalitarianism. Big Brother knows best.

    You keep accusing me of advocating totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is a mechanism for getting large scale cooperation and coordination, and one I don't approve of. Capitalist democratic societies are perfectly capable of getting large cooperation and coordination without force. Your entire lifestyle is based on large scale coordination and cooperation. There is no Big Brother here, that's just a misrepresentation of what I've been saying.

    When you embrace the "do evil so good will result" thinking then right and wrong become meaningless. You do right to achieve good. You do wrong to achieve good. So right and wrong don't even matter.

    Of course they matter, you are exaggerating. There is a space between of no importance and not of total importance. Right actions are more likely to have good outcomes than wrong actions.

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  42. The most human sexual moralities are relatively similar whether Christian or not.

    Most human sexual moralities are more similar to each other than to modern permissiveness. But that is because modern society is way out to lunch. It is not because all religions are the same. The very permissive religions tend not to survive. Societies with temple prostitutes and ritual orgies come and go but the religions that have survived the longest tend to be more focused on abstaining in many situations. Probably not a coincidence.

    There are trade offs between various sexual sins, trying to reduce some necessarily means increasing others.

    I would not agree with "necessarily." There can be increased temptations. Like a drug addict who takes up alcohol when he quits his drugs. You can move the problem to another expression. But you can, by God's grace, also solve the problem. You can actually become pure and not just move to another type of impure behavior.

    The relative importance of these various sins is the mechanism by which the Western societies and the Catholic church responds situationally, while being able to claim an absolute moral standard.

    Sort of. Catholics claim that doctrine is absolute and unchanging. Pastoral practice can and should change with the times and the cultures. It is not unrelated to doctrine but there is still quite a bit of freedom. So the Catholic church can respond to the culture.

    Sometimes a response has been not very good. For example the church has in certain times and places almost ignored some grave evils even though they were obvious and wide spread. That can cause scandal and is not good pastoral practice. We have seen that in the case of contraception for the last 50 years. It is changing but slowly.

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  43. That this shift isn't unusual. Catholic sexual morality was in dialogue with the societies that created it, changing in some places and influencing the society in others. You see this most clearly in areas of emphasis but there are steady changes in underlying doctrines.

    Sure. As long as you understand that doctrines that were taught in a definitive way were never repudiated. They could develop but not in a way that makes the previous understanding false.

    However, societal sexual moralities (common practice) and the Catholic sexual moralities differed considerably even in uniformly Catholic countries

    I would not equate "common practice" with societal mores. If pollution is common does that means society does not see pollution as immoral? I would say No. We see it as immoral and we do it.

    Today's situation with a church preaching a morality that is seen even by church going Catholics as too far removed from practicality and thus ignored, has happened in the past and is generally resolved within a few generations via. changes in church doctrine / emphasis and thus getting into alignment enough with people's practice to be effectual on influencing behavior

    I don't think that is the way these things get resolved. There is generally an reform and renewal. It starts with a small minority withing the church. It grows. It does not include everyone. But those who exclude themselves become less and less important in the church. Many individuals and institutions might disassociate themselves from the church.

    There is often persecution. Sometimes inside the church as the people in positions of power feel threatened. Sometimes the church is persecuted by society. We are seeing signs of both those things now.

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  44. That the version of morality being preached by the Catholic church today is Victorian and not congruent with earlier church teachings. The church is now preaching traducianism and jovinianism.

    The Catholic church gets called a lot of things. It is not Victorian in the traditional "sex is bad" sense of the term. It embraces the body and sex as holy and good.

    It is not Jovinian. Virginity is respected as a holier state than marriage. There has been an emphasis on respecting the laity. When talking about sexual sin there has also been a focus on what can be restored through forgiveness and not so much on what is lost. So given those two things the number of meditations on the wonderfulness of virginity is less. That is sad. We should not neglect that truth. But that does not mean we deny it.

    Traducianism is harder. From what I can discern it seems to be assuming a false choice. Either the human soul comes from the parents or it is created by God. I think Catholics would say Yes to both. We do believe in the transmission of original sin involves the actual biological parents. Still I have heard very orthodox Catholic teachers talk about the sacredness of a woman's body because God intervenes there to give a human soul to a human body. So Traducianism and it's opposite are still both held in some tension.

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  45. That's a matter of opinion I guess. Which sorts of metaphors you are willing to apply to what. In any case if you don't want DNA to have intent or purpose that's removable. In that case Ultimate morality becomes a what is, not an ought and thus not a morality, which however is interpreted by humans as an "ought".
    I don't see it as a matter of opinion but a matter of honesty. To see morality as just the way we happen to do things will strike people as wrong. They intuitively know it is connected with how we are designed and with the pursuit of something called goodness. That desire to pursue what is good is not a human quirk that can be discarded like facial hair. It is part of the essence of who we are. If you don't believe that than you should choose terms that make clear you don't believe that. Differences should not be hidden by using the same words when you mean something very different.


    Humans are the meaning making machine and all meaning is an illusion of the mind. Which is Buddha's take. I'm enough of an empiricist I don't have any problem not divorcing the two. Stevenson , "Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms" is a classic philosophical book that defines morality as purely a class of emotional reactions.

    But then you are begging the question. If somebody sees morality that way and therefore uses moral language that way then they essentially agree with you. But language is for communicating with those with whom we disagree. If your language assumes agreement on the precise issues where disagreement is being discussed then you language injects a constant stream of subtle logical fallacies into the debate. That might lead people to conclusions you like but it will not lead them to truth.

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  46. You keep accusing me of advocating totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is a mechanism for getting large scale cooperation and coordination, and one I don't approve of. Capitalist democratic societies are perfectly capable of getting large cooperation and coordination without force. Your entire lifestyle is based on large scale coordination and cooperation. There is no Big Brother here, that's just a misrepresentation of what I've been saying.

    You are right. I am assuming that large scale actions that you say "in isolation would be immoral" would be undertaken by the state. My issue is not whether they must be state-driven or could be privatized. My issue is that they are wrong. The do the rational analysis you are talking about. They try and produce a greater good my doing these superficially immoral acts. The concept of "good" can be defined in an arbitrary way. A good Germany is one without Jews. Then we can do anything, moral or immoral, to pursue that "good." I still think that is likely to involve the state but that is not the problem. The problem is your moral principles are lousy. Totalitarianism is the word we most associate with this moral problem. So I think the shoe fits despite the public/private issue. Show me how your moral position differs from that of Totalitarian rulers and I will withdraw the charge.

    Of course they matter, you are exaggerating. There is a space between of no importance and not of total importance. Right actions are more likely to have good outcomes than wrong actions.

    You prove my point. Right actions are preferred not because they are right but because the have good outcomes. So the rightness has no importance.

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  47. The very permissive religions tend not to survive. Societies with temple prostitutes and ritual orgies come and go but the religions that have survived the longest tend to be more focused on abstaining in many situations.

    I agree with you but I think that has to do with human society. Males don't care for other male's children. For women to create a long term male investment in the relationship, i.e. go beyond trading sex for food and protection, the male has to be relatively assured that her children are his. Sexually permissive societies take place when women have lots of economic power, a matriarchy. Such a society can only exist with a fairly low birth rate. And so over time horizons of centuries, this is a very unstable form of human society. Female sexual fidelity is important under most situations for stable families.

    That being said there is a lot I'd disagree with in terms of permissive religions. Religions with temple prostitutes are often paired with very restrictive societies. Widespread prostitution is a symptom of a repressive not a liberal society. To have widespread institutional prostitution you have to have a severe gender imbalance which is usually caused by polygyny de-facto or de-jure. There is very little prostitution today in America because there is so much fornication.

    Also I think terms like "permissive" don't really accurately reflect more than just a stereotype of the alternative morality that exists. "Blue State" morality emphasizes responsibility much more strongly than Catholic morality. If you look at Blue State Seculars vs. Red State Catholics on issues like: divorce, out of wedlock birth and teen pregnancy the Blue State Liberals the data is unquestionably in the Secular's favor.

    Were the correct axis "permissive" / "strict" you would expect to see positive correlations on most of the "sex sin" variables. Were my point about trade offs correct you would expect to see negative correlations. And ... sure enough... the data has negative correlations.

    But you can, by God's grace, also solve the problem. You can actually become pure and not just move to another type of impure behavior.

    I assume you mean societally, not individually, since that's what we were discussing. Again if that were true there would be societies that were pure. The fact there aren't pure societies says it isn't true.

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  48. I agree with you but I think that has to do with human society. Males don't care for other male's children. For women to create a long term male investment in the relationship, i.e. go beyond trading sex for food and protection, the male has to be relatively assured that her children are his.

    That is just not true. Men will adopt the children of a divorced or widowed woman just fine. What he needs to know is that she is committed to him for life. Previous relationships that were not lifetime commitments are going to cause concern. They need to be repented of. That is true for both sexes. Still men know that if there is a breakup any children that are not his will be lost to him. So if divorce is a worry that will effect matters.

    Sexually permissive societies take place when women have lots of economic power, a matriarchy. Such a society can only exist with a fairly low birth rate. And so over time horizons of centuries, this is a very unstable form of human society. Female sexual fidelity is important under most situations for stable families.

    We are in such a society. I see our society crashing in decades rather than centuries. We will see.

    It is interesting that more economic power for women leads to more sexual degradation for women. It is like when men can't control the money then they will find a woman they can dominate sexually. So we get more pornography and more adultery. Men want a woman they can love. Women want a man they can respect. When women have the wealth then both seem to be less likely. So women sleep with men they don't respect and men start sleep with women they don't love. They both lose. Society loses too.

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  49. That being said there is a lot I'd disagree with in terms of permissive religions. Religions with temple prostitutes are often paired with very restrictive societies. Widespread prostitution is a symptom of a repressive not a liberal society.
    I think there is a difference between widespread prostitution and temple prostitution. My understanding is they still thought sex was holy and for marriage but they added this other category of "holy" sex that was in the context of a religious celebration. Widespread prostitution means there are no rules except what you can negotiate tonight.

    To have widespread institutional prostitution you have to have a severe gender imbalance which is usually caused by polygyny de-facto or de-jure. There is very little prostitution today in America because there is so much fornication.

    I would not say there is very little prostitution today in America. There is no clear line between fornication and prostitution. Men have a wide variety of ways of encouraging women to sleep with them. So much prostitution is called consensual sex because that is legal and socially more acceptable. But money or drugs or something is exchanged.

    Also I think terms like "permissive" don't really accurately reflect more than just a stereotype of the alternative morality that exists. "Blue State" morality emphasizes responsibility much more strongly than Catholic morality. If you look at Blue State Seculars vs. Red State Catholics on issues like: divorce, out of wedlock birth and teen pregnancy the Blue State Liberals the data is unquestionably in the Secular's favor.

    What is the goal? Is it to manage risk or is it to produce moral people? Sometimes the best way to produce moral people is to go without nets. Sure there are some crashes. But we don't measure life by the number of crashes. We measure life by how we get up and what kind of people we become after we recover.

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  50. Were the correct axis "permissive" / "strict" you would expect to see positive correlations on most of the "sex sin" variables. Were my point about trade offs correct you would expect to see negative correlations. And ... sure enough... the data has negative correlations.

    This is hard data to collect because definitions of words change a lot between strict and permissive societies. In some societies any never-married woman that is not a virgin is called a prostitute. You might do research and say they have more prostitutes then we have. Those terrible strict societies have driven so many to prostitution. Not really. A real mark of a holy society is that it does not see itself as holy. It looks at whatever sin it does have and grieves. A real mark of a permissive society is it does not see itself as permissive. It looks at whatever remaining taboos it does have and grieves.

    I assume you mean societally, not individually, since that's what we were discussing. Again if that were true there would be societies that were pure. The fact there aren't pure societies says it isn't true.

    I did mean individually but we can take it societally as well. No society is completely pure. But some are a lot better than others. So we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We need to build the best society we can.

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  51. For example the church has in certain times and places almost ignored some grave evils even though they were obvious and wide spread. That can cause scandal and is not good pastoral practice. We have seen that in the case of contraception for the last 50 years. It is changing but slowly.

    First off I don't like to use America as an example of a Catholic society since it is a Protestant society. The church in the American case is a minority church acting with constraints imposed by not being tied to the dominant ethnicity. While they are much bigger asking how the Catholic church responds in America is in many ways much more like asking how synagogues are responding than how Protestantism is responding.

    Wit that in ming, the situation with contraception is not one of not simple not emphasis. Every study we have of Catholics show an overwhelming number that believe the church is wrong on contraception. Catholics are fully aware of the teaching and reject it, they aren't ignorant of the teaching. The pope talks about the Catholic church moving towards a "smaller but purer" model. To my mind that is giving up on being a church which isn't appealing to particular societal niches (i.e. being catholic) over issues, which is fundamentally what Protestant church do. And this is where the Orthodox belief in the importance of acceptance by the faithful, and the lack of supremacy for the Pope is an important check.

    Protestant churches in the 18th century got caught in a cycle where their moral beliefs on some core issues were being widely rejected. The Second Great Awakening was a time which allowed different Protestant churches to become dominant and the older ones to responds. That is Protestantism to renew itself, which is why I pretty much say that Protestantism, as it exists as a mainstream faith in America, is 19th century. The current American churches are designed for that cycle to happen non-disruptively.

    I'm not sure however that this is a cycle that Catholicism is capable of going through. For example I could see how someone could say that moral issues are resolved by people picking their churches, i.e. an open collapse of the parish system in Catholic America. And through this collapse a great deal of idealogical diversity being unresolved. But undermining the parish system creates priests (or even more likely given the vocations shortage one of laity) who have a relationship with the faithful that does not pass through the church but is personal. And the effect of this might well be for parish to start aligning with Bishops other than their home Bishop. Which undermines the whole "one Bishop" doctrine, which has been central to Catholicism in the 2nd century.


    So anyway when it comes to the interplay of morals and society in America there are extra levels of complexity caused by minority status.

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  52. (Jovinianism) When talking about sexual sin there has also been a focus on what can be restored through forgiveness and not so much on what is lost. So given those two things the number of meditations on the wonderfulness of virginity is less. That is sad. We should not neglect that truth. But that does not mean we deny it.

    This isn't a question of focus, nor is it a question of sexual sin. The question is whether fully authorized marital sexuality creates a permanently diminished spiritual state. The debate with Jovinian was not sexually sinning, it was on marital sexuality. The fact that you are having trouble talking marital sexuality as sinful and had to switch to fornication, I think proves the point regarding the fact that you now agree with Jovinian. Under the previous teachings, the church through the rites of forgiveness can take a fornicator and make the damage no worse than that a married person, they can't however undo the damage caused by loss of virginity. And while marriage takes the damnable act of sex and reduces the severity of the sin. But let there be no question that chastity is the higher state, though not as high as virginity, and those people engaging in marital sexuality are in a diminished spiritual state relative to those people who remain chaste whether via. Spiritual Marriage or vows.

    The church doesn't fail to focus on this, they just don't believe it at all anymore. Can you imagine a priest telling a 14 year old boy that the moment he penetrates a women, whether his wife or not, he will never again be able to enjoy the relationship with God he now has? You can't even use the word sin for your own marital relationship because you don't believe sex is inherently sinful. The church, and you, agree with Luther that marital sexuality is holy: Vatican II, Gaudem et Spes 49 "The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones. ." Jovinian was excommunicated for saying it morally neutral and not sinful.

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  53. Traducianism is harder. From what I can discern it seems to be assuming a false choice. Either the human soul comes from the parents or it is created by God. I think Catholics would say Yes to both.

    I agree with you the current teaching the teaching in Humane Vitae is both. The Church up until the 19th century did not consider this a false choice. Creationism was doctrine and Traducianism was heresy. If someone says yes to both, that the parents play a role then they are advocating a heresy. The traditional teaching was that the father created nothing more than unmoving object alive in the way a vegetable is alive. If the father does more than that, then you are rejecting the previous teaching. "Souls are created at their infusion into the body", in particular there has to be a body (not just sperm) for a soul to be infused into.

    Frankly the both view, goes beyond just ensoulment (are souls derived from Adam or God). If it is possible to be human and incapable of self directed locomotion then the very definition of the nature of man taught by church was false. I think a 12th century Catholic would consider the idea of a human soul existing without a human brain or a human body and growing one around it to be full on Gnosticism. It requires a belief in the soul which makes spiritual resurrection rather than bodily resurrection the sensible option.

    Protestantism in the 19th century began absorbing ideas from Gnosticism (Phillip Lee's book is excellent on this). If there is an intellectual soul present in a fetus from conception then the Catholic teachings on ensoulment for essentially all of Catholic history were false, and are now repudiated, replaced by what had formally been views considered heretical.

    Sure. As long as you understand that doctrines that were taught in a definitive way were never repudiated. They could develop but not in a way that makes the previous understanding false.

    I understand the church wants to lay claim to continuity while having the freedom to practice total discontinuity. But a genuine belief in continuity would require them to reject their current teaching, to see, as many do, Humane Vitae as preaching heresy.

    The church's current stand is not even the Catholic view of sex but rather the Victorian view of sex. Really nothing more than a recently made up morality. It would be one thing to be arguing about the religion given to the apostles but, now we are arguing about a religion quite literally invented by a bunch of English Protestants to clean up crime, corruption, prostitution... problems.

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  54. That is just not true. Men will adopt the children of a divorced or widowed woman just fine. What he needs to know is that she is committed to him for life. Previous relationships that were not lifetime commitments are going to cause concern.

    I'm not sure where you are getting this idea that for men the focus will be making sure the woman is committed and then everything is fine. Statistically they don't there is a big difference between how men treat genetic offspring and how they treat legal offspring regardless of how committed the mother is. Lets take the most obvious example, sexual abuse of teenage daughters. Father daughter relationships incest is extremely rare while stepfather-stepdaughter incest is unfortunately quite common, about 16k new cases a year in the US. Even if we look at subpopulations like pedophiles, pederasts frequent users of prostitutes under 18, these numbers hold up men don't have sex with their biological children. If we test involuntary responses (like sexual arousal), there are huge differences between biological and legal fathers.

    Whether you look at physical abuse, murder of children, emotional abuse, neglect the numbers are starkly different. Physical abuse resulting in death is depending on how the information is gathered around 100x more likely from a step parent. This is called the cinderella effect and feel free to google there is tons on it. So no, this is not some minor light issue about commitment. The behavior we see among primates, where a newly dominant male acquires another male's breeding partners, and then kills the children to send her into heat (i.e. to raise his progeny) appears to be at least partially programmed into human males.

    Which provides a good argument against divorce.

    What is the goal? Is it to manage risk or is it to produce moral people? Sometimes the best way to produce moral people is to go without nets.

    You cannot claim that Catholicism is beneficial because it produces stability and then when confronted with the fact that other systems produce greater stability claim that stability is unimportant. You are applying a double standard.

    This is hard data to collect because definitions of words change a lot between strict and permissive societies. In some societies any never-married woman that is not a virgin is called a prostitute.

    Until she is trading sex for money with multiple partners they are just calling her names. This is one where we can apply a rather absolute standard. The issue gets a little more complex about what is exactly selling sex cross culturally: for example release oriented massage is very popular with Asians and thus could be the dominant form of prostitution or not a form at all.

    And it was in this objective sense I was using the term.

    No society is completely pure. But some are a lot better than others.

    You have yet to prove this or even be willing to name one of these "lot better" societies to hold the data up to scrutiny.

    . The problem is your moral principles are lousy. Totalitarianism is the word we most associate with this moral problem.

    That's not what totalitarian means. Totalitarianism is a system involving: propaganda, single party rule, direct government control of the economy, mass surveillance, restrictions on speech. Totalitarianism has nothing to do with whether the goals are good, bad or in-between. Evil ends achieved by popular Democratic means are not totalitarian, not even slightly.

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  55. Wit that in ming, the situation with contraception is not one of not simple not emphasis. Every study we have of Catholics show an overwhelming number that believe the church is wrong on contraception. Catholics are fully aware of the teaching and reject it, they aren't ignorant of the teaching.

    I would say the Catholics are aware of it on a most superficial level. That the church is against it. Most have never heard any decent defense of the church's position. It is like someone who has only heard about evolution from fundamentalist preachers and has never heard it explained by a scientist. They might know at a high level what it is and still be ignorant or the reasons why scientists accept it.

    The pope talks about the Catholic church moving towards a "smaller but purer" model. To my mind that is giving up on being a church which isn't appealing to particular societal niches (i.e. being catholic) over issues, which is fundamentally what Protestant church do. And this is where the Orthodox belief in the importance of acceptance by the faithful, and the lack of supremacy for the Pope is an important check.

    The goal is not to appeal to any group. The goal is to teach the truth. Then see who accepts it and build a community accordingly. If that means we get smaller then we get smaller. The Orthodox do much the same except for ecumenical councils. The reasons for that are historical. Twice they went to an ecumenical council and their bishops agreed to reunite the church under the pope. When the bishops got home the faithful didn't want to accept that. So they cooked up this "acceptance by the faithful" thing. It is circular. Who are the faithful? Faithful to what? Was the Council of Nicea accepted by the faithful? Only if you exclude the Arians from your definition of "the faithful." But on what basis are they excluded? Based on Nicea. So you reason in a circle.

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  56. Protestant churches in the 18th century got caught in a cycle where their moral beliefs on some core issues were being widely rejected. The Second Great Awakening was a time which allowed different Protestant churches to become dominant and the older ones to responds. That is Protestantism to renew itself, which is why I pretty much say that Protestantism, as it exists as a mainstream faith in America, is 19th century. The current American churches are designed for that cycle to happen non-disruptively.

    There is a branch of protestantism that was formed by the Great Awakening and the Civil War. The Dutch Reformed church I came from was not really part of that. They had lots of 20th century immigrants. We tended to trust the intellectual establishment a lot more than the Great Awakening types. Less politically conservative, more open to evolution, that sort of thing.

    Anyway, I am not sure what moral beliefs you are referring to. My point would be again that whether people are rejecting them is not the issue. The issue is whether they are true. i don't have a deep understanding of the two "Great Awakening" movements. I always thought they were calls back to orthodox Protestantism. You make it sound like a liberal movement.

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  57. There have been people excommunicated for things the church now teaches. I am not convinced Jovinian is the best example. He seems to have flattened many things. Saying sins are of equal gravity when the church teaches one is worse. Then saying good acts are of equal merit when the church teaches one is holier. I can see how the church has come in his direction a little bit on some things. That does not make him right.

    Vatican II, Gaudem et Spes 49 "The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones.

    But it does not say they are as noble and as worthy as consecrated virginity. The point of consecrated virginity is to give up something good to embrace something better. In fact, Jovinian was a monk and ceased to be a monk because he felt asceticism had no value. That is not Catholic teaching today.

    I will grant you that the church has developed a more positive understanding of married sex. Part of that is because married sex has become more equal. Back then it was more frequently a husband imposing his will. Now the image of a mutual gift of self is more realistic. That makes it holier. So the church has changed the way it talks about married sex but married sex has changed too.

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  58. Which provides a good argument against divorce.

    We agree there. The information you provided does not really address my point about commitment. I know the majority of these women have had multiple sexual partners and multiple husbands. Yes, it is important for men to be chaste as well. But the woman's history was the focus of your previous comments so I talked about that. But you are right. Once you get out of the "one man, one women, until death do we part" scenario then many different kinds of problems come up. Commitment is just one issue.

    You cannot claim that Catholicism is beneficial because it produces stability and then when confronted with the fact that other systems produce greater stability claim that stability is unimportant. You are applying a double standard.

    Stability is a good but it is not the highest good. But you are right. I tend to be skeptical of the alleged goods secularism has brought. You tend to be skeptical of the alleged good of Catholicism. A few stats are not likely to change that. Something just has to ring true as a great thing. You are either impressed by Mother Teresa or you are not. If I have to argue and quote stats to convince you that she is great then I am not likely to succeed.

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  59. I would say the Catholics are aware of it on a most superficial level. That the church is against it. Most have never heard any decent defense of the church's position.

    I'll agree with that. I don't think most Catholics have read and understood Humane Vitae and rejected that. On the other hand I don't think the Catholic position is addressing the counter arguments the faithful are raising. Both sides are talking past one another. But that's not an uncommon situation in most political debates. Usually the way sides come together is by creating compromise proposals. Humane Vitae was so absolute so as to cut off compromise proposals. The attitude since then has been one of absolute authority, to be a good Catholic you need to submit to the magisterium on this, questions are fine but defiance is not.

    And so there is an impasse. Neither side really dialogues. The pro-magisterium side rejects the authority of the faithful to engage in a critique to this extent. The faithful reject he arguments that have been presented and the assumptions on which they are based.

    The goal is not to appeal to any group. The goal is to teach the truth. Then see who accepts it and build a community accordingly.

    I don't think so. I think the debate over the HHS mandate makes clear how much the Catholic church expects a supportive state. I think the idea is to have a Catholic society. Catholicism has always had strong ties to the state and an assumption of order. It has been about 1850 years since the Catholic church has been in the position of being just one of many sects, and one of no particular importance, when dealing with the state.

    The CCC dedicates something like 200 passages either partially or fully to broad society's obligations to God / the Church. I think Catholics would do well to talk to American: Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists about what a state indifferent to their religion is like. Or just go backwards in US history. The Catholics of the 1830s confronted a hostile state (an explicitly Protestant school system) and hated it enough to have to create their own schooling system.

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  60. The Orthodox do much the same except for ecumenical councils. The reasons for that are historical. Twice they went to an ecumenical council and their bishops agreed to reunite the church under the pope. When the bishops got home the faithful didn't want to accept that. So they cooked up this "acceptance by the faithful" thing. It is circular. Who are the faithful? Faithful to what? Was the Council of Nicea accepted by the faithful? Only if you exclude the Arians from your definition of "the faithful." But on what basis are they excluded? Based on Nicea. So you reason in a circle.

    Wow that's a meaty comment. That's getting into a different issue about whether this faithful veto works or not. I'd say that the Arian example is a good one. Under the Orthodox position had Arianism been widely accepted despite the creed the Nicene Creed is not an authoritative creed. It would have been a rejected creed. The faithful are just geographical, anyone baptized into the church regardless of current beliefs in a diocese. Anything more than that is question begging as per your comment.

    As an aside my read of history is that Arianism was mainly proto-German and later became the religion of the Roman Army. After the fall: Arianism accepted Catholicism as the religion for farmers, merchants and women; seeing Arianism as the religion of soldiers. Arianism accepted Catholicism as a legitimate faith and Catholics weren't going to get into too much of a heated argument with the guys who had all the weapons and training. As the army dissolved and Feudalism became the norm Arianism withered away. I don't think Arianism played as much role in the East because the barbarians were both more hostile and the empire fell later.

    There is a branch of protestantism that was formed by the Great Awakening and the Civil War. The Dutch Reformed church I came from was not really part of that.

    The Dutch Reformed Church was one of the churches the 2nd Great Awakening was rebelling against. They were part of it, but on the other side :) Catholics should have a bit of schadenfreude with this churches, "so how do you feel about a Reformation now that you are on the other side of it?"

    Anyway, I am not sure what moral beliefs you are referring to.

    Mainly they rethought the relationship between church and state. For example should states have blue laws to force people to respect the sabbath. The reformers rejected state religious coercion in any form.

    At the same time there was a strong focus on personal purity to be really religious. Attacks on masturbation, exploiting one's wife and owning slaves (i.e. stealing labor). Dietary changes like temperance. There is a huge shift in morality from a matter of public concern, law essentially, to a private matter of interior goodness.

    There was also a belief that God and goodness was emotional and irrational. One could not be a fully rational Christian, human reason was corrupted by the fall.

    Restraint and moderation which are often seen as the key elements of morality were treated with suspicion. Political corruption was seen as intolerable. The church was specifically called upon to attack corruption. lies and hypocrisy. This anti-corruption led to a belief that women were more moral and less corrupted by society. and women's leadership would lead to moral enhancement. The genesis of first wave feminism.

    The emotionalism you commented on before. The idea that law and reason were married was gone.

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  61. I always thought they were calls back to orthodox Protestantism. You make it sound like a liberal movement.

    I'm not sure I'd call it either liberal or conservative in the left/right sense. It was liberal in the "tear up society and build a new and better one" sense. As for Orthodox Protestantism... no it was a rebellion against what until then had been orthodoxy. The movement was so successful that they redefined orthodoxy. There are almost no right wing Protestant churches today that talk about salvation as a community activity that occurs through church rather than in a personal sense accepting Jesus. There are no left wing churches today that don't embrace social justice as a core message.

    But it does not say [marital sexuality is] as noble and as worthy as consecrated virginity. The point of consecrated virginity is to give up something good to embrace something better.

    That's the key question is marital sexuality good or less wicked than non marital sexuality? This too we must observe, at least if we would faithfully follow the Hebrew, that while Scripture on the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days relates that, having finished the works of each, "God saw that it was good," on the second day it omitted this altogether, leaving us to understand that two is not a good number because it destroys unity, and prefigures the marriage compact."

    For example Augustine preached that pleasure from marital sexuality must be accidental : Any sex act not specifically procreative is additionally sinful. Any pleasure that occurs as a result of sex must be accidental, "It is, however, one thing for married persons to have intercourse only for the wish to beget children, which is not sinful: it is another thing for them to desire carnal pleasure in cohabitation, but with the spouse only, which involves venial sin." (Book 1 Chapter 16 On Marriage and Concupiscence)

    Saint Ambrose advised parents to help their daughters avoid marriage. Traditionally Catholicism held that marriage involves a woman into a web of deceit, "But she that is married is careful for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." Do you think there is no difference between one who spends her time in prayer and fasting, and one who must, at her husband's approach, make up her countenance, walk with mincing gait, and feign a show of endearment?"


    In fact, Jovinian was a monk and ceased to be a monk because he felt asceticism had no value. That is not Catholic teaching today.

    That's just factually not true. Jovinian was not someone opposed chastity. He was someone who merely held that marital sexuality was not detrimental to one's eternal welfare. There was the same eternal reward.

    Jerome admits as much when he mocks Jovinian for comparing the two, "I now direct the attack against the passage in which, wishing to show your cleverness, you institute a comparison between virginity and marriage. I could not forbear smiling, and I thought of the proverb, did you ever see a camel dance?"

    The slogan: Marriage replenishes the earth, virginity fills Paradise. was Catholic.

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  62. I will grant you that the church has developed a more positive understanding of married sex. Part of that is because married sex has become more equal. Back then it was more frequently a husband imposing his will. Now the image of a mutual gift of self is more realistic. That makes it holier. So the church has changed the way it talks about married sex but married sex has changed too.

    The reason of the inherent inequality never comes up in the fathers. If it had you would expect in societies where for example women choose their men the church would have been as enthusiastic towards marital sexuality as it is today. Further, I'd argue whether it is even true that most societies were all that bad, especially among people with no property.

    In any case there is quite a bit of discussion where women seem to be actively pursuing sexual relationships. For example Jerome's 117 -- To a Mother and Daughter Living in Gaul.

    Stability is a good but it is not the highest good. But you are right. I tend to be skeptical of the alleged goods secularism has brought. You tend to be skeptical of the alleged good of Catholicism. A few stats are not likely to change that.

    I don't agree here that we are doing symmetrical things and I think we are touching on epistemology here. I certainly consider stats relevant even when the show good things about religion. For example the data on life satisfaction, religious vs. secular is striking in the direction of religion. Religious people are unquestionably happier as demonstrated by statistics. I have no problem admitting that, even though it is damaging to "my cause".

    You on the other hand are making both historical and sociological claims which when confronted with counter evidence you dismiss the importance of the claim.

    There are two arguments:

    a) Catholicism produces externally observable good things.
    b) Catholicism is the right thing to do regardless of good things.

    (a) meets my definition of greater good morality. (b) doesn't. And in general Catholicism lays claim to (a). Catholicism has argued that a Catholic society will be a better society to live in and that Catholicism because it is living in accord with natural law will create happier, more prosperous, more healthy... people. It has always held that a definition of good unconnected with the material world is Gnosticism not Christianity.

    Things like prosperity are easily testable. Things like happiness are sorta testable. Things like intrinsic goodness are untestable.

    To my mind testability is what it means to have an opinion. To say "the door is blue not green" is to assert there exists a test that would be true if the door were blue, false if it were green and that the test if conducted will read true. Those are synonyms.

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  63. I'll agree with that. I don't think most Catholics have read and understood Humane Vitae and rejected that. On the other hand I don't think the Catholic position is addressing the counter arguments the faithful are raising. Both sides are talking past one another. But that's not an uncommon situation in most political debates. Usually the way sides come together is by creating compromise proposals. Humane Vitae was so absolute so as to cut off compromise proposals. The attitude since then has been one of absolute authority, to be a good Catholic you need to submit to the magisterium on this, questions are fine but defiance is not.

    Eva Tushnet said "contraception severed the old link between Christian moral law and common sense." I think that is insightful. But the moral law does not depend on common sense. It never did. It is given to us by God.

    What happens when what God says goes against what your natural inclination is? You find out a lot about what you really believe about God. That is what happens. You can obey or you can rebel. If you really believe Jesus is God and the Church is His covenant community that He leads into truth then you have to accept that God's wisdom is greater than yours. So you examine the details of the teaching and you do find a logic and a beauty there that does ring true.

    If you reject God or His church then you have made your common sense into dogma. That is, you have re-ordered your world and life view around it because you have concluded it cannot be wrong. Then you are going to have a problem with the magisterium. Not because they have an attitude of "absolute authority." Their attitude has been quite the opposite to tell you the truth. But it is you who have made yourself a magisterium of absolute authority.

    So what is the way out? Compromise does not make sense. We don't negotiate with God about what is morally right. There is just one solution. People need to choose God's way even when the way of contraception is open to them. I know it makes the road of sin more attractive. People need a greater grace to choose Him than they did before contraception. Same with pornography. Where sin abounds then grace abounds all the more.

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  64. I don't think so. I think the debate over the HHS mandate makes clear how much the Catholic church expects a supportive state. I think the idea is to have a Catholic society. Catholicism has always had strong ties to the state and an assumption of order. It has been about 1850 years since the Catholic church has been in the position of being just one of many sects, and one of no particular importance, when dealing with the state.

    I don't think anyone expects any western state to be supportive. in countries like the US, England, and Germany I don't think they have been through the last few centuries. It is likely to get worse before it gets better.

    What they hope for is to have their freedom of religion respected. They don't expect that. Most bishops expect most countries to do great evil towards the Catholic church. Freedom of religion is dead. Secularism has killed it. The death of freedom of religion will lead to the death of all human freedoms. But it seems like a road the west must travel down because nobody takes the warnings seriously.

    Catholicism has frequently been a minority religion. It is never really an unimportant religion. You would not expect that. The pope is the Vicar of Christ. One can treat him badly but that is to treat Jesus badly. That is no small thing.

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  65. Things like prosperity are easily testable. Things like happiness are sorta testable. Things like intrinsic goodness are untestable.

    To my mind testability is what it means to have an opinion. To say "the door is blue not green" is to assert there exists a test that would be true if the door were blue, false if it were green and that the test if conducted will read true. Those are synonyms.


    This boils down to an assumption of materialism. That is that anything that is not scientifically provable is unimportant. But that is an untestable opinion of yours. It might even be a detestable opinion but that is another matter!

    Does Catholicism produce good? Yes and No. Over the long term following Catholic morality will be better than not following it all thing being equal. But all things are not equal. When we do good we grow in holiness. God might lead us to further growth. That further growth might involve suffering.

    Catholicism does not preach a prosperity gospel. That is it does not guarantee any measurable benefit. It says obedience will lead to blessing. But what is blessing? You might get rich. You might get martyred.

    Western society has done much better than other societies like Muslim society and Chinese society. I would say the primary reason for that is Christianity. Can I think of a particular test that would prove it? No. If you want to say it was because of dumb luck that is OK.

    It is reasonable to believe Christianity produced a great society but not believe it is true. For example because it encouraged science and education. But you might think that was by fluke and science and education are where the real gold lies. Christianity got us there but now that we are there we don't need it anymore.

    I don't think it is true. I think civilization will disintegrate once we lose Christianity. You need it to explain why we should do hard things like science and education instead of just pursuing wine, women, and song.

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  66. What happens when what God says goes against what your natural inclination is? You find out a lot about what you really believe about God. That is what happens. You can obey or you can rebel. If you really believe Jesus is God and the Church is His covenant community that He leads into truth then you have to accept that God's wisdom is greater than yours. So you examine the details of the teaching and you do find a logic and a beauty there that does ring true.

    I agree and on a large scale what the RCC in America has discovered is that an overwhelming majority of Catholics do not believe the church is inerrant. They don't hold that belief on many issues. Andrew Greeley started writing about this all during the '80s. The issue is that the definition of Catholic is baptized and hasn't formally apostatized.

    But it is you who have made yourself a magisterium of absolute authority

    I would argue ultimately everyone is their own absolute authority. That's unavoidable in a pluralistic society. Even the authoritarian is confronted with choosing between sects and different beliefs when they conflict. So for example right wing Catholics in America more or less reject Catholic social teachings.

    So what is the way out? Compromise does not make sense. We don't negotiate with God about what is morally right.

    Here I disagree. I think there is pretty good evidence (for example the attitudes towards marriage) I was pounding on in this thread that once a doctrine becomes too uncomfortable it is changed. The Catholic church does not want its morality completely rejected. Catholicism does not want to be "the teachings of an alien God". When Catholic doctrine has gotten to far from morality the doctrine has shifted.

    Western society has done much better than other societies like Muslim society and Chinese society. I would say the primary reason for that is Christianity.

    Except... during the period of time when Western society was governed by Catholicism it wasn't doing better than Asian and Muslim societies. Mostly it has been post reformation where the west has thrived and the Protestant parts of the West and France, the home of secularism morso than the religious Catholic parts.

    And unlike the previous situation with Rome you could give Protestantism some credit, The dissolution of the monasteries freed up huge amounts of capital and create a upper class with huge amounts of liquid wealth. Protestants pulled something like a communist "great leap forward" by transferring huge wealth from what we would today call the social net into the hands of the investing class. So I'm not sure how the success of the West advances your cause, since it more than anything else argues for Protestantism.

    It is reasonable to believe Christianity produced a great society but not believe it is true. For example because it encouraged science and education.

    I don't agree that Christianity particularly encouraged either science or education. Certainly far less than Judaism and no more than Islam. Christian Humanism absolutely gets some credit here for embracing science and education, but Christian humanism was partially a rejection of mainstream Christianity. If you want to group Christian humanists in with Christianity, then that undercuts your morals argument since these groups have a 1000 year history of sexual and political radicalism.

    I think civilization will disintegrate once we lose Christianity. You need it to explain why we should do hard things like science and education instead of just pursuing wine, women, and song.

    If that were true then why did pre-Christian societies have science and education. Why does atheist China which no meaningful Christian education have such strong science and education?

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