Listing entries tagged with values

Values and Traditional Societies

posted on 11.25.2006 at 6:48 PM

Stumbled upon this testament to the superior wisdom and morality of traditional societies on the website of a Turkish newspaper. It concerns "a married woman who was raped by a man, also married":

The case was exposed when the rape victim spoke up.... The elders of her village aiming to avoid a blood feud found a "peaceful solution." The 16-year-old daughter of the rapist would be given to the husband of the rape victim. Since the men would have settled the issue, no blood feud would emerge.

posted by Mitchell Stephens at 6:48 PM | Comments (1)

Holt vs. Dawkins -- 3: God and Other Minds

posted on 10.25.2006 at 11:19 PM

Here is the heart of Jim Holt's critique of Richard Dawkins' new (and have I mentioned "best-selling") book attacking belief in God:

As long as there are no decisive arguments for or against the existence of God, a certain number of smart people will go on believing in him, just as smart people reflexively believe in other things for which they have no knock-down philosophical arguments, like free will, or objective values, or the existence of other minds.

The argument about free will would seem to come down to whether this feeling we have that our decisions are freely made has any meaning given the fact that the biological mechanism we are is composed of particles whose behavior is, presumably, predictable. Many also feel that some grand puppeteer in the sky is manipulating our decisions and their consequences. However, to jump from free will to God's will would seem, at the very least, to be adding an additional level of mystification.

Objective values, without something in the heavens to attach them to, pretty clearly ain't; and "smart people" who have thought the matter through probably ought to realize that. The consequences of values not being objective are, of course, complex and leave plenty of room for such "smart people" to disagree -- as do the consequences of God's not being.

But Dawkins, in my view, really goes off the rails in his analogy (for a fellow intent on critiquing misleading analogies he uses quite a few of them himself) between belief in God and belief in other minds. The evidence for the existence of other minds, while it may not be "knock-down" to a committed skeptic, does tend to present itself with some regularity -- more or less every time we converse, read or hear a ring tone. The evidence for God's existence, on the other hand, has been a little thin -- at least over the past couple of millennia.

To disbelieve in other minds you have to assume that you are victim of some sort of vast delusion. To disbelieve in God all you have to do is assume that the world and universe function, more or less, the way they appear to function. Shouldn't "smart people" be able to notice the difference between these two varieties of disbelief?

posted by Mitchell Stephens at 11:19 PM | Comments (8)