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    • Did you read the article? If not, then your questions show that you don't know why it is a dilemma. If yes, then those things you listed do not cause me to kill someone. Getting a flu shot does not cause me to kill. Jumping out of the way of a speeding car does not cause me to kill.

      Ethics and morality are two different and incompatible things. Morality is founded on the idea that "we must give an account." Ethics is founded on the idea that humanity is answerable to noone except other humans.

      You didn't link to an article in your post about the trolley problem. If you mean the article you linked to in your OP, you poised it as being an interesting aside of value to theists, and I'm not a theist, so no, I didn't read it. Does it explain your position on the matter of God and Ethics?

      I know what the Trolley Problem is without reading the article - it's a very well known ethical dilemma, much talked about these days as they work out algorithms for self-driving vehicles. The dilemma is that people die/are killed whether you act or not, so how do you shape your choice to decide which people die?

      You do answer this somewhat in the second paragraph of your second reply, but you didn't in your initial post about the trolley problem. So at last I think I'm coming to an understanding of your way of thinking: You do not feel the choice is yours to make, so by inaction you absolve yourself of responsibility for the situation. I wonder, in the end, if this is also the choice most car programmers will take, for similar reasons. Is there a connection here with you choice not to vote, I wonder?

      WRT the things I listed, there's an argument you would be killing yourself by inaction, but obviously you don't see it that way.

      You still haven't really answered my question about god and ethics, but based on your second reply I think the answer is not that ethics are irrelevant to you, but rather that they are clear to you. Your faith in God makes inaction the easy choice - so easy that perhaps the entire question seems silly. Am I understanding correctly?

      You also didn't answer the question about the possibility of God using you as the mechanism by which he influences the world in the trolley example, and I'm still curious about that.

      To be clear - I'm interested in understanding your perspective for my own education. I'm not trying to challenge you in some spirit of agon.

      Oh, and on the matter of ethics and morals, I'm not sure what you mean by them being incompatible. Trying to verify your statement via dictionaries doesn't help me:

      Merriam Webster 1: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

      Merriam Webster 2: (a) a set of moral principles a theory or system of moral values; (d) a consciousness of moral importance

      Merriam Webster 3: a set of moral issues or aspects (such as rightness)

      Cambridge: the study of what is morally right and what is not

      Wikipedia: Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch[1] of philosophy

      So would you mind unpacking that statement a little more?

    • One of the reasons that I do not like "descriptivist" dictionaries is that they escalate the degradation of communication. Although the concepts of morality and ethics can be traced back to ancient times, yet the modern concept of Ethics has been developed by secularists in order that appropriate and inappropriate conduct may be discussed outside of a religious context.

      In the 1800s and early 1900s, there was a societal revolt against the concept of "morality" by secularists as being a religious concept.

      While it is true that these words may be used interchangeably today by those who do not care about the historical struggle by those like Ingersoll against "religionists" yet the fact is that a century ago, these two terms were used by opposing "schools" of thought. (I'm not using the word "school" in the sense of an institution of pedagogical education.)

      For the sake of this discussion, when I speak of those who are religious I am NOT including those who deny the supernatural's existence. Thus, those so-called theologians who deny the possibility of a true resurrection or of a virgin conceiving a child by a supernatural act are not under consideration as I view them as secularists.

      As to my reasons for not voting, they are not based on the same premises. Voting is not inherently evil. Choosing to deliberately cause an innocent person's death is inherently evil.

      Those who argue that inaction is the same as murdering an innocent person to spare others are trying to entrap the mind in a dilemma which does not exist. I am responsible for murder if I deliberately kill the innocent, I am not responsible for the death of those who die because I refuse to murder.

      While it is true that in my OP, I included the link to the article in order that theists might be able to step outside of their mental box to intellectually consider this subject from a different perspective, yet I did not mean to imply that an agnostic (or atheist) would derive no benefit from the article.

      The article demonstrates the basis upon which "ethical" choices are made. Each student is encouraged to express and defend his or her choices based upon their educated subjective viewpoints.

      My choices are based on something regarding which if I accept it as a standard it must be a package deal. It cannot be ala carte or cafeteria-style, it must be all or nothing. This means that sometimes there is a conflict between what I subjectively would prefer and that which I accept as right.

      [If you want to understand my way of thinking, you are going to have to endure a few paragraphs which may at first seem off-topic but they illustrate my thought processes.]

      This sets me in conflict with most of those religious people who claim to follow the Bible because they often base their decisions on what they would prefer.

      As an example: In Ephesians 5:19, the text says "speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."

      Regardless of what forms of music I enjoy, when I offer worship to God the only form of musical accompaniment which I use is my spirit. When it comes to secular music, I listen to jazz, soul music and some "golden oldies" from the pop music of the 60s through 90s.

      But (in my worldview) God has stated what His choices are and I abide by His choices. He has also stated (in my worldview) how He wants the life and death of Jesus to be memorialized, I do not engage in those man-made customs in which many religious people engage which are intended by them to celebrate the life and crucifixion of Jesus because the Bible text has expressed what God's choice in this matter is and I abide in His choices. (I realize that you consider the Bible to be man-made, but you asked about my way of thinking.)

      Now, if you endured those paragraphs—you may be ready for a discussion of my view of right and wrong.

      In my worldview, the only thing that was wrong with the tree from which Eve took the fruit is that God did not choose to grant permission for Eve to eat from it. In fact, God pronounced a prohibition on eating of it.

      In my worldview, things are moral only because God chose to approve them and things are immoral because God did not grant permission for them.

      I do not believe that good defines God, I believe that God defines good. When I say, that God is love, I am not saying that love is god. The concepts of Aphrodite and Eros are that humanity's definition of love defines god. I deny that. God's eternal will and character are what love is.

      This is one of the main conflicts between ethics and morality. Ethics is defined by what humans consider to be right and loving. Morality (in my worldview) is defined by God regardless of what man considers to be appropriate.

      Thus, if God had chosen that males would copulate with males and females with females then that would be moral and good. The only reason that I teach that these activities are wrong is because God did not choose them. If He had chosen them then they would be good.

      The ethicist would argue that a lifelong commitment of a sexual nature between two heterosexuals is no different in its goodness from a lifelong commitment of a sexual nature between two homosexuals because of the foundation upon which ethics is based.

      As a believer in God, I disagree with the ethicist not because I do not understand his thought process but rather because the foundation upon which my worldview is based is not the same as his.

      There are some religious people who treat some sins as being different from other sins. I had a disagreement recently with a woman on twitter because she wrote as if a man who had been beaten up after he had told those he thought were his friends that he was a homosexual should not be "protected" (her word)

      Here is a link to her tweet to which I replied.

      My replies to her: https://twitter.com/jamesshewmaker/status/1187846323216748544

      https://twitter.com/jamesshewmaker/status/1187847059883331584

      She responded to me: https://twitter.com/NativeChick9/status/1187885363769106432

      I replied: https://twitter.com/jamesshewmaker/status/1187917266488385537

      https://twitter.com/jamesshewmaker/status/1187918379337826304

      (She replied to that last tweet but her reply demonstrates her prejudices.)

      I do not hate nor fear those who engage in such activities. I had a relatively close relationship with a man who engages in such activities for about 30 years until he moved away from the vicinity of where I lived in 2016. This relationship brought him into many of my relationships with other people including my relatives and friends whom he otherwise would not have known. A large number of them share my views on this subject but were also quite comfortable in associating with him, having him in their houses, and introducing him to other people whom they knew. In fact, about twenty years into our relationship, my late wife and I discovered that he had assumed that we had changed our views on this subject because of how friendly and welcoming we were with him. Like many people who do not understand my worldview, he had assumed that I could not be opposed to those activites in which he engaged as being sinful and at the same time have a close, friendly relationship with him.

      This is also the way that I have friendships with people who engage in other activities which I consider sinful which are not considered by the American legal system to be criminal activities.

      BTW, for what it is worth, I was opposed to DOMA. I do not believe that Christians should resort to force, coercion, or violence as a response to something simply because it is sinful.

    • That's a very thoughtful reply - thanks so much for taking the time to write it. I understand your position better now. On the matter of not being able to pick and choose, how do you choose which interpretation of the bible to adopt as your guide?

      If you're so inclined, I'd be interested to hear your perspective someday on pre-biblical societes and their relationship with God. But that's obviously way off topic here.

    • I don't believe that any translation is flawless.

      The original texts have to be consulted because the target language does not correlate precisely with the source language.

      One of the main difficulties between the Aramaic/Hebrew and the Koine Greek is that every word in the Aramaic/Hebrew contains a movement concept and that is not true of Greek. To illustrate: In English, although the word building is a noun, there is a verb contained within the noun. All of Aramaic/Hebrew is like that, but Koine Greek is more like English. It is fundamentally a static language.

      There is also the problem of language categorizations. For example: In English, Fauna is classified by morphology. In Aramaic/Hebrew, Fauna is classified by behavior. Sheep and Goats are classified together, not because they are both mammals but because they are both grazers. So how does one translate Exodus 12:5?

      Aramaic/Hebrew contains a word meaning a creature which flies. English does not. (A flyer is not necessarily an animal, it can be a human in an airplane.) A bat is a creature which flies. Thus, since Aramaic/Hebrew is not a morphological language, translators run into problems with passages such as Leviticus 11:19. The passage makes sense if one understands that the Hebrew word does not mean a creature with feathers, wings, and two legs but rather a creature which flies.

      I commented earlier that I don't like descriptivist dictionaries. It is easier to deal with the definition changes that have occurred since Shakespeare wrote than it is to deal with the problems which occur when a passage begins in Hebrew, is cited in Koine Greek, is trnslated into 17th century British Englisn, and then read by 21st century Americans. The KJV has many words in it that were appropriate translations of the original in 1611 which are easily misunderstood in 2019. For example: "Prevent" in 1611 did not mean to obstruct or to hinder but to occur prior to the referenced incident.

      Thus although I would include the KJV among a list of the better English translations, I would only do so with a caveat.

      There are problems like plurals in the original which cannot be rendered plural in English. Firstborn is one example.

      There are problems with reflexive verbs in the original for which English has no reflexive verb.

      There are problems with tenses for which English either has no such tense or has abandoned the tense which it previously had. As an example, some verbs now use the same verb form for the past participle as the past tense which previously had a distinct past participle.

      There is a problem with idioms. This is usually a problem with the idiom in the source language but can occur in the target language as well. For example, British english uses the word "glass" to mean a reflective surface. American translations may use the word "mirror" but in the source languge the word meant a highly polished METAL surface. Paul makes reference to the process of making a "mirror" by polishing and to the fact that when the polishing is only partly completed that the polisher can vaguely see their reflection in the metal but that the polishing is not yet complete. American readers being clueless as to what Paul is talking about often miss his point completely.

    • You also didn't answer the question about the possibility of God using you as the mechanism by which he influences the world in the trolley example, and I'm still curious about that.

      This has been an interesting discussion and when I read the Trolley Problem, these were my first thoughts:

      Since the problem suggests there are only a few seconds to assess the entire situation, make a decision, and then act, I would draw on my initial instincts. There is simply not enough time to analyze the problem in detail from the comfort of my living room.

      If God is the designer of my "core" instincts (i.e., to know what He wants from me) and the one who tests me in the trolley example, whatever I do following my quick assessment will be the very best I can deliver in the exact moment. However, there will have to be some type of learned or inherent moral compass pointing in the right (God's) direction to begin with.

      What would I decide if I am:
      A psychopath who doesn't care one way or another what happens?
      A sadist who likes to watch others suffer for the pleasure of it?
      A fool who doesn't see that the trolley is gaining speed and people might die?
      A coward who is frightened at the prospect of having to make a decision?
      An apathetic who doesn't feel it is up to me to get involved in the first place?

      Or a good Samaritan with my compass set to try to help other people in distress when the situation calls for it?

      Personally, if I had time in the living room beforehand to think about this hypothetical situation, I would most likely choose to pull the lever to switch the tracks, saving five and killing one. I suppose this stems from a desire to do something rather than nothing coupled with a "for the greater good" desire to save more lives, no matter how great my remorse would be for the one who died. I would struggle to know if it is a better thing for a person to see that death is coming than to be blindsided. Also, is the solution to the problem about my morals ("See, I saved all these people, that's what any decent person would do,") or am I merely finding a way to free myself from blame ("The trolley's brake failure is no fault of mine, at least I did something!")?

      Perhaps the "right" answer is to do nothing and leave the dilemma for God to sort out.

      Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
      For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    • Look, I'm in neither category of atheists nor canonical believers, hence I cannot logically nor unbiasedly debate the topic. Events in my life have led me to feel the way I do, that if there is a God, will not be found in an institution or through reading texts. Much more, rather this great discovery happens only when we are put through trials and tribulations. In other words living, not theorizing about living, we discover ourselves, and through that act we elevate our consciousness to what may to some appear divine. To the conundrum of killing one vs. five, my answer is - what value do we place on beings? What if the lone person was meant to become some kind of a great influencer or scientist who in turn would have helped the world evolve? Where, and who has the 'correct' definition of loss as a concept in this regard? The theory of Sacred and Profane tries to materialize man's search for some kind of meaning of good and wrong, acceptable vs. not acceptable.

    • Communication, the ability to preserve communication and the transmission of communication are three things towards which humanity has devoted a great deal of its effort.

      Doesn't humanity's efforts to seek out and communicate with higher intelligent extra-terrestrials suggest that communication is something which our intellect encourages us to do?

      If God exists, why wouldn't He seek to communicate with clarity of meaning with humanity?

    • If God exists, why wouldn't He seek to communicate with clarity of meaning with humanity?

      Good question. From my perspective, it seems that God has had plenty of opportunity to communicate clearly with us, and yet the message remains muddled and contestible, even doubtable.

      I’m sure that’s an age old question to which there are no doubt many answers.

    • Is the message muddled or have people deliberately tried to make it mean what they would prefer that it means?

      There are many people who for one reason or another want to be Bible believers but don't want the Bible to say what it says.

      The earliest books of the Bible contain events involving people who wanted (for one reason or another) part of what was being offered by God but also did not want God to have said or done what He had.

      For example, God had chosen the brothers Moses and Aaron to be the leader and the High Priest. They had a relative (either their uncle or cousin) named Korah. Korah wanted to be a worshiper of Jehovah (in fact wanted to be the priest) but he did not like the fact that God had chosen Aaron. So he found 250 other men who also wanted to be priests and then he joined up with a group of Reubenites who wanted to replace Moses and they staged a confrontation. That's found in Numbers 16.

      The next day, not having learned their lesson, some more people who wanted "to have their cake and eat it too" protested and the events of Numbers 17 occurred.

      But my point is that God has expressed Himself clearly but men do not like what He said.

    • I cannot see how your response applies to either of the two questions I asked.

      The first question could be answered yes or no but your answer does not seem to be applicable.

      The second questions asked you for a reason (or reasons) why if we seek to communicate not only among ourselves but with other intellectual life forms, God would choose to not communicate with us.

      I didn't ask you whether He did or not, I asked you why He would not choose to do so.

    • If I pull the trolley car switch then I commit murder

      @Shewmaker, James, are you speaking of murder in this statement in the legal or moral sense? I was discussing the Trolley Problem last night with friends after reading this thread and a question came up:

      Are first responders, or those sworn to uphold certain oaths, held to any type of standard when it comes to saving one set of lives over others? And if they only prayed in this scenario and were subsequently indicted under a murder or criminally negligent charge for causing the resulting deaths (assuming God did not intervene to save them), under US laws, could they be found not guilty because they claim they didn't uphold their oath due to religious beliefs?

      For example, in malpractice suits where a doctor has to make a choice to save one life over another IF they had to cause one person to die in order to save the others, should the doctor instead only pray so they wouldn't be committing murder?

      I realize this is taking the problem into another arena but it was an interesting point and I don't know the answer. I guess the question is should first responders be exempt from interfering with God's decisions or not?

    • A first responder does not kill one person in order to save another.

      Triage procedures may cause a first responder to neglect one person who might have been saved while attempting to save another but that is not killing the person who is neglected.

      In the trolley car scenario by pulling the switch, one is killing the person who is on the alternative track.

      Now regarding the first responder, God judges the mind and attitudes of a person and this is of greater weight than outward conduct. If a first responder neglects one person to save another due to any ungodly attitudes such as racial hatred towards the one neglected or personal desire concerning the one who is treated, God knows and judges. Humans may make wrong judgements in this matter. A first responder may be accused by humans of racial hatred while God might know that this was not an issue. Humans may think that the person decision to treat a specific person was completely altruistic while God might know that there was some self-centered reason behind the decision.

      The fact is that humans are incapable of reading the minds of other humans (let alone the mind of infinite God).

      For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knows, except the Spirit of God.

    • In the trolley car scenario by pulling the switch, one is killing the person who is on the alternative track.

      You missed my main question, which is what if it is a first responder who is in the trolley car scenario?

    • If he truly believes in the power of God and if he is in fellowship with God then do what Elijah did: Pray.

      But don't deliberately cause the death of the innocent.

      By the way, another version of the trolley car scenario is when a Doctor says if we kill the baby the mother will survive but if we don't kill the baby the mother will probably only live for a few hours after giving birth. See what I wrote before this paragraph.

    • That's interesting. I still wonder how it would play out for a first responder in our current legal system and I guess that is subjective as well. I don't think the trolley car scenario is comparable to the version you describe with the mother and baby. In the trolley car scenario, you are certain that the innocent man will die if you pull the switch.

    • Well a doctor (a moral/ethical one we assume) wouldn't kill the baby if there was a probable chance the mother could live OR die. My point is this scenario has no real decision to make -- as there is a CHANCE -- but the trolley scenario doesn't offer one at all.

    • Suppose then that the doctor is certain that the mother will die sometime after birth but does not know if it will be one hour or four hours, like Rachel died after Benjamin's birth.

      I did not mean to imply that the Doctor thought that there was a chance that she would still alive a year later.

    • Ah yes, if you put it that way it does change the equation a bit but still, the mother will live, regardless if it is for two minutes or two hours. There remains a chance that something the doctor doesn't know about could happen in that time frame to change the outcome, especially if they believe that miracles happen all the time. A person could appear who can save the mother in a minute with a skill this doctor doesn't know about. So the doctor is certain to decide to save the life of the baby.

    • I asked you why He would not choose to do so.

      I took your first one as rhetorical, as I believe most would agree on the answer being 'yes'.

      But my second answer remains, even if you can't understand it through the view of your reasoning. We can surmise He is communicating, just not in trivial ways, or the exact opposite. What's to stop us? Just like in Schrodinger's cat experiment, when we open the box actually cause that version of truth to become fact. To me the question of 'why' makes no sense, since we are the ones influencing the outcome.

    • @BarryDesborough Interesting claim here from your article:

      But what is well known is that, statistically, atheists behave at least as well in society as theists.

      I'd love to see any research that studies this in depth if you can share any. This article from 2015 gives some breakdown of how many atheists there and states, "there are approximately 450-500 million non-believers in God worldwide, which amounts to about 7% of the global adult population."

      Even if the number is 20%, I think we can conclude that overall, believing in God (if that is what Dawkins says religion is) will not end anytime soon.

    • There is a big difference between Atheists and Agnostics.

      I have a sibling who is an agnostic. Agnostics are fully aware that we are only three dimensional and that there may (or may not) be multiple dimensions even within the physical realm and that if such multiple dimensions do exist that it is impossible to assert emphatically that any thing or any being does not exist in a dimension which is able to observe and interact with us even though we cannot observe more than three dimensions. In 1884, Edwin Abbott Abbott published a book called "Flatland" which had as its main character a two dimensional "person" named "A Square". One day, A Square encounters a three dimensional "person" who is not limited to the plane on which A Square lives. Atheists should read that book before they go around insisting that something or someone does not exist simply because that thing or being is not observable within our three dimensions.

      Next is the topic of a multiverse. Science theorizes the possibility of parallel universes. Although we are confined to our single universe that does not mean that something or someone in a neighboring universe cannot observe or interact with our universe.

      Science is currently unable to prove or disprove the existence of either of the two possibilities mentioned above and that pertains to the physical realm.

      Yet in spite of the fact that an educated Atheist knows that science is limited in one it can and cannot prove has the audacity to assert that not only does he question the existence of any kind of God, he also KNOWS that God does not exist. Atheists are intellectually dishonest.