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    • It is commonly true that the victorious "revise" history to cast aspersions on the defeated.

      Thus a few decades ago, it became standard to question the accuracy of the Roman historians account of the history of the thalassic civilization of the Phoenicians especially as it applied to Carthage.

      There is plenty of evidence that Roman historians were not accurate in their accounts, but recently the accusation made by the Romans that the Carthaginians had engaged in infant sacrifice has been reinforced by circumstancial evidence.

    • I have listened to this podcast recently and it’s clear that history isn’t about absolutes. I’ve also started reading Fernand Braudel’s book about history and in it he talks about the challenges of perspective. Historians often focus on the very specific which leaves big picture history at a loss. Gathering data is always a challenge and Braudel says that if his data is out by more than 30% and that this would greatly affect the viewpoint that he is taking, then he’s very careful about the statements he makes. In other words he recognizes the serious challenges with trying to gather accurate or enough data to make somewhat accurate statements. Historians will forever be reviewing history. And we’ve all heard the saying that history is written by the victors. Unfortunately I’ve no knowledge of the stuff you posted so I can’t make any meaningful commentary on that specifically.

    • @cvdavis I am not suggesting that the scholars who believe that the Carthagineans sacrificed their infants have established their case. If you notice, I used the word "circumstancial" in describing the evidence.

      The position which I have taken repeatedly in this forum is that the pursuit of scientific knowledge is in a constant state of flux. Some ideas persist for centuries, others for a very short time period (example: the original theory of quantum physics. See:

      But many things are overtuyrned by later discoveries. For example: The current view of the relationship between DNA and RNA is different from what was commonly believed in the 1970s.

      "History" is not the actual events which occurred in the past but rather the scientific study of the events of the past. If this were not true then it would be impossible to refer to anything as being prehistoric. An event or culture is prehistoric when the information available is insufficient to do more than theorize. For example, there are many theories concerning the inhabitants of Cahokia. But because they did not have a written language, archæologists and anthropologists use discoveries found in other parts of the world to theorize about some of the things which have been discovered in Illinois.

      My point in posting this article and many other articles is that Science is not a sacred cow requiring the student to accept whatever was previously believed about discoveries without re-examining the evidence especially when new discoveries have been made in the meantime.

      This is not an anti-scientific attitude. If it were then "germ theory" is anti-scientific because every one knows that the humors μέλαινα χολή, ξανθη χολή, φλέγμα, and αἷμα are "settled science". (I do not believe in the four humors nor do I believe in "settled science". I believe that bacteria and virus are real and that vaccination is statistically more effective than not vaccinating, although not all vaccines are equal in their effectiveness, especially when a virus mutates as rapidly as influenza.)

    • I agree with everything you’ve said about the progress of science and scientific understanding. I also agree with you fully on how history and historical understanding changes over time. Everything you’ve said is part of the normal understanding in both fields. No disagreements here. I can only imagine if you don’t accept evolution then we could have a disagreement, otherwise I’m 100% on your side.

      As for the child sacrifices - I know absolutely nothing of that history and therefore can’t comment on it. I did see that you hadn’t made any definitive statements about it nor did you say the authors of history had.

    • In 1990 I made a PBS documentary for Stanford about historical earthquakes in the Holy Land. We were accompanied by archaeologists, who had fascinating insights.

      In one location, there was a bridge with the skeletons of a lot of infants piled up underneath. An archaeologist produced a copy of a letter from a Roman soldier to his wife. He was writing from a faraway port as he was assigned to a ship.

      In the letter he wrote, to his pregnant wife, if the baby is a boy, keep him, but if a girl, discard her. The bridge was where they discarded their unwanted babies.

    • I'm curious. if these two people (the letter writer and his wife) had been able to determine the child's biological sex before the wife gave birth would you find it objectionable for her to have aborted the baby?

    • Are you opposed to elective late term abortions?

      Are you opposed to an elective abortion during the last week of a pregnancy?

      The ethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethic in Australia hold that until a child is old enough to take care of its own basic functions that it should not have the right to life and that parents should be allowed to terminate the life of an infant after birth.

      Many of those who try to use the Bible to defend abortion claim that Leviticus 27:3-7 indicates that a child that was less then one month old had no value. (I believe this is a distortion of the passages meaning but this argument is made by abortion defenders.)

      If there is no God (not a proposition with which I agree) then on what basis do people in one country have the right to criticize the decisions of people in another country or what right do you and @cvdavis have to criticize this Roman couple?

      Are you not engaging in cultural chauvinism?

    • What right do you and @cvdavis have to criticize this Roman couple?

      Did I criticize them?

      In any case I do defend people of different nations to criticize each other. I think they have a perfect right to criticize our response to Covid, and I think I should be able to criticize cultures that don’t crack down on sex trafficking.

    • I am not saying that one does not have the right to criticize other nations, I am asking as to what standard is the standard by which a criticism is more than merely subjective.

      Most Americans would criticize Vladimir Putin's agenda. But there are many Russians who think that Putin is making Russia strong and vital and many of them look upon us as being decadent and morally corrupt.

      But if we are nothing but highly developed animals then what makes a pack of wolves less admirable than a herd of horses (or some other vegetarian animal). When one speaks of trying to make the world a better place, Putin's vision of a better world is decidedly different from Biden's vision of a better world. But if we are simply highly developed animals then from an objective, purely scientific evaluation a democracy may be less satble and more prone to collapse than an absolute monarchy or a strongman republic.

      Of course, I am not an admirer of Putin but then again I believe in an ultimate judge of all humanity.

      Incidentally, Star Trek's Starfleet is more like a military hierarchy than a democracy. Is that what a better world looks like?

    • It's a very interesting question and one that I've pondered and read about. If we criticize the Romans (not saying we did), then is that fair? Are we being elitist or cultural elitists? If we take your question to its logical conclusion we would ask is it fair to judge the morals of christians, muslims, sikh, kalahari bushman, people in Spain hundreds of years ago, our own ancestors, slave traders or those who practice genital mutilation and so on. Moral criticism is something I think is challenging yet necessary to go forward. I'll explain that in a moment. We can be accused of ethnocentrism if we ascribe negative evaluations of anyone that is not of the same cultural, religious and moral background as we are. And while I would say that it's necessary to understand the cultural, religious and temporal conditions of those we are criticizing, I would argue it is a necessity of modern society to question their morality. To avoid the cultural relativist or ethnocentric criticism I think we should follow a scientifically determined set of moral determinants. You could criticize me for being ethnocentric but I would argue that cultural relativism has led our modern culture (or at least parts of it) to accept abhorrent things that are amoral.

      Let's step back for a second and think about cultural relativism. Is the aboriginal way of knowing equivalent to a modern scientific approach? Dangerous territory as I could be criticized as being racist but I would argue that in many cases (not all) the scientific viewpoint is the correct or answer that is closer to the truth. People fly in airplanes because science is a superior way of knowing. In fact the scientific method is the highest level of epistimelogical development that has been so far developed. Science can make very accurate predictions that no other way of knowing is able to in such abundance. That's not to say science knows everything. That's not to say science understands everything about Bernoulli's Principle for example, but it has achieved a higher level of understanding than any other way of knowing on Earth past or present. So how does this apply to morals or moral criticism you may ask?

      Sam Harris in his book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, says: "I am arguing that science can, in principle, help us understand what we should do and should want - and, therefore, what other people should do and should want in order to live the best lives possible. My claim is that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, just as there are right and wrong answers to questions of physics, and such answer may one day fall within reach of the maturing sciences of mind". (p.28) He later goes on to say: "Science simply represents our best effort to understand what is going on in this universe, and the boundary between it and the rest of rational thought cannot always be drawn."(p.29)

      Scientific moralism does not currently provide a complete set of commandments if you will but it is so far the foundation of the most complete and most promising direction for such a thing. Let's bring this argument to the question of abortion. The time at which science finds a fetus becomes minimally sentient matters to the moral question of abortions. What is occuring in the brain of the fetus matters. I (as would Harris I'm sure) argue that the unfalsifiable notion of a soul does not matter to the question of the morality of abortion. I would say that a person's material and social support system at the time of pregnancy and the conditions under which that female became pregnant matter as well. Whether the woman will be able to mentally, emotionally and financially look after herself and her baby matters. What would happen to that child if it was given up for adoption in that current time and place also matters when we ascribe the moral valuation of what can and should be done. I am not saying that we currently have a fully complete and easy to follow guide of scientifically guided morals but science can help us make a decision that is on average more moral and over time closer to what the correct decision should be.

      Some people say that religiosity is the best way to guide people in making good moral decisions but I strongly disagree with that. I for example do not believe in any god yet I have morals and am considered a decent and caring person. Human behaviour does not become amoral when the 'guidance' of religion is removed. Would you as a believer go ahead and murder someone if you weren't a believer? I don't think so. Religons often provide a ready made answer to some common moral questions but it fails to be something that makes people more moral in general. In fact "research on people's responses to unfamiliar moral dilemmas suggest that religion has no effect on moral judgements that involve weighing harms against benefits (e.g., lives lost vs. lives saved). (from Harris p.146). Science uses evidence and evidential reasoning to come up with answers or at least get us closer to reality. Religion on the other hand is based on faith which makes acceptance without evidence a virtue. Faith is essentially that. The bible is also a book for which we can break down and discount many if not most of it's dictums through the use of science. Many people simply accept the truthfulness of the bible based on faith and their own personal subjective experience. Science has demonstrated the many many ways that our brains are faulty and create memories for example that are simply not true. The bible can provide some fictional stories from which we can possibly make some better or more reasoned moral decisions but it falls far short of a comprehensive guide to morality. The old testament for example has some abhorrent actions taken by a vicious god that we should consider when evaluating it's judgements. Overall the bible is of little value in comparison to modern day philosophy of morality. It's value is in that it can provide some ready made answers for rather lazy thinkers or those who do not have the time or skills to research/learn about science, philosophy, life lessons, morality and love.

      Going back to the Roman couple we ask ourself is there one right answer that should be taken? Possibly. But we must also consider that the Roman's did not have access to a scientific moral evaluation scheme. We must also consider the temporal culture, religion and situational conditions they were under. We must try to be empathetic of people's cultural folkways, situation and so on but we should still work towards a more scientific and logical morality. Do I have all of the answers? No. But I would say that with science as my guide I am better off than if I merely accept the fiction of the bible as truth. I am more willing to accept the scientific understanding of creation for example than a first nation's origin's story especially since there are so many origin stories and they therefore cannot all be true. Truth matters. Yes truth is something that even science is always open to reconsider but then that's the very thing that makes science a better way of knowing than anything else that humans have so far created or discovered. Science is open to improvement or revision, whereas most religions are generally not and much more dogmatic in their essence. Yeah we can cherry-pick examples from science that shows how steadfast scientists can be when they hold onto a pet theory too long but the 'truth' will eventually win in the end. An epistemilogical argument can be had but I think you probably get my argument. See the Moral Argument for further details on how this science of morality can be developed.

    • Does Science produce the same set of decisions if viewed from divergent ethnic values?

      I am not criticizing Science. I am criticizing the idea that Science can produce a universal standard of morality.

      Darwinism produced eugenics. Eugenics produced "Social Darwinism." Social Darwinism produced genocide.

      But it was scientific if one accepts the theory that the human species is in a liminal state of evolution.

      Science also produced Time-Motion studies and a movement to eliminate worker inefficiency.

      It was very scientific.

      The workers went on strike.

      Marxism was presented as a scientific approach to economics.

      Thus far there has not been a very successful "scientific economy."

    • Science generally does produce convergence. I spent my university grad degree studying the social influence on science and technology and I'd say that overall that yes science and technology converges on universal truths over time.

      The understanding of evolution is not the reason some people created social darwinism. Rather evolution was co-opted to promote their fundamental beliefs. I'm not going to rehash an argument that has previously been debunked.

      Evolution does not inherently move towards greater complexity or higher intelligence. Evolution is blind.

      Science and technology is not evil nor good. It's the uses that humans put them to that makes the outcome either good or evil or something in between. Just because science helped us discover how to make a nuclear weapon doesn't mean science is evil. That argument has also been thoroughly debunked.

      Marxism may have been presented as a scientific approach but doesn't mean it was. Doesn't mean that there was a scientific concensus that said this is science. Marxism is a very simplistic set of ideas that is unable to account for the variableness of modern society. Scientific understanding leads to greater predictive abilities not less. Yes science understands the unpredictable nature of many things at least with our current level of understanding.

      Time motion studies may have told the people that there was a more efficient way to produce something that would help them make more money. But the science of psychology could have helped them realize that people would not be happy about the outcome. There are so many cases that we could discuss where science may say something can be done but it doesn't follow that we should do it. That really perverts the idea of science to be something that is inherently unjust, unethical and amoral.

      I hope you don't espouse that creation science is actually a science because it sure as heck isn't and no respected evolutionary biologist in the field would claim such a thing.

    • I do not believe that Genesis is scientific.

      You made the statement: "Science and technology is not evil nor good."

      I agree with that statement and that is why I deny the idea that Science can produce a standard of right and wrong.

      To say that Science can determine what is moral is to try to turn Science into a religion.

      Religion is not scientific and Science is not moralistic.

    • The idea isn't to turn science into religion. In fact science can't be a religion in the traditional sense because it's not dogmatic in the way that religion is. It's open to revision.

      The idea isn't for science itself to become a moral standard but for it to INFORM a moral standard. Consider the example I gave whereby scientific understanding of the stages of a fetus would inform moral decisions about it's termination. Statistical analysis of likeliness of events is also a part of science and something that could become part of a morality informed by science and scientific understanding. An epistemilogical framework such as science, can be neutral by nature but still inform what is right and wrong.

      Your statement: "Religion is not scientific and Science is not moralistic" makes me wonder exactly what you mean by that. Are you suggesting that religion has some elevated status over science in the moralistic category? If so then I would vehemently oppose that view. I absolutely agree that religion is not scientific though I could imagine a religion that is so. I do not see any evidence for science being a religion either (not saying you said that).

      What would make religion any more moralistic than say philosophy of morals or philosophy of ethics? I'd say there is no good argument for it. I'd then add that why couldn't knowledge gained from scientific exploration or statistical analysis not be used to increase the moral level of decisions within philosphy for example?

      As an aside I like that you are challenging my ideas which is helping me to clarify my thinking and where I may be going wrong or where I need to clear up my arguments. I'm not saying I know all the answers but it's my belief that humans in general are moving towards something that could be argued is more moral. I obviously think this could continue further and also be aided by science.

    • Now you are really going to disagree with what I say in this posting because what I am about to say is predicated upon a presupposition with which you do not agree.

      I believe that a creator exists.

      I believe that this creator has eternally determined what is just and what is unjust, what is right and what is wrong. I do not believe that love is God, I believe that God is love. The Aphrodite or Eros concept (separated from the mythology and the idol) is the concept that Love exists and the God is determined by Love. I deny that. I believe that God exists and that Love is determined by God.

      The same is true regarding Morality. I do not believe in a democratic morality whether it be scientifically informed or not. Nor do I believe that Morality defines God. I believe that God defines morality. Morality is that which God determines is moral and immorality is that which is contrary to God's choice.

      Just as history is not the events of the past, so also religion is not the cause of God. God existed before religion and God is the inventor of whatever is legitimate in religion. Anything in religion which originates with man's choices is illegitimate. I do not celebrate December 25th nor a Spring time holiday as religious holidays because I do not believe that God ordained December 25th nor "Easter." Because I believe that both of these holidays are man made, I therefore also believe that they are wicked.

      I do not believe that humans have the right to determine what we will and will not teach and practice in religion. I believe that it is a "package deal" and there is no "à la carte."

      It is not that I believe that religion has an elevated status because I do not believe that religion is the cause of morality. I believe that both legitimate morality and legitimate religion are the result of the same Cause which is God.

      Because you and I do not have a mutual ground on which to stand together in a discussion of the origin of morality, we cannot come to an agreement as to what constitutes morality.

    • You're right that your inability to accept anything other than God being an original creator and responsible for morality and so on is not something I can find common ground on. I can only say that science can't disprove the existence of god and that there's always the possiblity that god exists. The idea of god (created by man in my view) is unfalsifiable and therefore outside the realm of a meaningful scientific theory. That being said I do think we could agree on what constitutes morality though not the origins of morality or the proximate cause of it, nor on how to increase the morality of society. But then maybe we could agree on some moral ground. Certianly you make judgements about morality in other countries, if only based on your religious beliefs. And you must have a sense of whether or not certain laws are moving towards a greater morality or not. In the end I'd suggest that my morality is not that far from yours without having to ask whether or not you agree with genital mutilation within your own country. Thank you for sharing your ideas on morality. Curious if your ideas of morality have changed or evolved over the course of your religiosity.

    • Because my views are not defined by my culture, I do not engage in cultural chauvinism when I am critical of that which is contrary to them.

      Yes, my beliefs have from time to time changed but not as a result of my subjective desires. If anything I am less "american" in my viewpoints as I was thirty years ago.

      The reason that my views have changed is that the more that I have studied the Bible the more that I have discovered things which I misunderstood as to what the Bible teaches. Some of the views which I now hold are contrary to what I would personally desire. An honest evaluation of what the text says means that sometimes my personal preferences must yield to an acceptance of what is contained within the text.

      Therefore, I doubt that you and I would agree on many subjects as to what is moral because you are more likely to make your evaluation bassed on personal desire while I will make my evaluation based on what I think the Bible is teaching even if it means that my own preferences are surrendered.

    • I like that you think big picture instead of personal desire. I in fact do the same thing which might surprise you. I try to consider the planet, the long term consequences of my actions, how to do the most good, and how not to make other lives worse. I try to invest ethically, I donate to online sources I value, I volunteer to help fight inequality and those who have less than I do and I try to put society before myself to the extent it doesn’t hurt me greatly. I don’t take the easy way out just because it would suit me. Even my career is about helping others. Of course even altruistic things can be show. To benefit the self if only in feeling we are good people. I think you’d likely be surprised at how alike we are in our actions. Many of my closest friends are Mormon and when we are together you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

    • Your desire to be beneficial to the long term consequences of the planet is still a personal desire. Your desire to benefit the largest number of people is also a personal desire.

      My approach to these kinds of choices is considerably different from yours. I have given away many gifts of money to individuals but rarely if ever to organizations. I am not interested in "the most," I am interested in manifesting love directly to those whom I can interact with.

      I am only interested in ecology on a short term basis. (As an example: My local supermarket seems to prefer to use plastic bags and I have to ask over and over for paper.) I am not interested in whether or not my actions will impact the planet in 50 to 100 years. I am interested in whether my actions have immediate harm to those among whom I live.

      I haven't gotten into the reasons behind these kinds of choices because again my presuppositions are founded in my religious paradigm.

      I am not surprised that you fit in with many who are part of the LDS religion. That religion is much more focused on the physical than my religious views are. For example, I would be opposed to the congregation I attend operating a business (such as a cattle ranch) or of it sending any of the funds which are donated to a centralized organization. The congregation which I attend is independent and autonomous and we are doctrinally opposed to all forms of church funded organizations (commonly called "parachurch") and to any supra-congregational organization. We view such things as sinful. Obviously, the LDS religion does not.

    • Those views are quite different from any I’ve ever heard of. Curious what you think of the morals of other believers. If there are many different religions with many different moralistic beliefs, who is right? What about the poor souls who are born into an area or religion they didn’t choose. As you know, the vast majority of people in the world have the same religious beliefs as their family and those around them.

    • Your question originates with a paradigm that there is no God. If there is no God then all religions are equal and are fantasies.

      If there is a God (which is my paradigm) then God decides what is acceptable to Him.

      Within my paradigm, God has informed humanity as to what his will is.

      To illustrate my next point, imagine that someone decided to visit the President, Prime Minister, or Monarch of the country in which they lived without first receiving any communication which granted permission to him. (There have been several attempts to climb the White House fence over the course of several years, so this should not be too difficult of an illustration.) What would you expect to happen to that person?

      Within my paradigm, man has no permission to approach God, to offer worship to God, or to seek to serve God except according to whatever permissions God has granted to man and that it must be on God's terms.

      Most religions make decisions based on whatever the humans living at a certain time desire to do. Several of the larger religions in the USA currently engage in activities which their human founders denounced.

      I do not think that any religion which is based on human desires or on the attitude "What will God let us get away with" is a valid religion.

      But, in the long run, my opinion is irrelevant. The only one whose preferences count is God. If God does not exist, then I and everyone who is religious is a fool. If he does exist, then those who seek to create a religion based on their own desires are fools. If God exists then His choices are the only valid choices. If my opinion on the morals of some other human does not coincide with God's attitude concerning that human then I am a fool.