Posted by: Becoming Gaia | May 30, 2010

Mailbag 1c: Heaven On My Mind (Dawkins Be Gone!)

Kedaw commented

I ‘know’ my personally-defined moral system is better for any number of metrics than anyone else’s moral system, but what it is not better for is getting into heaven. I don’t believe in heaven so it doesn’t affect me, but for those that do it informs each of their moral positions and affects how they want others to act. It also means it is almost impossible for me to convince them that my moral position is better because their ‘goal’ is to get to heaven and my ‘better’ morality virtually precludes that.

Kedaw seems to have a good read on the situation.  The problem here is the assumption of the meaning of the word “better”.  Just like similar terms (good, bad, best, preferable, etc.), better always needs to be thought and spoken/written of in terms of “better for what?”  He correctly refers to “any number of metrics” but does not identify what state (goal) these metrics measure progress towards (or away from).  My guess is that he fulfills many of his goals by ensuring the sub-goal of maximally understanding/explaining the world (knowledge) and that the metrics that he is thinking of include a number of the “scientific” measures like  internal consistency, falsifiability, and reproducibility.  Probably, these metrics have always been better at measuring and guiding his progress towards his goals than those generally promoted by those who are more religious than scientific — like authority and purity.

(Note:  While the reader can reasonably argue that I am currently appearing more “scientific” than “religious”, assuming that I am not religious would be a mistake — as would assuming that I am religious.)

Kedaw is implicitly assuming that the sub-goal of maximally explaining the world is more important to them than getting into heaven.  However, they have been told (by authority) that faith (purity of thought) should be allowed to override knowledge if one wishes to get into heaven.  Unless Kedaw manages to convince them that knowledge is their best path to heaven (their goal), his metrics will continue (correctly) to mean nothing to them because they don’t measure what is important to them.

The assumed task of this blog is to correctly convince such people that not only is the “maximal fulfillment for everyone” view of morality not different from theirs but that its specifics are a logical and correct extension of their morality and the best way in which to fulfill their goals.  Many religious people explain their own morality as being solely based upon their religion and believe that there is no other sound basis for morality.  It is no wonder then that they are suspicious and afraid of anyone who claims not to be religious — particularly when they proclaim that their “better” morality virtually precludes them from getting into heaven (let’s see . . . . their “better” morality is worse for my goal . . . . huh? . . . . what goal do they possibly have that will keep them out of heaven? . . . . whatever it is, it surely isn’t a good idea and I’d better stop it).

This is the basis for my disagreement with Richard Dawkins.  Since he is more than willing to privately concede that religion has many good aspects, it’s a shame that he doesn’t publicly tell us why it is that he so insistent upon throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  It may well be that he believes that promoting doing so is the best way to get attention (much like my putting his name in the title or atheist in the tags) and that he fully intends not to push the point — or he could believe that it’s worth a little pain now for greater or sooner advantages later.  But all he is clearly doing currently is inflaming people in a way that seems to violate the universal sub-goal of gain/preserve cooperation.


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