The first book I’m reading this year is Mark Rowland‘s memoir, The Philosopher and the Wolf. For now, I will just say that it’s stories of having a wolf mixed with some philosophical musings. One of those musings concerned evil. He maintained that evil does exist, though not in a supernatural sense, and that it consists of “very bad things” and that people do those “very bad things” due to a failure on their part, both a failure of moral duty (to do the right thing) and epistemic duty (to properly subject one’s beliefs to scrutiny). He contrasted that with the modern view of evil which, he claimed, is seen as people doing “very bad things” because of an underlying medical or social issue. I think that both of those views are fundamentally flawed and want to describe a different way of viewing evil.
Let’s briefly consider the idea that evil actions are those actions which are very bad, i.e. at the extreme end of a scale of bad actions. Shoplifting a chocolate bar is bad but not very bad. It’s worse to steal a car but still not evil. Premeditated murder, especially if paired with some other crime, is now getting to the sort of thing we would nearly all agree is evil. But there’s a flaw; except for religious beliefs, there is no “objective” morality, so there is no objective and universal measurement which you can use to say something is bad. As there is insufficient evidence to support the claims of religion, we must discard it. We are left with secular morality.
A recent article, by Osita Nwanevu, published in Slate magazine, makes the, superficially, appealing claim that we should stamp out bigoted speech. However, in doing so, he makes a number of logical fallacies and sets up poor standards which we should hope to not find in widespread use.
Before we start, I will say that I am very much on the free speech side of things. I strongly believe free speech is the most important human right there is and that there can be as, without the ability to freely discuss and debate ideas, we can not even begin to entertain the notion of any other human right. The very existence of a right to life or freedom from discrimination is dependent upon one being able to express those thoughts in the first place. Continue reading →
Today is World Humanist Day which serves to celebrate and promote secular humanism. Although I’m a bit apprehensive about the name, humans are not the only creatures that are important, it’s still an important movement with which I share a number of goals. There is a long post about the history of humanism on Wikipedia but, for those who are not familiar with it, the International Humanist and Ethical Union defines it as follow.
Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.
These are important points for us to move forward as a society and not live in the sort of world where people are sentenced to death for marrying someone of a different religion or a society where someone can sell medicine that has no effect just because they dreamed it up. The British Humanist Association recently put a series of videos describing humanism that were narrated by Stephen Fry and deserve a look. They give the humanist answers to questions about morality, truth and how we find meaning in our lives.
Lastly, and related, I want to bring attention to a petition for secularism in South African schools. Secularism isn’t only important for atheists, it’s important to everyone who wants the freedom to believe what they want. It means that people can not discriminate or impose their views just because they are Christian and you are Muslim, or they are Hindu and you are an atheist.
Tauriq Moosa has a new essay looking at the ethics of keeping animals in captivity. He claims that it is not always wrong, and I’d agree that there are times when it can be right. It seems as though we’d disagree exactly how often that is but he does bring up a number of points that are worth thinking about.
Last week I watched the sci-fi movie Ender’s Game with some friends. I found the movie to be quite entertaining and enjoyed myself. However, it got me thinking. Not about the subject matter but about the attempts to get people to boycott the film. The boycotts were called for because of Orson Scott Card’s (The author of the Ender’s Game books on which the film is based) negative views on homosexuality. So, supporting the film could be seen as supporting someone with views that go against my own and other decent people’s. Is it right to watch it? Continue reading →
Jacques Rousseau has written a great piece on how ridiculous the occult crime unit is. I also advise following the link inside to the SAPS website warning about the occult and read their list of warning signs. Not only have many of them got nothing to do with the occult but a fair number are just wrong. For example, they claim that fantasy games have no rules. Yet here’s a long list of various rulebooks that have been released for Dungeons and Dragons.
Chibuihem Amalaha has “scientifically proven” gay marriage is wrong. (Source: ThisDay Live)
Here’s something interesting that popped up on my Facebook feed. Apparently, Chibuihem Amalaha, a Nigerian student, is claiming that he has scientifically proven that gay marriage is wrong. This seemed really hard to believe and so I went to the original article. It looks genuine. It’s in the “Life and Style” section of “the preferred newspaper among the business, political and diplomatic elite” in Nigeria. While Amalaha may very well believe his work is a breakthrough, it’s really just heavily-flawed nonsense. Continue reading →
One of the most-viewed posts that I’ve written was about animal intelligence. I still maintain that the current mainstream view of animals is outdated and needs to recognise that non-human animals are, while not as intelligent as us, more intelligent than usually given credit for and, as fellow sentient creatures, deserving of moral protection. Currently, there is more and more scientific evidence being produced that supports intelligence in a wide range of species. I imagine resistance to these findings comes from a few sources such as many religions making an explicit separation between humans and animals (one which is not supported by biology), a lack of knowledge of studies of animal intelligence and a reluctance to acknowledge these findings as that would necessitate a complete overhaul of how we live our lives. Continue reading →