Morality is codified within the Human Heart: no god required
Where this argument specifically addresses charges posted by cerenziam, that Morality and Charity can only come from a belief in god and Christianity, it is a response to Christian CHAUVINISM in general. ( See original posts here: http://www.bigthink.com/faith-beliefs/9116 )
The argument that Morality is based upon belief in god; that Morality is born of the Christian faith; that NO-GOD = Nihilism: these are falsehoods learned in Christian schools. Morality is codified within the Human Song, the genetic and cultural programming that makes us Human. Some of it is instinct and some we learn at our mother's knee.
The argument that belief in god is the wellspring of Morality actually boils down to Fear-of-god or Fear-of-damnation = Morality, an extension of our approach to criminal justice. But when we look back into the wellspring of history we see Morality has always been coded.
Long before the times of Yahweh Jesus or Mohammad, we find law which codifies human Morality. The oldest writings so far discovered and deciphered contain the moral code that later was appropriated by Yahweh. (The story of Noah is older than the Hebrew people and is in fact repeated by mythologies around the world, including North American Coyote mythology.)
In fact Charity as a part of Morality is so old that it predates our species. The latest in Neanderthal anthropology has revealed that this species did not walk hunched over as previously assumed. The incorrect assumptions were based upon the examination of found skeletons, which were found because they were ritually buried.
The skeletons were bent over from old age, calcium loss, and arthritis. These people had survived because their culture loved them and cared for them so that they could survive to old age. The bodies are often found with the remains of flowers and trinkets indicating, not only love, but a belief in the afterlife.
It is now understood that the Neanderthals did not die off as previously assumed, but were killed off in warfare with our species, Cro-Magnon, as our forefathers spread across the planet. In fact this could be seen as the Original Sin: that a more violent and competitive (and perhaps less moral) human animal arose. And where did this genetic change come from? All our mythology, including the Bible, informs us that 'the sons of god' are to blame. Coyote mythology informs us that Coyote is our father (or mother), and that this is the source for all that ails human morality, but I digress. (It's our mother's fault.)
So, where it is admitted that Christianity has influenced our Morality, to argue that Christianity is the SOURCE of Morality or Charity, is Christian chauvinism, and false. For example the Pentateuch codifies specific ancient acts of charity which are NOT followed by todays Christian culture.
Morality is codified within the Human Song, the genetic and cultural programming that makes us Human. We have seen that those who feel rejected by their culture often turn to immoral behavior such as crime. What is interesting is that those in positions of power also seem to abandon moral code, as if the holding of power necessitated immoral behavior as per Machiavelli.
So where the Catholic Church for centuries exhibited immoral behavior because of its power, Charity as acts-of-cultural-change did not appear until Christian rebels -Protestants- threw off the mantle of the ancient Church. And where Protestantism rose to power, such as the Bush administration, again we see that Morality and Charity is cast aside as unbecoming to power.
And where Christianity raises up a new Moral Hero, as in Senator Obama, he is castigated for adhering to a Christian minister that radicalizes the issue of moral standards and criticizes the moral behavior of white American culture. Again, I digress.
The idea that Human Morality is codified within humanity's heart is NOT a purely secular idea. In fact the old prophets of the Bible said the same thing: that god admits that a written code based upon the fear-of-god DOES NOT WORK, and that god would 'write his laws upon the hearts of men and women.' Morality comes from within Humanity and not from god; even the Bible tells me so.
Now lastly, this idea that NO-GOD = Nihilism. The common definition of nihilism is 'the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.' Now where this applies to Islamist terrorists who reject the moral code of their own faith in order to justify murder to gain their place in the next world, this does NOT INDICATE a lack of belief in god. The Islamists are religious fundamentalists, and as our own Evangelicals, they pine for the end-of-this-world (i.e: the belief that life is worthless).
In fact Nietzsche's definition is different and he saw belief in god as leading to nihilism. And this is where Christians pick and choose among the multiple meanings that best suits their accusations against atheists. Most words have multiple meanings and it is dishonest for Christians to ignore Nietzsche's while suggesting that what he meant was NO-GOD = Nihilism.
NO-GOD = no-Platonist-ideas-of-the-IDEAL. Where Plato argued that we could never have a proper 'chair' in this world, because the ideal of 'chair' could never be realized, so as with Morality. The Ideal-of-Morality was god; if you remove god, then morality supposedly ceases to exist.
In the same way, if we kill Plato, then NO OBJECTIVE TRUTHS could exist. This does not mean that Truth ceases, but that all truths are subjective to human experience culture and instincts (genetic). Nietzsche did not say that if we kill god and Plato that humanity would abandon Morality; what he said was that those that cling to Plato would DESPAIR of this world, even as we see in Islamist terrorism. Nietzsche despaired that humanity would fall because we are addicted to god-belief and that we would never be able to rise to the next level of awareness.
Proof that Objective Truths DO NOT exist and that the Subjective is more REAL is in the Placebo experiment. A patient receives pain relief from a saline injection believing that he was receiving pain medication. It does not matter so much what is REAL, as what we believe to be real.
So the Christian argument boils down to: we don't need a REAL GOD, we just need to BELIEVE in a god to be moral human beings. And that is what cerenziam was arguing as a Christian wanna-be, and that is proved false.
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A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.
- Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
- Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
- The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
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