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PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2012 11:20 am 
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I think that religion (here meaning the three main monotheisms around today: Christianity, Islam and Judaism) are wrongly human-centred in their ethics, and this has had disastrous effects for ethical discourse, for animals and for the world around us.

I wrote a piece about it here: http://thecategorical.blogspot.co.uk/20 ... igion.html

It would be good to hear what you guys think about it.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 4:58 am 
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Ethics are a human concept. We use them to supply a basis for the regulation of our social interactions. We can, if we want to, apply them to other animals.

Some animals can be part of our complex societies such as pet dogs.

There is no absolute objective ethical basis or other such devinely inspired set of rules to base our rules on. We will just have to mke them up as we go along.

I try to be nice to those around me. And indeed the rest of the world.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:37 am 
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Tim the Plumber wrote:
I try to be nice to those around me. And indeed the rest of the world.


The only thing that stopped Hitler from "being nice" were those who thought he wasn't.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:21 am 
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danwilliams3239 wrote:
I think that religion (here meaning the three main monotheisms around today: Christianity, Islam and Judaism) are wrongly human-centred in their ethics, and this has had disastrous effects for ethical discourse, for animals and for the world around us.

I wrote a piece about it here: http://thecategorical.blogspot.co.uk/20 ... igion.html

It would be good to hear what you guys think about it.


A long'ish piece, but we have indeed come up with religion.
I would say that we came up with nationalism too.
Both are ideologies of one kind or another.
Ideologies tend to separate one from another.
And separation just isn't true .... unless one actually believes that one belongs to such a group.
When we "attach" ourselves to one of these religious or nationalistic groups , we have created a separation which is not actually there.
This is what I think about it.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:28 am 
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Fosgate wrote:
Tim the Plumber wrote:
I try to be nice to those around me. And indeed the rest of the world.


The only thing that stopped Hitler from "being nice" were those who thought he wasn't.


What do you mean Fosgate? Elaborate on that ... I could not possibly be the only one who doesn't understand this comment. It is obviously meant to be provocative, but what and why are you intending to provoke?


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 8:03 am 
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Tim the Plumber wrote:
Ethics are a human concept. We use them to supply a basis for the regulation of our social interactions. We can, if we want to, apply them to other animals.


I think this is exactly wrong. My opinion aside, it's definitely contentious. Even if it were true, the point is that an anthropocentric morality is misguided and wrong because it doesn't have any rational consistency. There's no description of humankind you can give that doesn't either exclude large swathes of human beings (babies, senile elderly, badly handicapped) or include other animals. If your defense is just: ethics should concern only human beings because ethics should concern only human beings, then that's no better than: ethics should include only white people because ethics should concern only white people.

To say that ethics is just something we create to supply a basis for the regulation of our social interactions is crass. There is something wrong about inflicting pain on beings, irrespective of reciprocity or self-interest. That's why people debate things such as abortion and euthanasia - even though they have very little impact on social interactions. Ultimately, for secular ethics to be consistent it has to acknowledge some form of utilitarian principle: i.e. pain is objectively bad and happiness objectively good.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 8:26 am 
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danwilliams3239 wrote:
Tim the Plumber wrote:
Ethics are a human concept. We use them to supply a basis for the regulation of our social interactions. We can, if we want to, apply them to other animals.


I think this is exactly wrong. My opinion aside, it's definitely contentious. Even if it were true,


It is, unless you can find some universal code written by someone other than a human.

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the point is that an anthropocentric morality is misguided and wrong because it doesn't have any rational consistency.


It does as much as any ethical code presented so far.

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There's no description of humankind you can give that doesn't either exclude large swathes of human beings (babies, senile elderly, badly handicapped) or include other animals.


Of course there is. the definition is "human" a member of the species homo sapiens.

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If your defense is just: ethics should concern only human beings because ethics should concern only human beings, then that's no better than: ethics should include only white people because ethics should concern only white people.


Why is that exactly? The definition seems logical as it covers all species capable of reciprocating the ethical concerns.

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To say that ethics is just something we create to supply a basis for the regulation of our social interactions is crass.


That may be your opinion, but it is clearly evidenced in thehistory of ethics.

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There is something wrong about inflicting pain on beings, irrespective of reciprocity or self-interest.


Really? We should not perform surgery on any but humans to repair bodies or prolong life? The same for injections of drugs and vaccines. It seems there are problems with these definitions as well.

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That's why people debate things such as abortion and euthanasia - even though they have very little impact on social interactions.


Really? I think there would be a much larger impact especially if euthanasia were considered more ethical ... especially those who may be determined to be candidates.

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Ultimately, for secular ethics to be consistent it has to acknowledge some form of utilitarian principle: i.e. pain is objectively bad and happiness objectively good.


Assuming humans are not the only ones who can define themselves as being "happy", of course.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:12 pm 
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Ultimately, for secular ethics to be consistent it has to acknowledge some form of utilitarian principle: i.e. pain is objectively bad and happiness objectively good.


I see both sides. In-that;

Ethics are of course just a human construct. That they can be shown to be sensible with such ideas as game theory does not give them holy authority.

But I, as a caring human, don't want to see unnecessary suffering inflicted on another animal.

I think my real position is that some things do not reward deeper thinking and we should often just go with our emotional "whims".


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:59 pm 
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animal-friendly wrote:
Fosgate wrote:
The only thing that stopped Hitler from "being nice" were those who thought he wasn't.


What do you mean Fosgate?


It means that ethics are defined by those very government entities, nationalities, etc., that you claim do not actually exist. Perhaps you're confusing that which doesn't exist with that which is simply abstract.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:19 am 
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Fosgate wrote:
The only thing that stopped Hitler from "being nice" were those who thought he wasn't.
animal-friendly wrote:
What do you mean Fosgate?
Fosgate wrote:
It means that ethics are defined by those very government entities, nationalities, etc., that you claim do not actually exist. Perhaps you're confusing that which doesn't exist with that which is simply abstract.
I read a different meaning into that Hitler comment that represents an interesting look at this thread's topic. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is an old adage that describes the idea. Religion might indeed be present in non-humans with a language able to convey abstract concepts but even then, we would still say that belief structure looks anthropocentric because the subject of the religion would still be the animal species that holds that religion. Thus, religion will always be structured on the species or race or grouping of those that created the religion and as humans look at this self-referring structure, they will assume that the center of this non-human religion to be humans and thus anthropocentric. Anthropocentrism is anthropocentric in the eye of the human who knows what anthropocentrism is supposed to mean.
***EDIT***
I have to admit I did not read the article first: from the link in the thread-starting post
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If rats had the cognitive ability to create religions, you can bet they'd see rats as the pinnacle of creation and they'd worship a rat deity


Last edited by Ann Vole on Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:35 am 
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That's why people debate things such as abortion and euthanasia - even though they have very little impact on social interactions.
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Really? I think there would be a much larger impact especially if euthanasia were considered more ethical ... especially those who may be determined to be candidates.
very few of the Yanomami people reach old age and recently they found it to be culturally acceptable and honorable to commit suicide to be reunited with those who have died before them but more specifically when they feel they are more helpful in the afterlife then among the living. This is thus a self-determined candidacy for euthanasia. This high suicide rate has prompted many Yanomami leaders to ask for help to avoid the extinction of the Yanomami race... it has a very clear impact on their society.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:02 am 
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I remember the Twilight Zone episode of that name, "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder". It is natural that what we define as anthropocentric is at the root of religions of humans. It all started with us being good and predators being bad or evil. They killed and ate us. They saw the myriad dots surrounding us in the sky and thought we were at the center of the universe.
Do whales or elephants have a form of religion central to them? Maybe. Rats? More of a self-centeredness---they do commit cannibalism.
Many of us "monotheists" understand the connectedness of all things, that a Creator originated the Big bang and all the laws of science, and such things as music and love. The chances of this being a positive universe or even existing at all is estimated to be 100,000 to 1, and thus the likelihood of an entity or God is apparent mathematically. Many of us have experienced some kind of miracle or God working in our life, and have a close relationship and communication with Him. Certainly not in a way that an atheist could fathom. In AA we call it at first "a power greater than ourselves", then seek God in our own understanding. God is in the mind of the beholder. It is too bad that some of those beholders are kill cultists, and what they behold is delusion. The same could be said of some Bible thumpers, too. Deluded. Stupid, and greedy. Unable or unwilling to look at the consequences of their decisions and actions and uncaring of future humans or other life forms.
I think that we have a loving Creator who wanted us to love Him and live in understanding harmonious sustainability in this biosphere on this planet He created through His Laws. I think He is quite disappointed with most of us because we have overpopulated, depleted, and polluted His gift to us. Some of His creatures also are not too fond of us in general, either (many whales and elephants).
It is too bad that the Yanomami and others who strive for living sustainably, will also get dragged down to destruction by the majority's selfish uncaring pollution and depletion effects in the not too distant future (either circa 36 years from now, or a thousand years later).

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Last edited by Johhny Electriglide on Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:58 am 
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danwilliams3239 wrote:
I think that religion (here meaning the three main monotheisms around today: Christianity, Islam and Judaism) are wrongly human-centred in their ethics, and this has had disastrous effects for ethical discourse, for animals and for the world around us.

I wrote a piece about it here: http://thecategorical.blogspot.co.uk/20 ... igion.html

It would be good to hear what you guys think about it.
I will warn you first that I have read the Bible cover-to-cover in dozens of translations over 150 times and read translations of the Koran and took a close interest in a wide range of religions in regards to how they treat animals on a spiritual standpoint. My belief in the supernatural is based on experience rather than any religious text so I can read all these different religion's texts without fear of "contamination" and an openness and objectivity of the atheist friends I have had who study religions as a life profession. With that out of the way, I will point out that the laws Moses presented to the newly formed group of ex-slaves was unique among the laws and moral codes of the day by representing the rights of individuals (including animals) to be treated for their own merit rather then the punishment of crimes (or just being out of a group) to extend to other individuals. A contemporary code of ethics of Moses (written earlier and was quoted in the Bible but quite popular at the time) includes the code of Hammurabi. The quote in the Bible was "an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth". We might look at it as being barbaric but instead it represents the most humane thing in the code of Hammurabi. It replaced killing someone's entire family for damaging your eye instead of just poking out the offender's eye. Give the the code of Hammurabi a read sometime to be shocked at what they thought was the most just and moral human code at the time. On the subject of the 10 commandments, you quoted something that was NOT in the 10 commandments (edit: you did say it was "shortly after" the 10 commandments so I take that back) and something that again shows a moral attitude that was including animals in the same light as humans. If you have a dangerous human back then, jails were not invented so the only option to prevent murder was to kill the murderer. What would be a typical response in those days to a dangerous animal would be to kill the owner as well as the animal. The Bible stated that only the animal was to be killed and the owner compensated for the loss. Eating animals was a regular part of the lives of nomadic peoples as they did not own the land their animals grazed on so crops was not an option. Egypt was owned by the pharaoh and only chosen Egyptians were allowed to farm on it. The Israelite peoples were thus slaves, second class citizens, and could only afford to eat animals that grazed the deserts. 400 years of that slavery in Egypt and you see the culture of these people. As far as being nice to animals, the laws Moses set down include some wonderful ones (again, not in the "10 commandments"... those are revered for a reason so look at them closely before knocking them). You were not to kill the bird you stole the eggs from. You were not to cook a young animal in it's mother's milk. You were not to work an animal on the sabbath day because they deserved a rest just as much as the humans. I could go on and on but my point is that the parts of the Bible that Moses contributed was unusual for it's day for being fair and just for individuals including animals.
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And what of slavery, acts of child abuse, genocide? Well, none of these texts have anything much to say about any of this
This statement is very incorrect but rather it has lots to say about those topics... in fact, those topics are central to much of the Bible. Now I will agree that the moral stance on these things are not in agreement with what we, as a modern society, hold as correct but do represent a big step in the right direction over what humans were doing to each other back then. One example is the peoples the Israelite people wiped out of Canaan... these were genocidal peoples who had killed the people who came before (including driving the people of Moses's decent into the desert during that 400 years). Their practices included hanging their children on south-facing walls alive and waiting for them to die and dry up. Talk about a culture of child abuse! We might think it nasty for them to kill everyone but the option and typical practice of the day was to take all the woman and children and make them slaves. You could say there are fates worse then death.

This is only my first set of comments before reading further in your link


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:22 am 
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The Bible actually condones abortion and even prescribes it for the results of sex outside of marriage. The current state of "pro life" stance is based on the Pope (a few popes back) taking such a stance (along with banning the use of contraceptives) to keep people from hiding their sin of messing around outside of marriage. Of course people took it out of context.
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It's not a coincidence that the most religious countries around the world have some of the worst animal welfare standards and regulation
I take a great exception to this. Look at the horrendous lack of animal rights in the two large communist countries, the former USSR and China. The best animal rights happen in countries where freedom of speech is held in high regard which interestingly are specifically Christian-centric ones. I don't see the connection as direct but rather a result of the efforts to allow freedom of religion and religious debate. USSR and China practice "freedom FROM religion" and thus your freedom to speak your mind is restricted and that includes trying to change people's perception of animal rights. Slavery, in the modern context (the Biblical meaning was akin to employees in many contexts) was basically the view that some races or groups of Homo sapiens were not humans. Slavery was abolished first in Christian countries and still practiced in many countries that are not populated by those three religions you are focusing on.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:00 am 
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my final conclusions of your assessment in your link:
Parts 2 and 3 I mostly agree with but fail to see the link with religion as a possible source of these anthropocentric attitudes. Instead, I see these anthropocentric attitudes, along with religion, as being sourced by a natural species-ism found in all animals.
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Reciprocity: People often argue that because animals don't have morals there's no need to include them in our own ethical considerations. The first part of this is true; the second part isn't.
I disagree with many careful scientific experiments with animals and personal experience raising animals of many species (in a wide range of intelligence levels) in large groups. Animals do show a natural set of morals that include variability among individuals (not genetic) and cross-species transference from care-giving species (such as killer individuals who have some babies raised by a different caring foster mother and show vast differences in care among the siblings raised by different parents or cross-species foster mothers transferring species-specific moral attitudes). A hare-killing cat who befriends a domestic rabbit has the same moral dilemma as a human like Grey Owl who killed a mother beaver and raised the babies and had to change his perception of the world and his place in it.


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