Here’s an old one from about three and a half years ago. Hey, you! Yes, you at the back. Behave yourself! Oh… you are behaving yourself.

That’s alright then.

└ Tags: ,

Discussion (62)¬

  1. Aaron says:

    Which Cock and Bull pub do J&M frequent?
    I’ve spent a bit of time at most of them, and unfortunately haven’t seen them.

  2. Runar says:

    Something I’ve said many times in the past and have found no reason to change my mind about it: I would rather trust someone who does good because it’s the right thing to do rather than trust someone who does good because of fear.

  3. NotAProphet says:

    Massively agree with Runar, and what about people who’s idea of “good” comes not from a sense of decency towards others, but from a fairy-tale which can, if believed, be used to justify quite evil acts as good!

  4. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Atheists sometimes rant and rave
    Saying they’ve nothing to save
    But after they croak
    Like believing folk
    Are rewarded because they behave.

  5. Andrew Hall says:

    But who watches the Watchman (God)? No one, that’s why God can do whatever he wants. Isn’t that the crux of William Lane Craig’s argument of why it was OK for God to order baby killing in the Old Testament?

  6. Phillip Moon says:

    I’ve had that conversation with more than a few people over my years as an atheist. The first time was with my best friend from high school a few years after I got married. I told him that if that was true, the he best never give up being Christian. Such a poor reason to be a Christian though, don’t you think?

  7. archbish says:

    Even though technically Christian morality is deontological many of my coreligionists would agree with J&M on this 🙁

  8. NeilH says:

    @Aaron: In a town called Stony Stratford in England, there’s an old pub called The Cock, just down the road from The Bull. Local historians swear that’s the origin of “A Cock & Bull story”.

  9. NeilH says:

    @Phillip: but don’t you actually find that the most pious people are the ones who *do* have a tendency to be immoral? I certainly do.

  10. foundationist says:

    Yes, the old gag from Dawkins’ “The Root of all evil”, where the evangelical Christian weirdo tells Dawkins with a genial smile on his face that he would instantly kill his neighbour if he ever stopped believing in god. I think Dawkins handled the situation remarkably well. I would at this point have said something like “Well then, you know that Jesus loves you. He died for your sins, you know?” and started to sidle away as nonchalantly and as quick as I could.

  11. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ Nasser – Are you implying in your doggerel that atheists get to go to “heaven” if they have lived a good life? I though it was a basic requirement in xtianity and islam that you have to believe in and worship the relevant deity as well. Not that I want to go to any heaven that I have so far seen described by either religion. A clean end with nothing to follow would suit me fine, even though I have led a good and moral life ;-). And when I say “moral”, I am a follower of Sam Harris rather than any religious concept of morality, since the religious moralities I have come across could *at best* be described as “confused”, and more likely “appalling”.

  12. kennypo65 says:

    Simply put, I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. My morality is based on how my actions will reflect on me and affect others, not on pleasing some mythical sky-daddy.

  13. orange_utan says:

    Comments from 4 year old: If God can see everywhere he must have lots of eyes, but how can he see through the roof when I’m in bed, are there lots of holes too small to let the rain through?
    I think I need to check who he’s been talking to!

  14. Burke says:

    But the real Mo did steal, murder and rape.

  15. gsw says:

    @HaggisForBrains: the ‘heavens’ described in the religions are as boring and unimaginative as their inventors. While 72 raisins might appeal to a used-camel salesman, they are not for me, and I find harp music irritating. As to virgins, I prefer my men with some experience and no beards.

    No, if there were a heaven, it would have to be something like the the Star Trek Universe (after the wars), or a universe with FTL space travel and lots of science and robots.

  16. Jerry w says:

    “Making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice”
    Quickly as you can grasshopper, identify the author of the above quote

    1. Santa Claus
    2. God
    3. Richard M. Nixon
    4. Karl Rove

    For maximum humor content, this contest is limited to christians
    1st place: everlasting peace, 2nd place: you won’t need thermals

  17. nina says:

    I guess maybe it’s better that religion keeps the masses from outright slaughter and debauchery, if people really can’t understand to be good for it’s own sake and reward – maybe it’s better that something is holding them in check.

    too bad that they can’t see that everyone isn’t as bad and childish as they are

  18. nina says:

    @ Nassar

    being in heaven with beleivers isn’t any kind of a reward for atheists
    so, you are still threatening us that we’ll go to hell for not beleiving

    and we’ll go to hell for not beleiving but being good

  19. FreeFox says:

    Even though, as I noted before, I am something of a theist… though most proper Christians and Muslims would call me bloody heathen, I am certain… I really, really, really do ***NOT*** want to propose that there comes any morality from any kind of authoritative and punishing God.
    Still, all those who disagree with the divine origin of moral authority theory, where does your measuring stick for right and wrong come from. I don’t mean anthropological theory, but your personal one. What is your personal basis for judgement and/or ethics?

  20. Daoloth says:

    Plato dealt with this childishness in the Euthyphro. Is something good because god ordains it or does god ordain it because it is good? If the first then goodness is arbitrary, if the second then god is unnecessary. Either we shouldnt want god or we dont need god.

  21. Daoloth says:

    @Haggis & Nina. You may have joined us recently and therefore don’t know that there is no point trying to talk to Nassar. It’s some sort of doggerel-producing netbot/troll not a human interlocutor. You will just annoy yourself if you try to talk to it–it’s kind of the opposite of the Turing test.

  22. Unruly Simian says:

    Kuddo’s Daoloth!!! and quite right….

  23. FreeFox says:

    @Daoloth: Correct me if I am wrong, but that argument seems to have some fallacity built in, of the “God must be how I want Him to be” sort. A lot of rules built into this world are pretty arbitrary from a human POV: Gravity, ageing, genetic defects, earthquakes, asteroids, inertia, the amount of oil available to us, that wishes do not come true automatically, etc. Why should a God who created a world like that stop at coming up with arbitrary moral rules (such as don’t eat shrimp, give money to churches, and don’t shag blokes if your a bloke)? After all, you don’t say: Either we should want to fall down or we don’t need to accept gravity. It just is. (Also the assumption that we should WANT what is good… I mean, I understand why the barmaid is saying it… but seriously… maybe the “divine” punishment doesn’t come in the form of lightning or hellfire, but in the form of a tormented conscience… still, there must be *some* sort of sanction keeping you from, for example, simply taking whatever you like, no matter who it belongs to, mustn’t there?)

  24. durham669 says:

    “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” – Albert Einstein

  25. MarkyWarky says:

    @FreeFox; why does there have to be a sanction? I don’t take whatever I want because I wouldn’t like it if it was done to me. What feels wrong as the recipient generally forms our view of what’s wrong if done to others.

    OK, so you could say that the disintegration of society if we all just do whatever we want is the sanction, but it’s hardly the same thing as a belief in hell now is it?

    Within the law, which is essentially societies concensus on what’s right and wrong, which I must accept even if I don’t agree with aspects of it, my personal measuring stick is “would I like it done to me?”. If no, then I don’t do it unless there’s some “greater good” justification obvious to me. Certainly nothing supernatural.

  26. nina says:

    @ Daoloth

    Nope, not new and while I have Nassar’s number – and it’s nice to have it confirmed, sometimes, you post for the lurkers who may give weight to the Nassars, or, as we call them on the atheist forum on Topix, godbots.

  27. nina says:


    I don’t know if there’s any words as chilling to me as “the greater good” for it seems that the only actions ever excused by that are pretty much evil actions.

  28. Stonyground says:

    The thing that gets me about this ‘people would behave horrendously if they didn’t believe in God is that is so obviously and self evidently not true. I know that religious folk believe all kinds of stuff without evidence but to actually believe something when irrefutable evidence against it is staring them in the face is something that I find baffling.

  29. nina says:

    @ Stonyground

    it’s all part of the cognitive dissonance beleivers have to maintain – it’s little wonder to me that they are so desperate to force conformity on others and demand that their beliefs be given special consideration of not being questioned – under questioning and even halfhearted examination, the beleif falls apart faster than sponge cake in milk.

    this is why beleivers use violence or threats of violence against those who mock, parody and pick apart their beleifs – essentially, they are acting like children who’s temper tantrums can level whole city blocks.

    if we can be cowed into submission, threatened to refrain from critiquing or forced to go along with their pretending that their beleifs are real – then it’s easier and less effort for them to maintain their beleif/delusions.

    Beleivers must demonize those of us who will not validate their delusions – and instead of us getting to directly deal with the actual matter – their delusion – we are instead having to fight them issue by issue where they are trying to push their delusional beleifs into public life – for example – abortion, gay marriage and anything that results in a personing having actual care and control of their own bodies and who’s bodies they get to do things to and with.

  30. Daz says:

    Nina: “I don’t know if there’s any words as chilling to me as “the greater good” for it seems that the only actions ever excused by that are pretty much evil actions.”

    I don’t like paying taxes, or being made to slow down to 30mph in a built up area, but I can see that both are for the greater good. There are even places where I voluntarily slow to well below the the legal limit, (near an ice-cream van, say). Many things that aren’t evil done in that name. It’s just that the good stuff doesn’t surprise us or make nice shouty headlines.

  31. Daoloth says:

    @FF. Yes, that’s the whole point. It’s the religious who tell us that we need the magic sky fairy to underwrite our sense of good and evil. They no longer need a magic sky fairy to make the rocks fall etc (although they used to personalise that as well). Morality is an interesting holdout to the general trend to understanding the world without recourse to magic and animism.
    I have had serious conversations with lovely christian folk who seriously want me to believe that the only thing preventing them from rape and pillage is the love of/fear of god. Let’s hope they dont lose their faith!

  32. MarkyWarky says:

    @Nina, you’re talking about the justification used by people with a vested interest, not about how individuals come to moral decisions. I might as well say that because some Christians use the bible to justify evil acts, referencing the bible as a moral guide always results in evil.

    I don’t sit down and think “is this for the greater good?”; but that is what informs the moral decisions made by free societies and by rational individuals.

    Fortunately I’m free to make decisions based on the evidence before me in each case (so for example can decide that abortion is the best option for a rape victim, but not as a way to choose a boy over a girl), and am not constrained by a ready guide. Religious people do do that, but when thier consciences tell them one thing, and the scriptures another, they either rationalise to make thier conscience fit the scriptures, or theologise to make the scriptures fit thier conscience. Both are dishonest, and both hold society back.

  33. Paddy says:


    I’ve never read any Sam Harris. Would you recommend him?

  34. Paddy says:

    Doh! Haggis, not Habbis.

  35. nina says:

    @ Daz and MarkyWarky

    Paying taxes and making individual moral decisions and distinctions are for the common good – the greater good is a higher order of magnitude.

    The common good is what’s needed so that we can all work and play well together, cooperation, get along.

    Greater Good is a higher good, bringing will and intention together – it is to provide a direction for the long haul, so that common goods will result. Greater Good is to impose a new standard over the old standards.

    Greater good is to change the direction of the larger masses for the long haul.

    This is why I think that it is of evil intent, because greater good is generally what’s good for me and mine, and that is to limit or eliminate all others.

  36. MarkyWarky says:


    Semantics, but thank you for letting me have the definitive definition of greater good. Stupidly, I’d thought that greater good was the good of something greater than just me; e.g. society, and didn’t realise it had an official definition.

    But, what’s wrong with “….bringing will and intention together – it is to provide a direction for the long haul, so that common goods will result.”? It’s not looking towards the greater good that’s at fault if that goes wrong, it’s the specific direction chosen, or judgement of what constitutes the common good that is.

    ANY phrase used to describe good intent can be used to justify an evil act (“I was doing it for us”, “I was just being loyal”, “cruel to be kind”, even your “common good”). It’s not the words that matter, it’s the intent and subsequent actions, and I’d far rather take my chances that society in general can decide on what is and isn’t in the common good, than assume that some kind of 3000 year old ready guide can.

  37. MarkyWarky says:

    The best illustration I can think of is WWII. Hitler used “Greater Good” to promote his evilness, and the same was used to motivate nations against him, so it’s not the words that are evil, but the intent of the individual or authority using them.

  38. nina says:


    I can’t parse your response’s intention, because currently, I can’t recognize sarcasm and your post has hallmarks of it – so I will assume the best and say that I offered my explaination why the phrase “greater good” strikes terror in my heart and I provided my understanding of greater vs common good, arising from the meta-existentialist crisis that I am immersed in.

    I suspect we are of a common mindset and framework, it’s just that I have no sense of magnitude or scalability, so see levels of anything as separate distinct and discreet states, rather as a continuum or spectrum.

    The literalist lens is trying to make symbolic sense of the world, but is unable to separate between what is literal and what is symbolic – thus, waking reality feels the same as a vivid dream state, in which anything and everything has other meanings.

    I can offer an example of something done claimed to be for a greater good that is more recent and didn’t result in the death of anyone.

    When Canada’s Constitution and Charter of Rights came into being in the early 1980’s, the provinces, in order to obtain their agreement to the new federal arrangment and the delegation of federal and provincial/territorial authorities were created – there was a mechanism by which the state could block court ordered legislative changes to the constituation and charter – a sort of cover for errors or omissions to allow the government not to change anything.

    The Notwithstanding Clause.

    This would have allowed, in the 1980’s for example, if gay marriage had been taken to court then and won at the Supreme Court that denying gay marriage was inconsistent with the Charter of Rights – because most Canadians opposed gay people, never mind gay marriage, at the time – the Federal government coul have invoked the Notwithstanding Clause (ie notwithstanding that gays are included in the charter, we’ve historically discriminated and since community standards are discrimination, we’re going to leave it as it is).

    This clause has only been invoked on one occaison in the late 1980’s by the Province of Quebec, who passed a law stating that all signage on stores had to be in French, and if English was going to appear, it had to be second and in a smaller font size.

    This law was not constitutional and was a violation of the Charter of Rights with respect to official languages.

    Quebec lost at court and they invoked the Notwithstanding clause and enacted an illegal law.

    This outraged most Canadians as the first clash of rights and unfairness was confirmed the law of the land.

    Fortunately, but the time that gay marriage made it’s way to the supreme court, after other discriminatory or exclusionary laws were challenged and thrown out – even Canadians who were against gays being allowed to marry, did not support the use of the notwithstanding clause to block gay marriage.

    Quebec tainted a failsafe clause for what they deemed the greater good – french supremacy over english.

    And gays were able to marry and churches were given a failsafe of being protected from lawsuits – the right to religion was preserved so that the religious people could be able to continue to discriminate as they have historicall done – but gay people could be able to be married by civil marriage commissioners or any churches willing to be inclusive.

    Everyone won with respect to gay marriage by not invoking the clause.

    But, everyone lost when the clause was invoked and created inequality between the official languages.

  39. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ Daoloth – I’m with Nina on this.

    @ Paddy – I’m currently working my way through The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris. I’m not finding it as easy a read as I had hoped, but I think it’s worth the effort. His main hypothesis seems to me to be that we should consider morality in terms of human and animal well-being, and that in time science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible. He has no room for religion in the question of morality – “…just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality”.

    I just had to share with you guys – I had a visit from two young Jehovah’s Witnesses ladies yesterday. I had an interesting exchange of views with one, while the other looked on like a rabbit in headlamps. After explaining evolution by natural selection (she was a young earth creationist), how the evolution of the eye can be seen even now, how the god of the old testament sanctioned ethnic cleansing and rape of enemies’ daughters, and various other points dear to my heart, she suddenly remembered a previous engagement elsewhere and rushed off. that’s the first time I’ve managed to out-talk them, and it was very satisfying. I told her to get a copy of The Greatest Show on Earth, but I doubt if she’ll bother. Still, we can but try, and every little helps.

  40. Daoloth says:

    @Haggis. It’s always good to hear that you are on the JWs “dont ring the bell” list. It’s a standing joke in my family that they draw lots to decide who comes round here. I always invite them in for a chat but they give up shockingly easily.
    Don’t let them get away with the “Let me bring round the pastor with the video” line–which they will try. It’s THEIR belief–if they want to own it then they should be able to defend it. If not–its just crap someone told em to say. They love being told this.
    Tee hee.
    BTW- what do you mean you are with Nina?

  41. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ Daoloth – “BTW- what do you mean you are with Nina?” I refer to your comment about Nasser.

  42. Simon says:

    Haven Gillespie

    “this contest is limited to christians”


  43. Daoloth says:

    @Haggis. Ah. I am having a slow day.

  44. Daoloth says:

    For those that missed it- the “eye for an eye” story is back
    Any thoughts?

  45. @Freefox Years ago I came up with the reason I want to be moral. I want to like and respect myself. I don’t like and respect thieves, for example, so I don’t want to be one. Same goes for liars, cheats, frauds, bigots, xenophobics, homophobics, murderers, people who kick dogs, people who steal candy from babies, and just about every other aberration of abomination known to man. When faced with a decision, the questions are: What is the brave and proper thing to do? What is the cowardly and selfish thing to do? What action would make me proud of myself? What action would make me slightly ashamed? If I can have enough presence of mind to ask these questions in the face of my sometimes less than noble impulses, the answer is usually obvious.
    This seems like a simple enough basis for my morality, with no need for sanctions from society, a sky faerie, or any other outside influences. I say this not to blow my own horn or sound superior, but simply because it’s true. It was a surprise to me when I discovered it, but making the discovery has made my life much more pleasant and harmonious.

  46. @Daoloth Yes, missed it. Thanks for the link. I doubt that Ameneh Bahrami will become more serene if she gets her “justice”. She will become as evil as the man who blinded her, and I think in her heart she will know that. Sad that her religion, and Sharia law, does not seem to know it.
    What would be an appropriate punishment for Movahedi? I would sentence him to hand wash hospital laundry and clean toilets without pay for the rest of his life. Keep him useful. Society doesn’t need another blind guy. Any other ideas?

  47. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ DH – well said. Basically the Golden Rule. Many philosophers take several books to say much the same thing!

  48. HaggisForBrains says:

    On the subject of sharia law, Ibn Warraq, as quoted in The Portable Atheist by Hitchens, gives a very thorough (and damning) analysis of the contradictions in the Koran, and its general unreliability as a source of the word of god (even if such an entity existed). He points out that, inter alia, there are four accepted “Schools” of interpretation of sharia law, each considered equally valid, apparently depending on where you live. So much for god’s law.

    Sorry DH, crossed posts – my last post referred to your morality comment.

  49. Jude says:

    Guys i have a question . Has evolution been refuted ? Cos i was watching a program yesterday on an arabic channel about evolution arguing about animal instinct and fossil records that shows No difference in species from hundreds of millions of years till now. They mentioned something about bee hives and i really can’t remember . But anyway they are talking about the collapse of darwin’s theory.

  50. Crimson Cross says:

    Be careful, folks, for the end of the world is near, and on May 21st Jesus will come down to Earth and the Judgement will begin!!

  51. FreeFox says:

    @MarkyWarky, Darwin Harmless, & HaggisForBrains: I’m sorry. When I said there has to be a sanction, I didn’t mean that necessarily as some external punishment, be it by some divine entity or by some human police force, but simply that there must be some pressure opposing that of selfishness. Say there is something you crave to have, say a car, or a nice smart phone, or just a pack of fags. You could simply go and take it away from whoever it rightfully belongs. If you don’t, there has to be some reason, some pressure opposing that hungry impulse to simply take it. Could be fear of prosecution, could be fear of a troubled conscience (and I know that that is something to be truly fearful of), could be fear of what your mum or your dad would think of you if they knew, could be fear of giving in to a despised weakness, or could be the unwillingness ot pass by the feeling of knowing you did right, but it’s gotta be something. Something that is worse than not having whatever you desire, some form of sanction for doing a misdeed. (If you think that’s overstretching the meaning of the word “sanction”, okay, than scratch that. Don’t want to argue over semantics. But you get what I mean?)
    DH: “Proper” is just a paraphrase of “accepted”, innit? So that’d be morals by majority. Depending on where and when you live, “proper” actually means being xenophobic, homophobic, or even a killer. Same with most peep’s sense of shame and respect. If the point is acting proper, without shame, to earn respect, well, you’ve got society and its approval already in there. Than we really are on the path to total relatvism, aren’t we? Same with “because it feels right”. What if it feels right for me to punch your face in? Doesn’t sound like a good basis for ethics.
    As for cowardly… not certain if that’s an easy yard stick to measure by… I remember a big fella who teased me about my limp and crutch. He was no stranger to fighting, but neither was I. I don’t think going for his throat was the cowardly act, and he certainly would have said me walking away would have been… I still think it would have been more, hm, moral, to do a Ghandi. Sure, you can say, swallowing humiliation and keeping calm would have been emotionally more courageous, but that’s choppy waters to navigate in.
    And then there’s the Golden Mean, which is a nice enough maxim, and I applaud all trying to follow it (though it, too, is a bit tricky… after all, not all peeps want the same, so am I really doing right by someone if I apply my desires to them… and trying to figure out theirs and then finding some acceptable middle ground that leaves them treated as they would want to be, and me as I would, and all of us in harmony? In the real world that’s harder than that simply maxim makes it out to be at first. Still, good idea.) only that I keep wondering whatfor? Yeah, *we* here can agree that it’s “right”, but what makes it right? What keeps me from grabbing what I want, punching who I can, not giving a damn about their wishes, and just being my merry way, least as long as I’m the strongest. From the POV of the mighty, why shouldn’t “might makes right” be more appealing? With what “objective” argument do we convince those who COULD do otherwise to play nice?
    Not by calling on the biggest schoolyard bully – God – you say. And I agree. But what do we call on?

  52. Brother Daniel says:

    If the godless have no reason to behave well, then we also have no reason to be moved by the sort of argument used here by J&M (versus the barmaid). The argument is self-defeating.

  53. Unruly Simian says:

    @ Jude – One thing to keep in mind is that many species have already evolved as much as is neccessary for their particular environment. Things do not typically evolve unless their is a change in their environment which would require some change in the organism itself. People tend to get confused about the what and why of evolution.

  54. FreeFox says:

    @Brother Daniel: But as we heared from Darwin Harmless and others, they do behave well. Most people on this ball of rock behave well, astonishingly enough, no matter if they are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Communist, Capitalist, or whatever. Trouble is, even the ones that mostly behave well, sometimes they don’t, again, no matter what denomination. So the question is, why do peeps behave well, and why don’t they. Religious folks say it’s because of God. Well, that’s a theory, but one that doesn’t explain why those who don’t have a God do so as well. Hence my question to those godless ones, what’s making them be good, and what other argument besides a religious one could we make towards those who aren’t.

  55. Some Matt or other says:

    @Jude: No. Evolution has very much not been refuted. I don’t know what the TV program was talking about (at a guess, maybe punctuated equilibrium? The beehive thing, I have no idea), but if you’re interested in evolutionary science and its evidence, especially vs. creationist claims, check out

  56. Jude says:

    @some matt actually it’s the official channel of hizbollah here in lebanon. I was flicking through channels and spotted darwin… I can’t remember the arguments But it was something about instincts, and that even darwin himself wrote in his book that the whole evolution theory could be wrong if (sorry here where i can’t remember the exact words and arguments But it’s something about the diversity of instincts in animals or So…) Anyways it’s hizbollah’s channel But regardless i wanted to ask here or people that are not religiously motivated in their answers . Thx for the links.

    @unruly well this global debate is What confuses normal people like me cos i’m not a scientist to feel the convictions of scientists . But from What i’m seeing till now it seems like a war on evolution or a way to keep the poor religious people sane . Cos it seems that only muslims are trying to keep it low profile in arabic countries.

  57. I’m inclined to be an amoralist – morals arise entirely from emotion, mostly disgust – and I just don’t see that as any sound basis for a system of morality, since disgust is so subjective.

    People can come to a common ground to make rational arguments for least harm and other criteria, when it comes to actions that impact other people – so no murder, rape, assault, torture and extend it to include both physical and psychological harms.

    But, when it comes to thinks such as sex – pre-marriage, positions, participants, activities – well – unless you’re invited, then it doesn’t matter what people get up to, into, down to – as long as everyone involved is of an age/capacity to consent and it is consensual.

    Remember, it’s the bottom who has control as the keeper of the safeword.

  58. Daoloth says:

    @Jude. Evolution by natural seection is just change in gene frequencies over time. You can see it happen in real time, e.g to bacteria that become immune to our antibiotics.
    Most species are in equilibrium with their environment–but this can change when environments change, or through effects like new predators. This process is well described by the Hardy-Weinberg equation if you are interested in the details.
    Saying that evolution had been refuted would be like saying that gravity had been refuted because you were only looking at objects lying on the ground. Chuck up em up in the air and see gravity happen again.
    If someone thinks that evolutoon has stoipped for humans then it is worth asking them if they mate randomly. If not then they are participating in sexual selection–one thing that affects gene frequencies. Since Our matings are patterned then this drives changes in the gene pool.

  59. Brother Daniel says:

    @FreeFox: I don’t pretend to have the answer, but it’ll inevitably be something rather complex, and rooted in the social nature of our species (along with certain aspects of our evolutionary history, no doubt).

    One thing that seems likely to me, though, is that the good/bad behaviour of individuals has very little to do with what philosophies we adopt. (And to the extent that there is a connection, it seems that we usually use our philosophies to justify what we do, after the fact, rather than to *motivate* what we do.)

    Insofar as introspection can reveal anything, the reason why I don’t “go around behaving in a selfish and criminally irresponsible manner” (in Mo’s words) is, quite simply, that I don’t want to. Why don’t I want to? For that, I’ll point you back to my first paragraph (of the present post).

    One doesn’t have all the answers in order to observe that religion makes no useful contribution to the discussion.

  60. @ Brother Daniel

    then, wouldn’t it be truer to say that our behaviours motivate what philosophy we adopt?

    we do not like to consider ourselves bad people, thus, people who reject religions that codify behaviours are being increasingly rejected for personal and customized spiritualities, where a person isn’t ready to let go of god, but assert that they remain divinely good and in tune with what they individually characterize as good and in tune with a generally good, but not personified universe.

    religion makes no useful contribution, because religion is a pre-packaged sum that has no meaning in cherry picked parts.

  61. some Matt or other says:

    @Jude: Your view of a Muslim “war on evolution” sounds a lot like what we deal with in the West from Christians. In both cases, it really makes perfect sense that they would react that way, since evolutionary theory steals some creative power from God. Even if it doesn’t “disprove” God, it makes divine intervention less and less necessary. And, as evolutionary history itself shows, unnecessary traits in a species tend to wither away. Imagine if our old monkey-tails were conscious and had a strong desire to survive: they would’ve done everything they could to convince us that having an extra grasping appendage was essential to existence, and that trying to live as though they weren’t there would mean condemning ourselves to a life of falling over a lot. Likewise, religion rails against the trends that diminish its own relevance. And hopefully likewise, the withering will proceed nonetheless in the long run.

    As for the specific stuff about animal instincts and creationism, that still doesn’t sound familiar. But I did find this Wikipedia article saying that the Qur’an describes animal behavior as an expression of divine will… So maybe the person on TV was claiming that animal instincts are therefore unchanging, and evolution is impossible because it would require instincts to change? I don’t know. The article does use bees as an example, which you had mentioned earlier, but I can’t tell if that’s specifically Qur’anic or not.

    Oh, and Darwin did say that his theory could’ve been wrong, but only in the manner of a proper scientist inviting his theory to be tested: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.” The core strength of science is that it always allows for – and, in fact, encourages – doubt. Darwin drew a target on his theory, showing readers exactly where to find a weak point. And that’s the way good science works: by inviting attack, the weak points either show themselves to be strong after all, or their flaws are laid bare and the theory is altered or discarded. After over a century and a half, this process has made the theory of evolution by natural selection even stronger and more robust than when Darwin first synthesized it.


NOTE: This comments section is provided as a friendly place for readers of J&M to talk, to exchange jokes and ideas, to engage in profound philosophical discussion, and to ridicule the sincerely held beliefs of millions. As such, comments of a racist, sexist or homophobic nature will not be tolerated.

If you are posting for the first time, or you change your username and/or email, your comment will be held in moderation until approval. When your first comment is approved, subsequent comments will be published automatically.