The Instigator
Typhlochactas
Pro (for)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
KeytarHero
Con (against)
Winning
11 Points

Science can determine human values.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
KeytarHero
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/26/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,835 times Debate No: 28613
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (17)
Votes (6)

 

Typhlochactas

Pro

Resolution
Science can determine human values.

Definitions
Science- the study of physical and natural phenomenon using scientific methodology

Determine-
to decide right and wrong


Human Values-
values and statements relating to the well-being of human being
KeytarHero

Con

I accept the debate and wish to thank Pro for issuing it.

I will take the position that science can only inform human morality and values, it can't dictate it. What humans value and how we treat each other is a philosophical concern, not a scientific one.

I accept Pro's terms, with one addendum: Human Values also relate to how we ought to treat each other. Unless by Human Value, Pro is not including ethical concerns, and just means whether or not we place value in a thing. It may help if Pro could indicate which one he means in the comments or in the next round.

I look forward to the debate.
Debate Round No. 1
Typhlochactas

Pro

Clarification

The issue of whether we should treat each other well is an issue of human well-being, and therefore, is a human value. So yes, treating each other well is an issue of human well-being. I hope that satisfactorily answers Con's question.

Argument

P1: Moral questions are about the well-being of conscious creatures. Well-being is a human value by the definitions made in Round 1.
P2: Well-being relates to physical states of the brain.
P3: Science can tell us what actions improve or hurt human human well-being.
C: Science can determine human values.

Premise One
All moral questions are reducible to the well-being of conscious creatures. For instance, the moral issue of whether women should be forced to wear hijab is a question relating to well-being. Does it make human beings more compassionate to one another? Does it make life safer for the woman (prevented rape, etc)? Does it improve the woman and her mental health? These are all questions relating to the well-being of conscious creatures.

We do not feel moral obligations to rocks or lightbulbs, as they are not conscious creatures. They are only inanimate objects. I suppose that one could argue that we have moral obligations to inanimate objects, but ultimately, that could be reduced to the well-being of conscious creatures as well. Due to the fact that humans only feel moral obligations to conscious creatures, it is becoming clear that the well-being of conscious creatures is the central point of morality.

I understand that I have presented only one example of a case where a moral issue relates to the well-being of conscious creatures. Obviously, it is impossible to type out every moral question and then prove that it relates to the well-being of conscious creatures. Therefore, in order to refute this premise, I ask Con to present a moral issue that does not relate to the well-being of conscious creatures.

Premise Two
This claim is rather overt, unless one wishes to undermine a very fundamental aspect of modern day neuroscientific research.

Neuroscience (italics are from 'The Compass of Pleasure' by David Linden) shows that when neurons in the region called the ventral tagmental area (VTA) are active, brief electrical impulses (called spikes) race from their cell bodies (located in the VTA proper) along long, thin information-sending fibers called axons. The axons have specialized structures at the endpoints called axon terminals. Some of the axon terminals of the VTA nuerons are located some distance away in a region called the nucleus acumbens. When the traveling electric spikes reach the axon terminals, they trigger the release of the neurotrantsmitter dopamine, which is stored in the terminals in the tiny membrane-bound blobs called vesicles. When a spike enters the axon terminal, it iniates a complex series of electrical and chemical events that result in the fusion of the vesicle membrane with the membrane of the axon terminal, thereby causing the contents the vesicle, including the dopamine neurons, to be released into a narrow fluid-filled space surronding the axon termal called the synaptic cleft. The dopamine molecules then diffuse and bind to specialized dopamine receptors on their target neurons, initiating a series of chemical signs therein. The experiments that cause the dopamine-containing neurons of the VTA to be active and thereby release dopamine in their targets will be felt as pleasurable, and the sensory cues and actions that preceded and overlped with those pleasurable experiences will be rememebred and associated with positive feelings.


Neuroscientific research shows that states of the brain are responsible for our feelings of well-being, such as pleasure. I also wish to point out that the atatomy of a rat's pleasure circuit is very similar to that of our own. This brings experiments such as those done by psychologist B.F. Skinner with rats that found the reward circuits of their brain.

The main point that I am making is that pleasure (and therefore well-being) has a neurological basis.

Premise 3

I wish to bring us back to my earlier example in Premise 1 of women being forced to wear hijab. I gave an example of three questions we could ask if we were to try and discover what impacts compulsory hijab has on a woman and society. These questions all fall under the domain of scientific research. Scientific research can be conducted to investigate the affect that compulsory hijab has on compassion or the mental health of women who are forced to wear hijab. Science could also determine if wearing hijab makes one any else likely to get raped, and it can also tell us why people rape other people in the first place. That would also work to help us decide the affect of hijab on well-being.

Science can also analyze the physical states of the brain, and determine if an action has harmed or improved the well-being of the subject.

Conclusion
The well-being of conscious creatures is the central point of moral questions and values. The well-being of conscious creatures is a human value. Well-being is sourced in the physical states of the brain. Science can tell us if actions improve well-being or not. Therefore, science can determine human values.

Source
My quote from David Linden on the neurological basis of pleasure can be found on page 20 and page 21 of 'The Compass of Pleasure' The experiment from B.F. Skinner that I mentioned is also found in this book,.

Notes
Con has agreed (over PM) that he will be postulating his own moral system in the next round.
KeytarHero

Con

Thank you to Pro for your argument.

Pro has asked me to postulate my own moral system in this round. I take a deontological view of ethics. Each person has a responsibility to themselves, and to the people around them. In order to be ethical people, we must consider whether a certain action that we are going to take will have adverse reactions to anyone else, and if they do have adverse reactions to anyone else, it takes a sufficiently strong reason to perform that action. For example, lying is immoral for many reasons, one being that it damages your relationship with other people if you lie to them, and another that it damages your credibility if you lie. However, what about the age-old moral dilemma that you're alive during the Holocaust and holding Jews in your house. Do you give the Jews up, or do you lie to the Nazis in order to protect innocent Jews. I believe that protecting innocent life is a sufficiently strong reason to justify lying, though you would ordinarily be obligated to tell the truth.

The problem here is that the resolution is negated before we even really get started. The resolution is "science can determine human value," but the problem lies in that the very statement is self-refuting. You can't arrive at the truth or falsity of that statement through science. It takes philosophical reasoning.
In fact, Pro even gave a philosophical argument to support the resolution.

Pro's argument is also invalid. The conclusion doesn't follow. At best, his conclusion only shows us that science can determine one human value, not all of them.

I will now turn to addressing Pro's argument.

Premise 1 -- Moral questions are about the well-being of conscious creatures. Well-being is a human value by the definitions made in Round 1.

Here Pro asserts that moral questions are about the well-being of conscious creatures, but he neglects to state why we only have obligations to conscious creatures, and what our obligations are to those conscious creatures. For example, is Pro a vegetarian? If not, does he not believe that it's wrong to kill cows for food, since they are conscious creatures? If so, why is it wrong to kill cows for food, or to hunt game, but not wrong to kill ants? What is it about consciousness that bestows obligations of well-being, and can Pro arrive at this answer through science alone?

Pro does state that we don't feel obligations to rocks or lightbulbs, but why does this absolve us of responsibility? If a parent doesn't feel any obligation to their children (perhaps because their father is a jerk), does this remove any obligation from the parent to care for her children? On the other hand, some people do feel obligations to non-conscious entities. Trees, for example. There are people who have started organizations to protect rain forests, claiming that we have a moral obligation to leave the Earth the way it is and not to cut down trees for furniture or paper. It seems that simple "feeling" is not enough to justify a moral obligation or lack of one.

Pro has asked that I present a moral issue that does not relate to the well-being of conscious creatures, but I don't think there is one. As rational, moral agents, issues of morality concern all of us. But what I have shown is that our obligations don't necessarily end with conscious creatures, and Pro has not presented a case as to why only conscious creatures deserve our value.

Premise 2 -- Well-being relates to physical states of the brain.

This premise is true, but it doesn't relate to the overall argument. In fact, it falls into what David Hume called the is-ought gap. Premise two shows that well-being relates to physical states of the brain, but it does not show us why we should only peform actions that relate to those physical states of the brain. This premise shows a descriptive reality (the way things are), but does nothing to show a prescriptive claim (that we ought to do something based on this description).

Premise 3 -- Science can tell us what actions improve or hurt human well-being.

I don't think Pro has supported this premise. Science may be able to determine certain things that give us pleasure, but people derive pleasure from different things. Pro used the example of forcing Muslim women to wear hijab. But what if that Muslim woman is utterly convinced that her faith is true, so wearing hijab would give her pleasure because she believes that wearing the hijab pleases her God. But an American woman not raised in the Muslim faith would be insulted and feel degraded by being forced to wear it. Science can't determine whether or not something always contributes to someone's well-being because different things contribute to different peoples' well-being.

Conclusion

As I have indicated, the conclusion does not follow. It only shows (at best) that science can determine one human value, not multiple or all of them.

Conclusion

To reiterate, Pro's resolution is self-defeating.
You can't arrive at the statement "science can determine human values" scientifically.

Pro even used a philosophical argument to arrive at his statement about science.

Pro's argument is also invalid because the Conclusion doesn't follow from the Premises.


Pro's first premise fails because he didn't show why our obligation is only to conscious creatures, and why we don't have obligations to non-conscious entities. He also failed to show why our feelings are sufficient to grant "human value" to an object.

Pro's second premise fails because it's purely a descriptive claim that doesn't show a prescriptive obligation for human beings towards another human being or another conscious creature.

Pro's third premise fails because science can't show whether or not someone will value something that someone else will not. You can't derive human values from science because human beings are all different, and the things they value are established by a number of different factors, including their beliefs, environment, etc.

I look forward to Pro's rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 2
Typhlochactas

Pro

Premise One Responses
We only have moral oblgiations to conscious creatures because moral obligations are only meaningful to conscious creatures. If every conscious creature were to vanish, then morality would become meaningless. Why would 'Should we kill each other?' or 'Is lying wrong?' matter in a universe with no conscious creatures? Moral obligations should be given to conscious creatures because only conscious creatures can give moral obligations meaning.

We have moral obligations to a human child because it is a conscious creature. It is capable of feeling pain and pleasure, and its well-being can be improved or hurt by the actions of other conscious creatures. Overtly, lightbulbs and rocks are not capable of such feelings, as they are not living things. Ergo, we are justified in stating that we have no moral obligations to rocks or lightbuls.

I wish to wonder off the specifics of vegetarianism and meat-eating. I am personally a vegetarian, as I do not see any moral justification for eating meat. Even a meat eater such a Sam Harris has acknowledged that there is not a moral justification for it. I do not wish to elaborate on the morality of meat-eating, as that would be wildly off-topic. Instead, I will further the notion that claims about meat-eating and vegetarianism can be analyzed scientifically.

Con cites the issue of cutting down trees as people having moral obligations to things that are not conscious. At first glance, this would seem to refute my contention that we only have moral obligations to conscious creatures. However, Con's own example shows that the issue of cutting down trees relates to the well-being of conscious creatures. Firstly, most people who are against cutting down trees argue that it would be detrimental to the environment. Conscious creatures live in environments. Ergo, cutting down trees relates to the well-being of conscious creatures. Furthermore, if we were to ask people why the Earth should be left the way it is, the reasons they cite will eventually be reducted to something that relates to the well-being of conscious creatures.

I wish to put emphasis on a quote by Con before I close my responses for this premise. He said, 'Pro has asked that I present a moral issue that does not relate to the well-being of conscious creatures, but I don't think there is one.' This shows that there is no reason to think that moral questions do not relate to the well-being of conscious creatures. Instead, he only suggests that I have not justified the idea that we only have moral obligations to conscious creatures. An important contention of my argument has been proven to be true.

Premise Two Responses
The is-ought distinction is false, as is statements and ought statemens can be easily connected through thought experiments. For the sake of this thought experiment, let's say that getting from Point A to Point B in the fastest way possible is a moral value. 'The fastest way from point to another is in a straight line' is an 'is' statement.

Moral value: Getting from A to be B in the fastest way possible.
Is statement: The fastest way from A to B is in a straight line.
Ought statement: You ought to travel in a straight line.

Therefore, 'is' statements can be connected with 'ought' statements.

Premise Three Responses
Con presents a situation where different people's well-being is affected from different actions. He argues that because of this, science cannot determine well-being. However, the fact that we have many ways of promoting well-being does not undermine my moral system. By analogy, consider food. There are many healthy foods that one can eat. On any day, you could eat brocolli, carrots, or celery, and they would all be healthy foods. However, there is a clear difference between healthy food and poison, and the fact that there are many healthy foods to eat does not tempt us to say that there is no poison. To put this analogy in real terms, we have many ways of pursuing well-being, but this does not mean there are not ways to harm well-being. I have not argued at all that there is only way to pursue well-being, and Con's example of different people recieving well-being from different things does not refute my moral system at all.

Conclusion Response
Con misrepresents my arguments. I have not said that science determines all moral issues. Otherwise, the resolution would be 'Science determines human values'. The resolution states 'Science can determine human values'.

Answering Remaining Statements
'To reiterate, Pro's resolution is self-defeating. You can't arrive at the statement "science can determine human values" scientifically.'

This is why I used a mix of scientific and philosophical argumentation.

'Pro even used a philosophical argument to arrive at his statement about science.'

When have I argued, in any way, that philosophical argumentation is not valid? It is my view that science comes from the belly of philosophy, and that the two interesect in many areas, including morality.

'Pro's argument is also invalid because the Conclusion doesn't follow from the Premises.'

Con makes this statement based off a misunderstanding of what exactly I'm arguing for.

'Pro's first premise fails because he didn't show why our obligation is only to conscious creatures, and why we don't have obligations to non-conscious entities.'

I believe that I have proved this in the argumentation above.

' He also failed to show why our feelings are sufficient to grant "human value" to an object.'


I am not referring to human value in the way that we would value our favorite TV show or our favorite food. I am talking about human values as moral issues.

'Pro's second premise fails because it's purely a descriptive claim that doesn't show a prescriptive obligation for human beings towards another human being or another conscious creature.'

I believe that the is-ought distinction can be refuted by connecting an 'is' statement with an 'ought' statement. I have attempted to do in my argumentation above.

'Pro's third premise fails because science can't show whether or not someone will value something that someone else will not. You can't derive human values from science because human beings are all different, and the things they value are established by a number of different factors, including their beliefs, environment, etc.'

The resolution does not require one thing to benefit the well-being of everybody.




KeytarHero

Con

Premise One

Our moral obligations don’t end with conscious entities. Arguments can be, and have been, made about our responsibilities to nature, and other non-conscious entities. Morality is objective and like the rules of logic, would not simply vanish if there were no conscious entities to discover them or abide by them.

When people make arguments against cutting down trees and similar things, while some believe it is to help human flourishing (after all, we need trees and plants to produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide), many people argue against it because they believe that Earth needs to be preserved. This has nothing to do with human flourishing but everything to do with how the Earth is and should be kept.

The reason I said what I did is because as rational, moral agents we have a responsibility to act morally. Everything we do relates to our well-being, if not physically then metaphysically. However, as I have shown our obligations do not necessarily end with conscious beings. Besides which, I have shown that this is not something that can be arrived at scientifically, as Pro alleges. This must be arrived at philosophically.

Premise Two

The is-ought gap is not false. The problem is that you can’t get a prescriptive statement (the way things ought to be) from a descriptive statement (the way things are). That’s because there is a missing premise, so the argument is invalid. For example,

P1) Homosexuality occurs in nature (animals engage in the practice).
C) Therefore, humans are justified in engaging in homosexuality.

This doesn’t follow at all. Homosexuality may be justified for humans, but if it is it’s not because it occurs in nature. Even if homosexuality didn’t occur in nature, it may still be justified. And even though it occurs in nature, it may not be justified. Murder and theft also occur in nature, but humans are not justified in those behaviors. So the argument is invalid. You would need a second premise to get from homosexuality occurs in nature to humans are justified in engaging in the behavior. Something like this:

P1) Homosexuality occurs in nature.
P2) Whatever occurs in nature is justifiable for humans.
C) Therefore, humans are justified in engaging in homosexuality.

Now the argument is valid, but it’s unsound (as not everything that occurs in nature is justifiable for humans to engage in).

Let’s look at pro’s example.

P1) The fastest way from A to B is a straight line.
C) Therefore, you ought to travel in a straight line.

This argument is invalid. The conclusion doesn’t follow from its premise. What if you care more about scenery than arriving at your destination quickly? Then it seems that you should not travel in a straight line. You should travel in a circuitous route because it offers a better view. This is why the is-ought gap is a genuine problem for an argument.

Premise Three

Pro argues that there is a difference between food and poison. Granted. But just because poison exists doesn’t tell us that we shouldn’t consume the poison. We need to be aware of what poison is, then make a philosophical argument for why we should not consume the poison or give the poison to someone else. The existence of poison itself tells us nothing about whether or not we should consume it. Science alone can’t tell us this. It can only inform morality, it can’t dictate it.

Conclusion

Point taken on the conclusion.

In Conclusion

Pro’s resolution has been negated. Science can’t determine human values, it can only give us relevant information that we need to determine human values, which must be arrived at philosophically. He even concedes as much in the last round. He stated, “This is why I use a mix of scientific and philosophical argumentation.” This shows that you can’t arrive at human values scientifically. You must use philosophical reasoning to dictate human values.

Pro has not argued that philosophy is not valid. However, the resolution was that science can determine human values. Science can not, you must use philosophical reasoning to arrive at human values.

I have shown that Pro’s resolution has been negated. I look forward to our next round.
Debate Round No. 3
Typhlochactas

Pro

Premise One
Con states that objective moral values would exist even if it conscious creatures did not. This is true, as objective moral values are independent of human (or any conscious beings) opinion. Two and two would always equal four whether there is anyone to prove it. Con's statement, though true, is a red herring. We are not debating the existence of objective moral values if no conscious entities exist. We are debating the meaning and usefulness of objective moral values, or moraly at all, absent of any conscious entity. My justification of Premise One in R3 states 'If every conscious creature were to vanish, then morality would become meaningless.' I never said that it wouldn't exist, just that it would lack any meaning. This claim is obvious, as nobody would argue that a nebulae is concerned with the euthyphro dillehma.

The justification one can provide for why cutting down trees does not have to relate to human flourishing. Con states that the reasoning has nothing to do with human flourishing, but this in not relevant. In order for Premise One to be true, it must be reducable to the well-being of conscious creatures, not necessarily human flourishing. Con changed the terms of my argument.

It does not matter if the person does not expressively state a reason that relates to well-being. My premise states that it has to be reducible to well-being. That is, we can reduce that moral claim to something relating to well-being. It does not mean that the person has to say something relating to well-being. If a person argued we should preserve the earth just for the sake of preserving the earth, then it is reducible to well-being, even if they do not say so. As I pointed out, preserving the earth relates to the well-being of conscious creatures. Thus, preserving the earth is reducible to well-being, and Premise One remains true.

Con misunderstands me. I have not argued that we have to come to all conclusions about moral questions scientifically. I don't, for instance, think that I will consult a scientist on whether I should buy my daughter a tropical fish for her birthday. I am only arguing that the seperation between morality and science is not valid.

Premise Two
The fact/value distinction is not logical. Values are morals, and morals are just a type of fact about the way things should be. Con and I both believe in objective moral values, so we both believe that there are objective rights and wrongs. These right and wrong statements are just facts about what is right and wrong. From this, I believe that the distinction between facts and values is like trying to make a distinction between A and A, or blue and blue.

Premise Three
I should clarify the metaphor to make this debate easier, since the point I needed to make with it has already been made. Healthy food is a representation of the myriad of action and ideas that improve the well-being of conscious creatures. Poison is a representation of all the actions and ideas that can harm the well-being of conscious creatures.

If improving (or maximizing) well-being is moral, then science can not only inform moral decisions, but tell us what is moral. I believe that is a logical result of ackwnowledging well-being as the basis of morality. We have many cases where science can do more than inform moral decisions, but make them.

Of course, as I have said, I do not believe that science can decide every moral question. Otherwise, the resolution would state 'Science determines human values'. It does not state this. There are moral questions that we can only answer purely through philosophical, rather than scientific, reasoning. An admission of this fact does not negate the resolution.

Possible Round 5 Suggestion
I believe that R5 could be made far more interesting if we simply answer questions. I propose that in R4, we both ask each other three questions that will be answered in R5 of the debate. R5 will be devoted entirely to answering those questions. If Con does not wish to accept, then we will continue on with a five-round debate. If he wishes to accept, then I ask him to make his questions in R4.

1: You are recognized as a defender of Christianity on debate.org. In your view, what is the role of god in objective moral value?

2: Are there any methods of ethical naturalism that you would accept?

3: If you were to stop believing in god, would you become a moral relativist, or some form of moral nihilist?


With that, I turn things over to Con.
KeytarHero

Con

Premise One

My statement was not a red herring. If objective moral values exist, they would still have meaning even if there were no conscious creatures to appreciate them. Just like two plus two equals four, would still mean that two and two is four, even if there were no creatures around capable of counting.

I have not changed the terms of Pro’s argument. If cutting down trees does not relate to human flourishing, then it does not relate to human values (as human values are connected to human flourishing – why would we value something that works against our well-being?).

Preserving the earth does not have to be reducible to our well-being. You can make that argument, that trees and plants are needed to absorb carbon dioxide and provide oxygen that we need to survive. But if someone makes the argument that the Earth should be preserved because we have no right to use its resources and destroy its natural beauty, that is not related to human well-being, or the flourishing of a conscious creature. That is related to preserving nature, a non-conscious entity.

If Con is arguing that the separation between morality and science is not valid, he certainly has not made that clear up until now. As I stated earlier, science can only inform morality, it can’t dictate it. Science can help us come to moral conclusions, but it can’t draw any moral conclusions at all. For example, whatever your feelings about abortion, most people feel that infanticide is morally impermissible. Science shows us that we are human beings from fertilization, but we know that infants
are human beings. One might say this shows us that we ought not kill infants. Yet there are those (like Peter Singer) who claim that we should be able to kill infants that parents don’t want because it causes the greatest amount of happiness. So science can’t seem to draw any moral conclusions because even if
popular opinion thinks something is obvious due to scientific information, there will always be those who can argue against it.

To reiterate, science can’t draw any moral conclusions. It can show us truth relating to reality, but only
philosophy can help us draw any moral conclusions from a scientific finding.

Premise Two

I have shown that the distinction between fact and value is logical. Due to the is-ought gap, as recognized by David Hume, you can’t draw a moral distinction from a descriptive claim of reality. I definitely agree with Pro that there are objective moral values, but these can’t be determined by science. I’m sure we can both agree that rape is morally wrong (in fact, morally monstrous). But we can’t get this distinction from science. We know that you are performing an act against a human being, but in order to get from “performing an act” to whether the act is morally right or wrong requires a philosophical argument. Rape is wrong for several reasons, namely that it is a gross violation of her right to bodily integrity, it has a chance of getting her pregnant against her will, etc. But why should any of these matter? You need a philosophical argument to arrive at these reasons. Science can’t tell us that it’s wrong to get someone pregnant against her will, that we have any rights at all, etc.

Premise Three

I agree that Pro’s admission that there are moral questions that can’t be answered with science doesn’t negate the resolution. But I have shown that science can’t determine any human values. Pro is right that if improving well-being is moral, then science can tell us what’s right or wrong. But the problem here is that Pro is presupposing a philosophical value. You must establish a philosophical foundation (namely, that maximizing human values is moral) before science can tell you anything.

I have shown that Pro’s resolution has been negated. Science can’t determine human values. Philosophy is required to establish that. Even if something seems to be obvious from a scientific discovery, you must first establish a philosophical foundation in order to make that determination. And even if it seems to be obvious, there are those who can make a philosophical argument against what seems to be obvious about the scientific finding. It seems sure that philosophy is required to
determine human values, science can’t do the job at all.

I will accept the round 5 suggestion. That should help the last round be a little more interesting, rather than more of the same.

1: In my view, the existence of God is necessary for the existence of objective moral values. Atheists can live moral lives apart from God, but without God objective moral values would not even exist. Morality would be left up to the opinions of individuals and/or societies. In order for objective morality to exist (that is, morality independent of human thought), then someone outside of humanity must exist in order for objective morality to make any sense.

2: I don’t
believe there have ever been any convincing arguments made by Atheists that objective morality can exist without God.

3: That’s an interesting question. I believe that I would become a moral relativist. I know some philosophers have made convincing cases that without God, anything goes (Nietzsche being one), but I think morality would be left up to individual whim (or the whims of society) if God didn’t exist.

Questions for Pro:

1: Can you give one argument for a moral position that doesn’t involve any philosophical reasoning
at all?

2: Do conscious creatures have a moral obligation to improve the well-being of non-conscious entities, as much as is reasonable? (By reasonable, I mean within certain limits, such as not harming through action or allowing harm by inaction a conscious creature in order to help a non-conscious creature, etc.).

3: How do you ground objective morality, as (I’m assuming) an Atheist?

Debate Round No. 4
Typhlochactas

Pro

1: Can you give one argument for a moral position that doesn"t involve any philosophical reasoning
at all?

I'll provide a list of things that are a part of my argument that show that science can not only inform moral decisions, but make them. I'm assuming that Con is more or less asking for an example of science dictating what is moral.

- Morality is based in the well-being of conscious creatures.
- Maximizing well-being is moral.
- Science can tell us what maximizes well-being.

So....

Maximizing well-being is moral, and science can tell us what maximizes well-being.

If MWB = Moral, then whatever tells us about MWB must also tell us what is moral. Since science tells us about well-being, it must tell us what is moral, not only inform moral decisions.

2: Do conscious creatures have a moral obligation to improve the well-being of non-conscious entities, as much as is reasonable? (By reasonable, I mean within certain limits, such as not harming through action or allowing harm by inaction a conscious creature in order to help a non-conscious creature, etc.).

I don't understand what Con is asking me, so I am sorry if my answer seems to miss the point.

I think that we can care about non-conscious entities as long as it relates to something conscious. For example, throwing a rock into an empty pond should not be a concern, because it does not relate to the well-being of anything conscious. It would be different with cutting down trees, because forests influence the well-being of conscious creatures.

3: How do you ground objective morality, as (I"m assuming) an Atheist?

As you may have noticed, I agree with Sam Harris and Joseph Daleiden on morality. I would read 'The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values' and 'The Science of Morality: The Individual Community and Future Generation' in order to understand how I try to ground objective morality in naturalism.


-----

That is the conclusion of our debate. I sincerely thank Con for participating in this debate with me, and I look forward to discussing these important issues with him in another debate.
KeytarHero

Con

I wish to thank Pro again for debating this with me. As this is the last round, I won't make any new arguments. I will just respond to one of the points from last round.

Question 1

Pro's statement that maximizing well-being is a philosophical statement. Science can't tell us whether it's right or wrong to do that.

That's pretty much all I have to say. I believe I have firmly negated the resolution. I have shown that science can't determine human values, it can only inform them. You can't determine the resolution scientifically, so it's a self-defeating statement.
Debate Round No. 5
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
AnthraSight
So?...
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
AnthraSight
How so? I saw that it contributed to the flourishing of conscious well-being.. so, how do you deal with this rather than side-skirt it? ... This is worse than some non-academic theists' constant appeals to mystery.
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago
Typhlochactas
It is. Your invocation of the atom bomb example is a different issue.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
AnthraSight
I'm concerned with the status of human flourishing.. isn't it supposedly the same as moral truths on your view?
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago
Typhlochactas
Don't confuse the status of moral truth with how that status relates to our lives.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
AnthraSight
Sure conscious well being.. but then why pick that ought as special?

Also, in what way didn't the atom bomb contribute to our flourishing? ... without it, we might have lost WW2 with Japan, or , at least the war would have prolonged resulting in more deaths... what's your science of morality have to say about this?
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago
Typhlochactas
No?

And who said anything about 'creaturely' well-being?
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
AnthraSight
The atom bomb contributed to the flourishing of creaturely well being, didn't it?
Posted by Typhlochactas 4 years ago
Typhlochactas
You talked about the atom bomb, which demonstrates your confusion.
Posted by AnthraSight 4 years ago
AnthraSight
How so?
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by AnthraSight 4 years ago
AnthraSight
TyphlochactasKeytarHeroTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: My vote will be changing as I read the debate, but for now AshleysTrueLove was correct. The classical is-ought problem is under question here, and Pro only showed that science can inform our decisions, Con sustained the more reasonable attack that science is morally neutral (just look at the atom bomb).
Vote Placed by Eve13 4 years ago
Eve13
TyphlochactasKeytarHeroTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Typhlicactas set up a decent enough argument to tell us how science can determine human values; this doesn't mean the morals are objective, or even necessarily "good". But it can indeed help us determine what it is we value.
Vote Placed by Clash 4 years ago
Clash
TyphlochactasKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: In my opinion, Con successfully showed that science cannot determine human values, but that it can only inform them. The argument point goes therefore to Con. Indeed, science cannot tell us WHY we should do or not do something. This task is something which philosophy deals with. However, science can help us to decide what we should do and what we shouldn't do. For example, given our reason and our human nature of sensibility, we would generally agree that harming someone is wrong and bad. Thus, if science can show to us that doing A to B harms B, then we shouldn't do A to B. In the end, this was a great debate.
Vote Placed by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
Wallstreetatheist
TyphlochactasKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The Fact-value distinction unforunately was adequately answered to afford a PRO vote. Just kidding. I'm countering AshleysTrueLove's terrible RFD. Will remove if he reads the debate and writes a decent RFD.
Vote Placed by larztheloser 4 years ago
larztheloser
TyphlochactasKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Close debate. Pro had BOP. Pro set up a decent one-argument wonder. Con's attack wasn't so much on the logic as he framed it but on how pro knew that the conclusion he reached was "good", the natural answer being of course because that's how pro defined it at the start of the debate. Con also attacked the objectivity of pro's morality, but pro never argued the objectivity of science, and pro did make this refutation. It was not pro's burden to defend every moral position but simply show that hypothetically, a moral position can be taken from nothing but science. Pro's response to the is-ought gap was weak because it wasn't even strictly problematic to his argument, and yet still he attempted to refute it. This allowed con to take control of the debate in the second half. In the end con had slightly stronger narratives and pro had slightly better structure. Pro was able to provide a decent defense for his case. 3:2 aff win. Message me for more details.
Vote Placed by AshleysTrueLove 4 years ago
AshleysTrueLove
TyphlochactasKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The Fact-value distinction unforunately wasn't adequately answered to afford a CON vote.