The Instigator
Freeman
Pro (for)
Losing
23 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
46 Points

The New Ten Commandments

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/26/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 6,277 times Debate No: 9344
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (25)
Votes (12)

 

Freeman

Pro

I am not claiming that my list of moral edicts is necessarily more ethical than those found in the Hebrew Bible, although I think that they clearly are. I am claiming that in an idealized world where people always followed my list we would live in a much safer, more compassionate, and generally happier world than one in which the original ten were followed with equal assiduousness.

1.) Do not believe anything without good reason or evidence. Indeed, allow reason and the scientific method to guide your beliefs about the world.

2.) Do not pretend to know things you don't really know and always allow yourself to be open to evidence and reason.

3.) Do not hoard your money or be absorbed by greed. Let generosity to the Earth's less fortunate be at the forefront of your daily life.

4.) Do not do unto others what you would find repulsive if it were done to you.

5.) Do not deprive others of their life, liberty, property or their pursuit of happiness and don't treat them purely as a means to some selfish end unless by doing this you would cause greater suffering.

6.) Do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, nationality, species, ethnicity, or sexual orientation and don't violate the preferences that people may hold, insofar as those preferences aren't reprehensible.

7.) Make a general practice of reducing suffering in the world and increasing overall levels of happiness among living creatures.

8.) In all things try to refrain from harming conscious creatures and let compassion be a pivotal factor in the decisions that you make.

9.) Try to be motivated by love and a general concern for the well being of others.

10.) Encourage your children to study math, science, philosophy and literature to the best of their abilities.

I have some suspicions that the ending part of my 5th commandment will raise grief with certain people so allow me to unpack it. Murderers, rapists, and arsonists can be jailed or justifiably be killed in acts of self-defense etc. That's really all that I mean by it. On a side note the list isn't necessarily arranged from most to least important.

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The original Ten Commandments
========================

1. "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
2. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing thatis in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my Commandments."
3. "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."
4. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
5. "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."
6. "Thou shalt not kill."
7. "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
8. "Thou shalt not steal."
9. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
10. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his a$$, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's."

[1]

===================================
My exegesis of the original Ten Commandments
===================================

1.) The first commandment represents either the musings of a petty and jealous God or the ravings of stupefied ignoramuses that claim to speak on his behalf.

2.) Is the construction of graven images really the second most important thing to admonish from all future generations of humans? Could we live in a world with the resulting proliferation of graven images? Somehow I think we would manage. We also may wish to call into question the ethical soundness of punishing people for crimes their grandfathers and great-grandfathers have committed. It would be manifestly true to say that almost any other moral precept that replaced this rule would be more useful in reducing overall levels of suffering in the world. How about: don't abuse children or don't harm animals. Or how about: try not to deep-fry all of your food.

3.) Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

4.) It's not necessarily a bad suggestion to refrain from working at least one day a week. However, it's still grossly totalitarian and repressive in its content. What if I just love working on Sundays or Saturdays?

5.) The fifth commandment either presupposes the benevolence of parents or disregards the fact that some parents don't have their child's best interests at heart. In either case it crumbles upon scrutiny.

6.) This commandment seems unobjectionable at face value but it is still sorely lacking on at least four counts. In the context to which it was originally written it was generally applied only to other Hebrews. Secondly, it does appear to be contradictory with the rest of the Hebrew Bible when one considers that the Bible enjoins edicts for the genocide of peoples and entire nations. Thirdly, it leaves the murder of other species completely unmentioned. Likewise it leaves judicious self-defense completely unmentioned. Is it also wrong for me to kill someone if they are trying to kill me?

7.) Number seven is more or less unobjectionable. People should be faithful to the ones they love. However, it does seem a bit odd that this rule would appear in a list of the supposed ten most moral edicts ever bestowed upon our species.

8.) As with commandment # 6 this edict seems unobjectionable at face value but it still reeks of absolutism. Surely there must be a situation imaginable where theft was the lesser or two evils. What if I'm in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone and my mother has a heart attack? Would it be morally wrong of me to temporarily steal a car and drive her to the nearest hospital?

9.) Perjury is generally a bad idea.

10.) The content of the tenth commandment is proof positive that God is either sexist for lumping women in with other property not to be coveted or that this rule was written by misogynistic men. Secondly, it does seem to kill the spirit necessary for a free market. How am I to innovate or advance if I do not desire something my neighbor has. Peoples desire to have others peoples belongings is exactly what propels a healthy market.

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Conclusion
========

Homophobia, racism, sexism, and speciesism are all compatible with the original list. My list, however, precludes all of these things and it provides useful positive moral responsibilities that if followed would almost guarantee that we lived in a happier world. If my list were diligently followed it is reasonable to conclude that we would live in a world filled with highly intelligent, compassionate and loving scientists that are moved to alleviate the suffering of other conscious creatures. The original list, on the other hand, dignifies mans prejudice and sanctifies his unreason.

All the best,
Freeman

Sources

[1] http://www.bibletencommandments.org...

Definitions

Speciesism- Human intolerance or discrimination on the basis of species, especially as manifested by cruelty to or exploitation of animals.
RoyLatham

Con

I recently debated Pro on another subject, so I hesitated to take this debate. But it is a good topic and no one else has taken it up after a day or so, so I'll beg Pro's indulgence and have at it.

1.) Do not believe anything without good reason or evidence. Indeed, allow reason and the scientific method to guide your beliefs about the world.

>No who is at all reflective believes that are acting without good reason. That includes jihadists, thieves, astrologers, and Methodists. Therefore as a commandment this is vacuous. It amounts to no more than "do whatever you think is best."

2.) Do not pretend to know things you don't really know and always allow yourself to be open to evidence and reason.

>Against, everyone believes they know whatever they believe with enough certainty to act upon it. It is another vacuous commandment.

3.) Do not hoard your money or be absorbed by greed. Let generosity to the Earth's less fortunate be at the forefront of your daily life.

>Since "hoarding" and "greed" are tautologously excessive behaviors, they ought to be condemned. However, putting generosity at the forefront of life would be truly devastating to human existence. It would end all investment in the future by requiring that all money be spent on subsistence. There would be no factories or roads or schools or anything that required capital.

4.) Do not do unto others what you would find repulsive if it were done to you.

>The Golden Rule is fine, but how did "repulsive" get in there? Repulsive means offensive on an emotional level. Homosexuality is repulsive to many heterosexuals, yet we ought to be tolerant of it nonetheless. Mucking around with internal organs is repulsive to most people outside the medical profession, but we still want surgeons to do their jobs. The proposed commandment uses "repulsive" as a transitive verb, which is inherently subject to misunderstanding, since we have to guess what was really intended.

5.) Do not deprive others of their life, liberty, property or their pursuit of happiness and don't treat them purely as a means to some selfish end unless by doing this you would cause greater suffering.

>This has a basis mistake in the wording -- why would we want to cause greater suffering? Probably the intent was something else, along the lines of "pursue the greatest good for the greatest number." If so, then it is a poor commandment because it sets us up as judging what is good for others, rather letting them decide for themselves.

6.) Do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, nationality, species, ethnicity, or sexual orientation and don't violate the preferences that people may hold, insofar as those preferences aren't reprehensible.

>Probably Pro means "unjustly discriminate" rather than "discriminate." For example, Americans ought not impose income taxes on Germans who work in Germany, which is perfectly reasonable discrimination. there are just reasons for discriminating on grounds of gender and other categories as well. But once the commandment is amended to "unjust discrimination," it becomes vacuous, amounting to be "be just."

7.) Make a general practice of reducing suffering in the world and increasing overall levels of happiness among living creatures.

Mostly this is vacuous, but what makes A happy may make B very unhappy. The "living creatures" part is spooky. Who knows what makes a squid happy? I suspect happiness is not defined relative to squid. The commandment erroneously attributes human characteristics to other species.

8.) In all things try to refrain from harming conscious creatures and let compassion be a pivotal factor in the decisions that you make.

"Try" is not a commandment. In any case, malaria carrying mosquitoes ought not be put on the same plane with the people they infect.

9.) Try to be motivated by love and a general concern for the well being of others.

"Try" is not a commandment. This is another of those vacuous "be good" commandments. Jihadists believe that religious law is good for everyone and that infidels must be killed in order to maximize the good in the world.

10.) Encourage your children to study math, science, philosophy and literature to the best of their abilities.

This is a fine idea, but commandments are supposed to be moral rules rather than practical ones. For example, "change the oil filter every time you change your oil" is a good rule, but not a moral commandment.

As to the old commandments,

1. I don't have problem treating not putting any god before the Christian God. I don't believe in any of them, so none are ahead of any of the others.

2-4. I agree are outdated or inapplicable. Christians have interpretations that spiff them up for modern times.

5-9. We generally agree are good commandments.

10. Pro objects to "coveting thy neighbor's wife" as sexist, by argues that coveting other property of a neighbor is just free enterprise. That's not it. I'd go for a rewrite of "wife" to "spouse," but the idea is to not resent what your neighbor has, but rather to get your own stuff fairly. As correctly understood, it is a good commandment.

Pro objects that the old commandments are absolutist, but that is the nature of commandments. If they are not absolutist, then they are not commandments. The same is true of Pro's proposed alternative commandments. Pro tries to avoid being absolute by being vacuous. "Try to be good." avoids being absolute at the expense of begging the question of what a person should do. Many of Pro's commandments are in that realm of not really giving direction.

Rules that try to be absolute sometime come into conflict, and everybody recognizes that. That doesn't make them bad rules, it means that in those cases where they conflict we need metarules to resolve them. The Golden Rule, for example, is a metarule. The value of commandment-style rules is that they often do not come into conflict.

The old "Do not steal," "Do not murder," Do not commit adultery," "Do not bear false witness," ... , are good solid rules that actually give direction. Pro's alternative are mostly indefinite directions that promise good outcomes, but really do not say what to do to achieve the outcomes. Some of them, those that demand putting charity ahead of investment and raise malaria-carrying mosquitoes to the plane of equality with humans, are downright disastrous.

I like the idea of succinct commandments for modern times. Maybe Davy Crockett's "Be sure you are right, then go ahead." would be a good one. But Pro's list is not a net improvement over the old list.
Debate Round No. 1
Freeman

Pro

I wish to thank for accepting my challenge. Roy is an excellent debater and it will certainly be a pleasure for me to sort out my differences with him on this subject. Forgive me if I don't touch on everything you wrote. I tried to only pick out areas where we have a substantial disagreement.

Lets reflect for a moment on exactly what I claimed my "commandments" could do as they relate to the resolution.

"I am claiming that in an idealized world where people always followed my list we would live in a much safer, more compassionate, and generally happier world than one in which the original ten were followed with equal assiduousness."

My opponent has failed to demonstrate why he believes that we would live under a more just, compassionate, and happier society if they old Commandments were followed as opposed to mine.

======================
The basis of human well being
======================

Claims about how best to maximize human well being are essentially claims about the nature of our minds and the social structure of our societies that are constrained by natural law and statistical law. It isn't too early to say that love and compassion are generally better than hate as a method for producing happy contented humans that have lives worth living. We don't need an NSF grant to make headway on this issue; the answer is in plain view.

==============
Case Pro- Rebuttals
==============

1-2.) My opponent asserts my first two commandments are vacuous. Quite frankly I find this assertion to be fantastic and by that I mean laced in fantasy. My commandments are only vacuous if you think that words like "reason" "evidence" and the "scientific method" are vacuous. The notion that Jihadists, astrologers, and Methodists have good reasons for their beliefs is indicative of a shocking level of intellectual paralysis. No one can truly claim to know that the Koran is the perfect word of the creator of the universe without making a mockery of the word "know".

3.My challenger seems to misunderstand the third commandment. I can appreciate my opponent's conservative mind but it does seem to be rather unuseful in his critique on these matters. Being generous doesn't entail giving away all of ones money to the poor despite what he may believe. Our goal for happiness in this world is not zero sum. We have to realize that helping the poor and donating to charities like UNICEF can in fact be one's greatest source of comfort and happiness. To dogmatically assert that generosity would require civilization to come to a stand still is preposterous to put it mildly.

4. I will take comfort in the fact that my opponent and I both know what the golden rule entails. Theft, murder, and rape are repulsive actions that most humans would not wish to endure.

5.) It would seem that my fifth commandment has been misunderstood. This is understandable considering that I didn't word it as well as I should have. But, lets not linger upon my fallibility as a human because I gave my explanation for it when I wrote, "I have some suspicions that the ending part of my 5th commandment will raise grief with certain people so allow me to unpack it. Murderers, rapists, and arsonists can be jailed or justifiably be killed in acts of self-defense etc. That's really all that I mean by it."

6. My opponent has pointed out a rather petty semantical shortcoming on my behalf. But since he and I both know what my intentions were this whole issue seems somewhat trivial.

7. "The commandment erroneously attributes human characteristics to other species." Hmmm… I didn't mention humans at all in that commandment. Furthermore, there is nothing vacuous about the edict to make the world a happier place. One would have to take different approaches with different species in order to accomplish this. My edict doesn't demand that we take the same approach to maximize everyone's well-being.

8. ""Try" is not a commandment. In any case, malaria carrying mosquitoes ought not be put on the same plane with the people they infect." I never suggested that mosquitoes and humans should be put on the same pedestal. And your point is what exactly? The death of a human by malaria produces far more suffering than that occasioned by swatting a mosquito, ergo we can deem swatting mosquitoes to be morally inconsequential. Nothing in my eighth commandment entails a dogmatic commitment to maximizing happiness by using similar techniques on all conscious creatures.

9. "Jihadists believe that religious law is good for everyone and that infidels must be killed in order to maximize the good in the world." They may believe this, but they are wrong, as you would agree. I use the word "try" because there are certain situations when a human should not be concerned with the well being of someone else. If someone tries to kill you then you are at liberty to kill them in order to prevent your own death etc. In doing this I avoid using the very absolutist language of the Hebrew Bible.

10. "This is a fine idea, but commandments are supposed to be moral rules rather than practical ones." My commandments are not necessarily all designed to be moral commandments. They can be whatever I say they are. This would include practical suggestions about how best to raise children. Secondly, I disagree with you that my 10th commandment isn't moral. I can think of few things more moral than teaching children about the world and encouraging them to think critically. Likewise, I can think of few things more immoral than knowingly keeping your child ignorant of science, evolution, math, history, psychology, philosophy and everything else worth knowing in this world.

My opponent claims that my "list is not a net improvement over the old list." I am frankly dumbstruck by this claim. We both agree that the first 4 commandments are virtually worthless. He then claims that commandments 5-9 are generally good but I have already shown why their absolutism can be immoral and produce consequences. If I were to strictly follow the sixth commandment then I would be forced to watch my mother die of a heart attack if theft were the only way to save her etc. On top of this he seems to misunderstand the tenth commandment in the Hebrew Bible. It amounts too little more than prosecution for thoughtcrime- (in the orwellian sense). In other words you can't even think about wanting something your neighbor has. Under the tenth commandment you can be convicted and condemned merely for what you may think about. It doesn't have anything to do with getting your own stuff fairly.

=======
Conclusion
=======

In order to demonstrate how superior my list is at producing a happier world let me just outline a few actions and then decide whether they would be likely or possible under the two sets of commandments before us.

Are these things logically possible under the different sets of commandments?

Original Ten Commandments--------My Ten Commandments

(Rape) YES/NO
(Extreme poverty)YES/Probably Not
(Jihadism) MAYBE/NO
(Forcing women to wear Burqas) YES /NO
(Exuberant greed) YES /Probably Not
(Child abuse)YES /NO
(Ponzi Schemes)YES/NO
(Sadistic animal torture) YES /NO
(Sadistic Human Torture) YES/NO
(Racism) YES /NO
(Sexism) YES /NO
(Homophobia) YES /NO

Need I say more? My commandments excel at reducing suffering in this world. For these reasons I strongly encourage the voters to give this motion the overwhelming endorsement that it deserves.
RoyLatham

Con

Pro began the debate with the correct definition of "commandments." He said "... my list of moral edicts ..." That's right. Commandments are not interesting thoughts, points to ponder, considerations, guides to practical living, or anything other than moral edicts. After getting the definition right, he backtracks at every step, arguing that edicts are no good because they don't allow enough flexibility, that they do not have to be guides to moral behavior, and that, since he is making his list, they don't have to be on the subject of morality at all.

I think the semantics are important, because when a debate challenge is posed it's reasonable to suppose that "list of moral edicts" means a list of moral edicts, and that will be the subject of the debate. However, I also think it is a worthwhile exercise to ponder a list of moral edicts. Is it possible to write a list of succinct moral directives that if pursued would make the world a better place? I think simple rules are useful, but getting ten of them is not so easy.

The point of commandments is to provide useful moral rules for living. If the objective were to prescribe outcomes, then "be happy" would guarantee that everyone would be happy. The reason that "be happy" is not a good commandment, besides it not being a moral edit, is that it does not provide an understandable rule that tells a person how to be happy, or leads even leads in that direction. What I mean by Pro's various commandments being "vacuous" is that they are not rules that a person can usefully apply.

Consider the following commandments: "Never do anything wrong," "Always make the correct moral decisions," "Achieve the right balance between self, family, and society," "Use violence only when justified," and "Live a good life." These are not good commandments because they are goals, not rules for achieving goals. Thus, a jihadist can say, "I only use violence when justified." The commandment does not tell what is justified and what is not justified; it begs the important question. They may be points to ponder, along the lines of "Ask yourself, is this really just?" But that is far away from a moral edict.

Using Pro's constructs, if you want people to be "safer, more compassionate, and generally happier" then issuing the commandment "be safer, more compassionate, and happier" is all that is needed to do the job. People just need to obey and the task is accomplished. Any clues as to how to achieve that would be redundant in Pro's method. Pro only edges back a little from commanding the outcome. Commandments to "be reasonable" and "don't claim to know more than you know" seem to be adding something substantial, but they really add almost nothing. Imagine how a jihadist would respond to those commandments: "I know the will of God without doubt. It is reasonable to obey the will of God, and that is what I do. I am always open to new evidence. Everything I see confirms my beliefs."

The jihadist is wrong and is in fact unreasonable, but Pro's commandment to "be reasonable" will do nothing to dissuade him from doing evil. A commandment, "Don't kill infidels" would cut to the chase. That rule says, "If you think you are being reasonable and it leads to the conclusion that you ought to kill infidels, then you are wrong. It is not allowed." Thus "be reasonable" is vacuous as a commandment because it doesn't prevent anyone from doing whatever they want to do. It provides no guidance as to what is really reasonable and what is not really reasonable.

Short of the extreme of jihadism, consider Al Gore's book "The Assault on Reason" http://www.amazon.com... I have no doubt that Mr. Gore is sincere in his advocacy of reason. However, he is woefully incapable of reasoning. he rationalizes his ideological beliefs and proclaims the result a victory for reasoning.

A non-vacuous rule is something like, "Never take drastic action without pondering it for three days." The quality of a decision will probably be improved if it is pondered for a while, so there is reason to suppose outcomes will be improved. The rule is an easy-to-understand guideline, not a dictate of outcome.

Pro leaves it to me to rephrase what he is trying to say in (5). I think he wants it rendered as "Do not deprive others of life, liberty, or property or their pursuit of happiness unless by doing so it would reduce suffering overall." That reduces to the vacuous, "Act justly." It provides no guidance as to what is just and what is not just. Compare the non-guidance of that to, for example, "Willful violation of a patent deserves treble damages." or the Biblical "An eye for an eye." The idea is that good commandments guide action rather than begging the question of how to act.

In (3) Pro, said explicitly that charity should always be in the forefront. Forefront means "The position of most importance, prominence, or responsibility" http://www.answers.com... But when I challenged making charity the highest priority, Pro retreated to a meaning along the lines "People should be reasonably charitable relative to other demands of society." This goes back to begging the question of what a reasonable amount of charity is. It's not a guideline for living.

Pro never explains what he meant by "increasing the overall levels of happiness among living creatures." (7) or "do not discriminate on the basis of ... species" (8) I asked how we are even to know if a squid is happy. Are otters supposed to get the right to vote? Pro says he didn't mention humans at all. If that is true then humans are not "living creatures" nor are they a "species." That is nonsense. So what meaning is there to the commandments to make "living creatures" happy if it does not include making squid happy? My point is that we certain ought to discriminate on grounds of species, so his rule not to discriminate is wrong.

Pro, I gather, says that he wanted to recite the highly-Biblical Golden Rule in (6) but screwed up the wording so it it wrong as written. He says that some reprehensible things ought to be forbidden. True, but the error is that some subjectively reprehensible things ought not be forbidden.

Pro makes a list of things that ought to be proscribed and then claims that his commandments prohibit them while the original Ten Commandments do not. The problem is that his rules prohibit virtually nothing without interpretation in the way he interprets them. The rules do not say, for example, that jihadism is prohibited. It's only prohibited if the jihadist believes it to be unreasonable. Similarly, only unjust gender discrimination is prohibited by Pro's rules, and all manner of abuse is thought just by the people who practice it, and by many of the women who are subjected to it. so Pro's real rule is, "Ask Pro what is reasonable and do what he says." That's not useful.

Pro omits from his list the specific prohibitions of the original ten commandments: theft, murder, adultery, covetousness, perjury. Unlike Pro's commandments, they are not buried in murky "don't steal unless you think it's reasonable" ambiguity.

Commandments can come in conflict, but that does not imply they are not useful. If commandments are in conflict, then one is back to figuring out what to do to resolve the conflict. But most of the time, a person does not have to steal to save his mother, so the rule is applicable. The Bill of rights is the same way. They are stated with unwavering affirmation, but sometime the Supreme Court has to resolve conflicts.

Pro's list of commandments is inferior to the traditional list because people can use moral edicts, and he provides none. His list merely basically advises that everything your think is reasonable is okay, or maybe one should go consult Pro and find out what is "really" reasonable. This doesn't work.
Debate Round No. 2
Freeman

Pro

I cease to be amazed when debates like this fail to culminate in a proper meeting of the minds.

"Pro began the debate with the correct definition of "commandments." He said "... my list of moral edicts ..." That's right. Commandments are not interesting thoughts, points to ponder, considerations, guides to practical living, or anything other than moral edicts." Under your own guidelines the first 4 commandments of the Old Testament are not actually commandments because they have nothing to do with morality. Lets not get mired down in minutia shall we. Secondly, I gave an explanation for why my tenth commandment was indeed moral. I could have redefined my commandments as "Handy dandy fun rules for living a good life" and the resolution would have been equally as true.

As I see it your critique of my commandments have fallen under three categories.

1.They don't provide directions for people on how to achieve the outcomes.

2."Reason" "evidence" and the "scientific method" are vacuous constructs.

3.The commandments leave room open for interpretation.

============
Case pro- Rebuttals
============

1. I don't proscribe specific methods for achieving happiness because frankly I'm ignorant about what the underpinnings of human well-being actually are. This is a scientific question that is far from being settled and for me to pretend to know with certainty how to achieve a happy life would require me to be unreasonable. I can make general truisms like love is better than hate at cultivating human happiness but beyond this much work still needs to be done. Perhaps I can show why your dismissal of my views is unfair by way of an analogy. Lets say that I tell you to travel to San Diego California and I don't give you instructions on how to get there. Is this a vacuous statement on my behalf? Not really. You could take a train, bus, airplane or a car to get there. Or you could simply walk. Even if you didn't know where San Diego was you could do a little bit of research and find this out in a few minutes or hours at most. Such is the case with human flourishing. Happiness and human flourishing are like far off lands without clear directions readily available. Different paths may take you there and some of these paths may be easier than others. It is ultimately the job of science to discover what makes humans maximally happy. In the meantime we can still determine that happiness is a noble outcome even if we don't know exactly how to get there.

2. Reason is not subjective despite what my opponent may believe. The Jihadist that believes he knows the mind of God is not being reasonable and he probably hasn't made himself open to evidence. Anyone murdering an innocent person out of deference to their religion is not acting reasonably or showing compassion and thus is not following my commandments. Jihadists would be breaking almost all of my commandments in the behavior they choose to engage in. Its not a matter of what I think is reasonable or justified. Anyone that is operating on the assumption that gravity is merely an opinion is not operating reasonably. And they are likely not to have a very long life. This same line of critique would be equally valid when applied to astrologers, Christians, Scientologists, Jihadists and other irrationalists. The claim that Jesus was born of a virgin and will be returning to Earth trailing clouds of glory is not a reasonable claim to knowledge regardless of my opinions on the matter.

3. What constitutes "evidence" "reason" and the "scientific method" are not open for interpretation but other things are. Likewise, what constitutes happiness and well being are also not open to interpretation. If there were any objective fact about morality it is that murder, theft, and rape are bad strategies for creating happy people or functional societies. Jihadists that murder infidels may think they are acting out of goodness, but they are not. However, what constitutes generosity could be open to interpretation. In this context generosity could mean simply sharing your food with someone or helping someone with car troubles. As a general practice I always help everyone I meet, within reason. If someone needs my attention or has trouble with schoolwork then I usually make it a priority to help them and thus I am being generous with my time. The fact that some of my commandments are flexible is not a testament to their weakness; it's a testament to their strength. And for the record I didn't use the word charity in my 3rd commandment.

================================
My response to a critique of my 7th commandment
================================

Cows, pigs, and dogs can all feel happiness and suffer. Therefore we should take their interests into consideration when we make decisions. Obviously different animals have different qualities e.g. (the capacity to feel pain), (the capacity to feel happiness) and (the capacity to be self aware). My whole point is that we should not discriminate purely on the basis of membership in a species regardless of the qualities animals possess. We must examine the qualities that different entities possess and make decisions from there. In the same way it would be silly to talk about a mans right to have an abortion it would be meaningless to speak of an otters right to vote. Otters are incapable of understanding the importance of voting and thus saying that they should have a right to vote is meaningless. Please, don't be ridiculous. Any action that made a dog, human or other conscious creature happy while not causing other creatures to suffer would be following the basic premise of this rule.

==================
Contention from my opponent
===================

"Pro omits from his list the specific prohibitions of the original ten commandments: theft, murder, adultery, covetousness, perjury." All of these things are prohibited in overarching principles that can be found in my commandments. There is simply no way to square any of the behaviors you listed with my 4th 5th 7th 8th and 9th commandments. Secondly, I do not prohibit them directly in order to avoid dangerous absolutism. For instance, people generally have a preference not to have their belongings stolen. Insofar as everyone respected these preferences theft would be impossible under my 6th commandment.

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A challenge to my opponent
====================

You are to imagine that the year is 1840 and that you are a black lesbian living in the United States. Would you prefer that the original Ten Commandments were ascendant or would you prefer that my commandments were ascendant?

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Conclusion
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Everything that was good about the original Ten Commandments has been improved upon in my list. And many things that were sorely lacking from the original list have been added in mine e.g. (prohibitions against racism sexism, and speciesism). Even if everyone on Earth followed the original Ten Commandments it isn't unreasonable to conclude that many of the ailments in our world like genocide, extreme poverty, and cruelty would remain intact. Likewise, there are no direct prohibitions against rape or torture in the original list and more importantly there are no overarching principles one can appeal to that would preclude them. Under no stretch of the imagination could these things occur under my commandments. In my list of commandments I beckoned the world to a utopia of reason. Just imagine what our world would look like if everyone represented a model of Socratic rationality. Imagine how far we could get as a species if this were the case. Imagine what our conversation about ethics would be like if it were as unbound by dogmatism as science is. Imagine a world where everyone is motivated out of love, compassion and a desire to alleviate suffering. If you like what you imagine then I would strongly encourage you to vote pro.

Best,
Freeman
RoyLatham

Con

Pro announced his intent in his opening argument. He said "my list of moral edicts ..." will lead to "... a generally happier world." Our debate progressed to a conclusion in which he asserted, "I don't proscribe specific methods for achieving happiness because frankly I'm ignorant about what the underpinnings of human well-being actually are." And what happened to the concept of "moral edicts"? He says, "I could have redefined my commandments as "Handy dandy fun rules for living a good life" and the resolution would have been equally as true." I think this admits that Pro failed to make a list of moral edicts that would make the world a happier place.

Moral edicts are rules meant to govern human behavior. They are inherently tied to human nature. If one honors his parents and does not lie, steal, commit adultery, or murder, than one will be happier and the world will be a happier place. Consequently, as soon as Pro admits that he is not up to understanding human nature, he out of the Ten Commandments business.

While it's true that we do not have a perfect understanding of human nature, we are far from total ignorance. The cited old commandments are good ones relative to our understanding. I suggested ways that new commandments might be written that reflected a more current understanding, for example, "Ponder important decisions for three days." would be a good one. This reflects the understanding is that a common human frailty is to make a quick decision then rationalize it. Another one along those lines is "Don't make any decision until you have to." That promotes keeping an open mind, a step towards rational behavior.

Pro didn't take that tack of crafting edicts that are both specific and promote rational behavior, even though I have demonstrated it is possible. He settled for distant truisms, like "don't believe anything without good reason" and "be kind to animals." Even most of his truisms need analysis to discover the intended truism. If the goal is to one-up God (or at least tradition) in the Commandment department then crafting simple language is important. If one means "be kind to animals" then "don't discriminate on grounds of species" is a wild miss. The original Ten Commandments did not have a post scripted "or whatever, you know what I mean" and that is a virtue of their formulation. I showed in the debate that Pro's (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), and (8) all require a "well, you know what I mean clause" at the very least. I think they are too poorly worded to be valid.

I think I made it clear what I meant by certain of his commandments being "vacuous." He used the word "truism" and I think that's pretty close. It's something along the line of "be good." It promotes a general goal while giving inadequate instruction as to how to achieve it. "Be good" or Pro's similar amorphous general goals allows the jihadist to rationalize his behavior as just and rational, whereas a commandment of "Do not kill infidels" would settle the issue.

Pro asserts that "What constitutes 'evidence' 'reason' and the 'scientific method' are not open for interpretation." That is probably true in the abstract, where reason is perfectly applied, but Pro allows each person following his commandments to judge for themselves subjectively what is reasonable and what is not. I gave the example of Al Gore, an intelligent and well educated man, writing a whole book on reason without ever getting beyond a rationalization of his particular beliefs, ignoring contrary evidence and generally running the list of logical fallacies. An intelligent and well-intentioned man fails in the attempt. There is therefore no chance that people with ordinary prejudices will succeed from such general direction.

Pro defends his concept of promoting truisms by analogy, "Lets say that I tell you to travel to San Diego California and I don't give you instructions on how to get there. Is this a vacuous statement on my behalf? Not really. ... you could do a little bit of research and find this out in a few minutes or hours at most. Such is the case with human flourishing." The analogy fails because few would guess that San Diego is an important goal, but one identified the steps to get their are easily discovered. By contrast, "happiness" is obvious, but the steps to get their are not obvious. Similarly, Pro's goals of reason, justice, and so forth are obvious, but the steps are not. That understanding is reflected in the concrete nature of the original Ten Commandments, and lost in Pro's amorphous truisms.

Pro argues, "Reason is not subjective despite what my opponent may believe." I did not argue that reason itself was subjective. I argued that an individual's assessment of what is reasonable is subjective, and that makes a generic "be reasonable" a useless commandment. The human power to rationalize grows with intelligence, so as a general directive it doesn't work. Specific steps ("at least read the Wikipedia entry first') could help, but Pro gives none of those. In every case he relies on useless self-assessment.

"You are to imagine that the year is 1840 and that you are a black lesbian living in the United States. Would you prefer that the original Ten Commandments were ascendant or would you prefer that my commandments were ascendant?" If ascendant means "guaranteed by a supervising deity" then I'd go with Pro's list. But if "ascendant" has the practical operative meaning of "obeyed by self-assessment" then I'd go with the old list. The old list has the definitive "thou shalt not kill," whereas Pro's list allows anything to be rationalized as "reasonable" and that includes all of the common prejudices of the times, believed as well-found and reasonable by the locals.

I'll grant that the seemingly definitive "thou shall nots" are often rationalized with amazing ease. That's a tribute to human powers of rationalization. However, that supports my position. Commandments have to be very specific to even have a chance, and even even then they can be evaded. Truism-type goals don't have a chance of succeeding.

Pro concludes with, "Just imagine what our world would look like if everyone represented a model of Socratic rationality." Sure, that's nice, but the way to progress in that direction is not to just proclaim, "Okay, everyone, listen up. Everyone should be rational from now on. Thank you" I think we can make progress, and the exercise of writing commandments could be useful by affirming rules that might head us in the right direction. Pro missed the opportunity by opting for vacuous truisms; poorly worded ones at that.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 3
25 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by piggy555 6 years ago
piggy555
Pro, Don't you know that cigarettes are bad for you health. You are not a Christian.
Posted by Puck 6 years ago
Puck
To be fair, so does, Awed, for the non theist position, Freeman.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
Voltar143, you've votebomed all of my debates that have anything to do with God, sex, religion or abortion.
Posted by sadolite 7 years ago
sadolite
Freemans "Ten commandments" Sounds like the communist manifesto if you ask me.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
I do like the Buddha guy, although I'm not so keen on the reincarnation part of Buddhism. The Buddha was an atheist, you know.

What is dishonorable is defined by 1-4, 6-9. Humans, I think, are programmed by genetics to be tribal on several levels, with the family being the tribal unit above the self. In the West, doing something dishonorable is construed as a failure of the individual most of the time, except in politics when some bad action is deemed typical of whatever group the person belonged to. (5) is an amplifier for the other rules, saying that you must be moral not just for your own sake, but for the sake of group cohesion. I think it clearly works better than a threat of punishment by God, because your family will in fact go after you if you screw up, once they know they should.

Rule 10 refers to violations of 1-9 as evil. I could have said "acts contrary to the herein stated rules 1-9," but how godlike is that? Rules 1-9 say what you must do to be a moral person, but they do not say what obligation you have with respect to the immoral acts of others. Rule 10 says you must oppose them. It is ambiguous as to how, but the minimum opposition is speaking out, and that is consistent with 6.

You are quite right that "think twice" (9) does not prevent bad decisions. However, "don't make bad decisions" is vacuous, while "think twice" is easy to understand and pushes in the right direction. I think human genetics strong encourages impulsive decisions, a product of evolving in nature where pausing to ponder may result in your ending up as a tiger's lunch. So (9) is like "sleep on it" or in traditional religion "pray for guidance." The guidance comes from the thoughtful pause, not divine revelation.

BTW, evil is in general "a profoundly dysfunctional concept of self-interest." It's a useful concept.
Posted by Freeman 7 years ago
Freeman
Roy, I like your list but it does seem to be wanting in some key areas.

1. good
2. good
3. good
4. Ok (good advice at any rate)
5. Roy, have you converted to Zen Buddhism since our last debate on religion? What do you mean by dishonoring family and why would that be important anyway?
6. good
7. good
8. OK- seems like a good idead
9. The hijackers of September 11th thought and thought again about the pleasures that await martyrs in paradise. And yet this didn't seem to dissuade them. Adding something along the lines of "be reasonable, make your beliefs logically cohere, and use the scientific method" would have helped in this commandment.
10. Oh right, and my commandments are "vacuous". The utterance "oppose evil" is so vague and clichéd so as to almost be meaningless. Whereas the decree to alleviate suffering actually means something insofar as we know what causes suffering. You may as well have said, "Be good little boys and girls" or "Don't do bad things".

Insofar as you added some kind of clause along the lines of "allow reason to guide the application of these commandments" then its seems alright. However, I don't see many David Humes or Einsteins coming from a society that adopted this list. And it places almost zero emphasis on the importance of alleviating suffering and promoting happiness. There are 1 billion people living in extreme poverty Roy. How does this list help them? Shouldn't we care about them?
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
Freeman, My attempt at a Big Ten List in the realm of moral edicts:

1. Do not cheat or steal.
2. Do not give false witness.
3. Do not murder.
4. Do not commit adultery.
5. Do not dishonor your family.
6. Allow your neighbor to speak and to dissent.
7. Allow your neighbor to keep his property.
8. Do not judge without a need to judge.
9. Think and think again before deciding.
10. Oppose evil.

There are obvious Biblical repeats in my list. I ended up with "false witness" (2) as a substitute for "lying about something with serious consequence." That allows lying for politeness or to make someone feel good. The Bible had that well phrased. Family dishonor (5) is an Eastern precept; it seems to be a better motivator for good behavior than threatening punishments from God. (8) and (9) are my attempts to promote reason and open-mindedness in moral decisions while being specific enough to be useful.

A good exercise.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
Nephilim, You are incoherent. Focus.
Posted by nephilim 7 years ago
nephilim
Individually of course what defines tyranny. Christianity states Holy Sacrifice as sentenced on earth not to be free of sin. Nature on the other hand with all it's gifts we treasure does not demand explanation. However distinction from nature make us virtuous and pure. There should still be room for a tyrant or two here on earth.
Posted by nephilim 7 years ago
nephilim
*do, sorry...Past has it been plenty of these.
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