TWADE: Humpty Dumpty and the Vegan (Ch 8)

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies and RZIM Connect Family!

Thanks for being patient with me and allowing for this post to go live on Tuesday rather than the normal Monday.

This chapter reminds me a lot of Ch 6 in that it deals with morality. The essential question asked here is, “Where does morality come from?” Andy considers two main sources, either from a transcendent standard or we as humans decide what is moral, and then lays out the consequences of each in his always clever and witty way.

If God does not exist and, as Andy says, morality comes from humans/society/evolution, then we are faced with numerous problems; two mentioned in the chapter include the inability to know which “morality” is correct when people/societies differ and the loss of purpose entails that you have no way of knowing what a human life is supposed to look like.

By contrast, if morality comes from a transcendent standard, namely God, then we have solutions to the two problems above and others mentioned throughout the chapter. However, this raises a larger and more personal question: What if I don’t measure up to the standard of good? What is nobody measures up? What then? Since what is good and what is bad is not under our control, we may have an issue when attempting to get on the right side of the measuring stick.

The question above is posed near the end of the chapter, and I think it would be very helpful to not only reflect on the answer within ourselves but also to discuss with our non-Christian friends. It may be helpful to pose the question like, “IF this is true, what are the implications?” Again, each person makes moral judgments daily, so expect this conversation to move from philosophical to real-life experience quickly.

  1. Did you have an “aha!” moment during this chapter? Please share, if so.
  2. I didn’t cover the entire chapter in my summary. What would you add to this post to make it better? (I won’t be offended in the slightest. Please share things that jumped off the page, but I didn’t mention above.)
  3. This is our 8th week in this book. Are you seeing a change in your conversations? Yes or no, and why?

Can’t wait to hear from everyone!

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Hi. I thought your summary (and past summaries) very good - concise but covers a lot. I was going to ask how you retain much of what you read? I read a lot, and unless I make copious notes I don’t seem to be able to retain much of the content!
One thing that stood out was Andy’s point about the fact that even atheists have an idea of how life ‘ought’ to be, demonstrated by Dawkin’s outrage at cheating in cricket. If evolution is the process by which we develop morality, I have to wonder, do we not evolve at different paces or even in different directions as individuals? Why is the assumption that everyone who is born (with in the next 10 years say) and those currently alive - across all continents - are all on the same evoluntionary page? And if evolution is doing it’s mindless, unguided, thing, surely we should expect vastly varying views of morality? None of which are ‘wrong’ - it’s just evolution in action. Perhaps I am on the wrong lines here?
Michael Ramsdon talks about the bleak, yet honest atheist John Gray, who claims that there is no such thing as good or evil and any appeal to these ideas or terms are stealing from the Judeo-Christian worldview. Michael says that at the time of the economic crash (mid 2000’s) John Gray came out denouncing the greed, depravity and evil of the bankers and investors who had ultimately caused the crash. Michael pointed out that it was interesting the Gray thought something ‘immoral’ when it impacted him!
I have to admit that my conversations with non-believers or seekers have been few and far between of late. It is my hope that over the coming weeks there will be an increase in opportunitjes to talk with people. Please pray for that.

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Thanks, @Keith_Moore! You’re very kind.

It may be how I’m wired up, but I retain most of what I read. As long as I can remember I’ve just kind of been that way; like in school I usually remembered more than my classmate. But, the good thing is anyone can learn the type of information we’re discussing; it may just be on different time frames.

Here’s a shortcut to holding on to the information more quickly: apply it and then teach it. Studies show that if we apply what we’ve learned we are more likely to retain it. And, if we take it a step further and teach others the information, we retain it for longer-term. I’ve found this to be true in my own life, and hence, why I push for application in our discussion questions.

I think you’re quite right in your reasoning regarding moral evolution. You nailed it right on the head when you ask, “Why is the assumption that everyone who is born (with in the next 10 years say) and those currently alive - across all continents - are all on the same evolutionary page? And if evolution is doing it’s mindless, unguided, thing, surely we should expect vastly varying views of morality? None of which are ‘wrong’ - it’s just evolution in action.” There’s no reason to think that all humans would or should evolve morally the same way across the globe. We don’t see that across species in different environments, so why would we expect it to be different here?

One could respond to your question above by saying we do have different morals, but there are two things to be said about that. First, if we do have different morals across the globe, then objective morality is gone. Different morals give rise to subjectivity and as Andy brings up in the chapter, who is right when different morals are at odds with each other? Second, we don’t see different morals across cultures. If I can recall correctly from an anthropology class I took in college, we see very similar morals across all people groups but the difference is how they are applied. The two examples given in class, or at least the two most memorable examples, were of the topless tribes in the Amazon and the cannibals in Papua New Guinea. The Amazon tribes have a standard moral of modesty but that didn’t include women covering up their breasts. While the cannibal tribes do have morals against murder and eating humans, those no longer were applicable because once a person was found to be a witch they were no longer considered a human and the only way to rid the village a witch brings is to kill and eat it. So, while we look at this and are repulsed, the two tribes are adhering to the same moral standards we have. Quite interesting and I wish I could provide more information, but this was just a gen ed class.

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Thanks for the reply. And I think you are right about applying and then teaching. That’s something I need to keep in mind - I’m not just reading for head knowledge, but primarily to deepen my relationship with God, change to be more like Christ and then to love my neighbour.

I suppose another answer to my objection would be that there are two levels of evolution, individual and societal. The evolution of societies is to ensure the survival of the species. I think you already challenge that by bringing in objective moral values. And Andy’s point is about this idea ultimately being ‘might makes right’ or a very shallow pragmatic existence. Another question I have about evolution (in all it’s guises) is why is the survival of the species seen as the goal? Evolution has no preference, and as a system should surely be far more heavily weighted towards the destruction of species. So, evolution has resulted in us helping one another in order to survive - why do we think that is a ‘good’ thing? We give it a ‘moral’ value. Perhaps the role of evolution is actually to supress life which it is failing to do - surely then this is a ‘bad’ turn of events.
One problem with my argument above is that I have fallen into the trap the atheists often fall into themselves and have ‘unconsciously’ attributed agency and purpose to a mindless, random process.
Would be very interested in your thoughts.

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@Keith_Moore, I think you’re beginning to see, or least point out, where atheism leads when taken to it’s logical conclusions. I like how you question “Why is it good for our species to survive?” I’ve watched Frank Turek respond like this several times when presented this reasoning, ‘After all, humans have done a lot of harm to the planet and other humans. Why should we keep this going?’ he’ll say.

I’m not sure you’ve “fallen into the trap” as you say. You seem to be describing the process in terms by which adherents to “only evolution” describe it. What I see is that you are questioning and pointing out the inherent flaws when evolution is taken to be a worldview, or belief system. I’m quite impressed by your growth from the beginning of the book to now! Keep going!

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