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Brimsurfer

Main Story, an atheist cliche?

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I don't exacty get how a game that has existing, tangible gods (that you can have chats with, for frick's sake) and portrays a vast array of religious people, some of them being very nice and reasonable like Éder, is somehow an ''atheist cliché''. 

 

As for the gods of Eora being jerks, a cursory glance at any polytheistic pantheon shows us that Woedica would be tame compared to the likes of Zeus. To say nothing of Old Testament God who smote all the things which displeased him with extreme prejudice.

 

You want an atheist cliché? Look at The Witcher games, where almost every hip and cool main character is atheist to various degrees and the main stand-in for Christianty is invariably, across three games, portrayed as overzealous, corrupt, racist, or a combination of those three.

 

Well damn, if the Witcher is from an Atheistic point-of-view then that completely destroys my "Atheists are intellectually lazy" argument ;(

 

 

I'm not going to make friends by saying this, but I find The Witcher to be a bit of a lazy setting overall. A lot of its stories are fairy tales with added gore, its monsters are often lifted straight from Eastern European folk tales, its different countries and nations are either stereotypes (Nilfgaard, Skellige) or undistinguishably bland (all the Northern Realms). It also abuses character archetypes; peasants are pogrom-happy and supersticious, soldiers are sociopaths who hang everything that moves, sorceresses are conniving and ambitious, kings are racist **** when they aren't just mad. Eora has shown more originality and personality in its setting that the Continent did in three games to me.

 

In the light of the above, the writers of that series treating religion with all the maturity of an edgy teenager doesn't surprise me. Cripes, even Dragon Age did much better in Inquisition.

 

Also, if one example is sufficient to challenge your ''atheists are intellectually lazy'' theory, maybe it wasn't that good a theory in the first place.

 

 

But The Witcher is based on a series of Polish fantasy books. That kinda makes sense, right?

 

 

Well, OK, to be fair that explains using common Eastern European monsters and folk myths.

 

But I feel the rest still stands. For all the talk of TW being a "mature" setting, I feel it doesn't really explore explore its themes, beyond "war is bad" and "racism is bad" or "religion is stupid". Pillars does it better I find, with far more nuance and subtlety. 

 

To get back to the topic, I do feel that the whole "gods aren't real" reveal is flawed because the setting doesn't quite earn it yet. We're only one game in, and the writers already drop such a huge lore bomb on us, which I feel is too soon. I mean, sure, divinities and their effect on the setting were prominent in the game, but not omnipresent, and a lot of that happened in side-content like the Temple of Eothas or the conversations with Durance. I'd wager most players didn't really care that much about the gods and their lore, then the game goes "Aha! Gotcha! they're fake!" and many would go "Ah, well, that's a thing" rather than ''Oh snap, that changes everything!''.

 

I'd compare it with Dragon Age, which waits until the third game before it starts dropping huge reveals on its diverse backstories, and on a pantheon in particular. Since the series had much more time to establish all the lore, the bomb is far more effective I find. 

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The gods suffuse a huge amount of the game, half your companions are defined by their relationship with their gods and they crop up in quests frequently, to say nothing of the driving force of the main plot being the gods involving themselves directly in mortal affairs.  If someone didn't care about the reveal after 65 hours of that they wouldn't care three games in either.

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To get back to the topic, I do feel that the whole "gods aren't real" reveal is flawed because the setting doesn't quite earn it yet. We're only one game in, and the writers already drop such a huge lore bomb on us, which I feel is too soon. I mean, sure, divinities and their effect on the setting were prominent in the game, but not omnipresent, and a lot of that happened in side-content like the Temple of Eothas or the conversations with Durance. I'd wager most players didn't really care that much about the gods and their lore, then the game goes "Aha! Gotcha! they're fake!" and many would go "Ah, well, that's a thing" rather than ''Oh snap, that changes everything!''.

 

I'd compare it with Dragon Age, which waits until the third game before it starts dropping huge reveals on its diverse backstories, and on a pantheon in particular. Since the series had much more time to establish all the lore, the bomb is far more effective I find. 

 

 

In the defense of the Pillars writing team, I think, in the long run, they aren't going for a story about finding out that gods aren't real; they're going for a story about what happens after. How does that revelation shape the world? Instead of being the dramatic climax of the story, it's just the beginning.

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"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Let's hope so, because that could be a pretty interesting story to explore.

 

A was a little disappointed when the ending slides made it sound like the revelation will never reach the masses; the Dyrwood is happy believing that its purges against animancers is what ended the legacy; and that the Watcher will be put off as a lone crazy person whose story no-one will take seriously.

 

But maybe Obsidian simply wanted to keep their options open regarding how the knowledge will spread and how people will react to it, in the sequel.


"Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them." -- attributed to George Orwell

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Well, just telling people wouldn't be much use because where's the evidence? You only know because you can look into people's souls. Eder has the right idea in the only ending I can ever get for him, when he decides that people are better believing in other people than the gods and tries to be the change he wants to see. "We maybe don't really need the gods and shouldn't have to rely on them" is a better message for people than "the gods aren't real! Bohemian Grove conspiracy! Infowars.com!"

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Its funny how people keep repeating the same stuff over and over again, but its just so plainly apparent from the dialogue of final act, that personal dispositions of the writer got the better of him and he strayed off the path of true creativity and story writing.....

 

I don't see a son of God crucified in Tolkein stories neither do I see absence of God seeping through R. R. Martins writing nor do I see personal dispositions of C. S. Lewis distorting his fantasy tales.......this is not the way that you let your personal disposition get the better of you and you destroy a potentially great plot just to colour it with the shade of your personal and subjective ideologies......and denying a player any opportunity to suggest otherwise.......the whole dialogue of the final act went in one direction that Gods are a lie and people of Eora are misled into believing them.....and not a single dialogue option to suggest otherwise......and characters in the story also seem to accept it without much argument and story moves forward by accepting this as a universal truth.......

 

Its just blatant disregard for unhindered creativity.........

 

Once again, I am not a religious person, to the people who are assuming I am religious, but it burns me to see when someone vomits their own personal ideologies into another's face without regards for much.....

You must be highly religious to have such a singularly Christian view of God, and I would I advise you pla y it like ducking role playing game and approach it from the perspective of someone actually living in this world.

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Does anyone else think the main story of the game is quite unoriginal, it seems more like a story that an atheist parent would tell his child before putting him to bed?......there are no Gods, its all the creation of some people in old times and blah blah blah.......

 

I mean I honestly believe they could have done much better than that...........most of the dialogue in Act 4 seems like a piece from some kind of atheist text lol.........

 

On a seperate note, the main story of the game seems quite vague because if all these so called Gods in the game, (who are later revealed as creationi of Engwithans) , what are they? What kind of creation are they? The game leaves so many loopholes in the main story that to me it all seems like a lump of mumbo jumbo..........it appears that there was no authentic procedure involved in building up this fantasy.

 

At least that's the impression I got from my playthroughs.

Unfortunately based on your post it seems you've interpreted the (fantasy) game through a meta involving your own personal religious POV. Perhaps you'd be better served playing something which more slavishly follows your belief system?

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Guest Jamila

 

 

I don't exacty get how a game that has existing, tangible gods (that you can have chats with, for frick's sake) and portrays a vast array of religious people, some of them being very nice and reasonable like Éder, is somehow an ''atheist cliché''.

 

As for the gods of Eora being jerks, a cursory glance at any polytheistic pantheon shows us that Woedica would be tame compared to the likes of Zeus. To say nothing of Old Testament God who smote all the things which displeased him with extreme prejudice.

 

You want an atheist cliché? Look at The Witcher games, where almost every hip and cool main character is atheist to various degrees and the main stand-in for Christianty is invariably, across three games, portrayed as overzealous, corrupt, racist, or a combination of those three.

Well damn, if the Witcher is from an Atheistic point-of-view then that completely destroys my "Atheists are intellectually lazy" argument ;(

 

I'm not going to make friends by saying this, but I find The Witcher to be a bit of a lazy setting overall. A lot of its stories are fairy tales with added gore, its monsters are often lifted straight from Eastern European folk tales, its different countries and nations are either stereotypes (Nilfgaard, Skellige) or undistinguishably bland (all the Northern Realms). It also abuses character archetypes; peasants are pogrom-happy and supersticious, soldiers are sociopaths who hang everything that moves, sorceresses are conniving and ambitious, kings are racist **** when they aren't just mad. Eora has shown more originality and personality in its setting that the Continent did in three games to me.

 

In the light of the above, the writers of that series treating religion with all the maturity of an edgy teenager doesn't surprise me. Cripes, even Dragon Age did much better in Inquisition.

 

Also, if one example is sufficient to challenge your ''atheists are intellectually lazy'' theory, maybe it wasn't that good a theory in the first place.

 

Well, not a Witcher player, but as I read books, that is in fact Sapkowski's modus operandi: he deliberately takes a fairy tale (especially, but can be a myth, or some stereotype) and then replays it and amuses himself and hopefully readers by lending some grain of truth to it, yet at the same time subverting it. Short witcher stories are blatant examples.

As for characters, that is an oversimplification. Characters may have different amounts of space to display an ambiguity or evolve, but even if a character is one-dimensional supersitious peasant or sociopathic soldier, a few (hundred) pages later you can find suprisingly (or not so suprisingly if you are used to that writing) enlightened character in the most destitute mud hut in a village, mocking superstition, or somewhat compassionate soldier criticizing ethnic cleansing.

So, if anything, he rather deconstructs this stuff. Now whether things end well for chracters that are not utter bastards is another matter; often not, generally bittersweet-ly at best. On the other hand, though the overall picture is bleak and unflattering, he is not writing ultimate villains win stories and therefore bastards may meet gruesome ends as well, be it on the tip of the Witcher's blade, or someone else's.

Then again, not a Witcher player. The game may differ from novels.

 

 

But back to the topic. There is nothing atheist at the idea the gods are false. On the contrary, that is very religious, even pious idea, because as there are many religions, and one only incorporate so many alien gods into a pantheon on the pretext they are just differently named, especially if it is monotheistic pantheon, some gods simply have to be false gods.

What is an atheist subversion is how PoE handles the idea of souls. In PoE, souls are real beyond doubt, so it seemingly confirms religion, but then it has watchers and animacers manipulate souls in the most blasphemous way as though a soul was a piece of filthy matter!!!

Edited by Jamila

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Does anyone else think the main story of the game is quite unoriginal, it seems more like a story that an atheist parent would tell his child before putting him to bed?......there are no Gods, its all the creation of some people in old times and blah blah blah.......

 

I mean I honestly believe they could have done much better than that...........most of the dialogue in Act 4 seems like a piece from some kind of atheist text lol.........

 

On a seperate note, the main story of the game seems quite vague because if all these so called Gods in the game, (who are later revealed as creationi of Engwithans) , what are they? What kind of creation are they? The game leaves so many loopholes in the main story that to me it all seems like a lump of mumbo jumbo..........it appears that there was no authentic procedure involved in building up this fantasy.

 

At least that's the impression I got from my playthroughs.

Unfortunately based on your post it seems you've interpreted the (fantasy) game through a meta involving your own personal religious POV. Perhaps you'd be better served playing something which more slavishly follows your belief system?

 

 

 

 Also, there could still be actual gods in this world.

 

 What has happened so far is that the Engwithans found no evidence that the gods they were expecting to see were actually there so, rather than looking for the real answer, they constructed some gods in their own image (sacrificing actual people to do so) and went on a terror campaign to keep up the deception.

 

 The actual presence or absence of gods (apart from the constructed ones) is unknown but whether this world has gods or not, how is that story an atheist cliche?

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I played the game recently and thought about it's ending for a while. On it's own, the twist doesn't work, if Iovara really says "there are no gods", since we saw them working. But I guess it works better, if you don't consider them as gods, but as very powerful souls (which they are). I always understood it as "they exist, but they aren't all powerful" which is true, since Abydon was destroyed and Woedica dethroned. White March added a few aspects to this idea and creates a more rounded experience.

 

Some people also already wrote, that the game doesn't deny the idea, that there aren't real gods, but it is unlikely, since every loving thing seems to be bound to the wheel of souls. I think the game attacks more the idea of an eternal order, which the gods represent, as seen in the decision you took through the game and with whom you shaped all of Dyrwood. It's about control and how limited it in the end really is, Thaos is the best example. He did his schemes for over thousand years, but he couldn't stop the changes forever, as much as he tried.

 

So, yeah, I would put it also in a more atheistic corner, but it's really more about the needs of the individual and the society and control versus freedom, than "religious people are idiots".

Edited by Harry Easter

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Just finished the game, and loved it.  Straight to the point, I'm a theist.  Now to the topic, I won't speculate as to what the message was meant to convey, I'll only share what I took away from it.

 

First of all, the game doesn't deny the existence of a god or gods (nor does it confirm their existence) in Eora's universe. The game deals with a specific pantheon of gods. Before Magran, Woedica, etc. there were other faiths, and the worship of other gods.  Nor does the ending rule out that knowing the truth about this specific pantheon, humanity moves on to once again worshiping other gods.  Or, to simply continue regarding the pantheon as gods, however it may have come to exist.  Or, likely, some of both.   So this isn't a story about how atheism is the natural state of man until some gods are very literally given existence.  Therefore, forcing humanity to abandon some kind of natural state of atheism.  

 

What I saw was an ancient civilization that arrogantly concluded that because their 'science' couldn't measure god(s) they mustn't exist. Further, that they believed religiosity was the cause of the world's ills.  But since religiosity and belief in god(s) was nearly universal, there could be little hope of convincing humanity to abandon faith....However, they could narrow down the multitude of faiths and gods to one that they created, with the virtues and aspects they concluded humanity had need of to fit their clinical view of 'order.'

 

TLDR, arrogant atheists (because they couldn't find proof using their 'science') who looked down on everyone else (a multitude of faiths and beliefs) use 'science' to create Artificial Intelligences so as to at least control it.  Can't wipe it out, control it type of thing. 

 

The truth at the end doesn't address if gods are real.  Only that a particular set of gods are 'scientifically' created AI.  

 

More of a "trying to play god with science" story, actually.

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Some theists are going to be upset because a) it doesn't just have the premise of a supernatural creator (because they don't believe they have to prove their superstitions), b) it has got a clear message about not needing religion to be moral and to have order, as that's Thaos's position but it's apparent that despite having won the world is no better off with plenty of chaos and misery, and c) they *shock* *horror* have a sympathetic atheist character and an antagonist who is a pro-religion atheist in the main quest line (never mind they have religious companions, the option for religious PC, and sympathetic religious characters). Lets be clear, PoE is not what pro-atheism looks like, it's just that theists are so used to their bubble where they are catered to and their view is just assumed.

What I saw was an ancient civilization that arrogantly concluded that because their 'science' couldn't measure god(s) they mustn't exist.

It's arrogance to sincerely look for evidence for a hypothesis and reject it when you have exhausted all avenues but definitely not arrogance to believe in things without any evidence that also go against reason and our experience.

Edited by AwesomeOcelot
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Thaos isn't pro-religion, though.  Not  anymore than atheistic communist regimes who've reluctantly allowed the practice of a handful of religions so long as they had control and the final say,  His people didn't use their science in order to create religion where there was only atheism before.  No, religion and belief in god(s) were widespread. Faith was alive in the world.  Pre-existing his Artificial Intelligences. Having decided that because their science couldn't measure god(s), therefore, they musn't exist, they felt empowered to order the world as they saw fit.   If Thaos thought he could impart this order while having the people abandon their own god(s), to knowingly turn to his AI's, he would've had it so.  But again, as stated along the way, religion (including theism) seemed to be an almost inherent feature of humanity/kith.  Perhaps, realizing that despite how powerful his AI's were, an all out war against faith would be an uncontrollable disaster.   Therefore, he (they) worked to shape what he couldn't destroy entirely.   

 

It's arrogant because they decided they must have had the right tools to measure a god or gods.  And then take the failure of their tool, to measure something for which maybe it just isn't capable of measuring, as license to create powerful super-computer Artificial intelligences in order to get at least some kind of a handle on all those 'icky' religions that humanity/kith had been practicing. 

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Just think of this.  We know religion and theism most definitely pre-dated Thaos' super computers.  Apparently widespread, as Thaos saw humanity's problems as stemming from the variations of religious practice and belief.  The fear isn't that humanity/kith turns to atheism is he AI's true nature is discovered.  But a golden age of religious revival .  Old gods, new gods, etc.

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Some theists are going to be upset because a) it doesn't just have the premise of a supernatural creator (because they don't believe they have to prove their superstitions), b) it has got a clear message about not needing religion to be moral and to have order, as that's Thaos's position but it's apparent that despite having won the world is no better off with plenty of chaos and misery, and c) they *shock* *horror* have a sympathetic atheist character and an antagonist who is a pro-religion atheist in the main quest line (never mind they have religious companions, the option for religious PC, and sympathetic religious characters). Lets be clear, PoE is not what pro-atheism looks like, it's just that theists are so used to their bubble where they are catered to and their view is just assumed.

What I saw was an ancient civilization that arrogantly concluded that because their 'science' couldn't measure god(s) they mustn't exist.

It's arrogance to sincerely look for evidence for a hypothesis and reject it when you have exhausted all avenues but definitely not arrogance to believe in things without any evidence that also go against reason and our experience.

 

 

One more thing.  I wouldn't call the belief in things without empirical evidence, arrogant.  Good, evil, morally right and morally wrong.  None of which can be measured under  a microscope or through a telescope.  But, I think nearly every member of kith probably believes that certain things are just "evil/wrong" in the moral sense.   Even despite what the earthly authorities presiding over them might say. And if something like religiosity is a nearly universal feature of humanity/kith throughout history, how could it be unreasonable?  Even from a clinical empirical atheistic pov, and not emotional, its near universality would suggest an adaption. 

Edited by Lourent

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And if something like religiosity is a nearly universal feature of humanity/kith throughout history, how could it be unreasonable?

 

That depends on your definition of “(un)reasonable.” Believing in a flat earth was a pretty reasonable thing to do in the past.


Pillars of Bugothas

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One more thing. I wouldn't call the belief in things without empirical evidence, arrogant. Good, evil, morally right and morally wrong. None of which can be measured under a microscope or through a telescope. But, I think nearly every member of kith probably believes that certain things are just "evil/wrong" in the moral sense. Even despite what the earthly authorities presiding over them might say. And if something like religiosity is a nearly universal feature of humanity/kith throughout history, how could it be unreasonable? Even from a clinical empirical atheistic pov, and not emotional, its near universality would suggest an adaption.

Morality is subjective, a deity most of the time and for the majority of religious people is objective (and more importantly a subjective deity is not what I was referring to or what most people mean by it, and deities are only ever subjective when defending irrational beliefs). When you accept the fact that morality has evolved, biologically, intellectually, culturally and is not some kind of outside force not only can morality be measured through science, but science can give answers to evil/wrong. Even a universal feature of humanity can be unreasonable, it's completely independent as our brains evolved and have features that make the majority likely to be unreasonable some of the time and in predictable ways. Universality doesn't suggest adaptation, only that it's connected to an adaptation, and in this case we know what that is, the human ability to project intent onto things is useful, more universal than religiosity, and not only used for deities or any supernatural agent. Combine that with paranoia, another adaptation, and you get spirits and gods.
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Looking through my physics and bio texts, not seeing a list of good things and evil things.  Science and the cold dumb universe doesn't care about race based slavery, pedophilia, etc.  In fact, along with its many wonders it has also delivered us chemical, biological, and atomic weapons.  Science don't care, so to speak.  

 

So, for instance, if we were to say the american slave trade was an evil, we're stepping outside of science.  Saying this practice was wrong is superstitious.  You have to have faith in its wrongness (its wrongness) as you can't measure its wrongness with scientific instruments.

 

You could say, well, I subjectively opine that the american slave trade was wrong/evil.  But that's like telling us your favorite color.  I like red, you like blue, neither of us can be right or wrong in reality since this is subjective.  You like the american slave trade, I don't, neither of us can actually be right or wrong since it's all subjective.

Edited by Lourent

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And if something like religiosity is a nearly universal feature of humanity/kith throughout history, how could it be unreasonable?

 

That depends on your definition of “(un)reasonable.” Believing in a flat earth was a pretty reasonable thing to do in the past.

 

 

But science hasn't/can't disprove gods.  Finite creatures using finite tools. 

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In any event, I was just pointing out that Thaos isn't pro-religious.  Nor did I see the story as atheistic propaganda.  Ultimately one pantheon is all that is dealt with.  The big question "is there still a god or gods"  is left open.  And no, I don't take Thaos' word for it. 

Edited by Lourent

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Looking through my physics and bio texts, not seeing a list of good things and evil things.  Science and the cold dumb universe doesn't care about race based slavery, pedophilia, etc.  In fact, along with its many wonders it has also delivered us chemical, biological, and atomic weapons.  Science don't care, so to speak.

 

So, for instance, if we were to say the american slave trade was an evil, we're stepping outside of science.  Saying this practice was wrong is superstitious.  You have to have faith in its wrongness (its wrongness) as you can't measure its wrongness with scientific instruments.

 

You could say, well, I subjectively opine that the american slave trade was wrong/evil.  But that's like telling us your favorite color.  I like red, you like blue, neither of us can be right or wrong in reality since this is subjective.  You like the american slave trade, I don't, neither of us can actually be right or wrong since it's all subjective.

 

You should check your psychology, social psychology, behavioral science and philosophy books for example, before you make such claims. 

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In any event, I was just pointing out that Thaos isn't pro-religious.  Nor did I see the story as atheistic propaganda.  Ultimately one pantheon is all that is dealt with.  The big question "is there still a god or gods"  is left open.  And no, I don't take Thaos' word for it. 

 

Thaos is willing to commit genocide and even worse things just to keep his religion only religion in world, by preventing people questioning it.

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In any event, I was just pointing out that Thaos isn't pro-religious.  Nor did I see the story as atheistic propaganda.  Ultimately one pantheon is all that is dealt with.  The big question "is there still a god or gods"  is left open.  And no, I don't take Thaos' word for it. 

 

Thaos is willing to commit genocide and even worse things just to keep his religion only religion in world, by preventing people questioning 

 

 

Which isn't pro....He wants to use use his Artificial Intelligences to control....

 

The whole point of this control was to smother all those icky religions because their diversity in practices and beliefs he felt to be the cause of what he deemed a disordered world.  Knowing he can't flat out go to war with faith, he sought to narrow it and control it.  There's no love for faith with Thaos.  Only a means to skip a likely unwinnable war against faith while instituting his "order" upon the world.

Edited by Lourent

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Looking through my physics and bio texts, not seeing a list of good things and evil things.  Science and the cold dumb universe doesn't care about race based slavery, pedophilia, etc.  In fact, along with its many wonders it has also delivered us chemical, biological, and atomic weapons.  Science don't care, so to speak.

 

So, for instance, if we were to say the american slave trade was an evil, we're stepping outside of science.  Saying this practice was wrong is superstitious.  You have to have faith in its wrongness (its wrongness) as you can't measure its wrongness with scientific instruments.

 

You could say, well, I subjectively opine that the american slave trade was wrong/evil.  But that's like telling us your favorite color.  I like red, you like blue, neither of us can be right or wrong in reality since this is subjective.  You like the american slave trade, I don't, neither of us can actually be right or wrong since it's all subjective.

 

You should check your psychology, social psychology, behavioral science and philosophy books for example, before you make such claims. 

 

 

Quote a text-book that says they discovered that the American Slave trade is/was evil...

 

You'll find that biology can allow us to be/do many things.  And science can describe how we're capable of that range.  However, saying which one of those things is evil/good isn't something science does.

Edited by Lourent

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Looking through my physics and bio texts, not seeing a list of good things and evil things.  Science and the cold dumb universe doesn't care about race based slavery, pedophilia, etc.  In fact, along with its many wonders it has also delivered us chemical, biological, and atomic weapons.  Science don't care, so to speak.

 

So, for instance, if we were to say the american slave trade was an evil, we're stepping outside of science.  Saying this practice was wrong is superstitious.  You have to have faith in its wrongness (its wrongness) as you can't measure its wrongness with scientific instruments.

 

You could say, well, I subjectively opine that the american slave trade was wrong/evil.  But that's like telling us your favorite color.  I like red, you like blue, neither of us can be right or wrong in reality since this is subjective.  You like the american slave trade, I don't, neither of us can actually be right or wrong since it's all subjective.

 

You should check your psychology, social psychology, behavioral science and philosophy books for example, before you make such claims. 

 

 

While the whole "it's all subjective" line is taking it rather too far in the other direction, he is correct in saying that science does not do morality. Philosophy does, but that's not really a branch of science as such. Even if it was, as (almost) any philosopher would be happy to point out, there is a big divide between the descriptive (which science principally concerns itself with) and the normative (the domain of ethics, aesthetics, etc.) that cannot really be bridged; you can't prove an 'ought' from an 'is'.

 

Which isn't to say that the normative is all just subjective and mere opinion (in the pejorative sense), nor even that it cannot be objective in a more fundamental sense; the latter is not a view I would subscribe to, but it's been argued by plenty of influential philosophers (though not so many now, I'd say). But conversely the objectivity of the descriptive, of 'the truth' is rather problematic as well, so in practice it seems more sensible to put the whole subjective vs objective dichotomy aside anyway, and focus on reasoned argument instead. 

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