Episode 14 of Luke and Alonzo’s oddly named Morality in the Real World is up, and despite its length, I don’t think it said much. Sure, it’s important and commendable to distinguish between the facts of reality vs. the words we use, but they could have accomplished that in a few short sentences. In the positive, the student is starting to surpass–or at least show genuine skepticism towards–the teacher. I find that very encouraging. Though one could argue that it has simply transferred to Yudkowsky, Luke’s infatuation with Alonzo Fyfe seems to be waning. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the episode, I suggest doing so, else my post might not make as much sense as it could.
Enter Alonzo Fyfe:
Ultimately, when we think about “meaning” and “permanence”, I invite you to think of a woman devoting huge amounts of time each day to the care of sick and abused children, providing them comfort and love, seeing that they are well fed and protected.
Then, I want you to imagine pulling back a bit from this image and seeing that woman merely going through the motion of caring for children in a large and empty room. While she insists that the children she comforts, protects, feeds, and teaches are real, they are figments of her imagination.
This illustrates the “meaning” that we find in a life devoted to the service of a God. There are those who look at this and see that it provides no meaning at all. Yet, when one comforts, protects, feeds, and teaches a real child and improves the quality of a real human life, this has real meaning and real purpose.
You cannot get real value from an imaginary God.
Compared to this, the rabbit has a more meaningful and fulfilling life. The bunnies that it raises and protects are real. [-Alonzo Fyfe]
Aside from the obvious bigotry against believers, Alonzo’s “argument” uses the same fallacious reasoning as William Lane Craig’s we addressed yesterday. The only difference is that they’re on opposite sides of the same coin: Craig argues that atheists can’t have real meaning or purpose in life without God. Fyfe argues that theists can’t have real meaning or purpose with God.
Though no previous objections seem to have been resolved, CSA’s ongoing Morality in the Real World podcast took a turn for the better in Episode 9, where Luke and Alonzo ponder the quantification of desires. For what it’s worth, Alonzo has written on willingness to pay before.
Early in my foray into desirism, I decided that an empirical schema for measuring desires was absolutely necessary in order for the theory to have any practical, real-world import. How else can we check against intuition? If desirism is indeed an empirical, objective theory as its defenders assert, then why not cut all the moralspeak and crunch some numbers? I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I believe my method – while certainly rudimentary and in need of further work – is a far better tool for quantifying desires than the overly simplified analysis Luke and Alonzo used in Episode 9.
I’ve decided to compose an index of posts I’ve made substantial contributions to at Common Sense Atheism from January 1st, 2010 to the date of this post, 6-11-2010. (NOTE: the index is now current through November 16th, 2010) It is not necessarily meant to be exhaustive, e.g. I omitted threads where I only made a single comment or two. I’ll be updating this list, as well as expanding on key posts where I think certain arguments deserve a closer look, and eventually distilling the best arguments into the homepage.