Tag Archives: Empathy

Can evolution, empathy and well-being account for the existence of moral facts?

J. Warner Wallace: God's Crime Scene
J. Warner Wallace: God’s Crime Scene

J. Warner Wallace is publishing blog posts related to the material covered in his newest book. This latest post is related to that big discussion we had last week about whether atheists can ground objective moral values and objective moral duties.

He writes:

How are we to account for the existence of objective, transcendent moral truths? Some philosophers, like Sam Harris, believe “moral values are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures.” Well-being (also described as human “flourishing”) is, according to Harris, the purpose of our existence as human beings. Since human biology transcends human culture, moral truths (if they are rooted in human biology), would also transcend culture. As a result, we can account for the existence of objective, transcendent moral truths without having to ground them in a transcendent moral truth-giver (like God). Harris believes these kinds of truths are simply grounded in the well-being of our entire species, and according to Harris, can be ascertained and apprehended by simply studying the science of human flourishing. Harris argues “that science can, in principle, help us understand what we should do and should want—and, therefore, what other people should do and should want in order to live the best lives possible. There are right and wrong answers to moral questions, just as there are right and wrong answers to questions of physics, and such answers may one day fall within reach of the maturing sciences of mind.” But this attempt to ground objective, transcendent moral truths in human biological flourishing is misguided for several reasons…

Here’s one of the reasons:

This View Assumes a Moral Definition of “Well-Being”
What is Harris’ definition of “well-being” in the first place? Is it merely survival, or is it a particular kind of survival? Even philosophers who hold this view readily admit some behaviors (like subjugating slaves and stealing the resources of opposing groups) can actually aid in the survival of a people group. But these same thinkers simultaneously believe these kinds of behaviors are detrimental to the group’s well-being. This implies, however, there’s a right way to survive and a wrong way. Did you spot the logical inconsistency here? Those who believe the pursuit of human well-being is the origin of moral truth, begin with a definition of well-being already infused with moral truth. Who gets to determine the right or wrong way to survive or flourish? This approach to moral truth argues for something more than mere biological survival of the fittest. It argues for a kind of moral survival (described as “well-being”) before it has adequately explained the source for moral truth.

The minute you are talking about well-being, you have smuggled in a concept of what counts as good, and what counts as evil.

And here’s another reason:

This View Fails to Determine Whose Well-Being Is Most Important
Why would any of us consider the well-being of strangers prior to the well-being of our own families and communities? If history is any indicator, humans are far more inclined to care for themselvesthan for others, even when the activities of their own group may ultimately harm the survivability of the entire species. Who gets to define “flourishing” when cultures and individuals disagree about notions of happiness, compassion, contentedness, or physical and psychological health? When competing interests collide, whose definitions (and whose well-being) warrants our consideration? As philosopher Patricia Churchland observes, “no one has the slightest idea how to compare the mild headache of five million against the broken legs of two, or the needs of one’s own two children against the needs of a hundred unrelated brain-damaged children in Serbia.”

Even if we are only interested in the well-being of an isolated group, should we be more concerned about total well-being or average well-being of the group? Those concerned with total well-being prefer a world in which the most people possible are able to live with at least moderate well-being. Those concerned with average well-being prefer a world in which smaller groups maximize their well-being, even if others suffer, so the average for the species is elevated. If we derive moral value from an action’s impact on the well-being of the entire species, why should I, as a law enforcement officer, care at all about murdered gang members such as Jesse’s victim? Shouldn’t I be more focused on the fate of those better educated, wealthier or more intelligent contributors to our society than those who are actually preying on our society? Aren’t those in the first group more likely to contribute to the well-being of our species than those in the second? Assessing an action’s moral value on the basis of its ultimate consequence is nearly impossible to accomplish and leads to disturbing discrimination.

In fact, the “well-being” view pushed by Sam Harris and others is really just utilitarianism, and I posted something about the many problems with that view previously.

Why does objective morality matter? Well consider a previous post where I looked at a debate between Matt Dillahunty and David Robertson. Robertson asked Dillahunty whether it was an objective fact that Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp, was morally evil. Dillahunty’s reply? “I don’t know”. And that is consistent with his atheistic view. The answer to EVERY question about moral facts for an atheist is “I don’t know”. They have to not know. If they did know, then God would have to exist to ground that moral fact, because it would exist independent of personal preferences and cultural customs.They have to say I don’t know, or give up their atheism. And that’s why moral facts are nowhere grounded in an atheistic worldview. They use the words, but the words refer to nothing that exists independent of personal preferences and cultural conventions – which vary over time and place.  If you agree with Dillahunty’s ignorance about whether concentration camps are moral evils as a matter of fact, then you can be an atheist.

God’s Crime Scene

Some really good blog posts are coming out on Cold Case Christianity blog related to this new book. Just judging from the table of contents and the podcast he did on it, it looks like it covers 8 of the good, substantial arguments for God’s existence. I always like the science arguments more than the history arguments, and history arguments more than the philosophical arguments, because I’m an engineer. Really looking forward to a quiet weekend with this new book. I got the audio edition in addition to the book itself.

Study: brain of child neglected by mother is smaller and underdeveloped

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail.

Here is the scan:

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected
Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

I have a very good feminist non-Christian friend who sometimes comments here. I once asked her about marriage and she said that her skills would be wasting on raising children. I explained to her my view that a mother needs to stay at home with the children, and that is more important work. I expect my future wife to read all kinds of books on child care and to give the child attention, nutrition, exercise and play so that the child will grow up to be an effective Christian. Maybe I need to be clear. I am not going to spend hundreds of thousands per child with just any woman. I need a woman who can produce influential and effective Christians who will engage in the public square. And we do not entrust that job to just anyone. Professional women who are willing to be stay-at-home moms in the first five years of each child’s life.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and a couple of years of employment. Then she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children. It’s not a waste of her talent to make the next William Lane Craig, the next Marsha Blackburn, the next Doug Axe, or the next Edith Jones. Even if we only aim for those guys and get decent, hard-working Christians who make a difference using apologetics, that would still be something. The main thing is not to be scared to try to achieve something with the family – if you aim at nothing, you always hit it.

UPDATE: I am linking to a relevant post from Lindsay, a Christian mother who has a graduate degree in biology and was teaching biology before leaving her career to care for her children.

UK survey: nearly 60% of working moms would cut their work hours if they could afford to

Dina tweeted this UK Daily Mail article that made me think about how women vote.

Excerpt:

More than a third of working mothers would like to give up their jobs completely and stay at home with their children, a major Government survey has found.

It showed that millions of mothers of young children who go out to work do so only because they need to work to pay the bills.

The research for the Department for Education found that, far from being anxious to get out of their homes and into employment, the great majority of mothers are only reluctant workers.

Nearly six out of ten of all working mothers would cut down their hours to spend more time with their families if they could afford to, it said.

The yearning among mothers to leave their jobs and look after their children instead is even more pronounced among the highest achieving women, the  survey indicated.

More than two-thirds of those in senior and middle management roles would spend fewer hours in the office and devote more time to their children if they had enough money, it said.

[…]Yesterday’s survey also undermines the claims that prejudice and discrimination against women in male-dominated companies is the reason why women are heavily outnumbered in the boardroom.

Rather, it suggests that many women who could get to the top in business choose instead to put their children before their careers.

The problem is that when government gives people free stuff, people who work have to work more to pay for it. And the strangest thing is that even though women seem to want to stay home with their kids (which is good), when it comes time to vote, they actually vote NOT to stay home with their kids. How? By growing the size of government, which results in higher taxes. To find out what women really think about staying home with their kids, we can look at how they vote. 

Women voted 55 to 44 for Obama
Women voted 56-44 for more government spending in 2012

CNN reports on how women voted in the 2012 election:

According to CNN’s exit polls, 55% of women and 45% of men voted for Obama and 44% of women and 52% of men voted for Romney. That level of female support for the president made an especially big impact in swing states like Ohio where the gender breakdown mirrored the national figures.

[…]There are some indications that social issues directly impacting women might have helped sway votes in some states.

Tuesday’s early exit polls showed 51% of Missouri voters said they believed abortion should be legal all or most of the time. Of those voters, exit polls showed 76% supported Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, who won Tuesday night, while 19% voted for Akin.

Forty-seven percent of Missouri’s voters said abortion should be illegal. Exit polls showed Akin netted 67% of this group’s votes while 27% of people who think abortion should be illegal supported McCaskill.

But much more than social issues, pocketbook economic issues most concerned women voters, exit polling showed.

“Women like all voters felt the economics were most important,” Swers said. “Women tend to be more supportive of government spending… than men are … so they were less responsive to Romney in that way and more responsive to Obama’s message on empathy and helping the middle class.”

Gallup reported that the gender gap in the 2012 election was actually 20 points. That was the largest ever measured in a Presidential election. The actual vote for Obama among women, according to Gallup, was 56-44.

More government means higher taxes
Women are also more pro-abortion more than men

Here is a peer-reviewed research paper that shows the problem that we need to warn women about, so that they vote smarter.

The abstract reads:

This paper examines the growth of government during this century as a result of giving women the right to vote. Using cross‐sectional time‐series data for 1870–1940, we examine state government expenditures and revenue as well as voting by U.S. House and Senate state delegations and the passage of a wide range of different state laws. Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue and more liberal voting patterns for federal representatives, and these effects continued growing over time as more women took advantage of the franchise. Contrary to many recent suggestions, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970s, and it helps explain why American government started growing when it did.

When people vote for government to do more for everyone else, then men who work have to pay more in taxes.

Women for bigger government, higher taxes
Women vote for higher taxes, so they have to work more

If women want to stay home with their children more, then they need to vote for their husbands (present or future) to pay less in taxes when they work. That means voting for smaller government, more liberty and more personal responsibility. Until women get to the point of connecting their future plans (marriage and parenting) for their lives with their current voting, this situation is not going to change. Marriages run on money. It’s no good to urge men to “man-up” and then take away their ability to provide by taxing more of their earnings to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control pills and abortions. Keep the money in the family, and then you can stay home with the kids more.

Study: brain of child neglected by mother is smaller and underdeveloped

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail.

Here is the scan:

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected
Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

I have a very good feminist non-Christian friend who sometimes comments here. I once asked her about marriage and she said that her skills would be wasting on raising children. I explained to her my view that a mother needs to stay at home with the children, and that is more important work. I expect my future wife to read all kinds of books on child care and to give the child attention, nutrition, exercise and play so that the child will grow up to be an effective Christian. Maybe I need to be clear. I am not going to spend hundreds of thousands per child with just any woman. I need a woman who can produce influential and effective Christians who will engage in the public square. And we do not entrust that job to just anyone – we want a Michele Bachmann or a Jennifer Roback Morse. Professional women who are willing to be stay-at-home moms when it’s necessary to do that.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and a couple of years of employment. Then she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children. It’s not a waste of her talent to make the next William Lane Craig, the next Marsha Blackburn, the next Doug Axe, or the next Edith Jones.

Does science support mothers who leave their young children to go to work?

Dina is very concerned about the UK’s leftist coalition government’s attempt to punish women who stay at home with their young children. (H/T Dina)

Excerpt:

Under plans unveiled in the Budget on Wednesday, families will only benefit from the generous new deal, which will come into force in 2015, if ‘all parents’ have a job. If one parent works but the other stays at home looking after their young children, they will get nothing.

It is the second time in just a few months that the Government has triggered controversy with its changes to the tax and benefit systems, which appear to penalise stay-at-home mothers.

As a result of the recent child benefit changes, a couple can both earn £50,000 and keep their child benefit, worth £1,752 a year for two children.

But a couple where one parent earns £60,000 and the other earns nothing – but have a far lower joint income – do not get a penny.

Again, this week’s initiative favours those couples where both parents go out to work. It will even benefit parents who each earn a salary of £149,999.

Note that this plan is being put forward by socialist Liberal Democrat Party, as well as the “Conservative” Party.

Dina thinks that the science is pretty clear that children suffer if their mothers leave them at a young age. Take a look at the video above, and then the brain scan below.

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected
Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

Here’s the article that goes with the brain scan from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

This is why I argue that feminism, which is the ideology that demands that women work outside the home in order to be “equal” to men, is harmful to children. If we really cared about children, then we need to not be subsidizing the child abuse schemes of Liberal Democrats like Nick Clegg. We need to be clear that gender feminism (third-wave feminism) is an anti-child ideology and it should be opposed. The science is settled on this issue. Feminism harms innocent young children. And feminism isn’t just opposed to the rights of born children. They oppose the right to life of unborn children, too.