The hathetic Salvador Cordova quote-mined the post and started drawing flames from PZ's loyal readers. Here's the mined quote:
"Sexual relationships between humans and animals come as such a shock to people, but it doesn’t to me. There can be very deep, meaningful relationships between humans and their pets." -- Skatje Myers (daughter of Darwinist PZ Myers)
Salvador didn’t link Skatje's post knowing that his readers wouldn’t bother to check out the integrity of his quote. Skatje was not expressing any desire to engage in bestiality. She came to this conclusion:
That said, I remind you that my position isn’t based on my own personal wants. I just don’t see any reason to ban it other than the same reason things like homosexuality and sodomy were banned: it’s icky. I think it’s bad practice to put social taboos into legislature when no actual logical argument can be made against it.
Is spite of Skatje Myers' well thought out blogpost I think one of her statements is wrong and it points to one of the dangers we atheists are walking into when we try to reason through morality. When Skatje says "no actual logical argument can be made against it" she's wrong. I've got one for her, a very important one that she missed, and I'll get to it soon. However, I first want to note that Vox Day, who apparently reads PZ's blog religiously, jumped into the shit hole with Sal and wrote this post, Atheist Dad of the Year, which he starts off with his typical vile provocations:
If I were ever to have attacked atheism by arguing that on the rare occasions when atheists manage to successfully reproduce, their children would likely grow up possessing beliefs that are utterly immoral by Western moral norms and abhorrent to the average individual, many people would howl that I was unfairly engaging in baseless conjecture, regardless of the logic presented.
Vox Day then makes the same mistake that Skatje makes and compounds on it with even bigger philosophical errors, like this:
The ironic truth is that Miss Myers is absolutely correct; once the basic concept of Natural Law is abandoned, there is no rational basis for banning anything from necrophilia to cannibalism other than a vague sense of "ickiness" inherited from preceding generations possessed of a more conventional morality.
The errors in that one short paragraph are almost too numerous to elaborate on. However, here too is Skatje's error: "...there is no rational basis for banning anything from necrophilia to cannibalism other than a vague sense of 'ickiness'..."
That is simply not true. There are logical reasons for discouraging bestiality, necrophilia and cannibalism and we can now see what our ancestors couldn't. Here is one logical reason to avoid sexual relations with animals: It could introduce new sexually transmitted diseases into human populations. There are probably other reasons I can't see. However, it's believed by many that AIDS originally came from monkeys and that syphilis was originally spread by shepherds after having sex with their sheep before any alleged Christ was ever born.
One of the things you need to think about when pondering what is and isn't morally wrong is how we got our moral inclinations and icky feelings in the first place. They are, by these two different viewpoints with the same error, either a product of evolution or god-design. They make much more sense as evolutionary in origin and if you try to read God's mind to figure them out you wind up with a really fucked-up God.
Our ancient ancestors didn't know about bacteria and virii and all they could do was make a general observation that populations that engaged in behaviors like bestiality, necrophilia and cannibalism suffered, perhaps, they might easily imagine, punished by some god for such behavior. [UPDATE: As the Barefoot one notes in the comments, this explanation isn't necessarily certain, it's just a possibility that I think likely.]
Douglas Adams, as I already noted in my post, Atheist vs. Atheist, pointed out this phenomena long before this debate erupted in his 1998 speech called 'Is there an Artificial God?':
"So, my argument is that as we become more and more scientifically literate, it's worth remembering that the fictions with which we previously populated our world may have some function that it's worth trying to understand and preserve the essential components of, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water; because even though we may not accept the reasons given for them being here in the first place, it may well be that there are good practical reasons for them, or something like them, to be there. I suspect that as we move further and further into the field of digital or artificial life we will find more and more unexpected properties begin to emerge out of what we see happening and that this is a precise parallel to the entities we create around ourselves to inform and shape our lives and enable us to work and live together. Therefore, I would argue that though there isn't an actual god there is an artificial god and we should probably bear that in mind. That is my debating point and you are now free to start hurling the chairs around!"
Vox Day sees morality as actually coming from that fucked-up God and not merely the human imagination's creation of an artificial God to explain what our ancient ancestors did not understand. He explains his accusation this way:
What many of her critics and defenders alike fail to realize is that the pedagogical failings of the Atheist Dad of the Year are not revealed by Miss Myers's argument that she does not believe dog-bothering should be illegal, but rather by the fact that she does not believe it is morally wrong.
How does Vox know what she thinks is or isn't morally wrong based on her post? And what makes anything morally wrong? As I said in my previous post, Claiming the moral high ground, morality is about the group, and more, it's about society and even the whole of humanity. It's about how we treat others, how we live together and work together.
Sex really isn't the victimless crime we like to think it is because of sexually transmitted diseases. Things that seem private and inconsequential can still have effects on the group you live with. And that's probably one of the reasons that monogamy became a moral virtue and another reason, besides assuring we invested in our own genes, why we evolved sexual jealousy. If my wife gives me a sexually transmitted disease it's another reason to feel my trust in her was betrayed.
Laws against such things are usually futile, that I agree with, but not every moral inclination and behavior has to be backed by laws. Morality only partly comes in the form of sympathy, empathy, moral philosophy and adopting laws and traditions. It is a wider collection of feelings and rules that regulate our behavior than that, but there is always some idea of negative consequences for doing the "immoral."
In modern times the issue of "sexual morality" is more confusing than it ever has been in the history of the planet because technology has changed the way we live. In general, with condoms and birth control, we can eliminate many of the negative effects going against our "sexual morality" that has probably evolved to protect us. However, sometimes we only think we can and we find there are other, unforseen, reasons for our moral traditions. Thus, none of us should really speak about it with as much confidence as Vox Day does except when we're saying, in general, nobody should judge anybody too quickly.
To Vox, morality is a set of rules given by a higher authority; God. And if God told Vox to start killing young children, Vox admits he would do that. But I don't think that Vox could come up with any clear list of moral rules or come up with any clear source, like the Bible, that would have all the rules we actually use.
Salvador Cordova and then later, Vox Day, misrepresented Skatje because they wanted to infuriate PZ. The difference is honesty and their desire not to enlighten or educate, but to do a kind of harm. The defenders of "Christian morality" here do not seem to care about telling the truth. From my point of view they were acting immorally. So, how can I judge them?
What is this morality I use? It's like art, we know it when we see it but can't quite define it. It's what, in movies, makes the good guys, "good" and the bad guys, "bad." It is learned from movies and from people around us. It's the way everyone else thinks we should be and the way we think everyone else should be. It's what a prude uses to rationalize being a prude and a way for some people to feel superior to others. It's "Jealousy with a halo," as H. G. Wells once said. [Note to the Barefoot one: This is my way of saying you can't know all this for certain.] And Pig-fucking ignorant preachers will wave the Bible around and tell us to obey the Ten Commandments and get right with God, but the Ten Commandments are an inadequate guide to modern morality - yet still, even by Ten Commandment standards, Sal and Vox have borne false witness.
As Christopher Hitches, and many others before him, have pointed out we had laws against murder and other crimes since the dawn of civilization, long before Moses allegedly came down from Mount Sinai with the Commandments. In ancient cultures like China, India and Egypt (where Moses came from) there were already many systems of laws in existence. There have been laws against murder since tribal times because most people object to being murdered, not because God said so. Similarly, there are laws against stealing because we object to having our hard-earned property stolen.
There is "progress" is physics, chemistry and science in general, but is there such a thing as moral progress? I think there is when we bother to think these things through and do it correctly. In theory there could be such a thing as a "science" of morality, by that I mean a "discipline" or school of thought, based not just on trial and error, but on a systematic and methodological experimentation with the testing and validation of theories. But in practice, the subject is just to wide and variable for the human mind to get around it all. So, it's our novelists, and to a lesser extent our screenplay writers, who do the thought experiments that guide a lot of us.
Take some small example of social behavior as a model, traffic laws and driving behavior, and we can see there is a balance between safety and getting where you want to go with as fast and as conveniently as possible. We probably don't have perfect traffic laws, but we might evolve something close eventually and we do seem to get better with them over time. Whatever scientific and mathematical system of probabilities that might improve your probability, increase your chances, of safely getting where you're going by car could, in theory, be applied to every other area of life and increase your chances of having a long, happy, life well-lived that is a benefit not to merely yourself but others around you. Imagine a kind of cosmic economic model.
But even if our attempts are less than perfect just by honestly trying to figure it out we become less unconscious and ignorant than we presently are. We find some balance between treating others well and treating ourselves well. After all, you don't want to be too moral because you'll cheat yourself out of much life.
In practice we all have to stumble and guess our way through life without the traffic signals and clear rules of the road we get on the highway. All human beings are going to be partly ignorant regarding all the moral rules you live by, and therefore we have no right to make any kind absolute judgment upon the process for others in the kind of cases where Sal and Vox passed their judgments.