Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

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Cheryl in Tacoma

You tackled a huge topic in the second half of today’s show! I had read that article myself and was disappointed. Leaving aside the deliberately provocative headline, the arguments themselves were clumsy, but not entirely without merit. Perhaps I can try to frame it differently. First, it is absolutely not true that there is “no such thing as a good atheist.” The guy just titled it that to get hits. I think what he was shooting for is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON (who is not a sociopath, I suppose) has a sense of right and wrong, however twisted or rationalized… Read more »

Edward Eldritch

Quite a few social animals have a sense of fairness.

Cheryl in Tacoma

Fascinating! But I think the teamwork example (the flint and the hazelnuts), was simply a utilitarian compromise. Since both monkeys were stuck in cages, they had to work together to “beat the system,” as the narrator puts it. The second experiment I’ve seen before, and it is intriguing. But even my dog has learned to negotiate with me. When we’re on a leisure walk, the informal rule is that he gets to call the shots. I’m still the mom, though, and I’m apt to make exceptions, like if it’s starting to rain and we need to get back to the… Read more »

Cheryl in Tacoma

Dammit, why isn’t there a preview or an edit function on this blog? I forgot the after “a priori.” Grrr….

Cheryl in Tacoma

And my closing tag didn’t appear in the comment above. Ah, forget it — you know what I mean.


Wow Cheryl, you are so far off the mark. Regurgitating Xtian talking points will only make you look silly. Do a google for “Morality in Animal Species” and educate yourself. Concepts of fairness, right, and wrong are society based. There are no absolutes. Human young learn about them through observation, play, and interaction with others. It is not innate. Gods, goddesses, demi-gods, devils, demons, and other figments of human imagination do not play into it. WE decide what is right, wrong, or fair. And it can change depending on the circumstances or culture. True, there are some things for which… Read more »

Cheryl in Tacoma

So, if morality depends on cultural norms, was slavery morally right until the majority decided otherwise? Is the subjugation of women in cultures where that has been the norm for thousands of years right for them, just not right for us? Is marriage equality only just now beginning to be right, because the majority opinion is shifting? This is a topic of debate among anthropologists, BTW, who strive to study and document other cultures without trying to impose their own cultural values and practices on them. Since you say “humans are special because it’s our species,” then is it morally… Read more »


The problem with debating morality between theists and atheists is that each side defines the M word differently, and until someone explains what they mean when they say Moral/Morality, any claim of morality would be meaningless or a false statement to the other side.

Cheryl in Tacoma

When I say morality, I mean the capacity to evaluate the moral rightness or wrongness of an action, an entity, or a system. “Moral” means having a moral quality, such as humans being kind or cruel to animals, versus “amoral,” such as animals preying on one another. Actions or systems can be morally good or righteous, like helping the poor, or morally bad or evil, like scamming the gullible or vulnerable. Or they can be amoral, like deciding to wear the blue dress or the red dress to the party tonight. It gets confusing when people start using the word… Read more »


Cheryl, you wrote: “But the very fact that we even pass these moral judgments on one another and on ourselves puts us in a class of beings outside of anything else that has arisen out of billions and billions of years of evolution. That’s the interesting part about it, to me.” I think that it’s important to note: it does NOT put us outside of nature. It does NOT put us above other life forms. We are in a rare place, but not a different place. There are other animal groups where they have names for group members, working ‘language’,… Read more »

Cheryl in Tacoma

I totally agree that we are in a rare — and daresay, unique — place, evolutionally speaking, with our moral sense (which should not be confused with emotions — all sentient beings possess some form of emotional life, I think. Fear and anger are essential to survival). Language doesn’t imply morality, either. Computers have a language — it doesn’t mean they possess a moral sense. Language is simply a communication vehicle. But I find your final remark quite interesting: “It makes all the sense in the world that some of the finer points would differ within groups as we evolve… Read more »


Slow down friend. These women are very informative and uber eclectic. You pop in and sound like a person who may b shall i say…. over zealous.

Cheryl in Tacoma

This show is local to me, and I listen when I can. On this particular occasion, I was only able to catch the second half, which is what I was addressing. It’s been a real busy week, as you might imagine, so I haven’t heard the first half yet.

[…] it all…  Actually, I searched for his article because I heard about it on last week’s episode of Ask an Atheist, and wanted to read the absurdity for myself.  I am, however, eager to pierce him with my wit, […]

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