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Good and Evil

 
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Joe!!! Could you give some quotes???


Nope. If you don't think you America-bash, then nothing I can quote will convince you.
Joe
 
Joe Pluta
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Goodnight all. What interesting conversations we've been having. We must do this again some time. But for now, I'm out of here. Maybe somebody else can pick up my side of the stick for a little while.
Joe
 
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Actually, Map, that is exactly what bothers me (and I think a few others here as well) - your constant, never-ending America-bashing.
Man, think about it. I left my country, my parents, my friends, everything. Can you understand it -- EVERYTHING? And I do not want to come back. And you accuse me in "never-ending America-bashing"! You guys have far too fragile egos.
 
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Genya! We need to calm down this man. Apparently two cynics are too much for him.



If cynical means cannibal, then yes, two cynics are two too many!
Oh my, you are funny, funny people. Two cynics go to a track meet. One turns to the other... "Mmmm, I love fast food!"
(chuckle)
Now... must... get... sleep.
Joe
 
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Nope. If you don't think you America-bash, then nothing I can quote will convince you.
You are mistaken.
 
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Good night, Joe. Hope to meet you tomorrow!
 
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[Joe]: If you don't think you America-bash, then nothing I can quote will convince you.
[Map]: You are mistaken.

So, you're saying that there is something he can quote which will convince you that you America-bash? You acknowledge that there are indeed quotes by you on this board which you agree are America bashing?
 
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But if you think pedophilia and cannibalism are acceptable, then I absolutely don't want you anywhere near my family.
So. Are pedophilia and cannibalism not wrong to you?


But here we are dealing with absolutes, which can only get us into trouble.
Yes, I agree that pedophilia is wrong.
But cannibilism? That is harder to be absolute about.
In the plane crash in the Andes in 1972, when the survivors ate human flesh of those that had died in order to survive - Were the survivors evil? What if it was your child up there? Would you condemn your child for surviving?
In some cultures, even today, eating the flesh of loved ones when they die is considered a mark of respect. The worst thing you can do to an enemy is to bury them or burn them so that they are not absorbed into others.
It is only from our perspective that this is wrong.
In the future that perspective may change. Our ancestors may look at us as barbarians for burying people.
Do I want to eat human flesh - NO!
But am I willing to condemn a person who has eaten human flesh - likewise no.
I have registered myself as an organ donor for when I die. If there is any part of my body that can benefit someone else, then I want it made available to them.
Do you believe that this is wrong?
Is it such a large step to go from saying that "someone can have my heart for a heart transplant if it helps them" to saying that "someone can eat part of my body if it is necessary for their survival"?
In both cases, I will be dead. I don't care what happens to my body after that.
The problem is now that I have stated that I refuse to categorise all cannibalism as evil. That to you means that I must stay away from your family. Presumably that also means that you will tell your family to stay away from me and my evil beliefs. And that labeling of someone (or a group of people) as being evil, leads to prejudice. And having predudices about people makes it easy to justify war against them.
How many civilizations have been destroyed because they simply had different views / beliefs than their conquerors?
 
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Moral absolutism vs relativism seems to me to be at the heart of any discussion of "Good" vs. "Evil". Given my multicultural and, dare I say it, RATIONAL background, it is my opinion (and pretty much that of every single anthropologist or individual who actually applies the scientific method) that humans as a species do share certain moral absolutes (finite and perhaps limited in number), but differ otherwise concordant with the level of cultural diversity. Indeed, human languages exhibit a similar dichotomy - even a cursory study of linguistics clearly reveals that there are shared thought patterns that have led the whole of human civilization to agree on certain semantic forms but differ on others. Yet, we must be careful in how we define what a moral absolute is. My take is that a moral absolute is just a shared belief common to humanity, and ipso facto does not denote immutability.
Moral absolutes seem to derive from inherent biological instincts, such as self-preservation and familial bonding, and are often reinforced culturally, achieving monolithic status through the course of generations. As alluded to above, it is also the case that these commonly accepted absolutes can be overcome through sociocultural engineering. One common example is suicide, in which the innate desire for self-preservation is overcome. Whenever we attempt to act counter to a set of base instincts, our "conscience" (which in fact may just be our instinctual equipment attempting to manifest itself through the mechanism of thought) is evoked.
The apparent fact that what humanity commonly accepted as absolute (meaning shared) is constantly subject to change over time is part and parcel of the human experience, since we are after all a unique species, unlike any other on the planet as far as we know. We willingly do things that other higher order species (primates, higher mammals) would never do, such as committing suicide.
Moral relativism, then, is the moral variation found among subgroupings of human populations scattered throughout the globe. An aborigine in Australia may have a set of core beliefs that differ dramatically from those of a Frenchman living in Morocco, and so on. It may also be the case that said aborigine may find it difficult, if not impossible, to commit acts that he/she may find to run counter to moral absolutes, such as the example of suicide. Whereas the Frenchman, for instance, may find it within himself to end his life, the same could probably not be said of the aborigine. Indeed, such a concept may be completely alien to him/her. A study of suicide rates among culturally isolated populations (relatively speaking of course) would lend credence to this theory (see below).
Of course, the example I gave of the aborigine is a wishful one, since most populations in the world now have become culturally intertwined. Thus, it is increasingly becoming more difficult to divine the nature of moral absolutism and its relation to instinctual mechanisms (or the nature of moral relativism for that matter) as Western civilization continues to homogenize world populations (proselytization, industrialization, etc). A study conducted by Donald H. Rubinstein (a Westerner, so you don't get the impression that I'm playing favorites ) on remote micronesian populations espouses the theory that child-rearing has been dramatically affected by "cultural miscegenation":

Child abuse and neglect cases in the Pacific Islands have significance far beyond their actual numbers, however. In comparison with most world cultures, and with much of recorded human history, Pacific Island cultures hold a special place in relation to child treatment. Traditional child-rearing in Micronesia and Polynesia is unusually indulgent, protective, and supportive. Therefore, to find even a single case of an abandoned or badly battered or acutely neglected child is a"sentinel" event: it signals a serious breach of normal cultural values and social relations for childcaring in Pacific communities. Child abuse and neglect, in terms of the social environment, is perhaps comparable to global warming and the "Greenhouse Effect" in the natural environment: both provide an early warning that the larger system is out of balance.
...The first area concerns the authority patterns of traditional Micronesian child-rearing. Perhaps "traditional" is a misleading term, since all Micronesian communities today, even in the most remote outer islands, have acquired non-traditional cultural imports such as salaried jobs and Christian churches and American-style classroom schools that have changed families and children's lives. It's probably more accurate to speak of "intact" communities than "traditional" communities. "Intact" implies that the cultural values and life-ways of the people are still functional and important, despite some outside influences and cultural changes.
...Like child abuse, suicides reveal something about the imbalance caused by change in the social system. The primary emotional message conveyed by the suicides is a sense of hurt anger, and rejection by parents or other close relatives. The suicide patterns that have appeared during the past twenty years in Micronesia are quite different from earlier times, both in the enormous magnitude of the rates, and in the very tight focus on young males, particularly those from the urbanizing areas.


Many other anthropoligical studies have come to similar conclusions, namely that culturally "intact" populations rarely show deviations from biologically derived norms, such as familial bonding and preservation of life, since they have learned over generations that adherence to these instincts leads to a peaceful AND persistent society overall. Foreign introductions that deviate from societal norms inevitably lead to turmoil, as in the case of the micronesian population under study. What can be clearly evinced is that Westernization has led to a massive increase in suicide rates and domestic violence.
Applying my conclusions on moral absolutism and relativism now to the notion of "Good" vs. "Evil", it becomes apparent that although it can be said with some degree of definitiveness that a particular act is "Evil" (that is, there is general consensus on the matter among a majority of cultural subgroupings), how it is JUSTIFIED in society is the crucial component. In the case of the aborigine and Frenchman, whereas the Frenchman can justify his action to commit suicide, the aborigine cannot - he lacks the culturally derived set of moral precepts to do so. Similarly, in the anthropological study, the culturally "intact" micronesians could not fathom a reality in which they battered their own children, or committed suicide at an alarming rate. Those who were culturally transformed, however, conducted themselves thusly by justifying their actions in a manner wholly alien to their culturally "intact" counterparts - this was a departure from societal norms that themselves were once biological norms.
 
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I don't have a ton of time today, so I'm going to be relatively brief (maybe only a thousand words ). But Andrew and Tarun both deserve a response to their very erudite and civil contributions to an issue that can get sticky quick.
AM: Do I want to eat human flesh - NO!
But am I willing to condemn a person who has eaten human flesh - likewise no.

This is a very interesting point, and brings up a concept that I am not communicating very well. In fact Tarun does it better, but let me try here to express my views on it, which come not from studies of anthropology, but from a more personal origin.
There are distinct and subtle differences between Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, Moral and Immoral (I capitalize them to indicate that I'm referring to the Platonic ideals here). That's part of the reason we have different words for them.
In my worldview, Right and Wrong have to do with whether a given action is acceptable. Certain things simply fall into those categories naturally (and I don't want to argue the specifics right here). Pedophilia and cannibalism are two I chose as examples of Wrong. Slavery is another. Other things are Right or Wrong based on societal norms; smoking in public or walking naked through the streets. Others still are based on personal values. Sex outside of marriage fits here, I think (there ARE still people who don't believe in sex outside of marriage ).
So, each person comes up with a certain set of Right or Wrong. Good and Evil have to do with whether a person chooses to live within the precepts of Right and Wrong. Now, for most of us this isn't an issue. We generally do Right things, occasionally do Wrong things, and usually end up somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
Rarely does someone have an opportunity to exercise a truly Good life. Human nature makes that awfully difficult. I'll let you identify your own candidates for folks who fit that profile. It's a little easier to live an Evil life; that simply requires power and a lack of conscience (either through loss or through never having one).
Yeah, but what about those absolute things, like pedophilia? Well, it's my belief that someone who doesn't see certain actions as inherently evil is lacking some basic piece of their psychological makeup. I hate to simplify it down to a word like "conscience", but it just might be that. People who believe that "anything goes" are generally sociopathic, and can't be trusted.
Now, does someone who COMMITS cannibalism automatically get the sociopath tag? No. This is where case by case decisions need to be made. The plane crash in the Andes, certain ritualistic behaviors, there are probably several ways you can "justify" an isolated act of cannibalism. However, in the broader sense (killing people to eat them), there's no way to justify it. This is an absolute to my understanding.
Notice that I haven't talked about Moral and Immoral yet. That's where I am now. A Moral action is one which is correct for the situation. Morality is very much conditional and based on the facts at the time of the decision. You can indeed do something Wrong, yet Moral. It depends on whether you are doing it for a greater Right. And this is where everything comes to a head. This is the essence of being a human being.
There are situations where you must make choices. If the choice is always between Right and Wrong, then life is generally easy. As I said, we usually choose Right, occasionally choose a small Wrong, and in general we're pretty good folks. Life is much harder when you must choose between Wrong and Wrong (or to a lesser degree, Right and Right). And life is ultimately the most difficult when you must choose Wrong over Right. When does this occur? When you have to kill an innocent person to save a dozen others. Or you have to kill someone to save your child. Those are extreme situations, but they represent the issue. In this case, it may be perfectly Moral, within those circumstances, to do something Wrong. However, the crux of Morality is that the person who commits the Wrong act does NOT try to justify it. They accept their requirement to act Wrongly, and they also accept the consequences of their action. This is entirely different than justifying the act based on the circumstances and somehow saying it is Right.
Whew! I hope that makes some sense.

TS: humans as a species do share certain moral absolutes (finite and perhaps limited in number), but differ otherwise concordant with the level of cultural diversity. [...] Yet, we must be careful in how we define what a moral absolute is. My take is that a moral absolute is just a shared belief common to humanity, and ipso facto does not denote immutability.
And this is really the only place where I differ significantly with Tarun on this entire question. My personal belief is that we are slowly moving forward toward a set of enlightened ideals, and that while moral absolutes do change with time, they generally change in a particular direction. The abolition of slavery is simply one step along that line. If we were to slip backward into a societal period where slavery once again became accepted, I would posit that humanity was devolving from that higher ideal.
And this, this is what I mean when I talk about Good and Evil, Right and Wrong. I truly believe humanity can progress to a higher level, and that we have shown the ability to do so, especially over the last couple of centuries. Frankly, we were a pretty barbaric species not so long ago, and I daresay our descendants not too far removed will look back at us with the same opinion.

Okay, enough.
Synopsis:
1. Some things are just Right or Wrong. Not a ton of them, and they evolve, but in my (perhaps over-optimistic) opinion they evolve toward more and more enlightened views.
2. Personal values of Right and Wrong can indeed be different, but they can't override the absolutes. Good and Evil identify whether you live within your precepts of Right and Wrong. Rarely is a person so aligned with one side or the other to become truly Good or Evil, but it happens.
3. Moral behavior is more complex, and depends entirely on the situation. Moral behavior can include Wrong acts, but also includes accepting the consequence of those actions.

Okay, that's the whole thing in a nutshell. I may be crazy, folks. In fact I know I'm crazy for putting all this out here. It's a magnet for nutcases. I may as well paint a big bullseye on my forehead. And a lot of this may not work for you, I know that.
All I'm trying to do here is explain how I integrate the concepts of Right and Wrong with the concepts of free will and personal responsibility. It's been a long road, and I'm happy to share what I've come up with. As is said so often in these parts, your mileage may vary. But it works pretty well for me.

Joe
 
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Jim: So, you're saying that there is something he can quote which will convince you that you America-bash?
Yes.
You acknowledge that there are indeed quotes by you on this board which you agree are America bashing?
No, nothing I can think about at this moment of time. But my definition of "America bashing" is open to change, and in this case I am ready to adjust my inner compass according to other people's (especially Americans, as they are the target of this definition) compasses. As I do not believe in absolutes, I do not believe I am always right and should never listen to anybody else Hm... This could be a good separate thread...
 
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TS: Applying my conclusions on moral absolutism and relativism now to the notion of "Good" vs. "Evil", it becomes apparent that although it can be said with some degree of definitiveness that a particular act is "Evil" (that is, there is general consensus on the matter among a majority of cultural subgroupings)
I knew you would comment, Tarun, thanks for offering your observations. Up until recently, my thoughts were in the unison with yours. I was on the quest to find the universal morals, and the universal beauty, and I thought I was getting close. I reasoned that since the view of the sunset visually appeals to virtually anybody on Earth, and since the shapes based on the golden ratio are pleasing to the human eye and are frequent in nature, they must be the manifestations of the moral absolutes. From there, it would be just a matter of applying the transformation formula to a new set of inputs, and the answer will come out clean: "Saddam is evil, suicide is immoral, heterosexuality is good".
However, as I realized, I was deceiving myself with my new religion, falling into the same old trap of refusing to abstract from the convenient frame of reference.
If the sunset is beautiful, then there must be a spectrum of light of the certain wave length that would be ugly, right? It is as though some vibrating strings that the matter is made of are evil, while the other vibrating strings are good, and the only thing that distinguishes the two sets of strings is the frequency of vibration. Isn't that disturbing?
 
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EK: If the sunset is beautiful, then there must be a spectrum of light of the certain wave length that would be ugly, right?
Sunset has nothing to do with the discussion. This discussion is based entirely upon actions and responsibility. Sunset (and rain, and wind, and waves, and planetary movements and cosmic rays) have nothing to do with whether or not pedophilia is Wrong.
If you believe pedophilia is Right (or even not Wrong), I don't care what color your sunset is, as long as you see it far, far away from me.
Joe
 
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
TS: Applying my conclusions on moral absolutism and relativism now to the notion of "Good" vs. "Evil", it becomes apparent that although it can be said with some degree of definitiveness that a particular act is "Evil" (that is, there is general consensus on the matter among a majority of cultural subgroupings)
I knew you would comment, Tarun, thanks for offering your observations. Up until recently, my thoughts were in the unison with yours. I was on the quest to find the universal morals, and the universal beauty, and I thought I was getting close. I reasoned that since the view of the sunset visually appeals to virtually anybody on Earth, and since the shapes based on the golden ratio are pleasing to the human eye and are frequent in nature, they must be the manifestations of the moral absolutes. From there, it would be just a matter of applying the transformation formula to a new set of inputs, and the answer will come out clean: "Saddam is evil, suicide is immoral, heterosexuality is good".
However, as I realized, I was deceiving myself with my new religion, falling into the same old trap of refusing to abstract from the convenient frame of reference.
If the sunset is beautiful, then there must be a spectrum of light of the certain wave length that would be ugly, right? It is as though some vibrating strings that the matter is made of are evil, while the other vibrating strings are good, and the only thing that distinguishes the two sets of strings is the frequency of vibration. Isn't that disturbing?


It is interesting to note that, as humans, we are essentially bound by the dictates of evolutionary processes that have predisposed us to certain behavioral reactions. By this I mean that admiring a sunset may just be something we are pre-programmed to admire, or that as a species which exhibits sexual dimorphism, we are predisposed by and large to prefer heterosexuality over homosexuality, and as such consider the latter to be an aberration. In the field of linguistics, for instance, Noam Chomsky discovered that humans are born "pre-built" with a nascent apparatus for the formation of language, and hence, are essentially destined to develop a structured form of communication.
By natural extension, the same may hold true for what we believe are moral absolutes. So, given that we as biological organisms require sunlight for metabolic processes, perhaps we are "programmed" to "love" the sun, or that since we procreate by means of sexual reproduction, we are "programmed" to develop behaviors that will engender sexual union. Of course, how these behaviors manifest themselves varies cross-culturally.
Again, even though we may be born with a myriad of mechanisms that through evolution have adapted us to our earthly environment, we as a species have transcended many of these limitations culturally (this subsumes other categories, such as technology). So, it is possible through sociocultural engineering, or lack of it, to obfuscate the underlying apparatus.
The example of homosexuality lends itself well to this analysis. The Catholic church has deemed homosexuality "evil" because it departs from the tenets laid out in the Bible. Yet from where did these tenets arise? Most likely, it was observed that any form of coitus that was not procreative served no underlying purpose, that as humans we are part of a larger natural order and must procreate to exist. So, to reinforce this biological fact, a cultural mechanism was developed to address deviations from the norm. An argument in support of homosexuality, or at least not denouncing it, in cultures that have overcome their environmental constraints can then be made taking into account that procreation is no longer a natural mandate for self-preservation (there are enough of us to go around, so this leaves open the room for alternative lifestyles). This again has been borne out in anthropological studies that have shown that cultures still closely aligned with the natural environment and governed by its harsh realities tend to unequivocally denounce deviations from the heterosexual norm, since these deviations potentially reduce the "fitness" of the underlying population.
Preservation of life, familial bonding, and a host of other correlated phenomena all derive from the base evolutionary desire to reproduce, and thus are reinforced in a variety of ways culturally. Overcoming this "biological baggage" is a path advanced cultures have been taking for some time, and the end result is a combination of inner turmoil and constantly evolving social structures.
[ September 14, 2003: Message edited by: Tarun Sukhani ]
[ September 14, 2003: Message edited by: Tarun Sukhani ]
 
Joe Pluta
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TS: It is interesting to note that, as humans, we are essentially bound by the dictates of evolutionary processes that have predisposed us to certain behavioral reactions.
While nicely worded, this argument is... hooey.
We are not bound, we are merely predisposed. Were we bound, we would be animals, neither moral nor immoral, simply amoral. It is our ability to transcend any biological predisposition that defines our morality, our humanity, our spirituality.
Rape is ALWAYS wrong. And yet, from a biological standpoint, rape is not only acceptable, it is encouraged, in order that the DNA of the strong be spread as far as possible. Thus it can be seen that the evolution of humanity is inextricably linked with the ability to overcome our biological predispositions.
Joe
 
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Of course, that might be what you mean, Tarun, I don't know. It's hard to grasp from your response what your actual position is. It seems that you think we're programmed by our biology, but that we manage to overcome it. I'm not sure what that means in relation to the discussion. Are all morals merely byproducts of biological urges, or are human beings able to make moral judgments that transcend their biology? I don't quite understand your point.
Joe
 
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I am reading "Reading Lolita in Tehran", but my thoughts wander...
Joe, still what do you mean by "moral compass"? I do not think I've met this term before, is it a part of your ideolect? Is it a synonym of "moral absolute"? What is the source of "moral absolutes" and how does one come to discover/learn them?
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Originally posted by Joe Pluta:
TS: It is interesting to note that, as humans, we are essentially bound by the dictates of evolutionary processes that have predisposed us to certain behavioral reactions.
While nicely worded, this argument is... hooey.
We are not bound, we are merely predisposed. Were we bound, we would be animals, neither moral nor immoral, simply amoral. It is our ability to transcend any biological predisposition that defines our morality, our humanity, our spirituality.


We are bound by the evolutionary equipment that defines us as human beings, that is, as higher-order primates (if you accept evolutionary theory). So, for instance, we possess organs, metabolize biomass, etc. like other higher order primates. This predisposes us to certain behaviors or desires, such as the need to consume food, procreate, etc. The faculty of "intelligence" that derives from the interplay of neuronal processes in the neocortex, something that is largely missing in other primates, is what distinguishes us a species.
Of course, accepting the above means that we are in fact animals. If you do not accept this, then no further discussion is possible. We just happen to be "intelligent" animals, unique on this planet as far as we know (as I said earlier). Non-intelligent, or perhaps "less" intelligent, animals are neither moral, immoral, or amoral. Morality has no meaning in that context. They are instinctual, and rely on a set of pre-programmed apparatuses to interface with the outside world. Acquired behaviors are simply an offshoot of these instinctual mechanisms. Ornithological studies have borne out these claims (nest building is an acquired behavior that nonetheless has its basis in instinctual mechanisms).
It is true that due to the faculty we call intelligence we are able to transcend our biological bounds and define abstract concepts such as spirituality. But it just may be the case that even these perceived abstractions are themselves derivative of the bounds placed on us by nature. The notion of a supreme being, or a "God", is often the cornerstone to many people's beliefs regarding spirituality. Yet such a notion has existed for eons, and perhaps dates back to the dawn of humankind. If that is so, then "God" may have simply been a contrivance to account for the degree of unexplained natural phenomena (a contrivance that most importantly derives from the emergent property of intelligence), and through the passage of time, cultural interpretation added to this definition.
As certain subsets of the human population continue to advance technologically, socially, etc., the definition of "God" changes, yet what remains constant is the admission that we are "bound" beings, we have limitations, and the contrivance of a being that can transcend these bounds is somehow a meaningful one.


Rape is ALWAYS wrong. And yet, from a biological standpoint, rape is not only acceptable, it is encouraged, in order that the DNA of the strong be spread as far as possible.


Reproductive processes do not encourage rape, but rather sexual union. That is, neurochemical reactions contribute to the emergence of sexual desire that lead to coitus. Rape is a cultural derivation, and is thus divorced from the underlying biological act, by which I mean rape can only be discussed within cultural confines. So, for example, it doesn't make much sense to say Gorilla A raped Gorilla B, since rape has no meaning within the context of lower order primates.


Thus it can be seen that the evolution of humanity is inextricably linked with the ability to overcome our biological predispositions.
Joe


By definition, human beings are no longer evolving, since we are no longer bound by the dictates of the surrounding environment, and thus need not exist in homeostasis with it. Human beings, it is conjectured, stopped evolving approximately 100,000 years ago (perhaps earlier, research continues), because it was at that stage in evolutionary development that they became less susceptible to the vagaries of their respective environments.
If by evolution, you are referring to an abstract that encompasses spirituality, etc., then yes we are "evolving" in this regard. We are continuing to shape our environment, rather than the other way around, but limitations still exist - we cannot, for instance, control weather patterns, manipulate the nature of time, etc.) We may in time overcome even these limitations, but who is to say that we will attain immortality, or omniscience?
 
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It is true that due to the faculty we call intelligence we are able to transcend our biological bounds and define abstract concepts such as spirituality. But it just may be the case that even these perceived abstractions are themselves derivative of the bounds placed on us by nature.
Nope.
Joe
 
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Originally posted by Joe Pluta:
It is true that due to the faculty we call intelligence we are able to transcend our biological bounds and define abstract concepts such as spirituality. But it just may be the case that even these perceived abstractions are themselves derivative of the bounds placed on us by nature.
Nope.
Joe


Scientific research seems to suggest otherwise. For example, would it be possible to arrive at a wholly disparate set of cultural contrivances had we had two sets of neocortexes, or an entirely different apparatus from which intelligence emerged.
 
Joe Pluta
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Originally posted by Tarun Sukhani:
Reproductive processes do not encourage rape, but rather sexual union. That is, neurochemical reactions contribute to the emergence of sexual desire that lead to coitus. Rape is a cultural derivation, and is thus divorced from the underlying biological act, by which I mean rape can only be discussed within cultural confines. So, for example, it doesn't make much sense to say Gorilla A raped Gorilla B, since rape has no meaning within the context of lower order primates.


By the sheer volume and scholarly appearance of your words, I assumed you actually were working from facts. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, since the pseudo-academic approach inevitably fails once you drift from opinions to observable data. Disappointingly, you did just that.


In orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus), the males chase females who resist copulation and wrestle them to the ground so they are on their backs, in a vulnerable position (Nadler 1977). The female obviously resists copulation, as she emits distress vocalizations and struggles in an attempt to escape (Nadler 1977, Fox 1929). However, she will become passive when the male subdues her (by separating her legs and mounting her), and lie on her back, often placing her hand over her face (Fox 1929).
- Nadler, R.D. 1977. Sexual behavior of captive orang-utans. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 6: 457-475.


This is rape, and is a biological urge. One which we overcome through our moral and/or spiritual nature, which is entirely different from that of any other species.
Anyway, thanks for your erudition. Your words were fun to read. But the fact that you were completely wrong on so fundamental an issue indicates that you're just making it up as you go, and that pretty much wipes out the credibility of the rest of your arguments, for me anyway.
Joe
 
Joe Pluta
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TS: Scientific research seems to suggest otherwise.
Gotta ask now, since it's shown you're a little loose with actual facts... WHAT research?

TS: For example, would it be possible to arrive at a wholly disparate set of cultural contrivances had we had two sets of neocortexes, or an entirely different apparatus from which intelligence emerged.
Oh my! You're way off the deep end of pseudo-scientific discussion now! First, what does "two sets of neocortexes" mean? Two minds in one body? We've already seen that - they're called conjoined twins. They seem to be pretty much the same as everyone else (except for the shared body parts ).
As to "an entirely different apparatus", oh wow, you're kidding, right? Sure you can posit something like this, but I can also posit invisible Angelic beings that breathe "animus" into clay to make people. Or that the entire universe is simply a puppet show put on by interdimensional creatures from an alternate space-time continuum.
How in the world does that have anything to do with the discussion?
Oh gosh. (wiping tears)
Thanks for the laugh. Gotta go.
Joe
 
Jim Yingst
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Joe, still what do you mean by "moral compass"? I do not think I've met this term before, is it a part of your ideolect?
The "compass" is an analogy to a magnetic compass, which allows the user to identify directions and thereby navigate. Generally, a "moral compass" may be any mechanism by which a person may make evaluate moral questions, and say "this is wrong" or "this is right". (Or "this is Wrong" and "this is Right".)
Is it a synonym of "moral absolute"?
Not necessarily, though in Joe's case he may view it as such; dunno. He seems to think that a rejection of absolutes implies a complete inability to make any significant statements whatsoever. To me, this is, well, hooey.
What is the source of "moral absolutes" and how does one come to discover/learn them?
I'll replace this with "what is the source of a moral compass?" I.e. what is the source of the ability to make some sort of evaluation of right and wrong, whether it's "absolute" or not. Different people will have different answers. Many believe that it comes from God; many believe that it's an innate ability we are born with. Personally I view it as the gradual product of human evolution, which is now more memetic than genetic. That is, our ideas of right and wrong are mostly learned from our parents and society, and these ideas have been gradually evolving since mankind devoloped language. Ideas which promote a strong self-sustaining society gradually displace those that do not. With plenty of failed experiments along the way. But that's just me; Joe can provide his own answers here if he wants. I just wanted to give a general idea of what a "moral compass" is, or may be, to different people.
 
John Smith
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Tarun,
Where did you take your English Composition classes? Looks like you got your money worth. I tried your URL that is listed in your profile, but it returns a blank page.
 
Joe Pluta
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JY: Not necessarily, though in Joe's case he may view it as such; dunno. He seems to think that a rejection of absolutes implies a complete inability to make any significant statements whatsoever. To me, this is, well, hooey.
I don't know about "a complete inability to make any significant statements whatsoever". For me, a rejection of moral absolutes means that you don't have any moral constants, because if you DO have constants - moral positions which you will not change - then these ARE your moral absolutes.
In addition, I believe that certain moral absolutes - slavery is wrong, rape is wrong, pedophilia is wrong, cannibalism is wrong - are self-evident, not unlike the truths found to be self-evident in the Declaration of Independence. They are moral absolutes that we agree upon and hold dear as we evolve as a species. We may add new ones as we progress, but the old ones won't be lost.
On the other hand, if things are all relative (the definition of "moral relativism"), and society and individuals are free to choose whatever morality suits them at the moment, then anything goes, and anarchy ensues. It's a much easier philosophy, because it doesn't require any hard, specific stances. You can always "go with the flow". But in the end it makes for a weaker society, in my opinion.
You may not agree with this. Rules suck . Strict morality is a tough road to travel, and I fail pretty miserably a lot of the time. But it's what I aspire to: an evolving society that continues to strive for enlightenment, not a no-holds-barred anarchy where anything goes.
Joe
 
Jim Yingst
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[Joe]: But the fact that you were completely wrong on so fundamental an issue indicates that you're just making it up as you go, and that pretty much wipes out the credibility of the rest of your arguments, for me anyway.
Now Joe, let's be nice. I gave Tarun grief earlier about an ad hominem attack, and to his credit he's stuck around and not repeated such behavior. Seems to me this comment of yours is itself headed toward ad hominem. "You're wrong" is fine, "you're wrong, and here's why" is better. But "you're wrong, and obviously lying" is not OK, IMO, and your comment looks dangerously close to that. Unless you're really sure he's lying - but that's a fairly serious accusation to make, I think. So - let's be careful out there.
 
Joe Pluta
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
Unless you're really sure he's lying - but that's a fairly serious accusation to make, I think. So - let's be careful out there.

Okee dokee. I'll wait for Tarun's answer to the "what research" question I posted earlier. However, based on the evidence, I'm currently predisposed to believe that Tarun might sometimes present as fact rather than opinion statements whose veracity is not wholly substantiated by independent parties.
Joe
 
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Ek: Tarun,
Where did you take your English Composition classes?

Ditto, and what is your multicultural background composed of?
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"I'd like to persuade you, If I can, that any such disagreement might be more apparent than real."
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Tarun Sukhani
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Originally posted by Joe Pluta:

This is rape, and is a biological urge. One which we overcome through our moral and/or spiritual nature, which is entirely different from that of any other species.
Anyway, thanks for your erudition. Your words were fun to read. But the fact that you were completely wrong on so fundamental an issue indicates that you're just making it up as you go, and that pretty much wipes out the credibility of the rest of your arguments, for me anyway.
Joe


Joe, I am happy that you took the time to read my posts. I think it's wonderful that you feel you have detected a flaw in my reasoning. But I hope the following clarifies my point; basically, my argument hinges on the fact that when the male of the primate species "attacks" a female for coital purposes, this does not constitute rape as it is defined by humans. What you are doing is anthropomorphizing rape to the case in question. I was abbreviated in my example of it not making sense for a Gorilla to "rape" another, but here I shall elaborate...
The desire to commit coitus is the biological urge. Certain cultures within human populations, because they do harbor a notion of consensual sex, would take objection to forced coitus (rape). That is, if both partners are not consenting, then it is rape - all or nothing (this is the cultural derivation to which I was alluding). In the case of primates, and many other mammals who reproduce sexually with the same equipment (penis and vagina), this resistance on the part of the female has been observed, and often has been attributed to the mating ritual itself. That is, it just may be part of the "act" itself, since the desire to propagate the genes of the species is intrinsically strong (and further supports my thesis on biologically derived behavior). Thus, I do not consider this rape - I suppose it depends on how you define rape - my defintion is the human one which includes both sexes and introduces the concept of "consent", which may not be present in these primates since consent is considered a derivative property of intelligence. Here is a link for you to look at: Male dominance and aggression in higher order primates
If we look at human definitions of rape, male rape is also included. Males can be raped by females, something that is not observed in primates (look this up, my friend ). No such designation exists in the animal kingdom to which I alluded to in the example (higher order primates). That is, there is no such thing as male rape for gorillas, orangutans, other primates, and thus by definition, the physical act of restraining the female to perform coitus is not rape, but yet another biological urge to commit the act.
This biological urge is also present in humans, but cultural constraints, of which rape is just one, preclude ubiquitious wanton sexual behavior. In addition, in certain cultures, such as our own, women have acquired a cultural status in which they too can be domineering, since in my previous posts I indicated our ability to transcend biological mechanisms. However, the incidence of male rape in such cultures is low (often betweeen 1-10% of all cases).
If you feel I have not been convincing enough, take a look at two other examples of culturally derived constraints: masturbation and adultery. It has been observed in primates, again, that masturbation is a completely normal act (he..he..that reminds me of a photo I once saw in my human developmental biology book I had in college in which a chimpanzee was depicted masturbating). Masturbation in chimpanzees, and probably other similar primates, is also a biological urge, and thus can be considered one in humans as well, particularly the male of the species. Many scientific explanations have been posited to account for this, the most popular one I believe being that it serves a "replenishment" role; that is, spermatogenesis ensures that only newly created spermatozoa are present in any future sex act for the purposes of efficacy. Described in these terms, masturbation doesn't sound so bad, does it? However, in our culture, it is duly frowned upon and often linked with a host of maladies that may inflict the self-flagellating male.
The case of adultery is another example. Ornithologists have observed that previously categorized species of monogamous birds are in fact polygamous, and that this behavior is common in fact. The rationale given is the evolutionary one, of course, namely that there is an instinctual drive to propagate the species, particularly when the population is threatened. Now, how would you propose we apply the human definition of adultery to them? Can we? - I don't think so. It doesn't make much sense. Again, this is a cultural contrivance to keep our society in order and to offset emotional consequences.
So, it isn't immoral for birds to be polygamous, it isn't immoral for a chimpanzee to masturbate, and it isn't immoral for a gorilla or orangutan to "rape". In fact, morality is not even contextually relevant.
[ September 14, 2003: Message edited by: Tarun Sukhani ]
 
Joe Pluta
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Originally posted by Tarun Sukhani:
basically, my argument hinges on the fact that when the male of the primate species "attacks" a female for coital purposes, this does not constitute rape as it is defined by humans.


Yes it does. Non-consensual coitus is rape. Saying primates don't rape, and then proving it by saying that it isn't rape because it is primates, is a classic case of circular logic.
So, to recap:
At issue was my assertion that we overcome biological urges, because rape (non-consensual coitus) is not morally acceptable. You said no, because animals don't rape. My proof:
  • Rape is non-consensual coitus, in either man or animal.
  • Rape is a biological urge for at least some primates
  • Rape is not morally acceptable
  • Thus, man overcomes the biological urges of his primate relatives in achieving morality.
    Joe
     
    Joe Pluta
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    Originally posted by Tarun Sukhani:
    Thus, I do not consider this rape - I suppose it depends on how you define rape - my defintion is the human one which includes both sexes and introduces the concept of "consent", which may not be present in these primates since consent is considered a derivative property of intelligence.


    With this single statement, you invalidate your premise that man's actions are all extensions of biological urges. Since you admit that at least some concepts - such as "consent" - are derivative properties of intelligence, then by definition you admit there are properties which are not simply extensions of our biological nature.
    You can't have it both ways, Tarun.
    Joe
     
    Joe Pluta
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    You know folks, this is great fun, but it's really not very productive. It's me against the world here, and while I think I'm holding my own, I find it amazing that I'm the only one prepared to say the following:
    "Some things are BAD, like rape and slavery. They will always be bad. And if you don't agree, you've got moral problems."
    That's really all I'm saying, and yet there's an incredible amount of heat and light trying to disprove these simple statements.
    In my world the immorality of rape is not negotiable, along with a rather short list of other "moral absolutes". There aren't a lot of things that make that list, but rape, slavery, pedophilia and cannibalism all make it. Torture is probably on the list.
    So what are we arguing about here? That's it's okay to believe that slavery is acceptable?
    NO WAY!
    I think "tolerance" may be getting out of hand these days. Somebody has to put their foot down here and say, "This far, and no farther." But this is probably no longer the forum for it. I think I've stated my case and done so with my usual fervor (and abrasiveness ). But any further argument just confuses and complicates the simple facts of the case:
  • Rape is Wrong
  • Slavery is Wrong
  • Pedophilia is Wrong
  • Cannibalism is Wrong
  • Torture is Wrong
  • I guess my only question is this: does anybody out there actually agree with me?
    Joe
     
    Tarun Sukhani
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    Originally posted by Joe Pluta:

    Yes it does. Non-consensual coitus is rape. Saying primates don't rape, and then proving it by saying that it isn't rape because it is primates, is a classic case of circular logic.
    So, to recap:
    At issue was my assertion that we overcome biological urges, because rape (non-consensual coitus) is not morally acceptable. You said no, because animals don't rape. My proof:

  • Rape is non-consensual coitus, in either man or animal.
  • Rape is a biological urge for at least some primates
  • Rape is not morally acceptable
  • Thus, man overcomes the biological urges of his primate relatives in achieving morality.
    Joe


    I have found it difficult in the past to convey to those with only a cursory knowledge of anthropology the "method to my madness"
    I will try to address the "proof" you gave above as follows:
  • Rape is non-consensual coitus, in either man or animal.

    This definition itself hinges on the fact that both animals and man (there is no need for this dichotomy as I stated earlier - man is a higher order animal, the highest order there is according to our own criteria) are capable of "consent". If you accept that no other animal has exhibited consent as humans have, then this point is immediately refuted.
  • Rape is a biological urge for at least some primates.

    Again, as I stated in my post, we have to be careful on how we define rape. You are anthropomorphizing rape to these primates, which cannot be done, since apes have no such notion of rape as far as Jane Goodall and other primatologists are concerned. As far as can be observed, the male of the species all exhibit this behavior (refer to the link). Does this mean all these apes are rapists? In order for something to be a moral aberration, it must also not be the norm!
  • Rape is not morally acceptable

    To whom, humans or apes? Morality has no bearing on the apes in question. To humans, it does.


  • Man, or humans, have developed intelligence somehow, for some reason, in the course of evolution. It is this property that has led to so many other social structures, of which culture is one.
     
    Tarun Sukhani
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    Originally posted by Joe Pluta:
    You know folks, this is great fun, but it's really not very productive. It's me against the world here, and while I think I'm holding my own, I find it amazing that I'm the only one prepared to say the following:
    "Some things are BAD, like rape and slavery. They will always be bad. And if you don't agree, you've got moral problems."
    That's really all I'm saying, and yet there's an incredible amount of heat and light trying to disprove these simple statements.
    In my world the immorality of rape is not negotiable, along with a rather short list of other "moral absolutes". There aren't a lot of things that make that list, but rape, slavery, pedophilia and cannibalism all make it. Torture is probably on the list.
    So what are we arguing about here? That's it's okay to believe that slavery is acceptable?
    NO WAY!
    I think "tolerance" may be getting out of hand these days. Somebody has to put their foot down here and say, "This far, and no farther." But this is probably no longer the forum for it. I think I've stated my case and done so with my usual fervor (and abrasiveness ). But any further argument just confuses and complicates the simple facts of the case:

  • Rape is Wrong
  • Slavery is Wrong
  • Pedophilia is Wrong
  • Cannibalism is Wrong
  • Torture is Wrong
  • I guess my only question is this: does anybody out there actually agree with me?
    Joe


    Hey, it's only you against me ... Sorry if you feel that way, but that was not my intent at all. I understand that you want a more simple mechanism for evaluating the actions of humanity. My point is that such mechanisms do not exist - they vary from population to population (cultural relativism). Moreover, subtle variations exist within populations that further subdivide them.
    I guess it all depends on whether you believe me or not. The basis for my statements derive from Darwinian precepts and anthropological studies that have documented variations, both physical and cultural, within human populations around the globe. Now, if you ignore these variations and precepts, that's your right, but that then becomes akin to a Scopes Monkey trial of sorts.
    If we understand that different cultures throughout time have arrived at different conclusions as to what is "moral" or not, then it becomes far easier to communicate, in my opinion. The most common example I can think of that is relevant now is that of the perceived "neo-colonialism" by populations in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. If we relegate their moral outrage based on some set of moral dictates that we (by which I mean some group of individuals who have a say in policies towards these countries) espouse, then we are only prolonging conflict, and externalizing culpability.
    So, to me, cultural relativism is an important facet of human existence, not just as an anthropological fact, but also as a matter of moral discussion.
     
    Joe Pluta
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    I'm only going to reply to this because it's so wonderful an example of "pseudo-science".
    I have found it difficult in the past to convey to those with only a cursory knowledge of anthropology
    Nice start. You have no idea what my anthropological knowledge is, nor do you state your own. In any event, this is an excellent opening in a pseudo-scientific exercise. This is "science through unproven credentials".

    If you accept that no other animal has exhibited consent as humans have, then this point is immediately refuted.
    But I don't accept that! The female of the species selects her mate during the courting process. This is the definition of what courting is about - the female selecting the male. If it were all about strength, peacocks wouldn't have pretty feathers.
    For a male to take a female that does NOT select him is non-consensual, regardless of whether it's an animal or a human. Lack of higher orders of intelligence does not necessarily negate the concept of consent. Your concepts of the mating process are unsubstantiated by any scientific treatises I have ever read. This is "science through unsubstantiated statement".

    since apes have no such notion of rape as far as Jane Goodall and other primatologists are concerned
    I find no support for this statement in any of the literature. Please be so kind as to present specific references for Dr. Goodall and the "other primatologists" wherein they state categorically that primates do not rape. Everything I've been able to find (including the reference I quoted) indicates the opposite. This is "science through unfounded reference".

    To whom, humans or apes? Morality has no bearing on the apes in question. To humans, it does.
    And then finally, this statement. Tarun, I get the impression you missed the entire concept. At no point did I mention "The Morality of the Apes". I said that humans overcome biological urges, such as rape, as they strive towards morality. So this statement has no bearing on my comment. This is "science through irrelevance".

    Anyway, as I said in my previous post, this thread has really run its course. My wife says I should stop arguing, and if you want an absolute, it's that I absolutely love my wife .

    Thanks for the conversation.
    Joe
     
    Joe Pluta
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    TS: My point is that such mechanisms do not exist - they vary from population to population (cultural relativism).
    And my point is that you have provided no proof of your theories. None of your references agree, none of your science proves out. But it sure sounds pretty.
    Anyway, see if you can find those references: Dr. Goodall and others saying there is no rape in the animal kingdom, or the scientific research that proves that spirituality is a derivative of our biological bounds. I promise I'll read them. But no more argument.
    Joe
     
    Joe Pluta
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    I'll even give you a starting point:
    Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence
    "Contradicting the common belief that chimpanzees in the wild are gentle creatures, Harvard anthropologist Wrangham and science writer Peterson have witnessed, since 1971, male African chimpanzees carry out rape, border raids, brutal beatings and warfare among rival territorial gangs."
    Joe
     
    Tarun Sukhani
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    Originally posted by Joe Pluta:
    TS: My point is that such mechanisms do not exist - they vary from population to population (cultural relativism).
    And my point is that you have provided no proof of your theories. None of your references agree, none of your science proves out. But it sure sounds pretty.
    Anyway, see if you can find those references: Dr. Goodall and others saying there is no rape in the animal kingdom, or the scientific research that proves that spirituality is a derivative of our biological bounds. I promise I'll read them. But no more argument.
    Joe



    There are many references on cultural relativism in anthropological texts...I could give you links, like this one: Cultural relativism to the myriad sites out there, but they wouldn't do the topic justice (only scholarly research can). I can only tell you what I know from my own readings in anthropology as a student at the University of Chicago. Cultural relativism is accepted by many anthropologists to be the prevailing theory upon which to base their analyses. While I do not claim to be an expert in the subject (I of course am not one), I do profess to have more than simply a dilettante's approach to the subject. This, coupled with my multicultural background, has given me the tools to observe cultural variations in my travels. I straddle three cultures on a daily basis (one American, one Indian, and now one Malaysian - my wife is Malaysian), and am wholly aware of the differences in moral perception among the three.
    As for "rape" in the animal kingdom (I don't mind using the human definition, because the conclusion is refuted below), I can again only refer you to primatology studies in which, as I stated, this behavior on the part of the males was so commonplace that it could not be considered aberrant, but rather an evolutionary adaptation to ensure successful and multiple coitus. Now, if you want to call it rape, go ahead. I particularly don't care if you do, because our own culture defines rape as a sexually deviant act, which by definition means that it is a deviation from the normal (consensual) behavior. If you accept that premise, then all these apes are sexual deviants; i.e., the method they go about coitus is perverse. This conclusion violates the tenets of cultural relativism (even when we are talking about primates) since we are injecting ethnocentric (humanocentric?) notions of what is aberrant and what is normal. Here is another URL: Rape in animal kingdom
    Scientific research on spirituality as an offshoot of our biological bounds?? Well, I must confess that to me this is a naturally observable conclusion. Why else would so many cultures envision "God" as a supernatural being, unhindered by the bounds that grip human beings. In Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism to you), these topics are touched on, and frankly I don't have to time to discuss them. Perhaps in another thread.
    Anyway, this has been interesting. I'm glad you are so morally assured - I admit, I am not so, because I can see situations in which individuals who are perceived by others to be acting aberrantly may in fact within their own cultural mindset be acting perfectly normal.
     
    Joe Pluta
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    Here is another URL: Rape in animal kingdom
    I'm not arguing the point anymore. You have your opinion, and I have mine. But I just gotta know. How can you post the above URL as proof that there is no rape in the animal kingdom? It says the following:
    "Rape in Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) has been observed by Cheng et al. (1982 and 1983), who suggest that male Mallards have been selected to recognize the period when the females are most fertile, and direct rape attempts at females during these periods."
    This directly states that rape occurs!
    I just don't understand your thought processes. I ask for references citing professionals stating there is no rape in the animal kingdom, and you respond with a URL that directly quotes professionals who have observed rape in Mallards.
    I have no response.
    Joe
     
    John Smith
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    But I just gotta know. How can you post the above URL as proof that there is no rape in the animal kingdom?
    The point of the article is that "forced copulation, copulation without the female�s consent, can be explained in an evolutionary context as a natural behaviour", -- did you lose track of what our discussion is all about, Joe?
     
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