Caturday’s Astronomy Pix for June 24-30, 2012


English: A photograph taken by NASA astronaut ...
English: A photograph taken by NASA astronaut of the Apollo 17 at its final resting place in the valley. The can be seen in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apollo 17 at Shorty Crater

Milky Way Over Piton de l’Eau

A Sundial that Shows Solstice

Simeis 188 in Stars, Dust and Gas

In the Glare of Alpha Centauri

Dark Clouds in Aquila

Conjunctions near Dawn

Nederlands: Apollo 17 - NASA - publiek domein
Nederlands: Apollo 17 – NASA – publiek domein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Caturday’s Astronomy Pix is a weekly installment, published each weekend between 7:31 and 8:30 AM, with links to each daily entry on NASA’s website Astronomy Picture of the Day. I hope you enjoy looking at these often breathtaking images as much as I do.

Fractal of the Week: Vriddau Phi


All images in this post are original works by the author, and are copyright 2012 Troy Loy

An Objective Moral Lawgiver?


It seems to me that concerning human moral principles, and the practical management of civilization, there appears no need to invoke morality from a supernatural authority, and I cannot conceive of any logical necessity requiring a divine authorship for the existence of moral laws, objective or otherwise.

Historically, and across all religious traditions, specific moral rules have always been the product of human culture, and our moral instincts appear to predate even our early human ancestors, being seen also in bonobos, chimps, and even species of birds given to mutual protection of their own.

It’s reasonable, I think, to conclude that given our origins on the plains of Africa as social primates we evolved these moral emotions as ways of furthering cooperative behavior between members of tightly-knit bands of wandering hunter-gatherers, and that those which cooperated more closely tended to out-survive and out-reproduce those which did not.

After all, morality at its core is simply pro-social behavior, nothing less, nothing more. And it would seem in its present form of expression more our own creation, reflecting our own preferences, likes, dislikes, and prejudices.

Surely a god, far superior to us, would have come up with something better, but apparently not.

Dangerous to ethical authenticity, I think, is connecting moral laws to some mystical authority, for what does that say of one’s reasons for being moral when no longer restrained by hope of divine reward, or fear of divine punishment when those come to be doubted, and these often do.

Far better to rely only on ourselves and our most brilliant accomplishments in philosophical ethics to provide for a life of virtue over one of vice, and it seems that we are forced to do this anyway — all allegedly divinely imposed morals in every holy text have their bitter rivals in those of other gods just as fervently believed in as they.

It’s an unrealistically cynical view of humanity, in my view, that we are innately evil and wrongheaded, and cannot oversee our own affairs, yet an arrogant one too, in that we are also said to be the sole reason that there is a universe, created just for us by gods which seem oddly, curiously and suspiciously a wee bit too much like a reflection of ourselves.

Ethics and moral values are and have always been, it appears, a de facto human affair, of humans, by humans and from humans, with no better evidence otherwise than the say-so of theologians and ancient books of lore.

We a smart, competent and adaptable species, fully capable of handling our own affairs, and it looks to me that we have been doing just that from the very beginning, despite the multiplicity of gods we’ve invented over thousands of years, every one of them in their own day theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal, and most now as long-gone as the civilizations that once revered them.