A couple of answers to your points today. Just for you and if you can't be bothered, I understand.
1) Dr. Smith can still believe that what he's going to do is objectively wrong and not care. Hence, HE is the problem, not moral relativism. Also, many religious people (9/11, never forget) think that it is objectively right to commit atrocities.
Dr. Smith is definitely the problem (though some are suggesting that I am). That's the purpose of the scenario. "Houston we have a problem!"
Reflexively, most everybody would be very upset, whether of a logical / philosophical disposition or not. Humanity's love of life was never in doubt, despite the millions of suicides which in time of peace exceed homicides. However, let us not forget that in the scenario, humanity is in the dark. They don't have a clue. Only we saints of FFI know.
If Dr. Smith doesn't care, well, it seems to me that it stands to reason that he doesn't think his or any action is "objectively" right or wrong. Perhaps momentarily uncomfortable, annoying, pleasing, arousing, etc. He's beyond good and evil.
A nihilist (one who doesn't care) might shoo away a pesky fly that's bothering him, but will not care about the pesky flies annoying and bringing diseases to others. That would require "caring." Others would call it just minding ones own business.
But in the bare bones scenario it is quite clear that he DOES care. He's spent years on the project, just as Sartre and Nietszche spent years of study to come to the conclusion (and to teach) that life is meaningless / worthless.
He cares, but about the wrong things, i.e. the outcome of his experiment, his intellectual vindication, the "truth" of his hypothesis as opposed to the "goodness" of it. His "clear" mind did all the maths and his "true" heart remains "true" to his purpose.
Why am I being called a fanatic? Why do people say "Yikes, he's back?" Because, I CARE too much. Chesterton said: a fantatic is NOT someone who has lost his reason, he is someone who has lost everything BUT his reason.
So already we see two "disconnects." One, a tremendous hypocrisy / inconsistency: caring but only enough to teach people that life is meaningless (the nihilistic philosophers), and in the case of Dr. Smith, caring, intensely caring, but only about his reasons.
Obviously "caring" is already a first step... It is an acceptance to play the game of life, but it is not enough and if of the wrong kind, can be extremely harmful.
Humans are full of paradox. We have systems based on doubt, which doubt everything but themselves; skeptics of everything except their skepticism; we have caring nihilists teaching people not to care; we even have anarchist political "parties," and fanatics who care too much and forget to care about the bigger picture.
Also, many religious people (9/11, never forget) think that it is objectively right to commit atrocities.
This type of reasoning, which on the surface, seems "right enough" has always troubled me. If the topic were Justice and not religion, would you say: "Also many judges have sent innocent men to the gallows?" You would still want justice. Justice wouldn't be disproven as a goal. You'd merely want that Justice to be Just, as I would want a religion to be religious.
Justice, though terribly complex, is conceptually easier than religion. Islam, in my view doesn't pass the test of religion, precisely because it is constantly at war and except for its ultimate goal, completely rational. Everything about Islam is unspiritual. Islam as a religion, de-spiritualizes.
Are atrocities objectively bad? They also happen - or rather - being willful acts - they are also perpetrated (active tense) in times of war... But war is not always murder. If one believes in the sacredness of human life, in "thou shalt not murder," one can then relativize. One has a standard and can distinguish levels of guilt. First degree murder, second degree, manslaughter. If one doesn't, then one can also say "a fine slaughter" - "a boring massacre" - "a roaring good hecatomb!"
9/11 and other terrorist acts, done cold, WERE perpetrated by nominatively religious people. But only in the sense of Dr. Smith's act being done by a "caring" person.
I have a standard of morality, a "sacred" to not only declare both acts immoral, but if needs be, to find the attenuating circumstances, the gradations. I can relativize. (kinda hard in Dr. Smith's case). You can just reflexively / arbitrarily call them immoral. And in this case we will be in agreement on the issue.
But a terrorist could use your reflexive / arbitrary outlook to justify his act, but never my religious view to justify his. Perhaps another religious view could, that much I'll grant you. But only in the sense of other Justice systems - like the courts of Stalin - going through all the motions, with lawyers, wigs, togas and procedures, to send innocent men to the gallows.
More importantly, should I wish to kill in the name of my religion, it would have to meet all kinds of criteria. My murderous instincts wear a ball and chain. I might still kill, I am still prey to every lust of man, ("ought" ain't "is") but I will have standards for others to judge me by. Others will know what I'm supposed to be believing.
2) Many moral relativists DO care.
Care. That's the key word. It's not about logic.
Yes and no. Some of the limits of caring, were discussed. ie. caring, but only to teach nihilism, caring only about oneself and ones reasons, caring too much (kicking the proverbial dead horse).
When I hear the word "relativism" used in the moral sphere, it comes natural for me to wonder: "relative to what." Whim? Mood? Lust for power? Greed for money?
I haven't really gotten around to answering the "Thou shalt not murder" concept. As I don't have time, let me paste in what I started writing... and forgive the repititions. Not only do I write long posts, I even write long posts that I don't post, but "mine" for other answers.
(I am a fanatic).
In other words, we've noticed that people don't live up to standards. We have "Thou shalt not murder"... and people murder. "Thou shalt not lie" and people tell lies. And what's worse (I guess), it has been found, that the self-same people who preach "thou shalt not murder" have murdered and "Thou shalt not lie" have lied.
And so to some very fine way of thinking, cops and metal detectors are proof that people DO murder and people DO tell lies, so at this point... what? Do we get rid of the cops and metal detectors? Do we derive our morals from a fairly proveable "what is," or from an unproveable (by its very nature) "what ought to be" or from a combination of both? (Law and Love).
One of the very purposes of divine law is precisely to point out the sinful limitations of every man. It is desirable that even those who preach and who have power, be held accountable to a very high standard outside themselves instead of they themselves setting the standard. It is also desirable that we realize that we are all sinners and imperfect, thus making forgiveness a viable option.
In a way, Hypocrisy is our friend. If the Muslim ethic allows for lying and a Muslim is caught lying, he is NOT a hypocrite. Were he only a hypocrite! Would he only FEEL like a hypocrite, FFI would be dedicated to other activities. He would be on the path of perfection. Instead, being engaged in permanent war, even when and where not necessary, he is a proper Jihadi.
By the atheist club's standards even the hundred yard dash is hypocritical. After all, the object is to get across the finish line in as little time as possible. Every year a previous record is broken towards the IMPOSSIBLE goal of covering the distance in 0.0 seconds.
Impossible and yet the race goes on. What gets recorded are the timings. The closest towards "impossible perfection," crossing the line at 0.0, is what is praised, cheered, remembered. Well, no one, unassisted, is ever gonna cross at 0.0 (or so it seems) so why bother?
We discover that it is the seemingly impossible, the perfect that gives meaning to the event. The "saints" of swiftness are those who humanly approximate perfection.
But the very meaning and sense of the event is an impossibility. So I guess we should do away with it. The winner is now... the federation with the most money and power. The winner is now he who gets the most applause from the stands. The winner is now whoever declares himself the winner.
IoshkaFutzian morality says no: the winner is he who more closely approximates perfection, as impossible as it might be. And from there we can fully appreciate all the other relative criteria.
But not at all surprisingly, the sense of the race is connected to the impossible, the perfect. If you don't care about the race. If you wish to redefine it, then by all means remove its senseless impossibilty. Now everybody can win and lose, now there is no race, nor any sense to the race. The race is an illusion. All is gained, all is lost.
The only unanswerable question to all human activities is "why bother?" Why bother with the 100 yard dash? Nihilism is always the most logical / rational answer. But as soon as man decides not to emulate a rock, but instead cares, acts and reacts, hopes and strives then morality comes into play. And so does a world of paradox.
He starts running 100 meter dashes. And to do this some aim at the impossible, the Godlike. The Godlike is what is closer to the potential of manlike than manlike. His parameters are outside any perceived capabilities. The reason is simple: we cannot even begin to imagine the truth, the potential, the sheer wealth and magnificence of the banquet before us, but we must try.
So though life is sacred, it is not treated that way. Yet some approximate it. They set it as their goal. Others don't. Others, like the Somalian Pirates will set their goal on money. And to get that money, they will kill. And those who set life as sacred will kill the pirates. Precisely because life is sacred. But unlike the pirates who revel in their wads of cash, they do not kill lightly. There is no enjoyment in killing pirates. It is not like the pirate's enjoyment of sinking their hands into a treasure chest full of emeralds, diamonds and rubies.
That is the LAW. Stern and grave. But kind of stupid: a lady with a blindfold and a scale in her hands.
But the real saint, the "Usain Bolt" of morality would not even kill the pirates, but joyously go among them hoping to proselytize, risking martyrdom, hoping to lead them on a path of perfection, even though as a man, he can only tell imperfect stories. He will go among them, loving them well before they are loveable.
That is LOVE. Kind of silly, eyes wide open and with matchsticks blazing in them. Nothing in his hands and very little in his pockets.
Like a Usain Bolt he will run at a mind-boggling speed, but never come close to 0.0 seconds perfection.
But where there is now murder, rape and mayhem, the path of perfection he teaches will lead to schools and hospitals, universities and peaceful communities.
Something like that happened to Scandinavia centuries ago, when they were the Somalian Pirates. Some holy men, Saints, told impossible, nonsensical stories. Many were slaughtered for their trouble and went down singing hymns.
The barbarian Huxlyites told them: "No, we the community set the rules! No Gudluf is the tyrant and he is wise! No, booty and that other thing also called booty are what is good and brings pleasure!"
And all that was very very true for them, far more poignantly true than the ravings of the saint, who by today's standards would be woefully short on knowledge, though still amazingly admirable for his courage and morality. It was his courage and morality that made knowledge far greater than what even he himself possessed, possible.
Now a George Carlin can have a ball with this. To be a comedian is precisely the comparison of what should be and what "is" and vice versa. No standards, no shortfallings, nothing funny. No impossible standards, dour and humorless culture.
Unfortunately, some, in their destructive madness, will put the comedians we admire so much out of business.
They will derive their morality from what "is" and not a grand and rather impossible vision of what ought to be. Their priests and judges will no longer be funny, they will no longer be hypocrites.
But in truth, Godless man being precisely what he is, morality will be derived by those who joyfully announce: "I am a pround tyrant." And it will be derived from the Craziemonkies. "Consensus makes right (bla bla bla)." And it will be derived from the Huxlyites... "Might makes right (but that's not what I said)".
As is the case today in our increasingly oppressive societies, you'll get much much more "religion"... You'll still get a mix of "what is" and "what ought to be" (man being a moral creature), but it will drift further and further from sense. I got a taste of it from Huxley in the form of psycho-analysis. Russian prisons were full of people who had "native cognitive deficiencies."
Our hundred meter dashes will be redefined, just as "peace" in the "Nobel Peace Prize" was redefined, just as "truth" was redifined in Soviet Russia and "Democracy" in ex-DDR. Or "tolerance" in today's Sweden, or "Liberal" in today's America. Things which were meant to merrily bend will eventually snap to become their opposites, and on a grand, very serious and grim religious scale.
Ariel posted a thread with Orwellian examples from countries that were once noted not only for their sanity, but for their merriment. Little 5 year old girls hassled and parents busted for talking about Jesus. Nurses fired or sent to sensitivity school for offering prayers. In old USSR, a guy who had a cosmetics laboratory in his garage, sent to the firing squad for "sabotaging" the economy.
If we're lucky, we will begin to notice something is wrong when not even decadence is what it used to be. This is the rasp-licking dog drinking and liking his own blood, noticing that he is going weak. The taste of that blood can be anything, even a "value" such as tolerance or generosity, or a work ethic, or as in my case, a forum-posting mania.
So the purpose of all this jibber-jabber is to establish what sin is. It is what kills the dog. It is what loses sight of life and its furtherance.
“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - German Lutheran Pastor and Theologian. His involvement in a plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler led to his imprisonment and execution. 1906-1945