We can, and I think there's a strong argument to be made that we should, work to make our environment, our fellow man, more conducive to a future of harmony and happiness.
I think Keth's point is that you're being incoherent, because once you embrace hard determinism it doesn't make sense to say that we can and should make the environment more conducive to happiness. After all, you said that the mass murderer couldn't have done anything other than he did--his actions were determined. So why do you use the language of choice when making your entreaties to us, as if we could all choose to be nicer people? If we can choose to be nicer, why couldn't the killer choose that too?
Anyhow, determinism is pretty much it's own debate. I don't think it's clear that it does the work for you that you think it does, though.
this is exactly my point.
i just have no idea what the word "should" means in a determinist paradigm.
so is this thread like officially dead? if so, we can ditch the semantics and just talk about determinism instead.
Take determinism, which is the topic matter of this thread. In my limited understanding - and feel free to correct me if I get it wrong - it is a theory that all our actions and reasoning are solely governed by the predictable and quantifiable interactions of elementary particles with no allowances for free will, and that if we could measure and quantify all particles in the universe then we could predict exactly who will do what when and where. That is unprovable. Measuring and quantifying exactly all particles in the universe, or in a subset thereof, is physically impossible (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and so on), so it will never be possible to prove or demonstrate determinism. But Loren seems to have derived a set of beliefs based on determinism and practises them in his life (i.e. a religion by this thread's definition), and in doing so makes an assumption that determinism is true despite a lack of solid logical proof for it (i.e. faith).
Sorry for not defining that term.
Simply put, we are all products of our genes and our environment, neither of which is under our control. Everything we do, everything we will do, is subject to these two forces, and we can't do anything about it, as we are all thoroughly within the prison of genetics and environment the moment we are conceived.
One could try to articulate that there is something more, but one will immediately find such a something impossible to visualize or articulate clearly, for anything that is not in our genes or environment is imperceptible, and I would argue, largely inconceivable.
The measuring particles thing is Laplace's demon, which is an interesting hypothesis that fits within a deterministic frame.
Still, the part I bolded requires some degree of faith, in my opinion. A lot of people try to change themselves through conscious effort - fighting back against the impulses that their genes and environment dictate - and some even claim to succeed. Other people do things on a whim that seem to defy all social or genetic programming; the classic example of someone risking his life to save a complete stranger would apply here.
I'd be a bit more comfortable with an engineering metaphor, given my professional training. You're basically saying that humans are machine, playing out an internal program that has been dictated by genetics and environment. But you're also making two assumptions, that it is impossible for the machine to modify that program by itself (self-determinism, people changing themselves) and that it is impossible to act in contradiction with the program (free will, risking yourself for a stranger). These are two assumptions I do not believe you can prove (and therefore require faith), and a lot of people would provide evidence to the contrary that you cannot disprove (and therefore would have to account for on faith, by saying something along the lines of "there has got to be a genetic/environmental explanation for this behavior that we do not know yet").
Again, everything that you do and will do is dictated by what has come before. Every decision you make and will make is a product of your environment reflected off what is in your brain. This includes conscious decisions. The conscious decision to change your behavior isn't freed from the confines of your brain and body, and anything that would "seem to defy all social and genetic programming" would apparently not.
I'm comfortable with the analogy of machines, but I'm not suggesting that one's program can't e modified. I'm simply saying that the modifications are necessarily dictated by the programming.
I'm not sure what place the situation of "risking one's life for a stranger" has in this discussion (as you seem to be suggesting that genetics and environment can't account for someone risking his life for a stranger...?) and "free will" is pretty much inconceivable.