The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

The moral argument for the existence of God refers to the claim that God is needed to provide a coherent ontological foundation for the existence of objective moral values and duties. The argument can be summarised in the following syllogism:

Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

Since this is a logically valid syllogism, the atheist, in order to maintain his non-belief in God, must reject at least one of the two Premises. By “objective” morality we mean a system of ethics which universally pertains irrespective of the opinions or tastes of human persons: for example, the holocaust was morally wrong irrespective of what Hitler and the Nazis believed about it, and it would have remained morally wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and compelled everyone into compliance with their values. This view, known in philosophy as “moral realism,” contrasts with “moral relativism” which maintains that no-one is objectively correct or incorrect with respect to their moral values and judgements.

Most people want to uphold premise 2 of the moral argument. After all, if there are no objective ethics, then who is to say that Hitler was objectively morally wrong? Humans have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. The moral argument requires only that at least some actions are objectively right or wrong (e.g. torturing children for pleasure is objectively morally wrong). Premise 1 relates to the perfect standard against which everything else is measured. God, being the only morally perfect being, is the standard against which all other things are judged. Moreover, in the absence of theism, nobody has been able to conceive of a defensible grounding for moral values.

Moral Argument – An Important Distinction

It is important to bear in mind that the moral argument pertains to the ultimate source of objective moral values and duties (moral ontology) and not how we know what is moral or immoral (moral epistemology) and not ‘what we mean’ by good/bad or right/wrong (moral semantics). The theistic ethicist maintains that moral values are grounded in the character and nature of God.

Those who are divine command theorists maintain that moral duties are based on what God commands. Philosopher William Lane Craig puts it this way:

    “Duty arises in response to an imperative from a competent authority. For example, if some random person were to tell me to pull my car over, I would have absolutely no legal obligation to do so. But if a policeman were to issue such a command, I’d have a legal obligation to obey. The difference in the two cases lies in the persons who issued the commands: one is qualified to do so, while the other is not.”

Moral Argument – Euthyphro’s Dilemma

Plato, in his dialogue Euthyphro, presents a fictional dialogue between his philosophical mentor, Socrates, and a character by the name of Euthyphro. Euthyphro explains to Socrates that he has come to lay manslaughter charges against his father, because of his involvement in the death of a worker. This worker himself had killed a slave who had belonged to the family estate. This worker was found dead, gagged, and bound in a ditch. This gives rise to a lengthy dialogue between Euthyphro and Socrates, which eventually leads to the famous “Euthyphro’s Dilemma.” Socrates says, “But I will amend the definition so far as to say that what all the gods hate is impious, and what they love pious or holy; and what some of them love and others hate is both or neither. Shall this be our definition of piety and impiety?” Euthyphro goes on to say “Yes, I should say that what all the gods love is pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious.” Socrates subsequently inquires of him, “The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.”

The question is posed this way: Is x the right thing to do because God commands it, or does God command it because it is already the right thing to do? I take the former option. Normally, the problem with accepting the horn is that there is a presumption that the commands in question from God are arbitrary (i.e. God could have commanded that we ought to lie). But that’s just false. The theist wants to say that God is essentially loving, honest etc., and therefore, in all worlds at which God exists, his commands are going to be consistent with his nature. And therefore, in all worlds, he will disapprove of lying.

Moral Argument – The Shortcomings of Utilitarianism

There are various nontheistic systems of ethics, none of which succeed in providing a robust ontological foundation or objective moral values and duties. One of these systems, popularised recently by Sam Harris in his book The Moral Landscape, is called utilitarianism, and (in its most common formulation) refers to the view that ethics are determined by what constitutes the greatest happiness for the greatest number. One difficulty lies in the fact that it attempts to balance two different scales employed to assess the moral virtue of an action (i.e. the amount of utility produced and the number of people affected). This can often lead to conflicting answers—in some cases an activity might be considered better for a greater number of individuals whereas a different activity might create a greater overall utility. Utilitarians try to maximize with their actions the utility of the long-term consequences of those actions. However, short of possession of omniscience, it is impossible to evaluate the respective long-term results of different activities. Utilitarianism also does not take into account the individual’s intent—Activity X could be done sincerely by an individual who believes that what he is doing will create the maximum utility. But if activity X turns out in the long-term not to produce the desired utility, then his action, under the philosophy of utilitarianism, would be considered less moral than an activity that created more utility.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the moral argument is a robust argument for the existence of God. It is important to distinguish between moral ontology and epistemology when engaging in this debate since these categories are frequently conflated by atheist critics. Humans, being shaped in the image of God, have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. It is not at all clear how the atheist, except at the expense of moral realism, can maintain an objective standard of ethics without such a being as God as his ontological foundation.

This article was originally published on AllAboutPhilosophy.org.

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284 replies
  1. Stephen B says:

    “If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.”

    Premise one is a non sequitur. You first need to establish that God’s existence would make any difference to the existence of ‘objective moral values’ before you can postulate as to the consequences of a God-free universe.

    “Normally, the problem with accepting the horn is that there is a presumption that the commands in question from God are arbitrary”

    No such presumption is needed for Euthryphro’s Dilemma to destroy Divine Command Theory. It works whether the God’s/Gods’ commands are arbitrary or not, whether they are eternal and unchanging or not. If you are saying that it would not be possible for a God to command the torture of babies, then you are saying there is something intrinsic about baby-torture’s right or wrongness such that no moral God could possibly command it. Thus you would be asserting there is a standard outside of the God’s nature. Alternatively you are saying that if a God commanding baby-torture, it would necessarily be moral to torture babies.

    In addition, you are making the wrongness of baby-torture CONTINGENT on a God’s existence. This means you cannot also claim that baby-torture is INTRINSICALLY wrong, because you are setting conditions on its wrongness. You are saying that in a God-free universe, there would be nothing wrong with it.

    “God, being the only morally perfect being, is the standard against which all other things are judged”

    You’re begging the question by calling him morally perfect. What does ‘moral’ even mean if it can only be defined in relation to God? Or to put it another way, it becomes meaningless to call God ‘moral’ if morality itself can only be defined in relation to him.

    Your ‘objective standard of morals’ is based simply on asserting your God is the standard. Why is that objective?

    Reply
  2. Mark B says:

    Steph B so if we cant know what is objective does anything really matter? If we re just a bag of chemicals how can we even know this conversation is real? In fact, you having this conversation with me and others….how is this happening…..I am not physcially touching you …how are we communicating? Just massive bunches of chemical reactions in your head and mine?

    It seems that I have yet to meet another human being who could not define/state that baby-torture is wrong. So does that mean that only the majority opinion matters or do you believe that everybody really can know if something is morally right or wrong? Have you ever been wronged or wrong yourself? If we are just chemicals and you are right then you cant be right because your chemical are your chemicals and my chemical are my chemicals and nothing matters….but in fact “stuff” does matter and you and I have convictions….therefore it does follow.

    Reply
    • gary says:

      In Western society we have two primary competing claims for the origin and basis of Morality: naturalist evolution and scriptural theism. …Each individual must weigh for herself which alternative holds the most merit.

      On the one hand, naturalism holds that in a world where survival is contingent on both competition and social cooperation, there is bound to be a conflict between self-serving impulses (evil, from a societal standpoint) and group-serving impulses (good, from a societal standpoint).

      On the other hand, Christian theism holds that an omniscient god creates a perfect human couple (knowing they will be tempted to sin by a talking serpent), then wipes out nearly the whole of the human race in the time of Noah (knowing in advance they would all turn evil), then, with his foreknowledge, ultimately consigns the majority of the human race to an endless torment in hell (while asking us to turn the other cheek against our own enemies), requiring the murder of his own son to redeem the minority of humanity that recognizes and accepts this Grand Plan.

      —Kenneth W. Daniels, former evangelical Christian missionary in his book, “Why I Believed”

      Reply
  3. Stephen B says:

    “If we re just a bag of chemicals how can we even know this conversation is real?”

    If you’re asking what evidence disproves solipsism, then how do you know it either way, whether you believe in God or not? It’s unfalsifiable either way.

    ” If we re just a bag of chemicals…”

    As opposed to what – you ARE composed of chemicals, but so is everything else. So what?

    Reply
  4. mark says:

    hey Stephen lets put all of the theory to the test, bring your baby, lady or yourself to a gang infested or drug infested area and see if you have the ability to withstand your own philosophy. i do believe your moral outlook would change once it is within reach of people whose motto more often than not is kill for thrills, i would suppose then that like all of the other people who feared my existence while i was a non-christian you may demand a moral absolute (at least until i was incarcerated) but you may escape if you bring all of your chemicals……lol

    Reply
  5. mark says:

    i am sorry for the previous post. i know that there is a absolute moral based on the mayhem and carnage that i have seen, it is not theory here in the hood but rather a affirmation that God alone has set a Moral tone in the heart of man, monkeys too have a authority that they follow, it is of the clan and it is immutable

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  6. Mark B says:

    And that is right where the rubber meets the road and faith comes in. Like solipism….you either believe in yourself or believe in God. Either way it is far better to live life with the hope of the resurrection of the dead than to not, of this there can be no doubt.because without hope what does one live for? Toys? Sex? Money?

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  7. Stephen B says:

    If you’re admitting you’re just going with faith then you admit you’re abandoning reason and just going with what makes you feel better.

    Reply
  8. Andrew says:

    Stephanie B.,
    In order for something to be ‘objective’ there needs to be some external source of measurement, i.e. something external rather than internal. Opinion, cultural normalcy, etc. cannot be a measure of what is or is not objective. In order for there to be objective morals, there must be something external to judge these morals as objective in the first place. In this case, God.

    This has nothing to do with faith. You can’t claim objective morals without something external from which you make the objective measurement. In sum, objective morals come from God or some other metaphysical source.

    Reply
  9. Mark B says:

    Define a fairy tale. Really we are having a discussion on solipsism’s existence. As you stated earlier

    “If you’re asking what evidence disproves solipsism, then how do you know it either way, whether you believe in God or not? It’s unfalsifiable either way.”

    This seems to argue that neither reason nor faith are knowable, if that is the case how does one pick which one to worship? It seems to me that we do in fact exist and therefore have the ability to know what doesnt exist. So, what the parasitic argument for evil presupposing good follows from this line of thinking. You canthave rust without the car but you can have just a car without rust. Good exists innately and evil declares good existence.

    Reply
  10. Stephen B says:

    Andrea: “In order for something to be ‘objective’ there needs to be some external source of measurement… In sum, objective morals come from God”

    You’re contradicting yourself Andrea. For objective morals to come from God, according to you, there needs to be some source of measurement external of God. Unless you’re setting a rule and then immediately claiming there to be an exception…

    “You canthave rust without the car but you can have just a car without rust.”

    So what? We look at situations and try to improve them, so we see bad situations in terms of a good situation spoiled. Why does this require God to exist in order to be true? Anyway, you can have rancid milk without sour dough bread, but you can’t make sour dough bread without rancid milk. You can have a nasty rain shower without a rainbow, but you can’t have the rainbow without rain. You can’t have an emancipated slave without him first being enslaved.

    Reply
  11. Andrew says:

    Stephen B (sorry for the earlier misspelling),

    There is no contradiction at all. God is the source for external judgment of what is objective and what is not. Just like anything else we use to measure objectivity. For example: we can objectively say whether something is or is not water (or some other element). Would you claim that using water as the standard for objective measurement is a ‘contradiction’ because we’re using water to measure what is or is not water? Of course not!

    Obviously, you can argue against the existence of God, but you can’t argue for objective morals while simultaneously arguing against the existence of a standard of measurement for what is or is not moral. In other words, to have objective morals you need something to measure those morals against (just like our water example) and that ‘something’ is required to be external (i.e. apart from our opinions, cultural norms, etc.). Again, God is the source for objective morals; the source is used to measure what is objective and what is not. This is not a contradiction.

    If morals are merely based on ‘improving’ our situation, they are not objective. How do we know what an ‘improvement’ looks like? 1,000 years ago, an ‘improvement’ was getting more slaves and conquering your neighbor country for money. Is that ‘moral’?

    Reply
  12. Stephen B says:

    “God is the source for external judgment of what is objective and what is not”

    Why? According to whom?

    ” but you can’t argue for objective morals while simultaneously arguing against the existence of a standard of measurement”

    I haven’t argued for objective morals, and you’ve not shown why a God would mean they exist – you’ve just asserted that God is the source of a standard, and further claimed that the standard is an objective one.

    “1,000 years ago, an ‘improvement’ was getting more slaves and conquering your neighbor country for money. Is that ‘moral’?”

    You tell me – what does the bible say about slavery?

    Reply
  13. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Are you reading my posts or just skimming through them? Are you aware of what ‘objective’ actually means?

    It’s fine if you want to dispute the existence of God. However, this isn’t about whether God exists or not. This is about whether objective morality can exist without God (or some other metaphysical source). If you believe there are objective morals, it follows that God (or some other metaphysical source) necessarily exists. You haven’t addressed this issue at all. Instead, you create some Straw Man argument that no one else is arguing but you.

    I’ve shown multiple times why objective morality can only exist through some metaphysical source (re-read my previous posts). In this case, God. This isn’t about whether God exists or not and it surely isn’t about whether or not a Christian God exists. Again, this is about whether objective morality can exist without God. They can’t.

    What does the Bible say about slavery? You tell me: Mark 12:28, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Bible is painfully clear on matters of morality and what makes something ‘moral’ or not.

    Reply
  14. Stephen B says:

    ” If you believe there are objective morals, it follows that God (or some other metaphysical source) necessarily exists”

    I don’t see that it follows at all, because you haven’t explained what makes God an ‘objective source’, nor why objective morals should necessarily flow from his existence. Say a God exists, and thatvhevhas a certain nature. Why dies this nature’ set any standard, objective or otherwise?

    Reply
  15. Stephen B says:

    “: Mark 12:28, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Bible is painfully clear on matters of morality”

    Can one use the same passage alone as a simple acceptance of gay relationships, or does it become more complicated then? If you then bring in other passages concerning homosexuality, we can equally bring in other passages on the subject of slavery, which equally muddy the ‘painfully clear’ message.

    Reply
  16. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Read the above article and the multiple comments I’ve made. The entire thing explains why objective morals require the existence of an ultimate law giver (or moral creator). I’m not sure why this needs explaining again and again. The perfect essence of God is the perfect standard. Again, this has nothing to do with whether God exists, but has everything to do with the necessary existence of God for objective morals to exist. Maybe you should explain how objective morality can exist without God…

    Yes, one can use that commandment to apply to anything they wish. Don’t let the actions of a few fool you. Christ gave us a commandment with no “what ifs” or caveats. It really is as simple as that. You’ll notice Christ didn’t say ‘Love your neighbor as yourself if…’

    Reply
  17. Stephen B says:

    “The perfect essence of God is the perfect standard.”

    This just seems to be question begging. What makes him the perfect standard? Perfect by whose reckoning – yours? His own? Your God has a nature, right? What makes it perfect, if the only standard you have to judge it by is the nature itself? Your argument is circular.

    Reply
    • Eddie says:

      The feel good argument has never been a trait of the theist, bur rather the atheist. “If it feels good, do it” … that’s nit compatible with the theistic view of “dent yourself”. Don’t pin atheist views on the theistic argument.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        None of your answer is related in any way to the post you’re replying to – you address none of its points.

        “If it feels good, do it”

        What makes that an atheist argument?

        “God is outside of what we think. He reveals Himself, we don’t assign Him characteristics”

        How do you know? You’re making an “I think this way” argument yourself. If someone says that God was invented by man with characteristics men thought of as powerful or desirable traits, what’s you evidence against that aside from simply asserting that it’s false?

        “To be moral, it has to be right whether you think it is or not. Your opinion matters not”

        Who says? That might apply to OBJECTIVE morality, but why can’t morality come down to opinion? If morality has to be objective, why do people apply the qualifier ‘objective’ to it? I mean why specify ‘objective morality’ if morality is already objective? We’d just say ‘morality’.

        Reply
  18. Toby says:

    What makes the term “perfect” anything other than subjective? Anytime you start calling something perfect or the ultimate you run into a problem opposite of the infinite regress . . . infinite progression? It’s like math. You can always add one more. Perfection then becomes a race to infinity and the apologist’s demigod William Lane Craig has said over and over again that infinities do not exist. So calling god infinite or perfect is kind of kicking yourself in the behind.

    Reply
  19. Andrew says:

    Toby,

    Yes, even if he is a white supremacist. You do realize Christ was tortured and crucified, right? He still stuck by his message…

    Stephen B,

    There’s nothing circular about my argument. We could go so far to say everything we say is circular. For example: why use reason? Don’t we use reason to ‘prove’ reason? You’re just being circular! Those are absurd arguments and contribute nothing. If you want to use that line of reasoning you have no leg to stand on. Again, I ask, how can objective morals exist without a metaphysical explanation?

    You both are wrong. ‘Perfection’ is a concept, just like shapes, numbers, etc. In fact, one might wonder how we know of perfection in the first place; especially when you consider nothing perfect in the natural world exists nor can perfection be experienced in nature. William Lane Craig says infinities don’t exist in the natural world, but the concept ‘infinity’ does, in fact, exist. Craig is very specific about why he’s using that argument and your rebuttal to his argument doesn’t apply here. Perfection is a necessary condition for the existence of God. After all, in order for something to necessarily exist, perfection is a requirement. Otherwise, there would be no necessity to God’s existence.

    Back to the point of this article: objective morals.

    Reply
    • Eddie says:

      Then it becomes opinion and not morality. To be moral, it has to be right whether you think it is or not. Your opinion matters not.

      Reply
  20. Stephen B says:

    Regarding infinity, are you saying your God knows a finite number of things?

    Yes, perfect is concept. If I say ‘the perfect dog’ I’m imagining a dig that absolutely fits what I want from a dog. It’s a subjective judgment. We can agree on a criteria for what would make a deity perfect, but it would still be a subjective criteria. Your idea of a perfect God would not be the same as someone else’s.

    And I don’t think you’ve explained why your argument isn’t circular.

    Reply
    • Eddie says:

      You’re still arguing from the “I think this way …” point. You can’t make up a perfect God because then becomes “what I think” and not “who God really is”. God is outside of what we think. He reveals Himself, we don’t assign Him characteristics. That’s what makes him God and not a fairy tale.

      Reply
  21. Stephen B says:

    ” Perfection is a necessary condition for the existence of God. After all, in order for something to necessarily exist, perfection is a requirement. Otherwise, there would be no necessity to God’s existence.”

    You’re just saying ‘He needs to be perfect for the purposes of my argument’ without explaining what you mean by perfect, or how you know he is perfect, or even if the whole concept of an objectively perfect being even makes coherent sense.

    Reply
  22. Andrew says:

    Martin,

    Your argument is a contradiction. Objectivity = universal truth. Claiming there are “no objective morals” is a universal truth itself.

    Stephen B,

    Again, you bring nothing to the table. This argument is about objective morals. You haven’t contributed one thing to this so far. You are nit-picking my argument about perfection and infinity. Your basic argument rests on you being ignorant of what you’re arguing about. You really don’t have an idea of why you hold your opinions, you just hold them.

    Before we move on, explain to me what “subjective” and “objective” means (don’t Google it and take some source from Wikipedia). After that, we can move on.

    Perfection does not have degrees… Something can’t be “sort of” perfect. It’s either perfect or it is not. There is no grey area, there is no subjectivity to it. I’ve already explained why my argument is not circular. Tell me what you didn’t understand about it and I’ll expand on it. Again, this is you arguing about something out of pure ignorance. You can’t label anything you want as “subjective.”

    I already explained why perfection is a necessary condition for the existence of God. Re-read my post. Are you arguing perfection doesn’t exist? How do you know? How is “perfection” subjective?

    I ask you to stop and think about what’s happening here before you post another reply. I seem to be repeating myself an awful lot and explaining basic concepts to you. Try reading a couple of intro philosophy books/articles before arguing against these very basic ideas (rationalism, epistemology, metaphysics, etc.).

    Reply
  23. Stephen B says:

    Telling me to read the basics of philosophy doesn’t help you, smug though it may make you feel.

    “Claiming there are “no objective morals” is a universal truth itself.”

    Good job no-one made such a claim then, Martin or anyone else.

    ” Are you arguing perfection doesn’t exist? How do you know? How is “perfection” subjective?”

    Perfection is a subjective concept. You need a criteria before you can say something fits it perfectly, or calling it perfect has no meaning. Perfect in what way?

    Reply
  24. Stephen B says:

    “Perfection does not have degrees… Something can’t be “sort of” perfect. It’s either perfect or it is not. There is no grey area, there is no subjectivity to it. ”

    That’s not what makes it subjective. Sure, you can come up with any criteria you want and then say any particular thing is ‘objective perfect’ by that criteria; but the fact that you set the criteria makes it subjective. You can say that no-one IS setting the criteria for God’s perfection, but that doesn’t make it objective, it makes it meaningless. Perfection without a criteria doesn’t actually mean anything. WL Craig (yes, I’ve read him extensively on this subject) lists qualities that a perfect being would need to embody; he says that morality is a great-making property. Who says? Is it a great-making property whether there’s a God or not? If not, then his argument is indeed circular. If it is a great-making property even if there is no God then one can talk about morals even in God’s absence.

    Finally, you can tell me off for asking what you think are obvious questions, but anyone who starts asking people to explain why it is immoral to, say, torture kids, is using Socratic Irony; they can’t complain if someone plays Socrates back to them.

    Sorry if there are typos in the last few paragraphs – my iPod stops showing the text after the first few lines.

    Reply
  25. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Martin made the claim that ‘no objective morals exist.’ By definition, he has made a universal truth claim. However, Martin’s universal truth claim that ‘no objective morals exist’ is, of itself, a universal truth. Basic logic: Martin says no universal truths exist. Martin’s statement is a universal truth. Martin’s argument is a contradiction.

    If perfection was merely a subjective concept, I can just as easily say perfection doesn’t exist and you can’t disagree with me. After all, subjectivity is merely opinion. You can’t ‘prove’ opinion wrong. Funny thing is… You know and I know that perfection does, in fact, exist. Why? Because we have an idea about perfection in a way we can’t deny.

    You need criteria to establish a concept? What ‘criteria’ explains numbers? What ‘criteria’ explains shapes? You can think of the perfect circle, yet a perfect circle doesn’t exist in nature. You can create a problem with infinity or pi, yet infinity or pi doesn’t exist in nature. Interesting that we can use these concepts in the real world without having ‘criteria’ to fall back on. Again, explain your position. Even if we do grant there is specific criteria to be met to see something as ‘perfect’ or not, then ‘perfection’ can be objectively measured by said criteria. This makes ‘perfection’ objective.

    I ask again, what makes it subjective? What is subjectivity and objectivity? I know you’re using Google to search for a ‘best’ answer to what I’m asking you. Keep looking.

    You’re exactly right: we can’t talk about objective morals without God. That’s what this whole argument is about. Your better alternative is…?

    I can honestly say I don’t follow your ‘Socratic Irony’ comment. Please elaborate.

    Reply
  26. Toby says:

    “What ‘criteria’ explains numbers?”

    Two criteria: Things . . . as in material. And someone (also material) to create a language to describe those things. So really you could say one thing, material.

    “Even if we do grant there is specific criteria to be met to see something as ‘perfect’ or not, then ‘perfection’ can be objectively measured by said criteria. This makes ‘perfection’ objective.”

    And how does one come up with the specific criteria? That’s subjective. I can say a perfect circle is four yards across. There is no such thing as perfection. How can you say that something is perfect if you are not omnipotent?

    Reply
  27. Stephen B says:

    ” Basic logic: Martin says no universal truths exist.”

    Sorry but he said no such thing. He specifically said objective morality doesn’t exist; saying one universal truth doesn’t exist is not the same as saying none do. You’d agree to at least some of the following: there are no square circles, no dragons in your socks, no alternative values of Pi. It is not ‘basic logic’ from that that you deny universal truths exist.

    Reply
  28. Stephen B says:

    “Even if we do grant there is specific criteria to be met to see something as ‘perfect’ or not, then ‘perfection’ can be objectively measured by said criteria. This makes ‘perfection’ objective.”

    Excellent – so humans can come up with their own criteria for morality and therefore by your logic discuss ‘objective morality’ without a reference or need for a deity.

    Reply
  29. Stephen B says:

    “If perfection was merely a subjective concept, I can just as easily say perfection doesn’t exist and you can’t disagree with me”

    Logic fail, Andrew. Funny is subjective, you can say it’s just an opinion. That doesn’t mean funny doesn’t exist. See also countless other adjectives.

    Reply
  30. Andrew says:

    Toby,

    I think you’ve missed the point of what I was saying. Numbers are a concept, a brute fact about the world. We can’t argue that one day numbers will be worth more/less than what they are now. In the same respect, perfection will never change. The bigger question: why is 2+2=4? Why will that never change? The only explanation we can say is that by definition 2 is worth 2, yet can’t explain why that is the case, it just is by definition. This same idea can be applied to perfection. Furthermore, this was brought up as a rebuttal to why perfection is objective.

    Again, this article is about objective morals.

    Reply
  31. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Let Martin defend himself. You are wrong on this one.

    No, humans cannot ‘come up’ with their own objective morality. By ‘coming up’ with morality, it is no longer objective. It is merely something we’ve ‘come up’ with.

    Adjectives have nothing to do with what is objective or not. Again, figure out what ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ mean before arguing what is or is not objective. Objectively prove funny exists.

    Again, here we are, two people commenting on here that have literally brought nothing to the table except criticism. If your world view alternative demands some attention, lay it out. I’d like to hear it.

    Remember: this is about objective morals.

    Reply
  32. Stephen B says:

    “Let Martin defend himself. You are wrong on this one.”

    I’m not wrong, and I clearly explained why.

    “Objectively prove funny exists.”

    My whole point is that it is a subjective concept, and thus not something one can ‘prove’ exists. But that doesn’t mean two people cannot meaningfully have a discussion about things they consider funny. If they define ‘funny’ as anything that makes them laugh, then you can say they can objectively say anything that makes them laugh is objectively funny, but that’s only going by their own subjective criteria.

    If you’re saying morality is contingent on the existence of your God, then you cannot also claim it is objective – you’ve come up with a condition for its existence. It is SUBJECT to a God’s existence. If it was truly objective then it would be so with or without a God’s existence.

    A circle is not the same as an adjective. A circle is a thing, ‘perfect’ is a description. A circle can be described mathmatically. Perfection just means ‘is perfect’ which only makes sense if one already has a criteria.

    Reply
  33. Stephen B says:

    “No, humans cannot ‘come up’ with their own objective morality. By ‘coming up’ with morality, it is no longer objective. It is merely something we’ve ‘come up’ with.”

    It’s not a good sign for your argument that you are contradicting yourself between posts. You said: “

    Reply
  34. Stephen B says:

    Sorry, you said: “Even if we do grant there is specific criteria to be met to see something as ‘perfect’ or not, then ‘perfection’ can be objectively measured by said criteria. This makes ‘perfection’ objective.”

    Equally then it follows a morality can be objectively measured by the subjective criteria.

    Even if we are conceptualising perfection, we are still imagining a perfect whatever by our subjective criteria. It is not ‘perfect” independent of our criteria. Saying a being is perfect independently of anyone’s criteria makes no sense. Perfect in what way? It perfectly fits WHAT definition or idea?

    And telling us endlessly we are bringing nothing to the table doesn’t help your argument either.

    Reply
  35. Toby says:

    So your morality is divine command which has nothing to do with objectivity, but the subjectivity of a superbeing. You can say all you like about this superbeing’s “nature”, but really there is no proof that this being’s nature is what you want it to be, it’s pure guesswork (wishful thinking actually) and faith. There’s no real reason that a creator of a universe has to be a perfect anything. It could get away with causing a big bang event and then letting the universe evolve on it’s own with no help at all.

    Reply
  36. JB Chappell says:

    The 1st premise seems plausible to me. If morality exists objectively, it would seem more plausible that it is grounded in God, rather than discovered as some sort of Platonic Form. The alternative would seem to be that we can discern general patterns in human behavior that lead to what we generally consider to be “good” results, but that seems arbitrary and at least somewhat subjective.

    The 2nd premise also *seems* plausible. The problem is that it is indefensible. How to demonstrate that objective morality exists. Because humans have an intuitive sense of right and wrong? No we don’t. Anyone who has raised a child can tell you that they’re born only caring about one thing: themselves. The fact that humanity generally agrees on very broad, vague moral principles can easily be explained by socialization.

    So, unfortunately, the argument doesn’t hold water. The fact that, as the author notes, most people want to uphold premise 2, is what gives the argument its force. Still think Euthyphro is a bad objection, however.

    Reply
  37. Stephen B says:

    “If morality exists objectively, it would seem more plausible that it is grounded in God”

    I still don’t see why grounding a morality in God makes it objective. I can choose to ground my tent to a solid rock on the basis that it won’t move from it, but I’m still choosing to ground it there in the first place – the fact that my tent is now rooted there tells me nothing about whether it was a good spot in the first place, only that it now can’t be moved from it.

    Andrew: “What ‘criteria’ explains shapes?”

    Shapes have a definition. A square is a polygon with four sides of equal length – that is its criteria. Look up any definition of ‘perfect’ and a criteria is implied:

    “conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman.”

    So first you have to describe or define that type.

    “entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings”

    ‘Flaws’ is a somewhat subjective concept. We can talk about a flawless diamond because we have a shared ideal of what a diamond should be, but this is a subjective, not objective judgment.

    And so on…

    Reply
  38. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Clearly, you aren’t understanding the difference between “subjective” and “objective”. if you did, you’d notice your arguments literally make no sense; especially with statements like “Equally then it follows a morality can be objectively measured by the subjective criteria.”

    Again, objective morality cannot exist if we don’t have some outside source (metaphysical) to judge what is or is not objective. Talk all you want about perfection, shapes, numbers, etc. This doesn’t change the fact of the matter of what makes something, by definition, objective or not. Your Red Herring argument hasn’t advanced your cause. We’ve been going in circles about what “so and so” means and why “such and such” couldn’t mean that. Who cares? The above article is about objective morality and how, granting objective morality, God is a necessary condition. Period.

    If you want to argue that perfection doesn’t exist, perfection can’t be objective, go for it. However, notice your “proof” that perfection can’t objectively be measured rests on the assumption that we can’t “know” what is or is not perfect. The Bible clearly explains what makes God perfect. Take it or leave it. That’s where my criteria for perfection comes from and that’s how it is objectively measured. If you want to get into *why* the Bible is reliable and can be depended on, that’s a whole other argument.

    So far, I haven’t heard you make an argument of why objective morals don’t exist or how objective morals can exist without a metaphysical explanation. Let’s hear it.

    Toby,

    The Bible is my proof. Again, the reliability of the Bible is a whole other argument.

    JB,

    The above article is sort of weak. C.S. Lewis explains the moral argument for God perfectly: “Rule of Decent Behavior meant simply ‘whatever each nation happens to approve,’ there would be no sense in saying that any one nation had ever been more correct in its approval than any other; no sense in saying that the world could ever grow morally better or morally worse.” In other words, if morality were merely “convention” we could only say that Nazis just had a “different” idea of right and wrong from us. No one is *really* wrong. After all, it’s merely convention.

    Reply
  39. Stephen B says:

    “If you want to argue that perfection doesn’t exist”

    I never said anything remotely like that. Something can perfectly fit a criteria. I can make up a game and by its rules someone can get a perfect score. I can say “that’s a perfect film’ because it fulfils everything I look for in a film. And we can talk about a perfect circle, given our shared mathematical definition of a circle. But you’ll notice all these require a definition or criteria to be fulfilled.

    “your arguments literally make no sense; especially with statements like “Equally then it follows a morality can be objectively measured by the subjective criteria.”

    No, I was directly using your own logic, viz:

    ““Even if we do grant there is specific criteria to be met to see something as ‘perfect’ or not, then ‘perfection’ can be objectively measured by said criteria. This makes ‘perfection’ objective.””

    Reply
  40. Stephen B says:

    “The Bible clearly explains what makes God perfect.”

    Sure, you can start by listing criteria that would make a deity perfect TO YOU and then claim your God fits that definition. It doesn’t make your God OBJECTIVELY perfect. Your good as you understand Him wouldn’t even be perfect to hundreds of other denominations of Christian, who all see their God as having different traits, sometimes subtlety so, other times not, than you do.

    If you want to argue that traits like merciful or just are objectively great making traits, and God fits them, then you’re saying they’re great traits independently of God. Or they’re only great because God has them, in which case any traits would be good if he had them .

    Reply
  41. Stephen B says:

    Sorry, autocorrect fail: ” Your GOD as you understand Him wouldn’t even be perfect to hundreds of other denominations of Christian” etc

    Reply
  42. Toby says:

    “If you want to argue that traits like merciful or just are objectively great making traits, and God fits them, then you’re saying they’re great traits independently of God.”

    Now that you point this out it’s clear that they can’t define their god because they are using their own subjective ideas of what makes a deity great.

    Reply
  43. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Re-read my post. Then, read it again. Nowhere in there did I say we “came up” or “invented on our own” criteria. I said that if we agree on certain criteria (which already existed independent of us), we could objectively measure that thing (whatever it is). In other words, a square has four sides by definition. We’ve agreed that a square cannot be a square if it doesn’t fit this criteria.

    I am having an extremely hard time understanding where you’re coming from and what you’re point is. Your arguments are jumbled, you are merely arguing just to argue and you have no point to what you’re saying. You are confusing the argument for the necessary condition of the existence of God if objective morals exist with does God exist and how would we know. These are two separate arguments that deserve ample amounts of attention all on their own. So, what is your point?

    The Bible does show that God is objectively perfect. Why? Because there is some external form of measurement to prove this. Have you read the Bible? I get the feeling the majority of what you argue against is out of pure ignorance. Obviously, a perfect being, fits the criteria for things being good “because God has them.” All Christians worship the same God. I honestly have no clue where you got “Your GOD as you understand Him wouldn’t even be perfect to hundreds of other denominations of Christian” etc. It has nothing to do with “my God” or “your God,” there is only ONE Christian God.

    Toby,

    It seems apparent you know very little (if anything) about Christianity. There is no subjectivity about the nature of God. The Bible explains this in great detail. I strongly recommend both you and Stephen B read-up on a couple of things before making arguments against them. Everything I read from you and Stephen are either a) statements of ignorance, or b) misunderstanding what I’m writing. There has been zero substance to your (and Stephen B’s) arguments.

    Reply
  44. Stephen B says:

    “I said that if we agree on certain criteria (which already existed independent of us)”

    How did the definition of a square exist independently of us?

    “Your arguments are jumbled, you are merely arguing just to argue and you have no point to what you’re saying”
    Same back to you.

    “Because there is some external form of measurement to prove this”
    So where does this form of measurement come from?
    1) If it comes from God then you’re just saying God is perfect by His own reckoning. So what?
    2) If you’re saying He’s perfect by a reckoning INDEPENDENT of Him, then where does that come from?

    “All Christians worship the same God”
    Sure, and yet their reckoning of His nature and what He wants differs so much that different denominations have fought wars over each others’ ‘heresy’. Go into a bunch of different churches across America and you’ll find a huge disparity in views of God.

    “I get the feeling the majority of what you argue against is out of pure ignorance”
    Again, likewise. These kind of interjections are pretty pointless and do not advance your argument.

    “So, what is your point?”
    That even if we accept your premise that a God exists, it gets you no closer to either
    a) that God being perfect by any other reckoning His own
    b) objective morals existing.

    And you’ve said nothing to refute either point.

    Reply
  45. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    People disagreeing about the nature of God in no way “grants” your premise. People disagreed about the earth being flat… That doesn’t change the fact of the matter. Again, this is an OBJECTIVE truth.

    I AM saying God is perfect “by his own reckoning.” I’ve stated this multiple times. “So what?” Well, that’s that. What more do you want me to say?

    I’ve addressed both of your points multiple times.

    Here goes… Again…

    a) God IS perfection, therefore, perfection IS God. There is no other standard for perfection, nor is there any other measurement. Objectivity ONLY applies to people, not to God. If God is perfection he sets the standard for what is or is not perfect. Just like a square… You can’t argue that since a square sets the standard for what a square is, there isn’t any objectivity to it. Again, your misunderstanding of this is purely based on not the ignorance of the simple concept of ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’. I’m not going to respond to your objections unless you act like you understand the difference. The only thing I can gather from your argument is that you don’t believe in objectivity. Am I wrong? If God isn’t perfect, then what’s the point of God? Why worship a being that can literally do nothing for you?
    b) Again, the above article and many of my respones to you have shown why objective morals exist. Do I really need to revisit this for the fifth time?

    I’ve refutted every point you’ve brought up. You chose to scan through my response real quick, take points away, misinterpret what I’ve written (again, which I’ve pointed out), then respond as quickly as possible with a “this doesn’t mean this” sort of answer. Semantics.

    Reply
  46. Stephen B says:

    “God IS perfection, therefore, perfection IS God”

    Meaningless tautology. You might as well say ‘God is mfanwetub, mfanwetub is God’.

    “Objectivity ONLY applies to people, not to God.”

    Special pleading…

    “You can’t argue that since a square sets the standard for what a square is..”

    No, WE define what a square is.

    “Why worship a being that can literally do nothing for you?”
    So worshipping is about what God can do for you, self-interest?

    Reply
  47. Stephen B says:

    “I AM saying God is perfect “by his own reckoning.” I’ve stated this multiple times. “So what?” Well, that’s that. What more do you want me to say?”

    Well you could explain why any being reckoning themselves to be perfect means they are so. You could tell me that YOU are perfect by your own reckoning – how does this translate into some come of objective reality?

    It’s circular to say “He’s perfect by His own reckoning and because He’s perfect that means He must be right”. And saying things along the lines of “Well what’s the point of Him if He isn’t perfect” isn’t an argument either, even if it made sense. My phone isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it’s useless.

    Reply
  48. Stephen B says:

    “People disagreeing about the nature of God in no way “grants” your premise. People disagreed about the earth being flat… That doesn’t change the fact of the matter. Again, this is an OBJECTIVE truth.”

    My point is that what you would envisage as a perfect God would contradict another Christian’s view. Some Christians would see their God punishing gays in the afterlife; Bishop Desmond Tutu would see such a God as evil, as would the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, given that they’ve both said they believe God has nonproblem with homosexuality. And I could give countless other examples. Imagine something you currently see as utterly evil; now imagine that on getting to heaven God says “that’s not evil – it’s compulsory!”. Does that mean God is evil, or that you got it wrong before. If the latter, what if it’s something you view as UTTERLY heinous – baby rape, or suchlike? What would it actually mean for you to say that OBJECTIVELy that’s no longer evil?

    Reply
  49. Toby says:

    Mr. Andrew, can you tell us what a world without objective morals and moral duties would be like? How would it differ from the world we find ourselves in?

    Reply
  50. Andrew says:

    Toby,
    Here’s how a world without objective morals would differ from a world with objective morals.

    A world without objective morals: there is literally no justice. In fact, “justice” can only apply to the here and now. After all, what we might deem as “moral” today could be completely different than what we see as “moral” a year from now. In this world, you cannot say “I’m right” or “You’re wrong.” If you did, you are saying there is some universal standard of measurement of what “right” or “wrong” really is. You can’t claim this without objective morals. By and by, this whole argument about morals is arbitrary and contributes nothing to the world. There’s no “truth” to discover about morals nor is there anything to argue for or against. Do what you like, there are no consequences to actions. Yet, some say that if it hurts someone it’s “immoral.” According to whose standards? Oh, be careful not to make a universal claim… What Hitler did wasn’t really “wrong,” it was just a difference of opinion.

    A world with objective morals: there is a universally true “right” and “wrong”. I’ve summed this up with the C.S. Lewis quote above. You can claim that rape is wrong no matter where and when it takes place (among many other immoral acts). You can judge knowing there is a true right and wrong, regardless of how the masses feel about it at that time. What Hitler did was wrong. Period. We have a universal moral code to live up to that defends this.

    Questions?

    Reply
  51. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,
    Again, you are bringing out the Red Herring. A Christian worships ONE God. Period. If someone is claiming that their God isn’t what “Christians” believe, they aren’t Christian. It’s as simple as that. God is very clear about what is right and what is wrong, regardless of how we feel about it.

    My argument is not circular, is is a contingent argument. In order for something necessarily to exist, it must be perfect. Otherwise, it would not necessarily exist.

    Do you believe that we, one day, could redefine what a square is? How is that possible? Could we redefine that 1 = 1? If you believe this, everything you’re saying now is superfluous nonsense. After all, you don’t “really” know what you’re saying is right or not, it could change 10 years from now and be totally meaningless. However, that’s not the case. There are Brute Facts in the world that don’t change, regardless of popular opinion.

    Also, no “special pleading” here. Again, check-out what the very definition of “objective morals” and you’d understand a little better. God is outside the material world. Spatial time relations, materialism, etc. don’t apply to God.

    Again, which of my premises about objective morality are you disputing?

    Reply
  52. Stephen B says:

    Andrew, the red herring is yours – I never talked about any Christian worshipping more than one God. The ‘re-defining a square’ business also has nothing to do with anything I said. I think you are mis-reading what I’ve posted – it would help if you quoted the parts you believe you are responding to.

    “God is outside the material world. Spatial time relations, materialism, etc. don’t apply to God.”

    Why does any of that make his morals any more objective?

    “In order for something necessarily to exist, it must be perfect”

    Can you say what you mean by perfect?

    Reply
  53. Stephen B says:

    Your response to Toby about how the world would differ doesn’t answer it in any way. What practical or tangible or empirical difference would there be? How would we tell we were in ‘that world’ and not ‘this world’? What evidence would you be able to show that we were in one and not the other?

    Reply
  54. Stephen B says:

    “God is very clear about what is right and what is wrong, regardless of how we feel about it.”

    Ver clear? Really? Then how come we find even great biblical scholars disagreeing on fairly important ethical issues? I mentioned two Arch Bishops who maintain there’s nothing immoral about committed gay relationships, and at least one of the two is a renowned Christian scholar. Are you saying YOU understand very clearly God’s moral teachings and all who disagree with YOU are simply missing His ‘very clear’ intentions?

    Reply
  55. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Toby can defend himself….

    I’m done arguing semantics with you and arguing about what “so and so” means and “but what if this?” You have sent this entire thread off on some tangent that literally has no place in what the original article was about.

    Here’s my argument:

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Reply
  56. Martin says:

    Andrew,

    How do you prove your #2 is true without appealing to #3?

    In other words, it seems to me that #2 is dependent upon #3 being true, and #3 is dependent upon #2 being true.

    Reply
  57. Toby says:

    Andrew, doesn’t history completely destroy your idea of moral objectivity? There have been things done throughout the ages that we find reprehensible today, but were considered correct and moral in their time. This leads us to believe that morals evolve. I would believe that you are very much more moral than your bible. Do you stone people for working on holy days? Do you eat shellfish or cheeseburgers? These things were once abhorrent, but perfectly fine today. In the future the world may think it’s horrible to pierce ears. Does that make us moral monsters? Writers of the bible would be horrified to see a woman walking around in shorts.

    I get what you’re saying about moral relativity, I understand moral relativity, but I just don’t buy it exists any more than I buy that moral objectivity exists. The major reason is that as a species we wouldn’t be here if our species was everyperson for theirselves. We’re social animals and as such we create rules to follow for the safety of the group. There is nothing supernatural about any of this. The way you present the idea of objective morals just seems to make it much more implausible. Your side has made up this strawman argument of a world in which it’s everyone for themselves if there is no moral objectivity, yet your side disregards that our world is composed of social groups and not murderous individuals.

    Question: Do animals have moral obligations and duties? Dogs, cats, bats, snakes, bacteria, fungi?

    Reply
  58. Stephen B says:

    “Here’s my argument:
    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.”

    To be fair, it’s WLC’s argument, and it doesn’t work. The first point is an unbacked assertion. So is the second. The third is a non sequitur, and doesn’t flow from the first two.

    Do you have any other arguments?

    Reply
  59. Stephen B says:

    It’s a fallacious syllogism anyway, in that even granting the premises of the first two doesn’t logically lead to the conclusion. Even if we grant that “X not existing” leads to “Y not existing”, it doesn’t logically flow that “Y exists” means that “X exists”.
    If we replace some of the variables then the flaw becomes clear:

    1. If it rained all night then the lawn will be damp.
    2. The lawn is damp.
    3. Therefore it must have rained last night.

    This is a logical fallacy. Even if we grant the first statement is true, and we verify that the lawn is indeed damp, the conclusion does not logically flow from those two facts. Neither of the first two points show that a damp lawn can ONLY be caused by rain, they show only that a dry lawn rules out the possibility that it was raining.

    The argument you NEED to make is simpler:
    “Objective morality exists and I believe God is the only way to explain it.”

    This still leaves you to demonstrate that OM exists and then provide an argument for a) how the existence of a God explains it and b) why God is the ONLY explanation.

    You’ve yet to do any of those three things. You’ve offered an argument from contingency, and you’ve tried to suggest that ‘perfect’ God is necessary in the same way that mathematical objects are. I don’t buy this at all. You’re mixing concepts (circles, squares etc) and a being with specific attributes, and saying the same argument applies to both.

    Reply
  60. Stephen B says:

    By the way, I’ve just gone back to the source, to William Lane Craig’s website, to see how he answers objections to his Divine Command Theory argument. Someone sets him a question: would Craig become a Muslim if it turned out Allah was really God? While WLC starts off saying that in theory he would (he should accept new evidence, as anyone should), he then argues this:

    “[we can take] certain qualities like compassion, fairness, generosity, and so forth, and ask, “Are these qualities good because they are found in God’s nature or are they good quite independently of God?” The answer is that these qualities are good because they are found in God’s nature. …

    “… God possesses His moral qualities so there is no possible world in which God is not kind, impartial, gracious, loving, and so on. So I don’t think it is possible that Allah is God, since Allah is not all-loving and impartial.”

    Do you see the problem here? He’s starting with the premise that those qualities are good ONLY because God has them – it’s not that God has them because they are good. Then he says that ‘all-loving and impartial’ are good because they are attributes of the God he believes in. Then he says that Allah cannot be God because he doesn’t have those attributes. This is begging the question, and I’m astonished that a philosopher venerated by Christians as one of their greatest makes such an elementary mistake. He specifically said that God’s attributes are good because He has them, not the other way round, and then contradicts himself by saying that any God must necessarily have specific ‘good’ attributes.

    If Allah was the true God, by Craig’s first argument, whatever attributes he had WOULD be the perfect attributes. They’d be perfect because they were his attributes. A Muslim could use Craig’s second argument to argue:
    “Allah possesses His moral qualities so there is no possible world in which God IS all-loving and impartial, and so on. So I don’t think it is possible that the Christian God is real, since it IS all-loving and impartial”

    Reply
  61. Andrew says:

    Toby,

    Let me get this straight… Because things have changed (or ideas of what “morality” is) no objective morals exist. So, in relation, objective science (or knowledge, for that matter) doesn’t exist because we change our minds about things we used to think were true? In other words, there is no objective anything out there… After all, we will just change our minds about it 1,000 years from now. But, if you believe that, how can you depend on anything you’re saying or believing right now?

    Your argument is that morals are merely social conventions; like which side of the road we’re to drive on, or that a green light means “go” and so on… You use the piercing ears as a model for this or that the Bible used to “tell” people to stone each other. However, your analogy further proves the point of a collective belief in right and wrong (we’re social animals, remember). Every culture on the planet has similar morals they deem ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ I’m not arguing the degrees of right and wrong, I’m arguing the objective truth of morality (and duties) that exist in our world (reality). Would you argue that rape, child abuse, murder aren’t REALLY wrong, they are just social conventions at that time? Is giving to the poor equal to killing the poor to relieve them of any pain they may suffer? Would you say there’s no true moral difference between the two, they are just a ‘flavor of the month’ at that time. If there is a moral difference between them, what standard are you drawing from?

    Animals are not moral agents. I’ve never heard someone (well, maybe Singer) defend this position. There’s a big difference between what we ‘ought’ to do and what we ‘should’

    Reply
  62. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    What on earth are you talking about? This argument is the very definition of what makes an argument logical. Your credibility is coming into serious question here… Try looking up what makes an argument logical and sound, then come back and re-read the argument. You are dead wrong here.

    You don’t ‘disprove’ an argument by replacing the variables with whatever you’d like to replace them with. You disprove an argument by either a) showing one of the premises are false, and/or b) showing the negation of the premise is false (as well as showing the conclusion couldn’t possibly follow the premises). You can also use the premise negation as a ‘what’s more probable’ view. In other words (to use your example) ‘If it DIDN’T rain all night then the lawn will be damp’ is obviously false (or extremely improbable) when compared to your original premise ‘If it rained all night then the lawn will be damp.’

    You are right, I have to demonstrate that each premise is true. If you’d like to go there, fine. People write books on that stuff… However, this doesn’t mean the argument isn’t logically airtight, nor is this what this whole thread has been about.

    Going back and forth with you is becoming extremely frustrating. I can’t tell if you just Google a bunch of things and try to put them together in your responses, but they are becoming very hard to follow. You can’t even define what a logical argument is, yet you say my argument isn’t logical. Unreal.

    You went to the wrong WLC source. Try again.

    I have many arguments, I’ve yet to see ONE of yours.

    Reply
  63. Stephen B says:

    “Try looking up what makes an argument logical and sound”

    Well for a start the conclusion must follow the premises, right? And I just showed why it doesn’t.

    “This argument is the very definition of what makes an argument logical.”

    I quite clearly showed why it isn’t logical. The conclusion doesn’t flow from the premise. You can argue that OM existing is a NECESSARY part of showing God’s existence, but that doesn’t mean that OM’s existence is PROOF of God’s existence. This is logic 101.

    “‘If it DIDN’T rain all night then the lawn will be damp’ is obviously false”

    No it isn’t, and there’s nothing in the premises to show it is. The premises would need to include that if the lawn is damp then it must have rained. They didn’t. They argued that if it rained then the lawn must be damp. Not the same thing at all, and that was the whole point of the analogy I was making to your argument.

    The premises PURELY argued for a necessary result of rain, they didn’t argue for necessary cause of dampness. There’s a huge difference between the two.

    For a start, there could have been sprinklers on; For a second, my own lawn is damp right now because the river next to it is close to over-flowing and the water table has risen. If the river overflows that would be another cause of dampness.

    The point is that although the lawn being damp may be a NECESSARY piece of evidence for rain [one cannot argue it rained without the dampness] – it is not in itself proof. This is not nit-picking, it is pointing out a clear flaw in a logical syllogism.

    “yet you say my argument isn’t logical”

    It IS, and I just clearly explained why again.

    My point stands.

    “Going back and forth with you is becoming extremely frustrating. ”

    It’s because you’re wrong Andrew. You’ve been convinced that this is a good argument, and your response when someone points out the flaws is to assume the other person doesn’t understand the argument or is some philosophical dunce.

    “You went to the wrong WLC source”

    I read several links where WLC discussed the argument and other questions relating to it. That one just happened to strike me as containing one of the most obvious errors, clearly undermining his credibility.

    Reply
  64. Stephen B says:

    I’ll make it even clearer for you:

    Here is a logical argument:

    (P) All birds have feathers. (P) Parakeets are birds. (C) Thus, parakeets have feathers.

    Here is a false argument:

    (P) All birds have feathers. (P) Native Americans have feathers. (C) Thus, Native Americans are birds.

    Your argument takes the latter form. A necessary sign of X (birds, God’s existence) is the presence of Y (feathers, Objective Morality), thus the presence of Y (feathers, OM) denotes X (It’s a bird/God exists).

    Reply
  65. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    This is getting beyond ridiculous. Your posts are becoming an ugly combination of “I think this is what it means” with “I found this online.” You clearly have no knowledge of the rules of logic (searching Wikipedia doesn’t count) nor have you given a better explanation to what this whole thread has been about. Instead, you waste time ‘arguing’ about something you are ignorant of (in this case, logic and in previous posts, confusing ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’).

    The above argument is logical. The conclusion follows from the premises. This isn’t complicated, this is something you’d learn in a beginner philosophy class. The only ‘credibility’ you are undermining is your own. I can’t even begin to believe that YOU have ‘disproven’ WLC and ‘shown’ that his arguments are illogical (his arguments being false are a completely different matter). Do you honestly believe that? Do you honestly believe you have somehow outwitted an expert in this field who has fought (and won) against some of the greatest atheists on this planet?

    Let me break down WLC’s argument before you hurt yourself and find some strange blog where a college dropout has written a post about ‘disproving’ the Moral Argument for God (in fact, this argument is a rebuttal to Richard Dawkins’ argument against the proof of God through objective morality):

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.
    Premises 1 and 2
    “What makes this argument so compelling is not only that it is logically airtight but also that people generally believe both premises. In a pluralistic age, people are afraid of imposing their values on someone else. So premise 1 seems correct to them. Moral values and duties are not objective realities (that is, valid and binding independent of human opinion) but are merely subjective opinions ingrained into us by biological evolution and social conditioning.
    At the same time, however, people do believe deeply that certain moral values and duties such as tolerance, open-mindedness, and love are objectively valid and binding. They think it’s objectively wrong to impose your values on someone else! So they’re deeply committed to premise 2 as well.” –WLC
    Read this two or three times until you fully understand what’s happening here. If you impose your moral values on someone else (admitting objective morals), you have committed yourself to Premise 2. If you have committed yourself to Premise 2, by the rules of logic, you must grant the conclusion or concede your irrationality. In order to grant the conclusion, you must commit yourself to both Premise 1 and Premise 2. This is how logic works. Period. All the ‘examples’ you give doesn’t make a bit of difference to this particular argument. The only other possible logical argument you can make is saying there are no objective morals. Is that your argument?
    Here’s a side note for your information:
    “An argument is a series of statements (called premises) leading to a conclusion. A sound argument must meet two conditions: (1) it is logically valid (i.e., its conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic), and (2) its premises are true. If an argument is sound, then the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. But to be a good argument, it’s not enough that an argument be sound. We also need to have some reason to think that the premises are true. A logically valid argument that has, wholly unbeknownst to us, true premises isn’t a good argument for the conclusion. The premises have to have some degree of justification or warrant for us in order for a sound argument to be a good one. But how much warrant? The premises surely don’t need to be known to be true with certainty (we know almost nothing to be true with certainty!). Perhaps we should say that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence. I think that’s fair, though sometimes probabilities are difficult to quantify. Another way of putting this is that a good argument is a sound argument in which the premises are more plausible in light of the evidence than their opposites. You should compare the premise and its negation and believe whichever one is more plausibly true in light of the evidence. A good argument will be a sound argument whose premises are more plausible than their negations.” –WLC

    In my personal opinion, the moral argument for the existence of God isn’t the best road to take.

    Reply
  66. Stephen B says:

    Despite all your bluster, and all WLC’s claims for his argument, it remains logically unsound for exactly the reasons I already explained. That you’ve resorted to insult and condescension rather than address my explanation suggests to me that you’re aware of the poor foundations on which WLC’s argument rests.

    Reply
  67. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    I highly suggest you pick up (and read) “A Rulebook for Arguments” by Anthony Weston. I’ve addressed everything you’ve mentioned, and then some, all while insulting you (if I hurt your feelings, I apologize). It’s clear you have no knowledge of Logic nor the rules of Logic. There are specific guidelines to follow, which aren’t up for negotiation. Just because you WANT to call something ‘illogical’ doesn’t make it so (if that thing fits logical rules).

    Your sprinkler analogy is beyond me. You can’t add onto (and take away from, or switch out, etc.) a premise if the premise made no such claim (but you can use the negation of the premise, as long as both premises follow the same rules). Otherwise, you have changed the premise, which completely changes the argument, and therefore, the conclusion. If that’s all it took to ‘disprove’ an argument, I can ‘disprove’ anything! How is it possible to judge the truth value of an argument if you change, add on to, take from, or ‘switch out’ what the original premise claims?

    The ONLY possible way for you to argue against WLC’s argument is to either a) claim objective morals don’t exist or, b) argue against the existence of God (which commits you to (a)). Objective morals are not possible without God (Premise 1); which has been covered numerous times during this conversation. However, you CANNOT make the claim WLC’s argument is illogical. Again, the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. I have already explained this in my previous post (which you obviously didn’t read) and why arguing against this claim is failing. Again, what’s your position? What ‘better’ explanation do you have?

    WLC has a double doctorate and has debated the biggest (and best) atheists in the world. Which ‘poor foundations’ do you refer to? His PhD in philosophy or PhD in theology? What’s your background?

    I’m not trying to turn this into a name calling match.

    Reply
  68. Stephen B says:

    “Which ‘poor foundations’ do you refer to?”

    That it’s a logically unsound argument.

    Here again:
    (P) All birds have feathers. (P) Parakeets are birds. (C) Thus, parakeets have feathers.

    Here is a false argument:

    (P) All birds have feathers. (P) Native Americans have feathers. (C) Thus, Native Americans are birds.

    Your argument takes the latter form. A necessary sign of X (birds, God’s existence) is the presence of Y (feathers, Objective Morality), thus the presence of Y (feathers, OM) denotes X (It’s a bird/God exists).

    All you’re offering is an argument from authority. And this isn’t a name-calling match because you’re the only one doing it. I’m not insulted – I just note it as weakness on your part.

    Reply
  69. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    No, that’s wrong. You can’t equate arguments at your fancy. The rules of Logic don’t allow this. Notice the moral argument begins with an “IF” statement. If, then… You seem to miss that every time you rebuke.

    A more appropriate analogy would be:
    1. If birds do not exist, feathers do not exist.
    2. Feathers exist.
    3. Therefore, birds exist.

    This argument is based on a contingency. Feathers and birds only exist if both exist, not one or the other, by definition. The contingency of this argument make it logically sound. The conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. In order for birds to exist, feathers must exist, but one can’t exist without the other. Birds, by definition, must have feathers. Take the negation of the argument and the argument is still valid. You can’t do that with your Native American analogy. There is no contingency for your Native American analogy (I think I saw that on Wikipedia somewhere…). You can’t compare apples and oranges. I feel like I’m back in my 101 class…

    Again, what’s your alternative to objective morals?

    Reply
  70. Stephen B says:

    Leaving that aside, can you give your argument for the existence of objective moral values? Can you offer a test that would provide one result if they do exist and another if they don’t? A way of objectively demonstrating their existence? Referring to the way humans behave isn’t evidence. Humans may behave as if they believe all sorts of things are true – it doesn’t mean they are. I want to hear what impiricle evidence you have. Feel free to throw in insults if you think it helps your argument.

    Reply
  71. Stephen B says:

    My ‘leaving that aside’ was referring to my own post, not yours, and please excuse the empirical typo.

    The objective morality claim is yours, the burden of proof rests on you to demonstrate it.

    Reply
  72. Stephen B says:

    “If you impose your moral values on someone else (admitting objective morals), you have committed yourself to Premise 2”

    Can you give an example of imposing your moral values? If I protect my wife from a rapist, am I imposing my values on him? How about it if I protect her from a rabid dog? In either case, I need only value my wife, I don’t need to believe in OM.

    Reply
  73. Stephen B says:

    “The only other possible logical argument you can make is saying there are no objective morals. Is that your argument?”

    To clarify again, I don’t think the concept of objective morals is coherent, and I’ve already explained why I don’t think they would flow from the existence of a God anyway. And WLC’s concept of God’s attributes being good because they are his attributes falls apart as soon as you ask him to consider the existence of another God, as I quoted above. He immediately switches his argument and says that Allah doesn’t have the right attributes, whereas as previously he argued that the attributes for God are good BECAUSE He has them. Whatever attributes ALlah had WOULD be the right ones by that logic. We’d be forced to say they were good attributes by definition.

    Reply
  74. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    Why is your moral value (saving your wife from a rapists) better than the rapists moral value (raping your wife)? What standard of measurement are you using? Why are both morals not equally as valuable? What isn’t ‘coherent’ about objective morals? Do you believe in ANY objectivity in the world?

    Your Euthyphro argument doesn’t work. God commands moral values out of his nature. In other words, there’s nothing arbitrary about what God commands is moral and what is not because God, by his very nature, is good. God’s commands are necessary reflections of his nature.

    You are grossly misunderstanding WLC’s argument.

    Reply
  75. Andrew says:

    Objective morality necessarily flows from the existence of God because there is no other possible way for objective morality to exist. That’s where the “if” statement of the argument comes in. Without God, there can be no objective moral values because there is no standard of measurement that is objective.

    Reply
  76. Stephen B says:

    “Without God, there can be no objective moral values because there is no standard of measurement that is objective.”

    We’ve been here before – what makes it objective?

    Reply
  77. Stephen B says:

    “Why is your moral value (saving your wife from a rapists) better than the rapists moral value (raping your wife)? ”

    Your question is absurd. I save my wife because I value her. If WLC or you asserts it would be more rational to let her be killed then you’ll need to explain why, but I believe you’ve quite a job ahead of you to do so.

    Reply
  78. Stephen B says:

    “Your Euthyphro argument doesn’t work. God commands moral values out of his nature. In other words, there’s nothing arbitrary about what God commands is moral and what is not because God, by his very nature, is good. God’s commands are necessary reflections of his nature.”

    When did use the word arbitrary? I don’t think I did, so don’t know why you offer it as rebuttal. The rest of that para is question begging. If good is only defined in relation to his nature then it’s meaningless to describe his nature as good.

    Reply
  79. Stephen B says:

    Further to the attacker question, WLC defended genocide in the bible, saying we should feel sorry for the murdering soldiers. If his or your evidence for OMV comes down to me wanting to stop someone attacking my wife – that is, the implication is this shows I tacitly accept OMV, wouldn’t one also expect me to wholeheartedly get behind his ‘feel sorry for the genocidal soldiers’ argument, rather than find it bizarre?

    Reply
  80. Toby says:

    “So, in relation, objective science (or knowledge, for that matter) doesn’t exist because we change our minds about things we used to think were true? In other words, there is no objective anything out there… After all, we will just change our minds about it 1,000 years from now.”

    Empirically verifiable data doesn’t enter into this. You’re confusing things by claiming that without objective morality then there is no objective anything. That’s silly. I’m not saying that. Are you saying that? Why would you assume someone would be so stupid to think this?

    “Every culture on the planet has similar morals they deem ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’”

    That’s because we share a lot of common DNA.

    “Would you argue that rape, child abuse, murder aren’t REALLY wrong, they are just social conventions at that time? . . . If there is a moral difference between them, what standard are you drawing from?”

    I would say that murder has its place, just as you would, in the case of someone defending themselves. Is murder in self-defense wrong? I think you cloud the issue with emotion when you put the word “child” in front of the word “abuse”. You probably don’t even realize you do it, but it’s a cheap debate trick like trotting out the holocaust. WLC and Frank like to bring up “torturing children” in their morality debates. The age of the person is irrelevant. Are they tacitly admitting that torturing adults is ok? I guess you would have to say I have a little bit of utilitarianism in my view. Does rape/torture/abuse (all pretty much the same thing) have any utility? Very, very little. I’m talking about a situation straight out of the tv show 24. There are only two people left on the planet, one a man, one a woman, and they have to repopulate the earth, but the guy is a celibate monk that won’t have sex . . . so the woman rapes the hell out of him.

    Reply
  81. Toby says:

    “WLC has a double doctorate and has debated the biggest (and best) atheists in the world. Which ‘poor foundations’ do you refer to? His PhD in philosophy or PhD in theology? What’s your background?”

    Arguments from authority fail. A surgeon can make a mistake and kill someone. A PhD can be wrong.

    Reply
  82. Stephen B says:

    “Are they tacitly admitting that torturing adults is ok?”

    Have a search and you will find a blog on this site where Frank argues in favour of torture as a tool for the military.

    “That’s because we share a lot of common DNA.”

    And also that cultures that didn’t have abhor child abuse and murder would struggle to thrive. Quite obviously, on the whole the cultures that survive are the ones that put taboos on mores that seriously affect their success.

    Reply
  83. Stephen B says:

    I’m waiting for observable evidence that it exists. The most Andrew can offer is that he personally thinks that non-believers in objective morality are acting irrationally if they truly don’t believe in it. That’s not evidence for objective morality.

    He can say that if HE personally didn’t believe in objective morality then he wouldn’t stop people raping his wife, but just tells us about him – it’s not evidence that other people who would rather protect their wives from suffering irrational (unless he’s got a very peculiar definition of irrational).

    And even if it was, it’s still not evidence for transcendental objective moral values. At best he’s argued that humans are irrational. That doesn’t demonstrate OMV, it doesn’t demonstrate a God.

    Even if he could show that all humans abhor murder and torture, it no more proves the supernatural than showing that we nearly all get nauseous at the smell of manure. Does the latter need a supernatural explanation? Does it have to be ‘objectively stinky’ for us all to agree we think it stinks?

    My four-year-old son gets basic ideas of fairness and empathy. He treats others the way he wants to be treated. Higher apes do the same. Yet my son has no concept of God and I doubt bonobo monkeys do either. But that doesn’t mean my son or the monkeys are acting irrationally. In fact I’d argue the opposite.

    Reply
  84. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    We have been here before… Notice the gigantic thread above you where I answer this multiple times? Apparently, you have a hard time understanding what ‘objective’ means in the first place. You certainly can’t argue against something being objective if you have no clue what ‘objective’ means.

    You didn’t answer my question. Why are your values more important than the rapists? I can easily explain my side with objective morality. You, on the other hand, haven’t offered an alternative to this. It’s like having a basketball game, but one team shows up to play. You lose by default without an alternative view.

    I’m not defending WLC.

    You didn’t have to say ‘arbitrary’, it was implied. Otherwise, there’s no other way to explain your position. There’s no question begging about it. If something, by its nature, produces something that comes from its nature, the thing produced would naturally follow. In other words, if a plant produces seed by nature, you’d expect the seed to represent the plant’s nature. There’s no question begging there. You seem to grossly misunderstand how logic works. You’ve done this multiple times so far, labeling something as ‘question begging’, ‘illogical’, and so forth… You’ve been wrong on every account. Your wild accusations are not helping you.

    Again, I’m not defending WLC.

    Reply
  85. Andrew says:

    Toby,

    I was using empirical data as an analogy to your assertion that objective morals couldn’t possibly exist because ‘things change.’ If ‘things changing’ is somehow a measure of objective morals existing or not, you are mistaken; as my analogy shows. Things change all the time, this doesn’t take away from objective morals existing or not. Same applies for objective empirical data.

    DNA is the source of ‘morality’? Is this your position? I haven’t heard this one before… I’d like to hear more.

    I’m not defending WLC or Frank (not sure who you’re referring to here).Take out the word ‘child’, same argument applies.

    If utility is your standard of measurement, you hold there are no objective morals. What is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ is merely what is best for the most amount of people. If this is your view, you hold moral relativism. Is this what you hold?

    Correct, it is an argument from authority. And?

    No, objective morals are not necessary for life to exist.

    Reply
  86. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    What ‘observable evidence’ would convince you?

    Again, what is your stance? Where is your ‘evidence’?

    Reply
  87. Stephen B says:

    “You didn’t answer my question. Why are your values more important than the rapists?”

    Who says they are? Why do I need to demonstrate my values are more important? If a boulder is rolling towards my wife, I’d push her out the way – I don’t debate whether the boulder has the ‘right’ to crush my wife. Likewise, if she’s endangered by murderers, I’d try to protect her. This really shouldn’t be too hard to understand.

    “I can easily explain my side with objective morality.”

    On your side, if you believed the murderers were instructed by God to kill your wife, you’d have to conclude it would actually be immoral to stop them. I don’t see why ‘your side’ is an improvement.

    “I’m not defending WLC or Frank (not sure who you’re referring to here).”

    Have a look at who runs the site.

    “DNA is the source of ‘morality’?”

    You offered up as evidence a phenomenon – that most humans abhor murder etc. To reply that it’s not surprising that we do given our brains are very similar is not to say ‘DNA is the source of morality’, it is just to offer a non-supernatural explanation for the phenomenon.

    “You didn’t have to say ‘arbitrary’, it was implied.”

    Try no to answer what you believe I am implying. If you need to check my position, just ask and I will clarify. I never said “God’s morality isn’t objective because it’s arbitrary”, and I never implied it either.

    Why not tell me what YOU understand and mean by objective, rather than continually telling me I don’t get it.

    Here’s a few definitions:

    “Not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.
    Intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.
    Being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject ( opposed to subjective).
    Of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.”

    Feel free to pick one or give your own definition, then explain your God is an exception.

    As I understand it, you’re saying:
    1. Morality comes from God
    2. The standard is derived from his nature.
    3. His nature is the standard because he is perfect
    4. He is perfect because he’s a necessary being.

    Is that right?

    Reply
  88. Stephen B says:

    “What ‘observable evidence’ would convince you?”

    Forget ‘observable’ – anything at all where you can say “Here is x, and we wouldn’t have x if OMV didn’t exist. If we were in a reality without OMV, we wouldn’t have x”.

    Or to return to Toby’s question – if you were in a world where OMV didn’t exist, what would you expect would be different? If you’re saying “People wouldn’t stop other people raping their wives”, then I strongly disagree. Animals don’t have concepts of God’s or OMV, they still protect their mates.

    Are you saying that at some point when man developed higher brain power we’d just give up on that? Don’t you think there would be strong evolutionary pressure NOT to have that happen? The men who stopped protecting their wives would be a serious reproductive disadvantage to the ones to kept protecting them?

    Reply
  89. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    It’s clear no matter what I write, no matter what evidence I bring to the table, you’ve made up your mind. There is no persuading you nor is there a way to ‘prove’ anything.

    You have yet to give an alternative explanation to my position. You hold a view that is literally improvable; you change your argument at every turn (objectivity is incoherent, “Equally then it follows a morality can be objectively measured by the subjective criteria”, and on and on…). Half of what you respond with doesn’t make sense. By reading your posts I’ve noticed you a) don’t address the argument at hand; instead, you provide a Red Herring or Straw Man argument, or/and b) Google search what you’re trying to say, then sum it up in a way to ‘fit’ your rebuttal. In fact, you gave me the definition of ‘objective’ (which you clearly searched for), which fits exactly what I have been arguing all along. Are you not following the argument? God can’t be objective Himself, but morality FROM God is objective. I have told you what qualifies as ‘objective’ more than once. Are you reading my posts?!

    God would not command something immoral. ‘My side’ has nothing to do with an ‘improvement,’ rather, it is the ONLY explanation offered during this discussion so far. You have yet to offer yours. The only thing you’ve argued is that you felt like saving your wife (or that is was something you would just do). Well, the rapist ‘felt like’ raping your wife. Why are your values more important than his? Boulders aren’t moral agents, that is irrelevant.

    You seem to have a whole lot of rebuttals, yet nothing you provide is an alternative view. I could care less about your objections, unless these objections have meaning behind them. I’m used to my 4 year old constantly asking ‘but why?’. That gets very tiring coming from an adult that tries to use Logic in a way that doesn’t work, pretends they know the ‘answers’, then offers nothing themselves. You won’t even answer my point blank questions.

    No thanks to the Peanut Gallery.

    Reply
  90. Andrew says:

    A world without objective morals: you may believe something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but you have no justification for that belief.
    A world with objective morals: your belief in a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ has justification for why it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

    That’s not to say an atheist cannot be a moral agent, but it is to say he has no justification for being a moral agent.

    Reply
  91. Toby says:

    “A world without objective morals: you may believe something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but you have no justification for that belief.
    A world with objective morals: your belief in a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ has justification for why it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.”

    This leads us to the question . . . why have objective morals then? What would it matter if there were no justification for right or wrong? It certainly doesn’t seem needed or useful in the slightest.

    Reply
  92. Stephen B says:

    ” I’m used to my 4 year old constantly asking ‘but why?’.”

    Me too, but my 4 year old doesn’t feel the need to ask why when it comes to basic ideas of fairness and people getting on – it’s an easily understood concept. The apologist such as yourself though thinks that protecting your wife from being raped and murdered requires extra justification – you’re the one playing ‘why’ here.

    “. I could care less about your objections, unless these objections have meaning behind them”

    Good. We have a problem when you could NOT care less about them. As long as you COULD care less, that means you still care.

    Reply
  93. Stephen B says:

    “God would not command something immoral.”

    But if your God commanded it then by definition it would not be immoral, according to your logic! If your only standard of what is immoral comes from your God, then you can’t say ‘God wouldn’t do that immoral thing’ as that would require an alternative standard by which to judge him, which you say would make no sense.

    And your complaints that I’m googling my responses are empty. I showed you dictionary defs of objective and asked you to pick one, as you kept telling me I was misunderstanding. I was offering you an ‘objective’ source forcdefinitions so that we could agree on terms. I thought it might help us in the discussion reach common ground, but you ignored it.

    Reply
  94. Stephen B says:

    “A world without objective morals: you may believe something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but you have no justification for that belief.”

    Sure, but I asked how you’d know you were in that world rather than this one. What would actually be different? You could still claim OMV existed even if they didn’t, no?

    Reply
  95. Andrew says:

    Toby,

    Being able to enforce right and wrong, no matter where or when, isn’t ‘useful’? This is turning into a joke. You can’t think of a reason why having justification for moral behavior would be needed or important?

    There is literally no reasoning with you two…

    Stephen B,

    You are being intellectually dishonest. You haven’t offered an idea of your own. My argument wins by best explanation. I’ve never watched a debate where one person gives his view, then the other just asks questions about it, offering nothing of his own. It’s stupid. I didn’t ignore your Google’d definitions, I reminded you the entire definition fit exactly what I was arguing. Remember?

    My argument has nothing to do with ‘how would we know’, rather, it has to do with ‘are there’ objective morals (if there are, God exists). Just like anything else objective in this world, the objectivity of that thing doesn’t rest on whether you know it or not (that’s what makes it objective… shocker!), The label of an Aspirin bottle means what it says, whether or not you know it or not. The earth is round, planets revolve around the sun… None of these truths require us ‘knowing’ it or not.

    Without objective morals, murder is morally equivalent to driving on the wrong side of the road. You don’t see a problem with this? Again, I ask, how could you possibly justify stopping a rapist without objective morals?

    Reply
  96. Stephen B says:

    “My argument has nothing to do with ‘how would we know’, rather, it has to do with ‘are there’ objective morals ”

    And you seem to be admitting you have no way of knowing the answer to that question! You’re just saying you think the consequences would be bad if OMV don’t exist. That’s not an argument for them, anymore than me saying I think I’ve win the lottery because I’m trouble if I haven’t.

    I’ll adress the rest of your post in a few hours, baby calls.

    Reply
  97. Stephen B says:

    ” how could you possibly justify stopping a rapist without objective morals?”

    Why do I owe the rapist a justification? You seem to be saying that in a world without morals, it would be immoral to stop him; in a world without rights I’d have no right to stop him. Both statements are self-refuting.

    Again, why do I owe the rapist (or you) a reason to stop him? I owe him nothing. It’s up to you to explain why I owe him justification.

    Reply
  98. Toby says:

    “Being able to enforce right and wrong, no matter where or when, isn’t ‘useful’? This is turning into a joke. You can’t think of a reason why having justification for moral behavior would be needed or important?”

    If there where no objective morals would there be a right or wrong?

    Reply
  99. Stephen B says:

    “You can’t think of a reason why having justification for moral behavior would be needed or important?”

    Is it objectively needed and important, or just subjectively so?

    If the latter – ie it’s only SUBJECTIVELY important to be able to have justification for moral behavior – doesn’t that mean, by your logic, that it isn’t actually important at all?

    If the former – it is OBJECTIVELY important – then we have a second question:
    a) Is it only objectively needed and important to be able to have justification for moral behavior IF God exists, or
    b) Is it objectively needed and important to be able to have justification for moral behavior regardless of whether God exists or not?

    If (a) then you’re effectively saying we only need OMV if we already have them!

    Reply
  100. Stephen B says:

    Or to put it another way, if you’re going to argue that we have no way of justifying why we can stop the rapist, you should equally argue that the importance to you of being able to justify moral behaviour is no more important than the rapist being able to justify raping your wife. If it’s just axiomatic or obvious or self-evident that your justification is more important than his, then it should be equally axiomatic or obvious that one can justify stopping the rapist.

    Reply
  101. Stephen B says:

    Another problem with your rapist argument is you’re setting up that I would have no justification for stopping him, but you’re not saying he would have no justification for raping my wife. If he’s doing that without justification then that in itself is justification for stopping him. If the whole notion of justification is meaningless, then equally it’s meaningless to say ‘you’ve no justification in stopping him’.

    Reply
  102. Stephen B says:

    ” This is turning into a joke. You can’t think of a reason why having justification for moral behavior would be needed or important?”

    Andrew, if you’re asking someone to explain as basic an idea as how you justify stopping someone attacking your wife, then it’s only fair that you explain basic ideas in return. Normally one takes for granted most of these things, they’re unspoken, taken as read. It does get interesting when you have to really explain WHY. But it works both ways; your ‘I can’t believe you’re asking this’ stance is unwarranted.

    Reply
  103. Stephen B says:

    Andrew, I’ve posted at length addressing everything you said. I don’t see what ‘stance’ I am required to provide. What phenomenon are you saying I need to explain? You’re stance is that OMV exist. Mine is that they don’t. What do I need to explain? I’m guessing you mean that OMV explain something, and if one denies OMV one must provide an alternative explanation. But what exactly is it that’s left unexplained? You’ve asked how I justify stopping the rapists, and I’ve answered at length.

    Reply
  104. Stephen B says:

    Here you go again, please just give straight answers:

    “You can’t think of a reason why having justification for moral behavior would be needed or important?”

    Is it objectively needed and important, or just subjectively so?

    If the latter – ie it’s only SUBJECTIVELY important to be able to have justification for moral behavior – doesn’t that mean, by your logic, that it isn’t actually important at all?

    If the former – it is OBJECTIVELY important – then we have a second question:
    a) Is it only objectively needed and important to be able to have justification for moral behavior IF God exists, or
    b) Is it objectively needed and important to be able to have justification for moral behavior regardless of whether God exists or not?

    If (a) then you’re effectively saying we only need OMV if we already have them!

    Reply
  105. Stephen B says:

    Never mind ‘proof’, I’d be happy for evidence. Andrew admits himself: “My argument has nothing to do with ‘how would we know’”

    If you have no idea what detectable differences you would expect if your proposition is true or false, then why should anyone else be convinced?

    It seems to come down to an argument from ignorance – ‘I can’t explain something, therefore I cite the supernatural’.

    It also rests on a false dichotomy of “Either you accept OMV or it’s a massive free for all where you have to let marauding bands of lunatics steal all your shopping.”

    Reply
  106. Toby says:

    “Never mind ‘proof’, I’d be happy for evidence. Andrew admits himself: “My argument has nothing to do with ‘how would we know’””

    True. The moral argument fails because premise two is based purely on intuition and not any kind of fact. It’s practically unprovable which makes it ideal in an argument for an unprovable being.

    Reply
  107. Stephen B says:

    It rests on attempting to force the other person into a position where they don’t want to say they think baby torture is OK. That’s not proving an argument. If OMV didn’t exist, one could still argue that it did by making someone feel uncomfortable with what you claim is a consequence of it not existing. That’s no more an argument that saying “I must have won the lottery, because I can’t pay my rent if I haven’t”.

    When we asked Andrew how the world would be different if there were no OMV, he replied along the lines that without OMV we wouldn’t be able to refer to OMV to justify stopping rapists. This is false. If you believed in OMV, you would still be using them to justify stopping rapists. You’d be wrong to do so – you’d be referring to something that doesn’t exist – but nothing would stop you making the argument.

    This is like someone claiming that extra terrestrials exist, and when we ask how things would be different if they did not exist, the person says “I wouldn’t be able to claim they exist”. Yes, you would – you’d just be wrong.

    So in other words, in no way that we can actually detect would the world be any different if OMV didn’t exist.

    Reply
  108. Toby says:

    I’m surprised we’ve not heard this:

    1. If objective moral values didn’t exist, God wouldn’t exist.
    2. God does exist.
    3. Therefore objective moral values exist.

    Reply
  109. Toby says:

    1. If ceiling fans didn’t exist, cooling breezes in our home wouldn’t exist.
    2. Cooling breezes do exist.
    3. Therefore ceiling fans do exist.

    Reply
  110. Andrew says:

    The argument for objective morals boils down to something very simple:

    If there are objective morals, you can justify “right” and “wrong” behavior, regardless of how people feel about it. In other words, you can justify saying, “rape is bad” by appealing to the transcendent “right” and “wrong.”

    However, if objective morals do NOT exist, you cannot justify “right” and “wrong” behavior. Why? Because there is no transcendent “right” and “wrong.” You can’t justify your claim that “rape is bad,” you have no standard to appeal to. You can’t say something is morally wrong without appealing to what is morally right. You can’t appeal to what is right without knowing what “right” is (you must have some standard of judgment).

    Stephen B made it painfully obvious he couldn’t defend his position on why saving his wife is morally right. His only argument was that he felt like saving her, nothing more. That’s no argument. That’s an appeal to emotion.

    I don’t have to defend the position on “how” we know objective morals exist (that is a whole other argument). In fact, you’d be hard pressed to prove “how” we know math is objective, without appealing to math itself. David Hume and his skepticism has dealt with this reasoning in great detail. If you’d like to learn more, read. If you want to argue epistemology, we may as well exchange emails and get on with a very lengthy discussion.

    You can make one of two claims at this point:

    1. You can concede to the idea that we, as humans, act on impulse and a mob mentality. There is no TRUE “right” and “wrong,” there is only chemical reactions in the brain that we act on. You have no justification for saving your wife (or any other “moral” act), you just felt like doing it. Taking this position FORCES you to agree that rape and charity are morally equivalent. What’s interesting is that you won’t take this position, so this leads to…
    2. You conceding that you were wrong about objective morals and try to make an argument on why objective morals can exist without God.

    Where to go from here? If Stephen B or Toby aren’t willing to abide by the rules of logic and reason, this discussion won’t go anywhere.

    Reply
  111. Andrew says:

    Toby,

    I’m not sure if you’re trying to be funny with your “ceiling fan” argument or if you have no clue how to structure a logical argument.

    Clearly, “cooling breezes” can come from somewhere besides a ceiling fan.

    Following this logic, you’d have to show that objective morals CAN exist without God. Let’s hear it…

    Reply
  112. Stephen B says:

    I asked you loads of questions you haven’t answered. You’ve come back after a few weeks and not addressed any of them, just repeated the points I already answered.

    Reply
  113. Toby says:

    “If there are objective morals, you can justify “right” and “wrong” behavior, regardless of how people feel about it. In other words, you can justify saying, “rape is bad” by appealing to the transcendent “right” and “wrong.””

    This is a faith statement. You couldn’t explain how you know that these moral values exist or how the world might be different if they did not.

    “Following this logic, you’d have to show that objective morals CAN exist without God. Let’s hear it…”

    Clearly you wouldn’t believe any reason I’d give on this because of the first statement I quoted above from you. This argument has fixed the game in such a way that any answer that doesn’t involve being something outside this universe is incorrect.

    Let’s look at a simple explanation of morality:

    Life would not exist if it were not inherently “moral.” An organism that functions in such a way that damages its chances of survival will ultimately become extinct. Life is based on chemicals that self replicate. If these chemicals replicate in such a way that produce an organism that attacks and kills members of its species that it can mate with . . . it’ll become extinct and therefore will cease to be life. This is observable in all animals, not just humans which you have previously stated are the only moral agents on this planets. If animals did not function in accord with their genetic make up they’d cease to be. If they aren’t moral agents, then why do they live at all?

    Reply
  114. Mark Guetersloh says:

    Regarding the statement, “Life would not exist if it were not inherently moral.”, thats just patently wrong. The statement confuses the distinction between ontology and epistomology. Conclusions about the nature of morality, whether it is objective or subjective, are truth statements. Morality has no bearing on the fact of existence, the study of which is ontology. This distinction was stated in Jonathan’s article and is binding to all sensible discourse on the subject.

    And the example you give is absurd. Animals that supposedly avoid killing their mates don’t do it to avoid extinction. Such is a possibility they are completely unaware of. They do it from an instinctive urge to mate. There is no compelling evidence to believe that the lower animals even know why they are doing such a thing in the first place. Like bacteria in a petri dish, most, if not all animals would and do reproduce beyond carrying capacity and perish locally (extirpation) and sometimes globally (extinction) from disease and starvation. What kind of morality is that?

    Even if you would argue that personality and instinct reside in chemical compounds, that is DNA, you (and most anti-theists) ignore the fact that DNA is a self correcting digital code. Code of any kind requires a code-Maker. Darwin couldn’t have known this. Modern scientists most certainly do, and the ant-theist attempts to minimize this are little more than clever but silly contrivances. Silly because their source isn’t unbiased information leading logically to a non-Creator explanation, but a twisting of available, reliable information to exclude the God they will not accept.

    Whether you believe in God or not, morality is either objective or subjective. Logic (the law of non-contradiction) demands an answer to that before any intelligent dialogue concerning the nature of morality can begin. Well said, Andrew!

    P.S. Logic is an attribute of God. Small wonder it must be avoided or camoflaged in anti-theist arguments against Him.

    Reply
  115. Toby says:

    ““Life would not exist if it were not inherently “moral.””, thats just patently wrong.”

    Moral, in that sentence of mine was in quotations indicating that it isn’t quite the correct term. We might coin our own term here. Chemical morality. Chemorality. Something along those lines. Above it says:

    “It is important to bear in mind that the moral argument pertains to the ultimate source of objective moral values and duties (moral ontology)…”

    We can say that the objective grounding of morality (chemorality) is the inherent nature of life to survive to reproduce. If this were not the nature of life, it would not exist.

    And the example you give is absurd. . . .There is no compelling evidence to believe that the lower animals even know why they are doing such a thing in the first place.

    Why would you think they are aware of it? That, sir, is absurd. To assume that I’m such a dullard that I think animals consciously think about their actions is ridiculous. The point is that its inherently in life regardless of consciousness of it.

    Like bacteria in a petri dish, most, if not all animals would and do reproduce beyond carrying capacity and perish locally (extirpation) and sometimes globally (extinction) from disease and starvation. What kind of morality is that?

    This, to use your word, is absurd. Life is not a single culture in a petri dish with a limited food supply.

    Even if you would argue that personality and instinct reside in chemical compounds, that is DNA, you (and most anti-theists) ignore the fact that DNA is a self correcting digital code . . . blah, blah, blah intelligent design misdirection.

    Where do you stop with this? DNA is a code, you claim. Are proteins? Sequences of amino acids in certain folded shapes. What about triglycerides? A backbone with three fatty acids. Ethanol? Water? We can write all of these things out on paper and claim it’s a “code” that makes up these chemicals. Where does it stop? What gives one the right to say, “Yeah, this chemical and that one . . . we know how it can be formed in nature . . . but DNA is different.”? It’s a gap argument hinging on our limited knowledge of the first formation of DNA.

    Reply
  116. Andrew says:

    Mark,

    Well said!

    Toby,

    This is getting absurd. Are we to believe that morality doesn’t exist? Is that your point with making up new terms for “morality”? “I don’t want to call it ‘morality’ so I’ll just make up some term that fits what I’m trying to say.” Seriously?

    Obviously animals don’t think about whether their actions or “moral” or not, that’s not the issue. The issue is that HUMANS think about whether their actions are moral or not. Have you not been paying attention?

    Wait, let me try a rebuttal you love to use, “why would the world be different if we disagreed with what you’re claiming?” Again, you are confusing epistemological claims with morality claims. If morality was merely “the inherent nature of life to survive to reproduce,” you have a gigantic uphill battle to fight. You must explain altruism, you’d have to explain why rape is considered “wrong” (after all, what better way to ensure reproduction?), among many other issues. In fact, if you really believe this, you are a moral subjectivist and can offer nothing to the moral debate. Why would I give the time of day to someone that believes driving on the wrong side of the road is morally equivalent to rape? After all, we’re just acting on inherent survival instincts, right? There is no “right” and “wrong,” only survival!

    You aren’t even touching the point of morality, you’re trying to explain away morality all together. Next time you see something terrible on the news, you can’t complain about it or condemn it; you must chalk it up to “nature.” Here’s the kicker: you DO believe in a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong.’

    Stephen B,

    I’ve answered your questions multiple times. You want to say objective morals don’t exist, yet live like they do. Are we just organisms acting on chemical reactions? If so, you can’t justify being “good” from “bad.” If you did, how did you make that judgment? This is what I think is so hilarious about this debate: those that don’t think objective morals exist live life as if there were objective morals, yet claim there are no objective morals. Simple question: is there a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’?

    Constructive dialogue can’t even begin to exist when the opposing view is so blatantly contradictive.

    Reply
  117. Stephen B says:

    “You want to say objective morals don’t exist, yet live like they do”

    No I don’t. I’ve answered your questions multiple times too. The most you can say is that YOU would act differently to the way I currently do if you thought OMV didn’t exist. That’s fine. You’re different to me.

    Reply
  118. Andrew says:

    Stephen B,

    You don’t know the difference between “right” and “wrong”? Use these terms in any way that you live your life. This isn’t complicated.

    Is it right to rape someone? Is it right to drive on the wrong side of the road? Are these actions morally equivalent?

    Was it wrong for the Taliban to have beheaded 14 people for “dancing” last week? Why?

    This is what’s interesting to me… Every moral subjectivist I know denies true moral subjectivism and agrees there is a universal moral code to live by. You can give any reason you’d like to why there is a universal moral code (i.e. it promotes human life, happiness, might makes right, etc.), but the fact remains that there is a universal moral code. Murdering innocent people is wrong, will always be wrong, and always has been wrong. Do you disagree?

    Reply
  119. Stephen B says:

    “You don’t know the difference between “right” and “wrong”? ”

    That’s not what I said at all. I asked you to define your terms, as I don’t think you use them the same as I do. You’re fine with your deity commanding genocide in the bible, or condoning slavery, or killing most of the world through flood? None of these are ‘wrong” to you? As I said, I think we use the terms differently.

    I already dealt with the ‘stopping people attacking my wife’ question. You’re saying if you were me you’d let people attack your wife, I would not. Perhaps this just says something about your ambivalence to your own wife.

    Reply
  120. Stephen B says:

    “Was it wrong for the Taliban to have beheaded 14 people for “dancing” last week? ”

    Andrew, the most you can say is that those Taliban murderers chose the wrong God. By your reckoning, if they truly believed their God wanted them to behead those people, then beheading them was the moral thing to do. In fact, NOT beheading them would have been immoral. If God wants them beheaded, by definition it’s moral to behead them, by your definition of moral. If you found out that the Taliban’s God was the real one, presumably you’d have joined in the beheading.

    That’s what I mean by ‘define your terms’. You appear to have a different meaning for these words than me.

    “Murdering innocent people is wrong”

    But Christians (and all theists) have a get out on this, as
    a) They believe no man bar Jesus is actually ‘innocent’, so ‘murdering innocent people’ is actually meaningless as we’re all guilty, and
    b) They define ‘murder’ roughly as ‘wrongful killing’, meaning that as long as they can justify it, it isn’t murder, and ‘Murder is wrong’ just means ‘Wrongful killing is wrong’, a simple tautology.

    Reply
  121. Stephen B says:

    “This is what’s interesting to me… Every moral subjectivist I know denies true moral subjectivism and agrees there is a universal moral code to live by. ”

    And this is what is interesting to me… every ‘OMV exist and come from God’ proponent I know says “Ah, but God wouldn’t do that”, when I ask if God commanding rape or torture or whatever would make it moral. Ignoring that the bible contains numerous instances of God commanding heinous acts, the whole core of their argument rests on God being the arbiter of what is moral or immoral.

    As soon as you start saying “God wouldn’t command act X because act X is immoral”, you’re showing that you don’t really believe your own argument that morals come from God. You’re admitting there’s some other ‘universal moral code’ that you subject even your own God to. Otherwise, “God is too moral to command X” would be meaningless. The moralness or otherwise of any act, according to your argument, is defined by it’s relation to your God’s nature. Thus any act that God commands MUST be moral. If God commands rape and torture, then rape and torture MUST be moral. If you deny your God would command those acts, then you’re tacitly admitting you have a set of values to judge the morality of those acts that is EXTERNAL to your God.

    The quotes I posted from William Lane Craig is a good illustration of this: effectively WLC claimed that Allah could not be God because he’s not moral enough, making it clear WLC doesn’t believe his own ‘Moral Argument for the Existence of God’, which relies on the idea that whatever attributes the true God has MUST be the perfectly moral ones. Thus, if Allah turns out to be the true God, not only IS he moral enough, but morality itself can only be judged by the nature of Allah Himself.

    Reply
  122. Mark Guetersloh says:

    I can’t count the number of times an anti-theist has loudly proclaimed that God is not moral, supporting this by claiming God has commanded murder and rape. This is the cheapest of the salted cured meats, substantiated only by gross misinterpretation of scripture. Has He allowed it? Sure. Has He commanded His people, His Angels, to kill? Sure. Has scripture reliably recorded such things? You bet. Be certain, nothing happens God does not cause or allow. In every recorded instance of these supposed crimes, God has worked through His chosen people/person/messenger, according to methods and customs common to the affected cultures. And He has done so to accomplish His purposes, the end result being eternal life for some, eternal damnation for others. His decision will be perfectly just.

    I know, I know! The harsh judgement of eternal damnation bugs a lot people, Christian, athiest and anti-theist. But sin must be punished and it will be. I suspect if you were the victim of a crime you would desire justice. You shall have it, rarely in this life, certainly and perfectly in the next.

    But here’s the main point. These deaths, these crimes you so desperately attribute to God, are only a beginning. Because you don’t believe, you imagine death is the end. Far from it. As C.S. Lewis so elegantly stated, “You are a soul. You have a body.” Our current physical forms are temporary hardware. The real you is eternal software, timeless and without mass. Eternal. Everyone has an eternal destiny, that destiny based solely on submission or rejection of Jesus. If you really knew Him, if you really approved of justice (which requires an objective source), you’d understand that hell is necessary, and too good for anyone who would reject what He has done so that we might live.

    And while William Lane Craig might have used the moral argument as proof for God he has never restricted morality to God alone. Allah, Odin, Zeus or any of many millions of gods might have very moral acts attributed to them. The best alternative to the true God is of course the best counterfeit. That’s precisely why meaningful arguments concerning the existence of God/god predominantly focus on Christianity, Islam and Judaism. A little bit of homework quickly rules out all false gods/religions.

    So, the certainty claimed by anti-theists remains devoid of logical substance. If there were a magic bullet, even the smallest morsel of reliable evidence proving God did not exist, it would make worldwide headlines, and the possessor incalculably wealthy and famous. So good luck in your search.

    And I’ll grant you that atheism is preferable to idolatry. It indicates at least some effort at intellectual contemplation. Simple unbelief allows the skeptic to remain open to the consideration of reliable evidence. If it points to the possibility of God, then it bears further scrutiny and testing. But anti-theists not only reject the possibility, they reject any evidence, however compelling that supports the God hypothesis. Anti-theism demands a rejection of any proof for the existence of God and at the same time assumes the intellectual high ground. How fascinating.

    Hegel warned that history proves we learn nothing from history. In every major world culture, moral decay was implicit in their ultimate failure. Prayer was kicked out of public school in 1962-1963. To my knowledge this represented the first national rejection of God and subsequently any morality associated with God. In the absence of another great awakening, this country and this world will plunge itself into chaos that will make the dark ages seem like a pillow fight. “Woe unto them who call evil good…” Isaiah 5:20

    Reply
  123. Stephen B says:

    “Has He allowed it? Sure. Has He commanded His people, His Angels, to kill? Sure. Has scripture reliably recorded such things? You bet”

    Great. No further questions your Honour, the defence rests.

    Reply
  124. Stephen B says:

    ” To my knowledge this represented the first national rejection of God”

    Christians at the time of the signing of the Constitution would disagree with you. They were furious that the document made no reference to their deity, bar an ‘in the year of our Lord’. They saw it clearly for what it was – a secular document. Not having led prayer in school was just a result of that original document. But rejection of ‘god? I prayed myself in school – no-one stopped me. I just didn’t get to force others to pray, and neither did anyone else. Even as a Christian I wouldn’t want people to force my kids to pray.

    Reply
  125. Stephen B says:

    Oh, and fixed it for you:
    “If there were a magic bullet, even the smallest morsel of reliable evidence proving God DID exist, it would make worldwide headlines, and the possessor incalculably wealthy and famous. So good luck in your search.”

    Reply
  126. Mark Guetersloh says:

    Earthly Judges administer punishment every day to accomplish their agendas. Do you have the same disdain for them and their authority?

    The defense has been resting for some time now. Not because they have won, but because the can’t win. Why? To defend anything implies they recognize the difference between right and wrong, that a fixed standard exists to differentiate between the two. If morality is subjective, then we’re both right. Yet you say no. A moral law must by definition be unchanging or it is no law at all, but simply personal preference. And so there must be a moral lawgiver. You will have the chance to make your case before Him someday.

    There are so many holes in your beliefs about the supposed profound athiesm of our founding fathers that I don’t know where to begin. Believe whatever fiction makes you comfortable. No serious historian takes any offense at this countries predominantly Christian heritage. Even most secular historians accept this and move on. Only the anti-theist bristles at this truth. Regardless, the religious bent of our founding fathers has no bearing on the Truth about God. Were every signatory to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution a profound athiest, God would still be real. So there is no refuge from Deity in this argument.

    And were your magic bullet found, it would eliminate free will. So again, no refuge there. The barrier is spiritual, not intellectual. Everyone must choose, while there is yet time. My choice is made, my search is over, and I am at peace and well contented. Are you?

    “There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing:” C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

    Reply
  127. Stephen B says:

    “Earthly Judges administer punishment every day to accomplish their agendas. Do you have the same disdain for them and their authority?”

    Right, they enforce the rules of the land, as agreed and accepted by those who live there, rules that may change over time. It was judges who accepted that teacher-led prayer was unconstitutional. Do you disdain them?

    Reply
  128. Stephen B says:

    “There are so many holes in your beliefs about the supposed profound athiesm of our founding fathers that I don’t know where to begin”

    I think you’re confusing my posts with someone else’s. I never said any founding fathers were atheist – profound or otherwise. If you can’t respond to what I actually said, why respond at all?

    Reply
  129. Toby says:

    “The real you is eternal software, timeless and without mass. Eternal.” Great. Wonderful. And where were we before our births?

    Reply
  130. Andrew says:

    This debate is getting downright pathetic. Stephen B won’t even admit beheading dozens of people for dancing is “bad.” Unreal.

    An easy answer to your “would God do evil?” Of course not! By definition, God is good. Period. The unfounded claims you make of God commanding killings, etc. are justified. The people that were killed were guilty of some offense. If you read and understood Scripture, you would get this. I doubt you understand what you’re arguing for.

    Stephen B and Toby. Do you believe in Good and Evil? Define these terms anyway you like, it makes no difference. Don’t define them in a way you don’t actually live your life, be honest.

    Both of you are forced into saying one of two things (if you’re going to be intellectually honest about it):
    1. Good and Evil don’t exist. Rape, killing an innocent person, child abuse, etc., are equal to liking vanilla over chocolate, driving on the wrong side of the road, etc. It’s just a matter of subjective taste.
    2. Objective morals exist; now, make an argument of HOW objective morals can exist (without God).

    This is NOT an epistemological argument, it is an ontological argument. Try to stay focused.

    Reply
  131. Stephen B says:

    “An easy answer to your “would God do evil?” Of course not! By definition, God is good. Period”

    Right, so my point stands – you’d see nothing wrong with beheading those dancers if your deity told you to do it, because if it was on his instruction it would not be evil by definition. ‘Unreal’ and ‘downright pathetic’ indeed, right back at you.

    Reply
  132. Stephen B says:

    “. Do you believe in Good and Evil? Define these terms anyway you like”

    Yes, in the same way I believe in concepts like funny, beautiful, happy, silly, dangerous, odd or clever. And none of those concepts need a deity to make them meaningful, or to make it so a collection of people can discuss those concepts and apply them to people or situations or whatever.

    Reply
  133. Stephen B says:

    ” The people that were killed were guilty of some offense. If you read and understood Scripture, you would get this. ”

    Funnily enough, those murdering Taliban beheaders would have justified what they did in almost exactly the same way. The irony completely escapes you, doesn’t it. You make my own points so much better than I could.

    Reply
  134. Mark Guetersloh says:

    Hold on a minute. Those “murdering Taliban beheaders” you wield like a battleaxe in your paper-thin assault on the character of God were simply following their own moral code, which says their behavior is right and just. If Stephen or Toby…or Mark or Andrew had been born to muslim parents we might likely feel the same. Who decides. I’ll tell you who, either God or man. Many who leave the capricious arms of the moon god for Christianity do so first because they are called, but after that awakening because they see so clearly the dreadful moral failure of their deity.

    God, and just so we are very clear, that means the God of Christianity, never commands evil. Andrew is very appropriately calling into question your understanding of the clear teaching of scripture. You lose all credibility when you defend your claims using Truths from a Book you can’t begin to understand.

    While the anti-theist will not, indeed cannot understand or accept this, without God there is no morality…no funny, happy, beautiful, silly….no anything. And there are compelling, logically consistent, scientifically valid arguments defending this.

    Regarding my accusation of your beliefs about the founding fathers, it really doesn’t matter at all if you specifically stated your belief that they were athiests. You imply it, and you do so plainly. So if you are indeed well aware that they were not all areligious God-haters, as you claim, then you are guilty of deception. I respond because such abuse needs addressing.

    Judges who depart from objective Truth, from the Law of God, allow evil to proliferate. They have no more right to make law than you or I. Their sole job is to enforce the law. By your own admission laws change according to the subjective will of the people, the majority if you will. So when the majority believes it best to kill infidels, is that then the new morality? I think not.

    God has given us objective Truth written in nature, our hearts and with black ink on white paper. He has also given us free will. We are free to obey or disobey, but the consequences of disobedience are inescapable, in this life and without Grace, the next.

    Reply
  135. Stephen B says:

    “Those “murdering Taliban beheaders” you wield like a battleaxe in your paper-thin assault on the character of God were simply following their own moral code”

    No, they were following their God’s moral code. And according to you and Andrew, from their perspective that would make beheading them the perfectly moral thing to do. In fact, if you and Andrew thought your God wanted YOU to join in the beheading, it would actually be immoral to refuse.

    ” calling into question your understanding of the clear teaching of scripture.”

    Well you’ve both referred to the actions of the Taliban now. Are you both immune from the accusation that you’re ignorant of the scriptures in question? Two Yes or No questions for both you and Andrew: have you read the Koran all the way through? Have you read it in the original Arabic?

    If not, by your own logic, you criticising the beheading Taliban is just based on your ignorance of the Koran. Although I HAVE read the bible.

    “the God of Christianity, never commands evil”

    Right, and the Taliban believes the God of Islam never commands evil either. So whatever your Gods’ commands – whether it be to slaughter a whole community including children (or perhaps keeps the virgins for yourselves) or to behead dancers – none of that is evil by definition, whether from the Christian God or Allah. Unless you’re making a special pleading argument.

    ” it really doesn’t matter at all if you specifically stated your belief that they were athiests”

    It doesn’t matter if you just make up stuff that I’ve said? OK, Mark you’re an idiot for implying that the capital of France is Rome. You didn’t say it, but I’m just going to accuse you of doing it anyway. I never said anything CLOSE to that.

    “they were not all areligious God-haters, as you claim”

    Cite please. YOU may see them that way (I don’t know), but I don’t, and never implied that they were. Try going back to what I actually said and respond to that. Making stuff up is not a good argument. If you’re not sure of my position, ask me to clarify.

    Regarding judges, first you said: “Earthly Judges administer punishment every day to accomplish their agendas. Do you have the same disdain for them and their authority?”

    Was your point that I should respect a God in the same way I respect earthly judges – were you drawing a parallel between them? Because next you seem to be making a completely different point about judges. Could you clarify what your original point was.

    Reply
  136. Mark Guetersloh says:

    Your comparison of the god of Islam with the God of Christianity defeats your argument, although you cannot see it. Authentic worshippers always take on the characteristics of their god/God. That’s how you can tell the difference. That’s the source of discernment. That’s the basis of your faith (self) and your religion (humanism).

    Want to differentiate between a good God and a bad god, a mature Christian and an infant Christian, an authentic Christian and a counterfeit? Look at their fruit, both of God and man. God gives us the Law so that we might live better lives in a sin-soaked world. He gives us Grace so that we might live forever in a world without sin. So the fruit of God is salvation and eternal life through forgiveness. He provides a way out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. While good behavior cannot save you, it is a reflection of what is in you. I know many morally good, at least by worldly standards, athiests. And I know every one of them has sinned. I have seen them all sin. That’s why they, and I, and all of us, need a Savior.

    “There is none good but God.” (Mark 10:18) My athiest/anti-theist friends bristle at this. I can find no stronger proof for who is lord in their lives.

    No. I have not read the Qur’an from cover to cover and certainly not in the original language. I did not read the book entitled “Soil Microbiology”, from cover to cover either, but I got an “A” in the class.

    I am obviously aware, as are you, that it’s claim of inerrancy hinges on reading it in the original language. Are you aware that shadows can hide the Truth? That’s all the “only in the original language” claim is, a shadow…an evasion. Therein is perhaps the most profound evidence for the Truth. God invites, indeed welcomes, scrutiny. And the best the anti-theist world can offer, from the gnostics until now, are obvious perversions of fact and a complete rejection of all things metaphysical. I have said this many times, as have many who are wiser than myself. We all (theist, athiest, anti-theist) have the same facts to deal with. The real source of Truth is an honest, unbiased assessment of the available evidence. And even if an unbeliever manages an unbiased interpretation of phenominal evidence, there remains a spiritual barrier to metaphysical Truths that cannot be seen in any manner without looking through the lens of Jesus.

    “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17). So you have read the Bible. I am truly glad. But without belief in Christ you have heard nothing God has to say.

    At your instruction I went over our dialogue regarding statements about the faith of our founding fathers. I may be an idiot, but I am an honest idiot. Nothing there indicates you believe those folks to have been profoundly athiest….except how you sneak in that the Christians were furious that little mention was made of their God in the document. That was the implication I ran with.

    Still, there sure seems to me to be a strong desire on your part to have readers believe that the writers wanted to keep God out of the Constitution, which in my estimation is misleading. They wanted everyone to be able to worship (God) in their own way, and certainly to avoid a universal government-mandated church. Nonetheless, if I am guilty of some wrong assumptions about your meaning in this matter, you have my apology.

    Now its my turn. You have missed the point entirely if you think my analogy of earthly judgement and final judgement warrant the same respect. You are intentionally clouding the issue to avoid addressing it. Judgements come from both sources. From one comes a temporal sentence, from The One an eternal sentence. The earthly judge is fallible and has no objective source of justice without an infallible source. And so we again find ourselves faced with the necessity of an eternal, unchanging, all-powerful, all-seeing, perfectly just God if morality is to have any meaning.

    That is the point of the moral argument. And the moral argument seems inescapable to me. Were I an anti-theist/athiest , I would be embarrassed by arguments seeking to refute this, because I don’t see the need. Why not simply be content with subjectivism? Arguments for objective morality without an objective source, at least those that are well reasoned, rely on evolutionary processes, which by definition can, and indeed demand, change. If morality changes, it can be nothing but subjective. The athiest reality must ever be a subjective one, a meaningless one. Paraphrasing Richard Dawkins, if this is true you had better get used to it.

    Reply
  137. Toby says:

    ““There is none good but God.” (Mark 10:18) My athiest/anti-theist friends bristle at this. I can find no stronger proof for who is lord in their lives.”

    I just love how you like to paint everyone with the same brush and use this awful and insulting idea that if someone is an atheist they believe that they are perfect and better than anyone else. I think you enjoy pointing at people that disagree with you and saying, ‘You’re bad!’ I think it gives you thrill telling people this obvious observation that no one leads a perfect life and I bet you think it it strengthens your argument to boot.

    Reply
  138. Stephen B says:

    You admit you’ve not read the Koran. Therefore, you’re a hypocrite for accusing me of not having read all the scripture. If someone can’t point out evil God-sanctioned acts in the bible without having read the whole book, then you can’t criticise Muslims before you’ve read the whole Koran.

    “Want to differentiate between a good God and a bad god, a mature Christian and an infant Christian, an authentic Christian and a counterfeit? Look at their fruit”

    But Andrew here argued that we can’t even make judgments about what is good or bad unless we use God as the arbiter. Therefore talk of a ‘Bad God’ is meaningless by that reckoning.

    Reply
  139. Stephen B says:

    Thanks for your apology and admission that I said nothing about the various religious beliefs of the founding fathers. What I said about the criticism from many leading Christians of the time is completely true. I neither had to make it up nor ‘sneak’ it in.

    Then to your credit you admit this: “They wanted everyone to be able to worship (God) in their own way, and certainly to avoid a universal government-mandated church”

    Exactly. So I don’t get how you can acknowledge that, but also decry the removal of school-led prayer. Above you make a better argument against school-led prayer than I could!

    Reply
  140. Steve says:

    the syllogism is not valid. there are several logical fallacies within, so the primary concern (soundness) is compromised. from this, it cannot be determined through logic using the stated syllogism what the case may be about god’s existence and the existence of objective morality. what must first be established is “what is god”, second “what is his relationship to morality”, third “is morality ‘objective’ as a mind-independent object”, fourth “is morality ‘objective’ as a mind-dependent category of behavior that is regulated by strategies applied to goals, like the natural universal development of a turkish-defense in chess”.

    i propose:

    morality is only evident in minds
    a mind-independent morality may exist
    b mind-independent morality is not known without minds
    c mind-independent morality must be interpreted by minds
    d mind-independent morality is only useful if mind-dependent

    i propose the above form is a general pattern which applies to any mind-independent proposal. the relationship to any observer to such things (god, morality, truth, logic, mathematics, any essentially reified concept) is the predicate of this inevitable syllogism which IS sound and IS valid:

    B¬A?P(A)?B¬?A
    ?P(A)?B:?B(n)

    therefore, if god transcends and is ineffable, all gods are imagined (though they themselves, may exist). again, “A” is not only god but any mind-independent thing that is NOT “B” (whether a single observer, or system as a set…such as the universe itself). furthermore, this implies that any proposition about “A” (“P(A)”, in other words), is something about “B” instead of “A” and we can conclude that this proposition is materially equivalent to any explanation of something about “B” itself and nothing more.

    again, this not only applies to god but to all things. this is the sentential calculus that justifies the philosophical arguments of pragmatism.

    if god is ineffable and trascendent, defining god is an claim that god has been known. this contradicts ineffability and transcendence. if god is immanent, then god is indistinguishable from any natural phenomenon within the regularity we see in the universe, and if god is the irregularity within the universe, we cannot describe or understand him and he is meaningless to humanity.

    in the last paragraph, substitute morality, truth, logic, etc. in place of god. in all cases, we cannot link god to any of these things because in doing so, the attempt must start with defining the ineffable. god may exist and mind-independent morality may exist, but they may be mutually exclusive; neither escape the fact that they must become mind-dependent to mean anything at all.

    Reply
  141. Steve says:

    urggg!

    the page substituted question marks for the logic symbols. the first question mark on the first line should be an “implies” arrow, and the rest are “subset” symbols (a capital C with an underscore). the second line question marks, from left to right, should be “implies”, “subset”, “equivalent” symbols.

    sorry about that.

    Reply
  142. Steve says:

    and by the way, i noticed a critique of utilitarianism but not about several other alternatives. first, all forms of consequentialism do very well as a prescriptive and incredibly well as a descriptive for morality; this includes utilitarianism. nothing precluded consequentialist moral theory from looking at society and forming the same end principles as libertarians or furthering them into notions of autonomy, concent, liberty, or of freedom. pragmatist ethics fair no worse.

    i might suggest to anyone interested, read john rawls’ account of morality and ethics and justice in “a theory of justice”. what rules would we prescribe, which would we want, what is fair…when we conceive of them behind the “veil of ignorance”? we would arrive at universal principles which are mind-dependent and objective, just not reified by those who would rather not think much about morality (whether from god or from man).

    does it bear mentioning that we have determined outside of biblical moral codes that slavery is immoral or that stoning disobedient children to death is immoral too? it must be explained why the OT and NT are not morally consistent; not true any place, any time, any circumstance, any person(s).

    Reply
  143. Mark Guetersloh says:

    My, my, it seems the debate has succumbed to name-calling. First I’m an idiot for making false assumprtions, now I’m a hypocrite for calling you one for not reading the Bible. First, the liberties I took by assuming your beliefs regarding the founding fathers don’t make me an idiot, and the act was not a malicious one. Secondly, and this turns the tables my friend, I never called you a hypocrite for not having read all the scriptures. You could memorize the bible from Genesis to Revelation and still be no closer to God. Likewise, you can be a profound Christian without being a Biblical scholar.

    You will not win the disagreement by making me to be a scoundrel. I’ll let those who care enough to read this exchange judge for themselves regarding the character of the writers, including myself.

    However, I certainly make no claim at moral superiority. In fact, you have me pegged. I am a scoundrel at times. And I despise those times when I am, but the bad behavior, the bad thoughts still emerge with regularity. I know myself for what I am. A sinner. But I desire with all my heart to be better, to be rid of that part of me that pursues evil. Jesus said he would do for me that which I cannot do myself. I am not in any way morally superior to you or anyone else. But I am forgiven and by that forgiveness blessed. I would share that blessing with everyone. You too.

    Some statements, in both the Bible and the Qu’ran, or any literature for that matter, can be understood without the necessity of further reading for context, detailed historical and cultural knowledge or the possession of skill in hermeneutics. Some can’t. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, If you can’t understand books written for adults, you should not talk about them.

    Christianity does not instruct us to kill folks who disagree with us. It instructs us to make discliples of all people, to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, to do so with respect and humility and to shake the dust of our feet and move on when our message is rejected.

    The Gospel message is so simple a small child can grasp it. The character of God and subsequently His methods are mostly beyond our comprehension. But the discipline of theology can lead to a more intimate relationship with Him. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of Kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)

    The proposed syllogism given by Steve, by my scrutiny, fails from the onset, so I will give little time to it at this late hour. Objective morality exists even if only the mind of God exists. He has no need of us for the purpose stated, or in fact for any purpose. We were created out of desire, not necessity.

    And I think you further support your attempt at logic by stating we can never understand God. Quite so. John Calvin said it better. The finite cannot grasp the infinite. But the finite can grasp what it has been given, which is certainly enough to know right from wrong, and that without excuse (Romans 1:20).

    Both Andrew and I agree and argue that if there is to be a distinction between moral and immoral behavior, it necessarily comes from God. The belief of the one doing the behaving has no bearing on the good or bad of it.

    Our founding fathers never dreamed of school without prayer. Their purpose was not to exclude God from government or school, but to exclude the government from them. For goodness sakes Steven B, do you think your school would have forced you to pray if you had not wished to do it? No Christian would demand any such thing. Is it a difficult thing to wait quietly until those who wish to pray finish? Has that brief prayer harmed anyone? I tell you if God exists it has benefitted them. If He does not, then nothing at all has transpired. Wouldn’t the wiser course of action by far be to allow us our exentricity, benefitting if in no other way by our command to love our neighbor?

    I know that Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens and other zealous anti-theists make grandiose claims about the evils of religion and how much better the world would be without it. My apologies for being so blunt, but this is utter foolishness. Eliminate all forms of religion and we would find multiplied alternate reasons to hate and kill one another. It takes no special knowledge of sociology or psychology to know this to be true.

    Regarding the consequences of removing prayer from public schools, consider the following. A statistical look at measures of morality and quality of life document a serious decline occurred very immediately after the decision to ban school sponsored prayer in 1962. Birth rates among unwed girls, single parent households, plummeting SAT scores, STDs and violent crime have all risen dramatically since that decision. Many other parameters could be mentioned as well, all indicating moral decline and all changing for the worse since 1962-1963. At that time, we, as a country, indicated we did not want our children talking to Him. We asked Him to leave. He did. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).

    Many will cry foul and call God cruel for allowing us to suffer because of this. I call it free will and justice. He is no genie in a bottle or magic mirror to be commanded. He is a God to be feared and obeyed.

    Finally, we did not come to an understanding that slavery is wrong all on our own, but we could have. That injustice was evident to everyone, written in our hearts. But any serious student of scripture can explain to you from both the Old and New Testaments how God hates slavery. There are ample treatments of this from good theologians. I leave it to the reader to test this further if he/she feels the need.

    Regarding the stoning of disobedient children, I’d question your knowledge of the customs of the people at that time. Stoning was a common judgement for severe crimes. This stoning of children was restricted to those of the age of accountability, who repeatedly demonstrated they were without conscience and incapable of obedience. The punishment, while severe, was consistent with the cultural norm. It prevented young thieves, rapists and murderers from becoming serial thieves, rapists and murderers. It also helped to accomplish Gods purpose to define the people of Israel as a righteous people very different from the pagan cultures around them. Certainly anti-theists will find fault with this explanation, as by todays liberal standards this seems cruel. By Gods law it is just, and necessary for the peace, safety and health of obedient members of the population.

    There is no inconsistency between the teaching of the Old and New Testaments, other than that fabricated by the wilfull misinterpretation of unbelievers desperate to discredit God. All of these false claims have been addressed by an abundance of reliable scholarship. A good place to start would be “Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible” by John Haley, and “Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties” by Gleason and Archer.

    Reply
  144. Stephen B says:

    “I never called you a hypocrite for not having read all the scriptures”

    Right. And I never claimed you did call me a hypocrite.

    I pointed out that it is hypocrisy to do BOTH the following:
    a) Say that people who claim they find acts of God-ordered genocide in the bible abhorrent just don’t understand the scripture; and
    b) Attack equally murderous acts by Muslims when you haven’t properly studied the Koran.

    I accept your right to do (b), and I’ll join you. But it’s hypocrisy to reject “You haven’t read the Koran” as a defence of the Taliban when you use the same defence yourself against people who point out equally horrendous acts in the bible.

    ” Is it a difficult thing to wait quietly until those who wish to pray finish?”

    So you’d be happy if your child’s school announced that an Imam was going to lead all the kids in Muslim prayer from now on, and that your kids can just wait quietly if they want?

    As for rising child pregnancy etc, correlation does not equal causation. The US does far worse on those signifiers than most of the rest of the West, despite being far more religious. The best correlation of low teen-birth rates is decent sex ed, which is opposed by the religious in the US. Look to France or The Nethelands.

    “The punishment, while severe, was consistent with the cultural norm. ”

    Ah right – cultural relativism then. It was OK for them, morals change over time etc. Hmm. Just like those Taliban enforcing their own ‘cultural norms’ by killing people. You just need to consider ‘cultural norms’ and ‘reliable scholarship’ and it all becomes fine.

    Reply
  145. Toby says:

    “No Christian would demand any such thing. Is it a difficult thing to wait quietly until those who wish to pray finish? Has that brief prayer harmed anyone?”

    Yes, that’s exactly what your christian brethren are demanding. Prayer in schools and at government functions. Prayer, that we might add, that cannot be shown to change anything in the slightest, be it medical conditions or otherwise. How has it harmed anyone? Imagine being gay and hearing prayers from good christians saying that you’re an immoral deviate. We’ve probably found more than a few of those people hanging from the end of a rope by their own hand for such, or drug around behind a vehicle by some true believers because of it.

    “A statistical look at measures of morality and quality of life document a serious decline occurred very immediately after the decision to ban school sponsored prayer in 1962.”

    Really nice bit of non-evidence.

    “At that time, we, as a country, indicated we did not want our children talking to Him. We asked Him to leave. He did.”

    Then your god is unworthy of worship if he’s such a quitter that he abandons his followers because they stop sucking up to him in public. Sounds very much like a tyrant that’s not happy unless someone is licking his boots.

    “That injustice was evident to everyone, written in our hearts.”

    This is such a cop out. “Written in our hearts.” Aside from it being a bit of ancient idiocy regarding the functionality of a muscle pump in our chests, it’s a cheap trick to explain away how people who’ve never even heard of a god or follow one can still behave.

    “This stoning of children was restricted to those of the age of accountability, who repeatedly demonstrated they were without conscience and incapable of obedience.”

    Well . . . that makes it so much better! Would you prefer we did this rather than abortions? Big death penalty supporter are you? You’re a bag of contradictions.

    Reply
  146. Steve says:

    “The proposed syllogism given by Steve, by my scrutiny, fails from the onset, so I will give little time to it at this late hour. Objective morality exists even if only the mind of God exists. He has no need of us for the purpose stated, or in fact for any purpose. We were created out of desire, not necessity.”

    if failing from the onset were all it took for a mature discussion, no one would get past the author’s first premise. as it is, i don’t think your scrutiny counts for much. either attack the soundess or validity, but at least mention some good reason why…like this, for the author’s first premise: denying the antecedent, exclusive premisis, and cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

    if god is incomprehensible, then any attempt to say god created, god commands, god loves, etc (even if written down in scripture) is a note in history where a man has said god is precisely comprehensible. either god is or is not comprehensible. and since god is transcends reality and since our languages (words, symbols, relationships) and experiences are related to reality, we’ve no idea what we’re talking about when we affix the word “god” to this transcendent, ineffable, supernatural thing. i think, mark, you should actually start scrutinizing rather than employing your own fallacy of dismissal.

    Reply
  147. Stephen B says:

    “We were created out of desire”

    How can a perfect being have desires? Having a desire infers you are lacking something. If you lack something, you’re not perfect. A perfect being would have no desires and therefore not need to create anything.

    Reply
  148. Steve says:

    … we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me, be no feature of the universe which indicates it is God-made. What God accounts for is that the universe is there instead of nothing.

    … when we speak of God by using the word ‘God’, we do not understand what we mean, we have no concept of God; what governs our use of the word ‘God’ is not an understanding of what God is but the validity of a question about the world … What goes for our rules for the use of ‘God’ does not go for the God we try to name with the word. (And a corollary of this, incidentally, is why a famous argument for the existence of God called the ontological argument does not work.)

    Father Herbert McCabe, ‘God Matters’, Continuum, 2005, pg. 6

    It is sometimes claimed … that the existence of a certain sort of regularity in nature constitutes sufficient evidence for the existence of a god. [A religious man] would say that in talking about God, he was talking about a transcendent being who might be known through certain empirical manifestations, but certainly could not be defined in terms of those manifestations. But in that case the term “god” is a metaphysical term. And if “god” is a metaphysical term, then it cannot be even probable that a god exists. For to say that “God exists” is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance.

    A. J. Ayer, “Language, Truth, And Logic”, Dover, Second Edition, 1952, pg. 117

    Equivocal God-talk leaves us in total ignorance about God. At best, one can only feel, intuit, or sense God in some experiential way, but no human expressions can describe what it is that is being experienced … [As for Uni-vocal] Our understanding and expressions are finite, and God’s are infinite, and there is an infinite gulf between finite and infinite. As transcendent, God is not only beyond our limited understanding, but He is also beyond our finite expressions.

    Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, Bethany House Publishers, 2002, pg 615

    The Pragmatic Argument About “god”

    1. “god” exists in the human vocabulary
    2. human reason is restricted by vocabulary
    3. God transcends human vocabulary
    4. the “god” that exists in the human vocabulary has no referent
    5. therefore, all god-narratives are metaphysical sentences
    6. therefore, god-narratives are only meaningful (not true or false)

    can we talk about God at all and know what we mean, or, should we know what we mean when we’re talking about “god”?

    if the former is asserted true, then by what means? if the latter, then all logical arguments for the existence of god are moot because “god” is a non-referent concept that is metaphysical. further, claiming content about “god” can lead us to knowledge of God necessarily takes the form of the ontological argument for the existence of God; which is a logical reification of human attributes and concerns.

    again, mark, actually scrutinize what is at steak.

    Reply
  149. Brian Fleming says:

    The moral argument can be shown to be wrong by very briefly pointing out a hidden premise in it. This argument assumes that morality must be based on some authority in the first place, without justification.

    It really is wrong to murder. Okay, great, now what evidence is there that this standard is indicative of a God? You assume that morality must be based on an authoriy to begin with, and because it cant be your opinion vs my opinion vs Bin Laden’s opinion, then it must be God’s opinion. You did give us any reason to think it must be based on someone’s opinion int the first place. You assumed the very thing you are trying to prove, fail.

    And I do not need to disprove that God accounts for morality or give an alternate explanation. You are the one claiming that God accounts for morals, the burden is on you. My disbelief is justified so long as you can’t give a valid argument.

    Reply
  150. Mark Guetersloh says:

    You want a more technical assessment of the failure of your argument? OK Steve, here goes. You say, “Morality is only evident in minds.” I say bravo, so long as that includes the mind of God. What I think you intended to say or should have said, in your premise is, “Morality is only evident in human minds.” If so, you assume in your original statement what you ultimately set out to disprove. This is wilfully misleading and in fact an informal fallacy. That only scarcely scratches the surface on the errors that are contained in your syllogism.

    You also assume that all things noumenal are unknowable. Who says? You? David Hume? Immanuel Kant? God emphatically says no such thing. The mark He has made on the phenominal realm cannot be denied or unmade by even the most clever weavers of antitheist hocus-pocus. The mark He has made on my heart (or “muscle-pump” if you prefer), and the hearts of all believers also cannot be made fiction. The relationship authentic Christians have with God is very real….as real as the absence of relationship that characterizes His dealings with those who refuse Him. God has intervened miraculously in the phenominal world, most profoundly by entering it as a phenomenon in the person of Jesus the Christ.

    If God were wholly comprehensible to us, He would not be God at all. If He did not reveal Himself to us, we could not know Him. Luther treats this dilemma thoroughly and fairly in his treatise on the “Deus absconditus” and “Deus revelatus.”

    If I and my children were residents of a Muslim country, we would make no protest of their prayers to Allah and those prayers would not hinder our prayers to our God. I wonder which of us would be in danger for our lives? If you cannot see the difference between the God of Christianity, the god of Islam and indeed all other false gods, it is a wilfull ignorance. God has made Himself quite plain for anyone to see. It is the suppression of evidence, not the lack thereof, that hinders belief in Him.

    The moral argument, teleological argument, cosmological argument and ontological argument, and so many other infallble proofs, all provide logically valid apologies for the existence of God. To base your unbelief on the supposition that no logically valid argument exists is absurd. And please hear me, while I could accuse you of such absurdity from what you have written, I’ll refrain. I simply think you believe you have found refuge in opposing inductive arguments that also happen to be valid. Meeting the test for validity does not gaurantee Truth in an inductive argument. Neither you nor any other athiest/anti-theist/agnostic has provided compelling deductive evidence whatsoever in support of the no-God hypothesis.

    Desire does not infer only a lack of something, but may also encompass a want for something. The wealthiest man in the world may want more money. God may want other beings to be in relationship with. Both in the absence of any need. It is within the strength of both to see their want fulfilled.

    And Toby, get real. The distinctive, time-specific and dramatic declines of these moral parameters coincident with the event of revoking prayer in public schools meets every test for the definition of evidence. Researchers and statisticians dream of such correlation.

    Yes, I do support the death penalty. Yes I do think homosexuality is a sin. Yes I think abortion to be a horror. Killing an unborn child guilty of no crime other than the unhappy chance of conception can’t be compared with killing a serially violent criminal. This idiotic statement only proves how lost the relativist is without an objective compass. You will find no contradictions in me when it comes to my philosophy of life – Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria. On the contrary, your belief system and that of all unbelievers can never be based on anything other that personal preference. Let’s watch and see how that works out for all of us in an increasingly neopagan, neobarbarian world.

    Nuff said.

    Reply
  151. Stephen B says:

    “if you cannot see the difference between the God of Christianity, the god of Islam and indeed all other false gods, it is a wilfull ignorance”

    That’s not an argument. All religions’ followers claim theirs is obviously the right one. So what?

    Reply
  152. Stephen B says:

    “Researchers and statisticians dream of such correlation.”

    Such people understand that correlation does not equal causation. Cancer rates rise with TV watching. Does this mean watching TV gives you cancer? How Christian a country is correlates with high its teen pregnancy rates are and how high the murder rate is. Does that imply causation?

    Reply
  153. Toby says:

    “The distinctive, time-specific and dramatic declines of these moral parameters coincident with the event of revoking prayer in public schools meets every test for the definition of evidence. Researchers and statisticians dream of such correlation.”

    Delusional. Do tell in what way “measures of morality and quality of life document a serious decline” since prayer was removed from school. You talk as if nothing else changed in the 1960s.

    Reply
  154. Steve says:

    mark, i’m sorry, you claim i commit an informal fallacy. please demonstrate that i have. you baldly assert that the syllogism is fine as long as i include “god” in my mind-dependent assessment of morality. that would be a failure to include that fallacy in my syllogism UNLESS i actually DID include “god” in it. in other words, because you can offer no causal relationship between morality and “god” (or god and anything else), then they syllogism stands on its own. the inclusion of the extra, non-referent metaphysical word “god” (and all it’s attached baggage) would be what would create an informal fallacy.

    i’ve posted the most COMMON theological problem there is. if we say god is incomprehensible, then define god, we’re obviously NOT talking about God, but “god” (a metaphysical concept with metaphysical descriptives attached). you’re arguing with theologians now, not me. and WITHOUT an answer to this, ALL arguments for the existence of god collapse into a SINGLE argument, the ontological argument for god. and theologians (outside of fundamentalists, which are a speck of the total) will tell you that the ontological argument is a personification of man, not a thing about god. and if you could read more carefully, i quoted fr. herbert mccabe actually saying this specifically.

    i think it would help, mark, if you would take your interest in god and apply it to the study of (aka, theology). what i’d also recommend is for you to read what catholic scholars and theologians say about scripture. they’ve got answers that make sense and are scripturally supported; they been doing theology for over 2K years. they also don’t buck the hard questions, saying “that’s not an essential matter, don’t worry about it”.

    one more thing to scare you into thinking, listen to a muslim fundamentalist talk about allah and mohammad, then exchange those words to god and jesus. the way you speak and the way they do are identical. just something to consider.

    Reply
  155. Terry L. says:

    re Brian Fleming on September 7th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    >>This argument assumes that morality must be based on some authority in the first place, without justification.

    Wrong. Morality in and of itself demands an authority. How do you know how long a meter is without a ruler? How do you know how much mass is in a kilogram without a scale? Your statement above implies that we can measure morality without a standard. This is illogical. If morality is not grounded in an authority, then everything is relative and your morality is no “better” or “worse” than mine… which means that in actuality, it does not exist, since morality is a measurement of the correctness of an action or attitude. If there’s no authority, then an action is correct or incorrect according to *what*?

    >>It really is wrong to murder. Okay, great, now what evidence is there that this standard is indicative of a God? You assume that morality must be based on an authoriy to begin with, and because it cant be your opinion vs my opinion vs Bin Laden’s opinion, then it must be God’s opinion.

    1. If something is objectively wrong, then there must be an objective standard of “rightness”.

    2. An objective standard must be unchanging and eternal, or it is no standard. A “standard” that made murder wrong today but acceptable tomorrow is not a standard.

    3. Therefore, man cannot be the standard of rightness, because men change, and what men believe to be right and moral varies with the man.

    4. The standard for morality must be a person, because morality deals with what *ought* to be. Inanimate objects do not care about what ought to be… rocks could care less whether they’re used to build a house or to stone someone to death. It takes a personality to be concerned with morality. Animals, similarly, are amoral, and do not concern themselves with whether their actions are or are not moral.

    5. Therefore, the standard cannot be a man, must be unchanging, and must be a person.

    6. The standard must be morally perfect, or it is not worthy of being called a standard.

    7. Therefore, the standard cannot be a man, must be unchanging, and must be a person of perfect moral character.

    Sounds like a God to me…

    Here’s another, granted, very informal way of looking at it… if God does not exist, then in 100 billion years or so, there most likely won’t be anyone left around to care what happened today, so in the end, nothing really matters. If God does exist, then He is eternal and *will* be here to care in 100 billion years.

    Reply
  156. Stephen B says:

    “The standard must be morally perfect, or it is not worthy of being called a standard.”

    Begging the question – you’re saying yourself that you can’t call something morally perfect unless you have an authority to make that judgment. How do you know it’s morally perfect. To use your ruler analogy, that’s like saying you’re measuring all rulers against one particular other ruler – but how do you know that other ruler is the the right length in the first place?

    “if God does not exist, then in 100 billion years or so, there most likely won’t be anyone left around to care what happened today, so in the end, nothing really matters”

    Non sequitur and argument from consequence.

    “A “standard” that made murder wrong today but acceptable tomorrow is not a standard.”

    So any philosophy that condoned slavery three thousand years ago, but said it was wrong today would be worthless, right? I see…

    Reply
  157. Terry L. says:

    >>To use your ruler analogy, that’s like saying you’re measuring all rulers against one particular other ruler –

    But that’s exactly what we do! Why do you think the National Institute of Standards exists? If everyone used a different standard of how many pennies made a dollar, think of the chaos that would ensue. Likewise, not having (or choosing not to recognize) a moral standard can only lead to moral chaos.

    >>but how do you know that other ruler is the the right length in the first place?

    I don’t have to have a separate standard to say that in the United States, 100 pennies make a dollar. That IS the standard, and by the law of identity. A is equal to A.

    And lastly, the argument doesn’t identify which god/God is the standard… only that the standard exists.

    >>Non sequitur and argument from consequence.

    I told you it wasn’t formal… just an informal way of loosely considering whether anything has meaning. Even Sam Harris recognizes that, “For a change in the universe to matter, there must be a conscious creature to whom it matters!” It then follows that if in the future, there are no conscious beings, then nothing really ultimately matters.

    >>So any philosophy that condoned slavery three thousand years ago, but said it was wrong today would be worthless, right? I see…

    Make certain you’re comparing apples to oranges. In the first place, be certain that the “slavery” of 3000 years ago is morally comparable to the “slavery” of today to which you refer.

    In the second place, be certain you’re comparing philosophy with philosophy, not with the actions of those who profess that philosophy. Most atheists live moral lives, but I have yet to find one whose philosophy would support it.

    Christians do not live perfect lives, and that is in perfect correspondence with their philosophy, which holds that fallen man needs a savior. Christians are just beggars trying to tell other beggars where to find bread. (Thanks, Frank, for the analogy!)

    Reply
  158. Stephen B says:

    “But that’s exactly what we do!”

    Not any more, but imagine we still did it that way – how did we originally objectively determine that was ‘the right length’?

    The slavery of 3000 years ago, of Israelis enslaving non-Israelis, is viewed as unacceptable today, so my point stands. Whether it is comparable to 19th century American plantations is a red herring. You don’t accept the idea of being a slave because your parents were slaves, no? Regardless of how your parents became slaves. Go ahead and try to justify OT slavery of non-Israelis, but forget about convincing others you’re following any kind of ‘objective morality’. You might as well point me to a sloping, rickety, mis-shaped house and say it was designed using that ‘original ruler’ that all the other ones are set against.

    Regarding atheists, you may reckon their philosophy doesn’t support their moral outlook, but that’s probably just because you’re judging them by your own standards. Christians I talk to on these boards often act baffled that someone would bother doing good without reward in heaven, or that atheists don’t aim for lives of pure hedonism. That says more about the Christian’s morality. Or it just shows that you make false assumptions about the consequences of the atheist’s outlook.

    Reply
  159. Terry L. says:

    >>Not any more, but imagine we still did it that way – how did we originally objectively determine that was ‘the right length’?

    You are still confusing the point of the argument, but to address your question, standards of length are obviously man-made. Human standards are standards only by convention and agreement. Morality doesn’t fall into the same category, unless you want to agree that the Nazis were right because they all agreed that it was OK to exterminate the Jews. If you read some of their writings, even of the most hardened had reservations in the beginning about what they were doing.

    Regarding slavery, I wanted to make certain you wasn’t equating a form of indentured servitude practiced by the Jews at that time with the brutal forms of slavery practiced elsewhere. In any case, I’ve not defended any form of slavery.

    Furthermore, acknowledgement that something happened, by you, me, or the Bible, does not imply approval. As you correctly stated earlier, the incidence of slavery among Israel 3000 years ago may correlate with a belief in the Judeo-Christian God, but that does not imply causation.

    I say that atheism doesn’t support morality because if we are no more than matter and there is nothing transcendent, then why is a human baby of more value than a rock? I can justify that statement given a belief in God; you have yet to do the same without relying on that belief.

    You returned to the same straw-man argument of implying that I was “baffled that someone would bother doing good without reward in heaven, or that atheists don’t aim for lives of pure hedonism.” On the contrary, I’m not baffled by that at all; it’s exactly what I would expect. MY point is that by doing so, you are living in a manner inconsistent with your philosophy; and your own adherence to morality is in and of itself a recognition of the moral law, and thereby, the moral lawgiver.

    All of the bluster about slavery, and Christians believing (supposedly) that atheists are amoral are the true red herrings in this dialog. The second point is simply untrue. The first, I will grant you, is of some importance, but you will have to justify your question before we can discuss it.

    You have, in effect, accused the God of the Old Testament of being immoral because He (according to you) condoned slavery. By _what_ standard do you judge Him, and how do you account for the existence of that standard based on your atheistic philosophy? *Until that is established, the conversation is baseless.* Your appeals to morality are simply floating in mid-air until you can provide an ontological referent for them.

    Reply
  160. Stephen B says:

    “Morality doesn’t fall into the same category, unless you want to agree that the Nazis were right ”

    False dichotomy.

    ” MY point is that by doing so, you are living in a manner inconsistent with your philosophy”

    Yes, I understood that, and my previous answer stands.

    Regarding slavery, I’m not talking about indentured servitude. What’s more, I made this clear – if a slave’s children automatically become slaves by the rules set out in the OT, that isn’t indentured servitude. It’s pure and simple slavery. What I think of this is irrelevant – my point was that Christians today don’t support such practices, therefore they cannot claim they have a source of unchanging morality.

    Reply
  161. Stephen B says:

    ” if we are no more than matter and there is nothing transcendent, then why is a human baby of more value than a rock? ”

    That’s a non sequitur. If I value a baby, by definition it is valuable. That’s what valuable means – it has value to someone.

    “You are still confusing the point of the argument, but to address your question, standards of length are obviously man-made. ”

    Then you’re contradicting your previous ‘but that’s exactly what happens!’. To name your God as the standard, is that any less arbitrary than simply declaring a random piece of tough metal as a universal standard of measurement? You still have to decide his standard is a ‘good’ one to start off with, and according to you there’s no way of doing that.

    Reply
  162. Terry L. says:

    My point was that morality is not a human standard… something that we just all agree on like the definition of an inch. Instead, it is an objective standard, and exists whether we believe in it or follow it. Either it’s objective and eternal, or it’s temporal and man-made. The rape and torture of babies is either wrong, or it’s not.

    To prove my point is a false dichotomy, you’ll have to establish a third alternative. I don’t see much room for any other possibility.

    You earlier opined that I might be making “false assumptions about the consequences of the atheist’s outlook.” Let me explain what I understand to be the consequences of your worldview, and then you can point out where you think I miss the mark. I’ll have to depend on some conjecture, absent an explanation from you regarding the origins of morality. I’ll also assume (though you haven’t stated it explicitly) that you also embrace Naturalism… there is nothing beyond the material world:

    Assumptions: Atheist Naturalism asserts that:

    1. Life arose by blind, random chance with no purpose, no direction, and no assistance by any intelligent, external agency. Therefore, there is no God or gods to whom we owe gratitude, allegience, or subservience.
    2. Mankind, although a remarkable animal, is in actuality nothing more than that. There is no God in whose image mankind is made. We are nothing more than a collection of matter in motion; as some would say, a “meat machine”.
    3. Our consciousness, whatever that is, is the result of biochemical processes in the human brain, and at death ceases to exist. It is nothing more than the equivilent of a highly sophisticated computer program, which no longer runs when the machine is turned off. Our behavior is controlled by atoms bouncing around in our brains. Regardless of how it appears, there is in actual fact, no such thing as free will. We are simply a chemical reaction responding to our environment.

    Implications:

    1. Man, being nothing more than a complex arrangement of matter, does not have objective, intrinsic value.
    2. Man is just another object in this universe, and objects are only valuable if a person places value in them. Therefore our value necessarily comes from our peers, not from our own being.
    3. There is no objective standard by which we can judge the value of a man or the rightness of his actions. It is impossible to say whether Hitler’s evaluation of the value of a person is any “better” or “worse” than Mother Teresa’s.
    4. Absent this standard, it often falls to those in power to be the arbiter of a man’s ultimate value, and of whether or not he survives. Also, without an objective standard, it is impossible to say that this is right or wrong.
    5. “Right” and “wrong” are meaningless terms. What does matter care about “rightness” or “wrongness”? So any moral “standard” is arbitrary, relative, and can change, based on the community.

    >> If I value a baby, by definition it is valuable. That’s what valuable means – it has value to someone.

    I actually agree with you on this point… to a point… but I don’t know if you have fully considered the implication of your words. So, let’s say the baby is your newborn daughter. You value her, so she has value. Is she then of LESSER value should you suddenly die? If all persons who loved and valued her were removed from her life, is she then of no worth at all? If you say that she continues to have worth, how do you defend your assertion from an atheistic perspective?

    Would you find it objectionable then if those around her, who did not value this little orphan, tortured and abused her in the name of science? If so, WHY? Why should they refrain from such an action if she is of more use to the community as a scientific experiment than a person? If you find it acceptable to shatter a rock in the name of science, then what would make it unacceptable, dare I say, WRONG, to do the same to her body for the same reasons, if she has no intrinsic, objective value? If her consciousness ceases to exist when she’s dead, what will it matter in 100 years… when no one even remembers her name?

    And this is why the Nazi comparison is valid. Nazis did not value the Jews; in their minds, a Jew was more valuable as a paperweight, or a lampshade, or for the gold in their fillings than they were alive. Can you defend a counter-perspective from a purely atheistic point of view?

    From my (Christian) Theistic viewpoint:

    1. We are loved and valued by an eternal, timeless, all-knowing, God.
    2. God gives us life as a gift, and He considers it sacred.
    3. We bear his very image in our being, which I interpret to mean that He has made us moral beings, different from the animals, capable of freely choosing between right and wrong.
    4. He has written his laws on our conscience, so that we know intuitively that child abuse, and other evils are wrong, and even if we choose to deny his very existence, those laws will continue to influence our actions.
    5. Morality is grounded in His character

    Implications:

    1. You are of infinite value because you are valued by an infinite God.
    2. Your value is constant because is not dependent on any man’s viewpoint.
    3. Your value is constant because of God’s unchanging nature.
    4. Right and Wrong are meaningful categories, based on an action’s conformity with the character of God.

    >> …Christians today don’t support such practices, therefore they cannot claim they have a source of unchanging morality.

    Guilt by Association. You’re attempting to discredit the standard by attacking those who claim the standard.

    >>To name your God as the standard, is that any less arbitrary than simply declaring a random piece of tough metal as a universal standard of measurement?

    You have it backward. Were I to say that “I’ve been raised a Christian all my life, so the Christian God is the standard,” then you would be correct. I’m saying that based on the evidence, I recognize an objective standard of morality, and by necessity, that standard (whomever he is) must be God. Furthermore, we’ve quite a bit of ground to cover before establishing that this God is the God of the Christians.

    >>You still have to decide his standard is a ‘good’ one to start off with…

    But *I* don’t define the standard! It’s not up to me to decide the standard value of an inch. I can say an inch doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t make it so. I can say that an inch is not “good”, that it should be exactly 3.8 centimeters, but that doesn’t change the standard. It’s the *atheist’s* worldview that allows everyone to choose their own standard, because of the absence of an objective standard.

    Reply
  163. Terry L. says:

    Oh… sorry for the novel! 😉 I’m truly enjoying our exchange… guess I got carried away. I didn’t mean to rewrite “War and Peace”!

    Hopefully, you found it either stimulating, or a good cure for insomnia!

    Reply
  164. Stephen B says:

    No worries for the ‘novel’! And I agree with virtually all your summary of naturalism, though “Regardless of how it appears, there is in actual fact, no such thing as free will” is a tricky one. Some naturalists argue that to all intents and purposes free will does exist, in the sense that no external force is compelling to make choices outside of our will. Further, it is arguable that free will doesn’t exist in the theistic perspective either.

    “The rape and torture of babies is either wrong, or it’s not.”

    But you’re saying if there’s no God, then you can’t say it’s wrong? Doesn’t that make it sound like it’s subjective – in other words it’s conditional, subject to God’s existence? If we imagine two universes – one where a God exists, the other where He doesn’t. If a baby is being raped in both universes, are you saying it’s wrong in one but not in the other? How does that work – it’s the same action with the same consequences and the same suffering.

    “But *I* don’t define the standard! ”

    Who does then? If God’s defining the standard, then you’re saying He is good because he says he is…

    “You’re attempting to discredit the standard by attacking those who claim the standard.”

    No. I’m saying that a Christian who sees those depictions of slavery as immoral cannot point to a book that condones that slavery and call that book a guide to a perfect moral standard.

    “You value her, so she has value. Is she then of LESSER value should you suddenly die?”

    She’s valued by others, and in the unlikely even of their deaths, she can be of value to herself. At any rate, if you are asking me to consider the value of my daughter after my death, although you are asking me to imagine my daughter in a scenario where I don’t exist, it is ME NOW considering her, and therefore we’re still talking about how I value her. Complicated, but I hope you understand what I mean.

    I value ALL human life – I see it as illogical to value my loved ones and not to see other humans as valuable too.

    “Therefore our value necessarily comes from our peers, not from our own being.”

    As I said, we can value ourselves.

    “It is impossible to say whether Hitler’s evaluation of the value of a person is any “better” or “worse” than Mother Teresa’s.”

    I can say that Hitler’s denigration of Jews, and blacks is illogical, based on what science tells us about human genetics, and that there’s very little difference between races.

    I can also point out that Hitler thought very much that he was carrying out his God’s will, and he could point to many passages in the bible where God orders his people to carry out genocide. I think condemning Hitler is more a problem for the bible literalist than for the atheist.

    Reply
  165. Toby says:

    Terry L.: Regarding your implications:

    1 & 2: I don’t see how you can make these statements and not see the hubris in them. In this universe we make up such an infinitesimally small percentage of the matter in it that I doubt I could type out in an hour the number of zeros after a decimal place to represent it. There have likely been millions of instances of intelligent life in this universe that have come and gone and probably still exist out there. We have practically no effect on this universe. Our value must come from us. That’s enough for me. If there is an intrinsic value then it is given to us from the ecosystem we are a part of (an often trash). Our value is that we’re a cog in the system of this planet.

    3. I think if we assume that life’s function is to survive, then we can use that to extract the rightness and wrongness of actions if we examine those actions in regard to how it effects survivability of us as individuals and us as a group. If we assume Hitler thought he was defending himself, his and his country’s survivability, then we simply look at his reasoning for doing what he did. He thought that there was a superior race. That’s just not accurate and every action that followed from that is wrong because of faulty reasoning.

    4 & 5. Unfortunately those in power in dictatorial regimes more often than not do choose who survives and who doesn’t. Concentrating power in one or very few can lead to the amplification of their faulty reasoning and the resulting actions. Right and wrong is decided by groups. Look around the world. Look back through history. It has ever been that way.

    There’s a major way that all religions fail as well as the common bigotries out there, e.g. patriotism, cultural pride, racism, etc. These things are all wedges that separate us. The world would be a better place if we put all of that aside and began with a few guidelines.

    1. Above all we are all humans, we are all in this together, we are all equal.
    2. Any religion or other dogma must never be placed above the well being and peace between humans. We must never separate with imaginary boundaries.

    Reply
  166. Terry L. says:

    >>God orders his people to carry out genocide

    I’m not unaware of this objection, but as we still have yet to establish an agreement on whether right and wrong objectively exist, this is at present a non-issue.

    >>If we imagine two universes – one where a God exists, the other where He doesn’t. If a baby is being raped in both universes, are you saying it’s wrong in one but not in the other?

    That’s exactly what I’m saying! Without a supreme standard, WHO is to say what is right and what is wrong?

    >>it’s the same action with the same consequences and the same suffering.

    True… but with one critical difference. Assume the rapist, and the victim are the only two beings in this universe (other than God, in the theistic universe). In the atheistic (in the classical meaning of “no God”) universe, the rapist says he does good, while his victim says he does evil. What basis can you give for deciding which point of view is correct? Is either of them correct? In such a universe, is anything truly “good” or “evil”? As the atheist Kai Nielson puts it, “Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” The rapist says “my purpose is to rape and to gratify myself”. In a universe with no purpose and no design, prove him wrong!

    Given a creator in a theistic universe, the whole scenario changes. The creature has a purpose… a reason for existing. Why else would the creator have made him? This implies that he has an obligation to fulfill that purpose, or face the displeasure of his creator for not doing so.

    Even man creates things for various purposes and judges them accordingly. If a shoe doesn’t fulfill the purpose for which it is designed, do we not cast it aside? It’s senseless to say, “but the shoe didn’t WANT to be a shoe… it wanted to be a table”… it is discarded nonetheless.

    And yes, the shoe doesn’t have a choice… it’s not a moral being made in the image of its creator. However, humans are moral creatures, and do have a choice of whether to fulfill their purpose.

    Scientists are already trying to figure out how to design ethics into artificial intelligence. We are attempting to create “life” in our own image, complete with our own sense of morality. Does it not make sense that the God in the universe described above would do the same? If our own morality did not come from our designer/creator, then why do we not allow the artificial life we are trying to create to “evolve” their own sense of ethics?

    So in our imagined theistic universe, the rapist says he does good, the victim says he does evil, just as before. Only now, we have a standard by which to judge their claims. We can ask, “Does the rapist’s actions fulfill the purpose for which he was designed and created?”

    In our own world, the answer is NO. Because God exists, and has stated that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, this action is incompatible with our purpose and God’s law.

    But the atheist says that there is no ultimate purpose in life, no design, no plan. So how then shall we live? Who decides how we should act? What is right and what is wrong?

    >>I can say that Hitler’s denigration of Jews, and blacks is illogical, based on what science tells us about human genetics, and that there’s very little difference between races.

    So you’re saying that he was not objectively wrong, just illogical?? If so, then you’ve supported the point that apart from God, there are no objective moral values.

    If I could steal everything you own, and knew with 100% certainty there would be no consequences to my actions, would it be illogical or wrong for me to do so?

    >>As I said, we can value ourselves.

    So? Given atheism, why should one lump of animated matter care what another one values?

    >> I think if we assume that life’s function is to survive, then we can use that to extract the rightness and wrongness of actions

    Evolution is a blind process with no objective… not even survival. An atheistic universe couldn’t care less about the survival of humanity or any other organism. There is NO end goal, only randomness.

    Evolutionists also try to jump from survival of the organism to survival of the group. I see no reason to believe that blind chance could ever produce such a leap. Some organisms will die to protect their offspring; others eat their young.

    >> 1. Above all we are all humans, we are all in this together, we are all equal.

    Under evolution, this is as close as you can come to total heresy! Why should the weak survive if the goal is to survive as an individual or a species? No one is equal under atheistic naturalism. We are all equipped with differing strengths and weaknesses.

    I think, however, that you may be referring to moral equality. However, you have yet to establish that such a thing can exist in the absence of God.

    >> 2. Any religion or other dogma must never be placed above the well being and peace between humans. We must never separate with imaginary boundaries.

    Truth always divides. In our current dialog, one of us is right, and one is wrong. Either there is a God, or there is not. There is no middle ground. To abandon a position one believes to be truthful in order to get along with others is irrational. Truth, REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE TRUTH IS, is the most precious commodity in the universe!

    As a Christian however, I agree with the premise that we must respect and honor others in spite of our differences. I recognize the inherent value you have as one of God’s creatures who is loved by Him. I do appreciate the civil tone with which you discuss these, sometimes very emotionally-charged, issues, and I value and defend your right to believe as you will, regardless of how much I disagree with your position.

    Reply
  167. Terry L. says:

    Oh… I wrote this quickly on my lunch break, and didn’t notice that the second post was from a different voice until after I had submitted my comment. Welcome to the conversation, Toby!

    It shouldn’t matter to my points, but while writing, I had assumed Stephen was the author of the previous two posts. My apologies if that led to any misrepresentations of either of your positions.

    -tl

    Reply
  168. Stephen B says:

    “If so, then you’ve supported the point that apart from God, there are no objective moral values.”

    You’ve not shown that a God existing would mean objective values exist.

    “True… but with one critical difference.”

    No, the suffering is the same, the action is the same, so my point stands. You’re saying it’s evil in one universe but not the other, despite the fact that the action and suffering is the same. This makes no sense.

    “Without a supreme standard, WHO is to say what is right and what is wrong?”

    Who decides what or who the supreme standard is? On what basis?

    ” I see no reason to believe that blind chance could ever produce such a leap.”

    Evolution isn’t blind chance.

    “Why else would the creator have made him? This implies that he has an obligation to fulfill that purpose, or face the displeasure of his creator for not doing so.”

    I don’t get how you figure the above is a moral scenario. Living creatures aren’t shoes, to be discarded. My daughter didn’t ask me to create her, so I don’t see that she’s obligated to me. In fact, I see that it’s the other way round – it is to HER that her PARENTS are obligated.

    Then there’s this:

    “We can ask, “Does the rapist’s actions fulfill the purpose for which he was designed and created?””

    So if a God designed someone to rape, that would make rape moral? Really?

    Reply
  169. Toby says:

    “Under evolution, this is as close as you can come to total heresy!”

    You needn’t go bringing evolution into this. I didn’t. If we think of life as self reproducing chemicals, that’s as far as we need to go for what I was saying. Life is inherently lives because if it fails to effectively do so then it ceases to exist. So a trait of life is that it survives. From that we can extrapolate a natural form of morality. If this weren’t the case, if we didn’t have protective instincts towards our children or if we had an inborn desire to leap off of great heights, our species would never have gotten to where we are today.

    Now a bit about evolution. Evolution can be better understood as a reaction. It’s a reaction to the environment that allows an organism to survive. The only end goal is survival.

    Survival of a group and an individual are equally important, especially in species that reproduce sexually. No mates = extinction. We’re social creatures. Strength in numbers. We’re equally able to defend ourselves and defend our community at the risk of our own lives. Empathy has benefits for both sides. If you see someone suffering you help them, this benefits the one suffering, but also benefits you in several ways, keeping the group strong, a possibility that the same will be done for you, and the very basic chemical gratification you get in your brain’s pleasure center.

    I think your idea of “blind chance” might be better suited to conversations about abiogenesis than evolution.

    Reply
  170. Terry L. says:

    >>No, the suffering is the same, the action is the same, so my point stands. You’re saying it’s evil in one universe but not the other,…

    So what exactly is your definition of evil?

    >> despite the fact that the action and suffering is the same. This makes no sense.

    Action and suffering are actually irrelevant.

    If someone accidentally trips me and I fall and break my arm, I don’t see how that is an evil action. If someone intentionally does the same, then it is an evil action. Moral Evil requires personality, because it has an element of intent.

    On the other hand, if someone takes a swing at me and misses, I’ll still be angry with him even though there was no injury. But I would feel no anger at someone who is swinging at another person who is harming their child but accidentally hits me instead, even though I was injured.

    The evil is not in the action or the suffering, but in the heart, mind, and will of the actor.

    Who decides what or who the supreme standard is? On what basis?

    Once again, this question is irrelevant to the moral argument for God’s existence. It is sufficient that the standard exists. I can defend my reasons for believing that this standard is the Christian God, but that is a different discussion, that I’m happy to have… if you’re ready to admit the existence of God! 😉

    >> My daughter didn’t ask me to create her, so I don’t see that she’s obligated to me.

    You didn’t create her… God did. You participated in the act, but beyond that, you were not responsible for knitting her together in her mother’s womb. And you are correct… the parents are morally obligated to care for and support the child.

    >>So if a God designed someone to rape, that would make rape moral?
    There’s a huge two-letter word at the beginning of this sentence… “IF”. You are presenting a hypothetical scenario with no analog in reality. But, if in a fictional universe, god intended for a creature to commit such an act, then It would be wrong for him to do otherwise. Such a god, judged by the standards of the God of our universe, would be morally reprehensible. The moral landscape of such a universe would be utterly unrecognizable to us.

    The interesting thing about your question is it implies that one morality can be better or worse than another. I’ll ask you again… as an atheist, _by what standard do you judge them_?

    >>The only end goal is survival.

    This is another rabbit trail that really isn’t pertinent to the discussion on this thread, but…

    The theory of evolution rests on undirected changes resulting in benefits that are passed on to the next generations. How does an undirected process have an end goal? Having a goal implies a personality choosing a direction in which to proceed… that the desired end is known from the beginning.

    >>Survival of a group and an individual are equally important…

    Starting when? To a single-celled amoeba? Do they really care about the group?

    If you see a group of animals running from a forest fire, how many of them will stop to help a fallen member of the herd back to their feet? As humans, in a similar situation, one often ignores the instinct to preserve their own lives, often to help weaker members of the species. I don’t see any reason why evolution would have resulted in this type of empathy, when it can severely lessen your chance of survival.

    Reply
  171. Stephen B says:

    ” It is sufficient that the standard exists.”

    You haven’t shown that it does.

    “You didn’t create her… God did. ”

    I thought you might say that. Then your whole analogy of the shoe-maker falls down completely – the shoe-maker didn’t make the shoe, God did.

    “And you are correct… the parents are morally obligated to care for and support the child.”

    And thus God’s obligations are to us. None of this nonsense about me being obligated to fulfil His whims.

    “If you see a group of animals running from a forest fire, how many of them will stop to help a fallen member of the herd back to their feet?”

    Depends on the species. If it’s monkeys, the answer is lots of them. In fact lots of herd species pitch in to save their fellows under attack.

    “Action and suffering are actually irrelevant.”

    Really? If you think that, then I don’t think you have any valid criticism to make of anyone else’s philosophy or its implilcations.

    Oh wait: “If someone intentionally does the same, then it is an evil action.”

    Fine, then go back to my previous point and substitute “The INTENTIONS are the same” for “The action and suffering are the same”. You’re nit-picking.

    “Who decides what or who the supreme standard is?”

    You tell me. YOU have decided the supreme standard is your God. Someone else might decide differently. You’ve not shown how your standard is better.

    Reply
  172. Terry L. says:

    >>>>“Action and suffering are actually irrelevant.”
    >>Really? If you think that, then I don’t think you have any valid criticism to make of anyone else’s philosophy or its implilcations.

    Did you read the reasoning behind this? I demonstrated a case where someone’s actions did not cause harm, yet they still are morally at fault, as well as a case where actions did cause harm, with no moral offense. In both of those cases, the actions and the results appear irrelevant to the moral issue. The intentions of the actor has everything to do with it… so long as there is an objective standard by which to judge those intentions.

    >>I thought you might say that. Then your whole analogy of the shoe-maker falls down completely – the shoe-maker didn’t make the shoe, God did.

    You’re pressing the analogy too far, resulting in a mixed metaphor. The shoemaker analogy is a closed system in which the shoemaker IS God. You cannot conflate two different analogies and then try to extract meaning from it. That’s simply fallacious reasoning.

    >>>> “Who decides what or who the supreme standard is?”
    >>You tell me. YOU have decided the supreme standard is your God.

    I recognize that all men, barring brain damage, mental incapacity or the like, recognize a similar set of standards. We deplore the coward, the traitor, the thief, the bully, the rapist, the murderer. We laud the honorable, the honest, the trustworthy, the brave, the generous. And this is true, with some slight variation in details, across cultures. All of mankind recognizes the moral law. We have witnessed no culture based on the list of baser instincts that I listed.

    I also observe that these do not correspond to man’s nature. What parent has to teach their child to be selfish? The child is selfish by nature. Any parent recognizes that… by the age of two or three, one has heard the cry of “MINE” many times.

    Although we do teach the details of the moral law to our children, this does not imply that it is man-made. As C.S. Lewis stated, the we teach the multiplication tables to our children, but they are not a human invention. They were true before they were discovered by man, and would still be true had they not been discovered at all.

    We compare men by saying they are a “good” man or a “bad” man. But again, to what are we comparing them? If only against another man, the the comparison is meaningless. How do we know what the good is without a fixed, unchanging standard of good? That cannot be a human, who changes with the times. But it must be a person, because we are judging ones character.

    Therefore if there is no perfect being of unblemished character, then there is no acceptable standard, and to speak of morality of any kind is to speak only of preferences, not absolutes. In such a world, you cannot say that murder is wrong, only that it is not what I prefer.

    >>Fine, then go back to my previous point and substitute “The INTENTIONS are the same” for “The action and suffering are the same”. You’re nit-picking.

    Very well. The intentions of the rapist in both universes is the same. But in your a-theistic universe, what is your standard of good and bad? To who’s character do you compare the rapist’s character to say it is good or bad? You’ve lost your standard, therefore “good” and “bad” have no referent.

    Dictionary.com provides these definitons for “objective”;

    ====
    5. not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.
    6.
    intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.
    7.
    being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject ( opposed to subjective).
    8.
    of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.
    ====

    Without God, we simply do not have a standard of morality that is “existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality”, no standard that is “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.”

    >>Someone else might decide differently. You’ve not shown how your standard is better.

    You keep using the word “better”, but you won’t identify how you objectively determine what is better and what is worse.

    And remember, this is not an argument for Christianity… it’s an argument for theism. Whether “my standard” of the Christian God is better is not yet a point of discussion.

    Here’s the bottom line:

    The question before us is a syllogism. To destroy a syllogism, all you have to do is prove one of the two premises to be wrong.

    To quote from the article:

    ====
    Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

    Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.

    Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.
    ====

    I think your own posts demonstrate a strong belief in premise 2. Therefore, the point in contention is premise 1. And the question remains…

    Can you establish a basis for the existence of objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?

    Reply
  173. Toby says:

    “The theory of evolution rests on undirected changes resulting in benefits that are passed on to the next generations. How does an undirected process have an end goal? Having a goal implies a personality choosing a direction in which to proceed… that the desired end is known from the beginning.”

    If goal is causing a hang up here then substitute trait or characteristic in it’s place. Survival is a characteristic of life. That eliminates the personality.

    “>>Survival of a group and an individual are equally important…
    Starting when? To a single-celled amoeba? Do they really care about the group?”

    Check out the science daily website and read the article Predatory Bacterial Crowdsourcing: Scientists ID Simple Formula That Allows Bacteria to Engulf Food in Waves. I think as humans we try to anthropomorphize just about everything. All species are different and have different capacities dictated by their chemical make up. Bacteria can communicate with each other chemically. Look up Dictyostelium discoideum, it’s an amoeba that goes from being unicellular to clumping with others of it’s kind for mutual benefit.

    “If you see a group of animals running from a forest fire, how many of them will stop to help a fallen member of the herd back to their feet? . . . I don’t see any reason why evolution would have resulted in this type of empathy, when it can severely lessen your chance of survival.”

    Yet, we see it in other species. I assume you don’t think animals are “moral agents”. Why then do we observe this in them? Are they moral agents or is it just a part of their genetics? And if it’s just their genetics why would we, with a lot of shared genetics, be so special to not be operating similarly?

    “We deplore the coward, the traitor, the thief, the bully, the rapist, the murderer.”

    I think you can easily see that these things can be detrimental to survival, hence a species in which these are dominant traits would have trouble existing for long.

    “Although we do teach the details of the moral law to our children, this does not imply that it is man-made. As C.S. Lewis stated, the we teach the multiplication tables to our children, but they are not a human invention. They were true before they were discovered by man, and would still be true had they not been discovered at all.”

    Multiplication is a human invention. Math is just another language we use to describe physical objects. It’s wholly dependent on physicality. Nothing to multiply or quantify . . . it’s meaningless. If intelligent life didn’t exist, there would still be things to quantify, but no one with the language to do it.

    The moral argument is a bit of a false argument. There is no proof of premise 2. It’s an empty statement. The only “proof” for it is the subjective distaste for it. There is no real effect on the world if it there are no objective moral values. The argument is contingent upon there being a god. It’s trying to prove there’s a god because there’s a god. You can replace objective moral values with practically anything and say that it is a valid argument because it’s claimed that god is responsible for everything.

    1. If god didn’t exist, angels wouldn’t exist.
    2. Angels do exist.
    3. Therefore god exists.

    Reply
  174. Stephen B says:

    ” The intentions of the rapist in both universes is the same. But in your a-theistic universe, what is your standard of good and bad? ”

    You’re not answering the question. The intention of the rapist is the same in both universes, but according to YOU, the rapist is not actually evil in the God-free universe. Right?

    Reply
  175. Terry L. says:

    >>You’re not answering the question. The intention of the rapist is the same in both universes, but according to YOU, the rapist is not actually evil in the God-free universe. Right?

    I did answer the question. With no standard, there is no such thing as good an evil, so the question is illogical. To illustrate, how long is the unit of measure known as an erman. There is no answer to this question because there is no such thing. Similarly, if good and evil do not exist, it makes no sense to assert that one is good or evil. One simply is.

    You are attempting to import our morality into the God-free universe, but unless you can justify absolute morality without God, that is a logical fallacy.

    So again, the question is back to you:

    Can you establish a basis for the existence of objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?

    If you can do so, then I will answer your question above.

    Reply
  176. Terry L. says:

    >>Multiplication is a human invention. Math is just another language we use to describe physical objects. It’s wholly dependent on physicality. Nothing to multiply or quantify . . . it’s meaningless. If intelligent life didn’t exist, there would still be things to quantify, but no one with the language to do it.

    Ok… I’ll agree that the language to describe multiplication is a human invention. We have also used other mathematical languages (factorals, summations, etc.) in order to simplify our work.

    But that’s not the issue.

    I’ll compare this to an excerpt from a book I was reading by an atheist not long ago. (Sorry, I only read part of if, so I cant give you the reference right now… if you really want it I’ll try to track it down.)

    This author was complaining because theists insisted that it took a God to write the laws of nature. (I’m not making a case for or against that here.) He scoffed at that notion and stated that it was scientists who wrote the laws of nature!

    Obviously, scientists recorded and described those physical “laws”… things like the speed of falling objects in a vacuum. But the real question is not who wrote down the descriptions of the physical phenomena, but why does the physical world function the way it does. Again, the theist was discussing *ontology*… the nature of the universe, while the atheist wanted to shift the discussion to *epistemology*, how we know and describe the nature of the universe.

    Likewise, you’re shifting the nature of the discussion by moving from the fact that multiplication exists, regardless of the language we use or do not use to describe it, to the fact that we created a language to describe what was already pre-existing. The same can be said for calculus… Newton and Leibniz, didn’t invent the concepts in calculus… they discovered them.

    >>Math is just another language we use to describe physical objects. It’s wholly dependent on physicality. Nothing to multiply or quantify . . . it’s meaningless

    Math is not dependent on physicality. If I ask you, “if you add 2 dodo birds to 2 more dodo birds, how many dodo birds do you have?”, do you have to have four physical dodo birds in your living room to give me an answer? Mathematics at its core is about abstractions… we very often use math to keep from having to manually measure physical objects.

    >>All species are different and have different capacities dictated by their chemical make up. Bacteria can communicate with each other chemically. Look up Dictyostelium discoideum, it’s an amoeba that goes from being unicellular to clumping with others of it’s kind for mutual benefit.

    “Communication” may be too strong a word here. I would think a naturalist would have to say the bacteria were responding to chemical stimuli around them. Their reaction to this chemical incites a particular reaction that causes them to feed.

    The point is, this is not a decision that they make. Morality involves a decision. If you follow the bacteria argument to its logical conclusion, you will eventually eliminate free will in favor of determinism, which not only blows morality out of the water, but also science, atheism, evolution, logic, reason, and a host of other things that I don’t think you want to deny… but again, that’s another topic.

    >>There is no proof of premise 2. It’s an empty statement. The only “proof” for it is the subjective distaste for it.

    You’re in essence saying that I am arguing from consequence. That is not the case. But while we’re discussing consequences, are you stating that:

    1. There is nothing *objectively* morally wrong with the torture and abuse of innocent children for fun?

    2. If someone decided that you were too rich, and they came at gunpoint and carted away everything you have worked for, you would say, “well, we just have a different morality” and not that you had been wronged?

    3. Do you ever apologize to anyone for anything? Why? If morality is subjective, and you were following your own morality, then why apologize for anything at all? If you say that you apologize when you violate your own moral code, then what makes the code you actually followed better or worse than the one you would rather have followed?

    I will tell you that the abuse of innocents for pleasure is completely, utterly, and objectively wrong, because an objective standard does exist, and the standard abhors such behavior. Without a standard, you are left with mere preferences, that are no better or worse than those of any other man. If you contend that they are, then identify the standard with which you compare the two. But if you provide the standard, *then your morality is no longer subjective, but objective*.

    But my contention is that in all cultures, unless you are a sociopath or a psychopath, all men know that there are things that one should do, and things that one should not do. Yet we all act in opposition to this knowledge all of the time. We know we should not be selfish, but we are. And then we try to rationalize away the dichotomy between what we know we should be, and what we are.

    We are all comparing ourselves to something. And in all cultures, this something is the same, except in minor details.

    Now you can’t look in someone’s brain and see the morality in it. This isn’t scientific in that sense. But I can look and see the evidence in front of my own eyes that what I’m saying is true. I know it is true for me personally. Stephen’s continued emphasis on the supposed approval of slavery by Christians/Jews shows that he can determine between what is right and wrong. But if you deny an objective standard, then slavery is neither “right” nor “wrong”, but a simple preference. You may prefer not to be a slave, but with no standard of goodness, you cannot say that your master is evil.

    I cannot help but believe, given the evidence before me, that the murder of innocents is objectively wrong; that it’s objectively wrong to steal another’s belongings; it’s objectively wrong to tell a lie to a court that condemns an innocent man to prison, or frees a guilty man.

    Indeed, how would we even come up with the idea of right and wrong if these two concepts did not exist in reality? I can understand evolution resulting in a concept of something being prudent or imprudent, but “rightness” has a concept of a debt being owed… of something we ought to do EVEN IF it is to our own detriment or the detriment of our society. There is no way you can use evolution, (and I’ll grant you the use of the term “goal” here) with it’s goal of survival to justify such a morality. If anything, that would be an evolutionary flaw that the stronger, those who felt no compunction, would have weeded out long before this point in human history.

    >>There is no real effect on the world if it there are no objective moral values.

    Oh, but there is! *IF* objective morality does not exist, then whose morality do we choose? Hitlers? Pol Pot’s? YOURS? Mine? Why should any one of these be better or preferred over any other? What happens when my subjective morality disagrees with yours? Was the recent murder of an American ambassador wrong, or simply unfor

    _What moral authority do you, or the state, or anyone else have to impose your morality on me?_

    ALL laws legislate morality because they say that one behavior is better or worse than another. It’s just a question of which morality we will codify. Is it then any wonder that countries who abandon objective morality end up with moral confusion in their legal system?

    If you were captured on a battlefield, would you prefer your captors to follow the morality of Mohammed or of Jesus? (And for the sake of this question, look at what these two men actually taught, not what any of their followers (so-called) have done!)

    >>You can replace objective moral values with practically anything and say that it is a valid argument because it’s claimed that god is responsible for everything.

    Precisely! 😉

    To counter, you’ll have to explain how something came from nothing, how existence came from non-existence, how vastly complex information randomly arose out of chaos…

    but that’s another discussion.

    Reply
  177. Stephen B says:

    “Can you establish a basis for the existence of objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?”

    You haven’t yet established a basis for the existence of objective morality even BY referencing God. And if you’re happy to dismiss my rapist question as illogical, then I’ll equally claim all your questions are illogical too. Either that, or admit you don’t think the rapist in the Godless universe is evil, and thus you’re admitting you don’t think rape is objectively wrong – that is to say it’s wrong in any possible situation or universe.

    “Why should any one of these be better or preferred over any other?”

    Including the one you say you get from God.

    “_What moral authority do you, or the state, or anyone else have to impose your morality on me?_”

    Same to you.

    “And for the sake of this question, look at what these two men actually taught, not what any of their followers (so-called) have done!”|

    Well there’s the rub, isn’t it? That’s two different questions you’ve asked. Who are these Christians or Muslims who are following what their gurus actually taught? If I was a black soldier in 19th Century America, I’d quite possible rather not be captured by some good old boy Southern Christians. That apart, have you read the Koran in original Arabic? If not, who are you to say what Mohammed actually taught?

    ” If anything, that would be an evolutionary flaw that the stronger, those who felt no compunction, would have weeded out long before this point in human history.”

    Not really. A tribe whose peoples all lived without what we call our ‘moral sense’ would be less successful than one that did. Our sense of fair play, of not stealing, robbing and killing each other, benefits the group as a whole. And you actually admit that you understand as much here: ” Is it then any wonder that countries who abandon objective morality end up with moral confusion in their legal system?”

    Yes, countries that do not enforce property law tend to collapse. Look at Cameroon. So this makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view.

    Reply
  178. Terry L. says:

    >>You haven’t yet established a basis for the existence of objective morality even BY referencing God.

    I’m not trying to do so. I reasoned for the existence of objective morality based on the observation of mankind, and the innate sense of “oughtness” each one of us has. You have reasoned quite passionately that rape in any conceivable universe is wrong, yielding evidence that you yourself believe in an objective morality as well.

    I simply find that atheism is inconsistent with that view, because the atheist cannot justify his belief in absolute objective morality using the tools left to his disposal. It is irrational to claim a belief in two things that are mutually exclusive. From the evidence I’ve seen, atheism and absolute morality are mutually exclusive concepts. Belief in one makes the other one illogical and irrational.

    >>Either that, or admit you don’t think the rapist in the Godless universe is evil,

    And just what is your definition of evil? I define it as the violation of an objective moral standard.

    One cannot be evil in a universe where evil does not exist, because the entire concept is meaningless.

    >>that is to say it’s wrong in any possible situation or universe.

    Non sequitur. “in any possible situation”? You are assuming an overarching moral standard that applies in any universe… but that’s cheating! You have to establish its existence from the conditions in that universe, not another.

    You see, when you postulate a new universe, you change the playing field. You can’t just go importing things from our universe into the fictional one because you want to do so. If we’re going to do that, then I’ll simply say that God exists, even in the fictional universe in which we’ve agreed that he doesn’t. In that case, yes, the rapist is evil, but what sense does that make? We’ve changed the very condition that defined the universe, so the argument is absurd.

    Your unwillingness to let go of the moral standards of our universe is excellent evidence for the truth of an objective moral standard. But if the standard for morality does not exist, then evil does not exist, and is a meaningless concept. Need proof?

    >>“_What moral authority do you, or the state, or anyone else have to impose your morality on me?_”

    >>Same to you.

    EXACTLY! You just illustrated my point. Without an objective moral standard, we’re left in moral chaos.

    In the United States, our nation is in the midst of a culture war surrounding homosexual marriage. Conservative voices say it’s wrong; liberal voices say it’s right. Who is correct? Toby, here’s another issue where absolute morality makes a huge difference in our world!

    The position that is right is the one that most closely aligns itself with the objective absolute standard. (And I’m not arguing for what that standard is at this point.) But without that standard, right and wrong are meaningless. It’s no good for the homosexual to say that the establishment has denied them their rights, because “rights” under such a system do not objectively exist. It’s no good for the conservative to say that the homosexual’s practices are immoral, because immorality does not exist.

    In such a case, what does it mean to be evil?

    In our fictional atheistic universe, what moral authority does the rapist have to rape? By what moral authority does the victim claim injustice? Their own? Then what binds the one to the other’s standard? Without a standard that exists outside of either of them, all claims to authority are equal. We’re left with nothing more than opinion. You may prefer not to be raped or murdered, but you cannot make the case that it is objectively wrong or evil.

    As I asked earlier…

    >>>>“Why should any one of these [human’s moral standards] be better or preferred over any other?”

    >>Including the one you say you get from God.

    I haven’t stated in this argument that I get the standard from God. I have stated that the standard exists, therefore there must be a God.

    >>That apart, have you read the Koran in original Arabic?
    Not in Arabic, since I don’t speak it, but I am currently reading it in English on my Kindle. I don’t subscribe to the belief that translations are insufficient. I know a little bit of Greek, but if I had to read my Bible in Greek and Hebrew, I’d be in trouble. But I do know enough Greek to know when some translations add or remove words, as I did with a young man this past weekend.

    I’m also currently reading Nietzsche, but not in the orignal German. 😉

    >>If I was a black soldier in 19th Century America, I’d quite possible rather not be captured by some good old boy Southern Christians.

    You’re attacking the follower, not the philosophy again.

    Reply
  179. Toby says:

    Again, the theist was discussing *ontology*… the nature of the universe, while the atheist wanted to shift the discussion to *epistemology*, how we know and describe the nature of the universe.

    This often comes up in these talks and it doesn’t really clarify anything. Ontology is essentially hypothesis and epistemology is evidence. The evidence provided for objective morality is the “You can’t say Hitler was wrong without it” defense.

    Math is not dependent on physicality. If I ask you, “if you add 2 dodo birds to 2 more dodo birds, how many dodo birds do you have?”, do you have to have four physical dodo birds in your living room to give me an answer?

    That’s silly. Why would you jump to that conclusion? Imagine a universe without any matter. Not one particle of anything. Or no universe at all. Aside from there not being anyone to think about these things, there is nothing to add, subtract, or multiply. Math is based on physical reality and is not transcendent.

    >>There is no real effect on the world if it there are no objective moral values.
    Oh, but there is! *IF* objective morality does not exist, then whose morality do we choose? Hitlers? Pol Pot’s? YOURS? Mine? Why should any one of these be better or preferred over any other? What happens when my subjective morality disagrees with yours? Was the recent murder of an American ambassador wrong . . . /i>

    I don’t think this is a useful argument. In fact it’s beginning to convince me that there are no objective moral values. Who’s morality do we choose now? We choose a mutually agreed upon set of rules to follow as a part of being in a community. But sometimes we do not. Sometimes we’re just born into it with no choice in the matter. If we were born in the middle east we’d likely be morally offended if we saw a woman’s ankles. Forget that, right here in the US we can find that in fundamentalist pentacostals. Is that better or worse than the way you think? It really doesn’t matter. In this country we’ve been raised on the concept of individual freedoms. Using this as our moral compass we say that those offended by bare ankles are wrong because if someone wants to show off a little ankle, then it’s their freedom. Humans have always chose their morality. History is riddled with it. The idea of objective moral values is only useful in trying to prove the existence of something that isn’t provable.

    The point is, this is not a decision that they [bacteria] make. Morality involves a decision. If you follow the bacteria argument to its logical conclusion, you will eventually eliminate free will in favor of determinism, which not only blows morality out of the water, but also science, atheism, evolution, logic, reason, and a host of other things that I don’t think you want to deny… but again, that’s another topic.

    Free will is likely another argument in which we chase our tails. I think we react to our environment. Simpler organisms such as a bacteria have less ways to react than higher organisms such as us. We can see a commercial on television for a toy that reminds us of our eighth birthday party where we got an action figure and ate a hot dog at our party and this can cause us to react twenty years later by eating a bag of potato chips because of associations of hot dogs served to us in elementary school with potato chips (something that we didn’t even think about when thinking of our party). I hesitate to say that free will is an illusion because I don’t think that’s the right way to put it. I don’t think anything is definitively determined as in determinism due to the universe being so complex that practically anything can happen. Kind of an uncertainly principle of will. We can hardly predict what the weather will be like for the week.

    >But my contention is that in all cultures, unless you are a sociopath or a psychopath, all men know that there are things that one should do, and things that one should not do. Yet we all act in opposition to this knowledge all of the time. We know we should not be selfish, but we are. And then we try to rationalize away the dichotomy between what we know we should be, and what we are.

    Does that not lead you to believe that the source of our morality is in our heads not in the ether? Sociopaths and psychopaths often have genetic differences (along with environmental factors) that cause them to be what they are. If they don’t “know” these things then perhaps these are a part of an evolved system of survival that they failed to receive in their DNA giftbag.

    Reply
  180. Stephen B says:

    “You have reasoned quite passionately that rape in any conceivable universe is wrong”

    I’ve done nothing of the sort. I pointed out that it’s inconsistent for YOU to deny that it’s wrong in every conceivable universe, whilst also claiming that objective morality exists.

    Toby is right about free will. It’s a red herring here, and just as much a problem for the theist, as I already pointed out. If God is omniscient then he knows what he’s going to do next Thursday. Does that mean that when Thursday comes along he can’t do anything different?

    “I have stated that the standard exists, therefore there must be a God.”

    That’s a non sequitur. Who says claim two follows from claim one?

    “I don’t subscribe to the belief that translations are insufficient.”

    According to Islam they ARE insufficient.

    “By what moral authority does the victim claim injustice? Their own? ”

    Don’t you claim God’s moral authority comes from himself?

    “It’s no good for the homosexual to say that the establishment has denied them their rights, because “rights” under such a system do not objectively exist. ”

    Nonsense. America has a Constitution. Certainly we can argue about whether gay marriage is unconstitutional or not, based on our shared value that we abide by the Constitution.

    “You are assuming an overarching moral standard that applies in any universe… but that’s cheating! ”

    No, I’m asking you if you believe your own so-called ‘objective morality’ applies in any universe. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t objective, it’s subjective by definition.

    Reply
  181. Terry L. says:

    >>Don’t you claim God’s moral authority comes from himself?

    Yes. Just as I claim that an inch is an inch. But the question I asked was from the atheist’s point of view. To whom do you appeal?

    >>According to Islam they ARE insufficient.
    True, but we have yet to establish that Islam, Allah, and Mohammed are the standard of morality and whether or not they are trustworthy. And their insistence on the original Arabic is totally irrelevant to the moral argument for the existence of God. I have other reasons for rejecting Islam, and this claim that they make.

    >>“I have stated that the standard exists, therefore there must be a God.”
    That’s a non sequitur. Who says claim two follows from claim one?

    I’ve already been through why the source of an absolute morality must be a person, must be perfectly consistent, and cannot be just a mortal man.

    >>If God is omniscient then he knows what he’s going to do next Thursday. Does that mean that when Thursday comes along he can’t do anything different?

    A God capable of creating time, space and matter must necessarily be independent of all three. I’ve spent a lot of hours contemplating exactly what that means, and I’ll admit, it makes my head hurt, especially when it comes to time. I can almost comprehend being outside of space and matter, but time is nearly incomprehensible.

    >>“You have reasoned quite passionately that rape in any conceivable universe is wrong”
    I’ve done nothing of the sort.

    Point taken. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I’ve made my own position pretty clear on these points, but I’m still not certain where you stand. So I’ll just ask you. (Toby, feel free to answer as well.) You are welcome to point out that a question is incoherent given your worldview; just explain why it is incoherent.

    In *our* universe…

    1. Does absolute morality exist? Is there *anything* that is wrong or evil regardless of whether a single person believes in it or not?

    2. How do you define evil? Is it real?

    3. What is a good man? How do we know he is good?

    >>Nonsense. America has a Constitution.

    As much as I revere our Constitution, it is not an absolute moral standard, or even an absolute standard. It does not apply to non-citizens except when they desire to become a citizen. It is malleable, although the founders wisely made it very difficult to change. Therefore, it is not universal, and it is not eternal.

    I don’t want to get into a discussion on gay marriage here, because that’s yet another rabbit hole. The pertinent issue is that the Constitution is *a* standard, but it is not *the* standard.

    >>No, I’m asking you if you believe your own so-called ‘objective morality’ applies in any universe. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t objective, it’s subjective by definition.

    Sorry, but you’re wrong. We can discuss the Constitutionality or non-Constitutionality of a position because we have a Constitution by which we can evaluate that position. If there were no Constitution, Constitutionality and non-Constitutionality cease to exist as meaningful terms.

    Likewise, without an objective moral standard, morality and immorality cease to exist as meaningful terms.

    You are postulating “any universe”, including those with no objective moral standard. In such a universe, it is silly to think that morality of any sort should exist. Indeed, it does NOT exist, by definition!

    Reply
  182. Terry L. says:

    >>I don’t want to get into a discussion on gay marriage here,

    This makes no sense in context above. It refers to a point I made and then removed for the very reason I stated here… then I forgot to remove the reference.

    Reply
  183. Terry L. says:

    >>Ontology is essentially hypothesis and epistemology is evidence. The evidence provided for objective morality is the “You can’t say Hitler was wrong without it” defense.

    Incorrect, by any measure. Ontology is the thing itself. Epistemology refers to knowledge of the thing. Your knowlege of your mother is not your mother. I don’t know your mother, but I have no doubt that she exists! Similarly, we’re not discussing how or whether we can know morality, but whether objective morality actually exists, and by extension, whether God exists.

    Just as I’ve never met a human without a mother, I’ve never seen a subjective moral law (our Constitution for example) that exists without a lawgiver. I find no reason for objective moral laws to exist without an objective moral lawgiver.

    >>Imagine a universe without any matter. Not one particle of anything. Or no universe at all. Aside from there not being anyone to think about these things, there is nothing to add, subtract, or multiply. Math is based on physical reality and is not transcendent.

    Then how can you say, “Not *ONE* particle of anything”?

    If exactly one particle existed, could you imagine two? Whatever the actual number of subatomic particles in our own universe is (call it n) can you imagine n + 1?

    >>In fact it’s beginning to convince me that there are no objective moral values.

    Thank you for being honest! This position is at least consistent with your professed atheism. However, you’re going to have to battle the evidence of your own senses every day to attempt to hold this belief.

    I’m a firm believer that our behavior shows what we *truly* believe, even more so than our words. I could be wrong, but it’s been my experience that this is true. I’m willing to bet that you don’t live like you believe this, even in trivial decisions that you make day to day.

    For if there are no *objective* moral values, then *subjective* moral values have no authority. As I asked earlier, why should one be obligated to follow the subjective morality of another?

    Consider once again the mythical world with two persons and no God that Stephen and I discussed above. This time though, the aggressor KILLS the victim. There is no one left to claim that his action was improper.

    Toby stated once that “Survival of a group and an individual are equally important…”. If these two individuals are male and female, and the female will have nothing to do with the male, is it morally wrong for the male to rape her in an attempt to propagate the species?

    Only with God is there an observer who can say with clarity and definition what is the correct behavior. The Nazi philosophy was internally coherent, and could not be judged as wrong by its own standards. To say it was morally deficient requires an objective standard.

    [This is somewhat of a sideline, but I want to address it briefly.]

    >>I hesitate to say that free will is an illusion because I don’t think that’s the right way to put it.

    So you “choose” to hesitate? You don’t “think”? 😉

    Indeed, on determinism, thought is an illusion.

    >>I don’t think anything is definitively determined as in determinism due to the universe being so complex that practically anything can happen. Kind of an uncertainly principle of will. We can hardly predict what the weather will be like for the week.

    Our ability or inability to predict something has no bearing on whether it is determined.

    Consider a Pachinko game. Every movement in that game is controlled by the laws of physics. No computer imaginable in the next 50 years could accurately predict the outcome of a game, but it is still deterministic. Complexity doesn’t affect determinism.

    If our brain is all there is, and is only materialistic, then our thoughts and lives are determined by the molecules bouncing around in our brain just as the pachinko game is determined by physics.

    But in such a case, why would I trust any conclusions arrived at by such a brain, when all of its output was nothing more than the result of random atoms bouncing around? Darwin himself recognized this, and wondered why he should trust the musings of an advanced primate.

    If you can’t help but to think what you think,then why should reason and logic even be possible? You can’t honestly say you think determinism is reasonable, because if determinism is true, then you have no choice but to believe in it, and your musings are meaningless.

    The whole scenario seems totally outlandish to me, but many atheistic philosophers (and a surprising number of Christians) have held this view to be “true”, whatever that would mean to a determined mind.

    You claim not to fully believe in determinism, and I agree that it is not a logically tenable position. But, can you explain on atheistic materialism how anything other than determinism could exist?

    [End Sideline]

    >>Does that not lead you to believe that the source of our morality is in our heads not in the ether? Sociopaths and psychopaths often have genetic differences (along with environmental factors) that cause them to be what they are.

    I never said morality was ‘in the ether’. The existence of a moral standard does not imply a lack of mental illnesses among humans. But in fact, with no objective standard, why would their behavior matter? Such a one could be said to be working out his own survival, which you have stated is of equal importance to that of the community.

    >>If they don’t “know” these things then perhaps these are a part of an evolved system of survival that they failed to receive in their DNA giftbag.

    So on atheism, doing what is best for the community, these people should be subject to death or sterilization so that they don’t propagate this deficiency to the next generation, right? With no God, I can imagine all sorts of atrocities that could be committed in the pursuit of survival, and none of them can be called immoral. Killing a human is not so different under such circumstances than a lion killing a zebra for lunch.

    Yes, this is a bit of an argument from consequence, but I’m not intending this a a proof. What I’m interested in is this: do you agree that this statement is coherent given atheism, and do you honestly believe that this view reflects reality?

    Reply
  184. Stephen B says:

    “Yes. Just as I claim that an inch is an inch”

    Cool, so what’s stopping anyone else ‘granting themselves the authority’? I’m sure Hitler was good by his own authority.

    We don’t need to see the constitution as an objectively perfect standard, we just have to agree that we want to abide by it. Likewise we can debate and evaluate lots of subjective standards, as long as we agree on a criteria. You and I can come up with a subjective criteria for what makes a decent film, then debate various movie’s crontrasting merits. It’s simply not true that these conversations are unintelligible or meaningless. They would have meaning to us. You make a false dichotomy where things are either objective or meaningless.

    “if there were no constitution…”
    Right, but there is one, so it’s a but pointless to talk about what would be if there weren’t one. People can debate the rights and perceived wrongs of gay marriage or inter-racial marriage or whatever based on base things we agree on, whether those base agreements are ‘objective’ or not.

    Any claims of objective moral values being derived from God fall foul of Euthyphro’s Dilemma.

    If you died and found the Christian God is not the real one, and was instead confronted by a God who told you rape and torture were moral, would you therefore conclude they were moral?

    Reply
  185. Toby says:

    “Similarly, we’re not discussing how or whether we can know morality, but whether objective morality actually exists, and by extension, whether God exists.”

    True. And this argument is simply saying that both exist. With evidence. #2: Objective moral values and duties do exist. It’s bald, baseless assertion.

    “Then how can you say, “Not *ONE* particle of anything”?”

    I don’t know what to tell you. If you can’t imagine a universe (or no universe at all) where there is nothing and that mathematics wouldn’t exist there either because for mathematics to exist there must be both matter and physical intelligent minds to describe it, then I don’t know what else to say.

    “However, you’re going to have to battle the evidence of your own senses every day to attempt to hold this belief. I’m a firm believer that our behavior shows what we *truly* believe, even more so than our words. I could be wrong, but it’s been my experience that this is true. I’m willing to bet that you don’t live like you believe this, even in trivial decisions that you make day to day.”

    I don’t see how this is a knock down argument. As an individual that is part of a collective, and having been raised by individuals that belong to that collective and followed its mutually agreed upon rules—rules which we didn’t choose, but were set upon parchment by privileged, elite men in the late 1700’s—I don’t see how you can say this. Our behavior is largely dependent on our up bringing and genetic disposition and what knowledge we’ve been exposed to.

    “As I asked earlier, why should one be obligated to follow the subjective morality of another?”

    That depends on a lot of calculus. The individuals give the group power, but the group likewise gives the individual power. Here in the US we like to say we have individual freedom. We’re a group giving ourselves individual freedom, but we put limitations on these freedoms for the sake of the group as well. Only we have the power to decide what is right and wrong and I find that challenge thrilling.

    “If these two individuals are male and female, and the female will have nothing to do with the male, is it morally wrong for the male to rape her in an attempt to propagate the species?”

    I think this is a 24 situation—you know, that old TV show where the world hangs in the balance because of a highly unlikely situation. In situations like this I think even you would likely begin to weigh the benefits of things you wouldn’t normally do. Take torture for example. In a 24 situation where the lives of a million people are on the line you might consider taking a baseball bat to the legs of a bomber until they’re a grotesque, hamburgery mess if you think that will get information out of him/her to disarm a bomb. You have to begin weighing cost and benefit and, as you say in another post, consider intention. If a girl rapes a guy because she likes it is a lot different from a girl raping a guy because the existence of the human race hangs in the balance.

    “The Nazi philosophy was internally coherent, and could not be judged as wrong by its own standards. To say it was morally deficient requires an objective standard.”

    The Nazi philosophy was wrong because it was based on faulty reasoning and lies. There is no such thing as a superior race, and therefore the atrocities committed under Hitler were wrong based the crazy BS they believed.

    More another time. I have to pay attention to Johnny Walker now. Mmm.

    Reply
  186. Terry L. says:

    >>Cool, so what’s stopping anyone else ‘granting themselves the authority’? I’m sure Hitler was good by his own authority.

    I’m sure he was, just as slaveowners justify their supposed “owning” of another human. The question is, are they correct? Was Hitler a good man, or a monster? Is slavery evil, or is it an alternative social model that some people (namely, the slaves) do not enjoy?

    Was it a moral improvement, or just a change when the Nazi regime toppled? Was it moral improvement when the United States finally ended slavery, or did we just move on to the next relative morality?

    Or is morality nothing more than a social convention? Is a rapist morally wrong, or is he guilty of something no worse than passing gas at the dinner table?

    >>We don’t need to see the constitution as an objectively perfect standard, we just have to agree that we want to abide by it.

    True… for issues of Constitutionality. We’re not discussing that here, we are discussing morality. Which standard would you like to use?

    >>>>“if there were no constitution…”
    >>Right, but there is one, so it’s a but pointless to talk about what would be if there weren’t one.

    So is this valid?

    >>“if there were no moral standard…”
    >>Right, but there is one, so it’s a bit pointless to talk about what would be if there weren’t one.

    We see a moral standard demonstrated by billions of people. Their standards agree on nearly every major point. But at no time in history did the nations of the world gather together in a Morality Convention and agree on a document beginning, “We the peoples of Earth, in order to form a more perfect morality…”.

    I contend that the evidence that morality exists is greater than the evidence that it does not.

    You might say, “yes, we have a standard but it’s a subjective standard”… but any subjective standard gains its authority from the absolute standard.

    What happens when I decide to no longer follow our “agreed upon” moral standard? Is it better to keep one’s word than not? You see, with no standard, you can’t even say that people should follow a morality based on evolution, social conventions or other subjective criteria. It’s completely senseless to speak of what one ought or ought not to do.

    >>People can debate the rights and perceived wrongs of gay marriage or inter-racial marriage or whatever based on base things we agree on, whether those base agreements are ‘objective’ or not.

    So what are these “base things”? I’m not certain at all what you mean by that…

    Toby:

    >>If you can’t imagine a universe (or no universe at all) where there is nothing and that mathematics wouldn’t exist there either because for mathematics to exist there must be both matter and physical intelligent minds to describe it, then I don’t know what else to say.

    What you have described is nothing. Aristotle said that, “Nothing is what rocks dream about!” It’s about as hard to describe as infinity. But I don’t need nothing… I can (and did) use our own universe.

    1. Let x = the number of subatomic particles in our universe.
    2. Let y = x + 1.

    How is y rooted in a physical reality?

    When you think of a boa constrictor, there is no snake curling around your brain stem. You don’t need the physical object.

    >>I don’t see how this is a knock down argument. As an individual that is part of a collective, and having been raised by individuals that belong to that collective and followed its mutually agreed upon rules—rules which we didn’t choose, but were set upon parchment by privileged, elite men in the late 1700’s—I don’t see how you can say this. Our behavior is largely dependent on our up bringing and genetic disposition and what knowledge we’ve been exposed to.

    Genetic fallacy. If you had been born at another time and place, you might have believed the world to be flat. That doesn’t change the reality.

    >> We’re a group giving ourselves individual freedom, but we put limitations on these freedoms for the sake of the group as well. Only we have the power to decide what is right and wrong and I find that challenge thrilling.

    Then what does it mean to be “right” or “wrong”? Who is the “we” to whom you refer? You’re back to your own personal preference. If you prefer to break a promise to your child, then you’re saying that you’ve done right?

    You have yet to establish why the individual should defer to the group? Is a gang-rape any less wrong than a single rapist?

    >>The Nazi philosophy was wrong because it was based on faulty reasoning and lies. There is no such thing as a superior race, and therefore the atrocities committed under Hitler were wrong based the crazy BS they believed.

    Wait a minute… you’re changing your definitions!

    Is it…

    1) It’s morally wrong to base behavior on bad reasoning. (Your statement re: the Nazis, above)
    2) Only we have the power to decide what is right and wrong
    3) We choose a mutually agreed upon set of rules to follow as a part of being in a community.
    4) [L]ife’s function is to survive, then we can use that to extract the rightness and wrongness of actions

    You’ve given four different explanations of what determines right and wrong. Did you meet Mr. Walker a little early! 😉

    How do you choose when these come into conflict? If your community bases its agreed upon set of rules on bad reasoning, but you have to follow it or be put to death (to survive), how do you choose? Are you not right back to personal preferences again? In which case, right and wrong do not objectively exist.

    I hope you gentlemen have a great week next week. I’ll be on vacation, and probably won’t get to post. I hope the extended absence doesn’t lessen your interest in the conversation.

    Gotta run!

    Reply
  187. Stephen B says:

    “The question is, are they correct? Was Hitler a good man, or a monster?”

    By his own reckoning perhaps not. By your God’s reckoning, I’m sure God is a groovy guy too. Sure, they’re both fine by their own standards. You can ask me if either is correct or really a monster, but you’re telling me I can only judge God’s character by his own standards. You disagree with slavery, but your God plainly condones it in the bible. So wherever you get your own morality from, it seems it’s not from your God, or at least not your bible.

    What’s the ‘base things’? If you disagree with someone about something, work backwards with them till you find a point of agreement, then work forward from there. In the case of gay marriage, I already established the base from which Americans at least can work from – the constitution from which US law is derived, ultimately.

    Reply
  188. Terry L. says:

    >>You can ask me if either is correct or really a monster, but you’re telling me I can only judge God’s character by his own standards.

    Ok… follow me here.

    By what standard do you judge a meter? Call that standard X.

    Now… by what standard do you judge X?

    That question is meaningless. The standard is that by which everything else is judged and measured. It is not subject to measurement itself.

    Now again, I’m not arguing from God to the standard, I’m arguing from the standard to God. In other words, I’m claiming that the existence of the standard implies the existence of God, not that the existence of God implies the existence of the standard.

    If you insist on subjecting the standard to judgement, then the standard is no longer an objective standard, as it it is subjective to the higher standard. But by what do you judge that standard? You either must admit that a supreme standard exists by which all others are judged, or you devolve into pure relativism… which is the point made in the moral argument.

    You see, I believe we have very good reasons to believe that the torture of babies for fun is objectively wrong. When someone believes otherwise, most societies deem it appropriate to lock them away! Now this doesn’t in and of itself doesn’t prove objective morality.

    Now if you are looking for 100% proof, then you will be sadly disappointed, for it cannot be given, any more than I can be 100% certain that you exist! I’m 99.999999….% certain that you do, but there is that slim chance that a computer malfunction has generated all of your messages on this board.

    You can argue that I can look at the content of the messages… how you’ve responded to (a few) of my questions… how you’ve tried to counter my arguments… but isn’t it the atheist that dismisses intelligent design?

    So the question becomes, in the absence of 100% certainty, to what does the evidence point? What is the best explanation for what we as humans perceive to be reality?

    Some try to say that they don’t believe in an objective moral reality, but then they can’t get away from that nagging feeling inside when they know they’ve done wrong. Any basic psychology textbook will confirm this. You can try to dismiss it, but any argument you can present to disprove moral realities can also be presented to ‘disprove’ the reality of the physical world.

    Absent compelling evidence to believe that our physical senses or our moral senses have been tricked into believing an illusion, I see no reason to disbelieve my senses.

    Furthermore, if even ONE moral law exists, say, against rape, murder, torture, etc., then that is sufficient for the purposes of the Moral Argument. It still requires a standard, and the only explanation for a standard is a (G/g)od.

    So can you honestly say that you believe in your heart of hearts that:

    * The torture of babies for fun is a valid lifestyle choice?
    * If you were a Jew in Nazi Germany, what was happening to your friends and family was no worse than wearing plaids and stripes together?
    * Slavery is just an alternative economic system with no moral implications?

    Apparently, you don’t agree with the last statement, because you keep bringing this up…

    >>You disagree with slavery, but your God plainly condones it in the bible.

    And once again, this is irrelevant to the argument. The Moral Argument does not identify any particular (G/g)od… it only reasons that a (G/g)od must exist. It does identify certain characteristics that must be true of this being.

    And for the record, you have yet to prove the assertion that God condoned the actions you speak of.

    >>What’s the ‘base things’? If you disagree with someone about something, work backwards with them till you find a point of agreement, then work forward from there

    And if you find no point of agreement? How do you know this supposed point of agreement is rooted in reality and truth?

    What if your point of agreement says that it’s OK to intimidate, beat, and murder people that don’t vote like you? Is that an acceptable “base thing”? If not, by what standard are you judging it?

    If you do find a point of agreement, and “work forward from there”, what moral standard says that you should feel duty-bound to honor any agreement you arrive at from these starting points?

    Reply
  189. Terry L. says:

    Gentlemen:

    We’ve chased rabbits and red herrings all around the field. Yet the question still remains unanswered. I’ve asked repeatedly how an atheistic viewpoint can possibly lead to objective morality, and so far the answers have been less than convincing.

    We’ve considered whether morality is the product of social forces developed over the course of human history. However, this leads only to a subjective, rather than an objective standard.

    We’ve discussed whether morality is simply what best contributes to the survival of the individual or the group. However, we consider one willing to sacrifice their lives for another to be a better, more “human” man than the one who saves himself at the expense of another. Preference to the needs of the group at the expense of the individual leads to terror, atrocities, and crimes against humanity as exemplified in Nazi Germany.

    Maybe, as was suggested, we define our own morality. We are the arbiters of what “ought” to be? But then, why would anyone be obligated to accept the morality of another? Where only subjective morality exists, there is, in truth, no morality at all!

    So perhaps morality is an illusion, and doesn’t really exist at all, as Toby has surmised. But the evidence of our own senses denies this. We all feel the obligations of morality. The evidence of billions of humans all with a similar sense of justice, fairness, compassion, etc. provides strong testimony to the reality of moral categories. It is a cold human indeed who can look at the history of mankind and say that evil does not exist! Many atheists, including David Hume, Christopher Hitchens, and others, have actually tried to use the existence of evil to disprove God’s existence. But even brilliant men when pressed to justify the existence of moral law without the moral lawgiver have been reduced to a frustrated, “because [the act in question] is just wrong!”

    Indeed, the very concept of morality demands a standard… something against which actions and attitudes may be judged to be correct or incorrect. Where would our concepts of “right” and “wrong”, “good”, and “evil” come from, if there is not an objective standard? These are inappropriate words to describe the quality of being more or less advantageous. In fact, with no objective standard, they become empty and meaningless concepts! And again, because this standard deals with what “ought” to be, the lawgiver must be a person, because only intelligent beings concern themselves with right behavior.

    So, paragraphs two and three above bolster the first premise:

    Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

    The fourth and fifth paragraphs address premise two:

    Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.

    The logical conclusion to draw from this then is:

    Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

    Haven’t you cried out for justice before? Even something as trivial as a Friday night high school football game illicits high emotions when a team loses due to a blatantly bad call by an official. You hear all sorts of complaints, threats, appeals to the standard (the rule book)? But these appeals are meaningless without a higher standard which states that the official should deal with the teams fairly and impartially. Without this objective standard, you have no right to complain! Perhaps the referee favored the other team… why should it be wrong for him to ignore the rulebook?

    Why should your child’s teacher grade his papers based on his work? Is it morally acceptable for a teacher to give your child a failing grade because of a personal dislike for you?

    So let me ask a few questions directly. I’m genuinely interested in your answers… I’m not just asking to “score points”. Theses are not intended to be rhetorical:

    A. Do you find anything morally wrong with these two scenarios?

    A1. If not,
    A1a. then is there anything you would claim to be wrong?
    A1b. how do you explain our concepts of “good” and “evil”?

    B1. If so,
    B1a. then can you establish a basis for the existence of this objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?
    B1b. how do you reconcile this with your professed belief in atheism?

    B. Is it important to you that your philosophy be true and accurately reflect reality?

    C. If you found that the evidence did point to the existence of God, would you become a theist? (Not specifically a Christian… just a theist.)

    Reply
  190. Stephen B says:

    “By what standard do you judge a meter? Call that standard X.
    Now… by what standard do you judge X?”

    Problem here for you is that the original standard X for a meter is arbitrary – the only important thing is that we stick to it. If X had originally been 50cm shorter or longer then it wouldn’t have mattered – the only important thing is that we all have the same standard. We could have picked ANY length, more or less.

    Thus your analogy for God breaks down. You’re not claiming that God’s standard is arbitrary. You’re not claiming that the particular rules aren’t important per se, that the only important thing is that there’s only one set of unchanging rules. You’re saying that the rules are objectively perfect.

    “You see, I believe we have very good reasons to believe that the torture of babies for fun is objectively wrong.”

    But you also believe that if God condoned baby torture then it would NOT be objectively wrong. Look, I’d understand if you said that God agreed with an existing moral law that baby torture is wrong, that’s it’s just wrong regardless even whether a God thought it was wrong or not. But that’s not what you’re arguing. You’re arguing that it’s only wrong BECAUSE of God.

    “Now if you are looking for 100% proof, then you will be sadly disappointed”

    No, I’m just looking for evidence. Forget proof, just some evidence would be great. So far I see none.

    “And once again, this is irrelevant to the argument.”

    Sorry, it’s very relevant. You’re arguing from the standard to God, right? You’re saying we can look at baby torture, figure it’s wrong, and therefore figure there has to be a God. You’re asking me to ‘look at my feelings’ about certain acts. Well when I ‘look at my feelings’ I’m horrified by the slavery condoned in the bible. And you admit that you’re against slavery too. So we have a problem there.

    “you have yet to prove the assertion that God condoned the actions you speak of.”

    Oops for you, “He” left the evidence in a certain book, and oops for you again it’s a very well known and much printed book. Try looking in part I.

    “And if you find no point of agreement?”

    Then there’s no room for discussion. That goes whether there’s a God or not, or whether you both believe in a God or not.

    Reply
  191. Terry L. says:

    >>Problem here for you is that the original standard X for a meter is arbitrary – the only important thing is that we stick to it

    That doesn’t change the existence of the standard… which is what I was postulating. What the standard SAYS is not in question… only that the standard exists.

    You are correct that a meter could be a half-mile long, and still be called a meter. I’ve never claimed that any man-made standard was anything less than arbitrary. That is also not in question.

    The issue is that you keep wanting to judge the standards. For example…

    >>Look, I’d understand if you said that God agreed with an existing moral law that baby torture is wrong, that’s it’s just wrong

    But where would such a law come from? Because morality deals with what “ought” to be, then it must come from a personality that cares about what ought to be. This lawgiver you postulate above God would then be the true God.

    >>But you also believe that if God condoned baby torture then it would NOT be objectively wrong.

    Well.. not exactly. God’s moral laws flow out of his nature. A thing isn’t good because God commands or approves of it. A thing is good because its nature aligns with God’s nature.

    In other words, God doesn’t make up moral laws arbitrarily. Because it is not in God’s nature to harm others for personal pleasure, all that do so are in violation of the moral law.

    >>You’re arguing that it’s only wrong BECAUSE of God.

    And you would say it’s wrong… why? Or would you say that it’s wrong?

    >>Oops for you, “He” left the evidence in a certain book, and oops for you again it’s a very well known and much printed book. Try looking in part I.

    You’re referring to a book that’s often misquoted by its critics, and unfortunately, often by those who claim to follow it. If it’s there, as you claim, cite chapter and verse so that I can examine the context of the incident you’re questioning.

    If I say that “atheists say x” about something, I’m going to at least give you a name of someone who has held that belief unless the position obviously flows out of the basic beliefs of atheism, and you would be right to call me out on anything less. You have cast aspersions on the character of God without providing evidence for such a claim. I think I have the right to ask where you’re getting your evidence, and by what moral standard you are judging the God of scripture.

    >>Then there’s no room for discussion. That goes whether there’s a God or not, or whether you both believe in a God or not.

    With one VERY big difference… if your position is correct, then neither of you are either “right” or “wrong”. If my position is correct, then both of you may be wrong, but one of you may very well be right. There exists a standard by which you may (and will) be judged.

    >>No, I’m just looking for evidence. Forget proof, just some evidence would be great. So far I see none.

    So are you saying that if you found evidence that pointed to the existence of God, that you would become a theist? Not necessarily a Christian, but a Theist?

    Reply
  192. Stephen B says:

    “But where would such a law come from? ”

    If it comes from any being – deity or otherwise – then it is subjective. The laws of logic don’t really ‘come from’ anywhere, do they? They just are. I don’t know if ‘torturing babies is wrong’ is similar to that (possibly not), but as soon as you postulate that it is so due to a being, then it stops being an objective fact. It becomes like us arbitrarily declaring a piece of metal to be the standard for a metre – it could have been something else.

    “A thing is good because its nature aligns with God’s nature.”

    So if torturing babies aligned with God’s nature, you’d be fine with torturing babies? If a new scroll got found tomorrow, a missing bible page that made this clear, you’d be fine with baby torture.

    Re slavery in the bible, are you really going to argue that it’s not condoned? There are many rules listed for slave ownership, how is this not condoning? There are verses explaining when the children of your slaves also become your slaves. Simple question: is there any situation where you think it is moral for a man’s children to automatically become the property of another man?

    “That doesn’t change the existence of the standard”

    Regardless, it shows the flaw in the analogy. The existence of the standard you claim exists says nothing about anything objective it may be based on.

    Reply
  193. Terry L. says:

    >but as soon as you postulate that it is so due to a being, then it stops being an objective fact.

    Non sequitor. I see no reason that this is necessarily true for all beings. If God is an infinite, changeless, perfectly consistent being, then your statement falls apart.

    The refutation is also baseless because it attacks arguing from God to morality, not from morality to God. I’m not postulating God first, I’m saying that God is a necessary being given the existence of morality.

    >>If a new scroll got found tomorrow, a missing bible page that made this clear, you’d be fine with baby torture.

    If you had a document written 30 years after the time of Julius Caesar that described him consistently in the same way, and then found a previously unknown document just last week that refuted the earlier document, which would you think would be the most accurate?

    No, I would not be find with the torture of babies in this case, because I have better evidence for the nature of God than this mythical document. The standard of authenticity required for me to accept such a document would be astronomically high.

    >>are you really going to argue that it’s not condoned?

    I’m arguing that you have produced no evidence. Atheists have been using this argument for years, many times not truly understanding what the Bible says. Often, they are taking someone else’s word that the Bible teaches these things. Other times, things are taken out of context, and furthermore, out of the context of that time period. You keep saying, “the Bible says this”, but you have yet to offer one verse to back up your claim.

    >>Regardless, it shows the flaw in the analogy.

    Straw-man argument. It shows the flaw in the analogy if the analogy were used to prove a point that I was not attempting to prove with it. Analogous concepts will by definition not be identical in every point; otherwise the analogy is meaningless. If I use an analogy to prove x, you can’t refute the analogy by saying that it does not prove y.

    >>The existence of the standard you claim exists says nothing about anything objective it may be based on.

    Oh, but it does!

    Matter without personality does not care one whit for what ought to be. The existence of a moral standard therefore implies a personality behind that standard.

    To be an objective standard, it must be changeless, otherwise (as you have agreed) it is a subjective standard. I’ve shown how a subjective moral standard is really no standard at all. Therefore for the standard to exist, the personality behind it must be changeless and perfectly consistent within himself.

    I’d love to continue, but I’m late. Gotta run!

    Regards!

    Reply
  194. Stephen B says:

    “I’m not postulating God first, I’m saying that God is a necessary being given the existence of morality.”

    You’ve not demonstrated morality as an objective thing. You’ve just argued that humans reach general agreement on acts like baby torture, for the most part. That isn’t something that requires the supernatural to explain.

    Re slavery, you are either being disingenuous or you’re pretty ignorant of the bible. I specifically referred to the bible talking about the children of slaves becoming slaves. I asked you a simple yes or no question, which you have tellingly avoided. Here’s a verse for you: .Exodus 21:2-6 NLT
    “If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.”

    So again, simple question: is there any situation where you think it is moral for a man’s children to automatically become the property of another man?

    You also dodge my torture question – if God himself appeared before you and said ‘oh, baby torture is fine now, positively encouraged’, would you go out and torture a baby? And I’m not convinced by a ‘God wouldn’t do that’ reply. You should know passages in the bible show God instructing people to slaughter babies, even in utero.

    Take your time, but answer the questions.

    Reply
  195. Terry L. says:

    >> That isn’t something that requires the supernatural to explain.

    So explain it. I’ve asked you to do so from an atheistic perspective repeatedly, and you have yet to answer.

    >> I asked you a simple yes or no question, which you have tellingly avoided.

    And I’ll be happy to find all of my questions to you that you haven’t answered, which are directly related to the topic at hand, namely, the Moral Argument. You can start with the ones at the end of my post dated October 16th, 2012 at 12:08 am.

    >>Re slavery, you are either being disingenuous or you’re pretty ignorant of the bible.

    You made the allegations. It’s not my responsibility to make your arguments for you. If you’re going to say something, back it up! For instance…

    >>And I’m not convinced by a ‘God wouldn’t do that’ reply

    So you’re not convinced that a foot = 12 inches? When I claim that the objective moral standard is my God, then by definition, that God cannot do an immoral act.

    If I were arguing from God to morality, then I could understand how you could be unconvinced. But to be unconvinced when I argue from the standard to God is simply illogical. I’m *starting* at the standard for ultimate Good.

    >>You should know passages in the bible show God instructing people to slaughter babies, even in utero.

    What “I” should know is irrelevant. You’re making the statement, it’s your responsibility to provide the reference. Otherwise, why should I assume that *you * know what your talking about?

    Again, I’m indulging this briefly as a side issue, but it is not central to the main argument, and I will not in this forum veer far from discussion of the moral argument to focus exclusively on something which does not impact that argument in the least.

    Every time I’ve referred to Christianity in relation to the Moral Argument, I’ve pointed out that the argument does not directly point exclusively to the Christian God. The arguments for Christianity build on the Moral Argument for God, not vise-versa.

    >>You also dodge my torture question – if God himself appeared…

    It’s not a dodge… the question is unanswerable. Here’s why:

    Given: x = false
    Then for: if (x) then y, y becomes undefined. It has no value.

    It’s like saying, “If tomorrow you grow to be 90 feet tall, then I will give you $1,000,000.” It just doesn’t matter what comes after the “then”, because it’s not going to happen.

    I can say this:

    IF action X is in accordance with the nature of God and
    IF God asked me to do action X
    THEN I would hope that I would do so.

    No Christian can say that he/she is perfect. We all disobey our Lord’s commands. So for me to say “I would” do x is the height of presumption.

    And note that you cannot plug in ANY action into X. There are limits to what a perfectly consistent being would ask from others… otherwise the being could not be perfectly consistent.

    >>Take your time, but answer the questions.

    I’m not done yet… 😉

    Reply
  196. Terry L. says:

    Whoop! Late edit messed up the post!

    If you’re going to say something, back it up! For instance…

    should have been directly before

    >>You should know passages in the bible show God instructing people to slaughter babies, even in utero.

    Reply
  197. Terry L. says:

    >> You’ve not demonstrated morality as an objective thing.

    I have demonstrated that subjective morality is equal to no morality. If morality exists at all, it must be objective.

    You haven’t even demonstrated that reason on atheism as an objective thing!

    Think about it… what rational reason can you give for a bunch of chemicals bouncing around at random billions of years ago becoming a brain capable of sending a man to the moon? Time + matter + chance doesn’t cut it… we haven’t had that much time, even at 14 billion years!

    Also, the atheist has to start with nothing but matter (and I won’t even ask you now where the matter came from). If you don’t admit there is anything beyond the physical atoms, then our mind is nothing more than our brains. But that means that our thoughts are nothing more than physical and chemical reactions. Not actions… reactions.

    But what is an “intelligent chemical reaction”? Reactions don’t make choices… they simply react.

    You might say, well, it developed over time. OK, so WHAT could possibly have happened by blind chance to move us from mere reaction to reason, intelligence, choice, love, morality, science; all of it would be nothing more than an illusion. You can’t even say with certainty, or even a high probability, that you are not the only man in the universe, because why should you trust a brain that was simply reacting to its surroundings?? How does something as chaotic as billiard balls careening around the table produce reason? Why should they produce ordered thought?

    So I have as much evidence to prove morality really exists, and therefore must be objective, as you have to prove that you’re not a just a brain in a vat of liquid like something out of the Matrix.

    If you can believe that all of this just happened, then you have more faith in blind chance than I have in God!

    Our senses tell us that this just isn’t true. You feel, I’m sure, that you’re NOT just a brain hooked up to a computer. You feel you have a choice of what to eat for breakfast, what to wear. You feel that you can make intelligent choices between different ideas based on the evidence, and I’m quite certain that you believe that certain actions are truly immoral. But on atheism, what gives you the ability to be more than the physical, and to override this chemical and electrical reaction going on in your brain?

    If one cannot justify reason, then all the arguments in the world are meaningless. Your arguments fall apart just as mine do.

    Now to switch gears slightly…

    If you say that evil, whether natural evil like earthquakes, tornadoes, etc., or moral evil like rape and murder do not exist, stand as I did not one hour ago beside the coffin of a 15 year old boy and try to convince his parents of that! Call it an argument from emotion if you want, but our emotions aren’t always wrong! Sometimes the human heart speaks more eloquently than words. There is something desperately wrong with this world, and we all know it!

    I’ve looked into the eyes of another father whose son was brutally stabbed to death. Anyone who could do that and tell him that the murder of his son was not an evil act is not human!

    I don’t know your family situation… whether you have kids or not. But I can tell you that if this had been your son, you could not dismiss the reality of objective evil so lightly! ALL of us innately believe that certain things are just plain wrong. We could not do science if we didn’t trust what our senses told us. Why should we disbelieve our moral sense any more than we disbelieve our physical senses?

    Why should mere matter grieve so at the deactivation of more mere matter? If the physical world is all there is… if there is no mind other than brain, if our emotions are just chemical reactions, then why would a lump of animated elements care so deeply for another lump of animated elements?

    But if morality is real, then it must be anchored in an eternal, unchanging object. Even to say that a subjective moral standard exists presupposes the existence of an objective one.

    The existence of an objective morality is a properly basic belief. You’ll have to come up with a lot of good reasons why it does not exist to discredit the evidence of our moral senses.

    Reply
  198. Stephen B says:

    “I’ve asked you to do so from an atheistic perspective repeatedly, and you have yet to answer.”

    This isn’t an ‘atheistic perspective’, it’s purely a common sense one, but one needn’t be an atheist to accept or understand. Most social species have evolved group behaviours and instincts that maximise the reproductive success of the tribe. You don’t have to look to humans for examples. Social species that didn’t seek to protect their young would die off. So it’s not surprising that humans have developed a strong protective instinct for our young, whether we’re related to them or not.

    “I have demonstrated that subjective morality is equal to no morality”

    No you haven’t.

    “But that means that our thoughts are nothing more than physical and chemical reactions.”

    Consciousness is an emerging property of our brains.

    “We could not do science if we didn’t trust what our senses told us. ”

    On the contrary, we NEED science BECAUSE we KNOW that our senses are not trustworthy. Read up on the brain – our sense are notoriously untrustworthy.

    “You feel, I’m sure, that you’re NOT just a brain hooked up to a computer.”

    I’ve not idea what that would feel like. My brain is what it is. Why does materialism mean that brains are ‘hooked up’ to anything?

    “Given: x = false”

    Question begging.

    “When I claim that the objective moral standard is my God, then by definition, that God cannot do an immoral act.”

    Then be definition, if God ordered baby torture, then it would not be an immoral act. If you’re claiming to know what acts God would order, based on their morality, then you’re claiming there’s a standard of morality apart from God that must keep to.

    “If you’re going to say something, back it up! ”

    Well I’ve given you chapter and verse now, so the ball is in your court.

    Here it is again:

    Exodus 21:2-6 NLT
    “If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.”

    So for the third time, simple question: is there any situation where you think it is moral for a man’s children to automatically become the property of another man?

    Reply
  199. Stephen B says:

    ” don’t know your family situation… whether you have kids or not. But I can tell you that if this had been your son, you could not dismiss the reality of objective evil so lightly! ”

    I do have kids. But if you’re going to use the argument of “If you were in situation X, you would call Y evil”, then it is equally valid for me to point out that the God of the bible carries out many acts that strike me as appalling such that citing the biblical God as an explanation for morality makes no sense. If my opinion of a man stabbing my children is valid, then my opinion of a God who orders murder must also be valid.

    “f you say that evil, whether natural evil like earthquakes, tornadoes, etc., or moral evil like rape and murder do not exist”

    When did I say that? Murder causes immense pain and suffering – when have I denied that?

    “what rational reason can you give for a bunch of chemicals bouncing around at random billions of years ago becoming a brain capable of sending a man to the moon? Time + matter + chance doesn’t cut it… we haven’t had that much time, even at 14 billion years!”

    That’s an argument from ignorance. Evolution is not a random process. Evolution is not ‘blind chance’. Given that you make the most basic error in describing evolution, I suspect you don’t actually understand the process, such that it’s pointless you speculating about what is or is not possible.

    “as you have to prove that you’re not a just a brain in a vat of liquid like something out of the Matrix.”

    You’re in no better position to prove that than me. Whatever evidence you supply that you’re not a brain in a vat could simply be false evidence planted in your brain by the Matrix. Saying you’re a theist doesn’t help you out there.

    Reply
  200. Toby says:

    “But that means that our thoughts are nothing more than physical and chemical reactions.”

    That’s really funny considering everything we see around us, all the air we breath, all the food we eat, all . . . everything is ‘nothing more than physical and chemical reactions.’ You see everything around us, you see how it works, and yet you give this one thing an exception.

    Reply
  201. Terry L. says:

    I’ll answer more later, but I wanted to respond to this one now.

    (And Stephen, I’m still not finished responding to your question. I notice you still didn’t answer mine as well.)

    >> Evolution is not a random process. Evolution is not ‘blind chance’.

    So are you saying that it (let me specify… MACRO evolution) has a direction, or an end goal?

    From dictionary.com:
    Evolution (noun)
    1. any process of formation or growth; development: the evolution of a language; the evolution of the airplane.
    2. a product of such development; something evolved: The exploration of space is the evolution of decades of research.
    3. (Biology) change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.
    4. a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions.
    5. a motion incomplete in itself, but combining with coordinated motions to produce a single action, as in a machine.

    Notice that definitions 1, 2, 4, and possibly 5 at a minimum are all directed by an intelligence.

    Of the three processes listed, only mutation and genetic drift produce change. Genetic drift often reduces the number of variants. Natural selection describes the proposed process by which a beneficial change is kept.

    Are you then telling me that mutations and/or genetic drift do not occur at random?

    Chance is not a causal agent… it’s a description of a probability. I don’t know how you’re going to escape randomness without introducing an intelligence to direct the changes.

    Toby, here’s my reasoning:

    Inanimate matter and chemicals do not act… they react. A tree branch doesn’t say, “hey… I just broke… I’d better fall to the ground.” It reacts to the force of gravity pulling it to the ground.

    The naturalistic atheist believes in nothing apart from physical objects. This means that our mind is our brain, and nothing more. But our brains are made up of chemicals and matter… therefore it cannot act, it can only react!

    But in order to reason… for you to decide that you believe based on evidence that “everything is ‘nothing more than physical and chemical reactions’”, then this implies an action… an action that you are not free to take, because you are bound by the reactions of the neurons and chemicals in your brain.

    This means that your entire response to me was nothing more than the result of a physio-chemical reaction in your brain. But why should I trust that reaction to produce a true statement? or a reasonable statement?

    I “give this one thing an exception” as you put it because all of the other things you mentioned do not require rational choices. They can simply react. Intelligence requires an active choosing of the best explanation for the data.

    (And, I’m anxiously awaiting your explanations for objective morality. And now, for consciousness also! 😉

    Or will you really contend that evil does not exist? http://tinyurl.com/cqea7yf
    )

    The atheist has to derive consciousness and free will from nothing but matter, but as long as our thoughts are nothing more than RE-actions, then this is an impossible chasm to cross. What does it mean to “make up your mind” if your mind is completely determined by the biochemical processes within it?

    Reply
  202. Terry L. says:

    I have a longer response that is still awaiting moderation…

    >>You’re in no better position to prove that than me. Whatever evidence you supply that you’re not a brain in a vat could simply be false evidence planted in your brain by the Matrix. Saying you’re a theist doesn’t help you out there.

    Not the point. The point is, I don’t think you really believe that you are just a brain in a vat, although you can’t prove it.

    The evidence for objective morality is just as compelling as proof that your physical body is as you experience it. Without strong evidence to the contrary, I see no reason to disbelieve the evidence of our senses.

    With billions of people throughout history living, acting, and reacting as if there really are things that are objectively right and wrong, the burden of proof is on the one who denies objective morality.

    >>When did I say that? Murder causes immense pain and suffering – when have I denied that?

    You haven’t. You also have not affirmed that it is objectively wrong. Until you make a clear statement, I’m left to surmise what you actually believe. Are you affirming that murder is objectively wrong?

    Reply
  203. Toby says:

    “The evidence for objective morality is just as compelling as proof that your physical body is as you experience it.”

    What proof?

    “With billions of people throughout history living, acting, and reacting as if there really are things that are objectively right and wrong, the burden of proof is on the one who denies objective morality.”

    This isn’t proof! People could act as if Justin Bieber had talent. That doesn’t mean he has talent.

    Reply
  204. Stephen B says:

    We all act as if rotting food stinks. Does that mean it’s objectively true that it stinks? There’s a whole mess of bugs that would disagree with that.

    “acting, and reacting as if there really are things that are objectively right and wrong”

    What behaviour are you talking about? How would someone be acting differently if they didn’t believe something was OBJECTIVELY wrong? I don’t believe tigers are objectively evil. But I’d still stop one attacking my family. So it’s irrelevant if I believe a burglar is ‘objectively evil’ or just regular ‘evil’ – I’ll still stop him attacking my family.

    Reply
  205. Terry L. says:

    Excerpted from a comment pending moderation:

    Inanimate matter and chemicals do not act… they react. A tree branch doesn’t say, “hey… I just broke… I’d better fall to the ground.” It reacts to the force of gravity pulling it to the ground.

    The naturalistic atheist believes in nothing apart from physical matter and energy. This means that our mind is our brain, and nothing more. But our brains are made up of chemicals and matter… therefore it cannot act, it can only react!

    But in order to reason… for you to decide that you believe based on evidence that “everything is ‘nothing more than physical and chemical reactions’”, then this implies an action… an action that you are not free to take, because you are bound by the reactions of the neurons and chemicals in your brain.

    This means that your entire response to me was nothing more than the result of a physio-chemical reaction in your brain. But why should I trust that reaction to produce a true statement? or a reasonable statement?

    I “give this one thing an exception” as you put it because all of the other things you mentioned do not require rational choices. They can simply react. Intelligence requires an active choosing of the best explanation for the data.

    (And, I’m anxiously awaiting your explanations for objective morality. And now, for consciousness also!

    )

    The atheist has to derive consciousness and free will from nothing but matter, but as long as our thoughts are nothing more than RE-actions, then this is an impossible chasm to cross. What does it mean to “make up your mind” if your mind is completely determined by the biochemical processes within it?

    Reply
  206. Terry L. says:

    “We all act as if rotting food stinks. Does that mean it’s objectively true that it stinks? There’s a whole mess of bugs that would disagree with that.”

    “Stinks” is a subjective evaluation of the objective “odor”. There is an objective reality underlying the subjective perception. Similarly, there MUST be an objective morality underlying even a subjective morality. What would cause one to feel they “ought” to hold to a subjective morality without a higher objective morality that says that they should?

    “What behaviour are you talking about?”

    Any. IF all we can do is react to our surroundings, then the murderer has no choice but to commit murder, the rapist has no choice but to commit rape, you have no choice but to be an atheist, and I have no choice but to be a theist.

    But that means then that you really didn’t evaluate the evidence for your position, (and neither did I). Therefore, we can’t say that either position is rational, because we had no choice in coming to our conclusions.

    Furthermore, because science is built on philosophy and reason, and we can trust neither of them, then science is not to be trusted as well. Why believe the conclusions of a scientist if his thoughts are completely and totally controlled by nothing more than a biochemical reaction?

    >>So it’s irrelevant if I believe a burglar is ‘objectively evil’ or just regular ‘evil’ – I’ll still stop him attacking my family.

    Glad to hear it! But is there a moral difference between killing a man who is attacking your kids, killing a man who is your enemy in wartime, and killing a man while robbing his house? Is one of these actions “better” than the other?

    Toby:

    “What proof?”

    I’m using the evidence and testimony of billions of witnesses. Proof? No. Evidence? Most certainly!

    Do you have evidence that you actually have a physical body that can convince me with 100% certainty? After all, I may be just a brain in a vat!

    Likewise, the existence of morality is not something you can prove with 100% certainty. Furthermore, science (as defined by the atheist) is powerless to even speak to it, because science can’t tell you what you ought and ought not to do. You have to work from philosophy.

    But we have the evidence, as I said, of billions of witnesses that all affirm the existence of morality. What evidence do you have to counter their claims?

    Stephen said earlier that he’s not looking for proof… just evidence. I have a hard time accepting that when all of us know when we’ve done something wrong without being told. We have the evidence of our moral sense that cries out in outrage at the torture of innocents.

    In a courtroom, there’s a concept of sufficient evidence. It’s often nearly impossible to prove with 100% certainty that a defendant is guilty (or innocent, for that matter). We have to go where the evidence takes us, and decide if the prosecution has presented sufficient evidence for a conviction.

    Unfortunately, most atheists start by ruling out God from the beginning. (And many theists do the opposite, as well.) In such a case, they are impervious to the evidence because they’ve made up their minds already. It’s like being a juror on a murder trial, and going in convinced of the person’s guilt before one hears the evidence. Instead of evaluating the evidence fairly, one looks for side-issues (well, he isn’t a very nice man… he MUST be guilty) or irrelevant points (he beat up a man ten years ago)… ANYTHING to avoid confronting the evidence head-on.

    I’ve tried to answer all of your criticisms of the moral argument. I’ve even answered a few criticisms that were “side-issues” or “red herrings”, and I’m working on a response to Stephen’s question regarding Exodus, even though that’s another red herring.

    I’m still looking for answers to the questions I posed that are directly related to the argument; namely:

    A. Does absolute morality exist? Is there any action that is absolutely wrong?

    A1. If not, how do you explain our concepts of “good” and “evil”?

    B1. If so,
    B1a. then can you establish a basis for the existence of this objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?
    B1b. how do you reconcile this with your professed belief in atheism?

    B. Is it important to you that your philosophy be true and accurately reflect reality?

    C. If you found that the evidence did point to the existence of God, would you become a theist? (Not specifically a Christian… just a theist.)

    If there’s nothing objectively evil, then try sleeping with your next-door-neighbor, then tell your wife, “but honey… there’s no such thing as right and wrong!” 😉

    While it is true that some wives wouldn’t care, you know as well as I that most would.

    Reply
  207. Stephen B says:

    “But our brains are made up of chemicals and matter… therefore it cannot act”

    Non sequitur, faulty logic. You might as well say “chemicals can’t calculate, computers are made of chemicals, therefore computers can’t calculate”.

    “I’ve tried to answer all of your criticisms of the moral argument.”

    Well done for trying.

    “A. Does absolute morality exist? Is there any action that is absolutely wrong?”

    According to you, no – because there is not action that would be immoral if your God did it.

    “can you establish a basis for the existence of this objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?”

    You’ve failed to establish a basis for it WITH referencing God.

    “how do you reconcile this with your professed belief in atheism?”

    This might be nit-picking slightly but atheism isn’t something you believe in. Atheism merely refers to a lack of belief in deities.

    “If you found that the evidence did point to the existence of God, would you become a theist?”

    Obviously if there is evidence for something I’ll believe in it. If the evidence pointed to Allah being God, would you become a Muslim?

    “If there’s nothing objectively evil, then try sleeping with your next-door-neighbor, then tell your wife, “but honey… there’s no such thing as right and wrong!””

    Bait and switch. You start saying ‘no objective evil’, then end saying ”no right and wrong’. If there’s no difference between ‘evil’ and ‘objective evil’, why use the word ‘objective’ at all?

    If you promise your wife that you’ll be faithful to her, obviously you should expect her to be angry if you sleep around. No God is required to understand this. Read up on your Kant for a very reasonable secular philosophical explanation of this.

    “In a courtroom, there’s a concept of sufficient evidence”

    Sure. And you’ve yet to produce any.

    “But is there a moral difference between killing a man who is attacking your kids, killing a man who is your enemy in wartime”

    Quite probably. One is defending your kids, the other is defending your country. Don’t see what that’s got to do with religion.

    “Why believe the conclusions of a scientist if his thoughts are completely and totally controlled by nothing more than a biochemical reaction?”

    Utter non sequitur. Our brains are unreliable, the whole point of the scientific method is that it minimises the unreliability. It is testable. It’s a method that built the computers we are having this conversation on. Either a) the method is working and we are having this conversation or
    b) you are imagining the entire conversation, in which case you might as well say you could be the brain in the jar.

    “an action that you are not free to take, because you are bound by the reactions of the neurons and chemicals in your brain”

    Nope, false conclusion again. You’ve not shown that brains require a supernatural intervention in order to make decisions.

    As another side-point on free will, many THEISTS argue that it is the existence on God that mean takes away our free will. The Calvinists believe that before we’re even born it is pre-destined whether we’re saved or damned – we have no choice in the matter. If God knows everything you’re going to do before you do it, arguably you have no choice to do anything different.

    “I’m using the evidence and testimony of billions of witnesses. ”

    No you’re not. You’re making a claim about what people actually believe that you haven’t backed up.

    “And now, for consciousness also!”

    The human brain is probably the most complex structure in the universe. Do you really expect someone to give you a decent explanation of how it gives rise to consciousness on a forum like this? You’ve made it clear you don’t even understand the basics of evolution, how are you going to process an explanation of the workings of the brain?

    Even if I had no idea how it happens, that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to shrug and say it has to be supernatural. I’ll level with you – I have no idea how televisions work. That doesn’t mean TVs are magic. You’re simply offering an argument from ignorance – saying brains are magic isn’t an explanation. Go back to your court room – how do you think it would work out if you claim the defendant used magic to commit the crime?

    “But that means then that you really didn’t evaluate the evidence for your position”

    Brains that don’t evaluate the evidence aren’t much use, are they? We would expect brains that can correctly evaluate evidence to give much greater survival success that those that don’t (no matter what Alvin Plantinga might believe).

    ““Stinks” is a subjective evaluation of the objective “odor”. There is an objective reality underlying the subjective perception”

    So in this analogy, the objective reality is ‘murder someone’ and the subjective valuation is ‘evil act’.

    “What would cause one to feel they “ought” to hold to a subjective morality without a higher objective morality that says that they should?”

    What would cause you to want to avoid a stinky smell?

    Humans that didn’t want to avoid rotting meat would get sick. Humans that felt no conscious pangs at hurting others would similarly commit acts that hurt the group as a whole. So it is entirely expected that we’d evolve a taboo to hurting each other, and especially a taboo to hurting our immediate family (and sleeping with them, but that’s another story).

    Reply
  208. Terry L. says:

    >>You might as well say “chemicals can’t calculate, computers are made of chemicals, therefore computers can’t calculate”.

    Computers are designed by an intelligence… the analogy is telling!

    >>According to you, no – because there is not action that would be immoral if your God did it.

    And you still fail to answer. Surely you see the difference between saying that “an action is not immoral if God does it” and “God would not do an immoral action”. God’s standard of morality is his own nature; God IS the standard. He just happens to be a person as well who can act.

    >>This might be nit-picking slightly but atheism isn’t something you believe in. Atheism merely refers to a lack of belief in deities.

    Nope. If you don’t believe in a deity, then you’re left believing in… what? Matter? That’s what my entire last post was about. It’s a cop-out to say that you don’t have beliefs.

    >>If the evidence pointed to Allah being God, would you become a Muslim?

    Yes. I’ve examined the evidence for Islam, and found it wanting. I’m currently studying Buddhism, and it seems even less convincing than Islam.

    >>You start saying ‘no objective evil’, then end saying ”no right and wrong’. If there’s no difference between ‘evil’ and ‘objective evil’, why use the word ‘objective’ at all?

    Define “right” and “wrong” without referring to an objective standard. It can’t be done! If the standard is subjective, then “right” and “wrong” are simply opinions.

    For instance, the claim “God does not exist” is an objective claim. It is either true or false… it cannot be true for me and false for you (or vice versa). The claim “I love bananas” is subjective, because it says something about the speaker (the subject) not about the object (the bananas).

    If you don’t believe morality is grounded in an object or being, then there is no object to discuss… therefore morality MUST be subjective. And thus, it’s nothing more than opinion. Yours is no better or worse than mine.

    >>Quite probably. One is defending your kids, the other is defending your country. Don’t see what that’s got to do with religion.

    You just said that one action is measurably better than another while denying the standard by which they are measured. Illogical in the extreme!

    >>Our brains are unreliable, the whole point of the scientific method is that it minimises the unreliability. It is testable

    Missing the point. Tests mean nothing if your actions are determined solely by the laws of physics and biochemistry. The naturalistic atheist can’t import reason and the ability to choose the best results of your testing without explaining them in terms of matter.

    >> Either a) the method is working and we are having this conversation or
    b) you are imagining the entire conversation, in which case you might as well say you could be the brain in the jar.

    I’m arguing from the consequences of your point of view. I believe completely that the answer is A based on my point of view. I don’t see how yours supports that same conclusion (not that B is the only other alternative…)

    >> The Calvinists believe that before we’re even born it is pre-destined whether we’re saved or damned – we have no choice in the matter

    True. And I am no Calvinist! I disagree as vehemently with them on this point as I do with you on theism/atheism.

    >>If you promise your wife that you’ll be faithful to her, obviously you should expect her to be angry if you sleep around.

    This point was made tounge-in-cheek… but your response indicates that your wife expects you to keep your promises… she is expects you not to lie…

    >>No you’re not. You’re making a claim about what people actually believe that you haven’t backed up.

    Are you serious? Have you ever met ANYONE who truly lives as if there is nothing that is immoral? I’m in my mid-40’s, and I’ve never met anyone that even came close to meeting that description. I have no reason to doubt that the rest of humanity is any different. It seems to me that the burden of proof is on you to disprove that people believe in morality.

    You just admitted that your wife expects you not to cheat or lie to her!

    >>I have no idea how televisions work. That doesn’t mean TVs are magic.

    TV’s were designed by an intelligence.

    >>Brains that don’t evaluate the evidence aren’t much use, are they?

    My wife would sometimes tell me that I should know! 😉

    >>We would expect brains that can correctly evaluate evidence…

    By what mechanism? How/When do we move from reacting like bleach and ammonia or chlorine and brake fluid to being able to make a rational judgement and to direct the outcomes of the reactions… in other words, moving from reaction to action?

    As a computer programmer, I find it to be the height of lunacy to believe that undirected natural processes could create an instrument more powerful, more accurate, and faster (at some processes) than the computers our intelligence has built.

    If matter is all that there is, it’s going to have to build something greater than itself that can direct it before you get action.

    >>Even if I had no idea how it happens, that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to shrug and say it has to be supernatural

    This is what I meant earlier when I referred to dismissing God from the outset. Your statement is, of course, correct. One shouldn’t argue from ignorance.

    It is also an argument from ignorance to say, “God absolutely does not exist”. This claim implies infinite knowledge, in which case, YOU would be God. Therefore the claim is self-refuting.

    So since this is not a logical position, it is also illogical to dismiss the idea of God as a source for objective eternal concepts such as morality out of hand. I still get the feeling that this is your position.

    >>So in this analogy, the objective reality is ‘murder someone’ and the subjective valuation is ‘evil act’.

    Even if this is true, there must be an objective “ought” to establish that one should follow the subjective “ought”. Sooner or later, you have to have an objectively grounded morality, or claim that all of morality is subjective, in which case it is simply opinion and truly meaningless.

    >>>>“I’ve tried to answer all of your criticisms of the moral argument.”

    >>Well done for trying.

    Wish I could say the same! :s

    Reply
  209. Toby says:

    “Inanimate matter and chemicals do not act… they react.”

    Just a quickie here: name something you do in a day that isn’t a reaction to something else.

    Reply
  210. Stephen B says:

    “It is also an argument from ignorance to say, “God absolutely does not exist”.”

    Good job no-one’s saying that then, eh!

    Reply
  211. Stephen B says:

    “the analogy is telling!”

    It wasn’t an analogy – it was simply pointing out that reducing something to its constituent parts and claiming those parts can’t carry out functions carried out by the whole is a non sequitur. Saying ‘chemicals do not act’ is irrelevant when discussing the brain.

    “Surely you see the difference between saying that “an action is not immoral if God does it” and “God would not do an immoral action”. ”

    I answered this several times. You are the one missing the point here. The sentence ‘God would not do an immoral action’ is meaningless according to your own definition of what im/moral actions are, as by definition, any action carried out by God is NOT immoral. In other words, if your God did it, it can’t be immoral. The only way you know what acts are immoral is that they are ones that go against your God’s nature. So any act God does by definition can’t be immoral.

    “It’s a cop-out to say that you don’t have beliefs.”

    Right, and I didn’t say I didn’t have beliefs. But the term atheism tells you nothing apart from one thing – that person doesn’t believe in Gods. It tells you nothing else. They could believe in magic universe-creating pixies for all you know.

    “The claim “I love bananas” is subjective”

    False. It is an objective claim. You either love bananas or you don’t. ‘Bananas are lovely’ is a subjective claim.

    “You just said that one action is measurably better than another while denying the standard by which they are measured”

    No I didn’t. You say ‘by which they are measured’, but you basically just mean the standard by which YOU measure it. We could come up with all sorts of standards and measure them against that. Yours is no more objective.

    “but your response indicates that your wife expects you to keep your promises… she is expects you not to lie…”

    Whether she expects me not to lie is irrelevant – she’d still be angry if I promised something and then broke that promise. Neither of us need to believe in God for this to be the case.

    “If you don’t believe morality is grounded in an object or being, then there is no object to discuss”

    If YOUR morality is subject to an object or being – and you say it is – then by definition YOUR morality is subjective. It is subject to the existence of your God. I’m pretty sure we’ve been here already.

    “Tests mean nothing if your actions are determined solely by the laws of physics and biochemistry. ”

    Who says? In every other situation I’m aware of, tests become meaningless once you start introducing the supernatural.

    “TV’s were designed by an intelligence.”

    Utter non sequitur.

    ” all of morality is subjective, in which case it is simply opinion and truly meaningless.”

    How so?

    “Have you ever met ANYONE who truly lives as if there is nothing that is immoral?”

    Everyone I know has their own moral code. The mistake you make is your ‘all or nothing’ assertion that either we must have morality derived from a deity, or no morality at all. All of your so-called ‘evidence’ is based on this false dichotomy.

    “I believe completely that the answer is A based on my point of view.”

    Right, so the scientific method works, and we are able to come to conclusions about what is true despite having imperfect senses. So it’s false to say ‘imperfect senses’ = ‘no possible way of knowing anything’.

    “I find it to be the height of lunacy to believe that undirected natural processes…”

    Right. But we’re talking about evolution, which, as already explained to you, is neither ‘random’ nor ‘undirected’. The clue is in the name ‘natural selection’. Look, there’s really not much point in arguing with you any longer when you don’t grasp even the most simple principles of evolution.

    Reply
  212. Stephen B says:

    “Surely you see the difference between saying that “an action is not immoral if God does it” and “God would not do an immoral action”. God’s standard of morality is his own nature”

    You’re defining ‘immoral actions’ as against God’s own nature then. So you’re saying “God would not go against his own nature” in response to me saying “what if God commanded baby torture”.

    So if it was in God’s nature to command baby torture, that would mean baby torture wouldn’t be immoral, right?

    If you claim it would never be in God’s nature to do that, you need to justify that. It sounds like you’re saying it couldn’t be in his nature because baby torture is immoral, which suggests you’ve got another standard ou’re referring to that God’s nature must keep to – there’s something intrinsically wrong about baby torture such that it makes no sense to conceive of ANY moral God condoning it. But if that is the case, you’re talking about a standard apart from God.

    If you’re saying simply that a baby torturing God makes no sense given what you know of God from the bible – which you seemed to hint at when you earlier said you had better evidence for the nature of God, then you’re shooting down your own oft-stated claim that this whole argument works even without reference to any particular deity.

    Reply
  213. Stephen B says:

    “So are you saying that it (let me specify… MACRO evolution) has a direction, or an end goal?”

    No. I said it wasn’t a random process. A process can be non-random without having an end goal. Waves don’t have a goal, they move without intelligent intervention, they even move randomly. But the process where waves on a beach sort the stones in order of size is non-random.

    So you’ve a random unintelligent agent with no end goal, but the process is non-random.

    Mutations may be random, but the process that preserves the useful ones is not random.

    Again, this is basic biology.

    Reply
  214. Terry L. says:

    >>“Inanimate matter and chemicals do not act… they react.”
    >>Just a quickie here: name something you do in a day that isn’t a reaction to something else.

    I chose to come to this site to see if you had posted. I had no reason to expect that you had. Your post didn’t tweak a chemical in my brain to say “Go to CrossExamined.com and check your posts.”

    Now you might say that, in light of the history of our conversation, I reacted to the knowledge that you *might* have posted, and then checked the site. But the question is, did I have a choice, or was it predetermined that I would check? What say you?

    Think about it before you respond… did you think? Good! Now, are you capable of making a rational choice based on what you just thought, or were you pre-determined to answer in the way you will by the biochemical processes going on inside your head?

    If you believe that you “chose” your answer based on the best available facts, how do you justify your ability to make that choice when your assumed starting point is a bunch of hydrogen atoms bouncing around in a great big empty space? How do you go from “billiard ball” physics to rational thought?

    >>“It is also an argument from ignorance to say, “God absolutely does not exist”.”
    >>Good job no-one’s saying that then, eh!

    >>“It’s a cop-out to say that you don’t have beliefs.”
    >>Right, and I didn’t say I didn’t have beliefs.

    You know, I copied this entire thread into Word last Wed. night and read it start to finish… all 80+ pages of it! One thing is striking, Stephen… you’ve contributed I’d say at least 30 full pages of comments to the thread. If I remember correctly, you were the first to comment, and you’re still here. And in all that time, starting with Andrew and continuing until now, you’ve never said anything about what you believe! You’re playing games, hiding behind silence except to snipe at what you consider to be fallacious arguments that we make. Many that I read, unfortunately, were exactly that, and you were correct in calling them out. To be honest, you even got me a time or two. But we’ve also done the same with your post, point out when your arguments didn’t hold water.

    But you’ve been asked point-blank questions several times, and you have failed to provide any statement of what you believe, much less an explanation or justification for those beliefs.

    And why do you guys come here anyway? What are you attempting to accomplish?

    >>“The claim “I love bananas” is subjective”

    You are correct. In my haste, I typed the above rather than what I intended, namely, “Bananas are the best tasting fruit.”

    >>If YOUR morality is subject to an object or being – and you say it is – then by definition YOUR morality is subjective. It is subject to the existence of your God. I’m pretty sure we’ve been here already.

    Of COURSE an objective claim is subject to its object! That’s… kind of the DEFINITION of objective!

    Your statement demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of “objective”. For a claim to be objective, it must be grounded in an object. Remove the object, and of COURSE the claim will change. The statement, “Stephen [meaning you] is bald” is an objective claim. I have no idea of its truth, but we can view the object (you) and determine whether or not the statement is true! If you could somehow cease to exist, then the statement would either be meaningless or subjective. The statement, “Terry’s son is bald” is exactly that–meaningless; I have only daughters!

    >>Who says? In every other situation I’m aware of, tests become meaningless once you start introducing the supernatural.
    Who says? And why?

    >> “TV’s were designed by an intelligence.”
    >> Utter non sequitur.

    It doesn’t follow? How so?

    >>” all of morality is subjective, in which case it is simply opinion and truly meaningless.”
    How so?
    >>Everyone I know has their own moral code. The mistake you make is your ‘all or nothing’ assertion that either we must have morality derived from a deity, or no morality at all. All of your so-called ‘evidence’ is based on this false dichotomy.

    No. The point is that if, as you just stated, “everyone… has [their] own moral code” and that’s all there is, then it’s no more than opinion, with no way to decide if one is “better” than the other. You and I both (I’m assuming) have an alarm clock. Whose is better… yours or mine? That’s a purely subjective question, so there’s no way to say which one is better. If we had a “perfect alarm clock”, then one could compare our respective clocks to the perfect one, and could make an objective determination of whose was better.

    So whose morality is better? Yours or mine? If there is no objective standard, then it’s a purely subjective question, so there’s no way to say which one is better. But if there is a perfect moral standard, then one could compare our respective moralities to the perfect one, and could make an objective determination of whose was better.

    Everyone I know believes that some moral actions are better than others… but that cannot be unless there is a standard by which we can judge them.

    And if morality is subjective, it has no more strength than the statement, “I prefer chocolate ice cream.” You may prefer vanilla… so what? The same can be said of any so-called subjective group morality.

    >>The clue is in the name ‘natural selection’.
    I understand natural selection. Natural selection does not cause change; it preserves beneficial changes. The change has to some from somewhere. How is the proposed evolutionary causal agent for change not random and undirected?

    >>Mutations may be random, but the process that preserves the useful ones is not random.
    Apples to oranges. The mutation must occur before preservation. Therefore, the initial causal agent IS random.

    Even so, why would such a process lead to a brain capable of understanding that process when you’re starting with nothing but a bunch of Hydrogen atoms? Well, actually, we started with no time, space, or matter, but we won’t go back that far…

    >>then you’re shooting down your own oft-stated claim that this whole argument works even without reference to any particular deity.
    In my defense of objective morality above, I never referred to Christianity, Islam or any other religion, or even to God. Just to the need for a perfect standard.

    Reply
  215. Toby says:

    “So if it was in God’s nature to command baby torture, that would mean baby torture wouldn’t be immoral, right?”

    He does tell people to rip open pregnant women in Hosea. And to dash their children to death on the ground.

    Reply
  216. Toby says:

    “I chose to come to this site to see if you had posted. I had no reason to expect that you had. Your post didn’t tweak a chemical in my brain to say “Go to CrossExamined.com and check your posts.””

    I think you’re coming at this like most people. You’re grossly underestimating the number of things that are involved in a given situation. People think of these things as an A to B event, but it’s completely not like that. Our decision making is tangled web of events that are innumerable.

    Now you might say that, in light of the history of our conversation, I reacted to the knowledge that you *might* have posted, and then checked the site. But the question is, did I have a choice, or was it predetermined that I would check? What say you?

    I would say that’s clearly lead to a high probability that you would check this site and reply. But that in no way means you were predestined to. I think reality conforms more to Bell’s Theorem than some mistaken notion that reality is completely predetermined from the very moment of the beginning of the universe.

    “Think about it before you respond… did you think? Good! Now, are you capable of making a rational choice based on what you just thought, or were you pre-determined to answer in the way you will by the biochemical processes going on inside your head?”

    It’s not as simple as that. It’s not predetermination, but probability.

    “If you believe that you “chose” your answer based on the best available facts, how do you justify your ability to make that choice when your assumed starting point is a bunch of hydrogen atoms bouncing around in a great big empty space? How do you go from “billiard ball” physics to rational thought?

    “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” —Aristotle

    You’re comparing a brain to a few stray atoms that aren’t bound to anything to complex molecular structures that can record, store long term, and reproduce memories, emotions, and images. We know that by altering the brain with strong magnetic fields or electrical stimuli that we can alter these things in someone’s mind. And you’re comparing this to a few atoms bouncing around, a few simple molecules that form inanimate rock, a few gases moving through our atmosphere? I think you’re really underestimating the sheer unpredictability of this universe because of some dated information someone thought up sitting in an armchair. And you’re postulating that there is some immaterial soul that does all of this decision making independent of the 100% material universe we experience, yet it interacts with this material universe in such a way that it’s completely untraceable, testable, or provable.

    Let’s consider your side of the aisle for a moment. You have a god that exists without time. If we accept what CS Lewis says, then this god sees all of the universe, past, present, and future, all at the same time. He knows everything about what’s going to happen down to what socks you’re going to wear on January 1, 2013. He’s created something that he knows the end to, he “has a plan” as is colloquially put, and yet you claim you have something called free will? If there’s a god with a plan and that god knows everything about everything in all times then there really isn’t a place for free will in any of that. I don’t see why you fight for the idea of it at all. It makes no sense whatsoever. It implies that god makes some people strictly for the purpose of being evil and they have no choice but to do that. That sounds more like predetermination than anything we find from armchair philosophers.

    Reply
  217. Stephen B says:

    “I never referred to Christianity, Islam or any other religion, or even to God. Just to the need for a perfect standard.”

    Sorry but that’s false, and I already explained why. When I talked about a baby torturing God you said that wasn’t possible based on what you already knew of God.

    I already explained how random causes processed by a selecting agent will give a non random result. Through a thousand dice, imagine that a six represents a favourable mutation, and each time you throw a six you stop throwing it, leaving it as a six. Eventually you’ll have all sixes, despite each throw being random.

    The TV being designed is a non sequitur because the analogy works equally well with a non designed object or process – either way it’s an argument from ignorance to say “I don’t understand it = it must be magic”. Explaining anything to you is very hard work due to the repetition required and your irrelevant objections which then require their own debunking.

    Toby answers well enough your misundstanding of determinism. Read up on it properly as you are giving a caricature of the subject. Read Daniel Dennett on determinism, or download Reasonable Doubts series of podcasts on the subject.

    I don’t really have time to explain these things to someone whose understand hasn’t reached even the most basic level.

    Reply
  218. Terry L. says:

    Toby:

    Hosea13:16 (KJV)
    Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

    You’ve mischaracterized this verse. God is describing what will happen, not ordering men to carry it out. Furthermore, you have to look at why he says such a thing will happen… and it’s right there in the first part of the verse.

    This is not an exhaustive answer, but I’ll give the Reader’s Digest version. But as you did earlier, consider my side of the aisle for a moment. Please don’t respond critiquing well-known Christian beliefs here… this isn’t the place, and yet again, this entire issue is really a red herring. And because of that, I will briefly address this (and later, Stephens questions) here once. After that, I shall not address issues like this again in this forum. If you want to have those discussions, I’m willing, but not here.

    From the beginning, God explained the concept of sin to mankind. Sin is rebellion against God’s law (morality), and thus against his very nature. He wasn’t trying to be a “party pooper” or any such nonsense by giving use these laws; on the contrary, they were designed for our benefit. When people do not murder, everyone benefits. When people do not rape, everyone benefits. When people keep their sexuality in the bounds that God defined, everyone benefits.

    But when God gave the law, he also told mankind that the penalty for sin was death. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but to those who remain unrepentant, he will exact justice.

    We as parents don’t (or shouldn’t) usually make rules for our kids just to cause them grief. Usually, there’s a good reason–we tell them not to play in the road, or not to touch a hot stove, or not to play with matches, etc. So when a small child starts to run out into the street, we discipline them so that they will learn to avoid what is dangerous. They don’t like the discipline, but it’s better than being hit by a truck.

    Unfortunately, the child who insists on having his own way on this issue will very likely end up dead in the street.

    God’s laws were intended to show us the way to live safely and with the greatest amount of happiness and fulfillment. But like a headstrong child, we rushed out into traffic. And we got hit by a truck!

    Similarly, you might say, “I don’t agree with God; I should be able to sleep with whomever I want. Why should sex be confined to marriage?” By doing so, you are demonstrating the problem. Christians say sex belongs in marriage; you’re (hypothetically) saying that we should be free to have sex with any consenting adult. Who is right? This illustrates why we need the moral standard; without it, neither of us are right. So which of these standards should our laws be based on?

    Now back to Hosea… God gave his law and set the standard. The people rebelled against the standard, and in effect, wanted to be the god of God, telling HIM what was right and what was wrong… that’s like seeing a piece of timber cut too short and saying the ruler is defective! So, they ran out into the street. God is now describing the truck that is heading toward them.

    Jesus in the garden cried to God saying “Not my will but thine be done.” Mankind shakes a fist in God’s face and says, “Not thy will, but mine be done”. Then when God grants them what they have asked for and allows them to get hit by the truck, they complain that God is unfair and unjust.

    Again… BY WHOSE STANDARDS?

    Reply
  219. Terry L. says:

    >>I think you’re coming at this like most people. You’re grossly underestimating the number of things that are involved in a given situation. People think of these things as an A to B event, but it’s completely not like that. Our decision making is tangled web of events that are innumerable.

    >> [and a host of other comments

    Complexity is irrelevant. From the big bang, we started with a bunch of hydrogen atoms bouncing around. Would either of you say that there was consciousness, logic, reason, in existence then? (I’m assuming that as atheists, you would not include God’s consciousness.) Toby doesn’t even seem to be able to envision numbers without matter–how much more difficult is it to imagine any of these structures in a near-infinite sea of hydrogen?

    What about when the first heavier elements started to form? Did that create reason and logic?

    So my point is, regardless of how complex is our supposed ability to make decisions, on atheism, it stems from these atoms bouncing wildly about. So when and how did logic and reason come into being? Better yet, WHY did it come into being? Why would a universe filled with disorder and randomness result in a mind capable of logic and reason?

    I’m asking you for a basis of why you trust the particular biochemical reaction you call your brain when it originated in sheer randomness. Why do you believe that whatever process built your brain made it capable of understanding reason and logic?

    It’s a hard question because you’ve always perceived that you have had reason and logic… and I’m not questioning the existence of either. Indeed, you have to use them in order to question them. To postulate their non-existence is self-defeating. My question is on their origin.

    Scientists of old, Pascal et. al., believed in God and believed the universe was knowable because God had given us reason and logic, and the ability to discover the universe around us. I tend to hold to this view; we have a mind because we came from a mind.

    >>I think you’re really underestimating the sheer unpredictability of this universe…

    Science is predicated on predictability. I don’t see how even quantum mechanics would not adhere to some principle that rightly described would be deterministic.

    But why should mere unpredictability lead to logic? That’s almost absurd!

    >>If there’s a god with a plan and that god knows everything about everything in all times then there really isn’t a place for free will in any of that.

    A being outside of time with infinite knowledge could allow free will, but know what choices were made, or were going to be made, depending on your view of time. I know my daughters well enough to know how they will react in many situations. That doesn’t mean I control their actions.

    >>“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
    >>—Aristotle

    “Nothing is what rocks dream about.”
    –Aristotle

    Reply
  220. Terry L. says:

    >>“I never referred to Christianity, Islam or any other religion, or even to God. Just to the need for a perfect standard.”

    >>Sorry but that’s false, and I already explained why. When I talked about a baby torturing God you said that wasn’t possible based on what you already knew of God.

    You left out part of the quote. What I said was, “In my defense of objective morality above, I never referred to Christianity, Islam or any other religion, or even to God. Just to the need for a perfect standard.”

    Go back and read it. I referred to nothing more supernatural than an objective moral standard.

    >>Explaining anything to you is very hard work due to the repetition required and your irrelevant objections which then require their own debunking.

    And how many times have I went back to explain myself, or expose your own logical fallacies, or to ask you to re-read (or read) what I’ve actually written? I’ve stated repeatedly that I’m not arguing from God to morality, but from morality to God? Yet you repeat the same “irrelevant objection” in this very post!

    >>Through (sic) a thousand dice, imagine that a six represents a favourable mutation, and each time you throw a six you stop throwing it, leaving it as a six. Eventually you’ll have all sixes, despite each throw being random.

    Ok… and? Your example is demonstrating a random process where the desired result is one out of six. Natural selection has a near-infinite number of potential changes to filter. To be viable, the change must be beneficial, inheritable, and not cause a fatal weakness in other parts of the organism, then survive long enough to become part of the organism. This would limit the number of potential changes; I would say so drastically that variation only occurs within a species, while you would probably hold to a much broader list. Either way, you only have a few billion years for that process to produce everything that we see. I don’t think the math adds up, and there are a lot of notable scientists, not all of whom that are Christian or even religious, that agree with me.

    Reply
  221. Terry L. says:

    Unfortunately, we’ve veered off on a couple of rabbit trails again. While I’m happy to discuss them, I want to remind you of some unanswered questions:

    I’m still looking for answers to the questions I posed that are directly related to the argument; namely:

    A. Does absolute morality exist? Is there any action that is absolutely wrong?

    A1. If not, how do you explain our concepts of “good” and “evil”?

    B1. If so,
    B1a. then can you establish a basis for the existence of this objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?
    B1b. how do you reconcile this with your professed belief in atheism?

    C. Is it important to you that your philosophy be true and accurately reflect reality?

    The last time I posted these, Stephen told me what he though *I* believed rather than what he believed. These questions are directly related to the topic at hand… why have we went for probably 90 pages of comments now with no answer from those supporting atheism?

    Reply
  222. Stephen B says:

    ” there are a lot of notable scientists, not all of whom that are Christian or even religious, that agree with me.”

    All of whom are vastly outnumbered by those who disagree with you.

    Reply
  223. Stephen B says:

    “Ok… and? Your example is demonstrating a random process where the desired result is one out of six”

    Before we move on, can you state whether or not you understand that in this case something random is being processed to give a non-random result. If so, then you should be able to understand that evolution is a non-random process. Once you’ve conceded this simple point we can start going into (slightly) more complicated ideas in evolution.

    “Stephen told me what he though [sic] *I* believed rather than what he believed.”

    No, I’ve explained the flaw in your reasoning. You’ve not sufficiently explained why what you believe gives any solution to the ‘problem’ you present to atheists.

    Reply
  224. Terry L. says:

    >>Before we move on, can you state whether or not you understand that in this case something random is being processed to give a non-random result. If so, then you should be able to understand that evolution is a non-random process. Once you’ve conceded this simple point we can start going into (slightly) more complicated ideas in evolution.

    In the first place, there’s no “concession”. You are correct that random results can be processed by a filter, yielding only the results that the filter allows to pass. That much is elementary. I’m quite convinced that this is certainly one of the processes used by micro-evolution to allow species to adapt to changing environments.

    Perhaps we’re using random in different ways; if this is all that you mean by non-random then I agree that natural selection *by definition* only allows beneficial changes.

    However, the processes that feed this filter are completely random; the times at which each change is fed to the filter; the order in which they are fed is completely random. You still have to start with chaos.

    >>No, I’ve explained the flaw in your reasoning.

    “A. Does absolute morality exist? Is there any action that is absolutely wrong?”

    According to you, no – because there is not action that would be immoral if your God did it.

    What part of “according to you…” isn’t telling me what you think I believe?

    I’ve explained this point above… no point in going into it again. If you don’t get it, ask a question….

    ” there are a lot of notable scientists, not all of whom that are Christian or even religious, that agree with me.”

    All of whom are vastly outnumbered by those who disagree with you.

    Which wouldn’t/doesn’t affect the truth in the least. I didn’t bring up the scientists as evidence, only to show that many people much more educated in their own variant fields than I have come to the same conclusions, so my views are hardly revolutionary or unorthodox.

    You’ve not sufficiently explained why what you believe gives any solution to the ‘problem’ you present to atheists.

    And you haven’t even explained what you believe! Really, Stephen, these questions should be simple. You’ve lived on this earth long enough to have children; you’ve certainly studied many different subjects. Is it so difficult to lay out an answer here?

    I’m going to take a guess here… I think you sincerely try to be intellectually honest with yourself. I think your answer to my question C below is “Yes”.

    I also think you have a real problem stating unequivocally that absolute morality does not exist.

    You do realize that in what must be 90+ pages, you’ve never said that absolute morality does not exist… you’ve only pressed me for evidence for it…

    But you also know that you can’t defend absolute morality from an atheistic worldview.

    I could be totally wrong; I certainly don’t want to put words into your mouth, but I can’t find any other reasonable explanation for your reticence to answer.

    A. Does absolute morality exist? Is there any action that is absolutely morally wrong?

    A1. If not, how do you explain our concepts of “good” and “evil”?

    B1. If so,
    B1a. then can you establish a basis for the existence of this objective morality as we perceive it without referencing God?
    B1b. how do you reconcile this with your professed belief in atheism?

    C. Is it important to you that your philosophy be true and accurately reflect reality?

    Reply
  225. Terry L. says:

    Well…

    I tried to use Quote tags above… they don’t work here I see.

    I think you can figure out what’s quoted and what’s new… sorry for the poor formatting.

    Reply
  226. Toby says:

    You’re saying “absolute morality” now. Does that in anyway encompass the idea that there are things that are always absolutely wrong?

    Reply
  227. Stephen B says:

    “you’ve never said that absolute morality does not exist”

    Absolute morality doesn’t exist. Not in the sense that you’re talking about. The concept of absolute morality makes no sense, as it is talking about a morality divorced from any sort of criteria. And if it did exist, it wouldn’t be evidence for a God; and neither would positing a God answer or address or explain in any way the existence of that morality.

    “I didn’t bring up the scientists as evidence, only to show that many people much more educated in their own variant fields than I have come to the same conclusions”

    If a mathematician has a poor understanding of biology, then it doesn’t matter if he’s the world’s greatest maths genius – there’s not much worth in his opinion of the mathematical probabilities of something evolving.

    In discussing purely mutation-led evolution, you’re ignoring that mutation is only one part of the process. Genetic variance plays a big part. If a rabbit has eight baby rabbits in a litter, there’ll be a variance in that litter – some faster than others, some bigger, etc. No mutation is needed to cause that. Likewise with foxes – some are tamer, some are stronger, etc. The tamest fox is defined as the one that will go closest to humans to get food. But it will also most likely be most vulnerable to other predators. In some environments it will be the most likely to survive, in others the least. If it survives, its children will again have a variance of tameness, but will likely all be slightly more tame than the previous litter. And so on. No mutation required here, and the gradual taming of the foxes will not be a random process.

    Reply
  228. Terry L. says:

    I’d used absolute morality as a synonym for objective morality. Sorry… didn’t realize I’d switched terms. Objective morality is a better, more accurate term.

    >>Does that in anyway encompass the idea that there are things that are always absolutely wrong?

    Yes. Morality grounded in an absolute standard is both objective and absolute.

    >>Absolute [objective] morality doesn’t exist.

    Thank you! I apologize if my usage of the wrong term alters your intended meaning.

    I want to check to make certain I fully understand what you’re saying. Toby, you came very close at one time to denying objective morality as well… feel free to respond also.

    You really believe that…

    * Someone who tortures others for fun is simply making a lifestyle choice.

    * there is no moral difference in having guests over for dinner and having your guests for dinner?

    * We only punish thieves because their preferred behavior doesn’t match that of the majority?

    * Consider the article I linked to above… If someone had raped your child, and then thrown gasoline in your child’s face and tried to burn them to death to keep them from testifying against their tormentor, causing them years of pain, suffering, and ultimately death, you don’t see anything absolutely/objectively wrong with that?

    You may feel, as I do, that such an act is horribly wrong, but why is your, my, or society’s opinion any better or worse than the perpetrator’s desire to avoid punishment?

    Is there any part of you that would cry out for justice? If so, where do you get your concept of justice?

    >>The concept of absolute morality makes no sense, as it is talking about a morality divorced from any sort of criteria.

    What do you mean by “criteria”?

    >>Not in the sense that you’re talking about.

    You’ve left yourself an opening here… so I’ll bite. In what sense does it exist, or at least, in what sense other than the one I’m “talking about” do you mean?

    >>A1. If not, how do you explain our concepts of “good” and “evil”?

    You left this one out… I’m still wondering how we would even come to have good and evil as categories without an objective standard by which to judge.

    Regarding genetic variance… genetic variation plays a part in micro-evolution. I fail to see how it could lead to macro-evolution… to the development of a new species. Your foxes and rabbits in your examples are still foxes and rabbits. There’s no real change here, just a shift in the variation built in to that species to allow it to adapt to its environment. This argues as well for design as evolution. I design software to behave in the same way… my applications can adapt to being installed in different locations, running on different hardware, running with limited resources, etc.

    You’re also seem to be assuming here, perhaps appropriately with your worldview, that the tameness of foxes is a strictly genetic property. I disagree with this.

    A cat had a litter of kittens at my great-grandmother’s house when I was a child. The mother wasn’t feral, but wasn’t handled much by humans either.

    I managed to pet and play with two of these kittens when they had just opened their eyes–one more than the other. I couldn’t get close to the others. All but these two became totally feral. The one I had handled most was as gentle as any cat I’d ever seen. The other didn’t like humans, but would tolerate them. The rest… we couldn’t even catch them. They wouldn’t let us get close enough.

    Granted, that’s not proof that their behavior wasn’t totally genetic, but It seems that these two learned that we posed no threat to them and was able to overcome any genetic aversion to humans that they were born with.

    Reply
  229. Stephen B says:

    “We only punish thieves because their preferred behavior doesn’t match that of the majority?”

    Thieves undermine society. States that don’t enforce property rights become failed states.

    “that the tameness of foxes is a strictly genetic property.”

    Nope, but you can breed tameness into foxes, wolves and other animals. Tameness can be genetic; some species have the propensity to be tamed, others don’t. Horses yes, zebras not so much. Dogs yes, wolves not so much. But if you takes wolves and foxes and breed them for several generations, you can get much more tame animals.

    “I fail to see how it could lead to macro-evolution… to the development of a new species”

    Speciation has been observed. You’ve not named a mechanism that would stop so-called micro-evolution becoming macro-evolution. These terms have no meaning in biology/science. It’s like talking about micro erosion. There’s just evolution and erosion.

    ” you don’t see anything absolutely/objectively wrong with that?”

    I can say it’s wrong. I don’t get where your ‘objective wrong’ comes in. And I can ask the same question to you: If a God commanded those horrible acts, would you say it would be moral to do that petrol throwing etc?

    Reply
  230. Stephen B says:

    ” In what sense does it exist, or at least, in what sense other than the one I’m “talking about” do you mean?”

    If you come up with a criteria you can talk about an ‘objective x’ for anything. As long as you’ve got a criteria for ‘greatest restaurant’ then you can talk about the ‘objectively greatest restaurant’. Similarly, if you have a criteria for what makes a good film then you can talk about ‘objectively great movies’. And if you have a criteria for right and wrong, you can talk about an objectively evil act.

    “You really believe that…* Someone who tortures others for fun is simply making a lifestyle choice.”

    Well I’ve got a definition for ‘evil’ just like I’ve got a criteria for ‘dangerous’ and such a person would fit both criteria. Therefore, as long as I’m with people with the same basic criteria for those terms (pretty much everyone) then I can meaningfully describe that person as evil and dangerous.

    I might equally ask if you really believe that a person who thinks their God is telling them to mutilate girls or murder infidels is not a bad person, they just happened to believe in the wrong God. They might have seriously considered the various evidences for different Gods, and made an honest mistake. Thus their crime is no worse than someone who read the same ‘whodunnit’ crime novel as you and picked the wrong culprit. They just weren’t as good as you at evaluating the evidence. Given that they made that wrong decision, they have to believe that girl mutilation and infidel murder is morally correct, as if their God says it is, by definition it must be.

    And if their God was to appear to you and convince you they were the correct God, you would have to see infidel murder and girl mutilation as moral too. You couldn’t just say “Oh dear, it turns out the real God is a moral monster”, as such a term would make no sense – the real God by definition must be moral. You describing such a God as immoral would make no more sense than me calling YOUR God immoral, no? If not, tell me where I’ve misunderstood.

    Reply
  231. Terry L. says:

    Stephen… am I correct in assuming from some of your word usage that you are from England? Not many in the states use the term “petrol’…

    >>Well I’ve got a definition for ‘evil’

    Really! I’d love to hear it!

    >> If you come up with a criteria you can talk about an ‘objective x’ for anything.

    Well, not really. Who is the best football team? Let’s use the criteria, “the one with the nicest uniforms”. This criteria is not at all objective; Instead of being based on the qualities of an OBJECT (i.e. statistics, games won, points scored, etc.), our criteria instead is based on the OBSERVER (OUR preferences regarding their uniforms).

    There is an objectively best football team, and we have a criterion based on the object… it’s called the Super Bowl. Regardless of what YOU or I think about the teams uniforms, or the teams performance, that standard wins. (Yes, I understand that men devised that standard… I’m not discussing how the standard came to be or how we know it at this point… just that the standard exists.)

    Now if morality is not based in an OBJECT apart from us, then we’re not talking about an objective morality… we are left with a criterion for morality based on the OBSERVER. Therefore, morality is subjective, and as such your definition of ‘evil’ is no better or worse than Hitler’s.

    >>Therefore, as long as I’m with people with the same basic criteria…

    And there’s the rub. What if you’re not? Then where do you base what is right and what is wrong?

    Something that is objectively wrong is wrong at all times for all people regardless of whether any man believes it to be wrong or not.

    Now that throws a whole different light on your scenarios above. I don’t have a problem saying that men have done horrible atrocities in the name of their gods, and even in the name of Jesus. I will however point out that Jesus never commanded the acts done by these people.

    >>They just weren’t as good as you at evaluating the evidence.

    But we still know down deep that some things are wrong… you feel it yourself and it manifests itself in your definition of evil. In order to become a Hitler, they have to suppress that inclination, as well as all of the rest of the evidence before them.

    >>And if their God was to appear to you…

    But once again, this is arguing “there is a God, so there is morality”. This is not my argument. There is morality, therefore there is a God.

    My position is that morality is objective, and that morality must come from the character and nature of a God.

    Now if this is true, and I have no evidence to suggest that it is not, then SOME God HAS to be the one described. We have yet to examine why I believe Jesus Christ is the best candidate.

    Reply
  232. Stephen B says:

    “And there’s the rub. What if you’re not? Then where do you base what is right and what is wrong?”

    Using my criteria! How do you decide what a decent film is if someone comes along who judges a film on the number of nude scenes? You judge it the same way you always did – what difference does the nude scene guy, the uniform guy or Hitler make?

    “But once again, this is arguing “there is a God, so there is morality”. This is not my argument. There is morality, therefore there is a God.”

    Regardless, my point still stands. Here it is again: And if their God was to appear to you and convince you they were the correct God, you would have to see infidel murder and girl mutilation as moral too. You couldn’t just say “Oh dear, it turns out the real God is a moral monster”, as such a term would make no sense – the real God by definition must be moral. You describing such a God as immoral would make no more sense than me calling YOUR God immoral, no? If not, tell me where I’ve misunderstood.

    Reply
  233. Stephen B says:

    “Not many in the states use the term “petrol’…”

    Well it’s a little less confusing than using a term that is also a completely different form of fuel, no?

    “There is an objectively best football team, and we have a criterion based on the object… it’s called the Super Bowl. ”

    Sure… If your definition of ‘best’ is ‘the one who wins the Super Bowl’, just like if your definition of ‘best film’ is the one that wins the most oscars… Or grosses the most at the box office. But someone else might say the best team is the one that cares most about its fans, or that wins the Super Bowl most often, or whatever.

    “My position is that morality is objective, and that morality must come from the character and nature of a God.”

    You’ve not shown why the latter flows from the former.

    “I will however point out that Jesus never commanded the acts done by these people.”

    But the bible DOES condone slavery. Again, the question I’ve asked several times: do you believe that it is ever moral for you to own another human being purely because he is the child of someone else that you own. A simple yes/no question…

    Reply
  234. Terry L. says:

    >>Well I’ve got a definition for ‘evil’

    Really! I’d STILL love to hear it!

    >>Using my criteria!
    Exactly. But your criteria, if based on *your* opinion is simply that–OPINION. If it’s to bear any weight with me, it’s going to have to come from someone with authority over both of us to impose a moral standard.

    >>Sure… If your definition of ‘best’ is ‘the one who wins the Super Bowl’

    That’s not my definition. Regardless of my definition, the Super Bowl winners will be the ones getting the money, the rings, the fame, the title, the trip to Disney… My definition matters very little in the real world.

    I can define my own version of evil and morality as well… but when there’s an objective moral law and an objective moral lawgiver, my own opinion matters very little. I’ll still be held accountable by the lawgiver.

    >>Regardless, my point still stands.
    Your point, even if it did, is irrelevant to the argument.

    And actually, it doesn’t hold up.

    By inverting the order of points, you are attacking a conclusion, not a premise. Even if you could destroy the conclusion, unless you destroy the premise, you’ve only proven that I’ve chosen the wrong God… not that God doesn’t exist. But I’m not arguing at this point for a particular God. Therefore, this is a straw-man argument.

    You even said in your rebuttal, ” if their God was to appear to you and convince you they were the correct God“. Your argument assumes the point I’m making… therefore your entire rebuttal cannot destroy my position without self-destructing.

    >>You’ve not shown why the latter flows from the former.

    Yes I have. From the beginning, among other times:

    September 18th, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    1. If something is objectively wrong, then there must be an objective standard of “rightness”.

    2. An objective standard must be unchanging and eternal, or it is no standard. A “standard” that made murder wrong today but acceptable tomorrow is not a standard.

    3. Therefore, man cannot be the standard of rightness, because men change, and what men believe to be right and moral varies with the man.

    4. The standard for morality must be a person, because morality deals with what *ought* to be. Inanimate objects do not care about what ought to be… rocks could care less whether they’re used to build a house or to stone someone to death. It takes a personality to be concerned with morality. Animals, similarly, are amoral, and do not concern themselves with whether their actions are or are not moral.

    5. Therefore, the standard cannot be a man, must be unchanging, and must be a person.

    6. The standard must be morally perfect, or it is not worthy of being called a standard.

    7. Therefore, the standard cannot be a man, must be unchanging, and must be a person of perfect moral character.

    And I’ll add this rephrasing of point 6, although I think this is a weaker premise:

    8. Because we perceive moral laws to be “good”, the moral standard must be supremely “good”.

    Reply
  235. Terry L. says:

    >>But the bible DOES condone slavery.

    >> A simple yes/no question…

    Well, yes… and no. As I mentioned once before, let’s first be sure we’re comparing apples to apples…

    I’m sure you understand the difference between condoning something and permitting something. For instance, Jesus said that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts, but that was not God’s design. But men were abandoning their women without giving them a bill of divorcement, which kept them from remarrying, and in that culture, condemned them to a life of begging and/or prostitution.

    God knew that men were not ready to follow the whole spirit of the law, that a man should cleave to his wife until death, so he permitted the lesser evil of divorce to prevent the greater evils resulting from abandonment.

    Now I don’t claim to be an expert on this part of the bible, but this is not the same type of “slavery” that we had in 19th century America. Rather, those referred to as slaves were more of an indentured servant.

    A man could become a slave in only a few ways; most often, the man was in extreme poverty, and this was the only way he could repay a debt. Occasionally, a thief was punished by being sold into servanthood by the courts. There was no kidnapping of slaves as was practiced by the slave traders; in fact, kidnapping in Israel and Judea was punishable by death.

    The “master” of such a one had strict laws to follow: if they physically harmed the servant, then the servant was immediately freed; servants had to be fed, clothed and boarded in the same manner as the master; they were not to work on the Sabbath; if they ran away, Jewish law mandated that the community not return them to their masters (every other legal system in effect at that time mandated the return of the slave; refusing to do so was a capital crime); they had to be set free in seven years, or during the year of Jubilee (every 50 years). In fact, it was said by the Jewish sages of that time, “a man who gains a slave has gained a master”.

    Rules were different for Canaanite women; these are the ones to whom you refer. But consider that Canaanites and Jews were forbidden to intermarry; a single Canaanite woman in that culture would have been like the abandoned Jewish wife… forced into begging and prostitution. Because the Jews traced familial ties through the mother, a Canaanite woman’s children were considered Canaanite as well, and would not fit into that society.

    So in a sense, God is saying to these masters, “if you take a Canaanite woman as a servant/slave, you are responsible for her and any children.”

    Sometimes conditions were so good for the servants that they would choose to stay with their masters for the rest of their lives; the law made provision for that as well. Would this feature really have been necessary if the system had been as bad as you’re assuming it was?

    Furthermore, other extra-biblical research indicates that Jewish judges would grant freedom to a slave on just about any grounds. They were instructed to always prefer freedom over bondage of any kind.

    So the answer to your question is “yes”, although I feel the term “own” is a loaded term that would have been understood quite differently back then. If the provision is there for the protection of the woman and her children, then I don’t see how that is a problem with any interpretation of morality.

    You may still take umbrage at someone “owning” another; let me remind you that we’re not much different today. Not so long ago, I was a contract employee. I essentially sold my labor for a period of six months to another entity for money, and was legally bound by a “bill of sale/contract” during that time. We also borrow money, and as the old saying goes, “the borrower is slave to the lender”.

    Reply
  236. Stephen B says:

    “If it’s to bear any weight with me”

    What’s the relevance of whether it ‘bears weight’ with you?

    “Sometimes conditions were so good for the servants that they would choose to stay with their masters for the rest of their lives”

    But I’m not talking about choice – I’m talking about the owner automatically owning the kids, whether the kids choose it or not. You’re saying your fine with this, and you think this should ‘bear weight’ with me?

    Reply
  237. psiloiordinary says:

    So the Bible allowed the ownership of one person by another – pretty unequivocally evil by anyone’s standards.

    Reply
  238. Stephen B says:

    “Not so long ago, I was a contract employee. I essentially sold my labor for a period of six months to another entity for money”

    And that was your choice. It wasn’t because of something your dad did. And your employer didn’t get to beat you. And you could have broken the contract if you’d really wanted to without risking physical harm. So not really similar at all, actually.

    All your indentured servitude apologetics pretty much refer to rules for Jews owning other Jews – when it came to owning foreigners they weren’t so restricted.

    “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    Permanent inheritance? That doesn’t fit we’ll into your idea of paying off a debt, does it? Even if your master dies, you’re STILL not free, your masters kids get you, and you’re theirs till you die…

    “Really! I’d STILL love to hear it!”

    Selfishness, causing harm to others, the obvious stuff…

    “6. The standard must be morally perfect, or it is not worthy of being called a standard.”

    But you’ve not shown that the God is morally perfect or even explained what that actually means. Could an evil God fool everyone into thinking an act was moral when it was in fact immoral? If it’s meaningless to talk of an evil God, how then is it meaningful to discuss a moral one?

    You query me having a standard, saying “what if someone comes along who like torturing babies” or whatever. But aren’t you using consensus against baby torture as evidence for an objective morality? Thus, aren’t pro-baby-torture more of a problem for you than me?

    Reply
  239. Terry L. says:

    >>What’s the relevance of whether it ‘bears weight’ with you?

    Do you not understand the difference between an opinion and a fact? As I have said to you earlier, and you immediately repeated back, “Who are you to impose your morality on me?”

    For one to impose a standard that applies equally to all humans must be transcendent to humanity. Your opinion of good and evil is no better or worse, and carries no more weight than mine.

    >>You’re saying your fine with this, and you think this should ‘bear weight’ with me?

    I’m saying that you should consider the situation, the context and the world at that time… not from our comfortable 21st century lives. If I were a Christian woman living in a hostile Muslim country, and a good member of that society was willing to have me work for them rather than have to fend for myself when I could not legally hold a job or marry, then it might be better to be a servant (under the Jewish conditions… not that of the Muslims) than to be free.

    >>And that was your choice.

    At times, it was a choice for these slaves as well.

    >>It wasn’t because of something your dad did.

    True. It’s an analogy. Again, don’t stretch it too far. I’m simply pointing out that back then, they didn’t have placement agencies. This was the way they used to work off debts. It kept them safe, in society, out of prison, and allowed them to retain their dignity.

    >>So the Bible allowed the ownership of one person by another – pretty unequivocally evil by anyone’s standards.

    psiloiordinary, if you’ve read any of my preceding comments, then you should know I was going to ask this…

    You’ve called the God of the Old Testament “evil”. What do you mean by that? By what standard do you judge, and how do you ground that standard in anything other than your own opinion?

    Stephen, most of your comments on the differences between Jewish and non-Jewish slaves I’ve already acknowledged. And I’ve also pointed out that there were plenty of ways that a slave could obtain freedom. Heck, all they had to do was run away… the Jews were forbidden to return them!

    >>Selfishness, causing harm to others, the obvious stuff…

    Why? What makes it “obvious”?

    >>But you’ve not shown that the God is morally perfect or even explained what that actually means

    Really, Stephen, this is getting old. Point 6 does not say that “God” must be morally perfect. It says the “standard” must be morally perfect.

    >>If it’s meaningless to talk of an evil God,
    I’ve never said it was meaningless to talk of an evil God (though I would say “evil god”).

    >>how then is it meaningful to discuss a moral one?
    If the definition of God flows out of the absolute standard of morality, then by definition, God must be perfectly moral.

    And consider that darkness doesn’t exist…. it’s a term we use to discuss the absence of light. Cold doesn’t exist… it simply describes a lack of heat. Similarly, evil describes an absence of goodness. You run into all sorts of philosophical problems when you attempt to define evil as a thing unto itself.

    >>But aren’t you using consensus against baby torture as evidence for an objective morality?

    Yes, I am. Consensus does not have to be 100%.

    >>Thus, aren’t pro-baby-torture more of a problem for you than me?

    No. The colors red and green exist. But you can’t prove that to my boss, because he’s red/green color blind. There’s a defect that keeps him from being able to perceive all colors.

    Likewise, there been a moral defect in mankind since Genesis. As we are not perfect beings, our ability to discern the finer points of the law gets shaky. And some ignore the law repeatedly and become so hardened that they don’t recognize the law anymore. However, the major points of the law, the vast majority of people and cultures seem to agree on.

    Because of this, it doesn’t surprise me that you said, “Selfishness, causing harm to others, the obvious stuff…”. I believe that the moral standard… the moral lawgiver has written the moral law in the heart of every man. It speaks to us through our conscience, but we can ignore our conscience to the point that its voice becomes practically inaudible.

    But the Theist has a place to objectively ground his morality… that’s why I’m interested in where you as an Atheist ground yours.

    You see, we don’t believe that “objective morality” refers to some sort of Platonic “Law Against Rape” that is somewhere out in the realm of the ideal. Instead, rape is an act of selfishness, violence, unrighteous anger, and lust… all of which go against the nature of the moral lawgiver. Therefore rape is wrong. Period!

    If “don’t rape” were a strictly Platonic objective reality, then there would be no personhood to it. But again, only persons care about what “ought” or “ought not” to happen. Put another way, an impersonal moral law is insufficient to judge the behavior of a person.

    Reply
  240. Stephen B says:

    “I’m saying that you should consider the situation, the context and the world at that time… not from our comfortable 21st century lives”

    Right – cos before you talked about things simply being wrong at all times and situations. Now you’re making excuses for slavery being ok sometimes. Suddenly not so ‘objectively wrong’ after all.

    “At times, it was a choice for these slaves as well.”

    But not always, rendering your point moot.

    ” By what standard do you judge, and how do you ground that standard in anything other than your own opinion?”

    Likewise judging him to be morally perfect.

    “Ifthe definition of God flows out of the absolute standard of morality, then by definition, God must be perfectly moral.”

    …regardless of what acts He condones. So if he condones child torture, by definition child torture is moral.

    “There’s a defect that keeps him from being able to perceive all colors.”

    How do you know you’re not the defective one?

    “Instead, rape is an act of selfishness, violence, unrighteous anger, and lust… all of which go against the nature of the moral lawgiver. Therefore rape is wrong. Period!”

    You were able to find excuses for slavery pretty easily. I’m sure you’d do the same easily for rape too. How do you, for example, explain away Numbers 31: 17-18?

    Reply
  241. Toby says:

    “. . . the moral lawgiver has written the moral law in the heart of every man.”

    I wish people would stop using this in these discussions. It’s a cop out verse someone came up with way back to explain why people without religious belief can still be good people. And it’s ridiculous as well when you consider that, unlike now with our basic biology classes, they believed the heart was more than the meat pump it is.

    Reply
  242. Eric D. says:

    If I can put in my two cents, I think the source of this argument depends on whether there is an absolute form of morality independent of God’s existence or authority. If it is, then God’s existence does not dictate the morality of a decision. If it is not, then God (being defined as a omnibenevolent) must be the ultimate standard of objective morality.

    Personally, I believe that moral objectivity exists seperate of God. I hold the argument that if something is morally objective, then it doesn’t need God to be determined so. However, as God is omniscient, he knows what’s objectively moral and what isn’t.

    Reply
  243. Stephen B says:

    “Why? What makes it “obvious”?”

    Because the colloquial meaning of evil is pretty well known, and I don’t have some bizarre definition like ‘wears lots of green’ or ‘has facial hair’.

    “the moral lawgiver has written the moral law in the heart of every man. It speaks to us through our conscience, but we can ignore our conscience to the point that its voice becomes practically inaudible.”

    How would you tell the difference between the above scenario, and one where a powerful creator has given you a conscience with a set of completely arbitrary ‘laws’, unrelated to any kind of morality? You’re assuming that a desire not to torture babies is a sign of a perfect morality, but how would it feel different to you if that was just a random imperative a God thought of for fun?

    Reply
  244. Terry L. says:

    >> I hold the argument that if something is morally objective, then it doesn’t need God to be determined so.

    Eric, this simply is not possible.

    Stephen pointed out at one time that here in the United States, we have a Constitution. Because we have that object, some things are clearly constitutional, and some are not. It’s an objective standard, because it is based in an object. Likewise, morality cannot be objective without being based in an object.

    But what object? What are the characteristics of that object? You seem to hold to a Platonic view that there’s a perfect, impersonal objective moral law out there in the ideal world somewhere. Please correct me if I’m wrong. This concept would make God subject to these laws; therefore they would be greater than him.

    Furthermore, by what or whom are your held accountable to such a law? If God is bound by a law external to himself, then he is no longer in a position to hold us accountable, seeing that he is being held to the same standard.

    But what would it even mean to be held to this standard? Morality by its nature deals with persons; morality doesn’t flow from a rock because rocks don’t care what you do! Only persons care what other persons do; such is the nature of the moral law. Therefore, it must come from a person. How would an impersonal moral law judge you, or bring about justice?

    If you disagree, Eric, I’d love to know in what you base your idea of morality.

    Reply
  245. Terry L. says:

    >> Because the colloquial meaning of evil is pretty well known,

    But that’s not sufficient. Why should I accept the “colloquial meaning of evil” if that is only based on the opinions of other humans.

    Among the leaders in Nazi Germany, the colloquial meaning of evil did not include the murder of millions of humans that they felt did not deserve to live. Much of Hitler’s philosophy was based on that of the atheist Nietzsche, who believed that “might makes right”, and in the concept of the “superman”. Was it wrong for Hitler to institute the concentration camps?

    >>“There’s a defect that keeps him from being able to perceive all colors.”
    >>How do you know you’re not the defective one?

    Seriously? Would you not agree that scientifically speaking, the majority of people can distinguish between red and green. That would seem to be normative, and color-blindness would seem to be the aberration.

    Similarly, most men have a moral sense that informs them of right and wrong. The fact that it is lacking or defective in a few does not discount morality any more than color-blindness discounts the colors of red and green.

    And Toby, would you prefer that I said that the moral lawgiver had written these laws in our conscience? Forgive the metaphor if it causes you heartburn! Even the bible uses figures of speech, simile and metaphor at times; it never meant that you could cut the heart of a man’s chest and read the law written there!

    >>where a powerful creator has given you a conscience with a set of completely arbitrary ‘laws’, unrelated to any kind of morality?

    You’re throwing up straw men and red herrings here. In the first place, you are framing your creator in human terms, similar to what the Greeks and Romans did. Their “gods” were nothing more than super-powerful humans with magical powers. They schemed and fought, cheated and lied worse than any modern-day soap-opera.

    In the second, do you have any evidence for believing that such a thing is so? That still gets you no closer to a standard for your morality apart from God.

    You consistently ask, “but what if God were immoral”? But since I’m saying that the being that is perfectly good, and the very standard of morality is God, your question reduces down to “what if good were evil?”. This is an absurdity, on the same level of “what if 2+2 were not 4”!

    I think that this is the second or third time that I’ve explained this. You keep coming up with the same irrelevant or absurd questions, but I still don’t know in what you base your morality. You’ve said that you do hold to a moral standard… one based on the colloquial meaning of evil, but you haven’t told me what the ontological basis for that standard is, and why it should apply to all men at all times.

    You can keep questioning things from the bible; and you’ll probably find one that I can’t “explain”, but that’s still irrelevant to the Moral Argument.

    Let me ask you (again… I’ve asked this before) two questions: if shown sufficient evidence for the existence of God would you become a theist?

    If you say “no”, is that rational?

    If you say “yes”, what evidence are you looking for? What would it take to convince you?

    Reply
  246. Stephen B says:

    ” This concept would make God subject to these laws; therefore they would be greater than him.”

    Are you saying your God is therefore not subject to the laws of logic? That’s a nonsensical notion. It means He could both exist and not exist at the same time. How would one even create the laws of logic, given that creation is itself a logical act?

    ” and why it should apply to all men at all times.”

    Who says it should? It’s my standard, not theirs.

    “In the second, do you have any evidence for believing that such a thing is so? That still gets you no closer to a standard for your morality apart from God.”

    You’re not answering the question.

    ” Would you not agree that scientifically speaking, the majority of people can distinguish between red and green. That would seem to be normative, and color-blindness would seem to be the aberration”

    By the same logic, Christians are in the minority. And given the 3000 or so sects of Christianity in the US alone, the ‘right’ one is in an even smaller minority. An ‘aberration’.

    ” Why should I accept the “colloquial meaning of evil”

    You asked me what I meant by evil, I answered honestly. If you don’t accept it that’s not my fault!

    “Let me ask you (again… I’ve asked this before) two questions: if shown sufficient evidence for the existence of God would you become a theist?”

    Yes. And if shown sufficient evidence for Allah, would you become a Muslim? What if the evidence pointed towards a baby torturing God – would you then tell me baby torture was ‘objectively moral’?

    Reply
  247. Stephen B says:

    “Among the leaders in Nazi Germany, the colloquial meaning of evil did not include the murder of millions of human”

    Neither did it apparently apply to the soldiers God ordered to massacre the Canaanites, so you should consider the Nazis in good company. Incidentally, Germany was a very Christian country in the early 20th Century, the Nazis were mostly Christian, Hitler was brought up a Catholic, and he frequently made it clear he believed he was doing God’s work. Go figure!

    Reply
  248. Toby says:

    “But that’s not sufficient. Why should I accept the “colloquial meaning of evil” if that is only based on the opinions of other humans.”

    It was fine for humans for thousands of years before your god came along. Do you think that people would reject society if they thought that their laws and social norms were just opinions. i don’t think the idea of objective morality is useful or necessary for the continuing existence of humanity. It hasn’t been for practically any of human history (unless you are a young earther which is complete nincompoopery).

    It’s funny that you’re calling god the “object” that morality is based on and in other arguments you’re likely to say that your god is spaceless, timeless, and immaterial—a great definition for something that most definitely isn’t an object suitable for anything except wild speculation.

    Reply
  249. Toby says:

    Apropos of nothing . . . how can an omniscient being “have a plan for you/us/everything”? If that being doesn’t follow some kind of time, why would it need any sort of plan? If it sees the universe all at once—past, present, future—then having a plan is rather meaningless. For one to formulate a plan, then one must expend time coming up with that plan. Therefore you can conclude that god doesn’t have a plan or that this defies logic and deities are illogical.

    Reply
  250. Stephen B says:

    Plus, talk of man not going along with God’s plan makes a mockery of said plan. That means even as he came up with that plan (which also makes no sense) he already knows it will fail.

    Reply
  251. Terry L. says:

    Are you saying your God is therefore not subject to the laws of logic? That’s a nonsensical notion.

    The laws of logic and reason are as eternal as morality, and they flow out of his nature as well.

    Looking backward at this statement from a Christian perspective, Jesus said, “I AM the TRUTH”. (Emphasis mine.) In other words, he claims not to know truth, but to be truth.

    ” and why it should apply to all men at all times.”
    Who says it should? It’s my standard, not theirs.

    Fine. Then of what good is it? Why would you hold yourself to a standard that has no real authority over you, that you cannot use to differentiate good men from evil men, and that you could change from day to day on a whim? Your opinion-based morality is worth no more than a dandelion seed floating away on the wind! Why, 1000 years from now, will it matter whether or not you cheat on a history exam, or steal $100 from a department store, or beat up that annoying co-worker that keeps trying to tell you about Jesus? 😉 (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

    By the same logic, Christians are in the minority. And given the 3000 or so sects of Christianity in the US alone, the ‘right’ one is in an even smaller minority. An ‘aberration’.

    I cannot help but point out that truth by its very nature is exclusive and rare. For instance, 2 + 2 = 4 is a truth statement. There is exactly one right answer. There are an infinite number of incorrect answers!

    But to your point, you are comparing the apples of a truth claim (which is either objectively true or false) to the oranges of the normative function of the human eye. I’ve never claimed that being a Christian OR a theist made you statistically normative; in fact, Christianity teaches only a few will choose to follow the truth.

    You asked me what I meant by evil, I answered honestly. If you don’t accept it that’s not my fault!

    That’s a cop-out! Why should you believe that the common man’s definition of evil should hold any weight with you? Atheists accuse Christians of living in a fantasy world; well, you’ve admitted that you do have your own sense of what evil is… of what’s right and wrong. I’m challenging you to ground that sense of morality in reality… in this objective physical world. Tell me how you justify that the “colloquial meaning of evil” is something I should believe in and follow without referencing any non-material object!

    Again, if it’s only true for you, then it simply isn’t true. It’s just something you made up in your head, and if you want to follow it, then fine… go ahead. But don’t expect everyone else to do so, and don’t complain when someone steals from you or harms your child, because they’re just following their own “morality”!

    And if shown sufficient evidence for Allah, would you become a Muslim?

    I’ve already answered this. Yes, I would. To refuse to do so would be to risk my entire eternity. And as I have also already stated, I have considered Islam, and rejected it because I don’t find the evidence compelling.

    You neglected my second question: If you say “yes”, what evidence are you looking for? What would it take to convince you?

    What if the evidence pointed towards a baby torturing God – would you then tell me baby torture was ‘objectively moral’?

    The only thing I can tell you here is that if, IF the evidence pointed in that direction, then neither you nor I would find that action abhorrent. Counter-Question If you cannot prove without resorting to non-material objects that torturing babies is wrong, will you admit that there is nothing wrong with torturing babies from an atheist’s viewpoing?

    Incidentally, Germany was a very Christian country in the early 20th Century, the Nazis were mostly Christian, Hitler was brought up a Catholic, and he frequently made it clear he believed he was doing God’s work. Go figure!

    Hitler was a cultural Christian, and only nominally that at best. Goebbels said that he was a religious man, but thorouly anti-Christian. Others said that he would have preferred Islam, with its culture of spreading by the sword because that would have been more compatible with the Third Reich. The swastika is actually a Hindu symbol. If Hitler was anything, he was mixed up.

    The larger point is that the teachings of Jesus could never support what Hitler did; the teachings of Darwin and Neitzche support it well.

    Plus, talk of man not going along with God’s plan makes a mockery of said plan.

    It seems odd that you seem to know so well the plans of a God you claim doesn’t exist. How can you make this statement unless you know what those plans are?

    Reply
  252. Terry L. says:

    Toby:

    It was fine for humans for thousands of years before your god came along.

    You’re not getting away with that so easily. You have yet to prove that these “thousands of years before… god came along” exist. Humans have always been religious.

    Do you think that people would reject society if they thought that their laws and social norms were just opinions?

    There are a people who reject society without thinking this. Why should I feel that would change or improve?

    i don’t think the idea of objective morality is useful or necessary for the continuing existence of humanity. It hasn’t been for practically any of human history (unless you are a young earther which is complete nincompoopery).

    This statement is just hanging out in mid-air with no supporting facts, reasoning, or evidence. What do you mean by this?

    It’s funny that you’re calling god the “object” that morality is based on and in other arguments you’re likely to say that your god is spaceless, timeless, and immaterial—a great definition for something that most definitely isn’t an object suitable for anything except wild speculation.

    Would you agree that love, hate, beauty, justice, compassion, and honor are spaceless, timeless and/or immaterial? If so, does that make them objects unsuitable for “anything except wild speculation?”

    Reply
  253. Terry L. says:

    I don’t think the idea of objective morality is useful or necessary for the continuing existence of humanity.

    You’ve claimed before that morality came from culture. I’ll just point out that the Nazis at Nuremberg claimed that they shouldn’t be judged or held accountable for the death camps because the morality of their culture said that what they were doing was acceptable.

    The judges rejected that argument, saying that there was a higher law that these men knew and should have followed.

    Who was right?

    If you side with the judges, defend your position using no immaterial objects or beings.

    Reply
  254. Stephen B says:

    “The larger point is that the teachings of Jesus could never support what Hitler did; the teachings of Darwin and Neitzche support it well.”

    What teachings of Darwin would this be? Please enlighten us. Bear in mind too that Hitler dismissed the idea that species could change and banned books on evolution. Remember too that Hitler could easily find God-ordered genocide in the bible, plus God-sanctioned slavery.

    So you’d accept Islam, or presumably any other God who proved the right one, meaning you’d accept their morality too, regardless of it was. Hence any act you say is objectively wron you’ll change your mind about if God tells you to.

    ” I’m challenging you to ground that sense of morality in reality… ”

    That sentence doesn’t even make sense.

    “he claims not to know truth, but to be truth.”

    More word salad.

    “Your opinion-based morality is worth no more than a dandelion seed floating away on the wind”

    Perhaps to you, but not to me. My morality means I help others. You may see me relieving others’ suffering as useless, but that says more about you than it does me.

    Reply
  255. calyptus says:

    I fail to see how the first premise could even be considered remotely valid. Absolute morality in the bible is in my eyes no more than the objective morality brought about by some religious leaders, turned into dogma. While subjective morality is not perfect in the slightest, absolute morality is only “perfect” because it implies infalsifiability.

    In other words, it’s has a circular defense mechanism.

    Reply
  256. Stephen B says:

    “The standard must be morally perfect, or it is not worthy of being called a standard.”

    Even if we accept your premise, that doesn’t mean it IS morally perfect, it just means you are mistaken to call it a standard. You’ve argued that the consensus believes torture to be wrong. Then you say if this wasn’t based on a perfect standard, then the standard would be worthless. If you just mean ‘of no practical benefit’, then this is obviously false if you accept that there is a practical benefit in people not being tortured. If you just mean ‘worthless’ in a purely philosophical sense, then how do you know it isn’t worthless? You’re begging the question by assuming it is a perfect standard and therefore must be based on a morally perfect being.

    If the standard was not in fact perfect, and was just based on an imperfect being’s nature, how would you know the difference? How would the world look any different? You could argue that you’d find a consensus for something that was actually immoral (call it ‘Act X’), but seeing as you’d be claiming that consensus as evidence that Act X was actually ‘objectively moral’, I don’t see how you’d be able to tell the difference between that hypothetical situation and the world you are actually in.

    “It seems odd that you seem to know so well the plans of a God you claim doesn’t exist. How can you make this statement unless you know what those plans are?”

    When did I claim to know God’s plans? Re-read what I actually said.

    “and that you could change from day to day on a whim? ”

    You could change your religion tomorrow ‘on a whim’ if you wanted to. People change religions all the time. You may say that’s unlikely, but likewise, me suddenly deciding torture is actually OK is pretty unlikely too.

    “Then of what good is it?”

    What good is it to who? What good was the bible for a hundred years or so in America when slavery was justified directly by reference to the bible? What good is it in Northern Ireland when Protestants and Catholics were murdering each other all through the last century. What good is it when yet another Catholic abuse scandal just emerged in Australia, this one stretching back to the 1930s?

    “If Hitler was anything, he was mixed up.”

    Regardless of your claims of the small minority at the top, as I said Germany was a predominantly Christian country, and the vast majority of people actually carrying out the awful acts of WWII were Christian. Hitler appealed to them in religious terms, he quoted extensively from Martin Luthor to justify anti-semitism.

    “I’ve never claimed that being a Christian OR a theist made you statistically normative”

    But going back to the original point, you’re using consensus against baby torture as evidence for an objective morality, while admitting that ‘truth is rare’ and ‘only a few will choose to follow the truth’. Therefore consensus is not much cop as a piece of evidence for an objective truth.

    “Tell me how you justify that the “colloquial meaning of evil” is something I should believe in ”

    You don’t have to ‘believe’ in it. You’re welcome to make up your own definitions for words if you want, but if you want to make meaningful conversation with other people, it helps that you don’t refer to canines as ‘giraffes’ rather than dogs, and don’t describe the cold water tap as the ‘the boiling one’. To restate my point, when I said ‘the obvious stuff’ I meant that my definition of evil is pretty much what you’d expect someone to mean when they use the word evil. If you want a quick shorthand to my opinions on what is evil, the general consensus on the major issues would be a good assumption for you to make (and that’s not saying I’m getting my opinions from the consensus).

    “will you admit that there is nothing wrong with torturing babies from an atheist’s viewpoing?”

    There’s certainly something wrong with it from THIS atheist’s viewpoing (sic).

    “IF the evidence pointed in that direction, then neither you nor I would find that action abhorrent.”

    Speak for yourself. I find baby torture abhorrent. Show me a God who gives it the thumbs up and I will call that God abhorrent too. You however are wedded to the idea that: “the being that is perfectly good, and the very standard of morality is God”, you’d have to say that baby torture is perfectly good. And if God told you Hitler was on the right, you’d have to say the same. Hence your constant referrals to Hitler are even more nonsensical.

    You’ve admitted here Terry that it is YOU who are the moral relativist. To you torture is not wrong in all circumstances, as you’ve just acknowledged a circumstance when you’ve no problem with it.

    Reply
  257. Toby says:

    “Humans have always been religious.”

    Have they? Or have we always been social? In being social we pick leaders. Leaders wield power and influence. It’s not inconceivable at all that one would make up this notion of higher powers as a means of controlling a group. In fact if you’re a group of uneducated people that know practically nothing about the world you live in then the old “wise” man that “knows” where the lighting comes from makes himself that much wiser and valuable and someone you’re likely to take your marching orders from.

    “Would you agree that love, hate, beauty, justice, compassion, and honor are spaceless, timeless and/or immaterial?”

    No, not at all. These are concepts. They are brain dependent. They do not exist without us or some other intelligent being conceiving them. I believe you’d call all of these things subjective as well.

    Reply
  258. Terry L. says:

    What teachings of Darwin would this be?

    Er… survival of the fittest? Nature red in tooth and claw?

    ”I’m challenging you to ground that sense of morality in reality… ”
    That sentence doesn’t even make sense.

    >Perhaps to you, but not to me. My morality means I help others. You may see me relieving others’ suffering as useless, but that says more about you than it does me.

    Are you admitting that you believe that your moral sense is just your opinion? Or can you show evidence that it applies to all men… that all men should help others?

    What good is it to who? What good was the bible for a hundred years or so in America when slavery was justified directly by reference to the bible?

    So are you saying that men were actually wrong to enslave other men?

    If you want a quick shorthand to my opinions on what is evil, the general consensus on the major issues would be a good assumption for you to make…

    I probably understand pretty well what you mean. I’ve contended all along that most people have a similar moral code. What I’m asking is WHY? Why do you believe that these things are wrong, and do you believe that all men should believe that they’re wrong?

    You’re being slippery here though, and not taking a hard line. You seem to be saying above that men should not keep other men as slaves; yet you don’t say that directly, so if I mention that you believe slavery is objectively morally wrong, you retreat to “I never said that!”

    There’s certainly something wrong with it from THIS atheist’s viewpoint (Corrected)

    Not the question. Based on the philosophy you claim, can you give evidence that it is wrong?

    You’ve admitted here Terry that it is YOU who are the moral relativist. To you torture is not wrong in all circumstances, as you’ve just acknowledged a circumstance when you’ve no problem with it.

    Right. In a FICTIONAL universe of YOUR creation. You can make up universes with any rules, and you seem fascinated with this one… but these mythical worlds have absolutely NO bearing on ours.

    I’m a science fiction fan; if I’m discussing Star Trek with someone, I’ll speak of telepathy, warp speed, and transporters as if they’re true, because the authors have changed the properties of that universe and made them true. That doesn’t mean I believe I can beam over to your house tonight for supper, or send this response to you via telepathy!

    When you posit a question about a world with a completely different moral standard, then I have to play by the rules of your universe. You can’t then point to me and say that my statements made about your universe say anything about what I believe is true of ours!

    That’s like me asking you, “In a universe where God exists, do you think you would be wise to know what he wants from us?”, you reply “Yes” or “No”, and then I say, “Stephen just admitted that God exists!”

    I don’t play word games like that with you, and I expect better from you.

    Reply
  259. Stephen B says:

    “Er… survival of the fittest? Nature red in tooth and claw?”

    Survival of the fittest doesn’t mean most vicious or strongest. Rabbits outbreed foxes no problem. Red in tooth and claw comes from Tennyson, a Christian poet. And observing as a scientist that something occurs is not the same as teaching it as a way to be. That nature can be cruel and vicious was well known before Darwin. And Hitler banned books on evolution, making your point even more pointless.

    “You can’t then point to me and say that my statements made about your universe say anything about what I believe is true of ours!”

    That’s not what I was doing. I wasn’t saying you therefore approve of baby torture. I was llustrating a difference between us – that I would still say it was abhorrent even if a God sanctioned it, while you would get stuck in. Therefore you can’t say you’re against it in all possible circumstances, as I just came up with one where you weren’t against it.

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  260. Glenn says:

    I was looking for the right forum to invite development of what I thought was a new argument for the existence of God. On finding the moral argument for the existence of God set out on this website there are some obvious parallels. The structure of my argument is almost identical to the structure of the moral argument. However, I wonder if my version is quite so vulnerable to Euthyphro’s argument. I would be interested in what you think:

    In the argument from design the great fallacy is said to be the absence of a point of reference. We cannot deduce from the mere perception of order we see in the universe that there is an intelligence behind creation. The way we can work out if there is an intelligence behind the design of something is with reference to the comparative lack of order we see around it. Hence it is impossible to work out if our whole world is itself the product of intelligent design without comparing it with other worlds – which we cannot do.

    The same logic holds true in reverse for purpose. We need a point of reference to justify our own purposes and values. Logic tells us that authority, majority and force are not sound arguments. So this is what we mean by objective purpose: A purpose which must be valid no matter what other people think. A purpose which is the gauge for the adequacy of our own purposes and values regardless of the views of anyone else.

    A purpose is the object of intentional action. It implies the existence of an agent capable of acting on its intentions. Hence objective purpose implies the existence of an objective agent. An Agent whose intention is to achieve the objective purpose.

    The agent which has the objective purpose has intentions that are beyond rational denial. The agent must therefore also have knowledge and foresight that is beyond rational denial, that is perfect, absolute. This could only be God.

    This does not necessarily prove the existence of the God of the scripture, that would be too ambitious for such a small argument. This is just an argument for the existence of an objective agent capable of acting in the world, with perfect knowledge and foresight, whose purpose is the purpose we ought to have. God is just the closest description I can think of.

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