Hitchens-Turek Debate

On Tuesday night, I debated atheist Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything, at Virginia Commonwealth University. The topic was, “Does God Exist?” 

Thanks be to God (and to you for your prayers) because I don’t think the debate could have gone much better.  There were several atheists who approached me afterwards to say that I had won.  One young lady actually apologized for being an atheist!  Her position was not well represented, and she said that the arguments for God were. 

Hitchens was his usual charming and witty self (I really like him and said as much), but he did not answer any of the eight arguments that I presented for the existence of God.  And as many in the audience acknowledged, he dodged nearly all of my questions.  

Here is the introduction of a long e-mail sent to me two hours after the debate by a VCU Philosophy professor who attended (this professor told me that he is completely “non-religious”):

Dear Dr. Turek,  I wanted to say once again that I greatly enjoyed your talk and that, in my judgment, you clearly and unequivocally prevailed against Hitchens. Your two mind-body arguments were, I thought, very good, as were your modernizations of the cosmological argument and the teleological argument. I was also moved by your argument that, given how vanishingly close to zero are the chances of there being any sort of life, let alone intelligent life, it is more reasonable to infer that there is a God than it is to infer that there isn’t — the first an inference, but not the latter, being an ‘inference to the best explanation’, as philosophers of science would say. 

This is from a Christian student who has doubts:

My name is Jeremy and I was at your debate tonight. I will tell you what, you opened up a new can of worms at the VCU campus.  You have opened the eyes of many of the “atheists” that go to VCU and well, you did an amazing job.  You have really opened my eyes up a little bit more to the fact that God exists.  As a Christian, I still have my doubts sometimes.  I am not going to lie.  But by faith I believe.  Something that Mr. God himself Chris does not comprehend. (That was a great closing statement that you made)  But thank you so much for coming to Richmond and actually answering questions and having a reliable debate unlike Chris who beat around the bush and really bashed you when he did not have an answer.  People on the group said you did a good job and you made up some minds. 

Here is an account of the debate from an atheist and a Hitchens fan who was very disappointed:  http://rudyhenkel.livejournal.com/2726.html(Note:  This gentlemen erroneously thinks I do this for money.  My honorarium for the debate goes to CrossExamined.org. He also dismisses my arguments without answering them and mischaracterizes a few things, but he tells the truth about Hitchens.)

 

We video recorded the entire debate, and interviewed many who attended.  As soon as we produce the final version, I’ll let you know where you can see it (we intend to post it on You Tube and put it on our TV show).

Thank you again for your prayers and support.  Our next college event is September 23 at UNC Charlotte. 

Free CrossExamined.org Resource

Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.

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600 replies
  1. RC Metcalf says:

    I don’t believe Frank ever claimed a victory here, Tim. If you read his post, he merely reported the responses of several atheists after the debate. THEY may have “grossly exaggerated” the debate, but isn’t it interesting that their exaggerations were in Frank’s favor rather than Christopher’s favor…

    Blessings, RC

    Reply
  2. Rob says:

    Well done Frank. but let us not be boastful except in Christ.

    Let us pray for Chris Hitchens.

    Jay Richards also said he is a really nice guy after their debate. I’m sure I would like him too.

    Looking forward to the MP3s.

    Regards from New Zealand.

    Reply
  3. Robert says:

    “I want to see how grossly you’ve exaggerated your “victory” here.”

    Why do I get the impression you’ll challenge his “victory” regardless of what’s on the recording?

    Reply
  4. Rudy Henkel says:

    Thanks you for the gracious link to my review. Curious though, how all the points I make against Hitchens are valid, but the ones I make against Mr. Turek are biased. In any case, you seem to have missed the fact that I said I’d be doing a follow up on the specific arguments, which I have:

    http://rudyhenkel.livejournal.com/2869.html

    It is not complete, as I do not have a perfect memory. I welcome anyone to come and point out flaws in my thinking, or arguments I missed.

    Oh, and it’s my view that even if you invest the money into your business, you’re still doing it for money. There is nothing wrong with this; I am a strong capitalist. It is just an observation; I did not say you did it *just* for money.

    Reply
  5. Tim D. says:

    I don’t believe Frank ever claimed a victory here, Tim. If you read his post, he merely reported the responses of several atheists after the debate. THEY may have “grossly exaggerated” the debate, but isn’t it interesting that their exaggerations were in Frank’s favor rather than Christopher’s favor…

    I went back and read it again. You’re correct, Mr. Turek himself never claimed a victory.

    All the same, this is the most pretentiously self-flattering post I’ve read on a blog in a long time. I’ve seen people lose debates with more grace than this.

    In any case, I greatly look forward to viewing this on youtube. I hope it’s not edited too badly….

    Reply
  6. Frank Turek says:

    Robert and Tim D.: There is no boasting. That’s why the post beings with “Thanks be to God.” I leave it to others to say who won the debate. I’m simply reporting what people who were there told me, and recalling that Christopher did not address the substance of any of the eight theistic arguments presented.

    Rudy: Thanks for your review. I’ll look forward to your assessment of the eight arguments. I am a fan of Christopher as well. He has a great mind, is a charming man, and is right on many things. I just think he’s wrong on the question of God.

    In fact, a debate presupposes that there is an external, objective standard of truth that each debater is claiming to be closer to. How does such a standard exist if nothing but chemicals exist? (This was the first of my additional arguments for God that I had to summarize very quickly– you are correct that I may have tried to slam too much in a short period of time. But there is a lot of evidence out there that this is a theistic universe).

    Blessings,

    Frank

    Reply
  7. Tim D. says:

    n fact, a debate presupposes that there is an external, objective standard of truth that each debater is claiming to be closer to. How does such a standard exist if nothing but chemicals exist? (This was the first of my additional arguments for God that I had to summarize very quickly– you are correct that I may have tried to slam too much in a short period of time. But there is a lot of evidence out there that this is a theistic universe).

    I get so sick of hearing the “nothing but chemicals” argument. “If you’re just a bunch of atoms….” “If you’re nothing but chemicals….” Seriously, this oversimplification is ridiculous. It’s like you’re trying to avoid actually understanding it.

    Reply
  8. Tim D. says:

    P.S. It is quite ironic, though, that you include so many reviews that praise you and your work with such enthusiasm, and then you say “I leave it up to others to decide who won the debate.” Quite obviously, you’re intent on creating the image that you “won.”

    Reply
  9. The Trousered Ape says:

    ‘I get so sick of hearing the “nothing but chemicals” argument. “If you’re just a bunch of atoms….” “If you’re nothing but chemicals….” Seriously, this oversimplification is ridiculous. It’s like you’re trying to avoid actually understanding it.’

    What else is there to understand?

    Reply
  10. Rudy Henkel says:

    Thank you. I have added a section for your argument from objective standard of truth.

    Again, I welcome anyone to come and argue against me. No posts are censored, so come and give your opinion of my rebuttals. If I am wrong on some point, I want to know it.

    Reply
  11. marcus oliver says:

    I went to the Debate as a person Convert to Christ as God from the Bible. I realized today that Frank Turek , the evangelical, tried to debate the existence of God from a philosophical point. It was to philosophers debating. The 3 points were given by Mr. Turek at the beginning:

    1. The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of God or a “First Cause”. It is traditionally known as an “argument from universal causation”, an “argument from first cause”, the “causal argument”, and also as an “uncaused cause” or “unmoved mover” argument.

    2. A teleological argument, or argument from design, is an argument for the existence of God or a creator based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, design, or direction — or some combination of these — in nature. The word “teleological” is derived from the Greek word telos, meaning “end” or “purpose”.

    3. Morally/conscience. The moral argument appeals to the existence of moral laws as evidence of God’s existence.

    Not Biblically. It is the system of debate from the philosophers……These were the three points that Frank Turek used in his debate with the Non- Believer. the Word of God is the only way to defeat Satan….
    not one bible verse was used. Not even “In the beginning God….”
    wow

    Reply
  12. Tim D. says:

    What else is there to understand?

    Ah, the words of one who is happy pooling in ignorance. Hmm, let’s see if we can do something about that:

    (1) That there are other ways to value things than “what God thinks of it”
    (2) That, regardless of what you think, the way humans feel about each other is relevant
    (3) Just because atheists don’t believe we’re a “sacred race” doesn’t mean we don’t have value on our lives or the lives of others; if that were true, you’d see us murdering each other and ourselves. Interestingly, not the case 🙂
    (4) That you don’t have to weigh a person’s intrinsic value as a human being based entirely on their political affiliation (i.e. you don’t have to say “they’re evil liberal family-hating communists because they’re pro-abortion!”), although I suspect you’re perfectly happy doing just that. Anything to further the divide between atheists and Christians; keep you guys in your little elitist corner while the rest of the word is out there doing those “evil” and “secular” things ;|

    Reply
  13. Matt Hew says:

    Don’t expect actual arguments from Tim … he doesn’t have any. He only has sarcastic assertions that he clings to with the same fundamentalist, blind faith he accuses all theists of having.

    Seriously, you can go read his *comments* on other threads. They are all EXACTLY the same. No actual thought or consideration required.

    Oh yeah … and he THINKS he’s way funnier (and smarter) than he ACTUALLY is.

    Reply
  14. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Marcus,

    I understand your concern, but in this case it seem misguided. Keep in mind that there is truth that can be found outside the Bible. For example, 2×2=4, or even the truth that I am typing now. If someone does not accept the Bible, then it is not usually helpful to use the Bible as a starting point for your position. Don’t think I’m saying the Bible should never be used.

    Remember also that there is general revelation and special revelation. General revalation is found in nature and our moral intuitions (see Romans 1:20). Frank chose to use truth assertained from general revelation and right reason to make his case. This approach is legitimate and Biblical. See Paul’s argument to the Athenians is Acts 17.

    Best,
    Jeff

    Reply
  15. The Trousered Ape says:

    Marcus –
    To add to Jeff’s comments, even in the Old Testament, before the scripture was actually written down, they had to convey the concept of Yahweh some how and they did not have a Bible with which to do that. Also, many of the parables and teachings that Jesus provided were not based 100% in Old Testament scripture, but he used common, everyday experiences to draw lessons from.
    Having said that, Jeff is correct – we must know when to introduce Biblical text and when not to – because many do not accept it from the start and you have to work towards that point.

    Reply
  16. The Trousered Ape says:

    @ Tim –
    1. Why does it have to be “what God thinks of it?” Why can’t it be that it is grounded in His very nature and neither an external standard nor an arbitrary whim?
    2. I never implied or mentioned anything regarding relevancy. I think that is an assumption on your part – and a poor one at best.
    3. So are we to believe that only those of religious affiliation or spiritual leanings commit acts of murder and that is something totally beneath the atheist?
    4. Again, an assumption on your part about me with no basis of evidence for it.

    Still, the question is, what else is there to understand? You claim that you are tired of hearing the “nothing but chemicals” or “you’re just a bunch of atoms” being tossed around and then go on to say that the “over simplification is ridiculous.It’s like you’re trying to avoid actually understanding it.” Well, if that is the case, instead of throwing rhetoric around, why not explain what it is precisely that is not understood? I’m assuming you must have some idea as to what it is because you claim that it is not being met to your satisfaction. Is that a fair assumption?

    Reply
  17. Bob Perry says:

    I get so sick of hearing the “nothing but chemicals” argument. “If you’re just a bunch of atoms….” “If you’re nothing but chemicals….” Seriously, this oversimplification is ridiculous. It’s like you’re trying to avoid actually understanding it.

    Tim, I agree that it is ridiculous to assert that we are “nothing but chemicals” but THAT’S THE POINT! On a naturalistic worldview (which is what atheism is) there is nothing else. That’s why we say that until you’re sick of hearing it. We are too. The difference is that you don’t seem to understand the implications of your atheistic worldview.

    If you think there is more to existence than the physical world, why don’t you explain to us just exactly what that might be and how it might cohere with your worldview. I really am interested in hearing your thoughts on that.

    Reply
  18. Andrew Ryan says:

    Bob, you don’t seem to understand why it’s ridiculous.

    Seeing as everything in biology is made up of chemicals, and everything in the universe is made up of atoms, saying “we’re nothing but chemicals and atoms” doesn’t actually say anything. That encompasses the whole universe! You might as well say ‘All you’ve got to drink is liquid, there’s NOTHING ELSE.’ It’s amusingly reminiscent of that old poem:

    “Nothing to do but work,
    Nothing to eat but food,
    Nothing to wear but clothes…”

    A sunrise, a butterfly, a Renoir – you could say these are all ‘just light waves hitting the retina’. That doesn’t stop them being beautiful, unless you’re a complete luddite. It’s not a view held by me or anyone else I know. It’s like saying “Bleugh, the only things in your garden are flowers, grass, a babbling brook, gorgeous orchids, and delicately arranged shrubbery. That’s just a mess of H20, chlorophil, potassium and whatever!”

    Reply
  19. The Trousered Ape says:

    “Seeing as everything in biology is made up of chemicals, and everything in the universe is made up of atoms, saying “we’re nothing but chemicals and atoms” doesn’t actually say anything.”

    But isn’t that the naturalistic assumption?

    Reply
  20. Bob Perry says:

    No Andrew … you don’t understand.

    The point is that, if the whole of reality is comprised of only the physical — just atoms bumping into one another — there is no way to account for truth, goodness, beauty, value, free will … in the first place. Things just are the way they are: determinism rules.

    What you guys don’t seem to understand is that you smuggle ideas into your thinking that your worldview cannot account for. I’m not blaming you. You can’t help it. I’m just trying to point out that you cannot live and operate in the real world without those things, yet your worldview denies their existence.

    I’m trying to help you realize that. That’s all.

    Reply
  21. Andrew Ryan says:

    No Andrew … you don’t understand.

    No Bob, YOU don’t understand.

    No Andrew, YOU don’t understand.

    “What you guys don’t seem to understand is that you smuggle ideas into your thinking that your worldview cannot account for. ”

    No, that’s what YOU do. This is a bit pointless, isn’t it?

    Reply
  22. Andrew Ryan says:

    Presumably you guys moan that Shakespeare’s rubbish because his complete works is ‘just 26 letters and some punctuation’.

    “there is no way to account for truth, goodness, beauty, value, free will”
    Speak for yourself Bob. I have no problem accounting for these things, neither do any atheists I know.

    “…your worldview denies their existence.”
    Er, no it doesn’t. I doubt you think much of non-Christians explaining to YOU what your worldview means, as if they know better than you.

    ‘m sure you’re a lovely chap, but you don’t seem to know the first thing about my worldview. I’m lucky enough to have a life filled with love, beauty and joy. You can’t comprehend this, so be it.

    Reply
  23. The Trousered Ape says:

    We can comprehend well enough. The question isn’t a matter of comprehension, it is a matter of justification. Upon what grounds is “truth, goodness, beauty, value, free will,” et. al. based on in a naturalistic worldview? That’s the point.

    Reply
  24. Bob Perry says:

    I doubt you think much of non-Christians explaining to YOU what your worldview means, as if they know better than you … I‘m sure you’re a lovely chap, but you don’t seem to know the first thing about my worldview. I’m lucky enough to have a life filled with love, beauty and joy. You can’t comprehend this, so be it.

    … and I’m sure you’re a lovely chap too, Andrew. I have no reason to suspect you aren’t. I wasn’t questioning your character or the joy etc. you seem to have. What I am saying (and you have not refuted) is that the worldview you seem to be espousing cannot, in principle, account for the things you enjoy and experience.

    If you can find inconsistencies in my worldview, please point them out. I have identified some in yours. That’s it. Your response is devoid of any refutation of my claim … except that you don’t seem to like it. I’m sorry you don’t like it but if you want to refute it you have to offer some evidence to the contrary. You haven’t done that.

    So I ask again: “If you think there is more to existence than the physical world, why don’t you explain to us just exactly what that might be and how it might cohere with your worldview. I really am interested in hearing your thoughts on that.”

    Reply
  25. Tim D. says:

    Are the four points above arguments or assertions?

    Well, (1) is a fact. There are other ways to value life; if you deny that, you’re obviously stupid. Just because you don’t agree with said way(s) doesn’t negate their existence. A truly unbiased, intellectual observer would be able to see this clearly. So it’s neither an argument nor an assertion, it’s a fact, plain and simple.

    (2) is somewhat of an assertion. I suppose “relevancy” is up to the individual to determine.

    (3) Is both an argument and a fact that supports itself, as it is also evidence.

    (4) I suppose you can argue against it if you want, but that means you’re for evaluating someone’s worth based on their political affiliations. Since you and I can’t agree on a sure way to verify someone’s worth, I suppose you’re free to assert that all you want. But I strongly disagree -_-

    P.S. I think it’s cool how you tried to be aggressive, then recanted yourself and tried again. No, seriously; it shows you’ve got drive, if nothing else.

    Don’t expect actual arguments from Tim … he doesn’t have any. He only has sarcastic assertions that he clings to with the same fundamentalist, blind faith he accuses all theists of having.

    Hah! Wow, good one! I feel really bad now.

    If only I could figure out a way to get you to like me. I mean, that is the most important aspect of my life, considering that I’ve never met you and you’re obviously an idiot.

    Oh, and I also need to find a way to make you think I’m funny. That’s my other life goal.

    Seriously, you can go read his *comments* on other threads. They are all EXACTLY the same. No actual thought or consideration required.

    If by “exactly the same” you mean “impossible for your brain to compute,” then yes, I agree. But I’m afraid to say that too clearly, because I’m afraid you might not think I was funny…..

    OH, wait, I get it! Your name is Matt Hew! That’s Matthew, like the Bible verse! Oh, cool! You’re so witty, I can understand why you’d be disappointed with a level of sarcasm as inferior as mine….

    1. Why does it have to be “what God thinks of it?” Why can’t it be that it is grounded in His very nature and neither an external standard nor an arbitrary whim?

    If it’s outside of our perception (i.e. if it “really exists”), then it is an “external standard.” If it does not, it is an “arbitrary whim” (whether it comes from His standard or our own, it’s still that—an opinion, an internal standard, it’s not objective and rooted in reality).

    2. I never implied or mentioned anything regarding relevancy. I think that is an assumption on your part – and a poor one at best.

    That’s a continuation of another point from another post. It wasn’t really directed at you, though I admit I may have portrayed as much.

    3. So are we to believe that only those of religious affiliation or spiritual leanings commit acts of murder and that is something totally beneath the atheist?

    I never implied or mentioned anything regarding such acts being “beneath atheists,” or that spiritual people are the only ones that murder. I think that is an assupmtion on your part – and a poor one at best.

    No, what I said was that you would see that only atheists go around killing each other, which is of course not the case.

    4. Again, an assumption on your part about me with no basis of evidence for it.

    Um, yah….almost all of the so-called “Christian values” supported by this blog and the people who profess to agree with it also happen to be political alignments that coincide with the Republican Party and the Wrong Wing. Am I supposed to believe that’s just a major coincidence?

    [waits for comment about “Republicans being morally superior, so yah totally”]

    why not explain what it is precisely that is not understood? I’m assuming you must have some idea as to what it is because you claim that it is not being met to your satisfaction. Is that a fair assumption?

    Well, for one I already did. You guys denounce anything you’d rather not think about by decomposing it until it means nothing; “science doesn’t prove my God exists, so I question its authority….until I find something that I think allows a narrow opportunity to squeeze my view in, then I’m all on board with science!”

    You are conveniently critical of every worldview except your own.

    On a naturalistic worldview (which is what atheism is) there is nothing else. That’s why we say that until you’re sick of hearing it. We are too. The difference is that you don’t seem to understand the implications of your atheistic worldview.

    Not at all. You think atheists can’t believe in anything that we can’t see, just because we refuse to acknowledge the existence of Gods? All atheist means is “no Gods;” it says nothing about how I respond to anything else at all. An atheist is not the same thing as a materialistic worldview, my friend—although materialists are often atheists, that does not make all atheists materialist.

    If you think there is more to existence than the physical world, why don’t you explain to us just exactly what that might be and how it might cohere with your worldview. I really am interested in hearing your thoughts on that.

    I think the physical world speaks for itself quite well, thank you. I don’t claim to know one way or the other if there is anything beyond this world or this life; that’s where you and I differ. I’m claiming we can’t know and thus shouldn’t assume truth where it cannot be known. You’re claiming you have absolute objective truth and I want you to support that claim, but alas, you cannot….

    The point is that, if the whole of reality is comprised of only the physical — just atoms bumping into one another — there is no way to account for truth, goodness, beauty, value, free will … in the first place. Things just are the way they are: determinism rules.

    How do you explain human emotion, then? It is here. I feel it. You seem to think that we (atheists) are all completely devoid of emotion or interaction with the world on an emotional level, simply because we lack belief in God. That I somehow view the world with cold, emotionless materialism, that nothing illogical swims through my mind. I have feelings and desires (chemical in nature or not), and they give me emotions and sensations that, at the very least, create the illusion that I am a conscious entity. As long as it hurts when someone stabs me (and as long as I feel that sting of insecurity, should I attempt the same upon someone else), I’ll know that I’m still human.

    [/poetry lesson]

    But seriously. You guys don’t have a monopoly on feeligns or thoughts or poetry or any of that stuff. So it’d be really sweet if you quit acting like you do—although I won’t get my hopes up.

    What you guys don’t seem to understand is that you smuggle ideas into your thinking that your worldview cannot account for.

    I believe in what I can see and feel. I can see myself and others; I can feel myself and others. I feel a negative sensation when I bring pain to others without due justification. I’d be stupid not to believe in these things.

    Where you’re confused is that you think any way of valuing things other than yours comprises a lack of value.

    I’m trying to help you realize that. That’s all.

    Oh, well, there you done gone and did it. I’m all converted now!

    Wait, wait…no, no I’m not. Sorry, false alarm~

    We can comprehend well enough. The question isn’t a matter of comprehension, it is a matter of justification. Upon what grounds is “truth, goodness, beauty, value, free will,” et. al. based on in a naturalistic worldview? That’s the point.

    If I appreciate a work of art, or a butterfly, who are you to tell me I’m not justified to feel that way if I want to? Who are you to tell me that I require some external justification of what “beauty” is? Beauty is a human invention. There is no tangible thing in the universe called “beauty” because it is a concept invented by the human mind to describe the feeling we get (the natural, biological feeling we get) when something strikes us as pleasing.

    What I am saying (and you have not refuted) is that the worldview you seem to be espousing cannot, in principle, account for the things you enjoy and experience.

    What I am saying is that you are wrong. [/assertion]

    Here’s what I don’t understand; how is your Bible any less of a suggestion than my personal feelings? God says being gay is wrong; I say it’s a natural behavior that should be tolerated (if not accepted), and on top of that it’s none of your damn business. So is something going to happen to me if I “become gay” tomorrow? Is God going to come down and stop me from being gay? No. It’s going to happen.

    “But Tim, the Bible is the word of God!”

    The Bible says it is the word of God, and you believe it. Why? What if I told you I talked to God? Would you believe me? Of course not. The Bible is not objective.

    “But historians have discovered X and Y that suggest the Bible may refer to some actual historical events!”

    Does that make its “morals” any more objective? I don’t care if it’s a hair-by-hair accurate account of every living being that ever lived in Europe from the beginning of time, that has no bearing on its objectivity with regard to morality. What makes the Bible right? It’s certainly not the claim that God inspired it; if I made the same claim, you would not believe me. It’s certainly not the evidence that supports it morally, as there is little (I’m generally against rape and slavery, myself). So what is it?

    If you can find inconsistencies in my worldview, please point them out. I have identified some in yours.

    I don’t think you want me to do to yours what you’ve done to mine. In any case, I already have, so have at it~

    Reply
  26. Andrew Ryan says:

    ‘So I ask again: “If you think there is more to existence than the physical world, why don’t you explain to us just exactly what that might be’

    I’m telling you that it’s a meaningless question Bob. You haven’t even worked out exactly what it is you are asking. I might as well ask you ‘Is there more to the complete works of Shakespeare than letters and punctuation on a page?’ On a strictly literal level the answer is that yes, all his plays and sonnets are made up of letters on a page. But you haven’t said anything new or profound about the greatest body of literature any author has left us.

    So you are asking me ‘is there more to this world than love, companionship, art, beauty, family, travel, adventure, music, literature etc.’ For goodness sake, isn’t that enough?

    Reply
  27. Andrew Ryan says:

    “The worldview you seem to be espousing cannot, in principle, account for the things you enjoy and experience.”

    I agree with Tim – it is you making an assertion here. As I’ve already said, my worldview has no problem accounting for these things.

    The closest analogy I can come up with here is a two people on a plane, and one man tells the other that he believes planes are kept up in the air by angels. When the other man explains about the theory of flight, and the physics of flight, the first man rejects it. Now just because the first man doesn’t understand the science it doesn’t a) make the second man wrong or b) mean that either of them can’t safely take a flight.

    Anyway, I’ve already discussed this subject at length with Frank and others on the following two threads:
    ‘God is not dead yet’ and ‘Evolution cannot explain morality’. Feel free to read them!

    If you are GENUINELY interested in learning more about atheist views on subjects such as art, beauty, morality, then I would recommend reading Richard Dawkins’ book ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’.

    Reply
  28. Rudy Henkel says:

    Well, I’m someone upset that more believers aren’t coming to my post linked above about the failings of Mr. Turek’s points and explaining why I’m wrong. If my reasoning is faulty, I want to know.

    More to the point, I really don’t understand what’s so bad about being a “bunch of chemicals.” I’m a pretty awesome bunch of chemicals. I certainly don’t think that emotion is something *more* than a chemical reaction, but the disconnect comes, I think, by a common conception that being “just” a chemical reaction makes something base and unworthy. Why do we need to think there is a greater force behind emotion and subjectivity in order to appreciate and cherish it? The fact that love is chemical does not make it any less a real emotion, or a real part of human history, or of real importance to the happiness and health of the human race.

    When I look at my younger sisters, and am filled with a feeling of love, I do not think what is happening is anything more than chemical and electrical. What I do not understand is what is so bad about this. I did not start thinking that the feeling was less wonderful once I understood what caused it. Perhaps someone can clarify this point for me.

    Reply
  29. Andrew Ryan says:

    Rudy, I swung by and enjoyed reading the thread. I mean to leave a comment there myself. I returned to this thread to suggest to the believers here that if they want to hear and challenge a wide spread of atheist views on this subject then they should start a thread on an atheist forum such as richarddawkins.net and see what kind of responses they get.

    And you make a good point. Learning what causes emotions doesn’t make them less real, just as simply saying emotions are supernatural makes them MORE real. Is a house made of magic more real than one made out of bricks?

    Reply
  30. Tim D. says:

    I returned to this thread to suggest to the believers here that if they want to hear and challenge a wide spread of atheist views on this subject then they should start a thread on an atheist forum such as richarddawkins.net and see what kind of responses they get.

    If one were trying to “take down” all of the different atheistic views in one fell swoop (as it seems these fine folks believe they’re capable of), then yes, that would be the thing to do. However, I liken the methodology of this forum to the strategy I used to use in a PC game I played when I was younger — whenever you’re cornered by a bunch of bad guys, you generally don’t want to take them on all at once. What you do is, find a door to stand behind, and let them come through one at a time (of their own accord) so you can try to smash ’em to death before they can get to you.

    Reply
  31. Karthik says:

    Tim D: You said:
    “(3) Just because atheists don’t believe we’re a “sacred race” doesn’t mean we don’t have value on our lives or the lives of others; if that were true, you’d see us murdering each other and ourselves. Interestingly, not the case :)”

    The fact that you are not murdering each other and yourselves only shows that you are NOT living to the logical outworkings of the naturalistic philosophies you espouse. However, when the Finnish student went on a rampage or the Columbine kids murdered fellow students with “Survival of the fitest” as their goal, you cannot logically show they were wrong. You also cannot show that Stalin and Mao were wrong in killing a combined total of over 100 million people.

    The fact that you all are not murderous only reiterates what Paul wrote 2000 years ago to the Romans that even the “Gentiles who do not know God show that the requirements of the law are written in their hearts, their consciences now accusing, now even defending them.”

    There is a saying that Atheists act like atheists and react like theists. So your statement (3) points to contradictory behavior on your part and affirms the Biblical worldview rather than contradict it.

    Reply
  32. Andrew Ryan says:

    Karthik, the Columbine murderers didn’t survive at all – how were they examples of ‘survival of the fittest’? Do you even know what the phrase means? It doesn’t mean the most murderous will survive, or the even necessarily the strongest or most aggressive. The fittest can often be the meakest or weakest. Sheep are a lot more successful a species than wolves, going by population.

    “You also cannot show that Stalin and Mao were wrong in killing a combined total of over 100 million people.”
    I can show they were wrong. It is YOU who can’t. They were carrying out genocide – plenty of that in the bible, sanctioned by (and even carried out by) your God.

    “you are NOT living to the logical outworkings of the naturalistic philosophies you espouse.”
    I espouse no philosophy that endorses murder. This just shows how little you know about my philosophy.

    Reply
  33. Rudy Henkel says:

    Tim D: Are you saying that you’ll address the points in my article if I copy and paste them here? Promise?

    Karthik: You seem to be assuming that atheism automatically leads to nihilism. It’s a common misconception, so I don’t hold it against you. My *personal* ethical philosophy is not nihilism, but actually that of Robert G Ingersoll, The Great Agnostic: “Whatever increases the sum of human happiness is good, whatever decreases it is evil.”

    I think your main problem is that you are conflating a lot of points from metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, all of which are aspects of a philosophy. The metaphysics of an atheist is usually materialism, the epistemology is usually rationalism, but atheists have many different ethical philosophies.

    Reply
  34. Tim D. says:

    or the Columbine kids murdered fellow students with “Survival of the fitest” as their goal,

    You win stupidest comment of the day award! As sad as it is that it’s necessary for me to consciously iterate this to you, Columbine had nothing to do with “evolution” or “survival of the fittest;” for one, if they had intended for the “survival of the fittest,” then one would assume they would want to, you know, survive. Which of course, they did not, of their own accord.

    You also cannot show that Stalin and Mao were wrong in killing a combined total of over 100 million people.

    You’re right. I can’t show that they’re “objectively wrong” by your standards, because (a) there is no such thing as “objectively wrong” in the way you describe, and (b) your standard says that we can only judge right and wrong by the Bible, and since I don’t use the Bible, your standard does not apply.

    I can, however, disagree with such actions based on things like my own principals and experiences, and I can explain those things to you and see if you agree with them. If you do, then we have agreed on a moral standard. If not, then we have not.

    Christians are so scared that other people might have thoughts that are different from their own. “But how will we make sure people think the same way we do, if we don’t have an objective moral standard?” What, you think your Bible is working as an objective moral standard? The hell it is! It’s not just non-Christians doing things that you’d call evil, there are many Christians doing the same things as well. The Bible is not objective because if it was, people would be bound by it. And the simple fact is that we’re not; we’re only bound by what morality we choose to be bound by. Society decides which morality we will enforce, but even then it’s not objective; people punish certain acts on the basis of “imorrality,” but we still have a choice to do them (with the chance of maybe “getting away with it”) or not.

    Everyone has differing opinions; it’s up to us as individuals to exercise our perspectives and decide what we think is right and wrong. Because that’s what it is, at the end of the day—no matter what morality you think you have, or that we as a society establish, it’s not objective. It’s just what we all agree upon.

    There is a saying that Atheists act like atheists and react like theists. So your statement (3) points to contradictory behavior on your part and affirms the Biblical worldview rather than contradict it.

    Sorry, I’m gonna need some more evidence for that one~ I don’t work with sound bytes very well.

    Do you even know what the phrase means?

    Clearly not.

    For anyone else who cares, “fittest” just means “most fit to exist.” There are many, many, many standards by which to judge this fitness—some creatures, like lions, are powerful and fast, ensuring that they will survive, although surely at the expense of other living things. Other creatures, like rabbits, are very quick and difficult to capture, even though they’re not very strong. Rabbits are quite fit, and yet they are neither murderous nor aggressive. They’re actually quite peacable.

    “you are NOT living to the logical outworkings of the naturalistic philosophies you espouse.”

    Why are you so hell-bent on “proving” to me scientifically that my worldview allows murder and rape? I’m not a murderer; I’m not a rapist. I do not do these things, I do not endorse or condone or believe in these things. What you’re doing is tantamount to accusing me of doing these things, or at least having no reason not to. What, just because I don’t think “God told me not to,” in your mind that means I have no other reason not to? Now that’s just stupid, for reasons I have (again) already explained.

    It seems you’d rather atheists be out murdering and raping, just because that vision of an atheist would serve your stereotype better. Does it piss you off that I’m not a murderer or a rapist? Is that why you’re so bent on classifying me as such? Would it make you feel better if I went out and killed someone and raped them, so I’d fit your narrow worldview better? Well sorry, I have no such plans.

    Yeah, I know, tough luck for you, bud.

    Tim D: Are you saying that you’ll address the points in my article if I copy and paste them here? Promise?

    I guess. I mean, I can’t find a spot where I “was saying” as much, but if you’d like, I could without a problem comment on your comments 🙂

    Karthik: You seem to be assuming that atheism automatically leads to nihilism. It’s a common misconception, so I don’t hold it against you. My *personal* ethical philosophy is not nihilism, but actually that of Robert G Ingersoll, The Great Agnostic: “Whatever increases the sum of human happiness is good, whatever decreases it is evil.”

    See, I can already hear someone asking you, “How do you define happiness, then?”

    Everything is so arbitrary and specific with Christians. I don’t understand that….

    Reply
  35. Rudy Henkel says:

    Tim D: Sorry, I misread one of your earlier comments to understand that you were an apologist who used this forum like that video game door. I failed to recognize that you were being satirical.

    Reply
  36. Tim D. says:

    Tim D: Sorry, I misread one of your earlier comments to understand that you were an apologist who used this forum like that video game door. I failed to recognize that you were being satirical.

    Oh, no problem 🙂 Misconceptions happen all the time. I’m just glad when I meet someone who’s willing to admit to one.

    Reply
  37. Mark Wood says:

    Tim D.

    So it sounds like with the Columbine killing you are saying it was something you wouldn’t do and I happen to agree that it is wrong.

    However, when I, an objectivist, say it’s wrong, I mean it’s wrong for me and for anyone else.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying you “disagree with such actions based on things like my own principals and experiences.” From that standpoint, how do you say an action like that massacre is wrong for Harris and Klebold to commit? It seems like it wasn’t wrong for them based upon their own principles and experiences.

    So, on what basis would you condemn the Columbine killings?

    Or are you just telling us how you feel and emoting here?

    Reply
  38. Tim D. says:

    So, on what basis would you condemn the Columbine killings?

    On the basis of what I know about the situation. Several things come into play….

    I do not agree with the reason they chose to shoot up the school (from what I understand, it was a combination of them being picked on a lot and some misplaced anger from other issues). I dealt with a lot of the same things in high school, and it actually helped me learn to deal with stress in the long-run (such as dealing with stupid bosses at work, etc.). So I know there are better ways to handle such situations than by killing large numbers of people.

    On top of that, it should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention (and to anyone who is actually interested in understanding why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold acted in the way that they did, and thus driven to research the situation) that killing large numbers of people to solve the problems of one or two is simply not practical. Hell, even killing one or two other people to solve the problems of one is not practical or necessary. That would be like cutting off your finger because you accidentally cut the tip. I mean, hey, your finger doesn’t hurt anymore, right? But now you don’t have one, and now your hand hurts.

    To dumb it down a little: the way they acted did not work towards a practical solution to the problems that drove them to act the way they did. I suppose you could question why they should care to solve their problems, and why they shouldn’t just want to go out blazing like they did, but I won’t argue with you past that point for one simple reason, and that’s that the universe gives us little clues like this. As someone said in another topic here, pain hurts and pleasure is nice. No matter what your paradigm is, these are pretty much universally true. The theory that “problems are bad and solutions are good” generally fits this same paradigm, simply because we define “problem” as “something that is bad and prevents us from accomplishing a certain goal” and “solution” as “something that makes a problem disappear or become smaller.”

    Or are you just telling us how you feel and emoting here?

    Both. How I “feel and emote” has an impact on my actions, as it does with anyone (I’m not a robot). Thus, it will have a small impact on why I think the way I do about this and other things.

    Reply
  39. Rudy Henkel says:

    Mark Wood: You seem to very casually dismiss the fact that feelings and emotions play a large part in human society. I don’t think we need to be able to *prove* that something is wrong, as long as most of us agree that it is. Aversion to murder, theft, etc (which has an obvious evolutionary advantage for a group of people,) manifests through our feelings. This is sufficient basis from which to build a system of morals.

    I suppose I don’t understand your assertion that we can’t condemn anything unless we can prove that it’s wrong. That might be true if human beings were purely rational computers, but we are not.

    Reply
  40. Andrew Ryan says:

    Mark, the bible offers no better basis to condemn the Columbine killings. If you were trying to ‘logically prove’ to a sociopath that the killings were wrong, how would you show him that ‘God says murder is wrong’ trumps ‘Satan says murder is good’?

    Reply
  41. Tim D. says:

    Mark, the bible offers no better basis to condemn the Columbine killings. If you were trying to ‘logically prove’ to a sociopath that the killings were wrong, how would you show him that ‘God says murder is wrong’ trumps ‘Satan says murder is good’?

    Actually, God doesn’t say “murder is wrong” objectively. God says killing people without his command is wrong; there are plenty of people in the Bible who kill each other with God’s consent. So I think “God condems murder universally” is sort of a fallacious statement.

    Reply
  42. Bob Perry says:

    It amazes me how Tim, Andrew and Rudy either deliberately, or mistakenly (I’ll be kind and assume the latter), insist that those of us who defend objective morality here do so because the Bible and/or God says we should.

    I’m going to try one more time (as I have on other threads) to make you understand … I do NOT defend objective morality because God told me to either directly or through the Bible. I don’t need the Bible to defend objective truth or morality. My contention is that these things exist as part of the fabric of the universe we live in.

    My difference with you guys is that you seem to claim that “feelings and emotions” are what make objective truth or goodness true or good. They cannot do so. They may be one part of the way you claim to KNOW objective truth or goodness but the REALITY of truth or goodness is not dependent on your feelings and emotions. It’s the difference between epistemology and ontology — and it the ontological status of objective reality is NOT dependent on the Bible in any way.

    Do you understand that or not?

    If you don’t understand that — or if you refuse to acknowledge that as the position of an objective realist — this conversation will go nowhere. You may not accept this, but you have to acknowledge that

    this is what we are claiming

    . And you have to attempt to comprehend the difference between the two.

    Cheers …

    Reply
  43. Bob Perry says:

    I suppose I don’t understand your assertion that we can’t condemn anything unless we can prove that it’s wrong. That might be true if human beings were purely rational computers, but we are not.

    Rudy,
    I have not read enough of your posts to know so this is NOT a condemnation or accusation but — if you do hold to a purely naturalistic view of reality (i.e. there is no non-physical aspect to the universe we live in) then you ARE CLAIMING that we are all (what some have called our brains) “computers made of meat.”

    If that is the case (and again, I don’t know if that is your position), I don’t see how you can claim otherwise.

    Reply
  44. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Rudy, Tim, Andrew,

    It seems there has been some degree of talking past each other regarding the question of morality and how atheism or evolutionary naturalism could account for moral facts in the universe, and whether the existence of moral facts is best explained by a moral lawgiver or God. So, I’m going to try again to see if we can make some progress.

    Rudy stated,
    [Aversion to murder, theft, etc (which has an obvious evolutionary advantage for a group of people,) manifests through our feelings. This is sufficient basis from which to build a system of morals.]

    I think I understand how the evolutionary theory of morality goes. I agree that it seems this theory could account for certain moral FEELINGS among us based on certain shared moral feelings helpings communities become more survivable. Thus, the individuals in those communities who shared certain moral feelings would also be more survivable. The thing about this that I don’t understand is how evolutionary morality can go any deeper than the fact that we share moral FEELINGS as a species based on natural selection.

    If the evolutionary theory of morality is true, then it tells us that we do NOT actually have any real moral OBLIGATIONS. Morality is just feelings with survival value. Moreover, these feelings are oriented, not toward truth, but survivability only.

    So, to keep this brief, I would ask if you believe that you or I have real moral obligations and not just moral feelings. And, if you think we do, to who or what do we owe these obligations? Secondly, do you believe there are such things as MORAL TRUTHS? For example, is the statement, “It’s wrong to torture children to death for fun,” a true statement? Is this a truth beyond the fact that it may be a shared feeling?

    Since evolution is oriented toward survivability, I can see how you could hold that evolution could account for shared moral feelings. However, I can’t see how it could account for moral truths. If it can only account for shared moral feelings then it’s an incomplete explanation for morality since it can’t explain moral truth or moral obligations.

    Also, suppose we have two groups that have conflicting moral feelings. How could we go about judging between them? Do we count heads? For example, consider the moral feelings of Nazi Germany as opposed to Great Britain. Since both sets of morals feelings had survived, I don’t see how we could judge one more survivable. Since the evolutionary theory of morality can’t, in principle, take us any further, the how could we judge which society was more moral (or right)?

    Best,
    Jeff

    Reply
  45. Jeff Vannoy says:

    PS:

    Remember, to avoid any further confusion, no one here (that I know of) is claiming that belief in God is required for one to BE moral or for one to know what IS moral.

    Jeff

    Reply
  46. Tim D. says:

    I’m going to try one more time (as I have on other threads) to make you understand … I do NOT defend objective morality because God told me to either directly or through the Bible. I don’t need the Bible to defend objective truth or morality. My contention is that these things exist as part of the fabric of the universe we live in.

    I’m familiar with the idea, and I disagree. Evangelical Back-Argument in practice….

    My difference with you guys is that you seem to claim that “feelings and emotions” are what make objective truth or goodness true or good. They cannot do so. They may be one part of the way you claim to KNOW objective truth or goodness but the REALITY of truth or goodness is not dependent on your feelings and emotions. It’s the difference between epistemology and ontology — and it the ontological status of objective reality is NOT dependent on the Bible in any way.

    I never said the fact that I “feel” it makes it “real” or “objective.” For one, I said I don’t support your version of “objective morality.” Second, I challenge you (once again) to prove to me where “goodness” and “morality” exist in the universe. Where can I find it? Where is it? It’s not in the Bible, that’s merely one claim to morality. Where is the morality itself?

    I have not read enough of your posts to know so this is NOT a condemnation or accusation but — if you do hold to a purely naturalistic view of reality (i.e. there is no non-physical aspect to the universe we live in) then you ARE CLAIMING that we are all (what some have called our brains) “computers made of meat.”

    The reason this is wrong is simple: just because we are driven by chemical reactions — i.e. “there is a reason for everything we do and everything we feel, even if we don’t understand it” — doesn’t mean we are (a) aware of all of these things, or (b) can control them even if we are. You think just because our physical bodies (and the brains inside them that allow us to think and act) are products of the universe that surrounds us — i.e. “cause and effect organisms” — that we are somehow robotic in the way we act and think. And that’s simply not true. But sadly, you just don’t want to comprehend that.

    If the evolutionary theory of morality is true, then it tells us that we do NOT actually have any real moral OBLIGATIONS. Morality is just feelings with survival value. Moreover, these feelings are oriented, not toward truth, but survivability only.

    Ah, but don’t you get it yet? We have no moral obligations! None of us do. It’s only what we feel that causes us to force ourselves to abide by any moral aspect. Is it possible for me to kill and rape and steal? Sure it is! But do I? No. Why not? Is it because these things are “objectively wrong?” No. It is because I feel they are wrong; thus, I do not do them. When you make the choice not to do something like that, the only thing stopping you from doing them is you. You are making that personal choice to refrain from atrocious behavior. Nobody else is going inside your head and forcing you to think that way.

    Does that mean I permiss others to do those things? Of course not. I would share my reasoning and explain why those things are “wrong” to me. I would explain, for instance, that two high school kids shouldn’t go and shoot up a bunch of their peers and teachers because there are a million and a half better ways to solve the problems that drive them to such actions. Will that force them to oblige? Of course not. It’s up to them to decide.

    See, that’s why we have things like cops and armies. There is nothing preventing anyone from doing horrible things, if they so desire. There is a point at which force becomes necessary; if a guy wants to be a hitman because it’s better-paying than, say, a job at McDonald’s, then it’s up to someone outside of his paradigm to stop him from hurting someone else. Why? Because it’s “objectively wrong?” No; because everyone benefits from a universal law that bans murder. Nobody will object to such a law, because it is a law that provides everyone with a solid foundation on which to base the rest of their lives — not even the hitman would disagree, ironically, because it is the law that provides the black market that makes his skills necessary. Although again, that doesn’t mean we would permiss his actions.

    So, to keep this brief, I would ask if you believe that you or I have real moral obligations and not just moral feelings. And, if you think we do, to who or what do we owe these obligations? Secondly, do you believe there are such things as MORAL TRUTHS? For example, is the statement, “It’s wrong to torture children to death for fun,” a true statement? Is this a truth beyond the fact that it may be a shared feeling?

    See above; no. I don’t believe we have objective “moral obligations,” as you describe them, beyond those we set for ourselves, especially not in the same sense that we have physical obligations.

    Since evolution is oriented toward survivability, I can see how you could hold that evolution could account for shared moral feelings. However, I can’t see how it could account for moral truths. If it can only account for shared moral feelings then it’s an incomplete explanation for morality since it can’t explain moral truth or moral obligations.

    Where are these moral truths? If you don’t need the Bible to show them to me, then why is it so hard for you to show them to me?

    How could we go about judging between them? Do we count heads? For example, consider the moral feelings of Nazi Germany as opposed to Great Britain. Since both sets of morals feelings had survived, I don’t see how we could judge one more survivable. Since the evolutionary theory of morality can’t, in principle, take us any further, the how could we judge which society was more moral (or right)?

    You forget that Nazi Germany and Great Britain are comprised of people who were/are (respectively) capable of making decisions of morality on their own (albeit terrible ones, in the case of the former). One made a horrible, devastating choice for the rest of the world, and the other did not. You ask “how should we judge them?” Well, first we must examine those who already have judged them and chosen to take part in one side or the other. How did they reach their decisions? What is the difference between someone who would fight for Hitler, and someone who would oppose him at the risk of death?

    Are there some anti-Hitler personalities who would fight against him on the basis of moral superiority? Sure, there are. Are there others who would fight against him because they think he was a world-class psychopath? You bet. Are there others who would fight against him because they fear for their own life, and see the threat against the lives of others as a threat that could, in theory, eventually be made against their own?

    There are many, many reasons to judge someone like Hitler in the negative. It seems that only Evangelical Christians have a problem understanding this; I haven’t met a single atheist (or, hell, anyone of a religion other than Christianity) who believes that “Hitler was right.”

    Remember, to avoid any further confusion, no one here (that I know of) is claiming that belief in God is required for one to BE moral or for one to know what IS moral.

    Why don’t you do some explaining? For the umpteenth time, how do you know what is moral, without referencing the Bible (as you have claimed you can do)?

    Reply
  47. Andrew Ryan says:

    “How could we go about judging between them? Do we count heads?”

    Postulating a God doesn’t avoid the problem. You still have to make a choice. Hitler or Britain? If you can’t decide between THAT then presumably offering you the choice between God and Satan won’t improve matters either. You’re still going by what ‘feels better’ or by which choice you judge leads to greater happiness either for yourself or for others.

    Unless you’re just saying ‘Well God to leads to Heaven, Satan to hell’, in which case you’re still making a pragmatic decision rather than a moral one.

    Reply
  48. Rudy Henkel says:

    Jeff: Hmm. I don’t want to make this too, too long, so I’ll clarify my position as succinctly as possible. Tell me if anything is still unclear.

    I do not think there is any such thing as a moral TRUTH in the same sense as there are scientific truths. Systems of ethics have grown and changed over time with human societies. What was once celebrated, is now condemned. I consider modern systems of morality (in which slavery, racism, genocide, etc. are considered unacceptable,) to be superior not because I consider them closer to any great *truth* of morality, but because they lead to greater happiness and harmony among humanity. I value human happiness not because I can logically justify it, but because of my chemically based feelings.

    I think that moral obligations exist only in a very limited sense, certainly not in the sense of absolute truth laid into the fabric of reality. That does not mean we cannot apply moral obligations as a society, nor does it mean we don’t tend towards certain moral actions as a species.

    If I see someone in trouble, I help them without asking myself “Do I have a moral obligation to do this?” I help them because the biological tendencies in my brain compel me to do so, and because I am then rewarded with a feeling of happiness for having helped my fellow creature. Similarly, drawing on your example, were I face to face with Hitler in the past, I would kill him. I wouldn’t feel the need to logically prove that his actions deserved death. Again, chemical impulses in my brain make me disgusted and outraged at how he regards his fellow human beings. There need be no more basis than this for establishing morality.

    When it comes to your arguments, they seem to be of the form: “objective morality exists, therefore God exists.” By all means, correct me if I’m misinterpreting you. I have not seen you, or your fellows, argue either of these points to satisfaction. I’ve focused somewhat on the failings of the second part, but let’s look at the first part.

    In order to make this argument work, you have to first show that objective morality exists without referring to God. How do you do this? All I’ve heard so far are assertions of the fact that we share moral instincts which, again, can be explained by evolution.

    Reply
  49. Jeff Vannoy says:

    You said [Where are these moral truths? If you don’t need the Bible to show them to me, then why is it so hard for you to show them to me?]

    Moral truths are not physical and thus don’t have a location and can’t be known empirically. So it’s a category mistake to ask “where” they are. They are non-physical, similar to the laws of logic or math.

    “It’s wrong to torture children to death for fun.” In my view, that’s a moral truth. Thus, it does not depend on anyone’s shared feelings for it to be true. What if no one thought it was true? I think it would still be true in the same way that the earth would be round even if no one believed it was. I think you will admit that if something like moral truths exist (independent of human feelings), then the best explanation for them would be a God. The evolutionary model can only account for shared moral feeling, not moral truths. I think you agree with this also. I guess the question now is whether I can convince you that there are such things as moral truths like the one above.

    Do you believe in logical truths? For example we can know that the law of non-contradiction is true by simply reflecting on it. Morever, it’s true whether or not we have shared feelings about its truth value. I think the moral truth above is similar.

    Jeff

    Reply
  50. Rudy Henkel says:

    I neither think that moral truths (in the sense that you use the term,) exist, nor think that God would be the best explanation if they did exist. However, since you seem to be addressing the first point, and because it is the foundation of the argument, we’ll start with that.

    The difference between moral truths and logical truths is that logical truths correspond to a physical state of the world. The law of non-contradiction can be seen in the physical world by pointing out that something cannot be both red and blue, for example. There exists no similar real world analogy for moral truths.

    Reply
  51. Andrew Ryan says:

    “It’s wrong to torture children to death for fun.”
    “The evolutionary model can only account for shared moral feeling”

    In what part of evolutionary science would it NOT be likely that the human species would develop a shared moral feeling that torturing children to death for fun was a bad idea?

    You would EXPECT us as a species to get a distate for anything that was bad for us as a species. Torturing and killing the youngest members of the species is about as harmful as you can get to the species as a whole. Which is why the feeling that it’s a bad idea is pretty much universal. You haven’t proved the existence of God here, or even made a deity’s existence more likely.

    Reply
  52. Andrew Ryan says:

    So how do you get from us all having a ‘shared moral feeling’ against torturing babies to death, to making it a ‘universal truth’ that exists independently of us, explainable only by a deity?

    If it’s simply because enough of us agree that it’s bad, then all you’ve shown is that we all agree. You haven’t proved God.

    If it’s because you hate the idea of baby torture SO much that you think it just HAS to be a universal truth, then you’re still using an emotional argument. This doesn’t mean that baby torture is actually OK – we’re all agreed that it isn’t. But it means that we don’t need God to tell us it’s bad for us to know it.

    If you just don’t like the idea that without God you have no way of convincing a hypothetical moral-free sociapath that murder is bad, then I’m afraid that the bible wouldn’t help here anyway. As I said before, you’ve just shifted the problem along a bit. You still have to convince him that following God is better than following Satan. In other words, you need to start off with a moral axiom of some sort before you even get to the God part. And if you need a moral axiom BEFORE you get to God, then it’s quite possible to construct an ethical framework without Him.

    Reply
  53. Tim D. says:

    Moral truths are not physical and thus don’t have a location and can’t be known empirically. So it’s a category mistake to ask “where” they are. They are non-physical, similar to the laws of logic or math.

    Alright. Prove it to me, as you would prove a law of logic or math.

    I think it would still be true in the same way that the earth would be round even if no one believed it was.

    You would still think it was true. If there were noone else around, then you would be the only one capable of upholding this “truth.” Therefore, it exists only inside the minds of those who hold it as truth.

    What you are saying is no different than if I said, “torturing babies is right. And if there was nobody left in the universe that felt the same way, I would still feel the same way.” Does that make torturing babies for fun “right?” Of course not. Same goes for your point here.

    I think you will admit that if something like moral truths exist (independent of human feelings), then the best explanation for them would be a God.

    Actually, I wouldn’t admit that. Too bad it’s irrelevant, though, as I believe in neither a God nor such “objective morals” as you preach.

    Do you believe in logical truths? For example we can know that the law of non-contradiction is true by simply reflecting on it. Morever, it’s true whether or not we have shared feelings about its truth value. I think the moral truth above is similar.

    Those things can be demonstrated. Demonstrate to me why it is “wrong objectively” to rape or murder or steal, if you can. That is, without using “I would still feel—” as part of your argument.

    If it’s because you hate the idea of baby torture SO much that you think it just HAS to be a universal truth, then you’re still using an emotional argument.

    You said a word in another topic that I like, that resonates with this situation: argument from consequence, I believe it was?

    Reply
  54. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Rudy,

    The laws of logic are non-physical truths that are real. You said that,
    [“logical truths correspond to a physical state in the world. The law of non-contradiction can be seen by pointing out that something cannot be both red and blue.”]

    On the contrary, the laws of logic do not need empirical verification to see if they are true. If I say something cannot both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense, no one needs to go check this out in the physical world to see if it’s true. The logical truth is non-physical and the way we know it is non-physical (non empirical).
    Moral laws are similar in that they are non-physical truths, and also similar in that we don’t know their truth based on empirical observation. We can know them by reflecting on them. They also have application to the real physical world (like logical truths). It seems that your objection fails. Nevertheless, this was brought up simply to make something clearer, not add more confusion.

    Now, to be fair, you make deny that moral truths exist, but not based on the reason you stated. So, if I just read you right, you deny that moral truths exist. So my example, the statement, “Torturing children to death for funs is wrong” is not true in any sense beyond your feeling (or at most, society’s shared feeling) that it’s true. Correct?

    Of course, the next logical question is if our morality is just shared feelings with survival value (as Tim stated I think), then what happens when we have opposing moralities. I still don’t think this has been answered sufficiently. The same evolutionary physical process that brought us Mother Theresa also brought us Adolph Hitler. The same evolutionary process that brought us virtuous societies also brought us evil societies. One can’t make an objective judgment here without an objective standard of measurement. I have a pencil and an eraser in front of me. If I want to know which is closer to a foot in length, I need to know how long a foot is before I can make the judgment. Atheism provides no such standard other than moral feelings, which are subjective. Granted, you can judge that you FEEL that Hitler was worse, but that seems like a weak foundation for morality.

    Also, you guys have denied that moral truths or moral laws exist. But, I have said that if the did then they would best be explained by a moral lawgiver (a God). You guys also reject that. This I can’t understand. Do you think that a non-physical moral law is something that we can get through the interaction of matter and physical forces? Could the big bang spit out moral laws? Moral laws suggest an oughtness or an obligation to obey them. How can we get a moral law without a moral lawgiver and if no lawgiver, then who is our obligation to? Our genes?

    More later,

    Jeff

    Reply
  55. The Trousered Ape says:

    “Also, you guys have denied that moral truths or moral laws exist.”

    If that is true, then why discuss the topic at all? By saying that one position is wrong and another correct presupposes some objective standard, doesn’t it? You can’t say that your position is more right than mine unless you think my position is truly wrong or misguided and you can’t think that unless you think that yours is objectively right and that I ought to believe or hold to your position over and against mine. It seems that the very thing that is being denied on the one hand is being upheld in the other in order to even get their case off the ground. The very thing they are denying is assumed in their objection, otherwise it makes so sense.

    Reply
  56. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Granted, you can judge that you FEEL that Hitler was worse, but that seems like a weak foundation for morality.”

    Jeff, I’ve asked you this several times now. How are you any different on this score? If all your morality is based on the idea that you FEEL that ‘God is better than Satan’, then you are making the same foundation as us. Go back to first principle – what’s your opening moral axiom?

    Reply
  57. Andrew Ryan says:

    “if our morality is just shared feelings with survival value (as Tim stated I think), then what happens when we have opposing moralities.”

    People disagree, that’s what happens.

    “So my example, the statement, “Torturing children to death for funs is wrong” is not true in any sense beyond your feeling (or at most, society’s shared feeling) that it’s true. Correct?”
    Hypothetically, what if it isn’t true in any sense beyond that? How how does that prove or disprove God? You might say that the statement IS true in a greater sense than that, but how do you know that even THIS bellef is true in any sense beyond your feeling? You’re still just expressing an opinion. You’re not PROVING anything.

    I think that one can say ‘Torturing children is wrong’ is a true statement, but just because it fits our own, man-made definition of the word ‘wrong’. It’s like saying ‘The sky is blue’. Blue is the word we use to describe to the colour of the sky.

    But before you address this, please tell me what Christians have over atheists in posessing an original, opening moral axiom.

    Reply
  58. The Trousered Ape says:

    “I think that one can say ‘Torturing children is wrong’ is a true statement, but just because it fits our own, man-made definition of the word ‘wrong’. It’s like saying ‘The sky is blue’. Blue is the word we use to describe to the colour of the sky.”

    Really? It’s just a matter of opinion or taste? So on your view, what justification was used for locking up someone like Charles Manson if he was just expressing his opinion? What made it wrong if “wrong” is just a made-up word?

    Do you mean that if our definition of “wrong” was different than it is now, then it would be immoral to not torture children?

    Reply
  59. Tim D. says:

    Of course, the next logical question is if our morality is just shared feelings with survival value (as Tim stated I think), then what happens when we have opposing moralities.

    Um. Try looking around you. Bush’s War in the Middle East? Christians trying to overtake America and turn it into a psycho-jeezer theocracy?

    I think the Joker said it best: “[We] eat each other alive.” People can’t stand to be around other people whose moralities are different from their own—even if they are basically the same, yet coming from a different source.

    Sad but true fact -_-

    You guys also reject that.

    Actually, I was the only one who rejected that. I don’t recall Rudy or Andrew Ryan responding to that comment in the way I did.

    Do you think that a non-physical moral law is something that we can get through the interaction of matter and physical forces?

    If I admitted to that, then of course I would have to admit the same of logic and physics. And of course, I have no plans to do that, for obvious reasons~

    Moral laws suggest an oughtness or an obligation to obey them. How can we get a moral law without a moral lawgiver and if no lawgiver, then who is our obligation to? Our genes?

    We. Have. No. Moral. Obligations.

    The only thing stopping you from becoming the kind of person you say you don’t want to become is you. There is no such thing as “oughtness;” that is a man-made concept, and so is morality.

    If you care to prove me wrong, by all means, “prove” to me why morality is objective, and what those objective morals are. Why are they “right?” I’m listening.

    If that is true, then why discuss the topic at all? By saying that one position is wrong and another correct presupposes some objective standard, doesn’t it?

    Ah, logical fallacy…how I love thee. I don’t have to acknowledge that anything is “right” or “true” in order to disagree with you. You’re the type who says that not making a choice is a choice in itself, right? A choice to not make a choice? That’s a bit too contradictory for my tastes. I mean, if you don’t want to be a part of the discussion, I won’t beg you to stay. You’ve shown time and again that you have nothing to contribute.

    Really? It’s just a matter of opinion or taste? So on your view, what justification was used for locking up someone like Charles Manson if he was just expressing his opinion? What made it wrong if “wrong” is just a made-up word?

    I can’t speak for Andrew Ryan, but I have already explained this many, many times, here and in other topics on this page. I am opposed to people killing each other for what I deem stupid reasons; you believe that, just because I cannot prove that my personal beliefs are “objectively true,” that means I cannot hold them? How would you answer me, then, if I told you I liked a certain band’s music? That’s an opinion. I can’t prove that is objectively true. So what, I’m not allowed to like the band, then?

    Reply
  60. Victoria says:

    I believe I might be the young lady you’re referring to who “apologized for being an atheist.” I think I was a bit misunderstood -I don’t think this quite gets across what I wanted to convey.

    What I meant was that I don’t need to apologize on behalf of atheists as individuals (who generally are quite proud of their own critical thinking and lack of a need for a spokesperson). The questions that Hitchens avoided would have been quite easily answered, and I was apologizing for the fact that he systematically avoided them. Many people could have given better answers than he did.

    One of the main points that non-religious people have, and one that did not get adequately addressed, was that science doesn’t have all the answers. Though we should definitely encourage scientific inquiry into things like evolutionary psychology and biology, the simple answer is we don’t know exactly how a combination of chemicals can give rise to conscious humans with seemingly universal morals. We may never know due to the extreme difficulty in performing experiments in these fields.

    But just because we don’t know doesn’t mean we’re going to ascribe their presence to some mystical concept like God. I think that doing this discourages people from thinking critically and creatively about science.

    Thank you again for coming. I think everyone walked away from it better examining his/her belief system (or lack thereof.)

    Reply
  61. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim please.

    [Um. Try looking around you. Bush’s War in the Middle East? Christians trying to overtake America and turn it into a psycho-jeezer theocracy?]

    The Founding Fathers of our nation included: 28 Episcopalins, 8 presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and 3 Deists.

    Odd, 93% Christian and no one tried to establish a Theocracy.

    Jeff

    Reply
  62. Andrew Ryan says:

    Still can’t answer my question then after me asking it several times? Hoping it’ll go away, eh?

    “Do you mean that if our definition of “wrong” was different than it is now, then it would be immoral to not torture children?”
    If you define ‘torture’ as give milk to, and define ‘children’ as kittens, then the sentence would look different, no? So, yes, definitions are important. And under present definitions, it’s virtually a truism to say ‘torturing children is wrong’.

    Tim: “I don’t recall Rudy or Andrew Ryan responding to that comment in the way I did”
    This is correct. But hey, we’re all ‘you people’, right?

    “So on your view, what justification was used for locking up someone like Charles Manson if he was just expressing his opinion? ”
    Do you actually know who Charles Manson is? I live in the UK, over here, generally speaking we have laws protecting freedom to express opinions. Charles Manson was found liable for a series of murders. Do you understand the difference between ‘murdering people’ and ‘expressing his opinion’?

    Here’s a big difference – when you murder people, they get killed. If you can’t understand why it might be beneficial to a society to remove murderers from that society, then you are really not thinking your reasoning through.

    So for goodness how many times, explain to me how YOU condemn Charles Manson. I’m guessing if you had a decent answer that you’d have given it by now, rather than disengenuously pretending that a society where everyone murders each other would not break down.

    You’re asking me to go back to first principles – you do the same. Don’t just say ‘it says so in the bible’. Further back than that. Don’t just say ‘because the bible comes from God’. Further back than that. You just say ‘but why’ to me, I can do the same to you and you are NO BETTER OFF.

    If no-one even TRIES to answer for any more posts, I’ll take that as admition on your part that you know you don’t have on.

    Reply
  63. Andrew Ryan says:

    And saying ‘because you’ll go to hell for murdering’ is not a moral reason. That’s self-interest.

    And saying ‘because God is all Good’ doesn’t help, because then you’ve just got the same circular argument of ‘you’re doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do’.

    And any answer that involves choosing the path of best consequences is an answer that atheists can use too.

    And you’ve already told us that answers based on what you ‘FEEL’ is the right path are inadmissable.

    And choosing God over Satan is a choice just like choosing Mother Theresa over Hitler.

    Over to you…

    Reply
  64. Tim D. says:

    Odd, 93% Christian and no one tried to establish a Theocracy.

    (1) Obviously, I wasn’t talking about our Founding Fathers trying to establish a theocracy. I don’t know where you got that from.

    (2) So you concede that Bush’s War supports my point. Good.

    (3) Do you watch TBN, my friend? Or any of the neighboring stations? There are rich, powerful and politically active Christians who are actively trying to turn America into a Christian Theocracy.

    (4) Have you heard of The Pulpit Initiative? It’s a political movement started by the Christian group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) that calls to pastors and preachers around the nation to publicly endorse political candidates from the puplit, in an attempt to protest the Federal Law that prevents tax-exempt church groups from endorsing political candidates. The Washington post reports as follows:

    “The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.”

    Of course, if you don’t believe me, you can always visit the ADF’s website:

    http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/issues/religiousfreedom/churchandstate.aspx?cid=4491

    “By standing together and speaking with one voice, it is our hope to recapture the rightful place of pastors and churches in American life.”

    So they’re breaking the law, based on the claim that Christian law is somehow “superior” to American Federal law. That’s a theocratic movement, if I’ve ever heard of one.

    How about the Dominionist movement, then? Here are the words of Eric Heubeck, a prominent Dominionist Christian (I’m sorry, “New Traditionalist”) leader:

    “”There will be three main stages in the unfolding of this movement. The first stage will be devoted to the development of a highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities. The second stage will be devoted to the development of institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses. The third stage will involve changing the overall character of American popular culture..

    Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions..

    We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment’s rest. We will endeavor to prove that the Left does not deserve to hold sway over the heart and mind of a single American. We will offer constant reminders that there is an alternative, there is a better way. When people have had enough of the sickness and decay of today’s American culture, they will be embraced by and welcomed into the New Traditionalist movement. The rejection of the existing society by the people will thus be accomplished by pushing them and pulling them simultaneously.

    We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime.

    We must create a countervailing force that is just as adept as the Left at intimidating people and institutions that are used as tools of left-wing activism but are not ideologically committed, such as Hollywood celebrities, multinational corporations, and university administrators. We must be feared, so that they will think twice before opening their mouths.

    We will be results-oriented rather than good intentions-oriented. Making a good-faith effort and being ideologically sound will be less important than advancing the goals of the movement.

    We need more people with fire in the belly, and we need a message that attracts those kinds of people.. We must reframe this struggle as a moral struggle, as a transcendent struggle, as a struggle between good and evil. And we must be prepared to explain why this is so. We must provide the evidence needed to prove this using images and simple terms..”

    Yeah, totally. No theocracy here.

    Reply
  65. Tim D. says:

    Odd, 93% Christian and no one tried to establish a Theocracy.

    (1) Obviously, I wasn’t talking about our Founding Fathers trying to establish a theocracy. I don’t know where you got that from.

    (2) So you concede that Bush’s War supports my point. Good.

    (3) Do you watch TBN, my friend? Or any of the neighboring stations? There are rich, powerful and politically active Christians who are actively trying to turn America into a Christian Theocracy.

    (4) Have you heard of The Pulpit Initiative? It’s a political movement started by the Christian group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) that calls to pastors and preachers around the nation to publicly endorse political candidates from the puplit, in an attempt to protest the Federal Law that prevents tax-exempt church groups from endorsing political candidates. The Washington post reports as follows:

    “The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.”

    Of course, if you don’t believe me, you can always visit the ADF’s website:

    http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/issues/religiousfreedom/churchandstate.aspx?cid=4491

    “By standing together and speaking with one voice, it is our hope to recapture the rightful place of pastors and churches in American life.”

    So they’re breaking the law, based on the claim that Christian law is somehow “superior” to American Federal law. That’s a theocratic movement, if I’ve ever heard of one.

    How about the Dominionist movement, then? Here are the words of Eric Heubeck, a prominent Dominionist Christian (I’m sorry, “New Traditionalist”) leader:

    “”There will be three main stages in the unfolding of this movement. The first stage will be devoted to the development of a highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities. The second stage will be devoted to the development of institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses. The third stage will involve changing the overall character of American popular culture..

    Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions..

    We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment’s rest. We will endeavor to prove that the Left does not deserve to hold sway over the heart and mind of a single American. We will offer constant reminders that there is an alternative, there is a better way. When people have had enough of the sickness and decay of today’s American culture, they will be embraced by and welcomed into the New Traditionalist movement. The rejection of the existing society by the people will thus be accomplished by pushing them and pulling them simultaneously.

    We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime.

    We must create a countervailing force that is just as adept as the Left at intimidating people and institutions that are used as tools of left-wing activism but are not ideologically committed, such as Hollywood celebrities, multinational corporations, and university administrators. We must be feared, so that they will think twice before opening their mouths.

    We will be results-oriented rather than good intentions-oriented. Making a good-faith effort and being ideologically sound will be less important than advancing the goals of the movement.

    We need more people with fire in the belly, and we need a message that attracts those kinds of people.. We must reframe this struggle as a moral struggle, as a transcendent struggle, as a struggle between good and evil. And we must be prepared to explain why this is so. We must provide the evidence needed to prove this using images and simple terms..”

    Yeah, totally. No theocracy here.

    NOTE: Interestingly, my comment (with source links included) was declined for moderation.

    Reply
  66. Tim D. says:

    Odd, 93% Christian and no one tried to establish a Theocracy.

    (1) Obviously, I wasn’t talking about our Founding Fathers trying to establish a theocracy. I don’t know where you got that from.

    (2) So you concede that Bush’s War supports my point. Good.

    (3) Do you watch TBN, my friend? Or any of the neighboring stations? There are rich, powerful and politically active Christians who are actively trying to turn America into a Christian Theocracy.

    (4) Have you heard of The Pulpit Initiative? It’s a political movement started by the Christian group Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) that calls to pastors and preachers around the nation to publicly endorse political candidates from the puplit, in an attempt to protest the Federal Law that prevents tax-exempt church groups from endorsing political candidates. The Washington post reports as follows:

    “The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.”

    Of course, if you don’t believe me, you can always visit the ADF’s website.

    “By standing together and speaking with one voice, it is our hope to recapture the rightful place of pastors and churches in American life.”

    So they’re breaking the law, based on the claim that Christian law is somehow “superior” to American Federal law. That’s a theocratic movement, if I’ve ever heard of one.

    How about the Dominionist movement, then? Here are the words of Eric Heubeck, a prominent Dominionist Christian (I’m sorry, “New Traditionalist”) leader:

    “”There will be three main stages in the unfolding of this movement. The first stage will be devoted to the development of a highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities. The second stage will be devoted to the development of institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses. The third stage will involve changing the overall character of American popular culture..

    Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions..

    We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment’s rest. We will endeavor to prove that the Left does not deserve to hold sway over the heart and mind of a single American. We will offer constant reminders that there is an alternative, there is a better way. When people have had enough of the sickness and decay of today’s American culture, they will be embraced by and welcomed into the New Traditionalist movement. The rejection of the existing society by the people will thus be accomplished by pushing them and pulling them simultaneously.

    We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime.

    We must create a countervailing force that is just as adept as the Left at intimidating people and institutions that are used as tools of left-wing activism but are not ideologically committed, such as Hollywood celebrities, multinational corporations, and university administrators. We must be feared, so that they will think twice before opening their mouths.

    We will be results-oriented rather than good intentions-oriented. Making a good-faith effort and being ideologically sound will be less important than advancing the goals of the movement.

    We need more people with fire in the belly, and we need a message that attracts those kinds of people.. We must reframe this struggle as a moral struggle, as a transcendent struggle, as a struggle between good and evil. And we must be prepared to explain why this is so. We must provide the evidence needed to prove this using images and simple terms..”

    Yeah, totally. No theocracy here.

    Reply
  67. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Of course, the next logical question is if our morality is just shared feelings with survival value (as Tim stated I think), then what happens when we have opposing moralities.”

    Are you implying that this philosophy can have bad consequences? Are you arguing against this philosophy or saying it should be opposed BECAUSE it leads to bad consequences?

    If so, you are using exactly the argument that Tim, Rudy and I are apparently not allowed to use. Speaking for myself, I would argue that something can be said to be immoral on the basis of the negative consequences it leads to – whether for yourself or others. This is a moral framework that makes no reference to God.

    However, if this is not admissable in your eyes then you can’t then yourself oppose a philosophy because you don’t like the consequences of it.

    To put it another way, if you can justify opposing a philosphy because you don’t like its consequences, then you have to allow others to defend a philosophy that puts a value on consequences without reference to God.

    Furthermore, if you can only criticise the idea of there being no objective morality in terms of how the idea breaks your objective morals, then you’ve got a circular argument.

    Reply
  68. John Ferrer says:

    AndrewRyan,

    Your assessment of Christian morality is one-sided. Indeed fear of punishment is motivation for moral behavior, but not a very profound one. In human psychology this is the lowest level of ethical development, namely, where a child learns right and wrong by which actions cause a paddling. While this level is a true assement of good and evil behavior, it is extrinsic and does not amount to people being anything more than well-behaved. Sinister people can act politely in public.

    Fortunately, Christianity does not have to resort entirely to fear tactics to motivate good behavior. There is also gratitude, love, worship, reciprocation, and, interpersonal responsiblity. In other words, a Biblically based moral system should go deeper than consequentialism and into intrinsic morality where there is a knowledge of right and wrong more basic than punishment or reward.

    You are also running askew in your assessment of how goodness is grounded. When the absolutist says that “Good is defined by God’s nature” or “X is good because it aligns with God who is himself good” they are making a necessary claim, not an arbitrary claim.

    It would be arbitrary to say that God’s commands are good though we have no notion of what his character is like (ala, the voluntarist position). It would be circular to say that God is good because God is good. But it is entirely reasonable to say that good is objectively grounded in the character of the only necessary (and personal and ultimate) being in existence. In this line of thought, axiology (value theory) converges in metaphysics (theory of being) such that . . . Being is good.

    Being, in and of itself, is good. And thus its deprivation is evil (ie: the privation definition of evil). Since God is the ultimate uncaused and necessary being, he is the ultimate ground of goodness.

    Setting aside the above arguments, if we want to be consistent and comprehensive in our moral estimations we should seek an adequate grounding for goodness. The philosophically stronger systems seek out an ultimate ground of being–though they disagree over what is ultimate (whether it is nature, the cosmos, the individual, the community, humanity, etc.) And, among these, we can compare the “grounds of goodness” to see which passes muster. As Frank argued, and I would argue, the only suitable grounding for goodness–given the heavy demands we make of our ethical systems–is an ultimate objective moral standard.

    Good is based in something ultimate–hence it is sufficient grounds for mediating any disputes between individuals and cultures. Good is based in something personal–since rocks and trees are not moral, but a personal being can be moral. That is, the ground of being is both personal and ultimate. Being person, He has

    Reply
  69. Justin says:

    [i]Ah, logical fallacy…how I love thee. I don’t have to acknowledge that anything is “right” or “true” in order to disagree with you. [i]

    What exactly is a disagreement if you aren’t saying that Person A is wrong and Person B is right? If you aren’t asserting that someone else is right when you disagree with Person A, how can you say that Person A is wrong?

    The trousered ape’s point is not a logical fallacy.

    Saying that you [i]don’t have to assert that anything is right or true in order to disagree [/i] with someone renders your disagreement meaningless.

    Reply
  70. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew Ryan,

    Also, about your note about the consequences of philosophy. . .

    Objectionable consequences are a falsification test, not a verification test. That is, a philosophical system that produces false/evil/ugly conclusions can be rightfully rejected according to those categories (metaphysics/ethics/aesthetics–respectively). But, on the other hand, just because a system produces non-objectionable consequences does not prove it true. At best, such “good” consequences are corroborative evidence that one should expect with a correct philosophical system.

    Therefore, utilitarianism can be rightly rejected if–employed consistent with its tenets–it produces recognizably and objectively discernable evil consequences.

    And, you said: “Furthermore, if you can only criticise the idea of there being no objective morality in terms of how the idea breaks your objective morals, then you’ve got a circular argument.” The lack of objective grounding is a metaphysical assessment, not merely a private moral judgment. Naturalistic moral systems MUST either be some form of relativism or commit the naturalistic fallacy (“deriving a moral “ought” from the “is” of nature). Concerning relativism, this system is shown objectionable by its reduction of moral values to personal preferances. The paucity of this view is shown when we apply relativism to recognized moral dillemas such as the Problem of evil. For example:

    If evil exists, then God does not exist
    I think chocolate ice cream is evil
    Chocolate ice cream exists
    Therefore God does not exist.

    Obviously, one’s preference for or against chocolate ice cream is a subjective (relative) value that has no bearing on metaphysical reality. Even if God did not exist, that would have nothing to do with someone’s preference for butter pecan. But since the problem of evil is one of the chief arrows against theism, I would imagine that the atheist would not want to phrase his argument in such relativistic terms.

    So then, that leaves us with the naturalistic fallacy to consider. Can nature (what is) gives us objective moral values (what ought to be)? This is also called the “is-ought” fallacy. Since nature is “purposeless” as so much Dawkinism asserts, then there is no moral “ought” to be found in nature or else that would be smuggling in morally bound purpose for human behavior. Nature is not a person, or a mind, and hence is not a moral being. Nature “says” only ‘what is’ and knows nothing of ‘what ought to be.’ It is a logical fallacy to extract an ought from an is, . . . unless of course you retreat to a medieval metaphysic and align with such thinkers as Aristotle and Aquinas in asserting that “Being is good” and goodness is grounded in God’s being. Unfortunately, as Russell notes in his History of Philosophy, the modern sciences have long abandoned the Aristotelian idea that the cosmos is purposefully arranged–pregnant with moral “oughts” and “shoulds.” Materialism denies such purpose to matter, and scientific naturalism denies “ends oriented” responsibilities for organisms.

    It seems then that some brand of relativism, or less (ie: absurdism, nihilism, power-ethics), is the only consistent moral system that can be grounded in naturalistic theory.

    Reply
  71. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    If morality is based on shared opinion, it seems that any old shared opinion will do. So, if a society agrees that burning a widow (or torturing a baby, or gay-bashing, or slave trading, or whatever activity the society chooses) is morally neutral, then one would have to accept that activity as morally neutral.
    A few problems seem to arise, then, from a “shared opinion” morality. For one thing, one would have to affirm that burning a widow (or torturing a baby, or gay-bashing, etc.) is acceptable in one place but not another. Where does one draw the line as to which “society” takes precedence? Family unit? Community? City? State? Country? Continent?
    By the way, the abortion debate in the United States illustrates that most people don’t believe in “shared opinion” morality when that shared opinion doesn’t agree with their own sense of morality. If they did, they would have to leave it up to states or communities to pass their own pro-choice or anti-abortion laws. For some reason, there is much opposition to this idea.
    Furthermore, the abortion debate does seem to clarify the point that there seems to be an objective morality in the hearts of men. This is why the abortion debate revolves mostly around when “personhood” is achieved , People realize that a “person” is inherently valuable, and that mistreating “persons” is morally wrong.
    If morality is just a matter of “shared opinions,” then this is obviously not the case, and if a society chooses to accept the mistreatment of “persons”, then one would have to accept the mistreatment as morally neutral or go about the business of proving that one society’s “shared opinion.”

    If Tim D is right and there is no moral obligation whatsoever, we should probably do away with prisons altogether and chalk up all crimes as a “difference of opinion.”

    One final note: As I think Bob tried to point out, positing that objective morals exist does not mean that one can necessarily make a list of moral imperatives. Rather, it is a matter of logic that in order to judge something as good or bad, one has to have a “measuring stick” by which to make that judgment.

    Reply
  72. Justin says:

    Just to clarify, I accidentally left off the end of a sentence in my prior post. It should read:

    If morality is just a matter of “shared opinions,” then this is obviously not the case, and if a society chooses to accept the mistreatment of “persons”, then one would have to accept the mistreatment as morally neutral or go about the business of proving that one society’s “shared opinion” is superior to another society’s “shared opinion.”

    Reply
  73. Victoria says:

    I believe I might be the young lady you’re referring to who “apologized for being an atheist.” I think I was a bit misunderstood -I don’t think this quite gets across what I wanted to convey.

    What I meant was that I don’t need to apologize on behalf of atheists as individuals (who generally are quite proud of their own critical thinking and lack of a need for a spokesperson). The questions that Hitchens avoided would have been quite easily answered, and I was apologizing for the fact that he systematically avoided them. Many people could have given better answers than he did.

    One of the main points that non-religious people have, and one that did not get adequately addressed, was that science doesn’t have all the answers. Though we should definitely encourage scientific inquiry into things like evolutionary psychology and biology, the simple answer is we don’t know exactly how a combination of chemicals can give rise to conscious humans with seemingly universal morals. We may never know due to the extreme difficulty in performing experiments in these fields.

    But just because we don’t know doesn’t mean we’re going to ascribe their presence to some mystical concept like God. I think that doing this discourages people from thinking critically and creatively about science.

    Thank you again for coming. I think everyone walked away from it better examining his/her belief system (or lack thereof.)

    Reply
  74. Tim D. says:

    What exactly is a disagreement if you aren’t saying that Person A is wrong and Person B is right? If you aren’t asserting that someone else is right when you disagree with Person A, how can you say that Person A is wrong?

    Example A, reiterated: If I say a certain band is “good,” and you say that same band is “bad,” then do I have to think that you are “wrong” in order to believe that I am “right?” Of course not. I believe it is “good” in the sense that it brings me joy to listen to. Likewise, you believe it is “bad” in the sense that it does not, or in fact it actually brings you displeasure.

    It’s entirely possible to disagree without thinking the other party is “objectively wrong.” I may disagree with someone’s morals, but seeing as how morals are not objective things, it’s sort of impossible to say that I think their point is “objectively wrong.” Rather, I would disagree and offer reasons why I disagree.

    See, morality cannot exist without a presupposition — a paradigm. For example; what actions are “good?” Well, that depends on your definition of “good.” Do you think suffering is “good?” If so, then torturing people for fun is “good.” So what actions are “moral,” then? First we must ask, “What is your definition of “moral?”

    You can only tell what is “moral” or “right” by putting a paradigm — an expectation of what you desire — into a logical framework. You calculate the “morality” of the act based on the consequences it brings, and it becomes “moral” in your perspective based on whether or not those are desired consequences.

    The trousered ape’s point is not a logical fallacy.

    Yes, it is.

    Wow, that was easy~

    Saying that you [i]don’t have to assert that anything is right or true in order to disagree [/i] with someone renders your disagreement meaningless.

    see above.

    If morality is based on shared opinion, it seems that any old shared opinion will do.

    If by this you mean, anybody can take anything and say it is “moral,” then I’ll have to disagree with you. It’s more than just a random statement; as it has been said (many, many, many times), there is a basic logical framework that exists around which “morality” tends to coalesce in human societies. Incest, for example, is pretty much universally frowned upon in all societies in the world today — even non-religious societies. Why? Because there are reasons why it is not beneficial, and can in fact be quite detrimental.

    So yeah, you can say just any old thing is moral….but can you defend your position to the point of convincing others? I would say you can’t. Try to make a case for child torture, if you must.

    So, if a society agrees that burning a widow (or torturing a baby, or gay-bashing, or slave trading, or whatever activity the society chooses) is morally neutral, then one would have to accept that activity as morally neutral.

    You make the mistake of assuming that, as a society, people will always agree 100% on everything. As the simple act of participating in this discussion shows, that is not the case; morality is not an open-and-shut case, it’s an ongoing discussion. Some things are obvious — such as “murder is bad because it prevents stable societies from being able to form and because it is unnecessary; rape is bad because it results in dysfunctional/ineffective family environments and unfair burden on one party; stealing is bad because nobody has a motivation to do honest work if we allow stealing” — that sort of thing. Other things are not so obvious, as some would like us to believe—things like gay-bashing, and making awfully forward claims like “atheists have no basis for morality.” Which is of course a pathetic lash-out and nothing more; we have plenty of basis for morality. We just have no grounds on which to justify that it was “granted to us from a higher power.”

    But back to my point; does this make murder/theft/rape “objectively wrong?” No, not in the sense that it “is wrong, just because it is.” As I’ve said, the only real morality is that to which one holds oneself; your morality does not bind me, and mine does not bind yours. So if you insist on raping and stealing and murdering, by all means go ahead. But the rest of us set higher standards for ourselves, and as such we will not tolerate such treatment. If you expect fair treatment in a society, then you must develop some sense of restraint; people are less likely to listen to a murderer complain about unfair punishment than they are, say, a homosexual.

    People realize that a “person” is inherently valuable, and that mistreating “persons” is morally wrong.

    We acknowledge this based on a preconception — that human life is valuable. This is not a fact; it’s a conception that we, as humans, have every reason to benefit from endorsing. If we accept that the lives of other individuals are valuable, then we must also accept the same of our own. Thus, we are protected in a sense.

    If Tim D is right and there is no moral obligation whatsoever, we should probably do away with prisons altogether and chalk up all crimes as a “difference of opinion.”

    Ah, sarcasm, my old friend -_-

    It’s a simple fact that we have no moral obligation in the sense that nothing binds us by force. Morals are a choice you make, not a law you follow. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to feel the way you do. That’s the way it is, and I can’t make it much clearer than this — the only thing that “forces” you to abide by your morals is you and your choice to do so. There is no force in this universe stopping you outside of your own will (or illusion thereof).

    If morality is just a matter of “shared opinions,” then this is obviously not the case, and if a society chooses to accept the mistreatment of “persons”, then one would have to accept the mistreatment as morally neutral or go about the business of proving that one society’s “shared opinion” is superior to another society’s “shared opinion.”

    And this is what we do right now, is it not? With the Muslim countries, and the Darfur/Sudan Crisis?

    Seriously. Do you think the world is any better off now, trying to abide by these “objective morals” of yours? The idea that we can somehow achieve objective moral truth is what has driven societies to abuse their citizens, what has caused wars like Bush’s War in Iraq — the idea that “we’re right and they’re wrong and that’s all there is to it.”

    In order for objective moral truth to exist, there would have to be a stopping point of “morality” that is just “there,” with no reason — like a mathematical law. i.e. “if you apply this here, you will always reach this decision.” That’s simply not the case, as “morality” varies on an individual situational basis; even the idea that “murder is wrong” is custom-tailored to a particular situation; “murder” defined as a specific form of “killing,” and so when we say that “murder is wrong,” that’s not an objective moral. That’s our way of saying, “killing is wrong, but only under the circumstances that cause it to become murder.”

    So it’s not a matter of “murder is just wrong because it is.” The question becomes, “what is murder? How do we define it?” The answer being, “we define it as killing wrongfully.” Well, how do we define “wrongfully?” Well, that depends on the situation. Is it always wrong to kill? No. If you’re fighting a war, defending your country and your home, then it’s permissible, even by Biblical standards. How about if someone steals from you? Is it okay to kill then? Of course not.

    At the end of the day, the only way to tell if an act is “moral” or not is to consider the individual circumstances surrounding it and decide how to classify it. If one does this often enough, a pattern begins to establish as to what kinds of situations can be considered “necessary killing” and what kinds can be considered “murder.” To say that “murder is wrong” is an idiotic statement, because we know “murder” is wrong (you might as well say “it is wrong to do bad things”); murder is defined in itself as “a wrongful killing.” What we want to know is, why is it wrong? Under what circumstances is “killing” equivalent to “murder?”

    In order for absolute morality to exist, there would have to be an act that you or I could state — say, homosexuality — that we could universally apply to every possible instance that could, would or might arise in society, that we could deem to have negative or counterproductive results every time. And yet, no such rule exists. “Torturing babies” doesn’t count; I’m talking about the specific acts, not the emotional classifications we give them. “Torturing” is defined basically as “to cause pain intentionally/for a prolonged period of time.” To cause pain = bad, we know that, it’s a base element of our biology. The only time we permiss causing pain is when it is deemed necessary to some greater end, such as to obtain information that could not be obtained otherwise (though that’s another conversation altogether if you ask me). And since baby torture can bring no such greater good, it is obviously disagreeable.

    Whew. I feel strange, having to elaborate on these things. More later.

    Reply
  75. Andrew Ryan says:

    Justin, just like all the others, it seems you cannot answer the question I asked several times. I could address the rest of your posts, but it just seems to be a diversionary tactic to avoid answering the question!

    “If Tim D is right and there is no moral obligation whatsoever, we should probably do away with prisons altogether and chalk up all crimes as a “difference of opinion.”
    This doesn’t follow at all. You’re saying if there is no ‘ought’ then we ‘should’ do away with prions. If there are no ‘oughts’ according to you then how can you have a ‘should’? You’re contradicting yourself. Prisons aid society. Why should a society do something to harm itself? Don’t you see that your argument is not only self-contradictory but also incoherent?

    I think that you could all keep coming up with nonsensical examples and strawmen in order not to answer my question. Are you all almost done?

    Reply
  76. Andrew Ryan says:

    Anyway Justin, you and others are using a bait and switch here in drawing a line from disagreeing on morals to abandoning our laws.

    Our legal system is not based on enforced morality. Our laws are supposed to help society function, not make us better people. They are there to keep the peace BECAUSE everyone has different ideas on what is moral. There’s no law that you have to be a nice person. The laws are to stop you crying ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre, you still have freedom of speech to be unpleasant.

    There are plenty of historical examples of what happens when morals are enshrined in law, and the results are seldom pretty. eg Afghanistan under the Taliban.

    Reply
  77. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    Using your own argument, if there are no oughts, you asked me a question that makes no sense, either : “Why should a society do something to harm itself?”
    You see, Andrew, we can’t function without the notion of the “oughts” that do, indeed, exist. Even our language betrays us when we try to deny them.
    Furthermore, I would disagree that we don’t legislate morality. No legislation is based on “neutral” ground. It’s all about justice, fairness, protection of innocents, protection of life, etc. (With no moral “oughts”, legislation is meaningless- why value life, what are “fairness” and “justice” if there exists no moral grounding?)
    I can’t think of too many laws in which morality isn’t enshrined. You have to look at the reason behind the law – and the reason almost always comes down to some form of moral judgment. (Why is shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater illegal? Because it’s a “bad” thing to do.) The only question is whose morality is legislated?

    Reply
  78. andrew Ryan says:

    “Why should a society do something to harm itself?”
    You don’t need morals to think self-preservation is a good idea. The society is protecting itself through its laws.

    “The only question is whose morality is legislated?”
    No-one’s. It’s about protected the citizens, not legislating morality. And it always comes down to protection, not morality. That’s why they eventually legalised homosexuality in the UK. The lawmakers made it clear they still thought it immoral, but they didn’t see the law’s place to put morals into law.

    “Because it’s a “bad” thing to do”
    No, because it causes harm.

    So address my question please.

    Reply
  79. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    You stated, [In order for absolute morality to exist, there would have to be an act that you or I could state — say, homosexuality — that we could universally apply to every possible instance that could, would or might arise in society, that we could deem to have negative or counterproductive results every time.]

    You are assuming a consequentialist/utilitarian view of ethics. That would be a mistake since most Christians would hold to some form of deontological ethics (duty centered) or virtue theory. We don’t judge the morality of an act based on consequences and results. Conversely, we try to do the right thing and expect that good consequences will result.

    [At the end of the day, the only way to tell if an act is “moral” or not is to consider the individual circumstances surrounding it and decide how to classify it.]

    True. We should consider circumstances. In your view we consider circumstances in light of shared moral feelings. In my view, we consider them in light of an objective moral standard that we are trying to abide by. Once again, your view has no grounding. Granted, this is all evolution has given you so it’s all you have to work with.

    You admit that there are no moral obligations and your moral behavior is based on what you FEEL you should do. Well, Jeffrey Dahmer liked to kill and eat people. What if he felt this was okay? The problem is that if moral behavior flows from our feelings then how do we judge those who have different feelings than us? If there is no objective standard by which to judge them, then how do you know that your feelings of morality are better than someone else’s (Hitler for example)? Yes I know, what I just said has been said before. HERE’S THE POINT: If there is no moral obligation or accountability other than the fear of getting caught, what REASON could we offer someone like Dahmer to act morally (differently) and not maximize his own personal pleasure? Yes, if society catches him, they will punish him. But that’s not my point. My point is that the atheistic worldview can offer no reason to act morally. You might say consequences should be considered. Fine, but the atheistic worldview offers us no reason to care about consequences. Why should I care? If I have no higher authority to whom I am accountable, and I have no moral obligations, and I just turn to worm food when I die, why care about morality or consequences at all? Why is it not rational for me to do whatever I want to maximize my own personal gratification? Granted, I’ll have to be careful less society catch me and diminish my gratification. Under the atheistic worldview, what could be said to Dahmer? “Most of us agree based on our moral feelings passed on to us from our ancestors that what you did is not good for society.” Does that seem adequate? I think that most people would recoil from such a shallow view of morality and want to say that what Dahmer did was actually WRONG (not just bad for society), and that he had a moral obligation not to kill and eat innocent people for his own pleasure.

    Basically, a moral lawgiver (or God), provides a foundation or a grounding for morality. It gives morality a source beyond human feelings. It provides an objective standard by which to judge right, wrong, good and evil. Recall my analogy about not being able to judge which item is closer to a foot in length. God’s moral nature provides the standard to measure against. If moral truths or laws exist, then they cannot have come from the big bang or evolution. God also best explains moral obligations. We can only have a real obligation to a person. It also explains our guilt when we fail to uphold the moral law. We feel guilty because we actually are guilty.

    Lastly, if shared moral feelings with survival value are all we have to base morality on, then it may be helpful to point out that all those feelings are reducible to chemical reactions and electrical firings in the brain. Those moral feelings are not oriented toward truth or anything moral at all, just survivability. So when we as a society punish someone like Dahmer, we are just punishing him for having bad genes. If his behavior is based on genetics, then in what way was it not determined? If it was determined then he had no real choice? If he had no real choice, then how can we punish him for making the wrong choice? Our system of justice and notions of moral accountability presuppose free will. Atheism and evolutionary naturalism can’t even account for that.

    Atheism and evolutionary naturalism leave us with a cold, uncaring, blind, meaningless universe. Most people can’t live in such a place so they attempt to create their own meaning. There are a few however who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and take the universe that their worldview gives them. Hilter and Neitzche are two examples from history. I don’t think most atheists can live in the world that their view implies. They just refuse to take it to its logical conclusion.

    Conversely, if there is a God (and I obviously think there is sufficient reason to believe this), then the universe is not blind and uncaring, our lives have real purpose and meaning and we have value. We have a foundation for morality, moral accountability, and moral obligations. We have a basis for truth and rationality. We have an explanation for non-physical realities in the world (like laws of logic, and moral laws/truths), and we have an explanation for human consciousness. Even from a moments self-introspection we know that we are more than our physical constitution.

    Jeff

    Reply
  80. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Under the atheistic worldview, what could be said to Dahmer?”

    I’ve asked this so many times now Jeff. What is that YOU can say to Dahmer that the atheist can’t?

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  81. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I think that most people would recoil from such a shallow view of morality and want to say that what Dahmer did was actually WRONG”
    You recoil. In other words, that’s what you FEEL is right. Er, wasn’t that what you had a go at US for saying? What you FEEL is right, and what you WANT to say is neither here nor there according to you.

    “Yes, if society catches him, they will punish him.”
    Substitute ‘society’ for ”Man in the sky’ and you’re using the same argument.

    “It also explains our guilt when we fail to uphold the moral law.”
    As does evolution. So you’ve got an explanation that fits the laws of physics, and one that relies on the supernatural… Hmm.

    But once again, what is that YOU can say to Dahmer that the atheist can’t? You offer God and he can just say ‘So I’ve a choice between God and Satan. I choose Satan’. What do you say then?

    Silence? No answer at all after me asking variants of the same question for several days?

    Reply
  82. Tim D. says:

    Conversely, we try to do the right thing and expect that good consequences will result.

    So according to you, you’d have no problem doing something you deemed “moral” even if it caused great pain and suffering. I see.

    In your view we consider circumstances in light of shared moral feelings. In my view, we consider them in light of an objective moral standard that we are trying to abide by.

    Wrong again. I consider them based on circumstances.

    Well, Jeffrey Dahmer liked to kill and eat people. What if he felt this was okay?

    What if I didn’t feel it was okay?

    My explanation for arriving at a moral solution does not account for those “morals” being “objectively right” in that I must respect them. It is not necessary for me to respect your idea of morality, for instance; if I feel you are doing something “wrong,” I will not hesitate to point it out. Just because someone has reached a moral decision doesn’t mean we’re all required to respect it. That’s what I mean when I say, “the only thing making you moral is you.” One can be surrounded by the most “moral” folks in the world, and still be “immoral” by the definition of most. Likewise, one can also be surrounded by the most “immoral” people in the world, and still be quite “moral” by the same definition.

    Why should we only allow people with harmful “morals” to go unchallenged in society? That’s what you seem to think we should do, according to my view. Which is of course horribly wrong and a terrible straw man, to boot.

    he problem is that if moral behavior flows from our feelings then how do we judge those who have different feelings than us?

    Once again: there is no way to objectively judge people whose morals are different. There is no meter-stick to measure our morality by. We are left only with circumstances and individual judgment. That is the crux of my argument; that we can’t do this. You respond to it by asking, “well, how can we do this?”

    Yes I know, what I just said has been said before. HERE’S THE POINT: If there is no moral obligation or accountability other than the fear of getting caught, what REASON could we offer someone like Dahmer to act morally (differently) and not maximize his own personal pleasure?

    If you’re interested in changing the mind of the affected party, then reason is your only friend. They obviously don’t care about acting out “moral behaviors” in the same vein as the rest of us, so quoting Bible verses or saying, “it’s just wrong!” isn’t going to work, even if we all agreed there were objective morals. That person is not bound by any moral law, so they will act the way they will. At this point, the only thing we can do is stop them from acting in such a way. In the kind of world you seem to think exists, we wouldn’t need a military or police force, because we could just shove objective morality in people’s faces and they’d stop performing atrocities.

    My point is that the atheistic worldview can offer no reason to act morally.

    As is my point….you have only your own personal motivations. Why should you act moral? That’s your choice. You want to commit an atrocious crime? You might get away with it, you might not. Morality is not consequential; you don’t do good things and always have good things happen to you, and you don’t always get punished for doing bad things. It’s up to individual people to make the choices to do things that are beneficial to themselves and others. We can police these efforts to an extent (i.e. promote laws and systems that support protecting our base values, like our lives and our work ethic), but we simply cannot force moral change in individuals. It cannot be done; such moral change can be influenced, perhaps, but the choice to change is the responsibility of the person doing the changing, and nobody else. Only when that person decides to change will they change.

    Fine, but the atheistic worldview offers us no reason to care about consequences.

    On a strictly logical basis, sure. But you seem to be confusing “atheists” with “Vulcans” here.

    Why should I care? If I have no higher authority to whom I am accountable, and I have no moral obligations, and I just turn to worm food when I die, why care about morality or consequences at all? Why is it not rational for me to do whatever I want to maximize my own personal gratification?

    If that’s the way you’d think without God to hold you back, then so be it. I disagree horribly, though. Kind of a weak base for “morality.”

    Under the atheistic worldview, what could be said to Dahmer?

    What do you think should be said to Dahmer? That’s what I want to know. Is there something you think we would have said to this person that would have done any good at all? Do you think “murder is wrong” is going to be any more effective than, “I don’t think you should murder people because it causes needless pain and suffering?” Do you think this person is going to hear your words and say, “Oh, you know what? You’re right, murder is objectively wrong!” Because if you do, I think you’re missing the entire point here.

    I think that most people would recoil from such a shallow view of morality and want to say that what Dahmer did was actually WRONG (not just bad for society), and that he had a moral obligation not to kill and eat innocent people for his own pleasure.

    Actually, he had no moral obligation. Obviously; if he had one, he wouldn’t have done it. Moral obligations don’t exist like logical or physical obligations; they are not objective, they are subjective.

    Basically, a moral lawgiver (or God), provides a foundation or a grounding for morality. It gives morality a source beyond human feelings. It provides an objective standard by which to judge right, wrong, good and evil.

    So does a Flying Spaghetti Monster, or an Invisible Pink Unicorn. So does a single human being, if we all accept his/her words as truth. But what good is such a moral compass if not everybody is willing to accept it? Claiming God as a source of objective morality is no different than claiming any other moral guide as the same.

    We feel guilty because we actually are guilty.

    We feel guilty because we acknowledge the consequences of what we’ve done. By your logic, all people would feel guilty upon doing something “wrong.” But that’s not the case; sociopaths feel no guilt or remorse. Does that mean they’re not “wrong” in your view?

    If his behavior is based on genetics, then in what way was it not determined?

    If our behavior in response (of punishing him) was based on our genes, in what way was it not predetermined?

    If he had no real choice, then how can we punish him for making the wrong choice?

    If he had no choice, then we had no choice, either.

    Atheism and evolutionary naturalism can’t even account for that.

    See above.

    Atheism and evolutionary naturalism leave us with a cold, uncaring, blind, meaningless universe.

    No; atheism leaves us with the choice to see the universe in such a light. It also leaves us with the choice to see it in an interesting light. As the Offspring said, “This is life/what a ****ed up thing we do/what a nightmare come true/or a playground if we choose/and I choose….”

    Conversely, if there is a God (and I obviously think there is sufficient reason to believe this)

    Always back to God. Argument from consequence will get you nowhere with me; “Without God the universe is sad!” Well, I’m quite happy, and I believe in no God, blah blah on and on….for however long we need to do this.

    Reply
  83. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    Perhaps I don’t understand why you don’t think your question has been addressed. I think Jeff offered an explanation in his last post.
    The nature of God as the first cause for the grounding of morality is a better explanation than evolutionary naturalism.
    The question is not really “What could you say to Dahmer?” Rather, the question is “On what basis can you decide what Dahmer did is evil?”
    If morality is objectively based in the nature of God, the answer is that people have intrinsic value and it is wrong to eat them.
    If morality is based on society’s whim, then the answer is “We don’t like for you to eat people in this country, but there is nothing objectively wrong about it. You might find another place where eating people is ok, or maybe you can come back later and we might decide it’s ok.”

    Reply
  84. Tim D. says:

    The nature of God as the first cause for the grounding of morality is a better explanation than evolutionary naturalism.

    I can do that, too; evolutionary naturalism is a better explanation than God as the first cause for the grounding of morality.

    Reply
  85. Andrew Ryan says:

    Tim: “What do you think should be said to Dahmer? That’s what I want to know. Is there something you think we would have said to this person that would have done any good at all?”

    Tim, that’s what I’ve been asking them all now for several days. If the test of their objective morality is that it would stop Dahmer then tell us how that’s supposed to work! If they HAD an answer they’d have given it by now. They don’t.

    I’m just about done here. Tim, fun as this is watching them squirm around the subject, and use arguments themselves that they told us we weren’t able to use, I think we’re now wasting out time. We’ve established that they can’t answer this simple question. And the question goes to the heart of their entire argument.

    Reply
  86. Tim D. says:

    If morality is based on society’s whim, then the answer is “We don’t like for you to eat people in this country, but there is nothing objectively wrong about it. You might find another place where eating people is ok, or maybe you can come back later and we might decide it’s ok.”

    But it’s not based on “society’s whim,” it’s based on a shared support of intellectual and logical progressions based on the clues that our biological desires give us. So it’s not important for us to discuss this, because it’s an incorrect premise.

    Reply
  87. Andrew Ryan says:

    “The nature of God as the first cause for the grounding of morality”

    That’s not an answer. Why choose the nature of God over the nature of satan? You’re still having to make that same initial choice. What do you base that on?

    Reply
  88. andrew Ryan says:

    “it’s based on a shared support of intellectual and logical progressions”

    Yeah Tim, but they don’t need that – they’ve got a bronze-age book full of rape, murder, incest, genocide and slavery. Can’t you see why that’s a better guide to how we should act?

    Reply
  89. The Trousered Ape says:

    “But it’s not based on “society’s whim,” it’s based on a shared support of intellectual and logical progressions based on the clues that our biological desires give us. So it’s not important for us to discuss this, because it’s an incorrect premise.”

    Then who decides what those are? And why should we follow them?

    Reply
  90. The Trousered Ape says:

    Lewis’ Moral Argument, in Mere Christianity, is summarized in this manner (this is not my summary, I borrowed it):

    1. There must be a universal moral law, or else: (a) Moral disagreements would make no sense, as we all assume they do. (b) All moral criticisms would be meaningless (e.g., “The Nazis were wrong.”). (c) It is unnecessary to keep promises or treaties, as we all assume that it is. (d) We would not make excuses for breaking the moral law, as we all do.
    2. But a universal moral law requires a universal Moral Law Giver, since the Source of it: (a) Gives moral commands (as lawgivers do). (b) Is interested in our behavior (as moral persons are).
    3. Further, this universal Moral Law Giver must be absolutely good: (a) Otherwise all moral effort would be futile in the long run, since we could be sacrificing our lives for what is not ultimately right. (b) The source of all good must be absolutely good, since the standard of all good must be completely good.
    4. Therefore, there must be an absolutely good Moral Law Giver.

    Further, it cannot be a social convention or construct because not everything we learn through society is based on society, so why must morality be based on society? The same basic moral laws can be found in nearly every other society that has existed. Finally, if society cannot “improve” or “get better” or “progress” if it is itself the basis of morality. It can only do so if those things are outside of itself.

    Reply
  91. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Ineresting quote:

    “If a person does not think there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying modify your behavior–to keep it within acceptable ranges. That’s the way I thought anyway…” Jeffrey Dahmer.

    Reply
  92. Tim D. says:

    1. There must be a universal moral law, or else: (a) Moral disagreements would make no sense, as we all assume they do. (b) All moral criticisms would be meaningless (e.g., “The Nazis were wrong.”). (c) It is unnecessary to keep promises or treaties, as we all assume that it is. (d) We would not make excuses for breaking the moral law, as we all do.

    (a) Wrong; they would make no less sense than disagreements on personal preferences. Like, for example, if I liked a band and you didn’t. Does that “not make sense” because it’s not absolute?

    (b) Wrong; a criticism doesn’t “make less sense” because it’s not based on objective laws. If I criticize someone else’s clothing for being less appealing than mine, that’s based on my definition of “appealing.” That’s not objective (because there is nothing that is objectively “appealing” to everyone in the visual sense), but it still makes plenty of sense.

    (c) Wrong; why make a treaty and then not uphold it? The idea of desiring/enacting a treaty in the first place implies the desire to receive something in exchange for something else (be it goods/services for labor, or mutual defense of nations, or something else). Whether or not it is “objectively” right or wrong to do so has no effect on the desire of the party to uphold the treaty; a treaty offers conditions to both sides, based on their individual desires, that are geared towards motivating said parties into participating in the treaty.

    (d) What moral law?

    2. But a universal moral law requires a universal Moral Law Giver, since the Source of it: (a) Gives moral commands (as lawgivers do). (b) Is interested in our behavior (as moral persons are).

    I understand why you refuse to acknowledge that there are no moral objectives, because to do so would be (in your strange logic) to deny the existence of God based on the conditions upon which you insist He must exist. However, that’s still an argument from consequence; you don’t like the idea of a world in which God doesn’t exist by this logic, and so you assert that He must.

    3. Further, this universal Moral Law Giver must be absolutely good: (a) Otherwise all moral effort would be futile in the long run, since we could be sacrificing our lives for what is not ultimately right.

    Another assumption. What is “absolutely good?” How would you know this moral giver is “absolutly good?” You’re asking me to take far too much on good (or should I say bad?) faith, here.

    (b) The source of all good must be absolutely good, since the standard of all good must be completely good.

    How do you define “good” here? It’s a pretty word to throw around, but it doesn’t change anything.

    4. Therefore, there must be an absolutely good Moral Law Giver.

    Oh, my, more fallacious logic. Will it ever end?

    (hint: no)

    “If a person does not think there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying modify your behavior–to keep it within acceptable ranges. That’s the way I thought anyway…” Jeffrey Dahmer.

    Funny, I’ve googled that (and wiki’d it, and yahoo’d it, and glanced through several reference texts and encyclopedias) and I’ve never found that quote.

    Even if I did, though, it’s nothing more than a cheap shot. It does nothing to prove your point at all; in fact, it proves mine. Morals are not objective; we have choices to make, and he made a choice that I (and presumably, you) disagree with and find reprehensible. So what? What does that mean? It means that my examples were correct.

    Reply
  93. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    You asked about why God instead of Satan. Let me point out that I haven’t argued anything from the Bible. I have used the word God. By the word God, I mean a powerful Creator in whose nature is found the very essence of goodness. (See the trousered ape’s last post summarizing CS Lewis’s argument.)
    If you want to get into whether or not this God is the Christian God, perhaps in another thread would be best suited for that, as the conversation on this thread seems to be mainly devoted to morality.

    Tim D.,
    I wrote: If morality is based on society’s whim, then the answer is “We don’t like for you to eat people in this country, but there is nothing objectively wrong about it. You might find another place where eating people is ok, or maybe you can come back later and we might decide it’s ok.”

    You wrote: But it’s not based on “society’s whim,” it’s based on a shared support of intellectual and logical progressions based on the clues that our biological desires give us.

    What is the “shared support of intellectual and logical progressions based on biological desires” if it does not boil down to the whim of society? Some societies’ “logical progressions” have led them to cannibalism, burning of widows, gay-bashing, etc.

    Also, my question about which society makes the “shared decision” about right / wrong still stands. Is it the family unit? City? Country? Continent?

    Reply
  94. Tim D. says:

    What is the “shared support of intellectual and logical progressions based on biological desires” if it does not boil down to the whim of society?

    Hmm….if you can’t tell the difference between a whim and a logical progression, then I really can’t help you. About all there is left to do here is cite the dictionary:

    whim (n): a sudden fancy; idle and passing notion; capricious idea

    I would hardly describe such a progression as a “whim.”

    Some societies’ “logical progressions” have led them to cannibalism, burning of widows, gay-bashing, etc.

    And others have not. What’s your point? Not everybody is going to turn out to be bright and sunny and “good” like you want them to be. That doesn’t mean we all have to be that way, or that we have to accept that from other people. But then again, you’re for absolutes, so I suppose it is that way for you.

    Also, my question about which society makes the “shared decision” about right / wrong still stands. Is it the family unit? City? Country? Continent?

    It’s not a matter of “shared opinions,” for the umpteenth time. That’s your derogatory choice of words, not mine; leave it to the religious to arbitrarily redefine any position they do not understand >:(

    I don’t know how to make it any simpler, but I’ll give it one more try….you’ll have to help me out here by opening your mind a little, though.

    (1) As I’ve said before, “right” and “wrong” are not objective because they require a paradigm in order to function. What is “right?” Well, what do you want? If you want to kill people and take things so you don’t have to work, then this idea seems just to you. If I felt this way, I could easily make the case that such a thing is moral using your argument! Because you say there is a way to measure objective morality. The problem with your logic is, there are people who use it, and who don’t come to the same conclusion that you do. So your claim that it is both “objective” and that it leads to the results you want turns out to be fallacious, because it can be used to justify multiple opposing viewpoints.

    I am not burdened by this same problem, because I (1) do not claim my views represent objectivity, and (2) it is actually part of my view that people might not reach the same conclusion that I will, based solely on what you call “shared opinions.”

    (2) You offer no reason why these things are good. That’s the most important thing of all, in a discussion of morality! Things aren’t just good “because,” they are good for a reason — and that reason is based on a paradigm. If you like peanut butter, then it is “good,” but if you are allergic to it, it is “bad.” If you like a band, then it is a “good” band; if you don’t, it is a “bad” band. None of these are objective statements because for a statement to be objective, it has to hold the same weight with everybody. Everyone must be bound by it in the same manner.

    Reply
  95. Andrew Ryan says:

    “By the word God, I mean a powerful Creator in whose nature is found the very essence of goodness.”

    I’ll ask again, why choose this God rather than Satan? Because he’s powerful? Because he created you? Why should this mean you choose him.

    I’m not going to discuss this on another thread, because it’s the whole crux of the Christian argument. Your whole moral framework starts from that point. You argue that atheists can’t say that Hitler is worse than Mother Theresa. So Christians have to say why they can choose God over Satan. Is this the 8th or 9th time I’ve asked now?

    Reply
  96. The Trousered Ape says:

    But having poor or good fashion sense or liking a particular food or genre of music is not the same thing as murder – it’s not just a matter of taste or one persons opinion – it is something far different. And to offer up a comparison to disliking someone’s clothing style as being even closely related to what the Nazi’s did is unbelievable.

    I can say that I like a particular flavor of ice cream and others can disagree that they don’t like that flavor. But that doesn’t make it good or bad, right or wrong. But I can see someone murdering someone else and understand that this is a bad thing to do. If it was just a matter of one’s personal perspective, then we ought not have laws against it, because that is wrong.

    Yet, you want to have it both ways. You don’t want to say that it is objectively wrong and therefore anyone should do whatever their desire. However, you claim that we still live “based on a shared support of intellectual and logical progressions based on the clues that our biological desires give us.”

    So who deems what is lawful and not? And why one earth should we listen to them? How do we know that the laws our desires are telling us to adhere to have any benefit to them whatsoever? How can our desires know what it is society needs to do and not do?

    Reply
  97. Andrew Ryan says:

    “A powerful Creator in whose nature is found the very essence of goodness”

    You are saying He is good in exactly the same way I say that Hitler is bad. It’s still just your opinion. How are you judging this ‘essence of goodness’? Who told you He was the essence of goodness? Are you taking it on heresay, or are you using some pre-existing standard to say He is good.

    Or is just by definition good, regardless of what he does? I asked Frank how to account for parts of the bible where God commands people to commit genocide or rape. Frank said that whatever God did it was by definition GOOD, regardless of what it was. Not only is this a ‘do as I say, not as I do, God’, but it renders the whole concept of the ‘essence of goodness’. It’s like Nixons claim that the POTUS cannot commit a crime, because anything he does is by definition not a crime.

    If you can’t conceive of an act that would stop God being the ‘essence of Goodness’, then it becomes a meaningless label to give him.

    And either way, just making someone the ‘essence of Goodness’ doesn’t mean our hypothetical sociopath has to follow His morality. What’s to stop our sociopath just saying ‘Hmm, I prefer the ‘essence of badness’. You still haven’t created that elusive ‘Ought’ that you’re looking for.

    And it gets worse. If a murderer claims that ‘God told me to do it’, (and plenty do) then atheists can condemn him out right using their moral framework. The poor Christian though has to admit that according to the bible it fits their God’s MO – it’s the kind of stuff he does all the time. And if God commanded someone to kill, then (according to Frank) that means it wasn’t a crime.

    Reply
  98. Andrew Ryan says:

    Trousered Ape: “So who deems what is lawful and not?”

    I’m sure you can research how laws come about. It varies from country to country, but you’re quite lucky in the US to have a good system of law-making.

    Laws are made on the basis of protecting the citizens. They’re not based on morality. Hence Right Wingers saying that many left-wing policies are an attempt to ‘enforce morality’. In fact the left makes the same claim about the right. We know that there’s a difference between the two. We don’t have laws forcing people to give to charity.

    So what’s stopping crime? The law. It’s sure as heck not the bible, or atheists would be out commiting crimes all the time, and religious people wouldn’t. But that’s not what we see.

    Reply
  99. The Trousered Ape says:

    So why should we, as a society, accept the laws that are made? If this is all “desire-driven,” as Tim seems to imply, then why should their desires out weigh mine or yours or anyone else? What gives them the special privilege to something is a law and something is not and then turn around and impose their desires on everyone else?

    Reply
  100. The Trousered Ape says:

    Sorry – that last question should have read: “What gives them the special privilege to determine when something is a law and something is not and then turn around and impose their desires on everyone else?

    Reply
  101. Andrew Ryan says:

    “So why should we, as a society, accept the laws that are made?”

    If you want to get laws changed then you can. If you don’t accept the laws then you can break them and face the consequences. Or you can move countries.

    How do YOU think it should work?

    “What gives them the special privilege to determine when something is a law and something is not and then turn around and impose their desires on everyone else?”
    Who is THEM? Who is it in your paranoid mind that you think is forcing their laws on you? What’s this got to do with God? A country with laws that didn’t work or harmed its people would collapse. So laws in society evolve in the same way as in biology. It’s survival of the fittest. A nation that allowed murder wouldn’t flourish.

    Reply
  102. Tim D. says:

    And to offer up a comparison to disliking someone’s clothing style as being even closely related to what the Nazi’s did is unbelievable.

    Bringing up the Nazis every time morality comes up, as though we would all default to such behavior without someone to hold our hands through the process, is pretty atrocious to me, as well. But I prefer to stay on topic.

    But I can see someone murdering someone else and understand that this is a bad thing to do.

    No, actually you can’t. You can see someone killing someone, but you can’t know one way or the other just by seeing the act that it is “good” or “bad.” Maybe this person was acting out of desperation, to save the lives of many others? Maybe he/she was killing someone else to keep them from killing someone else — take a life that others may live?

    You can’t know whether it’s “right” or “wrong” unless you (a) have a predetermined desire of what you believe is “good” or “bad,” and thusly apply it to the situation, which requires that (b) you thoroughly understand all the details of the situation. This is why we have trials for murder in our country, and not automatic sentencing; we allow people to do things if they were acting rationally, or if there was a reasonable expectation to perform such actions. If it is deemed that the murder was unnecessary, then the person is imprisoned. If not — if it was deemed an act of self-defense or something of the like — then they are released.

    Yet, you want to have it both ways.

    I don’t understand what you mean here. What “both ways?” The fact is that we are not bound by moral laws, we make choices to act completely of our own accord. Things like outlawing murder have nothing to do with morality, they have to do with setting a foundation for the respect of the law and the society, so that we can find a way to live together without unnecessary stress and effort. Sure, if we legalized murder, people would do it. But in order to do so, people would have to strengthen their own defenses against the likelihood that someone might try to murder them. Same with theft, ditto rape. It’s much more pleasant and peaceful to live in a society where such obviously negative things are considered illegal.

    Morality is a separate discussion from this entirely. Laws are about setting the framework for a functional society; morality is about personal choices and beliefs. It doesn’t matter if we believe honor killings, for instance, are moral or not (certainly Christians and Muslims believe they are) — they are still illegal because there is no sound, consistent way to justify them, as there is with, say, self-defense.

    So who deems what is lawful and not? And why one earth should we listen to them?

    Simply put, the people who make the law decide what is lawful. In our particular case the constitution sets a basic guideline — anything that interferes with our life, liberty or pursuit of happiness is considered unlawful. If you have an argument with that, take it up with the founding fathers, because I had no part in this drafting. Although I do support it, for many obvious reasons (as I and everyone else have everything to gain by doing so).

    How do we know that the laws our desires are telling us to adhere to have any benefit to them whatsoever?

    Laws =/= morals. Our desires tell us to adhere to morals, not necessarily laws. Laws are public stances that are based upon logical ideas, ideas that are meant to sustain the society. Adherence to morality is a personal decision that may vary from person to person; again, you have a choice whether or not to acknowledge the moral authority of any source. For example, as I do not acknowledge the moral authority of an assumed “God” or any religious doctrine.

    Likewise, you have the choice to acknowledge the law as a source of authority, or to do the opposite. However, there are penalties for not acknowledging the law as such. There is no penalty for not acknowledging moral authority in the same way.

    Keep in mind: saying “it is illegal to murder in the US” is an objective statement because that is true; it is illegal to murder in the US. That is very different from saying “it is immoral to murder.”

    You still have yet to prove why murder is immoral. I understand why we outlaw it as a society based on my own view (as I should), but I still don’t understand on what basis you consider it “objectively wrong.”

    Reply
  103. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    [Funny, I’ve googled that (and wiki’d it, and yahoo’d it, and glanced through several reference texts and encyclopedias) and I’ve never found that quote.]

    Do you think I made it up? I have an moral obligation not to be deceptive ( :

    Anyway, you can find it in his interview. Look on youtube. The one on MSNBC. His dad was in the interview also.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjW7bezdddE

    No time to respond further right now.

    Jeff

    Reply
  104. The Trousered Ape says:

    “How do YOU think it should work?”

    I’m not questioning the way it is working. I’m asking, if societies laws are based upon “biological desires,” then why is one person or groups biological desire any more deserving of being made into a law than another person or groups? Who adjudicates? Why are we compelled to follow them? Why should people who are in the position to create laws impose their desires on everyone else? Are they better than those who are not in a position to influence legislature? Are their “biological desires” superior?

    Reply
  105. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    As I’ve said before – people on this thread have tried to answer you. You just refuse to listen. Stop getting stuck on the word “God” meaning the God of the Christian Bible. I didn’t say that. You did.
    I don’t think objective morality alone proves the God of the Bible. One would need more than just the moral argument to narrow it to the Christian God.
    I am positing a Creator as a grounding point for morality, because I think it is the best explanation for what we observe and intuitively know about morality. Your grounding point, I assume, is evolutionary naturalism. No one “told me” that the Creator is the grounding point. It makes sense to me that if we are to measure things as “bad” and “good”, we have to have an ultimate standard by which to measure them. I don’t think evolutionary naturalism fits the bill.
    The left and right arguing about the morality of different legislation only proves the point that legislators realize that laws have moral implications.

    Tim D.,
    You used the words “shared support of intellectual and logical progressions based on biological desires.” Then, you go on to talk about individual preferences. By “shared,” I am assuming that you are referring to a society of some form including more than just one individual, which is probably why I said “shared decision.” It certainly wasn’t meant to be derogatory.
    I apologize for the word “whim,” though I was using it to mean “urge” or “notion,” which can be found in the dictionary as synonyms to “whim.” Perhaps a better term would have been “urge” or “desire.” It still doesn’t change my point that some societies have come to the “logical progression” that they can eat their neighbors.
    You go on and on about things being bad and good, and then say that the defintion of “bad” and “good” is different according to each individual’s definition of the words. If arguments can be so easily dismissed by equivocation or redefinition of language (such as the meaning of “good” or “bad”) according to individual fancy, then I will choose to take everything you’ve said above to mean that you totally and utterly agree with me. If language is so arbitrary that I can define words to mean anything I like, then language is meaningless.

    Reply
  106. The Trousered Ape says:

    “You still have yet to prove why murder is immoral. I understand why we outlaw it as a society based on my own view (as I should), but I still don’t understand on what basis you consider it “objectively wrong.””

    Because in my worldview everyone is created in the image of God and therefore they have inherent infinite value and worth. All life should be respected and cared for because all life carries with it the mark of the Creator. To kill a person, purposefully take innocent life, is not permissible because it is not ours to take. All life belongs to the one who gave it life. Since I can not rightfully take something that is mine, then it is morally wrong for me to take an innocent life.

    If something belongs to me, I have every right to reclaim it. If I allow someone to borrow something of mine, if I choose to take it back, I am within my rights to do so.

    Reply
  107. Tim D. says:

    Why should people who are in the position to create laws impose their desires on everyone else? Are they better than those who are not in a position to influence legislature? Are their “biological desires” superior?

    Um, we vote them into power. We give them the right to do that. We tell them it’s okay. So this question is odd, given that their decisions to make laws (their votes, their ideas) are a direct reflection of our own.

    It makes sense to me that if we are to measure things as “bad” and “good”, we have to have an ultimate standard by which to measure them. I don’t think evolutionary naturalism fits the bill.

    Here’s where I disagree. I don’t believe it’s necessary to see things as “objectively good or bad” in order to understand them and have a position on them. All that is necessary is to understand (a) that the act itself is objective, as it effects and binds other people, and (b) how it affects others. Whereas you would say that an act with negative consequences is “objectively wrong,” I would rather say that “I am opposed to it because….” and list my reasons. That, to me, is much more convincing than your argument. If I knew nothing of the issue, I might hear something that appeals to my worldview and decide to take a position on it. Whereas someone who desparately tries to assert me that my current position is “wrong just because” is likely to be ignored or written off.

    The left and right arguing about the morality of different legislation only proves the point that legislators realize that laws have moral implications.

    So when someone agrees with you, they “realize” it. But when they disagree, they “think” it. I see now.

    Perhaps a better term would have been “urge” or “desire.”

    It’s still incorrect. A desire, whim, urge, or fancy is not the same thing as a process that is considered by many over a period of time. What you describe is an off-hand, spur-of-the-moment impulse reaction, not a careful decision-making process. That is why I accuse you of degrading the process by comparing it to something so arbitrary.

    It still doesn’t change my point that some societies have come to the “logical progression” that they can eat their neighbors.

    So why is that immoral to you? I’ve already explained why it makes no sense to me. Do you expect me to explain the strange logic that leads to such a situation? I don’t understand your point.

    Judging solely from the “points” you’ve been making here, it seems that not even objective morality would save us from our own stupidity; people would still find ways to misuse the “intended purpose” of these morals. Of course, if they were objective this would not be the case because they could be easily proven…and yet they haven’t been proven at all, just believed.

    If arguments can be so easily dismissed by equivocation or redefinition of language (such as the meaning of “good” or “bad”) according to individual fancy, then I will choose to take everything you’ve said above to mean that you totally and utterly agree with me. If language is so arbitrary that I can define words to mean anything I like, then language is meaningless.

    Oh, by all means, feel free to do so! I won’t try to argue you down from a delusion that intense. I don’t know about you, but in the field of law definitions are extremely important. Words like “good” and “bad” are not the same as “up” and “down;” directions can be demonstrated, can be shown and pointed to. Good and bad are concepts, but they are not even solid concepts; they are based entirely on a presupposed worldview. It’s a simple fact — not my opinion — that what is good or moral to you may seem quite the opposite to me. If you can’t acknowledge this, then I don’t know where we should go from here.

    On a side note…you don’t even really have to go into the semantics of proving objective morality from a mathematical or logistical standpoint. All you’d need to do to prove that objective morals exist is to define one in such a way that it could not be interpreted differently — for example, I can easily demonstrate that 2 + 2 = 4, if I define “2” as this amount of something:

    X X

    and “4” as this amount:

    X X X X

    It is a demonstrable fact that if you put this

    X X

    and this

    X X

    together, you get this:

    X X X X

    See, even wordplay cannot dismiss this example because it is an objective fact. So please, demonstrate to me an example of objective morality that wordplay cannot alter or diminish.

    P.S.

    It might help to add something I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet. No, I don’t believe in things being universally, objectively “good” or “bad,” in the sense you describe. But that doesn’t mean we can’t describe the acts themselves in an objective manner. For example; abortion….

    (1) Abortion; we’ll define it here as the act of terminating the union of a sperm and egg cell at any point past conception, for convenience’s sake.
    a
    The above statement describes and defines what abortion is.

    (2) Situation; an underage girl becomes pregnant and chooses to have an abortion.

    Can we say anything yet? If we believe in objective morality, we’d stop here and say, “she’s wrong!” But let’s keep going for a moment.

    (3) Reason/circumstance; the girl was raped by her father and impregnated.

    Okay, maybe that didn’t change your belief one way or the other as to the inherent “wrongness” or “rightness” of the act….but have you begun to at least perceive it differently? Is it not significant in a different way now?

    (4) Some possible alternatives; (a) the pregnancy is terminated. The girl feels guilt about the act. She turns 18 and leaves the abusive environment; (b) the pregnancy is not terminated. She lives at home with her abusive father, unable to live on her own because she must be at home with the child and cannot afford a babysitter. She may be raped again before she is able to move out on her own, or she may not; (c) the pregnancy is not terminated and the child is given up for adoption, and she is able to move out of the abusive environment, similar to option (a).

    Now, all of these things are true about the situation; none of them can be debated. The rape occurred; the choice made in part 4 took place. These are objective facts. If we were to try and make a decision about “right” and “wrong,” it would be entirely a matter of opinion, and it could be reasonably argued. What we can say about it, that cannot be argued with, is that (and how) it happened.

    We could describe the “best” choice, but in order to do so we would need an idea of what is “best.” What is the goal? There must be a goal, or at least a rough idea of a positive result, in order to determine how best to achieve that goal. In the Christian worldview, the value is “life,” and quality thereof is irrelevant, so we would rather the girl suffer so as to bring forth new life by staying and taking care of the baby, or bringing it to term/birthing it/giving it up for adoption. In a different worldview, one might say that the mother deserves a chance to decide for herself when she wants to have children—that a man has no right to force her to have his baby when she is not ready—and that it is not “moral” to force the consequences of such a decision onto her, when someone else made the decision. Neither of these is “objectively true,” but they are both valid statements, to a degree.

    So if we said, “preserving life is the goal,” then abortion would be the “bad” option. If we instead said “preserving the quality of the mother’s life is paramount,” we would choose to abort the pregnancy early on, because it involves the least amount of suffering (physically and emotionally) for the mother.

    Ah, I’m getting tired. More later.

    Reply
  108. Tim D. says:

    Because in my worldview everyone is created in the image of God and therefore they have inherent infinite value and worth. All life should be respected and cared for because all life carries with it the mark of the Creator. To kill a person, purposefully take innocent life, is not permissible because it is not ours to take. All life belongs to the one who gave it life. Since I can not rightfully take something that is mine, then it is morally wrong for me to take an innocent life.

    If something belongs to me, I have every right to reclaim it. If I allow someone to borrow something of mine, if I choose to take it back, I am within my rights to do so.

    That is your belief and you’re free to have it. But you have absolutely no ground on which to force it on someone else. You cannot prove that it is “right” or “true,” nor can you even imply as much.

    Reply
  109. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Why should people who are in the position to create laws impose their desires on everyone else?”

    TTA, I really think you need to research how laws are made. You live in a democracy, you have the power to try to change laws you don’t like. You do not live in a dictatoship. If you did then I would agree that they shouldn’t impose their desires on you. But you don’t. You can vote out people making laws your think suck.

    Justin, you have NOT answered my question. I don’t care WHICH God you are talking about – the God of the bible, or some other. Positing a deity’s existence doesn’t get you any closer to that ‘ought’ you’re after.

    Reply
  110. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    In case that last post was too long for ya, my point was this: to say that “if one desires to preserve all forms of life, regardless of the consequence to those whose responsibility it is to usher such life into existence, then it is not desirable to perform an abortion,” then yes, that is true. Because what we have is a set of circumstances that can be objectively described, something that cannot be argued with. However, the above statement is drastically different from the following one: “Abortion is wrong!” Why is it wrong? It’s wrong to you because you believe that a zygote is alive and that it deserves legal protection in the same respect that a fully-manifested human does.

    Reply
  111. Carol says:

    Congratulations to Frank on his first public debate.

    It was most interesting being seated next to a non-believer who made the observation that Frank was “so nice” in spite of Mr. Hitchens’ behaviors.

    I must adress the comment of one blogger above who stated that this was just two philosophers debating. From my vantage point there was one philosopher, and one messenger; a messenger who was able to address the philosopher in a philosophical way.

    It was expected that the messenger would do well…after all the effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man availeth much. Prayers were not for a “win” in the sense that one wins a debate.

    The “win” was not in Frank’s being a more direct or focused debater. The “win” was not in Frank’s appearing more prepared than his opponent to address the evening’s subject matter. The “win” was not that Frank was better behaved than his opponent.

    The “win” was that Truth was presented, and Truth took root in the minds of unbelievers who may never have been presented with information that leads to the Author of Truth.

    God is not afraid of having Truth presented in the form of a philosophical debate. God is gracious enough to allow for many forums and styles in which to lead unbelievers to the Way, the Truth and the Life. God is not afraid of conversation that points to external evidences for His existence…after all, He was the one who created that universe and all of those humans who are repleat with those innumerable evidences.

    Reply
  112. John Ferrer says:

    Its been too long since I checked in here. These blogs compile quickly. Anyway, to touch on a few thoughts, here we go. . .

    “Why should a society do something to harm itself?”
    You don’t need morals to think self-preservation is a good idea. The society is protecting itself through its laws.

    Andrew
    You said: “‘The only question is whose morality is legislated?’ No-one’s. It’s about protected the citizens, not legislating morality. ”

    EVERY legal system legislates morality insofar as it decides that some behaviors are prohibited and other behaviors are permitted. There is no way around the moral role of legislation since legislation, by definition determines what is and is not legal (permissable) and so is a moral system.

    The constitution and declaration of independence were written with this sense in mind. Admitting that this moral power should appeal to more than private opinion, group consensus, or royal authority, they sought a “higher court of appeals.” Hence we have the language in our founding documents, “All men are CREATED equal” and “endowed by GOD with certain inalienable rights.” This is not an appeal to a specifically Christian God but rather an admission of theism (broadly) in what ethicists and legal experts call, “the natural law.”

    Later you wrote, “You are saying He is good in exactly the same way I say that Hitler is bad. It’s still just your opinion. How are you judging this ‘essence of goodness’? Who told you He was the essence of goodness? Are you taking it on heresay, or are you using some pre-existing standard to say He is good.”

    Here you are confusing the question of “what we know” for “how we know.” You fault me for not answering both, when I was only answering the prior. Now, let is probe your answer a bit. You and I agree that Hitler is bad, so it is not entirely “private opinion” that determines his badness. It is at least public opninion. Nor is it merely group consensus that determines his badness since even when the majority of Germany was supporting him as well as the Axis powers, his actions were still reprehensible. And, even if the Axis powers were in the majority–so that most human beings agreed with Hitler–Jewish life would be no less valuable, evolutionist genocide would be just evil, and the arian race would be no more valuable for it. The nuremburg trials judged Nazi action as wrong because it violated NATURAL LAW, not because most people in the world disagreed. When military underlings were trying to excuse their behavior by saying “We were just following orders” the court still judged them for violating this natural law.

    I am not addressing the question of how we know morality–since that actually departs slightlty from ethics and into epistemology (do we know by reasoning, by authority, by senses, by intuition, must we be ignorant, etc.). My main concern is to show THAT we know it. Once we admit that we know good from evil, we can proceed to unpack the implications of that knowledge. My point then is that you and I both know that Hitler was evil, but if our consciously held moral system can do no better than to call that knowledge an “opinion” then we need to rethink that moral system. I further asserted that nature is an inadequate grounds for a robust moral system because of the “is-ought” fallacy. Private opinion, royal fiat, and majority vote can never escape the “is” to tell us, metaphysically, what “ought” to be. Given a naturalistic system, we can’t even say that humanity SHOULD survive, or that pleasure is BETTER than pain, or that freedom is RIGHT–since these illicitly smuggle in an “ought” from the “is” of nature.

    So I reassert the Naturalisti Fallacy (“is-ought”) as dismissing ALL naturalistic efforts at a moral system. What do you think?

    Reply
  113. Tim D. says:

    EVERY legal system legislates morality insofar as it decides that some behaviors are prohibited and other behaviors are permitted. There is no way around the moral role of legislation since legislation, by definition determines what is and is not legal (permissable) and so is a moral system.

    Wrong again; if the laws were there due to moral preconceptions, then they would center around rehabilitating the individual. Which they do not; if someone murders someone else, we don’t try and force them to be moral, we lock them away or execute them. The object is the protection of the people, not the “morality” of the individual.

    The nuremburg trials judged Nazi action as wrong because it violated NATURAL LAW, not because most people in the world disagreed.

    Once we admit that we know good from evil, we can proceed to unpack the implications of that knowledge. My point then is that you and I both know that Hitler was evil, but if our consciously held moral system can do no better than to call that knowledge an “opinion” then we need to rethink that moral system.

    And you still don’t get it. I don’t entirely expect you to, but I was hoping you’d at least try….it’s not “just an opinion,” and if you still think that after all that’s been said then you are just not paying attention.

    Private opinion, royal fiat, and majority vote can never escape the “is” to tell us, metaphysically, what “ought” to be.

    And your fallacy fails until you can prove what “ought” to be by a method other than stating what you believe.

    So I reassert the Naturalisti Fallacy (”is-ought”) as dismissing ALL naturalistic efforts at a moral system. What do you think?

    Naturally, I think you’re wrong. You keep trying to establish “oughtness” as the basis of all things, as though the universe could not operate without it…and yet it does, every single day. “Should” is an opinion; “ought to” is an opinion. The only thing that is objective are the facts; everything else is an opinion. Morality is a personal choice; whatever source we take it from is no more objective than any person or circumstance we apply it to.

    But whatever. I’ve already said all these things, you’ve already said all your things….we’re just treading water here. I wish I could say you’ve made me think about some things, but the only thing you’ve made me reconsider is my faith in humanity -_-

    Reply
  114. The Trousered Ape says:

    You say, “The only thing that is objective are the facts; everything else is an opinion.”

    So, is that a fact or just your opinion?

    Reply
  115. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    Can you help me understand your view on this? In your view, morality is just shared feeling with survival value. So is there any authority HIGHER than society’s shared moral feelings? If society’s views are the standard by which you judge morality, then how do you account for moral reformers like the abolitionists or civil rights right advocates? People like Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up against the shared moral feeling of the majority of society and opposed them. However, if society’s views are the standard, then that would make the reformers immoral. Or, perhaps you would say that they were simply changing society’s moral feelings, not actually improving them, or making them better. Of course in that view it would make no sense to call them heroes.

    Also, you stated (to John):
    [Wrong again; if the laws were there due to moral preconceptions, then they would center around rehabilitating the individual.]

    It does not follow that laws are not based on morality because the legal system has a punitive function. It’s faulty reasoning to assume that if laws were based on morality, then the legal system would only be oriented toward rehabilitation.

    John’s point is accurate. Your objection does not in any way falsify his statement.

    You are also ignoring the pedagogical function of the law (good law). It has a role in teaching citizens moral behavior.

    Also you stated [And you still don’t get it. I don’t entirely expect you to, but I was hoping you’d at least try….it’s not “just an opinion,” and if you still think that after all that’s been said then you are just not paying attention.]

    A few sentences later, you said [Should” is an opinion; “ought to” is an opinion. The only thing that is objective are the facts; everything else is an opinion.]

    I’m unclear on this.

    You also stated, [“Morality is a personal choice;…”]. You must mean that it’s a personal choice whether or not one chooses to act morally. I agree. Of course this is very different than saying that morality itself is a personal choice. If morality itself is personal choice, then everyone would act morally since they could just change their definition of morality to match their choice.

    Jeff

    Reply
  116. Tim D. says:

    n your view, morality is just shared feeling with survival value.

    No. No it is not. I understand that to Christians, quality of life is irrelevant and all that matters is life itself. But that is not how I feel.

    First thing’s first, as I’ve been saying, morality is a personal choice. It is not something that can be forced upon somebody; true morality stems from an individual decision to hold oneself to a certain standard and discipline oneself. It cannot be forced upon someone because it is impossible to control the way a person thinks or acts — we can only react accordingly.

    The law is what has survival value, although it does go beyond that — it is also geared towards improving the quality of life, that we may live together with less stress and hardship than we would if we were all living on our own in an anarchist state with no laws or rules.

    So is there any authority HIGHER than society’s shared moral feelings?

    Is there any higher law than society, or is there any higher morality? Either way, I think no, unless we refer to the laws of physics and mathematics. Because those laws cannot be broken.

    If society’s views are the standard by which you judge morality, then how do you account for moral reformers like the abolitionists or civil rights right advocates?

    Society’s views are not the standard by which I judge morality. My own views are the standard by which I judge morality.

    Or, perhaps you would say that they were simply changing society’s moral feelings, not actually improving them, or making them better. Of course in that view it would make no sense to call them heroes.

    Argument from consequence again.

    It does not follow that laws are not based on morality because the legal system has a punitive function. It’s faulty reasoning to assume that if laws were based on morality, then the legal system would only be oriented toward rehabilitation.

    I didn’t say it would only focus on rehabilitation, I said it would mainly focus on rehabilitation. We don’t even try; we throw our criminals away for life and forget about them, offering them only the basic necessities for survival based on some kind of moral superiorist idea that “they can’t be fixed.” I’m not disagreeing with that idea, but I am saying it defeats your assertion soundly.

    John’s point is accurate. Your objection does not in any way falsify his statement.

    Actually, it’s not, and it does.

    You are also ignoring the pedagogical function of the law (good law). It has a role in teaching citizens moral behavior.

    And yet its intended goal has nothing to do with that.

    You must mean that it’s a personal choice whether or not one chooses to act morally. I agree. Of course this is very different than saying that morality itself is a personal choice. If morality itself is personal choice, then everyone would act morally since they could just change their definition of morality to match their choice.

    And that’s exactly what happens. There are homosexuals who act morally; however, you classify the very act of being homosexual as “immoral,” and so you think it’s moral to criticize them and illegalize their lifestyle.

    Reply
  117. Tim D. says:

    P.S. I find it very interesting that if a standard person (such as myself or someone like me) makes a statement, you’re willing to hold it to such scrutiny as to question it and purposely misinterpret and misrepresent it until it means nothing to anyone. And yet, when the founding fathers formed this country, they made it based on many personal assumptions — that we had such rights, that we were bestowed with them by some “Creator,” etc. — and you choose to trust them unfailingly. In reality, these things are simply the assertions of a group of individuals that you agree with; they are not objective truths. They are things we all support because we have every reason to support them.

    So I guess you only hold to scrutiny that with which you disagree?

    Reply
  118. Jeff Vannoy says:

    TIm,

    You stated that you do not believe that our morality is shared moral feelings with survival value. I thought you said that, if not, my apologies. Perhaps it was Rudy that said it. Anyway, might I ask, in your view, if your moral feelings do not come from evolution, then where do they come from again?

    Also, regarding the views of the Founding Fathers, you said,
    [In reality, these things are simply the assertions of a group of individuals that you agree with; they are not objective truths. They are things we all support because we have every reason to support them.]

    If the principles in the Declaration are just the assertions of a group and are not actually true, then, on the contrary, it seems we have NO GOOD REASON to support them.

    Jeff

    Reply
  119. Tim D. says:

    You stated that you do not believe that our morality is shared moral feelings with survival value. I thought you said that, if not, my apologies. Perhaps it was Rudy that said it. Anyway, might I ask, in your view, if your moral feelings do not come from evolution, then where do they come from again?

    As I said, I don’t believe in objective “morality,” so I don’t adhere to the “shoulda woulda coulda” rationale. However, if I were to qualify a set of guidelines by which I prefer to adhere as “morality,” then I would say that I construct those guidelines based on what is most effective towards reaching my personal goals, which primarily consists of the happiness of myself and others.

    I think the question you want to ask is, “how do you arrive at the conclusion that the happiness of yourself and others is important?” And to that, I will say: my own happiness is the standard by which I measure that of others, so it’s obviously easy to understand — who doesn’t want to be happy? As for the happiness of others, they say happiness is contagious 🙂 I can only guess that the human brain is wired to appreciate happiness in this sense. In any case, that’s my personal priority, and while I don’t believe it’s “objectively true” that “happiness is good,” I hardly think you’ll find anyone who will disagree with you if you make such a claim. Happiness is one of the base emotions we use to demonstrate things; anger and sadness are the same way. Everybody understands these concepts, even if they don’t know the words; if there were a way to share the mental concept without using words, nobody would ever misunderstand you if you conveyed the sensation of “happiness” or “sadness” or “anger,” because they are part of our essence.

    Needless to say, there are probably some sociopaths that do not believe that general happiness and well-being are not “good,” in the same sense that there are people who claim that following Satan would be “better” than following God, were we to assume the existence of both. However, to me this is not evidence of lack of effectiveness of one belief system or another; rather, it represents the consistency of human inconsistency; the idea that, no matter what you say, somebody somewhere will disagree with you.

    If the principles in the Declaration are just the assertions of a group and are not actually true, then, on the contrary, it seems we have NO GOOD REASON to support them.

    I can’t speak for you, but I have every good reason to support them. Pardon me if I assumed the same of you.

    For example:

    (1) If I were to claim that I and I alone have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the claim would not be accepted by many for obvious reasons. Why should other people respect my self-proclaimed right to do so? So naturally, if I want this right badly enough (and I do), it makes sense to agree to share it with everybody. If everyone agrees upon it and it is universally enforced, then that means I benefit from it without question. So does everyone else, but that’s still better than wandering alone, spending every waking moment trying to keep people from killing or stealing from me.

    (2) Sure, I could live without those rights. But certainly life is easier for me (and much less stressful and paranoid) when I don’t have to constantly watch my back to make sure someone’s not stealing my hard-earned rewards or trying to take my life. Sure, these things still happen, but it’s quite reassuring to know that there is a political force out there that actively opposes, prevents, and/or punishes these types of actions.

    So even if you’re completely selfish, as long as you want to stay alive these are good ideas. Maybe an even more selfish person might want to assert that nobody else deserves those rights because they’re not that particular person and therefore “don’t count,” but even that person would have to admit that it’s impossible to enforce such ideals alone. So in order for any such ideals to be supported, they must be done so in agreement with others. So it actually makes perfect sense.

    Reply
  120. Tim D. says:

    *Needless to say, there are probably some sociopaths that do not believe that general happiness and well-being are not “good,”

    That should totally say this:

    Needless to say, there are probably some sociopaths that do not believe that general happiness and well-being are “good,”

    Reply
  121. Andrew Ryan says:

    “If the principles in the Declaration are just the assertions of a group and are not actually true, then, on the contrary, it seems we have NO GOOD REASON to support them.”

    Who are you to tell us we cannot support assertions that we agree with?

    John Ferrer: “The nuremburg trials judged Nazi action as wrong because it violated NATURAL LAW”

    No, they were judged as violating INTERNATIONAL Law.
    Laws are not legislated morality, no matter how many times you say it.

    Reply
  122. Bob Perry says:

    Laws are not legislated morality, no matter how many times you say it.

    Actually, laws ARE legislated morality, no matter how many times you deny it.

    See, it works both ways.

    Reply
  123. Bob Perry says:

    Society’s views are not the standard by which I judge morality. My own views are the standard by which I judge morality.

    So why should anyone adhere to Tim’s self-generated moral standards any more than they should adhere to MY self-generated moral standards?

    To assert that this is an explanation that holds any normative weight is absurd on its face.

    Reply
  124. Bob Perry says:

    This exchange alone defines this thread:

    Tim: “The only thing that is objective are the facts; everything else is an opinion.”

    Trousered Ape: “So, is that a fact or just your opinion?”

    Tim’s reply: “Both.”

    Pontificating from the seat of (self-proclaimed) omniscience, Tim is able to declare that his, and only his, comments are both opinion and fact. What he fails to realize is that his first statement is self-refuting and therefore false.

    Well done, Trousered Ape! While the dialogue is interesting to follow, the foundation of Tim’s worldview just came crashing down around him — and he doesn’t even realize it. 🙂

    Reply
  125. Tim D. says:

    Actually, laws ARE legislated morality, no matter how many times you deny it.

    See, it works both ways.

    See? I know you’re capable of learning!

    So why should anyone adhere to Tim’s self-generated moral standards any more than they should adhere to MY self-generated moral standards?

    Nobody said you have to adhere to my standards.

    To assert that this is an explanation that holds any normative weight is absurd on its face.

    You just don’t get it, I’m afraid. Morality is personal. When I declare the guidelines that serve me in the way that you claim “morality” serves you, I am not forcing anyone else to abide by them. They are there for me; it is my own guideline that I will not kill and rape and steal because I have my own reasons for thinking they are not necessary. I don’t recall ever saying that you were in any way obligated to follow my personal morality.

    Maybe I would choose to discipline myself by going on a diet? I wouldn’t expect you to do the same.

    Pontificating from the seat of (self-proclaimed) omniscience, Tim is able to declare that his, and only his, comments are both opinion and fact.

    Wow. I really don’t want to believe you’re an idiot. I’m trying really hard to give you credit. But you just won’t quit letting me down….

    (whew…) I never proclaimed omniscience; the statement I made indicates that my opinion reflects a simple fact — that facts themselves are objective (which they are, feel free to prove me wrong if you disagree), and that any way we can describe them without reflecting more facts is an opinion. If you do not understand this, then there really is nothing more to say…..if I say something is “nice,” that doesn’t make it nice. If I say something is “red,” however, that reflects a physically verifiable characteristic that is objective — pigments in the surface of the object absorb all of the rays of light except the red hues, then reflect them back at us to display the color red. This is an objective description of circumstances. Likewise, if I said an object was “good” or “bad,” that’s not an objective statement.

    (2) The foundation of my point is humility, of which you clearly have none. The idea is that we can’t know morality objectively, and so we must find ways to guide ourselves that do not result in complete and total chaos. The only real difference between you and I here is that I feel these things are impossible to solidify in the collective consciousness of humanity, whereas you think there is some magic being in the sky that proclaims all morality and must be obeyed.

    What he fails to realize is that his first statement is self-refuting and therefore false.

    Ah, I see — badgering! Not bad; you’ve definitely got the social pariah thing going well. I wonder how long it’ll take you to raise the whole village against me and mah satanic ways?

    Well done, Trousered Ape!

    Hah! Clearly, we do have differing definitions of “well.”

    While the dialogue is interesting to follow, the foundation of Tim’s worldview just came crashing down around him — and he doesn’t even realize it. 🙂

    And this sentence establishes why you are an idiot. This whole time we’ve been talking, I made the hubris assumption that at least a little tiny bit of your own mind was open enough to at least pay attention to what I’ve been saying. Instead of examining it critically, you’ve been waiting the whole time for me to “slip up” so you can declare me the loser of some great cosmic debate. Whatever; I’m not here to win you over or prove my objectivity. If you had paid attention to anything at all that I have posted thus far, you’d realize that the foundation of my argument is that objectivity in the sense you speak of is beyond our reach.

    Ah….I never understand why I continue to be surprised by the fact that Evangelists rely on wordplay to make a “win-or-lose” argument out of the simplest cases….like I said, I guess I just have too much faith in humanity.

    Reply
  126. The Trousered Ape says:

    Again…”If you had paid attention to anything at all that I have posted thus far, you’d realize that the foundation of my argument is that objectivity in the sense you speak of is beyond our reach.”

    By making that claim, you are making an objective statement about how the world really is. However, if that is mere opinion, then there is no good reason to accept it since my opinion is just as good as yours and cannot be argued for or against.

    Reply
  127. Tim D. says:

    By making that claim, you are making an objective statement about how the world really is. However, if that is mere opinion, then there is no good reason to accept it since my opinion is just as good as yours and cannot be argued for or against.

    Ah….you too, eh? Should’ve known….

    Did you even read my last post? You can describe the world objectively. You just can’t describe “morality” objectively, because it is a matter of opinion.

    Reply
  128. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    Sorry if I came across as angry just now. I’m really not; I’m just surprised at the sheer simplicity and circular nature of your arguments. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of stupid things in my time, but this is definitely one of the worst cases I’ve encountered.

    I’ll be sticking around anyway, though. Don’t worry~

    Reply
  129. Tim D. says:

    But the question is this…If I have a counter-perspective, different from yours, does that make me “wrong”?

    In what sense? If by ‘wrong’ you mean ‘objectively morally wrong just because,’ then I can’t really answer that because I don’t believe in objective “rightness” and “wrongness.” But if you mean “wrong” in that I can demonstrably show that the world around you reflects something different….well, then that depends on what we’re talking about. “Differing perspective” is a pretty general term; you’d have to be more specific before we could examine what that means any further.

    Reply
  130. Frank Turek says:

    Gentlemen,

    Been on the road unable to participate in this lively discussion. But I must say, Tim, please stop the name-calling. There are no “idiots” on either side of this debate.

    Blessings,

    Frank

    Reply
  131. The Trousered Ape says:

    Well, the only way that I know to be wrong about something is by looking at some external standard by which we can make a comparison. So, for something like mathematics, we can tell when someone has made an error in their sums because there is an objective, external standard that we can appeal. One cannot be wrong about personal tastes or preferences because those are subjective in nature and they are not the types of things that one can be right or wrong about.

    I don’t think this needs to be stated, but I will anyway. Morality is the first type of thing, that we do not invent or make up morality, it is something that is external and therefore, discoverable, and not created or invented.

    Since words like right, wrong, better, best, worse, bad, etc. are moral terms, then I mean them in an objective sense.

    You’ve been arguing for your particular perspective – your personal view with the idea that your view is correct and my view is incorrect. So the question is – do you think your view is correct in the first sense (objective) or in the second (subjective)? If it is the first, then it is self-defeating and if it is the second, then there seems to me no good reason to regard it because we are then reduced to arguing flavors of ice cream. And if it is subjective, then all you’ve been doing is been posting about how your personal preference is your favor and you haven’t advanced anything that really matters in any ultimate sense.

    It might matter to you, but there is no logical reason why it should matter to me or anyone else, because it is your taste and your preference and your “biological desires.” I tend to think that things matter not just for me and not just because it’s convenient to think so, but because they actually matter in some external, objective sense.

    Reply
  132. Tim D. says:

    You’ve been arguing for your particular perspective – your personal view with the idea that your view is correct and my view is incorrect.

    Alright, try to follow me here. I never said that my personal morality was “correct” or “objectively true;” again, that is the crux of my argument, that one’s personal feelings of morality cannot be objectively true (neither yours nor mine). In that same sense, laws are not “objectively true” either; they are external standards that we have agreed upon to enforce, because they reflect our personal standards that we as a society (or, in the case of life/liberty/pursuit of happiness, the founding fathers) have agreed to settle upon.

    My main problem with your position here is that, if we follow your logic, we could easily create a hypothetical society in which things like rape and theft are legal and moral. You haven’t offered any solid ground (besides your personal hypothesis of the existence of a moral objective) on which to base the idea that the laws and morals we agree upon to enforce are somehow “more right” than those of such hypothetical societies.

    For example; let’s say that there’s a religion based on ritual sacrifice. Once a week, we all vote on a person to sacrifice to some deity or another. We decide that this is an effective method around which to form a society — because this deity created the universe and is a moral absolute, we believe — and we pass laws that reflect these values and beliefs.

    According to your personal supposition of God’s existence, that makes the above scenario okay, because it was ordained by a God. It’s not the same God you believe in, but what difference does that make? Until you offer undeniable proof that Christian God is (a) real in the first place, (b) a moral objective, and (c) the only such being, then you really have no foundation here. To assume that such a being exists because we feel we have moral duties is not proof, it’s supposition; if I believed that human sacrifice was okay, I could suppose the existence of such a deity as the one mentioned in my previous example, and I could suppose that human sacrifice is moral because that deity said it was.

    I tend to think that things matter not just for me and not just because it’s convenient to think so, but because they actually matter in some external, objective sense.

    There is no real difference in the way we execute our beliefs fundamentally, I don’t think. It’s more of a squabble over the nature of those beliefs, and it seems ultimately irrelevant until we come to a hair-splitting argument like homosexuality. That’s why I think it’s so important to understand the subjectivity of “moral absolutes;” homosexuality is not inherently “wrong” because that makes no sense. No act is, in and of itself, wrong, because that makes about as much sense as saying that a lampshade is wrong; it is the mindset and circumstance that make it positive or negative. For example, abortion; it’s easy to say that abortion is “wrong” objectively and that nobody should ever do it. But when we ask why, we say, “because life is valuable.” That seems to carry, until we come to that one off-beat situation where the pregnancy actually endangers the life of the mother. What do we do then? Do we leave them both to die? Do we take one life that the other may live? Either way, it’s essentially murder. So there are grey areas; and grey areas do not exist within absolutes.

    Reply
  133. Tim D. says:

    P.S. And before you ask why you should agree to these laws if they’re not objective, remember that you already have, by virtue of being a citizen of the US (assuming you are a US citizen).

    Reply
  134. Andrew Ryan says:

    BobP: “So why should anyone adhere to Tim’s self-generated moral standards any more than they should adhere to MY self-generated moral standards?”

    I’m not surprised Tim gets frustrated with you all. He has answered time and time again that the IS no reason to. Apart from the law. Is Tim thus saying you should murder? No, he’s made it quite clear do doesn’t think people SHOULD.

    And I’m astonished by the turn around here in relation to the law. I’ve seen Conservatives ENDLESSLY telling me that ‘The law is not legislated morality’ on boards such as these, arguing against any measure to improve health care or suchlike. (Go see Townhall). And now suddenly it IS, just cos it suits your argument?

    Reply
  135. Andrew Ryan says:

    I’m not saying that opinions on morality are of equal weight with opinions on other things. However, I’m interested to know if you think the following is true.

    You all seem to offer only two options: Either there’s a God who tallies up every moral action on a big score board, or there’s no such thing as morality at all. Further than that, the logic seems to extend that if I have a view on ANYTHING, unless there’s a supreme being who also has an opinion on that subject (and presumably he does), then my opinion is worthless.

    So I can say that I think Citizen Kane is a better film than Road Trip. But this leaves me with two options.
    1. I can believe that there’s a God who knows every single film in existence (including director’s cut), and who has arranged them all in order of quality by His own reckoning on a big celestial scoreboard, and thus can either agree or disagree with me.
    2. If there’s no God, my opinion is utterly worthless, regardless of critical consensus agreeing with me, or reasoning such as the effect Welles’ masterpiece had on film-making and society in general, analysis of the cinematography etc. So all books of film criticism are bunk, and anyone who makes any pronouncement on the quality of a film might as well be speaking in tongues.

    And likewise to any opinions on music, food, humour, etc.

    Does this sound right to you?

    Reply
  136. Sean G. says:

    “My main problem with your position here is that, if we follow your logic, we could easily create a hypothetical society in which things like rape and theft are legal and moral.”

    First of all, this seems like an argument from consequence, which you seem to object to. (I think that was you. If it wasn’t, I apologize for mischaracterizing you.)

    Second of all, this seems more like the logical conclusion to your view. Objective morality means that the same morals are true for all people in every country, no matter who their deity is. If it’s just an opinion, how can you say that this society would be wrong? It seems like just a difference of opinion. You don’t like it; they do. If that society would be wrong, then it seems like we have objective morality.

    And before you say:
    “it’s not “just an opinion,” and if you still think that after all that’s been said then you are just not paying attention.”

    Please explain this statement:
    ““Should” is an opinion; “ought to” is an opinion.”

    If I am mischaracterizing your position in any way, it is because I don’t understand it. I readily admit that I am not as smart as some of the other people on this blog. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand your view, but maybe you could explain it to me in simple terms so I can understand it.

    Reply
  137. The Trousered Ape says:

    @ Andrew:
    You said first, “I’m not surprised Tim gets frustrated with you all. He has answered time and time again that the IS no reason to. Apart from the law.”

    First, whether he gets frustrated is apparently not our fault – that is his biological, evolutionary, deterministic genes at work – no one is to blame (a moral charge). On my view, I choose not to get frustrated.

    Second, you are still missing the point. If it is true that it is self-determined “biological desires” or just a personal preference or opinion by which each individual creates their own moral standard or code, then why does anyone have any good reason to follow it? Now, you both have already answered that there is no reason to do so because it is like forcing someone to have your same fashion sense or like the same flavor of ice cream. We agree on that point – if it is true, then you are absolutely correct. However, why does it become binding when you simply multiply the number of opinion’s that agree? Isn’t that a “might makes right” view? The bottom line question does a consensus of opinion make it ok legislate when all it is is a multiplication of shared individual opinions and those individual opinions are not ok to expect others to follow? I honestly do not see how you get from one to the other (the individual to the group).

    Then, “Is Tim thus saying you should murder? No, he’s made it quite clear do doesn’t think people SHOULD.”

    Well, that is fine that he might think people “should” not commit murder – but now you are reverting back to moral language. Now, if you mean by “should not murder” as a preference or personal taste, then that holds no weight against anyone, because that does not seem any different between having a preference between vanilla and chocolate ice cream or wearing white shoes on labor day, etc. Unless you weigh your preferences differently – giving some more authority than others. But even if that is the case, it goes back to why take your preference as something that I should adopt for my own preference? There just does not seem to be any good reason to.

    However, if you mean by “should not murder” something greater than a personal opinion (you are appealing to something external to your preferences or tastes) then again, under what compulsion should I care about it? If you say that it is the law – I will ask again the question I posed above in this comment – how does going from an individuals preference (which is not binding) to multiplying it to a group preference (which is somehow magically binding now?) turn an opinion into an ought?

    Just because a group of like-minded individuals get together, form a consensus about a shared opinion or preference and decide to act that shared opinion does not necessarily make it “right.” It just doesn’t follow. When a gang of youth get together and single out an individual to beat up and kill, their actions are not “right” because they had a consensus about it. If a government creates laws that oppress their own people or another nations people, that doesn’t make it “right” just because their was a consensus about it. Just because the Crusades happened under a Christian banner does not make those actions and deeds “right” based on a shared opinion. The fact that we can look at those things and say that there was something wrong there has to be greater than just our opinion, otherwise our critique of them hold no water because at the end of the day, it is just my individual opinion against the group’s opinion. However, if there really is a right and wrong about these things, then my opinion about it does not matter. What ultimately matters is where they acting in accordance to some standard by which I can objectively say it was right or wrong.

    This coming Thanksgiving will mark two years since my home was broken into and close $30,000 in possessions and my car were stolen. Now, was that wrong just because the law says it was wrong, or was it truly wrong regardless of the law, or was it just my opinion that it was wrong?

    When my 24 year old half-sister died from a bad mix of prescription drugs and my mother was the one to find her body, was it wrong that the doctor’s should have known better not to prescribe medication that would react poorly when taken together, or is that just a matter of my opinion?

    When my step-father cheated with another woman on my mother – was that wrong or just something that wasn’t to my taste?

    When my half-sister and I were abused at the hands of my step-father, was that really wrong or just something that we didn’t prefer or that we held a different opinion about?

    I don’t have the luxury of living in some imaginary, opinionated bubble. I deal with the real world and real life and real facts. I know there is such a thing as objective Good and Evil – not because I theorize about, but because I have lived it first hand.

    But you tell me if those things are just my opinion. And no, I’m not posting those things to garner sympathy – I’m posting them as evidence to make a point.

    Reply
  138. Andrew Ryan says:

    “First, whether he gets frustrated is apparently not our fault ”

    If that’s where your religion leads you, I’m glad I’m not religious. I’m sorry, but after reading that part I couldn’t find the energy to read the rest. Let me know if it got any better after that.

    Reply
  139. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Now, if you mean by “should not murder” as a preference or personal taste, then that holds no weight against anyone”

    What could I possibly say that would have MORE weight? My words aren’t going to stop someone murdering someone. I could threaten them with hell, but that’s about punishment, not morality.

    Reply
  140. Tim D. says:

    First of all, this seems like an argument from consequence, which you seem to object to. (I think that was you. If it wasn’t, I apologize for mischaracterizing you.)

    Actually, it’s not an AOC; I asked because the claim was made that morality can be objective, based on the criteria you offered. Which implies that your morality is objective. Which can easily be disproved by pointing out that if we start just one step back from where that argument did (by questioning why the particular Christian God is the “true moral north”), then we can produce drastically different “moral absolutes” based on what God we worship. So that negates the question of morality being absolute and turns it into a question of “which God is real?” Which is a different conversation altogether.

    Objective morality means that the same morals are true for all people in every country, no matter who their deity is. If it’s just an opinion, how can you say that this society would be wrong? It seems like just a difference of opinion. You don’t like it; they do. If that society would be wrong, then it seems like we have objective morality.

    Or, it could be that we feel they are wrong based on our own criteria. That doesn’t mean we have to be “objectively right;” again, you seem to confuse the ability to have an opinion with the responsibility of others to respect it.

    And before you say:
    “it’s not “just an opinion,” and if you still think that after all that’s been said then you are just not paying attention.”

    Please explain this statement:
    ““Should” is an opinion; “ought to” is an opinion.”

    (1) In an objective sense, yes; you could reduce my personal morality to “just an opinion,” and you could claim that it has no value to you. And that would be true; my personal morality does not bind you in any way. Say I think murder is wrong, and as such I cannot be persuaded to murder. That doesn’t bind you to think the same.

    (2) The ultimate point is that it is up to interpretation. I am not convinced that “objective oughtness” exists, although I am open to proof of such a thing (which nobody has offered to me yet). So whatever we decide to agree upon as moral, may be maligned and found ridiculous in a later generation. The idea of what is “acceptable” varies from generation to generation, and there is no guarantee that our particular moral view of the world will forever hold sway, no matter how genuine it might seem, or how much we all agree with it. So if your concern is, “how can we make sure our morals are staunchly respected and obeyed for all eternity?” then the answer is that you can’t. There is no way to do it objectively; it’s up to individual people (and the societies they comprise) to make those decisions.

    First, whether he gets frustrated is apparently not our fault – that is his biological, evolutionary, deterministic genes at work – no one is to blame (a moral charge). On my view, I choose not to get frustrated.

    I was already in a pissy mood yesterday; that actually had very little to do with you guys. Hence my somewhat condescending apology. Too much to do, not enough time to get it done -_-

    The truth is, I actually enjoy these discussions, as circular and pointless as they always seem to become after a point.

    then why does anyone have any good reason to follow it?

    Again:

    (a) it depends on the person. What does the person respect? What values do they hold? What forces do they acknowledge? If a person respects God as a moral compass, than anything coming from that obligates them morally, because they adopt God’s moral principles as their own. If a person does not, then they will find such principles elsewhere (sometimes they will be similar to those of the God-follower, sometimes they will not).

    (b) it depends on the value. For example, what reason to I have to support a “value” that degrades homosexual human beings on the sole grounds of their sexual preference? That makes no more sense than to actively promote heterosexual behavior just because “it’s right.” It’s sexual behavior, it’s a personal choice, and nobody has any business telling anyone otherwise. Of course, that’s just my personal option — before anyone bites my head off about insisting that others are bound to such things.

    However, why does it become binding when you simply multiply the number of opinion’s that agree? Isn’t that a “might makes right” view?

    Isn’t that what you are saying about God? The only argument I’ve heard so far that baby torture is “objectively wrong” is that most people will disagree with it. Interestingly, in an earlier (unrelated) discussion about abortion, I made the statement that “even I get sick to my gut when we start talking about chopping up half-formed fetuses.” The response to which was, “that sickness in our gut is our moral intuition at work.”

    My response to both of these charges is that I could make a case for baby torture using the same logic. If baby torture is “objectively wrong,” then there should be a non-circular series of logical deductions that will always lead me to that conclusion. I’m disturbed by your inability to present such conditions to me, based on your prior assertions.

    Now, if you mean by “should not murder” as a preference or personal taste, then that holds no weight against anyone, because that does not seem any different between having a preference between vanilla and chocolate ice cream or wearing white shoes on labor day, etc.

    You’re both right and wrong (in my view, of course); you’re right in the sense that it is my personal feeling, that binds my actions and no one else’s. However, examine your analogy more closely — in comparing ice cream flavors, there is no visible gain to my convincing you to share my favorite. Nobody suffers from you liking chocolate whereas I like vanilla, etc., so there in my (and hopefully your) worldview, there is no reason to require a debate over the issue. You eat chocolate because it is a pleasing flavor, and I eat vanilla because it is a pleasing flavor.

    However, killing is not so innocent in my view. As my base priority is the general long-term happiness of myself and others, I have a personal reason to take a stand against such actions. This doesn’t bind you, should you desire to kill, but then that means you have a different base desire than me, not that the ensuing moral decision is in itself flawed; if your personal view is that you must bring suffering to others, then according to that worldview murder is “right” and “just.” Morality cannot exist without a base concern on which to base it, see. So to assert that “my view says this” to such a person will do nothing, because their view contradicts yours. One must back up and approach the “problem” at its source: the base concern. “Why do you kill?” Response: “To bring needless suffering.” “Why?” “Because that is what I desire.” “Why do you desire that?”

    Now, as I do not consider needless suffering a priority (and thus have no idea how such a person would respond to the above question), I cannot pursue that example any further. But do you see my concern now? The one making the moral criticism is the one burdened with proving the case for objective morality; why should someone else respect your view that there is objective morality? Why should they acknowledge, for example, that baby torture is objectively wrong? That is the question I have been asking all along, and the one I will continue to ask as it is — here’s that phrase again — the crux of my argument.

    This coming Thanksgiving will mark two years since my home was broken into and close $30,000 in possessions and my car were stolen. Now, was that wrong just because the law says it was wrong, or was it truly wrong regardless of the law, or was it just my opinion that it was wrong?

    When my 24 year old half-sister died from a bad mix of prescription drugs and my mother was the one to find her body, was it wrong that the doctor’s should have known better not to prescribe medication that would react poorly when taken together, or is that just a matter of my opinion?

    When my step-father cheated with another woman on my mother – was that wrong or just something that wasn’t to my taste?

    When my half-sister and I were abused at the hands of my step-father, was that really wrong or just something that we didn’t prefer or that we held a different opinion about?

    I started to answer these individually when I realized that you were appealing to my sense of sympathy. While I can empathize with you under the circumstances, I do not think that emotional attachment to a situation connotes any sort of “objective moral obligation.” So no, to answer your question. I don’t think any of those things are “objectively wrong.” That doesn’t, under any circumstance, mean that I think they’re “right” or “okay.” My personal view would find such things appalling, yet I would still not be so silly as to believe that my personal trouble somehow transcends my being and becomes some objective truth.

    I don’t have the luxury of living in some imaginary, opinionated bubble. I deal with the real world and real life and real facts. I know there is such a thing as objective Good and Evil – not because I theorize about, but because I have lived it first hand.

    See above.

    Reply
  141. The Trousered Ape says:

    @ Andrew –
    You wrote, “You can’t seem to make up your mind from one answer to the next.”

    I’m fairly certain that I have been very consistent in my answers. Perhaps I’m not communicating them precisely enough for you and it causes you to perceive my answers as contradictory.

    What, exactly, have I been flip-flopping on?

    Reply
  142. Andrew Ryan says:

    Trousered Ape. You said ‘If better is a matter of opinion, I can’t answer that question for you.’
    Then you said you have lots of opinions.

    So what DID you mean by this? That you’re incapable of answering a question if you have to express an opinion? You say you have opinions, so why on earth could you not answer?

    That aside, there seems to be a general theme that ‘all opinions are equal’. Or at least, all are equal unless there’s a God. For a start, either all opinions are equal or they aren’t – what difference does the existence of any supernatural entity make to that question?

    But my main point is that it’s evidently fatuous to say that all opinions on whatever subject are equal.
    Would you say that the opinion of an expert on a subject is equal to that of a layman’s?
    Would you say that an opinion based on facts is equal to one based on lies?
    Would you say that an opinion based on hope or hearsay is equal to one based on evidence?
    An opinion that survives on its own logic versus one that contradicts itself?
    How about a solution to a problem that leads to all parties in the situation being happy, versus one where everyone dies?

    Do you need to posit a God to decide in each of these situations?

    Reply
  143. Andrew Ryan says:

    Tim: Response: “To bring needless suffering.” “Why?” “Because that is what I desire.”

    Yes Tim, this is the nub of it. I think Christians here are bothered by the idea that there is nothing you can say to someone who takes this attitude. But none of them can say how positing a deity offers a better solution. All they can do is threaten such a person.

    As for misfortunes that have befallen Trousered Ape, both Tim and I condemn those that have wronged you. We’re not saying they weren’t bad events. We condemn those people and hope that the law catches up with them. What more do you want us to say? It sucks if they get away with it. It would be nice to believe they might get some celestial punishment, but I can’t believe something just on the basis that I want to.

    Do you object to this because you think that I hold all opinions are equal, and thus belittle your suffering? Well I’ve explained clearly above that I don’t. You’ve already clarified that YOU don’t hold all opinions to be equal. And I’ve clarified my OWN reasons for not holding all opinions to be equal. I did so without reference to God.

    So neither of us think all opinions can be considered equally valid – surely now the issue is settled?

    Reply
  144. The Trousered Ape says:

    So what did I mean by that?

    What I meant by my statement is that if I adopted the view that “better” is merely a subjective term and nothing more (which I don’t actually believe), then what point is there in me sharing my opinion? I wasn’t expressing my view, which is why I prefaced it with “If” as in, “if this statement is true: ‘better is a matter of opinion, I can’t answer that question.'” If I actually believed that, then how does my opinion add anything to the conversation if we are attempting to discuss those things that are true and reflect reality?

    You asked: “You say you have opinions, so why on earth could you not answer?”

    It’s not that I could not, it’s that I choose not to for the reason I stated above – I was adopting that view as if it were my own as evidenced by the use of the word “IF.”

    IF (what I’ve been told by the counter-perspective is true) THEN (I cannot answer the question because answering it doesn’t get us anywhere).

    Event the quote of mine you used which started this little tangent was me doing the exact same thing: “First, whether he gets frustrated is apparently not our fault.” You took that as my actual view, but again, that is not how I meant it. What I meant by that is “IF it is true that our reactions to situations are determined, then how can that possibly be anyone’s fault – it’s DETERMINED.” Do I actually believe that? Absolutely not. But if it IS true, then no one and no thing can be blamed for it – it just IS. Do I think it’s true? No.

    Finally, you said: “But my main point is that it’s evidently fatuous to say that all opinions on whatever subject are equal.”

    I absolutely agree. My point is this…IF everything is merely a matter of subjective opinion or preference or biological desires (again, not my view), THEN no opinion is better or worse than any other. The only way to know if one opinion is better or worse (oops, there is that moral language again) is to go beyond opinion and look at external evidences that either support or undercut those opinions and therefore adjudicate which opinions more closely line up with reality. The ones that line up more closely with reality are the ones that are more reliable – but now we have left the realm of the subjective and entered into the realm of the objective. We can hold all kinds of opinions, that’s not the question. The question is how true are they?

    As far as all your “you would say” questions – I would not say what you claim. That is a misrepresentation of my view.

    Reply
  145. The Trousered Ape says:

    @ Andrew –
    I appreciate the sentiment. However, this is where I keep getting stuck.

    Again, not taking my view, but trying to take your view and move from point A to point B. If everyone lives by their own moral code based upon their own views and preferences, then how is it possible to say someone has wronged me or to condemn someone? That seems very arbitrary and I do not understand how a person can logically get from one point to the next on the basis of moral relativism. Logically it does not seem to follow from A to B.

    Now, how do I get there on my view? How do I get from “someone has wronged me” to “condemnation?” To say that someone has done something wrong against me I need to have some sense of what right and wrong is – otherwise I can’t even start to judge the action. Where does that sense of right and wrong come from? If I am it’s source, then what is to stop me from constantly changing my desires to justify my actions and condemning the actions of others? Nothing really, my moral code becomes as arbitrary as the wind. But if there is a constant, unchanging external standard, then I just need to discover what that standard is and then make my judgments based on what I know that standard to be. If the standard is violated, then the consequences naturally follow. The only thing that would make this standard possible is if it was rooted in the very nature and essence of a constant, unchanging Being that is morally perfect and eternal. Otherwise, as you or Tim stated earlier, what would keep him from arbitrarily changing the moral law? Nothing would if he was eternal and if the moral law was grounded in his very nature. Why? Because if he arbitrarily changed the moral law, it would require a change in his very essence and that would lead to his immediate destruction. Since God is incapable of changing his essence, then the moral law is equally incapable of changing since it is a reflection of his essence.

    Reply
  146. Andrew Ryan says:

    “You took that as my actual view, but again, that is not how I meant it.”

    Oh I see, it was a strawman argument – an incorrect representation of the other side’s argument, despite the other side endlessly clairifying that it’s not accurate.

    So it’s not YOUR view, isn’t MY view, and isn’t TIM’s, whose is it supposed to be?

    “if it was rooted in the very nature and essence of a constant, unchanging Being that is morally perfect and eternal. ”
    Morally perfect by whose standard? His own? That’s a circular argument. Yours? Then we’re back to square one. I’m sorry, but positing a perfect being doesn’t help your argument in the slightest.

    “you said: “But my main point is that it’s evidently fatuous to say that all opinions on whatever subject are equal.”
    I absolutely agree.”

    And I was able to explain why without reference to a God. You claim I need one to be able to judge opinions, I explained clearly how I can evaluate opinions as an atheist.

    I’m tired, going to bed. Have a nice weekend.

    Reply
  147. Andrew Ryan says:

    From earlier:

    Who told you He was the essence of goodness? Are you taking it on heresay, or are you using some pre-existing standard to say He is good.

    Or is just by definition good, regardless of what he does? I asked Frank how to account for parts of the bible where God commands people to commit genocide or rape. Frank said that whatever God did it was by definition GOOD, regardless of what it was. Not only is this a ‘do as I say, not as I do, God’, but it renders the whole concept of the ‘essence of goodness’. It’s like Nixons claim that the POTUS cannot commit a crime, because anything he does is by definition not a crime.

    If you can’t conceive of an act that would stop God being the ‘essence of Goodness’, then it becomes a meaningless label to give him.

    Reply
  148. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    From what I’ve read of the recent interaction between yourself, Tim D., and the Trousered Ape, I think what sticks out to me is this:

    1. There are probably a lot of acts that we (atheist or theist)
    can all agree that we would classify as “evil” or “bad.” Likewise for a lot of “good” acts.

    2. One sticking point seems to be the basis on which we would classify these things as “evil” or “good.”

    It seems to me that if morality is relative to each individual, it would not matter if we agreed that a certain act were evil, because the person that committed the act obviously did not think it evil. In this case, it boils down to a difference of personal preferences rather than an evil act.
    Doesn’t this effectively nullify any judgment about “good or “bad”, better” or “worse”, “ought” or “ought not” when considering morality? (Aside from in the sense of a personal preference, of course.)
    If it does nullify any judgment about “good” or “bad” other than in the sense of personal preference, it seems that a proponent of relative morality would be acting inconsistently if he/she got angry when someone cuts in line in front of them at the grocery store, cheats them out of money, etc. It would seem that the relativist would be able to reason to himself/herself that while he/she finds the behavior of the other party repugnant, ultimately it is just a difference of personal preference.

    Reply
  149. The Trousered Ape says:

    Justin –
    You are absolutely correct in your conclusion. Something else just occurred to me as well. Regardless of what a person thinks about their own actions, that does not make it right. A sociopath might think he is right it killing people, but that does not make it right. So thinking has nothing to do with making an act right or wrong.

    Reply
  150. Tim D. says:

    It would seem that the relativist would be able to reason to himself/herself that while he/she finds the behavior of the other party repugnant, ultimately it is just a difference of personal preference.

    Again, just because we understand that different people think differently does not obligate us to respect those differing opinions. If we believe we are right then it is our job to stand up for those beliefs and reason them out to others as much as possible.

    You are absolutely correct in your conclusion.

    I wouldn’t say “absolutely correct” at all.

    Regardless of what a person thinks about their own actions, that does not make it right. A sociopath might think he is right it killing people, but that does not make it right. So thinking has nothing to do with making an act right or wrong.

    On what grounds do you say this? You keep asserting these things, but you still haven’t provided ground on which to make such assertions beyond “it’s just wrong because it’s wrong.” Not that I need to point it out again, but that’s circular reasoning.

    Reply
  151. Tim D. says:

    Again, just because we understand that different people think differently does not obligate us to respect those differing opinions. If we believe we are right then it is our job to stand up for those beliefs and reason them out to others as much as possible.

    P.S. What I mean by this is, while morality may not be objective, reasoning is (in that it is possible to demonstrate a “reason” in a manner that makes sense to anybody); for example, if I were to say, “You shouldn’t do that because it is wrong,” that would essentially mean nothing to the other party. Whether or not I’m “right” has nothing to do with how he/she reacts. If I am genuinely interested in establishing my point (as opposed to, say, preaching so I can get brownie points with the Big Man Up There), then it makes more sense to explore the issue rationally, on the common ground of reason that links us all together. I might instead say, “I don’t do that because [insert reason]. Why do you do it?”

    I just think people go about arguing their points in ways that suggest they aren’t really interested in conveying a point. I mean, if I was a complete outsider and had never heard of religion or God or morality, I certainly wouldn’t be convinced of your personal moral beliefs (or their objectivity) based solely on what you’ve said here.

    Reply
  152. Andrew Ryan says:

    “It would not matter if we agreed that a certain act were evil, because the person that committed the act obviously did not think it evil.”

    Right, and discussion of whether morality is ‘objective’ or not would mean nothing to such a person. This entire discussion would go completely over their heads. So what has that person got to do with this discussion?

    “It seems that a proponent of relative morality would be acting inconsistently if he/she got angry when someone cuts in line in front of them at the grocery store”
    I think it’s wrong to cut in front of someone in a grocery store. So why is it any more inconsistent for ME to get annoyed than for YOU to get annoyed?

    Reply
  153. Andrew Ryan says:

    Out of interest, imagine the following:
    There’s no God, but human’s think there is one. And because Christians are able to conceptualise a ‘perfect essence of goodness’, they are able to base their moralities on that.

    Now, how would that be any different to the situation you’re in now?

    The actual EXISTENCE of the God they believe in is not actually necessary for the believers to believe in an objective morality, and to act accordingly. All that’s important is the humans’ ability to conceptualise him.

    So, in what way has anyone managed to prove a God, given that one could use Frank’s ‘morality argument’ independently of a God’s actual existence?

    Reply
  154. John Ferrer says:

    andrew,

    You said: “because Christians are able to conceptualise a ‘perfect essence of goodness’, they are able to base their moralities on that.”

    That is interesting. Sadly, I think it is an apt description for how some people believe. I think many people do try to “will” God into existence for want of a grand-scale father figure, an anchor in the meaningless ocean of existence, or for an invisible friend.

    However, the moral argument for God is not quite so simple as that. Rather than extrapolating idly from conjectured evidence, the moral argument for God attempts to draw probablistic inferrences from the actual evidence of morality among men and women. The argument, properly used, does not tell people what morality should be but rather collects the data that humanity already admits about morality. For example, it does not tell people that cowardice is shameful or that playing rugby with babies as the ball is wrong. Instead the moral argument for God takes the admitted evidence and draws conclusions from what we already know about morality.

    The difficulty with the argument however is that people are not always willing to admit what they know. In philosophical debates people admit far less than they do at the wake of a funeral, or when their car is stolen, or when someone tries to apply relativistic ethics AGAINST them. It is notoriously difficult to get people who intuitively believe in objectivist ethics to admit that they believe in objectivist ethics. And it is equally difficult, I am finding, to get objectivist naturalists to admit the devastating consequence of the Naturalistic Fallacy (I don’t know whether they don’t understand it, or whether they just don’t consider it). However, once they do admit that ethics obtain objectively–then we can start to search for adequate grounds for such objectivism and we can begin to consider the proof of God from morality.

    Reply
  155. Tim D. says:

    The difficulty with the argument however is that people are not always willing to admit what they know. In philosophical debates people admit far less than they do at the wake of a funeral, or when their car is stolen, or when someone tries to apply relativistic ethics AGAINST them. It is notoriously difficult to get people who intuitively believe in objectivist ethics to admit that they believe in objectivist ethics. And it is equally difficult, I am finding, to get objectivist naturalists to admit the devastating consequence of the Naturalistic Fallacy (I don’t know whether they don’t understand it, or whether they just don’t consider it). However, once they do admit that ethics obtain objectively–then we can start to search for adequate grounds for such objectivism and we can begin to consider the proof of God from morality.

    Ah, this tired fallacy again. The idea that “we all really feel the same as you deep down, we’re just not willing to admit it.” Somehow, I’d gained the impression that you folks would be above such claims.

    Reply
  156. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew,

    Also, too clarify another point, the option is NOT between objectivist morality based in God belief OR no morality whatsoever. Rather the argument is that morality is either objectively grounded or relativistically grounded. If it is relativistically, then the moral values–which may indeed be real values in this world–are practically arbitrary and bear no objective weight between persons (or “minds” to be technical).

    As for the distinction between God’s existence and the concept of God’s existence, you are right to recognize the subtle difference. That is an important distinction for destructing the Ontological argument (of which I am not a fan). However, it is simplistic to reduce the moral argument for God to a kind of ontological argument for God (assuming I understand you correctly). The moral argument is not saying that it is necessary to conceptualize a God for morality to make sense–though that may be true. However that is epistemology and mistakes “reasons” for “causes.” Rather, the moral argument says the metaphysical fact of moral values, since they exist, must be grounded either in objective or subjective reality (that is, a metaphysical/ontological claim about existence). If they are grounded in subjective reality then they have little bearing between people and are indistinguishable from private opinions. However if they are grounded in objective reality then they can perhaps bear the load we put on our “systems of morality” such as: being (roughly) universal, supracultural, binding, etc.

    My contention (via the naturalistic fallacy) is that nature is an inadequate, albeit objective, grounding for morality since the moral sense requires not just matter but mind before it can meaningfully attribute value. It is mind, not dumb matter, which recognizes and therefore attributes value to valuable things. Also, for this reason, I have to grant that people CAN privately create their own moral values–since they have minds. There is just no guarantee that these values accurately reflect any actually valuable thing. But this proof for private/subjective/relative ethics does little damage to the moral argument since the theist readily admits that atheism justifies relativism.

    In short, how do you get around the naturalisitc fallacy? How do you derive any “ought” from an “is?”

    Reply
  157. Andrew Ryan says:

    I’ve just been reading a couple of pieces recently by atheists arguing that virtually no Christians act as if they actually believe. The pieces argued this was evidence that deep down most Christians don’t really believe in such things as life after death, or that life REALLY begins at conception.

    John Ferrer, it’s interesting that you talk of the Natural Fallacy, seeing as it was you who asserted that the Nuremberg Trials were about punishing people for breaking ‘Natural Law’.

    I’ll admit to not being familiar with the natural fallacy. I’ve just read up on Wiki, admittedly not a complete source. I can’t see any signs that I’m guilty of that fallacy myself. However I found these excerpts interesting, with reference to conversations I’ve had on Crossexamined:

    “Jeremy Bentham criticized natural law theory because in his view it was a naturalistic fallacy, claiming that it described how things ought to be instead of how things are.”

    “An example of a naturalistic fallacy in this sense would be to conclude Social Darwinism from the theory of evolution by natural selection, and of the reverse naturalistic fallacy to argue that the immorality of survival of the fittest implies the theory of evolution is false. ”

    The latter paragraph should be read by several people who post here. Someone tell Ben Stein too!

    Reply
  158. Andrew Ryan says:

    “The option is NOT between objectivist morality based in God belief OR no morality whatsoever.”

    You wouldn’t have thought so from reading the Christians posting here.

    John, regarding Christians attitude to moral relativism. I’m confused as to their problem, or what they’re trying to prove. If they say that my attitude is immoral, then can they show what moral outrages I am committing? I’d stand my morals against their any day. I’ve already explained why I don’t think they’re proving God with their argument. And I’ve already explained how I can reason that ‘all opinions are equal’ is a fallacy, without reference to God. If they’re just saying they don’t LIKE the implications of what I say, then they themselves are guilty of trying to get an ‘ought from an is’. In other words, the fact that you don’t like an idea, has little bearing on whether it is true or not.

    So where’s the beef?

    Reply
  159. Andrew Ryan says:

    I’ve also read Atheists arguing that it is the THEY who have the objective morality, and the Christians who have the subjective morality. After all, something is objective when it is based on evidence. And the atheist can reason through his morality, base it on the real world and the real, measurable consequences of his actions.

    The religious person however gains his morality from a completely subjective source – not only is it based on an accident of his birth (if you’re born in the bible belt or Tehran, I can make a good guess as to what moralities you’ll be raised on), but his interpretation of the holy book is completely subjective too.

    Reply
  160. Tim D. says:

    If it is relativistically, then the moral values–which may indeed be real values in this world–are practically arbitrary and bear no objective weight between persons (or “minds” to be technical).

    As I have said many times before, although I believe that’s exactly the case (the individual values each of us believe in do not carry weight from person to person; they mean something only to the individual that respects and acknowledges them), I would gladly hear actual evidence to the contrary. All I keep hearing are assertions that morality is, indeed, objective. To which I must respond with assertions to the contrary. As fun as that is at first, it’s also quite circular, and I grow tired of it quickly.

    The moral argument is not saying that it is necessary to conceptualize a God for morality to make sense

    That seems to be exactly what The Trousered Ape was saying, however. So I’ll grant you this point, but he is burdened with explaining himself here.

    My contention (via the naturalistic fallacy) is that nature is an inadequate, albeit objective, grounding for morality since the moral sense requires not just matter but mind before it can meaningfully attribute value.

    Personal preference requires the same conditions, and yet it cannot be considered objective.

    There is just no guarantee that these values accurately reflect any actually valuable thing.

    Ah, but “value” is entirely subjective.

    In short, how do you get around the naturalisitc fallacy? How do you derive any “ought” from an “is?”

    I don’t derive an “ought” from an “is;” I’ve already said, I don’t believe in objective “oughtness.” Once again, the statement of, “we cannot do X” has been answered with the criticism, “but then, how do we do X?” It cannot be done.

    As for myself, personally, I have already explained (as many times) that it’s very easy to determine an objectively “effective” goal based on a series of factual parameters. If you were to say to me, “What’s the best way to live?” I couldn’t just respond to you and say, “well, you could start by not killing or stealing or raping.” That makes no sense in and of itself. I would be asked why those things make up a “good” way to live; and rightly so. I might be talking to an unlikely hypothetical individual who believes that needless suffering is a virtue, and that if he instills needless suffering in others, he is making them virtuous and that is “better” than to leave them be as I have suggested. At this point, your claim that “he’s wrong” isn’t going to cut it. You have to explain why, which you thus far seem incapable of doing.

    It all sounds very noble and edge-mucated to describe the general sense of “morality,” but nothing we can decide on actually holds any weight in the world of personal morality/interaction until we can practically apply it to a particular situation (if it cannot be pratcially applied, it’s just a philosophy and not a law). Thus, I am returned to my original question: why are these things wrong, objectively? How can you practically prove that killing someone is “objectively” wrong, or rape or theft?

    Reply
  161. Tim D. says:

    If you were to say to me, “What’s the best way to live?” I couldn’t just respond to you and say, “well, you could start by not killing or stealing or raping.” That makes no sense in and of itself.

    P.S. Also, you’d need to be more specific; “the best way to live” is a human concept that isn’t grounded in solid reality, it’s grounded in philosophy. So we’d have to describe what you mean by “the best” way to live — the way to live the longest? The way to live the happiest? In the case of the former, does happiness matter? In the case of the latter, does length matter? There are many, many factors to consider before we can even begin to answer the question. And interestingly, they’re all based on what is important to you, as a personal opinion/feeling.

    Reply
  162. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    First, I want to make it clear I have not been trying to assert that you or Tim D. are immoral people or that you do immoral things more frequently than anyone else at all. I am not making the charge that atheists are immoral. I don’t think that the Trousered Ape or Bob would say that, either. In fact, like I pointed out in my last post, I think we’d agree on our opinions of most acts that we judge “good” or “bad.”
    What I meant by saying that the moral relativist would be inconsistent for being upset over someone cutting in line at the grocery store was that I think that if the relativist believes that all morals are based on individual preference, then the relativist must realize that the person who cut in line was not doing anything “bad” at all; the person who cut in line just had a different opinion about the morality of the act of cutting in line. This would also hold true, I would think, even in instances of greater moral weight (murder, etc.).

    Reply
  163. Andrew Ryan says:

    Justin, I’m afraid that still doesn’t follow. If part of your belief system is that cutting in a line is wrong, and connected to that is that you believe it is right to shout at someone for cutting in that line, then even if you believe it’s all ‘just different opinions’, then there is nothing inconsistent in you acting on your own opinion and shouting at that person. Otherwise you are making a value judgement that THEIR right to cut in should supercede your right to shout at them.

    At any rate, ‘the person who cut in line just had a different opinion’ is a fallacy as it assumes that all opinions are equal. I’ve already explained why you don’t need God to say that ‘all opinions are not equal’.

    Reply
  164. Justin says:

    Andrew ,
    Help me out and explain why your opinion (in the line-cutting example) would supercede that of the person who cut in line?
    Also, I wasn’t saying that it would be inconsostent to yell at that person; it just seems that the reasonable relativist would not yell at them, realizing that the person is not “wrong” in any sense of the word (other than a difference of preference). Reasonable people don’t yell at people over things that are differences of preference.

    Reply
  165. Tim D. says:

    then the relativist must realize that the person who cut in line was not doing anything “bad” at all; the person who cut in line just had a different opinion about the morality of the act of cutting in line. This would also hold true, I would think, even in instances of greater moral weight (murder, etc.).

    Well, again I think you’re confusing my ability to form opinions and respect those of others with an obligation to the latter.

    To use your example; if I believe someone cutting in front of me is “bad” for whatever reason, and someone does so, I would most definitely voice this concern to them when they did so. Of course, I can’t stop them short of stepping in front of them (at which point they could just step in front of me), making a pointless argument into an even more pointless confrontation. So I might say something in an attempt to show my discontent, and if they decided to back off and get behind me in line then great, but if they don’t, I wouldn’t really keep bothering with it.

    Although, to be fair, I really think this is a bad example to argue the significance of personal morality, just because it’s not something I’d take very seriously unless it happened quite often (which it doesn’t, at least not to me). I just don’t do petty conflicts unless I’m already quite pissed off about something else and somebody rubs me the wrong way 0_0

    But back to my point; the idea of personal morality in this case is meant more to help you understand the other person’s situation and be able to relate to their decision. For example, you might be in Wal-Mart grabbing a six-pack to hit on your day off, where someone else might have just come from a 14-hour shift at the hospital, and they might have cut in front of you because they were really tired and not paying attention and didn’t see you. In which case, I think I’d look like kind of a jerk if I made a big deal about it (I know I’d want someone else to leave me alone in that situation).

    There will be conflicts in life, in many cases worse than the one mentioned above; it’s not inconsistent to say that we should stand up for our personal beliefs. It’s just important to acknowledge that the way we feel doesn’t make something objective; if you assume that in every case, you might be missing some important detail of the other party’s actions/decisions that provide some insight or justification as to why they’re acting the way they are.

    Reply
  166. Tim D. says:

    it just seems that the reasonable relativist would not yell at them, realizing that the person is not “wrong” in any sense of the word (other than a difference of preference).

    If I don’t believe in “rightness” or “wrongness,” then what leads you to believe that such concepts would be a motivation for me to act in any case? You seem to be saying, “If you’re not motivated to act by the same ideas as I am, then why be motivated to act at all?”

    Reasonable people don’t yell at people over things that are differences of preference.

    No, but they do argue about philosophy (which we’re doing right now). Any time you disagree with someone about something involving personal morality/the philosophy of right and wrong, there is usually a discussion (or, in more serious cases, a fight or argument). This falls under that category.

    Reply
  167. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Help me out and explain why your opinion (in the line-cutting example) would supercede that of the person who cut in line?”

    Well obviously it doesn’t, or my (or your opinion) alone would be enough to stop him cutting in. But you’d agree that our opinions don’t prevent people cutting in?

    If you want to know why I think that people shouldn’t cut in, then my reason are probably similar to yours.

    And if I didn’t think that my opinion was the right one, then it wouldn’t be my opinion would it? Your opinion is by definition the thing you think is right.

    Reply
  168. Justin says:

    Tim D.,
    Cutting in line was just an example off the top of my head that doesn’t elicit the emotional response of murder, rape, etc.
    I totally agree that circumstances can make moral decisions difficult. It doesn’t, however, mean that there is no objective morality. The very fact that certain circumstances make moral decisions difficult seems to point to the fact that certain decisions are “wrong” and others are “right.” Tension arises when circumstances put two moral obligations in conflict. (Otherwise, they wouldn’t be difficult decisions at all; no decision would be “worse” than any other.)

    Andrew,
    When you said: At any rate, ‘the person who cut in line just had a different opinion’ is a fallacy as it assumes that all opinions are equal. I’ve already explained why you don’t need God to say that ‘all opinions are not equal’, I took it to mean that you felt that your opinion in this case was better than the person who cut in line.
    And yes, I do agree that differences of opinion do not prevent people from doing things like cutting in line. But, if it is truly just a difference of opinion, there is nothing “wrong” with cutting in line.

    Reply
  169. Tim D. says:

    he very fact that certain circumstances make moral decisions difficult seems to point to the fact that certain decisions are “wrong” and others are “right.”

    Not to me. To me, that says that there isn’t always a “right” or “wrong” way. Sometimes there’s just the way that does the least damage.

    Tension arises when circumstances put two moral obligations in conflict.

    When you put two things you feel obligated to do, yes. What I don’t understand is why you think these obligations are objective; how so? How am I obligated to do these things? How are you obligated? These are questions that cannot be answered in any other way than, “you aren’t.”

    But, if it is truly just a difference of opinion, there is nothing “wrong” with cutting in line.

    You keep saying things like this as though they should bear some weight. Of course it’s not “wrong” to cut in line, because there is always an explanation. It’s whether or not you agree with the explanation that leads you to believe it’s “okay” or “not okay.” Me, if someone cut in front of me once, I might give them a funny look or something, but by and large I wouldn’t care. I’d just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were in a hurry for whatever reason. Does that mean I’m always just going to let people cut in front of me just because? No; if three more people do the same thing right afterward, then I’m more likely to take a stand because then it’s starting to seriously interfere with me getting through the line. But no, I don’t think it’s “wrong” to do something like that, even if it seems so to the casual onlooker; I’ve always been of the impression that we (i.e. people in general) shouldn’t be so judgmental and should try to help each other out when we can.

    Reply
  170. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I took it to mean that you felt that your opinion in this case was better than the person who cut in line.”

    If I didn’t then it wouldn’t be my opinion, would it? That’s what ‘my opinion’ means. I think we’re going round in circle here.

    This seems to be what you’re getting at: if morals are something that we evolved to protect the species, that means we shouldn’t bother obeying any of our moral impulses.

    “It just seems that the reasonable relativist would not yell at them, realizing that the person is not “wrong” in any sense of the word”
    If you apply this consistently, you would let people get away with murder, and all other crimes. In what way would this be a ‘reasonable’ thing to do? Anarchy and chaos would insue. Are you beginning to understand now why a human race that went along these lines would never have thrived as we have? Does it start to make sense why we would have evolved a different way eg a moral instinct.

    Follow through your own argument here. If morals are something that we developed over millions of years, then one could compare them metaphorically to a big wall that protects us. Given this, you think the logical response would be to metaphorically tear down that very wall? Does that sound like a logical argument to you? Go go against the very thing that protects us? I don’t think that you are thinking this through.

    Reply
  171. Andrew Ryan says:

    This is cut and pasted from ironchariot. It might help with some of the answers you seek.

    “Although there is no such thing as unanimous agreement on complex philosophical issues, if we approach the question from a humanistic, scientific stand point, atheists ought to agree that there should be rational standards for arriving at moral conclusions. Like science and mathematics, useful systems of morality derive from some basic axioms, or recognize assumptions.

    A few possible axioms in morality are:

    Every person has their own feelings and desires, and they are more or less similar since they are based on the same brain chemistry.
    When I look inward to my own desires, I fundamentally desire to pursue happiness and avoid pain and suffering.
    Other people have these same basic desires, and these desires are valuable to them.
    With all else being equal, it is better for people to be happy than not be happy.
    Conflicts arise mainly because people’s desire to be happy and avoid suffering conflict with each other. The goal of secular morality is to resolve those conflicts in the best possible way for all concerned.
    A few natural consequences of these axioms:

    All else being equal, it is wrong to needlessly inflict suffering on people.
    Except for the case of self-preservation, with all else being equal, it is best to avoid killing other people (on the assumption that they don’t want to be killed).
    Actions such as slavery and rape are wrong because they excessively limit people’s happiness and freedom of action.”

    Reply
  172. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    I said:
    “It just seems that the reasonable relativist would not yell at them, realizing that the person is not “wrong” in any sense of the word”

    You said:
    “If you apply this consistently, you would let people get away with murder, and all other crimes.”

    This is exactly what I am trying to get at. Moral relativism followed to its logical consequences seems untenable to me.

    You are exactly right that it is not reasonable to justify any moral decision as a matter of personal preference.

    Reply
  173. Tim D. says:

    You are exactly right that it is not reasonable to justify any moral decision as a matter of personal preference.

    Way to twist words! But seriously, I’m still waiting for the response as to how Christians are able to justify morality objectively without turning to a God. You guys keep confusing me; one of you says morality comes from God, then another one of you says that you can find this morality without God….but in any case, nobody’s given me any tangible proof that shows how I am bound by anyone’s moral attitude except my own.

    Reply
  174. Andrew Ryan says:

    “You are exactly right that it is not reasonable to justify any moral decision as a matter of personal preference.”

    No. It is right that you don’t abandon your personal morals on the basis of sophistry such as that which you offer. If I’m not supposed to do things along the lines of my own morals, whose am I supposed to use? Yours? Ted Haggard? Some homophobes? A bible that condones slavery? Right, these all sound very ‘logical’.

    Reply
  175. Justin says:

    Andrew,

    You said: It is right that you don’t abandon your personal morals on the basis of sophistry such as that which you offer. If I’m not supposed to do things along the lines of my own morals, whose am I supposed to use? Yours? Ted Haggard? Some homophobes? A bible that condones slavery?

    I agree with you. If morality is relative, the question is “Whose morality do we choose, and what makes my morality better than someone else’s morality?” You’ve already expressed the result of moral relativism; within the system of relativism, nothing can be meaningfully condemned or applauded – that is, it all comes down to personal preference.

    In one of your posts above, it seems that you are proposing some sort of objective morality. You offered: “All else being equal, it is wrong to needlessly inflict suffering on people.
    Except for the case of self-preservation, with all else being equal, it is best to avoid killing other people (on the assumption that they don’t want to be killed).
    Actions such as slavery and rape are wrong because they excessively limit people’s happiness and freedom of action.”

    These statements, of course, are loaded “oughts.” How does one come to the conclusion that these “oughts” are true for everyone and not just a matter of personal preference?

    Reply
  176. Carol says:

    On

    September 18th, 2008 at 8:44 am Tim D. stated: “So is there any authority HIGHER than society’s shared moral feelings?”

    I sincerely trust that there is a higher authority. If not, based on global demographic information, you shouldn’t sleep well from now on. After all, it will be quite possible for those holding to the tennants of Islam to murder every non-Muslim…including athiests…in a surprisingly short number of years. Go ahead, check the data on the birthrates of muslims vs non-muslims in every major country around the world. This is not fear mongering…just data and census projections.

    May I be bold enough to ask? Is it possible that some of you may be majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors? In other words, it is possible that you may be focusing on the wrong issues.

    Although Occam’s razor is not necessarily the most philosophical arguement, there is much wisdom in few words.

    For those not familiar with Occam’s razort, Wikipedia sums its well: “…the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory.”

    We cannot see gravity. We cannot “know” gravity exists.We make the logical assumption that gravity exists because we see and measure the results of this intangible force. When presented with the facts, it is the intuitive and most logical conclusion. Occam’s razor.

    Practically anyone with eyesight, regardless of I.Q or formal education could look into the Hubble space telescope and observe the universe and conclude that it is put together in an incredibly intelligent manner. Occam’s razor. Although it requires a bit more intellegence, nearly anyone with eyesight, regardless of formal education can observe a strand of DNA and upon having the human genome explained, would conclude that these strands are put together in an incredibly intelligent manner. Occam’s razor

    Given that this all began with an unexplained “big bang”, Occam’s razor would proffer, there must be an incredibly intelligent designer.

    Perhaps it is the result of having lived nearly twice as long as most of those who were in the audience on September 9th that I take the simplistic approach. Perhapts it is the result of having lived life in the rest of the world — that part of life lived away from philosophy classes in institutes of higher learning– that I take the simplistic approach. Perhaps Occam, too, had lived long enough to realize that time should be used more judiciously.

    Perhaps, it is more important to consider the one fact that we can all agree on…we are all going to die one day!

    Given this fact, I will err on the side of Occam. I will err on the side of simplicity. There is obviously any of us know it.

    Based on historicity, based on archaeological discoveries, based on probability theory, based on the change in my personal life, based on on the peace that I personally experience every night when I lay my head on the pillow…I cannot explain how it could be other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch proverb: “We get too soon old and too late smart.”

    Given that none of us can guarantee we won’t meet with an untimely death in the next 24 hours, I pray that you will exercise a more logical choice when placing your bets.

    Occam and Paschal, while simple and direct, are compelling. You are going to die…100% odds. Given the odds that you will die, are you willing to place a bet on that eternity does not exist? Given the odds, you have a serious choice to make.

    Sound preachy? Perhaps, but not an issue for me. Why? I took time to examine the facts concerning the cross for myself…without fear of recrimination or ridicule from peers, friends or family who were athiests, agnostics and Christians. Look, eternity is too long to be more concerned about what your athiest or agnostic peers may think about your belief system.

    If the Bible is right, you are wrong and you choose wrong, then you won’t be thinking about your peers during eternity, and they certainly won’t be thinking about you. You all will think about the option you were presented to examine the claims of the cross and accept that Jesus died for you because God loved you and wanted you to spend eternity with Him. I challenge you to consider more than the temporary effects of peers who may make fun of you. You’ll find many more friends who will stand along with you in the here and now…and the then and later.

    Reply
  177. Andrew Ryan says:

    “How does one come to the conclusion that these “oughts” are true for everyone and not just a matter of personal preference?”

    Not through religion, that’s for sure.

    Reply
  178. Andrew Ryan says:

    Justin: “I wasn’t saying that it would be inconsostent to yell at that person; it just seems that the reasonable relativist would not yell at them”

    Don’t you see here that your argument is basically ‘If there is no ought, then here is how you OUGHT to act’. Where is your ought coming from? You’re contradicting yourself.

    If a relativist is just acting logically then it is entirely logical to yell at the person cutting in. You’re trying to start with a hypothesis of everyone acting logically and end with them acting illogically. You’re starting with an ‘oughtless’ world, then say the people are inconsistent if they don’t obey ‘oughts’.

    Reply
  179. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    What I was trying to point out was from a relativist viewpoint. It makes no sense for the relativist to get outraged when others do things that the relativist deems as “wrong,” since “wrong” does not really exist in a relativist world.
    I believe in objective morality. Some statements in one of your earlier posts makes me think that perhaps you do, too. In one of your posts above, it seems that you are proposing some sort of objective morality. You offered: “All else being equal, it is wrong to needlessly inflict suffering on people.
    Except for the case of self-preservation, with all else being equal, it is best to avoid killing other people (on the assumption that they don’t want to be killed).
    Actions such as slavery and rape are wrong because they excessively limit people’s happiness and freedom of action.”

    These statements, of course, are loaded “oughts.” How does one come to the conclusion that these “oughts” are true for everyone and not just a matter of personal preference?

    Reply
  180. Andrew Ryan says:

    ‘It makes no sense for the relativist to get outraged when others do things that the relativist deems as “wrong,”’

    Yes it does. If we’re operating on purely logical terms, then what makes more sense than me trying to stop someone killing my daughter? What is more logical than trying to protect my property?

    “I believe in objective morality. Some statements in one of your earlier posts makes me think that perhaps you do, too.”
    Frank seems to define objective morality as something that can only come from God. Do you agree?

    I’m an atheist, therefore by his logic I CANNOT believe that his definition of objective morality exists. Any conclusions you draw from that are yours alone. If that leads you to conclude I should act in an incoherent or illogical manner then it probably points to fallacies in your or Franks original definition of what objective morality is.

    “How does one come to the conclusion that these “oughts” are true for everyone and not just a matter of personal preference?”

    Ditto your religion. Why should oughts from YOUR religion apply to someone of a different religion? And why should they even apply to someone of the same religion? Someone could believe in your God but not feel the slightest obligation to him.

    Reply
  181. Andrew Ryan says:

    Justin, could you tell me what YOU think my attitude to morals and ‘doing the right thing’ should be, given that I don’t believe in God?

    Try and answer without using phrases like ‘objective morality’ or ‘moral relativist’. They are both loaded phrases, and neither seem to apply to me or how I live my life.

    1. Do you think I should accept that there’s ‘no such thing as morality without God’, and therefore just let crime proliferate around me, figuring it’s all just opinion?
    2. Or do you think I should try to figure out the best thing to do in any given situation, try to make the world a better place, and try to be a better person anyway.

    Can you explain to me why option One is somehow better or more logical than option Two? It’s obviously not better for me if I’m going to take a selfish attitude. It’s not better for anybody else either – as if everyone took that attitude society would collapse. So in now way can it be described as a logical, sensible way to live.

    If you say it’s somehow ‘consistent’ – consistent with what? I’m going back to first principles here, so there’s nothing for it to be consistent with. I’m just asking what YOU think an atheist should do, given that he doesn’t believe morals come from God. Imagine he’s not coming at the subject with any prior assumptions about relativism or objectivism.

    Reply
  182. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    I don’t have a lot of time now, but I’ll try to give a quick response.

    You asked:
    1. Do you think I should accept that there’s ‘no such thing as morality without God’, and therefore just let crime proliferate around me, figuring it’s all just opinion?
    2. Or do you think I should try to figure out the best thing to do in any given situation, try to make the world a better place, and try to be a better person anyway.

    Definitely #2. Our discussion is about the GROUNDING point of our morality. I am in no way saying that atheists cannot act morally. They certainly can and do all the time. I was discussing the GROUNDING point for morality. (Please don’t take the capital letters as yelling- I can’t seem to get italics to work; it always shows up as code…)

    You can try to figure out the “best” solution and be a “better” person, but if what is “best” or “better” is a personal morality governed by personal preference, the words “better” and “best” have no useful meaning (as each person could choose what his/her own definiton of “better” or ” best” is.)

    Like I said, I suspect that you do have some objective grounding principles for morality, I’m just trying to figure out where you believe they come from. Do your statements below only apply to you, or do you think they are universal?

    “All else being equal, it is wrong to needlessly inflict suffering on people.
    Except for the case of self-preservation, with all else being equal, it is best to avoid killing other people (on the assumption that they don’t want to be killed).
    Actions such as slavery and rape are wrong because they excessively limit people’s happiness and freedom of action.”

    Reply
  183. Andrew Ryan says:

    So we both agree on option two. So why say that option one is the only ‘consistent’ one?

    “I’m just trying to figure out where you believe they come from. ”

    They evolved in the same way as our arms, eyes, digestive system,
    fear of heights, attraction to fertile members of the opposite gender etc.

    The bit you keep posting is something I cut and pasted from somehwere else, as I pointed out at the time. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘universal’. I can only say that I agree with it. It’s only universal if everyone else agrees with it. I think everyone else SHOULD agree with it.

    If you tell me that without God I’m not ALLOWED to say they’re universal, then I guess the answer is no.

    Reply
  184. Andrew Ryan says:

    “But if what is “best” or “better” is a personal morality governed by personal preference, the words “better” and “best” have no useful meaning”
    Useful to whom?

    “…as each person could choose what his/her own definiton of “better” or ” best” is.”
    Well obviously everyone CAN choose that. That’s what we see happening. Otherwise you wouldn’t see Christians convincing themselves that their homophobia was moral. You wouldn’t have had centuries of Christians convincing themselves that slavery was moral. You wouldn’t have Catholics and Protestents in Northern Ireland murdering each other in the name of the Lord through the 20th Century.

    Reply
  185. Tim D. says:

    I agree with you. If morality is relative, the question is “Whose morality do we choose, and what makes my morality better than someone else’s morality?”

    Better question: Why should one person choose the universal idea of morality that we all uphold? Why can’t we all agree on it democratically, or at least in a similar way?

    You’ve already expressed the result of moral relativism; within the system of relativism, nothing can be meaningfully condemned or applauded – that is, it all comes down to personal preference.

    “Meaningful” must mean something different to you than it does to me. The things that allow me to condemn acts like torture and homicide are quite meaningful to me, indeed.

    If a relativist is just acting logically then it is entirely logical to yell at the person cutting in.

    I don’t think it’s logical to yell at them; maybe react a bit, or say something….but that’s just me being technical, I understand your point.

    What I was trying to point out was from a relativist viewpoint. It makes no sense for the relativist to get outraged when others do things that the relativist deems as “wrong,” since “wrong” does not really exist in a relativist world.

    Once again, it makes perfect sense to defend actionst made against yourself that you deem to be negative or harmful; it is the very essence of our survival instinct (you know, that part of us that is one pillar of the foundation of our personal morality?) that tells us to do this. So how is it illogical, are you claiming? I don’t understand.

    Actions such as slavery and rape are wrong because they excessively limit people’s happiness and freedom of action.”

    These statements, of course, are loaded “oughts.” How does one come to the conclusion that these “oughts” are true for everyone and not just a matter of personal preference?

    Personally (and this does not necessarily reflect Andrew Ryan’s perspective, this is my own musing), I think it would make more sense to modify Andrew’s statement to say this:

    “To me, actions such as slavery and rape can be considered “undesirable” based on the idea that happiness is important; freedom of action and personal security are acts that undebatably contribute to this process, so it is immediately undesirable and objectionable to perform these actions based on those criteria.”

    Because that would be an objective truth; a supposed solution based on a set of factual criteria. The key word here is that the supposition must be based on factual criteria, or a given (such as “happiness is good/these things contribute to or deride from happiness”) in order to be objectively significant. Without such givens, it is 100% absolutely impossible to classify “objective morality.” Such givens can explain an action and provide context, thus allowing us to categorize things as “good” or “bad” in a sense that can be related to others. Does that make them objectively so? Of course not; these givens that we agree upon may not hold true for others, and so others are not bound by them. But if you and I share a common goal to extend the happiness of ourselves and others, then is it a longshot to propose that we might get together and form a society that establishes these basic principles?

    That’s also why it makes no sense to say that an action, in and of itself (such as rape or murder) is “wrong.” An action cannot be wrong because an action is just that — an action. It is the consequence of the action, and the intent and purpose of the action, along with the basic moral criteria of the person performing the action, that make it objective. As there is no solid way to confirm what a person is thinking, or how they feel when they commit an action, or whether or not they are telling the truth when they offer justification, we (as a society) tend to agree on certain actions that are almost universally unjustifiable (such as murder). Still, they are not objectively so; there are circumstances by which the law permisses the killing of a human being, such as in wartime or in self-defense. Likewise, if someone puts a gun to your head (or the head of a loved one) and forces you to commit a violent crime in their stead (such as rape or murder), and you can reasonably prove that this happened, then you can be excused for acting under duress. As such, our laws are not “legislated objective morality,” either.

    I was discussing the GROUNDING point for morality. (Please don’t take the capital letters as yelling- I can’t seem to get italics to work; it always shows up as code…)

    There are plenty of foundations for our morality. I’ve presented you with mine; your only complaint seems to be that they’re not objective. To which I have time and again responded, “alright, show me some grounding that is objective. If you do, I will consider your criticism valid, but until then I will not.”

    You can try to figure out the “best” solution and be a “better” person, but if what is “best” or “better” is a personal morality governed by personal belief, the words “better” and “best” have no objective meaning (as each person could choose what his/her own definiton of “better” or ” best” is.)

    I changed the word “preference” to “belief” here, because I believe that a person’s beliefs are not in their direct control. If you wanted to right now, do you think you could “choose to believe” that torture is alright? Could you completely erase the sickness in your gut that (I assume) would rise up if you tried to torture someone to death or near-death? I know I could not; what I believe is what I believe, and it will only crumble in the face of overwhelming logical evidence, or a situational counter-example that is significant enough to render all others inconsequent.

    But I would mostly agree with your paragraph, were you to make the above changes.

    Reply
  186. Andrew Ryan says:

    A small point Tim, as I pointed out at the time, I merely cut and pasted that quote from an atheist counter-apologist site in order to illustrate a standard atheist defence of secular ethics. Doesn’t mean I don’t broadly agree with it, but I never claimed them to be my words. And your post makes a lot of sense to me too.

    Reply
  187. Tim D. says:

    P.S. To get italics to work, you have to use the “” keys around the tiny letter “i”. Like this, but without the spaces:

    And then to end it, you have to use this:

    Again, without the spaces. So an italic sentence written like this:

    I like chicken.

    Would look like this:

    I like chicken.

    Reply
  188. Tim D. says:

    Dammit, okay, let’s try that again:

    must be put together without spaces, one symbol right after the other, to begin italics. To close it you have to put

    together without spaces. You put the opening symbols first, then write what you want to be italicized, then put the closing symbols.

    Reply
  189. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    You know those little openy-closey keys next to the letter M? The “greater than/less than” symbols? That’s what I’m talking about. It goes like

    (less than) (i) (greater than)

    Without parentheses or spaces. Then you type what you want, then you put this:

    (less than) / (i) (greater than)

    Does that make any sense?

    Reply
  190. Justin says:

    Tim ,
    Thanks again for the help with italics.

    You said: Could you completely erase the sickness in your gut that (I assume) would rise up if you tried to torture someone to death or near-death? I know I could not; what I believe is what I believe, and it will only crumble in the face of overwhelming logical evidence, or a situational counter-example that is significant enough to render all others inconsequent.

    I agree with you here; I could not erase the sickness in my gut, nor do I think could any sane individual. On a practical level, this is part of what convinces me that morality is objective. Certain things, it seems to me, are simply wrong.

    You changed my quote to something you could agree with : You can try to figure out the “best” solution and be a “better” person, but if what is “best” or “better” is a personal morality governed by personal belief, the words “better” and “best” have no objective meaning (as each person could choose what his/her own definiton of “better” or ” best” is.)

    I think I can agree with your changes. But the question I’m left with is this: if meaning is not objective – if it doesn’t correspond to reality but rather to personal belief – doesn’t this undermine the very word? If meaning is subjective, it’s like a universal solvent that destroys everything it touches. For example, I can take all of this great discussion that we’ve had and assume from it that you didn’t really mean anything when you disagreed with me on points, because I could equivocate on the meaning of the words you used. (Do you follow my point on this?)

    Andrew,

    You said: Well obviously everyone CAN choose that. That’s what we see happening. Otherwise you wouldn’t see Christians convincing themselves that their homophobia was moral. You wouldn’t have had centuries of Christians convincing themselves that slavery was moral. You wouldn’t have Catholics and Protestents in Northern Ireland murdering each other in the name of the Lord through the 20th Century.

    Of course, not only Christians owned slaves, and many Christians did fight to end slavery, but that is beside the point. The question I have about this is: are you saying that all of the examples above are morally wrong? If so, are they wrong only in your personal judgment or in that of a particular society’s judgment?

    I agree that Christians display immoral behavior as much as anyone else. I just think that in order for me to make that judgment, there must exist an objective standard by which I can measure their actions – otherwise, it seems to all boil down to preference.

    Reply
  191. Tim D. says:

    If meaning is subjective, it’s like a universal solvent that destroys everything it touches. For example, I can take all of this great discussion that we’ve had and assume from it that you didn’t really mean anything when you disagreed with me on points, because I could equivocate on the meaning of the words you used. (Do you follow my point on this?)

    Not entirely; conversation itself is based upon language, which is based upon a standard of agreed definitions. It’s not the definitions of all words that I challenge; for example, you and I would both agree (being English-speakers that we are) that the word “I” refers to me when spoken by me, and that the word “you” refers to the one to whom I am speaking — in this case, “you.” Rather, it’s certain words that require clarification. “I” is not a general word; it is quite precise. There is no other “I” than myself; if I say “I,” I am obviously referring to me and there is no debate about that. The very concept of objectivity is based around specific, empirically-detectable non-variable factors.

    However, if I say “good,” then that isn’t anywhere near as clear. What is good to me may not be the same to you; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all, can apply to philosophy as well. If I am a business owner, then a slight price increase on one of my products will probably be considered “good” for me, while the consumers who want to buy it will probably consider such a thing to be “bad” because it places a further limit on their ability to purchase it — gas prices, for instance. Does that make such an increase “objectively bad?” No; it simply means that one person is benefiting while another is suffering. Is it “bad” that this relationship occurs? It depends; the suffering of the consumer is not caused directly by the profit of the business owner in this case, it is caused by the price increase, which in turn causes the profit. The price increase makes it harder to purchase fuel that is necessary for our lives to function the way we expect them to; so you could say that is wrong, but there is another catch….

    We could back up a step further and say, “but is it fair to expect the rest of the world to function in a way that revolves around your lifestyle?” Why is it not one’s own fault for living so far from work that the gas it takes him/her to get there and back is almost equivalent to what he/she earns while he/she is actually at work? One might respond, “because of [factor] and [factor],” in an attempt to justify the situation. My point being, if we were determined to solidify an “objectively wrong” party in this or any similar situation, we could identify pretty much anyone as such by excluding or including important factors selectively. We could identify the oil companies as the “money-grubbers,” or we could identify the consumers as being “lazy and unwilling to change their lifestyle to suit a changing economy.” Does that make either case “objectively right?” Of course not.

    f course, not only Christians owned slaves, and many Christians did fight to end slavery, but that is beside the point.

    I think that’s part of the point — that Christians also have different perspectives on some of the same grave issues that have shaped the “atheist vs. Christian” debates on morality. Which is of course impossible if they all agree on the same “objective morality;” such morality would be universal and all-encompassing, forcing all people to abide by or acknowledge it regardless of any personal apprehension.

    I agree that Christians display immoral behavior as much as anyone else. I just think that in order for me to make that judgment, there must exist an objective standard by which I can measure their actions – otherwise, it seems to all boil down to preference.

    This is where one of my biggest points of contention lies; the source you claim to be objective is, from my POV, completely subjective; if you get it from the Bible, that’s still a subjective source, because it’s based on your interpretation of that source (also, that source was written by someone else — which means it’s subjective, in that it reflects that person’s perspective, be that God Himself or some disciple thereof). Even if it were truly some deity’s perspective, that would not necessarily make it objective; we would first have to prove that the deity’s perspective is somehow “more objective” than yours or mine (and flattery does not count — i.e. citing feats that one thinks deserve great respect, such as creating the universe, do not require in and of themselves that people offer such respect). It seems to me that, even if we were to assume the existence of a deity for this particular case, the decision to create is still being confused with the power of objectivity; if God exists and created the universe, that still doesn’t mean He is objective; it just means that He is powerful. Those are very different things, and it’s quite dangerous (in my opinion) to confuse them.

    Of course that entire argument is moot until the existence of a particular God is proven to or near the point of irrefutability.

    But getting back to what you said — this, specifically:

    I just think that in order for me to make that judgment, there must exist an objective standard by which I can measure their actions

    The problem is, this standard would not exist if there were no conscious, thinking humans to espouse it. These feelings of “morality” or “moral obligation” only exist within our minds. Logic and mathematics continue to function in the world around us, even when we are not awake; these are visible forces in the universe that act whether we like them or acknowledge them or not. However, morality is entirely philosophical in nature; the concept of “should” in a moral sense (as in, “he should do this,” not, “well, this should have happened”) refers to the functionality of personalities and people’s personal actions, not on an individual empirical level but on a level that assumes there is some universal “center ground” where everyone, regardless of personal beliefs, can look to see some “enlightening truth.” Which is simply not the case; the case that has been made here thus far revolves around the idea that there is some “moral objective ground” on which we all stand, that exists and functions outside of our minds. I still haven’t heard a satisfactory response to my original question in criticism of this — that all you have to do is prove that even one single particular action is always, without exception, “wrong” or “right.”

    Secondly, the argument I’m hearing most is that actions are in themselves “wrong” or “right.” I disagree with this on similar grounds — someone made the remark that “we do the right thing and hope that good things result.” To me, this defeats the concept of “good” and “bad” — if you “do the right thing” and only “bad things” occur, then how can you say it was the “right thing?” Because it just is, in itself. That’s an empty argument to me, because it requires that I acknowledge the “rightness” of this deed….just because. There is no reason. If the consequences or state of mind do not reflect why I should believe this is “right,” then there is really no reason left one way or the other; it’s “just right,” or “just wrong.” And I simply do not believe that.

    Which brings me back to my original point; the founding base of our personal moral sensibilities may be different, but they’re both subjective. Although I admit, I still don’t entirely understand where you’re claiming your morality comes from; if it does come from the Bible, then I will make the case that that, too, is subjective. If it does not, then all you really need to do to help your case here is explain where it does come from. Beware, though; the idea that you, as a supposedly “moral” person, can detect and feel these things does not mean they are “objectively right;” for I could use the same example from the perspective of a hypothetical madman who feels and detects that suffering instills virtue in others, and so it is okay to instill suffering in others for no reason (i.e. torturing babies).

    P.S.

    I guess what I mean is, feelings are subjective. If you make an argument coming from what you feel is right, then your result will be subjective. Objectivity is based on factors rooted outside the human consciousness, that can be detected by anyone regardless of worldview. So in order to prove that any particular “moral” is objectively true or right, then it is necessary to base it on some circumstance that absolutely, positively cannot be debated under any circumstance. 2 + 2 = 4 is objectively true; if you take 2 and 2 and put them together, you will always get 4. No situation will ever change this.

    You could say, for example….based on the belief that long-term happiness is important, torturing others in order to instill virtue is not beneficial because (a) there is no way to prove that torturing someone will instill virtue, (b) there is no guarantee that being virtuous will make that person happy, and (c) the pain and suffering of being tortured detracts from happiness in the short term and, possibly, in the long term, given that psychological damage and physical injuries may result. As these factors conflict with the stated agenda of this worldview, they are “wrong” in accordance with said view.”

    That is an objectively true statement; but then, it is not a moral. It is a mathematical observation, based on given factors.

    Reply
  192. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    If the consequences or state of mind do not reflect why I should believe this is “right,” then there is really no reason left one way or the other; it’s “just right,” or “just wrong.” And I simply do not believe that.

    What I mean by this is, if we are to accept that a particular act is “wrong” in and of itself, we are forced to accept that on faith, not logic. Mathematical factors can be shown to simply exist, with or without reason; why is 2 + 2 = 4? It just is. This is an unchangeable, demonstrable factor. The same is not true of moral “laws,” such as “homosexuality is wrong.” How so? I cannot debate that 2 + 2 = 4, because I can demonstrate that it is so — no situation can change this. However, “homsexuality is wrong” can be challenged because its “wrongness” is not obvious or definite in and of itself, as is the “truth” of 2 + 2 = 4.

    You might say that it is definite that homosexuality is wrong. I would then ask you to show me how the act in itself is wrong. If you cite consequences, then you are using my worldview, not yours — you have already stated that consequences are not a determining factor. So what is the determining factor, then? What pre-set table do we consult to determine which actions are “right” and which are “wrong?”

    Reply
  193. Tim D. says:

    P.S. I attributed the following statement to the wrong person; it was Jeff Vannoy who said that. My bad~

    you have already stated that consequences are not a determining factor.

    Reply
  194. Tim D. says:

    P.P.S. Just thought of one more better thing to add:

    For something to be objectively true, it must either (a) be true for a demonstrable reason, or (b) simply be true. In the case of the latter, it must be demonstrably so — back to 2 + 2 again, it must be something that I can show you that always happens under any circumstances. 2 and 2 will always make 2; that is just true, for no reason. It “just is.” Anything that is true for a reason can be followed back to one of these objectively demonstrable “First Reasoning Points” (to coin a phrase).

    What you seem to be arguing is that actions can, in themselves, be First Reasoning Points, from which conclusions are drawn. That we can demonstrate and take actions to be “wrong” or “right” in the same way that 2 + 2 = 4 is “true.” But I have argued that this is not the case, because I am not bound by (again, for example) “homosexuality is wrong” in the same sense that I am bound by “2 + 2 = 4.”

    You might argue that, “Even if you don’t believe it’s wrong, it’s still wrong.” To which I might respond, “all you need to do is prove to me that it is objectively wrong in the same sense that 2 + 2 = 4 is true, and how it is so.”

    Reply
  195. Tim D. says:

    ^The reason that doesn’t work with morality is because morality is “good” or “bad” for a reason, by definition — what is “good?” Well, if you define it, you’re giving the moral a reason to be so. Which defeats the idea that it is some kind of objective starting point. However, if we don’t define it, it means nothing.

    Reply
  196. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I agree with you here; I could not erase the sickness in my gut, nor do I think could any sane individual. On a practical level, this is part of what convinces me that morality is objective. ”

    But wouldn’t you agree that it is also entirely consistent with morality having evolved? It’s the same sickness we feel when we come across anything that proved to be bad for the species over hundreds of thousands of years: snakes, spiders, heights, filth and sickness, incest etc.

    “I just think that in order for me to make that judgment, there must exist an objective standard by which I can measure their actions – otherwise, it seems to all boil down to preference.”

    Only if you think there’s no such thing as reasoned opinion. Whereas I believe one can reason out the best solution without postulating that such a ‘best solution’ has been ordained by a God. Do you think that a ‘best solution’ HAS to come from God? Can one argue that Citizen Kane is better than Road Trip without postulating a God? Or would that mean that no film is ‘objectively’ better than another.

    Reply
  197. Justin says:

    Tim,
    I’m gonna have to take some time to read all of those posts more carefully! 🙂

    Andrew,
    I don’t think that one can say Citizen Kane is better than Road
    Trip without some objective standards by which to judge them – (I’ve never studied film, but I imagine true film critics consider certain standards of quality of lighting, scriptwriting, etc. to test whether or not a film should be acclaimed.)
    If you ask teenagers which is a better film, they’ll say Road Trip (because they are not using these standards by which to judge; they’re simply deferring to which film gives them more pleasure.)
    I think that no matter how much the students subjectively prefer Road Trip, it is objectively a worse film (judging by standards instead of preference) than Citizen Kane.

    Reply
  198. Andrew Ryan says:

    Right, so we can use standards to judge a moral act that do not come from God. We can judge fairness, the unhappiness an act causes etc.

    Can I confirm we’re not talking at cross purposes here: Do you defend Frank’s statement that God is the ONLY source of objective morals? Or would you say it’s fair enough for an atheist to devise a set of morals?

    BTW, on slavery, many Christians would have insisted 300 years ago that slavery was OBJECTIVELY moral. How would you argue with them. As far as they’re concerned there IS no argument – they’re not breaking any objectively moral laws. An atheist meanwhile you might have been able to reason with.

    Reply
  199. Sean G says:

    BTW, on slavery, many Christians would have insisted 300 years ago that slavery was OBJECTIVELY moral. How would you argue with them. As far as they’re concerned there IS no argument – they’re not breaking any objectively moral laws. An atheist meanwhile you might have been able to reason with.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I would argue that it was OBJECTIVELY wrong, as your statement seems to imply. I really don’t understand your views. You seem to talk as if morals are objective, but insist that they are not.

    The question isn’t which morals people believe to be objective, the question is whether or not there is anything that is objectively wrong. Finding a situation in which doing something like torturing babies seems, at first, to refute this, but my question is this:

    Is it objectively wrong for me to torture babies simply for fun, assuming that it will have no positive effect on the baby or anyone else?

    Reply
  200. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    I’m not sure that any standard of morality would do. I would think that any truly objective morality would have to come from God. What I mean by this is that I do not think that personal preference, societal preference (even if it is agreed upon), or social Darwinism can actually achieve an objective standard. Personal preference and societal preference are just that; they offer no meaningful “oughts,” only opinions that are just as valid as the next person or next society’s opinion. Social Darwinism seems to boil it all down to dancing to one’s DNA, in which case there cannot be anything truly immoral if the actions are biologically controlled.

    Tim D,
    I’ve thought about your posts. I do see where situations (such as those posed in classical moral dilemmas) can change the nature of the moral decision involved. I do not argue against that. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear earlier that when I speak of objective morality, I do not mean it in the sense that the statement “Theft is wrong” is 100% binding under any possible circumstance. That is to say I agree that I can imagine a scenario where stealing something might not be wrong (say, I steal a gun from someone who intends to shoot up a local school, etc.)
    My point is this: despite the different scenarios that one can imagine, we can still intuitively know that some courses of action under those circumstances are better (a word which implies moral judgment) than other courses of action. In order to know what is better, we need an objective standard by which to judge.

    Reply
  201. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Is it objectively wrong for me to torture babies simply for fun, assuming that it will have no positive effect on the baby or anyone else?”

    I would say it was wrong. For reasons Tim has endlessly explained, I don’t know what the difference is between it being ‘wrong’ and it being ‘objectively wrong’.

    “Social Darwinism seems to boil it all down to dancing to one’s DNA, in which case there cannot be anything truly immoral if the actions are biologically controlled.”

    Where did you get Social Darwinism from? That’s a right wing, generally Christian ideal, not a secular one. It’s the GOP who support it, not the left.

    Reply
  202. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I would think that any truly objective morality would have to come from God.”

    So if there’s no God, there’s no objective morality? You just answered your question then. In the sense that you mean ‘objective morality’, you can’t expect atheists to have it. But seeing as you’ve admitted yourself there’s no evidence that atheists are any less moral than Christians, you’ve actually changed nothing with this conclusion. The presence or absense of ‘O.M.’ makes no difference to the real world – it’s purely a philosophical construct.

    By the way, does this apply also to my film question? You said you could apply rational (non-religious) criteria to deciding the greater of two films. Couldn’t the same be said of moral questions?

    Reply
  203. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    Film criticism would be different than morality. I don’t think there is any “oughtness” to film, but there is to morality. There are aesthetic judgments to be made, and judgments about technique, but those are not the same as “oughts.”
    However, I agree that a group or society could certainly agree on moral rules they will abide by, and then use those to judge right and wrong. I fail to see, however, that this would actually make the rules they abide by right or wrong; the rules would still be the preference of a certain group or society. The classic example of this that is often brought up is, of course, Nazi Germany and the collective horrors they visited upon the Jews and various other people groups. They had agreed as a society that certain people groups were less human than others. That they agreed on this did not make it right or true.

    Reply
  204. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I fail to see, however, that this would actually make the rules they abide by right or wrong”

    Quite so. But then you haven’t given any other way of making their rules right or wrong either. You’re arguing that there is an ‘objective morality’ with no evidence. The only thing you can say is that a very powerful supernatural entity believes certain things are right or wrong. Even that doesn’t mean we should necessarily agree with him. Can you conceptualise a tyrant creator, who gives us lots of perverse moral laws to obey? How do you know that tyrant doesn’t exist? If you can only judge a God by the morality that he himself gives you, you wouldn’t be able to tell whether his laws were perverse or just.

    At any rate, if you believe ‘objective morality’ can only come with the existence of God then you are arguing that ‘objective morality’ is a supernatural thing, yes?

    If so, then as an atheist, I’m never going to be convinced by your argument, am I? It comes down to your faith rather than evidence.
    I’m basically doing the equivalent of arguing with a fairy believer about the color of their wings.

    Reply
  205. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew, [in response to your post Sept. 20th 1:23pm]

    I can’t speak for all the other theists in here arguing that relativisim is immorality. I apologize for those who speak too quickly and too much.

    First, let me distinguish “Natural law” from the “naturalistic fallacy.” Your quote of Bentham shows a confusion in terms. Natural law is the idea that all humans have an innate conscience with a roughly comparable sense of right and wrong. This “sense” however is not just an opinion or belief, but rather knowledge of a common law/natural law/moral law which is objectively true for all time, for all people. It is also, readily admitted, that natural law implies a natural law-giver grand enough to ground a universal (aka: absolute) law, hence the God inference. The natural law is the same idea at work in the framers of our constitution, since one can de-Christianize that deity and still maintain a (more agreeable) basis of objective morality in God. by this route, our forefathers sought to protect divergent religious creeds from political persecution. (But that debate is something else entirely).

    The naturalistic fallacy however is the idea that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is.” For example, suppose slavery is happening somewhere. It would be a naturalistic fallacy to say that, “since slavery is happening it ought to keep happening.”

    What Jeremy Bentham was saying therefore is that, assuming there is no God (Bentham was non-theist), it is a mistake to derive an objective/absolute/universal moral law from nature since that would commit the naturalistic fallacy of extracting an “ought” from an “is.” But Bentham would have to admit, logically, if God did exist, then the natural law could also, and there would be no naturalistic fallacy. You CAN derive an ought from an is, if it is multiplied by mind, a universal mind grand enough to justify objective morals between all people. That is, brute matter is amoral, but persons and thinking things can recognize, attribute, and, in some cases, create values–such as moral value. And if there are moral values, which we discover, that are too big to be grounded in human minds, then there must be a bigger mind than human minds. that is the thumbnail version of the morality argument as we’ve been making it.

    the natural law does have value for the moral argument for God. Its value is that people everywhere seem to have certain commonly held values, and they seem to recognize them as having more strength than some self-serving relativism. Even people who deny God’s existence, their gut reactions within this natural world reveal moral values (not just feelings/genetic programming/or wishes) which are hard if not impossible to justify given the mechanisms of naturalism (chance, probability, natural design, and natural selection). IF the natural law does exist, and if these supposed values are indeed real and universal values, then a supernatural lawgiver is the best explanation for the data. We do not need to go into the HOW and the WHY just yet in this argument, since the argument is, initially, about the fact THAT a supernatural grounding is necessary.

    I apologize if people have been saying that you are immoral since you are an atheist. Moral or immoral, the question is whether atheism gives adequate grounding for moral valuations. And to that I continue to assert the naturalistic fallacy as defeating atheistic morality.

    Reply
  206. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Moral or immoral, the question is whether atheism gives adequate grounding for moral valuations.”

    Firstly, Atheism just means you don’t believe in God. You might as well say ‘Not believing in astrology doesn’t give adequate grounding etc’. It’s not a philosophy. Just means you don’t believe in God.

    But the main point is that your moral valuations can be judged by your actions. If someone acts morally then they are moral. That’s what’s important, not saying their morality is suspect at a grounding level because they don’t believe in the same supernatural being as you. I’d take a moral atheist over a homophobic Christian slave owner with ‘adequate grounding for their moral valuations’. Regardless of how you come by your morals – whether through reason or through belief in a magical man in the sky – the important thing is that you are moral, and are open to reasoning through your morality.

    “People everywhere seem to have certain commonly held values”
    …Which is completely explainable through evolution. We evolved values that help society flourish. This is not evidence of your God. Neither is the way people naturally have a fear of heights/snakes/objects likely to spread disease etc.

    Reply
  207. Tim D. says:

    My point is this: despite the different scenarios that one can imagine, we can still intuitively know that some courses of action under those circumstances are better (a word which implies moral judgment) than other courses of action. In order to know what is better, we need an objective standard by which to judge.

    And what standard is that? That is what I want to know. “God” isn’t specific enough; where does this God say that certain things are wrong? Certainly not the Bible; for the Bible condones slavery, and Christians think that’s wrong. So where is this “moral compass?”

    That they agreed on this did not make it right or true.

    And I would say exactly the same of you and I; the fact that Christians collectively believe something (or atheists, or any other social classification) does not make it right. You seem to be arguing just that, though — that because you feel it’s wrong, that means it is wrong. Am I correct?

    A little anecdote; I’ve heard many times in this topic and others that, because one person feels baby torture is wrong, that makes it wrong. That person’s moral judgment “overrides” the judgment of someone who thinks it is “right” or “okay.” On what grounds? God? What does that mean? Where does it say in “God” that this is wrong?

    his “sense” however is not just an opinion or belief, but rather knowledge of a common law/natural law/moral law which is objectively true for all time, for all people. It is also, readily admitted, that natural law implies a natural law-giver grand enough to ground a universal (aka: absolute) law, hence the God inference.

    You must be talking about someone else, for certain, as I’d admit no such thing. Your entire paragraph here amounts to an assumption, or an assertion that (I assume) you expect me to take at face-value.

    The naturalistic fallacy however is the idea that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is.”

    I’m not arguing with the idea that you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is,” I am disagreeing with the idea that this ought is objective; for it to be objective, it must be binding in some way. Otherwise it is completely useless and pointless — “you ought to do this.” So what? What if I don’t? What consequences will there be? None. I just “ought to,” is all. That’s hardly objective; that’s one person’s opinion, deflated by physical action to the contrary.

    That makes no sense, to say such a supposition can be “objective,” especially on these grounds.

    That is, brute matter is amoral, but persons and thinking things can recognize, attribute, and, in some cases, create values–such as moral value

    Finally we reach an agreement; morality and value are man-made concepts that do not exist outside of our minds.

    And if there are moral values, which we discover, that are too big to be grounded in human minds, then there must be a bigger mind than human minds. that is the thumbnail version of the morality argument as we’ve been making it.

    What does this mean, “too big for human minds?” You keep lapsing into poetry that isn’t very clear.

    he natural law does have value for the moral argument for God. Its value is that people everywhere seem to have certain commonly held values, and they seem to recognize them as having more strength than some self-serving relativism.

    And here is your loophole once again, plain as day: your morals are objectively right because a lot of people feel the same way. “Everybody” doesn’t, as you seem to think they do, or else we wouldn’t have “immoral” people or sociopaths. Yet we do. And yet, anyone who has morals that are derived in the same way that yours are, and yet are different from your own, are wrong on the premise that “a lot of people feeling the same way doesn’t make it objective.”

    To my credit, I never made the claim that my values were objective. I make essentially the same claim that you do — that a large number of us agree on certain things that seem to be commonplace among our genetic position as human beings, and so it makes sense to go along with these natural motivations and conceptions to at least some degree — except that I don’t claim my values are “objective” and somehow override anyone else’s in an objective sense.

    Even people who deny God’s existence, their gut reactions within this natural world reveal moral values (not just feelings/genetic programming/or wishes) which are hard if not impossible to justify given the mechanisms of naturalism (chance, probability, natural design, and natural selection).

    Really? I feel emotions and values, and I don’t find them hard to explain at all. And I especially don’t feel the need for a God’s existence to conveniently explain them away, either.

    IF the natural law does exist, and if these supposed values are indeed real and universal values, then a supernatural lawgiver is the best explanation for the data.

    Not at all; for one, how can something like that exist? What is an “ought?” It’s not a law, or a figure, because those things are grounded in reality — gravity, friction, temperature, these are things that don’t physically exist but are physically binding in some way or another, empirically detectable — and it certainly isn’t binding. So what is an ought? What does it mean? What is its value? If it doesn’t require anyone to abide by it, then (assuming it exists in the first place) what it amounts to is a great cosmic suggestion. “You should do that.” Okay, well, what if I don’t? What will happen? People assert that bad things will happen to me if I don’t, but I know that’s not true, so I do it anyway. What then?

    If objective morality exists, then it must bind people in some way, or else it is not effective at all. In fact, it might as well not exist; for it is only useful to those who respect it, i.e. for those who feel that it is right. In other words, it seems that claiming “objective morality” is just a cop-out to convince all parties who do not share the “objective moral party’s” beliefs are somehow “more incorrect” by virtue of differing.

    Reply
  208. Sean G. says:

    I would say it was wrong. For reasons Tim has endlessly explained, I don’t know what the difference is between it being ‘wrong’ and it being ‘objectively wrong’.

    It basically means that it’s wrong for me to do it, even if I don’t think so.

    Certainly not the Bible; for the Bible condones slavery, and Christians think that’s wrong. So where is this “moral compass?”

    We could talk all day about whether the Bible condones or just acknowledges slavery, and whether the type of slavery in the Bible is anything close to the type of slavery we had in this country, but that is a topic for another conversation.

    I just want to ask: Is slavery wrong? Was it wrong for slave traders to go to Africa and kidnap people for the purpose of selling them? They didn’t seem to think so. Was it right for them, but wrong for me?

    So what is an ought? What does it mean? What is its value? If it doesn’t require anyone to abide by it, then (assuming it exists in the first place) what it amounts to is a great cosmic suggestion. “You should do that.” Okay, well, what if I don’t? What will happen? People assert that bad things will happen to me if I don’t, but I know that’s not true, so I do it anyway. What then?

    If objective morality exists, then it must bind people in some way, or else it is not effective at all. In fact, it might as well not exist; for it is only useful to those who respect it, i.e. for those who feel that it is right.

    This is one aspect on the moral argument. If objective morality exists, it has to be binding in some way. If it is binding, there must be something to make it binding. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be objective. We need more than just the moral argument to determine what that something is, but there is no grounding for a belief in objective morality without a belief in something to make it objective. I’m not sure if I’m stating it clearly. I’ve had a long day. I’ll try to clarify if my words seem incoherent.

    Reply
  209. Tim D. says:

    We could talk all day about whether the Bible condones or just acknowledges slavery, and whether the type of slavery in the Bible is anything close to the type of slavery we had in this country, but that is a topic for another conversation.

    As far as I’m concerned, slavery is slavery. There’s no “special kind of slavery” that is acceptable. It’s either slavery, or it’s not. So which is it? This isn’t a hard question.

    I just want to ask: Is slavery wrong? Was it wrong for slave traders to go to Africa and kidnap people for the purpose of selling them? They didn’t seem to think so. Was it right for them, but wrong for me?

    This “right for you, wrong for me” misrepresentation is starting to get a little old….once again, if I were to believe that slavery was “wrong” for whatever reason, and I met you and you disagreed, that would not obligate me in any way to respect your viewpoint. I don’t understand why you think it would.

    This is one aspect on the moral argument. If objective morality exists, it has to be binding in some way. If it is binding, there must be something to make it binding. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be objective. We need more than just the moral argument to determine what that something is, but there is no grounding for a belief in objective morality without a belief in something to make it objective.

    And thus why the argument fails. See, it assumes that God exists because it assumes that OM exists, and it assumes that a God would be necessary for OM to exist. Problem is, it assumes those things on a consequential basis — as an AFC (argument from consequence). The fact is that morality is not objectively binding, as evidenced by your repeated statements that it’s possible to believe that slavery is “okay” (which is obviously true, as our country and your Bible condoned slavery for hundreds of years). Which was exactly my point:

    (1) In order for objective morality to exist, it must be binding.
    (2) But morality isn’t binding;
    (3) Therefore, morality cannot be objective.

    Reply
  210. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    I’m amazed at the pretzel-logic being applied here; you can argue that we need a moral compass because morality isn’t binding and we’ll all go our separate ways and become Hitlers and Nazis and murderers on our own….and in the same breath, you can turn and argue that morality is both objective and binding, and therefore some God must exist to justify this. This seems like a blatant contradiction to me.

    Reply
  211. Sean G. says:

    I can’t speak for anyone else, here, but I’ve never argued that morality isn’t binding.

    I’m arguing two points in my limited posts on this thread:

    1. If morality is objective, then something has to make it binding. Because of other evidence I’ve seen, I believe that that something is God. In other words, if objective morality exists, then it is part of the cumulative case for God.

    2. Objective morality exists. I may not be doing a very good job of arguing this, but that is because I think everyone intuitively knows it. That is why I tend to ask questions to see if you believe that there is anything that would be wrong to do, no matter who you are or what you believe. Some examples of things that may fit this mold are: slavery, baby torture (for fun), rape (because I’m superior), bigotry, gay bashing, lynching people for their skin color, and crucifying atheists. If you assume that I’m doing those for my own pleasure, and not for the betterment of anyone else, would they be wrong, even if I believe they’re right?

    Reply
  212. Tim D. says:

    2. Objective morality exists. I may not be doing a very good job of arguing this, but that is because I think everyone intuitively knows it. That is why I tend to ask questions to see if you believe that there is anything that would be wrong to do, no matter who you are or what you believe. Some examples of things that may fit this mold are: slavery, baby torture (for fun), rape (because I’m superior), bigotry, gay bashing, lynching people for their skin color, and crucifying atheists. If you assume that I’m doing those for my own pleasure, and not for the betterment of anyone else, would they be wrong, even if I believe they’re right?

    No; I do not believe that there is such thing as “objectively wrong.” You still haven’t given me a good reason to believe there is such a thing; you just keep asking me, “well, don’t you think [insert extreme example] is wrong?” And I tell you that I disagree with it and would act to stop it if put into a situation where that was possible. I also tell you that the fact that I feel this way does not transcend my being and make it objectively so. The same goes for you.

    So far, your only “evidence” for OM is that you feel like it should be real.

    So at what point is morality “just the way I feel,” as far as you are concerned? At what point do you mean to say that your feelings transcend your being and become “objective?” You seem to think that if I agree with you about torture being wrong, then that makes it objective. This seems quite arrogant — that if I agree with your definition of “wrong,” then I am observing objective morality, whereas if I disagree with your definition then I am somehow morally flawed. You still have to explain why your morality is so special. Because it came from God? Where? Where did you get it from God? Not the Bible, because there are things in the Bible that are considered just and moral that you say you are against, such as slavery. So where does it come from? “God” isn’t good enough; how is God supposed to convey these “objective morals?” He certainly doesn’t instill it in all of us in the form of emotions; otherwise one who feels that torturing is “okay” could be said to be “morally objectively right,” by your own standards. So where is it?

    Reply
  213. Andrew Ryan says:

    “but that is because I think everyone intuitively knows it. ”

    But you’ve said objective morality is when’s something is wrong whether you think so or not. If you’re allowing that people will disagree on what’s right or wrong, then not everyone does know it. Some people obviously don’t. And you’ve no answer to the scientific explanation of guilt – it evolved.

    People only feel guilty if THEY think they’ve done something wrong. If someone doesn’t think slavery is wrong, then it won’t make them feel guilty. So it’s not as if doing things that are ‘objectively wrong’ that makes them feel guilty. Their guilt doesn’t come from an external source of ‘rights and wrongs’, only their own subjective feelings of morality, which vary from person to person.

    By admitting that O.M. can only come from God, you’re admitting that you’re arguing for something supernatural that you can’t prove. Unless you can prove the existence of God first. You’re definition of ‘objectively wrong’ is basically ‘God holds the opinion that it’s wrong’.

    “I’ve never argued that morality isn’t binding. ”

    So what’s binding about it? In what practical sense is anyone being bound?

    Reply
  214. Andrew Ryan says:

    I can just imagine a bunch of people 300 years ago discussing objective morality.
    Gentleman 1: “Well we both agree that slavery is moral, right?”
    Gentleman 2: “Of course, it’s condoned in the bible after all”
    G1: Right, well do you think it’s right just because you think so?
    G2: Well it’s my opinion that it’s right…
    G1: So it’s just an opinion, I mean it’s just ‘right for you’?
    G2: No, that doesn’t sound right, if it’s ‘just my opinion’ then it sounds awfully subjective…
    G1: “Right. So that means…”
    G2: “Oh! It means that slavery has to be objectively moral!”
    G1: “OK, so we’ve proved that objective morality exists!”

    Of course, you could replace ‘Gentlemen 300 years ago’ to ‘Republicans now’ and replace ‘slavery’ with ‘torturing prisoners’, and find exactly the same self-righteous certainty.

    And the great thing is, once they’ve ‘proved’ that their morality is ‘objectively right’, it is no longer up for discussion. No moral debate exists and therefore it’s impossible to rationally discuss their views with them.

    Reply
  215. Tim D. says:

    No moral debate exists and therefore it’s impossible to rationally discuss their views with them.

    Yeah, but I still find myself compelled to try anyway. Call it faith in the human race. I know, I know, I shouldn’t, but I try to anyway — it’s just the way I am.

    Reply
  216. Caro says:

    Hitchens-Turek Debate – does anyone know when the debate will be on youtube? If already there, I somehow missed it, my apologies. Thanks.

    Reply
  217. ChristianJR4 says:

    Interesting debate. I look forward to seeing this debate on YouTube and hopefully soon as it’s been 3 weeks now.

    I have a question though. Does anyone know how this debate happened? Did some organization(s) invite both Turek and Hitchens to debate? Did Turek have to chase down Hitchens in order to debate him??

    The reason I’m asking this is I really want to see a debate between Hitchens and Dr. William Lane Craig but since it’s taking so long for one to happen maybe there is another way to speed up the process. Perhaps similar to how this debate came about.

    Reply
  218. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew Ryan (in response to your statement September 26th, 2008 at 6:11 pm)

    You write: “Firstly, Atheism just means you don’t believe in God. You might as well say ‘Not believing in astrology doesn’t give adequate grounding etc’. It’s not a philosophy. Just means you don’t believe in God.”

    This is no surprise for me. Atheism is a simple disbelief in ‘God’, or, if you prefer the “soft” atheist position, “having no God-belief” (ie: The strong position claims that no God exist while the soft position makes no claim about God’s existence; and hence only the strong position would have the burden of proof in an argument).

    then you write: “But the main point is that your moral valuations can be judged by your actions. If someone acts morally then they are moral. That’s what’s important, not saying their morality is suspect at a grounding level because they don’t believe in the same supernatural being as you.”

    This assessment won’t fly unless you have a grounds for discerning “good” actions from “evil” actions. This assumes that there are moral values already in place by which to discern good behavior from evil behavior, but that is a grounding assumption–the very point of contention here. My argument is that atheists can be remarkably moral people, much better than many hypocritical bigoted theists, but, in terms of their worldview, atheism cannot bridge the gap from “what is” to “what ought to be.” that is, the atheist has to use borrowed currency to to purchase objective moral values, since his own worldview does not justify calling anything “good” or “evil” in an objective sense. Genetics and evolution may give plausible explanations for how charity and altruism came about, but neither of these causal factors are minds wherein moral valuation makes sense. These causal factors can only DESCRIBE what IS, and cannot PRESCRIBE what OUGHT to be. It simply is the case than man has a habit of behavior where he prefers altruism. If there is only nature, and no-god exists, then we can never rightly jump from description to prescription.

    Permit me to demonstrate by a regress argument.

    Theodore: How is morality grounded in an atheist framework?

    Atheodore: Morality arose by evolutionary and otherwise naturalistic principles, we’ll call this “evolutionary altrusim.”

    Theodore: But then what about “evolutionary altruism” makes it good?

    Atheodore: Well, evolutionary altruism explains moral behavior as it supports the survival of the species.

    Theodore: So the survival of the species is a good thing?

    Atheodore: yes, of course. You and I both want to survive and that’s the habitual desire and direction of lifeforms, to serve their own survival.

    Theodore: But why should we even call the survival of the species a “good” thing?

    Atheodore: Because survival is, generally speaking, a good thing.

    Theodore: Then why should we think survival is a good thing? As far as I can tell, the best we can do from an atheist perspective is to say that survival is what happens, at least to the fitter members of the fitter species.

    Atheodore: Survival is good because we have a basic intuition or sense that is common to all of us (or at least a lot of us) where we all know or think that our survival is a good thing.

    Theodore: so you are saying then that there is an intuition or sense besides the “evolutionary altrusim” explanation that informs us that survival is good?

    Atheodore: I’m not going that far, but . . .

    Theodore: Even if there were something more basic than survival that we could agree on as good, such as “being” or “existence” or “activity”–how does the atheist jump from description of how things are into prescription of how things should be.

    Athedore: It does seem that we need to justify this “prescriptive” habit we all–you and me–have.

    Theodore: After all, survival or death, altruism or egoism, love or hate–these are just neutral behaviors and vacuous feelings unless our worldview can justify the realm of valuations.

    Atheodore: But then why are Christians so often burning crosses and witches and going on crusades. . .

    Theodore: Lets talk later about that . . .

    Lastly, you say: “Regardless of how you come by your morals – whether through reason or through belief in a magical man in the sky – the important thing is that you are moral, and are open to reasoning through your morality.”

    I think we should reason through our morality, but I don’t think that reasoning can be an adequate grounds of morality–at least if we understand reasoning as being a natural process that is MERELY how natural animals (humans) happen to be and act. Again, this commits the is-ought fallacy.

    You still have not shown how we can rightfully derive an ought from an is? You seem content to tell me that there IS a collection of OUGHTS, but your atheism does not seem capable of explaining how those “oughts” are anything more than morally neutral descriptions of how some people happen to subjectively prefer some things over others. Preference, opinion, and private feelings are a far cry from objective morality.

    Reply
  219. Andrew Ryan says:

    I said: “If someone acts morally then they are moral. That’s what’s important, not saying their morality is suspect at a grounding level because they don’t believe in the same supernatural being as you.”

    You said: “This assessment won’t fly unless you have a grounds for discerning “good” actions from “evil” actions. ”

    I’m really not sure how I can make it any clearer. I’m saying that if YOU as a Christian are judging an how moral an atheist is, then you should be considering their acts, not saying their morality is suspect at a grounding level because they don’t believe in the same supernatural being as you.

    I’m assuming that you and your fellow Christians here have grounds for discerning ‘good’ actions from ‘evil’. If you don’t, then you’re right, your judgement of the atheist is pretty moot anyway.

    “You still have not shown how we can rightfully derive an ought from an is?”
    Neither have you. The difference is that you are the one claiming there is an ought.

    I like your Theodore and Atheodore conversation. However, I don’t see that it points up any contradiction in my viewpoint or anything I’ve said. I’ve shown where morality can come from. You haven’t. All you can say is that it’s magic and therefore unexplainable, or at best it’s basically ‘God’s opinion’. Which still doesn’t give you an ought. One could show the same regress in the Christian perspective.

    T: Why should we be good?
    A: Because God wants us to be good
    T: But why does that mean I have to be good?
    A: You don’t, but you OUGHT to be good.
    T: Why?
    A: Because God loves you
    T: But why does that mean I should be good?
    A: Because God created you.
    T: And…?
    A: Because God is love
    T: What does that even mean?
    A: Well, God is ultimate goodness.
    T: Why does that compel me? And how do you know he’s ultimate goodness? That suggests we’re able to judge him good by some criteria that exists separate to him. Otherwise we’re just judging him by his OWN standards, which is a circular argument.
    A: It says he’s good in the bible
    T: There you go – a circular argument! God is good because he tells us he’s good. And doesn’t God do or comman others to do a lot of nasty things in the bible? You know – rape, genocide, murder etc.
    Frank: If God does it, then by definition it’s good
    A: Then it’s meaningless to call him ultimate goodness, if he’d be good no matter what act he committed. That means us humans have no way of telling an ‘ultimate good deity’ from a ‘tyrant deity’
    T: Just do as he tells you or you’ll go to hell
    A: Well that’s not an ‘ought’ or morality – that’s just obeying a celestial policeman to avoid celestial hell.

    Reply
  220. Andrew Ryan says:

    “but I don’t think that reasoning can be an adequate grounds of morality”

    What’s your proposed alternative? And whatever your alternative is, don’t you need reasoning to reach it? Surely reasoning is better than dogma or guesswork or blind obedience or ‘only following orders’?

    Reply
  221. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew,

    I thought I was being clear but your responses are to a different point than what I was making. So here we go again.

    Regardless of whatever one believes about a “god,” regardless of whatever we may call “good,” regardless of whatever means we adopt to decide what is “moral,”–the very idea of moral values implies some kind of standard of discernment. I am not arguing that the naturalistic fallacy says that “we ought to be good,” although, of course, we both agree that people should be good.

    Rather, I am arguing that “ought” itself makes no sense unless there is a mind that can have purposes. Neither nature, nor any one else’s human mind, nor anything outside of a divine mind can justifiably tell you what you “ought to do,” good or otherwise. To even consider morality and goodness, we first have to make sense of the idea of “ought.” Only after “ought” makes sense can we then investigate whether a particular thing is something we “ought” or “ought-not” do, and so begin the task of moral study.

    Human minds can be a grounding for morality, except they are limited to individuals. I don’t have your mind, nor do you have mine. So I lack an objective grounding whereby we can share values in a meaningful sense. Let me repeat, we CAN have moral values grounded in individual human minds. However, this admission still retains at least two problems for the naturalist.

    1) Why should we think the human mind is anything more than determined and mechanistically programmed material? If the human mind is ENTIRELY explanable by deterministic causes, then again morality makes little sense just like we would not hold a computer morally culpable for poor programming.

    2) Even if human minds could be explained adequately through naturalism, we still have to explain why our efforts at sharing our own subjective values isn’t arbitrary and hollow. For example, all of Nazi Germany can be wrong because mass agreement does not constitute “good.” Likewise, the victory of genocide in Darfur does not make genocide right even if the stronger party is winning. Strength and numbers have little to do with measuring and grounding goodness, so, they cannot even decide what one “ought” to do.

    If we cannot justifiably bridge our subjective values to make objective values, then we reduce to relativism. But even then, If we cannot even justify robust view of human choice then human morality doesn’t make much sense in the first place.

    In summary, I grant that morality CAN RIGHTFULLY be attributed to minds, but human minds simply aren’t grand enough to justify OBJECTIVE morality. Hence there is need for a grand enough mind to ground the objective moral values that are found BETWEEN (not just within) people.

    The argument you give against the theist does not work with me since I agree with that argument and yet stand unmoved in my own position. You have attacked something besides the heart of my argument. You make a good point however that theists often stop at saying, “God is good,” and cannot explain or justify that point. The additional input I add is that morality is a mental thing. We discern what is morally good and, theoretically, we can subjectively ground our own morals. Because we have some moral values that are objectively true (discerned by our minds), but it does not seem that they can rightfully be grounded in our own minds, we conclude that a greater mind than our own must be the ground of these good things.

    Let me repeat, we CAN know what is good regardless of whether we believe in God or not. And we can identify that we ourselves are not adequate grounds for these real moral values. But since it takes mind/s to ground moral values, and naturalism does not account for any other minds than human minds, THEN, there must be a grandiose mind/s which naturalism has not accounted for and which is grounds these values objectively.

    Reply
  222. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew, you said,

    “[Responding to “but I don’t think that reasoning can be an adequate grounds of morality”] What’s your proposed alternative? And whatever your alternative is, don’t you need reasoning to reach it? Surely reasoning is better than dogma or guesswork or blind obedience or ‘only following orders’?”

    Reasoning is how moral behavior is identified, not how it is metaphysically grounded. You are confusing metaphysics (theory of being) and epistemology (theory of knowledge). Reasoning is a vital element in discerning and applying moral values. But it is a category mistake to call reasoning itself the grounds of morality. Reasoning would be the means of knowledge, morality would be a kind of knowledge (and, behavior).

    Reply
  223. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I thought I was being clear but your responses are to a different point than what I was making.”

    Then YOU were responding to a different point that I was making. Why not try returning to my original point and addressing it?

    Here it is again for the third time:
    I said: “If someone acts morally then they are moral. That’s what’s important, not saying their morality is suspect at a grounding level because they don’t believe in the same supernatural being as you.”

    “But it is a category mistake to call reasoning itself the grounds of morality.”
    I’m not making a mistake, or being confused. I just disagree with you on the grounds of morality. You’ve done nothing to say it originates anywhere else.

    “we CAN know what is good regardless of whether we believe in God or not. ”
    If that’s true then we don’t need God to reach morality, therefore Frank’s orginal argument – that morality proves God – is groundless.

    Reply
  224. andrew Ryan says:

    “Neither nature, nor any one else’s human mind, nor anything outside of a divine mind can justifiably tell you what you “ought to do,” good or otherwise. ”

    What does ‘divine mind’ even mean? Where is the evidence that such a thing exists? And why are divine minds an exception anyway? Why not include them in your list of things that cannot jusitifiably tell you what you ought to do? That’s the nub of where the Christian ‘ought’ is supposed to originate, and no-one can even tell me why. Even supposing a God, you’ve still got no ought.

    “Strength and numbers have little to do with measuring and grounding goodness, so, they cannot even decide what one “ought” to do.”
    But the argument I’ve been given again and again here is: “You and I both agree that torturing babies is wrong, and so does almost everyone else. Therefore it is objectively wrong”. Are you conceding here that this argument holds no water, that it is no better than Nazis all agreeing that the holocaust is right?

    Reply
  225. Tim D. says:

    For example, all of Nazi Germany can be wrong because mass agreement does not constitute “good.”

    Still I ask….what does constitute “good,” in your view?

    Because we have some moral values that are objectively true (discerned by our minds), but it does not seem that they can rightfully be grounded in our own minds, we conclude that a greater mind than our own must be the ground of these good things.

    You have yet to prove anything is “objective” with regard to morals; see above.

    Let me repeat, we CAN know what is good regardless of whether we believe in God or not. And we can identify that we ourselves are not adequate grounds for these real moral values. But since it takes mind/s to ground moral values, and naturalism does not account for any other minds than human minds, THEN, there must be a grandiose mind/s which naturalism has not accounted for and which is grounds these values objectively.

    That sounds like a bit of a lead-around to me; you ask me to make the following assumptions, going against the very grain of my own argument:

    –That we can know what is “good” or “evil,” just because; apparently you don’t seem to think there is any real reason that something qualifies as “good” or “evil,” you just decide what is right and then it becomes objective

    –That we can absolve ourselves of the ability to discern our own morals

    –That we must, in turn, attribute this grave responsibility to a (possibly nonexistent) higher power

    –That, if we are to take these assumptions at face value (which I do not), then we must also make the non-sequitor leap to the idea of a Super Morality Man existing somewhere. Which makes no sense; I suppose you also believe that the simple fact of 2 + 2 = 4 somehow implies the existence of a higher authority? I mean, that “just is,” and there’s no reason for it. So it must be God, right?

    Reasoning is how moral behavior is identified, not how it is metaphysically grounded. You are confusing metaphysics (theory of being) and epistemology (theory of knowledge). Reasoning is a vital element in discerning and applying moral values. But it is a category mistake to call reasoning itself the grounds of morality. Reasoning would be the means of knowledge, morality would be a kind of knowledge (and, behavior).

    So what’s your proposed alternative?

    All you have “proved” is that you believe morals are objective. I’ve been telling you all along that all you need to do to “prove me wrong” is prove (a) that morals exist, and (b) where morals come from. Where do they come from? You’ve given me some faux-logical non-sequiturs about how “if we assume x and y and z, then we can probably assume that it’s vaguely possible and therefore the only probably alternative that q is true,” but I’ve yet to see any real substantial evidence. Where are these morals? How can I test them? How can we prove that they are “right?”

    “Oughtness” makes no sense in an objective sense. It cannot exist because it is a concept that exists inside of our minds. As is morality; to suggest that morality exists independently of us is no different from suggesting that our thoughts somehow exist outside of our minds, travelling through the air.

    If what you are claiming is that logical truth can show us the best outcome for a particular set of givens, I will not debate against you on that. But if you mean to say that actions, or feelings, or beliefs, in and of themselves, are somehow “right” or “wrong” just because, then I’ll have to call your bluff, simply because you have yet to provide one instance in which an objective, infallible moral “truth” has been established. Which is all I have asked from the beginning; all of my other points stem from that one.

    If you are as confident in this fallacy as you claim, you would have shattered this point into a million pieces by now….but you have not. Interesting to me, that you would rather take on the horde than destroy the leader and kill them all at once.

    Reply
  226. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew,

    1) The reason I keep repeating myself is because of the way you keep answering my questions with diversions and more questions. Namely, you have not explained how one can derive a moral ought from nature (ie: ‘what is’).

    2) As for your point about “If someone acts morally that makes them moral.”–I can grant this point, but it does not inform us very much. Generally speaking moral people act morally. Atheists and theists alike can be “moral” in some sense so long as they act morally. This has nothing to do with whether the individual’s worldview is honest enough to admit where such “moral” ideas come from.

    3) As for reasoning, i reiterate that reasoning is an important aspect in moral living. But all it can do in regards to morality is help in discovering and applying moral values PROVIDED there are already moral values to be discovered and applied. Reasoning is an epistemic category, but the grounding issue I keep hammering is a metaphysical issue–hence I argue that you are making a category mistake to say that reasoning is the grounding for morality. Let me illustrate. Lets assume utilitarianism for a moment. Suppose frosty chocolate milkshakes are widely accessible, low cost, highly nutritious, and supremely pleasurable to everyone in the city. It is “good”–as reason would dictate–that people indulge their taste for frostly chocolate milkshakes. I can use my reason to attribute measurable “value” to these shakes, “1 shake is worth 10 kilofuns”. I can use my reasoning to discover new and improved ways to produce and distribute the shake. I can use my reasoning to withstain from these shakes if I know I have a mortal allergy to chocolate. However, one thing my reasoning cannot do is justify the central premise of utilitarianism that “good=pleasure.” Reasoning does MAKE good equal pleasure. The NATURE of good and the NATURE of pleasure are not CREATED by reasoning but only discovered by reasoning.

    4) As for the evidence of agreement (ie: you and I both agree that torturing babies is wrong) this is a great way to discover moral values, but a terrible way to ground moral values. Again, if you argue that I’m just using this consensus gentium (fallacy by consensu/majority vote/popular agreement), then you have again missed the point I’m making. I am not arguing that common agreement on moral values IS the grounding for objective morality, but only that common agreement on moral values REVEALS that objective moral values exist which therefore imply that they are somehow grounded.

    5) also, I need to clarify that I am not saying that atheist morality is “suspect” on a grounding level in the sense that they are “doing good things for evil reasons” or “they are really just closet relativists who act nice on the outside.” Rather I am saying that the atheist CANNOT justify objectivity for his or her moral system without committing the naturalistic fallacy. If you can demonstrate how to rightfully derive, according to naturalism, a moral ought from the “is” of nature then I will back down on this point, but so far I have seen only evasions and retaliation, but no answers to that objection.

    You also say in regards to my accusation of a “category mistake”:
    “I’m not making a mistake, or being confused. I just disagree with you on the grounds of morality. You’ve done nothing to say it originates anywhere else.”

    I have argued that morality only makes sense given the fact of minds. Minds are sufficient grounding for morality. We do not fault frogs or rocks or atoms for immoral behavior, even if they are somehow “wayward” according to our expectations or their normal behavior. Rather we reserve moral responsibility for things with minds. I am not even arguing here against naturalistic explanations of “mind” (ie: property dualism, emergentism, etc.–I’ll suppose for the sake of argument that naturalism CAN explain the human mind without explaining it away). I am just saying, and I think you would admit, that it makes much more sense to hold persons morally responsible instead of holding non-mentally objects morally responsible.

    I then argue, after establishing human minds as a tentative groudning for morality that we have only grounded morality subjectively (relative to individuals). We have to go further however since what we do know of morality demands objective grounding. We have certain expectations and demands of our morality which are so strong and so universal that they deserve consideration are real facts. We may want to rush hastily past these “expectations” and “demands” and retain a soft view of “moral values” but then, we are not really dealing with the kind of morality that we ACTUALLY and intuitively hold. What we DO know of morality is that some moral values are objectively binding (ie: Rape is wrong, even if one person wants to do it). Morality allows for judgments across time (ie: today we can rightfully say that slavery was still evil in the 1800’s). And morality allows for judgments across cultures (ie: Hitler was wrong no matter how many germans agreed with him). All of these attributes of morality together indicate an objective grounding that is timeless and supra-cultural.

    As for the last point, “we CAN know what is good regardless of whether we believe in God or not. ” you say, “If that’s true then we don’t need God to reach morality, therefore Frank’s orginal argument – that morality proves God – is groundless.”

    I will first note that No, we don’t need God to reach morality provided he has left it out in the open for anyone to find.

    but taking it further, You show again to have misunderstood the point I was making. Let me reiterate, I think there are a lot of atheists who are quite moral, who know what morality is, who understand their own moral values and are quite law-abiding as citizens. Bravo! I have no problem there. However, my objection is instead that the atheist has to borrow parts of a theistic worldview to JUSTIFY living that way. For the atheist, these actions are utilitarian at best and absurd at worst. The atheist is hypocritical to the extent that he or she treats morality as objective when all his or her own worldview affords is subjective morality. The atheist, in attributing objective grounding and objective value to morality is tacticaly arguing FOR theism since he cannot, according to his naturalism, explain/demonstrate/justify objective grounding for morality.

    Reply
  227. Tim D. says:

    3) As for reasoning, i reiterate that reasoning is an important aspect in moral living. But all it can do in regards to morality is help in discovering and applying moral values PROVIDED there are already moral values to be discovered and applied.

    I still don’t understand why moral values have to be “objectively true” for us to respect them or even have them at all; you seem to think that we’re not allowed to believe anything that doesn’t come from a supposed “higher power,” and I believe many things that are not deemed “okay” by some imagined God — many of my personal preferences in other areas are deeply-held, and I would contest others as to their genuinity, but I don’t make the mistake of believing they are objective. Morality is no different.

    The NATURE of good and the NATURE of pleasure are not CREATED by reasoning but only discovered by reasoning.

    So wait, now the definitions of words are imparted by a higher wisdom?

    4) As for the evidence of agreement (ie: you and I both agree that torturing babies is wrong) this is a great way to discover moral values, but a terrible way to ground moral values. Again, if you argue that I’m just using this consensus gentium (fallacy by consensu/majority vote/popular agreement), then you have again missed the point I’m making. I am not arguing that common agreement on moral values IS the grounding for objective morality, but only that common agreement on moral values REVEALS that objective moral values exist which therefore imply that they are somehow grounded.

    This is a terrifying fallacy, because it shows your bias openly and extremely. You are willing to accept that many people agree on certain aspects of “morality” as “evidence” to some objective morals’ existence. And yet you do not feel the need to provide any further proof that such objective morals exist, just that they do and we “should” all see it that way.

    Rather I am saying that the atheist CANNOT justify objectivity for his or her moral system without committing the naturalistic fallacy. If you can demonstrate how to rightfully derive, according to naturalism, a moral ought from the “is” of nature then I will back down on this point, but so far I have seen only evasions and retaliation, but no answers to that objection.

    I can’t speak for Andrew, but in this view of mine there simply is no such thing as “rightfully deriving” a “moral ought” from the “is of nature.” That is a pretention best left to the religious.

    We have to go further however since what we do know of morality demands objective grounding.

    The only reason you need objective morality is because you feel that you need some kind of “blessing” in order to force your personal moral decisions on other people. You call it “objective morality,” I call it the bias of a religious fanatic hidden under the guise of objectivity. Prove me wrong, please.

    We have certain expectations and demands of our morality which are so strong and so universal that they deserve consideration are real facts.

    So if I think torturing babies is okay, and a lot of people agree with me, that means I’m right, according to what you say here. I mean, if it’s strong and universal enough, that makes it true, right?

    What we DO know of morality is that some moral values are objectively binding

    No actually, it’s not. If I wanted to rape someone or kill someone and I knew how to do it without getting caught, then I would not be bound by such personal morality. Now a law, on the other hand, is legally binding, but not really “objectively” binding, because in order for it to be objectively so it would have to be consistently and without exception. The fact of the matter is, it’s impossible to track down and capture everyone who has ever committed (or will committ) rape.

    You still haven’t proved why/how rape is “wrong.” In your view, it just is for no reason. That makes no sense; why is it wrong? How is it wrong? It disturbs me that you cannot answer these questions.

    Morality allows for judgments across time (ie: today we can rightfully say that slavery was still evil in the 1800’s).

    How? On what grounds?

    And morality allows for judgments across cultures (ie: Hitler was wrong no matter how many germans agreed with him).

    I could say the same for you; how would you defend yourself? Oh, right — we all secretly believe the way you do, but we just don’t want to admit it. Right?

    All of these attributes of morality together indicate an objective grounding that is timeless and supra-cultural.

    If only you understood, people have been saying the same thing since the beginning of human society….

    I will first note that No, we don’t need God to reach morality provided he has left it out in the open for anyone to find.

    Where? Where is it? That’s all I want to know. You keep asserting, over and over, that this is the case and that it “just is,” for no reason. So demonstrate how it is so. If you cannot, then it is not so — simple as that.

    However, my objection is instead that the atheist has to borrow parts of a theistic worldview to JUSTIFY living that way.

    No, an atheist does not have to “borrow” theistic aspects in order to have moral beliefs. Our personal experiences are our only way to relate to the experiences of others; as such, it makes sense to share empathy with other people based on personal moral concepts. If something makes us feel bad, it can be assumed to make others feel bad. Now, given that personal feelings of morality can easily transcend rational thinking (i.e. if I think killing is “bad,” I’m likely to believe as such even if it’s in a situation where it technically seems “okay”), that’s not out of some dutified sense of “objectivity” but rather out of the association between the ending of life and negative sensations. If someone I cared about died, it would make me feel bad; my biology leads me to make the same assumptions of others.

    You say compassion is not enough, that we simply must have some objective morality, or else there’s “nothing stopping us from killing each other!” I tell you to look around at the world, and see that people do kill each other each and every day, in some cases for little or no reason. That alone is proof that your faux-morality is not binding in any way.

    Reply
  228. Andrew Ryan says:

    “you have not explained how one can derive a moral ought from nature (ie: ‘what is’).”

    I have answered this question John! I said that I’m not claiming that you CAN derive it. I clearly said that you are making the claim that there is a moral ought, not me.

    Reply
  229. Spencer says:

    I find it, to a certain extent, humorous that people can assert that they are sick of hearing “we’re nothing but a bunch of chemicals and atoms” then try to refute the belief that their worldview doesn’t think like this, and to prove it, they claim that their lives are filled with such things as Love, Passion, Etc…

    Here’s the question I have for you. What is LOVE, or PASSION, or JEALOUSY?

    honestly, go look them up in a dictionary, Ill even do the first one for you

    Love: An intense feeling of deep affection.

    Now tell me this, what is FEELING? everything you claim to know all boils down to, in your own world view, Chemicals and Atoms. Feeling comes from chemicals telling neurons to fire with axons and hyperpolarization in your brain, so that means that your “love” is scientifically nothing but “Chemicals, Atoms and Electricity” (oh I put a new one in their for you). This is the same thing with your “moral beliefs”. to you, a moral belief is nothing but a stimulus in your brain, most likely having something to do with the hippocampus.

    So saying that you are sick of these statements from us bigoted Christian is just so ridiculous that we have to point out to you that you must be sick of your own world view.

    Reply
  230. Andrew Ryan says:

    “However, my objection is instead that the atheist has to borrow parts of a theistic worldview to JUSTIFY living that way. For the atheist, these actions are utilitarian at best…”

    Utter nonsense. For a start, utilitarianism is a good thing. I’ll take a leaf out of you ‘Whether you admit it or not…’ book here and say that almost everyone ultimately refers to a form of utilitarianism when trying to show why something is immoral or moral. Virtually all attempts to show that an action is immoral centre on the harm it causes.

    Second, I borrow nothing off theism. If anyone is trying to ride on the coat tails of others it is a) the Christians, whose religion is built from a grab bag of other religions and b) the creationists, who reject science and biology, and yet are happy to enjoy the advantages of modern medicine and food production, many aspects of which benefit from our understanding of evolution.

    Atheists have a non-supernatural explanation for morality. I’ve already explained that it is YOU claiming there is an ought, not us. Many animals display ‘moral behaviour’ and yet they have no concept of religion. The only thing that differs in humans is that we can try to REASON the most moral action, whereas the apes can only go on their instincts.

    To say that atheists are hypocritical, or that we should logically abandon ethics and turn to anarchy, is yet further nonsense. Apart from a few fringe libertarians, most citizens in capitalist societies accept the system of money. Neither dollars or sterling has an objective, transcendent value – does this make them worthless? No, they have the value society agrees to grant them.

    Now, imagine a man tells you that money in fact DOES have a holy, objective value, imbued by his God, Mamon. He can’t believe that you just think it’s paper! Shocked, he levels the following charges at you:

    1) Seeing as you don’t worship or even acknowledge the existence of Mamon, you have no right owning money. If it’s not holy, that means it’s worthless, right? So rip it up, or you’re a hypocrite.
    2) If you use money, you’re riding on Mamon’s coat tails, or tacitly admitting his existence.

    Now, MY answer to this believer is as follows:
    1) The fiscal system benefits society, that’s reason enough to abide by it.
    2) I don’t have to believe cash has transcendent value for me to value it.
    3) Believing that money is holy makes no practical difference to how you spend it or earn it.

    Likewise to you with morality.

    Reply
  231. Andrew Ryan says:

    “common agreement on moral values REVEALS that objective moral values exist ”

    It reveals nothing of the sort. It shows only that two people have agreed on something. You can’t infer objective morality from that; It doesn’t in any way make it objectively true. People can reach common agreement on all sorts of things – it doesn’t mean that they are right (which we both agsree on), or that an objectively ‘right’ answer even exists that transcends the two people.

    Reply
  232. John Ferrer says:

    Ryan, about the Moral Ought you said: “I have answered this question John! I said that I’m not claiming that you CAN derive it. I clearly said that you are making the claim that there is a moral ought, not me.”

    That is my point. You have not given an answer but a concession. You have just conceded the argument to me. I’m fine for debating the finer details of theistic moralism now, but I just want to make sure that we have established what it seems you are conceding: Your brand of atheism does not deal in moral values but, at best, subjective preferences/opnions/pleasures/etc.?

    Reply
  233. John Ferrer says:

    By the way, morality without an “ought” is not morality. By its very definition morality refers to what one “ought” to be and do. Animals do not demonstrate moral behavior, but only altruism on some occasions. However altruism is morally neutral if it happens among sub-mental beings since they KNOW NO “purpose” (ala: an ought), they can only, at best DO according to what they are naturally directed to do. There is no sense in calling altruistic behavior “good” or “evil” unless we can first justify that living, or certain animal species, or pleasure are themselves “good” and hence infer a moral value or “ought” to any of those things (like living, the survival of a species, or experiencing pleasure). Even if a computer, or a trained animal, or a brochure were designed/trained/programmed to follow “morally good behavior” they would still not BE moral beings since they lack the moral responsibility to KNOW right from wrong and CHOOSE accordingly.

    Morality is much more complex than naturalism affords.

    Reply
  234. Andrew Ryan says:

    “You have just conceded the argument to me.”

    No, you conceded it to me. You have no proof of an ought. And you’ve gone many, many posts without even attempting to do so. Therefore I conclude you have no answer.

    Reply
  235. Tim D. says:

    It reveals nothing of the sort. It shows only that two people have agreed on something. You can’t infer objective morality from that; It doesn’t in any way make it objectively true. People can reach common agreement on all sorts of things – it doesn’t mean that they are right (which we both agsree on), or that an objectively ‘right’ answer even exists that transcends the two people.

    Exactly the point I’ve been making; on those grounds, it would be easy to charge that the Nazi regime was “right” because they mutually agreed on something. Therefore the argument fails.

    P.S. Andrew, I really like your money metaphor. I’d never really though about it that way 0_0

    That is my point. You have not given an answer but a concession. You have just conceded the argument to me.

    I don’t think any such thing has occurred; conceding that objective moral values do not exist (and that you believe they do) is a facet of (my) atheist argument, essentially. I suppose if you’d prefer the sarcastic approach then by all means, declare yourself some sort of “winner,” but I don’t really see how that’s going to help at all.

    Your brand of atheism does not deal in moral values but, at best, subjective preferences/opnions/pleasures/etc.?

    All morality deals on this basis. The only difference between you and I is that I am willing to admit my beliefs are not “blessed by a higher authority,” and you are not. That is all.

    Keep in mind also, that you are the one who needs to do the proving. I’ve lived a happy and effective life thus far with my brand of “morality,” and I have no desire to adopt your apparently “go-with-the-crowd” brand. So unless you can prove your case beyond “well everybody else (that agrees with me) is doing it, so it’s right,” then I will not be able to accept it. That is not only biased but intellectually dishonest; I want to say I think you know that, but I’m actually not sure — unlike you, I try not to assume that I know how others think.

    By its very definition morality refers to what one “ought” to be and do.

    Except that morality is, by nature, quite personal. So it really only refers to what one thinks “should” be done. The existence of a supposed moral “ought” does not indicate the existence of an objective moral ought. So how do you decide who is right and who is not? How do you decide who’s “collective agreement” determines what is moral? From what I’ve gathered, it seems that if they agree with you, then that means they’re objective, and if they disagree, then they aren’t.

    Morality is much more complex than naturalism affords.

    Wow. Another assertion. *yawn*

    “No it’s not!”

    Reply
  236. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Andrew, I really like your money metaphor. ”

    Cheers Tim. You notice that he had no answer to it. I think he’s given up now anyway. When someone says something like “You have just conceded the argument to me” it is often meant as a final sign-off. A kind of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, boo ya sucks’.

    Reply
  237. Tim D. says:

    Cheers Tim. You notice that he had no answer to it. I think he’s given up now anyway. When someone says something like “You have just conceded the argument to me” it is often meant as a final sign-off. A kind of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, boo ya sucks’.

    [badger]

    I’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that’s not true, at least for awhile…..I really hope that’s not true, in any case, because that’s rather depressing. All this time I have never really and truly understood the Evangelical argument for OM — exactly what they think it is, and how they determine what it is, especially in this context where they say it can be reached without God, given that they admit God is the source of morality — but I think I’ve learned a lot about it here. Even so, if this is all there is to it, I have to admit I’m quite disappointed; I figured it would at least be a bit more complex.

    Take this, for example:

    (a) “God is the source of objective morality”
    (b) “You can find objective morality without assuming the existence of a God”
    (c) “If we assume OM exists, then we must assume that God exists”

    These statements are all contradictory. If assuming OM is real automatically implies the existence of God, then the second statement cannot be true! In which case the other party here is either lying or ignorant, either that or they are not communicating their true argument clearly enough. Because that is what I have come to understand.

    Likewise, the following interaction disturbs me:

    Other party: “My morality doesn’t have to come from the Bible. I can see it in the world without referring to God!”

    Myself: “Alright, where does it come from?”

    Other party: “Simple: My personal feelings indicate to me that torture, for example, is wrong, and so I assume that everyone else secretly knows and believes this as well. Therefore, it is objectively moral.”

    Myself: *explains the difference between personal morality and ‘objective’ morality in a long-winded post that only 1 or 2 people probably even had the time to read*

    Other party: “Well, atheistic morality doesn’t have anything to ground itself upon! You only have personal opinions and feelings!”

    Myself: “Ah, but so do you! You admit this many times.”

    Other party: “Yes, but my personal feelings reflect the commandments of a higher power! My personal feelings reflect an objective statement, and yours do not!”

    Myself: “Is that how you would decide that the Nazis were wrong?”

    And so on and so forth….

    The obvious implication here, is that the reason the other party feels that his personal morality is somehow ordained by a higher power is because his personal beliefs have been aligned with those outlined in the Bible (though not entirely, as he has admitted he does not condone slavery….although disturbingly, he has implied that some kinds of slavery are OK, because “the kind of slavery present in the civil war was not the same kind of slavery that existed in the Bible”…?). But sadly, this latest reaction indicates that he might not intellectually honest enough to admit that. I think I understand why, too — doing so would call this discussion to a halt, as we have reached a point at which we must agree to disagree. And it is very typically Evangelical to not want to concede defeat (or even a stalemate such as this one) on the premise that “one must not give up on trying to convert the other party.” I’d like to wait and see how this discussion continues to pan out (if at all) for a little longer before deciding if the other party here fits into that category or not, though.

    P.S. It’s not always true that such a remark is a “final sign-off;” If you noticed, Bob Perry and The Trousered Ape tried something like that with me much earlier:

    This exchange alone defines this thread:

    Tim: “The only thing that is objective are the facts; everything else is an opinion.”

    Trousered Ape: “So, is that a fact or just your opinion?”

    Tim’s reply: “Both.”

    Pontificating from the seat of (self-proclaimed) omniscience, Tim is able to declare that his, and only his, comments are both opinion and fact. What he fails to realize is that his first statement is self-refuting and therefore false.

    Well done, Trousered Ape! While the dialogue is interesting to follow, the foundation of Tim’s worldview just came crashing down around him — and he doesn’t even realize it. 🙂

    Reply
  238. Tim D. says:

    BTW, here’s that slavery remark I referred to, posted much earlier by Sean G.:

    We could talk all day about whether the Bible condones or just acknowledges slavery, and whether the type of slavery in the Bible is anything close to the type of slavery we had in this country, but that is a topic for another conversation.

    Reply
  239. Sean G. says:

    (though not entirely, as he has admitted he does not condone slavery….although disturbingly, he has implied that some kinds of slavery are OK, because “the kind of slavery present in the civil war was not the same kind of slavery that existed in the Bible”…?)

    I still think this is a topic for another conversation, but since you brought it up:

    1. I noticed you focused on the second half, rather than the first. I have yet to see a place where the bible condones slavery. I could be wrong, I admit, I don’t have the whole thing memorized, but I have read the whole thing several times. If I missed something, let me know. All I’ve seen so far are references to the fact that it existed.

    2. I don’t know if you misunderstood it, or if you’re intentionally mischaracterizing it to make me look like a bad person (you seem like a decent person, so I’m assuming the former), but I didn’t intend to imply that some types of slavery are OK. That is why I preceded it with the first half. However, I would be willing to concede (given some better evidence than I’ve seen) that the Bible allows for a very particular type of slavery (if that is even an appropriate word for it). That particular type is a type in which a person, for the purpose of paying off debt, works for another person at little or no pay for a predetermined period of time. The “slave” is still treated like a civilized human being. The arrangement is voluntary, and has nothing to do with anything more than debt. I think that there are better alternatives, now, and therefore don’t think that we should practice this now even if it is allowed for in the Bible (though I’m not convinced that it is).

    I am choosing the phrase “allowed for” intentionally. The Bible does allow for some things, such as divorce, even though God hates them.

    3. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I think all types of slavery are OK. Based on your view, am I wrong?

    Reply
  240. Andrew Ryan says:

    “For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I think all types of slavery are OK. Based on your view, am I wrong?”

    We been through this 50 times already. How’s about we pretend someone else thinks slavery is OK. How do you tell them they are wrong, using your bible?

    Reply
  241. Tim D. says:

    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)

    Yeah, that totally sounds like a debt thing.

    If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. 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. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

    Hmm….

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

    If that weren’t bad enough, it seems Jesus approves of the beating of slaves as punishment:

    The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

    3. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I think all types of slavery are OK. Based on your view, am I wrong?

    I certainly think you are wrong. Of course, the difference between you and I is that I know this is my belief (although I am not hesitant to profess it); whereas you would be more likely to claim your personal beliefs are the ordinance of a supreme deity.

    Reply
  242. John Ferrer says:

    A classic mistake people make in philosophy and ethics is a brand of the ontological fallacy. In short, “if we don’t know/show HOW something is, then we don’t know THAT it is.”

    In ethics, this typical mistake says, “If you can’t show HOW God’s nature grounds morality then God’s nature does not ground morality.” Even if the theist could not show HOW God’s nature grounds morality it does not follow THAT God’s nature fails to ground morality.

    My argument is that what we do know about morality demands a mentally able being who is greater than humanity since we have knowledge of morality which is more objectively real than human minds can justify, yet it still requires a mind to make any sense at all. Thus, the theist infers that there may be a God to ground these moral values who is, at minimum, intelligent enough to conceive of moral values. The additional argument I make–not with conclusive rigor but rather probable argumentation–is that being is itself good, so, if there were a God whose essence is existence (ie: being) then he would be essentially good. this understanding of God is consistent with the fact that evil seems to be a lack of being, an absence of what should be (a lack of right order, a needless sacrifice of pleasure, an eroding of health or wholeness, etc).

    It is no fault of mine if the explanations of HOW God grounds morality comes to a stopping point long before the inquisitor is satisfied repeating “But why?” Aristotle in his Nichomachean ethics points out in the introduction that it is unfair to expect a field of knowledge to be proven by the standards of a different field of knowledge. We cannot for example “prove” either intelligent design or evolution with the same precision we can “prove” the pythagorean theorum. We must suffer the degrees of probability appropriate to that field.

    This problem is not unique to theism but could be applied to any ethical theory, since we can repeat “but why?” into an infinite regress for any system.

    One of the differences then between theistic ethics and atheistic ethics is that we can take the “why” questions a good bit deeper with theism, till we arrive at one mind (God’s)–hence we have a single grounding, as opposed to a pluralistic grounding in human minds.

    Also, the theist is not just “punting” to God belief in effort to protect his ethical opinions. Rather the theist can infer the reality of a God from the seeming reality of objective values. To repeat, it is a reasonable/rational argument (not conclusive, but probablistic–this is ethics, not math). It is reasonable to believe that morality seems to be a mental-type category, but human minds can only ground relativistic morals, yet we have latent awarenesses of evil and good which we do not consider to be mere “opinions” or inventions, therefore a greater mind than man’s likely exists to ground these morals.

    As for your suggestion that all morality is some kind of utilitarianism, this only works on a simplistic views of utilitarianism and morality. Utilitarianism rejects any moral absolutes and operates only within hypothetical imperatives (If statements)–“if you want pleasure, then do pleasurable things”). Utilitarianism denies categorical imperatives (is/that statements)–“Rape as such is evil.” But, at core, utiltarianism is not even a morality system since it does not speak to what is good but only what works for some adopted preference. Utilitarianism is only a system of applied ethics, it does not even broach metaethics and can do nothing to PROVE or even argue probabilitistically THAT good=pleasure. It has no basis for even using the term “good.”

    Utilitarianism rightly acknowledges the role that consequences play in a moral decision, but it wrongly conflates the entire moral process into that lone facet of morality. Besides the consequences, there is need to consider the means, the circumstance, the manner, the act itself, the intended end/purpose, and even the actor. Each of these is morally weighted and cannot be justified fundmentally by some simplistic appeal to an arbitrarily preferred “ends.”

    Sure “harm/pleasure” factor into a moral decision, but that is infantile morality–which psychologists admit is only the first stage of moral development. One might as well explain babies as crying, pooping, eating cooing machines–and think you’ve explained the whole of the human baby. Such reductionism cuts out the very heart and essence of the baby, and likewise, with morality, we cut out the heart of it when we reduce it to a utilitarian harms/benefits equation.

    Reply
  243. John Ferrer says:

    Andrew, you said about the argument: “No, you conceded it to me. You have no proof of an ought. And you’ve gone many, many posts without even attempting to do so. Therefore I conclude you have no answer.”

    You are then not defending your position that atheism is an adequate grounds for morality but have conceded that it cannot justify any categorical imperative or objective morality, ie: an “ought.” I repeated myself just to confirm this point with clarity. so, technically speaking, you have conceded the point I was arguing: that atheism cannot ground a moral ought.

    As for theism you are attacking its ability to justify a moral “ought,” but I do not concede your position. I have primarily occupied myself (for lack of time and energy) on picking apart of atheism. I have given only short and glancing explanations for how a robust theism is needed to justify what WE DO KNOW about morality. I have not so much argued for theism so far as I have explained its consistency.

    The problem I keep running into however is that debaters won’t admit what they know about morality. They have one ethical standard they expect people to use when acting towards them, but they have another standard that you bring out in philosohical debates, and religious debates, and in classrooms. This will not fly with me. The same relativism you espouse with me, should also translate into conversations with your girlfriend, your government, in war, and even in the courtroom. I rarely find an “example” of relativism that translates into all of these categories. usually the person arguing for relativism advocates relativism relatively, that is, so long as it works for them. But when it works against them, they become absolutists.

    For example, lets suppose there is such a thing as “the perfect murder.” The healthy life-loving person was killed in his sleep, no other family member friend or stranger was harmed as a result of it or in the process of it, and the murderer got more pleasure out of the act than the victim felt harm. According to utilitarian calculus this was a morally good act because the moral calculus weighs in his favor. I however cannot stomach the idea that human life lacks intrinsic (and moral) value so that pleasure can outweigh life, and I think most people who are honest with themselves will have to admit the same. Is this reaction MERELY a feeling? Is it MERELY an agreed OPINION among people? IF SO, then why? It is more reasonable to think that this belief we have points to reality than that it is a collective illusion. Utilitarianism rejects the idea of “intrinsic” values and holds only expedient/functionalist values (life is good if one wants to procreate/eat/fly a plane/etc.). Utilitarianism says that this instinct/belief/feeling IS a metaphysical illusion, in that it does not speak about realities of the world and human nature but ONLY about people’s opinions.

    Reply
  244. Tim D. says:

    In ethics, this typical mistake says, “If you can’t show HOW God’s nature grounds morality then God’s nature does not ground morality.” Even if the theist could not show HOW God’s nature grounds morality it does not follow THAT God’s nature fails to ground morality.

    Unfortunately for you, I am not the one burdened with proving that God does not ground morality. It is my default position that this is not the case; if you wish to prove otherwise, then it is up to you to make the case against me.

    My argument is that what we do know about morality demands a mentally able being who is greater than humanity since we have knowledge of morality which is more objectively real than human minds can justify, yet it still requires a mind to make any sense at all.

    You still haven’t answered how we know which of these “feelings” are examples of us “detecting a higher morality” as opposed to our personal feelings. I mean, by your reasoning here I could easily say that baby torture is objectively moral because somebody somewhere feels that it is okay, and you could not prove me wrong.

    Thus, the theist infers that there may be a God to ground these moral values who is, at minimum, intelligent enough to conceive of moral values.

    Pardon me, but I still don’t understand this apparent non-sequitur that, just because we feel something, there must be an objective source for it. How do you differentiate between individual impulses/emotions and “objective morality” without using a standard like the Bible, as you claim to be able to do? Everything you say after this is basically speculation, from where I’m standing.

    Utilitarianism rejects any moral absolutes and operates only within hypothetical imperatives (If statements)–”if you want pleasure, then do pleasurable things”). Utilitarianism denies categorical imperatives (is/that statements)–”Rape as such is evil.” But, at core, utiltarianism is not even a morality system since it does not speak to what is good but only what works for some adopted preference.

    I agree with this whole-heartedly. It is up to you, again, to provide evidence that we “should” seek such moral objectives as solidifiable fact. If we “should,” then all you need to do is prove it, right? So have at it, my ears are open. Where can I reach objective morality, logically speaking? How am I bound by it? Answer these questions to my satisfaction and you are finished with the debate, frankly.

    Utilitarianism is only a system of applied ethics, it does not even broach metaethics and can do nothing to PROVE or even argue probabilitistically THAT good=pleasure. It has no basis for even using the term “good.”

    It is a given that “pleasure = good.” That is what good means, in the short-term sense. If you believe in an objective definition of “good” in the long-term, then by all means provide evidence to that end.

    As for theism you are attacking its ability to justify a moral “ought,” but I do not concede your position. I have primarily occupied myself (for lack of time and energy) on picking apart of atheism. I have given only short and glancing explanations for how a robust theism is needed to justify what WE DO KNOW about morality. I have not so much argued for theism so far as I have explained its consistency.

    For the record, moral consistency =/= moral objectivity. The Bible names certain acts as “wrong” in and of themselves, but this alone does that make them so. You admit that “goodness” can be identified without the Bible….so by what standard do you measure it?

    Also, you accept these things as “good” or “evil.” On what grounds? How do you decide between the two? I still do not understand this; how is your own judgment to this end different from a “personal opinion?”

    The problem I keep running into however is that debaters won’t admit what they know about morality. They have one ethical standard they expect people to use when acting towards them, but they have another standard that you bring out in philosohical debates, and religious debates, and in classrooms.

    Well, I hate to use your words against you, but this fallacy here won’t fly with me, either — this “you secretly agree with me but you just won’t admit it” fallacy is getting kind of old, as it’s been invoked and shot down some two or three times in this and the other discussion about morality. Do I need to break it down again?

    Also, we must consider that when we argue in a philosophical sense, we are also arguing from hypothetical perspectives that we know to exist — do you mean to imply that every sociopath secretly agrees with you and just “won’t admit it?” That makes even less sense, because if they agreed with you they wouldn’t be sociopaths (well, not by the same definition, anyway).

    For example, lets suppose there is such a thing as “the perfect murder.” The healthy life-loving person was killed in his sleep, no other family member friend or stranger was harmed as a result of it or in the process of it, and the murderer got more pleasure out of the act than the victim felt harm.

    A terrible straw-man argument if I’ve ever seen one, probably the worst I’ve seen in awhile. Nowhere here has anyone argued that killing is somehow justified on the grounds that it brings more pleasure to the killer than it brings pain to the victim. Where did you pull that from?

    IF SO, then why? It is more reasonable to think that this belief we have points to reality than that it is a collective illusion. Utilitarianism rejects the idea of “intrinsic” values and holds only expedient/functionalist values (life is good if one wants to procreate/eat/fly a plane/etc.). Utilitarianism says that this instinct/belief/feeling IS a metaphysical illusion, in that it does not speak about realities of the world and human nature but ONLY about people’s opinions.

    From a “good/evil” standpoint, it doesn’t matter if it’s human nature or not. Let’s say it was human nature to fall into a Nazi lifestyle; would that make it objective? Would that make it right? No, of course not. Likewise, if it is human nature to care about other humans, does that make it objective in that it transcends our physical being? Not at all; it means that we are essentially programmed (for lack of a better word) to care about each other. If I program a robot to mass murder, does that mean the robot is morally “right” or “objective?” I mean, that is its nature, right?

    Reply
  245. Andrew Ryan says:

    “My argument is that what we do know about morality demands a mentally able being who is greater than humanity since we have knowledge of morality which is more objectively real than human minds can justify”

    Gobbledegook.

    “As for theism you are attacking its ability to justify a moral “ought,” ”

    I’m not attacking it. Just asking how it provides the ‘ought’ you claim it does. And you don’t seem to have an answer.

    Referring to our ‘knowledge of morality’ presupposes what you aim to prove – that there exists something objective to ‘know’. Our urging to do what we believe to be the ‘right thing’ is entirely explained by evolution. The ‘right thing’ is simply what on average helps the species. It supposes no ‘ought’.

    Reply
  246. Michael Eiberg says:

    Turek thinks he “won” this debate? I’ve never read such a bunch of crap as on this posting.

    Turek clearly lost this debate by any standard.

    About morality and christianity most of Europe and much of the developed world is not religious generally have higher standards of education than america, less crime and more humane systems in place for their fellow humans such as free health care and in some cases free university.

    What on earth are these assertions of religion and morality being linked actually based on, obviously not this planet.

    Reply
  247. John Ferrer says:

    Ryan, you said:

    “Referring to our ‘knowledge of morality’ presupposes what you aim to prove – that there exists something objective to ‘know’. Our urging to do what we believe to be the ‘right thing’ is entirely explained by evolution. The ‘right thing’ is simply what on average helps the species. It supposes no ‘ought’.”

    I do not PRESUPPOSE (assuming it true a priori) that there is moral knowledge to be known, I SUPPOSE morality (consider as perhaps being true) on the grounds that morality is a cultural norm across all human cultures, and many of the particular values are shared among all cultures. If morality appears within my unreflective experience of life, then it is a valid pool of evidence–for what it is worth. It is not like “morality” is intuitively ridiculous and manifestly incoherenet. Unless people are trained to reject calling things “good” and “evil,” the common sense view is that people mean something when they say “good” and “evil.” Furthermore, whatever our worldview or philosophy or scientific commitments are, it is a fair test of them to see whether they can account for such facts of life–in this case, one of those facts of life is the universal phenomenon of morality.

    You suggest that “morality” is explainable ENTIRELY in terms of evolutionary principles. By these I assume you mean the usual list of causes such as: natural selection, random chance, and deterministic mechanisms (such as laws of nature like gravity, and inertia, etc.). So, let us consider these. You may know of some others that I am leaving out, so by all means feel free to suggest them and critique the ones I list. And, for the sake of argument, I will try to leave out my whole “naturalistic fallacy” argument.

    1) Random Chance–let us we suppose that moral values are randomly/arbitrarily distributed in nature and that moral behavior is likewise a chance activity. If moral behavior is only a chance occurrence, then that means the human agent did not even cause his moral behavior else it would not be trully “chance,” but “agency” or “determinism (via the appearance of agency).” Also, people through whom immorality occurs would not be morally culpable since they did not DO anything good or evil, they were just instruments of random forces which achieved evil. One can still hold to this position, but the sacrifice is moral culpability, and human agency. And moral values are arbitrary.

    2) Determinism/Mechanism–Now we may suppose that humans are entirely determined by mechanistic forces, say through the conditioning of nature and nurture. Again though, we sacrifice moral culpability since the individual person cannot help but follow his programming, and his programming determines his internal and external behavior. Again, one may retain this view but only at the expense of moral culpability. And moral values become arbitrary.

    3) Natural Selection–the most promising natural cause remaining seems to be natural selection. By this mechanism strong, and/or lucky species survive the hostile world of “red tooth and claw” to procreate furthering their species. Lurking somewhere in that bloody history is an impetus of altruism where species protect and care for other living things thus aiding the survival of their kind, even sometimes at their own individual expense. Such martyrdom is noble in my estimation but does nothing to justify calling anything “good” or “evil.” Natural selection deals only in functionalist categories, namely, whatever functions for survival. And survivalism is hardly moralism, just ask Machiavelli. Machiavelli himself argued that the true Prince should act morally in some situations to earn the trust of his people, but we all know the difference between a political manipulator who uses “morality” to earn trust, and a genuinely good person who does not just act good but is good. The same is true in nature. Natural selection, at best is a descriptive model for explaining how some behaviors have continued through the ages, but, as any fair evolutionist will admit, natural selection is purposeless and defies moral categories such as “ought.” Whatever appearance it has of morality is illusory. Natural selection is uncaring, unfeeling, and non-conscious. Natural selection, like the rest of nature, is descriptive and so does not enter into the categories of “good” and “evil,” but instead deals only in survival. Natural selection cannot inform us as to “why” altruism should be considered good, nor can we even call altruism “good” given the categories afforded us by evolution. What is “right” about helping the species if no species have any innate or rightful value? Survival is not “good” or “better,” it just “is.” Species don’t have a “should be” woven into their being. . . . but again I digress into the naturalistic fallacy.

    So, I conclude that evolution in no way explains or justifies the moral categories that we daily and universally experience in this world. One may choose still to dismiss moral categories to prevent inconsistency in his/her evolutionism, but such a decision should be weighed carefully lest he allow one part of a skewed worldview deconstruct his a vital part of his own soul..

    The only remaining cause that the naturalist may yet bring up is human intelligence, but since this involves philosophy of mind and would make this long entry longer I’ll save that for the next time.

    Reply
  248. Tim D. says:

    If morality appears within my unreflective experience of life, then it is a valid pool of evidence–for what it is worth.

    Again, this doesn’t prove anything. There are just as many sociopathic cultures as there are “moral” ones by your standard; if this is evidence, then there is also plenty of evidence across history and the world that shows that having sex with children is okay, or that killing people for minor offenses is okay. Or that racism and homophobia are okay. The “everybody does it” defense does not work here, nor anywhere else, simply because not everybody does it. A large number of people do, but might does not make right. It is not the majority opinion that makes it so — you have admitted this before. So what does make it right?

    Unless people are trained to reject calling things “good” and “evil,” the common sense view is that people mean something when they say “good” and “evil.”

    Those are emotional attachments; it is a non-sequitur to assume that, because we feel something, there must be some external manifestation that gives us that feeling. That makes no sense; how do you assume this? Our feelings come from chemical reactions in our brain, not from some outside source. It’s how we’re trained to react to the world in order to stay alive. Although any society can condition the individual into or out of a certain “moral code” if it tries hard enough; go to the middle east and observe the hardcore Muslim countries. The extremists there will bomb a bus full of non-Muslim children without batting an eye because they believe it is moral. According to you, the fact that this capability exists in many people makes it “moral.” So is it?

    2) Determinism/Mechanism–Now we may suppose that humans are entirely determined by mechanistic forces, say through the conditioning of nature and nurture. Again though, we sacrifice moral culpability since the individual person cannot help but follow his programming, and his programming determines his internal and external behavior. Again, one may retain this view but only at the expense of moral culpability. And moral values become arbitrary.

    Oldest trick in the book. If “determinism” causes a person to behave in a way that society deems “evil” for whatever reason, there is no reason for society to give him/her a free pass by saying, “well, that was his/her deterministic mechanics, we can’t punish them.” If that were the case, then it is also the deterministic mechanic of society to respond to these actions, not for the benefit of the individual (there is no punitive effort here), but for the safety of society. So that’s a silly argument; if they “couldn’t help” acting out in such a way, then we “couldn’t help” responding in such a way, either. If everything is truly determined in advance, that is — say, by DNA or some established moral code.

    Such martyrdom is noble in my estimation but does nothing to justify calling anything “good” or “evil.”

    That’s what I don’t understand, right there; what about assuming the existence of God (or any other such force) can be said to justify calling anything “good” or “evil?” The only way you can prove that objective morality exists is by assuming it exists and making a case based off of that assumption.

    Machiavelli himself argued that the true Prince should act morally in some situations to earn the trust of his people, but we all know the difference between a political manipulator who uses “morality” to earn trust, and a genuinely good person who does not just act good but is good.

    I thought “good” was determined by actions, not by motivations or consequences? How do you know if a person is truly “good,” then? By your standards here — if we judge by motivations — then it is impossible to truly know if anyone is ever “good.”

    It seems like you’re preaching from an invisible pulpit here…..

    Natural selection cannot inform us as to “why” altruism should be considered good, nor can we even call altruism “good” given the categories afforded us by evolution.

    Sure we can; if we assume that survival/success of an individual is important, then that naturally leads to the assumption that survival of the species is important (because an individual is more likely to achieve survival and social success in a group than as an individual, thus he/she must serve the species as well as him/herself). And if we believe that the survival of the species is important, then obviously altruism can be said to be an effective or “good” method. Although that’s not a moral statement, it’s a mathematical one. But it defeats your point rather soundly either way~

    What is “right” about helping the species if no species have any innate or rightful value?

    Species exist; any living thing generally has a desire to continue living. So that importance is implied to the individual by his/her own desire to live; I don’t think you’ll find many humans who would argue for their own mass destruction as a species, much less as an individual.

    I think your problem is that you assume there is no value at all simply because we don’t value the species on a religious grounds; because we don’t believe that “God made us and chose us to do his will.” As if that were the only reason to exist?

    So, I conclude that evolution in no way explains or justifies the moral categories that we daily and universally experience in this world. One may choose still to dismiss moral categories to prevent inconsistency in his/her evolutionism, but such a decision should be weighed carefully lest he allow one part of a skewed worldview deconstruct his a vital part of his own soul..

    Two big problems:

    -Your conclusion makes no sense [/assertion]
    -I don’t believe in souls

    Reply
  249. Andrew Ryan says:

    Ferrer, Tim pretty much nailed all the things I wanted to say in reply to your post to me.

    “One can still hold to this position, but the sacrifice is moral culpability, and human agency. And moral values are arbitrary. ”

    This isn’t an argument against morality having evolved. You’re saying why you don’t like what YOU consider to be the implications of the idea (implications that I think Tim well rebbuted), but that’s not an argument against it being true.

    “The ‘right thing’ is simply what on average helps the species. It supposes no ‘ought’.””

    Well neither does anything else.

    Reply
  250. John Ferrer says:

    Tim and Andrew,

    First, Tim you made at classic rhetorical/logical error in your opening point. You fault a premise for not being the conclusion. Of course, premise one doesn’t prove anything, it is a statement on route to an argument, and is not itself the entire argument. To rephrase my point, any thinker anywhere has the initial problem of deciding what subject matter to start with, and what data and evidence to begin his inquiry in. Moral values are just as valid a starting point as any since, regardless of culture, there are taboos and norms–things deemed right and wrong–in every culture in the world. I do not even need to argue that they AGREE in any sense, but merely the fact of moral-type values is interesting and is a valid source of inquiry. I think however that it can be shown, contra Tim, that there are still common moral values across the globe which abide despite the most remarkable and wonderful variety in expressions. For a neat cross-cultural list of some of these see the appendix in C.S. Lewis appendix.

    Second, Tim writes that attributions of “good” or “evil” are “emotional attachments; it is a non-sequitur to assume that, because we feel something, there must be some external manifestation that gives us that feeling.” Unfortunately, Tim the knife cuts both ways. You claim I assume these attributions are proof, but I can counterclaim that you assume these moral valuations are just emotional attachments. If we treat this point in isolation (which is bad methodology, hence I give a larger argument) then the non-sequitur line points both ways. However, I am not assuming that attributing “good” or “evil” to things proves that they are in fact good or evil. I regret that misunderstanding, since I reject such naivete.

    What I do assert however is that if people do attribute moral value to things, and this attribution happens a whole lot, even around the globe, then it is problematic to wipe it all away dismissively as “emotional attachment,” or “vacuous,” or “foolish.” Logically, this kind of explanation is a Hasty Generalization. For one thing, calling something an emotional attachment does not in any logical sense discredit its (supposedly objective) value. You are emotionally attached to your best friend, and yet you would desperately want to call it “evil” if someone kidnapped and kill him/her. I cannot righfully discredit that claim because you are “emotionally attached” to that person. Theoretically, ALL these people may be wrong, but the burden of proof is on the skeptic. Simply saying “its all emotional attachment,” or “we are all hedonist utilitarians,” makes for neat assertions but does not constitute an argument.

    What I argued then is that the tenets of evolution deny any significant morality whatsoever. You are welcome to identity weaknesses within theistic ethics, and so you have, but theism can at least suggest that moral values occur in this world–this is suggested on the basis that theism posits a mental category, and morality is minimally a mental category. Naturalism cannot even enter the ring to discuss its contributions to morality

    Third, Let us look at some Naturalistic Attempts at Ethics:
    1) Utilitarianism breaks down into arbitrary attributes of preference (I prefer pleasure over pain; she prefers pain over pleasure; and so we calculate our actions accordingly) but this, at its most basic level, is a methodology and not a meta-ethic. it does not even pretend to justify objective moral values or abiding “oughts.” Hence it is fundamentally amoral (though not necessarily, immoral).

    2) Evolutionism (systematizing evolutionary theory to achieve values such as ethical and aesthetic values) forever commits the naturalistic fallacy and cannot derive a single ought, much less ground an ought.

    3) Relativism breaks down when it is realized that subjective preference leaves us helpless to decide between feuding people (or cultures), such as the pedophile cultures Tim refers to above (we’ll call them for ease of reference “Candyland”). Societies who reject pedophilia cannot rightfully interfere with Candyland because those people have chosen their morality. here were are approaching moral values and have, seemingly, entered the ring of morality. But, upon closer observation these attributions–lacking objective grounding–are only hypothetical imperatives, indistinguishable from any other functional ‘values’ in nature such as “this part is valuable for making my car go faster,” “this food is valuable to my sweet tooth,” “this murder is valueless to society.”

    In conclusion, these options would be okay except the humanity in us rages against such crimes against humanity as female circumcision, slavery, sex-trading, religious genocide, infanticide, gay-bashing, and forced abortion, etc. Whatever we claim to believe about morality–“its all relative,” “there are no moral values,” etc.–our deepest intuitions suggest that such reasoning is dead wrong. Tim, you expose some of your own intuitions when you deride “sociopathic cultures . . . . [who teach] that having sex with children is okay, or that killing people for minor offenses is okay. Or that racism and homophobia are okay.” Are you telling me these things are wrong, that I shouldn’t advocate or practice them? Aren’t these just emotional attachments of yours that reduce to vacuous attributions of your opinion? Be careful that in arguing against theistic ethics you don’t undercut your own moral highground. I want you to be able to call those kinds of things “wrong” and have it mean something.

    I’m all for reason, and good strong minds, but I think the height of reasoning dignifies humanity. It does not humilate man by debasing its strongest intuitions about reality, morality, and meaning.

    Reply
  251. Tim D. says:

    You claim I assume these attributions are proof, but I can counterclaim that you assume these moral valuations are just emotional attachments.

    You still haven’t shown where these so-called values come from. You say God, but how? How can this be demonstrated?

    What I do assert however is that if people do attribute moral value to things, and this attribution happens a whole lot, even around the globe, then it is problematic to wipe it all away dismissively as “emotional attachment,” or “vacuous,” or “foolish.”

    First off, the world today is much more connected than the worlds of yesterday — such as the ancient days in which the aforementioned atrocities were considered “normal.” A lot of people have similar ideas and can share their ideas much more easily. So it’s kind of cheating to say, “Hey, people just naturally express these values all over the world!” When this is actually somewhat of an illusion created by certain people’s influence over others. Again, let’s backtrack to a time where it was okay to have sex with children, own slaves and beat women.

    Second, it’s quite a bold assertion in the first place that these values are so widespread. Care to support that with some evidence?

    You are emotionally attached to your best friend, and yet you would desperately want to call it “evil” if someone kidnapped and kill him/her.

    Not in an external sense, no; I might feel strongly about it, but again, I’d be stupid to claim that my personal troubles transcend my being and become objective; that is just pretentious, to assume such a grand place in the universe.

    I cannot righfully discredit that claim because you are “emotionally attached” to that person.

    Of course you could; you could say, “What about that is evil?” To which I might say, “Everything,” or some other generic excuse. To which you could say, “But how?” And we could keep doing that until we got back to my base belief that happiness is generally a good thing; then you could question that, and since there is no real reason to believe it (other than (a) I feel it, and (b) everybody needs a given in order for logic/reason to function), then we could render anything that you or I think about anything completely meaningless.

    Theoretically, ALL these people may be wrong, but the burden of proof is on the skeptic.

    Not at all; the burden of proof lies on the one who claims:

    (a) that his/her personal values are shared by the world’s majority;
    (b) that this proves that his/her values are “objective” in any sense

    And that would be you, in this case.

    What I argued then is that the tenets of evolution deny any significant morality whatsoever. You are welcome to identity weaknesses within theistic ethics, and so you have, but theism can at least suggest that moral values occur in this world–this is suggested on the basis that theism posits a mental category, and morality is minimally a mental category. Naturalism cannot even enter the ring to discuss its contributions to morality

    Let me get this clear; “Morality” and “Objective morality” are two entirely different things. Morality is a personal system of reasoning that prevents you from doing things even when you are able to do them, for a reason that you believe serves a long-term purpose. “Objective morality” is the illusion that these beliefs are “passed down” to you from a higher power.

    hird, Let us look at some Naturalistic Attempts at Ethics:

    We’ve already been through this 3538973245 times…..

    (1) I’m not arguing a utilitarian viewpoint….
    (2) Nor am I arguing this made-up “evolutionism”
    (3) Nor am I arguing “Relativism”

    You criticize these arguments on the grounds that they do not permit grounds for “objective morality.” No belief system does, and it is you who make the claim to the opposite that is burdened with proving such a claim. Religious values are no more objective than personal ones; the only difference is that you believe they are. They are still just opinions of what is “right” and “wrong;” they are not objective because they do not enforce themselves, as all natural laws do.

    In conclusion, these options would be okay except the humanity in us rages against such crimes against humanity as female circumcision, slavery, sex-trading, religious genocide, infanticide, gay-bashing, and forced abortion, etc.

    Um….have you been to the Middle East? Or Africa? There are humans there, and the people and governments (also made up of people) readily condone such things in very many cases.

    I’m all for reason, and good strong minds, but I think the height of reasoning dignifies humanity. It does not humilate man by debasing its strongest intuitions about reality, morality, and meaning.

    Admitting that we are not pawns put here by a magic entity to enforce a natural law that cannot apparently uphold itself (as do all natural laws), and that would not need to be upholded were there no humans here to uphold it, is hardly “humiliating.” In fact, I think it’s quite sensible.

    Reply
  252. Andrew Ryan says:

    Again, Tim’s done a pretty good job at pointing out the flaws in John’s argument.

    ““there are no moral values,” etc.–our deepest intuitions suggest that such reasoning is dead wrong. ”

    Right, but you haven’t shown that out ‘deepest intuitions’ aren’t shaped by evolution. It would be most advantageous for a species to have deep intuitions that repel us from murdering other members of the same species. And like everything else shaped by evolution, you’ll find variance around a mean amongst the species. Not everyone’s deepest intuitions tell them the same things, although in general our intuitions give us a set of rules that, on average, amongst a large population, help the species (but not always the individual) survive.

    Nothing you’ve said refutes this idea or falsifies it.

    And as Tim points out, neither he nor I have claimed there are no moral values, so you’re arguing a straw man. You’ve got no evidence or explanation for why morals being supernatural in origin makes them any more real. To say morals come from a supernatural ‘all good’ God is meaningless if you don’t already have an idea of what ‘all good’ means.

    As I’ve said before, no-one believes that money has an intrinsic, objective or holy value – it’s just a system we all keep to that works and helps the species prosper. However, that doesn’t mean that money is worthless, and it doesn’t mean we might as well burn our dollars.

    Reply
  253. John Ferrer says:

    Tim, you said:
    “You still haven’t shown where these so-called values come from. You say God, but how? How can this be demonstrated?”

    What would you consider valid evidence constituting a “demonstration?” I have satisfied these criteria, but I think you have assumed some implicit criteria such as naturalistic measures or logical positivist criteria (ie: some variation of the idea that unless something is empirically or mathematically demonstrable it is not “knowledge”). IF you are assuming this kind of strict materialist criteria then you are asking more than your own theory can support; namely, the theory of logical positivism is not itself empirically or mathematically accessible, hence it cannot itself constitute knowledge.

    However, I have over and over again satisfied your EXPLICIT criteria by suggesting plausible and common-sense explanations for why moral values are real, and why we are justified in wanting an objective basis for what appears to be objective moral values between different people, and sometimes between different cultures. I have suggested that moral values, crop up in every culture around the world, without fail. And whether the cultures agree on them or not–the fact of moral valuation should not be hastily dismissed as non-evidence unless we have overwhelming counter evidence that they are false. Lacking that counter-evidence, it is reasonable and sensible to think that moral values might be real.

    If they are real, then we are justified in asking “how is it that they are real? How did they get here? What should we believe about them?” Surely, moral values are not the kind of things that you can measure in a laboratory or create by mixing chemicals. So we have already departed from the strictest forms of scientific materialism, but if we were willing to hold unto such dismissive views against strong evidence then we are defeating the “ethos of science” already by being dogmatic rather than inquisitive.

    I have suggested that individual human minds help to explain universal morality, but that our minds–understood naturalistically–are still just more of nature, more of “what is,” hence we have not escaped the threat of the “is-ought” fallacy. Furthermore, our minds–even if they were justified in creating/discovering moral values (ie: “oughts”), they seem only to justify individual or conventionalist morality. This conclusion helps explain some more things, but it is still not enough. If moral values were mere inventions by individuals and groups of humans then we must deem all revolutionaries (rebels against a perceived “wrong” in society) evil for violating cultural convention. If moral values are mere inventions then we cannot appeal to a “natural law” as was done in the Nuremberg trials to convict Nazi war crimes. If moral values are mere inventions then how are we to decide which culture’s values win out when a person is a member of two or more cultures (ie: he is an adulterous swinger in upscale city-scene; but on sunday’s he is a church going loyalist who calls adultery sin–two cultures conflict). And if moral values are mere inventions, then how do we mediate in wars and grand-scale conflicts, say, between the Axis powers and the Allies. We are left either to abandon moral valuations altogether or to hold onto them and press further for answers.

    I contend that the more human, and honest, option is to retain our moral valuations–not attributing them to illusion and sophistry–and see where the rabbit holes goes. I hear people all the time stick by their guns and say that moral values are all relative or false, but they, at the same time are not willing to sacrifice their own right to moral outright when they themselves are violated. That stance is hypocritical, and belies a cognitive dissonance.

    Following that rabbit hole further, we may rightly conclude that if morality seems to be a mental thing, but human minds cannot fill out the demands of morality as we commonly perceive it, then perhaps there is another mind that we have not accounted for. Were there such a mind, it would have to be authoritative and “grand” enough to ground our moral values–so they aren’t just idle fiat or baseless opinions. And, if there were such a mind, then it would have to have an essence of goodness–otherwise we have mere “goodness by fiat,” a kind of moral voluntarism where good is only whatever God happens to command. But He could change it tomorrow, hence, “good” is a very meaningful concept.

    But what do we mean by “essence of goodness?” That sounds a bit abstract and convoluted. Well we have another insight that might helps us here. Most everyone wants to exist, all people who can “want” want to live–all else being equal. Those that do not want to live, we usually deem “sick” or “infirm,” because the natural and healthy attitude is to “want to be.” Rocks and plants and perhaps animals do not “want to be,” but then again, they don’t “want” at all. They just are. Here is the insight: maybe being is good. Maybe it is just plain good to exist. Maybe it is good for people to live, for people to create things, for people to cultivate and edify life. Maybe there is goodness built into existence. Maybe, that grand-scale mind I suggested is itself a “being” and it is fundamentally good because its essence is existence. It is good to be, and so our own want of survival makes sense because our “oughts” flows from a built-in (designed) purpose we have as material beings (the “is”). Unless we posit a grand-scale designer (in this case a moral lawgiver) then we can never derive that stubborn “ought” from the “is” of nature. Yet we run into that “ought” on a daily basis, so often that we’d have to be blind or arrogant to reject its reality.

    I know, at this point, my explanation is so elaborate and so far removed from scientific demonstration that it may seem implausible. But it is nonetheless an attempt to listen to and reconcile evidence once it has spoken for itself (namely; the combined evidence of universal morality, the demonstrable inadequacy of relativism and conventionalism and the apparent reality that morality is a mental category). Having listened to the evidence, it seems most plausible to grant a moral lawgiver grand enough to justify a universally realized moral law.

    Reply
  254. John Ferrer says:

    1) Andrew you said: “neither he nor I have claimed there are no moral values, so you’re arguing a straw man. You’ve got no evidence or explanation for why morals being supernatural in origin makes them any more real. ”

    When you conceded to my “Naturalistic Fallacy” argument and discarded the binding “ought” category, I took that to be an admission that the prescriptions of moral values are fallacious or illusory, hence the only values that could remain are no longer “moral” values but functionalist values like, bricks are valueable for making houses; and spaceships are valuable for space travel. If I have misunderstood you, please help me understand you better; pleasure is valuable for longer life; charity is valuable for survival of the species.

    2) In support of what I call the “universal fact of morality” I put forth mounds of sociology and anthropology text books that treat “prohibition and affirmation” as cultural norms, universal phenomenon that crop up wherever you go. Try finding an introductory level sociology textbook that does not presume moral valuations to be a cultural universal. Given the fact that moral prescriptions arise everywhere people group up, the burden of proof lies on the skeptic to show that this “evidence” altogether fails to indicate moral values obtaining (ie: objective) between people and cultures. And please realize that to take the stance you are taking is not nearly so “common-sensical” as you suggest since something like 2/3’s of the world is still religious and believes in moral values common between people and cultures.

    3) Oh, and I have over and over again explained how evolution is not an adequate explanation or cause for the “deep moral intuitions” of man. That is my preoccupation with “the naturalistic falalcy.” There is not even an agreed-upon explanation (much less demonstration) for how evolution can give rise to “mind” (even if mind were reducible to brain!). Hence the mental category of “morality” is not even broached!

    The kind of “morality” expressed within (secular) evolutionary thought is reductivism and eliminativism–reducing “morality” so low that it does not qualify as “morality” in any significant sense. Sure we can call it “morality” in a qualified sense, but only in the same sense as when a fiction writer invents rules for his fictional characters to keep. This is fictionalism and has only an accidental or arbtitrary relation to reality. Unless we are speaking of moral “oughts,” prescriptions that obtain in the real world, then we are not talking about morality in the same sense that people normally mean it. It is equivocal to talk about “morality” when we mean “prescriptions” one time and “opinions/preferences” another time.

    4) Oh, and Tim, I also have to comment on what you said here: “[speaking of female circumcision, rape, etc.] Um….have you been to the Middle East? Or Africa? There are humans there, and the people and governments (also made up of people) readily condone such things in very many cases?”

    I did not ask what THEY believe about these things, since anybody can convince him/herself of the most ridiculous absurdities till they think them obvious to everyone. I don’t doubt our own ability for self-deception. So, I asked what YOU think about those atrocities. Take female circumcision for example. Which has brought U.N. and 1st world outcry from around the globe, against a few cultures which still practice it in Africa and the Middle East. Are you saying that there is nothing fundamentally evil about mutilating an adolescent girls private parts for the sole reason of making sex painful in the future so she is less likely to cheat on her husband (who himself can have up to 4 wives according to Arab code)?

    Reply
  255. Andrew Ryan says:

    ” I have over and over again explained how evolution is not an adequate explanation or cause for the “deep moral intuitions” of man”
    No. You’ve just asserted it isn’t.

    “Try finding an introductory level sociology textbook that does not presume moral valuations to be a cultural universal…. Given the fact that moral prescriptions arise everywhere people group up”

    Right, in the same way that you’ll find that humans everywhere have eyes, legs, toe nails, large frontal lobes, etc. And they’re all attributes that evolved too. You’re not doing anything to show that morality is supernatural or magic. Everything you put forward as evidence is entirely consistent with morality being an evolved attribute. But feel free to believe it’s supernatural.

    Reply
  256. Tim D. says:

    However, I have over and over again satisfied your EXPLICIT criteria by suggesting plausible and common-sense explanations for why moral values are real, and why we are justified in wanting an objective basis for what appears to be objective moral values between different people, and sometimes between different cultures.

    You’ve explained nothing; all of those things support the idea of morality, not objective morality. I’m not saying there is no morality; I’m saying there is no objective basis for it. Can you not understand this?

    Look at it this way; the fact that “we want a basis for morals between different people/groups/etc.” doesn’t mean there is one objective or true standard, any more than there is one objective or true currency. That simply makes no sense; a moral is a personal concept. How can morals be objective? They are personal! What is this standard? How can we discern it? We cannot. We all have opinions and values and beliefs — which are by their nature “personal” and therefore cannot be objective — but no matter how deeply-held they might be, they are not “objective” simply by virtue of being held so deeply.

    In other words, the fact that you really, really want objective morals to exist because The World Would Suck Without Them doesn’t make them any more objective. The fact that purported “bad” things would happen if we allowed certain social behaviors (murder, for example) doesn’t make those things “bad” objectively. It makes them bad for us, and so we agree not to let them happen. There is no magic law that snaps into place out there in the universe when we agree on this; likewise, no such law is broken when someone murders someone else. These are man-made laws, not physical or logical laws; they do not exist in any real sense, any more than the “Law” does; it is an agreement that we set into place for enforcement by us. If it were objective, we would not need to enforce it — end of story.

    If moral values were mere inventions by individuals and groups of humans then we must deem all revolutionaries (rebels against a perceived “wrong” in society) evil for violating cultural convention.

    This comment disturbs me very much, because it proves my point so well: you simply cannot perceive that they are anything else.

    Why must the group be “evil” for rebelling against an accepted truth? If the truth is “true,” then it should stand on its own and criticism should be welcomed. But in your view, an idea is useless if it cannot be used as a bludgeon against different views.

    If moral values are mere inventions then how are we to decide which culture’s values win out when a person is a member of two or more cultures (ie: he is an adulterous swinger in upscale city-scene; but on sunday’s he is a church going loyalist who calls adultery sin–two cultures conflict).

    Why does one value have to be “better” than the others? There are obvious “worse” choices — I mean, nobody wants to live in a society where murder/rape/theft/etc. are legal, because those things have the potential to harm almost anyone under various circumstances. Those are things we can mostly agree upon, objective or not (“not,” obviously, if you ask me). But when we get down to the specifics — such as homophobia or misogyny — it gets more and more trivial to refer to some imaginary “supreme moral authority.” There are people who are jerks (i.e. adulterers — keep in mind, by “adultery” I only refer to cheating spouses, not singles who skank around), at least by my standard (and I would assume by yours), but the idea that we are “morally superior” to them implies that we are somehow closer to some “objective truth” than they are. Which is not the case; we simply believe we are. And if it makes the sum total of humanity ultimately happier — some would say, better off — to enforce such beliefs, then why not enforce them? If someone is cheating on you….not only is that a complete betrayal of trust, but they also might give you a disease. Neither of these things triggers a response of “happiness” to most people. So we all seek to gain by employing these policies.

    I contend that the more human, and honest, option is to retain our moral valuations–not attributing them to illusion and sophistry–and see where the rabbit holes goes. I hear people all the time stick by their guns and say that moral values are all relative or false, but they, at the same time are not willing to sacrifice their own right to moral outright when they themselves are violated. That stance is hypocritical, and belies a cognitive dissonance.

    For the umpteenth time….you’re talking about laws, not morals. We don’t enforce morals, we enforce laws. There is no law that says, when you have the chance to do something that is legal but “morally reprehensible” for whatever reason, you have to “do the right thing.” By their nature, morals transcend laws, because a moral statement is an observation of the situation coupled with a perceived “appropriate response.” For instance, if I can work through a legal loophole to do something that is technically “fair” and technically “right,” but I choose not to out of compassion, that is a moral statement. What you are insisting upon — the ideas that we all enforce by force — are called “laws.”

    Say I choose not to press charges against a man who did something illegal but minor, like allow a tree in his yard to fall on my house, because I felt that he learned his lesson or whatever or the damages weren’t that bad. That’s not enforceable; that’s my personal decision. I have the power to do something that I see as harmful, even though it is technically within my power and my perceived “right” to do it. You can’t enforce that kind of thought, not only because we don’t enforce personal morality but simply because it’s not plausible or realistic. Sort of like trying to enforce a law that says everybody has to feel a certain way about a certain issue; it cannot be done. You’d spend all the gov’t’s money in a weekend.

    Following that rabbit hole further, we may rightly conclude that if morality seems to be a mental thing, but human minds cannot fill out the demands of morality as we commonly perceive it, then perhaps there is another mind that we have not accounted for.

    This is a logical non-sequitur; “another mind?” What do you mean? How is another mind going to make things any different? We have plenty of minds already, and none of them are objective. It seems to me this is shoddy reasoning attempting to hide a basic framework for a proposed God ideology.

    Here is the insight: maybe being is good. Maybe it is just plain good to exist.

    Non-sequitur. It is not good inherently because we want it; for in order for it to be good, this “goodness” would have to enforce itself, as all natural laws do. It does not. I assumed all this time that you were basing this OM argument on something more significant than, “we all want it to be this way, so it must be objectively true.”

    That doesn’t mean we can’t believe it or whatever, just that it’s not “objectively true.” You seem to have such a problem with this….

    Everything you’ve said after the above quote is just speculation and philosophy. Which is all fine and good, but I’m not here to debate a perceived “essence of goodness.” The very idea is speculatory.

    Yet we run into that “ought” on a daily basis, so often that we’d have to be blind or arrogant to reject its reality.

    Really? I don’t run into “oughts.” I run into, “hmm, I think”s. But never oughts. I mean, I have judgments that I make based on my beliefs but….well, that’s for the next post. I’m sure you already have plenty of problems with this one.

    But it is nonetheless an attempt to listen to and reconcile evidence once it has spoken for itself

    You mean these feelings you have, that “because we want it that means it’s good?” No, I don’t think that qualifies as evidence of any sort. “Good,” in order to be objective, must be rooted in something outside of our minds, and so desire is ruled out as evidence.
    The only way to consider the objectivity of “good” is to assume that there is an objective source; there is no problem unless we make up an objective source and say there’s a problem.

    I guess what I mean is, if God is/were real, and he/she was somehow the embodiment of morality, that would be one thing. But when a Christian makes a “moral decision,” he/she is getting those morals from the same place as an atheist. The problem is, Christians think theirs is Passed Down From God whereas an atheist believes that this comes from individual values — thus differing individual rationalities and behaviors. This explains why people are different, and it allows that people who desire to spread happiness will do so, while people who spread pain and suffering will also do so; it allows for ideologies to clash based on core beliefs, and it explains the moral state of the world today. The OM argument does none of this; it does not explain why we are free to make whatever moral choices we desire, in many cases completely (or nearly so) devoid of consequence.

    So I ask you again: If your morality is so objective, then it must be binding somehow, or else it is useless (“You ought to X” means nothing if it changes nothing; so I ought to. What of it? If I do it or don’t, the outcome is the same, morally speaking — God doesn’t jump out of the shadows and enforce this “ought”). So how am I bound to it? As a person who shares neither your religious faith nor your personal beliefs in many cases?

    Or it could be that OM is not real; that the idea of Hell exists in so many cultures as a representation of the idea that God somehow does enforce this ought, just not right now. “You’ll get what you deserve one day,” that kind of thing. The catch is, that’s a bit out of line with other such laws — no other law in existence enforces itself after the fact. If you try to break the laws of physics, you will be halted rather abruptly — you won’t be allowed to break the law, and then be punished in some “Physics Hell.” If you make an illogical statement, your calculations will be flawed or off and it will affect the experiment; you won’t “get it right” and then have to pay a price later. So it makes little sense to say that morality is in any way similar.

    Reply
  257. Tim D. says:

    P.S.

    The argument that “God gives us free will, so Heaven and Hell exist to offset the ensuing moral chaos and provide balance,” is ridiculous as well. What is the point of giving free will, then, if it is only so that we can acknowledge our own slavery? It is ridiculous to call that true free will; for it doesn’t remove the ability to make decisions on our own. It just pushes the responsibility back one step. It’s the same ultimate result — “you try to break the law and you are punished,” instead of “you can’t break the law at all.”

    I mean, punishment implies that you want to change something, or that you want to remove an offending element — rehabilitating offendors, or removing them from society, for example — so it makes no sense for humans to exist with the ability to break objective laws. If God wants to enforce a certain behavior, and He will not accept any other kind of behavior, then why allow that behavior to exist in the first place? If God does not endorse suffering, but rather He promotes efforts to stop it, then why does he allow it to exist in the first place? To build character or provide context for evil? What about babies who die of horrible diseases? How does that build character or provide context for evil? Basically, if God doesn’t want it, why is it there? Because God wanted to give humans free will because he was bored one day?

    The list of unanswered/unanswerable questions goes on and on, I’m afraid. Things are not looking good for God.

    Reply
  258. Tim D. says:

    P.P.S.

    I thought of something else.

    Someone is bound to say that “God wants us all to be moral of our own free will.” That’s flawed as well, because it is the same belief system that tells us we are damned and sinful and innately evil and need God for salvation, so we can never be “good” of our own will, even if we try, because we’re human and flawed. So God created a world where what He wants can never exist? I don’t think so. Even if we all agreed upon The Perfect Christian Morality ™ and tried to enforce it, there would be “evil” humans who disrupted that balance, and they’d go to Hell for whatever reason.

    Sort of a corrupt system, if you ask me.

    Reply
  259. Tim D. says:

    Crap, one more thing:

    I think of it like this: If God is the parent and we are the child….what does a parent do when a child is about to do something that horribly endangers them? Something that the child has been taught is “wrong” but that he/she seeks to do anyway? The parent will stop the child, rather than let him/her die. Often, the parent will do so in an apparently hostile manner — yelling, “Stop that!” or crying out for help, say when a child wanders into traffic. The parent doesn’t allow the child to damn him/herself to an early grave for the sake of some cosmic lesson. To even imagine the possibility is disturbing.

    So why, then, is it permissible to Christians for their God to do the same thing? God supposedly gives you free will, then tells you that bad things will happen unless you do what he wants; assuming this is true, there is no definite reason (aside from serious masochism) that would drive anyone to do these “bad” things. So why are they there in the first place? Inevitably, someone will use their free will to that end and will end up in Hell. So why is it there in the first place?

    [/philosophy rant]

    Reply
  260. John Ferrer says:

    who said anything about morality being “supernatural or magic?”
    That’s not what I’m asserting. Quite the opposite, I’m asserting they are quite natural, normal, and universal. The fact that they are so prominent in nature poses a problem for naturalism since, as I am arguing, they would be better explained by supernaturalism. One might as well say that all theists assert the universe is magic and that there is no “natural” realm since they think it has a supernatural cause. That is a gross mischaracterization.

    As for moral values, their utter normalcy is precisely the problem. Let me illustrate. When we investigate moral valuations we are either left to say that our moral valuations are illusory or real. You say that they are illusory–pointing to no real or innate moral value–which is certainly allowed. But to argue this point I hear only silence, and the assumption that evolution is adequate. I hear hasty explanations of how evolution is the cause, but, given that there is no laboratory or mathematical demonstration of such a grand-scale claim then you do not enjoy the shared credence of scientific scrutiny on that claim. That is not a “scientific claim,” but, at best, the beginnings of a scientific hypothesis. In the mean time though, it is merely philosophical conjecture. You are brought down to the level of us philosophers. Your intellectual high-ground is lost unless you choose to revise your hypothesis and start testing it through experimentation or mathematical demonstration.

    I say instead that the preponderence of moral valuations, the magnitude of moral valuations, and the seeming agreement along many moral lines (such as the universal taboo on overt cowardice) are all heavily suggestive evidence that these are indeed real moral values. I am not prepared to say that the vast majority of people throughout the world and history are decieved about this idea that “unqualified cowardice is shameful,” and “some things are just plain evil.” One can certainly dismiss them all as hogwash, but that dismissal is not persuasive unless it comes with an argument or demonstration more compelling than is found among those who claim they are real. In this case, since the fact of moral valuations is so overwhelmingly apparent–as a sociological and cultural norm–then the burden of proof is on the nay-sayer. It is not an argument or proof to merely say “evolution” or “naturalism.” At best, these are explanations, not arguments. And, were they arguments, they would be thin ones because of the naturalistic fallacy which I have yet to hear refuted.

    One cannot claim the credence of science by name-dropping fancy science words without the supporting evidence, experimentation, and demonstration that made science what it is in the first place.

    Reply
  261. Andrew Ryan says:

    John, you are claiming morals come from God, who is supernatural. I’m saying they evolved, same as eyes, legs, etc – a natural origin.

    I hope this makes things clearer for you.

    Reply
  262. Tim D. says:

    As for moral values, their utter normalcy is precisely the problem. Let me illustrate. When we investigate moral valuations we are either left to say that our moral valuations are illusory or real. You say that they are illusory–pointing to no real or innate moral value–which is certainly allowed. But to argue this point I hear only silence, and the assumption that evolution is adequate. I hear hasty explanations of how evolution is the cause, but, given that there is no laboratory or mathematical demonstration of such a grand-scale claim then you do not enjoy the shared credence of scientific scrutiny on that claim. That is not a “scientific claim,” but, at best, the beginnings of a scientific hypothesis. In the mean time though, it is merely philosophical conjecture. You are brought down to the level of us philosophers. Your intellectual high-ground is lost unless you choose to revise your hypothesis and start testing it through experimentation or mathematical demonstration.

    Really? I’d say their “normalcy” is the best argument that they are not supernatural. Your argument seems to be, “we feel them, so they’re supernatural.” Do you think the same of emotions? What about hunger? We feel that, so is it the gift of a supernatural authority?

    And if you’d been listening, you’d have heard a lot more than “silence” to argue that point. Also, evolution isn’t the sole cause of “morality;” a lot of things factor into what decides a person’s idea of “morality.” We only have many of the intuitions we have because of social and personal influences, such as those of religion and community. So to say that we all share the same moral impulses “by nature” is a bit of a stretch; we don’t know what we think solely by our nature, because our true nature is distorted when we are brought into a society and conditioned (from a very young age) to believe in whatever is the social norm. It’s like learning to use the toilet; social studies have shown in the past that people who have been trained to use the toilet their entire lives actually cannot use the bathroom “in their pants,” so to speak, even if they tried, simply because their conditioning is so powerful. Whereas young children can do this easily; so we know that’s not a “natural thing.” Also, before there were toilets, people could not have used them.

    Morality is kind of the same thing; a lot of our social ideas (like slavery being “wrong”) were conceived much, much later than Christianity, much later than “human nature” came into existence. These are “truths” that are passed down from generation to generation, surviving for so long not because they are “right” but because they are reasonable, and thus more people are likely to listen to and adhere to them. These ideas forge a powerful influence on people even today, and so hundreds of years of social evolution is spared each generation; instead of each generation having to re-enact the same events that the last one did, they hold to the “traditional” ideas and try to build upon those. In some cases this is widely accepted as “good” (medicine, humanism, etc.), and in others this is not so widely accepted (homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.).

    say instead that the preponderence of moral valuations, the magnitude of moral valuations, and the seeming agreement along many moral lines (such as the universal taboo on overt cowardice) are all heavily suggestive evidence that these are indeed real moral values.

    I say you are incorrect, of course~

    See, here’s the basic problem with everything you say (and continue to repeat) on the subject: the process of social evolution explains every aspect of human morality; why we feel negative emotions directed towards people who do things that are not socially admirable, or why we feel the need to protect one another. It proves that, while there is no objective morality, we are still justified in obeying our instincts to that end — and we are justified in punishing those who would interfere with the relationships that we decide to forge; if there were no laws and you were free to do whatever you want to anybody….let’s say you’re a married couple and you’re minding your own business in a shack in the woods somewhere, and some dude comes along and tries to rob both of you. What are you going to do? You’re going to stop him, and do something to assure that he won’t bother you again. You might kill him in self-defense; you might take him somewhere and drop him off, never to be seen again. Or you might just kick his ass and send him on his way. This is all natural human reaction; so naturally, in human social structures, it is natural to see traits of individual human response peppered throughout the system. Social evolution also explains why we feel the need to believe in a God; for reasons another poster proved to me quite obviously in another topic here, so we can try to “objectify” our personal moral values and force them upon others, in the event that we should feel morally superior for whatever reason. I think this comes in during a lack of sound reasoning; if someone feels something, but cannot follow through and reason it out, he/she simply cuts to the chase and attributes it to God, thus invoking the common misunderstanding that “morality denies rationality” — because refusing to think through morals completely leads to sometimes unreasonable moral ideas, and so it creates the illusion that morality cannot be reasonable.

    I think we’re agreeing about more things than we are disagreeing, actually….I mean, I do agree that we (the human race) do share some common evolutionary principles (such as self-value and value of those who have a desire to be productive as we do….as well as acknowledging that it is unfair to not afford the same value to a person like, say, a downs’-syndrome patient, simply because they cannot be as productive, because it is simply not their fault). The only thing I see wrong with your ideas, really, is the idea that they must be supernatural in order to be justified, or that there has to be some objective grounds that we can use as a bludgeon against different cultures in order for our beliefs to have value.

    At best, these are explanations, not arguments. And, were they arguments, they would be thin ones because of the naturalistic fallacy which I have yet to hear refuted.

    (1) Creationism is a pretty shaky “argument,” I might say. Social evolution explains a lot of things that creationism does not.

    (2) The “Naturalistic Fallacy?” That you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is?” It is only a fallacy if you expect to be able to; I have never claimed that you can take an ought directly from an is with no further examination. You can, however, take a criteria of what is expected, then take an “is,” and put them together to create an “ought.” This has been demonstrated multiple times; I can do it again if you’d like.

    One cannot claim the credence of science by name-dropping fancy science words without the supporting evidence, experimentation, and demonstration that made science what it is in the first place.

    What are you talking about, exactly?

    Also, I find it funny that you are trying to explain to me the fundamentals of science….it is because of these fundamentals that I “fundamentally” disagree with you on the subject of OM.

    Reply
  263. Sebastian says:

    The argument about “because we agree that X is good, therefore there must be an outside standard about why X is good, therefore god exists” is very very poor.

    Replace good with “salty”, “green”, etc., and you get the same argument, but perhaps more transparently silly. Just because we have an innate ability to distinguish between levels of Y:ness (goodness, saltyness, green-ness etc.), doesn’t mean there has to be an external “standard” to justify our (subjective, but perhaps collectively agreed upon) judgement that something is Y.

    It’s almost a semantic question. We decided to call a certain range of light “green”. It’s a bit fuzzy, and there can be disagreements on certain border colours, but that doesn’t mean there’s a god to ultimately settle the question. Same thing with morality. We have an innate ability to recognize something as “good”, we all have roughly the same subjective feeling of this, though there are disagreements in the details (see the standard moral dilemmas), but in no way does that imply that there has to be an external judge to settle the question.

    Now, if you ask where does our internal “compass” for goodness come from (as in, what natural processes causes this compass to influence us the way it does), then that’s a better question, and one that can already be answered to a high degree by biologists (we know good darwinian reasons for why various animals, mostly primates like humans, chimps etc., but others too, like dolphins, behave morally).

    Reply
  264. D. Leslie says:

    It has always amazed me that people who want to argue against GOD and His Word, the Bible, have never actually read much less studied It. God gave free will so that each of us could choose, and He will honor our choice. He does not send people to hell, we do that quite nicely on our own! Also I noticed that Chris has the mistaken belief that we were created flawed and with original sin, which also seems to indicate to me he has never even opened a Bible and read even the first Book! For Two thousand years men have tried to debunk, deny, and destroy the Bible and yet It stands. What an awesome God we serve!

    Reply
  265. Tim D. says:

    For Two thousand years men have tried to debunk, deny, and destroy the Bible and yet It stands.

    Few people have actually “tried to debunk” it; most of that, it does fine by itself~ I just like to point out where it’s flawed and incoherent/inconsistent.

    t has always amazed me that people who want to argue against GOD and His Word, the Bible, have never actually read much less studied It.

    Nice straw man.

    God gave free will so that each of us could choose, and He will honor our choice. He does not send people to hell, we do that quite nicely on our own!

    According to you, God made Hell and allows the conditions that bring about our supposed descent. Would you do such a thing to your children?

    Reply
  266. Brenda says:

    “According to you, God made Hell and allows the conditions that bring about our supposed descent.”

    I don’t see where the bible says that God made hell. It says that God created the heavens and the earth and all that was good.

    But hell has to exist just as much as jails have to exist. And for the same reason. When I’m in heaven, I don’t want a devil living next door! *smile*

    But maybe you are more specifically meaning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Maybe there is a reason it had to be there. God has a set of spiritual laws that He abides by. Maybe choice is a natural part of creation, therefore the tree had to be present.

    But as any good parent would do, God educated them about the danger of that tree. They chose to believe a lie aboubt God. (sounds familiar!)

    “Would you do such a thing to your children?

    I don’t see how this analogy works.

    If you live in a home with a spouse and children, there are dangers in the home that your children can get into and hurt themselves. So then, if a child of yours took a knife out of the drawer and cut themself, does that mean you “allowed” it and that you would “do such a thing to your children?”

    All you can do is educate your children and hope they don’t make destructive choices. Which is what God did.

    Reply
  267. Tim D. says:

    I don’t see where the bible says that God made hell. It says that God created the heavens and the earth and all that was good.

    According to this very website:

    1. Hell exists
    2. Before God created everything, nothing existed
    3. Therefore, God created Hell

    If you disagree with this, take it up with Turek and his science claims.

    But hell has to exist just as much as jails have to exist. And for the same reason. When I’m in heaven, I don’t want a devil living next door! *smile*

    Bad analogy; jails don’t torture prisoners, or at least they aren’t supposed to. Also, I doubt that God would have created a Hell for social reasons.

    But as any good parent would do, God educated them about the danger of that tree. They chose to believe a lie aboubt God. (sounds familiar!)

    Sounds very familiar. It sounds like every other bad excuse Christians use to explain away inconsistencies….

    Using the same logic with which you defend God here, I could make a great case for spousal/child abuse. Shall I demonstrate?

    If you live in a home with a spouse and children, there are dangers in the home that your children can get into and hurt themselves. So then, if a child of yours took a knife out of the drawer and cut themself, does that mean you “allowed” it and that you would “do such a thing to your children?”

    The parents didn’t create the knife and then warn the child. The parents didn’t have the choice to “not create the knife.”

    All you can do is educate your children and hope they don’t make destructive choices. Which is what God did.

    See above; also, children don’t receive eternal damnation if they don’t listen to their parents and get into trouble. Even death is finite.

    Hell defies the principles God sets in the Bible; eye for an eye, equal punishment to fit the crime. Hell is eternal; no crime is eternal. So eventually, no matter how extreme a crime can be, eternal torment is too extreme; long after the person has paid his/her dues, he/she will continue to suffer. You tell me, is that closer to justice or sadism?

    Reply
  268. D. Leslie says:

    Hell is a real place or Jesus wuold not have bothered teaching that it was , however it was not created for us but for Lucifer and a third of the angels who followed him. So it seems to reason that if you choose , God can certainly make room for those of us who want to reject Him.

    Reply
  269. Tim D. says:

    Hell is a real place or Jesus wuold not have bothered teaching that it was ,

    Unless he or his teachings were, you know, false as well.

    Circular argument FTW!!

    Reply
  270. Andrew Ryan says:

    You go first and prove that every other religion’s teachings are false.

    That you can’t prove a negative is not an argument for anything supernatural for which there is no evidence. I can’t prove that there aren’t invisible unicorns stamping round my office, that’s not evidence for their existence.

    Reply
  271. Tim D. says:

    You seem to be real good at making assumptions. so lay down your evidence and proof that He or His teachings are false.

    It’s not an assumption, it’s a hypothetical. I didn’t say they were false, after all — however, it’s a possibility because it can’t be proved that they are “true.” If one is to believe they are, one must simply accept them at face value without further examination.

    Also, you can’t prove that Odin doesn’t exist. So by your logic, I’d be right to declare that He does.

    Reply
  272. D. Leslie says:

    First of all , I haven’t made any claims here, particularly about any other religions. The Bible makes historical claims about the life , death, and ressurection of Christ. Tim D. said few people have tried to debunk (discredit is another definition) the Bible and then turns right around and suggests that Jesus Christ or His Teachings or both are false. I was merely trying to determine his understanding of the word debunk, But thanks for noticing and taking part.

    Reply
  273. Tim D. says:

    The Bible makes historical claims about the life , death, and ressurection of Christ.

    Claims that I do not feel are supported by evidence in real life.

    Tim D. said few people have tried to debunk (discredit is another definition) the Bible and then turns right around and suggests that Jesus Christ or His Teachings or both are false.

    Yeesh….you hear the word “false” and your ears just disappear, or something? If you’d listen you’d hear the context of that remark….

    The point was this: you attack the perspective of one who does not believe in Jesus’ teachings based on the idea that they are true. What you do not understand is that the people who do not “follow Jesus” are people who do not believe that his teachings are worth following — i.e. that they do not reflect reality, or that they are not reliable as a moral compass, to coin a phrase~ A reason which you do not believe is valid. But let it be said, you will accomplish nothing (especially to the end of “converting” such a person) if you just assume that said teachings are right and preach based off of that; you must back up and enforce the idea that they are true. Making such an assumption kills your argument before it gets its feet off the ground.

    Reply
  274. Tim D. says:

    So your saying that the history never took place? like some people think the holocaust never happened

    (1) Yes, I am saying that I very much doubt that Jesus actually rose from the dead or performed any miracles.

    (2) Not that I’m really surprised anymore, but that’s a terrible comparison. For one, the Holocaust is verifiable. Jesus’ existence is only confirmed in the Bible itself; he is very interestingly absent from a striking number of ancient texts dating back to around the time the events in the Bible supposedly took place.

    Seriously, is that the best you can do? Comparing me to a Holocaust denier?

    Reply
  275. Andrew Ryan says:

    D Leslie, if you think that the huge body of evidence supporting the holocaust is equivalent to the evidence for Jesus, then you’re practically a holocaust denier yourself. We have no verification for Jesus’s existence outside of the bible. And even if we did, we have no evidence for the extraordinary claims made about his life.

    Compare it to the wealth of corroborative evidence we have for his contemparies such as Herod or Ceasar. We would expect a lot of evidence for kings, sure. Lack of evidence for Jesus doesn’t mean he didn’t exist. It just means it’s facile to compare not accepting ‘the history’ as related in the bible to denying the holocaust.

    Reply
  276. D. Leslie says:

    I merely posed a question, and I don’t see the need for either of you to get so defensive. As I stated at the start , It is a choice for each idividual to make. Whatever that choice is God will honor! I am not trying to convert anyone , and I am not a proponent of religion. I happen to think we have enough religion in the world now, And none of them were started by Jesus. It is not a religion that God wants with you or anyone, it’s a relationship! We can carry on with a debate forever and I’m sure it will not change your mind nor will you change mine, You may dismiss the evidence of His life if you wish, or call the writers and witnesses liars. To my knowledge nothing but allegations have been made about the Bible and nothing ever proved wrong, However I recognize your right to your opinion. If you are coming down on the side of evolution, naturalism, or materialism as your belief system , they also require Faith. However in the last thirty years or so science discoveries point away from mindless random chance .

    Reply
  277. Andrew Ryan says:

    “You may dismiss the evidence of His life if you wish”

    What evidence? I’ve seen none outside of the bible for me even to dismiss.

    “evolution, naturalism, or materialism as your belief system , they also require Faith”

    Evolution is backed by hundreds of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers, in several different disciplines (biology, chemistry, archaeology, geology etc), stretching back 150 years. If evolution requires faith then so does accepting that the earth is round. I don’t have ‘faith’ in either proposition – I accept the mountain of evidence that supports them.

    “However in the last thirty years or so science discoveries point away from mindless random chance .”

    Evolution has NEVER been about random chance. Natural selection is not random – the clue is in the word ‘selection’. If you believe it’s random, then it just shows you don’t actually understand what evolution is.

    I’m not being defensive, or offensive. I’m just trying to answer your argument.

    Reply
  278. D. Leslie says:

    Well, since your so open minded about the sciences, why don’t you check out Lee Strobel and The Case for a Creator and read or hear what some of those “peers” say . Evolution is not nor never has been a fact even though it’s taught as one , it is still a theory.

    Reply
  279. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Evolution is not nor never has been a fact even though it’s taught as one , it is still a theory.”

    You obviously don’t know that the word ‘theory’ means in science. Clue: it doesn’t mean ‘thing we’re not sure about yet’. Hence ‘theory of flight’, ‘number theory’ etc. And I can quote a load of books to you too, with titles like ‘God: the failed hypothesis’. The ‘you should read book x’ avenue gets us nowhere.

    Reply
  280. D. Leslie says:

    Not as open minded as I thought. Thats OK. It’s been said that the reason the atheist can’t find God is the same reason a theif can’t find a cop. Some people just quit growing and learning, maybe because their afraid of what they might find.Truth is not a subjective matter of taste, it’s an objective matter of fact. The bottom line is that most atheist who are honest about it admit that the reason they wuold rather have darwinism be true is so they won’t have to be accountable to a Holy just and righteous GOD. D. Leslie Phd.

    Reply
  281. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Some people just quit growing and learning”

    And some people never learned in the first place. Why don’t you either a) learn what the scientific meaning of theory is or b) decide not to use the term as if you DID know, thereby showing yourself up.

    Peace out.

    Reply
  282. Tim D. says:

    I merely posed a question, and I don’t see the need for either of you to get so defensive.

    It was a terrible question with a ridiculous premise. You guys don’t seem to realize; outside of Christianity, Holocaust/HC-denial references are not anywhere near as run-of-the-mill or common, nor are they thrown out with such reckless abandon. In fact, they are usually taken quite seriously.

    s I stated at the start , It is a choice for each idividual to make. Whatever that choice is God will honor! I am not trying to convert anyone , and I am not a proponent of religion.

    This little word game always used to irritate me, but now it actually makes me feel better. It means Christians are getting desperate to distance themselves from the responsibility that one must accept as a collective church (i.e. the crimes and atrocious “beliefs” propogated by the church and its followers), while still being allowed to take credit for all the “good” things (such as community efforts).

    Although Christianity will always be a religion, whether Christians want to call it that or not. This is just semantic word-play.

    To my knowledge nothing but allegations have been made about the Bible and nothing ever proved wrong,

    Funny, same deal with Odin. And Zeus.

    However I recognize your right to your opinion. If you are coming down on the side of evolution, naturalism, or materialism as your belief system , they also require Faith.

    News flash: to believe in anything requires faith. One must be able to trust one’s feelings, or trust one’s impulses. One must be able to trust one’s own desires, as well. Even if you feel something is “good” (like, say, God), how do you know you can trust that? You don’t. You just do, because to deny these basic things would prevent you from functioning in any real way.

    However in the last thirty years or so science discoveries point away from mindless random chance .

    Well it’s a good thing that evolution has nothing to do with “mindless random chance”~

    You may dismiss the evidence of His life if you wish, or call the writers and witnesses liars.

    I don’t think you grasp how this works; the Bible is not evidence, the Bible is a claim. There is no evidence outside of the claim to support the claim.

    Well, since your so open minded about the sciences, why don’t you check out Lee Strobel and The Case for a Creator and read or hear what some of those “peers” say . Evolution is not nor never has been a fact even though it’s taught as one , it is still a theory.

    A “theory,” in the scientific sense, is something that is proven to be conclusive in every circumstance in which it has been experimented upon, but that cannot technically be proven with 100% efficency in that there are certain factors that simply cannot be tested….but since there are absolutely zero counterexamples to blow any real holes in the theory, it is accepted as “as true as we can know it to be, given our limited scope of the universe.” If you have a better idea that has been scientifically verified moreso than evolution, then I’m all ears.

    It’s been said that the reason the atheist can’t find God is the same reason a theif can’t find a cop.

    Wow. You just compared me to a criminal. Good for you.

    Some people just quit growing and learning, maybe because their afraid of what they might find.

    Yeah, because you know, the only reason people aren’t Christian is because they’re AFRAID OF THE TRUTH.

    Do you listen to yourself talk?

    Truth is not a subjective matter of taste, it’s an objective matter of fact.

    And how do you claim to be any closer to this “truth” than I or anyone else? Because you feel like God is touching your life in some distant metaphorical way that can only be proven to you? Talk to me again when you have a foundation for your outlandish claims.

    The bottom line is that most atheist who are honest about it admit that the reason they wuold rather have darwinism be true is so they won’t have to be accountable to a Holy just and righteous GOD.

    Of course. I mean, I’ve gone through all the trouble in my life to try and determine what I believe is right and wrong, and how to improve the lives of myself and others, and make my world a better place for everyone who wants to be a part of it, and try and make peace with people even though they disagree with me, all because I’m afraid of the idea of morality and peace and happiness. Right.

    And if you’re a PHD, I’m Odin of Valhalla.

    Reply
  283. D. Leslie says:

    At least yuo are thinking? I myself have made my choice, just like C.S.Lewis , Lee Strobel and many others, who were also Darwinists and Athiest just as I was. I sincerely hope whatever you choose works out for you both.

    Reply
  284. Tim D. says:

    At least you are thinking? I myself have made my choice, just like C.S.Lewis , Lee Strobel and many others, who were also Darwinists and Athiest just as I was. I sincerely hope whatever you choose works out for you both.

    I grasp the implication that I’m supposed to change from a “Darwinist” or “Atheist” to whatever you consider yourself to be, and although I disagree with that expectation, I can say that I, too, sincerely hope whatever you choose works out for you as well. It may not be much, but at least we have something in common~

    And yes, I am always thinking. Never misunderstand that I have “made up my mind” one way or the other about the existence of God; it’s simply that I don’t see it as rational for me to believe in Him at this point. Not to say I don’t think it’s rational for you to believe in Him; perhaps you’ve seen something that I have not? In any case, based on what I have observed, I have not seen compelling evidence. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that, if God does exist, He will “show Himself” to me just so I will believe….but at the same time, I am not willing to make a drastic leap of faith in this interest. Such a conversion would require compelling evidence, not a strict desire to believe. I think anyone who claims they have “100% made up their mind” one way or the other is either very deluded or very unique, in terms of experience.

    Reply
  285. John Ferrer says:

    Tim,

    You illustrate my point when I say, “the preponderence of moral valuations, the magnitude of moral valuations, and the seeming agreement along many moral lines (such as the universal taboo on overt cowardice) are all heavily suggestive evidence that these are indeed real moral values.”

    You say that I am , “See, here’s the basic problem with everything you say (and continue to repeat) on the subject: the process of social evolution explains every aspect of human morality; why we feel negative emotions directed towards people who do things that are not socially admirable, or why we feel the need to protect one another. It proves that, while there is no objective morality, we are still justified in obeying our instincts to that end — and we are justified in punishing those who would interfere with the relationships that we decide to forge; if there were no laws and you were free to do whatever you want to anybody….let’s say you’re a married couple and you’re minding your own business in a shack in the woods somewhere, and some dude comes along and tries to rob both of you. What are you going to do? You’re going to stop him, and do something to assure that he won’t bother you again. You might kill him in self-defense; you might take him somewhere and drop him off, never to be seen again. Or you might just kick his ass and send him on his way. This is all natural human reaction; so naturally, in human social structures, it is natural to see traits of individual human response peppered throughout the system. Social evolution also explains why we feel the need to believe in a God; for reasons another poster proved to me quite obviously in another topic here, so we can try to “objectify” our personal moral values and force them upon others, in the event that we should feel morally superior for whatever reason. I think this comes in during a lack of sound reasoning; if someone feels something, but cannot follow through and reason it out, he/she simply cuts to the chase and attributes it to God, thus invoking the common misunderstanding that “morality denies rationality” — because refusing to think through morals completely leads to sometimes unreasonable moral ideas, and so it creates the illusion that morality cannot be reasonable.”

    Again, you have responded by giving another explanation, and not a scientific demonstration. Describing what you think is the case, and what scientists theorize is the case does not amount to a scientific argument, since science is distinguished by experimentation and mathmeatical demonstration. To repeat, you are more than entitled to make philosophical arguments about how evolution is adequate, but know that you are thereby neglecting the credence lent to Scientific demonstration. Your “intellectual highground” is illusory. We are both mustering philosophical arguments for our case, we are both metaphysicians.

    Moreover, I think you are still missing a key point of my argument. I am not saying that people merely have a tendency to feel certain ways about things and we term these feelings “morality.” If that were all that morality is then the evolutionary account would weigh a little stronger (in my mind at least). Instead, what I’m saying is that humanity by and large BELIEVES and THINKS that these “moral values” are real, and objective, and binding on other people. Sure we have “feelings” about them, but those feelings are just what we would expect if there were IN FACT actual objective moral values in reality.

    I say you are incorrect, of course~

    See, here’s the basic problem with everything you say (and continue to repeat) on the subject: the process of social evolution explains every aspect of human morality; why we feel negative emotions directed towards people who do things that are not socially admirable, or why we feel the need to protect one another. It proves that, while there is no objective morality, we are still justified in obeying our instincts to that end — and we are justified in punishing those who would interfere with the relationships that we decide to forge; if there were no laws and you were free to do whatever you want to anybody….let’s say you’re a married couple and you’re minding your own business in a shack in the woods somewhere, and some dude comes along and tries to rob both of you. What are you going to do? You’re going to stop him, and do something to assure that he won’t bother you again. You might kill him in self-defense; you might take him somewhere and drop him off, never to be seen again. Or you might just kick his ass and send him on his way. This is all natural human reaction; so naturally, in human social structures, it is natural to see traits of individual human response peppered throughout the system. Social evolution also explains why we feel the need to believe in a God; for reasons another poster proved to me quite obviously in another topic here, so we can try to “objectify” our personal moral values and force them upon others, in the event that we should feel morally superior for whatever reason. I think this comes in during a lack of sound reasoning; if someone feels something, but cannot follow through and reason it out, he/she simply cuts to the chase and attributes it to God, thus invoking the common misunderstanding that “morality denies rationality” — because refusing to think through morals completely leads to sometimes unreasonable moral ideas, and so it creates the illusion that morality cannot be reasonable.”

    Reply
  286. Tim D. says:

    Again, you have responded by giving another explanation, and not a scientific demonstration. Describing what you think is the case, and what scientists theorize is the case does not amount to a scientific argument, since science is distinguished by experimentation and mathmeatical demonstration.

    i.e. “You can’t prove it!” The idea of God existing is much less likely than the idea that I have presented here (and make no mistake, I am not the first person to present this idea).

    To repeat, you are more than entitled to make philosophical arguments about how evolution is adequate, but know that you are thereby neglecting the credence lent to Scientific demonstration. Your “intellectual highground” is illusory. We are both mustering philosophical arguments for our case, we are both metaphysicians.

    Not really; I never cared much for metaphysics, myself.

    Instead, what I’m saying is that humanity by and large BELIEVES and THINKS that these “moral values” are real, and objective, and binding on other people.

    I think that’s a bit of an over-assumption; a lot of people assume these things are, because it’s easier to justify forcing beliefs on other people that way, but I don’t think a lot of them would argue (or even be able to argue) that they are “objective” in that sense, if you asked. Most people just don’t know or care one way or the other if their beliefs are “objective;” hell, many folks probably wouldn’t even know what you meant if you asked them if they believed in objective morality.

    Sure we have “feelings” about them, but those feelings are just what we would expect if there were IN FACT actual objective moral values in reality.

    Again….your assumption is even more wild than the explanation I offered earlier. “IF God is real, then of course our moral compass would detect Him.” But what if He is not? Yours is an explanation, but you offer no evidence to support it. We understand and support certain virtues as a species; it makes perfect sense that these virtues abide by what helps the species stay alive. God is only necessary in this equation if we assume he exists; otherwise, everything comes perfectly together and God is not needed.

    You keep supposing and supposing that OM is real….you keep saying, “IF God is real, then this and this and this…” but you have yet to prove either case. You say that, because a lot of people think their values are objective, that makes it the case. To use you folks’ Nazi comparisons again, I’m sure a lot of Hitler’s guys thought their beliefs were objectively true, as well. Does that mean they are? Of course not. The fact that any number of people believe that their beliefs are objective does not make them so. It’s as simple as that. You have nothing beyond this assumption that it does. Social evolution is something that is studied in the fields of History and Social Studies every day; the idea that God magically planted morals into our brains is not, and cannot be studied. Therefore it is actually grounded less in science than the idea of social evolution, and by a long shot.

    Reply
  287. Andrew Ryan says: