On the Wrong Side of God, Evolution & Humanity

We’ve been told that people who want to maintain the man-woman definition of marriage are “on the wrong side of history.” Perhaps they are correct. Maybe “history,” which is determined largely by how people behave, will continue to move toward defining marriage as genderless in the 90 percent of governments that still maintain the natural definition. But what’s the take-away? Jump on the bandwagon?

Remember, Moses was on the wrong side of the golden calf. And Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was on the wrong side of Dred Scott — the 1857 Supreme Court decision that declared blacks were “so far inferior that they had no rights.” Being on the wrong side of some popular moral assertion doesn’t mean your position is wrong.

Now that five judges say that same-sex marriage is a new “right,” let’s ask a more foundational question. Where do rights come from? Specifically, where does the right to same-sex marriage come from?

If you say that rights come from governments or constitutions, how can they really be rights? Isn’t a right something you have regardless of what a government says? For example, if same-sex marriage is really a right, then you actually possess that right even if you live under a government that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. You may not be able to exercise it, but you have it nonetheless.

Moreover, if there is no overarching moral standard that transcends human governments, then how could we prosecute Nazi soldiers for violating the rights of others? The Nazis were just following their government.

The truth is, rights don’t come from men or governments. Instead, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,” as our Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence. In fact, that was the entire point of the Declaration — the government of King George was usurping the rights of colonists, so we declared our independence.

Some argue that evolutionary theory provides us with a right to same-sex marriage, but one doesn’t even have to challenge evolutionary theory to see that something is wrong with that argument. If natural selection has a goal of survival and reproduction, then how could same-sex marriage help with that? Such marriages are an agreement to stay in a sterile and medically unhealthy relationship — the exact antithesis of survival. In fact, if everyone lived faithfully in same-sex marriage, the human race would end quite quickly. (I’m not saying that same-sex marriage laws would accomplish this, just that the observation shows a real moral and consequential difference between natural marriage and same-sex marriage).

An even more basic problem with the evolutionary argument is that moral rights don’t result from evolutionary processes. Rights are prescriptive and come from an authoritative person. Evolutionary processes are descriptive and have no authority to tell you what to do. How does a mutating genetic code have the moral authority to tell you how you ought to behave or how you ought to treat others?

The truth is, just as history describes what does happen and not what ought to happen, biology describes what does survive, not what ought to survive. Why should humans survive as opposed to anything else? And which humans? Mother Theresa? Hitler?

Those who want to follow evolutionary theory are led to a dark place. Murder would be OK if it helped you survive, thrive and better reproduce. Rape would be OK because if it helped propagate DNA.  And a society might justify exterminating the weak and undesirables to improve the gene pool and help the desirables survive. In fact, Hitler used evolutionary theory to justify just that. Homosexuals were many of his victims.

So if rights don’t come from governments or evolution, then where do they come from? To truly be rights, they can only come from an authoritative being whose nature is the very standard of perfect Goodness. That’s what we mean by God.

Without God there is no authoritative moral standard beyond humanity, which means that every action or behavior is merely a matter of human opinion. The murder of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals? It’s just your opinion against Hitler’s opinion. Child crucifixions? It’s just your opinion against that of ISIS. Freedom of speech? That’s just your opinion against that of a dictator. Gay bashing is bad? Again, just your opinion.

The same holds true with any supposed right, including the right to same-sex marriage. While you can get five judges to assert it is a right, without God, it is just an opinion (thus the Court’s judgment is aptly named).

But couldn’t God approve of same-sex marriage?

The major religious books state just the opposite. So does the Natural Law derived from God’s nature. Thomas Jefferson called this “Nature’s Law,” from which we get “self-evident truths,” including the truth that people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Same-sex marriage is not one of those self-evident truths. In fact, Jefferson and other politically incorrect Founding Founders called homosexual acts “crimes against nature” because such acts go against the natural design of the body and frustrate the goal of perpetuating humanity. This observation is not based on bigotry but on biology. (It’s ironic that our Founding Fathers were more apt to follow science than today’s secular left who ignore science when they insist that biological gender is changeable and sexual behavior is not. The exact opposite is true!)

The issue of slavery does not invalidate Jefferson’s judgment. Jefferson understood that slavery was wrong and admitted so, even if he succumbed to the temptation to keep his slaves throughout his life (it was Darwin who believed in the “favored races”). Simple observation tells us that every race of human is fully human. And nature tells us that mixed-race marriages lead to healthy offspring. Indeed, experience has shown that bigger gene pools are healthier than smaller ones. The natural law that points away from homosexual relationships also points away from racism.

Since real rights can only come from God, if you want to insist same-sex marriage is a right then you must assume that God is for same-sex marriage. But then you must also assume the implausible notion that God wants you to harm your own health and that of the human race by contributing to its extinction. How’s that for love? Don’t be fruitful. Don’t multiply. Don’t survive. Same-sex marriage is not only on the wrong side of God and nature; it’s on the wrong side of humanity.

So if not from governments, evolution or God, where does the “right” to same-sex marriage come from? Our imaginations. Perhaps well intended imaginations, but imaginations nonetheless.

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86 replies
  1. John Moore says:

    Please, for the sake of your Christian readers, stop presenting this silly straw-man version of evolution. It doesn’t justify murder or rape – that’s just silly. Remember that evolution is a long-term force. Any short-term gains a murderer or rapist might make would surely be lost in time.

    Hitler did not use evolutionary theory to justify his acts. That’s just silly. Eugenics is not evolutionary theory – in fact it runs contrary to evolutionary theory because eugenics is artificial man-made selection, whereas evolution requires natural selection.

    You can certainly make a case against evolutionary morality, but not with these silly straw-man arguments. Your Christian readers are surely smarter than that, and they deserve better.

    Reply
    • Michael W Nicholson says:

      You are mistaken. The founding father of eugenics was Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. Eugenics, allied with “Social Darwinism”, advocated selective breeding of humanity to assist evolution. The most “fit” race was considered the white race. Darwin did not disapprove, and early German and, yes, Nazi, social engineers used these ideas in their program for creating a “master race”. You should read Edwin Black’s book, “War Against the Weak”. You also confuse the issue of rape. No one is arguing that advocates of evolution are advocating rape. The point is that, if evolution were true, it would favor any and all behavior that increased survival fitness. If rape increased survival fitness, then evolution would “favor” rape. You should read “A Natural History of Rape”. While the authors do not advocate rape, they do argue that rape is an evolutionary “adaptive” behavior. The point is, absent a God who is the foundation of objective moral values, no one can say that rape, or any other behavior, is morally wrong, even if the behavior is objectionable or displeasing.

      Reply
      • TGM says:

        “…no one can say that rape, or any other behavior, is morally wrong, even if the behavior is objectionable or displeasing.”

        Well, so what? Is there anybody out there who can explain to me why it matters that we can call something -objectively- morally wrong? Why is it not enough for me to subjectively believe something to be wrong? What value does “objective” add?

        I would be thrilled to be educated on the Christian fetish for objective moral values.

        Thanks!
        -TGM

        PS> Please allow me to skip the discussion ahead by preempting a few likely responses:
        1.
        Q: There are conflicting subjective moral values. How do we resolve this without an objective standard?
        A: Experience suggests that this is exactly what the world is like – the conflict between subjective moral values. Our present moral values are the collective result of the survival of the most successful subjective morals, with considerable disagreement remaining, by the way. How does an objective standard, one you already allege exists, resolve this?

        2.
        Q: An objective standard tells us who is right. Isn’t that important and necessary?
        A: No. Maybe it makes you feel better. But what good does an objective standard offer to somebody who does not accept your “objective” values or their foundation? How does being objectively right do you any good unless someone already subjectively agrees to accept your objective values? Besides, it seems apparent from experience that being “right” in a practical way is typically the result of having “might”.

        3.
        Q: God exists and it matters to Him.
        A: If you say so. But that has little bearing on why objective moral values are intrinsically valuable.

        Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        Michael, you start by telling John he is mistaken but nothing you say actually contradicts what he said. Eugenics is selective breeding, artificial selection, which is by definition completely different to natural selection. They have no more in common than soil erosion has with digging a hole in your garden.

        And the fact remains that Hitler banned books on evolution and denied that speciation occurred.

        And how does a God help you against rape? Plenty of rapists are religious (if not most). Would-be President (and darling of the ‘politically incorrect’ Christian Right) Donald Trump yesterday claimed that married men should be allowed to rape their wives. Rather, he said it was IMPOSSIBLE for a married man to rape his wife – even if he used force, it doesn’t count as rape.

        So now you just get arguments about whether God agrees with him. I guess many Christians will be sure Trump has God on his side and that this kind of rape isn’t so bad.

        Reply
  2. Andy Ryan says:

    ‘it was Darwin who believed in the “favored races”’

    This is a very misleading parenthesis with specific regard to attitudes to slavery. In contrast to Jefferson, who you admit, ‘succumbed to the temptation of owning slaves’ – a temptation or desire I’ve never once had – Charles Darwin was an opposer of slavery and a supporter of abolitionism:

    “I have watched how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery. What a proud thing for England, if she is the first European nation which utterly abolish is it. I was told before leaving England, that after living in slave countries: all my options would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negros character. It is impossible to see a negro & not feel kindly toward him; such cheerful, open honest expressions & such fine muscular bodies; I never saw any of the diminutive Portuguese with their murderous countenances, without almost wishing for Brazil to follow the example of Haiti; & considering the enormous healthy looking black population, it will be wonderful if at some future day it does not take place.” ― Charles Darwin to Catherine Darwin (May 22 – July 14 1833) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 1 1821-1836 (1985), pp. 312-313

    While Darwin was a man of his time with regards to how he viewed black people, the phrase ‘favoured races’ referred to species, not ethnic groups of humans. You can find many passages where he said things about other races that are racist by today’s standards, and indeed any standards, the fact remains that he was very vocal in his opposition to slavery. Donald Trump made sweeping generalisations about Mexicans recently, but we don’t deduce from that that he supports slavery!

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Favored races is referring to humans, not other species. Here is what Darwin said in the Decent of Man in 1871 (note the phrase “races of man”):

      “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla (p. 521).”

      Of course all of that is beside the point anyway. The real point of this article is that without God there are no rights to anything. If we are just physical beings, then we are governed completely by the laws of physics and Dawkins is right: there is no good or evil right or wrong… we just “dance” to our DNA.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “Here is what Darwin said in the Decent of Man in 1871”

        Frank, the phrase ‘FAVOURED races’ appears in a different book though – and that book doesn’t refer to human races at all. My point stands.

        The quote you supply says nothing to contradict my point that Darwin loudly opposed slavery. It’s a prediction from Darwin that certain races would wipe out other races, which was a reasonable prediction to make at the time given what he had observed of white people killing other races in their tens of thousands – a practice he time and time again opposed.

        “Of course all of that is beside the point anyway”

        Frank, if the reference to Darwin is beside the point then I suggest you remove it. At best it is misleading in suggesting that Darwin supported slavery, when in fact he was a strong opponent of it. I don’t see how it supports you defence of Jefferson anyway: “The issue of slavery does not invalidate Jefferson’s judgment. Jefferson understood that slavery was wrong and admitted so, even if he succumbed to the temptation to keep his slaves throughout his life”

        Why does it not undermine your notion of a man’s judgment that he ‘succumbs to the temptation to keep slaves’? That doesn’t show great judgment to me, at least in that example. Have you even been tempted to keep slaves? Even given that you lack the opportunity, is it something you’ve ever even wished for?

        Reply
        • Frank Turek says:

          No Andrew, I don’t think your point stands. If he had meant favored species he would have said so. Since when are “races” species? And even if Darwin was personally against slavery a few decades before he wrote his books, that doesn’t mean he thought the races were equal. The whole point of evolutionary theory is that we are advancing. Obviously, Darwin thought the Caucasian race had advanced further than the Negro race.

          But again, all this is beside the central point of the article: there are no rights without God. Evolution, if it is true, might give us moral feelings but not moral absolutes.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “If he had meant favored species he would have said so”

            Darwin used ‘race’ to refer to pigeon breeds and types of mollusc. The word had different connotations in the 19th Century. The fact remains that the book with the title referring to ‘favoured races’ makes no reference to races of humans.

            “even if Darwin was personally against slavery a few decades before he wrote his books”

            You’ve given no reason to believe Darwin changed his mind on the issue of slavery. You were contrasting Darwin with Jefferson. The fact remains that Jefferson kept slaves while Darwin was an abolitionist. Even if Darwin appears racist to us today (and his views on race were not in any way extreme at the time), it’s misleading to suggest he favoured slavery, and yes my point there does stand.

            “The whole point of evolutionary theory is that we are advancing”

            As a side point, whether or not Darwin believed Caucasians are ‘more advanced’, advancing isn’t ‘the whole point of evolutionary theory’. All the adaptations a species might make to adjust to a change in the environment could well be reversed over time by another change. There is nothing in the theory to say that a species must get smarter or stronger or quicker over time. If the environment favours a creature with a simpler brain, smaller muscles or slower reaction times, then slower, weaker and slower creatures will be ‘favoured’ by natural selection. In times of scarce food, this will indeed happen – the brain eats up 25% of the energy we consume. If a species starts living underground then its eyesight will most likely get worse over generations. It will become more adapted to its particularly environment, but it isn’t ‘advanced’ in the sense we use the term.

            “But again, all this is beside the central point of the article”

            Sure, but the reference remains misleading, whether it supports your central point or not.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “If he had meant favored species he would have said so. ”

            Frank, have you read the book in question?

  3. Frank Turek says:

    Hi John,

    You are correct that evolution, or nature alone, does not give us moral absolutes. That’s the point I make in the article.

    However, have you read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” or seen any Nazi propaganda videos from the war? Hitler certainly used evolutionary theory in an attempt to justify the Holocaust. Hitler believed that we were transgressing against the law of natural selection by allowing the Jews and other undesirables to live. He also said that if they do not fight, they have no right to live. I unpack much of this in Stealing from God: Why Atheists need God to make their case.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      Frank, John’s point stands – eugenics is the opposite of natural selection. Artificial selection, which was what Hitler attempted, has been practiced by mankind for thousands of years. The whole point of natural selection is that it happens naturally.

      If Hitler believed in evolution and believed one race was less well adapted for its environment then it would follow that he’d believe that race would die off naturally. That’s what happens with natural selection. Attempting genocide suggests lack of faith in this process! The idea that if you kill off a perceived enemy then they won’t be around any more doesn’t require any ideas from Darwin. Furthermore, Hitler rejected that speciation took place and he banned books on evolution. If you’re going to cite Mein Kampf and look at Hitler’s justifications, you also need to admit that again and again he cites his Lord as justification, far more than biology. His anti-semitism was also very influenced by the writings of Martin Luther. As it happens, Hitler also put gays in concentration camps.

      Reply
      • Frank Turek says:

        Hi Andrew,

        Yes, as I said above, there are no moral absolutes that come from evolution or a godless nature. However, without God we have no grounds to condemn Hitler for “personifying nature”(Darwin’s words) and carrying out the Holocaust. It’s just our opinion against his.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          “There are no moral absolutes that come from evolution or a godless nature”

          Thanks for your reply, Frank, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the points I made.

          “It’s just our opinion against his.”

          That also has nothing to do with the points that I made in the above post.

          Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Andy, I’m curious about something. You said, “eugenics is the opposite of natural selection. Artificial selection, which was what Hitler attempted, has been practiced by mankind for thousands of years. The whole point of natural selection is that it happens naturally.”

        Given Darwinism, what is “artificial” selection? Are you asserting that “artificial” selection is somehow “unnatural”?

        On Darwin’s view, man’s intelligence, reason, ability to think long-term, and record information for the next generation in written form are all abilities that evolved “naturally”. Evolution gave us the ability to understand evolution itself. So if our understanding gives us the ability to tinker with the process by eliminating those competing for the same resources as our own group/tribe/nation/etc., or by selectively breeding those with attributes we desire, then how is that not simply a case where that group of humans is more fit for their environment by virtue of the knowledge the mechanics of evolution?

        You further said, ” Attempting genocide suggests lack of faith in this process!” Yet, you again are setting man apart from all other organisms. Evolution does not care what confers an advantage.

        If you’re a Trekkie, then you probably understand what I mean by the term “Kobayashi Maru”.(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru) For non-Trekkies, the Kobayashi Maru is a StarFleet training exercise placing a cadet in the captain’s chair facing a no-win situation. Captain James Kirk was the first to win the simulation; however he did it by cheating. He changed the rules of the game.

        What’s applicable about this is that while the Starfleet instructors were angry that Kirk cheated, the simulation didn’t care at all. It’s a computer… a machine. It’s not alive to care!

        Similarly, while artificial selection may be a “cheat”, in that it uses the mechanics of evolution to achieve results different than what would occur if an organism did not possess the knowledge to do such a thing and the resources to leverage this knowledge, evolution does not “care” about this at all.It’s just another advantage possessed by one organism that is not possessed by others.

        Why then should we? You raise the question, “If Hitler believed in evolution and believed one race was less well adapted for its environment then it would follow that he’d believe that race would die off naturally.” Why should he wait? Why should he not use the advantage of his knowledge and resources? Isn’t this in itself a form of artificial selection?

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          Terry, humans have been carrying out artificial selection for thousands of years – in other words, long before Darwin shared his theories. The whole point of what he showed was that it happened naturally – i.e. without planning, blindly, with no end goal in mind.

          It’s pretty funny that right-wing Christians will often deny that natural selection could create significant change in a species, and when people point out that the huge variance we see in dog breeds have all arisen in a few thousand years – they were all simply wolves relatively recently – the fundamentalists will say “Oh, but that’s ARTIFICIAL selection. That’s like Intelligent Design!”.

          But then when people point out that the Nazis and eugenics is all about artificial selection, suddenly the same fundamentalists will shrug and say “What’s the difference?”!

          “So if our understanding gives us the ability to tinker with the process by eliminating those competing for the same resources as our own group/tribe/nation/etc.”

          Dictators have attempted to wipe out their enemies for thousands of years. You can find examples of it in the bible. “If we kill off all of that tribe, they won’t be there any more to bother us/ eat our food etc” doesn’t require knowledge of ‘evolutionary theory’ so this is a complete red herring.

          Reply
          • Terry L says:

            Yeah, I get it. I think you missed my point.

            Those who claim to believe in atheistic evolution often want to somehow set mankind apart from other organisms without justifying this move. That what I see that you’ve done by separating “artificial” selection and “natural” selection. That distinction, given the worldview of atheistic evolution, is meaningless.

            On atheistic evolution, intelligence is simply an advantage preserved by the non-intelligent “natural” selection. We can use our understanding of genetics, which is an advantage preserved by natural selection, to influence the evolution of other species for our own benefit. Further, we can use the same knowledge to influence the evolution of our own species. This is the very definition of natural selection!

            Natural Selection — the process by which forms of life having traits that better enable them to adapt to specific environmental pressures, as predators, changes in climate, or competition for food or mates, will tend to survive and reproduce in greater numbers than others of their kind, thus ensuring the perpetuation of those favorable traits in succeeding generations. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/natural+selection) (Emphasis added.)

            This leads to a few questions:

            1. Is intelligence different from any other advantage, such as finches growing longer beaks when water is scarce?
            2. Isn’t intelligence “natural”? If yes, then why should we abandon “natural” for “artificial”?
            3. Is there any survival advantage possessed by any organism that they should refrain from using? If your answer is “Yes”, please identify that advantage and explain why it should not be used.

            By insisting that there is a distinction between “natural” and “artificial” selection, you are, in fact, recognizing that there is something special about mankind that sets us apart and makes us different from other organisms. I agree with this… but it’s a theist’s perspective!

            Christians will often deny that natural selection could create significant change in a species…

            I don’t contend that inter-species variation cannot take place. That claim is countered by a great deal of evidence. I do contend that variation resulting in a different kind of animal (i.e. a primitive cat becoming a bird) is not supported by the evidence and is, in fact contra-indicated by many studies that show limits on how far a given feature of an organism can vary.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Terry, using this logic, the term ‘natural’ becomes meaningless in any context. Why are skyscrapers, computers and planes not part of the ‘natural world’? Why draw a distinction between natural foods and artificial ones? Why talk about ‘artificial insemination’.

            Natural and artificial have usable, understandable definitions. Again, if there’s no difference between artificial selection and natural selection, then you can’t say Darwin offered anything new to what humans had understood for centuries before him. The distinction between the two was the whole point of his studies.

          • Terry L says:

            So, Andy, what exactly DOES “natural” mean? Is a beaver dam “natural” or “artificial”? What about a bird’s nest? Or a rabbit hole?

            Why is it that we tend to think of artifacts created by animals as being more “natural” than human artifacts? Doesn’t it seem that we all, atheist and theist alike, recognize that there’s something different about humanity? This very distinction between artificial and natural points to this fact.

            However, according to Darwinism, we have no warrant for such a distinction. We might say that an artifact is man-made, or that dog breeding is human-influenced, but to say it is somehow artificial is to suggest that we are somehow un-natural, or as I would put it, super-natural.

            As a theist, I believe that humanity is set apart. We, unlike other animals, are made in the image of God. How do atheists account for the distinction?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “or that dog breeding is human-influenced, but to say it is somehow artificial…”

            I find your post quite bizarre Terry.

            Creationists are always using the analogy of a watch in a forest standing out from its surroundings because it isn’t naturally occurring. According to you there is no actual distinction – a watch is a naturally occurring phenomenon because we’re natural and so anything we do is part of nature!

            Natural selection by definition happens naturally – which is to say it’s not being done DELIBERATELY, with an end goal in mind. As I’ve pointed out several times, man has carried out artificial selection of plants and animals for thousands of years, through a process we well understood. The revolutionary idea of Darwin (and others around the same time) was that the process happened naturally – without intent.

            To say there’s no difference between the two is like saying digging a whole is a form of soil erosion!

            “So, Andy, what exactly DOES “natural” mean? Is a beaver dam “natural” or “artificial”? What about a bird’s nest? Or a rabbit hole?”

            They’re not naturally occurring, obviously. No, there’s no real difference between a human dam and a beaver dam, aside from scale and complexity.

            “Doesn’t it seem that we all, atheist and theist alike, recognize that there’s something different about humanity?”

            We appear to be the only animals that can plan ahead to breed other animals. That’s a significant difference that one doesn’t need God to explain.

          • toby says:

            “Creationists are always using the analogy of a watch in a forest standing out from its surroundings because it isn’t naturally occurring. According to you there is no actual distinction – a watch is a naturally occurring phenomenon because we’re natural and so anything we do is part of nature!”

            Andy, this is my problem with intelligent design. Intelligent design, seems to encompass fine tuning and the cosmological argument. So using these arguments together you can conclude that everything is designed. And how does that work? Without a “not designed” thing literally anywhere in the universe, how can anything be said to be designed? How is design measured or even known at all? I think Matt Dillahunty says it something like this (regardling Paley’s watch), “You’re not walking down a beach and find a watch, you’re walking down a beach of watches on a world made of watches in a universe made of watches and picking out one of them and saying, THIS is designed.”

          • TGM says:

            Quite true, Toby. This is why the Paley argument is nonsense.

            But cdesign proponentists do not exclusively use the complexity=design argument. Another (only slightly superior) argument they make is that DNA is an intelligent, specified code (aka information) that necessarily derives from a thinking being. This, too, has it’s flaws…

            1.It has not been demonstrated to be a specified code.
            2 It has not been demonstrated that codes only derive from thinking beings.
            3. No mechanism has been demonstrated to effect code making in the natural world by something non-natural (whatever that means), nor has any method even been proposed that can discern a mechanism.

            Please pardon my brevity for not elaborating the rationale behind these concerns.

          • Terry L says:

            Andy:

            According to you there is no actual distinction – a watch is a naturally occurring phenomenon because we’re natural and so anything we do is part of nature!

            Yes. But I’m not speaking from my worldview. I’m saying that:

            a. According to atheistic naturalism, men are nothing more than highly-evolved animals.
            b. Given (a), men are no more non-natural than any other animal.
            c. Watches, atomic bombs, strip mines are all human artifacts.
            d. By the above, watches, atomic bombs, and strip mines are natural artifacts.

            You however claim that all of the above are artificial… but you agree that if this is the case, then beaver dams, rabbit holes, fox dens, etc. are all artificial as well. Fine… this is a semantic issue, and I’m happy to use this language. So let’s agree for the sake of argument that artifacts and processes that are produced by an intelligence for a purpose are artificial; artifacts and processes that arise without design and purpose are natural.

            Three questions:

            First, are artifacts created by natural artifacts and processes natural or artificial?

            You see, given atheistic naturalism, an avalanche is a natural process. What it leaves behind in its wake are natural artifacts. A tidal wave is a natural process. The aftermath of the tidal wave are natural artifacts.

            However, by your definitions, intelligence itself is a natural artifact and/or process. By what logic does it follow that we should change categories at this point? If intelligence itself is the result of an undirected process without design, then how does this confer design and direction to the next stage of artifacts?

            Secondly, and somewhat related, how does this work with “grandfathered” causes? For example, assume cause “A” leads to effect “B”, “B” in turn leads to “C”. Is A then a cause, however indirectly, of C?

            If you say “no”, consider the case of a software compiler. It has an intelligent designer (“A”), so it is an artificial entity (“B”). It is used to produce an executable file (“C”). I’m sure you would agree that the executable file must necessarily be artificial.

            If you say “yes”, assume “B” is intelligence. Then, “A” is natural. “B” is natural. But “A” is an indirect, yet necessary, cause of “C”. Is “C” natural or artificial?

            Further, assume “A” is intelligence, and “B” is a mound of dirt, pebbles, and leaves that have been purposefully gathered in a pile for later removal. This washes into a storm drain and causes a clog (“C”).

            Is the clog natural or artificial?

            And lastly, can natural selection utilize artificial artifacts and/or processes?

            You said that, “We appear to be the only animals that can plan ahead to breed other animals. That’s a significant difference….” Does natural selection not work the same way if we use this significant difference, this advantage, to further our species? We do it all the time, right? To produce dairy cows that give more milk, for instance…

            Does it matter if the animals we’re breeding are humans?

            If it does somehow matter, then natural selection is not “without intent”. By your words, it becomes an artificial process. Artificial processes demand an intelligence and a purpose.

            If it doesn’t matter, then please defend your assertion, “Attempting genocide suggests lack of faith in this process!”

            On the contrary, it seems to be supreme faith in the process! If selection (of any stripe) can do what Darwin claimed, then genocide or sterilization of a sub-optimal people-group could vastly improve the human genome quickly, perhaps (when combined with selective breeding) doing in just a few generations what unguided “natural” selection would take centuries to accomplish.

            TGM:

            Please pardon my brevity for not elaborating the rationale behind these concerns.

            I’m sorry, brevity is great, and something I should practice more. But in this case, “brevity” equates to “silence”. That makes your statements nothing more than assertions without any defense at all.

            I’m a professional software designer/developer. I understand a thing or two about coding, and frankly, without support for your positions, I can’t accept any of them as rational. Perhaps I’m not clearly understanding some of the positions you’re trying to take. If you would care to defend your statements, I’ll be happy to consider your defense.

          • Terry L says:

            Andy, one other thing… is a baby natural or artificial? It certainly seems that some quantity of intelligence and design is required to produce a child. I know people who have planned for years for their children.

          • TGM says:

            Sorry Terry, sometimes “brevity” just means it’s late and I’m tired. So…

            “That makes your statements nothing more than assertions without any defense at all.”

            My statements do not require any defense because they are not statements of position – they are rejections of the positions that ID supporters take. My rejections can be dismissed easily if you would make the demonstrations that I seek. Demonstrate that DNA is a specified code, that it necessarily derives from intelligence and that there is a way to show that non-natural processes (whatever that means) can affect the natural world.

            However, an explanation of my rationale might clarify why I make these rejections…

            I don’t know how we demonstrate a data stream is an engineered code, absent evidence for a coder. But, we certainly cannot use a non-natural intelligence as evidence for a coder because that would assume the designer we are trying to demonstrate. Therefore, we must show the stream has been intelligently devised by some other method. Do you have that method? We frequently model DNA as a code, but a model is simply an artifact to help us talk about DNA. “Code” in this respect is an interpretive property, not an engineered one.

            Determining that DNA necessarily comes from a mind is similarly challenging. You have to show that it is impossible for a non-intelligent source to generate what all evidence shows is a series of chemical reactions differentiating according to well understood principles.

            I’m all ears.

          • Terry L says:

            TGM:

            Thanks for your response. I understand that we cannot fully defend every single statement we make here in every post (I’d never get any sleep at all!), but you made three strong assertions which constituted near 50% of your post without providing any evidence at all–not even a link to another website. Without support, I stand by my classification of these as assertions and not arguments.

            You say they are just rejections of another position. However, even such a rejection requires some reason and evidence to be valid.

            So I guess I’m asking one of the standard “Tactics” questions… how did you come to these conclusions?

            Your stated positions were:

            1. [DNA] has not been demonstrated to be a specified code.
            2 It has not been demonstrated that codes only derive from thinking beings.
            3. No mechanism has been demonstrated to effect code making in the natural world by something non-natural (whatever that means), nor has any method even been proposed that can discern a mechanism.

            At first glance, I can tell you that these will be difficult to defend, as each of your points take a negative position. In other words, you are not arguing from a position of knowledge… from what you know, but from a position of ignorance… from what you do not know.

            Have you really heard every single argument for calling DNA a specified code? That’s what your first statement implies. At best, you should say that you have no knowledge of such a demonstration. But this much-weaker position undermines your conclusion that Paley’s argument is nonsense, and that the identification of DNA as a code is flawed.

            As I said, I’m a software developer. DNA and computer software are quite similar in many ways. But don’t just take my word for it:

            “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created” — Bill Gates, “The Road Ahead”

            How about the comments of one who is probably in agreement with your conclusions? H. Brevy Cannon, writing an article about Richard Dawkins’ visit to UVA in 2009 writes:

            While Darwin was limited to observing such qualitative sameness among species, a similar lesson is much more discretely apparent in comparisons of the genetic code of various creatures.

            To begin with, it’s striking that all life, from plants and animals to bacteria, viruses and fungi, rely on the same DNA coding mechanism to carry the biological instructions guiding how the creature is put together, Dawkins noted. What varies from one animal to another is not the code’s structure or mechanism, but the individual genes.

            Thanks to the Human Genome Project and similar projects that have uncovered the gene sequences of other animals, such as the chimpanzee, scientists can now compare the code among different species. They can be textually compared, like a Biblical scholar might compare two scrolls containing the book of Genesis. When every letter of two gene sequences is compared, scientists find whole ‘sentences’ and ‘paragraphs’ of identical DNA ‘text.’

            — news.virginia.edu/content/richard-dawkins-universal-dna-code-knockdown-evidence-evolution (Emphasis added.)

            Or how about Dawkins himself, in “The Blind Watchmaker”?

            It is raining DNA outside. On the bank of the Oxford canal at the bottom of my garden is a large willow tree, and it is pumping downy seeds into the air. … [spreading] DNA whose coded characters spell out specific instructions for building willow trees that will shed a new generation of downy seeds. … It is raining instructions out there; it’s raining programs; it’s raining tree-growing, fluff-spreading, algorithms. That is not a metaphor, it is the plain truth. It couldn’t be any plainer if it were raining floppy discs.

            Now regarding point 2: “It has not been demonstrated that codes only derive from thinking beings.”” I’ll ask you for a demonstration at this point of any existing, complex code that we know for certain was not generated by an intelligence. Only one should be sufficient to destroy the induction that codes require intelligent origins.

            Dawkins himself, seems prepared to agree that DNA might have required an intelligent origin… only he thinks it was an alien. (www.theoligarch.com/richard-dawkins-aliens.htm)

            That leaves point 3: “No mechanism has been demonstrated to effect code making in the natural world by something non-natural (whatever that means), nor has any method even been proposed that can discern a mechanism.”

            To this, I quote Arthur Conan Doyle: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

            But, we certainly cannot use a non-natural intelligence as evidence for a coder because that would assume the designer we are trying to demonstrate.

            You’ve cast the argument incorrectly. I would say this:

            1. DNA is a highly complex, sophisticated code, far more intricate than any man-made code ever devised.
            2. All such codes that we know of originate from an intelligence. By induction, we have strong evidence that all codes require an intelligent source.
            A. Therefore DNA was designed by an intelligence. (From 1 and 2)

            3. No natural cause can possibly account for the existence of DNA. (For evidence, see Meyers, below).
            B. Therefore, the design of DNA must necessarily have been created by a non-natural intelligence. (From A and 3)

            Where in this argument did I assume a priori the “designer we are trying to demonstrate”?

            But have we eliminated all non-intelligent and/or natural sources of DNA? To answer this, I refer you to Stephen Meyer’s book “Signature in the Cell” (www.signatureinthecell.com/) In this book, Meyer goes through the exercise to demonstrate exactly what you challenge in your last paragraph, the mathematical impossibility of DNA arising from nothing more than natural causes.

            Have a great, and restful, day!

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Terry: “Dawkins himself, seems prepared to agree that DNA might have required an intelligent origin… only he thinks it was an alien. ”

            What an odd thing for you to say. Ben Stein asked if there was any circumstance under which it would be possible for life on earth to have been designed. Dawkins replied that it was POSSIBLE that we were seeded by aliens. He was answering a hypothetical question. He was saying it couldn’t be ruled out, but that even under those circumstances, those aliens (or their own creators) would have had ultimately have coming about through a process of evolution.

            The link you gave completely misses his point:

            “Why on earth would someone who vehemently argues against the existence of God by quoting Occam’s Razor talk about space aliens designing and seeding life on planet earth?”

            …Because he was giving a straightforward answer to a question in an interview.

            The equivalent would be me asking you which country you’d like to visit if you could just flap your arms and fly there, and then when you answer “France” or wherever, I say “Ha, Terry thinks he can fly like a bird!”.

            “d. By the above, watches, atomic bombs, and strip mines are natural artefacts.”

            If watches, bombs etc are natural artefacts, can you give me an example of what you would term an artificial artefact? Because it seems to me under your definitions everything would qualify as natural and nothing at all would qualify as artificial, making them meaningless concepts/words.
            “Andy, one other thing… is a baby natural or artificial?”

            You’ll have to define what you mean by ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ here. I’d say natural. I guess if you believe everything about the baby from its parents meeting to its DNA and then every life choice it makes were planned by God you might think it was artificial. Not really sure what you’re getting at.

            “If intelligence itself is the result of an undirected process without design, then how does this confer design and direction to the next stage of artefacts?”

            This strikes me as the genetic fallacy. Intelligence can arise through an undirected process, but by definition a process caused by intelligence is not undirected. You might as well say that you’re a vegetarian because you eat vegetarian animals!

            “Does it matter if the animals we’re breeding are humans?”

            Does it matter to who? It’s artificial selection whether or not we’re breeding dogs, wheat grass or humans. Still artificial – done deliberately with an end goal in mind. No knowledge of Darwin required to carry this out – as I’ve said several times it was a process well understood for thousands of years before Darwin.

            “By what logic does it follow that we should change categories at this point?”

            Can you see no difference between asking whether a large hill in the desert was caused by natural processes such as soil erosion, wind etc or artificially such as by a colony of ants or by humans? What objects or whatever would you LIKE the term artificial to apply to?

            I’m honestly completely baffled by the problem you have with the terms ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ here, and I’m not really sure further discussion on the issue isn’t simply a waste of my time.

          • Terry L says:

            Andy:

            You complain: (:)) “Dawkins replied that it was POSSIBLE that we were seeded by aliens.

            That’s exactly what I said… that he SEEMS prepared to agree that DNA MIGHT have required an intelligent origin.

            The link you gave completely misses his point:

            And MY only point was what Dawkin’s said. I didn’t have a lot of time to find a better citation. I honestly have no idea what the commentary on that site said, nor do I care. I was only interested in what Dawkin’s himself said. That’s the first place where I found the quote.

            If watches, bombs etc are natural artifacts, can you give me an example of what you would term an artificial artifact?

            I didn’t make the distinction… YOU did. You differentiated between natural selection and artificial selection. This whole thread started when I asked you to justify this distinction given the worldview you’re defending.

            “Andy, one other thing… is a baby natural or artificial?”

            You’ll have to define what you mean by ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ here.

            Andy, that’s what I’m asking you! I’ve been using your definitions. My questions are intended to determine if your definitions hold up.

            Not really sure what you’re getting at.

            The definitions you seemed to be espousing are (to quote myself), that “artifacts and processes that are produced by an intelligence for a purpose are artificial; artifacts and processes that arise without design and purpose are natural.”

            So is a baby natural or artificial? Is a child a product of intelligence? The answer seems to be yes, for most people of child-bearing age know exactly what is involved to produce a child. Is a child produced for a purpose? Again, the answer seems to be yes (unless the pregnancy is accidental). Even if you claim that most are not, it is at least a possiblity. These would make a baby artificial. But does that really seem logical to you?

            This strikes me as the genetic fallacy. Intelligence can arise through an undirected process…

            Can you provide one observable piece of evidence to back your claim that “Intelligence can arise through an undirected process”? Do you have an example, or is this an assumption based on your acceptance of evolution?

            but by definition a process caused by intelligence is not undirected.

            So the explosion of an atomic bomb is directed or undirected? Natural or artificial?

            What objects or whatever would you LIKE the term artificial to apply to?… I’m honestly completely baffled by the problem you have with the terms ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ here…

            The difference between these two terms is not directly the point I’m trying to make. However, it is necessary that we understand what each other means by the terms when we discuss my actual point. Which is (to begin at the beginning)…

            John Moore’s original point was this: “[Frank,] stop presenting this silly straw-man version of evolution. It doesn’t justify murder or rape – that’s just silly.” He was also the first to say, “Eugenics is not evolutionary theory – in fact it runs contrary to evolutionary theory because eugenics is artificial man-made selection, whereas evolution requires natural selection.” (Emphasis added.)

            (I suppose I should have asked John these questions as well, but he seems to have drive-by posted…)

            The point is not that evolution justifies murder or rape, but that it removes all grounds for condemning those actions. Neither does it condemn genocide, gay-bashing, intolerance, bigotry or any other vice, real or imagined.

            Anyway, you picked up where he left off on July 14.

            [E]ugenics is the opposite of natural selection. Artificial selection, which was what Hitler attempted, has been practiced by mankind for thousands of years. The whole point of natural selection is that it happens naturally.

            I can’t help but think that there’s something screwy here.

            You seem to be saying:

            1. Natural selection works by preserving those traits which are beneficial to an organism’s survival, and with them, the organism itself.
            2. It is a “good thing” for the organism to use those naturally-selected features to ensure survival. i.e. Birds take flight on naturally-selected wings to evade predators.
            3. Intelligence is a product of natural selection, and is a trait typically beneficial to an organism’s survival.
            4. It is a “good thing” for the organism to use its intelligence to ensure survival. i.e. Birds build nests, beavers build dams, etc.
            5. It is somehow not a “good thing” for an organism, using its naturally-selected intelligence and its understanding of how evolution works, to “monkey” (no pun intended) with natural selection by eliminating the weaker, less-fit members of it’s own species, thereby providing more of scarce resources for itself and it’s own tribe.

            Point 5 implies that non-intelligence is somehow wiser and better than intelligence! But if intelligence were not advantageous, natural selection could not have preserved it! This point then is self-contradictory.

            It also smuggles in a moral code for which evolution cannot account. Why would it be acceptable for an organism to use its intelligence to build a house, find a mate or food, but not to eliminate threats to its home, family, food, or possessions via eugenics? This doesn’t seem to be “artificial” at all, but a natural consequence of those very features favored by natural selection. Is it only when we don’t like the implications of the action that we impose the “artificial” tag?

            In fact, no feature of evolution or natural selection can hold man to account for practicing “artificial” selection.

            You said immediately following your words above, “If Hitler believed in evolution and believed one race was less well adapted for its environment then it would follow that he’d believe that race would die off naturally.

            So?

            What if he actually believed the Aryan’s to be the unfit race, and saw a singular chance to become the most fit by eliminating those more fit? If this were true, then to have done anything else may have condemned his own self-identified tribe (the Aryans) to extinction. And in the end, the only measure of success in natural selection is survival.

            In fact, I agree with you when you say, “it seems to me under your” (actually, yours, Andy… I adapted them from what your posts seemed to espouse) “definitions everything would qualify as natural and nothing at all would qualify as artificial, making them meaningless concepts/words.” The evolutionary driver doesn’t care one whit about intelligence, or anything else. “Natural” or “artificial” doesn’t matter. Selection is ALL that matters.

            So why the emphasis from John and from you on the difference between “natural” and “artificial”? Is it possible that it’s an attempt to cast “natural” selection as a “good” thing, but “artificial” selection as an “evil” thing? Without this distinction, eugenics becomes justifiable under evolution. And it does seem to me that eugenics, given naturalistic atheism, is just the natural consequences of natural selection stumbling across the right combination of traits to enable an intelligent species to gain enough knowledge to “game” the system. Nothing “artificial” about it!

            And by the way… digging a hole IS a form of soil erosion. Both result in soil being eroded/removed from the original site. The end result is the same.

          • toby says:

            “1. DNA is a highly complex, sophisticated code, far more intricate than any man-made code ever devised.”

            Is it? We’ve cracked it, we’ve manipulated it. It doesn’t seem as difficult as the last passage on the Kryptos statue.

            “2. All such codes that we know of originate from an intelligence. By induction, we have strong evidence that all codes require an intelligent source.
            A. Therefore DNA was designed by an intelligence. (From 1 and 2).”

            Ever heard of Paris japonica? It’s a pretty plant with a pretty white flower and grows in Japan. It has 150 billion base pairs in it’s genome. Humans have 3 billion. Do you infer anything from this about the intelligence of the designer? Simple plant has more DNA that a human. To put it in a way you might appreciate it more: Imagine a calculator program written with 100 billion lines of code that can only add, multiply, divide, and subtract. What would you infer about the software writer?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “That’s exactly what I said… that he SEEMS prepared to agree that DNA MIGHT have required an intelligent origin.”

            The two are not the same. He didn’t say DNA might have REQUIRED an intelligent origin. He didn’t say it was possible that intelligence was NECESSARY. There’s a difference between saying we can’t rule out X caused Y and saying we can’t rule out that X was NECESSARY for Y.

            “That’s the first place where I found the quote.”

            You’d have been better off going straight to the source and looking for what Dawkins actually said IN and then ABOUT the Ben Stein interview. The important part is here, as it’s where he makes his point:

            “And that Designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. But that higher intelligence would itself have had to have come about by some explicable, or ultimately explicable process. It couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously. That’s the point.”

            Here’s what he said afterwards about how the interview was presented in the film:

            “My concern here is that my science fiction thought experiment — however implausible — was designed to illustrate intelligent design’s closest approach to being plausible. I was most emphatically NOT saying that I believed the thought experiment. Quite the contrary. I do not believe it (and I don’t think Francis Crick believed it either). I was bending over backwards to make the best case I could for a form of intelligent design. And my clear implication was that the best case I could make was a very implausible case indeed. In other words, I was using the thought experiment as a way of demonstrating strong opposition to all theories of intelligent design.

            Well, you will have guessed how Mathis/Stein handled this. I won’t get the exact words right (we were forbidden to bring in recording devices on pain of a $250,000 fine, chillingly announced by some unnamed Gauleiter before the film began), but Stein said something like this. “What? Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN INTELLIGENT DESIGN.” “Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE.””

            “Can you provide one observable piece of evidence to back your claim that “Intelligence can arise through an undirected process”?”

            Evolution: It’s an undirected process; it produced us, and other intelligent creatures.

            “Andy, that’s what I’m asking you! I’ve been using your definitions.”

            I very clearly defined the difference between artificial and natural selection, which are very well understood terms, used by many, many people. If you want to use the word ‘artificial’ in a different context then yes, you will have to define it for me. What do you mean by ‘artificial baby’? Most people would think that meant like a robot baby. Whether or not a couple choose to have a baby through intelligent choice, I suspect most people would still saw the baby was ‘natural’ as following fertilisation the baby develops through entirely natural processes. If you want to argue that if there are artificial processes involved in the development of a test-tube baby, that makes the baby ‘artificial’ then go ahead.

            But if all this is attempt to undermine the difference between artificial selection and natural selection then I think you’re flogging a dead horse, with the horse here being your argument. As I’ve said several times, these are VERY well understood separate concepts. Not only only do even creationists understand the difference, creationists actually try to play up the difference to emphasise that any changes wrought through artificial selection such as dog breeding cannot be used as examples of what evolution can do, as it’s through intelligence and not through ‘natural processes’.

            “The point is not that evolution justifies murder or rape, but that it removes all grounds for condemning those actions. Neither does it condemn genocide, gay-bashing, intolerance, bigotry or any other vice, real or imagined.”

            You’ve not even begun to show that evolution removes grounds to condemn them, or indeed that theism provides grounds to condemn them.

            “2. It is a “good thing” for the organism to use those naturally-selected features to ensure survival. ”

            When did I say ‘good’?

            “The evolutionary driver doesn’t care one whit about intelligence, or anything else. “Natural” or “artificial” doesn’t matter. Selection is ALL that matters.”

            If it’s artificial selection then it isn’t evolution. Evolution is natural selection, not artificial. And I’ve already explained the difference many times.

            “And by the way… digging a hole IS a form of soil erosion.”
            Not according to the dictionary Terry.

            Are you going to argue next that courts should rule being stabbed or shot counts as ‘dying from natural causes’?

            “In fact, I agree with you when you say, “it seems to me under your” (actually, yours, Andy… I adapted them from what your posts seemed to espouse)”

            On the contrary, it’s the opposite of what I said.

            Why not stop incorrectly interpreting what I say and tell me what YOU think the terms natural and artificial mean, and what the difference between them is?

            Why do you think that people say a hurricane is a natural disaster, but a man shooting a bunch of people in a theatre isn’t a natural disaster? You think God created man, but God created the hurricane too, right? What if people are killed by a herd of elephants – natural disaster or not?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “[What if Hitler] saw a singular chance to become the most fit by eliminating those more fit?”

            You’re basically just saying “What if Hitler wanted to get rid of another race?”. Well what if, then? What’s has your hypothetical scenario, or indeed the ACTUAL scenario, got to do with evolution? Groups of people have attempted genocide for centuries. It happens in the bible. No knowledge of evolution or natural selection or even artificial selection is required for this. It’s simply a case of ‘Let’s get rid of them so we can take over’. Hardly science, is it?

            And to top it all, Hitler made it clear in all his writings and speeches that he believed he was doing God’s work anyway.

  4. Frank Turek says:

    Andrew, Regardless of slavery, Darwin thought the Caucasians were more advanced (favored) than the Negros. Jefferson didn’t. But again, you continue to ignore the central point which is why I so rarely waste time interacting here anymore. Nevertheless, I hope things are well with you in the UK.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Jefferson didn’t”

      I’m sorry to contradict you, Frank, but he clearly did. The following is one passage from a lengthy rumination from Thomas Jefferson on the differences he believed to exist between blacks and whites:

      “In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep of course.

      Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be unfair to follow them to Africa for this investigation”

      There’s plenty more along the same lines in Jefferson’s notes, along with a few concessions that black people are better at dealing with heat and are more athletic, similar to what you’ll hear from modern day racists. It’s certainly no better than the troublesome passages you can find from Darwin on race.

      And again, the fact remains that Jefferson kept slaves while Darwin was an abolitionist.

      I’m sorry you feel this is all beside the point, but they’re matters of fact that contradict your claims.

      Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      Frank: “you continue to ignore the central point which is why I so rarely waste time interacting here anymore”

      I’m sorry you feel that way, Frank, but you made a specific claim – “Darwin thought the Caucasians were more advanced (favored) than the Negros. Jefferson didn’t” – that is clearly false. Jefferson is on record as saying he believed Caucasians were more advanced than black people.

      Now, if someone points out that your argument contains a false claim – and it’s demonstrably false thanks to the quote I’ve already supplied – you can’t just say “It’s irrelevant to my central point”.

      If you weren’t using Jefferson to back up your ‘central point’, why bring him up in the first place?

      Reply
      • toby says:

        Dear Andy,

        Allow me to make the theist’s answer, “Because God! . . . and feelings in my mind that I shan’t explain because it’s too hard!”

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          “But did Frank just ragequit?”

          I’m sure Frank is very busy and simply felt the discussion wasn’t productive.

          But if I was him I’d see it as very productive to test my argument properly. His argument contained (at least) one claim that wasn’t true. This must weaken the argument. He claimed it wasn’t untrue, but my last quote from Jefferson showed it clearly WAS true.

          Frank also claimed I missed the central point. But if the central, more presuppositionalist, point was the only important one, the only one we’re allowed to discuss, why bother throwing in factual claims about Darwin and Jefferson? Just baldly state that as far as Frank is concerned rights only come from God, and that his own interpretation of his own holy book is that God doesn’t want gays to marry. If the rest is irrelevant, just leave it at that and miss all the rest of it out.

          Then we can simply point out that it’s not up to the Supreme Court to rule on whose religious interpretations are correct, and that by legal precedent (The Lemon Test), US laws must have secular justification.

          Reply
  5. TGM says:

    A “right”, in the only way that matters, is a defensible assertion of privilege. In the American case, the founders asserted rights, fought a war to defend them, then enshrined them in a constitution that gave a government the means and authorization to protect those rights. The “external authority”, if you will, is the constitution, backed by We The People, who decide on a regular basis whether to continue asserting those rights through that document. No god required.

    Incidentally, Jefferson’s assertion that the rights are self-evident and endowed by a creator are the rhetorical flourishes of a more poetic, idealistic age. His words clearly sought to claim moral superiority and rally support through grandiose language. And of course, allying oneself with the divine rarely backfires – many colonial residents, militias, and financiers were Christian, after all. But this is academic. At best, we are only talking about the opinion of several men, all dead two centuries. Calling something “self-evident” doesn’t make it so, and my creator was my mother, in any case.

    Reply
    • Tasia Reynolds says:

      How is God not required? You said yourself that the “external authority” is the Constitution here in America. Uhm, ok? Then what is the “external authority” everywhere else? You are admitting then, that the only authority is from those in power, those who make rules outside of the Constitution. So then, you support Hitler’s “external authority” as well as the militia in the Congo who mutilate children and kill off entire villages without adorn or apology? How about all the billions of sex trafficked children all around the world, even here in America? If there is no God, there is no hope, there is no purpose and there is only suffering and death. There is no justice. The point is, if there is no higher authority and moral being who IS the standard and there are many subjective truths and no objective Truth then why bother debating here at all? Here is an absolute truth: we are all going to die. If we’re wrong (Christianity), then who cares! Let people live how they want and believe what they want. I mean, we will all just go back into the earth, leave a sand print in life until it gets washed away by time like we never existed until entropy consumes life as we know it. Then we all just lived in what ever way we wanted that made us happy or what we believed to be right, right? But if you’re wrong, and God is real, a being who is the embodiment of all things good, just, merciful and eternal then you are choosing to be apart from his presence (Because I honestly don’t believe that anyone believes that God doesn’t exist, they just choose not to believe in Him) and you will be separated from God for eternity. That’s what you’re choosing now because why would God force you to be with Him when you clearly don’t want to be? So, I’d really reconsider what evidence you decide to interpret in attempts to disprove his existence or whatever reason you hold close and dear to your heart because it’s not worth eternity away from Him. It’s not worth risking this one time chance to be wrong because there is no re-spawn, there is no redo. Everybody gets one.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        ” If we’re wrong (Christianity), then who cares! ”

        You may not care about the suffering of other people, Tasia, but other people do. Perhaps “I’m all right so why should I care about other people” is fine for you, but most people tend to feel empathy for others.

        As for the ‘Pascal’s Wager’ you offer, one might as well say that you’re risking believing in the wrong God. Why risk not being a Muslim, and risk going to the Muslim hell? What if it turns out there’s a perverse God who rewards unbelievers and sends Christians to hell?

        I question your figure of ‘billions’ of sex-trafficked children – there are only 7bn or so people on the planet – but if suffering are worth saving then they’re worth saving whether or not there’s a God. Arguably they’re even more worth saving if no heaven awaits them.

        My opinion? Any God who punishes people who led a good life simply because they ‘believed in the wrong God’ is not a deity worth worshipping.

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Andy:
          “Any God who punishes people who led a good life simply because they ‘believed in the wrong God’ is not a deity worth worshipping.”
          I wish it were that simple, but its not, because of the word “good”. Jesus said “nobody is good but God”, which tells me that what God considers good and what we consider good are not even in the same ball park. So, the statement you made above cannot ever be true according to scripture. That is why Jesus told us we needed him, so He could cover our downfalls and be allowed into heaven. It would be interesting to have a cup of coffee with you.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            I can only repeat my point, Louie, as nothing you said undermines it: “Any God who punishes people who led a good life simply because they ‘believed in the wrong God’ is not a deity worth worshipping”

            If a God told me that he considers torture and child molesting to be good then I wouldn’t consider him worth worshipping. Would you?

  6. Terry L says:

    Toby,

    You said, “We’ve cracked [DNA],

    Sort of. Kinda depends on what you mean by “cracked”. We now understand what different parts of the genome mean.

    we’ve manipulated it.

    No arguments there. I take genetically-altered insulin for diabetes (Humalog).

    It doesn’t seem as difficult as the last passage on the Kryptos statue.

    Difficult to do what? To decipher? If so, then this statement includes a false dichotomy. DNA can be “deciphered” by evaluating the effects of specific mutations on the phenotype of the organism. Change these genes, you get brown eyes instead of blue. To my knowledge, there is no analog for the Kryptos ciphers. Better resources does not equal less difficult.

    But what of the difficulty of creating the code in the first place? If it’s so simple, then come up with a way to put 150 billion characters of information into a self-replicating entity, all packed up in a microscopic package.

    And by the way… you can’t use your brain to do it. That’s cheating! Andy would call that “artificial”! 😉

    Ever heard of Paris japonica?

    Honestly, no. But it’s a fascinating organism. Thanks for bringing it up!

    Unfortunately, at least on the surface, it seems to stand at odds against natural selection. One article in Science Daily speaks of how huge genomes are a disadvantage for survival… which begs the question, “How did they survive to collect such a huge genome in the first place?”

    “In plants, research has demonstrated that those with large genomes are at greater risk of extinction, are less adapted to living in polluted soils and are less able to tolerate extreme environmental conditions — all highly relevant in today’s changing world….” — http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101007120641.htm

    And at 150 billion base pairs, given a generous 5 billion year old earth (and not all of that could support life, but we’ll just say it could”, that organism would have to collect, on average, 3 billion base pairs EVERY YEAR… a quarter-billion base pairs EVERY MONTH to accumulate that many base pairs. I’m very curious (this is NOT rhetorical… if you have any links, I’d love to see them) how evolutionary biologists suggest that such a thing is possible. How does anything start from nothing and build that much information so quickly without direction?

    Imagine a calculator program written with 100 billion lines of code that can only add, multiply, divide, and subtract. What would you infer about the software writer?

    I might reject such a submission, if I were conducting a code review, as being too verbose and inefficient. What is more likely is that I would check to see if there were other things going on in there apart from the evident purpose of the calculator… perhaps someone added malicious code, or is hiding another function in the code that I, as the code reviewer, do not know about. Further research might show that the code is designed to calculate the value of Pi to several orders of magnitude more than we have today.

    What I would never think for one minute is that there was no developer who wrote that code! It is far easier to generate a short unordered sequence of characters that successfully compiles than to generate 100B lines of code that compiles. That is, mathematically speaking, an impossibility! And that is the point.

    Point being, unless you know exactly what the purpose is, you cannot evaluate whether or not the code is efficient or inefficient. On naturalistic Darwinism, there is NO purpose behind the organism’s development; therefore speaking of inefficiency is irrelevant.

    Reply
    • toby says:

      “You said, “We’ve cracked [DNA],” Sort of. Kinda depends on what you mean by “cracked”. We now understand what different parts of the genome mean.”

      We know the basic combinations of it, we know how to isolate genes such as BRACA1, we can make our own storage devices with it, we can excise defective genes and replace them with normal functioning ones, the only thing we need is continued work to perfect our use and knowledge of it. We’re not experts by any means.

      “But what of the difficulty of creating the code in the first place? If it’s so simple, then come up with a way to put 150 billion characters of information into a self-replicating entity, all packed up in a microscopic package.

      I believe I’d call that a worm virus.

      [Paris japonica] seems to stand at odds against natural selection. One article in Science Daily speaks of how huge genomes are a disadvantage for survival… which begs the question, “How did they survive to collect such a huge genome in the first place?”

      Are you suggesting divine intervention? And, obviously, it’s doing something correct as it is surviving. The large genome isn’t acting against its survival apparently.

      “And at 150 billion base pairs, given a generous 5 billion year old earth (and not all of that could support life, but we’ll just say it could”, that organism would have to collect, on average, 3 billion base pairs EVERY YEAR… a quarter-billion base pairs EVERY MONTH to accumulate that many base pairs. I’m very curious (this is NOT rhetorical… if you have any links, I’d love to see them) how evolutionary biologists suggest that such a thing is possible. How does anything start from nothing and build that much information so quickly without direction?

      It would probably have to do with exponential duplication without deleterious effects on the organism. If you want to know open a new tab and google it. I’m sure there are theories out there. If not, then give up computers and pursue it!

      “I might reject such a submission, if I were conducting a code review, as being too verbose and inefficient.”

      So if you found that the code was only a series of duplicate code or nonfunctioning code and, in my hypothetical situation, all it did was +,-,x, you’d find the coder a moron.

      What I would never think for one minute is that there was no developer who wrote that code! It is far easier to generate a short unordered sequence of characters that successfully compiles than to generate 100B lines of code that compiles. That is, mathematically speaking, an impossibility! And that is the point.

      And if it did have duplicate junk, what then? Perhaps the same thing over and over with a ; before lots of it.

      “On naturalistic Darwinism, there is NO purpose behind the organism’s development; therefore speaking of inefficiency is irrelevant.

      Not true. A nectar drinking bird that over time develops a longer bill to reach deep into flowers . . . how can you ignore that as a purpose to that bird’s development?

      Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Toby:

        “But what of the difficulty of creating the code in the first place? If it’s so simple, then come up with a way to put 150 billion characters of information into a self-replicating entity, all packed up in a microscopic package.

        I believe I’d call that a worm virus.

        Then you have a problem. We’re not talking about 150B characters of DATA, but 150B characters of INFORMATION. 150 Gigabytes! A worm could duplicate itself N times until it took up 150 Gb of space, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about one single instance of the worm that is 150 Gb by itself! A worm of that size would likely never duplicate successfully. And if it did, it would take so long, that it would be noticed and stopped.

        And 150 Gb of storage is hardly microscopic!

        Are you suggesting divine intervention? And, obviously, it’s doing something correct as it is surviving. The large genome isn’t acting against its survival apparently.

        I won’t dispute that the organism is surviving, and therefore, is highly (or at least, sufficiently) adapted to its environment. This much we agree on. Where we likely disagree is on whether this is by design, or by undirected change over time. I think the evidence provided by this huge genome supports design, simply because there’s not enough time in the history of our planet to accumulate such a huge genome. A VERY conservative quarter-billion base pairs being added EVERY MONTH since the beginning of the planet (and I allowed 5 billion years, not the 2 billion years that scientists believe that life has existed on the planet). And if this doesn’t continue to this day, then it must have been even more rapid than this in the early years.

        And don’t forget that most mutations are harmful… how many deleterious mutations would this thing have to suffer in a year to get such a huge number of keepers?

        It simply is not rational.

        So if you found that the code was only a series of duplicate code or nonfunctioning code and, in my hypothetical situation, all it did was +,-,x, you’d find the coder a moron.

        Yep. Doesn’t meet spec. It’s supposed to divide as well! 😉

        The latest discoverys on so-called “junk DNA” indicate that this is not the case with DNA. We only know of a few bits of the genome that might now be considered “junk”, and that’s assuming we’re not ignorant of it’s purpose. This more closely aligns with a genome that was perfectly designed and has been devolving, rather than a genome that has evolved in a nondirected manner.

        How long would it take a nondirected process to produce the same calculator? And remember, there is no end-goal of evolution. When you start out, you don’t start with a calculator… you just get there somehow. In computer terms, start with the most basic “hello world” application. Then start “mutating” the code randomly, keeping only those changes that compile successfully. This duplicates natural selection.

        In my professional opinion, you could have started this process at the beginning of time, and not yet find anything resembling a simple calculator. The most likely outcome is that all that would change would be the content and perhaps the length of the “Hello World” message (That part of the source is least-sensitive to change). What’s worse, the message, instead of saying “Hello, World” would now spit out garbage! The program would actually get worse, not better.

        “On naturalistic Darwinism, there is NO purpose behind the organism’s development; therefore speaking of inefficiency is irrelevant.

        Not true. A nectar drinking bird that over time develops a longer bill to reach deep into flowers . . . how can you ignore that as a purpose to that bird’s development?

        Toby? YOU’RE suggesting that evolution is purpose driven? They’re going to revoke your atheist’s card! 😉

        Under naturalistic Darwinism, the changes you describe a) still result in a bird of the same species, b) may reverse and cause the bill to shorten again if the flower bells in the area begin to grow shorter, and c) are a result of mindless environmental pressures. Those pressures did not purpose to bring about changes in the bird. (See Darwin’s finches.)

        Reply
  7. Terry L says:

    Andy

    (Forgive the length… these things cannot be discussed clearly in sound bites!)

    “Can you provide one observable piece of evidence to back your claim that “Intelligence can arise through an undirected process”?”

    Evolution: It’s an undirected process; it produced us, and other intelligent creatures.

    I said “observable”. When has one kind of creature ever been observed becoming another kind of creature because of undirected pressures and processes?

    I agree that selection can produce variations in a species. That does not provide evidence that the same processes can produce a completely new type of organism, but that’s the type of observable evidence you need to support your claim.

    What your proposing is akin to buying a new computer, writing random information to every location on the hard drive, turning it on, and booting into a workable operating system. Or turning a high-pressure water hose onto a cliff and producing Mt. Rushmore.

    Not only only do even creationists understand the difference, creationists actually try to play up the difference to emphasise that any changes wrought through artificial selection such as dog breeding cannot be used as examples of what evolution can do, as it’s through intelligence and not through ‘natural processes’.

    And that’s obviously not a point I’m making (although I do agree with it). But since you mentioned, it, one would think that if natural selection could produce new kinds or organisms, artificial selection could do so much more quickly. If this were to occur in the lab, it would make world news, and those scientists win every possible award in science. For the next five years!

    “2. It is a “good thing” for the organism to use those naturally-selected features to ensure survival. ”

    When did I say ‘good’?

    You didn’t—thus, the quotes. I was using “good thing” as shorthand for “conducive to the fitness of the organism in its environment”. It is a “good thing” because survival is the only measure of success.

    Something gets added to the mix that makes you want to change from natural to artificial, but if every organism on this planet evolved by natural selection, then by what semantic gymnastics do you call anything artificial?

    If it’s artificial selection then it isn’t evolution. Evolution is natural selection, not artificial. And I’ve already explained the difference many times.

    Yes. You said:

    [E]ugenics is the opposite of natural selection. By which I assume you mean, eugenics is “artificial” selection.

    Artificial selection, which was what Hitler attempted… Confirming the point above.

    The whole point of what [Darwin] showed was that [selection] happened naturally – i.e. without planning, blindly, with no end goal in mind.

    From this, I formed what I’ve called your definitions of “natural” and “artificial” selection (with which you have never disagreed): I said, ”artifacts and processes that are produced by an intelligence for a purpose are artificial; artifacts and processes that arise without design and purpose are natural.

    These are the definitions I’ve been attributing to you all along. I don’t dispute the definitions… I dispute that the definitions are supported by your worldview.

    “Andy, that’s what I’m asking you! I’ve been using your definitions.”

    I very clearly defined the difference between artificial and natural selection, which are very well understood terms, used by many, many people.

    I don’t deny this, and I fully understand what you mean.

    Why not stop incorrectly interpreting what I say and tell me what YOU think the terms natural and artificial mean, and what the difference between them is?

    I actually agree with your definitions. I have no problem saying that natural selection happens without (human) intelligence, and artificial selection is the product of human intelligence.

    But as I said before, “according to Darwinism, we have no warrant for such a distinction.” My position is that you are “artificially” differentiating between the two. You are using human intelligence to differentiate between types of change based on its cause. By your own criteria, this is an artificial distinction. Nothing that is non-human would recognize such a distinction. It is made intentionally for the purpose of communicating to other humans that this change was “made or produced by human beings”, which is part of Google’s definition of “artificial”. Because the distinction is made by human intelligence and with a purpose, it is an artificial distinction.

    Furthermore, the distinction says NOTHING about the actual selection, but about its source! Therefore, the distinctions are fine when used to communicate something about a cause to another human; but as a component of evolution, this seems to me to be an invalid move in logic.

    Keep in mind also, that this discussion seems to blur to questions together that are quite distinct. One is a question of the nature of the difference between “natural” and “artificial” selection; the other is a discussion of the moral standing of certain abilities that we humans have. These are intertwined, but not related.

    Let’s say for instance, that a bat gained the ability to detect prey by infrared vision as well as echolocation. This would have a huge impact on the ecosystem, as more and more creatures fell prey to this evolved bat. The population of field mice in the area might plummet or even disappear, if they can’t adapt to the pressure exerted by the bats. We would not say that this was artificial selection. But then you ask:

    You’re basically just saying “What if Hitler wanted to get rid of another race?”. Well what if, then? What has your hypothetical scenario, or indeed the ACTUAL scenario, got to do with evolution?

    On your worldview, evolution (via “natural” selection) gave man the knowledge and ability to eliminate his enemies or competitors efficiently, and to perhaps improve his own tribe by selective breeding. Suddenly and inexplicably, the products of this natural ability to reason is called “artificial” selection. Yet, how is this different from the bat scenario above? The same processes and pressures that gave the bat its infrared vision also provided humans with our ability to reason. The neighboring populations will either be fit enough to withstand the pressure (just like the field mice), or they will perish. It does no good to say, “well, we have reason that tells us not to do these things”; that reason is the very product of natural selection that CAUSES us to do these things!

    We would never think the bat should not use an advantage provided by natural selection; how then can we say that man should temper the advantages provided by our intelligence? By your own words, if Hitler’s practices were not optimal for survival, then stopping him suggests “a lack of faith in the process”.

    If the difference between “natural” and “artificial” selection is simply a semantic issue, then it in truth has no meaning *in this context*. But I assume that you would insist that there is an actual *qualitative* difference between natural selection and artificial selection. And I would agree with you. My question is, where does that difference come from? Most naturalistic atheists would deny the existence of the soul, or any immaterial reality, so you’re left with nothing but the human brain to provide intelligence and rationality. But this brain is the end result of… you guessed it… natural selection! It is shaped by environmental and social pressures to become a tool for survival. So if the best course to survival is to destroy the neighboring country, rape the neighbor’s daughter, or kill your father, then the brain that produces this effect will tend to survive. Why should this be considered anything other than “natural” selection? One might even say, for example, that this process… the pressure applied by the Dorians and others… made the ancient Spartans into the warrior-culture they were.

    But you asked about my thoughts… in my worldview, man is a dualistic being. We are a soul, we have a body. No, I can’t explain exactly how the two work together any more than I can explain how my car works. (Not much of a mechanic here!) But I believe there actually is a YOU there that considers carefully what you post here… you’re more than simply a bundle of nerves, chemicals, and electrochemical impulses blindly responding to stimuli. And YOU are responsible for your actions. On this world view, the distinction between natural and artificial selection is valid, because it differentiates between what happens in nature, and what has been influenced by humans who have a component that is distinctly NOT-natural, or SUPER-natural!

    *I submit that it is exactly this distinction… the fact that we easily recognize that we are not totally natural… the provides the need to separate “natural” and “artificial” selection.*

    What if people are killed by a herd of elephants – natural disaster or not?

    Natural.

    You think God created man, but God created the hurricane too, right?

    Yes. This gets into a number of issues, but here’s the top few points.

    1. If you think that God directs every aspect of the hurricane, then you have to realize that life and death are always in God’s hands. He can take life whenever and however he pleases. No one EVER dies without God either permitting or causing it!

    2. If you think that God simply permits the hurricane, and perhaps just allows it to naturally take it’s “own course”, then it’s simply a “natural” phenomenon. Move on. Nothing to see here.

    3. The hurricane has no will. The shooter in the mall has free will by virtue of this super-natural component. He has the capability to choose good or evil. God grants him true freedom to do as he will—if God intervened every time we started to do something bad, then we might as well be robots.

    And to top it all, Hitler made it clear in all his writings and speeches that he believed he was doing God’s work anyway.

    Of course people can do evil things while thinking they’re actually doing God’s will… but only if evil actually exists. Which it can’t, without Good, which can’t exist without God.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “I dispute that the definitions are supported by your worldview.”

      The Christians I’ve encountered on these boards have the most bizarre notions about the worldviews of atheists, none of which match up to reality, so I’m happy to let that rest.

      “On your worldview, evolution (via “natural” selection) gave man the knowledge and ability to eliminate his enemies or competitors efficiently, and to perhaps improve his own tribe by selective breeding.”

      ‘Evolution gave us the ability to do X’ doesn’t not mean ‘X is a subset of evolution’. Evolution ultimately gave us the ability to have this conversation, but that doesn’t mean us talking here comes under the bracket of ‘evolution’.

      “then it’s simply a “natural” phenomenon”

      But one ultimately caused by God. You say “The hurricane has no will”, but that’s like saying a gun has no will. Sure, it’s effectively a weapon wielded by God, according to you.

      “if God intervened every time we started to do something bad”

      You can’t really believe prayer makes a difference and also believe we have free will. You pray by the side of the road for help for your sick child, and then a doctor stops his car and saves their life. If your prayer made a difference that has to mean the doctor’s free will was compromised as the course of actions he would otherwise have taken were changed.

      What’s more, if you believe that your birth was planned by God, then you can’t believe your parents had free will – their meeting and your conception must have been planned by God, meaning they didn’t have a choice in either.

      “Of course people can do evil things while thinking they’re actually doing God’s will”
      The point is that it undermines the claim that Hitler was doing it from a belief in natural selection or evolution.

      “No one EVER dies without God either permitting or causing it!”
      Causing it? This contradicts your contention that the shooter in the mall has a ‘supernatural’ free will.

      “Which it can’t, without Good, which can’t exist without God.”
      You’ve not shown that the existence of God makes any difference to the existence of Good.

      Reply
  8. Terry L says:

    Andy:

    You said, “The Christians I’ve encountered on these boards have the most bizarre notions about the worldviews of atheists, none of which match up to reality, so I’m happy to let that rest.

    You do realize of course that you make this statement, and then completely mischaracterize what many Christians believe about prayer, free will, natural disasters, death…

    I’m not on here to score “points” or attack straw men. I’m here to learn, to educate when I can, and to engage in a give-and-take of ideas. If I’ve mischaracterized something, educate me! Show me how my representation of the atheistic worldview is wrong, and I’ll happily stop mis-representing it. I’m obviously not an atheist, so I won’t pretend that I can always accurately represent the atheist’s views. However, the views I present are based on the claims that atheists have made on this board (and others), and the logical outworkings of those claims. I do try to accurately represent those claims. That’s the best that any theist can do.

    I explained how I thought your worldview does not support your definitions. Can you explain why/how I’m wrong?

    ‘Evolution gave us the ability to do X’ doesn’t not mean ‘X is a subset of evolution’. Evolution ultimately gave us the ability to have this conversation, but that doesn’t mean us talking here comes under the bracket of ‘evolution’.

    I never said it did. I said that it is a “product” of evolution.

    Evolution is a feedback loop. Evolution/natural selection preserves those traits most beneficial for the organism’s survival. Those traits are then used by the organism to survive. If evolution provides and preserves the knowledge of genocide and eugenics, then the only possible reason for their preservation is because they’re beneficial. Language would fall under the same category; per Darwinism, langugage could not have developed if it were not beneficial.

    You can’t really believe prayer makes a difference and also believe we have free will.

    Sure I can. But you have to understand what prayer is, and what it isn’t. What it certainly is not is a mandate for God to do things MY way, in spite of some Christians who claim this. This absurd notion would make every petitioner the God of God!

    Do you have kids? You’ve certainly been a child. Do you honestly believe that a child’s request to his father for help has no impact? Now that help might not come in exactly the way the child wants, and the answer may be no. (My dad never honored my request not to get my immunizations, because what I wanted was not what I needed.) But a child’s request, and the parent’s decision to grant (or not to grant) the request does not require the loss of free will or of the parent’s sovereignty.

    I see no incompatibility with this earthly concept and free will. You continued with the story of the doctor:

    If your prayer made a difference that has to mean the doctor’s free will was compromised as the course of actions he would otherwise have taken were changed.

    Non sequitor: Why does this have to compromise the Dr.s free will? You ask God for help, God prompts the Dr. to stop. The Dr. has the freedom to ignore God if he chooses… if the Dr. obeys God, then the child lives. If the Dr. ignores God, the child dies, or God intervenes another way if He chooses.

    What I can’t believe is that we are nothing more than matter and electrochemical reactions, yet with free will. If strict materialism is true, then Sam Harris is right, and free will is nothing more than an illusion. But if that is true, then you don’t have the ability… the freedom… to honestly evaluate the evidence for it; your belief was pre-determined before the earth formed.

    “No one EVER dies without God either permitting or causing it!”
    Causing it? This contradicts your contention that the shooter in the mall has a ‘supernatural’ free will.

    Non sequitor. You are only looking at this one case. A woman who dies peacefully in her sleep requires no such “shooter”. Did God directly “cause” her death? Perhaps… perhaps not. At a minimum, He permitted it, at maximum, He precipitated it. I don’t know the answer to that question. Therefore, I included both to be thorough.

    “Of course people can do evil things while thinking they’re actually doing God’s will”
    The point is that it undermines the claim that Hitler was doing it from a belief in natural selection or evolution.

    Non sequitor. Plenty of people believe in God and evolution. And I have no doubt that many people who truly doubt God’s existence publicly claim to believe when seeking societal approval in a primarily-theistic society. I’m NOT claiming that this is what Hitler did… only that your point doesn’t undermine the claim you think it does.

    “Which it can’t, without Good, which can’t exist without God.”
    You’ve not shown that the existence of God makes any difference to the existence of Good.

    Finally, we get to the heart of the matter.

    What is the ultimate ethic of the two worldviews? Or let’s say three worldviews? How would you disagree with these?

    Atheistic/Naturalistic Evolution: On this worldview, there is no “ultimate” being. Man seems to be the most “evolved”, but this is actually a misnomer, because “most” implies that there is a direction in which we’re headed. This is untrue by definition; evolution is undirected. There is no ultimate goal for mankind. This includes all aspects of life; no ultimate moral goal, no ultimate evolutionary goal, no ultimate intellectual goal…

    Without an ultimate goal, how can we say that the path we take to get there is wrong? The supreme ethic in this worldview is survival. Anything that contributes to the organism’s survival and wellbeing is Good (simply meaning that it survives)… regardless of what it might cost any other organism. If your torturous death enhances my chances for survival, then to me, that becomes a “good” thing.

    But even this definition of “Good” is limited, because frankly, the universe has no purpose to be thwarted should every single species on the planet become extinct. Therefore, it isn’t ultimately “Good” or “Bad” for any organism to perish… it simply IS. Your demise might be a Bad thing for you, but the universe doesn’t care.

    Theistic Evolution: This view acknowledges a creator, but believes that the creator used evolution to accomplish his/her/its purpose of bringing mankind into existence. This is evolution with design. Mankind has a purpose, and Good is defined as those things which fulfill or help us to fulfill our purpose.

    Theistic Creationism: This the same as Theistic Evolution, only it denies that evolution is the mechanism by which man came to be. Still, as the universe was brought into existence by an intelligent being with purpose, Good is defined by those things which contribute to our achieving that purpose.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “If evolution provides and preserves the knowledge of genocide and eugenics, then the only possible reason for their preservation is because they’re beneficial.”

      No that’s not true at all. There are many reasons that traits remain despite not being beneficial. Almost too many reasons for me to go into. There are many traits we have that are not beneficial at all – our eyes’ blindspot, for example – that are simply a remnant of the kluge-like nature of our evolutionary history. Then there are other traits that may have been beneficial once while our species were living in completely different environments but aren’t any more. Then there are undesirable traits that got preserved because they ‘piggy-backed’ on traits that WERE beneficial. Then there are traits that aren’t good or bad but are merely side-products of other traits. And so on.

      On your suggested world views this is in no way all inclusive. Most theists I know do not see good as coming from God or Gods, as this would suggest the nonsensical scenario of a God declaring that rape/torture/murder etc being good and as shrugging and saying ‘well I guess they’re all good then’. Most theists I know see a good God as one that conforms to traits they see as objectively good, rather than seeing good traits conforming to whatever traits God happens to have.

      “Mankind has a purpose, and Good is defined as those things which fulfill or help us to fulfill our purpose.”

      Why define Good in that way? Why is that less arbitrary then any other definition?

      “Why does this have to compromise the Dr.s free will? ”

      Well either God is altering what the Doctor would otherwise have chosen or He isn’t. If he isn’t then he’s not actually answering the prayer or changing things in any way.

      “Plenty of people believe in God and evolution.”

      I never suggested they didn’t, so your reply is in itself a non sequitur.

      “But a child’s request, and the parent’s decision to grant (or not to grant) the request does not require the loss of free will or of the parent’s sovereignty.”

      Then equally God’s stopping murderers killing people shouldn’t require the loss of free will. That aside, nothing in my argument required that prayers be answered in exactly the way requested, so again, your reply along those lines was in itself a non sequitur.

      All I’ve got time for right now.

      Reply
    • Louie says:

      Terry:

      Another point to make regarding Andy’s comment toward people on this board having bizarre notions about the world views of atheism… Perhaps if they’d document it, ( a type of atheists bible if you will) that would help. I’ve stated before, that the smartest thing atheism ever did was NOT write down their official worldview so it cannot be picked apart.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “I’ve stated before, that the smartest thing atheism ever did was NOT write down their official worldview ”

        And the worst thing the Christians ever did was write theirs down – the biggest creator of atheists remains the bible. As for the atheist worldview it’s simply this: I don’t believe a God exists.

        That’s it.

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Andy:
          Its not that simple, all you need to do is read a few different atheist blogs to see that. You may be correct about the bible creating atheists; its like Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth”.

          Reply
          • TGM says:

            It’s funny that you suggest the bible to be a source of truth. When I look back on history I see a much different pattern emerge with respect to “seeing things like they are.” Genuinely truthful perspectives come to a consensus of thought over time. Excellent examples of this are the acceptance of relativity theory, quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, and heliocentrism.

            Compare that to the bible, where where “schism” should be the first word of Genesis. How many different biblical interpretations are there? How many different churches? How many dogmas? This ever-expanding disagreement among adherents is a profound indictment of the bible as any bearer of truth.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            I read plenty of atheist blogs. As on Christian blogs, opinions on many different issues vary wildly – from hippy liberal atheists to libertarians. There’s one issue only they all share: I don’t believe in God.

            And the atheists created by the bible are often committed Christians of many years who investigate the bible in an effort to boost their faith and instead find it dwindling away.

          • Louie says:

            TGM – I’ll admit that translational errors are an issue with the biblical word. I’ve found that reverting back to the original greek version and understanding the definition of the greek words at the time in history they were written can really assist in its understanding. This is where many “interpretation differences” come from. Similarily with history books now and word definitions now vs. 100yrs ago.

            Looking at different interpretations and churches and dogmas does not make the word any less true. I could offer most any history or science book to a large group of people and that group would divide into many smaller groups that agree on meaning. Especially if those books were “translated” and the large group of people were ethnically diverse.

          • Louie says:

            Andy: I could say the same thing in the opposite manner, with atheists looking to disprove the bible, and find the bible compelling enough to change their view. Ravi Zacharias & CS Lewis for example. It certainly goes both ways, but in the end we all have the same Word and same data to choose the path we believe to be true and will have to deal with that decision now and later.

          • Terry L says:

            TGM, you said, “Genuinely truthful perspectives come to a consensus of thought over time.

            What in the world does consensus have to do with truth? Those things were true long before there was consensus about their truth, or in some cases, misunderstandings about their falsehood. No one in 400 BC had any idea one way or another about relativity!

            The only reason to believe something is because it is true… because it corresponds to reality. Can you show me how archeology has ever contradicted the Bible? Or how it’s description of humanity as being desperately wicked is wrong?

            You said, “This ever-expanding disagreement among adherents is a profound indictment of the bible as any bearer of truth.“, but you answered your own point: “How many different biblical interpretations are there?

            Our solar system has always been heliocentric. That is the TRUTH. But over the years, many people looked at the evidence… the movement of the stars, planets, and other heavenly bodies, and interpreted that data differently. Some interpretations are closer to the truth than others, but this is no indictment of the truth itself. It is witness to our ability to perfectly comprehend the truth.

            Furthermore, the insistence of many to continue to believe the lie even when confronted with evidence supporting heliocentrism is witness to our species willingness to suppress the truth. Similarly, the pages of this site present evidence taken from the big bang, the statistical likelihood or unlikelihood of life appearing without direction, the moral sense shared by humans… few of us would deny the truth of any of the evidence.

            What we disagree on is the interpretation of that evidence. The atheist must insist that all of these have a natural explanation; the theist questions why an “open minded” atheist is so “closed minded” not to consider an immaterial creator. That’s a question of interpretation, not of the evidence itself.

            If you hold to your statement above indicting the Bible because of varied interpretations, it seems that you should also indict the truth of the big bang and all of these other topics as well.

        • Terry L says:

          Andy:

          You said, “As for the atheist worldview it’s simply this: I don’t believe a God exists.

          That’s it.

          No, that’s not it. Many atheists (and a few theists) throw this statement out, but it doesn’t hold water. There’s an entire worldview of implications that are impacted by that “simple” statement.

          But even if, as you say, “that’s it”, what evidence do you offer to support your belief (or in this case, UNbelief)?

          If you claim, “I don’t have to give evidence, it’s just a belief”, then why are you here, interacting on a blog known (in no small part because of you and I and a handful of others) for lengthy discussions of evidence between believers and atheists? No offense intended, but if you’re simply happy with your “belief” and aren’t interested in discussing evidence, then I’ll stop interacting with you. Those with nothing but unsupported belief have nothing to say to those, whether believer or atheist, who base their beliefs on reason and evidence.

          You seem to me however to think there’s some logic behind your worldview. If that’s the case, then your statement above is a cheap cop-out. Again, no offense intended, but it seems nothing but a lame attempt to try to avoid defending your own position.

          Reply
          • TGM says:

            “But even if, as you say, “that’s it”, what evidence do you offer to support your belief (or in this case, UNbelief)?”

            Terry, you are far too intelligent to misunderstand the difference between ‘not believing X is true’ and ‘believing that X is not true’, but I hate to accuse you of being deliberately obtuse. You are also smart enough to recognize the difference between “what X is” and “what we believe about what X is”.

            I don’t wish to split hairs over definitions, but this melange of usages hinders every disagreement. “Atheist”, in particular, suffers from historical baggage as well as conflation with “agnostic”, “humanist”, “materialist”, and more. It is true that some people who identify as atheist might regard their position as you do and there are others who would disagree with that usage. But it’s a waste of time to argue about that. Those people are not in this discussion. Rather than argue definitions and assume meaning, we must avoid confusing language and debate the opponents’ positions.

            Put it this way… I don’t tell you what a Christian is, please don’t tell me what an atheist is. It does not even make sense to argue whether Christianity is “true” because it too easily leads to straw men. I can only affirm or object to your assertions & evidence. In the same way, it’s better for you to dispute Andy’s position, rather than dispute atheism.

            I won’t speak for Andy, but here are my positions…
            1. People identifying themselves as Christian have failed to convince me that their theism represents the best model of reality. I have yet to be convinced, thus I disbelieve. I have no case to defend. I simply await new arguments.

            2. I do not assert a positive case for the absence of God because that would require me to define said god. I don’t even know what “God” is. Try this: convince me that elapaloodles don’t exist.

            3. I might construct a model of “god” as I’m capable and try to make the case that such a thing does not exist. This can be an enlightening conversation, but it’s susceptible to easy strawman refutations. In this case, I would happily shoulder the burden of proof.

            One last point. Atheism is not a worldview and if I had a pet peeve, it would be the assertion that it is. Atheism cannot be a worldview because there is no consistency of philosophy among self identifying atheists. Atheists can be conservative or progressive, materialists or immaterialists, anarchists, humanists, fascists, Buddhists, or none of those. They can believe in the supernatural, brains in vats, ESP, panspermia, intelligent design, multiverses, etc. etc. etc. The only unifying feature of atheists is the lack of conviction in any deity that has been proffered.

            It’s true that atheists must have a worldview, but an atheist’s opinion of the world is tangential to whether you’ve made the case that yours is the best model of reality.

            So why are we here? Again, I won’t speak for Andy, but I’m here because I like the argument. Because I like to add value to good conversation. Because Frank is entertaining. Because I’m bored. Because I like to test my ideas. Because I like to educate. Because I don’t want to do my real work. Because bad ideas should be debunked.

            And we don’t need to have a positive case to tell you that yours fails to convince us. Salut.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            TGM, I’d agree with all you say there.
            I’d say more, but today’s my 40th birthday! A good day to you all!

          • Terry L says:

            TGM:

            Terry, you are far too intelligent to misunderstand the difference between ‘not believing X is true’ and ‘believing that X is not true’, but I hate to accuse you of being deliberately obtuse. You are also smart enough to recognize the difference between “what X is” and “what we believe about what X is”.

            You’re right… that I am at least intelligent enough to recognize the difference. However, you and Andy are also intelligent enough to recognize that the statement, “I don’t believe X” says absolutely nothing about X, but merely about your own state of mind. While your mental state may be interesting, it literally has no direct impact on me at all. I’m far more interested in where X does or does not exist, than whether you believe it exists.

            The analog to what you’re saying is that a theist merely believes there is a God. This is true. Our belief in God’s existence has no impact on whether or not God/god/gods actually exist(s). So all of this posturing about belief get’s us nowhere. You would think a theist who doesn’t support that belief with evidence to be rather shallow; should we think the same of an atheist who likewise presents no evidence?

            Rather than argue definitions and assume meaning, we must avoid confusing language and debate the opponents’ positions…. it’s better for you to dispute Andy’s position, rather than dispute atheism.

            I agree with you completely regarding confusing language and making assumptions about another’s positions. However, Andy’s statement is not debatable. He says, “I don’t believe a God exists.” What is there to debate about that? What can I say in response… “OH, YES YOU DO!!!”?? This exactly the reason I called him out on his statement.

            Now as far as disputing atheism… the word “atheism” means “without God”, or “no God”. To put it in sentence form, “No God exists.” Note the distinct absence of any statement regarding belief. That is a defensible and refutable position. It’s something that we CAN logically debate.

            You were kind enough to present your own positions. I sincerely appreciate that; it’s often quite difficult to get people on here to actually define what they think about an issue; primarily, I think, because of exactly what we’re discussing. Once you throw an idea out there, the people on this board (Christian and Atheist alike) will, more often than not, put it to the test. Let’s not make this an exception! 😉

            You said, “1. People identifying themselves as Christian have failed to convince me that their theism represents the best model of reality. I have yet to be convinced, thus I disbelieve. I have no case to defend. I simply await new arguments.

            I can accept most of this… except that you have no case to defend. And this is why…

            You say that Christian theism does not represent the best model of reality. This means that you must know of a better one. Otherwise, how can you say that the Christian model is not the best? If you believe this, then you must have an alternate model that you hold to be more accurate than Christianity.

            But if you claim to know a model superior to Christianity, yet say, “I have no case to defend”, then I must assume that your belief in this “superior” model is based on personal preference, emotion or bias. If you are unwilling or unable to defend this model, then how much do you truly believe in it?

            How long will you wait for new arguments? This reminds me of a girl who keeps getting asked out to the prom, yet keeps putting all of her suitors off, waiting for the Next Best Offer to come along. What happened to her? All of her beaus found other dates, and she stayed home.

            You’ll never have 100% proof of Christianity’s truth or of God’s existence. Yes, there is a (quite small) chance that I could be wrong. But I have to go with the evidence I have now. I can always change my mind should some evidence convince me otherwise, but I’m not going to wait around in the meantime.

            You said, “I do not assert a positive case for the absence of God because that would require me to define said god.” This is wise. Besides being very difficult to prove a negative case, doing so conclusively would require infinite knowledge on your part… and that’s an attribute usually ascribed to God… the very being you’re trying to disprove.

            I don’t even know what “God” is. Try this: convince me that elapaloodles don’t exist.

            Show me the evidence that they do!

            This site presents much evidence for the existence of a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal, powerful being who created the universe and whose very nature grounds meaning, morality, and purpose. This is the being we as theists are discussing.

            Do you see the difference between this being and your elapaloodles? I started from the attributes of this being, all of which I can defend from science or philosophy. You started with a name? with no attributes. Yes, I have no idea how to provide evidence that your elapaloodle does not exist; can you provide evidence that the being I describe does not exist?

            I haven’t any significant comment on point 3, so in the interest of brevity (yeah… RIGHT), I’ll refrain.

            Atheists can be conservative or progressive, materialists or immaterialists, anarchists, humanists, fascists, Buddhists, or none of those. They can believe in the supernatural, brains in vats, ESP, panspermia, intelligent design, multiverses, etc. etc. etc. The only unifying feature of atheists is the lack of conviction in any deity that has been proffered.

            And just as well, theists can be conservative or progressive, materialists or immaterialists, anarchists, humanists, fascists, Buddhists, or none of those. They can believe in the supernatural, brains in vats, ESP, panspermia, intelligent design, multiverses, etc. etc. etc. The only unifying feature of theists is the conviction in a deity.

            Atheism is not a worldview and if I had a pet peeve, it would be the assertion that it is.

            Belief or disbelief in deity is foundational. Whether you realize it or not, it will color the way you think about everything else. While it may not be all of your worldview (as theism per se does not completely encompass mine), it is a large component of it, and it impacts practically everything else that you believe.

            If it doesn’t, you don’t truly believe in it.

            I’m here because I like the argument. Because I like to add value to good conversation. Because Frank is entertaining. Because I’m bored. Because I like to test my ideas. Because I like to educate. Because I don’t want to do my real work. Because bad ideas should be debunked.

            Great! I’m glad you’re here! But to this point… ARGUE! Defend your point of view, don’t just punk out by saying “well, I believe this” without actually arguing your case. To be honest, I’ve learned far more from the atheists on this site than I have the theists. Most (not all) of the time, I agree with the theists here. It’s the atheists who have really made me stop and think, and I appreciate that.

            And we don’t need to have a positive case to tell you that yours fails to convince us.

            But you do, if you want to convince me of your point of view. Just saying, “I don’t believe that” isn’t an argument, nor is it testing your ideas, nor is it educational, nor is it debunking any ideas, good or bad.

            Thanks for your response!

  9. Terry L says:

    Andy:

    You said, “Most theists I know see a good God as one that conforms to traits they see as objectively good, rather than seeing good traits conforming to whatever traits God happens to have.

    And this of course says that there is a standard of morality which is greater than God Himself, which would mean that God is not the ultimate authority. That’s why every theist that I know of that has seriously considered this question says that Goodness is defined by God’s very nature. This also avoids your “nonsensical scenario” because God could not and would not command anything opposed to His nature.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t “see” the good very well sometimes. To claim that God must conform to traits that *I* see as objectively good again makes me the God of God.

    “Mankind has a purpose, and Good is defined as those things which fulfill or help us to fulfill our purpose.”
    Why define Good in that way? Why is that less arbitrary then any other definition?

    What definition would you prefer?

    Very quickly, I use that definition because it seems to be broad enough to cover the generally accepted meaning while appealing to the smallest possible number of theistic or atheistic presuppositions. Yes, “purpose” is a theistic presumption, but if “Good” exists, then “Bad” must also exist. We must have a way to differentiate.

    In common usage, Goodness is linked to purpose; we say a car is a “good” car if it fulfills the purpose of a car. If it breaks down frequently, then it is a “bad” car. When something has a purpose, then it is graded or judged on how well it fulfills that purpose. If something has no purpose, then it can be neither “good” nor “bad”, and these terms become meaningless.

    I see no reason to believe that this purpose is relative… that Good can truly be something different for you than it is for me. If this is not true, and as naturalists say, “we must define our own purpose”, then our murderer below can simply say, “it’s my purpose to murder”. He is then “good” if he murders, and “bad” if he does not. This seems absurd.

    “Why does this have to compromise the Dr.s free will? ”
    Well either God is altering what the Doctor would otherwise have chosen or He isn’t.

    This doesn’t follow. God gives us the privilege of working with Him, if we choose, to accomplish His purposes. The Dr. may or may not stop–his choice. God, of course, doesn’t actually *need* the Dr. to save the child–but He may choose to work through the Dr. to do so. If the Dr. is not willing to allow this, then God has the option to move in another way.

    God has the power to override our will, but has chosen to limit his own power so that we may truly be free moral agents.

    If he isn’t then he’s not actually answering the prayer or changing things in any way.

    Without intervention the child dies. God may prompt a doctor to stop and save the child. That’s what we call providence… God working through natural means to accomplish His purpose. If the doctor ignores that prompting and doesn’t stop, then God may choose to intervene directly, or what we call a miracle. Either way, things have changed–the child lives.

    “Plenty of people believe in God and evolution.”
    I never suggested they didn’t, so your reply is in itself a non sequitur.

    Not really. Your statement implied that these were exclusive. Hitler could have believed in theistic evolution, and believed that it was God’s will that he speed up the evolutionary process. Not saying he did, just that it’s possible. Therefore, your original statement doesn’t provide support that Hitler did not work out of a belief in evolution.

    “But a child’s request, and the parent’s decision to grant (or not to grant) the request does not require the loss of free will or of the parent’s sovereignty.”
    Then equally God’s stopping murderers killing people shouldn’t require the loss of free will.

    I don’t understand this at all. In my scenario, a child freely makes a request of his parent; the parent freely chooses to grant, or not to grant the request. Both are free choices. In your scenario, a man chooses to murder, but God stops him from doing so. How then is this man free to do as he will?

    That aside, nothing in my argument required that prayers be answered in exactly the way requested, so again, your reply along those lines was in itself a non sequitur.

    Umm… that wasn’t a response to your argument, but an elaboration on mine.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “And this of course says that there is a standard of morality which is greater than God Himself, which would mean that God is not the ultimate authority. ‘

      It’s doesn’t ‘of course’ say that. You’re welcome to hold the view that it does, but it makes no sense to many other people. ‘Authority’ suggests a person. The ‘law of gravity’ doesn’t have authority over me. Any God would be subject to the the laws of logic, given that they are pretty much immutable. You can’t even deny the laws of logic without using them, and that would apply to any being at all. That doesn’t mean the laws of logic have ‘authority’ over a God.

      “your original statement doesn’t provide support that Hitler did not work out of a belief in evolution”

      My point was that if people are going to claim Hitler was influenced by belief in evolution then they must equally accept he claimed be influenced by his religious faith. And there’s far more evidence for the latter than the former.

      ““we must define our own purpose”, then our murderer below can simply say, “it’s my purpose to murder”. He is then “good” if he murders”

      How does that follow? Just because he defined his own purpose it doesn’t necessarily mean that his purpose is a good one.

      “This also avoids your “nonsensical scenario” because God could not and would not command anything opposed to His nature.”

      No it doesn’t avoid it at all. If His nature involved torture, lying*, injustice, causing pain etc, then by your definition all those things would be ‘good’.

      *including concealing what his true nature was

      Reply
    • toby says:

      “That’s why every theist that I know of that has seriously considered this question says that Goodness is defined by God’s very nature.”

      Why is this so important to your argument? Sometimes we hear things for so long that they lose their meaning. God is good (said by you as God’s nature is good). So what? What if there isn’t a “standard” of goodness grounded in a god, but that the nature of OUR reality indicates a best way for creatures to exist so that all could prosper and live contentedly with each other and their environment and your god is simply pointing this out? Doesn’t transcend him and isn’t based on him (unless you say it is based on how that god designed the universe). It would make more sense to explain that your god is capable of good as well as bad. A perfect 50/50 god. It would go so far to explain natural disaster deaths. Far better explaining them than “Katrina happened because of the f@g$ making him mad.”

      Reply
      • Terry L says:

        Toby:

        “That’s why every theist that I know of that has seriously considered this question says that Goodness is defined by God’s very nature.”

        Why is this so important to your argument?

        To illustrate, let’s start at the end:

        Far better explaining them than “Katrina happened because of the f@g$ making him mad.”

        This is a bit of a cheap shot, and certainly doesn’t address any point I’ve ever made. You want to bash and condemn Westboro Baptist? Count me in! I’ll stand in the street right beside you and shout that their position is evil. I don’t approve of homosexuality (nor do I approve of adultry, rape, murder, etc.) But WBC is not Christian in their tone, nor in their message.

        It would make more sense to explain that your god is capable of good as well as bad. A perfect 50/50 god.

        Then how would we know which of his acts were Good, and which were Evil?

        How would we know whether the positions held by WBC are Good or Evil?

        You still need a standard. All you’ve done with your half-and-half deity is pulled him from the throne and made him subservient to some other standard. But if this standard is greater than Mr. Half-and-Half, then wouldn’t THAT deity be God?

        It would go so far to explain natural disaster deaths.

        So if Mr. Half-and-half used a tornado to wipe out a group of bank robbers before they robbed a bank, is that a Good thing or a Bad thing?

        Is it good for the owner of the house they were in?

        The question of natural evil is much more complicated than you represent it here.

        What if there isn’t a “standard” of goodness grounded in a god, but that the nature of OUR reality indicates a best way for creatures to exist so that all could prosper and live contentedly with each other and their environment and your god is simply pointing this out?

        If there is a “best” way, then a standard must exist that allows one to compare it to other, inferior ways. Tell me where, given your conditions above, this standard would come from. It is certainly no eternal standard, because these “creatures” have not always existed. Therefore, before they existed, there was literally NO way for them to live in such a manner. Was the universe planning ahead?

        You’ve admitted “[my] god” into your scenario. If God were the one “planning ahead”, then once again, we’re back to this standard emanating from God.

        Reply
  10. Terry L says:

    Andy:

    You said,

    [Terry] And this of course says that there is a standard of morality which is greater than God Himself, which would mean that God is not the ultimate authority. ‘

    [Andy] It doesn’t ‘of course’ say that.

    But you said, “Most theists I know see a good God as one that conforms to traits they see as objectively good.” If God conforms to goodness, then there must be a standard of goodness beyond God that is then, by definition, greater than God Himself. How is this not the only logical conclusion?

    Obviously, I don’t hold to this view, but it seems a logical conclusion, if you accept a standard of goodness external to God to which he must (or does) conform.

    ‘Authority’ suggests a person. The ‘law of gravity’ doesn’t have authority over me.

    Really? Try walking off the side of the Empire State Building while repeating over and over, “The Law of Gravity has no authority over me!” 😀

    Seriously though, you’re right: ‘Authority’ does suggest a person, and is the only logical word to use for the moral law.

    Now there is a difference between natural laws such as the law of gravity, and the moral law. Natural laws are descriptive laws–they simply describe what normally happens in nature without some sort of intervention. In other words, they describe the way things ARE.

    The moral law, however, is prescriptive–it does not describe the way things are, but they way things OUGHT TO BE. Natural laws say we can’t walk off the Empire State Building without falling to the street; the moral law says we shouldn’t push our neighbor off the Empire State Building!

    And yes, the moral law does require a person. Only persons care about how things OUGHT to be. Inanimate matter can never give you the moral law. Furthermore, that person must be an authority that has jurisdiction over you and me; otherwise, why should we care what they think OUGHT to be?

    You can’t even deny the laws of logic without using them, and that would apply to any being at all.

    No arguments from me… but I’ll warn you… that’s darn close to a theistic argument! You’re making my case!

    Any God would be subject to the the laws of logic, given that they are pretty much immutable.

    Explain to me how such laws exist. Where do these laws come from? We agree that they do. So how do they exist?

    They aren’t encoded in any physical object such as our brain. (If you disagree, then was the thought, “No humans exist” logical before the first human arrived on the planet?)

    If you’re a materialist, you’re going to find a Platonic abstract metaphysical law of logic to be as abhorrent as a God, so that’s out.

    That doesn’t mean the laws of logic have ‘authority’ over a God.

    You’re right, but not for the reason you think.

    [Terry] …we must define our own purpose”, then our murderer below can simply say, “it’s my purpose to murder”. He is then “good” if he murders”

    [Andy] How does that follow? Just because he defined his own purpose it doesn’t necessarily mean that his purpose is a good one.

    Ahhh, but there’s the rub. I also said, “In common usage, Goodness is linked to purpose; we say a car is a ‘good’ car if it fulfills the purpose of a car. If it breaks down frequently, then it is a ‘bad’ car.

    If a car that fulfills the purpose of a car is a “good” car, then what makes a “good” man? On atheism, man has no purpose, and is left to create his own purpose. Does it not follow that it is “good” for him to fulfill that purpose? If not, please explain what makes a man (or a purpose) good or bad.

    In a theistic universe, man is not the author of his own purpose. We were created for a purpose. We are “good” men when we fulfill that purpose, and “bad” men when we do not. Furthermore, there is an objective standard by which we can judge a man good or bad.

    In the case of a car, we know what the designer intended the car to be and to do. If man is undesigned and without ultimate purpose, how do we know what to be or do? The best atheism has to offer is for us to set our own purpose. There is no other standard. When you say “Just because he defined his own purpose it doesn’t necessarily mean that his purpose is a good one”, you are assuming an external standard by which to judge his purpose… the very thing that atheism denies!

    If His nature involved torture, lying*, injustice, causing pain etc, then by your definition all those things would be ‘good’.

    *including concealing what his true nature was

    I don’t disagree. If these are attributes of the highest being, then these become the highest good. However, these are logically inconsistent. Brace yourself… this gets confusing quickly…

    (Words in “quotes” should be considered from the point of view of your proposed reality with this strange being; words without quotes should be considered from our point of view.)

    Assume that this being has the nature you describe. It then becomes “good” to lie. Therefore, men will be rewarded for lying. But this being is also unjust, so being unjust to others is a “good” thing. So to “reward” a man for lying to him, this being could be unjust to him, perhaps by depriving him of pain forever (remember… this being likes to cause pain, so pain becomes a “good”. Men “ENJOY” pain!).

    Brain hurting yet?

    But it gets worse… by depriving the man of pain, the being has violated his own nature and done something horribly “bad” (we would think, something nice) to the man. And by violating his own nature, this being is no longer qualified to be a moral standard. He cannot adhere to his own standard–how can he provide one for us?

    Evil is a negative force. It doesn’t exist on it’s own… it’s always the privation of some good. Your “god” makes evil the definition of good. And so, when you start thinking about it, and evil becomes good, then we get all sorts of double-negatives. Evil in that reality would be the privation of a privation, but a privation of WHAT? Our “goodness” doesn’t exist in that universe. (If you disagree, then please explain how…)

    This doesn’t match any evidence we have in the universe about the nature of our own universe. You have no evidence by which to say the God you describe is possible, and this certainly isn’t the God I believe in. Nor is it the God revealed in nature nor in scripture. Therefore, this “god” is only a hypothetical being without any evidence for its existence. It’s an interesting diversion, but it has nothing to do with reality.

    Furthermore, every instance of an “evil god” in myth or literature always assumes that Good is a Real Thing. Even in your brief statement, you use the term “injustice”, which implies that there is justice. If your proposed God is the supreme being of a reality, what basis could one give for the ontology (existence) of justice?

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “If God conforms to goodness, then there must be a standard of goodness beyond God that is then, by definition, greater than God Himself”

      Why ‘greater than’? The laws of logic aren’t ‘greater than’ you or me. Such a concept makes no sense. Like saying ‘Apples are greater than Thursday’, or ‘Colours are greater than gravity’.

      “Men “ENJOY” pain!”

      No, that doesn’t follow at all.

      “Furthermore, there is an objective standard by which we can judge a man good or bad.”

      A standard that no two Christians seem to be able to agree on!

      Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Evil doesn’t exist on it’s own… it’s always the privation of some good”

      Who says? You’ve not shown that that follows at all. What is torturing rabbits the privation of?

      “Assume that this being has the nature you describe. It then becomes “good” to lie.”

      You’ve not shown this, either. You’re putting “good” in pull quotes, and you say that your using my own definition or logic here, but I really don’t see how this follows at all.

      “Therefore, men will be rewarded for lying”

      Why assume that this God rewards anyone at all?

      “When you say “Just because he defined his own purpose it doesn’t necessarily mean that his purpose is a good one”, you are assuming an external standard by which to judge his purpose… the very thing that atheism denies!”

      No, you were the one assuming a standard here, saying that his own purpose had to be good.

      And certainly you and I can both externally look at the way someone leads their life and say it isn’t good, as long as the two of us share certain values of what constitutes good. Most people share values to the extent that we can say improving the wellbeing of others is a good thing.

      ME: You can’t even deny the laws of logic without using them, and that would apply to any being at all.
      YOU: No arguments from me… but I’ll warn you… that’s darn close to a theistic argument! You’re making my case!

      Not really. I’m saying that any possible God would have to conform to these laws of logic. Different Gods are conceivable – indeed mankind has conceived of thousands. Yet different laws of logic are not – one cannot even describe alternate laws without using the laws we have. Whether or not this means any God is INFERIOR to the laws is by the by.

      “Furthermore, there is an objective standard by which we can judge a man good or bad.”

      What makes it objective, rather than just a standard that you and, say, Frank agree on? You say it’s based on God’s nature – sure. Even if we agree that there is a God, and further agree on what that standard is, and even further agree that we should use that to agree on our own definitions or right and wrong – even if we agree on all that, what makes it OBJECTIVE?

      Reply
  11. Terry L says:

    Andy

    You ask, “Why ‘greater than’? The laws of logic aren’t ‘greater than’ you or me.”

    I beg to differ. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change the laws of logic. They existed before you; they will exist after you are dead. They take no notice of human whims, but simply are what they are. You yourself said that even a god must be subject to these laws:

    Any God would be subject to the the laws of logic, given that they are pretty much immutable. You can’t even deny the laws of logic without using them, and that would apply to any being at all. That doesn’t mean the laws of logic have ‘authority’ over a God.

    To which I replied:”You’re right, but not for the reason you think.

    You recognize in the laws of logic a set of mental laws that all men, and indeed, all creatures must recognize in order to think rightly. Even a rabbit uses the law of non-contradiction (without realizing it, of course) when evaluating whether another animal is friend or foe. You cannot “break” these laws and be rational; if you try to “break” a law of logic, you will only break yourself upon that law. They are non-negotiable.

    But what type of entity is subject to the laws of logic? In all of our experience, only minds are subject to such laws. Rocks ignore these laws with impunity, having no mind, they are incapable of even recognizing the existence of such laws. That’s not to say that the laws of logic do not inform *our* minds of certain facts regarding those rocks… only that the rocks themselves are not subject to the laws of logic–if an object does not think, then it is impossible to think wrongly.

    Morality is much the same. Like logic, it only applies to minds capable of comprehending such a law. Logic governs the way one should reason; morality, at least at one level, governs the way one should relate to others (including God).

    You further objected when I said that in this alternate reality, “Men “ENJOY” pain!”

    No, that doesn’t follow at all.

    You’re making a common mistake. You’re importing features of our own world into the fictional world. Ultimately this exercise is nothing more than a distraction, I fear, but let’s continue for a bit longer.

    In our alternate reality, AlternateGod, by virtue of his unchanging nature, lies, tortures, is unjust, and is generally what *we* would call an unsavory character. He created the alternateUniverse by his own power and modeled it after his own nature. Therefore, the alternateCitizens find their greatest pleasure in the things that alternateGod enjoys. Many of them may be deceived by alternateDevil who goes around trying to get people to show compassion, tell the truth, etc.

    In this alternateUniverse, is lying “good” or “bad”? By the standards of alternateUniverse, it is “good”. By the standards of OUR universe, it is “bad”.

    Do you disagree? Do you still find torture to be abhorrent? I do, and I believe that is explainable. You see, our God is not only God over this universe, but over all POSSIBLE universes as well. That provides an unchangeable standard of “goodness” that applies, even in alternateUniverse. We are so convinced that good is good and evil is evil that, like you said about logic, we can hardly even imagine a universe that is different. That’s because the nature of the same necessarily-existing God grounds the existence of both logic and morality in every possible universe.

    If you agree with me that torture would still be abhorrent, but deny that God exists, then please explain what standard you are using to judge torture in alternateUniverse.

    “Furthermore, there is an objective standard by which we can judge a man good or bad.”
    A standard that no two Christians seem to be able to agree on!

    So? Our inability to completely comprehend the moral law only implies that we are fallen creatures who want to read it in a way favorable to us! That’s why you get a lot of Christians who come down REALLY HARD on some sins (i.e. homosexuality, abortion), but let their own pet sins off with a slap on the wrist (i.e. gossip, adultery).

    “Evil doesn’t exist on it’s own… it’s always the privation of some good”
    Who says? You’ve not shown that that follows at all. What is torturing rabbits the privation of?

    Read C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity) for more information.

    Let’s leave the rabbit out of it for a second. I assume you believe that your own comfort is a good thing. For someone to torture you without cause is to deprive you of that comfort unjustly. Does this make sense?

    Now in the case of the rabbit, I would say that mankind was given a charge by God to care for the environment. This was Adam’s first job… take care of the Garden! Torturing any animal unnecessarily is not, as I see it, on the same order as torturing a human in the same way, but it does deprive an animal in our charge of health and well-being. This is a violation of our purpose (my other favorite definition of sin).

    [Skipping a little that hopefully, I’ve covered above. If you want, I’ll be happy to revisit one of these points.]

    And certainly you and I can both externally look at the way someone leads their life and say it isn’t good, as long as the two of us share certain values of what constitutes good. Most people share values to the extent that we can say improving the wellbeing of others is a good thing.

    Ahh… but there’s the rub! What is the origin of these “shared values”? This is what I keep asking atheists to explain, but very few take up the challenge. And are they objective or subjective? (More on that later…)

    [A]ny possible God would have to conform to these laws of logic. Different Gods are conceivable – indeed mankind has conceived of thousands. Yet different laws of logic are not – one cannot even describe alternate laws without using the laws we have.

    You keep insisting that these laws actually exist… HOW do they exist? These are mental laws governing mental processes. They inform us on how to think rightly. Yet, they are not dependent on humanity. If no living organism existed in the universe, it would still be logically true that no living organism exists in the universe, and false that life DOES exist in the universe.

    If you want to claim that these exist in anything but a mind, please explain what you mean. Personally, I find that the only logical conclusion is that these immutable laws of logic are grounded in an immutable mind. The universe is logical because the being who created it is logical.

    Although we call these “laws”, they are actually descriptive laws (like the law of gravity that describes what normally happens when an object falls); not prescriptive laws (like the speed limit on a highway). God does not HAVE to conform to those laws; the laws simply describe a small part of the mind of God. They reflect the way He is. They cannot be changed any more than the God who grounds them can be changed.

    What makes it objective, rather than just a standard that you and, say, Frank agree on? You say it’s based on God’s nature – sure. Even if we agree that there is a God, and further agree on what that standard is, and even further agree that we should use that to agree on our own definitions or right and wrong – even if we agree on all that, what makes it OBJECTIVE?

    That’s the very definition of objective!

    Look… let’s say it’s about 90 degrees (F) here today. Is that cold or hot? I have a friend with some health issues who would probably wear a jacket today. He would say it’s cold. Me? I’m sweating, and looking to shed as much clothing as modesty and my out-of-shape body will decently allow. I say it’s hot.

    But ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ in these sentences say nothing about the temperature. They say something about the SUBJECT who is observing the temperature. To my friend, it is subjectively cold; to me, it’s subjectively hot. OBJECTIVELY, it’s about 90 degrees (F). It remains about 90 degrees (F) REGARDLESS of how you, I, my friend, or anyone else feels. That’s an objective measurement. Whether it’s “cold” or “hot” varies from person to person, but the actual temperature is what it is. Neither you nor I can change the truth of that statement, and it is (for the most part) not even open to debate. Just get out the standard of measurement… a thermometer… and compare.

    With that, let me address this statement: You said, “Different Gods are conceivable – indeed mankind has conceived of thousands.” This is actually an understatement, as Hinduism alone boasts more than 330 million gods, according to my sources. But this is exactly why objective truth as opposed to subjective truth is so important. If it is objectively true that God exists, then his existence doesn’t depend on whether you believe in him or not. Nor does it depend on how many non-existent gods are believed in.

    God either exists, or he does not. That’s a matter of objective truth. If he exists, then he has either spoken regarding what is expected of mankind, or he has not. Again, that’s a matter of objective truth

    The truth of this should be obvious, because we have analogs in the natural world. Let’s say someone claims to be an aIRS… they don’t believe in the Infernal… er… Internal Revenue Service! They get letters asking them to pay their taxes, but they believe that it’s all just a hoax… or that people who believe in the IRS are deluded. They pay all that money every week, and for WHAT? What good did the IRS ever do for them?

    Then our friend is paid a visit by IRS agents who demand all of the back taxes owed. He’s hauled before a judge and sentenced to prison for tax evasion. Will his claim that he didn’t believe in the IRS be of any value at all? No! The existence of the IRS is an objective truth (it either exists, or it does not) and the evidence was there. His refusal to be persuaded by the evidence doesn’t change his responsibility.

    And that’s why I tell people, atheist and theist alike, to search for truth. Drop all of the pretensions and preconceptions of what other people say God is supposed to be, that immaterial realities cannot exist, that science can answer every question, (it can’t), and simply look at the evidence with an open mind. Atheists, after all, are the ones who claim to be coldly rational… to follow the evidence where it leads.

    But what of our “good” vs. “bad” man above? If you’re going to say one man is “better” than another, by what standard do you compare them? A subjective evaluation doesn’t tell us anything about the men, but about your OPINION of the men! For a man to be objectively good or objectively bad, one must have a standard for men that does not change based on who the person is, who you are, who I am, what culture he’s in, or our opinion of his culture. Christian theism provides such a standard; the life of Jesus Christ. How can an atheist objectively compare to men with no standard by which to judge them? Most often, the comparison is simply a question of whether or not the person is approved of by the evaluator… a completely SUBJECTIVE opinion!

    When we were discussing purpose, and I postulated a man who made it his purpose to murder others, you objected, “Just because he defined his own purpose … doesn’t necessarily mean that his purpose is a good one.” (August 27, 2015 at 11:45 am)

    Given atheism, how would you objectively know the difference? Is the purpose to kill others a bad purpose simply because you don’t like it, or is it actually (objectively) a bad purpose?

    Reply
  12. Andy Ryan says:

    Me: “No, that doesn’t follow at all”

    Terry: “You’re making a common mistake. You’re importing features of our own world into the fictional world.”

    Points for chutzpah, Terry, but it’s better for you to ask me to explain further if you’ve failed to understand my point. I’m not making any mistake here, common or otherwise. I’m not ‘importing features or our own world into the fictional world’, unless it’s equally true to say that you are importing features of our own into the fictional Christian world.

    Or to put it another way, you’ve not shown that the torturing God I mentioned is a fictional one and that we are not living in his world. You’ve not shown that the world would be any different if he did exist, or indeed that our attitude to pain would be different. Pain is pain – suffering.

    “Therefore, the alternateCitizens find their greatest pleasure in the things that alternateGod enjoys.”

    You’ve not shown that at all. I’m talking about a God who causes suffering for HIS own pleasure. And I’m talking about human suffering that humans suffer. It wouldn’t bring pleasure, it would bring suffering.

    “Personally, I find that the only logical conclusion is that these immutable laws of logic are grounded in an immutable mind.”

    You’ve refuted this yourself in the sentence right above it. Let’s just change a noun:

    “If no immutable mind existed, it would still be logically true that no immutable mind existed”

    Boom, the laws don’t depend on God.

    “I beg to differ. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change the laws of logic.”

    You’re not begging to differ on that matter – as you say, I said the same myself. My point was that you’d need to define the word ‘greater’ before you said that means the laws of logic are ‘greater’ than a person or indeed a God. Is a sandwich ‘greater’ than Tuesday? Is the pantone value of International Klein Blue ‘greater’ than taking your dog for a walk? My point was that these are meaningless comparisons, and telling me that you cannot change the laws of logic doesn’t address that at all.

    “Now as far as disputing atheism… the word “atheism” means “without God”, or “no God”. To put it in sentence form, “No God exists.”

    Etymology aside, the common modern usage of atheism is simply ‘lacks belief in God’. That’s the meaning I’m using when I describe myself as an agnostic atheist.

    “If you believe this, then you must have an alternate model that you hold to be more accurate than Christianity.”

    One can simply say one doesn’t know the answer to many questions, but maintain that the Christian model fails as an explanation.

    “What happened to her? All of her beaus found other dates, and she stayed home.”

    Then fair play to her – I learned young that it’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with the wrong person for the wrong reasons.

    “You’ll never have 100% proof of Christianity’s truth or of God’s existence.”

    I’ve yet to see 1%, Terry!

    “Is the purpose to kill others a bad purpose simply because you don’t like it”

    It fits the criteria that I and others share for bad. Someone is welcome to define the quality of a film on the basis of how many nude scenes it contains, or how many racial slurs it has, but most people disagree and have a broadly shared criteria for what makes a good film. Whether or not this is an ‘objective’ criteria is irrelevant – when someone asks me whether a film was good or not, we both assume we’re sharing a broad, general set of criteria. Likewise, if someone’s going around killing others, most people will see the harm that causes as a ‘bad thing’, without needing a debate on whether it’s ‘objectively bad’. The harm it causes IS an objective fact. If you disagree that causing harm is generally a bad thing then that’s fine, but you’d be using a definition of ‘bad’ markedly different to almost everyone else in the world!

    “Christian theism provides such a standard; the life of Jesus Christ”

    What makes it objective? What makes it the RIGHT standard? Why isn’t it just your subjective opinion that it’s the right standard?

    “With that, let me address this statement: You said, “Different Gods are conceivable – indeed mankind has conceived of thousands.” This is actually an understatement”

    The number is not important to the point I was making. Your following paragraphs about truth and the metaphor of the IRS and searching for truth aren’t really relevant to anything I said either. I never suggested truth was unimportant or that we shouldn’t follow evidence.

    Me: Even if we agree that there is a God, and further agree on what that standard is, and even further agree that we should use that to agree on our own definitions or right and wrong – even if we agree on all that, what makes it OBJECTIVE?
    You: That’s the very definition of objective!

    No it isn’t. It may be objectively true that a God exists, but you’ve not shown that his nature is OBJECTIVELY good or bad. So God’s got a nature – so has my cat. You can say that the nature doesn’t change – again, so what?

    “What is the origin of these “shared values”?”

    In this conversation it doesn’t matter whether the origin is God, ‘value-giving pixies’, or whether we’ve just evolved to shared them (which seems the most likely explanation to me, given that the values foster communal living and therefore greater success for the species). The point is that if we share the values we can have a meaningful conversation about whether someone’s having a good life or not.

    “Read C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity) for more information.”

    I have. His argument sucks.

    “For someone to torture you without cause is to deprive you of that comfort”

    No, torture is more than the privation of comfort.

    Reply
  13. Terry L says:

    Andy:

    Andy: “No, that doesn’t follow at all”
    Terry: “You’re making a common mistake. You’re importing features of our own world into the fictional world.”
    Andy: Points for chutzpah, Terry, but it’s better for you to ask me to explain further if you’ve failed to understand my point.

    You offered no explanation, you made an assertion without support that what I said was a non sequitor.

    Or to put it another way, you’ve not shown that the torturing God I mentioned is a fictional one and that we are not living in his world.

    Actually, yes, I have, just not in this thread. What you propose has a logical contradiction in it which renders it fictional.

    You’re assuming that alternateGod is the true God in this reality. He is the Greatest Being that exists. You state explicitly that alternateGod enjoys torturing people for his own pleasure. (” I’m talking about a God who causes suffering for HIS own pleasure. And I’m talking about human suffering that humans suffer. It wouldn’t bring pleasure, it would bring suffering.”)

    Then you assume that this is A Bad Thing.

    WHO SAYS? What standard are you using to say that the Greatest Being is doing something evil? How do you judge him?

    “If no immutable mind existed, it would still be logically true that no immutable mind existed”
    Boom, the laws don’t depend on God.

    Nope. You’re forgetting that the laws of logic exist in a mind. If no mind exists, then NOTHING is “logically” true. If no mind exists, then the laws of logic do not exist. If the laws of logic exist without a finite mind, then there must exist an infinite, necessary being that grounds them in an immutable mind.

    My point was that you’d need to define the word ‘greater’ before you said that means the laws of logic are ‘greater’ than a person or indeed a God.

    You said, “any God would be subject to the the laws of logic”, meaning that by using this standard, which you seem to think can exist separate and apart from God, God may be judged logical or illogical. If there is any object O that is judged by another object S, then O is necessarily inferior to S. You can’t get “bluer” than blue, “redder” than red or “greener” than green! In terms of “green-ness”, Green is THE standard. All other colors are inferior to green.

    If God is subject to the law of logic, meaning that he may be judged logical or illogical, then there must exist a standard of logic by which God may be judged. What is that standard, and how do you account for its existence?

    If God is subject to the law of morality, meaning that he may be judged good or evil, then there must exist a standard of morality by which God may be judged. What is that standard, and how do you account for its existence?

    I submit that in both cases, God IS that standard. His mind defines the laws of logic, and his character defines the laws of morality. He is not subject to any external standard. He cannot be judged by anything external to Himself, for he is the measure of all things.

    I describe myself as an agnostic atheist.

    Agnostics claim not to know whether God exists; atheists claim there is no God. These are rather incompatible, I would think. Does God exist? Or do you not know whether he exists?

    One can simply say one doesn’t know the answer to many questions, but maintain that the Christian model fails as an explanation.

    But the claim was that “People identifying themselves as Christian have failed to convince me that their theism represents the best model of reality.”

    In this case, either one of two things are true: 1) You’ve thought about models of reality, and have one you find better than Christianity, or 2) You really haven’t given it much thought at all, and simply prefer a non-Christian model.

    If the first possibility is true, then why would you not share what you’ve found. If the second is true, then you have nothing to offer to those who have thought about these matters. Case in point:


    “You’ll never have 100% proof of Christianity’s truth or of God’s existence.”
    I’ve yet to see 1%, Terry!

    Seriously?

    As much time as you spend on this forum, I know you’ve read a lot of the evidence. And you’re telling me you don’t find 1% of it to be convincing? That sounds to me like you’re not taking it seriously. If you’re honestly telling me that you’ve considered the evidence carefully, and don’t accept it as valid, then you’re in case 1 above. I challenge you to present your arguments for why you do not accept it. If you’ve just skimmed over the evidence, hoping to go annoy some Christians by making fun of their beliefs, and haven’t really wrestled with their arguments, then you’re in case 2… and frankly, you’re wasting everybody’s time, theist and atheist alike.

    Personally, I want the truth, regardless of what the truth is. I’ve actually had to change a few of my beliefs after considering arguments from atheists on this board (Thank you Stephen, et. al.) I didn’t accept their perspective, but I did have to change my own after wrestling through their argument. I believe that I’m closer to the truth because of them. Unfortunately, when those of us who do take this seriously encounter someone in case 2 above, we end up having to do the thinking on both sides of the argument. And it’s not limited to one side: I’ve seen theists do it with atheists and atheists do it with theists.

    Likewise, if someone’s going around killing others, most people will see the harm that causes as a ‘bad thing’, without needing a debate on whether it’s ‘objectively bad’. The harm it causes IS an objective fact. If you disagree that causing harm is generally a bad thing then that’s fine, but you’d be using a definition of ‘bad’ markedly different to almost everyone else in the world!

    What’s your definition of “harm”? That’s a value-laden word, so you’re starting off with a moral judgement built-in.

    The objective fact is that an organism ceases its life function. An animated group of tissues has become incapacitated. That’s the same thing that might happen to a waterfall when beavers dam a river upstream. The waterfall ceases to be animated. Is that “harm”, or “bad”?

    “Christian theism provides such a standard; the life of Jesus Christ”
    What makes it objective? What makes it the RIGHT standard? Why isn’t it just your subjective opinion that it’s the right standard?

    You changed the subject. My belief has nothing to do with it… and that’s precisely what makes it objective.

    You said later, Andy: Even if we agree that there is a God, and further agree on what that standard is, and even further agree that we should use that to agree on our own definitions or right and wrong – even if we agree on all that, what makes it OBJECTIVE?
    Terry: That’s the very definition of objective!
    Andy: No it isn’t.

    My belief that the speed limit on the highway is 70 mph is not what makes it so. My belief that the speed limit is 80 when it is, in fact, 70 won’t change it. It’s objectivly 70 mph precisely because my thoughts and opinions about it cannot change it–because it’s grounded in an OBJECT external to me.

    Which only leaves “What makes it the RIGHT standard?” which is a very good question. To answer, I need clarification of another point you made:

    It may be objectively true that a God exists, but you’ve not shown that his nature is OBJECTIVELY good or bad.

    I may not fully intuit your question here… are you asking “Why do you believe that God’s nature is the objective standard for Good?”

    If not, please explain more fully what you do mean.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Then you assume that this is A Bad Thing.”

      You say you already demonstrated something on some other thread that was for all I know months ago. So you’ve lost me here – when did I say this was a bad thing, let alone assume it?

      I talked about a God that enjoys causing suffering, and without any justification you replied with a bunch of nonsense like People would enjoy the suffering, and this God would reward people for stuff. No, I’m talking about a God that literally enjoys cashing suffering. You know what suffering is.

      The speed limit is what it is because it was set by a Gov agency on authority we gave it. Not analogous to you simply claiming your God has authority.

      I don’t see that arguing over what harm means is in any way productive for either of us. If you want to argue whether, say, punching someone in the face is harmful, have that discussion with someone else.

      No, atheists don’t claim God doesn’t exist. They don’t believe a God exists. Not the same thing. If you don’t see why they’re not the same, consider this: I can say “I don’t believe aliens might exist, but they may do” – that’s a coherent statement. But this isn’t: “Aliens don’t exist, but they might do”.

      An agnostic says it’s not possible to know either way. These are not incompatible.

      One deals with belief – a/theism, the other deals with knowledge – a/gnosticism.

      Reply
  14. Terry L says:

    Andy,

    You say, “I don’t see that arguing over what harm means is in any way productive for either of us.” However, this is central to the entire issue! What is Good? What is Evil? How do you know the difference? Is it simply based on your preference? Do you consider things you prefer to be good, and things you dislike to be evil?

    If so, then how do you know your preference is right… that you’re not preferring something evil over something good?

    Or do you believe that a man’s preference DEFINES good and evil? You seem to reject this, as you say “Just because [a murderer] defined his own purpose it doesn’t necessarily mean that his purpose is a good one.”

    And if you can’t answer this question, then how can you imply there is a problem with God who naturally enjoys torturing, lying, etc.? Speaking of which…

    [Terry] Then you assume that this is A Bad Thing.
    [Andy] You say you already demonstrated something on some other thread that was for all I know months ago. So you’ve lost me here – when did I say this was a bad thing, let alone assume it?

    Your original statement was : “If [God’s] nature involved torture, lying*, injustice, causing pain etc, then by your definition all those things would be ‘good’.” Why should I not assume, as you are attempting to counter my argument, that you believe torture, lying, injustice and causing pain to be truly bad things? Any other interpretation seems to imply that you agree with me; this is not logical, as you’ve spent several sentences/paragraphs specifically DISagreeing with me.

    I talked about a God that enjoys causing suffering, and without any justification you replied with a bunch of nonsense like People would enjoy the suffering, and this God would reward people for stuff. No, I’m talking about a God that literally enjoys cashing suffering. You know what suffering is.

    Yes, I do. And I also know that the idea of an evil God is nonsensical. Thats my whole point…. as you just pointed out, you can’t even talk about such a scenario without talking nonsense.

    This goes back to the core issue: What is the true basis for deciding what is Good and what is Evil? As I see it, God’s character is the very definition of Good and Evil. Why do I believe this is the best explanation? Here are a few of the reasons:

    1. Good and Evil govern behavior; therefore the standard by which Good and Evil are judged must be a behavior.
    1A. Inanimate object do not exhibit behavior. The standard requires a person.
    2. In order for this standard to apply to all men, this person must be someone who transcends humanity.
    3. This person must be the model whose behavior defines what men ought to do.
    3A. Judeo-Christian doctrine teaches that man was made in God’s image… He is our “model”.
    4. This standard cannot change; otherwise what is moral today could be immoral tomorrow.
    4A. The character of an immutable God can anchor morality that does not change over time.

    What this person… this standard DOES is the personification of morality and goodness. There is no greater standard by which anyone (including this person) may be measured. He IS the measure of all others.He cannot be immoral because he is the definition of morality.

    So, if you change the character of God in a hypothetical scenario, then all of reality changes accordingly. You cannot import what we find to be good into that universe. You have to evaluate that universe within the bounds of that universe. If you say that alternateGod can do something that we perceive as evil, then in that universe, that action is actually moral.

    Now you may (and likely do) disagree with me that God’s nature is the standard for Good and Evil. If so, I ask again… what IS the standard? What evidence do you provide that your standard is the correct standard?

    The speed limit is what it is because it was set by a Gov agency on authority we gave it. Not analogous to you simply claiming your God has authority.

    You are correct. What agency sets the rule that says torturing children for fun is wrong? Who gave this agency this authority? Can they change the rules? If they do, and we don’t like it, can we revoke their deligated authority? Should we?

    Do you agree that government agencies can be wrong? Was slavery wrong before the civil war? If you support same-sex marriage, was it wrong before it was made legal in the 11 states that support it? If so, why did people fight to change a moral position to an immoral one?

    One deals with belief – a/theism, the other deals with knowledge – a/gnosticism.

    Where do you get the idea that one deals with belief? The words themselves do not provide for such an interpretation.

    “Theos” is Greek for “God”. “Gnosis” is Greek for “Knowledge, Reason”. The prefix “a” negates the concept. “A-Theism” is “no God”; “A-Gnosticism” is “no knowledge (of God, in this usage)”. Neither of the terms address belief divorced from knowledge. If your position is that you don’t know (not that you don’t believe), then “agnostic” would be a better description for you.

    Yes, the words are intended to communicate something that one believes about the real world. If I say I am a theist, you don’t have to wonder if I believe that God exists in the real world. If you are an atheist, I don’t have to wonder if you believe that God does not exist in the real world. The “belief” aspect is built in when the word is applied to a person.

    And this is sufficient. Why would you make a claim about the real world that you do not believe? If you don’t believe that your “belief” actually matches the real world, then how can you say you believe it? If you do believe your “belief” matches the real world, then what value is added by explicitly saying “I believe…”? Just say what you believe… the rest of understand that it’s your belief. No need to point that out!

    No, atheists don’t claim God doesn’t exist. They don’t believe a God exists. Not the same thing.

    You can hardly speak for all atheists here… many do take the stronger position that no God/god/gods exists.

    Just for reference, your statement was this: “As for the atheist worldview it’s simply this: I don’t believe a God exists. — That’s it.”

    I understand that you’re using “atheist” to describe what you believe. This does not relieve you of having to defend that belief, if you want to be taken seriously. If I said, “I’m a theist. I believe that God exists. That’s it!”, offered no evidence to support my belief, and claimed that position to by my “worldview”, then I would have a very shallow worldview indeed!

    Reply
  15. Andy Ryan says:

    “However, this is central to the entire issue!”

    But you’re here not arguing over whether punching someone in the face is good or bad – you’re disputing whether or not it even causes harm. Presumably you’d extend this to arguing whether tearing a baby’s arms and legs off would cause harm. I’d suggest if you’ve forced yourself into that demonstrably incorrect corner then it suggests a problem with your argument.

    “Is it simply based on your preference?”
    Again, if you think the HARM caused by ripping a baby’s arms and legs off is simply a matter of preference then you’ve abandoned reason. And again, debating whether or not it’s harmful is a waste of my time.

    Obviously you can pick out odd occasions like you’re stabbing someone in the throat but it’s not harmful because you’re actually giving them a tracheotomy, but that’s not really relevant to the point. I accept that Christians arguing over, say, whether contraception is sinful, has nothing to do with meta-ethics. It’s the difference between epistemology and ontology. The same as you pointing out that regardless of two people disagreeing on whether a particular act is good or bad – the point is that a fact about its goodness/badness does actually exist.

    ME: No, atheists don’t claim God doesn’t exist. They don’t believe a God exists. Not the same thing.
    YOU: You can hardly speak for all atheists here… many do take the stronger position that no God/god/gods exists.

    Sure, that would be gnostic atheist rather than agnostic atheist. But both are subsets of ‘atheist’. It’s not required by the term. Now, I can’t insert charts here, but if you google the following terms you can find a chart pretty much on the first few results: Agnostic atheist chart.

    “You are correct”
    Good, so you admit your analogy doesn’t work.

    “as you just pointed out, you can’t even talk about such a scenario without talking nonsense”

    No, I talked about it just fine – a God that enjoys causing suffering. It was you who claimed it would be impossible. You’ve not shown how or why. You’ve either just asserted it would be, or yourself indulged in nonsense like saying ‘It wouldn’t cause them suffering’ or ‘It would be good to suffer’ or ‘this God would reward people’ – none of which is justified.

    The position you’ve found yourself in is like a North Korean guy claiming that Kim Jong-un is kind and great. And then I show them Kim going around having people killed, and the guy says “Well they must have deserved it”. And then I show him Kim having children tortured and the guy says “The children must be enjoying it”. etc. And when I suggest that this is absurd, the guy replies “Well it must be true, because Kim’s doing it, so by definition they must be just and kind actions – there’s literally no other option”.

    Reply
  16. Terry L says:

    Andy:

    Sure, that would be gnostic atheist rather than agnostic atheist.

    Ok, so this is a semantic issue then. I’ve heard (and used) the terms “hard” atheist for what you call an agnostic atheist, and as opposed to a “soft” atheist. While I still find your terms semantically confusing, I can accept them so long as I understand what you mean by them.

    “Is it simply based on your preference?”
    Again, if you think the HARM caused by ripping a baby’s arms and legs off is simply a matter of preference then you’ve abandoned reason.

    Semantics aside, you still haven’t answered the ontological question. You still haven’t said what Goodness IS based on… only (indirectly and by implication) that it is not based on the preference of a man.

    “You are correct”
    Good, so you admit your analogy doesn’t work.

    Well… yes… and no… the analogy was intended to illustrate the absurdity of the concept… a reductio ad absurdum–and it’s an absurdity which you apparently appreciate: “[Andy] You’ve either just asserted it would be, or yourself indulged in nonsense like saying ‘It wouldn’t cause them suffering’ or ‘It would be good to suffer’ or ‘this God would reward people’ – none of which is justified.

    It is justified… but only if you admit the absurdity that the Standard of Goodness can be evil. Starting with an absurdity leads to greater absurdities. Or as people in my profession used to say, “Garbage in, garbage out!”

    The position you’ve found yourself in is like a North Korean guy claiming that Kim Jong-un is kind and great.

    Andy, you’ve missed the core thought behind my argument. Let me try again a different way…

    I presume you believe that Good and Evil actually exist. As evidence, I remind you that you’ve said that not all purposes that a man might choose for himself would be a “good” purpose. Nor does a man’s preferences define goodness (as stated above). If this is true, then it follows that men have a standard of goodness to which they should aspire, and to which their purposes should align in order for them to be called a good man.

    What is that standard of goodness? Why and how and in whom does it exist?

    I keep asking this question, not only of you but of others as well. I’m still waiting for an answer from most everyone to whom I’ve posed it. Until you establish the definition of Good and Evil, how can you say that “harm”, “suffering” and “goodness” are incompatible? Yes, we all sense it… we all know it intuitively, but why? If we simply trust our feelings, then how is that different than basing our standard on our preferences?

    Kim Jong-un is a human. By your reasoning above, it is possible for him to set for himself an evil purpose. If he, or his purpose can be judged to be evil, then some standard must exist that defines that purpose to be evil. Kim Jong-un, therefore, is judged by this standard of goodness. And if he is judged by that standard, then he cannot BE that standard.

    But what if he WERE that standard? If his actions defined goodness, then two things are evident: 1) he cannot be called evil, because by definition, anything he does is Good. and 2) all of the universe would be transformed in such a way that we could not recognize it. Those things that he does would become the “good” for that reality.

    Doesn’t this make sense? If you change the standard, then all things measured by that standard are measured differently… by the new standard!

    Suppose I travel to France, I wake up in the morning and hear the local weather. The high today is going to be 21 degrees! So I dress incredibly warmly with heavy coats, gloves, UnderArmor undershirts… only to step outside and find a beautifully warm autumn day! What was the difference? I’m from the United States, where we still use English measurement standards. 21 degrees Celsius is 70 degrees Fahrenheit!

    I made a case that God’s nature defines goodness; a case that you haven’t refuted, nor have you proposed your own theory of the origin of goodness. If this is right, then the idea of a God who loves torture (the being I’ve called alternateGod) must do one of two things. It either 1) describes an evil demigod who is subject to the true God, or 2) redefines all of reality by changing the definition of what is good.

    You are welcome to either 1) refute my case that God’s nature defines goodness, 2) propose your own thoughts about what grounds goodness, 3) show by what standard your alternateGod is judged to be evil, or 4) explain how changing the standard of goodness would NOT change the definition of what is good. Any one of these are a valid means of undermining what I’ve said. Simply reiterating over and over that I’m wrong without showing HOW I’m wrong doesn’t further the conversation.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “You are welcome to either 1) refute my case that God’s nature defines goodness”

      It’s not even a case, Terry. It’s just an assertion on your part. There’s not even anything there for me to refute, as you’ve said nothing to back it up.

      “As evidence, I remind you that you’ve said that not all purposes that a man might choose for himself would be a “good” purpose”

      You talked about a guy going around causing harm and you said that his purpose would be good. I said you’d not shown what was good about this purpose. I then said most people would see it as axiomatic that causing harm to others isn’t a good purpose.

      If you want to say that God sets the standard, and therefore the traits of his nature are good traits, you need to answer whether the traits are good because they’re his, or whether a perfectly good God would necessarily have to have those traits. If it’s the former then there’s nothing inherently good about loving, kindness etc – they’re just the traits that He happens to have. If it’s the latter than those would be good traits with or without a God.

      Reply
  17. toby says:

    What is that standard of goodness? Why and how and in whom does it exist? I keep asking this question, not only of you but of others as well. I’m still waiting for an answer from most everyone to whom I’ve posed it. Until you establish the definition of Good and Evil, how can you say that “harm”, “suffering” and “goodness” are incompatible? Yes, we all sense it… we all know it intuitively, but why? If we simply trust our feelings, then how is that different than basing our standard on our preferences?

    And I’m sure you’ve been answered, but dismiss it because of your beliefs. I don’t think goodness can have a standard. It’s like saying that there is a standard of beauty. Or humor. Or romantic love. These things are all judgements. A lot of people think Kirsten Dunst is beautiful. I’m not one of them. I don’t get it. Plenty of people would laugh at a joke, but also plenty of people wouldn’t. Goodness is a judgement, just like all of those things. So in whom does the standard of beauty exist? Can’t be your god because it’s spaceless, timeless, and immaterial and to be physically beautiful or attractive you have to be PHYSICAL! We all sense or intuit goodness because we all like things that make us happy and dislike things that don’t or cause physical harm to us. Sure, there are psychopaths out there that like pain and suffering, but if they world were populated by them we wouldn’t have survived as a species this long. Or we’d consider pain and suffering to be good or even pleasurable.

    The major problem with a god being the standard of good is that if it’s a monotheistic god then it must have no choice in how it is. It cannot choose to be anything other than what it is. It can’t murder. There are no peers for it to do so. It can’t steal because there is nothing but itself to steal from. I can’t lie, because it’s the only one to lie to. Now be honest here. Would you consider it more good for someone to be able to do these things, but chooses not to, or someone that has no choice but to not do these things? Because if your god has no choice, then neither do we. How would a god with no free will create creatures with free will?

    Reply
  18. Terry L says:

    Andy:

    “You are welcome to either 1) refute my case that God’s nature defines goodness”
    It’s not even a case, Terry. It’s just an assertion on your part. There’s not even anything there for me to refute, as you’ve said nothing to back it up.

    It’s an appeal to the best evidence. I believe that there IS an absolute standard of goodness. I’ve shown by some of your statements (and several of Toby’s too, for that matter) that you assume that one exists also. I’ve made a case that God can best explain the existence of such a standard. If you disagree, then why and how do you believe such a standard exists? Or will you take Toby’s approach and deny that goodness exists?

    If you want to say that God sets the standard, and therefore the traits of his nature are good traits, you need to answer whether the traits are good because they’re his, or whether a perfectly good God would necessarily have to have those traits.

    Andy, what you’re asking is not logical. If God’s nature IS the standard, by what shall we judge his nature to see if it meets the standard. How can the standard be judged by anything?

    If you need to cut a piece of wood to exactly a meter, then you pull out a standard of some sort… a ruler, a tape measure, something by which you can measure the wood. But what can you use to measure the standard? A meter is a meter is a meter. You can have faulty representations of the standard, sure, but the standard is not the representation, it is the meter.

    All I’m asking you to do is tell me by what standard should the morality of men be judged. That standard cannot be subject to judgement, and it’s not open to interpretation. While I may be wrong about the standard, I will be judged by the true standard, regardless of what I believe about it. That’s the way standards work!

    If it’s the former then there’s nothing inherently good about loving, kindness etc – they’re just the traits that He happens to have.

    This doesn’t follow. A meter is a standard precisely because of it’s trait matching the attribute it measures, namely, length.

    If it’s the latter than those would be good traits with or without a God.

    Let’s accept this for the sake of argument… if God is the standard, and his necessary attributes define goodness, and suddenly there is no God, then those traits go away. What then is the standard?

    Toby:

    I’m sure you’ve been answered, but dismiss it because of your beliefs.

    No… I dismiss it because no other explanation I’ve been given accounts for the evidence I see in the real world as much as the explanation I accept.

    I don’t think goodness can have a standard.

    One thing I like about you, Toby, is that you’re consistent. You understand the implications of your belief (or lack thereof), and accept it, even though you can’t live up to it.

    In your Sept. 11 post re: Karen Davis (crossexamined.org/should-you-do-your-job-or-obey-your-conscience/), you write, “She can have all of the free speech and religion she wants . . . when she is not at work. When she’s at work she cannot discriminate against anyone in the name of her religion.”

    If there is no standard of goodness, then the actions Ms. Davis took are no better or worse than if she had done as you indicate that she should have done. Why then “should” she have done differently? Because it is “her job to issue licenses for people to marry”? By what standard do you say that one should do their job in any given manner? As I wrote to you on that site, “Toby, don’t you claim that moral standards do not truly exist? What do you cite to justify your insistance that Ms. Davis behave in a certain manner?”

    You can’t have it both ways! Either there is a standard way for Ms. Davis to behave, or there is no standard for behavior. Which do you truly believe?

    Or we’d consider pain and suffering to be good or even pleasurable.

    You and Andy can fight this one out… he found it difficult to believe that this was even possible.

    Would you consider it more good for someone to be able to do these things, but chooses not to, or someone that has no choice but to not do these things? Because if your god has no choice, then neither do we.

    In the case of any one who is NOT the standard of goodness, you would be correct. The person who has the opportunity to steal, but does not do so is more honorable than one who doesn’t steal because he has no opportunity. But that’s not the case with the one who is the standard.

    I firmly believe that it is impossible for God to sin, but not because of the lack of opportunity. God doesn’t sin for the same reason I don’t skydive… it holds no attraction for him. Some people love to hurl themselves out of airplanes thousands of feet above the ground. That doesn’t tempt me in the least, even if I had the opportunity to do so. That kind of thrill-seeking is simply not a part of my nature. Similarly, God has many “opportunities” to sin, but is not tempted to do so. It’s not in his nature.

    And as an immutable, changeless being, his desires are never going to change; his nature will never change; therefore, the standard of morality cannot change.

    Because if your god has no choice, then neither do we.

    How do you arrive at this conclusion? I don’t see that this conclusion follows from the premise…

    How would a god with no free will create creatures with free will?

    Why do you say God does not have free will? I asked myself this question in college, to be honest, and the answer that I came up with is that God is the most free being possible.

    Think about it… if God desired to do evil, but could not, then he is not free to do as he pleases. If God only desires to do good, then he can do EXACTLY as he pleases 100% of the time. Which is greater… a God that always does exactly as he pleases, or a God that must adhere to a moral code that somehow exists separate and apart from himself (and how that standard exists, no one can seem to explain…).

    But I really should phrase that differently… as God is the standard of goodness, it’s not that God desires to do good, it’s that his desires are immutable. He’s not arbitrary. He always desires to act in the same way, given the same circumstances.

    So if by this: “The major problem with a god being the standard of good is that if it’s a monotheistic god then it must have no choice in how it is.”, you mean that God would somehow be “greater” if he could change his mind, then you are mistaken. Can God choose to be other than he is? No. But why would he? If it were possible for God to change, then he would have to move either from perfection to imperfection, or imperfection to perfection. Either way destroys such a being’s ability to be the God necessary to explain the features of our universe.

    Reply
    • toby says:

      One thing I like about you, Toby, is that you’re consistent.

      Well at least there’s one thing!

      You understand the implications of your belief (or lack thereof), and accept it, even though you can’t live up to it.

      No, I don’t live up to yours which you and other theists apply to nonbelievers and claim we’re being inconsistent even though it’s known that we don’t believe the same as you.

      If there is no standard of goodness, then the actions Ms. Davis took are no better or worse than if she had done as you indicate that she should have done. Why then “should” she have done differently? Because it is “her job to issue licenses for people to marry”? By what standard do you say that one should do their job in any given manner?…You can’t have it both ways! Either there is a standard way for Ms. Davis to behave, or there is no standard for behavior. Which do you truly believe?

      Come on. This is sloppy and you know it. There are laws and rules by which her job is defined. If she didn’t agree she should resign. You don’t have to appeal to some mystical notion of goodness. I believe my concept of goodness is a far more complicated calculus than the black/white of theistic goodness and it’s based on my knowledge, experience, and weighing of so many different things that it’s amazing any of us can get anything done. And it’s the very same with theists except they toss in the idea of a perfect being that they can appeal to in order to break ties or appear to have some sort of high ground.

      Here’s an experiment: Kim Davis refused to sign these licenses. She thinks what she’s doing is good. There are probably dozens of other people in her same position across the country that believe the same as she, yet are issuing the licenses. Who’s doing good? Who’s right? Goodness is a judgement.

      I firmly believe that it is impossible for God to sin, but not because of the lack of opportunity. God doesn’t sin for the same reason I don’t skydive… it holds no attraction for him.

      Aside from this just being your opinion: Who could god kill? Who could he lie to? Who could he wrong? He made us, he can break us right? He did that with his flood. If that’s the case how do we know that the same doesn’t apply to whether or not he can tell us lies?

      And as an immutable, changeless being, his desires are never going to change; his nature will never change; therefore, the standard of morality cannot change.

      you have a whole lot of lifting to do to prove such a being can do anything.

      How do you arrive at this conclusion? I don’t see that this conclusion follows from the premise…

      Oh who knows. Probably something to do with a deterministic god.

      Can God choose to be other than he is? No. But why would he? If it were possible for God to change, then he would have to move either from perfection to imperfection, or imperfection to perfection. Either way destroys such a being’s ability to be the God necessary to explain the features of our universe.

      This just gives me a headache. How you or anyone can be convinced of all of this supposition is a constant source of amazement for me.

      Reply
  19. William F. Maddock (@Billsey777) says:

    Bingo, Frank.

    Just because someone wants something to be true does not mean that it is. The evidence of history is that sin is a persistent cancer on the body of humanity, and that homosexuality is just one variant of that cancer. When it comes to cancer you have two options, and only two: Cure the cancer or let the body die.

    Reply

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