Turek-Shermer Debate: Is Morality Better Explained by God or Science?

Last week our friends at NewYorkApologetics.com hosted a debate on morality between me and Dr. Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine. You can see the raw streaming video from the debate here (a three camera professional video is forthcoming, but I’m not sure when).

You’ll notice that while both Michael and I agree that there are objective moral values, I am more interested in explaining why objective moral values exist (ontology), whereas Michael is more interested in how we know them (epistemology).  Of course, before you can know something it has to exist (this is the difference between the “order of being” and the “order of knowing”).  So why do objective moral values exist?  What grounds them (what is their foundation)?   I’ll leave it to you to judge who made the better case. (The first 30 minutes is just pre-debate happenings; you may want to skip that to get the opening statements).

Please tune in this morning at 10:05 am ET because I’ll be interviewing Michael Shermer for the full hour on CrossExamined radio.  If you miss the interview, please download the app.  It should be posted there by Monday.

(A special thanks goes out to Nick Mitchell and Anthony Uvenio of NewYorkApologetics.com who did a superb job organizing the debate and all the ensuing events in New York.  Want to learn how they did it?  Join them and others at CIA this year.  Hope to see you there.)

Free CrossExamined.org Resource

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

Powered by ConvertKit
146 replies
  1. Brett Strong says:

    the Christian god cannot be proven to be real … just like Zeus, Allah, the Great Spirit, Brahma, and 1,000’s of gods other cannot be proven to be real … thus Frank Turek entire speech and debate is hypothetical at best 😉

    Reply
    • Louie says:

      That is the whole point. No world view can prove with 100% certainty that their world view is correct, or we wouldn’t be debating it any longer. So, you are forced to look at the data yourself, and see what view fits into the world that you live in. Frank sees “less holes” in the bibles account than in other religians, gods, lack of gods, whatever. So, he marches to that tune until moved by something that would prove it less credible than islam, atheism or whatever he thinks is next in line.

      Reply
    • John McCullough says:

      I don’t think any Christian, well most anyway, would disagree with you Brett. Most Christians, myself included, would tell you that a large portion of our belief in God requires a great deal of faith. Me may have more or less of it at a given time depending on our circumstances. But as believers in Him, whether or not we believe in God’s existence has no effect on whether He exists or not. This is no different than your belief in chairs. If you didn’t believe in chairs they wouldn’t cease to exist.

      But again you are right, no one can “prove” God’s existence. Even if He were to come down to earth and reveal Himself, there would still be doubters. In fact, we Christians believe that this has already happened once.

      On the other hand, you should be able to acknowledge that atheism requires just as much faith that theism does.

      Reply
    • Kurt says:

      The thing is, many who make your claim, Brett, seem to have an unreasonable definition of proof; as in a lab experiment or 2 + 2 = 4 irrefutably true. Reasonable people understand that is not a reasonable standard for a historical event. I won’t assume I know how you’d define it, but your words may indicate the same unreasonableness. Please give us your definition.

      My definition for a historical event would be something like, proof beyond a reasonable doubt (as in a court of law). This is the kind of proof we have for Jesus and his resurrection and faith takes over from there.

      I give that definition because there is history to back it up. Simon Greenleaf was co-founder of the Harvard law school. He wrote the textbook on what is considered good evidence in a court of law. He was a Jew and was challenged by his Christian students to submit the New Testament to the same rules of evidence he was teaching them. He accepted the challenge and eventually came to faith as a result. He wrote a book, “Testimony of the evangelists,” about his conclusions.

      Reply
  2. ereformationcom says:

    Brett – Frank’s entire speech is based on a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful and personal cause for the universe – what is commonly known as God. If the cause of the universe was hypothetical, you’d be right. However, based on what we know, the cause of the universe is not hypothetical and God is the best explanation for the cause of the universe and the grounding of morality. What is your objective standard of morality?

    Reply
  3. toby says:

    “Of course, before you can know something it has to exist (this is the difference between the “order of being” and the “order of knowing”).”

    Then how do you explain things that people make up in their imaginations then invent or produce as art?

    Reply
    • Steve Byrens says:

      Toby, you’re making a category mistake in your assertion. Frank is very obviously speaking in the context of a debate on how we can know “objective moral values” – All culture have had standards of morality, so something deep in the human spirit is aware that morality exists. Frank statement is directly related to the fact that both men are arguing for an objective standard that exists independent of the individual human being, but Frank is correctly pointing out that “ontology” has to come before “epistemology” in establishing this truth.

      Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Why not just google ‘atheist muslim debate’ and see for yourself? Lawrence Krauss and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis had a debate, and Christopher Hitchens debated Muslims too. I don’t think it’s rare.

      Perhaps Christians debate Muslims more often (I don’t know) but if there IS an imbalance (and I don’t know if there is) it’s probably because a) There are more Christians than atheists; b) in Muslim countries there are fewer atheists still and c) in countries like America and the UK where most of these debates take place, there are fewer Muslims than Christians.

      Reply
  4. Mack says:

    Christians have eternity, atheists may or may not have tomorrow. Why do you waist your time debating when you have so little time? What is your purpose?

    Reply
    • eddie says:

      Well said Mack – you hit the nail on the head!!! Why on earth do atheists waste their precious little time on fighting creation … or anything for that matter…??? If our great great great great – ad infinitum – grandfather was a rock that got rained on – then why bother about anything… why not just go out and kill who you want to and take possession of what you want to and live happily ever after???

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        I find this an odd question Eddie. Personally, I care about other people. I have empathy for others. I don’t want to see others suffer. Most other people I know are like this too. It’s pretty much the norm for people.

        I understand there are people called sociopaths who lack empathy and possibly cannot understand others feeling it. Perhaps you are one of these people, hence your confusion about why others don’t just go around killing each other. Have you ever been tested to see if you score on the sociopath or psychopath scale?

        Reply
        • hank says:

          If you lived in a society where you and yours were the only people that were not “sociopaths”, would it still be wrong for them to hurt/kill you? If there IS a God, yes; since His rules apply always and everywhere. If there is NO God, then no; since its only mans laws and they change based on the current societies norms.

          Reply
        • Louie says:

          Andy:
          If you are yours lived in a society where sociopathic behavior was the norm, is it wrong for them to harm you and your family as they see fit? If God and his word exists – the answer is yes. If God does not exist and its just man laws – the answer is no.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            ” is it wrong for them to harm you and your family as they see fit? If God and his word exists – the answer is yes.”

            According to your philosophy, if God says it’s OK for them to harm me then the answer is no.

            But what has this got to do with the point I was making above? You’ve not addressed my reply to Eddie (or “Eddie”, as you call him), at all.

            I’m happy to discuss things with you, but it’s not very polite to try to derail other people’s discussions with non sequiturs.

          • Louie says:

            The point I was trying to make here is that you were talking to eddie as though being a sociopath is a bad thing, who are you to judge that? If eddie lives in a town of sociopaths, then you should not judge him as such because that would be okay since its the social norm. Gods word is already written down in the new testament for all to see. Until he comes back and changes it, we all know the rules. This is what I am trying to get you to see, that living by mans laws is dangerous.

    • Luke says:

      I think this debate gives a really good answer. Dr. Shermer believes that the beliefs of Dr. Turek and those like him actively hurt people and cause people harm. I don’t think he would consider working to keep people from harm a waste of time.

      Luke

      Reply
      • Mack says:

        I am a Christian. I assure you that X
        There is nothing harmful or hurtful about the Christian life. Quite the contrary. It’s a wonderful life. I believe the harm comes when an atheist brings a child into this world knowing that this is all there is. It does not make sense to me that an atheist would spend time debating when they could spend that time with loved ones. What a waste of a finite life. Very sad indeed.

        Reply
        • Luke says:

          Hi Mack,

          You asked a question and I answered it. You could put my answer in this form.

          1. In the opinion of Person A, the views of Dr. Turek and those like him hurt people and cause them harm.
          2. In the opinion of Person A, working to keep people from such harms is not a waste of time.
          3. Therefore, Person A would not find debating and working against the views of Dr. Turek and those like him to be a waste of time.

          You answered this by saying “There is nothing harmful or hurtful about the Christian life.”, and this is your view. But it is unreasonable for Person A (Dr. Shermer in this case), to base his decisions on your views rather than his. In other words, for him to decide on how to spend his time, he will use his views on what is harmful, not yours. I don’t think you could reasonably ask him to base his decisions on your views. That would be the thing that should not make sense to you.

          You go on to say: “It does not make sense to me that an atheist would spend time debating when they could spend that time with loved ones. What a waste of a finite life. Very sad indeed.”

          Again, if one believes that someone is hurting people, it is reasonable to assume that one day, one’s loved ones could be the very people who end up hurt. Perhaps the idea that working to keep a loved one from harm is time less-well spent than a picnic is one which is intuitive to you, but can you see how one would think that preventing harm to a loved one is time well spent?

          I hope that helps.

          By the way, since I’ve been nice enough to answer your question, and you seem to have considered the idea of time wasting a bit, let me ask you a question similar to one I’ve been asked more than a few times, and I don’t think I have a wonderful answer to. Maybe you can help me out.

          We know that most people will not find their way to heaven, and in fact only a few will (Mat 7:14). So most people we encounter, and love, will likely (and by definition) not be people with whom we have an eternity to spend. We only have “a finite amount of time” with them. Does it then make sense that a Christian would spend time debating when they could spend that time with loved ones whom they can only see for a finite time?

          Thanks,

          Luke

          Reply
          • Louie says:

            Luke:
            To find that answer, you only need to read a little further, Mat 28:19-20. Here Jesus tells christians to go out an make disciples of all nations, which you could argue that debating is attempting to do that. Not only that, but the bible also tells christians that God comes first, so a christian would consider the debate doing Gods work and place it above spending more time with loved ones than they already do? That woud be my take on it, for what its worth.

        • Luke says:

          Mack,

          You asked a question and I tried to be helpful to you and answer it.

          In my response, in order to try to have a conversation, I asked you some questions as well. You’ve ignored those, and instead just went on to ask me yet another.

          I don’t mind answering, but if that’s the respect which you give to the effort I make, it’s difficult to consider it worthwhile to engage with you.

          When I said harm, I was using a word that I believe Dr. Shermer used, but I also paraphrased things he said using the word “harm”. By the word “harm”, I mean “hurt and/or injury, whether mental, emotional or physical.”

          I hope that helps.

          Thanks,

          Luke

          Reply
          • mack says:

            Please accept my apologies I have been enjoying our conversation. Unfortunately my work obligations have kept me busy. I very much look forward to getting back with you perhaps this weekend. I have been pondering what Frank or or Christians such as myself have done to harm anyone. This certainly isn’t my intent.

          • Mack says:

            Thank you for the definition of “harm”
            However I wasn’t asking for the definition. I was asking for what harm. Then you had mentioned same sex marriage. Is that the only harm or is there more?

        • Andy Ryan says:

          Mack: “Please define harm”
          Mack: “However I wasn’t asking for the definition”

          You specifically DID ask for the definition, which Luke gave to you.

          Reply
  5. Luke says:

    Mack said: “I believe the harm comes when an atheist brings a child into this world knowing that this is all there is.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean that if if this material life is all there is, then it’s not worth living? I think you’re saying something interesting, but I’m not sure what it is. I’d like to hear more.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • mack says:

      Hello again Luke.
      Yes, why would I want to bring a child into a materialistic world? There are no morals in a materialistic world only individual opinions and all opinions are valid. There is no self only molecular movement in an organic body. Any relationships or “feelings” one might have are meaningless and not remembered after death. With all the potential pain and hurt associated with life why would I want to subject a child to that world.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Mack, why bring a child into a Christian world when they might end up going to hell? The bible itself says ‘better for such a person that they were never born’. Seems the height of cruelty to me that you should take such a risk. The potential for pain and hurt are FAR greater if a hell exists, so by your own logic it is the Christians who should avoid having children if averting the suffering of potential future generations is the main concern.

        And why do you put ‘feelings’ in scare quotes as if you don’t believe they actually exist?

        Reply
        • Luke says:

          I’d note that Jesus is very clear that “few” find the narrow path to heaven. I think you ask a good question of my friend Mack.

          Reply
  6. Luke says:

    Thanks Louie. Like I said, it’s not that I don’t have any answer, I just said I don’t have a wonderful one. I’ve certainly considered (and given) an answer very similar to yours. Here is the problem I see with this answer though: why then should a Christian spend any earthly time at all with a loved one who is saved? If we put time doing work for G-d (like Mat 28:19-20) above spending time with saved loved ones, which is your answer, then why would we spend any time doing things that don’t put G-d first, under your definitions?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Louie says:

      Luke:
      I understand what you are saying completely and agree completely. If you could know for 100% certainty that someone is saved; from a biblical standpoint, you’d move on and save as many as possible. Pretty sure the bible says that their is more joy in heaven over the saving of one soul, that 100 that are already saved. The issue is, that a christian can never know for sure that their loved ones are saved, and by spending time with one another you could reaffirm that they are?

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Louie,

        Perhaps.

        I think a great argument can be made that one can save more souls by joining full time overseas ministry, vs. spending time with loved ones who regularly attend a good church. Like you said, 100 times the joy… If one is interested in doing G-d’s work, then facts and ideas like this matter.

        Also, think of this question (one I was recently asked):

        I’m asking… for a friend…

        My wife, who accepted Jesus 22 years ago and is one of the most wonderful people this world has seen; she is probably the person I love most in the world.

        I also love my son, who is 23.

        My son thinks he is gay, and left the church years ago. I love him deeply and greatly enjoy the time we spend together.

        I have good reason to believe I will see my wife in heaven. I have good reason to believe I will not see my son in heaven.

        Every moment I spend with my wide adds exactly 0% to the amount of time I will spend with her over eternity. Every moment I spend with my son increases the amount of time I spend with him. Every moment I spend with him, gives me a chance to try to save him, potentially increasing my time with him by infinity.

        Why should I spend any earthly time at all with my wife. given those facts?

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Because those facts still don’t provide certainty. One can have all the “good reason to believe” about a wife’s destiny, but never know for sure. Perhaps when one stopped spending time with her, she fills that time with something that ends up dooming her. Remember, it also states in 1 Timothy 5:8 – “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an nonbeliever.” That is why you spend the time with her.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            By this argument of “well, we never know.” you make an argument for not making decisions about what to do at all. After all we “never know for sure” what the outcome will be,

            Notice, the question isn’t about what will certainly lead to the best outcome. It’s simply about what is reasonable given what we know.

            It’s as if I asked is I-10 the best way to get from Phoenix to Tuscon in my 2012 F-250, and instead of saying “most likely” you say “you can never know”.

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • mack says:

            Spend time with both of them. Love both of them. Take care of both of Them. You don’t have to make a decision at all. If your wife is a Christian she will more than likely feel the same as you.
            If I were an atheist why would not care about anything? After physical life is Over no one will care or have remembrance of any feelings good or bad.
            That being said I think I have answered my own question about why I would waste my time formally debating silly Christians And selling books. It must be to make money from their foolishness To finance my finite life. What a great scheme, I salute you.
            We tell you about the love of God and make money to continue to spread the love of God. You make money from those silly notions.

  7. Luke says:

    Hi Mack,

    No apology necessary. I think to answer your original question, the key is that Dr. Shermer believes Dr. Turek and those of his beliefs cause harm. He can only act on his beliefs, so whether or not you agree that harm is caused really has no impact on how Dr. Shermer would choose to spend his time — or at least it should have no impact logically speaking.

    (Think of a police officer shooting an unarmed suspect, the law does not judge whether or not the officer was correct to believe his life was in immediate danger, we can only expect the officer to act on his beliefs.)

    You seem to be interested in the issue of particular harms that a stance against same-sex marriage causes. You say you’ve been pondering what this stance has done to harm anyone.

    I think you will readily think of various harms. I think the most honest approach is to accept that harm is caused to some, but that a different stance (a pro same-sex marriage one) would cause more harm. This is the way the argument is usually undertaken by people who engage the issue at a serious, not just rhetorical, level. (And I think it’s a better approach; it makes the presenter appear empathetic and honest.)

    I think what you’re asking for is an example of harm caused by a anti marriage equality stance (as it is commonly known). As I said, I don’t think it will take you long to come up with examples of harm, but I’ll be glad to give you a few.

    So one random example might be heath insurance benefits, which is how a vast majority of Americans receive health insurance. Many employers will help pay for the insurance of a spouse. That’s great if the person you love is of a different sex and you are willing to make that commitment. You can save thousands of dollars per year. If the person you love is of the same sex as you, however, you have to pay thousands more. That is an undeniable financial harm caused by this stance. If your employer did pay for your spouse, then until recently, the federal government would tax you at a higher rate if your spouse was of the same sex as you.

    There are other issues of course. People in long term committed relationships have been prevented from visiting the love of their life in the hospital after a horrible accident. People have had their final medical wishes ignored, because they were relayed by someone who lacked the title of “spouse”.

    As Justice Kennedy wrote in the Windsor decision which invalidated much of the DOMA law, the defense of marriage law “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”

    In short, kids are told, your family is not as good as another. Children don’t get to choose their families. I don’t think Justice Kennedy is alone as seeing this as harmful.

    In the case which the supreme court just heard and will decide on this week (but will tell us about in June) there is a related concern. Two women, nurses who have been together for over a decade and own a home together, have adopted 3 special-needs children. However, the state does not recognize their relationship and therefore they cannot adopt the children together. For now, one woman has adopted one child, the other woman, two. If one of the women were to die, the children the other woman has helped raise, the only remaining parent the children know, would not automatically receive custody of the children. The children would lose their mother, then their home, at least until their legal status was cleared up. I don’t think anyone could say that would not be a horrible situation for the entire family.

    Now to go back to my point, almost anyone who engages this argument seriously (such as John Bursch, who advanced it in front of the Supreme Court), don’t deny that these harms exist and hurt real people. but believe that even more harm would come if the opposing side got their way. The main argument — really the only argument — that the attorney for the states made, was that by admitting that marriage can be about love between adults, and not just about children, more children would eventually grow up without married parents, and often without two parents. This was presented as a greater harm. (Justice Kennedy seemed to disagree, thinking of all the children now with same-sex parents he said “I think your argument cuts against you”, meaning the argument about resulting harm.)

    Sorry for being so lengthy. I hope that helps.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Mack: “That being said I think I have answered my own question about why I would waste my time formally debating silly Christians And selling books. It must be to make money from their foolishness ”

      This is a great insight into the Christian mindset: self-hating, selfish and venal.

      Reply
      • Mack says:

        Please explain. It’s just difficult for me to understand why an atheist would waste their time in debate when this life is all you have.
        I am none of the things that you mentioned. I would rather call you brother and spend eternity with you.

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          Mack, why do you assume others are only motivated by wanting to make money? It sounds like you’re judging others by your own standards if you can’t imagine others might be motivated by a desire to help others. Luke is a theist yet he has no trouble empathising with Shermer and saying he believes Shermer sees Turek’s position as a harmful one.

          That Shermer believes our lives are finite if anything means he would see it as even more important not to waste such a precious resource as life on practices and beliefs that harm others. Such debates would therefore be very important.

          I find it hard to believe that if you decided the next few decades were all you had that you’d dedicate those few years to venal pursuits. If I’m wrong then that says more about your own character than Shermer’s. Far better to find meaning in your time on earth by helping others in their own finite lives.

          Reply
          • Mack says:

            I feel that you are realizing my point. If I were an atheist and had only one or two decades left although I would need money to survive, I would not spend my time debating anyone. I would be seeking every pleasure I could find. Since morality is only my opinion let the party begin… no limits.

          • toby says:

            Mack, I think you ignore the fact that theists of all stripes like to try to press their beliefs on other people making them do things they’d rather not and filling the heads of their children with misinformation about how the world works. Yeah, sounds like a real party huh?

          • Mack says:

            Hi Andy.
            I and at least the Christins that I have known do not push our beliefs on anyone. I would encourage my family members, friends, and acquaintances to consider Christianity and give them evidence for it. T foTo force it upon them would be unloving. Are you trying to force your belief system on me now?

          • toby says:

            In an indirect way, you do. By who you vote for. If given no other information about candidates than this who would you choose?

            1. Atheist democrat.
            2. Christian republican.
            3. Insane libertarian.

          • Mack says:

            I would need more information than that. Jimmy Carter said that he was a Christian and I certainly would not vote for him.
            Apparently you would vote for one of those choices without further information. Which one would you vote for and why?

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “Are you trying to force your belief system on me now?”

            Hi Mack, I think you may have got your names confused. Read my posts again – no suggestion of me forcing beliefs on anyone. I’m having a polite exchange of views with you. If this is causing a problem for you, feel free to withdraw.

            Now, you basically say that you’re motivated only by seeking money, and don’t mention at all how your actions affect other people. We can both agree that the way you affect other people is the same whether God exists or not. Suffering caused by, say, punching a child in the face, is the same with or without a God.

            Yet, you seem to be saying that if you stopped believing in God you’d stop seeing any reason not to punch a child, for example.

            The suffering is the same either way. Either you care about the suffering of children or you don’t. Given that the suffering is the same with or without a God, it seems logical that it’s not the suffering that stops you punching children now. It may be fear of Godly punishment, I don’t know. But that’s not about morality, it’s about looking after yourself.

            Most off of all is that you’re baffled by other people wanting to help others without the threat of celestial punishment. You seem to have no concept of empathy, kindness or wanting to be kind for its own sake. It’s all very sad.

  8. Luke says:

    Mack said: “I feel that you are realizing my point. If I were an atheist and had only one or two decades left although I would need money to survive, I would not spend my time debating anyone. I would be seeking every pleasure I could find. Since morality is only my opinion let the party begin… no limits.”

    Mack, so you think that in the long term what you and I would call ‘moral’ behavior leads to less happiness?

    Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Mack, I’m starting to get worried about you. Do you not have any friends or family, or people you care about? You seem totally motivated by selfish desires. I worry that ultimately this will make you very unhappy. Have you tried reaching out and talking to anyone about your feelings?

        Reply
      • Louie says:

        Mack:
        You are fighting a losing battle with Andy. I’ve tried to have the “basis of moraity” conversation with him before, and it led to me needing to use “extremes” to get points across. Then he responds with being worried about your mental health. Either he is unable to understand it, or refuses to accept it. I put my money on the later. Good day to you, brother.

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          Louie, who said this was a ‘basis I of morality’ conversation? And what is it that I refuse to accept? Luke is a theist, and he doesn’t agree with you either.

          If you and Mack say that if you were atheists you would behave like a sociopath, trampling on your own family to ‘increase your personal happiness’, then you can’t complain if others interpret that as an odd viewpoint. It doesn’t get any ‘point across’ about the basis of morality, and it says nothing about atheists – it just paints you as someone with a very selfish outlook.

          Again, either you don’t really care for your own friends and family, or you’re being very disingenuous about your real views.

          Reply
          • Louie says:

            As I’ve said before, its all “feelings” with you. One unfortunate blood clot and your feelings may change, but the Word does not. I will not live by your feelings, I will stand on firm ground that does not change.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “As I’ve said before, its all “feelings” with you.”

            I’ve genuinely no idea what you’re talking about. For about the tenth time, YOU are the one saying you would trample on your own family to make yourself happier. I won’t apologise for ‘feeling’ this is an odd position. Why would tramping on those you love make you happier?

            Your argument seems to exist in a world where emotions don’t exist. Neither of us are living in that world. We are not Vulcans! Honestly Louie, why do you feel anyone is going to sympathise, empathise, understand or be convinced by this ‘argument’? I don’t know anyone it applies to.

          • mack says:

            You must have me confused with someone else. I don’t know what your talking about.

          • Louie says:

            Andy – I wouldn’t actually do any of those things you mention. However, if I did; you have no grounds to stop me if God’s word does not exist. All you have is “feelings”, which change from person to person.

  9. Luke says:

    Mack,

    I asked:”[Do] you think that in the long term what you and I would call ‘moral’ behavior leads to less happiness?”

    Mack said: “Please explain”

    Sure.

    So, you said” “If I were an atheist and had only one or two decades left… I would be seeking every pleasure I could find. Since morality is only my opinion let the party begin… no limits.”

    What is implicit in this is: If you had 20 years to live, the choices you would make as Atheist Mack, would be different than those of Theist Mack. You’re clear that Atheist Mack would be out to increase his own happiness. While Theist Mack, I assume, would want to be moral. You set these up two different roads our two different Mack’s would travel.

    Yet, if moral behavior were the best way to increase happiness (which I happen to think it true, personally), then Atheist Mack, seeking increase his own happiness, would act just as morally Theist Mack would.

    Since your statement implies that Atheist Mack would make choices you and I would consider immoral, but would do so in order to increase happiness, then then only logical conclusion is that you don’t believe that moral behavior is the best path to long term happiness (i.e. over the 20 years that Atheist Mack is given to live).

    Let me put it another way:

    Version A
    1. Moral behavior is the best way to achieve medium and long term happiness
    2. Atheist Mack seeks to maximize happiness during his 20 years left on earth
    3. Atheist Mack should therefore behave morally

    Version B
    1. Moral behavior is NOT the best way to achieve medium and long term happiness
    2. Atheist Mack seeks to maximize happiness during his 20 years left on earth
    3. Atheist Mack should therefore act NOT behave morally

    Since you reach the conclusion (3) of Version B, it tells us that you must must believe in Premise (1) of Version B. Which tells us that you do not believe in Premise (1) of Version A.

    That’s what led to my question.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Sorry to butt in guys, but this sort of picks up from my conversation with Luke and Andy on another thread.

      Luke, the two scenarios (or “versions”) you give are assuming morality. Mack has stated that given atheism, morality is only one’s opinion.

      A simple replacement of the term with its definition leaves your two versions looking like this:

      Version A
      1. [My opinion of how one should behave] is the best way to achieve medium and long term happiness
      2. Atheist Mack seeks to maximize happiness during his 20 years left on earth
      3. Atheist Mack should therefore behave [according to his own opinions of how he should behave]

      Version B
      1. [My opinion of how one should behave] is NOT the best way to achieve medium and long term happiness
      2. Atheist Mack seeks to maximize happiness during his 20 years left on earth
      3. Atheist Mack should therefore act NOT behave [according to his own opinions of how he should behave]

      Both of these seem absurd to me. A.1 is difficult, if not impossible, to defend. Given any two persons, their opinion of how one should behave will differ… sometimes radically. Therefore, this statement fails the non-contradiction test. My opinion inserted into A1, compared to your opinion inserted into A1 would produce conflicting true statements.

      B.3 is simply irrational. However, many act in ways that they believe to be immoral every day. As a Christian, I see this as evidence of a fallen nature–our desire to have our own way outweighs the desire to be “good”. The atheist can only appeal to irrationality.

      Gotta run!

      -tl

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Terry, Luke’s point kind of stands. Mack still seems to be saying that he doesn’t think moral behaviour brings happiness. If you want to replace the word ‘moral’ with ‘helping other people, being kind and generous, not being selfish’ etc, then go ahead, but the point remains that Mack seems to be saying that he doesn’t think those things in themselves bring happiness. And as such, if he stopped believing in God, he’d drop all such behaviour and start behaving more selfishly in order to ‘maximise his happiness’.

        Would you and Louie do the same? If yes, do you think this reflects well on you? Wouldn’t a God think more of someone who did those things for their own sake, whether they believed in Him or not? Would He be impressed by the three of you all saying ‘I’d stop helping others immediately if I thought there was no afterlife punishment for me for acting selfishly’?

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Andy:
          Again, the point is not that I’d act one way or the other. The point is, you have no grounds to judge any actions as right or wrong. Like I state above to one of your previous posts to “eddie”… If you lived in a society that was predominately sociopathic and they brought harm upon you, would it be wrong for them to do so? If God exists, then YES. If you are simply living by mans laws/feelings, then NO.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Louie,

            Terry is going to jump in here and point out that a society cannot be predominately sociopathic, since a sociopath is someone who exhibits behavior which is contrary to the behavior of most of society (i.e. antisocial).

            You’re welcome Terry, I just thought I’d save you the time.

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • Louie says:

            Luke:
            It does not matter, the point is still valid no matter how you want to label the behavior.

          • Terry L says:

            Thanks, Luke! By the common dictionary definition, you’re absolutely right! 😉

            That’s another dictionary definition that I find faulty. But as the editors seem to be unable to admit any other absolute standard, they’re left with using common behavior as a standard. That seems rather imprecise to me, at any rate, as they rarely identify the group they’re using. Doing so could lead to some rather thorny questions…

        • Terry L says:

          Andy,

          if this (“Mack still seems to be saying that he doesn’t think moral behaviour brings happiness.”) is truly what he’s trying to say, then I completely disagree with him.

          I don’t think that’s the point he’s trying to make. I haven’t taken the time to go back through his posts, but I think the point he’s trying to make is not that moral behavior doesn’t bring happiness, but that one should not feel any obligation to be moral, nor should they expect anyone else to behave according to any standard in an atheistic universe. In other words, Dostoevsky’s, “If God does not exist, all things are permissible”.

          Again, I’m not certain that this is what he’s trying to say (and he can speak for himself later), and I don’t have time right now to go back through the thread history. But for at least the rest of this response, I’ll assume I’m right, and I’ll see if I can do proper research later tonight.

          You ask if I (and Louie) would “start behaving more selfishly in order to” maximize happiness if we stopped believing in God.

          I don’t think anyone would even ask that question if God did not exist. I don’t think you could.

          An atheist in a theistic universe would be blessed by moral behavior just as the theist would. The more closely his behavior aligned with the absolute moral standard, the happier (in general) I would expect him to be.

          A theist in an atheistic universe is intentionally limiting his behavior on the basis of a lie. I question, in this world, whether any being would ever give a second thought tho how things “ought” to be, or how one “ought” to live. Things would be as they are. You would either like the status quo, or you wouldn’t. If you didn’t, then you’d try to change it to be more to your liking, but never would you think that things should not be as they are.

          But to your question… Consider the case of a Christian believer in an atheistic universe who has homosexual desires, yet fights daily to live up to Christian morality. This poor soul could, with no consequence, just do what he feels like doing with no eternal harm; yet, he limits his own behavior to conform to what he believes is expected of him.

          Should he suddenly be convinced that atheism is true, would you not expect him to change his behavior?

          If you would, then I think you see the point I’m trying to make. There’s no point in restricting oneself on the basis of a lie. This is true in any universe.

          But, are you saying that there is a moral difference between actions? If the person above is permitted to indulge his homosexual desires because there is no God to tell him not to do so, then does that apply to the pedophile? the homicidal maniac? the alcoholic? the thief?

          If you say yes, then you’re making a moral judgment. But based on what?

          You’re also implicitly making a moral judgement here:

          If yes, do you think this reflects well on you?

          If morality is an illusion, what would it mean for anything to reflect well or ill on me?

          Wouldn’t a God think more of someone who did those things for their own sake, whether they believed in Him or not?

          In this proposed universe, God does not exist. (But in our own, do you believe that God doesn’t care what we do, so long as we do it for its own sake? Do you believe that Westboro Baptist Church will be commended by God when they stand before him if they’ve done all of their various activities for their own sake? Sincerity is not the measure of morality. Muslim extremists kill people in the name of their God with all sincerity. Does he approve if they killed them just for the sake of killing them?)

          So you seem to be saying that if I would stop being kind and helping others if I became an atheist that I would be less than moral. In a theistic world, I agree with you.

          But what of an atheistic world? Let’s assume for a second that I’m convinced… you’ve shown beyond a reasonable doubt that God doesn’t exist. I’m now an atheist. (And please… nobody quote this out of context! 😉 ) How then shall I live? What standard of behavior should I look to in order to know how to behave? I have this feeling inside of me that killing others, or torturing them for fun is not the thing to do, but how do I explain that? What makes that true?

          And please don’t just give me your opinion. I have plenty of my own, and see no reason to accept any other. Is there in truth a standard that I should follow, or is it just someone’s opinion that I should behave in a certain manner?

          -tl

          Reply
  10. Luke says:

    Terry,

    You said:“Sorry to butt in guys, but this sort of picks up from my conversation with Luke and Andy on another thread.”

    No worries

    You said: “Luke, the two scenarios (or “versions”) you give are assuming morality. Mack has stated that given atheism, morality is only one’s opinion. A simple replacement of the term with its definition leaves your two versions looking like this:”

    However, you have suffered a fate common to those butting in. You didn’t read my original post!

    I defined how I was using the term “moral behavior”, and it was defined as a specific set of behaviors that Mack considers to be ‘moral behavior’ (I also noted that Mack and I would agree — almost entirely, I’m sure, on what these behaviors are).

    Luke said: “Mack, so you think that in the long term what you and I would call ‘moral’ behavior leads to less happiness?”” (emphasis added)

    If you wanted to insert more detailed and precise wording, the proper thing to replace “moral behavior” in my scenarios would be “behavior that Theist Mack considers moral”.

    So not only are you inserting a definition other than the one I specifically used, but you’re also ignoring Mack’s core point. He said that if he was unconcerned with G-d, he would act differently. If he believed his current behavior was the best way to achieve happiness, he would have no reason to change it.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Luke,

      I did, in fact read the majority of the comments, as is evidenced by my use of Mack’s definition of atheistic morality.

      Not to split hairs, but you did say:

      “…it is unreasonable for Person A (Dr. Shermer in this case), to base his decisions on your views rather than his. In other words, for him to decide on how to spend his time, he will use his views on what is harmful, not yours. I don’t think you could reasonably ask him to base his decisions on your views. That would be the thing that should not make sense to you.”

      I understand completely what you’re saying here, and I agree with you. I call things as I see them, and I expect everyone on this site, whether theist or atheist, to do the same. Dr. Shermer certainly has that right as well, and is logically justified in doing so.

      However, you asked a question of Mack, who had already given his view of atheistic morality. You specifically identify the Mack in your scenarios as being “Atheist Mack”. It seems odd the then replace “moral behavior” with “behavior that Theist Mack considers moral” (your definition) rather than the definition he gave.

      You are asking him to respond to a scenario; yet you are defining words for him that he has already defined for himself. In effect, you’re asking him to base his decision, or judgement, of this scenario on your view… a move that you yourself labeled unreasonable.

      Perhaps the question to be asked is whether Mack’s understanding of morality on atheism is justified. You know well my opinion of that, so I won’t belabor the point. If he is wrong, then you have an objective definition you can plug in for “atheistic morality”. If not, then you’re left with your respective definitions, and no real ontic referent by which you can prove either right or wrong.

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        I don’t question that at all. I actually don’t find it off at all. However, in my comment to you I specifically said what you should insert if you want to use more precise wording. Why comment on how clear or unclear the writing was, instead of focusing on the question at hand?

        Reply
      • Terry L says:

        I specifically said what you should insert if you want to use more precise wording.

        Yes, you did. And that’s exactly what I find odd…

        Your insistence that we (or more appropriately, Mack) use your definition rather than the one that Mack gave is exactly what you called unreasonable in an earlier post. You’re asking him to give an opinion based on your views. (In other words, “use my view of atheistic morality, not your own”.)

        Why would it be unreasonable for Mack to feel Dr. Shermer should base his decisions on Mack’s views, but reasonable for you to insist that Mack use your opinion of atheistic morality rather than his own?

        At best, you’ve built a straw man. You’ve constructed your argument with your opinion in mind, while ignoring the fact that Mack has clearly provided his own opinion of atheistic morality. You then use the syllogisms based on YOUR definition to say something about Mack.

        I don’t think this is an issue of clear writing. I’m questioning the fact that you seem to have made the same invalid logical move that you (correctly) pointed out to Mack earlier.

        Reply
  11. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    I’d be interested what people here think of Jason Thibodeau’s article – ‘Some Thoughts on Naturalism and Morality’ – on this recurring question of God and objective morality. I suspect if I post a link the post will be lost in moderation, so I invite people to google their way to the full article, though I’ll post some below:

    “Consider the following argument:
    Killing babies is horrendous.
    Even if God does not exist, killing babies is horrendous.
    So, even if God does not exist, objective moral values do exist.
    This, to my mind, is so compelling as to be decisive. I do not see what the existence of God adds to the universe such that, if he did not exist, the killing of an innocent child would not be horrendous.
    Suppose that God does not exist. How does that change anything about a situation in which a person is killed in an undeserved and excruciating manner? What possible reason could we have to think that God’s non-existence entails that this situation is not horrible?

    In this post I am going to do my best to try to articulate the intuition behind the thought that, in a universe without God, there can be no moral value. I will then show that this intuition is completely misguided.

    Here, I think, is the line of reasoning that lies behind the thought that without God, objective moral value cannot exist: If God does not exist, there is no basis for claiming that one state of affairs (or action) is better than any other. Any claim to the effect that something is better or good or bad or right or wrong is just a subjective and arbitrary preference. For objective moral value to exist, there must be some ground or foundation of this value and this foundation cannot be the merely subjective or arbitrary whim of human beings. If God does not exist, there is nothing objectively special or significant about any object, state of affairs, or action.

    Often the above reasoning is supplemented with a kind of argument from incredulity concerning naturalism. On naturalism, the reasoning goes, all there is is matter and the void. Naturalism provides no basis for accounting for objective moral value. Everything, on naturalism, is the product of mindless and valueless natural laws operating on mindless and valueless physical objects. How can you get value out of that?

    That, such as it is, is the best I can offer to capture this line of reasoning. I think that if you listen to or read Craig and Copan (and others) on this issue, you will not come across anything more compelling than the above (though, if you can find something more compelling, please bring it to my attention). There are presentations of the reasoning, to be sure, that are more sophisticated in virtue of making fine distinctions and so forth; but the essential reasoning remains the same.

    Now, the first thought I have when I encounter such reasoning is this: How is the existence of God supposed to change any of this? How does the existence of God explain the existence of objective moral value? After all, if value depends on God, wouldn’t value just be a matter of God’s subjective and arbitrary preferences? I think that this thought, fully articulated, can be used as the basis of an argument that is devastating for the no-moral-value-in-a-godless-universe intuition. But let’s put that issue aside for now because I want to show that there is just no basis for thinking that moral value is impossible on naturalism. Indeed, the belief that there is no such basis is itself founded on a false conception of what moral value is.”

    I urge people to read the whole thing before commenting.

    Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Andy… thanks for the mention. I’ll try to find this tonight. I do have a few thoughts just based on your own comments, but as you asked, I’ll wait until I can find the time to read the original before I dive in!

      Reply
    • Terry L says:

      Andy, I finally got around to reading this article. My response was almost 2500 words, so I posted it on my own (quite unused, to date) blog. If you’re seriously interested in what the theist’s response would be, you can visit by clicking my name. Or just go to wp.me/p3SbUw-6.

      Feel free to leave a comment or several! 😉

      Reply
  12. Luke says:

    Louie said: “It does not matter, the point is still valid no matter how you want to label the behavior.”

    A logically impossible point is valid?

    Interesting…

    Louie said: “If [Ed] lives in a town of sociopaths, then you should not judge him as such because that would be okay since its the social norm.”

    What standard are you using to determine that it is “okay”?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Louie says:

      Luke – I don’t want to dwell on words and labels, the sociopath label was just a word that Andy brought forth, it could have been murderer or rapist communities. Who cares, the point still stands that you have no right to judge them for their actions, since that is the social norm of the community.

      I’m determining the actions “okay” because they would be “mans standards”. If there is no God, and we live by rules set forth by man/society, and those actions were the societal norm at that time, then they’d be okay. Thats why living by mans rules is dangerous.

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Louie, so you’re saying that if there is no G-d, and I live in a town of 10 people. 9 of them think that torturing babies for fun is something that should be done, but I disagree. I can’t use my own judgement, but instead have to label this behavior as “okay”?

        Am I obligated to agree with majority opinion? You seem to suggest so. I’m wondering what you think obligates me to this standard you mention.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Luke:
          I am not saying you are obligated to do as they do, I am saying you have no backing to tell them they are wrong since they are only living by their accepted societal rules. That is why living by mans laws is dangerous.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            That has no impact on what I can say or believe. How can you say I have “no” backing? It seems I at least have the backing of my belief. Right?

            Let’s say I have no backing. What difference does this make in practice? What does this really mean?

            Does the fact that you have G-d’s backing make people listen? It seems that in both cases they can just say “yeah, I don’t believe that, so I don’t care sorry. I just see no practical difference at all.

            Also, you stated that it “[is] okay”. This seems to suggest that it’s okay in some objective way. Did you not mean to imply that? If you did, my question specifically is what makes it objectively okay.

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • Louie says:

            Luke:
            -That is what makes it dangerous, there is no standard other than your feelings or theirs. The whole point is that if you have no standard other than ones feelings, you cannot judge any one persons standards as right or wrong.
            -The difference is being able to judge what is truely right or wrong. Like the “killing babies” thing. It’s obvious to you and I that this is wrong, but it may not be obvious to everyone. You and I have the new testament to back this up. If we did not have that, then its just our feelings vs. theirs.
            -Having Gods backing does NOT make people listen, it does however provide a standard by which to live that comes from something greater than man, and does not change with peoples emotions.
            -No, I meant that its “okay” because the current societal norms say its okay. If we just live by mans laws/feelings the rules could be as crazy as the people in charge.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “it may not be obvious to everyone”

            Who are these people, Louie? Mack said I was using a straw man argument, but who are these people who want to kill babies? I guess you could point to abortion and say this applies to anyone who supports abortion rights.

            But even on this, Christian opposition to abortion is relatively recent. Pope Innocent III (circa 1161-1216) stated that abortion wasn’t murder if the fetes wasn’t old enough to have started moving yet. not “animated.” He stated that the soul enters the body of the fetus at the time of “quickening” – when the woman first feels movement of the fetus. After ensoulment, abortion was equated with murder; before that time, it was a less serious sin, because it terminated only potential human life, not human life. Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591) held the same view. Some popes in between disagreed with them, but the fact is they were presumably at least as expert on the bible as you, yet did not see the issue in the same way you do.

            “If we did not have that, then its just our feelings vs. theirs.”

            Luke specifically asked you what difference it makes IN PRACTICE. You’re offering a purely philosophical difference, and even that is on shaky ground, I think.

            “and does not change with peoples emotions.”

            The bible doesn’t change but it’s demonstrably true that interpretation of it changes along time and between people. It seems to be the giant book of multiple choice. You’ve got the book to back you up, but it seems equally dangerous to me that it can be used as a way to avoid actually backing up your position.

            And who says it’s just ‘feelings’? People have had debates about morality for millennia. Such debates are not worthless. And they can be based on empirical facts, along with emotions, which you at any rate should dismiss as worthless. When deciding what course of action to take you should certainly take the emotions of others into account. Why dismiss whether or not someone will be greatly upset by what you’re planning to say?

          • Louie says:

            Andy – I think we can abondon this thread as well, since we are covering similar items. But I’ll respond and then give you the last word?
            You are correct of couse, abortion is killing babies. I don’t care who you quote about this being okay. Since when “life” is present is not specifically mentioned in the bible, I will side with the baby, since that at least gives them the option of speaking for themselves later.
            I will go with Hitler about the “not following emotions” instead of the bible. Whether he claimed he was an atheist or a christian, it does not matter to me. I will simply look to the new testament for guidelines, and look at his actions to judge for myself if the Nazi way of life was okay. Rather than talk with Nazi’s about it.

  13. Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

    Louie: “The point I was trying to make here is that you were talking to eddie as though being a sociopath is a bad thing”

    Was I? Eddie and Mack were asking why someone would act in a certain way. I was trying to explain. I don’t recall making a value judgment. This is what I mean by attempting to derail a discussion.

    If someone says they’re baffled why another person might care about others, they’re basically adopting the position of a sociopath. I’m trying to find out if it’s genuinely their position or simply a pose. If the former then it’s basically like a blind person acting baffled that other people might want to buy paintings or photos. If the latter then their professed confusion is disingenuous.

    If the claim is that they would stop caring about friends and family if they stopped believing in God, then I’d question whether they actually care for them in the first place. In fact I doubt their claim is genuine – it’s not something I see in real life when people lose their faith, and I see no reason why one should see that happening. They’re still the same people they were before, the only thing that’s changed is your own faith – why make your affection for your friends contingent on a God existing?

    Either way, I wasn’t making value judgements on someone who doesn’t care about others. I was trying to explain the possible motivations of Shermer. The nearest I came to making a judgment was mooting that the views some people were expressing seemed to be at odds with their own expressed religious views.

    Reply
    • Louie says:

      Andy – I see what you are saying, I really do; but I’m not talking about the ACT of caring. It’s justifying why you would care that causes problems. Its great that YOU genuinely care about others, but that is just you and your feelings. There are many flavors of people out there, some HATE just as much as you LOVE. And without God and and His rules to guide everyone, you have nothing more than feelings to guide people, and who’s feelings rule? That is the danger. With God and the new testament, it is a rule for all to follow, and it doesn’t change with the societal norms. BTW – this discussion is cool & I thank you for it.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        “And without God and and His rules to guide everyone, you have nothing more than feelings to guide people, and who’s feelings rule?”

        I see just as much variance in Christian behaviour as I do in atheist, Louie. Having the Bible’s rules didn’t prevent slavery or laws against interracial marriage. If anything it made it harder to get rid of those things – the huge numbers of people who supported those things (often the majority) were utterly convinced God himself was on their side.

        In other words, the Bible doesn’t seem to help at all when it comes to epistemology of morality (forget ontology). It still seems to come down to those dratted ‘feelings’ you’re so suspicious of!

        In practical terms, you’ve still got everyone disagreeing with each other, with or without a God. Again, this is purely discussing the epistemological, not the ontology. Hope I’ve got those the right way round…

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Andy – Certainly there are “bad” people in all walks of life (christian or nonchristian). Where some people get mixed up is the old and new testaments. We are to live by the rules set forth in the new testament, and what were to two greatest commandments… 1) Love God with your whole mind, whole body and whole soul. 2) Love thy neighbor as thyself. Not sure how someone pulls out of that, that slavery is okay. Perhaps its lack of education, who knows. All that said, with the written law that is not changing it at least gives you a platform and a standard to work toward, rather than the feelings of the day.

          Reply
          • Mack says:

            I agree. Slavery never was wrong no matter who did it. The standard is always consistent. By the way burning Christians for night lights on the streets of Rome was wrong as well.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Louie, nothing you say there addresses any of the points I make in the post you’re replying to!

            But I’m happy to respond to your post anyway. You basically offer an apologetic for why your own personal interpretation of the Bible beats that of all those who disagree with you now and in the past.

            For a start, your response is pretty much the same one I hear from liberal ‘pro-gay’ Christians on why the Bible doesn’t say we should be against gay marriage – Forget the OT, there’s nothing about it in the NT, the important parts of Jesus’ message is Love.

            In fact you’re saying almost EXACTLY the same as them. And the response Christians like you give to those liberal Chistians is pretty much the same response the pro-slavery Christians gave – ‘Jesus said he did NOT come to replace the OT but to fulfil it, so you can’t toss out the OT, and there’s still plenty of NT passages to support our position anyway!’.

            And this interpretation that seems so obvious to you now was not ALL obvious to all the Biblical scholars 200 years ago who wrote long articles quoting all the Bible passages condoning slavery.

            The point here is not whether you agree with them, and I don’t want to hear again the rubbish pretence that the OT was just about indentured servitude – the passages dealing with Hebrew slaves may have been, but it’s very dishonest to pretend those are the only ones.

            But like I said, you didn’t address my point. From an epistemological point of view alone the Bible is a busted flush. There’s as much disagreement among Christians about what’s moral as there is among atheists. You can talk all you want about ‘what if atheists all disagree with each other’ – there are thousands of sects of Christianity in The U.S. alone, and all have disagreements on how the Bible should be interpreted.

            Saying that a true interpretation DOES exist (yours of course!) is neither here nor there when it comes to my point.

            But in answer to your question of when the interpretation has changed to match the mores of the time – slavery of course, and you’re a great example of it. You can say ‘slavery was always wrong’ – sure, but that’s not the point. Somehow the Bibke wasn’t enough to let everyone know that. In fact the Bible made it HARDER to change their minds – they KNEW they had God on their side! The Bibke clearly TOLD them slavery was OK. Abolitionism was an ATHEIST philosophy!

          • Louie says:

            Andy: Do you agree we are having the same debate in two different locations on this same topic? Both here and below? If so, can we abandon this location and keep it up below?

      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        ” Its great that YOU genuinely care about others, but that is just you and your feelings.”

        What if I say: “Louie, it’s great that YOU feel that God is the standard and that slavery is wrong, but that’s just you and your feelings. There are many flavors of people out there. Some interpret the Bible differently to you, and think slavery isn’t wrong, and some feel that another God is the standard, or that God DOES exist but that Satan should be the standard instead”.

        “With God and the new testament, it is a rule for all to follow, and it doesn’t change with the societal norms”

        This is demonstrably false – interpretation of the Bible has ABSOLUTELY changed with societal norms.

        “BTW – this discussion is cool & I thank you for it.”

        You’re welcome!

        Reply
        • Louie says:

          Andy:
          If they have good evidence that slavery isn’t wrong or that we should follow satan as the true god, then I want to hear that arguement. I’ve only chosen christianity because I find it has the best evidence. Like anyone else, I am free to change my mind if the evidence is there.

          Offer me an example of a biblical interpretation that has changed due to societal norms. Are you speaking about the age of the earth here or what?

          At least if you have a written standard, you can sit down and discuss it and try and come to terms. If its just feelings, you have no chance of getting there.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “If they have good evidence that slavery isn’t wrong or that we should follow satan as the true god, then I want to hear that argument”

            I thought you said it wasn’t about arguments, just ‘feelings’.

            “I’ve only chosen christianity because I find it has the best evidence”

            There’s a difference between deciding the evidence supports the existence of the Christian God, and saying it follows from that that morality should be based on the nature of that God. A Satanist can accept the former as well while not accepting the latter.

            “At least if you have a written standard, you can sit down and discuss it and try and come to terms.”

            You can go to humanist websites and find sets of principles written down.

            “Offer me an example of a biblical interpretation that has changed due to societal norms. ”

            As I describe elsewhere, slavery.

            Go and take a look at the 1856 essay, “Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery”, by the Reverend Thomas Stringfellow, a Baptist minister from Culpepper County in Virginia. It’s easy to find on Google. There were many similar articles around at the time, all written by men well versed in the bible. Read Benjamin Palmer’s famous church sermon of 1960, where he defended slavery as being sanctioned by God, adding “in this great struggle, we defend the cause of God and religion. The abolition spirit is undeniably atheistic”

            Yes, there were Christian abolitionists too (just as there are plenty of pro-gay marriage Christians now), but it’s hardly possible to given you an example of a biblical interpretation once held by EVERYONE that is now changed, as there are few bible passages that you can find universal agreement on in the first place!

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Mack, for me the ‘evidence for atheism’ is the lack of evidence for God. Atheism is simply the position of being unconvinced by the evidence for God.

            And even if I allow God’s existence for the sake of argument, I don’t see that ‘morality from God’s standard’ would automatically follow. Christians such as you and Louie reject the idea of a torture-approving God as even being possible. This suggests to me that you’ll argue for a ‘Standard of Morality’ God when you conceptualise that God as agreeing with you on all moral principles.

            You state your position as “God is the standard, all his positions are objectively moral”. But in reality your position is basically “This standard exists, here’s what’s moral, and God agrees with me so it’s objective”. When I suggests a moral position that you disagree with, and ask if that could be part of God’s standard, the answer is no. If you’re saying baby torture couldn’t not possibly be part of God’s standard, you’re basically saying ‘It couldn’t be, because it isn’t’. This seems to come from from Louie dismisses as ‘feelings’. You really FEEL that baby torture is wrong, and so feel that it couldn’t be part of God’s standard. In your own words, this is kind of making yourself God – you’re stating the attributes that God could not have. NB, this isn’t the same as stating God’s ‘necessary attributes’, as in “God necessarily is all knowing”. Unless you’re stating that no approving of baby torture is a ‘necessary’ attribute, in which you’re presupposing what particular moral positions are necessary for an ‘all moral’ being.

            And if you’re doing that you’re kind of begging the question of what makes a moral position. In other words, you’re shifting from ‘Action X is moral because it’s part of God’s nature’ to ‘It’s part of God’s nature because it’s moral’. In which case, again, you’re setting out that morality is actually separate to God’s nature – there’s a set of morals that any possible moral God would have to embody.

            And then the existence of God only helps from an epistemological standpoint, rather than an ontological one. And as I already explained, it hardly even helps from an epistemological one, given all the arguments among Christians about what the bible actually says on any moral issue.

          • Louie says:

            Andy-
            -I am betting that their argument will boil back to “feelings”. However, rather than discount them uo front, I would give them the opportunity to present their evidence.
            -If the evidence points to the God of the bible, then that is who you follow for everything since it is all His.
            -Thats good, I am glad to hear that the humanists have written their word down so it does not change with the wind. I would follow that humanist list if I thought they had the best evidence for their world view to be true.
            -Slavery was certainly condoned in the old testament. No question. When I read the second greatest command in the new testament, “love thy neighbor as thyself”, I just don’t see slavery in that statement. No matter what the feelings of society are at the time.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Louie, as I said, when you say that the NT says ‘Love thy neighbour’ and claim that trumps any OT passage that you don’t like the sound of, you sound exactly like the liberal Chistian supporters of gay marriage who you dismiss. They point out that Jesus never said anything about gays, and mainly told us to love each other. Conservative Christians will often say those liberals can’t even call themselves Christians, just like the pro-slavers used to call abolitionist ‘atheists’.

            It’s special pleading, Louie. I’m sure you’ve got a reason why the liberal Christian argument is false (“Loving each other doesn’t mean gays can marry!”) but it is special pleading.

            And also like I said, ‘God created humans’ doesn’t logically lead to ‘God sets the standard for morality’. Back to the Zool argument Luke and I set out before.

          • Mack says:

            Hello Luke I hope you’re doing well. I just found this message. Not sure what your talking about but give your questions and I’ll see if I can help you with them.

          • Louie says:

            Andy: That is not correct. We do NOT live by old testament laws any longer, the new testament is the standard. (except jews since they don’t accept Jesus as God, and I cannot debate from that position). Also, in NO WAY does the new testament condone homsexuality, a few lines into the book of Romans will clear that up. You are correct about liberal vs. conservative, when defining who is and who is not truely a christian; but that goes on for all groups, christians, atheists, buddist, and so on and so forth. To me, there should not be two groups, it should just be the word of God at face value. I disagree about God not being able to set the standard for everything. If He created everything, he gets to make all the rules and enforce them as he sees fit. I don’t like all the rules either, but I still have to try and follow them.

  14. Luke says:

    Terry said: “if this (“Mack still seems to be saying that he doesn’t think moral behavior brings happiness.”) is truly what he’s trying to say, then I completely disagree with him.”

    So you think that the set of behaviors you call “moral behavior” is the best way to maximize happiness?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • mack says:

      If moral behavior brings you happiness that’s great!! However the atheist worldview only allows for individual or group opinion. There may be other individuals or group of individuals with much different or completely opposite opinions. Therefore nothing is right or wrong. Everything is “moral” Based on your opinion And opinions can change.

      Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Mack, in practical terms I don’t observe the behaviour of atheists changing markedly over time or differing that greatly from Christians. And as for opinions changing, over the past few centuries Christian opinion on what is moral has shifted hugely. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states for decades – perhaps even centuries – and only became fully legal less that fifty years ago. Polls even in 1967 showed the majority still saw it as being immoral. And of course there was slavery, which was wiped out not by shifts in opinion but by war. This was a Christian vs Christian fight. Either a majority or a significant minority of Christians were convinced that slavery was moral, and they were happy to point to all the bible passages that backed up their claim.

        Sure you can say ‘Yes, but regardless of people’s opinions, slavery was and is still wrong’, but in practical terms this made no difference to the slavers or the people they enslaved. If we’re talking purely epistemology, Christianity doesn’t seem to help at all.

        “If moral behavior brings you happiness that’s great!!”

        So Mack, if you stopped believing in God, would you, in actuality, markedly change how you treat your friends and family? You seem to be saying you would. If so, I’d question that you truly care for them now. You seem to be hinting that if they don’t have eternal life ahead of them, that makes it LESS important that they have a happy life on earth. Wouldn’t that if fact make their time here MORE precious? I mean, that’s what normally happens when a resource becomes scarcer – it becomes more valuable, not less.

        “Therefore nothing is right or wrong”

        Mack, seems to me that either torturing a baby is wrong or it isn’t, regardless of whether a God exists. If you’re saying it’s only wrong if a God exists then you’re saying the ‘wrongness’ of it is conditional – it’s not an objective truth. What about the existence of God makes torturing a baby MORE wrong? The suffering is the same, no?

        “Based on your opinion And opinions can change.”

        Why should someone’s opinion on the wrongness of baby torture change? If you meet someone who doesn’t have a problem with baby torture, does this mean baby torture isn’t actually wrong? If God appeared and said baby torture was fine, would that mean that it was? Could God NOT say that, and if not why not? If not, then it suggests that the wrongness of baby torture exists independently of God.

        Reply
        • mack says:

          When a Christian does something wrong it’s sin against God but the standard does not change.
          Without God there is no right or wrong just billions of individual opinions.

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            Thanks, but you’ve not really addressed my point.

            Why is there no right or wrong without God? Why does God existing make something wrong that wouldn’t otherwise be wrong, given all other variables remaining the same?

      • Luke says:

        Mack,

        I’m sorry if I’m not understanding, but you don’t really answer the question with a yes or no. You say: “if moral behavior brings [one] happiness” which seems to say ‘hey, it might; it might not!”. Again, sorry if I’m not understanding.

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          I’m guessing Mack is saying it might for some people but might not for others. He hasn’t made it clear which camp he falls into, but he’s said that the Christian life is a wonderful one, suggesting he DOES think moral behaviour brings happiness.

          But many Christians here (I can’t remember if Mack is among them) have said very clearly that if they stopped believing in God they would markedly change their behaviour to become more selfish in order to pursue happiness, suggesting that they feel their current ‘Christian behaviour’ of giving consideration to others is seriously holding them back from properly enjoying themselves. For them it seems their ‘moral behaviour’ brings little satisfaction or happiness on its own basis, and is endured purely in pursuit of reward in the afterlife. This seems a sad state of affairs to me.

          Reply
  15. mack says:

    Hi guys long day at work. I have a “smart phone” which is an oxymoron.
    I can’t see everything you have been talking about I mostly see a column of letters. Any technical help you can offer would be appreciated.
    God does not make the standard he is the standard.
    Please define what you mean by moral.
    Who in the atheistic world sets the standard…..you??
    I know I have not answered some of your questions. You may have to re state them. I will get back with you when I can.

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      “God does not make the standard he is the standard”

      You’ll have to explain the difference, Mack.
      Who decided that he is the standard? On what basis is he the standard? Could his nature have been different?

      Reply
      • Mack says:

        Only an unchanging moral authority can provide unchanging moral laws that are binding on human beings.
        Now please address my questions.

        Define what you mean by morality

        In the atheist world who sets the moral standard.
        Who is your highest moral authority…you?

        Reply
        • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

          “Only an unchanging moral authority can provide unchanging moral laws that are binding on human beings.”

          Sorry Mack, but you’ve not answered the question. You’re saying that human beings would only be binded by an unchanging moral authority. But what makes God that authority? Who decided this? Himself? You?

          If the universe was created by a God whose standard was that torturing babies was moral, and he was unchanging on this, would that make baby torture moral?

          Is it a matter of luck on our part that God happened to be against baby torture, or is baby torture necessarily wrong, such that an unchanging moral authority would have to be against it?

          But I’m guessing you won’t be satisfied with me just saying you’ve not really answered the question unless I try to answer yours too:

          “Who is your highest moral authority…you?”

          I try to work out the best thing to do – taking into consideration other people’s feelings and happiness. I don’t put myself at any pinnacle – if there’s someone who seems smarter and wiser than me on moral decisions then I’ll happily defer to them.

          You can say “Well how do you know you’re own opinions on these issues are reliable”, but by the same token you – Mack – ultimately have to rely on yourself too. You are the one who ultimately has to interpret what the bible says and you are the one who has to decide which God is the real one, and also come to the philosophical position that God is the moral authority. So ultimately you’re having to trust yourself just as I do.

          Reply
          • Mack says:

            I beg to differ you are putting yourself on a pinnacle. You are being the moral judge for yourself and others. With all due respect, who are you to do this. It seems to me that you are acting as an atheist god.
            There can only be one law giver and God the creator best explains this.

            Got to go to work again. I hope I can read your response later. Still having technical difficulties. I hope you have a great day.

          • Andrew Ryan says:

            “I beg to differ you are putting yourself on a pinnacle.”

            I don’t see how you can come to that conclusion when I clearly said I happily defer to others.

            “It seems to me that you are acting as an atheist god.”

            Mack, I’m baffled by this. Nothing in what I said above could possibly lead to you rationally coming to that conclusion. If I was making myself a God, why would I be bothering to listen to your arguments? Why would I engage in discussions with others over the best course of action in different situations?

            “There can only be one law giver and God the creator best explains this.”

            I might as well say who are you to make that judgment about God? To say that someone else is the one law giver is an enormous decision – what gives you the right to make it?

            Whether you are making the decision on what is moral, of making the decision to defer to another party (in this case God), it is still YOU making that decision. It still comes down to your judgment. You are judging God to be the supreme arbiter. By what standard do you make that judgment? Saying ‘He doesn’t change his mind’ isn’t enough. Like I said, if God said baby torture was moral, would him never changing his mind about it make it any more true?

            I’m sorry you’re having technical difficulties, and appreciate you have work, but you’re asking me lots of questions and not justifying your own position at all.

          • Mack says:

            One more time before I go.
            It doesn’t matter if it’s you or a group of people. If its a group of people then all of you are being the moral judge on other individuals or other groups. Who says that you or your group is moraly superior to those who have totally opisit morals
            Than You or your group?
            One law Giver, one standard is the best and logical explanation.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            1) “If its a group of people then all of you are being the moral judge on other individuals or other groups.”

            I already addressed this. Your alternative is that YOU decide who is the best law giver. It still comes down to YOU making the decision.

            “One law Giver, one standard is the best and logical explanation.”

            It’s still coming down to YOU saying you can be trusted to work out what explanation is the best and most logical

            2) I’ll ask for a third time:

            If the universe was created by a God whose standard was that torturing babies was moral, and he was unchanging on this, would that make baby torture moral?

            Is it a matter of luck on our part that God happened to be against baby torture, or is baby torture necessarily wrong, such that an unchanging moral authority would have to be against it?

          • Mack says:

            The best and most logical explanation is that there is one law giver. Not you and your group nor me and my group.
            It makes no sense to give me strawman arguments, we can go back and forth with those indefinitely.

          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            “The best and most logical explanation is that there is one law giver”

            But that’s YOU deciding that. It still comes down to it being the best and most logical explanation to YOU. How is YOU deciding X is the best and most logical explanation for something any worse than someone else deciding Y is the best or most moral course of action in a particular given situation?

            “It makes no sense to give me straw man arguments”

            Why is this a straw man argument? If I say a group of people all agree that baby torture is wrong, you might well come back and say “But what if they all agree that baby torture is moral?” – why is that any less of a straw man argument?

            If I asked “What if God approved of slavery?”, you might call that a straw man too, but a couple of hundreds of years ago, tens of millions of Americans believed exactly that God approved of slavery.

            At any rate, my question isn’t a straw man – it’s trying to get to the heart of what exactly makes an action immoral. Is baby torture immoral because God doesn’t approve of it, or does God not approve of it because it’s immoral? If the latter, then it’s immorality exists apart from God. If the former then it’s fair enough to ask why God doesn’t approve of it. Is it based on some other principle? Is it random – could his nature have been different? If not, why not?

            If you reject the idea of a baby-torture approving God as being a straw man – a complete absurdity, then you need to explain why. It really does come across that you see the horrrendousness of the act as being so obvious that no possible God could approve of it. Who are you to pronounce what God can and cannot approve of? Why is that any less presumptuous than an atheist saying it’s horrendous? You said I’m making myself a God. If you pronounce on what God couldn’t possibly approve of then are you not doing the same?

  16. Luke says:

    Mack,

    You said: “If moral behavior brings you happiness that’s great!!”

    This didn’t exactly answer my question, but that’s okay.

    Let me ask this way. Does it bring you happiness? If the answer is yes, can you please tell us why you would seek to change behavior you know makes you happy (upon hypothetically becoming an atheist).

    Also, you said: “However the atheist worldview only allows for individual or group opinion.” and “Without G-d there is no right or wrong just billions of individual opinions.”

    This doesn’t seem correct to me. The golden rule is an objective standard that exists. It is what it is and can’t be changed, and it’s certainly not a matter of opinion. Whether people accept it as their standard is another matter, but I just don’t see how one could say that the standard itself doesn’t exist.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Mack says:

      If I’m an atheist burning ants with a magnifying glass and it makes me happy does my happiness make it moral? Your correct in an atheist world this is fine because it makes me happy and I will not allow you or your group to impose your morals on me. They are my morals.

      The golden rule is just your opinion.
      My opinion could be do bad things to people before they do bad things to me.
      You or your group set the moral standard for you.. No one person or group sets the standard for all.

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Mack, you again didn’t answer my questions (and I’ve been very nice about answering yours). It’s as if you are having a one way conversation.

        How is the golden rule an opinion? Again, whether one believes or desires to live by it is a matter of something like opinion, but the golden rule itself is a concept, an idea… If every person in the world thought (held the opinion) that the golden rule was a terrible way to live, would it then not exists as a concept? After all no one would hold that “opinion” (as you’ve called it). Yet of course it would exist, it would logically have to exist in that scenario.

        You asked: “If I’m an atheist burning ants with a magnifying glass and it makes me happy does my happiness make it moral?”

        I can’t see how, honestly.

        Reply
  17. Mack says:

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is your moral opinion on how to interact with others. My opinion on how to deal with others maybe totally different as I have stated.
    As for the ant thing read your former comments.

    Reply
  18. Luke says:

    Mack,

    I’m really not sure how to continue a conversation with you, when you ignore every question I ask you. I happen to believe in an objective moral standard that says one should show some basic respect to people one is having a conversation with. I don’t think I can spend time now conversing with those who stray far from that standard.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  19. Terry L says:

    Somehow, I seem to be gaining access to Frank’s staging site for this website… I think that’s where all of our missing posts are going.

    SYSADMINS: Do you have a link somewhere you need to change? pointing to fturek.staging.wp(redacted)….

    Reply
  20. Terry L says:

    Now that we’re on the right website (hopefully…)

    On May 6, 2015 at 7:23 am Andy said:

    Why is there no right or wrong without God? Why does God existing make something wrong that wouldn’t otherwise be wrong, given all other variables remaining the same?

    I’d like to revisit this, if you’re willing. But I want to do it a little differently than what we’ve been doing. In order to do this, I need some more answer from Andy, but Luke et. al. are welcome to respond as well.

    In relation to Andy’s first question above: Based on your posts, I assume you believe that right and wrong do exist. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) In that case, Would you agree that if this is true, that there must be something that distinguishes between the two?

    If you disagree, then please explain your reasoning. However, to me it seems logically necessary that the answer is yes. If right/good is indistinguishable from wrong/evil, then how could we even have a serious discussion about the terms?

    That’s all for now… trying to avoid my usual penchant for posting novels.

    -tl

    Reply
      • Luke says:

        Let me add a few questions along these lines, all but one are yes/no for ease:

        Do you agree that there are tall people and short people?
        If so, do you agree that there must be something that distinguishes between the two?
        If so, what is that thing?
        Do you agree that tall people exist?
        Does tall or tallness exists (if yes, which?)?

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
      • Luke says:

        Sorry to keep adding questions, but since you haven’t responded yet, we may as well get as clear a response as possible. You said:“Would you agree that if this is true, that there must be something that distinguishes between the two?”

        Let me give an example: a hexagon and a pentagon are different. Something distinguishes them. I tend to think that this ‘something’ though is also part of them. In this example, a pentagon has 5 edges and 5 vertices, while a hexagon has 6 edges and 6 vertices. We can use a standard to give them names, but if there was no standard, and no mind around to interpret a standard, they would still be different. In this sense their difference is intrinsic to them.

        With this example in mind, my question is, does the “something distinguish[ing] them” have to be separate from the two (or more) things being distinguished, or can it be part of them?

        (If yes, can you give an example where the ‘distinguisher’ is entirely separate from any difference in the objects being compared, please?)

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
  21. Terry L says:

    Luke

    Above, you said this, in response to Mack’s claim that “Without G-d there is no right or wrong just billions of individual opinions.”:

    The golden rule is an objective standard that exists. It is what it is and can’t be changed, and it’s certainly not a matter of opinion.

    How, on atheism, is this not a matter of opinion?

    Whether people accept it as their standard is another matter,…

    Objective standards don’t work like this. It doesn’t matter whether anyone accepts it. As you said, “it is what it is.”

    If I get pulled over for speeding, I’m not going to get out of a ticket by saying, “Sure, the speed limit is 55 here, but I don’t accept that standard. My standard is 80!”

    but I just don’t see how one could say that the standard itself doesn’t exist.

    Why/how/where does it exist?

    Reply
  22. Luke says:

    Luke said:“The golden rule is an objective standard that exists. It is what it is and can’t be changed, and it’s certainly not a matter of opinion.”

    Terry said:“How, on atheism, is this not a matter of opinion?”

    How does is it not a matter of opinion that this concept exists? I’m not sure I understand the question. Whether something exists cannot really be a matter of opinion. It can be a matter of knowledge (whether correct or incorrect), but opinion would have no bearing on the fact of the matter of existence. Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts? I think you may be trying to ask what sort of ontology that’s compatible with atheism allows for a concept to exist, to which I can only say, many of them. Think about a law. Where does the law exist? In the atoms of the ink of the words in the law books? In the minds of those who believe in the law? It’s not really a simple question and people argue about things like this for a living. If you wish to advance the argument that “concepts cannot exist on atheism” you are free to do so, I suppose. (I just don’t think such a stance will buy you much credibility, to be honest.)

    Luke said:“Whether people accept it as their standard is another matter,…”

    Terry said:“Objective standards don’t work like this. It doesn’t matter whether anyone accepts it. As you said, “it is what it is.”

    I said it exists. A standard for recording audio at 44.1 khz exists, as does a standard for recording at 48khz. We can white balance at 3600K or 3800K. We can record movies at 24 or 29.7 fps. It is a matter of opinion whether 24 or 29.7 is the right way to go.

    Whether people accept the metric system has no bearing on its objectivity, or its existence. Same case here.

    Are you saying that since people clearly reject the standard of G-d (hey ISIS guys!), that the standard is not objective. Surely you jest!

    Terry said:“If I get pulled over for speeding, I’m not going to get out of a ticket by saying, “Sure, the speed limit is 55 here, but I don’t accept that standard. My standard is 80!”

    But you could… Nothing is stopping you. If you did, it’s not like the concept of the 55 kmh speed limit would cease to exist if you did so.

    When you are in Rhode Island, do you follow the speed laws of Maine? If no, does that mean that the speed laws of Maine are not objective? Does it mean they don’t exist?

    I think you’re trying to say that “no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!”. (Yes?) That can be an interesting argument and an interesting point. It has no bearing on objectivity or existence of other standards though. (Sorry to attempt to make your arguments for you, I’d just like to skip ahead to the interesting part, and you may not be surprised to learn I have far more practice making apologetic arguments then cross examining them; it’s just that When in Rome…)

    Luke said:“but I just don’t see how one could say that the standard itself doesn’t exist.”

    Terry said:“Why/how/where does it exist?”

    Are you denying that it does?

    “Why?” It just does. I don’t know why dogs do that weird turnaround thing they do before laying down. That doesn’t mean they don’t. The fact that we can talk about it proves it exists as a concept.

    “How?” That’s an ontological question. There are many ways/theories in which it could exist. No matter which way one can prove, or just chooses to accept, the concept exists.

    “Where?” This is an ontological question again. Where does The Patriot Act exist? (<= Not a rhetorical question.)

    I hope I've gotten all of your questions. I have a list of 37 unanswered questions from you from the previous thread. It would be nice to return to those one day, but there's probably better stuff to do. For now, I'll take the answers above: most are yes/no, I think.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  23. Andy Ryan says:

    “Andy: That is not correct. We do NOT live by old testament laws any longer, the new testament is the standard. (except jews since they don’t accept Jesus as God, and I cannot debate from that position).”

    I already covered this, Louie. The apologetic answer to this is the quote from Jesus saying he didn’t come to replace the law but to fulfil it. When people want to they interpret this to mean they still get to keep any OT quotes they want to use to bolster their points. Of course, when they don’t, they just use the line you use above. Again, giant book of multiple choice!

    “Also, in NO WAY does the new testament condone homsexuality, a few lines into the book of Romans will clear that up.”

    Equally, there are NT testament passages that condone slavery too. And it’s easy to find many bible scholars who disagree with you on Romans – have a google to find some sophisticated investigations of the passages in question. It’s far easier to find non-anti-gay explanations to them than non-slavery-condoning explanations for other NT passages.

    And if you want to say “Well Jesus never mentioned slavery, he just told us to love each other”, then that could apply to dismissing anti-gay passages too. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, he mainly talked about loving each other and not judging.

    “I disagree about God not being able to set the standard for everything. If He created everything, he gets to make all the rules and enforce them as he sees fit.

    He ‘gets’ to make all the rules? How come? Is this an appeal to justice – “It’s fair that he should get to make the rules”, or an appeal to common sense?
    1) Either you’re saying that it’s a rule that he gets to make the rules, in which case that’s circular.
    2) Or you’re appealing to a rule EXTERNAL to God, in which case you’re admitting that some rules exist apart from him.

    Both of these are fatally problematic for your argument.

    “I don’t like all the rules either, but I still have to try and follow them.”

    Really? Which rules don’t you like? If they’re good rules then should you like them?

    Reply
  24. Terry L says:

    Luke:

    You said,

    Whether something exists cannot really be a matter of opinion. It can be a matter of knowledge (whether correct or incorrect)…

    I’m not denying its existence. You claimed that it was an objective standard, as opposed to a subjective one. Are you trying to say that by “objective”, you meant only that the concept exists? Do you deny the existence of any subjective standard?

    Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts?

    Only on a purely materialistic worldview. As I deny that this worldview is the correct one, I have no problem with the existence of concepts.

    But there’s a difference between the existence of a concept and the concept existing in reality. Vampires, hobgoblins and unicorns exist as concepts, but that doesn’t mean that they exist in reality. And without any ontological basis, I see little reason to alter my behavior because of those concepts.

    The thrust of your response seems to be, “Well, The Golden Rule does exist, as a concept” with no other evidence or basis for its ontology.

    But your statement was that it existed as a “standard”, not as a “concept”. In my mind, (and maybe it’s a semantic thing), there’s a world of difference between the two. To claim it is a standard (something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality–merriam-webster.com) implies that all will be measured by it. Otherwise, what do you mean by the word “standard”? And if it has no more ontological basis than a vampire or hobgoblin, then explain how that can possiblity meet the definition of a standard.

    Given your defense here, I can say anything I want, and it becomes an objective standard. If I can express it, then it certainly exists as a concept. So is there a difference between the “concept”/”standard” of the Golden Rule, and the “concept”/”standard” of “Beat all men named Luke with a flyswatter for an hour on Thursdays”?

    A ridiculous notion, perhaps, but that only serves to highlight the issue. If there is no ontological difference between the two statements, then does the second carry the same “oughtness” as the first? Why, or why not?

    I said it exists. A standard for recording audio at 44.1 khz exists, as does a standard for recording at 48khz. We can white balance at 3600K or 3800K. We can record movies at 24 or 29.7 fps. It is a matter of opinion whether 24 or 29.7 is the right way to go.

    Terry said:“If I get pulled over for speeding, I’m not going to get out of a ticket by saying, “Sure, the speed limit is 55 here, but I don’t accept that standard. My standard is 80!”
    But you could… Nothing is stopping you. If you did, it’s not like the concept of the 55 kmh speed limit would cease to exist if you did so.

    True. These highlight the difference between descriptive standards, and prescriptive standards. Prescriptive standards state how things ought to be. The very fact of their existence implies that it is possible for things not to be as they ought–for if all were as it should be, then there would be no need for a prescriptive rule. In the case of the speed limit example, my refusal to acknowledge the existence of the speed limit will not keep me from breaking myself against that law. I will still be held accountable for violating that rule by the proper authorities (or perhaps my own stupidity, if I wreck my car) regardless of whether I recognize it or not.

    The standard for creating compact discs is a prescriptive standard. You can record at any non-standard frequency you wish (your preference), but if you’re going to create a usable CD, you have to convert that to a redbook standard. I often prefer to record using 24 bit samples, but I have to reduce that to the prescribed 16 when actually creating a CD.

    Can you create a CD using different values? Most likely… but don’t expect it to work out in most CD players. They’re not designed to interact with such an anomoly. When something fails to meet the standard to which it was designed, it becomes unusable and worthless… just like humans when we violate our design.

    Would you say the Golden Rule is descriptive, stating what is, or prescriptive, stating what should be?

    If it states what should be, then simply stating that the concept exists seems an insufficient answer to my question. The concept, “good men should burn down abortion clinics” exists, and is also a prescriptive concept. Should I follow one and not the other? If so, then what justification do you provide for your answer?

    I think you’re trying to say that “no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!”.

    Not me! You correctly pointed out my error some time ago when I neglected one rendering of Christ’s words on how to treat others. While I still hold that the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself is a stricter formulation of the rule, you are correct that Jesus did use the weaker form also. This would make the words you would have me say self-contradictory. I’ve already recanted my earlier mistake; I have no desire to make the same one again. 🙂

    To your earlier questions re: my questions to Andy:

    Do you agree that there are tall people and short people?…

    In what context?. In general, as I’m 6″1′, most people to me seem about average. To one of the seniors in our local high school who isn’t even 5″, practically everyone seems tall! In everyday usage, we have no set standard by which to determine when one goes from short to average to tall. And for that generic usage of the terms, this is fine. So the answer to most of your questions is “yes”, tall people exist, “tallness” exists, but these are subjective and exist in relation to the observer. Therefore, the observer is their own standard of tallness. My senior friend would say I’m tall… Shaq would probably disagree, and both would be right in their own frame of reference.

    But in a different context, we have a more objective measurement called “height”, which can be determined precisely in terms of feet/inches or meters. When your child wants to ride a roller coaster, then we often do have an objective standard that says whether or not they are too short to ride safely. And at the parks I visit, the employees there take this standard quite seriously! My daughter has been refused a ride for less than an inch of variance from the standard. But that standard doesn’t say, “Must be tall.” It says something like “Must be at least 42 inches tall to ride.” You don’t measure up, you don’t get to go!

    Does the “something distinguish[ing] them” have to be separate from the two (or more) things being distinguished, or can it be part of them?

    The “something that distinguishes” is a part of the thing being compared, unless it is the lack of said something that sets it apart. (i.e. The only valid comparison of your intelligence to that of a rock is to recognize that you possess the quality while a rock does not.) A child either is at least 42 inches tall, or he is not. It does no good for the child to plead, “But my daddy is 63 inches tall!” Daddy’s height doesn’t matter.

    Now in your hexagon/pentagon discussion, the difference between the two figures is certainly a part of the figures themselves. The difference between hugging your child and choking your child is also intrinsic to the actions themselves. However, this difference doesn’t involve any standard. You would have to introduce a standard of some sort to know whether the hexagons ought to be pentagons or vice-versa.

    The standard that discriminates between two objects is not necessarily either of the objects. You can, of course, compare one person choking their child to the standard and see that that action doesn’t measure up and is therefore evil. It is also evident that, if the proper response in a given situation would be to lovingly discipline the child, then neither choking nor hugging fully meet up with the standard. One is too lenient, the other too harsh.

    Make sense?

    -tl

    Reply
  25. Luke says:

    Terry,

    So under materialism, you believe that things can both exist and not exist? You say that there is no “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism. Can you elaborate on what you mean?

    You seem to accept that differences can be perceived without objective criteria. You seem to admit that objective standards exist, even if we don’t abide by them.

    Frankly, I see nothing in what you say that disagrees with or undermines the idea that the golden rule is an objective standard one could use to judge moral behavior.

    You do seem to complain that I didn’t name an ontological view that allows for the existence of concepts. As I said, this was because there are many valid theories as to such an existence. Again, unless you disagree that the concept exists, I don’t really see the problem or interest in discussing it. (Some people think ideas just exist, and we access them; others see them as existing in our neurons and their interactions, and on and on.)

    I asked you a pretty simple question about whether you think tall and short people exist. You didn’t give a straightforward answer saying: “In what context?” You then give one “context” in which you seem to say yes. You then go on to talk about a different “context” which says nothing about whether tall and short people exist. I’ll just take it as a ‘yes’ I suppose. (Your first “context” also uses the second “context”. I guess I just have no idea what you mean. Sorry. It seemed a pretty plain and easy question to me.)

    As far as the golden rule applying universally to everyone — i.e. to everyone being under it’s jurisdiction — I’m really confused by your complaint. Are you now saying that we all must follow the golden rule and only the golden rule? I hope you’re not just trying to be difficult and clever by pointing out that if everyone is drinking lemonade, it’s totally correct to say that everyone is drinking water. I don’t want to come of as a cantankerous old man, but if you spend hours and hours writing to us that “there is one and only one right standard, and we are all bound to it”, then go around saying “oh, there’s totally more than one standard to which we are bound” your views become too lacking in coherence to allow for a response.

    You talk about the existence of the concept of hobgoblins and actual hobgoblins, but that seems to miss the point. We’re not talking about the concept of the concept. The thing we need in this case is the concept itself. We need to have the concept of a hobgoblin to judge whether something is a hobgoblin (or the concept that something being ‘x’ means it is not a ‘hobgoblin’ — though even that seems to require the hobgoblin concept). We don’t need the actual hobgoblin.

    You never told me where the patriot act exists, by the way.

    You also say something really interesting here: “The standard that discriminates between two objects is not necessarily either of the objects.”

    How does a standard discriminate? I can see how one uses a standard to discriminate, but I can’t really see how a standard itself does so. Can you please elaborate?

    Anyway, as I said, I see nothing in what you say that disagrees with or undermines the idea that the golden rule is an objective standard one could use to judge moral behavior.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  26. Terry L says:

    Luke:

    You said, “Frankly, I see nothing in what you say that disagrees with or undermines the idea that the golden rule is an objective standard one could use to judge moral behavior.

    Probably because I don’t disagree with the idea, and never tried to refute the point. I’m asking you to clarify what you said. You made an assertion that the Golden Rule was an “objective” standard, yet failed to establish any objective basis for the existence of said standard.

    As it stands, your claim that the Golden Rule is an objective standard is an assertion without evidence, and as Christopher Hitchens said, what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    You further said, “We’re not talking about the concept of the concept. The thing we need in this case is the concept itself.

    You’re the one who said, “The fact that we can talk about it proves it exists as a concept.” (Emphasis mine.) We can also talk about hobgoblins and vampires, but the question is, are we talking about something real? If the Golden Rule exists only in the same way that a vampire exists, if it’s only a man-made fiction, then we’re wasting our time even talking about it in a serious manner.

    As I understand it, we have these: The concept of the concept, which is the *idea* of a vampire, or the *idea* of the Golden Rule; and the concept itself, which is a vampire or the Golden Rule. The first certainly exists. How about the second?

    It’s important because of this: you said, “We need to have the concept of a hobgoblin to judge whether something is a hobgoblin (or the concept that something being ‘x’ means it is not a ‘hobgoblin’ — though even that seems to require the hobgoblin concept). We don’t need the actual hobgoblin.”.

    I do disagree with you here. We need more than the concept of a hobgoblin to prove that object A is a hobgoblin; namely, we need for hobgoblins to be an entity that exists in reality. You don’t necessarily (in this case) need a specific hobgoblin, but if hobgoblins do not exist, then the concept will never make A be a hobgoblin.

    Similarly, if right and wrong , good and evil do not exist in reality, then the Golden Rule can never make an action right or wrong. Furthermore, it takes more than the concept of right and wrong. If evil does not exist as a real category, then the mere concept of evil will never make an action evil any more than the concept of a hobgoblin makes an ugly man a hobgoblin.

    Now you asked a “pretty simple question” about whether tall or short people exist. I disagree with your characterization of this as a “pretty simple question”, because it leaves out critical information. As phrased, there is no standard of what “tall” means and what “short” means. If I say no, then you can easily say that I’m being absurd. Obviously, tall and short people exist! If I say yes, then you can say, “what standard are you using to determine that?”

    And I did answer that question. As you’ve phrased it, it’s a relative question, so everyone uses their own opinions to determine whether someone is tall or short. My high-school friend and Shaq could have a healthy debate about whether I’m “tall” or “short”, and each would be right, based on their own relative opinion. But that’s because they’re using different standards to measure my “tallness” or “shortness”.

    However, I also pointed out that there are contexts in which one’s opinion is not relevant. In those situations, there is a fixed standard of what “too short” or “too tall” means. Everyone, regardless of their opinion, and regardless of whether they agree with, acknowledge, or deny the existence of that standard must obey the standard or pay the price for violating it. If you sneak your “too-short” child through the line and onto a rollercoaster, then if you’re caught, you may well be forced out of the amusement park. Your opinion of the rule doesn’t matter one bit!

    I’m not certain where you’re going with this… do you mean to imply by this thread that good and evil are like the relative view of tallness and shortness?

    If so, then I’ll just point out that if the rollercoaster rules worked that way, then it would be the same as having no rule at all. Someone could simply say, “my two-year-old is tall enough to ride”, and there’s no standard there to refute them.

    You asked, ”Are you now saying that we all must follow the golden rule and only the golden rule?”

    Certainly not! And I’m also not certain what your confusion is in this paragraph. I’ve never said that there’s more than one standard… unless God does not exist. Then every man has his own standard, and all of them are equally valid… or more accurately, equally meaningless!

    Which leads, in a way, back to your first question. You asked:

    So under materialism, you believe that things can both exist and not exist? You say that there is no “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism. Can you elaborate on what you mean?

    To be clear, I did not deny a “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism. Your question was, “Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts?

    Materialism, by definition, only admits material entities. There is no room in a materialistic universe for the transcendent. If anything in reality transcends matter, then by definition, the universe cannot be a materialistic universe.

    In a purely material universe, it is possible for a dog to exist. This would be a configuration of a collection of matter arranged so that the collection had the properties we associate with a dog. But how does this apply to concepts?

    Let’s continue with our friendly hobgoblins. In a purely material universe, there is no “concept” of a hobgoblin. There is, at best, a configuration of atoms in a brain which represents a collection of parts and pieces taken from various physical entities put together in a way that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity that exists in reality.

    Note that I’ve been very careful not to say that this configuration represents the idea of a hobgoblin. An “idea” transcends matter, and strictly speaking, cannot exist on pure materialism. Ideas only have existence relative to a mind. Computers hold data, but never hold ideas. Ideas are generated when a human mind views or hears the data stored in the computer.

    To your specific questions/comments:

    You seem to accept that differences can be perceived without objective criteria.

    No. You misunderstand. There is definitely an objective criteria for differences; namely, non-correspondance. When you see one part of one entity that does not correspond to a part of another entity, then you recognize that they are different.

    I do agree that differences may be recognized without assigning a value judgement to those differences. (Hexagons and pentagons with no standard by which to categorize them are simply different.)

    You seem to admit that objective standards exist, even if we don’t abide by them.

    Obviously and trivially true.

    You also say something really interesting here: “The standard that discriminates between two objects is not necessarily either of the objects.”

    How does a standard discriminate? I can see how one uses a standard to discriminate, but I can’t really see how a standard itself does so. Can you please elaborate?

    You really seem to be being a little uncharitable here. Keep in mind that I do a lot of my writing here on my lunch hour and/or breaks; it’s amazing that such posts are even partially coherent given the limited time I have to compose them!

    Of course, the discriminator is the mind that evaluates the object/objects against the standard. However, it should be immediately obvious that at least three things are required in this action; namely, 1. the object, 2. the judge, and 3. the standard. My sentence should have been: “the standard that is used to discriminate between two objects is not necessarily either of the objects.”

    A judge cannot make a valid judgement without an applicable standard. A standard is useless without a judge. And both are redundant without something to judge.

    Not quite as obvious, but equally required, I think, is the benefit of meeting and/or the consequences of failing to meet the requirements of the standard.

    You never told me where the patriot act exists, by the way.

    As data, it exists on paper, and in various computer systems across the country. As information/ideas/knowledge, it exists in the minds of those who created and/or have read the law. The Act itself is a collection of ideas, so ultimately it exists in a mind.

    So if no one is thinking about it, does it cease to exist? Not at all, in a theistic universe. God knows all things, and the Act exists in his mind at all times, as “all things” includes the currently-active laws of the United States.

    Hope this covers everything!

    -tl

    Reply
      • toby says:

        The reason I ask is that if you think the immaterial is supernatural you then have to explain a few things.

        1. How can it effect material?
        2. How does it interface with material?
        3. Is it, or is it not, measurable?
        4. If our minds are immaterial are they also timeless?
        5. If so, how do we not have memories of forever?
        6. If our minds are immaterial then “where” are they? Heaven? Hell? Somewhere inbetween? Where are they “beaming in” from? You’ve mentioned “hyper-” time and place before.
        7. Are our minds (let’s just admit here that you think it’s a “soul”) with god as we are here?
        8. Is Descartes wrong that they interact with the pineal gland?
        9. If minds are timeless then how do we learn? At one point we don’t know something then after input we do.
        10. Are concepts a product of minds? If so, then do they exist timelessly, immaterially. In essence are concepts “forever”?

        Reply
  27. Luke says:

    Terry,

    I am really trying to keep what you are saying straight. Sorry! I can reply to your larger post, but I just wanted to focus on one piece to hopefully illustrate to you why I’m having so much trouble. I’ll sort of divide this into sections for clarity.

    Part 1:

    I said:“I think you’re trying to say that ‘no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!’.”

    You replied: “Not me!”

    So I made two claims here:

    a. No one is under jurisdiction of the Golden Rule
    b. Everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standards

    I put these forth as what I thought were your beliefs.

    You responded to that by saying: “Not me!”

    So, you must see one of these as not true. You went on to say what I can think is only fairly understood as saying that we are under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule. (I certainly would be more surprised to hear you reject b.) So it’s fair to conclude you reject a. We are obligated to the Golden Rule.

    Part 2:

    I then asked: “Are you now saying that we all must follow the golden rule and only the golden rule?”

    To which you responded: “Certainly not!”

    So you believe that the golden rule is not the only standard we must follow. But as we saw in Part 1, you do see it as a standard, and one we are obligated to follow (we are under its jurisdiction).

    Part 3

    Yet you go on to say: “I’ve never said that there’s more than one standard… unless G-d does not exist.”

    So this can be interpreted as saying, ‘if G-d exists, there is only one standard’. If this is true, and what we learned from you in parts 1 and 2 (the Golden Rule obligates us, but is not the only standard which does), then your statements are contradictory!

    I hope this lays that out clearly:

    Part 1: People are under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, we are obligated to it.
    Part 2: The Golden Rule is not the only standard to which we are obligated
    Part 3: If G-d exists there is only one standard to which we are obligated

    This works really well as a proof that G-d does not exist (if we accept your ideas expressed in Parts 1 and 2), but somehow I don’t think this is what you are trying to do.

    On a wholly separate note: You asked this and I didn’t answer, but I also wanted to ask you a question about it:

    Terry said: “If I can express it, then it certainly exists as a concept. So is there a difference between the “concept”/”standard” of the Golden Rule, and the “concept”/”standard” of “Beat all men named Luke with a flyswatter for an hour on Thursdays”? A ridiculous notion, perhaps, but that only serves to highlight the issue. If there is no ontological difference between the two statements, then does the second carry the same “oughtness” as the first? Why, or why not?

    Why do you see this as a ridiculous notion?

    Depending on how you look at it, there could certainly be an ontological difference between the two. Just because two things have a certain factor in common, doesn’t mean they have all factors in common. A property and an apple both exists objectively in some way (according to pretty much all philosophers), yet no one would argue they exist in the same way and do the same thing. I’m not really saying that they are different, but questioning your assumption and assertion that they are. Why do you think this?

    You also seem to put forth an argument that objectivity leads to oughtness (otherwise, why would even have idea that existence as an objective concept have an impact on oughtness at all?). I’m not really convinced by that argument (nor am I convinced it’s wrong). Why do you believe in this argument (if indeed you do)?

    (You may ask, well in what ways are they different? You mentioned that the patriot act exists in the minds of men. I can inquire more about how you mean this, but the Golden Rule certainly exists in many more minds than your ‘beat Luke’ concept. I have no idea whether this matters, but the largeness and multitude of the existence is potentially a huge ontological difference. Like I said, maybe that’s unimportant, but I just don’t get the assumption of ontological equality. Unlike your ‘beat Luke’ concept, the Golden rule has a very strong physical existence (like the one you mentioned for the patriot act), in literally millions and millions of books. Maybe that’s not important, but we can’t say the existence is not different. We can also analyze them empirically and look at outcomes. Is there a difference between outcomes for those acting on the golden rule vs. the beat luke rule? If there is, maybe it’s not important, but it still seems to show a difference between the two.)

    I’m also not sure if you’re asking me personally,or asking me about a hypothetical argument. Assuming the latter, I would say there is certainly a difference in that we can form a coherent sentence behind “we should all follow the Golden Rule because…” where it would be hard to form a coherent sentence behind “we should all follow the beat luke rule because…” That seems to be a big difference.

    Ultimately, you can ask, well, what if I don’t care about those reasons, do I still need to follow it?

    And the ultimate answer is no, I think.

    Unfortunately, the ultimate answer is the same with G-d, as far as I’ve ever been able to tell, after decades of thinking about it.

    I know you’ve tried to answer this before, but maybe it will be more productive now. Why should I do what G-d says?

    I’ll reply to your larger post shortly.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  28. Luke says:

    Okay, let’s start looking at your post…

    Terry said:“You made an assertion that the Golden Rule was an ‘objective’ standard, yet failed to establish any objective basis for the existence of said standard. As it stands, your claim that the Golden Rule is an objective standard is an assertion without evidence”

    Let me back up a bit and clarify what my assertion was (it seems you’ve misunderstood). I said something like this.

    1. The golden rule exists (uncontroversial assertion)
    2. If it exists, the golden rule is an objective, not subjective, moral standard

    In other words, I sort of assumed that we both agreed that the thing existed, that’s why we can talk about it. Now that we agree on that (I assumed), what I wanted to do was look and analyze whether this standard is objective or subjective. I then gave plenty of arguments to conclude it is an objective standard. People can not change, people don’t need to believe in it for it to be a functioning standard, it exists independently of any one person or group of people. You haven’t really pushed back on this, at all. In fact, you seem to say pretty clearly that you agree.

    Yet, you don’t seem to want to push back on the idea that it exists either. You haven’t said “I disagree; it does not exist.” Now, first of all, I looked up the concept of an ‘objective basis for existence’ in three encyclopedias of philosophy and I’m not sure what you mean exactly (you may be referring to an idea I know by another name).

    Now, I honestly don’t wish to argue existence or ontology. To me it is plain and obvious the concept exists, if you wish to deny that, this is fine. I don’t know if you’re read the Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, but one thing I learned from it is that even though I’m certain that apples exist, and that they have objective features, if someone wishes to deny that, there is really little I can do to prove to these exists. All I will say is that you’ve already told us that it is an objective standard by which we are all bound. If you wish to say that that is true, yet that it also doesn’t exist, I’m fine with that. I just don’t think that “I’m Terry and I think that x is both objective and non-existent” is going to buy you many followers.

    You still seem to misunderstand the distinction between concept of a physical object, and the physical object itself.

    Terry said:“[Luke is] the one who said, “The fact that we can talk about it proves it exists as a concept.” (Emphasis [Terry’s].) We can also talk about hobgoblins and vampires, but the question is, are we talking about something real.”

    It proves that the concept of hobgoblins is real. Do you disagree?

    You said:The concept of the concept, which is the *idea* of a vampire, or the *idea* of the Golden Rule; and the concept itself, which is a vampire or the Golden Rule. The first certainly exists. How about the second?

    (This is confused a bit. A vampire is not a concept itself; it’s a vampire.)
    Since the golden rule is only an idea, not a tangible object, there is no, nor could there be a second level of existence for the Golden Rule the way there is with a hobgoblin. All it is is a concept and that’s all I’ve ever claimed it to be. If you want to try to convince us that we can’t touch the golden rule, I’m happy to concede.

    I think we can agree that we can describe what an actual vampire would be like. I have no clue what the analog of the golden rule would look or be like. All it is and all it ever was is an idea. Therefore if the idea exists, we’re sort of done. Do you not see the difference. Can you give the analog of the actual vampire for the golden rule? What I mean is… if it did exist in this way, what would that look like?

    Let me tackle the distinction this way: The idea of a hobgoblin is a concept, a concept which can be used as a standard we can use to evaluate whether a certain physical object is a hobgoblin. Right?

    Here is the analog to the golden rule: The golden rule is a concept, a concept which can be used as a standard we can use to evaluate whether a certain behavior is moral.

    In other words, a hobgoblin concept is to an actual hobgoblin, as the golden rule is to a moral behavior.

    I really hope that makes sense. I don’t think I can put it more clearly.

    Now onto…

    Terry said:“To be clear, I did not deny a “fact of the matter” to existence on materialism.”

    I had asked: “Do you deny that there is a fact of the matter when it comes to existence of concepts?” to which Terry answered: “Only on a purely materialistic worldview.”

    So here you say there is no “fact of the matter” to concepts on materialism. Yet, in your argument back to me, you seem to make a seemingly convincing case that there is a fact of the matter, and concepts do not exist on materialism.

    Which is it? You seem to argue for two contradictory things!

    You go on to say: “Let’s continue with our friendly hobgoblins. In a purely material universe, there is no “concept” of a hobgoblin.”

    But you told us that there is no fact of the matter to the existence of concepts in a purely material universe. How can you state a fact of the matter, while arguing no fact of the matter exists? Do you see why I am confused?

    On concepts in materialism:

    I have to say that I am not a materialist, but I would also say that every materialism philosopher working today would disagree with your contention that ideas cannot exist on materialism. At that point, I think it’s fair to wonder if you know more about materialism than the people who espouse it and research it professionally, or if you just simply misunderstand it. I get that this is an appeal to authority, but I’d urge you to just think about it a bit. You seem to agree that ‘ideas’ are mental phenomena (“ideas are generated when a human mind views or hears the data stored in the computer”). Materialists or physicalists would simply say that these mental phenomena can be explained physically. Yet no materialist thinks that these phenomena are not real and have no real consequences.

    (Think of it this way, if you agree, as you clearly seem to, that ideas are mental phenomena, what can an immaterial mind do to grant them existence that an material mind cannot? I would understand your position if you were putting yourself forth as an idealist, but you’re clearly a dualist.)

    You said: “[On materialism] [t]here is, at best, a configuration of atoms in a brain which represents a collection of parts and pieces taken from various physical entities put together in a way that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity that exists in reality.”

    In short you’re saying: there is a physical entity that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity. Do you see why this makes no sense?

    Think of it this way. The materialist would say “if you take this cast aluminium case, and rod, and cylinder head, and 32 bolts, and body panel, and relay, and wire, and spark plug, and hose, and… what you get is a car. You can use this car to go from point a to point b.”

    You answer by saying “you don’t have a car; you just have this collection of parts. On materialism, there is no singular object that is a car. It’s just a collection of parts and pieces taken from various physical entities put together in a way that can be driven and take people from point a to point b.”

    All I can say is that you are absolutely right, but also, well, that’s exactly of what a car is.

    If you want to argue the proper linguistics, you’re free to do so. The bottom line is, no physicalist denies that cars exist (but argue they are the result of physical phenomana) and no physicalist denies that mental phenomena such as ideas exist (but argue that they are the result of physical phenomena).

    Let’s look at what you said about the patriot act (thanks for the answer, by the way). It exists in different ways and there is no one singular existence assigned by you to to a singular entity. Confusing, right? You said it exists in the minds of those who have created it or read it. So does the same thing exist in the minds of two different people? Do they share the one patriot act?

    You ask and answer: So if no one is thinking about it, does it cease to exist? Not at all, in a theistic universe. God knows all things, and the Act exists in his mind at all times, as “all things” includes the currently-active laws of the United States.

    I find this self-refuting. I’d specify and say just becuase I am not thinking about the Patriot Act, doesn’t mean it ceases to exist in my mind. It just exists in my memory. I’d argue that even if I’m not thinking of it, it’s I can then recall it. Here is the self-refuting part: You could write your argument more specifically by saying “under theism, if an idea exists in no mind, it still exists because it exists in G-d’s mind.” See the problem?

    I actually agree with your idea that “if an idea exists in no mind, it doesn’t exist” which I think is your underlying argument. You’re just saying that G-d and His mind always exist, so it’s not a worry. (I hope I understand correctly.)

    I think if we eliminate any sense of special pleading and treat all minds as alike in this argument, what you’re saying is in perfect agreement with what the materialist/physicalist would say.

    You also said I was being uncharitable in part of my response. I apologize if it came off that way. I was geniunely confused. I thought you were trying to make a point because I would agree that the Golden Rule is incapable of itself discriminating. I misunderstood that as a point you were trying to make and build on later. ‘My bad’, as the kids would say.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  29. Terry L says:

    Luke:

    I said:“I think you’re trying to say that ‘no one is under the jurisdiction of the Golden Rule, while everyone is under the jurisdiction of G-d’s standard. That is a fundamental difference!’.”

    You replied: “Not me!”

    So I made two claims here:

    No you didn’t. You made one claim with two subclaims joined by a “while”, which implies exclusivity. If the Golden Rule is part of God’s standard, then they cannot be mutually exclusive. I reject the idea that God’s standard applying to all men implies that the Golden Rule cannot apply to all men.

    So you believe that the golden rule is not the only standard we must follow.

    You have fallaciously equated a part of the moral standard with a separate and distinct separate standard. The Golden Rule is a part of the standard, but it is not the entirety of the standard.

    For instance, while the moral standard certainly includes treating others with love (stronger form of the Golden Rule), the Golden Rule says nothing about our moral obligations toward God himself.

    Why do you see this as a ridiculous notion?

    You think it’s not ridiculous notion to beat all men named Luke with flyswatters for an hour every Thursday?

    A property and an apple both exists objectively in some way (according to pretty much all philosophers), yet no one would argue they exist in the same way and do the same thing. I’m not really saying that they are different, but questioning your assumption and assertion that they are. Why do you think this?

    Why do you believe I think this? Was this related to another part of the discussion? The Golden Rule, and the “Beat Lukes on Thursday” concepts are both prescriptive notions that imply an action that should be taken. I don’t see the analogy between those two concepts and an apple and a property.

    You also seem to put forth an argument that objectivity leads to oughtness (otherwise, why would even have idea that existence as an objective concept have an impact on oughtness at all?). I’m not really convinced by that argument (nor am I convinced it’s wrong). Why do you believe in this argument (if indeed you do)?

    That’s not exactly the point. My point is that subjectivity can only lead to obligation imposed by oneself. If the speed limit on a road is 55, but I subjectively believe it should be 35, no one but me is going to care if I drive 45 on it. I’ve only broken my subjective law that I created and imposed on myself. If I drive 75 on it, then I’ve broken the objective law, and have violated my obligation to obey the law.

    Furthermore, unless I tell them of my subjective belief, no one would ever know, nor would they care, that I’ve broken that law by driving 45. They only care when I break the objective law.

    You could even write your belief down, perhaps in a note to your child\grandchild telling them to only drive 45 in that area. Because of your familial relationship, that might obligate them to adhere to your standard. Your limited, delegated authority as a parent/grandparent gives you the right to set boundaries on them that are more strict than the standards set by the law. However, if I were to read your note, I can see no reason to consider it binding on me. You lack the authority that would grant you the ability to place restrictions on my behavior.

    [T]he Golden Rule certainly exists in many more minds than your ‘beat Luke’ concept. I have no idea whether this matters, but the largeness and multitude of the existence is potentially a huge ontological difference.

    Say E.A. Poe wrote a short story that he wrote down, but did not show to anyone. Should this story be found, the written words will not provide an ontological explanation for the story. The laws of pen, ink, and paper cannot explain how the story came to be. To explain the ontology of the story, you have to get back to the author. The written account provides the story’s epistemological basis; we know the story because Poe wrote it down. So the existence of the Golden Rule in many minds does not provide an ontological difference, but an epistemological difference.

    This is the crux of my question to you: I don’t deny that the Golden Rule exists in many minds. That would be foolish. However, none of the human minds that now hold the rule can account for its origin. What then is the objective origin of the rule, and does that origin have the proper authority to place such a restriction on the behavior of all men?

    Why should I do what G-d says?

    Let me ask a few questions:

    What is your concept of “authority”? Where does it come from? What are its responsibilities and rights?

    Do you believe that mankind has purpose? If so, what is it?

    Do you believe that man has value? If so, why?

    Would you agree that one should always do good and refrain from evil? (I’m not asking about what men do, but about what they should do?) If you answer anything but “Yes”, then is there reason you would give for what men should do?

    Second post:

    I then gave plenty of arguments to conclude [the Golden Rule] is an objective standard. People can not change [it?],

    What do you mean, “people cannot change it”? If it exists only in the minds of men, then they’ve already “changed” it from non-existence to existence. Why would it now be fixed?

    I say as well that people cannot change the definition of marriage, but they’re certainly trying to do so. Do you believe this is possible? If so, what makes the concept of marriage different from the concept of the Golden Rule?

    people don’t need to believe in it for it to be a functioning standard

    Northerners didn’t believe in chattel slavery, yet it functioned in the south for years. While it’s true that the south’s economy would have eventually collapsed had it continued as it was, that doesn’t mean that some innovation could not have saved it (and slavery with it). Is slavery then an objective functioning moral standard?

    it exists independently of any one person or group of people.

    If every human on the planet dies, will it still exist? If so, then how? If not, then this statement is untrue and the standard is subjective.

    You haven’t really pushed back on this, at all. In fact, you seem to say pretty clearly that you agree.

    I agree with your conclusions. I don’t yet know if I agree with how you arrived at your conclusions.

    Now, I honestly don’t wish to argue existence or ontology.

    Forgive me, but that’s kind of a cop-out. You are notorious for asking very tough questions of others.

    I just don’t think that “I’m Terry and I think that x is both objective and non-existent” is going to buy you many followers.

    I’m not looking for followers; I’m looking for truth.

    I’ve explained to you several times why I believe that moral principles are objective, and in what object I think they are grounded. All I’m asking is that you do the same. That’s why I’m asking these questions, just like you do with me and others on this site. You often say little about your own views, except in the questions you ask those who do put their ideas on the table for discussion. And while I appreciate that role (you’ve helped me clarify many ideas in my own mind), it’s only fair that you defend your assertions as well.

    It proves that the concept of hobgoblins is real. Do you disagree?

    No disagreements here.

    You said:The concept of the concept, which is the *idea* of a vampire, or the *idea* of the Golden Rule; and the concept itself, which is a vampire or the Golden Rule. The first certainly exists. How about the second?

    I’m trying to determine how many levels of indirection your using. If you mean by “concept” what I mean by “concept of the concept”, or vice-versa, then we’re not going to be able to communicate clearly.

    (This is confused a bit. A vampire is not a concept itself; it’s a vampire.)

    It’s a vampire? I would argue that while the concept of vampires certainly exists; vampires do not. The existence of the concept neither means that the concept is objective nor that it exists in reality.

    Since the golden rule is only an idea, not a tangible object, there is no, nor could there be a second level of existence for the Golden Rule the way there is with a hobgoblin. All it is is a concept and that’s all I’ve ever claimed it to be.

    I’m fine with this. You’ll never find the Golden Rule made out of matter (not including the person of Jesus). Now we’ve established that we’re not materialists! I’m assuming that you agree with me then that ideas and concepts must exist in minds. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Therefore if the idea exists, we’re sort of done.

    Not so fast… If you agree that the idea would continue to exist even if all humans disappeared from the planet, then it obviously must exist in something other than humanity. If it would cease to exist, then it is an ephemeral, subjective idea.

    An idea grounded in something other than humanity (the mind of God perhaps) would have at least the potential of being something authoritative over all men. However, I fail to see how any idea that exists only in the minds of men could have such potential.

    In other words, a hobgoblin concept is to an actual hobgoblin, as the golden rule is to a moral behavior.

    I don’t think this analogy is quite accurate, but let’s go with it for now.

    As the hobgoblin is not (to my knowledge) an entity that actually exists, then how can we know that our concept of a hobgoblin is correct? My concept of hobgoblin may be completely different from yours. Additionally, you may be able to articulate your definition quite eloquently, such that I understand perfectly what you mean. However, I still disagree that your definiton is the actual definition of a hobgoblin. You got the skin color completely wrong, they’re actually quite tall rather than short, and they have no ears, rather than pointy ears.

    As the hobgoblin has no ontological basis in reality, the question of which definition of “hobgoblin” is correct is meaningless.

    If we apply the same analysis to the Golden Rule, you may claim that the Golden Rule is your concept of moral behavior. Someone else claims that the Silver rule is. Another says, “Get all you can while you can”. Unless moral behavior has an ontological basis in reality, discusion of which one is correct is meaningless!

    How can you state a fact of the matter, while arguing no fact of the matter exists?

    I don’t claim that we live in a materialistic universe. My statements about such a universe only apply to that universe.

    On concepts in materialism:

    Which came first? Mind or Matter?

    I claim that Mind came first. God is immaterial, and is a person with a mind. The mind created the material, not the other way around.

    In short you’re saying: there is a physical entity that doesn’t correspond with any physical entity. Do you see why this makes no sense?

    Of course I do! It’s an absurdity. But it’s not a position I claim.

    ‘My bad’, as the kids would say.

    No worries!

    I have to run, but I’d like to address a little more of the latter part of this post later if I get a chance.

    -tl

    Reply
  30. Luke says:

    Terry,

    Either everyone is obligated to the golden rule or they are not. Either there is only one standard to which we are obligated, or there is not. This is pretty simple stuff, really. Like I said before ” I hope you’re not just trying to be difficult and clever by pointing out that if everyone is drinking lemonade, it’s totally correct to say that everyone is drinking water. ” if that’s what you’re doing, you should just say it outright (or should have when I said this).

    You then answered my question with a question: “You think it’s not ridiculous notion to beat all men named Luke with flyswatters for an hour every Thursday?”

    It’s probably not the first word I’d use, but I’m really curious to see why you think it’s ridiculous. Is it objectively ridiculous, or is that just your opinion? I see that this rule deviates from G-d’s standard, but so do many other ideas. You don’t call all of them ridiculous, so it just seems like you are using some standard aside from G-d’s to judge behavior. I’m curious to gain some insight into what that is.

    You asked:“Why do you believe I think this? Was this related to another part of the discussion?”

    This was related to the two concepts and ‘how’ they exist. You implied and still do that they exist in the same way. I’m just looking for some proof as to why. As I said, I see differences. That doesn’t mean they matter, but I’m not entirely happy to just assume those differences don’t matter.

    Luke said:“You also seem to put forth an argument that objectivity leads to oughtness.”

    Terry responded:“That’s not exactly the point. My point is that subjectivity can only lead to obligation imposed by oneself.”

    So you do seem to put forth that argument, no? At least that objectivity can lead to oughtness. What is the supporting evidence for this argument?

    You asked:“What then is the objective origin of the rule, and does that origin have the proper authority to place such a restriction on the behavior of all men?”

    I don’t know the origin for certain. I see no logical reason for it to matter (it would seem an appeal to authority of some sort). I have some ideas that we can discuss, but I’d first like to ask why it matters.

    I have no idea what gives an origin “proper authority” to place such a restriction on the behavior of all men.

    Doesn’t that idea in itself require a standard? Something to categorize “proper authority” and “improper authority”? Perhaps if you tell me the standard that guides this, I can tell you if it fits it.

    I then asked you why I should do what G-d says. You responded with some questions of your own. This is fine, and I’ll be glad to answer them, but I did want to note that you seem to be heading to a very subjective place (maybe I’m wrong, it just seems that way). I perhaps should have been clear that I was wondering for something objective (objectivity is a pretty big topic in this whole conversation, after all). (My question should have said ‘man’ or ‘one’ instead of ‘I’.)

    So you asked me about authority. I suppose my experience of authority is what gives me my concept of it. I don’t think much of authority. I think the slogan: “question authority” is an excellent one. (That doesn’t mean authority is always wrong, just that the fact that it’s authority doesn’t give it any credibility as far as I’m concerned.) To give you some idea of my experience, I grew up behind the iron curtain and have witnessed and experienced first hand undeserved violence at the hands of authority. In my graduate work, I studies Jewish history in Central Europe from 1918-1945. I think you’re aware of the nature of many authorities (from municipal to imperial) during that time. I don’t think authority is destined to be wrong, nor incapable of being right, but it is quite capable and perhaps predisposed to excess. I don’t think authority has any responsibilities or rights by definition. If an authority is what grants rights or establishes responsibilities, then it’s an ever continuing chain of rights-granting, which has no rock to anchor it. I think people have many purposes. I do think that people have value, but I don’t think people are the only things that do. I don’t think I can honestly say why I think this. I think it is an a priori proposition, to be honest. I’ve always thought it though, so any reason I give (and I can come up with many) will simply be a post-hoc explanation, so I have no reason to believe it’s of any value to explaining why I actually think this. (Does that make sense?)

    When you ask if I agree that one should always do good and refrain from evil, what do you mean, specifically, by ‘good’ and ‘evil’? If ‘doing good’ means ‘things I think people should do”, then I think that’s tautologically true. It really depends on what you mean though.

    On the golden rule, you asked: “What do you mean, “people cannot change it”?”

    I suppose I mean that I can’t see how it can be changed (if you show me, I’ll change my mind). Even if we say ‘the golden rule’ is something else now, that core concept wouldn’t change (it would just no longer be tied to the name ‘golden rule’. It would be a sort of ‘the names have changed’ type of situation, but the concept can’t be changed. I’ll be honest and say I don’t have a good way of putting this, so maybe this leads to your question. But there is nothing I can conceive of people doing that would do away, or alter that concept. I can only see how it’s name is changed.

    Terry said and asked: “If it exists only in the minds of men, then they’ve already “changed” it from non-existence to existence. Why would it now be fixed?”

    This is logically incorrect Terry. “It” has to exist, before “it” can be changed. Before “it” existed, there was no “it” to change, so unless you know how to change something that doesn’t exist, your statement cannot logically be true. (Therefore your question is invalid, though otherwise answered above.)

    Terry asked:“I say as well that people cannot change the definition of marriage, but they’re certainly trying to do so. Do you believe this is possible? If so, what makes the concept of marriage different from the concept of the Golden Rule?”

    The short answer is no “marriage” cannot be changed. The concept we assign to the name can be switched out for another, but that concept — one man and one woman — that can’t be changed.

    To get into more detail, there are many different concepts of marriage over time. The specific concept you are referring to “the joining of one man and one woman” cannot be changed. Even if we all reject it and no one gives it the label “marriage”, the concept itself, is still around, and still unchaged. Like I said above, you can change the name, but I can’t conceive of any way in which the concept itself would be altered.

    Terry asked:” Is slavery then an objective functioning moral standard?”

    Well, slavery is an institution, but there have been many moral systems, including one described in the old testament — which specifically said one could beat a slave, for a slave was property — which permitted slavery. Any of them could be functioning objective moral standards, in that they could be used the judge the rightness or wrongness of actions. I don’t see how it could be any other way. (Do you?)

    Terry asked:“If every human on the planet dies, will [the golden rule] still exist? If so, then how? If not, then this statement is untrue and the standard is subjective.”

    Some would argue that it would, some that it wouldn’t. How? Well, if we posit that it’s a platonic form, or something like it, then it in no way depends on human existence. That’s just one example. I don’t buy your argument that that a standard that is not ever-existent is therefore subjective. If the earth was destroyed by an asteroid tomorrow, there would be no trace of the metric system. Does that mean that it’s subjective in any meaningful sense? If Maine blows up in a nuclear strike in a week, does that mean that it’s speed limit was actually a subjective one? You’re welcome to convince me, but “ever-existing” seems like an unnecessary condition. Again, that’s notwithstanding the fact that it’s easy for an atheist to argue for continued existence.

    Terry said:“Forgive me, but that’s kind of a cop-out. You are notorious for asking very tough questions of others.”

    I try to keep my questions easy. Look, I’m an ordained minister, I have my own beliefs. Those have no impact on trying to learn through argument. I am here to “cross examine” certain ideas. One of those is “morality on atheism”, but the truth is there are a host of ontologies which are compatible with atheism. It’s just not within my time capacity to argue every single one of them (but I have tried to give you examples, like the Platonic Forms, above). I agree that it would be a cop out if I said, I can’t think of any ontology that accounts for x, but let’s just ignore that. But I’ve given you examples to answer your questions. As I said with the Berkeley example, ontological arguments are not easily resolved. If you can show me why it matters that I defend a certain ontological outlook, I’ll be glad to do my best to do so.

    Terry said:“I’m not looking for followers; I’m looking for truth. I’ve explained to you several times why I believe that moral principles are objective, and in what object I think they are grounded… it’s only fair that you defend your assertions as well.”

    What assertions have I made? I’ve often said things like “an atheist could think this way”, but I really don’t know that I’ve ever asserted anything. If you point me to something though, I’ll be more than glad to tell you how or why I feel a certain way. I think a lot of times, the answer may be “I don’t know”. Not knowing is not something that scares me. I like to think through these things because I’d like to know.

    /part 1

    Reply
  31. Luke says:

    (continued post. I was informed my submission was too long. Shocking.)

    Terry said:“I’m fine with this. You’ll never find the Golden Rule made out of matter (not including the person of Jesus). Now we’ve established that we’re not materialists!”

    I think you’re being a bit too clever here, Terry. You’ll never find gravity made out of matter either. The term materialism is falling more and more out of favor, due to factors such as forces not exactly being matter, and also due to quantum mechanics. Physicalism is a term that’s been around for a while, but I bet it will be the preferred term in 20 years. (Many, but not all physicalists would tell you that, like gravity, a concept doesn’t exist as matter, but is the result of the physical interaction of matter. I say this to point out that, like gravity, just because it has no material manifestation, doesn’t mean a “materialist” is doomed to say it doesn’t exist. Same for energy, which is clearly not matter, by the way.)

    Terry said:“I’m assuming that you agree with me then that ideas and concepts must exist in minds. ”

    Must? No. I have no reason to think they must. I can certainly conceive of logical worlds in which they don’t You yourself seem to disagree with this though. Do moral ideas exist in G-d’s mind only, in His nature only, or both?

    One more question, must ideas exist in minds, or do they also have to originate in them?

    Terry said:“An idea grounded in something other than humanity (the mind of God perhaps) would have at least the potential of being something authoritative over all men.”

    Why?

    What gives this authority? Why does this “giver” only consider ever-existing things?

    Terry said and asked:“As the hobgoblin is not (to my knowledge) an entity that actually exists, then how can we know that our concept of a hobgoblin is correct?”

    As with marriage, I think you’re getting confused by assigning far too much power and import to names. Let’s say you think a ‘hobgoblin’ is X, and I think it is Y. The physical manifestation of your concept is the physical manifestation of X. The physical manifestation of my concept is the physical manifestation of Y. What we call our concept, or the thing it describes is just a label. It doesn’t change the relationship of concept to manifestation. (And remember, that’s what we were discussing.)

    Terry said:“Unless moral behavior has an ontological basis in reality, discussion of which one is correct is meaningless!”

    If someone has the silver rule, then it’s real. How could it not be? You keep acting as if it could somehow be “not real”? Can you give me a sense of how that would be possible?

    I asked: “How can you state a fact of the matter, while arguing no fact of the matter exists?”

    Terry said:“I don’t claim that we live in a materialistic universe. My statements about such a universe only apply to that universe.”

    You said that in a materialistic universe there would be no “fact of the matter” to the existence of concepts. You also said that concepts could not exist in a materialistic universe. These are contradictiory statements! Saying, well I don’t believe in that world doesn’t entitle you to have irrational and irreconcilable beliefs about it.

    Terry said:“Of course I do! It’s an absurdity. But it’s not a position I claim.”

    Your claim amounts to ‘on materialism, x is not x’. Is that not your claim? (Are you saying that is materialism’s claim? If so, could you please provide a citation to something written by a materialist.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    ps I think this discussion has far too many little rabbit trails. I’d like you to tell me why men should do what G-d says, as well as why the “beat Luke: rule is ridiculous, and what standard you use to distinguish between proper and improper authority. Is there any position you’d like to see me defend?

    Reply
  32. Terry L says:

    Luke

    I agree about the rabbit trails. I’ll address a few things (hopefully, briefly) that I think need to be pointed out, then try to answer your questions. Then we’ll see if I can come with some for you! 😉

    Either everyone is obligated to the golden rule or they are not. Either there is only one standard to which we are obligated, or there is not.

    I’m still not certain if you mean these to be in effect at the same time. Are you saying that the Golden Rule is the one standard?

    It’s probably not the first word I’d use, but I’m really curious to see why you think [the “beat Lukes” rule is] ridiculous.

    Because I designed it to be. It’s entirely arbitrary, not based on any form of logic or reason. It exists only to point out that the existence of a concept is not enough to say it is an idea we should embrace.

    By your own statements, you agree that this concept now exists. It seems that you believe that it is as real as the Golden Rule. (Am I right?) Why then would one feel an obligation to follow one and not the other? There must be something more than the existence of a prescriptive concept to mean that it is truly a concept we should embrace.

    This something (or as I’ve called it, “oughtness”) doesn’t seem to be anything directly related to the concept itself. Concepts seem to be pretty barren entities, without a lot of properties. Further, if “oughtness” was a property of the concept, how could we ever know the value of that property?

    [Y]ou do seem to put forth [the argument that at] least… objectivity can lead to oughtness. What is the supporting evidence for this argument?

    This is a huge question. And again, as phrased, it implies more than I intended to say. My contention is that subjective prescriptions can only obligate the holder of said subjective prescription. It cannot impose an obligation on him or her to anyone else. With no objective standard by which we can say the prescription is Good or Evil, then it is simply something that the believer has come up with. It exists only in his own mind.

    I’ll address this further in the discussion of authority.

    (What do you know… my post was too long also! More to come…)

    Reply
  33. Terry L says:

    I don’t know the origin [of the Golden Rule] for certain. I see no logical reason for it to matter (it would seem an appeal to authority of some sort).

    Luke, ALL moral questions are an appeal to an authority. How could they not be?

    Appeals to authority are not always logically fallacious. If you want to know something about the Star Wars universe, appealing to an answer given on the topic by George Lucas would be an appeal to a proper authority.

    I have some ideas that we can discuss, but I’d first like to ask why it matters.

    Imagine that no one had ever before considered this concept before. You agreed that this would mean that the concept did not exist.

    Then I just throw it out on the table, and say, “It is GOOD to do this, and EVIL not to do this”.

    Why should you believe me? Am I qualified to speak on moral matters the way George Lucas is qualified to speak about all things Star Wars?

    There was a time at some time in the past when this did happen. Someone was the very first person to articulate the Golden Rule. Why should we believe them?

    I don’t think much of authority.

    Thank you for sharing some of your story with me. I’d really like to be able to sit down with you in person and have a long talk about your experiences, if you were willing to share more.

    It seems to me that the problems you describe are not an attribute of authority per se, but with the improper use/abuse of authority. You make the distinction yourself that authority is “not destined to be wrong, nor incapable of being right”, as you eloquently put it.

    As someone who “witnessed and experienced first hand undeserved violence at the hands of authority”, I think you would agree that these were certainly immoral, and events that should not have happened. But what we’re discussing is why. It’s obvious that these are violations of God’s law, but you’ve asked why one should obey that law.

    You said that I seemed to be “heading to a very subjective place”. Actually, I’m ending up back where I always do… with God.

    My view of authority is this: All authority belongs to God. God delegates some of his authority to man to fulfill various roles in society. To some, he gives authority only over themselves. Some have authority over a family. Some have authority over employees. Others have authority over cities and nations. But all of this authority ultimately is derived from and belongs to God Himself.

    Romans 13 deals with this, of course:

    1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

    5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

    This passage does not mean that an evil person may not inhabit an office with authority, but it does teach that God is the author of civil government, and that the office deserves our respect. Other passages indicate that He is also the ultimate power behind parental authority and an employer’s authority, even while acknowledging that not all who hold this sacred responsibility do what is right the power they’ve been given:

    1 Peter 2:13-20

    3 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

    17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

    Psalm 75 warns leaders about abusing their power:

    2 When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly. 3 The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.

    4 I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn: 5 Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck. 6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. 7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. 8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.

    So rather than seeing “an ever continuing chain of rights-granting, which has no rock to anchor it”, I see God as the anchor. He delegates his authority to those whom he chooses, and those delegates are responsible to him for how they use or abuse their power.

    We are responsible to honor their office, because the power they wield belongs to God. If they wield it unjustly against those under their authority, God will judge the unjust and he will honor those who “take it patiently”.

    With that established, let’s consider the plight of the European Jews in the early 20th century. You’re certainly far more knowledgeable about this than I; but I do know that far more leaders than Hitler have a lot to answer for!

    That being said, why should those leaders who persecuted the Jews have done anything differently? I would say that to whom much is given, much will be required. God gives those in authority a sacred trust to use their delegated authority in accordance with those principles established by the true owner of their authority, much like an ambassador is supposed to carry out the wishes of his country, not his personal agenda. To abuse one’s authority is a violation of that trust.

    Furthermore, they abused other people; people made in the image of God and for whom Christ died and paid the ultimate price.

    Lastly, they abused themselves. Evil acts have a way of searing the conscience so that subsequent evil acts are far more easy to commit.

    God will not hold blameless those who violate the trust given them.

    Reply
  34. Terry L says:

    But on some level, we all are given that trust. We are given free will; authority delegated to us by God by which we are to rule over ourselves. And it is at this level that God is most interested in working. If every man were successful at handling this responsibility, everything else would take care of itself. But we can’t even rule ourselves effectively! We abuse the authority God gives us and use our free will to seek our own will rather than that of God. This is, on a micro-political level, the same exact sin that the nations and their leaders committed against the Jews on a macro level. We want to use the authority God has given us for our own purposes. But it’s not our power! We did not create ourselves; we cannot sustain our own existence. All that we have, all that we do, all that we are depends on God.

    We were entrusted with free will so that we could reflect the glory, the love, and the holiness of God. We were not given free will so that we could choose to rape, murder, steal, or otherwise follow our own agenda. Each time we misuse God’s authority, we separate ourselves from Him a little more.

    And this is my ultimate answer. We should follow God and conform to his nature because to do anything else separates us from Him.

    If you granted your child the right to use your car, yet he refused to obey your rules when he took it, each abuse of your trust would become a wedge that would eventually destroy your relationship. Each time a parent abuses a child, the same thing happens. Sin destroys relationships and separates persons from each other.

    This separation has dire consequences. God is the ultimate Good; to be separated from Him at all is to be separated from Goodness. God is not a power-mad, screaming dictator who says, “YOU MUST DO WHAT I SAY!!!” Rather, God is a loving parent who, having vastly more experience than his child, knows what lies at the end of the path the child has chosen. He gently warns us what lies ahead if we persist in such folly, but having granted us freedom of will, he has made Himself powerless to alter our course without our consent. For those who are willing, He will make a path back to Himself. For those who refuse him, He will allow them to persist in their abuse of His authority, weeping over the day when He will have to hold them accountable for what they’ve done.

    God’s commitment to our freedom means that innocent persons are going to get caught in the crossfire. They’re going to be gassed, burned, shot, beaten, cursed, reviled, and hated by men who abuse their freedom. It is to them that Peter writes, “this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”

    But what of evil on any other worldview? On atheism, there is no answer to evil. Indeed, it is hard if not impossible to even justify the idea of evil, although we all know intuitively and experientially that it exists. In Islam, all that happens is the will of Allah, who even Muslim scholars acknowledge is an arbitrary God who does as he will. In pantheistic religions, God is the evil, because God is All and All is God. And specifically in Hinduism, evil is the result of Karma; to interfere could potentially mean trapping that person in another life-cycle because any aid would lessen the Karmic payment being demanded during this lifetime.

    I recently read a story of a man who, in a time of great personal crisis, cried out to God, and declared that the throne was empty. It was only years later while reflecting on the experience that He realized he was indeed correct; the throne was empty because God had stepped down and was kneeling beside him in his pain, suffering right along side of him.

    During an execution in one of the Nazi concentration camps, one prisoner asked another, “Where is God?” The second prisoner replied, “He’s right there… on the gallows!”

    Poetic license of course… but the sentiment is true in the Judeo-Christian worldview. Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah, became a man and endured the cruelties of life as a man, even suffering the indignities of a horrific death. He does not sit afar in Heaven and sympathize with us; he came to us in our pain and weakness and empathizes with us.

    I have more that I want to say, but it will have to wait. I’ve not had time to adequately proofread this post, so I reserve the right to clarify some points, but I wanted to respond to you in a timely manner.

    -tl

    Reply
  35. Luke says:

    Terry, this is all interesting stuff, but I fear I will be a less frequent visitor to these boards. I just want to say that lest I appear rude. I’ll reply, but not immediately. I’ll try to answer any questions though and make some comments here and there. The truth is though, writing novels is probably not the best use of my time as far the world is concerned.

    With that said:

    Terry said: “We should follow G-d and conform to His nature because to do anything else separates us from Him.”

    Doesn’t this answer only work for someone who wants to conform to G-d’s nature and does not want to be separate from Him?

    What if someone says to you: “yeah, I don’t really care about G-d, and certainly not about His nature, so why should I do what He says.” (People do say this.) What is your answer to such a person?

    What is an objective reason?

    Terry asked:“ALL moral questions are an appeal to an authority. How could they not be?”

    So, just looking at ontological moral theories (theories that posit a moral reality), only one really appeals to authority, and that is the theological one. The non-physicalist theory of a unique moral realm does not deal with authority at all, nor does the idea that moral truths are part of the natural world and science can discover them (think Sam Harris).

    You may say you don’t believe in those conceptions, but the fact is conceptions that don’t require authority exist and are prevalent among philosophers. You can’t dismiss all of the theories which don’t appeal to authority, leaving only those that do, then say “all moral theories appeal to authority”.

    Terry said:“G-d’s commitment to our freedom means that innocent persons are going to get caught in the crossfire. They’re going to be gassed, burned, shot, beaten, cursed, reviled, and hated by men who abuse their freedom.”

    This is sort of another subject, so I’ll just make a quick comment.

    Let’s just take a simple world, a man and a child. The man decidces to murder the child. The child, having natural reflexes and desires, does not want to be killed.

    Here we have two free wills. FWX (free will of X) wants to kill Y. FWY wants Y to live.

    Here we have a case where the freedom of an innocent child is pitted against a the freedom of someone who wishes harm. One free will will be overridden. Why would G-d allow it to be the child’s free will which is overridden?

    (It’s not as if it’s illogical or out of the ordinary for G-d to create a universe in which those who use their free will for good are simply stronger than those who use their free will for evil. In other words, G-d doesn’t need to intervene, but His creation, fully determined by Him, determines the victor of these struggles. Why would G-d create a world in which He deemed the murdered the victor. He did not have to. Or think of the stories of Rasputin, in which he simply seems impossible to kill. G-d breathes life into us, it is said. The killer cannot extinguish life that G-d wishes to continue, right?? If G-d wished for the child to continue living and exercise free will, how could he be killed?)

    You also said:G-d is not a power-mad, screaming dictator who says, “YOU MUST DO WHAT I SAY!!!” Rather, He is a loving parent who, having vastly more experience than his child, knows what lies at the end of the path the child has chosen. He gently warns us what lies ahead if we persist in such folly, but having granted us freedom of will, he has made Himself powerless to alter our course without our consent.

    Aren’t there a lot of “thou shalt not” statements made by G-d? What do you mean by G-d having experience? All definitions of the word seem to reference ‘doing’ something. Has G-d done these ‘evil’ things and experience has shown Him that they are a bad idea? This is what you seem to imply here. Even if we accept your Arminian worldview, it seems that G-d created what lies ahead, he didn’t discover it through ‘experience’. He could have easily designed something else (a Motel 6 and a W, for example). Can you tell me how a native American living in what the western world called 400AD was ‘gently warned [of] what lies at the end of the path?”

    You said you would answer my questions, then ask some of your own. I’m not sure if you’re following up with another post, since there were many of my questions you didn’t answer (it’s fine if you just don’t want to answer them), but let me quickly go through and answer yours.

    I already answered about all moral ideas appealing to authority.

    Tery asked:“Why should you believe me? Am I qualified to speak on moral matters the way George Lucas is qualified to speak about all things Star Wars? There was a time at some time in the past when this did happen. Someone was the very first person to articulate the Golden Rule. Why should we believe them?”

    It depends on what reasons you have and how your idea reflects in the real world. You’ve already shown us such evaluation is possible! You called one standard ridiculous. You wouldn’t say that of the Golden Rule. So you yourself have given reasons to believe one standard over another.

    Either way, the question of “what standard should be accepted?” is different than that “what standard is objective”?

    I’ve only been discussing the latter question for the Golden Rule, though I did ask you about the former when it comes to G-d. Perhaps when we settle on an answer to that, we can do the same for the GR?

    “Why should we believe the first person to articulate the Golden Rule?” I don’t really see how we could. We don’t know who that person is. Who would we be believing? I think we can evaluate the idea, but we don’t know the person. There is no one there to believe, at this point. In other words, we can’t believe “them” even if we wanted to. You do seem to have a way to evaluate concepts though. If we did know the person, we could judge the real world returns of their idea to gain some idea of its value.

    Terry:“That being said, why should those leaders who persecuted the Jews have done anything differently?”

    Because it’s such an obviously terrible thing to do, for one.

    Here you set up an interesting question. Let’s say your father says “kill your son!” Should you? Let’s say your town mayor says “kill your son!” Should you? Let’s say your state governor says “kill your son!” Should you? Let’s say President Obama says “kill your son!”? Should you? Let’s say the UN Security Council says “kill your son!” Should you? Let’s say G-d says “kill your son!” Should you?

    You didn’t ask this, but I have a question for you; you said: “G-d will not hold blameless those who violate the trust given them.”

    So after sins are forgiven and washed away, does G-d hold the man who sinned blameless or blameful?

    Terry asked: “But what of evil on any other worldview?”

    I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I understand the question. I think it was rhetorical.

    Terry said: “Allah, who even Muslim scholars acknowledge is an arbitrary god who does as he will.”

    I’m not sure what Quaran you’ve been reading. Can you cite a Muslim scholar who believes that Allah is arbitrary and not always and forever Al-Rahim (something like: G-d the merciful)?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] A very long but though provoking discussion on objective morality and existence of concepts between Terry Lewis and Luke here:  […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *